Latest Entries »

Hey look! It’s that review I’ve been talking about for months. It’s here before Christmas even. For real though, sorry about falling off the world like that. Enjoy!

arcanum-unbounded

I’m kind of skipping the blurb this time, since this is a collection of short stories.

So, Brandon Sanderson’s The Arcanum Unbounded is an interesting book both as it is written and for what it is. Unfortunately it also relies pretty heavily on the reader not only being a fan of Sanderson’s work but also having read all of his previous works. That more than kind of cools me on the book, though it is more or less exactly what’s on the label. This is going to be a bit of a weird one.

There are two big issues that I have with Arcanum Unbounded. The reliance on the reader having read everything in Sanderson’s Cosmere is the lesser of the two. The more major issue I have is his habit of including an afterword on the stories, on its own it wouldn’t be too bad but as part of this particular book it clashes terribly with the framing device introduced at the beginning and make the book very easy to put down. A pretty easy fix for this would have been removing either the framing device, which ties the book together as a concept, or the afterwords, which feel a little like reading the author’s blog rather than a book. I’m much more interested in the framing device, that someone has collected these story bits from all over the Cosmere, because it ties in. But I’m also a “death of the author” kind of reader and feel like if the author has to explain something outside of the story itself, then it isn’t written well enough. Obvious biases are, in fact, obvious.

The issue of it feeling like everything else prior to this is required reading bounces around a bit. The first story is by far my favorite and feels like a whole entity unto itself, I don’t feel lost for details and could enjoy myself freely. It’s immediately followed by a short story set towards the end of Elantris that, having not read that novel, I was completely lost on which made it feel super long and just draining to get through. It’s not bad in most of the stories but, combined with the afterwords, can feel tiresome.

That said, the stylistic choices made were interesting and in several stories it felt like the author was having fun with the writing. The novella about the Survivor was great once I got into it and it started feeling like its own thing instead of a spin on something else. So this is ultimately a pretty mixed bag for me. The writing is solid throughout, but then the plotting is overly referential. The stories that stand alone are a ton of fun, but then others feel like fragments of something bigger.

At the end of the day, I give Arcanum Unbounded a three out of five. If you’re a big fan of Sanderson’s you’ll probably enjoy it immensely. If not, maybe check it out from the library first or give one of his other books a shot.

Trapped in Wonderland

So this is late by a couple hours. Better than days or weeks, but still. I was sent a copy of Trapped in Wonderland by the author, Dani Hoots, for an honest review as part of a blog tour. She’s been great to work with and I hope you all enjoyed her guest post earlier today. Enjoy!

The first time Alice visited Wonderland she had been shoved in a locker. The second time she had to be rescued from the White Rabbit. Now she’s trapped in a world like a dream with four boys from her school who are, it turns out, characters from the story. But dreams are dying and it will be up to Alice to save both Wonderland and her own world from the Cirque de Reves and their mysterious leader.

Dani Hoots’ Trapped in Wonderland is something of a new spin on an old classic. The Alice here is not the original Alice who told her story to Lewis Carroll. Wonderland is different, being ruled by the Kingdom of Dreams and sectioned into Zones. Also the Mad Hatter, Cheshire Cat, Doormouse, and March Hare are all cute boys. It’s different from the original, but still feels very familiar on a lot of levels.

I admit, this book frustrates me and I think a lot of that comes down to it feeling very like young. It has a lot of new writer problems like stilted dialogue and a lot of unnecessary details that could have been removed to improve the pacing. Most of the little details, like what manga Alice was reading, could have gone while keeping bigger things, like her getting up early to fix her own lunch because she wants to have a bento box. The book sort of waffles between things that build Alice’s character and things that just fill space on the page. There’s also a lot of repetitiveness and contradiction when it comes to certain things. The reader keeps being reminded both that Alice does ballet but is still super clumsy, or that she’s pretty sure that Wonderland is just a dream. It leads to the book feeling like it was originally posted as each chapter was finished rather than as a whole.

There’s this weird sort of conflict of character with regard to Alice and her family as well. It’s sort of a tie in to the plot itself. Her older sisters are both smart and successful, one is a med student and the other is studying physics. Her parents are both CPAs. None of them care about Alice’s art or her dancing or her interests. These things are, according to Alice at least, treated as pointless hobbies or something to be taken away from her if her grades drop. They want her to give up her dreams and become like them, but then these same parents who don’t seem to care about any of her interests also seem to be paying for all those interests. She’s going to ballet classes, has adequate supplies for her art, and has the food around to make her bento boxes. It feels like something written by a fairly young writer venting about their own life. It could be a really good real world tie in to the main plot if more was done with it or if her family was written more sympathetically, but as is it doesn’t work.

