Sunday, June 30, 2019

Thoughts on Sleeping Beauties

From the minds of Stephen King and his son Owen King, comes Sleeping Beauties. All the women, including children, of the world fall asleep and don't wake up. As they fall asleep, threads of white cover their bodies. Soon the white cocoons cover their entire bodies. The few women who can stay awake become shells of their former selves. The men? What do the men do? They try to cope, doing all the tasks that their wives and girlfriends used to, like cooking, cleaning, laundry, and caring for children. Some men are grief stricken, but some are just violent jerks. And it's the violent jerks who are threatening to take over, starting with the small Appalachian town of Dooling.

The women are asleep in one world, and thriving in another. In the new world, women run the show and everything is different. No major conflicts. No wars. No sexual assault. And the men who will be born in this new world, will be influenced by women only. They will have a better foundation than the men of the old world. In a world like this, why would they want to wake back up in the old world?

But what happens to the men of the old world? Can a world exist where just the men are in charge? One could argue that we're already seeing that in the modern world.

This isn't the typical Stephen King novel. Number one, I found it to be very fast-paced (even though it's 700 pages) and I chalk that up to his son co-writing this book. Number two, the book isn't meant to be scary like a horror movie. I think this book was meant to be a social commentary on today's political climate, and that can be scary. But like a typical Stephen King book, the ending is always problematic and doesn't seem fully formed. Seriously, I think King is great at beginnings and the middle. . .but his endings, after all this time in publishing, still need work. Exhibit A: IT!!! The ending for the TV adaptation of Under the Dome was ATROCIOUS and I can only imagine how the book ended (I'm thinking of reading it this year).

While I did enjoy Sleeping Beauties as a means of escapism, I felt some parts of the ending were just a bit rushed and heavy-handed. A white female police officer and her itchy trigger finger shot and kill a black woman. While the officer believes she was defending others, it turns out she misunderstood the situation and is immediately remorseful (as she should be). It's clear that little nugget is meant to be a reflection of the multiple shootings of unarmed black men and women. I don't see anything wrong with social commentary, it's just that this particular one came less than 50 pages from the end and felt like an afterthought. The overwhelming message was men step back and let women run the show. I don't think that will ever happen in my lifetime, even if we get a female president, but it's a nice thought.

Rating: Superb (as a piece of fiction, not as social commentary).

Sunday, June 23, 2019

Rapid Reaction: Strange the Dreamer

Have you ever finished a book and thought: What did I just read? This was good, bad, beautiful, and frustrating! What kind of an ending was that? You're kidding I have to read book 2 to find out what happens?!?

I had all of those thoughts after I finished Strange the Dreamer by Laini Taylor. I finished the book earlier this afternoon and I thought it's best to just get my thoughts out. So this isn't meant to be a traditional review and more of my stream of consciousness on a book I just finished.

I tried reading this book last fall but I couldn't get beyond page 25. Fantasy books are just not in my wheelhouse, I prefer to read books that have some basis in reality. And this book is heavy on the fantasy and my brain just couldn't handle it the first time around. But I worried that maybe I was being a bit of a book snob, so last month I picked this back up again -- determined to read to this from end to end.

I did it! I finished and yet I'm not sure I fully understood everything.

Lazlo Strange is an orphan who was raised by monks in the city of Zosma. He spends most of his time buried in the library, reading about a city called Weep. A city that may or may not exist. Lazlo has so immersed himself in the world of Weep, that he garners the nickname "Strange the Dreamer." Lazlo knows more about Weep than anyone else; he knows their language and history. But what's the use of knowing all that if Weep might not exist? But of course all of this knowledge will come in handy -- otherwise there would be no point to this book.

The Godslayer a.k.a Eril-Fane (honestly what's up this name) comes to Zosma, seeking the greatest minds in various areas of expertise. He needs help freeing Weep from a literal fortress that hovers above the city. This fortress, known as the citadel, is built of a special metal called mesarthium. It's a material that's so strong it can't be cut. But Eril-Fane is determined to build a special team to help him free Weep from darkness. A lowly librarian like Lazlo is not supposed to be among the ranks, but manages to talk his way onto the team. This caravan of the greatest minds of Zosma heads on the months-long journey to Weep.

