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Valentine’s day book tag

I wasn’t tagged by anyone to do this, but I found it on youtube, yesterday was Valentine’s Day, so I’m doing it.  I found it on the channel Epic Reads.  I’ll link their video at the end of this post.  

 

  1. First Book Crush

 

I’m sure that there was some Harry Potter character I liked, and I can’t believe that I’ve forgotten whoever it was, but, since I can’t remember them, I have to go with Gansey from The Raven Boys.  I read this book (and fell in love with Gansey) when I was almost fourteen (I think).  Around that time, I had discovered eyeliner, red eyeshadow, and My Chemical Romance, so I don’t know why I decided that I loved Gansey and not Ronan or Noah, but that’s what happened.  Apparently thirteen year old me loved guys with aquamarine shirts and boat shoes.  Who was I back then?  

 

  1. What book would you want as your Valentine?

I feel like I can’t pick another Maggie Stiefvater book, so I’m going to go with Illuminae.  I hadn’t planned to read it on Valentine’s day, but I read about a third of it yesterday, and I’m loving it so far.  I’ll probably upload several thousand words of fangirling for it on Monday.  

 

  1. Candy Hearts or Chocolate?

What kind of question is this??  Do you want chalk or chocolate?  Chocolate.  Always.  This has always been my answer.  Let me tell you a tale.  When I was eleven months old I was pestering my mother for some of her Valentine’s chocolate.  She thought I wouldn’t like it because it was dark chocolate.  Let’s just say she had to hide the box and eat it while I was sleeping.  

 

  1. What book would you gift to your true love?

Fahrenheit 451 or Brave New World.  I would give them one of these because I would have to see if they were just as horrified by them as I was.  If the person I was dating didn’t see what was wrong with these worlds, I would have to break up with them.  (I want to say that that’s sarcasm, but it’s not.  It’s very likely that I will use this as a way to test people I may date in the future.)  

 

  1. Favorite Rom-com

I don’t think I really have a favorite romcom.  I watched Singles last week, and I loved the soundtrack, so maybe that counts?  Any soundtrack with “State of Love and Trust” on it is a good soundtrack, in my mind.  

 

  1. Best Valentine’s Day gift you ever received (or want to receive)

I’ve never had a date to give me Valentine’s day gift, but this year my parents gave me a nice pair of headphones, so maybe that’s the best gift?  (I’m a snob about headphones.  I have to be able to hear every note that’s played on the bass or I’m not happy.  These headphones make that possible, and, honestly, headphones with good bass are more important than a date.)

 

  1. Favorite thing about Valentine’s Day (if you love it) OR favorite thing to do on Valentine’s Day (if you hate it)

 

My favorite thing to do on Valentine’s Day is eat pizza and ice cream and watch youtube with my sister.  We’ve done it for the last two years, and, even though I’ve never been on a date, it’s probably more fun than going on a date.  

 

I’m not going to tag anyone to do this, but, if you want to do it, send me the link to your post, or post a link in the comments and I’ll check it out.  

 

Link for their video:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xLBVJ9pLLFI

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A Review of Burned (Pretty Little Liars #12) by Sara Shepard

Spoilers

 

I think, at this point, no one is surprised that I’m reviewing another Pretty Little Liars book.  Since I’ve read all the way to book twelve, I can’t make an excuse to make myself seem better.  I both want and need to see how it ends.  Even though I’m really not proud of this, I also refuse to feel ashamed for reading this.  I don’t even know anymore.  

In this book, the main characters decide to go on a cruise.  For context, there’s a stalker who seems to know literally everything about them, and who wants to ruin their lives, and they’ve all decided that it’s a good idea to be stuck in the middle of the ocean with the aforementioned stalker who is always everywhere they are.  Yes, it’s a school trip, but still.  It ends about as well as you would expect it to.  Even though they nearly drown, since only a few schools were on that cruise, maybe it narrows down who “A” is?  “A” could have just snuck onto the ship, but then they wouldn’t have a room and it would be weird, so I think it wouldn’t be unreasonable to bet that “A” is someone from one of those schools.  Even though there are ways that I could be wrong, and it’s still a possibility that “A” is someone else entirely, my kind of faulty logic is still better than most of the logic that’s used in this book.  If the characters had any common sense, they wouldn’t have gone on a cruise with their stalker.  It just puts them all in the same place so that whoever is stalking them could easily murder them.  Who thought that this would be a good idea?  The stalker, obviously.  

In addition to that, while we’re on the topic of them making bad decisions, after they were pretty sure that Gayle was “A”, and then they realized it was just a trick, why do they automatically assume that “A” is Naomi?  It was exactly like with Gayle!  They would see her on her phone around the time that they would get a text, they suspected that she may know something that would make her hate them, so obviously that means that she’s out to ruin their lives.  Just like with Gayle, she didn’t know and had no reason to hate them.  The average person looks at their phone eighty five times per day, of course they saw her looking at her phone.  

Speaking of phones, how do they have a cell connection in the middle of the ocean?  I don’t travel, so I can’t speak from personal experience, but it seems like it would be unlikely that someone would have a good cell connection on a boat.  I can drive three minutes away from my house (which has a decent cell connection), and lose my connection entirely.  I can literally be driving closer to civilization for those three minutes, but I won’t have a cell connection for whatever reason.  Realistically, people randomly have bad cell connections when they’re on land, and pictures randomly won’t go through and have to be re-sent three or four times.  It would take a lot of the seriousness out of the texts if “A” tried to send some weird picture and it didn’t send properly, but it would be really funny.  Now I want this to happen in future books.  I know it won’t happen, but I will never stop wanting this.  

