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A Review of Public Enemies (Immortal Game #2) by Ann Aguirre

Spoilers for the first book in the series and for this book.  

 

Shockingly, I didn’t cry.  It was a dark, intense book, and, although it was made very obvious that Kian had sacrificed himself to keep Edie safe, I didn’t expect his end to be the way it was.  I’m not going to go into how, exactly, he died. If you read it, you know what I mean, and, if you haven’t read it, I’m not going to spoil it for you. Normally, I’m willing to spoil everything, but, in this case, you just need to read it.  

The middle of this book wasn’t as good as the rest of it.  At some point, it just got kind of slow, maybe? But slow isn’t the right word to describe it exactly.  It wasn’t slow, exactly.  It just lacked some of the things the first book had and some parts of this book had.  Edie knows a lot more about the Immortal Game now, which is good, since that means that the reader knows more about what’s going on.  I always like to know literally everything going on, so I like it, but her not knowing added some suspense to the first book. Part of what I liked so much about the first book is that, although it’s not a suspense novel, it has enough suspense to keep you on the edge of your seat, and, although it’s not a horror novel, it has enough aspects of that to get under your skin (more on that later).  The atmosphere that this creates is amazing, and it so easily pulls you in. This book has some, but not all, of that atmosphere in the first third, and the last hundred pages or so. A good part of what makes me like a book is the atmosphere it has. Obviously there are a lot of other aspects of a book I take into consideration. A book with a great atmosphere can have other things that are terrible, and, in turn, make the rest of the book terrible, but atmosphere matters to me.  (Maybe I like a book’s atmosphere so much because it’s almost like that book’s aesthetic, and, if you’ve seen my instagram, you know how seriously I take my aesthetic. I realize, after writing that, that only a few people who read this blog have seen my instagram. If you’re one of the many people who hasn’t seen it, just know that it’s very serious.) Anyway. Since this is the second book in the series, I had assumed that it would feel the same way. Obviously, it makes sense for the second book in a series to not have the exact same feeling as the first book in a series.  I didn’t expect it to necessarily have the exact same feeling as the first one, but I hoped it would because I liked that feeling, and I at least expected it to have similar suspense. But it didn’t. It could be that I read the first book in this series at the beginning of the year, and I don’t remember the atmosphere as well as I should. It could be that my mind has slightly altered my memories of the first book to make it seem even better, and, in reality, it could be that the first book has the same atmosphere this has, but I don’t think that’s it. All of that said, I don’t think this made a big impact on how much I liked the book, so it’s more of an observation and less of a complaint.  

Something that is still an observation, but slightly closer to a complaint, is that this book lacked the casual creepiness that the first book had.  I think part of what’s left lacking with the creepiness in this book is that all those random, evil, supernatural creatures that Edie would run into have almost all been replaced by The Harbinger.  At first, I had no problems with him. He was creepy, mysterious, and had descriptions that could just as easily work for some terribly beautiful faerie from one of those old fairy tales I used to read late into the night.  He’s so different from the things that had been in the book before, and he was interesting.  Not that he stopped being interesting as the book went on, but I’ll get more into it in a minute, and it will all make sense.  Part of what made the creatures from the first book good was that they were wantonly evil. There was a man with a sack full of heads.  There were horrifying demon children. I am writing this at three minutes ‘til midnight, the weather is seventy eight degrees, and thinking about those monsters sent a chill down my spine and made me check to make sure my blinds were closed and that there was nothing behind me.  Those monsters weren’t in your face creepy: They were just creepy enough get under your skin and show up in your mind again when it’s late. My favorite kind of horror is the kind that just gets under your skin, and so little horror you find these days does that. Far too much of what’s written now is trying to sound like something Stephen King would write, and, from what I’ve seen, a lot of that is more monster-coming-to-get-you horror, and less get-under-your-skin horror.  

Anyway.  A big part of this book seems to be emphasizing the fact that the monsters are monsters because that’s what humans have made them.  These creatures have sprung into being because enough humans believed in them, and that has given them the power to be whatever their myth/legend/etc portrayed them as – like American Gods.  I like this and how it’s done so well.  I like the idea that people spreading urban legends on the internet can create new monsters.  Even if all the old gods and monsters die, humans can always create new ones, so the immortals and what they do is never really over.  I like this a lot. The fact that this is so prominent in this book isn’t my issue. It adds more depth, and it’s done so beautifully, how could anyone complain about it?  My issue with it all comes back to The Harbinger. Like I said before, in the beginning he was magnificent. If I’m remembering correctly, he wore a top hat. Sure, his character didn’t have too much backstory, but neither did the characters of any of the other immortals, so it’s not weird, and it doesn’t leave you wanting more.  He’s beautiful and he’s terrible, and it’s all he needs. And then everything starts with how these monsters are only as bad as people have made them. And then The Harbinger is a monster, yes, but he has something else, too. Underneath everything, there’s something small and sad, and not monstrous. He becomes someone that maybe you could sympathize with.  He offers to let Edie kill him, and she sees something underneath everything where he’s just a sad creature who doesn’t want to do this, and, in that moment, I feel like I’m meant to feel bad for him. But I don’t know if I can. Up until this point, he gave off creepy, predatory vibes, and I can’t forget those so easily. You can explain the way he acts as being a product of how people saw him, but that’s an explanation, not an excuse.  He’s still creepy, and he should still be held accountable for his creepy actions. In addition to that, it’s the brief moments and not the rule where he’s kind or where he’s sad, so, even if, deep inside of him, there’s something that doesn’t want to be this way, he seems fairly content being like this. I may be reading too much into this. If I sound pretentious, feel free to tell me. Maybe there’s something I’m not seeing.

