Monthly Archives: August 2013

Maximum Ride: FANG Spork Part 8

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Chapter 39

Jeb scolds Max for flying off because she wasn’t there to deal with the fire and her problems in general and blah blah blah

“Go jump!” I yelled at him. (pg 136)

What.

Max retorts by pointing out that Jeb left the flock himself, and says “let bygones be bygones.” What a jerk. Oh, and he wants to stay with the flock, too. Max says no, Jeb criticizes her, they go back and forth, and the chapter abruptly ends.

Chapter 40

Max mentions having nightmares that night, and then it’s the next day, and as the flock are cleaning up and generally being autonomous, Jeb is still there. Why, we don’t know, because JPatterson oh-so-conveniently skipped over when that would have been addressed. Max mouths off at Jeb and Dylan.

It was mean, but Jeb and Dylan didn’t seem to be getting it.

They were not our family. (pg 140)

Max. Max… I don’t think it’s fair to expect them to “get” something you’ve neither said nor implied.

Before Jeb or Dylan can respond, Max heads out for groceries, and yet another chapter in this series ends with Max flying off because of her emotions. (Which, to be clear, is only something I’m pointing out because it’s so repetitive.)

Chapter 41

The chapter starts in the middle of the flock, minus Max, with Dylan, playing charades. Then a gas grenade explodes on the floor (how it got there, is very conveniently not mentioned).

They all fanned around the edges of the room. Angel motioned to Dylan to keep his back against the wall. (pg 142)

I’d like to see that motion.

Just as the flock make to escape, Erasers come in from all available exits/entrances.

“They still smell like garbage!” Gazzy yelled, as the first blows were exchanged. He felt like he might barf.

“Okay, now I’m mad!” Iggy shouted.

Angel glanced over to see a thin trickle of blood coming from his nose. (pg 143)

Okay, JPatterson? Either you’re writing this from Angel’s perspective, and we shouldn’t be told by the narration what Gazzy is feeling, or you’re writing this from an omniscient perspective, which means Angel doesn’t need to see Iggy for the narration to report about his bloody nose.

That, or Gazzy feeling sick was told to us via Angel’s mind-reading, but that still doesn’t really work: information Angel gets from mind-reading isn’t usually presented without commentary, which makes this incongruous with how JPatterson writes the mind-reading. Also, it only really brings up questions about Angel’s mind-reading; since she was just playing charades and didn’t know what Gazzy was, she clearly can either turn off her mind-reading, or it’s something she has to consciously do. So then, if she has to turn it off and it’s now on, why aren’t we getting more information about her current mental state (is getting so much information from the flock and the Erasers hurting her? Is it confusing? What is she getting from the Erasers, anyway, since that’s relevant?)? And if she has to do it selectively, why did she mind-read Gazzy just now?

The flock fight, but an Eraser grabs Nudge and prepares to break her wings! Oh no! I totally don’t know whether or not JPatterson is going to get rid of an integral part of one of his main characters!

Chapter 42

As Max flies, she notices a shadow following her and instinctively punches it. It turns out to be Fang. They rest at a tree, and Max tells Fang (because apparently he never learned while helping with the cleanup?) that the couch was set on fire by Gazzy and Iggy, making explosives. On the couch. After talking for a bit, she and Fang notice black helicopters flying higher than helicopters normally fly.

We could barely see them, barely hear them. Most humans wouldn’t have been able to spot them, wouldn’t have known they were there. (pg 148)

Okay, JPatterson, just because you learned a new way to structure a sentence doesn’t mean you have to do it in two consecutive sentences.

So, yeah, the helicopters are heading towards the flock’s house, so Max and Fang go after them.

Chapter 43

Dylan hadn’t been alive much longer than eight months and didn’t know much about flock taboos, but one thing he insticntively knew: Don’t mess with a bird kid’s wings. (pg 149)

GEE, REALLY?

Dylan, after somehow knowing that the Erasers were going to throw Nudge out the window after snapping her wings, jumps to save her and gets kicked.

He slammed into a wall and hit his head hard. (pg 149)

I just can’t get over how silly “he hit his head hard” (which, by the way, is hilariously difficult for me to write with how similar the words are) sounds. It’s really the “hard” part; it’s such a… basic way of getting across that information. It sounds entirely out of place in what should be a serious action scene. It’s also entirely unnecessary, but then, this is JPatterson.

In the midst of the battle, Gazzy raced to the kitchen. (pg 149)

Oh, okay, that’s helpful to know. I thought he might be doing it before the battle. I mean, time travel is completely normal for Gazzy.

Also, that information is relayed to us from Dylan’s perspective, who then takes a glance into the kitchen. After hitting his head hard, because he got kicked away from, oh yeah, Nudge’s wings being about to be snapped? Good to see that not only can he can recover from head injuries in moments, but he also has terrible memory.

