This book . . . it was just dumb. Granted it was easier getting into than DIVERGENT, which took me more than 400 pages to start enjoying, but that doeThis book . . . it was just dumb. Granted it was easier getting into than DIVERGENT, which took me more than 400 pages to start enjoying, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that it’s an ill-conceived, ill-executed plot in a world that doesn’t make sense with a protagonist who makes stupid decisions and a relationship that’s about as healthy as a 30 day McDonald’s diet.
Tris is still her good ol’ plank of wood self who feels nothing although she says she cries sometimes because of reasons like Will but you could have fooled me with how bland everything was told. She has all the personality of a sheet of paper and she does nothing but lie to people. To the point where it should develop into her first reaction at this point because she lies more than she tells the truth. She’s subconsciously, and then consciously, suicidal, or at least doesn’t care about living and if she dies she dies, so she makes really stupid decisions that don’t only put herself in danger but others too because, even after doing that multiple times she doesn’t have the foresight to realize that she isn’t alone in this fight and then boo-freaking-hoos when people get hurt because she didn’t mean THEM to get hurt even though DUH.
Her and Four’s relationship is just awful. They pick fights with each other for the sake of tension and it just got old. From one chapter to the next they were fighting and tentatively making up and then fighting again and then grudgingly working together and then fight and then make-up make-out and on and on. My god, it got old. Just make a damn decision already and be done with it. They didn’t respect each other, didn’t respect themselves, and both made stupid decisions that pissed the other off and continued doing that throughout the entire book. Bleh.
The plot itself? I’m pretty sure this book was written by a stereotypical fourteen-year-old who doesn’t understand the world outside of those same stereotypes. The book is so full of stock action and stock plotting and stock villains and it falls so short on anything original and exciting and unique that you know what’s coming before it even gets there. And the fact that Erudite wore glasses for the sake of wearing glasses because they believed it made them look smarter. Are you kidding me? Then they’re obviously not as smart as they believe themselves to be.
And the ending . . . completely nonsensical. To the point where I looked like a confused beagle with my head cocked to the side going wha . . .? SPOILER ALERT if you haven’t read this far and I really don’t know why I’m even affording this because the book’s been out for years at this point. Tris’s aunt helped start this whole M Night Shyamalan The Village social experiment as a way of protecting people from themselves and working out the kinks in man so he could be better to his fellow man. Fantastic. Except Edith is Tris’s father’s aunt in this fake name world. That’s all super secret and it came about from a war a hundred years ago or whatever. Well, Tris is second generation, meaning her father was first generation, meaning his parents came from outside the wall. Unless people tend to die really young in this world there should be a whole generation of people that know exactly WTF is going on and it shouldn’t be a huge secret because TOO MANY PEOPLE KNOW ABOUT IT. So I fail to see how any of this can even be a surprise when roughly a third of the population should know about the beginning of this Divergent world thing. There are some gaps going on because a generation is only 25 years, not fifty, and you can have multiple generations exist within a single generation so someone didn’t string some lights up properly here. You have half a string that’s out and the rest are blinking and who mixed the soft lights in with the LEDs THEY DON’T MATCH??? END SPOILER ALERT If none of that made sense that’s because it doesn’t actually make sense in the book.
This book is just a mess. Plus Eric dies. He’s the only one who kept me going in this series because of Jai Courtney. Yeah. Everything about him is good. He got me to “like” the movie version of DIVERGENT (and by like I mean tolerate because I got to stare at him) and because I wanted to see him in INSURGENT I decided to read the book because it’s only right. Well, now that I know he won’t be in the last one my train stops here. I see no reason to keep going. I already know how the series ends, at least with Tris, and it hurts my brain to even read these books so I see no reason to continue to suffer so if this man is not going to be my reward.
Of all the dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels that are out there this is what hit the wave? It makes me sad. It’s not even good in a bad sort of way. It’s just nonsensical with crappy characters, a thin plot, a poorly-developed world and really nothing redeeming at all except that it took me no time at all to read it because it’s a two inch margin all around with a 24-point font. And, of course, Jai Courtney in the movie version. Other than that? Bleh.
I find myself really enjoying this series despite the fact that this particular book was chock full of pain and death at pretty much every turn. I didI find myself really enjoying this series despite the fact that this particular book was chock full of pain and death at pretty much every turn. I did long for a little bit of a reprieve from it because Caim or Josey always seemed to be some experiencing level of hurt but it didn’t detract me too much from the story. It just became a little much.
