Reel Awesome!

New or old, I'll let you know if it's worth watching.

I can read!

Real books to ebook to fan fiction, if it's worth reading I'll let you know.

What's worth watching?

Whether it's on your tv or streaming online, I'll share my top picks with you.

That's my jam!

The music that moves me and is worth a listen.

General Geekery

Comic books, action figures, conventions and other geeky fun.

Technical Flails!

Apps, hardware and gadgets galore.

I've Got a Something to Say!

I'm a wordy nerd with a lot to say.

Get the Goods!

I'll give you all the details on various services and various products.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Friendship, Gay Love and Rock-n-Roll!

American Love Songs is one of the best books I have read all year. Not just the best gay romance or best romance novel, but one of the best books, period.

Ashlyn Kane has elevated this story beyond genre and sexual orientation, to a place that few works of fiction ever reach: American Love Songs is a great story about friendship, love, and the precarious nature of success in the music industry. Sure, there is the added wrinkle of how being a young gay man effects all of this, but it’s not treated like a burden, which is so often done in gay romances.

Jake Brenner is gay. His friends, family, and fans of the band all know this for fact. We as readers learn it right off the bat. Jake never bemoans his sexuality. In fact, his causal self acceptance allows the reader to quickly move past that fact to get to know Jake as a person. To know Jake is to love him.

It’s been a long time since I fell this wholly in love with a fictional character, much less a gay one, but it’s hard not to be smitten with someone so funny, creative, and loyal.

Wayward Sons’ Inaugural Post

Wow, okay, this page has eight fans now and only four of them are us, so I guess I should put something up to introduce ourselves or something. Anyway, here’s a picture.

On the left is Jimmy, our drummer. You can just see him under all the hair. Jimmy’s a great guy. Dumber than a sack of hammers, but damn, he can count.

Next up is Chris, the lead singer and rhythm guitarist. Chris can hit the high notes like a Viennese choirboy. Also, don’t let his pretty face fool you. He’s a douchebag.

The slammin’ redhead rocking the pixie cut and licking the guitar is Kylie, lead guitarist. Yes, those are her real boobs. No, you can’t touch them. Sorry, guys. Jimmy will break you, and we’re too poor to get lawyers.

Oh, hey, and the hot guy on his knees is me, Jake. Please, no blowjob jokes. People should never joke about blowjobs. I play bass. Nice to meet you.

Together, we’re the Wayward Sons, an up-and-coming (is that pretentious? To call oneself up-and-coming? Who am I kidding; nobody’s reading this, so who cares?) rock band based in Independence, Kansas.

America Long Songs by Ashlyn Kane page 5

That is Jake. A smartass, shit talker who will have you rolling and snorting through the entire book. His character voice is crystal clear, and unmistakably his own. The same can be said about the rest of the motley crew that makes up the cast of this story. Everyone from minor players like Jake’s loving mother to Jake’s love interest, Parker, come alive on the page.

Speaking of Parker...*swoons* Yeah, Parker McAvoy is the quintessential tortured genius. At the start of the story we are unsure of what tortures him, though it is clear that something not-so-good has happened in his past. What’s most fascinating about Parker, other than his incredible musical talent, is how his quiet, shy personality is the perfect counter to Jake’s loud, outgoing nature. Don’t get me wrong, Parker is no shrinking violet. He holds his own even with the likes of Mr. Brenner.

Jake plonked the bottle down in the middle of the living room table, distracting Parker from his place in Breakfast of Champions. Rubbing his eyes with one hand—he’d been at it for hours—Parker lowered his glasses with the other. His eyebrows lifted as his gaze lighted on the bottle of amber liquid.

“We’re going to play a game,” Jake said firmly, but he made sure to smile just in case Parker thought he was a psychopath.14

“Is it the one you play on your knees in front of a toilet?” Parker asked. “Because I hate that game.”

With a flourish, Jake produced two shot glasses from behind his back.

“Oh,” Parker sighed. “It is that game.” But he folded the corner of his page over and set the book aside, so he obviously didn’t hate it that much.