I’m kind of irritated with Emily’s relationships.  Pretty much every book she finds another girl to fall in love with, and then every time that girl ends up being a drug addict, a thief, or something else along those lines.  Why is it that the only main character who isn’t straight has horrible relationships?  I know that the other characters haven’t had perfect relationships either, and you’ve heard my Ezria rants, but in seems like Emily in particular has bad relationships.  For crying out loud, Emily fell in love with Alison and Courtney:  Courtney was manipulative and horrible, and Ali literally tried to kill them.  Obviously Emily didn’t know that Ali was going to do that, but the author knew and she wrote it in anyway.  Aria has been dating Noel for a reasonable number of books and their relationship survives through all the horrible things happening.  Hannah dated Mike, broke up with him (or maybe he broke up with her.  I don’t know.  I don’t particularly care.  Things happened, they weren’t together, moving on.), stalked him when he dated someone else, and then got back together with him, and they’re perfectly happy.  If Spencer doesn’t end up dating that guy she met at Princeton, and being very happy while dating him, I’m going to be shocked.  But this is never the case with Emily.  It seems weird that it’s specifically the one character who isn’t straight who is having all of these relationship issues.  Also, with the exception of Maya, the girls she dates seem to not be great people for various reasons (like the drug addict and the thief).  If more than one character was having relationship issues that were this bad, I would probably overlook this, but the fact that the only character who repeatedly falls in love with criminals is Emily, who is also the only main character who isn’t straight, makes it hard to ignore.  

Even though this book cut back on some of the cup-size shaming, it replaced it with slut-shaming.  It seems a little hypocritical that girls who all (with the exception of Emily) kind of forced themselves on guys would slut-shame.  I’m not saying that they should be slut-shamed instead.  No one should be.  It’s horrible.  It doesn’t matter how many people someone has slept with.  You shouldn’t shame them for that.  Shame people for being a teacher and dating a student.  (I’m totally not still irritated about Ezria.)  Anyway, don’t you think that the characters should be more concerned about the fact that they’re stuck on a boat in the middle of the ocean with someone who seems to want them dead and less concerned about the fact that a bunch of guys are sleeping with Emily’s roommate?  They need to sort out their priorities.  

On the bright side, there was less product placement, but where the product placement would have been, there was just slut-shaming, so I don’t think it’s an improvement.  

I don’t have to tell you again that I’m going to finish the series anyway.  You know I will.  I will, however, try to space them out a bit so you don’t have to read one of these reviews every week.  

One out of five stars.  

 

Side note:  I’m never going to do a playlist for this series, but I read and reviewed this while listening to Alice in Chains, and I would recommend doing the same thing.  

Valentine’s Day Book Recommendations

Are you alone on Valentine’s Day?  Unless I find my true love while at the library today, which is highly unlikely, I am.  (Update:  I just got back from the library.  I did not find the love of my life, but I did get an Alice in Chains song stuck in my head for a while, so it wasn’t a bad day.)  Do your Valentine’s Day plans normally involve a pint of ice cream, a Netflix marathon, and sulking about how you’re not dating anyone?  Because mine do.  But this year will be different.  We may still be alone, but this year we (hopefully) won’t spend it crying at romcoms about dentists (I still don’t want to talk about it).  

Since I have been alone for every Valentine’s Day, and since I have lots of experience with reading to ignore the loneliness (I’m being very sarcastic.  Please don’t take this too seriously.), I have made a list of the books that are better than a date.  If you have suggestions for me of books that are better than dates, please let me know.  I need them.  

 

Do you want to forget your loneliness by losing yourself in an immersive horror novel?  White Space by Ilsa J. Bick is what you want.  Don’t spend your time being sulky and alone reading Stephen King.  I’ve never really seen the appeal of his writing.  Also, spending Valentine’s Day alone reading Stephen King seems a little cliched.  There’s nothing wrong with doing something kind of cliched, but White Space is better than Stephen King, anyway.  Also, even though there is romance, there are also horrific monsters, far too much gasoline, and a captivating writing style.  

 

Do you want to read a doomed romance that feels like a beautiful instagram feed?  Daughter of Smoke & Bone.  I’m not spoiling it by saying that the relationship is doomed.  It says, point blank, on the first page, that it does not end well, and it falls apart in the most perfect way.  Also, if you’ve read this and liked it, try Night of Cake & Puppets.  It’s a much happier romance, and it has amazing illustrations.  

 

If you’re more into fantasy try The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff.  I’m hesitant to say that characters from this book would be datable because my dad reads this blog (Hi, Dad.), and that seems like an awkward thing to say on a blog your dad reads, but I do think it would be hard to find a guy as awesome as Mackie.  Also, even though these fairies aren’t entirely the horrible old fairies that I want to see more of, they aren’t the irritatingly, unrealistically hot fairies you see so much in young adult fiction.  Also, even though these fairies are kind of hot, they cover Pearl Jam, Pulp, and, if I’m remembering correctly, Nine Inch Nails, so all is forgiven.  

 

If you’re into happy love stories with gruesome murders, try Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff.  There seems to be a little bit of instalove, but they’re so cute that it’s forgivable.  There’s also a ghost girl who sings Radiohead songs.  Need I say more?  

