Crewe Chase and the Jet Reapers

E. Sisco

I received an advanced reader copy of this book in exchange for a review.

Crewe Chase and the Jet Reapers would be better named Crewe Chase and the Anger Problem. Hailed as fantasy novel on the level of Harry Potter and the X-Men Origin comics, I was thrilled to read this novel. The adverts have greatly exaggerated what the reader will receive from this novel, which is disappointing because I would have loved to read a Harry Potter/X-men Origin/Engrossing Fiction novel.

The prologue is great, you have high hopes for a great, new magical series. That should be in a fantasy short story collection; it is intense, dark, and engaging.

But, that is just the prologue.

Sisco’s world-building is mediocre. Harry Potter and X-Men are greats because they swept you away into their world. Gringotts and Hogwarts were places that you stayed in far after the comics, books, movies, and trips to the filming sites / the Wizarding World of Harry Potter. You loved the characters, the world, the story. You wanted to be magical or genetically evolved. You started a book and ended a relationship that you revisit often.

The tension in the story relies solely on ignorance (just pure lack of information given to the reader) and the drama between the main character and the women around him. (“Ooh, she hates me. I don’t know why; I am a good guy. She says she is taking care of me but she is crazy.” Seriously, this for 80% of the novel.)

This is a university – with a school nerd, a school dance, and other boarding school nonsense. Apparently, magical people take a bit longer to mature?

This book has very little to offer a female reader. The castle is given a paragraph of imagery. A castle. A HUGE CASTLE. One paragraph. The three female characters have a paragraph every time they enter the story. The tightness of the shirt worn, the cut of the shirt, the level of makeup used, how hot versus how crazy they are. Seriously, HUGE castle and I know there is a hall blackened by dragon fire and tall ceilings and a portal room. Three young women and I know what they look like, what they wear if they are Chase’s type or not and WHY not. The only thing I know about Crewe is that he is decent looking. His best friend is tall and gawky, no idea about the other two close friends he has but they are NEVER described. The role of the females in this novel is to be subjects of mystery or to be the victim to be saved. We also perpetuate the myth that if a nice guy likes you, it is your DUTY to entertain him. Not liking a guy is portrayed as tossing him aside, too stupid to see his strengths, shallow, or missing an opportunity. Obviously, girls have zero reasons to not like a guy that is your friend unless she is a shallow cow; but telling her off will change her mind. (I have decided to skip the very clear implications that women should have cookies baked or dinner cooked.)

It might have less to offer a male reader. You get some eye candy in the female characters. But, at no point do you get any depth. The mystery of a person’s intent is not depth. The main character is reactive. Despite being the most powerful wizard and one of the most intelligent students in the castle, which is at times humble and at times very egotistical about in a way that makes no sense, he reacts to situations with rage and violence. (Yes, like a steroid abuser.) A bully is attacking the victim girl? Threaten and violently react. Obviously. Someone is sabotaging you? Launch a bias and completely shallow investigation, assume a guilty party, and attack them out of anger because you didn’t get what you felt you deserved. The idea that males only have anger and impulse in their toolkit for handling situations is as bad as (if not, worse than) the myth a girl is a mystery or victim or a bitch.  The one male character with personality is obsessed with a girl and constantly knocked down for his personality. They guy needed better friends than Crewe.

The first 95% of the novel mentions the Jet Reapers only a couple times. A single chapter, less than 2% of the novel, reveals them to be a sect of fighters that are supremacist and extremists.

The author appears to be setting up a series about the dangers of prejudice from both the ruling class and of the minority. The cycle of war, hatred, and prejudice seems to be a clear theme. And, given the difficulties that lay ahead in our lifetimes, those are very important topics to discuss.

It would have been more effective if the character was fully developed. If anger and revenge were not the ONLY things he felt. People joining supremacist are more than angry, vengeful drones.

-A Bookish Girl

 

The Child Theif

Gerald Brom

I enjoy dark retellings of popularised sanguine Disney characters. These “dark fairy tales” seem to rekindle the spirit of the original fables, lore, and tales shared for generations before Disney’s adaptations. For these reasons, I picked up Brom’s story.

I received a suitably grim novel for those sharing my slightly twisted streak, Brom retells Peter Pan for the modern listener filled with wondrous depictions and incredible world building.

The three-dimensional characters are some of the most astounding characters written in fantasy today (rivalling Abercrombie and Martin). The depth of the characters ensures there are no good and no bad roles. No black and white. Merely people.

Once I finished the novel, I was delighted by the tale. I read it late into the night and dreamt of Avalon and Peter until society sucked me back into its tight grasp. When work threatened to overwhelm, the actual meaning of this story surfaced.

I stood up, walked out of the office, and went for a walk in the beautiful park downtown that I often comment on but rarely enjoy. I watched children play in the river next to the sign stating the rocks and water is NOT for swimming, I saw a dog running with an adolescent near a sign mounted demanding the reader to stay off the grass, and I felt the sun kiss my skin and release the need to play. The magical innocence of childhood rekindled, I returned to work, finished my working day, went home and romped with the two puppies waiting impatiently on my return. The world is filled with rules which take from the magic; we should fight to keep the magic alive.

-A Bookish Girl

Believe Me

Eddie Izzard

I received a digital advance reader edition of this book for free from firsttoread.com.

Eddie Izzard’s memoirs are enchanting. He has welcomed us into his mind, made us a cuppa, and asked us to stay a while. Izzard opens his life to us with a graceful honesty that makes you ruminate on the innocence of childhood, the tragedy of those teenage years, and the contradiction of absolute freedom and societal restriction that is young adulthood alongside him. When he describes a moment, he does so in a manner that you experience first-hand, but also with the wisdom of age and hindsight. He does this in a way that does not take from the memory, merely sprinkles a touch of self-awareness into the stories.