Maybe I’m just in the wrong mood for The Harbinger as a sympathetic character.  Maybe, at some other time, I would have no issue with it. I don’t know. It didn’t make me dislike the book, and I see how it worked with the rest of the book.  There are reasons for him to have his kind moments, and they’re important to the plot, but I don’t know if I can entirely see it with this specific character. I loved how he was at the beginning, and I think I probably will grow to like this other side of him, too, but I don’t know.  With the lack of creepiness, and the lack of atmosphere, I think this small thing I didn’t love was made even more apparent, even though, in other circumstances, it wouldn’t have been something I thought about that much.

I’m interested to see how Edie will be in the last book.  Kian’s death seems to have changed her a little, and I wonder how it will turn out.  

One last thing before I end this review.  Edie travelled back in time to change the events of the past so what happened will never happen.  That would mean that she never ended up going back in time to change things because she wouldn’t have experienced the same things, which means no one would go back in time to change things, which would mean that she would end up going through the same things, which means she would go back in time to change things, which would mean that none of that ever happened, and you see where I’m going.  She’s creating a paradox. She’s a science nerd, how does she not think about how she’s creating a paradox? She watches Doctor Who.  How many times does this sort of thing come up there?  I’m also curious to see how that’s dealt with in the next book because it shouldn’t end well.  

I plan to read the next book in this series soon so I don’t forget anything from this one before I get to it.  I’m giving this book four and a half out of five stars.

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A Review of The Wicked Deep by Shea Ernshaw

Spoilers.  

 

Something about this book feels very familiar, but I can’t put my finger on what exactly it is.  I know I haven’t read this book before because, if I had, I wouldn’t have forgotten it, and I would probably own a copy.  I can’t think of a specific book I read in my preteens that would have been even vaguely similar to this, and yet, from the first chapter, something about it seemed like something I had read before.  The plot, the events, and the characters were all unique, and not something that I think was copied from something else, but there’s something about it that still feels like something I read years ago.  Other than the fact that it takes place near water, and has a little romance, it also has something I can’t put my finger on that makes it feel almost familiar. Perhaps it’s the fact that it’s a little more like magical realism than what I normally read?  I started reading darker fantasy and sci-fi in my early teens, and pretty much completely stopped reading magical realism, so maybe the genre in and of itself gives some feeling of nostalgia? This book, while not being inherently cheery, isn’t as dark as a lot of the things I tend to read, which my brain could be interpreting as more like the things I used to read, so it could partially be that?  The cakes that were made to make people forget things sounds a lot like something that would come up in something I would read when I was younger. Exactly what it is that makes this feel familiar, I don’t know. Maybe it’s even just the way it was written. Either way, I really like it.

Although I have one issue with the book (which has a little to do with the ending), I did enjoy how it ended.  It’s similar to the sad romances I love, it wrapped everything up well, and there was really no other way it could have ended that would have worked.  

A lot of the aspects of this book were done well, but weren’t so remarkable that I could write paragraphs on them.  My lack of points to mention in this review isn’t a sign of it being a bad book: If anything, it’s the opposite. I only have one complaint.  It’s just that there isn’t anything that was done so incredibly well that I feel the need to mention it.

My one complaint is the foreshadowing.  The obvious way to go with the plot is to have the main character, Penny, be possessed by one of the Swan Sisters, and the foreshadowing makes it very obvious that this is the path the author took before it’s even been revealed.  With the heavy amount of foreshadowing, about halfway through the book, I started wondering if, maybe, the author was doing all of this stuff that seems like foreshadowing only to reveal completely normal reasons for everything? There’s a part where Penny doesn’t look at her reflection in the mirror, which is, in reality, because the spirit can see herself in Penny’s body.  The author could have written it that Penny purposefully doesn’t look into the mirror right after she wakes up because she thinks she looks like a mess the first thing in the morning. Maybe she’s just insecure. The bit about how she couldn’t remember exactly who gave her something in her room was part of what made the possession very obvious from the beginning, and I can’t think of any way that can be easily explained away, but it could either be cut out or slightly changed, and it would be fine.  Until it was specifically said that Penny was possessed, I was actually hoping that this would be the case. The author would give just enough information so it would seem like the book could be indicating that Penny was possessed, but, in the end, most of what seemed like foreshadowing would have been the readers reading too much into those small details.  I was really hoping that the book would seem like it was taking the obvious path, and then put in enough details that could be nothing, but still make you wonder, only to go in an entirely different direction.  I know that, with the ending the way it was, this is the only way it could have been, but, the way the foreshadowing was done, it was painfully obvious. Maybe, instead of point blank saying that Penny was possessed, go from the personal narrative from Penny’s perspective to having a separate narrator while she’s possessed, and then switch back to the personal narrative when she’s no longer possessed.  That would make it fairly obvious (which the overly detailed foreshadowing is doing already), and I think it would probably add some tension with the romantic part of the plotline. Who knows what her intentions are with falling in love with Bo – she is possessed by a Swan Sister, after all. Maybe she’s just getting him to fall in love with her so she can drown him. Maybe make the plot twist be entirely how Penny’s father died, instead of being that AND that Penny was possessed.  I think it would have been more successful and interesting that way. I’m sure that, going back and rereading it after knowing that she’s possessed the whole time, there would be little things you would see that would make a lot more sense, so why not have that from the beginning?