 

If you want something that’s still somewhat magical, but with more of a focus on romance, read Places No One Knows by Brenna Yovanoff.  It’s not as good as Paper Valentine, but it’s beautiful and very easy to connect to.  The relationship has a decent amount of angst as well, if that’s something you’re into.  

 

Do you miss the days of hot werewolf love interests?  Read Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater.  Sam isn’t the normal type of werewolf love interest who has disturbingly defined abs and who tells the girl he likes that she’s not like other girls.  Sam writes songs and plays guitar and has messy, floppy hair.  Maybe the reason I don’t have a Valentine is that I can’t find someone like Sam.  

 

If you want to ignore all the romance and couples around you and you just want to laugh, read the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series.  If you read it for nothing else, read it for the phrase “miserably happy” and the bit with the leaves.  I was going to list a few more reasons to read the series, but there are so many that this post would become irritatingly long.  

 

Not into sci-fi but still want to laugh?  Read Hyperbole and a Half: Unfortunate Situations, Flawed Coping Mechanisms, Mayhem, and Other Things That Happened by Allie Brosh.  I know I’ve mentioned this book a lot, but that’s because it’s so good.  It’s the perfect book to read while you’re eating ice cream alone and thinking about how long you’ve been single.  Also, maybe it will make you feel better about your life because, even though you’re alone, at least there isn’t a goose in your kitchen.  

 

Do you not miss the days of vampire boyfriends at all?  Read Nightlight:  A parody.  This book has a line that goes kind of like “His brownish, reddish, blondish hair was styled heterosexually”, which is probably the best description of stereotypical young adult novel love interest hair that I’ve ever heard.  I actually cackled in public when I read that.  

 

Are you sick of the cliched, brooding bad boy love interests that are in almost every novel these days?  Consider reading Brooding YA Hero by Carrie Ann DiRisio.  Read it for the werelemurs.  And for the social commentary, but that pales in comparison to the werelemurs.  

 

I can’t make a book recommendation list without mentioning this series, so read The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater.  It feels like going on a roadtrip with your friends, and you become so attached to the characters that your heart breaks every time something horrible happens to them.  Also, you can read it four years after you read it for the first time and find it even more relatable than you did before, which is really great.  

 

I recently reviewed this, so I feel like maybe I shouldn’t mention it, but if you want a book that has the right amount of romance but also has just enough creepiness to get under your skin, read Mortal Danger by Ann Aguirre.  My Valentine’s Day plans will probably include reading the next book in this series.  

 

If you want to celebrate this day about love and romance by reading about murder and relationships that don’t work out, try One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus.  I haven’t read many mysteries, so I don’t think I can say that it was the best mystery I’ve ever read, but I would recommend it to most people, and it’s a nice book to curl up with for an afternoon.  

 

If you want a creepy romance with less creepiness and more romance, read Made for You by Melissa Marr.  This book also has an element of being creepy because of someone loving someone else a little too much, which is interesting and very well done here.  

 

If none of the funny books I’ve suggested so far are your thing, read Beauty Queens by Libba Bray.  I don’t want to spoil anything, but it’s very funny and I want to reread it already even though I read it last May.  

 

Happy Valentine’s Day early and happy reading!

A Review of “Verse Chorus Verse” by Leigh Bardugo from Slasher Girls and Monster Boys

When I first read this story, I didn’t like it.  I really wanted to.  I wanted to like it so much that, in my original review of this anthology, I said that I thought it was interesting, despite the fact that I actually forgot about the entire plot just a few days after reading it.   

This story is inspired by the Nirvana song “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle”, which, until recently, I didn’t know the meaning of.  I should have looked it up whenever I read the story, but I figured that no amount of explanation of the meaning of the song could make this story make sense.  Apparently I was wrong.  

The other day I recommended “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge on Seattle” to a friend who was just getting into Nirvana, and, in response, she sent me a link to an interview where the band explains the story behind the song.  

Now this story makes a lot more sense.  

The story is so specifically based off of the song, and what the song is about, that if you don’t know the meaning of the song, you won’t understand the story.  I’m fine with plots being heavily inspired by things like this, but a lot of the reviews I’ve seen of this story talk about how they feel like they didn’t “get” some part of the story, so I’m obviously not the only person who felt this way.  All the stories in this collection were inspired by various things, but with the other stories, you didn’t need to know everything about what inspired them to understand what they meant.  I feel like there should have been something at the beginning or end of this particular story that had a little bit about the meaning of the song, or just something that expresses how important the meaning of this song is to the story.  

The way the inspiration was handled in this story is a lot like how modern art seems to be these days.  It makes perfect sense to the creator, but, unless you specifically look up the things it was inspired by, and you take a substantial amount of time googling and watching interviews, you won’t understand it.  Even now, after watching interviews and googling people’s interpretations of the song’s meaning, I don’t think I completely understand it.  

I really, really don’t like things that require so much context that isn’t in the book.  If I didn’t have a friend send me the link to the interview, I probably wouldn’t have watched it; if I hadn’t watched it, I never would have looked up the meaning of the song; if I didn’t know the meaning of this song, I would never understand this story.  If you’re going to write something, you need to put enough information in it for it to make sense.  Your readers shouldn’t have to go to four different websites for the story to make any sense.  Even though most people do have access to the internet, not everyone does, and you can’t rely on people googling to find the meaning in your story.  In addition to that, this is a young adult book.  Not every teenager has a computer or phone that they can get on the internet with, and some teenagers have parents who set unreasonable rules about what websites they can go to, so they can’t necessarily get to the websites they would need to to find the information they need to understand the story.  If you do this, you limit the audience that can appreciate your short story.  Someday, the interviews I watched and the websites I went to may be taken down, and, when that happens, it will be even harder for people to find things to make this story make sense.  