My feelings on this book ultimately wind up being fairly meta. The writing itself does feel very fan fic-ish or, again, like it was written by someone either very young or just not used to writing. There are a ton of references to pop culture, particularly anime and manga, that can get really distracting and make the book feel weirdly dated. There’s some issues with the editing that could have used a second going over. There’s a lot of potential here and, with Mrs. Hoots having written several other books, I’d definitely give one of her other books a go. Plus a couple of the characters were a lot of fun if a little stock and I completely love a couple of the concepts used.

So, where does that leave me? While I’ve had a lot of issues with the book it didn’t leave me feeling like I’d wasted the time reading it. It isn’t good, but it shows a lot of potential and leaves me hoping it’s an older project that’s just not getting its turn or a genre the author isn’t entirely comfortable with. That all taken into consideration, I’m giving Trapped in Wonderland a two out of five with the note that it could be a solid three with more editing and some cuts.

Guest Post Dani Hoots

Alright everyone, I’ve got a guest post for you today from Dani Hoots, author of Trapped in Wonderland. Review for that will be up a little later today. Enjoy!

Thank you Lauren for letting me write a post about what drew me to the theme of Wonderland. I am very grateful to be here and hope that you and your followers enjoy my post.

 

I decided to write a piece based on Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland because of my love for everything “mad”. Wonderland, to me, is a place where the misfits, the outcasts in society, those who are deemed “crazy” can be themselves. I grew up being bullied for being different and loving nerdy things, strange things, and I found myself always escaping to a different world in my mind. To me, Wonderland is a place just like that, so I found myself quoting and loving everything Wonderland.

 

Not only is it somewhere for us “mad” people, it is also a place where we aren’t expect to know where we are going. A lot of people don’t know what the future holds, and as the Cheshire Cat says, “If you don’t know where you are going, any road will get you there”. I think this is a great quote to think about if you find yourself stuck. Just keep moving, keep pushing forward no matter where you are going. Sometimes we start to lose confidence and that is okay. Just keep fighting to fight that is life and you can find your way. 

 

These two themes that are present in Wonderland and are the main reasons I am so drawn to it. I also fell in love with the manga “Alice in the Country of Hearts”, which is based off of a Japanese love sim game (I’m a sucker for love sims, go ahead and judge me). A lot of ideas were inspired by that series and I definitely recommend it if you like manga or anything Wonderland-themed.

 

My favorite characters in Alice’s Adventure’s in Wonderland are the Cheshire Cat and the Mad Hatter, which when you read the novel you will definitely see. The ironic and interesting thing is I found out after marrying my husband and started doing research of his ancestry, that his original name from Germany wasn’t “Hoots” but was in fact “Huth” which means “hat” in German. Their coat of arms is a white background with a black top hat and a big red heart on top of it. I literally married the Mad Hatter and I think that is wonderful.

 

I also think that all of us have a little Alice in us. I love adventure, and love to question everything. We just need to remember to keep our curiosity as we grow older. I think it is hard in today’s society, but it is really important. Curiosity definitely drives me to research and write, so I hope you all keep a little curiosity in whatever you do throughout life. 

 

So I hope you all enjoy my post and my novel Trapped in Wonderland. If you have any questions of comments, feel free to visit me on my Facebook page or my website.

 

So I Fell Off the World

Being gone since the first has not been intentional, as you all may have guessed. I’ve fallen into something of a weird place with reading where I’ve read several books and loads and loads of fanfic, and then just haven’t gotten around to wording about it. At least, I haven’t gotten around to wording about it online. I’m rather certain my roommates are tired of hearing about how fantastic that one fic is or how that novella could have done so much better if.

I’m going to work on fixing that, so you can all share in their torment.

Add on to that, I feel like I want to do a break down of the Fear Street Saga trilogy some time. Not another review mind, that would be a bit odd, just another going over going deeper into some of the issues I had with the books. Sort of a “I mentioned this but” thing.

Also, the Arcanium Unbounded review is still coming. So’s Christmas, but hey. My goal is to have that up within the week, so if I’m gone for another twenty days that’s what’s up.

Happy New Year

And after being gone for some time, I return to both my home and blogging. I’m hoping everyone has had a happy holidays, I certainly did. Family was great, haunts calmed down a bit, tiny monster was cuddly, general things. But now it’s a new year and time for new things and getting back on track.

This shouldn’t be much of a problem and, if it is, I will make it not much of a problem. Arcanum Unbounded is being enjoyable so far, I didn’t get as far into it as I would have liked but there you go.

