Darth Pony

Ruling the galaxy is so overrated.

Rogue One

Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - Alexander Freed

The last time I reviewed a Star Wars movie novelization, I mentioned how books based on movies rarely outshine the theatrical production.

 

Rule, meet exception.

 

I loved the Rogue One movie. I had problems with it and didn’t think it was the best Star Wars movie ever (it’s not even in my top three), but I loved it.

 

I loved the book more.

 

Alexander Freed gets into the heads of all the principle characters and develops the living daylights out of them. You want actions and attitudes explained? Done! More comprehensive backstories without bogging down the pace? Here ya go. Character motivation? You betcha! Basically, he did an outstanding job and I freaking loved this book more than the movie, which I loved so much I nearly cried in the theater, and I am not a crier. The book had me even closer to tears. So there you go. Five geeking out fangirly Star(War)s.

Reading progress update: I've read 10 out of 319 pages.

— feeling cat
Rogue One: A Star Wars Story - Alexander Freed

The Bone Clocks kind of put me in a book coma. I'm trying to shake it off and read anyway, but I keep finding myself spacing off and wondering how Atemporals would fare in the Star Wars universe.

The Bone Clocks

The Bone Clocks - David Mitchell

This book was in the back row of one of my double-stacked book shelves. Out of sight, out of mind. I forgot I’d bought it some time ago (and paid extra for the prettiest cover), which is unfortunate, because Slade House would have made SO MUCH MORE SENSE from the start if I had read The Bone Clocks first.

 

Alas.

 

It was the use of the phrase “bone clock” in Slade House that reminded me I had this book. Better read late than never, I suppose, and Slade House was fresh enough in my mind that I was still able to connect a whole bunch of dots. Yay.

 

As for The Bone Clocks, I loved it. I still dislike present tense and Ed’s POV section seemed largely unnecessary, but those are my only complaints. I still love Mitchell’s storytelling, and I think he outdid himself here. Interesting characters with interesting stories (for the most part) tied together by an even more interesting string of events is something Mitchell does really well. In this case, the overarching story is a lot more cohesive than Cloud Atlas or even Slade House, and it builds slowly and almost sneakily to a pretty cool climax. As a bonus, there’s the usual smattering of book recs contained within the text, and while I’m looking for them at the library I might see if I can also discover the symbolism of birds on spades.

Slade House

Slade House - David Mitchell

I still dislike present tense narratives, and I dislike them even more when the tense periodically shifts back and forth from present to past, and I almost didn’t make it through the asshole cop’s POV in the second chapter. But I’m glad I stuck it out. I still like Mitchell’s storytelling, and all the other POV characters were far more likable than the asshole cop. The story here is interesting and entertaining, if a bit light on the horror. If that’s what you came for, adjust your expectancies accordingly.

Pimpernel and Rosemary

— feeling sleepy
Pimpernel and Rosemary - Emmuska Orczy

This is a pretty basic Pimpernel story with a little variation here and there, set in a different time period and with a different cast. In some ways it evokes The Scarlet Pimpernel, with Rosemary in place of Marguerite faced with a “terrible either-or” put to her by the villain. Unfortunately, Orczy’s writing style doesn’t lend itself as well to the 1920’s as it does to the 1790’s. I struggled to connect with a single character and found myself skimming over a whole lot of Rosemary’s repetitive internal agonizing. Oh, and if anyone named Lord Tarkington ever starts monologuing his life story at you, just run. That is a good ten to fifteen minutes of your life that you will never get back.

The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel

— feeling love
The League of the Scarlet Pimpernel - Emmuska Orczy

Though I didn’t much enjoy the last Pimpernel short story collection I read, I wanted to end the reading year as I began it: with Baroness Emmuska Orczy. This delightful short story collection beats the pants off the other collection (The Adventures of the Scarlet Pimpernel) like Sir Percy beats the pants off Chauvelin every time they clash. Though many of the plot elements are similar to those of the novels, more effort was made to craft them into mostly-original stories which I thought made a lovely addition to the series.

 

I’m glad my 2016 reading ended on a high note. So glad I want to hug this book. ♥

Drowned In Moonlight, Strangled By Her Own Bra

— feeling cry

What happens is you go to space and you become weightless. So far so good, right? But then your body expands??? But your bra doesn't—so you get strangled by your own bra.

Now I think that this would make for a fantastic obit—so I tell my younger friends that no matter how I go, I want it reported that I drowned in moonlight, strangled by my own bra.

