ashwednesday

Jam Tomorrow. Jam Yesterday. But Never Jam Today.

The Long Way Out of Shitsville

Riot - Sarah Mussi
We are the people!
We are the image of the future.
We are the first drops of a flood.
We are the lightning on the horizon.
We are the sound of the coming storm.
We are the wolves at your door.


Well there’s hating a book and there’s hating THIS book. It’s quite strange, this dumbfounded feeling after reading something that I found so terrible. I’m usually left speechless when I’m graced by something so good that conveying how much I love it is a pain. Riot is certainly a pain to remember, so much so that I’m having a great difficulty expressing just how bad it was. 

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Faith, Trust and Pixie Dust

The Lost - Sarah Beth Durst
”Do you trust me?”
It’s a line from a dozen romantic movies, and if I were the romantic sort, this is where I would swoon, take his hand, and pledge my devotion. I’m not romantic, but I’m also not stupid. So I take his hand and lie.
“Yes.”


This one’s probably going to get a lot of dissenting opinions across my friends’ list, and if you’re the kind of reader who can latch on an inconsistency like a rabid dog to a bone, this might be a tough sell for you. 

A book that is part Alice, part Peter, part Dorothy, part Twilight Zone. 

Yeah tough sell.

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Potatoes and Doritoes

Oblivion - Sasha Dawn
’You’re a poet.’
No, I want to say, I am insane.


Po-tay-toes, po-tah-toes.

I’m finding it a little strange reading gripes about this book’s length because I truly felt like I flew through this one quite easily. True, there are a lot of things to complain about this story but between reading a book that makes me feel like pulling my own tooth with a fork versus one that offers something compelling but induces one too many eye-rolls, I’ve learned to pick the nitpicks that I pick on.

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Jessicas and Elizabeths

We Are the Goldens - Dana Reinhardt
”I love you tons,” you said.
“I know.”
“And, Nell?”
“Yeah, I know.”
“You do?”
“Of course.”
“Promise?”
“Don’t insult me.”
I closed your door.
That’s how I vowed to keep your secret.


I just love that exchange. It so perfectly captures what this book is about.

I probably have the least credibility in discussing a book about two sisters. I’ve never had the pleasure of having one. And while there are definite perks in being an only child, I can’t deny that I’ve always wanted to have a Jessica to my Elizabeth (because of course, I’m that Wakefield). So I’m finding it a little strange to find how much this book spoke to me. How often I’ve found myself in Nell’s shoes and, sad as it may be, how many Laylas I have (figuratively speaking) in my life right now. 

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The Optimists, The Pessimists and the Bystanders In Between.

Then and Always: A Novel - Dani Atkins

THE HOOK 

“For fans of One DayWhat Alice Forgot and Sliding Doors”. Well I wasn’t exactly wowed by One Day but while I’m also not a fan of anything Gwyneth Paltrow, I was quite familiar and intrigued with the premise of Sliding Doors. I think I stopped reading the blurb after that and just requested this automatically. 

So one can imagine my surprise with how Then and Alwaysseemed to be a sleepy Adult Contemporary Romance one chapter playing with sci-fi, paranormal possibilities the next while wallowing too long with the usual suspects of cliched tropes and triggers. It was a very conflicting reading experience for me until the final chapter which made sense in one level, albeit a little manipulative in another. 

But then I was hardly emotionally invested with these characters so I guess… no harm done?

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Girls Rule! (But Kinda Suck When They Act Like Girls...)

Angelbound - Christina Bauer

WHAT I LIKED 


1. The Arena. The idea reminded me a little of shonen anime series like Yu Yu Hakusho and Flame of Recca where each episode centers on a member of the cocky hero’s crew battles with a gruesome demon in a tournament that seeds its warriors, much like in a tennis match. The Arena battles, unfortunately, were few, figuring in the plot only at the beginning, and since they are designed to decide a soul’s fate, singular. Battles and duels eventually figured in the story under different circumstances and I found myself enjoying those better than the actual plot this was trying to sell.

