This page has moved to a new address.


CuddleBuggery: December 2011

This page has moved to a new address.


CuddleBuggery: December 2011

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Angelfall by Susan Ee

Angelfall (Penryn & the End of Days #1)Angelfall by Susan Ee

It's been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back.

Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel.

Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl.

Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels' stronghold in San Francisco where she'll risk everything to rescue her sister and he'll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The morning beckons and when I turn over the book I finished, in the midnight hours, is beside me.  The fantasy world is slipping away, unable to follow me into the light.  Reality creeps in with the rising dawn, but I'm reluctant to meet it.  I want that world, character or emotion back but it's over.  Time to find a new one in a new book and so the hunt is on but the sadness at leaving a good friend remains.

I feel that sadness this morning.

Ee has done something amazing here and not just because she's written probably one of the best post-apocalypse fantasies of the year.  But that would be a big part of it, yes.

And you too can experience the goodness for just 99 cents on Amazon's kindle!

Angelfall is a remarkable book, because if I were to tell you the synopsis, it would be so unspectacular, so typical of the genre, so... ordinary!  But this book is anything but ordinary.   

Penryn's sister is captured by angels who've brought war and apocalypse to the human world.  She finds an angel to help her retrieve her sister and they embark on a journey to get his wings back and rescue the young girl.

Simple, right?  That's what I thought too.  I thought I was just embarking on a ridiculous bandwagon that was being indulgent of an unusually good indie fic.

There are one or two issues I have with the novel but they are completely eclipsed by the brilliant story telling, characters and writing.

I loved Penryn so completely; believed in her and championed her.  This book is a brilliant journey of great character and spirit.  Full of the weird and wonderful.  Ee has a great imagination and a gift for story telling.

I know after I finish writing this review I will go and hunt down my next read.  Yet I will get increasingly aggravated and depressed because nothing I see is what I want.  Because what I want is Angelfall #2 and none of those books will be that.

Go ahead.  Jump on the bandwagon.

After all, you too could be waking up tomorrow wishing desperately that reality would just give you a little more time in this world, and with these characters, that Ee has created.

View all my reviews

Shit I'm Sick of Reading Part 1

There's a group of books published in the last 5-10 years for the YA paranormal genre that I like to refer to as: Sucks More Ass than a Futuristic, Sadomasochistic Ass-sucking Machine.

Generally, they tend to be most of the industry's best selling YA paranormal series.  Now, obviously they have some great appeal to be where they are.  I've certainly come across some very dedicated fans who will defend these books with great aplomb to any and all that are in the general vicinity.

What is it that makes these critically despised books so damn popular?

Mostly, it is that they all deal with similar themes, they recycle very similar story lines and they use all the same tropes.  Themes, storylines and tropes that I'm sick of reading and this is why:

#1. Love Triangles (Otherwise known as "The Term Love Triads Misappropriated for Ease of Understanding")

I did a post on over used tropes, and had to laugh when the overall response was, "Yes, it's perfectly okay to occasionally use cliches.  Just not the love triangle.  Ever.  Again."

It's so true.  Every time a secondary love interest shows up, I die a little inside.

See, I understand why it's so popular.  To novice or unskilled authors it must seem like the best kind of math possible.

1 sexy male love interest = X amount of fangirl screams of joy.
2 sexy male love interest therefore = 2 x X amount of fangirl screams of joy!

And I get why fans love it too - what's not to like about extra manmeat?  But here's the problems associated with love triangles:

1. That extra guy will turn the main love interest into a douche.

Do you remember what it was that made Twilight even worse than it was originally?

If your answer is Stephanie Meyer than... well, that's a really good point actually.  But no, it's Jacob.  Now, before fan girls start manually twisting their panties and rooting around for rotten tomatoes: it's not that Jacob was a bad character.

I couldn't give less of a shit about Team Jacob or Team Edward but that his arrival on set turned Edward from an annoying, but occasionally bearable love interest, into full-blown psychopath.  You could argue that Edward was always a psychopath and Jacob just brought it out of him and I would agree with you.  That would have been an excellent plot twist if Bella hadn't run off and married the obsessive, controlling psychopath. 

Leigh Pretnar Cousins, MS over at Psychcentral mentions the following things about love triangles:

  • There is tension in a primary relationship
  • Perhaps there is a disagreement
  • Perhaps a partner feels a basic need is not getting met

In the recesses of our primitive brains, we may think that it's sweet or romantic that the guys are fighting over her, because doesn't that just make her a special snowflake?  Yet it doesn't stay that way and soon it becomes about winning.  The main protagonist becomes objectified as a prize to be won, controlled or corralled and pretty soon everyone - including the audience - gets sick of it.

