Book Review: All You Need is Kill, by Hiroshi Sakurazaka

When the trailer for Tom Cruise’s next movie, Edge of Tomorrow, first started making the rounds on the social networks, I didn’t bother to watch it. It sounded like yet another generic sci-fi movie where Cruise is a superhero like he always is. In fact, I haven’t watched Oblivion for much the same reason, despite actually liking most of Tom Cruise’s movies and science fiction in general.

But then – for whatever reason – I sneaked a peak, and I was hooked.

edgeoftomorrow

Emily Blunt and Tom Cruise star in “Edge of Tomorrow”.

It’s not that the movie seems completely original, or has the potential of being a masterpiece. No, it actually does look kind of like yet another generic sci-fi movie where Cruise is a superhero like he always is. What grabbed my attention were two things: one, the trailer was beautifully made, and two the SF “Groundhog Day” time loop he seems to be trapped in. Looking for more info on the movie I found that it was based on a Japanese military SF novel titled All You Need is Kill, and that was all I needed. To get the book, I mean.

Hiroshi Sakurazaka’s novel has much the same qualities as my favorite SF novel of all time, The Stars my Destination: reads fast, grips you and never lets you go. Neither one of them has the brilliance of Asimov’s Foundation trilogy, for example, but both possess good stories set in worlds turned upside down by uncommon circumstances; while The Stars my Destination changed the landscape of human civilization by the advent of mental teleportation, All You Need is Kill does so by trapping its main character Keiji Kiriya in a time loop where death is but the reset button.

The setting is as follows: an alien civilization far more advanced than us is exhausting their planet resources and needs new worlds to colonize in order to survive. They find Earth suitable for those needs, but first they must terraform it, so they send a big ship full of terraforming machines (called “Mimics” by the humans) to do the job. Neither the aliens nor the machines care much about the life they are about to wipe out, so the humans have no choice but to defend themselves.

As we enter the story the war has raged on for years, and new recruit Keiji Kiriya enters his first battle.

And dies.

He wakes up thinking that that was a weird dream prior to his first real battle, except that everything he experienced in the “dream” is happening again. The one thing that changes this time around is how he gets killed, as a spear that had previously done his friend now came straight at him. By the time he realizes what’s going on, it’s clear that, no matter what he does, the Mimics will find him and kill him.

Enter Rita Vrataski, the hero of the United Defense Force, nicknamed officially “the Valkyrie”, and unofficially the “Full Metal Bitch”. Rita is a one of a kind supersoldier, winning so many accolades now the UDF is making up hero awards just for her, since no one else had ever done the things she has. Turns out Rita was the first to be trapped in a time loop and, just like Keiji after her, has used the battle experience to hone her mental skills into something normally impossible for a human. Obviously, at one point Keiji and Rita will unite forces, but the interesting bit here is that Keiji’s time loop is not the same as Rita’s (she eventually managed to get out of hers), so he has to begin at zero every time they meet to train together.

IMG_0430

The UDF propaganda machine in full force for Rita Vrataski.

Since death isn’t the end in a time loop, the real threat comes from dying once the time loop is broken. I have spoiled enough already so I won’t give away how they have to do it; suffice to say that once they were on their way to break it, I was genuinely concerned for them both. You see, Sakurazaka didn’t focus only on the technical aspects of the war and the time loop; he took his time to expand not only on Keiji but also on Rita, so that by the end we know them and are rooting for them to beat the damn Mimics and come out on top. The ending, while I felt was a bit forced, did its job emotionally, and somewhat reminded me of how I felt about the ending of the SF military classic The Forever War. The ride was great, and the ending stays with you. What else can you ask of a good story?

I wonder how Edge of Tomorrow will fare. I’m not really expecting it to be a great adaptation, but so long as they keep the core elements intact and don’t change the end into a Hollywood cliché I’ll be happy. Tom Cruise is as far removed from Keiji as you can get, but Emily Blunt is sort of how I pictured Rita in the novel (although I have a friend that fits the Rita mold like a glove, and that’s who I was picturing as I read it). If the adaptation is at least as good as Ender’s Game‘s was, I’ll be a satisfied customer.

Here’s me crossing my fingers.

