Category: Review

Disastrously boring and disgracefully designed and positively pulsing with preachy pus

Disastrously boring and disgracefully designed and positively pulsing with preachy pus

☆☆☆☆☆

(0 stars)

Honestly, the experience of reading this book was so hair-pulling I needed to make something about it fun, and that’s how we ended up with this title. Halo is an angel para-ro book from 2010 that I’ve been avoiding for probably 10 years by now. It sounded boring, like it didn’t have a plot beyond a bland romance. And then I read it and it was boring, like it didn’t have a plot beyond a bland romance. There’s still some things worth discussing though- like the extremely conservative viewpoints being preached on every page (yes, it’s a Real Christian book), the sheer codependent controlling behavior of the boyfriend, and how bad Beth is at being an angel.

This is a book where the evil love interest takes over 200 pages to show up, acts not at all as a friend or temptation, plans to rape the main character, and then is sent to Hell. It’s a 500 page long book where that is the only conflict. It’s a very anti-goth story (I’m offended) with a character who goes through the same pages long internal crises every chapter. I hate this book.

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I’m not sure what Indigara is or quite what I just read

I’m not sure what Indigara is or quite what I just read

★★★☆☆

(3 ‘huh?!’ stars)

You might assume by my bewilderment, the title, and the star rating this is a particularly surreal book. It isn’t. It’s not the weirdest thing I’ve read by a long shot. It’s just… inexplicable in the wrong ways. The sort of boring ways.

Indigara is… something. What brings me to my head-scratching rating is that I can’t quite parse the end of it- the ending offers no ‘wrap up’ to anything in the story. It’s unclear if there is a message or thesis to the tale, despite having an otherwise simple plot arc. This is a middle grade book and a portal fantasy, ultimately, yet the ending is confusingly downtrodden. I can’t figure what the point of this book is.

Yes, you can argue many books do not have a ‘point’ or ‘thesis’ or whatever nonsense I’m rambling about, but there’s usually more of an end to them, a sort of conclusion. Hell knows what this book is saying. If you don’t take your robot dog for routine maintenance it will dream of adventure? It’s not creepy for 16 year olds to date 50 year olds? Your life will be full of disappointment and missed opportunities, deal with it?

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Mini Review Collection #1

Quite often I find that I read a book and don’t know what to say. I mean, I guess I have a few thoughts- but not enough I feel the need to write a review. While I endeavor to do a review whenever possible in order to provide content for this blog, I often don’t feel I have enough material to do a long review.

However, sometimes these are books I might have reviewed book one of, or really enjoyed, so I thought I’d start doing an occasional roundup.

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The Bartimaeus Sequence, Jonathan Stroud: ★★★★★

I made a quite note when I read the first book of this, but I’ve since finished the trilogy. These are top tier books and Stroud is a high class writer. The world building is supreme, with bits of humor and horror mixed in. Great characters and a somehow perfectly plot arc across each book and the series. I’d been recommend this book for so long, and even though I read it as an adult it feels like a prized piece of childhood.

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The Lost Sisters, Holly Black: ★★★★☆

Taryn gets no respect from Cruel Prince fans. It’s disgusting. She deserves so much more attention and thought as a character, and this little book helps that. It also highlights how bad Carden was in CR 1!

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Fleet of Knives, Gareth .L Powell: ★★★★★

The sequel to Embers of War, which I covered on this blog. It’s a great series and this is a installment in it. Can easily be appreciated by people who aren’t space or space opera fans, since the characters at the heart of it are so powerful (most notably the sentient spaceship).

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A Court of Thorns and Roses, Sarah J Maas: ☆☆☆☆☆

SJM’s piss poor worldbuilding and writing collide with a boring character everyone else in the book worships to death, and the worst, worst gender roles and concepts known. Readers beware: don’t pick up her books.

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Snow, Glass, Apples; Neil Gaiman, Colleen Doran: ★★★★☆

The art in this graphic novel is gorgeous. I wouldn’t say the story is top tier, but I rarely see graphic novels where the story is fantastic anyways. Really pretty story of Snow White, but she’s the evil one.