America Long Songs by Ashlyn Kane page 24

Side note: That “14” in the quote above isn’t a typo. It’s a marker for an annotation (see below). They are scattered through the narrative and are comments from either Jake or Parker. I have never seen anything like this before in fiction, but it is great, and never failed to make me laugh.

14In case you were wondering? It didn’t help.—PM

These two are so perfectly in-tune that you can feel the magnetic pull between them through the pages of the book. They have palpable chemistry and an adorable interplay, not to mention undeniable sexual tension, even when they are just friends. Although, when things become more complicated between them it is some of the hottest erotica I have ever read. However, the romance of this story isn’t just Jake and Parker’s journey, but the slow and steady seduction of the reader by the world that Ashlyn Kane has created.

This isn’t just a love story, it’s a Rock story, and it is jam packed with classic rock-n-roll moments. From Parker getting intense stage fright at their first big show, to the band going through endless interviews to find an acceptable road manager who wouldn’t sleep with Chris, the lead singer, and even the filming of their first music video. All these details help to flesh out the world of American Love Songs and transforms it from genre fiction to a full-developed, and wholly enjoyable fiction novel (that has a gay romance at its center).

I am passionate about this book, not just because love the characters, story, and the eyeball-meltingly hot sex scenes, but because I believe Ashlyn Kane has done something that I knew could be done if someone talented and brave enough would just do it. She has shown us that there is a place for gay fiction to sit side by side with mainstream fiction. That stories featuring homosexual relationships at the forefront can be just as enthralling and fulfilling as their heterosexual counterparts, in this case even more so. This book blows just about every romantic story (heterosexual or homosexual) that I’ve read this year out of the fucking water. No, I am not exaggerating.

American Love Songs is a hilarious, heartwarming, and romantic story of two friends finding love in the chaotic world of rock-n-roll. I hope that we have convinced you to take a chance, skip a trip to Starbucks for one day and buy this book. If you love slash fan fiction, if you love rock-n-roll or even if you just love well written fiction, this is the book for you.

Transgender Girls Need Love Too.

It’s isn’t easy to find erotic transgender romance novels. That is not to say there isn’t a wealth of pornography (both visual and literary) featuring transgender people, but not a lot of it is romantic. Which is very disheartening.

However, while I was searching I discovered this diamond in the rough. Aphrodite Calling isn’t just an erotic romance about a transgender woman finding love. It is also an urban fantasy about a lonely love god finally finding his soulmate in a very special mortal woman.

I must confess, this book charmed me from the first page. It is a fairy tale complete with love/lust at first sight, villainy, and fantastical world-rocking sex. The fact that our heroine is transgender only sweetened the story for me.

Gina won my heart. While she has had a hard road in life, she remains courageous and optimistic. I adore how she handles Himeros’ overwhelming personality. She asks the right questions, wonders if he’s for real, but also is daring enough to take a leap of faith.

Himeros is all Alpha male, and completely unphased by the fact that Gina was once Gerry. He embraces who she is and is absolutely enchanted by this unique woman. It is easy to believe he is a love god with his loud pronouncements of how sexy Gina is and his complete lack of pretense in his desire to be with her.
“Himeros.” She took a deep breath and pressed back as far as she could against the wall. “I’m not, well, I wasn’t…” Just say the damn words. Get it over with. “I wasn’t always like I am now. I used to be—”

“You were born with male genitalia, and you lived as a man for the first twenty-four years of your life. You were Gerry, and now you are Gina. I know, gorgeous woman. I told you, I already know. Open your eyes and see how much I want you right now.”

When they consummate their mutual attraction it is sweet, sensual and even a bit surprising. There is no shying away from the fact that this is Gina’s first time having sex as a woman and Himeros does everything he can to make it the best. At the same time Gina with her strength and courage breaks through Himeros’ defences, touching the man inside the god. That takes the story from a fun lusty must read to a true rated romance.

“Aphrodite? You’ve mentioned her already tonight. She was a goddess, wasn’t she? The goddess of sex?”

