Trigger warning: Mention of rape/abuse of minors. Not implicit, but it is fairly important to the plot later on and not what the reader might be expecting.
I loved this book! Really loved it. Yes, it is practically a trashy teen romance with lots of cliches. I’m not denying that. However, I’d rather have something like this – which doesn’t need to try very hard to do what it sets out to do – than some kind of overambitious dystopian future with countless plot holes which falls apart in a few chapters. This book was consistent, and I liked that.
I enjoyed all of the characters to some extent, even the horrible ones. (They weren’t horrible all the time.) I also really loved the dynamics between the protagonist and her love interests more than naything. Ren was a great character to read about, and her interactions with Jesse and Jeremy were really, really cute. We had a pretty large cast and lots of directions to take the plot, and it felt like everyone was important in some way or another.
This book tries to make out that it’s something more than just teen romance, but…it isn’t, really. It’s about Ren finding love in America and there’s no two ways about it. There’s this subplot about a serial killer on the loose but strangely enough it’s mostly in the background whilst we focus on Ren making out with Jeremy, or Jesse, or whichever half-naked shirtless hot boy she’s enamoured with. Like, I was 2/3 of the way through the book before they were like “Oh shit, somebody else has been murdered. Ren, don’t you think you should be going home now before you get killed too?”
The story being this: Ren is working as a nanny in America for the summer. Here, she ends up getting romantically involved with two of the many hot guys who lives here, and…well, that’s the bulk of the book. There’s a serial killer in town who goes around murdering foreign nannies. Just like her. You can imagine how that works out.
It’s strange that the serial killer is mostly in the background the whole time and does almost NOTHING until the last chapter (in fact, I almost forgot he was there). He kills one girl in the entire book, and he doesn’t even do a good job of it. (She runs away and only dies of her wounds much later). The murder seemed almost like an afterthought, but I understand that wasn’t the focus of the book. It’s also not easy to guess who the killer is, because of the large cast and there’s so many characters that he could be.
There’s another subplot where one of the boys has been preying on underage girls. I say “preying”, but rape and abuse are involved (though in the past tense, that is, since it’s crimes he’s committed before). Nobody has filed any charges against him because he is very rich, has a lot of connections, and has a powerful lawyer that will protect him from any consequences.
This guy was actually more iconic than the fricking serial killer, I swear. You really wanted to see him thrown in prison for his crimes, he showed no remorse for anything he did and actually bragged about it. He also got more focus than the murderer did. If anything, he was a lot more interesting because he was one of the main characters, too. The scenes where they finally confront him are some of the most intense ones in the entire story.
Let’s take a look at the core of the book - Ren’s two love interests.
Love Interest Number One: Jeremy. He’s one of the first boys that Ren meets in the story, and is a total gentleman from the very beginning. He opens doors for her, compliments on her appearance all the time, takes her out to parties, makes her feel like the world revolves around her, makes out with her quite a bit and she’s always swooning over him. He sounds like the perfect boyfriend.
Love Interest Number Two: Jesse. Practically unapproachable “bad boy”. Most people avoid him because he has a reputation for being aggressive and violent. Prior to this book, he literally beat the shit out of another guy, landing him into hospital. He’s done time in juvenile prison as a result and also has a restraining order. Yeah, it’s that bad. But wait, he also plays guitar and sings in a band, and that makes him cooler. When Ren meets him for the first time, she finds him pretty intimidating already (but he also has his shirt off at the time and she can’t stop looking at his muscles).
Guess who she’s more attracted to? You think it’s the guy who treats her like she’s the centre of his world? The non-violent one?
Nope. Guess again. She goes for the violent bad boy who’s done time for assault. Seriously. What is wrong with her? Who in their right mind would do that?! Even her friends think she’s nut for going for him. He may be her second choice, but she gets attracted to him pretty fast.
