Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Red Rising by Pierce Brown

Four out of Five

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Is anyone else fed up with every single sci-fi/fantasy book being compared to Game of Thrones?  I was reading the Red Rising Wiki page and it described the series as a mash up between Ender’s Game and Game of Thrones?  Why is everything compared to it?  Don’t get me wrong, I like A Song of Ice and Fire (although my feelings about Martin will piss off GOT fanboys) but it isn’t the be all and end all of fantasy.

Ok, that’s my rant over.  Onto the review.  In my review of Gilded Cage I wrote that I was always on the look out for a good dystopia.  Really good dystopian novels are hard to find, in my opinion and Gilded Cage was a prime example of how a good idea is badly executed by terrible characters and a flat plot.  Well, Red Rising is not like that at all.

Continue reading “Review: Red Rising by Pierce Brown”

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The Free Books on iBooks: Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead.

Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead by Christiana Miller
2 out of 5
Hello and welcome to the second part in my series reviewing the free books you get download from iBooks.

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Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead tells the story of Mara (I have no idea what her last name is. She’s so unremarkable to me I can’t even remember if it was actually mentioned at all), an unemployed Pagan (or Hollywood Pagan as I’m calling it because, you know, Miller never actually specifies which of the many Pagan religions in existence. Just that she’s a witch, with typical witch-y powers) living in Los Angeles who, after reading her fortune with tarot cards, discovers her life is going to be shit. Then, after using more magic and a ghostly meeting with her dead father, she inherits her recently deceased great-aunt Tillie’s cottage in Wisconsin.

Things then really start to get weird.

Continue reading “The Free Books on iBooks: Somebody Tell Aunt Tillie She’s Dead.”

Review: Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

Prince of Thorns by Mark Lawrence

4 out of 5

Sometimes, you come across a book that you resist buying for a long time because you don’t really know what to make of it.  Will it be good or bad?  The cover doesn’t impress you, the blurb doesn’t do it any justice or there is just something that stops you from picking it up and taking it to the counter.  Prince of Thorns was one of those books for me (so, for that matter, was Brandon Sanderson’s bibliography but in that case it was that the covers were too beautiful and I thought it would just be a case of nice packaging, bad book.  Glad I was wrong on that front).  Fortunately, and happily, I was proved wrong.

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Prince of Thorns tells the story of Jorg Ancrath, a young prince who after the murder of his mother and brother at the hands of his uncle run away becomes an outlaw (as you do).  Jorg is an interesting young man.  In most novels the protagonist is usually a sympathetic character, someone to relate to and like as they make their way on their journey.  Jorg, on the other hand, is the opposite.  Is he a likeable protagonist?  Is he hell!  He’s a sociopathic little shit who enjoys rape and murder more than a teenage boy should however, likability isn’t a pre-requisite for a character so the question that should be asked is “is Jorg an interesting character?”

The answer to that question is undoubtedly yes.  If you can get past his unique personality he is very interesting.  The sheer amount of issues he has makes him a psychologists dream patient.  A lot of the complaints about the book I have read come from people who do not like his rape/pillage/murder mentality because it makes him unlikeable but he’s not meant to be.  He’s very unlikeable, he doesn’t have feelings like any normal person would have and he is hell bent on revenge against his uncle but this is understandable given the amount of shit he went through as a young boy.  He is an interesting and refreshing twist on the fantasy genre character.  Jorg is sociopathic, self-serving and he barely considers the feelings of other people which is in stark contrast to the typical portrayal of a protagonist as a self-sacrificial hero.  I can’t really make any complaints on his character because he is adding something new to the genre and, this might make me seem weird given that Jorg is a rather big shit, I really wanted him to kill his uncle.  I was rooting for him in that respect.

As for the plot, it was enjoyable but if felt too short.  The flashbacks were useful so that the reader could see how Jorg ended up the way he is but sometimes I felt they took away from the main plot and it felt a little bit rushed.  There were times when I was reading and I thought I had zoned out for a few pages and missed something but the plot had just moved on so quickly.  This is a novel where I think it could have been better for it to be a little bit longer (and I rarely ever say that).

