I read this during a pretty dark time in my life recently, so perhaps that's why this book seemed to strike a particular chord with me. It's easy to s...moreI read this during a pretty dark time in my life recently, so perhaps that's why this book seemed to strike a particular chord with me. It's easy to sink into the pain another character is feeling when you're going through something yourself. Granted my experience was very different (death of a grandparent), but somehow this all came together to form a book that I really enjoyed.
I think that part of what made this stand out so much was that none of the characters were really all that likeable. All of them had gigantic flaws, especially our main character of Libby. When you consider that she's lost everyone in her life via a tragic set of murders (mother and two sisters dead, brother in jail for the deaths, aunt is alienated by Libby's new angry personality), it makes sense that Libby is the way she is. It's kind of a character for those of us who see these murder survivors on television and get amazed that they're not more jaded and bitter than they appear.
The interesting thing about this book is that although it is a mystery, it's more of a technical aspect than anything else. It seems to sit in the background as a plot device to move along the more important aspect: Libby finally confronting the demons of her past and finding it in her to actually connect with the people around her rather than just tolerate them. See, Libby is a character that has essentially given up on life even if she doesn't realize it. Even though her actions are initially funded by financial issues, you can see where she's eventually somewhat doing this for herself and her brother over time.
It's probably not a book that everyone will like, but it's one that has made me eager to finally start in on all of those other Flynn books that I've been meaning to read for the past few years. (less)
Don't buy the hype. No seriously- I think that the hype is probably the #1 thing that will work against a lot of people when they're reading this book...moreDon't buy the hype. No seriously- I think that the hype is probably the #1 thing that will work against a lot of people when they're reading this book. Why? Because when you get past the people praising Shannon as the newest Literary Messiah ala J.K. Rowling, you ultimately have a book that's decent, but is very clearly the work of a newer author. For every one very good element about the book, there's about two that come across as needing just a little more extra work.
I hope that opening paragraph doesn't come across as overly harsh, as I do think that Bone Season has a lot going for it and I do think that Shannon has the potential to really live up to these lofty expectations and praise that the media has given her. It's just that she's not quite there yet and this book kind of shows that it could have used another round of edits to even out the flow and work on the romantic chemistry between two of the characters.
The good in this book is that the world here is pretty expansive. Shannon tries very hard to write an urban fantasy that is a little more realistic than some of its predecessors. This works both for and against her at times. In many cases it works for her because most people have a basic idea of what Oxford is supposed to look like and as such, it's easy to get a fairly clear idea of the campus/city in our heads. Why this occasionally works against her is that Shannon tries to make everything a bit more exotic by coming up with various new and exotic names for various things, which can sometimes be a little confusing to make heads or tails of. I listened to the audiobook, so I didn't really have a glossary with me at every point where I wanted a little clarification on what a specific word meant. For the most part the large and exotic vocabulary wasn't as jarring as say, Clockwork Orange, but there are a few points where the reader can't help but try to remember what something meant because they don't want to completely have to take themselves out of the story so they can flip to the glossary.
What I ultimately thought was the weakest link was the romance between two of the main characters, Paige and Warden. A little bit of a spoiler, but you can pretty much tell from the opening pages that it's coming so it's not an overwhelmingly spoilerific spoiler. The problem is that there's really not much chemistry between the two of them. There is some, but I just couldn't help but feel that this specific plot element could have used a little more development to pave the way for them spontaneously making out. It just felt a little too sudden, which is actually a pretty common issue for the book as a whole. The story would chug along slow but steady until you have a moment where a game changing scene is awkwardly crammed into the book, making everything feel a little off kilter. That's really the moment where you feel that the comparisons of Shannon to Rowling are a little premature, as none of Rowling's works ever felt as awkwardly crammed together as this did. Don't take this to mean that Shannon's a terrible author- she's not- but this really needed some additional editing for flow and pacing. It's this stop-and-start pacing that really made me wince. There are other parts that were like this, but the romantic development is really the best example of this. It's not that there was no chemistry, just not enough to where I felt like it really justified the about-turn-face that we had later in the book.
