Bites

Published September 1, 2009.

Author website.

Anastasia Romanov thought she would never feel more alone than when the gunfire started and her family began to fall around her. Surely the bullets would come for her next. But they didn’t. Instead, two gnarled old hands reached for her. When she wakes up she discovers that she is in the ancient hut of the witch Baba Yaga, and that some things are worse than being dead. 

In modern-day Chicago, Anne doesn’t know much about Russian history. She is more concerned about getting into a good college–until the dreams start. She is somewhere else. She is someone else. And she is sharing a small room with a very old woman. The vivid dreams startle her, but not until a handsome stranger offers to explain them does she realize her life is going to change forever. She is the only one who can save Anastasia. But, Anastasia is having her own dreams…  (goodreads.com)

I got to just about under halfway before I put DREAMING ANASTASIA down.  I couldn’t invest myself in it.  It’s not that the writing was bad or it wasn’t interesting.  I just felt it was a bit . . . ridiculous.

As if I haven’t read absolutely ridiculous books in my day.  Or currently.  The majority of what I read is inherently ridiculous.  But I just wasn’t feeling DREAMING ANASTASIA.  I don’t think it’s anything I can specifically put my finger on.  I don’t believe my move had an influence because I was reading other books just fine.  So can’t chalk it up to not being able to invest myself in the story.  I just felt all of the little pieces that knit the story together were one contrivance after another.  From Anne being a descendant of this brotherhood explaining her dreams and weird powers that randomly manifest when the shit hits the fan to the shit itself embedding itself in the fan blades I wasn’t buying it from the beginning.  It felt more like a finely fit cluster of puzzle pieces than something organic that grew into its own story.  That every piece of the DREAMING ANASTASIA story was meticulously crafted and set in place, as if strategizing a chess game where the mover of the piece is the one in control as opposed to the piece itself.  I felt led along and each element in the story was displayed to me as if I were at a museum exhibit.

It’s not inherently a bad thing.  Like I said, there was nothing wrong with the writing.  I liked the dialogue between all of the characters.  That in and of itself felt genuine.  It was absolutely action-packed right from the beginning and the Romanov history was definitely an interesting aspect of it all.  I just wasn’t connecting with it.

Ban Factor: High – Fairy tales come to life and chicks with magic powers.  Someone’s got some devil in ’em.

Published May 18, 2010.

Author website.

Billy Brent and Alice Stephens are star-crossed like all great lovers. Their need for each other drives them from Istanbul to Miami, Venice to Mexico. After years of encounters and escapes, they lose themselves deep in a desert wilderness, searching for a way forward, only to learn that sometimes the trail simply forks.  (amazon.com)

I scratched this one very early on, like a couple dozen pages in early on.  Really, I’m okay with literary.  I can handle it.  But there comes a point in literary where it stops being good to read and starts being a showcase of the author’s perceived awesomeness and that’s where my eyelids start to sag.  If I wanted to gaze at a naval I’d pick at my own.  Thanks.

Perhaps it was the incessant use of ‘waked up’ that made me want to murder puppies.  Yes, technically it’s correct.  And technically it makes my ears bleed.  I don’t know if this was the author trying to be quirky and use a little-used form of ‘to wake’ to make his writing stand out as OMG EDGE AND AWESOME.  Or if this was a means to showcase the inherent quirkiness of the MC, except it made Billy sound like a pretentious douche.  Either way I just couldn’t take it.  After about five instances of the MC being ‘waked up’ I stopped. I don’t care how awesomely quirky it makes anyone look.  I don’t care if it’s technically right.  It either makes one sound completely uneducated (who actually uses waked up for past tense? personally I’m on board the woke up train) or like a self-aggrandizing dick.  The former would be okay if the MC were actually uneducated.  He’s not.  He’s traveling Europe, getting high, existentially pondering life and spending SOMEONE’S money doing it.  Which files him into the latter category.  Gross.

Or maybe it was the meandering drug-induced hazed of a “plot” I kept trying to get involved in but it just seemed far too all over the place for me to keep track of.  Billy’s trying to get back together with Alice despite the fact that she’s married (what a stand-up guy) and his buddy contracted malaria or something and was hospitalized so the poor guy (the MC, not the sick friend) had to hop himself up on his own and there was a lot of drugs and stuff.  I didn’t really see much of a point to it all and I certainly wasn’t seeing any “star-crossed lovers” going on here.  Just Billy trying to harass some chick into leaving her husband for him.  The relationship looked pretty one-sided where I stood.

