“The House” by Simon Lelic

The House(Author: Simon Lelic) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)


Review:

The House was, at first, a suspenseful and quick read, and I managed to get through the first half in a matter of hours.

However, that was the moment I realized that this book is not going to live up to my expectations and that it’s not at all what it seemed to be at the beginning.

Judging by the description, I expected a truly “grisly” story with many twists and turns. Yes, there were twists, I will give you that much. But there was nothing very grisly, as there was also nothing very scary. And ultimately, the climax of the book was so ordinary and unpredictably predictable that I kept reading expecting something more to happen, because this just could not be it. It was. The book ended and I could not, for the life of me, believe that this was the actual event that we had been waiting for.

The things that The House did wrong for me were, as follows:

  1. After reading the book, I saw that many people highly appreciated the prose. Which part, though? Half of the time the characters were chatting among themselves. That was the first thing that made an unpleasant impression on me. The chapters were going back and forth between Syd and Jack and the two of them were bickering and correcting each other, mumbling, leaving half-finished sentences… I just imagined the two of them in person and they seemed like the two most annoying people that could have been telling this story.
  2. The abovementioned Jack and Sydney were such horrible people! How could any person actually root for a spineless momma’s boy and a bitch who is coked out of her mind? Seriously? Both of their narrations were of childish, immature people, who are barely hanging on the balance of their existence, both asocial, awkward and troubled. And what’s more: neither one of them actually achieved any personal development at any point in this book. Jack was annoyed that Sydney was doing drugs, but he didn’t actually try to stop her, he kind of just offended her on the topic. And Sydney did all sorts of despicable things which he just accepted because he lacks backbone. That never changed either.
  3. The villain of this book? Also the two supposed main characters. The person who was accused of being the bad guy was just so unconvincing and had such a minor presence, that I just couldn’t accept that this is actually happening and that that person is actually the direct cause of all of the events. The supposed villain’s indirect effect on the story is completely palpable, that much I can say. But at no point did they seem like they actually belonged in the present-time events in the book.
  4. The ending: generally, I support justice and retribution. So if I had known how the story ends before reading the book, I would have expected to like the ending. Yet, I absolutely did not. What happened did not seem like justice. It seemed like the origin story of yet another villain, or villains. I believe that out of the ending of this book, and namely the effect it had, or did not have, on the main characters, only more evilness and insanity could arise. No, thank you.

“Prague Nights” by Benjamin Black

(Author: Benjamin Black) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Don’t let the beautiful cover and the fairytale-like description fool you, this book is nothing like what it seems.

I was beyond excited to request Prague Nights on NetGalley. And I can’t tell you how happy I was to start reading it.

Sadly, it was in vain.

Prague Nights is a dreary, boring, uneventful narrative about some equally boring events that did not happen in the court of Rudolf II.

In theory, this book could have been fantastic. Rudolf II was obsessed with the occult, with different curiosities, he was a patron of art and magic. Looking for the philosopher’s stone in 16th century Prague? How awesome is that?

Not very awesome, in this book.

The narrator and main character, Christian Stern, is a person who needs a hard slap. He is not remarkable in any way, he is not particularly talented, nor is he very smart, for that matter. Christian Stern is ordered by the emperor to investigate the death of a young girl. What he does instead of that is snoop around the court affairs, have sex, and think how he should investigate but isn’t. There is not a drop of suspense, because the narrator is in no way engaged in the drama unfolding in the palace. He is no part of it, he doesn’t know what the relations between the other characters are, he is usually at a loss as to how to act and what to do. The main event of the book being the death of Magda Kroll, Christian Stern plays no role in solving it. He just follows what other characters tell him to do and ends up learning information that is completely inconsequential, as everyone else already has the knowledge. Even in the end, he is just a passive observer. He doesn’t manage to achieve absolutely anything.

More so, out of what could have been an absurdly beautiful scene for the events of the book, my dream city of Prague, what we get is usually Stern’s cold house where he has sex. No enchanting adventures in the maze of streets of old Prague, no hidden treasures, no magic, no life in this book.

All of the events simply happen and we are forced to read about them from the view-point of the most uncharismatic outcast in the court of Rudolf II.

Lastly, what could have been the two most interesting characters in the book, Rudolf and his son Don Julius Caesar, are just mentioned as background information, and often mocked, while in reality, they were both probably insane, but also very interesting people.

P1010980

“Lady Mechanika Vol. 2: The Tablet of Destinies” by Joe Benítez

Lady Mechanika Vol. 2: The Tablet of Destinies (The Tablet of Destinies, #1-6)(Author: Joe Benítez) + (Year: 2016) + (Goodreads)


Review:

Not as good as the first one.

My general problem with Lady Mechanika, after two volumes, is that it doesn’t follow through. In the first volume she was decided on finding her maker. In this volume that story is completely forgotten and something completely different is happening on a different continent.

Not to mention that this is Lady Mechanika and the tablet of destinies, except that Lady Mechanika is not even in the story line with the tablet. So to call it like this would be something like “Aragorn and the One Ring”. I mean… uh… they are in the same world?

I firmly believe that this could have been much better, had the story been more condensed and had there been fewer sub-plots.

