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A housekeeping note on slow reviews

This is just a quick housekeeping note on why my reviews are coming more slowly than normal lately. I am reading and listening to several compilations at the moment. Sometimes (depending on how much I’m enjoying them) I binge on the books. Sometimes I read/listen to one and then read/listen to something else before coming back to the compilation, often jumping between series as I go. I’ll review the series together when I finish them. Here are some recent example of me doing this: The Primal Trilogy, The Cassie Scot Series, The Redneck Apocalypse Series.

This all means that instead of reading/listening to one book, reviewing it and moving on to the next, I’m reading several books before a longer post is written. But I promise I am still reading and the reviews will get posted in time (just in clusters).

Review of The Sinners (The Sinners Series #1), by Daniele Lanzarotta

I received an Audible code for a copy of Daniele Lanzarotta‘s The Sinners.

Description from Goodreads:

Liam and his childhood best friend Rebecca were raised in a small town. Now living in the city, as roommates, they encounter more challenges than the average college student.

When faced with the reality of having to quit school and move back home, Liam and Rebecca get an odd invitation to move into a mansion with a group of extremely wealthy guys from the college. Liam knows it’s all too good to be true, but he gives into Rebecca’s pleas to take the offer until they get back on their feet.

Weeks turn into months, and as Liam discovers the truth of what happens within those walls and Rebecca finds herself in the middle of a dangerous game between lust and envy, their lives quickly spiral out of control.

Review:

This simply wasn’t very good. To be fair, part of my disappointment is that the last paragraph of the book’s description made me think it would be erotica and it’s 100% not. All the sex is fade to black and there’s not even that much. Nor is it a romance. Being as Rebecca’s role seems to be limited to the girl the boys sleep with, but she bounces from one to the other. The whole thing is basically unbearable though because it’s so full of red flags that no one (not even someone in dire straights) would put themselves in the position. That goes for moving into the house, falling for the first guy and then the second, and then the decision she makes at the end. None of it is believable for a girl who is shown to be pretty savvy in general.

Then there’s the consideration that, in order for the events to happen as they did, several characters had to have complete personality shifts and act out of character. Plus, Rebecca is mysteriously special, such that someone’s curse doesn’t work as it’s supposed to. It all just reeks of the often-cited and hated “she’s so special without actually being special in any way” trope. (And yes, I know I used special 3 times, but I emphatically hate the “she’s so special for no reason” trope.)

I might have given it three stars though, if not for the end. For most of the book, I couldn’t tell you for 100% certainty who the main character is (which makes a book hard to connect with). But what happened at the very end really was too much. It may have clarified who the main character was meant to be, but it made the whole plot feel pointless to me. I disliked it in the extreme.

Review of Beyond Barlow 1 & 2, by Jason R. Koivu

I received a copy of Beyond Barlow and The Rue of Hope from the author, Jason R. Koivu. I write each review as I finish the book. So they stand alone but don’t necessarily flow one into the other.


Description of Beyond Barlow:

Ford Barlow is banished from his home and the clansmen he loves after a tragic accident forces him into joining a band of thieving boys. Adventure and fun abound and it seems Ford has found a perfectly fine new home until a mysterious massacre chases the boys away from their beloved woodland hideaway, through a magical and dangerous forest, and into the arms of conniving bandits. These vicious men push Ford to the brink of his moral limits in Beyond Barlow.

Review:

Technically, I didn’t agree to review this book. I accepted The Rue of Hope and Koivu was kind enough to send Beyond Barlow along too, so that I could start the series at the beginning. I mention this because I’m pretty much done with Young Adult novels, avoiding the genre when I can. While Beyond Barlow is about a young adult, I wouldn’t necessarily call it a YA book. Despite that, I didn’t go into it excited to read about a 15ish-year-old boy. But I wanted to start at the beginning.

The book is well enough written and it’s not a bad book. However, I took a long time to read it because I kept avoiding it. It’s just unremitting mishap and misery from start to finish, and you feel very early that that is going to be the case. I found nothing in the story to enjoy or look forward to.

While Ford isn’t a bad guy, he’s not all that bright and despite often trying to do the right thing, I found him a little sociopathic at times. He wasn’t a character I could relate to. Similarly, all the side characters are grey at best, most villainous and with a tendency to suddenly disappear or die. Add to this the fact that all the events of the book are sad or anger-inducing or simply unpleasant and the reader is left with nothing to look forward to. One unsavory character said on page 239, “A man needs a bit of fun, and all we’ve had is shit and misery.” And that’s exactly how I felt about reading this book.

Again, it’s not badly written. It’s not a bad book. Some people enjoy such things. I’m just not one of them. All in all, I didn’t hate it so much that I won’t read the next book. But I didn’t enjoy it enough to look forward to it either. Especially since with a title like The Rue of Hope, I can’t really expect any more lightheartedness out of it either.


