Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher

Image Description: the book-cover Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher. In the background is a light-pattern that resembles the Aurora borealis, in the foreground is a plastic doll of Princess Leia with the palms of her hands covering her eyes.
Imsge Description: the book-cover Shockaholic by Carrie Fisher. In the background is a light-pattern that resembles the Aurora borealis, in the foreground is a plastic doll of Princess Leia with the palms of her hands covering her eyes.
Title: Shockaholic
Author: Carrie Fisher
Social Media: Twitter and Goodreads
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Format and Price: Ebook at $11.99
Rating: 5 out of 5

About The Book:
Bad news… for anyone who thought Carrie Fisher had finally stopped talking about herself. This time, the electro-convulsive shock therapy she’s been undergoing is threatening to wipe out (what’s left of) her memory. But get ready for a shock of your own. Not only doesn’t she mind paying the second electric bill, she loves the high-voltage treatments. It’s been a roller coaster of a few years for Carrie since her Tony- and Emmy-nominated, one-woman Broadway show and New York Times bestselling book Wishful Drinking. She not only lost her beloved father, but also her once-upon-a-very-brief-time stepmother, Elizabeth Taylor, as well as over forty pounds of unwanted flesh, all the while staying sober and sane-ish. And she wants to tell you, dear reader, all about it. She wants you to someday be able to remind her how Elizabeth Taylor settles a score, how she and Michael Jackson became friends, or how she ended up sparring with Ted Kennedy on a dinner date. And she especially wants to preserve her memories of Eddie Fisher. Shockaholic is laugh-out-loud funny, acerbic, and witty as hell. But it also reveals a new side of Carrie Fisher that may even bring a pleasant shock your way: it is contemplative, vulnerable, and ultimately, quite tender.

General Observations:
~Diverse Books 2017: Alongside Wishful Drinking, I’m nominating this book for the “Main character with an Invisible Disability” category. In this memoir, Carrie Fisher talks about her struggles with addiction, which is connected to her adult-diagnosis of Bi-polar. It was comforting to read about Carrie Fisher’s struggles because, in a way, they were familiar and foreign at at the same time. We need more people like Carrie Fisher in the world, more people who are willing and able to talk about their struggles with mental health because the more we talk about our struggles, the more accessible they become, and gradually our collective stories will destroy the stigma of mental health.

~Expansion Pack: Wishful Drinking kind of gives a basic overview of things, Shockaholic goes into more details on some of the significant events in Carrie Fisher’s life, like waking up next to her white-republican-gay-friend and the sequential drug-addiction problems and, unfortunately, when it comes to addiction, sometimes you have to get to really bad place before you realise something needs to change. Fortunately Carrie Fisher was able to get the help she needed and it eventually lead her to pursue Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) and hence the name of the title. Carrie Fisher also uses her book to dispel some of the myths surrounding Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT), acknowledging her own previous bias towards it, but she also talks about some of the side-effects as well, such as problems with short term memory.

~Right In The Feels: Her chapters that feature her friendship with Michael Jackson and her relationship with her previous step-mother Elizabeth Taylor were amusing, interesting and insightful, however, it was the chapters that focused on her relationship with her father Eddie Fisher (who she cared for in his later years until he died) was the one that had me tearing up. It was bitter-sweet that Carrie and Eddie were able to reconnect and have the relationship Carrie always wanted with her father later in life. There’s an especially touching moment in the book when Carrie starts talking about how she has a recording of her father singing preserved in her phone, that way she’ll always be able to remember.

In conclusion, just go read it, it’s highly entertaining and you’ll whizz straight through it (I certainly did).

Available for Purchase: Amazon | Audible | Book Depository | Kobo Books

Image Description: A pink and purple coloured button with the text ‘Read Diverse Books 2017’ in white text with the word ‘Diverse’ written in rainbow coloured text. there is also the white outline of a clip-art picture of a laid open book
Image Description: A pink and purple coloured button with the text ‘Read Diverse Books 2017’ in white text with the word ‘Diverse’ written in rainbow coloured text. there is also the white outline of a clip-art picture of a laid open book

Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher

Image Description: the book-cover of Wishful Drinking by Carrie Fisher
Title: Wishful Drinking
Author: Carrie Fisher
Social Media: Twitter and Goodreads
Publisher: Simon & Schuster UK
Format and Price: Ebook at $13.99
Rating: 5 out of 5

About The Author:
Carrie Frances Fisher (1956 – 2016) was an American actress, screenwriter and novelist, most famous for her portrayal of Princess Leia in the original Star Wars trilogy.

About The Book:
In Wishful Drinking, Carrie Fisher tells the true and intoxicating story of her life with inimitable wit. Born to celebrity parents, she was picked to play a princess in a little movie called Star Wars when only 19 years old. “But it isn’t all sweetness and light sabres.” Alas, aside from a demanding career and her role as a single mother (not to mention the hyperspace hairdo), Carrie also spends her free time battling addiction, weathering the wild ride of manic depression and lounging around various mental institutions. It’s an incredible tale – from having Elizabeth Taylor as a stepmother, to marrying (and divorcing) Paul Simon, from having the father of her daughter leave her for a man, to ultimately waking up one morning and finding a friend dead beside her in bed.

General Observations:
~Diverse Books 2017: I’m nominating this book for the “Main character with an Invisable Disability” category. In this memoir, Carrie Fisher talks about her struggles with addiction, which is connected to her adult-diagnosis of Bi-polar. It was comforting to read about Carrie Fisher’s struggles because, in a way, they were familiar and foreign at at the same time. We need more people like Carrie Fisher in the world, more people who are willing and able to talk about their struggles with mental health because the more we talk about our struggles, the more accessible they become, and gradually our collective stories will destroy the stigma of mental health.

~Short and Sweet: The paperback and the ebook version are only 176 pages, I found myself consuming this book rather quickly, which should say something as I’ve been in a reading slump recently and have seriously struggled with motivation to read. I consider Wishful Drinking and Shockaholic to be parts 1 and 2 respectively, they’re both short books (both are 176 pages, which is about the same size as a standard manga volume), and if you liked part 1 but don’t want to continue, that’s okay. But if you want more details on some of the events and experiences that Carrie Fisher brings up in Wishful Drinking, you can continue with Shocaholic, it’s entirely up to you.

