Reading with a Vengeance

Companion to the tumblog Reading with a Vengeance.

Water (Akasha, #1)

Water (Akasha, #1) - Terra Harmony If the writers of the old Captain Planet TV show had been tasked with writing a book for ‘grown ups,’ they probably would have come up with something very close to this. Simplistic views on environmental issues, cheesy lines all over the place, powers that make no sense, plot lines that spiral off into nowhere, completely gratuitous scenes that require way more tact than this book is capable of… If you can’t tell, I wasn’t a fan of Captain Planet.But that show, much like this book, had such an interesting premise that I can’t help getting sucked into every new piece of work that follows it, in the hopes of finding something that lives up to the awesomeness promised.First of all, this book needed a lot more spit and polish than it received. Transitions between scenes were clunky at best, and conflicts were picked up and dropped at random. The book felt like a bunch of strung-together concepts instead of something whole. For instance, there’s a scene in an airport where a security guard walks up and randomly demands that Kaitlyn follow him. She’s saved by the smooth talking love interest, but…who was that? Why did he want Kaitlyn? Was it for a real reason? Did she do something wrong? She was just standing around looking lost, but that guy acted like bad news; was there some nefarious intent behind his actions? WE’LL NEVER KNOW! After they leave him behind, no one gives him a second thought. Nearly every conflict in the book that wasn’t romantic was treated the same way. Kaitlyn got kidnapped! Why? Just because. She was drugged and tied to a chair and injected with stuff! What stuff? Psh, it was stuff, we’ve moved on to hot boys now, keep up.The powers in this book were spotty at best and confusing at worst. Kaitlyn learns how to use hers with ease, and then after that, they’re described as…just…doing whatever she wants. There’s very little in the way of structure or guidelines. It’s just ‘energy’ that does stuff. What stuff? All stuff.A lot of stuff isn’t properly explained in this book, for that matter. What do the Seven do? We don’t even get a hint of that until 3/4ths in, and mind you, Kaitlyn had already agreed to work with/for them at that point. She didn’t know either. She went on a mission without having a clue what their ‘missions’ normally entail. When we do find out what they entail, it’s pretty tame stuff. Most of the book actually has nothing to do with the main organization or their missions/purpose/anything. They could be a random group of teens playing with powers and having sex and nothing else, and the plot could have carried on 98% exactly the same.The environmentalism in this book is extremely simplified and makes use of flimsy strawmen to argue against. None of the real thorny issues of environment vs consumerism are addressed, which would have been fine if the book hadn’t included scenes that should have addressed them. There’s a scene where a fruit farmer doesn’t know how to use a compost heap. Really, book? That’s the man’s livelihood, and you think he doesn’t know how composting works? The issue is a matter of the efficacy between compost and chemical fertilizers, and comparing the cost/benefits of both based on how much fruit he has to sell to cover his overhead, not that he’s too clueless to work a compost heap. There’s another scene where they’re trying to convince an airport board of directors to join a water conservation group. The directors’ arguments against it? “We won’t get praised or paid for doing this.” What? How about the added cost of it, costs that would have to be passed on to consumers, which could put a severe pinch on an industry already hemorrhaging money?If you want to just run around saving baby animals and nothing else, then do that. If you want to address complex issues, at least do it right.But for all the promises the book makes about powers and saving the planet, in honesty, most of the book is just people interacting at this one house. That made the plot plod along at an excruciating pace, and I didn’t like most of the characters anyway. The villain was obvious and one-dimensional, and the romantic couple fell in love based on…magic eyeballs?And then of course there’s all that rape. The book did give a trigger warning, and I said I’d give it an extra star for that, so I did. But still. Kaitlyn’s love interest tries to rape her as a training exercise. He says he was doing it ‘to add distraction and stress.’ Really, you couldn’t think of a single other method of making her stressed? Not one, you had to jump right to rape? Kaitlyn does get properly upset about this and refuses to deal with him for a long time after, but the other characters try to convince her to forgive him because he was just trying to step up her training. FFS, no! Someone who can’t realize that ‘rape’ is not a training tool is someone who shouldn’t be around other people! That, in itself, is a problem. He does not have a proper understanding of what’s acceptable and what’s not, and that needs to be addressed. It isn’t.The last 25% of the book is more rape, and it feels like it was thrown in just to make the bad guy badder, but to be honest I kind of expected that part. There are people who fetishize stuff like that, and as long as no one says the bad guy is okay and it’s warned for, YKINMK.A free copy was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Inhuman

