I feel dead inside. That’s what reading this book has done to me. I. feel. dead. inside.
Background information: Earlier this year, I stumbled upon an incident—I lie, there were several—that inspired me to create such shelves as not-for-me and authors-behaving-badly and add this book with all the other books accredited to Jamie McGuire on them. This explains the first comment on this review thread.
I was angry and I rated the book poorly. Then I got over it and removed the rating, and for a while, forgot this book existed.
Ah, those were the happy days.
Then came summer and Simon & Schuster announced their massive brain fart of acquiring this novel and reprinting it. They made the choice to enhance their marketing campaign by allowing free review copies distributed through NetGalley. This was my one chance to read the novel for free and rate it in exchange for this simple tag:
I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.
In this case, the Advanced Readers Copy means the superficially edited self-published version.
Actual review: I hated it. Contrary to popular belief, I didn’t want to hate it. I don’t enjoy reading bad books for fun—I don’t like tormenting myself with bad literature—but neither do I start a book expecting to find something positive or other redeemable qualities. I don’t artificially skew my perception just so I can lie about what a good book this is.
Though McGuire seems incapable of using simple he said/she said dialogue tags, there were moments, bits of dialogue, and a set up most promising that in the hands of any other talented or even a competent author could have been solid gold. It could have been the the story of two flawed people falling in love and perhaps changing for the better even if not transforming utterly normal people instead of romanticised description of abuse and misogyny. There were things Travis said or did that in any other setting and context would have been touching, sweet, deliciously heart-rending—but this was Travis and those things were anything but.
“Coupled with the alcohol in my system, when he pulled my body against his, things came to mind that were anything but friendly.”
McGuire’s simplistic writing is readable, even likeable at times, but it’s also uneven. There are good bits and then there are horribly bad bits. There were times when I’d forget to stop and think what made sense and what didn’t, and I’d just plough through pages without even realising it. Then the only recollection I’d have was having felt something. If I wasn’t paying attention to what it made me feel, I would—could, possibly, perhaps—understand why some people would think this a good book.
But I didn’t just plough through the pages. I read them slowly, carefully taking notes and always thinking of what made sense and what didn’t—very little, as it turns out.
Can a story be character driven without characterisations?
Apart from Travis’ tattoos—those tattoos are mighty important since they define what he can study and what his future career is going to be—not a single character in this book is given a proper, layered, characterisation. Not all characters are given physical descriptions, even Shepley, who as Travis’ cousin-slash-roommate and America’s boyfriend is prominently portrayed secondary character, is never given a physical description. To this day I don’t have a clue as to what he looks like. I know Abby and America are both blonds, I know Travis is tattooed all over and has hazel eyes, I even have a vague impression of Parker, but other than that I do not know. It’s never revealed.
What I do know is that Shepley is the lapdog enabler. He exists to be America’s boyfriend and provide a link between Travis and Abby. He exists to among others to make excuses for Travis’ behaviour. He doesn’t have any other function in this story.
America-Alice is Abby’s best friend the Weathervane. Depending on the scene she’s either trying to keep Abby and Travis apart or trying to get them together. She’s always dreamt of her and Abby dating brothers or cousins, so they could become real family or something other. America exists to drive Abby around and to scold her either for resisting Travis or not resisting him enough.
Parker is the token third wheel, a secondary love interest option paper doll. He’s rich and a hardworking student, but ultimately he’s just another jerk and not a viable third corner of a triangle—and that honour he has to share with Jesse, the ex-boyfriend. Parker exists to flirt with Abby and to make Travis jealous when the mood strikes. He also exists to prompt a casual date rape scenario.
Finch is the token gay guy. He exists to provide Abby with alcohol and a shoulder to cry on whenever America is lip-locked with Shepley and too busy to notice.
Kara is the roommate who we never see. She exists to make a handful of accurate comments and remains the sole remotely likeable character in the book.
Abby giggles. She studies high school level biology in college and sucks at it. She apparently likes numbers but hardly ever talks about those classes. She has a dark, dark past that’s never talked about until it’s all that’s talked about. She likes to drink and plays a mean game of poker. All these details and I still don’t know what drives her. I don’t know what her inner passions are or how she thinks and the book is written from her perspective in the first person limited voice.
“This is hard for me, ya know. I feel like any second you’re going to figure out what a piece of shit I am and leave me. When you were dancing last night, I saw a dozen different guys watching you. You go to the bar, and I see you thank that guy for your drink. Then that douchebag on the dance floor grabs you.”
Travis prizefights for money. He’s a genius and he doesn’t need to study. Travis has a short temper, cocky attitude, a dead mother, four brothers and a father who taught him everything he knows about beating other people up. Travis has tattoos. Travis has a six pack—such a shame it’s not a twelve pack—and he’s never met a speed limit he couldn’t break. Drunk or sober.
“I wouldn’t have swung if I thought I could have hit you. You know that, right?”
Travis doesn’t hit Abby. He comes into the bathroom when she’s in the shower. He comes up with a bet to keep her in the house with her. He talks her into sleeping in the same bed as him, because he’s never brought a girl he’s fucked there. He forces her to change her clothes when she dresses up too sexy. He grabs her to keep her safe. He stalks her. He buys her a puppy to stop her from leaving. He scares her when she is in the car kissing another man. He trashes the house the morning after they have sex because she leaves and refuses to talk to him. He beats up several guys for simply touching her.
And she lets him.
”Travis’s behavior piqued their curiosity, and I subdued a smile at being the only girl they had seen him insist on sitting with.”
”It wasn’t Parker I was trying to impress. I wasn’t in a position to be insulted when Travis accused me of playing games, after all.”
Worse, she’s manipulating him right back. On one occasion Abby tells Travis to teach someone manners, and he beats the guy to a pulp. There aren’t any repercussions or a fallout. Several of these unprovoked attacks happen outside the illegal prizefighting circles with plenty of eyewitnesses around. Yet, Travis is never detained, arrested, or even confronted by his friends. They’re all making excuses for him.
Abby’s reactions to Travis’ behaviour make no sense. She’s either blaming herself or acting irrationally and manipulating the situation to her end. She’s playing with Travis just as much he’s playing with her as evidenced by the events of the night they first sleep together. She tells him he’s a virgin, he tells her he likes it rough, they have sex—one of the few times condoms were used—and in the morning, she leaves. He trashes the house. America the worst friend who ever lived, comes to get Abby to talk Travis down. Not to make sure that Abby is safe and sound and far away from the psycho as possible, but to fetch her to the house so she can talk to Travis and calm him. So she can understand him.
The abuse, the antifeminism, the misogyny, the casual slut shaming, rape threads, girl-on-girl hate, it’s all omnipresent. You can’t avoid it.
Character driven stories rely on one essential idea: That the main character learns something. That all the pain and heartache, all the adventures that they experience within the story enrich them as a human being and make them grow as a person. Not necessarily for the better, but simply more aware. On some level the characters do need to be conscious of their actions and choices they make in the end of the book in a way they weren’t at the start of it.
In this, Beautiful Disaster fails.
Travis does forsake all others but he isn’t any better taking into account Abby’s feelings in the end of the book than he is in the beginning of it. As for Abby, life is still a huge poker game she’ll bluff her way through like it was before she met Travis. Well, maybe not bluff, but she’s always had a talent of manipulating the cards in her favour.
Instead of bare boned characters who apparently learn nothing within the four hundred and twenty odd ebook pages, I could be talking about the overall plot of the book. Except, there isn’t one:
A girl goes to see a fight. A girl meets a boy. They skip time and become friends. They make a bet and end up living under the same roof. They dance around each other and a girl tries dating another guy. The boy gets jealous and they sleep together. The bet has ended and the girl leaves. Boy gets angry. Girl comes back. They fight and the girl tries to leave. The boy gets her a puppy to make her stay—
This isn’t a plot. This is a list of consecutive events describing a dysfunctional codependent relationship. Of course, we could call it a relationship drama, but we’d also have to redefine words relationship and drama. There’s no internal conflict. Nothing is addressed and nothing is learned. All obstacles are external ones and easily cast aside.
But this is a romance novel about two people finding love together, you say.
No. It’s not.
This is as mislabelled as a romance as it was mislabelled as a young adult novel. There is absolutely nothing romantic about this book. It’s the author’s ode to Edward Travis’ character. A controlling, abusive, stalker is in the centre of everything and the reader can’t escape him even when Abby is on a date with another man. The conversation always quickly returns to Travis and stays there.
By now the strikethroughs have become obvious; I’m bringing up the Twilight connection:
This book reads like a Twilight fanfiction or work heavily inspired by Twilight.
America behaves as bipolar as Alice, and Travis is set upon a pedestal and worshipped just like Edward was. Travis shares Edward’s penchant for speeding. Travis and Abby’s first date is in a restaurant where the waiter flirts with him and he starts questioning him over the food. The biology lessons and the absent parent figures. Abby likes to bite her lip almost as much as Kristen Steward in her portrayal of Bella Swan. Parker Hayes reads like a distorted Mike Newton. etc. etc.
