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Writing a dark and stormy review…

I did it.

I managed to finish. I only had some 30 or so pages left and I wanted to DNF. I gave myself a final push and finished Ghost Train to New Orleans.

I have to let it sit for a while. I’m stewing in some mild rage fuelled by sad disappointment. This is not quiet objective writing time. Let me just…

drinking - pouring a drink

…sleep on it.

The Maze Runner – Review

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★★★☆☆

The Maze Runner
James Dashner
Delacorte Press (2009)
ISBN 9780385737944

The Long and Short:
A very male centric dystopia with great world building, but less the impressive characters and writing style. I wasn’t expecting anything too profound, so I wasn’t disappointed when it scratched only two layers of skin.

The Long:

I could have done this in one sitting, but life interfered. I was not expecting much, and I got a very little bit more than that.

There were a couple of things that were quite well done, such as the amnesia angle. The terror and confusion of knowing almost nothing but your own name (only to find out later that you don’t even have *that*), and the kind of oppressive feeling of living in such a fake world, knowing that you’re always being observed and there’s always the reliable threat of Grievers. So the world building is more than good.

I also liked the Maze “language” the boys have since it adds to the disorienting off kilter feel of being tossed into the maze. The strange made up terms seem to annoy a lot of my friends who’ve read it, but then I’m a linguistics student, so I appreciate those kinds of things.

The plot is simple: get out of the maze and find out what the hell is going on. That is the biggest propelling force in this book. Dashner has a flair for ending his rather short chapters with cliff-hanger/sensational statements so that you *have* to start the next one. He always has you wanting to know what happens next, even at the expense of pace and characterization. That is the biggest problem with this book; aside from Newt and Minho and even Chuck, everyone else is pretty one dimensional. Thomas is just too much of the perfect hero to really appreciate, and Teresa seems to be there merely for decoration and plot movement, which is a crying shame, as she’s the only female in the book.

Another thing, of a very spoilery nature *you’ve been warned* I was incredibly upset that when we finally get a chance to experience the Change through Thomas, it all happens off page. WHAT. We’re told over and over and over how awful the Change is, then we don’t even get to experience it. Utterly robbed. He just gets up, none the worse for wear, wipes his hands of the mess and more or less says, “well now that’s done with, lets call a meeting and let me tell you what all this maze business is about, shall I?”. Yeah, was really not happy about that. It didn’t help endear me to Thomas’ super speshulness either. /Spoiler.

Other annoying things are the “not telling you things you need to know” attitude by *every*one in the book. This is where Dashner’s need to keep the chapters exciting and short force the tension to be stretched out in a frustrating way. I also had a problem with Thomas and Teresa being the centre of everything. I understand them being catalysts, but Thomas seems to be the only one able to do anything right. There’s so much potential in the supporting cast, but they’re forced to the background to let Thomas shine in stead of being full characters in their own right. Which sucks even more since I found Thomas to be not all an interesting or sympathetic character. I may also just lack an imagination equipped with a bestiary – I couldn’t for life of me figure out what the Grievers were supposed to look like, and so they ended up being much less scary than they could have been.

I’m happy I read it before I see the movie, and while I enjoyed it for the most part, I ain’t gonna rush out and buy the sequel either. I’ll get to it eventually.

Context Free Quote:

n/a – unfortunately, this book lacked any standout phrases or moments for me. A sign, that.

Banking a series

So today I finally got my copy of Dreams of Gods and Monsters, the last monstrously huge instalment in Laini Taylor’s trilogy.

I loved, LOVED the first book, messed up pacing/structure, cliffhanger, insta-love and all. But I didn’t attack the second volume when it came out. My TBR pile is forever threatening to collapse and bury me, so it wasn’t for a rainy day.

No, I decided I would wait.

Normally, I’m an instant gratification kind of girl, but I restrained myself. I’m less willing, these days, to parse up my reading. I like to enjoy things in one fell swoop. The more complex a story, the more I want to pay attention and keep it all fresh. I’m also the queen of re-reads. I love doing it, but I realize that it’s detrimental to making any significant progress on my TBR list. So I wouldn’t say refresher reads are a waste of time, but its more a matter of being an adult now and having so much less time for myself than I used to. I have less and less free time and mind space to devote to remembering all the small details of a story, and that’s only going to get worse, unfortunately.

So I’m ridiculously happy this last one is finally out so that I can read the one that came before it.

Waiting - Sirius

The Mercy Seller – Review

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★★★★☆
The Mercy Seller (The Illuminator #2)
Brenda Rickman Vantrease
St. Martin’s Press (2007)
ISBN 9780312331931

Unfortunately, far into this novel I realized it was a sequel to a book I’d been eyeing for a while, The Illuminator. I still enjoyed this book without having any idea of its prequel’s plot It stand well on its own.