The reason behind the audience's attraction to the main male protagonist is usually because the story leads us to believe the main character is truly in love with the male protagonist.  Yet if their relationship was so strong or if they were truly meant for each other, then why is the second contender needed? When you put another love interest in the mix then a lot of those qualities that originally made the first contender appealing becomes compromised.  He either loses confidence or becomes over confident, there is less mystery and whilst he remains in love with the MC, the antagonizing secondary love interest is occupying some of his attention.

2. The story becomes consumed by the relationship dramas

Relationships are important but in literature they can become problematic when they consume the plot with their melodrama.

What was otherwise an interesting plot or mystery becomes more about the main protagonist choosing between her two love interests. 

The Southern Vampire Mysteries falls into this category.  Fallen by Lauren Kate starts in this category by default because it had no storyline to begin with.

Sometimes it's not unreasonable to question why the love triangle was included in the first place.  Especially if it neither truly adds to the story or the original characters but seems to only have been included to bolster an otherwise lackluster novel.

Such could be said for The Iron King by Julie Kagawa or The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter.

Carrie Ryan is quoted as saying the following (Shamelessly stolen from Melinda Lo's blog):

To me, that’s the essence of a love triangle — each man is a viable choice for the heroine but each speaks to a different part of who she is.  The heroine isn’t choosing between two men, she’s choosing who SHE wants to be and that will dictate who the right match is.

To a point I absolutely agree with this - if the majority of authors used it this way.  Yet Carrie Ryan is one of the few who effectively wields this trope in any artistic fashion.  Usually, the female protagonist is choosing between two different men and unfortunately the result is...

3. Love triangles often ruin the characterization of female protagonists.

At the tip of a love triad is a character who has a really difficult decision to make.  Yet, before they get to that point, they have a fuckton of really bad decisions to make.

Because they have to engage in behaviour that is usually pretty morally reprehensible in order to successfully lead two other people along in a romantic entanglement.  This usually rends an otherwise likable character into a weak and unsympathetic person to audiences.

For example - Rose from Vampire Academy by Richelle Mead, Georgina from Succubus Blues by Richelle Mead and Eugenie from the Dark Swan series by Richelle Mead.  Pretty much everything by Richelle Mead.

Look at that picture of Vampire Diaries up there.  Damon and Damon's brother, Broody McBroody-Faced there are both looking at Elena.  Is she looking at either of them to suggest a preference?  Or that she cares?  Or that she is actually interested in either of them?  No.  She's looking at the camera and reveling in the manwichy goodness.

Because it's all about her.  The apex of a love triangle has to engage in questionable behavior along the way and suddenly it becomes hard to root for a character when their biggest problems in life are choosing between rich, handsome, brooding and loving Bachelor #1 and rich, handsome, badass and loving Bachelor #2.

Then there are the illicit smoochies, the using of one Bachelor to aid another, playing them off against each other, controlling them etc.

I think everyone can agree that whilst there may be a Team Jacob and Team Edward - there is no Team Bella and probably for a very good reason.

But at the end of the day, authors seem intent on using this cliched trope.  Probably mostly because, in pictures, their protagonist looks great sandwiched between two paranormal studs with perfect profiles.

And in this instance, I can't bring myself to disagree with them.

Labels: ,

Friday, December 23, 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Divergent (Divergent, #1)Divergent by Veronica Roth

In Beatrice Prior's dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can't have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.
During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she's chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she's kept hidden from everyone because she's been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves… or it might destroy her.

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Today I almost attacked a man in public.  A man who was yelling at and abusing his partner.  Kicking the trolley, shoving her and screaming obscenities at her.   I ditched the trolley I'd been pushing and stormed toward them, my mind blank of anything but ruthless fury.

The next part was like out of some stupid romance novel.  Mr Kennedy pulled back on my arm and said, "No.  There is no way you're going over there!" He took off the baby sling, handed it to me and sent me to go put the groceries and baby in the car while he handled it.

Usually that's the part of the novel where the female heroine swoons or something but I only got angrier.  Did he just relegate me to child-minding and packing away groceries?  Because I have a uterus?  To say I was unimpressed would be an understatement.

Never before have I actually wanted to be a man.  I love being a woman and I think being a woman is a fantastic thing to be.  But I wanted to kick that man's ass.  I absolutely hated myself for being weak and puny.  It's not fair.  To not be able to fight your own battles, to not be able to stand up for weaker people when you want to.  It's so, incredibly, painfully unfair.  Why can't I have big muscles?  Why couldn't Mr Kennedy wait by the car while I got to go up and play harpsichord with his lower intestinal tract? Why must I swallow my pride and accept that I'm just not as strong or muscular as Mr Kennedy?

