Category: Reviews Page 2 of 3

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.

Paranormal romance for the hopeless

I’m truly hopeless. I keep on reading this genre (Paranormal Romance) though I know I will be disappointed. Ready for a review?

A Vampire’s Promise by Carla Susan Smith (2.5 out of 5 stars)*
A Vampire’s Promise

A Vampire’s Promise

I have a digital mountain of books on my kindle. Often I have no idea what the book is about because I don’t see the cover or don’t remember the title. This was one of those cases.

I liked several things about a Vampire’s Promise. The first was the fact I was under the impression I was reading a contemporary romance book. The heroine remains unsuspecting of the supernatural nature of the hero until the end. It was a welcome change from the other Paranormal Romance books where the heroine knows almost from the beginning that the guy she likes is an alpha-furry-or-fanged-something. (Just out of curiosity… How about a book with a beta-something as a hero? No? Wait till my SF romance comes out and we’ll discuss it then.) In this book, she thinks the hero is human. Mind you, probably a criminal, but still human.

The writing style is quite funny and interesting. It’s smart and quirky; it often made me smile. I would have preferred it to be a little less wordy, but it was not irritating. An example of said quirkiness: “I watched both of them as my passport got stamped and I crossed over from Clueless Land into the Continent of the Totally Lost. What did that mean?”


The first half of a Vampire’s Promise, where the meeting, flirting, and fleshing out of the two protagonists takes place, is very engaging. It’s funny, it’s cute, and although we have the typical insta-love going on, I didn’t feel cheated. She falls head over heels for him, okay, I get it. It has happened to me too. It’s the second part that disappointed me and made me lower my rating. Here are my reasons.


One: she is a virgin. That is not a problem in itself. I do understand that someone may choose not to have sex for any reason; personal, religious, being asexual and so on, and I have the deepest respect for other people’s choices. But when the male protagonist says to the heroine, “You were worried about telling me you were pure?” I want to slap someone silly. A personal plea to all (Paranormal) Romance writers out there. PLEASE stop glamourising the whole virginity thing. It’s not nice. Having sex is not something that makes you dirty, because if that’s the case, all male protagonists of (Paranormal) Romance books are as dirty as a sewer clogged with cholera corpses. If your idea of purity is lack of sexual experience, then make both protagonists virgins. Fair is fair. No double standards. You can make your heroines virgins or non virgins, or you can make them three-eyed aliens with curly fluorescent ears from planet Rodriguez for all I care, but PLEASE stop boosting and perpetuating misogynistic and slut shaming stereotypes. Last time I checked, we were in 2015. Dirty is someone who doesn’t bathe, and purity is used to describe precious metals. Period.


Two: you’ve met this super hot guy. And you want him. And he’s polite and everything, so you start dating. Problem being, you know next to nothing about him and he evades your questions. He also keeps appearing with outrageously expensive cars and you suspect he might be involved in criminal activities. So when you have sex with him, you decide it’s absolutely fine he wears no condom, although he ejaculates in you repeatedly and you are not on contraception. Hey, it doesn’t matter that you are smart, well read and sarcastic, and you know a pitfall when you see one. Unprotected sex with this man will not get you in trouble because… (ready for it?) he said so. Yes, that’s right, he said he can’t get you pregnant or give you any disease while for all you know, he may be running a prostitution and drug cartel. And of course you believe him. Do you? I mean, step in her shoes and tell me, would you? Unless your heroine temporarily misplaces 80 IQ points whenever she sees him naked and that’s why she doesn’t care, no woman in her right mind would do this. That’s one of my biggest pet peeves with (paranormal) romance. Just because it is fiction, it does not mean it has to be unrealistic. On the contrary, realism makes it so much better.


Three: so this amazing guy leaves you without an excuse, (*hero in dramatic voice: I can’t ask this of you… not now.”) disappears and disconnects his phone. When he reappears, although you spent three months of misery, bitching, moaning, drinking and snapping at people, you fall in his arms and this is when hot unprotected sex ensues. After that point, the book pretty much moves from one sex scene to another sex scene, plot vanishes, and we all wonder when the heroine will stop being over the moon and a semblance of logic/plot will return. (Hint: it does not happen.) This just goes on until the last five chapters, in which a jealous rival appears. I am not going to say more on this because I know people hate spoilers, so moving on to…


Four: this is not a complete book. To know what happened, you need to buy book number two, a Vampire’s Soul. Personally, I don’t like this. Other people might not mind, but I do.


All in all, two and a half stars with a heavy heart because this could be so much better. 🙁

 

*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.

Idle hands

…are the devil’s workshop, so here are some reviews I wrote recently.

