A Review of Valiant by Holly Black

Ever since I read The Poison Eaters, I’ve been debating with myself whether or not I should reread White Cat.  Like The Poison Eaters, it was one of THE books of my early teenage years.  Part of me needs to know how I feel about it now, and part of me wants to put the series somewhere I won’t be able to easily get to them, so I won’t ever try to read them.  After reorganizing my bookshelves recently, part of me felt like I could easily binge read the series and just get it over with. The other part of me knows that there is no good way for that to end and really doesn’t want to do that.  My compromise was to read this book, so I could give another Holly Black book a chance, but hopefully not ruin the memories of my early teenage years.

For some reason, even though I’ve owned this book for a long time, it’s never really caught my interest.  A friend who’s read it told me there were fairy drugs in it, and I feel like that should have caught the interest of thirteen year old me, but, for some reason, even during my obsessive Holly Black phase, I never picked this one up.  

I actually liked this one.  I honestly didn’t expect to, and I have no idea what it is about this one that’s so different than Tithe or The Poison Eaters, but I actually really enjoyed it.  

One possible point of contention with my thinking on this book that might be weird is that I’ve decided to consider it a standalone.  I also plan to recommend it to people as a standalone, and I’ll probably suggest to them that they shouldn’t read the other books in this series.  If you read the first book, you’ll have some backstory about the different fairy courts, and there are a couple characters from the first book that show up at the end of this one, but it’s not like there are things you would only get if you had read the first book.  To me, one of the most important things in a book is the backstory, but, in this case, I think reading an entire book just to get backstory for two chapters is ridiculous. This book is significantly better than Tithe, and I may even go so far as to say that it should have been a standalone and that the other books in the series shouldn’t have been published.  I’m not saying that that’s definitely what I think, I’m just saying it’s a suggestion for how I might think hypothetically.  

I think that this book is a lot more character driven than Tithe.  The first hundred or so pages are mostly centered around the characters with not much plot happening.  I tend to prefer character centered things, so this was preferable to something focused on plot or worldbuilding.  I actually started liking it a little less whenever it got into more plot related things and when the characters actually started doing a lot of things.  I would have been more than content to read three hundred thirteen pages about these teenagers hanging out in an abandoned train station and taking fairy drugs because they were just interesting people to read about.  I definitely wouldn’t want to know these people, and I think the only character I would possibly get along with from this is Ruth, but, even though they weren’t relatable to me, and even though a lot of them weren’t very likable, they were very real and very interesting.  I know that the events in this book aren’t realistic, and a lot of teenagers who run away don’t get this kind of happy ending (and none of them get literal troll boyfriends), but their personalities and their interactions are the kinds of things you would actually see. These characters aren’t black and white, good or evil beings, they’re complex, and they’ve been through horrible things.  Even though I wouldn’t voluntarily spend time with anyone like any of the characters, it wouldn’t be hard to find someone like them.

I think that the characters in this really carry the story.  Like the other Holly Black books I’ve read, this one doesn’t have that much worldbuilding.  There aren’t descriptions of what the places look like, and, even though I feel like I could picture it, it’s all ideas I’m assuming about what the places are like.  My idea of what it looks like is a mixture of places in the city I live close to and pictures of cities from tumblr aesthetic blogs. That’s probably not what New York looks like.  But, even though there was a lack of worldbuilding and a plot I didn’t entirely like, the characters made it okay. If the characters had been irritating, maybe I wouldn’t have liked it.  But, since the characters were interesting, it made me want to read it, and it made me overlook the things like lack of worldbuilding.

I have one spoilery complaint, so, in case you don’t want to read that, I’m just going to give my final rating of it now:

Four out of five stars.  

And now the spoilery complaint.  

My one big complaint about this book is the love story in it.  I really enjoyed the book before the love story came in, and I think the love story took something away from the book instead of adding to it.  I was hoping that there would be no hot, datable fairies in this book. For so long, it seemed that that would be the case. No such luck. In this book, we’ve branched out from hot fairies, and we now have hot trolls.  I wish I was joking. Relationships between fairies and humans already irritate me, but this one was worse because the two of them had literally no connection. I kept expecting it to end horribly because it didn’t seem like a relationship that was written to be shipped.  It almost seems like it was forced just so that there could be a relationship for the main character. In addition to that, I can’t stand the “I’m a monster!” “But I love you!” trope that seems so common in these fairy relationships. If I liked some guy and he told me with complete sincerity that he was a monster, I would run and not look back.  You have no idea what someone means by that. Someone who’s just sort of insecure about their personality or something won’t say that they’re a monster. That seems like an indicator of something that will probably end very poorly. If a guy says he’s a monster, he’s either dangerous or an elf (or, apparently now, a troll), and I don’t understand why anyone would stick around to find out.  And what kind of example does that set for young teenage girls who read these kind of books? Is it trying to say that if he’s a monster all he needs is love, and that you can fix him and his monstrous ways? Because that’s not healthy. I haven’t read a single book where the guy claims to be a monster and then the girl leaves because wow, that sounds like a lot, and she doesn’t want to have to deal with him or his mess.  Wait, maybe Frankenstein but that’s sort of the point of that book.  You can’t claim to write strong, independent women who end up just having to love the evil out of a man.  That is just wrong. Women don’t exist only to help men work through their issues. We’re not free therapists.  This trope needs to stop.

And don’t date trolls.  They eat people. Honestly, I shouldn’t need to say this.  


A Review of Guardian of the Dead by Karen Healey

Some small spoilers.  Nothing huge, but, if you’re sensitive about spoilers, you may want to avoid this one.  


The worst books are the ones that seem really promising at first and then end up being kind of meh.  If it had started out promising and then gone way down hill, I could still do a good review of it. I’m excellent at complaining.  This book didn’t go like that, though. It didn’t turn out to be horribly offensive or really terribly written, it just ended up lacking in general.  It’s honestly hard to put my finger on exactly what I thought was lacking. It started off pretty strong, and I even made about a page of notes detailing how good it was, but, the further I got, the more it fell apart.  

