Saturday, May 27, 2017
When it comes to classic novels in which to make adaptations or reimagining of Peter Pan is a popular candidate. While not exactly my favorite story (I always kind of thought Peter Pan was kind of a jerk) I did know there was a wealth of potential for a great new story with classic characters and set ups. The title also pulled me in, seeing as how much I liked The Looking Glass Wars, and just the idea of Neverland being at war with anything is interesting enough. Let's see how it did.
Gwen Hoffman feels cheated. Being a teenager is not agreeing with her (despite being relatively popular, getting good grades, getting attention from boys, etc.) and she finds herself wishing for her childhood back. But when her little sister, Rosemary, gets whisked away one night, Gwen discovers a terrible truth. Magic is very real and adults are stealing it from the young to solve their real world problems. It's then that Gwen meets Peter Pan himself and journeys to Neverland for the experience of a lifetime and bring her sister home.
I'm just going to get it out of the way: this book is silly... and not in a good way. While I didn't necessarily hate the protagonist she has major issues. As I hinted at before, she has it pretty easy but still mourns her lost time being a kid and cannot relate to her teenage peers. While I can get behind anyone who thinks the song "Teenage Dream" is horrible, she has the potential to deeply annoy a lot of people. Also, nobody really stands out or has anything resembling a personality in this thing. Pan is generic at best and bland at worst. The Lost Children blend together and I cannot tell them apart for the life of me. The only other characters that we're supposed to care about are the fairies and they make a point of telling you that they have no personality whatsoever besides a specific vice. Apparently we are supposed to care about this.
The writing itself has problems as well. The point-of-view constantly shifts, the action is slim to none, and the foreshadowing is incredibly heavy-handed. For a book with the word "war" in the title, there's not a lot of warring that goes on in it. One reality bombing (you heard me), and a barely worthwhile casualty and that's it. The rest of the book is just basking in Neverland whimsy and Gwen making up BS excuses about how she needs to go back. And what's waiting for her back home? A house party complete with booze, drugs, swearing, and sex. Yeah, great tone there. An entire book on whimsy and wonderment and you throw in a den of teenage sin to contrast. Real nice.
Also, addressing the natives of Neverland, the author uses a term that is not...generally favored by the public. While the logic behind using the term does make sense, it's still squicky. Also, it sets up a heavily implied love triangle between Gwen and Peter, who have no chemistry whatsoever, and Gwen's crush Jay Hoek (seriously, who do you think you're fooling with that name?) who is just as uninteresting as everyone else.
This book was just kind of a mess. The title is a lie, the characters are bland, the pace is slow and nothing is really gained or lost throughout the entire thing. I didn't care for it. At all really. The further I go into this, the more I realize that I don't have a lot of good things to say about it so, yeah, this is another one for the Waste Bin of Despair.
Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you want me to read or a recommendation you'd like to see here? Contact me on goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer
Next Time: I see a red door and must have it painted....green?
Wednesday, May 24, 2017
With the endless amount of Greek Mythology stories that are out there, it's nice to see someone delving into the often under appreciated realm of Norse Mythology. While I'm not nearly as well versed in Norse myths as I am Greek ones, I still find them interesting and full of great characters and stories. So, how'd this one turn out? Let's dive right in.
Amy is a college student returning home to stay with her grandma when she stumbles upon Loki, the Norse God of Mischief, who saves her from a terrible predicament. It turns out that Loki has come to Midgard (earth) in an attempt to flee from Odin, the All-Father, who tried to execute Loki's sons for treason. Loki must regain his power and what few allies he can count on, including Amy and her grandmother, Beatrice, to save his sons and protect them from Odin's wrath.
First thing I really appreciated was Loki's characterization. He's not a bad guy, but I'd say he's a bit more anti-hero than straight up knight in shining armor (although he does wear shining armor). He drinks, he makes dirty jokes, he sleeps around, all the kinds of things you'd expect from a trickster god, and yet his backstory and overall personality are so good the reader doesn't mind these things. How else would you expect the Norse God Loki to behave? It's nice to see such a flawed character handled so well. Not enough flaws and he might have come off as too perfect, but too many flaws would have made him unlikeable and sleazy. Instead, there's a nice balance and I liked that about this book.