Marrying the Marine by Sabrina Sims McAfee
(1 out of 5 stars)*

 

The writing is not bad, it flows easily and evokes beautiful images. The reason I gave it one star? I did not like the heroes and the handling of this story at all. Please skip the rest of this review if you don’t like spoilers.

The heroine is a virgin who usually does one of the following three things:


1) Cooks a variety of foods, pies and sweets,

2) takes care of someone/ helps someone,

3) blindly obeys her (clearly insane and backwards) dad.

The hero usually does one of the following three things:

1) Thinks of ways to have sex with the heroine. He also never wears condoms because this is a romance book and how are you going to get the marriage/ child ultimate finale/cliché if he wears condoms, you ignorant fool!?! Sheesh! What do you mean, ‘venereal disease’? Is that a kind of pie?

2) is overbearing, juvenile, presumptuous and VERY crude,

3) can’t explain why this woman makes him feel so differently, but she does, because reasons.

Quotes:

“His cock sang with electricity, then hardened like steel.”
“Best pussy in the world.”
“Sperm boiled in his hard spheres.”
“I can’t wait to sample your pie, he thought, thinking the sweet pie between her legs was probably just as sweet as the pies she baked.”
“I’d much prefer friends with benefits,” the hero thinks about the heroine. After two paragraphs: “You deserve a good man in your life.” (Hm, what? How did we go from thought A to thought B?)

If you are still living in the 1950s and you want to read an easy book about a marine who feels extremely smug he was the first sexual partner of a woman (as in woman=object and virgin woman=brand new object, with tags on) then this book will rock your world. If you like your heroines experienced and with a bit of backbone, it will probably make you wince.

Ham on Rye by Charles Bukowski
(3 out of 5 stars)*

 

Honest, raw, unpleasantly truthful and without artificial flair. I enjoyed it, although it gives no answers and has no conclusion. Real life is often like that; inconclusive and without clear answers. Offers the reader a sneak peek into the mind of the writer, his personality, and the circumstances that shaped him. It’s crude and violent and sad. At the same time, the writer remains deeply human in spite of his disillusionment and disgust for the human race, and keeps struggling to find his way in a less than perfect world.

Legends: Eleven New Works by the Masters of Modern Fantasy
by Robert Silverberg (editor)
(4 out of 5 stars)*

 

 

Really enjoyed this one. I haven’t read any of the so-called modern classics of the genre, and this anthology was a perfect collection of characteristic samples. Each story gave me a glimpse of the author’s world and familiarised me with their writing style. I already know and love S. King, T. Pratchett and U. LeGuin, but had not read any of the rest until I read this book.

If possible, I like to discover my compatibility with an author before I buy one of their longer books, and this anthology was perfect for that purpose. For example, I was pleasantly surprised by Orson Scott Card. If I had simply read the description of his world and heroes, I wouldn’t have bought his books. I am not particularly drawn to a mixture of magic and America of the civil war era as a setting. However, after reading his short story I was completely captivated. On the other hand, I can’t follow the writing style of Robert Jordan at all, and his short story gave me the opportunity to discover it. Which is a pity as he is a very popular writer, but I am happy to know he’s not for me before buying yet another book I won’t enjoy.

The rest of the short stories are good, or very good. Even the more mediocre ones gave me a coherent sense of the writer’s world. I could tell that these worlds had taken years to be created. They had been tended and grown and perfected like gardens, with constant care, a steady hand, devotion, timing and lots of weeding, to discriminate what worked and what didn’t. Under this light, I can understand why these writers are considered masters of modern fantasy. The complexity and depth of their worlds is such that a reader can live inside them. On the contrary, this lack of solid foundation is the reason I usually don’t enjoy Paranormal Romance and YA very much. When I read fiction, I need to immerse myself into a world that won’t come apart at the seams if I start asking questions. The writers of this anthology have built solid worlds. Most PR and YA novels I’ve read offer a slightly different version of reality that does not exist on its own right. It’s more of a backdrop for the romance or the adventure to take place, than an actual creation. If I keep reading with an open mind, I am sure I’ll discover some delightful exceptions to that rule, too, and I can’t wait.

*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.

Angels Of The Deep

Angels Of The Deep by Kirby Crow (2 out of 5 stars)
 
 

Why two stars? I am torn about this book. Many of its merits turn against it, ending up as flaws. For example:

 

It has extraordinarily beautiful language. Kirby Crow spins pure magic with her words, making the reader see and feel everything as if they are present. However, the long descriptions slow the book down, to the point of halting action and becoming a chore. Much as I loved the details on decoration and the poetic description of landscapes, the atmosphere etc., from a point onwards I wanted things to happen and the story to move forward.

