I first reviewed this book a year or so ago, and dismissed it as a badly-written load of shit with unlikeable characters and a generic plot. Now, here I am, re-reading it properly all the way to the end – and you know what? It’s not that bad. I might just be saying that because I just suffered through something much worse, but it was alright.
I’m a sucker for fantasy settings. I enjoyed the world-building in this book, the way magic worked, the conflict between magic and science, the concept of witches and crucibles, and I thought that the author did a good job of setting everything up.
Here, magic is used more for giving power to others, although it can also be used to control them. No one goes around throwing fireballs or anything. It’s very different from what I usually read in fantasy, and that was quite interesting to me.
Our main protagonist could be written a lot better, though.
Lily Proctor is a teenage girl with more allergies than hairs on her head. Everything sets her off, and I mean everything. Perfume, alcohol, cleaning fluid, the air, the temperature, the atmosphere…it’s ridiculous. Her doctors can’t do much for her and she spends a lot of time being very ill. I don’t know why she still goes to school. It seems like she’s either feverish, vomiting, going into a spasmodic fit, or just being dead on her feet.
I guess it makes you feel sorry for her, or at least it would if she didn’t spend the first few chapters being so unbelievably stupid so as to force herself to go to a highschool party, despite her many allergies to everything that moves, just because she thinks this boy is into her.
If you can get past that, then you’ll be rewarded by seeing that Lily is warped into another parallel world, where all of her allergies amazingly vanish!
Yes, that’s right. We switch from a modern day setting to some kind of magic-fantasy hybrid (yet they do still have electricity, somehow). In this new world, Lily’s alternate self, “Lillian”, is a powerful tyrannical witch who hangs people for practicing scientist and rules the land with an iron fist.
They both exist in the same world, by the way. Lily and Lillian. It gets a bit confusing, but apparently Lillian was the one who pulled Lily into her world, and tries to…uh…actually, I’m not quite sure.
You see, the next chain of events results in Lily joining all the rebels that are against Lillian (Outlanders, as they’re called) and gradually training her own powers…except that Lillian wants this to happen, and I’m still not exactly sure why because this is the first of the trilogy and I’m still a little confused myself.
Anyway. Ready for more confusion? Okay, apparently the people of this world all have a “willstone” with which they use magic. A witch can “claim” a person’s willstone, allowing herself to give power and energy to the person, but also having complete control over them should she wish to take over.
I know, it just gets really hard to understand here, because then you have people who serve as a witch’s mechanics and serve their every need…and somehow Lily ends up with three of them. Three guys. She ends up claiming them all.
Actually, she ends up claiming a lot of people by the end and giving all of them power, because there might be a great big fight or rebellion involved. Also, there’s a bunch of monsters called Woven that are the result of experimentation and try to kill people. I couldn’t begin to explain all this shit, or we’d be here all day.
Let’s look at the main characters.
Aside from Lily, you also have the three guys that end up being her mechanics: Tristan, Rowan and Caleb. Oh, sure, they’re all hot young men not much older than she is. I’m sure this won’t lead to anything.
Rowan is our main love interest. He used to be Lillian’s mechanic, and feels betrayed that she turned evil years ago. As a result, he distrusts Lily a lot at the beginning and is very mean to her. Lily (not Lillian) claims him, early on in the book, and they start drawing close and sharing memories and shit.
You know, I’m not feeling the romance here and I don’t really like him. Rowan’s a total control freak because he knows everything about Lillian’s body (being her mechanic), and also Lily. Even though she hasn’t met him before.
This guy’s a jerk and although he apologises to Lily for treating her badly, he’s still very controlling. He improves a little as time goes on, but he’s still a jerk. This is our main love interest, ladies and gentlemen, and he sucks.
Let’s move onto Tristan. Tristan is the alternate version of the Tristan from Lily’s old world – who, in her world, was a bit of a womanizer at their school and almost had a thing with her. But only in her world. I swear it’s not as confusing as it sounds.
She only shows a bit of attraction to him, however, so I guess that’s a failed love triangle right there because he only shows up sometimes. It’s a shame, because I kinda liked him. Even though he goes around sleeping with everyone and cheats on girls. I don’t know HOW, but he seems much more agreeable than Rowan. Fucking hell, man.
Caleb is the other guy with them. He has a gay lover who is tragically killed during the book, and is so tormented about it that he asks Lily to claim him and fill the gap in his heart.
Seriously what the fuck.
This is the first of many flaws in this book. We barely get to know Caleb’s gay lover at all, and within a few pages they’re dead? I think his boyfriend gets a BIT of dialogue, and we know their name, but that’s about it…
Also, doesn’t this seem a bit weird? He loses his boyfriend and asks Lily to claim instead? Imagine if he was dating a girl instead, and she died, and he immediately goes to Lily. It sounds so superficial. If you don’t know how to handle gay characters, don’t put them in at all!
As for Lily, I didn’t even like her that much. Actually, she’s easily one of the worst characters. She has all these “NO NUKES” T-shirts, talks about how she is hardcore vegan, and has a “SAVE THE WALES” shirt. (No, not whales. Wales. I assume that’s a typo.) She just sounded like a bit of a loony to me, being judgemental and constantly lording it over everyone else. I’m just glad she didn’t go on about it for very long.
I sure hope she isn’t a self-insert author designed to shove her opinionated views down our throats. Writers, take note – NEVER do that with a main character. It will make your audience hate you. Lily is the only character who acts like this. I don’t know why we’re supposed to root for her.
The plot and action of the book, overall, isn’t bad. We’ve got some decent character development…but mainly just for Lily and Rowan. Or just Rowan. Nothing for Tristan, and forget about anything for Caleb. “My boyfriend died” is about as much development as he gets.
And then there’s a questionable scene where Lily does this really weird ritual with Rowan and Tristan. She takes off all her clothes, at their request – ALL of them – and they paint runes on her.
The fuck, man. I couldn’t believe I read that. She seems alright with it, too, and teases them later about how they’ve both seen her naked. In fact, she even kisses Rowan whilst he’s busy painting her boobs.