~Make ‘Em Laugh: Carrie Fisher had such an amazing sense of humor, I love and truly admire how she could take such pain and misery, and turn it into something worth laughing about.

All in all, it’s a great short read about struggling with mental health and addiction and I think the world can never have too many books like this.

Image Description: an illustrated picture of Carrie Fisher as General Organa (from The Force Awakens) standing on the deck of a space-ship with the cosmos and various planets and galactic-bodies in the background. In the corner of the picture is plain black text that reads
Image Description: an illustrated picture of Carrie Fisher as General Organa (from The Force Awakens) standing on the deck of a space-ship with the cosmos and various planets and galactic-bodies in the background. In the corner of the picture is plain black text that reads “drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra. Carrie Fisher, 1956 – 2016”.

Available for purchase at: Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books

Image Description: A pink and purple coloured button with the text ‘Read Diverse Books 2017’ in white text with the word ‘Diverse’ written in rainbow coloured text. there is also the white outline of a clip-art picture of a laid open book
Image Description: A pink and purple coloured button with the text ‘Read Diverse Books 2017’ in white text with the word ‘Diverse’ written in rainbow coloured text. there is also the white outline of a clip-art picture of a laid open book

The First Date Book-Tag

Image Description: a red circular table with a red heart-shaped-box of chocolates next to a small red square glass-vase with pink and white roses inside the vase.
Image Description: a red circular table with a red heart-shaped-box of chocolates next to a small red square-shaped glass-vase with pink and white roses inside the vase.
I’ve been in a Reading Slump for a while now, which has resulted in me developing the habit of lurking on YouTube and watching videos of books I’ll probably never read (I’m so far behind on the new, at this point I’m giving up entirely on keeping with new releases), one of the YouTube Channels I’ve been lurking on recently is Katrina @ Little Book Owl, as I said before, I’ve been in a Reading Slump for a while now, which has made it difficult to write posts like this, and I feel as though I’m just repeating myself at this point, but I figured I’d give it a go anyway.
1. The awkward first date – a book where something felt off. It wasn’t a bad book, but lacked that spark for you.
Image Description: book cover of Like A House On Fire by Cate Kennedy. The cover has a black fleur-de-lis wallpaper-like background, with the title of the book in white text taking up most of the foreground. There's a gray electrical cord snaking across the L in Like, there's a gilded picture frame around the letter A, there is a white oval-shaped serving platter in place of an O in the word House, there's a vase of wilting red tulips and a split cup of tea or coffee down the bottom of the cover.
Image Description: book cover of Like A House On Fire by Cate Kennedy. The cover has a black fleur-de-lis wallpaper-like background, with the title of the book in white text taking up most of the foreground. There’s a gray electrical cord snaking across the L in Like, there’s a gilded picture frame around the letter A, there is a white oval-shaped serving platter in place of an O in the word House, there’s a vase of wilting red tulips and a split cup of tea or coffee down the bottom of the cover.

Like A House On Fire by Cate Kennedy

My PWE teachers rave about Cate Kennedy, they use her short stories in the university readers at any given opportunity and I’ll admit I did like a few of the short stories contained in this anthology (and a couple of her other short stories which aren’t included here). I can see this book being popular or being widely read by literary types with an interest in Australian Literature.

The thing is that I don’t know if this is just a generational thing, or it’s a just me, but this is definitely a book that doesn’t sit well with me. I dislike how Cate Kennedy handles the complicated and multi-faceted situations and circumstances surrounding the topics of women, children and motherhood. The depictions of motherhood (or the lack of it) weren’t outright offensive but I would consider them shallow (and perhaps problematic), which I suppose could be a reasonable assessment as it’s a short-story collection.

2. The cheap first date – book that turned out less than you expected
Image Description: book cover of Red Phoenix by Kylie Chan. The book cover is red in colour with a silhouette picture of a person in a martial arts pose up the top and a silhouette picture of London Bridge down the bottom.
Image Description: book cover of Red Phoenix by Kylie Chan. The book cover is red in colour with a silhouette picture of a person in a martial arts pose up the the top and a a silhouette picture of London Bridge down the bottom

Red Phoenix by Kylie Chan

It’s called Red Phoenix, but it has almost nothing to do with the character it’s named after and, in short, it’s a hot mess. It’s why I won’t be finishing the rest of series, or read any of Kylie Chan’s other books, however, I accidentally converted my mother-in-law into reading this series and she seems to enjoy them *shrugs* so maybe this is just me.

The Dark Heavens series started out alright but began to fall apart in this book, the annoying elements were amplified, worse elements were added like how all the men (with the exception of Leo because he’s gay) wanted to bang Emma, despite having pretty much no personality. The plot became non-existent and thus it became tedious and boring, this is because the author chose to focus on stuff that wasn’t interesting (like all the men wanting to bang Emma) and not on things could have been genuinely interesting.

Such as the family dynamic between Tiger and his son, who is now a bodyguard to John’s daughter. If, as an author, you’re going to take a step back from the plot and place a bigger focus on the characters (which is fine if done well), these characters need to be interesting or engaging (preferably both) and none of the characters met this criteria.

3. Well-prepared first date – better than expected
Image Description: The book cover of The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith. The cover is a picture of a red-brick alley-way with a red-tile flooring, at the end of the alley-way is the black silhouette of a tall man in trench over-coat with his back towards the viewer.
Image Description: The book cover of The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith. The cover is a picture of a red-brick alley-way with a red-tile flooring, at the end of the alley-way is the black silhouette of a tall man in trench over-coat with his back towards the viewer.

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

To be honest, I thought The Cuckoo’s Calling was a bit meh, it was an alright beginning to a new series but nothing to rave about, so as result I began The Silkworm with low expectations, however, I thoroughly enjoyed The Silkworm, now this may be due to cognitive bias as Cormoran Strike is investigating the disappearance and murder of a writer, but I enjoyed it.

4. Hot but dumb – pretty book, not so hot on the inside

Image Description: book cover of The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

I reviewed this book on my other blog and I felt that there were a lot of problems hiding behind this gorgeous cover, I got to a point where I was so sick of it, I was relieved to finally finish the review, that way I would never need to think about this book again. The worst part is that everyone seems to love this book, which just amplifies the confusion.