There isn’t any proof that I’m aware of to show that this ever was posted and labelled as a Twilight fanfiction. I’m going to have to go with the “inspired” by Twilight theory and keep my opinions to myself…
The premise of this novel is really promising: A chance encounter that leads to a taboo relationship between a theatre student and her professor. It’s a shame that it was wasted on such a poor story about a naive little girl and a man whose only charm was his British accent.
As the title says Losing It is about Bliss Edward’s quest to lose her virginity at twenty two and before she graduates from college. She’s supposedly held on to it this far because she’s a control freak and not at all attracted to all the wannabe actors in her theatre school. The control makes her a good stage manager but it doesn’t exactly hinder her acting either, which is just a blatant contradiction. The head of the department points this out to Bliss:
”You’ve always been a bit too in your head, I suppose. Controlled. Careful. Mechanical, might be the best word for it. But in those auditions—you were living in the moment. You were feeling instead of thinking. I saw shades of emotion in you—strength and vulnerability, desire and disgust, hope and shame—that were quite simply captivating. I don’t know what you’re doing or what you’ve done, but please continue. You’re much better when you make bold choices.”
So, we’re told in Bliss’ narration and with the voice of an authority that she was controlled and careful, but we’re never actually shown it. Bliss is way too comfortable in her small group of friends to classify as socially awkward. She is at best a naive little girl who hasn’t fully embraced the risks and rewards of being an adult. She’s afraid and that fear is what spurs her into drinking herself silly, ignoring a lovely boy flirting with her at the bar, and falling all over a stranger with A BRITISH ACCENT. (I’m just typing as it was in the book.)
Maybe I’m being a little cruel, but from the start Garrick Taylor’s defining characteristic is his British accent, and that’s really not enough for me. I have this vague impression that Garrick had his sweet moments and that he was patient with Bliss when she was freaking out over nothing, but those possible good guy moments were overshadowed by the lack of chemistry between the couple and the sexist red flags that would have had me and any other woman with a speck common sense run away from him.
Let’s not forget the most important part, the great illicit love affair that never was. Garrick is in the know from the start. He knows he’s a teacher and he knows he lives in an area close to the school where college students might live. And yet when Bliss confesses living practically next door, he follows her and would have sex with her, if she didn’t grab the nearest flimsy excuse and run away from her apartment and the naked boy in her bed.
That’s another thing, Kelsey, a supposed friend of Bliss’—what ever happened to her?—repeatedly calls Garrick a boy before they learn that he’s their new professor. The cover shows a boy, and I’m supposed to believe Garrick is an adult, a man? Umm, okay?
When the truth about their power dynamics comes out in chapter seven, it’s only a momentary disruption. Garrick soon decides it’s not enough to keep him away from Bliss. Neither of them really acts like they’re doing something they’re not supposed to be doing, although Bliss occasionally thinks she shouldn’t. There isn’t any of that delicious angst of a forbidden love and sexual tension building up between the main couple the blurb promises, and all the emotional stress is reserved for Bliss’ relationship with her friend Cade, who is quite unnecessarily in love with her.
It says a lot about the romance when I’m ready to cheer for two other minor characters to win the wishy-washy girl rather than the apparent love interest. In two words: It sucks. This book’s only saving grace is that it’s not romanticising an abusive psychopath—that’s because it hardly romanticises anything—but unfortunately for Carmack that’s no longer enough to inflate the rating.
P.S. I really didn’t like how the gay character was portrayed.(less)
I am so thoroughly disgusted with this book that I can’t even logically explain my utter revulsion. Ender’s Game reads like propaganda...moreI am disgusted.
I am so thoroughly disgusted with this book that I can’t even logically explain my utter revulsion. Ender’s Game reads like propaganda, and the characters in it are living it. It wasn’t until I saw the comparison to Adolf Hitler that I thought of Hitler Junge, but it makes sense. These kids are brainwashed into becoming soldiers, killers, and they’re never given a choice.
Except it’s much worse than that. Ender actually learns to doubt, to disobey, to choose, and he chooses wrong. (view spoiler)[He chooses mass murder. To add insult to injury, he writes a book about it and gives voice to the voiceless, to the dead. (hide spoiler)] How is that different from any other conqueror rewriting the history to suit them?
If this were a normal review, I’d remark upon the failed, nonexistent characterisations, the lack of character growth or lessons learned, the lack of actual challenges overcome (how can he overcome anything when he never fails?), the lack of plot that isn’t told in short paragraphs as in passing. But this isn’t a normal review and I’m just going to link you to better articles about the story itself.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This is one of those reviews that's going to earn me a bad name for going against every single review for this book on my timeline. I know I'm fixatin...moreThis is one of those reviews that's going to earn me a bad name for going against every single review for this book on my timeline. I know I'm fixating on the smallest thing, but that's how my mind works. I simply can't help it. I have to be painfully honest about this.
It's bad when you can't get past the first page without serious prompting from friends and a fanfic high, isn't it? And it's not because Roth can't write, she absolutely can, beautifully and enticingly once you get going. It's because I made the fundamental mistake of looking for sense where there was none.
It was the hair.
I'm not spoiling anything because this all happens right at the beginning of chapter one.
I truly couldn't get past the hair. What's the point of cutting her hair every three months, four times a year, if it's still long enough to be tied on a knot? It doesn't matter how long the hair is on the knot as long as it's long enough to make one. Split ends? They're Abnegations, supposed to veer towards selflessness, they're not supposed to notice or care. Appearances aren't supposed to matter to Abnegations. Even their food is plain.
The scene was about the mother taking care of her daughter, you tell me. It's still vanity and an indication of the lives modern city women lead, if this is what they consider normal.
I have long hair which is often tied on a knot. I get it cut or trimmed twice a year, at most. More often, if I want to keep my chemically induced curls, but that would be considered flaunting and I wouldn't fit in Abnegation then.
Speaking of which, I wouldn't fit in any of the factions this society is divided in. Not even the rogue Divergent faction. That's how artificial the setting is and that is how unbelievable it is to me.
There's no way this kind of society could spring from the ashes of war ravaged earth. I don't buy it for a second. And with that crumbles everything beautiful and true the author tried to convey. The love and loyalty? I simply didn't care.
But if you do, if you find yourself swept away by the futile and the pretty, it is an entertaining novel on a certain superficial level. I'm just sad I couldn't find that level when I started reading this book.
No, wait. I'm not sorry. I'm more complicated a person than that and that's the way I like it.
No. Wait. Let me try this again. Because I utterly suck at fangirling--examples on how it's done her...moreThere are roughly two types of fantasy books...
No. Wait. Let me try this again. Because I utterly suck at fangirling--examples on how it's done here and here--let me try something new. Try listening to the music while you read. I hope you have your headphones near.
Also do me a favour, would you, read the blurb first. In fact, let me make it easy for you:
Four decades of peace have done little to ease the mistrust between humans and dragons in the kingdom of Goredd. Folding themselves into human shape, dragons attend court as ambassadors, and lend their rational, mathematical minds to universities as scholars and teachers. As the treaty's anniversary draws near, however, tensions are high.
Seraphina Dombegh has reason to fear both sides. An unusually gifted musician, she joins the court just as a member of the royal family is murdered—in suspiciously draconian fashion. Seraphina is drawn into the investigation, partnering with the captain of the Queen's Guard, the dangerously perceptive Prince Lucian Kiggs. While they begin to uncover hints of a sinister plot to destroy the peace, Seraphina struggles to protect her own secret, the secret behind her musical gift, one so terrible that its discovery could mean her very life.
In her exquisitely written fantasy debut, Rachel Hartman creates a rich, complex, and utterly original world. Seraphina's tortuous journey to self-acceptance is one readers will remember long after they've turned the final page.
There are roughly two types of fantasy books: Those that are clearly pagan and those that twist Christianity into something fantastical. In my experience the former are almost always more entertaining.
That is, unless the book was written by Rachel Hartman.
She skipped the monotheism part and just kept the saints with their miracles and virtues. Or that's what it looks like to a secular Evangelical Lutheran. This secular and tone deaf reader also suspects that this was done to keep one of the truly good things that the church promoted:
It permeates the story. From vocabulary I never had a chance to learn in my own tongue, to plot threads that pad if not carry the story. It's a whole reason for Seraphina's existence and place in society. It's what makes her who she is and determines who she must show herself to.
She has a reason for her reticence. Seraphina's deformity isn't the kind that plagues most young adult novels. She doesn't have tattoos only she thinks are hideous that in fact are gorgeous body art with divine meaning. No, she has scales from her dragon mother and that's a bad thing because majority of both races--the dragons and the humans--would kill and quarter her on sight of them.
That gets us to the really interesting part of the story: The relations between the two races.
Dragons are logical, mathematically inclined and abhor all emotions but love especially. Now, there are two tangents I could go on here. I could emote how much the dragons reminded me of the Vulcans not only because of the fiery planet but because of the technological advances they granted the human race. Or could I detail how the premise of despising love is all too common in modern dystopias and how those authors should read a little more fantasy and scifi to find out how it's really done. But I already did that so I won't. I'll say this though:
I found the dragons significantly less logical than their race description implies on the basis of their persistent refusal to learn to understand humans and their emotions. Then again, it all makes perfect sense, because... Oops. Not spoiling this one. I'll just say one word and let you make of it what you will: Spock.