At first, I loved the dialogue.  The conversations that happened sounded like the conversations that would actually happen between teenagers.  It had the kind of sarcasm that teenagers use, and, during the first half of the book, the dialogue didn’t seem at all forced or unnatural.  During the second half of the book, the dialogue lost the casual cynicism that teenagers use, and a lot of it became a way to info-dump instead of realistic dialogue.  There were literally pages of dialogue where one character would be telling a story, none of the other characters were talking, and nothing else was happening. I totally get that not many people are familiar with New Zealand mythology, so some sort of backstory is important, but backstory that’s provided by info-dumping doesn’t feel like backstory.  Personally, I find it really easy to zone out during lengthy info-dumps, assuming that I’ll just pick up whatever it’s talking about while I’m reading. Or maybe I won’t pick it up later. Chances are, if it’s a book that already has a lot of info-dumping, I’ve at least partially given up on it. If you’ve followed me for any amount of time, you know how much I need backstory, and you know how much I need well developed, well done backstory, and this book seems like it bit off more than it could chew.  

If you’ve read my other reviews, you know I love a book that incorporates mythology.  It’s definitely cool to see something with mythology that isn’t the stereotypical Greek mythology you see most in young adult and middle grade novels, but this book could have done it a lot better.  And that’s the thing. If you want to introduce people to a less common mythology, which is cool and we should have more of, you need to make sure your story does justice to the mythology you are referencing.  For a while, the book doesn’t even seem like it’s supposed to be about mythology. It seemed like it was about evil fairies, but not entirely the desirable, dateable type. But they don’t seem to actually be fairies, they’re some sort of mythological creature?  I honestly don’t know. Maybe if I spent an evening binge reading Wikipedia pages about this mythology, I would understand it better, but, like I’ve said before in other reviews, I don’t think an author should rely on their readers to find information for themselves because the author just didn’t put it in.  It’s possible that whoever is reading this book may not have the access to a computer to find this information, and it’s possible that, like me, whoever reads it and is vaguely confused just won’t care enough to look it up because they weren’t given enough information to really become immersed in the story.

I wish the ending had been longer.  I realized during the last chapter that I had no idea what was happening, but there was nothing I could do to figure out what I was missing.  I’ve finished the book now, and I still don’t know what I don’t know. While I was reading the last chapter, it seemed like it could have been all some sort of complex metaphor for something, but it seems like it was meant to be taken literally.  Honestly, I have no idea. I think it was entirely literal, but maybe it isn’t. If the ending had been really detailed, and more drawn out, maybe I would have felt more attached to the characters, and I would have been more upset when bad things happened to them, but, the way it was written, I didn’t feel overly bad for them.  

I don’t even know if I know all the things that happened anymore.  It has random plot twists that don’t make sense with the rest of the things that happen, and, by the end of the book, it’s just a mess.  It’s almost like there were several plots happening at once and fighting with each other. It was not good.

I think I went into this book with too many ideas about it already.  I think I found this book on the same list I found Mortal Danger on, so I assumed it would something similar to that.  The reason I read this book now was because I was hoping to find something that would be like Mortal Danger, but it wasn’t.  I know that this is my fault, and that if I hadn’t assumed things I wouldn’t have been so disappointed, but I’ve gone into other books with assumptions and still liked them because they were well written and engaging.  This one just falls flat.

In addition to everything else, there were literally several grammatical errors, and there were several sentences that seemed like they were just missing words.  This seems like the kind of thing that would be caught in an early draft, not the kind of thing that would still be in the published version of the novel.

Despite wanting to love this book, and despite the lovely things I thought about it for the first hundred pages, I have to give it two stars.  

A Review of The Selection by Kiera Cass

If this book is nothing else, it’s entertaining.  It’s the literary equivalent of trashy reality TV.  I don’t like TV that much, so, instead of watching TLC, I read things like this.  I didn’t like it, but I was entertained for a few hours, and that’s honestly all I wanted.  

Let’s start by talking about the main character.  Her name is America because of course it is. If this wasn’t a dystopian version of The Bachelor, I would assume this was foreshadowing that she’ll overthrow the government in book three.  (Because young adult dystopian series are always trilogies, and they always overthrow the government in the last book.  It’s just science.) America isn’t like other girls.  America doesn’t like to wear a lot of makeup.  America doesn’t like fancy dresses. America doesn’t sleep with guys the way other girls do.  Except for the fact that she talked about how hard it was to have to wait for when she married her boyfriend because she wanted to sleep with him now.  In this world, it’s illegal for couples to sleep together before marriage (more about this later), and, if people figure out that someone did that, or if someone gets pregnant, the penalty is jail.  It kind of sounds like it’s jail for life, which is really intense, and, in my opinion, overly dramatic. But I’m going to discuss this at greater length later, so back to America being so very special.  America points out that other girls don’t even look like themselves after they get all of their makeup on, and how she still looks the same.  In addition to not wearing that much makeup, she wants to wear PANTS, which is so unexpected and surprising because she’s in a competition to become the next princess, so why would she wear pants???  

With all of the stuff in this book about how the girls should stick together and be supportive of each other, you would expect that the rest of the book would have messages of sticking up for women and supporting women, but the entire thing objectifies women and perpetuates the cliche of girls being overly competitive and hating each other.  I have never met a group of women who actually thought that way, and, even though there are probably some women who think that way (because we live on a planet with over seven billion people, so there are people who do literally anything you can imagine), this cliche is overused, and horrible. Some men will read this and think that this is actually how women are.  These kinds of depiction of women are the kind of thing I would expect to see from a novel by a man, not a novel by a woman. And yet here we are.

