No Control 365 Challenge: Day 22, Book #383

No Control 365 Challenge: Day 22, Book #383The Chosen of Gaia by M. Mariz
on September 28th 2012
Pages: 230
Goodreads

Fifteen-year-old Albert has just received an invitation that could transform his disappointing life completely – a chance to belong to an advanced and hidden society that only reveals itself to a select few.
Immersed in a new world of mind-boggling technology and intriguing peers, Albert will overcome his fears enough to ignore a few suspicious details. But soon he'll find his family dragged to the center of a scandal that threatens to tear them apart and erase their very identities.
A conflicted Albert must find the strength to challenge authority by relying on his newfound allies and gift for Revelation.
Prepare for adventure, humor and suspense in this fast-paced tale of a “normal” family striving for their place in a “perfect” world.

The Chosen of Gaia is a fantasy of a Utopian world from the eyes of a teenager. It’s listed as YA on Goodreads, but I would definitely call it a MG read, and a very simple one at that. The story surrounds a family from Earth that is chosen to a different planet, one far more advanced then our own, in order to help it grow in terms of population, knowledge, and with their specific abilities. It is a pretty basic concept, but the downside is the execution is just as primitive.

As previously mentioned, The Chosen of Gaia reads like a MG book, and once I realized that I eventually got used to the obviousness of concepts used, and limited vocabulary to go along with it. That was fine. However, the problem comes with the extreme lack of depth of every part of the book. Characters, plot, world building, romance, it is all so… surface level.

don't care

While everyone in the family plays a role, it is the twin teenagers, Albert and Ruth, that are the main characters. Supposedly they are both 15, but Albert behaves like a 12 year-old, and Ruth more like someone around 17. Albert is your classic misfit. He’s shy, awkward around girls, slightly geeky but mostly just oafish. He’s the first, and most obvious example of how each character is little more than a trope/cliche. Ruth is the protective one, with a quick temper for those she doesn’t like, and she gets annoyed when Albert embarrasses himself, and often consequently her too. She is more practical, and a stronger character in general, and while she fills the classic “older sister/sibling” role, she does so with some personality.

Sadly those two are the highlight of their family, as the parents are 100% empty shells with singular personalities. The father is consumed with his job and doesn’t have hobbies, other interests, or any character outside of his work, and this is something actually pointed out by the book!  The mother is the caring one, but she is purely there to be a wife/mom, and when her husband has issues she has a complete meltdown. They are throwaway characters, and Mariz does nothing to hide that fact.

Staying with the characters, I’ll briefly touch on the side-characters, aka the friends and love interests. While the MCs were hollow, their group of friends is even worse. Violet, Albert’s barbie-doll of a crush, does get some character development, as she shows loyalty, and sensitivity despite the implications surrounding her friends and their family. I give her some credit. Phin, Ruth’s boy toy has no personality and is only there to give her someone to latch onto, blah. Finally, Nicolaus, is the comedian of the group, and is only around to lighten the mood…which he usually fails at for the reader anyhow. His dialogue is childish and uninteresting, just like him.

You may be wondering now, why am I so character-focused in a fantasy book? Where is the cool sci-fi tech/fantasy elements? What of this new world? My answer is simple, as much as I was unimpressed by the characters, the depth of them is far greater (though still little at best for most) than the world around them, or what bit of plot actually exists.

brain crying

The futuristic tech is very childlike in its focus. Clothes you can customize completely, houses that can be altered to whatever color or design you’d like at a whim, instant-food (that’s actually good and involves no cooking), and other such trivial things. Yes, there is instant-transmission styled transport, but it isn’t explained very well, and the world they are traveling in is described as a large rural community anyhow, keeping to simple and environmentally-focused lifestyle and design.

Abilities such as wiping memory, visions, mood altering, and forcing people to be their true selves are a few of the notable “powers” found in The Chosen of Gaia, and are some of the few fantastical elements in an otherwise more sci-fi type of world. There are amplifiers to boost the abilities of people, used predictably for good and for bad reasons, but most aren’t worth noting.

Then there is the previously mentioned excuse for a plot. A scandal involving Albert’s parents, the death of a leader, and a scheme to rally the people of Gaia against all of the “chosen” forces the teenage group of misfits into action. They must reveal the truth of what happened, prove the innocence of those they care about, and do it all against some mean grownups from an ancient order. While that sounds interesting, Mariz fails to give it any more depth than I did. Every detail is obvious in advance, there is no mystery to this whodunit, and silly childish schemes miraculously work by all the evidence falling in the laps of Albert and company.

im done

A boring new world was the first disappointment, the lack of plot the most egregious error, and the mostly bland, lifeless, and cliched characters the final straw. The only positive for me with The Chosen of Gaia were the solid pacing, as it was an easy and quick read, but otherwise there just wasn’t any depth here. Everything was surface-level and because of that I didn’t care about the characters or their plight. This is not the Utopia you are looking for. Thanks as always for reading and come back tomorrow for the next random book!

