Review: A Promise of Fire (Kingmaker Chronicles #1) by Amanda Bouchet

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Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Date Read: December 24 to 26, 2016
Recommended by: Vaginal Fantasy Group’s alt pick
Recommended to:

Blech.

*ahem*

I mean, it’s not for me.

More on this later.

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It is now later, and while I’ve had time to process, my initial kneejerk reaction still stands. This book just isn’t for me, in so many ways. I won’t go into lots of details because that could take awhile, but the main thing is the writing does not work (for me). I found it too awkward and modern, and it clashed too much with the culture and setting of the story.

This story takes place in a world that’s heavily influenced by ancient Greece–think ancient Greece plus sword & sorcery–but the characters’ speech and personalities are very distinctly modern. Not just their sentiments and motivations, but their actions and behavior too. I struggled with this all through the read and never got past it enough to get into the story, so I wasn’t able to connect to any of the characters… or anything else.

While the setting was supposed to be ancient, the speech and interactions were decidedly not what you’d expect people from that time to sound like. Sure this is a fantasy, so of course you can mix modern speech with an ancient setting–lots of authors have done it, or so people keep telling me. Maybe, maybe so, but that doesn’t make it any less awkward or jarring. I found it distracting and it kept me from taking the story seriously.

Something else about the writing I found awkward was the author trying too hard to work in references to ancient Greece. Olives, goat cheese, agora, cyclops, minotaurs. It was like yes, I got it–very very Greek indeed. The whole book is jam-packed with these very, very Greek things, plus references to the gods, to remind you that this is, in fact, almost like ancient Greece. Almost, but not quite.

“Now that that’s settled, you’re coming with me.”
“Never in a billion suns. Not even if Zeus showed up as a swan and tried to peck me in your direction. I wouldn’t go with you even if my other option was Hades dragging me to the Underworld for an eternal threesome with Persephone.”

[…]

“You either have an Olympian-sized sense of self-importance, or you’re overcompensating for a lack of confidence.”

[…]

Our gazes collide, and something in me freezes. His eyes remind of Poseidon’s wrath–stormy, gray, intense–the kind of eyes that draw you in, hold you there, and might not let you go.

[…]

If looks could kill, I’d be dead. I don’t respond well to threats, even ocular ones, and my spine shoots straighter than Poseidon’s trident.

[…]

Have I cheated death again? Hades must be allergic to me.

[…]

I cheated death again. Hades must really not want me.

There’s a ton more, but I didn’t highlight them all–that would take weeks. If I remember correctly, the phrase “dive-bombing” was used to describe a reaction to falling in love. And now I’m just nitpicking, so I’ll stop there.

Overall, not a terrible book, but it’s definitely for the more romance-inclined reader who can overlook these things.

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Review: A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses, #1) by Sarah J. Maas

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Rating: (DNF)
Date Read: August 04 to 05, 2016
Recommended by: the Vaginal Fantasy Group’s alt pick
Recommended to:

DNF @ 38% because slow and boring.

I don’t think this book would have worked for me in any mood. There’s just too much that bothered and not enough to entice. Not even the fae “mythology” was interesting enough to pull me in. Not to mention the meandering writing featuring a young “feisty” protagonist and her long-suffering POV were a huge hindrance.

Plus, there’s an overwhelming “YA-ness” to the writing that irked me: lots of self-evaluating inner monologues; lots of discussion of good vs. evil; lots of self-righteousness; lots of characters to hate; lots of descriptions of lavish clothing and decor; lots of ridiculous “logic.” And to top it off, the “beast” wasn’t a beast but a beautiful cursed fairy lord in a mask–OMG, so frightening–and the heroine was an overly self-righteous, self-sacrificing caricature. It’s hard for me to believe this book isn’t a parody of high fantasy YA.

I completely lost interest around 15% when the main character Feyre killed a fairy lord in wolf form and wasn’t punished for it–because a life for a life made too much sense in this world? Instead she was offered a chance to live out the rest of her life in leisure in the opulent fairy realm. As punishment. That’s her “punishment” for killing a fairy. Rolled my eyes so hard I sprained a muscle.

But I pressed on anyway to no avail. Finally had to give in when it looked like nothing was happening and that Feyre and the beast were just frolicking through the fairy countryside for a couple hundred pages.

