On the one hand, I’m kind of glad that I found this installment of the STAR WARS canon to be so completely mediocre: it provesReviewed by: Rabid Reads
On the one hand, I’m kind of glad that I found this installment of the STAR WARS canon to be so completely mediocre: it proves I’m not some maniacal fangirl that loves all-the-things without regard to factors like relevance or lack of ingenuity.
On the other hand . . . Ugh.
LOST STARS is the (love) story of Thane Kyrell and Ciena Ree, two very different people (in an extremely ordinary way) from the outer rim of the Empire. Thane is the proverbial rich kid, and Ciena is the girl from the valley (heh).
They both want to fly more than anything.
So lurve. *rolls eyes*
Beyond the lackluster romance, LOST STARS did nothing to further the STAR WARS story. It covered the events from the original trilogy, albeit from the perspective of Imperials rather than rebels, but still . . . Not a single revelation.
The main theme seemed to be: the Empire is Bad.
I might have found Ciena’s unique cultural perspective interesting, if I didn’t also find it obdurately prideful—I have no use for people who don’t recognize that rules only work so long as everyone follows them. You gots to roll with the punches, Dollface.
Thane I could relate to, but in a generic damn-the-man kind of way, so meh.
The secondary characters were pretty MEH as well, mostly from lack of development. Of Thane’s two roommates, one transformed into an Imperial zealot as a coping mechanism, and the other vanished after graduation beyond a brief nod to some apparently clever engineering.
Ciena’s friends had more potential, but one (view spoiler)[died in the destruction of the first Death Star (hide spoiler)], and the other was woefully neglected.
The characters weren’t the only area that lacked development: why exactly did Thane’s family loathe him? At one point, Thane himself muses that being born was his unpardonable sin, but that merely highlighted the lack of illumination on the subject. But the kind of alternate neglect and abuse he suffered at his family’s hands isn’t arbitrary . . . So what’s the deal?
Maybe Gray left it a mystery so she could address it in the follow up novel that the final chapters of LOST STAR seemed to be setting up, but no such sequel appears to be in the works.
Verdict: PASS. Unless you like YA romance and can appreciate cultural differences without being frustrated by them, in which case, go for it.
The books I have the hardest times reviewing are the MEH books, and THE DREAM KEEPER'S DAUGHTER is one such book. In the strugReviewed by: Rabid Reads
The books I have the hardest times reviewing are the MEH books, and THE DREAM KEEPER'S DAUGHTER is one such book. In the struggle to find something to say beyond, "MEH," I can hyperfocus on the things that annoyed me, the end result being that the book comes across as far worse than it actually was.
That being said, this particular book sparked lots o' irritation to draw that focus. The numerous references to the all-the-boys-want-her heroine as a modern-day "Lara Croft" (yes, seriously), the wholly unexplained magic system, the anticlimactic "plot twist" at the very end . . . It was all very basic.
Like the haphazard daydream of an adolescent girl put to paper.
Despite what I consider to be a fairly predictable plot, I can't go into more detail without spoilers, so I apologize for the vaguery, but it can't be helped. *shrugs awkwardly*
When the focus wasn't on the (highly suspect) supernatural aspects of the story, it was on mundane post-pictures-of-your-morning-snack-b/c-yay-social-media type details like:
I park on a side street, feeling lucky to have found a spot so close, and make my way to the library, taking a shortcut through one of the tree-lined courtyards that houses some of the college’s older buildings. The sun is brutal, and the humidity’s not much better. I push open the door to the air-conditioned lobby with a sense of deep relief.
I'm so bored.
And bored and irritated are not what I look for in a book.
THE DREAM KEEPER'S DAUGHTER by Emily Colin, if I'm being generous, is urban fantasy lite--maybe okay for dabblers who won't care that supernatural details don't hold up under scrutiny, but not for anyone who needs solid world-building despite the unreality of the story being told. Combine that with the caricature of a heroine, and I just can't. Not recommended.
SO. Every ninety years a bunch of gods take over the bodies of a bunch of teenagers to live as pop stars for two years before they die.
Riiiiight. B/c gods have nothing better to do than become Taylor Swift. Fame is everything. Worship. Adulation.
Whatever, I'm bored.
Know what else is boring? They don't use their god-like powers b/c it will scare the puny humans.
Is it just me, or are these the lamest gods ever?
Except for Lucifer.
When a rooftop of zealots (at least that's what I'm assuming they were, b/c their animosity is never really explained) opens fire on a gathering of the godlings, Luci says, to hell with that! and explodes their heads with a snap of her fingers.
She's then arrested--how dare she kill the men who'd been trying to kill her--and Luci is taking the situation about as seriously as I am, until while jokingly threatening the judge with another finger snap, the man's head actually explodes.
That's the question, isn't it?
To the detriment of everything else.
Why every ninety years? Why are they dead within another two? Why aren't they always the same gods? Where do all the other gods go? How are the teenagers chosen? Why pop stars?
Just make the god groupie satisfactorily indignant, throw in a hot vampire-looking death god, make a few jokes, blow some shit up, and we'll forget all but one of the unanswered questions.
But guess what? By the end of vol. 1, we still don't know who killed the judge.
THE WICKED + THE DIVINE . . . was a lot of shiny distractions with periodically deadpan dialogue to mask the lack of substance in the plot. Not impressed. Not recommended.
SIDE NOTE: obviously they aren't always pop stars--pop stars didn't exist the last time they showed up--but they're always whatever the current coolest kids are. Back in the 1920s, it looked like they were clairvoyants or mediums. Before that? Who cares knows?...more
I have friends who are bargain hunters. They stalk the aisles of stores like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, searching for last seasoReviewed by: Rabid Reads
I have friends who are bargain hunters. They stalk the aisles of stores like T.J. Maxx and Marshalls, searching for last season frocks from Kate Spade and Lilly Pulitzer, and are often successful. They preen over their discoveries, and I sometimes envy the fruits of their labors . . .
BUT. I will never be able to do it myself.
Those types of places are too chaotic; I walk in the door and immediately turn and walk back out. B/c overwhelmed. There's so much stuff shoved together so haphazardly that I haven't the foggiest notion of where to begin.