Is Prince of Thorns a good book?  Yes, I think it is.  As long as you don’t go into it with any pre-conceived notions about fantasy or expect it to be some YA novel (because let’s face it the title and the age of the character lends itself to a person thinking that way) then it is very enjoyable.  Just accept that Jorg is not a good person and go with the flow of it and you can see an enjoyable debut in a series that will hopefully improve on the basics of the first novel.  As I said above, it adds a new dimension to the fantasy genre and that is what makes it so interesting.  I will definitely pick up the sequels and I hope to enjoy the rest of the series.

Review: Gilded Cage by Vic James

Gilded Cage by Vic James

1/5

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Gilded Cage tells the story of an alternate history of the England where rich people with magic called Equals overthrew King Charles I in the 17th Century and have lorded it over the poor plebs for the following four hundred years by forcing them into slavery for ten years of their lives so they can eventually hold the prestigious honour of being considered actual humans.  It follows two members of the Hadley family, Luke and Abi, as they enter their period as slaves; Luke being forced to Milloor, a 19th century-esque factory town and Abi to Kyneston, an 18th century-esque estate where the rest of the family work for the elite Parva-Jardine family.

I am always on the lookout for a good dystopian novel and the plot of Gilded Cage made it seem like it would be just up my alley.  The publisher’s blurb even describes it as an Orwellian vision of Britain (I wouldn’t say Britain; Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland barely get a look in).  The novel, however, is a massive failure in my opinion.

Firstly, the novel really fails as a dystopia.  As it has been described as Orwellian, I am going to compare it heavily to Nineteen Eighty-Four since that is what the author and publisher wants us to do.  The novel really doesn’t feel like a nightmarish alternate history.  Yes, people are forced onto slavery but that is something that is common with our own history so you can’t really say that is dystopian.  Millmoor is a hellish place but from the description it sounds no worse than Manchester in the 19th Century.  The only thing that comes across as truly horrific is the level of mind control that allows a person to enslave a man as a dog.  The world is not adequately realised to make it seem as bad as James wants you to believe it is.  Outside the world of slavery, the alternate world has progressed much as it has in our reality: there are phones, television and the internet.  There is nothing that makes is seem to out of the ordinary.  In short, it is an incomplete dystopia.  When you look at Nineteen Eighty-Four, the dystopia is complete.  Big Brother is in your home and in your head and there is no escape.  Gilded Cage gives us ten years and then you’re free.

Secondly, the novel suffers from a major identity crisis.  I couldn’t tell if it was a young adult novel or if it was trying to be a mature work of fiction.  The politics would have you believe that it was but the novel, in actuality, was very juvenile.  It has the obvious young adult romance plot between Abi Hadley and Jenner Jardine (seemingly ripped straight from the pages of the romance novels she likes to read so much).  The story is also rather weak.  It focuses on far too many characters and none of them are given the amount of attention needed in order to either develop the characters or the plot.  In the first hundred pages Luke has gone from being ripped from his family and being sent to Millmoor to joining a rebellion.  There’s no depth to the story.  There’s very little description.  It is all empty and vacuous plot where nothing really matters because nothing goes anywhere and there are too many characters to pay attention to so you don’t know what’s going on half the time.  Compare that to Nineteen Eighty-Four where the first hundred pages focuses only on Winston Smith and the only rebellious act he has committed by the point is writing in a diary.  This, in my opinion, only emphasises the superficial plot of Gilded Cage where writing in a diary in Nineteen Eighty-Four comes across as a more rebellious act than a character outright joining a rebellion movement.  Another problem with the narrative is the author’s choice of language.  The book is written in third person but James chooses, rather strangely in my opinion, to spatter the narrative with slang and colloquial language which seem very out of place in a novel which is trying to be so political.  The words gob, scoffing (really who uses scoffing anymore in an eating context outside of the Famous Five?) and bloke all appear in the descriptive narrative when they should be restricted to the dialogue.  There’s just no place for them in the story.

