Review: Royals by Rachel Hawkins

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Published: 1 May 2018

Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers

Category: Young Adult/Contemporary/Romance

Meet Daisy Winters. She’s an offbeat sixteen-year-old Floridian with mermaid-red hair; a part time job at a bootleg Walmart, and a perfect older sister who’s nearly engaged to the Crown Prince of Scotland. Daisy has no desire to live in the spotlight, but relentless tabloid attention forces her join Ellie at the relative seclusion of the castle across the pond.

While the dashing young Miles has been appointed to teach Daisy the ropes of being regal, the prince’s roguish younger brother kicks up scandal wherever he goes, and tries his best to take Daisy along for the ride. The crown–and the intriguing Miles–might be trying to make Daisy into a lady . . . but Daisy may just rewrite the royal rulebook to suit herself.

Rating: 3 Stars

I haven’t gotten around to reading Rachel Hawkins’s other books, but I’ve heard great things about her writing. That and the fact that I really like royal stories like this combined to get me to read my first Hawkins book.

The writing was very easy to get through. I breezed through this book in a couple of days, so points of readability. The story itself had overreaching facets that I think were good, but there was a lot regarding the execution of these events that made me not like the story as much as I could have.

Royals takes place in an alternate history version of Scotland, where it is its own country with a royal family and the like. Their cousins are alluded to and it’s easy enough to guess that they’re the current royal family of England. I didn’t mind this too much, the alternate history setting, even though it wasn’t explained how all that worked out. It’s not really the kind of story that needs that information, so as long as the reader knows that this was based on a fantasy version of Scotland, I think I’d be okay with recommending it.

Daisy, the main character and our eyes into this world, did have some funny one liners, starting with working at a local convenience store with her best friend Isabel and through her meetings with various members of the aristocracy in Scotland. These moments of sarcasm and wit were brief, though. Overall, Daisy was a bit of a pushover, always giving things up for others (a con visit for Ellie, a quiet evening with her favorite author for Sebastian & Isabel, etc.). She let herself get walked over a lot and it was mostly infuriating rather than setting her up for self improvement.

Her relationship with her sister was an overreaching sense in the book, but there’s not actually much content to back it up. The two barely interact and when they did, Ellie was next to terrible toward her. I was hoping that Ellie would really stand up for Daisy before the end and she did in a manner of speaking, but overall I got the idea that I was more supposed to believe they had some kind of relationship than I actually saw demonstrated.

Daisy and Miles give off a strong Elizabeth and Mr. Darcy feel, something that Daisy mentions shortly after meeting Miles and dealing with some of Sebastian’s behavior. It was nice, because I do like Pride and Prejudice, but it felt like something that was so blatant that I could see where their story was going long before it was actually resolved. The “ending” for these two, aside from the obviousness, felt forced, like there had to be a happy ending even though I thought the way things went was unlikely. There’s actually a quote from Daisy that I thought summed up my feeling of the ending:

One kiss and a weird summer of fake dating is not worth screwing up his whole life for.

The action of the book had a few “villains” set up in acts, almost, and they were okay. I thought it was kind of weird to leave Sebastian’s twin sister until the book was 70% over. Flora was underutilized and a bit stereotypical, though her romantic intrigues were interesting. I wish that we’d gotten to see her more because as one of two queer characters in the book, she (a lesbian) and one of Sebastian’s friends (gay) didn’t get much page time that was really meaningful.
There’s apparently going to be a second book in the Royals series, though it’s a companion novel from what I can tell so I don’t know how much we’ll be seeing of these characters.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via Edelweiss in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.
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Song of Blood & Stone by L. Penelope Blog Tour – An Excerpt from the New Novel

The first book in the Earthsinger Chronicles, L. Penelope’s story of a world torn apart by two warring rulers and the quest to save it and all its gifts begins an epic quest undertaken by two characters who must face so many things asked of them by others and by themselves.

In advance of publication (out tomorrow!), I’m sharing an excerpt of Song of Blood & Stone so that you’ll have a chance to see how special this book is and get a taste for L. Penelope’s writing with plenty of time to preorder before 1 May.

 

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Published: 1 May 2018

Publisher: St. Martin’s Press

Category: Fantasy/Romance/Young Adult

A treacherous, thrilling, epic fantasy about an outcast drawn into a war between two powerful rulers. 

