Maybe it's not this book, maybe it's me. If I recall correctly, I'd written in my review of Divergent that I found it hard to deal with the numerous p...moreMaybe it's not this book, maybe it's me. If I recall correctly, I'd written in my review of Divergent that I found it hard to deal with the numerous plot holes and just the avalanche of inconsistencies and things that don't make sense in this series' world. The sequel has not rectified this, but while I should really just suck it up and ignore the deficiencies in world building, the truth is that I can't. If anything, these flaws have gotten more distracting and that's only made me more frustrated.
Once again, I have to wonder how on earth it is possible that this faction system even came about in the first place. And how is it that this society has managed to function under it for so long before this? Organizing the population into five groups (well, six if you count the factionless) based on their personalities and aptitudes just doesn't really make sense if you consider how much variation there is in human beings. But the book makes it sound so simple, using such clumsy and unsophisticated science and explanations to prop up these ideas, it's enough to make anyone with even a minimal understanding of human behavior to want to bang their head against a wall. I realize this is sci-fi/dystopian fiction, but the premise is just so implausible I found it difficult to suspend my disbelief.
It also doesn't help that I just don't find the main character and narrator Tris Prior to be all that interesting, and so by extension I don't find the other big part of this novel, which is the romance, to be very interesting. I hate to say this as well, but Tris reads a bit like a Mary Sue, always central to the conflicts at hand, and is more talented and extra special even amongst the other Divergent. She's sixteen, but also appears more competent and knowledgeable than everyone else, which includes the adults.
Though to be fair, it doesn't seem like any adult or any character for that matter in these books are capable of much complex reasoning or thought. I admire the author for wanting to tackle some very adult and mature subjects in these books, but it sort of lessens the impact when everyone seems to have a five-year-old's view of the world. Here's one example: Tobias, our main protagonist's love interest and prominent member of Dauntless, left his old faction in his youth to escape his abusive father Marcus, and the response by some of the other Dauntless is to call him a coward for it. What can I say? Dauntless isn't exactly known for being classy. Anyway, Tobias' solution? To confront Marcus in the middle of a crowded cafeteria and proceed to beat the crap out of him in public, presumably to win back the respect and faith of his fellow Dauntless and prove to everyone that he is not in fact a coward. This, along with the Dauntless idea of jumping out of moving trains as a way of proving you are brave, or the Erudite custom to wear glasses to show that they are smart, are just some examples of the type of schoolyard logic you will find in this book.
I also don't think the adults in this novel actually sound very much like adults, and in general I find the written dialogue very awkward. This makes the main villain sound like a cartoon character when she speaks, and also made for a lot of cringing on my part when Tris and Tobias have their blundering conversations about their relationship.
In some ways, I think this book might have worked better as a hard sci-fi novel. It would have been easier for me to accept all the trappings of this world as the strange customs of a unique alien society, instead of a screwed up dystopic future version of Chicago. Anyway, I still plan on finishing this series (I assume it'll be a trilogy) because I've already gotten so far, but I'll have no problem waiting for the next book. Any speculation as to what it'll be called? My guess is: Emergent.(less)
I very much wanted to give this one a fair chance, but I still couldn't bring myself to like it. It makes me a little sad because I remember enjoying...moreI very much wanted to give this one a fair chance, but I still couldn't bring myself to like it. It makes me a little sad because I remember enjoying the Anita Blake series so much when I was younger, but I do feel the quality of the books have started declining, probably about a book or two back.
This one was my least favorite so far. It did have its high points, but on the whole I just couldn't spot a cogent plot no matter how hard I looked. Random sequences seemed like they were thrown together, mixed in with some vampire politics and a healthy dose of drama from Anita's love life. And speaking of which, I too am noticing what a lot of reviewers have observed, which is the series' direction into more sexually charged waters. So much of it was unnecessary in this book. And what has LKH done to Richard?! She has turned him into a petulant, immature and jealous 13-year-old brat.
