Monday, October 31, 2016

The Angry Book Blogger

After the success of my first contemporary book review, I briefly imagined a future where my entire blog was comprised of nothing but reviews. This was not helped by my husband stating that I should rename the blog to "Angry Book Blogger" and write nothing but book reviews full of memes. Also not helpful to have several people hearing the idea and going DO IT.

Bad people! Temptresses, all of you!

In seriousness, I do love reviewing books and I try my best to be honest and helpful. As much fun as it can be to vent some of my irritation at a book(It is VERY cathartic), I don't want people to think that I hate all books or that I'm rubbing my hands over here and cackling with pleasure every time I dislike a book at the thought of reviewing it.

There's books I love, like, dislike, hate, and books I'm neutral about. I write reviews for readers mostly, not that I don't enjoy writing a positive review in hopes that it might brighten an author's day, but reviewing is my way to tell readers, "Hey! You may like this, here's why." or "Warning, warning, if you dislike these things, this is not the book you're looking for."

I'm not out to "get" anyone and as much fun as it'd be to dedicate a blog to ABB(Angry Book Blogging) I don't want to give the wrong impression. I'm also not keen on confrontation. Unneeded stress and drama. So yeah, I'd worry that someone would eventually get annoyed by my style and decide to bite my head off or something. But then I got to thinking on that last point and realized that I do avoid a lot of things because I'm not looking for a fight or to be attacked on the internet. I'm just not, but people like to see strong opinions. I've decided to let myself have a few on things like books and movies because they're entertainment and having a difference of opinion on such things is not the end of the world or life changing, etc.

To that end, I'm hoping to start putting together book reviews in the style of my Angry Book Blogger personality. They'll be posted on Mondays as long as I have content. If I don't have something for a week, then Monday will be a boring, boring day for y'all.

To make this a balanced endeavor, I'll be reviewing books that emotionally charged me in some way. These will be books that made me mad, sad, happy, intrigued, etc. So they won't all be negative, but I'm hoping to add my ABB flair just the same. Unless this blows up in my face, I'm hoping this'll be a fun way to interact with you and garner some laughs, and who knows maybe interest you in a new book or save you some misery.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Truth About Winter - Short story

Around wintertime I often end up discussing winter with my friends around the world and everyone's got a different notion of winter. For those without snow, or little of it, there's this romanticized idea of winter. There's the pretty postcards and pictures, the movies and commercials. Everyone things are trying to "sell" the idea of a white winter. But the truth is, winter sucks. It does. Now I'll say that people who live with a real winter don't all hate it, but I do.

What winter means to me is layers of clothing, yet rarely warm, heating bills, higher electric bill, scraping ice, shoveling snow, dangerous roads, getting stuck while driving, snow plow costs, etc. Winter is expensive, dangerous, tiring, and just plain miserable. I love my state, but I hate winter.

So I got this idea for a story about my character Cali from Heart of the Winterland that takes place within the first chapter of the book, or so I imagine, where the enchantment is lifted and Cali is thinking clearly and she's now suffering through winter without the spell to keep her happy. I tried to put a humorous twist on it, while showing some of the nasty truths of winter that hopefully people who've experienced that can identify with Cali's day.

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“Ouch!” Princess Calisandra popped her stinging fingers in her mouth.

“Princess! Are you alright?” Cali’s guardian, Voice, darted over and hovered anxiously around her. “Let me see. They might be broken.”

Cali glared at Voice and refused to take her hand from her mouth, even though she now felt rather silly standing there with her mouth full of fingers.

“Don’t be stubborn. You’ve been so cantankerous lately,” Voice scolded.

Finally yanking her fingers out, and shoving them behind her back, Cali waved the orb away. “I’m fine, Voice. I just slammed them in the door.” She snatched the cloak from the hook by the door—the reason she’d come back inside in the first place—and making sure Voice didn’t get a peek at the hidden hand, she backed out the door, this time without pinching her fingers.

Safely outside, Cali turned on the top step and adjusted her cloak hastily. Snow fell from the sky—when didn’t it?—and a sharp wind whipped around the castle.

“Stupid horses. Why can’t Voice just use her magic to feed them?” she muttered to herself as she stomped down the stairs. Switching her tone to match Voice’s she continued, “It is about responsibility, Princess.”

Her boot hit the next step and she slipped. Arms waving in the air as she fought to keep her balance, Cali tumbled backwards and landed on her butt. Pain radiated through her tailbone and rolled onto her stomach, burying her face against the snow-covered step. The same evil step that’d caused her fall.

“I hate this country,” she groused.

The pain settled down to a low thrum, and deciding she’d had quite enough of the steps digging into her face and stomach, she rose and more carefully this time, continued the rest of the way down.

