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Something as a Reference

I’m having a bit of a problem with the reviews I’m working on at the moment. See, I keep wanting to reference some of my other stuff in them, other books I’ve reviewed. That feels a little unfair though. Kind of like if I say, this is a thing this book did but not as well as this other book, that I’m cutting into the first book’s time to push the second one.

Logically, I know that doesn’t really make a ton of sense. Comparisons are part of how humans parse things out. This thing is like that thing but with this or without that, but comparing books within the reviews just seems kind of weird. Maybe it’s more something I should go back and do a post on, similar to that book vs. movie comparison I did ages ago. I’m still working out that part.

On other topics, I have another review that should be up later in the week and I’m trying to decide on another topic for non-review posts between reviews. If I can hit it right I’m wanting to do a review every one to two weeks, once a week being idea biweekly being more realistic. But that doesn’t leave a ton of content and results in a pretty sparse blog, which is something I’m trying to avoid.

I’ll probably wind up doing stuff like this fairly regularly, just for updates and to keep things organized, but if you guys have any ideas feel free to comment below with them. And I’ll see you next time!

So, one of the reviews I have coming up is for the first book in Eliza Green’s Exilon 5 trilogy. She’s been excellent to work with. Enjoy!

It’s 2163 and the Earth has become uninhabitable due to overcrowding and poor air quality. Medical interventions mean people can live longer and genetic manipulation clinics provided by the World Government allow the population to look good while doing it. In the beginning, clean green policies were high on the World Government’s agenda until industries began to create their own energy. Not one to miss an opportunity to earn a little cash, the World Government swiftly taxed clean fuel until industries fell back into old habits of relying on cheaper alternatives, like fossil fuels. With 20 million people presently living on Earth, the planet is bursting at the seams. Increased investment in space exploration has allowed the World Government to search for a suitable exoplanet to live on. They finally discover Exilon 5.

 

When I wrote Becoming Human, there were a lot of things I had to get right. How much would the population realistically increase by in 150 years? How long would it take to reach a new planet? How would they get there? What would they find on the new planet?

 

Earth’s decimation was easy to write. Air pollution close to the scale in my story is already happening in Beijing. In my future Earth, people must wear gel masks to help them breathe. The sun’s diminished access to the planet has cooled the planet’s surface and temperatures struggle to climb above a few degrees Celsius/Fahrenheit during the day. Overcrowding is already happening in countries like Africa, India, and China. Access to resources is at a low for the majority of the population. In Becoming Human’s Earth, food farms no longer exist, land belongs to the wealthy and food replicators keep the rest of the population fed.

 

I created Exilon 5 in the image of twentieth century Earth when air was cleaner—well, cleaner than the Earth in Becoming Human—and when technology had not yet invaded our lives. In Becoming Human, the population of Earth relies on virtual assistants, virtual worlds and genetic manipulation clinics to help them cope with everyday life. And when they’re ready to die, termination clinics are at hand. It’s a bleak world they live in and Exilon 5 is everything that used to be great about Earth. But the discovery of a race already living on Exilon 5 causes tensions.

 

There is an alien race that lives on Exilon 5. Known as Indigenes, they differ greatly from humans in appearance. Their skin is hairless and almost translucent in appearance. They need lower concentrations of oxygen to breathe safely. Exilon 5’s atmosphere caters for their needs.  When humans arrive on Exilon 5 they terraform the planet to alter the atmosphere. Their actions drive the Indigenes underground where they live today.

 

Becoming Human is a story about the humans and the Indigenes and what happens when they’re forced to share a world. Who will reign supreme or will they live in harmony?

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child by J. K. Rowling, Jack Thorne, and John Tiffany is a sequel of sorts to Rowling’s tremendously famous Harry Potter novels. This is probably one of the only things people who’ve read it so far will agree on. Now, the book was released because the play is only being shown in England and fans elsewhere would have thrown a fit if they weren’t able to experience it in some way. It’s important to remember going in that this is a play script rather than a novel. That actually affects a lot in this review as well as my general feelings towards the book.