Inhuman - Kat Falls See more book reviews on my blog.This book starts out by comparing a land full of virus-infected, bestial people to Africa. And then it manages to go downhill from there.There were so many problems with this book, they drowned out the good parts. The premise for this story was fairly good, if you can accept comic-book-science, and the plot line was exciting and engaging. It’ll keep readers interested, even readers like me who are busy rolling their eyes the whole time, so that’s actually impressive. The amount of romance-to-plot was handled nicely. Yes, there’s a love triangle, but it doesn’t take over the story until the end and the romance/lusty bits always get slipped in at appropriately calm moments, so there’s no sense that the plot was put on hold for it. A lot of the creatures encountered in this book were creative and horrifying, and I did have fun with the mash-ups. I even liked most of the characters. So there are people who will enjoy this book, because it does have a lot to offer in terms of entertainment.But in a way, that makes all the bad stuff just so much worse. Clearly there’s potential here, but some ill advised or just plain poorly executed decisions ruined the book for me.First of all, while the premise of having half the country quarantined and a big wall keeping everything apart was a good starting point, it was sloppily applied. The more details we got about how that whole process happened, the less sense it made. For instance, there’s a deadly virus over there, but only one guy is bothering to even try to find the cure. And also, he’s not allowed to break the quarantine in order to get tests subjects.What?That is so utterly ridiculous I don’t even know where to begin. That’s like building a hospital and only letting in healthy people. I understand that this is a super-deadly virus that most people are afraid of, but the doctors dealing with it directly should have a more rational view on it than the average citizen, and also everyone else should want it cured, too, so saying the doctor is hamstringed like this is utterly ridiculous.And then there’s the idea of ‘Fetch,’ people who cross the wall into the virus zone in order to retrieve lost works of art or personal possessions for a high cost. Awesome! What? They’re illegal? …book, do you realize that we currently kill small children for common rocks just because they’re shiny? We send people into dangerous situations for the sake for the sake of stupid shit all the time. I don’t care how many people died in that virus, I would bet everything I own that ‘fetching’ would be sanctioned. Hell, the government has helicopters and the virus can only be spread by biting, so it’s not like you can accidentally bring it home. We’d be sending in Seal Teams to clear out museums on a regular basis!Oh, right, the ‘official’ military is a joke in this world and only private company militias are still around. Why? Because so many people in the military died during the initial virus outbreak and quarantine. Um…armies recruit, book. But hey, let’s talk about these private armies. They’re evil. Or at least, the one that we see is. Why? Beats the fuck out of me. They’re tasked with guarding the wall and making sure no one crosses it, because if an infected anything crosses the wall, you get massive break-out and death again. So these guards are very strict and deadly when it comes to making sure no one crosses the river to even get an attempt at the wall. And this makes them…bad? How? One of them even ends up infected in the line of duty. These guys are putting their lives on the line to make sure that the virus stays contained, and the book has the utter gall to call them evil for it, and I have no idea why! Every tepid excuse it tries to give me makes me cry out “but that’s a good thing, you moron!”This book has a lot of weird morals to it, frankly. It seems like it wants the ‘feral’ people to stand in for either racial minorities or AIDS victims, and it switches between the two frequently. There’s a common attitude throughout the book that anyone who is ‘anti-feral’ is akin to a racist, and they’re bad people, and how dare they be so mean? There’s just one problem.THESE MUTATED ANIMAL-PEOPLE WILL TURN INTO MINDLESS KILLING MONSTERS AT THE DROP OF A HAT. Yeah. That’s how the virus works. You turn partially animal, but act human. For a while. Then the virus finishes eating your brain, and suddenly you want to eat your kid’s face. There’s no warning, just BOOM daddy’s deadly.So what are you saying, book? That black people are all ticking time bombs that could turn around and shoot you with no notice? Or that AIDS people are actually a threat that could wipe out 40% of the population? Because you can’t take the prejudices experienced by them and apply it to a group of people who are actually, legit deadly.Because this book takes a “wah, why you mean to the poor virus-infected timebombs?” approach, the main character ends up looking like a cartoon of the worst PETA stereotype. She’s all about protecting the things that have a 100% chance of killing her, and if you try and do anything about that, you’re a bad person.That last point alone was enough to make this frustrating enough to hate, but sloppy science and the way it so clearly wanted to a fantasy (complete with a castle in the middle of Chicago. Not something just called a castle, an actual castle) made it even more so. There’s more (the lust standing in for love, the utter failure of the heroine to live up to her ‘I’ve been training for years’ statement, the fact that most of the ‘bad’ human-creatures have distinctly ‘nonwhite’ names...) but this review has gone on long enough, and you get the picture.This was a galley copy received from the author in exchange for an honest review.

The Dream Thieves (The Raven Boys #2)