Goodreads Review: Gone with the Wind, by Margaret Mitchell

Gone With The Wind 75th Anniversary EditionGone With The Wind 75th Anniversary Edition by Margaret Mitchell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Literary speaking, this book is as well written as any I have read. Amazing, well developed characters; perfect story pacing and dialogue; a narrative style that keeps your interest throughout the 1000+ pages of novel; enough historical detail to give it authenticity without becoming a scholarly drag; an epic storyline set against one of the most pivotal moments in U.S. history… there are no faults that I can find from a writing perspective. The only fault, one which I’m sure must have been addressed countless times already, is the blatant racism Mitchell displays at several points in the novel. More on that later.

As I went through the novel I kept going back to the movie sequences of what I was reading about. I have to say, for such a long book the movie adaptation was incredibly faithful, and while a lot of people will point out that the movie is about four hours long, the truth is that what was contained in this novel could have easily taken fifteen to twenty hours of screen time. That David O. Selznick and company managed to “trim it down” to four hours and still appease the public with what would become a classic among classics is nothing sort of spectacular. Remember, this book was the greatest bestseller of its time, and the frenzy it created could perhaps be compared in modern times to Harry Potter (different audience, obviously), and so would the demand for as faithful an adaptation as possible. The casting was spot on, and that, too, made it into my imagination as I read. Clark Gable as Rhett Butler and Vivian Leigh as Scarlett O’ Hara got to be some of the best cast roles of all time. They were legendary in the movie, and they were legendary in the novel.

gone-with-the-wind-vivien-leigh

Scarlett O’Hara

The story centers mostly around Scarlett and her growth from a fifteen year old spoiled girl to a twenty eight year old woman. By the end of the story she is by no means a “finished product”; there is still plenty of room for further growth in her character, but she has gone through a lot and she is very different from how she began. The point was never to make her a heroine (if anything, she is sort of an anti-heroine), but to show her relentlessness against all odds, and how that drive will not only allow her to survive the devastating effects of the Civil War, but to prosper – first from the state of economical poverty she was thrown in by the war, and later from the moral poverty she suffered of from the get go. The rest of the cast in the story is there to chip away and mold the character that is Scarlett O’Hara into what she “finally” becomes. They are as much tools in her development as the sequence of events that are set into motion.

Rhett Butler and Melanie Wilkes

Rhett Butler and Melanie Wilkes

Two characters in particular, beside Scarlett, held my sympathy and attention: Rhett Butler and Melanie Wilkes. Rhett is the quintessential dashing rogue, the rebel that will play his own game and get ahead of the rest of his society, a society which adheres to antiquated rules and is eventually forced to change in order to survive. Because of this, Rhett is despised and/or envied by most, except for Melanie Wilkes, whose saintlike (or perhaps, naive) personality only allows her to see the good in people. In the wrong hands this character would have been trite, uninteresting and unrealistic; but Mitchell knew what she was doing, and as with the rest of her cast she built a solid foundation from which Melanie emerged as one of the most sympathetic characters I have ever read. Her last scene – the result of which I knew already from the movie – still managed to move me, and even had me wondering as of what she really knew of the relationship between Scarlett and her husband Ashley Wilkes. Both Rhett and Melanie were perfect complements to Scarlett: Rhett’s personality allowed him to see Scarlett for what she really was and still – and thus, purely – love her just the same, while Melanie’s blinded her to Scarlett’s many faults, allowing her to become the fiercely loyal friend Scarlett needed to endure many of her calamities.

As for the racism, it didn’t bother me for the most part. I simply took it as a Southern story told by a Southerner, to which feeling superior to blacks was as normal as breathing. It gave the story an added authenticity that would be lost nowadays in the politically correct climate we live in. The problem is that at some points Mitchell went on a rampage, blaming the “inferior” blacks as much as the Yankee Republicans (who were the true villains of the story) for all the sufferings of the poor, defeated state of Georgia. While the racism was left to the background as an afterthought it was easy to handle, but when Mitchell pushed it to the forefront for no other reason than to denigrate blacks it became an infuriating experience. Mark Twain was just as authentic with his Adventures of Huckleberry Finn without being offensive; Margaret Mitchell’s true colors shone here, and that was the one thing were the movie can claim to be superior to the novel, since David O. Selznick made a point to cut the offensive parts from his adaptation.

All in all, however, Gone with the Wind is one of the greatest novels I have ever read, and a superior product to its classic adaptation. Then again, this shouldn’t come as a surprise; books usually are superior to their movies.

