Monday, October 14, 2013

4th Annual Spooktacular Giveaway Hop!

 
 
Welcome to my Spooktacular Giveaway Hop hosted by I Am a Reader, Not a Writer! Fill out the form below to enter to win a book of your choice (up to $20) from The Book Depository. After that, be sure to check out the long list of other  blogs participating in this awesome event! Good luck and happy reading!
 

Friday, September 27, 2013

One Step Too Far by Tina Seskis

Title: One Step Too Far
Author: Tina Seskis
Publisher: Krik Parolles
Pages: Kindle ed
Rating: 3/5 Stars

It's always good to broaden ones horizons and One Step Too Far is definitely a departure from my normal choice of books. There's nothing supernatural or macabre about it and it's not YA, which is what I've been reading a lot of lately. One Step Too Far is one of those genre defying books that would be shelved in the fiction/literature section of the bookstore. At least, that's where I'd put it.

One Step Too Far presents itself as a mystery of sorts according to the description and in a way, that is accurate. Tina Seskis reveals the details of Emily's past, as well as the event that sent her existence into a tailspin and prompted her to leave her happy marriage/home, very slowly. In terms of keeping me interested and engaged, Seskis definitely succeeded. Although, I didn't relate to the characters' lives, I was fascinated by what could be so horrible that Emily felt she had to leave everything and start over.

I glanced at some other reviews to remind me of everything that happens in this book which is something I don't normally do. I like to write my reviews strictly from my own perspective, without any outside influence. That said, in this case, I was reminded of the moment when all of the drama crossed the line from "believable story of a woman's battles with a traumatic experience" and into "tv-movie of the week" territory.

Event #1: Caroline and her boyfriend being involved in an explosion. The night Caroline's life is finally about to come together after an entire lifetime of disappointment and struggle, she is at a restaurant with her boyfriend when an explosion out on the street literally ruins everything. She loses the baby she finally decides that she wants and her anger with her boyfriend for the way he doesn't pay all of his attention to her (and possibly the fact that I think he's gay) lead them to go their separate ways. She always miscarries her baby.

Event #2: Emily gets trashed/high at a club, goes home with a famous footballer who just happens to bear a strong resemblance to the husband that she still loves, gets high again, spends the night with him and wakes up next to his naked dead body. She proceeds to get arrested in connection to his death and because he's famous, her face is splashed all over the news, leading her husband to find her and bail her out of jail, thus reuniting them.

There's also the bizarre circumstances of Emily's new best friend Angel's life, but she's a side character and meant to be the antithesis of Emily's life 'before', so I didn't have as much of a problem with that.

The above events, however, didn't sit well with me. They just seemed so over the top and impossible to believe. Books create certain worlds, certain contexts and even though the story is up to the creative mind of the author, there are certain things that just feel wrong. The magic of Harry Potter, for example, would feel all kinds of wrong in if it was used to save the day in a John Grisham novel. The violence of the explosion as well as the sudden death of the footballer just felt wrong. Rather than simply being shocked and saddened by what happened, I was left shaking my head and thinking "no one's life is actually like this."

Seskis is a fine author. Her grasp of language and the elements of writing is good and there was nothing technical that took me out of the book - even when she would bounce between first and third person depending on whether the story was in the present or the past. Plot-wise, however, this book became a little too fantastical for me to really enjoy in terms of the story it presented. Caroline had been anorexic and/or an alcoholic for much of her life, she could have easily miscarried without the explosion outside of the restaurant. Emily was doing a LOT of drugs and not handling it well which could have very easily led to her arrest and subsequent discovery by her husband. I don't think that the death of a famous sports hero was necessary.

I did enjoy reading the book and I was satisfied with the explanation of why Emily ran as well as the actual ending of One Step Too Far, but I feel like Seskis either needs to work on balance or she needs to re-evaluate the type of story that she wants to tell to be truly successful.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

The Maid of the White Hands (Tristan and Isolde #2) by Rosalind Miles

Title: The Maid of the White Hands (Tristan and Isolde #2)
Author: Rosalind Miles
Publisher: Broadway Brooks
Pages: 352
Rating: 3/5 Stars

Oh, Tristan and Isolde. There's a reason your legend isn't as well known as Arthur, Guinevere and Lancelot's.

Sigh.

I love Rosalind Miles. Love her. Her writing is evocative, lush, vivid...I could wax poetic with superlatives all day, but suffice it to say I'll read just about anything she writes even if the actual subject matter isn't engaging me as I'd like it to.

And Tristan and Isolde's love story is not engaging me.

The Maid of the White Hands picks up shortly after Isolde, Queen of the Western Isle ends. Isolde has married Mark, King of Cornwall, thus uniting Ireland and England. Tristan is her knight and the two of them are able to carry on their love affair in secret.

Well, sort of in secret.

All of the wrong people seem to know what's going on between the two of them and it puts their happiness as well as their very lives in danger.

When the Queen of Ireland dies, Isolde is called back to her home country and in order to keep up appearances, Tristan stays in England.

These two should never be separated. Seriously, the majority of their problems would go away if they'd just stick together.

A lot of drama unfolds. A lot of political intrigue, presumed betrayal, imprisonment, uprisings, lies and angst goes down in the plot of this book and Tristan and Isolde are apart for most of it. I won't go into a detailed description of the plot, but suffice it to say that Miles throws just about everything she can at these two lovers and it nearly works in destroying them both.

I'm determined to finish this series, but unlike the Guinevere trilogy that I want to read again someday, I won't feel the need to revisit Tristan and Isolde. I just don't like them that much. Isolde is awesome. I do love her. She's strong and fights her own battles. She understands the price that she has to pay for being queen, the things that she has to give up to serve the people that she's sworn to lead.

Tristan, on the other hand, drives me nuts. I understand that nobility and honoring one's promises/word was basically all that these knights had to call their own, but could Tristan be a little less whiny about it? I should take into account that the man is injured or sick through about 80% of this book, and therefore prone to dramatics, I suppose, but still. I don't think it's a good idea for the hero of a sweeping and epic love story to come across as a whiny, weepy, lovesick puppy. Either honor your vows as a knight or honor your vows to Isolde. Pick one and quit all of this quibbling.

I'm going to try to read the third and final book soon because I know that I waited far too long between the first and second.  I will never not recommend Rosalind Miles to people who enjoy excellent writing and epic storytelling, but I doubt that this trilogy will be the one I tell them to try.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Tangle of Need by Nalini Singh

Title: Tangle of Need
Author: Nalini Singh
Publisher: Berkley
Pages: 422
Rating: 4/5

This is the eleventh book in Nalini Singh's Psy-Changeling series and now that Hawke and Sienna are together, I'm reading them for the overall plot, rather than the central couple. Thankfully, Singh seems to be aware of this as Tangle of Need focuses as much on Hawke and Sienna as a newly mated pair as she does the burgeoning romance of Adria and Riaz.

