Rarely do I run into books that require I take a break from everything and spend a lot of time beating up spiders in a virtual world to avoid hurling it at the wall. For the fourth time. Unfortunately, the novel in this Book Interlude has left me wanting to set fire to it, even though I don’t really think we should burn them. It’s on its own this time because I felt it better to split my normal multi-book posts into two, as this novel genuinely angered me. Also, the post including Fall of Giants was far too long because of how genuinely awful that book was.
Winter of the World (The Century Trilogy #2) by Ken Follett
Let me start here: I literally hurled this book at the wall after at least two scenes that had absolutely no narrative purpose whatsoever. There are so many things wrong with this book that it’s difficult to figure out which one I should even start with. So let me start with one of the three parts that made this book go flying through the air.
Woody Dewar is a stalker. And somehow, he ends up married to the woman he stalked. Because that isn’t, you know, at all creepy in any way possible. Prior to going off to his WWII assignment, he attends a party thrown for Ally soldiers that acts as a way to boost morale. He meets the young and enchanting Bella Hernandez who, only moments later, gives him a blowjob on a London street; this moment makes him fall in love with her, and he becomes obsessive in thinking about her during his assignment. Which is weird. Because he’s only known her for a few hours. So he’s obsessing over a young woman who took his dick in her mouth one random night in London during a party.
Fast forward one whole year later, and he’s working with the American delegation for the United Nations in San Francisco. As luck would have it, this is where Bella and her parents live. He tracked down her address and, during a break, took a taxi to their home. While Bella’s mother is questioning him, he openly admits his lack of knowledge about Bella to her mother:
“How much time did you spend with Bella in England?” she asked.
“Just a few hours. But I’ve been thinking about her ever since.”
That’s not scary at all, is it? But then becomes clear that, as a result of sucking his cock and realising she wasn’t as in-love with her betrothed as she thought she was, Bella has broken off her own engagement; this has clearly upset her family, her mother tells us:
“When she went to Oxford, Bella was engaged to be married to Victor Rolandson, a splendid young man she has known most of her life. The Rolandsons are old friends of my husband’s and mine – or, at least, they were until Bella came home and broke off the engagement abruptly.”
Woody, being the gentleman he is, feels no remorse for having sex with a woman who was already in a relationship (or not having sex with, if we’re to believe Bill Clinton about oral sex). He also seems to think of Bella as a possession, which only makes him seem like the Better Choice:
“I’m very sorry,” Woody said. Then, he told himself to stop being a pussy. “Or rather, I’m not,” he said. “I’m very glad she’s broken off her engagement, because I think she’s absolutely wonderful and I want her for myself.”
They have their back and forth where Woody uses the deaths of his former fiancée and younger brother to generate some form of pity and to get his way, coercing Bella’s mother to let him see her:
“Mrs Hernandez, you used the word tragedy just now. My fiancée, Joanne, died in my arms at Pearl Harbor. My brother, Chuck, was killed by machine-gun fire on the beach at Bougainville. On D-day I sent Ace Webber and four other young Americans to their deaths for the sake of a bridge in a one-horse town called Eglise-des-Soeurs. I know what tragedy is, ma’am, and it’s not a broken engagement.”
It’s worth noting that the deaths of both Joanne and Chuck – a highly feminist-appearing female character who died moments after she got into an argument with Woody because he didn’t seem to understand why he needed to consider her career after they got married and one of the few gay men who barely had any characterisation other than “I’m bad at school and decided to be a part of the Gay Navy Stereotype,” respectively – serve absolutely no narrative purpose and are the other two instances in which I hurled the book at the wall. These deaths are not discussed ever again, which is why they serve no purpose; they did nothing to advance any story other than Woody “I stalk girls who give me blowjobs on the street” Dewar’s future wedding to the manipulated Bella Hernandez. What a happy basis of a marriage!
There are instances of rape mentioned, which the author seems to fail to adequately address. The rape of Carla von Ulrich is handled so poorly, and it barely even discusses how rape victims would even feel; he makes no attempt to understand how that situation might traumatise someone, and he has Carla focusing on how the rape has “nothing to do” with what her and Werner do together. Odd that she’s only focusing on Werner in that moment, and she’s saddened by how it’ll affect him; it’s absurd. It also is used in a way because her child with one of her Soviet rapists, Walli, momentarily pushes Werner to run away! But then he’s shown to be a good man who accepts Walli as his own child, even though he’s not; Carla’s feelings are rarely addressed in every way possible, and that’s infuriating because the situation happened to her. It did not happen to those men.
