Category: Reviews Page 1 of 2

Adele Huxley-Caught by the Blizzard book cover

Caught by the Blizzard

Caught by the Blizzard by Adele Huxley

(2,5 stars out of 5)*

Just a quick review to get this rolling…

When I downloaded the book it was an Amazon freebie. From what I see it’s not free anymore. If you would like to buy it or download a sample, you can find it here.

Caught by the Blizzard is well-written, much better than others of its genre, but can someone please mail the female lead her brain if found somewhere? Just saying. She keeps making wrong choices concerning her personal safety throughout the book. It’s not an exaggeration to say she has a death wish, and it was distracting me, because I often found myself yelling adjectives at a person who doesn’t even exist.

I didn’t care for the sex scenes (in the sense that I found them boring and skipped them) but maybe that’s just me. On the other hand, the romantic element was very pleasant and sweet.

One more sore point was that weird preoccupation with virginity. It is one of those American things that leave me scratching my head. Somehow it’s considered normal to have done just about everything else, but not have vaginal intercourse. To be frank, I find it demeaning and objectifying to place such important on a person’s sexual activity (or lack of). It perpetuates beliefs that should have died in like, the early Dark Ages? But again, if that’s not something you mind, you might not even notice it.

Other than that, Caught by the Blizzard is one of those books that are published in two parts and you have to buy part #2 to read the conclusion. If you are OK with it, you’ll probably enjoy it.

*My star rating and what it means: 

Zero stars: Why me?!?  I do come across books that aren’t really books, but brain damage in disguise. For reasons you can all understand, I won’t be publishing reviews on them. I tend to become enraged and say things I later on regret.

One star: Meh… I didn’t like it and won’t be keeping it. It might be the book, or it might be me. I’ll try to clarify in my review.

Two stars: Average/ Okay. Either the kind of light/ undemanding book you read and don’t remember in a month, or suffering from flaws that prevented it from realising its potential.

Three stars: Better than average. Good moments, memorable characters and/ or plot, maybe good sense of humour… Not to die for, but not feeling like you wasted your time and money either.

Four stars: Wow, that was good! Definitely keeping it and checking to see what else I can buy from the same writer.

Five stars: Oh. My. Goodness. The kind of book you buy as a gift to all your friends, praise to random strangers on the bus, and re-read until the pages fall out and the corners are no longer corners, but round.

Amber Argyle-Witch Song book cover

The Bitch Song

 Witch Song by Amber Argyle

 (2 out of 5 stars)*

Okay, first things first. Witch Song is harmless, predictable YA fun. If you want to invest in it to take your mind off things, do. The writing is decent and the world not unlikable. Please ignore the rest of my review.

Now, for readers that might be looking for a serious plot and plausible character development, be advised:

1) The only way your heroine can have such low self-esteem is if her mother kept her in a burlap sack and beat her with a stick every day. A large, mean stick. Which is not the case, as her mother dotes on her.

2) Why on earth why would a dark witch wreck utter havoc with the seasons and the planet in general? She has nothing to gain out of it, and in the long run, it will be like shooting her own leg.

3) You do realise that in a battle between mortals and witches the witches win every time, or they can just escape, right?

4) Nope, a girl with such low self-esteem does not suddenly develop awesome leadership skills. Witches are not an exception to that.

5) A book can be complete even if there is no romance in it. In fact, wonder of wonders, a book can be complete even if your heroine does not get engaged to anyone at the end, or in any part of it.

6) Deus ex machina must be used sparingly and ideally, not at all. If you write yourself into a corner and can’t think of a way out, squeeze dem brain cells.

7) Oh yes, it is a series. Naturally. Because every single book has to belong to a series nowadays.

8) Personal pet peeve. Why name your main character Brusenna? Because it has such a good ring to it? Let me think of words that begin with “bru”: Brutus, brutal, brouhaha, brunt, bruise, brusque, brute… Melodic no doubt, and all those positive connotations. It was a natural winner. Not.

You can find Witch Song here.

YA books are my bane… Over and out.

*My star rating and what it means: 
 
Zero stars: Why me?!?  I do come across books that aren’t really books, but brain damage in disguise. For reasons you can all understand, I won’t be publishing reviews on them. I tend to become enraged and say things I later on regret.
One star: Meh… I didn’t like it and won’t be keeping it. It might be the book, or it might be me. I’ll try to clarify in my review.
Two stars: Average/ Okay. Either the kind of light/ undemanding book you read and don’t remember in a month, or suffering from flaws that prevented it from realising its potential.
Three stars: Better than average. Good moments, memorable characters and/ or plot, maybe good sense of humour… Not to die for, but not feeling like you wasted your time and money either.
Four stars: Wow, that was good! Definitely keeping it and checking to see what else I can buy from the same writer.
Five stars: Oh. My. Goodness. The kind of book you buy as a gift to all your friends, praise to random strangers on the bus, and re-read until the pages fall out and the corners are no longer corners, but round.
Courtney Lane-The Seat book cover

The unholy trinity (grammar, syntax and semantics chaos)

 The Sect by Courtney Lane

(1 out of 5 stars; it made me laugh)*

Sometimes I am not happy with self-publishing. This is one of those times. 

