“Don’t talk about school.” For a second, I imagine going back as someone other than Jason Chase’s girlfriend. My heart starts to race. Who would that girl even be?
This book would have been more appropriately titled Overly Attached Lainey.
Love is a battlefield! What could be better than an epic strategy of using Sun Tzu's The Art of War to get back a lost boyfriend? How could one possibly go wrong? For starters, have the main character be the most pathetic, clingy, desperate 17-year old in the whole world whose only identity in life is that of being someone's girlfriend. And then have her refer to said master, Sun Tzu, as "Dead Chinese Warlord" for the rest of the book.
Sun. Motherfucking. Tzu. It's not a hard freaking name. It's silly, it's disrespectful. It's like me calling George Washington as that Dead White General. Sure, you can do it, sure, it's technically correct, it's entirely your prerogative to call the man who wrote one of the most famous manuals on war Dead Chinese Warlord. Just don't expect me to fucking like you for it.
This book had quite a few faults, in my opinion:
- The main character is the equivalent of the Overly Attached (ex)Girlfriend meme. She has no personality. Her only identity is in being so-and-so's girlfriend, in being so-and-so's friend and shadow
- The book is about 100 pages too long. Almost nothing relevant happens in the second half of the book.
- It mocks alternative lifestyles and makes a lot of jokes about whores and sluts
- There's no true female friendship. Her one awesome friend tends to disappear until it's convenient for her to appear again. Her other best friend is almost nonexistent for most of the book, and only serves as a bitchy, cruel, slutty foil to the angelic (if desperate) main character
- There's a love triangle that is expected, but is completely lacking in chemistry, as in all of a sudden OMG I WANT TO KISS HIM
It’s not like my whole world ends every day.”
Micah glances back at me as he slides out of the office. His face twists into a mixture of sympathy and disgust. “That douche bag was your whole world? I feel sorry for you.”
Glinda Elaine Mitchell (aka Lainey) is a 17-year old whose entire world revolves around her boyfriend of 2.5 years, Jason Chase. At the beginning of summer, Lainie gets unceremoniously dumped by Jason in front of her family's coffee shop.
Sobs force their way out of my throat. I feel like I’m trapped in a disaster movie where everything is shriveling into darkness and ash. Sunflowers are being uprooted. Puppies are being trampled. Whole cities are crumbling to dust.
Lainie's entire identity rests on being Jason's girlfriend. She is a school soccer superstar, she's good at school, she's one of the more popular kids---but Lainie feels she is nothing without Jason. Lainie can't stop thinking about him, worrying about him, making up imaginary scenarios about him.
A few days later, I have a dream about Jason lying in a ditch, calling out to me for help. It’s four o’clock in the morning when I sit up suddenly in my bed, positive he’s in some kind of trouble. I should call him. I mean, what if he’s really hurt somewhere?
Thankfully, she's got a good friend, Bianca (sometimes "Bee") who tries to give Lainey
“Don’t do it, Lainey.” Bee yawns. “Nothing says pathetic like a middle-of-the-night text message.”
With Jason, life was bliss. Lainey is nothing without Jason.
“It’s more than that, though. I can’t imagine my life without him. It’s like I try, but nothing makes sense. Everything was perfect, and now everything is crap. I need him back. I need everything to go back to the way it was.”
Lainey goes crazy when Jason doesn't answer her texts. Because that's sort of the point in breaking up with someone.
“You know what? I’m going to text him.” Before Bianca can stop me, I’ve got my phone out and I’m rattling off an “Is this about your dad?” text.
Thirty seconds. Forty-five seconds. A minute. There is no way Jason is not going to answer me. He always answers me.
Lainey wants to talk to Jason by any means necessary. Including stalking him.
"I know he has a ride-along shift so I can catch him if I go by his dad’s place in the morning.”
Bee leans against a tree and starts stretching her hamstrings. “You don’t think that’s a little stalkerish?”
“I think he shouldn’t have given me his schedule for all of June if he was going to break up with me at the beginning of the month,” I say.
And despite all this, she doesn't think she's clingy. Is she?
"You need to stay away from him at least for a few days, give him space, don’t be clingy.”
“I am not clingy,” I snap. At least I don’t think I am. Crap, now I’m having doubts about everything.
Bianca tells Lainey to stay away from Jason. It's a good strategy. Give him some time to think things through, miss her, want to get back together with her. Lainey can't stay awau because Jason is her life.
A strangled sound works its way out of my throat. “Three weeks without any contact from Jason would seem like several lifetimes. No way."
Because of her breakup with Jason, her summer is absolutely ruined. Hell, the next year is ruined.
The only thing that’s kept me sane without Jason the past couple of weeks is all the plotting and scheming in the name of getting him back. I try to imagine what my life would be like if it doesn’t happen. Days spent watching him from afar in the hallways, agonizing about whether to run toward him or away from him. Nights at home alone, wondering who he’s with.
Finally, Bianca has a brilliant idea. All's fair in love and war, therefore, it's perfectly reasonable to use war strategy to win Jason back. Enter Sun Tzu's The Art of War. She will use the book and the strategy within and recapture the enemy---Jason.
“It’s by a Chinese military strategist named Sun Tzu. It’s mostly about war, but people have applied it to all kinds of scenarios—business, law, college, sports, relationships.”
I squint at the cover. It figures brilliant Bianca would turn to some dusty schoolbook for advice. “You think a dead Chinese guy can help me get Jason back?”
Yeah, apparently dead Chinese dude can help. She employs the strategy, while finding an unexpected ally in Micah the mohawked bad-boy who works in the coffeeshop. He wants something, too. Micah has recently been dumped by his girlfriend, Amber. They're going to pretend to date each other to get their exes back.
And they absolutely have to succeed, because Lainey can't imagine a future without Jason.
How am I supposed to explain to him I won’t be okay if our plan doesn’t work? That without Jason I’m not even sure who I’d be anymore.
But in the process, will Lainey fall for Micah instead?! Fighting off the Mongol hordes is easy by comparison to the battles of the heart!111!1 Har har har.
There’s nothing wrong with my life. Well, there won’t be once I win Jason back. Most girls would trade places with me in an instant.
Pathetic. Desperate. Sad. Lifeless. No self-esteem. Her entire fucking identity is caught up Jaaaaaaaaaason, and this book was so painful to read. For half of the book, it's JASON JASON JASON then all of a sudden, BOOM, Jason, Micah, Jason. Yay.
Lainey is annoying. She doesn't stop talking. She's the kind of girl who "talks nonstop" and feels the need to constantly fill in the silence. People fall for her, and I just don't get it. This is one of those cases where I look at Jason who dumped her, and I roll my eyes and give him an understanding nod, saying "You got yourself out of here just in time, man, that chick is craaaaaazy."
She is a good student, she is a soccer star. She is awesome! And yet Lainey sees no other identity to herself besides that of being a popular guy's girlfriend. She makes fun of people. She mocks the goth/punk/alt kids at the coffee shop and at the other venues she goes to. She constantly calls people hookers and sluts, and she thinks the sun shines out of Jason's anal sphincter.
JASON JASON JASON:
I purse my lips. “Jason isn’t a dick. He just found some other girl he likes better.”
Micah runs a hand through his mohawk. The humidity has mostly flattened it. “And then he dumped you at your job, in front of your friends.”
“He probably figured it was the one place I wouldn’t make a scene.”
Oh, do tell me again how Jason's not a dick? Jason is a fucking loser. He's a handsome guy, but he's a douchebag. He starts sleeping around the second after they break up. He ditches class. He's a terrible student. But Jason could be a serial killer and Lainey would still excuse him for it.
Jason is a bad-boy poster child. Cheats on tests. Skips class whenever he wants as long as it’s not soccer season.” She pauses. “Gets caught with weed in his locker?”
Okay, so maybe Jason is a little rough around the edges, but it makes him more interesting than someone who follows all the rules.
And knowing that Jason is such a motherfucking douchebag just makes me despise Lainey even more for being such a doormat for him.
“You’re like this punk-rock baker,” I say, shaking my head.
While Lainey is busy trying to win back the elusive Jason, she's finding time to fall in love with Micah. Micah, the asshole mohawk-wearing-chain-smoking-juvie-convict-coffeeshop-hipster-pierced-gangsta who listens to music that sounds like...
"...a bunch of cats being crushed by a steamroller"
Who, naturally, has a heart of gold. Their attraction is so completely lacking in chemistry, and I cannot understand Micah's attraction to Lainey unless it's one of those opposites-attract thing, and even then, WHY, MAN?!
“You’re about as alternative as skim milk, Lainey.”
She's clearly obsessed with a guy who's no good. She's an idiot who has no appreciation for anything that's not mainstream pop culture. She's an idiot, and their attraction to each other is so completely out of the blue for me.
And Micah? He's not exactly Prince Charming, he's a douche in disguise.
“Does he think I’m a hooker?”
Micah’s eyes flick momentarily to the hem of my miniskirt. He coughs into his hand. “Why would he think that?”
HOOKER HOOKER HOOKER: There is a whole lot of slut jokes in this book, and I found it completely unacceptable. People casually refer to each other as whores, sluts, hookers, they make references to pimp. Lainey calls people sluts, and in turn, is called a slut for the way she dresses.
“Nice dress, Lainey.” She rolls her tongue ring across her lower lip. “How are things on the corner?”
Final notes: The book mocks people with alternative, goth lifestyles. One of her coworkers is shamed by Lainey for her baldness (a choice). People with an interest in dominatrix/punk lifestyles are mocked and they refer to everything in submissive/dominant vocabulary. Pretty girls are assumed to have fake boobs and hair. It's altogether an offensive portrayal of anything that's not main-stream pretty.
This book is like Jane Austen's works in the way that a genetically modified out-of-season greenhouse tomato is like a cherry. Sure, they're technically both classified as fruits. They're red. They're juicy-looking. They're attractive. The difference is that when you bite into said GMO tomato, it tastes like mealy, mushy, tasteless crap. This book is the equivalent of a limp, tasteless slice of tomato on a McDonalds' hamburger. Why bother? You're just going to pick it off and throw it away anyway. Or maybe that's just me. I hate raw tomatoes.
This book tries way too hard. The main character is a doormat. Her love interest is not so much Darcy as he is Jane Eyre's Rochester (yes, I know they're not by the same author) played by a 9th grade drama student with aspirations of playing Heathcliff, whose inspiration for Heathcliff (yes, I know that's yet another book) comes from The Simpsons' Ned Flander's portrayal of Stanley Kowalski in A Streetcar Named Desire (I KNOW THEY'RE ALL BY DIFFERENT AUTHORS, THAT'S NOT THE FREAKING POINT!).
Sorry for all the literary references. Not really. I'm just in a fucking bad mood right now after reading this book and I don't care.
- The characters are extremely similar to Austen's, with none of the complexity, resulting in characters that are predictable and dull
- The language is both pretentious (Shew! Shewed! Chuze! Chusing!) and inconsistent
- There is no sisterly love. Expecting Elizabeth and Jane? Don't hold your breath. It's more like Fanny and Lydia (I KNOW THEY'RE NOT IN THE SAME BOOK1!111).
- There's no fucking point to the magic! None! It's literally fucking window decoration! There's no explanation! Poof! Magic sparkly dragon fairy dust everywhere and hidden glamour strings being pulled out of thin air like a used fucking tampon string within some invisible female unicorn! What's the fucking point?!
The Plot: We're in Jane Austen-era England! Hooray! Our main character is named Jane! Hooray! She has a sister, a beautiful beautiful beautiful sister named Melody!---the loveliest maiden in the entire fucking shire (the English shire, not the Middle Earth Shire, although it would be pretty epic if there were an Elven P&P, I would watch the shit out of that).
Jane has a doting father and a fussy mother who does nothing but whine and gossip and worry about her daughters' marriage prospects. I'm shocked!! Their estate is entailed in favor of a male relative. Such wonder! Such surprise! A new neighbor has moved in, a Mr. Dunkirk!! No! He is a kind, handsome young gentleman, reserved and polite. I never! He has a young, very shy little sister named Elizabeth (16 years old and not yet debuted! Oh, my!) whom he dotes on. Said beloved sister is so beloved, so protected, because she HAS A DARK, DEEP SECRET! DUN DUN DUUUUUUUUUUN! I WONDER WHAT THE SECRET COULD BE?!
There's a young, charming, handsome military man named Livingston who gambles and flirts, who might or might not have a dark, dastardly, wascally wabbit secret! There's a dark, brooding man named Mr. Vincent who does nothing but sneer---ok, he might belong in Jane Eyre instead, if our beloved Rochester has the personality of a moldy potato and none of the good looks, and you might recall Rochester was never much of a looker to begin with!
It depends on which BBC production you watch, of course, but I'd rather not give the dude in this book the benefit of the doubt.
So, the love fuckery, I mean, you could call it a love triangle, but again, I'm in a pretty fucking foul mood right now. You would be too if you read 300 pages of nothing!
Jane admires Captain Livingston while secretly in love with Mr. Dunkirk who admires Jane but shows all the attention to Melody, who flirts with Dunkirk and flirts with Mr. Vincent and flirts with Captain Livingston (hell, anything with a penis who's not her father---oh, right, it's a Regency. I'm not supposed to say the word penis. Or tampon now that I think about it. Or curse. Crap!). Vincent doesn't give a fuck about anyone and snarls at Jane while showing (shewing!!!!) attention upon Melody. Livingston is flirting with Melody while choosing (chusing?! chuzing?! Make up your mind, fucking book!) to bestow his attention upon another SECRET YOUNG LADY WHO HE REALLY SHOULDN'T BE SEEING. I wonder who the mysterious very young, very off limits lady could be!!!11
And in the middle of all this, magic (glamour) is used to decorate everything and to make things pretty and sparkly and bright.
Ach, mein head!
The Fucking Language: Be fucking consistent. It tries too fucking hard. This book tries to use the "antiquated" language of Austen days, which would work EXCEPT IT ONLY DOES SO WHEN IT FEELS LIKE IT.
Shew, shewed, shewn. AKA Show, showed, shown. Here written as shewn for the entire fucking book except when the author forgets to do so. SHEW SHEW SHEW SHEW. GAAAAAAAAAAAH. IT PISSED ME OFF SO MUCH.
- "Beth was out of sorts, however, and the enthusiasm she had shown before dinner seemed to be smothered under a layer of melancholy" vs "They were shewn to the library, with Jane’s mother accompanying them as chaperon."
Chuse! "Choose" is written as chuse, chuse, chuuuuuuuuuuse! except when the modern form is used. "She would not have chosen to meet him next in this manner."
Teaze! Surprize! Really, what was the fucking point?! The ZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZZ makes it so much more fucking authentic?! No! It just gives me a fucking headache. “You may teaze me, but Mr. Vincent’s praise is more valuable for being rare.”. "To her surprize, Mr. Vincent had come to call."
Haphazard fucking use of British spelling vs. American. Sometimes things are spelled with an "ou" wherein the US, we would simply spell it with an "o." The SAME FUCKING WORDS are spelled differently in the book. Honor and honour. Apologize is given the American spelling instead of properly spelled in the British way as apologise. Favorite is used instead of favourite. There is no ends to the inconsistencies within this book.
The Characters: Straight out of Austen, with none of the details of personality that makes the original a classic.
One could call Jane an P&P's Elizabeth Bennett wannabe, but I prefer to call her a motherfucking doormat. Oh, I know perfectly well that in that age, women were expected to be docile. There is such a thing as being gentle-natured without laying yourself flat on the floor and asking people to walk all over you. Elizabeth and Emma are good examples of how a Regency woman can be strong-minded while not being a fucking incompetent nincompoop who does nothing but mope and whine all freaking day.
Jane is a martyr. She is plaaaaaaaain. Plain Jane. Beloved by her daddy, but plain and a spinster, nonetheless. She loves Dunkirk. She's unwilling to do anything to get him. She's half torn by his attraction to him and her desire to do good by her sister, who is courting him, so in essence, we get a lot of internal wangst and emo and not a whole lot of action at all. Jane is really, really dull. I would say that's a consequence of her name, but that would be an insult to all the glorious Janes worldwide. Including our revered Jane Austen herself.
Misters before Sisters:
Melody stopped and tossed her head, eyes sparkling. “And I thought better of you. Jealousy is unbecoming on you, dear sister. It is not my fault he finds me beautiful.”
You want P&P's Jane and Elizabeth's loving, sisterly relationship?! Fuck you, says this book! Melody is more like Kitty, and Jane is, well, P&P's Jane, without the beauty, without the personality, without the sweetness, with all of the inaction with a truckload of internal pettiness piled onto her. Why do we like Jane again? Oh, she's the main character. Well, alrighty then!
Jane resents her sister for her beauty. She secretly relishes Melody's lack of intelligence compared to her own. She secretly wants Melody out of the way so she can date---pardon me, la! Dreamy Dunkirk!
She had not hitherto allowed herself to hope, but if Melody’s affections had truly transferred to Captain Livingston, that would remove the most immediate obstacle to Mr. Dunkirk. It left her plainness and her awkward carriage, but to a man such as him, might these things be overlooked in favour of her talent?
Melody is beautiful, but conniving and bitchy. She is envious of Jane for her talents in glaaaaaaaaaamour, and constantly belittles Jane every chance she's got. In front of all the boys! That's just mean. Melody is deceptive, bitchy, shallow.
Though she knew that she should aid her sister in making a match, Jane could not stomach the games that Melody played.
There's also a "sick" scene that was just pathetic. Melody is a combination of P&P's Lydia and Kitty. Kitty's shallowness and brainlessness and Lydia's compulsion and idiocy. And like Lydia, it's only too easy to see where Melody will end up.
The Rooooomance: Jane is in love with Dunkirk, but there's kind-of-not-really a love triangle because we know all along who shes's going to end up with. This man, we'll call him Mr. V, isn't quite Darcy. Darcy is subtle. Darcy is polite. Darcy is all that a gentleman should be. Mr. V..."His jaw clenched and he seemed about to say something, but the moment passed and his anger subsided," "made his sneer deepen," "smirked," "his teeth bared as he snapped his reply." More like a hound of the Baskervilles than a man. Mr. V is as subtle as a brick to the face.