This story focuses on the red haired Anna, (the next gen from the 1st book) a Lollard trying to make her way to England, seeking refuge from religious prosecution. We get an omnipresent view of other characters, but I was relieved that the strong willed and intelligent heroine didn’t take everything over. While I like such a heroine, I’ve read 3 books in a row now with the same archetype; a change is nice. Gabriel, who is the subject of the witty title, I enjoyed more. His outdated thinking (for modern / intelligent readers) reflects his time, and his struggle to reconcile the good of his heart with the unease he has with his actions is very gratifying. Caught between loyalties, rights & wrongs, is hard for anybody, but so much more in those days when everything was so extreme. Vantrease certainly makes the in between points of history entertaining. The story focuses on the brave who fight for what they believe is a change for the better and the strong who wish to keep the status quo, then the people in the middle, like Gabriel, who struggle to find a place to fit in once the line of right and wrong are torn down and are up for reinterpretation. Then we have Henry V, who I was really sorry wasn’t more apart of the story. His coping with the change of their time was interesting since he had so much less choice than all the others, despite all that he is a king. Last was Sir John, who was more showcased than analyzed as the others were. He was so distinct and constant that the whole book might have been a “glory hallelujah” to his Martyrdom. He felt the most real as a character but the least real as a flawed HUMAN; He is a hero from a fairytale, a shining ideal that you’ll rarely, if ever, find in real life. The plot is not straight forward, there are conflicts everywhere and there’s no real ‘Main’ conflict to resolve. It might have been Anna & Gabriel’s relationship, there so many open threads as though the story could go on forever, but if the point was to elucidate the chaos and unsettlement of the time then Vantreage did so. For me, this is a story about where to find “mercy” and “grace” in your own personal revolution, when your world is falling apart and you have to not only survive the change but come out of it better in mind, body, and spirit.

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? – Review

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★★★☆☆

Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
Phillip K. Dick
Del Rey, 1996 (1968)
ISBN 9780345404473

Cover artist: …

I have no idea how to go about reviewing this. Maybe I should point out that I am very much not a sci-fi reader. Reading this was my effort to rectify that. Maybe this wasn’t the book to start with. Or maybe it was the best.

All I can say is that the world was strange and beautiful and very much a world I would never want to live in. I didn’t understand any of the relationships in the book, but by the end, I realized that maybe I wasn’t meant to. It did make me think about a great many things, but often I felt like I was chasing my own thoughts in circles and most of my near insights came to nothing. With the ending I didn’t know if I should be comforted or disappointed. Honestly I was a little bit of both.

I had less difficulty coming to grips with Thompson’s Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. I just find it strange that a drug-filled primarily hallucinogenic book with references made to decades well before my years, makes more sense to me than Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep.

I may not have enjoyed it, per se, but I am glad that I read it.

Summon the Keeper – Review

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60738

★★★★☆ (more like 4.5)

Summon the Keeer (Keeper Chronicles #1)
Tanya Huff
DAW (1998)
ISBN 9780886777845

Cover Artist – Mark Hess

I’ve been a fan of Tanya Huff’s book since my high school days, but I started with her Fantasy series first, ( Fifth Quarter et al, Wizard of the Grove, Of Darkness, Light, and Fire ). You see some of her snarky humour in those stories, but nothing in them prepared me for the smiles and laughs I got out of Summon the Keeper. Huff always has amazingly real characters and she can have them fighting racist talking lizard people without missing a beat. Every character has their comedic moments and none are done in the same way. Being from Canada I might have gotten some extra mileage out of a few of her jokes =]. The story is in no hurry to get anywhere and that’s more than fine because Huff sets out to entertain you every single page. The fantasy world has time to explain itself and many creatures make their way to “Elysian Fields Inn” which is especially fun for those of us who know their mythology. I feel I should mention that the blurb might promise more romance than really appears…I’m not sure if I’m spoiling anything by saying that there’s more romantic tension than an actual love story. These days, I find we tend to expect a particular level of romance in our urban fantasy, but this is an older book (published in 1998), so it’s fun to see what was going on in the urban fantasy genre when it was kind of in its “teenage” years, before it had the glut of established tropes that it has now.

If you want some light, endearing and incredibly entertaining reading then I highly suggest reading the entire trilogy, though Summon the Keeper is the best of the three (this review is actually the result of my third re-read).

Black Blade Blues – Review

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★★☆☆☆

Black Blade Blues (Sarah Beauhall #1)
J.A. Pitts
Tor Books (2010)
ISBN 9780765324672

There’s alot of interesting things going on in this book, but I’m not sure all of it came together well.

I was a little blindsided by the f/f relationship, nothing in the blurb or cover suggested as such to me, which was a pleasant surprise. The author, despite being a man, writes the female perspective pretty convincingly. What wasn’t pleasant, however, was just how much of the book centered on this relationship and the characters issues with sexuality, which adds up to about half the entire book. It was was all very well done, but I had expected an entertaining read, something “lite”. This had much more substance than I was in the mood for. I really felt for Beau and while I did like the peek into a torn psyche, it became so heavy and central that I couldn’t help thinking often, “ok, enough, on with the dragons and the end of the world.” Then I got my wish and that’s where the book kind of fell apart for me. The huge battle at the end was stupefying. There was a long garbled and physics bending fight in a helicopter that I couldn’t wrap my head around. Then there was this last section that felt like nothing more than really bad fan-fiction based in Norse mythology. Gah, and it had, of all hateful things, one of those characters who is sitting on very vital and relevant information for no real reason other than that the author isnt ready to let you know yet. The wrapping up was good, but I really wish there was more focus on the Dragon foes and the world they lived in. Honestly, that was the story I had been expecting, and I’ll be honest, the one I’d rather have read.

I want to see Beau more comfortable with herself and see how she and Katie develop, but nothing else impressed me enough to wanna pick up the next book. I didn’t hate it but there was too much wrong for me to really enjoy it. The characters are great (except the villain), the ideas are interesting but they just don’t come together well for me.

Context Free Quote:
Once a King always a King, but once a Knight is enough.

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