If I keep this up, I will be known as that girl who only gives books 2 star (or lower) ratings. But what can I do, if I keep picking the wrong books to read??
me: okay, so we have a little girl, probably around 6 years old...
the book: no, no, no Heloise is a woman of 16 winters!
me: are you sure, because she doesn't act much like one...
the book: she's a woman grown of 16!!
me: ok, but ...
the book: she's 16!!
me: .........whatever dude, she's 6 and you know it.
My point is, that having a character repeating their age doesn't actually make them that age. Maybe the author was trying to reassure himself that he knows how to write a teenage female character, while in truth he does not.
This was such a miss for me that I don't even want to write this review. I don't think I have one positive thing to say about it? Well, the writing was good. Minus the action sequences, those were a mess. I liked Twitch. And I did enjoy one whole chapter out of the whole book, so yeah.
I am just so tired of male authors trying to write books with teenage girls as protagonists, and failing hugely at it. Have you ever actually met a teenage girl in your life? Or do you just follow the "how to create a fantasy novel teenage girl protagonist for dummies" ?
Because apparently all girls don't ever just want to be girls. They want to be strong and manly, and ride around on horses chopping their enemies heads. They spur their mothers who are soft, and house-wifey and just not as cool as their fathers. Well you know what, you can chop enemies heads in the morning and still tidy up your house in the afternoon.
At first I was pleasantly surprised that Heloise (as a fantasy character) still had her father and her mother alive - what a rarity, not an orphan! But then she voiced just how much of a waste of space she thought her mother was, and how can she just sit home and do chores and never want any adventure, and I decided that it would have been better if her mother was dead. Because you know being JUST a mother and a wife is such a disgrace in a fantasy world.
For being only 200 pages long this book was so boring, it was astonishing. The beginning seemed promising, for a few pages, till a whole load of random names, professions, religious beliefs and more was dumped on a reader in a span of, oh I don't know 5 pages. The world was trying to be too big, while showing so very little. And it can work in a novella, but it just didn't work in this one.
Also, what is up with Heloise's constant rage? It was the driving force of the whole book, but it was never explained. Was she raging because of her "teenage" hormones?? Was she raging because there was a bigger reason inside of her for it? Did she have anger issues? Was she bi-polar? You know if Heloise wasn't so stupid, and thought before she acted at least once, this book could have been so much shorter. Because EVERYTHING in this book happened thanks to Heloise. Because she couldn't control her stupid self.
It goes like this: Heloise does something stupid - her father protects her. She then does something stupider, her father protects her. She then, yep, does something stupid again (puts the entire village in danger) and look here's her father running to protect her. If she was supposed to portray a brave young woman, well I didn't get that. Bravery is not always running into danger head first, bravery is knowing when to shut up sometimes, a concept very foreign to Heloise.
And don't get me started on her getting into that armor that was meant for a grown, trained soldier and just kicking ass in it, without having any physical strength, knowledge about how to fight, and training whatsoever. How convenient.
Besides me hating Heloise as the main character, or as I dubbed her, the idiot - the book didn't do anything for me. I felt no emotion, no connection, no interest - the only good thing about this book was that I finished it.
!!! Spoilers !!!
I have never seen a book struggle so much to fill its pages with content. Young Jane Young is a waste of paper, and I am not speaking figuratively.
I don't know what I was expecting from this book, but this wasn't it. This was a mess.
The book is broken into points of view of 4 people, and a third person narrative for some stupid reason, but later on that.
Rachel, who is main character's mother, is the nastiest, most horrible, selfish and just plain icky person. You know I thought that I loved messed up characters, but I might only love them if Liz Nugent (an author of Lying in Wait, highly recommend) writes them, because I despised Rachel. I guess her point of view was "interesting", but I did not enjoy it. And the time hops, ohh the time hops - is it so hard to mark your chapters with "past" and "present" ?? Time hops were only present in Rachel's chapters, which was ridiculous, and so unnecessary. Blergh. Needless to say that I was happy hen it switched over to Jane.
Jane's point of view is actually the only one I really enjoyed. But I do have to say that she paints herself in much better light than she really is. Although, I didn't blame her at all. Not till the 3rd person narrative started. Jane's point of view made me think that this book could be good, that I could give it maybe 3.5 rating (which now seems so foolishly generous to me). But things got bad.
