Book Review: The Westside by W.M. Akers

Unknown-3

Finally….. I finished reading the book and my original thoughts still stand.  I’m giving this book 3 out of 5 stars.

A young detective who specializes in “tiny mysteries” finds herself at the center of a massive conspiracy in this beguiling historical fantasy set on Manhattan’s Westside—a peculiar and dangerous neighborhood home to strange magic and stranger residents—that blends the vivid atmosphere of Caleb Carr with the imaginative power of Neil Gaiman.

I finished the book earlier this week…. hmm maybe even late last week and I wanted to sit with my thoughts before I posted a review.  I wanted to make sure I liked it or didn’t like it and I’m still not 100% sure I am fully comfortable with my decision.

The writing was great.  I enjoyed and connected with the way the author wrote the story. there are so many quotes in the book that resonated with me  and that gave the story that extra punch that I had to stop tagging pages or I would be tagging every single page. I thought the premise of the story was interesting and it actually was what sold me on this book.  The fact that little mysteries are most often than not the ones that are worth solving.  Well, yeah, that and the fact that it’s set in New York in the 20’s….. What more can one wish for?  However, that’s where I break paths with the book.

Although the premise of the story was great I felt confused reading it.  I was constantly being pulled out of the world trying to figure out what the author was trying to say.  It felt that every time I was immersed in the world and in the action, something would be pulling me right back out.  There were characters that were introduced whom I had no connection with and they appeared from out of nowhere.  There were things going on that I’m not sure added anything to the story and, in fact, they wound up only confusing me even more.  I actually started to feel that it was me.  Perhaps it’s not the right book for me or maybe not the right time for me to be reading this book.  This may be one of those books that I will go back to reading again and again and each time I’ll learn something new.  Maybe I do have to read it again.  I’ll have to give myself some time because right now the confusion is still very raw and I’m not sure I’ll give it the honest chance that the writing deserves.

I will be looking for more books from this author.  The writing was amazing …. here is an example from the first page of the book:

I stole a glove.  It dangled off a table in a decrepit leather shop in Thieves Makes on the East side of Manhattan in sweltering late September 1921, and it was in my bag before I even knew it was in my hand.

This sentence put me in the shoes of the protagonist.  I could feel the heat, I could see the glove and I understood how something just is done without a thought.  It just appeared in the bag….. even before she thought about it.

There are many other passages like this and these were the moments when I was taken to the world where Gilda Carr, our protagonist lives.  This was also the world where I needed to stay in order to understand her and everyone around her but the confusion and the need to bring myself back into the world was jarring.

I’m not giving up.  There’s gotta be something I’m missing.

I’m sorry I didn’t like the book more than I did.

XoXo

Ana

How I feel about the Westside by W. M. Akers

Nope.  I don’t think so.  I want to read and I am reading but I am reading sooooooo slow.  The book started out as a great read and I could not get enough of it.  I actually read 139 pages in one sitting and then I put it down.  I thought it was because I was burned out from sitting and reading for so long but now…. I’m not really sure.

I don’t want to let another week by without updating you on my reading or lack thereof so I thought I’d just come on here and try to put some perspective into what it is that is going on with this book.

Unknown-3

The story takes place in New York in 1921 and a fence has been built the full length of the island of Manhattan, separating the East and the West Sides.  People have been disappearing, the Westside has been taken “hostage” by Barbarossa, a woman who for what I understand so far is a bootlegger and in a strange way related to our protagonist, Gilda Carr.

At the start of the story, Gilda Carr, the daughter of a police officer who appears to have been a legend on the Westside, takes a detective job to find Mrs. Copeland’s missing leather glove.  The gloves had been a gift from Mr. Copeland to Mrs. Copeland and she did not want him to find out that she had lost one.  She made Gilda promise that she would not tell Mr. Copeland.  The job seems easy and the perfect type of job for her….. she doesn’t want to take on complicated cases.  In fact, she refers to her detective agency as one that only accepts “Tiny Mysteries” because those are are the ones that have the ability to “Destroy us.”   Gilda, takes the job and while she’s following Mr. Copeland in hopes to find out where he may have purchased the gloves she witnesses his murder.

For the next 100 or so pages the story revolves around what the Westside and the Eastside have become and what has been going on on both sides of the fence.  We meet and find out more about Gilda and her “nanny” who is still living with her Hellida and still seems to be taking care of Gilda all the time.  Or maybe she’s just really over protective.  I have taken a liking to Hellida and find her to be very caring and very normal, as opposed to other of the characters in the book.