Orphaned and alone, Jasminda lives in a land where cold whispers of invasion and war linger on the wind. Jasminda herself is an outcast in her homeland of Elsira, where her gift of Earthsong is feared. When ruthless soldiers seek refuge in her isolated cabin, they bring with them a captive–an injured spy who threatens to steal her heart.

Jack’s mission behind enemy lines to prove that the Mantle between Elsira and Lagamiri is about to fall nearly cost him his life, but he is saved by the healing Song of a mysterious young woman. Now he must do whatever it takes to save Elsira and its people from the True Father and he needs Jasminda’s Earthsong to do it. They escape their ruthless captors and together they embark on a perilous journey to save Elsira and to uncover the secrets of The Queen Who Sleeps.

Thrust into a hostile society, Jasminda and Jack must rely on one another even as secrets jeopardize their bond. As an ancient evil gains power, Jasminda races to unlock a mystery that promises salvation.

The fates of two nations hang in the balance as Jasminda and Jack must choose between love and duty to fulfill their destinies and end the war.

 

 

Excerpt

 

CHAPTER TWO

 

Jackal and Monkey stood at the edge of a wide canyon. Monkey asked, If I leap and make it to the other side, was that my destiny or merely my good luck?

Jackal replied, Our destiny can be taken in hand, molded, and shaped, while chance makes foolishness out of whatever attempts to control it. Does this make destiny the master of luck?

—collected folktales

 

Jack had found himself in a great many hopeless situations in his life, but this one was the grand champion—a twenty-­two-­year record for dire occurrences. He only hoped this wouldn’t be the last occurrence and sent up yet another prayer that he might live to see his twenty-­third year.

The temperature had dropped precipitously. His spine was as­ saulted by the rocky ground on which he lay, but really that was the least of his discomforts.

His vision had begun to swim about an hour ago, and so at first he thought the girl looming above him was a mirage. She peered down at his hiding spot behind a cluster of coarse shrubbery, her head cocked at an angle. Jack went to stand, years of breeding kicking in, his muscle memory offended at the idea of not standing in the presence of a lady, but apparently his muscles had forgotten the bullet currently lodged within them. And the girl was Lagrimari— not strictly a lady, but a woman nonetheless—and a beautiful one, he noticed as he squinted into the dying light. Wild, midnight curls floated carelessly around her head, and piercing dark eyes regarded him. Her dress was drab and tattered, but her smooth skin was a confectioner’s delight. His stomach growled. When was the last time he’d eaten?

Her presence meant he was still on the Lagrimari side of the mountain range bordering the two lands and had yet to cross the other, more powerful barrier keeping him from his home of Elsira: the Mantle.

The girl frowned down at him, taking in his bedraggled appear­ ance. From his position lying on the ground, he tried his best to smooth his ripped uniform, the green fatigues of the Lagrimari army. Her confusion was apparent. Jack was obviously Elsiran; aside from his skin tone, the ginger hair and golden honey­colored eyes were a dead giveaway. And yet he wore the uniform of his enemy.

“Please don’t be scared,” he said in Lagrimari. Her brows rose toward her hairline as she scanned his supine and bloodied body. Well, that was rather a ridiculous thing to say. “I only meant that I mean you no harm. I . . .” He struggled with how to explain him­ self.

There were two possibilities. She could be a nationalist who would turn him in to the squad of soldiers currently combing the mountain for him, perhaps to gain favor with the government, or she could be like so many Lagrimari citizens, beaten down by the war with no real loyalty to their dictator or his thugs. If she was the former, he was already dead, so he took a chance with the truth.

“You see, I was undercover, spying from within the Lagrimari army. But now there are men looking for me, they’re not far, but . . .” He paused to take a breath; the efort of speaking was draining. He suspected he had several cracked or broken ribs in addition to the gunshot wound. His vision swirled again, and the girl turned into two. Two beautiful girls. If these were his last moments before traveling to the World After, then at least he had something pleas­ ant to look at.

He blinked rapidly and took another strained breath. His mis­ sion was not complete; he could not die yet. “Can you help me? Please. I’ve got to get back to Elsira.”

She stole an anxious glance skyward before kneeling next to him. Her cool hand moved to his forehead. The simple touch was soothing, and a wave of tension rolled of him.