Shortly after this, they all go to this bar where loads of girls are fawning over Rowan and kissing him and feeling him up (possibly to extract energy from his body, but really it does NOT look like that) whilst Lily watches. Many of them are dressed in skimpy clothing.
Did the author forget that the protagonist is a 17-year old girl? Did she just get horny whilst writing this bit? The fuck? How on earth was this allowed into the damn book?
Thankfully, that part doesn’t go on too long and we soon return to the plot and our generic villains, and oh boy they are very generic. One of them tortures Lily in non-physical ways later on, and the other one does all these evil scheming…which goes nowhere. I was so disappointed in their lack of activity, really. But I guess Lillian is the real villain here.
So, yeah. I liked the book, but the nude stuff felt so out of place, especially in a YA book. The world-building was great. The writing was average at best, especially during the first few chapters where Lily forces herself to go to a highschool party despite her many, many allergies. She’s not the best protagonist ever and she’s mind-numbingly stupid at times, but I guess she’s got Special Chosen Heroine plastered all over her forehead.
This is a trilogy, by the way, and just as well because we end on a cliffhanger. Do I care what happens next? Uh, yeah, I guess. Am I going to read the next book? I guess I might as well, so maybe this book succeeded in some way.
A lot of it is mindless drivel with characters I don’t like, but some of it has some nicely-done scenes with nice action scenes, so it did keep me reading. However, there are just so many flaws and weird things going on that I can’t rate it very highly. Or recommend it, in fact.
Do you like cliche teenage romance with a ton of LGBT thrown in, almost none of which affects the relations of the heterosexual, boy-crazy female protagonist? Do you like reading about a shy, inexperienced, single protag with low self-esteem who is constantly annoyed that everyone around them won't stop talking about sex and boys - but then proceeds to get herself a boyfriend anyway? Do you want predictability and a lousy love triangle which ends up lasting less than two chapters? A character who challenges the inevitable by actually losing character development as the book goes on? Girls swearing at the top of their voices, getting drunk at parties, and talking about piss? A host of characters where only one of them is actually homophobic at all, just like real life doesn't work?
Then look no further! From the author of Simon vs The Homo Sapiens Agenda, we have a new book full of The Gay, only not quite as stereotypical and slightly less cringy, whilst managing to somehow reference characters from her previous book for reasons that I can only guess at.
I was quite intrigued by this book at first. There's a lot of LGBT issues going on in this book - and it starts when you find out that our protagonist, Molly, has two mums. Yep. That's pretty cool. I've never actually seen that in a YA book before, but maybe I'm just missing some hidden cache of teenage fiction where lesbian mums come together.
Molly has a twin sister called Cassie. Cassie is into girls, and at the beginning of the book, I really liked her. She is always flirting with girls, talking about them with Molly (and her parents) and seemed a really fun character. Really likeable.
There are a few other characters, including a couple of hipster boys which make up the various guys that Molly ends up crushing on. Yeah, Molly isn't into girls, as it turns out. We've got all these LGBT characters, two mums, all that stuff...but never mind, the book is just about whether our boy-crazy Molly finds a boyfriend or not. Kind of a waste, really.
I did like the romance in this book. It was cute, it was quirky, and it's been done before. Nothing special, really. Apparently Molly is a girl with 20+ crushes on various guys but is too shy to instigate anything with them. She's never been in a relationship, never kissed, never...
...yeah, I think I can see where this is going.
Now, this book was going fine until a certain chapter - and that's when Cassie gets a girlfriend of her own called Mina. At this point, her character starts changing. She doesn't tell her own sister that she now has a girlfriend. Molly has to find out from a Facebook update. Seriously.
It doesn't end there, either. Oh no. Don't ask me why, but Cassie starts acting all high-and-mighty, arrogant, talks back to her parents, gets pretty rebellious, gets in a fight with Molly (they're usually on really good terms), starts being really inconsiderate, and IMO becomes a pretty shitty character. She pushes her to date this guy that she's not really into, mainly because the guy is best friends with her own girlfriend.
I've never really experienced seeing my favourite character in a book turn into the character I most dislike. I mean, come on. What the hell?
She started acting like such a drama queen and apparently almost none of the characters have a problem with this at all. Not even our protagonist. Molly gets annoyed with her a bit, a little bit hurt, especially when Cassie starts bringing up things like "maybe I'm being a dickhead here, but this is something you only understand if you have a boyfriend".
Oh yes, Cassie, you are most certainly being a dickhead here. Molly has spent most of the book languishing over her single status and worrying about her own weight because boys don't seem to want to date her and...seriously??
Everytime Cassie spoke, I felt like she might snap at any moment. Like I was stepping on eggshells just by reading about her.
Anyway, what happens? Oh yeah, Molly meets guys and can't work out whether to go for this one or that one. The cute hipster guy or the cute nerd she works with in the store? That's pretty much the second half of the book. It's obvious which way it will go, since she's certainly more comfortable with one of them.
But for god's sake, Cassie constantly trying to pressurise her into dating the other guy...man, it's just cringey.
An interesting thing that happens is that halfway through the book, gay marriage becomes legal. Meaning that her mothers can now get married to each other, so bam, gay wedding! That was a nice touch. The only thing with all of this LGBT stuff is that absolutely everyone seems to be okay with it. No one gives Cassie funny looks for being with her girlfriend. It's never touched upon, ever. You'd think she was dating a guy from the way it goes on.
Oh, except for their homophobic auntie who makes one appearance in the last chapter to show her appreciation, but that's about it. Literally nothing else.
Now, the main storyline here is that Molly is going to all these parties and social occasions with her friends, meeting people there, getting a bit drunk, and everyone around her keeps talking about sex and boys and relationships. Unsurprisingly, she feels a bit out of place. She's a virgin and is painfully aware of that, and quite a bit insecure. She doesn't like all of this sex talk at all and feels really uncomfortable.
At which point I'm thinking, "Great! We could have a character who wants to stay single and doesn't want to get involved in love or sex. Just platonic. It would be a really refreshing change from the same old stereotypical formula. She can stay single and show everyone that she doesn't need a boyfriend to "fit in" with everyone else..."