2. The Creatures. The imagination behind the various demons and creatures populating Purgatory was very rich and rightfully deserves, maybe even needs, a companion book cataloguing their abilities, their weaknesses, classifications, methods of killing them and origins. And perhaps a separate companion piece detailing the history of the angels, thrax, quasis, ghouls and demons. Because the interbreeding of these species and their resulting phenotypes were quite confusing at certain stretches. So yes, A Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Themand a (Not) Hogwarts: A History would probably make me want to revisit Bauer’s imagination.

WHAT DIDN’T WORK FOR ME 

1. The Rambling Narrative. The actual point to the story starts right around the halfway mark I think. Before that, there was a whole lot of annoying nothing going on. And I suppose this was just trying to cover EVERYTHING. But when it didn’t, it started to randomly bust out convenient plot points to make a generic scene 200-pages ago seem like it was foreshadowing into something. The Awakening of the Heir Scala was just rife with plot holes that got patched up rather sloppily towards the end. I hate plot twists of convenience, and while I’ve seen where Myla’s character was heading early on, I found the execution to get her from point A to point B forced and inorganic. 

2. ADD World Building I like intricate world building, I do. But what I don’t like is the endless piling up of details. For example, creature A gets injured during a fight right around the 75% mark. The author suddenly reveals he’s descended from a race that heals themselves. I wouldn’t have minded this tidbit of information if it impacts the bigger plot, but no, this was added in there at that most opportune time as if an afterthought. At a point when the plot should be reaping what it sowed in the earlier chapters, this just kept on sowing its way down to the climax.

3. MYLA

“I’m not like everyone else and I don’t want to be like everyone else.”


Thank fuck.

I can see how other readers might like her for being snarky and kickass but I always have trouble with this kind of heroines when the story is told from their perspective (I started to substitute her “I’s” with “Her’s” or “She’s” and found it a massive improvement. 

Reading her thoughts and actions just makes me wince: I’m supposed to like Myla because instead of wanting to dress up and do girly things, she likes wearing fighting suits and has an encyclopaedic knowledge of demons and how to kill them. She has no interest in boys (up to a certain point), she takes care of herself and defies the oppressive and misogynistic environment she survives in by sticking out her tongue on authority figures, giving them the finger and releasing mischief demons on the guests of stiff royal parties. 

And she’s 18.

Granted, this is purgatory and she’s not human, it was still quite difficult for me to like her interpretation of a strong heroine. It’s so much easier to communicate a heroine’s strength by wielding cool weapons and making idiots out of the men around her. The challenge lies on making her outsmart the conventions and bend it to her will while wearing lipstick, pearls and high heels. 

Panic rips through me. Sitting next to a bunch of girly-girls for who-knows-how long? I’ve lived this nightmare a few times at school. They’ll want to talk about stuff like eyelash extensions, panty liners and cuticle cream. It’s torture.


The underhanded message of kicking ass is good and is contrary with embracing one's femininity just rubbed me the wrong way as it often does with these kinds of heroines.

 

I suppose I was meant to take her with a grain of humour but I didn’t find her funny at all. Her humour lacked elegance in its delivery and came across desperate. And every time she complains about her mom’s overprotectiveness when she still gets to do what she wants ANYWAY, I wanted to slap the whining out of her.

There was no point to this character that would make a reader sympathise with her. I mean, she’s PERFECT. She’s always right. She wins all her battles. She solves EVERYONE’S problems. Her imperfection is that she’s too curvy. And she has a temper because she’s a redhead. Yeah I can sympathise with THAT. *EYEROLL*

4. The characters are too simplistic. Every character who pisses Myla off is an idiot, an incapable nitwit, or beyond-redemption evil while every character she likes is kind, brave and smart.

5. The lack of swoon. 

Myla and Lincoln... partners in crime on a new mission to rain trouble onto tight-assed thrax everywhere. Yay.