“You must be delirious.” Her voice was rich, deeper than he’d expected. It eased the harsh consonants of the Lagrimari language, for the first time making it sound like something he could imagine being pleasant to listen to. She worked at the remaining buttons of his shirt, pulling the fabric apart to reveal his ruined chest. Her expression was appraising as she viewed the damage, then sat back on her haunches, pensive.

“It probably looks worse than it is,” he said. “I doubt that.”

Jack’s chuckle sounded deranged to his own ears, so it was no surprise that the girl looked at him askance. He winced—laughing was a bad idea at this point—and struggled for breath again. “The soldiers . . . they’re after me. I have to get back through the Mantle.”

“Shh,” she said, peering closely at him. “Hush all that foolishness; you’re not in your right mind. Though I’ll admit, you speak Lagrimari surprisingly well. I’m not sure what happened to you, but you should save your strength.”

She closed her eyes, and suddenly his whole body grew warmer, lighter. The odd sensation of Earthsong pulsated through him. He had only experienced it once before, and it hadn’t been quite like this. The touch of her magic stroked him intimately, like a brush of fingers across his skin. The soft vibration cascaded over his entire body, leaving him feeling weightless.

He gasped, pulling in a breath, and it was very nearly an easy thing to accomplish. Tears pricked his eyes. “Sovereign bless you.”

Her expression was grave as she dug around in her bag. “It’s just a patch. You must have ticked someone of real good. It’d take quite a while to fix you up properly, and the storm’s coming. You need to find shelter.”

She retrieved a jar filled with a sweet­smelling substance and began spreading it over his wounds. The Earthsong had turned down the volume of his pain, and the cream soothed him even more.

“What is that?”

“Just a balm. Helps with burns, cuts.” Her hand paused for a moment. “Never gunshot wounds, but it’s worth a try.”

He laid his head back on the ground, closing his eyes to savor the ability to breathe deeply again. “A quick rest and I’ll be back on my way. Need to keep moving, though. Need to get back.”

“Back through the Mantle?” Her tone vibrated with skepticism. “And away from the Lagrimari soldiers chasing you?”

“Yes.” Her palm met his forehead again. She thought he was delusional. He wished he was. Wished the last few weeks had been nothing but the imaginings of an impaired mind.

 

About the Author

Penelope, L._CREDIT Valerie Bey

Leslye Penelope has been writing since she could hold a pen and loves getting lost in the worlds in her head. She is an award-winning author of new adult, fantasy, and paranormal romance. She lives in Maryland with her husband and their furry dependents: an eighty-pound lap dog and an aspiring feral cat.

Goodreads  –  Twitter  –  Website

 

 

 

 

 

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Review: Eggsistential Thoughts by Gudetama the Lazy Egg by Francesco Sedita & Max Bisantz

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Published: 17 October 2017

Publisher: Penguin Workshop

Category: Humor/Childrens/Philosophy

Meh . . .

From Sanrio, who brought you Hello Kitty, comes Gudetama, the lazy egg.

Not all Sanrio characters are cheery! In Japanese, when you’re lazy, you are referred to as gude gude. And that’s where our new friend gets its name. Gudetama (tama from “tamago,” egg in Japanese) is the lazy egg. Gudetama likes soy sauce and being left alone. Sometimes, Gudetama wonders if we are born only to suffer. And here, in Eggsistential Thoughts, are Gudetama’s musings on life.

Rating: 3 Stars

I love Sanrio characters, starting with the Queen herself Hello Kitty and continuing on to this book’s focus, Gudetama the Lazy Egg. I relate to some of the things he says, particularly with his “why bother” attitude, and that’s what encouraged me to ask to review this book.

The illustrations are, contrary to Gudetama’s nature, quite bright and lively. His sunny appearance is a stark contrast to his laissez-faire attitude. As for actual content, there’s not a lot to really review. Each picture is accompanied by a few words that aren’t strictly cohesive in a greater “storyline” manner. My first thought was that this was more like a small volume of memes that a story or even a short piece that nails existentialism.

A cute addition to the Sanrio library, Gudetama’s personality is certainly all over this book and fans of him will be happy with what they get.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: School for Psychics by K.C. Archer

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Published: 3 April 2018

Publisher: Simon Schuster

Category: Fantasy/Fiction/Paranormal

An entrancing new series starring a funny, impulsive, and sometimes self-congratulatory young woman who discovers she has psychic abilities—and then must decide whether she will use her skills for good or…not.

