Book Review- Golden Son by Pierce Brown

I love the internet. Seriously, as messed up as it frequently is, it’s also a beautiful thing. For instance, in order to better get in the right state to talk about Golden Son after so long, I turned to 8tracks. If you haven’t heard of it, it’s pretty much the best.

People make playlists and share them with the world. But, you can tag them, and search accordingly. Apparently video game and book nerds are alive and well on 8tracks, because I typed in Red Rising and was offered a dozen or more playlists inspired by the trilogy.

I’ve done this for other books and video games before, and there’s nothing better when you’re stuck in a story hangover.

Anyway, you might want to read my Red Rising review before you jump into this one.

Ready? Let’s talk a bit about Golden Son. Be warned, spoilers abound!

goldenson
It’s been a couple weeks since I finished the second book in Pierce Brown’s trilogy and I have just under 200 pages left in its conclusion. For a series that so underwhelmed me at its onset, I have been utterly captivated by these characters.

So, Golden Son opens with Darrow at the Academy. Roque and Tactus are with him, as is Antonia’s older sister Victra. Spoiler alert, she’s way cooler than her bitch sister. Still a bitch, but way cooler. Anyway, the Academy is to teach Naval warfare. Darrow is a Praetor of a fleet, and must dictate their motions and actions. It’s going well, he’s got Karnus au Bellona (Cassius’s brother) on the run. Until a trap is launched and Darrow loses. He comes in second overall, but losing to the sworn enemy of house Augustus makes him worthless in Nero’s eyes. His contract will be sold at the Gala celebrating the end of the year of Academy.

But, Darrow has other plans. A ton of them. One of my favorite things about this series is the plotting. There’s a large cast of characters, and they all have their own ambitions and schemes to achieve them.

darrow
Amazing Darrow fan art by PhantomRun, found at the Red Rising Wikia page.

The Jackal plays a pivotal role in this book, mainly as a tentative ally to Darrow. And there’s a lot of tension over this alliance. Roque disagrees as a matter of principal. Tactus thinks it’s risky at best. Victra wants to put Jackal out of their misery. And Mustang warns Darrow that nothing good could come from aligning with her brother.

Spoiler alert. She’s right.

But, before the Jackal bares his teeth, Darrow duels Cassius at the Gala, earning Nero’s favor again, and preserving his position at the ArchGovernor’s side. And then all hell breaks lose as the Sovereign attempts to murder the entire house Augustus.

It’s exactly what Darrow wanted. Civil War. The Golds of Mars have entered into war with the Sovereign, and Darrow uses the promise of making Nero the new Sovereign to keep the man moving in the direction Darrow wants.

But, per Pierce Brown’s usual, nothing goes quite to plan. And although Darrow is largely victorious by the end, the toll is high. Characters die, and it’s not until you read their last words, their last breaths, and Darrow’s reaction to them, that you realize just how deeply you cared for all of them. Even obnoxious dipshits like Tactus.

And he takes the ultimate risk. He takes Mustang to Lykos, he shows her the truth. And she runs from him.

Only  then does Jackal makes his move, murdering his father, and others, as well as capturing Darrow. All with the help of Roque. To his credit, the Poet of Deimos cries when he betrays Darrow, but that doesn’t make it any easier to read. The betrayal burns hot in you, and you hate that little man you once loved so much, even as you mourn the guilt he’s feeling.

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More from PhantomRun, this time of Sevro.

And that’s how the book ends. We know that Sevro, Mustang, and the Telemanuses (Pax’s father and brother) are missing. They weren’t present at Jackal’s slaughter. And Darrow is now in his evil hands, to be dissected to discover how he was Carved.

End. Scene.

Now, I’ve glossed over a lot, and I mean a lot, of the larger plot points. There are quite a few revelations as far as the Sons of Ares is concerned. There’s a ton more word-building, and character development is on point throughout the book.

What Brown really does well is pacing and plotting. This book flew by, dragging me with it as it twisted and turned. I mourned characters. Their deaths, their failures, their heartbreaks. I cheered for them. Their triumphs, their joys.

And that’s why I hurtled into the next book. And already I’m mourning the end of this series. Mourning the very thought of saying goodbye to these people I’ve come to love so much. I’m just not ready.

