The Dream Thieves (by Maggie Stiefvater)

16 03 2014

dreamthievesThe Dream Thieves is the follow up to Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Boys, which was probably the cat’s biggest surprise of 2013: paranormal fantasy could actually be good, a (conventional) good old-fashioned bulky read, you know ? That is why I could not have been more disappointed with The Dream Thieves.

Even though I already had the feeling that Ronan would become an important character – and he is really the focus of The Dream Thieves – the way that this is done is… well, dull… as opposed to the wild and exuberant way in which his character deserved to be at the center of things.

Oh, this book is written well enough but plot and characters just couldn’t hold my interest here because it was soooo slow-moving and really isn’t furthering any of the elements of book 1. The Raven Boys was really an ensemble book. Yes, there was a girl protagonist (Blue) and a boy protagonist, (Gansey), but all the other characters weren’t really secondary… they really all played a pivotal role. That has definitely changed in The Dream Thieves, which is mostly about Ronan (as a dream thief) and when the other characters do appear they don’t really add anything to the overall plot. Their quests from The Raven Boys are almost ‘forgotten’ and they just seem to be filler characters, especially Adam and Noah, who could both be such interesting characters.

This one has all the stereotypical weaknesses of the middle book. Anyway, major major letdown and I don’t really know if I want to continue this series.


The Hit (by Melvin Burgess)

22 12 2013

thehitWay back in the day, Melvin Burgess’s Junk was a British teen generation’s Go Ask Alice. This was the age of Trainspotting and when Britain regained some of its cool again for people like the cat. In a way and in hindsight, Junk was an easy hit, symptomatic of the age in which it was conceived and published, despite and probably because of its obvious ‘controversial’ topic: the heroin addiction of 2 teens. After Junk, Burgess has published a slew of other novels some of which also deal with so-called controversial topics (like Doing It), but which are really fairly lame in the grand scheme of things, but none of his other novels have garnered the attention or the reputation of Junk.

With The Hit, it seems Burgess wants to have a do-over of Junk. Drugs? Check! Two teens somewhat on the run? Check! Anarchism & nitty gritty societal problems? Check! The Hit deals with a new drug, called Death, which allows users to have one week of absolute awesome. This week will then ultimately and irrevocably lead to death, though, so you better make the best of your week, sleep with prostitutes, get girls pregnant, rob banks, party hard and harder…, this is what you do. An interesting premise (I guess?), but good literature it ain’t…

All I can say is that I really don’t have the patience nor the stamina for this type of book anymore. I’m not talking about its ‘dark’ topic and I’m not talking about its premise. What I am talking about is its weak execution: cardboard characters that have no personality whatsoever so who fucking cares if any of them dies anyway; a muddy plot that gets needlessly confounded by bits and pieces about everything (from pedophilia to anarchism); and most disturbingly: boring writing – which beckons a re-read of Junk, for sure, because seriously…?

Anyway, definitely the let-down of the year. Where’s 2014?

Andromeda Klein (by Frank Portman)

10 12 2012

Andromeda Klein

Frank Portman was the cat’s literary discovery of 2012. King Dork had so much going for it, one of those absurdly delicious books any 16-year-old with a knack for rebellion should read. Needless to say, when Andromeda Klein landed on the cat’s desk, she was giddy with anticipatory excitement. Little did she realize this would be the only book this year that she’d repeatedly put down, and wonder whether to continue at all…

But then guilt snuck in, this is Frank Portman, dudes! Inventor of characters nicknamed Chi-Mo! OK, so page 138, one more effort…another 100 pages, but if the dense writing about magick and occult swords and 93s and St. Steves and what have you, keeps on obscuring the plot (I’m sure it’s there somewhere!) and more importantly, the cat’s reading enjoyment, the cat is totally calling it quits… Frank Portman or no Frank Portman!

Enter page 415… OK, so there’s a Lexicon??? Dude, you might have said that in the beginning! OK, so I totally got that Andromeda’s hearing impairment took over at some parts of the book and those ‘misunderstandings’ are just another feature of her being one weird cookie, but still, all that occult babble, just sounded like “Bla Bla Bla, Bla Bla, Bla, Blab la blade blaba …“ after a night of insomnia to the cat. I mean, what to think of it when you get something like: “The other cards in the spread were mostly small cards, bristling with swords, though the King of Pentacles in the “hopes and fears” space might allude to – had always seemed to allude to – St. Steve, who was certainly a hope and a regret, if not exactly a fear. There he was, staring at her with A.E.’s sad eyes as Pixie had drawn them. It was hard to decide how to relate A.E.’s court cards to the Golden Dawn’s Book T attributions, but if A.E. Kings corresponded to the Golden Dawn’s Princes rather than to the Knights, then he was also, apparently, Emperor of the Gnomes.” (p.34) Huh??

So … Andromeda is one seriously weird chick. Not weird as in your average YA teen character “I’m a different geeky sort of outsider” weird but  “seriously alienated and nothing in common with the rest of the human population whatsoever in this universe or the next” weird. She doesn’t like any of the music her contemporaries listen to, but instead she’s into medieval troubadours and composers like Guillaume de Machaut. She is the kind of person who’d rather take “inventory of the room and imagining all the possible ways in which these objects could be used to commit suicide” (p.158), than strike up a meaningful conversation with you. She’s obsessed with occultism and now that her best friend – who wasn’t really her best friend – Daisy has died of leukemia, she struggles with her magick and sees weird omens everywhere (swords, dreams…) . Also, her tarot reading is just giving her all sorts of weedgie vibes.  To be honest, the story only starts to get interesting once Andromeda meets Byron who she more or less takes on as an apprentice. The problem here is that we’re almost on page 200 or so before the two of them meet, so it’s a whole ordeal to actually get to the good parts…

But once you’re there you can see that beneath that weird exterior Andromeda is … well, still weird, but in essence a very insecure little girl who doesn’t quite know how to get into contact with her peers, even though she would like to very much. She has formed these very tentative “friendships” with people like Rosalie van Genuchten (I seriously wonder how you’d pronounce that in English!), who – for all intents and purposes – is just a manipulative bitch.

Anyway, am I glad I did stick it out until the end… Mèh, I guess so. Didn’t want to be called weak or anything. Will Andromeda Klein make the best of 2012 list like King Dork? Never! Andromeda Klein is definitely different from any YA (or other) book you’re likely to read any time soon. It has one of the most bizarre main characters the cat’s encountered in a long time. Also, the writing is likely to be off-putting for a lot of readers. It’s almost impenetrable, which doesn’t really do all that much for the plot, which now gets even more obscured – as if the subject matter itself wasn’t enough already! A for effort for sure, but still… after King Dork, saying the cat was disappointed is the understatement of the year!

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