Book Review – Changes (Dresden Files #12) by Jim Butcher

Blogland,

This book was yet another wild ride with one Harry Dresden, Wizard. Probably the wildest installment yet, if I’m being honest. Harry is at his most desperate in this book, his back is up against the wall, and despite his better judgment he pulls his best friends and allies into the mix.

This was yet another wonderful narration by James Marsters. I’ve listened to a lot of audiobooks now, and it’s safe to say he’s my favorite narrator so far. I’m not sure all these Dresden books would keep getting five stars if it weren’t for his fantastic readings.

A point of warning: DO NOT read this book out of order. This book is very big on plot with a capital P. Now, thanks to the internet, I knew what happened ahead of time, which was at once disappointing and thrilling. I knew an event was coming, but couldn’t figure out how or when. I kept waiting for it to happen on every page. That definitely raised the stakes for me.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

Now, because of the very… explosive nature of this ‘event’ this review is going to stay pretty vague for once. I really don’t want to spoil anything for anyone.

Without further ado, and only a tiny spoiler warning, let’s talk about Changes.

dresden changes
Notice that, unlike all the other titles in the series, this one is only one word.

As Chicago’s only wizard in the phone book, Harry is used to trouble showing up at his door. But when his ex-girlfriend, Susan Rodriguez, shows up, he knows it must be something really bad. Susan was attacked by a vampire of the Red Court way back in book three, leaving her partially turned. If she ever succumbs to her vampiric nature and kills someone, she will turn all the way, becoming a terrifying monster and shell of her former self.

Ya know, typical ex-girlfriend problems.

Well, Susan shows up, and her problem is a big one. The Red Court vamps have taken a child, killing the girl’s family, and are going to sacrifice her in a Bloodline Curse. The ritual will kill the girl’s entire family. You’d figure, so what? Her family’s all ready dead, per the vampire massacre.

But, of course, she’s Susan’s daughter. And if she’s Susan’s daughter… you guessed it. Congratulations, Harry! You’re a dad!

Eight years. That’s how old Maggie is. That’s how long Susan kept the secret of their daughter’s existence, and it is the final straw for Harry. He loves Susan, but this deception is the breaking point for him. He tells her that, no matter the outcome of their rescue attempt, there is no more hope for them to ever get back together.

Real talk here, I would have that this was the case ages ago. But, Harry is a stubborn fool, and it’s never more apparent than in this book. He goes to any and all lengths to rescue Maggie from the Red Court, consequences be damned.

Admittedly, the motivation of “that is my child and I will defend her with my life” did not work for me. That child may be his, but she was kept from you, secreted away without your knowledge. She doesn’t know you, and as calloused as it sounds, you don’t owe her anything. Especially not when Harry draws so many other people into the line of fire for her.

Dresden cast
Illustration from the Dresden Files Role-Playing Game by CharroArt

But of course, there’s the Bloodline Curse to tie up any lingering doubts in that regard, of which Harry has none. Thomas joins in willingly to save his own skin, seeing as his relation to Harry would equal his death should the Red Court succeed. But, Murphy, Sanya, and Molly? Yeah, they all want to help because they love Harry, but that’s a big ask, man.

Anywho, the gang is pretty much all on their own since the White Council is dealing with big problems of their own, as per usual, and even Ebeneezer’s plea that Harry let this be falls on deaf ears.

Harry’s immovable will is on full display in this book.

And really, that’s the bulk of the tale. Everything that happens to Harry in this book is directly related to his efforts to save Maggie. There are some past secrets that get revealed because of it, and (without going into too much detail) Harry sacrifices pretty much everything to try and save his little girl.

I’m already halfway through the next Dresden book, and will hopefully have it done by the time we leave for Arizona. I’m making slower progress on The Stone Sky than I’d like, but I still think I’ll finish it before we get on the plane. Dark Deeds, the third Keiko book, is next up after that, and it’s perfect travel reading, so I’m excited for that.

The Iron Gold book review will be up either Friday or Saturday, so keep a weather eye out for it.

Until then, Blogland.

 

BZ

 

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Book Review – Turn Coat (Dresden Files #11) by Jim Butcher

Blogland!

