The Secret of Clouds by Alyson Richman

The Secret of Clouds

The Secret of Clouds by Alyson Richman

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Close to 1.5 stars, 2 only because I managed to make myself finish it (it wasn’t easy).
The publishers and other people who wrote all the comments and praise words on the cover of this book tried very hard to make me believe I was about to read something special and heartfelt. The book didn’t deliver.
The impression I got from this book, is that if I could gather it up and squeeze it in my hand, once I opened my hand only sand and dust would seep through my fingers. There was nothing inside. Perhaps it’s a mean thing to say…
But, imho, a book of contemporary literature like this, which picks and focuses on ordinary lives of a small number of people out of the millions living on this planet, has to either show something you won’t forget, or tell its story using words you won’t forget. This book fails to do either.
The writing is simply weak. The ‘fragmented’ structure of the text can be interesting when it’s used with a good reason, but here it unfortunately serves only a single purpose—to make it easier for readers to get through the text that has no powers to grip their attention otherwise. When a pause/space is inserted where neither POV not the scene have changed, the only reason it is there is to hide the fact that if you reconnect paragraphs in your mind, the flow of text would just be jaw-numbingly boring.
It’s mostly dry listing of every detail in sight.
Predictable reactions spelled out over and over.
Astonishingly stale dialogues.
Some of the sections consist of nothing but 7-10 short sentences beginning with the word ‘I”.
And even when it tries to express something ‘deep’, it somehow just doesn’t sound sincere.
Considering that this is a story of an English teacher with love for books and writing…all I can say is “…Really?”
Overall, the narrative bits mostly left me with a lot of unpleasant aftertaste.
The Ukrainian bits were slightly better on emotional level…if not for all the frustrating details—like the fact that people don’t wear shoes in houses in Ukraine, or how it’s always kielbasa everywhere, even when it’s not, or verb tense switching constantly back and forth. These parts would me marginally better is they made an effort to not be so Americanized. Figuring out kolbasa (not kielbasa), pirozhki (not pierogi), kasha, and what they actually are and their actual uses (as in, no kind of kolbasa would go into hotdogs, and that there’s no such thing as ‘just kasha’), as well as the proper shapes for paskhas, would be a good start.
The disturbing part is that I can’t really tell if the author didn’t have the knowledge, or did have it but chose to not put it in and over-Americanize it for ‘simple readers’ on purpose. Either way, I do wish authors would stop mangling other cultures because they’re either too lazy to do proper research, or, when they do, think they need to ‘localize’ and over-simplify everything for American readers.
Overall, food issues aside, the minds of people living in Ukraine in the last days of the USSR are not represented believably anywhere on these pages. These are just Americans in costumes with Polish kielbasa in hands pretending to act Ukrainian (just as they would be in any Hollywood feature, I suppose).

In terms of story, it’s just…nothing we really haven’t seen before? Picking up a sad story to tell doesn’t magically make it into a good book. Mixing in boring broken relationships makes it even worse. Everything is entirely too predictable, nothing really grips the heart strings. The main character is practically impossible to like. On top of which, most of the side characters feel very bland and empty. “Katya” especially feels like an over-simplified empty shell, where she should have been the core of emotion here.
The cliché doomed relationship of the “and why they were tougher to begin with?” variety, where from the first pages the empty character if the boyfriend is written in completely negative light (with the whole “sully my happiness with his pub breath”), while the replacement is better from every angle in comparison, perfect overall, and is praised with every word and description so much its nothing but ridiculous… Was this a necessary part of this book?

Long story short, even if this could be a good story, it is thoroughly spoiled by being told from a perspective of an mentally immature, unreliable, overly subjective, and too self-centered narrator…in bad prose.

P.S.
I also do believe it is morally wrong for a teacher to actually read the letters “to future selves” she asked her students to write. They should have been private. But then that would have defeated the main point of this book, wouldn’t it?



View all my reviews

Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas

Dreaming of You (The Gamblers, #2)

Dreaming of You by Lisa Kleypas

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


I have three issues here, and the first one is mostly my own fault: when I read the description I have imagined something different, and then I felt disappointed, which lowered my impression of the whole book. …Which would be why I usually avoid reading descriptions and reviews that include summaries of the book.


The second one is that this book is like an overstylized romance on steroids. Everything feels just too exaggerated, tuned to max level of whatever they are: the overly damaged hero, who of course is the richest man in England; the overly saintly innocent heroine, who of course doesn’t want to be innocent anymore; the overly cowardly almost-fiancée with more mommy issues than brains; the overly despicable and malicious former lover/female villain; the overly helpful side characters; the overly dramatic unnecessary drama, followed by numerous overly cheesy declarations, and so on. Everything is just so THICK. Then there’s the problem of drama for the sake of drama, villainy for the sake of villainy, stubbornness of the sake of the stubbornness, and the fact that 90% of the plot simply rests on the issues of people not pulling their heads out of their asses and nothing more. It doesn’t really feel logical or organic.
And the third one is the constant head-hopping.