Perhaps it's that drive that made me connect so much with Tris.  I wonder what kind of personality types would enjoy this novel?  I've seen a lot of three star reviews and I just can't fathom why when this book was a solid five stars for me.  Even with it's somewhat implausible storyline I loved it.

I loved all the characters, especially Tris, for being a hardass, cold motherfucker when other YA protagonists would whither and melt into a gooey puddle of patheticness. 

Maybe I connected with it because I could absolutely imagine being Dauntless.  Catching moving trains?  Abseiling?  Fighting?  Sign me up now.  I think I would have loved every minute of it.

The writing was quite smooth and the action sequences were clear, concise and well-explained.  The pacing and the plot never really give up, making this book difficult to put down. 

Over all, I thoroughly loved this novel.  I'm hard-pressed to come up with any flaws or issues that annoyed me.

Most of all, it made me wish I really could kickass and take names like Tris does.  Perhaps taking up kickboxing would be a good place to start.

View all my reviews

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Across the Universe (Across the Universe, #1)Across the Universe by Beth Revis

Seventeen-year-old Amy joins her parents as frozen cargo aboard the vast spaceship Godspeed and expects to awaken on a new planet, three hundred years in the future. Never could she have known that her frozen slumber would come to an end fifty years too soon and that she would be thrust into the brave new world of a spaceship that lives by its own rules.

Amy quickly realizes that her awakening was no mere computer malfunction. Someone - one of the few thousand inhabitants of the spaceship - tried to kill her. And if Amy doesn't do something soon, her parents will be next.

Now, Amy must race to unlock Godspeed's hidden secrets. But out of her list of murder suspects, there's only one who matters: Elder, the future leader of the ship and the love she could never have seen coming.

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

I've heard it mentioned before that DNF(Did Not Finish)reviews were useless and self-indulgent.  Why would someone want to read a review by someone who didn't even finish the book?

My answer to that?

have a fucking cookie

There's always going to be a small fraction of reviewers who don't connect with a book and can't finish it, but to dismiss all DNF reviews, I think, is problematic.  Especially for an author.

Because it's not necessarily the reader's fault for not being able to connect to the book.  Often there are rookie mistakes made in writing, plot or characterization that inhibits readers from investing in the story.  Being able to hook a reader within the first couple of pages is an essential skill of any artisan storyteller and if you're having a lot of DNF reviews or simply bad reviews then they probably contain a goldmine in advice to help improve your range of skills.

I credit Revis with imagination and thoughtful plot.  The language changes and mono-ethnic parts of this book showed the kind of forethought and deep, intensive investigation I generally like in an author.

My issues were that the writing is very vague and sloppy.  One of the first events in the book, Elder attempting to save the ship, is vague in the writing which makes it difficult for readers to visualize the scene or get a handle on what's happening.

The characterization is equally nonplussed, taking quite a while to really root down.  There is little incentive to connect with the characters or anything that makes them feel particularly vivid or well-constructed.  It's basically one cardboard cutout after another, filled with overused archtypes.

By page seventy-five I knew who the antagonist is, which is bad storytelling.  I even flipped to the end to double check and was able to easily verify that I was right because I had trouble believing that Revis had made it so obvious.  Do not hang giant, obtrusive warning signs over your secret antagonist.  Please.

Overall I couldn't bring myself to invest in the story and characters.  This review may be useless or self-indulgent to some but I think reviewing even the first 125 pages of a book to give feedback is a higher compliment than if I'd ignored it entirely.

Also, and this is the important part, bite me. 

View all my reviews

Monday, December 19, 2011

Before I fall by Lauren Oliver

Before I FallBefore I Fall by Lauren Oliver

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

What if you had only one day to live? What would you do? Who would you kiss? And how far would you go to save your own life?
Samantha Kingston has it all: the world's most crush-worthy boyfriend, three amazing best friends, and first pick of everything at Thomas Jefferson High—from the best table in the cafeteria to the choicest parking spot. Friday, February 12, should be just another day in her charmed life.
Instead, it turns out to be her last.
Then she gets a second chance. Seven chances, in fact. Reliving her last day during one miraculous week, she will untangle the mystery surrounding her death—and discover the true value of everything she is in danger of losing.

I have to confess something before I write this review.  This book is about a teenager, Sam, who is a Mean Girl who trips into Groundhog Day world and is set on a path to redemption.  My confession is that I used to be a girl almost exactly like Sam.

Shallow, egotistical and worst of all - mean.  Really, really mean. 

I've commented before on the fact that I was a terrible teenager.  My parents did not so much try to raise me through these years.  More like they're tried to survive me.  In this book, Sam comes to the final realization that she is a bitch.  I know I related to this book more perhaps than some other readers would because I had to come to my own realization about that.  It is a strange and aggravatingly unsettling experience to wake up and realize the world neither revolves around you, nor should it, because you are a horrible person.  Yet, that's nothing compared to living your teenage years on the receiving end of bullshit people like me dished out to other people.

