“The Devil’s Prayer” by Luke Gracias

The Devil's Prayer(Author: Luke Gracias) + (Year: 2016) + (Goodreads)


Review:

The Devil’s Prayer were two very interesting books!

The reason I say this is that there can be a line drawn very distinctively between the first and the second part of the book, and each could have been perfectly great on its own.

The Devil’s Prayer is the story of a woman, Denise, who, after winning the lottery is abducted, raped and left to die. Instead of dying, she makes a deal with the Devil. Later on, she finds out about the existence of an old book, one part of which is called The Devil’s Prayer, and she sets out to find it.

I greatly enjoyed the first part of the book – the story of Denise before she started looking for the book. It was a page turner and it was very exciting and creative. The end of this first story was a big surprise, even though I had guessed the general lines of where it was headed.

The second part, the one about The Devil’s Prayer, was something else. It was interesting in a completely different way. This storyline was more in the vicinity of Dan Brown back when I enjoyed his works, and it had a great plot behind it. It also sort of reminded me of one of my favourites, The Historian, so that was another bonus for me. However, this part of the book also felt underdeveloped. It took entirely too little time in terms of the book, and it could have been so much bigger and more explosive. The author had a great “conspiracy theory” about a document signed between Arnaud Amalric and Jebe Noyan in the 13th century. I would have LOVED to read a more detailed and suspenseful novel about this. Not to mention that part of this story was set in Bulgaria, so I couldn’t help but being proud of our history. Sadly, it seems that the author wasn’t sure what to do with this treasure of a plot line, so he rushed it and he left big parts of it just hanging there.

The ending of the book was also not ideal. The entire narrative seemed like the introduction to a much larger story, which never happened. The ending was supposed to be, in my mind, a bigger event, and instead it was left completely unresolved. If there’s a second book coming, I would definitely read it, because the ending didn’t satisfy my curiosity.

Nevertheless, a very interesting book indeed.

  • Also, for those who have read the book, this is the vampire burial from Perperikon:

vampir_perperikon

He had a metal knife stuck in his heart, and his left leg was cut off under the knee, severed in three and put next to the body. As The Devil’s Prayer points out, this grave is from the 13th century and this “anti-vampire” ritual was Christian.

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“New Boy” by Tracy Chevalier

(Author: Tracy Chevalier) + (Year: 2017) + (Goodreads)


Review:

This is the description that I read and therefore decided to read the book: Arriving at his fifth school in as many years, a diplomat’s son, Osei Kokote, knows he needs an ally if he is to survive his first day so he’s lucky to hit it off with Dee, the most popular girl in school. But one student can’t stand to witness this budding relationship: Ian decides to destroy the friendship between the black boy and the golden girl. By the end of the day, the school and its key players – teachers and pupils alike – will never be the same again.”

Add to that the fact that New Boy is a retelling of Othello, and you have a pretty curious premise for a book. Right?

In reality, the initial idea of the author was not necessarily bad. Some of the points that she made were also pretty valid and interesting. Ones such as racism, politics and hormone-based relationships.

However, the fatal flaw of the book was the fact that it takes place in a single day in the sixth grade. The story of Othello has no place among such young children, and neither do the author’s musings on politics, race and sex. I was a child not that long ago and I do remember what my interests were in the sixth grade. I can assure you that it was not kissing boys, thinking about “going all the way”; or about radicalism, the void between being a child and being a teenager and how to abuse my teachers.

“(…) [they] had only kissed when they played spin the bottle during recess – and then only twice, as it was shut down by teachers once they found out what was going on. But her response to O was not experimental. This is what I have been waiting for, she thought. This.

Really? You’ve been waiting for meeting a boy in the morning in the playground and becoming his girlfriend by lunch? How long has the waiting been going on for? The entire 12 years of your life, or what?

It’s in no way realistic that such young children would be experiencing any part of this book, which renders the book itself not as good as it could have been. The reason for that is that it takes a toll on the reader to try to accept the book as a union between its content and the figures that are enacting it. Yes, Chevalier has a good point about, say, racism in schools in America, especially so in the 70’s. But would the situation really look like that in a group of such young kids? Would they make up sly and elaborate plans to destroy each other? More so, would this story really have the time to develop in the span of a single day? Or would O and Dee’s relationship really happen the way it did? Would it happen at all? Because even the most outgoing of kids at that age from my school in the 2000’s were not really kissing, dating and discussing sex, unless it was rumors about which of the much older kids from the school are doing it.

Therefore, New Boy was just so implausible to me that I couldn’t enjoy it without groaning and rolling my eyes at scenes that were so out of place and unrealistic.

“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.

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“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.