Futhermore, Follett seems to forget much of what he’s written. He endeavours to do too much by having too many characters. Erik von Ulrich, who decides to become a Nazi despite his Social Democratic family asking him not to, receives this treatment. At one point, he learns about the terrors of the Nazis and tells his family that they were right all along; he tells them how the Nazis have been killing Jewish people, Communists, and anyone else who was deemed unfit for society. It makes him sick, and it allows him to tell his sister to do anything she can to make sure that they’re defeated. Then, as soon as that’s over, he somehow joins the Soviet Communists. This makes no sense for his character; he knows that his sister, his mother, and many of the girls who were friends of his family were all raped by these very men. Yet, despite the fact that he knows this, he joins their ranks? This makes absolutely no sense. Follett fails to justify this in any way other than to have Carla ponder the fact that her brother ‘just needs someone to tell him what to do.’ He’s incapable of knowing right from wrong, apparently.
Then there’s the fact that, as was the issue with Fall of Giants, Follett continues to be terrible at writing sex scenes and fails to make them fit into the story. They all seem completely irrelevant and could’ve easily been edited out to make the book much shorter. As usual, men get all of the pleasure from sex, women remain submissive and give pleasure without receiving much of anything; they cum so fast despite receiving nothing in the way of foreplay, and it’s like every women lives her entire life in wet panties. Also, the only time cis-women’s bodies are every correctly referenced is in terms of medicine; if he has to talk about a vagina in relation to having sex, it suddenly seems to only be addressed in euphemisms. And let me not forget another fun fact: Women who consider cheating on their already-cheating husbands seem to have more guilt than their terrible husband who gets caught in the act. And the way he treated the only black woman (Jacky Jakes) in the entire novel? Using her and throwing her away? He should’ve found another way to write that story, honestly; though, that’s not shocking considering the only black man in the entire novel died after maybe a page and a half during the Spanish Civil War, so he had absolutely no use to any part of the story.
Another aspect that I know very little about but am currently pushing myself to learn is how antisemitism and anti-Communist views are linked; there are a lot of uncomfortable mentions of Jewish people as being the rich bankers but also being nothing but dirty Communists. The fact that this exists in this book — even if it was meant as a commentary on the conflation between the two — is uncomfortable because Follett never seems to actually comment on any social issue; he doesn’t have anyone explaining why this view is problematic, and that’s inherently an issue. He’s completely incapable of dealing with social issues, even though they genuinely are the central focus; he narrows in so much on events that he neglects the social conflict behind them.
In short, I hate this book. I hate this series. And I still have to finish the final one because I feel obligated, since they were gifts. Considering it’ll be written during the Civil Rights Movement and Follett thinks it’s so cute to refer to black and brown people as coffee, chocolate, or mocha, I’m thinking it’ll be among the more problematic of the three books in this series. I may actually set it on fire.
Because I’ve been struggling to find gainful employment, I’ve found myself hiding under a pile of books. One of them is a book that I fell absolutely and entirely in love with, and it might be difficult to find something to surpass my adoration for it. But it’s been nice to finally have the time to read things that I want to read instead of forcing myself to study things that I honestly have little interest in (courtesy of my former job believing an Environmental Management degree qualified me as a science teacher – that is a topic of an entirely different post for the future).
Far From You by Tess Sharpe
I’m starting with probably my absolute favourite novel read this year. (And yes, I’m aware it’s only April, so I have a lot more time left to find something else to love as much as I did this book.) It was such a wonderful experience that I was able to finish it within the day, and it had so much going on that it kept me interested in pretty much every character in the novel. Seriously, there’s not much that I can even be negative about; I’m struggling to think of what I could possibly critique, and nothing’s really coming to mind.
The story is told in alternating timelines that follow Sophie, a recovering addict, as she tries to understand what happened to the girl that she loves, Mina. Originally thought to have been a drug deal gone wrong, Mina is murdered and Sophie is left to pick up the pieces. She makes it her goal to find out exactly what happened, both to bring justice to Mina and redeem herself. The former is the most important reason, though.