THE BIRD AND THE SWORD had a similar effect, and I'm kind of baffled that the same author who wrote A Different Blue, which I loved, also wrote something as poorly planned and executed as this was . . . But here we are.
MINOR SPOILERS after this point.
1. The journey is merely the shortest distance from point A to point B.
There are two main types of writers: those who plan and those who write by the seat of their pants, and if I had to guess, I'd venture that Harmon is the former.
You: What makes you say that?
Me: The extraordinarily stupid actions that enabled obvious plot points.
Take Lark's first adult encounter with King.
The last time they met was the day King's father (former King) killed her mother, b/c magic is outlawed. Having magic herself, Lark is understandably afraid when she belatedly learns that King will be visiting her home that very day.
So what does she do?
She tears off through the forest, determined to be hidden in a tower before King arrives, but when she hears horses pounding down the road, does she retreat back into the relative safety of woods? Does she hide herself until the riders have passed, slinking home behind them and avoiding detection?
She runs faster.
And that's just the beginning.
You: What do you mean?
Me: Father wants to usurp King. Has been planning it since the death of his wife.
So what does he do?
Lay low, scheming and machinating until the time is ripe for a coup?
He refuses the command to send soldiers to the war front, painting an arrow over his head that shouts, "MALCONTENT."
You: That's not very smart . . .
Me: Yeah, but, see, King needs to be able to take Lark hostage b/c reasons.
You: Seems like kind of a bullshit way to make it happen though.
Me: YES. It DOES.
2. Deliberately obtuse heroine.
The problem with telling a story from the first person perspective is that the reader gets ALL of her information directly from the source. SO. If a thing is more-than-obvious to the reader, it's incomprehensible if it isn't also more-than-obvious to the storyteller.
And yet . . .
*sing songs* "My mother foretold that the former king would lose his son, the prince, 'to the skies . . .' The injured eagle I found in the forest disappeared while I slept, and I returned home to discover that one of my servants had been conked and the head and relieved of his clothes, and a horse was missing from the stables . . . King chained himself in the dungeon, tormented by a mysterious malady . . . Oh, look! It's my friend the eagle sitting on the rail of King's open balcony! Hello, friend eagle! Where ever could King be? He never returned last night . . ." *blinks vapidly*
3. Conflicting information.
The following screenshot serves a variety of purposes, but for now, let's focus on the blue passage:
They are creatures, animals, ruled by instinct. They are PREDATORS. Like a shark scenting blood in the water or a bear whose normal food sources have been unnaturally depleted.
If this is true, they cannot also be "base."
To be "base" requires sentience, yet Harmon uses the mutually exclusive concepts of being governed by basic needs--food, water, shelter--and more nefarious or "base" motivations interchangeably.
My knee-jerk reaction was that she was confused about the meanings of "base" and "basic," but on the very next page:
They lived to kill. Not for hate or power. But still, they killed. They killed because death meant food. Death meant life. Death meant that their blood pounded hotter in their veins, and their flesh grew thicker on their bones. They were simple monsters, but monsters all the same.
And a paragraph or so further down, the earlier accusation is even more blatantly contradicted when she references the creature's, "innocent instinct, however bloodthirsty."
So it's not that she doesn't understand the terms and the difference between them, it's that she was so concerned with finding flowery ways to present information that she either didn't care or didn't notice that the end result made not one lick of sense, which segues perfectly into my next issue . . .
4. Purple prose.
This time let's check out the yellow highlights:
Taken individually, all the various flourishes and embellishments might not be a problem. I mean, just b/c I've never personally experienced an "obliterated" appetite, and could come up with half a dozen less vague ways of describing the weather than "advantageous," doesn't mean that an emphatic adjective/adverb (or three) is a distraction.
BUT. As you can see, there are four on this page alone, and friends . . . that is not a fluke.
Then there's this:
Suddenly freed and temporarily weightless, the ground rose up and snatched my breath. I lay stunned, the wind forced from my lungs.
The ground . . . rose up . . . and snatched her breath . . . *flares nostrils*
NO. It did NOT. She fell and had the wind knocked out of her. The end.
5. There are just some things you CANNOT do.
Like reference real world works of literature in a wholly make-believe world:
"The Art of War?"
BUT. That specific reference is borderline hilarious, b/c later on, King is so determined to engage the enemy on his terms that:
We rested a full day, giving the horses a chance to recuperate from the journey, but the collective unease of the camp made the day feel wasted. Shrieks and shouts filled the night as the Volgar picked off men in the dark . . .
Huh. So the same King who is familiar enough with Sun Tzu's ART OF WAR to make jokes about the bloodthirsty discussion points, passively allows his soldiers to be attacked by their enemy?
I guess he skipped this part:
Regard your soldiers as your children, and they will follow you into the deepest valleys; look on them as your own beloved sons, and they will stand by you even unto death.
And I'm done. DONE. D O N E.
Basically, I spent twice as much time deciphering the events and characters’ actions as I did reading this book. Whatever it is that the rest of the world sees in THE BIRD AND THE SWORD, I am immune, wholly and utterly. Not recommended.
What was that? (view spoiler)[You think you can let a naked woman claim in bed with and grab your dick, but you eUgh.
Ughhhhhhhh. *throws book at wall*
What was that? (view spoiler)[You think you can let a naked woman claim in bed with and grab your dick, but you eventually toss her out, so no harm, no foul? (hide spoiler)] Eff you, dude. Efffff youuuu.
And that's just the most obvious issue. This thing was CRAP....more
It's not that I dislike them . . . at least not at this point--I don't have enough experieReviewed by: Rabid Reads
I haven't read many graphic novels.
It's not that I dislike them . . . at least not at this point--I don't have enough experience to definitively state my feelings one way or another. *shrugs awkwardly*
BUT. I've been curious for awhile, and this seemed like a good place to start. I do like pretty pictures, and, hello, fables, so practically guaranteed to like it.
So I one-clicked, then I read the whole thing in a couple hours. I loved it. A LOT.
