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A Review of The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

If you’re really sensitive about spoilers, you shouldn’t read this review.  I talk a bit about one specific part, and, even though it’s not really spoiling anything, I know people who think even this much information is too much, so read with caution.  

 

It’s no shock to anyone that I fell in love with yet another Brenna Yovanoff novel.  Other than being a sad bassist, falling in love with these books is my thing.  And it just so happens that this book is about a sad bassist, so obviously I’m going to love it.  

In the past, I haven’t really related to the characters from Brenna Yovanoff’s novels.  I loved them, I empathized with them, they felt like friends, but I didn’t relate.  Up until reading this book I kind of thought of her books the same way I think of Arctic Monkeys songs.  They’re beautiful, I love them, they’re written in a way that I can empathize with, but they’re not about things I really relate to.  Most Arctic Monkeys songs are about falling in love, and I can relate to some of them because I’ve had crushes; however, I’ve never actually been in a relationship, so it’s not always relatable to me.  Brenna Yovanoff’s characters are beautifully written, and I feel like I know them, but I don’t exactly relate to most of them.  In this book, I related to almost every character at some point.  I probably related most to Mackie, but I also related a lot to Emma and to Tate.  Out of all of the books that I’ve read by this author, I think that this one has the characters that I connected to the most.  

I really like that in this book there’s just as much, if not more, focus on the platonic love between Mackie and Emma as there is on the romantic love story.  So frequently young adult authors completely ignore relationships between siblings, and, instead, they focus on the romantic relationships.  Sure, romantic relationships are important, but so are platonic ones, and the ones between siblings are so important!  

I mentioned in my last review of a Brenna Yovanoff book that, in the two of her books that I’ve read, the love interests seem somewhat similar.  The characters are weird, other people probably don’t really like them, and they may get into fights, but they’re actually very nice and probably just kind of sad.  Tate fits that description pretty well.  She wasn’t as similar as Finny and Marshall are, but she was close enough that it was noticeable.  This isn’t a huge complaint, and honestly, all the love interests could be exactly the same, and I would still talk about how much I loved the books because the rest of the story is just so good.  It just seems to be a reoccurring theme to this author’s books.  

I really loved the bits with the faeries playing music.  I thought it was interesting how they played music for attention (for applause, maybe), and how it kind of tied into Peter Pan and how you have to clap to show your belief in faeries.  I also liked how Carlina said that playing music was just what they did, and then later one of the faeries underground said that stealing and murdering children was just what they did.  It was worded in exactly the same way and it was interesting.  Disturbing, but interesting.  I wonder if this is a comment on people getting stuck in ruts, it’s just what we do.  

I love that there are specific songs and bands mentioned, especially because I know and love a lot of them.  The faerie band covered the Pixies and Pulp and Pearl Jam.  Because of this book, I had “Yellow Ledbetter” stuck in my head for twenty three hours (and counting), and it was amazing.  I’ve said it before, but I’m saying it again, you can learn so much about someone from the kind of music they listen to.  In my opinion, it’s some of the best character development you can do.  People talk about how it’s cool when books mention specific real places that the characters go to, and that’s cool, but have you ever read books where the author mentions specific bands and songs that the characters like?  Because that’s seriously the best.  And not only did they talk about which songs they played, they also talked about how the original singer of the song had a voice that sounded like (whatever) but the girl covering the song sounded (whatever).  The only thing better than mentioning specific songs or bands is talking about those songs or bands.  

While we’re on the topic of music, the book says that Mackie pulled the frets off of his bass.  I don’t know how easy it would be to actually pull the frets off of a bass, and I’m definitely not going to try on mine, but I doubt it would be easy.  There are fretless basses, so that could have been something he could have played?  I know nothing about fretless basses since the one I play is a normal fretted bass, but I think it would be easier to have a fretless bass than to rip the frets off of one.  

I just did some googling to check out what fretless basses I could find, and now I want an almost four thousand dollar, six string, fretless bass from the nineties.  It’s time to get off used guitar websites.  

There wasn’t a huge amount of backstory in this, but it somehow worked perfectly.  Mostly, the backstory involved repeatedly going back to when Mackie was switched with the child and Emma found him.  It makes sense with the rest of the story to keep going back to this, and it gives just the right amount of information so that you know the characters.  

The one almost complaint that I have is that everything I’ve seen online says that this is a horror novel, but it doesn’t really feel like horror.  The book has dead girls, but not dead girls in a horror way.  It’s dead girls in a faerie way, if that makes sense (I’m trying to not spoil anything), and it’s not very scary.  Maybe it’s just that I don’t find it scary because what I find scary isn’t stereotypical horror?  I don’t know.  But it seemed more like urban fantasy than horror.  

Five stars really isn’t enough for this, but whatever.  Five stars.  

