[ARC] Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott

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Rotherweird is a strange town: it’s in England but it is completely independent administratively, it’s almost inaccessible and it’s forbidden to study history before 1800.

Two external however come into the town: Jonah Oblong, who has to teach modern history to the local school, and Sir Veronal Slickstone, who was allowed to renew the old Manor House.

It’s evident that Sir Veronal has other evil plans, and for this reason some of the town’s inhabitants will have to share old secrets and to discover the old and forbidden history of Rotherweird.

The novel alternates the present events to ones from the past (1500 ca.) that clarify why the town was born and the reason why it is forbidden to study history.

In my opinion the book is engaging from the half, in the beginning I found difficult to sort plot and characters (they have strange names that I found easy to confuse).

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


* Rotherweird by Andrew Caldecott ★★★☆☆

*I read this book in english

[ARC] Shattered Girls (Broken Dolls #2) by Tyrolin Puxty

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Shattered Girls by Tyrolin Puxty is the book following Broken Dolls; the main characters are Ella and Gabby, the former an “alive” doll we meet in the first book, and the latter her human owner, a child in the previous book and now a young adult.

At the beginning of Shattered Girls Ella’s existence is discovered by Gabby’s classmates (they will belive Ella to be a robot), and the main story begins some years later: people begin to disappear and new dolls are sold in stores, dolls very similar to Ella, and the two protagonist soon understand that they can be human beings, and not technological toys.

They will seek the help of Gabby’s grandfather  – the scientist who create Ella in the first place – and of other character from the previous book in order to save the day.

Shattered Girls is a disappointing book: the novel is focused on Gabby’s adolescent issues, and the protagonists compete in “who is the most annoying character”.

The first book had a creepy setting, and the mystery in the background made the novel engaging, here there is nothing like that, and I found difficult to go on reading the story, too bad since the premises made by Broken Dolls (that could have easily been a stand alone novel).

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


* Shattered Girls by Tyrolin Puxty ★★☆☆☆

*I read this book in english

Annihilation (Southern Reach #1) by Jeff VanderMeer

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Primo romanzo della trilogia Southern Reach, Annientamento ci introduce all’Area X e ai suoi misteri.

Il romanzo è narrato dalla biologa, una delle componenti della 12° spedizione mandata dall’agenzia Southern Reach ad esplorare l’Area X. La spedizione è composta da quattro donne, che conosciamo non per nome ma per la loro specializzazione: la psicologa, la biologa, l’antropologa e la topografa.

Questa spedizione e le precedenti sono caratterizzate dall’assenza di strumenti moderni di rilievo e comunicazione e dal fatto che i membri delle spedizioni sono invitati a tenere un diario aggiornato dell’esplorazione.

La voce della biologa da una parte racconta dell’esplorazione (il misterioso tunnel che a lei appare come una torre, le scritte e la ricerca di chi le ha prodotte, il mistero del faro), dall’altra fa emergere quanto di inquietante accompagna la spedizione (il ruolo della psicologa, il destino delle precedenti esplorazioni, il motivo per cui ha scelto di farsi coinvolgere nel progetto).

Il romanzo è costruito sul un mistero dell’Area X e gioca bene sull’inquietudine data dall’ignoto che circonda le esploratrici e dall’assenza di punti saldi di cui fidarsi: quale è l’intento della Southern Reach? E il ruolo delle compagne della biologa? Da un punto di vista generale questo schema dell’incerto non è niente di particolarmente nuovo, VanderMeer parte da uno schema rodato che integra con elementi che possono essere considerati weird (o quello che lo scrittore definisce come tale, vedi ad esempio la raccolta da lui edita, The Weird).

E’ breve e scorrevole ma non risolutivo: spero che nei successivi romanzi si chiariscano meglio i ruoli delle varie figure in gioco.

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First novel of the Southern Reach trilogy, Annihilitation introduces the reader to Area X and its mysteries.

The novel is told by the biologist, one of the 12th expedition components, sent by the Southern Reach agency to explore Area X. This expedition is composed of four women, of whom we now their role but not their names: the psychologist, the biologist, the anthropologist and the surveyor.

This and the previous expedition are characterized by the absence of modern instrumentation system for survey and communication, and the components are invited to keep and up to date diary of the events.

The biologist voice tells both about the exploration (the mysterious tunnel she sees as a tower, the words and the search for the creature who wrote them, the lighthouse mystery) and about everything creepy about the expedition itself (the psychologist role, what happened to the previous expeditions, the reason the biologist decided to take part to the project).

The novel is build upon Area X mystery and plays well with the fears from the unknown around the exploration and the absence of someone to trust: what is the aim of Southern Reach? And the role of the other three women? From a general point of view the novel is built upon a classic scheme of the unknown, VanderMeer enriches the story by adding weird elements (or what is weird for this writer, according to The Weird, the collection he edited).