As each chapter explains their past, you learn more about Sophie’s difficult relationship with Mina. But you also come to learn about the struggles that she’s going through in her own life. Having a relationship with Mina was never easy, particularly as Mina was frightened for anyone to know that she was a lesbian; even though the reader is aware, Sophie’s bisexuality isn’t openly discussed until much later. Other aspects of the complexity of their relationship include the fact that Mina actively engaged in trying to make Sophie pair off with her brother, Trevor; it’s also shown in the fact that Mina would ‘date’ guys to appear ‘normal’, which often left both girls entirely frustrated. One of these guys, Kyle, actively tries to assist Sophie in understanding what happened to Mina; he is also one of the few people to know about Mina and Sophie’s feelings for each other.
The handling of their sexualities was amazing; I haven’t seen a positive version of an identity that I myself am part of in something in such a long time. When it comes to bisexual people, we’re rarely seen as anything other than a joke; we’re always told that we’re “confused.” We’re not, and this book handles that aspect in ways that are realistic; Sophie’s very clear about not being confused about who she loves and why she loves them. She knows that, while she says that she could have loved Trevor, she would always love Mina more.
I also enjoy the fact that Sharpe tackles two others aspects that are often portrayed negatively in media: addiction and disability. Sophie’s left leg is left disabled from an accident, which is also what leads her to an addiction to pain medication. Sharpe portrays the reality of both situations, showing that these are not aspects of a person’s life that will forever break them; she allows Sophie to have agency and not be broken, even if she sometimes feels like she is. Sophie isn’t made into inspiration porn or a burden to the characters around her, and that is fantastic. This should be far more common in the media we consume.
The Frangipani Hotel by Violet Kupersmith
Short stories are always hard for me to get into. This is largely because I’m always interested in more, and it frequently feels as if there isn’t any functional content to the story; they feel vague and without any point, and that annoys me. I assume that might be due to the fact that my mandatory schooling always provided us with the worst possible short stories. This book, which is a book of short stories, did not do that; I enjoyed so many of them, and all of their characters and plots felt fleshed out and enjoyable.
Many of the stories involve aspects of Vietnamese stories and issues. There are a variety of tales from a young grandchild asking his grandmother how their family made it to America to the after-effects of Vietnamese immigrants in the United States and people who remained in Vietnam who have been displaced by the war. Almost all of the stories include some aspect of the supernatural, such as the tale about a family who owns the Frangipani Hotel where the spirit of the lake comes to life and kills an American businessman.
Perhaps my favourite story is one that is set in Houston. A young girl who is working the night shift at a supermarket meets an older Vietnamese immigrant who found himself naked and in a dumpster after he had transformed into a snake; he tells her the story of how he was forced to leave his village and move to another country after he had murdered someone. When he was a snake, he wasn’t aware of what he was doing and who he was harming. The tale is interesting because it seems to parallel the old man and his inability to know what he’s doing as a snake with the protagonist’s brother, who is presumably doing work that he knows is illegal in the same “dangerous” community that the old man lives. That might not be the intent of the story, but it was an interesting aspect of it.
It was a pretty easy read, and it was a lovely book to read when taking a break from novels; it definitely helped break up books that were frustrating to me, and it was definitely enjoyable.
Fall of Giants (The Century Trilogy #1) by Ken Follett
I have to get straight to the point of how I felt about this novel: This is probably the book I had the most complaints about because there were so many irrelevant details and badly written passages. So much research clearly went into this book for aspects of it to feel just wrong.
The book starts prior to World War I and tells the interwoven stories of different families. You have a poor Welsh family who interacts with a pair of poor Russian brothers and the aristocratic Welsh family that also contains a Russian princess; there is a German and Austrian family who is intertwined with the aristocratic Welsh and an American aid to the president. Though those are the primary links, the intertwined nature of the families is much like the treaties that helped produce World War I: confusing and interacting with everyone.
If I could delete scenes, the book would’ve been interesting. The actual story itself was quite intriguing, and it was nice to see the historical aspects included. That’s why I say there was a great deal of research that went into this novel only for irrelevant details to drag it down.
The number one issue I had was the treatment of sex in the book. If I never read the following lines again, it would still be too soon:
“He felt an obstruction. She was a virgin.”
“He felt something break, and she gave a sharp cry of pain; then the obstruction was gone.”