Nope, just wasn’t into it.  The instances of ‘waked up’ were enough for me to DNF it but if that weren’t a problem the spirograph plot would have kicked me out eventually.  I just didn’t give a rat’s ass about Billy and Alice was just a voice on the phone at the time I stopped.  Plus whatever plot there was seemed more focused on drugs and Billy dissecting his own thoughts than anything else.  Blah.  Not for me.

Ban Factor: High – Just for the drugs alone.  There are a lot of drugs.

Published April 1, 2009.

Author website.

The Icemark is a kingdom in grave danger. Its king has been killed in battle, its enemy lies in wait, and its fate rests on the shoulders of one girl. Thirrin Freer Strong-in-the-Arm Lindenshield, a beautiful princess and an intrepid warrior, must find a way to protect her land from a terrible invasion. She will forge an extraordinary alliance of noble Snow Leopards, ancient Vampires, and ferocious Wolf-folk. She will find unexpected strength in her friendship with a young warlock. And she will lead her allies to victory with her fierce battle cry: “Blood! Blast! And Fire!”  (goodreads.com)

Nicole was our Keeper of the Book for this month and she led us woefully astray.  She was the lone brave soul that was capable of venturing to the end of this tome for the rest of us gave up after varying amounts of pages ranging from five to 300.  None of us had too much of an issue with the plot per se but it couldn’t seem to get out of its own way and Thirrin just wasn’t that likable of a character.  In fact she was a bit of a snatch.  And she’s barely fourteen.  Doom on her.

See what we had to say in full on our super awesome website.

Ban Factor: High – Blissfully Christianity free and filled with talking animals, werewolves and vampires, among other woodland creatures.  Not to mention a temperamental teen.  It’s all too much!

Published March 27, 2012.

Author website.

Fifteen-year-old Willo was out hunting when the trucks came and took his family away. Left alone in the snow, Willo becomes determined to find and rescue his family, and he knows just who to talk with to learn where they are. He plans to head across the mountains and make Farmer Geraint tell him where his family has gone. 

But on the way across the mountain, he finds Mary, a refugee from the city, whose father is lost and who is starving to death. The smart thing to do would be to leave her alone — he doesn’t have enough supplies for two or the time to take care of a girl — but Willo just can’t do it. However, with the world trapped in an ice age, the odds of them surviving on their own are not good. And even if he does manage to keep Mary safe, what about finding his family?  (goodreads.com)

There are very few stylistic things that’ll keep me from reading a book.  One is stream of consciousness.  Holy crap, even though we may not thing COMMA our natural thought process still involves pauses and full stops.  Let’s use some punctuation.  Another is phonetic voice.  And I’m not talking about a few lines of dialogue; I mean the whole damn book written phonetically.  Personally I think it lends to a very clunky, awkward reading experience that’s slow and labored and ultimately has me focusing more on how to say the words I’m reading than the story itself.  This is the only reason why I won’t read BLOOD RED ROAD.  I don’t care how good it is.  I can’t read phonetic voice.  This has been a personal preference for over a decade now and thankfully it’s very rare when I come across it.

Imagine my surprise when I open the pages of my ARC for AFTER THE SNOW.  I had zero indication that this could have been phonetic.  Had I known I would have absolutely passed on reading it for review.  It’s just not a style I can swallow.  And AFTER THE SNOW is in a very southern voice so after a couple of pages Cletus made his way into my head and wouldn’t get out.  I couldn’t get past the voice.  In the couple dozen pages I tried to read I can’t even tell you what happened.  I don’t rightly know.  But the language is so embedded in my brain that I can’t get rid of it.

The best example of why I just can’t read this –

But he’s my dad, like I said, and you got to respect your dad I reckon. My mum got dead when I been a baby still scrieking in my ass rags. That happen a lot up in here when the snow been deep and your breath freeze in the air. But Magda live with Dad now, up in our end of the house. Magda’s in charge of the little kids, and I don’t envy her that job. If it been me, I’m gonna bash them all.  (ARC page 6)

No.  Just . . . no.  I’m sorry.  No.  Not only is it incredibly stereotypical but it’s overwhelming.  I can’t read an entire book written like this and be expected to focus on anything other than the pronunciation of the words themselves.