The little magic that isn't musical comes from the dragon-saarantras transformation. This allows dragons to change their appearance into something resembling human, and facilitated the peace talks four decades prior. Humans and dragons have co-existed for four decades, but just like dragons have their prejudges, so do humans. And the mix is boiling.
Somehow Hartman managed to sketch characters like Kiggs, Glisselda, and Viridius that are more than mere props to a well defined kick-ass heroine who, by the way, doesn't need to be saved every five minutes. Of course there were others like Orma, Eskar, and Ardmagar, but I'm hoping to learn more about them later.
Oh, I almost forgot. There was romance in this story too. A deliciously complex love-triangle I loved until the very last pages where I found the tone distinctly far too hopeful for my taste. I can only hope the second book will deliver in the gut-wrenching, heartrending, achy-all-over angst department.
For me, that's the greatest compliment alongside a well done you can get.
I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley. (less)
The blurb says… actually, I don’t have a clue what the blurb says. At this point I never look at the blurbs for Milan’s books because they feel like spoilers. I’d rather go in without any expectations and just enjoy the story and writing. Of course, for The Duchess War I was partly spoiled because of The Governess Affair.
Here, the only legitimate son of the previous Duke of Clermont, Robert Blaisdell finds a mouse in the library and becomes fascinated. Of course said mouse is clad in a severe blue dress and scowls without her glasses, so that’s a perfectly natural reaction for a handsome young lord to have. Except anyone who’s read The Governess Affair knows Robert’s upbringing wasn’t quite the traditional kind and he’s grown up bent by the aristocratic standards.
Minnie Lane has her own secrets and an unusual past to hide. She uses her scar and simple clothes to mask the final vestiges of her former self, her exceptional mind. She struggles with her new name and the attitude that comes with it, but treasures the friendships.
Both Robert and Minnie are having and identity crisis of sorts and they need each other to lean on and to guide themselves out of it. It’s the best kind of growing together that can happen to two people who fall in love and end up married. Or course because it’s a romance novel and more importantly a romance novel written by Milan, things aren’t quite that easy. There are truths and lies to be told, betrayals and choices to be made, there are apologies to be made and forgiveness to be asked.
There’s history be distorted.
What I like most is that Milan takes a historical fact and builds around it. She chooses a time period, looks what was going on in the world then and picks the things that fit her characters. In doing so, she reminds me of things I’ve learned and forgotten, and she tells a brilliant character driven story. Her characters make mistakes because of who they are instead of because what the plot requires, deus ex machinas are wonderfully absent, and whatever misunderstandings happen are dealt with promptly instead of prolonged unnecessarily.
That isn’t to say that this novel was perfect. The beginning was slow and felt like it was progressing in fits and starts. I’m not quite sure why, but the pacing felt off and didn’t get better until the later half of the book. I also wished there’d been more interactions between Minnie and Oliver considering their shared interest. At the end, I would have been happy with a casual mention of chess boards being left all round the Duke’s household for the two enthusiasts. It felt like an obvious connection Milan somehow missed.
I’m not quite sure the Dowager Duchess earned her son’s forgiveness. She could have been on her way to achieving it, but I didn’t believe she quite got there and that’s another reason why the epilogue felt like an easy out or a too tidy a bow on a messy gift wrapping.
Also, at the end (view spoiler)[when Robert and Minnie were giving an interview to a roomful of journalists I was flashing back to royal interviews I’ve seen on TV (hide spoiler)]. That scene quite decimated the high I was feeling—there were tears—after the brilliant scenes between Robert, Oliver, and Oliver’s mother.
I’ve read worse, but Milan at her worse is better than most authors are at their best. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
This isn't an objective presentation of facts. This is a tangled mess of my emotions and Caletti's beautiful story, which will stay with me for a long...moreThis isn't an objective presentation of facts. This is a tangled mess of my emotions and Caletti's beautiful story, which will stay with me for a long time.
It's a good thing then that a review is by definition an opinion, isn't it.
Caletti writes some of the best realistic young adult fiction I've ever read. Full stop. Her focus isn't on the romance--which undoubtably will disappoint some--but on those very real moments of growing up. Of figuring out who you are and who is your family. Who do you need to hold on and who do you need to let go.
Cricket's mother is getting married, again. She managed it once before, but after the divorce she's jilted at least two if not three men at the airport. Remember the airport. Those men she left before weren't very nice men, but Dan Jax is, and Cricket worries that jilting fiancés has become a habit to her mother. It helps that they're having the wedding on an island far away from any airport but then again, they're spending the week before the wedding on an island with two crazy families coming together.
So while Daisy, Cricket's and Ben's mother, is sorting out her own mess and moving on with her life, Cricket struggles to decide what to do with hers. She's graduated trying to choose a college, her long-time boyfriend is waiting for an answer, there's an intriguing new boy--a young man really--on the island, and her best friend decides this is the time to profess his undying love for her.
The now is revealed in an appealing first person past tense narrative, which if you know me is a huge deal. The past and how they got to that island is revealed in the long emails Cricket writes to her not-quite-ex-boyfriend Janssen. Because it's all in first person limited, there aren't any of those annoying point of view changes that would normally make me climb up a wall. In Stay Clara's history with Christian permeates the story like good creepy stalkers do, but here, in The Story of Us, Cricket hovers between the two, which emphasises nicely her place in life. The in between.
There's a small mystery of what exactly happened between Cricket and Janssen that has thrown them into this limbo. It isn't that difficult to figure out, but neither is your first guess probably the right one. I was in the happy place where the obvious answer crept up on me and surprised me without shocking me. This too shows that the story isn't so much about the destination than the journey there.
Last year I read Stay and loved it. It wasn't a perfect book, but it was perfect for me. And the thing that annoyed others made me only love it more:
I didn't cry when Clara found her closure--that came before--but I did cry when Cricket found hers. The reason why it touched me so, was because it really wasn't Cricket's ending, it was Jupiter's. That dog, only eight years old, was tired and doddery, and she was saying her goodbyes all the way through this book. She was preparing her family for that last day, and I was crying my eyes out.
See, a couple of weeks ago, on April 11th, I lost my Kitty. She was 25 years old and in pain on that Easter Monday, but it took us two days to get hold of a vet. We used those two days to say our goodbyes.
Throughout this book I was having flasbacks to Kitty and everything that happened this past year. Actually, it was quicker than that, she didn't really start to show her age until before last Christmas. So, every time the stairs were mentioned, the shaky legs, the grey hair, the accidents and the shame after, I thought of Kitty.
What the hell did I just read? Where’s the rest of it? I need the rest of it NOW!
On a more rational note, this is another better novel of the Peter Gr...moreWhat the hell did I just read? Where’s the rest of it? I need the rest of it NOW!
On a more rational note, this is another better novel of the Peter Grant series. As ever, the strength of the writing and story lies on Peter’s narration and sarcastic voice, so if that hasn’t won you over by now, don’t expect the scattered plot threads to dazzle you. If you’re invested in the long plot, however, sit back and enjoy the ride.
The story is of the slow sort and reminiscent of Sherlock Holmes in a way that doesn’t make a good mystery novel. Not in the puristic sense. Too much is hidden for the readers to piece together the puzzle for themselves and they have to wait for the genius to guide them through the intuitive steps of logical deduction.
Broken Homes also suffers from the middle book syndrome but because this is the fourth in the series let’s call it the set up syndrome. Everything, and I do mean everything is set up for bigger things to come and even the explosions at the end aren’t enough to release the underlying tension. It feels like things are going to get a lot worse before they get better and Peter needs to improve on his policing as well as his magic lessons. And fast.
After reading the very first line of the blurb, I knew I had to read this book. If you haven’t read it yet, here’s why:
After Vorgell the barbarian fuc
...moreAfter reading the very first line of the blurb, I knew I had to read this book. If you haven’t read it yet, here’s why:
After Vorgell the barbarian fucks himself with a unicorn horn, he ends up in a cell with Maddog, a pretty young thief.
If that right there isn’t the hook that’s grabbed you, I don’t know what is. It promises a unicorn horn dildo, a barbarian, and a thief. What else could you possibly ask from a fantasy m/m story? Witches and Wizards? It has those too. Creative place names and adventures? Likewise. Witty one-liners and loveable characters? Done and done. You can also add adorable, deadly pets on the list. I’m not even going to complain about the female characters.
It’s true that the world-building has men in somewhat a disadvantage and that most women are hostile towards Madd in the beginning, but as the story progresses the reasons are revealed. Those reasons are real, based on characterisations and the story history, not flimsy deus ex machinas.
Everyone is flawed and no one is simply the best in anything. Even Vorgell has his difficulties. They’re average people by their own standards with individual fears and desires. They have limitations and rules they must follow. There’s death and suffering too. And significantly fewer inappropriate erections than you’d expect from a book with a sex magic inflicted cock. That’s another testament to a strong characterisation.
Don’t misunderstand me, there’s sex. There’s oral and anal, but in the end it’s not the driving force of the story. It’s a convenient set up. One that surprises you again and again with its implications. Or maybe that’s just me. I can be slow at times.
