D listens to “impulse” (Spoiler Alert: This book has trigger words, proceed with caution!)

impulsebooktitle

Hello readers,

I finished listening to impulse, a teen book, a few weeks ago. I have a short review up on Goodreads.com, but I decided to gather my thoughts before I really committed anything to my blog. Before I go into any details about impulse, I want to first warn my readers and any potential readers of this book that impulse consists of many trigger words for PTSD-type situations. There is rape, drug use, suicide, and other topics covered in this book. While I wouldn’t have an issue recommending this book to teens, this is a read that I wouldn’t suggest for any person that suffers from PTSD or similar psychological issues. There were a few moments in this book that made me cringe and flashback to some pretty crazy moments in my life, so don’t say I didn’t give you a fair warning! I will put my general impressions first, then I will move into spoiler country.

What’s Written on the Inside Flap

Three lives, three different paths to the same destination: Aspen Springs, a psychiatric hospital for those who have attempted the ultimate act — suicide.

Vanessa is beautiful and smart, but her secrets keep her answering the call of the blade.

Tony, after suffering a painful childhood, can only find peace through pills.

And Conner, outwardly, has the perfect life. But dig a little deeper and find a boy who is in constant battle with his parents, his life, himself.

In one instant each of these young people decided enough was enough. They grabbed the blade, the bottle, the gun — and tried to end it all. Now they have a second chance, and just maybe, with each other’s help, they can find their way to a better life — but only if they’re strong and can fight the demons that brought them here in the first place.

impulse is crafted from the points of view of these three young adults. Each of them face their own demons while staying in Aspen Springs. In the book, the prose is written to resemble freestyle poetry. While aesthetically pleasing to the eye, and easy to read, it causes some readers confusion.

Each character is written in mostly the same voice and the author switches between the three characters without giving any obvious indication that she has switched. One moment you are reading Conner’s thoughts and he might seem like he is talking about how his childhood sucked due to drugs — woah, Conner never did drugs! While its obvious in that example that the subject is Tony, in the book the reader may have to go back a few pages to see where the transition happened.

The book can be poetic.

The book can be poetic. Sometimes.

Luckily for me, I listened to the audiobook for most of the story. The audiobook has three different actors voicing each role, and 2/3 of them are very great in their roles. The voice which bothered me the most, due to sounding like her mouth was full of spit, was Vanessa. This is not really a slight against the actor who portrayed Vanessa, but rather a vocal pet peeve of mine. I also thought her impressions of the other characters was way off, but it was hard to tell if she was supposed to be acting as them or simply acting like Vanessa trying to imitate other people. Out of the three, Conner’s actor was by far the best. His portrayal was the most subtle and he even made the female lines he spoke engaging rather than offensive.

The book, overall, was alright. Its nothing to write home to mom about, but it is definitely worth a read. Just don’t pick it up while sad! Its no bueno for a blue day.

Spoilers start here!

As most readers can guess, impulse does have a love triangle of sorts, though the triangle in impulse is very strange and off putting. Tony is gay… or is he? Conner is attracted to Vanessa and vice verse, but Vanessa ends up with Tony instead. This shift occurs almost in mid sentence. I had to listen to a previous track just to catch why Vanessa was suddenly canoodling with Tony instead. What’s worse is that she hooks up with Tony after she and Conner share a lusty moment. I thought that I had missed an entire disc, but no, it was just a very sudden occurrence.

A tiny nitpick of mine in terms of Tony’s character is how he goes from gay > bi > straight. It isn’t necessarily that I am against someone adapting to their sexuality. I have no doubts that some teens think they are gay when they really aren’t. I just contest with the idea that Tony’s gay lifestyle led him to where he ended up today. He mentions in the book that his ‘lifestyle’ choice has hurt him and others in his life. On that same note, Tony did have a gay surrogate dad, but I am still not impressed with how quickly Tony shifted from gay > straight and that the novel offers no real insight on the reasons a gay teen might want to off himself in the modern world.

Another nitpick of mine is that these characters only seem to care about each other and themselves; meanwhile, they are constantly calling the other Aspen Springs patients lame things such as “freaks.” At first, it just seemed as a mechanism for the teens to cope with their situation until they were suddenly attracted to one another. On top of that, Vanessa is very much a Mary Sue of sorts. She’s beautiful, she’s artistic, and she’s got a tragic past! While I could see the ugliness in her soul, it seems somewhat clear to me that I am not supposed to view her in such a negative light. The character is hard to like and the hardened part of me wants to shout “tough shit” at all her excuses for being the way she is outside of the acceptable ones, such as being bipolar.

I’ve actually lived in a hard situation and suffered from crippling depression/suicidal tendencies, so perhaps its simply that I am not actually the target audience for this book. The characters don’t really show signs of strength and instead come off as one-note characters other than Conner. Conner was written in a way where the reader can actually sense things getting worse for him. I think if Conner had been the sole voice of the story… I would have liked it a lot better.

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D reviews Neil Gaiman’s Sandman (1-10)

Hello readers!

