February Reading Log

I managed to read 2 short stories (Good reads counts them as books) and 6 books this month. I’m something like 6 books ahead of my goal of 60 books for the year, but I know as the year moves on, I’ll be too busy to read some weeks, so I’m banking extra books.

The Little Android – Marissa Meyer
This short story ties into Meyer’s Lunar chronicles series, in that it’s a retelling of The Little Mermaid. This one is very Hans Christian Andersen inspired, not Disney. It’s an interesting take on the fairy tale. I quite like how Meyer has been retelling the fairy tales in a new and interesting way. I’d have more to say, but it wasn’t that long and I’m super tired.

Cress – Marissa Meyer
The third book in the Lunar Chronicles, this one is supposed to be about Rapunzel, or as we know her, Cress. She’s one of the few Lunars called a Shell, which means she’s immune to Lunar glamor. She’s spent most of her life on a small satellite, watching the humans, imagining what life would be like on Earth.
This was my least favorite so far of Meyer’s books. I felt like a lot of nothing happened, and it was as far from Rapunzel as it could get. Cress has long, long hair, because she’s never had a chance to get it cut. She ends up on Earth in pretty short order, and her hair gets lopped off. So much for the Rapunzel parallel. We also alternate between scenes with Cress, and scenes with Cinder, and it just feels like the book is taking up time until the stakes are raised enough to make the fourth book necessary. I wish I had more to say, but the book just felt fairly bland to me.

Botanica Blues – Tristan J Tarwater
Tristan Tarwater is a friend of one of my friend’s from high school. I found out about her books through him, and chipped in to a couple kickstarters she did. As a reward, I was given a copy of Botanica Blues for free. Technically it’s not a book, it’s a novella, but it’s a creepy, interesting novella.
It’s set in the US, post 9/11. Quintana’s a private investigator brought in to consult on murders that possibly have a religious angle. The one he’s summoned to is a doozy: a dozen people dead, pretty obviously ritualistic, and something about it reminds him of something he’s seen before.
He finally figures out what’s been bothering him, but by then the police have deemed it terrorist related, and he’s off the case. The novella ends shortly after that, with an ending I wasn’t expecting.
It’s a short novella, 55 pages, but it’s tightly written. Tarwater doesn’t waste a lot of time on things that don’t matter. Quintana’s world is set up in a few well placed words and locations, and everything he does is economized. Even finding out he majored in religions, and how he knows what the villain’s up to, is a short thing, not drawn out.

A Clockwork Butterfly – Tabitha Rayne
Several people in Carpe Librum read this and liked it, so I wanted to give it a shot. I really wish I hadn’t. It’s not bad, but it loses focus. In the future, the world is almost all women, and men are kept locked away in mansions because they’re so rare. Lena has been taken on as a collector, a woman who collects semen from a man, so it can be analyzed, and if it contains an adequate percentage of… honestly? I forget it exactly, but the idea is Lena emits a pheromone that should help Angelo produce enough male sperm. With those, they can repopulate the planet with more males. Really, the idea gets touched on a few times, and then totally discarded.
I think that’s my biggest problem with the novel. It’s supposed to be erotica, so there’s plenty of sex. Lena is an innocent, and is trained up by… Mae, who Lena falls for, and who falls for Lena. Lena falls in love with Angelo pretty much at first site, and the feeling is mutual. Eventually, Lena gets involved with another woman, and Angelo and Mae hook up. And once Lena gets involved with the other woman, the plot unravels. It’s sex scene to sex scene with a little bit of plot that makes no sense. If Lena and Angelo are supposed to be saving the human race, why do they throw it all away for temporary pleasure?
Ultimately, all the sex scenes in the world couldn’t save this book for me. I hate it when a plot gets abandoned, and I was so confused by the end, that I didn’t really enjoy this at all.

Uninvited – Sophie Jordan
This was one of those books where the premise is interesting, but the book doesn’t live up to it. It’s the future, and humanity has discovered a gene that’s present in almost everyone who murders someone. It’s nicknamed the kill gene, and those with it are called carriers. Davy has everything: she’s a musical prodigy, has a hot boyfriend, attends a prestigious private high school, has been accepted to Julliard, and comes from an upper middle class family with plenty of money. She’s the ideal young woman with everything.
Then she’s identified as being a carrier, and everything changes. She has to attend high school, spending her days shut in a cage with 5 other carriers, because everyone is afraid of carriers. Her boyfriend dumps her, she’s “uninvited” from her high school, her acceptance to Julliard is withdrawn, and even her own parents seems afraid of her. After a group of carriers try to enact some revenge, all carriers are sent off to concentration camps. All of them, except Davy and 49 other teens, each with special gifts.
The premise sounds fascinating. However, it doesn’t live up to the premise. The book is 60% Davy trying to adjust to life after she’s been identified as a carrier, 35% her with the other 49 special kids, and 5% a weird climax that comes out of nowhere. The book is slow moving, it’s mostly in Davy’s head, and to be honest, she’s whiny. She’s decided she’s not like other carriers, because unlike them, she’s not dangerous. It can’t be her that’s dangerous, she wouldn’t hurt anyone. The world is unfair.
Up until the violence with the random carriers, you can pretty much see where the books is going. Davy slaps her ex boyfriend, leading to punishment. Since she’s a carrier, it’s harsher for her than most people. She falls for the guy in her “class” that is marked as the most dangerous of them, and of course he won’t tell her what he did to be marked as dangerous. There’s at least one guy who’s an obvious homicidal nut, further proving poor Davy is harmless, and she’s right to think of herself as special. It is pretty predictable.
Once she ends up with the 49 other kids, the book changes, and we never really find out exactly what they’re supposed to be doing there, or what the ultimate goal is. The last 5% of the novel is Davy realizing what she’s gotten into, and what she’s going to have to do, and it’s rushed and clunky. I wanted to like this, but I couldn’t.