For now I’m not ready to say that I’m not enjoying the book but I am going to say that although in the beginning of the story there were some very funny moments with dialogue and even with some of the narrative, as I get to the middle those moments are not as apparent.  it just seems to be a lot of strange characters appearing.  There are so many people popping in and out of the story that I am losing track of who each of them is and I’m starting to feel a little bit lost.  At one point there was a child introduced and then nothing much was done with the child so I’m still wondering if that child is going to appear at some point later on because that has happened with other characters and …. Well, I’m a little confused with the story right now and almost ready to give up.

Reasons to not DNF this book:

I started out really liking the book and because it takes place in New York, specifically Manhattan I wanted to read it.  I really enjoy reading books about areas with which I am familiar.  However, I’ve not found anything mentioned that I may be familiar with.  Even when the author was referring to the docks I was hoping I could feel a connection but …. yeah…. did not happen.  The author lives in Brooklyn so I was hoping to have things seem more familiar but…. I guess I can toss that up to the book being a fantasy so perhaps it’s just his made up world.

The world building is good.  I am able to immerse myself in the world and feel like I can see the streets and feel the darkness of the night with every description.  I just sometimes wish it wasn’t so wordy.  I think the author did a really good job with the world and I’m pretty sure that’s the biggest reason why I have not given up the book yet.

I’m going to try to read 200 pages tonight and hopefully this weekend I will be able to have a review ….. a good review….. up and published.  I hope I don’t disappoint you all.  I’m really going to try.

Thanks for stopping by and please do come back.  I have a few other books in progress right now so I am really hoping to finish this one so I can get on with the others.

Thanks again

Ana

 

Book Review

Trail of Lightning by Rebecca Roanhorse

Unknown-2

I heard about this book on Saturday night when I was browsing Goodreads for fantasy and science fiction books to read.  I came across #booktubeSFFAwards2019 (I think I’m saying that right) and realized that the judges were hosting a few read-alongs in the month of May.  Browsing the books I realized that most of them were the second or third books in  a series and since I have quite a few books in progress right now…. Ok, not as many as some other reviewers and bloggers who are much more experienced than I am….. I’m just not as good at keeping all the stories right in my head if I try to read more than two or three books at a time…. I picked this one.  For no other reason than the fact that it is the first in a series.  I knew I was going to spend my Sunday reading since we were going to be stuck in the house while Mother Nature poured down on us forcing us to relax and just hang.

I knew absolutely nothing about the book and to tell you all the truth I didn’t even read any reviews before hitting the “buy” button on my kindle.  To say I was a bit taken by surprise is an understatement.  I mean, I knew it was fantasy, there would be monsters and magic and battles…. that’s what I knew and actually, in a way what I was hoping for.  What I got was….. Wow!!!!!!!

The story follows Maggie Hoskie, a Native American after the United States have succumbed to a massive environmental and political collapse.  In order to protect their people the Gods protected the Nation by erecting a wall (Ohhh noooo, that this wall talk again…..)  to keep the residents away from the chaos taking place outside.  This does not mean that inside the wall things were pleasant.  Far from it….. within the walls there are water and food shortages and monsters have started roaming the earth again.

Maggie is “blessed” with magic from her clan.  Most people are.  The magic they receive, it seems to me, comes from both sides of the family (the mother and the father).  Her magic is speed and strength.  We learn that as a young child she suffered a great loss in and is “adopted” by a non-human (a God, Neizghání) who takes her under his mentorship and teaches her the art of monster slaying she eventually falls in love with Neizghání.  However, If you ask me perhaps what she felt was not love but comfort and the freedom that comes from being loved and understood.  It felt to me, while reading the book that Maggie didn’t have much of that after her loss.  Eventually and suddenly one night Neizghání left her without warning and for the rest of the book she is haunted by remembering him and trying to figure out why he left her.

When we met Maggie, at the start of the story she lives alone in a trailer and she seems to be be ok with that although some times I couldn’t help but feel as if she was longing to share her space with someone.  It was obvious that she wanted that to be Neizghání but I felt as if anyone who brought her some comfort would have done it.  She has no friends and no family except for her three dogs and an old medicine man who lives in a different town who calls her “daughter.”