Be careful with this book. It pulls you under, makes you slightly uncomfortable—in the good way—and has you holding in your laughter. If you’re lucky you’re in a place where you don’t have to hold it in and you can make as much noise as you want. And no, I don’t think it’s just me.
I highly recommend you read Thick as Thieves. (less)
I'm rounding up this one, because despite all the things that didn't make sense–also known as world building glitches–one thing this book isn't is the...moreI'm rounding up this one, because despite all the things that didn't make sense–also known as world building glitches–one thing this book isn't is the great book of meh.
Many years from now, when humans have colonised the Moon, fought and killed each other in two more world wars and built something on the ruins, an old fairy tale comes to life.
She awakens with mechanical spare parts and a second class citizenship in the Eastern Commonwealth with a snarky androids helping her to clean up the castle, a mad scientist as a godfather, two stepsisters and a stepmother with a grudge. She's Cinder without the Ella.
Anyone and everyone who knows the classic tale knows how this story will end, but this is a case of how it's done not of what is done. This re-imagination of Cinderella actually works. There are all the classic characters in their new costumes, there's an evil Queen and there's a ball where all secrets are revealed. Despite the lack of mystery, the writing grabs you, sucks you in and won't let go until you've reached the last pages and curse.
How in the world could this turn out to be a trilogy? There isn't enough of story in a fairytale to fill one standard length novel, let alone three.
Yes, Marissa Meyer took the frame of an age-old story, but that's not all she did. She built a rich world around it and created a full picture, and made the story hers. She gave Cinder a personality most YA heroines unfortunately lack, because even at her worst moments of survivor's guilt Cinder chooses to fight.
Meyer also gave the Prince a personality. No, he's not just a pretty figure to sweep Cinder of her feet, he's a son mourning for his father, struggling to carry the responsibility of his land and coming up short. He's not ready to be the Emperor, yet he must.
This isn't just about the girl finding and falling in love with a prince–although that too happens and there's actually a build-up for it–this is about a girl fighting for her right to live her life and choose for herself. It's about being free of slavery. It's about the sanctity of a human body. For a woman living in this day and age with government mandated rapes and abortions–just to mention two–it's a painfully relevant message.
So, forgive me for ignoring the reflective surfaces, un-disconnected netlinks, and convenient memory-losses especially when it's a question of security. (less)
I really don't think I can add anything that has been said already, so I'm going to postpone writing a real review indefinitely (or until I reread the...moreI really don't think I can add anything that has been said already, so I'm going to postpone writing a real review indefinitely (or until I reread the book right before the sequel).
I'll say this though. As much as I enjoyed Angelfall I thought it needed one more round of story editing. I'm referring to the instances where Penryn's internal monologue repeated certain things very closely together. It was almost as if the author couldn't decide, which of the two moments was better for the reveal so she kept them both or as if she was trying to avoid info dumb by revealing something and expanding on it later. Unfortunately, all I saw was repeated information, and I spend days, not hours, reading this book.
There were also few scenes that didn't quite fit (view spoiler)[like Penryn's dreaming or luxuriating in the shared warmth, or thinking about Raffe as anything than a means to survival in the very beginning. I also could have done without the confirmation of Raffe's survival in the very end (hide spoiler)]. These are small complaints that didn't hinder my enjoyment of the novel.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
You know that moment you and start a book you’ve been wanting to read but haven’t. Maybe you’ve had trouble finding a copy of it or maybe all the hype...moreYou know that moment you and start a book you’ve been wanting to read but haven’t. Maybe you’ve had trouble finding a copy of it or maybe all the hype around it has turned you off or maybe you’re not quite sure you’ll like the book simply because of who wrote it and when and why. And then you fall head over heels in love.
Whenever I read a classic, I prepare myself for the inevitable disappointment. In my experience, too many of the great works of literature only represent some form of change in the history of written words and the society that influenced them rather than being good books. If there is any true deeper meaning on the pages of a classic, it’s usually buried under too many decades or centuries of years passed for me to understand.
That wasn’t the case here. For every layer I discovered there were at least two I missed and there’s nothing I love better than subtle complexity, obvious to see for those who’d only look.
It wasn’t just the story describing and showing what life was like a hundred years ago for a young man, what it was like to fall in love and know it could cost him everything, it was the writing I fell in love with. The way Forster uses words to say exactly what he means to and more. How elegant it is.
Maurice was written on the cusp of The Great War and it tells a story of a world long since lost. It shows a young man growing up to take his place in society as he’s expected, and finding himself fundamentally queer in a time when homosexuality was still a crime in Britain. That law is the reason the manuscript remained unpublished for 57 years until after Forster’s death.
I wasn’t even recommended the book; it was the film I saw raved about. When I have the option, I usually prefer to read the book first and see the film second. Having now both read the book and seen the film, I have to say I prefer Forster’s words over the acting of James Wilby, Hugh Grant, and Rupert Graves. And I liked the casting despite Wilby being nothing like the Maurice I imagined until that last scene with Grant.
You’ll notice that I haven’t actually said anything about the story or the characters and that’s because it’s better if you go in blind without expectations. Skip the introductions, acknowledgements, notes on further reading, skip everything and read E. M. Forster’s own words. Read Maurice.(less)
The writing is not as polished as some I’ve read, the editor could have exercised a sharper scalpel at times, and...moreUnpopular opinion reporting to duty.
The writing is not as polished as some I’ve read, the editor could have exercised a sharper scalpel at times, and the ending felt like a bit too tidy a bow: A single would have sufficed instead of a double.
But. It’s funny I use that word to justify a five star rating, but here it is:
Rowling is unmatched in her storytelling abilities. I’m sure there are others who can spin a yarn from as many—or more—threads as she does, but none come to mind right now. I positively despised all the characters, but I adored the complexity of them and the story that tied them together.
This isn’t only an unpopular opinion, it’s an unhelpful one. There are others who’ll gladly dissect the lives and events of unhappy Pagfordians for you, and there are others who’ll speculate on how this book fits in with others Rowling has written. I’m not one of them. All I can say is, that if you keep an open mind, if you void your expectations and whatever associations the name Rowling conjures, this book has the potential to amaze you.
Zach is on his way to LA and as far away as he can get from London. He only has six more weeks to go, but first, he’s asked to edit one more manuscript. The catch is, the novel is an erotica written by Nora Sutherlin. That same novel means more to Nora than anything else she’s written and she wants to get it right. She’s desperate enough to give Zach total control over it.
The blurb promises gruelling, draining, and shockingly arousing writing sessions, which are notably absent from the book. There is writing, there are sessions, there are shredded scenes, and there are excerpts from the book within the book—something I particularly disliked mostly because of the dip in quality—none of which were the reason for my rating.
The word I’m stumbling over is the last one in the list—arousing.
Once again, I’m the odd man out; I don’t get the appeal.
Reisz can write well and there were certain things I enjoyed reading. I mostly liked the banter between characters and the characterisations. I liked the fact that none of them were boring or insufferably honourable and good. I liked that they were flawed.
I adored Wes. He was used to mirror Nora’s relationship with Søren and I kept thinking he was better than that, that he deserved to get away. As good a guy as he was, as vanilla, he never came across as sanctimonious. Quite the opposite, he knew his flaws, just like he recognised Nora’s flaws and accepted them. He was honest with himself.
Unlike Zach. The Jewish—a very important fact that—Zachary or Zechariah Easton had to quite literally have the truth beaten out of him. That certainly didn’t add to his nonexistent appeal, but I’m glad someone found him appealing if it takes him far away from the story. Zach also earned the label too stupid to live for not figuring out or at least suspecting what Nora’s day job was.
Søren, Nora’s old Dom, let’s just say that I liked him much more with the robes on than off and that I didn’t understand why he’d care for Nora on any level. Although, I wouldn’t mind reading more about his flavour of mind-fuckery as long as it was kept out of the dungeon-hell. As a turn on, Søren fails.
J.P., Kingsley, and Mary, were among the supporting cast I’d like to know more about, but not as much as I was left wanting layers for the office villain. He was an example of a lazy characterisation and especially disappointing compared to the effort put into the main cast.
And then there was Nora Sutherlin, the author and pseudonym for Eleanor Schreiber. The woman, the Switch, who’s not afraid of her sexuality or playing the game. In fact, I think that might be the only thing she’s not afraid of, the game. Nora only ever came close to being honest with herself and facing her own feelings when she was with Wes. I’d go as far as to call her a coward that’s how busy running from herself she was. And all I have for a coward is pity.
No, Nora isn’t a likeable main character, but being a user and a bitch doesn’t make her strong either. It simply makes her interesting and that’s where the strength of this novel is—in the characters.
But. There’s more.
Or rather, there isn’t. The Siren is an erotica but very unerotic at that. I’m not a fan of pain and I don’t particularly get excited by the forbidden aspect of sex—hazards of having been born a Finn with a mother who never shut up about the human reproduction when I was growing up and living in a sauna culture where the most natural state of man is in the nude. The closest I came to finding anything erotic in this book was when Nora was with Wes, Michael, or Sheridan. That’s when she let little bit of her armour slip away, emotions trickle out and almost show intimacy.
