"All good books are alike in that they are truer than if they had really happened
and after you are finished reading one you will feel that all that happened to you
and afterwards it all belongs to you; the good and the bad, the ecstasy, the remorse,
and sorrow, the people and the places and how the weather was."
Ernest Hemingway

Thursday, September 29, 2016

He's So Not Worth It

Simon & Schuster
He's So Not Worth It
Kieran Scott

The Summary
"After her spectacular crash and burn return to Orchard Hill, Ally Ryan could not be more thrilled for the summer.

"But crap.  Mom wants to spend the summer on the Jersey Shore with her new boyfriend, and formerly MIA Dad is suddenly back on the scene, ready to have some quality time together.  And, oh, yeah, she hates all her old friends, and the feeling is mutual.  Maybe it's time for Ally to meet some new people.

"Meanwhile, Jake is preoccupied with trying to get Ally's attention after the disaster at Shannen's birthday party.  Too bad the only way to get back on her radar is to take a Mom-ordered summer job working for her father.  So it looks like no Shore with his friends and, unfortunately, no time with Ally, either.

"Maybe their time apart will be a good thing and give them a chance to sort out their feelings.  Or, it will blow up in their faces and they'll find themselves farther apart than before.  Labor Day can't come soon enough."

The Good
Somehow, this book hooked me--and I can't really understand why.  I mean, don't get me wrong, Scott is a decent writer and she creates believable characters facing life-like tragedies, challenges, etc. and her novel is strangely compelling.  However, He's So Not Worth It isn't really my style, and it's definitely not something I expected to plow through in a couple of days.

Several things are happening all at once in this book:  relationships being formed, relationships being torn asunder, friends and family and acquaintances shuffling around like a deck of cards.  It rather reminds me of a soap opera--or a train wreck--because you can't seem to look way from the ensuing carnage.  I stayed with it until the end, which, confidentially, surprised me.

Annie was probably the best part of the book.  Her mad cap adventures across the city in pursuit of Crestie gossip borders on obsessive, but her field notes were so fun and relatable that I couldn't help enjoying her eccentricities.  She, like the reader, is strangely drawn into the world of the Cresties and she's great for giving readers a bigger piece of the story.

The Bad

The Ugly
I must admit that I hated pretty much everyone in this novel.  Literally, everyone.  I just don't understand the culture that Ally finds herself thrust back into, I don't understand the world of the Cresties--or the locals who live at the LBI (the Jersey Shore, a location which, honestly, does not entice me in the least)--or how they can live the way they do.

For the most part, it's infuriating.  I can see why Annie pretty much has a blanket rule to hate all Cresties on sight.  It makes total sense after reading this book.

Maybe, I missed something.  Maybe, I'm seeing too much of the story through the eyes of Ally who has found herself ostracized from this decadent, rich world of the Cresties and recognizes her peers for who they are, sometimes even calling them out on what they do.  Maybe, I just don't understand these crazy people.

Regardless, I did not like them.

I mean, so many of Ally's peers are just horrible people.  Even Jake is a self-involved tool who needs a reality check and (I hope) a kick in the backside, and he's one of the good ones.  You have people like Shannen who doesn't care what kind of havoc she wreaks, so long as she gets what she wants.  I understand she's going through a tough time with her parents' divorce, but that doesn't give her the right to unleash a veritable Armageddon on other people's (namely, Ally's) lives.

You have Hammond who needs to take a chill pill and realize that his girlfriend--his ex-girlfriend--is going to stay mad at him, because he kissed another girl and found himself actively attracted to another person when he was still in a relationship.  Jake who can't grasp the concept of what it means to have responsibilities, who can't understand why Ally is so angry at him for keeping a huge secret from her (and, simultaneously, breaking her heart).  Cooper who needs serious psychiatric counseling for his alcoholism and his volatile relationship with his mother, which causes fallout to rain down on everyone.

That's just the tip of the iceberg.  I'm not even including the parents.

And, while I liked Ally, even she managed to fall into a self-destructive spiral that nearly ruined her relationship with her mother, her father, her best friend, and pretty much everyone she cares about.  She has a good head on her shoulders and I can see why she has a problem dealing with her father's abandonment and his sudden return, her parents' arguments that ultimately dissolve into venomous vocal sparring matches, and her mother's unexpected relationship with a new man whom Ally doesn't like.  It makes sense why she's having problems, but she has these moments where I can't help thinking, "What is wrong with you?"

