Book Review – Life and Death by Stephanie Meyers

Title: Life and Death

Author: Stephanie Meyers

Format: Hardback

Published: 2015

 

There comes a point in every reader’s life where they finish a book and they are not sure what to say. In most cases this is the sign of a good book. Unfortunately, this is not the case for me, and hopefully this won’t be the case for anyone else that would think to read this. I have honestly spent an entire day trying to figure out how to even begin to describe this book and what I read. It’s not a matter that it was so unremarkable that there are no words to speak.  When it comes to this book, there is just that much wrong with it.

Now, before I get far along on in the review that may turn rain train, I want to make some things very clear to anyone person who loves Twilight the series or may find joy in this particular book. I am not ripping into this book because I am just ‘that jealous of Stephanie Meyers’ or because I ‘just hate the fandom’.   I don’t even come to you as a person who has only read this one book or only watched the movies.  I have read all the main Twilight books, and did so not as a person wishing to mock the books but a curious individual who wanted something to read aside from text books while in school.

Next, I will admit that I read the first books while still in college. I read most of them them in that mind numbing state of over caffeinated and dead asleep. It was easy reading and a decent story. (I will admit while I will tear this book to shreds – the bones of the story have something to them – the execution is the problem.) I was not as mindful of sentence structure at the time, and actually ‘liked’ the books before Breaking Dawn. I could probably spend a good portion of this blog ripping apart Breaking Dawn based on memories from several years ago, but I won’t.  Yet, it was in reading Breaking Dawn that I realized what crap the books were. (It was summer I had actually slept by the time I read the final book.)

So, considering my history with the books – going from liking them to hating them, it can be without question that I was a little curious about the story being gender swapped. I love little au (alternate universe) and twists of the like, so my interest was piqued.  Thus it was determined by a few of my friends, (some of them fellow bloggers on this site) that I needed to ‘take one for the team’ and read “Life and Death”, (which I did read in its entirety).  There were times I wanted to cry because I had to read it, but eventually the book became a comedy (Dimples!) before it returned itself to nightmare status.

I now ask that you hold onto your dimples, because this journey might take a while as I take you on my trek through the monster of a book (which it was a physical monster, being two novels in one in hard back – my arms cried for mercy!).

When I started reading, I was doing some comparison between the new story and the old, flipping between the two, and I tried to be optimistic. What was said in one page by Bella took one and a half for Beau to say. Stephanie Meyers was being more descriptive. Not a lot more, she wasn’t going for a hi–def picture, but there was a bit more substance. I remember sharing this with a friend going ‘maybe Stephanie had grown as a writer’. ‘It has been 10 years, maybe this book won’t be so bad.’ These were the words of my doom.

I tried to continue read along and not compare old with new and simply read the story, but as I read I would be forced to stop. I didn’t stop because I needed to compare old with new (though I did) but because the words were not making sense.   I wish I could share with you some of the early sentences that threw me for a loop.   I literally had to stop and go, ‘Was that even a sentence?’ At one point I poked my editor and asked her for her take on the sentence.  She confirmed that it was a sentence (barely), but it was very poorly written. We then went back and forth coming up coming up with new and better ways to write the same sentence. Want to know the kicker? We didn’t add or subtract words; we literally just rearranged the words so that they flowed better and made a lot more sense.

It was after that horrid sentence that I discovered my first continuity error, I had to re-read things to be sure I didn’t mistake something.  However, writing was just that bad. It wasn’t me; I didn’t miss something along the way. Literally the character talks about their overall day and how they were bad in their last class of the day, gym class. Then the character backs up to talk about how lunch that day went and spends a whole page plus some this.   Once done talking about lunch, we are back in the afore mentioned gym class again, with a remark on how embarrassing it was.  This wasn’t like a new day/new class or a second instance of the class in the same day, it was the same class on the same day! It did not fit and flow! You have NO idea how much I wanted to take those few pages rearrange and rewrite them where it flowed and worked better!   Alas I plowed on till I couldn’t take it.

Loathing the book, I concluded to read when I was sleep deprived. I powered through a few chapters because I was too tired to notice if a sentence was actually a sentence, and this worked for me till the book was due back at the library and I either had to power through it in two days or give up, because honestly I didn’t see myself checking the book back out, particularly when there is a wait list. (Yes, terrifying I know.) So I took a deep breath and plunged in and found myself in a sea of dimples.

Almost every smile Edythe (yes, we’ll get to her name in a bit) gave there were dimples. It was rare the word smile was actually used in regards to Edythe. She had dimples. She flashed her dimples, she was seen dimpling. These references were subtle at first, till I reached the following quote:

“She leaned against the frame, and threw her dimples at them.”