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No Control 365 Challenge: Day 21, Book #506

No Control 365 Challenge: Day 21, Book #506Winds of Fate: Legacy of the Dreamer by Macaela Reeves
on December 30th 2011
Pages: 362
Goodreads

A temple maiden haunted by dreams that are not her own, a King not long upon his throne, and the warrior that interweaves their destiny.
When a mysterious visitor comes to the remote island temple of Dawnslight, Alina Sinalae finds herself at the center of an ancient war once thought only to be a myth. Hunted by undead assailants, Alina and her new companion find refuge in the Northern Kingdom of Saphir.
Has the everlasting nightmare which brought the realm to the brink of destruction returned?

It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

DNF

I knew going into this crazy challenge that there would be books I wouldn’t enjoy, especially because such a large percentage of the books I would be reading were ebooks, and that many were self-published. With that said, I had planned on trying to push through each book, even if it was a rough read, to give them all their fair shake. I could not do this with Winds of Fate, and I will keep my reasoning short because I don’t want to spend any more time on this book than I already have.

Winds of Fate is an unmitigated disaster. I can make it through books that have rough plots, awful characters with no life or personality to them, worlds that feel empty, and dialogue that seems simple at best. What I can’t do is read an entire book, and a nearly 400-page one at that, which has so many technical issues as well as the aforementioned stylistic problems.

This book desperately needed an editor. Grammar mistakes, spelling errors, sentences that made no sense, words used incorrectly, formatting problems, and a myriad of other issues were a constant presence in Winds of Fate. Aside from that, the actual writing was poor at best, and there was little-to-no cohesion in the plot, nor a single interesting character to be found.

In short, I found nothing redeeming in Winds of Fate, and after I felt like I had read far enough (~100 pages) that I could give a reasonably fair review (and also not gouge my eyes out) I gave up. Not finishing a book is rare for me, and don’t expect many DNFs on this blog, but sometimes a story simply isn’t worth the time. Thanks as always for reading, and come back tomorrow for the next random book!

Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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No Control 365 Challenge: Day 20, Book #518

No Control 365 Challenge: Day 20, Book #518Six of Crows (Six of Crows, #1) by Leigh Bardugo
on September 29th 2015
Pages: 465
Goodreads

Ketterdam: a bustling hub of international trade where anything can be had for the right price—and no one knows that better than criminal prodigy Kaz Brekker. Kaz is offered a chance at a deadly heist that could make him rich beyond his wildest dreams. But he can't pull it off alone...
A convict with a thirst for revenge.
A sharpshooter who can't walk away from a wager.
A runaway with a privileged past.
A spy known as the Wraith.
A Heartrender using her magic to survive the slums.
A thief with a gift for unlikely escapes.

Kaz's crew are the only ones who might stand between the world and destruction—if they don't kill each other first.

There are times when I forget the ability of certain writers to leave their readers speechless, utterly incapable of describing the book they just read in their own words, and leaving them with the feeling of helpless giddiness and all of the eloquence of mushmouth. Leigh Bardugo has done this to me with Six of Crows.

 

mushmouth

Part of my inadequacy is of my own doing, as I only read the first book of Bardugo’s Grisha trilogy, Shadow and Bone, which is set in the same world, with Six of Crows coming two years after the end of book three, Ruin and Rising. This meant that while I recognized “grisha” and their abilities, and understood some of the various factions and history of the world, I didn’t get as many references as I could or should have. That’s my bad. The rest is all courtesy of this book in particular.

The cast of characters in Six of Crows is easily one of my favorites in anything I’ve ever read. One of the reasons the book is so long (a whopping 465 pages in the hardcover version) is due to the choice to let every main character (except for poor Wylan) have their POV, and multiple times at that. They are further fleshed out by flashbacks to their upbringing, struggles, and/or relevant connections to other group members. This choice made them incredibly complex, and it also helped make it simple to care for them all.

I Love Them All

It’d be impossible for me to succinctly cover the whole group, so brief description will having to do. Kaz is the leader and badass of the lot, grim and unyielding, master tactician. Inej is Kaz’s right hand woman, a slip of a girl that would put ninjas to shame in matters of stealth. Jesper is the marksman and mouth of the bunch, he flits about as the comedian, but there is more to him than meets the eye (true about most of these young men and women). Nina is the heartrender and seductress, flirting one minute and incapacitating waves of people the next. Matthias is ex-military, a grisha hunter, and outside of his love interest he’s a quiet, law-abiding mountain of a man. Finally, Wylan is the demo guy, and also is good for leverage in a pinch.  Together they are amazing, and I truly enjoyed my time with each one.

While there are constant POV changes, many accompanied with flashbacks, it does not detract from the pacing or the plot of Six of Crows. The action, even in some of the flashbacks themselves, is constant and incredibly exciting. Only shifts at work and a bit of sleep kept me from cruising through the book, something that surprised me given its length. Our band of misfits take a crazy job, one that will grant them untold riches, and even save many innocent people, but only if they are insane enough to not only attempt it, but survive each other along the way.