I just don't understand their world.  I don't get their drama, or why things have to spiral so far out of control before people stop, step back and think, "Huh?  Maybe I shouldn't do that anymore."  I get it, they're teenagers, but do they have to be so very, very stupid?  These are kids who have their whole lives ahead of them, they have the world at their fingertips because of the wealth and prestige of their families.  They literally can do anything they want with their lives--and they're out drinking on the beach, screwing around, ruining their own and other people's lives.

I just don't get it.

Honestly, it all made me kind of sick and I can't say I left this novel with a satisfied feeling.

Tuesday, September 27, 2016

Batwoman: Hydrology (Volume 1)

Batwoman, Vol. 1: HydrologyBatwoman:  Hydrology (Volume 1)
J.H. Williams III
W. Haden Blackman

The Summary
"Gotham City is drowning.

"They call her La Llorona.  'The Weeping Woman.'  A spectral presence that drowns her own sorrow by destroying the lives of others, dragging innocent children to a watery grave...or to an even worse fate.  The hero called Batwoman is no stranger to sorrow herself.  Estranged from the father who was once her partner in crime fighting, she blames him for the death of her mad sister in Gotham Harbor--but she blames herself most of all.

"Now she has a new partner, her cousin Flamebird.  Together they're on the hunt for La Llorona, the children she's abducted, and the shadowy forces behind it all.  But the hunters are hunted as well:  Everyone from government agent to Gotham cops wants to clip Batwoman's wings.

"A tide of danger and death is coming in to Gotham City.  And it will be all Batwoman can do to keep her head above water..."

The Good
I quite liked Batwoman.  I won't say I fell in love, but it's close.  Batwoman is thrilling and enthralling and, truthfully, beautiful.  The plot, like it's protagonist, is complex and surprisingly deep.  La Llorona is a tragic figure, an urban legend of the Weeping Woman who mourns for the loss of her children--for the loss of her own life--while simultaneously lashing out at others.  It's incredibly sad and undeniably tragic.

But there's a deeper red thread in the narrative, a villain who is controlling things behind the scenes like a maniacal puppeteer.  It's terrifying and it cultivates a feeling of danger, suspense, and terror that's sure to keep you hooked.  I enjoyed getting a glimpse into this dark, deviant world of shapeshifters and skinwalkers, urban legends and myths, paranormal creatures that seem to step right out of nightmares.  It was fascinating.

It was terrifying too, and I sat at the edge of my seat the entire time.  But it was absolutely fascinating.

I also liked Batwoman as a character.  Don't get me wrong, her story is sometimes hard to stomach, but she's a fascinating character.  Her mother and twin sister were killed in a kidnapping gone wrong when she was only a little girl, she was dismissed from West Point for being gay, she was nearly killed in some back issue when a blade nearly pierced her heart, and she has suffered innumerable wounds at the hands of horrifying villains--and yet she keeps coming back for more.

She's strong, she's dedicated, she's smart and she's capable.  I loved watching her in action, getting insight into her life as she struggles to balance her nightly escapades with her superhero responsibilities and her family.  She's a complex character facing a complex world, which I enjoyed.  She has depth, she faces burdens that seem impossible to bear, fights that seem impossible to win.

But she just keeps going.

Overall, I enjoyed reading Batwoman.  It has beautiful art, great character development, intriguing and/or terrifying villains, and an incredible story.  It's a great first collection for the Batwoman, and it's easy to jump into even if you don't have any previous experience with the franchise.

Plus, I like that Batman has his own little cameo as he attempts to gauge Batwoman's skills and her ability to be a protector of Gotham.  It's interesting to observe Batwoman through his eyes, to see how she stacks up in his estimation.  It gives readers the inside track on her abilities and, when Batman is suitably impressed, we can't help be find ourselves impressed as well.

The Bad
Although I loved the art in Batwoman, I was sometimes (okay, frequently) confused by the direction of the panels.  It's wonderfully detailed and incredibly beautiful, but it can get a little too "artsy" (if that's a word)--that is, it can become muddled in the illustrator's attempts to create something new, something dynamic and inventive.

