Written in Red: Anne Bishop (The Others, Book 1)

Written in Red Anne Bishop coverHaving thoroughly enjoyed Ms. Bishop’s Black Jewels series, I admit that I had very, very high expectations for this novel. However, where Black Jewels was often crass and indelicate–particularly in terms of sex/uality–The Others has none of that, although as of yet the sex has been glossed over when it’s appeared. I suspect that the glossing is more because it’s irrelevant than because she’s not intending to highlight it ever; it wouldn’t be the author’s style. Written in Red so exceeded my expectations that I have shirked my duties the past two days just to read it. Now that I’ve finished it, I’m slightly perturbed that I didn’t buy the second book at the same time.

Written in Red is the first book in what looks to be perhaps the most interesting fantasy series I have ever read–even more interesting than Bishop’s Black Jewels series, a set of novels I devoured several years ago as a middle schooler, and have revisited tirelessly throughout the last 10 years since. First published last year, but released in paperback in March of this year, the obvious question that follows that claim is: What makes this book different?

As seen in three series prior to this from Bishop(by me, specifically), the author is far from averse to creating her own universes. Black Jewels, Ephemera and Tir Alainn are all series set in unique landscapes, designed to facilitate the types of events that play out within them. Unlike the three series listed above, The Others is a series that takes place in a world quite similar to our own, but with some very key differences.

Namely, humans are definitely not at the top of the food chain. Taking their place in Namid, the name for the world in which they live, are the terra indigene, or, the ‘Earth Natives’. Preceding the story is a brief history of the world, which explains that when humans tried to spread out onto new continents, the Others ate them. All of them. The third human to lead his people into the Others’s territory was smarter than his predecessors and brought trade items, which paved the way for human-terra indigene interaction over the course of the next several generations until hamlets became towns became cities, but were still under the thumb of creatures far from averse to eating them.

The novel follows a young woman (age 24) by the name of Meg Corbyn, who has escaped from somewhere and is seeking someplace to live freely. She finds herself in a Courtyard (areas fully controlled by Others in which human law does not apply) and applies for a position called “Liaison”–not even knowing what it meant. Simon Wolfgard (a Wolf, but for the first time in my fantasy career, never a werewolf) hires her instead of turning her away, even though her hair stinks (she dyed parts of it orange in an attempt to disguise herself) and it is apparent that she’s not quite telling him the whole truth. It turns out that the Liaison’s job is actually a mail collector/sorter/distributor, and must be human because of a slew of impertinent-here reasons.

As Meg acquaints herself with the position, she sets numerous terra indigene on edge, irritates many, confuses many others, and yet somehow befriends every single one of them. Meg’s life before running away was a caged one, in which she was considered property and designated CS759–cassandra-sangue 759: Meg was a blood prophet, whose skin was deliberately sliced open in order to obtain prophecies from her… for a price. A steep price, as it were, which is why her Controller is rather insistent upon her return.

The main plots in this novel–and there are definitely more than one–include the plot for requisition of Meg Corbyn, an aspiring actress’s attempt to gain forbidden information and ultimately steal a Wolf pup, and the sudden appearance of a terrifying new drug that cannot be explained by humans or terra indigene until the very end, when Simon Wolfgard figures it out–this is a note that becomes enormously important to the play-out of the sequel.

Through a dramatic series of frustrating events, told through a cycle of perspectives not limited to Meg and Simon, we get to know a relatively large cast of characters through not only their own consciousnesses, but also through the minds of those around them. While the novel is packed with drama and high tension, there is also a massive amount of humor–two things Bishop is very, very good at pairing and balancing. Because Meg manages to befriend nearly everybody–including those the Sanguinati (based on Vampires, but definitely more dangerous than that) and Wolves privately fear: the elementals (for lack of a better word)–her health and well-being are highly important to a number of persons, and when those two things are threatened, the human populations (especially her enemies) are essentially attacked via weather until the threat is, how shall I say, neutralized.

Written in Red begins to touch upon the core themes of the book series, which tend to revolve around a very Us versus Them dichotomy, where ‘Us’ consist of the Others, and ‘Them’ consists of the human populations trying to expand their territories and economic power. What happens, as with any sociopolitical/socioeconomic dispute, is that you find people caught in the balance who understand the need for groups to work together instead of against each other, and those people become “sympathizers” who are subsequently lumped in with “Us” by “Them”. Is this beginning to sound familiar? If you’re even remotely globally conscious, it should.

But tagging onto this theme is the notion of sympathy and loyalty. The Others are old, and have had control of their world, of protecting Namid for centuries. The humans want a mile if given an inch and are very bitter about being restricted. They need more to accomplish more: the constant struggle of humanity, no? Do you sympathize with the “monsters” who go so far as to eat wayward humans? Do you sympathize with humans because you are one? Do you sympathize with Others because they’re doing what they believe is right? Do you sympathize with humans for wanting to be more? It’s a really tough call, and Bishop’s use of constant narration switching between persons and sides makes it a very difficult question to answer. Frankly, I think moral questions rarely have a clear answer, and if they do you’re probably not thinking broadly enough (with  exceptions).

At no point in this book (or series, for that matter) does Bishop ever begin to explicitly philosophize or wax poetic about this issue either externally or through the mind of the current narrator–at least not obtrusively. The struggles are there, and apparent, if you are open to them, but they are not force fed to you through exposition. For this, I was enormously grateful as a reader. This is a very overt example of the effectiveness of scene over exposition (although I am definitely not opposed to expository writing, even in novels), and absolutely deserves the attention of any die-hard fantasy reader.