As a reader and writer, I’ve noticed an interesting trend. Advertise a book as extreme, dark, disturbing, and you get a lot of readers willing to overlook the fact that same book is simplistic, implausible and littered with mistakes. The Sect is such a book. What should have been a final draft on a PC waiting for an editor to kick the living daylights out of it, is instead a published book, first part of a trilogy. Let’s see.

  • Stereotypical main character.

The rich innocent girl cliché has been used countless times, and it is both unoriginal and unrealistic. Just because someone is rich, it does not mean they live in a protective bubble. On the contrary, rich girls tend to be a lot more jaded than girls of the same age and lower income. Why? Use your common sense. I am also tired of seeing innocent girls being thrown in the shit. Where’s the challenge in that? Why not use someone who’s smart and streetwise, and still gets duped? I’d love to see a writer pulling that one off.

  • Fuck logic because reasons.

The main character’s actions and decisions don’t make sense. Her circumstances don’t make sense either. They just don’t. However they make a convenient basis for the plot, so let’s give her the common sense of a cauliflower. For science!

  • I ate every space after ellipsis because I was hungry.

Three dots are followed by a space if they are in the middle of the sentence.  Otherwise the sentence looks as if it had to urgently hit the brakes and the words kind of clustered together, victims of a tragic typing collision.

  • Change of past tense narration to present in the middle of the book.

Please don’t do that. The Timelords will find you and hurt you.

  • Purple prose, grammar and syntax mayhem.

Dear writers, please don’t use rare and unusual words and expressions if you aren’t certain what they mean of how to use them. Chances are you are using them wrong, and it’s not flattering or constructive (although it can be very funny).

I cherry-picked some examples:

“Since the day after I began living on the street…”

 No. Just no.

“My deferred dreams…”

The  word deferred means postponed. Dreams aren’t something that can be cancelled and rescheduled, like a doctor’s appointment.

“It nearly persuaded me into breaking down.”

You can’t be persuaded into breaking down. First of all, we persuade someone to agree to something, and convince someone to do something. Also, if breaking down was a matter of choice, then it would not happen. I think what the writer wanted to communicate here is that the heroine, upon seeing her worried mother, almost gave in and reappeared.

“With his shirt tucked into his slacks, the imprint of his wallet was easily found.”

An imprint is what happens when you press a hard object onto something soft. It does not stick out, it goes in. This sentence means that the guy had a wallet made from titanium and it had left an impression on his butt. I’m also not sure how such a large butt dimple can be possibly misplaced or lost, in order to be found. I think what the writer is trying to say here is that the outline of this guy’s wallet was readily visible. 

“His dark brown eyes were trained to the window.”

Train: to point or aim, used with “on” or “at”. It usually refers to a camera, gun, etc. So much better to say his eyes were focused on the window, isn’t it? Ditch the impressive verb and you can both communicate what you want to say and be correct. Unless this guy shoots laser beams out of his eyes and I just didn’t get it.

“I took in the storefronts, some closed, some were on the brink of opening.”

On the brink: point or state very close to something unknown, dangerous or exciting. Unless the storefronts belonged to science labs, brothels and drug dens, I don’t see any reason for the expression “on the brink” here.

“You need to be taught a lesson on who among us is the omnipotent one.”

Um, the Lord Almighty if you are Christian? Or Allah if you are not? Or chocolate if you are me?

“I shook my head with a viscous motion.”

Ye gods! This one made my eyes pop out. The only way you can make a viscous (thick and sticky) motion is if you aren’t a human being, but a piece of liver sliding down a wall. Or an amoeba. Or an offspring between a human and the Old ones. Why not write “a hibiscus motion”? It’s prettier and just as nonsensical a choice. I mean, why not. Hibiscus motion. I like it.

Editing, guys. Proper, merciless editing. I can’t stress this enough. I really can’t.

Did Not Finish at 21% Come on, blame me for it.  

You can find the Sect here.