The Magic: What's the fucking point?! There's nothing to the magic. It comes from hidden strings in the air. people don't have to be born with it. It's like motherfucking embroidery, only men can do it too. And with all the maaaaaaaaaagical magic, it's being used for nothing but motherfucking party decoration.
There, a combination of glamour and paint contrived to turn the hall into a nymph’s grove. Though yet incomplete, the illusion teazed the spectators with scents of wild-flowers and the spicy fragrance of ferns. Just out of sight, a brook babbled.
Motherfucking OOOOOOOOOOOOH! What's the point?! Where did all this magic come from? If it's so powerful, why aren't more people using it? Why is it completely optional? If the strings are so fucking invisible, how come anyone can see them and pull on them if they want to? Isn't it completely contradictory to have invisible glamour strings that you can see and pull and manipulate?! Can I please have some freaking explanations?!
Ugh. What a waste of time. I'm going to go reread Mr. Darcy Takes a Wife. Darcy and Elizabeth fucking each other like rabbits had more depth than this book.
Over the next hour and a half, twenty more dragon names cross my computer screen. All ignore me.
“Why aren’t they answering?” I ask Lester.
I scan the script for what I’m supposed to do but can’t find anything that applies...the section near page bottom—For arrogant or annoyed dragons. “Please help me. I am weak. Without your help, the invisible men will...”
DNF at 58% because there's just no point in continuing. This is the worst book about dragons that I've ever read.
I still have enough to rage about, as it is. This is a book about a girl who --for lack of a better description-- becomes a dragon telemarketer, at least, that's where I stopped.
This book is one of the most plotless, nonsensical books I've ever read. Dragons? DRAGONS? My left shoe has more personality than these dragons. I think I gave this book a fair shot. If there's absolutely crap world building by this point, then why should I continue?
This is a book about dragons vs. the government, sprinkled with reality TV, catfights, whore-name-calling, and a magical makeover. There was no world building, a terrible main character who SCREAMS AND YELLS AND OMG DADDY FUCK YOU I HATE YOU and YOU'RE A STUPID LITTLE SNOT, DUMB FUCKING LITTLE BROTHER with all the signs of being a special chosen snowflake later on for no apparent. It's all telling and no showing and as emotionless as Nicole Kidman's face after a Botox binge. I've been warned that there's slut shaming (thankfully, I didn't get to that part, but I stopped right after a catfight, so I've no doubt there was going to be some unholy feminist rage later on had I continued further).
The writing was unremarkable, so much so that I took almost no notes on this book. There was nothing that stood out. As such, you're going to have to endure a review with remarkably few quotations from the book (for me, that is).
The Summary: 15 years ago, dragons came to earth. They're terrifying, destructive monsters, killing over 80 million people. For some fucking reasons, we conquered them. The dragons, Reds, Blues, Greens in color, are now sent to, like, dragon zoos. No idea what happened to the rest of the world, or the rest of the US, because we're living one military city, Mason-Kline, and it is as if nothing else exists outside of it.
Melissa Callahan is a stupid teenager who does stupid things. When we start the book, she and her friends have broken into a dragon compound (where's the motherfucking guards?!) and taken some stupid Facebook frat boy/douchebag style photo, posing on top of a Blue dragon (respect, yo!). A hot boy appears, says something mysterious to her. She hears a mysterious dragon voice in her head! Boy disappears. Melissa's like "Huh."
Her dad finds the stupid photo of her mounting the poor sleeping dragon. Melissa gets into trouble. She flips her dad off, she yells at her dad, she yells at her brother. Her brother runs off in tears. All of a sudden, there are dragons eeeeeeeveryfucking where, breathing fire and shit on people. The military comes in, they subdue the dragons, but not before the dragons do some major damage. The dragons carry her off to some kind of dragon camp. Hot boy is there. He tells her that dragons are really nice people, they just want to live in peace. They talk a lot. Melissa still thinks the dragons are murderers. They talk some more, and I don't know what the fuck they talk about because I can't remember a single fucking thing about their fucking conversations.
Melissa gets captured somehow. She, for some fucking reason, gets a makeover where she turns into a blond beauty. There was no point to this, because she gets sent to some kind of rehabilitation camp with a bunch of catty girls who call each other "whores," where she pretty much uses her TELEPATHY MAGIC SPARKLY UNICORN POWER to tune in to dragon radio and call dragons to recruit/trick them as needed.
Lester hands me a different call script. A single page with two paragraphs of text. One for introduction, one for rebuttal. Only one fill-in-the-blank (my alias) and one handwritten note (Growl as you speak).
“Bryzmon, my name is Christina Grace, I am a member of the Diocletians,” I say, adding a throaty rumble to my words. “Join us or die.”
The Green responds immediately in a guttural voice that spikes a shiver through me. I will enjoy sucking the skin from your roasted body, human. His call frequency updates to 98.667 iGHz.
The rebuttal section—When the dragon threatens to devour you—is simple. “Join us and you can eat well every day without fear of—”
Where's the fucking world building?!: As I said, 15 years ago, dragons came to earth. I don't know what the fuck happened, apparently, neither do the dragons. They're destructive, they killed over 80 million people (that's 1/4 of the current US population) before they were stopped. How were they stopped? They can't see the color black, but how were these dragons stopped? What happened to the rest of the US? Why are the dragons confined? Why aren't they locked up or completely destroyed, instead of being in research zoos. Why are they left completely alone otherwise? Why are they so poorly secured that a bunch of drunk teenagers can break into a dragon holding area?!
These dragons have killed 80 fucking million people! Why aren't we more careful with them?!
80 million people have died! What happened to the rest of the world?! What happened to the government? Why are we living in a military town? Why is the fucking military town so poorly secured that it takes one little dragon attack to demolish the whole town. IT'S A MILITARY TOWN. IT'S SUPPOSED TO BE MORE SECURE.
The dragons breathe fire! They breathe ice! Why are they so fucking docile all of a sudden after HAVING KILLED 80 MILLION PEOPLE? Why are they allowing themselves to be imprisoned with their full powers intact AFTER HAVING KILLED 80 MILLION PEOPLE? Why are we even giving them a chance AFTER THEY KILLED 80 MILLION PEOPLE? How many fucking dragons are left on earth anyway?! We don't know anything! What kind of weapons did we develop that's so special and awesome to defeat the kind of fire-breathing, smoke-spewing dragons THAT KILLED 80 MILLION PEOPLE?
They're like cuddly happy warm little carebears happy to talk to telepathic humans who are on their side. The humans who befriend and talk telepathically to these dragons aren't normal people, they're fucking dragon fanboys. Furthermore, these dragons are tremendously fucking boring. They don't say anything of importance. They don't remember anything. They're pretty much useless, which makes me wonder HOW THE FUCK DID THEY KILL 80 MILLION PEOPLE?!
From what I read, there were no point to the dragon colors. They might as well be like brown or golden puppies, because despite the distinguishing colors, there were little difference between them. There was no dragon lore, since the dragons don't remember anything about where they came from.
Don't get me wrong, I love dragons! I've loved dragons ever since I was a child. If you're going to give me a book about dragons, don't make them boring! Make them destructive, sure. Make them bloodthirsty, cruel, demonic. Awesome! Don't make them boring! Pokémons are cuter and more interesting than these creatures. That's just a fucking travesty.
All of a sudden, we have these reality TV shows where dragons are hunted. The guys who hunt them are celebrities, like those in Dog, the Bounty Hunter. REALITY SHOWS, WHAT THE FUCK?! It's been 5 years since the war against the dragons ended. 80 MILLION PEOPLE DIED. It's like having a reality show about hunting the Taliban after 9/11. It's a fucking dumb idea, and you can't tell me that this sort of shit would fly in an alternate universe.
Where's the mourning? Where's the emotion? All the emotions in this book is ANGER ANGER ANGER ANGER KILL THE DRAGONS UGLY DESTRUCTIVE ASSHOLES versus the insurgent OMG MAGICAL HAPPY BEAUTIFUL LORD MASTER DRAGONS. Where's the wonder? Where's the history? Is there any sort of introspection about the legend of the dragons in our mythology and lore versus the cold, hard reality at all?
The dragons can talk. They might as well have been mute. They're all telling and no showing, because there was nothing to them. They're like lions who have been bred and raised within a zoo. Powerful potential. Interesting to look at. No personality. No complexity. They eat. They breed. They get fawned over. Oohed and aahed by the humans with twinkles in their eyes who have conveniently forgotten that THESE DRAGONS HAVE KILLED 80 MILLION PEOPLE.
Roar about us dragons, roar about your god, roar at yourself if you must, roar as loud and long as you can until there is nothing left to roar about. Send all the badness away.
^ Says the dragon. What the FUCK does that even mean? So this is the equivalent of dragony purple prose.
The Makeover: What the fuck?!
I thought I recognized the girl in the mirror before, but this one I’ve never seen. Her hair’s blond and falls in glorious curls around her shoulders. Eyebrows are also dyed, what remains of them. Smoky eye shadow. Enough foundation to fill a grave. Skin a shade between gold and bronze. Midnight-red lipstick to offset the silver circlet nestled in her hair.
After Melissa is captured and imprisoned and given crappy food and put into solitary confinement with a single nasty toilet that doesn't flush...all of a sudden, she gets a fucking makeover. And then given some kind of...I want to say Hunger Game-esque pin? Is that where this book is headed? I don't know, I don't care.
I was confused as fuck, and I'm still confused as fuck. Without any ceremony, she's thrown in front of a camera. It's a reality show. They're going to make a documentary out of her. They put her underaged brother on camera. They're filming everything. It's the dumbest fucking thing in the world.
When [my father]’s past the fire pit, I give him the finger, turn around, and march right up Dragon Hill.
“Watch your language, missy.”
“Bullshit, bullshit, bull—”
Melissa is a little snotty, bratty, shrieking, perpetually unhappy and angry bitch. I hate using the word bitch, I really do. I hate a word that specifically targets a girl or a woman as petty, snippy, perpetually angry, ball-breaking for no reason at all, but it is so perfectly fitting for Melissa's personality.
“Strong spirit, fragile mind.” His expression grows serious. “I thought it would be a run-of-the-mill recruiting trip, but when I met her, she absolutely floored me.”
“Look at her,” James says. “Not the hair or the makeup or the dress. Look into her eyes. There’s something magical in them. I’ve never met anybody like her.”
James is a fawning insta-lovey-dovey nitwit of a yelping puppy. There was absolutely no point to the romance whatsoever. There was zero chemistry.
I'm gonna go reread my beloved Dragonriders of Pern series so I can erase this book from my memory. Hell, Puff, the Magic Dragon makes more sense plot-wise than this book.
The strange staring contests. The lack of parents. And the missing blood. Oh God, the missing blood. How could I be so stupid? They’re vampires, or at least under a number of severe delusions.
Jesus, Sophie, the guy’s name is Vlad.
This was a hilarious read. It's partially a parody on Twilight and other generic vampire books, so expect quite a few insider vampires jokes. If you're expecting a DEEP DARK SCARY YA VAMPIRE NOVEL, stop here. This book is 75% lulz, it doesn't take itself seriously at all. There are stupid, dangerous, and silly vampires who are completely out of touch with modern high school life and refers to Twilight as a manual.
Marisabel just shrugs, rolling on her back to stare up at an open copy of Twilight.
“This is not right at all,” she says. “Edward is dreamy, though. Maybe you could get some tips.”
It is light on romance, and the main character is realistic, funny, and likeable. She's a snarky journalist wannabe with as much curiosity as there is blood in her veins. The side characters are kind of shallow, but considering this book is a parody, it's fine. This isn't War and Peace, I just want a book that would make me laugh, without any elements like slut shaming and abuse/stalking that would piss me off. This book did the trick.
I can imagine the expressions that flicker across my face; there’s the “Crap, she is a vampire,” followed by “Crap, I am not supposed to know she is a vampire,” followed by “Crap, I think she just realized that I still know she is a vampire.”
Sophie wants to be a journalist. This is the year she will become editor-in-chief of her high school newspaper. Only her journalism teacher think she takes her assignments a leeeetle too far.
“Like I said, I love everything you’re doing, but our school paper is generally supposed to be less investigative and more...”
“Celebratory. It’s not that your article on the health code violations committed by lunch ladies in the cafeteria wasn’t stellar—it was—but I think we are ruffling too many feathers. I also think they spit in my soup when I’m not looking.”
She's assigned the boring-as-fuck job of interviewing the surprising number of new students that have shown up at her school over the summer. Four of them. They stare at people at length. They're really strange. They live together. They have really weird names, like Vlad and Marisabel. They're not too willing to give her any information about themselves, and Vlad is oddly fascinated with Sophie's stepsister, Caroline. Of course, he doesn't give Sophie the time of day, which SUCKS, because she's supposed to interview him. Sophie's got competition for the editor-in-chief position. She NEEDS to get this article together.
The more Sophie finds out about the new students, the stranger they seem. It helps that Caroline won't stop talking about him.
Vlad is hot. Vlad is cool. Vlad has a silver Hummer with tinted windows and he offered to drive Caroline around in it. Vlad is rich. Vlad’s parents are away on business in Europe, so he has the house to himself. And yes, he’s delighted that they let his friends come stay with him this semester so he wouldn’t be lonely.
The new students don't act right. They're overheard saying really strange things.
“They already like me, Neville,” Vlad says. “Did you see how many of them congratulated me afterward? Look, this is called a ‘fist bump.’ It is more accepted now than a handshake.”
They walk with unnatural grace.
Vlad is making his way across the cafeteria. He moves silently and with an easy grace, an achievement when you take into account the cheap tile that makes everyone in sneakers sound like farting mice.
And then there's the weird mystert of the missing blood from a blood drive.
To further complicate things, Sophie's childhood best friend, James has returned. He's living next door. Alone. James seems to know a little bit too much about the new students, and since they were friends, Sophie confides in him.
“Not only won’t they talk to me, they scare the crap out of me. They’re not normal students. I overheard a very strange conversation yesterday. And Vlad’s dating my sister. And possibly dating his sister, too.”
Sophie's investigational skills will finally get the better of her, and she'll come to discover a shocking, horrifying secret.
WHO'D HAVE THUNK IT THAT THE STRANGE SCARY NEW PEOPLE WHO DON'T KNOW HOW TO ACT NORMAL ARE VAMPIRES. Like, what the FUCK, man?! The freaking vampires aren't at school for no reason, they're here on a mission to find a girl.
“She’s said to be the great-great-great-great-great-granddaughter of some dumb baby of some musty vampire family named Mervaux.”
“Let me guess. A half-vampire baby?” I ask, leaving off the “...who fights crime.”
“No!” Marisabel says. “A plain old human baby. That’s what makes the whole thing so weird. Who cares about a human baby? People have those all the time.” She pauses. “Well, I mean, not vampires. They never have any babies, which is good because child vampires are freaky.”
And she's going to have to decide who to trust. Can she trust James, her old best friend who might have something to hide?
For one crazy, hurtling second I heave a sigh of relief; if forced to choose, he is the better option. But then again, I would also rather drown than be eaten by snakes.
But whatever happens, Sophie is smart, intelligent, she's a fighter.
I attended a weekly karate class with the same fervor as a nun attending Mass. It was three years before my sensei told Marcie that he was afraid I was there for the wrong reasons. I believe the word “bloodthirsty” was used. Right before the phrase “I think you should get her checked out.”
And she's completely prepared for whatever the vampires have to throw at her.
After a moment of deliberation, I grab the wooden spoon and a knife and do my best to file it into a point. Two thousand years of folklore can’t be that wrong, right?
She is gorgeous in a dark, moody way, with thin black brows and long chestnut hair that breaks into a natural wave at her shoulders. If ever there were a girl meant to sit in a smoky café and tell you about the guinea pig that died tragically when she was four, it’s her.
Yeah, they're as you'd expect, and they're all sorts of hilarious. From the bumbling Neville, to the cold determination of icy blond Vlad, to gorgeous, mournful Marisabel, to...Violet. Who is absolutely batshit crazy.
“Can I ask you a question?” Violet asks. “Let us say that you liked this boy. You liked him so much that you didn’t care that your family and friends said that it would end badly. You think he admires you as well, so you give him everything that he could ever want. But what does he do? Does he stay with you forever? No! He ignores you and goes off to live who knows where.” Her voice cracks, and she lets go of my arm to flounce back into her seat. “I am at a loss,” she hiccups, holding the handkerchief to her mouth. “Do you think I should give him a lock of my hair? Maybe he is unaware that I still care.”
Honestly, the girls are a lot more fun than the guys. They're hysterical in one moment, calmly cool the next. The guys are just plain awkward. This book plays on all the vampire tropes, and it's absolutely hilarious. I loved seeing the "vampires" interact with one another. I loved leader Vlad's frustration as it seems like his plan and his "friends" aren't going anywhere as planned.
“Can you believe them? Neville does nothing but attach himself to any organization that will have him, and Violet...yesterday Violet asked if I wanted to participate in a ‘quiz’ that will tell me what my ‘best fall look’ is,” he says. “What does that even mean?”
“Mine is eggplant,” Marisabel offers absently. “And scarves.”
“And you’re stronger?”
“And you have heightened senses.”
“And you sparkle in the sunlight.”
His lips make the “yuh” shape, but then he does a double take. “What?”
Meet Sophie, whose knowledge of vampires is restricted to Twilight. She's not dumb at all, but she's just silly enough to be endearing. Sophie is intelligent, she's a natural investigator and journalist, but she's not Too-Stupid-To-Live. She runs when there's danger. Sophie fights back when needed.
I’m just about to start my return creep across the yard when a figure darts through the far hallway. For a second my shocked brain scans for a “Stop, drop, and roll” sort of acronym that explains what to do when you’re about to be caught spying. I decide on RLH—Run Like Hell.
What I love about Sophie is her sense of humor. Sophie has a deadpan internal narrative that made me giggle, she constantly makes snarky observations.
“Wonderful,” Vlad says, and then probably follows it with something else ridiculous (“Your hair is like sunlight in space” or “Let’s greet the dawn with kisses”).
She's not altogether rational, she relies on gut instinct sometimes, against reason, but I understand her choices. Altogether, Sophie is an awesome narrator.