Anyway, I’ll probably still finish the book sometime this weekend. Ugh. I’ll see you all then.

 

BZ

 

P.S. I’ll leave you with this gem, sang by Sevro in Golden Son. sevro-song

 

 

Book Review- A Monster Calls by Patrick Ness

Hi Blogland,

It feels like forever since I read this book. For that reason, this review won’t have the usual tone. I remember more of the overall impression of this book than the minutia, so that’s what I’ll base this review on.a_monster_calls

This is a book that fucks with you. It pulled me in because of the artwork. Dark and deeply creepy for a YA book, a co-worker and I discovered it while working at the library. We read it a couple weeks apart. The illustrations look like they were done in thick lead pencil, or maybe even charcoals. All heavy greys and blacks, with white used for contrast, and the occasional red for the monster’s eyes.

So, basically, this book is about a boy who uses the premise of a monster to cope with the looming death of his mother, who has terminal cancer. The monster claims that the boy called him, and that before the monster can leave, the boy must divulge his fear. His truth. They meet in the cover of dark, and the boy never really knows if their encounter was a dream or not.

This book reads like a fairy tale, but not in the fun way like Gaiman’s Stardust, or Goldman’s Princess Bride. No. This story reads like a poetic nightmare. The Brothers Grimm if they got a hold of your most private thoughts and spun them into tales that were part moral story and part horror story.

It’s haunting. Powerful. All those adjectives that never seem to actually adequately convey what the hell I’m trying to tell you.

I sobbed when it was over. I crumpled on the floor and wept into my dog’s fur, because I needed anything I could cling to. Now, I should add that I lost a very dear family member to cancer when I was about the main character’s age in this book. It was an immensely personal read for me. And it struck me like a battering ram at the gates. And when those gates opened a flood of latent pain, fear, and relief flowed from me. That horrible mix of emotions anyone feels when they lose someone to something as dreadful as cancer.

I felt it all again, thanks to this book.

I hated it. I hated those pages.I hated the boy. The monster. His family.I hated the artwork that bored its way into my imagination. I hated all of it for awakening things that I’d long considered dealt with.A Monster Calls.jpg

And I loved it.

I fully intend to buy a copy. Preferably one like the ones the library owns. If you’re not aware, the book has been turned into a film, slated to come out in early 2017. I have my doubts, as I do with any adaptation, but the author wrote the script, and the trailer looks absolutely amazing, so I’ll pay the $13 to see it.

I’m sure it will break me all over again.

So, would I recommend this book? Hesitantly. I think, if you read it, and told me you didn’t like it, or that it didn’t impact you, we could no longer be friends. But, as your friend, I’m not really sure I want to inflict such pain on you in the first place.

But, if you want to be emotionally devastated for a few days, give it a go. It’s worth it, ultimately, because it’s a book that changes you. Like a few others in my life, this book reached into me, found something that was broken/missing and helped me address it. Some were more painful than others, and this one tops them all.

a-monster-call-movie
Premiers January 12, 2017

That’s all. There’s nothing else I can say about this book, other than it’s beautiful. And terrible. It’s crushing. Devastating. Like cauterizing a wound.

So, what scabs have you left to peel?

 

BZ

Goals Summary Wk of 9/19

Hi.

I’m sorry about the tardiness of this post. It should have happened on Monday, instead here we are, late Wednesday. But, let’s dig into it.

So… goals for last week weren’t terrible, and yet I achieved none of them.

  • Write A Monster Calls book review
  • 2 blog posts
  • Golden Son book review
  • Finish chapter 7 of Jordinn’s Story

Did literally none of those things.

Buuut…. My bookshelf is complete!bookshelf 1.jpg

After weeks and weeks of begging and pleading, and plenty of procrastination on both our parts, the shelf is installed, set, and loaded. What took so long was the sanding. Each board had to be sanded three times, top and bottom, in order for the stain to adhere properly, and for the boards to be the right texture for the polyurethane. That’s two+ hours of sanding for each board. Times five. 10-12 hours, just sanding.bookshelf 2.jpg

Then, each board needed to have five pocket holes, and four 1 1/8″ circles drilled into them. Then be wiped down with mineral spirits so that there wouldn’t be any debris or sawdust ruining the finish. Only then could we coat with stain, waiting at least an hour before we flipped the boards and stained the other side.