*My star rating and what it means: 
 
Zero stars: Why me?!?  I do come across books that aren’t really books, but brain damage in disguise. For reasons you can all understand, I won’t be publishing reviews on them. I tend to become enraged and say things I later on regret.
One star: Meh… I didn’t like it and won’t be keeping it. It might be the book, or it might be me. I’ll try to clarify in my review.
Two stars: Average/ Okay. Either the kind of light/ undemanding book you read and don’t remember in a month, or suffering from flaws that prevented it from realising its potential.
Three stars: Better than average. Good moments, memorable characters and/ or plot, maybe good sense of humour… Not to die for, but not feeling like you wasted your time and money either.
Four stars: Wow, that was good! Definitely keeping it and checking to see what else I can buy from the same writer.
Five stars: Oh. My. Goodness. The kind of book you buy as a gift to all your friends, praise to random strangers on the bus, and re-read until the pages fall out and the corners are no longer corners, but round.

 

Louise Bay - King of Wall Street book cover

Romance novels and tinfoil hats

 King of Wall Street by Louise Bay
(3.5 out of 5 stars)*

Three and a half stars.

I won King of Wall Street in a giveaway. I gained the favour of fickle Lady Luck by expecting fish to grow legs and ride a bicycle before I win anything in a giveaway. In retrospect, winning was inevitable. This has nothing to do with the review I am about to write, except for the fact winning the book allowed me to write the review in the first place. It’s like the chicken and egg argument without vegans butting in. My opinions are my own, especially when I wear my tinfoil hat. During other times I am not so sure. I sometimes wake up in my kitchen with an opened can of cat food in my hand, surrounded by a horde of screaming felines and no memory of how I got there. But I digress.

I enjoyed King of Wall Street. It was fun, sexy, quirky, with a nice sense of humour and very few/tiny mistakes. Overall it was a very enjoyable read. If you want to relax your mind immersed in a modern-day romance story, look no further. Don’t expect to cry tears of enlightenment over it or gape with amazement at the sudden plot twists. It’s a very decent book for its genre, better than many others I’ve read, more freshly written, funnier and sexier. It’s also predictable for the same reasons most romance novels are predictable. I mean, you know that these two are going to end up together, just don’t know how they will get there and that’s why you read the book.

The heroine is admittedly a bit irritating. She makes the mistake of mixing business with pleasure with every unpleasantness this entails. Sometimes her reactions are immature, but since one of the basic plot elements is her relationship with her father, it makes sense. Or at least it did not bother me. I don’t expect heroes to be perfect. I only expect their actions and decisions to make sense according to what we know about their past and personalities. As such, she made perfect sense.

The only real complaint I have is the hero. Yes, yes, his fourteen-year-old daughter is his precious snowflake and if she wears a short skirt the firmament will tremble and the world will end, devoured by giant locusts or something. He’s a tough, tough mother… cracker, and he’s the best at what he is, the fear of lesser men, blah de blah. But. Although his daughter is as innocent as the driven snow and her purity must be guarded till his last breath, he sees the heroine as a magnificent a$$ and a perky pair of boobs that accidentally have a face and a name. Oh, and guess what! That tough guy is constantly bossed around by his female relatives. How this works, I honestly don’t know. Then again, it’s a trend in many romance books I’ve come across. Men at the pinnacle of success who are superior to other men, leaders of the pack, fearless predators, yet their relationship with women is either to cower in front of their female relatives or see orifices instead of people. I think that, too, is a result of the alpha male role model romance writers are desperate to incorporate in their books because it is the synonym of ‘successful’ and ‘interesting’ (=sales). Then they find themselves stranded with a caveman in a suit and desperately try to humanise him, turning him into a walking contradiction in the process, because they have to show he has a vulnerable side that does not fit anywhere in the previous picture. Whoopsie.

Yes, yes, I know. I went and wrote a feminist analysis on a romance book. Bite me, it’s really late. I am off to wear my tinfoil hat and feed my cats. Despite my complaints, I am looking forward to reading more books by the same author. I had lots of fun with King of Wall Street.

*My star rating and what it means: 
 
Zero stars: Why me?!?  I do come across books that aren’t really books, but brain damage in disguise. For reasons you can all understand, I won’t be publishing reviews on them. I tend to become enraged and say things I later on regret.
One star: Meh… I didn’t like it and won’t be keeping it. It might be the book, or it might be me. I’ll try to clarify in my review.
Two stars: Average/ Okay. Either the kind of light/ undemanding book you read and don’t remember in a month, or suffering from flaws that prevented it from realising its potential.
Three stars: Better than average. Good moments, memorable characters and/ or plot, maybe good sense of humour… Not to die for, but not feeling like you wasted your time and money either.
Four stars: Wow, that was good! Definitely keeping it and checking to see what else I can buy from the same writer.
Five stars: Oh. My. Goodness. The kind of book you buy as a gift to all your friends, praise to random strangers on the bus, and re-read until the pages fall out and the corners are no longer corners, but round.

Jordan L.Hawk-Widdershins book cover

The end of the world… or not.