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A Review of Night of Cake & Puppets (Daughter Of Smoke and Bone #2.5) by Laini Taylor

Before today, I had only cried once because something was beautiful.  I’m a very emotional person, so I’ve cried because of sad things, happy things (but that’s rare), frustrating things, one weird romcom about a dentist (I’d rather never speak of this again), and any other emotion you can think of, but, for whatever reason, I tend not to cry because things are beautiful.  Crying at beauty just isn’t really something I do.  Before today, the only time I had cried at something because of its beauty was the first time I listened to the Radiohead song “Daydreaming”.  (I also almost cried at “I Promise” but it wasn’t just because of the beauty of it, although it is a beautiful song.  It was mainly because the lyrics and the music video just made me feel so much.)  Anyway, if you told me back when I first listened to “Daydreaming”, and then promptly burst into tears, that I would never cry at the beauty of something again, I would probably have believed you.  Like I said-it’s just not something that I do.  And then I read this.  I didn’t cry a lot over this, but I cried a little because the ending was just so perfect and so beautiful, and I couldn’t even.  

If you’ve followed me for any significant amount of time, you know of my obsession with backstory.  I want every detail about everything.  I basically want each character to fill out one of those questionnaires you see band members filling out in music magazines.  I don’t care if it’s relevant to the plot, I want to know their likes, dislikes, favorite bands, favorite books, literally everything.  It’s pretty rare that I’m entirely happy with the amount of backstory in a book.  I loved the way backstory was done in the first book in this series Daughter of Smoke & Bone, I didn’t think it could get better, but it has.  

I didn’t even know I needed this until I had it.  For some reason I was so distracted by what had happened in the rest of the first book that I never wondered how Zuzana’s date with Mik went.  I was too concerned about the angel and the demon falling in love (and it not ending well) that I didn’t think of Zuzana at all.  

I ordered the rest of the series a few days ago.  I did plan to read them all soon, but I planned to finish some other books first.  Since this book is book 2.5, according to goodreads, I wasn’t planning to read it until I finished book two (which I haven’t even started yet), because I didn’t want spoilers.  

And then it got here.  And it was beautiful.  The illustrations on the dust jacket, the illustrations under the dust jacket, the aesthetic of the bright blue and pink together.  The illustrations on the end pages.  It is full of beautiful illustrations.  I’ve heard several people say that other novellas they purchased that were supposed to be beautifully illustrated ended up only having a couple of illustrations, despite the advertising that seemingly promised otherwise.  This book has so many beautiful illustrations that it’s much more than I had ever hoped for.  I think people underestimate the value of good illustrations outside of the realm of children’s books.  All books with illustrations should have works that make you stop to really look at them and appreciate them for their own beauty.  

I tried to reason with myself that I shouldn’t start reading this literally less than five minutes after I got it into my house.  I tried to think of the several books that I had started reading that were in the backpack I was still wearing (because opening my package of new books was more important than taking off shoes and bags), but everything about it was so perfect.  The first chapter is called “The Puppet that Bites”, you can’t expect me to not pick it up five minutes after I get it.  

You get to know so much more about Zuzana and Mik in this book.  Even though I loved them before reading this, I love them even more now.  

I can’t talk that much about the book without spoiling things, and, since this is such a short book, spoiling even a small thing would spoil a significant portion of the book.  What I can say is that it was beautiful, it has one of the cutest romances I’ve read in my life, and you need to read it.  

I forgot to mention in my review of Daughter of Smoke & Bone that I really like that Zuzana isn’t the stereotypical short girl.  She’s under five feet tall, but she wears platform boots and is described as a “rabid fairy”.  Her shortness isn’t there to make her cute or innocent, it’s just part of who she is.  

I would give this book all of the stars, but goodreads will only let me give it up to five, so I guess I’ll have to settle for that.  

 

On a side note, even though I don’t really do playlists for books anymore, if you were going to listen to music while reading this I would suggest Turn On The Bright Lights by Interpol.  Specifically, I would suggest listening to “Stella was a diver and she was always down” on repeat because that’s what I did.  

A Review of Wake by Amanda Hocking

Spoilers

 

I tried to read this several times when I was around fourteen, but I never got more than a hundred pages in.  You’d think that would be a red flag to me now, since most of what I read at that age was bad YA paranormal, and this book was fairly bad even to fourteen year old me and her low, low standards, BUT NO.  I really need to stop reading bad books just because I own them.  

The only thing I really remembered from attempting to read it when I was younger was that there were these weird creatures that were possibly vampire-mermaids.  Now that sounded ridiculous, because there’s no way they could be anything like that, so I tried again.  

On the bright side, they weren’t vampire-mermaids.  But they were cannibalistic sirens, so I don’t think that’s better.  

I may have mentioned in some other review that I was a huge mythology nerd as a child, which is why I tend to avoid books about mythology now.  I’m so pretentious about getting the mythology exactly right that if it’s even a little bit off, I won’t be able to read the book.  The mythology in this book is not accurate.  

