Potholes And Minefields

6679174 by
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

Like Caitlin, my emotions are all out of whack. If I’m not careful, I may even resort to sucking my thumb, screaming at random times and intervals, rolling around on the grass, flopping on my bed, or sticking my feet up in the air and playing dead. It’s really hard to say what I might do, and if I tried to pin it down, my response would be filled with conjecture, and I prefer to deal in facts.

The fact is I hated this novel. Hated it with a passion, because it discussed abuse, and I prefer to look at the world through rose-colored glasses and deal in unicorns and rainbows and Popsicle sticks and ice cream sandwiches. But this is one world that is filled with a vast emptiness that extends for miles and miles.

When I go to sleep, I dream of Junior Mints and Butterfingers and Milk Duds. I certainly do not wake up screaming in the night, or cover myself in cold sweats and silently stare out of open windows with my mouth offered up in the open position. I certainly don’t have a negative view of the world.

So, yeah, it was hard for me to understand someone that might. Not just hard, it was nearly impossible, as I struggled with it throughout the course of this novel. DREAMLAND was a virtual world for me, and it was filled with potholes and minefields and .44 Magnums pointed in my direction. The gun didn’t go off thankfully, but it was darn close, and it was pretty damn big.

Rogerson pinpointed everything I hate about this world. No, hate is probably too strong a word. But extreme dislike might not be far off the mark. He might even qualify as a beautiful bastard, I don’t know. And, frankly, Caitlin put up with way too much of his shit, and she needed to develop a few more thoughts for herself. Not maybe, this is a definitive requirement.

Otherwise, this was a beautifully written novel with fully developed characters and passionate prose and a flowing storyline that kept me on my toes. Had I liked either of the main characters, I might have even rated this novel higher.

Heart Palpitations

17382967 by
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

The start of this novel might have caused me several heart palpitations, with characters that seemed to move backwards instead of forwards, and an unlikeable cast of misfits and miscreants. Had I developed a bit more sense, I might have shoved the entire story aside and moved on with my life. But curiosity kept me flipping pages like I was flipping shirts into a suitcase ready to take the next bus out of town. Instead of ending up at the train station, I stopped about halfway there, and turned my butt back around.

The beauty of HEARTBEAT took a bit longer to arrive than I otherwise would have liked, but I did find it, and there was a leprechaun at the end of the rainbow, guarding the pot of gold with a heart monitor and electric shock treatments. He might have had a grin on his face, or it might have been a smirk, but either way it was present and accounted for, along with his scrubs, and his slightly cynical outlook on life.

Emma might have taken the fast-track to her seventeen years, with the pedal to the floor and her arm sticking out the window, while Dan, the diligent stepdad, offered up a smile and a nod in her direction. The direction of her life was headed on the downward slope, sinking faster than a person in the middle of cardiac arrest without a single doctor in sight. Caleb might have been the bad boy who had an extra dose of wicked in his lifestyle dysfunction with a hard heart and an ability to sink cars.

But this is one story that made me want to cheer, even if I had to accomplish said task from a sitting position. And my fortunes do feel just a bit brighter after having finished this novel. This was one quick read that left me blinking ever so slightly in surprise as the events unfolded right before my eyes.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Overhyped, Undeserving

8117665 by
My Rating: 1/5 Stars

Where’s the payoff? I’ll tell you: It doesn’t exist. For three books, I followed and even bought into the relationship between Bella and Edward. All the heavy petting, French kissing, and whispers of you’re the one filled the pages to the point of seeping out of its edges, and yet I continued to read, because I believed there was a prize at the end of the rainbow. A prize worth consuming four books, countless hours, and pouring over nearly 2500 pages worth of teenage angst. And what happened? Nothing. There was a buildup to “the moment” about as large as a tidal wave ready to take out Charleston, SC, but when the moment was finally upon the two young lovers, the door slammed so hard in my face that it rattled the walls. And then there were more “moments” and on each occasion, the door slammed so hard that the foundation nearly cracked in half. Sure, Stephenie Meyer described the sex that took place after the fact, but I felt like I was on the outer edges of the horizon waiting to break through the atmosphere.

After the first lack of production, I nearly tossed my Android out my window. And the other scenes, or lack thereof, only led to more disheartenment. Was I a bit overzealous? Possibly a bit too overeager? Probably. But I bring you back to that number again: 2500. Did Stephenie Meyer need to go into pornographic detail? Absolutely not. But if this was a relationship that changed both Bella and Edward and their entire families, and a relationship worth confronting the Volturi over, then I wanted more than a bit of French kissing, longing glances, and heavy petting: I wanted a peek inside the walls of the bedroom. In fact, I feel like I deserved more, so BREAKING DAWN ended up being one giant letdown for me. I’d even go so far to say it was the mother of all letdowns.