Even if, or especially if, you have read Bishop’s other material and not found it particularly to your writing, The Others is a refreshing breath of fresh air (was that redundant? Yes. Probably. This is why she’s a well-known published author and I’m still just a blogger) for anyone who likes fantasy with integrity.

Bishop’s novel has received five brilliantly shiny gold stars from this lit critic and novel enthusiast. As an enthusiast, my opinion may be a bit biased–especially considering how fond I am of the author–but nobody’s complained about my interpretation yet, so I guess I can’t be that opaquely slanted. Or maybe I am, and that’s not a bad thing yet.

With that, I have nothing more to add.

Happy reading

–Emily Renae

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Rot & Ruin: Jonathan Maberry (Book 1)

Rot & Ruin is the first book in a series of 3 (maybe 4?) books set post-zombie apocalypse.

The novel(s) follow(s) Benny Imura, younger brother of ‘zombie slayer’ Tom Imura, who is in desperate need of an occupation to which he can actually commit.

He ends up apprenticing with his older brother, but he has a lot to learn over the course of the novel. Fortunately for us, he does seem to figure out how to grow the fuck up. I mean, he’s only 14 (I believe) so it’s not like it’s that unreasonable that he’d be immature, but nonetheless.

 

Quite frankly, although there are a lot of things that I could say about this book, there’s really only one that I particularly want to–the reason that I’m reviewing the novel at all:

 

I thoroughly appreciate the way that Maberry has worked his zombies and such. It is a disease, but they don’t know what it is or what caused it, but literally anybody who dies at this point will reawaken a zombie unless ‘silenced’, which is a practice of taking a metal pin thing and shoving it into the spinal column in the back of the neck to sever the nerves, etc. Also, they kind of just stand in place without anything to stimulate their senses. They have to hear noise or see movement in order to “animate.” Going out into the wilderness is still dangerous, of course, but that at least makes it a little easier.

However. My main criticism of this novel is simply that it’s aimed at such a young audience. This book is aimed at males ages 10-15 approx. Obviously I’m a 21 year old female and therefore not the intended audience, but that isn’t the point. Maberry’s prose is so hollow; there’s so much that he could be doing with this series, so many things that could be really delved into deeply, but aren’t because of the intended audience. Don’t get me wrong, it’s done very well as is, but I just really feel like it could be so much better if it was aimed at an older audience.

Okay, don’t get me wrong: tween boys need decent literature to read as well. I don’t mean to say that this series shouldn’t be for the designated audience. I’m just trying to say that it could be so much more if it were revised for an older audience.  If it were revisited and republished for an older audience, fleshed out and delved into like I know it could be, I think it would be one helluva series. I mean, maybe that’s just me. And it seems kind of silly to “adultify” (which isn’t a word, but just go with it) a kids book, but in this instance, I think it could be worth it. Maybe that’s me. But that’s why you’re here, right? To hear my opinion? Now you’ve heard it.

So. By all means go read it, but buyer beware: Unless you tend to rather enjoy tween lit, you’ll feel a little disenchanted.

 

Unrelated: I got my boyfriend to read this and the sequel, Dust & Decay, because he’d been complaining about not really reading anymore and I wanted to fix that. He read each of them in about a day and a half I think, and he just bought the third book at Barnes & Noble in Minot on our way back home from my parents’. He, like me, hates to leave things unfinished. Plus, the second one ends on one helluva cliffhanger. The fourth one is now published, but still in hardcover and almost $20. And we’re broke. So there’s that.

 

 

Until next time,

–Emily

Losing It: Cora Carmack (Book 3)

MAJOR SPOILER ALERT. DO NOT READ IF YOU ARE GOING TO GET SERIOUSLY MAD AT ME BECAUSE YOU HAVE THUS BEEN WARNED.

 

Finding It is the third book in Cora Carmack’s “Losing It” series. Each of the three books, Losing It, Faking It, and Finding It follow a different protagonist, but all of them tie together via a character named Bliss, and this is, so far, the only connection I’ve found between them. (I haven’t read the first one, but I do believe that it’s Bliss’s story.)

 

Finding It follows Kelsey, who is backpacking around Europe to acquire a story, or a collection of them, which would make the rest of her boring, uncomfortable life–to which she has resigned herself–worthwhile for the sake of having said story(ies). The problem is that, regardless of where she goes, she does the exact same things: Gets appallingly drunk and has meaningless sex with men she deems attractive enough to get her lady parts excited.

And then along comes Hunt, and he rocks her world so hard that she can’t get it back on straight, as if it were to begin with. Suddenly, the two of them are off on an adventure so real–and so sexually frustrating–that Kelsey is finally forced to face the demons of her past. The problem is that she doesn’t want to because, gee imagine: it’s painful. She’s spent her entire life running from her pain and telling herself she was being overly dramatic and it didn’t matter–because they were the lies her parents fed her when she was vulnerable–and now that she’s faced with something real, something that matters, she is haunted by all of that which she has allowed to happen which didn’t [matter]. And it’s causing her panic attacks, some milder than others. But she keeps trying to be an alcoholic.

What you learn is that Hunt has his own ghosts, his own muddled past which he’s trying to keep hidden as well. But when these two get together, there’s nothing which can keep them apart, not even Hunt’s willpower. He wants Kelsey so badly he can’t handle it, but he waits, and waits, and waits, because he wants it to actually mean something.

 

The climax of the novel is the heart-wrenching discovery that Hunt was hired by Kelsey’s father to keep an eye on her in Europe and has been following her for the past couple of months. But when he saw her falling into his old patterns, he couldn’t help but step in and try to save her from a downfall infinitely worse than that which she was already burying.

