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review 2020-05-03 18:02
Wink Poppy Midnight - April Genevieve Tucholke

For more reviews, check out my blog: Craft-Cycle

I came across this in the Lending Library. I liked the odd title and the gorgeous cover and the fact that I had really no idea what it was about.

When I started reading it, I was instantly conflicted. I really liked the poetic narration. However, the characters were two-dimensional cardboard cutouts you can find in any teen book. They aren't unique or fully-formed or even that interesting.

Also, the loose plot that is strung through the book didn't interest me. It just kind of went along without any real story, just the boring, annoying characters describing their lives with oddly similar narration styles. Also, Midnight's sections were so long that I just ended up hating him. I would go days without reading this if I was on Midnight's section or would just put it down partway through his dull narration because I had no interest in it.

My main problem with the book was that I just didn't care about any of the characters. The whole time you're supposed to be trying to determine who is the hero, who is the villain, and who is the liar. However, from the start, it's pretty obvious it's not going to be as clear-cut as presented. The book didn't make me feel invested in anyone so whenever something actually happened, I just kind of shrugged and moved on.

Once the big reveal comes about, it didn't even affect me because of this lack of investment. I was mostly just annoyed because it felt like the author was just trying to "trick" you with unreliable narrators, rather than coming up with an interesting twist.

Despite my initial excitement, I was left feeling dissatisfied when I finally finished this. Nothing happened, the message was fairly obvious, and any of the unpredictable twists just didn't seem to matter because the characters just felt like shadows on a page.

However, the narration was quite lovely at times with beautiful lyricism and interesting descriptions. I did enjoy the writing style overall. It was almost like reading a really long poem. I may check out more by this author, but I am definitely going to need a more interesting plot and more compelling characters.

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review 2019-11-09 21:27
The Poppy Wife
The Poppy Wife - Caroline Scott

It has been four years since Edie Blythe has seen her husband, Francis, alive.  He is officially missing, but presumed dead in the Great War.  When Edie receives a picture of Francis in the mail, she believes that he is out there somewhere, waiting to be found. Edie sends her brother-in-law, Harry on a mission to find Francis or his grave.  After the war, Harry has taken a job photographing graves or deceased service men for loved ones, now his brother is one more to add to the list.  As Harry returns to the war-ravaged landscape that he last knew as a soldier, the memories come flooding back and he struggles with the day that he left his brother for dead.  

The Poppy Wife is a journey of finding things that are lost and examining the state of the world post World War I.  I knew that many soldiers had been listed as missing after the War and that some were alive with no memory of life before; however, the impact that these missing men had on individual lives and whole town was immense.  The writing portrayed an air of melancholy wherever the characters went and seemed to carry a weight with them throughout the story.  While I expected the story to be about Edie's journey, it was mostly told through Harry's point of view and conveyed the psychological toll of surviving the War, revisiting the ravaged towns where he fought and finding closure.  Edie's journey was also about finding closure, but focused more on discovering just what her husband as well as the other men went through during the war.  The descriptions in the book took on the heavy task of describing a world torn apart and a people trying desperately to rebuild in the face of grief from many angles to accurately describe the overwhelming feeling post World War I.

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review 2019-07-14 01:14
The Poppy War
The Poppy War - R. F Kuang

This book... This book disappointed me. Part of it was high expectations. I know several people, whose opinions I trust, who loved this book. I was also looking forward to reading a fantasy inspired by Chinese history. I was excited about this one. So yeah, disappointment is certainly a factor here.


What I expected was something really fresh and new. So imagine my surprise when this book is trope after trope. You could play trope bingo with this one pretty successfully. It's also got some serious Harry Potter vibes early on. And some pretty significant anime vibes too. (The whole school yard to war thing. The gang of superpowered misfits in a rogue branch of the army. Summoning Suzaku...err...I mean the Phoenix.) It doesn't feel original in the slightest, and when so much of the book is also directly lifted from history there's not much left to stand out as creatively unique. That's not in and of itself damning, but it did take me by surprise.