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17776: What football will look like in the future, Jon Bois: ★★★★★

This is a web… comic? Experience? Book? and it’s top tier. It’s probably readable in an hour or two and I highly recommend it. In between absurd comedy about football observed by newly sentient satellites is a strange, yearning far future Earth where no one can die and nothing can change. It makes you think, and makes you sad or not sad. Certainly something.

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Hidden Bodies, Caroline Kepnes: ★★★★☆

As quality goes, this book is… off. It’s still a whole ton of fun to read, just as YOU was. Hidden Bodies takes the plot to a few tiers of the more absurd, especially towards the end, but it’s a dark comedy and study of a deeply self obsessed man who can’t quite put together that him being a murderer makes him a bad person. There’s also, for those who know the Netflix series but not the book, a super weird subplot about blowjobs that I just feel I need to mention.

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The Time Crocodile, Colin Brake, Doctor Who: ???? stars

This is such a weird choose your own adventure. I don’t think I recoomend it. It’s very short, and you can’t make any choices that really matter since it’s impossible to die. Of the choices you can make, most are nonsense like stepping out of the Tardis first or saying do or don’t have school tomorrow- small things which just determine which path you’re on for which ending. The plot itself involves a crocodile who can travel through time, which is pretty sick. The crocodile is either a crocodile, an alien shapeshifter, an alien transformed into a shapeshifter, or a robot. I love the time crocodile- his name is Tim. E. Crocodile. This book is Doctor Who canon.

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Everything About You, Heather Child: ★★★☆☆

This is a near future book that fits right in with Black Mirror. The best thing about it is the world and the technology, all of which is very imaginable. There’s creepy trends in AI and advertising and how the world has changed and yet not changed at all, and that’s fascinating. There’s also a great thesis in here about how we present ourselves online, and what our ‘data self’ is compared to our ‘real self’. The ideas are great, but the plot itself is a bit of a let down and more scattered than I’d like. I’d still recommend this book if it seems interesting though.

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Fake Blood, Whitney Gardner: ★★★★★

Probably the best graphic novel I’ve ever read to be honest. This is a middle grade story about a boy who pretends to be a vampire so a girl he likes will pay attention to him, but she’s actually a vampire hunter. Also their teacher is a real vampire, and I have a crush on him? Really funny, heartwarming, cute, weird, everything.

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Lockwood & Co: The Screaming Staircase, Jonathan Stroud: ★★★★☆

Stroud is a fantastic writer, especially of creepy, spooky things. I loved the tone and world around this, but it’s a pretty slow start and long book, with a slightly disconnected plotline. Still, I expect I’ll be reading the rest of the series soon-ish.

Underworld: Incredibly abusive romance and absolutely nothing else

Underworld: Incredibly abusive romance and absolutely nothing else

☆☆☆☆☆

(0 stars)

It’s been a while since I read Abandon, the first book in this afterlife para-romance vaguely based on the Hades/Persephone myth. At the time my library didn’t have either of the next two books, and I was happy to move on from the series. While I actually gave Abandon a high rating (3 stars), that was mostly because Meg Cabot is a strong writer of teen contemporary, and I enjoyed her style enough that the troubling aspects of the romance weren’t so bad.

That changes, hard left, in this book. For one, it’s a slog to wade through, with almost nothing happening and a climax so poorly defined… well, I’m not sure it counts as a climax. Cabot had me feeling for the characters last time, and the strong voice of the narrator, but this book is absent of humor or heart. It is a heartless, boring story of false information, lying, unsubstantiated threats, and bewildering magic.

Perhaps the largest threat to the sanctity of my sanity (and this book having any redeeming factors) is the romance. I’ve read through quite a lot of bad romances in my time in the 2010s para-ro bubble, but John takes the cake of creeps. He displays in this book inhumane levels of skeevy, controlling behavior- from shouting to lying to manipulating Pierce into thinking she’s in the wrong. This is textbook one of the most abusive relationships I’ve ever seen being treated like it’s okay.