Back to the thing about relationships and the laws governing them.  In the book, America says something about how it’s horrible that love is illegal.  But love isn’t illegal. Sex before marriage is illegal. But the book says love, so it seems like the author is equating one with the other.  I dislike this whole idea for several reasons. The first of those reasons is that, since the book seems to imply that love and sex are the same things, it may alienate asexual people.  I’m not asexual, so I can’t speak for them, but they’re capable of loving people without ever hooking up with them. In addition to that, when a book makes a plot point about love being illegal, it tends to refer to LGBT relationships, not a straight relationship between two white people.  That kind of relationship is the most widely accepted in the world, and I feel like America is being completely over dramatic. (Also, if she really wasn’t like other girls, wouldn’t she not care about whether or not she could sleep with her boyfriend?  That is one of the ways she claims to be different than most girls. Just saying.)  Even if you’re willing to overlook alienating asexual people and the connotations that that phrase normally has, equating sex with love is a really unhealthy view to have.  

There isn’t nearly enough information on how the caste systems work.  In the book the caste system has eight groups, one being royalty and eight being homeless people.  Personally, I want to know why musicians and artists are fives. Is this some comment on “starving artists”?  Because, if it is, I don’t like it. Factory workers are fours, and, even though I’ve never worked in a factory, so I can’t speak from personal experience, I feel like music and art takes a lot more work to do well, so it should be higher.  Obviously, as a musician, I’m biased, but come on.  There were some people who seemed to be the pop stars of this world, and obviously they aren’t fives, so I feel like this is a starving artist comment.  I don’t like this. I admit, this could be a comment on the importance to society of factory workers over artists and musicians, but think about that. This is then a world in which commodity is more important than culture.

In addition to that, the reader is not given any explanation as to why the caste system is now in place, or how things were decided.  If you’re going to have something like this in your book, you have to give the backstory behind it.

Really, in all aspects, this book lacked worldbuilding and backstory.  I don’t know what any of the rooms in the palace looked like, or what most of the people looked like, and, when descriptions were given, they were so vague and generic that they lost all meaning.  How many times can you describe a woman as “delicate” before it gets tiring? And how many times can you say that someone sang something instead of said it? The food was supposedly heavenly, but the descriptions stop there.  How was the food heavenly? Was it rich, or were the flavors that much better than anything else she’d ever tasted?

There was an attempt at backstory, but it was in the form of a couple pages of awkward info-dumping, and it didn’t tell the readers nearly enough to understand how the world got to the point that it’s at in this book.  It would almost have been better if the author had done nothing instead of doing the half-hearted couple pages that left me with more questions than answers.

This book actually reminded me a lot of Wither with the way it did its worldbuilding and backstory.  It tries to be cool and dystopian like the old sci-fi novels, but it doesn’t have nearly as much work or attention to detail as the novels it so desperately tries to replicate.  

I feel like I should rate this higher than I’m going to, since I did read it mostly in one day, and it was very entertaining, but it has many more low points than it does high points.  One star.

I don’t know what to call this/about me, sort of/90s alternative band asks

Even if you’ve followed this blog for a long time, I’m not sure if I post enough about me for you to really get a clear picture of who I am.  You know I’m a bassist, you know I like Radiohead, and I may have mentioned that I’m a pisces, but you may not know that much else about me. Since my birthday is on Saturday, I thought it would be a good time to do some kind of “about me” tag.  I looked for a general, “about me” tag that I could do, but all of them were either too personal, or would have resulted in a lot of one or two word answers, so I’m doing 90s alternative band asks from tumblr instead. There are some bands in this group of asks that I don’t like or don’t know, so I’m only doing those for bands I know and like.  

Anyway, I hope you like this, and I hope you can get a sense of who I am as a person from them.  



Do you like sunny weather?  

Not really.  I have the complexion of a corpse, and I burn very easily in the sun, so I prefer clouds.  

Are you a city or country person?

Country.  I don’t like most people, so I want to live far enough from people that I don’t have to hear or see any of my neighbors.  Also, if I live that far away from other people, I could listen to music as loud as I wanted, and at any hour without irritating people.  Maybe I would have screaming goats. You can’t have screaming goats in an apartment in a city.

Favorite brand of athletic wear?

I don’t really wear athletic wear.  Do Converse sneakers count?

Do you like your smile?

I like it more than I used to, but not really.  



Do you believe in God?


Are you a flannel or sweaters person?

Sweaters.  Always sweaters.  I’m wearing a red one right now.  

Where’s your happy place?

Anywhere where I have a book, a cup of tea, and quiet.  Also, preferably, somewhere my cat is.

Do you like your family?

I love my immediate family.  My extended family is a whole different story.  

What stereotype were/are you closest to in high school?

In my early teens I had an emo phase.  After my emo phase ended, I became a stereotypical artist/musician teenager (Me:  I play guitar. Someone: Of course you do.).



What’s your dream car?

Unrealistically, I would want a neon orange 1973 Camaro with a new, very powerful engine and the best speakers available.  Realistically, I want something that I can transport my bass or large amps in without having to put seats down.

Favorite card game?

I don’t know.  I don’t play many card games.  I think a boring card game could be made fun if I played it with people I liked, and a fun card game could be made miserable if I played it with people I don’t like.  

Do you consider yourself cool?

I would like to think that I’m cool, but, in reality, I just make a lot of bad puns, and I probably irritate most people with them.  

Vinyl, cassettes, CDs, or digital?

I would like to be able to buy vinyl, but it’s expensive, and I don’t have something to play it on.  I have a lot of CDs, though.

What’s a haircut/style you’ve always wanted to get?

I’m currently growing my hair out from a very short pixie cut, and my goal is to be able to have space buns.  I’ve always wished I had the confidence to shave my head, but, now that I’m trying to grow my hair out, I doubt that will happen any time soon.  



Is there possibility of life on other planets?

Yes.  Definitely.  

What’s your favorite jacket?

If I’m not wearing a sweater, I’m in my vintage denim jacket.  It has pockets that are big enough to hold small books, which is all I need in life.  

Do you like spring, summer, fall, or winter most?