In this first volume, there was Snow White and Rose Red (one of my childhood favorites):
A sword-wielding Cinderella:
Prince Charming (at least twice divorced, and a frat boy, dumb dumb, besides):
Beauty and the Beast (bickering like an old married couple):
A typically creeptastic Bluebeard:
Jack of magic beans fame (and a schmoe):
A reformed . . . ish Big Bad Wolf, one of the three little pigs (who doesn't like country life), and an understandably angsty Pinocchio (b/c three-hundred+ years old, and stuck in the body of a pre-pubescent boy):
And that's just off the top of my head.
ALSO, this series predates Once Upon a Time and all the bandwagoners that followed by a decade. So no copycats here, FYI.
After 120ish pages of pretty pictures and dialogue that rarely crossed over the line from basic to clever (or one of a myriad of other adjectives that can be used to describe writing that isn't BLAH), there were a handful of full text pages that gave a rather fantastical accounting of how the two MCs met.
Those six or eight pages were by far my favorite part of the book.
That's not to say that I didn't enjoy the rest of it--I did. But WORDS, man, WORDS. I don't know what it says about me that words are the more effective communicaters, but yeah, all of that "a picture is worth a thousand words," nonsense is . . . nonsense.
Despite an overt admission of attraction from one of the characters to another, and the various illustrations that accompanied it, it was the subtle longing revealed through words that made me feel the agony of unrequited love more potently than any drawing ever could. The possibility that a beast decided to take human form in order to be closer to the girl whose scent he couldn't forget . . .
Maybe. Then again, maybe he was just sick of running around in the forest and eating the boring humans who were stupid enough to wander the woods of his lackluster new home. #thatwouldsuck
I guess I'll see. <------b/c it's a given that I'll be reading the next one. *winks* Highly recommended, especially to graphic novels noobs who love fairytales.
UPDATE: since finishing Volume 1, I've devoured an embarrassing number of additional installments, and the dialogue has significantly improved. Sometimes it's punny, sometimes it's slyly clever (especially on the social commentary front), but it's rarely BLAH. FYI.
SO. I know that practically the whole world loves this book, and I'm not trying to undermine the majority. Truly, I'm not. I've said it before, and I'SO. I know that practically the whole world loves this book, and I'm not trying to undermine the majority. Truly, I'm not. I've said it before, and I'll say it again, the biggest (only?) downside to training yourself to read books critically for review, is that you can't turn it off. I may never be able to devour a book, paying zero attention to anything but how it makes me feel, and enjoying it without any kind of expectations ever again.
That probably sounds awful to a lot a people, but I don't mind. I might even prefer it this way.
But hopefully, you now feel sorry for me, horrified by analytical approach to reading-for-pleasure, and no longer want to tar and feather me for besmirching the honor of one of your best loved books. *crosses fingers*
I have three main issues:
1. The unequal cost vs. gain ratio.
I won't try to deny that the conclusion of ME BEFORE YOU packed a powerful emotional punch.
My tears weren't the result of pain felt on behalf of poignant characters who had been brought to life by a talented writer.
The situation was tragic, so I felt pain.
No more or less than I would have felt if I'd read the same scenario in a book summary or a 500 word article in the local paper.
I could try to isolate reasons for the disconnect, like it's told in the third person, but that feels like a cop-out--I've encountered plenty of compelling characters in third person POV books--but ultimately, Will and Lou didn't join those ranks.
2. Gratuitous use of personal tragedy to justify behavior that didn't need justification.
Moyes took what would have been the most interesting aspect of this tale (Lou's quirky fashion sense), and turned it into coping mechanism.
I'm usually all for gaining insight into characters, but that insight needs to be meaningful. Turning a young woman with a colorful and unapologetically wacky fashion sense into a victim, who is merely trying to disguise her femininity is . . .
Well, it's offensive.
It suggests that you must be damaged to escape conformity, that you can't be an individual for the sake of individuality, or simply b/c YOU'RE DIFFERENT.
3. Postmodernism makes my nostrils flare.
ME BEFORE YOU is a dispiriting combination of selfishness and pointlessness masquerading as a love story.
I've frequently addressed my feelings on Postmodernism, so I won't reiterate the long version here, but suffice it to say, I HATE it.
I hate the inevitability of pain and disappointment and of mediocrity. I hate the implication that Bad Things will happen, so the best you can do is bear it gracefully, or, at the very least, with stoicism.
Reality is something I avoid when reading recreationally, so encountering the kind of inescapable sadness and loss often found in Postmodern literature is something I assiduously steer clear of.
Sometimes with limited success . . .
If you share my view, do yourself a favor and skip this one. In my opinion, ME BEFORE YOU is a headache you don't need.
The only part of the story that didn't shriek of the uselessness of hope in the face of reality, was Lou's personal growth throughout her endeavor, which annoyingly makes me want to read AFTER YOU to see if the changes stuck, and will almost certainly be another disappointment.
RULE FOR SPOILERS: if it's in the first 10%, and therefore (in most cases) available for scrutiny from undecided readers in thReviewed by: Rabid Reads
RULE FOR SPOILERS: if it's in the first 10%, and therefore (in most cases) available for scrutiny from undecided readers in the FREE downloadable preview, IT'S NOT A SPOILER.
That being said, a LOT of things happen--IMPORTANT things--in the first five percent, let alone ten percent of HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD, so if you'd rather go into your read without significant prior knowledge, leave this review immediately.
That's the only warning you're going to get.
In my experience there are two types of hardcore fans for any given series:
1. The Blind Zealot.
This type of fan will forgive an author almost anything. Inconsistent behavior in main characters, enormous plot holes, unexplained developments, etc., it doesn't matter, b/c OHMAGAWD, I LOVE IT SO MUCH!!! *squeeeeeeee*
2. The Thoughtful, Critical Reader.
This type of fan loves a series based solely on its merit. They aren't blind to the aforementioned plot holes or inconsistent characters, they are in fact disappointed by such occurrences, but they can still maintain LOVE for the overall series.
For example, I LOVE HARRY POTTER, but I did not love HARRY POTTER AND THE ORDER OF THE PHOENIX, b/c I felt Rowling encapsulated all the teenangsty emotions of adolescence a little bit too thoroughly.
It was, in a word, exhausting.
PLOT TWIST: I think both types of fans are equally likely to have issues with this latest addition to their Harry Potter library.