View all my reviews

Goodreads Review: Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins

Catching Fire (The Hunger Games, #2)Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 5 of 5 stars

By far my favorite book of the series.

The ending of “The Hunger Games” left it clear that surviving the Games wasn’t the end of the road for Katniss, that now the Capitol’s feathers were ruffled and they had a rebellion to quell before it started. “Catching Fire” devotes the first half to Katniss trying (very unsuccessfully, of course) to cool down the rebellious spirits of the districts after Snow threatened her and her family. Since the book is called “Catching Fire” and not “Cooling Down”, you can pretty much know what happens next… except that, before that “next” thing happens – that’s for the final installment, “Mockingjay” – there’s a second Hunger Games Katniss has to attend to, for failing to cool down anything.

Once it got to that part, this book reminded me a lot, in a good way, of “Harry Potter & the Goblet of Fire”. In that book, a tournament of champions was set up, one in which Harry had no business to be in, and one which by the end will trigger the war between the wizards and the Death Eaters. Here it’s basically the same, with a Hunger Games that now feature past champions from every district, and one in which by the end will trigger the war between the districts and the Capitol. The set up of the Games themselves is more interesting than in the first book, and Katniss being forced into alliances with victors from other districts adds another interesting twist (since, of course, by the end there can be only one).

This is probably the easiest book in the trilogy to adapt to a movie, and am looking forward to how they do it.

View all my reviews

Goodreads Review: The Hunger Games, by Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I’ll be honest: I was surprised by how much I liked this book. Not that it’s a masterpiece or anything remotely close to that, but it’s really entertaining (except for the first few chapters, which are a bit of a drag). Once it gets going, it does get going, and this is all thanks to Collins’ excellent narrative. It just FLOWS smoothly.

What puzzles me is how closely the movie (which I saw before reading this) resembled the book, and yet it completely lacked that sense of entertainment. I guess since the subject matter is a bit crude for a Young Adult audience – you know, the whole children killing children thing – they went with a very somber mood, effectively killing whatever sense of entertainment you might get out of this. The truth is, it reads very PG-13, and not the R you would think a story like this would be; Katniss, the heroine, never once succumbs to the depravity of the killing, and neither does Peeta, so despite the carnage you never feel any sort of morbidity. If anything, you probably feel the same kind of detached excitement over the whole thing that the people from The Capitol feel, which is a curious thing, considering how it’s Katniss who’s telling the story, Katniss who is the complete moral opposite of the citizens of The Capitol.

The romantic triangle, while forced, actually fits and adds to the tragedy. I have no problem with this, but with how it eventually became the center of attention. I guess that comes with the YA territory, and would have been worked differently had the story been aimed at a more adult audience.

View all my reviews

Goodreads Review: Farsighted, by Emlyn Chand

Farsighted (Farsighted, #1)Farsighted by Emlyn Chand
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Harry Potter made wizards cool again. Edward Cullen made glowing pussyfied vampires “sexy” somehow. Artemis Fowl might still make child criminal masterminds the #1 fantasied future career in schools. And Alex Kosmitoras could follow in those footsteps and make psychics relevant beyond the late night paid programs.

“Farsighted”, the first novel by Emlyn Chand, follow the adventures of Alex Kosmitoras as he discovers his latent psychic powers, which include the ability to see the future, or string of possible futures. The whole future “seeing” has an irony attached to it, for Alex is blind. The interesting thing here is that he perceives the future the same way he perceives the present; he can’t literally “see” anything, but uses his other senses to make out what’s going on. That’s what sets this book apart from others aimed at the YA audience; Alex is not the most popular kid in school, or even falls in love with the most popular girl in school. He’s more the Peter Parker kind, the outcast, somewhat nerdy kid learning to become Spiderman and take responsibility for his powers. In fact, Spiderman is referenced at one point, when Alex decides once and for all to use his powers for the good of others, most immediately his best friend (and love interest) Simmi, who he thinks to be in grave danger due to some of his visions. Another reference – and a bigger influence on the creation of Alex’s character and his greek heritage – is Homer’s The Odyssey, which features a blind prophet. Alex is a modern version of this prophet, another creative twist in and of itself, for very rarely do the oracles or prophets get to star in their own adventures (with few exceptions, such as the biblical Elijah).