The Dream Thieves - Maggie Stiefvater See more reviews on my blog.As a novel in its own right, The Dream Thieves was pretty good. As a sequel, it was a disappointment. It felt more like an alternate version of the first book than a true sequel. All the character development got reset, entirely new concepts and people were introduced and became the focus, and stuff from the previous book had very little in the way of repercussions. A few major themes from the first book got straight-up repeated (“the ley line needs to be fixed” is not that different from “the ley line needs to wake up.”)On the other hand, I did like this book by itself. The plot felt a lot more cohesive and focused than the first, although the writing style still gave it that dreamy, unfocused atmosphere. The author didn’t have to reintroduce all the characters, so we got to skip the chapters and chapters and chapters worth of description and backstory; that helped a lot.I loved the concepts in this book, the creativity that the author displayed in playing with them. I also loved the low-key feel of it all. This is fantasy, but it’s a very calm fantasy, there’s very little flash-and-bang. The magic is restricted to a few magical things, and it’s treated like something real, like something that may be fantastical but that can still be played with and measured and explored. It was a very practical approach to the fantasy aspect, while still being enormously inventive, and I just love that combination.That said, the plot did drag on quite a bit. I’m still not a fan of the writing style in this. It’s got too much fluff, too many repeated lines, too much extraneous information. This book never met a tangent it didn’t like, and it uses the same tone on everything, whether it’s a tense moment or an everyday moment. Between all the extra chapters and the lack of variance, this book felt less like a ride and more like a straight highway that goes on forever. A few more random notes: There was very little Blue in this book, and when she did show up, she wasn’t memorable. She went from a character in her own right in the first book, to a tertiary character in this book.The Dream Thieves is very Ronan-centric, and Adam gets some spotlight, but Gainsy and Noah might as well not even be there.Much like the last book, while there are plenty of funny and haunting lines, there’s also a ton that are just…well…“She made a neat rack of teeth at the Grey Man.” (48%)If you say so.There’s a character that does some heavy drug use, and while he is a bad guy, there are no physical consequences show. He does a line of coke, then the scene moves on like nothing’s changed. Casual drugs use is a pet peeve of mine; I feel like if you’re going to write that in, you should at least have the authorial gonads to really show it.Another pet peeve is that a character uses “feminist” as an insult, and it came right after Blue delivered an extremely feminist-positive argument. But the message she gave gets undercut by the line “wow, you are a raging feminist,” especially since there’s no counterargument and Blue more or less folds after he says it. I know teenagers aren’t always well informed on feminism, but that doesn’t mean we adults have to reinforce the idea that speaking up like Blue did is somehow worthy of being insulted.So, on the whole, it was a very interesting book, with a lot of really good stuff in it, and only a few things that hit my buttons. I’d still recommend it. A galley copy was provided free by the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

The Gathering Storm (The Katerina Trilogy, Vol.I)

The Gathering Storm - Robin Bridges I've been on this book for a week and I'm barely 2/3rds into it. I think that's a sign I should just move on already, because this is painful.

Evermore (Immortals Series #1)

Evermore - Alyson Noel Chapter by Chapter review on my blog.There's really nothing to say about this book. Because there's nothing in this book. A girl whines for thirty odd chapters, Damen is hot, random shit happens, and then the climax of an unrelated story wanders in at the end there. The mess as a whole got confused for a novel, and someone published it.

Starling

Starling - Lesley Livingston Hey, guys! Do you want a book full of action! Adventure! Mystery! Mythology! Stuff happening! Excitement! Battles! Yes? Sound awesome? OMG and this book opens with a tense battle in a gymnasium with mysterious monsters and a naked guy that fell out of nowhere? SO COOL!Oh, wait, it was all a trick.Yes, that’s right, if you read this book and love the first three chapters, you might as well put it down after that and call it a short story. After that first blush of action, the book then proceeds to crank up the “let’s ignore everything”-o-meter. A brilliant opening led into a disappointment of a book, because there is nothing that will piss me off faster than a cast of characters who collectively say “enough of that shit, let’s talk about school and boys instead.”Books and authors everywhere, you seem to have missed the memo: I WANT TO READ ABOUT THIS STUFF, NOT ABOUT PEOPLE IGNORING THIS STUFF! Why write a book about mythical monsters attacking people if five seconds later everyone decides to pretend like it didn’t happen?Most of the book deals with Fenn angsting and Mason making eyes at him. There are some tepid attempts at a mystery, since Fenn doesn’t have his memories, but the investigative skills in this book boil down to “let’s mope around and hope the answer presents itself eventually.” There are quite a few avenues they could have taken to actively seek knowledge, several characters who show up and clearly know something, and none of these opportunities are ever followed up on. Then the characters sit around going “wah, I don’t have any clues” and I want to bash them over the head screaming THAT WOMAN AT THE HOTEL CLEARLY KNEW YOU, WHAT DO YOU MEAN YOU HAVE NO CLUES?This book had a lot of potential, it really did. But all that potential got squandered as the book decided to wallow around in angst and purposefully hide information from everyone, characters and readers included. A lot of the concepts in this book were really interesting and I wanted to know more, which made it that much more infuriating that I didn’t get to find anything out. In the book’s favor, it was pretty decently written. It had a very teenager voice, but without going over the top about it. There were a few points where words were just used wrong, but they were more accidently funny than outright bad. And I did like most of the characters, they all managed to neatly toe that line of being not-quite-a-stereotype, all fitting into a typical highschool role but without being flat or cartoons. I wish we’d gotten to see more of them, instead of sitting around with Mason and Fenn, ignoring plot points.

