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A Review of The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson

I debated just marking the spoilery paragraphs, but I have too many spoilery things to talk about to restrict it to just a few paragraphs.  This will be very spoilery. You have been warned.

 

I have no idea what to write for the first paragraph, so let’s just get into the review.  

Most of the characters were really flat and not that memorable.  In the first fifty or sixty pages of the book, it seemed like there would be some good character development, but it just stopped after that point.  After finishing the book, I’m left feeling like I can’t remember the characters, and, no matter how much I think about them, I can’t remember that much about them.  Jazza played the cello and didn’t break rules. Jerome had curly hair, may have been interested in astronomy, and dated the main character, but I can’t remember anything else about him.  The only development Charlotte got was that she’s ambitious and Rory doesn’t like that. That’s not character development. That’s one person’s opinion, and it’s a ridiculous opinion to begin with.  Charlotte could have just been someone Rory didn’t get along with instead of attempting to make her dislikable for no reason. It’s not like she has to be disliked so that people suspect her of something later in the book, it’s completely arbitrary and unnecessary.  

Even though I found myself not being able to connect or relate to the characters, there was one exception.  I loved Alistair. He’s the only character I felt like I could really connect to, and I found myself wondering why I couldn’t find people like him in real life.  I want to know people like this, and, honestly, I’d probably crush on a guy who had fancy, spiked hair, and liked eighties goth music. As it turns out, he’s dead.  The reason I can’t find people like him is that he was actually someone from the eighties. (Side note: If anyone has access to a time machine and is willing to take my eyeliner and me back to the eighties, let me know.)  Even though there wasn’t much character development for Alistair, I’m willing to overlook it. He sits in dark parts of the library and reads all day. He has fancy hair. He writes papers for people in exchange for music. He wears Doc Martens (which, despite what Pretty Little Liars will tell you, are the best type of shoe).  He could have just showed up for half a page during the book and he still would have been my favorite. (Side note: I have decided that, when I am a ghost, I would like to be this kind: Wearing Doc Martens for eternity and haunting a library. That’s basically what I do already in life, so I might as well continue it in death.)  

If you’ve been reading my review for any amount of time, you know how I am about backstory.  I felt like this book left something to be desired with that, as well. Since the “Jack the Ripper” in this story wasn’t the real one, and was, in reality, and angry ghost who had questionable motives and nothing to do with the real Jack the Ripper, the author couldn’t rely on the history to be the backstory.  I don’t think that relying on history to be backstory is a good thing, but, at the very least, it would have been something. There was backstory for the antagonist, but his whole plan was to cause enough trouble to get the attention of the ghost hunters, so he could destroy the things they use to get rid of ghosts, and then live (possibly not the best choice of words) forever.  The problem with that plan is that the ghost hunters don’t go after ghosts who aren’t causing trouble, so if he had just not murdered anyone, he would have continued to be able to exist in peace.

There was some backstory for some of the characters, but it was brief enough that you didn’t have time to empathize with them, or connect to them.  Some of the characters had emotional backstories, and they deserved more attention. It’s an almost four hundred page book, so it’s not like there wasn’t time to give backstory.  I plan to read the other books in the series, and I hope that the author expands on the characters’ backstories in those.

I really don’t know what I wanted this to be.  I went into this not expecting the new Jack the Ripper to be a ghost with poor decision making skills, but I probably wouldn’t really have been able to get into a historical horror novel, so maybe it was for the better that the twist happened?  But, on the other hand, I went into it expecting it to be the real Jack the Ripper, so having a moody, middle aged ghost man instead kind of feels like a let down. But, in addition to that, no one ever figured out who Jack the Ripper was, so how would someone handle having the ghost of the actual Jack the Ripper?  Would it become a loose interpretation of history?  I don’t know.

The only thing I new about this book before I went into it was the vague memory I had of the description I read when I bought it several years ago, so maybe I was disappointed by it only because I didn’t have a clear memory of what it was supposed to be about?  Who knows.

The one thing I really liked was the way the author handled people being able to see ghosts.  It had a scientific explanation behind it, which I thought was really interesting, and I don’t know if I’ve seen that kind of thing anywhere else before.  I wish there had been a little more detail about why exactly it happened, but, like with the backstory for some of the characters, I’m hoping that there will be more about this in future books.  

Four stars.  But it would have been lower if Alistair hadn’t been in it.  

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Books that will change your worldview and what order to read them in

I’ve mentioned in other reviews that I have a list of books that went into completely changing my world view.  I’ve seen some people who seem to try to expand their worldview by reading exclusively young adult contemporary novels; however, while I have no experience with YA contemporaries so I can’t definitively say, I don’t think that’s possible.  

 

First, you should read A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle.  Yes, I know that it’s technically a children’s book.  I don’t care how old you are. It will make you feel things, and it will make you think.  Read the rest of the series, too. This is a good series to start on, because it’s easy to get into and it’s not quite as serious as some of the things that will come later in the list.  