What about the story itself? While it didn’t blow me away, it was a good enough beginning to the series to want to read more. I guess that comes with being an origin story, where character development time is spent in place of “lock and load, let’s blow some shit up” time (or “let’s have some vision” time, I guess). And while Alex, Simmi and Shapri are no Harry, Ron and Hermione, they are a good enough trio in their own right, with plenty of conflict, both from being teenagers adjusting to each other’s personalities to the mild sexual tension between Alex and the two girls. There were a couple character actions that bothered me, such as the weird reconciliation between Alex and Simmi (weird enough that I was sure he was dreaming it until… well, it was obvious he wasn’t dreaming), and those coupled with the “not being blown away by the story” bit prompted me to give it four instead of five stars. Still a very good debut by Ms. Chand.

View all my reviews

Goodreads Review: The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson

The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo (Millennium, #1)The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Note: this review was originally posted in Goodreads on August 25, 2011

Wow.

I start the review with that word not because I was impressed by this novel but because I’m shocked it became such a hit. Really, what does this novel contain that has attracted so many people to it? I’ll try to keep this review spoiler free.

Let me begin right now by admitting that I did enjoy it, at least at some points. As soon as the two main characters got together the whole “mystery” that was the focus of the story for a while switched into another gear and blasted off. But…

…but, well, the manuscript needed some serious editing. The structure of the story is a mess; on one hand you have the Harriet Vanger investigation which masks as the main plot. When that is solved and done you have Blomkvist’s vendetta against Wennerstrom, which should have been a nice epilogue but instead took a life of its own and hijacked the novel. Not that it came out of left field, since Larsson took great pains to set it up at the beginning to then abandon it completely for the duration of the Vanger mystery. My theory is that he had two story ideas and then just decided to merge them into one overcomplicated plot. Had he stuck with one it would have made for a bearable novel; two was just lousy and forced writing (reminds me of Spiderman 3 and the stupid decision to have three underdeveloped and badly written plots involving the three villains).

To make matters worse the way each plot is solved is absurd. Vanger’s seem at first like Blomkvist was pure genius (with the help of Salander, the english title’s proclaimed main character) until you give it a bit more thought and realise just how many convenient incredible coincidences were needed to crack the mystery. In Wennerstrom’s case, the plot required the mastermind of a worldwide network of crime and financial evil (one that spun an incredibly complicated web of companies and subcompanies to cover his tracks) to be so utterly stupid as to have all the necessary evidence against his empire stored in one place – his personal computer. I know I promised no spoilers but that was so ridiculous I had to bring it up. Even stupider is how this empire crumbles without any sort of retaliation whatsoever against Blomkvist, not even a “fuck you”. Yeah, that was another spoiler.

I won’t mention the whole “men hating women” theme that gives this novel its original swedish title, except to agree that it was brought more for shock value than for an actual statement. No, the statement here was political, against all those evil financial reporters that don’t do their jobs and the corporations that oink oink their way into greed to the ruin of many good people’s lives.

What I will mention to conclude this review is that, even though I liked Blomkvist as a character and hero, he was too much the James Bond around women for my taste. None could resist this sexual marvel, not even the cold hearted and rebellious girl with the dragon tattoo. I have the feeling this was really how Larsson himself fantasized of being.

I initially gave The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo three stars out of five, because even at the end I was convinced I must have made some sort of mistake and really liked it a bit more than I felt I did.

But nah, two stars is my judgment.

View all my reviews

Book Review: Scorpio Rising, by Monique Domovitch

I’ll be completely honest here: I had no idea what this book was about when I picked it up for reading and reviewing. Judging by the title I figured it was some sort of spy novel, or any other sort of adventure driven piece.

Nope.

But the comedy of errors actually began when I started reading The Sting of the Scorpio and wondered why the hell the story seemed to begin right in the middle of a scene. It wasn’t until Chapter Three that I re-checked the Scorpio Rising tour e-mail (more details at the end of this review) and realized I was reading the sequel, which does begin right where Scorpio Rising ends.

Oh.

And I only had a day left to read and review an entire novel (I was already grotesquely behind schedule. Sue me.).

So I really didn’t have much time to actually enjoy the story, all the while reading a genre – Romance, as it turned out – that I’m not particularly fond of. Didn’t seem like the ideal set up, yet for all the hurdles, I actually enjoyed reading this book. In fact, what started as a lukewarm reading ended with a desire to pick the sequel immediately (not literally, it’s way past midnight and I’m sleepy).

