Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Slade House by David Mitchell

Slade House will be released Tuesday, October 27th - just in time for a perfect Halloween read!

Slade House by David Mitchell. Random House; 2015. 224 pages. Hardcover/Hardback.

**I received an ARC of Slade House courtesy of NetGalley and Random House**

First off, I want to point out that apparently Slade House is set in the same world as The Bone Clocks, which I have not yet read. This did not appear to impact my enjoyment of the book at all, but I can see how having a more solid understanding of the world may lend to a bigger appreciation of the story and understanding of certain terms, especially in some areas near the end.

Secondly, I am keeping this review fairly brief; I think Slade House is best read when you don't know much about it going into the story, so I don't want to go too in depth about the details.

I loved this book immensely! I enjoy a good scary story, but I'm slightly picky about them. I'm not a big fan of excessive gore, violence, or gross factors that are so prevalent in horror books and movies. It's not that I mind violence, as it works well in many books, but it so often becomes overused in scary stories. I'm more of the psychological thriller fan; I prefer to have my mind messed with. I think the creepiest and scariest books occur when thing are left unsaid, or when the creepy factor is so subtle you don't realize it, and when you do you're so unsettled you don't even know what to do. Think House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski or The Turn of the Screw by Henry James. Slade House fits this mold exceptionally well, which made it an extremely enjoyable read.

I will briefly sum it up as this: Slade House spans five decades and centers on a house that come and go every nine years, luring in only those who are useful. I don't want to say any more than that for fear of giving anything away.

I finished this book in a matter of days; I simply did not want to put it down. As mentioned, it masterfully covers the years from 1979 to October 31, 2015, and is told in such a way that each decade and its character's perspective is immensely gripping and interesting. Mitchell has created such an engaging, unique world that becomes entirely tangible to his readers. In order to enjoy this book, you do have to suspend your belief at times, but the best part is: so do his characters. Everything is whacky and uncertain, and you just have to hang yourself in suspense while you wait to see how everything will work. With each new character that is introduced, I felt a tiny sense of foreboding that slowly grew as each one began to make their ways towards the tiny little alleyway that would lead to Slade House. Each character has a very unique personality and background, but each one seems to make the same mistakes and sets off a similar chain of events, which I found quite interesting to explore.

I think this is a book that is perfect for going into without knowing much about it. Much like Slade House itself, you just have to stumble inside and become lost as you attempt to make sense of where you are and what you're reading. So go ahead and sneak in through that tiny little iron door on Slade Alley and immerse yourself in this new, disconcerting world.

Overall, I am giving Slade House the big five stars! I had such a great time reading this book and I flew right through it, entranced the entire time. I would recommend this book to anyone in need a good spooky house story or a bit of psychological intrigue.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Science of the Magical by Matt Kaplan

**Science of the Magical by Matt Kaplan will be released Tuesday, October 27th!

Science of the Magical by Matt Kaplan. Scribner; 2015. 256 pages. Ebook.

**I received a copy of Science of the Magical by Matt Kaplan courtesy of NetGalley and Scribner**

Have you ever found yourself wondering about the Philosopher's Stone and the myth of its 'powers'? What about love potions and sleeping draughts? The effect of moon phases? Look no further, because Science of the Magical explores all of that!

Science of the Magical is by far one of the most entertaining and enjoyable nonfiction books I have read all year. Matt Kaplan is truly a master at creating a lively and engaging narrative that combines science with ancient history, mythology, and folklore. Kaplan's purpose is to describe the scientific accuracy and origins of these myths. What I really appreciated about his writing was that he didn't try exceptionally hard to make the scientific aspect fit, and he also didn't poke fun at the origins of some of these ideas, whether they seem silly or not.

The information presented throughout this book is the kind that makes you turn to the nearest human in your vicinity (or move to a location where there is a human in the area) and say, "Hey, did you know?" or "Wow, listen to this..." My poor mother said she didn't mind, but after you've done it for the twentieth or so time, you start to wonder if she really means that. Kaplan introduces such a wide variety of magic and myths that the book easily flows from one topic to the next. Almost all of these supernatural ideas have a natural or almost scientific origin that led to their creation, and it is extremely fascinating to discover this backstory.

Overall, Science of the Magical will be receiving four-and-a-half stars. I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who's even slightly curious about magical and mythical things. Similarly, you're looking for something funny and informative at the same time, here you go! This would be perfect for anyone who just needs a good book to read and enjoy, because Kaplan will definitely give you that.

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You might also like:
Physics of the Impossible by Michio Kaku 
Dataclysm by Christian Rudder

Monday, October 12, 2015

A Vanishing Glow by Alexis Radcliff

A Vanishing Glow by Alexis Radcliff. CreateSpace; 2015. 346 pages. Ebook.

