Showing posts with label angels. Show all posts
Showing posts with label angels. Show all posts

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Lucifer Book Four by Mike Carey and assorted artists and colorists

Rating: WARTY!

I requested three graphic novels from the local library because I am not about to spend thirty dollars for a graphic novel i probably will not like! All three are going back one of them unread, the other two read only a quarter the way through in one case and half-way through in the other.

They're all tied (very loosely as it happens) to a TV series Lucifer which is based on the character from the Sandman comics, and which I really enjoy. I tried a couple of the Sandmans a while ago, and did not like them at all, but I thought maybe the dedicated Lucifer comics might be better. They were not. I looked at two of them. I made it only a quarter way through the mainstream one, and I was not impressed at all by either one I looked at, so I did not even open the third. I'll stick with the TV show.

In view of the comments I make below, I should mention here that the TV series has some racism about it in that the entire cast is nearly all white. There are two main characters: Amenadiel, played by D. B. Woodside who is black, and a Cape Colored South African-born actress Lesley-Ann Brandt, who plays Mazikeen. Both of these guys are are excellent, so people of color are not quite as underrepresented here as in the comic books, but are still shamefully absent. The difference though is that there is a far larger pool of people controlling the TV show than there is the comic book. While I readily admit it should not be so, it seems to me that it would be a lot easier to depict whoever you want in a graphic novel, including making a fair representation of people of all colors, and yet still they failed.

This volume (volume four, and I have not read the previous three, so I admit to coming into this in progress) was a fat tome, fully three-quarters of an inch across the spine, but there is no page numbering so I can't quote a page count. While saying again that I came into this in progress (the library did not have any earlier volumes), if I were to pick up any novel at random and start in on it half-way through, it would make some kind of sense. It might be missing key facts and important information, but at least the layout of the story would be coherent. Such was not the case here. I had no good idea what was going on or where it was supposed to be going.

Worse than this, was that what did come through with crystal clarity were some obnoxious themes running through this work, like rotted threads in a fabric, and which are evidently common to this series judged by what I've now seen of it. The worst of these is the racism. All the good-looking stand-up characters are white. All the obviously evil characters are people of color. That's truly sick and warped. Yes, 80% of the artists doing this volume are white (only Ronald Wimberly is black), but is this an excuse? No. Additionally, the male artists are as usual, squeamish about depicting male genitalia, but have no problem at all sexualizing woman.

That's not acceptable to me and I cannot recommend such a gory (again the gore was often of adults abusing children - what is wrong with these writers and artists?) and disjointed work where the sole purpose of it seems to be perpetuating a sick story instead of telling an engaging one.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

World After by Susan Ee

Title: World After
Author: Susan Ee
Publisher: Amazon - Skyscape
Rating: WARTY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often enough reward aplenty!

On page 90 there’s an editorial note at the top of the page: “JARRING TEXT OF DIFFERENT SIZES]~~Ok as set - I'm guessing this shouldn't be there!

This is book two in the ‘Penryn & The End of Days’ series. I’m not a fan of series unless they’re done especially well, but I liked the first book, Angelfall which I reviewed in June, 2014, so I was quite pleased to have an opportunity to review the second. Unfortunately this sequel volume wasn't anywhere near as appealing. It felt like it was written by a different author. I could make it only half way through before I had to give up, having run out of Promethazine.

A big part of my nausea was caused by the first person PoV voice. It's far too self-important and self-obsessed unless it's done really well, and it was not done well here, not with this character, Penryn. You should read A Girl Called Al for an exemplary story in which this voice is used. Why authors - particularly YA authors - are so irremediably addicted to it is a complete and utter mystery to me, but I sincerely wish they would grow out of it.

The biggest problem with this novel is that it was boring. It went nowhere and offered nothing new - quite the contrary in fact since we were treated to a host of flashbacks via Penryn's magical video record and playback sword. I am not kidding you. Her angelic sword is a camcorder. It was bizarre, and I took to skipping entire sections which were nothing more than a rehash of book one, but told from the angel, Raffe's PoV. I care. Another filler employed here was 'Penryn dream world'. There was chapter after chapter offering nothing more than a simple recounting of Penryn's dreams, which were tedious. I took to skipping those, also. If these two things had been omitted the novel would probably have been only seventy-five percent the size it is.

Even when we weren't watching Sword Armchair Theater re-runs, or How Dream is My Valley, there was nothing of interest happening here, not for page after page after bleak page. The first seventy pages could have been half that long and still conveyed as much while saving precious trees. Penryn has literally come back from the dead courtesy of her friendly neighborhood angel Raffe, but life goes on as usual! Huh?

She now carries an angel sword, which only she can lift, but which she has no idea how to employ as a weapon. She’s been reunited with her slightly loopy mother and her kid sister Paige, but Paige is now some sort of zombie, having been experimented upon by the angels. She’s diminutive, yet very dangerous and threatening – like an attack dog, with her razor sharp teeth. Paige used to be a vegetarian, but now she’s hungry for meat, the raw and bloody kind, yet her sister sees nothing wrong with her, being devoted – so we’re told, not shown – to her mom and sister. Keep this in mind.

If you examine this story too closely, you'll realize it makes no sense, and in that it's not alone amongst angel stories. The reason for this is that most writers of angel stories have never actually read the Bible – or they've conveniently forgotten it or chosen to remember only tiny portions of it. They know neither what it is that angels do, nor what they’re actually there for. Essentially angels are errand boys. In naval terms, they would be an XO – an executive officer, carrying out the commands of the ship’s captain.

The problem with angel stories is that these characters are consistently depicted as soldiers fighting evil, a thing which they never were. They’re also uniformly endowed with wings. Typically these are white wings like swans have, but this is also a pure invention. They’re never described as having wings in the Bible. The winged ones are cherubim (the plural of cherub), but none of these YA writers ever talk about that! Cherub just doesn't quite carry the weight does it?

Now you recall where I told you that the author tells us how devoted Penryn is to her family? Well at one point, about eighty pages in, the community she’s with is attacked by the mutant scorpion creatures, first seen at the end of the previous volume. Flying mutant scorpion creatures which evidently buzz like bees. And have shaggy hair and lion’s teeth. And which drool and growl. Is there anything else with which we can lard them? No, I guess that’s all. Why these creatures are even needed is never revealed - at least not in the portion of this book I read. Maybe it was mentioned at the end of volume one, and I forgot.

Penryn’s young sister Paige – the one who is actually best equipped to fight enemies and to protect her family - runs off into the nearby forest. Her mom chases after Paige. Penryn, instead of automatically following them actually stands and debates whether she should stay with her family – the one to which she’s supposedly devoted - or run to the safety of the community and hide there. She chooses the latter. That was pretty much it for me. Penryn is not an heroic figure, not even mildly so. Please tell me, then, why I should care about her or root for her? I can't think of a single reason.

There’s a really oddball incident around page ninety after a scorpion attack where Penryn is trying to tell a doctor that these people who have been stung might not be dead. The Doctor is assuring her that if they don’t have a pulse they’re dead. This is in a world which has been devastated by an angelic insurgency, which has demons running around, and after an attack by mutant scorpion people, and this doctor thinks the old rules still apply? This is either bad writing, or this doctor is the biggest dick-head in history. As the comedian said (I forget this name, but it was probably Steven Wright): somewhere in the world is the world’s worst doctor. And you might have an appointment with him (or her!) tomorrow! I think we just met him.

The final straw, for me, came on page 142 where I read: “…three unarmed women surrounded by monsters…”. Why does it matter that they’re women? I have a real problem with what I can only view as misogyny, especially when it;s penned by a female writer. Is this really what we want to teach our young women - that if you're a woman you're somehow more threatened by these monsters than you would be if you were a guy? Because this is no different from telling girls that women are weak, that they're helpless, that they're prey in need of a guardian angel. It's pathetic, particularly from a female author, and I refuse to subscribe to abuses like that. I will not recommend this novel.

Monday, December 22, 2014

Hellsbane Hereafter by Paige Cuccaro

Title: Hellsbane Hereafter
Author: Paige Cuccarod
Publisher: Entangled
Rating: WARTY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often enough reward aplenty!

This is book three in the inevitable series because authors can’t write one-offs any more, evidently. I haven't read the previous two volumes. This one looked interesting and it appears it can be read as a standalone if you don’t mind being in some ignorance of the previous history, which is referred to often and of which we’re given details in mini-infodumps here and there. I honestly didn’t feel like I'd missed anything. Let’s face it, in a series, everything is prologue until the last volume, and I don’t do prologues anyway!

The novel sounded interesting from the blurb - but that just means the blurb did its job - it lured me in, but once I got in there, it quickly became clear that this was not for me. The blurb and the cover image (both of which are typically misleading) are very suggestive of titanic angelic battles, but - at least as far as I read - there was no such thing. Instead there was a heck of a lot of moping around and soul-searching, which I didn’t enjoy in the least.

The worst part for me was when the hero, Dominica Hellsbane (seriously?) went to see her evil father - the very father she should have slaughtered in two previous volumes and failed. This was no epic meeting in a palace with her father sitting a-throne. It wasn't even a hellish trip down into the baking environs of the pit. Nope! Dad-the-demon works in an office downtown. I kid you not.

