Opposite of Always (Book Review) ⭐⭐⭐

opposite of alwaysWhen it comes to contemporary YA writers, there aren’t many better than Becky Albertalli and Angie Thomas. The fact that they both endorsed Justin A. Reynolds’ Opposite of Always was enough for me to give it a shot. Unfortunately, it doesn’t live up to those two names. Opposite of Always is cute enough, but it is nowhere in the league of Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda or The Hate U Give.

What’s it about?

While visiting a college campus towards the end of his senior year of high school, Jack meets Kate and they fall in love. Sounds good, right? Wrong. Jack and Kate only have a short time together, because Kate has a genetic disease that kills her before they can have their happily ever after. But then Jack finds himself transported back to the moment when he first met Kate. Given a miraculous second chance with Kate, Jack does everything in his power to save her life only to lose her again (and again and again), and return again (and again and again) to the stairs where they met.

What’d I think?

I’ve been somewhat uninspired by my own reviews lately, so I’m going to try out yet another format. I’m also trying to keep my reviews shorter than usual, as I’ve noticed that the long, analytical ones rarely get read. Here we go!

I liked Jack’s relationships with his best friends Franny and Jillian. They are a really cool trio, and the way that their dynamic shifts with the decisions that Jack makes is far and away the best part of Opposite of Always. The way that Jack’s friends (particularly Franny) are folded into Jack’s family is particularly sweet. Franny and Jillian are their own characters even outside their relationships to Jack, and I love that the narrative emphasizes them as much as it does. They’re never get pushed to the side, and their emotional wellbeing is treated as seriously as either Jack or Kate’s, which is awesome.

I didn’t like the central romance. With Jack, Franny, and Jillian, Reynolds proved that he can write a fun, deep, important relationship. Unfortunately, however, he didn’t put that ability to work for Jack and Kate. For the life of me, I don’t understand what Jack sees in Kate. Or What Kate sees in Jack. They’re both good characters, but together they’re all kinds of bland. No matter how many times I watched them fall in love, I never got it. Forget true love, they don’t even have basic chemistry. I just do not get them as a couple. So I certainly don’t understand why their romance warrants repeated time loops to get it right.

I liked the adults. Jack’s parents are goofy and cringy and very present in Jack’s life. They’re real people, not just cardboard cutouts who only show up to parent when the plot calls for it. Likewise, Franny’s dad is a great character. Terrible guy, great character. Franny’s relationship with his dad is one of the best emotional storylines.

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Pulp (Book Review) ⭐⭐⭐

pulpIt has been so long since I sat down to write a book review that, once again, I feel like I’ve forgotten how to do it. While I like Robin Talley’s Pulp well enough, I wasn’t enthusiastic enough about it to write this review immediately. A lot of books demand to be discussed, but Pulp isn’t one of them, at least for me. It took me an unusually long time to read, and after I finished it I set it aside for almost a week before I got around to actually writing this review.

I initially picked it up on a whim. I thought it was going to be the lesbian equivalent of Jennifer Mathieu’s Moxie—they have similar premises—and while it sort of is, I did not find it as compelling (although to be fair, I have more going on now than I did when I read Moxie, so I could commit more time, emotion, and effort to my reading then).

What’s it about?

For a final creative writing project, Abby—who has just broken up with her girlfriend and whose parents’ strained relationship is making her home life difficult—decides to study lesbian pulp fiction from the fifties and then write her own to deconstruct and comment on the form. She finds herself particularly drawn to one novel, and feels driven to discover more about the life of the author, Marian Love. Sixty-two years before, Marian love—real name Janet Jones—is discovering her sexuality. Her love for her best friend and her own accidental discovery of a lesbian pulp novel launch her into a world she never dreamed existed and which she can join only at great personal cost.

What’d I think?

Pulp does a lot of things well. It strives to be intersectional even during Janet’s chapters. I don’t read a lot of historical fiction because there is so rarely diversity (here are a few exceptions), so it is always a pleasant surprise to find queer people and people of color there. It’s also really interesting. No one really talks about historical experiences that aren’t mainstream, so it was fascinating to me to learn about the popularity of lesbian pulp fiction and lesbian bars in the fifties. The fact that lesbian bars were actually more common then than they are now is hard to believe, because that’s something I would expect not to exist then but to be somewhat more present now.

The pacing is possibly Pulp’s greatest strength. The novel hinges largely on the mystery of what happened to Janet between her storyline and Abby’s, and Talley reveals it at exactly the right pace, with each new piece of information arriving at the perfect moment for maximum suspense. One could argue—and honestly, I probably would—that the substance of the reveals isn’t as well done as the execution—it’s clearly there for narrative drama and doesn’t necessarily feel true to Janet as a character—but the mystery is interesting enough that I can let the slightly disappointing conclusion slide.