More snow had fallen over night, and the path she’d carefully cleared yesterday was gone, the snow now up to her thighs. She plowed through the powder, feeling it creep into her fur-lined boots.

She’d almost reached the stables when she tripped . . . again. The snow rushed up to greet her and she thrust out her arms to catch herself. Not that it mattered— with how deep the snow was—she still ended up buried.

“Blast it all.” She pushed herself to her knees and reached for whatever had tripped her. A broom. Of course. She’d wondered where that’d gone. Belia, one of the mares, had a habit of confiscating various implements from the stable and leaving them in different locations.

Since she couldn’t exercise all of the horses each day, Cali would open the stall doors and let the horses play out in the courtyard. Most of them thought rolling in the snow and kicking it in the air was more than enough fun, but some, like Belia, thought their time could be better spent.

“Stupid horse,” she muttered, picking the broom and herself up. Snow frosted her entire front and her hood had fallen off. She absentmindedly flipped the hood back up and too late discovered it was full of snow from her most recent fall. Snow plopped onto her head and fell down over her face. She reached up to rub her eyes clear and was rewarded with a soaked mitten that removed the snow, but left a wet streak across her face for all of two seconds before it froze.

She looked back at the castle and saw Voice hovering in the window. The orb darted behind the curtains when she saw Cali glance her way. “Oh, sure, like I didn’t see her there watching,” Cali grumbled. There was no way she could go back now. Whatever dignity she had left needed to be salvaged.

Broom in hand, Cali made it the rest of the way to the stables without incident. She kicked the snow away from the stable door, and pulled it open just enough to squeeze inside. Musty, hay-scented air greeted her, aggravating her nose until she sneezed.

Sniffing from both dust, hay, and the cold, Cali stuck the broom back in its proper corner and glared down the center of the stable where a grey mare poked her head out.

“If I wanted this laying out in the snow, I’d put it there myself,” she said crossly to the horse who tossed her head unremorsefully.

She pulled off her snow-filled mittens and threw them on a pail. Her hands were red from cold and she blew on them to warm them a bit before starting her work.

Cali wandered down the row, opening the stalls one at a time and checking on the horses. The work had its own monotonous rhythm. Stalls needed to be cleaned, horses needed to be checked, food and water replenished, and if all went well, there’d be no disasters. No injuries or illnesses, no horses pushing her into a bucket of water or a pile of manure. Today went well.

She loosed the horses into the courtyard so they could exercise. Normally she liked their antics, but today nothing cheered her up.

One of the colts frolicked past her and kicked snow into her face. She spit it out and glared at the young horse. Totally unconcerned, he went racing back towards his mother.

She brought them back into their stalls after a bit, not wanting to stay out very long. After making sure the broom was in its usual place and the horses were brushed clear of snow and safely tucked into their clean stalls, she backed out of the stable and shut the door.

The snow had covered part of her tracks from earlier and she had to forge a new path. More snow fell into her boots, and the snow that had fallen in her gloves earlier had melted while in the warm stables. Soggy gloves were about as useful as chipmunks in the larder.

At last she stomped up the steps and into the castle. The layers were peeled off one by one. First the semi-frozen mittens that had chunks of wet snow clinging to them. Then the snow-covered cloak, and her boots which resembled blocks of snow. She threw the lot in front of the nearest fireplace and sat down to remove her wet stockings, compliments of the snow that’d invaded her boots and then melted.

She shivered as she rushed to her bedroom. The lower part of her pants were soaked and even though her tunic had escaped most of the weather’s damage, it too lay cold against her skin.

As soon as she reached her room, she began stripping down to her undergarments as she hurried to the adjoining washroom. Voice always had a hot bath drawn to greet her after her stable chores. Sure enough, she bumped the door open with her shoulder—still removing one of her pant legs—and saw the steaming bath.

Leaving her pants to lie in the doorway, she finished undressing and climbed into the tub with much wincing and “Ooh, hot! Hot!”

As she adjusted to the heat, she settled back and washed the ice crystals from her face and gave a sniff. At least the dripping nose would be gone in a few hours, if she was lucky. Sometimes it turned into a full out cold and she was stuffed up and miserable for weeks.


Cali buried her face in her hands. “I’ve got to get out of this country. If the weather doesn’t kill me, I’ll die of boredom.”



Tuesday, October 18, 2016

These Broken Stars - Book Review

Outside of my classic challenge, I don't normally do book reviews here, but this week I came across one of those rare books that just boiled my blood. In trying to write a review(on a book that I skim-read after 35%!) I found that I had so many issues with the story, the review was too long. 

