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

Spoilers.  

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

Anyway.  

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

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

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A Review of Uglies by Scott Westerfeld

Some spoilers.  

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

THE ULTIMATE BOOK TAG: 25 BOOKISH QUESTIONS

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

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. Do you smell your books?

Yes.  

  1. Books with or without little illustrations?

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

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

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

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

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

  1. What is the tiniest book on your shelf?

A collection of Edgar Allan Poe’s poetry.  

  1. What is the thickest book on your shelf?

Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell.  

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

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

  1. When did you get into reading?

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

  1. What is your favourite classic book?

Brave New World.  

  1. In school what was your best subject?

Either English or music.  

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

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

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

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

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

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

  1. What is your favorite word?

Anthropomorphize.  

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

I’m a nerd.  

  1. Vampires or Fairies? Why?

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

  1. Shapeshifters or Angels? Why?

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

  1. Spirits or Werewolves? Why?

Spirits.  Unless it’s Sam from Shiver.  

  1. Zombies or Vampires? Why?

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

  1. Love Triangle or Forbidden Love?

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

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

Action with a bit of romance.  

 

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

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

Spoilers.  

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

A Review of Monstrous by MarcyKate Connolly

There may be a few small spoilers.  It depends what you consider spoilers.  

 

One review of this book claimed that it was a cute, heartwarming story that would be great for a read-aloud with young children.  I have no idea what book they read, because I still haven’t stopped crying. Don’t get me wrong, the book was amazing, but I still haven’t stopped crying.  

This book has characters you don’t even know you’ve connected with until they die.  And then you cry so hysterically that your cat comes to make sure you’re okay. I’m going to stop here so I don’t spoil any of the deaths for you, because I think you should read this book, and I don’t want to ruin any of the plot twists.  The characters are so well-developed and interesting. Even if you can’t relate to the situations they’re in, you can connect to them and sympathize. And then you can have your heart crushed as it just gets worse for them.  It literally never gets better.  It. Just. Gets. Worse.  

Anyway.  

At first, while reading this book, I thought maybe it would be somewhat similar to Cinder.  A girl who isn’t entirely human loves someone who doesn’t know that, things are bad, they get progressively worse, etc.  But, around page two hundred, this book takes a much darker turn and keeps going from there. I cried once while reading the entirety of Cinder.  I cried four times in the last hundred pages of this.  This book by no means starts off on a light, happy note, but the beginning is downright cheery when compared to the ending.  And this is coming from someone who enjoys dark fantasy and not entirely happy endings.  (Unhappy endings are fine as long as the dragons are all happy at the end.  If the dragons aren’t happy, I’m not happy.)

What I find really interesting about this book is how the atmosphere changes as you go.  It starts off reading quickly, and you could get two hundred pages into it in four or less hours, easily.  The second half doesn’t slow down pacing wise, but it becomes more emotional, and the things it deals with become heavier, so it takes longer to read and to process.  (As a small side note, this is not the kind of book that you want to read half of in a day. It will emotionally drain you, and you’ll end up crying on your bedroom floor.  Normally, when I say something like that in a review, I will follow it up with something like “not that I’ve done that,” but I was doing that less than an hour ago, and it was completely reasonable given what I just read, so I’m not even going to attempt to deny it.)  I’ve read books where they gradually get darker, but I don’t think I’ve ever read a book that had such a serious change in mood that it actually impacted my reading speed. It was done so seamlessly that I didn’t even notice it until after I had finished the book. Everything in it just blends together so perfectly, and it’s amazing.  

If this is what Frankenstein had been like, I actually would have liked it.  (I like Mary Shelley, and I love that a teenage girl invented sci-fi, but I can’t get into Frankenstein, though I did read it to the end.)  

The only thing I didn’t like about this book is the group it was marketed to.  Goodreads says this is a middle grade novel. Amazon recommends this to children eight and older.  I am a lot older than eight, and I thought it was a very heavy, almost emotionally draining novel. If I had read this at eight, it would have been traumatizing.  The ages of the characters are never specifically mentioned, but I think it’s probably safe to assume that they’re around the ages of the people in the target audience.  However, I think that, if it had been marketed towards teenagers, literally nothing would have to change and the characters would seem like teenagers. Honestly, to me, they seem more like teenagers than they do preteens.  It’s a first person narrative, and some of the ways that things are phrased seem like things that would be written or said by someone significantly older than a preteen. I’m not discounting the intelligence of preteens, their ability to process these things, or anything like that.  I’m just saying that, to me, some of the things sounded like they would come from someone a lot older.