View all my reviews

White Hot by Ilona Andrews

White Hot (Hidden Legacy, #2)

White Hot by Ilona Andrews

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


A rare occurrence in literary world—a second book of the series that is as good as the first, if not better. (Except for the cover, the covers are still cheesy and terrible.)
Gripping action, solid developments, compelling characters, powered-up romance. It’s a very difficult book to put down.

Personally, it’s the moments like this that I love the most about these books:

Rogan regarded me with his blue eyes, took out a baseball hat, and put it on. Dragon in camouflage, going down to the village to spy on the delicious people living there.
He clicked his teeth, biting through the air.
I had to stop thinking about dragons.

View all my reviews

Japanese things that ‘everyone’ knows and likes and expects you to know and like, but I inexplicably can’t stand on some biological level and really don’t want to have anything to do with:

  • Studio Ghibli
  • Nintendo (including Mario, Zelda, and pretty much every IP of theirs)

It’s an opinion that is equally difficult to express among Japanese people and not-Japanese Japan fans. And even more difficult to express when you work in gaming…

Magic Dreams by Ilona Andrews

Magic Dreams (Kate Daniels, #4.5)

Magic Dreams by Ilona Andrews

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


A very short side story. Personally, I didn’t really enjoy the Japanese culture involvement much. Firstly, because of how the cultural behaviors were painted. Secondly, because everyone always zeroes-in on jorougumo all the time. It gets old. (I do realize that this novella was written a while back.)
Jim is great (as always), but Dali’s low self esteem issues are a bit too idiotic (the ‘I think it’s better to be a pretty idiot, that be smart and look like me’ ones…she’s an idiot enough). I don’t think I enjoy how her character was painted here much at all. And it turned into a story of ‘good, strong, smart, and powerful’ man loving ‘an awkward idiot’ despite her idiocy…which also gets old.



View all my reviews

Whatever for Hire by R.J. Blain

Whatever for Hire: A Magical Romantic Comedy (with a Body Count)

Whatever for Hire: A Magical Romantic Comedy by R.J. Blain

My rating: 5 of 5 stars


The body count might be a bit larger than usual (than in previous books). The main characters are great – unique, complex, and fun. My only complain is that I wish we had more time with them. Learn more about Malcolm, more about Kanika’s transformations and origins, more interactions with beings other than Satin and archangels, and so on. Then, there’s the fact that the ending is hardly complete and the little details like that we, as readers, missed the parts of which Kanika has no recollection. So I do hope there’s some kind of a sequel, because the mix of cultures in these two characters is really interesting and it would be terrific to explore them more.



View all my reviews

An Offer from a Gentleman by Julia Quinn

An Offer from a Gentleman (Bridgertons, #3)

An Offer from a Gentleman by Julia Quinn

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


One thought: “Omg, please please please don’t be some kind of Cinderella retelling…” was pounding in my head while I was trying to read through the prologue… and then of course it goes and does just that.
Which will make this review even more subjective and negative than usual. I never liked Cinderella, and that is mostly because the character/idea of disgustingly malicious and abusive ‘evil stepmother’ sends me into fits of rage and disgust the second I see it, and the fact that everyone runs in circles of angst because everyone keeps lying to each other.
After I finished the prologue I knew that the only way I will be able to read this book is by sometimes skipping through whole pages, because the moment the ‘stepmother’ appeared on the page I would want to commit murder in some violent way and I don’t enjoy the feeling. And I don’t read books to experience it.

Angst is definitely not what I look for in this series.
While I’m sure some readers loooved the drama (the evilness, the worrying about how the main characters will escape their increasingly angsty circumstances, eagerly waiting for the truth to finally come out), I personally hate hate hate it. And I hate plots that are built on angst that is built on lies on top of lies on top of lies. Plots like this are not enjoyable to read at all, and I had to read this book very selectively to get through it while hoping that maybe at least the next one could be more like the first one.
Benedict is the only good thing about this book, and it made him a character to ‘feel sorry for’ in double: first because his characters in general invites some feeling sorry for (almost of maternal variety), and then because it’s unfortunate that he is the one who ended up with a book with a plot like this.
The main character Sophie just might be the most irritating female main character in the series so far (and books by Julia Quinn I’ve read in general). She was determined to make her own life and everything around her more complicated at every step.
Then there’s the fact that it didn’t really feel as romantic and all that he made his advances before he knew the truth. Or decided that he didn’t care.
There were a few good and fun moments in this book, but there’s also way too much cheesy angst, too much of too cheesy romance lines, and too much of irritating mess in general. Not a book to relax with and enjoy peacefully at all.



View all my reviews