Book review: Sinner by Maggie Stiefvater

My feelings for Isabel Culpepper and Cole St. Clair’s relationship in both the previous books, Linger and Forever, was that I didn’t feel anything for them. However, in the finale of Forever, Isabel finally realized she needed to stop telling other people that they had to do something, and she needed to grow up and do something herself, which ultimately saved everyone from mass execution. So it was thinking on this change that I hoped Sinner would show a slightly more mature Isabel reuniting with a slightly less obnoxious Cole St. Clair.

But no, I only got half a wish granted. Or more like a quarter of a wish.

Sinner is about Cole coming to L.A. to reunite with Isabel, and since he kind of needs a job to afford living there, he agrees to do a web-based reality show with a woman famous for filming celebrity train wrecks in which he will make his return album. I kind of knew the tone and direction this story would take when, after finding out that Cole had a job, Isabel stomped off because darn it, he wasn’t really there just to worship her.

So this is the story of how a spoiled brat and a reformed drug addict crash into each other. And just as in previous books, I feel nothing for their relationship. Continue reading

Book review: Boy, Snow, Bird by Helen Oyeyemi

The first Helen Oyeyemi book I read, White is for Witching, the blurb lied and I could forgive it because the story about a predatory house would be hard to sum up. This second time with Boy, Snow, Bird, the blurb lied and I not only can’t forgive it, the more I read past the point of revelation that the blurb was a lie, the more I hated everything about this story. I had already found my dislike of the main character, Boy Novak to be near disgust. But then…

Let me quote the blurb. “When Bird is born Boy is forced to re-evaluate the image Arturo’s family have presented to her, and Boy, Snow, and Bird are broken apart.”

No. Not even fucking close to the truth. Continue reading

Right, about that sales report…

As Nobody Special was published June 12, I ideally wanted to make a sales report of all four new releases following a full thirty days with the last book on the market. Well the muse came along and distracted me with a story, and then I finally got my season box sets of Teen Wolf. (All three boxes damaged, no less. But hey, the discs work, so I’ll let the mailman live.) I’m also working my way through three books, playing my way slowly through Transformers: War for Cybertron, and still trying to decide how I feel about Battleblock Theater for its review. What I’m saying is, I’ve gotten slightly distracted, and blogging a few random numbers keeps slipping my mind.

But so here we go…
Third Wheel Romance Blues: 4 sales
Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore: 18 sales
Adventures In Trolling: 6 sales
Nobody Special: 4 sales

If there’s a lesson learned here, it’s that I clearly have no business writing stuff outside of fantasy. Although that lesson is kind of ruined by the performance of the Tobe White books, I guess. The thing is, I spent the same amount of time promoting all of these books when they came out. I don’t know why Alice’s book got the extra boost in sales that it did. Maybe it was the people who’d read Peter the Wolf coming back to check on Alice. Maybe the blurb for Alice’s story was just better or more compelling.

I did get a good review on Nobody Special that called it mainstream, and that made me feel like I’d done a good job of telling the story I wanted to without getting preachy on any topic. Maybe in the future when I figure out how to write a bestseller, the long tail will bring more readers for the contemporary fiction books.

Anywho, that’s the sales report. Pretty crappy if I were a pro, but not bad for a nobody.

About that new story…it’s a lesbian romance that’s flirting with being dark fantasy or YA horror. The main characters are a vampire and a werewolf, and the fun part so far has been the contrasts between their perspective. The vampire is obviously a monster from the opening chapter, but the werewolf only gives subtle hints at first that she isn’t human. I like this, and I’m curious when the muse is going to let the fur fly and reveal the werewolf’s darker side to balance out the vampire’s creepiness.

There’s also soccer in this one. I guess I feel like maybe the jocks should get a chance to be something besides the de facto bullies all the time.

So, that’s it for now. I expect I’ll have new book and game reviews up soonish. But I’m now committed to a release vacation until at least the start of fall. I’m using this time to update some previous releases and fix typos with the help of a kind reader who’s been sending me mistakes during an impressive binge read of my titles. I’m also going through those books to look for anything else that sticks out, and between this and the writing, I just don’t have the energy to handle new releases or the promotions they require.

As always, thanks for reading my stuff. I’ll hopefully have something new for you soon, at least here on the blog, that is.

Book review: Roses White, Roses Red by Leigh Wilder

Roses White, Roses Red is a really short story, so short that I almost feel guilty calling this a book review. But what the hell, it’s an ebook no matter how short the story, so here we go. Oh, and this is going to be a really short review because I don’t want to give too much away, or no more so than you’re likely to see in the blurb.

It’s inspired by a fairy tales, which are also usually just as short. This one tells the story of Reynard, a young man who lost his mother at a very early age and lives in a cottage in the woods with only his father for company until his father also dies when Raynard is twenty-one. Loneliness weighs down on him until one night when in a fit of cabin fever, he wanders out in the snow and finds a strange bear with blue eyes, a bear who strangely transforms into a man every night at the stroke of midnight.