There's nothing wrong with Adria and Riaz - both are enjoyable characters and the drama that keeps them apart is very realistic for their circumstances. With Hawke, Sienna had the knowledge that the girl who would have grown up to be his mate had died. Adria doesn't have that luxury as Riaz's mate is alive and well - even if she is happily married to someone else. Adria's not my favorite heroine and Riaz isn't my favorite hero, but I don't dislike them like I do Clay and Talia or Dev and Katya.

The resolution of Adria and Riaz's romance feels incomplete, but at the same time I have to commend Singh for doing something different with them. I remember that in book four of this series - Hostage to Pleasure - I was annoyed by the trite way that the mating bond fixed Dorian so that he was able to shift. It was such a predictable move that it soured me on that book and that couple, which was a shame because as a Changeling that couldn't shift, Dorian stood out. So, in order to refrain from being a total hypocrite, I'll leave it at that.

The real draw of Tangle of Need for me was the exposure to the Snow Dancer pack and all that it entails. I love the world that Singh has created and each book allows her to continue to focus on another aspect of it. In addition to the Snow Dancers and Dark River, we meet more of the Human Alliance and for the first time get to see what they're doing to combat the Psy mental invasion. I applaud Singh for finally highlighting something that I've thought all along - that it would suck to be a human in this Psy-Changeling world. Humans are basically at the mercy of these two powerful races, subject to their whims and their wars and yet completely ignored for the most part.

I love that Singh continued Hawke and Sienna's story, letting us experience their mating celebration as a way of furthering their romance as well as developing Adria and Riaz's involvement.

And Drew and Judd. I love any time Drew and Judd make appearances.

And last, but certainly not least, Kaleb. I have enjoyed him from the very first time he showed up and I'm getting excited for his book in the same way I was excited for Drew and Hawke's books.

Tangle of Need isn't one of my favorite Psy-Changeling books, but it was by no means a disappointment. Any fan of the series will enjoy this book for the continued exposure to the Psy-Changeling world and the continuation of the plot that Singh's been spinning since book one. I'm looking forward to reading the next one.

Saturday, September 21, 2013

Iron Lake by William Kent Krueger

Title: Iron Lake
Author: William Kent Krueger
Publisher: Atria Books
Pages: 352 pages
Rating: 4/5 Stars

Being a Minnesotan, it was only a matter of time before I read one of William Kent Krueger's books. After I moved into an apartment just down the street from the St. Clair Broiler where Krueger actually wrote most of his novels until moving to a different part of town just a few years ago, it became even more of an inevitability. Starting with the first of the Cork O'Connor series seemed appropriate.

Two things stuck out and have stayed with me since I finished this book. One is that Krueger is definitely a Minnesotan. The way he writes about the cold, while wildly romanticized in my humble and winter-hating opinion, really got across the idea of how the cold temperatures and snow take on a life of their own and become something of a character unto themselves. There is something beautiful about the vast expanse of a frozen, snow-covered lake...as long as I'm looking at it from a warm spot indoors.

I enjoyed the small town atmosphere of Aurora. As someone who grew up in a town roughly Aurora's size, it's always fun for me to read a book where the author really understands what a small town is. I've read so many books where the authors think small equals less than 100,000 and that doesn't even come close.

The second thing that struck me was Krueger's knowledge of the Anishinaabe people. The culture of the people is woven into the fabric of his plot and several times the reader is treated to a story about their traditions.

I've said in other reviews that there's something about debut and self-published authors that sets their books apart - and not always in a good way - from more established talents. Iron Lake is Krueger's debut and to me that was apparent. I didn't pick up on stereotypes like some other reviewers dwelled on at the expense of any other type of criticism, but then again, I rarely do. I tend to take each story as it is, an entity unto itself. I do have to agree, however, that there was some cliched prose and dialogue, some corny turns of phrase that I'm guessing - given how many more books there are in the series and the fact that Krueger is still writing - work themselves out in the books to come.

I can't say that I was surprised by the ultimate bad guy - I'd figured it to be him early on, but part of that was just me hoping that I'd be right - but I did enjoy peeling back the layers of the mystery as Cork struggled to unfold it. So many people lament that they were able to pick out the guilty party from page one, and in some cases that may be true, but can you tell me why? Sometimes whodunit isn't as nearly as interesting as whytheydunit.

As far as characters are concerned, Cork has a ways to go before he completely wins me over. I liked him fine, but when I pick up the next book in the series it will be for another glimpse back into the world of Aurora, not so much to find out what Cork has been up to. Unfortunately, the character I enjoyed the most didn't make it to the end of the book, so that's too bad. Given how much I disliked Jo and considering what happens to her in the course of the story, I'm very interested to see how things go for her in the next book as well.

Speaking of Cork's ex-wife, I found it interesting how completely other reviewers missed the point when it came to the Jo and Cork's affairs. Some labeled it a double standard, that Jo was vilified for having an affair, while Cork was not. Aside from the obvious fact that Cork is the main character and we're always going to see the story through Cork-colored glasses, that's actually not what happened. Cork wasn't upset with Jo for having the affair, he was upset with her for keeping it a secret, for letting him go for nearly a year thinking that the dissolution of his marriage and family was completely his fault. Cork viewed the situation with his family as something he alone could fix when in reality, both he and Jo had made choices that might have made reconciliation impossible. Jo just didn't see fit to mention that to him and for a guy as depressed as Cork was that little nugget of information would have gone a long way toward healing.

That's how I saw it, at least.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

September Secret Reader Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

Title: Shatter Me
Author: Tahereh Mafi
Publisher: Harper
Pages: Kindle edition
Rating: 4/5 Stars

Tahereh Mafi should be commended for writing the most first person of first person books that I've read. Mafi puts her readers inside of Juliette's head so completely that some sentences and paragraphs are little more than run on stream of conscious thoughts - that are occasionally crossed out in the same way all of us have tried to cross out or brush aside an errant thought that we don't want to be having. Shatter Me feels like a brilliantly poetic journal, containing some of the most beautiful descriptions, similes and metaphors that I've ever had the pleasure of reading.

Juliette will remind some readers of Rogue from X-men, in that she can kill people with her touch. It's that deadly power that, after years of torment and neglect in a rapidly decaying, dystopian society, catches the attention of the government. The Reestablishment seizes Juliette and holds her prisoner for three years, a year of which is spent in isolation in an insane asylum.

Until one day, Juliette isn't so alone anymore.

A boy joins her in her cell and she's beautifully aware of him in all of the ways that a seventeen year old girl would be aware of a super hot seventeen year old boy.

The plot of Shatter Me is a standard one as far as dystopian novels go - Juliette is special, she has something that the Reestablishment wants and they intend to get it at all costs. She's tempted with promises of luxury and power, but her heart is pure and she rejects it along with Adam - the one boy who can touch her and has always loved her and oh so conveniently gets thrown into a cell with her in the insane asylum.