Deception

Deception - C.J. Redwine This was not a book about Rachel. Yes, I know she’s on the cover and I know the blurb goes on and on about her. But this was not Rachel’s book. This was Logan’s book. Rachel spent the majority of the book going on about being broken and basically hollowing herself of all emotions and being a shell of a character that just floated through the plot. She was utterly unremarkable. Logan, on the other hand, had all the angst and all the drama and all the action and all the backstory and all the character growth. It was his book, his story, and Rachel just tagged along and said “I am nothing” a lot.Which really irritated me, considering they’ve been through pretty much the same thing. The people who died last book were Logan’s family, too. And yet instead of falling into a black hole of non-character, Logan gets to have some really interesting angst as he stumbles forward and does his best to operate anyway. Only the female character gets crushed into a non-entity by her tragedy, I guess.Deception was at once better and worse than Defiance. It had a more compelling story line and better emotional issues, and things were more cohesive as a whole. Watching Logan deal with the stress of being a ‘leader’ and try to keep it together while everything is falling apart, that was just fascinating. The storytelling part of the book was perfectly executed, excellent pacing and tension that kept me reading long after I meant to stop. The fact that we dealt with a small group of people instead of a whole nonsense culture helped, too. There was very little worldbuilding, but there didn’t need to be, because it was just 150-ish people in the woods, and that worked. The narrower focus allowed the characters to just be characters, instead of making them be cogs in a city that makes no sense.On the other hand, this book took a serious nose-dive in the logic department. I think every page had some basic factual fail that had me rolling my eyes. Like how the book doesn’t seem to understand that all the dirt from digging a tunnel has to go somewhere, or using a battering ram against a pile of rubble. Yeah, they did that. Pretty much every time Logan opened his mouth to talk about science, I had to stop and watch reruns of Bill Nye to feel clean again.But all that was just eye-roll-worthy, and I can deal with it. The cringe-worthy stuff came about with the introduction of the bad-guy army. They’re basically mooks that came out of nowhere to give the good guys someone to kill. They try and justify it by saying that those mooks ‘chose their leader’ and therefore…it’s okay to kill them? One feature that was harped on through both books was that Baalboden people don’t know anything about the other city states besides a few broad basics, so how do they know that every single person in that army is cool with following the bad guy? Also, one of Rachel’s running issues is that she killed someone who didn’t deserve it last book, but this book…yeah, no second thought about stabbing army guys. Nevermind the fact that the person she killed last book was also just following orders, nope, doesn’t even make her hesitate. Every single man in that other army uniformly decided to become evil, and therefore no emotional hang-ups need arise from murdering the fuck out of as many of them as possible. Just arbitrarily declare that they brought this on themselves, despite the fact that you have no way of knowing that, and then get to stabbing.So creepy.

Defiance

Defiance - C.J. Redwine I can just imagine the conversation that must have taken place with this book…“So, I’ve got this manuscript about a girl who lives in this fantasy setting—”“Fantasies aren’t big right now. Can you make it dystopian?”“Um, I guess we could just say that the world got destroyed and this is what’s leftover?”“Great, let’s go with that. That fact that it makes no sense will be beside the point. Tell me about the main character.”“Her name is Rachel, and her dad is missing so she has to go find him using the skills he taught her—““So she’s a Strong Female Character? Those are very big right now.”“Well, she uses weapons, but technically—““Good, make sure you stress that she’s a Strong Female Character. Those are very big right now.”“How…do I stress that?”“Just have people talk about her strongness a lot. That’s all you really need.”“Whatever. But Rachel, see, she has to go find her dad, and she gets this boy she has a crush on to help—““No, they should be in love.”“What?”“No one writes crushes anymore. They should be soul-shatteringly in love.”“…”“And there needs to be a love triangle.”“There isn’t.”“Can you set up for one in the next book?”“Will you buy my book if I do?”“Yes.”“*sigh* Okay.” There’s so much in this book that’s just so…weird. The setting makes no sense. Just straight-up, don’t bother trying to reason it out, it makes no sense. But it goes beyond that into…almost fetishizing misogyny. I don’t know how else to explain it, but it’s something I’ve seen more and more lately. The culture of Baalboden is extremely misogynistic, to an absolutely ridiculous degree, and it feels like the only purpose is to delight in heaping all that misogyny-flavored angst on Rachel. It’s there to show off how awesome Rachel is for bucking it, and also to present contrived hardships. But it goes beyond that. I’m making a wild speculation and I want to right now separate the book from the author because writing is a fickle beast and authors can end up saying stuff they don’t mean by accident HOWEVER: It really does feel like this book has a powerful “Big Male Protector” kink. Even though it (sorta) says that the treatment of women as property in this culture is wrong, it delights in using those same roles on Rachel and Logan and it stresses Logan’s role as being responsible for her and tasked with protecting her from the big bag world. And Logan’s actions and comments are never criticized. He’s supposed to be the good guy. The overall tone I got from the book is “people keep saying this is wrong so I guess I should too, but I kind of get off on this.”And that made me very uncomfortable.Rachel is also a textbook case of how not to write a Strong Female Character. At first, she was just a character, and I sort of liked her. She was brash and unruly, a bit juvenile, but that was acceptable given her age. I got the impression from her that she was very sheltered, since she was laboring under the impression that she could just shout things and get her way. Very teenager. I thought her character growth would be her developing beyond this tantrum-throwing, but nope, apparently we’re supposed to admire her “spirit.” Though I didn’t mind Rachel in principle, the more people went on about how strong and awesome she was, the more I hated it. She’s not strong. The fact that she can use weapons is not strong. She was thoughtless and prone to throwing fits, she was always either running off to do things without thinking or trailing behind her menfolk, she didn’t make any serious plots or plans or contribute to anyone else doing the same, and every now and then she’d just sort of fall over and cry for a while. Any time she did do anything on her own, it was always a disaster that got her scolded afterwards. There’s a level at which I don’t mind this, but that level is “potential to grow up and be strong,” not “hey, she can stab stuff, let’s talk for six pages about how strong and awesome she is.” The bad guy was also a big gripe for me. He was too over-the-top and quite stupid, especially given the set up. Supposedly, he’s allowed to repress women right into non-person-hood and murder and torment people at the drop of a hat and do all these horrible things because he has the power to keep the Cursed One out of their city. Erm, no. All this supposedly takes places 50 years after modern day, and there’s no way our current culture would put up with this. We would find out how the Commander does his ‘keep away’ trick and then either force him to do it or copy it. In fact, it turns out his trick is just a necklace that repels the monster. Why not just take that from him and then stab the guy in the face?Also, all this takes place after modern day, but supposedly no one could defeat the Cursed One because its scales are “impervious to arrows and swords.” Um…hello atom bomb? They even manage to injure the thing with some mild explosives in this book, but no one thought “hey, let’s nuke the fuck out of that monster”?Like I said, this is a fantasy setting that clearly got shoehorned in to dystopia just for the sake of calling it dystopia.It’s a shame, because the core plot of this book wasn’t bad. It was quite engaging, actually. The book had the potential to be amazing, but it got held up with poor characters and creepy kink and abysmal logic gaps. And the attempts at science downright hurt me. If only they’d been kept as straight-up magic; this book is begging to be a fantasy.