The story follows Albus Severus, his friend Scorpius, and Harry Potter the father who could do better as Albus and Scorpius attempt to set right what once went wrong. Albus and Harry have nothing in common, something that we are led to think gets thrown in Albus’ face quite a bit at school. He can’t measure up to his famous dad and Harry doesn’t have the time to spend with him for them to work through that. So he grows bitter over the first few years he’s at Hogwarts, until an overheard conversation leads him to stealing a time-turner to go save Cedric Diggory. This is all fine, I’m good with this plot line.  What I feel like the script needed was a little more attention to each different version of the timeline, consequences essentially. I would have also liked to have seen more of the villain prior to the very end.

All that said, is it a good Harry Potter novel? Well, no, if you walk into reading this expecting a Harry Potter novel you will be very disappointed. The language used for a novel and a script are very different, with plays being as visual as they are the book lacks a lot of the description that a novel would have and you don’t get much about how characters feel beyond the occasional note for clarification. The story also feels disjointed in places because of scene shifts and not being able to see the actors’ reactions directly. That said, it’s a script, so I can’t really hold it to novel standards. As far as scripts go, I could have gone with more stage direction in the book itself to help follow what was going on, but it wasn’t bad.  My big problem with Cursed Child is that it lacks the scope the series proper felt like it had, the weight of consequence when characters made choices. Partly because of how directly involved they were in things compared to how successful they were, the villain also felt very small, again, I’d have liked to see more build up there.

As to the good parts, I really liked Scorpius and the way that wanting to take care of him humanized Malfoy. The friendship between Scorpius and Albus was also pretty fun, I would have actually like to have seen that used to give us more insight into some of the other young characters. I appreciate that the golden trio mess up massively, even as adults, especially things like Harry not keeping up with his paperwork. More effort needed to have been given to showing that Harry is under a tremendous amount of stress though, there is a scene that feels very out of character because of this lack.

So, what’s the long and short of this? How does Harry Potter and the Cursed Child rank? For me, it gets a solid three out of five. There was a lot wrong that could have and should have been worked out better, especially given that plays tend to go through multiple runs. The language was off, again that difference between novels and scripts, and didn’t feel like J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter. The characters could have all been more developed. But, the story is pretty good if a little too much like early aughts fan fiction, and it makes me want to see the show. That I think is the big thing here, there isn’t a sequel to worry over, but reading the script does make me want to see the play. I think that’s a pretty fair measure of it doing its job.

So, I’m still working on getting things sorted and the blog up and running regularly again. There is no denying that, so I’m just going to roll with it.

I’ve got a review for Harry Potter and the Cursed Child coming up soon, hopefully the next couple of days, but my internet is going to be spotty for a bit. Bear with me on that. I’m aware that spoilers were posted before the book came out, but I’m still trying to avoid them in my review, that’s part of why it’s taking so long.

There are a few more reviews in the works, those will be up in short order. I’m trying to get to where I can do one a week again, plus other posts about related things. If anyone has ideas on what kind of content they’re interested in, feel free to comment and let me know. I’m still tossing ideas around on my end of things.

So, today is the day most places are doing a midnight release of Harry Potter and the Cursed Child. If you haven’t pre-ordered yet, but wanted to most places will still be doing pre-order sales until about two hours before the event starts. Also with Books-A-Million at least, you will be able to come enjoy the festivities without pre-ordering. That’s about it, have fun everyone.

Rambling a Little

So, the book that I’m working on a review for and the book I just started have a lot of surface similarities and it’s kind of funny. The similarities make how different the writing is stand out more than I would have initially thought, and it’s kind of making me enjoy the one I’m reading now more than I think I would have if I hadn’t read the other. It’s cool.

Also, new Harry Potter book is coming out Sunday. I’m going to pre-order that while I can still get a discount on it. I have to work the midnight release though, so that isn’t as much fun as it could have been. I do want to do a costume for it though, since we can dress up. I’ve got my wand part way finished and a vague idea of what I want to do for the clothing. The big problem is that I can’t sew and it’s hard to find a robe that works right on short notice.