It is inventive and dynamic, and it's new (to me, at least); however, it's also hard to read a story when you're not sure exactly where the first panel begins and the last panel ends.  It's confusing and, honestly, it's a little frustrating.  Moreover, it makes me less enthusiastic to read the next one.

The Ugly
Death.  Blood and gore.  Murder.

Batwoman does not pull punches when it comes to violence, even when children are involved.  It's graphic and, occasionally, borders on explicit.  It goes for perturbing, I think, and it certainly does a good job of making you hate the villains for the horror they unleash on Gotham.

Friday, September 23, 2016

The First Time She Drowned

Philomel Books
The First Time She Drowned
Kerry Kletter

The Summary
"Cassie O'Malley has been trying to keep her head above water--literally and metaphorically--since birth.  It's been two and a half years since Cassie's mother dumped her in a mental institution against her will, and now, at eighteen, Cassie is finally able to reclaim her life and enter the world on her own terms.

"But freedom is a poor match against a lifetime of psychological damage.  As Cassie plumbs the depths of her new surroundings, the startling truths she uncovers about her family narrative make it impossible to cut the tethers of a tumultuous past.  And when the unhealthy mother-daughter relationship that defined Cassie's childhood and adolescence threatens to pull her under once again, Cassie must decide:  Whose version of history is real?  And more important, whose life must she save?

"A bold, literary story about the fragile complexities of mothers and daughters and learning to love oneself, The First Time She Drowned reminds us that we must dive deep into our pasts if we are ever to move forward."

The Good
Oh.  My.  Gosh.

I loved this book.  I know, I love a lot of books (hence my huge reading list); however, The First Time She Drowned has quickly taken a place beside such favorites as The Fault in Our Stars and I'll Give You the Sun and The Book Thief.  It has many of the same tragic, but beautiful qualities that made me love these books beyond the normal novels I read.  I ugly cried with this book, and I do not often ugly cry with my books.

The First Time She Drowned is a very special novel.  This book hurt my heart, absolutely crushed it, and then it made me cry for all the small, beautiful things that made Cassie's unbearable life more bearable and, ultimately, healed her.  My heart was broken by all the cruelty and grief she endured, only to be broken again when she finally begins to piece her life together.

My heart still hurts a little.

Additionally, Cassie makes a wonderful narrator.  Her descriptions are beautiful, and her voice is unique and strangely compelling.  She tells her story with such emotion, giving it a depth that rivals the very ocean she loves.  Personally, I loved her words.  I loved the way she spoke, the way she related her history and made it a sensory experience.

As a reader, I enjoyed those little details that gave an added emphasis to what she felt, tastes and sounds and tactile sensations that made her experiences undeniably real.  It’s fascinating to see her story unfold, to see her life come together in bits and pieces as she uncovers dark secrets from her family and makes new friends, finds new ways to heal herself and her relationships, and I quickly became entranced by her narrative.

Overall, I absolutely loved reading The First Time She Drowned.  It's heart-breaking, but it's so beautifully compelling.  I can't completely describe how much I enjoyed this novel, simply because it hit me on an emotional level and made me care about Cassie, made me care about what was happening--and made me ugly cry.

That's always the mark of a good book:  when it makes you care.

The Bad
Cassie's narrative bounces through time, which sometimes threw me for a loop.  It's easy enough to distinguish between the past and present:  one, Cassie frequently notes when she's reaching into her memories; two, she speaks in the past tense when she's referring to her memories, but she speaks in the present tense when she's living in the moment.  There's a definitive line between her past and present, but I was sometimes surprised (or, maybe, alarmed?) by her history as the boundary between the two seemed very fluid.

Basically, you're confronted by the very middle of her story.  She's still living her life, struggling to endure and heal from the various hurts she endured from her mother (and, by proxy, her malleable father), but she's also reliving her past.  You start in the middle of her story and work your way out, seeing her past and glimpsing her future as she lives it.

The Ugly

Great-aunt Dora was terrible, of course.  I hated her, because I could tell her place in the story would lead to bad things.  (I was right, which didn't make me feel better.  It reminds me of The Perks of Being a Wallflower, much more than I expected.)  She's the fulcrum point at which Cassie's life goes horribly, horribly wrong.