There’s not a lot coming up soon beyond reviews, so if anyone has a suggestion I’m up for rambling about other forms of storytelling. There’s actually a couple posts I kind of want to write, but that I’m worried feel like retreading too much. Those may go up if I can find a way to write them that works for me for the blog. It’s mostly more about the Fear Street Saga and the short cuts used in service to the plot there and also more about Tracer’s girlfriend Emily and my feelings on her and how she could fit into the world for Overwatch. That second one’s going to have a fair amount to do with other fandoms I’ve been a part of in the past and fan reaction kind of stuff. I think it could be interesting but, my massive bias aside, I’m trying to patch together my whats and whys without just posting a plot skeleton for my own fanfic kinda deal.

So, yeah, if you want to see me ramble about stuff that isn’t directly books more or if you just want me to get back to reviewing already, let me know in the comments.

Something About a Girl

So, yesterday’s new Overwatch comic, Reflections, revealed that the series mascot Tracer is in a relationship with another woman. This is huge for a number of reasons, mostly related to how big the game is and that she is one of the more popular characters in it, but also because of how it was presented. Spoilers?

I’m kind of stalling on things to say here because a ton has already been said about this, but the big thing is that the comic itself doesn’t make a huge deal of it’s reveal. Tracer gets home, talks to someone off screen, oh hey off screen person is a girl. Then there’s a minor misunderstanding that turns out for the best, because plot contrivance, and they kiss. It’s a small moment in the comic, a series of them actually, but it makes a pretty massive impact because of what it is. And I think that’s the big thing here, Tracer being gay isn’t treated as an out of nowhere thing that shocks everyone in world, it’s a small moment at home and then on to the rest of the comic. Plus, since Emily seems pretty comfortable around Winston, the series resident PHD. gorilla, we can assume that this isn’t a new thing to anyone. Which is good.

Blizard has been teasing LGBT characters since forever, which takes a little omph out of it, but it’s also really good to see them not only making good on that but doing it in such a big way. I’ve got to repeat, Tracer is the face of Overwatch, the mascot, she’s been around since the announcement trailer. She’s the last character I would have expected, while also being one of the ones I really hoped for.

I am really hoping they do more with Emily as a character, preferably either making her playable some time down the road or having her show up a bit more in the lore. It’s nice that she exists, but I’m a little worried about what happens once the initial rush of excitement fades. Which makes this one of those places where I’m trying to put my pop culture expectations aside and just be happy about the reveal. Because when one of my co-workers told me about it, I about floated through the rest of my shift.

So, as the pun goes. Cheers love, the Calvary’s queer!

Radio Silence is Golden

Right, so as of today I am down to one job and getting stuff ready for the holidays. That means I should be able to end my mini pause and actually start posting again. That’s not going to mean much just now, I haven’t really gotten a chance to read anything in the last three or so weeks, but it means I can start going again.

General stuff, the next actual review is going to be Arcanum Unbounded, which should be awesome. The cat’s been loud and clingy because I’m back and she missed me, it is both cute and sad. Also, the house spooks keep stealing one of the roommate’s sodas, it’s weird but hey, these things happen.

As always, feel free to comment on, pretty well whatever this time, maybe books you’re excited for in the coming year.

A Thing and An Apology

So, hey, I’m behind on reviews again and it’s looking like it’s going to stay that way for the next couple weeks. I got a second job, so all my time has been work or sleep. I’ve been pretty dead on all my spare time stuff, but I figured I could at least write this so you guys would know what was up and that I hadn’t just blinked away on you.

If I get the chance, I’m going to write up a couple of the comic book reviews I’d mentioned a while back. It’s not a full on thing, but it’s something that I could put up to fill the empty space. Then, if it’s a thing that’s enjoyed, I could keep doing those every now and then.

Sorry everyone.

Vanishing Girls

Just like me, I’m late posting this, only a day this time though. This is kind of an older book I’m reviewing today, sent to me by the publisher for an honest review. It took me forever to get done because I wasn’t having any time of it getting my words down. All that said, enjoy and have a happy Thanksgiving!

vanishing-girls-cover

Nick and her younger sister Dara used to be best friends, completely inseparable. That was then, before Dara kissed Parker. Before the accident. Nick hasn’t seen her sister since last summer and, if Dara has her way, it looks like it’ll be longer still before she does. But she’s got a job at the local amusement park to deal with and a friendship with Parker to try and patch up. It would be better if her sister would talk to her, but she’ll have to make do.

Vanishing Girls is the first Lauren Oliver book I’ve read, though I had heard of her before. I’m honestly not entirely sure how I feel about it, so this may go a little long. This is also going to be really spoilery because of the way the book and its official description have next to nothing to do with each other, also that talking about the twist is impossible without spoilers. So spoiler alert.