Review: Chosen (The Warrior Chronicles #1) by K.F. Breene

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Rating: (DNF @ chapter 3)
Date Read: June 24 to 26, 2016
Recommended by: DJ
Recommended to:

This book came to me highly recommended by a friend who loves the Kate Daniels series, so of course I had to give it a try.

She described it as high fantasy with a kickass heroine, and she’d read all the books in the series several times. I’m always looking for a new series to get into, so I was very interested.

Unfortunately, it’s not for me. But this time, I think it’s the book’s fault for the simple fact that the writing is just not… any good. I found it a struggle to get through, even just the first chapter. The writing comes off as awkward and juvenile and blunt, not unlike the style of a first draft and not unlike an exercise piece you’d see in creative writing classes. Not a diss, just pointing that this book reads like a work in progress.

Here’s what I mean by the writing being awkward. The sentence structures are weird and full of cliches.

His cruel smile winked out as confusion stole his countenance.

[…]

Her empty stomach sucked the ribs into the middle of her body, trying to fill that void. Her brain thumped against the inside of her skull with dehydration.

[…]

She didn’t have long. She had to find something to eat and drink or her journey would end right here, in this crypt that used to hold a forest.

[…]

She was in the last leg of her journey, nearing the Great Sea, and instead of fulfilling her supposed destiny, she was knocking at death’s door.

[…]

Her brain pounded so hard it felt like it was trying to rip out of the casing of her skull.

This is just from the first chapter. And there are 50 more chapters presumably just like it.

I went on to finish the second chapter, but it was a real struggle. Definitely not better and desperately needed an editor. I got the sense there was an attempt at humor, specifically “edgy” humor, but the execution of it seems forced, like it’s trying too hard, and kind of embarrassing to read. Moreover, the addition of more characters to build up this fantasy world didn’t improve it–they’re more like caricatures than characters. And the writing’s still very much the same, still a pain to read.

Though to be fair, I should add that the friend who rec’d this book to me said the story gets much better and that later books are significantly stronger and more interesting. Shanti, the main character, is a kickass heroine with kickass powers and there’s lots of action throughout the series. If that’s what you’re interested in, this book might be a good fit. However, the writing style remains the same because it’s the author’s thing. It either works for you or it doesn’t.

I don’t read SF/F for the writing (obviously), and I used to think I could put up with pretty much anything, that it wouldn’t matter much if the story and characters are okay, but this book, or rather what little I’ve read of it, is making me reconsider my standards for “good enough.”

Review: Updraft (Bone Universe, #1) by Fran Wilde

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Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Date Read: June 03 to 07, 2016
Recommended by: book club’s pick
Recommended to:

Not really a review, just some scattered thoughts I had after reading this book.

After seeing so many positive reviews and hearing so many people praising this book, I couldn’t wait to read it. Almost all the book blogs made it sound just fascinating–a city made of bone towers, wings and flying contraptions, sky monsters, a conspiracy, steampunk-ish technology, I think there were even mentions of otherworldly ecosystems. So a lot of hype, more than enough hype to get my attention. Turned out, the book was a let down. I wouldn’t go as far to say it was bad, just not right for me.

My biggest issue with this book was not being able to make sense of the setting, nor was I able to connect with any of the characters, but that’s a lesser issue than the setting. The point of reading genre fiction, for me, is all about the setting/world building. If a book can make me feel immersed in its world like I had lived there for the duration of the read, and it’s a great world, then that’s all I need, really. Just simple as that–“simple” hah! Characters, plot, narrative, story arc, prose, etc etc. all take a backseat to world building. But here in bone universe of Updraft, very little about this particular world seemed right and very little about it made sense. I think I checked out of this adventure around the point the Singers were introduced because I got tired of things not making sense, but ironically I continued reading to see if the ending made any sense.

This book without a doubt is a coming-of-age dystopian YA. Maybe if a few blogs and reviewers had mentioned that early on, I would’ve reigned in my expectations and gone in with the knowledge that the writing might not have been a good fit for me. YA is not my thing, neither is dystopian fiction, and together they… are really really not my thing–personal preference. That plus the world building inconsistencies made it an uphill slog. And this book had all the genre trappings of teenagers being angsty while rising up to challenge an oppressive ruling body. If that sounds familiar, it’s because we’ve all read too many stories like it before. And if I had known that early on, it would’ve changed my whole reading experience.