It was by this point I had lost it.  In my mind I saw a woman literally taking the dimples off of her face and pelting the poor guys she was talking to with them. It took me several minutes to get over the humor of this and the scene was not supposed to be funny. (Honestly, I shared this line with everyone who would listen and most of them were fellow writers. ) Everyone I have spoken to about this line has paused at it.   From that point forward, every time I saw the word dimples, I cracked up. This made the first ‘date’ quite amusing to me as the word dimples came up a few more times within only a few pages. In the end, I did have to compare the old with the new, and the comparison was something that is not easy to describe.

In booth books the human is trying to explain what sort of effect the vampire has on other humans. In Twilight Edward ‘dazzles’ to the point that he asks ‘Do I ‘dazzle’ you?’ while Edythe merely dimples to the point of causing mini heart attacks. I KID YOU NOT.  Beau had a couple of mini-heart attack episodes in the book.  In short, Edward dazzles while Edythe dimples.

Anyway, the dimples soldier forward to not only be thrown at people, but also be put on display (I imagined a display case with dimples).  Then Beau got a face full of the dimples and then as my favorite, Edythe slowly smiled causing the dimples to appear, and it was the equivalent of the ending display of fireworks on the Fourth of July. Land sakes the dimples are Patriotic, and may have looked something like this:

Anyway, as much as I would love to continue on about the dimples and their hilarity to me, there is still more of the book to cover. (As an aside, I feel bad for the next author I read who uses the word dimples because I will laugh, and it won’t be their fault.)

By this point, I’m only half way through the book and we finally get to the point where the two lovers are separated because of the villainous tracker vampire that wants to drink the human’s blood.  So there was sadly a distinct lack of dimples (sorry I had to) by this point. This is where the story starts to deviate from the original. If you, for some reason don’t want to know the end skip down to the rating which I’ll have clearly marked. In this rendering of the tale, Beau becomes a vampire instead of going to play part in the horror that is known as New Moon (which we won’t get me started on that rant either). This is where the book had potential, I mean real potential. I had a friend once say that she (Bella) should have turned at the end of the first book, that, or died. I rather agreed and there was so much potential, and it was wasted.  ALL OF IT!

The whole transformation process is touted in the books as being pure agony, and the worst pain imaginable.  So the actual process was then referenced as fire, fire burning, simply burning, and every individual cell in the body burning.  Oh there was also pain, lots of pain.  It was during this time that the BIGGEST info dump I have ever seen in my life occurred.  Pages and pages of info dumping, with occasional moments for an ‘I’m sorry this had to happen Beau’ and ‘the flesh – it burns’ (okay, that last quote wasn’t from the book – brownie points if you can tell me what movie that came from though!) Supposedly, while in the worst agony of your life, because you are becoming a vampire, you remember every little detail, making it the perfect time to tell you all you ever needed to know about vampires and vampire life.   We learn about their ways, their rules and what the personal life stories are of people people the character hardly knows, because it was a good time to do it.  Honestly, this was Stephanie Meyer’s way of quickly covering things that came up in later books that weren’t originally covered in the first book.   This was done so that readers can compare what the differences are between the original gender character and the new gender character.  It was ridiculously dull and boring.  A better way to share that information, would have been to just use like an Afterward to go ‘hey these are things I’m sure you are wondering about that never came up in the story you just read….’ No she had to create a boring info dump, despite that fact that there is indeed an after ward for her to say – ‘this was fun and imagine what you will for anything I didn’t really cover!’

That pretty much sums up the end of the book, save for the epilogue which was odd, and I really don’t want to go far into it, beyond the fact that memories of life as a human are not easy for vampires to recall.  Thus, one can be very detached from their human past and yet somehow everyone remembers things from it, like important things such as what led to them being vampires (not just the changing process but like their near death experiences before the change, or life style before the change.  They also all supposedly suffer great pain of losing their left behind loved ones,  but can be impacted by watching their own funeral where said loved ones distraught over loosing them.  Yeah, it is really weird and messed up how the memory thing works. It appears it is only follows the whims of the author when she doesn’t feel like writing the raw emotions but still wants a character molded by said circumstances. *eyeroll*

 

RATINGS AND FINAL NOTES!!!!