The plush apartment that is her cell also doesn't have surveillance equipment in the bathroom. Also convenient.

I don't point these things out to mock or detract from Shatter Me, but to highlight what this story is really about and that is Juliette coming into her own after a lifetime of trying to be invisible. Mafi, while inventive with her futuristic dystopia, isn't reinventing the wheel here and she knows it. She makes the wise choice to stay entrenched in Juliette's experience, dolling out details of her world when it matters, rather than in long-winded exposition at the beginning of the book.

To me, the real story picked up about half way through when Juliette and Adam break out of the evil Warner's clutches and escape the Reestablishment's army. They find Adam's brother James and make plans to run off together - until a former soldier, Kenji, shows up on Adam's supposedly top secret door step suffering from a beating and bullet wounds. The timetable on their plans is shortened significantly and they barely get out of the apartment in one piece.

During the chase that follows, Juliette is forced to get over herself, basically, if she wants to survive and by the end, she realizes she wants to do more than survive - for the first time she wants to live.

A downside to Mafi's style is that our view of the world is limited to only what Juliette thinks, sees, hears and feels - even more so than other first person narratives. As a reader, I was thrust into this story without a hint as to what was happening and while I wouldn't call that a bad thing necessarily, in the case of Shatter Me I was left feeling that if you scraped away the fancy prose, the actual story was rather shallow. Typical, I guess, of so many other YA novels where the quiet, overlooked girl with the tortured past grows up and comes into her own.

I don't want to sound like I'm knocking it, because that's not what I'm trying to do. I'm stoked to continue the series and see what happens. Mafi totally surprised me with where our characters ended up and as such I'm not so sure that I know exactly what kind of story she's preparing to tell. That's a very good thing.

I do have to wonder how much more compelling Shatter Me could have been if Mafi had taken a little of the creativity she used in composing her beautiful prose and put it into the plot of her story.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry

Title: Pushing the Limits
Author: Katie McGarry
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 392
Rating: 5/5 Stars

Read for August Secret Reader

Welp. I devoured that one.

Can I have more, please?

Pushing the Limits is not my typical read - no supernatural, no fantasy or scifi, no mystery or action - but that didn't stop me from eagerly turning pages until the very end. Katie McGarry didn't reinvent the wheel in terms of setting or plot, but her characters, Echo and Noah in particular, wouldn't let me go.

The plot of Pushing the Limits follows tragic good-girl-with-a-mysterious-past Echo and tragic bad-boy-with-a-violent-past Noah as they're forced together by their mutual guidance counselor and find love and healing across social lines. While the details of Echo's memory loss and scars, as well as what happened to Noah's parents intrigued me, the parts I enjoyed the most were the sessions with Mrs. Collins, the guidance counselor, and the one-on-one time Noah and Echo shared.

I always appreciate authors who write characters - especially teenagers - that are real. McGarry's teenagers drink, smoke, do drugs, have sex, but all in the way that teens do. Echo isn't suddenly a bad girl because she gets drunk at a party and Noah isn't irredeemable because he smokes weed.

I give McGarry kudos for writing a bad boy that actually deserved his reputation. Noah's not a saint. While he might have been on the fast track to All-American Golden Boy status, his parent's death changed everything. He does become (justifiably) violent, he does have a temper, he does sleep with any girl he happens to be interested in, he does smoke weed, he does have tattoos, he swears a lot and he's got very little interest in school and preparing for a future that he doesn't think that he'll have.

As he and Echo get to know each other, he's not perfect and doesn't say the right thing all of the time, but he listens to her in a way that her friends and hideous wannabe boyfriend won't. McGarry doesn't have Noah change for his good-girl, but rather return to the person he used to be.

As a former member of the popular in-crowd, Echo is essentially crippled by her new outsider status - not to mention the scars on her arms that she can't remember getting. I had a much harder time relating to Echo than Noah, but I am not as petrified of authority as she is. The opening chapter, where Echo, her father and her step-mother are in a group therapy session with Mrs. Collins made me cringe. I couldn't understand how Echo could let her father dictate her life like he did. Then I saw how the same things happened with her friends, her ex-boyfriend Luke, basically everyone she encountered, and I realized that what Echo really needed was a backbone.

Noah helps her find it - or rather, he helps her find the girl that she used to be as well.

Romance novels always claim to feature two people who need each other for whatever reason, but Pushing the Limits really delivers. Noah's I-don't-give-a-fuck attitude clashes with Echo's need to please and as they spend more time together, they balance each other out and it's wonderful to read.

The end doesn't tie everything up in a nice, neat bow, with all wrongs being righted and all amends being made. Echo gets the answers she's been searching for about the night she got her scars, but her reunion with her mother is far from satisfying. I personally thought she was far too forgiving with her father and step-mother, but I have a cold, dead heart. ;P Noah doesn't achieve his exact goal, but he manages to find a solution that's far more realistic for his situation. Despite that vague summary, I was completely satisfied with the way things were wrapped up.

If I were to have any criticisms it would be that some of the dialogue felt wrong - more than once I had a "teenagers don't talk like that" reaction. Some of the characters were so extreme - Grace, Echo's father - in their refusal to accept or listen to Echo that I almost had to put the book down. Both of these "complaints" are minor, however, and I am anxious to read more of McGarry's writing. 

Friday, August 23, 2013

Under the Dome by Stephen King

Title: Under the Dome
Author: Stephen King
Publisher: Scribner
Pages: 1074
Rating 4/5 Stars

Excellent.  Ready for the series now.

Stephen King never disappoints me. Whenever I see that he's put out a new book, I immediately put it on my TBR list - where it usually sits for a really, really long time before I get around to reading it. No matter how long that takes, however, I always enjoy.

What gets me every time with King is his world building and his use of language. He's just a master. For days after I finished Under the Dome I found myself wishing that I could return to Chester's Mill and find out more about the people living there. As much as I looked forward to finding out what caused the dome and how those trapped would get out of it, I just wanted the story to keep going. While I find something to enjoy in every book that I read, it's not often that the characters and setting of a book stay with me and leave me really yearning for more. It's a true bittersweet joy when that happens.

The plot of Under the Dome is pretty straightforward - a mysterious, clear dome suddenly appears over the town of Chester's Mill, trapping most of the town's population inside. Nothing and no one is able to so much as scratch the surface of it and therein lies the story. What happens when a small town is literally cut off from the outside world?

In a word? Chaos.

Under the Dome has many 'main' characters, many heroes and villains, but Dale "Barbie" Barbara would be who I consider the main protagonist. Right from the first page, King infuses the novel with a sense of impending doom and suspense, not just for the citizens of Chester's Mill, but for Barbie in particular. As someone new to town, he's considered an outsider by all and as a result, subject to the whims of an increasingly panicked populace. Through Barbie's eyes we meet the residents of Chester's Mill, gradually getting into their heads and perspectives as the ominous forces working within and without the dome converge.