The trouble with ending a series is that if it's done well, you have all the answers to all of your questions, and a vague enough HEA-type scenario that your well-loved cast of characters is assured whatever it is that they deserve.
Heroines and Heroes live happily ever after, Villains and Minions are thwarted and punished, and while you aren't foolish enough to think everyone's adventures are over, Good continuing to triumph over Evil is reasonably guaranteed.
Once you've finished something, the only way to reopen it is too create new conflict--without conflict there's no story.
Suddenly the nebulous "HEA" isn't so nebulous, and that new clarity jeopardizes everything you've happily assumed about what comes next.
Harry, Ginny, Hermione, and Ron, previously cardboard cutouts of adult wizards, become real parents with real children, and those children must grow up, making mistakes while they do it, and, worse, they must go through puberty and all the angst that entails.
That's not happily ever after . . . That's REAL LIFE.
Then Real Life takes your daydream of a-son-of-Harry-Potter being sorted into Slytherin and reinventing the house's image with the kind of unaffected rebelliousness you associated with a teenaged Sirius Black, and crushes it under its heel, forcing you to realize that wizards . . . are kind of assholes.
So now, adding insult to injury, the image of the utopian magical society that sprang fully formed from Voldemort's ashes is forever ruined.
A Blind Zealot might find ignorance preferable to that turn of events.
But those aren't my issues. My issues are thus:
1. I HATE TIME TRAVEL.
I've said it before, and I'll say it again: I'm an escapist reader. I need to be consumed by a book to fully enjoy it, and that means I NEED to be able to believe what I'm reading is the truth.
Time travel destroys the possibility of believing anything, b/c it's ALL subject to change.
Why mourn a character's death if it will more than likely be nullified in the next chapter or two? Why dredge up any outrage on a character's behalf when the object of her torment will be thwarted during the second take?
For me, it's not an issue of, "why would I?" It's an issue of, "I can't." And if I can't feel anything in response to your characters or your story, why would I read your book?
2. Resurrecting Voldemort-as-villain is lazy. And infuriating.
We survived three of Voldemort's failed attempts at rebirth, we survived one success, and we survived a three book revelation that essentially said we had to kill him SEVEN TIMES for his death to actually stick.
After all of that, how could anyone think it would be a Good Idea to bring him back AGAIN?
Admittedly, it wasn't quite that simple, but . . . it was also exactly that simple. Everything and everyone else connected to ye olde grande scheme was superfluous, merely the means of achieving a so-very-tired end.
As for the aforementioned superfluous detail: (view spoiler)[I recognize the futility of relying on Bellatrix LeStrange's marital status as an argument against her conceiving Voldemort's child. That crazy bitch was probably so euphoric at the idea of giving birth to her Master's spawn that she felt no pain during the actual delivery.
No matter how much he wished it, Voldemort wasn't actually a god, so divine conception was an impossibility . . . Which means . . . He would have had to . . . Physically . . . Have . . . Sex . . . In order to produce offspring.
I don't think Bellatrix would've objected to the necessity--we've already established that she's a CRAZY BITCH.
BUT . . . I'm not convinced he was physically able:
A. At the alleged time of procreation, he was more snake than man.
B. Snakes don't have noses, neither did Voldemort.
C. Snakes don't have . . . do-NOT-make-me-say-it-you-know-where-this-is-going.
At first I debated whether or not it was fair to fault a staged production for being overly dramatic, but I hate unnecessary drama on the screen as much as I hate it on paper, so, YES, it most definitely is fair.
A. Stop crying, dammit. Especially you, Harry. *rolls eyes*
B. Ginny's instant escalation from concerned-but-understanding wife into finger-pointing harridan. If you've read it, you know to what I'm referring.
C. Harry's impersonation of a father-as-dictator (view spoiler)[that I initially attributed to the first timeturning, but as he had his come-to-Jesus before the timeline was altered again, I'm forced to conclude was simply his epically poor parenting skills. (hide spoiler)]
4. Contradictions, including, but not limited to:
In Act 2, when Harry uses his conversation with Dumbledore-as-portrait as reasoning for his ludicrous request, Headmistress McGonagoll admonishes him for treating a "memoir" like the actual person:
HARRY: And Dumbledore—Dumbledore said— PROFESSOR McGONAGALL: What? HARRY: His portrait. We spoke. He said some things which made sense— PROFESSOR McGONAGALL: Dumbledore is dead, Harry. And I’ve told you before, portraits don’t represent even half of their subjects.
BUT, in Act 4, this:
DUMBLEDORE (openly weeping now): I was blind. That is what love does. I couldn’t see that you needed to hear that this closed-up, tricky, dangerous old man . . . loved you.
A pause. The two men are overcome with emotion.
Either they're two men or they're one man and a flawed copy. Pick one and stick with it, please.
5. Plot holes.
A. If Dolores Umbrage warded her Hogwarts office against unauthorized entry, do you really expect me to believe that (view spoiler)[Hermione wouldn't similarly ward the office of the MINISTER OF MAGIC? (hide spoiler)]
B. How many times have we heard some variation of, "Am I the only person who's read Hogwarts, a History?"
And how many of those times were specifically in reference to wards that prevented witches and wizards from magicking themselves onto Hogwarts' property?
Yet suddenly and inexplicably, anyone can use the floo network to travel to any number of chimneys on the grounds.
C. There was also some nonsense about Albus and Scorpius not needing to worry about a certain de-wanded Hogwarts student being harmed b/c "the professors would never allow serious injury to occur," which is, simply put . . . laughable.
That's not to say HARRY POTTER AND THE CURSED CHILD was horrible and I hated it. It wasn't and I didn't. I even loved parts of it, Scorpius in particular. BUT. Even taking into consideration that it was a script, not a novel, it wasn't the same level of quality we've come to expect from Rowling (who, no, may not have written the thing in its entirety, but who, YES, did collaborate on and ultimately give her seal of approval for), and that is disappointing.
I'm not going to bother recommending or not recommending this one--you'll either read it or you won't, and at this stage of series worship or indifference, your decision will have little to do with what I have to say about it. SO. Go forth and do what you were always going to do.