Maybe my expectations were too high, maybe I shouldn’t have fallen for the hype, maybe I should’ve read between the lines (of blog posts and reviewers) more. Or at least wait until a few friends pick up the book before deciding whether or not to read it myself. I wasn’t disappointed exactly because I’m not the book’s target audience, but it really was too bad it didn’t work out.

* * * initial reaction * * *

I was so looking forward to enjoying this one, but it just wasn’t meant to be. There are just too many things wrong with it, so I’m amending my previous rating because I don’t see what everyone sees in this book.

The bone world and the world-building is where all my issues lie. Nothing about these bone towers makes any sense to me, not even when I look at it from the context given and the logic of the bone world. And the more I think on these things, trying to unpack them, the less sense they make.

How is this bone world, way above the clouds, livable, let alone sustainable? Where do these tower people get their water? And I haven’t even touched on the baffling dystopian social structure or the flying contraptions yet.

Still can’t believe this book was nominated for a Nebula or that it won the Andre Norton. Then again, Uprooted by Naomi Novik winning the Nebula still baffles me too, so… yeah.

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Not quite 3 stars but close enough to round up.

I don’t know what exactly it is about the setting and world-building that bothers, so will have to think on them some more, but in general, almost everything about this bone world is not sitting well with me. There are too many questions about infrastructure, environmental upkeep, and basic ecology and evolutionary things that are keeping me up at night.

Btw, this is a coming-of-age, rite-of-passage, dystopian YA told in first person, and it’s very obnoxious obvious. I wish I’d known that going in because I was not prepared for all that teenage angst and foolhardiness.

Review: The Eye of the World (Wheel of Time, #1) by Robert Jordan

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Rating: ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
Date Read: January 17 to February 21, 2016
Recommended by: a lot of people
Recommended to:

Done. Finally.

It’s actually not that bad, or rather not as bad as I anticipated.

The first half or so is definitely a struggle to get through if you can’t get past all the Tolkien “homages”–they were basically what I couldn’t put aside every time I started this book only to abandon it a few days later. But the second half is a lot better, especially in terms of pacing and action. I found myself much more invested in the story once I figured out what the end game was… and also once I stopped comparing it to The Lord of the Rings.

Characterization is still a problem for me though, in that I don’t feel inclined toward any of the characters and furthermore not a single one of them is growing on me. For now it’s unlikely I’ll continue this series, but I kind of want to learn more about the dragon reborn mythology, so will keep the next book on the maybe list.

I should also mention that the only reason I even made it to the end of this book was because it rained all week (in the middle of February–the end really is nigh) and I had forgotten my ereader, and with it my newly purchased copy of Small Angry Planet, at a friend’s house.

 

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Review: Archangel’s Blade (Guild Hunter, #4) by Nalini Singh

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Rating: ★ ☆ ☆ ☆ ☆
Date Read: January 24 to 27, 2016
Recommended by:
Recommended to: no one

There was a good reason for my abandoning this book a couple of years ago: too much pain and suffering, which isn’t exactly what I have issue with. It’s the way these things are written about that bothers me. You can’t slip in sexy times or eye-sexing in between episodes of PTSD, or while on a hunt for a depraved killer, and expect me to take the story seriously. Bad timing is incredibly bad here.

So many issues, but where to begin. I have to emphasize one thing right away though. This book is not representative of the previous three, which were good. They have their own issues, but they’re good (for PNR). This one though… There’s something about it that’s quite disjointed. It was not so much content but the pacing that did it for me. I kept getting pulled out of the story every few pages. It was to either roll my eyes or facepalm because of all the inappropriately timed sexing going on. Like seriously, is that all these characters think about? Even while chasing a bloodthirsty psychopath?

There were things that bothered me about this series as a whole, but the world building and mythology were interesting enough that they overshadowed them. This book, though again, I don’t know. It feels to me like Nalini Singh took all the problems of the previous books and ramped them up, but she neglected to bring back the things that made the previous books memorable. So all that’s left is pain and misery… and a lot of–angsty?–sex*.

As interesting as the world and mythology and angels are**, I cannot put up with Singh’s oversexed writing style anymore. It’s just so over the top and takes itself too seriously. It’s ridiculous and quite comical how dramatic everything is. Doesn’t help that the main characters keep stripping each other with their eyes. *facepalm* These two really know how to ruin a moment… and a whole book.