Trevor was a champ. He drilled all the pocket holes (for securing the boards to the studs) and all the circular holes for the pipes in one day. We also completed the staining process that same day. It was intense.

bookshelf 3.jpg
Then came the poly, which was my nemesis. Not because it was complicated or anything, but because it has to set for three days before you can subject the surface to normal use. AKA, I had to wait three days beyond installation just to put my books on the shelf! The agony!bookshelf-6

But, tonight was the night, and everything is in place. There’s have more room than I anticipated, which is nice. I’ve currently filled any gaping spots with knickknacks and non-fiction books. These things will be pulled in favor of new books as time goes on. For now they’re just pretty.

And it’s all I can think about. I just keep looking at them. Admiring the collection that has finally come home. Unpacking these books, touching them all again, and finally giving them the home I’ve dreamt of for months has been so… relaxing. It felt like stress cleaning. Like dusting cobwebs off my very soul.

I finally feel like I live here. Like my writing room isn’t just an over-glorified storage with a desk shoved in the corner. Now I can envision a daybed, with a rug and a small coffee table, artwork over it. A tall lamp in one corner by the bookcase. Maybe some auxiliary shelves surrounding the window across from that. All in good time. For now I’m just ecstatic to be looking at this every time I spin in my chair:bookshelf-8

But, enough about that, for now. Let’s talk about this week’s goals. Or at least, what ever’s left of them.

  • Write two blog posts
  • A Monster Calls book review
  • Golden Son book review
  • Morning Star book review
  • Finish chapter 7 of Jordinn’s Story

So basically, last week’s goal, but with a bonus book review. We’ll see if I finish Morning Star in time. If I do, the book review will probably be out late Saturday night or relatively early Sunday morning.

Also, it’s time to start thinking about NaNoWriMo. I’ve got a month to decide if I’m going to participate. Seeing as I’ve written a little over a thousand words in three weeks, it seems unlikely I’d win this year, but it’d be a really wonderful way to force myself back into the habit of writing. Plus, I haven’t participated in NaNo since 2011. I miss it.

So, that’s on the horizon. I have a million tiny things lurking around the house. Mostly just organizational things that are begging for my attention as we get used to our new space. I never thought it would take this long to feel settled. But it does. I’m still learning about this house, and discovering what the best uses for certain spaces are. It’s exhausting. And wonderful.

Anyway, you should see a bit from me in the next few days as I make a mad dash to make up for this past week. Thanks, as usual, for your patience Blogland. I appreciate you all immensely.

Talk at you soon,

 

BZ

Goals Summary Wk. 9/12

Hello again Blogland.

Last week I set some lofty goals.

  • The Obelisk Gate Book Review
  • Publish two blog posts
  • Draft #4 of The Portrait of Sterling Madison
  • Chapter 7 of Jordinn’s Story
  • A Monster Calls Book Review
oktoberfest
Yes, those are pretzel necklaces for easy, drunken snacking.

In hindsight, that was entirely too much, especially when we had a booked weekend. We were at Oktoberfest Saturday night and a friend’s party on Sunday. Apparently bringing a book to a party is frowned upon in certain circles, so I got very little reading done this weekend.

So, what did I complete?

  • The Obelisk Gate Book Review
  • Publish two blog posts

I also read/finished reading three books this last week, so that feels pretty good.

But, after a week with so much red left on the board, what’s my plan of attack this week? First it’s important to note that I have no social obligations this week, other than a standing sushi date on Friday. I also feel the need to acknowledge how unfocused I am. I have too many projects, that I’m not prioritizing very effectively.

So, what’s most important?

I still think that reading and writing book reviews here is very important. It’s my consistent, guaranteed word count, and it keeps the writing juices flowing when all else fails. It also keeps my critical thinking and reading skills sharp, which I need for editing. Luckily this is the one area I seem to be performing well in so far.

Writing Jordinn’s Story is very important. These characters, this world, has been waiting nearly a decade to find the page. I’m done putting them on the back burner.