But I was shocked and appalled by her mother.  I mean, at first you see these little slights--small, tiny things, like her preference for Cassie's brother or her demeaning comments meant to make Cassie feel bad about herself--and then it turns into outright abuse.  Her mother is malicious and, if things don't go her way, she'll manipulate the situation to turn things for herself.

Like sending Cassie to a mental facility when she couldn't control her every moment, when Cassie refused to be demeaned or abused anymore.

It's absolutely gut-wrenching.  I hated to see it.

Tuesday, September 20, 2016

One-Punch Man (Volume 1)

Viz Media
One-Punch Man (Volume 1)
Yusuke Murata

The Summary
"Nothing about Saitama passes the eyeball test when it comes to superheroes, from his lifeless expression to his bald head to his unimpressive physique.  However, this average-looking guy has a not-so-average problem--he just can't seem to find an opponent strong enough to take on!  Every time a promising villain appears, he beats the snot out of 'em in one punch!  Can Saitama finally find an opponent who can go toe-to-toe with him and give his life some meaning?  Or is he doomed to a life of superpowered boredom?"

The Good
I read One-Punch Man at the recommendation of my brother, who read and watched the series online.  When I found it in my library, it seemed fated to be and I'm glad I took the opportunity to read it.  It's not a stretch to say One-Punch Man is a wonderfully amusing series that treats readers to great characters, humor, and excellent artwork.

Part drama, part comedy, One-Punch man is absolutely hilarious with its comical villains (who obviously don't know what they're getting into) and it's unassuming--nay, one might even say unimpressive--superhero.  You wouldn't think it would strike all the right notes, but, miraculously, it does.

And, speaking of superheroes, Saitama is not what you'd expect.  Average height, rather skinny, bald with saucer-like eyes that give him a bored look, Saitama is just an average guy.  Who just happens to live in a city infested with monsters, supervillains, and criminals.  You wouldn't think he could defeat every supervillain and/or monster that comes his way, but he can and he can do it with a single punch--and yet he's utterly depressed, because he's not challenged anymore.

He's a superhero for fun--an explanation that's sure to garner, at the very least, a chuckle--but, suddenly, he finds he's no longer having fun.  He's disappointed when a foe falls to one jab, he's sad he's completely undefeated, and, as terrible as this sounds, I found myself outright laughing at his plight.  I mean, he doesn't even have to try, just bam! and done...and back to his dreary old life as the world's strongest man.

Besides which, I got a kick out of the subtle jabs the author takes at the expense of other manga.  He pokes fun at the serious, laughs at the overly dramatic, and yet provides a quality story that's amusing without being crass.  It's a series that doesn't take itself too seriously, which I appreciated after reading Sui Ishida's macabre tragedy, Tokyo Ghoul.

And, as an aside, I cracked up over the fact that none of the cities actually had names.  They were just designated as City A or City G, and it becomes quite apparent that these cities take a beating on a regular basis--and people are, more or less, used to it.  Just another city-destroying monster, no big deal.

Overall, One-Punch Man is a great manga and I highly recommend it to both readers who are unfamiliar with the genre and long-time fans.

The Bad
You can't take this story seriously.  It's absolutely ridiculous, but that's exactly what seems to make it so fun.

The Ugly
Wanton destruction.  Graphic violence.  Bug guts.

Don't worry, you'll see what I mean.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

Tokyo Ghoul (Volume 1)

Viz Media
Tokyo Ghoul (Volume 1)
Sui Ishida

The Summary
"Ghouls live among us, the same as normal people in every way--except their craving for human flesh.

"Shy Ken Kaneki is thrilled to go on a date with the beautiful Rize, but it turns out that she's only interested in his body--in eating it, that is.  When a morally dubious rescue transforms him into the first half-human, half-Ghoul hybrid, Ken must survive Ghoul turf wars, learn more about Ghoul society and master his new powers."

The Good
I was fascinated by the plot and premise of Tokyo Ghoul.  It's terribly grim and horribly macabre, but I found myself intrigued despite the gore.  It hearkens back to the vampire mythos, to the monstrous creatures hiding in plain sight, which I ultimately liked.  Likewise, I was intrigued by Ken Kaneki's altered state as a half-human, half-Ghoul hybrid.  There's a complexity to his condition that I think Sui Ishida manages to convey very well.