However! We get a plot twist, and it turns out Mr Nice Guy was just using Ren to score points with another dickhead friend of his, so actually he’s no longer nice or a gentleman at all. It also turns out that Mr Violent Guy had a very good reason for wanting to put that other guy into hospital – but the fact remains that he still lost control and beat him to a pulp, meaning that he’s still very violent and our protagonist seems to forget that.
I guess if she’d read on in the book then she might have a reason for dating Jesse for plot reasons, but it still doesn’t make sense. The first time she meets Jesse, he literally looks like he wants to kill her…I mean, come on. This isn’t healthy. This just sounds like she’s attracted to really violent men. Good thing that the violent guy wasn’t actually that violent after all, but man, it just feels a bit off.
Even so, I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It was romantic, it was cute, it had conflict – and just the right amount, too. It didn’t try to shove tons of drama and conflict down our throat like some YA books I could name, and it never made me feel bored at all. It was just right. There was a love triangle, obviously, but it actually made sense and didn’t feel forced.
I cannot tell you what a breath of fresh air it is in a YA novel to have a love triangle which actually feels like it BELONGS there. So far, I’ve only found this to be true in actual romance books which revolve around the romance and very little else.
I guess one criticism was that Ren was pretty similar to most female protagonists you find in a YA novel, and didn’t seem very unique. But you know what, I didn’t care. The romance was done well enough that it hardly seemed to matter. And I can’t fault the book for that.
All in all, I’ll give this a 4.
I can't believe I sat through this entire book.
This is an example of what happens when an author tries to mimic a YA dystopian future, but doesn't flesh out the world enough. This is what happens when the author concentrates on all the wrong aspects completely. This is also what happens when the author puts in a very shoddy and superficial love triangle, has the main character make constantly bad decisions (despite being supposedly "clever" and "flawless", by the admissions of everyone else around her), and manages to cram far too much content into too few pages.
It's disappointing, really, because the first chapter was really well-written. The world seemed well thought-out, it was a novel idea, but by gods that's where it ended. About two-thirds of the way through the book, it felt like the author had no real idea what she was doing, and it just felt like an utter trainwreck by the end of it. With a sequel planned, no less.
Here's the setting, then: the book is set in a world where people are branded for being "Flawed". That's for making morally unethical decisions - be it lying, stepping out of line of society, stealing from society (that's also in a metaphorical sense, too, which leads to all sorts of trouble). It also includes helping out another Flawed person.
In this world, Flawed people are treated like subhumans. They are constantly monitored, are bound by a strict curfew, must stick to a diet of bland food, are despised by the rest of society, and no more than two of them are allowed to be together at one time.
Oh, and they are *physically* branded when they become flawed - the courts have a branding iron placed upon a part of their body, branding the letter F on their body, and they must wear a red armband so everyone knows they are Flawed.
The first chapter of the book begins with our main character witnessing one of their close friends being arrested for being Flawed, for no other reason than because she took her ailing mother to a different country to administer euthanasia to them. So far, so good. We can already tell that the justice system is fucked up. Tell me more.
Our main character is called Celestine North. She's a model member of society and is deemed to be near-perfect. Class-A student.
What happens is that she sees an old man suffering on a bus, and helps him to his seat. An old man who is Flawed. By doing so, she has aided a Flawed person, and is deemed Flawed herself. And punished accordingly.
Despite being only 17, the major courts are very angry at her and have her branded 5 times at different places on her body (mainly because this becomes a very public case for the media, her father works in the media as well), especially when she refuses to admit that she was wrong.
This, uh, seems a bit excessive.
Not to mention that the main villain, Judge Crevan, goes further and puts a sixth brand on her spine without anaesthetic, which is quite illegal and fucked up.
Basically, that chapter was very hard to read and is mainly about the main character being tortured excessively because that's apparently the only way the author can make this impact upon us.
This part also takes half of the book.
We already know this happens from the synopsis on the back of the book. By the time it happens, the book is half over. Uh...I'm sure you could have made your book a bit longer? It hardly feels like anything happened except Celestine's court case...