The sirens say that they were handmaidens of Persephone, but they were swimming and trying to catch the eye of Poseidon, so that’s why they let Persephone be kidnapped by Hades.  After that, Demeter cursed them to be sirens (and birds.  Kind of.) forever.  According to the siren wikipedia page, Demeter did curse them, but there was nothing about Poseidon.  There are so many retellings of myths (both ancient and modern, Greek and Roman), so there’s every possibility that the author has read things I haven’t read, especially since I haven’t really studied mythology since my early teens; however, this is the first that I’ve heard of any of this, and there seem to be some inconsistency with the mythology of sirens, so why not use other mythology?  Why not make it that several of Artemis’s hunters tried to make Poseidon fall in love with them so they were cursed?  I feel like it’s hard to use main, or even some side, characters in mythology because it’s so easy to get their story wrong.  This is especially so if it’s a character who is different in every retelling.  If you find a character that’s mentioned once and then dropped, and you just fill in their backstory, I feel like a retelling would be more successful from a mythological standpoint.  

Also, I’ve never seen anything in mythology about sirens being able to turn into emu-like birds.  Or that they have to eat people to survive.  But you can bet the sirens in this book do both of those things.  But, of course, since it’s important to still objectify the emu sirens, the shape-shifting siren’s transformation only involves her limbs elongating (and her legs turning into emu legs), wings coming out of her back, and her face turning into a bird face.  Her breasts are still there and still entirely human.  The author even says that, because of her body changing, her bikini top is struggling to stay on.  Literally who cares what her bikini top is doing?  She’s half emu.  There are so many bigger, more important things than what her bikini top is doing.  

I should have known from the prologue that I wouldn’t like the book, and, if not from that, I should have known from the first line of the first chapter – “The engine made a bizarre chugging sound, like a dying robot llama, followed by an ominous click-click.”  I actually laughed at that.  Not just a slightly forceful nose exhale, but an actual, audible laugh.  What does a dying robot llama sound like?  Are these common somewhere?  What purpose so robot llamas serve that standard flesh and blood llamas are not serving?  Also, why wasn’t I a robot llama for Halloween?  

The voice of one of the sirens was described as “sexy baby talk”, “sultry baby talk”, and “silky baby talk”.  This isn’t her doing some weird voice, this is her casual speaking voice.  I haven’t met anyone who casually talks in a way that could be described as baby talk who doesn’t spend all of their time talking to actual babies.  If I did have the misfortune of meeting someone who talked like that, I would probably do everything in my power to not talk to them.  Also, if this is her casual speaking voice, she talked about the fact that they have to eat people and a lot about death while talking this way.  I can’t even begin to imagine what that would sound like.  I spent about fifteen minutes trying to figure out what it would sound like, but I can’t.  

Even though this book has pretty much no backstory, it’s so bad that I’m not left wanting more, because if it did have more I would have had to read more of this mess.  And the author would undoubtedly get the mythology wrong.

There also wasn’t any character development.  All you know about Gemma is that she’s pretty, strong, and likes to swim.  Her mother was in a car accident and now has an unhealthy obsession with Justin Bieber (Quite possibly the worst head trauma ever).  Literally every other character is a cliche.  Alex is the nerdy friend who went through a growth spurt and oh look, now he’s cute.  Daniel is the edgy guy who turns out to have a heart of gold (I don’t know if I’ve seen this cliche outside of horror and thrillers until now, so way to go).  Harper is the overly-protective older sibling.  I almost feel like I can’t entirely fault the overly-protective older sibling cliche, because if I ended up in a young adult book I would totally be that cliche, but overly-protective older sibling doesn’t show someone’s entire personality, so I’m still going to criticize.  

The romance between Alex and Gemma seemed a little awkward, and it kind of felt like instalove.  They realize they may have feelings for each other and then BAM they’re dating.  It can be fun to read about people falling in love (like in The Raven Cycle.  The two kisses that really mattered didn’t happen until the last half of the last book, but it was fun to read about the people falling in love), but in this book you don’t get that.  You get it a bit with Harper and Daniel, but it was obvious from their first interaction that there was going to be something between them.  

The pacing in this book is weird.  More happened in the last fifty pages than in the first ninety.  It’s so inconsistent, either nothing is happening or everything is happening.  I don’t particularly care about the date Alex takes Gemma on, but it would have been nice to get a bit more detail at the end.  

In conclusion, I’d rather read about literal vampire mermaids.  One star.  

Reviews of Poetry Books

Becoming the Villainess by Jeannine Hall Gailey

 

If I’m remembering correctly, these poems were written while thinking of mythology?  And, if I’m remembering correctly (which I may not be, since I read this book two years ago), there were a few poems that were about Persephone, but, other than that, there were quite a few poems that seemed to be more about the author’s personal mythology than anything else.  I like personal poems about the author’s life, but, like a lot of poetry these days, this was so vague that it didn’t make sense.  

I would probably still recommend it, because I did like it, but I would probably say that about half of the poems are too vague to be understandable.  

