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A Review of Warcross by Marie Lu

So many spoilers.  If you’ve ever thought of reading this book, and you want to experience it without having some plot twists revealed, do not read my review.  Instead, go read the book, come back, and then we can cry together.

 

Frequently, when reviewing books, I write bits and pieces of the review while reading.  If I don’t, I at least have detailed notes on what I want to say in my review, so I just need to flesh them out to have my review.  If you’re familiar with my review of Ashes by Ilsa J. Bick, you might remember the many paragraphs I wrote on apocalyptic science fiction.  That was written in its entirety when I was about a third of the way through the book and feeling existential.  I didn’t have to go back and change anything while writing the rest of my review because all of my opinions on that aspect of it remained the same.  When I was about halfway through this book, I made some notes about how it’s really nice to read a sci-fi novel where there isn’t a dystopian society and there aren’t secret plans to take over the world.  In my notes, I think I literally said it was relaxing.  Tell that to me half an hour ago when I was literally on the edge of my seat while reading this.  It’s just so much. I love it.

I feel like, once I get into the rest of what I want to say, I’ll get carried away, and I want to make sure I mention this, so I’m putting it first.  If you’re looking for sci-fi that has diverse characters, you should read this book. There are some characters who aren’t white and who aren’t defined solely by their race, and there are two characters who don’t have specifically labelled sexualities, but who aren’t straight.  Frequently, when I hear people recommending diverse books, a lot of what they recommend is in the contemporary genre, and I get that that appeals to some people. Contemporary novels have never appealed to me, though, and I’m sure there are plenty of other people who don’t like them yet still want to read books with diverse characters.  If you’re one of those people, I highly recommend this book to you. In addition to that, most of this book doesn’t take place in America, so if that’s something you’re looking for, this has that, too.

I love how real the characters in this book feel.  They do good things, yet they also have flaws and tragic pasts, and it’s just so amazing.  Even though what Hideo is doing isn’t good, his motives are understandable, and, even though I would like to think that, if I were in the same situation, I wouldn’t make the same decisions, I see where he’s coming from, and I don’t know if I can entirely fault his actions.  The best antagonists are the ones you understand, and I understand him. What he’s doing is literally mind control, and that’s not an ideal way for society to be (I’m not sure how well the sarcasm in this statement comes across. This blog and everyone involved in it is strongly opposed to mind control.), but I still get it.  I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – the best sci-fi makes you think about the world around you, and it makes you think about yourself, and this did both.  

At the beginning of the book, I didn’t love Hideo.  He seemed cold, and not that friendly, and I just didn’t really like him.  But then, towards the middle of the book, as I got to know his character better, I started to warm up to him.  I started to see aspects of some of my favorite fictional characters in him, and I started to love him. And then the end happened.  And now I don’t know how I feel about him. Like I was saying in the last paragraph, what he’s doing isn’t good, but it’s understandable.  Like all of the characters in this book, he’s a very three dimensional person, and it’s just so good. This book has some of the best characters I’ve read about recently.  Even if you’re not into sci-fi, read it for the characters.

The tension in this book was perfect.  It’s sort of like this book has the tension of a thriller while having all the elements I want in a sci-fi novel, and I couldn’t ask for more.  Sometimes I’m really in the mood for the sort of tension that a thriller has, but, frequently, when I try to read thrillers it ends in snarky reviews and two star ratings, so being able to get that tension in the form of a sci-fi novel is perfect.  

In addition to that, this book has elements of the old sci-fi I love while also bringing new things that are unique, and I can’t even put into words how much I love it.  

I think that this would be a really good book to read if you wanted to get into sci-fi, but weren’t sure where to start.  It doesn’t have any scientific terms, and it’s not the very science heavy sci-fi you sometimes find. It has a romantic subplot, and everything else about it is just spectacular.  

Five out of five stars.  If I keep reading modern sci-fi like this, and like Sleeping Giants, I’m going to have to take back what I say about not liking modern sci-fi.  