Sadly, things kind of go downhill from there. As well written as Loki is, I cannot say the same for Amy. The biggest (and only) flaw with her is that she is unbearably annoying! She's an animal-lover and training to be a veterinarian, but this she just goes way too far with the animal loving thing! When they're being chased by men on horseback and Loki manages to stop them she's freaking out that he's hurting the poor horses and he shouldn't do that. Woman, you're being chased! Forget about the friggin' horses! During that same running-for-their-lives situation, she hits something with her car and insists they stop and make sure whatever they hit was okay. You're running for your life, woman! Let. It. Go! But the thing that just killed me is her inability to grasp the concepts of magic and that she's dealing with a legendary Norse God. I get that it's a big deal and a hard thing to come to terms with but she goes almost out of her way to ignore things that are happening right in front of her face to the point where it just makes her look stupid. Speaking of stupid, she's hopelessly blind to all of Loki's obvious innuendoes that even a third grader would understand and she's not even a virgin! She's a college student and has had sex and you're honestly telling me you can't get these? You're slow, woman, very slow. Also, she uses the word "crazy" so often I want to smack her in the face with a thesaurus.
As for the overall structure of the story, I wasn't too crazy about that either. Sure, some things were nice. For instance, I liked the descriptions of Alfheim, and I appreciated that the police involved in the story were actually smart enough not to try and mess with a Norse God. But the flashbacks into Loki's past kind of come out of left field and don't always have to do with what is going on currently in the main story. Then there's the deal with the ending. Again, no spoilers, but this really kind of ticked me off. I get that it says "Part I" right there on the front cover, but this book has it's climax three quarters into the book and the rest is just sequel fodder. Any installment of any series should be able to hold its own as a standalone book and not rely heavily on the fact that it's a part of a whole. Just hyping up what's to come in the next book when you're current story has loose ends out the whazoo isn't exactly the best strategy for making people want to keep reading.
I'm not sure there's enough good things in this book to make up for the bad ones. Loki was good but the Amy was unbearable, the plot had potential but the pace was slow. In the end I'd say that, if you wanted to give this book a shot, go ahead but check it out at your local library.
Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you want to see reviews here or would like to make a recommendation? Find me on goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer
Next Time: You're gonna need a lot more than faith, trust and pixie dust to win this battle....
Thursday, May 18, 2017
I hold books with prize stickers on their covers in particularly high regard and it's ever so nice when they actually feel like they deserve them. This book has a lot that deserves merit and I'm super glad to have been able to find it and get to it at last. I just can't wait to talk about this thing so let me get started.
Mankind has entered the Age of Immortality, where everyone is born with healing nanites, universal information is openly available to everyone via the Thunderhead (the "cloud" fully realized), governments and religions are things of the past and nobody, ever, dies. That last bit is where the Scythes come in. Men and women trained in the art of killing are the only ones who can deal out death to whomever they chose, and when they kill you, you're dead for good. When Citra Terranova and Rowan Damisch are chosen by a Scythe to become his apprentices and become Scythes themselves, neither of them wants the job. But they are soon swept up in the politics and delicate balance within the Scythedom and pitted against each other in a dangerous game that could spell doom for one or both of them.
Okay, there's one thing about this book that I just adore. Everybody, and I mean everybody, is a freaking genius! Everybody is just so gosh darn smart and I just love it. While still playing by absurd rules and abiding by strict laws, everyone is able to manipulate situations to suite them perfectly. You don't see this kind of intelligence in young adult books and I just love it! Everyone is competent, everyone is sharp, heck even the villain of the book was a friggin' mastermind. There was a point in the book where I had to look at the guy and say, "Oh, man, that's absolutely awesome! It's terrible and stuff, sure, but you can't deny that is just an amazing move!" The sheer brilliance displayed by the characters in this book alone is worth the read.