I can imagine growing up with that kind of experience would make you quite unsympathetic to Sam.  But Sam is on a path and a journey.  Oliver doesn't withhold on characterization. Every petty, mean, shallow act and thought is shamelessly paraded here. I loved the cast and the complicated relationships they all had.  I loved Sam and Kent's relationship as well as Sam and Lindsey's relationship.  Most of the people in this book felt like people I'd known or met in real life.

The writing worked well for this novel.  Never too flowery or explanatory but rather serving the purpose of translating complicated thoughts and feeling to the reader without being burdensome or boring. 

Every time I felt Sam was a little too...

Annoying Facebook Girl

Oliver managed to turn it around and make her...

rainbow dash

I think it took a lot of courage to write Sam's characterization as she did.  A lot of YA fiction depicts the Perfect Female ala Bella Swan. Where character flaws amount to being clumsy and everyone they ever meet thinks they're amazing and mature and wise beyond their years.  (Note: Zoe Redbird, no, you are not.)

My only complaint about the book is in the spoiler down below.  Basically, I loved it, I connected to it.   I felt like the themes were handled in a believable, realistic way.

I guess this book made me melancholy.  I think about Juliet Sykes and remember that I once had my own Juliet Sykes.  I wish I could go back in time and change that.  I wish I could somehow make amends to her.  Hell, I wish I could even remember her real name and not just all the disgusting nicknames we gave her.  I wish I'd been the kind of teenager I could be proud of.  Yet this book made me glad that I did change, that I have tomorrow to keep trying and learning and growing.  It makes me happy to think that even I deserved a chance at redemption and to choose a different way to live my life. 

Most of all, this book makes me really bloody happy that I'm an adult now and that I never, ever, have to go back.  Ever.

Perhaps the only real critique I could give of the book is this:

Do you remember that scene from Shakespeare in Love when Ben Affleck's Ned Alleyn is talking to Shakespeare about the ending of Romeo and Juliet and he says, "But there's a scene missing between marriage and death."

And in case you skipped school for the Obvious lesson in your Obvious class, he's talking about: boning.

dinosaur bones boning

It's this but it's not this.  If you know what I mean...

Now I'm not actually saying that I wanted Sam and Kent to bone but I felt there needed to be more to the final part of the book than just a few vague kisses and a goodbye.  I mean, poor Kent, right?  he wakes up one day and, out of the blue, the girl he's in love with decides to give him a break and actually kiss him.  Then she tells him that he's the best thing that ever happened to her.  Then she dies. 

Dawson crying

At least give the poor guy a happy ending... of sorts.

View all my reviews

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Writing Workshop #1

Writing is a skill that grows with time and practice.  Which is also why I'm a good person to teach you.  Not because I'm a writer with great writerly wisdom like you.  But because I'm a reader and there are some tips that can only be gained by reading a few hundred novels with a critical eye.

For some things, it takes a Kennedy.  A Kat Kennedy, that is.

There are certain things you can learn from DVD Director's commentary and not just that your favourite director is a giant dick with an ego the metaphorical size of the Earth's rotation around the sun.
I feel like a Whedon reference is appropriate here.
But even if they are a pain in the ass with all the tactile charisma of the creature of the Black Lagoon, there is no denying that if you like their movies, they probably know a thing or two about story-telling.

Story-telling is important because it's not always something you can teach but it is something you can learn.  Most of the writing technique can be taught by anyone and you'll find a thousand useful guides to constructing sentences and and prose.

But story-telling isn't like that and sometimes finding good advice is hard which is why it's sometimes interesting to try a different medium for examples.  That is exactly where movies and TV shows come into it.

Sometimes authors, because of the book-medium, think they have all day to get about making an idea or passing on a point to their reader.  Whilst technically, they do, that doesn't always make good writing.  TV shows and movies have a very limited format to get across some big ideas and a good director, on a good commentary track, can have some really insightful things to say.

On the director's commentary for season 2, episode 14 ("Innocence") for Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Joss Whedon makes a comment on a scene between Willow (Alyson Hannigan) and Oz (Seth Green).

"A very important scene and I've talked about this before, but, people not loving Oz, people very angry that Willow was not with Xander because she was so clearly into him.  We introduced the character of Oz who was based on an actual guy I knew, uh, in college.  Somebody just so cool he that he would just see how cool Willow was, even if she was wearing a big Eskimo outfit.  In fact, because she was wearing a big Eskimo outfit.    People not responding and so I wrote this scene very specifically as the scene that would make them love Oz.  because it's the scene that makes Willow loves Oz.  Where he turns her down and refuses to kiss her.  Again, kind of gauging the audience's reaction is a big part of the show and making things not just work, making you not just accept a plot twist or character, but making you need them.  Making you feel about them the way your character's supposed to.  It's the most important thing and, of course, Seth is so beautifully restrained and so completely charming and, look at Aly.  Fall in love with him.  Right now." 