Cold Fury

Cold Fury - T.M. Goeglein If a book spends 50 pages on backstory and infodumps and there's no sign that the plot is going to start any time soon, then I don't feel bad about DNF-ing it.Book, you failed to tell me a story. You couldn't even stick to one flashback at a time. There were flashbacks in flashbacks and backstories within backstories. It was like the fucking Inception of info dumping.

The Sweetest Dark

The Sweetest Dark - When I first started this book, I went in knowing that many of my friends had given it one star. I was confused. Sure, it was clichéd and slow-moving, but it was still a pretty fun read, certainly nothing worthy of such abysmal ratings. I enjoyed the setting and the atmosphere, probably because boarding school stories always have a special place in my heart. Armand intrigued me, even if Jesse and Lora didn’t, but that’s par for the course with me. And then, somewhere around the middle of the book…it’s like the editor just gave up and said “look, they’ve bought it by this point and we’ve got their money, so sure, write whatever you want.” Every annoying thing that had been present, but restrained, in the book before that point suddenly went no-holes-barred. The purple prose, the ridiculous love story, the complete and utter focus on romance, the mind-boggling lack of any sort of explanation, all of it came at me full-force. I kept reading to the end just to see if it would ever revert back to the comparative quality of the beginning. The romance really did take over this book and drown it. There were a lot of things that the book did surprisingly well, especially with the characters of Chloe and Armand. I loved them. Chloe went from a typical one-dimensional mean girl to something…else. I was fascinated by her interactions with Lora, the way she was not quite a friend, but nowhere near an enemy. Armand’s history was infinitely more interesting to me than Lora’s, especially since he didn’t have a Convenient Love Interest to swoop in and say “by the by, this is what’s up with your powers.” Lora had the potential to be just as interesting, but she dropped all emotional reactions about the paranormal aspect in favor of being in love with Jesse instead. Kind of hamstringed things in the ‘liking Lora’ department.Speaking of the paranormal aspect, that was bungled badly. Lora finds out the cause of her powers, and her only reaction is to say “oh, coolbeans.” She has no questions or doubts, which means we get no explanations. So Lora is a dragon, eh? Um…what does that mean? Are there other dragons? Is there a reason she looks like a girl? Is that normal, is she under a spell, does ‘dragon’ mean something other than ‘big magic lizard’ in this mythology? (Hey, after Twilight, anything’s possible.) These questions and more will never be asked, much less answered, within this book. Jesse also tells her that he is a “star man.” And that means…fuck all if I know. Lora rolls right along with that, as well, going so far as to introduce him as a “star man” even though that has absolutely no context or meaning to the readers.It was extremely irritating to me to have the paranormal aspect so downplayed. Without any angst, mystery, or confusion about Lora’s nature, that aspect became more of a set-piece than an actual part of the plot. There was nothing about her draon-i-tude that had to be solved or dealt with; it was just there. Instead, most of the book dwelt on how much she loved Jesse. And she only loved him in the first place because magic-mumbo-jumbo, not because of any significant personality connection or anything like that.After reading the book I found out that the author has an entire series of adult books that deal with her dragons, presumably developing a full mythology and culture around them. This book even alludes to characters in that other book. However, since this is a new series and there’s absolutely nothing that says "hey, read The Smoke Thief first," it should be able to stand on its own. It doesn’t.I did quite enjoy the ending, though. It was one of the rare few times when they saw danger coming, I started yelling “JUST DO X!” and they went and did X. It was quite a fun little fight scene that allowed for some creative maneuvering.