In reality our relationship consisted of hair pulling (age six), doll vandalism (age eight), and relentless teasing about my freckles (age eleven). Not exactly Romeo and Juliet, but try telling Marcie that. Luckily he moved away to New York before either one of us had to drink poison or kill a cousin.
The romance in this book was really light, and thoroughly adorable. There is no insta-love. Sophie and James have known each other almost their whole lives, until he moved away...and turned into something else. James isn't your standard Edward Cullen. He does shit like climb through windows in the dark of night, but Sophie proceeds to kick the crap out of him when he does.
Now I channel all of my anger and lingering fear into one mighty upward chop to the nose. When he covers his face, I bend my knees up and use my legs to pop him off of me before rolling sideways and scrambling to my feet, my legs still shaky from the adrenaline.
“I’m sorry, were you expecting a parade?”
They're an equally matched pair. James respects her. She respects him. James is never a creeper, and although he's made difficult choices in the past, I understood why he made his (really stupid) choices, and I really liked them as a couple.
“It was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. You can’t kick me more than I’ve kicked myself.”
“Couldn’t you have just dyed your hair purple and called it a day?” I ask weakly. When I think about the loneliness and grief that drove him to do this, I am suddenly choked up. I slide halfway across the floor to be closer, to let him know that I appreciate his honesty. When I stop, he lifts an eyebrow.
“Really? That’s the best sob story I’ve got. What does a guy have to say to make you move all the way?”
Overall, great book, with likeable characters and a lot of humor. Recommended.
Once upon a time there were three bears who lived in a wee house in the woods.
Once upon a time there were three billy goats who lived near a bridge.
Once upon a time there were three soldiers, tramping together down the roads after the war.
Once upon a time there were three little pigs.
Once upon a time there were three brothers.
No, this is it. This is the variation I want.
This book has almost no plot. The entire book is about a poor-little-rich-girl living with a poor-little-rich-family with the kind of ending that makes you go "WHAT THE ACTUAL KIND OF M. NIGHT SHYAMALAN FUCKERY IS THIS?!"
It's not terrible. But there's almost no plot at all. The "Liars" are more "Talkers," and they have almost no relevant role in the book because this book is about a pretentious girl with nothing but #whitegirlproblems and #richpeopleproblems. The aforementioned "Liars" don't do anything in this book, they're not witty, they're not cute, they don't give off the sense of closeness and kinship that you get from growing up with someone their entire life. Hell, they're nowhere near Dead Poets Society kind of interesting.
This is a coming of age, and nothing more. It has
of writing style
that's often choppy
like this. Commas
are sometimes used. And sometimes not. Haphazardly. With no punctuality.
No pun intended.
Sentences are fragmented. The main character sometimes.
Has the tendency to use overwrought, run on metaphors. To describe herself. And her headaches. Such as a helicopter blown by the wind tossed by the torrential rain in the wilds of Alaska felt by a little Eskimo girl during the first whispers of a glacial spring with the scent of violets and hints of lavender in the fields of Grasse.
It was a better coming of age than Catcher in the Rye, but I also thought Twilight was a better coming-of-age than Catcher in the Rye. It wasn't a terrible book. I've read far worse. It's just that the writing style sometimes get on my nerves. The sentences are sometimes written fully, and oftentimes
just goes like
this out of freaking
nowhere. For no freaking.
Reason at all. If that's the kind of thing that bothers you. Then you should probably avoid this book.
MY FULL NAME is Cadence Sinclair Eastman.
I am nearly eighteen.
I used to be blond, but now my hair is black.
I used to be strong, but now I am weak.
I used to be pretty, but now I look sick.
It is true I suffer migraines since my accident.
It is true I do not suffer fools.
Poor little Cadence Sinclair is wealthy. She is loved. She is one of the Sinclairs, a good-looking "old-money Democrat" family, think the Kennedys, without the political aspirations. They have names like Liberty, Taft, and Tipper. They go to Ivy League schools. They have trust funds. They have sired a generation of children, the leader of which is Cadence. Cadence and her crew call themselves "The Liars." The Liars are composed of her cousins Mirren, Johnny, and the outcast "Healthcliff," Indian love interest, Gat.
The Liars supposedly cause trouble. They don't really. They do almost nothing. Cadence herself is sick. She is prone to theatrics, and she is not-so-secretly in love with Gat. She gets headaches. She feels self-pity. She is privileged. She doesn't realize it.
This is the story of a wealthy, beautiful family.
It’s a beautiful night, and we are indeed a beautiful family.
I do not know what changed.
This is the story about a girl's headaches.
Why did I go into the water alone at night?
Where were my clothes?
Did I really have a head injury from the swim, or did something else happen?
This is a story about The Liars. And their spectacularly brilliant conversations for the entire fucking summer.
They have baby oil spread on their bodies. Two bottles of it lie on the grass. “Aren’t you afraid you’ll get burned?” I ask.
“I don’t believe in sunblock anymore,” says Johnny.
“He’s decided the scientists are corrupt and the whole sunblock industry is a moneymaking fraud,” says Mirren.
“Have you ever seen sun poisoning?” I ask. “The skin literally bubbles.”
“It’s a dumb idea,” says Mirren. “We’re just bored out of our minds, that’s all.”
They're not the only ones bored out of their mind.
I plunge down,
down to rocky rocky bottom, and
I can see the base of Beechwood Island and
my arms and legs feel numb but my fingers are cold. Slices
of seaweed go past as I fall.
And then I am up again, and breathing.
my head is okay,
no one needs to cry for me or worry about me.
I am fine,
I am alive.
I swim to shore.
I really have a problem with the writing, but this is just a matter of taste. But then again, I've never been a fan of this type of prose. Needless to say, I don't like e.e. cummings. The writing is so often choppy, haphazardly punctuated. The first-person narrator also has a tendency to use very, very dramatic imagery to describe situations. Some situations are false.
Then he pulled out a handgun and shot me in the chest. I was standing on the lawn and I fell. The bullet hole opened wide and my heart rolled out of my rib cage and down into a flower bed. Blood gushed rhythmically from my open wound,
then from my eyes,
That, there, was a description of how she FELT. It confused me as fuck until I realized that she didn't actually get hurt, which made it even more confusing when she did actually hurt herself.
Every time Gat said these things, so casual and truthful, so oblivious—my veins opened. My wrists split. I bled down my palms. I went light-headed.
I thought that was her being overdramatic again, until I realized that the guy was fucking bandaging her up afterwards.
The main character has a huge tendency to use purple prose. She describes her migraines like they were the end of the world, which, I understand to some people they might be, but if you're getting a fucking migraine, there's really no bloody need to get all freaking poetic about it.
A witch has been standing there behind me for some time, waiting for a moment of weakness. She holds an ivory statue of a goose. It is intricately carved. I turn and admire it only for a moment before she swings it with shocking force. It connects, crushing a hole in my forehead. I can feel my bone come loose. The witch swings the statue again and hits above my right ear, smashing my skull. Blow after blow she lands, until tiny flakes of bone litter the bed and mingle with chipped bits of her once-beautiful goose.
That entire passage is one of many throughout the book about her headaches. I just couldn't take it.
The Main Character:
“You’re filled with superiority, aren’t you? You think you understand the world so much better than I do. I’ve heard Gat talking. I’ve seen you eating up his words like ice cream off a spoon. But you haven’t paid bills, you haven’t had a family, owned property, seen the world. You have no idea what you’re talking about, and yet you do nothing but pass judgment.”
Poor-little-rich-girl syndrome. She's beautiful, but wounded, and "mysterious" and revered, just for the sake of her blood alone, for the sake of her family's name alone. Think about it. If you were a Kennedy, it doesn't matter if you look like an elephant stepped on your head when you were born. People are still going to love you and worship you and whisper your name with reverence because you're a motherfucking Kennedy. It's this way with the Sinclairs, only there's no paparazzi following them around. All of the benefits, and no family curse. But somehow Cadence finds a way to be a rebel-without-a-cause anyway.
She's rich. She's hypocritical about her wealth because she criticizes her own fucking family for being wealthy. She does stupid shit like give things away to random people because she can. Before the summer is over, Cadence's room will have been empty because she keeps giving shit away for no fucking reason.
Cadence is unaware of others. She is spoiled. She takes her wealth for granted. She doesn't pay any attention to "the help."
One night, the four of us ate a picnic down on the tiny beach. Steamed clams, potatoes, and sweet corn. The staff made it. I didn’t know their names.
I'm sorry, but I can't sympathize with such a whiny person who's completely unaware of how privileged she is, headaches be damned.
“Who are Ginny and Paulo?”
Gat hits his fist into his palm. “Ginny is the housekeeper. Paulo is the gardener. You don’t know their names and they’ve worked here summer after summer. That’s part of my point.”
My face heats with shame. “I’m sorry.”
The Love Interest:
“You’re saying Granddad thinks you’re Heathcliff?”
“I promise you, he does,” says Gat. “A brute beneath a pleasant surface, betraying his kindness in letting me come to his sheltered island every year—I’ve betrayed him by seducing his Catherine, his Cadence. And my penance is to become the monster he always saw in me.”
Gat is the only interesting character in the book. He is Indian-American. Gat Patil. He is the nephew of her aunt's boyfriend, and they've known each other for years. He is self-aware. Too self-aware in the pretentious way that teenagers can often be, but his character feels authentically teenaged. I liked him. He is accepted into The Liars, but he's not altogether accepted in the family. Because of his skin color, because of his lack of family money, he feels left out. And I can sympathize with him.
“I’m not saying he wants to be the guy who only likes white people,” Gat went on. “He knows he’s not supposed to be that guy. He’s a Democrat, he voted for Obama—but that doesn’t mean he’s comfortable having people of color in his beautiful family.”
Gat is intelligent. Reasonable. Likeable. And I wonder why the fuck he cares about a waste of air like Cadence.
“Daddy, no!” I shouted.
“They’re going to kill him!” I wailed, desperate.
“Nooooo!” I wailed.
Meet Eros, the Greek Goddess of Love. She never stops fucking wailing. This is one of the worst books based on Greek mythology that I've ever read. To make matters worse, it's told from THREE POVs.
People usually get wiser with age, for example, I used to be afraid that monsters would munch on my toes while I slept. That ended when I was 20, so clearly, I gained some wisdom over 10 years. One would think that after several fucking millennium, a fucking Greek goddess would have developed a few fucking brain cells in her dumb fucking head. One would think the goddess of love would know better than to fall into desperate, desperate love after knowing someone for all of six fucking months.
In Greek mythology, Eros is supposed to be the Greek god of love (not to be confused with his mother, Aphrodite, the goddess of love and beauty).
Instead, we get THIS.
This is Eros, aka Cupid. Aka the little naked dude on cheesy Valentine's Day Cards that shoot arrows into people's hearts and make them fall in insta-love who is now turned into a stupid teenaged female. Needless to say, Eros has played an unseen and unnamed role in much of YA literature.
In this book, Eros is the Greek goddess of love, and she shows no more intelligence than a particularly stupid 16-year old girl, and by saying that, I think I might be insulting all the 16-year old girls out there, because there's no denying the fact that Eros is a stupid fucking moron who's probably been indulging in too much Bacchanalia.
Orion was my soul mate. Orion, who had bedded Eos and dallied with Artemis and gotten himself killed by her and her awful brother, Apollo. Orion, the notorious egomaniac, the most reckless thrill seeker who’d ever lived, a mortal I was still getting to know. He was, in many ways, my polar opposite, but he was my one and only home.
The Ancient Greek goddess of love, Eros, has fallen in love with Orion (as in the constellation dude) after a few months. He is her sooooooooul maaaaaate, man. No matter what anyone else says about him, dude, Eros knows that he is THE ONE, man!
After several tremendously long months of courtship, Eros declares her undying love for Orion!
“I’d rather die than live without you.”
And BOOM! Daddy Ares (the god of war) appears. Orion shits his pants, because, well, hello? You don't fuck around with an angry father, and you particularly don't fuck around with an angry father who IS THE GOD OF WAR.
A deafening crack of thunder shook the ground beneath our feet, sending us staggering together into the nearest tree trunk.
“How dare you debauch my daughter?” he growled in Orion’s ear. “I should tear your head from your feeble, mortal body right here.”
(DADDY! NO!!!!!! Eros wails)
(DADDY! NOOOOOOOOOOO! Eros wails)
DON'T MESS WITH ARES, MOTHERFUCKER.
And since Eros is such a wonderful daughter, she tries to shoot her father in the back.
With a bow in my hands I never failed. With a bow in my hands I was the purest version of myself. I pulled back and let fly. The hunting arrow zipped through the air, headed directly for its target. Headed for my father’s heart.
She shoots her dad. To protect her boyfriend. Of three months. Such a filial thing to do.
Long story short, Eros isn't supposed to be fucking around (literally) with a mortal. She's in deep deep shit. Zeus (here referred to as "The King," and "Your Grace," and "Your Majesty," like what the FUCK, man?!) sends Eros to Earth as punishment. Her mission to get back into grace and to save Orion's life?
“You will be banished to Earth without your powers. You will be, essentially, a mortal. You will then prove your worth to me by forming true love between three couples with no godly tricks up your sleeve,” Zeus continued. “Only then will you be allowed to return to Mount Olympus.”
Simple, right?! I mean, Eros has only been watching humans and making them fall in love for thousands of years. How hard can this be?!
First: choose a name that blends in.
At the very top of the page in front of me was a space for my name and my birth date, which had been left blank. At least the king had given me that, the chance to choose my own name.
I stared out the window and considered, then picked up a pen and wrote it in. True Olympia.
Um. Ok, True.
Fine. It's fine. Really. It's just a name. We can deal with the name True. Ok, next, be subtle about it all.
“Do any of you have girlfriends?” she asked.
Josh’s jaw fell open. Brian laughed.
Everyone gaped at her. She didn’t seem to notice. Instead she looked at me. “What about you? What’s your name? Do you have a girlfriend?”
Ok, it's fine. It's her first day in school. Eros, aka True has been watching humans for thousands of years. Surely she can blend in with them, you know, dress like how they dress.
She was wearing a white sweatshirt about ten sizes too big and pink shorts that showed almost every inch of perfect leg. But craziest were the brand-new, shiny, red-and-purple cowboy boots. Which I think she was wearing with no socks.
Um, well. I'm sure that's fashionable in some parts of the world. It's fine, whatever her name, whatever she chooses to wear, as long as she's got her eyes on the prize. As long as she's got a subtle way of fulfilling her mission that's not going to draw any attention whatsoever.
“I’m going to find you a girlfriend,” I repeated, taking another swig of iced tea. “I’m really good at matching up couples. It’s a special talent of mine.”
Veronica rolled her eyes. “Who is this freak?” she whispered to Josh.
Fine, that's just, like, the second day of school or whatever. Just give her some time! Eros is smart, she'll surely use her millenium of experience to match couples up.
“Another setup?” I whispered.
“Yes! You said you wanted to find love! I’m finding it for you!” True exclaimed.
“With a girl who doesn’t speak?”
WHATEVER. Just as long as she blends in as a high schooler. She'll fulfil the mission eventually.
“Who the hell do you think you are?” I shouted.
I grabbed the tiny device from his hand and hurled it as hard as I could toward the street. Unfortunately, with my weakened human muscles, that wasn’t very far. Still, it did crack in a satisfying way against the concrete and shatter into a half-dozen pieces.
“What the hell? This bitch is crazy!”
Needless to say...
This was a nightmare.
Clearly, I couldn’t make one match without my powers, let alone three. I was never going to get this right. Never.
Orion was doomed.
The Greek Gods:
“Lmee ’lone,” she muttered. Her breath smelled like rotten grapes. I maneuvered her back onto the mattress and flung the covers over her legs. Her hair was matted in places, and puddles of drool marred one pillow.
That...thing, ladies and gentleman, is Aphrodite, Goddess of Love. This book gives us the most one-dimensional portrayal of Greek gods and goddesses that I've ever encountered. Zeus is pockmarked. Ares is petty and only seeks to curry favor. Aphrodite is a drunken slop of a mess when she doesn't get what she wants. One of the most powerful goddessses in the Pantheon, and she's a wreck when she's on earth. Aphrodite does nothing but drink herself into oblivion. She sobs. She wails. She screeches.
Artemis is..."the most vile. She has the bark, but not the bite.” Apollo is a nasty, childish idiot. Selene is "a bit of a dimwit." The Greek gods are rarely mentioned in this book, but when they are, they are stupid, foolish, flat characters.
Eros AKA True:
I leaned forward, horrified. Was that a pimple on my chin?
“No!” I cried, the tears flowing freely now. “This was not part of our deal! No one said I was going to deteriorate!” Back home, my skin had never been marred by anything—not a blemish, not a wrinkle, not a scar, and certainly not this awful burning sensation. I was simply beautiful, every moment of every day and night.
I was a goddess, for Zeus’s sake! There wasn’t a human on Earth who could touch my beauty.
Oh, for fuck's sakes. One would think that an immortal goddess who has been living for thousands and thousands of years would be less of a motherfucking dumbass. Wah I have a pimple. Wah I don't look perfect. Your motherfucking boyfriend of three motherfucking months is going to die, because you tried to fucking KILL YOUR DAD. ISN'T THAT CUTE?
Despite watching humans for thousands of years, she hasn't a fucking clue how to blend in. She doesn't know how to dress normally.
It was me on vomit day, wearing the band jacket over the long, gauzy dress and jeans Then me in my overalls on Wednesday, that itchy plaid vest I’d sported on Thursday, and finally the purple sweatpants and striped shirt I’d worn on Friday.
Despite watching humans, she doesn't know how to blend in at all. She steals. Everything. A scarf.
We passed by an open bag on a chair and I saw a pretty plaid scarf peeking out from inside. I grabbed it and tied my hair back from my cheeks.
A pair of sunglasses.
I looked her up and down through the silver-framed sunglasses I’d taken from an open locker.
Other people's food.
That iced tea looked good. Refreshing. I picked up the bottle and gulped down half of it. Charlie stared. I placed it down and sighed. My head throbbed a bit more dully.
“Um, that was mine,” Charlie said.
“What is with everyone and this mine thing?” I asked.