 

For those of you who scrolled down to here, welcome back. For those who stuck this long post out with me congrats, we are nearing the end, and you deserve a cookie for reading all of this.   I think it is easy to guess the rating I’d give this book, which would be a 1 out of 5 pages. I know other reviewers have talked about negative ratings and 0 ratings but I’ll give the book a 1 because as I said at the start the bones are there.  The bones of the story are good, the execution however, was just horrific.  Honestly, tighter sentence structure, a good editor who will tell the author no, and no more sparkles,there could be something decent here, but sadly it isn’t decent and this is truly a hot mess, which I must continue to further outline.

If you read the forward, this book was created because of all the nay sayers who said the book was all about a damsel in distress and not about the romance. It was to show that everything would pretty much be the same if gender was reversed.  Which things were the same in a lot of ways.  Still by doing this gender swap I saw of lot things that came to light about gender in the books.  It showed all the more how there are still some massive issues involved.   While I try not to gender type at all, there were points where the actions of the character screamed the opposite gender of what they were.  I’m not saying that one gender can’t act like the other but with given societal norms (unfortunate as some may be) they did not work so well.  But there was a big deal about ‘man code’ not being broken, and the guys waiting for the girls to act instead of things being equal.   Also, it was in reading this book that I realized and noticed the gender typing in the first book. Of the school staff, we meet only 5 people, the secretary, the nurse, and 3 teachers. The secretary and nurse in the original book were female and the rest of the staff was male. Am I the only one that finds this a little bit wrong?

In addition, in the forward, Stephanie Meyer’s states that the one major set of genders she did not change were the parents, because historically speaking when they split in the mid 80’s courts have been more inclined to leave a child with a mom, so a moving dad would not have been deemed suitable for a child while a moving mom is fine. I am not complaining about this because it is a unfortunate truth of our court systems, even today. However, where this does bug me is when history is so important to the author in this case, but it’s not a big deal that Edythe was the name of the vampire who was born in 1901! Edith fine, Edythe NO! Edythe didn’t make name charts till 1949, while Edith existed in 1880. (See behindthename.com). So with this alone I find her history argument rendered invalid.

I’ve gone on for nearly 2500 words and feel I have only dented the surface of problems and issues with this book. Were I more patient person, I would spend more time and do a whole series on issues with this book and tear it apart page by page (line by line in some cases), I would, but I am not.  I was all too glad to send it back to the library, even if I couldn’t mark the book red with edits – which is saying something from me as I know that this blog post alone probably has a plethora of grammatical mistakes in it. (I did not have the time to run through and edit before posting.)

So while I hope and feel most people here would agree with me, that this book is horrid and the author is not that great, anyone who loves Stephanie Meyers please refrain from nitpicking my grammar (which I know is horrid right now) and basal insults. Thanks.

Also because I can, (and coined the phrase long ago) and I still think it is quite true to this day:

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Book Review – Closer to Home

Book Review – Stranger Child

Title: Stranger Child

Author: Rachel Abbott

Format: ARC Trade

Year Published: 2015

Stranger Child ended up in my hands after another reviewer commented that she hadn’t realized that it was an actual police detective novel. I enjoy reading those, so I stole it agreed to take it from her. I then sat on it for several weeks before sitting down and reading it over the course of a long weekend shift at work.

Stranger Child is the fourth in a series about DCI Tom Douglas, which I did not realize until after I’d started to write this review (while there is a booklist at the beginning, there is no indication that all of the books are in a series, and the cover also does not state this anywhere). The book holds on its own, but I think I might have liked more of the characters if there had been more of the backstory behind them (actually, there were several points while reading that I was going “this feels like a sequel”).

The story starts with the death of Caroline Joseph and the disappearance of her six year old daughter, Natasha. Six years later, Caroline’s husband, David, has remarried and has another child, when his daughter reappears. Why has she come back, and what dangers has she brought with her?

There’s a blurb on the back of the book that says “Rachel Abbot will keep you guess long into the night and just as soon as you’ve figure it out…think again!” Well, Suspense Magazine, I have news for you. There was not a single (not ONE) plot twist in this book that I did not see coming from about 1/3 of the way through.

DCI Tom Douglas, as a character, was fine. Nothing outstanding about him – he was a steady character, he did his work diligently, you could tell he cared for the people he was helping, but there was nothing that made him awesome (or, even, made him somebody I wanted to read any more books about).

Emma, David Joseph’s new wife, is probably the bedrock of the novel. Her reactions are believable and she is strong but she’s also vulnerable. The main issue I have with her is that there’s really no sense of how she exists outside her relationships – what did she do before marrying her husband? We know about one of her past relationships (a serious one) but what did she do, career-wise? Obviously she’s not doing it now, as she spends her time raising her son. Still, every time we were in her POV, I was more interested.