Oh, boy. What was I thinking? Of course she ends up with a boyfriend. And you know what, as soon as she does, Cassie is all over her again just like she used to be, and start apologising for being a total shitbag throughout the entire book (except not really).
So...now it's not about showing us that she can be single and independent? It's about the importance of her needing to get a boyfriend? You know what, fuck that. It turned out to be trashy predictably romance with a dose of LGBT sprinkled on top. I'm not impressed by the result.
You know what else happens? Two characters, Simon and Abby, make an appearance. They don't actually do anything. They're just there.
...wait, wasn't Simon the protagonist of this author's first book? And his best friend was called...Abby. Okay. So our dear author has decided to reference her other book. That doesn't make a lot of sense. Even J. K. Rowling doesn't go around doing that...
The author's note at the end is about 7 pages long, detailing a list of 50-60 people that she's thanking for helping her make this book possible. Look here, lady, you're not making a movie here. It was mediocre and I'm not reading it again.
Overall, I liked the book. I hated what Cassie turned into, and Molly was a great character. Most of her friends were cool, if painfully generic. But at the end of the day, it just seems like a standard romance with a bit of LGBT thrown in to mix it about. As a result, I can't give it a very high rating.
Trigger warning: Self-harm. Uh, a lot of self-harm. Almost every chapter has some explicit scene about self-harm, I'm not even kidding here.
This book was terrible. I've read Eve Ainworth's Seven Days, and that was bad too, but this one manages to be worse. I mean, when I saw that the book would be talking about self-harm and stuff, I was really excited to see how it would handle it. I thought it might actually turn out to be interesting to read.
Which it was, yes - the self-harm itself is dealt with appropriately and I can appreciate that. The author certainly did her research in that regards. However, most of the book is unreadable due to one fatal oversight, and it is this.
The main character has an atrocious personality, bitches at everyone, is judgmental, a complete hypocrite, treats her entire family like shit, is selfish to no end, and is overall a really shitty person and I really didn't care about her life.
I mean come on. To start off with, the book was just depressing. Really depressing, even before any mention of self-harm came into it. I could not STAND Gabi and started skim-reading parts where she started doing her internal monologuing (which she did a LOT) because she was just moping about and whining about her grandpa.
Everytime her mum turned up, I would tense up, because Gabi spends most of the book screaming at her mum or fighting with her, even though it's obvious that her mum is actually trying to help or repair the rift between them. Does Gabi notice this? Oh, no. She just continues to be this really shitty daughter and I cannot believe that the author would expect us to root for her.
The blurb on the back of the book says something like "Confident, popular Gabi has a a secret, a secret so terrible she can't her family, or her best friend" - okay let me just stop you there. I never got the feeling that Gabi confident or popular. She's constantly depressed all the time and I never got the impression that she was a "popular girl" or anything...but whatever.
The actual self-harm scenes were done well and conveyed a lot of emotion. Gabi started cutting herself every other chapter and going on similar self-harm websites, and then she remembers that there was this other girl she used to know who was always cutting herself. What does she do? Oh, she goes up to her and calls her "a stupid bitch"...yeah, thanks Gabi, you're really increasing my respect for you here.
At the end of every chapter, you get a flashback of Gabi's memories with her grandfather. Actually, I started to warm to him. I enjoyed reading about him. He was a character that seemed well-thought out and didn't make me want to throw up everytime he spoke. Unfortunately, he starts to become pretty shitty towards the end of the book, so that's that part gone and wasted.
I really didn't like any of the characters. Gabi's friends didn't appeal to me. There's a guy who she ends up with and he made no impact on me whatsoever. Oh, and there's a fucking love triangle between two guys, neither of whom I care about. I cared a little about her best friend, with whom she almost never opens up at all.
Oh, and near the end, one of Gabi's friends mentions to her that yes, we knows you've been self-harming, we can SEE the marks on your skin whilst you're skating. So she's completely failed in covering it up, too.
If I was a bit younger, I might have said that Gabi acts like a total shithead because she's a "typical teenager" - well, that's not quite true. She's a bit TOO stereotypical. I know that not all teenagers act like this, but she just whines and bitches at her mum and is just so negative all the time! It was intolerable.
Now, the book actually improves in the last couple of chapters or so. We learn that the real reason why Gabi is like this is because she feels responsible for the death of a loved one. Okay, thanks for clearing that up, because before then it literally felt like she was just really really sad about her grandpa.
It was actually readable in that last chapter because her mother opens up to her, and for once Gabi isn't screaming her head off at her and they're actually having a proper conversation. No idea if that will last. It almost felt out of character because she'd spent the entire book hating her mother. Her mum would notice her scars and be concerned about her but no, our protag just throws it back in her face and even does her physical arm in one chapter.
Although it did improve at the last second, it's really not enough to save this book. Yes, it told us quite a bit about self-harm, but our protag was such an awful person that I honestly felt dissuaded from reading this at all. There are better ways to do this. Focus on the tragedy as well as the mentality of the individual. The love triangle was half-assed too.
All in all, I can't give this more than a 2/5. God, this was a trainwreck.
Trigger warning: Attempted rape scene (once)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. The setting is World War I. We settle on two brothers caught up in the conflict - one of whom joins the war effort, the other of whom is too young to join the army and has his own problems at home. In addition, we also focus on one of the German soldiers manning the zeppelins during the Blitz! I really enjoyed that.
Well, what we have here are two brothers, Will and Freddie. Will is old enough to join the army but refuses to join (it is not yet compulsory), and his girlfriend Amy stands by his decision. It isn't until a bomb lands nearby and scars her face that he is spurred to join the war effort.
We also focus on a German bomber called Ernst who, for the most part, isn't much different from the English soldiers. He follows orders, he has a wife waiting for him back home in Germany, and they've just had their first child. He constantly worries that his zeppelin will easily catch fire and go down in flames, much like they do. He is also responsible for the dropping of many bombs during the Blitz.
