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Reviews

Do Unto Others by L.S. Burton, 5/5 stars

This was an excellent short story, both in form and content. The story is simple: a messenger arrives to a town with a message he is prepared to disclose only to those who would understand it. What makes the book so great is that the reader isn't told much beyond that. The setting is a curious mix of modern and old, the existence of the town in the middle of nowhere is kept as a mystery, and the message won't become clear until reader has finished the whole book.

If you're looking for a well-written short story that doesn't let you off easy, then read Do Unto Others by L. S. Burton. As with all his books, the language is beautiful and the structure balanced. A joy to read.

 ***

Ella by L.S. Burton, 4/5 stars

Beautiful and wistful

Ella is a beautiful story of a little girl who copes with the surrounding reality by escaping to her fantasies. Told from the point of view of Ella’s best friend, Isabella Francesca, it paints before the readers’ eyes five scenes of her life from the age of four to her early teens. As Ella is growing up, things that meant the world to her are forgotten or they change forms. Isabella Francesca finds herself being left behind, struggling to find her way back to the little girl that is no more.

Ella tells the story of all of us, as our childhood fantasies of princesses in lofty castles give way to teenagers’ dreams about boy bands. Few of us look back and wonder what happened to that princess. Burton does, in a wistful homage to childhood’s imagination. I warmly recommend Ella to all readers.

 ***

This Land by L.S. Burton, 5/5 stars
 
What if your planet were being terraformed by an outside entity, and there was nothing you could do?   

On the surface, This Land is a simple story. A remote fishing community is faced with an alien threat so deadly that the inhabitants have no other option than to shelter inside the thick walls of an ancient monastery with no contact with the outside world. 

The story begins with the characters already in the middle of action, reacting to the destruction of their village. No backstory is given, no introductions are made. The reader is only gradually given more information about the community and, indeed, the whole world. We don’t know anything more than the characters do. The tagline is the only clue a reader has for what is happening, but the origin and purpose of the annihilation of humans remain a mystery. 

This Land is a sci-fi novel, but that isn’t immediately obvious, nor is it terribly important. The community is very earth-like and only little details like multiple moons, strange religion, and fauna that don’t exist on earth give a reader to understand the novel is set on another planet. Why the place is so earth-like – more specifically like earth in about 1930s – isn’t explained. Perhaps that mystery will be solved in later books. The strange star in the sky and monsters bent on annihilating humans remain, therefore, the main sci-fi elements. 

This Land is, first and foremost, a study in human character. Burton has enviable ability to create flesh and blood characters with a seeming ease. He brings together a bunch of very ordinary, simple people that are bound by a common threat, and proceeds to show how they’ll react in such a situation. His characters aren’t heroes or villains, just humans with their weaknesses and a very few strengths. No one leader rises among them, nor do they automatically turn into a coherent group working towards a common goal. To the end of the first book, they remain scared and confused, reacting only when they absolutely must.

The main character, Stephen, through whose eyes most of the story is told, is an especially wonderful character. He is a cowardly, indecisive, and selfish man who is difficult to like at first – mostly, I presume, because he reacts exactly like most of us would when faced with such an overwhelming situation. As the story evolves, he finds some backbone and becomes, if not likeable, at least vindicated in the eyes of the reader. It’s rare to find such a human character in a genre novel. 

This Land is, in the end, a small novel. Nothing much happens in it. People are afraid, they react stupidly, and they die. If there is one thing to criticise, it is that some of them die too fast before a reader has grown attached to them enough to mourn for them. The story is very universal, however, and larger than it seems.

I recommend This Land to anyone interested in character-led novels, whether they like sci-fi or not. The concept is unique, the world intriguing, and Burton’s beautiful language alone is a good reason to read it. Moreover, despite the destruction, the end is hopeful, giving readers a cause to return for the next book too.

*** 

Artemis Fowl and the Last Guardian by Eoin Colfer, 4/5 stars

Such a delightful book. Twists and turns to keep you guessing and a nobel ending. I shall miss Artemis if this was, indeed, the last book.









***

Beer Goggles by Sean Flynn, 4/5 stars

A truly delightful read

The book starts out as a comedy fest of one-liners and funny episodes that will make readers laugh out loud. But Travis’s and Dave’s drunken romp takes a serious turn when they think they have witnessed a murder and try to bring the murderer to justice. The book remains funny, but the tone changes slightly, raising it above a mere comedy number to a genuinely interesting story. The structure of the narrative, which alternates between two points of view, before and after the alleged crime, ensures that readers constantly know more than the main characters do – or they think they know; beer goggles may affect their perception of the events too.

Travis and Dave are likeable fellows and the reader genuinely wants to know what happens to them, the narrative flows effortlessly and the mystery remains unsolved until the very end. All in all, a very enjoyable read that is suitable for everyone.

***
 
Kiss the Dead by Laurell K. Hamilton, 2/5 stars

These books haven't been the same ever since Anita became invincible. The fear factor and thereby the excitement is gone. Take the usual flaws these books have been riddled with since the beginning, the continuity issues and the repetitiveness that underestimate the readers, add to that a non-existent plot and you have a boring book. Still, the embarrassing thing is I read the whole book and will read the following books as well. I simply need to find out how some of Anita's sweeties are doing.




***

Hounded by Kevin Hearne, 4/5 stars

This was a great book; action packed and fun. I liked the main character and loved the sidekick. It's not terribly original in its spanning of the entire human mythology and sprinkling it with pop culture trivia, but it has a better sense of past than most books that have a lead who is thousands of years old; you believe that Atticus has really lived that long. And when it's an Irish wolfhound delivering the pop culture trivia, that's original enough.





***


Hexed by Kevin Hearne, 4/5 stars

The second book in the series was even more action packed than the first, perhaps a bit on the expense of the story itself. Atticus is a very likeable character and Oberon is great, but there wasn't enough of him facing 'The Man'. 








***

The Straight Razor Cure (Low Town) by Daniel Polansky, 2/5 stars

This was an ok book, just not very engaging. I liked the main character, but I didn't care what happened to other characters. Well written though.









***

Tangle of Need by Nalini Singh, 4/5 stars

Yet another wonderful psy-changeling book. The background story has become so complex it takes a lot of space from the romance, but Adria's and Riaz's story was sweet. Some old characters got a little too much attention to my liking and some new ones didn't get enough, but that didn't make the book any less good. I'm eagerly awaiting for the next one.






***

Lover At Last by J.R. Ward, 5/5 stars

Another great Black Dagger Brotherhood book. I had really waited for Qhuinn's and Blay's story and I wasn't disappointed. It wasn't an easy love-story, but I hadn't expected it to be. My only complain is that it was brought to conclusion a bit too hastily. After a book of the two of them being not quite on the same place in their relationship, everything was solved in one chapter.

Apart from the main story, the book has a couple of new story-lines to follow, the more interesting of them being Trez's. Also, the older story-line between Layla and Xcor was given space. I have high hopes that both stories are given their own book.


 ***

The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker, 5/5 stars

Absolutely wonderful book. The blend of magical and mundane worked perfectly, and the historical details were vivid and believable. The turn of the 20th century New York with its immigrants and ethnic districts was a great setting for the story. I loved the characters, and even the minor ones were fully drawn. The ending left me a bit wistful, but in a good way. Narrative was efforteless and the language beautiful. 

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