 

Best Bones by Sarah Rose Nordgren

 

This entire book is so vague that, unless you know the author very well, you won’t be able to see what the poems are about, and you probably won’t get anything from them.  I’m sure they mean something to the author, and maybe it was therapeutic to write these and get all the emotions out, but it doesn’t make sense.  I get that the point of this vague modern poetry may be to make it so that everyone can relate, but some poets make their work so vague that literally anyone could relate to it and it loses all meaning.  All the poetry I write is very specific, to the point where I put in dates, names, and word-for-word quotes of what people have said to me.  And, when reading my poetry at various open mics for the last five years, I’ve always had people tell me that they can relate or empathize, and several people have actually cried because of it.  You don’t need to be vague to be relatable, you just need to have real emotion, people can relate to real emotion.  

I would not recommend this book.  I only finished it because it was short and I was trying to read a hundred books that year.  

 

A Guide to Folktales in Fragile Dialects by Catherynne M. Valente

 

If you go into this book expecting something like The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making, you will be very disappointed.  If you go into this expecting very dark retellings of fairy tales, you’ll probably really like it.  This is probably one of my favorite books of poetry that I’ve read in the last few years.  

I would recommend this, but only to people who enjoy things that are very dark.  Or people who want their fairy tales to hit closer the dark originals than to the Disneyfied tales we have today.  No one is singing with birds in these poems.  

 

A Beautiful Composition of Broken by R.H. Sin

 

I read this in one sitting.  Which isn’t hard because this book has small pages and short poems, but still.  This poetry wasn’t as vague as some poetry I’ve read, but it wasn’t as specific as it could have been.  It’s not so vague that you don’t know what it’s about, but anyone could look at it in the right way that makes it so they relate to it.  A lot of the poems seemed to be repetitive, which isn’t surprising, since each poem is one or two pages long, so there are literally hundreds of poems in this book, but it was weird to read a poem and feel like I read the same things fifty pages ago.  

I would recommend this book to anyone who likes reading poetry on instagram.  Also, if you read this I would suggest reading it at the same time as the next book on this list.  

 

Born to Love, Cursed to Feel by Samantha King

 

This book of poetry was more specific and the poems were longer so it they could have more backstory and make more sense.  I like this one more than the last one.  

I would probably recommend this to anyone.  And, like I said with the last one, I would recommend reading these two books together so that you can see both sides of the love story.  

 

I Live by the Invisible: New & Selected Poems by Ray Bradbury

 

I wanted to love this, but I couldn’t.  I haven’t read one of his books that I haven’t liked, but his poetry seems to be hit or miss.  Some of them made sense, but some of them were confusing and vague.  

I would recommend this to people who like vague modern poetry or people who have a pathological need to read everything Bradbury has ever written.  

A Review of And The Trees Crept In by Dawn Kurtagich

So many spoilers.  

 

Well.  I’m uncomfortable.  

This is the kind of book where the entire time you read it, you’re telling yourself that you’re fine and not freaked out, and then after you read it, you realize that you feel wrong.  Not necessarily scared, just wrong.  The kind of wrong where everything just makes you feel uneasy.  The kind of wrong where you turn your normally very loud music to half the volume just so that you could hear anything that could possibly be there to hear.  Maybe that’s just me.  

I think part of the reason I feel so uncomfortable is that I really wanted to empathize with the characters, but I couldn’t.  Normally when a little sibling dies in a book, I cry hysterically.  Nori died several times, and in horrible ways, and I didn’t cry.  The characters didn’t have that much development, so it wasn’t really possible to empathize with them, and it made me so uncomfortable.  I felt like I should feel bad for them, and Nori’s death should have been really upsetting, but it wasn’t.  Maybe it was the author’s goal to make people uncomfortable in this way?  Or maybe it was just poor character development?  If it was meant to freak me out in this way, it worked pretty well.  

The characters all seemed to act a lot younger than they actually were.  Nori obviously had some other things up with her, so I can’t criticize her too much; however, Silla was supposed to be seventeen, but she acted like she was younger than my thirteen year old sister.  The way she acted so much younger than she was made it even weirder when she slept with Gowan.  (Also, as a side note, she slept with him when they were in this weird forest thing, and they didn’t know if they were being chased by the Creeper Man or if Nori was okay.  If I was trying to save my sister from what I thought was a demon, I wouldn’t take a break to sleep with some guy.  Why would anyone prioritize sleeping with someone in this situation?!)  

Going by the description of this book, it’s about a literally cursed mansion and a horrible creature that lurks in the woods.  And in a way it is, but not entirely.  It’s way more psychological than it is monster-under-your-bed kind of horror.  Which is fine with me, because I prefer psychological horror to horror with literal, flesh and blood monsters.  But I went into this thinking it was going to have real monsters, and the first half of the book makes it seem like it has real monsters, so it was weird to have it switch to psychological horror.  The monster was done so well that I’m almost disappointed it wasn’t the main focus of the book.  It wasn’t overdone or trying too hard to be creepy, and I was really excited to see where the author was going to go with it and what was going to happen.  Then it turned out to be a physical manifestation of Silla’s self-hatred.  

What I liked about the monster so much was that it was almost human, but not quite.  It looked like a man, but it was just a little too tall, the arms just a little too long, a little too pale, it moved in a way that was kind of off.  And, of course, the whole thing where he doesn’t have eyes and his mouth is messed up, but my point is that if you saw him from a distance he might seem human.  When you get closer to him, or if you pay a lot of attention to him, you could notice that he’s not really human, but it’s not strikingly obvious at first glance.  So many monsters these days are so overly creepy that they lose their power to frighten in their ridiculousness, but this monster was perfect.  