Thirdly, an most importantly, the characters are a massive failure.  As I said above, there are too many of them with POV chapters and, as a result, you really stop caring about them.  I couldn’t give anymore of a shit what happened to any of them.  They were flat, one dimensional characters whose personalities came directly from tvtropes.com.  Pick a character trope and you’ll find it here.  Insta-romance plot, rebellious teens, creepy weirdos with unknown motivations, arseholes, bitches, power hungry twats, the token ‘he’s not as bad as the rest of his arsehole family, characters; they’re all here in spades and they’re all very boring.

It would have been better to:

  1. Make the story more adult both in the characters and the plot. It should be a lot darker than it came across.  You can tell that James wants to make a lot of comments about the current political climate but the narrative was just too juvenile for that.  The characters should be older.
  2. Actually make me believe that people are living in a dystopia. Nineteen Eighty-Four works as a dystopian vision of the future because there is a genuine feeling that people are being watched an controlled.  There’s the two minute hate, the constant rewriting of history to suit the narrative and there are genuinely horrifying consequences for defying the ruling body.  There’s no hope in the end, the characters are jaded and know their fates.  It can’t be changed, Big Brother can’t be overthrown.  The totalitarianism is complete and endless.  I haven’t read the rest of the series but I can already see how it will pan out (unless James throws a massive curveball and defies my expectations but I doubt she will).
  3. The world should have a more timeless quality. Again, this is in view to making it a better dystopian, but it is very much set in the current era and that dates it very quickly.  All right, James could be making the point that today’s political and social climate is a dystopia but it is far too clumsy to be a valid point.  Nineteen Eighty- Four is set in that year but it has a timeless air about it.  It could be set at any point in the twentieth century and beyond, it never ages.  It has got to the point where it has no beginning and no end, it is just there and is ongoing and always will be there.  It is eternal.  Both novels are making points about society and politics but Orwell is a far superior writer and makes his point more clearly and concisely.  Both books are similar lengths but Orwell manages to condense his entire point of view into one book, focusing on one character and manages to convey the horrors of a dystopian world better than James can and she’s doing it over three books.  Gilded Cage really should have had one protagonist and focused on them.  Luke probably.  He had the most intriguing story and that’s saying a lot.

I’m rambling now, I didn’t mean to.  I started this review by giving Gilded Cage two out of five but writing this has made me feel even angrier about it so I’m downgrading it to one star.  It simply does not live up to expectation and wants to be more than it actually is.  It’s a mess, truly.  The plot is a mess, even though it has a promising premise, the characters are terribly written and not given enough space to grow.  James obviously wants to come across as intelligent and insightful but she doesn’t.  I read and reviewed a free book off iBooks, Falling for Her Brother’s Best Friend by Noelle Adams and I gave it a better review.  At least Adams knows what she is writing is romantic trash and doesn’t claim it to be anything more than what it is.  James wants to be considered to be making a strong political point and that makes me dislike Gilded Cage more than a trashy romance novel even though I really don’t like trashy romance novels.

I definitely won’t be reading the rest of the series, let’s just leave this entire episode in the past and my search for an actually good dystopian novel continues because Gilded Cage was not good at all.

The Free Books on iBooks 1: Falling for Her Brother’s Best Friend.

Hello and happy new year.  It’s 2018 (wow where are the years going?) so I thought I’d start a new series for the new year where I read and review the free books you can download on iBooks and see if there are any hidden gems.  I’m not talking about the classics that have gone out of copyright, I’m talking about those books where you look at the title and think to yourself ‘I know exactly why that is free’.

 

The first book I am going to review in this series is Falling for Her Brother’s Best Friend by Noelle Adams.  As of the time of writing (5th January) it is number 2 in the free book chart.  It tells the tale of Emma, a brown haired, brown eyed “nothing particularly noteworthy” (her words) reader avatar who, after a string of loser boyfriends, decides to go on a man-fast.  Until her best friend’s dreamy hunk of an arsehole brother with daddy issues, Noah comes back to town, and that fast very quickly goes out of the window.