You see, Ken is a gentle kid, a soft-hearted boy who believes he's stumbled across the perfect girl, but, after a terrible incident leaves him with a ghoulish surprise, he's caught in a world that's both violent and terrifying.  He's stuck between worlds, fighting to retain his humanity and struggling to rein in his darker Ghoul urges.

I was curious to see how Ken would handle his new condition.  He's the fulcrum part between two very different worlds and he's trying to adapt and understand the Ghouls--trying to survive with his grisly new craving for human flesh--while holding on to his human counterpart.  It's a very delicate balancing act he's carrying out, which gives Tokyo Ghoul a pulse-pounding quality I didn't expect.

The Bad
I've decided that Tokyo Ghoul just really isn't my cup of tea.  It's intriguing, which was able to get me in the door, but I don't think I could stay with the series.  It's very serious, very intense, very dramatic with in-your-face violence and graphic depictions of what is essentially cannibalism--and I just didn't get any of the humor (what little there is) in the story.

It's not a bad series, but it just isn't for me.

The Ugly
Tokyo Ghoul is extremely gory.

Usually, I can handle gore.  I've read Rat Queens, Lady Killer, and Batwoman, so I can deal with graphic violence, blood, explicit language, and general nastiness.  But Tokyo Ghoul was something special:  it actually made me feel very queasy.  I'm thinking it was the idea of cannibalism that made it so disturbing, or maybe it was just the excessive gore and blood-dripping flesh that did it.  Either way, I spent most of my time feeling very, very uncomfortable.

I definitely wouldn't recommend it for readers who have a weak stomach.

Tuesday, September 13, 2016

Saint Anything

Saint Anything
Saint Anything
Sarah Dessen

The Summary
"Sydney has always felt invisible.  She's grown accustomed to her brother, Peyton, being the focus of the family's attention and, lately, concern.  Peyton is handsome and charismatic, but seems bent on self-destruction.  Now, after a drunk-driving incident that crippled a boy, Peyton's serving some serious jail time, and Sydney is on her own, questioning her place in the family and the world.

"Then she meets the Chatham family.  Drawn into their warm, chaotic circle, Sydney experiences unquestioning acceptance for the first time.  There's effervescent Layla, who constantly falls for the wrong guy, Rosie, who's had her own fall from grace, and Mrs. Chatham, who even though ailing is the heart of the family.  But it's with older brother Mac--quiet, watchful, and protective--that Sydney finally feels seen, really seen, at last.

"Saint Anything is Sarah Dessen's deepest and most psychological probing novel yet, telling an engrossing story of a girl discovering friendship, love, and herself."

The Good
I was absolutely fascinated by this book.  After reading one of Sarah Dessen's previous novels (Just Listen, in case you were curious), I wasn't particularly impressed.  Like my encounter with Nicholas Sparks, my introduction to Sarah Dessen did not go well.  Don't get me wrong, I liked her novels, but I didn't love them.  She fell into a familiar category of good-but-not-great young adult books I mostly tossed to the side once I finished.

However, Saint Anything immediately revised my opinion.

I enjoyed Saint Anything much more than I expected.  Most of the characters I encountered felt realistic, the story felt real and plausible, and the plot moved at a pace that I could enjoy.  Dessen's novel had an authenticity, a realism to it, that I didn't expect but thoroughly appreciated.  More importantly, it packed an emotional punch.

Sydney is a complex, but oddly compelling character.  I enjoyed following her narrative as she coped with her brother's incarceration and Ames's unwanted attention, as she discovered new friends and forged new relationships.  I liked watching her grow as a character, weathering storms, struggling with her tumultuous relationship with her mother--and, more importantly, managing to define herself outside of her brother's shadow.

Overall, I liked it and I'm glad I took the opportunity to give Dessen's novels a second chance.

The Bad
No complaints.  I didn't like the eerie feeling of foreboding--the feeling of anticipation that something very bad is going to happen very soon--that seemed to linger over every page, but, otherwise, it was fine.

The Ugly

I did not like Ames.  He was a total creeper, a predator in more ways than one by leeching off of the generosity of Sydney's family and playing upon their grief and preying upon Sydney who seems to fall at the periphery of her parents' concern.  He needed someone to punch him in the face.  Multiple times.