But what scares me even more than that is that this is a book (and a series) marketed toward teenagers. What kind of a message does it send when your baby eats you from the inside out? What kind of a message does it send when Bella was meant to be a vampire? She literally transforms from an awkward, uncoordinated teenager to a perfect vampire with grace, precision, and poise in a matter of days, completely capable of controlling her thoughts and thirst. Every other vampire and every other vampire series places much more emphasis on the control factor (control of thirst and desires), and that it is never really under the vampire’s complete control, and yet here we are with Bella, the perfect vampire. It’s almost laughable in its utter simplicity.

But yet why did I have such a hard time buying it? People and society aren’t perfect, so this whole concept seems a little too perfect for me. What message does this really send? That if you just become a vampire you can have it all: you can walk out in the sunlight (as long as it’s cloudy outside), you can have the perfect daughter, you can be more graceful and controlled than you ever thought possible, and you can have gifts that you couldn’t have in human form. Let’s sign up right now because I want in on this shit.

I mean, it’s gotta be better than the imperfect life that I’m leading right now. As for all those teenage readers that have consumed this series, let’s face it, being a teenager is a rather imperfect life. All those awkward moments, awkward situations, and that never-ending series of first times…these four novels say let’s skip right to being a vampire, because that’s where the promise land is baby. And that’s one promise I’m not really buying into.

Dichotomy Dilemma

6064173 by
My Rating: 2/5 Stars

When I finished ECLIPSE, I felt empty inside, like I was a seashell sitting on the beach, trying to become one with the waves. Sure, I had been entertained by the story itself and by the surrounding beachcombers, pedestrians, and dogs playing on the shoreline, or in this case, the vampires and werewolves and otherwise normal individuals who constitute the pages of Stephenie Meyer’s tale. But I felt less than fulfilled as I flipped the pages at a furious, breakneck pace.

It’s hard for me to explain the dichotomy because I don’t really understand it myself. The pace of the novel never really slows, but at the same time there’s not a whole lot that has happened in ECLIPSE or the two previous installments. Again, I really have no doubt that there is talent at work here: talent at world invention, character creation, and a unique approach to a rather traditional storyline. This novel, like the others, is filled with a certain amount of promise. But at the same time, this promise seems to go unfulfilled.

But do I want to keep reading? Absolutely. However, I do think the empty feeling will continue all the way to the end. And it’s hard not to feel a bit disappointed by this result. So the dance continues Stephenie Meyer, as I both admire and loathe you in equal parts, and if I ever figure out the answer to my dichotomy dilemma, I will have solved one of the great mysteries of the universe.

Mountain Of Empty Calories

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My Rating: 2/5 Stars

After reading NEW MOON, I feel like I ate a mountain of empty calories without any real payoff at the end. Sure, it was an enjoyable read, written for a particular audience, and done very well in that regard; sure, it had a steady pace like a racehorse destined for some sort of glory; and sure, there was no point where I wanted to put the book down, toss it across the room, or throw it in a garbage can. But I feel like Stephenie Meyer could have offered us so much more.

The basic plotline is this: Edward leaves, Bella stays, and then Edward returns. As a teenager myself, once, I like to believe I offered the world slightly more depth than what this particular story entailed. Of course, maybe that is just wishful thinking on my part. But it doesn’t mean I will stop this particular saga in midstream, nor will I postpone the third book.

Since TWILIGHT offered the reader a bit more than this one did, I suppose I had set slightly higher expectations for this one. Not grand expectations, mind you, but I did hope to be dazzled a bit more than I was, especially since there is talent at work here.

I am curious to see what happens to these two ill-fated lovers, but I hope the next two novels prove a bit more interesting than this one did. If you thoroughly enjoyed the first book, or even if you’re just curious to see what everyone is talking about, or if you happen to connect with these particular relationships on some level, as I did, or you’re using this series as a marketing study, you probably won’t want to miss this one. Otherwise, you may feel a little disappointed at the end.

Flapjack Connoisseur

11112731 by
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

So what can I say about TWILIGHT that hasn’t already been said? Honestly, probably not a whole hell of a lot. But has that ever stopped me? No way. But I realize I’m coming to the party after the house has already burned down, the cops have shown up, and they’re proceeding to take witness statements from a bunch of half-stunned, half-drunk teenagers. On the other hand, that’s not so bad either. Reviews are all about honest opinions, and I certainly have one of those.

Let’s get this out of the way upfront: Like many folks by now, I have friends that love the series, friends that tolerate it, friends that hate it, and friends that will never read it. But with any book worth its mashed potatoes and gravy, it will have devoted fans, passionate enemies, and folks that politically resemble Switzerland and Canada. When it comes to books that have reached a broad audience, it’s the circle of life. And for the amount of money Stephenie Meyer now has shoved down the front of her jeans, she’s probably not going to complain too hard.

