July 15, 2022

Taste the Books: Review Morsels #33 Alan White, S.A. Barnes, Nova Ren Suma


Intro


Hello beauties!

Welcome again to my own brand of mini reviews! I never thought I'd do minis, until I recapped a few of my long reviews in some digest post in 2014, and then guest-posted some shorties for a blogging event in 2015. And Karen from For What It's Worth started praising my short recs/recaps 😊. Just to be clear,  I'm NOT taking a break from writing long reviews - no such luck LOL (though for anthologies, shorter books or books that I didn't enjoy/I don't have enough to say about, I decided to stick to minis). But while I'm making up my mind about a new book I've read, I might as well give you the short version 😉. Just be warned - this feature will be VERY random!

Note: all the mini blurbs (in italics) are of my own creation.

(The Starmetal Symphony #1)

★★

A jazz pianist and the non-binary popstar he's had a fling with find themselves swept into an intergalactic war where what remains of humanity is at stake - and fall for each other in the process.

***

First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on Netgalley. Thanks to Little, Brown Book Group UK for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.

The blurb for this book sounded FANTASTIC, and spoke to me on two main levels...I love sci-fi, and I love music - and I love sci-fi books, and I love books with music in them. I was excited to receive this eARC, and granted, the writing is charming and vivid (if sometimes a little overwhelming), and the non-binary co-protagonist a breath of fresh air.  But after giving it 100 pages (out of 440), I finally had to admit that this book might not be a good fit for me. I expected something different, maybe more along the lines of a band of redeemed Cybermen forming an alliance with humans to save Earth from their own kind - and while I commend White for their original approach to space mechas, the latter's...um...connection to August made me queasy (despite my consuming a lot of horror - but a certain brand of body horror is hard for me). I also realised that I wasn't forming a strong emotional bond with the characters, and I wasn't crazy about their budding relationship starting to take center stage (which I probably should have expected, because hello? space opera?). So I decided to call it quits, but that doesn't have anything to do with lack of quality. This book has a number of raving reviews for a reason (or, well, more than one), even I can see that. So check them out if you think August Kitko can be your jam...

Note: definitive review (I don't have enough to say to justify writing a full-length one later, and of course I don't plan to reread this book).

Dead Silence by S.A. Barnes

★★

A beacon repair crew led by a trauma survivor who can see ghosts find a long-lost luxury space-liner filled with horrors and secrets, and try to fly it back home while losing their grip on sanity...or worse.

***

Rated 3.5 really.

Some reviewers pointed out a similarity between Dead Silence and the movie Event Horizon (which I haven't seen, but based on what I read, they only share the initial concept and a certain scene). To me, it was closer to Dead Space by Kali Wallace - not only because of the title (and the cover/font), but for its having a female trauma survivor battling an evil corporation she's indebted to as a main character. Unlike Hester in Dead Space, though, Dead Silence's protagonist Claire can see ghosts...and that alone would change everything; add to it that, while Dead Space firmly belongs in the sci-fi/thriller camp, Dead Silence is more of a locked-room-mystery/horror/romance set in space - and I think the distinction is important.
Regardless, I found Dead Silence to be a strong specimen of the horror genre, full of haunting imagery, and built around a clever premise (to the best of my knowledge) - until the last section partially ruined it for me, because I couldn't buy the change a certain character underwent. Even taking the explanation for the mystery aboard into account, removing its cause or distancing the victim from it couldn't have been enough - once you're mentally damaged (which seemed to be the case here) you can't go back to be fully functional, especially at a moment's notice. Also, we're missing evidence of that character's ordeal on the ship (like...body waste? seriously, no body waste?), to the point that I expected them to be yet another hallucination at first...
Claire's being a team leader despite her mental health history (even if she DOES see ghosts, it would hardly make her fitter for the role than hallucinating about them) gave me pause too, though maybe it makes sense in a way, since technically she shouldn't see any ghosts on a repair ship (unless someone died there, of course 😉). But making her TL? (Not to mention, at some point ghosts aren't the only thing she sees...).
Bottom line: DS starts off like a compelling sci-fi/mystery/horror combo, but it ultimately becomes more interested in cozy endings, betraying its real nature of romance in disguise and sacrificing plausibleness for the sake of it. And yeah, I can suspend my disbelief about an alien travelling in a blue phone box, but the aforementioned twist in this book felt too much like sorcery to me.

(Fun fact: I spotted a continuity error in Ch.22. Claire notes that her restraints are gone, but a few paragraphs later, the people in charge have those same restraints removed...).