Relationships are strained, both that of friendship and possibly romantic. Break-ins, escapes, hellish climbs and chilling dives, frozen treks and days in prisons, all while discovering more about their companions, the world around them, and even themselves. If that isn’t enough for you, there are displays of great grisha power, gun/knife/fistfights, and that doesn’t even come close to touching on all the action in Six of Crows, especially at the end.

badass

Bardugo takes the time, in the midst of all that crazy action, to develop a rich and beautifully depicted world. While many readers would be familiar with much of it already due to reading the entirety of the Grisha Trilogy, I came into this effectively blind, and that made it all the more impressive. From swathes of frozen land, to a very real-feeling grimy, seedy, gang-controlled underbelly of a city like the Barrel, to polished orderly fortresses, all of it was easy to visualize and become immersed in. The flashbacks of various characters added even more descriptive bliss, if of a dark and gloomy sort.

However, for me at least, everything in this book comes back down to the characters that run the show. I didn’t just like a few of them, or love only one, but truly felt like I was a seventh “crow” albeit a very useless one. To say I am looking forward to reading more about them in Crooked Kingdom (book two of the series) would be a massive understatement, as I’m genuinely uncertain when my excitement for this one will fade, and whether I can focus on future reads to come.

My head is still in the world of the Grisha, my heart still yearns for just one more moment with a certain heartrender who certainly has captured mine, and I may not be able to or choose to escape that mental prison. Way to go Leigh Bardugo, you’ve ruined me, and I have no other words to give. Thanks as always for reading, and come back tomorrow for the next random book!

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No Control 365 Challenge: Day 19, Book #68

No Control 365 Challenge: Day 19, Book #68Call of the Herald (The Dawning of Power, #1) by Brian Rathbone
on January 1st 1970
Pages: 243
Goodreads

Book One of The Dawning of Power Young Adult Epic Fantasy trilogy. Echoes of the ancients' power are distant memories, tattered and faded by the passage of eons, but that is about to change. A new dawn has arrived. Latent abilities, harbored in mankind's deepest fibers, wait to be unleashed. Ancient evils awaken, and old fears ignite the fires of war.

Call of the Herald is epic fantasy meets grand adventure, combining to create a fresh take of both genres. It is the path of discovery for a young girl, a quest to escape a dreaded enemy, all in search of teaching that will hopefully lead to the salvation of the entire world. Prophecy leads to discovery of great power, something everyone wants to control, and only a group of “regular” folk can end a war that has spanned millennia. How’s that for a plot?!

Unlike much of epic fantasy today, Rathbone decides to go rustic, while also slowing down the pacing so the reader can fully enjoy the world that he creates. Rather than skipping the small details of the journey, from food gathering, to finding a shelter, to even examining the perils of various terrain and the animals that inhabit them, Call of the Herald embraces them all, making for a rich and vibrant (as well as highly detailed) experience.

It's so beautiful

Don’t think this hurts the pacing, however, as there is more than enough exciting adventure to go around. Pirates and battles on the high seas, daredevil climbs, encounters with both beasts and dangerous wildlife and terrain, all combined with just a touch of mystical powers at the right moments make for a thrilling time. Not enough? How about cliff diving, battles on horseback, sword fights, and cave exploration? There is so many amazing experiences in Call of the Herald that it made it impossible to put the book down.

adventure

I don’t mean to downplay the fantasy elements of the book, though, as it is mixed in quite nicely. However, the MC is only just learning about her powers, and so isn’t using them constantly, but only in the most dire of situations, and often without her control. When she does unleash her inner superself watch out, because nothing is safe, including the very land she is traversing. It’s pretty cool. Sadly, this does bring me to my first, and really only problem with the book.

That main issue with Call of the Herald is, unfortunately, the main character. Catrin, aka Cat, begins as an incredibly whiny and stubborn teenager, with her head in the clouds, and a mostly timid personality. While there isn’t anything inherently wrong with that, it an endearing set of traits either, and it is made worse by the way she develops/grows as a person in this book. Character growth is a very important thing in most books, but a gradual change is what makes for a believable transition, and that simply isn’t the case here.

people change

Cat goes from the aforementioned whiny/petulant teen, to a brave leader that commands groups of people (even leaders of other groups, as well as her own), and this happens as a result of powers she obtains. While an air of authority could be believed, her style of speaking drastically changes, with only the occasional slip back to her normal self, and that flip of a switch type of change just didn’t work for me. If I gain the ability to shoot fireballs out of my hands it isn’t going to also alter my vocabulary or locution, it just doesn’t make sense.

not like this

Look, I like Cat well enough, both versions of her in fact, though for different reasons, but it did detract somewhat from my enjoyment of the book. The rest of the cast is pretty great, though, filled with goofball friends, stalwart guardians, a prophet/madman, and the most entertaining group of pirates this side of the Caribbean. Rathbone does an excellent job with using just the right amount of humor to lighten the mood, while keeping the overall feel somewhat somber and anxious, as it should be on adventures and escape attempts. Despite that, it is again the world he creates that makes this a great read.

