Dark Eden, by Chris Beckett

Dark Eden, by Chris Beckett; narrated by Matthew Frow, Jayne Entwistle, Ione Butler, Robert Hook, Heather Wilds, Nicholas Guy Smith, Hannah Curtis, Bruce Mann


When a group of four people have to land on an unknown planet to regroup and repair their ship, they decide to split into two groups – a man and woman who do not want to risk the flight back remain on “Eden” alone, and the two others set back off for Earth with promises to send a rescue ship as soon as possible. Generations later, the people of Eden are still waiting. Still hanging out in exactly the same crash-landing spot. Still following the matriarchal rules structured by the mother of all. But their small area is becoming too crowded. They have to forage farther and farther for food. 



John Redlantern is frustrated with “Family.” With their stubbornness at remaining in one spot when they could clearly spread out over the vast planet and have enough food for all. He’s tired of the extreme ritualistic nature of “Family.” The artifacts from planet Earth are passed around to be “ooohed” and “ahhhed” at, but they are meaningless to a people who have never experienced technology. John is tempted to disrupt the circle of the past, and create a new path for the “Family.” In doing so, he breaks down everything “Family” represents.

Let me start with an important point: although John Redlantern and his friends are teenagers, this is not a teen book. It’s “literary science fiction.” The beginning of the book, which builds the world, the people, and the tension, is really long and slow. It was a bit of a slog to get to the turning point. Once that happens they story finally begins to move a little faster – but even the post-turning-point action is slow. 

The reason the narrative is so slow is because this is a story about Meaning with a capital M, and not about plot or action. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a plot. A plot with Meaning. There were several allegories to the story. The obvious one is the Biblical creation story. It’s all about how innocence is lost when people begin to get bored. But boredom is in our nature. Without boredom, we never learn new things. And new experiences don’t just change you, they change the world. 

Dark Eden also explores a destructive nature of men – as opposed to a more structured, peaceful and confining nature of women. (This seems to be what the book implies, it’s not exactly what I think of the gender divide.)

Dark Eden demonstrates the irony that change is needed to survive, but change is destructive to survival. It’s not just a book about changing the world. It’s also about how the world changes the individual. The main characters in the book, especially John Redlantern and his lover Tina Spiketree, develop into strikingly different people as they adapt to the changing world. Innocence is replaced with deviousness. Ivory towers collapse, covering all bystanders with dust and grime. This is a story of identity.

In other ways, Dark Eden is a book about faith. How faith can lift you up and keep you strong during difficult times. But how it can be manipulated against you, as well. And how, as you realize everything you had faith in is mistaken, you are first paralyzed with numbness, but then are able to move on as a new person. 

I want to give a good review for this book with so much Meaning. I mean, it should have been good. It had Meaning. But a great book has both Meaning and an ability to fascinate even if you don’t see the Meaning. Dark Eden did not. In Dark Eden, the story was lost in the darkness because you were blinded by the bright, shiny Meaning. It was too slow, the hero wasn’t even likable if you considered him an anti-hero, and it was thoroughly uncaptivating. I totally understand why it won the Arthur C Clark award and why it comes so highly recommended. Beckett’s world was unique – colorful and dark at the same time. The setting was unsettling and realistic within the boundaries of science fiction. The lingual drift was a nice, realistic touch. But most of all, the book was slow and Meaningful.

3.5 snowflakes for unique world building and Meaning

As an afterthought – I would like to post this Twitter conversation: 

It is authors that are willing to interact with their readers, even when given a mediocre review, that are truly great. I had been on the fence about whether to read the second book in the series or not – because I am a little curious where his Meaning will go – this conversation put me over the edge to want to read it. Because when someone cares about his readers, I want to like his books more. 🙂

Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake

Anna Dressed in Blood, by Kendare Blake; narrated by August Ross
Anna Dressed in Blood, Book 1

Cas Lowood has always worked alone on his quest to dispatch murderous ghosts and discover the demon who killed his father. Imagine his annoyance when he moves to Thunder Bay to kill the intensely horrific ghost Anna Dressed in Blood and he accidentally picks up a couple of teenaged tag-a-longs. When he attempts to dispatch Anna, he discovers that she’s unlike any ghost he’s ever fought before. She’s frightening and mesmerizing in her power. Cas digs deeper into Anna’s story and begins, for once, to see a ghost as an unwilling victim rather than simply a supernatural murderess.