“He entered her cautiously, knowing how easy it was to hurt a girl there…”
“He felt the membrane of her virginity resist him briefly, then break easily, with only a little gasp from her, as a tinge of pain that went as quickly as it had come.”
This man clearly has never talked to a cissexual woman who, at one point, was a virgin. Not all people suffer pain during their first time, which means you might want to have some women who enjoyed their first time instead of feeling pained by it. They might feel discomfort from it, as it’s a relatively new experience; the pain could also be because a man was a bit too impatient and didn’t care to have enough lubricant (natural or artificial), which could also have been the case for the women in this book. The men did seem to just shove their penises into the women’s vaginas at the sheer sight of their minor excitement.
He also perpetuates this ridiculous hymen myth that has, for decades, frustrated many of us because it’s absolute rubbish. This allows for this absurd mythology to continue seeping into the minds of people to believe that women “should feel pain” during their first intercourse; this is entirely wrong. And I can pretty much guarantee this author never had sex with a woman and felt the hymen, whether it popped or tore. This continued fantasy of “what it’s like with virgins” continues to drive badly written love scenes that remain focused entirely on men’s enjoyment and that annoyingly pervasive fantasy of ‘having sex with a virgin’.
I also find it massively awkward that anyone would be groped by or jerk off their boyfriend only mere feet from their sibling while sitting in a theatre box; that entire scene is massively uncomfortable, and I feel like someone would’ve noticed the jerking movements of this particular man or the noises they might have made. It’s such close proximity, and I don’t feel like an opera is consistently that loud.
I’d also like to avoid euphemisms for women’s body parts when we can openly state that one character grabbed another’s penis; that’s a direct statement, while the men are “rubbing the soft mound of her sex” (which is a terrible phrase for so many reasons). We can say “penis,” but the word “vagina” is clearly forbidden. Wonderful!
If Follett had avoided any of his “I don’t actually know what a hymen is” sex scenes, I would’ve enjoyed this novel a whole lot more. They were distracting and terrible, and it really put me off; he did so much research regarding the history of the time period, but he conveniently neglected to even attempt to learn anything about women’s bodies to write functional sex scenes that would’ve taken place between two lovers of the time. For my sake, I hope he’s dropped them completely from the next two books or I might have to defenestrate them into a nearby pool to even halfway negate my frustration.
Moving to another country to live with my partner forced me to read a lot more than I had anticipated to in a short time; I actually had planned on streaming games and getting through more of my list, but I ended up trying to read as much as possible because I wanted to pack fewer books into my bags. Don’t get me wrong; I wish I could’ve brought more with me, but I figured I could reorder the ones I really liked and get brand new copies of them. Unfortunately, there weren’t many of those in this set.
Marco Impossible by Hannah Moskowitz
The book is about two friends from the perspective of a young straight boy, Stephen, whose best friend, Marco, is gay. As they’ve grown up together, they played many games of detective; it was a game that started off as fun, but it had grave consequences: they had accidentally found out that Stephen’s father had been having an affair, resulting in a divorce from his mother. This story details their final game of playing detective, which also has relationship-altering consequences.
Marco’s family is in the middle of changing; he’s an only child whose parents are adopting a new baby. (Not so) understandably, he’s being a bit of a jerk about the whole thing; he’s complaining about the new baby without having any real reason to be complaining. In a sense, Moskowitz wrote him to be this stereotypically annoying only child which I, as an only child, find incredibly offensive. He embodies pretty much every only-child myth, all of which seem to be unfounded stereotypes. For me, it makes him a difficult character to care about in many ways; I can’t relate to him, despite the fact that I have been an only child for my entire life.
In the story, Marco is mostly harassed by this group of three students because he’s gay; two of the students are completely forgettable, since they barely even exist for a large chunk of the novel, but the third, named Luke, is their leader. He’s taken advantage of Marco and bullied him over his sexuality, forcing him to change schools.
Somewhere in the midst of that, Marco has this brilliant plan to tell the boy of his dreams that he loves him! Which is an irritating plot because there are far too many things happening all at once. At some points, it felt like there were things just sort of fighting for space and trying to be the main theme; it didn’t feel at all like some of them were addressed well enough, particularly the bullying in regards to the LGBTQ+ community.
It was a cute story, but it wasn’t fantastic. As with a lot of other writings by this author, it often just feels like a story written more out of “Look, I’m progressive!” than anything else; I doubt that’s the intention, but that’s the feeling I often get.