I liked how it alternated between the two storylines and kept Josey involved in Caim’s quest to find himself while keeping her story almost wholly separate. I still think her personality wins over Caim’s any day but with their stories separated like they were Caim was able to stand out more on his own and come into his character more without Josey getting in the way. While I felt Caim grew significantly in SHADOW’S LURE I didn’t feel the same about Josey. Sure, she had a little growth but it was mostly clustered at the end when her hand was forced. For most of the book I felt she was kind of stagnant. That’s not to be confused with me not liking her. I still adore her but this book was much more Caim’s story than Josey’s and I was really happy to find out that she was still involved.
While Josey’s coasting along in her castle Caim’s being broken down (sometimes literally) and rebuilt as a warrior and a leader for people seeking justice against a too-power ruling hand. He also finds out more about his history and his family and it’s a lot for him to take in. He plays the act of having a hard time accepting everything but when he’s thrust into a position to make change he takes to it immediately, begrudgingly or not.
I’m still rather unsure about Kit and her purpose in this story. She really still doesn’t do a whole hell of a lot and she arrives with some interesting news for Caim that fuels the next book in the series (I think) but she’s still not much more than a scantily clad, testy character that plays lookout every once in a while. Not a whole lot going on there.
As for Caim and Josey, I totally sail on that ship. To the point where a potential adversary for Josey came into Caim’s life and I was like OH HELL NO. The other chick was dealt with in a rather not nice way (which I wouldn’t wish on a fictional character, even if she were trying to sink my ship) but I don’t think she was all that much of a contender anyway. The whole book I wanted to have Josey and Caim reunite because they obviously still want each other but no. Romantic frustration ensues. And, SPOILER ALERT, it doesn’t get resolved. But where SHADOW’S LURE ends seems promising for where book three could go.
I find the SHADOW SAGA growing on me more and more and while I find myself want my fantasies to be a bit more diverse at this point in my life instead of your standard white, European-esque fantasy I still like this series. The language is still wholly relatable and I find the characters growing on me more and more (except for Kit, really). It’s a good, solid fantasy story that I think deserves more exposure than what it’s had.
A big thanks to Chuck himself for sending me BLACKBIRDS because I’m a dolt and kept buying later books in the series without effing paying attending tA big thanks to Chuck himself for sending me BLACKBIRDS because I’m a dolt and kept buying later books in the series without effing paying attending to which title I was buying and ultimately amassing a pile of Miriam Black books but NOT HAVING THE FIRST ONE. So thank you again, Chuck.
Being a fairly regular reader of Chuck’s blog, Terrible Minds, I’ve become used to him having a certain tone, mainly snarky and combining various bodily functions, food types and swears to make these hybrid, Transformer-like expletives that I immediately want to introduce to my own lexicon. With that being said, BLACKBIRDS is exactly the book I thought Chuck would write and I loved it as much as I hoped.
The tone is pithy and dirty and snarly and paints a vivid picture all on its own. Add in the characters that are both somewhat caricatures yet so grounded in reality it’s hard to not picture them as real and you get a story that kicks you in the teeth by the end of it.
Miriam is rather . . . damaged, to put it nicely. She sees pre-dead people and it kind of messes with her head. Really, she takes it better than what I think a lot of people would but it’s not without its consequences. And there are a lot. She gets herself into some messes and she’s quickly spiraling down into nothingness but the story wouldn’t be complete without a meth-adled sidekick and Ozzy and Harriet Do Grand Theft Solar Plexus. Read the book. That’ll make more sense once you do. All of these characters are just slightly over the top that you can somewhat laugh at them but it’s more of a nervous laugh because they’re serious too but like when Joe Pesce laughs you don’t know whether it’s ha ha funny or ha ha bullet in the face.
I like Miriam. I do. She’s stubbornly imperfect and makes mistakes that she quickly regrets but she’s also pretty accepting of fate. She’s mostly consigned to the fact that it is what it is but damn it all if she’s supposed to be somewhere when it happens then come hell or broken face she’ll get herself there. She’s street smart after years of living it all but that’s not to say she doesn’t get her ass handed to her. And how.
The story is a weird mesh of out-there situations and real grounded emotions. It reminds me a little bit of Sean Beaudoin’s work but where his is, for the most part, a total mind fuck, Chuck’s is more realistic and sometimes it makes you question whether you’ve been roofied. Not all the time. Just some of it. It’s actually a pretty good balance nestled firmly centered on a scale of Reservoir Dogs to Fight Club.