Despite my one complaint, I really liked this book and I would recommend it to anyone who liked The Hazel Wood.  Five out of five stars.  

A Review of Ali’s Pretty Little Lies (Pretty Little Liars prequel) by Sara Shepard

Spoilers.

 

I’ve finally completely finished the series!  I started reading it about a year ago, and now I’m finally done!  

I want an entire playlist of Jason DiLaurentis’s playlists.  It says that he listens to “miserable rock music”, which could describe both the music that I listen to and the music that I write, but it only mentions one specific artist he listens to.  In addition to that, everyone already knows that he listens to Elliott Smith because it’s been mentioned in other books. I want to know what other music he listens to so that I can listen to it too.  There can never be enough “miserable rock music” in your life. Also, Wikipedia says that Elliott Smith’s music is folk, not rock, so why is it “miserable rock music” (which is a direct quote) when it’s not even rock?  (I’ve heard a couple of his songs and, although they’re sad, and I would listen to some of them again, they’re definitely not rock.) When I think of bands that make music that could be considered “miserable rock music”, I think of Radiohead, Alice in Chains, Soundgarden, and all the other moody nineties bands I love so much.  At the very least, listening to “miserable rock music” involves playing Automatic for the People on repeat for a minimum of four hours.  

I know that the exact bands that Jason listens to aren’t that important, and this is just something that matters to me, but still.  There’s so little character development for Jason through the entire series, and this was an opportunity to actually do something with his character, but the entire thing was dropped.  At the very least, give a few more bands he listens to. Is he a Joy Division sad person or a Mazzy Star sad person? Does he listen to Interpol to deal with a broken heart? (I do.) Of course, a list of his favorite songs or musicians isn’t the best character development, and it’s not as good as actually developing the character, but it’s something, and when there’s no character development to begin with, anything works.  

My hope for this book was that it would give character development to all of the people in Alison’s family, not just Courtney, and, to a certain extent, Alison.  Yes, they were the two main characters from that family, but that doesn’t matter. Everyone else in that family has a complex and detailed backstory that we know very little about, and it would really add depth to the story if they had been a little more detailed.  This book is two hundred ninety pages long. There could have been a few chapters about characters other than Courtney without making the book excessively long. I think that would have fit well with the story, too. In all of the other books, it went back and forth, each chapter being about a different main character.  It’s weird to go from that to a book with chapters only about one person (with, like, one chapter about Ali, but that’s it). One chapter from Jason, one chapter from Alison’s mother, and one from her father is all it would need. What are their thoughts on everything that’s happening? If there had been maybe fifty more pages, those three characters could have felt so much more real and I think it would have been so much better.  

As a whole, I feel like this entire book kind of fell flat when it came to giving the backstory behind everything.  I want detailed backstory on every aspect of every character, and this just rehashed events that had already happened with a little more detail.  Like, here’s that scene where Emily kissed Courtney in the tree house, just with a little more detail than there was in the first book it was mentioned in.  Here’s the scene where Aria finds out that her father is cheating on her mother, but ooh look, now you see that Ali purposefully made sure that Aria was in the right place at the right time to see that.  

While we’re on that subject, Courtney was terrible.  I don’t know if this was supposed to make you feel some sort of sympathy towards her, but, if anything, it made me feel the opposite.  Instead of her being a good person who ended up in a bad situation, she would figure out her friend’s secrets and then repeatedly threaten to tell them for the entire book.  She’s manipulative, rude, and sometimes she’s downright cruel to her friends. For the sixteen books I read before this, they talked about how much they loved her, and how much she meant to them, but she was constantly horrible.  The rest of the books never made her out to be the most perfect, kind person in the world, but they never made her seem quite as bad as she actually was. Friends don’t manipulate each other and threaten to tell each other’s secrets just to get what they want.  

I kind of wish that the names had been done differently in the book.  After Courtney convinced everyone she was Alison, the book started referring to her as Alison.  In addition to that, when referring to the real Alison, sometimes there would be quotations around the name Courtney, and sometimes there wouldn’t be.  I think it would have been better if there were always the quotation marks.  As soon as Courtney starts pretending to be Alison, she becomes “Alison”, quotation marks and all.  The fact that there are quotation marks sometimes, but not others, makes it weird. Maybe I’m missing some bigger statement that’s being said with the seemingly haphazard placement of quotation marks, but I don’t think that’s the case.  

In the end, this book didn’t tell me much that I didn’t already know, and I’m left wanting more.  Two out of three stars.

A Review of Sleeping Giants (Themis Files #1) by Sylvain Neuvel

Normally I don’t recommend modern sci-fi (If you’ve read my blog for any amount of time, you know my reasoning behind this and that I’m pretentious about sci-fi to begin with.), but this is one of the few exceptions.  When I read modern sci-fi, I go into it already expecting it to not be as good as the sci-fi I’m used to. Old sci-fi ruins anything published in the last twenty years (or maybe even longer than that. If I think about when it was twenty years ago, and how it’s not actually that long ago I get existential.  Anyway.), and I’ve read far too much amazing old sci-fi to be able to settle for something that isn’t amazing. For reasons I can’t explain, I was under the impression that this was more of a fantasy novel. I have no idea where that came from because the description that’s actually on the book sounds exactly like sci-fi.  I think it’s because the only things I knew about this book before buying it were things I had heard from a few people, and their summaries of the book’s description seemed to focus more on ooh, mysterious hand than it did aliens or robots.  Even though it’s weird that I went into it thinking it was an entirely different genre than it actually is, I think that’s probably a good thing.  I couldn’t go into it thinking Well, it’s not Bradbury, because I didn’t even know to compare it to Bradbury.  By the time I realized it was sci-fi, I was already so captivated by it that I didn’t care that it wasn’t Bradbury.  