Welcome to another book review, this time yet another Dresden book as I slowly get caught up with this series. Maybe I’ll actually be ready when Peace Talks comes out…

I wanted to make a note about my rating system, since I suddenly realized that I am quite kind in my estimation of fiction compared to other reviewers. I frequently give out four or five stars. If I give a title three stars, it means I was pretty unimpressed by it, and anything lower than that you can just assume I did not like it. Period.

I should also note that I rate based on my enjoyment of the story, how engaged I was throughout the book, and how I feel about characters. My Goodreads ratings are not critical responses to an author’s craft or technique. While those are things that I take into consideration while reading, if a book is enjoyable I tend to think less about those qualities because I’m enraptured by the story.Dresden Turn Coat

So if you’ve noticed that my ratings and reviews are generally positive, it’s because I’m reading with entertainment as the goal. That and, well, I’m a generally positive person to begin with.

 

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

Another audiobook narration from James Marsters that absolutely blew my mind. I’ve given up on ever reading this series in printed format ever again, and have stacked up my Dresden paperbacks for donation. No sense keeping them on the bookshelf, taking up precious space, when I know I’ll never touch them again.

 

Overall, I really enjoyed this book. It’s main plot line was predictable (I guessed the main villain’s identity in the early chapters), but the side plots and the outcomes of the main conflict were well done and though grim, satisfactory. These books keep upping the ante in regards to intensity and consequences, leaving me more impressed with each book.

So, without further ado, prepare for spoilers!

turn coat audio alternate

Dresden is minding his own business for once, when Warden Morgan, the Warden that dogged Harry’s every move since he was a teen, who trusted him least and hated him most, shows up at his door. Bleeding. Harry, being the unwilling paladin that he is, takes Morgan in and sees to his wounds as he listens to the Warden’s tale of being hunted by the Wardens and betrayal from within the White Council.

Morgan was clever in going to Dresden. No one would expect Morgan to go to his least favorite person, and even if he did, no one would expect Harry to actually help him. And they’d be wrong on two fronts. The problem with that, however, is that helping Morgan makes Harry an accomplice. Morgan is suspected of murdering a member of the High Council. Dresden is aiding and abetting him, which makes not only himself a traitor, but Molly as well.

Which means Harry has to figure out what actually happened before anyone figures out where Morgan actually is. As usual for Dresden, that’s easier said than done. Especially since Morgan caught the eye of a Skinwalker while he passed through New Mexico.

Skinwalkers, aka Naagloshii, are supernatural creatures from Navajo legend. In Turn Coat it is a powerful sorcerer and shapeshifter, a semi-divine being that reeks of Evil intent. It thrives on fear, gaining strength as its prey becomes more frightened. Dresden senses the Naagloshii’s presence but was unable to see through its veil. So, he opened up his Wizard’s Sight, and very nearly crippled himself.

Turns out, seeing the psychic and spiritual representation of a Naagloshii is highly unpleasant and could drive you insane.

hells bells
Dresden’s preferred exasperated curse.

But, Shagnasty, as Dresden refers to the Naagloshii, isn’t the only thing he has to worry about. His investigation of the funds used to frame Morgan leads back to the White Court of Vampires. And while he’s on good terms with his half-brother Thomas, Lara Raith is less than pleased with him.

Harry involves her anyway, pulling her into his struggle against the Naagloshii after the Skinwalker takes Thomas. Shagnasty,  wants to trade Thomas for Morgan, so Harry sets a time and place.

Harry uses Lara’s testimony and presence to trick the Council into meeting with him on the uncharted island in Lake Michigan. Harry calls it Demonreach, after communing with the spirit that resides there, and now has a connection to the island. he can sense what the spirit senses and know what the spirit knows, as long as he is on the island.

Pretty cool, and totally useful if you ask me.

By bringing the White Council and the White Court together, Dresden hopes to flush out the traitor, who he now figures must be a member of the heretofore unconfirmed Black Council. If all goes to plan, he’ll reveal the true bad guy to the Council, proving both the Raith’s and Morgan’s innocence. And, with the added firepower of the strongest Wizards and the White Court, just maybe he can get his brother back.

Well, in short, all of that does happen.

turnCoat_1920x1200

The Naagloshii is defeated enough to turn tail and run, though there’s no guarantee the creature won’t make an appearance again someday. Thomas is much worse for wear, reverting back to his most base tendencies thanks to Shagnasty’s days of torture, and he almost eats Molly. Thomas is swept away by his family, and we’re left unsure of how he’ll recover from the incident.