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And the Ocean Was Our Sky (Book Review) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

and the ocean was our sky
I love that the title seems so poetic and deep… but it’s also literal.

Patrick Ness is one of my favorite writers. I’ve been a huge fan of his since I read A Monster Calls for a book club a few years ago. The Rest of Us Just Live Here is one of the first books I reviewed for this blog, and I was pumped to read Release and And the Ocean Was Our Sky even though they’re inspired by classic novels that are decidedly not amongst my favorites (Virginia Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway and Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick, respectively). When I picked up And the Ocean Was Our Sky, I knew that my main takeaway was going to be the answer to one question: which is stronger, my love for Patrick Ness or my hate for Moby-Dick? Seriously. That book has sooo many unnecessary descriptions. The parts that are actual story are good, but that’s like 10% of the book. If you want to write a textbook about whales, just write a textbook about whales. Don’t try to pass it off as a novel.

What’s it about?

Bathsheba is the youngest apprentice to the great hunter Captain Alexandra. Their pod, like all hunter pods, has one goal: hunt and kill humans. But for Captain Alexandra—and therefore for Bathsheba—it goes deeper than that. They are destined to hunt the dangerous, mythological Toby Wick, who hunts with a single ship and has left untold hundreds of whales dead. When their pod comes across a human survivor of a wreck with Toby Wick’s calling card clutched in his hand, they know that—if destiny is real—it has come for them.

So what won? My love of Patrick Ness or my hate of Moby-Dick?

My love of Patrick Ness.

What’d I think?

I knew that And the Ocean Was Our Sky was based on Moby-Dick, but I did not know that the protagonists are to be whales. It’s pretty cool, but it took me entirely surprised. When I first figured that out, I was hesitant. Talking-animal stories aren’t my thing. It took a little while to get oriented (the whales have boats? Their world is the inverse of the human world, not just beneath it? They actively try to kill humans and harvest the remains?), but once I did I was fully onboard. The whales aren’t exactly like humans, but the core of them is quite similar, and the novel focuses on very human issues: the nature of good and evil, self-fulfilling prophecy, the power of reputation, etc.

And the Ocean Was Our Sky defies description. Describing it makes it sound, honestly, terrible. If I’d known before starting that the book was about a murderous pod of whales intent on seeking the devil, I probably would’ve been like… pass. But in true Patrick Ness fashion, the writing is lyrical without being self-indulgent and the ideas are big enough to prompt a great discussion. I wish I still ran a book club, because this would be a very fun one to write questions for. The characters are perhaps not the most compelling in the literary world, but this is one of the rare cases where that doesn’t really matter. The main player in this book is humanity, not specific people, so it works.

I wouldn’t say that that this is the most engaging novel I’ve ever read, which is why it did get one star knocked off, but it is still very good and since it goes by so quickly (it’s only 158 pages, and some are illustrated) it doesn’t actually need to draw the reader in more than once or twice.

Lastly, it would be remiss not to mention the illustrations by Rovina Cai. They’re stunning. With a limited color palate she captures Ness’ world perfectly, and even manages to illustrate the parts that made me think, “Surely there’s no way to depict that.”

What’s the verdict?

⭐⭐⭐⭐

While And the Ocean Was Our Sky is not my favorite of Patrick Ness’ works, it is still a very beautiful book. The writing is violent but affecting—helped along by the gorgeous illustrations—and the huge themes are distilled simply but complexly (if that even makes sense) into a deceptively short page-count. Report card: A

i hate everyone but you (Book Review) ⭐⭐

i hate everyone but youFor a while, it seemed like i hate everyone but you by Gaby Dunn and Allison Raskin was on a display at every bookstore I went into. I always picked it up curiously and then decided that it didn’t intrigue me quite enough to buy it. I finally found it in my library and gave it a shot. Now that I’ve read it, I can confirm that “doesn’t intrigue me enough to buy it” is a good description of it. I enjoyed reading it, but I’m pretty sure that at the end of the year, when I’m compiling my annual top and bottom ten reads, I’m going to have to reread my own review to remember what it was about.

What’s it about?

Gen and Ava are best friends, but they have very little in common. Ava is shy and plagued with all sorts of mental disorders—OCD, anxiety, and depression are the main ones, but there are probably more—and Gen is a cool, brash tries-everything-twice sort of girl. Since they’re attending college at opposite sides of the country, they’ve decided to keep in close contact via text and email as they navigate their new lives apart from each other.

