A futuristic and dystopian YA book
Book Reviews

A Futuristic and Dystopian YA Book

It’s a good thing we don’t live in a dystopian society. *cough* *cough*

A futuristic and dystopian YA book

 

This post contains affiliate links. That means I earn a commission from clicks or purchases made through these links at no cost to you.

 

This week’s book is the second in a series. And anyone who’s been following my blog for some time knows that I’m notorious for reading things out of order. I admit that this habit doesn’t allow me to experience the full history of a fictional world or its characters when I jump right into the middle of things. But, it also gives me a good sense of how coherent the world is. As soon as I opened this book, I knew the characters had a history together. And the author included sufficient descriptive details which kept me from becoming disoriented.

So what is today’s book?

The Stolen Sky, by Heather Hansen, hits the ground running. It takes place in a sunless city. More specifically, the city has been divided into multiple levels with the majority of the population dwelling underground. Those on the surface hold all the power and most of the wealth. Meanwhile, those living underground need supplements of VitD (vitamin D, which we get from the sun) in order to avoid a grisly death.

Hansen’s writing really shines in its worldbuilding. The social hierarchy and subtle political machinations are well-planned. It feels like a real living, breathing (or gasping) world.

I would have enjoyed this book even better if the romance between the two main characters didn’t interrupt the action. Because this book has some pretty amazing action scenes. And, overall, I didn’t feel that invested in their relationship. Part of this might be because I haven’t read the first book in the series, so I’m not holding that against this book. But the whole romantic-moment-interrupting-a-life-or-death-situation-with-a-short-timer-on-it is a common trope in books and television. Especially television. To me, it feels forced and unnatural even with two hormone-addled teens.

However, Arden and Dade (the main characters) make other pretty adolescent choices fueled by fear. And this aspect of the characters feels incredibly honest to me. Living in a stressful, dystopian nightmare doesn’t help your brain make great decisions. Even more so when you’re a young adult and your prefrontal cortex is restructuring (think: moodiness and lack of inhibition). All things considered, these characters are resourceful, highly adaptive, and realistic.

Rating: 4.6 out of 5 stars

 

 

 


Did You Catch These Book Reviews?

Issola · Reversion · The Dead Room · Naheli’s Sacrifice · The Reviled · After Jessica · Running Out of Time · Wixon’s Day · Little Computer People · The Book of Jhereg · The Adventures of Technicality Man · When the Future Comes Too Soon · Love is Love · The Bear · Dragon God · Balfair’s Confinement · Don Quixote & Candide Seek Truth, Justice, and El Dorado in the Digital Age · Shoebox Funeral · The Plainview Lottery · The Lady Who Loved Lightning · Loreless · Breaking Up Is Hard To Do… But You Could’ve Done Better · I Was Picked: The John Challis Story · The Touch: A Supernatural Story · Jake & The Dragons of Asheville · Kat Cubed · Transgender Manifesto

One Book Every Cisgender Person Should Read
Book Reviews

Transgender Manifesto

Transgender people have been around a long time and are here to stay.

One Book Every Cisgender Person Should Read

This week’s read is nonfiction, which is rare for me. It’s also written by a transgender woman about civil rights from the transgender community’s point of view. If this makes you uncomfortable, then you should really read this book. At the very least, you can walk away from it with a better understanding of what transgender people deal with every day.

Before I dive into the review portion of this post, know that I get a commission for purchases made through some links in this post.

Okay.

The Transgender Manifesto, by Ian Thomas Malone (she/her), opens with a flashy celebration of transgender people and an open defiance against the gender binary. Structure-wise, the book is divided into many bite-sized chapters. In each chapter, she addresses various components of life as a transgender person. From discussing the validity of non-binary genders to tackling the all-too-common discrimination transgender people face in society to this day. Malone also inserts tidbits from LGBTQ+ history. And she delves into contemporary politics.

Perhaps most interesting is how she tackles prejudice. She outlines the most common arguments flung against the transgender community. And then? Malone systematically refutes them. The author doggedly breaks down each point, one by one. In this book, she goes from fiery to philosophical and back again. It’s pretty fabulous.