So what’s my take on the series? I did my best to reserve judgment until after I’d read TWILIGHT, which by the way wasn’t easy, since it has only managed to spawn four novels and five movies, the first four of which have grossed a little over a billion dollars domestic. And I’ll give you the bottom line, in case you want to stop reading sooner rather than later: I wouldn’t call it a well-written series, but I was absorbed in Bella’s world from the very beginning, and I found myself flipping pages like a flapjack connoisseur at the local Denny’s. I really wanted to know where Stephenie Meyer would take me, and I was more than willing to hop on board and go along for the ride.

So why does the series work? We can spend all day analyzing it from a multitude of different angles, but here’s the one undisputable point: She connected with a large group of readers who had either experienced a teenage crush firsthand or knew someone who had. Depending on how you look at it, I was fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to have an all-consuming, all-encompassing relationship a number of years ago. Am I a better person for it? It’s really hard to say, but I ended up learning a hell of a lot from that relationship, and I wouldn’t be where I am now had that relationship continued on its sea bound voyage. So in the end, I could relate to Bella and Edward, and the devoted Twihard fanbase.

As for the rating, I feel like I should provide a slight explanation. I debated hard about giving it more than three stars, but in the end I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. It’s a good novel, and a rather light read, but there was nothing great about it. Nothing that really made it stand out for me. Now I know there are probably quite a few people who will disagree with me wholeheartedly about my previous statement, and like Ms. Meyer, I’m okay with that.

Latest Piece Of Fic

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My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I always wanted to be a FANGIRL. Ever since I was a wee, wee lad growing up in the hills and hollers of West-By-God-Virginia where I was shooting coons and skeet and squirrels with my hound dog buzzard who was hanging a little low to the ground on even his best of days, and who passed away when I was knee high to me pa. Where I sucked water from a stream, and marched around with a stick for fun. I may not have lived in Beverly, but by God I knew who The Hillbillies were. Those were the simple days from a much simpler life, and had I gotten lucky, I might have struck oil in my backyard on a Tuesday when one of my shots went a little wide.

But I didn’t. Instead, writing found me, or I found it, as a way to entertain myself, and to keep my agile brain in overdrive. Reviewing followed—a natural part of writing and reading and when you’re not quite ready to leave the confines of a particular universe, or sometimes the opposite occurs, and you can’t push the eject button fast enough, and you want to hose yourself off in the middle of your own backyard in the middle of a thunderstorm. Either way, the only way to move on with your life is to leave that world and those feelings on the printed page by giving fellow sympathizers nothing but honesty.

So I have a teensy inkling of an idea where Cath might have come from in her enthusiastic pursuit of an alternate universe where Simon Snow holds the magic wand and thereby enchants her with his wonderful, fantastical life. And where she goes online to the fandom and receives 10,000 hits on her latest piece of fic created out of serial installments that her readers gobble up faster than Goobers. Having this alternate personality on the Internet allows her to hide her latest panic attack or quirk-like tendency.

Sure, she and I may not have gotten off on the right foot, and probably not the left one either, since she slammed into me countless times over the first couple hundred pages, but she has one hell of a finish. Either she won me over, or Rainbow Rowell‘s clever writing shone through and it wouldn’t surprise me if it was some combination of the two. The sexy library look didn’t hurt her chances either.

She also dealt with, albeit fleetingly, more than her share of trolls (those nasty little buggers who have nothing better to do than attempt to bring you down to their level because their life lacks meaning and purpose). She’s a righteous and proper nerd. And damn it, I’m not. For years, I was under the distinct impression that I was. Instead of preferring the fictional world to the real one (like a proper nerd), I prefer both equally, even if I sometimes get so lost in a good book that I have to stop and ask for directions. That did happen with this one—I’m proud to say—but it wasn’t my first response.

Impressed With The Concept

9717320Divergent by
My Rating: 4/5 Stars

I have to say I was rather impressed with the concept of DIVERGENT. It would have been easy for Veronica Roth to turn this novel into a HUNGER GAMES knockoff. I mean, why not? Suzanne Collins had plenty of success, and those dystopian aficionados are hungry for more. So just give them what they want and be done with it. But Ms. Roth took the dystopian world and made it her own. She created a world that I was totally sucked into, and I was left flipping pages like some movie junkie with a never-ending stream of red envelopes.

Aside from the world she created, though, the characters felt as real to me as peanut butter and chocolate at the top of an ice cream sundae. Tris was a character that every woman could root for, and Four proved just as interesting for the men as Tris did for the women. Their relationship didn’t feel forced, or out of place. It grew naturally from the two characters, and that’s another tribute to the author and her writing abilities.