**I received a free copy of this book from the author, Alexis Radcliff, in exchange for an honest review.**

Prior to the email I received from Alexis Radcliff, I had never heard of this book or the author, so I was in uncharted territory, something that can be either surprisingly pleasant or decidedly unfortunate. After reading the synopsis provided, however, I was definitely intrigued and knew that I would be reading this book - and it turned out even better than expected!

Quick note: this book is one of those where it's hard for me to discuss it too extensively for fear or revealing any spoilers, so I will try to be as detailed yet spoiler-free possible so as to avoid revealing anything too important.

A Vanishing Glow is set in a land that is spilling over with revolutionary vibes and political unease. Jason Tern arrives in Ghavarim in order to become Lord Tern, the right hand man to his childhood friend and soon to be crowned king, Nole Ryon. Meanwhile, Nilya has joined the Crimson Fist as a sapper, where she ends up embarking on a journey never expected with a companion she did not ask for.

To begin, if there's anything that Radcliff does really well, it's create and develop characters. As mentioned above, Jason is a young noble who travels to Ghavarim where he is about to become Lord Tern. What I really appreciated about Jason was that although he was an extremely intelligent, observant, and resourceful man, he certainly had his flaws. Jason is, to be blunt, a bit hotheaded and tends to let his emotions guide him at times, which I found to be very authentic and a common manner for many people to act in intense situations. At times, I felt somewhat annoyed with him, for he came off a bit overly confident and overly bullheaded at various points throughout the story, so I was actually glad to have that bit of complexity.

Nilya is a fierce woman intent on creating and doing big things with her talent; she wants to stand out and be respected. When we are first introduced to Nilya, we see only her intelligence, stubbornness, and determination - which are all great qualities, though somewhat one-dimensional. However, as the book progresses we are privy to much deeper mental struggles that Nilya deals with, creating a wonderfully well-rounded and intriguing character. I was very intrigued by Nilya, for as bold and determined as she is, she's also very sensitive and compassionate; she knows where her principles and morals lie, and she tries hard to stick to those.

Another thing I really liked was the dual point-of-view. By now it's probably pretty apparent that I'm not always a big fan of multiple POVs, but I was pleased to find that it worked extremely well in this book.Jason's POV gave us more of the noble and aristocratic POV; we got to see how things were working in the upper levels and within the monarchy itself. With Jason, though, we are also able to see a "hidden underworld" where people definitely do not act in accordance with the laws set up by the nobility. However, Nilya's perspective is of the lower class - the Crimson Fist (Ghavarim's army) to be precise. Nilya meets a fellow travel companion who is not a fan of the monarchy and upper class, so I enjoyed being able to see the differences between the two sides of the coin. I also found it interesting to see how different lands had adapted to various 'modern' mechanisms and ideas, and other were still considered 'backwards.' For instance, the upper class and nicer areas employ the use of Mystech for things like electricity, whereas other places still use candles and less advanced 'technology.'

Radcliff does a wonderful job of weaving in a mixture of fantasy, tech, steampunk, and political intrigue into this delightfully fresh and exciting book. I loved the mix of technology and steampunk mechanisms with magical elements, as it's something that I've rarely - if ever - had the opportunity to experience before. Radcliff has created a very vivid and extensive world, filled to the brim with political scandal and intrigue. There are twists and turns at every corner; Radcliff definitely keeps you on your toes, which made for an exciting trip. Now, I tend to get a bit muddled up in fantasy novels that have a vast amount of politics, unique world intricacies, etc. (here's looking at you, Steven Erikson), but Radcliff did a very nice job of creating and conveying her creation in a readable and enjoyable manner.

One of the aspects of this novel that was most interesting to me was how the relational and sexual aspects of society operates. Until a man and woman are 'joined' (which I assume is basically the equivalent of our marraige?), they do not have any form of relationships with those of the opposite gender as we normally do, but instead have 'bedfellows' with those of the same gender. If you were involved in a heterosexual manner with someone who you are not 'joined' to, you are referred as a 'breedlust,' and this is extremely frowned upon. I'm really hoping that subsequent books delve a bitter deeper into this world and its customs!

I can certainly see where this book could use some development, but on the whole I felt it was a very solid, intricate, and engaging story that any fantasy or steampunk fan would enjoy.  There are so many places and ideas that Radcliff can and will hopefully explore in any subsequent books, so I will definitely be sticking around to check out the next book in the series!

Overall, A Vanishing Glow provided a thrilling and entertaining ride through a well-developed land with many diverse characters, and for that I am giving it four stars. As stated above, I would recommend this for anyone who likes fantasy, steampunk, or simply a entertaining book with interesting and unique story lines.

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Azurite by Megan Dent Nagle
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