A big thanks to Milda for reading this book with me because otherwise I would have abandoned it for the second time.

 

* There isn’t really that much literal sex. It just feels like there is because Dmitri and Honor keep thinking about it.

** They really are–so much so that I wish another author had written this series

 

The more I think about it, the more I think this series could be amazing in Max Gladstone’s hands.

Review: Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer

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Rating: ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆
Date Read: May 16 to 19, 2015
Read Count: 1
Recommended by: book club’s choice
Recommended for: people who liked the movie?

On the Road meets Walden (the Civil Disobedience edition), but for Generation X, and with a tragic ending.

Which makes this a hard book to rate because, objectively and overall, it’s well written and an interesting read. Jon Krakauer did a lot of research and really delved into Christopher’s McCandless’ past to show what led him to abandon his life for the wilderness of Alaska.

This isn’t so much a review, as it’s a jumble of thoughts and reactions. Here’s a review of just the book.

For me personally though, the subject matter of Into the Wild is…difficult. McCandless’ story is almost exactly what I hate about people who waste their lives. And the fact that he did it willingly but thought he was on a mission or had a higher call was just…ridiculous. As I said in my review of Cheryl Strayed’s story, I can’t stand naive city people who go into the wilderness unprepared, and I absolutely hate the glorification of these people and their journeys. I don’t understand what motivates them to put their lives at risk and I don’t understand why that would bring them closer to whatever spiritual entity they believe watching over them. As an aside, if such a thing exists, it doesn’t care about you, not specifically, but these people believe otherwise, and that’s just absurd, arrogant, and ridiculous. Come on, the universe doesn’t give a fuck about you. (By no means is that a plug for that book. Try Bill Bryson’s A Short History of Nearly Everything instead.)

As the description on the book cover says, McCandless came from a well-to-do family and had a trust fund to fall back on should he fall on hard times, but he gave the money away and went off the grid. What gets to me most about this story is that the time was early 90s and he had just graduated from Emory. He could have done a lot of good with his life and education, instead of wasting both. The opportunities open to someone like him at a time like that were plentiful, but instead he chose to follow Jack Kerouac and went on the road for awhile, and then followed Thoreau and headed out into the wilderness with minimal supplies and no basic survival training. This story could have only ended in death. That is the reality of being ill-prepared in the wilderness. If McCandless had survived, it would have been nothing short of a miracle, and it would have certainly been due to someone–a park ranger, hiker, or hunter–coming to his rescue. But no one did, and so he died alone in an abandoned bus.

In many ways this is how I imagined Cheryl Strayed’s story would’ve ended had she not had the fortune of running into kindhearted experienced hikers along the Pacific Crest Trail. Without their help and expertise, she could have easily ended up like McCandless, as would a lot of people.

I just finished Into the Wild about an hour ago, which is too soon to start a review, but I can’t help wondering about Jon Krakauer’s motivation for writing this book. He’d originally wrote about McCandless in an article and later on decided to expand on the topic and turn it into a book. Why? Why publicize and glorify McCandless even more? Why turn him into a “cult hero”?

“It is easy, when you are young, to believe that what you desire is no less than what you deserve, to assume that if you want something badly enough , it is your God-given right to have it […] I was a raw youth who mistook passion for insight and acted according to an obscure, gap-ridden logic. I thought climbing the Devils Thumb would fix all that was wrong with my life. In the end, of course, it changed almost nothing. But I came to appreciate that mountains make poor receptacles for dreams. And I lived to tell my tale.”

Oh, I see. But if that’s all there is to it, then it’s pretty weak.

To Krakauer’s credit though, he did give McCandless’ family a space where they were able to speak of their grief and bewilderment. But that part, which I think is the most important and well written part of the book, is overshadowed by his sensationalizing McCandless’ “adventures” and featuring long excerpts from McCandless’ journal entries in which he recorded his “profound” observations. Things such as:

“I’m going to paraphrase Thoreau here […] rather than love, than money, than faith, than fame, than fairness… give me truth. ”

[…]

“We like companionship, see, but we can’t stand to be around people for very long. So we go get ourselves lost, come back for a while, then get the hell out again.”

[…]

“You are wrong if you think Joy emanates only or principally from human relationships. God has placed it all around us. It is in everything and anything we might experience. We just have to have the courage to turn against our habitual lifestyle and engage in unconventional living.”