 

The atmosphere is stifling, foreboding, bleak. Crow captures the very essence of winter, heavy with hopelessness and despair. This continues relentlessly throughout the story to the point of becoming depressing and sometimes tiring. I often put the book down because I needed a break.

 

The protagonist, Becket, is miserable and beating himself for his failings and incomprehension of his place in the world. It’s very convincing and it makes you feel for him. You can taste his despair. Unfortunately, this happens for 240 out of 296 pages. So much angst and self-loathing desensitises the reader, and finally succeeds in making them bored and unsympathetic towards Becket. At least that was how I felt.

 

At one point, another hero thinks of who the protagonist really is and how the entire story has come to be. For almost five pages, we’re given all the details neatly wrapped in that person’s internal monologue. Yes, it is helpful, but I would prefer Crow to give the details through the story itself, rather than amassing so much info in such a straightforward way.

 

The romance between the two protagonists is a battle of wills that frustrated me more than stimulated me. Every time things were about to heat up, Becket stepped back, drowning in self-denial and shame and plain stubbornness. Moods and mannerisms changed from playful and skillfully seductive to aggressive and condescending in a matter of seconds. There isn’t always a realistic explanation or a smooth transition from intense flirting and absolute openness to anger, denial and irony. I would have preferred a more subtle and even approach. Then again, I didn’t write the book, so what I would have done is a matter of personal preference.

 

Crow has a very interesting and complex mythology as a background, but the way this mythology is presented is chaotic and often unconvincing, statements conflicting with actual happenings. We learn that Becket belongs to a race that care about themselves only. However, throughout the book Becket exhibits the exact opposite behaviour. I think Crow found the idea plausible as an angle, but didn’t present it in a convincing manner. The other members of the same race appear aloof and uncaring about everything, failing to ignite even a spark of interest in me. They were figures in the background. Even their imminent demise failed to stir any feeling. They felt two dimensional.

 

To sum up, it is an interesting but uneven read, with strong merits and equally strong flaws. If you enjoy long, dark, lyrical descriptions with an anguished, tortured protagonist, mystery and gore thrown in, you will love it. I struggled through it, loved some moments, hated others. I would suggest trying it out for yourself.



*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.

The Nightmare Factory

The Nightmare Factory by Thomas Ligotti (5 out of 5 stars)

This is the most refined, rampant brain sickness I’ve ever come across, and it was disguised as a book. Words can’t describe the impact of these stories. If you are a fan of Lovecraft, you must read this author. Just keep in mind Ligotti’s prose is even more nightmarish, vague and unsettling. It reminded me of an exhausted, fevered man, slowly drowning in quicksand made of leprous, rotting matter, struggling and screaming in vain. The landscape is desolate, swampy, forsaken. Every life born there is born flawed and sick, and serves only involution and degeneration. Each lungful of squirming dirt that man inhales takes root in him, killing him and claiming him, bringing ecstatic visions of death and the other side of Creation. It’s the side that serves only the blind, ever-changing void of reason, the Darkness that birthed everything and humans masked it as a benevolent God to retain their sanity. Ligotti sees behind that mask, and brings back gifts meant only for the brave, and those ready to embrace that same void inside them.

Please DON’T read this book if you aren’t a hardcore fan of Lovecraft ready to be taken several steps further into madness and decay. Here be dragons. End of transmission. Off to eat cake and hopefully restore a portion of my brain to a semblance of function.

 
 
*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.

Twilight, Dead Until Dark, Enthralled

Three more reviews. Two negative, one neutral.
 
Twilight by Stephenie Meyer (1 out of 5 stars, did not finish)*
 

 

Um… No. Not my kind of thing. I can see the appeal of the invisible girl winning over the hunk-who-doesn’t-date, but the writing style is poor and some of the relationship elements are rather disturbing. I tried to read it and could not finish it, so I passed it on. 

Dead Until Dark by Charlaine Harris (0 out of 5 stars, did not finish)*

 

Another no. I didn’t like the writing style at all, and when this happens I can’t get into the book. The narrative was juvenile and the heroes two-dimentional. I gave it a perfunctory read and passed it on to someone else.

Enthralled by Kayci Morgan (2 out of 5 stars)*


Pros: very easy to read. In its own way quite sweet.
Cons: Too short, therefore everything happening too easy and fast. Relies on well known ‘recipes’ of the vampire genre instead of actual development.

Good, clear writing for a free ebook. The writer shows promise. I would like to read something longer by her.


*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.

 

 

Joseph Campbell

A hundred times yes. Amazing scholar, amazing book. Read it if you like mythology explained and integrated in everyday, modern life. He knew what he was talking about.

