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Book Review: McDowell

Thanks to OnlineBookClub.org for providing me with the opportunity to read and review this.

This was, in my opinion, a very strange book. I shall attempt to summarise the plot briefly, but I’m afraid I am going to find it quite difficult. The plot was very… all over the place, for lack of a better term.

As the title suggests, this novel follows the life of Hiram McDowell, a wealthy surgeon and father. He has been married several times, and is currently with his wife Carole, who has two daughters of her own. One of the first noteworthy happenings involves one of these daughters, Tasha, and Hiram’s son, Billie. Tasha falls pregnant with Billie’s child. Hiram refuses to accept this, denying Billie’s involvement with Tasha or his responsibility with the child. A restraining order is placed against Billie, and he falls into a depression of sorts. The next major event involves Hiram’s eleven-year-old grandson, Jeremy. His mother has known something was different about him for a while, but her husband refused to listen. Eventually, Jeremy goes on a killing spree, shooting classmates, teachers, his sister and his mother, before then shooting himself. But he is not dead – severely brain-damaged and unconscious, but alive nonetheless. Hiram’s second daughter, Sophie, tries to encourage Jeremy to communicate with them, to show that he can hear them. But McDowell does not believe he will ever recover.

Soon, Jeremy passes away. Evidence suggests McDowell’s involvement in the death; murder? Euthanasia? He is convicted and sentenced to several decades imprisonment. But before long, McDowell decides he doesn’t deserve this, and so he escapes. His past experience in hiking and mountain-climbing enables him to survive without proper human contact for weeks, months, at a time, until he believes it is safe enough for him to migrate back into society. He begins a new life, developing different identities and beginning to earn a living again. He meets a lot of people, many of which become quite attached to him. But the law soon comes after him, and he is forced to move on.

In the end, McDowell is betrayed by a woman who’s life he saved. He is shot dead, accused of resisting the arrest despite no evidence of any weapons or fighting.

Of course, there are a lot of subplots that I haven’t included. There are also a lot of characters that have gone unnamed; too many, I believe. I couldn’t keep track of all the different characters and stories in the end. I got a bit lost, and felt no emotional connection to any of them whatsoever. This was probably my biggest criticism; there was a distinct lack of emotion. At the end of the novel, it was suggested that McDowell had grown as a person since his arrest, but I didn’t see any of this character growth myself. I didn’t feel anything.

Another issue I had with this book was the repetitive nature of the writing. Several details were repeated within close proximity, removing any subtlety to the writing. I also found that the inner dialogue of characters was not particularly convincing, sounding clunky and awkward.

Throughout the book there were paragraphs in italics, supposedly a separate narrative/summary of the events. But these paragraphs sounded exactly the same as the rest of the writing, and I failed to understand why they were separated from the rest of the text by being in italics.

I know there are a lot of negatives in this review, but I didn’t actually hate the book. I can’t say I enjoyed it, either, though. There was definite room for improvement, and very little that was noteworthy in a positive way. I’m giving this book 1 out of 5 stars.

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Book Review: Becoming the Dragon

This is a fantasy novel aimed at a young adult audience, following a young boy named Andy on a bizarre, out-of-this-world adventure. I received my copy via the Online Book Club.

From the start of the novel, it is clear that Andy is a bit different. After being struck by lightning on a school trip, Andy has a strange effect on electrical appliances. When Andy’s father left some important documents at home, Andy is responsible for delivering them to his workplace. However, Iliya (Andy’s father) is working on a sort of portal. Of course, Andy’s ‘condition’ has an odd effect on this teleportation device, and suddenly Andy finds himself in the middle of some strange woods. At first, he thinks he may be in South America. But South America doesn’t have GIANT ants, or another planet visible in the sky, or… dragons?!

So Andy finds himself being used as ‘prey’ for a royal hunting party, alongside several other intriguing characters. He accidentally attacks the princess, though, and ends up being held prisoner. He is tortured and ridiculed, displayed alongside a dragon. Together, they eventually escape, but Andy is badly injured. The only cure is to undertake a transformation – The Ritual – and become a dragon himself. However, this carries a lot of risks, especially for an older boy who is mostly grown.

While the premise of this story sounds exciting and unique, I found it quite dull when I was actually reading it. I was not really able to follow everything that happened. However, I must say that there was a great amount of detail when discussing the magical processes and the history of the people, which was very good. But when the history was being told, it felt a bit like a lecture. It wasn’t exciting or interesting, sadly.

The story takes a sudden turning toward the end of the book, involving a girl Andy meets. This all happens very, very quickly, but was possibly one of the most interesting parts of the book.