Teddy Cannon isn’t your typical twenty-something woman. She’s resourceful. She’s bright. She’s scrappy. She can also read people with uncanny precision. What she doesn’t realize: she’s actually psychic.

When a series of bad decisions leads Teddy to a run-in with the police, a mysterious stranger intervenes. He invites her to apply to the School for Psychics, a facility hidden off the coast of San Francisco where students are trained like Delta Force operatives: it’s competitive, cutthroat, and highly secretive. They’ll learn telepathy, telekinesis, investigative skills, and SWAT tactics. And if students survive their training, they go on to serve at the highest levels of government, using their skills to protect America, and the world.

In class, Teddy befriends Lucas, a rebel without a cause who can start and manipulate fire; Jillian, a hipster who can mediate communication between animals and humans; and Molly, a hacker who can apprehend the emotional state of another individual. But just as Teddy feels like she’s found where she might belong, strange things begin to happen: break-ins, missing students, and more. It leads Teddy to accept a dangerous mission that will ultimately cause her to question everything—her teachers, her friends, her family, and even herself.

Set in a world very much like our own, School for Psychics is the first book in a stay-up-all night series.

Rating: 1 Stars

School for Psychics begins with Teddy getting into the Bellagio casino after being banned from every casino on the Las Vegas Strip. She’s in deep with a Serbian loan shark named Sergei and needs over $200,000. Using her ability to read people, it should be easy, but something goes wrong and she finds casino security and Sergei closing in on her. All of a sudden, she’s whisked around a corner by Clint, an African American ex-cop, who tells her he’s a fellow psychic here to recruit her to the Whitfield Institute for Law Enforcement Training and Development.

This whole opening scene, with Teddy talking about how she was beating the facial recognition system and how she was reading the other card players, was interesting and I quite liked it. However, once things started going south and Clint was introduced, I thought things went far too easily. It felt like Clint should have been using his psychic power to make Teddy go along with what he was saying because so was so compliant. I wouldn’t have approved of it, but it would have been some kind of explanation for why she was so blase about his “I’m saving you from a loan shark by recruiting you to a psychic training school” shtick.

There was nothing about Teddy that made me think she would so easily go along with this explanation with next to no skepticism, almost no protestation. Her desperation for money and parental protection was one thing, but I don’t think it negated how easily she accepted being told she’s psychic, Clint’s psychic, and there’s a whole school training psychics to be in all arms of law enforcement. It’s like how I imagine a person would react if psychics were really commonplace and it was a bland subject, nothing too special anymore. Magic powers, such as they were here, didn’t have any of the specialness that they should have had considering the world they were set in.

It was actually kind of hard to like Teddy. It’s not that she was overly hard edged or cruel or anything or that nature; she was just so one dimensional that I didn’t get a real sense of personality from her. While reading, it didn’t feel like much effort had been put into developing her as a character, which was a real shame because her’s was the perspective we were getting the whole story from.

The plot felt like it was full of promise. A school for psychics that are inserted into the government at all levels? That could have been so cool. As I was reading, I got strong X-men vibes, especially with the various powers that were called psychic but could just as easily have been mutant abilities. That with the school setting, the military hanging around, the code names like Pyro, the similarities kept coming.

There was a lot of establishing time where Teddy and the others were being trained in tactical skills that was, frankly, dull. There were classes in seerology that got a bit technical manual speak for me and then some painfully slow chapters to pass the time until midterms.

All the while I kept thinking, all this time spent training psychic people and not one has ever gone rogue? Could one possibly show up and attack to make things interesting? Even setting aside the non-disclosure agreement the students sign and the mysterious punishments for breaking it, what about the psychics that don’t go to Whitfield? They don’t try to rise up and protest the government controlling their fellow powered people? By the time even a hint about this even makes sense, by the time there’s a whisper, the book is practically done and I just don’t care anymore. The pacing and plot development was all wrong for whatever kind of impact might have made this an enjoyable book. As it it stands, this book managed to take all the fun out of having powers.