What’d I think?

i hate everyone but you is pretty typical for the story it wants to tell. There aren’t any surprises, which in itself is probably not a surprise. It’s the story of two friends who love each other and hold onto their relationship despite distance and life taking them in different directions. The format works very well; the novel consists entirely of the girls’ text and email communication. Sometimes that format wears itself thin or struggles to tell the whole story, but it functions really well here. It’s also worth noting that the girls’ voices are distinctive enough that I was able to pick up on who was who very quickly and keep track of it without difficulty even though their text communications are differentiated only with little monster avatars.

Ava and Gen are delightfully nerdy. Early on in the novel, Gen mentions Newsies, and from that moment I was like, “Yep, I love this girl.” Unfortunately, she didn’t manage to sustain that level of love for the rest of the novel (and no, it’s not just because her love is for the infinitely inferior movie version of Newsies).

newsies
Broadway Newsies is phenomenal. Movie Newsies is meh.

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Where the Crawdads Sing (Book Review) ⭐⭐⭐

where the crawdads singI work at a bookstore, so I have a pretty good idea about what books people are reading. Where the Crawdads Sing by Delia Owens has been at the top of the bestseller list for months. It’s in Reese Witherspoon’s book club. The waiting list for it at my library is, no lie, 122 people long, which is possibly why it is selling ridiculously well. I’ve learned to recognize even the worst descriptions of it. At one point, I repeatedly had conversations like this:

CUSTOMER: I’m looking for that one book, but I don’t remember the title.

ME: Where the Crawdads Sing?

CUSTOMER: That’s it!

DIFFERENT CUSTOMER: I just finished it! It’s one of the best books I’ve ever read!

That last bit is not an exaggeration. I have had multiple people tell me that. I figured that, based on all that feedback, I should definitely give the book a shot even though it is not the sort of book I normally like.

What’s it about?

Kya lives in the marsh, at first with her full family, then with only her abusive father, and finally on her own. From a very young age, she learned to take care of herself and to stay out of view. Because of this, Kya takes on a somewhat mythical persona for the residents of the nearby town. Where the Crawdads Sing, which is takes place over about twenty years starting in 1952, tells the story of Kya’s childhood, adolescence, and early adulthood, and intertwines it with the investigation of a murder for which Kya is the primary suspect.

Did I enjoy Where the Crawdads Sing?

Yes.

Is it one of the best books I’ve ever read?

No.

So what’d I think?

Author Delia Owens is a wildlife scientist who has written several well-regarded nonfiction books, but this is her first novel. Honestly, that tracks. The writing is very good ninety-five percent of the time, and Owens does a particularly good job creating her atmosphere. She shines when she is writing about nature and the ways wildlife interacts with human existence. She’s less adept where humans interact with… other humans. Her dialogue is stilted—at times, painfully stilted—and some of her characterizations seem off.

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The Umbrella Academy: Apocalypse Suite (Book Review) ⭐⭐⭐

umbrella academy apocalypse suiteI watched Netflix’s adaptation of The Umbrella Academy a month or so ago and really loved it. I’d never heard of The Umbrella Academy before watching it, but after immensely enjoying the show I started reading up on it and found out that it’s based on comic books by Gerard Way and Gabriel Bá. I don’t read comics or graphic novels very often (honestly, I don’t even know the difference. I had to ask Google which The Umbrella Academy is; Google says it’s a comic book, so I’m rolling with it). I’m actually kind of bad at it; I find myself reading speech bubbles out of order and missing things because I don’t look carefully enough at the pictures before jumping to the words in the next panel. Still, I really, really liked the show and I try to make a point of always read the source material of adaptations I like.

I know from basic Googling that the TV show drew from several volumes of the comics, but I only read the first series, Apocalypse Suite.

There are spoilers in this review. Of course, there are also spoilers on the cover of the comic book, so make of that what you will.

So how similar is it, and is it worth reading?

Short answer: Kind of.

Long answer:

For the sake of clarity, when I say “Umbrella Academy” or “UA” I mean the TV show; when I reference “Apocalypse Suite” or AS, I’m referring to the comic.

I’ve read lots of articles comparing the two, so I didn’t go into the comic blind. There are some differences that I already knew to expect, like the fact that Leonard Peabody was created for the show and that the characters have more powers in the comics (for example, while TV!Klaus can merely talk to the dead, Comic!Klaus is telekinetic and can levitate in addition to contacting the other side). With this in mind, I expected Apocalypse Suite to be a very different experience.

Weirdly, it is and it isn’t. Plot points that, for some reason, I assumed were created for the show (like Allison’s divorce and devotion to her daughter) actually appear in the comic. Other elements have been drastically changed or are emphasized completely differently. It’s a minor thing, but it strikes me as very odd that the comic characters refer to each other primarily by their codenames. Specifically, everyone calls Luther “Space,” for Spaceboy. If it hadn’t been for the show, I probably couldn’t have produced any of the characters’ names aside from Vanya, but I definitely would’ve known that the big guy is Spaceboy.