 

After you’re done with that, read The Giver series by Lois Lowry.  Read the whole series. Cry as the books become more and more emotional.  These books, even though they do make you think, still show everything in a light that makes it very obvious who’s bad and who’s good.  You will think about it, but you don’t have to think too hard about it. This will make more sense later.

 

Once you’ve finished both of those series, read We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson.  This one isn’t about a dystopian society, and it isn’t about oppressive government, but it’s disturbing, and it makes you think.  The first books in this list are all partially about getting your mind in the right place to not be traumatized by the later books.  You can’t just jump right into Brave New World or Clockwork Orange without adequate build up.  

 

Between those books and the next one, read various Bradbury short stories.  It doesn’t matter which ones you read exactly, just read as many of them as you can find.  Feel existential.

 

Once you feel ready, read Lord of the Flies by William Golding.  I’ve talked to several people about this book, and there seem to be three opinions of it.  Some people loved it (and probably didn’t think it was sad), some people didn’t see the point of it (and also probably didn’t find it at all sad), and some people found it completely heartbreaking and can’t give it a rating.  I fall into the third group. If you read this book and end up falling into group one or two, go back and read more Bradbury short stories. Repeat until you fall into group three.

 

Next read Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut.  This book completely breaks the fourth wall and actually tells you which characters are going to die next.  It may be more apocalyptic than dystopian, if that matters to you, but it’s one of the best written apocalyptic novels I’ve ever read.  

After you’re done reading that Vonnegut novel, pick up Cat’s Cradle.  I think that this one is a little more disturbing than the other one.  Maybe because it has scientists making something that they consider helpful, but it ends up destroying the world?  I could see that happening. I can still picture some of the scenes from this book, and they give me chills.

 

Now read Childhood’s End by Arthur C. Clarke.  It’s been a long time since I read this one, but I think it’s more sad than traumatizing.  Honestly, though, after reading that much Vonnegut, you probably need something less traumatizing.  

 

At this point, start listening to a lot of Radiohead.  It adds to the mood. (Do not listen to it while reading these books.)

 

And now Fahrenheit 451.  I tend not to recommend audiobooks, but I think it may be best to hear Ray Bradbury read it.  I’ve found that this book really makes you want to go outside, smash your phone, and never drive above forty miles per hour.  I actually started thinking about it earlier today while I was driving somewhere, and it made me feel really weird about how the speed limit on most of the roads around my house are around forty miles per hour (or they’re thirty five, and everyone just goes forty anyway).  There were deer in a field I drove past earlier today. The other people in the car with me saw them, but, while going thirty five miles per hour, I couldn’t see them. Before today, I never stopped to think about how many things I couldn’t see because I was driving too fast.  I feel very existential now. (Warning: Be very careful if you should listen to music while reading this. That music will forever bring the book back to you. Cloudcuckooland by the Lightning Seeds will never be the same again.)

 

Speaking of feeling existential, if you’ve read all of these, you probably do, too.  So let’s take a small break from the books that will make you feel like your world is falling apart.  These aren’t books that will change your world view, but they’re a few books that will make your soul hurt a little less.  

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh.  

The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series by Douglas Adams.  

Anything by David Sedaris.  

The Amazing Maurice and his Educated Rodents by Terry Pratchett.  Perhaps use this one to break yourself back into reading the existential stuff.

And, if you’re still not over Lord of the Flies, try Beauty Queens by Libba Bray.  There are no sad boys with glasses.

 

Now that that’s over and you’re ready to get back into changing the way you think about everything, read Something Wicked This Way Comes by Ray Bradbury.  It’s not as heartbreaking or disturbing as some of the others, but it’s still something you should read.  While you’re reading this, read The Songs of Distant Earth by Arthur C. Clarke, too.  Neither of them come with the same looming sense of dread that a lot of the other books on this list do, and they would be good for coming back from your existential break.  

 

Read “Harrison Bergeron” by Kurt Vonnegut.  And then read the comments on internet articles, watch the news, and see how we’re getting closer to this every year.  

 

Before the last two, which are probably the most disturbing of the list, read various other sci-fi things.  Read more Bradbury and Vonnegut. If you want a wider range of authors, try the anthology Brave New Worlds, edited by John Joseph Adams.  I didn’t love every story in it, but there are enough good ones that it’s worth reading.  If you haven’t read “All Summer in a Day” yet, do that now.

 

Read Clockwork Orange.  I would recommend buying your own copy because it’s the kind of book you have to hold on to for a while (for some reason).  After you’ve read it, you don’t want it, but you can’t get rid of it for years. It’s like it still has some kind of hold on you.  Also, read this book in small amounts. It’s short so you could probably read it in a sitting, but, emotionally, that’s not possible.  If you didn’t read all the books from the existential break then, maybe read one of them after this.

 

Now, you should be ready for Brave New World.  Part of the beauty of this book is that it doesn’t tell you who you should empathize with.  Unlike young adult dystopian novels, it doesn’t have a specific villain that everyone works together to defeat.  It lets you form all of your own opinions about the characters, while giving all the information in an unbiased, chilling way.  If you like to read articles about what the world’s going to be like in fifty years, you may have seen the one about how we may have to start decanting children.  It didn’t use that exact word, but you know that’s what they mean.  Smithsonian and Wired both covered this recently.  