One of the things this author does incredibly well is incorporating elements of old sci-fi without directly trying to be old sci-fi.  This novel seems to be a lot more plot driven than character driven.  That’s not to say that the characters are done poorly, or that there isn’t enough character development, it’s just what it seems like to me.  That said, the character development is done perfectly. There isn’t nearly as much backstory as I usually like to have in what I read, but there’s just enough that you can fill in everything else you need to know about the characters.  Paragraphs of exposition wouldn’t fit with the format of the novel, and I think it would make the story feel weird. The entire book is told in a series of interviews and journal entries, so it would be weird to stop in the middle of a journal entry or interview to give substantial bits of someone’s life story.  There are little bits and pieces of information about the characters, but it’s mostly personality instead of backstory. The way it’s done is kind of reminiscent of how it’s done in the old sci-fi I love, so, obviously, I love this. I don’t know if it was the author’s goal to do the character development in this way, but, regardless of whether or not he was trying to channel the feel of old sci-fi, I think it was amazing.  

I love the moral grayness of the characters.  They do some good things, yet they do some bad things, and it’s not clear if one set of actions outweighs the other.  Most, if not all, of the characters seem cynical, and their cynicism, mixed with the fact that they’re morally gray, makes them seem very human.  I dislike the books where the main character has a few bad traits which aren’t that seriously bad, and is, for the most part, completely perfect. I want realistic characters, even if they aren’t quite as likeable.  This gives you realistic characters who are interesting and well developed. I don’t have the words to express how much I loved this.

One of my favorite parts of old sci-fi is how much it makes you think.  If it doesn’t make you think, there’s no point in it. That’s what sci-fi is for.  If it doesn’t make you think about the world, or make you want to change the way you’re living, the author has done it wrong.  While this book doesn’t make me actively want to change my life, it does make me think. The discussions of how many lives are reasonable to lose for progress make you stop and really think about it.  Is it to be expected that innocent people will die in the name of science? Is the world supposed to be okay with that? If the world is okay with that, where do they draw the line? How many lives are too many lives?  Who has the right to decide that? Does anyone? I’m pretty sure I’ve said this exact thing in these exact words, but I’m going to say it again. The best sci-fi makes you think. The best sci-fi leaves you wondering about things you never would have wondered about before.  This book does that. I know that I’ll come back to the things discussed in this book, and I know I’ll think about them even after the entire series is over.

Another thing I loved is that the interviewer seemed almost cold and indifferent through the entire book.  He was the one arguing that three hundred eleven lives are not unreasonable to sacrifice in the name of science.  When everyone else was freaking out and emotional, this person remained calm and collected, which I think added to the atmosphere that made it feel more like old sci-fi.  

In addition to all of that, I loved that, for the second half of the book, the president was a woman.  Honestly, I’d be chill with living in a world that had giant alien robots if it meant we had a woman as president.  Also, as a sort of side note, why is it that society is unwilling to take the good elements of sci-fi (like this), and, instead, take the creepy elements of sci-fi that make me uncomfortable?  I don’t want self driving cars and smart houses, I want a president who’s a woman. I don’t think that’s too much to ask.

Anyway.  

This book is one of my favorite, if not my absolute favorite, modern sci-fi novels.  It’s definitely one of my favorite books that I read this year. Five out of five stars.  

A Review of Vicious (Pretty Little Liars #16) by Sara Shepard

Spoilers.  

 

I had to know how it ended.  Don’t judge me.

It’s nice to finally be done with this series.  I know I still have the prequel to read, but ignore that.  The prequel is probably around three hundred pages long. I can read that in an afternoon.  I’m basically done.

Overall, I think that things were wrapped up pretty well.  I can’t think of any loose ends, and, in my opinion, everything was wrapped up satisfactorily.  It’s entirely possible that I’m forgetting random plot points from earlier books, and that they haven’t been wrapped up, but, at the very least, the major things have been wrapped up.  I would have preferred if there had been more of a sense of closure to the end of the series. Ali is seemingly planning her escape from prison, so it seems like the series could be continued if the author wished to do so.  It seems like the author has other projects now, and it’s been four years since this book came out, so I feel like that probably won’t be the case. Earlier books in this series had endings that felt similar and kept going, so we’ll see.  After it was revealed that Mona was “A” in an earlier book, it seemed like everything was wrapped up, only to keep going. Then in another book, Alison set fire to her family’s vacation house with all of the main characters stuck inside it, it seems like she didn’t make it, and everything seems like it’s been adequately wrapped up, but oh look, she’s not dead.  The ending in this final book has the same feel as those, so it doesn’t offer the closure I would have liked to have.  To be fair, I don’t know what other way it could have been ended, and I think that this is probably the best that could have been done to finish the series, but I still feel like it’s lacking closure.  Probably, the only way it could have complete closure would be if Alison had died, which I don’t think would have gone with the plot that well. Plenty of characters have died, but most of the ones who had been there from the beginning are still there, so I almost think it would be weird to kill Alison.  I don’t think there’s any way this series could be wrapped up in a way I’m totally happy with, so I’m not even entirely upset about it. This is just how it is, and, even though I wish there had been something more to the end, I honestly have no idea what more you could add.  