Freddie doesn't join the war, but he certainly has his fair share of troubles - especially when a bomb lands on his own house and he barely makes it out alive. I can't really go into that without spoiling it however.
There is an attempted rape scene in this book, however it was not described in detail thankfully and I thought it was dealt with appropriately.
I really enjoyed all these characters. Will, Freddie, their family, the rest of the army, Ernst as well...each of them was well-rounded and I would even say that Will is rather relatable. The Germans were not made out to be "evil" or anything like that.
I felt this book did a good job of describing the war, too - in bits and pieces, anyway. You get to see what the Blitz is like back home with Freddie. You get to see what it's like on the front lines with Will. You get to see what it's like for other soldiers to die.
However, I'm not sure all of the content was there. I get that this is a YA book and so the violence and imagery is toned down a bit, but I don't think it shows all the true horrors of war. Will doesn't participate in more than a handful of skirmishes before he's removed from that part altogether (but there's a reason for that). I can't help but think that there could be more to that, but then again I understand that they already had a fair amount of detail going on.
I didn't find any serious flaws with this book, it fit the time period really well. The author really researched this properly - in the author's note at the back of the book, he makes several references to historical events during the time of the Blitz. Even the street names are preserved.
Overall, I liked this book very much. I wouldn't say it's amazing - it tugged at my heartstrings during one particular scene, but not that much. It could be better, really, but I found it to be very well-rounded and well-written in general. 3.5/5.
Trigger warnings: Domestic abuse, allusions to rape
I thought this was a decent book, but it took a while to get started. We have our female protagonist, Winter Crane...yeah, she's called Winter. Sorry. It's that kind of book. I guess the author thought they had to be really unique or something, even though every other character has a perfectly normal name.
Anyway, she lives in a place called Reeve's End which she describes as a shithole that everyone wants to escape from and move out. Really, I wasn't convinced that the place was as bad as she thought it was. It felt like a bit of a dump. It was just filled with really shitty characters.
She lives in a trailer, knows how to hunt and forage, can shoot a bow and arrows because she knows her way around the bush...Well, this character seems pretty decent, doesn't she? Let's say how this goes.
Winter finds a body in the woods. It belongs to a guy her age, called Lennon. He's still alive and it turns out he was attacked by someone. She rescues him, and at this point I can already feel a romance taking place, but actually that's not all that happens at all.
She gives him medical treatment at her cabin and that's when someone starts STALKING her and leaving disemboweled animal corpses on her door (before suddenly removing them the next day) and doing creepy laughter whenever she tries to come out. This becomes a recurring theme, really.
It turns out that teenagers have started to go missing in Reeve's End. Lennon disappears soon after, but his brother Jude comes looking for him and bumps into Winter. Now THIS is where it starts turning into a love relationship - because Jude has a very dominant personality, keeps a lot of secrets, very smart, very clever, makes jokes...I mean hell, I would go for this guy myself. I was quite drawn to him. No wonder Winter wants to get with him later.
The plot gets a little weird at this point because Jude has this complicated backstory with his family, and then that stalker is apparently murdering teenagers and nobody knows who it is. We meet a few more characters and most of them are shitheads. There's several people where you think, "Oh, I bet HE'S the stalker!" but then it isn't, and then there's someone else, and so on and so forth...
You can kinda guess how it goes, really. It gets pretty intense towards the end. However, I have quite a few issues with the book in general.
Shortly after Jude turns up, Winter goes home and her dad beats her up. Yep, domestic abuse. No mention of it before. Now bam, it comes out of almost nowhere. Jude saves her from any further violence (because I guess he was following her home?...) and gets her dad to lay off her.
Fast forward to a few more chapters later, Winter is going home and almost gets raped by these three drunk guys. Jude turns up (because I guess he was following her home?...again?!) and beats up the three guys with loads of karate moves and military training shit that he's learnt.
Y'know, Winter was doing fine on her own before now? Now she's got abuse and rape threats and shit? And she needs Jude to help her twice in a row? I'm just glad this wasn't a recurring theme.
I'm also not very impressed with the actual murderer, the villain in the book. He acted like some cliche serial killer right out of Saw or something. Creepy laughter, stalking teenage girls, leaving notes for their boyfriend to find...I mean, come on, do you REALLY expect us to buy that? The author was just trying too hard here.
There are themes like suicide, family break-up and of course the domestic abuse. I mean all of those are real issues which sound a LOT more realistic than this farce of a serial killer.
And yeah, it's a running joke about the "Hey, Jude" song. I predicted quite a few characters who turned out to be villains, but it wasn't completely cliche. Sometimes I wondered why the characters were acting so stupid, or why Winter hadn't cottoned onto the fact that the creepy guy who talked to her and knew about her missing sister just MIGHT be the stalker. I mean seriously.
If you're going to make your protagonist smart and clever, which is great, how about keeping that consistent? They can't be really resourceful one second and then get a case of the dumbs the next.
There were a few twists, I guess. I was convinced that one particular girl was dead, in short because Winter wouldn't shut up about her. Turned out I was wrong, and a different girl was dead instead. So I guess it kept me guessing.
Jude also felt a little TOO perfect. He had flaws, yes, but the more he talked about himself, the more Winter gets attracted to him. (And me, too, by implication.)
I enjoyed the book, and it gets really good during the end. I just feel it could have used a bit of improvement.
This is the sequel to Too Much Trouble. I barely remember anything of the first book, since it's been a while since I read it. I couldn't even remember the characters names or anything, but after a while it did all start coming back.
The book focuses on two brothers, Prince and Emmanuel (nicknamed Em). Whilst the first book detailed about how they were kicked out onto the streets and had to fend themselves, including falling in with a bad crowd and stealing for a living, this book focuses more on their life after they are taken in by a foster family.
Now, these two brothers aren't orphans. Their parents are very much alive, but they were separated from them due to the war...I'm not entirely sure which war it is. A pretty violent one. Their father managed to get them out of the country.
The thing is, I don't feel that much happened in this book.
They are reunited with their mother halfway through the book, and she feels like a complete stranger to them. The overall climax of the story is that they find out that their father is in trouble - in debt with some gangster - and they have to get onto a plane and rescue him. Somehow.