It’s revealed that almost every member of the White Council in the Edinburgh headquarters has had their minds messed with, at least a little bit, and though the perpetrator gets what’s coming to him, Morgan dies in the process. Dresden figures out who really killed the High Council member, but promises to take Morgan’s secret to the grave.

And, remember how surprised I was at Luccio’s romantic interest in Dresden in the last book? Yeah. That was because her mind had been tainted by the Black Council. She wasn’t really herself. And now that she realizes that, she calls things off with Harry.

So, basically, Harry is more or less victorious, but left without his girlfriend or his brother. It was a grim ending to be sure, and it made me extra eager to get on to the next book.

I’ll have the Changes book review out sometime next week, and hopefully I’ll be caught up on my reading by then to have a new batch of reviews ready to write. I’ve got most of a Craft Discussion post written up, and will post it this weekend.

Until then, Blogland!

 

BZ

 

 

Book Review – Small Favor (Dresden Files #10) by Jim Butcher

Blogland!

I started to write the Turn Coat book review, and realized that I never wrote the Small Favor book review! So, this is my attempt to dig into the depths of my memory and discuss all the gritty details. Buckle up and get ready for a ride.

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

As usual, James Marsters’ narration was splendid. He really is synonymous with Harry Dresden for me now. I’ll never be able to hear him as anyone else. Now, tread with care, there are spoilers below.

Small Favor

Murphy calls in Harry to investigate an explosion one cold winter night, and that is just the beginning of his troubles. Turns out, Marcone owns the building, and the mafioso is missing. To make matters worse, Queen Mab (yes, that Mab) has enlisted Harry’s help to find the mob boss.

Whenever the Fae are involved, Harry knows he’s in for a bad time. As Winter’s Emissary, Dresden finds himself the target of the Summer Court’s assassins, known as gruffs. Yep, as in Billy Goat. Except, bigger, badder, and a whole lot scarier.

gruff dresden rpg
An example of Gruffs from the Dresden Files RPG manual.

So, with gruffs of varying sizes on his trail, Harry has to find Marcone’s. The hunt leads him to Union Station, where some of the mob boss’ blood samples have been secreted away in a locker.  Dresden can use the blood to track Marcone, but first, he and Michael Carpenter, of the Knights of the Cross, have to survive an onslaught from the Summer Court.

Sounds straightforward enough until, Luccio, Commander of the Grey Wardens, shows up with the Archive in tow. For those of us that don’t remember, the Archive is a little girl whose maternal bloodline carries all of human knowledge. If it has ever been written down, Ivy (as Dresden calls her) knows it. And the fact that her train was at the station was no coincidence.

Nicodemus, leader of the Order of the Blackened Denarius and all-around super villain, has requested her presence to act as a neutral third-party in negotiations between himself and Dresden for the release of Marcone.

So, you know, as if Fae squabbles and Marcone AWOL weren’t bad enough, now Harry finds out that the Denarians are at the root of it all. Dresden just can’t catch a break.

To no one’s surprise, Nicodemus is a liar. He was never going to negotiate anything. He just wanted to get to Ivy. Despite everyone’s Herculean efforts, six Denarians is just too much to handle. They get the girl.

If Nicodemus was unwilling to bargain before, he’ll be impossible to coerce now. He has all the power. Unless Dresden makes him an offer he simply can’t refuse. If Ivy were to take up one of the coins of the Blackened Denarius she would be an unstoppable force of evil. He can’t let that happen, so he offers the only thing he knows Nicodemus would want.

All the coins the Knights have recovered, as well as Fidelacchius, the Sword of Faith that he’s been entrusted with ever since Shiro’s death. It’s a ballsy bargain, but it’s one Nicodemus can’t turn away. So, they set a time and place, on an uncharted island in Lake Michigan. Dresden and company head to the island, unsure of what they’ll find, but determined to be prepared for it.

Was Harry wasn’t prepared for was a sense of familiarity with the island as he set foot on it. He had never been there before, and yet he knew where to step to avoid detection, knew that the Denarians were awaiting him at the dilapidated cottage at the base of the wrecked lighthouse.

dresden lighthouse
That looks about right. Creepy af.

Luccio explained the phenomenon, telling Harry that it meant that the island would be important to him sometime in his life. It was an ability some wizards got as they aged and gained experience. Not foresight exactly, but almost a stronger version on deja-vu.