Any time he appeared in the story, I had an immediate feeling of apprehension.  Like Sydney, I could immediately feel myself tense up when I saw his name appear in the story.  You could just tell he was up to no good, and I don't know why Sydney's parents couldn't see it.  He was a leech, and he needed to be burned.

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Unfinished #5

Consider the Lobster by David Foster Wallace was not a fun book for me.  I originally picked up Wallace's collection of essays as part of the Read Harder Challenge for Book Riot.  I couldn't help but be intrigued by the title, and I thought it seemed like an interesting thing to pick up; however, I quickly regretted my decision.
Little, Brown & Co.

Dense and verbose, Consider the Lobster was an ill fit for me for the simple fact that it was not that interesting and Wallace has a lot to say.  I'm sure Wallace had a point to make and, perhaps, others may enjoy his style of writing, but I couldn't find it in myself to enjoy much of what I was reading.  He has an interesting sense of humor, which I didn't mind, but I wasn't entirely sold on the subject matter--or the never-ending foot notes.

The first essay is about the porn industry.  Yes, you heard me:  porn.

I was a little flummoxed as I started to read and, if I'm being honest, partially horrified.  I wouldn't say I'm a prude, but I would be lying if I said I wasn't bothered by the graphic descriptions of what the porn industry does and what some of the men and women experience in their daily working lives.  It was a little weird, and it wasn't something I could enjoy reading.  I found myself feeling like I'd been unexpectedly scarred.

It's not something I enjoyed, and it's definitely not something I'll attempt to read again.


I picked up The Madman's Daughter by Megan Shepherd on a whim.  I was intrigued by the eerie cover and the story, which promised to be gruesomely scintillating and slightly macabre.  As a spin-off from H.G. Well's classic novel, The Island of Dr. Moreau, it picks up with Dr. Moreau's daughter, Juliet, and follows her dangerous path to reunite with her father--and the boy she once loved.

Balzer + Bray
It had so much promise, but it was a bit of a disappointment.  Although I probably ruined it for myself by reading the reviews of other readers (and inadvertently catching spoilers), I would probably have put Shepherd's book aside anyway.  It just didn't feel quite right to me.  I think the narrator was pretty interesting, and I think the author did a pretty good job of creating a singular voice; however, I found it was lacking some quality that would have made it great.

The author did a decent job of creating a unique Gothic atmosphere, borrowing from the works of H.G. Wells, Robert Louis Stevenson, and Mary Wollstonecraft Shelley; moreover, I thought Shepherd made a fair attempt at incorporating history into her work.  The Madman's Daughter had the architecture in place--the grim atmosphere, the subtle history woven into the story, the grisly story--and it could have been a great novel.

Except it was ruined by the implications of a love triangle.

Oh, yes, I understand that romance can blossom in the most unusual places.  Likewise, I realize the character can't help the way she feels.  However, I would have much preferred if Juliet was a little more concerned about her survival once she's out on the streets and her livelihood once she makes up her mind to find her father, a man who is known for his vicious vivisection and his nonexistent medical ethics.

I just couldn't take it seriously after that.


I can't remember why I started to read A Gentleman Always Remembers by Candace Camp, but I can clearly remember when I decided that it wasn't worth the time or effort to finish the novel.  Sometime in chapter two, I completely lost interest and decided to put it aside because I couldn't find anything redemptive in the characters, or the plot, or the setting--or, well, anything else.
A Gentleman Always Remembers (Willowmere, #2)
Pocket Star

In my opinion, it was just a bad novel.  A very bad novel.

I didn't think Eve was an incredibly endearing female protagonist, and, for some reason, I found Fitz to be rather preposterous.  I didn't care for either of them--or any of the other characters involved, to be perfectly honest.  They all felt like caricatures:  stiff, stagnant, boring.  I quickly grew tired of them and their individual histories.

I also noticed the story wasn't all that great, either.  I don't mind love stories, but this one felt a little contrived.  And the blackmail thread of the narrative felt silly, just another unnecessary way to propel the novel forward, because it doesn't have much substance.  Moreover, I wasn't a fan of the writing.  I didn't like Camp's style or her language or her inability to pace the story properly or develop her characters.