Speaking of the characters, let's talk about them for a minute. I was a bit worried when I was reading about Citra to start off with. She's quickly described as having a hot temper and prone to snapping back when there's something she doesn't like. I feared that this would make her one of those hot-headed, stomp-your-foot-when-you-don't-get-your-way, protagonists that you tend to see in young adult books. Thankfully, however, I was incorrect. While Citra never really loses her spirit and does have a well-place snappy retort for most situations, her journey through the book helps her find her center. She learns to find inner peace and calm and a respect for life. Rowan's journey is something of the yin to Citra's yang. Starting off as an obedient, mild-mannered kid with a serious case of middle child syndrome, Rowan is put through the wringer throughout this book. It's about him finding his passion and purpose in his life. He finds his fire and she finds her cool and the two stories just compliment each other so well, it's really great.
The plot of the story certainly keeps things interesting. Throughout the coarse of the book, a ton of stuff goes on, yet it never feels like too much. While it follows several plot lines, it never feels wasted or out of place. Everything is at a good pace and the events are gripping and get you sucked in. It's, again, a sign of just how smart the characters are and how smartly the book is written. Everything just fits together in this vast puzzle of "that was so cool!" Going back the the villain of the book, I was so very happy to see him in this book and his part. Finally a villain with a complex ideology, and while we don't know his backstory, we don't really need to. He's fascinating without needing a sympathetic backstory! I don't feel sorry for this guy, but I loved him nevertheless. Villains don't need a sob story, contrary to what so many people believe these days, nor to they need to be one-dimensional to be enjoyable. He's an example of good intentions gone array and a very possible outcome in a world so complicated as this. His motivations make sense, even if they're terrible, and you can understand where he's coming from. It's all just handled with such care and it all comes together in, not one, but three tense climaxes that made me wish I had a microphone to give this book the mic drop it deserves.
What else can I say? I loved this book. The characters? Awesome. The writing? Awesome. The plot? Awesome! It was a great and insightful read, full of suspense and excitement, heartbreak and nail-biting tension. Therefore it should come as no surprise that I'm putting this book straight onto the Shelf of Recommendation!
Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts? Have a book you want me to review or would like to recommend a book to see here? Contact me on goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer
Next time: This guy's no Tom Hiddleston....
Saturday, May 13, 2017
I seem to be on a turn-of-the-century steampunk England trend right now. I can't help if it's such an awesome style and am attracted to books of this nature. As the latest in this type of book, I can only wonder how this one fares in regards to the rest of the so far pretty good ones that I've been checking out recently.
Christine de Pisan Daniel is plagued by terrible visions of people she's never met and thinks may cause her harm. She seeks answers to whatever it is that's bothering her, but magic is deeply looked down upon in her world of propriety and standards. The only one she can find to help her is a woman who agrees to help Christine but only on the condition that she convinces her sister into a loveless marriage. Christine's fate depends on figuring out and unravelling the mysteries surrounding her previous life, that of Sir Tomas of Medieval Provence, and finishing the task he'd been given long ago.
Now, this book was a bit of a challenge for me. First off, the writing is very good. It's very clear that a lot of time and effort went into it and it is intricate and well-thought out and deeply detailed. But this strength lead to a serious weakness. There's too much detail. Way too much. There are descriptions in this thing that just go on and on and on and it doesn't do much to help keep the reader invested. Now, I've seen this kind of thing before, especially with writers like Tolkien. The kinds of things that you can capture with one sweeping camera shot of New Zealand can take up to two and a half pages of description in a Tolkien book. Well written descriptions, yes, but there's only so long a reader can put up with reading about grass when there's magic and mystery out there. It's the same problem with this book. Everything is explained in step by step detail, how spells work, how a debut into society goes down, everything that goes down in a knighthood ceremony, word for word what goes on in a marriage ceremony, how to do a sudoku puzzle, etc. The book needed some serious fat-trimming in that regard.