Even if you want to argue that that kind of narration could totally come from someone younger, I still think that the subject matter in this book is so dark and so heavy that it wouldn’t be right for a younger person to read.  There’s no happy ending. At all. Most books written for a middle grade audience have a happy ending, or at least have an ending that doesn’t leave the book tear stained. Like I said before, it’s been a while since I was even close to being in the right recommended age group for this book, and the subject matter weighed on me.  I think that this book would be great for someone in their teens, but I don’t think it’s right for someone younger.

Five out of five stars.  I’m going to go cry.

Also, a lot of the people criticizing this book complain about the fact that they saw the plot twists before they happened.  First of all, there’s no way they saw all of them (there’s no way you saw the dragon doing that. No way), and, second of all, if you’re only focusing on the plot twists, you don’t see the deep emotions behind the story.  This story isn’t about the plot twists. It’s about the characters and the horrible things they go through.

A Review of The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick Part Two

Spoilers.  

 

The same disclaimer from the first part of the review probably still applies to this part.  If you’re religious or easily offended, it’s probably best to not read this one (or the last one).  

This part is a review of the second and third parts of the book, but, before I get into those, I’ve learned something new about the fourth part.  

The chapter numbers in part four are seemingly random.  They go from twenty one to thirty four to fifty five, and, to me, they seemed completely random.  I thought that maybe they were done that way to represent the haphazard progression of time, and that the protagonist is not entirely sure of how long had passed since the last time he had been woken up.  Looking back on why I thought the numbers were like that, I read A LOT into it. There was no actual context there to support my theory for it, but that didn’t stop me. Each section of this book is fairly short, so there isn’t enough space for the level of detail that I like, so, apparently, I’m more than happy to just fill in my own.  It occurs to me now that having the chapter numbers be like that for those reasons would just add to the nearly obsessive symbolism that was part of the reason I didn’t like this book, so it’s sort of ironic that I decided that the chapter numbers were symbolic of something. Anyway, apparently I was wrong. According to the author, the chapter numbers are a cipher.  He also says that he won’t explain what it means because someone said that once you explain what things mean, they stop meaning something. I don’t know how I feel about this statement. Recently, when I’ve read my poetry for groups of people, I’ve stopped giving any sort of explanation for anything except for occasionally giving the reason behind the title, which is something I do only because the titles frequently have no obvious connection to the poems.  I believe that over explanation can ruin art, regardless of what sort of art it is.  When I first started reading my poetry, I would over explain every aspect of it to anyone who asked.  After I stopped doing that, people started reacting more to my poetry because they were able to interpret it through their own lives and feelings.  After I started letting my art speak for itself, I got better reactions to it, and I actually brought several people to tears. So sure, making things painfully clear and over explaining them ruins something.  On the other hand, if something is so vague that it doesn’t even seem like the puzzle it is supposed to be, I feel like it deserves some sort of explanation. Also, even though I just went on about how explanation can be bad, there are plenty of songs I’ve looked up the meaning to, and, after seeing what was behind the lyrics, they seem even more genius than before.  I can’t remember any specific songs, but I know there are several Radiohead and Interpol songs that happened with. Learning what those songs were about didn’t make me feel like they meant nothing, and, in reality, it made them mean so much more. So, I guess what this entire paragraph is saying is that maybe you should explain with caution, but you should explain. I think that, in the case of this book, it needs at least a little explanation.  With the songs, I had a personal reaction and went looking for more meaning to add to my own interpretation. With the chapter numbers, if the reader cares enough to search out their meaning, they should be able to find not some coy comment about how explanation breeds meaninglessness.

Anyway, on to the parts of the book I actually meant to discuss in this review.  

I read part three first.  In the beginning, I had a little trouble entirely focusing on it.  The writing didn’t grab me. Honestly, not much happens in this part.  There’s too much symbolism, and it’s anticlimactic. That’s it. I kept thinking it was leading up to some dramatic, shocking twist at the end, but, even though I guess the ending could have been described as a twist, it didn’t feel like a twist.  Things look like they’re getting better, but oh, no, in the end, they aren’t.  After the endings of part one and part four, I expected more than this.  Even though the ending of part three is predictable, I feel like it still has more.  In all the other parts, the main characters either died, were going to die, or were stuck in some time loop thing that would have been better if it had been in Doctor Who.  In the ending of part three, the main characters are relatively fine.  They’re freaked out, but they’re alive, and they’re not stuck in a time loop.  It would have been better if there had been a different twist, or if there had been more consequences for the main character.  I think that sometimes authors kill characters for shock instead of for plot, and I don’t like that; however, this part was the only one that didn’t involve the death of or unpleasant fate for the main character, so I think the death of a main character, even partly for shock, would have fit.  

