Archive for the ‘You Review’ Category


You Review: The Undead Pool – Kim Harrison

Thursday, April 24th, 2014

Reviewed by Oona Juutinen

The Undead Pool is urban fantasy, peppered with some alternative history, and set in the USA where supernatural beings such as witches, vampires, and elves now live openly (if somewhat uneasily) amongst regular folks. And connected to each of these groups, having her nose in everybody’s business all over supernatural Cincinnati, is Rachel Morgan – witch and day-walking demon, who also happens to be the alpha female of a werewolf pack, and who seems to have a habit of attracting trouble where ever she goes.

This time trouble begins when mysterious bubbles of magic appear over Cincinnati, causing the most ordinary spells to misfire disastrously and the local vampire masters to fall into a potentially deadly slumber. Other vampires then get rowdy, chaos ensues, and even the Goddess of the elves (who might not even be real but, if she is, she is probably insane) seems to be involved… And Rachel, of course, is somehow connected to it all.

As the penultimate book of a series planned to consist of 13 parts, The Undead Pool by Kim Harrison feels like an epic beginning of the end: there are car chases and explosions aplenty, as well as quite an impressive amount of twists and turns. And of course loads of sexual tension between Rachel and an elf called Trent, who apparently have had a will-they-or-won’t-they relationship going on for several books already.

Had I read the previous books and thus been able to appreciate the build-up and the conclusions the series is coming to more, I might have viewed The Undead Pool differently. Now, however, the book felt quite superficial, its plot flimsy under the accelerated action. For fans of the series, though, this book will probably be exactly what the doctor ordered. As for me, I will treat it as a lesson learned: reading the 12th installment of a series, with no prior knowledge of what has gone down in the previous books, simply does not lead to a very fulfilling reading experience.

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

Paperback edition expected in July 2014.  Ebook available for The Undead Pool, as well as nr. 11, A Perfect Blood.  Oddly enough, there are ebooks available of most of the anthologies containing short stories set in The Hollows universe:  Dates from Hell, Hotter than Hell, Holidays are Hell, Unbound and Into the Woods.

You Review: How to Make a Human Being – Christopher Potter

Wednesday, April 23rd, 2014

Reviewed by David Young

How to Make a Human Being has to be the most interesting and challenging book I’ve ever reviewed. No information about the author (I discover he is a publisher with a well-received “pop science” book to his name) or an introduction explaining the purpose of the book – no, the reader is plunged straight into the famous 18th century “Materialism” versus “Idealism” controversy stimulated by Bishop Berkeley. And it doesn’t get less challenging….

The book is divided into 3 sections: the first covers our physical environment (cosmology, physics, mathematics, philosophy), the second where we come from (genetics, psychology, more philosophy) and the third how we relate to the world around us (psychology, neurology, sociology). The author is an amazingly well-read polymath, but he wears his learning very lightly and is capable of explaining highly complex topics in a very comprehensible fashion – this is the nearest I’ve ever come to understanding Quantum Mechanics, for instance.

I recommend reading this book in small chunks, as every chapter is really full of meaty stuff which needs some absorbing. On the plus side the author occasionally drops in a delightful insight of his own which will certainly make you think, and there are some nuggets with which you can impress your dinner party guests (did you know that humans share 50% of their genes with bananas?).

Overall Christopher Potter has succeeded in presenting a remarkably comprehensive summary of the Human Condition, one from which I learnt a great deal and will return to in the future with enormous pleasure.

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

You Review: Signed, Sealed, Delivered – Nina Sankovitch

Tuesday, April 22nd, 2014

Review by Anouschka van Leeuwen

In her previous book, Tolstoy and the Purple Chair, Nina Sankovitch took the reader along on her year-long project of reading one book a day, explaining what emotions the books triggered and how they related to her own life. Signed, Sealed, Delivered has the same spirit: this book is again a personal tale. After the discovery of an old box of letters, Sankovitch is inspired to look for the significance of written correspondence. Her findings result in a book, that like its predecessor, mixes the genres of non-fiction and memoir. Unfortunately, I found both of these aspects a bit disappointing.

Concerning the author’s personal reflections, I found that the initial story of the discovery of the old letters was a nice introduction to the book’s subject. However, after a while the author’s sentiments became a bit irksome to me. For example, Sankovitch often expresses how she wishes that her children will write to her once they leave for college so that she will have a memento of their love for her. Although touching, after a few times these motherly sentiments started to become repetitive and did not have any added value to the main subject of the book.

At times, I found that this melodramatic tone made me wish that Sankovitch had tried to approach the subject from a more theoretical perspective, which brings me to my second concern. When I started the book, I had expected something along the lines of an essay explaining the appeal of letter writing. Instead, the majority of the book consists of examples of both famous and non-famous letter writers and receivers.