5. Blind date – book you picked up not knowing anything about it
Image Description: The book cover of The Sin Eater's Daughter by Melinda Salisbury. The background is an olive-green colour, in the foreground is an apothecary-style bottle with a short neck, inside the apothecary-style bottle is blue-red liquid and a young adolescent girl crouched, with her knees pinned to her chest.
Image Description: The book cover of The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury. The background is an olive-green colour, in the foreground is an apothecary-style bottle with a short neck, inside the apothecary-style bottle is blue-red liquid and a young adolescent girl crouched with her knees pinned to her chest inside the bottle.

The Sin Eater’s Daughter by Melinda Salisbury

I picked up this book, purely because of the cover, which I later regretted as the book turned out to be considerably mediocre, it adds nothing new to the genre as far as I’m concerned and there’s some problematic elements  of sexism and internalized misogyny involved as well. So, let it be known that literally judging a book by its cover will also result in regrets.

6. Speed dating – book you read super fast
Image Description: book cover of Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. A red building, red doorway-arch and red door, there is a the imprint of a large hand burned into the right-side of the red-doorway-arch with grey-blue cobblestone/slate-rock on the ground.
Image Description: book cover of Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor. A red building, red doorway-arch and red door, there is a the imprint of a large hand burned into the right-side of the red-doorway-arch with grey-blue cobblestone/slate-rock on the ground.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

I was glued to the pages of Daughter of Smoke and Bone (as well as the second book in the trilogy Days of Blood and Starlight), the book has some cliché and problematic elements like a Female Protagonist with Special Snowflake Syndrome and Super Dramatic Angsty/Wangsty Romance with Much Older Male-Character (its justified in-universe, but Authors, could you please stop doing this? It’s creepy. Thank you), however, despite those problems (Karou and Akira’s relationship can get eye-rolly at some points), I definitely enjoyed the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy and I’m happy to recommend the trilogy.

7. The rebound – a book you read too soon after a book hangover and it kind of ruined the book for you

Image Description: book-cover of Matched by Ally Condie. The cover has a grey-beige background with a green bubble taking up the top one-third of the cover, inside the green bubble is an adolescent female with brown hair, wearing a bright green dress, she is posed as though she is trying to get out of the green bubble that surrounds her. The Text underneath is “WATCHED BY SOCIETY. TRAPPED BY RULES. FREED BY LOVE?” with the book’s title written underneath in large capital letters and a pink font.

Matched by Ally Condie

I read this book and Divergent close together, which was a bad idea, reading mediocre Dystopian novels in quick secession highlights the mediocrity. I picked up this book because I liked the cover and I was intrigued by the premise (yes, I read the blurb for this one, I learnt my lesson), but the book doesn’t live up to the premise, the main protagonist suffers from what I like to call “Female Protagonist Problems”, more specifically “Bella Swan Syndrome”.

While Cassie isn’t a sociopath like Bella, there’s definitely a lack of personality and/or emotions in her character, she doesn’t seem to feel very much, which could have been an interesting case of Alexithymia, but I suspect it wasn’t done intentionally. Cassie is a bland self-insert character with pretty much no description of herself (with the exception of plot-orientated eye-colour) or interests outside of her romantic object of affection, as a result, she is super boring, it’s also why it’s completely unbelievable that she has two guys fighting over her (I despise Love Triangles).

Then there’s the world building, or perhaps the lack there of it, the author fails to take into consideration a lot of factors that would influence this world, while there are many examples I could use, I’ll just stick to one example such as LGBTQIA+ people. How the society goes about finding appropriate statistical matches for the people who fit under the incredibly diverse umbrella-term of LGBTQIA+ (let alone doing it without coming across as being an arse-hole) is never addressed. In fact, there are no mentions of the LGBTQIA+ community at all, it’s like they’ve never existed. That’s super creepy, but the worst part is that I don’t think this was an intentional move on the author’s behalf, I think she just didn’t think about the deeper ramifications of her world building.

I know it’s supposed to be a Dystopian novel that centers around a glorified breeding program, but the author couldn’t even explain how past-problems have been resolved, there’s no mention of teenage pregnancy, there’s no discussion of infertility or sterilization (does IVF still exist? Are Foster Parents still required? Does the Adoption process still exist? Who knows, it’s never brought up). I have no idea why this book even exists, let alone comprehend why people enjoy it.

8. Overly enthusiastic date – a book that felt like it was trying too hard
Image Description: book cover of Divergent by Veronica Roth. This is the movie tie-in version with an adolescent female (Tris) positioned with her back towards the male character (Four), who is currently crouching, they essentially standing/crouching back to back on a roof top facing different directions but both of them are looking towards the viewer. They are surrounded by derelict skyscrapers.
Image Description: book cover of Divergent by Veronica Roth. This is the movie tie-in version with an adolescent female (Tris) positioned with her back towards the male character (Four), who is crouching, they essentially standing/crouching back to back on a roof top facing different directions but both of them are looking towards the viewer. They are surrounded by derelict sky-scrappers.

Divergent by Veronica Roth

I felt that Divergent was trying too hard to be a combination of The Hunger Games and the Harry Potter series, with the flaws of both series but none of the positives.The Hunger Games flaws it has perpetuated are bland self-insert character with pretty much no description of herself and the Harry Potter series problem of poor or inadequate world-building the author hasn’t acknowledged or addressed (for example: What category does an Engineer fall into? Because they certainly need a few of them).

On the plus side, Divergent has no Love Triangles, so that’s something, but as a Book Reviewer, I feel that Authors don’t deserve a gold star for refraining to use shitty plot-devices. In saying that, Tris and Four’s relationship is a welcome change from the relationships typically found in Dystopian Young Adult Novels (*cough* Red Rising Trilogy *cough*), although once again I feel that Authors don’t deserve a gold star for refraining to romanticise a problematic or abusive relationships between minors or involving minors (Authors aren’t supposed to romanticise a problematic or abusive relationships in general but clearly that’s still a problem).

Divergent’s main flaw is that was trying to hit all the right marketable “Young Adult” buttons, that it results in nothing interesting happening for the majority of the novel, and I suppose I’d rather be offended then bored.