The balance of the characters is incredibly different from page to screen. Apocalypse Suite is all about Luther, Diego, and Vanya, and The Umbrella Academy really emphasizes Five and Klaus. Ben is a nonentity in the comic. Vanya is considerably more villainous in the comic than in the adaptation; she’s so badly manipulated in the show that I see her as a victim. In the comic, she joins the evil squad with her eyes wide open. For my money, she’s more compelling in the show.

I was really thrown by how far in the background Klaus and Number Five are in Apocalypse Suite. Five is arguably the main character (as much as there is one main character) of the show and Klaus is the scene-stealer. In the comics, though, they’re barely present. Five has a few pages depicting his time traveling exploits, but that’s it. Klaus has one or two snarky comments and then comes out of left field to freaking save the day at the end. Up until the final showdown, you could be forgiven for not remembering that Klaus is a part of the crew. It’s kind of funny that the show greatly improves and expands his role but denies him the one shining moment of glory from the source material. 

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Solitaire (Book Review) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

solitaireAbout a month ago, I read and loved Radio Silence by Alice Oseman. I knew immediately that Oseman had the potential to become one of my favorite writers, so when I found Solitaire at the library, I grabbed it without even reading the summary. I’m just as enthusiastic about Oseman after Solitaire as I was after Radio Silence.

What’s it about?

Tori hates everything (it’s funny because it’s true). She’s depressed and exists on the periphery of her friend group. Then she meets Michael and Solitaire comes into her life and everything changes. Michael is quirkily fun and relentlessly cheerful, and weird enough that pretty much everyone avoids him; Tori finds that she doesn’t hate him the way she hates everyone else. Solitaire is an anonymous blog that orchestrates a number of pranks that escalate over the course of the school year, and all seem to relate to Tori in some obscure way.  Things go too far.

What’d I think?

I adore Oseman’s writing, and I love the great care that she puts into her characters’ internal lives. That said… I hope she’s okay. There is so much brokenness in Solitaire. Every character is more heartbreaking than the last. Actually, that’s a lie. Charlie, Tori’s nice brother, is the most heartbreaking. He’s the sort of character that fangirls like to adopt to protect from harm. But Charlie is far from the only character who elicits strong reactions. I wanted to sit the whole group down and tell them that it’s all going to be okay.

Everyone in Solitaire is struggling. Some characters hide it better than others, but everyone is hurting. This could easily make for a depressing book, but Solitaire expertly toes the line between sad and upsetting. It’s evocative. There are bright spots, true friendships, and genuine love that keep things from getting too bleak. It’s amazing that the novel is as compelling as it is, because Tori’s depression manifests itself primarily as numbness. She all but sleepwalks through life, but there are moments when she breaks through: when she starts to understand Michael better, when Charlie backslides back into self-harm, when Becky seems to betray her, when she decides to track down Solitaire, etc. But even when she is numb, she’s not flat. I was never bored with Solitaire. I read it in fewer than twenty-four hours, and probably would have raced through it in a single sitting if I hadn’t had to do annoying things like go to work.

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This Monstrous Thing (Book Review) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

this monstrous thingMackenzi Lee was one of my favorite discoveries last year. I kept hearing about The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, so I read it in a single day—a single sitting, really—and then waited anxiously for The Lady’s Guide to Petticoats and Piracy, which I loved as well. When I found out that Gentleman’s Guide wasn’t Lee’s first book, I knew I’d have to find the rest of what she’s written. When I found This Monstrous Thing at my library, I was psyched.

What’s it about?

Alasdair is a Shadow Boy: he combines clockwork with flesh to create artificial limbs for the disabled. He and his family have to do this in secret, as clockwork people are second-class citizens and helping them is illegal. But, unknown to everyone but his brother Oliver and their friend Mary, Alasdair does more than fix broken limbs with his clockwork. When an accident leaves Oliver dead, Alasdair takes the incomplete research of his scientific hero, Dr. Geisler, and does what no one has ever done before: using clockwork, he resurrects Oliver. Keeping the risen and monstrous Oliver a secret is difficult, but things become even more difficult when a book called Frankenstein appears, a book that seems to be about Alasdair and Oliver and which brings the societal unrest to a boiling point.

What’d I think?

There are some very minor spoilers in this review. They’re the sort of spoiler that, honestly, you’ll probably only clock (pun intended) if you’ve already read the book, but the warning stands.