The Fetch – Laura Whitcomb
I read Laura Whitcomb’s book called Novel Shortcuts, which is a book for writers, and she referenced The Fetch several times. I always meant to check it out, and one day I was sitting at my desk, and noticed a book back behind my pens. I realized it was The Fetch, and so when the challenge came around, I picked it up and read it. It’s a huge disappointment.
The premise of the book is that Calder died several hundred years ago, and was chosen to be a Fetch, a being that helps the souls of those who have recently died to pass on to the afterlife. While he’s down on earth waiting to see if a young boy will chose life or death, he falls in love with a woman he believes is the boy’s nurse. At some point he meets another man who knows the woman, and so he trades places with him, to get closer to the woman, so he can offer her his key, and train her as a Fetch apprentice.
Turns out he trades places with Rasputin. Yes, that Rasputin. And the woman he’s in love with? The Czarina of Russia. The boy? Their son, and of course, there’s Anastasia, who Calder ends up falling in love with. No chemistry, no real reason, just by the end, he is.
This book sucks. Calder is an idiot. Seriously, he’s just bland and not smart. I think the idea is he’s a Fetch, so he only has to think about his prayers and his job, and he has forgotten his human life. So when he becomes human, he gets these flashbacks, like Johnny Depp in Charlie and The Chocolate Factory, and he doesn’t know what to do. And really, the idea of him being Rasputin is interesting, but the way it’s played out, he could have been anyone, and the kids could have been any kids. They didn’t need to be the Czar’s children.

Ready Player One – Ernest Cline
I picked this one up as an audiobook because Wil Wheaton narrated it, and it was recommended if you liked John Scalzi’s Redshirts. I’m glad I read it, although I think it should have been run through an editor that required a few more cuts to the book.
It’s 2044, and the bulk of the world lives in abject poverty without any relief in site. Most people are unemployed, and so people get meager government assistance and spend most of their time on the OASIS, a super charged virtual reality. Think any MMO you’ve heard of, but feeling like real life thanks to a visor that draws things onto your retinas, and haptic feedback gloves.
When the creator of the OASIS dies, he leaves his entire fortune to whoever can find the 3 keys, 3 gates, and an Easter egg hidden within the OASIS. For 5 years no one can find anything, until our protagonist, Wade Watts, stumbles across the first key, and then the first gate. After that, everything changes.
I really liked this book for the content. I play a lot of World of Warcraft, and I’ve always liked the idea of virtual reality, so I loved the world Cline created. Well, the worlds, as the OASIS has hundreds of worlds within it. I also loved the detailing of the crapsack world Wade actually lives in, where trailers and Rvs are stacked one on top of another to create “Stacks” where people live in abject poverty, and how travel from one city to another is dangerous. Also, the creator of the OASIS is obsessed with the late 70s through early 90s, and so there’s large amounts of 80s references in the book, which I love.
What I didn’t love was the infodumps that Cline created. I think with a better editor, a lot of the infodumps could have been avoided. I know he’s trying to world build, but I didn’t need to know about Ogden Morrow and his wife and their background. The book avoids the infodumps as it goes on, because it picks up speed, but you have to slog through a lot of boring stuff before the plot gets going.
Agent to The Stars – John Scalzi
Having read Redshirts, I thought I’d give this a try in audiobook form. It’s also ready by Wil Wheaton, another plus. And it’s funny!
Tom Stein is a junior agent in a big talent firm, with one client that’s worth his time. Then, his boss, Carl, brings him into a private meeting, and introduces him to Yherajk, aliens that can be best described by tom up front: tuna jello. Or how Joshua, the Yherajk ambassador puts it: We look like snot, and we smell like dead fish.
In other words, they need an image makeover, and Tom has been given the job to do so. What follows is a book where Tom is madly trying to figure out how to present the Yherajk to the people of Earth in a form they’ll accept, all while a nosy reporter tries to ruin him, his one decent client wants to go from bimbo roles to a Jewish Holocaust survivor, his assistant is becoming increasingly suspicious of his weird behavior, and Joshua keep throwing curve balls at him.
I didn’t know what to expect from the book, but what I got was an entertaining read. The Yherajk are a lot more involved race than I initially thought, and what they go through to make Earth ready for them is pretty involved. It ties in nicely to the plot along with everything else Tom has to do. And Joshua is hilarious. It’s written in a Scalzi tone, with plenty of smart comebacks, sarcasm, and funny lines. I was laughing out loud at parts.
I also like how the last third of the novel was handled. It ties most of the plot threads together, while leaving the big question for the very end. And thankfully. Scalzi has a way to get us through almost a year in a way that’s interesting: headlines and articles. Once the major plot threads are resolved, the year goes by in a few minutes of Wheaton’s reading, and the big reveal of the Yherajk, and the subsequent acceptance of the people of Earth, neatly wraps up the book.