So, yes, I can safely say I didn't like A Gentleman Always Remembers.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Cheshire Red Reports: Bloodshot

Bloodshot by Cherie Priest
Cherie Priest

The Summary
"Raylene Pendle (AKA Cheshire Red), a vampire and world-renowned thief, doesn't usually hang with her own kind.  She's too busy stealing priceless art and rare jewels.  But when the infuriatingly charming Ian Stott asks for help, Raylene finds him impossible to resist--even though Ian doesn't want precious artifacts.  He wants her to retrieve missing government files--documents that deal with the secret biological experiments that left Ian blind.  What Raylene doesn't bargain for is a case that takes her from the wilds of Minneapolis to the mean streets of Atlanta.  And with a psychotic, power-hungry scientist on her tail, a kick-ass drag queen on her side, and Men in Black popping up at the most inconvenient moments, the case proves to be one hell of a ride."

The Good
Bloodshot is strange novel that draws on the terrible, terrifying mythos of Dracula and creates an unsympathetic, tough-as-nails narrator with a dry sense of humor and a wicked temper.  It fashions a fast-paced, adrenaline-pumping story that sends Raylene haring off across the country with a super-secret branch of the government in tow.  It's an odd novel, to say the least.

But I can't say I didn't enjoy it.

Although I wasn't particularly impressed by the historical anecdotes offered by Raylene, as they felt contrived and rather false, I did like the action-packed drama.  Raylene is pretty awesome.  She's a vampire and a thief, a cold-blooded killer and a remorseless criminal.

Sometimes, she has moments of warmth and kindness, but I kind of liked having a narrator for whom I didn't need to feel sympathy.  She does what she wants, which I found kind of appealing.  It made her a wild card for the duration of the story, giving her an air of danger and mystery and darkness that lent itself well to her heritage.

The Bad
Unfortunately, the Cheshire Red Reports is not a series I intend to pursue.  It just wasn't what I anticipated, and it wasn't quite what I wanted in a vampire novel.  I only semi-liked Raylene as a narrator.  She was a touch anti-heroine, but she has a tone of voice that I just couldn't seem to appreciate.

I mean, for a vampire who was sired in the early part of the century, she's surprisingly modern.  I get it, she has adapted to her circumstances and managed to stay attuned to the technological and cultural changes of the ensuing decades.  But she doesn't appear to be influenced by her age.  She doesn't let much slip in the way of her past; rather, her reminiscence feels forced and a bit phony.

For instance, when Raylene speaks about her father, she refers to the Pinkerton Agency.  Being the history buff I am, I found my interest immediately piqued.  I was curious to see how Raylene would refer to her past, how she would describe the glitz and the glamour and the corruption of the Roaring Twenties.  I expected mentions of Prohibition, Al Capone, speakeasies, private eyes, and Casablanca-esque noir, especially when Pinkerton came into the mix.

But I was sorely disappointed.

Truthfully, Raylene's narrative leaves something to be desired all around.  It's hard to describe, but I feel like she didn't really develop as a character--she's a vampire, she's dead, so I wasn't expecting much admittedly--and she didn't really stand out in my mind among all the vampires I've read.  Sure, she's a great representation of the monstrously ruthless, terrifyingly efficient killer; however, she doesn't distinguish herself in any way and she doesn't utilize history to her advantage to give the novel depth.

Thus, I will not be following Raylene's future adventures.

The Ugly
She's a vampire.

As such, the body count is pretty high.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

The Prince

Prestwick House Literary Touchstone Press
The Prince
Niccolo Machiavelli

The Summary
Written in the 16th century by Italian diplomat and political theorist Niccolo Machiavelli, The Prince (or Il Principe) is a political treatise on the responsibilities of the aristocracy and the rights of principalities.  Although published after his death in 1527, The Prince made waves for its use of common language (Italian, rather than traditional Latin) and its unexpected expressions on modern philosophy and politics.

The Good
The Prince is intriguing and innovative for its time.  I can appreciate it more now that I've had the opportunity to read a little more about its history, as well as its impact.  It's a book that defied convention and, more importantly, defined an entire genre on political tracts and political philosophy.