You see, Joss had a problem and it was that he needed the audience to sympathize with and invest in Oz quickly and effectively but he couldn't waste a lot of time building their relationship.  He had to do it quickly and effectively in one scene.  Here is a transcript of that scene:

Willow: Do you want to make out with me?
Oz: What?
Willow: With me.  Make out.  Do you want to?
Oz: That time you said it backwards.
Willow: Forget it.  I'm sorry... (beat) Well do you?
Oz: Sometimes when I'm sitting in class, I'm not thinking about class, 'cause, that could never happen, and I'll think about kissing you and then everything stops.  It's like, freeze frame.  Willow kissage.

She is drawn in by this -- so a bit taken aback when instead of kissing her, he just looks out the window again.  There is a moment of confused wilence before he remembers himself and speaks again.

Oz (cont'd): I'm not gonna kiss you.
Willow: What? But... freeze frame...
Oz: Well, to the casual observer, it looks like you want to make your friend Xander jealous.  Or even the score, or something.  That's on the empty side.  You see, in my fantasy, when I'm kissing you... you're kissing me.

She can't reply -- she's touched, but she knows he's right about Xander,  Oz smiles at her, serene.

Oz (cont'd): It's okay.  I can wait.

I'm not saying every part of your novel needs to be snap frame, but sometimes you need to get an important emotional resonance across, or an important point.  Instead of spending fifty pages and three different scenes trying to get it across, find a way to bring out the emotion in one, significant act.  Sometimes it's just so much more powerful.


Thursday, December 15, 2011

Beauty Dates the Beast by Jessica Sims

Single human female to join charming, wealthy, single male were-cougar for a night of romantic fun—and maybe more.
Me: The tall, sensuous, open-minded leader of my clan.
You: A deliciously curvy virgin who’s intimately familiar with what goes bump in the night. Must not be afraid of a little tail. Prefer a woman who’s open to exploring her animal nature. Interest in nighttime walks through the woods a plus.
My turn-ons include protecting you from the worst the supernatural world has to offer. Ready for an adventure? Give me a call.
Vampires and doppelgangers need not apply.

Author blurb for Jill Myles from the author profile for Jessica Clare:
After devouring hundreds of paperback romances, mythology books, and archaeological tomes, she decided to write a few books of her own - stories with a wild adventure, sharp banter, and lots of super-sexy situations. She prefers her heroes alpha and half-dressed, her heroines witty, and she loves nothing more than watching them overcome adversity to fall into bed together.

If you are wondering why I'm quoting Myles' author blurb and why it exists on Jessica Clare's author profile and why it's applicable to a Jessica Sims' book then congratulations - it worked.  It worked because for some reason I purchased this book and you might have too.  I read the author bio for Jessica Sims which says some shit about owning cats and playing games.  What it doesn't say is that Jessica Sims in a nom de plume for Jill Myles and so is Jessica Clare.

I feel absolutely cheated.  I'd already read Gentlemen Prefer Succubi, and knew Myles' writing to be infantile, her characters dumber than rocks and her so-called plot - pathetic.  I never would have bought this book if I'd known that she wrote it.  I can only assume that is why she has three pen names in the same genre and why two of those pen names are even in the same subgenre! 

It's enough to say that nothing about her writing has improved.  At all.  If anything, the characterization has degraded.  Myles' blurb might lead you to believe that all those mythology books and archaeological tomes would imply that her writing is full of intelligence and research.  It might make you think that her dialogue is smart, witty and sharp.  You might think that her romance heroes are sexy and her heroines are strong but funny.  It's all a lie.  One big fucking lie.

Once again her plot was pathetically simple and juvenile making me suspect on how many mythology books and archaeological tomes she's actually read.  There is nothing funny or cute about her writing.  It is cheap and sloppy as hell.

And her characters.

Fuck my life.

There is nothing witty about them.  Nothing.  Her MC, Bathsheba is a capitulating moron who has no sense - common or otherwise.  Beau is an obsessive, controlling psychopath.  From the moment he meets her he controls everything about her.  There first date is nothing but creepy, gross sexual innuendo.  Just a few hours after meeting her he has drugged her and kidnapped her to his hotel (for her own safety, of course).  Within days he's kidnapped her again and dragged her to a remote location where he puts her completely within his control.  This doesn't stop.  The entire book continues like this. 