The second part was fairly unremarkable, and the issues I had with it are some of the same issues I had with part three, so I’m going to address the issues from both of the parts at once.  

There’s still no character development.  I can’t empathize when I know nothing about the characters.  Bad things happen, and, if these things had happened to a character that I loved and cared about I would have been completely heartbroken, but I have no ways of connecting to these characters, so it doesn’t have the kind of impact that it would have if the characters had been relatable.  

The book continues to hit you over the head with symbolism that barely seems to hold any meaning in these two sections.  Sometimes a spiral is just a spiral. Sometimes a circle is just a circle. Not everything is symbolic of life, the universe, and everything.  Really, going back to what I was saying in the beginning about over explanation, the repeated emphasis that was put on spirals and circles kind of made them lose their meaning to me.  It’s not like they were suddenly brought in at the end of each section, and, suddenly, with spirals and circles it all made sense. For each section, it was repeatedly brought up, and the frequency of it made it seem less important.  On occasion, I like symbolism, but this wasn’t one of those times.

I don’t really know what to rate this.  One star seems too harsh, but two stars seems to generous.  One and a half stars, I guess.

 

P.S.  I still won’t read the introduction.  

A Review of The Ghosts of Heaven by Marcus Sedgwick Part One

Spoilers.  

 

I discuss religion in this review, so, if you’re religious, or if you’re easily offended, please do not read this.  

Also, my reason for uploading this review in two parts is that, with books like this, I frequently think of other things I wanted to talk about several days after the review goes up.  With a lot of reviews, I’m fine with leaving something small out, but, in this one, I want to make sure that I include everything I want to say, and I want a couple more days to be able to form a final opinion on some things.  

And another thing, I did not read the introduction.  I read the page that said something about spirals, promptly forgot everything that it said, and then couldn’t pay attention to the introduction no matter how hard I tried.  Maybe the book would make a lot more sense if I read the introduction, but I haven’t yet. (I skimmed it about a year ago, so I know that it’s not weird to read the sections out of order.)  

So far, I’ve read part one, and part four of the book.  We’ll start with part one.

Part one was told in poetry, and, if you’ve read my review of Perfect by Ellen Hopkins, you know what my standards are for poetry.  The thing with that book, though, is that it was several hundred pages, and it was basically just normal prose with short lines.  In this, the author was trying to be very poetic, and it resulted in no character development whatsoever. Seventy pages of poetry with very short lines doesn’t tell a satisfactory story.  In addition to that, the punctuation and capitalization was haphazard at best, and, overall, the poetry itself left a lot to be desired. (And I do not think that this failure to develop characters is inherent to poetry.  After all, Shakespeare nor Homer had much problem with it.) But that’s not my big complaint about this section.

There are only a few things you know about the main character in this section.  One, she’s been able to possibly get pregnant for several years but hasn’t had a child yet; two, she thought she deserved to be the person to get to go and make the magic; and three, she has an unwavering, unshakable faith in that magic.  The first thing doesn’t tell you anything about her. Maybe, based off of that, you could make some guesses about her age, but that’s not enough to count as character development. It’s possible that you could figure out more about her based off of the second thing, but I don’t really know what, and I still don’t think it’s enough to be character development.  Maybe you could say that she’s a jealous person? But I don’t think you can entirely judge someone’s character based off of one decision like that. So that leaves us with her unfaltering faith in magic. Her entire part of the book is about her being upset that she wasn’t chosen to make magic or her trying to make the magic. That seems to be her defining characteristic.  I do not like this.

To begin with, the idea of blindly following something or believing in something, and thinking that it will solve all your problems and keep you safe is a concept I don’t understand.  I’ve never had blind faith that anything would solve my problems or keep me safe. There is nothing in this world that can do those things. The way I was raised by skeptic parents, the music I listen to, and the books I read have all taught me to question everything and everyone, and not blindly follow things.  I cannot comprehend how someone could do that and feel safe. To me, blindly putting your faith in something you have no control over and relying on it to make your life work out sounds like giving up. This is obviously just my opinion, and it’s very subjective, and I’m a cynical pessimist, so I’m sure that goes into why I would think this way, but this is where I’m coming from.  The only person who can change where your life is going, or who can make your life better, is you. I don’t understand how someone could feel comfortable putting their life in someone/something else’s hands in that way. I’m going to stop here before I get even more offensive.

