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book reviews in 200 words

Book Review Rating System

When I am asked to rate a book, I always feel like 5 stars or even 10 half-stars are such limiting options.  Let’s say, I love the unfolding of the story but the ending was terrible (Girl on the Train).  I’d still give it 5 stars.  Or, what if I love, Love, LOVE the book and will tell all my friends that they should read it but it’s not for everyone because it is extremely sad (A Little Life) – yep, 5 stars.  How about Grady Hendrix’s really scary and inventive, My Best Friend’s Exorcism?  Really good scary story, but is it really on par with Toni Morrison’s Beloved?  You see what I mean?

So, I’m going to try something different and see how it goes.  I’m going to use a 100 point scale.  Just like grading papers.  Here’s the rundown:

1-20:  I will probably try to forget that I read this book.

20-40: Passable effort, but overall did not care for this book.

40-60: Either the story, the idea or the writing is good, but there are major flaws.

60-80: Now we’re getting somewhere; liked it; may recommend to friends.

80-90: Loved this book and will recommend it to friends.

90-99: I probably will not be able to shut up about this book.

100: (Not sure this is an achievable score – we’ll see.)

 

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The Way of All Flesh – a book review in 200 words

The Way of All Flesh

by

Ambrose Parry

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The Way of All Flesh is a historical thriller set in Scotland in the mid-1850s. If you know anything of Scotland at that time, you will know that Edinburgh had then become the seat of medical innovation. This story is set when the use of anesthetics were beginning to be formulated, tested and used on patients. There are plenty of fascinating medical tidbits to satisfy those interested in the macabre history of medicine, and it was nice to read them embedded in a work of fiction.

The story also revolves around a young apprentice doctor and a housemaid determined to rise above her station. They both work with a lauded obstetrician who is using new techniques in the hopes of better survival rates for mothers and babies. Unfortunately, there is someone killing working women – housemaids and prostitutes – who find themselves in the “family way” and looking to remedy the situation. This, and the sketchy backgrounds of a couple of the physicians introduced in the book, make for an intense read.

This is an interesting, twisty mystery by two authors, Chris Brookmyre and Marisa Haetzman, writing under a pseudonym. I will definitely be picking up any other books they collaborate on.

(A preview copy of this book was provided by the publisher.)

Rating: 80/100

Purchase this book in October when it is available to the general public or pre-order it at Barnes & Noble | Amazon

 

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This book, THIS book, THIS BOOK. What do you get when you cross Star Trek with Terry Pratchett's Discworld, a splash of Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy and any three of your favorite #fantasyseries? You get Space Unicorn Blues. #humorous and #fun with a splash of commentary on #humannature. You will LOVE these characters and hate these characters. I cheered and sobbed (literally) while reading about the aftermath of a war between humans and magical creatures (in space!). – This is a first book for author @tjberrywrites that debuts on July 3. Let's please give this book lots of love so it becomes the series it deserves to be. – – (An advanced copy of this book was provided by the publisher. THANK YOU, @angryrobotbooks ) – – #terrypratchett #discworld #startrek #hitchhikersguidetothegalaxy #douglasadams #fantasybook #fantasyseries #spacebook #unicornbook #magicalbook #humorbook #bookofsatire #lovethisbook

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Noir – Goodreads review and random interactions with Christopher Moore

NoirNoir by Christopher Moore

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s been a while since I picked up a Christopher Moore book, even though Lamb: The Gospel According to Biff, Christ’s Childhood Pal is one of my all-time favorite books. I’m so glad I picked up this new Moore book!

Set in San Franscico after WWII, Sammy finds himself serving drinks to Stilton (hereafter referenced to as the Cheese – LOVE IT), a beautiful dame who starts all the trouble. A very diverse cast of characters inhabit this story from all walks of life (obviously and as always with Moore, if you are easily offended, this is not the right book for you – just saying). My favorite character ended up being the Kid, who was terrible and sweet and awesome in his use of the English language.

There were many many giggles and quite a few laugh-out-loud-in-a-room-by-yourself-whilst-reading-a-book moments. Moore is just as fun as I remember him to be!

(A review copy of this book was provided by the publisher.)

View all my reviews on Goodreads

So, I usually tweet quotes from worthy books and while reading Noir, this happened:

A Head Full of Ghosts – a book review in 200 words

A Head Full of Ghosts

by Paul Tremblay

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This book! So smart, so clever, so unnerving.

Merry’s older sister, Marjorie, has begun to act strangely. Marjorie watches 8-year-old Merry while she sleeps, tells her increasingly disturbing secrets and threatens to cut out her tongue if she tattles. Meanwhile, Merry’s mother shuttles Marjorie to a string of doctors while her father drags in a priest.