The story begins when Maggie is hired by a the family of a young girl who has been kidnapped by a monster.  The slaying does not go the way we expect mostly because the monster is not what we or Maggie expected and the young girl dies (Not a spoiler at all).  Ashe returns the remains of the girl to the family, Maggie drives to seek some comfort from the medicine man and that’s where she meets Kai, the medicine man’s grandson, who becomes her traveling companion.  The story takes off from here and ….. It never stops moving….. FAST.

This book is full of action and some times there was so much going on at the same time that I forgot where I was supposed to be looking.  Most of the time we follow the two characters traveling around the Navaho nation looking for things as a way to introduce us to the world and the characters.

The world building was done very well and it was very easy to imagine myself there (not that I would ever want to be there).  Likewise, I felt that the characters were well developed and aside from a few small flaws that got on my nerves, I never felt like I didn’t know a character well enough.  If there is one complaint I have here is overly verbose descriptions which sometimes made the reading slow and made me a bit frustrated.  The other thing that continuously pulled me out of the story were the names. I think this is a problem with me not necessarily the writer.  I felt like I had to read and re-read the names of the towns, the nations and the people in order to get them right and get a feel for who they were.  Not being a native speaker I guess that’s always a problem. I’m not sure ….. Maybe just my problem?

The battles between Maggie and the monsters are described so meticulously that at times they became so real and violent that it made it difficult to continue reading.  There were instances when I had to turn off he e-reader and take a little water break.  This book is not shy on violence.

The novel’s pace was fast and kept me interested and curious wanting to turn the page.  However, as I said above, I could have used a small breather between each action.  It kept me turning the pages.  The only time that it got boring or annoying was during the narration of the landscape or how descriptive some of the passages were.  There are easier ways to get the message across without using so many words.

The climax was….. WOW….. super climaxy (I made up a word) and I could not wait to keep reading.  I felt tired, almost as if I were one of the characters standing there at the end of the story.  One of the plot points did not feel well closed at the end but I’m wondering if that will be resolved in the next book.  I’d love to discuss it here but I don’t want to give anything away…… I was. bit confused about it and can’t wait to see what others thing and if they bring it up.  It has to do with Kai….. If you must know.

This is a really fast enjoyable read and kept me interested.  I think the cliffhanger at the end can take the story in a whole lot of different directions and I’m sure we are all wondering what direction the author is going to be taken 🙂 (I believe the book leads the author and not the other way around).

Great read a solid four stars.

 

The Machine Stops by E.M. Forster

TheMachine Stops

This is a short story initially published in 1909 in the Oxford and Cambridge Review.  The story was then republished in Forester’s short story compilation of The Eternal Moment and Other Stories in 1928.  It has since then received a few awards including in 1965 one of the best novellas and in 1973 it was included in the Science Fiction Hall of Fame, Volume Two.

The author never tells us what year we are being presented with and that is probably for the best because one of the things about Orwell’s 1984 is that I tend to get distracted when reading it and thinking back to that time.  Ok, I know it’s a work of fiction but I can’t help if my brain tends to always attempt to make connections.  In The Machine Stops, Forester introduces the reader to a civilization who lives underground after having developed a “machine” which seems to take care of their every need.  The Machines takes care of their every need.  Food, water, pure air and, in fact, even their spiritual needs.  The “Book” which I liken it to a spiritual manual is seen in the same way as the Christians see the Bible.

People don’t have to ever leave their homes, although it is permitted, in order to “see” family or read books.  The Machine provides for all their needs.  Things have been this way for so long that people don’t actually want to travel and prefer, instead, to remain in their “rooms” and have their lives taken care of.

The story follows two main characters Vashti and her son Kuno.  They live on opposite sides of the world from each other.  Vashti has grown used to the ways of the machine is content with her life.  She enjoys the isolation of her room and the comforts the machine provides without any effort.  Forester talks about how muscles become attrophied and muscles are looked down upon.  There is no need for a muscular body and, in fact, muscular or bigger babies are euthanized because it’s better for them since if they are stronger they will need to exercise and roam and there is no place in the world of The Machine.  The ability to have discussions (exchange ideas) seem to be the past time and that is done through video messaging with the rest of the world.  There is no human or barely any human contact.  Even procreation is regulated by The Machine.