“Is,” he corrected gently. “She is the goddess of so many things. Love, beauty, pleasure. She is all things woman. And you have found her. In here.” He touched the valley beneath her left breast, and her eyes filled with sudden moisture.

Not again. She looked upward for a moment in a futile attempt to prevent them spilling out, then gave up and let the tears fall down her cheeks. “Yes, I think I might have. At last.” Two wet splotches rained onto Himeros and she reached out, intending to smear them away, but he caught her hand and raised it to his lips. As she felt the press of his mouth in the center of her palm she smiled. “You’re right. It is time for us to make love.”

Aphrodite Calling is a sweet, sensual, romantic tale of two people finding love and each other. It will steal your heart, make you hot and leaving you smiling once it’s over.

Monday, September 23, 2013

Plagiarism Alert: For the Summer by Shey Stahl

Whole sections of "For the Summer" by Shey Stahl were taken from a popular Twilight fan fiction, Dusty by YellowBella (a pen name used by two collaborating authors Mary Elizabeth & Sarah).

This review, by Ari of Bookzilla, displays a word for word comparison of the passages in the fan fic with the ones in For the Summer.

Below is a screenshot of the book and the fan fic (via evilwylie).

Oh, but it gets better. The summary for the "book" is eerily similar to the summary for an entirely different fan fic titled Pickup Truck by Mary Elizabeth.

Stahl, a "USA Today Bestselling author," is no stranger to Twilight fan fiction. She got her start as a writer in the community posting many popular stories under the pen name Jaydmommy. She went on to pull down those fan fics, reworked and published them as novels. That is until For the Summer, where it appears she may have turned to others' fan fic for the content of her latest novel.

It's important to note that this is not the first time that Stahl/Jaydmommy has been accused of copying scenes and passages from other people's works for her fan fiction. One of her popular fan fics Lapped Traffic (now the published series the Racing on the Edge), was said to contain an entire "shower sex scene" that was lifted from the another popular Twilight fan fic, The Misapprehension of Bella Swan by HunterHunting.

As of right now (9/22/13 @ 10:12 PST) the author is maintaining her innocence, and the book is still available for purchase on Barnes & Noble and Amazon.
All of this leaves me wondering if her other novels have borrowed passages, and did she only take from fan fic or did she "borrow" from published authors too.

Update: The Plot Thickens.

As of this morning (Monday, 9/23/13 @ 10:03am PST), Shey Stahl's entire catalogue of books have been pulled from Amazon (the titles can be viewed, but they are no longer available for purchase). Please note: some of these books were published by Simon & Schuster, which means only the publisher can pull those books, not the author.* 

*Edited: Dearauthor had originally tweeted that she was being published by Simon and Schuster, but after doing some research I could not find any official conformation that she was published by Simon and Schuster.

Shey Stahl posted to her Facebook (approx 7:00am PST), claiming she voluntarily pulled all her books and was looking into what legal action she could take against the author's she plagiarized. oh the irony.

[screen shot via dearauthor]

Shortly after this post Stahl deleted her entire Facebook author page.

Oh, but of course, it gets better.

A person claiming to have been Stahl's former editor, Max, came forward to attest that not only did Stahl plagiarize fan fic for her latest novel (For the Summer), but at least one of her other books has borrowed passages from other popular Twilight fan fics. Max claims to have pointed out the plagiarized passages in the book they worked on, Delayed Penalty, to Stahl who refused to remove them, and Max had to seek legal action to have their name pulled from the books.


Blogger/Author KT Grant made an interesting point in the comments of dearauthor's post about the plagiarism controversy.


While I don't believe every writer who publishes their fan fiction is capable of plagiarism, I do believe the widespread acceptance of the practice, and the sloppy, unregulated way it's rushed to print by publishers creates opportunities and motivation for plagiarism of fan fiction.

Attitudes about fan fiction not being a legitimate form of literature, and people's shaky understanding of copyright law/plagiarism do not help either. When this controversy first broke many people were questioning if that plagiarism of fan fiction was possible given it's derivative nature.