I’ve got a couple guest posts on the way, need to get those posted but they’re mostly ready. Also another review should be ready in, say, a week. Probably less. I’m also still considering posting bits of that thing I’ve been writing, but I’m not honestly sure anyone would be interested or if this would be the place to post it.

It’s Not My Favorite

So, it’s been more than a couple of days, hasn’t it? Sorry about that. Work stress picked up again and I had to get most of my car’s air conditioning set up replaced, so that wasn’t fun. I have a review though. It is pretty spoilery, so heads up there, but here it goes.

Gwen’s life is in shambles except for her business as The Organizer, Rachel is in the process of breaking up with her girlfriend, and they have to help their parents move again. It follows that Gwen has always harbored dreams that her parents weren’t actually her parents and she would find a better more supportive family elsewhere. These dreams seem to be realized when she finds a set of pictures of a younger version of her mother that linked to a painter, Daniel Gregory, she of course leaps at the idea that he is her real father.

It’s Not My Favorite by Rue is, well, not my favorite by a long shot. It bills itself as a sort of romantic comedy featuring the Hutchinson sisters Gwen, who can organize anyone’s life but her own, and Rachel, out and proud to everyone except her parents. I admit, I was a little hesitant to buy it because Gwen’s shoddy love life got higher billing than Rachel’s anything, but it was listed as LGBT and on sale so I gave it a shot. I probably shouldn’t have.

Gwen is the focus of the book for nearly its entire run whether directly as the point of view character or indirectly as the object of another character’s concern in their chapter. This gets really old really quickly, because I didn’t start the book to read about Gwen and her running away from adult life because she didn’t get what she wanted. I didn’t want Gwen’s adventures in going half the world away from her problems and shtupping some English dude while her poor love interest tries to find her to fix things. To be honest, the whole book would be a lot more palatable if I’d started it expecting that or if her running away from everything had any notable consequences. She leaves her sister, who is dealing with relationship problems of her own, the dude who is inexplicably falling for her, and her business with next to no warning and very little prep. That bothers me, I know this is basically a romance novel, but as a retail associate I and everyone I work with has to give at least two weeks notice if we need or want to be off, so seeing a professional more or less abandon her business because she doesn’t get a new father/brother kind of pisses me off.

All of that comes down to me not liking Gwen in the least and, probably the bigger writing issue, not caring what happens to her. Not caring about, essentially, the main character means I don’t care about the romance. I really didn’t care about the romance. It was forced and badly written and just didn’t work for me. Just, yes, he’s hot and she thinks he might be her father/brother, he has feelings for her that he hasn’t felt since he wife died and she’s awkward. Then we get the trip halfway around the world where he follows her and then, when it looks like she’s with another guy, falls off the wagon. Then they agree to be friends and immediately fall into bed for a day. It’s like the book was made by throwing clichés at the wall and seeing what stuck.

But what about Rachel? She got nearly equal billing didn’t she? Well, yes she did. Her entire story arc took something like five chapters from “I think she’s cheating” to coming out to her parents. That’s it. She was interesting enough while she was the focus, but I’m not giving the book any points for barely having her in it.

So the only remaining thing is, how does the book rate? It’s Not My Favorite is very true to its name, while there were points where the writing was legitimately entertaining they were few and far between. Given that I got it because it featured a lesbian protagonist and then mostly ignored her for her sister’s relationship drama and trip across the world, I was severely disappointed. A more honest blurb would help with that a ton. It also has kind of a non-ending what with being the first in a trilogy, some stuff gets tied up but not enough and I didn’t care about the characters enough for it to feel satisfying in any meaningful way. So, yeah, while the book wasn’t unreadable It’s Not My Favorite by Rue earns a two out of five.

Excuses Excuses

I haven’t been doing much reviews wise lately, have I? It’s mostly a case of not knowing where I’m going with this and then second guessing myself anytime I start a new review. I’m trying to get better with that. I know I’ve been saying that for something like three years now, but one of these days I’m going to get back into the swing of things.

I’ve got a couple books read that I just need to write the review for and a couple more that I need to get read but that I’m pretty excited for. There’s also a couple of guest posts coming up, those should be entertaining.