I have never understood the Harry Potter mentality whereby the supernatural is laundered into base currency, becoming tiresomely ordinary and losing all its color and appeal in the process. With Harry Potter it was the Ministry of Magic and boarding schools and so on, but at least Rowling had the smarts to poke fun at her designs. Here, we get the struggle between good and evil demoted to average-ville, with palatial offices atop skyscrapers, looking out over the city, and spreadsheets, secretaries, and hedge funds - on short, nonsensical in the extreme.

We’re told that Hellsbane can teleport, yet when she gets into the building, she apparently has to ride the elevator! The boss has a secretary, and every person she touches sends an electric shock through her because they're fallen angels don't you know, and they're "beautiful" and "erotic". The problem is that if you have to keep on telling me how beautiful and erotic they are, it kind looses its "oomph" in the repetition.

At this point I’d had quite enough. Not only did Hellsbane fail to kill her evil dad, she's now working for him by doing a little job involving her angelic step brother, who is a frat boy and lives with other angelic frat boys in an apartment. Honestly? What is the point? What is the point of writing a story about something as exotic and supernatural as angels and demons if all you do with it when you've got it is to render it into nothing but a juvenile Hellsbane Does Coed? Frankly, I didn’t have enough Promethazine on hand to make it through this kind of a novel, so I quit it right there.

I yearn for something new and original in these heaven and hell books - something with power and majesty, and with an original take on angels and demons. I pray for something heavenly, but what I get is hellish: it seems that it's foolish to hope for something above average when all writers are capable of delivering in this sphere evidently is the ordinary, the tame, the boring. It’s truly sad. I can’t recommend a novel like that. Like this. It's time to turn the Paige.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Fallen Souls by Linda Foster

Title: Fallen Souls
Author/Editor: Linda Foster
Publisher: Glass House Press
Rating: WARTY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new book is often reward aplenty!

I hate to give a negative review to this novel because from what little I know of Linda Foster (from her website, which you should visit - it's fun!) she seems like a really awesome person, but I critique the books on this website, not the authors. It's important to remember that. Well mostly not the authors! And certainly not in this case!

This story is listed on Net Galley (and on the cover!) as a novella, and it's also listed as book one of a series, but it's only sixty pages, and those pages are double-spaced, so it's really more like a novelette or even a short story than anything else. At least, that's how it felt to me. It also ends in a big cliff-hanger. I was, to say the least, dissatisfied with it. I expected a lot more, and got what really amounts only to a teaser.

It's in two parts, the Earthly and the heavenly. In the first part we meet Ash, a student who happens to be at a party with his older sister, and she's quite literally falling-down drunk. Ash isn't much better off. He keeps seeing a dangerous looking guy with glowing eyes staring at his sister, so he drags her from the party in a near panic. He ends up crashing the car and his sister is about to die when the stranger offers him his sister's life for his own soul, an offer he takes up. That's all we get of that story.

To take a brief detour into gender issues here, I have to say I found it sad that a female author put a female character in the position of having a guy rescue her, like she's totally incapable of taking care of herself and is reduced to being a damsel in distress. She's not even Ash's kid sister, which would certainly have ameliorated the situation somewhat. Grace is his older sister, so this was really hard to stomach. Could we not have had her get sick to her stomach from something she ate at the party or something - not from irresponsibly drinking, and this was why he was driving? Just a thought!

In part two we're in a heaven where the angels do not have traditional names! There is Kali, the good angel, who is female, and Adrian, the bad angel, who is male. Now this was a bit different, but it felt odd because the names were not remotely of Hebrew origin. Kali, for example, is Indian (Indian, not Native American) and is the name of a Hindu god, and Adrian is of Latin origin.

My real problem with the angels is that they behave exactly like humans. They speak the same, have the same emotions and wants and fears. They have lungs. They breathe. They fight. They're petty. How are they in any way, shape, or form different from humans? They're not. And for some reason, as usual, they use swords instead of modern weaponry or divine magic. This isn't a problem unique to this book by any means, but it is a problem of seriously-limited story, character, and plot imagination, and a complete lack of inventiveness and creativity in bringing something new to the table.

I found this story a bit too breathlessly told, too lacking in substance, and a very unsatisfying read. It wasn't - technically - badly written. Linda Foster has a voice which deserves to be heard and if it had been a longer story with more to say, and the world(s) fleshed out a bit more, I might have been able to enjoy. There are a lot of signs of writing potential, but it seems that the author isn't ready to spread her wings and fly yet. The plot on the heavenly side is right out of Kevin Smith's movie Dogma, for example, with angels (led by the psychotic Adrian) plotting a war against god.

I have to say that I'm not a big fan of angel stories, so if an author wants to draw me in, then I need something more than your traditional boiler-plate bog-standard choir of angels. Maybe others will like a familiar, cozy world like this, but it's not for me because it felt like there wasn't anything new on offer here, and it just makes me ask: where is my incentive to read it? The very word 'novel' means new. If it's not new, it's not really a novel, is it?! I can't recommend it, and I have no interest in pursing this series, but I wish the author all the best.

And in my 'fighting-a-losing-battle' effort to offer a parody song whenever I review something negatively, here's my "Angles of Heaven" to the tune of U2's Angels of Harlem

It was a cold and wet November day
When I read this book from Net Gall-ay
Rain was bouncing on the ground
I turned round and heard familiar sounds
of an angle

A story as old as a Christmas tree
With the same old shape and symmetry


Sword divine, and this sword just won't cut it!
No more! Angles of Heaven!

The cover blurb appealed to me
The story sounded like a symphony
We got spooky stuff, a mystery tangle
But it turns out it's just another one - an angle

Demons all evil, angels all good
Demons have eyes which are shining blood

Sword divine, and this sword just won't cut it!
No more! Angles of Heaven!

Angles of Heaven, yeah.

Angelic, divine, oh! but human motive!
Yeah, Yeah,
yeah, yeah
Yeah, Yeah, yeah, hey, oh no!

Too many writers have lost their way
Can't find enough words that are new to say
And despite the angelic acumen
The final solution's down to humans
Simple humans with simple lives
have to prevent demons and their connives
Can't we have a new fandango
Can't we have a brand new angle?

Angles in demon shoes just leaves me reading with the blues
Will I never read anything new?
Except angles! Angles of Heaven?

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Gabriel's Clock by Hilton Pashley

Title: Gabriel's Clock
Author: Hilton Pashley
Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt
Rating: WARTY!

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review. The chance to read a new novel is reward aplenty!

This is a novel which is heavy on trope. That's not always a bad thing, but I find myself yearning for something different instead of same old, same old. The novel is aimed at middle-graders (or what I call pre-young adult), and is very much written at that level, which some might like. I found it a bit annoying and demeaning. My kids are middle-grade and they're currently reading The Golden Compass, and Watership Down, so this one would be significantly below their reading level. I don't talk down to them, so I find it hard to approve of novels which do. OTOH, there are undoubtedly a lot of kids who would like this novel - maybe even mine!

The novel is set in Britain, and having grown up there, you'd think I would warm to this novel easily, but I did not. I found it very readable, but the reading didn't give me very much and ultimately left me quite dissatisfied with the story, especially since it doesn't end at the end of the book. It's pretty clear this is going to be a series, so one can hope that it will improve, but I honestly do not feel any compulsion to go along for the ride.

The clock of the title is one made by the Archangel Gabriel. When Jonathan actually goes to get the clock, we're told that only someone of Gabriel's blood-line can pass through this portal, yet the gargoyles can go through (no, Gabriel didn't create them so they're not even proxy bloodline), and the cat can go through when Jonathan carries it. So much for that rule. No wonder the village was so easily breached if this is the level of security in play!

The main character is Jonathan, who is (and of course he doesn't know this, trope #1) a special kid. He is creation's only child spawned of an angel and a demon. How that works exactly goes unexplained. I have to say that I have a hard time with novels which introduce exotic creatures such as demons and angels and then have them behave exactly like humans. What's the point?

In this novel it's pretty much all black and white; even as we're told more than once that not all demons are bad and not all angels are good, we see a sharp dividing line with demons being stereotypically evil (I almost expected them to sport waxed mustaches which they would twirl as they cackled). Only two "demons" are good, and there's precious little on the angelic side, with none appearing other than Gabriel.

When three Corvidae (demons named after birds trope #2) burst into Jonathan's home to take him prisoner, his mom runs with him while brave dad stays behind to fight. Genderist much? But of course dad is the angel, mom is only a demon. Jonathan ends up at the bizarrely named Hobbe's End (just like in the movie Quatermass and the Pit). Hobbe, of course, is an antique name for the Devil, which is bizarre because the village is a sanctuary which protects its inhabitants from evil. Ineffectually as it turns out. It's the place where Gabriel slammed into the Earth after he quit heaven, in 1666AD, from whence the village's power derives.

The village is supposed to be sentient - at one point it talks to Jonathan - but the village is evidently suffering some sort of palsy because it seems to consistently warn of attacks after the attack is already in progress. Maybe the village is evil?!

Despite the fact that the Corvidae - acting on behalf of Arch-demon Belial - know that Jonathan is there in the village, and those charged with his protection know that they know, and they also know how critical and valuable he is, nothing at all is done to protect him, unless you class having a cricket bat and a rapier to hand as 'taking steps'. The Corvidae seem to pretty much invade the village at their leisure on more than one occasion, which results in both Gabriel and Jonathan's trope female interest Cay (who has pretty much a cameo role), becoming prisoners of Belial, who may also have Darriel, Jonathan's father.

