Monday, April 6, 2009

Book Reviews, Sort of...

So here's the thing. I HATE the idea of trying to review a book. Movies, theater, anything of that sort, no problem. But with books, it's another matter. It's just so personal, passing judgement on someone else's dream-on-paper. And it's not critiquing because the author isn't getting feedback, they're just having their work picked over. But I do love discussing why I did, or didn't, like a book, and trying to figure out what the author was thinking when he or she did, or didn't, answer or raise questions in their work. So here goes...
I managed to finish two books this weekend, each in one evening. I like reading everything from teen things to the masterful Stephen King. These books were both of the former variety.

The first was 'The Bones of Faerie' by Janni Lee Simner. For the most part, I adored it. Without revealing too much about the book, I can say that it took an idea that I could see actually taking place and spun a tale of what might happen afterward. It was a strange and lovely mix of 'us' and 'them' and the sometimes blurred lines that run between the two. But there were a few things that were left drifting, even in a teen novel that might not be expected to drag on and on about details and plot background.
For instance, WHY was there a war? There are people who remember the War, some of them were directly involved in it. Yet we get no definitive answers as to what started everything and even more importantly, what the aggressors hoped to accomplish, should they win. Things like that irk me. It's like an adult telling you 'no' and then when you ask 'why?' they say, 'because'. Because? What the hell kind of answer is that? Maybe I'm just spoiled. My mother had a reason for whatever rule she laid down. Not that I didn't get a red backside now and then. but at least I knew WHY my rump was stinging, and not just 'because'.
My other issue is with the magic. It's not a terribly big issue, but it irks me the same way that the lack of background about the War does. There doesn't seem to be a trade off for the use of magic. There isn't any 'price' on the effort one must put into casting and using their magic. It's discussed, but you never see anyone ever deal with the price, not beyond getting exhausted. Again, trying not to say too much, there are instances where someone accidentally does great harm with their magic, not even understanding what they've done, not yet. But even when they find out, it turns out fine. People use their magic to the point of killing themselves, but they're saved by others, who suffer nothing for the effort but getting tired. I know that being a teen book 'The Bones of Faerie' has no need for copious amounts of death, but the situations have a serious gravity, and there is a blatant tone of owning your responsibilities, so you would think that there might be something to the magic along the same lines. On the whole though, a great, quick read, I didn't even put it down fro bathroom runs, and two toes met with door facings as a result.

SPOILER WARNING The first lines are spoiler free, but then I couldn't help it.

The second book was 'The Darkangel' by Meredith Ann Pierce. I had high hopes for this book (another teen variety) after reading the cover but I was disappointed in the end. The idea (roughly) is that the Darkangel, a vampyer, steals maidens away to be his bride. The main character Aerial, is a slave whose mistress is stolen. Right off the book was rather confusing from the standpoint that there is no sun, it's the Solstar, there is no moon, it's a planet called Oceanus. There aren't days, there are 'days' that lasts months, and no nights, but 'nights' that last a fortnight - I think. Honestly, I'm still not sure about that. At the beginning they refer to something as nightshade, but it's never mentioned again. And within the first pages, Aerial's mistress and 'friend' makes fun of her very harshly, in a way that no one I have ever called my friend would do.
Still, I liked the story overall, ignoring confusion over names and timeframes, and although the foreshadowing was heavy enough that I knew pretty much what was going to happen before it did, I kept reading, eager to see what happened between Aerial and the lovely, evil Darkangel.