After reading this book, I also realized how wonderful it would be if GoodReads had a separate rating system for audiobooks. By itself, I think the novel would have gotten a 1 or 1.5 star rating from me. But the narrator for the audio version is amazing! She makes even the mediocre story engaging with her voice acting, and she's probably the only reason why I'm going to continue giving this series a chance. My county library has the next two books available in audio format to borrow.(less)
I'm sure I've said before that I would never read another World of Warcraft book by Richard A. Knaak, and yet here we are once again. I guess I just n...moreI'm sure I've said before that I would never read another World of Warcraft book by Richard A. Knaak, and yet here we are once again. I guess I just never learn my lesson.
Of course, I had my reservations, but my interest in the game's lore and characters won out in the end, especially since I discovered from the title and description that this book was going to be focused on King Varian Wrynn. I never really cared much for him as an in-game NPC, but after reading the World of Warcraft comics he started to really grow on me. I was curious what this book would add to his character.
I really shouldn't have bothered. I have to say he's pretty unlikeable in this book -- petty, arrogant, pig-headed, annoying...the list goes on and on. The worst part is, it was done in such a ham-fisted way in order to make the flimsy plot work.
This whole book also reads like a very bad piece of fan fiction. I know I shouldn't expect that much from game tie-in novels, but I've actually read some pretty decent ones in recent years and I think my standards are pretty realistic and I'm not demanding too much. The problem, I think, is Richard A. Knaak; I'm just not a fan of his writing. Guess I'll just stick with WoW books by other authors from now on. Christie Golden, for instance, has written some that I thought weren't too bad. (less)
By far my most disappointing read this year. I don't know why I keep picking up the Anita Blake books, but I guess it's because there's always this fa...moreBy far my most disappointing read this year. I don't know why I keep picking up the Anita Blake books, but I guess it's because there's always this faint hope in the back of my mind that this series will get better despite the declining ratings and what people have told me. And for about thirty minutes there, I thought for sure things have turned around! What an awesome intro and premise -- Richard has been arrested and thrown in jail, framed on a rape charge. Anita and pals must get him out before the next full moon rises in a few days and he becomes a werewolf. This actually had the potential to be a great story. In any case, it was enough to get me fully on board.
But my excitement was short lived as things immediately started to fall apart. For one thing, there's hardly any plot in this novel. I didn't know what I expected after the intense build up of the intro, but it certainly wasn't 300 pages of Everything-You-Ever-Wanted-To-Know-About-Anita-Blake's-Sex-Life. The characters have sex, talk about sex, think about sex, and yet none of it seems to have anything to do with the story. Normally I wouldn't have minded that sort of stuff, as long as it has a point. But I honestly couldn't see one here, and that's what disappointed me. I felt like the book drew me in under false pretenses, then completely blindsided me with something I didn't ask for.
This has also soured me on many of the characters. Apparently, in the world of Anita Blake, to be a werewolf or vampire is to have the mental maturity and world view of a hormonal teenager. Everyone around Anita seems to depend on her to explain why certain things are socially wrong or innappropriate, especially when it comes to matters of sex ("You mean you shouldn't automatically jump into bed with someone just because you find them physicaclly attractive? Golly whiz!") For that matter, Anita own way of thinking isn't any better or more logical. For one thing she's constantly being wracked by guilt over her rash decisions and violent actions, and yet this hasn't made her any less trigger-happy or less apt threaten to kill people at the drop of a hat. Many times, she seems to do exactly the opposite of what she intends especially when it comes to sex or her relationships (she says she doesn't want to feel like a slut? Well, then don't act like one!)
I also realized recently that on the whole, these books haven't aged too well. Some of the physical descriptions of the characters and what they're wearing is reminiscent of 90s goth/rave attire, and while it didn't bother me so much when I read these books then, it just makes me cringe when I try to picture it today. Small nitpick, but compounded with many of the characters' naive and infuriating attitudes towards sex, they just became so unattractive in my eyes.
