Breznican turns high school into hell in Brutal Youth

by“It’s not enough to step in front of other people’s bullets; you have to be bulletproof, too. You have to be harder than anything anyone else can throw at you, and sometimes you risk losing yourself just trying to save yourself.”

Brutal Youth is indeed brutal. This isn’t some coming-of-age, feel good story where the good guys win, and you’re left feeling lighthearted and hopeful when you turn the last page. This is, frankly, an all too honest and depressing look at how cruelty ruins lives, and how social isolation and peer persecution can push someone completely over the edge. Somewhat in the vein of 13 Reasons Why and The Truth About Alice, Youth takes us inside the deteriorating walls of St. Michael the Archangel High School where everyone from the priest to the guidance counselor to the upper classmen are bullying and abusing anyone they see as inferior, where the weak are taunted and tortured by the “perceived” strong and where everyone is undermining everyone in an attempt to reach the top, remain at the top, or just become invisible so they’ll be left alone. Lies, deceits, rumors, betrayal. Nothing is off limits when it comes to tearing down someone else.

Within this toxic environment, friendship blooms and dies, love blossoms only to be poisoned, lives are destroyed, and all trust is lost.

Though I constantly asked how such behavior could be allowed to continue, how authorities within a school could not only ignore but encourage such cruelty, and how parents could be so uncaring, it never detracted from the overall story. Anthony Breznican crafted a twisted, terrible environment that plays as much of a part in the story as the characters themselves. He turns high school and home life into a literal living hell that had me guessing who would still be standing when the last brutal act was finished. I definitely encourage you to read this book, but don’t expect sunshine and happy endings. This book is as dark as it is brutal.

June 10, 2014 – Thomas Dunne Books

J.R. Ward’s The King is bloated with POVs and pointless side stories

kingAfter the colossal disappointment of Lover at Last, I severely lowered my expectations for The King and when I say “lowered” I mean I dug a hole roughly the same depth as the Grand Canyon, placed my expectations on the bottom along with a little plaque that read R.I.P. BDB and then I filled that hole with all the lackluster, contradictory, poorly executed tomes that Ward has churned out lately.

And after finishing The King, I can honestly say I should have dug a deeper hole and added any hope that this series would return to the great storytelling and awesome potential it once had. I should have shoveled dirt over my dream that Ward would return to our original Brothers (plus John, Qhuinn, and Blay, of course) instead of adding more unnecessary, unwanted characters. But alas, hopes were unfulfilled and dreams died with every turn of the page. The King is every bit as bloated with POVs and pointless characters as Lover at Last and Lover Reborn were.

Remember the good old days when the books were simple and easy to follow? Remember Dark Lover? It started with a scene with Darius and the rest of it was from the POV of Wrath, Beth, Butch, and whatever lesser idiot was leading the baby powder brigade.  This latest BDB book should have been called The King and a Dozen Others Weighing in with Their Points of View. We hear from Wrath, Beth, Xcor, Layla, Saxton, Trey, Selena, Sola, Assail, Rhevenge, Abalone (why is a character named after a sea snail?), and so many others that I have lost track. Next, I guess we’ll get POVs from the pizza delivery boy. Again, I ask, why do we have to hear about these inferior characters? What is so damned important about Sola and Assail? No, seriously. I am really asking because I have skipped their story lines in the last two books. I do not care about them at all. What purpose do they serve?

And the Shadows? I have nothing against Trey and iAm. I find them interesting, but why are they being shuffled into other characters’ books? Surely there is enough material with the two of them to get their very own book. That would make a lot more sense than having them slapped in between pages about Xcor, Layla, Wrath, Beth, and a dozen others.

Truthfully, though the book is 500+ pages, I probably only read about 250 pages because I have no interest in these side characters. I read a chapter, skipped two, read two chapters, skipped a few. You see the pattern.

And now, THE SPOILERS.

For once, I am holding nothing back, so if you haven’t read The King yet, don’t read any further.