 

Noah is the apparently amazing businessman who answers a lot of e-mails but never actually seems to do anything that would indicate he is an actually amazing businessman (because who needs specifics?).  He arrives back in town for the opening of his sister’s tearoom and moves back in with his grandmother, Dot Cotton (hey, why not, it’s not like Adams bothers to give her an actual name), a woman whose only purpose is to injure herself often enough to facilitate the union between Emma and Noah.  We then get nearly two hundred pages of Noah being an insecure and objectifying arsehole and Emma falling for it every time.

 

Is this book good?  God no, but it’s not completely awful.  Adams obviously knows her audience and she writes well enough for them.  The plot is clichéd to the high heavens but it’s not terribly written and is readable.  I’m just not the intended audience.

 

The book follows the standard romance tropes that you find in every romance novel.  Boy and girl, boy an arsehole, girl is blank canvas to make the reader put themselves in her shoes so they can live the fantasy.  They get together, they break up, get together and break up until the end where they decide they are going to be together after all and everyone lives happily ever after.  It’s a well trodden path but, hey, it sells (well not in this case because it was free) and if you like that sort of thing, go for it.  It’s not my sort of novel so I was never going to love it but as an example of the romance genre, it’s not the worst.  If you like romance novels I’d recommend it, if not then don’t bother.  Personally I think Emma should have told Noah to get some therapy before relentlessly pursuing her but maybe I’m just a cynic.

 

Oh and Noelle Adams has, like, nearly 90 books so they’ll keep a fan busy for a while.

 

2/5

2017 Review: Books I Disliked or Was Disappointed With

In every year, there are books you read that you love and books that you dislike with every fibre of your being.  This is a list of the latter.  I don’t like saying that these were the worst books because I know there will be ones that were worse but I just had enough sense not to pick any of them up.  This is a list of books I dislike.  It is also a list of books that were not necessarily bad, but disappointed me for one reason or another.  They just simply didn’t live up to my expectations.  I don’t really read many books that I hate, I tend to research most books before I buy them but, every so often, some slip through the net and I find myself lost in mediocrity, horrible plots and shitty characters (yes there will be swearing in this post, if you’re offended, tough).  I am limiting the list to books I completed for the first time this year, because I will otherwise spend another couple of hundred words ranting about how much I hate The Handmaid’s Tale and no-one wants to read that again.

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  1. Journey to the Centre of the Earth by Jules Verne

The first books falls in the category of “books which disappointed me.”  I didn’t hate it, not really, but of all the Jules Verne novels I read this year, this was the one which just didn’t deliver for me.  I didn’t really care for the characters and the story just bored me, to be honest.  I much prefer Around the World in Eighty Days and Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea.

  1. Dreamwalker by James Oswald

Dreamwalker didn’t feel like a whole novel.  There didn’t seem to be a complete ending to the story (yes it is a series but there needs to be something to hook a reader into the next book and this didn’t seem to have it).  The story meandered too much and didn’t really go anywhere.  It had potential but failed to deliver.

  1. The Night Angel Trilogy by Brent Weeks

This mainly refers to Shadow’s Edge and Beyond the Shadows because I really did like The Way of Shadows and if that had been the only book then it would probably have been on my list of favourite novels.  The rest of the trilogy really fell flat, in my opinion, the characters vacillated between being interested and the most annoying cunts on the face of the earth.  I especially hated Elene, the annoying Mary Sue who made Kylar into a shit character every time he appeared near her and (massive spoiler) what was the actual point of bringing Durzo back from the dead at the end of Shadow’s Edge because he did pretty much bugger all apart from fly in Beyond the Shadows.  Also, why introduce his daughter, Uly, only to reduce her to a glorified extra.  Did she even speak in Beyond the Shadows?  She barely appeared.  So much wasted potential.  The only parts I really enjoyed were the bits which were centred around Kylar and Logan.