Oh yeah, the story: Alexander Ivanov is a young Russian immigrant in New York with plenty of ambition and drive. His chosen path to glory is architecture, which is not a bad choice considering where he’s at. This kid reminded me a little bit of Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character in (500) Days of Summer, which is also a romance story with an architect in the lead. Architecture is sexy, I guess. Anyway, we follow his rise (he’s the title Scorpio, as in the astrology sign) at the same time as Brigitte Dartois’ increasing stardom as a painter in Paris in the 1950’s. Doesn’t take much to infer that Alexander is our MAN, and Brigitte is our WOMAN, and destiny has marriage in store for our heroes.

While the premise and plot follow the usual formula, that doesn’t stop it from being a fun read. In fact, there were several soap operish moments that I bookmarked on the Kindle because I enjoyed them so much. You know, the kind where you go “YEAH, TAKE THAT, BITCH!”. My favorite was the following: Brigitte is (innocently) being lead on by a rich guy who pretends to care for her in order to eventually have sex with her. His even richer wife, the one that holds all the cards in fact, is suspicious and the guy tries to be careful since, well, she holds all the cards and without her he’s nothing. But there’s so much horniness he can hold on before bursting, so he tries to seduce Brigitte and fails massively, but not before threatening Brigitte with taking everything away from her: the apartment, the clothes, the money, etc. Brigitte doesn’t take the bullshit and leaves the apartment after the guy storms out, but he doesn’t realize this until a few weeks later, when he returns to find it empty. In one of those “only in the movies” moments, his wife is right there waiting for him.

“I hope the screwing that whore gave you,” she said, sounding victorious, “was worth the screwing I’m about to give you.”

Ooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooooh, hohoho!!!!

That’s not the only “TAKE THAT, BITCH!” moment in the novel, but it was the most satisfying. That line is epic.

The novel has no shortage of the obligatory asshole/bitch characters that make life miserable for our heroes (note on Alex Ivanov: he’s not a sweet angel either, he does start as an asshole himself before getting to be more likable, but that positively added a realistic, well-rounded dimension to the character). My favorite bitch was Anne Turner. Anne is the typical sexy woman who feeds on rich men’s riches in exchange for some fuck time with her. The couple chapters where she is prominently displayed were a joy to read. I mean, the way that bitch laid out her plans to trap the richest guy in the story was worthy of the Mission: Impossible team, or at least Lisbeth Salander in The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. The novel also ends up perfectly with a cliffhanger of hers: Just wait till I find that damned Alex Ivanov. MEAOW!!!

Another aspect I liked about this particular novel was the structure. Instead of having Romeo and Juliet meet early in the story, each has his/her own plot and only near the end do the plots intersect, they finally meet and *swoon* fall in love. Neither has any shortage of soap operish troubles along the way, of course.

In short, considering how Romance is not my thing, reading this was a guilty pleasure. One that I plan to repeat with the sequel. Stay tuned.

But first, a word from our sponsors:

Announcing the Scorpio Rising Social Media Whirlwind Tour!

As part of this special promotional extravaganza sponsored by Novel Publicity, the price of the Scorpio Rising eBook edition has dropped to just 99 cents this week.

What’s more, by purchasing this fantastic book at an incredibly low price, you can enter to win many awesome prizes, including 2 Kindle Fires, Amazon gift cards up to $100 in amount, 5 autographed copies of the book, and 5 autographed copies of its recently released sequel, The Sting of The Scorpio. Be sure to enter before the end of the day on Friday, December 23rd, so you don’t miss out.

To Win the Prizes:

  1. Purchase your copy of Scorpio Rising for just 99 cents on Amazon or Barnes & Noble
  2. Fill-out the form on Novel Publicity to enter for the prizes
  3. Visit today’s featured event; you may win an autographed copy of the book or a $50 gift card!
  4. BONUS:  If you leave a comment on this blog post, you have another chance at $100!

…And I can win too!

Over 100 bloggers are participating in this gigantic event, and there are plenty of prizes for us too. The blogger who receives the most votes in the traffic-breaker poll will win a $100 gift card as well. So when you visit Novel Publicity’s site to fill-out the contest entry form, don’t forget to say that I referred you, so I can get a point in the poll.