Gone, Gone, Gone by Hannah Moskowitz
This is a story that’s split between two protagonists: Craig and Lio. This is something that I quite enjoy because I find it fun to switch between perspectives. The story is them trying to make sense of their lives, including their relationship with each other.
Craig has this obsession with owning many pets, all of which have run away at the beginning of the novel as a result of a break-in. He and his family spend a lot of time searching for them, finding that some of them are dead while one is never found; it’s supposed to be a metaphor for Craig’s life, but it’s largely a miss in many places. It’s not complicated, but it’s not exactly appropriate, either; it doesn’t quite feel like it fits anywhere.
Lio is the new kid in town and from New York City. I’m struggling to really remember any other details about him, which is kind of a problem. All I remember is that he has a large family and a mother who he doesn’t quite respect for whatever reason; that reason may actually have been discussed, but it was definitely overshadowed by everything else.
The background to the novel is the part that I find uncomfortable: It’s set a year after 9/11 during the Beltway sniper attacks on the east coast. There’s a lot of fear from the sniper’s attacks, but the background just feels inappropriate in so many ways. One of the characters is impacted by the least observed aspect of 9/11: the Pentagon hit. Craig had been with a boy named Cody, who had lost his father in the Pentagon; this impacted Cody’s mental health, and he was placed in a facility that would enable him to better cope with everything.
Honestly, I don’t see a point in using 9/11 as the background to the novel; it plays such a small part other than to cause a momentary bit of drama between two characters. It felt, like many other aspects of Moskowitz’s other novels, just shoved in there to make some point; the problem is that I’m not even aware what point was being made.
As I’m not particularly fond of Craig’s chapters and can’t really even remember much of Lio’s, I’m kind of certain this is a book I wouldn’t recommend. It wasn’t bad, but it was forgettable.
The Twilight Gods by Hayden Thorne
I quite enjoy things set in Victorian England in some ways. Perhaps it’s because I like period dramas, even though they don’t always show all of the aspects of the time; they make it a bright and cheery version of everything, forgetting pretty much everything bad that took place at the time. It’s sort of frustrating in that way.
The novel is set during the Great Exhibition of 1851, which is something that entices the protagonist: Norris. He’s the youngest son of a “wealthy” family that is actually suffering from financial issues; his eldest brother and two older sisters were provided with the best that money could buy in terms of education, and he is forced to deal with the leftovers. He’s given his brother’s former textbooks, he has an ineffective tutor who spends time ranting instead of teaching, and he’s generally overlooked by the family until they realise how he’s “too young” to be a financial burden in the way his siblings are.
He’s also different from his siblings and peers: He has no desire to get married and does not find girls at all interesting. This is the lead-in to how Thorne explains that his protagonist is actually gay. There are many other metaphors used, such as being unseen until his family wants to see him; they won’t acknowledge who he really is until they’re ready, but they may never be ready to do that. I rather liked that metaphor, as that was something I grew up knowing.
I think I really adored this novel because it had a lot of parallels I could relate to, even as a bisexual woman. I knew that if I ever wanted my family to acknowledge me, I had to remain quiet about who I was and be who they wanted me to be. I knew that I had to leave in order to find myself because being around them was stifling and painful; I had to be away from them to feel like I could make my own decisions about the people I would pursue relationships with, especially because it was harder for me to be open with them.
The one detail I found confusing was actually the books back description, which stated that it was a “retelling of a Native American folktale,” which was confusing because there are folktales that have shared and different themes between the different nations; it only gives a title of the folktale – “The Girl Who Married a Ghost” – without telling what nation it was from. When I tried to search for it, I could only find the story in books about Nigeria and a vague reference to the Northwestern region of the US. This is a moment to be specific about which cultures this tale was taken from, especially as it is the inspiration for the whole novel.
Recently, people close to me have been handing me books to read. I’m pretty sure that most of them are ones they want to get rid of so they can conserve space rather than genuinely recommending them. It definitely makes it more difficult to get through the stack of books I already need to get through. At the very least, they’ve been moderately enjoyable.
Chains (Seeds of America #1) by Laurie Halse Anderson
I’ve yet to read a novel by Laurie Halse Anderson that I didn’t enjoy; they’re usually written so well that you feel as if you’re an observer within the world she creates. Annoyingly, it’s part of a series that isn’t completely published, which is something I hate getting into because I’m impatient about being able to read the whole thing as soon as possible.