There’s no one like Mackenzi Lee for telling fantasy stories in historical settings. I don’t read a lot of historical fiction, but Lee does it so well. It’s probably due, in large part, to her nontraditional characters. Not many historical fiction novels star a bisexual hero, a gay black epileptic love interest, or a scientifically minded female adventurer. This Monstrous Thing is not as diverse as Gentleman’s Guide, but it is still very interested in the experiences of the marginalized. Oliver is alone in the world, and the plight of the clockwork people fuels the novel. Clémence, Dr. Geisler’s assistant, feels that “everything about me is wrong. […] I’m not the same as other clockworks, but I’m not wholly human either. I say things I shouldn’t. I cuss. I’m contrary. I don’t act the way young women should. I can’t even love who I’m supposed to. […] I’ve sort of got nothing.” Even Alasdair lives on the fringes of society, not because he is marginalized, but because he helps those who are.

It is a fascinating universe. Lee weaves together religious beliefs, societal norms, the law, and other forces to create a unique environment that breeds the situation Alasdair, Clémence, Oliver, Geisler, and Mary find themselves in. The novel has interesting points to make about society, but they’re hidden in a fun steampunk Frankenstein story.

I don’t love This Monstrous Thing as much as I adore Lee’s later work. Alasdair and company fall a little flat after Monty, Percy, and Felicity. Lee may have improved, but it’s also possible that I simply prefer the lighter tone of the duology. This Monstrous Thing is darker in tone. It’s about the monstrousness of humanity, centers around the resurrection of the dead, and is a Frankenstein retelling. None of that exactly screams, “Happy fun times!” Still, it is a very good book.

I do have one major qualm about the book. With Frankenstein, Mary Shelley invented science fiction. The fact that a young woman created a new genre at the age of nineteen is amazing, and it’s particularly important considering that science fiction weirdly has a lot of male gatekeepers. Lee’s afterword, in which she talks about Mary Shelley at length, makes me feel a bit better about it, but it makes me uneasy that, in This Monstrous Thing, Mary betrays Alasdair and Oliver by telling their story without their permission. Writing Frankenstein is no longer Mary’s great triumph, let alone a feminist triumph. It is a betrayal, and the genius breakthrough comes from Alasdair, a white man. I expect Lee to give a voice to the voiceless in her novels, and I feel weird about the fact that Mary is relegated to the role of a vaguely antagonistic love interest. I don’t even like Frankenstein all that much and I think that Mary Shelley deserves better.

What’s the verdict?

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Mild qualms about Mary Shelley’s historical and literary significance notwithstanding, This Monstrous Thing is an interesting retelling that combines the resurrection and questions of morality from Frankenstein with a multifaceted steampunk world. Though it does not reach the heights of The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, This Monstrous Thing is a good example of Mackenzi Lee’s excellent blend of genres and compelling readability.

Report card:

Writing: A            Characters: B            Plot: B           Themes: A            Fun: A        Final: A

Supernatural 14×20 Review (Moriah)

SPN season 14

“Moriah” is quite the experience. It is a much better episode than a lot of the recent ones have been, and it has some nice character moments, some genuinely surprising twists, and an overlarge helping of suspense. It certainly doesn’t drag. But before we get into what does happen, let’s look at what doesn’t with the help of my predictions. That’s right. My predictions were bad.

Last week I said:

Since this is the last season finale that’s not the series finale, they’ll probably take the opportunity to have one final dark, dangerous cliffhanger. I’ve seen people predicting a double-whammy Winchester death, but I can’t see both of them dying and then Cas going to the Empty (because he has to go back to the Empty). That’s simply too many main character deaths in a row.

Well, so far so good. There was a dramatic cliffhanger, but both Winchesters are alive.

I also said:

I think it’s more likely that the Winchesters will manage to bring Jack back into the fold—possibly powerless but with a soul, thanks to Chuck—and with the whole family together and no major threats on the horizon, the Empty will come for Cas. It doesn’t introduce anything new, necessarily, but there’s only one season left and the Empty has been knocking around for long enough that it’s the logical big bad for the final season.

Hahahahaha. Nope.

I said:

Bobby’s attempt to kill Jack will have to be a bigger part of “Moriah” than it was of “Jack in the Box.” It will probably go sideways, which is what will lead to Dean trying to kill Jack, as seen in the promo.

Bobby was entirely MIA.

I said:

Dean isn’t stupid enough to go after Jack with a regular gun, which means one of three things: 1) the promo is misleading and Dean is poised to shoot somebody else, 2) Dean is distracting Jack so someone else can hit him with something more powerful, or 3) the Colt is somehow back in the picture.

I’m doing so badly that I’m counting it. It isn’t the Colt, but it is another superpowered gun. It’s basically the Colt.