FYI, It is still plagiarism even if you stole it from fan fiction.

Another Update (Monday, 9/23/13 8:00pm PST)

Galleycat did a story on the plagiarism controversy and contacted Stahl who said: “I’m sorry you feel there are similarities but I have not read the fan fiction in question."

Stahl's current editor, Madison Seidler has posted a statement: "Professionally, I have no legal commitment to speak out, nor do I have legal ties to this book. Obviously, I can’t possibly read every single piece of text out in the world, and truthfully, I’ve never read fan fiction."

While Seidler claims she had no knowledge of the plagiarism, Max, Stahl's original editor claims she emailed Seidler about the issue.

Max is also claiming she is now being punished for speaking out about Seidler's prior knowledge of Stahl's plagiarism. Sarah Hansen of OkayCreations, who designed all of Shey Stahl's book covers and has close ties with Seidler, is allegedly refusing to do cover art for any authors who work with Max.

Shey Stahl's official website is "down for maintenance." And her Twitter account has been set to private.

And finally, it looks as thought another of Stahl's books is plagiarized. Everything Changes has "borrowed" passages from yet another Twilight fan fic, The Art Teacher by spanglemaker9The author of the fan fic left a review with screenshots and compared the passages side by side.

Yet Another Update: (Tuesday, 9/24/14 3:22pm PST)

From Shey Stahl's Facebook
Who is Shey Stahl?

A little bit of internet sleuthing bought me to Shey Stahl's other author facebook page that is still viewable (as of 9/24/13 2:00pm PST). Stahl has also neglected to delete her old blog, which displays one of her old email addresses, that incidentally enough is connected to another lesser known fan fiction pen name: pitprincess. Interestingly enough pitprincess is the only favorite author of Stahl's other (more widely known) fan fiction persona jaydmommy.

Her novel Everything Changes, that features plagiarized scenes and dialogue from the fan fic The Art Teacher by spanglemaker9  began life as a fan fic titled MOAB and was posted under the pen name pitprincess. Note the similarities to the summary of the book.

The fan fiction Stahl posted under the pen name jaydmommy also looks to have been cobbled together from the plot, ideas, scenes and dialogue of other Twilight fan fiction. Stahl's Racing Edge series began life as an over 300,000 word long fan fic titled Lapped Traffic. As I noted earlier, Lapped Traffic was at the center of a plagiarism controversy when it was pulled from FFnet to be published. Judging by the layout of the Racing Edge series, Stahl split the length fan fic into several smaller books. Which has made pin pointing which ones contain instances of plagiarism difficult, but not impossible. 

As it turns out sections of Happy Hour, the first book in Racing Edge series has been identified as having sections taken from the once Twilight fan fic and now published novel Gilded Cage. Below is a side by side comparison of Gilded Cage (in white) and Happy Hour (black background).

Another aspect of Stahl's unique style of plagairsim is how she not only borrows text, but also story structure and even plots points of other fan fics.

For the Summer, which has already been exposed for having borrowed heavily from the fan fic Dusty, but has recently found to also borrow its title and story structure from yet another fan fic, For the Summer by Camoozle.

Similarly, Stahl's novel Waiting for You, which began life as the fan fiction Watching Waiting, borrows plot points from the fan fic God Love Her by Lynyrd Lionheart

Whether this technique is truly plagiarism or shady form of borrowing or inspiration I'm not sure. However, it is a strong indication of a pattern of using other writer's work to bolster her own, and then profiting from it by publishing. 

Mini-Update: (Wednesday, 9/25/13 10:15am PST)

The second author facebook has been deleted, along with her author Twitter account. Thought the fan fic account @jaydmommy is still up. 

Stahl also has been removed from the website Trident Media Group site, her agent was MacKenzie Fraser-Bub, but one of my sources was able to obtain a screenshot via the Wayback Machine. 