 

If you can get through all of these books without having to curl up in a ball and cry hysterically every day, congratulations.  Also, if you’ve read all of these, hopefully the way you think about the world will have changed. If not, start at the beginning of the list again.  

Another Review of The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin

If you’re sensitive about spoilers, maybe skip this one.  

 

I decided to reread this for two reasons.  The first one is that I know I can do a much better review of it now than I did when I reviewed it the first time.  The second is that I know I look at books more critically now, and I think my opinions of the book will have changed for better or for worse.  

I feel like, with everything going on in the book, and with the way it starts, it really should pull me in.  It starts with a note from Mara saying that she had to pick a pseudonym and that she has a body count.  She’s writing this to warn whoever’s reading it so that they’re not next. That should pull me in from the first page.  That bit alone makes it seem promising and creepy, and like something I wouldn’t want to put down. But no.

I do think that for the first couple chapters it does pull you in a bit and make you curious about what’s coming, but it ends not too long after that.  It would be one thing if this was the first time I read this book, had no idea that the book would become more interesting, and happened to become bored with it around sixty or seventy pages in.  I’ve read this before. I know that I liked it and that, after the exposition and build up that takes place over the first hundred pages, the plot becomes faster and things get darker. (Side note:  I write bits and pieces of my reviews as I read, and, after actually getting through the bit that I said would be darker, I realized that it’s not actually that dark. There’s a lot more focus on romance, and the book isn’t at all scary.)  There’s just something about it that doesn’t make you want to keep reading. There’s no foreshadowing early in the book. There are hallucinations, which you could maybe consider foreshadowing for the things that are going on with her mentally towards the end of the book, but I don’t think of it that way, and it doesn’t make me want to read more.  The closest to foreshadowing you get is around page seventy. I understand that everything that was happening up until that point was exposition and character development, and you couldn’t have the book without that, but I’m left wanting something that I can’t put my finger on. Maybe a line after something bad happens where she says that she thought that was bad, if only she had known.  Or something about how she wishes she could have told her past self how good she had it.  Something subtle, but enough that it makes you want to keep reading. The obvious relationship that’s going to grow between Noah and Mara isn’t enough to keep me going.  

I’ve mentioned in previous reviews that I can read a book with a slow or weird plot as long as the characters are interesting enough.  The characters in this are interesting, but I can’t connect to them. Mara is either completely apathetic, or very overly emotional. Yes, she’s been through a lot, and these behaviors probably fit with what someone would actually be like after going through something like this, but I haven’t been through any of this and can’t relate.  I can empathize with her, but I can’t connect with her that much. Noah is Noah, and I’ll get into that more later.

I think the reason I kept going the first time I read this is because of the characters, so, while not relatable to me, they are good enough to support the weird plot, but, if the other books in the series are like this, I don’t think the characters would be able to support it.  

I have a lot of mixed feelings about Noah.  On one hand, I loved him the first time I read the book.  On the other hand, I went into this expecting to find a lot of issues with him that I didn’t see before.  Back then, I was fairly new to reviewing books and didn’t look at things quite as critically as I do now. Back then, I didn’t look at relationships in fiction the way I look at them now and didn’t really see any problem with the relationship between Noah and Mara.  In addition to that, back then, this book was incredibly popular, and there were a lot of people who adored Noah and thought the relationship was sweet. I was definitely influenced by that. I’m sure there are people who didn’t like him, and, if I had specifically gone looking for those opinions, I would have found them, but the loudest voices were the ones shouting about how perfect he was.  

I already don’t really like the enemies-to-lovers trope, so that makes me feel differently about their relationship, and, after rereading it, Noah seemed sort of creepy.  I realize why he felt the connection to Mara (I’m not going to spoil this part), but that doesn’t excuse him being overly possessive of her and rather aggressively flirting with her even though she distinctly expressed that she wasn’t attracted to him.  It doesn’t matter that she really was attracted to him and was just irritated by him so she acted like she wanted nothing to do with him.  If someone says that they aren’t interested in someone yet the other person continues to try to get that person to go out with them, embarrasses them, and does literally anything Noah did before they actually started dating, it’s not okay.  It doesn’t matter if they really have a heart of gold. It doesn’t matter if they’re so irritating because they’re covering for the fact that they’re insecure. It’s not okay. Period. The more I write, the more irritated I get with Noah. So that’s happening.  

Their relationship also seems to sort of have the “two broken people falling in love and fixing each other” trope, which is another of my least favorite tropes.  In my opinion, it’s very unrealistic. It’s worked out for some people, but I think it’s wrong to expect that going into a relationship will make whatever you’re struggling with better.  In addition to that, I think it’s wrong to write so many books that have that because it makes it seem like something that would actually work.