Treacherous swamps, sheer cliffs, beautiful wooded areas, and barren deserts are just a few of the types of land that Rathbone brings to life. Underground lakes, waterfalls, reefs, and seas make for a nice watery counterpoint. All of it is colorful and so very alive, even when it seems like no creatures are around to discover, Call of the Herald spins you around and says “Look, see that life is everywhere, and it is beautiful.” The incredible thing is the first book takes place almost completely on one section of the vast world Rathbone is creating. If that doesn’t excite you, and make you long to see what the next books have in store, than I don’t know what will.

look around beauty is everywhere

I, very obviously, enjoyed my time with Call of the Herald. While there were flaws in the development of the MC, and her role in the plot of this adventure will likely determine whether the next books succeed as much as they have the potential to, it was a great read as a whole. Cat and company have a long journey ahead to discover what this herald is really all about and how it will shape their destiny, whether her friends and loved ones (and her) will survive against vast armies in this war, and what all this has to do with ancient evils that are barely mentioned in book one of this series. I can’t wait to find out. Thanks as always for reading, and come back tomorrow for the next random book!

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No Control 365 Challenge: Day 18, Book #491

No Control 365 Challenge: Day 18, Book #491Waiting for a Miracle by Zoe E. Whitten
on January 22nd 2007
Goodreads

In City, California, Duggan Masters is a living legend. As the criminal Light Master, he has ascended the ranks to become the undisputed overlord of all crime in the city. Yet "the game" ceases to have meaning after City's greatest hero, Miracle Man, vanishes without a trace. Left with only the local police to foil his plots, Light Master grows increasingly lethal, and the joy of killing has been lost. So Duggan does what any criminal overlord would do: he kidnaps Dr. Wallace Cornwall, a famous "psychiatrist to the heroes" and writer of a best selling self help book for heroes, 'Our Masks, Our Selves'. Duggan introduces Wallace to Leona, a genetically engineered assassin who has turned to working part time as a "cat burglar," and part time as a serial killer. Wallace talks Duggan and Leona into retirement, but Duggan has one last plot to bring Miracle Man out of hiding. But really, how far is one deranged criminal overlord willing to go, for the love of his hero?

I’ve enjoyed Zoe E. Whitten’s writing style since I first tried Peter and the Wolf ages ago, so I knew it was a pretty safe bet that I would enjoy Waiting for a Miracle, and I was pleased to be proven correct! Waiting for a Miracle is a satirical take on evil villains from comic books, looking at things from their perspective rather than the usual hero-vision, and giving some rather humorous reasons for their crimes. This is all done with an eye toward some naughty fun (kept to pg-13 levels), but with no lack of superpower awesomeness.

evil villains

Let’s start with the simplest element of the book, the plot, and I refer to that term very loosely. Waiting for a Miracle is the story of why evil villains need their foils, the hero, in order to do their thing. When Miracle Man vanishes from the scene, the MC, Duggan Masters is forced to take drastic action in order to find motivation to do his dastardly deeds. He enlists Leona (think cat-woman but sexier, funnier, and with better abilities) and Wallace (superhero therapist) to help him try and get Miracle Man back in the game. Unfortunately, these evil villains struggle with the usual problem of their kind, plans going awry, often hilariously.

While the plot may seem simple, if a bit goofy, what makes it work are the characters Whitten creates. From Duggan Masters (aka Light Master) coming up with seemingly brilliant plans that always fail, while being a horndog when it comes to certain muscular men, to the fiery Leona and her sharp wit (and naughty nature), to even Wallace’s steady, calming presence and intriguing developing personality. All of them work wonderfully, especially together. A better band of silly villains that you just want to get in bed and cuddle with (among other things) might not exist.

why i love you

However, everything isn’t roses and rainbows, as Whitten rarely writes a story without some deeper meaning and purpose, something that is commendable, and makes Waiting for a Miracle more than a simple comedic romp with superpowers. Leona and Masters both dealt with abuse issues, the former with a bad relationship, the latter by his parents growing up. Even the hero, Miracle Man, has relationship problems that stem from hiding his true nature (and potentially sexuality or fetishes). Waiting for a Miracle examines all of these in turn, and proves that no matter what you are struggling with that there are people who can not only sympathize, but help you through it. It’s incredibly uplifting.

never give up

This book only gets better when you take a look at its pacing. By utilizing action sequences such as superpower battles and heists, along with romantic/sexy fun, Whitten keeps the reader constantly at the edge of their proverbial seat (or in my case, bed). The witty dialogue that she is known for will keep you laughing, while ethical decisions along the way make you think twice about the superhero comics/movies/etc. you love, and how they translate to real life.