As a rule, I write long reviews. I can't help it. But this one was ridiculously long. I tried rewriting it, but that was also long. But I did want to share my thoughts because this is a book that's gotten loads of high ratings and positive reviews. In retrospect the top-rated positive reviews weren't really more than "OH. MY. GOSH. I LURVES THIS!! MORE LILAC AND TARVER PLZ!! Heart, heart, love forever!!!" Which is fine, but it doesn't really tell me WHY someone liked the book. The top-rated negative reviews were much more detailed as to what the problems were. But I don't think it's easy to fully convey how bad something like "The MMC couldn't stop talking about how beautiful the FMC is" can be. Because there's not a scale for that!

So in all of it's ranty glory, here's my review for sci-fi romance YA novel These Broken Stars which has been labeled "Titanic in space with star-crossed lovers."

It’s been awhile since I hated a book this much. I mean, I really, really, really HATE this book. I only read this far for two reasons: I wanted more content to add to my list of dislikes and the plot itself(crash landing/survival/strange planet) was interesting. But when I’m reading a book that only has two characters and I hate both of them, there’s only so much I can stand.

The cover is beautiful, the blurb enticing. I was so excited to read this, had such high hopes. Within the first chapter my heart was already sinking. It started off well enough, the writing is strong and the setting was so interesting, but then the MMC meets the FMC.

“Her fair, flaweless skin says she’s one of them, but her gaze says she’s better, above, untouchable.

She’s wearing the same hue as a navy dress uniform, bare shoulders holding my gaze for a moment—she sure as hell wears the color better than any sailor I know. Hair: red, falling down past her shoulders. Nose: a little snub, but that makes her more pretty, not less. It makes her real.

Pretty’s not the right word. She’s a knockout.”

So begins Tarver’s long obsession with how Lilac looks. I kid you not, there’s not a single pov chapter from him where he doesn’t find a way to talk about how gorgeous she is despite injuries and dirt.

Lilac then attracts him to her table(by dropping a glove) and they have a conversation. Tarver doesn’t know she’s a LeRoux and therefore untouchable. Lilac has a pleasant conversation with him, but afterwards her “best friend” warn her that if she ever talks to him again she’ll tell her father and bad things will happen. (we later learn that Lilac’s father finds a way to permanently “remove” any boy problems.)

Next encounter Lilac brushes him off nastily to “save him.” Despite this when the ship starts experiencing problems, Tarver risks his life to jump over a railing and rescue her, then follows her to a pod which is the only one to escape a ship. 

All of this tech and no one thought to have a manual release on the pods in case of the power going out? 50k people and not one of them reached their pod in time to release it before the power went out? And the ship is getting dragged out of hyperspace because it’s too close to a planet and gravity is pulling it.

These people have the knowledge to terraform planets, build spaceships, access hyperspace, but no one thought of a way to navigate around planets and avoid this problem? Shouldn’t the ship being going so fast that gravity wouldn’t have a chance to catch hold of it?
 

Suspended my disbelief and continued. We get into the pod and Lilac decides to hotwire the pod to release them. Now . . . get this, she goes “I don’t have wire cutters so I’ll just use my fingernails.” In what world ever were fingernails a good substitute for wire cutters? She does indeed cut and split these wires with her fingernails. I want to know what her fingernails are made of . . .
 

Now we get to the meat of the issue, because as I said, the plot itself was interesting. I love survival stories.

I read YA fiction for several reasons, one is there’s certain things I DON’T want to read about. During the evacuation, Tarver take the time to remark that normally he’d love the sight of all the women pouring out of their chambers in their pajamas. Now, you don’t comment on something unless you notice. He’s commenting, so he’s noticing. I expect most of these women are adults and Tarver is 18 with Lilac at 16. He’s technically an adult, but it still gave me the creeps. If I ever have to quickly evacuate a place and don’t have time to get dressed, I’d rather not think about the barely adult boys checking me out. Yuck. Like, there’s other stuff going on dude, focus.

They get in the pod and Lilac passes out. Tarver mentions how he has to struggle not to peek down her tempting dress. Come on! World is ending, person’s knocked out, and all Tarver can think about is a little fellow down south.

This doesn’t improve as (later in the book) Tarver discusses having a boner after cuddling with Lilac for warmth and later having sex(not graphic) with her.

He also alternates between being frustrated with her(understandable) and admiring her. Now, there is NOTHING to admire about Lilac. Tarver will go, “Oh, Lilac is so brave and determined.” And he’s referring to the fact that despite him being a soldier and her being a debutante with no practical skills and wearing high heels which she doesn’t have the commonsense to remove even after they get stuck multiple times in the metal grate floor of the pod, she still insists on traveling with him to a lookout spot. He says, stay here, I’ll be back. She refuses, and follows, making a simple scouting mission take way longer than it should’ve, demanding breaks, and get this, they stop for a break and she looks around, “Where will I sit?” Because of course princess can’t sit on just anything. Tarver lays out his jacket on a log for her . . .They barely make it back before nightfall when who knows what comes out. And she’s what? No, Lilac is stupid and selfish and prissy.
 