Anyway.  Noah literally tells Mara that she’s not like other girls.  (She’s not like other girls because she can kill people with her mind.  Other girls can only wish they could do that so they could get proper revenge on the guy in the pickup truck who cut them off last time they were on the highway.)  I’m sure there are some guys who would actually think that was a good way to flirt with someone, so that’s not unrealistic at all, but the fact that she didn’t start laughing hysterically before getting out of his car is less realistic.  If some guy told me that I wasn’t like other girls, that’s how I would react. I definitely wouldn’t go on to date that guy. And yet, Mara doesn’t laugh at him, and she falls in love with him.

The more I write about him, the more irritated I get with him.  I have a lot less mixed feelings now and more negative feelings towards him.  

In addition to all of that, there were no female friendships in this book.  Yes, Mara talked to Sophie, and to Kate, but it never said what they talked about.  There were no written conversations between any of these people. All the other girls Mara ran into were apparently just so bitter about her dating Noah that they couldn’t be friends.  The only happy female friendship in this book is the one she had with Rachel, and that ended pretty quickly.

I went into rereading this book thinking that I would probably like some aspects of it more than I used to while I would probably like some aspects less.  I expected them to be about equal, but, after writing my review of it, I don’t know if they are. Putting all my thoughts about it into words, I’m left feeling more irritated than I was before and like I don’t want to read the second book.  

Three and a half stars.  

A Review of Crushed (Pretty Little Liars #13) by Sara Shepard

Spoilers.  

 

These are entertaining.  Don’t judge me.

I honestly don’t know how the author is going to wrap everything up by the end of the series.  The series is nearly over, but in every book there are more and more loose ends that don’t get tied up.  We finally know what happened in Iceland, which I think I complained about in a past review, but that plot point ended up feeling sort of anti-clamactic.  Art theft obviously isn’t something to be taken lightly, but I thought that the “Iceland Thing” would end up being more along the lines of murder. I mean, I guess it could still be murder, since Aria doesn’t know what happened to the guy she stole the art with, but it still seems like it was made to seem like a much bigger deal than it actually is.  

In addition to that, with everything happening with Tabitha and all the other drama they have going on in their lives, don’t you think they would want to avoid doing anything that could come back to haunt them?  At the time of the art theft, Aria thought that she was the person who ACTUALLY killed Tabitha, and I would assume that that would probably make someone paranoid? It was entirely possible that someone would have caught her while she stole the art, and, to me, the next step, after people catching you stealing art, is that they figure out whatever other horrible things you’ve done.  Like possibly murdering a girl while on vacation. Like you do.

When asked anything about Tabitha, all of the main characters act very strangely, and the fact that no one has suspected them of having something to do with it yet is astounding.  They very obviously have something to do with it. For a group of girls called “pretty little liars”, they’re really horrible at lying.

The fact that every romantic relationship the characters have ends poorly makes the books really predictable.  If there could just be one character who kept a significant other, or who broke up with whoever they were dating for normal reasons or at least without drama, maybe I would hesitate before I automatically disliked whoever they started dating.  I know that relationships aren’t flawless. I know that they can end in drama or with realizing that whoever you’re dating is someone you really don’t want to be around, but this book makes it seem like the majority of relationships end that way.  Maybe, since I’ve never dated anyone, I’m just misinformed. I don’t think that’s the case, though.

In this book, they start to wonder if Noel is possibly helping “A” or if Noel is “A”.  Which, again, would be a much more shocking plot point if the reader wasn’t repeatedly shown how bad boyfriends are in this series.  Some of the characters are shocked, but there’s no shock value for the reader, and I think that could have been done a lot better. The shock that the characters experienced wasn’t enough to make the readers feel anything, and I’ve started to suspect every new love interest of having some hidden agenda, so I wasn’t shocked at all.  I think it could also be very easy to make too much of this specific point, since there was already a fair amount of the book dedicated to basically stalking Noel, but I think that the parts of the book that were focused on it could have been done a lot better. I’m not looking for something that’s very moving or very impactful from a Pretty Little Liars book, and it’s not like the rest of this book was amazing with only a small bit that needs changed before it would be perfect.  I just felt like there’s so much more drama that could come from Noel being or helping “A” and it was lacking. There was the whole thing with Mona from the first four books, and there was Real Ali in the other books, and those were all suspenseful. But this one, even though they think someone very close to them might be spying on them, lacks the suspense that made the previous books so entertaining.

I think that there were less mentions of clothing brands in this one.  Maybe it’s been like that for a while, and I’ve only noticed it now. I don’t know.  In one of my first reviews for this series, I said something about how it would be cool if, as the series went on and things got darker, they stopped caring about fashion as much because they were more focused on how their worlds were falling apart around them.  It would be character development. But it doesn’t seem like the characters have changed that much. I don’t know how I feel about this. At least it doesn’t feel like the book I’m reading has ad breaks now.