It is hard for me to find any fault with Waiting for a Miracle, but if there is one I’d say it would be the ending and epilogue. While the final result was satisfying, the battle scenes at the end (though quite cool) dragged on a bit too long. The epilogue had some neat details about side characters that I enjoyed, but a few arcs felt unnecessarily extended. Still, overall I really enjoyed my time with this book, and as long as you are alright with some violence, the aforementioned issues, and LGBTQ characters then you’ll like it too. Thanks as always for reading, and come back tomorrow for the next random book!

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The End of the Trail by Louis Rakovich: Frodo’s Review

The End of the Trail by Louis Rakovich: Frodo’s ReviewThe End of the Trail by Louis Rakovich
on July 15th 2015
Pages: 32
Goodreads

A barren land of salt and snow; a castle where underground paths twist and turn in endless circles and a reclusive king has not shown his face in years; a forest where few things are what they seem. An unnamed hero must navigate through these places as he takes on the task of tracking down a supposed witch, in a story that blends dream and reality, rumor and truth, danger and hope.

Disclaimer: I received a copy of The End of the Trail by Louis Rakovich in exchange for an honest review.

It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

Welcome to another case of me not knowing what I was getting into when I picked up a book. The last case in a similar vein was Falling in Love with Hominids where the stylistic choices of the author threw me for a loop, but in a good way, and one that I didn’t expect. In the case of The End of the Trail, I thought I was about to read a somewhat creepy and fantastical short story about the adventures of some random guy, which turned out to be true. What I didn’t know, however, was that it was going to be done in the form of contemporary poetry/prose. This completely changed the game, turning what could have been a simple novella into a piece that stands out from the rest in a big way.

The End of the Trail uses a type of contemporary poetry/prose mix that refuses to let the reader get comfortable. You are never certain what is a fanciful dream, tall tale, twisted nightmare, or harsh reality. Also, the genius of not giving anyone a name, but only titles, made it possible to imprint any likeness that I wanted onto each and every character. That freedom was both intoxicating and exhilarating. The worst people you know can be the MC, or the King, and likewise your best friends and loved ones. Anything is possible.

anyone

The world Rakovich creates is equally thrilling, if incredibly dark. Cannibals, witches, disfigured creatures that were once great men, and beasts in sheep’s clothing (nicely done re-imagining here specifically) fill this skeletal frame of a land. Even the dead are not safe or kept sacred here. However, no matter how desolate, there is something compelling here, some value to be had in the wake of such suffering.

The quest the MC goes on matters little, and that’s fine, as it is just a means to the end of sharing this medieval apocalyptic nightmare. The ending is the green icing on a Troll 2 cake, cheeky and twisted, and providing the one laugh that Rakovich is kind enough to give. It’s all in fun, sick and perverse fun, but fun nonetheless.

Troll2

Sidenote: The End of the Trail is free right now on Amazon if you want to give it a shot, and no, I wasn’t told to share that. Give it a go and see what you think, it’s certainly worth your time! Thanks as always for reading.

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No Control 365 Challenge: Day 17, Book #361

No Control 365 Challenge: Day 17, Book #361Survival (The Guardians of Vesturon, #1) by A.M. Hargrove
on July 26th 2012
Pages: 276
Goodreads

"Maybe I was caught between the two worlds. I was having serious trouble distinguishing fantasy from reality."
While on a backpacking trip in the Great Smoky Mountain National Park, nineteen-year-old Maddie Pearce finds her world has been thrown into a vortex and is madly spinning toward the impossible. Abducted by a mad psychopath, Maddie narrowly escapes with her life. But that is only the beginning. Her mysterious rescuer introduces her to a world that Maddie has difficulty accepting as reality. Will this strikingly gorgeous stranger be the key to her future or will she return to her mundane world, scarred from her experience? Follow Maddie as she is forced to make difficult decisions that carry her to mysterious places.

Survival is an apt title for this book, as I did feel like I withstood all it had to offer, and came out the other side alive, but a bit scarred. What Survival wants to be, a story of great and true love, one of discovery and exploration, with thriller and sci-fi elements, is all lost in the execution. The characters drag this book down, as does the attempts at humor, and the circular and repetitive dialogue and plot. *sigh* Let’s break it down.

The least objectionable aspect of Survival are the sci-fi elements. While most of them appear near the end of the book, there are quite a few cool displays of futuristic technology in Survival that I did like. From a transportation device dubbed the McFlurry (by the MC), to annihilation machines that are like more efficient guns, to some sort of super speedy hovercraft, and even veils to hide/camouflage entire mountain peaks and houses. All of it was neat, but better still were the semi-plausible explanations given for how they worked, which is always a plus for me in sci-fi books. Those were the highlights.