I’m considering maybe starting posting some bits of a story I’ve been working on. I don’t know if there would be any real interest, but I’m finding myself sort of starved for content and I do want to see if there’s any feedback on it. It’s pretty massively rambly and I think I’ve exhausted every way to refer to Slenderman without just saying his name, but I’m fond of it.

That’s about it for now. I should have a review up in a couple days and maybe something about one of the books I’ve gotten for review as well.

Black Blade Blues

So, once again, I’ve been gone for what seems like forever. I know, I know, shouting into the void here seeing if anyone’s still there. So, I’ve got a review for an older book that I picked up ages ago. It goes long with this one, I’ve tried several times to slim it down but when I have I’ve gone off on tangents or felt like I wasn’t getting my point across. Enjoy!

When her favorite sword is broken by a clumsy actor at her night job Sara Beauhall, blacksmith by day prop mistress by night, agrees to reforge the blade to avoid reshoots. That’s when things get weird. An extra claiming to be a dwarf tells her that she has become the guardian of Sigurd’s blade, Gram, the bane of Fafnir and that she is now destined to slay a dragon. A dragon that shows up not long after triggering events that may make her a heroine fit for the tales of old or destroy her utterly.

So, J.A. Pitts’ Black Blade Blues is interesting, using a main character who is into weapons and combat and renaissance faire stuff but who doesn’t really have any interest in fantasy and throwing her into a situation out of Norse mythology. It has a lot of promise there and in some ways it lives up to it, in a lot of others it falls entirely flat.

Fairly early in the book we are introduced to two important things for Sara. One is her religious upbringing and the attitudes her father sought to impose upon her.  References to Sara’s father came up way too often for my taste given that they really didn’t affect the plot and in a lot of ways seemed contradictory. The other is her girlfriend Katie. These two are actually where a lot of the falling flat came from for me since a lot of the drama of the book comes from Sara’s discomfort with her sexuality as a result of her father’s parenting and the fallout from her not dealing with it at all. This of course means that instead of talking to her girlfriend about her discomfort like an adult, she snaps at people because she thinks they’re making reference to her relationship and immediately assumes Katie is cheating on her when she starts hanging out with one of her ex’s. This hurts the book a lot for me, in part because of how excited I was when I first realized that the main character was gay in a book that wasn’t specifically LGBT marketed. I can understand that how she was raised effecting her feelings about her sexuality, but I would have liked for her and Katie to talk about it rather than it being step one on her path to rock bottom.

The rock bottom thing was, at best, badly handled. In the course of the book Sara loses her relationship and both jobs and has one former boss who hates her, but none of that sticks and again isn’t really necessary to the plot so much as it adds cheep drama. Because she and Katie don’t communicate, when Sara winds up borrowing a coworker’s sweats and doesn’t think to change out of them, Katie assumes that Sara is cheating on her. At one point she gets bodyjacked by magic and nearly has sex with some guy her boss was flirting with, grossness aside, it only serves to ruin her job and isolate her. Events towards the end could have taken the place of both events without the unnecessary grossness. It all ties into a feeling that the author has never met a woman and was writing the characters based on what he’d seen on tv and in video games.

Part of being the guardian of Gram is that Sara gets, essentially, branded with runes that give her powers but also affect her personality. Sara becomes a berserker with anger issues and unstable emotions to go with it. Thing is we aren’t really shown her personality before hand for a comparison, so its left feeling like this is just how she is. The issues with Sara are made worse by the fact that every other major female character also seems to share her emotional instability. That thing about her and Katie not talking like adults and Katie’s assumption of cheating based on cloths and nothing else, check. Boss jumping down her throat, ending their friendship, and firing her so hard she barely got to grab her stuff before she left over a guy she’d only recently met, while she knows Sara is a lesbian, check. It’s all very over blown and deeply uncomfortable. Again, it seems to be there mostly for cheep drama. Give me a reason for all this in the book its introduced in.