9. The perfect first date – book that did everything right for you

Image Description: book-cover of A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab. The cover has a white background, in the foreground is the black silhouette of a male character wearing a coat in various shades of red. On the ground, the male character is standing on multiple overlapping circles (black, white, red, and grey), it looks as though his feet are standing on the red and grey circles.

A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

I reviewed this book on my other blog, and to be honest, there’s not much else I can say, I just enjoyed it immensely and I cannot praise V.E. Schwab enough.

10. Humiliating first date – book you’re embarrassed to admit you liked/ embarrassed to see reading in public for whatever reason
Image Description: The book-cover of A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole (text is in red). In the background of the cover is an image of the moon against a blue background, in the foreground is a couple embracing. The male (dark clothes and black hair) is embracing a blonde woman (who is positioned with her back facing towards the audience so her long blonde hair can cascade down her back).
Image Description: The book-cover of A Hunger Like No Other by Kresley Cole (text is in red). In the background of the cover is an image of the moon against a blue background, in the foreground is a couple embracing. The male (dark clothes and black hair) is embracing a blonde woman (who is positioned with her back facing towards the audience so her long blonde hair can cascade down her hair).

The Immortals After Dark series by Kresley Cole

It’s a Urban Fantasy/Paranormal Romance series, A Hunger Like No Other is technically the second book in the series but as I didn’t particularly like A Warlord Wants Forever I’m not going to recommend it, the series definitely plays the long-term game in terms of plot, but I enjoy it. I don’t like all the books in the series, however, I have read all the books in the series thus far. And yes, I’m well aware it’s trashy and a couple of the books (okay, fine I’ll be honest, more than a couple) have some… problematic elements to them (I can’t stand Dreams of a Dark Warrior, but due to its significance with regards to the plot, it can’t be skipped, unfortunately).

It’s a quick and easy read if you’re currently in a slump like I am. What I hate the most is that the publishers are changing the trashy covers, you know, trying to make them more subtle and stuff. Although the trashy covers are one of the reasons I’m inclined to review Romance books on my other blog, the changing of the covers is stupid idea (did they even ask the readers?) because then they don’t match the rest of my books and changing the covers defeats the entire purpose, as far as I’m concerned, the covers are supposed to be trashy (the cover serves a purpose).

So yeah, leave me a link in the comments section if you want to participate and I’ll check out your post. What you think about the books I mentioned? Do you agree? Do you disagree? Let me know in the comments section.

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

Career of Evil
Title: Career of Evil (Book 3 in the Cormoran Strike series)
Author: Robert Galbraith
Social Media: Facebook and Twitter
Publisher: Sphere (Ebook) and Hachette Audio UK (Audio-book)
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars
Format and Price: E-book at $17.99 or $14.99 via Audiable (membership price)

About The Book:
When a mysterious package is delivered to Robin Ellacott, she is horrified to discover that it contains a woman’s severed leg. Her boss, private detective Cormoran Strike, is less surprised but no less alarmed. There are four people from his past who he thinks could be responsible – and Strike knows that any one of them is capable of sustained and unspeakable brutality.

With the police focusing on the one suspect Strike is increasingly sure is not the perpetrator, he and Robin take matters into their own hands, and delve into the dark and twisted worlds of the other three men. But as more horrendous acts occur, time is running out for the two of them… Career of Evil is the third in the series featuring private detective Cormoran Strike and his assistant Robin Ellacott. A mystery and also a story of a man and a woman at a crossroads in their personal and professional lives.

Trigger Warning: This book contains mentions of Rape, Sexual Assault, Child Sexual Abuse (CSA), Parental-Child sexual abuse, Incestuous sexual abuse, domestic violence, ableism and Body integrity identity disorder

Spoiler Warning: This review contains spoilers for the novel Career of Evil

Aspects of the Novel I Enjoyed:
~Musical Theme: At the start of every chapter in the Cormoran Strike series, there’s a verse of prose, such as: Robert Galbraith uses quotes from Elizabethan-era plays like The White Devil by John Webster (a revenge tragedy play) to preface chapters in The Silkworm, but in the novel Career of Evil, Robert Galbraith chooses to use lyrics of Blue Oyster Cult, which I enjoyed because I actually know a few songs by Blue Oyster Cult (it turns out J.K. Rowling is a big fan of Blue Oyster Cult and Pattie Smith). My only disappointment was that there was no mention of more Cow-bell.

~Plot-Twist: While the plot takes a longer time than usual to get going (more on this later), however, once the plot begins to gain momentum, I wanted to keep reading, I had invested 17 hours of my time into this audio-book, I wanted to know how all the pieces came together, however, because the ending has such a super-twist ending and while the puzzle pieces do fit together brilliantly in the end, I can see how some readers might see it as an arse-pull.

~Character Development and Expansion: This novel very much centers around Strike’s past, his previous cases with the UK Military Police and his Dark-and-Troubled childhood with his mother, because of the Blue Oyster Cult references. Leda (Strike’s mother) was a huge fan of Blue Oyster Cult and is known in-universe as a super-groupie to various UK-based rock-bands, which is why buried childhood memories are triggered in Strike when a piece of paper with Blue Oyster Cult lyrics written on it was discovered inside the box that contained the severed leg. The reader finds out about Strike’s childhood, Leda’s death (which had previously only been vaguely discussed) and the reader is introduced to Shankers (a shady-gangster character Leda rescued and took in when Strike and Shankers were teenagers).

I enjoyed reading about this character background information about Strike and consequently Shankers, it was engaging and I enjoyed Shankers as an addition to the book (I hope he continues to be a regularly occurring side-character). I think Strike, Shankers and Robin all work well together and Shankers and Robin are good foils for each other. The reader also finds out what transpired to make Robyn leave university and have a long stay at home recovering (more on this further down), it was a little predicable but it was still good to know those missing puzzle pieces of Robyn’s character that had only previously been hinted at.

Aspects of the Novel I had Problems with:
~Change in Narrative Style: This is the first Cormoran Strike Novel where the reader gets to experience chapters from the point of view of the perpetrator, I think it helps to keep the slow plot from stalling, but the guy is utterly repulsive and, while I understand that those chapters are supposed to be repulsive, I found them difficult to read, especially since he targets vulnerable women.