Rating: 5 out of 5


Did You Catch These Book Reviews?

Issola · Reversion · The Dead Room · Naheli’s Sacrifice · The Reviled · After Jessica · Running Out of Time · Wixon’s Day · Little Computer People · The Book of Jhereg · The Adventures of Technicality Man · When the Future Comes Too Soon · Love is Love · The Bear · Dragon God · Balfair’s Confinement · Don Quixote & Candide Seek Truth, Justice, and El Dorado in the Digital Age · Shoebox Funeral · The Plainview Lottery · The Lady Who Loved Lightning · Loreless · Breaking Up Is Hard To Do… But You Could’ve Done Better · I Was Picked: The John Challis Story · The Touch: A Supernatural Story · Jake & The Dragons of Asheville · Kat Cubed

Multiverse Fiction
Book Reviews

Multiverse Fiction for Action Lovers

Where in the multiverse are we?

Multiverse Fiction
This week’s book is a science-fiction story that had me on the edge of my seat. It was written by a woman indie author who has some serious plotting and pacing chops if this book is anything to go by. Also, I really love the creative possibilities that the multiverse concept provides.

So, what is this fantastic book?

Before I get to that, I’d like to remind you that affiliate links have been added to this post for your convenience. Clicking them won’t make your browser go boom (I checked, twice). But if you decide to buy this super awesome book that I actually loved from the links, I will earn a commission. At absolutely no charge to you. Super salesy moment over now? You betchya! Okay, now let me tell you more about the story.

Kat Cubed, by Lesley L. Smith is a thrilling glimpse into humanity’s ability to survive despite seemingly insurmountable odds. The narrative contains 3 separate versions of the main character: Kat, Katherine, and Kaitlin. Hence, the title. Get it?

Each version of Kat lives in a different universe, completely oblivious to the others. That is, until something goes wonderfully, horribly wrong. Kat/Katherine/Kaitlin meet and explore each other’s vastly different dystopian versions of reality, learning more about themselves and the people they love along the way.

Perhaps the trickiest part about maintaining multiple separate universes within a single novel has to be the transitions from one universe to the next. Smith handles this beautifully with clearly labeled headings and the slightly different attitudes and quirks of each Kat.

For anyone who’s followed this blog for a while, you know I don’t always review books with such glowing praise. But this book really hit the spot.

Rating: 5 out of 5


Did You Catch These Book Reviews?

Issola · Reversion · The Dead Room · Naheli’s Sacrifice · The Reviled · After Jessica · Running Out of Time · Wixon’s Day · Little Computer People · The Book of Jhereg · The Adventures of Technicality Man · When the Future Comes Too Soon · Love is Love · The Bear · Dragon God · Balfair’s Confinement · Don Quixote & Candide Seek Truth, Justice, and El Dorado in the Digital Age · Shoebox Funeral · The Plainview Lottery · The Lady Who Loved Lightning · Loreless · Breaking Up Is Hard To Do… But You Could’ve Done Better · I Was Picked: The John Challis Story · The Touch: A Supernatural Story · Jake & The Dragons of Asheville

dragon
Book Reviews

Dragon Book Worth Reading

Great read for any dragon lover.

dragon

Let’s face it, dragons are awesome. Take any ho-hum story, stick a dragon in it and BOOM! Magic happens. This week’s read isn’t boring by any standard. In fact, I enjoyed it way more than I thought I would. Right now, you might be asking:

Why didn’t you think you would like it?

Well, I’m so glad you asked! You know how some books do this meta thing where a character is reading a book? I have no idea why, but reading about characters who are reading has always annoyed me. (Even though I’ve also written characters who were reading. Hey, I didn’t say my opinions made any sense.) So, when the first and second chapters featured excerpts from a book one of the characters was reading, I got a little nervous. Was this entire novel going to be one giant case of Inception?

Thankfully, the answer is no. (I love Inception, by the way. Have I mentioned I’m weird?)

Okay. So now you might be asking:

What book are you even talking about?

Great question! This is where I pump the brakes and inform you there will be affiliate links up ahead. And I earn a commission (at no cost to you) from those links when you buy something. All clear? Sweet. Buckle up because this is going to be a fun ride.