Kelsey runs away, heartbroken and angry, and instead of going home, she sets up a new life in Spain and becomes a teacher (in English, of course) with a second job in order to pay her bills and survive efficiently. But soon, Hunt is leaving her letters, and when she ignores them, they start appearing everywhere until she finally gives in and reads them. All of them.

The novel is a very fast read; I started it before bed one night and finished it the following afternoon in approximately 5 hours or so total. Maybe. If that. It’s a light read, although much of the material is heavily laden with enough emotion to have sent me into a book hangover for several hours. Finding It is well-written and beautifully executed; the tension is real, as is the dialogue, and the places are described well enough that you feel as though you’re there. The characters in this book are disastrously paralleled to my own relationship, and perhaps that’s why it affected me so thoroughly, but I found it highly pragmatic and very moving.

 

I gave it 5 stars on Goodreads because I enjoyed the shit out of it. I thoroughly enjoyed Faking It as well; I just read it long enough ago that I’m not convinced I could give a sufficient review on it. (Apologies.)

 

 

Until next time,

–Emily

The Parasol Protectorate: Gail Carriger (Book 1)

CONTAINS SPOILERS. BE ON YOUR GUARD.

Soulless is the first novel in a series of 5 by Gail Carriger, a writer who is both hilarious and brilliant, and unquestionably has my loyalty after just this one novel.

I read it in the span of about a day and a half, just purely because I was so into it. And I was putting off my homework. As per usual. So sue me. (Don’t, please, I beg you.)

Although the common mythology is that vampires and werewolves lack souls because they’re “undead” if you will, Carriger has flipped this concept around, instead claiming that they have an excess of soul, which is what allows them to be supernatural in the first place. Alexia Tarabotti, our heroine, is what they refer to as a preternatural, or an otherwise normal human being who has been born without a soul. What this means is that she counteracts all supernatural-ness; coming into contact with a supe causes an immediate reversion to humanity for the werewolf/vampire/ghost in question, which is particularly interesting and, at times, sort of dangerous. This soullessness is, in fact, hereditary, and she got the trait from her Italian father, a heritage she and her family are most embarrassed about because they are, after all, British in the nineteenth century. (From my studies, I’ve gathered that this disdain of foreigners was a pretty solid thing for these people; whether or not it still holds is up in the air.)

Because supernaturals are “public,” if you will, there had to be some manipulation of history in order to account for it all. It’s actually quite genius, the way that things are perfectly accounted for and addressed. I wasn’t even expecting such interesting developments. Also, there is an overseeing organization called BUR–an acronym I’ve unfortunately forgotten at the moment, and my novel is across the room, and I’m naked and in bed, so I’m not getting it to tell you. Suck it–headed by one Lord Maccon, the 20-years new Alpha of the Woolsey pack.

Alexia is particularly bold and educated in the sciences, etc. Her father is dead and has been for quite awhile, and her mother remarried a proper Brit and had two more daughters–and I’ll be the first to tell you that Alexia’s entire immediate family is a group of bloody twits.

Anyway. The plot of this novel is that roves (independent vampires not connected to a Hive–as opposed to a coven) are going missing, and new, uneducated vampires are randomly showing up. Not only that, but Alexia’s being targeted and followed and such. Drama and hilarity ensue, and untoward romance sparks between Alexia–considered a spinster at age 26–and Lord Maccon, which is also bloody hilarious, I should mention.

The remainder of the plot and such is certainly worth discussion, but I’m not going to thrill you with it because it simply won’t do to elaborate on the entire plot, now, will it? What would be the point in ruining it? Regardless, it’s definitely worth a read.

I’ve begun reading the second book–because, true to my nature, I bought all 5 of them at the same time. Dangerous practice to get into, but usually worth it. At least for me. (= –aaaaand it’s just as brilliant as the first. And I’m not even a full chapter into it yet. lol. So worth it.

I’ll get back to you when I have more to offer. (=

Until next time,

–Emily

Cassandra Palmer: Karen Chance (Book 6 [and catch-up])

Tempt the Stars is the sixth installment in Karen Chance’s Cassie Palmer saga. Because it has been entirely too long since I read the first five, nor do I have past reviews available for reference, let me attempt to catch you up to speed on this:

 

Cassandra is an orphan who was raised by particularly unfriendly vampires. Tony, the head of the house, actually orchestrated the car crash which killed her parents, and has her father’s soul trapped in a paperweight which he keeps on his desk.

Fun fact: Cassie is a clairvoyant, which–for anybody who needs a freshening up on their terminology–means that she can see and interact with ghosts. But that isn’t all Cassie can do, as we are soon to discover.

Cassie runs away from Tony in her late teens and exists “on the run” for a few years before she goes back to Tony’s for a few more in a failed attempt at revenge. She lived with a null-witch–whose only real ability was to create a void of magic, etc., which basically allowed Cassie a safezone because all of Tony’s thugs’ searches and spells just zoomed right over and around the house as if it didn’t exist.

 

Now, do keep in mind that I’m recounting this years into reading this series with a ridiculous amount of literature having been read between each book and those and this one, so I’m probably going to either fuck up hardcore or leave things out–which is approximately the same thing as the former. So I’m doing my best here.

 

Anyway, so Cassie ends up involved with more vampires, but the game totally changes. She hooks up with Mircea, who is actually one of the most powerful Master vampires in the North American Senate, and Tony’s boss.