Widdershins by Jordan L. Hawk

(2.5 out of 5 stars)*

Hm.

I really enjoyed the Magpie lord series. I figured the series Whyborne & Griffin would be similar, and picked Widdershins, the first book. I was quite wrong. Here is a list of reasons I disliked it.

1) Percival, the protagonist of the story, has abysmal self-esteem. Page after page I kept reading his “oh, poor me” inner dialogue and wanted to slap him back to his senses, or just slap him. Poor Percival who can speak 13 languages, grew up in a rich family and yet he’s as socially adept as a mute blindfolded crippled orangutan. It didn’t make sense and quickly grew tiring and started grating on my nerves.

2) The handsome stranger (in this case, a detective) who enters his life has issues too, underneath the flair, swagger and bravado. I found it predictable and honestly, boring.

3) Percival’s only friend is a strong female character who quickly becomes insufferable. She is the voice of reason, yet she is overbearing and irritating in her own special way. I don’t mean she ought to be more lady-like and fragile. She barges into Percival’s office whenever she needs to unwind by ranting or use his services as a translator, and won’t take no for an answer. I would have politely told her to get stuffed and shut the door in her face, but maybe that’s just me.

4) The other thing I didn’t like was the mixture of romance and cosmic horror elements. I enjoy romance and adore H.P. Lovecraft. A good combination can make the romance hotter and the horror colder. In this book they have a detrimental effect on each other. More often than not, the two genres get in each other’s way, toning down the horror element and making the romance feel out of place. I felt I was reading two separate books that somehow got mixed together, and it did not get better. I had the mental image of a hearse driver and a can-can dancer playing basketball in a tiny room stuffed with furniture. Whenever one of them was about to score a point, they tripped on each other or the furniture.

5) Oh, by the way. The “world is about to end” thing… ugh. Generally speaking, the end of the world is not something easy to happen, otherwise it would have happened every Saturday night. Do you have any idea how many weirdos exist out there, and I mean in real life? If a team of occultists could bring about the end of the world just because the stars are at the right place, we would all be screwed. If the stars were indeed at an unusual and rare position, I for one would have expected more ‘warnings’, in the form of natural phenomena taking place all over Percival’s world, i.e. earthquakes, volcanoes, strange plagues, rains of animals etc. It’s not an event like an outsider winning the badminton championship, that can pass unnoticed if you’re not into badminton. On a clusterfuck scale of one to ten this is a solid eleven, so let’s just treat it with some respect, OK?

To sum up, Widdershins  is not a bad book. I’ve read books that can open holes in reality by how bad they were. I sometimes think Necronomicon was in reality a YA abomination later to be turned into a fully-fledged franchise, and that’s why it drove occultists mad. Well, Widdershins definitely isn’t one of those. It’s well-written and it has its moments. I guess it just didn’t work for me.

*My star rating and what it means: 
 
Zero stars: Why me?!?  I do come across books that aren’t really books, but brain damage in disguise. For reasons you can all understand, I won’t be publishing reviews on them. I tend to become enraged and say things I later on regret.
One star: Meh… I didn’t like it and won’t be keeping it. It might be the book, or it might be me. I’ll try to clarify in my review.
Two stars: Average/ Okay. Either the kind of light/ undemanding book you read and don’t remember in a month, or suffering from flaws that prevented it from realising its potential.
Three stars: Better than average. Good moments, memorable characters and/ or plot, maybe good sense of humour… Not to die for, but not feeling like you wasted your time and money either.
Four stars: Wow, that was good! Definitely keeping it and checking to see what else I can buy from the same writer.
Five stars: Oh. My. Goodness. The kind of book you buy as a gift to all your friends, praise to random strangers on the bus, and re-read until the pages fall out and the corners are no longer corners, but round.
fifty shades of grey book

Fifty Shades of (Mental) Pain

I know, I know, it is an old book. It is also one that belongs to the Did-Not-Finish (And- Would- Rather- Eat- Sauteed- Pickled- Moths- Topped- With-Lanolin- Cream- Than- Continue) Category. So.

Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L. James.  
(0 out of 5 stars)*

 

I gave the Fifty shades of Grey a go though I was certain I would not like it. And I didn’t. It is badly written and extremely repetitive. The male protagonist is repulsive and needs psychiatric help. The female protagonist is a two-dimensional Mary Sue straight out of a 50s movie who can’t tell abuse from interest. The way BDSM is presented is extremely wrong and dangerous. The only person of colour is portrayed as a potential rapist. The plot is pretty much the same as that of any other insipid romance novel, only worse. The only explanation I have for its success is that people enjoy reading easy books that do not challenge them. Women in particular love the idea of saving the bad boy from his own self, because we have been taught that this is what we are born to do. Unfortunately, no-one can be saved, and books like this one glorify abusive relationships, psycho stalkers, and female passivity and victimisation. If you want to read a BDSM fantasy, there is much better erotica free on the net.