It’s short and engaging but there is not a conclusion, I hope that the following two novels clarify the roles of the characters gravitating around Area X.

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Annihilation by Jeff VanderMeer ★★★★☆

S. by J.J. Abrams & Doug Dorst

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S., uscito nel 2013, è una sorta di caso letterario: ideato da J.J. Abrams, è una sorta di scatola di storie che può essere affrontata su più livelli.

Il romanzo si presenta come un libro della biblioteca su cui due personaggi, Eric e Jen, hanno iniziato a scambiarsi messaggi sulla storia, sul mistero legato a Straka, autore del libro (La nave di Teseo), e sulle loro vite.

C’è quindi il livello della storia vera e propria, il livello delle note a piè di pagina compilate dal traduttore del romanzo (anche qui un altro mistero), quello dei commenti a margine (databili in funzione del colore della penna usata) e quello dei segnalibri / fogli / e molto altro inserito tra le pagine.

Il web pullula di siti che parlano del romanzo, degli enigmi e che forniscono contenuti aggiuntivi (anche perchè il romanzo può proseguire nella vita reale dando un occhio ai profili twitter dei due personaggi e così via), quindi non mi addentro su questi aspetti ma vengo alla questione cruciale, mi è piaciuto?

S. in fin dei conti si è rivelato ai miei occhi come una mezza boiata, ad essere sincera. La storia di S., il romanzo, il primo livello di lettura, è di una pesantezza sconcertante: si declina come romanzo misterioso e dal sapore filosofeggiante, insomma, per essere un testo steso sostanzialmente a tavolino per l’operazione complessiva, se la tira un po’ troppo.

I commenti di Eric e Jen (e i fogli da loro inseriti nel libro) sviluppano una storia diversa, più movimentata anche se a tratti poco credibile per l’eccessivo complottismo.

In questo caso però non è possibile prescindere dall’oggetto libro e dall’idea nel dare un giudizio: l’idea di costruire un volume come questo è sicuramente brillante e i vari elementi che la compongono rendono evidente come quella intorno a S. sia una struttura complessa che unisce il cartaceo al digitale.

L’oggetto libro è incredibile, la resa delle finte scritte, i fogli inseriti nel testo (c’è anche un tovagliolo di carta con una mappa disegnata!!), … non possono che far strillare di gioia anche il lettore più miscredente, tra l’altro tutta questa sciccheria ha un prezzo decisamente affrontabile (tanto da farmi nascere alcune domande sullo sfigato paperback tradizionale).

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S., published in 2013, it’s a kind of literary case: from an idea by J.J. Abrams, it’s like a box of stories that can be approached at more levels.

The novel appearance is like the one of a book for loan on which pages two people, Eric e Jen, begun writing messages about the story, about the mystery around Straka, the author of the book (Ship of Teseus), and about them.

There is then the level of the story told in the novel, the level of the footnotes made by the translator (again another mystery), the one of the side notes by Eric and Jen (that could be dated in function of the color of the pen), and the last of the ex libris / papers and such inserted between the pages.

Image from Wikipedia

 

The web is full of sites talking about the novel, the riddles and that provides additional contens (because the novel can go on in real life, for example looking at the twitter profiles of the two characters and such), so I choose not to deal about this themes and I go directly to the great question: did I like it?

In the end the story told in the book is somewhat a nonsense, if I have to be honest. The story of S., the first level of narration, is tragically boring: it’s like a mysteryos and partly philosophical novel, but, since it was constructed for a specific purpose (and it was not a stream of consciosness by the writer) maybe it could have been more dynamic.

Eric and Jen commens (and their papers put in the book) develop a different story, more action like but sometimes quite unbelievable for the excessive plot fears.

Concerning this book, it’s impossible not to judge the object itself: the idea to craft a book like this is brilliant and the whole set of elements around it make evident that what revolves around S. is a complex structure that reunites the paper and the digital.

The object book is amazing, the print out of the fake comments, the documents inside (there is also a napkin with a map drawn on it!!), etc… can make every reader scream in excitment, and all this awesomess comes with an affordable price (and now I wonder about the cost of the standard paperback edition).

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S. by J.J. Abrams & Doug Dorst ★★★☆☆

Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

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1900, San Valentines day, Australia. Some girls of the Appleyard College for Young girls decide to have a picnic near the Hanging Rock formation.

During the afternoon three of them and a schoolmistress disappear mysteriously during a small trip near the rock formation, then begins their search while trying to understand how it happened and where they are.

Around this misery there are the stories of the people left behind: the brave guy who tries an independent search rescue, the girls left in the school, their parents who began to fear about their children left at the school, the college owner tries to avoid money losses.

It’s a short but meaningful novel: there are numerous characters that are well depicted by a few information and the mystery is the background to show how people react and how relationship changes as consequence.

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* Picnic at Hanging Rock by Joan Lindsay

*I read this book in English