That part is pretty tense, actually, because it turns out that their father is also dying from TB. But it really doesn't seem like they thought this through.
They end up stealing fake passports, stealing things to make enough money for the plane tickets...and that's just to get out of the country. Never mind the return journey.
I'll just say here and now that it's a happy ending, everything's resolved in a really fast way which feels a bit hamfisted, and they even have enough money to get back home again. It's like 3 pages right at the end to serve as a conclusion and IMO feels pretty unsatisfying.
We see the boys' thoughts about how their mother seems like a stranger to them, because she hasn't seen them in about 10 years and she's crying every night that their dad's in trouble. The abusive uncle from the first book makes a comeback, too, and now suddenly we're meant to like him. It just feels a bit off.
Oh, and they've got a baby sister now, by the way. I don't know why the book bothered to mention her. The story's so short that there's barely anything said about this baby sister. It really should have been expanded upon...
I mean, come on. The first book was exciting, full of tension and adventure from start to finish. People died. They got shot. The brothers were on the run from the police, constantly running from one place to another, stealing to survive. Now...it just doesn't feel as exciting.
I enjoyed the setting and overall plot, but I feel that this book was lacking nevertheless. Seriously, they could have fleshed out what happened with the family for, um, more than 3 pages? It just ended so fast. I will therefore give it 3/5.
Okay. I wrote a pretty bad review about this book when I first read it, and I didn't even finish it. It has a lot of flaws, a load of stereotypes about gay people and the LGBT community, and frequently reads like a very bad fanfiction.
However, I recently had another go at this book. And...I'm surprised at what it turned out to be. I actually enjoyed it quite a bit! It wasn't so obvious at first, but there is something of a coherent story going on between all the stereotypes and cliches and bad Tumblr-isms going on within these mellow pages.
So, here's the thing. This book is supposedly a gay romance between two guys at school. They communicate by email, but for the most part they keep their identities hidden from each other, and their relationship develops throughout the book.
This was probably my favourite part of the book. Simon and Blue, as they're known, have quite an engaging relationship and it even reminded me about some of my early online relationships at school. It was sweet, and it was cute. It wasn't too "girly", as slash romance is often portrayed by yaoi writers who don't know what they're doing. It was just right. I really liked it.
So, our story begins when one of the boys in Simon's class, Martin, mentions that he's seen Simon's emails with Blue (showing that he's gay), and blackmails him.
What the hell man. We've barely started the book, we've barely established this gay protagonist, and already this straight guy is blackmailing him? To get him in with a girlfriend, of all things?
By the way, we've also got a love triangle. A straight love triangle, between Simon's friends. You know, his straight friends. Because that's what we want to read about in a book about gay romance.
I enjoyed the characters. A bunch of drama goes on in the book - I couldn't even bother to explain it all, but I will say that the author had a good grasp on what coming out is like for gay people, homophobia in general, all that stuff. She did it right and I can appreciate her for that.
I don't really appreciate all the gay stereotypes she put in, however.
Tegan and Sara? Seriously? Harry Potter? One of the main characters is a fangirl who is into Draco/Harry? (Actually, she was written pretty well. I expected her to be a lot worse.)
And what the hell is up with all these Tumblr-isms? They're everywhere! It's like the author found a bunch of stuff that she knew would be popular with Tumblr girls who like gay things, you know, mostly slash fangirls, and she put them all in her book.
Oh, by the way, Tumblr is mentioned multiple times in the book. The author refers to it as "the Tumblr".
Dude. Nobody calls it that. It's just called Tumblr. Nobody says "I saw your post on the Facebook." It sounds so annoying and just tells your reader that you haven't done any research whatsoever.
What's amusing is that later on in the book, Simon ends up coming out to his family and friends. And everyone's...fine with it? I mean, there's not much homophobia at all. It's when he comes out to the general public where problems start.
Anyway, I don't really want to ramble about this book. It's a good read, but it is just FULL of little irritations which put me off. It's good, not because of the portrayal of gay relationships, but because of the characters and plot and the high school setting. I mean, you can kinda tell that the author is some straight woman who wants to write about her cute little gays. It's just so painfully obvious.
For what it's worth, I ended up liking it quite a bit. The protagonist is a complete idiot, by the way. There's a point in the book where he says that he always thought Jews came from Israel. There's another point when he starts thinking that Martin (the straight guy blackmailing him about his sexuality) is really Blue (the gay guy that he's been communicating with about his sexuality), even though the former is a piece of shit throughout the whole book.
I don't even know how you can make such a dire mistake like that. Seriously. I'd narrowed down Blue's identity to two people about halfway through the book. It wasn't too hard, really...
Anyway. I'm giving this 3.5/5. It was good, but...I don't know, it was just chock-full of flaws. It's not aimed at gay people, either. It's a gay romance aimed at straight girls who go on Tumblr a lot. And in that respect, it could do a LOT better.
I was pleasantly surprised by this book. It started out rather boring, then gradually became a little more interesting...but by the time we reached the last quarter of the book, it really got pretty good. I'm glad I continued reading to the end.
To start off, this book is about our 11-year old protagonist Lyla. It's the Second World War and she's been evacuated to the countryside to live with her Aunt Ada - an aunt who is rather loopy and does all sorts of zany things. She's quite eccentric, in fact - talks in a very unique fashion, summons her horse indoors to dinner, gives her niece a ferret to cheer her up (the ferret is called Bucket, btw).
Hang on a sec. Lyla? This sounds familiar. Remember Philip Pullman's His Dark Materials, with a very similar female protagonist called...Lyra. Her personality is pretty much the same.
...except that Lyra is a lot more awesome, and Lyla mopes about her aunt's house and complains that her dad cheated on her mum, and that she wants to go home. Yeah. But she's like 11, so she's probably going to be like that for a while.
The first third of the book is bloody boring.
Seriously. She's just moping around in this giant mansion by herself and complaining about her parents. I almost fell asleep reading it.