I think that ultimately this is a little too ambitious at times for its own good and if this had been released without all of the hype, I might be a bit more forgiving of some elements. However since it is being released with this hype and Shannon is practically being hailed as the female urban fantasy equivalent of Hemingway, there will be a lot of inevitable disappointment with a lot of readers. This is a decent book, but it's nowhere near what the hype promises. I really felt like this could have used a little more time stewing and developing to get all of the kinks worked out. I do think that Shannon has the makings of an amazing author and that this could eventually be developed into a truly great series, but I don't think that it or she are really there yet. It's a little more ambitious than it really should have been and this will probably be one of those books that the author winces a little when they look back at it. Even so, it is a promising start and as long as Shannon continues to develop her work and tries to work on the issues of flow, pacing, and character/romantic developments, the future novels could be a big treat.
On a side note, the narration for this book was excellent in its audiobook format.(less)
I have to say that I'm not entirely sure what I think about this series so far. It has some great points, but then there were also some elements that...moreI have to say that I'm not entirely sure what I think about this series so far. It has some great points, but then there were also some elements that I kind of felt "meh" about.
Bonus points must be given to Monk for coming up with a creative idea for magic. Magic is usable by everyone, but in order to use it you have to be ready for the pain that it'll give you. Or in Allie's case, the potential loss of memory. It was interesting that this seems to be limited more to her, so I'm intrigued to see a possible explanation for this later on down the road. I also have to give kudos to Monk for giving us a hot love interest with African-American heritage... and not making it into this huge thing where Allie has to deal with racism or have Monk point out how uber edgy she is for having her main character paired with Zayvion. It is pointed out subtly in later chapters and books, but for the most part it's approached with the attitude that magic is screwing everything up and there are better things to do than harp or crow about what the skin color is of the person Allie's bedding. It'd darn refreshing is what it is.
At the same time there are some parts to this that seem a little slow in unfolding. The book is good and the narration in the audiobook I have is excellent, but I'll admit that I probably would've put this down partway through if not for the audiobook. School takes up a lot of my time now, so it sometimes takes a lot for me to actually finish a paperback book nowadays. I'm glad for the audiobook, as the book's resolution was pretty interesting. As of this writing I'm already on book 3, so that says something for the writing, I'd say.
Overall I'd recommend this for UF fans looking for a little something different, although if possible I'd say to go for the audiobook version. Durante does a good job narrating the voices and while she's far from dethroning some of the other audiobook narrators on my favorites list, I'm interested in seeing her continue to develop her talent as the series progresses.(less)
I'm kind of torn about this book. On one hand, this was entertaining in the way that only Chuck Palahniuk can be. On the other, at times it could be a...moreI'm kind of torn about this book. On one hand, this was entertaining in the way that only Chuck Palahniuk can be. On the other, at times it could be a little grating and I know that if I hadn't had the audiobook I wouldn't have liked it as much as I had. The narrator was pretty talented.
Now the good thing is that if you like Palahniuk, you'll like this book in general. Even when his book is sort of "meh", you can still find something to like in his works. Despite her occasionally coming across as a little irritating, Madison is generally an engaging enough character. Her precociousness is a little annoying at times, but for the most part you actually cared about what happened to her in the long run.
However at the same time that precociousness is what sort of does her in. Sometimes you just want to tell Palahniuk to get on with the book rather than showcase how intelligent and special snowflake he can make Madison. I think that part of this was done in order to make the reveal that much more surprising at the end of the book, but I can't help but think that this might alienate some readers.
Now one word of warning: if you're picking this up and you aren't aware of the type of work that Palahniuk writes, then make sure that you know that this is NOT a book that's appropriate for younger readers. Case in point: Madison and one of her fellow denizens of Hell perform a sex act upon a giantess that's described in somewhat graphic detail. There are also other elements in the book that might be considered objectionable, but I won't list those since it'd ruin the book. This is related to the YA genre in that it's sort of a send up of the genre, but that's about it.