So, after all that, what did I like about the book? The minor characters, especially the Black Briar lot, are interesting. I’m left wanting to know more about the dragons and what happened to the Norse pantheon. One of the side characters has an interesting arc happening that promises to have far reaching effects for the series. And the hook for the next in the series almost has me interested enough to give it a shot and see if Pitts gets better about the stuff that’s bad. There’s a legitimately interesting story under all the contrived drama and pointless extra stuff. I’m interested in the world more than the people in it with this one.

Unfortunately, despite its potential, I don’t trust Pitts as an author not to have done the same things in the next book. That leaves Black Blade Blues with a one out of five.

Broken Red

I’m back with a couple reviews for you guys. Quick thing with this one, I received the book through my job. It was printed in store at the Brookwood Books-A-Million on our Espresso Book Machine and can be found here, or by ordering it in store.

Who do you trust when the person closest to you might be a murderer? Tegan Kelly has been running from her traumatic childhood for as long as she can remember. When her mother is found murdered her life is thrown into chaos and the killer might be much closer than she thinks. As the body count rises will she be able to protect her family or will she fall prey to a mad man who knows too much.

 
So Heather Avello’s Broken Red is kind of a mish mash book for me. On the one hand, the blurb promises a murder mystery thriller with a heroine who can’t know who to trust because the killer is someone super close to her. On the other hand, the book gets bogged down in a romance side plot that really didn’t do anything for me and that I feel could have been cut dramatically without damaging the story. On the inexplicable third hand, I’d have probably been more into the romance side plot if the murder mystery main plot had connected it’s events better in the beginning of the book.

 
Where to begin, because there are a couple of big things that I think could have taken this from being okay to being pretty good. The big separation between the main and side plots is probably the easier thing to address. It actually feels in a lot of ways like this is two separate books featuring the same characters but with very different stories. In the main plot Tegan is a woman who’s had essentially every horrific back story element thrown at her, but she’s kept going despite that, and now there seems to be a murderer after her family. Her husband is a cheating jerk who isn’t there for their three kids or her and, when things start going weird for her, he immediately blames her for it. Contrasting her husband is Victor Ramirez, the knight in shining armor who’s had it bad for her since forever and who might be hiding something seriously dark. She calls him when she can’t reach her husband; he checks in on her and is there for her, often at her eldest son’s insistence. It’s pretty obvious they’re going to end the book a couple from the start. In the romance plot Tegan’s back story stuff results in a distrust of people that is mentioned, but essentially hand waved for Vic, and Vic despite thinking he’s bad for wanting Tegan is great with her kids and lavishes her with attention and stuff. There’s a distinct disconnect there for me.

 
The romance side plot is kind of expected since it’s telegraphed from the beginning, but rather than being entwined with the main plot it takes over a significant chunk of the book. The writing changes to match this and the mystery plot mostly disappears for this whole section, it gets brought up a couple of times, but it doesn’t do anything. That feels wrong for me on a couple of levels, the previously mentioned thing about this reading like two different books, and that while a big deal is made about her husband’s cheating being terrible and evidence of him being an aweful human being it get’s brought up when she and Vic are about to jump in bed but isn’t really treated as a big thing. It’s sort of like she gets a pass because he is terrible to her and the plot doesn’t really care about him, and that’s what doesn’t work for me.

 
Which kind of brings me back to the inexplicable third hand. See, my big thing here is that the mystery parts, especially the bits later in the book, are legit good for a first time author. They aren’t tied together as well as they deserve though, in part because the romance plot intrudes, but it’s pretty easy to see where the connections could have been made. There are bits that could have been included earlier to bolster the overall story and to tighten up the writing, things that are introduced at the last second could have been hinted at or hinted at more strongly. The biggest problem created by this is that it makes the murderer seem right out of left field and badly supported by the story itself. The lack of things being tied together does lead to a couple of hanging plot threads, but I’m thinking those were deliberate to set up a sequel.

 
Where does this leave me? The romance is bad and our protagonists’ characterization can be a little all over the place, but when the writing focuses on the mystery it’s pretty good. I would definitely want to see more build up to the climax in the next book and less focus on the protagonists’ love lives, definitely more foreshadowing the antagonist’s identity. It’s a good freshman effort and I think that Ms. Avello will improve greatly as she continues writing so, from me, Broken Red gets a three out of five.

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