  1. Angelfall by Susan Ee

Let’s just call this novel what it is: YA bullshit at its most clichéd.  Vaguely defined main character so young girls can imagine it’s them but also has an unhappy home life?  Check.  Tall, handsome and cunty male love interest to provide tension and then romance?  Check.  It even has a Mary Sue sister who disappears in the first part of the novel, thank god.  I never read to the end of the novel to see if she would return.  Why do writer’s continue to persist with the idea that girls and young women want an absolute areshole as a romantic interest?  Why do girls and young women continue to buy this trash?  In any everyday scenario if a man was that cunty to you, you’d just tell him to fuck off but in these novels it makes the protagonist want to fuck them.  This is why I don’t normally read YA novels but I was tricked into buying it because it appeared in the adult fantasy (not that kind, get your minds out of the gutter) section of Waterstone’s.  Thing is, it has an interesting concept and I think that sort of story (Angel’s conquering Earth) would work really well as a dark, post-apocalyptic novel with interesting characters but, as it is, this is just shit.

  1. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen

Yawn.  A tedious book that bored me to tears.  I am obviously a bad example of the female gender to not obsess over this book but, hey, I didn’t like Titanic either.  The plot was tedious, the characters were tedious and Lizzie (is that the main character, I’m not sure) fucking Bennet and FitzWilliam sodding Darcy can go fuck right off.  I disliked them both.  If this is what is considered the epitome of women’s fantasies then I will happily hand in my woman card.

  1. The Lovely Bones by Alice Sebold

Boring, flat characters and a weird ending involving sex of dubious consent.  This book is now in a pile ready to go to the charity shop and I don’t regret it.  You would think that a novel about the exploration of grief after a massive tragedy would be interesting but this is absolutely tedious.  I couldn’t have given less of a shit about the characters (and you really should since the main character was raped and murdered) but none of them seem to really come out of the story looking good or even likeable.

  1. Atonement by Ian McEwan

How is this even a novel?  It has barely any plot and seems to be mainly constructed of a series of words to pad out something that isn’t even there.  I mean, why use one word when you can use three. Briony is a seriously dislikeable protagonist who never actually atones for the shit she puts her sister and her boyfriend through despite the novel being called Atonement.  Nearly four hundred pages and you could fit the plot of the novel into about a hundred at most.  When I read a book, I want an interesting plot with characters I can enjoy and Atonement had neither of those.  This is also in the charity shop pile.

2017 Review: Favourite Books

When I was deciding how I was going to structure my reviews of the year I had a hard time thinking how to do my favourite’s list.  I could have done books I loved in general this year but that would mean repeating a lot of what I said in my authors I loved list because I would be talking about entire series’ worth of books and I didn’t want to do that so I decided to limit it to individual books that were published in 2017.  This narrows down the list quite significantly and I can spend more words praising the books I loved.

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  1. An Echo of Things to Come by James Islington

I also read The Shadow of What Was Lost this year as well, and although I preferred the first novel more, this was still very enjoyable.  Islington is very good at creating his characters and the world building and magic system are also very well done.  The last chapter of the novel was jaw dropping and I cannot wait to find out what happens with that particular plot point.  Hopefully it gets explained otherwise I’ll be very disappointed.  The focus of this story is very much on Aarkein Devaed/Caeden and the numerous flashbacks of him recovering parts of his memory deepen the character and sheds new light on a previously despised character.  It makes him more sympathetic (although the end of the book could change that, like I said: jaw dropping).  Sometimes these flashbacks seem like they are there just to pad out the story, as it is the middle book, and at times the plot seems to be going nowhere but by the end I was very happy with how things were turning out.  It makes me want to read the next novel and that is what I want when I read something.