 

*My star rating and what it means: 
 
Zero stars: Why me?!?  I do come across books that aren’t really books, but brain damage in disguise. For reasons you can all understand, I won’t be publishing reviews on them. I tend to become enraged and say things I later on regret.
One star: Meh… I didn’t like it and won’t be keeping it. It might be the book, or it might be me. I’ll try to clarify in my review.
Two stars: Average/ Okay. Either the kind of light/ undemanding book you read and don’t remember in a month, or suffering from flaws that prevented it from realising its potential.
Three stars: Better than average. Good moments, memorable characters and/ or plot, maybe good sense of humour… Not to die for, but not feeling like you wasted your time and money either.
Four stars: Wow, that was good! Definitely keeping it and checking to see what else I can buy from the same writer.
Five stars: Oh. My. Goodness. The kind of book you buy as a gift to all your friends, praise to random strangers on the bus, and re-read until the pages fall out and the corners are no longer corners, but round.
Assassin's Creed#3: the Secret Crusade

What’s funny about Assassin’s Creed?

I have neglected adding reviews here. So I am going to add two, to make up for it. One funny, one not so funny. The first one will be… 

Assassin’s Creed#3: the Secret Crusade by Oliver Bowden. 

(2 out of 5 stars)*

I keep reading this series because it’s easy to read, but it also irritates me because it’s simplistic, implausible and flat. I found this book better than the two previous, yet it still leaves much to be desired. I mean we’re talking about Assassins, you know? Stuff that normally would have rocked your socks to a speed metal mosh pit degree. Instead we get eh, meh, bleh, blah de blah, and dying men who have been stabbed in the neck and still deliver last speeches that amount to whole paragraphs of text. I’m positive that if I’m ever stabbed, I’ll make sounds like a defective sprinkler sputtering to life and a dying goldfish. I won’t have enough breath left to reveal so much before kicking the bucket. Altair’s victims, once they have been given the killing blow, turn incredibly talkative. From now on, next time one of my heroes wants information, he or she won’t threaten to kill the prisoner unless they talk. They will kill the prisoner et voila, they will be given all the information they need and then some. Maybe even offered hedge fund strategy advice. Who knows.

I’m not sure how the writer would have handled things if he had been given freedom to do what he wanted instead of following a predetermined plot. Maybe the result would have been better. Personally, I’m waiting for the movie with Fassbender and hope it will be worthwhile, because the books I’ve read so far have failed to give me my fix.

And now for the next one…
Zombie by Joyce Carol Oates
(1 out of 5 stars)*

While I love serial killers and reading about the darkness of human soul (one of my favourite books is Exquisite Corpse by Poppy Brite), I didn’t enjoy this one. I could not get into the narrative. I felt I was reading the diary of a ten-year old with serious expression and consistency problems. I also felt that the book aimed at shock value. I found it artificial and forced. I understand that the writer chose the particular style of narration to show the chaotic, emotionally stunted inside of the killer’s head, but unfortunately it made the book unreadable for me.

I have tried to read a short story by the same writer with similar results. I fear it is a matter of taste; Mrs. Oates doesn’t work for me.

 

*My star rating and what it means: 

Zero stars: Why me?!? I do come across books that aren’t really books, but brain damage in disguise. For reasons you can all understand, I won’t be publishing reviews on them. I tend to become enraged and say things I later on regret.
One star: Meh…I didn’t like it and won’t be keeping it. It might be the book, or it might be me. I’ll try to clarify in my review.
Two stars: Average/ Okay.Either the kind of light/ undemanding book you read and don’t remember in a month, or suffering from flaws that prevented it from realising its potential.
Three stars: Better than average.Good moments, memorable characters and/ or plot, maybe good sense of humour… Not to die for, but not feeling like you wasted your time and money either.
Four stars: Wow, that was good!Definitely keeping it and checking to see what else I can buy from the same writer.
Five stars: Oh. My. Goodness. The kind of book you buy as a gift to all your friends, praise to random strangers on the bus, and re-read until the pages fall out and the corners are no longer corners, but round.

Do not judge me by my need for cheese!