 

Moving forward, a prophesy ends up making Cassie an heir to the throne of Pythia, i.e. world’s chief clairvoyant and possessor of way more power than any one person ought to have. Thus she is now a serious target because there are an intolerable number of people who either want to recruit her or kill her, and she really doesn’t want to be either, nor does she dare use this new power she suddenly has but doesn’t know how to use.

Besides that, remember Mircea? Yeah. So apparently he put a geis on her, which is a super powerful spell which puts off any potential would-be suitor–i.e. a metaphysical claim. And Cassie’s just about had it with being ordered and jerked around. The majority of the third book actually revolves around her attempts to locate a book called the Codex Merlini, which contains the spell necessary to break the geis, but it also contains some other mega-powerful spells which would put the earth in Hardcore Danger.

Oh. Btw. There’s this super infuriating yet compelling (and strangely attractive, although not in anything resembling the traditional sense) war mage by the name of Pritkin comes into the mess, and he’s both guarding and training Cassie… or something like that. I mean, he is. But he also like, beats her ass into the ground “for her own good” (although it totally is) and has a habit of being an all-around obstinate ass.

 

For the record, Cassie does actually get elected Pythia–by the power of the title, not the people who seem to think they get to decide who gets the throne. The power picks the person it deems most worthy–although that in itself is a major shit show. She also has a show down with Apollo, the god in charge of her power who has apparently decided that she should die. She isn’t the one who bites the dust, btw.

Only then Moira, one of the initiates who was passed up for the throne–and was the favored one, which really causes her absolute hatred for Cassie, the scene stealer–decides to try to go back in time before Cassie was even born to kill her mother and completely change the timeline. Which, btw, is a really bad idea for more reasons than Cassie.

Cass kills her, too, although it’s no easy feat.

 

Oh. For the record? There’s a segment where Cassie and Pritkin end up switching bodies? And it’s actually kind of funny because she wakes up in his body with a raging boner. She also “manscapes” his body, hahaha. His displeasure was highly amusing.

 

So anyway. The last book ended at Cassie’s coronation, to which she wasn’t even invited because they hired a look-alike to take her place on account of all the death threats and shit that she’d been getting. Eeeexceept that Cassie had to get in because reasons, and she ends up, like, half dead and Pritkin–who, it turns out, is actually half-incubus (and the only one in history, which actually also makes him Merlin, fun fact)–has to save her by basically having sex with her, because it’s the only way he knows how to do a power transfer. Except that this means that Pritkin’s father shows up and takes the mage back to hell because apparently there was a deal between them.

At this point, Cassie is on the field in her birthday suit and Pritkin appears to blink out of existence, meanwhile Cassie has to kill a Spartoi–and I honestly do not remember enough to explain what the fuck that thing is except that it’s absurdly powerful and she killed it naked because she was pissed.

So now we’ve gotten to book 6! Yayyy!

Oi. I know.

 

Tempt the Stars is pretty much entirely focused on Cassie’s desperate attempt(s) to rescue Pritkin from his father in this particular hell. It’s not a “seven circles” situation as illustrated in Dante’s inferno. The real explanation is far too lengthy and complicated for this blog, plus it’s more interesting to read in Chance’s words, if I haven’t already completely eradicated any reason for you to actually go read this series from all the stupid spoilers. (Sorry.) But there is a lot I haven’t covered! In my defense. Which is weak, I know.

Cassie goes back in time to ask Laura, her childhood ghosty friend from Tony’s, where her parents are, and employs the aid of the ghost she can’t get rid of. She then shifts back in time to about a week and a half or two weeks previous, before Pritkin was gone, and takes him further back in time to when her parents were alive and living in Tony’s guest cottage when she was an infant. That, by the way, is a complete shit show. But her mom does actually give her the information that she needs in order to retrieve Pritkin.

Long story short, Cassie gets help from one willing and one unwilling person(s) and the group make the trip to Rosier’s (Pritkin’s father) court, where chaos ensues, but they manage to acquire Pritkin. But they don’t save him, because Cassie inadvertently ends up linking them back to Earth instead of the Shadowlands, and the demon counsel’s guards follow them into the fucking hotel in which she lives. They get a meeting set up with the aforementioned counsel, who keeps Pritkin, and eventually she gets summoned for their meeting. I’m skipping over a lot of other mayhem, by the way. This is why you should read these books. They are constant mayhem and tension and infuriating bickering between characters. But they’re so brilliantly written, good God.

Ahem. Anyway.

 

The end of this novel is so enormously infuriating that I seriously don’t know that I have ever been so mad at a book in my entire life. This doesn’t mean it was a bad ending. Oh no. Just infuriating. Because I’m so emotionally/psychologically invested and caught up in this series that it’s hard for me not to get emotional about them–and knowing me (although you don’t) that’s really a big deal.  The counsel kills Pritkin. Cassie basically tries to become a martyr, although the same counsel that killed Pritkin saved her, and then gave her the tool to save Pritkin as well as the only person who could help her accomplish the task: Rosier.

 

Do you understand yet why I’m so bloody mad? Probably not. But it was maddening and I’m still sorta steaming, honestly.

 

That, friends, is the sign of a good book. That, right there, when a piece of literature has the power over a person to so affect their psychology that they are caught up for extended periods of time post-closure–although that fucking cliffhanger was not a closure.

 

I gave it five stars on GoodReads because it was fucking fantastic. The romantic tension is sparse in this one, but tactfully placed, and beautifully executed. The dialogue is just as perfect as it always is, and the descriptions are elegant and precise. If there were ever a series that I would recommend fantasy-lovers to read, it would be this one.