I don't know for sure because at one point we're told that Darriel's broken body was left at the gate of heaven as a warning, but later we're told he's still a prisoner of Belial's! Meanwhile Jonathan's mom is supposedly petitioning Lucifer. Like the king of evil will lend a hand to help out? Seriously? This is one more example of females being marginalized in this story.

All of the characters are male except for Jonathan's mom, and Cay, and both of these characters are either almost entirely absent from the story (mom, I'm looking at you), or play the minor role of damsel in distress (yes, Cay, that would be you). There is even a chapter about Cay which is titled "Waiting for the Cavalry" - I am not kidding you. For that matter, people of color are also lacking in this novel - unless you count the cat....

The backstory is that Lucifer wasn't the only fallen angel - there are scores of them, all living in hell, which isn't ruled over by Satan - it's split between him and three demons, but Belial wants it all. He wants back into heaven. Why? I have no idea. He wants to bring misery upon the Earth. Why? I have no idea. None of this is explained. We're given neither reason nor rationale. What's in it for Belial? I have no idea. Quite clearly he can already wreak havoc in people's lives at will. No one stops him, so where is there any increased benefit in pursuing his plan? Nowhere.

The entire opening premise of the novel makes no sense: if Jonathan is so vital and so critical, and so vulnerable then why would his parents be living outside the protection of the village? Why would they lie to their son instead of protecting him and arming him against the wicked which will inevitably come this way? Well, because they're lousy parents is all I can think of. This is child abuse! I don't even get how that works. Gabriel is supposedly Darriel's father, but how was he spawned? Is he a clone, or is there a Mrs Gabriel somewhere? If there is, then she's marginalized too - to the point of never being even mentioned.

Meanwhile, why is this all on Jonathan and Gabriel to fix? I have no idea. Apparently Heaven is sleeping, because despite all this evil going on down below, not a single angel shows up to help out. God is non-existent according to this story - either that or he has no control over his creation! Or maybe he simply doesn't care what's going on, because he gets no mention at all. For that matter, not a single person (or entity) in this entire story questions what's happening or how evil is getting away with all this, unchecked. It's because of these problems - huge glaring plot holes that I can't recommend this novel.

Oh, and deus ex machina? You keep using that phrase. I do not think it means what you think it means....

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Angels by Alexis York Lumbard

Title: Angels
Author: Alexis York Lumbard
Publisher: Wisdom Tales Press
Rating: warty!

Illustrated by Flavia Weedn

DISCLOSURE: Unlike the majority of reviews in this blog, I've neither bought this book nor borrowed it from the library. This is a "galley" copy ebook, supplied by Net Galley. I'm not receiving (nor will I expect to receive or accept) remuneration for this review.

This is a children's book, mostly art with a line of poetry here and there, for children's sleepy-time (not bedtime! heaven forbid! Children will sleep when and where they want - just be sure to have this or something like it ready for when and where they're ready!

I'm not a believer in angels or a fan of stories about them - and particularly not young-adult angel stories! (that is until and unless I write the definitive angel story!), but young children are a different thing altogether, for which we all should be ever grateful. They need to have their imaginations titillated at every opportunity otherwise they'll grow up to be cantankerous curmudgeons like me! So if this is your thing, you might like to try this one, although I am not able to recommend it. There were several issues that I had with it.

The first is that the formatting is totally trashed on Kindle (at least this review copy was on mine), so I had to read it in Adobe Reader. The second is that I simply wasn't impressed with the text or the artwork. I'm not the intended audience and young children - the audience for whom this is intended - will probably not care, but it didn;t look very good to me. There's no real story as such here, just a simple rhyme which young children might find appealing, but it didn't seem to offer enough, for me.

This book is promoted as non-denominational, but I found that claim to be rather disingenuous. Angels appear in one form or another in several cultures, but they really are a very Christian fiction, especially these days, and especially as depicted here, in a western setting. I would have liked it better if the settings were more culturally diverse: if the angels were depicted as a variety of ethnicity, and were depicted as people doing more worthy tasks than floating around in clouds: not only nursing (which is depicted), but also soldiering, policing, and so on, and not even just the services for which we're normally grateful, for that matter; a school bus driver and a crossing patrol might have looked good here, too, amongst other things. As it was, the angels were not depicted doing much good at all.

It was really sad that the artist showed us nearly exclusively white, Anglo-Saxon "Catholic" angels, and the writer and publisher let her get away with it. Given that the bulk of the world's population isn't white, that seemed rather inappropriate to me, and misleading to children, so for this and the other reasons I've discussed, I'm do not feel comfortable in giving this story a worthy rating.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

Days of Blood & Starlight by Laini Taylor

Title: Days of Blood & Starlight
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Little Brown & Co
Rating: worthy

Days of Blood & Starlight starts out with Zuzana resentfully dropping a balloon filled with perfume and sodium bicarbonate onto the puffed-up head of Kaz, who is milking every ounce he can from Karou's fame. He was lucky. Zuze had wanted it to be urine, but Mik wouldn’t cooperate.

Sadly, we don’t remain with Zuze, which is a mistake on Taylor's part, because she's the best thing going for this novel so far. Instead, we move to the whiny-assed Akiva, agonizing boringly over how much he's lost, and here the novel is nothing but depressing. For some unexplained reason, he believes that Karou is dead (as does Zuzana, for that matter, but at least she doesn’t squeal like a stick piglet like Akiva does).

He returns to heaven (aka Eretz, as in Eretz Israel) which is exactly like medieval Earth and wherein the so-called angels have pretty much concluded their Nazi extermination plan with the chimera. Akiva meets with Hazael and Liraz, who fight him but don’t kill him (!), and then they welcome him (but not with open arms) back into the military. Why they still need a military if indeed the chimera are wiped out, is a mystery, but they discover that someone is very effectively killing angels. Still.

Zuze, meanwhile is sending hilarious emails to Karou and receiving no response until Mik calls her attention to a news item concerning a theft at the Field Museum in Chicago - an excellent museum which has nothing whatsoever to do with preserving the meadows of antiquity.... The thief is stealing teeth. And it’s a girl. A teeth thief. Relief! Finally Zuze gets an email from Karou quoting Monty Python ("I'm not dead yet!", "I feel happy!"), which I found hilarious. At last, in chapter 13 yet, we get back to Karou.

She evidently found Thiago, the chimera leader, still alive in the shattered ruins of Loramendi, and they now lived, she upstairs from him, in an apartment block somewhere; somewhere on Earth, where Karou now resurrects chimera using the teeth she steals. So after Karou's been ranting on about how godawful Akiva is, and how much she detests him, Taylor makes a huge mistake in giving us a flashback to the time right before Karou (in her Madrigal form) and Akiva were captured. Taking us from Karou's revulsion and rejection of Akiva for his betrayal - whereby she let him live but he destroyed her people - to a time when she was hopelessly (quite literally hopelessly) in love with him, was foolish move. It’s too much of a contradiction, of a gut-wrench, of a discontinuous illogical jump, to accept. It threw me right out of my suspension of disbelief.

It's especially apropos a little later in the story where he returns the soul of Issa, and Karou fails to kill him despite all she's vowed, despite all he's done to wipe out her people and to kill Brimstone, who she had thought of as her father. I was in fear of this relationship and now I'm further in fear of it, because it's way too much of a trope. if she goes back to Akiva after all that's gone on, I will feel that Taylor has betrayed us all.

While we’re on the topic of whining and disbelief, let me say a few words about teeth, and about angel weaponry! I was able to accept that the variety of fresh teeth were needed in vol 1, because a variety of chimera were needed, as was fresh DNA (I assumed!) although I never understood even remotely why they were created in the variations they were. Surely if they were at war, especially for so long a period, then the chimera which were created needed to be exclusively smart, strong, tough, agile, and fierce, but we didn’t see this. That made little sense to me, but I was willing to let it go for the quality of the story in general. Having said that, there was no room for a body type like Madrigal, so how did she ever become what she was? And what was she before? Was she simply vastly old, and had always been that way? We haven’t learned anything of this so far.

Next, the weapons they use. If they're at war and are fighting so ferociously, each side intent upon the complete destruction of the other, then why the medieval weapons? Seriously, how improbable is it that they use swords when they could perfectly well use a machine gun? In the human world, weaponry advanced at a rapid rate, even historically. As soon as a new weapon was discovered or invented, it spread with lightening speed, and people improved on it rapidly. The rate of weapons development accelerated geometrically with the size of the conflict. World War 1 brought tanks and advances in rapid-fire weapons. It brought chemical weapons. World War 2 saw all of these weapons advance, and it brought massive aerial warfare and the nuclear bomb. Yet these angels and chimera are stuck in the middle ages, and they've been glued there for centuries, if not for millennia. It makes no sense except as a trope for stories of angels and demons which of course brings you right out of the suspension of disbelief.

Now a word about those teeth! Like I mentioned, I’d assumed that reasonably fresh teeth were needed (why, when one cell would contain the requisite DNA?!), but vol 2 shows that's not the case, since Karou is working with museum specimens, so then why all the rigmarole of acquiring the teeth in the way they were in vol 1? Why did Brimstone not simply use a wish or magic, to bring him all the teeth from every grave across the world, including the literal billions of teeth from fossils? Talk of weapons of mass destruction! What kind of chimera could he have created using dinosaur teeth for goodness sakes?! If he'd had that many teeth and had some assistance, he could have created sufficient chimera to completely overwhelm the so-called angels!