Her Sinful Angel by Felicity Heaton (3 out of 5 stars)*

Generally speaking, I don’t like Paranormal Romance. It’s simplistic, badly written, and full of stereotypes. Also, it often has elements I find deeply disturbing. I have seen rape and torture glorified and used as  romance elements, heroines with a death wish that are every thinking woman’s nightmare, male heroes that behave like crack addicts dying from testosterone poisoning, and more insta-love that I can stomach. But. I still read this genre because I can’t really help it. It’s like standing in the aisle of snacks in the supermarket, and looking at the most disgusting, artificial flavour and colour, fake cheese greasy eeewww sticks, and buying the biggest pack you can find. It’s every dietician’s and trainer’s worst enemy, it’s something that you will regret eating, it’s the epitome of “once on your lips, forever on your hips” junk food. BUT. You crave the damn things. You want to eat them. You NEED that cheesy, disgusting, greasy, full fat, salt and calorie nightmare. You know you’re going to stuff your face and have yellow teeth and nails and indigestion for three days, but you want them, and you’re going to have them, and may God help anyone who tries to stop you. That’s EXACTLY my relationship with Paranormal Romance. I know it’s bad, I know I am going to regret reading it… But I want it. It’s a guilty pleasure that more often than not, I don’t enjoy. But I need to try to make sure, because, you know, this time it might be different.

Now that introductions are out of the way, let’s review this one. Actually, Her Sinful Angel was a pleasant surprise among the usual rubbish. Needless to say, lots of corn, cheese and growling in the ingredients. I mean for fudge’s sake, the devil falls in love with a mortal woman. Duh. So:

Insta-love, check.

Tragic male hero, check.

Tortured heroine, check.

A bad boy who’s in reality a big softie who loves to be bossed around in bedroom, check.

Plausible? Yes. Don’t expect scientific research or anything… But a lot more plausible than others of the same genre.

Easy to read? Yes, the language is good and the text flows without distracting the reader.

Sex? Plenty, although to be honest I didn’t care much for it.

A bit simplistic? Yes, but if you’re looking for something mentally challenging, try Nietzsche.

So with these in mind, if you like your male heroes dark, powerful, tortured and dangerous and your heroines with a bit of backbone and compassionate, grab this one. You’ll enjoy it. I didn’t feel cheated when I finished it and believe me, for me that’s an exception with this genre.

*My star rating and what it means: 
 
Zero stars: Why me?!?  I do come across books that aren’t really books, but brain damage in disguise. For reasons you can all understand, I won’t be publishing reviews on them. I tend to become enraged and say things I later on regret.
One star: Meh… I didn’t like it and won’t be keeping it. It might be the book, or it might be me. I’ll try to clarify in my review.
Two stars: Average/ Okay. Either the kind of light/ undemanding book you read and don’t remember in a month, or suffering from flaws that prevented it from realising its potential.
Three stars: Better than average. Good moments, memorable characters and/ or plot, maybe good sense of humour… Not to die for, but not feeling like you wasted your time and money either.
Four stars: Wow, that was good! Definitely keeping it and checking to see what else I can buy from the same writer.
Five stars: Oh. My. Goodness. The kind of book you buy as a gift to all your friends, praise to random strangers on the bus, and re-read until the pages fall out and the corners are no longer corners, but round.

 

Occult reading: how to do a number on your head, no hammer needed.

So here are two reviews… Liber Null is a Chaos Magick classic. As I’ve said before, I am always wary of the classics.

Liber Null and Psychonaut by Peter J. Carroll (3 out of 5 stars)*

My head hurts. It really hurts. Also, my copy is missing a page of text and half its contents table. Damn to demise all marshmallows in existence and some theoretical ones.

How can someone actively choose to experiment on everything that makes them who they are AND work 9-5? The advice is pretty clear: change your personality, change your sexuality, do all the things that normally you would not do, try a different lifestyle, support a point of view you don’t agree with and so on. Keep doing that that until you manage to disentangle your inner core from your present personality, because personality is essentially a completely arbitrary construction based on experience and chance. Once you stop identifying with your personality/ ego, magick can happen because you don’t identify with any desire, and consequently don’t sabotage your own efforts by fear or need. Also, by deconstructing your personality you peel away all those superficial/ ego gratification needs that don’t originate from your inner core, but from your fears, complexes and so on. What remains is aligned with the portion of you that is transcendent, in other words, with the needs of your soul. Yep, do all that AND at the same time hold down a job, maintain your relationships, practice magick and try to see life for the cosmic joke it is. Excellent theory, but I am afraid that this can only be done by not having to work, not being in a relationship and not having a family of any kind. And probably having friends who don’t mind dealing with a person whose completely inconsistent and erratic behavior changes from day to day.

It’s an interesting book with some excellent ideas but very little practical application for the practitioner who also wants to have a life outside the occult. It’s also difficult to follow at parts. Still a good read for someone who wants to be introduced to Chaos Magick. One of the classics. As with all classics, pick and choose the elements that suit you and ignore the rest.