Meanwhile, in the citadel the survivors of the massacre in Weep know their time might be up. There might finally be a war between the citadel and the citizens of Weep. One of those survivors is Sarai and she has a special gift. She can enter the dreams of the people of Weep, causing them nightmares. When Sarai enters Lazlo's mind, it's not a nightmare but a dream. The two have an instant connection and a desire to resolve the conflict between the citadel and Weep peacefully.

Ok that's the easiest way I can explain everything I just read. And even then I'm sure I missed some plot points. I took notes, I underlined text, and I put post-it flags all over this book. I don't do that with everything I read, just the ones that make me feel like I'm reading a textbook or I'm learning another language.

However, I do have to admit Laini Taylor's writing is very beautiful and poetic.

"She asked in a hesitant whisper, 'Do you still think I'm a . . . a singularly unhorrible demon?'

'No,' he said smiling. 'I think you're a fairy tale. I think you're magical, and brave, and exquisite. And . . .' His voice grew bashful. Only in a dream could he be so bold and speak such words. 'I hope you'll let me be in your story.' " {Pg. 380}

There are many passages that left me in awe of her writing, but it gets to be a bit much. A bit repetitive. And this book is 532 pages, so yeah one can only take so much flowery writing. I think this book could have benefited by being about 100 or so pages shorter. It would have made for a faster and tighter story. I also hate insta-love!!! I hate it in any genre!! Lazlo and Sarai see each other briefly in a dream and already know the other is different. They're unique. They're unlike anyone they've ever met before. That is such a tired trope. I wish authors would stay away from it. 

All that said, of course I'm going to buy the sequel (and I hope final book) Muse of Nightmares. The book ended it such a way, that the only feeling one is left with is: I have to know how it ends!

Rating: Give it a try

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

My take on: Pieces of Her

Last year I read A LOT of good reviews for Pieces of Her by Karin Slaughter. If the opportunity arose (which of course it did) to review this book, I was going to jump at the chance.

Does it live up to the hype? Does it meet my expectations? Yes. . .and No! By that I mean there is a lot to like but. . .there was just one character who I thought was the weakest link. Let's discuss.

Andrea has always felt like a failure. Moving to NYC from her small town in Georgia didn't work, as her career path and relationships quickly fizzled. Going back home to care for her cancer-stricken mother, Laura, was the perfect excuse to leave the big city.

Now that her mother is healthy again, what's next for Andrea? She can't live above her mother's garage forever. She has to do something with her life. Andrea doesn't have the answers, but life is about to throw a big curve ball at her.

While at the mall, Andrea and Laura find themselves at the wrong place at the wrong time. A shooter opens fire. While Andrea is quite literally frozen in fear by this act of violence, Laura is not. Laura confronts the shooter and eventually kills him (not a spoiler, this is the catalyst for whole the book), all with a calm and precision that Andrea doesn't recognize. Despite being injured in the attack, Laura remained calm under pressure. How was she able to do that? Andrea is about to find out.

Thirty years ago, Laura had a completely different life. A life which she's been on the run from for the past 30 years. As Andrea begins to piece together her mother's past, she wonders if she ever really knew her mother. Andrea even questions if Laura is her biological mother. The only way to get answers is to keep digging. Keep finding the people who knew Laura thirty years ago. Keep questioning everything in Laura's past until the puzzle is complete.

While Laura is strong and methodical, Andrea, in my opinion, was sooooooooo WEAK!! Every opportunity Andrea gets to rise to the occasion, she either freezes or makes things even worse. I read most of the book either on my commute or on my lunch break, I say this because I was in places where I couldn't scream at this book. Or I could have. . .but I would have gotten a lot of strange looks. Why did I need to scream? Because at times Andrea was just maddening!! I kept wanting her to stand up for herself. To assert herself. Be strong. It takes soooooo long for her to finally find that inner strength. Weak character aside, I did enjoy the book. I hope the eventual Netflix series makes Andrea's character a little bit less of a weakling!

Rating: Superb

Notes: I received a copy of the book from the publisher (HarperCollins) as part of a blog tour with TLC Book Tours.