 

Until next time,

–Emily

Parched: Z.L. Arkadie (Book 4)

Sidenote: Apparently the cover images of the books after The Seventh Sister are all minuscule and will probably end up looking really shitty and pixely from here on out. My apologies, but there’s really nothing I can do.

 

The Fifth Sister is the fourth book in Z.L. Arkadie’s “Parched” series, with which you should hereby be familiar.

Every single book in this collection is remarkably short and I can read them all in approximately 2 or 3 hours, although that time ends up being split up across the span of a few days, just due to my university schedule/requirements.

 

This book decides to follow Glo, who is the sister with the power of fire, and for once in Arkadie’s series, a sister has a voice which is her own, although yet retaining a semblance of both of the other sisters we’ve followed thus far.

Glo is apparently 43 without looking a day over 21, with the same exact hair and build as her sisters, whom she has no idea exist. She is attending therapy weekly, because she feels intensely indifferent, frequently anxious and lately depressed. She feels as though she lives in a bubble, and very little exists within it for her. The rest of the world is without, and she considers it almost more of a Lego-land, which… in retrospect, doesn’t really tell us nearly as much as Arkadie wants it to.

Glo lives in Cleveland and works in a diner on the ground floor of her apartment building in the warehouse district. This seems unrealistic and bizarrely coincidental for what commences over the course of the novel. Simultaneously, Glo’s best friend Aries and her boyfriend are remarkably similar to her, in that they never age, and Aries seems to be able to influence people by touching them. Glo spends the first several pages of this novel feeling anxious, as though she knows instinctually that something is about to change, that her life is meant for something, but she is absolutely clueless about what that might be.

 

Once again we find rampant grammatical and punctuation errors including word omissions, misspellings, random commas and misplaced quotation marks. The descriptions are mediocre at best and leave one with only a semblance of that which Arkadie is trying to accomplish here. Perhaps it is because of the nature of Glo’s current psychology, but considering that this is a theme throughout the course of her novels, I am loath to make that acquiescence. At this point in the game, I am more apt to argue that Arkadie, while creative in her concepts and the layout of her plot, is a mediocre writer in desperate need of a good editor who really ought to take the extra time to proofread her own material.

Glo, like Clarity, has a neighbor in her apartment building for whom she sort of has the hots, and is–surprise, bloody surprise–a vampire. And! SURPRISE BLOODY SURPRISE! Has the exact same powers as Glo. Lord Jesus, could these novels get any more predictable!? Somehow I doubt it.

I don’t think that anybody is going to be surprised to hear this: Aries is Glo’s [replacement] Guardian (apparently her guardians who were supposed to model ‘parents’ died in a car/plane crash (it’s questionable) years ago) and Raz, Aries boyfriend, is Glo’s Wek. Are you surprised? I certainly hope not.

Glo and Finn end up collapsing a lab where Tal and Cort (a couple of names you may remember from the last book as Shams–or vampires who’ve now acquired the ability to do magic of sorts and drink other vampires)–are forcing chemists to create a drug they call Zombie, but what the drug does goes entirely unexplained until further notice.

Once that’s done, they make a trip down to Alabama because Finn knows that’s Cort’s next target. When they get there, it’s a ghost town, much like–surprise surprise–Moonridge was when Quenched closed out.

When that situation is dealt with (in as much capacity as it can be, honestly), Finn and Glo travel up to Ohio and into Jari, where they find Vayle, who is still there–because it’s only been like, 5 minutes his time. He has, surprise surprise, decided not to shirk his duties and revert back to human. At his point, Vayle leads the last sister and her bonded vampire out of Jari and to the house of Benel.

The end.

No seriously. That’s the end of the book. Frankly, they’re more like short stories than novels, and I almost can’t even believe I shelled out $4 each for the next two. They hardly seem worth it. I do, however, intend to see this thing to the end, regardless of how it continues to pain or entertain me.

I gave it 2 stars on Goodreads. It didn’t really deserve any better than that. Frankly, I’m disenchanted with the series, as if you haven’t noticed. (I mean it’s not like it’s apparent or anything…)

 

Until next time,

–Emily

Parched: Z.L. Arkadie (Book 3)

First and foremost: My sincerest apologies for that dreadful picture quality on the cover. It was legit the biggest file I could find on Google… and I was too lazy to search anywhere else. Sue me.

So Quenched picks up pretty immediately where Parched leaves off, with Clarity resuming as our narrator.

However, the opening several paragraphs of the book are so excessively flowery in terms of the verbiage that it’s ridiculous and at moments to the point of intolerable.

A few examples:

“…the blood pumping organ in my chest…” |  Really? Heart wouldn’t suffice? I mean, I’d have pardoned it if it was included in some kind of comment about its effectiveness at its function, but all she’s getting at is that she’s heartbroken from being unceremoniously dumped.

“When their warm breath hits the cold air, the impact generates a misty cloud of frost in front of their faces.” | Although I really do have to acquiesce that I quite enjoy this sentence.

“I remember standing here sometimes on days long past doing just this, admiring how nearby skyscrapers reflect on its” (the UN building) “mirrored skin.”

This is followed immediately by “A lot has changed since then–a lot” as if Arkadie couldn’t come up with a better emphasizer than another use of “a lot” because that really tells us anything at all.

Another thing: in the section directly after the above examined, Clarity announces that they are “whizzing past the tops of tall skyscrapers like Superman over Metropolis OR BATMAN SWINGING THROUGH GOTHAM CITY.” Excuse me, Ms. Arkadie and Ms. Clarity, but I believe this “swinging superhero” to whom you refer is actually Spiderman and he swings through New York City, not Gotham. I’m just saying.