Somehow, the next half of the book concentrates on how Celestine finds a way to fight back against this tyrannical organisation. Almost as if she's hardly weakened at all from being branded six times and subjected to prejudice and torture. There's also a graphic bullying scene which is also very hard to read through.
You're telling me that this one character has been put through to hell and back and, without even a thought for her own safety or anything, immediately starts trying to bring down Judge Crevan for administering that sixth brand illegally - I mean we could have some more thoughts from herself on the matter, maybe? Just a little? It just felt like she did it for terms of plot alone...
Nothing was fleshed out enough. There's another Flawed boy called Carrick, and Celestine somehow falls for him. They say one sentence to each other. That's all. Yet she somehow spends most of the book searching him out because she feels a connection to him - she doesn't even KNOW him. it's ridiculous.
Which makes one love triangle after another - her boyfriend Art who mysteriously disappears after her trial, then comes back, then finds out she is going to a party with another boy, then throws a jealous fit and disappears (and he NEVER returns again). And then another love triangle with Art and her sister?? Are you serious? Why put him in the book at all?!
There are also so many plot holes because apparently criminals have a separate justice system of their own, and once they serve their time, they get to have a normal life. As in, they're not Flawed. It doesn't make sense. How can you make someone Flawed for helping another Flawed being, and say that makes them lower than a murderer? Why is the criminal not also Flawed? It makes no sense at all...
A lot of the book was also based on the political impact.
This is where the book really fails, because Celestine is made out to be this great paragon of a rebellion against the organisation, even though nothing like that actually happens. If the book had been twice as long and the rebellion happened near the end, then maybe it would have made sense...but barely anything is fleshed out at all! It's somehow fast-paced without anything happening.
Like, her teachers at school refuse to teach her because she's Flawed. The one teacher who agrees to home-school her turns out to have political motives for her to speak at some kind of gathering of the Flawed and it just gets ridiculous. I got the impression that the Flawed aren't allowed to have gatherings like this, but apparently it's legal? There wasn't enough detail about any of this at all.
Oh, and don't get me started on Celestine herself.
She makes so many bad decisions. She goes around poking her nose into all of these situations which would see her in tons of trouble, and gets almost nothing for her efforts. She is easily tricked into attending a party by one of her classmates (who then kidnaps her and locks her in a shed to try and make her miss her curfew). And she keeps trying to search for that one guy called Carrick for no real reason other than because he was her age and happened to be in the same cell as her. (Again, they never said a word to each other.)
I see a lot of people hating on Celestine, but she's not a terrible character. She's just extremely bland and not that compelling of a protagonist. Her sister, Juniper, is actually rebellious and seems to know what to do, and I'm surprised that she doesn't have a bigger part to play. Her granddad is cool too. It's like everyone except Celestine is a decent character.
Near the end, the story dives into ever-more ridiculous territory as Celestine somehow single-handedly starts a riot just by standing up to a police officer (just one), has a long extended conversation with her teacher's Flawed husband (he appears just one chapter before the end and yet talks for several pages about plot-important stuff, even though he is also really drunk at the time and I couldn't take anything seriously here), and finally we discover that the other judges are turning on Judge Crevan and are willing to help out Celestine if they join their side.
Like, all these people are so willing to help Celestine. It's not as if she's alone. All these political sides everywhere, except I don't care at all because the author has forgotten to flesh out all of the other parts of the world. It just doesn't add up at all. It's just a really badly-written dystopian future (it feels more like a dystopian present) and so little is left out.
I don't know why Celestine acts so stupidly throughout the book, yet everyone excuses her actions and says what a clever girl she is because she studied mathematics. (The teacher's husband tells her that she can use mathematics to work out how to get out of her situation. I did mathematics at university. He's an idiot.) I don't know why the author chose to delve into the political side and leave out everything that could have been interesting.
I don't understand the reason for the terribly-written love triangle, or the love interest that never appears until the end, or the boyfriend who disappears in the second half of the book, or the desire to make the villains so ridiculously evil and sadistic that I can't take anything seriously anymore.