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A Review of The Raven Boys (The Raven Cycle #1) by Maggie Stiefvater

I’ve written several posts about rereading books and comparing my opinions on them then to my opinions on them now.  My most recent post was about rereading things, and, some time last summer (I think) I posted my updated opinions on The Poison Eaters by Holly Black.  If you’ve read those two posts, you know the mood they convey, and both of the posts pretty much culminate in “I’ve been through enough stuff between then and now, and my world view has changed enough between then and now, that it’s not something I can relate to anymore.”  But I also did my post about the second time I read The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman.  If you’re familiar with that post, you know that I talked about how rereading something later can make it so much better.  This is one of those cases.

I first read this book in my early teens, and it was actually this book specifically that got me out of the phase of reading almost exclusively Holly Black’s work.  The characters in The Raven Boys aren’t happy, cheery beings, but they don’t have the same maudlin sadness that so many of Holly Black’s characters seem to thrive off of.  At the time I read Holly Black’s books, I liked that sort of sadness, and I related, but I can also get stuck in a sad way of thinking pretty easily, and I’m sure that choosing to only expose myself to moody, sad characters who were almost at home in their despondent, melancholic ways didn’t help.  The characters in this book might not be happy, but they’re not woeful and glad to be that way (which is a weird sentence, but you know what I mean).  Back then, this was one of the first books I had read for a long time where the characters weren’t just wantonly sad, and I feel like it would be such a cliche to say that this book was life changing, but honestly, I don’t think that statement would be incorrect.  

While we’re on the topic of characters, the way that Maggie Stiefvater describes them is stunning.  Instead of going into too much detail about exact physical descriptions, she says things like how Noah is smudgy and Adam looks like a sepia photograph.  After thinking about this for a while, I feel like she describes the aesthetic and vibes the characters give off more than their physical appearances, and it’s probably my new favorite thing.  I don’t want to know what type of gem someone’s eyes resemble, I want to know what vibes they give off. Saying that Gansey looks presidential describes what he looks like better than saying “He has hazel eyes, but they had this color undertone in the sun, and here is a painfully detailed description of his exact haircut and style,” and it gets the point across in a lot less words.  The descriptions of characters are poetic and can be dropped in throughout the book in a way that flows smoothly, so it doesn’t distract from the rest of the things that are happening in the book.

In addition to that, I really like the pacing in the book.  There’s enough happening that you’re interested in the plot and you want to keep reading (because who isn’t into reading about dead Welsh kings), but there isn’t so much happening that you can’t get to know the characters well.  It might be a little weird to people just getting into the series, and I know that the first time I read it I didn’t love how much character development and backstory there was (but I didn’t dislike it, so don’t take this the wrong way), but, especially reading this book again, I see that there’s no other way for it to have been done.  By the end of the first book, you get the characters, and it’s beautiful.  

When I first read this, I felt like seventeen was really old, so it seemed like it was maybe not entirely unrealistic for them to have to deal with some of the things they had to deal with.  Not all of them, obviously, but, at thirteen, if someone was seventeen they were basically an adult and, therefore, able to deal with most things. Now, seventeen seems very young to me. It’s weird now, rereading it when I’m close to the age Ronan is and my little sister is close to the age of his little brother.  And now the whole series seems a bit different to me. You know that part from the last book, towards the end, when that thing is happening to Ronan, and then Declan calls and that thing is happening to Matthew?  When I read it the first time, I had to stop reading until I stopped crying as much because my irritating brain was immediately like “Hey, Adia, how would you feel if that happened to your little sister?” and I cried so hard I couldn’t see.  (To be fair, I cried for the last forty pages of The Raven King, but that was the point when I cried the most.)  I read the entirety of The Raven King the day after it came out, and that was several years ago, and I know that part is going to be so much more emotional now.  Now I can read it and think “Wow, I’m about Ronan’s age,” which will be a really weird feeling.  In addition to that, since younger me thought that seventeen year olds were able to deal with most things, and probably deal with them with ease, reading about everything they went through makes it seem so much worse.  They’re children! And they have to deal with so many horrible things! And it’s more heartbreaking now.  (Also, I am cringing so much at my younger self.)  Now I have to reread the entire series again. Even my waterproof eyeliner will not survive this.  