~Slow Plot: The Cormoran Strike series has always been a series that has a stronger emphasis on character than on plot, and while Strike’s and Robyn’s characters and back-stories are being explored and developed, the plot appears to suffer because of it. The plot crawled by in places and I was often asking “what is the point of this chapter?”. While Strike did lampshade the long waiting period between new items of usable information, the last five chapters did make up for the slow pace by going at break-neck speed, I had to re-listen to a couple of those chapters to fully understand what was transpiring.

~Show, Don’t Tell – Part 1: During the investigation of Donald Laing, Noel Brockbank and Jeff Whittaker, Strike and Robyn travel around the UK to interview various agents of exposition and the various interviews show Laing and Brockbank’s potential criminal history. The problem with these perpetrators is that their crimes happened in the past, so either the author has to use flashbacks to show or have a small side-character tell the reader information Strike would already know.

So how does an author make a male character come across as evil or irredeemable with little to no effort? The author presents both male characters mentioned not just as rapists, but rapists with a brutal history of not being held accountable for their actions. I understand that in the UK, the reality is that conviction rates for rape are far lower than other crimes, with only 5.7% of reported rape cases ending in a conviction for the perpetrator (and that’s just civilian cases of rape. Military cases of rape have an even lower rate of conviction and are processed outside the civilian justice system in the UK), however, there is a fine line between highlighting the fact that violent men often have a history of minor crimes leading up to more serious crimes and using rape as a cheap shock-tactic to establish Villain Credentials.

With the exception of Holly Brockbank, the reader isn’t introduced directly to Laing’s ex wife or Brittany Brockbank (women who have been brutally abused by Laing and Brockbank), the reader only knows them through Strike’s flashbacks, and as soon as the ex-mother-in-law is done giving background information, both of these characters disappear from the novel. The pain and suffering these women have been forced to experience is used to cause personal drama and anguish for Strike and I can’t help but find it distasteful. Rape victims and survivors shouldn’t be used as props for the development of other characters.

~Show, Don’t Tell – Part 2: Over the course of the novel, Robert Galbraith continues to use the overused unresolved-sexual-tension between Robyn and Strike as a form of conflict between Robyn and Matthew. I was tired of Matthew’s insecurities by the end of The Silkworm and I got the impression that at the end of The Silkworm, Robyn and Matthew had sat down and had a discussion about Robyn’s career path and Matthew had eventually realised the truth of the situation, that Robyn wasn’t romantically inclined towards Strike, that she enjoyed investigative work and wanted to seriously pursue it for her own merits. It turns out, I was wrong and Matthew continues to be an insecure arse-hat through out Career of Evil as well (which got old very quickly).

It’s eventually revealed that when Robyn and Matthew attended University, Robyn was attacked and raped. Robyn eventually left university and developed agoraphobia, however, while Robyn was processing and recovering from being physically attacked and raped, Matthew had cheated on Robyn for 18 months with his university friend. When Robyn found out about this, she terminated the relationship, Matthew also said some extremely insensitive things towards Robyn, however, by the end of the novel their relationship is on the mend and Robyn and Matthew are going through with the wedding. I feel as though they got married at the end of the novel, not because they had resolved their problems but because The Plot Says So. The reader doesn’t get to view the conversation where Robyn and Matthew make-up and resolve their problems so, in my view, it comes across as forced.

In conclusion, this was a conflicting novel for me. I felt the elements of rape and sexual assault were handled clumsily by the author and the relationship problems between Robyn and Matthew could have been handled better. Although the mystery plot itself was well-thought out, complex and intriguing, I have contemplated not continuing with the series, however, Lethal White (the fourth book in the Cormoran Strike series) will be coming out this year (the official publishing date is currently unknown). I think I’ll wait for Lethal White to come out and see whether or not the series is redeemable. If there’s a continuation of the Matthew/Robyn/Strike relationship drama, I won’t be continuing with the series.

Available For Purchase: Amazon | Book Depository | Kobo Books | Audiable

The Cormoran Strike series:
01. The Cuckoo’s Calling
02. The Silkworm
03. Career of Evil

Image Description: A pink and purple coloured button with the text ‘Read Diverse Books 2017’ in white text with the word ‘Diverse’ written in rainbow coloured text. There is also the white outline of a clip-art picture of a laid open book.
Image Description: A pink and purple coloured button with the text ‘Read Diverse Books 2017’ in white text with the word ‘Diverse’ written in rainbow coloured text. There is also the white outline of a clip-art picture of a laid open book.

Links:
~‘Horrific statistics’: Male rapes common in UK army, MoD data reveals – RT Question More

~More than 200 allegations of rape and other sexual attacks made by military personnel against their colleagues by Wills Robinson

~Military rape: Fighting the invisible war inside the Armed Forces by Radhika Sanghani

~Rape Crisis England & Wales: Headline statistics 2015-16

~Reported rapes in England and Wales double in four years by Vikram Dodd and Helena Bengtsson

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

Image Description: The book cover of The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith. The cover is a picture of a red-brick alley-way with a red-tile flooring, at the end of the alley-way is the black silhouette of a tall man in trench over-coat with his back towards the viewer.
Image Description: The book cover of The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith. The cover is a picture of a red-brick alley-way with a red-tile flooring, at the end of the alley-way is the black silhouette of a tall man in trench over-coat with his back towards the viewer.
Title: The Silkworm (Book 2 in The Cormoran Strike series)
Author: Robert Galbraith
Social Media: Facebook, Twitter and Goodreads
Publisher: Little, Brown Book Group. Imprint: Sphere
Format and Price: Audio-book at $30.73 (for non-members) or $14.95 (for members) – I got it as part of the free 30-day trial via Audible (although I do have the book in Ebook format as well)
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

About The Book:
When novelist Owen Quine goes missing, his wife calls in private detective Cormoran Strike. At first, she just thinks he has gone off by himself for a few days – as he has done before – and she wants Strike to find him and bring him home.
But as Strike investigates, it becomes clear that there is more to Quine’s disappearance than his wife realises. The novelist has just completed a manuscript featuring poisonous pen-portraits of almost everyone he knows. If the novel were published it would ruin lives – so there are a lot of people who might want to silence him.
And when Quine is found brutally murdered in bizarre circumstances, it becomes a race against time to understand the motivation of a ruthless killer, a killer unlike any he has encountered before . . .