And she steals food from EVERYONE. This is the new girl in school we're talking about.
She leaned away from me, sliding wary eyes in my direction. I picked up one of the doughy sticks, dipped it in the vat of maple syrup I’d been provided, and took a bite.
Are you fucking telling me you don't know how people behave after watching them all this time? Are you fucking telling me that you don't know how to tell personalities despite having matched people up and observing them for thousands of years. Are you telling me you don't know how to blend in as a NORMAL person and keep attention from yourself?
I reached past a tiny girl with blond curls and took a carton of milk and a brown roll.
“You’re cutting the line,” she said.
“Get over it,” I snapped.
Are you telling me that a Greek goddess who's such a judgmental asshole who calls EVERY GIRL SHE DOESN'T LIKE A BITCH is such a terrible judge of character?
After shadowing Veronica this morning, I was certain of one thing: The girl was a two-faced bitch.
Are you telling me that a Greek goddess of love can be such a woman-hater?
The honors English teacher looked like a Hun and had the personality to match. You’d think she’d be happier, considering she was sporting a gold wedding band and had a picture of herself and her handsome husband framed on her desk. People around here obviously took true love for granted. I would have liked to have seen how she would behave if she’d had that big hunk of masculinity ripped away from her for the gods knew how long. Maybe it would soften her a touch.
The Romance: I have to stop. I have a headache. I can't even go on about the fucking mess that is the OTHER romance in this book. Hint: it's about a girl who is
...bogglingly beautiful. So clearly clueless to it. So obviously sweet and shy and vulnerable."
..."Not-Justin-Bieber was standing there, holding my books out to me in a neat stack. Except up close he looked nothing like Justin Bieber. His cheeks were more square and his eyes very, very blue. He was hotter than Justin Bieber. By a lot."
“You know what I think?” I said. “I think whoever killed Erin knew about you and me and her.” I carefully sidestepped the term love triangle, since I didn’t want to go there.
Girl, you went there.
This wasn't a terrible book, but it was completely generic, lackluster, and half-assed in every way. There's kind of a love triangle, and there's kind of cheating, but not really, because the two main characters kind of made swoony eyes at each other and literally nothing else for 99% of the book. There was no romance. Don't come in here expecting a love story of any sort. It's emo teenaged wangst, and that's it. Despite the tantalizing hint of a grand romance, there really wasn't anything of the sort, and trust me when I say that I'm the first to jump up and yell "THIS BOOK HAD TOO MUCH ROMANCE IN IT!" This book just had no love.
The mystery is half-hearted. It was solved with an overreliance of deus ex fucking machina in which the main character is privy to everything that the police knows. There was a not-terribly-Mean Girls clique. There is a half-hearted stalker. There are people who would blurt out very convenient information with the slightest of provocation. There is a love interest who might be the killer, and who is luurved by the main character, but he's roughly as dangerous as this bunny.
He is just so uninteresting and completely dull in every way that I just didn't really give a flying fuck when the main character is all "I KNOW ALL THE EVIDENCE POINTS TO HIM BUT HE DIDN'T DO IT BECAUSE I KNOW HE DIDN'T DO IT. NYAH!"
This book also has a somewhat offensive portrayal of Christians. Let's get one thing straight, I'm not Christian,fuck , I'm not the least bit religious. I'm against organized religion in general, and even I felt like this book portrayed Christianity in a very negative light. The type of Christianity portrayed here is the far-right, very religious type with daddy-daughter "Weddings" and "Purity Rings" and fanatically religious Mormons. This book doesn't name the religion outright, but it's pretty fucking obvious that this book talks about Mormonism. If you're easily offended by that, don't bother with this book.
I would never see Erin again.
At least, not alive.
Lily Graves is just having an average day, cleaning up the cemetary in a Morticia Addams-style gown when the school Queen Bee and her archenemy, Erin Donohue shows up. Erin goes batshit crazy, blames Lily for her breakup with school jock/boyfriend of three years, Matt and proceeds to scratch and claw the fuck out of Lily.
...yanking my black hair, slapping, biting, and finally digging her nails into the delicate flesh of my forearm.
I reared back in pain and horror as blood gushed out in rivulets, running over my wrists onto the browning grass. Her nails had been filed into seriously badass points.
Erin finally leaves, with a :DDDDDD bye! See you Monday! ^_^_^_^_^_^ (the "bitch!" is implied), only Lily will never see Erin again, because that night, Erin commits suicide.
Or so they say.
It turns out that not all is well with the picture-perfect Erin. For starters, Erin's boyfriend Matt has been engaging in a secret flirtation with Lily. It all started with a tutoring session, which leads to driving lessons...on his lap.
“You honestly want me to sit on your lap?”
“And put your feet over mine. That way you’ll get the feel of how and when to release the clutch.”
Well, one thing's for sure, she'll know when he releases HIS clutch...all over her thighs.
I don't know about you, but teaching someone to drive a manual shift while sitting on his lap is all sorts of stupid and dangerous. From personal experience, if a somewhat decent looking girl with a decent face with a nicely cushioned arse sits on a guy's lap, it's going to end in an erection 92.8% of the time. But Lily is charmed! She learns to drive! Hopefully not with HIS stick shift, but whatever.
Erin found out about Matt & Lily, she's furious. She told everyone. And now she's dead.
Naturally, the main suspect is Matt. When a woman disappears, chances are it's one of the main men in her life who did her in. Also naturally, Lily doesn't believe Matt's guilty at all. She sets out to prove his innocence.
“Let it go.”
How could I let go of something so nightmarish as a nice guy being framed for a murder he didn’t commit?
The thing is that evidence keeps mounting against Matt.
For one thing, Matt didn't even need tutoring---he lied about his parents and he lied to his parents---Matt wasn't going to fail his classes at all. So why did he have Lily tutor him?
“What if I told you, Miss Graves,” Zabriskie continued with a touch of glee, “that there wasn’t a chance that Matt Houser would have been benched this season?”
Goosebumps rose on my arms. “Why?”
“Because he finished the class with a B.”
And then there's the issue of Matt arguing with Erin on the night she died.
“The guy Mrs. Krezky saw arguing with Erin that night sounds exactly like Matt. Short brown hair, Potsdam Panthers jacket, and everything.”
And then it turns out that Erin was pregnant. Matt was her boyfriend. It's not rocket science to assume he's the father.
I tried not to think about Matt having sex with Erin.
“It’s a statistical fact that women are more likely to be victims of domestic homicide when they’re pregnant,” Sara said.
Matt is a suspect, Lily is being told by everyone to stay away from him. Naturally, she can't.
“Matt is a boy with...”—she bit her lower lip—“bad intentions, I think. The more distance between you two, the better.”
But I would never distance myself from Matt. And Mom knew it.
You could tell by the fear in her eyes.
The Side Characters:
We’d dubbed them the Tragically Normals, because they were truly living the ultimate high school experience. Good grades? Check. Lettering in sports? Check. Nice cars, cute boyfriends, adorable girlfriends, clear skin, ideal physical proportions? Check, check, check, check, and check.
Clichéd, clichéd, clichéd, clichéd. We have here the Mean Girls and Boys. They're bright, shining on the outside. Outstanding students, young pillars of the community who are secretly assholes to everyone beneath them. They're petty, they're foolish, they do illegal things, they're hypocrites, they get away with it.
There's the stoner, who says stuff like “You know, when I was at that pit called Potsdam High, you were the only one I thought might be able to understand my interests, seeing as how you too were mocked and ridiculed for yearning to be among the dead.”
There's no depth at all to the side characters.
Deus ex fucking Machina:
TO: Robert R. Amidon, Chief of Police
FROM: Detective Joe Henderson
RE: REQUEST FOR THE PENNSYLVANIA STATE POLICE CRIME LAB
DEPARTMENT USE ONLY—CONFIDENTIAL
It appeared to be an internal police memo. It was so unlike Perfect Bob to release something this top secret, much less fax it to Mom.
To be fair, I'm not quite sure if this qualifies as deus ex machina, but the plot is helped along by so many convenient excuses, it's hard not to label it as such.
Lily's mother is dating the chief of police. Thanks to that convenient little fact, Lily constantly gets tips from the police that she's not supposed to know. She works at the family mortuary so she's got details on the body (Erin's) that she's not supposed to know or see.
It was odd to see Erin this plasticized and defenseless, her newly washed red hair in a halo around her vacant face, her mouth glued into a pleasant smile. On closer examination, I noticed her inner thighs were riddled with scars, as were her waist and breasts.
Total conflict of interest, but whatever, right?
To top it off, everyone gives Lily the information she wants.
“Talk to me.” This was my one window of opportunity and I had to make the most of it. “What happened at Erin’s house Saturday night?”
Allie sighed feebly. “It was a big mistake that’s going to haunt us for the rest of our lives.”
Mean girls? Check. One little interrogation and they're blurting out their heart's secrets to her. This is entirely unrealistic, given that the Mean Girls (or "Pathetically Normals") are Lily's sworn enemies.
The Suspects: Never entirely well-thought out at all. Random suspects are thrown out of thin air, others seem to be complete red herrings that aren't subtle and witty as much as they're tremendously annoying for the reader.
“This you, Lily Graves?”
“Yup. I’m in my Halloween costume today.” Dark-wash skinny jeans, bright-blue mock turtleneck, and a kicky black-and-white herringbone jacket—all from J.Crew.
“What are you supposed to be?”
“The scariest thing I can think of,” I said. “Normal.”
Lily Graves is one of those teenagers who wear all black in school and is fascinated with death. It doesn't really make her any interesting to me, because I was one of those morbid teenagers myself. My problem's not with the fact that she tries to be different, it's the fact that she has no personality and no purpose for looking and dressing the way she does. She is superficial, despite the fact that she criticizes others for being superficial. She's a normal teen who chooses to dress differently, that's all. I didn't feel that there was anything particularly special, interesting, or especially likeable about her.
The Romance: I really can't bring up any quotes about the romance, because despite the fact that this book is based on the rumor of a romance between Matt and Lily, there was none.
Matt is not a nice guy. We're led to think he's a nice guy, but he's not, because he cheats on his girlfriend of 3 years with Lily. It's a mental cheating, but he's trying to get to know her WHILE he has a girlfriend.
“I did it because...because I wanted to get to know you, and I was too stupid to think of any other way.”
HELLO, YOU HAVE A GIRLFRIEND. Matt kept on dating Erin until the very end. He didn't have the courtesy to break up with her, having acknowledged his attraction to Lily. It's not a decent thing to do.
Despite his cheating, there is an absolute lack of romance in this book. Lily and Matt do absolutely nothing but make sad puppy dog "I DIDN'T KILL HER" eyes at each other. If you're going to give us a tragic couple, make it worthwhile.
Overall: A halfhearted attempt at a mystery that just bored me to death.
Ninety percent of their sentences begin with “My boyfriend.”
“My boyfriend has the most adorable golden retriever.”
“My boyfriend is taking his driving test next week, and he’s been practicing like a maniac.”
The girls humor me with smiles, then continue their deep conversation. It’s a biological compulsion.
This book is a teenaged boy's wet dream, in which girls are predictably stupid, in a school where every single girl is desperate for a boyfriend because of a low male-to-female ratio.
There is this thing called the Bechtel Test.
It asks whether a work of fiction features at least two women who talk to each other about something other than a man.
This book would almost completely fail that test.
I'm not sure if the author intended to portray his female characters has shallow, airheaded bimbos at the expense of making the main character look good, or whether he has such a poor opinion of females, or whether the females in his life are actually people who talk about nothing but boys, shoes, and shopping, but I found the portrayal of girls in this book to be incredibly offensive.
This book had an interesting premise. Sadly, that's where all the enjoyment ended for me. What's the point of a book about female empowerment independent of luuuurve when the book portrays EVERY SINGLE FEMALE (except the main character, of course) as shallow, stupid bitches who talk about nothing but...
...boys, shoes or our classmates.
- Has an incredibly shallow portrayal of high school
- A main character who is hypocritical, judgmental, and so holier-than-thou that Jesus wouldn't be able to pray away her sanctimonious attitude
- Stupid girls lots of stupid girls who do nothing but gossip. Doesn't matter if they're going to Ivy Leagues after they graduate. They still only care about boys and getting a boyfriend.
- Cheating from the sanctimonious main character, no less
- Blames the girls for the failure of the relationship
I’m just speeding up the inevitable.
This book has a pretty cool premise. Becca is a "Break Up Artist." She doesn't believe in love. She hates love. She thinks love only leads to heartbreak and is completely jaded against the idea of love. She thinks that love = weak.
Yeah, she's one of those protagonists.
Becca breaks up relationships. Honestly, I like the idea. It's cruel, but when it comes to our loved ones, we're not nice people. She takes contracts under an anonymous name, and she breaks up the couple in question. It's neat, right? I mean, who among us haven't had a beloved friend date a complete fucking loser that you just want them to dump already?
Becca receives a new assignment. It's worth a lot of money. She is to break up the school's #1 couple, Huxley (who was her former best friend), and Steve. Why does this perfect couple need to be broken up? Because it's the girl's (Huxley) fault that the guy (Steve) is choosing to be with her instead of pursuing his glorious future. Sure, blame the girl.
That kid was born to play football, and he knows it. The only thing stopping him is right between that girl’s legs. Excuse my language.”
First of all, Becca's not completely neutral in this. She hates Huxley because they were BFFs before Huxley spurned her for another group of friends.
We used to be friends.
I have to vanquish the evil queen.
It's a personal vendetta. It is morally questionable at best, and there's no such thing as neutrality anymore. There's no BIG BAD NO GOOD BOYFRIEND scenario. Steve and Huxley are in love, and completely devoted to each other.
Becca isn't doing the right thing, she's just breaking the two up out of spite.
It seeks to portray the main character as this *cue angelic choir here* AAAAAHHHHH~~~~ rational-minded protagonist OUT TO SAVE THE WORLD AGAINST THE EBILS OF WUV!...only to have her fall for this cheesy-ass fucking hit line herself.
“Remember the part at the end, when Harry says to Sally, ‘When you find the person you want to spend the rest of your life with, you want the rest of your life to start now’? That’s how I feel about you. Not the ‘rest of my life’ part. But you are the girl I’ve been searching for. You’re so different and interesting. This may sound crazy, but I can see myself falling in love with you.”
P.S. THE GUY? HE'S HER FRIEND'S BOYFRIEND. Get the fuck out of here.
Having a significant other will put any student at Ashland High School on the social radar, and chances are if you’re in a relationship, someone else is talking about it.
My god, there must have been something wrong with my high school. We had a school size of around 2000, whereas "Ashland High School" has a student body of 1500, but that's where the similarities end. For one thing everyone cares about relationships in this book. It seems like that's what all the girls talk about. Who gives a fuck about academics, it's about RELATIONSHIPS, DATING, BOYS! And man, the boys have SUCH an advantage.
Ashland High has an overabundance of girls. It’s a sixty-five, thirty-five split. This gives guys a huge advantage. They can be fat, lazy and pimply and still get to be choosy. Finding a suitable guy to date is a study in Darwinism. Survival of the hottest. The options dwindle with each year.
And with so few guys available, surely, EVERY SINGLE GIRL MUST WANT A GUY, RIGHT? I mean, my high school was so different. There were people (me! My best friend! My other best friends! Half the fucking school!) who didn't even date in high school. I mean, what the hell?! I mean, it's high school. Who's giving a crap about classes, AP tests, extracurricular activities, sports, volunteering anyway. Clearly high school is all about having a boyfriend or girlfriend. And in such a big school, eeeeeeeveryone knows who's dating who. I mean, they have dating dossiers to keep track of relationship statuses. Everyone gossips. Everyone knows each other's business. My fucking god. Every time a couple breaks up, they make front page news.
His break-up with Bethann was felt throughout the AP hallway, where they had a mini fan club.
Mini fan club! For a couple! Are you fucking kidding me?!
The girls at this school will do anything for a boyfriend. They will pretend to like things they don't usually like. They will pretend to know about movies when they don't give a flying fuck about Martin Scorsese. They will do anything to land a boy in order not to appear to be pathetic loveless losers.
One of the biggest joys coupled girls have is giving their single friends dating advice. Just because they lucked out—and it’s luck, nothing more—they believe that makes them dating experts. I’m sure it’s one of the reasons Val worked so hard to land a boyfriend. She’s always wanted to be on the other side of this conversation.
They will give up their vegetarianism for a boy.
“Aren’t you a vegetarian?” I ask her.
“I was, but I’m getting back into red meat.” She rubs Ezra’s thigh. He grabs her fingers and squeezes.
The Shallow Bitches:
“I need a boy.”
I can’t tell if she wants Ezra, or just a boyfriend. Someone to give her an oversize, inconvenient teddy bear. Val may not know the answer either. Vulnerability and desperation flicker in her eyes.
Give me a fucking break. All the girls in this school talk about are "boys, shoes, and classmates." Really? I'm sorry, I am female. I know a lot of females. I went to high school. I went to college. Neither me nor my friends ever had entire conversations revolving around nothing but shoes or boys. And I had a friend who was obsessed with Nikes! She collected them, but she never talked about them! We had classes. Family. Friends. We had hobbies. We had funny stories to tell. We laughed together. Rarely did relationship issues ever surface in our conversations. The girls in this book, whether they're book-smart or "slutty" cheerleaders, discuss boys and relationships incessantly. They all want boyfriends. They all keep abreast of who's dating who. They love romance movies with sad endings because they're silly, contradictory girls.
Why do none of the movies girls at my school love have happy endings? One half of the couple either dies or moves away. But they can’t get enough of those films. Titanic, Shakespeare in Love, Atonement, The Notebook, A Walk to Remember, every other Nicholas Sparks film known to man.
They looooooooove Romeo and Juliet, none of them think that it's a silly, shallow love story like the STRONG ANTI-LOVE Becca.
“But there was love at the core. There was something spiritual, some subconscious connection that was pulling them together. It wasn’t logic. You don’t go through all of this for someone you think is so-so.”
Ms. Hardwick hops off her desk, happy to have control of her classroom again. “Let’s put it to a class vote. Who thinks Romeo and Juliet were not in love?”
None of them raise their hands.