Under the Dome is a story that could only work within a small town, where everyone knows everyone and secrets are just barely concealed. King uses his environment to superb ends as the population splits into opposing factions and everyone seems to be operating under their own agenda. Even those who don't want to take sides inevitably end up on one. Some of the best and most infuriating elements of this book came from King's exploration of how small down dynamics unfold.

As much as I'd love to recap the entire plot and characters, I could never do it justice. Suffice it to say that Under the Dome has all of King's traditional storytelling elements - a grand, sweeping plot, supernatural/otherworldly influences, complex, real characters that are both good and bad (although some are pretty damn bad), suspense, horror, a little gore...it's all there. His attention to detail is superb, his prose vivid and his dialogue engaging.

I just really loved this book, okay? You should read it.

I read a little about some controversy surrounding the end of the book - basically just that there was some and having finished it, I'm really not sure why. I thought it was a satisfying ending, although I'll admit a part of me felt that he could have continued the action. There's a huge event in the last two hundred pages or so that brings the problems of the Dome rushing to a head and I wouldn't have minded a slower descent into utter chaos.

Of course, if you want a slower version of what happens to Chester's Mill under the dome, check out the tv series because imo, it's equally awesome.


Thursday, August 1, 2013

Summer Giveaway Hop!


Welcome to my Summer Giveaway Hop of 2013. Hosted by I Am A Reader, Not A Writer & BookHounds, this one is simple - just fill out the form below for you chance to win the book of your choice (up to $20) from the Book Depository





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Be sure to check out the other blogs that are participating for more chances to win!


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Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Emblaze by Jessica Shirvington

Title: Emblaze
Author: Jessica Shirvington
Publisher: Sourcebooks
Pages: 415
Rating: 4/5 Stars

I finished this book nearly two months ago and while the major reason for my tardiness in reviewing is simply my amazing ability to procrastinate, it actually has a lot to do with my very mixed feelings about Emblaze. 

The story is great and Shirvington does her usual amazing work at spinning a tale full of emotion and mythology as well as a healthy dose of ass-kicking action. Violet must once again risk life and limb to protect her fellow Grigori - as well as the entire human population, basically - in a race against Phoenix who wants to get his mother, Lilith, out of hell. This time, however, it's a lot more personal as her best friend Steph becomes a pawn in the game.

Shirvington took us to Jordan in Entice and this time around we get to check out Greece. I definitely enjoyed Greece more than Jordan - maybe because I was imagining beautiful mediterranean waters instead of miles and miles of sand and rock. There's apparently a Hellmouth in Greece - to use BtVS terms - and the Grigori want to keep it closed at all costs.

Which of course means, it opens.

I wouldn't have it any other way, of course.

New characters of note in this book - Josephine and her ninja-like bodyguards. Josephine is from the Assembly and she's super annoying, but impossible to truly hate because she IS one of the good guys.

Even if she really doesn't seem to like our heroine all that much.

Josephine is also dangerous and Violet has to be supremely on guard around her lest the secret of her evolving abilities gets out.

Irin, the Keeper, is a really shady, gross new bad guy who runs the island on which the Hellmouth exists. He has an agreement with Grigori in that if he keeps the local exile populace under control, they will stay away. I liked him because, well, I always like shady, gross characters who muddy up the waters.

Violet's dad makes an incredible nuisance of himself, finally deciding to actually parent his daughter. I'm sure that Shirvington wants to paint him in a sympathetic light, but I went from apathy to outright dislike when it comes to him.

I felt the same way about Buffy's mother Joyce, to be honest. Parents who only care to parent when their children are a problem.

Last but not least, we get to meet Violet's mother, Evelyn, risen from the mouth of hell along with Lilith. Violet's antagonistic attitude toward her surprised me, but Evelyn came across as pretty abrasive, so she can hold her own. As a reader I know more about Evelyn than Violet does, so I suppose I should cut her a little slack.

A little.

Basically, the story is great, like I said. I thoroughly enjoyed the twists and turns. My lack of enthusiasm in reviewing comes down to the issue I've made no secret about since book one and that's my dislike of Lincoln.

I still really, really dislike Lincoln.

I still see the way he loves Violet as a weakness - not the fact that he does love her, but in the way Shirvington has him express it. I'd dealt with his and Violet's nauseating relationship because I thought that the story was going to be a true triangle with Phoenix.

After reading this book, I'm no longer sure of that and I find it really disappointing.

What makes it worse is the fact that Phoenix gets his own POV chapter in Embrace and it's paragraph after paragraph of his true motivations and feelings for Violet - loving her, thinking of how she could have been the one to give him a place to belong, a family, made life worth living for him, etc. And there's SO much Violet doesn't know. So much truth she doesn't even have an inkling of when it comes to Phoenix. It's the stuff star-crossed lovers are made of, not this contrived nonsense between Violet and Lincoln.

But that said, all signs seem to be pointing toward Violet and Lincoln being the couple to root for which just confuses the hell out of me. I've never seen an author approach character or relationships like this. Phoenix and Violet get the character development while Lincoln is on the sidelines, typically brooding and unhappy.

It's just weird and not in a good way.

I intend to keep reading the series because three books in I'm invested in more than just the romance and I really do enjoy the characters - literally all of them except Lincoln - but I'm going to do my best to disengage from the romance.

I need to lower my expectations and hopes and just look forward to Phoenix on his own.

Monday, July 15, 2013

TBR List for Secret Reader Challenge

My entire bookshelf could be considered TBR, but I'll stick to the highlights - the books I've been "dying to read" forever and never get around to...

Friday, July 12, 2013

Apocalypse Blog Hop!



Welcome to my Apocalypse Blog Hop, hosted by Rainy Day Ramblings, Love of Books and The Nocturnal Library. In honor of this hop, I'm giving away the dystopian/apocalyptic book of your choice from the Book Depository.


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Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Spring Fling Giveaway Hop!


Thanks for checking out my Spring Fling Giveaway Hop, hosted by Eve's Fan Garden and I Am A Reader, Not A Writer. For a chance to win a book of your choice from the Book Depository, fill out the form below and be sure to check out the other blogs in the hop for more giveaway opportunities!


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The Eternity Cure (Blood of Eden #2)


Title: The Eternity Cure (Blood of Eden #2)
Author: Julie Kagawa
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 448
Rating: 5/5 Stars

I was incredibly excited to get an ARC of The Eternity Cure and I’d resolved to read/review it before it was released.

Nothing like waiting until the last minute, huh?

My procrastination had nothing to do with the book, however, because as soon as I got around to firing up my Kindle and started reading, I didn’t stop. As with The Immortal Rules, Kagawa crafted a story that was unique and engaging and really kept me turning pages.

Er, pushing the arrow button.