I understand that the whole point is that the monster was part of the world Silla had created to torture herself.  The Creeper Man was just inspired by her aunt’s stories, but I had finally found a monster I liked.  I was disappointed to not see more of it.  

I had suspected for most of the book that they were actually dead and just didn’t realize it, and I was right.  People not realizing that they’re dead was done so well in The Others and The Sixth Sense, and it just wasn’t up to the same quality here.  This is done so frequently, and, at this point, it’s just predictable.  

Also, this is possibly unfair criticism, but I feel like, unless it’s The Others or The Sixth Sense (which are probably my two favorite horror movies), it feels like a way to get out of writing a good ending.  The author had an amazing monster, and since about half the book didn’t really have a psychological element to it, it was obvious that the author had a good plot and idea without the psychological horror.  And then it basically switched what type of horror it was in the middle.  It’s almost like the author got stuck halfway through so she switched it.  I’m not saying that that’s what happened, and I’m not criticizing the author, but it feels inconsistent.  I feel like the ending would have been a lot better if it had stayed a horror about monsters.  The way the ending is now, it’s all over the place, and it feels anti-climactic.  

I honestly don’t know how it could have ended if it had stuck with the creature horror, but I think it would have been better.  The way it was done, it was only a few steps above nonsensical.  It’s not like it was left unexplained, but I feel like explaining it all by saying that it was something she had created to torture herself is kind of lazy writing.  

If this had obviously been about insanity, and if the description of it hadn’t sounded like it was about some monster, I would have still picked it up.  Like I said before, I like psychological horror more than any other type of horror, so I probably would have picked this up sooner if I had known it was all psychological.  I think that if I had known it was psychological, I wouldn’t have been as irritated by the end.  

Three out of five stars.  

A Review of Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Spoilers

 

I tried to read this when I was obsessed with Holly Black’s books because someone told me it was similar.  For some reason, back then, I never made it more than fifty pages in.  Recently, I’ve been putting off reading it because, if it was like Holly Black’s writing, I probably wouldn’t like it.  

I can see why, at thirteen, I never got that far into it because it’s nothing like Holly Black.  It is, however, something I really like now.  

I didn’t even mind the love story in this!  I think I said in my review of Shiver that I’m willing to give love stories more of a chance now; however, realistically, most teen relationships break up, so every teen love story having a happy ending irritates me.  On the first page it says “Once upon a time, an angel and a demon fell in love.  It did not end well.”, so from the beginning you know this is kind of a doomed romance.  And it falls apart so beautifully.  If it’s done right, heartbreak and sadness can be beautiful.  (Don’t believe me?  Ask Shakespeare.)  This is written in such a way that it’s so sad, but it’s so beautiful.  It’s sad, but it’s perfect.  

The world building was also amazing, and it gave such a nice picture of the world without consuming the story.  It was very easy to picture people and places.  If it was done right (which it wouldn’t be), it could be made into a stunningly beautiful movie.  

For the first three hundred pages of the book, the balance of backstory and current events was perfect.  I’m rarely happy with the amount of backstory in young adult books, but in this it was so perfect.  There would be bits and pieces of the backstory that would tie in with whatever was happening in the story, and, even though it was covered fairly quickly, it would be the perfect amount of information.  

I did have a small issue with the backstory whenever Karou started to learn who she was.  For the entire book, it was fast paced with a balance of backstory and present day, and then around page three hundred it shifted to slow moving backstory.  This lasted for the rest of the book.  This wouldn’t have been an issue if it was a short book, because then it wouldn’t be that much backstory, but my copy is four hundred eighteen pages, so, for more than a quarter of the book, it was slow paced backstory.  It was important backstory, and it had to have the level of detail it had, but it was a very sudden shift in pace, and it was weird.  After about sixty pages of it I became less irritated and more interested, but it took sixty pages.  

For most of the time I was reading it, I was thinking that, even though I didn’t like the way the backstory was handled, there was no other way it could have been done.  But I thought of one.  Every so often through the book, there will be a mostly blank page with a sentence or two on it.  These pages always start with the words “Once upon a time” so they are clearly a little removed from the main line of the story.  So why not, from the beginning of the book, have every other chapter or every third chapter be about Madrigal, and why not start each of these backstory chapters with “Once upon a time”?  Then, at the end of the book, Madrigal’s last chapter will be when she dies, and Karou’s last chapter would be when she figured out who she was.  Maybe throughout the book the author could have emphasized the similarities between the two of them so that some people could have put it together?  Starting each Madrigal chapter with “Once upon a time” also would have really emphasized the fact that this is a fantasy.  

Also, imagine the possibilities if the book were written with the chapters alternating storylines.  Obviously, you could read the book as presented with mixed storylines.  You could, potentially, read one character’s story and then read the other character’s story by skipping chapters.  Your view of the book would be different depending on how you read it.  This is missed opportunity that would have made this book even better.  