I said that the show should have an obviously romantic moment for Dean and Cas so that is it established before the last season that that’s the direction it’s going. That doesn’t happen either. Jack cursed the world to be unable to lie but, of course, Cas and Dean don’t get the opportunity to interact much before Chuck undoes it. Fingers crossed that Supernatural goes for it next year and doesn’t become an embarrassing landmark for queerbaiting.

Since I’d seen pictures of Rob Benedict on set, I figured that Chuck would help Team Free Will against Jack. I said:

Maybe Chuck will take Jack away to hang with him and Amara far away in the land of Most Powerful Entities. I hope that’s not the case, because I’d miss Jack—I’ve become very attached to him—but it’s a possibility. Hopefully/probably Chuck will restore Jack’s soul.

This is so wrong it’s funny. Chuck is emphatically not helpful. He refuses to restore Jack’s soul and only helps with the possible fight because he thinks it would be entertaining. Jack dying was not on my radar at all, and I certainly didn’t think Chuck would do it.

In conclusion: my predictions sucked. The only accurate thing I said in  last week’s prediction section was this:

This prediction list is a mess. Definitely not my best work.

deancas awkward supernatural

On to the real review!

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The Red Scrolls of Magic (Book Review) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

red scrolls of magicThe Red Scrolls of Magic by Cassandra Clare and Wesley Chu is the first novel in The Eldest Curses, the latest series of Shadowhunters novels.

Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series is one of my all-time favorites. I’ve read the whole series many times, so whenever I remember how initially hesitant I was to read it, I laugh. I had seen it recommended pretty much everywhere I looked, but whenever I flipped through the first few pages in bookstores, I thought meh and set it back down. Eventually, I decided to bite the bullet and buy it anyway. Even then, I was lukewarm. I enjoyed the book, but I wasn’t sure if I wanted to keep reading. There were a few characters that I really liked, but they were such minor presences that I didn’t think it was worth continuing just for them.

Specifically, I loved Alec. Alec is a great character. He’s insecure with himself but fiercely loyal to his family. He takes his role as the big brother very, very seriously, and the way his complicated feelings towards himself affect the way he interacts with the world, his job as a Shadowhunter, the people he knows well, and those he is just meeting fascinated me. He is also one of the first gay characters I encountered. From the very start there was something about him that jumped off the page for me, but he is a very minor character in City of Bones, like, painfully minor. The fact that he—and Isabelle and Magnus, my other favorites—moves closer and closer to the center of the story as the series progresses is one of the main reasons that The Mortal Instruments went from being a pretty fun story to one of my favorite fantasy series.

 

When I found out that Clare had written a new book with Alec and Magnus in the leads, I wasn’t sure how to feel. My gut impulse was to be excited because, again, I love Alec and Magnus. That being said, I was worried. Clare’s last book, Queen of Air and Darkness, let me down. I love the first two books of The Dark Artifices, but I feel that the conclusion missed the mark in a big way. Coming off of that, I was terrified that The Red Scrolls of Magic would taint my love of Alec and Magnus.

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Supernatural 14×19 Review (Jack in the Box)

SPN season 14

The boys hold a nice funeral reception for Mary. Dean makes a heartfelt speech with Sam and Cas standing behind him (it’s a nice change from the many times in the past when Cas has been physically separated from the rest of the family in big group shots). Bobby makes an unnecessarily dramatic entrance by throwing an axe into someone’s head while arriving late. It was a wraith who had come to the funeral to gloat over Mary’s death (and to very pointedly not raise a glass to her memory), but still. Settle down, Bobbers.

For obvious reasons, the boys didn’t get deeply into the hows or whys of Mary’s death when all her friends are there. Side note: I say “all her friends” even though there are some people we could reasonably have expected to be there if this were real life—like Jody, who befriended Mary in season 12, and who would definitely be there for moral support for Sam and Dean—but who are actual actors who require a salary that wouldn’t be worth it for a cameo appearance.

Although… Bobby’s presence in this episode is more for future set-up than for immediate payoff; he was featured in the preview for this episode, which led me to believe—incorrectly—that his quest to kill Jack would play more prominently into the plot than it actually does.

supernatural cas dean sam bobby
I know it isn’t the same Bobby, but it’s still kinda fun to have this crew back.

After the rest of the crowd leaves, Sam, Bobby, and Cas sit down to talk about Jack. Within a few seconds, it becomes obvious that they don’t agree on what needs to be done.

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Genuine Fraud (Book Review) ⭐⭐⭐⭐

genuine fraudRight after explaining that I don’t usually like thrillers all that much, I read another thriller. This time, at least, I went in knowing that I like the author. I read E. Lockhart’s novel We Were Liars last year and enjoyed it. I’d heard good things about Genuine Fraud as well, so I figured I’d give it a shot.

What’s it about?