Lucky me I have the next two in the series on hand! Hooray! No waiting. I want to see where Chuck takes the story. It was kind of effed up in BLACKBIRDS. I want to see how much more twisted it can get. Because, you know, carpet noodle.
THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH is a definite bridge book. Despite the fact that it’s been about three and a half years since I read the first book this one brTHE MADNESS UNDERNEATH is a definite bridge book. Despite the fact that it’s been about three and a half years since I read the first book this one brought me up to speed pretty quickly, like about Rory getting stabbed at the end of the last book and now this one is picking up where that left off. I remember the ripper guy and she becoming a terminus and it was enough to get me into this one. But at the end of the day there wasn’t a whole lot going on here until the very end.
For the most part THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH is about Rory coping with what happened to her, learning to interact with people, and ghosts, on a different level, and attempting to get on with her life. No surprise she doesn’t actually want to move on from anything and still wants to be involved with the Shades because she’s useful. And she is. But a lot of the book is people interaction and Rory going back to school and getting psychological help and not much else. The prologue is an event that happens just before Rory goes back to school that has a supernatural element to it and one more of this kind of instance happens further on in the story but that’s it. Some insinuations are made, educated guesses are had, but that particular plot element is secondary in this second book and aside from those couple of touches it’s left unresolved by the end of it. It’s a neat concept and I really hope it’s carried over into the next book but here it was just an introduction. Don’t get too attached yet.
Then there’s the cult Rory inadvertently gets involved with but, of course, she doesn’t realize until too late what’s going on and it sets off a series of smaller events that lead to a major one happening at the end that fractures their little group and, of course, is left unresolved and you’ll have to read THE SHADOW CABINET to see what happens with it all. I’m not necessarily complaining but I do wish this book had a bit more going on than just introducing plot elements for book three. It’s all filler that I feel could have been split and half added to book one and the other half combined with book three and you have a duology and that’s it. They’re not long books so it’s really not unreasonable.
Rory doesn’t seem to suffer many psychological repercussions for nearly getting murdered but it could be passed off as her coping being directly related to wanting to dive head first into the Shades or finding out more about herself. She has more going on internally than what she expresses and she tends to take drastic leaps into danger in order to find answers instead of taking a more reasonable approach to it. It doesn’t make me like her character any less, it’s just a different approach to dealing with trauma that, actually, I feel more connected to. Get involved with something else and move on.
I’m eager to read THE SHADOW CABINET now just because of how insubstantial THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH was. It continued the story a little bit but as its own book it really doesn’t do much for me. It’s short on the way of anything supernatural, there’s no resolution to anything at the end of it, and it really just all felt like filler. I did read the free short Johnson had on WattPad that was a tie-in to this book about Stephen’s life before the Shades and I really liked that. When his family is mentioned here that short immediately popped into my head and filled in gaps and fleshed him out more than what otherwise would have happened had I not read it. So I do like what Johnson’s giving me here; I just wish THE MADNESS UNDERNEATH weren’t so throwaway or that it was combined with other books. On to the next one.
This book is proof that I’ll read just about anything. I was a bit dense going into it. I knew, obviously, that there were religious undertones basedThis book is proof that I’ll read just about anything. I was a bit dense going into it. I knew, obviously, that there were religious undertones based on the blurb but I didn’t realize it was proper Christian lit, published by a Christian publisher and written by a devout Christian author, until after I even started reading. And then the psalms and overt religion started making sense.
However, that didn’t detract me from the story. And I still found ALL FOR A SONG a good story, much more about female empowerment and a young woman finding herself than anything else.
I liked Dorothy Lynn, both in her younger days and her last ones, and you could see the transformation she makes. Or more correctly the realization she makes about herself. She’s flawed. She makes mistakes. She hangs around with less than savory people in order to achieve an end. But she’s incredibly self-aware and she suffers for her actions but she doesn’t apologize for them either. And she can thank Mr Lundi for that.
His first name escapes me at the moment so I’ll just call him Lundi, Lundi is a rather slimy fellow that gets Dorothy Lynn to travel with their revivalist group there and he just has an air of sleaze about him. He just borders inappropriate with her, he talks a good game, knows all the right things to say and do, knows all the right people, and I didn’t like him for most of the book. I really didn’t. He was gross. But around the last quarter of it or so his facade really breaks down and he becomes more human to me. He’s still a bit of a slime and a schmoozer but he gives some damn good advice. He empowers Dorothy Lynn, makes her hold her head up about what she’s done, convinces her not to beg for forgiveness but own her life, whatever life she chooses. It was such a wonderful message and I really wish I got to see more of that part of his character throughout. And his and Dorothy Lynn’s parting broke my heart a little. It really did.