Izzard has given us a beautifully honest and entertaining glimpse into his life story. It is devoured easily in a single sitting and endlessly quotable. I hope you do spend a few hours of your life with this story and laugh, hurt, and grow alongside one of the best entertainers of our era.

-A Bookish Girl

Verdigris Deep

Frances Hardinge

If you have not yet read a Frances Hardinge book, please pick one up today. She is incredibly talented. You may be weary at first because her books are often referred to has children’s books. The only thing that makes these novels “children’s books” is the font-size and young main characters. The themes, prose, and storyline are so unique and beautiful in each of her novels.

Verdigris Deep is a story covering the nature of wishes, friendships, relationships, and the interconnectedness of the world. Hardinge has the ability to do this without disrupting the flow of the story or becoming condescending – which can happen when an adult is teaching life lessons of this nature and depth. Hardinge teaches lessons that are necessary to learn and be reminded of during any part of your life journey.

I hope that you will pick these books up to share with your family and the child that lives and imagines in all of us.

-A Bookish Girl

Glass Sword

Victoria Aveyard

Throughout the first novel, I hoped the series would show the growth of the main character and the few minor characters. The second novel made it clear the main character would not grow. The main character has three thoughts which are repeated to fill a book. (1) I loved Mavin, but he betrayed me. Maybe there was good in him. (2) I love Cal, but I don’t trust him. I will sleep with him but not trust him. (3) I must save newbloods.

Several new characters were introduced in this book. These characters are merely abilities that will useful in the eventual battle that may come at some point? Their personalities and stories are about as bland as the world the author half-built.

I wanted to stick with it. I wanted it to be a good series. But the lack of depth, insight, and growth made it impossible to overlook the lack of world building. Overall, this series is a disappointment.

-A Bookish Girl

How to Train Your Viking

Toothless the Dragon, translated from the Dragonese by Cressida Cowell

If you have not yet been introduced to the book series that How to Train Your Dragon, stop what you are doing now and begin the series today. Amazon suggests the reading age is eight to eleven-years-old, but they are liars and fools. These imaginative and fantastic novels tell a story about becoming a hero despite being ordinary in every way. Don’t we all want to be a little more heroic in our everyday lives?

This novella written from the point-of-view of Toothless is just as magical as the rest of the series. I urge every adult to read this series – if only to remember how to be swept away into a land of imagination for a little while. This short story is great to fill your lunch hour with a bit of magic so that you can return to work happy and smiling.

This series and this novella make for an enchanted time spent with your family or just with Cowell’s words.

-A Bookish Girl

Philosophy for Heroes: Part I Knowledge

Clemens Lode

I received an advanced reader’s copy of this novel from the author and publisher.

Lode writes an accessible and engaging introduction to his series on living a “heroic” life. The book is written like a conversation, which makes it easy to pick up the themes and theories included in this book. It is written for anyone to pick up and read. If you are a philosophy student the first chapter of the novel is a bit difficult to get through as Lode introduces basic concepts and definitions in excruciating detail. Once you have endured this chapter, the conversation picks up. (If you are new to philosophy, this chapter may be difficult to understand, but Lode does an incredible job breaking down the jargon and ideas that you will need to continue your philosophical journey.)

I do think this book will be the weakest of his series because it is the beginning. The author seems to have a very clear path ahead with topics that will be far more intriguing. If you are acquainted with philosophy, you may skip this book and jump to the second without much loss.

-A Bookish Girl

Red Queen

Victoria Aveyard

The Red Queen is not a good story if you are looking for a strong heroine lead in a fantasy series. If you are looking for a series like The Hunger Games, a tale about a female (Mary Sue) becoming the leader of a revolution, then this series and this novel will be great for you. If you enjoyed the love triangle and push-pull romance in the Hunger Games, the romance in the novels will be enjoyable for you.

If you can stomach a perfect character for whom all the main male characters fall in love, has a rare and powerful ability, and is as emotionally mature as a middle schooler, the background characters are interesting and the story about the revolt is intriguing. It does require reading the entire series and suffering through the point of view of the main character before this part of the story is resolved.

I enjoyed this novel because I enjoy stories. I wanted Maven to be a twisted, psychopath and finishing the book let me know if I was correct. I wanted to see if Cal was a kind-hearted character as I suspected. I wanted to see if the Reds would rise against the Silvers. To resolve these background tales and inquiries, I pushed on from the otherwise obnoxious point of view.

To be fair, I am about 100 pages into the second book and the character seems to have grown a bit. Yet, the growth seems very focused on vengeance and still lacking any emotional depth.

I guess I learned that you can enjoy a novel while disliking the main character and their point of view simultaneously.

-A Bookish Girl

Asylum

Madeleine Roux

I was given this young adult novel from my mum out of the blue, so I was rather excited to read it. As a gift, I did not do my typical days of research and deliberation before purchasing the book. Thus when I started reading, I had no idea what it was about, how it was rated, etc. I just read from a blank sheet.

The story is engrossing, creative, and creepy enough to make you want the lights on when you go to bed. The writing is straightforward and fast-paced so the story can be devoured in one sitting. The novel makes the reader feel like the narrator; at times angry, paranoid, and just a bit lost.

At times, the story feels like an insight into a mind slowly going crazy, told by an unreliable narrator. Indeed, this would have made the book incredible and unique. I would have loved the final twist to have been an unexplained statement of the unreliability of reality. But, I did not write it, and my preferences are just that, preferences. Roux gives us a haunting thriller that can be devoured quickly and stay with you in dreams and dark, stormy nights. Worth the read during the next stormy night that you find yourself alone.

-A Bookish Girl