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review 2018-10-03 02:51
Restless Spirits (Spirits #1) (Audiobook)
Restless Spirits - Jordan L. Hawk,Greg Tremblay

My review of the book is here and not much has changed. I did like the relationship development between Henry and Vincent better this time around. Not sure why, but it did. I still can't believe how idiotic and naive Henry was at times, and the fact he and Vincent never figured out the real-life human threat until the end - geez, it was so obvious! And I'm not just saying that because I read it before; I'd actually completely forgotten this part of the plot. So please, guys, don't quit your day job and become detectives. You would suck at it.

 

I decided to reread this since I barely remembered much about it and I'm planning to read the other two in the series soonish. Since this was just released on audio, I figured now was the time for a reread. This is also the first audiobook by Greg Tremblay I listened to. He did a decent job. I wasn't blown away by his narration, but I wasn't annoyed either. His range for voices seems limited, but I was mostly able to keep track of who was speaking when. He was easy to listen to and spoke at a speed that didn't require me to speed up the playback very much.

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review 2018-09-01 07:26
Anger Is a Gift
Anger Is a Gift - Mark Oshiro

Warnings: Institutionalized racism, racism, policy brutality, police shootings, death 

 

I'm going to steal this line from Elena, because it perfectly sums up how I feel about this book:

"The more potential a book shows the less I’m inclined to be generous when it doesn’t live up to it." 

Not that this book didn't always live up to its potential. I think it met that potential and messed it in equal measure.

 

I've followed Mark Does Stuff off and on over the years, and discovered a lot of great shows and books I otherwise wouldn't have tried because of him. I often find his commentary interesting, insightful and funny. I don't always agree with him and the conclusions he makes, but he always explains those conclusions in ways I can understand and respect.

 

Still, I was hesitant to read this book. I was concerned that knowing so much about the author might impact the way I read this book, and I did keep picking out things he'd mentioned about himself or his life experiences being reflected in the characters and the plot, which was distracting to say the least. More than that though, given some of the things I've disagreed with him about over the years, I was worried this wouldn't be for me. And perhaps, in the end, it isn't. So I went into this with certain expectations I wouldn't have had if there was just any other author, and I honestly can't say how much of that influenced my reading.

 

There was a lot here to like, and a lot to not like. After thinking over this review for the last few days (more like a week-and-half as I'm editing this review yet again), I'm still not sure how to write one. So I'm doing a list!

 

 

Some positives:

~Moss's relationship with his mother Wanda was pretty great. Wanda supported her son, and she realized that by trying to protect him he was doubting himself.

~Likewise Javier and his mother have a pretty tight relationship too. I wish there would've been more focus on Javier's mom, given what happens, but she's kind of forgotten.

~Moss's love for his city and his community. He takes pride in being from Oakland, and it's presented in a positive light. Knowing Mark lived there for years, I can imagine he walked the same streets and road the same trains. He really brings the city alive.

~Moss and Javier's friendship was sweet and cute. I adored them and how they just sort of clicked. It was easy to see why Moss would have such deep affection for him over so short a time.

~Moss's ways of coping with his anxiety and how he remembers his father were well done also. As someone with anxiety, I could sympathize with Moss's spiraling self-doubts. The rolodex of memories he keeps of his father shows that had a great relationship, and it was clear how much his father's absence still effects him. 

~The action sequences were very well-written and felt like something you'd see in the movies. Or on the news. =/ The action just exploded off the page and was a big part of why I felt the second half was more solidly written than the first half. These are the parts that flowed the best for me.

~There's no closure. There can't be. 

 

Some negatives:

~The dialogue was often exposition-heavy and felt more like I was being continually hit over the head with an anvil as the world of West Oakland High was being established. Maybe that was by design, but I thought it would've been more effective if more subtly handled. Show, don't tell.

~On that same note, there's also a lot of info-dumping. Moss is walking through his neighborhood early in the story, thinking about who lives where and what they're like, but we don't meet most of these people. By the time we do eventually meet some of them, I'd forgotten everything that was info-dumped about them.

~The same thing happens when we first meet Moss's school friends. Each one is introduced with two or three facts about them, and that's pretty much all the development most of them get. I also had trouble getting a sense of their personalities since they all talked and acted the same. 

~White people jokes are racist jokes too.