By the end of it, I had come to the conclusion that this book is so bad that it's good. And good god, I am not reading the sequel.
Dave and Julia are two high-schoolers who have decided to make a list of all the high-school cliches that they would become a part of. A list of "Nevers". Never attend a party with the Kapoors. Never hook up with a teacher. Never become prom king/queen. Never date your best friend.
The twist? Dave is in love with Julia, and has been as long as he can remember. So he's technically already broken that last one on the list.
Gee, I wonder how THIS could turn out.
The problem with this book is that, despite these two teenagers being so determined to stay out of cliches, they're literally a walking cliche by themselves. Teenagers already rebel against the norm. If this is all there is to the book, then you're already going to get bored - but wait! Romance! Love triangle! Just like...every other YA book ever. God. I'm sick of this shit. I mean it, I'm sick of it.
Strangely enough, the romance is what kept me reading the book. There was even a twist at the end because I assumed that Dave was always to end up with Julia.
However, here's the main problem of the book: our protagonists are really, really, really fucking boring and uninteresting and I don't give a monkey about them.
They're just written so simply and to sound like ordinary teenagers - which is fine - except that almost every other character is more engaging than they are. Dave was your typical protagonist, thoughtful and kind, never stops going on about how much he loves Julia in his internal monologue. I wanted it to end. He would not stop.
Halfway through the book, we get Julia's POV and discover that actually she was in love with Dave the whole bloody time. Wow. Really? She also got on my nerves a lot. She is always being a smartass, cracking jokes, being irritatingly sassy - and not in an endearing way, but in a really annoying way.
There's a part where they throw a party at their house. Julia finds out that Dave has kissed this other girl who isn't her and gets pretty pissy at him. When he's gone, she breaks a few things, punches the wall, smashes the window, etc. There's vomit on the carpet, the place is a mess.
When her parents turn up and demand to know what's happened to their house, the way she talks to them is just atrocious. I swear, I wanted to slap her. Even worse, her parents just seemed to take it in their stride. No grounding, nothing. They gave her a lecture and then it all went away.
I mean what is this? What IS this? It's really irritating when you write the parents as being "cool, so hip, so down with the kids" - because they're not! You want them to appeal to the target demographic, is that it? It just makes them seem incompetent and lousy role models! This is hardly the first time I've seen this in a YA novel...
I wish the book had developed the side characters. We meet a jock at some point and he has more personality than anyone else, really. But no, the only other person who is really developed is Gretchen, the other girl pushed into the love triangle.
I really liked Gretchen, actually. Apparently, she's supposed to be a blonde popular girl, but the use of the name Gretchen made me think of that girl from Recess. You know. The nerdy girl with glasses. I mean come on.
Still, she was much more likeable than that smartass Julia. Mainly because she wasn't Julia, and thus better to read about.
There's a part in the book where Dave wants to ask out Gretchen to the prom. He does so by creating a stupidly drawn-out treasure hunt where she has to find all these roses. All twelve of them.
Twelve?? Twelves fucking roses?! Just to ask a girl out? It's literally like a treasure hunt, leading her from rose to rose. He serenades her at the end. For god's sake, just ASK her without resorting to this madness.
I mean...what if she had said no? Imagine that. Imagine spending hours and hours putting all these shitty roses in different places, leading your crush to each one (one of them was high up in a tree), only to have her say "Sorry, I'm actually not into you." I mean come on!
I fully expected her to say no to him because the entire thing was absolutely ridiculous. I was amazed when nothing actually went wrong.
The love triangle goes on from there, and one of the girls ends up forever alone because Dave was her only friend and she didn't bother to think of getting any other friends because she avoided everyone else in school because she's a stupid cliche. The end.
It's not a terrible book, I guess, but it is really REALLY bland. It's really not worth wasting your time on. Even the title should be evidence of that enough. I just started skimming over the last few chapters because it was just mushy stuff between characters I couldn't stand.