Fall, probably.  But I have a floor length red cape that I can only wear in winter, so maybe I like winter best?  I like any seasons where I can wear many layers.

Can you recognize any constellations?


Are you an extrovert, an introvert, or an ambivert?

Introvert.  If the Myers Briggs test means anything to you, I’m an INFP.  


Pearl Jam:

What charity do you donate to (or would like to donate to) most?

There’s a place I’ve been to that rescues farm animals, and I would like to be able to donate to them.  

Do you think art should be a mode of autobiography?

I think a lot of the best art is.  I don’t know if I think that all of it should be, or that it has to be, but all of the music I write is a mode of autobiography.  

What’s the hardest thing you’ve ever survived?

I know exactly what I’d say for this question, but I’m not going into it.  It’s very personal, and I don’t know how to talk about it. Maybe someday I will, but not now.  

Were/are you good at school?

Yes.  Does that sound narcissistic?  

Where’s somewhere you’ve always wanted to roadtrip?

I think it would be cool to go on a roadtrip across the country with a friend or two.  Maybe it would be cool to go to Seattle? I just need to convince someone to do this with me someday.  


Smashing Pumpkins:

Do you feel like you unload or bottle up your emotions?

Bottle them up.  And then listen to Soundgarden to get them out.  

Are you the oldest, middle, youngest, or only child, and does your personality match that?

I’m the older child.  I just googled the traits of an older child, and I think I have maybe half the traits they say older children have.  Maybe less than have.

Side note:  When I googled that, a related search was “Why do my parents care more about the youngest child?”  Now we’re asking the real questions.

Do you consider yourself ambitious?


Aesthetically, what era of history most intrigues you?

Nineties, but only nineties grunge.  

Do you like sunsets or sunrises, night or day?

I prefer sunsets and night.  



What was your biggest heartbreak?

I have a thing that may count as an answer, but I was thirteen, so I don’t know if I had been through enough to really be able to judge how bad it was, and I’m not sure if I blew it out of proportion.  Since that isn’t really an answer, I’m going to say that my biggest heartbreak was when I learned that My Chemical Romance broke up.

Do you like the feeling of leaving for new places, or do you get homesick fast?

I get homesick.  I think I would like travelling more if I planned everything myself and if I only travelled with one or two people.  

Are you an optimist or a pessimist, or other?

I’m more pessimistic than anything else, but I would like to think that I also have a realistic view of the world.  

Do you like jazz or classical music?

I don’t listen to any jazz or classical music, but I know that if you play an instrument there are a lot of techniques and things that can be learned from studying them, so I see their value, I just don’t listen to them.

Have you ever been nightswimming?

No, but when I was very, very young I loved that song.  

A Review of Ashes (The Ashes Trilogy #1) by Ilsa J. Bick

Reading this book while having bad mid-two thousand’s pop song stuck in my head is surreal.  I’ve tried to get other, better things stuck in my head, but, apparently, Superunknown is no match for a designed-to-be-an-earworm Katy Perry song.  

Even though I didn’t like having pop music stuck in my head the entire time I was reading this, the contrast between the horrible events of the book, and the preppy, cheery lyrics of the song may have added to the dark atmosphere of the book, so I might hesitantly recommend it.  Or not. Just listen to Superunknown.  

About halfway through the book, I decided to read the last line, just to see if I could figure out anything that happened.  This is the sort of book where I kind of want a couple minor spoilers so that I want to keep reading to see how everything got that point.  It’s not that I wasn’t motivated to read this book, or that I considered not finishing it, it’s actually the opposite. I needed to know the ending so desperately that even a little glimpse at what happened would satisfy me.  I don’t know what exactly I thought the last line meant, when I read it the first time. I thought Rule was a person. And, even though the line is fairly self-explanatory, there’s a lot you have to read to really get it.  I get it now.  I’m mildly horrified.  The last three lines, in and of themselves, are not really horrifying.  I’m not going to say what they are because I don’t want to make this a spoilery review, but, even though they don’t leave you with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside, they alone don’t leave you tightly holding your mug of tea, and wrapping yourself in a blanket because you’re that uncomfortable.  The chapter before the last three lines, considered in its entirety, leaves you doing all of those things.

The book isn’t full of gore, but, when it has any, it has just enough detail to freak you out.  Some gore in novels like this is described to the point where it loses its impact. It’s there for shock value, and nothing more.  This book is different. The little bits of gore almost casually add some of the horror and atmosphere to the book. It’s not sugar coated or downplayed, but it’s also not exaggerated or overdone, and I think that it’s the balance between the two that makes it work so well.  In addition to that, the amount of gore in this book is realistic and reasonable when you consider everything that happens.

A lot of the horrible events that are happening in this book feel like what you’d hear if you took what the news sounds like now and just pushed it a few steps past the worst possible outcome.  Okay, maybe more than a few steps. I really want to think that nothing even slightly similar to this will ever happen, but a lot of the last several years has just been me thinking there’s no way that this could possibly happen, and then me being horrifically disappointed in humanity.  The events in this book are beyond the realm of possibility, but you know what I mean.  The way this was handled in the book is reminiscent of old sci-fi. It takes current events and it lets them play out to the logical conclusion, and then some in a way that makes it more timeless even if it is dated in some way.  It feels kind of weird to think that this book came out seven years ago, and I’m sitting here in 2018 reading it and thinking that it’s just a little too full of things that remind me of current events for my liking.  

I had put off reading this book for several years because, even though several people had recommended it to me, they recommended it for if I was in the mood for a dystopian novel.  This was during the time when The Hunger Games series was huge and every other young adult book was some sort of dystopian. I had really just gotten sick of all of them, so I didn’t even give this one a chance.  The thing is, this isn’t really a dystopian world. This is our world. This is our world, around the year 2011. This is what our world would be if horrific things happened to it, in our time.  That’s not dystopian.  That’s apocalyptic. With dystopian novels, it might still be set on our planet, but it’s our planet at least several decades into the future, if not a lot further.  