Okay, bitch mode off, on with the tale! So Karou resurrects Issa without any authority from the White Wolf (whom Karou know knows plans to betray her). She gets away with this by telling him that now her production rate for new Chimera will double, and it does. Issa helps, as does Zuzana, who has shown up with Mik on spec. Mik also helps, so the White Wolf's plan to train his bitch called Ten - which wouldn't have worked anyway, is now scuppered, as is his plan to use Ten to replace Karou and thereby be rid of her. So he comes up with a new plan, which is that he can use Zuze and Mik as leverage against Karou, to keep her tightly under his control, but she vows she will not let this happen. But Zuze and Mik have made such a favorable impression on the chimera that my guess is that they won't have any truck with any plan which might bring harm to the two humans.

Karou also makes an ally of the only other Kirin in the encampment, and he vows to help her. Meanwhile, on the other side, Akiva has won over Hazael and Liraz to his side, but they are called into the emperors palace - which is probably a trap for Akiva (good!). However, Akiva is already aware of this possibility and he has decided he wants to kill Joram anyway, so this but might be interesting. Hazael and Liraz want the same thing, and that's why they go with him. But with Taylor juxtaposing Liraz's internal feelings of hopelessness against the story of Karou's relationship with her fellow Kirin, I'm guessing that Liraz is going to be paired off with him before this trilogy is over. OTOH, you know how lousy my guesses are, if you've been following my blog!

So it's time to wrap this up. Finally Akiva, at the mention of his mother's name, Festival, feels some weird calming power overtake him, and he comes through and does something good: he stabs his father who was ordering him to go alone to meet the Stelians - another angelic race who are as distant as they are mysterious. Every envoy so far sent to them has disappeared without a trace. Joram dies, Jael escapes to become Angelic Villain 2.0. Akiva finds he has some weird magical power which completely destroys Joram's palace, but Hazael dies. Akiva and Liraz escape.

Karou has less success in confronting Thiago. He merely turns around her revelation that there are scores upon scores of chimera waiting to be resurrected in the catacombs under Loramendi, and steals her fire. Later he kills her only three supporters, and when he demands that everyone leave himself and Karou there alone, he tries to rape her, but Karou, using only the little knife in her boot, slays him. Then she resurrects his body but with her friend Ziri the Kirin's soul. How the hell he escaped from the party of six who were going to kill him during their mission with him is really completely glossed over. Thiago's buddy Ten is also killed and her body resurrected with the soul of one of Karou's allies, so now they control the chimera without anyone knowing!

When Akiva and Liraz show up begging Karou to resurrect Hazael, they bring the body but no thurible containing his soul, so she can do nothing to help them. The two of them burn Hazael's body and they depart, intent upon closing the last two portals between the two worlds, but Jael and his five thousand Dominion angels have already come through them, and the Earthlings believe they're angels from heaven!

So we end up with an uneasy truce between the two warring sides, the chimera on the one side, and the "Misbegottens" - angels who are loyal to Akiva - as they realize they have an enemy which worse than either of them: a greater threat than either of them, to face down.

I'm rating this one as worthy because it was a good read, although it became a bit too melodramatic at the end with one switcheroo after another. It reminded me of the hilarious comedy movie Soapdish, but that one was intentionally funny. I don't think Taylor was planning on having me laugh at these switches and then become annoyed with them. But that wasn't the worst part, The worst part was seeing Karou, who was without question a super-cool and kick-ass female protagonist descend from her pedestal to become pedestrian in the sequel. Her anguishing, and her dichotomic feelings about Akiva were truly tiresome.

It's obvious (at least it seems obvious to me - but then if you've read my reviews you'll know how sucky my prognostications are) that Taylor is going to pair them off at the end of vol 3, so there goes the drama. I'll be truly impressed if she doesn't, but it's YA, after all, so why would I even imagine something like that could happen? I'll probably have to rate vol 3 as warty if it descends to those levels, but let's wait and see!

Monday, April 29, 2013

Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Title: Daughter of Smoke & Bone
Author: Laini Taylor
Publisher: Hachette Gook Group
Rating: WORTHY!

This novel was amazing, but that doesn't mean that there weren't issues with it, as I shall describe below; however, I was sufficiently impressed with it that I wanted to launch into the sequel right away. Fortunately I had that option because I came late to this series. It would have been really annoying had I to wait a year or something like that before I could get started on volume 2.

There was a magnificent thunderstorm going on overhead as I initially wrote this, with heavy rain and even hail! It was beautiful, and amazing, and highly appropriate to this story as I sat here with a nice hot cuppa, feeling warm and dry, and reading onwards, ever onwards.

The main protagonist here is Karou, a 17-year-old art student living in Prague (a location which made an impression on the author when she was working on another project). Kudos to her for having the smarts to set her novel away from north America, which is the center of the world to far too many YA authors. Karou was raised by chimera and is taught to despise and fear angels. So immediately we know who her "other half" is going to end up being, don't we?

The saddest thing about Karou is that we meet her in this story as she feels like she desperately needs a man to complete her. That's an appalling thing to do to a character, especially if you're a female author, and it's entirely the wrong message to send to young readers. No, no girl needs a partner to complete her unless she's appallingly weak. It's not a strength to come into a relationship being needy, and it will doom the relationship eventually. Karou lost a lot of my sympathy right there, as indeed would a guy if he'd expressed the same kind of feelings.

Karou lives in a world full of the utterly amazing, and while I am sure it would feel a wee bit mundane to her, having lived with it all her life, Karou's character shows us that she's not jaded with her world by any means, yet I started out feeling that she would break into song ("Some Day My Prince Will Come...") before so very long. Fortunately, she doesn't have seven chimera doting on her, otherwise I'd really have begun to worry! I hoped, as I continued into this, that there was more to her than we learn in the first few chapters and I was, thankfully, granted that wish.

Talking of which, in addition to living amongst the amazing, Karou gets wishes granted. One of those was her "natural" azure hair. She never needs to touch up her roots. She also has some rather evil African beads which grant her very minor wishes, and which we find her employing during one of her classes, to inflict uncomfortable and embarrassing itches on the nude model, who happens to be her ex. He wants her back, but she very wisely wants nothing more to do with him. I was glad to see that resilience in her.

Karou's best friend is the petite Zuzana who knows nothing of Karou's real life and is from time-to-time annoyed by her secretiveness. Zuzana (along with all the other art students at the academy which Karou attends) think that the amazing drawings Karou does are from her crazy imagination, and that the stories she tells about the characters she draws are wild inventions, but Karou finds it easier to tell the truth about her family, all the while pretending it's oddball fiction. In that way, she's never caught in a lie. Her friends have no idea that they are real-life portraits, and real stories of her "family", which consists of the grim, dour Brimstone, who has ram's horns inter alia, the cobra-esque Issa (evidently like a mermaid but with a sea snake tail rather than a sea bass tail), Twiga, who sports a giraffe-proportioned neck; and Yasri who has a bird's beak. There's also a little messenger bird called Kishmish, who summons her to do Brimstone's bidding. And that's where the story takes off.

Brimstone's employment of Karou is an oddity in itself. She will discover his need for her services via a terse message brought to her by Kishmish always, it seems, at an inopportune time. His requirement is invariably the same: she is to go to one part of the world or another and buy teeth with the money he gives her, returning them to Brimstone's den. Karou can travel easily because the door to Brimstone's den opens into every city in the world. She can leave from it at any time and go anywhere, but in order to get back, she has to knock on a certain designated door and wait for Issa to let her in. One time she has to go to Paris to get elephant tusks, another time to Singapore to get reptile teeth. Brimstone won't tell her what he does with these teeth.

So having established all this, we next move on to Akiva, the standard trope angel of the story, whose muscles are corded on his arms. Yes, corded! Now someone needs to tell me what these angels of light are doing with their muscular bodies. Why is that muscle needed? In all this time no one ever explained this to me. They have the power of a god behind them (so we're expected to believe - the most powerful force in the universe), so why would they need muscles? Akiva can burn his hand-print on a door - as long as it's wood, I never learned what happened if the door was metal or plastic. So again, why would he need muscles? With all this angelic power and an omnipotent god, why does Akiva - or any angel - need corded muscles? And don't even get me started on his ethereal beauty and his burning eyes. Why are they so beautiful? Rest assured that he also no doubt has a smokin' bone from which you should most definitely protect your daughter....

Clearly this is nothing more than wish-fulfillment on the part of the author - the tedious trope muscular guy with hair falling into his eyes and a rebel attitude. I already thoroughly detest him and his ilk, and at that point, while I sincerely hoped that the story would improve (it did, fortunately), but I also sat in disbelief at the lack of inventiveness on the part of YA authors; at their short-sightedness and inability to create something new and original. Then I wondered, "Whose wish-fulfillment is going on here?" These YA authors are only supplying what the readership is demands, so maybe the problem isn't the authors, but the readership - the sad state of USA teen females who cannot see beyond the end of their nipples? But no, it's the writers, too. Writing is often described as a solitary, even lonely, profession, but actually it's a team sport. The writers work in tandem with the readers. The author creates the bobsled, but the readers agree to board it with them in exchange for a wild ride - or not. You can't sell what no one will buy, and you can't read what no one will write. The bottom line, however, is that writers could change this if they chose so to do, so it's more on them than on the readers.