False Memory

False Memory - Dan Krokos See this review and more at Whitley ReadsThis book started out interesting enough, with Miranda waking up to no memory and confusing powers that she unleashes by accident. The writing right off struck me as bland, but it’s focused more on concepts than characters, so that was a minor annoyance.The first real hint of something wrong came when someone came by to collect Miranda, take her home, and tell her everything. So in the end, her memory got erased for the sake of an infodump. That’s it. That’s the whole narrative purpose of that event, because right after that, the plot chugs right along as if she’s always known everything. Just this way, there’s “handy” infodumps every few chapters.The plot held my interest through the book despite the iffy writing, though. It was full of action and movement and some pretty cool concepts. It felt like a summer blockbuster movie more than a book, since Rule of Cool ruled the day and there were more than a few points where the flashy action was supposed to distract us from the Fridge Logic.Sorry about that.Point being, everyone moved around a lot and did stuff, it was flashy, it was fun, and lots of stuff exploded. The main pitfall of the book was an issue I have with a lot of science fiction: I have no idea what the base technological level was. At first, the book seems like present day + heroes have a handful of extra advanced stuff. Okay, cool. It’s specified that the main kids have special genetic mutations, so it makes sense for them to have cool powers when no one else does. It’s new, it only applies to a few people, okie-dokie. And then more and more tech gets introduced, using concepts that are more and more outside our current level, and suddenly I’m going “what do you mean you can clone people in an artificial womb?” I get the feeling this book doesn’t realize that by throwing in ‘artificial womb,’ it just blew all the other tech out of the water, because that part is seriously a footnote in this book. A few other things did it, too. So…was this book set in the future? Are artificial human-growing vats a common thing now?Do the scientists just not realize how useful a kid-grower is?Another pitfall was the treatment of women in this book. There are exactly two ‘good’ females, and one of them is useless. Seriously. Why was Olive even in this book? Her only role was to follow Noah around, doing whatever he wanted because she was in love with him, and then at the end…well, let’s just say what happened to her was pretty much in line with how much actual presence she had throughout the book. So, basically, we have yet another book where there’s only one relevant female, and the book is all about how she and her male friends go do stuff, and also there’s an evil business woman running around and fucking stuff up with her evil businessman-ness.All in all, a pretty standard action movie— I mean, book.

Tough to Love: Saving Avery (A Novella)

Tough to Love: Saving Avery (A Novella) - Ava Catori I started out this novella with high mediocre hopes, even though it tackled a difficult subject. Rape-as-backstory is so rarely done well, but when the love interest did nothing but bring her pumpkin pie and give her space, I though, "it's not perfect, but that's really cute."It went all downhill from there.First of all, this book is straight-up healing cock. All her problems with "trust" are magically erased when she gets the down low tinglies for our main boy. Honestly, I don't even know why the author threw rape into this book; Avery's general demeanor and attitude towards men is so stock that she could have had any disagreeable backstory. A cheating boyfriend would have replaced her backstory seamlessly. So this book didn't tackle the issue of rape survival so much as just use it for cheap thrills.Furthermore, Steele was pretty creepy. He started off cute and respectful and then spiraled downhill from there into a violent, controlling jerk. This started getting uncomfortable when Avery (remember: rape survivor) salivated over his intimating presence and ability to physically overpower her. Not kidding. She used phrases that are, admittedly, cliched in romance, but they emphasis how big, strong, demanding, masculine, and powerful he is. I hesitate to say that a rape survivor shouldn't act in a certain way, but the complete lack of self-awareness when it came to this aspect created a disconnect for me.The book really started going downhill when Steele beat up her former rapist without provocation. Now, that's an event that can be played with, but 1) it came right the fuck out of nowhere, with no build up, and leads me to believe that he's violent and she'll never see it coming before he hits her the first time, and 2) the aftermath of that was very...Steubenville. Steele and his sister wanted Avery to bring up the rape thing in the resulting battery case, then when she balked, said:He's got a promising future; don't make him give up his career."Yes, let's ignore the needs of the rape victim and instead focus on how hard it is for this violent offender to have to pay for his actions. I know, not a perfect analogy, but Steele did beat the shit out of that guy without just cause. Being angry over a past event is not the same as self-defense, and "preserving her honor" isn't a legal anything.The second half of the book (starting with the fight incident) was told entirely in summary. No joke, no hyperbole. It was a summary that lasted 40 pages. It summarized some interesting conflicts and issues, but the author's notes had no business being pawned off as a finished project. The ending was rushed, even for a summary, and things weren't really wrapped up so much as cauterized. "We had this issue and that one, and then oops the end, everything's better now." Sigh.A galley copy was provided by the author in exchange for an honest review.