I'm sure Myles will dismiss this as a caring man, concerned about his woman and taking care of her.  My response would be to tell her to go volunteer at a woman's shelter at some point because that's exactly where Bathsheba would wind up one day.

When is the picture of what's sexy and appropriate going to change?  This is not sexy. Abusive isn't sexy and Beau shows ALL the signs of an abuser.  Spend three months helping a woman escape her abusive, controlling husband and come back and tell me this shit is still okay.  Hear her cry on the phone night after night while he's in the shower because she's terrified for her life but physically can't leave.  She can't leave because he controls her money, so she has to secretly work over time and squirrel the money away.  She can't just take her passport and banking stuff.  No.  She has to pretend to be clearing out the study and she has to secret her documents away.  Spend THREE MONTHS storing things for a terrified woman who is agonizingly working, inch by inch for moving day.  I can not express the amount of thought and planning that goes into those moving days.  Some of them will haunt me forever.

When we all have to show up but can't park in front of the house in case he drives by so we end up carrying boxes two blocks away to where our cars are.  Where we have to board her cat and secretly arrange a garage for her car to stay in and keep plane tickets hidden in her name.  Live those three months with the knowledge that ONE WRONG SLIP and he'll track her down and beat the shit out of her, kill her or worse - force her back to him.  Something forgotten at home meaning an early return, a call to work where a careless coworker reveals she didn't come in, him accidentally stumbling on a clue to her plans beforehand. 

Do all this and then come back to me and tell me it's alright to write this piece of crap.  I don't think there's anything that's going to convince me that Beau's characterization was harmless and just a sexy break from reality.  It's a fucking tragic reality for far too many women.  And it isn't romantic. 


Sunday, December 11, 2011

Incarnate by Jodi Meadows

Ana is new. For thousands of years in Range, a million souls have been reincarnated over and over, keeping their memories and experiences from previous lifetimes. When Ana was born, another soul vanished, and no one knows why.

Even Ana’s own mother thinks she’s a nosoul, an omen of worse things to come, and has kept her away from society. To escape her seclusion and learn whether she’ll be reincarnated, Ana travels to the city of Heart, but its citizens are suspicious and afraid of what her presence means. When dragons and sylph attack the city, is Ana to blame?

Sam believes Ana’s new soul is good and worthwhile. When he stands up for her, their relationship blooms. But can he love someone who may live only once, and will Ana’s enemies—human and creature alike—let them be together? Ana needs to uncover the mistake that gave her someone else’s life, but will her quest threaten the peace of Heart and destroy the promise of reincarnation for all?

Jodi Meadows expertly weaves soul-deep romance, fantasy, and danger into an extraordinary tale of new life.

Incarnate had such an interesting premise that I rushed to request the ARC.  The concept of a society of people constantly reincarnating and being reborn to each other was too good to pass up.  Blue Bloods had a poor crack at it and I hoped Incarnate would fare better.  Alas, no.  What Incarnate had the opportunity of doing was taking philosophy by the horns and riding that bull like a cowboy at a rodeo.  Instead, incarnate chose Philosophy!Bull's friend, Philosophy Show Pony and skipped along very slowly and sweetly to Romance Ranch.  There it stayed, refusing to budge from it's very comfortable stall until the last thirty pages where it promptly collapsed in a fit of seizures and died.  I can only hope Meadow's next book in the series won't be beating a dead horse.

One could reasonably argue that this is just YA literature and perhaps I was expecting too much.  However, I think that's not crediting teenagers with enough.  A book such as Incarnate has the opportunity to reflect on our society in so many ways, to do so much!  How does possession change when no one really dies?  How does parenting change when babies are really just miniature adults waiting to get back to their own lives?  How does society change?  Is there really murder and would it even be a big deal?  What about debt?  What happens if you can't die to escape that?  What does it do to a psyche to die and be reborn constantly?  Over time you will have probably given birth to, married, or been parented by almost everyone you know.  How does that change the way you see people?

These questions are only very briefly looked at and none are truly answered in any satisfactory way.  Instead, the world of Incarnate is eerily like our own with only a few minor changes to the facade.

This is not meant to imply that Meadows is a bad author.  What she does do, she does well.  The focus in the novel is heavily situated on the romance.  It's a very sweet, endearing romance and the characters are lovely.  Yet, if I'd wanted a cutsie romance then I have chicken soup for the soul for that.

No, Meadow can write well with lovely descriptions and sweet romantic talk and tense, dramatic, emotional scenes.  If I were to sum up her writing style and JUST the romantic aspects of this book, I would say 'lovely'.

But this book looked to be more than just a YA romance and in that it failed.  The mystery was flirted with occasionally but otherwise forgotten until the very end, there was almost no action or suspense to speak of outside the very beginning and very end.  Some characters were contradictory and nonsensical, some plot elements just didn't fit, etc.