All the girls are sheep, easily led around by a Queen Bee. Except for the main character. All the girls are cruel, secretly sadistic at heart, wishing for the downfall of a friend.
I always thought girls at Ashland adored Huxley, but I guess she’s like any celebrity. They’re eager to see her fall.
Except for the main character. And speaking of...
“Ezra, do you even know what a one-night stand is? Victoria only felt one thing inside her that night, and it wasn’t love.”
He nods, taken aback by a girl not talking like a girl for a second.
Oh, I'm sorry. Is there a way a girl is supposed to talk? Meet Becca. Special, special Becca. Becca, who is portrayed to be the only normal fucking person in a school full of idiots. Becca who actually talks like normal people, not like "a girl" and gets attention for it, in comparison to all the other girls, who talk about boys and shoes and are reeking of desperation.
Becca, who is anti-love, and yet who cheats on her own best friend with her boyfriend.
“I kissed Ezra, Val’s boyfriend.”
“Are you going to be one of those girls who happily ditches her friends for a guy?”
That leaves a bruise.
Because it's true. Becca, who portrays her own sister as a pathetic, weakling who's comatose for her lost love. Becca, who maintains her integrity throughout the book...by falling for a creep.
“He sounds like a creep,” she says.
“No, he’s a good guy.”
“He’s dating your best friend and openly pursuing you. I don’t have a dictionary on hand, but I’d say that’s a creep.”
“It’s not like that. You don’t understand.” I picture the way Ezra acted with me, so delicate and sweet. He didn’t have a secret agenda.
Becca, who's the biggest hypocritical fucking tool in the world.
I sat back in my chair and sighed. “I have to seduce someone,” I announced to my parents. “High school is already destroying my moral code and I haven’t even set foot on the campus yet.”
My mom peeked at my dossier. “I think ‘befriend’ is the word you’re looking for,” she said after a minute.
Sometimes she’s no fun.
This book was a fucking blast. Every other page had me giggling. I can't even remember the last time I gave anything a 5. This book is about a female sleuth. You might be expecting Nancy Drew, and you'd be so fucking wrong. The main character is more female Johnny English than Nancy Drew. Nancy Drew is far too sophisticated and far too reliant on deus ex machina. This book is about a fiercely competent spy who finds herself a fish out of water...and into high school. Hell might be more easy to crack.
The main character is not perfect, the premise and execution of this book is incredibly convincing, despite the premise of a teenaged spy. This is due to the fact that the main character feels so real, and her errors are due to not incompetence, but a lack of experience in an arena she's never been through before. High school is terrifying. I'm sure we can all relate.
Why did I love this book so much?
- An awesome spy/safe-cracker who is fiercely competent at what she does until she meets her biggest challenge yet...HIGH SCHOOL. She is hilariously believable, sweetly bumbling, and completely convincing.
- No insta-love, not an overwhelming amount of romance, and one of the most likeable, sweetest, funniest love interest I've ever encountered in an YA novel.
- An awesome female best friend who is the most likeable 17-year old drunk I have ever met. This friend is a cheater, and there is absolutely no slut shaming here.
- Fucking fantastic parents: spies who are just twiddling their thumbs bored out of their minds while waiting for their daughter to finish her "job." They're about to learn what it's like to be parents to a high school student...who actually goes to high school. HA!
- Angelo: "He always gives good advice, too, especially about safecracking and lock picking. It’s like if Tim Gunn and James Bond had a baby, and that baby was Yoda. Angelo’s response? “Who’s Yoda?”
“I get to go to high school?” I said. “No more homeschooling? Do I … do I finally get an assignment?”
“Holy crap!” I said. “Hallelujah, it’s a miracle! I finally get to do something besides watch everyone else have fun!” I raised my bagel in the air like an award, then pretended to wipe away tears. “This just means so much to me! I’d like to thank all the little people that I crushed on my way to the top.”
Maggie is the 16-year old daughter of spies. Her parents work for an organization called "The Collective," which does a lot of cool shit behind the scenes that us normal mortals don't know about.
Tobacco executives on trial because of damning evidence? Human smuggling rings being broken up? The fall of that Peruvian dictator? That’s us.
She's a safecracker, a lock breaker, and she is damned good at her job. Except being the daughter of spies who are constantly moving from place to place is pretty fucking boring. She's hardly attended school, she sometimes accompany her parents to different jobs, and she has no friends. She has imaginary conversations with cute boys, but that's pretty much it. Her life is boring.
I even managed to mortify myself by having a long-running and completely one-sided “How you doin’?” imaginary conversation with Cute Boy.
Where’d we move from? Oh, nowhere you’d know. So what do you do around here for fun?
Ice cream? Yeah, I love ice cream. With you? Of course! No, my parents are totally cool with me dating.
Maggie is ready for a change. And she gets it! Halle-fucking-lujah! Her assignment: Jesse Oliver. Son of Armand Oliver, a magazine editor. A magazine editor who's about to blow the lid on The Collective.
“So you get in through Jesse,” my dad said to me. “This one’s on you, kiddo.”
Hooray! Go to high school, get close to Jesse Oliver (who, from a background search, seems to be kind of a loser).
“He’s a delinquent!” I yelled out to my parents. “He was arrested for shoplifting last year!”
“I just want you to know that I’m going to be hanging out with someone who has a criminal record!” I cried.
“Let’s not forget that our family can never reenter Luxembourg without being arrested!” my dad yelled back.
Get into Oliver daddy's safe, steal the information. BOOM. Easy, right?
After my first week of high school, I was ready for it to be over.
It turns out that The Collective are fucking idiots. How the fuck is Maggie supposed to infiltrate the high school social structure in the middle of the fucking quarter? She's the new girl! She's never been enrolled in school for long! She has no idea what to do!
The Collective should have enrolled me on the first day, not three weeks into the semester. What were they even thinking? I didn’t know who made up the Collective, but clearly, there wasn’t a teenage girl among them.
To top it off, it's a big fucking school. It's not easy to get close to Jesse Oliver. She hasn't even fucking SEEN Jesse Oliver. She's made a possible friend/spy...
I was sure I knew her! Maybe she was a spy, too. Maybe the Collective had two of us infiltrating the system. That would be a first, but hey, it wasn’t any crazier than enrolling me in geometry.
But where the fuck is Jesse Oliver?! Maggie's so fed up with this shit, so she calls mommy to complain...
“Sorry,” I said immediately. “Look, I can do this. I can do this better than anyone because I am a spy, okay? I am a great spy and—and something is licking me.”
There was a definite wetness on my calf and I glanced down to see a huge, shaggy golden retriever pushing his nose against my leg, then giving me a big doggie grin. I had seen this dog somewhere before, and I looked from the dog to his leash to his very cute owner.
Oh, no, I suddenly realized, my heartbeat flying into overdrive. Oh no, oh no, oh no.
“So,” Jesse Oliver said, “what’s this about being a great spy?”
Well, fuck. Luckily, Jesse Oliver, like most normal people, thinks she's joking. After all, who in their right mind would believe a 16-year old girl is a spy?!
And as it turned out, Jesse's not a bad kid. He's actually kind of nice. Despite the fact that he eats all the cherries out of their pint of shared Cherry Garcia ice cream. I mean, this is the kind of teenaged boy who doesn't flinch when a girl makes a joke about marriage over a cherry-flavored Ring Pop!
“Are we sworn now?” he said, his eyes crinkled at the corners.
“Yes,” I said, and tugged on his finger for good measure. “It’s also possible that we’re now considered married in the country of New Guinea.”
We both cracked up at the same time. “Kidding!” I giggled. “Kidding! At least I think I am. Who knows?”
“Let’s Wikipedia that when we get home,” Jesse suggested.
Well, crap. This mission is going to be harder than she thinks, not least because it's KIND of hard to get into his penthouse and sneak around and find a safe and crack it...it's pretty much like finding a needle in a haystack to bring down daddy Oliver.
Along the way, Maggie finds that she actually likes being a normal teenager.
Somewhere in the deep, shameful part of my heart, I knew that I wouldn’t always be friends with Roux, or even together with Jesse. It wasn’t in the job description, and I had watched my own parents pack up and move so many times that I had lost track. None of this was a surprise.
But that was before I had made friends.
Her parents find out what it's like to be parents to a high schooler for the first time.
I entered the code to our front door and opened it carefully. My parents were probably sleeping and I didn’t want to—
“Where have you been?”
Both my mom and my dad were standing in the kitchen, arms folded, staring at me. I hadn’t seen them look that angry since … well, ever.
“Oh, hi,” I said. “I can explain.”
And can Maggie bear to leave this new, wonderful life behind when the mission is finished?
“But how can you expect me to make a choice about my life, my future, when I know only one option? All I know is this job. Yeah, I’m good at safecracking, but what if I’m better at being a normal person? What if it makes me happier?”
“It’s two thirty in the morning!” my mom cried. “In Manhattan! Do you know all the things that could have happened to you?”
I looked at my parents like they were speaking Korean. (And to be fair, my dad can speak Korean, so it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility.)
OH MY GOD, WE HAVE ACTUAL PARENTS? And they are all sorts of adorable. We have computer hacker mom...
She’s an amazing computer hacker, which I think sort of rankles my dad. He’s useless when it comes to electronics. One time, we were in Boston and they got into this huge fight because my dad thought my mom was taking too long to do her job. She just handed him the TiVo remote and said, “Tell me how this works.” And of course he couldn’t, so she was all, “Don’t tell me how to do my job,” and believe me, he doesn’t anymore.
To linguist dad. They are cool parents, but they weren't really normal parents, because they were spies first. And really, Maggie's never been a problem. Hell, she tags along safecracking with them on their jobs. So they were parents, but they never did the parenting thing until Maggie goes to school.
And damn, they freak out. All of a sudden, their little safecracking darling is STAYING OUT PAST CURFEW and DATING BOYS and MAKING FRIENDS and HAVING SLEEPOVER and I mean WHAT KIND OF HIGH SCHOOL GIRL DOES THAT ANYWAY?.
Oh. Well, crap. So Maggie's parents are learning to be parents for the first time, just as Maggie is learning to be a high schooler for the first time. And it is such an awesome learning experience. For me, that is.
Make nicey-nice with Jesse Oliver? Check! Get into his house so I can scope out his father’s office and see what his safe situation was? Check, check! Foil Dad Oliver’s plan, save the world, and be promoted to head spy of all time? CHECK, CHECK, AND CHECK!
AHAHAHAHA. I have to admit that Maggie might come off as immature to some, but to me, she is so endearing. She has the right amount of self-consciousness and immaturity that I totally love. She is so good at what she does (being "beige" and safecracking), but normal things like making friends and going to school is something so completely new for her and she's completely cowardly.
“Right back atcha,” I said, taking my class schedule and sauntering out.
Bring it, Harper School.
The Harper School definitely brought it.
By the time lunch rolled around, I felt like I was ready to retire.
She is not incompetent, she's just not used to this whole situation. Maggie has never had friends outside of the suited (and awesome) 50-something Angelo. She doesn't have girlfriends. She's never dated. She doesn't know how to flirt. She doesn't know anything but blending in (because spies don't stand out).
She is so teenager at times, but she sees her own faults.
You know how sometimes you realize you’re doing or saying the wrong thing, but you just can’t stop yourself? You can literally hear the words coming out of your mouth and you just want to shove them back in because the real you, the good you, would never want to be this way, but you just keep going?
Yeah. That was me. Because instead of agreeing to try harder, be better, I got whiny.
This book did such a great job of highlighting Maggie's insecurities, with just the right amount of humor.
“Look,” I said. “I like you. Like, like like you. Like, a lot.”
“That’s a lot of ‘likes.’”
“Yes, it is.” Angelo was right about the West Coast ruining my grammar. “But don’t you feel like it’s happening kind of fast? Shouldn’t we just slow down a little?”
Jesse Oliver made it onto my book boyfriend list. He's just fucking adorable. Initially, he seems like a douche. He shoplifted, he has stupid pictures on his profile.
Even Jesse Oliver’s photo page was banal. Hanging out with friends in one shoot, giving the finger in another, hugging a golden retriever in the third.
But as it turned out, it's just a facade. I usually hate poor-little-rich-boy tropes, but Jesse is so likeable that I completely forgive him.
“It’s like, I have all this luck and wealth and privilege, but who gives a shit? People expect me to be some spoiled brat, so then I act like some spoiled brat—I mean, I stole that book, what a dumbass—but it’s not me at all. And then when I try to act like an upright citizen, volunteer and all that, they accuse me of using my dad’s connections to get ahead. But if I don’t do anything, then my dad gets pissed that I’m not doing anything."
The thing with Jesse is that he is such a sweetheart. He never, EVER acts like a jerk to Maggie. He has a sense of humor. He never flinches. His only fault is that he trusts and falls for her too easily (although it's not insta-love).
Their romance was so seriously sweet. I feel like I'm swimming in a vat of dark chocolate and getting giddy on a sugar high.
“Maggie.” He got up and came over to stand next to me, taking my hand in his. “Would you like to go on a date with me?”
At that point, I would have run away to Zimbabwe and raised herds of elephants with him.
“Yes,” I admitted. “Do you want to go on a date with me?”
“Are you kidding? I’m going to show you how it’s done. I’m going to date you like you’ve never been dated before. We’re talking fireworks, okay? Literal fireworks. None of this ‘let’s eat ice cream in the freezing cold while we sit on a dirty stoop’ shit. I’m pulling out all the stops. Call me LL Cool Jess.””
Jesse is not smooth. He's the biggest dork in the whole world, as you can tell from that quote above, and I absolutely adore him for it.
Overall: a fantastically fun book. Even better than Prep School Confidential.
"‘Don’t whine to your spouse about your daily troubles. He’s had a harder day providing for you and your children.’ This is what you’re aspiring to? To be some guy’s house slave?”
Ginnie hops out of her seat. “I hope you’re not romanticizing this too much. That prefeminist movement crap is scary.”
“What do you know about the feminist movement?” Um, what did I know? I’d meant to read some books on that too, but when I thought of old feminists, I thought of armpit hair and bra burning and lots of angry, political yelling, which is not nearly as fun as party dresses and school clubs.
This book is vapid, at best. It's cute, sure, if you don't really want to think about it too much. There was a lot lacking from this book, mainly, depth. The main character comes off as a whiny, selfish child who can't stop crying, instead of an actual young woman growing up and trying to overcome her heartbreak in a realistic way. It tries too hard to be cute, and the "vintage" premise was executed so halfheartedly that there was really no fucking point.
There is a love triangle involving two cousins, a insipid, whiny 12-going-on-16 main character, who can't stop thinking about ME ME ME ME ME ME. Her sister. Her mother. Her grandmother. They need to pay more attention to poor wittle Mallory.
If she has time? Doesn’t she get what I’m telling her? [Grandma] has changed, and not for the better. I know she’s still dealing with the loss of Grandpa, but we’re all dealing with something, and she should be more aware of that. More aware of me.
This is what I want to do to the main character.
This is the story of a girl who decides that life would be REALLY, REALLY AWESOME IF SHE WENT VINTAGE. That is, live life as she would if she had been a teenager living in 1962.
Let's see, let me rack my brain. What was life like in the 1960s?!
- Sexual inequality! Women made 2 cents (a rough estimation) for every dollar a man made. Why hello, there, Don Draper, how you doin'?!
- Segregation! If you're black, get back! To the back of the bus, that is. Don't touch the white-only drinking fountains!
- War movements! The Vietnam war and shit, give peace a chaaaaaaaance, man! All those war protests in Berkeley and throughout the country? Whatever.
Mallory? Fuck all that shit. For her, the 1960s means wearing pretty vintage clothing and be secretary of a pep club! Not the president, just the secretary. That's the woman's place, after all!
"I am so over this decade, this century.”
“I don’t think this century is your problem.”
“You’re right. Technology is the problem.”
“But you’re using technology right now,” Ginnie says.
I hold my phone out, giving the gadget a look of severe disgust. I switch to speaker, so I don’t have to get too close to The Battery-Operated Evil. “Yep. And do you know what cell phones cause? Cancer....And people die texting while driving. They’re villainous contraptions. Computers? Oh man, Internet predators lurk, lurk, online."
Mallory has the most wonderful boyfriend in the world. Jeremy is a dream come true, even if his cousin, Oliver is pretty awesome, too! I mean, right in the beginnig, we get this lovely little passage about dear ole Oliver.
I don’t know much about Oliver, but who does? I think that mysterious aloofness is part of his image. He was nice enough to give me a birthday card that night with a twenty-dollar gift card to Outback. Outback? That’s the way to get in good with your cousin’s girl.
It's not like it's a hint that Oliver's going to be the future love interest while she's still dating Jeremy or anything, no! *rolls eyes*
AAAAANYWAY. Jeremy's the most wonderful boyfriend in the world. I mean, he's good-looking, he makes fun of how much she eats.
“Really? You’re hungry?” he asks. “Even after Pizza Hut?”
“That was lunchtime.”
"You had two slices. I swear, on the weekends you eat more than the entire wrestling team.”
He makes her do his homework for him. This guy is a keeper. Best. Boyfriend. Ever.
So it comes as a total blow when Jeremy does something like cheat on Mallory with an online girlfriend. That's right, Jeremy the Amazing Asian Tool has a SimCity-like account, where he's been slutting it out with an avatar named BubbleYum. Mallory is furious. She "hacks" into his "FriendSpace" account, exposes him for the cheating cheater he is, and breaks up with him. And then she gets tons of hate messages blaming HER for their breakup.
Clearly, technology is to blame. Evil, evil technology.
“If Jeremy didn’t have a computer or the Internet, he wouldn’t have met BubbleYum. If I didn’t have this cell phone, strangers couldn’t text me threats. Technology is the reason my life is falling apart.” My voice rises. I’ve never felt this passionate about anything before—the world, or my world at least, is suddenly so much clearer, like everything before was a big surface float, and now, for the first time, I’m diving into the deep end of life.
Uh huh. So dramatic. Much passion. Wow. Solution = go back to the past, specifically, 1962. Mallory finds a list that her 16-year old grandmother made in 1962, and seeks to emulate it.