Hourglass

Hourglass - Myra McEntire See my other reviews at Whitley ReadsIt takes quite a bit for me to DNF a book once I get past the first chapter. A merely bad book won’t do it; no, the book has to actively piss me off before I’ll put it down halfway through.Hourglass pissed me off.It was an accumulation of things, really. A line here, a subplot there, a logic hole over yonder. Each by itself would have made the boom mediocre, but as they all piled up, my patience wore thinner and thinner until seething rage just boiled over. I was so annoyed by the end of my reading and a mere misplaced comma could make me go cross-eyed with fury.Close enough.So, join me on this journey from mild interest to frothy rage.The book started out well enough. It was readable, had a decent set-up with Emerson seeing “ghosts” and the promise of a “consultant” coming in to help her with that. Ball got rolling right off the bat, and Emerson’s narration actually made me chuckle a few times.I quickly realized that the writing in this book is a kind of…intermediate fail. It got the basics right, and even did them well. On a line-editing level, this was good stuff, so it was easy to read and get sucked in. But when it came to stuff like pacing, characterization, plots, showing vs telling, all that stuff you learn after you get the basics down? Fail, fail, fail, fail. It tricked me into thinking it was well written, the sly little devil.The first thing that pissed me off was the rampant ableism and misuse of a mental illness subplot. At first this was just confusing, with lots of conflicting details so that I couldn’t quite tell what was going on. Emerson said she was committed for talking to a ghost in public, says she was on drugs that put her into a stupor, several times admitted that it was all hallucinations, and then went ahead and treated her ghosts like ghosts? It took a while to shake out, because the book couldn’t decide what it was doing with that subplot and it really felt like the whole thing was written more on the fly than a season of LOST, but the final version as I understand it was this: Emerson got depressed after she lost her parents, was committed to a mental institution because of depression + visual hallucinations, and then her medication (either antidepressants or antipsychotics, depending on what page you’re reading, it kept switching) made her stop seeing ghosts. Eventually she got out of the institution (because…she was better? Left because she felt like it? Brother pulled her out? Fuck you, this book doesn’t care) and then stopped taking her meds but didn’t tell anyone.Oh, so, so, so many things wrong here. First of all, the book has no fucks to give when it comes to displaying mental health care in…any sort of realistic light. Positive, negative, fuck it, that whole committed thing is just in her backstory for sympathy points not to be examined or anything. Second, who the fuck decided to drug her? With what drugs? If it was done for the depression, then drugging someone into a stupor for depression seems counterproductive and would only be done if the person was a danger to themselves or others. If it was done because of the “hallucinations” then fuck off right now because 1) you need more than one symptom to be diagnosed with a mental illness and 2) antipsychotic drugs are no joke and wouldn’t be given to her based on what we know about her symptoms. There are times when you really want people to stop hallucinating no matter what, but those times tend to be “when the voices tell them to kill the president and they actually listen.” If Emerson can tell the difference between reality and her hallucinations, and can ignore anything the hallucinations tell her to because her reasoning skills still work fine, then there’s NO reason to drug her into a stupor over it. We don’t give people these drugs because having hallucinations is icky, we do it because it interferes with their ability to function. If you can still function while seeing ghost people, then a doctor should go “oh thank god, we don’t have to kill your liver, let’s get you into therapy and see if we can’t figure this out or come up with coping techniques.”This book has no fucks to give on that point, because this book can’t even be arsed to keep straight what drugs she was on, much less treat the matter with respect. Drugs = bad, so drug backstory = instant sympathy and that’s where the logic behind this subplot keeled over and died.And if we go with the “depression” version of the story, then she stopped taking antidepressants and…? Yeah, she stops taking her medicine, and NOTHING NEGATIVE HAPPENS AT ALL. She’s not depressed, not even mildly. Apparently she was bad enough off to need the drugs and they’re still being prescribed to her, but not really? That whole plot gap makes it especially obvious that the book didn’t give a fuck about its mental illness handling.And that’s on top of all the really, really disturbing statements about “crazy” people in this book. If Emerson wanted to self-identify as “crazy,” that’s fine, but it didn’t really get that impression from her, and also she gives us lines like this:“crazy people don’t generally get to claim self-control as a personality trait.”“could capture me and hold me prisoner while performing experiments on me. Not unlike a mental hospital.”“At least he didn’t have to be inside his mom’s crazy.”So that set the groundwork for me to really hate this book, but then it just kept going. We had the standard “impossibly gorgeous guy” as the love interest, and any hint of progress was replaced with endless gushing about how he made her hot and tingly all over. Supposedly this was ‘justified’ because their complimentary powers made them get the horny for each other, but that strikes me as less justified and more fanfic sex pollen. An excuse to write the same tropes as everyone else is not a justification, it just means you put more effort into excuses than into doing something original. The pacing dragged on and on and on and on. The first 40% of the book was just Michael not telling her stuff while she got mad at him for not telling her stuff. Then when he did tell her stuff, there was no actual reason for him to have been withholding that.But one of the biggest problems for me was the absolute slap-dash way the whole book was put together. Too many times were things just stated and accepted. “You can time travel!” “Okay, got it, and also I have no questions, nor do I want to test this claim or require any proof.” “The buy guy is evil!” “What has he done?” “He’s evil!” “OMG, how terrible! Even though you didn’t answer my question, I will never ask it again.” “Hi, I’m a weird almost-ghost boy that likes to hang around in your house!” “I will not think about you except for the few times I need to, and those points will be hundreds of pages removed from each other.” Everything about this book was so disjointed and poorly handled. Every chapter gave me something new to be annoyed about. Even the time travel couldn’t hold my interest, because it felt like the book itself cared less about the time travel than every little mundane detail that went on in Emerson’s day.I DNF’d at 65%, when the second love interest was introduced and decided he was in love with Emerson despite having known her for less than a day.There were many, many more problems in addition to the ones listed here, but this review is already too long and my brain is trying to forget them.

The False Princess

The False Princess - Eilis O'Neal I've been sitting on this book for a while now, and I simply don't know what to say about this book. I liked it, really. It had all the elements that I love. A decent plot, good characters, standard fantasy setting, plenty of female characters, princesses, magic, mystery.But it just lacked...passion. It was a good book, but in the end, it was just a book. It didn't reach out and grab me, which means there's not much I can say about it, good or bad. "It failed to suck," and that's pretty much all I've got.