Along the same lines as wondering why no psychics seemed to rise up or go rogue or anything of the sort was what happens to the students that get kicked out of Whitfield? What about the ones that don’t make it in? The ones that don’t have the physical abilities the school requires? None of that seems to get addressed.

Everyone in the book is either fit when they get to the school, having been recruited from the police academy or similar, or they’re next to perfect within a couple of months. I find it highly unlikely that there are no psychics with disabilities or that can’t run SWAT team obstacle courses and with that comes the question, what happens to them and the reject students? It’s like casting out students with the possibility for severe mental illness (see: Teddy’s ‘epilepsy’) and forgetting about them. That’s cruel.

One of things I found most confusing about School for Psychics that didn’t have to do with the story itself is how the reader is supposed to regard this book with relation to its genre. Who is this book for? Who is it being marketed towards? If I’m to go by the genres listed under its Amazon page, then it would be fantasy, fiction, paranormal. If I go by the shelve names people have used on Goodreads, young adult might pop up there too. After reading the book myself, I have to say that K.C. Archer’s book does not have a clear identity.

The story itself, the ages of the characters, the situations they’re in, these are things I’d expect in a new adult/adult novel at the very least. Teddy herself is twenty-four years old, so young adult isn’t accurate. However, her mannerisms and the those of the other students (Molly, Jillian, Pyro, etc.) at Whitfield were much more in line with what I would expect to see in characters that are six to ten years younger. It’s like the author wrote a young adult novel and then aged everyone up a few years for some reason? It’s an odd situation that will, I think, cause confusion among people that are strictly fans of either young adult or adult fiction and aren’t fans of books that muddy the waters.

There’s a certain expectation I had going into School for Psychics based on the summary and it did nothing to live up to it’s promises. Boring execution, plot threads that unraveled the closer you looked at them, a story that made super powers mind numbingly dull, and a cast that I couldn’t wait to say goodbye to add up to a book I will not be recommending to anyone.

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

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Review: Surprise Me by Sophie Kinsella

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Published: 13 February 2018

Publisher: Dial Press

Category: Womens Fiction/Romance/Contemporary

After being together for ten years, Sylvie and Dan have all the trimmings of a happy life and marriage; they have a comfortable home, fulfilling jobs, beautiful twin girls, and communicate so seamlessly, they finish each other’s sentences. However, a trip to the doctor projects they will live another 68 years together and panic sets in. They never expected “until death do us part” to mean seven decades.

In the name of marriage survival, they quickly concoct a plan to keep their relationship fresh and exciting: they will create little surprises for each other so that their (extended) years together will never become boring. But in their pursuit to execute Project Surprise Me, mishaps arise and secrets are uncovered that start to threaten the very foundation of their unshakable bond. When a scandal from the past is revealed that question some important untold truths, they begin to wonder if they ever really knew each other after all.

Rating: 2.5

Sophie Kinsella’s books are tricky. Her writing is good, but there are other elements that make them less than ideal, whether it be facets of the plot, the characters, or pacing. In the case of Surprise Me, it was primarily a mixture the characters with a bit of the pacing thrown in.

The premise itself, keeping a marriage interesting over the course of six plus decades, has some interest. While there is the inevitable change in human nature, there’s also the thirst for fun and having that fun together is part of spending all that time as a partnership. It took awhile for the surprise idea to actually show up, 24% of the Kindle version as my notes serve. Once they did, that’s when the trouble began and I couldn’t decide whether the ways they went awry were wholly believable or dementedly twisted to make for a “fun” book. The one that irritated me the most was the pet. Who the heck gets someone a pet as a surprise? That was beyond a bad movie and I feel bad for poor Dora (the pet snake that now resides in the kitchen).

The surprises also didn’t actually stick around for that long. Considering the fanfare they got in the synopsis, I was expecting more. Considering the late arrival and early departure of the titular surprises, what does it say about the plot that they’re not really the thing we’re steered toward caring about? It felt like a switch around because I thought the surprises were meant to be the main thing, then a mean new boss was introduced, but he also faded into the background and the novel became about Sylvie being a stereotypical suspicious wife that made broad assumptions and made grand leaps that were ridiculous. I couldn’t see real people acting like she did, particularly at the finale.

Sylvie and Dan’s reaction to the “you’ve got a good chance at spending the next sixty-eight years together” was blown entirely out of proportion. Maybe it would’ve been time for some thought, but this is literally what you sign up for when you get married. Being the same age as them, I felt like there were moments when I would’ve stared at them incredulously and wondered what the bloody hell they were thinking.

