Star Wars: 501st, Karen Traviss

I said I would review everything I read for the read-a-thon. But next year I’m not going to do that, because when that is just not fair to the book. I mean, I barely remember this one. I started reading it at about three in the morning? And most of the book I spent my time propping my eyes open and muttering “where are the EXPLOSIONS?” at the page. (Hint: there were not as many explosions as I’d like.)

The idea behind the book, as best as I can figure out, is that Order 66 ended, and millions of nerds cried out and said, BUT WHAT HAPPENS NEXT? They were given this book to silence them. The issue with that, is that I do believe that Order 66 finished off all the plot threads quite nicely. I mean yes, there were things hanging, but they were aesthetically pleasing things. In a terrible way.

I mean yes, there were people killed and others were left in terrible no-win situations. But the story WORKED. That was a good ending point. Now in this book, most of the text is spent on people thinking about the meaning of things, from a religious, moral or ethical perspective. Which might be fine, I was just OUT OF IT when I read the book, (and now when I’m writing this. Symmetry! Hah!)

When I pick up a book with Storm Troopers on the front, I want a heavy dose of action and plot. Regrettably for that idea, Ms. Traviss has spent much of the previous series writing the Imperial Commandos to be darn near indestructible genius demi-gods. So just breaking a few people out of triple zero isn’t such a much. So just to fill up the PAGE COUNT, you need the endless soul-searching. So maybe more flaws would have been good? Or less of a stupid enemy? I dunno. I gave it two stars out of five. I shan’t worry about the characters any more.

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Tess of the D’Urbervilles, Thomas Hardy

So I read this for book club. And it was REALLY PAINFUL. Basically I hated all the characters, including the narrator. Oh wait, that’s a lie, I approved of Angel’s parents. But everyone else. GOOOOOOOOSHHHHHHHHHH. *headdesks*

I know this is a classic. And it’s technically good, I’m sure. I just want to throw it on the floor and throw drinks at it. Several times.
GAHHHHHHH. WHY? WHY DOES THIS EXSIST? WHY DO-

Ahem. You can see this book elicits strong emotions in me. The basic plot- which I am not going to worry about spoiling, seeing as the book was published like a hundred and twenty years ago, is that this really innocent girl, Tess, gets guilted by her family into going away to work. Where she is seduced/raped- it’s kinda unclear- by her employer. She promptly leaves the job and goes home, and then then we skip ahead a year to where she’s feeding her baby. Who she hasn’t named yet? The baby falls ill and the priest won’t come out and baptize it, because it’s the middle of the night and the baby is illegitimate, and so she baptizes him herself and names the child Sorrow, and then Sorrow dies, then to be buried in the unconsecrated part of the churchyard. This is the “happy” part of the novel.

We go on to where she goes away to work, and Hardy basically takes a couple hundred pages to rhapsodize about the wonder of pagan-times-as-empodied-by-dairy-farming, and how they’re so much better than modern morals. He also thinks that red and white fat arms on girls with big eyes are hawt, if you know what I mean, and dust caught by sunlight is, like divine. I really was trying to just get the words down my brain at this point, and not shout at the page. But while Tess is all busy being a pagan goddess in the sunlight and the butter, some disillusioned poor agnostic sap named Angel who thinks too much is falling in love with her because she’s so pure. She says she can’t marry him because of her past, but he’s all about how nothing in her silly little pure past (don’t try to think, woman, it makes your brow furrow, and that’s unattractive) could possibly stop his love for her, and he doesn’t let her tell him what she’s talking about. Of course then when they get married he goes Lolz, I got seduced by this old woman once, morals are for teh lose, you forgive me, right? And she cries and says of course I do, and because you’re so good and modern you’ll forgive me for my sins, and I know you will, because it’s exactly the same as your sins!

AND THEN HE LEAVES HER AND GOES TO BRAZIL TO CATCH FEVERS.

Meanwhile, Tess is destitute and pulling turnips, and her old employer Alex finds her again, and is hanging around, and I really hate this book, and then her family ends up homeless, and Alex says he will support her family if she becomes his mistress, and then she does, and then it all goes to heck in a hand-basket.

Angel comes back, and Tess kills Alex, and then runs after Angel and says “you’ll love me because I killed him, right?” Angel, of course, pets her hair and bring her away to live like a married couple in a house they break into, and then they go hang out in Stonehenge and the police catch her and he pets her hair and says soothing agnostic things and lets them arrest her, and then they hang Tess and Angel marries her younger sister. Who is like what, sixteen? Seventeen?

So yeah. You may have picked up a slight vibe of me disliking this tome. It’s a true vibe. Hardy MORALIZES the whole freaking time. About how stupid modern morals are, which might be true, but look, WE ARE IN A DIFFERENT TIME. MORAL ISSUES ARE DIFFERENT. I REALLY DONT” NEED TO HEAR YOU RANT AS A NARRATOR FOR HOWEVER MANY FREAKING PAGES THIS IS ABOUT THE INJUSTICE OF LOOKING DOWN ON SINGLE MOMS. I ASSURE YOU, HARDY, WE’VE MOVED PAST THAT PARTICULAR PREJUDICE. GAHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH.