  1. A Conjuring of Light by V.E. Schwab

Do I hate Lila?  Yes.  Do I think that Schwab panders to her fans too much?  Hell yes!  Do I think that Alucard has a highly clichéd young adultesque backstory?  Of course I do but I still absolutely loved this book.  On the whole, Schwab does have a good writing style, she can draw you in with sympathetic characters that you fall in love with and leave you wanting more but in places it does fall flat.  I am using Alucard as an example because his backstory doesn’t feel like it belongs in an adult story.  He was interesting to begin with but the more you learned about him, the more young adult he became.  I like his relationship with Rhy but the whole “I only left because my family are shitheads who knocked me unconscious and sent me to sea” explanation as to why he left was a bit shit.  I would have preferred a storyline that was a bit more grown up, something like him leaving for whatever reason but of his own accord and then realising that he was a twat and doing something to make up for it.  The main strength of the novel and the series in general, in my opinion, is the relationship between Kell and Rhy.  I love it and I would love to see the bond between them explored in later novels because that is what interested me the most.  The novel is easy to read and rather addictive, I couldn’t put it down.

Also, if Lila is to die horribly then that would be a bonus.  I know it’ll never happen but a girl can dream.

  1. Tyrant’s Throne by Sebastien de Castell

I have written an entire review of this book singing its praises so I won’t repeat myself but this was still one of my top books of the year.  It’s the characters, pure and simple.  I love them, I love their relationships with each other and how they deal with the complete shit they get put through.  The twist in this novel (look away now if you don’t want spoilers) with the death of Aline made my jaw drop and I mean that literally.  I didn’t see it coming and it completely changed the landscape of the finale but I can understand the reason for it.  If there were to be more books set in this world I would eagerly read them.

  1. Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson

Brandon Sanderson has the great ability to draw you in with his characters.  At over 1200 pages you would think that Oathbringer would be a slog to get through but, like his other novels, it keeps you interested from beginning to end.  The focus of this novel is on Dalinar, and he has an interesting back story.  I like how you see him change from his beginnings to the man he is currently and it makes you grow fonder of him.  The other characters all I have their moments, the scene where Kaladin meets his baby brother made me go awwww, as did anything Adolin and Shallan did together (I love them as a couple).  Any novel that makes me go aww, breaks my heart and makes me leap with joy has got to be one of the best novels of the year.  It is epic, it has revelations and the stakes just keep getting raised to almost apocalyptic proportions.   The characters never lose their likeability (except for Lift, I am really not a fan of hers) and I find myself growing more and more fond of them as the series progresses.

  1. Assassin’s Fate by Robin Hobb

This was always going to be my favourite book of the year since Robin Hobb is my favourite current author but it was also the hardest book to read.  I don’t like goodbyes and this was a massive one.  I have loved Fitz and the Fool since the moment I met them so to read the end of their story was a level of pain I never thought I would ever experience in a book.  It was genuinely like saying goodbye to my best friends.  I cried for a good twenty minutes after I finished (after sobbing through the last two hundred pages) and I still can’t talk about it in depth with my friend because we both agree it’s too painful.

I love it when a book does that.

There aren’t many books that have made me cry (five in total) so I do consider every one that does to be one of my favourites and this one made me cry more than most.  Ok, so the plot was a bit slow in places and there are many characters I don’t like but the overall story was a beautiful end for two characters that I love more than any in literature so that it why it is my favourite book of 29

Review of 2017: Four Authors I Read For the First Time This Year and Loved

For me, 2017 was the year of fantasy and I read very few other genres this year.  I discovered so many books that I had never read before, and found so many amazing authors that I had never thought to pick up.  Here are four fantasy authors I read for the first time this year and loved.

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  1. Brandon Sanderson

I always see this as a massive oversight on my part because, for quite a few years now, I have eyed up Brandon Sanderson’s books never bought one until this year.  The reason was simple, but stupid: the covers are so beautiful.  I have picked up so many books over the years where the covers were beautiful but the stories were crap so I was hesitant to pick them up in fear that it would be the case here.  I shouldn’t have been so silly because Brandon Sanderson is an excellent writer and I quickly found myself addicted.  The Mistborn series is excellent, both the first and second series’ and The Stormlight Archives series is also a work of brilliance.  I love the world building.  I love the magic system.  Most of all, though, I love the characters.  They are wonderful, flawed and very interesting.  You can easily fall in love with them and root for them through thick and thin.