SPOILERS….

This was the wishy-washy-est Brotherhood book yet. Characters who had always been strong and brave and levelheaded behaved as if they’d become bipolar through most of The King. Beth, who I had always liked, made me want to reach through the pages and slap her. The Queen has served as Wrath’s rock, his biggest supporter through the last eleven books, but suddenly, she is sneaking around behind his back, trying to jump start her needing because she wants a young, knowing full well Wrath doesn’t want one. The old Beth would have talked this out with Wrath. Instead, she becomes such a basket case that I started to wonder if she was having a hysterical pregnancy. The old Beth would have considered the burden she was placing on any young she brought into the world, which is the whole point Wrath was making. This Beth has a one track mind and wants a kid no matter what the cost. Let’s recap. Her husband is the blind king of a dying race who was almost assassinated by another vampire. He is completely isolated from his people, the rich bitches of his society are trying to dethrone him, and the next attempt on his life could come at any moment. Any young he has will be born into this same set of circumstances. What wife and mother would want that for her child???? Who would willingly, purposefully, and deceptively bring a child into that environment and saddle that child with that fate? Not the Beth we readers had come to know.

Ward contributes Beth’s behavior to hormones. I say that is a load of BS. Furthermore, Beth’s yearning for a child was apparently cemented when she babysat Nalla for Zsadist and Bella. Okay, fine, but it would have been nice to have witnessed that scene and experienced Beth’s reaction to caring for an infant instead of being told about it after the fact. Perhaps then her instant, intense need to be a mother would have been a little more believable.

And her pregnancy? Wow, that took five seconds and about three pages to occur. Fastest pregnancy ever. Four months along and she and everyone else missed the signs? Funny how everyone could smell/sense Layla’s pregnancy the minute they walked into the room with her, but Wrath can’t tell when his own shellan is knocked up? And don’t blink or you’ll miss the remaining five months of the pregnancy.

Speaking of Wrath, that was quite the 180 he pulled. He has such good reasons for not wanting a young, and then when Beth goes into her needing and he has the option (at least, we readers think he does) to not service her, he does it anyway. I found that hard to swallow. He was so vehemently opposed to becoming a father that I just didn’t buy his instant decision to service her and risk having a young. I think I might have been convinced had Ward actually written the conversation about pregnancy that Wrath supposedly had with Tohr, but she totally copped out and only mentions one line from it. Disappointing. Considering what an ass Tohr was in Lover Reborn, it would have been nice to have a scene with him that showed a good side of him again. And when Beth’s pregnancy is confirmed, Wrath pulls another 180. He goes from not wanting kids with a vengeance to being a daddy-to-be cheerleader with one glimpse of an ultrasound photo. Again, I could have used a little more convincing.

Ditto with his sudden shift from King of Total Indifference to King Who Must Meet Every Commoner. Sure, I see the point of a king connecting with his people, I just didn’t get a strong sense of Wrath coming to that decision. This guy hasn’t given a hoot about anyone but his brothers and the Glymera for the entire series. Now, one email from the Mollusk (i.e. Abalone) and suddenly he’s Mr. Meet and Greet? It’s like Ward got bored with developing the plot and just slapped whatever she felt like into the storyline. Oh wait, that is basically SOP for her. And just in case you are sick of deciphering vague abbreviations, SOP means Standard Operating Procedure. You know what else I am sick of? All her stupid celebrity name dropping. How many times is a pack of vampires really going to bring up Miley Cyrus? We get it, Ward, you’re up to date on your pop culture references. Now, please shut up about Miley and Beiber and start writing a plot that makes some sense.

I felt like this book was all over the place and major plot changes that should have been developed were completely glossed over. Examples: the abolishing of the monarchy. Kind of a huge deal, but it’s explained as an afterthought to Beth; and the election of Wrath as King by the now democratic race of vampires. Um, okay. Like Beth’s pregnancy, that was the fastest election in history. And, if you abolish a monarchy, how the hell do you elect someone as King? President, maybe, but I don’t think King would apply in that situation; and the biggest example of all: the end of the Council and, by extension, the Glymera. Um, taking the power away from his biggest opponents and it’s summed up in a sentence?