The Featured Events include:

Monday, Blogaganza on Novel Publicity! We’re kicking-off on the Novel Publicity Free Advice blog. We’ll ask the writer 5 fun and random questions to get everyone talking. Leave a comment or question in response to the post, and you may win an autographed copy of Scorpio Rising or its sequel, The Sting of The Scorpio. Don’t forget to enter for the other contest prizes while you’re over there!

Tuesday, Twitter sharing contest!A tweet is tiny, only 140 characters. But on Tuesday, it could win you $50. Send the following tweet across the twittersphere, and you just may win a $50 Amazon gift card. Autographed copies of Scorpio Rising and its sequel, The Sting of The Scorpio, are also up for grabs. The winner will be announced Wednesday morning. Here’s the tweet:  Looking for a read that’s full of love, drama, and betrayal? Scorpio Rising has been reduced to 99 cents! http://ow.ly/7zA2s #whirlwind

Wednesday, Google+ sharing contest! Yup, there’s yet another awesome opportunity to win a $50 Amazon gift card, and this time it just takes a single click! Visit Google+ and share Emlyn Chand’s most recent post (you’ll see the Scorpio Rising book cover included with it). On Thursday morning, one lucky sharer will be $50 richer. Autographed copies of Scorpio Rising and its sequel, The Sting of The Scorpio, are also up for grabs. Three chances to win! How about that?

Thursday, Facebook sharing contest! Stop by Novel Publicity’s Facebook page and share their latest post (you’ll see the Scorpio Rising book cover included with it). It’s ridiculously easy to win! On Friday morning, one lucky sharer will be $50 richer. Autographed copies of Scorpio Rising and its sequel, The Sting of The Scorpio, are also up for grabs.

Friday, special contest on the author’s site! Win a Kindle Fire! Two are up for grabs! Visit Monique’s website to leave a comment on any of her posts and sign-up for her author newsletter. One person will win for each method, so be sure to do both.

 

Remember, it’s all about the books!

About Scorpio Rising: Set in New York and Paris amid the glamorous and competitive worlds of art and real estate, Scorpio Rising takes the reader from the late 1940s to the 1960s through the tumultuous lives of its heroes. Alex Ivanov is the son of a Russian immigrant and part-time prostitute. He yearns to escape his sordid life and achieve fame and fortune. His dreams of becoming a world-class builder are met with countless obstacles, yet he perseveres in the hope of someday receiving the recognition he craves. Half a world away, Brigitte Dartois is an abused teenager who runs into the arms of a benefactor with an agenda all his own. When she finds out that her boss has an ulterior motive, she flees again, determined to earn her living through her art. This career brings her fame, but also the unwanted attention of her early abuser.  Monique Domovitch’s debut novel, Scorpio Rising, is a compelling tale filled with finely etched characters and a superb understanding of the power of ambition. Scorpio Rising promises to resonate with all who once had a dream. Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About The Sting of The Scorpio:  In Scorpio Rising, Monique Domovitch presented a compelling tale filled with colorful characters and the manipulation of power, ambition, and greed. Now she gives us its spellbinding sequel, The Sting of the Scorpio, where Alexander Ivanov returns to New York with his new bride, Brigitte. The real estate industry is ripe with opportunity. Blessed with irresistible charm, ambition, and the single-minded obsession to succeed, Alex plots and manipulates his way to almost mystical success. Everything he touches turns to gold, but it’s never enough. When a hostile takeover bid leaves him struggling to save his beloved company, he suspects those closest to him of plotting his downfall. Brigitte, the beautiful redhead who abandoned her country and her career to become his wife, feels alone. In return, Alex has betrayed her time and again, each indiscretion cutting deeper into her soul. Brigitte’s son, David yearns to be an artist, but Alex’s plans leave no room for such frivolous goals. He grooms a reluctant David to become the heir apparent until a devastating tragedy attracts the attention of another young man. The Sting of the Scorpio is a rich tale of a man at the mercy of his own greed and a woman bound by her need for love.  Get it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble.

About the Author:  Monique Domovitch began writing at the age of fifty-five. Two years later, she has two self-published novels—her Scorpio Series—and a three-book deal with Penguin, for books she has written under the name of Carol Ann Martin. Never seen without her laptop, Monique and her husband travel the world and divide the rest of their time between their homes in British Columbia and California. Monique loves to hear from readers! Visit her on her website, Twitter, Facebook, or GoodReads.