Jake & the Dragons of Asheville, by Brian Kacica, is a magical tale that takes place in a small town in North Carolina. When met with tragic circumstances beyond his control, Jake Winston, the titular character, embarks on a journey to discover more about his family and his town’s history. But he’s still in school. Also, dragons may or may not be involved. Did I mention that there might be a dragon or two? Perhaps it slipped my mind.

Several other people who’ve read and reviewed this book have mentioned that some of the characters lack depth. This is absolutely true. The bully is stereotypical (strong and unintelligent). The weak love triangle features a vapid, hormone-addled teenage girl. There’s a wealthy man who only cares about his business and the main villain has exaggerated anger issues. However, I found these characters immensely humorous (or irritating depending on the situation). And, in my opinion, these characters are part of what made the book so enjoyable.

Most of all, this book really shines during the action scenes. The pacing is spot on, the action is intense. I would 100% watch this as a television show or movie. But don’t take my word for it. Get a copy and decide for yourself.

Dragon Book Recommendation

Rating: 4.9 out of 5 stars


Did You Catch These Book Reviews?

Issola · Reversion · The Dead Room · Naheli’s Sacrifice · The Reviled · After Jessica · Running Out of Time · Wixon’s Day · Little Computer People · The Book of Jhereg · The Adventures of Technicality Man · When the Future Comes Too Soon · Love is Love · The Bear · Dragon God · Balfair’s Confinement · Don Quixote & Candide Seek Truth, Justice, and El Dorado in the Digital Age · Shoebox Funeral · The Plainview Lottery · The Lady Who Loved Lightning · Loreless · Breaking Up Is Hard To Do… But You Could’ve Done Better · I Was Picked: The John Challis Story · The Touch: A Supernatural Story

supernatural
Book Reviews

Supernatural Voices Can’t Be Unheard

A supernatural story.

supernatural

This week’s book has some imaginative ideas that pulled me right in. I love a good magical or supernatural story, especially if there’s a bit of mystery involved. And I confess I grabbed this book without reading the blurb first. What can I say? Old (bad) habits die hard. So, without further ado, here is my breakdown. (Oh yeah. There will be affiliate links after this point that help support my blog.)

The Touch: A Supernatural Story, by Robert E. Flynn III, has some things really working for it, as I mentioned before. Told in the third person, the narrative alternates character focus in different chapters with clean transitions. And the opening chapters really set up a lot of questions. What is going on in the oncology ward? And is that boy a ghost or something? As the story progresses, the questions begin to grow (and are ultimately answered). However, a few issues interfere with the unspooling of this supernatural tale.

Dialogue

Verbal exchanges between the characters sometimes felt overly vague and stilted. Oftentimes characters would rush in and make on-the-nose statements about their supernatural experiences that seemed forced. Also, the characters range in age from children to an adult in her 60s. In addition to this, there are characters from different socioeconomic backgrounds and countries. However, most of the characters use similar diction, pacing, and expressions when they speak. This is especially noticeable with the children. In my opinion, the only character with a unique voice was the Realtor (who is a minor character).

Telling

A great deal of the story describes the main characters’ supernatural experiences as they wrestle with positive and negative emotions. Though sometimes the experience is described in clear terms with strong adjectives and similes, many times it is not. When we are told how the character feels instead of being immersed in the experience, it feels repetitious and dull. Why begin to ask why we are revisiting a concept which has not changed.

Inconsistency

This is a relatively minor issue, but it did pull me out of the story for a bit. The first main character in the narrative is Alabama. She is set up as THE vessel for a supernatural mission, but it turns out her role is somewhat secondary. There is also the orphan, Josh. Initially, when Gabriel describes his supernatural experiences, Josh is surprised. However, later on the narrative treats Josh as one of the children who has also experienced the voice his whole life. This waffling over who is “chosen” and who is not is a bit confusing.

Ableism

This book throws out slurs against mental illness right and left. And it propagates some potentially harmful stereotypes about autism. Now, I am by no means an expert on autism and have made my own mistakes with writing about the spectrum in the past. However, after listening to several autistic people discuss harmful representation, I believe this story may fall into that category. It clearly isn’t written with overt or malicious intent. But it does make some assumptions and generalizations about people with autism that aren’t necessarily true. (Feel free to learn more about autism at the Autism Self Advocacy Network.)