Mostly, where the book failed is that I have no interest in reading any more of this series.  I've read my fill of chaste kisses, reluctant love, obstacles to affection, with a cursory nod at plot that only advances at a snails pace amid so much potential.  That's all this book was and I currently don't see any potential for the series to be anything more than that.  Thus I have no intention at the moment of reading this book's incarnate.

  Incarnate by Jodi Meadows by KatKennedy

Saturday, December 10, 2011

Kat's Christmas (Book) Wishlist

There's a ritual in our family.  Everyone does up a list and tells everyone else what to buy for them.  So I basically know the majority of what I'm going to get for Christmas.  My rule is that Christmas time is my time to support the publishing industry. So my entire Christmas list consists of books.  Lots and lots of books.

These are those books:

Friday, December 9, 2011

The Blog Has Lost the Plot

So basically, as you can see, my blog has lost the fucking plot.

It's not working to the point of aggravation but I'm waiting for the template maker to get back to me soon.

Hopefully it won't continue to be such a disaster.

Thanks for your patience.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction.

As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions.

They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers abarbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephew’s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love - one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY

The first book in a captivating trilogy, Veronica Rossi’s enthralling debut sweeps you into an unforgettable adventure.

Sometimes your book reading experience comes down to one single factor: Do you like the MC?

That character can make or break a book.

Name the biggest praise and the biggest complaint about J.D. Salinger's Catcher in the Rye.  If you said they're both Holden Caulfield then you get the gold star. 

This book was teetering on a precipice for me.  It could either land back on solid ground or go toppling off into the deep end.  eventually, the main characters, Aria and Perry, are what stacked it back to being a great read.

There's a lot to like about Rossi's futuristic dystopian novel.  The world building is fascinating and vivid, yet simplistic enough for most audiences to grasp reasonably well.  The writing is fair enough and I felt that it was reasonably tight and serviceable. It wasn't a perfect novel but I feel that it achieved what it was meant to and that was inspiring me to invest in Aria and Perry's story.

Mostly I'm just impressed with Rossi because she clearly is a badass.

I can just imagine how her meeting with the editor went:

"Ms. Rossi, thank you for coming.  We love your first copy but we're concerned about this Aether thing.  What is it?  Where did it come from?  How does it work?"

Rossi sits back in her chair and kicks her feet up onto the editor's table.  She pulls out a raw falcon egg and starts eating it. 

"So?" she asks between bites.

"Well, you never clarify how it works?  Why it's there?  How did it come to be there?"

Rossi shrugs casually.  "Meh.  I don't give a shit.  It's there.  YA takes it for granted that a 108 year old vampire would fall in love with a teenager.  They'll figure out this Aether shit.  They have google."

"But-" the editor tries to continue.

Rossi pins the editor with a withering gaze.  "I could devote ten boring pages to giving some lameass sciency explanation of the Aether or I could add in 20% more awesome.  Also, I know how to falcon punch.  I learned it from the mother of this egg I stole before I gave a right hook and uppercut to a shark."

The editor decides that surrender is the better part of valor and everyone learns an important lesson that day. Especially the wild life. 

The End.

So basically, I like this book, and even if Rossi does eat raw falcon eggs, I like her characters and I like her style.

And hopefully you will too.  If you know what's good for you.

  Under The Never Sky by Veronica Rossi by KatKennedy 

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Use That Trope!

There are certain tropes and cliches that are often seen in books, movies and plays.  Tropes exist in pretty much everything ever written and usually they aren't too bad unless they're a negatively geared one like the Men are strong, Women are pretty trope.   Cliches are usually annoying because they're something that's been done to death and often used for no other reason than the fiendish lack of imagination the evil writers need in order to use them.

Well, I'm here today to tell you to use them.  If you can.

Did the above just sound like a challenge?  Why, yes it is.

Cliches are stupid and boring if you can't use them the right way.  Your character is an orphan because their parents died in a tragic accident, you say? Wow.  Haven't seen that one before.

There's absolutely no reason why I'm putting these pictures up here.  They clearly have nothing in common.

Making your MC an orphan is usually a cheap, easy and semi effective trick for immediately gaining sympathy for your MC from the audience and making a simple pretense at giving a back story plus, ANGST!  What author doesn't love angst?

But you know when you should throw the whole cliche rulebook out the window?  When it really makes sense to.

A lot of reviews rightly call out YA authors for neglecting the family in the young MC's life.  I've seen it referred to as Disappearing Parent Syndrome because apparently anyone without rippling pectorals is of no interest to female audiences.