There are several mentions of cell phones with unlisted numbers in this book, which is kind of weird because there’s no place where cell phone numbers would be listed.  It’s not like there’s some online database (that I’m aware of) where every cell phone number is listed along with the name of whoever owns that phone. That would be weird.  Because of this, I think “A” finding their cell numbers, no matter what they do to hide them or change them, is even more disturbing. If there was some list of cell numbers, it wouldn’t be impressive that “A” can always contact them in some way.  The fact that cell numbers are, for lack of a better way to phrase it, easier to keep secret, makes it kind of creepy.

I’m hoping that the last books have a lot of details on how “A” did everything.  It can’t be easy to stalk four people for this long.  I want backstory. Antagonists are important characters, and their backstory can be fascinating.  I’m going to be really disappointed if “A’s” motives aren’t satisfactorily explained.

I don’t know what to rate this.  I’m still here, obviously, so I can’t claim that I hate the series, but I’m still probably going to give it one star on Goodreads.  

A Review of Brave New Girl by Rachel Vincent

Side note:  I’m not saying that any part of this is plagiarism.  Plagiarism is a serious accusation, and it is not something I would accuse someone of lightly.  What I’m saying about this book is that the similarities are too great to be accidental. That does not mean I think the author plagiarized anything.  

 

Also, spoilers.  

 

Wow, that title doesn’t seem familiar at all.  It’s undoubtedly the most original title in existence.  The sequel is titled Strange New World, which, when mixed with the title of the first book totally doesn’t make the title of a famous work of literature.  Oh, wait.

I went into this book knowing almost nothing about it, but knowing that it was probably going to make me pretty angry.  I read Brave New World for the first time when I was fifteen or sixteen, and, since then, I’ve seen far too many young adult dystopian novels that take a little too much inspiration from it.  I’ve never seen one that so blatantly wants to be Brave New World, though.  This book’s title is literally one word off, and the sequel’s title is the same way.  If you’re going to copy something, at least do it well. Do it in a way that makes it not so glaringly obvious.  (I know Huxley’s title came from Shakespeare. I don’t think, given the plot, this book is taking its title from Shakespeare.)

In this world, children are decanted, because of course they are.  The book doesn’t use the word “decanted”, but they’re made in a lab, and each group of people are designed to do different jobs.  Some of them are designed to be attracted to people romantically, some are designed to only grow food. So, basically, they have alphas, betas, gammas, deltas, and epsilons.  But it differs from the plot of Brave New World when one of the girls who grows food falls in love with one of the soldiers.  So it’s basically Brave New World, but a delta falls in love with a beta.  Or maybe she’s an epsilon. I think that’s fair.  It also vaguely hints at a love triangle at the end when she meets her copy.  Brave New World didn’t need outdated tropes and a love triangle to make it worth reading.  Just saying.

Anyway, there are several thousand girls who are exact copies of the main character (who’s named Dahlia) because they all do things like cook, and grow food, and that kind of thing.  People like the geneticists who figure out how to make people like Dahlia are only made five or ten at a time because they’re special, you know like alphas, so they get that kind of treatment.  

This world is a lot more obviously dystopian than the one in Brave New World.  In this, you don’t have to think about whether or not the world is bad.  It tells you. Maybe the author assumes all her readers are deltas (Wait, can deltas read?), so they can’t possibly form their own opinions on, or come to their own conclusions, about the book.  I don’t know. Part of what makes Brave New World so frightening is that no one living there thinks that there’s anything wrong with the way that things are done.  In addition to that, in Brave New World, the author doesn’t specifically point out to you that the world is bad.  You have to decide that for yourself. I know some people who read it and had no problems with the world, and actually thought it was nice.  When I read it, I was horrified. Not because the book told me to feel that way, but because it was honestly horrifying to me. Part of what makes old dystopian books so good is that they don’t hit you over the head with how bad the world is.  You actually have to think for yourself. Frequently, in dystopian books, the world ended up the way it did because a lot of people were willing to stop thinking for themselves and let other people tell them how to feel. So it feels like some sort of sick irony that so much modern dystopian tells you how they think you should feel about the world.  Doesn’t that defeat the point of what you’re writing about? And doesn’t that show that, if you’ve read any good dystopian literature, it went over your head completely?

I like books that make me think.  This book didn’t make me think. This book shames the dystopian genre and pales in comparison to the book it is so obviously and heavily inspired by.  

Dahlia’s love interest is made up of every overused trope.  He’s taller than her, a year older than her, a little more tan than her but not enough so that the book would actually have diverse characters.  He speaks to her in a way that’s almost condescending, but not quite bad enough that she picks up on it. He treats her like she doesn’t know what she’s doing, and he doesn’t take her seriously.  (I know I’ve said that I think she’s an epsilon, and I stand by that, but, since this book doesn’t break people into castes like that, my opinions on what she would be doesn’t forgive a horrible love interest.)  At first, I was thinking that this was going to end up being the “bad boy with a heart of gold” trope that I’ve seen far too much of, but he doesn’t even have a heart of gold. He’s just horrible. There’s no point where you learn that he’s had a tragic past that makes it hard for him to open up to someone.  There’s no point where he realizes he’s being insensitive and apologizes and stops. This is apparently just who he is. Who decided this was okay? Apparently the geneticists who designed him. Wanna bet they were men?