Initially, I picked up this book because of the fantastic cover art (Yup! I’m one of those people). Turns out Anna Dressed in Blood was a really good choice if you’re a fan of teen horror. I hadn’t read a good ghost story in a long time, and this one was quite refreshing. The characters were easy to like, and the mystery kept the book interesting. This book was fun and quick. 

Unfortunately, I listened to the audiobook rather than reading the book. I don’t recommend this course. Ross annoyed me with his too-clear annunciations, his pauses, and his slow reading. It ruined the rhythm of the narrative, and made the dialog fall flat. There were several times I wanted to give up on the book just because the narration was annoying me. But I couldn’t do it because I was enjoying the story too much.

4 snowflakes for fluffy YA fun

This post is for R. I. P. X @TheEstellaSociety and the 2015 Halloween Reading Challenge @ReadingEverySeason. It is also for #Diversiverse, @BookLust, which is all about reading books by people of a variety of ethnic/racial backgrounds, so I will provide tell you a little about the author, Kendare Blake

Kendare Blake


Kendare Blake was born in Seoul, Korea and was adopted by her American parents when she was very young. She writes dark fantasy including, but not limited to: The Girl of Nightmares series and The Goddess War series (beginning with Antigoddess). 

After enjoying The Girl of Nightmares series so much, I’ll probably be picking up Antigoddess sometime soon. 

Anna Dressed In Blood, by Kendare Blake

 Anna Dressed in Blood

Written by Kendare Blake, Narrated by August Ross

Reason for Reading: I wanted to check off category 12 in Reading Outside the Box

Genre: YA Paranormal Romance / Horror

Review
Cas Lowood has always worked alone on his quest to dispatch murderous ghosts and discover the demon who killed his father. But when he moves to Thunder Bay everything changes – first, he has an explainable fascination with Anna, the ghost he’s come to kill; second, he accidentally picks up a team of teenagers who insist on tagging along as he rids the world of Anna’s horror. And Cas isn’t quite sure he wants to kill Anna anymore…

I picked this book up because of the fascinating cover art. (Yup! I’m one of those people.) I’m glad the cover was so awesome, because I enjoyed the book. Yes, it was sort of a copy of the TV show Supernatural, but that’s ok. Every story has its origins in another story, right? This book was fun and quick – I enjoyed the mystery and characters. If you like teen ghost stories, this would be a good book to pick up. But I recommend you pick up the physical book and not the audio book. Ross annoyed me with his too-clear annunciations, his pauses, and his slow reading. It ruined the rhythm of the narrative, and made the dialog fall flat. There were several times I wanted to give up on the book just because the narration was annoying me – and I generally am pretty laid back about audio books.  

Something Rotten, by Alan M. Gratz

 Something Rotten

Written by Alan M. Gratz, narrated by Erik Davies

Reason for Reading: I plan on reading a few Hamlet retellings, and this is the first I picked up. (Now if only I would pick Hamlet up again – what’s with me?! I still have two more acts!)



Review
In this hard-boiled teen retelling of Hamlet, Horatio Wilkes spends a summer in the small-town home of his buddy Hamilton Prince. The Prince family runs a paper plant which is currently undergoing scrutiny for pollution. On top of that controversy, Hamilton’s father has just passed away, and his mother just married her dead husband’s brother. When Hamilton gets a video from his dead father claiming that he’d been poisoned, Horatio promises to root out the murderer. Something is rotten in the town of Denmark, Tennessee. 🙂

This little mystery was funny (though neo-noir isn’t my usual type of humor, I still got a few chuckles). The plot is pretty straight-forward if you already know the story of Hamlet, so I felt very little suspense – on the other hand, it was interesting to see how Gratz played around with the story to make it more appropriate to younger audiences. He managed to stay true to the events in the play, but made it more realistic and less tragic. There are a few Shakespeare quotes thrown in which made me roll my eyes and groan, but in a “good” way. 🙂 I’d say this book is appropriate for 11-15 year olds.