I finally did it! I finished the original Neil Gaiman boxset, Sandman. It was an endeavor I started in August of 2012 and I am glad I finished its ‘original’ run. Of course, there are several side comics and two new(ish) volumes that weren’t counted toward in most of the boxsets, but I have finished the major players and I am free. It took me so long since the series aren’t necessarily just about Dream, the Sandman himself, no… its a series of stories about stories that sometimes have stories in them…

Dream is the King of Dreams and stories. His story is made up of other characters who have their own stories to tell… sometimes characters in their stories have stories that they share with the person who is currently telling the story… There is an Inception joke here somewhere…

Some of the stories presented were a lot to take in or had concepts that I couldn’t understand without having to stop to think about it first. Some of the stories were really easy to digest. Most of the stories were very engaging and I found myself wishing to hear more about the characters, but other stories were things I simply skimmed, because the characters weren’t interesting at all.

Its hard to recommend Sandman to any particular group of readers, whether they are Neil Gaiman fans, Graphic Novel fans, or otherwise… Your mileage may vary as to whether you find it to be a high work of art or a pretentious bore. The only advice I can offer anyone when it comes to trying on Sandman is to read it slowly, read it with an open mind, and don’t be afraid to take notes on the different characters you will meet during its course. There were more than a few times I had totally forgotten a character from a previous issue and had to figure out which story they came from.

Another hardship readers might find is the inconsistency of the art and character design since each section of every volume is drawn by different illustrators. You might find some art styles you love and others which you loathe. In terms of art, I think the first volume has possibly the worst art while the nineth volume had really easy to see art… of course, that is all personal preference! The best advice I can give about how to handle the shifting art style is to take it in as being apart of the stories being told. The art usually seems to reflect an element of the story. For character designs, its best to remember what individual characters look like in general, since there were a few characters I couldn’t recognize without a lot of context, such as their names.

These are all the same character, Rose Walker. As you can see... they only "kind of" look alike.

These are all the same character, Rose Walker. As you can see… they only “kind of” look alike.

Sandman is an adventure worth trying despite its varying levels of accessibility. While I may not have liked a couple of the stories and artists, I really enjoyed the series overall and found myself tearing up more than one time. Its definitely a crazy ride!

D listens to His Dark Materials! A series written by Philip Pullman. (Spoiler Alert: Bears are badass!)

Hello readers!

There will be spoilers!

I recently finished listening to all the  Listening Library/Random House Audio audiobooks in His Dark Materials by Philip Pullman. In order the books are: The Golden CompassThe Subtle Knife, and The Amber Spyglass. While do enjoy reading, I found that I really enjoy listening to audiobooks in the car. I make about a 30 minute commute to work, so it helps me stay sane! I also detest the radio, so I don’t feel like I am wandering around stations.

The first thing I want to say about this series, in terms of audiobooks, is that it is read by a FULL CAST. That is something awesome! It means that each character has their own voice. At first I was worried I wouldn’t recall anything about the books specifically, but since the voice acting was superb I can recall even the slightest details about a character’s mannerism or feeling. The narrative itself was read by Philip Pullman, the author. You can tell from the get-go that he is very enthusiastic about the story and he really breathes life into parts of the book that, when I read it, seemed dull.

The stories conveyed in this book are nearly timeless and the protagonists feel like they could be real people. Lyra Belacqua, the main protagonist in The Golden Compass, is a willful child that prefers telling tall tales over the truth. Her companion, a daemon that all humans have in her world, is Pantalaimon; he is quick to warn her about all the negatives of her plans. They make a fantastic duo for the first book, but sadly their relationship seems to be put aside in The Subtle Knife and The Amber Spyglass unless the plot calls for it. Will Perry is the protagonist introduced in the 2nd and 3rd novel. Will is a very strong, young boy who has been forced to go up because of his mother’s possible schizophrenic condition. He can be considered the main protagonist of The Subtle Knife and shares the lead protagonist role with Lyra for most of The Amber Spyglass

The voices for Lyra and Will were very solid. For whatever reasons, Will’s VA was changed for the last book to an older sounding boy. While the guy reading Will’s parts in TAS was very convincing, it was hard imagining him as a 13 year old boy. The rest of the cast, especially Lee Scoresby, were voiced very well. My one issue is that some of the men sounded the same, particularly Father Coram and Sir Charles. They were voiced by two different men, yet I would somehow confuse one for another until the context settled in.

As stated earlier, Lyra is the central figure of the first book, but goes from lead protagonist to being an “object” that Will wants to protect. When I say “object,” I don’t mean that she is being treated like an inanimate object, but rather, she is the object to Will’s subject. While the text/voice is in 3rd person omniscient, the narrator seems to focus on Will’s thoughts and feelings more often than Lyra’s once he is introduced. Lyra, in fact, spends a great deal of time in slumber while Will tries to rescue her in The Amber Spyglass. This is not necessarily a bad thing, but something that bothered me simply because I was under the impression that Lyra would remain as the main protagonist throughout.

As an atheist, I found the anti-religious themes in His Dark Materials a bit too unsettling. While I am not an advocate for or against religion, I thought the story did not represent enough sides to the theme. While there are likable Angels and some lower religious folk, any person actively associated with the church of Lyra’s world was written as a monster. I have no problems with questioning the authority of church hierarchy, but Pullman did a disservice by painting all the members of various church groups as villains. I think he missed an opportunity to explore characters that would love to change the church from the inside and help create the Republic of Heaven as Lord Asriel started.

Despite my complaints, the story was intriguing enough for me to keep listening. The conviction in the voices of the many actors grasped my attention and didn’t let go until the very end. The series is worth a read/listen if only for the unique way Lyra’s destiny plays out towards the end.