Anytime a book is surrounded in as much hype as CARAVAL, I try to go into reading it with lowered expectations.
Said hype seldom stops me from actually reading it. Not b/c I'm a lemming, but b/c curiosity. *shakes fist at curiosity gods* That being said, beyond the pretty, pretty cover and the quote, "It's only a game," I had no prior knowledge of the contents when I first cracked its spine.
The concept is intriguing: two sisters, raised by an abusive father, run away to play a game whose winner will be granted a single wish. That's oversimplification, but I don't want to spoil you, so that's all you get. *orbit gum smile*
The problem is the execution.
A lot of new authors make the mistake of browbeating their readers with key details:
1. Ever since their mother abandoned them, Scarlett has felt responsible for the well-being of her younger sister Tella.
2. Above all things, Scarlett desires escape from her father. But only if the escape provides safety and security.
3. Tella is reckless.
But instead of these ideas being vocalized once, then reinforced by demonstrations, we're simply told (over and over again) by an increasingly fretful and exasperating Scarlett. And once Scarlett gets to her destination, it only gets worse, b/c we know the things she repeatedly tells us are untrue.
Little to no world-building.
The only things we know about Scarlett's world are:
1. It has magic and that magic is a tricksy fae sort of magic.
2. The part of the world that Scarlett and her family live in is conquered (by we-don't-know-who) and travel is restricted. But this information feels more like a plot device to explain Scarlett's inability to travel freely than actual world-building.
Ringmaster's island is more developed, but it felt like a Stardust/Diagon Alley/Disney mashup, so MEH.
Then there's other weird stuff like how Scarlett assigns colors to emotions, an obvious sign of her own magical ability, which is never addressed. We just get a lot of very specific shades that mean very specific things (sometimes nonsensically), except for when the colors don't mean anything at all . . . But are still very specific, which is confusing and a little bit weird.
Cerulean blue . . . Apricot orange . . . Saffron yellow . . . Primrose pink. OR if you're familiar with my peeves, blue blue, orange orange, yellow yellow, and pink pink. *flares nostrils*
By the end, I had either grown immune to Scarlett's fretting or she'd calmed down--I can't be sure which--and I wasn't quite as annoyed by her as I'd been for the first three-quarters of the book, which allowed me to appreciate the ingenuity of the tale.
Although I don't think CARAVAL by Stephanie Garber comes close to living up to the hype, I don't regret reading it, and I'll probably read the next book. Garber is clearly capable of dreaming up not-your-ordinary-story, she just needs a bit of polish. Recommended. Ish.
I vaguely recall seeing FALSE HEARTS around when it came out last year, but I wrote it off b/c conjoined twins--justReviewed by: Rabid Reads
I vaguely recall seeing FALSE HEARTS around when it came out last year, but I wrote it off b/c conjoined twins--just one of those things I have no patience for. If I hadn't read and enjoyed Shattered Minds, I doubt I'd have ever picked this one up.
But I did, so here we are.
And I have to be honest . . . Conjoined twins are only the beginning of the ostentatiously far-fetched scenarios in this book.
Teama and Tila grew up in faux-Luddite cult. That's why they remained attached and sharing a single heart between them until they were sixteen and that heart began to quit. There are numerous references to their shuffling gait and they have a crush on a boy similarly impaired and it's all very . . . cutesy in an extremely uncomfortable way.
Then there are the bizarre circumstances surrounding the isolation of their home. The government created a swamp b/c a journalist broke into the compound once upon a time? (view spoiler)[Even knowing the real situation about the "journalist" and the product they were exporting doesn't help sell that story (b/c one of many suppliers and a minor one at that). (hide spoiler)]
Why would a government do that? To placate a cult b/c infiltrated by the media?
It makes no sense.
But it flows well. Beyond the obvious, it didn't register how willfully I was suspending disbelief until after the fact.
So there's that.
But ridiculous plot devices were only one of my issues--maybe it was my inability to fully immerse myself in the story, but I didn't connect to the characters either. It was also fairly predictable, which is baffling considering my first complaint.
I finished it feeling skeptical and disappointed. This is one of those rare occasions where the second book is better than the first.
Verdict: not recommended unless you like carnivals with bearded ladies and the like, in which case, go for it. *does not judge*
Contrary to my assumption, HUNTER by Mercedes Lackey was not a YA fantasy. If I'd bothered to read the blurb, I would've knownReviewed by: Rabid Reads
Contrary to my assumption, HUNTER by Mercedes Lackey was not a YA fantasy. If I'd bothered to read the blurb, I would've known that, but what can I say? Old habits die hard.
What it is is a paranormal/mythological/post-apocalyptic/dystopian mashup.
Sounds cool, right? And a lot of readers, particularly those still in their teens, will probably really like it.
Me? No such luck.
For starters, I'm not a big fan of the shy, reluctant heroine type. It always rings false to me. Little mouse girls who aren't comfortable with themselves or their abilities don't get books written about them, b/c they don't do anything worth writing about.
Timidity and diffidence do not breed heroic acts.
So when I'm confronted with a heroine who is all of those things, it feels contrived. If that had been my only issue with Joy, I might have gotten over it.
Everybody with even a tiny little bit of magic gets taught at the Monastery; there aren’t many who have as much as me . . .
Yes, she's SUPER special. But she's too busy being admirably self-sufficient to care about that:
“Popular?” I repeated. “What’s popular got to do with anything?” “People love watching him Hunt,” said the steward, sounding puzzled. “Don’t you—oh. I guess you don’t watch much vid out there—” “We’re kind of busy,” I pointed out dryly. “We have to hunt and grow our food for ourselves. And make our own clothing from wool, hemp, linen, and ramie. And cut the wood to heat our houses. And—”
*pats on back* *congratulates* *offers to set off fireworks, but is declined b/c wasteful*
Her SUPER specialness extends to her dogs, too:
Not all Hounds can, but mine do.
And with all this awesomeness floating around, of course it can't help but positively impact others around her:
Mark laughed at that. Funny thing, he was laughing a lot more since he and I had partnered up.