I was rather impressed by this book. The writing style is pretty good, and the opening prologue is one of the more impactful ones I've seen in a YA novel. Riley is babysitting for these two parents, when suddenly burglars invade the house and kill them. She ends up going to therapy because she's having anxiety over the incident, and the story goes on from there.
There's a lot of deaths in this book.
The main part of the story involves a hostage situation. Riley is at a therapy sleepover with several other teenagers, and three kidnappers storm the place, armed with guns. At first it seems like it's just a hostage situation and everything will be okay - Riley happens to be the daughter of a (deceased) cop, and feels she knows how all of this works - but not everything goes to plan, and soon we have a lot of dead kids all over the place.
In all the confusion, she manages to escape from the kidnappers with one of the other guys in the therapy group - Max, who turns out to suffer from schizophrenia. The doors and windows are all locked, and their kidnappers now seem intent on killing them all. Before long, everyone starts dropping like flies.
That's the first part of the book. The SECOND part, strangely enough, is when Riley and Max escape the building and manage to call 911...and the cops suspect Max for being responsible for the deaths of 7 kids and both adult therapists. A bit odd, in my opinion. I would have thought that the author would focus on other aspects, rather than the reasons why Max was framed for mass-murder.
Riley is a strong character in her own right. She was alright. Max, too, is a rather interesting person, and the chapters are indispersed with his personal thoughts. He's constantly second-guessing himself, is struggling with his own mental health (he has to cope without his meds for a few hours, which is pretty bad for him), and has this internal voice in his head which seems to be constantly arguing with him. I don't know much about schizophrenia myself, but I thought it was presented rather well.
It did get a bit annoying after a while, though. I just wanted to see how the plot was going to turn out, and instead the author gave me another huge chapter about Max's thoughts on what had already happened.
Also, don't ask me why, but he had this really dumb British stereotype surrounding him. He was saying stuff like "Tally ho!" and "Jolly good" as if he was some posh old-fashioned royal out of the middle of the London in the 80s. Yes, he's British, and half the time Max was joking about his mannerisms, but seriously now?
I mean, come on. I'm British. No one talks like that anymore. Even the goddamn Queen doesn't talk like that, least of all teenagers! Does the author really not know how to write an English character without resorting to really awkward stereotypes?
I wouldn't call it racist or anything - British stereotypes aren't really that insulting (I can't tell you how often someone tries to ask if I drink English tea, and ironically I've never drunk tea). But it looks a bit embarrassing.
Here's my other gripe about the book. Loads of teenagers die in the first half of the book, mainly because the gunmen have shot them in some evil or sadistic fashion. It's all very scary and edgy.
Or at least it would be, if I actually knew any of these characters for more than a chapter beforehand. Seriously. I was barely introduced to them. The first person dies just a few chapters in, not long after the prologue where a similar thing happened. It was just really jarring and I found it hard to care at times.
At one point, one of the other girls gets close to Riley and tells her how brave she is and that she's a hero for keeping everyone together...a character who had said almost nothing up to this point. I was rolling my eyes so hard at her, and, sure enough, she gets shot less than a chapter later.
I get what the author is trying to go for here, but could you at least give us a chance to know some of these characters beforehand?? They know each other's names. This is a therapy sleepover, for crying out loud! I wanted to know their backgrounds about their therapy! It was done really well in other books, but here...we just didn't know anything about them! At least, not until the last minute, once it was too late. I had trouble remembering the names of the therapists.
Instead, these mentally ill kids are just treated like fodder to be killed off by the gunmen. I guess the author was in a hurry to kill them all off, so she didn't bother to give us much background about them. Oh, and there's a gay kid too. He got sent to therapy by his homophobic dad, and he dies too.
Once I got to the end of the book, however, there were quite a few interesting plot twists. Namely about how this wasn't a hostage situation at all, and a lot of things were planned at the start. I expected that all this would tie back to the couple who were murdered in the prologue, and naturally it did. A few nice surprises were in store, and then a few more people die before we really get to know them, and...