This is not to say that the book was not entertaining. On the contrary: the example stories are often compelling and sometimes even taught me a thing or two (like the history of Heloise and Abelard and how letter writing played a role in their lives). Still, I felt like the author missed out on the opportunity to delve deeper into the psychological aspects of written correspondence, especially in this digital age. Each chapter centers around a particular function that letters may fulfill, and in between the stories, Sankovitch sometimes drops a line that summarizes the effects that reading or writing a letter can have. I think I would have liked it better if these reflective parts had taken up more space in the book.

To summarize, I have mixed feelings about this book. Being an avid letter writer myself, I have enjoyed the numerous tales that illustrate the appeal of letters. On the other hand, readers who are expecting a philosophical or psychological account of letter writing should realize that Signed, Sealed, Delivered is not intended as such. Instead, it should be seen as a compilation of the most romantic or otherwise touching stories in the history of the handwritten letter.

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

No ebook available for Signed, Sealed, Delivered, but there is one of her earlier book: Tolstoy and the Purple Chair.

You Review: The Sun and Other Stars – Brigid Pasulka

Saturday, April 19th, 2014

Reviewed by Saartje Kuijs

As someone who has lived in Italy for a while, any book about the Italian culture immediately appeals to me. I love getting transported back to the heat of the Italian sun in summer, the quick temperament of its inhabitants and even the many bureaucratic problems the media love to talk about. So when I saw The Sun and Other Stars by Brigid Pasulka on the You Review list, I had to read it.

It did not disappoint. The Sun and Other Stars centres around a young man, Etto, who lives in the once famous jet set town of San Benedetto. San Benedetto is inhabited by many colourful, and very Italian, characters, from Etto’s womanizing friend Fede, to his demented grandmother whom he takes to church every Sunday. Life in the town gets shaken up with the arrival of famous football star Yuri Fil and his family. They will play a crucial role in helping Etto to come to terms with the deaths of his twin brother and mother.

The Sun and Other Stars is honest and life-like. It is not about big adventures but strikes much closer to home as it deals with grief, growing up and accepting life the way it is. The characters in the book paint an amazing picture of life in Italy and especially its enthusiastic football culture. It is funny, eccentric and above all, realistic. Sometimes the many Italian words and phrases in between the English ones slow down the flow of the book, but overall The Sun and Other Stars is an interesting read for anyone who is looking for a book that deals with big problems in a surprisingly light-hearted, but definitely genuine, way. If you happen to love Italy, and football as well, then this is a book you certainly shouldn’t miss.

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

There is no ebook available of The Sun and Other Stars at the moment, but there is one available of her previous novel: A Long Long Time Ago and Essentially True.

You Review: The Collected Works of A. J. Fikry – Gabrielle Zevin

Thursday, April 17th, 2014

Reviewed by Henk van Doorn

I nearly forgot why I read books before I started to read this marvelous book with its compelling story and wonderful people in it.

The Collected Works of A. J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin is a gem. I have been reading a lot for work and therefore reading books was not my first choice to spend some free time on. But I was drawn into this extraordinary book about books, a bookshop and love. Love for books, love for life.

It transported me into another world in which I was touched by another set of circumstances, other lives. I think the reason why a lot of people watch sitcoms on TV, listen to music, play a videogame, make facebook one of their favorite retreats, or twitter their fingers to the bone, is to have a break from their own routine, their daily life. To step into the lives of others and feel connected to them. It’s like meeting new friends, share their lives, their loves, and it makes you feel alive. It gives you a new perspective. Forces you to take a step back and realize how important it is to love. To live your own life, to cherish what you have and the people that are important to you.

This book gently shows you again and again that when one door closes, another door will open. No matter what happens or how big the loss is. That if you get set in your ways and the problems seem to stack up, it is easy to get disappointed and negative about things. But good things inevitably do happen. Like things inevitably change. That even when all goes wrong and you are down and out, it is so vitally important to keep an open mind. You might find something new you like and maybe even learn something, or will be reminded of something you nearly forgot. Maybe that life flows on? That there is always hope and a new beginning, no matter how big the loss is, or whatever happened. That life is like a boat or a train on a journey. It will sail or leave the station. On its way to new experiences. New sights. And new people to meet. Better be on it, or you might miss out..

You Review: The latest releases, reviewed by ABC customers.

This book has two titles:  The Collected Works of A. J. Fikry in the UK and The Storied Life of A. J. Fikry in the US.

Ebooks available for All These Things I’ve Done and Because It Is My Blood.