Her Country Mouse looking down her long nose at City Mouse, b/c "I'm wearing my drab hunting garb, b/c on the (perfect) Mountain we don't have exotic *ahem* unnatural dyes, and, my, I bet those heeled shoes must make your back hurt, but they certainly are pretty," attitude felt incongruent with her, "I just want to live a quiet life helping others as best I can, but thanklessly and out of public view, thankyouverymuch," game face.
This problem was compounded by the heroine's occasional direct comments to the reader . . . The phrase "two-faced" springs to mind. Especially when such an allegedly altruistic person thinks to herself:
Suddenly my palms were damp and I was more nervous than I’d been facing down that Mage. After all, all he could do was kill me horribly. These people... they could make me look stupid.
It's good to have priorities.
Then there's this:
I wanted to scream, but I held it in. Hunters don’t scream. Not when we’re startled, not when we’re terrified, not when we’re hurt. Not when we’re dying.
Got it. No screaming. Ever.
But this is fine:
I sighed and finished my cup of yummy goodness, and wished I could Summon Bya back through again to cuddle up with.
Yeah, all the badasses drink hot chocolate and call it "yummy goodness."
The warm drink had finally made me sleepy, and it wasn’t private enough here for me to curl up and have a good cry about being sent away from everyone I knew.
And nothing wrong with wanting to cuddle up with your dog for "a good cry."
TOTALLY different from screaming.
Beyond my intense dislike of the heroine, the world-building was shoddy--it felt like a poor imitation of Panem.
I had similar issues with the plot: Joy leaves her mountain home where the people had REAL problems for the superficial and frivolous Capital at the behest of the corrupt government.
There are also the beginnings of a love triangle, but Boy #2 has a girlfriend, so maybe I'm mistaken . . . *snickers*
The writing was almost as bad as Joy (which probably had a lot to do with my dislike of her). When she wasn't finding ways to unobtrusively point out her SUPER specialness or stereotyping/contradicting her position in society, she was peating and repeating previously addressed information or stating the obvious.
*adopts lecturing tone*
When facing an opponent out-of-control with RAGE, you can use that RAGE against them. Like a weapon in your hand made of their RAGE. To turn their RAGE against them. Like a weapon.
A smaller person can use her larger opponent's size and momentum against them. It's all about leverage. So just b/c someone is bigger than you, doesn't mean you can't beat them. You just have to know how. Using energy. And leverage.
Othersiders don't like the cold. That's why everyone back home on Mountain is safe. B/c Mountain is cold, snow on its peak all year, so the Othersiders can't attack them b/c it's cold.
Speaking of Mountain, Joy really wishes she was at home. She can’t go back, b/c running away would draw attention to Mountain which would be bad b/c SECRETS, but she really, really wants to go home. If there was any way for her to return to Mountain, with her tiny room that is plenty big enough for her, she would totally do it.
*bangs head against wall* *repeatedly*
And once again, I'm nearing my self-imposed word limit. I had half a dozen other issues as well, but almost all of them can be attributed to Heroine's constant nattering and sanctimonious inner monologue. On the rare occasion she was actually doing something, HUNTER by Mercedes Lackey was fairly entertaining, but considering that accounts for maybe 20% of the book . . . Not recommended.
This one . . . I had issues. LOTS of issues. Like a MULTITUDE of unanswered questions. Like the chaotic mess of the last 20%, followed bySooooo . . .
This one . . . I had issues. LOTS of issues. Like a MULTITUDE of unanswered questions. Like the chaotic mess of the last 20%, followed by the way too easy (inevitable) demise of Bad Guy(s)--seriously, during one of them, Sanderson actually said, "just like that."
JUST LIKE THAT.
Do you guys want to hear that a HEP big Bad Guy was thwarted/overthrown/vanquished/etc. "just like that"?
My mother and I were at constant loggerheads when I was growing up, and the reason for that was simple: she hated being questiReviewed by: Rabid Reads
My mother and I were at constant loggerheads when I was growing up, and the reason for that was simple: she hated being questioned as much as I hated being expected to blindly follow orders.
It was a problem.
Stubbornly, she'd rail at me, demanding I do things "b/c I said so" (<------not a reason), and equally stubbornly, I'd demand to know why . . . and despite her having all the power, and my stubbornness resulting in constant groundings, I never stopped demanding to know why I should or shouldn't do a thing.
Am I comparing my mother to the particularly nasty breed of mercenary that Quin (our MC)'s father Briac is?
No . . . well, maybe a little bit . . .
I'm kidding! *whispers* Kind of . . .
But I am explaining why I have a hard time being sympathetic to Quin and Shinobu (her cousin . . . sort of . . . )'s situation.
As hard as I tried to walk in their shoes, being "raised to obey Briac's word as law," was never going to be a circumstance I could empathize with.
Add to that the willful memory loss of one, and the rampant drug use/general recklessness of the other as coping mechanisms, and . . . yeah . . . REALLY not feeling these characters.
But there's a reason for that: the more a work of fiction resembles reality, the less I am likely to enjoy it.
I know that about myself. It's not a good thing or a bad thing, it's just a thing. So if you like grittier plot lines where the characters behave disreputably, either b/c they are in fact disreputable and embrace it, or b/c they are weak, and deal with their guilt in realistic, vice-filled ways, then you might really like this book.
I didn't have the same problems with Seeker that a lot of other readers had. As brief as the synopsis is, I actually read it (for once), and I thought it explained the situation fairly well. Quin has been trained all her short life to be a Seeker. She's been told countless stories detailing the noble exploits of past Seekers. But when she actually becomes a Seeker herself, she discovers that she has been misled (<------gross understatement).
What exactly is a Seeker?
Well, I'll grant you that it was never said outright, but it was pretty obvious to me that a Seeker was a member of an organization of highly trained warriors whose purpose was to objectively right wrongs (whatever that means).
Over time, that organization has become corrupt, and they are now nothing more than an unscrupulous band of assassins. This transpired without intervention from the leadership, b/c, as is often the case with supremely long-lived beings, the person in charge is almost completely removed from the world, trusting his younger (though still very, very old) mentees to alert him to anything warranting his attention. BUT the elder of the two mentees is clearly corrupt himself.