Note: definitive review (I don't have enough to say to justify writing a full-length one later...yeah, this is nowhere as long as my full-length reviews...go figure).

Fade Out by Nova Ren Suma

★★★

A 13 y.o. noir-movies lover, hurting from her parents' divorce and her best friend's relocation, tries to figure out if her older crush is cheating on his girlfriend, and does a lot of growing up in the process.

***

Rated 3.5 really.

Fade Out (previously Dani Noir) is Nova Ren Suma's debut, dated 2009 (reissued 2012), and one of those rare books that cross the bridge between MG and YA - which is a good thing. Of course, this influenced my rating, because I tend to like my books more complex and darker (like Suma's following ones proved to be); but if you don't mind a rather straightforward coming-of-age story with a flawed, yet relatable protagonist, a dash of mystery and a whole lotta love for Rita Hayworth and B&W movies, you'll find Fade Out quite charming. Dani is a very realistic 13 y.o. going through a difficult time (as if being 13 wasn't hard enough), impulsive but loyal - though not to everyone - oblivious but with her heart in the right place. The writing, as usual with Suma, is lovely - just a little toned down if compared to her more recent novels. Definitely recommended for readers of MG/lower YA and adults looking for a non-angsty/smile inducing read (unless they're going through a divorce...).

Note: definitive review (I don't have enough to say to justify writing a full-length one later).

So, have you read/are you planning to read any of the above? And if you have, what do you think of them? Do you post mini reviews? Do you like to read them?

22 comments:

  1. I have not tried these, so maybe?

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  2. I'm still only about half way through August Kitko, it's not a fast read for sure. I actually like the characters, though, especially Ardent, so I'm definitely enjoying it more than you.

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    1. I'm glad it's getting its audience.I always feel bad when I don't like an ARC LOL.

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  3. I chuckle because the things you sort of didn't like about Suma's book are the things I would probably love.

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    1. LOL, it's not that I didn't like them, but my heart beats for darker, more complicated stories.

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  4. So I hear so many different things about Mechas, and I'm not sure if it's for me or not. I may wait a bit and see if I can get it later from the library or whatever. Dead Silence I liked, although funny you mention dead Space, because I liked that one MORE. Good point about the twist. Some things just didn't sit quite well with me, even though I liked it for the most part.

    Ren Suma I haven't tried yet but hmmm... interesting.

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    Replies
    1. Mechas is wild! I didn't have a problem with the writing style, but it genuinely didn't work for me - as opposed to, I thought it was bad.

      Dead Silence has a great premise and the horror part is very well done. It just...isn't sci-fi enough for us, I guess 😂.

      Suma is one of my favourite authors. You have to try one of her spooky YA books one day 😉.

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    2. Mechas does seem to be one of those "it either works for you or it doesn't" kind of books...

      Right? Now Dead Space... I LOVED that. Who knows even why ha?

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    3. Wallace is one hell of an author, that's why 😉.

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    4. Have you read any of her other stuff? I have two of hers on my list but need to buy 'em...

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    5. I've read every one of her books except her middle grade ones. Shallow Graves is my fave. It's her first and the one that got me hooked.

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    6. I have Salvation Day and I think another as well on my short list of books I need to read NOW

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    7. If it's not Shallow Graves it's The Memory Trees then. Which I loved. SD is my least fave so far, but still good!

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  5. Well now I'm kind of even more curious about August Kitko lol. Sorry it didn't work for you, but I think it's a good thing to call it quits if something about a book is disturbing you, for lack of a better word.

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    Replies
    1. I keep seeing positive/raving reviews of it, and I get where they're coming from. It wasn't a good fit for me, and it's a weird book, but if you don't have a problem with the things I mentioned, you'll be fine (I can't believe no one mentioned the...connection part though LOL. And no, it's not about cybersex or something, but...it's equally intimate, if probably far less pleasant 😂).

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  6. Thanks for commenting on my post today and a few others this last week. I haven't done a mini review in so long. I think these are great because you still get to talk about what you read, but you're not worried about trying to figure out how to write an entire review.

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    1. I was glad to find out you were back 🙂.

      These were some of my longest minis...at least the first two...and yet, at least I'm free from my classic review format and I can write more of them in less time!

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  7. All of these books are new to me, but the authors are somewhat familiar. I like your short form reviews too!

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    1. These were my longest short reviews so far 😂.

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  8. I haven't read these but they aren't really in the genre that I usually read. I do like your mini reviews though.

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