Anyway.  

In this story, the song “Malia Mayes Will Have Her Way” is mentioned.  I was hoping that this would provide even more backstory and explanation for a story that, until very recently, made literally no sense to me, but this song doesn’t seem to exist.  I googled it, and the results were things for this book.  I looked it up on Spotify, but I didn’t even type in the whole title before it told me that whatever I was looking for wasn’t there.  Obviously, since the song isn’t real, the artist they say recorded it isn’t real.  I was hoping that, since the author seems to be relying on songs and their meanings for her exposition, this would be a real song that would provide more backstory.  Unfortunately, no.  It seems like Malia Mayes is supposed to be the Frances Farmer of this universe, but why create a new person directly based off of a real person when you could just have the real person in the story?  The downside to that would be that the author couldn’t say she killed herself in the woods near the rehab place because Frances Farmer died of esophageal cancer, but maybe having a real person in the story would inspire people to google it?  

Also, on a less serious note, obviously “Malia Mayes Will Have Her Way” is the “Frances Farmer Will Have Her Revenge On Seattle” of this universe, and the fictional band that records this fictional song is described as a one hit wonder of the nineties.  Since the fictional song is obviously trying to be like the real song, it only makes sense that the fictional band would be the Nirvana of this universe.  I don’t think you can consider Nirvana a one hit wonder of the nineties.  I’m sure that some people thought that that was all they would be, but their music seems to have stuck around.  I can’t talk about how popular they were in the early nineties from personal experience because I wasn’t alive back then, but from what I’ve seen they weren’t a one hit wonder, and it seems weird to make their fictional equivalent a one hit wonder.  

I read the story for the first time a little over a year ago, I think, and, between then and now, my brain filled in a lot of the blanks by itself.  I remembered an actual monster in the woods, but, in reality, it’s never confirmed if there is or isn’t a real monster.  It seems like there’s something in the woods that’s evil, and it seems that it may have possessed Jaycee at the end, but there isn’t enough to know if that’s actually what happened, or if maybe she just couldn’t handle the pressures of being a celebrity at such a young age.  

It’s really a shame that this story ended up the way it did, because it could have been good.  It had the potential to be very dark and haunting, but it fell flat.  After learning what it was inspired by, it was significantly darker than it seemed the first time I read it.  If it had just been less vague, it could have been so good.  It was long enough that the “monster” (literal or figurative) could have been developed and could have actually been scary.  I’ve complained in the past about how I don’t like when things are advertised as horror and then end up being about bad people instead of a real monster, but in this, I think it would have worked.  Given what it was inspired by, I think making the media the monster would have been better than a literal monster.  There are times when making people the monsters is weird, but, if the pop music industry or the media was the monster, it would have been a good piece of social commentary.  

I can’t say that I loved this story this time, but I liked it more than last time.  I don’t know if I can properly give it a rating out of five since the quality of the story seems to depend on how much of the backstory you find for yourself.  

A Review of Perfect by Ellen Hopkins

Although mostly I’m complaining, there are a few very small spoilers.  

 

You know how some books leave you with a certain feeling or mood after you finish it or while you’re reading it?  The Raven Cycle feels like a road trip with friends.  Daughter of Smoke & Bone feels like an aesthetic instagram feed from a stunningly beautiful, European girl.  You know what I mean.  Being left with a very specific, and, at its core, a good feeling, can bring so much to a book.  However, there’s a specific kind of young adult contemporary novel that leaves you with a weird, uncomfortable feeling.  Like The Perks of Being a Wallflower.  It’s written by an adult, and it seems like their one goal is to make teenagers feel uncomfortable.  When you finish reading it, something just feels wrong.  You’re not sad, exactly, you’re just not happy, and very uncomfortable, but you can’t put your finger on exactly why that is.  

This is one of those books.  

I read another book by this author several years ago.  I wanted to reread that so that I could talk about one of its relationships in a paper I’m currently researching.  That book wasn’t at the library, so I decided to go with this one instead.  (This should have been my first warning sign because I had to get it from the library not my own shelf.)  I didn’t realize that it’s a sequel or companion novel to another book, and I currently have no plans to read the other book.  I can read maybe one or two contemporary novels a year, and I don’t really have the motivation to read the first book.  I’m sure that I’m missing out on backstory by not reading the first book.  I know that I’m always so obsessed with backstory, so it probably seems out of character for me to not want to get all of the backstory, but I honestly just don’t care.  There’s only so much of this I can take, and I have other books I want to read more.  

For several years I’ve been wondering why people write books that make teens uncomfortable.  I obviously have no proof that this is their goal, but I know several people who agree with me about this, and I know we’re not the only ones.  On the other hand, there are people all over the internet, and some people I know, who read The Perks of Being a Wallflower and said that they finally felt like they were not alone.  Which is great.  It’s nice to read a book and relate very strongly to a character.  It’s even better when it makes you feel better about yourself, or when it makes you feel like someone understands you.  I can speak from personal experience, but none of the characters I identify with come from creepy contemporaries.  In the books I am talking about though it’s not like these are just random characters that people can relate to.  The entire plot seems to revolve around horrible things happening to these characters, and, to anyone who can’t relate, it’s just an unpleasant and uncomfortable experience.  I tried to read The Perks of Being a Wallflower several times, but I never got into it because I just ended up being too uncomfortable.  I don’t know what the author’s goal is in this sort of book.  Maybe they’re trying to work something out from their own youth?  Maybe they’re trying to shed light on something most people don’t experience?  In the end, it’s just hard to read for me maybe because I can’t identify with these characters never having lived these sorts of horrible situations myself.  