[…]

“It is true that I miss intelligent companionship, but there are so few with whom I can share the things that mean so much to me that I have learned to contain myself. It is enough that I am surrounded with beauty…”

How very Thoreau, for the modern era.

All of it seems naive and childish to me, like a temper tantrum but with literary quotes and references thrown in sporadically. And try as I might, I just couldn’t and still can’t take this book or its subject matter seriously. If it hadn’t been a book club’s choice, I would have abandoned it right around the part where McCandless abandoned his Datsun on the side of a road. The writing was good but overindulgent at times, and I already knew how the story ended, so there wasn’t much to motivate me to finish reading but I did for the book club. We rarely agree on anything during our discussions, but for this book, we all feel the same way about what McCandless did.

 

Related articles

It comes as no surprise that this book turned Christopher McCandless into a cult hero. Quite a few people have used it to justify their own “glorious” adventure into the wilderness, which this article describes in some detail. But local Alaskans don’t care for it when these people make their “McCandless pilgrimage” every summer, and park rangers, this one in particular, especially don’t like it.

As a sort of rebuttal and companion to Into the Wild, McCandless’ sister Carine wrote a memoir about that time called The Wild Truth.

Review: Transformation (Rai-Kirah #1) by Carol Berg

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Rating: ★ ★ ½ ☆ ☆
Date Read: January 20 to 23, 2015
Read Count: 1
Recommended by: no one, just something I’d been meaning to read for awhile
Recommended for: fans of Robin Hobb and Lynn Flewelling; maybe fans of David Eddings and Terry Brooks as well

Ten years ago I would have liked Transformation a lot more. Back when I used to enjoy high fantasy this book would have been memorable. Now? Now I’m trying to get back to the genre but not doing very well, mostly because I’m tired of reading about the same things over and over again. Medieval setting, a conquering empire on the rise, boring court life, boring court intrigue, boring political maneuverings, ridiculously exacerbating nobles, tiresome royalty, etc etc. One exception is I still find intuitive dog and horse characters fascinating. Credit goes to Carol Berg’s writing for keeping this book engaging. I wouldn’t have abandoned it, but it would have been an uphill battle if not for Ms. Berg’s handle on prose and world-building.

The story starts out strong with Seyonne, an Ezzarian slave and former mage, on the auction block in the process of being bought by Aleksander, the crown prince of the Derzhi Empire and the race responsible for enslaving most peoples of this world. We follow Seyonne as he carefully navigates through life as a slave in the royal palace. After nearly 20 years in bondage, he knows how to stay in his place and stay alive, but when a Khelid emissary visit to celebrate Prince Aleksander’s coronation, Seyonne recognizes in the lead Khelid a Rai Kirah demon lurking behind his eyes, and this sets up events for the rest of the book.

Seyonne must choose between thwarting the demon’s plans and risking his life, or let things play out and stand by as the people who killed and enslaved his people die at the demon’s hands. He chooses to thwart, and I was like “…honestly?? Just let the damn world burn.” This was where the book lost me completely because I couldn’t get behind Seyonne’s purpose for saving the asshole prince. Sure, saving the prince = saving the world. But still, his people have been persecuted and enslaved. The writing wasn’t convincing enough for me to believe that Seyonne would cast aside his suffering and the suffering of his entire race for the good of the world. In that sense Seyonne went from an interesting, nuanced character to a Gary Stu in a matter of two pages. But I suppose… good for Seyonne for putting his enslavement and vengeance aside, and doubly good for him for choosing the righteous path.

Anyhow. Things slow down as the story introduces more boring court politics, then pick up again at the coronation when it’s revealed that someone framed Aleksander for murder. Aleksander is well hated among the nobility for his arrogance and frivolity, and his enemies, the Khelid among them, are waiting for the chance to take him down. Good thing Seyonne’s got his back. The two of them travel far and wide–to a hidden Ezzarian enclave–to escape the Khelid’s pursuit, and on the way, Seyonne regains his magic and Aleksander becomes a decent human being (sort of).

So many issues. Where to begin? Let’s start at the beginning.

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Review (and reread): Red Rising (Red Rising #1) by Pierce Brown

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Rating: ★ ★ ☆ ☆ ☆
Date Read: December 28, 2014 to January 9, 2015
Read Count: 2
Recommended by: ads on Goodreads
Recommended for: I don’t know

Not your average YA in that it’s darker in tone and subject matter, just like The Hunger Games but wordier and not as heartfelt.