Then there’s Xcor’s 180. After his lovesick deal with Layla, he is no longer going after Wrath or the throne, thus making his useless character even more pointless. Seriously, other than a tool who comes between Layla, Qhuinn, and their unborn child, what purpose does he now serve? He’ll probably join the brotherhood eventually, at which point, I will start hurling Ward books at the wall (if I am even reading this series by that point).

Which brings us to the Brothers. Warriors. Or at least they used to be. Remember the good old days, when the Black Dagger Brotherhood actually used their daggers? Seriously, all these threats to the king and they sit around playing pool or hitting the gym. How about hitting an enemy instead? Or here’s a thought? If the Band of Bastards is such a thorn in their sides, why don’t the brothers try putting a dagger in the bastards’ sides? In book 11, V proves Xcor was behind Wrath’s assassination attempt, so why not go after the jerk and kill him? That is what warriors are supposed to do. And didn’t Tohr call dibs on killing Xcor after the assassination attempt? Maybe he should get on that!

But it’s like they’ve all become harmless little puppy dogs. Seriously, there was so much sugar-sweet in this book that I checked my blood sugar levels just in case I was about to slip into a sugar coma. Ugh. I mean, how many times can the brothers tear up when something happens between Beth and Wrath? It’s like Beth so much as sneezes and they all start crying.

Okay, so I usually review with PQP (praise-question-polish), and all I’ve done so far is CQC (criticize-question-criticize some more), so good things about this book? Ward remembered that she has this great character named Zsadist, and she gave him actual speaking lines! Yes, Z actually has a scene in this book and he didn’t even have to get shot or wounded to be a part of the story. Woohoo! Um, other good stuff? Um, um, um….oh yeah, sweet John Matthew has returned. Not the jerk who finally got the girl of his dreams and then went all alpha-male on her and ruined it. No, this John has his shit together, is happily mated, and acts like one hell of a great little brother to Beth. Though they still didn’t resolve those pesky seizures.

And that pretty much does it for the good stuff. There was definitely not enough Qhuinn and Blay in this book. I mean, since half of their book was dedicated to a supporting cast of blah characters, it seems only fair that they should get half of someone else’s book, but life isn’t fair and that did not happen in The King. So, I guess along with all my other dreams about this series, I should bury my desire for more of my favorite BDB couple.

Blah, yeah that word pretty much sums up how I felt about this latest Ward installment. I am over this series. So, into that hole I dug goes my wishes that the series will improve and become what it once was: fresh, clever, and well-written. Goodbye, Brotherhood. You have overstayed your welcome.

Black Dagger Brotherhood: a brotherhood of contradictions

In my heyday of loving The Black Dagger Brotherhood by J.R. Ward, one thing always irked me. Granted, I spent way too much time thinking about the books and the characters, but I could never quite get over all the contradictions from one book to another. At first, I thought, how can this author not know her own series better? But as the contradictions piled up and the books continued to be published, I came to the conclusion that Ward does know the books, she just doesn’t care about the contradictions. She changes her backstory to match whatever she is currently writing with a half-assed (if any) attempt to cover up the changes. It drives me absolutely crazy. We readers aren’t stupid, but she just expects us to swallow the incongruities without question. And I did, again and again because I liked the characters so much that I just had to know what was happening to them, so I persevered….until I couldn’t.