General Observations:
~Read Diverse Books 2017: The Cormoran Strike series main character is Cormoran Strike, who was previously a soldier in the armed forces and eventually became an investigative officer within the army. During a tour of Afghanistan, Cormoran Strike was in the back of a jeep when the car he was traveling in hit a land-mine and blew up, the result was that Cormoran Strike lost half a leg and left the army shortly after. Readers might be thinking that a white British man missing half a leg might not count as a representation of Diversity, but I will argue that it’s a good depiction of a physical disability.

The disability is shown as having a realistic impact upon the character Cormoran Strike (how it affects him physically and mentally, such as the PTSD moment while he was being driven in the car) and upon the plot of the novel (Cormoran Strike is forced to acknowledge that because of his leg injury and prosthesis, there are just some tasks he can’t do and has to delegate them to Robin). The Cormoran Strike series acknowledges the difficulties and side-effects of having a physical disability, but it also acknowledges that it’s still possible to lead a relatively happy and successful life and I would consider Cormoran Strike successful.

~Door-stopper Material: The physical paperback is about 400 pages and the audio-book is 17 hrs and 16 mins, reading the Cormoran Strike series is a long-term investment of your time. Am I saying it’s an unworthy investment of your time? No. But the sheer size of the book was one of reasons I delayed reading this book and why I eventually decided to go the route of audio-book instead. The audio-book was enjoyable to listen to and I was able to listen to my book as well as perform other valuable tasks at the same time.

~Make or Break: There is a small flaw with the Cormoran Strike series, the characters withhold evidence or thoughts from the reader in order to build suspense for the main case and, while I know some readers of crime fiction who find this intolerable, I was willing to tolerate it, however, this might not be the case for everyone. The majority of the novel has a slow-build-up type of pace, which means all the pieces of the puzzle are slowly being put together and key information is being with-held for the final confrontation. I feel this results in the ending coming across as a bit rushed in comparison to the rest of the narrative pace.

~The Sliding Scale of Plot VS Character: In basic terms, some writers choose to focus more of the plot elements of a book (events that happen leading the character and the reader towards a narrative destination or journey) and the plot is what drives the book, while some authors choose to focus more on the character elements of the novel (how the character feels or reacts to an event), the character (how they think and feel) is what drives the novel, the event is secondary to the method in which the character acts or reacts to the event.

I would consider In the Woods by Tana French to be at the far end of the Character-Focus scale. How the officers felt, thought, and how they interacted with other characters in the novel was the focus of In the Woods and thus presented as more important than the crime itself. I don’t enjoy that kind of novel, I’m more of a plot-orientated reader and writer.

I feel that the Crime/Mystery/Thriller genre is more suited to plot-oriented focus, however, while Robert Galbraith’s writing style does sit slightly more towards the Character-Focus end of the scale, I feel that Robert Galbraith blends the elements of plot and character together in a better attempt at balance. The Cormoran Strike series does have more characterization than plot, but I feel that there is enough plot to keep the reader engaged and the characterization is interesting enough to persuade the reader to continue.

~Authentic Sources of Conflict: While there are slow moments in the books where the personal elements of the main characters Comoran Strike and Robyn’s lives, such as Cormoran Strike’s ex-girlfriend Charlotte getting married and how he feels about that, Robyn’s fiancé Mathew’s insecurities and dislike that Robyn’s job despite the fact that it is a high priority to her, and the personal conflict between Cormoran Strike and Robyn about where they stand professionally and whether or not Cormoran Strike will give Robyn Surveillance and Tracking training.

I think the Strike/Charlotte relationship was resolved as best the circumstances could allow and Robyn and Mathew (after having several arguments about the subject) were able to to come to an understanding about Robyn’s career choices. These conflicts were perhaps dwelt upon longer than they should have, but they were conflicts that needed to be acknowledged and addressed, I also felt they were resolved to a satisfying conclusion.

~Alternative Character Interpretation: While this could just be my personal interpretation, Leonora Quine (the murder victim’s wife) came across as someone with undiagnosed Autism, she was direct and perhaps a little too honest (or at least Cormoran Strike seemed to think so), her method of grieving (wanting to speak with the private detective she hired and making sure he was okay) is seen as odd to other people.

They were all expecting her to break down sobbing and when she didn’t perform to the police’s standards, she was considered suspicious. Leonora Quine did show outward signs of grief and distress, it was mostly centered around how she and her daughter had been forced out of their usual routine, which is very important to Autistic people. I’m not sure, perhaps it’s just me, I’d be happy to discuss it in the comments section.

In conclusion, an enjoyable suspenseful addition to the Cormoran Strike series with good character development, I’m looking forward to the third installment – Career of Evil (links below).

The Cormoran Strike Series:
01. The Cuckoo’s Calling
02. The Silkworm
03. Career of Evil

Image Description: A pink and purple coloured button with the text ‘Read Diverse Books 2017’ in white text with the word ‘Diverse’ written in rainbow coloured text. There is also the white outline of a clip-art picture of a laid open book.
Image Description: A pink and purple coloured button with the text ‘Read Diverse Books 2017’ in white text with the word ‘Diverse’ written in rainbow coloured text. There is also the white outline of a clip-art picture of a laid open book.

Blood of The Cosmos by Kevin J. Anderson

Blood of The Cosmos
Title: Blood Of The Cosmos (The Saga of Shadows #2)
Author: Kevin J. Anderson
Social Media: Facebook, Goodreads and Twitter
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Ltd
Source: Book supplied by Collins Booksellers – Bacchus Marsh
Rating: DNF – Did Not Finish

About The Book:
An epic space opera of the titanic conflict of several galactic civilizations against a life-destroying force of shadows, a dark cosmic force that has swept through the undercurrents of the human interstellar empire.The intertwined plots, overflowing with colorful ideas, a large cast of characters, and complex storylines, span dozens of solar systems, alien races, and strange creatures.

As the second book of the trilogy opens, the humans and Ildirans, having narrowly escaped annihilation at the hands of the Shana Rei and their robot allies in Book One, are desperate to find a way to combat the black cloud of antimatter of the Shana Rei. The mysterious alien Gardeners, who had helped them previously, turn out to be a disaster in disguise and because of them, the world tree forests are again in danger. The allies believing they have found a way to stop their dreaded enemies, a new weapon is tested, but it’s a horrible failure, throwing the human race and its allies to the brink of extinction.