I think it’s easier to distance yourself from the horrible events happening in a dystopian novel because, even in the old dystopian sci-fi novels I love, it’s not your time that they’re writing about.  In the modern sci-fi, they’re writing about a world hundreds of years into the future, so you can comfortably exist in 2018 and not worry about the events of that book coming to pass within your lifetime.  Maybe “comfortable” isn’t the best word to describe existing in 2018, since literally everything is bad, but you get what I mean. Even in the old sci-fi, they would have things taking place in the distant year of 2005, but, in their version of 2005, the people had flying cars, and spaceships that can travel at the speed of light.  In the real 2005, we had Myspace and a new Foo Fighters album. (Side note: I’d rather have a new Foo Fighters album than a flying car.) My point is, even if you’re reading an old, dystopian sci-fi that’s set in or around the year you live in, there’s a disconnect, so it’s easier to separate yourself from it, and not become stressed by it.  In an apocalyptic novel, it’s harder to separate yourself. It feels a lot more real when it’s apocalyptic and not dystopian, when it actually mentions things you see on the news.  Ellie is only slightly older than my little sister would have been in that year, and it makes me wonder what would have happened if that had happened back then.  I would have been the right age to become one of the Changed.  Even if it happened now, I’d be young enough to become of the Changed.  That’s kind of unsettling.

One of my favorite things about this book is how the author perfectly captured the casual bitterness and cynicism of people in their late teens.  It’s a specific mindset, and it’s hard to replicate if you’re not part of the generation that shares that mindset. The way that paragraphs could go from being incredibly serious to making a sarcastic comment was amazing, and something that is infrequently done this well.  One of the lines that particularly stood out to me was “No one had to tell her about darker than dark. Been there, done that, bought the T-shirt.” That sounds like something that an actual seventeen year old would say. I love it so much.

While we’re on the subject of casual, dark things, this book would just have single line paragraphs at the end of chapters, sometimes, that would just crush any hope you had for the characters being happy, or finding their loved ones.  These lines weren’t super common, but there were just enough of them to really create the depressing, grim atmosphere of the book. I’ve seen the same technique in Vonnegut novels, and if you’re going to reference Vonnegut, and do it well, I’m going to read it.

There are so many more good things about this book, and I could probably go on for four more pages, but I want to keep it spoiler free, so I’m stopping here.  

Five out of five stars.  

A Review of Gemina (The Illuminae Files #2) by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I’m not going to talk about big spoilers for this book, but there will be smaller ones.  Also, it is the second book in the series, so there may be spoilers for the first book that I wouldn’t think to tag.  Proceed with caution.  Or, if you don’t care about spoilers, proceed with reckless abandon.  


In my defense, this time it took me five hundred pages to start crying.  But, after that, I cried four times.  Two of those were in the span of fifteen pages.  I had just pulled myself together, and then, oh look, that line is particularly sad, and I’m crying again.  There were also other times where I wanted to cry, but couldn’t for some reason.  

Maybe this is why the audiobook versions of this series are so popular?  So that people can sob hysterically and not have to worry about getting their book wet.  Maybe I should look into that…

I honestly don’t even know where to start this review.  All my thoughts are either telling me to cry or scream.  I also want to lie face down on the floor and take several hours to process the book.  The last thirty pages made me feel so many things at once.  I don’t know how my eyeliner survived.  I’m not going to talk about exactly what happened in the last thirty pages because, if I had known how it ended, I wouldn’t have cried nearly as much as I did, and you have to suffer with me, but IT WAS INTENSE.  

I loved the parts of the book narrated by AIDEN, and how the words were set up on the page.  It was very poetic, which is interesting because AIDEN is an AI, but, in addition to that, even though there were short lines, it didn’t feel like it was trying too hard to be poetic.  (If you’ve read my review of Perfect by Ellen Hopkins, you know how picky I am about poetry.)  These chapters didn’t have a strict structure, they were more weird, free verse kind of things that were told beautifully.  I especially liked the parts at the end with the black and white pages and the white and gray/black text respectively.  These pages tell the two stories at once with mostly the same words, but when the words on the white pages were different from those on the black pages, the words were black instead of gray.  Everything about that part was completely heartbreaking, but also done perfectly.  

At first, I didn’t really expect to like Nik that much.  He’s a drug dealer, and he’s from a crime family.  That’s not the kind of guy I normally like.  But the further I got into the book, the more I liked him.  And then, by the end of the book, I loved him.  (You know that THING that happens with him around page five hundred?  Yeah.  I cried so much.)  Normally, this kind of guy, who seems like a bad guy but ends up having a heart of gold, irritates me.  Normally, I think it’s very over done; however, the way it was done here made me have all the feels.  He’s not just a “bad guy” who actually has a heart of gold.  He’s very protective of his little brother and the other people he loves, and he’s such a well developed, lovable character.  He was so three dimensional, and he feels so real.  Is he better than Ezra Mason?  Maybe not better, but definitely as good as Ezra.  

You may consider this next paragraph a huge spoiler, so it may be best to just skip it.  It may be something that could be considered a plot point, but I’m not going to go into what it did enough to make it a huge spoiler.  Of course, that’s just what I think, and I’m pretty chill when it comes to finding spoilers online, so take what I’ve said with a grain of salt.  The short paragraph after the possibly spoilery one is more spoilery, so it may be best to skip that one, too.  But, like I said, I don’t go out of my way to avoid spoilers, so, where I see these as minor spoilers, they may be major spoilers to someone else.  You have been warned.

Still here?  Okay.  One of my favorite things about this book is how the multiverse was done.  It’s a hard thing to do well, and I grew up reading Diana Wynne Jones, so I have very high standards for how a multiverse should be done.  This exceeded my expectations.  There were pictures to show exactly how it worked, people travelled between the universes, and it was amazing.  Also, it was a perfect multiverse with a love story that was, at times, tragic.  This is all I want in life.  