A little later, one of Lyla's "Escape Plans" to get out of here and return to London where her mother will presumably help her, involves writing a letter to the Ministry of Defence and trying to persuade them to send their soldiers up to this mansion.
What do they get? An army of schoolgirls. An entire school of them moves into the mansion, and strangely enough Aunt Ada is FINE with that, and Lyla has to enroll in this school and take classes with everyone else.
Honestly, I'm amazed anyone at the Ministry of Defence actually believed this letter written by an 11-year old girl. But I digress.
The next part of the book is a bit interesting...but not that much, because I'm just relieved that our protagonist gets to INTERACT with someone. A few characters are introduced, but seriously only one of them matters. Maybe two. One of them is written to be some kind of bully...except not really, because all she does is say slightly unpleasant things sometimes. That's about it.
The last part of the book, however, makes it almost worth the wait. Lyla has been writing to her mother during the war. She's been writing everyday and has received no reply at all, not even on her birthday. Her father, however, has been writing to her pretty frequently.
Unfortunately, she's of the opinion that her dad cheated on her mum and left her (due to her mum's words) and refuses to read any of her dad's letters. She continues to wait every day for any reply from her mum.
Except for one day when she DOES start getting letters from her mum...but at this point, you can tell that something's wrong, because she should be over the moon about it, and instead she's just fairly happy about it. I've read enough teenage fiction at this point to know that it's not going to end happily.
I could go on about this book further, but I will say that all that boring stuff in the beginning makes it worthwhile when you reach the climax at the end.
There are, however, some parts of the book which bothered me. Namely...this book takes place over five years.
Are you shitting me? FIVE YEARS?
She acts exactly the same as when she's 11, as she does when she's 16! For goodness' sake! Put in some character progression or something! I mean, sure, she matures a bit, but people change quite a bit between those two ages. It felt like barely one year had passed! I get that the author was trying to maintain continuity about how long the war lasted...but still.
Another thing was that the chapters were ridiculously short.
I found several chapters which were less than two pages long. I blinked and the chapter was over. It was like one scene. I finished 50 pages within 10 minutes, and that barely covers any of the book at all. I mean, come on! i felt like it was for much younger readers because of this (especially with the larger font), but the chapters could be a little bit longer than that.
The writing style, too...You know how the first Harry Potter book has this kind of quirky humour about it? Something about it which just makes you smile? Sassy, even. I felt like the author was TRYING to do that here. He wasn't doing a very good job, though. I didn't really smile at how hard he was trying to do humour. It just fell flat, in my opinion.
There's also a scene right near the end of the book where one of the characters starts dying and it comes out of nowhere.
Lyla leaves for three days. When she comes back, the character has suffered multiple strokes and is on her deathbed. The next several chapters (did I mention they're so goddamn short?) go on about how she dies and stuff. Which is a bit sad, since I care a little about the character, but I'm still recovering from reading about Lyla's parents.
in short, the emotional and evocative part of the book was about the protagonist's relationships with her parents. The war setting felt like it was just in the background. Sure, Lyla's dad is off fighting in the war, and he writes letters to her every day which she just turns into paper aeroplanes and chucks in the rose bush, but...I don't know, it's more about relationships here. There's a few nods to the war effort, I guess.
And then there's a point where her auntie starts smuggling Monopoly boards to the prisoners captured by the Germans.
I don't even know how that could possibly work out.
Anyway, I've rambled on too long about this book now. It starts off rather slow, but it picks up towards the middle and ultimately has a satisfactory conclusion. A character gets killed off, but it made virtually no difference to me, except that the author seemed to fill several chapters with everyone mourning for her.
Also, Lyla's mum is a piece of shit, and her dad is cool, and her aunt is loopy, and I still don't believe 5 years passed through the entire book. Initially I would have given it 2.5/5, but I'll raise that to a 3.5/5.
I'm back again! It's been a year now, I think, and I want to get myself back into writing - by which I mean I need to get myself back into reading.
I went into my nearest library yesterday, excited to get a book out...and discovered that the library was temporarily closed for the next month. In fact, it had been closed since May. Bummer.
I then went to the next available library. It was closed.
I gave up and got on my bus home, which passed close to my nearest library. I decided, oh well, what the hell, and checked it out even though the last time I tried to browse the Teenage Section in there, they told me to leave on account that I was no longer a teenager.
It was open. They'd moved the teenage section outside to another part so I could browse freely again.
I'll be doing book reviews again, starting with School of Skylarks.
I don't think anyone on this site remembers me, though. Oh well. Well, I'm Selan and I do book reviews.
I'm also the guy who set out to read every single book in the Teenage Section of his local library. I did it chronologically, and got as far as C.
Now I'm going to have to start again from A, because now time has passed and there are NEW books. I wish myself all the luck that I will need. Oh yes.
Anyway, this book - I started it this morning, the chapters are about 2 pages long average...and now I've almost finished it. I'll write a review on it shortly.
I loved this book. It was a great read and I think I've actually read something in the same series when I was younger. It's set in a "diary" format and is about an ordinary schoolgirl called Mia who becomes a princess.
Yes, she becomes a princess. Turns out her dad is secretly a prince and she has to deal with that. She isn't leaping for joy at first, oh no, her best friend stops speaking to her around the same time, and the boy she dates seems to not care about anything but her title.
But it's really quirky and funny and full of personality. I enjoyed her as a character and liked the other characters too. It's more slice of life and friendship really, not huge amounts of drama. It was pretty satisfying overall.
This book was a bit bland and predictable really. It felt like it was written by an amateur author, even though there's like 3 pages in the back by her gushing about how she loved writing her first book or something, and there's even this little note in the front (at least in my copy!) which says...
"Hello, I'm Nicole, and I wrote this book! I've lived in Edgware all my life, and this library has a huge place in my heart. I hope you enjoy my story, and please keep on reading! Lots of love, Nicole xxx"
I got this book directly out of Edgware Library - so although it does sound sweet of her to put a nice little note in here (it's all on nice pink paper and doesn't look like a photocopy) - it also doesn't sound very professional. It's a nice touch but it's not exactly how you get your book published.