I read this book when it first came out and really liked it, but looking back, I think that was because it’s so reminiscent of Suzanne Collins’ sparse style that it brought back memories of when I first read The Hunger Games. Now that some time has passed, I’ve come to see that Red Rising doesn’t have much going for it on its own. Barely anything about it is original, except for the setting being on Mars. Overall, I found the book difficult to get through a second time, esp the first half, because things I’d overlooked before became too glaring to ignore. If not for the huge buddy read, I don’t think I’d get through it.

While it’s very much like every other YA dystopian novel published in recent years, right down to the survival-of-the-fittest games and oppressive caste system, Red Rising doesn’t have the heart or that spark (or characters like Katniss) to light its pages and carry the story. It’s kind of a drag actually–first person POV’s usually are for me. Sparse writing about hardship, grief, and loss needs strong characterization to hold the story together and keep readers interested, and sparse writing about hardship, grief, and loss in SFF needs a sense of realness and relatability to anchor it in our consciousness. Furthermore, it needs sharp commentary to make it memorable, to take it to that next level of relevance, but I understand that’s not what some authors aim for, which is fine but it’s a huge missed opportunity when a book about taking on an oppressive society doesn’t take the chance to make meaningful critiques that may or may not relate to current events. Just saying. It’s no wonder I don’t recall much about Red Rising; it’s not the kind of story that stays with me.

All right, on to the actual book. The setting is oppressive, dystopian, and on Mars. The population is divided into groups by the colors of their eyes and other physical and mental traits, all of which are the result of specialty breeding. Golds rule the universe, Reds are slaves, and other colors in between have their own specializations. Eugenics is an interesting theme to explore, but it’s not well explored or executed here and that’s why this book is young adult and not adult fiction. The scope is rather narrow with the focus being mostly on physical looks/altercations and might, and the single character POV is too limiting.

Anyhow. The Society is especially cruel to the Reds. They work the hardest, have the highest mortality rate, but receive the least recognition and are often scorned and abused by the other colors. This treatment, which goes back centuries, is permitted. The explanation for it is quite contrived, I must admit now that I can’t ignore it. And yet the Society has functioned like this for over 700 years. Within the Red population, there is separation between high Reds and low Reds. High Reds are permitted to live above ground and hold menial jobs; low Reds live below ground and never know there’s a whole world thriving on the surface of Mars.

Darrow, the main character, the titular Red Rising of this book and Golden Son of the next book, is a low Red helldiver; his fate, to forever live and die underground, and his job, to go deep into to the caverns of Mars and mine precious resources. It’s part of the work that keeps the planet running. Most helldivers don’t live past the ripe old age of 25. Darrow is only 16 at the start of the book, and he definitely sounds like it–this is what I mean about the scope of the story being narrow/limiting. He’s married to his childhood sweetheart, Eo, and what a lovely delicate gal she is. We all know what happens to lovely delicate characters in dystopian fiction–they don’t live to see the end because they get refrigerated early. Too early, in this case.

Eo’s death is the catalyst Darrow needs to rise up and take action, otherwise he would’ve been quite content living out the rest of his short life as a Red, burning away in those deadly mines. The real action gets rolling around the time Darrow begins his preparation to be become Gold, but things don’t necessarily pick up until more than half way through the book when he successfully infiltrates their ranks and the war “games” begin; I’d forgotten how much you have to wade through before things really get going. New characters, more interesting than Darrow, are introduced when Darrow takes part in these survival “games.” And then more things happen and a few characters die violently, and the end of the book makes you want to start Golden Son. That about sums it up.

The writing style is all right most times, though too often it is lofty and repetitive like the way idealistic young people tend to be when they speak of big-idea concepts like freedom and liberty and such. It’s not that bothersome once I got used to it, but it definitely took some time getting used to. I’d wager it’s the main factor that determines whether or not you’d like this book. I didn’t notice it much during the first read, but it’s hard to ignore during the reread. Darrow as a narrator is efficient during intense action sequences; Pierce Brown knows his ways around an action scene. However, during lulls between these scenes, Darrow has a habit of reliving past wounds (Eo, Eo’s death, Eo’s dreams) and wallowing in guilt and despair (Julien, Titus), so much so that it becomes repetitive. He spends a lot of time tearing himself apart all the while trying to survive these war games at this ridiculously sadistic school. I should sympathize, but I don’t feel anything for him or any of the other characters.