And, as much as I’d love to shelve the project, getting The Steel Armada into its third draft is huge for me. The bulk of the hard work comes between draft two and three. It’s not just the grammatical, line by line work. I’m good at that. It’s the tearing out and replacing the things that don’t work. Adding and subtracting to build the world and characters. It’s looking at all the glaring errors, and instead of hiding from them, challenging myself to fix them.

Let’s face it, I’ve been hiding from this project for a long time now. It’s time I faced up to the task.

And so, I’ve decided that, yet again, The Portrait of Sterling Madison will get benched. I’m glad that I feel like my writing is finally at a level to tackle the project, but ultimately, it’s a_monster_callsjust not the right time to focus on it. Maybe next fall, when I’ve reacquainted myself with my former discipline and schedule.goldenson

So, the quick read bullet points for this week are:

  • A Monster Calls Book Review
  • Golden Son Book Review
  • Publish two blog posts
  • Finish chapter 7 of Jordinn’s Story

Also, not white board official, I think the shelves will finally get installed this weekend! Everything is sanded. Wednesday we measure and drill. Thursday we stain and poly. Which means Sunday we install! Fingers are crossed that we can stick to some sort of time table with this project. The weather is turning here in the PNW, and I’d really like to be able to park in my garage when Fall decides the rainy season has officially arrived.

I’m over 100 pages into Morning Star, and am generally freaking out every single chapter. Something incredible seems to happen on every page. I’m not sure how Pierce Brown does it, but I’m taking notes.

So, now you know what to expect this week. Hopefully I can share more success stories next Monday.

Until then Blogland, have a good one!

 

BZ

Book Review- The Obelisk Gate by N.K. Jemisin

Hi Blogland!

I’m finally here to discuss The Obelisk Gate. Though I fear it won’t be in quite as much detail as usual, because I’ve read five more books since then. It’s just no that fresh in my mind right now, and that’s totally my fault for taking so long to get this review out.

First I would like to strongly suggest you read my review of The Fifth Season, because I outline the general characters, magic system, and world there. I won’t be doing that again here, so read up. Also, if you haven’t read The Fifth Season yet, you really should. It won the Hugo for Best Novel this year, and deserved to 100%.

Now, without further ado, The Obelisk Gate!theobeliskgate

This book picks up directly where the first left off. Essun is with Alabaster and Antimony in Castrima’s makeshift hospital, discussing how she must catch the moon and return it to its proper place in orbit around the Earth.

Since Essun has never even heard of such a thing as a moon, the concept takes a bit of time for her to digest. Alabaster begins training her to use the Obelisks. How to call them and commune with them, so that she can amplify her powers in order to be strong enough to capture the moon. This training is slow, mainly because Alabaster is dying. Bit by bit he is turning to stone, and will be eaten by Antimony.Any time he uses his Orogeny, more of him calcifies.

While this laborious training takes place, the book bounces between Essun’s point of view, Nassun’s point of view, and Schaffa’s point of view.

Nassun is a very talented Orogene. Better even than her mother. She learns intuitively what Alabaster struggles to teach Essun, that all Orogeny is actually magic. There’s something in them, in the very Earth that isn’t quite quantifiable. A silver thread runs through them and the the Earth, through all living things, and it is able to be manipulated by Orogeny.

As Essun learns this, Nassun experiments with it. And Schaffa battles it. It’s this silver thread that pulses within Guardians. It controls them, gives them their unnaturally long lives and the ability to silence Orogeny. But it also craves Orogeny. Their power is almost like a food source and the Guardians need it to feel less pain. Nassun learns this because she and Jija go to Antarctica and find Schaffa. He takes her under his wing, and teaches her to become a better Orogene than even her mother.

When Schaffa went after Seyenite and nearly killed her, we thought he’d drowned. But, he succumbed to the “evil” Father Earth, and sacrificed much of himself in order to survive. He has fleeting memories of his life before drowning, and he’s spent the last decade traveling and collecting young Orogenes, creating a small, fledgling Fulcrum of his own, off the grid in Antarctica.

And he has his own plans.