While I’m being spoilery, I knew there was something weird with Jackson.  Even from the beginning, I liked Nik more than I liked him, and, as it turns out, I had every reason to.  He got better by the end, and he did good things, but I knew there was something up with him.  

There’s probably more I could go into if I wanted to be really spoilery, but I think it’s best to go into this not knowing too much about it, so I’m going to end it here.  

Five out of five stars.  Everyone should read this series.  

Side note:  Would anyone be interested in me making a playlist for this book?  I already have some ideas for what songs I would put on it, so, even if no one is interested, I may post one anyway, I would just put it up on a day where I don’t normally post something.  

A Review of “That the Machine May Progress Eternally” by Carrie Ryan (from the anthology Rags and Bones)

I read this entire anthology five years ago, when it came out.  I had put off reading this particular story because, at the time, I hadn’t picked up any of the old sci-fi I love now, and I assumed I wouldn’t like it.  I think it was possibly the last story I read in the entire anthology, just because I had mixed feelings on sci-fi.  When I read it the first time, I liked it a lot more than I expected to.  In the five years since then, I’ve thought of it more than I’ve thought of almost any other short story I read at that time.  “Love Will Tear Us Apart” from Zombies VS. Unicorns will always be a short story I come back to, but I reread it fairly frequently, and this is the first time I’ve reread this one, so they’re different.  In addition to that, I come back to “Love Will Tear Us Apart” for fairly specific reasons and because a few specific lines resonate with me every time.  I didn’t have specific lines of this story that resonated with me, or were stuck in my head for five years.  There was just something about it that stuck with me for no discernible reason.  So, since I randomly thought of it recently, I decided to read it.  

I did not truly appreciate this the first time I read it.  

This isn’t the kind of sci-fi you would normally find in an anthology written for teenagers.  It has the kind of writing that gets under your skin and makes you uncomfortable in a way you can’t put your finger on.  It makes you look at how you live your life and wonder if you’re making the right choices.  You rarely get that from modern sci-fi, and I’ve never seen that in young adult sci-fi.  That’s the kind of thing you get in the old sci-fi (Bradbury, Vonnegut, Huxley, Burgess).  Even when you’ve put the book down, and you think you’re done with the story, the story isn’t done with you.  Some part of it lives in you for the rest of your life, and the amount of discomfort you get from reading it probably won’t go away quickly.  

I don’t know what it is about this story that I connect to so much right now, but I literally feel unwell after reading it.  That’s a good thing (even though I don’t feel well).  This story makes me want to go somewhere very quiet outside, away from all of the noise of people living, and machines everywhere.  I can’t go outside because it’s winter where I live, and it’s night, but part of me wants to put on four layers and just walk outside.  

I loved the style of the writing.  The narrator had a pretty matter of fact, for lack of a better word, emotionless way, that just made it more horrifying.  In addition to that, you never really get to know the main character very well, so you watch him make all of these decisions, and you watch everything go the way it does, and it’s almost worse because you didn’t even have enough time to get to know him.  If it had been a character you knew very well, something about it would be different.  I feel like it would almost lose its impact if it had an emotional narrator or a main character you really got to know.  I can’t put my finger on why it would lose something, but that’s part of what makes this kind of sci-fi so good.  It’s not one bit of it that makes it good, it’s all of, blended together so perfectly.  

I love that the story isn’t very long (twenty six pages in my copy of the anthology), so that the changes the character goes through seem more dramatic.  The amount of time that passes isn’t specifically given, but it seems like a pretty long time, and all of that time, all of those changes, happen in the span of twenty six pages.  

This story leaves me with the same feeling that reading Vonnegut leaves me with, which is not an easy thing to do.  There’s so much in this story, and it all embeds itself into your soul, and I love everything about it.  

In conclusion, I have a lot of emotions.  Ten out of ten.  


Side note, I already mentioned that this story really makes me want to go outside, but the weather won’t allow it, so I think I’m going to go outside a lot this summer.  I don’t care that I have the complexion of a corpse so I’ll burn very quickly, or that where I live is full of ticks.  I don’t want to be anything like the people in this story.  I’m honestly wishing I lived somewhere that was warm at this time of the year so I could spend all of tomorrow surrounded by fresh air.  I’m very uncomfortable.  


Side note again, I wonder if part of the reason I feel like not really getting to know the character makes the story more horrifying is that it brings back memories of Lord of the Flies.  You never really get to know the boy with glasses.  You never even know his name.  And then he dies.  And I can still see exactly how it was described in the book, even though it’s been years since I read it.  

A Review of Shutter by Courtney Alameda



I bought this book several years ago in an attempt to get myself out of a book hangover from an unfinished series that I got overly attached to.  That series was about a team of ghost hunters, and, even though I probably wouldn’t normally pick up this book, my book hangover was very bad, and I was desperate.  The fact that I bought it to read immediately but didn’t even pick it up until now should have made it obvious to me how I would feel about it, but no.  

It’s kind of hard to review this because the book was mostly just meh.  There are bits I specifically don’t like, but, most of the time when I was reading it, I was almost indifferent.  At first, it seemed like it could have been good, but, by the end, I was making excuses to do literally anything else so I didn’t have to read it.  I put away laundry so I could put off reading this, which I guess makes it seem like I wasn’t really indifferent.  I don’t know.  This book was weird.  

I’ve said it before, but you don’t notice good worldbuilding until it isn’t there.  There’s a little bit of worldbuilding, but it’s done only in info-dumps during action scenes, and it’s only about certain things.  I know that there’re a lot of new scientific terms and complex processes behind the ghost hunting in this universe, but info-dumping during scenes that are supposed to be fast paced slows down the plot, and it really takes something away from the dramatic scene that it’s interrupting.  I think the technical aspects of ghost hunting would have been more successful if the author had mentioned it in a little bit of detail during a part that was not an action scene and then dropped it.  Tell the readers just enough to make it not be confusing and then just go with it.  Explaining every little detail makes it a thing, and, in this universe, it’s completely normal, so making it a thing makes it weird.  Explanations like this work better if all the characters just act like it’s completely normal and don’t over explain it.  In The Raven Boys there wasn’t a long, overly drawn out description of how ley lines work.  The author says that they do things, and the ley lines are there doing those things, so it doesn’t need too long explanation of why or how they do things.  Explaining so excessively makes it feel like it’s almost breaking the fourth wall just to explain something that doesn’t need this much explanation.  Don’t explain it, show it in action, so the explanation isn’t needed.  