Description of The Rue of Hope:

Murder in the streets. Murder in the houses of the holy. The violent deaths of prominent figures have the populous on edge. Now, amid fire and flood, the revolt is on. The castle is taken, the lord is on the run, and the city is crumbling. With society on the verge of collapse, impulsive street-fighter Ford Barlow finds himself in just as much turmoil. Not only is he juggling his own problems, but his slippery rogue friend is embroiled in a string of high-profile assassinations. Mercenary work for a mage meant to distance him from his troubles only highlights his selfish ways and drives him back into a crumbling world of scandal and betrayal. Magic, adventure and murder combine in this fantasy-mystery!

Review:

I felt much about this second book as I did the first, there is very little to enjoy in it. Everything is death and despair. But here, more than in Beyond Barlow, I really feel the description (while not inaccurate) is deceptive. All of those events happen, but in such a background capacity as to be almost irrelevant. Ford isn’t integral to any of them. He’s not even aware of most of them. In fact, he has very little volition in the whole book. In my head, I repeatedly thought of this story (series really) as a list of woes that befall Ford, and not as any sort of adventure Ford embarks on, or battle he chooses to fight, or purpose he finds for himself (the things that structure a plot). As such, I felt very much like there wasn’t so much an actual plot as this text was simply the documenting of a certain segment of Ford’s life. Two years earlier or later would and could have read the same. I felt no building toward any climax. Thus, I found it excruciatingly unsatisfying.

Having said that, it’s not badly written and I have complained recently about being tired of reading about the same sort of anti-hero over and over again. I can’t accuse Koivu of that. Ford is an anti-hero, for sure, but not one you see every day. He’s not overly bright (or at least not a deep thinker), he’s built like a brick shithouse, he’s morally ambiguous, and while he often tries to do the right thing, he usually fails. Some of what he does in this book makes me dislike him in the extreme. (Trying to steal bread from a starving child, drunkenly manhandling a woman when she rejects him, hanging out in an alley to creepily watching a young woman through her window, being drunk for a full third of the book, what he does to Addy even knowing she’s fragile, what he does to Elle in an attempt to save her from his imagination.) But he does value protecting the weak, which redeems him a little. If he had been a man with more prospects, he probably could have been a better man. (Which I do think is some of what Koivu was trying to get at.)

Speaking of the author, Koivu himself has a few ‘men writing women’ moments. He sexualizes a 12-year-old girl at one point and almost all of the women who actually speak are prostitutes or in love with/trying to sleep with Ford in some capacity. This seems so avoidable. Why place a child in a sexual position? It didn’t progress the plot any or add anything to the story. Similarly, why include the random gay-bashing scene? Especially if Dunn, the primary perpetrator involved, was never going to appear again? I can kind of see it maybe lets the reader see that there are lines Ford won’t cross (or even understand the appeal of). But I think that was already established, so mostly I thought it added nothing of value.

All in all, I didn’t actually think this was a bad book. I just think it wasn’t really for me.

Edit: The author politely emailed me to address why the gay-bashing scene was included. I won’t repeat it since it would be a spoiler. But he does give a considered reason. I think there might have been a million other ways to accomplish what the scene did, but I acknowledge that Koivu did have a reason beyond titillation, which is what I took it for (not homophobia).

Review of The Hanged Man (The Tarot Sequence, #2) by K.D. Edwards

I borrowed a copy of K.D. Edward‘s The Hanged Man from my local library. This is book two in The Tarot Sequence series. I reviewed book one (The Last Sun) about this time last year and also listed it as one of my top six reads of 2019.

Description from Goodreads:

The last member of a murdered House tries to protect his ward from forced marriage to a monster while uncovering clues to his own past.

The Tarot Sequence imagines a modern-day Atlantis off the coast of Massachusetts, governed by powerful Courts based on the traditional Tarot deck.

Rune Saint John, last child of the fallen Sun Throne, is backed into a fight of high court magic and political appetites in a desperate bid to protect his ward, Max, from a forced marital alliance with the Hanged Man.

Rune’s resistance will take him to the island’s dankest corners, including a red light district made of moored ghost ships; a surreal skyscraper farm; and the floor of the ruling Convocation, where a gathering of Arcana will change Rune’s life forever.

Review:

Book one of this series was one of my favorite reads of 2019 and, unless something changes, I imagine The Hanged Man will make the list for 2020. It’s certainly the best book I’ve read so far this year. I love the many different types of love legitimized in it—romantic, paternal, fraternal, maternal, adoptive, platonic. Care is shown in so many different ways, without ever being sappy or didactic. Everyone deserves a Brand, Addam or Corinne in their life. Or we should all strive to live such that we deserve them.

I especially love Brand and Rune’s relationship (and Addam’s acceptance of it). It’s full of insults and sarcasm. But, where too many authors overdo this, letting it fall into overuse and become a redundant schtick, I don’t feel like Edwards ever does.

I think the book could have done with another round of copy edits. But all in all, I cannot wait for the next book. (I really hope there will be a next book.)

On a funny side note, I cannot tell you how many times I picked the book up upside down and then had to rotate it. That cover apparently did a number on my brain. LOL