My breaking point came in Lover at Last, which easily has the most glaring contradiction of all the Brotherhood books: the death/non-death of Qhuinn’s brother Luchas in book six, Lover Enshrined. To give the old memory a jog, that is the book where the lesser raids intensify and they start taking the Glymera right out of their homes. At this point, Qhuinn has been kicked out of his home for attacking Lash, and he and John are camped out waiting for lessers when Blay shows up with some bad news:

Blay’s eyes flicked to John before returning to their friend. “Your mother, father, and sister are dead. Your brother is missing.” (Lover Enshrined p. 378)

And in books 7 – 10, Luchas is never mentioned. The Brotherhood isn’t looking for him. His body was never found, so it goes to reason that he is still considered missing. But then along comes book 11, Lover at Last, and this eye-popping gem:

Then again, as far as anyone had known, the male [Luchas] had been killed in the raids along with Qhuinn’s mother, father, and sister…. There had been four bodies at the house – and Luchas had been among them. (Lover at Last 72%)

What the hell, Ward??? No attempt to explain the original “missing” status of Luchas; no explanation of Blay being the one who went into the home of Qhuinn’s family and identified the bodies (which comes up in book 11 but was never mentioned in previous books). Are we supposed to just pretend Luchas wasn’t missing all this time? Are we supposed to ignore this complete change of backstory and go along with whatever whim Ward is following now? It’s ridiculous!

After this unforgiveable contradiction, I decided to unearth my list of inconsistencies and publish it here in honor of The King, which will no doubt have plenty of contradictions as well.

Book 9 Lover Unleashed (Manny/Payne’s book)

Butch’s ability to dematerialize:

“Although vampires could…dematerialize, that was not in Butch’s repertoire.” Lover Unleashed page 109

But in book 6:

“When they both shook their heads, the king dematerialized along with Vishous, Butch, and Zsadist” Lover Enshrined pg. 473

Butch’s Size:

Vishous borrows clothes/turtleneck from Butch, and they are too small. V calls Butch a “midget,” (Lover Unleashed 129) but in Book 4 right after Butch is changed, Phury and Z made a huge deal to V about how huge Butch was.

Z stared at the door. “That cop’s big, V. That cop is really big.” Lover Revealed p. 370

Uh, did he shrink in the last 5 books or something?

Butch’s drink of choice:

On page 154, Jose de la Cruz recalls walking into Butch’s apartment after he disappeared and seeing empty bottles of Lagavulin everywhere, but Butch didn’t start drinking that until he lived with the Brotherhood. And when de la Cruz walks into Butch’s apartment in Book 1, it is beer cans everywhere.

“There were empty beer cans on the table. In the kitchen, there were dishes in the sink. More empties on the counter.” (Dark Lover, page 384)

V’s partial castration:

On page 344, V states that all he’d said to Jane about his damaged body was “My father didn’t want me to reproduce.” However, if you read book 5, V actually tells her more than that.

Book 8 – Lover Mine (John/Xhex’s book)

John (to Xhex) names all those who know he was raped, except he never mentions Wrath who was told about it in book 6 (page 267) in order to save Qhuinn’s ass after he kills Lash.

Book 11 – Lover at Last (Qhuinn/Blay’s book

Ward has always made a big deal out of the fact that the vampires have no body hair (i.e. arms, legs are hairless). Even Butch loses body hair after his transition in book 4, yet in book 11, Blay is apparently the exception to this rule:

The pain that wafted out of Qhuinn’s body was so great, it changed the air temperature around him, lowering things until the hair on Blay’s forearms pricked from the chill. (Lover at Last [sorry, I don’t have a page number for this one, but it comes in Chapter 81, during the bar scene].

Am I being petty with that one? You’re damn right I am. I have an even pettier one too that has to do with the grammatical properness of Blay’s text messages, but I won’t even bother listing that one here. I just want some consistency in the rules that were established for this series, but I guess that is asking way too much!

There are plenty more contradictions where those come from, but frankly, at this point, I just can’t be bothered to look them all up. Perhaps I’ll do a follow up after The King is published and if I bother to read it. I’m sure that will have its share of contradictions as well, and I am sick of them. Does anyone else feel this way or am I just crazy? Feel free to share your thoughts or inconsistencies in the comments, and thanks for reading this ranting post.