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review 2018-12-10 05:51
Days Without End (Audiobook)
Days Without End - Sebastian Barry,Aidan A. Kelly

Narration: 5 stars

Story: 3.5 stars

Final rating: 4 stars

 

It was my week for strange stories. This isn't even a story in the traditional sense. This reads more like a rambling memoir but with language so intimate and lush that I could easily forget that I was only really getting broad brushstrokes for the bulk of the story. This is mostly a summation of a young man's life as he figures out some hard-won truths.

 

Told from the POV of Thomas McNulty, an Irish immigrant, as we follow him and his friend turned lover John Cole across America in the mid-1800s. Survivors of the famine, they come to America with nothing, practically starved to death, and start to figure out how to survive from one day to the next, whether that's playacting as girls in a stage show or joining the Army to fight in the Indian Wars and eventually the Civil War.

 

This book doesn't shy away from the harsh reality of this time period in American history, nor does it give us safely and comfortably progressive-minded MCs to filter that reality through. Thomas and John Cole might not be outright hateful of anyone but they don't stop to ask why they're being given the orders they're given nor do they spend much time if any contemplating the morality of the slaughter of the First Peoples. Not at first. As Thomas notes at one point, no soldier fully understands the war he fights in; he only knows his one part in it. 

 

I was most interested in Thomas's and John's non-Army days, while they were living together and eventually with their adopted daughter Winona, a Sioux orphan, but those parts were sparse safe harbors in between all the violence and war of those times. The ending, such as it was, is more open-ended than anything else. 

I would have preferred a reunion between Thomas, John and Winona instead of just Thomas looking forward to it.

(spoiler show)

 

The narration by Aiden Kelly was truly amazing. He captures Thomas's bewildered voice perfectly and truly makes this oddly mesmerizing story come to life. 

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review 2018-12-07 05:00
Guardian Spirits (Spirits #3) (Audiobook)
Guardian Spirits - Jordan L. Hawk

The final book in the Spirits trilogy is adequate. This hasn't been my favorite series by Ms. Hawk by a long shot. I never really felt the romance between Henry and Vincent, the ghost adventuring is pretty standard though she does bring a certain flair to it, and the narrator is listenable, but nothing to write home about.

 

The plot here was again predictable and I could see every twist and turn coming from a mile away. While it makes emotional sense that Vincent and Jo would make the incredibly stupid decisions they make, it still felt like all the characters were given a case of the dumb-dumbs in order for the plot to happen, which is why this got downgraded half a star.

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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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