Once you get past all the descriptions, there's the story itself. Basically, this book has two stories, Christine's and Sir Tomas's. Now, this can also work. At their heart, both stories are very interesting. Christine's story is dark and creepy yet full of that Victorian England posh that people love to see, including parties and marriages and scandal. Sir Tomas's story is a bit more traditional medieval knights quest with good characters and thrilling chases and escapes. Both stories are good but, once again, we have a bit of a problem. Instead of the stories blending together nicely, one just stops and the other one takes over completely. This is especially vexing because the story that gets left behind has more loose threads than a craft store! I finished the book and felt "wait, that's it! What about all that other stuff! Are we just...never going to fix any of that?" It was really kind of upsetting. There's a character in particular who the book just kind of throws under a bus and we're just supposed to accept it and move on. It distracts from the rest of the story because I'm so caught up with wondering if they're ever going to go back and finish what was started in the first two thirds of the book and leaves you a bit put out when you realize that they're not. I don't know, maybe there will be a sequel in which this is all wrapped up, because leaving it as it is will more likely leave readers aggravated than amused.
This book has a lot of potential, but could probably use a bit more editing. All in all, there was just too much telling and not enough showing. The world building got out of control and left little room for the story. Still, what story there was did manage to get me invested and it had good action but abandoned plot threads can leave readers frustrated. And so, if you want to check it out, it's worth the read but check it out at your local library.
Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you want me to read or want to make a recommendation? Contact me on goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer
Next time: Thou shalt kill
Tuesday, May 9, 2017
Well, it's good to know that James Patterson's publishing company can put out a good book anyway. Even so, isn't that just the greatest title ever!? How can you not get sucked in immediately after hearing that?! It's just a fantastic title and the kind you wanna kick yourself for not thinking of first. But the title is one thing, can the rest of the book live up to such an amazing title? Let's dive right in.
Audrey Rose Wadsworth is a most unusual girl. While most ladies her age are busy stitching handkerchiefs, Audrey is stitching up corpses in her uncle's forensic laboratory. In an age where forensics were still very much in their prime and considered by many to be nothing short of blasphemy, Audrey and her Uncle practice this delicate science of the deceased human body against the wishes of society as well as Audrey's OCD father. Their help is especially needed as a horrifying killer arrives in Whitechapel, brutally murdering prostitutes and seemingly stealing their organs. Audrey become obsessed with the case, taking serious risks and teaming up with her uncle's smug assistant to track down and stop the Ripper once and for all.
I like to think that everybody has a "thing" that they like in spite of themselves. One certain, macabre, dark "thing" that they can't help but find fascinating and want to look into and read up on, even if it is unpleasant and might make other people raise their eyebrows and ask "why would you want to know about that?" when they too have a "thing" and they just won't admit it. For me, that thing is Jack the Ripper (among other "things"). I just love hearing about the guy, one of the reasons I was so eager to get a hold of this book in the first place. And that is the first and best thing about this book. Audrey Rose is fascinated by the dark and mysterious and can relate to all of us weirdos who have "things" (who will admit it). She's not ashamed of her fascination with the dead and her desire to cut up bodies and explore the mysteries they can hide. Even if society forces her to keep it a secret, she's not willing to give it up or bury it away. She's very proud of what she can do and is just as capable as any man who can do the same thing. However, there's more to her than a girl who likes to cut up dead people. She likes to be girly too. She wears makeup and attends tea and enjoys those things (well, maybe not so much the teas). It's like what Throne of Glass was trying to do with its protagonist, trying to balance both masculinity and femininity within one character. Where that character got a bit out of hand, Audrey Rose is much more toned down and therefore a bit more believable. She was never too nice or too rough, didn't turn away help when it was offered but felt herself capable of doing whatever she set her mind to. She's just a wonderful character and I liked her a lot.