Anyway.  I didn’t like this part.  

The fourth part of the book was slightly better, but I didn’t love it either.  There wasn’t character development in that either, so, just like the first part of the book, I couldn’t relate to or connect with the characters.  

Both parts of the stories hit you over the head with symbolism.  The fern swirls in a way which COULD GO ON FOREVER, and the snail’s shell swirls in a way WHICH COULD GO ON FOREVER.  The woman’s tattoo swirls IN A WAY WHICH COULD GO ON FOREVER, and the time loop at the end of part four SWIRLS IN A WAY WHICH COULD GO ON FOREVER.  I get it. Things swirl. They go on for a long time. Maybe forever. Who knows. The symbolism got to the point where I think it kind of bogged down the story in some places.  It definitely took away from the first part because of the way it was told, and in the fourth part it would go on for paragraphs about swirls and beauty and the universe. Maybe this is trying to be profound and existential, but I’m not feeling it.  

My other complaint about the fourth part is that, at the beginning, it says that they’ve made it to a place in civilization where people don’t need or want religion anymore.  This made me happy because I was worried that the one thing that would tie all the stories together would be religion, which would make it an unpleasant read for me: however, towards the end, when he sends the ship off course to follow the sound, he suggests that what he would find could be ghosts of heaven or god.  In a world where no one is religious, why would they suggest that something could be from heaven, and why would they suggest that they could find a literal god? This doesn’t make sense to me either. I don’t know.

If you took very small bits of the idea for part four and abandoned all the rest, it would make a great episode of Doctor Who.  One of those really sad episodes from the time when David Tennant was The Doctor.  Just take the bit where every year someone wakes up to check the ship and then people start being murdered, and run with that.  The person wakes up do to their thing, they realize that everything is bad, The Doctor shows up, everyone cries – it would be great.  

I’m not going to give it a final star rating yet because I’ve only read half of it.  The rest of my review will be up Monday evening.

A Review of Beastly by Alex Flinn

Have you been tirelessly looking for a book that talks about the feminine qualities of soup?  Despite all your searching, have you repeatedly been left empty handed? Well, look no further!  This is that book!

I wish I was joking.  I’m not.

I could go on for a while about how declaring SOUP, of all things, a “girly” dish is ridiculous, but I won’t.  There are enough other things I want to talk about, so I probably won’t say anything more on this subject. Just know that it actually happened in this book, and it’s as ridiculous as it sounds.  

In the beginning, this book seemed like it would be okay.  I read a couple chapters of it several months ago, and then put it down because, to me, it felt like it read like a middle grade novel instead of a young adult novel.  I was unsure about whether or not I would like it, but I expected to at least moderately like it. I expected it to be a solid three star book. That was wrong. The more I read, the less I liked it, and the lower my rating got.  

The ages of the characters feel really weird.  In the beginning of the novel, the main character is fourteen, but he doesn’t act fourteen.  In some ways, he seems too immature to be fourteen, but, in other ways, he seems like he should be fifteen or sixteen.  Most of his behavior seems like something you’d find in a preteen, but the fact that it’s pretty heavily implied that he slept with his girlfriend makes it seem like he should be older.  I’ve read books about teenagers who drink and sleep around, but they’re all sixteen or older. I think that the book would have worked a lot better if the characters had just been two years older.  They would also have to be a lot more mature, but I think that everything else would have worked so much better. I think it can sometimes be hard for authors to write characters around this age because the levels of maturity in people between 13 and 16 can be very different.  When I was fourteen, I read mostly books with characters who were around sixteen or seventeen because that was what I related to more, but I knew people who related more to middle grade, even though they were the same age I was. That said, I still think that there were some flaws with the characters, and I think it goes beyond it being a hard age to write for.  In addition to that, the book could have been made so much darker if they were older, or, at the very least, it could have been a little bit more serious, and I think it would have been better that way. To be fair, when I reach for fantasy I tend to reach for the darker fantasies, so this may just be my own personal preference, but I stand by it anyway.