After a denouement of serious weirdness, the parents decide to sign up for a reality television show (The Possession) – this decision, of course, goes terribly awry.

I found this book to be incredibly clever. We only know what a protected youngest child would know; the parents try to keep things as normal as possible when, in reality, the entire family is skidding off the tracks. Then, when we think we know exactly what happened, we are treated to the viewpoint of the grown-up Merry and a blogger who works very hard to discredit everything shown in The Possession. We are constantly, and delightedly, kept a little off balance.

I mean, what could be more frightening than a trusted family member turning against you, the exploitation of reality television and a demon-possessed teenager? This book definitely deserved it’s 2015 Bram Stoker award.

Read it.

Rating: 92/100

Buy it at Barnes & Noble | Amazon | IndieBound

A Guide for Murdered Children – a book review

A Guide for Murdered Children

by Sarah Sparrow

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This book IS about a very difficult subject, so I realize there will be some who find this a no-go immediately. If you can get past your immediate reaction of “ew, murdered children” – you will enjoy this book!

Willow (Dubya) Wylde, the quintessential broken cop, is drawn into a world where murdered children inhabit the bodies of recently dead grown-ups for the sole purpose of seeking revenge. (Children in adult bodies? Awkward and hilarious.) Dubya has some innate psychic abilities he has spent a lot of time suppressing – leading to alcoholism and other self-damaging behaviors. But it is the disappearance of a brother and sister that ends up focusing his energy and gifts.

Plotwise, there is a train through which the children travel in the ether; a Porter to help said children; AA-style meetings for the adults and children who are sharing a body; and of course, the guide for murdered children. I feel like that is just about all I can tell you about the plot without spoiling it for you. Except that there are lots of murdered children and equal amounts of gore and very bad people.

There have been mixed reviews about this book. I feel like if you pick up a book with the title, A Guide for Murdered Children, you have to know what you’re in for. It will probably help readers if they realize there is a lot of catching up to do to understand the world the author has built, similar to reading a fantasy novel. (If you hate fantasy/sci-fi for this reason, probably skip this book.) You have to trust the author’s vision until you are able to fully understand what is happening.

I think that Sparrow was brave to trust her instincts with this story and she deals with a difficult subject matter with a lot of respect. I found the book well-written and creative. Kudos to you, Sarah Sparrow.

Rating: 80/100

Buy it now at Barnes and Noble | Amazon | IndieBound

The Broken Girls – a book review in 200 words

The Broken Girls

by Simone St. James

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The Broken Girls by Simone St. James is a well-written, fast-paced, thrill-soaked ride told in (at least) two timelines.

The book opens with a young girl being followed by someone or something in the very dark on a deserted road. Who is she? Where is she? When is she?

In 1950, four troubled girls (Katie, CeCe, Roberta and Sonia) are staying at Idlewild Hall, a home for the worst troublemakers. Each has a secret that slowly unfolds as the pages are turned. Each secret is worse than the last.

In 2014, local journalist Fiona cannot let her sister’s murder go. She can’t sleep and she can’t leave the small town where the unthinkable happened. Her sister’s murder has stopped time for both herself and her father until Fiona hears rumors that Idlewild Hall, the site of the murder, is being renovated.

Woven into all of this (as though it was not enough!) is the threat of a visit in both timelines by Mary Hand, the resident woman in black and the ghostly creature who supposedly haunts the hallways, classrooms and grounds of Idlewild.

Between the two timelines, murders, disappearances and strange happenings abound. What a fun and utterly readable book!

Rating: 92/100

Buy this book when it comes out (today! 3/20) at Barnes & Noble | Amazon | IndieBound

The Chalk Man – a book review in 200 words

The Chalk Man
by C.J. Tudor

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The Chalk Man, C.J. Tudor’s debut novel, is told in two timelines: the first by 12-year-old Eddie; the second, by the same narrator, only 30 years older. There are multiple mysteries in both timelines and the author uses the time-switching device effectively to escalate suspense and dole out clues to you, the wary reader.

The 1986 story has a maiming, a drowning, some extremely brutal bullying and a murder. All the while, there is a big story involving the adults happening just outside the periphery of the children’s attention.

Fast forward to adult Eddie in 2016 who is dealing with a life he didn’t expect. With the reappearance of old friends, another drowning and some other strange goings-on, Eddie has no choice but to re-examine his discovery of a headless body in the woods in ‘86.

There are so many great themes in this book – the powerlessness of children, the pull of childhood friendships, growing up and not having the life you thought you’d have. Add to all of that, strange chalk drawings, an albino, an abortion doctor and a hell-fire spouting preacher and you have a weird, wild ride where you can’t take anything for granted. What a thrill!

Thanks to Crown Publishing for the ARC!

Rating: 88/100

BUY IT NOW at Barnes & Noble | Amazon | IndieBound

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