Your enjoyment of Red Rising will depend on your enjoyment of YA in general and dystopians with YA flairs specifically. While it’s better written than others of its kind published in the last decade or so, it doesn’t really stand out on its own. For me, this book is a compact review and reiteration of major (YA) dystopian themes and tropes. So it’s all right as an introductory crash course, but wouldn’t work if you’re looking for something new or groundbreaking. In short, recommended for readers new to the subgenre; not so much for anyone bored by over saturation of dystopian things.

Lastly I should mention I listened to the audio for my reread, and it changed my perspective of the whole book. Funny how that happened; I didn’t expect it to affect me so much. The narrator, Tim Gerard Reynolds, has a voice with a special talent, and that is to highlight every single flaw in the text that I would have ignored had I been reading. Nothing against his voice or accents, but there’s something about the way he narrates that makes these flaws so damn noticeable. Although I wouldn’t say he “ruined” this book for me, I did enjoy it a lot more before the audio.

So will I read Golden Son? Yes, probably in the next few weeks. But no more audios.

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Review: Glamorama by Bret Easton Ellis

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Rating: ★ ½ ☆ ☆ ☆
Date Read: September 29 to 30, 2014
Read Count: 1
Recommended by: no one; found on a plane
Recommended for: no one

What? Did we end up hating each other? Did we end up the way we thought we always knew would? Did I end up wearing khakis because of that fucking ad?

This quote sums up what the rest of the book is about, but don’t take my word for it because I have no idea what this book is about. The brief summary is it’s about beautiful people with some celebrity status being careless with their lives and then are surprised when nothing turns out the way they’d hoped. There’s also something about a convoluted international terrorist plot, which I won’t even begin to dissect. The rest of the book is about these beautiful people lamenting missed chances and lost opportunities. So basically a lot of whining, name dropping, and brand-name dropping. But what is it really about? I assume there’s more to it than what I just summed up, but I have no idea what that is.

The motivation behind my reading this book was strategic. It stemmed from my annoyance of having to hear about Bret Easton Ellis so much at social gatherings; it’s almost as if people wait for me to show up to talk about this guy. So I figured I’d read American Psycho to see what everyone’s talking about and also to have enough ammunition for the next time someone brings up his body of work.

What people say about Ellis (or is it Easton Ellis?) is very polarizing, which is a big part of my interest in him. His fiction, I’ve been told, either works or doesn’t work for you. From having read his essays, I’d already known his nonfiction didn’t work for me. I find his style too showy and shallow and erratic, and his subject matter also too showy and shallow and frivolous. I think he puts effort into offering his own commentary on these things, but I could never figure out what where he stands or what he’s trying to say. Everything he writes about is glamorized to the full extent, to the point of obsession, I think. A not so subtle creepy obsession.

Although I’d meant to read American Psycho first, I went with Glamorama instead due to convenience (and due to it being left on a plane). Overall, it’s an imaginative look at the world of high fashion, minus the actual fashion. So basically just beautiful people, sex, drugs, some rock n roll, and oneupmanship. Oh, and international terrorism. Make of that what you will.

The writing starts out all right and the subject matter sort of interesting but in an artificial way. The constant name dropping doesn’t help to anchor the story. In fact, I think it works against narration and the dynamic of the story to pull you out of the story. More often than not, the “witty” prose seems forced instead of wry or smart. In addition to that, there’s a cast of shallow characters being shallow and whiny. Put them all together and you get a lot of hysterics and a lot of first-world non-problems written as though they’re actual problems. So this book manages to hit all of my annoyance buttons in less than 100 pages. But maybe that’s the point?

As the story progresses, to my surprise, everything and everyone stay pretty much the same and continue to be so until the end of the book, with the exception of the terrorist plot device. The characters, their obsessions, their thought processes, their motivations, the vanity, the setting, the name dropping, etc. stayed the same. Maybe this is some sort of clever commentary on a certain way of life? I really couldn’t say. So what is the point of it all, you might ask. I have no idea. You will have to find someone who thinks they understand Bret Easton Ellis and have them explain it to you.

One last thing lest I forget:

The stars are real.
The future is that mountain.

…what??