For the entire series, anytime the main characters smelled vanilla they would assume that Alison had been there which is incredibly faulty logic.  Vanilla is not a distinct enough scent to be specific to one person. I wear vanilla perfume, so my bedroom, the denim jackets I wear all the time, my pets, and pretty much everything else I frequently come in contact with smells like vanilla.  Maybe I could be “A”. That’s the letter my name starts with, so maybe this is a sign of what I could become? Or maybe it’s a sign that vanilla is a very common scent of soap and perfume, and not indicative of one specific person. If Alison had had a very distinct perfume (maybe even one she made herself so it was the perfect blend of weird scents or something), that would be more believable.  That’s the only way I can see that making sense. But, any other way, it’s just faulty logic.

There’s a very small part of the book that talks about the crush Emily had on Alison when they were ten.  The crush, in and of itself, obviously isn’t weird, but the way the author talks about how a ten year old thinks about another ten year old is creepy.  The book says that Emily wanted to touch Alison, and smell her clothes. This is the exact quote: “She didn’t just want to be Alison DiLaurentis, the girl everyone adored.  She wanted to be with her.  Touch her.  Braid her hair.  Smell her clothes when she stepped out of them at bedtime.  Drink her up.” That’s not how ten year olds think. Ten year olds don’t want to romantically touch each other, or smell each others clothes.  That’s not even vaguely close to what ten year olds think or feel.  This next statement is in no way trying to attack the author, but I think it’s creepy to write about children in this way.  I don’t care what the circumstances are. I don’t care what context there is. It’s creepy. It will always be creepy. There are no exceptions.  There is literally no way anyone could make those lines seem normal to me. It seems like it’s almost sexualizing children in a weird, disturbing way, and I really don’t like it.  This isn’t how children think. This isn’t how children act. It’s just uncomfortable.

Even though I haven’t read the prequel yet, I feel comfortable giving my final opinions on the series now.  If, after reading the prequel, any of my opinions have changed, I’ll update them in that review. However, I don’t think that will be the case.  

I didn’t love this series, and I don’t think I would recommend it to someone, but I wouldn’t discourage someone from reading it.  These books are entertaining. Entertaining in the same way that a Lifetime movie or TLC is. There are much better things you could be doing with your time, but, if you want something entertaining that you don’t have to think about, this is good for that.  

Over the series, character development seemed haphazard; either happening too quickly or not happening at all.  The characters seemed slightly different by the end of the series, but not as much as you would expect from what they’ve been through.  

The plot kept getting sidetracked with romance, and the romantic interests weren’t great to begin with (maybe with the exception of Maya, because she seemed to be fine).  The relationships were either constantly on again off again (which, if you’re doing that for four years, seems like it’s not going to work out in the long run), or full of power imbalances.  Even though Ezra was sort of addressed as being horrible, it wasn’t done as well as it could, and I’m still not happy with it.

In the end, I got entertainment out of these books, and I don’t feel like my time could have been better spent reading other things.  They weren’t as bad as I expected them to be.

I’m giving this book two and a half out of five stars.  I wanted to come up with a rating for the entire series, but it has its ups and downs, and I don’t think it’s possible to rate it as a whole.  That doesn’t mean that it’s bad, it just means that I got really irritated with some of the books in the middle, and I don’t think they deserve anything close to the rating I would give some of the later books.  

A Review of Toxic (Pretty Little Liars #15) by Sara Shepard

Spoilers.  

 

When I was fairly young, I read Inkheart by Cornelia Funke.  Although, for one reason or another, I never got more than halfway through the second book in the series, I read Inkheart many times.  In Inkheart, one of the characters talks about the importance of endpapers in books.  It’s been years since I’ve read it, so I might be wrong, but I think they said the endpapers were like the curtains before and after a play, and they should be dark blue or red.  The endpapers in the Pretty Little Liars series are all white. I didn’t notice this at first because I read at least the first six books in paperback. After that, I started getting the books from the library, and I think those have all been hardcovers, but I didn’t notice until now that every single book has white endpapers.  Even if I can say nothing else positive about this series, I can say that it had the opportunity for beautiful endpapers.  Each book is a different, bright color, so why not make each book have endpapers that are the same color as the cover but in a darker shade?  The last book in the series has a black cover, so it could have bright red endpapers. It would have a nice contrast, and, in my opinion, it would make the books look a lot better.  At the very least, it would satisfy that part of me that was shaped by obsessively reading Cornelia Funke’s books as a child.

There was a little more character development in this book, but it wasn’t done the way I would have liked it to be.  In a very short amount pages, Emily went from being her normal self to tearing apart a kitchen with her bare hands and threatening to murder someone.  In her defense, she had been through a lot (Ali tried to drown her, her girlfriend was murdered, and, of course, all the things that happened in the books before this), but it seems like she changed very quickly.  I’m a musician, not a psychologist, so I might be wrong, but my uninformed opinion on this is that she changed very quickly, and, to me, it seems like it may be unrealistic. In the span of two pages she went from being fine to driving to the house Ali might have been hiding in and trashing part of it.  That seems like it’s a bit much.