...oh yeah, and the forced romance. Riley and Max have known each other a day. One. Day. Even Riley herself acknowledges this. I just skimmed over the kisses.
Overall, this turned to be very enjoyable, especially towards the end. I probably wouldn't read it again, though. All those plot twists lose their effect after the first time. It was good to see some coverage of mental illness, but the way that loads of characters simply get killed before we've got the chance to know them was a significant flaw in the reading. If you're going to kill seven teenagers, at least make us care about them first.
When I first started reading books by Josephine Angelini, I couldn't help seeing a lot of comments saying, "This sucks. Go and read Starcrossed instead." Or "I loved Starcrossed, but this book is just terrible!"
Well, here I am, reading Starcrossed at last, and I don't see what all the fuss is about. It's not that great. It manages not to be completely terrible, thankfully, but the characters are really flat and the plot is full of holes. We're cursed with an overpowered female protagonist surrounded by a plethora of semi-decent characters which manage to keep me reading, but most of the reading is rather painful.
The plot itself is an interesting premise that I haven't seen before. If you like Greek mythology, then you'll find a lot of references to the Trojan war, and Aphrodite and Apollo and what-not which will be a pleasant surprise to find in the YA genre.
Oh, except for the fact that all of these high-school characters are demigods who are direct descendants of the Greek gods (which apparently are real, the Trojan war REALLY HAPPENED guys, you wouldn't believe), and they all have superpowers.
Did you get all that? Okay, that was the simple part.
The not-so-simple part is that there are all these families which are forced to hate each other and kill each other by these Furies, due to being descended from different sides of the original Trojan war...or something...and there's a reason why the protag is called Helen, and her love interest's dad is called Pallas, and there's actually another characters called frickin' Hector and there's a dead guy called Ajax...
Look, I'm not even going to explain how many plot holes are shredding this story apart here. It really speaks for itself. Let's get into the meat of the book.
Our protagonist is Helen. She doesn't know it, but she's a demigod from one of these Houses, but her mother left her dad years and years ago and left them in the shitter. She whines about it, complains about her life, has a bunch of friends at school that I didn't really give a monkey's ass about, and has practically no flaws whatsoever.
Oh, and later on she can fly and fire lightning from her fingertips. Go figure. Go fucking figure.
The term "Mary Sue" gets brought up a lot in the YA fandom. Personally, I think it's overused. It feels like a lot of female reviewers just holler "SHE'S A MARY SUE, BOOK SUCKS, KTHANXBAI" as soon as they discover that there's a strong female protagonist who annoys them in some insignificant fashion. It's stupid, really. Just making a big deal out of nothing.
But Helen? Okay, I'm afraid I have to say that she's ridiculously overpowered and doesn't really seem to struggle with everything. Also - in the first half of this book, she is immune to all bladed weapons. You could stab her with a sword and it would bounce right off her skin. (There's a reason for this, but it just seems so superficial at the time.)
I haven't even started on the Delos family yet, the other main characters in this book. Actually, they're all fairly decent. Fairly decent demigods that is, with superhuman powers.
The love interest, Lucas, is an interesting character. To begin with, he and Helen hate each other - because they're from different Houses - and the book is pretty hard to read for a good dozen chapters. It's just about them hating each other for no reason. Thankfully, this soon changes and they start falling for each other.
But they can't fall for each other, because as soon as they have sex then it will start off the whole Trojan war again or something. It sounds so ridiculous in concept.
Oh, and Lucas' special power? He can always tell when someone is lying to him. Early on in his relationship with Helen, he forces her to tell him how he really feels because otherwise it makes him feel uncomfortable that he can tell she told a lie. Even if it's a harmless lie. I don't know, this just didn't sit right with me.
Not to mention that HE lies to her occasionally. Doesn't stop him.
There's a load of other villains called Tantalus and Creon, many of which are extremely generic. Yeah, that's really their names.