But anyway. The book's setting made me think of The Incredibles. Or any superhero movie, really! Basically, there are people with superpowers and they're all famous and they're called Vigils.
In this book, one girl discovers she has superpowers and can fly and shoot flames and shit. But the main character is actually her best friend, who designs her costumes and helps keep it a secret and has no powers whatsoever.
Sounds so Cardcaptor Sakura, except not so good.
And then halfway through the book, her friend's superpowers are picked up by the Vigils, who recruit her and they don't see each other anymore...but then it turned out that one of the Vigils is more of a villain who wants to blow up London or something and she has to stop them, and there's some other supervillains who are in his gang, and one of them is literally Mrs Freeze or something.
And there's some guy she kisses at the end who turns out to be some super nerd. The villain's superpower is literally that he's a human photocopier. Yup.
That's about it really. It's more about friendship, I guess?...I mean the writing wasn't terrible or anything, but it wasn't that great either.
I guess if you read this if you were 11 and liked superheroes a bit, then you'd think it was rather cool. Even so it's still a very average superhero book and there's not much I can say about it at all.
So I finally got round to reading this. I think it's been around for a while (1985?) and some of the concepts aren't really the kind of thing you'd get for Young Adult. I found this incredible. Training a child from a very young age to fight against these aliens who wiped out billions of people from nearly a decade ago.
The bulk of the book focuses on the main character, Ender, who joins the Battle School and has to fight through "games" which, in one sense are just play-fighting for the other children in the Battle School - but in another, very real sense, are linked to the strategy of fighting the aliens in reality. Plus, everyone takes it very seriously.
I really enjoyed this book from start to finish. As Ender improves, he goes up from team to the next until eventually...it's for real.
But here's one thing I don't get. He's six years old?
And by the end of the book he's 11? And killed billions of enemies? He's become a battle-hardened commander? He's probably become really traumatised and messed up inside. Does this count as child abuse? I'm not sure. Child soldiers, certainly...
His brother and sister are a few years older than him and are talking about mature topics and politics and all these other very "adult" concepts and...it just doesn't feel right.
I...just don't get it. None of the children act like their age. They act like they're 20 years older than that! (Maybe ten, if they're ultra mature.) They demonstrate all these ridiculous understandings of technology, fighting skills, strategies, as if it's nothing at all. I can't even begin to wrap my head around this.
Also, the n-word is used. Once, I believe. Just in case anyone's sensitive about it, but this was written over 30 years ago.
I did enjoy the characters - some of them, anyway. They just didn't feel like they really were children at all? It's like they'd been brainwashed and engineered from a really early age and it just felt weird.
But with all that aside it was an impressive book. Just bear in mind that it wasn't written in this generation, it's probably not for everyone with all the concepts it brings to light, and I still can't get over the fact of six-year olds killing each other with their bare hands.
I enjoyed this book. Very much epic fantasy, with the feared magicians on one side and the impoverished slum-dwellers on the other. Our protagonist is a girl from the slums who happens to have untapped magical powers. One day, she accidentally lets her powers be shown, and the magicians want to chase her down and recruit her before her powers grow out of control.
I enjoyed the pacing of this book and the characters were quite well-written. The magicians themselves are not the "villain", I should mention - there are many of them, good and bad, and I really thought some of them are quite quirky and made me smile just reading about them.
Of course, there are bad magicians among them who feel that a girl from the slums should not be allowed to join them, and one of them tries to blackmail her into leaving the Guild and so on. Lots of intrigue and suspense, I found.
I don't know how I felt that in this book's world, child/teen prostitution was almost normal and that most girls in the slums would have to resort to this. That's...kinda heavy content for this age group, don't you think?...Considering it doesn't really play a part in the plot and there isn't actually anything graphic.
I thought the book would end on a cliffhanger, to be honest. There was an unresolved villainous plot going on near the end and it got pretty tense. Thankfully, they managed to resolve in the nick of time only to bring forth ANOTHER villain to light. But that's what the sequel's for, I guess.
All in all it was a good book to read, though you can pretty much tell that the protagonist IS going to join the magicians. I mean they spend the entire book going on about whether she's going to leave them or join them. There's 2 more books as sequels. Obviously she joins them or nothing will happen, lol.
Trigger warnings: Child abuse, Child soldiers
More trigger warnings. I don't deliberately read books like this (I stay away from them if anything) but they just seem to crop up for some reason. And one look at this book, you wouldn't expect to see it. So yeah.
This book reminded me of the kind of book that your teacher has you discuss in class, and thoroughly analyze it, and everyone is in agreement that "This is a really thought-provoking book and really awesome! If you want to be a writer, then you should aspire to this kind of writing!"
The writing is very good, very descriptive and paints a good image of what it's trying to convey. The main character is Bat (evidently not his real name) and the story starts with him discovering a baby elephant and learning to raise it. The elephant's mother was shot by poachers (in an evocative scene in the very first chapter) and overall I thought it was very beautiful. (The raising of the elephant, that is, not the murder of its mother.)
I saw no real flaws with it at that point, aside that I ended up skimming most of the descriptions (there were a lot of them). And...it was really very predictable. I've read books like this before.
Now, I should mention that this book is split into 3 parts. I like that. Let's go over them.
Part 1: Bat finds a baby elephant and has to learn to raise it, before eventually he must say goodbye to it tearfully and let it rejoin its herd. Very emotional.
Part 2: Bat and his friend Muka are kidnapped by the army and forced to become child soldiers, subject to abuse, outright torture, beatings, half-starved, living in fear all the time, worked to exhaustion and -
wait stop what the fuck?!
Where the hell did that come from?? I thought I was reading a nice story about raising a baby elephant! What?! Child soldiers?
This is where the book takes a sudden twist and gets rather disturbing with the descriptions. It leaves out the explicit parts, but they are forced to join a child army - which is led by an elephant poacher from the beginning of the book! How coincidental.
It's quite grisly at this part. Many of the children are forced to kill, food is very scarce, and inevitably Bat is targeted by the leader as someone who knows where to find the elephant herd.