I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that, since so many of the guys who are love interests in this series end up being horrible, it’s hard to not suspect the new love interest.  Like Spencer’s new love interest – Greg. From the start, he seemed far too clingy and obsessive. The emphasis he put on always being there to listen to her, and always being there for her, and always believing whatever she said came off as creepy instead of endearing.  (Side note: I’m not adding the italics because I’m putting emphasis on it.  Those were in the book. It’s creepy.)  Obviously, in a relationship you want someone who’s there for you, and you want someone who listens, but this guy moved way too quickly, which made it seem more creepy than romantic.  Of course, Greg ended up being someone who was helping Ali, and, in the end, died because of it, which isn’t really surprising. I’m sure I’ve said this in other reviews, but it’s relevant, so I’m going to say it again.  If there had been less relationship drama, and more trustworthy love interests, I wouldn’t automatically suspect the new guy who seems so sweet and nice of actually being a murderer. Since there have been so many horrible love interests, and so many dramatic romantic subplots, it makes you wonder about every new guy introduced, and, more frequently than not, if you think he’s too good to be true, you’re right.  In my opinion, with all of the drama happening with Ali, romantic subplots are unnecessary. I’d much rather have chapters from Ali’s perspective than yet another bad boyfriend.

My last complaint is about how Aria’s art was handled.  That’s not how being an up and coming artist works. The storyline would have you believe that a collector wants to buy art and decides on a piece by an artist who has literally never sold anything.  Then, he offers a hundred thousand dollars for it. After that, Aria gets several calls from art galleries offering to display her work. Those galleries just move around the work by the artists who were going to be having openings that day to fit her work in.  In addition to that, she gets many calls asking her for interviews, even though she’s an unknown artist who has only ever sold one painting. It turns out that the famous art collector never actually bought her painting, and it was actually someone posing as his assistant, which still seems unrealistic.  

The next paragraph is written by a friend who is an art historian and knows more about these things than I ever will.  

Here’s why this doesn’t work.  You don’t call a gallery and offer to pay some incredible sum for a work of art by an unknown artist.  The sale is a dance. The gallery owner suggests a work, probably several works, the client looks them over and picks one or more they might be interested in.  Then they talk about price. The artist and the gallery want a high price, but there is only so much a client will pay, especially for work by an unknown artist.  The client doesn’t say what they will pay upfront. The gallery suggests a price, they discuss, and then settle on a price based on what the gallery was originally asking for the piece.  Can you imagine walking into a store, seeing something you like, and announcing the price you will pay instead of asking what it sells for? This is bad business. No one does this. As a side note, no gallery owner is going to tell you a work is essentially worthless if you are willing to give up lots of money for it.  They’ll just take your money and think you a fool. So, if the character really did call and pay such a price for the work, the gallery would be befuddled by the whole deal. But that’s just the beginning. If a gallery sells a work, that doesn’t entitle the unknown artist to immediate shows in other galleries. This sale sounds like a fluke.  An artist would have to have more sales and build a bit of a following before other galleries would be interested. Galleries can’t just drop everything to throw in a new artist for a large show, either. Galleries organize shows months in advance. They have contracts that set the number of works to be shown, when they will be delivered, how long they will be on display, and what prices they will be asking.  One might dump a show for Van Gogh (recognizing that there might just be some legal issues with the contract). One would not dump a show for an unknown artist who sold one work to someone who wants to burn their money.

Anyway.  

I do think that this book is as successful as the last one I read, which is giving me slightly higher hopes for the last book in the series and the prequel.  In addition to that, I’m just glad that the series is going to be over soon. I don’t mind reading a series, but there are so many books in this series. After it’s over, I can read other things, and I can get into a different series that’s maybe a little bit longer.  

I gave the last book two stars, so I’m giving this one two stars as well.  

A Review of Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Some spoilers.  

 

The mood for writing this review is brought to you by listening to the Pearl Jam song “Indifference” on repeat because the title expresses exactly how I feel about this book.  

It’s one thing when you come away from a book and you either hate or love it.  At least whatever emotions you’re having towards it are strong enough that you could discuss it.  I can write a review for a book I love, and I can write a review for a book I hate, but it’s not fun to write something about a book I’m indifferent towards.  

It’s not something I can say had a lot of potential because I don’t think the idea holds enough to create a long short story, let alone a series that is four books and counting.  The only way I could think to make this idea successful would be if Bradbury or Vonnegut wrote a very short short story about it. In their hands, even at three or four pages long, it would be so stunningly sad and beautiful.  If this had been a Bradbury story, you know that I would gushing about how much I loved it. But it isn’t. It’s a Scott Westerfeld series, and, unfortunately, the intended impact of this series will never measure up to the impact of even the shortest short story written by Bradbury.  

It would seem like the premise of this book would result in something that was very preachy and focused on accepting yourself, and loving yourself, but it isn’t.  At the very least, I would expect this book to not actively spread judgement, and yet, here we are. In this book, they actually talk about how, when people go through the operation to become pretty, something happens to their brain so they become more shallow and less intelligent.  Literally the entire book seems to be implying that pretty people can’t be smart, which is ridiculous.

Most of the time, if I’m reviewing something negatively, I try to find even one small thing that had potential.  Sometimes I feel bad criticizing literally everything about a book, so I attempt to make it better by basically saying, “Hey, at least this bit didn’t suck.”  I don’t know what I would mention from this. For the most part, it’s entirely unremarkable, and then sometimes it crosses the line into insensitive and irritating.  