Both Marcone and Ivy were on the island, both worse for wear. The Denarians were torturing the child in an effort to get her to accept one of the coins, to accept the Fallen Angel into her mind and soul. So far they had been unsuccessful, but it was only a matter of time before the child broke.

So, Dresden did what he does whenever he sees an innocent in trouble: Raised hell.

It’s an epic battle, in a really cool setting that’s just as creepy as the Denarians themselves. As planned, Marcone’s people fly in to extract Harry, Sanya, Murphy, Michael, and the two abductees. Of course, Dresden insists on going last, sending Michael up before him.

Except, the Denarians have no intent to let them go that easy. They shoot Michael as he’s being lifted up into the helicopter, and Marcone’s people are forced to leave, abandoning Dresden on the island. That’s about the time when the Eldest Gruff shows up.

Nothing can ever be simple for Dresden.

jelly in thy donutHe talks his way out of a duel with the gruff, and even gets a doughnut out of it (not even kidding), and then nearly kills Nicodemus, but the Denarians daughter interrupts just in tame for Harry to get rescued by Murphy and Thomas. Whether or not Nicodemus survived strangulation and unconsciousness in the lake remains to be seen.

The book ends with Harry checking in on Michael, who’s in surgery. He’ll live, but the prognosis isn’t good. Sanya, the only other Knight of the Cross, gives Harry Michael’s sword, Amoracchius, to keep with Shiro’s. Michael Carpenter, though alive, will never be able to wield it again.

As Harry wallows in guilt over the state of his friend, Annastasia Luccio comes to him and suggests that they get something to eat. It’s been a long day, and as the dinner goes well, it turns into a long night as well.

Now, I have to say something about that end scene. I was not happy. First of all, Luccio is his commander. You don’t sleep with your boss, Harry! Second of all, that seemed like a really weird thing for Luccio to do, in my opinion.  I mean, yeah, she’s in that young body now, and yadda yadda yadda, but still. This woman has been austere and severe the whole time we’ve known her. It rankles.

Also, one of your best friends is mortally wounded, because of something you dragged him into, and you’re getting laid? Harry. You’re better than this.

But, these tidbits aside, this book was quite wonderful. It did a lot of setting up for the future, which is typical of Dresden books. They’re always setting the stage for the next thing, always turning things up to eleven.

A lot of my favorite characters were in this one, and for the first time I found myself very emotionally invested in the series. I cried when Michael got hurt. I don’t even consider him one of my favorite characters, but dammit, he didn’t deserve that.

I felt like this book was probably one of the more intense installments. What I didn’t know was that it was really just the primer course for the next two.

I finished Changes today, and will have the review for both it and Turn Coat out sometime next week. Thanks for reading, Blogland!

 

BZ

 

 

 

The Recap – January 2018

Blogland! Hello again!

Today marks the start of a new month, and the start of a new blog post series! I’ve always been a firm believer in the efficacy of setting small, achievable goals. I talked about it a lot while I was in school, breaking down my semesters into digestible, weekly bites. I was very successful during my hectic life balancing school and two jobs, and have spent the last year and a half sort of drifting in all this free time.

So, how do I get back to that level (or similar) of productivity?

Spend less time looking at the big picture! I know that sounds counter-productive, but honestly, I think I have to. When I think about editing The Steel Armada, I feel overwhelmed, unsure how to begin let alone how to get all the way to the end. And yet, I was able to tackle the first chapter last night, and am really proud of the outcome. It was like ripping off the band-aid, or getting a shot; much scarier in my mind than on paper. I’ve been approaching and thinking about this project all wrong for years, and I’ve allowed it to keep me from reaching my goals.

I see the big picture, I know the end goal: Call The Steel Armada “Done”. But, the road to “Done” doesn’t have to be an eight lane highway. It could just as easily be a collection of many narrow country roads. Honing in my focus helps prevent distraction and my propensity for over-thinking, which then allows for increased focus and productivity.

But, the other big part is acknowledging that I’m a little out of my depth here. I’m comfortable editing short fiction, and actually really enjoy that process. But a novel? There’s so many moving parts, so many characters with their own motivations and goals, and so much more world-building to flesh out. There’s just so much! Now, whenever I feel unprepared or uncertain, what do I do?