In Conclusion…

This book has a lot of potential. It does an excellent job of setting up intriguing questions and not answering them right away. There are some biblical threads, so keep that in mind. Overall, it’s pretty creative.

The Touch: A Supernatural Story


Rating: 3.8 out of 5 stars


Did You Catch These Book Reviews?

Issola · Reversion · The Dead Room · Naheli’s Sacrifice · The Reviled · After Jessica · Running Out of Time · Wixon’s Day · Little Computer People · The Book of Jhereg · The Adventures of Technicality Man · When the Future Comes Too Soon · Love is Love · The Bear · Dragon God · Balfair’s Confinement · Don Quixote & Candide Seek Truth, Justice, and El Dorado in the Digital Age · Shoebox Funeral · The Plainview Lottery · The Lady Who Loved Lightning · Loreless · Breaking Up Is Hard To Do… But You Could’ve Done Better · I Was Picked: The John Challis Story

A book about a young athlete's battle with cancer.
Book Reviews

A Heartbreaking Real-Life Cancer Story

Cancer sucks.

Cancer

This week’s book is about a young man who was taken too soon. Before we begin, I have a few confessions to make.

  1. I had never heard of this athlete prior to reading this book.
  2. I am not this book’s target audience.
  3. This review will contain affiliate links, and I receive a small commission from any purchases made through them.

Still with me? Great.

The Target Audience for This Heartbreaking Cancer Story

As I stated in number 2 above, this book wasn’t aimed at me. I know next to nothing about most sports. I have little to no experience with sports and am not nor have I ever been athletic in any way, shape, or form. Sports don’t connect to me on the same deep, emotional level that it can with some people. I respect the discipline, training, strength, and planning that goes into them, but I can’t personally relate. If you’re a huge sports fan, this book may resonate much more strongly with you.

Speaking of sports, hunting and fishing are involved. I respect peoples’ right to hunt for food and sport, but I’m an animal-loving vegetarian. The hunting scenes simply didn’t speak to me. Again, this story may appeal more to readers with experience tracking live game.

Finally, this story will really connect with religious people, particularly Christians and especially Catholics. There are several mentions of the bible and how personal faith helped the athlete and his family navigate their hardships. Though I appreciate that religion provided them with this positive support, I could not relate to this on a personal level. I believe Christian readers will find this book inspiring and even uplifting at times.

He Was Picked

I Was Picked: The John Challis Story, by Howard Shapiro is a deep dive into the life of John Challis. John was only in high school when he was diagnosed with liver and lung cancer. He fought back with a vengeance through sports and by spreading his message of courage and hope. This book contains photos of John’s journey as well as excerpts from interviews with his family and friends. Shapiro clearly segments each section, grouping interviews and data points together by theme. He conducted an incredible amount of research.

Even though I’m not the target audience, there is something about John’s message that applies to everyone. He reminds us that life is short. And through this book, he also urges us to live life to the fullest.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars


Did You Catch These Book Reviews?

Issola · Reversion · The Dead Room · Naheli’s Sacrifice · The Reviled · After Jessica · Running Out of Time · Wixon’s Day · Little Computer People · The Book of Jhereg · The Adventures of Technicality Man · When the Future Comes Too Soon · Love is Love · The Bear · Dragon God · Balfair’s Confinement · Don Quixote & Candide Seek Truth, Justice, and El Dorado in the Digital Age · Shoebox Funeral · The Plainview Lottery · The Lady Who Loved Lightning · Loreless · Breaking Up Is Hard To Do… But You Could’ve Done Better

Break up
Book Reviews

Breakup Stories

A breakup is never easy.

Breakup

If you’ve ever been in a romantic relationship before, odds are you’ve experienced a moment where things weren’t quite right. Sometimes such kinks can be worked out, but sometimes a relationship is doomed to end. And there are acceptable ways to breakup a relationship, and there are some not so great ways to do it. This week’s book is a collection of personal breakup stories submitted to artist Hilary Fitzgerald Campbell.