Update: (Wednesday, 10/2/13)

It looks like Stahl's book Everything Changes has borrowed from yet another Twilight fan fic. The fan fic in question is The Practicum by TheFicChick. The passage used is an explicit sex scene. The top passage is from The Practicum and the bottom Everything Changes.

If you are a Twilight fan fiction author and suspect that Stahl may have plagiarized your work please contact me via Twitter (@einfach_mich or

Update: (Wednesday, 1/20/14)

Just when we thought we had seen the last of Shey Stahl, she returns to share her side of the story and reassure her remaining fans she will write again.

She returns to the internet armed with an eight page letter explaining the what she has done isn't plagiarism, but rather that her works were simply "similar" to other Twilight fan fics.  [The letter was tweeted out by the Dear Author blog. It was posted on her website, that is now up and running again.]

Nothing is 100% original. How could anything we write be 100% original, given that we share similar experiences as human beings and use common language so that we can communicate out emotions and ideas?
Spanglemaker9, the author of the Twilight fan fic The Art Teacher, which Stahl borrowed heavily from, still disputes this claim. She tweeted in response to Stahl's letter sharing a document that compares her fanfic to Stahl's work.

Stahl has began using her facebook account again, and is actively blocking critics and authors, like Spanglemaker9, who have sent her cease and desist letters to prevent Stahl from attempting to profit from their work again. 

In her lengthy letter, Stahl also laments the backlash she's experienced since the accusations of plagiarism began to pop-up.  Stahl mourns the lose of her editor, cover artist and agent over the incident, and even claims she and her family have experienced harassment and bullying by angry readers and members of the Twilight fandom. 

Please note: In the entire time I've been following this controversy I haven't witnessed any of the images of Stahl's family that are mentioned in her letter. There was most definitely disparaging remarks about her and her character on Twitter, Facebook and GoodReads, but nothing about her family. They could have been emailed directly to her, but several exhaustive searches of the internet turned up nothing online.

She also accuses her former editor of lying. Saying that she was only ever cautioned against using character names that are reminiscent of Twilight. Which would make it obvious her books were once Twilight fan fiction.

Stahl also accuses her former editor of giving out her personal information to whomever asked for it. I personally, have a hard time believing this statement since never in any of the private message conversations I had with Max, Stahl's former editor, did I once receive any personal information about Stahl. Max keep to the details of the plagiarized passages, and her request to have her name removed from Stahl's book. All the information that I have on Stahl was obtained from her public facebook account and following the trail of her old fan fiction accounts.

At the end of the letter Stahl reassures us that she has run all her books through a plagiarizer checker, and will continue to do so with her future books. She thanks her fans and to the other authors involved she wishes "all the success they deserve."

On that ominous note, I'm left wondering how will this controversy affect the future prospects of Stahl's work and if readers can ever truly trust that her work is original. Or if they must accept that, as Stahl says, nothing is 100% original.

If Stahl is right, how can we ever hope to draw a line between inspiration and imitation?

Update: (1/21/14)

Spanglemaker9 brought another interesting point to my attention in the comments of my latest Booklikes post. After doing a little research I decided that it deserved to be examined a little closer. So...

Let's talk about timelines.

In Stahl's public letter, on her website, she admits to posting her books as fan fiction form "back in late 2009" and said that none were completed before being pulled.

I can only find evidence of four fan fics posted under Stahl's two different fan fiction accounts. While I can confirm three of them were pulled before completion, Lapped Traffic was completed and outtakes were posted for it before Stahl pulled it down. There are copies of the completed Lapped Traffic with outtakes circulating on the internet.

However, what's really interesting is the date that Stahl claims to have posted her fan fic, "late 2009."

Stahl used two pen names (that we know of) to post fan fiction, Jaydmommy and pitprincess. What's interesting about them is both were created after 2009. Jaydmommy was created in 2010, and was the account under which Stahl posted Lapped Traffic, which went on to become the Racing on the Edge series (the first books that Stahl published). While the pitprincess (created in 2011) was used to post Moab, which was published as Everything Changes. 