So it’s a DNF for stylistic reasons.  It could be the greatest story in the world.  I can’t get past the phonetic voice.  Based on how popular BLOOD RED ROAD is I’m guessing a lot of people can.  Have at it, I say.

Ban Factor: Unknown – I could barely get past the words as they were written let along figure out what the hell was going on in the plot.

Pub date: August 7, 2012.

Author website.

Looking for the teen girl version of Game of Thrones? Find it in this sweeping fantasy debut—that already has thousands of loyal online fans.

After serving out a year of hard labor in the salt mines of Endovier for her crimes, 18-year-old assassin Celaena Sardothien is dragged before the Crown Prince. Prince Dorian offers her her freedom on one condition: she must act as his champion in a competition to find a new royal assassin.


Her opponents are men-thieves and assassins and warriors from across the empire, each sponsored by a member of the king’s council. If she beats her opponents in a series of eliminations, she’ll serve the kingdom for three years and then be granted her freedom.


Celaena finds her training sessions with the captain of the guard, Westfall, challenging and exhilirating. But she’s bored stiff by court life. Things get a little more interesting when the prince starts to show interest in her… but it’s the gruff Captain Westfall who seems to understand her best.


Then one of the other contestants turns up dead… quickly followed by another. Can Celaena figure out who the killer is before she becomes a victim? As the young assassin investigates, her search leads her to discover a greater destiny than she could possibly have imagined.  (netgalley.com)

For help with this review I’m going to shamelessly employ the use of Tom Hiddleston’s face.  It’s come to my attention that he emotes rather well and his Loki faces will greatly enhance my feelings about this book.  Shall we begin?

“Teen girl version of GAME OF THRONES?”  Um, yes please.  How excited was I for THRONE OF GLASS?  I’m at a point in my life where I’m feigning some serious fantasy.  Like GOOD fantasy that gives me writer envy and encourages me to write my own work.  So of course I snapped this one up.  Why wouldn’t I?

I began reading and I was a little touchy.  The character seemed a bit much but of course I’m going to keep reading.  I’m only a handful of pages in.

06/12 page 9
2.0% “I’m definitely interested but I’m pretty much over the super awesome heroine with fantasmagorical skills of death. We’ll see where this goes.”

Except I didn’t like where it was going.

06/12 page 11
3.0% “Okay, okay, authors? Can we please stop with the “this guy’s a total douche but he’s sooooooooo hot” bullshit? PLEASE? If a guy chains me in shakles and makes me a slave I’m not going to think him “achingly handsome.” I’d want to chew his pretty boy face off. Gah! These forceful hints at romance are contrived and unnecessary.”

Within a span of two pages I’ve already become enraged.  I am not a romance reader.  I’ve said that many, MANY times.  But if you’re going to insist on giving me romance in books that I am willing to read, at least make it make sense.  At this point I’m starting to twitch.

06/12 page 11
3.0% “Wait…what?? Two pages ago you weren’t going to feel embarrassed by being dirty because that’s WEAK and now, under the eyes of supreme royal hotness, you are ashamed of yourself and bemoan your “miserable state for a girl of former beauty”??? Head, meet brick wall.”

And we are ALREADY deviating from character. Eleven pages in.  Super strong raging assassin bitch I DON’T CARE IF I’M DIRTY I HATE YOU ALL to OMG DON’T LOOK AT ME I’M HIDEOUS!

Apparently Celaena is unintentionally bipolar.  So we have some character issues  I can handle that.  She’s not too Sueish so far.  I’ve read far worse . . .

06/12 page 11
3.0% “OMG OMG OMG I can’t do it. Not only is she a super awesome, highly trained assassin but we get a paragraph about the gloriousness of her beauty? Excuse me. I’m going to go stab my expectations to death followed by a hunt of PNR for DARING to bleed into fantasy.”

06/12 page 12
3.0% “And she was rich. Anything else? I don’t want to give up after 12 pages. I WON’T give up after 12 pages.”