Readers are right to call writers out on this.  For a normal, average young adult living at home, there's really no reason why the parents should disappear off the face of the earth.  It gives the character an amazing lack of balance and it shows poor authorship.

But then there are times when it's totally, totally appropriate.  Because if your story is about a young adult going off the rails into a drug dependency then absent parents or abusive parents are simply what makes sense.  Everneath is a big one that people complain about since the father in that novel displays an alarming lack of interest in Beckett.  I understand the complaints.  That he doesn't ask enough questions, that he's never around, that he has no real participation in Beck's life.

Wow.  Sounds like every parent of every drug addict I've ever known.  Which is exactly what the active metaphor behind Everneath is.  Her trip down into the Everneath is a representation of someone who is completely addicted to drugs.  Everneath painstakingly catalogues Beck's slippery slope from grieving young school girl into addict and it involves every single person in her life somehow betraying or neglecting her.  A politician father who dismisses her and focuses on his campaign?  I've seen it.  So many times.  Except I've seen it in diplomats and high ranking business men and government employees and school principals and Church leaders.  What's that saying about Pastor's children?  Other than: "run!"?  No, I can't remember either.

The same is true for Harry Potter.  Yes, he is an orphan and his abuse does garner a great amount of sympathy but he is also a character designed not to put a lot of trust in adults and to try and solve problems by himself without going to them for help.  This is a powerful aspect of his character and his story telling which is dealt with so much more masterfully than: "My parents died.  I has a sad."

A cliche, used by a powerful, thoughtful, purposeful author can be an amazing story.  If you want further proof of that then look no further than Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor.  A Romeo and Juliet, star crossed lovers retelling?  Get out of town.  And yet, it's done so well, so masterfully that it's easy to forget that Taylor is dragging out the same old tired, cliches.  In her hands, they're not tired and they're not cliched.  They're just good storytelling.

At the end of the day, it's not important what you write but how you write it.  That makes the difference between a cliched piece of trash, and a story worth reading. 


Saturday, December 3, 2011

Froi of the Exiles by Melina Marchetta

Blood sings to blood, Froi . . .
Those born last will make the first . . .
For Charyn will be barren no more.

Three years after the curse on Lumatere was lifted, Froi has found his home... Or so he believes...

Fiercely loyal to the Queen and Finnikin, Froi has been trained roughly and lovingly by the Guard sworn to protect the royal family, and has learned to control his quick temper. But when he is sent on a secretive mission to the kingdom of Charyn, nothing could have prepared him for what he finds. Here he encounters a damaged people who are not who they seem, and must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad Princess.

And in this barren and mysterious place, he will discover that there is a song sleeping in his blood, and though Froi would rather not, the time has come to listen.

Gripping and intense, complex and richly imagined, Froi of the Exiles is a dazzling sequel to Finnikin of the Rock, from the internationally best-selling and multi-award-winning author of Looking for Alibrandi, Saving Francesca, On the Jellicoe Road and The Piper's Son.

Sometimes I feel like Marchetta books should come with a public health warning.

"Marchetta Fever," it would say.

"Symptoms include: pain, aching or burning in the chest region indicating a broken heart.

Uncontrollable weeping, both happy and sad, may occur frequently.  More serious cases run the risk of having their mind blown.

This condition has no known cure."

That's me.  That's me with every single one of these books.

I went into my local bookstore to order me some Marchetta this year.  Let me explain the community I live in.  The largest shopping center has, I kid you not, FIVE lingerie stores.  Stores entirely devoted to selling ladies underwear and such accessories.  It has one tiny bookstore.  A bookstore that is going out of business.  A bookstore that had no fewer than ten copies of  A Shore Thing and Confessions of a Guidette.  Did they have any Marchetta or Laini Taylor?  No.  One paperback copy of Froi of the Exiles was tucked away somewhere. This is a travesty.  This should be considered a Federal Crime.  The Unicorn Squad needs to get on that shit and put someone away in the Candy Cane House of Pain for violating awesomeness.

Marchetta's books are more than just readable, well-written, well-characterized novels of great spirit and imagination.  There is a beauty to them, a magic to them which wafts through every sentence of every page.  It's not just finely crafted writing, though it is that too.  It's a living, beating heart and beautiful but broken soul.

Does it matter that this book was 600 pages long?  Not to me.  Not when every page was breath-takingly spectacular. The themes are almost always the same.  Loss, pain, healing, family, loyalty.  I love the complication and depth of her characterization.

Whatever it is that Marchetta does, it speaks to me.  It touches me in parts of my heart that I had locked away and worked hard to forget.  Sometimes it hurts but she always, always remembers to patch me up again when she's finished.

So, if you're feeling a little lacklustre about your reading selection, why don't you try getting yourself a case of Marchetta fever?  It just might be what cures you.

Audio Review