Another complaint I've seen a lot is poor world-building, and it was definitely not a strength. However, as the world pretty clearly resembles our own, I didn't find the lack of explanation too upsetting. I just assumed it was 100(ish) years in the future. The end. *shrugs*
Doesn't sound so bad, does it?
And yet . . .
Seeker is pitched as a book that defies genres. And that's true. But unlike other genre-defying books, for example, Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor, the various genres didn't really mesh together well. DoS&B is part urban fantasy, part fantasy, and it works b/c it takes place in two separate worlds. In comparison, Seeker tries to be both science fiction and fantasy in the same world . . . and it's a house divided against itself.
The problem with trying to write a traditional "high" fantasy-type book, but having it take place in the modern (or slightly in the future) world is that who cares about a magic ATH-uh-may that cuts through space (like a . . . knife *rolls eyes*) when you could just take an airplane like a normal assassin? I mean, there are "air cars" that presumably fly, and I'm pretty sure they still have normal airplanes in addition to the weird airship thing that one of the characters lives on (and if they don't, that's stupid). And yeah, a magical cuts-through-space-like-a-Stargate-wormhole-knife is slightly more convenient . . . but only slightly. *shrugs*
Modernity kind of steals fantasy's thunder . . .
And then there's John. John is also an MC, but he's a bit separate from Quin and Shinobu, b/c his main goal is vengeance. So focused is he on restoring his family to its former glory, and avenging his ancestors, including, but not limited to his mother (whom he watched die at the hands of a rival Seeker when he was child) that he justifies the basest of tactics to achieve his goal.
So the best bet of a sympathetic character becomes as disgusting and pathetic as all the others.
Overall, I had too many objections to enjoy Seeker. The writing was mediocre at best, the mashup of genres made the individual elements less compelling, and the MCs behaved abominably, either b/c they didn't have the strength of character to disobey a clearly treacherous leader, or b/c they're so fixated on retribution that they willfully become that which they hate. Not recommended.
This is the second time I've tried to finish this book. The first was several weeks ago, and I made it to 12% before needing a break. The time I madeThis is the second time I've tried to finish this book. The first was several weeks ago, and I made it to 12% before needing a break. The time I made it to 28% and. I. Am. Done.
There is no world-building.
The book begins with Deanna's family getting ready to go to the funeral of an old family friend. A family friend who sounds a lot like any number of men you'd find on the Forbes' Richest People in America list. A family friend whose dead son was Deanna's best childhood friend (except he came across as more of an over-eager puppy who was indulged). A family friend who enslaved his wife.
Enslaved his wife? What do you mean?!
Well, apparently, roughly 3% of the world's population are really swans, and if you steal their feathers, you can control them.
But where did these swans come from?
That's an excellent question. It's also a question I have no answer to.
Deanna and family are at the funeral when a girl shows up in a trench coat, takes advantage of the paparazzi to soapbox, and then further demonstrates her flare for the dramatic by flinging open her coat, baring her feathers (and breasts) to the world.
That is all the introduction to the existence of swans that you get.
But wait--it gets worse . . .
Deanna is wandering around the graveyard on the way to the reception when she sees a lone boy (about her age--she can tell this at quite a distance from the view of his back) standing in front of Enslaving Family Friend's tombstone. Curious, she wanders closer, only to discover *gasps again* it's Hyde!
Hyde her not-so-dead-after-all childhood best friend.
And not just any old Hyde. A new and improved Hyde. A Hyde who is mischievously good-looking. A Hyde who dresses like a hipster (b/c all the girls LOVE hipsters). A Hyde who, despite his obvious confidence (from the whole minute and a half of their interaction), is clearly nervous about her reaction to him.
Oh, for the love of god.
This is especially annoying, b/c if you read the blurb, you know that this book is described as, "a dark debut reminiscent of Gabriel García Márquez's A Very Old Man With Enormous Wings, and the twisted truth behind the fairy tale of Cinderella."
And it is dark in places, I'll give it that. But Gabriel García Márquez dark? Not hardly. Neither did it have anything to do with, "the twisted truth behind the fairy tale of Cinderella."
Ladies and gents, if you somehow don't already know, fairy tales are kind of my thing. I was raised on them. Spent my first paycheck when I was 16 y.o. on a massive collection of the original Grimm's Fairy Tales. The original German versions that I've been familiar with since I was 10.
Anyway, the point is that the dark and nasty part of the original Cinderella didn't really have anything to do with enslavement. Ashenputtl was overworked and under appreciated by her stepmother, who was definitely a hateful woman, but she wasn't an owned individual who could lawfully be executed should she displease her Mistress.
If there was anything particularly dark about the story, it would have had to do with the step-sisters cutting off large portions of their feet in an attempt to force a shoe to fit.
When a book is described as being part specific fairy tale, I expect it to share fantastical elements with the fairy tale it's being compared to. This does not. If you're going to use "slavery" as a generic umbrella term, It would be more honest to compare it to Uncle Tom's Cabin, but that probably wouldn't sell as many books to the target demographic, so somebody decided to be disingenuous instead.
Then again, I quit at 28%. Who knows? Maybe a fairy godmother shows up further down the road.
First of all, when I requested this book, I didn't realize that it was published by Thomas Nelson, which is a Christian imprinReviewed by: Rabid Reads
First of all, when I requested this book, I didn't realize that it was published by Thomas Nelson, which is a Christian imprint of HarperCollins. If I had known, I probably wouldn't have requested the book, b/c I don't like being preached at when I'm reading recreationally, BUT . . . I am happy to report that it wasn't an issue. SO if you thought you might like this book, but held off, b/c, unlike me, you were in the know about Thomas Nelson, worry not.
If you have an issue with the book, I seriously doubt that will be it.
I'm quite vocal about choosing YA that doesn't feel like YA. YA in which the characters come across as older, wiser, more experienced than their numerical ages. I can't actually recall being told Nym's age, but whatever it is . . . it's YA.
Nym is an orphan and a slave. She is also an Elemental. In her world, Elementals are killed at birth, except, also in her world, Elementals are universally male. We are never told how Nym manages to be both female and an Elemental, two things that we are assured are mutually exclusive. In fact, it's not even really addressed at all, except to add to her super special snowflakeness by pointing out the impossibility of her existence.