This could be a post in and of itself, but it’s after midnight and I have more to write so I’m stopping here.  

In this book, the author tries to cover a lot of serious topics at the same time.  They’re all important things to talk about, but, since there are so many of them shoved into one book, it’s impossible for the author to really flesh any of them out or discuss any of them at length.  The author does give some statistics at the end of the book, but they’re exclusively about anorexia.  And yes, anorexia is bad, and it kills, but it wasn’t the main plot of the entire book although it does come up.  You’d think that she would also give statistics for suicide or rape or something about LGBTQ teenagers, since those were all things that were talked about.  Suicide, which is also addressed in this book, is the second leading cause of death for teenagers.  That seems pretty serious; however, if you were trying to make characters that teens can relate to, being suicidal is probably more relatable than using steroids because of sports, yet the author devotes as much time to the steroid user as to the suicidal teen.  You can’t play favorites with trauma.  Perhaps the author relates more to the kid using steroids, but she also seems to really want to talk about teen issues.  Steroid use and suicide are not on the same level, and it is unfair to put them there.  If you’re going to make it your mission to write a book that discusses these all of these things, then you have to discuss them in a statistically relevant way.  You can’t decide that it’s more important to discuss one and just ignore or downplay the others, which may be more statistically significant.  You can write about several serious topics at the same time, but it has to be handled well.  Giving each character several things they have to work through means that you can’t put enough time into each thing, so, instead of doing a couple things well, there are a lot of things done poorly.  

Teenagers do go through things that are serious, and these issues are things that real teens have to deal with, but it almost seems like the author bit off more than she could chew.  I think it would have been a much more powerful, impactful book if it had focused on one or two things.  

I don’t like that there weren’t really any consequences to Sean’s actions.  I’m not going to spoil it for you, but he did all sorts of illegal things, and, aside from getting arrested and then let go soon after, nothing happened to him.  He isn’t even sent to jail.  At the end of the book, he’s still going to college, and he has a girlfriend who seems to be just as horrible as he is.  He does not suffer for his actions.  The other characters seem to suffer a lot more than he does, but he’s the only one who did things that are truly horrible, and literally illegal.  Maybe it’s realistic that horrible people don’t suffer the way that they should, but he didn’t suffer at all, and I wanted him to.  

In addition to that, the idea of this book is teenagers trying to be perfect.  Every other character was very obviously trying to be perfect, but it didn’t really seem like that for Sean.  Maybe you could argue that his steroid usage was his attempt to be perfect at baseball, but with the other characters, people in their lives were asking them to be perfect in ways that they couldn’t be.  With Sean, no one was forcing him to be someone he wasn’t.  He chose to take steroids.  One thing that’s similar in every other character’s story is how other people are trying to force their view of “perfect” on them, and how it makes them miserable.  But Sean is actually forcing his ideas of perfect on Cara, and no one in the book is forcing their ideas of perfect on Sean.  His story does not share the same elements that the others do, and it kind of seems like it doesn’t fit.  

I really did not like the amount of bisexual erasure in this book.  Cara wonders how a girl could fall in love with another girl and not be gay, and seems to come to the conclusion that it’s not possible.  A girl could fall in love with another girl and be bisexual or pansexual, but there’s no mention of either of those being a possibility.  

Every main character’s parents are horrible.  The one side character’s father that you see for a couple pages seemed fine, but he was literally the only good parent in the entire book.  Not all parents are good, but there are plenty of parents who aren’t like this.  Making every parent in every young adult book horrible will be relatable to some people, but a lot of people will not be able to relate to that.  I know that there are a lot of people who have bad relationships with their parents, and they should have characters that they can relate to, but you have to write about the other people, too.  

Not much really happened in this book.  It’s told in “poetry” (I’m putting it in quotations because I don’t like it.  More on why that is later.), so obviously there just aren’t as many words to get the story across in, but it could have been done better than this.  If the author just cut out the weird metaphors that literally no teenager would ever use, maybe there could have been an actual storyline.  In a book that’s over six hundred pages long, you would expect character arcs, and a developed plot line, even when told in poetry.  You don’t get either of those things.  Homer did it, but perhaps he sets a high bar.

Speaking of the teenagers using strange metaphors, it seems like the author isn’t familiar with how teenagers speak these days.  Teenagers don’t speak mostly in pretentious metaphors.  If anything, teenagers speak in meme references and self deprecating jokes.  I was in a room full of people in their early ish teens the other day, and it was literally just vine references.  No matter what the context of the conversation, they had a vine for it.  This is what realistic teenagers talk like.  It doesn’t make for good, profound, dramatic poetry, but it’s realistic.  I know that putting in literal meme references could make the book seem dated in the future, but there was a specific meme reference in Mortal Danger and it didn’t seem dated.  