First, there’s no representation of anyone who isn’t a straight white person.  One of the characters, Shay, is mentioned briefly as being tan, or having an olive complexion, but apparently that’s something they change in the operation to turn people pretty so that everyone still looks the same.  They’re literally whitewashing the characters, and that’s not seen as a bad thing. In addition to that, it was phrased as the doctors changing people’s skin tones to be closer to “normal,” which seems wrong to begin with, and that’s a horrendous way to word it.  This book was published in 2005, so maybe having that casually mentioned and then forgotten wouldn’t have been such a thing back then, but I can’t see that being something that could be so easily ignored if this book had been published today. I was young back when this book came out, so I obviously don’t remember what opinions on young adult literature were at that time, but what people look for now is diversity, and this completely lacks it.  There is a large group of people who won’t read a book if it doesn’t have diversity, and the fact that this book has none means that a lot of people won’t even pick it up. I know that I’m looking at this book from the perspective of a book reviewer in 2018, and I know that this book was published in 2005, but I don’t think that’s unfair. Even if this kind of thing wasn’t weird back then, it is weird now, and it just goes to show that this book doesn’t hold up over time.  

There are also no characters who aren’t straight, so it lacks diversity in that way, too.  In this futuristic world, have they just made everyone straight and white? Because that’s horrible.  And unacceptable.

I feel like the ages in this book are weird.  The main character is supposed to be almost sixteen for part of the book, and then sixteen for the rest of the book, but she seems like she’s actually twelve or thirteen.  David, who’s supposed to be eighteen, acts more like he’s fifteen or sixteen. It seems like the writing almost tries to make up for the immaturity of the characters by mentioning more mature things.  There are several mentions of the main character, Tally, walking through something called “The pleasure gardens” and running into several couples just randomly hooking up in a garden. To which I say, they all have ticks now.  I don’t care how futuristic their society is, there are probably still ticks, so lying in the grass with no clothes on is not romantic. It’s asking for lyme disease. Anyway. These bits have literally nothing to add to the plot or character development (except maybe to show how shallow the pretties are?  I don’t know. That’s a stretch.), so I’m wondering if they’re just there to make it seem more mature. See? They’re teenagers. They hook up and get lyme disease. It doesn’t matter that even the ones who aren’t supposed to be shallow are, and that they all act several years younger than they actually are.  

In addition to that, the interactions between the characters are awkward, and the romance seems forced.  The romance between Tally and David was entirely instalove, and even the interactions they had that weren’t romantic were awkward and weird.  

I could go on, but I think I’ve made enough points for why you shouldn’t read this book.  Two out of five stars. I could give it one, but the fact that I felt indifferent instead of actively disliking it the entire time I read it makes me feel like one star is slightly too harsh.  

THE ULTIMATE BOOK TAG: 25 BOOKISH QUESTIONS

I found this tag on http://www.happyindulgencebooks.com/

 

  1. Do you get sick while reading in a car?

Yes.  But it doesn’t stop me from trying.  

  1. Which author’s writing style is completely unique to you and why?

Ilsa J. Bick.  I’ve read two of her books, each has a unique, interesting writing style.  White Space reads like a lyrical stream of consciousness, and Ashes has a somewhat snarky writing style I adore.  

  1. Harry Potter Series or the Twilight Saga? Give 3 points to defend your answer.

Harry Potter.  Because there aren’t sparkly vampires.  That’s the only point you need.

  1. Do you carry a book bag? If so, what is in it (besides books)?

I don’t carry a book bag, but I bought the bag I normally carry around partly because of the space it had for books.  Besides books, I normally have lip balm or lipstick, my wallet, and possibly something I’m crocheting.

  1. Do you smell your books?

Yes.  

  1. Books with or without little illustrations?

I love illustrations.  Small ones, big ones, I don’t care.  I love them all. (Night of Cake & Puppets has beautiful illustrations.)  

  1. What book did you love while reading but discovered later it wasn’t quality writing?

I don’t really have any books I’ve done this with.  More frequently, I’ll read a book that I really enjoy, give it a very positive review, and then, not too long after I’ve finished it, realize it was fairly forgettable.  

  1. Do you have any funny stories involving books from your childhood? Please share!

Maybe not so funny, but when I was fairly young my mother read A Mouse and his Child to me, and, every night, the two of us would cry in my room as we read it.  It was traumatic.

  1. What is the tiniest book on your shelf?

A collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry.  

  1. What is the thickest book on your shelf?

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.  

  1. Do you write as well as read? Do you see yourself in the future as being an author?

I do write, but not fiction.  I’ve mentioned in other posts I’ve made that I’m a musician, and I write a lot of sad lyrics.  Sometimes I write poetry, as well, but most of my lyrics are lines from various poems of mine cut out and stuck together, so the poetry isn’t necessarily as serious as the song writing.  

  1. When did you get into reading?

When I was four and taught myself to read by staying up late into the night reading the uncensored versions of old fairy tales.  My bed was set up in such a way that the light coming from the hallway would be bright enough for me to read by, so I did. Really, looking back at that, it’s no wonder that I stay up as late as I do reading now.  It’s always been a thing I do.

  1. What is your favourite classic book?

Brave New World.  

  1. In school what was your best subject?

Either English or music.  

  1. If you were given a book as a present that you had read before and hated, what would you do?

I would politely thank whoever gave it to me, and then give the book to someone else.  

  1. What is a lesser known series that you know of that is similar to Harry Potter or the Hunger Games?

The Ashes series by Ilsa J. Bick could possibly be described as similar to the Hunger Games series, but only because each book takes place in a world where everything has gone wrong.  Ashes could possibly be considered dystopian (but it’s not.  It’s apocalyptic).