Junior Year: Back-to-School Resolutions:
1. Run for pep squad secretary
2. Host a fancy dinner party/soiree
3. Sew a dress for homecoming
4. Find a steady
5. Do something dangerous
Uh. Ok. It doesn't quite turn out as planned, because the only thing Mallory has down pat is the clothes. Sixties dresses are so cute! Other stuff...doesn't work quite well. For one thing, she really didn't think the situation through at all. Like how the fuck is she supposed to give up the Internet when she SIGNED UP FOR A CLASS ABOUT THE INTERNET.
“You knew when you signed up for the class that most of this unit involves the Internet.”
I feel close to tears. When I made my oath, I didn’t think about schoolwork or other justified reasons to use technology.
And she throws a fucking fit when her sister Ginnie actually makes her follow through on her promise and bans her from using technology. Who cares about historical accuracy, anyway!
I check out the Industrial Revolution books, but don’t bother with the sixties stuff. I’m worried history will only discredit my sunshiny hypothesis.
And another Post-it note where my alarm clock used to be.
LED digital alarm clocks weren’t available until the mid-seventies, and they sure didn’t have docking stations.
Ginnie’s handwriting is on another note on my now computer-less desk.
Personal computer? Please.
My sister, my insane sister, has removed every bit of technology not available fifty years ago, which basically is all technology in my room. Like my phone. Not my cell, but the cordless landline. Now I have no contact with the outside world.Uh huh. Way to make a plan and not follow through with it. Not to mention, Mallory cheats on both her "vintage" vow and her paper---she plagiarizes from the Internet.
I type Industrial Revolution right onto the main page search engine, and instantly a million possibilities pop up. Thank you. Thank you. Ask and you shall receive. I could probably type in Completed Industrial Revolution Paper and find five reports to combine into one.
So really, what's the fucking point?
It's ok, though, no matter what she does, dear Oliver will always thinks she's so quirky and beautiful and adorkable.
“Because I like being around you.” He’s still looking out the window, and I wonder if he’s focusing on one object when he says this and what that object is. “I probably shouldn’t, but I do. And I can’t say why. I mean, I can think of a bunch of reasons why.”
The way he describes me, like I’m this vapid girl who doesn’t care about deeper things … that’s so off.
Except, it's not off. Mallory behaves like an idiot child.
She cries over hula figures. To clarify, these things you put on your dashboard.
Reaction (over-reaction?): "He has three hula girls on the dash, three more in the back. I wonder what they think behind those vacant smiles, their plastic shells. These are women who will never wear a shirt, who must spend their existence dancing on demand. There’s something so sad about that, about me, about this situation, that the tears come hot and fast."
Mallory is immature. She doesn't think things through. Her reaction to the most minor fucking thing is to pat herself on the back.
I should push a little more than usual, make this something worthwhile. I’m here already, right?
Wow, so this is what follow-through feels like.
She sets a challenge for herself, to "go vintage" only she constantly whines about it, and constantly cheats on it. And her "living dangerously?"
I just need to figure out living dangerously, which might involve eating the cream cheese and sausage mixture Ginnie is presently concocting.
I can do something dangerous.
Or I can take a sewing class at the community center.
Pfffffffffft. To take a phrase from my friend Emily May. This is Sunday School rebellion. It's sad, pathetic, and so insipid it's not even cute.
She doesn't really want to think about the deeper side of the sixties, all she wants to see is the pretty pretty clothes and simple times. She hates it when people don't pay attention to HER. She expects people like her mother and grandmother to know just how she's feeling, and leave her alone when she wants to be left alone and give her attention when she wants it.
“It doesn’t sound fine. Are you sure you don’t want to talk?”
“No,” I say flatly. “It’s okay. I’m okay. Don’t worry.”
Mom pinches her glossed lips together. “If there’s any way I can help—”
“You can’t,” I say.
She thinks she has a right to know my everything just because she had a forty-hour natural labor with me. My life would be so much easier if she would have just taken that stupid epidural.
There is a constant attempt at vilifying her own mother that I just don't quite get. From what I read, her mother is just the right amount of attentive, only our dear little Sally Mallory here can't see it. She shames her mother for her looks.
When we walk into a store, guys always check out my mom first, taking in her tight body and large chest before noticing that she’s in her forties, not twenties.
Her mother is a hard working mom who is the family breadwinner. She is a caring mom, and Mallory, in her selfish way, can't see it. She constantly complain about her mom not understanding her, when she's doing everything she can to shut her out whenever her mother asks her any sort of question about her life. Mallory comes off as nothing more but a selfish, stubborn, childish girl.
The Romance: There is a love triangle between Mallory, her ex-boyfriend Jeremy, and his cousin, Oliver.
Why am I thinking about Jeremy?
Why am I thinking about Oliver?
She is. She constantly thinks about Jeremy after their breakup, which is annoying, but believable.
I look down at my wedge, and notice the head of lettuce looks like Jeremy’s head, that the bits of bacon could easily be his eyes, the tomatoes his mouth, and—
But meanwhile, she's got feelings for Oliver, too. Jeremy is doing everything he can to get Mallory back, while Oliver plays the kind, understanding, all sorts of supportive friend who wants to be something more.
In order for me to understand the romance, I have to support the characters. I liked Oliver, despite his "hipster" ways, but I can't, for the life of me, understand why the fuck he's in love with the utter birdbrain that is Mallory.
Overall: this book is the equivalent of a 6-year old refusing to eat bacon for a week after reading Charlotte's Web, and the main character has the same mental age. Not recommended.
I’m stranded on Mars. I have no way to communicate with Hermes or Earth. Everyone thinks I’m dead. I’m in a Hab designed to last 31 days.
If the Oxygenator breaks down, I’ll suffocate. If the Water Reclaimer breaks down, I’ll die of thirst. If the Hab breaches, I’ll just kind of explode. If none of those things happen, I’ll eventualy run out of food and starve to death.
So yeah. I’m fucked.
If you think about it, Robinson Crusoe is kind of a whiny pussy, I say, while sitting in my plush computer chair, with a bar of 72% dark chocolate resting atop my glass of port. Surviving on a deserted island? Easy shit. Crusoe's got all that fucking water, plenty of good carbon-based animals for the eatin', and all those coconuts growing on tree. And here I am, having to actually go to Whole Foods to buy my fresh, young coconuts and having to pay for extra virgin cold-pressed coconut oil!
Look at all the motherfucking trees! See all the moist, fertile soil?! What kind of a survival scenario is that, anyway?!
Surviving on a deserted island? That's easy shit. Try surviving on another planet. Namely, Mars. I love a survival premise...but one on another planet? A science fiction book, no less? Um. I don't know about this.
As it turned out, all my fears were wrong. This book was fan-fucking-tastic.
It is filled with humor, it's got a adequate depiction of science that wouldn't confuse a layman like me (not sure how technically correct it is, but it sounds adequate to me, and while I'm not a scientist, neither am I a moron--A+ in biology and general chem, bitches!), the narrator is this brilliant genius while having the humor of a 17-year old DotA gamer/frat boy. I absolutely loved him. I wanted to marry him.
I'm fairly good-looking. I'm single. Can someone send this type of engineer my way, please?
The not-so-good: character development (the MC is altogether too optimistic and cheerful), the scientific details can be too much, and this book is really, really fucking long. It's realistic, because it takes a long fucking time to get shit solved, but it lost my attention sometimes.
I’m pretty much fucked.
That’s my considered opinion.
Six days in to what should be a greatest two months of my life, and it’s turned in to a nightmare.
Yep. That he is. Mark Watney, botanist, mechanical engineer, participant in the fledgling Ares program to send humans to Mars, is royally screwed. Shortly upon his arrival to Mars with his crew, his "MAV" ("Mars Ascent Vehicle") got blasted with Category 5 hurricane winds, and with no other choice, the crew had to hightail it out of there.
Sounds like a plan. Except Mark didn't get out when he should have.
It was a ridiculous sequence of events that led to me almost dying. Then an even more ridiculous sequence that led to me surviving.
There was an accident involving lots of blood and a punctured suit (fuck), and long story short, the crew left without Mark, believing him dead (fuck).
Mark isn't dead, but he's stranded on Mars and everyone thinks he's dead. So that means he's as good as dead himself. The good thing is that he's not an idiot. Mark's been given medical training (boom, stitches for his injury) by NASA. They don't send untrained idiots on board a mission to Mars. He's also trained in mechanical engineering, and he got his undergraduate degree in Botany. Pretty stupid, when it's like, a fucking mission to Mars, right? I mean, who the fuck would need to plant anything on a hostile planet? As it turns out, botany is more useful for his survival than you would think.
Because now that he's alive and back in the Martian Habitat (the "Hab"), Mark's got to set out a plan for survival. He's realistic about his situation. He's really, really fucked. But all is not lost, he's still got the Hab. Inside the Hab is a good quantity of food, it's an enclosed environment. Mark can stay alive for some time. He's got enough food to last him about a year.
We were six days in when all hel broke loose, so that leaves enough food to feed six people for 50 days. I’m just one guy, so it’ll last me 300 days. And that’s if I don’t ration it. So I’ve got a fair bit of time.
He's got enough air from the Oxygenator. He's got power cells. He's got enough water from the Water Reclaimer. The trouble is that the next mission to Mars isn't coming until four years. Mark's got to stay alive until a) they come or b) he manages to communicate with Earth. Clearly, it's a better idea to try and communicate with Earth so they can come get him.
But if I could communicate, I might be able to get a rescue. Not sure how they’d manage that with the resources on hand, but NASA has a lot of smart people.
So that’s my mission now. Find a way to communicate with Earth. If I can’t manage that, find a way to communicate with Hermes when it returns in 4 years with the Ares 4 crew.
Priority right now: get enough foor to last four years. That's a whole lot of calories to generate from nothing. But hey, here's where his botany degree comes in handy!
Mark needs to do a lot of things, but priority #1: grow some potatoes in his Hab.
Remember those old math questions you had in Algebra class? Well, that concept is critical to the “Mark Watney doesn’t die” project I’m working on.
I need to create calories. And I need enough to last four years. I figure if I don’t get rescued by Ares 4, I’m dead anyway. So that’s my target: four years.
It's not a foolproof plan.
I have an idioticaly dangerous plan for getting the water I need. And boy do I mean *dangerous*. But I don’t have much choice.
In fact, it's downright fucking dangerous at times.
As you can see, this plan provides many opportunities for me to die in a fiery explosion.
Firstly, Hydrazine is some serious death. If I make any mistakes, there’ll be nothing left but the “Mark Watney Memorial Crater” where the Hab once stood.
Presuming I don’t fuck up with the Hydrazine, there’s still the matter of burning hydrogen. I’m going to be setting a fire. In the Hab. On purpose.
If you asked every engineer at NASA what the worst scenario for the Hab was, they’d all answer “fire.” If you asked them what the result would be, they’d answer “death by fire.”
And thus we watch the Mark Watney show as he struggles to grow potatoes on Mars and create water out of thin air. And it's really, really thin air, BECAUSE IT'S MOTHERFUCKING MARS.
Meanwhile, back on Earth, all is not lost! A glorified photo technician (ok, she's got a master's in Mechanical Engineering, but all she's doing for NASA is looking at pictures) finds some odd signs on Mars. Shit's there that wasn't there before. It's not Martians, so it's gotta be Mark. He's alive! Sound the bells! Hallelujah! Well, shit, now how do they get him out of there? How do they communicate when there's no way of communicating? Will Mark be able to survive before NASA comes to rescue him? Will NASA be able to find a way to communicate with Mark?
“He’s stuck out there. He thinks he’s totaly alone and that we all gave up on him. What kind of effect does that have on a man’s psychology?”
He turned back to Venkat. “I wonder what he’s thinking right now.”
LOG ENTRY: SOL 61
How come Aquaman can control whales? They’re mammals! Makes no sense.
The Setting: Well, it's Mars. What did you expect? There's um, craters, dry dust, and more craters and more dry dust. Just kidding. We spend most of our time within a contained environment, and to be honest, it's not that important. What makes the setting believable is the science that's presented to us, in entirely layman's terms. There's a lot of concepts to understand, and Mark does a fantastic job of breaking science in a way that makes it feel real while making it credible and easy to comprehend.
I’m going to use the RTG.
The RTG (Radioisotope Thermoelectric Generator) is a big box of Plutonium. But not the kind used in nuclear bombs. No, no. This
Plutonium is way more dangerous!
Plutonium-238 is an incredibly unstable isotope. It’s so radioactive that it will get red hot all by itself. As you can imagine, a material that can literally fry an egg with radiation is kind of dangerous.
I'm a fan of science, but I avoid the hard shit when I can. I'm not the smartest person in the world, and technicalities beyond the basic grasps of physics, chemistry, and biology hurts my head. I can understand science. I just choose not to sometimes, and I avoid the cold, hard technical stuff when I can. I can break down most of the basics (like a truly laughable dystopian global-warming scenario) but anything more than that taxes me. Look down upon me if you will. I had no problems understanding and believing any of the scientific concepts in this book. This book may use science extensively, but it is so well-described and so well-drawn and explained that it doesn't feel like a science-fiction book at all.
I'm turning my pee into rocket fuel. It's easier than you'd think.
Urine is mostly water. Separating hydrogen and oxygen only requires a couple of electrodes and some current. The problem is collecting the hydrogen. I don't have any equipment for pulling hydrogen out of the air.
If I survive this, I'll tell people I pissed my way into orbit.
I chipped his sacred religious item into long splinters using a pair of pliers and a screwdriver. I figure if there’s a God, He won’t mind, considering the situation I’m in.
Ruining the only religious icon I have leaves me vulnerable to Mars Vampires. I’ll have to risk it.
Mark is a damned funny narrator. This may be projection, but I see a lot of my own personality and humor in him. I'm such a humble person, aren't I? He's just like me, only wittier, funnier, smarter, and 1000x more brilliant. But I'm prettier, so I'm sure that makes us just about even.
There's a lot of geeky jokes, involving NASA's tendency to overspend on, well, just about everything.
One thing I have in abundance here is bags. They’re not much different than kitchen trash bags, though I’m sure they cost $50,000 because NASA.
And computer-related jokes that might go over the heads of people who don't fuck around with computers for fun.
"We updated Pathfinder’s OS without any problems. We sent the rover patch, which Pathfinder rebroadcast. Once Watney executes the patch and reboots the rover, we should get a connection.”
“Jesus what a complicated process,” Venkat said.
“Try updating a Linux server some time,” Jack said.
After a moment of silence, Tim said “You know he was teling a joke, right? That was supposed to be funny.”
The Character Development: This is one of my few complaints. Mark is incredibly cheerful, and this is very hard to believe. He is fucked, but he makes a joke out of it. This might work, except that for almost the length of the entire novel, he is constantly funny and optimistic about it. He jokes about his own death. He jokes about the fact that he might end up a a handful of dust on Mars. Everything is humorous, and I like it, because I love his humor, but it doesn't make him a believable character.
I wanted to see his despair. I wanted to feel his loneliness. I wanted to see him suffer, to FEEL him suffer because it's a really, really fucking screwed up situation. Mark's attitude makes him a fun character to read, but it doesn't make him feel realistic.
[12:04]JPL: We’ll get botanists in to ask detailed questions and double-check your work. Your life is at stake, so we want to be sure. Also, please watch your language. Everything you type is being broadcast live all over the world.
[12:15]WATNEY: Look! A pair of boobs! -> (.Y.)
“You don’t look like an outlaw,” Serafina said.
“Or a shark,” Neela said.
“I’m a lawyer, actually, the worst kind of shark.”
This is not a bad book, but the pros in this book are outweighed by the fact that it is an overwhelmingly childish infodump.
There is no cursing in this underwater fantasy, a rave (drug-filled party to us landlubbers) is a all-night wave. An ass is a wrasse. There are no bad-asses, but there are bad-wrasses and jackwrasses.
Money is called currensea. Jerks are gobies and guppies. Transparency spells are spelled transparensea. A girlfriend is a merlfriend. A crazy mermaid lady keeps catfish as pets. A family tree is a family coral. Caramel is caramalgae, and other candies are "chillawondas, bing-bangs, janteeshaptas, and zee-zees." Manta Rays speak in RaySay. Anchovies speak Pesca. Dolphin speak Dolpheen.
I love bad puns. I love word play. But there's only so much I can take before this book starts to descend into absurdity, which is a damned shame because it's a good book otherwise.
This book is categorized as "Young Adult" and "New Adult" and I have no idea why. It reads like a Middle Grade story, and it wouldn't be out of place next to a 7-year old's A Little Mermaid picture book. The Disney version, not the Grimm's. Hint: Don't read your child the Hans Christian Andersen version unless you want to pay for therapy out of their college fund.
So, in continuing with today's theme of terrible puns, I have this to say about the book: It's not a bad book about mermaids, but it doesn't have sole. The characters are shallow, the plot doesn't hold water, and overall, I'd have to give it a sea. There's a surprising level of depth, as well as a good feminist message, but if you want a book that your older teen will love, don't hold your breath.
Sorry for all the bad puns. I didn't do them on porpoise. I'm just angling to get a rise out of you.
- VERY light on romance
- A creative and enchanting underwater fantasy (fantasea?) world
- Strong female characters and friendships
- Diverse characters (we have Indian, Chinese, Italian, Middle-Eastern mermaids, prominently featured)
- A matriarchal kingdom
- HUGE infodump: the first 25% of the book is a major infodump with almost no plot, that had my head spinning
- Little character development, the characters are strong and feminist, but they lack a level of depth that made them believable
- The childishness: the puns, the wordplay, the very, very cute fantasy world that's even prettier than the Disney version. It just undermines the seriousness of the book
The summary: Principessa Serafina of the Miromara lives an enchanted life under the sea.
She sat up in her bed—an enormous ivory scallop shell—and stretched. One half of the shell, thickly lined with plump pink anemones, was where she slept. The other half, a canopy, was suspended on the points of four tall turritella shells. The canopy’s edges were intricately carved and inlaid with sea glass and amber. Lush curtains of japweed hung down from it. Tiny orange gobies and blue-striped dragonets darted in and out of them.
But all is not as glorious as it seems. Today is the day of her Dokimi, where she will have to perform in front of her entire kingdom. It's a huge deal, and Sera is understandably freaked out about it.