The Reasons Why I Did Not Finish This Book:
Character-Orientated Novel Every chapter starts off inside a different character’s head, so there’s a lot of head hopping and a long list of characters to keep track of, the problem is that except for maybe one or two characters, most of the characters aren’t compelling enough to carry the chapter alone, it’s difficult to connect everyone together, I kept asking myself “What is the point of this?”. Some characters, such as Elisa Enturi, have changed drastically from what they were like in book one to fit the bare amount of plot available (more on this later) and it just doesn’t work for me.

God Mode Sue With regards to a character such as Zoe Alakis, I believe the writer has written himself into a corner, Zoe Alakis is what happens when you make your character too powerful. Zoe has unlimited money, power and technology at her disposal. This is all done on purpose due to her psychological problems and need for control, it’s understandable why she behaves the way she does (even though I disagree with it completely), but it remains that I don’t think the author has thought her particular situation all the way through.

I think her psychological issues are handled poorly (are there no therapists in space?) but the author seems to not know how basic copyright laws and intellectual property laws work. Zoe is a character who will never change because there is no reason for her to change and I’m not interested in a character that can’t or won’t grow or develop. She’s powerful enough and wealthy enough so that no outside factor/character can make her change, Tom Rom can make suggestions, but she’s the one in charge.

The King and Queen may be able to put pressure on her to release her information on the prince’s condition, but they can’t make her (she’s protected herself well enough to make sure this can’t happen). There are problems with the efforts and lengths Zoe has gone to protect herself, such as why not use her wealth and power to remove greedy and morally questionable people working in the academics sector in the first place?

Then she could use her money and power to put in charge academics of her choosing. It kind of comes across as anti-intellectual to me. There’s a common theme of characters going “The problem has become too big for me to handle, but I’m not going to do anything about it, in fact I’m going run away and dump the responsibility on someone else” and although Zoe isn’t the only character that does this, the way it’s handled, combined with Zoe’s psychological issues, it comes across as problematic to me.

But Not Too Gay: Xander and Terry are a couple, however, their relationship was written in such a vague way, their interactions borderline “just good friends”, it would be easy for some readers to miss it completely (I missed it in book one). While there are no sex scenes or graphic sexual content involved in the book, every other heterosexual couple is described as participating/displaying basic acts of Public Displays of Affection such as kissing and hugging. The problem with this is that Xander and Terry are never even described as holding hands. I find this problematic and unacceptable.

Continuous Recapping and Back-story: In the first book, The Dark Between Stars, the author spent a lot time giving the reader back-story, character internal monologue about historical events and “As You Know” Moments (which I find irritating and insulting as a reader). In the first book it was barely tolerable, it had been a few years between the last book of the earlier series and the first book of the new series, so some paragraphs of “this is what we’ve done since then” and as I hadn’t read the earlier series it was good to get some background information on these characters.

The problem is that this is book two and the author is still doing this, in fact, the author is recapping events not just from the earlier series but from the previous book. I got to the 50% mark (300 pages) and there is barely any plot and very little momentum with regards to said plot (mythical space creatures that have existed since the beginning of time known as the Shanna Rei are planning on wiping out all of existence).

Weak Plot Elements: There’s an action scene where the Shanna Rei show up at a temple, destroy the light temple, kill lots of people and then leave. There’s barely any explanation about why this temple is attacked (it’s vaguely hinted at because it’s a temple that creates light, it’s therefore a danger to creatures of darkness such as the Shanna Rei). Lots of people die, which is supposed to be a tragedy but the reader doesn’t get to know these random civilians before they’re killed, so their death has no real emotional impact, there also no explanation about why this temple is so special (or maybe they did, but it was so boring I forgot what it was) or why they can’t just build another temple just like it. It kind seemed like the author just wanted an excuse for the exiled Designated Rusa’h to come back.

Another example of weak plot elements is in character Elisa Enturi, Elisa was adamant that her son stay with her no matter what, it was her driving force and motivation throughout the entire book, now as soon as her ex-husband is like “Screw You Guys, I’m Getting Out of Here” and is clearly planning on taking their son with him, Elisa is like “whatever, just take him”, it’s like she only cared about her son because it was plot relevant, not because her son was an essential part of her character.

In conclusion, this book has a lot good character developement and there are lots of sub-plots going on, it’s just these sub-plots don’t clearly connect to the main plot and the pacing of the novel just isn’t fast enough for me. This novel takes a long time to get anywhere, I felt like God from Monty Python and The Holy Grail

Image Description: A cartoon picture of god from Monty Python who appears to be emerging from glowing clouds

“GET ON WITH IT!”


This style of writing is just not something I enjoy and I don’t want to waste anymore time struggling with a book I just don’t enjoy.

Image Description: a button image displaying text that reads RMFAO 2017 Genre Challenge

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Book Review: Saga, Volume One by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples

Image Description: book cover of Saga, Volume 1 by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples
Title: Saga, Volume One
Author: Brian K. Vaughan (Writer) and Fiona Staples (Artist)
Publisher: Image Comics
Format and Price: From the Image Comics website, Print Book at US $9.99 (AU $13.22) and Digital Book/PDF at US $7.99 (AU $10.58)
Rating: 4 out of 5

About The Writer:
Brian K. Vaughan is the award-winning writer of comics like Saga, Y: The Last Man and The Private Eye, a digital, pay-what-you-want series available at his site PanelSyndicate.com. His upcoming works for Image Comics include the futuristic military thriller We Stand on Guard with artist Steve Skroce and the young adult mystery Paper Girls with Cliff Chiang. He sometimes dabbles in television, including stints on the hit series Lost and Stephen King’s Under the Dome.

About The Artist:
Fiona Staples is a comic book artist living in Calgary, Canada. She has illustrated comics such as Mystery Society, Done to Death, Secret History of the Authority: Hawksmoor, Jonah Hex, and Northlanders, and contributed covers to DV8, T.H.U.N.D.E.R. Agents, Criminal Macabre, Superman/Batman, Archie, and more. Her work on the 2009 horror series North 40 was nominated for an Eisner Award, and she took home the 2011 Shuster Award for Outstanding Cover Artist. She’s currently working on the ongoing Image series Saga, with writer Brian K. Vaughan.