My final thoughts on this book are that it was still amazing, and even better this time.  Also, I would recommend it to literally everyone. Do you like contemporary novels? This book has a somewhat tragic love story, and a happy love story, and plenty of realistic, emotional things that are sure to satisfy you.  Do you like fantasy? This has ley lines. And so much more, but I won’t spoil it. Do you like horror and thrillers? There’s a ghost in this book (and I love him). Do you like historical fiction or historical nonfiction? This has dead Welsh kings.  If your favorite genre is something I haven’t mentioned, I’m sure this book has something that you would like. Ten out of ten. I still love it.

About rereading things again/a few thoughts on social media and creativity (I guess)/a sort of review of Things I Have to Tell You

I did it again.  If you’ve read my other post on rereading books (which focused on my new opinions about The Poison Eaters), you know exactly what I mean.  If you haven’t read it, you probably won’t miss anything, but, if you like this post, you may want to check out that one.  

I read this book for the first time when I was twelve or thirteen.  At the time, I found it stunningly captivating. Most of the poetry I had read up until that point had all been professional, or stuff I had written myself, so reading things from other girls my age was something I hadn’t really done before.  I’m sure I had read some poetry by some friends before that, but that would be one poem at a time, and only occasionally. I read the entirety of this in a sitting, and the poetry was a lot more serious than most of what I had read from friends (or, if not more serious, the language was less whimsical, which really changed the way the poem came across to early teenage me), so, at the time, I found it completely breathtaking.  To me, there was no other way this writing could have been taken. It was so serious. They made comments on society, instead of just writing poetry about their feelings like I and all my water sign friends did. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that, because every poem or song I write now is still very much about whatever I’m feeling. It’s just that now I sometimes write about feelings I have towards society or other people, instead of just very personal things that apply only to me.  Also, I’m a Pisces.)

Anyway.  

When I first read this, I was so enthralled by the rawness of the poetry, especially when matched with the beauty of the black and white photos.  Back then, I had no idea what an aesthetic was. I didn’t know what instagram was, and I hadn’t become completely obsessed with making mine the most aesthetic I can.  But, if I had had an instagram back then, I can guarantee you that I would have based my entire aesthetic off of this book. Candid pictures. Bits of poetry. Entirely black and white.  I was about to go through my emo phase. This kind of thing was what I lived for.

Honestly, I do still think it’s aesthetic, and I think the pictures with the poetry go together very well, but, as I’ve gotten older, and, as my worldview has expanded (in other words, after I discovered tumblr and instagram), it’s become a lot less impressive to me.  The poetry that was so profound and impactful to me at twelve or thirteen has lost some of its appeal. You can find poetry that’s similar to it, or, probably, better if you look on tumblr, and you don’t even have to look for that long. On tumblr, there are literally tens of millions of people all blogging into the void, and, when you get that many bloggers on one platform, you’re sure to find something that’s profound and impactful, regardless of what your taste in poetry is.  

This book was published in 2001, which is nearly twenty years ago, and it was a time where tumblr and instagram didn’t exist, so, looking at it from the perspective of someone in 2018 and from the perspective of someone who has both a tumblr and an instagram, it probably isn’t as impressive as it would have been in 2001.  In addition to that, the world has changed so much since then, so the social commentary from back then won’t be nearly as relevant now. That isn’t any fault of the book, or a sign of bad writing, it’s just how things are. In twenty years, the social commentary people are making now won’t be nearly as relevant as what they’re saying then.  Also, this was published in the first half of 2001, and there were big changes in the world even if you just compare the beginning of that year to the end of it. To some people, maybe it’s interesting to look back and see the perspective of teenagers during that time, but I was a very small child at the time, so it doesn’t hold the same appeal to me.  

Don’t take any of this the wrong way.  This isn’t against social media, or saying that social media is killing books or creativity.  If anything, I’m saying the opposite. I think it’s really cool that we can go online and find whatever poetry we want to read.  Back when this book came out, we were limited to whatever we could find published, and now, authors who haven’t been published can more easily get their work out there and have a voice.  I’ve read quite a bit of tumblr poetry that’s substantially better than poetry that was professionally published.