As for the writing, I did notice a fair few issues. There were inconsistencies in the tense being used, as well as the perspective. There was also a lot of language used that was never actually defined; while some terms are mentioned in a glossary at the end of the book, I do believe several were not. This left me feeling a little bit clueless and unsure of what was happening at times, which was a shame.

I also did not feel any emotion in this book. The characters were not particularly well-developed, nor did they display any emotion or relationships with one another. Andy rarely expresses any longing for his own family, nor does he make any attempts to return to Earth. His ‘love’ for the girl, Polana, comes extremely suddenly, without much development at all. The speech was all very artificial, lacking the fluidity of natural speech.

Overall, it was interesting and unique, but not particularly well written or exciting. 2 out of 5 stars.

Book Review: The Last City of America

I received a copy of this book from OnlineBookClub.org in return for my review.

 I’m going to be entirely honest; I did not enjoy this book. It seemed like such an interesting idea, and some of the events/plots could have been fantastic. I tried so hard to enjoy it but I really struggled with getting through this book. Right from the start, I could tell I wasn’t going to particularly enjoy it.
This book is set in a post-apocalyptic America after a breakout of hephaestus, a horrific disease thought to have been developed by scientists. We learn more about this throughout the book but are given a general idea of the situation at the start. Cities still remain across America, but most are in a drastic state of poverty. There is some sort of ruling system involving skylords and hosts but honestly, I got completely lost.
I’m having trouble writing this review. I have so much to say but no idea how to structure it. The book just had so many strange and confusing aspects and I really don’t know what to make of it.
I’ll start discussing the characters now. Every chapter is allocated to a different character – well, sort of. You would expect a homodiegetic narration from each character, but the narrative voice is heterodiegetic throughout the entire book. It would also be expected that the characters chosen to follow in each chapter are the key characters, but this wasn’t really the case. There were so many different characters portrayed as ‘key’ characters. I got extremely confused and failed to connect with any of them. It didn’t help that there was little to no emotion portrayed for a majority of the book. I was unable to sympathise with any character. When an emotional moment did occur, I still wasn’t able to actually care. It may just be my own preferences causing this, but I personally found the writing to just be lacking something. Emotion? Personality? I can’t tell, but there was definitely something wrong.
Another issue with the fragmented narrative is how hard the story became to follow. I had no idea which scenes were going to be important for the overarching plot, and as there were so many characters, I just kept losing track. The separate plot lines did begin to connect towards the end, but it still made little to no sense to me.
There were moments that I really enjoyed, especially when the atmosphere became more creepy. But these moments weren’t particularly relevant in the long run, and the array of different genres and atmospheres just made the book even harder to follow.
Overall, I found this to be a very fragmented and boring book. I wanted to like it but just couldn’t connect to any characters. The plot made very little sense most of the time and the 658 pages felt like a lifetime. 1 star.

Book Review: Raven’s Peak

I recently signed up to OnlineBookClub and requested this book as my first to review on the site. It’s a paranormal thriller, focusing on a “hunter” who tracks down demons. It begins with an epilogue following another character, who we later learn more about. The protagonist is a young man called Haatim, completely ordinary and unaware of the paranormal activity in the world. Strange circumstances send him and Abigail – the hunter – off to Raven’s Peak together.

The beginning was rather interesting; Haatim was hired by a complete stranger to track down a suspected stalker. It soon became clear that this was no ordinary stalker, and the situation was definitely unique. However, the following plot felt a little slow to me, taking a while to really develop. It’s possible that the intended peak was earlier than I felt, but I personally felt like the main story only really started when the pair arrived at Raven’s Peak. This did not happen until much nearer the end. This meant that the “main” sotry only lasted for a few short chapters. There was a section between Haatim’s stalker mission and the arrival in Raven’s Peak that felt painfully slow and, quite honestly, boring.

The characters were okay, but I didn’t connect with them emotionally. Haatim was given an emotional backstory – as was Abigail, in fact – but I just did not feel anything for them. Their speech felt a bit disjointed and artificial, and they just didn’t feel particularly real to me. It would’ve been nice to develop the characters’ relationships more, both with each other and their own families.

Many books in the paranormal/supernatural genre feel very similar, and this book is sadly included. There was nothing about it that particularly stood out to me. Some of the ideas in the book are very interesting, though. I am intrigued as to how Haatim’s father is connected to the Ninth Circle, and I also want to know what happens in Abigail’s quest for saving Arthur. But this book didn’t fill me with anticipation or excitement to read on. In fact, it barely mentioned the Ninth Circle, and without that being the series title, I’d never have picked up on it.

I also noticed a few typos and grammatical errors, which would be the result of insufficient editing. While a few errors are often found in books, this felt quite amateurish and unfinished.

Overall, the book wasn’t particularly special or exciting, and didn’t feel as fluid as it should. It wasn’t bad, but it was not outstanding. 2.5 stars.