The concept for the book began after Campbell suffered a heartbreak of her own. She realized that drawing cartoons about the situation helped to cheer her up. So, she decided to gather other people’s stories of romantic woe and illustrate them, as well. The result, was this book. (Also, links after this point are affiliate links which help support my blog.)

Breaking Up Is Hard To Do… But You Could’ve Done Better is an extremely quick read. Definitely great for anyone who set up an absurdly high Goodreads challenge for themselves this year (like  I did) and needs to get caught up. The stories are brief, and the accompanying cartoons are cute.

Some of the accounts are told from the person who made the terrible breakup decision, which is something I wasn’t expecting as a reader. And some stories fly by so fast, it’s difficult to feel engaged with the accompanying emotions. However, this may be a therapeutic read for anyone currently dealing with romance-related heartache.

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

 


Did You Catch These Book Reviews?

Issola · Reversion · The Dead Room · Naheli’s Sacrifice · The Reviled · After Jessica · Running Out of Time · Wixon’s Day · Little Computer People · The Book of Jhereg · The Adventures of Technicality Man · When the Future Comes Too Soon · Love is Love · The Bear · Dragon God · Balfair’s Confinement · Don Quixote & Candide Seek Truth, Justice, and El Dorado in the Digital Age · Shoebox Funeral · The Plainview Lottery · The Lady Who Loved Lightning · Loreless

cultural fiction
Book Reviews

Cultural Fiction About a Man Discovering His Roots

Cultural fiction fresh from Australia.

cultural fiction

This week’s book was a refreshing change from last week’s read. I absolutely fell in love with this story and the incredible research and respect that went into making it. Though this isn’t an own voices book, PJ Whittlesea went to great lengths to treat the people in his story with deference. Obviously, I’m totally recommending this book. (Also, I’ve included affiliate links after this point that help support my blog.)

Loreless, by PJ Whittlsea, was a pleasure to read. The narrative follows Billy, a man of Australian indigenous decent raised in the city with no knowledge of his family’s traditional beliefs, as he gets lost in the desert only to find his true home. Written in third person, the structure of the novel interleaves Billy’s present experience with those of his ancestors. The ancestor chapters are presented chronologically starting with the most recent and working their way back. The interplay between the past and present chapters is haunting and lovely.

This story does contain a rape scene. But, Whittlesea handles it with incredible care, respect, and a sense of justice for the victim. It isn’t another case of highly-detailed shock-value sexual violence for male gratification. Instead, this scene demonstrates the devastating effects of colonialism.

If you’re coming to this book from the action/adventure frame of mind, you may find it lacking. This story doesn’t punch through bad guys to win the ultimate prize. It’s more meditative. Billy doesn’t run out and seize the day. Instead, the world flows toward him, and he picks which way to turn. He doesn’t actively change his world so much as reacts to it. Though Billy is the main character, it’s his ancestral past that acts on him, shaping him, protecting him, guiding him. I think this is lovely but recognize it may not be for everyone.

There’s one minor writing flaw in this book which popped out at me. Some passages lacked variation in sentence structure. I came across several instances of 8 or 9 sentences in a row that started with the word “He.” This made the rhythm feel a little weird sometimes. However, it’s a small issue that didn’t detract from my enjoyment of this book.

Rating: 5 out of 5 stars


Did You Catch These Book Reviews?

Issola · Reversion · The Dead Room · Naheli’s Sacrifice · The Reviled · After Jessica · Running Out of Time · Wixon’s Day · Little Computer People · The Book of Jhereg · The Adventures of Technicality Man · When the Future Comes Too Soon · Love is Love · The Bear · Dragon God · Balfair’s Confinement · Don Quixote & Candide Seek Truth, Justice, and El Dorado in the Digital Age · Shoebox Funeral · The Plainview Lottery · The Lady Who Loved Lightning

Book Review
Book Reviews

Book Review: The Lady Who Loved Lightning

A book with space sex and lots of alcohol.

Book Review

Did you know? Every time you make an Amazon purchase from one of my links, you’re supporting this site.