Wake (Watersong, #1)

Wake (Watersong, #1) - Amanda Hocking See this review and more on Whiley ReadsAh, what can you say about Wake? I’m not really sure. The best I can come up with is to damn it with faint praise. It was very…booky. It left little impression on me, although it was an easy enough, quick read. The whole thing was extremely straightforward and lacked any sort of plot or passion.The first half of the book was romance. Just straight-up romance. To be fair, it was pretty cute romance. But there was no drama to it. It was the sort of romance that gets set up quickly, so that more interesting stuff can happen later, except then we were stuck with it for hundreds of pages. I really had no objections to the romances here other than their overwrought presence.Well, that’s not accurate: I take issue with Alex being muscular and ripped despite that fact that he does no physical work. The book itself even pointed out that this is impossible, but always treated it as a “oh, goody, that weird occurrence worked in our favor, didn’t it?” It didn’t feel like a mysterious thing, just an awkward thing.The second half of the book had potential, but then botched it. What could have been a genuinely interesting story about Gemma learning about her new state was hobbled by the fact that there was so very little mysterious about it. It took only a few chapters before she had most of the answers, and the final “twist” was bleedingly obvious. She spent more page time waffling about what to do than she did coming to terms with what had happened, and that made the pacing drag terribly. Everything about this book was laid out in a very clear, straight line which made it almost impossible to get invested in the story. There was no tension, no curiosity, no…nothing. The only point at which I felt anything was when Gemma’s TBI-suffering mother was brought in. Natalie was treated…very poorly. She has a traumatic brain injury, but she was displayed as a misbehaving tween. Near the end, Gemma decides to share the truth with her mother, because if Natalie tells people about mermaids, who would see that as odd?How about EVERY MEDICAL PROFESSIONAL THAT SHE WORKS WITH? Natalie does not have a mental illness and even if she did delusions are not part of every mental illness out there. She has a defined set of symptoms, and if a new one crops up, that’s going to cause concern. Since she lives in a group home that specializes in TBI, the people taking care of her would know that.This book has no fucks to give on the matter and instead treats it as a joke when it says “Natalie told everyone her daughter was running away to be a mermaid.” That’s not funny. That’s the precursor to a whole bunch of doctors and nurses trying to figure out what’s wrong with her, when nothing is wrong, her daughter is just a selfish jerk who didn’t think this through. Really think about that: this woman already has trouble interacting with the world, and now a bunch of authority figures are going to come by and tell her that something she knows is true is in fact a fantasy. That’s terrifying.On the same note, we were never given an explanation for why Gemma didn’t tell someone else in her family. Just straight-up, never. There’s a throwaway line about them not believing her if she tried, but it’s not like it’d be impossible to prove. In fact, her sister didn’t take much convincing at the end there.I will say, as a positive, I did really enjoy the relationship between Gemma and Harper. It’s always nice to see those kind of strong family bonds. Overall, the book was just a nonentity. It was mostly unobjectionable, but at the same time, a lack of badness doesn’t actually make it good. There was very little here that would lend itself to actual recommendation.

Dragon Sword and Wind Child

Dragon Sword and Wind Child - Noriko Ogiwara, Cathy Hirano, Miho Satake See this review and more at Whitley ReadsI recently found out that the second book in this series has been translated to English, so of course I had to do a reread of this one. For…what, the fourth time? Fifth? Who cares; I’m sure I’ll do more.This one of my favorite books from my childhood, so one of those stars is probably from nostalgia.That being said, the book probably won’t appeal to everyone. It’s a very dense, plot-heavy book with little in the way of in-depth character development. Which is not to say that the characters aren’t fascinating; they are. But the whole story reads like a fairy tale, so the characters are kind of distant, like someone who looks like they’d be fun to hang out with but you don’t get a chance to.And I still don’t care, because I’ll take fascinating-but-distant characters over crappy ones any day. All the characters are great, but Chihaya and Torihiko really steal the show. Chihaya is probably one of the best characters I’ve ever read about, as he’s an immortal god who’s been shut away from the world and only in the course of this book meets other people. Watching him come to terms with the world at large, watching him learn about mortality and empathy, is marvelous. The book manages to display him as otherworldly and different, but never makes him into an ass for his lack to other people. And Torihiko is just cheeky. I love him for being able to be irreverent without being a jerk, like the slew of “witty, sarcastic” characters we see in books today. Saya and her bursts of anger fall under that same heading, too. She’s got a temper on her, but she’s so frikkin polite about it, always feeling bad afterwards and only blowing up when it’s legitimately called for. She’s flawed and human while still being nice, not someone carrying around a chip on her shoulder.But the best part of this book is the themes and concepts that are explored and turned on their heads. Saya is drawn to the immortal Prince of Light in a situation that could easily fall into bad romance territory, and instead that obsession is treated as just that: an obsession, one to be explored. The balance between Light and Dark and calling them both good and evil in equal measure is, while not new, still wonderfully woven into the story. Too often that theme is brought in and only given lip service, rather than the consideration it deserves.This book will always have a special place for me, and I would highly recommend it to fans of high fantasy. It’s a cerebral read more than an emotional one, but if that’s your boat, you won’t be disappointed here.

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