So having established Akiva, we have to get the two of them together, and this occurs on a weird mission upon which Karou is dispatched at Brimstone's urging. He even said "please" in his note. In fact, that was all he said, which intrigued Karou. When she visited him, she learned that he feared she had chosen to leave the chimera! This was not even something she'd considered possible, let alone considered doing. She's sent to Morocco to get human teeth, and as she left, she was spotted by Akiva who was approaching it for the purpose of burning his hand-print on it. So he sees Karou leave and is sufficiently intrigued by her youth, appearance, and general demeanor that he starts following her through the city.

He watches her meet her mark and buy some teeth (not the juvenile ones - Brimstone only took the mature ones), but then the seller sees Akiva, as does the deformed angel on the seller's back, and as does Karou. Her mark warns her to run - run and warn Brimstone that the seraphim have got back in! She runs, but is intercepted by Akiva right at the door through which she's desperately seeking to make her escape. A fight ensues, but he fails to kill her and she uses her eye tattoos - the ones on the palms of her hands, to blast him. He asks her who she is before the door is finally opened and Issa lets her inside.

So now we have the male protag fascinated by the female, but we're not done with Karou yet. When she sneaks behind a door she's not supposed to go through, Brimstone himself literally throws her out! She's out in the cold, but at least she has her apartment to retreat to, half undressed as she is. Note to self: if I'm ever going to sneak through a demon door, make sure I'm fully clothed for the outdoors, and also that I have my purse and sketch pad with me. Oh, and those burned imprints on the doors? They go off like incendiary bombs and Karou discovers this when a burning Kishmish dies in her hands. He was sent to her with one thing which is tied to Brimstone: a wishbone he always had around his neck - a wishbone he absolutely forbade Karou ever to touch. And now she has it in her hands, making a wish that she can get to Brimstone and her family and nothing happens.

Well, one thing happens - her BFF Zuzana is with Karou and sees this creature burning, and after a wish demo using one of Karou's African beads, Zuzana is fully on board with the truth about her friend. Talking of wishes, Karou starts hunting down those teeth suppliers she knows of who visited the shop personally, and were paid with wish coins. There are several denominations of wish coin, and Karou needs one of a specific value to get the wish she wants - to be able to fly.

Meanwhile, Akiva has tracked down Karou and is spying on her through her bedroom window, creepily watching her sleep. That's never a good thing and if anyone tells you it's a sign of true love, just slap them upside the head, and walk away quickly. This story had been awesome so far, but I felt I was really going to start disliking it if it was to become a tired YA romance drowned in trope and cliché after having had page after page after page of refreshing, warming, interesting novel.

I think I should say a word here about instadore (my word for insta-love since it never is love - it's infatuation, or lust, or cluelessness). There's an element of it in this novel, but it's nowhere near as badly done as it is in some other stories I've read. I'd mention the execrable Felon (not its real name, but maybe what it ought to have been titled!), but then I'd have to go rinse my mouth out with carbolic. I think there's a case for distinguishing between instadore in a paranormal romance and the same thing in your common-or-garbage romance, because they aren't the same thing - hence the paranormal part!

There's a distinction to be made between a supernatural compulsion and an ordinary infatuation, so I think we need to allow a bit more leeway there, but having said that, there are limits! I don't think Taylor exceeds them, but she comes closer than I like. Yes, she reports undercurrents between the two main protagonists, and sometimes she makes me feel a tad nauseous with her excess, but in general, she does a good job of showing this powerful attraction while keeping it tamed.

Moving right along, now! It was inevitable that Karou would realize, even though she could not see him, that someone (Akiva) was tailing her, so she lay in wait for him and a fight ensued during which he parried her attack without striking out himself. Once she blasted him with those eyes on her palms, he was pretty much done, and she hesitated then, failing to deliver a death blow. We're to learn that there's a really interesting parallel to this. Eventually, Karou takes him back to her apartment where they talk and slowly, an uneasy truce is born between them.

Zuzana came over and checked him out, but as they were all making their way over the river bridge the next morning, Karou still intent upon finding that portal back to her family, Akiva's two war buddies, Hazael and his sister, the feisty Liraz, showed up demanding to know what was going on with Karou - demanding to know who she was. Yes, they had been spying on him, and brilliant warrior that he was, he hadn't even noticed. More absurd, they had watched him being beaten within a cubit of his life by Karou, and had failed to intervene! Some friends, huh? That struck me as decidedly weird and not in keeping with the intent of their kind: a disbelief no-longer-suspended moment.

So on the bridge right before this showdown, there's this weird scene where Akiva espies the wishbone which Karou wears around her neck - the one she inherited from Brimstone. The weird thing is that this literally brings Akiva to his knees, and while he's down there, his face against her legs, he next buries that same face in her hair?! How does he do that given that her hair does not come down to her knees? Does Akiva also have a giraffe neck? That just sounded really strange to me - something a decent book editor would have caught.

And then there's the Liraz insult! (I would love to read a story about Liraz!) "...Liraz was more frightening, she always had been; perhaps she'd had to be, being female." What the heck does that mean? And this is written by a female writer! But it was not about humans, it was about angels! Are we to understand that there's genderism in Heaven? Given the misogynistic tone of both the Bible and the Koran (and all too much religious literature), that wouldn't surprise me at all. I'm sure glad I'm not going to heaven.

But here's the angle on angels: if angels have no genitals, then what does it even mean that there are "males" and "females"? Yes, I understand that the eternal genitals don't define gender, it's the size of the gamete, the larger one defining the female, but this doesn't rob me of my point, which is: what would be the point? And how in hell (strike that - how in heaven!) can there be relationships with them as depicted in so many books?! How can there be half-breeds? And whence did this 'angels have no genitals' even derive? It's never mentioned in the religious primary sources (where angels are, of course, exclusively men and, as far as we can be expected to believe, must be just like men, genitals included, otherwise why specify their gender?).

Frankly, I can't get into this 'war in heaven' angels & demons crap and take it seriously, I really can't, which is why I'm probably the best placed writer to write the definitive angel story, if I could only get my act together...! But it does mean that I'm paying Taylor a really big compliment (indeed, an entire complement of compliments) when I say I have enjoyed this story more than all too many of the stories I've waded through recently.

Now would be a good time to relate Akiva's flashback if I wanted to reveal any more story, but I won't. The flashbacks did interrupt the flow of the narrative somewhat, but they didn't seem that bad to me, and they were necessary. Whether they could have been added in a different place to better effect is debatable.

I liked this novel overall. Yes, there was still too much cliché and trope, but I was willing to overlook that for the enjoyment the rest of it brought me, so I rate this a worthy read.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Tormented by Lauren Kate

Title: Torment
Author: Lauren Kate
Publisher: Random House
Rating: WARTY!

So Luce is flown to San Francisco airport, which apparently has the absolute fastest baggage retrieval ever, because in no time Luce and Daniel - without whom she's a complete, utter, and very limp nothing evidently - are approaching Daniel's car, which is an Alfa Romeo, and which happens to be Luce's dream car. As Daniel informs her, it used to be her car in a previous life. Need we go into the Romeo Giulietta here and the fact that Kate actually used the term 'star-crossed lovers' in vol 1?!

Kate seems to have some sort of problem with plurals. She thinks biceps has a singular form! No, biceps relates to the number of skeletal attachments, not to the number of muscles! There is no 'bicep', just like there is no tricep! Sorry Laurie!

Next comes the magic - and it’s dangerous and uncalled for especially given that it's practiced by Daniel who is supposed to be keeping Luce safe: he shrinks her bag to fit into the trunk, an act of magic which apparently lights him up like a beacon to the evil powers that be. Then he spends a lot of time telling her that he can’t tell her anything. He does tell her that she's enrolled in a new school up the coast from SF, but I have to ask, what’s the point?! She's seventeen, She's in so much danger that he feels he has to hide her away in a camouflaged school (like The Evil One would have the Devil of a job trying to figure out where it is? Seriously?) But if she's going to be hiding away all her life, then what’s the point? How is she ever going to have a career? And if she isn’t, what, exactly, is she studying for? Angel University?!

When she asks him to tell her everything that he's been up to since they've been apart (for all of three days?! Just how clingy is this woman?) he babbles on about a 'Council of Angels' meeting'. Honestly? Where, exactly, is god?! I always thought he was supposed to be in charge! Is he being non-existent again? Because every time we hear of these religious stories, whether in book or film, it’s always the case that the god is useless and it’s entirely up to humans (or in this case humans, half-breeds and angels) to carry the day. God - who could protect her instantly and permanently - apparently has no interest whatsoever in this oh-so-special girl! As Al Pacino's character describes him in the excellent Devil's Advocate he's an 'absentee landlord"!

And what the hell airport did Luce land in? Kate describes the drive into the city over a roller-coaster of hills and dales, but the SF airport is right in the middle of the city on the shoreline! No hills. The city's right there; to get to Fort Bragg you drive north out of the city not into it! Was Kate doing angel dust when she wrote this?!

On the journey - however misguided it is, Daniel points out a mobile home park where Luce used to live in a two room cabin (so how in hell did she have her own room?!) long before it was a trailer park, but when she asks him about the first time they ever met, he makes like a clam again, so it isn't just Luce who's spineless. What a jerk Daniel is! Since Luce is the light and also his buddy, I think from now on I shall refer to them as Dani of El and his bud light...maybe not!

I don’t know where Kate gets this reincarnation from given her context. It’s not in the Bible. Yes, there are some delusional characters in there who question whether Jesus, for example, is the reincarnation of Elisha or Elijah or whatever, but the Bible is really one life and you're done, as unjust as that is in this context. In point of fact, it’s not until the NT that we even get an after-life! There's no such thing in the OT, and there's no mention of any scheme of reincarnation. That's not a Judaic idea at all.