I think what really made the book was the narration by Tai Sammons. She lent an extra edge to everything that made the book seem to sparkle where it might not otherwise have.
In the end I'd probably recommend this more to people who are already fans of the author. This isn't bad and I liked it better than Tell All, but it'd probably be better if they started with Palahniuk's stronger work. (less)
I'm kind of torn when it comes to describing whether or not I liked this book. Is it a good book? No, not really but then you don't expect Hemingway o...moreI'm kind of torn when it comes to describing whether or not I liked this book. Is it a good book? No, not really but then you don't expect Hemingway or even Nicholas Sparks from a book titled "White Trash Beautiful". It does have this weird sense of entertainment to it, the type of entertainment you get from watching Flavor Flav pick out his favorite girl from a lineup of women on a reality show.
This book is ultimately the literary equivalent of shooting Cheez Whiz down your throat. You hate yourself afterwards and even a little during the act, but there's such a perverse sense of fun to the whole act that you can't stop yourself. The book has many faults, one of which is how quickly everything moves. Plot point jumps to plot point so quickly that at times it feels a little overly forced and Melrose Place-y. But hey, people watched Melrose Place for the same reason that a lot of people will read and enjoy this book.
What sort of helps and hurts the character development is that we're only really given Cass's point of view. She's deliberately ignorant at times of what's going on around her or what might be best for her. It's somewhat understanding of some points, as Cass feels a sense of misguided loyalty to her boyfriend Jax, who had previously stood up for her years ago. I can also understand her initial semi-hero worship for the father that abandoned her and her mother. It wasn't that he was a good man (he was actually a pretty big jerk, to put it mildly) but he stood for a time in Cass's life where she thought things were better. It was easier for her to see him as good while being resentful to her mother since she was not only still around, but representative of everything that has gone wrong. However at the same time we're not given enough of the various characters to really flesh them out enough to give these themes justice. Tucker is pretty much just a cardboard cutout for Cass to dream about and occasionally use as a bit of escapism.
In the end I'd probably recommend this more as a library read than something for people to outright purchase. It's most assuredly a guilty pleasure read, but I think that people might enjoy it more if it's "risk free" by getting it from the library. If you like it, buy away and put that pre-order on the book's sequel. I'll probably flip through the sequel to see if it keeps the guilty pleasure feeling up, which I imagine it will. White Trash Damaged will probably bring a new level of trashiness to the table as it moves from the trailer park to Hollywood. Roger Smith from American Dad would certainly approve.(less)
I've heard claims that Lovelace overhyped her abuse and/or played down her own responsibility in everything that happened. Did she take more of an act...moreI've heard claims that Lovelace overhyped her abuse and/or played down her own responsibility in everything that happened. Did she take more of an active role in her life? Was she abused as heavily as she claims? It's hard to deny some of the claims, such as Lovelace's allegations that Chuck Traynor beat her on the set of Deep Throat. You can find images from the movie where bruises clearly show on her body. In the end even if she did overstate some of the abuse, the story she tells in this book is still sadly one that several sex workers (men as well as women) have had happen to them in their lifetimes.
Lovelace's abuse is frightening in her depiction, as so much of it is pretty accurate with what I've seen others go through in various forms, whether it's between a husband and a wife or between a sex worker and his/her pimp. I would have liked to have seen Lovelace explain more of the psychology and mindset of someone who is in this situation, as it's easy for people to wonder why she didn't leave and stay away from Traynor when he first sold her to a group of businessmen. It's fairly common for men of his ilk to threaten to kill others, especially if they have connections to help them out. However even with the clearly defined cases where Traynor threatened the lives of someone Lovelace cared about, it still would've been helpful if she'd explained a little more the hopelessness and other feelings that go along with that. I can see where she brushes upon them, but not everyone is explicitly familiar with this scenario and the mindset.