At this point, I feel like I’m repeating myself, because I’ve written it so often lately. I could list a spoilery list of events—which include (view spoiler)[hints of blood play, a sex scene with an underaged boy, a f/f BDSM scene, multiple occasions of beatings leading to face injuries, casual dismissal of the law enforcement, a rape, an unrealistic office fight, bringing religion into sexuality, infidelity saving a marriage (hide spoiler)]—and not see a plot in it. But apparently that’s okay, because Nora’s introduces the reader and Zach to the shocking horrors of BDSM life. I only half-kid. The pure BDSM shocked and horrified me about as much as it aroused me, which is to say very little.
To be perfectly honest, I was bored. It didn’t take me days to finish reading the book because I was savouring the story; it took me days because reading a sex scene after another became a chore. Neither did the manufactured confrontations or Nora’s assumed self-sacrifice help. I only devoured the pages when there was emotional torture or those rare moments honesty for example when Søren was telling Nora off or when was Wes his adorable self.
All this left me thinking that this would have been a much better book without the sex and wishing Reisz had written a deliciously twisted character drama centering around something other than kink. As well written as The Siren is, it’s not enough to make it a good book.
Just to make this clear: Yes, I was trying out a new genre. No, I was not expecting a romance. Yes, I still think the book failed. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Glow starts with a quiet, loving moment between two people. It quickly turns into something more sinister. Soon a mother is rushing to save her daught...moreGlow starts with a quiet, loving moment between two people. It quickly turns into something more sinister. Soon a mother is rushing to save her daughter, a child who thinks of her as a sister. They go to the bus stop, but there's only room for one, and the mother sends the child ahead alone. Few hours later a phone call reveals the awful truth–the child, Ella, never made to their home town.
Tuccelli throws the reader into the young mother's skin just before sitting them down with the eleven year old girl talking to her dog. She awakens you after a nightmare with gentle hands of an old woman and moves you through the years into another century, into another world. Still further into the past we go before all the pieces are uncovered and the puzzle picture starts to form. It's a gruesome montage of slavery, racism, violence, and life.
It's especially fascinating to an outsider.
I'm not an American, but I've learned enough about the recent American history to recognise certain events. I'm also a fair headed and skinned Scandinavian who doesn't have a clue what being brown or black means. But I was a girl once, now I am a woman, always a daughter, though yet not a mother, and I do recognise the bond between a mother and daughter. I recognise the love, the anxiety, the grief, and the joy. I recognise the human emotions.
I didn't see my complexion darken, but I did feel the dirt under my fingernails and I flinched when the strap sang. I saw a biplane soar and I winced at every demand of freedom papers. That is Tuccelli's talent. She can transport you into another time and place and show you what life was like a little over 150 years ago. She can talk to you in different voices and not sound the same each time. She can bring to life the most gruesome pictures from a history book and show you how people got to that dark place. She can also show you hope.
For me, this book blurs the line between fact and fiction in a good way. It draws from actual events and proposes a story that most likely isn't true, but if feels like it could be. It makes the history be about people, not dates and words on a paper.
As much as I loved this story, I didn't love all of it. I abhor multiple first person points of view in any tense. They're impossible to write right. Tuccelli comes damn near it though. Willie Mae and Riddle Young have two very distinctive voices, and even I might be able to recognise their chapters from a random page sampling. Unfortunately Ella's and Mia's chapters aren't quite as unique and without contextual clues I wouldn't be able to separate one adolescent from another. For a native English speaker it might be an easier task. There are also a few long paragraphs of storytelling that qualify as infodumping. It's understandable in a book of this scope, but it didn't make absorbing them any easier.
I'm glad I stuck with it, though, and I'm telling you this book is worth a read.
I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.(less)
Imagine a modern Britain where at least two or three decades ago the politicians gave up on trying to keep up with the ever-growing prison population, chucked the fourth article of the Universal Declaration of Human rights, and started to commute life sentences into slavery. Now people are both born and condemned to it. And it’s not just in Britain, it’s all around the world.
Brooklyn Marshall was born free and worked hard to build a good life for himself. Then a simple mistake, an accident, at the job took all that away from him. He was made into an example and his life was no longer his own. Now he boxes because it’s better than getting shot at in a war zone, and he fucks and is fucked because he is told to. He is used. He’s chattel that can talk.
”You haven’t resigned yourself to slavery yet, have you?” “No. And I never will.”
It’s cruel to give hope to a such man, but that’s exactly what Nathaniel Bishop does.
I’m not a fan of romanticising slavery, and I’m not a fan of any relationship that’s based on a severe imbalance of power, but I’m always curious to see if the author can make it work. If those obstacles of differing wealth, social status, and culture can be overcome believably. Realistically. Even in urban fantasy.
It works here because Brooklyn has never accepted his status as anything less than a human being. It works because both Brooklyn and Nathaniel recognise how wrong their situation is, and because both are fighters in their own way.
Much of the story focuses on the boxing—again, something I know nothing about—and how it reflects Brooklyn’s growth as a character. He’ll never see any of the winnings, but the fighting he does is for himself. He’s broken and beaten both in the ring and out, and he is affected by it, but he’s also a survivor. What doesn’t kill him makes him stronger, and the final fights show this vividly.
If I hadn’t struggled with the beginning of the story—it was good but not amazing—the ending would have earned Counterpunch its fifth star. Voinov opted out of the fanciful and kept it realistic.
P.S. The story includes triggers for (view spoiler)[rape. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I may or may not have found my new favourite author.
There’s a reason Harlequin Superromances sell so well in Finland, better than Blaze or any other kinky ultra hot sex series or imprint. The impact of naked skin kind of evens out when you get used to seeing it regularly in the sauna. And we have those long winter nights and comfy blankets in our beds… anyway, it’s all about the story.
Here, two adults in their thirties meet at a point in their lives that isn’t particularly auspicious for romantic entanglements. One desperately wants a family but isn’t ready to commit to a man to have it, and another is trying to build a new start for his life. It’s a good thing then that they don’t know anything about each other and can discover together what the future holds for them. But as I said, the timing isn't the best possible and their past mistakes are about to catch up with them.
I made a list of all the things I loved about this book and it’s as disorganised as are my thoughts, still. I loved the wit and humour Bliss infuses her text with. Jokes are a delicate thing to write especially when the audience doesn’t necessarily share the cultural context with the author, but here:
”It wasn't that he had a five o'clock shadow at nine-thirty in the morning that screamed 'bad boy.' To Rachel's eyes, that simply made him scruffy.”
"Anyone could see she had a conscience. That must be painful for her."
”’I’m not offended. You're not my type, either.' Perversely, he was piqued. 'Not a nerd, you mean?' Her eyes narrowed. 'Not housebroken.’”
Look at that and tell me it’s not funny even without the context. I dare you.
I loved the fact that Rachel and Devin didn’t succumb to the insta-lust/love/attraction that’s a plague in modern romances. They were actually slightly antagonistic before building a tentative friendship with the option for more. Their romance was the slow burn kind with push and pull to keep them balanced. One gave the other took, and then they switched places. Truths were shared and actual smarts were displayed. I loved that both Rachel and Devin acted like adults. They weren’t perfect but they owned up to their mistakes and were determined to face the consequences.
One thing I absolutely hate in romance novels is the plot twist involving an artificial, prolonged misunderstanding. It was delightfully absent from this book and it all comes back to characters acting like real adults. Even in their most idiotic moments, they remained true to their characterisations instead of changing to fit the whims of the plot.
As for the reason why I now have a “can-I-has-a-Devin” shelf, let’s just say—without spoiling the book for everyone else—that the man knows the right things to say. (Yes, I’m aware that a woman wrote him.) He has brilliant scenes with Rachel and another character where he expresses his unwavering love, devotion, and trust in her. Once he’s in, he’s in. He’s made up his mind and he won’t let her insecurities drive him away, and he trusts her to figure it out eventually.
I’ll need to read that other book by Bliss I bought on the Harlequin Christmas sale. Then I’ll know if I’ll be adding another author on my list of favourites.(less)
I'm still raw after reading this. Not because of the gruesome bits of the plot, but because for the first time in a really long while I read a Finnish...moreI'm still raw after reading this. Not because of the gruesome bits of the plot, but because for the first time in a really long while I read a Finnish book by a Finnish author, and I don't know what to think. Too many times the pretentiousness has kept me away from domestic literary, but this time I'm glad I gave this book a chance.
Zara is the catalyst that brings life to a dormant life and allows Aliide finally let go of her past - some of it at least. The reader is walked through two different paths of shame by two different kind of survivors and through them the author opens a window to the recent European history - not just to war, but what came after. History that's still relevant today.
The younger woman remains a distant character, much like a faceless place holder to all her fellow sufferers, whereas the older woman is painted with all the colours of the spectrum. Aliide is dislikeable throughout the novel from her youth to old age even if she refuses to be a victim of her circumstances. She earns the reader's understanding, but not forgiveness, because even in her death she is wrong. What the final part of the book adds, is pity for the (view spoiler)[murderer. (hide spoiler)]
The story might be true and close to the author in ways I can't imagine, but I still find it odd for Finnish authors to write about foreigners. And get paid to do it. That's why I initially passed this book. I was wrong.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Back when I was still feeling optimistic about Scarp Metal I bought this novella on a Valentine’s Day sale. Then I lost my optimism and I had this ebo...moreBack when I was still feeling optimistic about Scarp Metal I bought this novella on a Valentine’s Day sale. Then I lost my optimism and I had this ebook lingering on my Kindle.