If you’re going to talk about how your life is “as if [you’re] living in the pages of a comic book” you should at least get your heroes right. Batman does zero swinging, unless we are on the subject of punches, perhaps, but in this context? Nuh uh.

Moving further through the text just provides more and more instances of these unpardonable errors. Like, maybe I’m being excessively critical on too many fronts, maybe I’m just being picky, but there are some things that are just too ridiculous to let go. The walls of her morphs-into-exactly-what-I-love bedroom are painted lime green, and anybody who knows anything about interior design knows that lime green is too bright/loud of a color for anybody to friggin sleep with. I mean, there are people who will argue with me, but it’s a legitimate psychological thing. Neon colors are too energetic for a room where you’re trying to relax and rest. Furthermore, when she gets on a plane to fly halfway across the globe, she decides to start reading The Iliad and The Odyssey and, because she “reads so fast” she’s done with The Iliad in half an hour. SO MUCH BULLSHIT. I don’t even care if you’re superhuman or whatever. Just no. Absolutely not. 

Skipping over a multitude of glaring grammatical and punctuation errors as well as excessive over-exaggeration, we come to a really ridiculous geographical error. They end up looking for Exgesis (whose name I realize is unfamiliar to you, but I’m sure I’ll get to the actual plot at some point or another when I’m done tearing this thing apart limb from limb) in the Black Hills. Which are in west-central South Dakota and extending a bit into Wyoming. And then this boob announces that “Just as [she] thought, he’s not in North Dakota.” Well how the hell would you know, you fucking idiot? You’re in South Dakota.

Granted. I’m a little prejudiced there because I live in the northern Dakota. But seriously?! SERIOUSLY!? DO YOU NOT KNOW HOW TO USE A MAP?! GOOGLE IS FREE! PLEASE USE IT.

Like, don’t get me wrong. I’m obviously still reading this thing because the plot is still mostly enjoyable and interesting. Except that there are things being omitted and forgotten about and there are ends she neglects to tie up where they obviously ought to be. And don’t you sit there telling me in your head that maybe she’s just waiting to divulge it–because she isn’t. They aren’t things that make any sense whatsoever to withhold, and the characters are having the conversations in which said information really deserves to be divulged. Like, it’s part of the damned conversation and it’s like they just forget to friggin say it. There’s no rhyme nor reason to it; there’s no mental explanation of why said information isn’t passed on. It just isn’t.

Anyway, so in terms of plot, here’s the deal: Clarity and Baron have “broken up” because she spent a couple of days in Enu, which amounted to a couple of years on Earth, and because Baron doesn’t know that–still doesn’t, because she neglects to provide that simple information which would clear a lot of air–he’s “moved on.” But, because she needs him, she goes back to get his help and they end up going on the aforementioned trip across the globe to find Lario–Fawn’s sociopath ex-boyfriend, i.e. Exgesis. While in Europe, they make up and have a fuckton of sex for like, 4 days. Whatever.

So Baron’s got a portion of Clarity’s light now because they’re bonded, which means that he’s the “vampire with the power of light” and they’re in search of the vampire with the “power of the sun” currently sought by Exgesis.  This is where Zillael and Vayle come in from book 2 (The Seventh Sister), even though I didn’t really do a very good job of explaining or reviewing that one in the previous post (sorry). So Zillael is the sister with the power of the sun, and the vampire with whom she’s bonded has a portion of her power.

Is it just me, or does this seem cheesier and more and more formulaic the longer we persevere? I dunno. I still enjoy them, but English-majoring my reading material takes some of the fun out of it. So it goes.

The three sisters plus the two vampires and their Weks travel into a place called Nowhere–yes, seriously–and battle off a bunch of soulless beings (which notably resemble Dementors from Harry Potter, and I really wish I was kidding) who disintegrate into ash when Clarity blasts them with light. Honestly, although the sisters are somewhat portrayed to be equal here, Clarity is really elevated to a level above and her Mary Sue tendencies are thicker than the others. Granted, Clarity has her downfalls, but Arkadie struggles to convince you that her downfalls are actually her strengths, and I must admit that I’m not especially buying it.

Clarity returns the leaf from the tree of life–which Fawn had given to Lario to make him human, but we know how well that went–to its place and Nowhere is restored to a healthy, beautiful place. At this point, Felix shows back up and provides the vampires an ultimatum. Over the course of the next 7 hours, while the ground remained churning, they had the chance to either become human and leave it all behind, or to continue on the journey with the girls until it was over, at which point they would be returned the option. Baron, of course, immediately declines to continue taking care of and assisting Clarity, but Vayle is caught in an internal battle because he knows that Zillael loves her Wek more than she loves him and thus his motivation is compromised. The group leaves him crouched there, staring at the ground, and goes home. He is left with three doors remaining open out of the place: one to his old home, one to the home where his mother has moved, and one back to the house of Benel, where he would continue the path he’d been born for.

The novel ends with Zillael and Derek taking a trip back home to Moonridge for candy apples, but upon their return the town is entirely empty and they don’t get them. Seriously, the book ends with “I guess there’s no rest for the weary, or candy apples either.”

Seriously, Arkadie? Seriously? That was the best you could do? I say nay nay.

In the end, frankly, I’m loath to give this one more than three stars on Goodreads. I’m not even entirely certain that it deserves three, though. I’m teetering on the 2 and 3 mark. We’ll see where it goes.

Book 4 is called The Fifth Sister, which seems kind of silly to me, but whatever. I bought it, so I’m going to read it. Honestly, as much as it’s beginning to pain me, I’m probably going to continue on through the entire series just to see how the thing ends. Call me masochistic, but I prefer martyr. lol.