As a special treat, Dani of El parks in Mendocino and literally flies Luce to Fort Bragg, or more specifically, to the protected grounds of the Shoreline school. She wakes up the next day to discover that she's sharing a room with an obnoxious 'Nephilim' (more on this anon) called Shelby who, for reasons unknown and unexplained, was evidently not told she was getting a roommate that night. Shelby wasn't actually there in the middle of the night as it happened, not arriving home until the wee hours of the morning, and then through the window!

So they go to breakfast. Luce notes that this place smells faintly of the ocean, but it’s not really like home - on the east coast? I don’t know what the deal is with that. She lived on the east coast when she was in the Dover school where her boyfriend burned, but her parents were living just a few miles from her school in Georgia, so what that's all about I have no good handle on.

As they reach the "mess hall" which is very well-appointed and suitable for rich kids, completely the opposite of Sword and Cross, Shelby reluctantly and snottily imparts that the school is home to a bunch of Nephil. On that topic, Hebrew words which end in 'im', such as Cherubim, are plurals. The singular in this case would be Cherub. Kate finally addresses the fact that Nephilim is a plural, having Shelby make cheap excuses for Kate's inappropriate use of the term. Not a bad idea - blame a character for your phobias and peccadilloes?! I must use that!

The startling thing to Luce, however, is that she's a celebrity here. She is spoken of almost reverently, and there's a certain amount of hero worship over her story: her reincarnations, her star crossed love, and her attachment to the hawt Dani of El. This, of course, begs the question that if every one of these people knows so much about her, why - in god's name! - has she been kept so resolutely in the frigging dark all this time?

Her first class is jointly conducted by a good fallen angel Jessica (isn't that a contradiction in terms?) and a bad fallen angel Steven (isn't that a tautology?) just to keep things fair! What? What's with the 'fair' crap? I thought all was fair in love and war and this is both! Oh well, go with the flow and see where we get washed up.

And the award for Best Split Word goes to Lauren Kate for her novel Torment where, on page 148, she splits 'demonstration' across two lines into demon-stration! That was hilarious! But unfortunately, Kate also gets the award for most obnoxiously and nauseatingly whiny-assed heroine ever. It’s really hard to have to keep on reading Luce's absolutely endless whining about how she can’t be with Dani of El. Who, in their right mind, would actually want to be with Luce in one lifetime, let alone across scores of them? Which decent self-respecting person would want to be with a clingy, helpless, whining, self-absorbed partner like her? Honestly? It's like every other thought that crosses her mind is about how much she wants to be with him and how unfair life is to her. It’s really hard to read those parts.

So why go on with this? Well tossed in with the tropes and pains is the occasional nice bit of writing and of plot development - and even humor1 rare, but there in tiny doses. Yes! The story itself isn’t so bad; it’s the protagonist who's a pain in the patootie. So I hope you'll forgive the occasional snark as this goes on!

So Luce starts getting to know someone called Miles (shouldn't that be Kilometers in this day and age?) and unloads a lot of her baggage onto him, but this does not a thing to improve her demeanor, not even by one iota. I'm actually suspicious of Miles, quite frankly. In one of their classes with Jessica and Steven, the two of them show the class how to unfold one of the shadows - called an 'announcer' - and see what's inside it. This makes no sense at all in context except as a ham-fisted plot device to give Luce something more to do on her own. Evidently shadows are like archived news clips from the history of the world. The one they see in class is Sodom and Gomorrah, and since these clips are from one's own life, this means that the teachers were actually at the destruction of those Biblical cities.

After that class, Luce goes to see Jessica to try and learn more about the shadows, and ends up outside her office eavesdropping on yet another partial discussion. She hides and sees Roland - of her time at Sword and Cross school - come out of the office, so she follows him and talks with him. He tells her nothing about what’s going on, and invites her to a beach party to which she goes and ends up meeting Daniel secretly. Daniel spends just a few minutes with her. He tells her nothing about what’s going on, and forbids her to leave the school under any circumstances, then he flies off. What a worthless jerk he truly is.

Arriving back in her dorm room, Luce finds an envelope under her door with a bus ticket and a typewritten note purportedly from Daniel, telling her to take the bus and meet him later than night. Not printed - typewritten! Luce, quite obviously by now the world's most monumental moron, stupidly, blindly believes it’s from Daniel, and she does exactly what she's told to do, ending up alone, near the fishing docks, in this deserted town very late at night. As she hears fishermen coming up from the docks (at that time of night?!), she backs into the shadows, and she sees Cam Briel, the bad guy from the previous novel, strolling by! He sees Luce and angrily asks her what she's doing there, then he throws her to the floor as an arrow flies over their heads. Next he's up and running to overpower the angel who tried to kill Luce, and he kills her with one of her own arrows. Then he drives Luce back to the school and tells her she cannot leave because of the extreme danger she's in! He tells her nothing about what’s going on.

So what does the biggest dipsquat in California do having been advised by both the "good' guy and by the "bad" guy to stay in school because she's in mortal danger?? She leaves the school again - twice! On the first of these occasions, she goes on a school trip on the luxury 130 foot yacht. Honestly? What 130 foot yacht isn't luxury? On this occasion it’s fortunate that she is there because Dawn, one of two ditzy friends Luce has made in addition to Shelby, is knocked overboard by a shadow, and Luce is the only one with the presence of mind to grab a life preserver and jump in after her. Something tries to pull Dawn under, but Steven comes after them in a raft and hauls her out of the water, ordering both of them to say nothing about this thing pulling them under, even as Luce watches welts rise up on Dawn's ankle, in the shape of fingers. Again, no one tells Luce (or Dawn for that matter) diddly squat about what's going on.

Next, Luce inveigles Shelby into helping her trap and look into a shadow. She's tried it before, by herself, and had no success, so this time she and Shelby do what they saw the teachers doing, stretching it out, and Luce is able to look in on one of her past lives. She sees her own picture, with Daniel, in a frame on a shelf, and notes a laptop computer and an address on an envelope. These were her parents in a very recent, previous life and she can go see them! Shelby steals her ex-boyfriend's Mercedes and they drive to Mount Shasta where they find the bungalow in which her older parents live, but while she can play peeping Tom in their window, she can't pluck up the guts to go talk with them.

So let’s review the story so far. In her entire time in Sword and Cross, which admittedly was problematical, Luce never once asked anyone to fill her in on what’s going on because she was so self-obsessed about Daniel and her so-called life. Now she's in a wonderful school, with decent, supportive people, all of whom know much more about things than she does, yet never once does she ask anyone there to fill her in on what’s going on because she's so self-obsessed about Daniel and her so-called life. Daniel, who is supposed to love her, never once fills her in on what's going on and she never asks because she's so self-obsessed about Daniel and her so-called life, preferring to act like a clueless thirteen year old, instead to taking the mature approach and taking charge of her life! And we’re supposed to what? Admire this girl? Root for her? Empathize with her? She makes me sick. She's the worst hero ever.

I'm committed to finishing this volume because as I said, the overall story itself is interesting, but the protagonist is utterly worthless. I've never quite been in this position before! I can see how people who are less discriminating and less demanding than I am might be addicted enough to plow through five volumes of this stuff, but I'm done after this vol, because I honestly don’t care what happens to Luce or to Daniel, and I think after two volumes I've given Lauren Kate more than a fair chance to win me over. I started out wanting to like it and trying to like it, but Lauren Kate has made far too hard to even want to like Loose Price! And if this is the best that 'angel stories' have to offer (at least as judged by how popular this series evidently is), then I can’t see why I should read any more of these no matter who has written them! Problematical as it was in parts, I'd recommend SJ Day's 'Eve of...' series over any series like this one. But it's not YA kosher! So maybe it’s really time to write one of my own?

Well Dani of El keeps on pumping up the jerk-o-meter. We learn that Shelby and he once had a one-nighter; and that's only the unfaithful act by him that Luce knows about Meanwhile Luce is still pursing her quest to rape the shadows for all they've got. She tries to capture a large sickly looking one, but Steve is spying on them and the shadow breaks up when she grabs it.

Right before that happened, she saw Cam in the forest, covered in blood, claiming he's just killed some of the Sophie assassins who were after her. None of that makes any sense. Sophie the Librarian had the entire book to kill her in vol one and did nothing. Now, suddenly, Luce needs to be taken out?!

Right after that incident, Luce is called into Steve and Jessica's office (where Jessica isn’t), and Steve talks to her about the shadows. He shows her a copy of a Plato book (which is illustrated! Lol!) and makes mention of Plato's remarks regarding how things look different when all you can see of them is their shadows. And people think this man was some sort of a great thinker?! But Steve's lesson is that shadows can be dangerous and she needs proper training if she's going to ignore the warnings she's been given, and go after them anyway. And we know by now that Luce is far too stupid a person to give any regard at all to warnings she receives, no matter who gives them to her and no matter how valid she knows for a fact that those warnigns are. No wonder she's always died young in her previous incarnations!

Dani of El keeps sneaking visits to his bud light, and each time he thrills her, tells her nothing, and hurries away. After being treated like dirt by him for a volume and a half, Luce is finally becoming a tad nit bit miffed. Hey, do you want to see a picture of Luce? Get a copy of the ancient and venerable Dictionary of Fallen Torment, and look up 'doormat'; there's a picture of luce right there.