But Elementals, male or female, are not the only creatures of magic in Nym's world.
There are five (I think) nations, all with their own specific type of magic user. We are not given a reason for the existence of magical creatures, and it is not explained why the type of magic depends on geography.
It just does.
The world-building left a lot to be desired.
Also . . . I'm too bloodthirsty for this book. My favorite characters are assassins and thieves and mercenaries. I don't want them to be killers without conscience, but if someone needs killing, then by golly, they had better be up to the task.
But Nym doesn't want to kill anyone. EVER. Her country has an enemy that far outclasses it in weapons, has airships, is bombing and destroying whole villages--men, women, children, the elderly, the sick, it doesn't matter, they are all being killed indiscriminately, but that's not Nym's problem. She's the one who has to be able to look at herself in the mirror, and she will not be turned into a weapon. *sniffs*
How she can look at herself, knowing she could have prevented all of that indiscriminate death if she'd put on her big girl panties and killed them first, doesn't come up, apparently. Or if it does, she acts her age, digs her heels in, and refuses to hear that which she does not want to acknowledge. Tra-la-la.
So is Adora, the crazy noblewoman who purchases Nym from the slave market.
Adora, we are told, is the most powerful person in the kingdom. After the king, of course. She's so ridiculous, she's a caricature of a villain. She dresses in ghastly and extravagant (animal-themed) costumes. She may or may not literally keep a harem of strapping young men, but of course, she wants, more than anything else, the young man whom she cannot compel to sleep with her, and is very seriously rumored to have killed a kitchen girl (or two), simply for looking at said young man.
She's the biggest property owner in the kingdom, and she sits at the king's right hand on his "Counsel" (whatever that means<------AGAIN, we are not told), and is his most trusted adviser on the war effort . . .
A position . . . we can only infer, she inherited . . . b/c we, for once, are told that her father had held the same position, as had his father before him . . .
Well, sure, why not? If the monarchy is hereditary, I supposed the positions of those who advise in a strategic capacity can be as well. Just train them up the same way you would a prince or princess. B/c that always works so well . . .
There were also numerous little inconsistencies like man-eating horses that didn't turn on their exhausted riders.
I suspect that were I ten years younger, a lot of these things wouldn't bother me. Or at least they wouldn't bother me quite as much. However, I am not ten years younger, and I am much too cynical to embrace Nym's kill-them-with-kindness approach to warfare. This wasn't a bad book, it just wasn't a good book for me. And despite my numerous issues, there were still parts that I enjoyed. If you're an optimist who longs for a heroine who doesn't resort to violence to make a difference, then STORM SIREN could very well be the best book you'll read all year. You know your preferences better than I ever could....more
When I was in college, I CLEP-ed out of Survey of American Literature. I did this b/c I HATE American Lit. I hate Henry James,Reviewed by: Rabid Reads
When I was in college, I CLEP-ed out of Survey of American Literature. I did this b/c I HATE American Lit. I hate Henry James, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Meville, Hemingway, Faulkner, I hate them ALL.
There is one exception . . .
Edgar Allen Poe.
As much as I hate the others, I love Poe.
I love Poe so much that for the first time ever, I felt like I had a legitimate reason for picking one football team over the other in the Superbowl a couple of years ago . . . the Baltimore RAVENS (b/c Poe lived in Baltimore).
It's as good a reason as any, right?
While Poe's THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER isn't my favorite of his short stories, I'm familiar with it, and I appreciate it. And more importantly it's the kind of horror I can get down with, the more cerebral kind of horror. It's written from the POV of Roderick Usher's boyhood friend, who has come to visit at Usher's request. The setting is exceedingly ominous, and someone is inevitably buried alive.
So when I saw THE FALL by Bethany Griffin, it was a no-brainer. How cool would it be to use Poe's original story as the foundation of an entire novel, told from to POV of Roderick's sister? SO cool.
SO cool, in theory, anyway.
I rarely read horror (b/c chicken). That being said, when I do read horror, especially when it's October, Autumn (my favorite season) is creeping in, and Halloween is looming in the distance, I want to be, at the very least, seriously creeped out.
The creepiest part of this book was the expectation of a taboo brother/sister relationship, which is, yes, seriously creepy, but it was not the kind of creepy I was looking for.
I wanted sinister, I wanted malevolent, I wanted foreboding . . . and I didn't get it.
Maybe that's on me, maybe it isn't. I don't know.
But that wasn't the only problem.
Roderick and Madeleine Usher are twins. They are the only children in their household, so it's no surprise that they are very close. Even as children, there were hints of something more between them (ICK), but they're separated when, in their mother's attempt to stave off the family illness from her favored offspring, Roderick is sent away to school, leaving Madeleine alone.
Alone except for the house that has chosen her as its heir.
Okay, so that's sufficiently creepy.
But while the idea itself had a definite creep factor, the overall feel of the book, the setting, many of the evidences of the sentience of the house . . . did not. Which is surprising, b/c given the scenario, it should have been like shooting fish in a barrel.
And that's not the worst of it.
When Roderick goes away to school, Madeleine decides to start a garden. We're told that both the house and the surrounding area are cursed, and specifically that the curse causes every growing thing on the grounds to become diseased and/or rot, yet Madeleine is inexplicably able to grow healthy ivy. AND not just any ivy, ivy that can ultimately counter the evil of the house.
And sure, I suppose that in a world where a house and family can become cursed, there can be other types of magic as well, be where this alien ivy magic comes from is never revealed.
There is also no explanation for the survival and reappearance of a certain proper noun (sorry, can't tell), presumed dead, after sacrificing itself to save Madeleine from the friendly neighborhood KRAKEN (or monster octopus/squid/whatever--it's unclear, so I went with KRAKEN) that lives in the noxious waters of the House's tarn (a small mountain lake).
Then there was the open ending. *sighs*
But despite all those things, it wasn't all bad. Dr. Winston was a superbly diabolical character, and many of the other characters and situations that were merely hinted at in the original were fleshed-out beautifully in THE FALL. I'd recommend this anyone who thinks they might like horror-lite, or who doesn't get hung up on things like understanding why and/or how the villain is defeated....more