There’s no way I could summarize this novel without either making it sound bad or spoiling it, so here’s the official cover from the cover-flap:

Imogen is a runaway heiress, an orphan, a cook, and a cheat.
Jule is a fighter, a social chameleon, and an athlete.
An intense friendship. A disappearance. A murder, or maybe two.
A bad romance, or maybe three.
Blunt objects, disguises, blood, and chocolate. The American dream, superheroes, spies, and villains.
A girl who refuses to give people what they want from her.
A girl who refuses to be the person she once was.

What’d I think?

Genuine Fraud is an experience. I was unsure about the novel at first. When I first started, I had a hard time orienting myself around who the characters were and what exactly was going on. That’s completely intentional. As the story unfolds, I found myself getting sucked deeper and deeper in until I couldn’t put the book down.

A lot of this is due to the writing, specifically the organization. Roughly speaking, we start at the end and work backwards. There are a few chapters that do not strictly fit in that order—namely, the story loops back around to the end right at the very finish (the first chapter you read is chapter 18; the last chapter you read is chapter 19)—but for the most part the story is about peeling back the many layers of deceptions to find out how protagonist Jule got to the place she’s in.

The way Jule got to the place she’s in is not what I expected. Genuine Fraud is a wild ride. I don’t want to get too deeply into the specifics, because revealing even the most basic plot points in this book would spoil it, but I can say that the whole novel is one WTF moment after another. It’s genuinely fun, genuinely scary, and genuinely one-of-a-kind.

What’s the verdict?

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Lockhart is a really fun writer. Her books—or, at least, the ones that I’ve read—are bonkers and they make the readers doubt everything they’ve read. There is a lot of reread potential for Genuine Fraud; it’s always interesting to go back with the full perspective, but the perspective changes so much in Genuine Fraud that it would be fascinating. There’s something very exciting and different about a story that makes a mystery out of what happens at the beginning rather than what happens at the end (or what happens next). It’s not a perfect book—I wish we’d taken one step farther back, because I felt there were still a few gaps that could’ve been filled—but overall I really enjoyed Genuine Fraud and would recommend it to anyone who likes thrillers or mysteries. Report card: A

I’m giving star ratings a test run. Back when I first started reviews, I said that I don’t love star ratings (I still don’t) but I do like how visual they are, and I figured that it’s probably a good idea to give an indication whether a review is going to be positive or negative right off the bat. For the most part an A is five stars, a B four stars, a C three stars, etc. but that won’t always be true.

Sadie (Book Review)

sadieHere’s another one to add to the list of highly hyped books that didn’t do much for me. I kept hearing about Sadie by Courtney Summers, so I decided to give it a shot even though I don’t usually read thrillers. I’m the sort of reader who will read anything that comes with a good recommendation. Thrillers aren’t my favorite, but I’m certainly not opposed to reading the good ones (like the rest of the world, I loved Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train). Unfortunately, for me, Sadie doesn’t live up to its reputation.

What’s it about?

Sadie’s younger sister Mattie was brutally murdered, and now Sadie is missing, too. When Sadie and Mattie’s story comes to the attention of West McCray, a popular radio host, West starts his own investigation. Sadie alternates between Sadie’s first person POV, in which she chases after Mattie’s killer, and transcripts from West’s podcast The Girls, in which he chases after Sadie.

What’d I think?

Sadie is actually a decent book. It just never fully grabbed my attention. I think the main problem is that the two storylines are too similar. Instead of using both POVs to reveal a wider picture, the novel repeats itself. West discovers Sadie’s trail in almost exactly the same order as Sadie leaves it. Very rarely do we learn anything new with West; it is almost all retreading old ground that we’ve already seen through Sadie’s eyes.

And yet, strangely, West’s side of the story is more compelling. It shouldn’t be that way. Sadie is heartbroken, deeply traumatized, and bent on revenge. West is interested but as impartial as it’s possible to get with a story like this. Despite this, for some reason, Sadie’s voice falls flat for me. I could never fully feel what she was feeling. Somehow, hearing her story secondhand hit me harder. Maybe it’s because Sadie’s narration tries so hard. The insights into Sadie’s fractured psyche feel forced, and I found it much easier to empathize with a little distance.

It’s also helpful that West interacts with more with the major presences in Sadie’s life, and Sadie’s interactions—almost without exception—boil down to either threatening someone with a knife or inexplicably starting a flirtation. I don’t know. Neither Sadie the novel and Sadie the character particularly speaks to me.

What’s the verdict?