I think one of my biggest issues with this is that, even though there will be other people like me who see that this is unapologetically trying to be Brave New World, there will be plenty of people who don’t see that.  There will be probably even be some people who, years after reading this, will find a copy of Brave New World, not look at the release date, and think that it copied this book.  Some people are going to read this book, have no idea what Brave New World is, and think that this author is so original and creative, when, in reality, all she’s doing is lifting bits of plot from novels that are far better than anything she will ever be able to create.  I’m not saying that everyone HAS to read Brave New World, even though I think everyone should, just to understand when someone unsuccessfully tries to recreate it, but this author is very probably getting praise she doesn’t deserve for ideas she didn’t come up with, and that’s not okay.  (In addition to that, I don’t think I’m better than people who haven’t read Brave New World.  I don’t know if I came across that way or not, but I want to clear it up in case I did.)  

One star.  Read Brave New World instead.  Really. It’s almost a hundred years old and still relevant, perhaps now more than then.  

Favorite Quotes

You can tell a lot about someone from the quotes they write on notecards and put in a box under their bed.  So, in no particular order, these are some of my favorite quotes.

 

“‘Music is our best language.  It’s just what we do.” Brenna Yovanoff, The Replacement

 

“Look out at the nothing and feel it looking back.”  Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, Illuminae

 

“‘Let’s just say that I want to find what’s real.  I want to feel it – whatever it might be. And then, while the rest of the world sits cozy and oblivious inside their glass houses, I will be walking through walls.’”  Susan Dennard, “Shirley and Jim”

 

“And I’ve found that since you can’t electrify yourself like a fence, the next best thing is to have murderer’s eyes.”  Laini Taylor, Night of Cake & Puppets

 

“Today is the first day of the rest of your days.”  Radiohead, “Lift”

 

“But I’m sick of spending these lonely nights training myself not to care.”  Interpol, “NYC”

 

“One day I am gonna grow wings.  A chemical reaction. Hysterical and useless.”  Radiohead, “Let Down”

 

“Call off the search for your soul or put it on hold.”  Arctic Monkeys, “No. 1 Party Anthem”

 

“If I could be who you wanted all the time…”  Radiohead, “Fake Plastic Trees”

 

(The next quote was literally right after the one I just wrote down in the box I store these in.  I did not set it up this way purposefully. Apparently this is a recurring thing I relate to.)

 

“Can’t be what you want because I’m me.”  Pearl Jam, “Corduroy”

 

“‘Safe as Life.’”  Maggie Stiefvater, The Raven Boys  

 

“Hell is caring about other people.”  Melissa Albert, The Hazel Wood  

 

“I know I was born, and I know that I’ll die.  The in-between is mine. I am mine.” Pearl Jam, “I Am Mine”  

 

“Miracles are statistical improbabilities.  And fate is an illusion humanity uses to comfort itself in the dark.  There are no absolutes in life, save death.” Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff, Illuminae

 

“In the end, he was nobody to Adam, nobody to Ronan.  Adam spit his words back at him and Ronan squandered however many second chances he gave him.  Gansey was just a guy with a lot of stuff and a hole inside him that chewed away more of his heart every year.”  Maggie Stiefvater, The Raven Boys

 

“I love you more than being seventeen.”  The Strokes, “Evening Sun”

 

“They were always walking away from him.  But he never seemed able to walk away from them.”  Maggie Stiefvater, The Raven Boys

 

(The entirety of the Blur song “You’re So Great” has beautiful lyrics.  Very sad, but very beautiful.)

 

“Now is the envy of all of the dead.”  Don Hertzfeldt, World of Tomorrow 

 

“Everything’s in order in a black hole.”  Arctic Monkeys, “Fluorescent Adolescent”

 

“Some small ones learn to stitch together a Coat of Scowls or a Scarf of Jokes to hide their Hearts. Some hammer up a Fort of Books to protect theirs.”  Catherynne M Valente, The Boy Who Lost Fairyland  

A Review of Wild Beauty by Anna-Marie McLemore

I went into this book expecting a fantasy with romance.  That’s not an entirely wrong idea of what this book is about, and, if you just wanted a general description of what this book is about, that could sum it up easily.  Even though I didn’t go into this expecting a high fantasy story, I expected more fantastical elements than I got. This book is more magical realism, and, although that genre isn’t bad, it’s not something I read much of, or something that I typically enjoy.  The book did have romance, but I didn’t really like it.  More on that later.

The writing style of this book is interesting, but it’s hard to explain.  The prose flows smoothly, almost in a poetic way, and it feels kind of abstract, if that makes sense.  It’s almost like it’s all kind of floaty and weird. I can’t think of a way to describe it that really does it justice, so I’m going to leave it by describing it as abstract and floating.  I almost feel like the writing would have fit just as well in a book of modern poetry, where it’s so entrenched in the author’s own personal mythology that it makes no sense to anyone else.  That isn’t a comment against the book, it’s just a comparison. When I’ve come across this style of writing before, it’s been in collections of modern poetry, so that’s where I head when I read it.  

