[ARC] All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood

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All the Ugly and Wonderful Things is a novel I find difficult to comment about and that leaves conflicting emotions.

There is a girl, Wavy, and her bad family: the father produces and sells meth and the mother suffers from depression and clean mania. The traumatic childhood brought Wavy not to trust anyone (most of all her parents), not to talk to anyone, not to be touched by anyone and not to eat with other people in the room.

There is Kellen, a twenty year old thug working for Wavy’s father and who Wavy meets one night. And Wavy finds in Kellen e reference point – he brings her to school, helps her and her little brother Donal – until she falls in love with him, but she is a little girl and also Kellen grows fond of her.

The novel is constructed on various point of views, and among them Wavy’s, and cover a time span of about 15 years, since Wavy is 6 till she is 21. When Wavy is 14 years old, she and Kellen would like to marry, but a dramatic event changes their plans and the girl is sent to her aunt.

The novel conflicting feature are the sensation that transmits to the reader: Kellen falls in love with a child, but he is not a pedophile, instead he is the only one to provide balance in Wavy’s life, but this attachment with Wavy-girl is quite hard to accept; despite the fact that it is moderated by the fact that Wavy’s family is quite awful, from her parents to her aunt, who is unable to understand the girl’s perspective and actually help her.

Reading other reviews I found a phrase that summarize this feeling: during the whole book you hope Kellen and Wavy to be happy together, and then you don’t.

Everything considered, I think the novel is an interesting one, and that it is able to make us think about some issues (and maybe we well contradict our own values), and I liked reading it. Concerning te narrative style it is well done, the POV alternation contributes in building the setting and in developing the characters; the plot is engaging, maybe a little bit slow in the middle part.

However it’s a book difficult to suggest: it’s nice but not everyone will like it, because of the controversial love story.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.


* All the Ugly and Wonderful Things by Bryn Greenwood ★★★★☆

*I read this book in english

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[ARC] Crux by Ramez Naam

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Crux è il secondo episodio della serie Nexus (del primo ne ho parlato qui), il commento contiene per forza di cose qualche spoiler sul romanzo precedente, siete quindi avvertiti.

La storia riprende dove Nexus aveva finito: Kade e Feng si danno alla macchia mentre il ragazzo tenta lo sviluppo del Nexus 6, evoluzione migliorata del sistema che permetterà di evitarne gli usi coercitivi, Sam ha cambiato aspetto e nome e si dirige verso l’orfanotrofio Tailandese dei bambini nati con il Nexus, in Cina Ling cerca di riprendere i contatti con la madre, rinchiusa in un centro controllato dal governo e negli Stati Uniti l’ERD cerca di ottenere i segreti del sistema dai due colleghi di Kade fatti prigionieri.

Visto che il primo romanzo era ricco di idee interessanti e con il giusto equilibrio tra azione e infodump mi aspettavo altrettanto dal seguito, rimanendo però delusa. Crux è ben più lungo di Nexus, ma sarebbe accorciabilissimo rimuovendo le continue riflessioni/dilemmi morali – sempre uguali – dei personaggi.

Un peccato perchè contiene diversi spunti interessanti come il Post-human Liberation Fron, la sorte dei bambini autistici rapiti dall’ERD, gli obiettivi di Shiva Prasad, e alcune scene molto coinvolgenti, come quella con protagonista Ilya Alexander che però, troppo diluiti, fanno perdere di incisività al romanzo.

Resto in attesa del volume conclusivo sperando che ritorni alla qualità del primo volume.

Ringrazio l’editore per avermi fornito la copia necessaria per stendere questa recensione.

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Crux is the second novel of the Nexus series (I wrote about the first book here), this comment contains spoilers about the first book, so you are warned.

The story begins where Nexus ended: Kade and Feng are running away and in the meanwhile Kade is developing Nexus 6, the OS evolution that do not allow coercive use, Sam, with a different name and appearance, is trying to reach the Thai house with the Nexus born orphan children, in China Ling wants to reach her mother, kept in a Government controlled research centre and in the USA the ERD wants to get the Nexus secrets from Kade ex colleagues, now prisoners.

Since the first book was so full of new ideas and infodump and action were balanced, I hoped something similar in the following book, but I got disappointed. Crux is longer than Nexus, but it can be easily made shorter by cutting away all the characters reflections / personal dilemmas – always the same.

A pity, since it contains some interesting ideas like the Post-human Liberation Fron, the fate of the autistic child kidnapped by ERD, the aims of Shiva Prasad, and some engaging scenes, like the one with Ilya Alexander; the goods are however too much diluted and the book loses then incisiveness.

I’m waiting for the third and last novel, hoping it will be similar to the first book of the series.

Thanks to the publisher for providing me the copy necessary to write this review.

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Crux by Ramez Naam ★★☆☆☆½

[ARC] Nexus by Ramez Naam

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Ramez Naam, prima di essere uno scrittore è un tecnologo che ha collaborato anche allo sviluppo di prodotti ben noti di Microsoft. I suoi interessi in ambito scientifico l’hanno portato anche alla scrittura del saggio More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement, vincitore del H.G. Wells Award nel 2005.