The romance was meh for me, mostly because I don’t find square jaws, heterochromia, full lips and scooped out cheeks attractive. I think someone was watching Dear John when Lincoln was imagined. I’m sorry but the only time I find Channing Tatum attractive is when he’s a stripper or when he’s being funny. I do appreciate the lack of insta-love and mushiness from both characters down the line.

6. Confusing maturity of the story. I’m really confused if I should label this as YA, because this had some of the usual elements of YA-PNR… but there was also some humping going on. Myla behaved like a 15 year old but with the sexual libido of someone from a NACR book. No, not the billionaire ones, the biker ones. Again the premise of her character being a quasi demon sporting serious wrath and lust excuses this I suppose, but it was still a bit awkward for me.

7. Loopy Sleeves. EVERYONE was wearing something with loopy sleeves at any given scene in the story. What gives?

Overall, I think it all boiled down to my personal quirks that led me to enjoy this less than I expected. I had such high hopes for this one that I requested the second book’s galley even before I finished reading this. A pity that Scala will probably be pushed way way behind my TBR list now.

It's Not Always Thursday

Barrett's Hill - Anne Stuart
”I need no one’s excuses,” I snapped. “My conduct is my own responsibility.” I turned and flounced off, hoping he would stop me.


Whoever came up with #throwbackthursday, I have a feeling this is your fault.

I suppose there are things in our past we’d like to openly reminisce in the interwebz. There’s that godawful photo of you sporting The Rachel haircut, wearing burgundy lipstick, a baby doll dress and DMs in a Four Non-Blondes concert that will always invite shared nostalgia and embarrassed laughter. And if you’re Britney you have this…



And the laughter just dies altogether.

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A Barren Field of Fucks

Second Star - Alyssa B. Sheinmel
”Some of us have only ever found home when we’re on water. Some of us are always waiting for the next wave.”


My face was in a perpetual state of a frown while reading this book that I feel like sending the Botox bill to the publishers. 

Seventeen year-old Wendy Darling has a bright future ahead of her who can’t seem to let go of a tragic past. Her brothers Michael and John went to surf one morning and never came home. Her parents and the police seem to have given up on the search but not Wendy, she’s convinced they’re still alive, waiting for her to figure out the scavenger hunt they’ve set out for her where the prize is her family that seem to have disappeared with them. In her search she runs into a group of free-spirited surfers living in a cove called Kensington led by the freckled and charming Pete with whom she’s drawn to. But as secrets begin to unravel among Pete’s crew, Wendy’s search takes her to the opposite side of Kensington where the enigmatic, fairy dust-dealer Jas lives.

Who she’s also drawn to.



Torn between a drug-dealer and a thief, will Wendy have the time and focus to actually find John and Michael?

I suppose there’s an element of rebellious panache in the refusal of a book to avoid as much cliches and stereotypes as possible. To not giving one iota of effort to actually avoid them… that takes some balls. 

And Second Star did exactly that with much aplomb.

Of course I ended up hating every single one of them: the TSTL heroine, the love triangle, the big misunderstanding, the doubled-up insta-love, the WTF plot twist. It felt like being caught in the middle of a group hug you didn’t want to be in the middle of, but you’re buried deep into that pile of unholy awfulness, its impossible to move against it and you’ll just be better off riding the horror out.

I’m not even militantly against love triangles as a plot device but I am also the kind of reader who demands substance in using that ploy in the stories I read. This had none. It felt like a distraction that severely cheapens whatever emotional currency John and Michael’s disappearance should have. A mark of an effective love triangle for me is when I can actually sympathize with the heroine, where the issue is not Team Dude A vs Team Dude B but that the reader ends up on the side of Team Chicks Before Dicks. When I start to wish Dude A and Dude B start to make sweet sweet love with each other over the heroine’s dead body… I think we have a problem. 