~The treatment of Esperanza was abysmal. Moss gets angry at her because she doesn't 100% immediately understand his personal life experience. He doesn't have to make any effort to understand her life, but she's just supposed to magically understand his life and when she doesn't she's a bad friend. The resolution with this character was total fubar. Moss was a jerk towards her for most of the book. (Other reviewers have gone into detail about this.)

~The metal detectors: They don't work that way. I even did some research after that scene because it pulled me out of the book so much. The info that the vice principal gives them later somewhat explains it but it's never explained how a broke, inner-city school could afford any of this stuff, much less how the police could afford it in these days of budget cuts. Even at bargain basement discount prices, military equipment isn't cheap.

~The info the vice principal gives them was never mentioned again, even when Moss had that reporter's attention. 

 

We all know race relations suck in this country, and we've all seen the various stories about police shootings and brutality, and campus cops manhandling students. It's also been disclosed that the military have experimented on our own citizens, so the idea of something like this happening in a school isn't entirely implausible. In a near-dystopian future, this could be all too real. We also have a long history in this country of the police and military coming in to break up peaceful protests with excessive force. Situations like the ones described in this book do happen, and this book doesn't pull any punches. This is an important discussion, and there needs to be more books that focus on these issues. I just feel this story could have been told with more nuance and less hammering. Instead, we get a book were all the good guys are super good, and all the bad guys are super bad. And white. Because ALL white people are the enemy, doncha know. (No, they're not.)

 

I'm still not sure how to rate this. I want to give it four stars for the spotlight it shines on some serious issues and because some of the writing was really solid. The execution of its message often fell into the two-star range though, but splitting it for a three-star rating doesn't seem right either, so I'm leaving this unrated.

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review 2017-05-31 00:56
Infected: Freefall (Infected # 4)
Infected: Freefall - Andrea Speed

In this two-fer, Roan's falling apart. Not literally, but definitely figuratively - and okay, a little literally I guess. It's not pretty, folks. Well, except maybe that one scene was pretty sweet. You know the one. 

When Roan goes to confront the new DT guy who put out the hit on Dylan. Hahahaha, that scene was pretty rad. While also being worrisome.

(spoiler show)

 

The main case in book one involves a trans-male looking for his missing son. At this point in the series, I guess I have to accept that the cases just aren't going to be worked out like they would in a typical mystery series. I thought there was a really fricking obvious potential lead that was never followed up on when the kid originally went missing - 

The crazy anti-cat church fanatic lady with a baby. Um... seems she'd be the type to steal a child away from a transexual parent, you know?

(spoiler show)

- but Roan goes in the complete opposite direction. He never even considers that other lead, which just seemed really strange to me that he wouldn't. I know he's got spidey senses and at this point we're just supposed to assume he's probably right even when it can't be verified, but that was still a glaring oversight. The case in book two was much better executed and had the weight and scope to carry the whole book from start to finish, bringing in Holden again and getting to see the whole "team," ragtag though they may be, working together. This is more what I expected all the cases to be like. 

 

I have to say, as much as I like Dylan as a character, I'm just not feeling him and Roan as an item. Maybe because Roan's not really feeling it. He's gutted after the loss of Paris and probably should've taken more time to mourn before getting involved with someone else. We do get some POVs from Dylan's perspective, which certainly helps, but I still don't really understand his motivation for staying with Roan or wanting to be in a relationship with him. Since this isn't a romance series, I have no idea if they're supposed to have staying power and we the readers should be rooting for them, but I honestly want to see Dylan move on and find someone else. I love Roan, but the dude is not good for Dylan at this point.

 

I continue to appreciate how real Roan is as a character. The various side characters aren't always prominent in each book, but when they are, I feel that's when this series is at it's strongest. Ms. Speed's characters are complicated and don't always make the best choices - looking at you, Holden - but you can understand why they make them even if you don't agree with them. 

 

The weird potentially transphobic language is still present in this book, and I'm starting to get a little weary of the guys referring to themselves as queens all the time. I'm not a gay man, so maybe I just don't get it. *shrugs* Yes, I'm sure this is how some people actually talk but it still makes me uncomfortable, and it seems improbable that every single person Roan knows, including Roan himself, would talk like that.