 The Pseudonomicon by Phil Hine (4 out of 5 stars)*
 

I read this one many years ago, and back then I did not fully appreciate it. Now that I re-read it, I can say it is one of the best of its kind. I am not particularly interested in becoming acquainted with the Old Ones on a personal level, let alone going mad. (Or at least, not madder than I already am. 😉 However this little volume gives a plethora of information on how the Old Ones can be understood in relation to our human perception of the world, as well as some very valid observations on the way magickal experience cannot be explained or communicated. The writing is crystal clear, avoids metaphysical jargon, has an excellent sense of humour and offers interesting hints/ information if someone wants to get personally involved. Though short in length, it can be used as a solid introduction for someone who is tickled by the idea of the Old Ones in magickal work, and they can expand from there. Highly recommended.

*My star rating and what it means: 
 
Zero stars: Why me?!?  I do come across books that aren’t really books, but brain damage in disguise. For reasons you can all understand, I won’t be publishing reviews on them. I tend to become enraged and say things I later on regret.
One star: Meh… I didn’t like it and won’t be keeping it. It might be the book, or it might be me. I’ll try to clarify in my review.
Two stars: Average/ Okay. Either the kind of light/ undemanding book you read and don’t remember in a month, or suffering from flaws that prevented it from realising its potential.
Three stars: Better than average. Good moments, memorable characters and/ or plot, maybe good sense of humour… Not to die for, but not feeling like you wasted your time and money either.
Four stars: Wow, that was good! Definitely keeping it and checking to see what else I can buy from the same writer.
Five stars: Oh. My. Goodness. The kind of book you buy as a gift to all your friends, praise to random strangers on the bus, and re-read until the pages fall out and the corners are no longer corners, but round.

Thoughts on success and the YA genre

Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas (1 out of 5 stars)*

I admit this book made me ponder on success. Over the years, I’ve discovered I don’t share the same opinions with the general public. When a book becomes a huge success, I’m usually part of the minority that didn’t like it. Everyone around me sings praises on how wonderful that book is, how much they enjoyed it and how it changed their life, and I find myself wondering if we are talking about the same book. To draw a comparison, I’d be equally puzzled if someone went to the average burger-and-fries chain and claimed with tears in their eyes they’ve eaten the best food of their lives. So I’ve come to formulate a theory.

My theory is the following. Readers of fiction books can be divided in two categories. The categories have nothing to do with genre preference. The first category is the majority. It consists of those who want to kill a few hours and read something that doesn’t challenge them. They want to be swept away in a fantasy land where everything is easy to accomplish, situations are familiar (read between the lines: exclusive use of clichés in story lines and characters) and everyone is safe. The ones who die are the bad guys and they deserved to die, and a hero is as great and awesome as their writer claims them to be, no proof needed. If the book delivers what the genre promised (i.e. impressive, mindless action, maudlin romance etc) these readers are happy with their share. They are basically trying to escape our reality because it is hard, messy and unfair. I feel for them because I read for the same reason. I want to escape reality. The difference is I don’t want to go to Barbie land because I belong to the second category.

The second category is the minority who wants to be challenged. They expect the fantasy world to be as hard, real and unforgiving as this one. They love a solid set of social rules that might be different than the ones we have, but just as difficult to bend. They don’t want the heroes to be safe and the path familiar. The protagonists need to prove themselves and earn the respect of both their readers and the other characters. There might be dragons in that world, or magic, or advanced technology, but if a character does something stupid, they’ll pay. These readers love realism and hate easy solutions with a passion. They don’t want the heroes to be safe. They want them to be real, and bleed, and ache, and most of all, they want them to grow.

Throne of Glass is wildly popular and unfortunately targets the first category. Instead of writing a review that focuses on the details of the characters and plot, I wish to focus on why the female protagonist fails completely at being the so-called best assassin of that world. Her role as an assassin is the core of both the character and the book, so I want to discuss this.

What does it mean to be an assassin? I’ll write down my thoughts. Assassins belong to a specialised class that undergoes rigorous training, in order to acquire the physical, mental and emotional traits of their role, the most important being strict discipline. They are made immune to hardship by regular exposure to it; rough weather, physical pain, lack of food and water, lack of sleep. Snipers, for example, can stay awake for up to 72 hours during a mission. The mental and emotional training of an assassin is just as strict, creating a ‘one track mind’. Such people ignore every distraction, including verbal provocations, a handsome lass (or lad), unfavourable odds and heart-wrenching pleas for mercy. Depending on the type and universe, we can assume they have a daily routine that includes specialised exercise, perhaps meditation or reciting the beliefs of their sect etc. And I am pretty certain that even if they begin training at a very early age, even the most talented ones don’t make master assassins at the age of 17.