I had such high hopes for this book. Really, I did. It had a gorgeous cover, positive reviews on Amazon and Goodreads. Plus, it’s the fourth in a series. Nobody gets to number four in a series without a really good story arc, right? (“Oh, Ditrie,” I can hear some of you saying. “You’re so innocent and naive.”)

I absolutely cannot speak for the other books in this series. Maybe they’re outstanding and this novel is a fluke.  Perhaps by not reading them first, I’m missing out on something. And that is the ONLY reason I’m not giving this book a rock-bottom rating.

The Lady Who Loved Lightning, by Robert A. Sullivan could have been much better. Here’s how.

Dialogue Tags

The sheer variety of dialogue tags in this book is mind-numbing. If you’re not sure what a dialogue tag is, it’s the word at the end of a quote that lets you know a character is speaking. They are words like said, asked, croaked, hollered, etc. Ideally, dialogue tags within a story are invisible. The reader briefly recognizes them as speech markers and moves on in the text. But when you have a dialogue tag that calls attention to itself, it breaks the flow of the narration and conversation. It creates a momentary hiccup in the pacing. This is an excellent technique to use SPARINGLY for special effects. But when it’s abused over and over throughout the course of an entire novel, it slows down the narrative until it’s nearly unreadable.

Adverbs

Don’t get me wrong. There’s nothing wrong with using adverbs. For anyone needing a refresher, an adverb is a word that describes how an action (verb) is done. They’re like adjectives for verbs. And adverbs usually end in -ly. You’ll find adverbs most often paired with common, plain, or weaker verbs. Too many adverbs is a sign of poor verb choices.

Observe. Which is more enticing?

  • She walked sultrily to the bar.
  • She sauntered to the bar.

It’s the second one, right? Using powerful and specific verbs avoids adverb abuse. This book, however, does not. In fact, there are even adverbs in most of the dialogue tags. Which is— why would you do this?

Plot?

In the book’s defense, many of these characters are carrying on a storyline that started earlier in the series. From what I can tell, that longer story arc includes time travel and other nifty technology. But this novel? It’s classified as a science fiction novel, but it reads like a failed stab at erotica. There are a bunch of people in space. They get drunk a lot and have sex. Much cheating ensues.

Oh yeah, and they find a planet, one of the leaders is going to be put on trial for something, and for some reason, they decide to tow a giant moon over to the planet they found to make it spin slower? Science aside, the plot is thin, and there is a lot of talking about nothing with equal amounts of nothing being done. But at least there’s tennis and surfing? And apparently, they set up mines at some point. No idea who the miners are since apparently these like 6-8 people are isolated in the middle of nowhere. And they’re sworn to secrecy about something.

Misogyny

Where do I begin? Every woman character is objectified at some point throughout this story. There’s a lot of butt slapping and undue emphasis on how tone said body parts are. And there’s actually a scene where a woman punishes her lover by waving her breasts at him to remind him of what he won’t have? If this were erotica, that might make some sense. Maybe. But there is some pretty well-written erotica out there with fantastic plots and zero misogyny. It can be done.

Every woman character in this book is portrayed as possessive, jealous, controlling, and absurdly attractive. The men characters, who are never physically described, constantly complain about women being in charge. They state outright how men can never win with women.

And evidently, these characters procured the best timeline via their earlier time travel expeditions in other books. But somehow, the men feel threatened and oppressed by women while simultaneously changing them around like underwear? And the relationship changes are abrupt with zero discussion between affected members except for an ‘oh, by the way’ after the man has conquered someone else. This isn’t a case of clearly established and respectful polyamory. It’s 100% objectification for the sole purpose of men’s pleasure.

And yes, there are trysts between women, but nothing similar between any of the men.

Actions and Transitions

There aren’t a whole lot of either. The majority of this story consists of dialogue between characters who are quoting other books, plays, songs, and shows. And there are a LOT of main characters to keep up with, but their personalities are almost interchangeable. Several times a scene starts out on one ship with a couple of characters exchanging dialogue and then suddenly there are more characters (who either are or aren’t on the ship) that butt into the conversation. It’s difficult to keep track of where everyone is. Oftentimes it feels like everyone’s on a cruise ship having one, big, long, drunken conversation interspersed with orgies.