Central to all of this are the Stone Eaters. It seems that extremely strong Orogenes are irresistible to Stone Eaters. But once a Stone Eater has claimed an Orogene, that person is off limits to other Stone Eaters. Alabaster has Antimony. Essun has Hoa. And now Nassun has Steel. These creatures remain the most enigmatic element of Jemisin’s books. I’m still not sure what they want. What is their stake in all of this?

JemisinHiRes1.jpg
The lovely N.K. Jemisin

Hoa is aligned with Essun. And Antimony is too, via Alabaster. But Steel? He nearly killed Hoa, and would have killed Essun too. And now he’s attached to Nassun.

As much as I enjoyed this book, it left me with far more questions than answers. There are so many moving pieces, and I feel like I was handed the tools to figure it all out in this book, but lack the knowledge to actually use them.

I don’t understand Schaffa’s motivations right now. I like him a lot, and his tenderness for Nassun is touching. And his quiet brutality is riveting. It seems like he has very similar goals as Essun and Alabaster, which seems counter to what I know about him. But, all told, I don’t actually know that much about Schaffa, or Alabaster for that matter.

But, I know that those three all want to do something to/with the moon. And according to Hoa, some Stone Eaters want that too. However, they are not a united people. There are Stone Eaters who want to harvest Orogenes, and basically slaughter them all. Steel is one of those Stone Eaters.

That’s pretty much where the book leaves off. Obviously there’s much more interpersonal drama that fills the pages. Like Essun and Alabaster getting closure on their doomed relationship, and even enjoying one another’s company again. Or, Tonkee and Essun nearly getting kicked out of Castrima as tensions rise when food rations shrink. There’s the tense, fragile relationship between Nassun and Jija, as she convinces him time and time again not to kill her like he did Uche. And there’s the burgeoning parental love between Nassun and Schaffa.

Character development was huge in this book. Much more so than world-building. Characters and the magic system were the headliners here, and it does not disappoint. In the moment, The Obelisk Gate is very good. I enjoyed every moment. It’s when the veil falls away, and you start looking at the book with closer scrutiny that it starts to fall short in comparison with its predecessor.

But, The Fifth Season is a hard book to compete with. I think I can give The Obelisk Gate a break there. Still a great book, and I can’t wait for the last title in the series!

Thanks again for reading this far Blogland. I should be back tomorrow with a goals update. Spoiler Alert: it didn’t go that well this week. I’m also looking to write the A Monster Calls book review, as well as catch you all up on what I’m reading now. I’ve been burning through books, so hopefully I can keep the reviews coming.

See you soon,

 

BZ

 

Goal Summary wk. 9/5

All right, Blogland.

Time to talk about goals. This week is another I’m penciling in as a success.Although Jordinn’s Story was neglected this week, everything else was accomplished.

  • Coraline Book Review
  • Two Blog Posts
  • Edits on The Portrait of Sterling Madison

Ok… three bullet points doesn’t seem that impressive, but not included here is the reformat and reprinting of every story I’ve ever finished, so that they can be compiled in one giant binder. That took some time, and it was worth the effort. Getting everything streamlined into Manuscript Format feels damn good.

So, this week, I’ve got four bullet points.

  • The Obelisk Gate Book Review
  • Two Blog posts
  • Rewrite of The Portrait of Sterling Madison, aka draft #4
  • Finish chapter 7 of Jordinn’s Story

I’m also confident that I’ll finish Golden Son sometime this week, because it’s proving too good to put down. I’m flying through it. As for The Neverending Story… it’s going to be a while. It’s taking FOREVER. I’m getting rather bored with it, to be honest.

What else?

I haven’t started Over Sea, Under Stone yet, and fully anticipate that it might fall off the list. I just don’t have enough time to listen to hours and hours of audio books like I planned. But, I might still make some progress.

Also, in my limited spare time, I’m reteaching myself piano. We bought an old ’50s Wurlitzer, and though it needs a slight tuning, I’m learning a lot. Songs include tracks from the Mass Effect 3 Soundtrack, Final Fantasy VII, Pride and Prejudice, Kingdom Hearts, and Howl’s Moving Castle. Some of them are far beyond my capabilities, but that doesn’t mean I don’t try. How else do you get better?