06/12 page 12
3.0% “She single-handedly killed 24 people in her escape attempt? O_o *facepalm*”

I just . . . is this for real?  Is this pompous little tart really for real?  From the 100 pages that I’ve read Celaena’s only flaw is hubris except 99% of the time it’s only validated.  Twelves pages.  I’m TWELVE pages in.  But no!  I’m going to keep trying!  I must!  Because surely they’re going to keep treating her like the prisoner that she is!  Because anything else would just be contrivance and we can’t possibly have MORE of that, right?  RIGHT?

06/12 page 13
3.0% “Okay. If this girl is so insanely sooper speshul deadly, and they all know it, why isn’t she bound up like Hannibal Ledger instead of being able to move in shackles, giving her the opportunity to “kill the prince in a second?” More importantly, if she’s so sure of her skills why doesn’t she actually take the opportunity instead of just running her brain about it?”

DAMMIT.

WHY is she being given her own rooms when they’re so super afraid she’s going to murder everyone?  (And that’s supposed to be Lecter, by the way, stupid autocorrect).  WHY is she being given a mirror?  Oh wait . . . obviously that CAN’T BE SHATTERED AND USED TO GO STABBY ON PEOPLE.  WHY does she get a fork but not a knife?  BECAUSE WE ALL KNOW FORK TINES ARE HARMLESS.  In reality if this chick were so phantasmagorically awesome at killing she’d be treated as such.  She wouldn’t be put in shackles that she can move around in, because obviously she can do a lot with just an inch.  She doesn’t need the whole mile.  And she certainly wouldn’t be getting a pretty room.  She’s end up stuck next to that dude that Yahtzee’s on everyone walking by.

On top of all of this Celaena apparently has the mental capacity of a twelve-year-old, asking inane questions and then name-calling when she’s not pandered to.

06/12 page 26
6.0% “The Captain of the Royal Guard is unkind for not wanting to humor and arrogant 18-year-old as she talks endlessly about her awesomeness? How horrible he is, truly.”

06/12 page 28
7.0% “Punch her, Chaol. She deserves it. Nice to know she’s an arrogant ass and a petulant child. How can one be the supreme pizza topping assassin and have the mentality of someone five years younger than her? I guess maturity and assassinry are mutually exclusive.”

Oh hey, you’re still talking?  You need to shut up now.  Although I will say Chaol was a pretty good guy from what I read.  He really didn’t put up with Celaena’s crap and her ensuing pissy fits as a result amused me.  She actually called him mean for not responding to her.  Meanie McWeenie!  Nyah!

But wait!  There’s more Sue!

06/12 page 31
7.0% “And she’s magic too? This wasn’t forshadowing WHATSOEVER.”

At this point I’m filled with so much chagrin I don’t even know what to do with myself.

From the super Sue to the plot devices of epic proportions to situational contrivances that are so blatantly obvious Helen Keller can see them I just couldn’t go much further.

06/12 page 33
8.0% “You are a piece of baggage to him, you dumbass. You are a slave serving a purpose. Did you expect high fives all around?”

06/12 page 38
9.0% “Of course. What would the story be without the douchebag love interest POV as he softens and sees her as something more than a thing to use? Sigh.”

06/12 page 39
9.0% “Of course she totally empathizes with the slaves’ pain. She feels SO BAD. And she totally ditched them to he the king’s pawn, live in luxury and go back to killing. But she feels you, dog.”

She gets you, man.  *giggle*  She’s going to go weasel her way into someone’s bed now.  At this point it’s not very clear whose she’d like to end up in.  Chaol is obviously helping her out and we all know how indebted characters are to those that help them.  But then you have your I’M NOT SUPPOSED TO LIKE HIM BUT HE’S SO EVILLY HOT character that’ll probably be the wrong choice for her and she’ll realize it somewhere down the line when she realizes he can’t really read after all.

06/12 page 39
9.0% “1) Oh look, a blooming love triangle. 2) The palace is really made of glass? Is there no hail in this world? Or are we talking safety glass? I can only imagine the amount of birds flying into it.”
06/12 page 42
10.0% “This makes zero sense. They’re anal about her escaping and going on a murdering spree so instead of putting her in a bare room they give her loads of opportunities in not one furnished room but five. Holy contrivance, Batman! Of course we can’t have the pretty girl in a dirty cell anymore.”
06/12 page 42
10.0% “Of course she has a mirror. Because it can’t be broken and the shards used for a stabbing spree. Urg.”
06/12 page 50
12.0% “Of course. What better way to ensure the young assassin doesn’t get the mind to plot her escape than to give her a tour of the castle? NOTHING CAN COME OF THAT. How the Captain and the rest of his entourage haven’t tripped and impaled themselves on their own swords is beyond me. Although I will say TSTL secondaries is refreshing. Usually that’s reserved for the protagonist.”