Again, at first, I thought maybe I hadn’t made such a huge mistake after all. Fox will never be one of my favourite authors but her stories are entertaining and I do have certain reading moods when I devour emotional anguish like candy. Yeah, no.
Matt is a horrible self-pitying mess with the worst taste in friends and childhood loves-cum-lovers. He’s supposed to be a medical student but at no point does he use anything resembling medical vernacular and he narrates the story. I couldn’t stand the guy. Oh, well, I’ve read about characters I didn’t like before and I’ve even loved such a book. Nope. Not this time.
There’s no romance. There’s rebound sex and codependency issues. Aaron is a couple of decades older, so there also might be daddy issues. There’s no plot. There are drugs, alcohol, and misunderstandings. And there are unbelievable plot twists that highlight just how too stupid to live Matt is. There’s also the compulsory vilifying of a female character.
And there’s purplish prose.
Let’s file this under not for me, never again, give up hope all ready, and what the hell was I thinking?(less)
I’ve been actively reading and reviewing books for a year and a half now. In that time, my criteria for rating a book on the one to five stars scale has changed a couple of times. A few things still hold true. The book has to be exceptional and leave an indelible impression to get a five star rating from me. Three stars remains my meh-rating. It’s a book that I can objectively call a good one, something I might have even enjoyed reading, but it’s also something I can easily forget and move on.
My one star rating however, that’s changed the most. At first it was anything and everything I simply didn’t like. If the offences added up to a certain point I’d give it a one star rating no matter what redeemable qualities I’d find in it. But as I read more and actually started thinking about it, I realised there are books that aren’t even worthy of that single star, books that are, to me, beneath contempt. To compensate, I adjusted my personal rating scale and now one star is reserved to books that induce burning white rage in me.
I’ve given good ratings to books with characters I’ve hated when I enjoyed the story, and I’ve given good ratings to books with stories I’ve hated even when I loved a character or two. For me, the style matters little, but dammit, it matters.
And I’m not talking about the clunky language that in a way fits the subject and the legend, but takes a while to get used to.
Ms. Bradley set out to write a retelling of the Arthurian legend from the female perspective, and in that she succeeded. She managed to put together a logical and a somewhat coherent version of the events that put King Arthur on his throne in Camelot and brought him down from it, and she managed to tell it with female voices. Igraine, Viviane, Morgaine, Gwenhwyfar, Morgause, all these women claw their way from the footnotes of the myth and become three dimensional people—not just characters, but people—with worries and joys of their own.
Admittedly those joys were short-lived, but that’s partly why I loved the story. It’s why I love the legend as I do all things heart-rending.
However, as wonderfully flawed all these people were with their virtues and their unbridled ambitions, none of them really had a choice in the matter. Ms. Bradley didn’t write people, women or men, who made the best of their unfortunate circumstances. She wrote people thrown about by the fates and whims of their deities. Morgaine’s last defence is that she never had a choice and that she was merely the Goddess’ instrument.
And that’s why I hate this book.
All the characters, as Ms. Bradley paints them, are passive. None are active. None make choices and then take responsibility for their actions. They’re all thrown into untenable situations where something must break and either give them that what they most wish or take it all away from them.
Igraine marries because she doesn’t have a choice. She goes to convent, because she can’t bear to face the sister who forced her hand.
Gwenhwyfar also marries, because she doesn’t have a choice. She first surrenders to her lover because she doesn’t have a choice. The only stupid choice she makes is so that the author has an excuse to make the pious lady into an adulteress without making her choose it.
Morgaine, the worst offender, chooses nothing. The closest she comes to making up her own mind is when she flees Avalon, but after that she promptly becomes the meekest of them all. She, who should be the fearsome Lady of the Lake and High Priestess of the Goddess, how can she be a vehicle of her Goddess’ will when she does nothing but allows others act around her?
Catalyst, you say? This isn’t a chemical reaction where one substance remains unchanged. People change, people make choices that change them and others around them. Unless, of course, you’re a character in The Mists of Avalon.
But times were different then and women nothing but chattel, you say? There’s difference in being victimised and being a victim. All Morgaine and the others had to do to win me over, was not to see themselves as victims. All they had to do was to endure what was thrown at them and choose to make the best of it. All they had to do was to choose.
Only Morgause and Viviane come close to choosing anything, and how are their choices rewarded? Why of course, they are the great villainesses whose actions lead to a family tragedy after a family tragedy. Their actions bring an end to all those things they love and they don’t live to see the aftermath or acknowledge their responsibility.
Telling a story from the female perspective doesn’t make it feminist; writing capable women doing things, being active, and making choices does. This book is something worse; it’s a pretender.
There are many things I appreciate in this book, one thing I don’t is how it all was told. That matters. Dammit.(less)
Everybody has read those books–usually they come with horrendous cover art–that start with an apparent self-ironic scene that tries to justify using a...moreEverybody has read those books–usually they come with horrendous cover art–that start with an apparent self-ironic scene that tries to justify using a cliché. It's some trope that has been beaten, hit, struck, battered, hammered, trashed, pummelled, and flattened to the ground ages ago. And for a while it works.
The author works his ass off and makes the first person past tense voice of his character sound like something hilarious, something new, refreshing, and witty. Then he crosses the line from a fine comedy to unadulterated spoof and ruins the effect. If you, the reader, are very lucky the narrative still sounds entertaining enough to carry through to the end and lets you finish a book instead of feeding your DNF pile.
If you're very, extremely, exceptionally, not-that-uncommonly-at-all unfortunate, you'll end up with a WTF face and whole lot of wasted hours. Hours of your life that you'll never be able to reclaim. At which point you either decide to move on and give this author a wide berth in the future, or you decide to give something back to the reading community and write a longwinded review that starts with a handful of meta-paragraphs sure to annoy innocent review readers.
Welcome to my life.
This book reads like an autobiography trying to be self-ironic and falling short by miles. It's like the author decided to skip coming up with anything original or fictional and instead document his day-to-day life in the publishing world. Maybe his editor told him to throw in a few outrageous characters and give them the kind of urban legend lives you only hear around the water cooler or wherever the workers go to smoke illicitly. Maybe the author was bored and decided to imitate a handful of his idols–in one book.
Whatever led to the creation and publication of this book, is everything that's wrong with the publishing industry today. This book is unbalanced, tactless, and inane. If it had to be published, why couldn't it be an in-house newsletter to amuse the people who are able to recognise and appreciate the publishing jokes. If it had to be published as a gay romance novel or erotica wannabe, why not write one. If this had to be published at all, why not just do it and NOT market it as something it's not.
This book is mislabelled as a gay romance. It's mislabelled as a romance. There's no romance here. There is simply a string of sex scenes and fuckbuddies without anything resembling a plot.
Also, Arvin went there. He had the ex-editor-fuckbuddy-friend attack-comment on a one star rating-review. How is this any better than the author–still talking about the book characters, just want to make it clear for Goodreads staff–himself commenting on a negative review? Just having it in the book is like condoning bad behaviour and I've had my limit. I would have given this book one star regardless, this just removed any guilt I might have felt.
Had Galley Proof been shelved under general fiction I might be more forgiving to the abrupt style changes and the utter lack of the thin red line that connects it all, but it wasn't and I'm not. If only Arvin had said what he made his character say:
"I have decided it's not worth my time to write nor is it worth her time to read."
I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley.
There’s a difference between theory and practice. In science, theories are meaningless without the empirical evidence to support them. In fiction—no matter how brilliant the idea—the execution of a story is everything. Here, it fails.
In theory, reading about two worlds co-existing in modern Britain and reading about the adventures of the fae in the mundane worlds sounds intriguing. The possibilities of seeing different cultures clash and compete are endless. In practice, every author has to choose a line to walk on. I don’t think Emma Newman has any idea which line she’s straddling let alone how to tread on it.
The problem lies with the characters. It’s not that they’re particularly horrid—I actually liked that they were described either as ugly or dull—and unlikeable. It’s not even the fact that Cathy is the most frustrating, spineless, insipid heroine I’ve stumbled on recently. It’s that their characterisations aren’t properly supported by their actions. Both the fae and the mundane talk and think alike. Even Max, the most interesting character of the bunch, doesn’t quite act like someone whose soul has been disconnected is apparently supposed to act.
It’s like Newman created these rules for herself and then forgot to follow them. That is, if there were any rules to begin with. Never did I get the sense that the author had fully internalised and adopted this alternative world she had created, let alone that she’d fully applied it to the characters she was writing about.
And with that, whatever there may have been unique about the story—about the idea of a few young, rebellious fae touched challenging Nether’s customs and traditions—unravels into an uninteresting mess.
I’m not a fan of fairies, but I never open a book wanting to hate it. Between Two Thorns had its chance to win me over and it failed. I started skimming and speed-reading around 20% mark and only stopped a few times to read scenes with Will in them.
P.S. Every time I wrote the word mundane, I wanted to substitute it with the word muggle.