⭐⭐⭐

Sadie is a pretty good book. It deals with some extremely dark subject matter—abuse, murder, pedophilia, revenge, violence—so it’s not a cheery read. Although the writing is pretty good, as a whole the novel repeats itself too much, and I closed the book feeling unfulfilled by the ending. Thrillers aren’t my genre of choice (though I do like them occasionally), and that may have contributed to my lackluster response to a novel that has so many fans, but in the end Sadie did nothing to change my opinion of the genre in general. Report card: C

Ser Davos is the Prince Who Was Promised (Game of Thrones Theory)

Since Game of Thrones is airing in a few hours and the window to make predictions in advance is closing, I thought I’d toss this one out there, especially since I haven’t seen anyone else say it: the Prince Who Was Promised is Ser Davos Seaworth.

game of thrones davos
Or, as I like to call him, Butt-Beard

I’m not even 100% onboard with myself on this one, but I think it is important to have a theory out there that doesn’t center around Jon, Dany, or a child between them (please, please let that annoyingly prevalent theory be off-base).

In any case, here’s my case (briefly):

  • We’re first introduced to Melisandre and the Lord of Light in 2×01, “The North Remembers.” She is shown preaching about the one who will defeat the darkness (who is called “The Prince Who Was Promised,” “Azor Ahai,” and other similar names). She’s talking about Stannis, but the camera cuts to Davos first and then Stannis. Since Stannis is, as of that point, a far more important character (not to mention the one the scene is ostensibly about), it’s an odd cinematographic choice.

melisandre game of thrones

  • Davos survives the Battle of the Blackwater after getting blown off his ship by the wildfire and stranded on a tiny island. It’s not as dramatic as being actually raised from the dead, but still. Usually when characters survive near-death experiences, it’s because they still have something to do. So far, Davos hasn’t done much.
  • When Melisandre serves Stannis, Davos is Stannis’ right hand man. He’s always there. When Melisandre changes her mind about Stannis and turns her attention to Jon Snow, guess who’s there? Oh, yeah. It’s Davos. Davos is always right next to whomever Melisandre has picked as Azor Ahai.
  • Also, in his own right, Davos is pretty pointless. Standing next to someone doing important things has been his MO from the start. He was a moral compass for Stannis (and Stannis never actually listened to him) and now he’s Jon’s hype man; I don’t think there is a single other character, alive or dead, who has affected the plot so little. Certainly not one with this much screen-time. It’s about time Davos actually, you know, did something.
  • Melisandre sees great victory for Stannis in battle against the Boltons. When it comes to it, though, Stannis both loses the battle and dies in it. Guess what happens between Melisandre’s prediction and the battle itself. Yep, Davos leaves. Now, you could argue that technically Davos was still under Stannis’ banner and Stannis sent him away… but Stannis sent Davos away so he could sacrifice Shireen without Davos objecting, and it’s clear that Shireen’s sacrifice is the end of Davos’ belief in Stannis. There is no coming back from that. The audience knows before Davos does that Stannis has gone too far for Davos to keep following him, but it’s still clear that Shireen’s death is the line.
  • Melisandre wasn’t going to bring Jon Snow back to life until Davos begged her to. She didn’t think it could be done. Jon’s back because Davos thought the world needed him. Without Davos, there would be no more Jon Snow. Melisandre thinks Jon was able to come back because the Lord of Light needs him, but what if he’s back because the Lord of Light needs Davos and Davos needs Jon?
  • Not to mention… everyone has predicted that Jon, Dany, or Beric is Azor Ahai. Game of Thrones is rarely as obvious as that. It’s not really exciting storytelling if everyone in the audience and everyone in the show agrees that something is true and then it’s true. There’s got to be some surprise.
  • There’s also been a lot of focus on Davos being lowborn. The monarchy and the focus on the line of succession haven’t exactly been great for Westeros, so it’d be kind of cool if the Prince Who Was Promised were not royalty by birth. Dany and Jon are already important and already royal. They’re already integral to how this whole thing shakes down. It seems redundant to give extra gravitas to one of them when they’re already so full of heroic gravitas.

Sooo… what do you think about my theory?

tyrion game of thrones i drink and i know things


gif credits here and here

 

Supernatural 14×18 Review (Absence)

SPN season 14

As per the laws of storytelling, it was only a matter of time before Sam and Dean’s “get out of jail free card” got removed from their deck. Just as Cas has been routinely de-powered in order to stay a presence on the show without nullifying all potential conflicts, Jack cannot remain an asset for Team Free Will. It;s even more important for the writers to find a way to deal with Jack’s powers, because—as has been reiterated many, many times—Jack is literally the most powerful being around; Cas is powerful, but he’s never been the most powerful. Sam and Dean are right in saying that he’s made their jobs considerable easier recently. He wiped Michael off the board, and he even took care of Nick and Lucifer in one fell swoop.

Which reminds me… can we take a moment to give Jack a round of applause for taking care of Nick and Lucifer in one fell swoop? Because that was long overdue.

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