 

This book still has the same issues with editing as the previous books. I guess it really is true that Dreamspinner doesn't bother with editing their books anymore because the overuse of "his" when the "his" being referred to isn't clear and the repetition is ridiculous at this point. There was one point where Roan thinks no less than five times over the course of about five pages that he doesn't know why he's angry with Dylan over a painting Dylan made. Three of those times were in a single paragraph. That's probably the worst example, but there are others. Get better editors, DSP!

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review 2017-03-09 01:36
Tipping the Velvet (Audiobook)
Tipping the Velvet - Sarah Waters

This was well-written and well-narrated by Juanita McMahon, just like Fingersmith was, but it didn't quite grab me the way Fingersmith did. Nancy King and her plights and travails through London on her quest to find herself, love and acceptance are all just a little too over the top for me. And talk about your coinkydinks! The last chapter especially was loaded with them. Maybe Waters was doing a final curtain call thing, but it was a bit too much, ya know?

 

I do like Nan's tenacity to keep going and never get knocked down no matter what life threw at her, and it was an interesting journey through London in the late 1800s, when things were still very dangerous for LGBT people. I didn't always understand why Nan made some of the decisions she made. They at times felt kind of generic, like she needed to make x decision so the story could go to y plot line, and the story just kind of meandered at points. 

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review 2017-01-12 01:59
Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children #1) - DNF @ 80%
Every Heart a Doorway (Wayward Children) - Seanan McGuire

Gather 'round, boys and girls, while I tell you a lovely and empowering tale of a girl who was enslaved to a vampire, a girl who was forced to become the equivalent of Igor, an ace girl who was forced to stand perfectly still for days/weeks at a time so she wouldn't piss off her undead overlord, a trans boy who got to fight in some sort of war for a place that didn't want him because of his trans cooties, a Latino boy who lived in a real life Dia de las Muertas (because where else would a Latino want to be?), and a girl who...did something...somewhere...? Um, jazz hands? *shrugs*

 

Listen to their fascinating stories that they barely even tell you about while they pine away wishing they were back in their nightmare fuel worlds because apparently this is where their hearts wanted to be more than their own lives. But this isn't Narnia. Have no fear! There will be no actual adventures or grand battles or anything resembling bonding or friendship! Nope. Instead, you'll get a bunch of teens whining about not being able to butcher people anymore. Or not being able to drink pomegranate juice anymore. Because apparently we don't have that on Earth. Or not being able to live amongst the spiders anymore because I guess she doesn't have a cupboard under the stairs. Or... seriously, WTF is wrong with these people?!

 

I started skimming around 45% because the pacing was as slow as Nancy's gait, and I was trying to find anything resembling actual exposition, but it just wasn't here. There was an attempt at a murder mystery -

that the school's principal covers up so the kids wouldn't be sent back to their families - and she makes the kids cover it up for her.

(spoiler show)

So that happens. And if I had known this was going to become an attempt at a horror-inspired murder mystery, I could've told you who would be the first victim, because those racial and gender tropes just refuse to die.

 

Ok, I admit, a couple of these kids do have family lives that sound pretty awful. I can see why they'd want to do a Harry Potter or Tom Riddle and stay at Warped Hogwarts forever. But the others just sound like they're "misunderstood" and oh, isn't that horrible! No one gets them! How can they possibly be expected to go on?!!! 

 

Well, I'm one of the ones who doesn't get them. Maybe it's because I didn't hate my childhood growing up. Maybe it's because the author does next to nothing to actually explain anything. And advocates running away from your problems. Not that there aren't some instances where running is totally valid - to save your life, for instance. But I just didn't get the sense that was the case for most of the kids here. And I really got zero explanation for why they would prefer these nightmare worlds they fell into. There's a sort of explanation that whatever door opens for you is the one that you need based on your heart's desire or something. But WHY? Like,

one girl doesn't want to be the pretty twin her whole life, so she goes to a world where she gets to slaughter dogs and harvest their organs for science - so she can be smart. Um... you know, we have science here too, right? And you don't have to slaughter dogs to study it. IJS.

(spoiler show)

 

At around 80% I got tired of skimming looking for "good" parts (there weren't any) and just skipped all the way to end to see who the murderer was - not like it was particularly hard to guess - and kind of skimmed the end to see how it was wrapped up.

 

This was just... a mess, y'all. Terrible structure, terrible exposition, terrible characters, terrible worldbuilding. 

 

Yay diversity! But boo to everything else. Can't recommend this one.

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