I believe this book could benefit from a solid rewrite, professional editing, and a handful of sensitivity readers. It should also probably rebrand as erotica— but only if some sensitivity readers guide the process. Otherwise, I cannot in good faith recommend this book. I’m still putting the Amazon ad at the end so you can see the beautiful cover and read what other reviewers on Amazon have said.

 

Rating: 1.5 out of 5 stars

Any purchase made via the link below supports my site. Even if you buy a toaster oven instead of this book. Which, you probably should. Toaster ovens are awesome. This book is not.

 


Did You Catch These Book Reviews?

Issola · Reversion · The Dead Room · Naheli’s Sacrifice · The Reviled · After Jessica · Running Out of Time · Wixon’s Day · Little Computer People · The Book of Jhereg · The Adventures of Technicality Man · When the Future Comes Too Soon · Love is Love · The Bear · Dragon God · Balfair’s Confinement · Don Quixote & Candide Seek Truth, Justice, and El Dorado in the Digital Age · Shoebox Funeral · The Plainview Lottery

A book about a town that should have known better
Book Reviews

Book Review: The Plainview Lottery

A book about a town that should have known better.

A book about a town that should have known better

Did you know? Every time you make an Amazon purchase from one of my links, you’re supporting this site.

Before I dig into the meat of this book review, I’d like to acknowledge some mistakes I’ve made in the past and changes I’m making moving forward. In my previous book reviews, I’ve been pretty salesy. I would emphasize the positive aspects of a book while ignoring its blatant faults. Part of this was, indeed, motivated by a desire for clicks on my ads to hopefully increase my income (or to make any income, to be honest). However, part of it was also because I was anxious about criticizing other authors when my own writing is far from perfect. (I mean, who’s perfect?)

In the end, though, this isn’t really fair to you, dear stranger off the internet highway and/or subscriber to my blog. You deserve the whole truth, delivered in an entertaining and professional manner. And with that in mind, let me tell you what I think about this book.

The Plainview Lottery: A Town Learns a Hard Lesson in Basic Economics by Markas Dvaras (also known as Mark Hall), would probably have been better as a novella or a short story. All things considered, though, it really isn’t all that bad. The prose is clean, clear, and reminds me of Nathaniel Hawthorne. I love Nathaniel Hawthorne. And the plot of this book is similar to the Stone Soup folktale. I loved that story as a kid, so this really tapped into my nostalgia. However, because this is, at best, a novella-worthy idea stretched into a full-length novel, there are a few issues.

First, there is a lot of repetition. A LOT of it. The characters repeat lines and phrases. The narrative repeats descriptions of places and actions. Some of this verges on hypnosis. And as someone with genuine, clinically diagnosed OCD whose mental loops can be triggered by repetition, it was right on the border of uncomfortable for me. (Side note for those who are unaware due to popular misconceptions: OCD is less about handwashing and more about uninvited mental stutters. Think— anxiety and an annoying song had a kid. OCD manifests a little differently for different people. But that anxiety + annoying song analogy is EXTREMELY apt for me. But, I digress.)

Second, the townspeople who begin as naive, not very bright, and loveable start to take on a slightly creepy vibe as this charade draws out. And I don’t think it’s intentional because this is not a horror story. The citizens of Plainview obsessed over the lottery without openly questioning it. They walked around with chipper, happy-go-lucky attitudes for months. And it started to remind me more and more of The Stepford Wives (which, I admit, I’ve only seen the movie version thus far).

Third, we only meet about five women in the novel. And they’re all either accessories to their husbands or literally asked to make sandwiches. If I have to explain why this is a problem, you probably should unfollow my blog.

Fourth, with the exceptions of Old Man Miller and the strangers from out of town, all of the non-women characters feel like variations of the same person. They use the same phrases. Make the same unfunny jokes. Think the same thoughts. Again, refer to my earlier comparison to The Stepford Wives.

In the end, though, I can safely say the story does NOT have a scary twist. It is simply a folktale-like story drawn out way past its limit. But at its heart, it is an innocent parable about only wanting as much as you need. And who can’t use that reminder from time to time?

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

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