“Right, Mom. Only a Dokimí,” said Serafina, her fins flaring. “Only the ceremony in which Alítheia declares me of the blood—or kills me. Only the one where I have to songcast as well as a canta magus does. Only the one where I take my betrothal vows and swear to give the realm a daughter someday. It’s nothing to get worked up about. Nothing at all.”
To top it off, her childhood friend and betrothed has since become an asshole in the past two years. He used to be a wonderful young man with whom she looked forward to marrying. They shared an understanding, and perhaps even love.
She could still hear the last words he’d spoken to her, right before he’d returned to Matali.
“My choice,” he’d whispered, taking her hand. “Mine. Not theirs.”
But on the day of her Dokimi, Mahdi seems to be a different person. He's now a playboy, a rebel, someone she dreads marrying. But Sera has more to worry about than romance because there's something bigger going on within her kingdom.
Sera could only imagine what her mother would have said if she’d barged into her chamber complaining that Mahdi had hurt her feelings.
She had to do it. She had to put her pain and loss aside and exchange vows with a merman she couldn’t even bear to look at, in order to save her people from a war.
War. Yep. War is coming. Their kingdom has always had enemies, from the Praedatori to the Terragoggs (humans), but now it is more than a mere threat. It all started with her mother's assassination.
She would remember that moment for a long time, that golden, shining, moment.The moment before everything changed.
Before the arrow, sleek and black, came hurtling through the water and lodged in her mother’s chest.
The night of the Dokimi was supposed to be the beginning of her future, instead, it signals the end. Her kindgom is in shatters. Her people have been hurt. Serafina isn't ready to become queen, but it seems like she doesn't have much of a choice. Together with her mermaid friends, Ling and Neela, Serafina will have to use her magic to solve the mystery of the Ielé witches.
“As you know, the Ondalinians broke the permutavi three months ago,” Isabella said. “Your uncle thinks Admiral Kolfinn did it because he wished to derail your betrothal to the Matalin crown prince and offer his daughter, Astrid, to the Matalis instead. An alliance with Matali is every bit as valuable to them as it is to us.”
Wow. Can I get a pillow so I can take a nap, please? Maybe a sea cucumber? They're squishy. This book has a Glossary, and thank god for it. The first 25% of the book, the first chapter, specifically, is a huge infodump. This world is a fantasy taking place in our world, only underwater. Serafina lives, specifically, around Venice, Italy.
The info-dumping made my head spin. In the first chapter, we learn about the Terragoggs, the Janicari, the history of the Miromara. The people, her brother, her dad, her cousin, her friends, her uncle, her lady's maid, her instructor, the girls at court, her betrothed, her best friend's brother, her instructor. We learn about the tensions going on between the mer-nations. We learn about the government. We learn about the Dokimi and the history of the merpeople. We learn about the magic and the magic spells and how the Dokimi ceremony works. ALL THAT WITHIN 25% OF THE BOOK. I felt like I was reading a really, really pretty textbook. It's just too much. It's just too much details, at some points. Like I really need to learn about why her uncle used to love her rival Lucia's mother but wasn't allowed to marry her.
Angry, Vallerio had left Cerulea and spent several years in Tsarno, a fortress town in western Miromara. Portia married someone else—Sejanus Adaro, Lucia’s father. Some said she only married him because he looked like Vallerio with his handsome face, silver scales, and black hair. Sejanus died only a year after Lucia’s birth. Vallerio never married, choosing to devote himself to the welfare of the realm instead.
It's a beautiful, enchanted world, though. It is so very Disney-like, and it's no wonder...since they're the publisher of this book. Even Serafina's room is a dream come true for any little girl.
The golden rays warmed fronds of seaweed anchored to the floor. They shimmered in the glass of a tall gilt mirror and glinted off the polished coral walls. A small green octopus that had been curled up at the foot of the bed—Serafina’s pet, Sylvestre—darted away, disturbed by the light.
The Characters: Surprisingly feminist, for a book that's so fluffy in nature. I really like the main character's personality. She's strong, she's willful, but she's also vulnerable. She fights with her mom over being too Queen-like instead of mom-like, but Serafina knows that she is a princess, and she has to behave like one. Serafina never whines.That’s what her mother would do, and that’s what she would do, too.
I always disappoint her, Serafina thought, but tonight I won’t. Tonight, I’ll make her proud.Serafina has her moments of weakness, when she just wants to give up...
“I can’t do it!” she shouted angrily, slapping the water with her tail. She turned to Thalassa, her composure entirely gone. “Tell my mother the Dokimí’s off. Tell her I’m not good enough! Not good enough for her! Not good enough to cast this rotten songspell! And not good enough for the crown prince!”
But she realizes her errors quickly, and throughout the book, Serafina maintains her maturity. My problem with her character, and that of her friends, is that despite the fact that they are strong feminist characters...there's something lacking in their character development. I like them, but they never feel real to me.
I love the fact that there are diverse mermaids in this book. There are other underwater kingdoms in this book, including the Japanese, the Antarctic, the Chinese, the Afro-Indian, the Nordic. We have her best friend, a sari-wearing Indian princess, and her new companion, a Chinese linguist mermaid. It's pretty awesome.
The Romance: Almost nonexistent, but for a very small section in the beginning. This was a surprise! Serafina is betrothed to an (Indian!) prince! She feels jealousy, she feels hurt, but she never allows her feelings for him to overwhelm her when he turns out to be someone different. Best of all, the romance is almost gone for the rest of the book. There is more female friendship than romance in this book.
The Plot: Another weak point. It has an unnatural flow. This feels like an info-dump and nothing else. The plot goes in all sorts of direction that just didn't really make sense to me. It's book 1 in a series, and I really hope the second book will be better, because there really wasn't much substance to this initial book.
Even when I was little, I knew I wasn’t like everyone else. Sure, I had the clothes and the shoes and the general skills to win superficial popularity points. In the last couple years, I’d managed to get involved in stuff like debate and student government, but I’d never managed to be, well, normal.
I've read a lot of terrible YA detective novels and this book would fit in perfectly among those unholy terrors. When I saw a YA criminal-investigation book by an actual attorney, I had high hopes, hopes that were, needless to say, dashed to the ground.
I do not doubt the author's credentials in the least. I do not doubt her intelligence, I'm sure she's 1000x smarter than I am (they don't give law degrees to idiots), but this book was absolutely terrible.
The YA detective novel is a difficult thing to write, the author has to:
- Make the situations believable
- Give the main character credibility in her actions
- Portray her methods realistically, this is, after all, an under-aged character we're talking about)
- Not make the actual police and prosecuting attorneys look like incompetent, bumbling fools.
This book failed on all fronts.
Totally normal girls don’t wear four-inch Prada heels to the library, or stalk criminals, or wear four-inch Prada heels while stalking criminals.
17-year old Ruby Rose is something else. She's got a 4.0 GPA, she's a gray-eyed blonde, she can fit a cellphone, makeup, several small kittens, in between her breasts (known as "The Cleave")...
I felt for the picture of the girl hidden in The Cleave. Next to my other important stuff—cell phone, lip gloss—she was there.
...and she's famous!
My virginity wasn’t exactly a secret. One of those trashy magazines had even broadcast it in an article called “Ruby Rose: The Virgin Vigilante.”
Ruby's SWAT sergeant father was killed in action, and ever since his death, Ruby has been determined to mete out justice on his behalf. In her Prada peep-toe shoes.
Ruby Rose isn't your average 17-year old, no sir. She's got a closet (named Gladys) full of designer shoes that she can consult for help.
I needed a few moments with my oldest and dearest friend: Gladys—aka my shoe closet.
Happy to see me, too, Gladys and all her Pips stood at attention for my entry—except for my tan Dolce & Gabbana Catwoman boots, which had to be neatly hung to avoid damage or creases. I had to take care of my Sleeping Beauties.
“Gladys, I need help.” My words echoed into the space.
She's got a Black SUV called Big Black...
Big Black, my overly tinted SUV and current best friend.
Not to mention, at the tiny age of 17, Ruby Rose somehow fucking got a license to carry a concealed weapon. Of course, that license to carry is meaningless without a gun, right? Oh, she's got one, too, named Smith.
I looked down at the shimmering weapon—aka Smith, my .38 Special Revolver with built-in laser sight that I’d gotten for my Sweet Sixteenth.
Is there anything Ruby Rose doesn't name?
Ruby Rose can kick! She can fight! She can shoot! She's trained---at the ripe old age of 17---in the SWAT obstacle courses. She can hack into the Orange County Police Department's criminal system!! And all she wants to do is bring justice to the criminals who have escaped the system! But not kill them, no.
It's not ok to kill: Ruby Rose doesn't believe in killing.
“Liam, it’s never OK to kill,” I said flatly. I had good reason to do it, sure, but that didn’t make it “OK.”
Right. So it's just a little confusing when she kills not once...
I pulled the trigger.
The deafening gunshot rang out.
The world changed into a black-and-white movie with a river of red flowing all around me.
A ruby-red river of my own making.
I aimed for the largest target area and pulled the trigger. His chest ripped open and his body lost momentum. He would never fight again.
Not three times.
I renewed my grip on the knife and slashed once as hard as I could, until I felt the blade slide through tissue and hit bone. He went limp.
Oh, god, I lost track of the number of people that Ruby-I-Don't-Believe-In-Killing-People killed.
“Things have long been out of control, Liam. I have killed, or been responsible for...” I stopped to count with my fingers. “Seven deaths now. Seven!”
Killers don't faint! Definitely not. Ruby Rose is SO competent, right? She's killed so many people (while not believing in killing), she's trained her entire life to be a bad-ass motherfucker by her police dad. So naturally, in these situations, Ruby Rose would never do anything so silly as to...faint...right?
A falling sensation rushed over me, and a sickening crack echoed through my skull.
Shit. Ok. That was just once. That was just a fluke reaction in a school cafeteria, a visceral reaction to something. Surely she would never lose control of the situation and faint again...
And I was losing consciousness.
Fuck! Ok, that was a bad example. She got caught unaware and poison-darted on the beach because she was canoodling with lover boy. She will NEVER, EVER faint again. Seriously. Never.
My world quickly spun out from under me. Swirling. Darkness. Pain. The last thing I saw was Liam, still on the ground, soundlessly calling out my name.
OK, THAT WAS SERIOUSLY NOT HER FAULT. I mean, what kind of teen vigilante would expect a criminal to come up behind her and get caught unaware anyway. Who does that?! That's the last time. EVER.
A jarring pain stabbed through my chest, and a coughing fit brought me back to reality.
The last thing I felt was being carried away in the arms of a strong man.
That was...I don't know. I mean, whatever. Let's move on now >_<
Fine. The fainting thing was a bad example. Despite all her fainting, Ruby Rose of the 4.0 GPA is supremely intelligent. Not idiotic in the least. A teen vigilante so well-educated, so well-prepared as Ruby would never do anything dumb.
He’d done it again. He wanted to toy with me. And I’d been stupid, impatient, and impetuous enough to walk right into his trap.
Crap. Ok, that was just one example. Surely, having killed so many criminals, having tracked so many of them down, Ruby would never...
Ha, I was insane. I was about to sneak out of my nice safe home and go looking for a rapist to convince him to help me. Real smart, Ruby. Best idea ever.
I give up.
The Setting: This book takes place in Huntington Beach, California, in Huntington Beach High School. It could have fooled me. I grew up 5 minutes away from Huntington Beach, California. I still live around there now. I didn't get any sense of place, any sense of location at all in the setting. There were places that were just names. The Huntington Beach Pier, Pacific Coast Highway. I love those places. I drive down there. I take long leisurely summer drives down PCH for sushi with my little sister. I went to high school in Huntington Beach. It's a beautiful town. I'm not quite sure what school Huntington Beach High School has become when in the book, teenagers have "group sex parties" and teachers ditch class to go surfing on high surf days. It's fucking Huntington Beach. People go to the beach year-round. HBHS students are stoners, at worst >_> (can you tell my high school was rivals with them?)
This book might as well have taken place in any generic beach town anywhere in the world. I didn't feel any authentic sense of the city.
Ruby Rose: Bafflingly inconsistent. She doesn't believe in killing, but somehow she still does it. She's intelligent, yet she constantly walks into fucking stupid situations, and allows herself to be baited into killing people (which is against her beliefs! Gasp!). She's SOOOOOOOOO fucking perfect, yet she constantly puts herself down. Really, it sucks that her father died, but do you really expect us to relate to a 5-million-dollar-trust-fund blond-haired silver-eyed, buxom 4.0 GPA high school student who's got a closet full of designer shoes, who drives a GMC Denali.
Who's got the attention of the hottest boy in school, a cheery best friend, the ability to shoot and kick-ass in karate, and a District Attorney mother (whom she hates for some fucking reason)?
Excuse me while I play the world's smallest fucking violin for Ruby. Trouble doesn't come looking for her, she seeks it out, and she cries fucking crocodile tears when things don't go her way.
Oh, and her mother. Her poor District Attorney mother. Her cougar mother who checks out her boyfriend. Her Botoxed, Restylaned mother. How dare she seek out a career as a politician. How dare she not ignore her own ambition. Fuck that bitch, right, Ruby Rose?
The Writing: Oh my god, so much name-dropping. From TMZ (SO MANY MENTIONS OF TMZ)
“How about that I killed somebody,” I said. “I’m a Vigilante Teen Assassin. At least that’s what TMZ called me."
To UGGs (I can hardly keep track of the shoe brands in this book).
To the extremely silly technological references that just sounds completely fucking absurd, even to an actual geek like me. People who like computers don't actually think in computer-speak!
- “So what about Taylor?” I asked, wondering why my brain had brought her up at a time like this. It was like my logical brain had a firewall and was trying to override the invading emotions.
- I wasn’t drinking her Very Cherry Kool-Aid. And I definitely wasn’t getting the message she was trying to send. Like the physical contact had created a spam filter and her message was just going to the junk file.
To the long, pointless, rambling extended metaphors.
I stared at his lips. Were they telling the truth? Or were they like chocolate—promising happiness, providing a few moments of heaven, then ultimately betraying me, going behind my back and putting junk in the trunk?
It didn’t seem like a fair choice. Chocolate had total power over me—there was no denying my addiction to the dark, creamy crack. Those few moments of bliss were always enough for me to disregard the consequences. So, even if Liam was only chocolate, I wanted to taste a piece.
The Romance: Liam. Handsome Liam. Liam who might be a killer.
It didn’t seem like a fair choice. Chocolate had total power over me—there was no denying my addiction to the dark, creamy crack. Those few moments of bliss were always enough for me to disregard the consequences. So, even if Liam was only chocolate, I wanted to taste a piece.
The Romance: Liam. Handsome Liam. Liam who might be a killer.
“I nearly killed my father,” he said point-blank, staring at his hands as if they might still have blood on them.
Oh, but it's fine that he beat the crap out of his dad! It's just self-defense!
“Protecting yourself would be calling the police, not taking a baseball bat and putting your own father in a coma for seven days.”
“You don’t know all the facts,” I said, a little thrown by the baseball-bat thing. Liam hadn’t mentioned that detail, and I flinched at the image of him beating his father.
*slow clap* Good fucking job, Ruby Rose.
Recommended for people who love stabbing themselves in the eye.
This is ridiculous, she thought. I’m possessed of terrifying powers. Why am I relying on a ridiculous little gun that I picked because I thought it was cute? I don’t need this thing. She threw it contemptuously over her shoulder.
There’s something foul wandering the underground tunnels beneath my office, something that’s invisible to my vaunted powers.
Where’s my gun?
This book is X-Men meets X-Files meets The Bourne Identity meets Johnny English. And that may sound like a clusterfuck to end all clusterfucks, but somehow it works, or maybe my mind is just trying to make it better than it is because I'm coming off a massive chain of horrible books. Whatever. I loved it.
If this book were made into a movie, I can totally see Tina Fey in the lead role.
- Witty, dry, humorous writing
- A female assassin/secret agent not afraid to kill- A fun and interesting secret agency, think "paranormal MI5"
- A well-executed amnesia premise
- A racially diverse and fun suporting cast of characters
- NO ROMANCE. CAN I GET A FUCK, YEAH?!
The not so good:
- Questionable character development
- The length: it's a good book, but it could stand to be cut by a good 100 pages
- The infodump: It's a fun infodump, but it's still an infodump
The body you are wearing used to be mine.
A woman stood shivering in the rain, surrounded by a circle of dead bodies. She has no idea who she is. A letter inside her pocket informed her that she is a Myfanwy Thomas, pronounced miff-UN-nee. The letter gives her instructions, where to go, what to do. She checks herself into a hotel, as instructed, finds more letters. The next morning, she leaves the hotel, and is promptly attacked by four people, one of them the receptionist.
Myfanwy's reaction is a little unexpected. She almost kills them.
When she opened her eyes and took a breath, she realized that there was no one holding her. Instead, the four people were lying on the ground, twitching uncontrollably.
These letters will continue for the rest of the book. They tell Myfanwy who she was, how she grew up, most importantly, they tell her that Myfanwy now works for a secret agency known as the Checquy Group. They've been in existence for hundreds of years, and Myfanwy is a Rook. One of the highest ranking members of the group. Once you're in the Checquy Group, you don't get out.
I’ve only ever heard of three people who tried to leave the Checquy, and I know the history inside and out.
The first was a powered individual called Brennan the Intransigent who made a break for it in 1679. He was crucified on the cliffs of Dover.
The second was a soldier in 1802. He was carefully brought back to the Checquy stronghold and then buried alive in his village’s graveyard.
The third was a woman who could grow tentacles out of her back and exuded some sort of alarming toxin through her fingertips. Her stuffed body is currently displayed above the mantelpiece in one of the London offices.
The Checquy Agency employs normal, loyal people, but the epistle of its powers lies in those with special powers, such as Myfanwy.
I gained the power to touch people and possess instant control of their bodies. I could make them move however I pleased. I could read their physical condition, detect pregnancy, cancer, a full bladder.
Only, instead of being a super secret special agent, the old Myfanwy appears to be nothing more than a "glorified paper pusher," albeit a very powerful one. So what happened? How did she lose her memories? Why did the old Myfanwy plan so carefully for such a scenario?