The Bad
I did not like reading The Prince.  I know part of that is because I purchased a translation that was--well, let's say less than spectacular.  While I was reading, I noticed little mistakes.  Some were simple typos, but a few were glaring grammar mistakes.  It's almost like the original Italian text was just fed through Google and published even with the transcription mistakes.

Plus I was so bored ALL THE TIME.  (Sorry for the capitals, I just feel that statement needed extra emphasis.)  It took me literal weeks to finish reading The Prince, even though it was only 114 pages.  I just couldn't keep up with it.  I was bored by it after only a few pages, and I couldn't stand reading it after I realized I couldn't consider the text reliable.

It was terrible.

I finished the book only because I needed a book on politics as one of the requirements for my Read Harder Challenge.  But, honestly, I wouldn't subject anyone to my copy of The Prince.  I would read it again for a college course, if necessary; otherwise, I don't think I'd ever read it again if I didn't have to read it.

Put simply, it's not the best reading experience I've ever had.  Not the absolute worst, but it's a close second.

The Ugly
Bad translations and boredom.

Friday, September 2, 2016

Lockwood & Co.: The Screaming Staircase

Lockwood & Co.:  The Screaming Staircase
Jonathan Stroud

The Summary
"A sinister Problem has occurred in London:  all nature of ghosts, haunts, spirits, and Specters are appearing throughout the city and they aren't exactly friendly.  Only young people have the psychic abilities required to see--and eradicate--these supernatural foes.  Many different psychic investigation agencies have cropped up to handle the dangerous work, and they are in fierce competition for business.

"In The Screaming Staircase, the plucky and talented Lucy Carlyle teams up with Anthony Lockwood, the charismatic leader of Lockwood & Co., a small agency that runs independent of any adult supervision.  After an assignment leads to both a grisly discovery and a disastrous end, Lucy, Anthony, and their sarcastic colleague, George, are forced to take part in the perilous investigation of Combe Carey Hall, one of the most haunted houses in England. Will Lockwood & Co. survive the Hall's legendary Screaming Staircase and Red Room to see another day?"

The Good
Like Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus series, Lockwood & Co. is an intriguing and inventive series with fleshed out characters, a wonderful narrator, interesting plot twists, and curious mixtures of myth, magic, and paranormal critters.  Although it took me a few moments to fully sink into The Screaming Staircase, I was hooked by the time I reached the second chapter--and I thoroughly enjoyed following the cases of Lucy, Anthony, and George.

Lucy makes a wonderful narrator.  She's snarky and sarcastic, equal parts entertaining and fascinating.  Like her colleagues, Anthony and George, Lucy can see and sense ghosts; however, she has a singularly special talent that sets her apart:  she can hear and communicate with ghosts, as well.  Her powerful talents and her unusual sensitivity make her unique, even among her peers, but it also makes her an intriguing narrator.

Moreover, I was constantly struck by the inventiveness of the novel and the series as a whole.  I thought ghost-touch was an interesting concept (and, confidentially, rather frightening), and I was fascinated by the whole mythos surrounding ghosts.  It's interesting to see the ways in which society adapts to accommodate ghosts and all the dangers they present, to see the dynamics of society shift as children become embroiled in the conflict and become key figures in protecting the living.

The Bad
I'll be honest, I didn't always know what was going on with history in this book.  I mean, I understand that history essentially diverges and ghosts become a more pronounced influence on society.  But I don't know exactly when it happens or where or why.  It's very confusing, and Lucy doesn't really illuminate much in regards to the history of the ghost outbreak--the Problem that has ravaged London and the rest of the planet for decades.

The Ugly
Okay, confession time:  I do not like ghosts.

The concept of ghosts freaks me out for some reason, so much so that I simply can't watch The Poltergeist or Paranormal Activity or anything of the sort without incurring nightmares or spending the rest of my evening jumping like a frightened cat.  And while The Screaming Staircase is fairly mild, I still found it eerie, unsettling, and, confidentially, a little bit frightening.

Maybe, it's because I don't like ghosts; maybe, it's because I'm susceptible to frightful things; maybe, it's because Stroud is such an excellent writer that he has a way of conveying a proper sense of horror and describing terrifying things.  Either way, I frequently found myself reading during the daylight hour or flipping all the lights on in my bedroom to combat the eerie feelings of impending doom.