Wanted! by Caroline B. Cooney

Wanted! by Caroline B. Cooney

Reason for Reading: This book was provided by the publisher through Netgalley in exchange for an honest review

Review 
When Ally gets a phone call from her dad asking her to grab a couple of discs and drive (without a license!) in his corvette to “the place where she gets ice cream,” she knows something is wrong. But when someone breaks into the house while she’s in it, Ally makes a run for it – only to find out that her dad has been murdered and she’s the prime suspect. Will she be able to evade the police AND prove her innocence? 

This was a fun, fluffy, and clean teen thriller published back in the late ’90s and recently re-released. I read it practically in one sitting. There are certain aspects of the book that didn’t translate well to the 21st century. For example, this was written in a day when most people didn’t have a cellphone –  is that something today’s teenager can even fathom? 🙂 Ally made some stupid choices in this book (let’s face it, it’s hard to prove you’re innocent when you’re running away!), but in the end she managed to stay true to herself. This book would be appropriate for 11-14 year olds, and could be enjoyed by either boys or girls (i.e. it’s high on suspense and low on romance). In fact, it made me miss the day in which the love triangle wasn’t a required plot device for YA. Oh, those were the days!

Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn

Sharp Objects, by Gillian Flynn

Reason for Reading: Real life bookclub

Review
Camille Preaker is a troubled young woman and a mediocre journalist. When her editor sends her to her home-town in Missouri for investigative reporting on a possible serial killer, she must stay with her emotionally-destructive mother and wild half-sister. As Camille struggles with ghosts from her past, including her own self-destructive behavior and memories of a dead sister, she discovers that the murders are darker and more complex than she’d originally suspected. 

Although this book certainly had a good deal of mystery to it, it wasn’t really for me. Although I generally liked Camille’s character, there were several times when I groaned inwardly at her choices. She was weak and self-destructive. Such characters are really difficult to write well, and Sharp Objects had a bit of a debut-novel feel to it – perhaps Camille’s character should have been created by a more seasoned author. Another issue I had with the book is it was simply too dark for my tastes. There was so much ugliness in the book. Violence, self-loathing, sexual exploitation, and more. On the other hand, I DO understand why some people like this book. The key question to ask is – how much ugliness can you deal with? If you like reading about emotionally troubled characters, then this book would be attractive to you. There was a slight redemptive feel to the story at the end. A ray of hope for Camille. I appreciate that I was given that much. 🙂

The Black Sheep’s Redemption, by Lynette Eason

2012 Book 157: The Black Sheep’s Redemption, by Lynette Eason

Reason for Reading: This is one of November’s picks for the American Christian Fiction Writers Association online book club. Anyone is welcome to join. Discussions start on the 20th, and this book only takes a couple hours to read.


My Review

In this sweet little Christian romantic suspense from the Harlequin, Charles Fitzgerald has been accused of the murder of his nanny, and the only woman who is willing to replace the nanny is Demi Taylor, a young woman who recently suffered a head wound and can’t remember who she is. Fitzgerald’s family, who pretty much runs the town, is suspected of hiding evidence on the case. Will they be able to clear his name to everyone’s satisfaction? And just who IS Demi, and why does she feel someone is stalking her?

This book is the penultimate book in a romantic suspense series about the Fitzgerald family (who apparently has a very suspenseful and romantically inclined few months during the murder investigation). Although I hadn’t read any of the previous books in the series, this book had all of the information needed to understand what was going on. However, there are several loose ends in the book, leaving an opening for us to explore the romantic inclinations of Ryan Fitzgerald AND to discover *dum dum dum* the murderer. (At least I certainly HOPE we discover who the murderer is.) 🙂 I really needed some fluffy reading at the moment that I picked this book up, and this certainly delivered. Light, quick, fun, romantic, and suspenseful. I’m glad I read it, and I’ll probably pick up some of the others in the series.