The info-dumps also give a lot of random terms about ghosts with little to no explanation, so even the info-dumps info-dump poorly.  If you’re going to interrupt an important, fast paced scene to tell me about why cameras can capture ghosts, at least explain the terms well enough that I can remember them thirty pages later.  

There were no details about what the world around the characters looked like or felt like, thus creating a world that didn’t feel real.  Part of what makes horror scary is that you can immerse yourself in the world and imagine yourself in the story.  If you can’t imagine the world, you can’t become immersed in the story, and it isn’t scary.  

I think part of what takes away from the worldbuilding is all of the metaphors.  I don’t need to know that an interaction with her crush carbonates her blood, or something along those lines.  That doesn’t sound romantic, that sounds very uncomfortable, kind of similar to the bends.  The bends are not romantic.  The metaphors also took away some of the impact of the sad scenes.  It made them more about how dramatically you could describe the scent of blood and less about the fact that a lot of people are dead.  (As a side note, I think this book has something about an “anemic night”, which sounds like the title of an emo song.  If I had read this when I was fourteen, I would have written that down as song name inspiration.  Not that that makes it a good metaphor.)

In addition to that, there’s an unrealistic lack of dialogue between characters, so they don’t have any development either.  They’re supposed to be friends, so you’d think they would actually talk to each other.  Dialogue is part of how you get to know characters, especially when only one of them is narrating the book, and you don’t get that here.  After reading the book, I’m left feeling like I never really knew any of the characters.  Not even the main characters.  

While we’re on the topic of main characters, I don’t like Ryder.  He’s such a typical young adult novel love interest.  He rides a motorcycle.  He has an accent.  His black hair has undertones of colors that no natural head of black hair would ever have.  He seems edgy and reckless, but he really has a heart of gold, and, oh look, he’s so sweet when he’s falling in love with the main character.  This is the kind of love interest that Brooding YA Hero warned us about.  When will we be done with love interests like this?  I’m tired of reading about the same cliched guy who isn’t actually as cool and dateable as a lot of authors and publishers think he is.  

It’s really hard to read a book with no good female relationships.  There are three women in this book that are alive and there for more than five pages.  (I know her mother was there the entire time being the ghost terrorizing them, but that isn’t revealed until the end, and, since her mother is literally trying to kill her and all her friends, it’s not exactly a positive relationship between women.)  The main character is also really judgmental towards both of the other women in the story.  If I lived in this world, I would be as nice as I could be to other women, since they seem to barely exist.  I wouldn’t have time for judging because I would be too busy worrying about where half the population went.  Micheline judges one girl for wearing shoes that make a slightly louder than normal sound whenever she takes a step.  I assume that Micheline wear combat boots-since she’s a ghost hunter, so what else would she wear-and combat boots aren’t that quiet.  Micheline is, of course, very short and tiny, so maybe it’s just that MY combat boots are loud because I’m slightly taller than average, and probably much taller than the average girl in a young adult novel.  Micheline also says that one room in a house they’re in MUST be a girl’s room because of the specific type of sheets that are on the bed.  Why are we gendering sheets?  What can you tell about someone by the sheets they have??  My bed has red sheets, no top sheet, and seven pillows (on a twin size bed), so what does that say about me?  Does the fact that my sheets don’t have ruffles on them make me less feminine?  No.  Of course not.  They’re sheets.  They exist to cover the squishy thing you throw yourself onto when you’re having an existential crisis or when you’re moody because concert tickets are expensive.  

In addition to all of that, one of the women in this book GETS HER EYES GOUGED OUT BY HER DEMON POSSESSED BOYFRIEND, AND THEN THROWS HERSELF OUT A WINDOW.  She lives, but that doesn’t make it okay.  She didn’t deserve that.  It didn’t advance the plot in any way.  It just seemed an excuse for unnecessary gore.  Nothing this horrible happens to any of the males in this book, which makes one pause given that there are so few women.

I almost feel like the main character could have been a guy and nothing would have to change.  I actually think a lot of the comments made would have made a lot more sense if the main character was a guy.  Women don’t talk that way about other women.  Also, if Micheline had been a guy, she wouldn’t fit the only girl in a group of guys trope.  Seriously, when will that end?  It’s not interesting.  

This complaint is more specific to me, and won’t apply to everyone, but I absolutely hated the little sibling death in this.  I’ve mentioned this before in my review of Cinder.  If you’ve read that review you know why it bothers me.  I’m not going to really get into it, so I’ll just say that that was far too close to being a reality for me, so I do my best to avoid it in things now.  Even though most of the book left me without any strong feelings towards it, I nearly cried at the stuff about her little brothers dying.  The fact that her brothers were horribly murdered, their souls were stuck, and they were suffering is not something I want to read about.  I know that this is very specific to me, and, chances are, it won’t bother you, but this kind of thing isn’t just one more plot point to me.  It’s something that was a serious possibility, and it brings back memories that I don’t want to think about.  

My last complaint is that Micheline’s father was abusive (to the point of punching her in the face and leaving a huge bruise), and it’s never dealt with.  She says that he’s human, and being human means that he makes mistakes.  She goes on to argue that being human means being forgivable, but that seems like a bad way to think.  Yes, being human means that people make mistakes, but it also means that they’re held accountable for those mistakes and not necessarily forgiven.  Since Ryder’s father was also abusive, I thought that it might be some underlying theme of the book, but it seemed to just be dropped.  Why make two of the main characters have abusive parents and then just drop it?  I don’t want the whole thing to be one preachy message about parenting, but, if you’re going to put something in your book, you have to deal with it.  You can’t just leave it, or say that it’s entirely forgivable that the character did horrible things.  It’s not.  This should have been handled differently.  