Back-to-the-future-hoverboard

If Survival had stuck with its sci-fi and slightly paranormal aspects (there were some powers involved) maybe it could have been passable. Alas, we arrive to problem area #1, the plot. Survival reads more like paranormal romance than anything else, with parts separated by the POV of the love interests (though random jumps are made to other parties). The story is one of tragedy, overcoming obstacles and oneself, and how love can heal all wounds/conquer all/insert other love trope here. That isn’t bad (if cliched) in and of itself, but it is incredibly disjointed.

The first section of the book is from the MC, Maddie’s POV, but even that doesn’t offer a clean start. We get flashbacks far too often from Maddie, jumps to the “mad psychopath” and his POV, and far too many scenes that would prove to be utterly irrelevant down the line. Section two is mostly from the POV of Maddie’s love interest, which is where we are introduced to some of the cooler sci-fi/paranormal-ish aspects I mentioned earlier, but it is marred by having much of the section be repeating the first, as that section starts prior to him meeting Maddie. Ugh.

The third and fourth sections are an utter mess of POV jumps, uncertainty of where the book is trying to go (sci-fi world? contemp/thriller? lovey dovey mess? IDK!), and circular dialogue used in a failed effort to better incorporate and clarify the feelings of secondary characters. There is even a completely unnecessary third wheel love interest introduced with around 10% of the book to go. It’s just…such a disaster, and it only gets worse.

hate love triangles

Holy hell in a handbasket these characters are rough. Let’s start with Maddie. Much is made of her tortured past, and while understandable, it comes to define most of her character up until she falls instantly in love with the Mr. Perfect (then she’s defined by him, more on that in a bit). What irks me the most with her, however, is that it seems like her character doesn’t know what it wants to be. At times she is given dialogue that feels like she would have to read it off a teleprompter, because the majority of the book she is a complete and utter moron. It takes her forever to understand anything, and while I believe that this is Hargrove’s attempt to make it feel like a more realistic progression to accepting the sci-fi elements, it comes off as simple stupidity. She’s not compelling or interesting, and just…no.

Threw Up

As for the main love interest? Besides his annoying name, Rayn (just call him Ryan ffs), he’s also a pure trope. Perfect looks? Check. Acts arrogant and dominant except around his precious love? Oh ya. Essentially no personality? You bet. Oh, and he’s also a misogynistic arse, but more on that shortly.

too perfect

Finally, the other sort-of-main POV is that of the “mad psychopath” and if you thought loverboy was a trope, you aint seen nothing yet! Darryl Carter is constantly abused as a kid, leading him to becoming a bully himself, and eventually using his badassery to join the military where he learns all the skills to be a bully now capable of murdering with ease. Sound familiar? This guy has zero character by himself, is completely defined by his upbringing, and is used solely for the purpose of having a bad guy with the skills to elude Maddie’s protectors.

Nothing Inside

I feel like an infomercial at this point. If you act now you can have all this along with the throw-in of awful dialogue choices and some of the worst attempts at humor I’ve ever read! From Rayn constantly referring to Maddie as a “brave female” (later this was explained away, but not in a believable way) as if her gender had something to do with her constitution, to repetitive arcs used to try and add depth for each character going over the same plot points (infuriating). Rayn doesn’t limit it to bad word choice in his quest to be an utter troll, no, he actually forces Maddie to tell him the worst parts of her life (literally, mind control shit), gives her ultimatums, or (more often) tells her nothing about her terrible situation except that she has no choice but to trust him. It’s sickening, and that’s not even the worst dialogue part, that honor goes to the “humor.”

misogynist

Slapstick humor can be used effectively in any medium, though I find books have a bit of a harder time with it than their tv show/movie counterparts. But The Three Stooges didn’t beat people over the head with this kind of humor as much as Survivor does. Maddie is a klutz, says and thinks inappropriate stuff constantly, and is awful at nearly everything around the house. All three of those forms of “humor” are used so frequently, to the point that entire chapters are devoted it near the end of the book, that it made me actually shake with frustration at times. To make matters worse (if possible) these chunks of awful came at the same time as the most serious moments in the plot, but weren’t even used to provide relief in there placement, just smacked right alongside fate-altering story points. I have never felt more anger at supposedly “funny” dialogue in a book. It was painful to get through.

bad decision

I know that I have been incredibly harsh when it comes to Survivor. This brings me no joy to do, and hopefully the focus was put on the book itself and not the author, because that was my intention. There simply wasn’t anything redeeming about the book to me besides a few pieces of futuristic tech, and that’s not enough. I happen to own book two (Resurrection) and the prequel (Beginnings) of this series, but Survivor gave me no choice but to actually remove them from my No Control Challenge. Sorry for being such a downer, and I sincerely hope my next review is filled with positivity, because I care about these authors and hate saying bad things about works that they invested so much time in, but such is the fate of a book blogger. Thanks as always for reading, and come back tomorrow for the next random book! Please?