(This is when I feel I should really read Twilight just so I can use those funny Jacob-Edward memes where they make-out)

I’m going to do away with what little positives I saw in this “radical reinvention of a classic” (read: in which every character is faithfully unfaithful to whoever they were based from Peter Pan)

1. Great job advertising surfing. I’ve only ever read one other book on surfing (Maverick) and I did like the impassioned and evocative representation of the joys and thrills of the sport. I did think it was pushing things too far making it seem like the solution to every problem out there (from drug addiction to missing siblings) and at the end of the day, the idea of swimming towards a ten-foot wall of water on a slab of wood still terrifies me. But I did feel the second (third? very very distant fourth?) hand adrenaline from Sheinmel’s evident enthusiasm for the subject matter.

2. I did like the way this author writes . thought it served the story quite well because I did not expect the direction this one took based from how she was telling the it. I’d like to pride myself of not being surprised by much these days (because, I am a little paranoid) but it did catch me off-guard. Mostly because the way this was written prevents you from thinking it’s offering anything beyond what is apparent. If I was impressed with it is an entirely different matter though.

I usually like this kind of… resolution. But then I realize that it’s really contingent upon how well affected I was by the story, how invested I was with the characters and how willing am I to revisit that ending over and over throughout my day to make sense of it all. 

Ambiguity and fucks given apparently go hand in hand and in this case, one of the two is missing.



Review Copy courtesy of the publishers.

Progress: 44%

Second Star - Alyssa B. Sheinmel

Wassup, Tinkerbell!

 

Killing. Softly. Fabulously.

Boy Nobody - Allen Zadoff
Asking questions is not what I do. I’m given an assignment, and I carry it out.


Right now, there are at least 2 or 3 books in my TBR shelf roughly with the same premise as this one. Probably five if I estimate on the side of indulgence and include high fantasy assassin stories. It’s my kryptonite. 

Oh fine, it’s one among my many kryptonites. But the cold-blooded killers, honed as a weapon by a covert organization and implanted to assimilate into normal society with a mission to kill is a lure I willingly bite on at any given medium. 

The success rate in high fantasy of this ploy has been hit-and-miss for the most part for me but YA-contemporary has been killing it so far (pun not intended but hey, I’m claiming it was). 

The fact that this book is being re-released under a different title (it was previously published as Boy Nobody) as a lead-in to the release of its follow-up book I Am the Mission next month is pretty much a spoiler. Although I have to admit, making this into a Bourne Identity-esque young adult series isn’t the worst idea out there. 

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Mother. Fucking. Onions.

Quintana of Charyn  - Melina Marchetta

SPOILERS FOR FROI OF THE EXILES 

”Do you love me?” he asked instead. “because if you don’t, I’d wait until you did. I’d wait weeks and months and years.”


I fell in love with that line without knowing who said them or the context of those words. 

This was such a breathtaking reminder on why I read books.

Because in the culture fostered in Goodreads, underneath the insurmountable TBR pile, the endless galleys that you burden yourself to review before their release day… it’s so easy to lose sight of that. It becomes easy to nitpick and cry stereotype at the slightest clue, critique the geo-cultural soundness of world building in high fantasy and almost reflexive to completely write-off a story that makes use of rape as a plot device. It’s like picking a string, any string to pull and you can ruin a well-crafted book for yourself.

Quintana of Charyn made it difficult for me to fall back on those patterns, seeing as how it treads in the side of wonders.

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Don't Ask, Don't Tell... The Point

The Last Good Knight Part V: The Last Good Night (The Original Sinners) - Tiffany Reisz
I like having things I can break, knowing they'll only break when I want them to."


Was it enjoyable? At certain points yes. 

Was it necessary in The Original Series Compendium? Eh.

The fact that I'm giving this a 3 despite of what I've been reading this week may be a silver lining in my inabilityl to fawn over this offering from Tiffany Reisz. 

It was okay. I just found it a little pointless in the grand scheme of things. Because whatever conflict and reflections Nora may have had at this point in her life courtesy of Lance adds very little to what I know of her. I understand this was based from real-life events and I like that it calls to attention the prejudice good, honourable men like Lance suffer in society. 

"I wish I could tell you that there weren't two sets of rules out there for rich, important people like me and normal people like you. I wish I could tell you there wasn't a separate set of rules for men and women. I could tell you that but it would be a lie and you know it."