Well, apparently the Erasers are really terrible at snapping the wings they already grabbed, because Gazzy manages to find the time to grab a “weapon,” run back to Nudge, and stab the Eraser after pressing a button on his “weapon.”

The mixer blades quickly began to spin, and just as quickly got horribly tangled in the Erasers long, greasy fur. Gazzy pushed the speed button to “high,” and fur actually started ripping out. (pg 150)

Okay. Um. What? Did Gazzy somehow… stick an Eraser with a blender? And the Eraser didn’t, I dunno, move, thereby allowing Gazzy to change the setting on the blender? After he had already set it to a presumably lower setting before stabbing the Eraser with a blender? And need I remind you that blenders have containers blocking the blades, and that the blades are at the bottom of the blender, anyway?

WHAT THE HELL JUST HAPPENED.

Iggy’s keen sense of smell had been the most assaulted by the gas bomb and Eraser stench. But the upside was he could easily gauge each Eraser’s position. (pg 151)

WHAT? WHAT DOES EITHER OF THOSE HAVE TO DO WITH THE OTHER?

And then he throws the blade from “his” food mixer and it sticks the Eraser in the back? And after pushing the Eraser out of the window, they “gang up” on the remaining Erasers, “two or three on one,” and none of that makes sense because “gang up” means the flock are working together, meaning they’re the “two or three” of “two or three on one,” at which point there were only, what, three Erasers left? Meaning five in total? (There was another grabbing Nudge but I omitted mentioning it for flow.) Which means that five Erasers and a gas grenade were apparently deemed enough to capture the flock, who were only ever before taken down by hundreds?

So, uh, as you can guess, the flock take out the Erasers.

Then Max and Fang landed on the deck, hopping and skipping to avoid all the debris and broken glass. (pg 152)

Okay, I know this is a major nitpick compared to what just happened, but. Um. The Erasers broke the windows inwards, so why is there glass outside?

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Weekly Haiku 25

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Maybe if I don’t say anything no one will notice I’m a day late…

Window

Familiar stranger

Walks the afternoon each day;

The world seen through glass.


Midnight

Soft, peaceful music;

Damp dripping after the rain

while crickets sing.


Shadow

Breath caught, eyes held wide;

Shadow dancing in the night,

Gone as quick as seen.


Heat

The days stagger on,

Smothered by the summer’s heat;

On and on and on…


Ghost

Lay back, close your eyes…

The ghost of a lover’s touch

Comforts lonely skin.

All haiku copyright © 2013 by Michael Vest

~NekoShogun

NekoShogun Reviews The Blood of Flowers by Anita Amirrezvani

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Let’s see… where to begin?

How to begin?

……

*The sound of a throat being somewhat nervously cleared*

Well then… let’s just start, I suppose…

I have strong feelings about The Blood of Flowers (by Anita Amirrezvani)far stronger and more abundant than I’d expected. Which is strange, I suppose, since I didn’t like the book quite as well as I’d hoped to, though neither did I dislike it enough that I should feel this much, this passionately. Well, perhaps passion is too strong a word. Perhaps…

To further complicate matters, I’m not even sure if the reasons why I didn’t like, but neither disliked, the book are objective failings on its part, or merely an incompatibility between myself and its chosen narrative style. A style which, while not to my taste (and potentially, though not certainly, an objective weakness), is actually befitting the era in which the novel is set. An era and place which is so richly detailed, so beautifully (though I can’t myself say how accurately) recreated throughout the novel that I could almost, but not quite, overlook my qualms with the story and the characters and the overt manner in which the exposition was exposed. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

The Blood of Flowers, set in seventeenth century Iran, tells the story of a young woman coming of age in the wake of her father’s untimely death. Forced to seek the support of family, the girl and her mother leave their small village and journey to the great city if Isfahan. Though life is not always easy, the girl falls in love with the city, as well as the art of carpet making (a craft practiced by her uncle, who agrees to teach her, though as a woman she could never join the ranks of the royal workshop such as he).

The story is of coming of age; of love and lust; of friendship and the ignorance of youth; of Iran and carpet making; of the joys and sorrows, beauty and great injustices of life. But while the story’s scope is broad, it feels limited by its rather predictable and unoriginal execution, and by the lack of depth expressed by the characters, who feel at times as if they’re merely playing their parts in order to move from one situation to the next.

The unremarkable characters and familiar, almost YA story (save, of course, the sensual, engrossing sex scenes which felt more graphic than they probably were) is a small matter, but what makes it truly hard for me to love The Blood of Flowers as much as I want to is the aforementioned narrative style, with its inelegant exposition and its exasperating need to explain and reiterate every thought, every action and conversation. The information could have been conveyed far more gracefully (and with fewer words) had it been shown rather than told (and even when things were shown, we were still told afterwords, as if everything need be explained else the reader miss something). At times I felt as if every paragraph ended with an reiteration and explanation of all that had transpired, up there, in those sentences I’d just read.