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No Control 365 Challenge: Day 16, Book #264

No Control 365 Challenge: Day 16, Book #264NightDrake by Lara Adrian
on December 15th 2012
Pages: 37
Goodreads

In this FREE post-apocalyptic romantic urban fantasy short story, a tough mercenary known as Nisha the Heartless is hired to transport mysterious cargo from exotic New Asia to a well-paying client.
But things are never what they seem in a dark new world now populated by humans and the Strange: shapeshifters and telepaths, nymphs and hobgoblins. It is a lesson Nisha learns all too soon - one that puts her on a journey with a dangerously sexy, enigmatic man who will force her to confront the nightmares of her past, and risk her heart for a future she never dreamed could be hers....
(Originally published in the Mammoth Book of Paranormal Romance 2; Constable & Robinson, 2010.)

It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

 It’s the second novella in a row thanks to this challenge, and unfortunately NightDrake wasn’t any better than the previous one. NightDrake, which apparently forgot space bars exist, doesn’t seem to know what it wants to be.

Is it paranormal? Sort of. There are creatures that fit in the paranormal parameters, but the plot is more action than anything else, and the few paranormal bits that are displayed don’t blow you away. Is it romance? Not really. It’s more like extremely soft porn, with a script taken out of that sort of film. There’s little development of a relationship except for the hot and heavy, except those moments aren’t described in sexy levels of detail. So it isn’t erotica…but I don’t know what that leaves.

whatever you say i am

The plot itself boils down to a girl and some shapeshifter fleeing from some baddies that we are given little-to-no information on. We learn a bit of shapeshifter dude’s background, and then discover some interesting things about what/who the MC, Nisha really is…and that’s it. Road trip. Escape. Happily ever after.

I couldn’t get into NightDrake at all. It wasn’t poorly written necessarily, I just felt that (especially due to its novella length) there wasn’t any development or depth for the reader to care about the characters. Even the apocalyptic world Nisha and company are in isn’t really explored all that much. It wasn’t bad…just meh. Thanks as always for reading, and come back tomorrow for the next random book!

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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No Control 365 Challenge: Day 15, Book #64

No Control 365 Challenge: Day 15, Book #64Bullied (Bullied, #1) by Christopher Smith, Brandi Doane, Jon McCann
on January 1st 1970
Pages: 75
Goodreads

DESCRIPTION: From international best-selling thriller author Christopher Smith ("FIFTH AVENUE") comes a new young adult series of paranormal thrillers written under the name, C.R. Smith.
"BULLIED" is the first novella in THE BULLIED SERIES, which focuses on Seth Moore, a relentlessly bullied 18-year-old boy who is gifted an amulet that ignites within him telekinetic powers.
If Seth uses the amulet properly, it will protect him from those determined to crush him. But after so many years of being beaten down and humiliated by the school's popular crowd and the teachers who protect them, the question is whether Seth can keep away from the dark side the amulet offers--and not become a bully himself, even when all hell breaks loose.
BULLIED is an intense thriller that will speak volumes to anyone who has ever been bullied and wished they had a powerful way out. It's also a cautionary tale on the act of bullying itself.

It’s time for another edition of Frodo’s Hobbit Sized Reviews! Short and sweet just like 2nd breakfast!

 Oh boy, this book…was a rough read. Bullied is about this kid in high school, Seth, that (shockingly enough) gets picked on a lot. and goodness gracious does he let you know it. He then is given a magical amulet that allows him to basically be a demigod. Screw picking one power for the kid to become a badass, Christopher Smith wanted him to have access to the whole shebang. Unfortunately, this didn’t make me like Seth, or this book.

superpowers chronicle

It felt like 50% of Bullied was Seth whining about all of the injustices in his life. The kids at school don’t like him. His teachers don’t do anything about him being constantly bullied. Everyone thinks he’s worthless. His parents are drunks and don’t care about him. Basically, everything about Seth’s life sucks, and that gets really old to hear about after a while.

Worse still, unlike the more likely scenario of a “trailer trash” kid in high school, he’s not ignored by his peers, but reviled by them. They all hate him. Many of them go to great lengths to pick on Seth, calling him cliched names left and right, and treating him with pure disdain. This scenario Christopher Smith is trying to unfold is simply not realistic in the slightest, nor is it entertaining or enjoyable to read. It just sucks, and unrealistically so.

don't care

If we had a pure of heart type of MC, maybe this goes in a different direction. However, Seth is just an arse with his powers, or at other times incredibly self-absorbed, and he’s always a self-serving moron with them. There is no subtlety here, none. It was irritating.

Overall, the only bright spots in this novella is the ending. It was the only mild surprise in the piece, and leads to future books that might take this concept and make it into something palatable. But, this first book in the Bullied series? No thanks. Thanks as always for reading, and come back tomorrow for the next random book!