The only saving grace was the fact I listened to this book on audiobook, and I have to say the narrator is fantastic; Kimberly Alexis is one of the best voice actresses I've had the pleasure of listening to. If I end up picking up the next book, it would be because of her performance in this series and the fact that these digital audio titles are available to borrow at my county library. I may do it if I run out of audiobooks to listen to, but chances are I won't. I think I've stuck around long enough, and it's time to give up. I remember why I liked the earlier novels and I just feel that Anita's character has changed along with the series' direction. Life's just too short to force myself to continue with a story or characters I no longer feel connected to. (less)
World of Warcraft: Stormrage by Richard A. Knaak is the latest game-related novel I finished. I’ll admit I picked this one up solely due to my fascina...moreWorld of Warcraft: Stormrage by Richard A. Knaak is the latest game-related novel I finished. I’ll admit I picked this one up solely due to my fascination with its eponymous protagonist because in fact, I am not a big fan of Knaak’s writing at all. The War of the Ancients trilogy, for example, is the last thing I read by him and it was a torturous ordeal just to try and force myself to get through all three books. I find his style overly simplistic and at times vapid and flavorless, though to be fair, I’ve only ever read his WoW-related books even though he’s known for being quite a gifted author for his works in many other titles in the fantasy genre.
I decided to give this book a chance in the end, because if anything, my love for the Druid class made reading this a requirement. Malfurion Stormrage is also one of my favorite characters in WoW lore, and I figured maybe I’ll have a better time getting through Knaak’s writing when it’s not about Rhonin or Krasus/Korialstrasz.
Anyway, my final verdict for Stormrage is that it’s readable, but I think avid fans and readers of more established fantasy authors will be very disappointed. I realize it’s a game novel and that it’s a challenge to write for a series intended for a wide audience which may include younger readers, but there were times where the simplistic writing style made me feel like I was reading a comic book, or a very bad fanfic piece.
To Knaak’s credit, it’s clear he’s done a lot of research into the characters and locations of the WoW universe. In many ways, the book is also a nice follow-up to the War of the Ancients trilogy and ties in well with the WoW comics, though one doesn’t have to have read either to follow the story. I would still recommend Stormrage to any fans of Warcraft lore, since it provides answers to a lot of questions regarding Malfurion Stormrage and the encroaching Emerald Nightmare. WoW players will also be treated to a whole slew of appearances by well-known NPCs including Tyrande Whisperwind, Hamuul Runetotem, and the duplicitous Fandral Staghelm who may or may not have some crafty tricks up his sleeve, plus many, many more.
Oh, and that last part isn’t really a spoiler, since everyone knows Fandral Staghelm is batshit crazy anyway.(less)
This is going to be less of a review, and more of a list of my thoughts on why I just couldn't get into this book. I try generally to finish every boo...moreThis is going to be less of a review, and more of a list of my thoughts on why I just couldn't get into this book. I try generally to finish every book I start because I'm way too obsessive-compulsive not to, but I have to say it was so tempting to put this one aside. I did end up finishing it, but not without much zoning out and skimming.
- I remember really liking Ashes, the first book of this trilogy. It was, in my opinion, a zombie survival story done well. We had a great beginning, an intriguing cause of the disaster in the form of the mysterious "Zap" that started it all and turned everything upside down. I liked the main character Alex and how she met up with Tom and Ellie, I wanted to see more of them and what they would do to make it through the apocalypse.
- But somewhere along the way, this zombie survival story became bogged down with too much character drama. Alex used to be the main focus, which was fine with me; I liked her and her whole backstory about her illness and the death of her parents. But ever since Rule came into the picture, Alex started showing up less and less; other characters I didn't care for were getting more attention. There were way too many players involved already, but Monsters added even more.
- This book really could have been edited down further, with a lot of filler cut out. I heard it was originally around 800 pages long, but even now at around 600, there's still too much exposition and unneeded detail, like aimless dream sequences and a lot of redundant repetition.
- I did not like how it seemed the author felt every chapter needed to end in a cliffhanger. It very quickly became unbearable when we would follow one character's perspective, stop at a point of suspense, go to follow another character in a very different place, stop at a point of suspense for them, and repeat this pattern back and forth. This excessive ping-ponging between perspectives was even more tedious when all of it would sometimes happen within the same chapter.