The only other novels I’ve read that have a similar atmosphere are The Walls Around Us and The Accident Season.  (I have a spoilery and spoiler-free review up for The Walls Around Us, if you’re interested.)  Those books are less fantasy, or magical realism, though, and more horror.  

There is a lot of LGBT+ representation in this book, and a lot of those characters aren’t white, so that’s really cool.  I haven’t found a lot of books that have characters who are LGBT+ and also aren’t white, so, if that’s something you’re looking for, definitely check this out.  All of these characters had developed personalities that weren’t based off of stereotypes about their sexuality or race, which is also really cool because I’ve seen far too many books where the author basically goes “this character isn’t straight/white so you know how they are”, and leave it only with that.  This book did not do that, and it was great.

That being said, this doesn’t seem like it’s a character driven novel, which is what I tend to prefer, so that made me like it a little less.  The story was centered more around the plot and world than it was the characters, which obviously isn’t bad, it just wasn’t my style. The plot was interesting, and the place they lived seemed almost anthropomorphic, which was something I don’t think I’ve seen anywhere before; however, I look for characters above anything else, and this didn’t have that.  

It seemed like, even though things were happening, not enough things were happening.  The middle of the novel got kind of slow, and I had to force myself to continue reading for about a hundred pages.  In addition to that, it seems like the plot twists were brought in just a little bit too late. If they had been brought in maybe fifteen or twenty pages earlier, I think I would have been a lot more motivated to continue reading it.  

I think there could have been a lot more backstory and explanation about what was happening.  I know that the whole point is that they don’t know what’s happening, and they have to figure out why all of these things work the way they do, and where Fel came from, but I need exposition.  I think I actually prefer info-dumping to a lack of explanation. I don’t like info-dumping, but I like to know things. I’d rather know too much, and in a format that isn’t ideal, than be left with unanswered questions.  The lack of information throughout most of the book probably had something to do with why I didn’t feel very motivated to finish it.

Finally, I want to talk about the relationship between Estrella and Fel.  I’ve talked to people in the past about things similar to this, and it seems like my opinions on this topic aren’t the most popular, so take this entire paragraph with a grain of salt.  I am very uncomfortable with the way the main characters (Estrella included) consider Fel a brother or cousin, and then she falls in love with him. Through the whole thing, even when they’re in love, Fel thinks about how it might be weird that he’s in love with her but also wants to be part of her family.  Their interactions are described as being similar to those that would go on between a brother and sister. I know he’s not technically related to her, but the fact that she once viewed him as a brother or cousin, and the fact that her cousins seem to view him as a cousin, makes the relationship feel very weird to me.  If they had all thought of him as someone who lived with them, but had no relationship with them beyond that, I would be okay with it. It’s the fact that he’s almost seen as family that really makes me uncomfortable.

Overall, this book wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t my favorite, and I don’t plan to pick up any of the other books by this author.  Three out of five stars.

A Review of The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert

Have you ever wanted to read the urban fantasy version of a young adult contemporary road trip novel?  Or are you vaguely intrigued by that description? If so, this is the book for you.

In so many of the dark fairy tale novels I’ve read, it almost seems like the darkness is forced, but this one doesn’t.  The darkness and the horrible things that happen fit very well with the theme and mood of the story. There are two fairy tales that are told in this, and I think that really makes the events that transpire at the end fit.  Even though the things the main characters are going through at the beginning of the book aren’t as terrible as the things they’re going through at the end of the book, the stories give it a sense of consistency, so it makes the awful things at the end not seem forced or out of place.  (Side note: I want to read all of the fairy tales from the collection in this book. I would give up any amount of sleep just to be able to finish that book in one sitting.)

In addition to that, all the plots twists were done beautifully.  There was enough foreshadowing and set up that there was no other way for it to go, but it was also done in such a way that you don’t see any of it coming.  Perhaps, if I reread it again, everything would be clearer? Perhaps there’s subtle foreshadowing that you just don’t notice until you’ve read it once? I don’t know.  Maybe I’m just going to use that as an excuse to reread it. (The rest of this paragraph is discussing spoilery things. I’m not specifically saying what happened, I’m just saying that something happened to a specific character, so, if you don’t want to see anything that could spoil it, skip the rest of this paragraph.)  I did have some suspicions about Finch and the thing that happened with him. In the past two months, I’ve read Illuminae and Gemina, which both have similar plot lines with THAT THING that happened with Finch, and, in the end, it turns out that both of those characters were actually okay.  I wanted to believe that Finch was okay, and the love interests had been okay in those other two books, so I just decided to believe that he was fine.  And he was, which isn’t a comment against the story, and, if I hadn’t read Illuminae and Gemina recently, I wouldn’t have even seen that as a possibility, but I did kind of see that part coming.  Like I said, I would have just cried about it and kept going if I hadn’t read those other books, but since they both had that, I wondered if this book would, too.  To be fair, I thought I was wrong until the end, but I wanted to think that he was okay.