~Carrie Fisher, Wishful Drinking

 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why there's no underwear in space. Give 'em hell, my gorgeous princess with a blaster. Love you always. ♥♥♥

The Bloodletter's Daughter

The Bloodletter's Daughter (A Novel of Old Bohemia) - Linda Lafferty Lafferty makes fast and loose with history in her fictional account of the life of Markéta Pichlerová. She paints her as an intelligent, ambitious, rebellious, arrogant, naïve teenager, a combination of attributes which prompts decisions that root her firmly in too-stupid-to-live territory. The historical detail of village life in 1600's Bohemia is quite interesting, though I can’t attest to its accuracy. I thought the pace dragged from start to finish, the dialogue got super clunky on occasion, the plot took a strange and seemingly pointless twist or two, and I wasn’t really invested in any of the characters, not even the ones whose fates weren’t recorded in the history books. It’s okay for what it is and I’d give this author another try, but to be totally honest I spent a large portion of the book wishing Tracy Chevalier had written it instead.

The King's Hounds

— feeling bad smell
The King's Hounds (The King's Hounds series) - Martin Jensen

Mediocre medieval murder mystery (but nice alliteration) told from the first-person perspective of a shallow, wooden asshole obsessed with boobs. I won’t be continuing with the series.

Catalyst: A Rogue One Story

Catalyst (Star Wars): A Rogue One Story - James Luceno

How did people convince themselves to act against their nature; to do something entirely out of keeping with who they imagined themselves to be?

 

If you’ve ever asked yourself this selfsame question, Catalyst is the book for you. Billed as a lead-up to the Rogue One movie, it’s a comprehensive how-to in manipulating a peace-loving scientific genius into aiding research and development of planet-killing super weapons. It’s a well written, thoughtful book, and yet I didn’t find it very engaging. I was in the mood for some good ol’ Star Wars pew pew, but good ol’ Star Wars political commentary took center stage here. When I’m in the mood for pew pew, quieter books like this can seem a bit boring, so take my mild disappointment with a grain of salt.

 

Edit: Reading back over my review, it feels a bit too lukewarm. Though I was a little bored, this book is still worth reading and has a lot to offer. It starts out I think a year after Ep. II and encompasses the Clone Wars and the shift from Republic to Empire. It ties together elements from the prequels, introduces some great new characters, and I think my Rogue One experience will be enriched for having read it. Knowing the background of the Erso family and what they went through together and the friends and enemies they made along the way probably isn’t essential to enjoying the movie, but it certainly can’t hurt.

 

Edit 2: After seeing the movie, I heartily recommend reading this book first. It's not necessary to get what's going on in the story, but it adds layers upon layers to the Ersos' plight and to the interplay between Tarkin and Krennic.

The Hidden Relic (Evermen Saga #2)

The Hidden Relic (The Evermen Saga, Book 2) - James Maxwell

Second verse same as the first, a little bit shorter and a little bit worse.

 

The writing is still plagued by the many problems I noted in book one. Even more unfortunate, the story wasn’t as engaging this time.

 

The Hidden Relic’s second book syndrome took the form of super lazy writer’s convenience that occasionally snapped the thread by which my disbelief was suspended. Key plot points seemed painfully contrived. Preposterous situations were glossed over or blatantly unexplained. I’m still enjoying the story enough to continue with the series, but that’s in spite of the significant amount of eye-rolling this book induced. I’m still optimistic the quality will improve, but if it doesn’t the story is interesting enough that I’m willing to try locking my inner pedant in a closet for the remaining books.

Enchantress (Evermen Saga #1)

Enchantress (The Evermen Saga, Book 1) - James Maxwell

Question: When an imprint of Amazon’s publishing arm picks up a previously self-published series, what do they do for the author other than spiff up the cover art and frequently discount the series to profit-destroying prices? I’m genuinely curious because, based on my impressions of Enchantress, “provide professional level editing” isn’t on the list of perks.

It was the time of the rains. The sky opened and water came out.

Told in such breath-taking prose as the quote above, Enchantress is the tale of two super speshul siblings, Mary Sue Ella and Gary Stu Miro. They are, of course, orphans of mysterious parentage. Ella is a gifted Enchantress who knows more than her teachers and is pretty but doesn’t know it (except when she’s flaunting her good looks for attention). All the men want her. All the women want to be her. Her only flaw seems to be a propensity to trust and/or spill her entire life story to any stranger who shows even a modicum of interest. Miro is a gifted swordsman who’s better, faster, stronger, and smarter than all the armies in all the lands, and opportunities to prove this come with astonishing regularity. All the women want him. All the men want to be him. His only flaw seems to be a complete and total lack of personality.

 

Despite the heavy-handed use of tropes and main characters born of wish-fulfillment, the story is quite good. The world-building is decent and the magic system is pretty damn cool. However, all these good points are tragically let down by weak writing and poor editing. Enchantress is rife with problems that should not have gotten past a competent editor.

 

We have repetition:

 

She felt tired now. “I’m so tired, but I wish I could do more.” (These are two of the six times in this one chapter the reader is told—not shown—that the character is tired.)

 

We have idiom abuse:

 

“I’m sorry, Your Grace, but in Seranthia we give short thrift to non-citizens.”

 

We have telling AND showing, because there wasn’t enough repetition already:

 

Killian had to take this opportunity. She was without her enchanted dress, her tools. She was naked.