Lilac says early on that she’s so glad Tarver was attracted to her for her and not her wealth, when the reality is he was attracted to her ravishing beauty of which we’ll hear no end of. Sorry, being wanted for your looks isn’t a step up from being wanted for your money.
 

Once they leave the mother ship, I stopped having any hope of liking Lilac. She’s so nasty and insulting. She claims it’s because of her father, but this is the girl we have to remember ends up having sex with Tarver and cuddling with him and making out with him. They’re not stuck there long enough for her to go through such a switch. And he shows no outward sign of liking her, so she had no reason to assume more insults were needed.

And she’s wearing these RIDICULOUS shoes. High heels that get stuck in the metal grate floor of the pod. Now you think one of those two bozos would’ve tossed those shoes. Oh no, instead Lilac spends several days walking around with them. Her feet get really messed up and the solution is bandage them and then put the dumb shoes back on, but oh, we snapped off the heels. It’s at that point I looked up a picture of high heeled shoes and tried to imagine someone snapping off the heels and walking in them. THROW THEM AWAY ALREADY! Walk barefoot, walk with bandaged feet, I don’t care just please, give up on the shoes!


The first night she hogs the blankets, wants Tarver to sleep outside, etc. Every time Tarver is out of sight she freaks out that she’s pushed him too far with the nasty angle. Then he comes back and she’s right back to being a witch.

But oh, she’d “rather he remembered her as a bitch than weak.” Really? Well you’re now both, but don’t worry, Tarver’s so gobsmacked by your looks he doesn’t care.
 

The entire trip is full of Lilac being stupid. She’s a hazard. I would’ve left her to be eaten. All she does is whine, and complain, and argue, and insult. She has zero skills and isn’t even a pleasant person worth saving. If she hadn’t been stunning, Tarver probably would’ve left her, but it’s all good because eventually he gets laid.

Lilac trips over a stick and doesn’t bother to try and stop herself and lets herself fall flat on her face, but 3 paragraphs later she’s “determined not to give him the satisfaction of pitying me. I’ll show him how much a LaRoux can handle.” Oh yeah, you in your princess dress and high heels, neither of which she’ll ditch and her getting a break every 15 minutes, walking dreadfully slow, and falling on her face is soooo not pitiable.
 

Here’s one of my “favorite” parts.

“I’m sitting in a patch of afternoon sun on one of the blankets, spread over the nasty forest floor. Not that it matters all that much, as I’m already carrying half of the forest along with me in my dress. [They have a mechanic suit she could be wearing] The hem is in tatters and the skirt is muddy. I can only imagine my hair and skin are as dreadful [Oh, poor baby!]  . . . I must try and bear it as best I can.”
 
I mean, come on! Why does this book have so many high ratings?

Then Tarver comes back and wants her to get off the blanket so they can get going. She gets up, allows him to pack it(I swear she hasn’t done anything this whole trip, not even dedicated her ruined dress for firestarting) and then says that he left her standing awkwardly with her arms wrapped around herself against the chill. Oh gosh, I’m so sorry his packing up your blanket and carrying it because you HAVE to keep moving is so inconvenient.

Now I made it about 35% of the way through but honestly, you can’t have your MC’s be that annoying for that long when they’re the only characters. I skimmed the rest and read the last chapter (which is like . . . what happened?).
 

I planned on going back to where I left off and slowly going through the rest, but was greeted by this on the first page “If I’ve learned anything about Lilac it’s that she doesn’t like to fall apart in front of people.” .  . . oh yes, Lilac OBVIOUSLY hates to fall apart in front of people. Because that’s not at all what she’s been doing the entire freaking trip.
 

But good ole Tarver has to keep being moonstruck over her. I feel like the authors were using Tarver’s pov to try and get me to like Lilac, but nothing Lilac said, thought, or did was likable.

I get that people have different tastes, but why oh why did so many people like this? All I can say is if Tarver's only qualification for a girlfriend is looks, then it's good that's all he got. The two of them deserve each other. 
I wish this book had been a light/no romance book with two likable characters. I could've overlooked the plot stuff and the fact that only 2 people out of 50k survived(please, the odds on that?). And all but pretty much 3 chapters of this book take place on the planet that's a fairly typical Earth wilderness. Not much sci-fi going on or "Titanic".

So yes, I hated this book and I'm happy to not waste anymore time on it.



About the Angry Book Blogger series and disclaimer found here.