Why would Stahl contradict the date stamps on her own accounts?  Simple, because all of the fan fics that she copied from were posted in or after 2010. 

For the Summer by Camoozle posted 4/30/10 [copied for For the Summer]
The Misapprehension of Bella Swan (2/25/10) [Lapped Traffic]
The Art Teacher by spanglemaker9 (11/7/10) [copied for Everything Changes]
A Gilded Cage by MissAlex (10/21/11) [Happy Hour]
Dusty by  Mary Elizabeth & Sarah (12/21/11) [copied for For the Summer]
The Practicum by TheFicChick (1/13/13) [copied for Everything Changes]
Pickup Truck by Mary Elizabeth (5/8/13) [copied for For the Summer]

 This is important, because it looks like Stahl is trying to give the impression that her fan fiction, which was the basis for her books, were posted first. Which would be important to any case, legal or for the sake of public opinion, that she is not only not a plagiarizer, but the victim of this situation. Unfortunately for Stahl, she never bothered to delete either of her fan fiction accounts.

All this maneuvering aside, what really intrigued me was something I found while collecting the posted dates of the fan fiction that Stahl plagiarized and publishing dates of her books.

Stahl actually pulled her fan fiction in 2011. Lapped Traffic (Happy Hour) and Watching Waiting were pulled in February of 2011. While Moab and Air Conditioner From Hell were pulled in December of the same year.

Interestingly enough several of these fan fics that Stahl plagiarized were posted after Stahl pulled her fan fiction from the internet. Which is a strong indication that Stahl was not only plagiarizing while writing fan fiction (like Lapped Traffic), but that she continued to "borrow" from Twilight fan fic while "rewriting" and editing her books (For the Summer and  Everything Changes) for publication. In the case of the fan fic Pickup Truck and For the Summer, Stahl was even copying the summaries for fan fiction to create blurbs for her published books.

When you look at the sheer scope of the copying Stahl's claims that any similarities between her work and the fan fictions listed are coincidentally don't hold water. Rightly so. This kind of plagiarism could never happen by accident.

I've seen a lot of people dismiss plagiarism as "lazy." After investigating the Shey Stahl controversy, I have to disagree. Shey Stahl did a lot of work to camouflage other writers words to pass them off as her own.

Stahl not only had to source her stolen words from multiple sources, but she had to conceal her theft by melding her writing with the work of others. She achieved this through rearranging sentences, changing tenses and even rewording sections. Which explains why her books (as she claims) "pass a plagiarism checker." Those kinds of programs are looking for exact words, and specific sentence similarities. Looking at how Stahl disguised another author's words as her own it's easy to see how she could fool a computer program.

It's no wonder after all this work to rewrite other writers words that Stahl feels she's earned the right to call it her own creation. The question is has she convinced anyone else.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Red Rising is the dystopia sci fi you've been waiting for!

Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Trigger Warning and Some Words on the Dystopia genre.

If you have issues with reading about rape, I would warn you to read with caution, but I would also reassure you that this story does not trivialize it. Instead, it provides a refreshing, badly needed take on the effects and impact of sexual violence. One young readers can easily understand, and will counter a great deal of popular misinformation they see and hear about it.

While we do not see rape first hand in the narrative, it is portrayed in realistic and respectful manner. Red Rising shows how rape and sexual violence is used as tool of oppression, terror and war. Demonstrating the effects not only upon victims, but upon their peers and shows that there is no easy solution or resolution for trauma of this nature. Which, sadly, is rare among books in this genre, and is just one of many ways Red Rising brings a level of authenticity and relevance to the dystopian genre has been lacking since it’s recent resurgence.

I’ve struggled with books in this new young adult take on the dystopia genre, either due to a lack of detailed world building and/or believable political structure. These fundamental aspects of the genre, that define it as a dystopia. When a story is a simplistic fantasy that neither inspires self examination or encourages a greater awareness of the world around us, it is not only a disservice to the reader, but an insult to the genre that rose in popularity after World War II. When we saw first hand just how easily a perfectly planned society could go terribly wrong. 