Research! I work at a library. I live in a time with mobile access to the internet. I am privileged with incredible access to knowledge, why in all hells should I wade through this daunting task blindfolded? Why do I feel as if educating myself on the process of editing and revising a novel is somehow cheating?

It’s stupid, and I’m done with it.

I can hear you now, “That’s all fine and good, Brittany, but what does this have to do with the blog and setting goals?”

This epiphany (can you call it that if you’re realizing something you already knew?) has led me to redo my whiteboard, which means I need to reevaluate how I set, meet, and discuss my goals. I’ve been doing the Weekly Goals Summaries, and have found that checking in weekly helps keep me focused and accountable.

Whiteboard update
Writing on whiteboard as a Lefty is sketchy at best. Sorry for the crap handwriting.

But, trying to tackle several goals for the year by breaking them into weekly goals is… daunting. It leaves me feeling as if I’m wrestling with an octopus or something, all flailing, slippery limbs.

Enter Monthly Goals!

God, it seems like such a no-brainer when I write it down. Why haven’t I been doing this all along? Adding monthly goals adds even more structure, giving me more footholds on this giant rock wall I’m calling 2018.

Yearly goals get dissected into monthly goals, which get further broken down into weekly goals. It allows me to tackle small, attainable goals that will stack back up into the bigger, over-arcing goals for the year, without giving me a panic attack.

I don’t know about you, but avoiding panic attacks sounds like a good idea to me.

Unfortunately, I didn’t set detailed goals for January, but I still want to look at my overall accomplishments for the month.

January “Goals”

  • post a book review each week
  • write one chapter of Sanctified
  • write two give away fics (about 5k words total)
  • edit Lifelike and The Season into Draft 2
  • keep reading
  • plan The Steel Armada edits

How’d I do?

  • Post a book review each week
    • I only wrote two book reviews this month, but I’m building a pipeline for reviews right now, so there should be plenty of reviews in the future. I’ll take it.
  • Write one chapter of Sanctified
    • I did write chapter 31 of Sanctified, and started chapter 32. I also posted chapter 30.
  • Write two give away fics
    • I finished my two give away fics to some praise on Tumblr, so that’s nice. The intended audiences were very happy with their gifts, which always feels good!
  • Edit Lifelike and The Season into Draft 2
    • Done. Sent them out to a couple of friends for feedback.

      short story edits
      Gotta love that red pen!
  • Keep reading
    • Slowly but surely. I’m spread pretty thin between several books and audiobooks, so the progress feels slow. But, it’ll avalanche nicely.
  • Plan The Steel Armada edits
    • Barely. I did edit chapter 1 last night, but that was just a tippy-toe in the lake of this project. But, I’m thinking about it and moving forward with it into February.

Total January Word Count: 11,825

Considering that I went into January without any real plan other than my weekly goals, I feel pretty darn good about my output. Now that I have a more structured approach, what will I accomplish in February?

February Goals

  • Edit four chapters of The Steel Armada
  • Finish Sanctified
  • Get Lifelike submission ready
  • Keep Reading

This list feels short, but February is already a short month, and I’ll be on vacation for five days of it. We’re going back to Arizona for my cousin’s wedding at the end of the month, and there will be absolutely no time for writing or editing while I’m there. Reading on the flights is likely the only thing I’ll accomplish. Setting realistic, achievable goals is key, and acknowledging when I won’t have time is crucial to that.

With only two chapters left in Sanctified, February will be an editing-centric month. Expect book reviews and lots of discussion about my experiences revising my first novel.

dual wielding laptops
Dual-wielding laptops like a boss.

And probably a lot of complaining about my computer situation, because I hate it. You’ve been warned.
I’ll see you soon with a book review, Blogland. Until then, thanks as usual for reading this far!

 

BZ

 

Book Review – Dark Sky (Keiko #2) by Mike Brooks

Hello Blogland!

Welcome to the long overdue review of the second Keiko book, Dark Sky. If you haven’t read my review of the first book, Dark Run, now is the time to pop on over and check it out.

Dark Sky
Spoilers below!

You know what they say about the second creative endeavor, the supposed sophomore slump. I would say that Brooks was not affected by that particular expectation. I found Dark Sky to be just as good, if not better than the first book, which is a rare treat indeed.  I think that the book really benefited from the character introductions and development from the first book, so that there was no awkward reacquainting when I opened this book. I immediately felt at home with Ichabod and company, despite the many months between reading the first and second book.