Kuno, on the other hand has grown curious of the world on the surface of the Earth and has ventured there without the permission of The Machine.  While on the surface he was caught by the machine and now faces the possibility of homelessness – being expelled from the underground and perhaps death (I didn’t quite understand if physical death or death from this type of world).  Kuno calls Vashti, his mother, to come see him at his own and although not happy about having to travel she goes to visit him and he tells her that he’s gone above and that he saw life in the surface.  He recounts how beautiful it was up at the top and that even though he is now facing “homelessness” he rather be there where there is color clarity.  However, the Machine brought him back and now he can’t leave because it won’t let him go.  Vashti dismisses him and goes back to her own home where she resumes the “idea” development and discussion with her “friends” from around the world.

Things begin to change.  First travel outside the “walls” of The Machine become prohibited which Vashti agrees with.  “There is no need to go out there.” and then a new religion appears and humans begin to worship The Book – a book of rules for living in the underground.  All this is accepted and humans forget that they were the ones who build the machine and begin to worship the machine instead of using it.  While this changes are taking place the machine begins to break down and the “Mending Apparatus” is no longer able to repair itself.  Humans begin to complain about moldy smells and the food is not so good and the then the beds don’t appear when called and the bath waters are not as they like it.  Eventually, the hum of the machine stops and since the knowledge of how to repair the machine has been lost the machine finally collapses taking with it a civilization that willingly became subservient to it.

Kuno finds his mother in her room afraid to leave because there were too many people trying to climb to the surface and unable to do so they were dying outside her door.  She feared human contact and therefore hid in her room.  Before they both died they realized that the humans on the surface of the earth would have to be responsible for continuing the species and not repeat the mistakes of the past.

This story has been adapted into a television series called Out of the Unknown.  The series was first aired in 1965 and lasted four season until the producers made the transition into horror instead of Science Fiction.

Although the language, at times, was distracting I enjoyed reading this short story.  The description of the humans not wanting or needing to do things for themselves is something we are experiencing to some extent.  We no longer need to travel to see family or keep in touch with friends.  All our communications can be done via video or phone.  We are constantly connected via technology.   Like in the story we can get anything we want delivered right to our front doors.  We can receive an education on line.  If we are hungry we can order food and have it delivered.  Even this book, I was able to just have it magically appear on my iPad and read it the same day.   It’s not a far stretch to the imagination to see some of the passages in the story taking place today.

If you enjoy SciFi and want a quick read I think this book is still relevant.  I would caution you about the language but otherwise I think it’s a good fast read with an interesting concept.

On to may next book.

Ana

 

.

 

 

It’s Not Book Related but ….

It’s true.  I have been missing in action and slacking on the reading front but as we all know, life sometimes takes over and … well….. I roll with the punches.  So, because it’s been so busy and I’ve been rolling with the punches most of my reading has been articles, newspapers….. I have not picked up a book in …. well….. months!!! Sad to say!

I am fully aware that in order to stay relevant I really have to make a larger effort and get on here a little more.  I’m sure most of you guys have already moved on and found a replacement for “Ana Talks Books.”  So here I am.  This time I’m going to, instead of telling you about books, I’m going to share some of the best articles I came across in the past few weeks.  I hope you don’t mind and you can hang tight until I get myself untangled from this crazy busy life and get back to serious book business.  So here we go!

Most of us have day gigs, you know that place we go to every morning and if it weren’t for the paycheck some of us would not return the next day.  I will admit that I do enjoy what I do, so I’m not in that category, but I am normal, after all, and as any normal human being sometimes the thought of making the trip to the office makes me cringe.  I am absolutely not into office childish games and sometimes that how it feels.  Well, I found this article to which I’m sure most of you can relate.  Popularity at Work Still Matters.  Let me know what you think.  Doesn’t it hit on all the points?

Beloved Nutella changes its recipe!  WHAT???? We are all going to miss the comforting feel of sitting on the couch, after a very complicated adulating day and enjoying a jar of Nutella, savoring that familiar homey feeling…… ok, maybe that’s just me.  So, yes, I’m a bit charged up about this.

“What’s your current salary?” Has been banned from interviews in New York.  How do you feel about that?  Well, as an employee and a woman I feel really good about this.  No more trying to figure out if I’m selling myself short.  Now I can, instead of saying how much I make, I can actually tell them how much I’m worth.  Isn’t that much better?

There were others but true to form I forgot to save them.  I really need to get with it!!!! Let’s start small and grow from here.

I do hope you are all having a great day and have an awesome weekend.  I’ll try to not go silent for this long again.

See ya!