Overall, I still feel very meh about this book.  Two stars.  

A Review of Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

I’ve said before that I cry at books fairly easily, so it’s no surprise that I cried while reading this.  What’s really surprising, or, perhaps, worrying, is that I cried five times.  Yes.  Five.  Two of those were in the span of a hundred pages.  

I mentioned this book before, sometime in January, when I was around a hundred pages in, and I said something about how I liked reading a funny sci-fi novel for once.  The sci-fi I normally read is the old dystopian variety, so occasionally reading a funny sci-fi novel is nice.  

I’m not laughing anymore.  

The characters start off as sarcastic, and, although not entirely happy since their entire planet was destroyed, significantly happier than they are by the end of book.  You have to watch the characters lose everything and suffer and die.  It’s so incredibly heartbreaking!  Even the characters you don’t know that well suddenly feel like close friends, AND THEN YOU WATCH THEM COME TO HORRIBLE ENDS.  Even the characters who don’t die go through awful things, so it’s not like you can just avoid becoming attached to one or two characters.  

This book literally goes from Kady talking about how people underestimate her because she’s short, and Ezra flipping off a psychologist to a homicidal AI and thousands of dead people.  And you don’t expect it at all, so it’s all the more heartbreaking.  

One of the best things about the characters in this book is how easy they are to like and how quickly you become attached to them.  They can be there for less than fifty pages, but you love them like they’re your own child (I do not have children.  This may be an exaggeration.).  For crying out loud, this book even makes you sympathetic to the aforementioned homicidal AI when you assumed you would hate it for the entire book.  

If you’ve been following for a while, you may remember my review of Dangerous, and how much I hated the boulderization of it.  I still don’t like when authors do this (if you’re just going to cut out the swearing, why put it in in the first place?  Why write a book where that happens?), but in this it doesn’t take away from the story at all.  Yes, I would have prefered having the actual swearing in it, but that’s just not how the book was written.  I think part of what made me like how the boulderization was done in this book more than in others is that you know almost exactly what word they’re saying.  The word isn’t replaced with a “bleep” or with several letters cut out and replaced with a dash (which, although it makes it clear what the person is saying, feels a little weird to me for some reason), the swearing in this book is replaced with a black box.  Also, since some of the parts of this book are official documents or transcripts, it makes sense for the swearing to be cut out.  In Dangerous, it felt like the swearing was being cut so that the author could market the book to a younger audience.  With this book, that doesn’t feel like that’s the case.  

While we’re on the topic of language in this book, I loved how the slang was done.  I’ve read books where they use different phrases than we do, and the author will literally stop the story so that one of the characters can define the words they’re using.  Even though exposition is important, this level of exposition, and this kind of exposition, makes things feel awkward, and it makes it so that the book doesn’t read smoothly.  In this book, it offers no explanation of the slang, and just expects you to pick it up and go with it.  This is exactly how it should be done.  That’s how it’s done in Clockwork Orange.  And yes, Clockwork Orange is different, and the slang isn’t defined so that, when you finally realize what they’re referring to, you’re horrified by what you missed.  I think it’s fair to say that in any book with different slang, no matter the intention of the slang, it should be handled like this.  This book didn’t have as much new slang as other books I’ve read (mostly they used “chum” instead of “dude” or “bro”, and they seemed to have a slightly different definition of the word “chill”), but I think that’s part of the reason why it worked so well.  It’s much easier to give your readers a few different words so that they can easily absorb them and understand them, instead of giving them twenty new words that are so weird and nonsensical that you have to stop the plot.  I loved how this aspect of the book was handled, and I would recommend this book to anyone who wants to write their own book with different phrases or slang.  (Also, I may recommend Clockwork Orange, if you really want to get into books with different slang that isn’t defined, but reading that book is an experience, and it’s not for the faint of heart.  It’s the kind of book where you only read it once and then feel horrified for a week after finishing it.  You’ll never read it again, but you’ll carry it around for years until you’ve processed it.)  

In addition to that, I really like how there would be little things in the corners of some pages pointing out how much time has passed between correspondences.  No matter how hard I try, dates, which were in this book (not that I remember any of them), in books do not stick in my head.  This has gotten to the point that I don’t actually look at the dates mentioned because I know they won’t mean stick in my head.  I definitely wouldn’t have noticed the amount of time between the emails if the book hadn’t pointed it out because, like I said, I don’t remember dates.  

I’ve heard several people talk about how amazing the audiobook for this is, but I feel like something would be lost if you didn’t read it in book form, or didn’t have the book with you to look at while listening to the audiobook.  There’s a page where the only word is “silence”, and the way it’s on the page by itself gives it a lot of impact.  All of the pages from AIDEN had a way that they were set up that made them look different from the ones that weren’t from that perspective.  There were also pages from AIDEN’s perspective where there would be only a few words on a page, or no words on a page, or speech that was in lighter or darker ink to indicate how loud it was.  The volume of speech could very easily be done in an audiobook, but I still feel like it would be very easy to miss out on some of the smaller details of this book.  I also feel like a lot of the beauty of this book lies in the way it’s set up.  Some pages are overflowing with text, some have none.  Some have a jumble of letters in lighter or darker ink so it looks like Edvard Munch’s The Scream, or Kady’s face.  How do you capture that in audiobook format?  I haven’t heard the audiobook, so maybe I’m entirely wrong, but I feel like listening to the audiobook and reading the book could be entirely different experiences.  

Not that I’m calling out audiobooks.  There are lots of reasons to listen to them.  I’m just saying that some books are better translated into audiobook form than others, and some, perhaps, can’t be translated at all.  

This book tore my heart out and crushed it.  Ten out of ten.  Would recommend.  Getting the sequels.  

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