That’s what I have for you. It’s a bit longer, so I hope that’s more pleasing. Or…something.

Until next time,

–Emily

Paper Towns: John Green

Quentin Jacobsen is a mild-mannered guy.  His parents are both psychiatrists.  What the hell do you expect?  And he’s a senior in high school.  A bit of a nerd, but not overwhelmingly so.  Actually, all in all, he’s relatively boring.  At least at the start of the novel.  He’s just a boy.  I mean, don’t get me wrong, I imagine him to be a sorta kinda cute-ish boy, but just a boy nonetheless.

And he’s practically in love with his neighbor: Margo Roth Speigelman.  (I like the name Margo, just for the record.  At first I thought it was sort of odd, but I grew to rather like it.)  Except that as the novel proceeds, Quentin finds that it’s not really Margo he’s in love with, it’s the idea of Margo.  Because he realizes that he actually really doesn’t know Margo–none of them do.

Margo involves him in a night of adventures and then suddenly disappears.  Apparently it’s nothing new, as she’s run away to do things in the past.  Only this time, she isn’t coming back.  Much turmoil takes its place in the pages following Margo’s disappearance, and I can’t help but sympathize with Quentin.  Simultaneously, knowing what I know, I sympathize with her as well.

As with Looking for Alaska (which I do realize I have not discussed with you), Paper Towns has a lot of philosophy running throughout its pages. Concepts that I think more people need to be introduced/exposed to and made to think about.  Not just because they’re big, deep concepts, but because they are important ones that help to allow us to grow as individuals.  At this point in my life, I have actually come to address most of the things discussed in this book already–perhaps because I’ve surpassed the age group to which this novel is genuinely addressed–but John Green has this beautiful knack for addressing it differently than I do.  Obviously, because he’s a different person.

For example, one of the themes is that we, as individuals, have a tendency to look at others not as people, but as ideas, as concepts. When we look at a person’s behavior and start creating this image of who and what we think this person is, it no longer really matter what this person does, the image of them we have created is who they are in our minds.  And every person will come up with a different image of this person of discussion–that’s the trick of it: none of us are going to see exactly the same person because we all have our own internal prejudices and hang ups and baggage that alters how we see everything–even if/when we don’t realize it.

Because we are projecting onto others the things we see–or don’t see but hold–inside of ourselves, this kind of blocks our ability to actually consider others to be people–individuals–instead of ideas. We become so entranced with the idea of someone that when we actually start to get to know them and begin to discover that they aren’t some mystical, entrancing enigma, they’re just a person, we become disappointed, in either ourselves, our idea or the reality of the person before us. I don’t think any of us can truly escape it forever; I think it’s a war in which we win and lose certain battles.

 

I suppose that ultimately, the purpose of Green’s writing is to be both perfectly and beautifully philosophical and yet so endlessly and sadly unfulfilling, since thus is the unalterable nature of life: to ignore what we want and make its own twists and turns and decisions without our prior approval or satisfaction.

In that way, Green’s become one of my very favorite authors–for being so philosophical and idealistic while remaining almost brutally realistic.

In discussion with a very close friend of mine over the novel one night, I received this text message: “[…]  I think the main thing with his books is that they masquerade as simple YA literature, but have many of the elements of the classics–namely, that the theme and message take precedence over the plot.  While other endings might be more satisfying from a more simplistic storytelling standpoint, John Green writes the ending that drives his point home and makes his audience think.” I include the message because she makes the point more clearly and succinctly than I’d have found myself capable (largely because I’d have been guilty of plagiarism otherwise). Plus it’s a brilliant text message and I like to prove that I have wonderful and articulate friends. Whatever.

——————————————

I feel as though my reviews maybe ought to be longer, like maybe I’m not really going far enough.

If you feel this way and would like to hear more from me in the way of actual “criticism”, be a dear and comment on any of the posts available. I’d be most happy to oblige. At least in most cases. I try not to drop too many spoilers at the same time, so that certainly limits the amount which I am able to say. We’ll see how long this aversion continues and where things go in the future.

 

Until next time,

–Emily

Will Grayson, Will Grayson: John Green and

A thought which preceded the writing of this review is this (it happened a fairly long time ago):

People seem to have this notion in their heads that anything life-changing has to be something monumental, and that seriously isn’t the case. The things that change our lives and/or who we are as individuals, the way that we see/view life. Even the way that we view ourselves. View, see, feel about, believe in–all relevant and included in this discussion. But the thing is that the things that are life-altering don’t HAVE to be big. They don’t HAVE to be monumental. They don’t have to be major events in our lives. Sometimes it’s the smallest of things that have the biggest impact. When you read a book that addresses life in a way that you haven’t ever thought about. Or maybe that you have thought about but never articulated in the manner presented to you. When you hear a song that moves you and the lights shine brighter, the air tastes better, people smile more beautifully. The world views differently because you are different because of something so radically simple–or complex, but small nonetheless has triggered a reaction in your brain that, regardless of its manner of existence.

And so you sit there going “Oh my gosh,” but you don’t really know how to articulate what you’re going through because nobody else has experienced the thing that you just experienced, and you can’t just look at your roommate and say “I just experienced a life-changing event” because she was sitting here 4 feet away from you for the last 20 minutes and nothing actually happened. And people just don’t get it, least of all when you can’t explain it.

Andbutso I think we’ve established that I’ve HAD one of these moments just now upon the completion of this book. I have these moments quite frequently, actually. You’d think that after awhile it gets old, that things stop amazing or changing me. But that’s the beauty of my outlook: these things never get old. I like that I never stop changing. I like that I still allow myself to be so thoroughly moved by things so small, seemingly inconsequential.