After leaving Eden at the end of book #1, Allie sets off to find her sire, Kanin. She’s drawn to him because of their shared bloodline and even sees through his eyes in the night as she sleeps. She knows that he’s in trouble – captured by Psycho Vamp Sarren – and she’s determined to find him.

She feels she owes him that much.

Truth be told, I think Allie’s just looking for a new family. As much as she tried to be a detached Fringer during the first seventeen years of her life, and then a detached vampire, Allison can’t help but want people, family, a connection. She had a facsimile of that with Zeke and the group of humans that she helped get to Eden in the first book, but that was always a pipe dream, tarnished by the fact that she constantly had to choke down her Hunger and keep her true self secret.

Perhaps Kanin is a second chance at a family that she’ll never have to give up.

Having read two of Kagawa’s books, I feel I can say with some authority that she really likes to take her time with her plots. In any other book, finding Kanin would have been the introduction and the real plot would have started when she did exactly that. Under Kagawa’s guidance, however, The Eternity Cure stays focused on what it’s really about – Allison’s journey. Despite the fact that she’s constantly moving, Allison is not at the whim of her plot, her plot unfolds around her as she goes. As such, the book is half over when Allison and Jackal (what an unexpected and surprisingly enjoyable development) are reunited with their sire.

Zeke also makes another appearance and I found that I enjoyed him much more in The Eternity Cure than I did in The Immortal Rules. He seems more adult in this book and the connection that he and Allie share feels more genuine and organic. By the time I got to the end, I found that I really cared about Zeke and wanted him to stay around.

As much as Allie drives the plot of The Eternity Cure, it moves a lot faster than The Immortal Rules. I was immensely glad of that as I really didn’t need to have a play-by-play of Allie and Jackal’s trek from DC to New Covington.

There were a couple of plot contrivances that I would have liked to see handled differently. Zeke’s miraculous healing abilities could have been set up better – or at all. I don’t think it would have given away anything if Kagawa had mentioned the medical experiments that he’d volunteered for in Eden prior to his Lazarus-like return near the end. The fact that Sarren stayed in New Covington after his desperate escape from the Vampire Towers was…convenient.

Also, I really hate that Allison refers to Sarren as Psycho Vamp. There’s something really pedestrian about that.

Those are minor, but in light of how much I loved this book and how skilled Kagawa is as an author, that’s the best I can do.

Speaking of those skills, like The Immortal Rules, The Eternity Cure just feels solid. There’s this intangible difference between a green author’s debut and an author who has really honed her craft and Kagawa’s definitely honed. I love that and it deserves to be addressed.  Details are richer, plot unfolds more smoothly and the world is vibrant and alive. Awesome.

Now, I have to wait for the next book and after the plot twist at the end, I feel that it’s going to be a very, very long wait.

Sigh.

Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse #9) by Charlaine Harris


Title: Dead and Gone (Sookie Stackhouse #9)
Author: Charlaine Harris
Publisher: Ace Hardcover
Pages: 312
Rating 4/5 Stars

Another year, another Sookie Stackhouse book. I seem to read these on a one-a-year basis which puts me pretty far behind the curve.

Now, time for another one of my ridiculous and all-over-the-place reviews.

So, what’s going on in Dead and Gone? Well, the Weres decided to join the Vamps in coming out to the world – and they did so without any warning (to me, the reader, at least). The book opens up with a show-and-tell at Merlotte’s as Sam changes in front of everyone, and it never slows down.

Crystal – Jason’s pregnant, estranged werepanther wife – winds up dead and it’s up to Sookie to prove her brother’s innocence.

Even though she doesn’t like him much right now.

Also, Sookie and Eric get married in true Eric Northman fashion – he tricks her. Bwaha! Sookie’s upset, but not nearly as upset as she should be because of the blood bond she and Eric share.

And maybe because Sookie gets a little rush from the idea of being bound to Eric.

Once again, it’s delightful to watch Sookie struggle with Eric’s heavy influence in her life. She likes being around him (or is that the blood bond?) and definitely likes sleeping with him (definitely not the blood bond) but she can’t quite trust her feelings because of…the blood bond.

Sookie decides to have something of a relationship with Eric anyway because, well, why not? He’s hot, really good in bed and he genuinely cares for her and looks out for her. The protection that he offers and the ways that he wants to keep her safe come across as overbearing at times, but Sookie isn’t afraid of him anymore. That makes all of the difference in the world.

The moral of my sum up is that I still enjoy Eric and Sookie and I also enjoy how Harris presents this blood bond. Eric’s not controlling Sookie with it, but it does raise some questions and make her wonder at her motives. It’s an interesting conflict for them without being too overbearing and dramatic.

In addition to the Who Killed Crystal plot, we have a Fairy War brewing with Sookie’s Great-Grandfather right in the thick of things. The Fairy War gets pretty dicey – and Sookie is put through serious hell to the point where I was actually surprised at how far Harris went with it. Things are resolved in true Southern Vampire fashion (quickly) and it looks like Sookie is down one fairy godmother as Claudine heads over to the fairy world on a permanent basis and Sookie’s Great-Grandfather intends on closing the doors between realms.

Fine by me.

I liked the Fairies. I was intrigued by their appeal to vampires, but at the end of the day, I like there to be a level playing field with my characters and the Fairies in Sookie’s world were just a little too all-powerful – although, how hilarious that she could take them out with an iron garden trowel?

In other news, Arlene and the FotS freak finally gets what’s coming to them and I couldn’t be more thrilled. She was just the worst. Ugh.

Octavia heads back to New Orleans (again, in typical Charlaine Harris fashion – quickly), leaving Amelia and Sookie with the run of her house again.

On a side note, having a house guest has been really good for Sookie in terms of asserting herself. It’s kind of cool to watch her stand up for herself when she feels that she needs to and that while she and Amelia are friendly, they’re not necessarily friends.

The mystery of Crystal’s death is solved and it’s…odd. Not bad, just a little odd and pretty sad, really.

In my review of book #8, I said that it felt like filler and while #9 definitely did not, given that the action was completely centered in and around Bon Temps and that the vampires are still recovering from the fallout of the Pyramid explosion in #7, the stakes didn’t seem quite as high as they could have been. I look forward to the action getting back to the vamps, which for whatever reason, I feel is the main action of this series.
And of course, more Eric.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Archangel's Kiss by Nalini Singh



Author: Nalini Singh
Publisher: Gollancz
Pages: 323
Rating: 3/5 Stars

Archangel's Kiss had been sitting on my bookshelf for a long time when a March Challenge to dig into my TBR pile finally prompted me to read it. I feel bad only giving the book three stars as Nalini Singh is one of my favorite authors, but three stars equals "I liked it" and that is the truth. I liked this book. Archangel's Kiss was a quick, engaging read that I definitely enjoyed, but it by no means knocked me off of my feet.