The female preacher there, you can keep her. Yay, lady preacher! Boo, self-aggrandizing snatch. She was just a nasty piece of work and it’s unfortunate that that’s the character she was. She was almost bordering on bitter but she was pretty nasty and rather mean. The two faces of Jesus, I guess.
You don’t really see much of Brent, Dorothy’s intended, because most of the story is set away from Heron’s Nest, but from what I saw he was a rather forwarding thinking guy for the period setting. He definitely still had hints of male-dominated society about him where women are flitted about with their permission but considering his upbringing and where he landed, he deserves more credit than that. He truly loved Dorothy and let her go to do what she needed to do. All he had was faith that she would come back. Not a lot of guys would do that even today.
I wish the older Dorothy had her voice because the sass going on in her head was rather hilarious. I liked the camaraderie she had with Charlotte and how her young relative brought a life gone by back to her, if even for a little while. The rest of Dorothy’s family was rather useless in that regard and that’s a sad state. Still she gets to have a meaningful connection with someone before the light fades.
I’m not religious. I’m not about to go out and find Jesus after reading ALL FOR A SONG, nor am I about to seek out more Christian lit. With that being said, this really was an incredibly good story. So HONEST and without pretense and that really surprised me for how steeped in religion it really was. I didn’t feel preached at or moralized at all. There was such an overwhelming sense of girl power going on here that I couldn’t help but get revved up about it. I really liked Dorothy, for all her flaws and mistakes. She was honest (eventually) to herself and everyone around her. She indulged and recanted, screwed up and apologized. She’s HUMAN. You can’t really ask for anything more. I do have one more Pittman book through BookShout (where I also got ALL FOR A SONG) that I plan on reading. I really think it’s a shame that this book isn’t more mainstream (while something like HALO by Alexandra Adornetto is and is just so steeped in self-righteous religioning it makes me gag and it’s a Big 5 book) because there’s so much going on here and I think it would touch far more people than just the limited market that Christian lit addresses itself to.
We were not impressed. Well, all but one weren’t. So it was NEARLY unanimous in our lack of impressed. Go to our home and see what we had to say aboutWe were not impressed. Well, all but one weren’t. So it was NEARLY unanimous in our lack of impressed. Go to our home and see what we had to say about the stupid names and nonsensical plot and hyperbole and general ridiculousness of it all. Yes, it was December’s book and this is late going up. Oh well....more
Overall we liked this one. We thought it was NICE. It was a NICE book that was short enough on WORDS to keep us from loving it. But we liked it. It waOverall we liked this one. We thought it was NICE. It was a NICE book that was short enough on WORDS to keep us from loving it. But we liked it. It was pleasant and ultimately enjoyable. Read our thoughts for yourself over at the YAck blog and maybe give THE BONESHAKER a try. It couldn’t hurt....more
Laura was Keeper of the Book last month and she chose this . . . interesting read about seal fucking and the men who love fish a little too much. A feLaura was Keeper of the Book last month and she chose this . . . interesting read about seal fucking and the men who love fish a little too much. A few of us LOVED it for the over-abundance of WORDS. A few of us HATED it for the over-abundance of WORDS. Some of us were interested enough to keep reading and not care much at the end. So yeah, we were split all ways on this one. Come see what we had to say over at the Yack blog and be done with it. Seal fucking. Seriously....more
This came through on William Morrow’s ARC mailing list request email that I receive and I accidentally requested it. I say accidHow did we end up here
This came through on William Morrow’s ARC mailing list request email that I receive and I accidentally requested it. I say accidentally because I’d already previously decided to stop accepting review copies altogether but my brain vacated my body when this one came through and by the time I remembered I didn’t want any more review copies I’d already put my name in for it. Oh well.
Aside from that not only was I intrigued by the premise Hill is the offspring of one Stephen King. I just HAD to.
Okay, book. You've got 50 pages. Go!
Coming in at nearly 700 pages I have to go back and look to see what actually happened in the first 50 that had me keep reading because, really, door stoppers scare me and in hindsight I blew through this bitch so . . . hold on . . .
Okay. It opens with this 99% corpse of a coma patient who’s this renowned kiddie killer waking up but maybe not and this nurse witnesses it and she’s a bit freaked out. And then you get your first peek at Vic and her bridge to places that find things except it makes her eyeball want to explode when she does it. And Bing Partridge with his yeasty dick that will forever be stuck with me because ew.