Book Review: Homeland (The Dark Elf Trilogy Book 1), by R.A. Salvatore

Several weeks ago, as I browsed for… whatever it was I was browsing at Shelfari, I came upon this blog post about author R.A. Salvatore and how he approached writing fight scenes. This interested me for several reasons, the two primary ones being that I also liked writing fight scenes and that I was starting to develop a fantasy novel at that point, so knowing Salvatore by name (even if I had never read a book of his before) I wanted to see his take on fantasy fighting scenes. I was happy to see we agreed on many points and basically approached fighting scenes in the same way, with the only difference being that he is a bestselling author and I haven’t published a single novel yet (but hey, it’s a start). As I got to the question of “What is your favorite fight scene that you’ve ever written?“, I knew I had to read those fight scenes for myself.

So congratulations, R.A. Salvatore, you have made another sale!

Thing is, I didn’t buy any of the books containing those fight scenes. All of them were showcased in books well into their own series, so buying those specific novels meant I would be lost. What’s the point of reading a fighting scene out of context? That’s like watching Transformers 3, a bunch of amazing CGI effects with no emotional context behind them to make you care, which means that no matter how great they look they’ll still be boring.

So instead I went to a good starting point in the Salvatore universe, and bought the Dark Elf Trilogy.

The Dark Elf trilogy is the origin story of Drizzt Do’Urden. Drizzt is a drow elf, meaning a subspecies of elf that lives in the Underdark. These elves are generally evil, because… well, I guess because having to use night vision 24/7 is incredibly irritating and makes you an ass. Now, I have never liked this type of generalizations regarding species or subspecies. It’s just too easy a copout, like making the entire race of Klingons in Star Trek warriors, or the entire race of Vulcans in Star Trek super smart logical beings, or basically any race ever showcased in Star Trek being all the same (except for humans, of course, because our signature trademark is our amazing diversity! Take that, rest of the Universe, hahahaha!). However, the Forgotten Realms from which these stories spawn are a series of D&D games, so for the sake of simplicity I can forgive the generalizations. Also, in this case the generalization is an important part of the story because it turns out Drizzt is one of those few drows that do not like to be evil, so he rebels against the system. Homeland covers the first thirty years or so of his life, in which he is forced to learn and embrace the ways of the drow, and ultimately abandons his people (no need for a spoiler alert, it’s not as if you couldn’t see that coming).

Even though it wasn’t a page turner and there were no amazing fight scenes (only good ones), I enjoyed it. It’s interesting to read a story about the bad guys for a change, despite the main character being a good guy at heart. It also makes for more tension, because while you know Drizzt is going to live through this book and a myriad of others, you feel for his character and what he has to go through. I mean, 99.99999% of those around him are willing to kill him if they can get away with it, his mother included (yeah, when your mother was the first one to try to kill you, you know things are bad).

Speaking of getting away with killing, that’s basically how drow society is structured. Houses – in other words, big families under one name – wage war against one another, if one perceives weakness in the target; for example, losing the favor of the Spider Queen, the deity the dark elves worship. This is done to gain a better ranking in the city, as the better the ranking, the more respect coming your way. Also, the eight highest ranked Houses comprise the council that makes the big decisions in Menzoberranzan, the drow city. In an interesting case of contradictions, obliterating another House is illegal, but only if you are caught. For that, any surviving member of the defeated House has to file a complaint to the council of eight. If you are not caught, then everyone else just turns a blind eye to the fact a House no longer exists, and secretly applauds the deed. In other words, the attacker must make sure it completely wipes out the other House, or they will be destroyed in turn by the ruling of the council. What is being punished here is not the attack but the failure to do it efficiently. Dark Elf society is structured for evil.

Another interesting aspect is how drow society is very matriarchal, where males are there only for reproduction and cannon fodder for the wars. In fact, they resemble insect societies like bees and ants, except that the drow don’t have an elf queen per se and much less would sacrifice their lives for the good of the many. It’s a nice deviation from the usual male dominated fantasy.

Will I read the next installments in the trilogy? Well, of course; I bought the three-in-one volume, so I kinda have to. But besides that, Homeland made for a good introduction into the character, almost like a teaser story, and you know it can only get better from here.