I can’t really explain any further without spoiling the story, so I’ll just stop there and say that I liked this tale. It’s just enough information to make Reynard a relatable person before it winds up to the ending and the explanation for Bear’s transformations. Oh, and there’s also enough time for a gay sex scene, which was also rather good.

So, I give Roses White, Roses Red 4 stars and recommend it to fans of gay romance, dark fantasy, or both.

Game review: Child of Light for PS Vita

I know what you’re thinking. “Oh God, another video game review from Zoe. I wonder how much she hated this game.” Well in the somewhat less than immortal words of Hatty Hattington, hold onto your butts, because for once I actually liked a game. YES. Shocking as it may seem, Child of Light is for me a highly entertaining and addicting game, and I say this because after starting it on Friday night, I played for something close to 36 hours straight with no sleep and only a few breaks for food. Then after sleeping to recharge, I went right back in for another 14 hour romp to the ending. And unlike most games that I binge play in one sitting (because I hate them and want to get done with them), I really loved every battle and puzzle in this pretty world.

It’s not a total love affair, so I can’t give this a perfect score. I had issues with the writing (big shock, I know) and the story, and I saw the ending coming from the opening scene and still hated it. But before I get to any of that negativity, let me talk about all the stuff I did like. That’s going to be a longer list than usual.

For starters, there’s the story putting a young girl in the protagonist’s spotlight, a welcome change of pace from all the growly-voiced middle-aged white psychopaths that usually take the top spot. (And yes, I mean psychopath. When you murder a thousand people to accomplish any goal and never consider any solution besides violence, you’re a psychopath no matter what side of the law you pretend to be on.) Aurora’s story intro is a bit of Snow White and Harry Potter, as her father marries a wicked queen to replace his deceased wife. (Though how he didn’t notice the obvious evilosity of his new wife eludes me. (Yes, evilosity is totally a real word.)) Soon after the new queen moves in, Aurora seemingly dies and ends up awake on an altar far from her familiar home. Here she learns that she’s no ordinary girl, and she has a special destiny to fulfill. Her quest to return home takes her through the villages of several fantastic peoples, and along the way she is asked to help with their plights. Each of these missions ends up bringing her another party member to help her in her fights, and each of these companions have their own unique skill sets. Continue reading

Book review: Satan’s Sword by Debra Dunbar

I’d read A Demon Bound back in March and enjoyed getting to know Sam and her friends and frenemies, so that helped push the second book in the series up in my TBR pile. Coming into Satan’s Sword, I was happy to see that the werewolf Candy would be returning, and to find out that this story would forgo the usual “choose one” romantic triangle in favor for a much more accommodating “fuck ‘em both” approach. (Take that, heteronormativity!) Sam’s imp character is just as wicked this time around, and some of her rambling moments are hilarious just like the first book. At one point, she turns a normally placid and emotionally reserved vampire into a bellowing cauldron of rage over…Doritos. It was glorious, really.

There’s a lot going on in this story, with Sam being asked by her brother Dar to fetch a demonic artifact from vampires, with each and every meeting leading to another wild goose chase. At the same time, Sam’s slum lord act is bringing with it duties she didn’t want when the squatting tenants begin demanding that she protect them from a killer who likes taking ears as trophies. She’s still having drama with the angel Gregory, who half the time can’t seem to decide whether he wants to kill or fuck Sam. Oh, and back in Hel, some very high-level demons are requesting that she come home for exclusive breeding contracts, demons so high-level, it’s hard to believe they’d want a “lowly imp.”

With 5 other books in this series and more probably coming soon, it may be too early to be guessing like this, but I get the feeling Sam isn’t as low level as she thinks she is. Is she a reincarnated higher demon now inhabiting a younger body? Or have her many years of energy collection on Earth given her an elevated power level without her realizing how strong she is? I can’t say for certain, but I do know that Sam isn’t all that she claims to be. Demons do tend to lie, but I wonder if maybe she’s somehow even lying to herself. There have been some clues that she’s more powerful than she gives herself credit for. In this book, for instance, she demonstrates perfect control in shapeshifting to other identities she’s Owned in the past, and both demons and vampires repeat something Gregory said in the first book, that Sam doesn’t leak energy like most demons do. That seems to suggest that she’s not just a lowly imp. Continue reading

Nobody Special got a review…

Yes! Though Nobody Special only managed to make four sales in the first month, it still got one review, and the reviewer felt that it may be one of my more mainstream stories. Which I’d say is a good thing even if it makes me feel a little weird. Like “I wrote mainstream? What’s wrong with me?”

Anyway, check out the review on Frodo’s Blog of Randomness. I want to thank Eric for buying and reviewing the book, and I’m thrilled that he enjoyed it.

This is a really short post, isn’t it? Well then, in other news, the muse has convinced me to start a new paranormal romance called Anna and Iris. It will be the first time I’m writing about a “true lesbian” romance, as most of my stories featuring women in love are about bisexuals. While there’s nothing wrong with that, it means I still have a gap in my coverage of the GLBT spectrum. Time to fix that. So this story is about a werewolf falling in love with a vampire princess. There will also be a lot of soccer involved. Should be fun.