So right after Luce's parents ask her if she can make it to their house for Thanksgiving that year, a hamfisted segue into an invitation from Miles drops into her lap and I'm guessing she's going to ditch her parents and take him up on it. Maybe her name should be Luce woman? We'll see.

Well I've finished this volume now and I have to say that I can't recommend this. Not only did Lauren Kate fail to pull it out of the fire, she torched it with napalm. The first volume was barely passable, but two volumes of non-stop whining by the female protagonist is two volumes way the hell too much. Two volumes of the female protagonist not being told anything by anyone and having zero spine to go find out; two volumes of failing to pursue questions (when she has prime opportunities to do so) which would help her to understand; two volumes of doing outright stupid things that put her friend's lives at risk, and two volumes of being so self-obsessed that even when she realizes what the stakes are, her every waking thought is: "What about me?" This is way too much to stomach. No one should be asked to put themselves through the torment of Luce Price's non-stop, juvenile self-pity parade.

Let's wind up the summary. So Luce starts falling for Miles. Daniel, even though he's treated Luce like crap and she should kick him in his angelic orbs and a ditch him permanently, goes into a sob-fest and a jealousy fit over it. Luce takes Shelby and Miles to Las Vegas through a shadow window even though she's been told endlessly that she cannot leave the school grounds because its dangerous and people can get hurt. Arriane rescues her from that. No one tells Luce anything and she never asks because she's so absorbed by how sad she is over Daniel, her loser boyfriend. Dawn, who looks superficially like Luce, especially after Luce becomes a peroxide blond, gets kidnapped and then returned unharmed for no reason! Luce determines she must talk with Dawn but never ever ever everjust often enough to make her feel wretched - and this jerk-off, no-good, clueless, heartless, piece-of-trash dipstick tells her nothing at all about anything.

Luce, who thinks she will not be able to leave the school grounds for Thanksgiving with her folks nevertheless lets her best friend Callie buy an airline ticket to join her with her parents! Fortunately for Callie, Luce finally gets permission to go, but has to go to Sword and Cross for them to pick her up, because she's been consistently lying to her parents - the parents she loves more than anything - about what's going on in her life. When she gets there for Thanksgiving, everyone and their uncle turns up - all the angels, including Molly who dumped meatloaf over her head in vol 1, and Cam, and several Nephilim and her best friend (to whom she's also told lies when she's actually deigned to contact her at all). The angels have a "fight" against the outcasts - basically zombie angels - and the angels win. Luce still asks no questions, and at the end, she claims she is taking charge of her life and promptly opens a shadow at random and steps blindly though it. How is this taking charge of her life by any definition?! It's casting her fortune to the wind, which is pretty much exactly what she's done since day one, only this wind is coming from the asses of angels

Seriously. That's how brain-dead stupid the ending to this novel is. The series is nothing but a massive helping of Luce sickly wallowing in how badly done to she is, in acting so stupid that she's more like an eleven year old than her age, in being told nothing and in failing to ask question which will reduce her ignorance even when she has golden opportunities to do so, and in doing illogical and pointless things which get actually her nowhere. From the reading I've done, vol 3 is nothing but Luce reliving her past lives by going through shadows. Who in their right mind wants to wallow some more with her in that? How is that going to help her address the current dangerous situation?

I don't care what happens to Luce or Daniel or any other character in this story. They can rot in hell for all I care because I have been given no reason to care and every reason to feel nauseous over the two main protagonists. What they have isn't love, it isn;t transcendent, it's a co-dependent blood letting and both of them need serious psychiatric help. This series is a mess and I refuse to waste any more time on it.

Monday, March 11, 2013

Fallen by Lauren Kate

Title: Fallen
Author: Lauren Kate
Publisher: Random House
Rating: WARTY!

I got so sick of hearing about the upcoming papal election (what, the finger of God not good enough for the new Pope?!) that I switched from NPR to a music station on the way to work this morning, and they were playing Scream and Shout, but it was the clean radio version, so instead of Britney Bitch, it was Britney Britney, but they had failed to remove the whispery ending to 'Bitch', so it sounded more like Britney Itch! I almost laughed out loud at this. What the heck does this have to do with this novel? Well, there's an itch in it, and she's not called Britney. She's called Molly. Molly? Yeah, Molly. And she's definitely not coddled, but she seems to have little to do with the action in the novel after this apart from popping up a couple of times to warn Luce off Daniel.

So Kate starts out with the usual trope of a new kid in high school (the Sword and Cross reform school - no kidding) and two hunks to compose the standard triangle trope. On this occasion, it would seem that Kate actually has a really good underpinning for the triangle, although the 'high school' bit makes no sense at all. Not so far, anyway and I'm about 35% in at this point.

Lucinda Price (interesting name! I actually dated someone called Lucinda once, and yes, there was a price.) aka Luce is immediately befriended by Arriane - a quirky, rebellious girl who carries the punishment of a wrist bracelet which shocks her when she misbehaves - like when she punches Meatloaf Molly for dumping her lunchtime meatloaf all over Luce because of a minor collision in the cafeteria.

Yeah, Luce! Could it be a more telegraphic name? So Molly, Arriane, and Luce all get punished with 'cemetery duty' at the crack of dawn the next day. Don't get me started on the injustice of this; I hated high school with a vengeance. Cemetery duty means cleaning the gravestones and walkways in a civil war era graveyard (the school is in Georgia, southern USA), but Luce and Daniel Grigori, hunk #1, actually trash it up! When they stop to chat under the lightning bolt angel, the angel crashes down over them. No one is injured, but rather than comfort Luce, Daniel simply walks away. He's so rugged!

A word about Daniel; from the first moment she lays eyes on him, Luce is dangerously attracted; she can't take her eyes off him, but he rejects her by giving her the finger the first time she sees him. After that he keeps sending on-again-off-again mixed signals to her which means that he's a jerk in my book. The only other competition is Cam, hunk #2 (Cam? Yes, Cam. How many Cams are we going to have to endure in these books for god's sakes, before we’re free of that frigging' name?!). Cam is a charmer, which immediately, of course means that Cam is evil incarnate and Daniel is the angel of light.

The name Daniel means 'judged of god' from the Hebrew: 'El' being the god part. Lucinda means light. Arriane is the French version of Ariadne, meaning 'most holy'. Either that or it's a French rocket. Molly is a diminutive of Mary even though it has more letters! No one knows what the hell it means although I favor the Egyptian derivation, where it comes from 'beloved' and has taken on a secondary meaning 'of the sea' from the Latin mare. In addition there’s a Todd ('Fox'), a Roland ('famous'), a Gabbe (Gabrielle - 'god gives strength') and a Penn. I actually know a Gabriela, and she;s called Gabby, too., Why would anyone ruin such a beautiful name with such a foul contraction?!

Cam invites Luce to a party in his room that night where Roland plays records. Yeah, not CDs, not an iPod, but records. And this was written in 2009. O-okay; just keep swimming.... The dorms are completely mixed, and whilst no one actually shares a room, the males and female are roomed right next door to each other. Given that is supposed to be a reform school, so strict that the students are deprived even of their cell phones when they arrive, how this works and how come not one single student or teacher seems to think that there's anything even remotely adrift with this housing scheme is a complete and utter mystery!

When Luce sees Daniel sneak out of the party, she makes a cheap excuse to follow him, so now Luce is a stalker. She overhears him talking to Gabbe and learns that there is something secret going on. Surprise, surprise!

If you didn’t figure out from the title that this is a novel about angels - Fallen angels - then you're more clueless even than I am! I don't normally real this stuff with angels and fairies - although I read a bit about Blackbringer the other day (no, not that day, the other one!) and I admit I was intrigued - but this particular novel sounded like it might be worth my time, and the first two volumes were right there on the library shelf, so I hope Kate won't let me down. There are five volumes in total so far, so if this turns out to be an acceptable read, I have more to look forward to. OTOH, if it's a disaster, I've lost nothing; nothing ventured, everything gained!

One more thing - I was tricked into reading the prologue in this novel, so props to Kate for finagling that. It looked like chapter one, I swear it did! The prologue consisted of a guy rejecting a girl in late Victorian England, and since Luce seems so familiar with Daniel, (hell for short, but not for leather), I guess they've met in a previous life (although how that works remains unexplained, one third the way in). I have to say that this annoyingly reminds me of my own Timeless for which I still don’t have an ending. But unlike Timeless, Fallen is about reincarnation and forbidden love. Timeless is about carnal love for the bidding (I ain't kidding!).

In short, I have to admit a bias against this kind of story. I don’t buy the religious thing at all, although it can make for great fiction, but I have especial problems with that fiction when it tries to make sense of something which is, intrinsically, nonsensical! Religion makes no sense at all except in the light of human ignorance, frailty, mortality, and superstition, so I have to confess a certain interest in what Kate will do with this material. So with that intrigue, and with her writing which is acceptably done so far fro my modest expectations, I'm prepare to suspend disbelief and go with the flow and see what kind of a tale she can tell.

One more detail. Luce was sent to this reform school for reasons which make no sense. This is a weak spot in Kate's plotting IMO. The ostensible reason for it is her lack of a solid grasp on reality (but ain't that religion all over?!). Why she would be sent to a reform school rather than some sort of psychiatric hospital is not explained. If she's not being punished for her boyfriend's death, why the reform school? If she faked herself out of psychiatric hospital why not a regular school? Luce was with a boyfriend - a kinda boyfriend - and she was about to kiss him when he burst into flames. Her memory of what happened is tenuous at best, so she blames herself for his death even though she has no idea of how she could be to blame. It didn’t help that she told people she can see shadows moving, and that bad stuff seems to happen when that happens. She still sees the shadows at her new school.