The story is about Isabel, an enslaved black girl from Rhode Island during the American Revolution who was meant to be freed after the death of her former owner. Due to the movement of people before and during the war, the lawyer who had knowledge of the will that would free Isabel and her sister, Ruth, wasn’t around; the owner’s only relative was impatient to have all of her belongings sold or moved, which included the girls. She was sold to Loyalists from New York, which enabled her to be used and manipulated by the Patriots to gain information about the movements of the British.
The story is set against the backdrop of one of the most hypocritical historical events of American history, which is its intent. It discusses how the Patriots were seeking freedom for themselves while also showing how unwilling they were to grant it to the very people who were actually enslaved, including how black slaves were treated by both sides; neither side would help grant the slaves freedom unless it somehow benefited themselves.
While the story is well-written, the use of primary documents from well-known historical figures at the beginning of each chapter feels disconnected. They often don’t relate thematically to anything within the chapter and seem to just exist as some form of decoration; they usually just feel somewhat out of place and inconsistent.
Also, I’m not sure who chose the quotes on the back of the book, but there was one quote they included to talk about how good the book was that felt completely out of place for a book where the protagonist is an enslaved black girl: “Readers will deeply care about Isabel.” If readers don’t care about the protagonist, it means the author has done a terrible job. Including that was absurd.
Geisha, A Life by Mineko Iwasaki with Rande Brown
Mineko Iwasaki is known for having been one of the geishas interviewed for Arthur Golden’s trash heap novel: Memoirs of a Geisha.
She wrote entirely about her experiences while growing up, starting from the youngest age that she could possibly remember and ending with her being the final owner of the okiya. She writes about the beauty of Gion in great detail, and she talks equally about the good and the bad that she incurred throughout her life there. She also spends a great deal describing the various dances that she learned, as learning to dance appeared to be one of her most favourite things about being a geisha.
It’s entirely enlightening, especially when much of the information that Western people have about geishas comes from entirely fictionalised accounts of what being a geisha honestly was and how they acted. It was also wonderful to read about the friendships that Mineko cultivated during her life and what they meant to her. I think more Westerners should read this, as it gives quite a lot of insight into a life that many people have little knowledge about.
I wish I had more to say about this book, but I rarely have a lot to say about things I absolutely adore. I wanted to know more, but I’m glad I was able to know this.
A House in the Sky by Amanda Lindhout & Sara Corbett
This is a book that I was given by a friend, which she had said she quite enjoyed and related with. I don’t think I share her sentiment; I found it hard to relate to Amanda, particularly as I don’t understand the desire to become a country-counting traveller; I may have some form of wanderlust, but I want to deeply learn about the places that I visit.
Having backpacked through most of the world and attempted to carve out a career while based in war-torn Iraq, Amanda Lindhout appeared to be a traveller with quite a lot of experience in handling some difficult situations. However, she later would go through an excruciatingly painful ordeal when she was kidnapped in Somalia and held hostage for more than a year. The memoir is primarily about her survival and the methods or events that led her to finally becoming safer.
Aspects of the memoir are terrifying. The amount of times she writes about sexual abuse that she incurred, particularly after she pointed out that someone had been abusing her, is horrible; it was difficult to get through those sections, and I found that I frequently had to put the book down. The different type of abuse that she suffered in comparison to her male companion, Nigel, is also troubling; though his circumstances were not amazing, they were far better than those that Amanda said she went through.
There are aspects that I find completely troubling, though, and much of it falls squarely in the first few chapters. There are a number of superfluous details that feel uncomfortable; she talks about her mother’s abusive relationship with a man named Russell, which could fit nicely in the story. However, it’s the fact that there is a point where she talks about the indigenous population in her area, and they feel incredibly stereotypical; they’re all drunk, they’re all uneducated, they’re all abusive in some way, and they all don’t seem to understand family planning. I find it hard to believe that the entirety of the reservation in that area would only have stereotypical indigenous people and never have had any other personalities. Some of those same ways of talking about other cultures occasionally leaks into other chapters, too; it really detracts from areas of her story.