So, what are Ichabod and his crew up to?

Why, gambling their hard earned money away on the Red Star planet New Samara, that’s what! While Apirana and Kuai heal from the damage they took at the end of the first book, Ichabod plays the high stakes games, and does well enough for himself to draw the eye of the casino’s owner. Or at least, that’s what he thinks.

New Samara
This is Monaco, but New Samara is the Monaco of space, so…

But, really, how many purple-haired Mexicans with a bionic eye do you think there are? Even in this imaginative take on the future. Safe to say, Ichabod stands out.

So, this casino big-wig who reeks of the Russian mafia has selected Ichabod for a little job. Because of course the captain can’t just gamble and drink in peace. It sounds easy enough, and the payout’s good, but what he really wants is a quick, easy job to instill some confidence in his crew again. the morale and trust of the Keiko’s crew really took a beating in Dark Run. Apirana and Kuai got shot, Ichabod was revealed to be Gabriel Drake, a pirate notorious for spacing his entire crew in order to escape the authorities, and Micah, the eastern European merc, died.

That’s a lot of hits in one book. Ichabod hopes that this little job, just some light intelligence smuggling, will restore his crew’s faith in him.

Yeah… about that. He really should know by now that nothing is ever simple for him.

So, he gathers the crew and they fly to the nearby mining planet Uragan. It’s a grim world, with the entire populace living in various levels under the surface in order to avoid the planet’s giant dust storms. Foreigners aren’t a common sight, but citizens with missing limbs replaced with metal are. Even in the future, mining is a hazardous profession.

The plan is to get on the planet, get the information, and get back to New Samara before a massive hurricane shuts down all travel from the planet. They’ve got two days. Tick. Tock.

But, when the informant plans to double-cross the casino head, Ichabod agrees to take the man and his husband away from Uragan. It’s more cash! He still gets the intel for the original job, and the added pay for smuggling the informant off the planet. Win-win!

Ichabod, Jia, and Kuai go to the local bar for celebratory drinks while Jenna, Apriana, and Rourke stay at the hotel to prep for their departure the next morning. The crew, for once, is separated. So of course that’s when the revolution starts.

Uragan

Rebels take to the streets, attacking the unprepared Politsiya. Ichabod just wants to get back to the hotel, to regroup, but anyone out on the street is a target for the police. Rourke just wants to obey the official communications commanding that all citizens stay indoors, but the hotel owner kicks them out, because he wasn’t supposed to accept foreigners anyway.

Long story short, Ichabod, in an effort to keep himself and the Chang twins alive, sides with the Politsiya, ingratiating himself with the police chief Alim Muradov. Meanwhile, Rourke finds herself helping the resistance in order to get her half of the crew through the locked down level, up to the docks, and back to the Jonah (their shuttle).

This book follows both sides of the crew as they fight and struggle to get back to their shuttle so they can get off the planet before the storm hits.

The majority of the book bounces between the two separated groups of the crew. Jenna and Apirana discuss the growing tension between them as they realize they both have feelings for the other (I squealed a lot during these super awkward conversations; I live for this kind of crap), and the Chang twins get a lot more time on screen, which was nice because they weren’t very prevalent in the first book. We also get more details on Jenna and Rourke’s pasts, which is always a good thing, since the whole crew is unlikely to speak about it given the Keiko’s one rule: don’t ask questions about the past.

But, what I really enjoyed is how Ichabod brought Alim Muradov onto the crew. Brooks developed his character well, making him someone I liked very much. I didn’t want to say goodbye to him, and since there was a gap in the crew ever since Micah died, I didn’t have to!

Goodreads Rating: 5/5 Stars

I’m looking forward to how Muradov assimilates to life on a smuggling ship after devoting his life to military and public service. should make for some nice tension in the next book, Dark Deeds.

Dark Deeds

My plan is to get caught up on my book reviews this week, so keep a weather eye out for more posts!

 

BZ

 

Goals Summary 2018 – Wk 3

Hi Blogland,

Sorry for my absence last week. I contracted the flu that’s going around so badly this year. My husband was ill first, and then I succumbed to it a week later. I spent the majority of the week on the couch watching nature documentaries and napping. Not remotely productive, but I’m hale and healthy now, so it worked out.