There are several plot twists in this book that are obviously meant to shock the reader, however any experienced mystery reader is going to spot them as soon as the early strings are set up. However, the author does have a fair hand with action sequences. While I do have a bit of an issue with the ending, when the action starts the story just powers on through to the end.

Since I prefer my mysteries with a bit more, well, mystery, I likely won’t seek out the others in the series, however this book would work well for somebody new to the genre, or somebody who wants action without a lot of brain-twisting. 3/5 pages

Book Review – Silver on the Road

Title: Silver on the Road

Author: Laura Anne Gilman

Format: Hardback

Year Published: 2015

I really enjoy reading Laura Anne Gilman’s novels – she not only has a knack for writing kick-ass female characters who are also – SHOCK! – allowed to have weaknesses, she has a knack for worldbuilding, sneaking in all the little details of the world that make it believable. So when she started talking about Silver, I knew I was going to buy it. Then she read part of the first chapter at DragonCon, and I wasn’t sure how I was going to wait until it came out.

Silver on the Road focuses on Isobel, a sixteen-year-old who has been raised by the Devil. But not the devil you think you know – this devil deals in Bargains, who holds power, but chooses to show it only when necessary. On her sixteenth birthday, Izzy is released from indenture and makes a Bargain of her own. Trained to observe, to see what lies beneath the surface, she becomes the Devil’s Left Hand.

Izzy is sent out in the Territory by the devil, under the mentorship of Gabriel, a rider of the road. Along the way, they discover a danger to the Territory that neither had anticipated, and Izzy must learn both who she is and what being the Devil’s Left Hand really means.

Izzy is the right mix of naive and experienced – frustrated again and again with the fact that she received no guidance on what her new role really meant, and yet her experience in the things she knows serves her well when it becomes important.

Along with Gabriel, Izzy travels the way with several other companions (and Farron was either fantastically fun to write, or the biggest headache in the world, but he was lots of fun to read), each with their own goals and agendas.

The end of the book feels real to Izzy’s character, and was, actually, eminently satisfying. We’re left with enough untangled threads to make us eager to find out what happens, but not so many to feel like nothing got fixed this time. 5/5 pages – when does the next one come out?

Book Review – The Shepherd’s Crown

Title: The Shepherd’s Crown

Author: Terry Pratchett

Format: Hardbook

Year Published: 2015

When Terry Pratchett was diagnosed with early-onset Alzheimer, we all knew this day would. The last Pratchett book. No more Ankh-Morpork, Tiffany Aching, the Watch. Death. I’m not going to go into too much detail – a friend was spoiled for the start and I won’t do so. (Also, I think I may be too close to the knowledge that this is his last book to give it a fair review.)

The Shepherd’s Crown is the last of the Tiffany Aching books, and it starts with a gut-punch. As the events roll on from that, Tiffany, her friends, the witches, and (of course) the Nac Mac Feegle find themselves facing an old enemy: fairies.

As Tiffany takes on responsibilities she never expected, she is also trying to rehabilitate the Queen of the Fairies, now deposed from her throne, while missing Preston (her beau) and herding a new-wanna-be-witch-in-training – Geoffrey.

The book held together well, but there were times I felt it was missing that Pratchett charm, the little sly bit of humor that reminded you of the hilarity in the world. I also felt that the big battle at the end seemed to go rather too easy, and hope that it would have been more complicated had Pratchett been able to finish editing the story the way he wanted to.

Still, though it squeezes my heart to know that it is the last, well done. 4/5 stars.

Book Review – Devoted in Death

Title: Devoted in Death

Author: J.D. Robb

Format: E-book

Year Published: 2015

As I believe I’ve established before, I have a fondness for Nora Roberts writing as J.D. Robb in her In Death series. Not exactly high literature, sometimes they have awesome plot twists, and they’re always a quick, easy read.

Devoted is the newest offering in the world. Unfortunately, there are several routes that the mystery can take, and this book takes my least favorite form – the one where we learn who the murderer is right off the bat and then it’s just a matter of our stalwart heroes figuring it out and then catching them. I much prefer to be able to try to solve the mystery by the clues presented (which is why my second-favorite mystery style that comes up in this series – the “Eve has a hunch who it is but won’t tell anybody who or why and we don’t get enough details to figure it out ourselves” thing – drives me crazy).

The murderers in this are subtly different enough from Robbs’ other murderers that it didn’t feel like  a rehash of an old plot, and there was less of the Check-list Of Things To Be Included (Mavis is mentioned, Feeney makes a small appearance, but no Trina/Nadine/Eve’s past focus).