The poetry in this book didn’t feel like poetry.  Just because you write something with short lines of text doesn’t mean it’s poetry.  I could put my book reviews in poetry form, but it wouldn’t be poetry.  The titles of these poems were more like first lines than they were titles.  To be honest, I don’t even know if they were titles.  There was a line at the top of almost every page that was in a different, slightly bigger font.  I figured that was the title, but if you read the poem without that line, it doesn’t make sense.  In addition to that, if you pause at the end of each line, it throws off the entire flow of the poems.  I know not everyone writes their poems to be read with a pause at the end of each line, but on this I fall with Yeats, Pound, and Thomas.  One should pause at the end of the line to enjoy the lyric verse quality of the poem.  Otherwise, why make it a poem?  I know that I’m very picky about my poetry, but, even to someone who isn’t as picky as I am, this would be lacking.  

One out of five stars.  

Do authors owe their readers?

I read and watched several things on this subject, and none of them were about the point I was originally going to make, so I’m going to address those points first.  

Do authors owe their readers a response to every email or letter?  I think there are a lot of different circumstances that go into this, so there isn’t one specific answer that applies to every situation.  An author like JK Rowling can’t answer every message she gets.  An author with their first book might be better able to answer more messages; however, if their book gains popularity, this will quickly stop being the case.  I’ve read things about authors getting emails from people in high school who say that a teacher is having them message an author and that their grade relies on this author’s response.  That’s not fair to the author or the student, and I don’t think that the author owes a response to those emails.  However, I do think that authors owe their readers some sort of interaction online/through the mail.  It doesn’t matter if it’s a twitter, a tumblr, an instagram, or something else entirely.  The readers got the author where they are, and the author should communicate with them in some way.  It’s always nice to get a personal response from an author if you write to them, but, like I said, there are a lot of different circumstances that go into this, and I don’t think there’s one solid answer.  

The next thing I found was someone asking if authors owe their readers happy endings.  I don’t think authors owe their readers happy endings.  Everyone wants a different ending for a series, so, no matter what the author does, someone won’t be happy.  I think that authors owe the readers a realistic ending.  I think they owe the readers an ending where everyone is still in character.  They owe the readers an ending that fits with everything that the author has been setting up for the entire book or series, but none of these equate a happy ending.  The ending of The Raven King was sad.  I cried for the last forty pages, and actually had to stop reading for about ten minutes because I couldn’t see through my tears; however, Maggie Stiefvater said from the beginning that Gansey was going to die, so, even though I didn’t like the events that happened, I liked the ending.  It couldn’t have ended any other way and been true to the rest of the series.  On the other hand, They All Fall Down ends with teens becoming superspies and saving the world from assassins and their evil Latin speaking ways.  This ending is so unrealistic it ends up being comical.  Sometimes, happy endings are undeserved and unrealistic, and, even though you want to see your favorite characters happy, it just doesn’t fit.  

I’ve found several things on the internet that say that authors owe their readers nothing.  They don’t owe them responses to things, they don’t owe them any quality of writing, and they don’t owe them well developed worlds/characters.  This is where I disagree.  

People pay money for books (even if they get them from libraries, the libraries had to pay money for those books), and people spend their time reading them.  There’s only so much time that people can spend reading in their lives.  If you’re a writer, especially if someone has to pay to read your writing, you owe them good content.  If you say that you’re going to write a four book series, and if things won’t be wrapped up until the fourth book, you owe them those four books.  

The only exception is if something entirely out of your control comes up and you are completely unable to finish the series.  Obviously people get sick or worse, things comes up and the reader needs to accept that.  But if you are able to finish the series, and if you’re writing other books and just neglecting one of your series, that’s not okay.  It’s disrespectful to your fans.  I’m not saying that authors owe extra spin off series, or prequels or sequels when they didn’t originally plan to write them.  If authors have everything wrapped up by the end of the what they had planned to write, they don’t owe their readers another book, and it is rude of the readers to insist the author write more when the author is done with that story.  Even if they wrote it in such a way that they could add more books to the series if they wanted, they still don’t owe the readers any more books.  If everything has been wrapped up in one book or a series, their job with the ending has been done, and they don’t owe the readers any more in that way.  

However, if you leave a mess of loose ends to your standalone book or if you drop a series in the middle because you got bored or didn’t want to write it anymore, you are disrespecting your reader.  I cannot imagine if you went for a four course dinner and got three courses before being told the chef was tired and didn’t want or feel the need to finish.  There you are, still hungry with no food.  How about an album in which the last four tracks are white noise because the musicians got stumped?  This sort of dropping a project isn’t acceptable in any other field.  Why the lower standard for authors?

There are other ways that authors owe their readers, too.  

Authors owe their readers well developed characters.  I’ve read far too many books where authors rely on negative stereotypes to do their character development.  Instead of actually giving the character a personality, they’ll just mention the character’s sexuality or race several times, and then imply that you should know everything about this character just because of one aspect of who they are.  You can’t claim to have diversity when you are just stereotyping characters.  I’ve never seen this done with positive stereotypes (I don’t even know if there are positive stereotypes), and, even if it was done without negative stereotypes, it’s still lazy writing.  These characters can’t really be related to because no one is the stereotype someone else thinks they are.  Characters should be well-developed enough that you could meet up at Starbucks, have coffee, and know you were meeting a friend not a cardboard cutout of what someone is “supposed” to be.  

In addition to that, authors owe their readers well developed worlds.  If it’s a contemporary novel, or if it’s anything that’s set in our world, the author doesn’t have to set up the whole world, but they still have to give the book atmosphere, and they still have to make it so that you can imagine what that specific place looks like.  I cut my teeth on Diana Wynne Jones.  She is the master of setting up believable worlds that carry through with believable characters interacting in realistic ways with those worlds.  I expect nothing less.  Yet, time and again, I am disappointed.  In some of the short stories I have read, there is little to no world building which leaves the story feeling hollow.  There are novels that have the same issue.  And worse, novels that break the rules the author has set down in order for their convoluted plot to work.  This is not okay.  One must build a real world and make it adhere to its own rules.  