But the way this was made to fit in Nora's bigger story makes very little sense to me. 

Review Copy courtesy of the publishers.

The Vanilla Spectrum

The Last Good Knight Part IV: Fit to Be Tied (The Original Sinners) - Tiffany Reisz
Relationship wasn’t a dirty word. Nothing to be afraid of.
Not like it was monogamy.


Finally a 4!

So the mystery of who beat up Lady Natasha was resolved, rather disappointingly I might add, but then this series really didn’t pose itself as a romantic-suspense novella. This of course effectively dissolves Lance’s role as Nora’s bodyguard, along with the stipulations Kingsley made which expectedly translates to a lot of kinky banging. Nora and Lance's Sunday afternoon of bliss however gets the requisite interruption from their polar realities: Soren and Lance’s daughter.

In all of Reisz one hundred eighty-seven novellas from this series, my standing favourite has been The Gift but then it was also the first novella I read of hers right around the time I finished reading The Prince. Daniel was an intriguing character, not necessarily in the same league as Kingsley and Soren but one who I can believe Eleanor to foster fond feelings for. It takes a lot for me now to be convinced of Nora’s chemistry with anyone else from Soren and Lance suffers from that syndrome unfortunately. I do wonder often if Nora’s fascination of him is more akin to someone visiting the circus for the first time. 

Most of the novellas written by Reisz between The White and Red Years depicts Nora’s discontented heart, finding shelter with someone that offers something completely different from the lure of Soren’s. And it was presented in a chronological spectrum that goes closer and closer to what is full-blown vanilla: from Daniel, to Lance, to finally, Wesley (there are other men in between of course, but those are the ones I only read of). If it’s purely her adventurous spirit or her version of selfless love freeing herself from Soren out of her love for him, perhaps I’ll never know. But here, I’m glad she was more fully-formed as the latter than the former.

”That was just sex.”
“Say that again, I might believe you.”
“It. Was.Just. Sex.”
He raised his chin and looked down at her. With his eyes narrowed, he said softly, “No… still don’t believe you.”


It’s the kind of love that hurts and heals in endless permutations. The kind that makes me regret the long wait for the next book after The Saint.

Hate Lubed

The Last Good Knight Part III: The Games Destiny Plays (The Original Sinners) - Tiffany Reisz
”Hate’s like lube,” she finally said. “Makes it easier to get in and out. If it was all love with Soren, if I didn’t make myself hate him, I don’t think I could get out again.”


I don’t know why I chose that seeing as its obviously stating the obvious, but it could easily apply to my relationship with Nora as well. Because I’m evidently not her biggest fan, and this novella series is giving me so much ammo to despise her even more. But she’s the chosen one of such inimitable characters as Soren and Kingsley and fine, Lance, in that you can’t get to the bottom of these lovely heroes without a hefty dose of Nora along the way.

So yeah, Nora’s got all of my hate lube.

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What Charles Bukowski Said

Froi of the Exiles  - Melina Marchetta
”Where do you hail from Lumatere?” he asked suspiciously.
“I was found in exile,” Froi said, having no reason to lie to Ariston. “I belong to all of them.”




I choose you, pikachu Marchetta!

And good lord is she doing a masterful job at killing me, this woman.

I don’t want to write anything lengthy or get into my pretentious space (which I indulge in from time to time and for which I apologise profusely) discussing the psychology of war, rape, abandonment, the lesser evil etcetera. Because, let’s all admit it, after finishing this installment, there’s an irritating tug in some nameless part of your brain that will not cease until you read the first words on Quintana of Charyn. 

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Vaginal Unicornism

The Last Good Knight Part II: Sore Spots (The Original Sinners) - Tiffany Reisz
I think men exist on this earth to protect women and children. That’s what we’re here for. We make money to protect women and children from the elements by putting a roof over their heads and food on the table. We’re supposed to be physically strong so we can stand up for a woman or a child who’s in danger. We walk women to their cars at night and don’t turn our backs until we see the cars start.

That’s what men should be.


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