I think part of this is because she wrote this so soon after she broke free of Traynor, all things considered. This was all fairly raw in her mind and as such, at times she wrote this as more of the viewpoint of someone looking in from the outside. It's a way of detaching and distancing herself from what happened so she can talk about it- something that's very, VERY common with this sort of thing. As a result this would be something I'd absolutely, absolutely think someone studying social work or psychology would find very helpful, but at the same time it might be a little confusing for people that aren't aware of this. I wouldn't have understood some of her emotions if not for the fact that I know some people who work in both of those fields. I think that this was also probably the same reason she didn't write more about her life before becoming Lovelace. The problem is that it doesn't really give people as well rounded a look at her as they need. You can still feel horrified and I wouldn't doubt that the descriptions here could bring someone to tears, but I still wish there had been a little more backstory on her.
I think I'd like to read Lovelace's later books, as I've heard that she'd written more after this work. It'd be interesting to see if she was able to more comfortably talk about everything about her later on down the line after she had a chance to heal. I know that some will always doubt her story here to some extent. Even if you want to believe that Lovelace was lying to some extent, this story is not hers alone. It's very easily the story of many, many other people who were forced into the adult industry (prostitution, porn, both) against their will. It's good for people to read to understand what sometimes happens in the industry as well as to appreciate how far some aspects of this business have come since Lovelace's days. Exploitation still happens, but there are more safeguards in place now as opposed to in the past when they were virtually none. (less)
Finally after years of not reading it, I finally finished Dracula. I feel slightly bad saying that despite it being heralded as one of the finest epis...moreFinally after years of not reading it, I finally finished Dracula. I feel slightly bad saying that despite it being heralded as one of the finest epistolary novels ever written and THE definitive vampire novel, I felt that this was only a three star experience for me.
This isn't the fault of the voice acting at all. No, they were top notch and if I could rate their performances separately, it would be five stars for the narrators. Audible truly worked hard to get the best in the business to narrate their book and it shows. They're the reason I ended up liking Dracula as much as I did.
At the same time, there were parts here where I just kind of lost interest. I think that this is probably partially because ultimately I'm from the wrong time period. When this was written Dracula was considered to be a particularly lurid and sensational book with how Stoker wrote the scenes and described things. I could listen to some of these scenes and try to approach it with the mindset of someone from this time period, but ultimately I'm not and this seriously handicapped me. I think that this is probably the most common handicap of any reader that picks up a book from a time period so different from their own. Some are more versed in the time period and/or are more capable of looking with the mindset of someone from this time period, but others aren't. This isn't a fault that I'd chastise anyone from, it's just something that happens to be. As a result, this kept me from enjoying this as much as I wanted to.
That said, I can see where this is a classic and where it inspired so many other derivative works and films. I have to say that I specifically loved that Dracula was not a sympathetic character for the most part. Towards the end there's a hint that he was someone caught up in the evil of vampirism, but he's not the soppy, open-shirted, lovelorn entity that later works have turned him and vampires as a whole into. It kind of makes me wish that more people would try writing vampires along this line. I love a good tortured vampire ala Jeaniene Frost, but Stoker's Dracula is good at actually inspiring some small part of anticipation in the reader. What makes his character more intriguing is the idea that he was a monster in development. He hadn't been alive for very long as far as vampires go, so his "monster brain" was still getting past the idea of just stalking his foes and feeding. (This is a plot point in the book, as despite Dracula's intellect he is still ruled by the baser instincts that ruled vampires and ultimately his downfall.) It makes you wonder what would have been if he'd been older and more crafty.
In any case, I'd still recommend this as a "book to read before you die" to most readers even if it's something that they'd likely get bored with or dislike. I'd probably suggest that they get one of the audiobooks, preferably the Audible version, as that would help sweep them up into the story's progression and pacing a little easier.(less)