Authors owe their readers good content because the only reason they are where they are is because of their readers.  If they can make a living off of writing, it’s only because people buy their books.  Like it or not, that means that they owe those people something.  We are quick to criticize actors and musicians who refuse to engage their public.  Why should we forgive this in authors?  Obviously, a popular author won’t personally respond to every message, but they need to be out there in some way.  Without readers, an author can’t last long.  
Side note:  I was going to mention a specific series I like where the third book was supposed to be published three years ago and it’s still not out, but I found a post from the author saying that one of the main reasons it hasn’t been published is that she can’t get a publisher to buy the third book.  So now I think that publishers owe readers, too.  Publishers also owe authors, because a lot of people are very mad at this woman for not having the book out yet, even though it’s partially the publisher’s fault.  It seems that publishers have become far too concerned about having the next bestseller instead of producing good work.  Don’t get me started on the fact that Fifty Shades of Grey has three movies while many people have never heard of The Night Circus.  They came out the same year.  One is a waste of trees, and the other is masterfully written.  One is a goldmine.  It’s not the right one, but now every publisher wants the next goldmine and has no time for the piece of brilliant writing.    

January playlist

I saw some people online talking about how they were doing a playlist for this year where they picked one song for every day, so, since I am unoriginal, I am going to do that this year.  I think I’ve said several times on this blog that you can tell a lot about someone from what they have on their playlists, so I’m going to post a list of what songs I put on it, along with the days they were put on, and if there is any specific reason why I picked it.  Most of the songs were picked just because I listened to them a lot that day, but some of them mean something.  I know that it isn’t the end of January yet, but I’ve been really busy, and I’m not entirely happy with the post I wrote last night, so I’m going to list the songs I have so far and I’ll put the rest in the February post.  Then I’ll go listen to these songs and finish that other post.

 

January 1st:  “Stella was a diver and she was always down” – Interpol

January 2nd:  “Eddie Vedder” – Local H

January 3rd:  “I Only Lie When I Love You” – Royal Blood

January 4th:  “Monkey Wrench” – Foo Fighters

January 5th:  “Running Up That Hill” – Placebo

January 6th:  “Subterranean Homesick Alien” – Radiohead

I don’t remember exactly what happened on this day, but I was very sick of living on Earth and I wanted to go off and live anywhere else in space.  

January 7th:  “Like A Stone” – Audioslave

If I hadn’t made the rule that I can only put a song on this playlist once, this song would be on here many more times.  I heard it for the first time last Thanksgiving, and then listened to only this song on repeat for a week.  I don’t know what it is about this song that speaks to me, but there’s something.  

January 8th:  “Do The Evolution” – Pearl Jam

This song was stuck in my head for three solid days.  Those were the best three days of the year so far.  

January 9th:  “I Am Mine” – Pearl Jam

This one is on the playlist because I couldn’t put “Do The Evolution on again.  

January 10th:  “Time Can’t Wait” – Matt Cameron

Even though I mostly listened to “Do The Evolution” for these three days, I occasionally listened to this.  Also, it’s just an amazing song.  

January 11th:  “Falling Away With You” – Muse

January 12th:  “Black” – Pearl Jam

January 13th:  “The National Anthem” – Radiohead

January 14th:  “Deep” – Pearl Jam

January 15th:  “Fell On Black Days” – Soundgarden

January 16th:  “Born To” – Jesca Hoop

This one isn’t one I normally listen to, but I heard my dad listening to it and remembered when I used to listen to it a lot.  It’s a weird transition from Pearl Jam and Soundgarden to this, but whatever.  

January 17th:  “What You Are” – Audioslave

January 18th:  “State of Love and Trust” – Pearl Jam

Possibly my favorite Pearl Jam song.  The MTV unplugged version is beautiful.  

January 19th:  “We Might Be Dead By Tomorrow” – Soko

January 20th:  “Heart In a Cage” – The Strokes

January 21st:  “Just Breathe” – Pearl Jam

This is an excellent song to cry to.  That may sound weird, but, from me, it’s very high praise.  

January 22nd:  “2+2=5” – Radiohead

January 23rd:  “The New” – Interpol

January 24th:  “Love is a Laserquest” – Arctic Monkeys

January 25th:  “Videotape” – Radiohead

This came on my spotify and I nearly burst into tears.  I don’t know why.  Apparently, statistically, “True Love Waits” is the saddest Radiohead song, but I think that “Videotape” comes very close.  

A Review of Snowspelled by Stephanie Burgis

This review is going to be shorter than most reviews I post because this book is only a hundred fifty pages long and is the first in a series of shortish books.  

I really like how magic is handled in this world.  Casting spells takes something out of the magician who does it, and people can even lose their magic if they try to cast spells that take too much out of them.  In everything else I’ve read, magic is, well, magic, and doesn’t have any kind of impact on the person performing that magic.  The one exception I can think of is for the Curse Workers series, which does have some stuff about the effect of magic, but that story is less about traditional magic and more urban fantasy, so I’m going to ignore it.  I know that magic is magic, and it doesn’t have to play by rules or do specific things, but it seems a lot more real if it takes something out of the person who is doing it.  I read a book by Derren Brown a few years ago, and, in this book, he talked about how if you act like doing the magic in the illusions you’re performing hurts, the trick will seem more real to the audience.  I think that also applies to magic in books.  If magic is too easy, it seems unreal.  I mean even thinking can take something out of you, so why wouldn’t magic?  The fact that the main character lost her magic because she overdid it shows that magic and its use has consequences.  It alone does not solve all of anyone’s problems.  