I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.(less)
Sometimes it is really difficult and even scary to speak up for what you believe is right, but it’s important to do. At the end of the day you answer to yourself, no one else, so you’ll be happy you did.
Chelsea Knot is an incorrigible gossip, she admits it herself on the very first pages of Speechless. She’s also an impetuous sixteen-year-old teen who makes mistakes. One of those mistakes leads to a boy being beaten up and almost dying. Blaming herself and her own words, Chelsea makes a vow of silence and starts her month long road to self-discovery.
She’s still an impetuous sixteen-year-old girl at the end of the book, but she’s also a stronger person and a better human being.
Only a few days ago I wrote a long review for Beautiful Disaster pointing out some of the authorial mistakes in that book, one of which was the lack of character growth in a so-called character driven story. I feel like I should give this book to Jamie McGuire, and tell her to read and learn.
This could be a handbook to how character driven YA novels should be written.
The character gallery is familiar. We have the popular girls and boys as well as the outcasts and the people who blend in all sorts of groups. Unlike Bella Swan and every other YA protagonist that followed her, Chelsea likes being popular and using the power that comes with it. She’s not perfect and knows her shortcomings, but she’s not focusing on them—well, not more than any other teenage girl would when shopping for bras.
They? Incorrect plural usage!
There’s Brendon, the gorgeous smart guy she has a crush on, but who isn’t without his faults. There’s Kristen, Chelsea’s best friend, the superficially inclined popular girl who runs the high school’s social circles but whose shell has its own cracks. There’s Warren, Joey, Derek, and there’s Asha, Sam, Andy, and Noah. All of whom felt like real characters despite their limited appearance in the book.
And, believe it or not, there are adults. They don’t overshadow the teenage angst or drama, but they are a presence. On a second thought, I could show this book to Maggie Stiefvater too: Yes, it is possible to write a YA novel where the teens have problems and strong parent figures as well. It can be done.
Where was I? The vow of silence. As you can imagine, it’s not easy. Chelsea learns to communicate without words and to bite her tongue when she’s mocked, ignored, or worse. She wallows in narcissistic self-pity like only a teenager can, but she also recognises it. She realises she can’t stay silent forever, but that doesn’t stop her from wanting to the words that’ll break her silence to mean something. In a way, as young as she is, she’s also mature in a way that I can’t remember being at that age. Maybe Chelsea has better friends than I did.
Good for her. Who wants to be a virgin forever?
One more thing I must mention. For a while, I was absolutely dreading the romance aspect of this book. I could not see how it would work, because there wasn’t any chemistry between Chelsea and Brendon. I shouldn’t have fretted. It’s safe to say that Harrington has earned my trust and I’ll never doubt her again.
I make a point of not adding anyone to my favourites list until I’ve read at least two separate novels from them and two novels of the same series don’t count. The can’t be connected. I broke that rule for Harrington for the simple reason that I love how she writes.
Do I think this book could have been any better? No. Unfortunately, I don’t give five star ratings to perfect books; I give them to books that change me. As touching as Speechless was, it doesn’t quite fit that category.
I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.(less)
This thing is so bad. So very bad that it almost wants to redefine my suckity-suck shelf and that's a tall order considering Beautiful Disaster is on...moreThis thing is so bad. So very bad that it almost wants to redefine my suckity-suck shelf and that's a tall order considering Beautiful Disaster is on that shelf. I swear to whichever deity you'd prefer that it felt like I was back there in that dark place and reading *that* book again. I snark and snark, but it's not often every paragraph makes me want to stop and complain.
Cutters vs. Jocks doesn't stand alone. It's a prequel to Marx's other novel, Binding Arbitration where single mom has to find her long-forgotten fling to save her cancer-sick son.
Can you guess what happens in Cutters vs. Jocks? Was your answer: The fling. You'd think that, wouldn't you. You'd be wrong.
There's no fling. There's one billiard game and a year's(?) worth of avoidance leading to the pity fuck that results in the pregnancy. As for how that situation is handled... Alicia, dear, you definitely don't want to read this one: (view spoiler)[It's the dreaded She never told him that she kept the baby-trope. (hide spoiler)]
This novella is an infodump meant to highlight Libby's and Aidan's backgrounds and to explain why they at twenty-two and twenty-three could have never worked. It succeeds in its goal magnificently, because it never shows them fall in love. Told in two alternating first person voices this novella completely skips the becoming friends and falling in love. Both Aidan and Libby suddenly go from proclaiming that they're not in love to that they in fact are. The reader is never shown why either of them would care for the other one bit.
Instead the pages are full of misogyny and romanticised stalkerism.
I assume this novella is meant to hint at the promise as to why those same two people might fit together eight years later having had the chance to mature. The only problem with this is that I became so thoroughly disgusted with both characters that I never want to read about them again. I'd almost say it goes a step further than that: I never want to read anything Elizabeth Marx writes ever again. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Try as I might, I can’t say a word about Quintana without starting with Froi, and that’s because Froi of Exiles and Quintana of Chary are basically on...moreTry as I might, I can’t say a word about Quintana without starting with Froi, and that’s because Froi of Exiles and Quintana of Chary are basically one huge book in two volumes.
When I was reading Froi for the first time a year ago, I wondered how would Marchetta manage to make the last book about this wild, mad creature she created to match Froi’s fierceness. The answer is that Marchetta didn’t. She plunges into Quintana’s psyche only in short first person voice paragraphs that stand out because they don’t quite fit. There are other ways Marchetta could have included Quintana’s inner monologue without breaking her usual stellar narrative in third person limited voice, but she didn’t and this only highlights the brokenness of this book.
In a way, the disjointedness fits Quintana’s book just as it fits her character, but the story is less about her than it’s about finishing Froi’s journey that started in Finnikin of the Rock and paying homage to the Lumateran royal family.
It’s impossible for me to write about the events in this book without utterly spoiling the previous book but I can say that I expected to see more deaths than the author granted. Rafuel’s fate symbolises every characters journey, but otherwise the ending felt too constructed. It wasn’t as natural as it could have been because of the author’s need to prolong the inevitable as long as possible. After such a long journey, I thought that the characters deserved a bit more organic and less abrupt goodbye. (less)
Isaac Marion can write, there's no doubt about that. It's the storytelling he needs to work on.
From the beginning I fell in love with R's voice, even...moreIsaac Marion can write, there's no doubt about that. It's the storytelling he needs to work on.
From the beginning I fell in love with R's voice, even if it was a bit ridiculous for a zombie to know and use words that I had to continuously look up in the dictionary. I was intrigued and cared for R and his instant dead undead family. I wanted to know more, so I read on.
R started to evolve. He couldn't just think eloquently anymore he could, occasionally, express himself fluently too. And as his higher brain functions evolved and reawakened, he started losing his zombie traits and I quickly started losing interest.
I cared more about R's nameless wife cheating on him than I ever cared about Julie. That's not for lack of trying on the author's part, because Marion gave me every opportunity to see Juliet as a complex individual, I just didn't see any chemistry between her and R, excluding the ick factor of kissing a corpse.
Also, the world building lacked certain finesse. Over a decade after the government's collapse there's still lip gloss readily available to a young woman kidnapped and held captive by zombies. Okay, I admit, she could have had it in her pocket and used it sparely. But I'm not sure I buy a decade old iPod's battery holding power for several days, especially if she's turning up the volume. And I'm still wondering how exactly did she find and add all those mp3s on the thing since computers weren't mentioned.
As the issue of sex proves, (view spoiler)[ First we're told zombies don't have a sex drive and that porn-brain M is some sort of anomaly and then few pages later R's dry wife is trying to have sex with her new lover in a "moist tangle of limbs"(hide spoiler)] Marion really needs to work on staying true to the rules he's created.
I haven't mentioned Perry yet and that's because I don't really know what to think of him. He was dead before I got to know him and my brain isn't really orientated to this new way of thinking that maybe death isn't the end after all.
Having said all that, I can see why this book has over 4 star rating average. I enjoyed reading the first quarter of it, but the rest just wasn't my cup of tea.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
When I was about fifteen, I saw a girl reading a book in class. It wasn't a school book, but the cover looked pretty enough and nothing like I'd ever...moreWhen I was about fifteen, I saw a girl reading a book in class. It wasn't a school book, but the cover looked pretty enough and nothing like I'd ever seen before, so I leaned over and asked her what it was. Shortly after, probably the same week if not on the day, I walked to the nearby library and borrowed another book from the same author. That of course was the Finnish translation of Pawn of Prophecy by David Eddings, the first of The Belgariad series.
I've spent the second half my life looking for that same feeling I felt when I first immersed myself in the world of fantasy and adventure. Despite all the different kinds of books I've read, my search has been in vain, until I opened Michael J. Sullivan's Theft of Swords and was swept of my feet.
If you've read the blurb you know that the story begins with two thieves, Royce Melborn and Hadrian Blackwater, making a living by duping rich nobles and risking their necks doing so. When an especially savoury job lands at their feet, they take it hoping to spend a comfortable winter with their earnings. The simple theft of a sword turns out to be a trap, the two thieves are caught in political intrigue and have to run for their lives.