So obviously, I didn’t have any goals last week, but I never discussed the previous week’s either. So, what did I want to accomplish in week three?

Goals?

  • Publish Dark Sky book review
  • finish my last giveaway fic
  • Finish chapter 31 and post chapter 30 of Sanctified
  • Finish listening to Shockaholic
  • Send Lifelike and The Season to my friend Matt

How did I do?

Not great, but not awful either. I didn’t write that book review, which is a shame. I hate writing reviews too long after I’ve finished the book. It’s hard to remember everything. But, I did finish my giveaway fic, as well as my fanfic chapter. I posted it to some positive feedback from the readers, so that’s always nice. I have yet to finish listening to Shockaholic, but I’m making some serious progress this week already. I didn’t incorporate any feedback from Madhu yet. She felt pretty unsure of her comments, and felt a bit out of her depth, so I decided to hold off on reading her comments until I hear back from Matt. I did send my stories to Matt, but he’s yet to get back to me on them. Hopefully that doesn’t mean he hates them :/

Weekly Word Count: 4,488

What about this week?

  • Publish two book reviews
  • Start Sanctified chapter 32
  • Finish Shockaholic
  • Edit Lifelike and The Season
  • Edit chapter 1 of The Steel Armada

I lot of editing. Blegh. I hate editing my own work. I LOVE editing other people’s work, but my own is a special sort of hell. But, Madhu is working on some rewrites of her novel, and she’s eager to get back to sharing work, so I need to have something to share. Editing is the only way I’ll have that. Which was the goal of having someone to share with, at least to me. Sharing my work with someone I don’t really know, but see on a weekly basis will help keep me accountable while valuing their feedback. I just have to get my butt in gear.

 

I’ve got the Dark Sky review written and cued up, it’ll publish tomorrow morning. So, I can either write a review on Turn Coat or hurry up and finish Iron Gold this week. Yeah, right. Turn Coat it is. Iron Gold

February is my month to really start focusing on my editing. Tentative goal is a chapter a week at least, but if Madhu and I keep with tradition and send each other 20 pages, that’s closer to two. If I do two chapters a week, I’ll be done in just about 10 weeks. So we’ll see how it goes.

Anyway, that’s where we stand going into week five. A little behind schedule thanks to the flu, but feeling healthy and ready to get back on track.

Wish me luck, Blogland!

 

BZ

Book Review – The Children of Men by P.D. James

Hey Blogland!

Today I’ve got a quick book review for you.  So buckle up!

The Children of Men book
How creepy is this cover?

You might have heard of P.D. James, famous for her extremely popular Adam Dalgliesh mystery series. I’ve never read anything from her before, but The Children of Men has been on my To Be Read (TBR) list for years. Why?

Because of the 2006 film adaptation, directed by Alfonso Cuaron and starring Clive Owen. I remember seeing it in theaters with my mother as a impressionable sixteen year old and just being completely blown away by it.

Cuaron’s interpretation was a bleak, dystopian world in which women were no longer able to conceive. Humanity fell apart in the face of its looming death as no children were born for over 20 years. Until Clive Owen’s character, Theo Falon, is tasked with escorting a young woman out of the harsh, Dictator-ruled UK. Why?

Well, because she’s pregnant.

The film was very war torn and grizzly. Military police are terrifying, refugees are shown in their total desperation as resources are kept from them in favor of UK nationals. People die horrible deaths, and the previously uninvolved, apathetic Theo finds purpose for the first time in his life.

The children of men alternate
Alternate film adaptation cover

It’s the ultimate hope in the face of adversity film. I couldn’t get enough of it. The story enraptured me, and played in loops in my imagination for weeks after I saw it (Side Note: my mother hated it). So, when I learned that it was based on a book, well, I knew I had to read it.

Fast forward twelve years and I finally found time, and a copy of the audiobook. I decided to finally give it a shot.

Um… Oops.

Turns out, P.D. James’ dystopian novel is so far removed from Cuaron’s riveting film that I consistently fell asleep during its narration. Theo is there, as is his Dictator cousin Xan Lyppiatt. But, Julian was never Theo’ wife, and she’s the one that’s pregnant. There is no character of Kee, no young girl being swept away from everything she’d ever known.