  1. What is a bad habit you always do while blogging?

I don’t read most of the book I’ve planned to review until the day I’m posting the review.  This is why they’re sometimes late going up.

  1. What is your favorite word?

Anthropomorphize.  

  1. Are you a nerd, dork, or dweeb? Or all of the above?

I’m a nerd.  

  1. Vampires or Fairies? Why?

Either, as long as they’re written well.  (In my eyes, writing those things well means that the fairies are not datable, and the vampires aren’t hot, sparkly love interests.)

  1. Shapeshifters or Angels? Why?

Angels, maybe?  Because of Daughter of Smoke & Bone.  

  1. Spirits or Werewolves? Why?

Spirits.  Unless it’s Sam from Shiver.  

  1. Zombies or Vampires? Why?

My automatic response to this is vampires, but one of my favorite short stories is about a zombie, so I feel like maybe I should say zombies?  

  1. Love Triangle or Forbidden Love?

Forbidden love.  I’ll read about anything that isn’t a love triangle.  

  1. And finally: Full on romance books or action-packed with a few love scenes mixed in?

Action with a bit of romance.  

 

I’m not going to tag anyone, but, if you do this, let me know and I’ll check it out.  

A Review of Deadly (Pretty Little Liars #14) by Sara Shepard

Spoilers.  

 

I find it kind of weird that this book starts with a quote from Jim Morrison.  Even though there was one positive mention of Radiohead, I don’t think they’ve ever mentioned any other alternative band, and the characters seem like they almost go out of their way to mock anyone with an alternative style.  So it seems strange that the first page would have a quote from the singer of a rock band. To me, it would make a lot more sense to have a quote from a band that the characters like. Spencer likes Radiohead. Perhaps, “This is what you get when you mess with us” from “Karma Police” would be more fitting for the story?  The quote used in this book is “No one here gets out alive.” which could also fit with the events of this book, but the fact that Noel isn’t actually dead, and all of the main characters survived makes it seem almost overly dramatic. I’m probably reading way too much into this, and one quote does not matter this much, but I still find it weird.  I don’t remember if the other books have quotes at the beginning because these books aren’t the most memorable thing, and I wouldn’t remember a quote unless it stood out to me for some reason. Like this one.

I don’t think I can necessarily say that I liked this book, but I think it was possibly better than the ones that came before it.  

This book took a different turn than the others.  Even though bad things happened in those books-people died and there were two books where the main characters came very close to dying-this one came a lot closer to the main characters dying.  Also, there was the whole thing with the arrest, which added a lot more tension. I read the entirety of this book in a day, which I’ve done before for this series, and, where I would normally be getting really tired of it and wanting to put it down, I didn’t feel that with this book.  They finally went to the police, and finally started getting somewhere with finding “A” and figuring out who’s helping her. I don’t want to say that this is the Pretty Little Liars book I’ve been waiting for, but it seemed a little more realistic than the others and it was more of a page turner than the previous books.  If all the other books in the series had been like this, I may have actually liked them more.

It’s really a shame that you have to get fourteen books into a series before it starts to get good.  Not everyone is going to read every book in the series just to see how it ends or if it gets good. In addition to that, this wasn’t a gradual change in the writing.  It’s not like the author got better and better, and this is the book where it all really came together. It went from being somewhat unrealistic and repetitive to feeling like a more serious thriller.  

Maybe part of what made me like this one more was that there was more stuff about Ali.  Villains can be very interesting when done well, and Ali seems to be a twisted, disturbing villain, who will, hopefully, end up being developed a lot more during the last books.  

My one complaint about Ali is that she’s not relatable.  The best villains are the ones where you can understand why they made the decisions they did, and maybe you could see yourself doing the same things in those circumstances.  Maybe some people could do that with Ali, but I can’t. She was wronged by her sister, so wanting revenge doesn’t seem unrealistic, but the lengths that she goes to to get revenge are extreme to say the least.  What makes her scary is the fact that she seems to have lost her mind, but she’s still highly intelligent and able to stay one step ahead of everyone, which does make for a villain who is unsettling. The truly good villains, though, are the ones who are taken one step further and become relatable.  Those villains seem so much more real to us, so they’re more disturbing. Yes, a murder who’s completely insane but highly intelligent is scary, but they lack something.

All of that said, I didn’t love the book, and it did have its flaws.  There are still weird, unrealistic plot lines that have carried over from the other books, and there are still far too many mentions of clothing brands.  Even though some aspects of it are more realistic than they were in other books, the characters still overreact to most things, and there’s more suspension of disbelief than I think there should be in a mystery novel.  

I don’t think there’s really much else to say about this.  Some of the things are good only because they were bad for thirteen books.  The romantic relationships in this book weren’t great. Mike seems like he’s blindly following Hanna and possibly too in love with her, so there’s that, but the relationships in the other books were so much worse that these are good in comparison.  

I don’t know what to rate this.  If it had been earlier in the series, I probably would have given it a solid three stars.  Maybe three and a half. While it wasn’t great, it wasn’t bad. It was interesting. However, this isn’t one of the first books in a series.  This isn’t a case of an author just getting the hang of writing, and being able to make everything work out nicely. By the time this book was published, the author already had at least thirteen books out, so I don’t think it could be argued that she just now got the hang of writing.  

Two or two and a half stars.  I can’t decide which is more appropriate.  

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