So medically speaking, she's being abused, but for the novel, she's exactly where she needs to be, but even that is problematical, because once again we have the problem: no one tells the protagonist anything! If only someone would explain to her that she's an angel, it would improve her life immeasurably. The cruelty involved in keeping this from her, especially by Daniel, is inexcusable and is a big turn off so far - unless, of course, Kate comes up with some rationale as to why she, a person of the light, should be kept in the dark! But let’s see how Kate does with this.

Waking up with somewhat of a hangover the morning after the party and recalling Gabbe's words to Daniel along the lines of "I'm the only one you've got" Luce acts like a 13 year old instead of the 17 or so years she's supposed to be and goes into a funk, but since she's shocked out of bed by a demand that all students report to the gym (a converted church) for physical assessment, she doesn’t have time to ponder it too deeply.

I have no idea what the physical assessment is all about because no physical assessment is actually given to the students. Each student is assigned one random physical task to complete, and Luce's is swimming. Even though she's not paying attention and starts off late, she swims like a dolphin and is all set to win the eight-lap sprint when she hears Gabbe say something about Daniel and stops dead in the water, thereby not only losing but proving herself a loser!

I don't know how long Kate plans on condemning her primary protagonist to this fate, but I can see it becoming really tedious after a while. And yes, I know that in real life there are genuine people who are depressed and who can't help their self, and who need and hopefully are getting the help they deserve, but something has gone wrong with Luce! She actually seems more depressing than she does depressed.

She outright asks Roland if Daniel and Gabbe are together, and he refers her to Daniel. She sees Daniel in the gym skipping rope and is abruptly flung out of the gym by those invisible (to everyone but her) shadows. She has to re-enter it to get her key, and ends up telling Daniel that she's sure they've met before. He assures her that they have not and she goes into another funk and fails to ask if he's with Gabbe! Seriously, Luce, tighten up!

Cam breaks her out of her self-pitying wallow-a-thon by luring her to picnic with him in the cemetery instead of going to class, but right when she and Cam are about to kiss, they're interrupted by Gabbe who tells them the teacher is asking for them in class. Of course, when they arrive, the teachers seems not to have even missed them. If Luce can't connect the dots between this with what she overheard between Daniel and Gabbe that dorkish stormy night, then she's not too smart: it would seem obvious that Daniel has asked Gabbe to keep an eye on Luce and keep her from getting too involved with Cam.

This class is conducted in the library by the librarian, whom Luce has met earlier and taken a liking to. She's supposed to be teaching religious history, so how this translates into her authorizing them 15 minutes on the Internet to research their family tree is a mystery. Luce, the worst student ever, blows this off, too, and researches Daniel Grigori instead, but we learn nothing about what she found (if anything). Why she did not also use the opportunity to email her best friend from her previous school is another unsolved mystery given how much she wailed earlier about not being able to be in constant texting contact with her.

That Saturday morning, Luce is visited in her room by Penn who snoops around and then asks Luce if she wants to come and dig through Daniel Grigori's records, to which Penn, for reasons unknown, has access. After declaring that she really doesn't need another reason to be labeled a crazy stalker girl, Luce goes right along with Penn to snoop, but comes up with nothing on the boy. The only thing she achieves is to run into Molly again and discover that Molly knows about what happened with her crispy boyfriend.

As she follows Molly outside and sees her talking with Gabbe, which she hates, she's hit on the head with a soccer ball, but at least it gives Daniel another chance to be a complete jerk, and Luce learns that he doesn't have a girlfriend, so she can stop hating Gabbe. Then Daniel invites her to go for a walk. This is the guy who is evidently trying to avoid her to keep her from harm, and now he's associating with her. He's a complete moron.

They walk through the woods to a lake and swim - not naked, to a rock out in the middle where they sit and talk, and Daniel lies to her that he was burned by a girl and isn't looking to get involved in a relationship. I have no knowledge that it's a lie, I just feel like it is: just another ruse to keep her away from him. This might make it seem like he's not such a jerk, but it makes him worse. He should simply tell her the truth, but again he lies to her. Then he says he has to be somewhere and leaves her on the rock, swimming back across the lake at record speed, and as he gets out of the water on the other side, his body silhouetted in the sunlight, the water droplets dancing around him Luce swears they look like wings. No really?!

So Luce is dragged to the library later that night by Penn who says she has found a book written by Daniel's grandfather, but the book isn’t on the shelf. Penn leaves Luce by the shelf and goes to ask the librarian where the book might be. Suddenly there's a bright flash - curiously right by where Penn was supposed to be going - and the smell of burning arises, with choking smoke filling the library. Luce grabs Todd, the only other person in there, and they try to find Penn and the Librarian, but cannot make it that far. They have to leave, and are hurrying down a corridor filled with smoke, Todd almost panicking, when Luce feels like she's being carried along. Suddenly she and Todd are outside, but a shadow smacks into them hard, knocking them down the steps. Luce passes out.

And awakens in a hospital bed with Gabbe giving her a manicure! Arriane turns up with drinks (alcoholic drinks!), and then Penn shows up. Soon the police and her parents and a lawyer for the school arrive. Todd is dead and they know about Luce's past. Luce pretty much tells it like it was and they leave, but she doesn’t get to go home with her parents. Back at school she's dreading things happening as they did after the last death, but although she gets a lot of looks, nothing more happens.

At the memorial service for Todd in the cemetery, Cam hugs her and suggests that they get out of there, but she doesn’t want to go with him. Immediately afterwards, she takes off with Daniel to the lake again. They sit and talk this time, and she tells him all about the shadows she sees, thinking he'll think she's insane, but he's interested. Right when he says, "This has never happened before," and asks her to tell him about the shadows again, leaning towards her rather intimately, Luce closes her eyes expecting a kiss which never comes! She opens her eyes to find that Daniel has gone, but she can see a curious violet trail where he left.

So is Daniel the world's biggest jerk-off or what? Here was a golden opportunity to ease her mind and tell her everything, explaining what’s happening, and why, and he abandons her again! What a loser! Maybe she's meant to be with him, but if she honestly feels that, after all he's put her through, she's a bigger loser than he is, and she deserves exactly what she gets. I'm sorry but that's the way it is. What are young girls to learn from reading this? That it’s okay - even admirable - to love a guy who treats you like crap and shares nothing with you?!

Unless this story descends into an unsightly morass, I'm committed to finishing it and to reading vol 2 since I already have it, but only if it continues through the rest of this vol (I'm roughly 65% the way in at this point) and into vol 2 without sinking any lower! Daniel is seriously pissing me off right now, and Luce is starting to annoy me with her limp ways. I'm beginning to wonder if Luce is short for 'loosely wrapped'.

The next Saturday is 'Parents Day', and Luce, her mom and dad have a picnic and then take a guided tour of the cemetery (I'm not making this up! Kate is!). When Luce's parents leave, Penn asks her if she will go with her to visit her parents - at the cemetery, where she encounters Daniel sitting morosely on top of a monument! Can we wad this up with any more existential angst?

So Cam next lures Luce out of the school grounds where they meet in a sleazy bar and Cam gets into a fight. Daniel shows up and rescues her. Is Luce stupid or what? Frankly, I don't get her and Cam at all. Why she's interested in him is a mystery, but I get Daniel even less, knowing he could save her from this and he fails repeatedly to do so. Then Cam and Daniel get into a fight in the library. Eventually Daniel asks Luce to come with him to the lake where he tells her a really poor version of the truth: he's immortal and she's reincarnated every 17 years, and she a;ways finds him and as soon as they kiss she turns to ashes and he can't handle it. But they do kiss and she doesn't turn to ashes, which is what's different this time. Later, the librarian is very interested in this event.

So they all decide to go down to the cemetery where they encounter a glow arising from the center, which turns out to be the smackdown between Cam and his giant insect hoard, and Daniel, Gabbe and Arriane, who fight with glowing butterflies. Or something. But Luce isn't allowed to be there so Miss Sophia (the antiquarian librarian) and Penn all head off to another place in the school where Sophia slits Penn's throat, but Daniel arrives and Sophia escapes, so all is well.

Well I've finished the first two volumes of this now and I have to say that I can't recommend this. Not only did Lauren Kate fail to pull it out of the fire, she torched it with napalm. The first volume was barely passable, but two volumes of non-stop whining by the female protagonist is two volumes way the hell too much. Two volumes of the female protagonist not being told anything by anyone and having zero spine to go find out; two volumes of failing to pursue questions (when she has prime opportunities to do so) which would help her to understand; two volumes of doing outright stupid things that put her friend's lives at risk, and two volumes of being so self-obsessed that even when she realizes what the stakes are, her every waking thought is: "What about me?" This is way too much to stomach. No one should be asked to put themselves through the torment of Luce Price's non-stop, juvenile self-pity parade.

I don't care what happens to Luce or Daniel or any other character in this story. They can rot in hell for all I care because I have been given no reason to care and every reason to feel nauseous over the two main protagonists. What they have isn't love, it isn;t transcendent, it's a co-dependent blood letting and both of them need serious psychiatric help. This series is a mess and I refuse to waste any more time on it.