Hill is a scene setter and he knows just where to drop those little tidbits of crotch rot that’ll crawl your skin and embed you into the scene even more. He doesn’t rely on cheap jump scares but instead slowly builds the creep by leaving you little pieces of creep candy to string you along the pages. By page 50 Manx, Vic and Bing had already made appearances and there was no getting away from them at this point.
What worked . . .
Like I said, NOS4A2 is nearly 700 pages (689 to be exact). I don’t normally read books this long because they usually can’t hold my patience for that amount of time. But this one? Despite the fact that is took me two weeks to read (which is long for me) it felt like no time at all. I kept coming to points in the story where if it weren’t for the bulk of pages remaining it rightly should have ended. I found myself asking how could this keep going? What is going to happen next? And Hill kept winging them at me. I was never let down in all of the plot, or left wanting for something more interesting. If it wasn’t centered around Christmasland and Manx and Bing it was about Vic and her downward spiral. Who doesn’t love a train wreck? I’m hard-pressed to find a lull here.
Creepy children. You really can’t go wrong with creepy children and NOS4A2 had them in spades without killing their buzz. While the plot centered around Manx and his kidnapping children and turning them into worm-like vampires the actual child presence in the story was barely there. Until Wayne came into the picture children were insinuated, hardly more than spooky voices backdropped by jingle bells on a crackly phone call. They were used sparingly and only when necessary. I got a peek of one when Vic first met Manx and we really get to see what he does to the children he takes. Effing weird. But it gets even better when the POV switches to Wayne. Without spoiling anything I’ll leave it at that.
Talk about ruining Christmas. What a great way to make Bing Crosby sound sinister. Aside from attaching the name Bing to one Mr. Partridge , who dissolved into a proper Lenny by the end of the book. He seemed far more put together if not a little immature when he first met Manx and just deteriorated into this feeb that could barely function without Manx. And Manx himself? Especially at the beginning you could almost empathize with his quest to help children. You really could. I know I started thinking maybe people had it wrong about him. Based on this prophetic graveyard of future ruined children, maybe they were better off with him. Yeah, no, not so much. But he really believed in himself and it was hard to not believe him. Until his exterior started to crack and his real personality started to slip. Then it was like, oh okay. He cray cray.
What didn't work . . .
I wasn’t the biggest fan of Vic once she grew up. She was endearing as a child and blessedly angst-ridden as a teenager but she ended up rather insufferable as an adult. The thing is I think she was supposed to be a more unlikable protagonist and that was fine because there was so much more going on around her to root for. I could still root for her mission without giving her too much thought. I could support Wayne without having to jump on the Vic bandwagon. She grew up to be a rather rough person that was understandably self-centered in order to protect herself from her past but it came at the price of her present and that kind of sucked. But she ended up getting her shit together long enough to serve her purpose so I can’t really fault her for that.
Lou was kind of a non-character until the very end where he actually displayed his relevance to the story. He had a moment right in the middle of it but that gap from when he enters to when the story closes isn’t filled with much.
One could argue that Vic’s dad was a bit deus ex machina but it didn’t really bother me enough to get angry about it. Her dad merely supplied a product. Vic had to see it through to the end so it really wasn’t that bad.
And in the end . . .
It takes a lot to scare me so I would be stretching it if I said NOS4A2 scared me but it certainly had its moments. Hill is great at character and despite their flaws there’s something in each of them that’s at least a little bit relatable. They’re all still human and maybe that’s one of the more scary elements. In the end Manx was a father protecting his daughters and wanting what’s best for them. At a cost. It’s scary to relate him to something so simplistic and HUMAN because he’s so far from it but it can’t be helped. I actually found Bing to be the far more disturbing person than Manx because of what he did to the parents and how feeble yet astute he actually was. He teetered on this line of touched and tough and it was difficult to tell which he was. You could see pieces of his remorse poking through but it was more in line with disappointing his father figure than feeling bad about what he’d done. And he’d done incredibly adult things to people for the sake of Manx, things that an immature person with a stunted mental capacity probably wouldn’t be able to comprehend too well. Bing knew damn well what he was going. So which was it? It’s hard to know.
NOS4A2 is a breeze to read despite its length and it’ll give you a much different look at Christmas. I know I’ll be hearing those carols a hell of a lot differently from now on. Especially anything sung by a children’s choir. *shudder*...more