Shortly after that part finishes - spoiler here - the elephants rescue them! Woohoo!
Oh, I sure wasn't expecting that part! I mean, the section which dealt with the baby elephant wasn't even halfway. Of course the elephant was going to come back.
The third part is them trying to get back home, with the elephant's help. I thought the ending was rather rushed actually. Shouldn't his grandmother be like "Oh my god you were kidnapped for weeks on end I'm so glad you're still alive" or something? You know, something that last more than half a page? Oh well.
And then the author's afterword starts talking about Kony. I guess I should have expected that.
I enjoyed the book overall, but it was pretttttty predictable...up to the child soldiers part where you're like what the literal fuck. And then that ends, and it becomes predictable-ish again.
I was actually expecting the main villain to suddenly come back at the end and say "I've come back for revenge!" or something stupid but he didn't.
Trigger warnings: Child abuse, drug use, psychological torture, more torture, even more unpleasant torture, and did I mention torture
I think this book has scarred me for life. I'm not sure if i can recommend it, actually. Up to about three quarters of the way, through, yes, I would heartily recommend it. But after that ending?...
This book, in my mind, is like one of those psychological horror movies like Saw written down for a YA audience. In fact, I don't even think it should be for Young Adult. It should be just for Adult. Not for kids, certainly...
Okay, here it is. Six people from different walks of life are kidnapped and when they wake up, they're in this underground bunker, a long way under the surface. There's no food. There's six rooms, one for each of them. There's a kitchen and bathroom.
There's no other rooms for them to walk about. There's a hard bed for each of them to sleep in. There's cameras and microphones embedded into every room - including the bathroom, watching them, hearing what they say.
How to say this?...The whole book is literally all of them being tortured by the kidnapper(s), not only physically, but also psychologically, in one long torturous experience.
Yeah. It's never explained who the kidnapper is. He's watching them constantly. If they try to break the cameras/microphone, the cameras emit this deadly acidic spray which causes them to scream in agony. He also controls the heating. The lights switch on and off at a certain time every day, and when they go off they're plunged into ultimate darkness. Our main character is also scared of the dark.
If they try to escape, the kidnapper gasses them - yes, he can release knockout gas from the vents in the ceiling. Early on, they start making shopping lists and holding it up to the camera, and the kidnapper will send down food.
There's this lift which comes down the shaft every day - it's the only way out, and it only comes down once every day. If you anger the kidnapper, he stops sending food down at all.
At one point, the kidnapper seeks to "punish" the victims for trying to escape. He turns the heating off so that it's freezing cold for hours. Then he turns the heating on at full blast so that it's now boiling hot for hours. The characters try to light a fire at one point - and he makes water come out of the vents so that the fire goes out.
Many times during the book, the kidnappers also plays horrendous music at a deafening volume through the walls of the bunker. For hours on end.
Okay. So that's the torture you're in for if you read this.
Want to hear the characters?
1) Our main character - sleeps on the streets, has a pretty good backstory actually
2) A little girl - Yes, that's right, she's like 6 or something. She's subjected to the same torture as everyone else. It's just...sick. I mean seriously?
3) A guy who's a heroin addict (although I came to like him eventually)
4) A woman who's pretty unpleasant and only cares about herself (she starts hiding food at one point)
5) A businessman who is pretty much there for the readers to hate, he's just not very nice
6) An old man who is very distinguished and intelligent - I found him to be one of the best characters. (He's also suffering from a degenerative disease and it really started to take its toll on him)
And...yeah. The characters are awesome. They're realistic and make this book really great. I really did enjoy this book.
Unfortunately, stuff starts happening towards the end...let's just say that the kidnapper gets angry with them. No more food. More torture. Yet more torture. The heroin addict is of course starved of his drugs. It becomes an endless slog to survival.
And...I didn't enjoy that ending. it was really, really powerful...but this book scarred me for life and I don't think I want to pick it up again.
It definitely kept me reading though. No lie about that. And apparently this book won awards too, so I'll give it a moderately high rating.
It's just...the content in this book isn't really for younger readers. It's very powerful, very very disturbing...and let's just say it doesn't go where you'd expect.
This book was incredible. I'm beginning to take a liking to Rachel Caine's books, as she has a very good writing style and I haven't found much not to like about her books so far.
In this book, the Great Library of Alexandria was never burned to the ground. And that's not all. In this world, knowledge is what controls everything. The Library itself controls people's lives: owning books is illegal, as is selling originals to others, and what can be read by people is strictly controlled.
In that way it's a kind of dystopian future (for example, some countries have been completely destroyed by the Library to protect its knowledge, and there's a war going on between England and Wales which feels surprisingly realistic). I can't really try and explain it all, but you'll have to read it for yourself. It paints quite a vivid picture.
Our protagonist is Jess who is actually from a family or black market book smugglers. His family sends him to work at the Library as a scholar and it goes from there really.
Parts of this book actually made me think of Harry Potter. Hell, he meets a bunch of other students on the train, there's one character who is very Malfoy-ish, there's a girl who's really really smart and knows the answer to every question...Yeeep.
At first, it seems quite normal as Jess and his students are taught the ropes as they compete for the six slots available for a Library scholarship. He also has to hide his own identity, of course, and bond with the other students.
Oh, and about halfway through the book people start dying. It starts heading that way. I'll even go so far as to say that there are too many character deaths for my liking. It makes sense, of course, but...there's a death near the book which I really didn't like.
I really enjoyed this book. There's a great sense of mystery, intrigue, politics, fighting, schoolteaching and practically everyone has developed by the end of this book. There is romance, too, but I think the book could have done without it. I'm not complaining too much about that though.
Plus, it's the first in a series. I wouldn't mind reading the sequel if I see it. All in all, I greatly enjoyed this book and looking forward to more of this author's work.
Oh, and there's a canon gay relationship. Just in case you like that sort of thing.
It's strange, actually, how there are so many books with gay relationships in them now. Sometimes they're just thrown in there for no reason whatsoever (compared to books I read 10 years ago from school!). But at least in this book, it did make sense, which I liked.