Beyond the characters and this alternate reality, this novel tackles issues like tyranny, unjust rule, and the corruptness that comes with the selfish possession of power. In other words, it’s easy to grab the pages and consume them like cotton candy at the state fair, but it’s also possible to get more out of it than just a skim across the surface. If you let it, DIVERGENT forces you to think about themes important to the author well after the pages have been consumed.

So if you’re looking for another worthy book to add to your dystopian collection, you probably don’t need to look any further.

Fondling The Merchandise

17165966Palace Of Spies by Sarah Zettel
My Rating: 3/5 Stars

Margaret “Peggy” Fitzroy led a reasonably charmed life until she was kicked out on her keister and forced to delve in the palace of intrigue, suspicion, and ne’er-do-wells, many of whom have buckets of money, or like to pretend that the dowry extends forever in one direction, even if it dried up about fifty years ago. Sebastian Sandford, relegated to a minor role, showed his hands and his petulant attitude and his preponderance for fondling the merchandise before the appointed hour, with nary a care in the world. And Uncle Pierpont showed fangs and horns and bastard tendencies with relative ease, tossing out his niece faster than a banana peel and slamming the door hard enough to rock the foundation. But had he shown more normal tendencies and familial congeniality, PALACE OF SPIES never would have reached the atmosphere, so we can thank him for his complete and utter ridiculousness.

Peggy had a slight aftertaste, not growing on me until a bit later in the tale, but when she did, I appreciated her and her firecracker ways. She had spunk and charm and held on to certain folks a bit too long and offered up some youthful naiveté in this historical tale. While some mysterious elements lingered, and a dead body or two appeared on scene, I’d say this was more historical with a bit of romance and some rather cryptic moments. The plot had a few dangling points and outliers that wrapped up a bit too nicely and maybe a bit too forcefully, and while research was conducted and historical accuracies appeared to be inflicted upon the story, this wasn’t a heavy read by any means. And it was easily consumable, like popcorn or Pez or candy corn.

What really popped my balloon faster than a safety pin, though, was the murderer spouting off for no other reason than pure ego. Really? While it was a bit briefer this go round than the previous iteration, it still left me with a dry mouth and a slight headache. Can we move past the egomaniacs and psychotic miscreants and move toward more common ground? I promise we’ll all be happier, and we don’t even have to hold hands.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.

Stop The Universe

17638282Twigs by
My Rating: 1/5 Stars

With first person narratives, there’s always the risk that the narrator comes across as unlikeable. Well, Madeline Annette Henry, aka TWIGS, takes unlikeable to a whole new plateau. I hated her with a passion best reserved for anchovies, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, white vinegar, and chlamydia. She’s eighteen with the maturity level of an eight year-old, or maybe we should give her the benefit of the doubt and say her brain capacity matches her size, so she’s a fifth-grader. She stomps like a four year-old, shrills like a six year-old, and rollerblades like a fourteen year-old, and has acquired more than enough immaturity to last her for the rest of her life.

Self-centered doesn’t even begin to do her justice. Let’s just stop the universe for Twigs. We should all be gracious enough to kiss her feet, comb her hair, and bask in all of her less than five foot glory. Her warped sense of reality helped escalate this novel into fantasy. With a strong attachment to a father that abandoned her and her family, a strong sense of antipathy to a mother who has moved on with her life, even if it occasionally takes her into the bedroom, and sometimes involves black lace thongs, a strong sense of disregard for her popular cheerleader sister, and hostility for every single one of her mother’s boyfriends, she’s a real prize for your eighteen or nineteen year-old son, just make sure you feed him enough alcohol and roofies to help seal the deal.

If she cheats and steals with the same ease she reserves for lying, and elbow smashing, she’ll be forcibly removed from Hinkney Community College and in prison before she’s twenty. There’s a special cell for where she’s going, and she’s one downward spiral away from flitting off into oblivion. In the end, though, the world would be better off without her and her egotistical manner. What she may lack in size she makes up for with her obnoxious and odious demeanor.

Enough whores filled this story to take Sin City by storm. The term was handed out more often than Snickers bars at a Mars convention. Despite the number of characters involved in this tale, there didn’t appear to be a sympathetic one amidst this bunch of misfits and miscreants. It reminded me of a couple dozen juvenile delinquents headed for detention on a Saturday afternoon in the middle of winter.

The plot moved along like a series of nightmares, or it could always be worse scenarios, but even that particular antidote proved less than satisfying, as I managed to stop caring and start cheering for the end well before the halfway point of this tale. By the end of the novel, I felt like I had witnessed a 20-car pileup on I-25 in the middle of rush hour.

A word of advice for Twigs. If you hate your life that much, then you better damn well change it, otherwise you have no one to blame but yourself. Even if the mirror might crack as you spew forth a cantankerous rage that bests even the most prolific two year-old temper tantrums on YouTube. It’s all up to you, or then again, maybe it isn’t.

I received this book for free through NetGalley.