My other issue with the  main character is that he’s so unlikable that it’s impossible to sympathize with him.  I don’t feel bad for him when he’s turned into a beast, and I don’t feel bad for him when it’s very possible that he’s going to be a beast forever.  It’s well deserved karma. He was horrible to everyone he knew, and, through the entire book, even during the parts where he was supposed to be getting better, he was casually sexist.  There was the soup comment, which was bizarre in its own right. He said something about how Linda would like a movie because it had princesses in it, and you know how girls are with princesses.  During that scene, he even acknowledged how he was kind of being sexist, and Linda said “It’s okay.  I’m a girl.” If I encountered some guy who was being casually sexist like that, my response to him wouldn’t be “It’s okay.  I’m a girl.” My response would be something like “Yeah, you are,” and then I would leave. In addition to that, there were many places in the book where he wondered why girls did some thing, or why girls thought some way, as if we all share some kind of hive mind, and we’re all exact copies of each other.  By the end of the book he was less focused on looks and less shallow, but there was never any mention of him being less sexist. The author specifically dealt with his other problems, but never the sexism, which kind of makes it seem like they didn’t see it as a problem. If the character hadn’t said that he guesses he’s being kind of sexist, maybe you could argue that the author didn’t see it, but the fact that it was addressed and then never dealt with is where the problems come in.  The entire premise of this book was that he was turned into a beast because his actions were beastly, and he had to grow as a person, change his ways, and find true love to become human again, but sexism makes you beastly, no matter how generous you are, or how little you care about someone’s looks.

Lastly, this retelling is basically the original, just in modern times, with a few minor details changed.  Plot points are almost exactly the same, and it’s painfully predictable. It was so cliched that I actually had to put it down, make a cup of tea, start a scarf, set up practice times with a friend, cuddle my cat, and then come back to it.  The purpose of a retelling is to put your own spin on it, not to tell the same story with slight changes in a few details. This is not how you do a retelling.

If you’re looking for an original, engaging, interesting retelling, do not pick this up.  If you’re looking for something predictable that has awkward opinions about soup, this is your book.  

One star.  

A Review of The Ocean at the End of the Lane by Neil Gaiman

I forgot how existential and sad this book was.  This may be ironic, given what it’s about, and how exactly it’s existential and sad.  I don’t know exactly how I remembered it, since I read it when it first came out, and I’ve read a lot of books between then and now.  I remembered the worm thing in his foot, and the bit with the car and the comic book felt very familiar whenever I read it, but somehow I forgot most of this book.  

I think this book is a lot better the second time.  When I read it the first time, I was young enough that I couldn’t look back at my childhood, or my life, in any meaningful way, and, since that’s kind of what the book is about, I think something was lost on me.  I’m not nearly as old as the main character is, and it’s only been five years since I last read this book, but I’m young enough that five years makes a sizable difference in how I think, and a lot has happened between then and now which enables me to be able to look back at my younger self differently.  

I think that this book could be read by someone of almost any age, but, if you do read it when you’re younger, read it again later.  Even if you read it when you’re older, read it again years later. Read lots of books between the times you read this so that you forget some of the events and so that they change in meaning because I think that adds so much more to the book.  The main character has forgotten or changed his memories of what happened, so if you think of the story the same way he does, I feel like it’s more immersive. He and you both remember bits and pieces. Putting those bits and pieces back together for yourself and watching the main character do the same really makes an impact with this book.  

There’s one scene in this book which may be questionable for younger people reading it, but there’s also every possibility that they wouldn’t understand what was happening in it.  That part of the story is being told from the perspective of a seven year old, and he doesn’t know what’s going on, so it’s not nearly as explicit as in some other books (*cough, cough* American Gods).  

I really love the atmosphere of this book.  It feels so real, and it’s so easy to picture, even though there aren’t that many details about where they are.  My favorite kind of world building is the kind that’s subtle enough that you can fill in anything that wasn’t mentioned and it isn’t weird.  

I think this may be my favorite Neil Gaiman book.  In my opinion, he does short stories and short novels better than longer novels.  Don’t get me wrong, Neverwhere, Stardust, and American Gods were all great, I loved them, I own copies of all of them, but I don’t think they’re nearly as good as this (or Coraline).  This book has the same feel as the stories from his collection M is for Magic, which I remember reading repeatedly when I was younger.  I prefer the atmosphere of his short stories to that of his novels, so I love that this novel maintains the short story atmosphere for its entirety.  

There isn’t much more to say without excessively fangirling, or going into detail about spoilers.  The book is pretty short, so there just isn’t as much to talk about as there is with most of the other books I review.  

Anyway.  

You should read this book.  It’s beautifully written. It’s something you can come back to again and again, regardless of how old you are or where you are in life.  In addition to that, if you’re looking to get into Neil Gaiman’s writing, I think that this is an excellent place to start.

Five out of five stars.  

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