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Reading this book contributed to these challenges:

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No Control 365 Challenge: Day 14, Book #499

No Control 365 Challenge: Day 14, Book #499Whill of Agora (Whill of Agora, #1) by Michael James Ploof
on May 29th 2012
Pages: 483
Goodreads

Every so often, an epic adventure emerges that makes the blood surge, the spine tingle, and the heart smile page after exhilarating page. Such is Whill of Agora, Michael James Ploof’s action-packed fantasy that visits strange new lands as it unveils how one exceptional young man named Whill makes full use of fierce wits, superior skills, and relentless will to help defend the land of Agora from the monstrous Draggard. With plenty of drama and action packed battle scenes, Whill of Agora will enthrall anyone on the quest for great adventure, good times, and an infectiously optimistic outlook on even the darkest and most dangerous of days.
It is the year 5170 in the land Agora, where humans, dwarves, and elves have existed in peace for centuries. Now, however, the human King Addakon has invaded and waged war on neighboring Isladon. The once peaceful Kingdoms of Agora are on the brink of continental war. The Dark Elf Eadon, Addakon's master, and his army of Dragon-Elf crossbreeds, the Draggard, threaten to conquer all kingdoms. The final hour has arrived.
Enter young Whill, a nineteen-year-old ranger with battle savvy and untapped abilities. Having spent years roaming Agora and training with his mentor Abram, Whill has become a bright intellectual and a master of combat. What he seeks most, however, is the identity of his birth parents. Instead, he finds a tumultuous terrain and a prophecy placing him in the center of the struggle.
Along the way, Whill encounters an equally inspired group of companions that are matched in skill and mission. These include Rhunis the Dragon Slayer, the young Tarren, the fearless Dwarf Roakore, the beguiling warrior Elf Avriel, and the powerful Zerafin. As Whill joins forces, he forges bonds far mightier than their escalating travails. With high adventure and fierce friendship, Whill of Agora will capture your imagination and grip your heart during every super-charged escapade that Agora’s bold and grinning brotherhood embraces.

Whill of Agora is the epic beginning to the series of the same name, a fantasy quadrilogy that hearkens back to all of the grand stories before it. The book features all of the classic epic fantasy beings: good and bad elves, stout and brave dwarves, creatures such as eagles that have strange abilities, and, of course, dragons. There are humans as well, and they are led (even if he would disagree) by the MC, Whill. However, those parallels are only the beginning of that which makes Whill of Agora seem extremely familiar to fantasy buffs.

If you haven’t read Christopher Paolini’s Inheritance Cycle, then this won’t make as much of an impact, but I have to suppose that you have at least heard of the first book in that series, Eragon, which was made into a (horrendous) movie. This is the main source that I would say Whill of Agora at least is… influenced by. Here are but some of the many similarities between the two series, keeping in mind Inheritance was first.

inheritance cycle

  1. Elves and dwarves don’t like each other. A common trope in epic fantasy, but one that seems extremely similar to the Inheritance Cycle in its development. The dwarves don’t have any real reason for disliking elves in general, at least the good ones, but are too stubborn to see the difference between them and the dark ones. The elves on the other hand, have little-to-no quarrel with the dwarves.
  2. Whill’s training comes in the same order as Eragon’s did. He has a human mentor, all his history and purpose will be revealed when he reaches the safety of the dwarven mountains, he experiences their history and religion and learns to appreciate them, then he learns he must train with the elves for a greater purpose and must journey to their lands even though it will be treacherous. Sound familiar?
  3. It gets weirder. Whill falls in love with someone. That someone is extremely similar to the person Eragon falls in love with (not said out plainly to avoid spoilers). They speak in each other’s minds, she heals him at multiple junctures, and his powers and character eventually work their magic on her. Again, seems rather similar, no?
  4. Whill takes to his powers way faster than normal humans. He learns he’s part of a prophecy, he learns everything incredibly quickly, and it’s hardly considered weird or strange, written off as some destiny.

There are parallels to Lord of the Rings as well, from the group of men, dwarves, elves, and others coming together (fellowship much), to a very Frodo/Arwen experience early in the story, to a host of other similarities. The cities are similar, such as a near copy of Minas Tiith and also of Helms Deep. It’s uncanny.

Lord_of_the_Rings_Fellowship_Cast

Whill of Agora does some great things, or rather, Ploof does. There have been few books that I have read, which is saying something, that have given me such a clear picture of what is happening. I could picture every weapon, city, and character down to the finest detail, and yet never felt bogged down by long descriptions. Ploof especially had a knack for battles, something I appreciated, and that also made it feel very LotR-ish. I loved that aspect, and I give full credit there.

The book itself is good. The writing is darker than Eragon, but not as long and drawn out as Lord of the Rings. The dialogue is good, the characters lovable and easy to connect with, and the story intriguing, if all too similar. If it wasn’t for the crazy amount of parallels I’d say Whill of Agora could be a new favorite. Instead I’m going to need to consider this further to decide whether to read more of the series. I want to clarify, I’m not saying anything was lifted, but this book certainly was heavily inspired and influenced by at least one of those two series. That’s not a bad thing, but it was extremely noticeable. Make of that what you will. Thanks as always for reading, and come back tomorrow for the next random book!

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