I read Archangel's Blood three years ago, so I had a hard time remembering all of the details of that book. They came back to me as I read and I was reminded why I'd made sure to pick up Archangel's Kiss and the next book in the series, Archangel's Consort. Nalini Singh creates characters and worlds that are vivid and engaging - very, very close to the world we currently live in, but different in subtle ways that really matter. Even if I didn't like Raphael, Elena, Illium and Dimitri, I'd be tempted to read Nalini's books just for the world building.

Archangel's Kiss picks up almost right where we left off in the previous book - newly minted angel Elena has woken up in Raphael's home, far from her native New York and the Guild Hunters she considers family. Given that Elena and Raphael are almost dysfunctionally (in the best way possible) in love with each other, Elena's new surroundings aren't as much of a problem as one might think.

What is a problem is the fact that the angel community is not happy with Elena's transformation and she might just be too weak from her injuries to stay alive. Raphael's Seven - his band of loyal angels/vampires - have a major problem with their boss making himself vulnerable because of Elena. They see her as a weakness that Raphael's enemies will exploit and make no secret of the fact that they don't trust/respect her - which is a testament to how deep their resentment goes considering Raphael's less than forgiving nature at having his decisions questioned. The lone exception, of course, is Illium, which is more dangerous than noble as I'm pretty sure the blue-winged angel is in love with Elena.

That won't end well.

Raphael and Elena's burgeoning relationship is framed by two distinct threats - a ball hosted by the oldest (and arguably most detached from reality) Archangel Lijuan and a power play by an unknown enemy to bring about a war among the Archangels. Raphael is adamant that Elena regain her strength quickly - if she doesn't, it could mean death for both of them.

As with the Psy-Changeling series, family - and more specifically children - are at the heart of everything. Protecting one's own is the motivation for nearly every character in both series and that's very apparent here where an otherwise acceptable series of political maneuverings becomes a matter of life and death when an angel child is attacked. The attack brings memories to the surface for nearly every character and as a result we learn a lot more about Elena - what caused the rift between her and her father, as well as her sisters/mother's deaths - and Raphael's past.

For all of the build up to Who's Trying to Star A War and What is Lijuan Up To, the actual denouement happened fairly quickly. That's not a complaint, really, as Nalini's books have always been more about the relationships of her characters than the plot, but it's worth noting.

I'm still having issues with the wings. I just keep thinking about how awkward it would be to cart the damn things around. I did enjoy how Nalini explained the way the angels adapted their clothes to fit around the giant extra appendages protruding from their backs. I commend her for making the wings a very real, very permanent part of the angels. While it may have been more to my tastes if the angels were somehow able to "put their wings away" when not in use, I also think it would have been something of a cop-out to do so.

Oh, since this is a romance novel, I will also say that the sex is pretty damn hot - wings and all. I expect nothing less from Nalini.

So, there it is. A review of a book that I definitely liked, but can't really gush over. I'm looking forward to reading the next book.

Hopefully it won't take me another three years.

Monday, April 15, 2013

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa


Title: The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden #1)
Author: Julie Kagawa
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 485
Rating: 4/5 Stars

The first time I read the description of The Immortal Rules I knew that I wanted to read it. When I finally got around to doing so I discovered that not only did the book live up to its description, it was also the most surprising story I’ve read in a long time – vampire or otherwise. Throughout Allison’s story, Kagawa kept me on my toes, never doing what I expected.

The story starts in The Fringe, the area on the outskirts of the vampire city of New Covington, with unregistered Fringer Allison scrambling daily for survival. Allison’s pretty amazing – strong, determined, fiercely independent. Even though she considers herself part of a family unit of fellow unregisters, she keeps herself separate because she doesn’t trust that anything in her world can last.

In a way, she’s right.

My first big surprise came when Allison became a vampire about a fourth of the way into the book and I realized how wrong I was about what I thought I was reading. After a Rabid attack that leaves her on the brink of death, Allison is given a choice by a seemingly benevolent vampire named Kanin: live or die. Allison chooses life, despite her anti-vampire convictions, and I totally love her for it.

I love that she chooses life. I’ve read so many different novels that focus on characters that are willing to sacrifice themselves for a principle that it’s refreshing to find someone who wants to live, despite the ramifications.

The next segment of the book focuses on Allison’s introduction to vampire life. Kanin becomes more than her sire, he’s also her mentor, training her to survive in her new circumstances. Again, I thought I knew where the book was going and again, Kagawa pulled the rug out from under me. Suddenly, Kanin and Allison get separated and she finds herself outside of New Covington.

Alone.

The third part of the book, and I guess I’d say what the story is really about, focuses on Allison joining a group of humans searching for a place they call Eden – not quite the biblical paradise, but a safe haven from vampires, an island city run completely by humans.

Among the group of humans is a boy that brings an added complication to Allison’s already precarious position of being a wolf amidst the lambs – love. I’d been expecting a romantic entanglement, but I wasn’t exactly looking forward to it. I liked that The Immortal Rules was about Allison’s journey exclusively. I should have trusted, Kagawa, however, because while Allison did fall for Zeke, the romance never took over the narrative. Her feelings for him became just another aspect of her struggle as a vampire so close to her humanity. I can’t tell you how much I appreciated that.

As you can probably gather, I think the plot of The Immortal Rules is excellent. The world building is equally impressive. Kagawa creates a rich and vivid dystopia with a backstory that’s simple enough to be utterly believable. A plague erupts that threatens humans and vampires alike and in the search for a cure, Rabids are created – mindless, deformed vampire-like creatures that prey on literally anything living – essentially destroying the world as we know it. There are a lot of dystopias going around these days and Kagawa’s isn’t necessarily the most original, but it doesn’t matter. Originality doesn’t count when it comes in a convoluted package. As I said, Kagawa keeps it simple and it pays off in spades.

I could go on and on about The Immortal Rules, digging into intricate plot details and the relationships between characters, but it would be a better use of your time to just go read it. Seriously. If you enjoy dystopias, vampires, romance, family, the struggle we all face to be the best version of ourselves no matter the circumstances and old fashioned good vs. evil, The Immortal Rules has it all.

In one book.

So go read it. I’m going to get back to my advance copy of The Eternity Cure.

Be jealous.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Feed Your Reader Kindle Fire Giveaway!

Inspired Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer has launched a new site aimed at bringing you the best Kindle Ebook Deals and Steals.



Each day on feedyourreader.com you'll find a new list of available ebook deals (most for under $3).



And of course there will be lots of  Featured Freebies too!



To celebrate the launch of the new site she is giving away a Kindle Fire, Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash.