Lots of questions. Few answers. But for now, Myfanwy's still got a job to go to. She has to step into her former life without a beat, while avoiding her colleague's questions.
“Yes?” said Myfanwy. What, do these guys keep tabs on my comings and goings? “Well, I...had an appointment.” They regarded her with expectant eyes, and she was suddenly filled with a desire to shake up those proprietary stares. “A gynecologist appointment.” She smiled triumphantly at the twins. “To have my vagina checked.”
And it has to be confessed that Myfanwy isn't altogether convincing at times.
“I’m sorry, Rook Thomas, but your car is here,” she said.
“My car?” Myfanwy said.
“It’s time for your dinner with Lady Farrier.”
“Oh, crap,” she sighed, then noticed Clovis’s shocked expression. “I mean, oh, good, this should be delightful.”
There's a lot of weird crap thrown at her, including horrifying colleagues who wouldn't hesitate to literally rip someone's face off, and acquaintances who have been alive for thousands of years.
“… past century she is notable for having kneed Joseph Stalin in the groin during a drinks reception, and she played a large part in the South African diamond industry,” Ingrid went on. “She also cured one member of our royal family of cancer in the 1950s, and infected another with syphilis in the 1960s.”
On her quest to find the truth about her memory loss, Myfanwy will face terrifying danger, manipulative colleagues, plagues, vampires, werewolves, mold monsters, and company parties.
I can’t wear this!” Myfanwy exclaimed in horror.
“You can’t wear that!” the housekeeper exclaimed.
“It’s like all the material that’s supposed to be on top migrated to the bottom,” said Val.
Any wedding in which this dress appeared on the bride would have to be pretty damn open-minded, thought Myfanwy. And might well incorporate the honeymoon on the altar.
The Setting: This book is an infodump. I usually hate infodumping, but it was done exceedingly well in this book. Through a series of letters, the old Myfanwy explained the inner workings, the history, and the stories surrounding the infernal Checquy Agency. It's a pretty typical paranormal agency, but it is so well-presented, from the internal politics, to the ranking, to the little-known details only an insider would know. It's an old agency, it is resistant to change. Paranormal or not, some things remain the same.
Occasionally, someone will point out these flaws and attempt to institute a change, but that person is slapped down. The reasons for this down-slappage are:
If you’re in the Court, you have an impressive title, and you don’t want to change it for something generic.
It’s supposed to remind us of the importance of strategy and of rank.
The premise of the superpowers are similar to that of the X-Men. While most of them lack the extent of the full mutant appearance, the players within the Checquy Agency are quite dangerous and abnormal. Like the fabulously Children-of-the-Corn Rook Gestalt.
Three boys and one girl. Two of the boys were identical. That’s not the weirdest thing, however. The weirdest thing was that when all four pairs of eyes opened, only one mind was looking out from behind them. This was Gestalt.
Gestalt is kind of disconcerting, because it/he/she/they is/are spread over four bodies.
f you wanted people with freakishly awesome powers who aren't afraid to use said power to maim, torture, and kill, you won't do much better than this book.
- She is hilariously average. She is quite plain in appearance (and no, nobody falls in love with her), her body is nothing special. She has terrible taste in clothing. She likes bunnies. She loves Toblerone chocolate. She has a tendency to stumble. While the old Myfanwy was a wallflower, the new Myfanwy is more apt to put her foot in her mouth, with a preference to run and hide rather than do anything heroic. But she can't, because she's a powerful person without being able to remember it. Crap.
She is jealous sometimes while never, ever slut shaming or hating another female for her appearance. In fact, one of the women with whom she works.
Please let her have slept her way to the top, thought Myfanwy. No one deserves to be this beautiful and clever too.
Turns out to be not only beautiful, but awesome, nice, and a great friend.
- She is super super super deadly, and is kind of a special snowflake at times.
My God, you were the most exciting find in decades! All of us knew about your potential. The tutors at the Estate were babbling about you to everyone!”
But it doesn't piss me off because she doesn't really give a fuck. The old Myfanwy is scared, she chokes, she hates using her powers to harm. The new Myfanwy doesn't have those reservations, but she's still not inclined to get into dangerous situations because 1. She doesn't want to, and 2. She really doesn't have a clue what's going on most of the time.
- Blending in: When you're an amnesiac, trying to get back into the swing of things at your paranormal MI5 workplace is kind of hard, especially when you have multiple-body-psychic-colleagues. I mean, what are you supposed to do when they're mentally killing something in front of you?
Finally, after a high-pitched kiYAA!, they settled back, breathing heavily, and explained that Eliza had just broken the neck of the leader of the antler cult, and that the complex was secured.
“Wow. Great,” said Myfanwy. “Nicely done.”
“Hmm,” said Tidy Twin absently. “Eliza has blood on her boots.”
“That’s lovely, Gestalt,” Myfanwy said, trying to keep her cool. “More coffee? Or more orange juice? No? Perhaps I could have Ingrid fetch you a couple of moist towelettes.”
The Not-So-Good: Really, there's only one thing. Her personality change. She has amnesia, and as mentioned, Myfanwy has trouble trying to get back into things and appearing normal. She's clumsy, but sometimes, she is far, far too competent and take-charge very early on when she largely hasn't a fucking clue of what's going on. Like during her first meeting, when things get out of hand, Myfanwy decides to take charge.
“Gentlemen!” she finally shouted, and her voice cut through the noise like a scythe through a poodle. There was dead silence, and everyone stared at her, stunned. “You all need to shut up and stay focused on the task at hand. Dr. Crisp, if you will turn your eyes back toward the interrogation, I wonder if you could revive the subject and question him.”
This is entirely too confident, too much for me to believe. I can understand a personality change, but I can't accept that Myfanwy can be so utterly silly and incompetent-sounding on one page, while being competely take-charge in the next.
It was an old room in an old building and was decorated in a very specific style that showed the decorators were lacking both imagination and a second X chromosome.
It's hilarious, but it's not like ha-ha hilarious. The author is American, but he does a damn fine job of replicating dry, deprecating British wit.
The Romance: THERE IS NONE! HALLELUJAH!
I'm Vietnamese. I speak, write, and read the language. I was born there, I know people who were served in the Vietnam War (hi, dad), I know people who came over to Europe, the US, Australia as boat people. So needless to say, if this book claims to be a book of Vietnamese stories, I'm going to be extra-critical.
This book is a collection of Vietnamese ghost stories. They are the most boring ghosts I have ever read.
Let me clarify something: There are no traditional Vietnamese ghost stories. We have myths, we have legends, based on our kings and queens and traditional religion, but we do not have ghost stories.
Vietnamese culture believes in ghosts and spirits. We pray to our ancestors' souls, we burn incense and offerings to them, but we do not have traditional ghost stories in the sense that the West have urban legends like Bloody Mary. Our ghosts are spirits and lost souls that haunt the odd houses and street corners, told by friends to one another when they think they've seen one, that's all. We do not have a whole lot of named scary monsters and ghosts creatures like in other cultures. Our culture is filled with spirits. They are not to be feared.
This is a book with made up stories set in Vietnam that contains ghosts, it is not a book of Vietnamese ghost stories because there are no such things.
The Premise: A bunch of short stories that are not terrifying nor terribly poignant. They're ok. They're not bad. They didn't move me, and they should have moved me. A ghost girl who appears in an apartment and then goes out with an old white dude who wants a pretty girl on his arm. A teenaged Vietnamese girl who goes back to Vietnam to visit her grandmother to encounter a ghost that sells banh mi? Are you fucking kidding me? This is what the ghost says to the girl.
“How will you be able to live without this in America?” said the sandwich vendor with a teasing edge in her voice as she handed Thuy her second bánh mì.
Thuy lives in Houston. There are 1000000 banh mi shops in Houston. Dude.
I felt like I should have felt something, but the stories are pointless; they're vignettes, and I expected ghost stories. When I read a ghost story, I expect to be scared.
Even the story about the trip of the boat people left me completely uninterested, and I grew up with these stories. The real horrors of the trip are scarier than any ghost could ever be, and the fact that these sorts of stories affect me not at all is pretty sad.
The stories lack a sense of time. I THINK they're set in present-day, but some stories felt like they were dated; there are no years mentioned, there's not much technology or any sort of markers of time, and I found myself very, very lost.
The Inconsistent Use of the Vietnamese Language: If you're not a native Vietnamese speaker, this would likely not bother you. I found the use and sprinkling of Vietnamese words in this book inconsistent. There are some very awkward uses of Vietnamese words from the POV of a native speaker. Technically, it works. Like the use of "con."
“Quiet, con, you asked for my boat story, so now listen to me tell it.”
"Con" means "child," the Vietnamese language works in that you address someone by their relationship and status with that person, for example, the book has a grandmother talking to her grandchild, she calls her "con," that's technically correct, but it just feels really awkward to me, like a French grandma saying "Come here, enfant." It's correct when translated, but it doesn't feel natural. I just don't like the use of certain Vietnamese words. It's just my own personal preference.
Then there's the use of Vietnamese vocabulary in its proper form, that is, accented. Like the word for "papaya," which is đu đủ. First off, this book puts the word together, as đuđủ; this is incorrect. The Vietnamese language is monosyllabic. Then, after using a properly accented word, the author proceeds to use other Vietnamese words and names without proper accent marks. It is jarring to me.
Then there are words that are just wrongly accented altogether. Cây hoa sú should be cây hoa sứ. Yeah, it's nitpicky. I don't care. It's a published book, and if you're going to publish it as a book of Vietnamese-based tales, it should be passable to someone who knows the language inside and out.
More examples: Hanoi the city. It is Hà Nội, because again, the Vietnamese language is monosyllabic. Every syllable is its own word! In the same chapter, certain words aren't properly accented, like names, places, while others are. It drove me fucking nuts! I want consistency!
The Good: Faithful representation of Vietnam, and the people living there. I like the mimutiae, such as the mention of the incomprehensible accents of the people in the Hue region. I love the descriptions of the lesser known places, like the mention of the Cham temple (the native Vietnamese people who live in the hills, largely persecuted by the Vietnamese who traveled down from China and settled in present-day Vietnam) I like the use of the dragon and fairy myths.
Overall: Just a collection of short vignettes about the Vietnamese experience, that happen to contain some ghosts.
He turned to her, leaned down, and kissed her, his kisses sending her over the moon. They lay entwined on the lounge chair making out. Becca lost herself in the perfect world where a handsome prince sweeps an average American girl off her feet.
DNF at 58%, right after the main character says "I love you" to a guy she's known all of a week because I can't take the amount of incomprehensible stupidity in this book.
This book makes The Princess Diaries read like Game of Thrones. I hated its silliness and its carefree portrayal of boo fucking hoo poor-little-rich-kids privilege with the strength of a thousand burning pounds of unicorn feces. I would read Anna and the French Kiss ten times over before finishing this book, and you might recall I didn't exactly love Anna. The heroine in this book rivals Anna in stupidity, in insipidity, awash with #firstworldproblems and #whitegirlproblems, with none of the cuteness.
It is a sad day indeed when I am forced to admit that Anna is cute, in comparison to anything. If Anna is like a fluffly, snuffly little Shih-Tzu puppy, Becca is a little rat-sized chihuahua that never ceases to yap that I want to mentally soccer-punt into oblivion.
“Ten days of this. Shoot me now. Everything here is a gabillion years old. The palace of this, the castle of that. Seriously?”
Becca is having the worst fucking summer ever. EVER. Her wealthy technology CEO dad is dragging the entire family to Europe. EUROPE! Fuck that shit. They have to spend like, a month, traveling down central Europe on a luxury riverboat cruise.
They have to visit old fucking cities like Vienna, Austria and touring old fucking historical sites like Hofburg Palace and Schönbrunn Palace and Melk Abbey.
They have to eat "exotic" European local foods, when all Becca wants is a Diet Pepsi and some McDonalds.
All she wanted was something familiar, like an icy cold, American Diet Pepsi, french fries, and music that wasn’t three hundred years old. She checked out the streets jutting off the square and chose the street where she saw the McDonald’s.
Old palaces. Walking tours. Learning about history.
She leaned back in her seat, quickly bored again, and wishing she were home. Other than the couple of moments of eye candy, Becca hated Europe.
Spending time with her family. Why does life suck so bad? I mean, fuck, her stepmother actually WANTS them to be like a family and bond. What kind of stepmom does that anyway?!
10 days on a riverboat cruise in Europe with her family. Surely, life can't get any worse :
But really, Becca doesn't have it bad at all, compared to Prince Nikolai, Crown Prince of Mondovia.
The demands of the monarchy—and his parents—threatened to suffocate the life right out of him. As each day passed, he lost more of himself.
Nikolai's life is horrible. He's a young, 18-year old Crown Prince of a small European royalty. He doesn't actually HAVE to do anything, since the Crown is a figurehead only. It's like working at McDonalds! It's child labor! It's HORRIBLE! Nikolai has to spend day after day attending royal events and being photographed and attending state dinners and riding horses. It's HORRIBLE!
“I guess the thing that makes it so difficult is my lack of choices. There is very little I get to decide for myself. My parents have picked my schools, my activities, who I associate with. They and their advisors decide who I sit next to at formal events, who I speak to at a grand opening, who I take photos with at fund-raisers, what charities I must support, even what horse I’ll ride.”
Not to mention the fact that his family is wealthy because they take all the taxpayer's money, so that Nikolai will be wealthy for the rest of his life without ever having to work.
I mean, who'd want that sort of life, anyway?
It's not like Nikolai can abdicate or anything. I mean...what kind of a king would abdicate...
Well, um. Nikolai wants to be an environmentalist.
He was far more interested in saving the planet from pollution than plotting invasions in war-torn countries.
So it's not like he can have make a cause out of saving the environment and going green or anything, I mean, what kind of Crown Prince becomes an environmentalist?!
Well, um. Nikolai's being forced to join the army. WHAT KIND OF CROWN PRINCE JOINS THE MILITARY ANYWAY?!
Other royal families, like in England, they don’t have to go into the military, do they?”
“The direct heirs to the throne have all served.” He frowned.
“So what are you going to do?”
*slow clap* Way to go, Nikolai. Yes. Go after your dreams.
Since Nikolai is so sick of his pampered, sheltered, wealthy, leisurely life, he's going to run away and be incognito and ignore aaaaaaaaaaall the responsibilitiezzzz! He's going to do it on a motorbike that's been given to him by Middle Eastern royalty.
And he will meet Becca. Refreshing Becca. Becca without a brain cell in her head.
"I barely passed high school Spanish.”
This is the story of how an idiot prince falls in love with an "refreshingly idiotic" commoner.
Something about this beautiful American girl kept him from thinking about anything else. It didn’t make sense. Becca was ignorant of the historic cities she toured. Her sense of direction was so bad she could probably lose her own shadow, and her quirky sense of humor made him constantly want to kiss her.
“The kids in Europe must hate history class. These countries go back so freakin’ far. At least the U.S. is barely two hundred years old.”
Becca would give Anna-oui-is-spelled-wee a run for her money in the brains department. She is a newly graduated senior, who will be going to Northwestern in the fall. I can only surmise that her admittance is thanks to her dad's money and legacy. Because Becca is a motherfucking moron.
I don't even know what the fuck is wrong with her school. I don't know about anyone else, but my high school required three years of a foreign language, and yet Becca is barely competent in English, let another another language. What the FUCK kind of school did she attend? I attended high school in America! We had to learn European history! Becca doesn't seem to know any fucking thing! American history goes back 200 years?! NO! What about the days of the colonists, the pilgrims? The pre-Columbus days?! Don't tell me she didn't learn that! Don't tell me her high school curriculum didn't even cover Europe!
I don't know how the fuck Northwestern admitted her, when Becca "barely passed Spanish" and barely pulled off a B in history.
“But you’re not even from here! I don’t know how you can remember the history of other countries. I can’t tell you a thing about Canada other than they play a lot of hockey there. History is my worst subject. I barely pulled off a B last semester.”
She is the epitome of the Ugly, Stupid American abroad, and is the kind of American tourist that makes Europeans hate American tourists. She refuses to adapt. She constantly seeks out McDonalds instead of local cuisine (and come on, it's fucking Europe. It's not like the food there is anything like the comparative strangeness of, say, African or Asian foods).
Nikolai: The Smooth Stalker:
"Think about it. I’m an American girl in a foreign country, who took off with a guy I’ve known for barely two minutes. For all I know, you’ve kidnapped me and are going to sell me into slavery.”
It really sucks that Nikolai is a crown prince, but it's ok. He's got an alternative career...Ok, he can't really DO anything at all.
“For starters, I don’t have too many skills other than shaking hands, playing polo, and fencing.”
But he's wrong! Nikolai has a career...in stalking girls!
Becca goes to one city? He happens to be there as well. They move onto another city? BOOM! He's there. What a coincidence! I don't know, but to me, that's rather creepy. And then he sneaks onto her riverboat cruise in the middle of the night and scares the shit out of Becca.
Becca set down the remote and rubbed her face. When she looked up, she saw a tall, imposing figure lurking on the other side of her balcony railing.
Becca screamed and scrambled back into the corner of her bed.
“Becca, it’s me, Nikolai,” he called out, hoping he didn’t fall into the Danube as he clung to the outside of the moving boat.
OH, HE'S HANGING ONTO THE OUTSIDE OF A MOVING RIVERBOAT IN THE DARK BECAUSE HE FOLLOWED HER. THAT'S NOT CREEPY AT ALL.
It's absolutely acceptable to be a creeper if you're good looking. Then it's romantic. Men: don't try this if you're ugly.
He's a smooth talker. There's nothing like dropping your royal title to get a girl to drop her panties.
“If you do become king, you could never hang out with me.”
“Nope. Not unless you were my queen.” He smirked.
But still, it's just SO REFRESHING TO FIND SOMEONE WHO LOVES HIM FOR HIM. Someone so NORMAL. Like *sigh* Becca.
Being the Prince of Mondovia allowed him access to a lot of pretty girls, most of whom wanted to kiss a prince. But none drove him crazy like Becca.
ME HATE THIS BOOK. ME SMASH. ME LOST 50 IQ POINTS. ME VOCABULARY DEAD. AAAAAAAAAAARG.