March 18, 2024

Taste the Books: Review Morsels #49 Grace Curtis, Rebecca Rook, Ai Jiang


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.

Floating Hotel by Grace Curtis

★★★

In a dystopian future, on a cruise spaceship turned into a sanctuary for a group of misfits, lives and destinies intertwine and mysteries blossom, while an undercover rebel and spies from the Empire play cat-and-mouse.

***

Rated 3.5 really.

First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on NetGalley. Thanks to Hodder & Stoughton for providing a temporary ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.

Let's preface this review by saying, Floating Hotel is good at what it does. My problem is that I don't fare well with characters galore and short stories (of which the book is, for all purposes, a collection, though they intersect creating a broader narrative), and I like a little more action and stakes in my books...not to mention I expected the sci-fi aspect to be meatier - hence my rating. But if you're more interested in the human angle, and you don't mind getting a condensed version of the many protagonists' lives, and you like coziness and gentle humour (with the occasional patch of violence, and on the backdrop of a dystopia/totalitarian regime), you'll enjoy this one. While not every character is particularly memorable or relevant for the main plot, most of them are captivating, and it was fun to see how they - or their stories - connected. There's a satisfying (if a bit implausible) twist in the end, and though we don't exactly get closure about the hotel employees, the epilogue is a celebration of quiet heroes, and a testament to hope and resistance in the face of oppression. No small feat these days...

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

★★★

After causing a car accident, a young musician on the cusp of fame ends up in the afterlife and gets a chance to come back from the dead by performing a series of herculean tasks - but what about the innocents who paid for her mistake?

***

First off...DISCLAIMER: I requested this title on NetGalley. Thanks to Xpresso Book Tours and Rebecca Rook for providing an ecopy. This didn't influence my review in any way.

Supernatural meets the Ghost Roads series by Seanan McGuire (there are a couple of details, one especially, that tie the GR world with this one, though I have no reason to think they're derivative) with a sprinkle of The Twelve Labours of Hercules. The author did a good job of making the protagonist likeable despite the reason that landed her in the afterlife, and both her regret and her love for music came across as heartfelt and genuine. The supporting (though not always supportive 😂) cast was mostly unique (I say "mostly" because of the detail I hinted at above) and made for a fun read, and the tasks Valentine had to undertake to fulfill her penance were very imaginative...So, why 3 stars? Because I craved for more. The trials, in particular, were inconsistent at best both in difficulty and scope, and even when they were said to be next to impossible (and especially in one instance, they did take a terrible toll) or promised irresistible temptations and unspeakable horrors (the Wild Hunt), either the writing didn't manage to convey the gravity of the situation, or such trials were simply too brief and/or a little underwhelming. I think with a little more fleshing out and editing, the book could have been fantastic (I did notice some errors too, though not grammatical ones - just spots where the author apparently couldn't decide on a tense or a turn of phrase, and ended up keeping both). Regardless, if you're a fan of dead/undead characters, peculiar found families, coming-of-age narratives and bittersweet endings, you'll probably find a lot to love in this story.

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

 Linghun by Ai Jiang

★★★

In a town where the dead can manifest as spirits conjured by the grief of those they left behind, two teens and an elderly woman grapple with the consequences of this haunting (or lack thereof) and of the way it shapes their families and community.

***

First and foremost, Linghun is an exploration of grief with a really unique premise: buy a house in a ghost-friendly town (usually via an auction that can have dire, or even fatal, consequences), perform some propitiatory rites within its walls, and the defunct you loved the most will come back as a spirit. No real estate available? You can always become a lingerer (that is, live your life on other people's lawns) until an owner decides to relocate and sever their connection with their own dearly departed, giving you a chance to fight (literally) for a house where you can summon yours. Even in novella form, this story could have been spectacular - especially since the premise in question is woven with pregnant, very much real themes, like the sexism of a traditional Chinese household or the immigrant experience. But I found it too short for what it was trying to do, too rushed and casual in the last section, and too hazy (or, if I interpreted it correctly, maybe just too gloomy) when it comes to the ending. Worth a read if you're looking for something different, and maybe it will resonate with you more than it did with me, depending on your emotional or cultural background - only don't expect a fully realised (or hopeful) story.

Please note: I put this one in my Adult Room, because despite one of the POVs being that of a teen, this is very much an adult book as a whole.

Note: definitive review  (I don't have enough to say to justify writing a full-length one later; also, due to time commitments, I've decided not to write full-length reviews anymore for short stories, novellas and anthologies, except in special cases or unless they're part of a series).

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?

15 comments:

  1. Floating Hotel is one I've been super interestd in. I think Shannon and a few others I follow have reviewed it, and I want to give it a shot... Penance I find super intriguing.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. FH has been compared to Becky Chambers' books, so I assume it would be your thing...I know you love those 🙂.

      Re. Penance - maybe I've read too many afterlife books, so it's hard to surprise me anymore...

      Delete
  2. I haven't read these but they sound pretty good.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Not personal favourites, but the premises are interesting, and up to a point, they deliver.

      Delete
  3. Roberta, this is not a great bunch of books for you. Short story collections are hit or miss for me, so I can relate to your issues with Floating Hotel, and I guess it's not the worse that you wanted more from Valentine Cash but seemed to like what there was. I hope your next batch of books are better.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. FH isn't exactly a collection, but it sort of works as one...anyhow, yep, we have that in common - I remember you talking about it a few times.
      Thanks!

      Delete
  4. I think I'm with you on these. I need deeper connections to characters beyond a clever concept.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If the concept is REALLY up my alley and REALLY clever, I can override the character thing...but they still need to have a certain depth or to call to me.

      Delete
  5. I loved Linghun, for some reason it really worked for me. But yes, very weird and I very cool idea. I liked Floating Hotel more than you, but it was pretty much what I expected, so I wasn't surprised by the thin plot. Lovely reviews, Roberta!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess I expected FH to be more like Paradox Hotel, which I loved. I remember your Linghun review - I think it was a 5-star one. Thank you!

      Delete
  6. Ho-hum 3's. I guess that's not too bad - at least you found something to like from each book.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yep! I guess I'm very finicky about my afterlife LOL - and it turned out that cozy sci-fi isn't exactly my thing...

      Delete
  7. Well this is a very sad bunch of mediocrity! I mean- I guess it is good that it isn't all bad, but sometimes bad is more entertaining, heh. I felt quite similarly about Floating Hotel! I did enjoy quite a few of the characters but it did feel like not much happened- and like you said,, was quite light on the actual sci-fi! Great reviews!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. To be honest, I'm grateful for the middle ground...I tend not to be entertained by bad LOL. I feel that FH is a good example of its genre, but I had different expectations (as you probably had as well). Thank you!

      Delete

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