Our protagonists here are Nick, who’s been gone for a year living with her father, and Dara, her younger sister who used to be beautiful but is now horribly scarred by the car accident they were both in last summer. She blames Nick and refuses to so much as be in the same room with her. Nick gets most of the screen time here while Dara gets a few chapters to foreshadow the big twist and show the reader what a bad girl she is.

I lost interest in Nick pretty quickly, she has some promising moments, but the friendship with Parker felt super cringe worthy and they danced around their mutual attraction way too much. Dara wasn’t much better, the rebellious sister to Nick’s perfect daughter, the bad girl who got into partying with much older guys and wound up doing porn as a result. The side characters, particularly Alice, were much better written in a lot of ways and tended to feel more three dimensional. That might have been a less is more thing though, none of them got a lot of screen time.

The big twist, and the scenes immediately preceding it, is where the book lost me though. The plot doesn’t really start until past the half way mark, probably closer to the two thirds mark, so when it hits it feels really rushed. Kind of like the author was reaching her page count and needed to tie it all together so she could spring her big twist and reveal all. That just doesn’t work for me. We get that Dara is the trouble sister, that she acts out to get attention because she feels left out, but then we get this child porn ring plot nearly out of nowhere and Nick rushes off to save her sister from the thing. The possibility of this plot was only mentioned in some of the mini chapters that were formatted to read like an internet comments section in relation to the little missing girl sub plot that the book really didn’t seem to care about. It just doesn’t work. Then of course, we get to the twist and it’s just anti-climactic and weak.

This is the cornerstone of the whole book, the thing that this entire novel is written in service to. The twist hits at the height of the action and just kills all the momentum. So, spoiler alert again, but this whole time Dara’s been dead and Nick has trauma induced dissociative identity disorder and has been alternating between being herself and being Dara throughout the novel. Reading Vanishing Girls the first time through the foreshadowing for the reveal just wasn’t there. It took sitting around after finishing the book to start seeing hints. That combined with the momentum halting way the twist was introduced made it feel very, “surprise, she’s crazy!” To my mind at least, that means the twist was just not worth it. Better lead up would have helped, as it stands it feels very tacked on despite being the central key to the entire novel.

So, all that said, where does Vanishing Girls land? The book has good bones, they just weren’t filled in very well and it reads like a couple of them were shoved back in at the last moment. Some of the side characters are fantastic, which only serves to make the main characters that much more lack luster. I also take issue with the big twist being that the main character isn’t sane, that feels like a really outdated thing to use as the big twist and, again, it wasn’t pulled off well enough to justify itself. That said, I actually kind of enjoyed my initial reading of the book, kind of a turn off your brain thing. So, while I don’t know that it earns it, I’m giving it a three out of five.

The Bad Boy Bargain Tour Banner.png

Hello everyone. I’ve got a guest post or from the author of The Bad Boy Bargain. This is actually part of a blog tour, so if you’re interested, check out the other blogs on the tour. Enjoy!

the-bad-boy-bargain-cover

How a Song Launched an Entire Book

 

I find inspiration for books in a lot of places, but The Bad Boy Bargain was probably the most unusual. Last year, when she heard “Please” by Sawyer Fredericks (from The Voice), my editor, Heather Howland, had an idea for a new YA romance. She posted her thoughts on Twitter—shy guy with a tough shell—and said she wished someone would write it. When I asked when she wanted the manuscript, teasing but also dead serious, we started plotting.

 

“Please” tells the story of a young man who’s found a near-perfect girl, one he thinks he loves, but he’s lying to her at the same time. He’s scared to tell this near-perfect girl the truth about himself because he’s worried she’ll let him go. It’s a song about love and fear, giving and selfishness, longing and despair. All those themes show up in The Bad Boy Bargain, which lends some extra complexity to Kyle beyond the typical bad boy. He’s a guy full of secrets, pain, and shame, but he reallywants someone to see through all of that and love the true Kyle. The working title of the book was called Keeping Faith—because he wants to keep Faith, but needs more faith in himself.

 

As for Faith herself, she’s been mistreated by one guy and has some reservations about being hurt again. The difference between Faith and Kyle is that she’s willing to continue to look for The One even though she’s been burned. She believes in true love, acting with kindness, and being her real self. She suffers from a lack of confidence and self doubt, and Kyle helps her get past that, especially when she struggles with a dance partner who refuses to do his part. Having him in her life restores her faith in love, and in herself.

 

Overall, this story is about two people finding each other and connecting in a way that allows them to be true with each other.