The characters were very interesting, and they all felt very real.  They were just flawed enough to be human, but not flawed in the way that typical young adult book characters are flawed.  Alice wasn’t clumsy, like so many young adult protagonists are, she was filled with rage and very easily angered. You don’t frequently see that in girls from young adult novels.  There are plenty of bad boys with hearts of gold who are irritable, but it’s not as if in real life only guys have anger issues. It’s so nice to see that the flaws these characters have aren’t determined by what would be “appropriate” based on what gender they are.  I hope this book starts a trend of giving female characters realistic flaws instead of just making them all clumsy because that could be labeled as “cute” under the right circumstances. In addition to that, I really liked that Alice is almost as tall as Finch, because you don’t see that much in young adult novels, either.  

I really like that this is the kind of creepy that’s just creepy enough to get under your skin.  You don’t lie awake at night thinking that some monster is going to come and take your soul, but you wouldn’t be surprised if you turned a corner and saw someone from one of the stories.  I think that this is the best kind of horror, and I love when it’s mixed with fantasy.

My favorite part was probably the ending.  I love endings that aren’t entirely happy, but are incredibly realistic.  I love endings where relationships don’t work out because, even though they love (or at least like) each other, they have other priorities.  Things are not perfect, but it’s what you could expect in life. In addition to that, since the fairy tales in this book are so dark, it only makes sense that it’s not a perfect ending.  A cliched, happy ending wouldn’t fit with the story.

The one thing that I’m uncertain about with this is the fact that there’s going to be a second book.  If the author released a book of the fairy tales from this world, I would adore it, but I don’t know how you would continue this with a sequel.  How do you expand on something that was wrapped up so nicely? I’ve read several other reviews of this, and, even though they rated the book five stars, they said they didn’t like the ending, so maybe I’m alone in thinking that it was perfect?  I don’t know. I think I do still plan to read the sequel, but I may wait a few months to see how people are reviewing it before I pick it up.

Anyway, this book was amazing.  Five stars. Fingers crossed the sequel is every bit as good.  

Coffee Book Tag

I found this tag on the youtube channel Katytastic, and I’m going to put a link to her video at the end of this post.  (I changed one of the questions because I didn’t know how to answer it, but I think it’s similar enough to the old question that it doesn’t really change that much.)

 

  1. Black: Name a series that’s tough to get into but has hardcore fans.

 

The Raven Cycle by Maggie Stiefvater.  The first third of the first book is mostly character development and exposition, and it’s really easy to get stuck in that section of the book, but the people who get past the first book tend to be obsessive hardcore fans.  I definitely am.

  1. Peppermint mocha: Name a book that gets more popular during the winter or a festive time of year.

I’m going to go with a book I tend to read around the festive time of the year because I can’t think of one that gets more popular in general.  Anyway, the book I tend to read around the holidays is Hyperbole and a Half.  I’ve lost track of how many times I’ve read it, but it’s just as good every time.  It also provides a great escape from having to deal with relatives for two months.

 

  1. Hot chocolate: What is your favorite children’s book?

Inkheart by Cornelia Funke.  I never got through the whole series when I was younger, but whenever I have time, I need to finish the series.  

 

  1. Double shot of espresso: Name a book that kept you on the edge of your seat from start to finish.

 

The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert.  I haven’t finished it yet, but I’ve read most of it, so it counts.  I did not expect that plot twist. I wasn’t ready. I almost cried.

 

  1. Starbucks: Name a book you see everywhere.

Throne of Glass by Sarah J Mass.  I’ve been hesitant to read it because, from what I’ve seen, it’s either a book you love, or a book you hate, and I worry that I would offend someone by loving or hating it.  It’s weird that THIS is the book that I’m hesitant to read because I’m worried that I’ll offend someone. I’ve had no problem negatively reviewing popular books before, and this series actually has large groups of people who hate it, so you’d think that I would feel more comfortable with the possibility that I could express unpopular opinions, but no.  

 

  1. That hipster coffee shop: Give a shout out to a book that isn’t that popular.  

Mortal Danger by Ann Aguirre.  This book is an urban fantasy with romance, and there are a lot of very popular young adult urban fantasy novels with romance subplots, so I feel like this should be more popular.  

 

  1. Oops! I accidentally got decaf: Name a book you were expecting more from.

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby.  I went into this expecting a richly detailed urban fantasy, and, instead, I got something that felt more like an unemotional, dark contemporary novel.  

 

  1. The perfect blend: Name a book or series that was both bitter and sweet but ultimately satisfying.

 

Illuminae and Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff.  I cried more during those two books than I did for everything I read for the entirety of last year.  I haven’t read Obsidio yet, so I can’t say if the ending of the series is ultimately satisfying, but I’m sure it will be.  And I’m sure that even my waterproof eyeliner will be no match for the crying I’ll do while reading it.  

 

Video with the tag:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Uf7jJWnDq_Q

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