- No big picture, no explanations or answers to questions. We don't get to find out more about the Zap, the Changed, or any of the other strange things that have been happening to our characters. The action scenes felt thrown in perfunctorily whenever we needed a break from the soap opera drama.
- Disappointing end to a trilogy that really started out quite strong. I'd really hoped for it to pick up, but instead, it spiraled further away from the spirit of what made me like the first book so much. I think the departure had already started happening at the end of Ashes, but it only got worse in the second. I didn't like the direction in which the series was headed in Shadows, and I liked it even less in Monsters. (less)
Everything changes early one morning when Dr. Amanda James gets a call from an old college flame and fellow archaeologist, beseeching her to travel to...moreEverything changes early one morning when Dr. Amanda James gets a call from an old college flame and fellow archaeologist, beseeching her to travel to Italy to help solve the puzzle of a mysterious set of bronze doors at a new dig site. Much to her surprise and bemusement, Amanda also receives an offer of stardom and celebrity from billionaire Luc Renard on the same day. The only catch? The job is in Tokyo, requiring Amanda to leave everything of her life behind including her current work at the Getty Museum. Unable to turn her back on archaeology and all the research that she loves, she turns down the offer, but Renard is not someone used to taking no for an answer...
At the dig site in Italy, Amanda takes up the challenge solving the secret of the bronze doors. Sealed by a code inscribed in ancient languages including Chinese and Egyptian, the researchers believe the doors should open up to an underground vault buried beneath a hundred feet of ash from the eruption of nearby Mount Vesuvius. Once inside, Amanda discovers a room full of relics, including two unknown figures eternally locked in what appears to have been a struggle, killed and frozen in time by the volcanic effusion.
It is then Amanda suddenly experiences a shocking vision -- the life and times of the notorious Biblical figure Cain. Through her visions, she learns the truth -- that Cain actually walked the earth for thousands of years, cursed for the murder of his brother. Trapped in his immortal life, this is a story of Cain's road to redemption and fight to resist the devil's temptations.
At first, I thought I would love Wayward Son, based on my love for archaeology and the description of the book on various websites like Amazon and Goodreads. However, the book was nothing like I expected. Don't get me wrong, this was a well written book with a rather creative story. My problem with it isn't so much what the book was about, but with the way it was marketed.
From the synopsis, it sounded like a tale of suspense and adventure, something I would really love. As it turned out, this was not the case. I think I was initially drawn to these particular lines of the description: "Amanda is shocked to discover evidence left behind by a notorioius Biblical killer, who long ago wandered off the pages of history. When a strange relic unveils the miraculous truth about this villain, Amanda must battle sinister forces intent on suppressing her stunning revelation, before it alters the destiny of millions."
While the beginning of the novel started off promising, I have to say that description did not actually reflect the content of the book at all. The bulk of the story itself is actually much more low-key and subdued, and not as heart-pumpingly exciting as the synopsis made it sound. The life of "Biblical killer" who turned out to be Cain played out more like a historical drama, and he wasn't really portrayed like the "villain" as stated. While Wayward Son did have a touch of mystery and suspense, the description is unreliable. I would say this book would be more at home on a Christian fiction shelf.
I'm still glad I picked it up for the synopsis, misleading or not, because I don't know if I would have read this book otherwise. It's an intriguing read, though my only caveat to other potential readers, of course, is to be wary of the novel's descriptions.(less)
Disappointed. It almost makes me not want to continue with Mongoliad anymore, because getting through this felt like a chore. But to be fair, I admit...moreDisappointed. It almost makes me not want to continue with Mongoliad anymore, because getting through this felt like a chore. But to be fair, I admit my problem had to do with Book Two's direction more than anything, and that's more a matter of personal taste. Book One was different, and Book Three may yet turn out to be more my cup of tea. You never know!
Either way, these books are always tough as hell to review, because of the multiple authors and their serialized nature. Bottom line: this one didn't live up to my expectations. I was much less interested in the story and the characters compared to Book One. Mostly I was just bored because the plot felt like filler, and characters I liked from the first book got very little attention this time around. Does this mean I'm being set up for something much greater in Book Three? Here's hoping.(less)