  1. Sebastien de Castell

My friend recommended the Greatcoat’s series to me earlier on in the year because he said they were in the vein of The Three Musketeers (and if you ever want me to write a post about how much I love the Musketeers’ novels I will, because my love for them is great), and he was right.  There is a wonderful swashbuckle-y tone to the novels that you just don’t see anymore.  As with Sanderson, the characters are wonderful.  They are well-defined and sympathetic and the plot is exciting, heart breaking, shocking and happy all at the same time.  I wrote a complete review on the series if you want to know my full thoughts on the novels, but the short version is: I loved them.

  1. John Gwynne

I had never heard of the Faithful and the Fallen series before I picked the first novel, Malice, up on a whim.  I had intended to write a series review, much like I did with de Castell, but by the time I read all four books it was just too much.  I really love them, though.  The plot is wonderfully constructed, I like the way that not all things are completely as they seem (not to get too spoliery) and I also like that at any time certain characters could go either way in whether they are good are bad.  Choices are important in this series and they have very serious repercussions, I like how one bad decision resonates through the entire series.  Very well written stuff.

  1. Brian McClellan

I’m just going to start by saying that I adore the Powder Mage Trilogy and I haven’t even read the third book as of the time of writing.  As I said in my review of Promise of Blood, describing a book as “a French Revolution with wizards” is a sure fire way of making me want to read a book and I sure as hell wasn’t disappointed.  The various plot strands move very quickly and, in book two especially, they barely allow you to stop and breathe before the stakes escalate even higher.  If you don’t pay attention then the story can move on without you noticing.  I love the characters, and some of the not as well constructed characters in book one are fleshed out more in book two which was very good to see.  Also, the scene between Bo and Lord Vetas (and his arms) in book two wins the award for greatest scene I have read this year.  I almost died laughing at how awesome and gruesome it was.  Great stuff.

Last Chance Saloon: Atonement by Ian McEwan

Welcome to part two of Last Chance Saloon, where I re-read books I haven’t completed to discover why I stopped in the first place.  Book number two is Atonement by Ian McEwan.

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I wouldn’t call this a review, exactly, more like a rant about a book I seriously dislike.  I don’t know if I hate it enough for it to enter my top five least favourite books of all time but it is coming pretty close.  I managed to get to page 230 before I seriously just considered throwing the book across the room in frustration and then I just decided to skim read the rest so I could complete this review.

 

I started reading this book almost ten years ago and I managed to read up to page 113 (chapter ten) before I stopped.  Reading it again made me instantly realise the reason why I gave up on it all those years ago and it was obvious: it’s boring as fuck.

 

The front cover of Atonement states it was shortlisted for the Booker Prize and I wondered to myself, how?  Then I looked up a listen of Booker Prize nominees and winners of the years and it turns out I have only ever read three: The Handmaid’s Tale, Atonement and The Ghost Road and I only actually enjoyed one of those books.  I then realised that it is exactly the sort of novel that would be shortlisted for the Booker Prize: wordy and dull.

 

Never before have I read a book that has so many words but has said so little.  The plot is barely there, lost amongst pages upon pages of pointless description to the point where nothing happens.  From what I can gather, the plot is this: young girl with overactive imagination sees her sister having sex and thinks she is being raped.  She the witnesses her cousin actually being raped and blames the man who was having consensual sex with her sister.  The man goes to jail and is released to join the war but dies at Dunkirk, the sister becomes a nurse and dies in the Blitz and the young girl grows up and makes up a happy ending for them even though they’re both dead.

 

McEwan spends so much time describing things that he forgets to construct a well rounded plot.  It’s almost as if he didn’t really care about what he was writing, he just wanted to include as many words as possible to make the novel look more intelligent than it actually is.  It is the book equivalent of an Oscar bait movie, designed only to win plaudits but utterly forgettable as an actuaL novel.