I really like that in this book the women are the people who control politics and government, and the men are (mostly) the ones who do magic.  The author makes the case that this is the best way because men are more mercurial and so better suited to the fluffier life of magicians than the series task of running a government.  You see a lot more books that have men doing politics and women staying home to do their sorcery, and it’s nice that this switches it.  I like that this is related back to real historical events and the battle led by Boudica.  This book seems to be presenting an alternate timeline in which Boudica wins the battle the men could not and so secures the female lead in politics.   

I wish that this was longer, or that I had the sequel already.  I think that once all of the books are out, this will be a really good series to binge read.  They also read fairly quickly, so that would be even better for binge reading.  

Also, even though there are fairies in this book, they aren’t hot.  No one tries to date any of them.  These fairies are actually interesting, and they’re more like the fairies from old fairy tales.  I look forward to seeing how the author uses the fairies in the next books.  

Four out of five stars.  

A Review of One of Us Is Lying by Karen M. McManus

I’m going to force myself to write this mostly spoiler free.  It’s a mystery, so, obviously, the point is that you don’t know the ending.  Even though I’m normally fairly spoilery with my reviews, I don’t want to possibly ruin this book for someone.  I will be discussing one more spoilery point, but I’ll mark that paragraph so you can avoid it if you wish to do so.  

 

Apparently, I like mystery novels.  I’ve always been kind of unsure and almost wary of them because they may be too close to a contemporary, but this was nothing like a contemporary.  

I really like how much the characters grow in the span of three hundred fifty eight pages.  Far too frequently, books have characters who go through traumatic events only to come out the other side exactly the same.  That’s not realistic.  If someone goes through something horrible (like being accused of a murder you didn’t commit), it does something to impact who they are.  This is true in the real world, and it should be true in books.  To leave a character unchanged by traumatic events is to not fulfill your responsibility to the reader.  This book handles it perfectly.  I’m not going to go into detail about how people changed because that could be a spoiler, but you know what I mean.  

When I started the book, I didn’t love any of the main characters.  Bronwyn was fine, but Cooper and Addie were both too preppy for me, and Nate seemed like the stereotypical bad boy with a heart of gold.  But the more you read, the more you get into each of the characters’ heads, and the more you grow to like them.  By the end of the book, I was very attached to all of them.  

At the beginning, I had a theory for how Simon died, I just didn’t know why the character I thought did it would have done it.  Throughout the book, I started to second guess that theory until I decided that I must be wrong.  But I was right!  It was just a wild guess, and I assumed I was going to be wrong at the beginning, but I wasn’t, and it is so satisfying to have figured it out.  The way the events play out, it seems like the murderer could be a lot of different people throughout the book, and it really keeps you guessing.  The other mysteries I’ve read (which are all Pretty Little Liars and one really bad mystery I read a year ago) have tried to keep readers guessing, but they do it by having unrealistic plot twists and people acting suspiciously for ridiculous reasons just so you’ll suspect them.  They never hint at what’s actually happening, so you never have the chance to figure out what’s happening.  That’s the point of  a mystery.  If you can’t try to figure it out before the main characters do, what’s the point?  This book gives you all the information the characters have so you can try to put it together yourself, and you don’t have to rely on the big reveal at the end to tell you everything.  Instead, the big reveal let’s you see if you got it right.

More than anything else, I love how realistic this book is.  The characters all grew because of their experiences, and had realistic personalities, which isn’t always common, and all of the relationships were realistic.  I go into detail about the relationships in the spoilery paragraph.  Reading it probably won’t ruin the book for you, but you’re still being warned.  

[Spoilery paragraph ahead.  Proceed with caution.]

I know that I’ve talked about not liking relationships in a lot of other reviews, but I’m not sure if I’ve ever talked about why I don’t always like how high school relationships are written.  In a lot of books, characters find their one true love when they’re in their mid to late teens.  That’s not realistic.  Some high school couples end up getting married, but I doubt that many of those couples stay together for their entire lives.  (My googling tells me that only two percent of marriages in America are high school sweethearts, and that doesn’t say how many of them stay together after that.)  So many books have characters fall in love, and then act as though they can and will spend their entire lives with that other person just because they got along in high school.  In this book, Bronwyn and Nate start dating and then break up.  Even though I did ship them, I liked how they broke up.  Nate had been through some stuff in his life, and he thought he would never be good enough for her, so he was kind of a jerk, but the conversation they had seemed very real and possible.  I also like that there were no parts where Bronwyn tried to fix him, or took it upon herself to make everything okay in his life.  There are too many books where authors write about girls trying to fix guys, and sometimes it works, but it’s not realistic, and it makes girls think that they can actually fix horrible guys.  Everything about their relationship was handled perfectly, and I wish that more books had relationships like this one.  I also like that, after they broke up and Bronwyn started dating someone else, she acknowledged that they were a couple that would last until high school graduation, if that, and they weren’t going to be together forever.  

[End of spoilery paragraph.]

There isn’t much more I can talk about without spoiling something, so I’m going to stop here.  

I gave this book five out of five stars.  I would recommend it to anyone, regardless of whether they liked mysteries or not.  

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