In addition to that, since the last time I read this book, I’ve become a lot better read.  Since then, I’ve read lots of sci-fi and old dystopian novels. Now that I’ve read those, I can see that no one can do social commentary like Bradbury or Huxley.  Also, back when I read it, I was younger than everyone who had something in the book, and now I’m older than they are, and I think that age can make a big difference in how you see these sorts of things.  I’m sure there are ways in which twelve year old me is similar to me now, but I would like to think that I know more now. At twelve and thirteen, I thought I had the world figured out, and, although I didn’t listen to Radiohead back then, I was definitely more pretentious than I am now.  In other words, I think this poetry can speak to someone in their early to mid teens (maybe. I didn’t read it at all during my mid teens so I don’t know), but, older than that, I think it loses something.

A Review of Fiendish by Brenna Yovanoff

There’s no way I could describe this novel and do it justice.  Really, there’s no way to describe any of Brenna Yovanoff’s novels in a way that does them justice.  Even the descriptions on the backs of the books or online don’t sum them up as well as it should. When describing her book The Replacement, all I can say is that it’s about a sad, changeling bassist, who is relatable, and, out of all the protagonists in Brenna Yovanoff’s book, the one I would most like to know.  When describing Paper Valentine, all I can say is that it’s a murder mystery and there’s a dead girl who sings a Radiohead song (big mood).  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying that these books have only a few points to them and that everything else is forgettable or unimportant.  My point is, there are so many parts to every Brenna Yovanoff book that it’s nearly impossible to describe them accurately without going on for hours and spoiling literally everything.  This book isn’t just a story about a girl trying to find out why she was trapped in a cellar for ten years.  It’s also a beautiful love story, and, even though it was published four years ago, the parts about the people in town hating anyone who isn’t like them feels very current.  There are some young adult books that feel very much like the time they were published in (I feel like it might be rude to just say that I’m talking about Uglies, but I’m totally talking about Uglies), but this book doesn’t feel that way.  I don’t know exactly what time the story takes place, and, the way it’s written, it could have been published last month.  

The characters in this book were more relatable to me than the ones from the author’s other books.  Yes, I related to Mackie Doyle in The Replacement, and the dead girl singing “Fake Plastic Trees” will always be me on the inside, but there’s just something about Clementine and Fisher that spoke to me.  (I don’t want to spoil anything, but, if you’ve read the book, that line Fisher says at the end of chapter twenty-five really stands out to me. You know which one I mean.)  There’s almost a casual sadness to them that I love and relate to very much. They do not live in a happy, fairytale world. They live in a realistic world. Things are not perfect.  They seem relatively unhappy. It’s perfect. I’ve mentioned before (but possibly not recently) that I prefer sad characters to overly happy ones, and these characters fit that so well.  That said, it’s not an overly sad novel, and, if you prefer characters who aren’t very sad all the time, these characters aren’t overwhelmingly sad the whole time.  Them being sad isn’t the entire point of the book, it’s just something they are.

I loved the worldbuilding in this novel.  The author didn’t go into extensive detail about why things were, and explained everything in such a way that it doesn’t require pages of exposition.  There are fiends because of course there are. They don’t need a long explanation. They’re there. It makes perfect sense because the author treats it like something that’s totally normal.  If it had been treated like something that was weird and unexplainable, the minimal amount of backstory wouldn’t have worked, but, the way the book was written, it was perfect.

The atmosphere of this book is stunning.  You can clearly picture every scene, and every person, and it makes me want to base my entire instagram theme off of it.  There’s just enough description so that you know what things look like yet you can still fill in the gaps with your own thoughts.  All of this is done without bogging down the story with over explaining. It just casually mentions things that help you to picture the scene.  This makes it so easy to be absorbed by the book, and it adds so much.

My last comment on this book could apply to any Brenna Yovanoff book that I’ve read so far:  I really like how all of her books are standalone novels. These days there are so many trilogies, and so many series that are even longer than that, and it’s really nice to be able to find a book that has a complete and well written story in under four hundred pages.  Don’t get me wrong, I do like reading series, but a longer series can get tedious, and it can be irritating to have to wait to get the rest of the books or wait for the rest of the series to come out, so I like being able to pick up a book and read an entire story in a day.  

I loved this book, and I think it would be a good book to start with if someone wanted to get into Brenna Yovanoff’s writing.  Five stars.

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.

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.  

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