 

[…Omitted paragraph in which Killian dwells on Ella’s physical perfection for fifth or sixth paragraph in two pages…]

 

Ella was defenseless, and he had to take this chance.

 

We have comma splicing and bonus repetition:

 

Killian’s voice continued expressively, he gave the story richness with his voice.

 

We have conjunction confusion:

 

He may have been thorough and rigorous, but he was also truthful.

 

The pacing is all over the place. Paragraphs are disjointed, making for some super awkward transitions between completely unrelated subjects. I could fill pages upon pages with examples, but then I’ll have officially put more work into this book than its editors did. More’s the pity. Time to heave a sigh and move on.

 

I will be reading the next book since I really do like the story (and since I bought the whole series during one of those profit-destroying sales). Here’s hoping the technical aspects improve.

— feeling booklikes
Happy Thanksgiving to all my Booklikes Buddies!
Happy Thanksgiving to all my Booklikes Buddies!

Head to Geek Tyrant to see more of these brilliant Star Wars Thanksgiving scenes!

Ensnared (Splintered #3)

— feeling tired
Ensnared - A.G. Howard

The first 25% of this novel is fantastic. Why? Because there is adventure, cool plot twists, an actual clearly defined plot (take notes, Book Two!), Wonderland creepiness, and a blissful lack of the two male sides of the love triangle. Then Morpheus shows up and, interesting though he is, things start to go downhill. Then Jeb shows up with his asshole factor dialed up to unbearable levels, and I was once again trapped in YA Love Triangle Purgatory until everything wrapped up in an are-you-kidding-me anti-climax.

 

If I had a dollar for every time Alyssa moans in this book about how her heart is literally and figuratively tearing in two, I could probably afford a trip to London to search for the Rabbit Hole. If you adore books about virginal borderline Mary Sues who love two different assholes and can’t imagine life without either of them, you might love this series. It does have a cool premise and an awesome backdrop. For me, it was just okay. And I’m taking the second short story collection off my to-buy list. Howard’s Wonderland is spectacular, but I am so done with these characters.

Unhinged (Splintered #2)

Unhinged  - A.G. Howard

This review contains spoilers for Splintered. If you haven’t read it yet, proceed at your own risk.

 

Second book syndrome rears its ugly head. Howard’s writing is still good (blah first-person-present notwithstanding) and her descriptions of all things Wonderland are still delightfully creepy, and that’s pretty much the end of my praise.

 

This book has no plot.

 

It is chock full of Alyssa sticking her fingers in her ears and singing “la la la” to avoid her queenly responsibilities. It’s got even more wishy-washy geometric romance and dick measuring contests than book one. It’s got more of Alyssa’s outfits described in minute detail (because it’s essential we know exactly what she’s wearing every single time she changes clothes). But what it hasn’t got is a solidly defined plot. It is 100% set-up for book three, and at least 90% of that is unnecessary filler. I don’t mind if an author uses romantic tension to drive a plot, but romantic tension by itself is not a substitute for plot. This book just meanders for a good 90% and it is so. Damn. Boring.

 

Jeb is still an asshole. Morpheus is still a much more interesting and complex asshole. Alyssa in book two has turned into Taelor, the girl we’re supposed to hate because she hates Alyssa. She is needy, whiny, possessive, and jealous, and she blames it all on her netherling side instead of, you know, maybe questioning whether she’s just a hypocrite. The only redeeming feature this book possesses other than the delightfully creepy Wonderland stuff is the insight into Alyssa’s parents’ history, which would have made a much better book by itself than this ode to girls who can’t make a decision and stick to it.

 

Book three promises a return to Wonderland, which is more or less the only reason I’m not removing it from my Kindle unread. I couldn’t care less who Alyssa ends up with in the end, be it Jeb or Morpheus or both or neither, but a journey through AnyElsewhere sounds promising.

Reading progress update: I've read 31%.

— feeling sleepy
Unhinged  - A.G. Howard

As excited as I was to see where this series would go, I'm having trouble getting into this book. It doesn't help that I haven't had much time for reading this week, or that the story hasn't gone much of anywhere. I'm nearly a third of the way through and so far all I've gotten is too much romantic angst, some high school wangst, and some super-heavy-handed foreshadowing.

 

I also feel like the quality of the storytelling has gone down a bit. Everything's so darn telegraphed. Alyssa gets her skirt caught in the seat belt and the seat belt jams. She decides not to ask for help fixing it. Then she decides to drive home along a route that involves crossing train tracks. With her skirt still caught in the jammed seat belt. OH GEE. WHATEVER COULD GO WRONG.

 

Oh, and then there's this gem when Alyssa starts driving a Mercedes-Benz Gullwing:

 

I press the gas harder. The bar on the speedometer snaps from twenty-three m.p.h. to sixty-seven in under a minute.

 

Now, I know next to nothing about cars, but I'm pretty sure even my parents' rickety old '70s station wagon with the faux wood trim could do that. :P