They felt like just the sort of couple I might strongly dislike if I met them in real life. Sylvie was largely judgmental and seemed to think it was alright because she didn’t make these comments aloud. There were criticisms of everyone from the people around her like her boss and her neighbors to sexist comments about her husband (which she insisted weren’t but were). There were more little niggling things that bugged me about both of them, such as their fights about money (somewhat complex because of family inheritances/backgrounds, etc.) and their job decisions. A lot of it comes back to communication.

The way these two were written, it became painfully more obvious that these “problems” they were having? Whatever difficulty came up post-doctor visit, it was all very much first world, heteronormative white people problems that were utterly ridiculous. I didn’t feel much sympathy because they were being supercilious and it was their own fault for not talking to each other.

There’s an issue I had with the way either grieving or mental illness was handled in the course of the book. Following a death in the family two years prior to the start of the novel, Sylvie had a rough time coping. She either had an “episode”/meltdown or was grieving, depending on who you asked. At one point Tilda, Sylvie’s neighbor/best friend, says that she thinks Sylvie was just grieving and it wasn’t an “episode”.

While I agree that Dan and her mum protected her too much, they were around the situation quite a bit more than Tilda. The pre-book death, a car crash, lead to Sylvie’s showing up unannounced and staring at the house of the other party involved in the accident, as well as sending a letter the other party’s family that they found threatening, which leads me to believe that Dan and Syvlie’s mum might have been more on the side of right than Tilda. However, given this excuse to make herself all better, Sylvie swoops at it and ignores all protestations. I’m not sure a proper resolution/answer/conclusion was really talked about here, even after she does start therapy because that course of action is in relation to something else.

In conclusion, Surprise Me felt like a stretch of the imagination in terms of believability. Whether anyone will really stick with what they learned in the end is debatable because there’s a “happy” ending, but it felt forced. One quote from Sylvie stood out to me shortly before the close:

“Dan …” I say more gently. “No one actually knows. We could have seventy-two more years together . Or two. Or two days.”

That entire quote should have flashed in their heads at the beginning.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

The Eye Opener by Indrajit Garai

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Published: 9 December 2017

Publisher: Self-published

Category: Fiction/Short Stories/Novella

In this collection, meet:

Franck, who has to align his desires with his needs; Nathan, who has to adjust to his constantly changing turf; and, Cedric, who has to open his eyes to reconstruct himself.

Rating: 2.3 Stars

This is the second collection of short stories I have read by this author. Last year it was The Sacrifice and following that book and this one, I can say that while I think the author is a determined one and has a good talent, there is something missing from the collections that keeps them from being great.

The Alignment (2 Stars)

The biggest problem with this first story is that it feels like it was written for a certain audience, one that has an understanding of business and consulting. There were terms and situations bandied about that I didn’t understand and that prohibited me from really getting into the story. This is to say, I don’t necessarily think it was solely a me problem, but rather people that don’t know the business world won’t fully grasp Franck’s job or the problems he’s dealing with in that regard.

Secondly, Franck was a wholly selfish individual that was masked by the writing. He didn’t deserve his wife or the happy-ish ending that he ended up getting. It seemed like all of the problems were centered around him. Even when he made comments about his wife, leaving her for the final three months of her pregnancy for an international job, it felt like it was more of an inconvenience for him than her.

I will say that the debt burden touched upon in this story felt like it veered toward authenticity. Franck and Armelle buy an apartment they can’t afford for appearances sake, mortgaging it so much that they miss two payments and the bank refuses to work with them any more. It’s a problem of their own making and while I think their escape was far too easy (of the rabbit-out-of-a-hat variety solution), the panic Franck experienced felt real.

The ending, with the loss and the separation etc., felt like Armelle (Franck’s wife) was set dressing as she served little purpose other than background and to give him a happy ending even after all of poor Franck’s suffering (#sarcasm).

The writing was alright. It wasn’t exactly bad, but I wouldn’t say it was the best it could be either. It felt like it was being throttled, like dry toast if you will. The events were being laid out, things that should have been full of emotion and drama were happening, but I didn’t feel any of them. I really think this could be fixed because the foundation is there.