Speaking of the fact that this is fantasy, I don’t frequently enjoy things that aren’t on the more urban side of urban fantasy, so I didn’t know if I would like this, but I did.  Even though there were some new names for magical things, they weren’t hard to pronounce or hard to remember.  Honestly, the names of people are probably harder to pronounce or remember.  

I was a little bothered by the fact that the author seemed to use chimera as a blanket term for many kinds of creatures.  In Greek mythology, a chimera is specifically a female monster with a lion’s head, a goat’s body, and a serpent’s tail, not just any creature that is a mix of several animals/human.  Also, according to the first search results I found from google, they’re all female, so the stuff about male chimeras in this book is inaccurate.  

I was halfway through writing a paragraph about how I’m pretentious about mythology, so maybe it’s not a huge deal, but no.  I am pretentious about mythology, but there has to have been another name that could have been used other than chimera, or another creature they could have been.  I can be irritatingly picky, but I think it’s reasonable here.  

I was also a little bothered by Karou’s relationship with Kaz, because they have a four year age gap and she’s sixteen.  I have never met a sixteen year old who would feel comfortable dating a twenty year old.  The only guys who would date a girl that much younger than them are horrible people.  They may seem nice, but they’re horrible, and there are probably hundreds of reasons that they can’t get a date their own age.  

Overall, I think I was just impressed by the beauty of this book.  The imagery, the backstory, the heartbreak, the backstory.  

Five out of five stars.  

A Review of Wither by Lauren DeStefano

I don’t want to say that I bought this entire series because they were pretty, but there’s really no way around it.  To be fair, I bought them used, so I didn’t pay thirty plus dollars on a series just because they were pretty.  I spent less than fifteen dollars for the entire series, so at least my shallowness isn’t costing me too much money.  

I knew a little bit about the books before I bought them but not enough to really know if I would be interested in them.  But they were really pretty, so what does that matter?  I’m not normally this shallow, and I don’t know what came over me when I was buying these.  If I hadn’t seen the covers, the descriptions would not have been enough to convince me to read them.  Literally the only reason I’m reading these is because I own them, and they’d probably look nice in an instagram picture.  

On the wikipedia page for this book, the genre is listed as “Dystopian science fiction”.  It’s very obviously a dystopian book, so that seems fair, but classifying it as science fiction seems like a stretch.  (I’ve seen several reviews saying that it isn’t dystopian, it’s apocalyptic sci-fi, but you need science to be science fiction.)  Let me be clear first what I expect from science fiction, and what everyone from Shelley to Verne to Clarke understood, you take cutting edge science and you play it out to the logical and most horrible speculative conclusion.  That’s science fiction.  It’s science and ethics all in one.  It’s supposed to make you stop and think about where science is and/or should be headed.  

In the science fiction I’ve read, there’s at least a little bit of information about the science behind whatever’s happening, and a lot more exposition so you have at least a general idea of the history of the world before the book started.  (I’ve read Shelley and Clarke, who is awesome and should be read, much Bradbury, Vonnegut, even Diana Wynne Jones plays with the multiverse successfully.  They all use science and its evolution in society as the backbone of at least some if not all of their books.  Issues are not left unexplained.)  In this book, there’s very little history and no science.  I’m a musician, not a scientist, so obviously I’m not picking up science fiction exclusively for the science, but you can’t have science fiction without giving some kind of scientific explanation for things.  It’s not science fiction without it!  I want explanations of why and how everyone is dying so early.  They call it a virus several times, so is it?  Is every child born with a virus that takes twenty to twenty five years to take effect?  Because I think that would be interesting, sort of a weird and horrible new spin on HIV (but that’s been cured since all STDs are gone).  Take away women dying at twenty and men dying at twenty five (because that’s random and there’s never an explanation of why those specific ages are so special, but there are never explanations for anything, so at least it’s sticking with the theme of the book), take away the sister wives, and the love triangle, and make it a story about a virus, and about science.  Make it a story of science going horribly, horribly wrong with cures that only lead to more horrible diseases.  Make it about how people recover from that, if they even can.  Vonnegut would have written this book so well.  Maybe the “perfect” humans who had the new, sickly generation had some hidden virus in their DNA that they would all pass on to their kids?  There are so many possibilities for what it could be, and the author uses none of them, choosing to write a boring romance instead.  

In the book, there are also things about how the only continent left is North America because the rest were destroyed in some war.  Which seems pretty intense.  Like I said before, I’m not a scientist, but I doubt you can destroy literally every continent in the world except one and have the last one still be in decent shape.  Even a single volcano erupting can impact the whole world’s climate.  So we’re to believe, without explanation, that a weapon was developed that was so strong it destroyed literally every other continent in the world BUT didn’t disrupt the ecosystem?  This is just beyond suspension of disbelief.  If one volcano can disrupt the world, most of the world’s land mass being obliterated would certainly have some effect both from the weapon used to pull off such a feat and from the destruction itself.  