Anyway, shelves are progressing slowly. We’re still on track for a Sunday install, but it could get pushed back depending on how this week goes. I’ll keep you all posted, including pictures.

Talk at you all soon!

 

BZ

 

 

 

The Matter of a Complete Overhaul

Blogland,

I’ve just sat down, printed out the “Draft 3” of The Portrait of Sterling Madison, and gone over it. Truth is, I’m not a fan of it. It’s a very rough first person narrative, whose narrator is weak-voiced and tells the reader everything. It’s aimless for the most part, with a few brief scenes of vibrancy.

These scenes are what give me hope.

After a careful read through, I asked myself, “Why is it vital that this narrator tell the story?” And I realized, it isn’t. It really isn’t. Things just happen to her. She has no control over them. The events in her life are horrible and inevitable. So why in the hell is it told from her perspective?

A great professor once told me that you want your narrator to be the person with the most information. Now, that doesn’t mean they necessarily tell all, but they have the most knowledge.

Turns out, my current narrator is very much in the dark. But the other character, the antagonist, is quite knowledgeable.

the-portrait
How do I not own any red pens?

So, I’ve come to terms with the fact that this particular story is a complete rewrite at this time. That’s OK. To be honest, I pretty much expected it. When I first wrote this story it was my second year of creative writing classes, and I was enthralled with the concept of unreliable narrators. I absolutely HAD to write one.

Turns out it is really hard. Like, lying awake at night cursing every author you’ve read that’s pulled it off, hard. I’m a straightforward person who writes straightforward third-person narratives for most of my fiction. This project was way ahead of my skill level at the time.

But I knew that, and would revisit the story from time to time to see if my further honed skills could do anything meaningful with it.

Now I’m willing to gut the piece entirely, walk away with a sense of setting, premise, and characters, and literally start over. Some of the scenes will stay, and the ending is the same, but they’ll be rewritten in another character’s voice and perspective.

I’m actually really excited about it! I’ve been sitting on this story for years, and it’s stagnated in my indecision about how to tackle it. Finally I have a game plan. A complete rewrite isn’t ideal, but I guarantee the story will be better for it. Already this character’s voice is so much stronger. He’s endearing and funny, which will make the ending so much better.

I’m counting this as “Edits” on my whiteboard, by the way. I just went through, gutted the entire piece, and outlined its reincarnation. That sounds like “Edits” to me.

I’m not sure that Jordinn’s Story will see much action this week after all. Unfortunate, but I’ve spent a lot of time reading and working on house projects. There’s still the rest of the evening and tomorrow, so hopefully I can finish chapter 7. Just 2,000 more words…

Man, my writing muscles are out of shape!

Also, for those of you keeping track, I finished listening to Elric of Melniboné. elric

…Well, kind of. I fell asleep listening to the last 30 minutes of it. Three times. I’m calling it good. I won’t be doing a full fledged review because I don’t have many nice things to say about it. Perhaps it was the audio narration, but this book was dry and boring. Elric was such a drama queen, and Cymoril was useless. She was intelligent, but Elric ignored her counsel time and again, after which she existed only as property to be fought over by Elric and her brother Yyrkoon.

Also, these names are cool, but ridiculous. Especially when you’ve only been listening to them and are trying to Google search them in order to ensure proper spelling for you blog post… Good grief, man!

There were a lot of gods and demons mentioned and named, but never really explained. I think this book suffered in its audio format, but I don’t think it will be so greatly redeemed by a paper version as to seek it out and give it another go. Two weeks of listening was enough.

I’m hitting stride with Golden Son, and still powering through this listen of The Neverending Story. It’s starting to live up to its name. I’m on disc five, but the movie is pretty much over by the time these events occur. I’m worried about the eight remaining discs. Very worried.

My next “chores” audiobook, aka what I read when I’m not driving, and don’t have time to read my physical book, is Over Sea, Under Stone by Susan Cooper. I always wanted to read The Dark is Rising Sequence as a child, and just never got around to it. Hopefully this narration is better than the last one.

Oh yeah, this came in the mail today too. You could say I’m pretty happy about it.Bachelors.jpg

See you all soon Blogland,

 

BZ