However, what surprised me most are the undercurrents of strong anti-Japanese sentiment. You could make an argument that this is authorial voice. And honestly I'd be open to hearing compelling evidence supporting that stance. Unfortunately, I'm trained to read closely (blame my degree), and even if I could overlook the way this book ends (which I can't), or the way the Japanese are portrayed (again, hard to do), even word choices raised red flags. I get it: this is based off a point in time that is a very dark and ugly stain on Japanese history. Not disputing that in the least. It's abhorrent. But the way this is written is very uncomfortable in ways I'm not sure are intended. (And if they are intended, oh lordy is that even worse.) And then there is the entire issue of the way the Speerly people are written, which is a whole other can of worms (really problematic as well). It makes me deeply suspicious of the book and breaks all my trust in the author.


I might *maybe* have been able to overlook the tropes, and the uncomfortable undercurrents. Maybe. Possibly. But I had so many other little issues along the way as well. I couldn't stand the main character, Rin. I found her lack of growth frustrating and continued blunders repetitive. I thought the book was overwritten and far too long. Or perhaps, more compellingly, three books shoehorned awkwardly into one as the tone shifts were so jarring. And then there's the fact that the book seems totally onboard with abusive relationships. (Example: the glorification of an emotionally & physically abusive character, complete with the main character saying, "Who would I be without (them)?" Fucking gross.) And there's also the atrocity fatigue where it gets to the point where the author seems more intent on giving you a full litany of grotesqueries than crafting a scene that actually makes you feel something. I could probably go on. But really this book died a death of a thousand cuts for me. The longer I read it the less I liked it, and when I reached the end I was genuinely pissed off I had stuck it out. Especially given the way the book ended.


Look, here's the thing, these things aren't going to bother everyone. Some people are just going to be excited to be reading a more diverse book. And that's fine. We need more books written about other cultures by non-white authors. Lots more. Many many more. It makes it difficult to judge a book harshly when it represents an underserved minority of voices. I get that. That said, I don't think this is a good book. It needed more editing, and the author needs more time to hone their craft. Maybe I'll try Kuang again sometime down the road, but not for this trilogy.

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review 2019-06-15 20:06
I read the Futura 1990 edition.
The Face That Must Die - Ramsey Campbell,Poppy Z. Brite,J.K. Potter
The story is told mostly through the perspective of an odious and most likely paranoid schizophrenic called Horridge. This entirely unpleasant man is hate-filled, self-aggrandising, homophobic and racist. He even has a limp and at times feels almost a Dickensian caricature. But the book doesn't let the reader off that easily. We are trapped in the mire of Horridge's psyche and even when we escape for brief respites we see echoes of similar paranoia in the fear or drug-heightened senses of others.
After reading Campbell's moving introduction it is unsurprising that the author has such a drive to explore various expressions of paranoia, looking in turn at how it can cripple or aid us. A powerful read, but not a pleasant one.
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review 2019-04-12 03:58
The Poppy War by R.F. Kuang - My Thoughts
The Poppy War - R. F Kuang

Well.  This book was touted as one of the best of 2018 and it is nominated for a 2018 Nebula award for best novel.  I didn't like it as much as the majority of people seem to have.  I have read 5 of the 6 nominees and this was my least favourite of them. (Spinning Silver is the one I've not read.)

First off, let me say that the book is well-written read for all that.

My problem lies with expecting to see something new and different, but all I really saw were the same fantasy tropes that have been around forever.  The orphan child with the mysterious background.  The Chosen One.  Hidden magical powers. Gods run amok.  I think the only thing that was was even remotely new was that the book is set in an alternate historical China, or that's what I felt it was.  I was disappointed, and even though, like I said, the writing was good, I found that disappointment colouring my read.

My other problem was with the protagonist, Rin, the orphaned peasant girl with the dark skin. This is her story, but I felt that things were just happening to her.  I don't know that I felt her grow from her somewhat naive 16 years of age at the beginning of the book to her beaten, tortured, suffering (according to her words near the end of the book), 19 year old self.  I was told that she did, but I never FELT it.  At one point, she's yelling at one of her close friends, crying out that she's suffered fro so long, been beaten and tortured and betrayed and near killed etc... so she deserved getting her revenge, and I thought... but were you really?  I was told she did, but....  I dunno, she never really came alive for me. 

And you know, this book is rather grim-darkish.  It's not promoted as such, but I think it really is. In the last third of the book, things get very violent and dark and at times just downright horrific.

So, anyway, I really didn't get what all the big excitement was about.  Will I read the second book that's due out this summer?  Probably, but I'm not in any rush

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