Win a 7" Kindle Fire (US only)




Or $100 Amazon.com Gift Card (International)




Or $100 in Paypal Cash (International)





Giveaway Details 
1 winner will receive their choice of a Kindle Fire 7" (US Only), $100 Amazon Gift Card or $100 in Paypal Cash (International).
Ends 5/5/13

Open only to those who can legally enter, receive and use an Amazon.com Gift Code or Paypal Cash. Winning Entry will be verified prior to prize being awarded. No purchase necessary. You must be 18 or older to enter or have your parent enter for you. The winner will be chosen by rafflecopter and announced here as well as emailed and will have 48 hours to respond or a new winner will be chosen. This giveaway is in no way associated with Facebook, Twitter, Rafflecopter or any other entity unless otherwise specified. The number of eligible entries received determines the odds of winning. Giveaway was organized by Kathy from I Am A Reader, Not A Writer http://iamareader.com. VOID WHERE PROHIBITED BY LAW. Prize value $100-$159 US.

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Sunday, April 7, 2013

Titanic Giveaway Hop!



Welcome to my Titanic Giveaway Hop hosted by My Devotional Thoughts and I Am A Reader, Not A Writer. Check out their giveaways and be sure to thank them for hosting!

April 12th is the 101st anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic and in honor of that event, I'm featuring a series about an epic love triangle - perhaps THE epic love triangle. The triangle that started it all and brought about the downfall of the greatest kingdom in Great Britain's history.

Goodreads Synopsis

Camelot--a vibrant pageant of love, heartbreak, hatred, jealousy, revenge, and desire--as seen through the eyes of its queen, Guenevere. Raised in the tranquil beauty of the Summer Country, Princess Guenevere has led a charmed and contented life, until the sudden, violent death of her mother, Queen Maire, leaves the Summer Country teetering on the brink of anarchy. Only the miraculous arrival of Arthur, heir to the Pendragon dynasty, allows Guenevere to claim her mother's throne. Smitten by the bold, sensuous princess, Arthur offers to marry her and unite their territory while still allowing her to rule in her own right. Their love match creates the largest and most powerful kingdom in the Isles.

Arthur's glorious rule begins to crumble, however, when he is reunited with his mother and his long-lost half-sisters, Morgause and Morgan. Before Arthur's birth, his father--the savage and unscrupulous King Uther--banished his wife's young daughters, selling Morgause into a cruel marriage and imprisoning Morgan in a far-off convent. Both daughters will avenge their suffering, but it is Morgan who strikes the deadliest blows against the King and Queen, using her evil enchantments to destroy all Guenevere holds dear. When the Queen flees to Avalon, Morgan casts a spell on Arthur and seduces him. 

In the chaos that follows his betrayal, Arthur sends a new courtier to protect Guenevere, the young French knight Lancelot. Her loyalty to Arthur already destroyed, Guenevere falls in love with Lancelot, a love that may spell ruin for Camelot.

Guenevere, Queen of the Summer Country is the first book in Rosalind Miles' Camelot trilogy and it made me fall in love with one of my favorite love stories all over again. If you've read The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley, you'll love this new take on Author, Guenevere, Lancelot and the Knights of the Round Table. 

For my giveaway, you have the choice of a copy of Guenevere, Queen of the Summer Country or any other disaster/epic love story novel of your choice. To enter, simply fill out the form below! 



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Be sure to check out the blogs below for more great giveaways!





Thursday, March 14, 2013

Entice by Jessica Shirvington

Title: Entice
Author: Jessica Shirvington
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Pages: 438
Rating: 4/5 Stars


For me, reading Entice was a little bit like reading New Moon in that it had a lot of a character I had no real interest in (Lincoln/Jacob), but it was good and important in terms of story. More on that later…

Entice picks up shortly after Embrace ends, with Violet and Lincoln working together as partners and trying to repair the damage done to their relationship in the previous book. Shirvington wastes no time in getting the plot moving as the very first chapter introduces a dark force from Lincoln’s past that immediately begins to chip away at the fragile trust between he and Violet.

In addition to the drama with Lincoln, Violet’s world is further rent askew by the arrival of new Grigori – two trainers and three newbies like herself. They’re there for training – Violet has eschewed attending the Grigori Academy in her quest to have as normal a life as possible – but almost immediately they are faced with a larger Angel problem that Violet is sure ties back to Phoenix.

She’s right.

Chaos and heartache ensue and not everyone makes it out alive.

There’s a lot happening in this book. I tend to cringe at the introduction of new characters – especially an entire cadre of them – but Shirvington does a good job of balancing their influence and importance with the story she’s telling. I enjoyed the Grigori-in-Training, especially Spence who proved to be just as good a friend to Violet as Steph.

Moment of appreciation for Steph here – she’s truly the best friend ever and I cannot applaud Shirvington enough for allowing her to be in on the God Squad, as Steph calls it. I’d hate to see Violet try to maintain a friendship with someone who was constantly being pushed to the side and not understand why.

Anyway, I thoroughly enjoyed Spence’s leap-before-you-look mentality as it made a nice counterpoint to Violet’s sometimes paralyzing overanalyzing. Did it get her into trouble? Sure, but it also saved the day and I think that’s what’s important.

Nyla and Rudyard were interesting (and admittedly a bit nauseating to this non-traditional romantic). I appreciated the example they became for Lincoln and Violet as they struggled with their unrequited love for each other. While what happens to Nyla and Rudyard is tragic, I can’t say I’m going to miss them.

In Entice Shirvington takes her already dense mythology to another level, bringing in references to biblical places and themes. I had an ARC copy of this and there’s no description on the back so when the entire company took off for Jordan I was more than a little surprised. I wasn’t sure how I felt about it initially (it felt contrived for some reason, overreaching maybe), but by the time the adventures in the Middle East came to an end, I decided that I had enjoyed it. I suspected the reveal about Violet’s rank in terms of the Grigori hierarchy and it was delightful to have it confirmed.

Also, kudos to Shirvington’s use of Judas. I really enjoy that type of historical twist.

Now, onto the triangle – which isn't so much of a triangle in this book as a couple with a third wheel. Phoenix makes three appearances here. Three. To say that that wasn’t enough is an understatement of epic proportions. While I’m fully aware of the fact that the way he messes with Violet’s head is not nice (also an understatement, I know) I find him so much more interesting and dynamic than Lincoln.

Lincoln and Violet – sigh. I tried to like them more because actively disliking characters/couples in novels is exhausting – especially when said characters/couples play such vital roles in the narrative. I just can’t with Lincoln. As a character, I find him boring, as I tend to do with all good characters. And that’s what Lincoln is. He’s good. He’s the type of Grigori that steadfastly believes in the Grigori rules and code and that all Angels need to be Returned – there is no grey area with him.

I also think he’s weak and hypocritical – demanding nothing but strength and honesty from Violet while lying to her and keeping secrets – and I hate the way that makes Violet feel. I really hate the way she beats herself up over what happened with Phoenix, not in terms of her own self-worth, but in terms of how it affects Lincoln. I don’t doubt for a second that Violet and Lincoln love each other. What I have a problem with is that their love doesn’t make them stronger – it’s too rife with jealousy, doubt and unspoken truths – it makes them both weak.