The story starts with the murderers’ first kill – by accident, but it sparks something in them. Then they make their way to NYC and onto the radar of Eve Dallas. Their first kill was a young cellist, and I almost prefer the stories where the victim has nobody to care about him, since watching lives be shattered by the news is a gut punch. (Strangely, I get less of this in cop shows – maybe because we usually pick up in the middle of an interview.)

Fortunately, it doesn’t take Dallas long to pick up that this kill isn’t the first, and soon begins to trace the path back to where it started. As the kills cross state-lines, the FBI is involved, but they’re only barely on-screen, mostly preferring to follow their own line of investigation (which is, as usual, proven wrong. This is one of the quibbles I have with Dallas – she’s really good at her job, and rarely, if ever, is she wrong about who the murderer is, and if she’s in disagreement with another agency, she’s ALWAYS right. Let her be wrong, once in a while! Fortunately, she’s really bad at personal relationships, so she’s a bit more of a balanced character than she appears.)

Helped out by a small-town deputy, Dallas and her crew manage to track down the murderers and rescue the two people that they took. Like most of the secondary victims, I was rooting for them and was grateful that they survived (barely, in one case). (Unlike in Thankless in Death, where the secondary victim I wanted to live didn’t and the one I didn’t have strong feelings about did.)

As a side note, the more I read her work, the more I am convinced that Robb has a deep geek side. She sneaks a Pratchett reference into this book (at which I squeaked. Loudly), did an excellent job of showing the geeky world with Fantasy In Death, and when Mal met Kaylee in one of her romance novels I nearly died laughing.

Overall, while not one of my favorites, the more unusual plot and lack of filler puts this a solid 3/5 pages.

Book Review – Alice in the Country of Clover The March Hare Revolution by Quin Rose

Title: Alice in the Country of Clover: The March Hare Revolution

Author: Quin Rose

Illustrator:  Ryo Kazuki

Published: 2012

Translated: 2015

 

It has been a while but I bring you yet another Alice story.  Since my last binge I think I have covered all Alice books but the latest releases which I am at the mercy of my library to eventually get in at this point.  Of course, knowing that I am a massive March Hare/Eliot fan, I have been chomping at the bit and salivating for this manga.  Then when you toss in the title and the content of past Eliot centric books I was certain that this book was going to be about Eliot’s past and how he broke the rules and shouldn’t be around but Blood rescued him.  (A lot of this is covered in country of Joker and in other Eliot centric stories.) Yet, this story was not what I expected it to be, not to say that it is bad thing.

 

The first thing that jumped out at me in this story was the fact that there is a lizard and a spider on Eliot’s scarf when it comes to the art work something that has been very subtle in the past if it has always been there.  It threw me off a bit but at the same time not enough to break the story for me to say the least.  What did throw me though was the art work, it was different than what I am used do.  Of course the characters are recognizable as always and of course I expect the art work to be different considering that it wasn’t Mamenosuke Fujimaru’s work as most of the books are.  However, there are artists who manage to come close to drawing similar to Mamenosuke while other’s fall short, such as Job who draws thinks long and lean.  Ryo Kazuki is another artists who does things differently but instead of long and lean Ryo goes more for a soft bubble look.  The hair instead of sharp angles as most manga I’m used to is, has a softer more curved look to it.  It threw me off for the first few pages.  Eventually however I got lost in the story and the art became second nature.  I do know that I did appreciate how clear emotions were on the faces of the characters giving the story added life instead of constantly having sound effects notate emotion, or ambiguous drawings that left me guessing at times (the latter of which Job is occasionally guilty of).

 

Anyway the story is of the developing romance between Alice and Eliot. There isn’t a lot of action, such as an epic plot to pull Alice away from her love or massively put her life in danger.  The focus of the story as on Alice and Eliot, as they spend time together and Alice realizes that there is more to her and Eliot than just friendship.  The twist and pull of the story that helps give things momentum is the fact that Alice is having dreams of her sister and is wavering on whether to stay or to go back home.  She is also frightened by the kind of dangerous life she would have if she stays with Eliot as he is the second in command of a mafia and they were attacked during one of their outings.  (Honestly I loved that bit as Eliot was so amazingly protective that it made me a little bit giddy.)

 

In the end the story was sufficiently cute though not overly heavy or dramatic in regards to romance, very light and airy.  Yet it was still rather good and sweet and I found myself giving out a sigh as I closed the book and content that only a very small portion was devoted to a preview of another story rather than a 1/3 of the story being devoted to a preview.  Over all I think I would give this book a 3 out of 5 pages.  While there are several Eliot centric books that are on my ‘wish to  own’ list (read as most – if not all)  this one will not be making the list.

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