Ed è da queste premesse che nasce la serie Nexus (che ora ha anche delle copertine molto più fascinose, complimenti Angry Robots).

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Ramez Naam, before being a writer, is a professional technologist who contributed also to the development of some famous Microsoft suites. His scientific interests brought him to write the essay More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement, 2005 H.G. Wells Award winner.

And it’s from these premises that the Nexus series is born (now the books have also some fascinating covers, good work Angry Robots).

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The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

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The Goldfinch is the last novel by Donna Tartt, and the first I read from this author.

The novel takes the title from the painting by Carel Fabritius about a goldfinch chained to a perch;the painting will have a particular role into the novel and it follow the main character into the difficult choices life impose him.

Theo, a twelve year old boy, finds himself involved in a terroristic attack at the where his mother, the only parent who cares for him, dies, and while coming out from that place of horror he steals the painting and he hid it in his home.

The boy’s life will be deeply marked by the death of his mother, event that will bring him to live with the Barbour, the rich family of an old friend of him, and that will exacerbate his inclination toward depression and self-destruction bringing him towards various kind of addictions, from alcohol to drugs.

Essential in his life will be the meeting with Boris, a Russian boy already on the path of an existence at the edge of legality, and the inconstant presence of Pippa, who shared with Theo the attack moment and who is able to understand his feelings about it.

The Goldfinch / Il Cardellino by Carel Fabritius

The painting will arise in Theo mixed feelings: on one hand he is aware of having deprived the humanity of a work of art and of having committed a crime, on the other hand the attraction to the painting – that reminds him of his mother – is too strong to allow him to give it back; this element makes impossible for him to let go his past and to live a serene existence.

 

The plot is engaging, a part of some chapters where everything slows focusing maybe too much on the boy’s emotions that permeate the whole novel (and that poses a risk of depression for the most emphatic readers) : Theo lives an unlucy life, both for chance and for some choices he makes, his reflexive character brings him to share with the reader his doubts, uncertainties and driving emotions.

I have to talk about the descriptions, so vivid and true, that are able to bring the reader just there, where the author wants us to be, beautiful also for the linguistic choices made and for the love of art and music that is a carrying force of the whole novel.

In its construction the novel reminds us of the old great literature, and it’s a read I suggest, despite its complexity and being emotionally demanding.

Least but not last I ask myself: why that specific painting? The goldfinch in the picture is chained, that could be a reference to the fact that Theo choses no to let go the memory of his mother, but to froze himself in that specific, last moment they shared. Or it can mean that Theo’s life is chained in a path he was not able to choose himself.

I read that the goldfinch means the soul of man who leaves the body after death: maybe Thes’s mother whose soul cannot leave the world ?

In a novel where nothing is for chance I think it’s normal to ask some questions of this kind and to answer them, even if giving a non-universal answer.

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* The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt ★★★

*I read this book in English

Savages & The kings of Cool by Don Winslow

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Savages

I like Don Winslow’s novels, they are engaging, violent (there was no violence they will be unrealistic) and have a movie-like cut.
The one I love the most is “The power of the dog”, but also the other novels are good, despite they contain less point of view.

This one is almost a movie (and there is in fact a movie from this novel – directed by Oliver Stone): short chapters (minimal sometimes) build up the plot  frame after frame.
The novel is about California, drugs, narco, but it is also a love story so the heroes will try anything to save their princess and have the most feasible happily ever after.
 

The Kings of Cool

This is a great prequel, so great that defining it prequel is kind of diminishing its beauty.
It is true that it tells about what happened before Savages, and the nostalgic of Chon, Ben and O cannot avoid the reading. However the story goes back in time through the sixties, the seventies and the eighties talking about the drug dealing during these years.

It is a great circle that in the end brings to the protagonists of Savages – that it is impossible to forget – by links that connect past to present and biological families to the family one chose to have.
This novel and its follow-up provides together an overview on the drugs traffic in California, but they also talk about affection and love between three young people who are truly The Kings of Cool.

Who read “Savages” knows for sure the characters: Chon and Ben, friends but so different, the former pro violence, the latter against it, and there is also O, the glue that patch together the group. There is also their Mexican nemesis and there is reference to other Winslow characters belonging to other times and novels.
I link a lot the writing style, short phrases, shorter chapter that are useful in providing settings and moods.

The evolution of Paqu character is unlikely, in particular with respect to her determination when she was young, this is an aspect that did not convince me.

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* Savages by Don Winslow ★★★★☆
** The kings of Cool by Don Winslow ★★★★☆½

*I read this book in Italian
**I read this book in English

A scanner darkly by Philip K. Dick

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Recently I’m reading a lot of YA, but this is not a reason to forget my great love for science fiction. And it’s impossible to talk about SF without talking about the most visionary author of all times: Philip K. Dick, master in overlapping reality and non.

In the following the review of one of his novel I read some months ago, maybe the most visionary of all them.

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