A dystopian story should not only demonstrate the fundamental flaws of a utopian society, but also show why it is such a seductive lie. They should demonstrate how social control can appear to be a simple solution to the complex issues of human conflict, how people on every level of a society can willingly believe the lie, and how hard it is for them to give it up. Red Rising does this in unparalleled ways, and consequentially leaves a majority of the new era dystopian novels in its dust.

In the future, society is divided into a rigid class system designated by colors. Your color defines your vocation, ability to rise in society and worth as a human being (if you’re even acknowledge as one). The highest class being Gold, the lowest being Red. 

Darrow, the protagonist, is a Red, a miner who lives and works deep in the heart of Mars. He is also a husband at age sixteen. His world is forever changed by the cruel actions of a powerful Gold. Grief-stricken and bent on revenge, he sets out on a journey that will challenge everything he believes about his world. In the end he will become something new and dangerous. 

One of the things I love about Darrow is that despite the fact that his life is hard, and filled with very adult responsibilities, he is still a kid in a lot of very tangible ways. He makes a lot of mistakes, but he also learns from them. His motivations, especially in the beginning of the story, are very simple and emotional, but those change and mature as does he. Despite the fact that he is given a lot of mental and physical enhancements, it is Darrow himself - his love, loyalty, and stubborn refusal to give up no matter the odds - that ends up being his most valuable asset.

He is also not a lone hero, though this is his story. Darrow is surrounded by a fascinating and surprisingly diverse cast of characters (I do mean diverse), all who are whole, complex people in their own right. Each have something of value, or a lesson to teach Darrow along the way. A great deal of his success and failure is dependent on his relationships with others, both adult and fellow adolescents. Friendships and trust are two things that will either make or break him, that is something you rarely see in stories of any genre.

There are many stand outs characters, some who absolutely stole my heart (I’ll revel their names once the book is released), but I think it’s important to note that many are female. In fact, women are present and powerful on all sides of this conflict. They are part of the oppressive Gold elite, soldiers, prostitutes, servants and fellow rebels. But even more important is how Darrow views women. He treats them as equals, and often time as superiors. He listens to them, respects and fears them, all things rarely seen in a male protagonist in any genre. 

One woman plays a fundamental role in Darrow’s journey, his wife Eo. While the blurb for the book makes her fate kind of obvious, how it is treated is surprising and sets an example for treatment of female characters. Eo is strong, much stronger than Darrow, as he says on many occasions and that strength plays a crucial part in the story. Without it, Darrow could never become the man he needs to be, the man Eo wants him to become and that turns what was could have been a sexist cliche on its ear. 

Fans of the genre, and of science fiction and/or YA will not be disappointed. This is a perfect step up for existing fans of genre and a great introduction for new readers. Though I would hesitate to recommend this for middle grade readers, age 12 is the youngest I’d go and even then I would look at whether the reader has really ever seen or deal with the realities of violent content. This is most definitely a young adult book, heavy emphasis on the adult part. It is not for the faint of heart. 

Red Rising is a real, raw exploration of very dark issues. Darrow’s world is filled with violence and death, even before he becomes a rebel. Brown does not shy away from showing the consequences of violence. 

Good people die in horrible ways, needlessly and painfully, much as they do in real wars. Blood is shed and death has a very profound impact, even upon those who do the killing. Death is not beautiful or poetic. It is ugly, horrible, and sometimes necessary. Even in the moments when it is just, it does not feel “right.” Everyone has blood on their hands, even Darrow and in this way Red Rising is one of the most honest portrayals of violence in young adult fiction I have ever read.

Red Rising will challenge readers even as it entertains and inspires them. It will keep you turning the pages long past when you swore you’d stop reading and go to sleep. It will capture your imagination, steal your heart and maybe even teach you something about yourself, and your place in the world. 

I highly recommend this book to fans of science fiction, dystopia, parents and teachers who wish to help young readers better understand sociopolitical issues, as well as world news that might seem far removed from their lives.