The Changing Turf (3 Stars)

I’m conflicted about this story. The writing felt vastly improved from the previous one and I enjoyed that aspect for the most part.

However, the part where I have a problem is that there seemed something off about the development of the story. Nathan, the main character, is an immigrant to the U.S., New York specifically, in order to complete his doctorate degree. His story was an interesting one, it’s the events he faced that felt off. From offers from the bank to set up loans and debit cards to missing mail to a woman named Kelly he meets (and whose family acts oddly), it looked like there was some kind of scam going on that would pay off as the story ending, but these things didn’t actually lead in that direction. The overwhelming sense of dread that was built up became pointless.

There’s another woman he becomes involved with, Maya. When she’s introduced, her personality and her story are one thing and then by the end it’s as though she was replaced by another person altogether but the author kept the name. I felt duped into liking her because she begins as someone sympathetic, continues that way for a bit, and then it’s like a switch flipped. She acts terribly toward Nathan and ends up doing something that, while I agree with her ability to choose to do so, her method and decision making process was deeply flawed. It’s like the reader is meant to like her and then hate her, the way things were written. I couldn’t see the reason to do so, especially since Nathan’s journey could have been completed without sacrificing Maya’s character.

The Eye Opener (2 Stars )

There’s a poignant examination in this story about the effects of a prison term on convicts and what it means for them in their life afterwards. What it means for jobs, for how society views them, and the like. Nothing is the same, whether or not they actually committed the crime. The main character, Cedric, talks about not only that, but about how his “shame” affects his mother, how his brother was lost while he was imprisoned, and how his youth is now gone because of the crime he was framed for. The judgement of society is so harsh and makes it impossible for him to recreate a semblance of peace.

Besides these early social comments, I don’t find much likeability in Cedric. He was incredibly judgmental, particularly of the people that he blamed for his brother’s demise. What we don’t find out is whether or not that’s justified; going on Cedric’s attitude, I don’t think it is 100%. Cedric makes some rude comments about the girlfriend his brother had and about a girl he meets through the library. Overall, it made me think there was not a good opinion of women going on in this story.

There’s also quite a bit of coincidence toward the end. The resolution, the clearing of Cedric’s name, it’s all really easily done with evidence popping up that I didn’t find believable. The body of the story was stuffed full of all these details, parts of a larger thing, that were crammed into too short a space. If The Eye Opener had had more time to work on the different elements, develop relationships, work on the criminology/”mystery” aspects, then it might have turned out more satisfactorily.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.

Review: Downward Dog: Very Serious Haiku from a Very Serious Dog by Samm Hodges and Phinheas Hodges

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Published: 16 May 2017

Publisher: Animal Media Group LLC

Category: Poetry/Animals/Young Adult

A book of haiku and illustrations from the mind of Martin, the talking, angst-ridden, introspective dog from the ABC TV series, Downward Dog.

Sam Hodges is part of the writing and creative team of the ABC TV sitcom Downward Dog and he provides the distinct voice for Martin on the show. Hodges is also an accomplished director, having won numerous awards for his commercial work for Animal Inc.

Phinheas Hodges is part of the writing staff on the ABC TV sitcom Downward Dog. He is also a freelance writer, director, and editor.

Rating: 2 Stars

I requested this book because I remember seeing the trailer for the television show and subsequently hearing it had been cancelled. That was a bit sad because as much of a cat person as I am, dogs are amazing. I’d love to see more shows about them in a comedic setting rather than as set dressing for human actors.

When I started reading this, I felt like there were brief glimpses into deeper meaning, but that overall the style of poetry chosen (haiku) was perhaps not the best choice. A format that was even a little bit longer might have made more of an impact. A couple of the pieces I got the underlying emotion, but a majority were so brief and understated that I felt nothing in them.

I wish the book overall had been longer because it took less than five minutes to finish it cover to cover. What did I get out of it in the end? Did I enjoy it? The overwhelming answer is “meh”. I didn’t find humor, I didn’t find engagement, I just…didn’t. If the show is based on this book alone, on the authors’ humor alone, than I can see why it was cancelled. A lack of substance makes me glad this was a review rather than a purchase.

 

 

 

 

 

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

All media (pictures, quotes, etc.) belong to the respective owners and are used here solely for the purpose of review and commentary.