While reading the novel I attributed this to inexperience on the author’s part (says me, an unpublished kid with no formal education on writing. Sometimes I feel like such a jerk…), but in the interview at the back of my copy, the author indicates that the style was deliberately chosen to evoke old folktales and stories the like of The Arabian Nights. This begs the question: is an antiquated and, by modern standards, undesirable narrative style acceptable in a work of historical fiction? Am I perhaps mistaking personal preference for some infallible law of writing? Overstepping my bounds? I don’t know the answer, only that I believe (whether rightly or not) that the desired style could have been preserved while still adhering to the principle of Show Don’t Tell enough to not bludgeon the reader with unnecessary explanation.

If the story and characters feel dull, the world is a burst of color. It’s clear that many years of love and research went in to recreating seventeenth century Iran, and the result is a vibrant feast for the senses. Reading, I could practically smell the steaming coffee, taste the aromatic food, hear the call to prayer and the bustle of busy streets and crowded bazaars. The many carpets, so loved and admired by the protagonist, came to life in my imagination so beautifully I longed to see them for real, though a part of me doubts they could ever live up to my expectations.

I think that The Blood of Flowers is a good book, one that I liked (occasionally loved) and enjoyed reading. I also think that it could have been better, could have been truly enthralling. But then, I could be wrong…

~NekoShogun

Maximum Ride: FANG Spork Part 7

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Chapter 35

Max and Dylan talk to each other a bit about having wings and such. Apparently Dylan didn’t grow super-quickly in his eight months of living, or at least he can’t remember not being 14 years old, body-wise. There’s really not much else to cover: the scene is strange just by measure of who’s writing it and the nature of the characters involved, but nothing is explicitly bad about it.

Chapter 36

Half an hour later, Max and Dylan enter the house and Max talks to Jeb.

“I miss you guys,” Jeb lied. I knew him too well. (pg 127)

Hmm? You mean you know him well enough to know he doesn’t miss you, or you know him well enough to tell when he’s lying? C’mon, Max, don’t be vague about your supposedly-justified omniscience.

[Jeb speaking] Being with the flock is exactly what Dylan needs. Already, in half an hour, you’ve taught him more about who he is, what he is, than in eight months. (pg 127)

Say, what’s up with Dylan’s origin, anyway? According to an earlier chapter, he was “cloned, from another Dylan. Who died in a car wreck or something.” Isn’t Max curious about that? I’d think it’s pretty weird to have another bird kid running around with no explanation.

Max suddenly goes on a tirade about the experiments the School did, blaming Jeb for it, asking when it’s going to stop. Apparently she’s never discussed anything like this with him in the months she’s been able to talk to him. Like, seriously, since the third book he’s been a character who’s just inexplicably there, with no explanation of what he’s doing, what he had been doing–he’s just a blank slate to be mysterious. Because he’s just a plot device that JPatterson didn’t bother to come up with a consistent story or motivation for.

Further illustrating my point: Max mentions the cages the flock lived in, Jeb says how he got them out, Max says that he put them there in the first place, Jeb claims that he’s saved their lives on numerous occasions, and I’m left noticing how his allegiances have swapped willy-nilly. He was instrumental in creating bird kids because [conveniently left out reason], took them away from the lab they were in because [never mentioned], disappeared because [angst for the flock], seemingly turned against them because [JPatterson has no idea], then just sat around doing nothing until suddenly he’s got his hands on Dylan. Maybe if these unanswered questions were ever addressed as mysteries within the books I might think JPatterson has any sort of plan, but no: these details and lack of explanation for them are simply ignored.

Anyway, Max gets angry and flies off. Something she sure does do a lot in these books.

Chapter 37

I needed answers. I needed someone to say, “This is how it is, without a doubt.” Only problem was, who would I trust to tell me that? (pg 129)

Answers to what?

The voice chimes in and says that it can be trusted. So Max asks a question:

Why is Jeb really here? Why did he bring Dylan? (pg 130)

Uh, Max? Angel can read minds. Ask her.

The voice doesn’t answer, so Max speculates about whether Jeb came to kill Fang and replace him with Dylan because [mumble mumble]. The voice only says that Dylan is good for Max because he has potential, whereas she has history with Fang. Yeah, I don’t know what that has to do with anything, either. But more importantly:

He has incredible Sight. He doesn’t realize it yet. But he can see things happening far away, can see people across oceans–maybe even across time.

That was exactly what my dream had been about–Dylan saying that to me. (pg 131)

…I thought this was supposed to be science fiction? Instead, Max is having prophetic dreams about another character’s magical, capital S Sight.  (Which I’m not going to be capitalizing from now on.)