I gave it two stars out of five. It’s my blog, darn it, I can like what I want. *glares at you* Ahem. The one GOOD thing I got from this book was how sometimes people can be led into doing “bad things” by stupid family and other events that are really outside their control. Don’t judge people. (Lest you be judged. OH WAIT, you mean that’s a EXILING BIBLE VERSE? Hardy didn’t COME UP WITH THIS IDEA? Who knew. WHO knew.)

Star Wars: The Force Unleashed, Sean Williams

I think I should start with my star wars history. When I was eleven my (younger) siblings rented the Original trilogy from the library, and settled in to watch these formative pieces of culture. I, being the hysterically brave creature that I am, sat outside on the patio tormenting ants, and only watching when the people were outside. I figured that anything inside was too frightening, which was possibly inspired by unwittingly walking in just in time to see Darth Vader strangle an angry guy in a grey uniform. To make it better, I was watching through the glass doors into the living room. No sound. I’m so brave.

But then flash forward two years, and I have literally read every book in the library children’s section that doesn’t have a drooling bloody plant or similar horrific thing on the cover, or teenagers making out. This includes some truly unfortunate books which I’m still trying to forget, but that is not the story today. I figured it was time to wander into the adult section. But the Mysteries had a lot of blood on the covers, and other “adult books” had icky romances, and the nonfiction was boring and angry, I didn’t like horror, and I had bad experiences with Westerns featuring torture. (This was honestly my rationale.) I settled for the SF/Fantasy section as being my safest bet.

I know, some of you are now laughing incredulously at me. But in my defence, the books either went WAY over my head- Yay metaphors!- or they were Star Wars EU novels, and Star Trek books. That was also where my Star Trek knowledge base sprung from, but that is not the topic at hand either. I read the star wars books, found they were good, and put a standing order in with the librarian to order me every other star wars book in the system. The results were, mixed. But I was going through two or more books a day, so I just threw aside the painful ones and re-read the good ones. (Oh, Mara Jade and Thrawn, you never fail to make my heart soar.) (Also, I have never liked Luke Skywalker. Nope.)

And then at college I discovered Karen Traviss’s Republic Commando and the New Trilogy movies, and many much lovely expansion in the universe, and even found people who knew more than me about Star Wars. When you’ve grown up in a small town when you are the only one who has read anything in the SF/F section for the past three years, this is BIG.

So I’ve been known to elbow the boys aside to get at the star wars section, that’s all I’m saying. Even if those stupid boys think I don’t know the colour difference between a sith blade and a jedi saber. FOOLS. Ahem. Anyways, I did snatch this book away from a particularly snobby creature of the male persuasion, and carry it in triumph to the counter. Where I BOUGHT it. And then I READ it. So there, boys, I can participate in your fandom just as much as you can.

And the triumph over the purchase was the best part of the book. I think if I want to know a video game story in the future, I’ll just watch or play the game. I get the sense that this would be awesome to play. To read, well. The characters weren’t fleshed out, the plot was meh, the universe was WRONG- (I read many much books, I know this. ( WHO GOES TO THE GROUND ON KASHYYYK? SERIOUSLY??? ) I gave it two stars out of five. I will now expunge the false history from my mind.

The Dragon Seer, Janet McNaughton

I’m going to put my jugemental hat on now and do some reviewing. This is part of my plan to think about what I’m reading. I’ll tell you how that works out for me. ^_^

I found this story really hard to get into, simply because of the author’s voice. Small words and simple descriptions just don’t do it for me, sorry. I actually assumed at first that the story was MG, (though later plot points (romance, death) supported the idea that it was YA,) because of the simplistic story telling.

However, once I adjusted to the fact that this was not going to a thrill-a-minute tale, and the prose was not going to make me shiver with glee (yes, I do that occasionally) it turned out to be a mild and fun story. Madoca is a slave in an abusive household until she is chosen by the dragons to be the next dragon seer! (OMG FOR REALZ???) Once accepted into this prestigious position by many kind people, she learns that the job is more difficult than she thought, (Magic is hard? Lol Whut?) but also more rewarding. Life unfolds happily, she makes friends with a cute boy (though she doesn’t know that’s what she’s doing, *blush* *cough* *scuff toe*) and then the Vikings arrive, and it all goes to heck in a hand-basket.

I really don’t feel the need to spoiler the ending, but it was sufficiently unexpected and worked well.

Overall, the romance was talked of in simple terms for simple readers, but it was believable. It even had several “awwwwww” moments which made me happy. The two respective important death scenes were well done, and the bad guys were Very Bad. We know this because they kill helpless animals and make small boys cringe, also they have a magician who can turn into a raven. (Like Woah.) The dragons were small, clever, arrogant, pretty and awkward. They also talked mind-to-mind, which is is IMPERATIVE for YA dragons. Unfortunately, I found myself not really caring about Madoca’s five years of being beaten and starved, or her dragons dying out, or even the terrible Vikings come to destroy our affinity with the land. I felt like I should care, but I was just annoyed at the sanctimonious tone of the tale whenever awful/stressful things happened.

This book did not catch much of my attention, but I think that is because I am not the target audience. I wouldn’t be distressed to find my little sister reading it. I gave it two stars out of five.