Now the story, like most retellings of historical events, tends to bend history and twist the dates a bit in order to fit what the author has in mind. The dates are a bit off, things took place that actually didn't and most Ripper enthusiasts might be bothered by those that but not so much that it takes away from the story altogether. While it's clear some liberties were taken, and the author does admit to them, it's clear that this lady did her homework on the Ripper. The forensics that they do in the book are equal to what they would have been back then, the victims and their conditions match up, heck even victims beyond the Canonical Five are mentioned, something that I was really happy to see, as are Jack the Ripper's letters to the press. Yeah, the dates are off but the details are there where they matter and I feel it really did do the case justice.
Like most Jack the Ripper stories, the story takes a whodunnit route and it's all about discovering the killer's identity. The beauty of this angle is that, since the Ripper was never caught in real life, he could be anyone. As a mystery, the book does a good job of surrounding the reader with tons of possibilities and suspects, from whom we can draw our own conclusions. The story is kept central to the main character and so doesn't include lots of the popular Free Mason conspiracy stuff you find in a lot of other Ripper stories. It's Audrey Rose's story and it's very much connected to her life and how the Ripper plays into it. But there is risk and good tension and false leads just like any good mystery. There are a couple of plot threads that I didn't really think lead to anything, but for the most part the story, as a whole, does come together and works out. The suspects are each really good and have their own means and motivations for being the Ripper and the reveal does lead to a pretty intense climax. No spoilers but I'm sure any lover of the dark and gothic will be pleased with the end result.
Dark, macabre, intriguing, this story has it all. Great atmosphere, gory violence, posh Victorian England staples, and an unsolved mystery almost one hundred and thirty years in the making. Over all, Stalking Jack the Ripper is a just a treat and has earned a place on the Shelf of Recommendation!
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Next time: How do you live your life when a past one refuses to leave you be?
Thursday, May 4, 2017
Never really knew what to expect with this book going into it, but I tend to find that's part of the charm with books. I generally don't like science fiction or dystopians all too much, as they've been done to death, but if anything's going to get me invested in those genres, this might just do it. The earth has been taken over by three enormous conglomerates; Moxidone, Gregon, and Toton (though in my mind I'd affectionately renamed them Disney, Google, and Target) and we see just how the power of human nature cannot be stopped.
Millicent Foster is a genetically perfected human and weapons designer for Moxidone when she's selected to take part in the breeding program. Together with the DNA of perfect human weapon (and super attractive) Mr. Ryker Gunner, they produce Marie, a girl who shows unbelievable power and can manipulate technology at only eighteen months old. But when it comes time to separate Millicent from her daughter, both mother and father strike back and seek to escape the conglomerates, and the planet, in hopes for a better life.
While I'd originally believed this would take more of a spy/thriller route, this story quickly turns into an action-packed roller coaster with chases, escapes, and close calls. It really would take a pair of perfect human beings to pull some of this stuff off as most people wouldn't be able to survive this kind of thing. Lots of explosions and damaged crafts (vehicles) take place, especially in the last hundred pages or so. While a lot of how they survive involves vast amounts of tech, which I admit kind of went over my head, it never gets out of hand or goes on too long. The action does take time to sit down and let the readers breathe before charging right back in, keeping the story well-paced as well as giving opportunities to explore the dystopian world.
As far as characters go, I was a bit worried about Millicent being too perfect, as this can lead to bland protagonists that get things done much too easily. However, as the story progresses, so does she. Yeah, she's able to hack her way out of situations most of the time, but she does struggle and develops as a character. She becomes more human as she steadily learns what it is to be human. Still, she's not much in the personality department, but she never got on my nerves or anything. Overall, she was fine. I was less impressed with Ryker, though. Now, he did seem too perfect and in more ways than one. He survives nearly everything and treats it like it's nothing and he's incredibly handsome and wonderful and protective and...I guess he's trying to be funny. Mostly he just goes on and on and on about how he wants to have sex with Millicent and it got a bit old pretty quick for me. He's also scary overprotective and constantly threatens to kill anyone who so much as looks at Millicent or Marie. I wasn't his biggest fan. But, for the problems I had with them, it's all made up for with the inclusion of Trent McAllister. Oh my gosh, I love this guy. He's the real source of comedy in this thing. He's a lab worker who was charged with Marie's care and he quickly gets swept up in the plot and he's just hilarious and awkward and just adorable! While it's clear he's in way over his head, Trent still manages to go along with things, bonds with the others and never flinches or hesitates to take care of Marie. I could read about him all day!