Instead, there’ s a group of five dissenters who plan to overthrow Xan due to a number of political concerns. Julian is the wife of their leader, and as the book continues, it’s revealed that she’s pregnant, but not with her husband’s child.

Which actually brings me to my biggest issue with book. The novel is told in two narrative styles, the first being first person as Theo writes in his diary. The second is a typical third person limited. Regardless, Theo’s opinions and viewpoints on women are made clear as he discusses his tiresome ex-wife, his lack of feeling for his mother, and his descriptions of the women he encounters throughout the book. Almost all of his depictions of women focus on their physical appearance and how dissatisfying he finds them.

But, Theo finds pretty much everything dissatisfying.

The Children of men explosion
Yeah, Theo’s diary never mentioned bombings!

Another interesting difference between the film and the novel is that in Cuaron’s film women are the infertile ones, while in the book it is men who have gone sterile. I’d like to think that it’s this global condemnation of men’s virility that fosters Theo’s dislike of women, that P.D. James played a long game in bringing about the conversation of the perceptions of masculinity’s role in the wielding of power.

But, by the end of the book, I’m not convinced. I’m more inclined to think that Mrs. James may have actually thought critically of women herself.

The narrative rambles, taking rests in places that don’t appear to really matter in any capacity other than to world-build. Which, isn’t really necessary. It’s 2021 in Oxford, UK. I know that the book was written in the 90s, but even then, you don’t need considerable setting description to bring it to life for the reader. It’s a near future UK setting. Cool. Got it.

Oh. We’re talking about the country again? Yep. Uh-huh. Ayup. That’s a copse of trees, you got it.

Now, I know that British storytelling traditions are different than American ones. Words aren’t/weren’t at such a premium, there’s typically much more description and contemplation of those descriptions by the narrator. But I feel that James sacrificed potential action and narrative interest in favor of long-winded musings of a 50 year old white male who doesn’t really have any skin in this game.

Oh, wait! Except he does. Because, obviously, he falls in love with Julian and his overflowing adoration compels him to remain by her side through it all. He’s literally spent a total of maybe three hours in this woman’s presence, but he’s risking everything to keep her safe until her baby is born.

Ok. Sure.

Anyway, the cuckold husband leaves them to report their whereabouts to Xan, so Theo, the midwife, and Julian make a run for it. The midwife is murdered by Xan, but he’s too late to witness the birth.

Full disclosure: These last ten minutes of the book were by far the best.

So, Xan and his cousin Theo face off, pistols drawn. Theo is ready to die to protect Julian and the child. But, the baby cries, distracting Xan with a sound no one has heard in over 20 years, and Theo takes the chance to kill him. Shocked, he takes the ring from Xan’s hand, basically crowning himself as Britain’s new leader. Then he returns to Julian’s side, only to reveal what I already knew.

Theo never had purpose. He never felt truly passionate about anything. He was never a full member of the five dissenters, he didn’t care about their causes. He only cared about Julian and her child. And as he returns to her, and she sees the ring, she realizes what has happened. When she asks what he’s going to do, he basically alludes that he’s going to do basically nothing different than Xan would have done. Except that they’ll be together and she will never want for anything ever again.

Which was never what Julian cared about. She had been an actual revolutionary, wanting more for the people of Britain.

So, I guess, in the end, men are proven to be redundant and incapable of change? I don’t know. I think I came to this book prepared to analyze and pick it apart looking for the meaning and the social commentary that was so abundant in Cuaron’s film. I can’t really say whether it’s there or not. I want it to be, but if it is, it’s as unorganized and unclear as the rest of the narrative.

The children of men Kee

Cuaron has admitted in interviews that, once he heard the original premise of The Children of Men, that humanity had become infertile and that society crumbled as a consequence, he absolutely refused to read the source material. He kept a couple character names, but switched their roles around, and really let the premise and the current political and social climate stew in his mind to create the film.

I am so thankful for that. This couldn’t be further from the novel. It’s the one case where I would absolutely say that the film is 100% better than book. I never say that.

It should be noted that P.D. James did enjoy and approve of Cuaron’s adaptation.

This book received my lowest rating on Goodreads. I’d suggest you just watch the film and call it good. Goodreads Rating: 2/5 Stars.

Luckily, my other reads in 2018 so far have been quite lovely. Keep an eye out for forthcoming reviews!

 

BZ