I guess that’s about it for now. I should have some new reviews up in the next few days. I know I haven’t done a sales report recently, but I’m waiting until the end of opening months for Nobody Special to report on all four new releases at the same time. As always, thanks for reading my stuff.

Erasing abuse…

This is a post I debated most of the day about writing after reading this blog entry from Jim C. Hines about Marion Zimmer Bradley and her abuse of her daughter and defense of Walter Breen, her husband who was a pedophile. I wasn’t sure if I wanted to drag this topic back out because I feel like I’ve beaten it to death in past posts. But there’s part of that post that speaks about people willing to defend abusers if they’re famous writers, and that raises in me a need to address the point and expand upon it. Because as we’ve seen with the Steubenville rape case and with the case of Penn State and Jerry Sandusky, it’s not just writers who can be given this kind of treatment. All someone needs is a little power or authority and suddenly people who claim to hate child abuse will begin to question the victims, or when that is not possible, to defend the abuser.

I’m reluctant to bring this back up not because I’m polishing my image lately, but because there are people who have written to me and told me never to talk about this. It’s apparently embarrassing to them that I should talk about things that fill me with regret and guilt. But the thing is, I cannot ever let this go and act like I’m Saint Zoe. For a long time, I had a problem taking the compliment, “You’re a good person,” because deep down I knew I would never be worthy of that praise. It doesn’t matter to me how many good deeds I do, or how much money I give to charities. It doesn’t matter that I suffered sexual and physical abuse starting from a very early age. All that matters is, I ended up being an abusive person. I’ve cleaned myself up now, and I never let myself forget how easy it is to slip into old mental traps that might excuse my past. I don’t go into them.

The thing I’ve noticed is how much people want to make abuse go away so they don’t have to talk about it or think about it. Abuse victims are encouraged to not talk about this stuff because it’s so upsetting to other people. Abusers who reform and feel regret are told not to talk about it either because that’s supposedly normalizing deviant behavior. Both the reformed abusers and the victims could teach the general public how to recognize the warning signs that someone else was being preyed upon, but the general public has never wanted that education or that responsibility. “Am I my brother’s keeper” are just empty words even to the most devout people. We keep our heads down to avoid reality as much as possible, and when someone asks us to look up and see the danger signs that a predator is among us, we tell the person warning us not to make trouble. Continue reading

Book review: The Fault In Our Stars by John Green

First, let me say, even before I started The Fault In Our Stars, I knew how it was going to end, and I thought perhaps in some way that would help brace me for it. No. I’m a sniffling, snotty mess just now. But I think it’s best to get my thoughts out now, while these feelings are fresh and raw rather than wait until morning when they will probably start to feel a bit dream-like.

From the start, I liked Hazel and her realistic cynicism. I liked Augustus and his charming sarcasm. I think there was only one early scene that I couldn’t connect with, where Hazel and Augustus are sitting with a wailing, sobbing friend, and they’re talking to each other about a book while acting oblivious to his suffering. I think I had trouble feeling that scene because I could not do that to my friends when I was a teen. I’m not saying “I don’t believe it,” or “teenagers don’t act like that.” I’m sure some could. I just didn’t feel it.

But that’s a tiny, minor thing, not even really a complaint. The rest of the book is just so…words fail me, and the only thing I can come up with is perfect. Continue reading

Book review: Kindred by Octavia Butler

Going into this story, I knew it would be hard to read, and that it would have a heavy impact on me. I knew it would bring back some memories that I prefer leaving buried. I was never a slave in the conventional sense, but I’ve dealt with blackmail as a child, and had been forced to do things that continue to haunt me. I’ve dealt with violence and been told that I deserved it so often that eventually, I even came to believe it myself. I was never a slave, but I know what it means to be forced to act a certain way to keep others happy. Because of that oppressive experience, I knew this would be one of the hardest books I’d try to read.

I was right. Kindred is the story of Dana, a writer living a fairly normal life in California in 1976 before she is pulled under mysterious circumstances to Maryland in the 1800s and rescues a boy drowning in a river. This begins a series of hops back and forth through time, and while time in the “present” barely passes from one hop to the next, Dana spends progressively longer amounts of time living with the boy she saved, Rufus Weylin, and his slave owning father Tom. What makes each of these time traveling episodes dangerous to Dana is, she’s black, an educated black talking like white people in a time when such behavior is deadly.

Early on in the book, Dana had confidently told her husband that she had seen violence on TV and knew how to handle herself. I didn’t know how to take that, because experience long ago taught me that seeing violence and experiencing it are two very different things. So I wasn’t sure if this was false bravado or a mistake in the writing. It’s bravado, and as Dana is forced to endure the miserable life of a slave, she fares no better against the Weylins than any black person born in that time had. This is the grim reality of the science fantasy the story is offering. Of course every modern person would say, “If they tried that on me, I’d…” But the truth is, once someone is stuck in the grip of systemic oppression with no hope of escape, what they’d really do is acclimate and struggle to survive. Which is what Dana does, even though she feels repulsed by her acceptance of this reduced way of life. Continue reading