 

Will Grayson 1 has a gay best friend who is a mountain of a teenager and goes by the name Tiny Cooper. They’ve been best friends since third grade and since before being gay really had anything to do with liking boys.

 

Will Grayson 2 is a self-deprecating teenage boy with friends he doesn’t really consider friends because he kind of hates himself and his life and everything that is. Except for Isaac, a boy he met online and has been talking to for a year.

 

Will Grayson 1 is straight but doesn’t date because he prefers to avoid all the drama. Will Grayson 2 is gay but totally in the closet. Not because he is ashamed of this but because he (rightly) doesn’t think it’s anybody else’s goddamned business.

As the story progresses we learn more and more about each of these characters and more characters come into the mix. Tiny Cooper’s main focus is on a musical that he wrote called Tiny Dancer, which is, go figure, about him. He is also a member of the school’s “Gay Straight Alliance” and wants Tiny Dancer to receive funding from the student council in order to become a reality.

There’s also a cute girl named Jane involved here? And there’s a lot of drama with her and Will Grayson 1 kind of sort of but not really liking each other? It’s complicated.

There is a lot of other plot information here that’s relatively relevant but which I shan’t be discussing simply because A) I don’t feel like it and B) …er… never mind.

 

Anyway. So Will Grayson 2 is going to meet up with Isaac in Chicago Friday night, only he gets to the place he’s supposed to go to and it’s a porn shop called Frenchy’s. This is where he meets Will Grayson 1, who is also underage and attempting to buy a porn magazine as a memento for his friends who actually left him to go to a Maybe Dead Cats concert in a bar–WG1’s fake ID was a total fail, which actually made for an amusing moment there in aforementioned porn shop–and one thing leads to another and Will Grayson 1 meets Will Grayson 2.

So then there’s a bunch of stuff and then Will Grayson 2 ends up with Tiny Cooper and then they actually sorta make out and stuff.

So from here we have a number of things progressing. For example, Will Grayson 1 is replaced in Tiny Cooper’s life by Will Grayson 2, which kind of pisses off and hurts the feelings of WG1. Only all of this is complicated and there’s a bunch of stuff with Jane, who sort of gets back with her ex-boyfriend only then she dumps him because she can’t get WG1 out of her head and so then they kind of get together and that’s good.

And like, Tiny and WG2 go out sort of for awhile, but then Will kind of hates on stuff too much and pisses of Tiny and they kind of break up. And they both feel totally like shit about it.

There are a lot of things about this book that I really liked. The prose exhibited by both authors, for example. The plot points. Also a lot of the subtext, the concepts that they put forth. Like, for example, sometimes people fall in love with an aspect of who you are, not necessarily you yourself. Like, sometimes, we don’t keep quiet about things because we’re ashamed of them or because we are afraid of being judged, but because it’s nobody else’s goddamned business, and that’s okay. Also, that no relationship is perfect, and that one factoid, in itself, makes every relationship perfect.

Actually, I don’t think that last one was really in the book… whatever. Take it how you will.

 

I loved it. A lot. I even gave it 5 stars on GoodReads. (= So there ya go.

 

Until next time,

–Emily

Jerk, California: Jonathan Friesen

Jerk, California is about a boy in Minnesota with Tourrette’s syndrome. And of course his stepdad loved him and all was great until he developed his “disease” and then Bill realized that Sam won’t be able to take over the concrete business. And suddenly Sam becomes a monster.

Anyway, there’s a lot of self-loathing in this book. I’m telling you, a lot. But there’s a lot of other here, as well. Sam, whose given name is actually Jack [somethingorother but super Irish] ends up working for a guy the townspeople refer to as The Coot. Some affectionately, others not so much. You know how it goes in small towns. But he’s actually a pretty cool guy. And there’s, of course, a girl involved.

So after not very long at all, George (the Coot) dies of a heart attack right in front of Jack. And then Jack inherits ALL of George’s stuff. Land, house, everything.

George sends Jack on a trip across the country to a location in California called Jerk with several stops along the way and directions to stay a couple of days in each place. Jack’s dad built or refurbished windmills. That was kind of his thing.

 

I don’t know. I really liked this book when I read it at the time, but like, thinking back on it, I’m kind of over it. I mean, don’t get me wrong, it’s really interesting, largely because of Jack’s struggle with identity and self-confidence and self-loathing and this girl who is totally… bipolar. Not really, just pregnant (early in). Long story. Anyway. It WAS interesting. But… meh. I don’t know. Looking back I just don’t…. like… feel all that strongly about it now.  I kind of did at the time. If you read the last blog post I did about Will Grayson, Will Grayson, before I get into the novel I have this HUGE spiel about little things that change your life and whatever, and this one kind of did that at the time. But… I dunno. Maybe now that I’m here it’s not such a big deal? I don’t know how to explain it.

 

It’s not a long read, or a difficult read. I almost cried a few times. I laughed quite a bit. I hated people frequently. It’s a moving book, at least. Maybe I was just particularly movable at the time. No idea. But I liked it.  I give it probs 3.5 stars? Maybe? I dunno. 3 just doesn’t seem right but 4 almost seems too much. So. There you are.

 

The other thing that was kind of annoying about this book was the way that Friesen portrays the Minnesota accent. Now, I’m from this area with this accent, and I can tell you for darn sure that the vast majority of people here don’t talk that way. We do have an accent, but it isn’t as obvious or overt as the author makes it seem like it must be. Just a side note.

 

Until next time,

–Emily