I lay all of the blame for that at Lincoln’s feet. He’s the older one, he’s the one with experience in the Grigori world and instead of being a rock, a true partner for Violet, he’s a whiney ball of feels and I just…ugh. I find that so unattractive, unappealing, unromantic and every other un you can think of.

Also, for the love of all that’s holy, why doesn’t Lincoln TELL Violet anything?

Cripes. Okay. I’ll stop because I could really write a novel about the many, many ways I dislike Lincoln and his relationship with Violet. I’ll just leave you with this – I sincerely hope that in the next novel Violet and Lincoln really do put their romantic feelings for each other on the backburner as they know that they should. I just want them to follow through on that mutual decision for about five minutes instead of immediately waffling.

I want more Phoenix in the next novel, too, okay? Thanks. ;)

Ranting about Lincoln aside, I enjoyed Entice just as much as Embrace. All of the other characters, especially Violet, are just as intriguing as they were in the first book. I’m particularly thrilled with what happens with Magda because I SUSPECTED IT ALL ALONG! HAHA! The lower rating is simply because I missed Phoenix and wanted more of him. I’m so very much looking forward to Emblaze.



Friday, February 8, 2013

Less Than Zero by Bret Easton Ellis

Title: Less Than Zero
Author: Bret Easton Ellis
Publisher: Vintage Books
Pages: 208
Rating 5/5 Stars


Less Than Zero is one of those books that I don’t know how to rate because its worth can’t be measured in simple terms of ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ It’s one that I don’t know how to recommend to friends because I can’t tell them that they’ll enjoy it, but I still think it should be read. What I can say without equivocation is that it is effective.

Immensely effective. 

Less Than Zero is the second book by Bret Easton Ellis that I’ve read and while American Psycho was a thought provoking and often shocking experience, I think Less Than Zero is the better of the two and to really explain what Ellis does so well with the latter, I’m going to have to compare it to the former. 

From reviews I’ve read of American Psycho, the message and meaning of the book was lost on some because of the extreme violence perpetrated by the main character. I’d argue that they were idiots for expecting anything different from a book with the word ‘psycho’ in the title, but that’s neither here nor there. The fact remains that Ellis’s commentary on the completely shallow and soul-sucking world of Wall Street/the quest for the ‘American Dream’ in the 80s fell on deaf ears of those who couldn’t handle the visceral images he described. I would fault him for embracing the shock value so hardcore that it muddied his message if I didn’t think that that was at least half of the point. 

In
Less Than Zero, however, Ellis uses a different tactic to get his point across and in so doing demonstrates his talent as a writer. Where American Psycho was frenetic and dense with the inner monologue of the main character, Less Than Zero is sparse and detached. It’s a quick read at just 208 pages, some consisting of nothing but back and forth dialogue with minimal description.

And that’s exactly as it should be. 

The main character of Less Than Zero is Clay, a Beverly Hills rich kid who can’t relate to anything or anyone. It’s not that he doesn’t fit into his world, it’s that he’s lost the ability to be affected by it, to feel anything. Ellis presents us with a litany of causes – drugs, money, absentee parents, the glossy, flashy, shallow world in which he exists – but no one thing is the culprit for Clay’s state-of-being. 

It’s just the way it is. 

Ellis gives us the impression that Clay wishes things were different. Flashbacks to a previous summer in Palm Springs are sprinkled throughout the narrative and the reader is left to assume that Clay wants to go back to those supposedly better times, but those times don’t seem much better . Or maybe those flashbacks are really about showing the reader where Clay’s detachment and disaffectedness began. 

That’s the brilliance of the book – you can take it to mean either or both at the same time. 

One of the things I appreciated the most about Less Than Zero is that it’s not an anti-drug manifesto. While all of the characters are generally strung out on something – one in particular is in way over his head – Ellis doesn’t take the easy way out and claim that the drugs alone caused the problem. Clay does too much cocaine, but there are plenty of times where he doesn’t do any simply because he doesn’t want to. Drug use is a reaction to the problem, not a symptom or cause of it. 

Ellis’s use of words in
Less Than Zero is just as evocative as it is in American Psycho. I felt the desolation and detachment that Clay felt. I felt his numbness. Ellis ignores traditional rules of grammar to great effect in his use of run ons and sentence fragments. Clay’s life becomes a series of events that don’t affect him, they just happen around him. He has brief moments of being scared or angry, he describes a breakdown he has in his therapists office and again at his former elementary school, he musters up a sense of indignation over the gang rape of an underage girl that his friends – acquaintances, really, as he doesn’t feel enough for any of them to really call them friends – orchestrate and he has a sense of true horror and dread over the lengths his childhood friend Julian is willing to go to feed his drug habit, but he doesn’t do anything about it. 

He just…continues on. 

I didn’t get the impression that he doesn’t want to. He does. I think that Clay really, really wants something to feel different and to matter, but he doesn’t know what and he doesn’t know how to find it and even if he did, he knows that in the end it won’t matter. It can be lost and losing things is painful. One of the best passages in the book comes near the end between Clay and his ex-girlfriend Blair. 

“What do you care about? What makes you happy?”

“Nothing. Nothing makes me happy. I like nothing,” I tell her.

“Did you ever care about me, Clay?”

I don’t say anything, look back at the menu.

“Did you ever care about me?” she asks again.

“I don’t want to care. If I care about things, it’ll just be worse, it’ll just be another thing to worry about. It’s less painful if I don’t care.”

The book culminates in a really horrifying day that begins with a quest to get money back from his friend Julian. Clay witnesses the worst of his world – Julian being pimped out to the highest bidder to cover his drug habit, the discovery of a dead body in the alley that his friends would rather mock and study in horrified fascination than call the cops about, and the gang rape of a twelve year old girl that disgusts completely disgusts him. Clay has countless opportunities to take himself out of the situation, but he doesn’t because – as he puts it – he wants to see the worst. He wants to know if the world can really be that dark. 

It can.

What’s most striking about that day is the fact that the book doesn’t end there. It covers a few more days of Clay’s Christmas vacation from college and he continues to see all of the people who committed the worst atrocities on that day and they interact as if nothing has changed. 

I could go on forever, pulling examples of what I found so fascinating about this book, but this review is already really long. I’ll leave you with what is said on the back of my copy of the book. 

Set in Los Angeles in the early 1980s, Less Than Zero has become a timeless classic. The coolly mesmerizing novel is a raw, powerful portrait of a lost generation who have experienced sex, drugs and disaffection at too early an age, in a world shaped by casual nihilism, passivity, and too much money in a city devoid of feeling or hope.

That is not hyperbole. That is exactly what this book is. Less Than Zero is an experience. It’s not a book you read to escape or relax, it’s a book that you read because you want to be moved. To be affected.

In all of the ways the main character can’t.