Since everyone in this world dies so early, they’re forced to mature much faster, so people younger than sixteen act like adults, but then they’re referred to as men and women.  I feel like part of this book is trying to be, for lack of a better word, shocking, by having such young children doing so much, but some of the effect is lost when you refer to them as men and women.  If they had been referred to as what they were-children-it would would have much more shocking and terrible.  Despite the fact that the reader is told that the character is young, the fact that they’re constantly referred to as men and women makes it easy to forget that the people who are marrying each other are as young as thirteen.  In some ways, this harkens back older times when people were married much younger, sometimes pairing old men with young women.  We don’t do that anymore.  We have laws against that.  By calling the young teens adults, it takes away from the impact of their actions.  

There are lots of parts of the book where it seems like it’s trying (and failing) to be profound and dramatic.  Like when Rhine talks about what she might do if she were a cloud.  Or how an orange blossom fell in a “perfect diagonal” above her.  If she spent as much time thinking about escaping as she thought about these things, maybe she would have been able to escape sooner.  Maybe if the author cut all this out there could have been some actual science in the science fiction?  I will never not be bitter about this.  

For so much of the book it seemed like nothing was happening, and Rhine was just living in the mansion and doing nothing.  It’s not entertaining to read about someone swimming, jumping on a trampoline, and reading history books.  It doesn’t add anything to the plot, either.  It does make you wonder though.  Her actions are those of an adult in some aspects, but her thought are very childlike, perhaps even younger than her age would indicate.  So what is the author’s goal?  Is she trying to make us see that young people are being put into adult roles too soon?  Could be.  Wish it was more science and less speculation about the actions of the characters.

There’s so much that could be cut from this book, and all of it could be replaced with science and exposition.  If you took bits and pieces of the premise and elaborated on them, the book could have been so good.  

I noticed that whenever Linden was described as weak, it would also be mentioned that he had very narrow shoulders.  I think they may have been described as being almost like a child’s?  I don’t remember, exactly, but some aspect of his appearance may have been described as childlike.  Whenever Gabriel was described as strong, it would be mentioned that he had broad shoulders.  The width of your shoulders doesn’t determine how strong you’ll be.  In young adult books, men with wide shoulders are probably good people, but women with wide shoulders are probably villains.  Thinking that someone’s shoulders can determine personality and strength is as ridiculous as thinking that feeling the bumps on someone’s skull can determine their propensity for criminal behavior and mental illness.  

I will finish this series, but it’s just because I own all of them, and, like I said, they would probably look pretty on my instagram.  

I’m going to rate this one and a half stars because it could have been interesting if it had been written right.  

My Favorite Horror (kind of)

I don’t freaked out by normal horror.  I’m not saying this to sound cool or edgy, I genuinely don’t get freaked out by normal horror.  I don’t believe in any supernatural beings, or even ghosts, so they just don’t frighten me.  Even if something is particularly creepy while I’m reading it, I’m not really afraid of it in real life because I know that it doesn’t exist.  The only horror that freaks me out is the really psychological stuff, and I haven’t seen much of that lately.  

 

These are in no particular order, but they really freaked me out.  

 

Brave New World by Aldous Huxley

 

Before I get into why it freaks me out, I have to say something.  If you’ve read this you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.  That scene.  With all of the conversations going on at once, going back and forth between conversations, but with no confusion about who’s saying what.  I’ve only seen things like that done in movies.  It was completely amazing.  If you haven’t read the book, this probably makes no sense, but, if you read the book for nothing else, read it for that part.  

There isn’t anything about this book that doesn’t freak me out.  I tried to write a small list of the most disturbing parts, but they’re all so bad that I can’t.  I was even more freaked out, though, after I had someone else read it, and they sympathized with the group I didn’t.  They didn’t see a problem with this society, and actually thought it seemed nice.  Even though the book itself is disturbing and creepy, sometimes people’s opinions of it are just as unsettling.  

To be fair, there’s nothing here that’s going to live under your bed or grab you when you least expect it.  Because those things aren’t real.  The scary thing here, is that it could happen.

 

Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury

 

I feel like Bradbury is our Cassandra, and we really need to listen.  It’s not just a story.  These things could happen.  So many people think this book is about government censorship.  It isn’t.  Bradbury was very clear about this.  This whole horribly messed up society is a product of everyday people trying to make everyone else happy, so no one is ever offended.  Ever.  Not even a little.  Why if you even want to read an offensive book, you are a bad person.  Think about that.  We could get there.  We’re sliding there now, but we can’t see it because we are so concerned about everyone being happy all the time.  

The first time I tried to read this book, I was eleven.  I had to put it down after the first chapter and go rethink how I spent my time.  This doesn’t creep under the bed.  It creeps in our souls and it’s terrifying.  Most horror books make you afraid to sleep with the lights off for a few days, this book makes me afraid of what we are capable of becoming, and it will for the rest of my life.  

Also, my books.  The day someone comes to burn them, just no.  If they burn, I burn with them.  What else will there be to live for?