Damn right it’s madness.  A gas station is less self-serving than this.  I’m not a fan of worlds bending to characters.  If you have a character they need to exist within the confines of that world, be it fantasy or otherwise.  When your plot starts serving your character I start getting cranky.  If she’s some crazy bitch assassin THEN TREAT HER LIKE A CRAZY BITCH ASSASSIN.  At the tournament she gets a plain room/cell with ZERO opportunity to get all assassin-like.  But when you get self-serving like this, the entire thing, from the world to the characters, gets inconsistent and you end up reading a story of hypocrites that say one thing and do another.

06/12 page 56
13.0% “Oh no. Mean girl competition. Couldn’t see that coming.”
06/12 page 64
15.0% “Okay, so NOW she grows a conscience about being a hired murderer? She who’s so proud if her Assassin title doesn’t want to kill at the beck and call of the king? Is the the wielder or words or is this a step away from people realizing Celaena is not saintlier a murderer than she’d try to convince herself?”
06/12 page 69
17.0% “Of course there are no knives. And everyone knows no one can do damage with a fork. That’s just silly talk.”
06/12 page 76
18.0% “Stop making excuses, little girl. You’re not as magnificent and you thought yourself to be.”
06/12 page 76
18.0% “”She knew better than anyone not to underestimate opponents based on their appearance.” WTF? She just did that to all of her competitors.”

Case in point.  Literally, from one page to the next Celaena is passing judgment on everyone in the room with her, belittling men three times her size to nothing and then she says she knows better than to underestimate her opponents based on looks.  How am I to trust a damn thing in this story if it’s that inconsistent?  From her looks to her actions her opinions are as substantial as a tissue in the rain.

06/12 page 79
19.0% “I find it hard to believe that Celaena lives as ling as she did being as arrogant as she is.”
06/12 page 82
20.0% “At Celaena’s fine humbling moment I’m tapping out. I’m far too disappointed in the character to keep reading.”

Arrogance is a crap chute.  And it usually gets people their comeuppance.    Apparently hers was just being thrown in jail and living far longer than anyone else.  Oh right.  Forgot that part.  She lived for a year in the mines, with an escape attempt, when people normally average about a month or three.  OF COURSE!

Obviously I DNF’d this one.  I just couldn’t do it.  But the thing is I do wonder if I’m some kind of defective.

Is my current reading funk grossly coloring my ability to read anything?  Have I really turned into Stan Marsh and am now seeing everything as crap?  I mean Publisher’s Weekly gave THRONE OF GLASS a starred review.  And even people whose opinions I trust love this title.  Is something wrong with me?  I’m definitely having a frownie face moment.  But the thing is I’m definitely seeing Suethor fic here, coloring or not.  Would I have been able to overlook it a little more had I not been in such a funk?  Maybe.  But inconsistencies are inconsistencies.  I can’t NOT overlook them because everyone else loves it and so should I.  I could be wrong but, that’s not my thing.  Going with the flow, not not being wrong.

I don’t go into books hating them.  I was SO EXCITED to read THRONE OF GLASS I can’t even tell you.  I was talking it up at BEA.  SO EXCITED.  And this is what I get.  GAME OF THRONES for the teenage girl?

Ooooo I don’t think so.  I think that’s aiming a bit too high.  SEVEN REALMS?  Yes, teen GAME OF THRONES equivalent.  THRONE OF GLASS?  Guys, don’t feed me chuck and expect me to rave as if it were filet.  Not going to happen.  I’m not going to love something because it already had a super awesome fan base built in before it was published.  I love me my strong heroines but not at the sacrifice of logic.  Celaena is so overblown even for her world I can’t take her seriously.  And the fact that her world caves to her makes me pull away from the writing as a whole.

I tried.  I really did.  But all I wanted to do was smash the thing.  I had to stop before I actually did.

Ban Factor: High – Fantasy world with no Christian influence.  ‘Nuff said.  The teenage assassin thing probably doesn’t hurt either.