Much like the first volume, there is a recipe in which there is a male mastermind who has a bunch of generic soldiers and a female assistant, while Lady Mechanika on the other team finds unlikely friends and a mysterious guy who helps her from afar. Maybe if they hadn’t followed this already used story, it could have been much better.

I continued liking the art, however. It was very intricate and detailed, and also pleasant to look at. The more female characters come in, the more obvious it is that they are all the same when you remove the colors. But I will choose to disregard that and enjoy the general feel of the book which was pretty good.

“Lady Mechanika, Vol.1: the Mystery of Mechanical Corpse” by Joe Benítez

Lady Mechanika, Vol.1: the Mystery of Mechanical Corpse(Author: Joe Benítez) + (Year: 2015) + (Goodreads)


Review:

*** 3.5, but not enough for 4 ***

I enjoyed Lady Mechanika a lot more than I did Wraithborn. Considering my immense disappointment with the latter, I was almost scared to start Lady Mechanika.

But as I received both of these, and the 2nd volume of Lady Mechanika, from NetGalley, I had to finish it. I am glad I had this incentive, because ultimately, Lady Mechanika is by far better than Wraithborn.

Lady Mechanika is the epitome of steampunk. Everything about it is highly detailed and intricate. If you look at the illustrations, you would notice that there are layers upon layers of art and attention to detail and I can’t not admit how impressive that is.

The art, in general, was much better here than in Wraithborn. If you remember my review, I was aghast at the depiction of women. They are still very sexual in Lady Mechanika, but it’s done a lot more tastefully, to a point where I can agree that this is the wet dream of a classy high school boy.

I also found the story more intriguing. I enjoyed the main story arc about the mechanical people a lot. The part that didn’t impress me as much were the sub-plots and hints at other relations between the character that just add fluff to a story that could go without. Almost all characters are related in pairs and have common past. These two are siblings, those two worked together, the two men know each other, etc. etc. As far as the story about the Frankenstein-esque doctor who creates the mechanical people goes, there’s already enough suspense that everything else is just micromanagement of pages that need to be filled.

And speaking of, my major issue with Lady Mechanika: the writing. Literally. The author really wanted to write a book, didn’t have enough material for that, but he obviously had too much for a comic book. There is just SO MUCH DIALOGUE. It doesn’t go harmoniously with graphic novels. A book rat such as myself can tell you as much: when you are reading a book, you can take as many pages of text as there are; but if you are reading a comic book, you are not prepared for the insane amount of dialogue that is just out of place and both disjoints the story, and distracts the reader.

17122262_10208079221248197_1833619330_o

Looking at this, I remember what I thought when I was initially reading it: This is honestly outrageous.

“Wraithborn” by Joe Benítez

Wraithborn(Author: Joe Benítez) + (Year: 2006) + (Goodreads)


Review:

I’m giving this book 2 stars only because I saw that there was a story hidden somewhere deep down there.

The abovementioned story is a very simple YA plot: a girl who just wants to mind her own business is drawn into a world of darkness where she has to learn to fight against evil, when all she wants to do it continue her life as normal.

This arc has been used only a million times in YA novels, but if they continue drawing readers, including myself, then that’s not necessarily a bad thing.

However, everything goes downhill for Wraithborn after this. The plot doesn’t have anything that sets it apart from other similar books, the heroes are in no way charming, the villain is powerful only in words and offers no real plot twists or challenges, and last, but not least, the artwork is very unappealing.

Melanie, the main character, is very, very hard to like. She’s weak, lacks will power, and is very self-centered (although here we have to mention that many teenagers are self-centered in general). But the thing which bothered me the most about her is the fact that she’s not a person who wants to help others. She prefers staying off the radar and protecting her own ass. Then, a jump to the future, and she has been completely transformed into a savior of the defenseless. I’m not buying it.

Story-wise, Melanie would not have survived at all, had there not been deus ex machina in every single issue. Every time she is in trouble, there’s a masked warrior coming to her rescue, and in very special occasions, she has magic mojo that she can’t control just bursting out of her. Valek somehow knows that he needs to find her, and also guesses every time she would be in distress, and even though they barely talk, aside from battle grunts, by the end of the volume they have developed a special bond.

skai-jackson-mhmm

I won’t even bother commenting the other characters because they are so shallow and only there so that it seems like there’s some characters.

What bothered me the most, though, is the art. The women are almost naked, always, they have identical faces (which makes it hard to understand what they mean when they say that Melanie is unattractive: She looks just like the rest of y’all?), and they all look like sex slaves. Now, I have nothing against sexy, but there’s sexy as in sultry and/or erotic, and sexy as in just cheap. I would not say that Valek, fighting alongside his sister, whose panties are there for all to see, is sexy. I would say that is kind of bothersome, actually.

2712956-kiara__s_on_the_attack_by_joebenitez

Classy: the man and the woman on the left, Valek and Kiara, you might have guessed, are siblings.

Bothersome is also the fact that although Melanie is the hero of this book, and apparently she is to become a big badass sometime in the future, on all of the covers she is just hanging there while almighty Valek is behind her back in a fighting position. Because even when girls are strong, they still can’t make it without a guy to protect them. Great message! Not.

001a_wraithborn05

The cover of issue #5. As you can see, Melanie is a fierce warrior, she needs no man, and she… Wait. She’s just standing there looking confused and defenseless in the shadow of a strong male.