“The modern hero, the modern individual who dares to heed the call and seek the mansion of that presence with whom it is our whole destiny to be atoned, cannot, indeed, must not, wait for his community to cast off its slough of pride, fear, rationalized avarice, and sanctified misunderstanding. ‘Live,’ Nietzsche said, ‘as though the day were here.’ It is not society that is to guide and save the creative hero, but precisely the reverse. And so every one of us shares the supreme ordeal––carries the cross of the redeemer––not in the bright moments of his tribe’s great victories, but in the silences of his personal despair.”
 
The concluding paragraph of Joseph Campbell’s “The Hero With A Thousand Faces”

The Sirens of Titan, Dreams of a Dark Warrior

I am always wary of the classics. Most of the time I don’t like them. Here is a classic:

The Sirens of Titan by Kurt Vonnegut (1 star out of 5)*
 
 
This is a good book that unfortunately lost me after the first 100 pages. Up to that point I had loved it to bits. I didn’t like the direction the plot took after the hero’s departure and didn’t care about any of the following events. The developments and the characters failed to keep my interest; the story didn’t ‘speak’ to me anymore. Also, the treatment of the characters made me feel very depressed.

I read it all the way to the end, hoping it would be salvaged, but it wasn’t. The language is very good and the author makes some excellent observations on human nature and religion. The book is also quite funny at parts. I guess it just didn’t do it for me.
 
 
Just as I am wary of the classics, I am also wary of the Paranormal Romance genre… Again, most of the time I don’t like books of that genre.
 
Kresley Cole: Dreams of a Dark Warrior (2 stars out of 5, did not finish)*
 
 
Interesting and funny at parts, but not really my cup of tea. Too wordy and fluffy for me. However, I am sure that paranormal romance fans will love 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.

The Left Hand of God

So here is another review. 

The Left Hand of God by Paul Hoffman (2 out of 5 stars, did not finish)*

 
I loved the beginning of this book. As I read more, my enthusiasm lessened. Near the end, I was flipping through pages instead of actually reading it.

There are many issues that marred my enjoyment. Most of the good guys are just too decent and fatherly towards Cale, the hero, if we bear in mind their political positions and/or past. The women of the book are stereotypical and a bit clueless, or shrewd and heartless. Cale moves from tortured child to fully fledged messiah, and he’s too young to pull this off in a plausible manner. The writer also uses words and phrases that have no place in a medieval-ish kind of setting. As one unlikely event piled upon another, I lost that beautiful sense only fiction can give, the “yes, this could have happened!” state of mind. I could see that the writer loved his hero and wanted him to have everything he had been deprived of, and then some. This unfortunately is a recipe for disaster. You end up giving too much, too easy, too soon, and real life never works that way. This mentality works in the Young Adult genre, but I didn’t get the impression that this is such a book.

On a positive note, I loved the writer’s sense of humour, as well as the playfulness of his prose. There are incidents and phrases that had me laughing out loud. I wish he had devoted more time in making his world more realistic and his heroes more complex. Not a bad book in any case; entertaining, funny, fast-paced, gripping, hopeful for the human race. If not for the flaws in plot and character building I would have given it twice as many stars.
 
*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.

Transmetropolitan

I’ve decided to add a few reviews here. They will be short and express solely my point of view. The same reviews will appear or have appeared in my Goodreads account, which is this one:
 
 
The first review will be on Transmetropolitan series by Warren Ellis, which is one of my most favourite comic series ever. 🙂 So, a solid 5 out of 5 stars!*
 
 

I have no words to describe how good this one is. I consider it one of the treasures I have on my book shelves. A life-changer, page-turner of a comic series, filled with profanity, drugs, humour, the protagonist’s unusual sense of justice and the writer’s vision of the not-so-far future. Incredible, jaw-dropping visual art by Darick Robertston in all ten graphic novels that brings the characters and story to life. The series grabs you by the lapels and doesn’t let go until you find yourself at the other end of the universe, dazed and astounded. It never loses its frenetic pace. It’s outrageous, bizarre, amazing, preposterous, glorious, obnoxious, brilliant and brimming with entrails, excrement, explosions and journalistic badassery. I can’t praise it enough.

PLEASE DO NOT ATTEMPT TO READ IT if you are easily offended or too keen on politically correct; you just won’t get it. The writer shows no mercy to any form of hypocrisy or human right violation. He literally bulldozes his way through human relationships, political games, religious gurus and their followers, police brutality and victimisation of minorities. He’s not polite. He’s not pleasant. He’s not proper. But he’s spot on, and hilarious and obscene in a way that warms your insides.

If I could turn this series into a religion, I would.

*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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