And then the ending smashed it for me. Aerial 'saves' the Darkangel by poisoning him and then giving him her blood and her heart and *poof* he turns into a beautiful prince, who although stolen as a young child has grown up but conveniently stopped growing at 16 even though he's been enchanted for twenty-some years, which puts him neatly right at Aerial's age. And the best part? Even though he was only four or six when he was taken, he remembers everything that's happened to him and he understands how evil he was and sorrows for all his misdeeds and yawn yawn yawn.
Right their I lost all interest in the story. Everything enthralling about the Darkangel, the fact that he did horrible things and yet stopped doing nearly all of them to please Aerial, that he treated her poorly and spoke harshly to her and yet let her do as she pleased, was banished in the end. He turned into the boy next door.
This is a pet peeve of mine. The whole 'I want to be unique, just like everyone else.' It would have been so much more interesting if he'd been trapped in the shape of the Darkangel, or won against his evil tendencies but still had to struggle against them. But no, the Darkangel turns out to be just another prince charming, irrevocably linked to a former slave girl. That and the much over used term 'pity' rather ruined an otherwise good story. I really loath the word pity. To me, it insinuates that whatever you're pitying is worth less than you, and thusly worthy of your pity.
I very much enjoy the idea of having compassion and affection for something that doesn't deserve it, at least one of my characters is utterly weak to having compassion for the most dangerous and undeserving of things. But what (I think anyway) makes Pony so unique is that she has such compassion even knowing that she won't get a reward. And she has no pity for those evil things she loves. If circumstance had been different, SHE might be in the position of the evil creatures. It was just chance. Anyway, when you take a perfectly evil creature who is still somehow completely endearing and then 'fix' him by turning him into a prince charming, or restoring him to his former glory, I loose interest. It just flattens everything. I won't read the rest of the series. But I won't throw away Darkangel either. I'll just put it on the 'I wish' pile.
What about books annoys you?


  1. I love book reviews!! I follow so many review blogs it's not even funny! Thank you for saving me from reading the Darkangel!! Bones of Faerie I actually recently got and it is in my TBR pile, which is really growing by leaps and bounds lately...
    I love that your character is named Pony!! But of course...
    I hate predictability in books. Although I do read the occassional smutty paranormal romance and those are always basically the same. But when I want substance and I get flat, boring, same old same old, that irritates the piss out of me. But, I totally see where you are coming from w/the whole "I've been reformed, it's a miracle" thing. To me that is just the easy ending. Taking so much thought on the rest of the story and then letting the end fizzle. What's the point? I am sure there is more that annoys me. I get annoyed a lot. Haha. I will have to think on it and maybe add to this tomorrow...

  2. I post reviews of books I read, too, and I know what you mean about not wanting to be overly critical of people who obviously are very talented and who have been published. I'm curious: How do you choose which books you will read? Do you browse, or do you go on the recommendations of other people, or past experience with a writer? Of course all of these things can be deceiving. I recently joined a site called Goodreads, and I'm hoping to find clues to books I might like. I'm always looking for a book I'll fall in love with, but as far as that goes, everybody's different.

  3. Choosing books.....mmmm, just the idea makes me drool... So, normally, it's a combination of things. I must say that I'm a girl who browses covers. It's my artistic side. It's commercial art in a way. I mean, it's your first impression of a book, and while I'm a firm believer in 'don't judge a book by it's cover' you can't help but be drawn to certain artwork, especially if the scene is intriguing. Sometimes I go on past experiences with a writer, but I try to do that with caution. For example I LOVE Anne Bishop's Black Jewels books. But while her other books are well written, they don't seize me like the Black Jewels. Occasionally, I'll go with recommendations, but most of my friends are Robert Heinlein sorts, and I'm lost in their sci-fi interests. I'll have to check out Goodreads, might be interesting.
    On the subject of falling in love with books, try to get a hold of Eve Foward's Villians by Necessity. It's the only book that has ever made me cry. Took me an hour to get through the ending because I kept stopping to cry because I loved the characters so much. It was a great read. Still one of my favs. It's out of print though, I actually stole the copy I have from the library after someone checked it out for six months and then finally returned it full of beach sand. I was so mad that I took it and to this day I feel no guilt what-so-ever about it.
    Yeah, I do love to read a good old easy read, like a teen, or romance. Sometimes it just hits the spot. I've got a slew of books on the way from amazon now and I can't wait!

  4. Interesting that you bring Anne Bishop up...I am currently reading her Tir Alainn series and while it is good, it is not a fast read for me and it doesnt leave me aching for more. That's the kind of book I need right now. I just received about 6 books in the mail, one being Bones of Faerie. I borrowed the Black Jewels series from my mom and the only reason I didnt start Anne Bishop there is because I didnt have them all. I just got the rest from her, so those are in my TBR pile. Did I mention how quickly that pile is growing? I literally need to go buy a new bookshelf and find somewhere to put it. I have a bad addiction to buying books (and iTunes music). I keep it a secret though. "What? This book? Oh, I borrowed that, honey...Oh, and those 5? Yes, those are borrowed too." :)
    I like referrals, so you should mention more good books once in a while. I also go for cover art when I am book shopping in a store. If it's online, not so much cover art. Sometime the title draws me in. Sometimes if it's an author I've read before. I'd read them all if I could!!