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The Iron Queen goes nowhere new and I’m okay with that

The Iron Queen goes nowhere new and I’m okay with that

★★★★☆

(4 stars)

One of the scariest things for me about reading books I enjoy is how little I have to say about them. The Iron Fey did not begin this way, but by book three I feel I’m running out of talking points. This is not a good or a bad thing, there’s simply not a lot to discuss, especially as there’s no real ‘developments’. The plot in these books moves exactly where you expect it to, with no real push or pull suggesting anything else. If I’d made a bullet list of what I expected to happen in this book, I’d have gotten every mark correct.

Still, there’s no denying these are also great books. Yes, predictability can be a curse, but it works for this series. It’s a popcorn book, a blockbuster event which lacks a certain substance but does nothing ‘wrong’. The world of wild fae mythos and original iron fey is fun, the monsters and ideas around them are fun, the action and battles and powers are… fun. This is a book where metal beetles march forward on the battlefield crewed by musketeer fey, where Puck throws balls of fur which turn into full size grizzly bears, and where, again, a fairly regular housecat is invulnerable to danger and every immortal being appears to owe him a minor debt.

These books do not need to be edgy, twisty, dark messes. They work just as they are- cliche romance bordered by great concepts, worlds, and creatures, where the ordinary teen ends up being queen and all the bad guys are vanquished forever.

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The Iron Daughter warrants a cold reception

The Iron Daughter warrants a cold reception

★★★☆☆

(3 stars)

After highly praising The Iron King, I knew I was setting myself up for a big comeuppance. After all, the Iron Fey IS a series from 2010-2011 (yes, the whole quartet came out within two years), and WAS quite cliche despite all the things I loved about book one. The ‘sequel series’, books five to seven, span 2013-2015, and the next book is due 2021. It’ll be interesting to see if/how the author evolves during the years and trends in YA, but the initial series of books is very dated to 2010. The Iron Daughter especially.

That’s not to say I hated this book at any point. It’s still notably engaging and of a better quality than the vast majority of books from this era, or really just books I’ve read. The side characters are fantastic and the world is a wild mish-mash of faerie mythos and lore that is extremely entertaining. Still, this books has to lose a bunch of points for the plot, and especially the romance. A lot less gets done in this book, and a lot more time is spent angsting over forbidden love and love triangles. It’s dumb and exhausting and takes up so much time.

While the book scurries over the normal ‘second book syndrome’, the useless romance, angst, lesser plot, and idiocy of the main character is exhausting enough on its own. At least Grimalkin is still perfect.

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To be honest, Holly Black’s Tithe wants what The Iron Fey has

To be honest, Holly Black’s Tithe wants what The Iron Fey has

★★★★☆

(4.5 stars)

There’s only a mild chance this high rating is influenced by how many bad books I’d read before it.

I know I make outstanding threats against Carden Greenbriar and this is a provocative headline, but I am overall a Holly Black ‘fan’. However, reading The Iron King (book one of the Iron Fey series) was like a good punch of breath air. Specifically, it’s worth comparing this book to Tithe, Holly Black’s YA paranormal romance from the same era. Yes, The Iron King is very much a ‘regular girl turns out to be special and fey, finds feyroyal love interest, uses trickery and special-ness to avoid finale murder by someone supposedly invincible’ story. So is Tithe.

While I think there’s plenty of fun (and merit) in dissing YA tropes and cliches, it is also true those things became common for a reason. Where many other YA books from this era fail on the same ideas and plot beats, The Iron King succeeds smoothly: The love interest(s) are not toxic, the MC has a personality, the world-building is unique and original, and the writing is solid. I really enjoyed reading The Iron King, and I expect I’ll be reading the rest of the series. It’s fun, perfectly middle-ground YA with a lot of neat faeries and characters. The world needs more all powerful sarcastic cats.

Continue reading “To be honest, Holly Black’s Tithe wants what The Iron Fey has”