As far as drawbacks go, the writing can be a little hokey at times. Overall, it's fine but there are just a few things that stand out as being kinda silly. Like the bosses seeing the dangers of having Millicent enter the breeding program and turning their noses up like "oh, please, that would never happen." Cursed last words, I've always said this. Also, using phrases like "save the day" can come off as a bit corny and, as I said earlier, I got really sick of Ryker's innuendos. Still, it never goes too far where it feels gimmicky or that you can't take the story seriously.
An action-packed ride worthy of any summer blockbuster. Clever, funny, heartfelt, and Trent McAllister. What more can I say? In the end, I'd say this sucker is definitely worth your money at your local bookstore!
Have you read the book? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts.
Have a book you want me to review or have a recommendation you'd like to see here? Contact me on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer
Next time: One of the world's most infamous serial killer's just met his match....
Monday, May 1, 2017
Having read several books based in Greek mythology that have failed dismally (and my own recent experience with an abhorrent film called Immortals) I decided it was time to sit down and appreciate the one book series that, in my opinion, has not only done it right, but done it best.
The Percy Jackson series centers around it's title character, a young boy living in New York. He soon discovers that he is a demigod, the son of one of the ancient Olympians of the Greek pantheon. He is taken to Camp Half-Blood, a summer camp in which demigods are trained to hone their skills, play capture the flag, compete in chariot races, and hopefully get called onto quests to battle monsters and prove themselves. Y'know, very typical camp stuff. But as the son of one of the Big Three, Percy gets wrapped up in a dangerous plot to awaken the ancient Titans, longstanding enemies of the gods, and a prophecy that marks him as the one to stop the apocalypse or bring it about.
The first thing about this series is that the main character is very unique in how flawed he is. In this world, demigods are commonly plagued with ADHD and dyslexia, of which our protagonist has both. Allegedly, Riordan's own child has these learning disabilities and Riordan set out to create a character who also has them and make that character capable of anything. In this, he succeeds. Percy Jackson is an extremely likable character, funny, determined, and loyal. He doesn't let his disabilities get in his way at all but works with and around them in order to get the job done. He's also very sarcastic and witty, adding to the overall humor of the story in general and it gets pretty friggin' hilarious.
One of the best things about the books, however, has to be the representation of the Greek pantheon. Tons of people have tried to write what the Olympians would be like in the modern times, but this one feels the closest and most realistic representation. Hermes as the inventor of the internet, Poseidon in Hawaiian shirts, Artemis running a boy-free Hunt of immortal girls, everyone feels both well represented and yet modernized at the same time. While they also have their share of funny moments, there's still a commanding presents that demands respect to them all. It's like, "I'm being nice here kid, but you do know that I can vaporize you if I wanted to." Nobody else has ever really done this and has either had them as toga wearing relics or dirty, earth-bound shells of who they once were. There's balance in these representations that you don't really see anywhere else and it's just fantastically done.
Probably one of the biggest flaws that people have with this series is that it's a little too similar to the Harry Potter books and...yeah, they're kinda right. The fact that the two title characters have very similar descriptions and that you can pretty much find a Harry Potter parallel character for every Percy Jackson character (I've done it). However, I find it comparing an apple and an orange, both fruit but different kinds of the same thing. Where Harry Potter is more subtle and intricate, Percy Jackson is fun and more colorful. It's simpler and fans of one can definitely get into the other. It never really bothered me.
It also created the spin off/sequel series, Heroes of Olympus, which is definitely a topic of conversation for another day. (Hint: they're awesome).
Have you read the books? What did you think? Comment below and share your thoughts. Have a book you want me to review or would like to recommend a book you'd like to see here? Contact me on goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/user/show/65448711-michelle-beer
Next time: Hell hath no fury like a genetically advanced super parent....