You might also know that Theft of Swords is actually a reprint of two self-published books, The Crown Conspiracy and Avempartha. There are two distinct adventures here, and the book doesn't pretend otherwise. This also makes it very difficult for me to rate (let's just say I'm opting out to leave room for improvement) and review this book.
Of the two, I enjoyed the first half, The Crown Conspiracy, more. It felt like a tight package that didn't waste a single breath while it rushed me through events at Royce's and Hadrian's heels. There's a rich gallery of characters, so rich in fact that I thought several of them were underused, while every single event and motion seemed to have been thought through. Avempartha and the second half felt slower and more contemplative in comparison. It delves deep into the rich history of Elan, and at times this introspection ends up delaying the story.
One of my status updates mentions an info dump and I remember my head spinning trying to absorb all the details, but honestly I didn't care. There was a reason for that.
It was the feeling of being carried away by a good story and by characters that were smart flawed and real. It was the feeling of not being able to put down the book until it was 5 am and my head hurt too much to read a minute longer. It was the feeling of laughing at the jokes and not at the writing.
I'm especially lucky to have read Theft of Swords now instead of the separate novels before, because this is a reprint the following instalments, Rise of Empire and Heir of Novron will be published in December and January respectively, and that means I don't have to wait years to find out how the story ends. Although, I do have a pretty good idea of where Royce and Hadrian are heading. I want to take that trip with them, because this is more about the journey than the destination.
I received an Advanced Readers Copy from the publisher through NetGalley.(less)
Firelight. Firelight. Now where have I heard that name before...
No, that wasn't it.
There must be something about the title that compels me to connect...moreFirelight. Firelight. Now where have I heard that name before...
No, that wasn't it.
There must be something about the title that compels me to connect it with film posters. Despite the bewitching cover attached to this book, this was closer to what I imagined.
I just wish I'd known how close to the target I hit with that one. (Not very close, but in the ballpark.)
It's the usual paranormal set up in a historical backdrop. The poor girl, Miranda Ellis, has an inflammable secret and a rotten father. She does what she must in order to survive and to appease her misguided guilt. The man, Lord Benjamin Archer, is a rich lord with a disfigured face and a set of secrets of his own. He's also in love for the first time in many, many years, maybe ever.
Thus starts the marriage of convenience. (I really love those.)
As Miranda and Archer get to know each other and start to trust their secrets to one another, there's a murderer loose on the streets of London. Archer becomes the main suspect and the society turns its back on them even more decisively than before, but Miranda believes in his innocence. Can she save him? Can he protect her from the killer and from himself?
Such delicious questions, but I especially loved their answers.
Kristen Callihan delivers a story like one I can't remember reading before. It's the story I fell in love with and it's the story I can't speak about without absolutely spoiling it for others. So, I'm going to talk about the things I didn't like and remind you that all these small(ish) technical faults only deducted one star from the highest rating possible.
Let's just say that if the author or the editor had seen fit to remove all erotic or sex scenes, I would be parting from the fifth star. It wasn't that they were technically bad (although, some of them were) and it wasn't that they didn't fit the plot (although, some of them didn't) it was the absolute unsexiness of it all. Eating a pear isn't sexy, it's messy. There isn't anything appealing in tongues that snake out or him saying: "Wet for me." No, just no. I also appreciated the lack of words masculine and feminine until I couldn't anymore. Erotica authors really need to stop using these shortcuts.
Also Callihan really needs to work on her foreshadowing skills on the smut department. The speed a scene went from a life and death match to a sexual encounter gave me whiplash. There was nothing smooth about it and I was wondering what's wrong with these people. I do realise that it's a legitimate reaction to celebrate survival by rusting the sheets, but I didn't see it in the writing. I saw the characters change to fit what was expected from the format, and I didn't like it.
Technically this isn't the author's fault, but several times I would read the beginning of the scene and the descriptions created such vivid mental images for me that the written conclusion of that scene ultimately fell flat. I felt like the writing didn't live up to its promise and that several key scenes of this book would have worked better on film. This sometimes happens when author is a very visual writer.
Speaking of the visual descriptions, they could be a hindrance to the plot. Especially towards the end and the closer to the culmination of the plot, mentions of the curve of her hips and her graceful limbs and walking became more annoying than helpful. I admit I was like this for most of the book simply because I loved the story more than the titillating factor of it.
There were few world building quirks that I noted, but refused to let bother me, much. (view spoiler)[Like the fact that our resident fire starter had a keener sense of smell than the werewolf or the fact that said fire starter controlled her gift with her vagina. (hide spoiler)]
It's also a shame that Miranda's knife was forgotten. It made such a nice statement about her character and his in the beginning, that I would have liked to have seen it used more prominently.
I received an Advanced Reader's Copy from the publisher through the publisher through NetGalley.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I started this book thinking of giving it a solid three stars and hoping for the fourth. Instead of something extra, I found all the plot threads of a...moreI started this book thinking of giving it a solid three stars and hoping for the fourth. Instead of something extra, I found all the plot threads of a promising premise slipping through my fingers until only thing left was bitter disappointment.
Let's start with the characterisations. What characterisations? The characters do and react as it suits the scene and situation rather than following some internal compass that guides them through life even with the needle improperly calibrated. To this moment I can't tell you what Natalie or Mac is supposed to be like. I can tell you the events that supposedly helped to make them who they are because I read the infodumps, but based on their actions showed in this book they remain a mystery to me.
Because of the poor characterisations, the pacing doesn't work either. It's not as bad a situation in the beginning where the focus is on the investigation, but when Natalie and Mac meet, it soon unravels into their incomprehensible instant attraction. Of course they don't really spend time getting to know each other like normal people would, but they snipe at each other to add to the tension, I suppose. The evolution of their relationship is minimal to the point that their sexual encounter feels like it's coming out of the blue even though all the trope warning signs are there. This is because majority of the book Natalie and Mac are apart.
The book is written in third limited with alternating points of views from the hero and heroine and the villains of the story. Yes, that was a plural. At first those glimpses into the criminal psyche were the part I enjoyed reading, but then all subtlety was thrown out and replaced with full-scale infodumping.
This isn't a character driven storyline. This reads like a book that had a mapped out structure before the characters were shoehorned into it. It leaves the distasteful feeling of forced plot progression. Things don't develop naturally, but they are poked and prodded to the right direction by obvious deus ex machinas. I guess it could have been better, had the quality of the writing been good enough to distract from these obvious flaws. Though, I must admit, even then this book wouldn't have made on my favourites shelf.
In my status updates I mentioned the lack of research or feel of it. I might have been overly harsh, but the fact remains that I didn't feel like whatever research had been done did shine through the text. Random titbits about the everyday life of a blind person were thrown in, but they weren't integrated into the text to help bring Natalie's character alive. This, once again, highlights the problematic characterisation.
There's one, highly spoilerish thing I must mention. If you plan on reading this book, don't click to open the tags. I mean it. (view spoiler)[Natalie has supposedly had her tubes tied when she was twenty-five-years-old. I admit I was speed reading at this point, but nowhere was it mentioned that she had to go through a rigorous process to get the operation. There's no mention of psychiatric appointments or reluctant doctors. I don't know if things truly are so different on this side of the pond or if it's simply a failure on the authors part.
I point this out, because my mother's friend was deadly afraid of getting pregnant and giving birth. She had had her tubes tied at the earliest opportunity after the doctors agreed to do it. She didn't have any children and she'd just turned forty. As she lay on the table they still kept asking her if she was sure she wanted to go through with it.
No way do I believe Natalie could have had her tubes tied that young and easy. She would have had to meet with a counsellor of some sort and as afraid as Natalie was about going mad like her mother I doubt she'd agreed to it. And had she, I highly doubt the counsellor would have green-lighted the operation (hide spoiler)].
I received an Advanced Readers Copy of this book from the publisher through NetGalley.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
I’m a plot girl through and through, but there are certain authors that can make me sit down and read a book that’s pure character study and absolutel...moreI’m a plot girl through and through, but there are certain authors that can make me sit down and read a book that’s pure character study and absolutely nothing else. Melina Marchetta is one of those authors. I love how she manipulates words. Sometimes, I still feel like crying myself to sleep over The Piper’s Son and Froi of Exiles only improved on the second reading.
On the Jellicoe Road is a different animal.
The stories of Taylor Markham, Jonah Griggs, Ben Cassidy, Narnie, Webb, Tate, Fitz, and Jude never really came together for me. Marchetta does try to fit all the puzzle pieces together in this disjointed novel, but even the best explanation falls flat when the reader doesn’t care about the characters. Of a character driven story.
See what I did there.
When I’m reading a character driven novel I need to be able to connect with the secondary characters if not with the—unreliable—narrator. Every fragmented scene was merely an anecdote that had happened to someone else, to people I don’t know or wish to meet. It was all so far, far away from me. I’m not talking about the fact that I live in Northern Europe and the author with her characters lives in Australia, I’m talking about the emotional connection that never was.
I did not care.
On a technical level I can admire what Marchetta was trying to achieve by indulging in non-linear storytelling and I wish there were more books like this—only better—to challenge readers of all ages. The problem is she’s not good enough author to pull it off. Neither was Hal Duncan, come to think of it, no matter what the award committees might think.
If the soul of a book is sacrificed at the altar of writing craft, the book fails.