 

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

 

I could see this happening too.  ALSO.  THE BOY WITH THE GLASSES.  AND SIMON.  Did anyone ever notice that the author mentions a lot more small children at the beginning of the book than are there at the end?  What happened to them?  I CRIED SO MUCH.  

 

Galapagos by Kurt Vonnegut

 

I do not consider this a spoiler because I’m not saying who died.  

I read this when I was fourteen, so I don’t remember it as well as I should so I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure this book takes place during the apocalypse.  If not that, it just takes place when something very bad is happening.  That, in and of itself, is not what makes it disturbing.  What makes it really disturbing is that the author puts an asterisk beside the name of a character whenever they’re going to die soon.  At first, I thought the three (I think) asterisks that appeared were the only characters who were going to die, but over the course of the book, more characters would get an asterisk beside their name.  I’ve never seen anything else done like that, and it was really creepy and interesting.  Like somehow you know but you can’t warn them.  Like you are a part of the story in a way you wouldn’t be otherwise.

 

Technically this one’s a short story, but I couldn’t think of anything else, so-

“The Flicker, The Fingers, The Beat, The Sigh” by April Genevieve Tucholke (from the anthology Slasher Girls & Monster Boys)

 

This one was entirely psychological and had no monsters, demons, or ghosts.  It was just teenagers making bad decisions, but they were the kind of bad decisions that a lot of people could end up making, which makes it feel more real and more scary.  In the right circumstances, anyone might do what the characters in this story did.  That’s a lot to think about.

 

So, I might not like horror in the classical sense of it.  I think I like dystopian worlds and sci fi views into futures we never want to happen.  Those are scary because those could really happen.  Why waste fear on things that aren’t possible when there are so many things that could come to pass that are worse than a monster in the closet?  

A review of Coraline by Neil Gaiman

Everyone’s read a portal fantasy.  For most people, it was The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe during their childhood, and, if not that, something else from Falling In to Cornelia Funke’s Mirrorworld series has graced everyone’s reading list.  Everyone has opened a door or put their hand over their face on the mirror and hoped that it would take them somewhere else.  

Coraline makes you afraid of the door taking you somewhere else.  

There are literally no bad things that I could say about this book.  I read it when I was thirteen or fourteen, and I’m just as freaked out by it now as I was then.  I’ve known people who read this, considered a tween book, in their late twenties yet still they enjoyed it and felt freaked out.  

Part of the reason I find Coraline so interesting is because it lacks some of the things that are, in my opinion, the most important things in books-backstory and worldbuilding.  

There’s a tiny bit about the Other Mother’s backstory, and a short scene where Coraline talks about bravery and something her dad did, but other than that, there’s nothing but great characters and a thrilling story.  The thing is, this book doesn’t need all the other stuff.  You don’t need to know the character’s entire history to be able to see why they’re doing what they’re doing.  You get to know everything you need to know about the characters without any backstory, and, while reading it, you won’t even notice that it isn’t there.  It never mentions Coraline’s age, but it doesn’t need to because you can tell by the way people treat her, and by the way she acts, about how old she is.  It’s just done so well!  If you’ve read my reviews for any amount of time, you know how obsessed I am with backstory, so you know that this is very high praise, coming from me.  Also, it’s a fast paced and short book, so backstory would bog it down and make it weird.  Coraline is every kid, at some point in their life.  Her parents are weird and uncomfortable, a bad fit, like everyone’s parents are sometimes, yet we still love them and want them to be safe.  You don’t need the rich backstory because her backstory is your backstory, and so you get pulled into the adventure because your mind develops Coraline from you.

That said, I would happily read several hundred pages on the backstory of the Other Mother, and possibly the cat.  The cat can have his own book.  

There’s also barely any worldbuilding, but somehow it works.  You’re given just enough information about the world that your brain will fill in the rest of the details with whatever scares you most.  Just like with the backstory, while reading it, it doesn’t feel like you’re reading something without worldbuilding.  I only realized this after thinking about the book for about a week.  But we all have nightmares that would fit the world for this quite well, and without the direction from the author, our minds freely fill in those details.  Her world is one step closer to our own nightmares.  

I feel like the movie almost makes the story less creepy in some parts.  In the movie, in the beginning, everything is wonderful.  In the book, in the beginning, things are good, but still unsettling.  Also, she goes to the other world less times in the book before it all goes wrong.  Even though the movie is scary, and every time I’ve watched it I’ve been freaked out, I think the book is scarier.  If I’m remembering correctly, the movie adds a bit of backstory and closure, but I think it’s better without.  I don’t think that the book lacks closure, and I think the added backstory is actually unnecessary.  Also, the cat has a bigger role in the book, so it’s obviously better.  

There isn’t much else I can say.  This book never ceases to be amazing and scary, and I would recommend it to anyone of any age.  

Five out of five stars.  

 

On a side note, I read this in the dead of night when I was the only person awake in the house, so, to try to feel less freaked out, I listened to Echo & the Bunnymen while reading it.  It’s a strange combination, but it wasn’t unenjoyable.  

Another side note, I wonder if my cat can go to other worlds?  She seems the type.  

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