About The Book:
When two soldiers from opposite sides of a never-ending galactic war fall in love, they risk everything to bring a fragile new life into a dangerous old universe.

From bestselling writer Brian K. Vaughan, Saga is the sweeping tale of one young family fighting to find their place in the worlds. Fantasy and science fiction are wed like never before in this sexy, subversive drama for adults.

What I Enjoyed:
~Stunning Visuals: I love the visual artistry involved with this graphic novel, Fiona Staples is an absolutely amazing artist here. Although, I must also add there is graphic violence involved, this is a graphic novel set during a time of civil war after all, so some violence is to be expected. But there’s also some graphic nudity, sexual content and, quiet frankly, some weird stuff. Let’s just say that there are some characters that make Robot Prince IV (a humanoid alien with a television for a head – and yes there’s an entire race of people just like him) look perfectly normal.

Image Description: a graphic picture of sex-workers who appear to exist as an overly-large head (with hair and facial features just like a regular head) with a pair of legs in fish-net stockings attached to where a neck and torso would normally be.

Exhibit A: torso-less sex workers.


How do they brush their hair? How??

~Intriguing Plot: I don’t want to go into spoiler territory but I feel as though the blurb doesn’t give enough information. The main story (although there are HEAPS of interesting and interconnecting sub-plots) is centred around two Alien races, one from the moon Wreath and Landfall, the planet that Wreath circles around. Centuries ago, civil war broke out between these two parties, but they eventually realised they couldn’t technically destroy each other so they expanded their civil war onto other planets which meant innocent people were caught in the cross-fire and third-parties became invested in the civil war.

Marko, who is one of the main characters and an alien from Wreath (commonly called Horns because they have horns or ‘Moonies’ as a slur) and Alana, who is also one of the main characters (commonly called ‘Wings’ because they have wings), meet when Marko hands himself over as a prisoner of war and the two of them fall in love, run away together and have a child.

The problem is that the respective Governments of Wreath and Landfall don’t approve of this development, so Wreath representatives have sent out Bounty Hunters to kill the parents and capture the child and Landfall representatives have sent out Robot Prince IV to kill the parents and kill the child. That might not sound like an interesting summary, but it is a fascinating and engaging narrative that has interesting themes about the impact of war and does briefly touch on PTSD (this is expanded upon in later volumes for both Alana and Marko), the plot and multiple sub-plots are all intriguing and interconnected so no panel is wasted.

~Excellent Characterisation: Along the way, the reader gets to know Marko, Alana and Hazel (an adult version of Hazel is narrating the story). Then there’s the various secondary characters that gravitate towards Marko and Alana like Isobelle and Marko’s parents. The reader finds out small slivers of their back story which made me eager to find out more. The reader also learns about the antagonists as well, like the Bounty Hunter The Will and Robot Prince IV, all the parties involved are playing a high-stakes game but there is an element of everyone being a pawn in someone else’s game-board.

What I Didn’t Enjoy:
~Faux Action Girl: One of the Bounty Hunters hired by Wreath to kill Marko and Alana and capture Hazel is The Stalk (all the freelance bounty hunters are called “The Noun” for some reason), now The Will says there’s no point in him even going after the couple because, as far as he’s concerned, if The Stalk is pursuing them then Marko and Alana are as good as dead.

Through dialogue exchanged between The Will and The Stalk, the reader learns that The Will and The Stalk were involved in a sexual relationship, however, The Will broke it off when he found out that The Stalk was willing to sleep with other people in order to capture her target.

So, thus far, The Stalk is built up to be this ruthless bounty hunter who is powerful, dangerous and is willing to do whatever it takes to get the assignment done (I have no problems with this). The Stalk is also intelligent to know her strengths and weaknesses, so when she feels that she’s out of her depth, she contacts The Will and asks him for help and when he acts like a jerk, she gives him the proverbial finger and hangs up.

So, naturally, what happens by the end of volume one? The Stalk is accidentally killed (more on this later). To me, The Stalk is a fascinating character, but all of her “Action Girl” credentials are told to the reader and not shown. A character needs to be shown earning the title of “Bad-arse”, I wanted more action scenes with her and I feel, as a reader, The Stalk deserved better.

This is also because the relationship between The Stalk and The Will becomes an important factor to The Will’s character development and actions later on. While I will acknowledge that the relationship between The Will and The Stalk is expanded on in later volumes, however, there are problematic elements to this (I’ll expand on this further).

~Stuffed Into The Fridge: The Stalk isn’t killed off accidentally because it’s an organic element of the plot, I know why she was killed, The Stalk was killed off for multiple reasons. Robot Prince IV needed a ship that would take him to where he wanted to go and The Stalk’s ship was conveniently located nearby with information Robot Prince IV needed to know about Marko and Alana.

The Stalk was also killed off so that her death would act a catalyst for character development in The Will, he was talking to her on the phone as she was accidentally killed, so The Will took it badly (he did love her after all). Because of this action taken by Robot Prince IV, The Will is determined to hunt him down and enact revenge against Robot Prince IV. Thus the character The Stalk is no longer a three-dimensional character with her own narrative, but a convenient plot-device and The Stalk deserved better than to be used as a plot-device for someone else’s character development.

Prince Robot IV could easily have kidnapped The Stalk or forced her into cooperating with her, thus the writer could still have Robot Prince IV being able to access her ship. The writer could also still have the revenge antagonist plot between The Will and Robot Prince IV with The Will pursuing Prince Robot IV to help rescue The Stalk, which could have been turned around into an easy subversion (“I didn’t need to be rescued, he was taking me straight to the target”).

I’m not so much annoyed that an interesting character was killed off, there needs to be genuine risks and stakes for a character in order for the narrative to be engaging, it just seemed like The Stalk’s death was pointless and the plot-goals could still be achieved with her being alive. Perhaps if The Stalk had been killed off in Volume Two or Three I would have been able to accept it easier.

In conclusion, it’s a great comic series with an interesting cast of characters and engaging plot, although there are some problematic elements involved. I have enjoyed reading the Saga series thus far and I’m happy to recommend.

Available for purchase from Book Depository and Image Comics