 

Speaking of forgettable, the characters are absolutely forgettable.  Once again, McEwan seems more content describing a vase than creating interesting and sympathetic characters so, as a result, you don’t give a damn about any of them.  Did I feel a sense of injustice at the situation?  Yes.  Did I give a damn about them as characters?  Not in the slightest.

 

Briony, the main character, is an annoying little shit.  Not only does she accuse Robbie of being a rapist, she convinces Lola, the girl who was raped, that it was him because she didn’t know who it was.  She led Lola into accusing Robbie, “it was Robbie, wasn’t it?” (Pg166).  What’s worse is that the book is called Atonement but Briony never actually atones for ruining a man’s life and having sent to prison.  He died with everyone thinking he was a rapist and she doesn’t intend on having the novel exonerating him published until all the main players are dead so everyone that matters will always think him a rapist.  How is that atoning?  No wonder he never forgave her, I’m not sure I would either.  She couldn’t even apologise to his face, no her sister’s because she chickened out.  Concocting a fake ending to the story where they live happily ever after is not going to make anything right.  In the end, I don’t even think her atonement is even about Robbie and Cecilia, it’s only about Briony so she just comes across as a bit self-obsessed to be honest.

 

Would I recommend this book?  Hell no, it was god awful.  I wouldn’t encourage anyone to waste their time on this incredibly dull book where nothing happens.  I’m currently on page 400 of Oathbringer by Brandon Sanderson and so much has happened in those 400 pages that it makes Atonement seem like an empty book.  I don’t usually say that reading a book is a waste of time but I am seriously regretting spending three hours ploughing through this book.

 

Recommendation: Charity shop, definitely.  I don’t want it in my collection any longer.

Last Chance Saloon: The Lovely Bones

Welcome to the last chance saloon, where I pick up books I never finished and try to re-read them. This won’t be a regular thing, I gave a lot of books I hadn’t finished to the charity shop last year but I do still have a couple kicking around so I’m going to read them again and give them one last chance or I’m donating them.

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The first book on the list is The Lovely Bones by Alice Seabold. It tells the tale of Susie Salmon, a teenage girl who is raped and murdered. I don’t know how far I managed to get the first time I read it and I couldn’t remember anything of what had happened before I gave up.

My main impression of this book is that very little happens beyond the main premise of the story. Susie hangs around as a ghost and watches over her family, friends and murderer as the attempt to move on from her death (the family and friends, not the murderer). It’s not a long book, only just over 300 pages but the story is very thin. I wasn’t overly fond of the characters, not even Susie, so there wasn’t enough to cover up the cracks of a paper thin plot. Her sister had very little development and her parents were too consumed by their own grief to even consider their children’s. Her grandmother and brother were the only two characters I really gave a damn about and they are, on the whole, on the periphery of the other characters all consuming grief.

I also felt very little emotion which, for a book that deals with the rape and murder of a teenage girl, is a very big problem. A book like this should be enough to tug at my heartstrings enough to make me cry but it didn’t. Seabold just doesn’t invest in the characters, in my opinion, to make me feel something for them. If a book is as brief as this one is, I need some amazing characters and a strong plot and this book doesn’t have either.

Another problem with this book I have occurs close to the end. An incident occurs and the character of Ruth has her spirit thrown from her body and Susie uses this opportunity to hijack her body and experience sex with Ray, the boy she had just received her first kiss from when she was murdered. I’m sure this was intended to be wonderful and romantic in 2002 but it didn’t sit well with me. In 2017, with sexual abuse allegations, sexual assault and issues of consent constantly in the news, this scene unintentionally takes on some disturbing connotations. It felt completely out of the blue and not really in keeping with the previous tone of the novel. It seemed as if it had come from a different book entirely.

Overall I did not like The Lovely Bones. Yes, it was an easy read and I completed it in two sittings but it was not enjoyable.

The verdict is: definitely going to the charity shop.

The next books to re-read is going to be Atonement by Ian McEwan.