Overall, the book was a mixed bag to me. It's ridiculous and tries to take itself too seriously, but there is some cool magic stuff going on. I guess. Most of the non-magical characters get the short end of the stick really.
It's a trilogy, too. I'm not really interested in reading the rest. I don't care about Helen and Lucas' relationship, especially since Helen isn't the best-written character in the world. Really, I preferred the other books by this author.
This is the sequel to Trial of Fire, which was the previous book I reviewed. I expected this to be incoherent and make a mockery of itself, because it looked like this story would be taking place in the real world. You know, instead of the interesting fantasy world that had been built up to now. I prepared myself for disappointment.
I was pleasantly surprised to find that this book was actually incredibly good, and a step up from the first book. Our protagonist returns to the real world, and of course real-world things happen, but the author manages to develop several characters nonetheless.
We get a throwback to the events that happened previously. We have a meaningful interaction with the only main character I give a shit about. The love triangle is back, only it looks a bit more serious this time. A goth girl joins them. (No, seriously.) One of the villains from the first book is actively trying to kill them this time, and thus is portrayed as MUCH more competent than any of the other villains.
But more than any of that? Our antagonist's backstory! We finally find out why she took Lily from her world, and her reasons for becoming the tyrant she is today! And holy shit, did this deliver. Lillian is a really well-written character and she, more than anything, kept me reading.
I was unsure about what I thought of this book during the first half. Lily gains a bunch of new friends, all of whom become her mechanics, and she has to rapidly explain to them about magic and willstones and shit. They believe her a bit too quickly, imo. It's a bit rushed. Oh, and two of them are in love with each other, so thanks for that.
Spoilers ahoy now.
One of the villains from the last book is actually doing something villainous now, and he kills Lily's father. Wow, that's intense. That's tragic.
...or at least it WOULD be if the book ever went into any depth about Lily's dad or anything. Which it doesn't. We've never met him. He's never said a fricking word. We are never, ever introduced to him, not even when he's about to die.
I mean, come on, you want to care us about that? Well, I don't. If you're going to kill off a character, make us care about them first.
Which brings me onto my next point, because - the author does exactly that near the end. Kills off one of my favourite characters, who was initiating a love triangle with Lily.
And you know what? Rowan has been the love interest for the WHOLE of the first book. In the second book, Tristan takes over. And the thing is that Tristan's relationship with Lily feels so much better. They have an understanding. With Rowan, they're almost always fighting. Rowan's a dick and I don't like him. I'd really rather she ended up with Tristan.
On the other hand, Tristan is a womanising dudebro. Yeah. But I still empathise with him, and the fact that I PREFER this guy to the main love interest tells you just how much is wrong here. The thing is that Tristan really, really improves by the end of the book...
...well, until the author decides to kill him off. Great. Fan-fucking-tastic. I guess we're stick with Rowan the dickhead now. Who has now betrayed Lily and is probably going to try and kill her.
I don't want to spoil Lillian's revealed backstory, but I was really moved by it. A lot of things made sense. A lot of pieces fell into place.
Problem is, it also started to feel like the author was trying to shove some no-nukes + hardcore vegan agenda down our throats. The protag is passionate about being against nuclear weapons, and about being vegan. Fine, she was like that in the first book. That's fine.
Until we discover that Lillian, the antagonist, has visited other worlds and found that nuclear war has obliterated the planets (oh no, hate the nukes), and that humans are using other humans like animals by keeping them alive and cutting off their limbs to eat. That sounds suspiciously like...the same vegan stuff she's been throwing at us...
I don't know why they didn't just kill the humans, freeze the bodies, and THEN eat them? Do they not have refridgeration or something? It seemed unnecessary really, just being edgy here...but whatever.
That aside, it was really good and I definitely enjoyed it. I'm a bit annoyed that they killed off the only semi-decent guy in the love triangle, thus dooming us to King Dickhead as the love interest instead, but there's also a lot of twists about the Woven themselves which were really interesting.
All in all, loved this book and didn't expect to.
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.