The voice goes on with stuff about how if Fang and Max split up, he can lead another flock, therefor increasing the chances of survival for the bird kids, and that Dylan and Max will be better together in terms of problem-solving because Fang and Max are too similar. And this is actually an interesting to do a love triangle, making it a survivability sort of thing, even if it kind of takes the “love” aspect out of it (especially since Max and Dylan don’t have chemistry; she just keeps calling him hot in various different ways). That’s not to say that it’s well-written, but in concept it’s more interesting than most love triangles, especially ones that threaten existing relationships with a new character (because let’s face it, the existing relationship is always going to win). Also, it only really works if the apocalypse actually happens, and so far, that seems unlikely.

Chapter 38

I was still about a half mile from home when I smelled smoke. …

Our couch was in flames.

Jeb hurried in from the kitchen, Angel right behind him. He had a big mixing bowl of water, and Angel had a juice pitcher. (pg 132)

What, no fire extinguishers? You’d think that the flock would have been prepared for a fire, given Gazzy’s tendencies. Also, that’s some fast wind (and open windows?) to carry the smoke half a mile in the time it took the fire to be noticed and a pitcher of juice to be procured.

“What’s going on here?” I shouted as loud as I could to be heard over the din of bird kids yelping at one another. I lunged into the kitchen and grabbed a red cylinder out of the corner. “Any of you ever hear of a fire extinguisher?” I screeched as I put out the blaze. (pg 132)

Finally, some sense in this book! Though at the expense of meaning Jeb didn’t even notice the fire extinguisher. Suuuure.

Giving a glare to Gazzy and not bothering to get an explanation for the burning couch, Max goes to find Fang since he wasn’t there. He’s under the house with Dylan, where Dylan is talking unusually seriously about danger and how he knows a lot, more than Fang, about someone with female pronouns (presumably Max). Max steps in, sasses Dylan a bit, then leaves without bothering to get an explanation. She seems surprisingly uninterested in those all of a sudden.

Weekly Haiku 24

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Well, they all seem to have turned out a little dark this week. I wonder if that says something about my mood…

Pain

Pain brings sharp focus

To the present, to the now;

Gone all other fears.

(space)

Human Contact

Socialization;

My insides burn with the fear

That I have misread.

(space)

The Page

My mind draws a blank

Even as my pen rests poised;

The page sits, waiting.

(space)

Tired Mind

Still the night has grown,

To late for the toil of words;

Sleep, all that remains.

(space)

Scream

Nameless emotion

seething and barely contained;

A scream without voice.

(space)

All haiku copyright © 2013 by Michael Vest

~NekoShogun

EmotedLlama’s Library Haul, August 16th 2013

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No spork this week, sorry–life got in the way and due to ear issues I’ve been left not feeling like doing much, especially not look critically at bad books. So instead I’ll be starting what will be a probably quite sporadic series in which I casually discuss the books I get from the library. First up is a description of what I got, in order of how I plan to read them. I’ll be posting “reviews” as I finish them.

1. Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man volumes 2 and 3

I bought the first trade paperback (which is a book compiling issues from a comic book) for Ultimate Comics: Spider-Man, which follows Miles Morales as he becomes a new Spider-Man after Peter Parker dies. Yeah, it’s the one that made headlines back when it started and man is it good. I already read these two volumes, and they’re also good, though the 3rd one gets into a crossover event that’s kinda weird. Still, they’re a solid read and I’d recommend them, even if you don’t know much about comic books. Actually that’s probably not true, since it takes place in a weird alternate universe thing that Marvel’s got going on.

2. Days of Blood and Starlight – Laini Taylor

This book is the sequel to Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. I really enjoyed Taylor’s first book, Dreamdark: Blackbringer and while its sequel wasn’t as good, I was fond enough of her writing to check out Daughter of Smoke and Bone after the Dreamdark series was basically cancelled. It was a good book, aside from the typical romance fare, and going into Days of Blood and Starlight I really know nothing. (I haven’t even read the jacket description, and I don’t plan on it.) Hopefully it will be good!

3. Dodger – Terry Pratchett

It’s Terry Pratchett. Even if it’s not Discworld, how could I say no? It’s some sort of Victorian London stuff happens that fantasy or something or other.

4. What My Mother Doesn’t Know – Sonya Sones

It’s a ~teen~ novel in verse, and I really only picked it up because it sequel says the female protagonist gets a girlfriend. (I think it’s the sequel? It better be or reading this book is a waste.) Hopefully diversity, yay!

5. A Beautiful Friendship – David Weber

It’s teen sci-fi and it looks good enough. *shrug*

6. Chinese Cinderella and the Secret Dragon Society – Adeline Yen Mah

This is the seemingly fictitious sequel to a memoir, which caught my eye in a bookstore. Since the library didn’t have that book (I planned on putting it on hold, but didn’t get around to it when I went to the library), I picked up this and probably won’t get to it till after I read the first.