I’ve been given a number of great recommendations. Unfortunately, that’s not totally present here, so I wanted to go from my absolute least favourite thing that I’ve read recently to something I definitely loved to pieces just so I could end on a positive note.
fml by Shaun David Hutchinson
A story about a boy who has been annoying and disgustingly obsessed with a girl for years who goes to her party, hoping he can now start dating her because she finally broke up with her boyfriend. Sounds incredibly cliché, doesn’t it? Probably because it is, and it has lines showing that it’s sometimes self-aware of how it’s identical to a stereotypical teen movie or whatever.
Here’s the one thing that I liked about this novel: It’s told from the perspective of the same character and shows that, depending on the choices you make, the events of a situation will turn out differently.
Except they don’t. The two different stories somehow end up proving that ‘fate is real,’ as the protagonist realises he’s not really in love with the girl he’s been in love with for the entirety of high school. In one, he finds he’s really fallen for a Manic Pixie Dream Girl that took him to the party after he he was left on the side of a street for basically insulting another girl who was trying to make out with him in a car. In the other path, he doesn’t meet this MPDG until the very end when she intrudes upon his conversation at a diner after the party went terribly bad.
The fact that anyone thinks stalking someone for three to four years is a good setup for potential romance frustrates me; the fact that this is barely addressed other than for one character to threaten to stop being the protagonist’s friend but still help him in his conquest is absurd. There was so much done in these novels that I often felt like hurling it out the window.
And for good measure, the one bisexual character in the entire book? Basically gets insulted repeatedly by varying people. So that’s fun. I honestly wouldn’t recommend this unless you can tolerate those hyper-cliché and overly stereotypical teen movies because that’s all this is.
Blue Bloods: The Graphic Novel (#1) adapted by Robert Venditti / illustrated by Alina Urusov
I originally intended to purchase the actual novel by Melissa de la Cruz, but I mistakenly ordered the graphic novel. That’s fine because it is one of the most beautifully illustrated graphic novels I’ve seen, and it only serves to make me more interested in the actual series. I completely plan to purchase the books now and am hoping that they don’t disappoint me.
For those unfamiliar, the story is about the lives of affluent teenagers who find out that they’re reincarnated vampires who originated from the Pilgrims. The protagonist is a girl who, unaware of her status as a half-vampire, is suddenly experiencing cravings she can’t explain and memories that she can’t make sense of. And then suddenly they’re being murdered, and no one really understands why.
I’m sure the one part of the story that annoyed me — that pretty much everyone is an affluent person, which I suppose makes sense if you’re an immortal being who came from a group of colonisers — is going to be the major part of the novels that annoys me. But honestly, I was more focused on the illustrations than anything else. The colours are so vibrant when they have to be and appropriately dark when necessary; I have a weakness for beautiful art, so that might help its case.
It sounds like a ludicrous story, but this version of it has managed to intrigue me. I’m not sure why. But I love the graphic novel for its beautiful illustrations, so I’d recommend that people at least check it out for that reason. Even if the novel itself sounds absurd, which it really does.
Coda (#1) by Emma Trevayne
Of all the books I’ve read recently, Coda is absolutely my favourite. It’s a dystopian novel set in a time when the city once known as New York has been taken over by the Corp, a group that has been encoding music with addictive elements. As a result, music is a required drug that people must partake in, either at home through their consoles or in public venues such as clubs.
Anthem, the main protagonist, is a natural musician who is forced to play in an underground band. Because music is used to control the population, the Corp controls who is allowed to play it; unauthorised use or creation of music can lead to a person becoming an Exaur, having their ability to hear removed.
I love this book because Anthem is exactly the kind of person to lead a revolution; no one sees him as a perfect person, and he’s constantly mentioning why he’s not the person to lead everyone to freedom. But he cares for everyone in his life; he cares for his siblings, his parents, his friends. He cares for almost anyone that he meets, and that shows how much of a strength and vulnerability this is. This is refreshing because he’s not the stereotypical leader that fiction would have you believe exists; he’s a person who has flaws along with things that make him wonderful.
And I love how diverse this book feels. Unless I missed them, there’s really no obvious hints at what people look like other than colours of hair and eyes; the protagonist is bisexual, and that’s never an issue. It feels like such a complete world in so many ways, and it would be a beautiful movie. But only if they made the cast as diverse as they were in my head. Seriously, the whole time I was reading this, I kept imagining someone like Roshon Feng as Anthem.
That also means that now I need to order Chorus and wait for a few weeks until I can enjoy that one.