The problem with the Young Adult genre is how easily something is accomplished. Since readers of this genre are often in their teens, they need a protagonist of the same age to identify with. So these books present us with a variety of characters with superhuman powers or ‘master’ status in their field at the ripe age of 16, 17 and 18. These books also conveniently forget to mention the method of achieving master status. (I’ll let you into the secret because I’m feeling generous. You slave away for years at your chosen subject until you grow utterly sick of it, and then you slave away for some more years.) Because every teenager want to be the best, but no-one wants to be seen as an uncool, hard-working nerd, YA novels have these super characters who are ‘chosen’, ‘special’, ‘unique’ etc because reasons. The protagonist Celaena is such a special girl. She is the best assassin there is, but everything she says and does verifies the opposite. Why? Because the writer didn’t want to create a realistic character who IS badass, but rather one who SOUNDS badass. Let me elaborate.

A trained assassin, even a female one, doesn’t care about her looks or what others think of her. She tries to draw as little attention as possible, has a permanent poker face, and is immune to hardship. She’s also immune to the good looks of the Prince and the Captain of the Guard. (By the way, I know that the title ‘Captain of the Guard’ brings to mind a forty-something gruff veteran, but the Captain in question is 22 years old, so that Celaena is spoiled for choice between him and the Prince.)  An assassin doesn’t brag, doesn’t expect others to pet her, spoil her or take her side, doesn’t engage in lengthy conversations with her captors, doesn’t get in fits of rage over a game of billiards, and generally doesn’t do any of the things Celaena does. Let’s face it; which teenage girl would identify with the aloof, secretive, cynical, fashion-oblivious hardened soldier that a professional assassin is? None. So in order to create a heroine a teenage girl can identify with, you essentially create another teenage girl who is the best assassin of the land because you, the writer, says so.

With that as a given, I can rant for hours on how implausible Celaena is. The best assassin of the land spends the night before the critical tournament that will determine her freedom or death by reading books until four in the morning. (By the way, since this is a medieval-ish setting, may I point out that back then books were very rare and 99% of people couldn’t read? The books that did exist around that time weren’t meant for recreation; they were usually gargantuan, hand-copied tomes on religion, philosophy and history that made someone develop a headache after ten minutes of reading. But anyway, let’s take for granted that in that fantasy world typography and recreational books already exist and most people can read; it’s a minor blunder compared to other inconsistencies.) The following morning she doesn’t want to get out of bed and complains about the cold floor. Then her next problem is her unfashionable clothes. People sneak in and out of her room at all hours and this terrifying assassin whose fame precedes her just keeps on snoring. She twirls her (blonde) hair around her finger and opens her mouth to show the food she’s been chewing to annoy others. Someone is killing the tournament participants in a brutal way, but when she finds a bag of candy in her room (no note or name on it), she gobbles it down without a worry in the world. She spends her days in front of a mirror or playing the piano or reading, admiring her pretty dresses and wondering why she is not invited at balls. And so on, and so forth. I can continue, but I doubt this will serve any purpose. As I said, those readers who don’t mind the absurdity of the plot and characters will love it, and the ones who can’t abide it will just cringe, like I did.

I find books of the YA genre oversimplified in a dangerous way. Life is not a series of easy, magical solutions. The only place someone can be an assassin, mage, neurosurgeon etc just by claiming they are one, is a video game (or perhaps social media). How about books which show that someone doesn’t have to be the best and coolest in order to be important, or alternatively, showing how hard it is to become the best? How about YA books that deal with second best, or even failure? How about helping a teenager understand that they don’t have to prove something, but should enjoy life instead, because there is plenty of time to discover themselves and their passions along the way?

I am afraid that for me YA has become the equivalent of a warning label. “Danger of wasted time. Read at your own risk.” I honestly hope I am wrong and I just haven’t read the good ones yet. 

And another pet peeve of mine. This is the writer. 

 

 

Now please explain to me why she is on the cover of her own book, because I can’t for the life of me make sense of it.

*My star rating and what it means: 
 
Zero stars: Why me?!?  I do come across books that aren’t really books, but brain damage in disguise. For reasons you can all understand, I won’t be publishing reviews on them. I tend to become enraged and say things I later on regret.
One star: Meh… I didn’t like it and won’t be keeping it. It might be the book, or it might be me. I’ll try to clarify in my review.
Two stars: Average/ Okay. Either the kind of light/ undemanding book you read and don’t remember in a month, or suffering from flaws that prevented it from realising its potential.
Three stars: Better than average. Good moments, memorable characters and/ or plot, maybe good sense of humour… Not to die for, but not feeling like you wasted your time and money either.
Four stars: Wow, that was good! Definitely keeping it and checking to see what else I can buy from the same writer.
Five stars: Oh. My. Goodness. The kind of book you buy as a gift to all your friends, praise to random strangers on the bus, and re-read until the pages fall out and the corners are no longer corners, but round.

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