Things got bad with Ruby. First of all - the format switch. Why? It was told in emails between Ruby and her pen pal from Indonesia, who literally had no voice or relevance in the story except for being the recipient of these emails (by the way, when the book ended there was not a single mention of the pen pal, proving that it was a thoughtless addition to the story). Then there's Ruby. Her chapters were filled with USELESS ramblings and trivia pieces on things that I literally gave zero fucks about. It's so obvious that the author only had about 150 pages factual content for this book, but to fill the page requirements filled it with useless crap.
But it gets worse. But first, Embeth. I liked her point of view too, but there just wasn't enough of it to paint her as a cohesive character. Plus the parrot thing was so stupid! Okay, if she had more page time and was more developed - it would maybe have been touching (and that's stretching it). Is she lovely? Is she literally going crazy? We will never know.
Now, dear readers, for the last 30 percent of the book let me rehash the whole story in 3rd person, while adding small details of the missing plot. Ah, also it's a game. Sort of. Also, I have no content so some pages will only contain one paragraph of the information you already know, and some even just one fucking sentence on the whole page! - this is what I imagine went in the author's head, while she was writing it, because I see no other explanation.
For the book that was heavy on feminist agenda, none of the women really represented a strong female character. I'm not even going to try and dissect Rachel, because I've erased her from my memory. Rachel who?
Jane was stupid. Okay, yes we all make mistakes. Yes, we're allowed to, yes we're human. But we also learn from the mistakes, hopefully. It took painfully looooooooooong time for Jane to learn anything. Also, if you don't want to be labeled as a slut (whether you're a woman or a man), well maybe don't act like one? Yes, you can be forthcoming and confident in your sexuality and you don't have to answer to anybody for what you do and with who you do it.
But you still have to have some semblance of morals, no? Not once did she think that she was ruining a family. Not once did she think about the wife (okay Levin told her that he and his wife were on the rocks, but why would you believe a cheating man's word is beyond me). Because you want to believe it, because it quiets your conscience, what little of it you have. Okay, she did think about those things, but only in relation to her - how it affected her, not how it affected the wife or the sons.
Frannie never found the guts to leave her abusive husband. Ruby sold out her own mother. Rachel sold out her own daughter. Embeth chose love, one sided as it was. Roz believed the lies of her new boyfriend over the words of her life long friend. Literally, none of those women know what solidarity is. Or what it means to support other women.
Also, why Jane never told Jorge? Why didn't he deserve to know about his daughter (side note, I thought Jorge was gay. So it was disappointing to find out the he turned out to be the father). And how on earth didn't he put two and two together when he talked with Embeth about it?
Just in case it wasn't clear from my review - I was not a fan.
Ohh, almost forgot about the ending. The reader gets to decide how it ends - did she win the election, did she not? WE WILL NEVER KNOW.
DNF at page 67
So, I'm going to go ahead and let this one go.
It's been a long time coming. I've tried reading this book. I tried enjoying every little piece of information, every little unnecessary detail, every little boring conversation in hopes that it will all become important in the end. And they well might, but I will never know. And I am okay with that.
I wanted to try and pick my books very carefully, so I can avoid abandoning books. But, I just must. Why should I spend my time (what little of it I have) to keep reading a book in which I see no point? Which stirs no emotion in me whatsoever?
When there are books out there that captivate me from the first page. From the first sentence even! I gave this book 67 pages of my time (some days I could only read 2 pages before falling asleep. From boredom or exhaustion? Who knows, probably both).
I tried looking at my notes to write the review, but all it says is that I'm bored, and that nothing is grabbing my attention. The only thing I was interested in was the actual dystopian world they lived in, and the "donations" - but nothing, and I mean really nothing was said about those. Just bare mentions - teasers if you will. That more information will come later, that everything will be explained. Well you know what, Kathy (the main narrator) I don't have time for that.
There's a person at my library who put a hold on this book after me, so I'm going to go ahead and return it early. Hopefully they will enjoy it much more than I did. Meanwhile I'm going to go and try to shake off the feeling of imminent book slump that this book has put me in.
Don't judge the book by its... name, am I right? But, yes there are indeed some erotic stories in there, but there is also so much more.
The book lured me in immediately - Nikki and Mindi and their mother were such a relatable combo. I especially loved the deep contrast between sisters. But my favorite story arc was that of Kurumpal and her family. Her first days in England and how she tried to speak English and be more "British" and all the perils that come from being an immigrant, trying to navigate this whole new world - was all very relatable to me.
I must mention that the pacing of this is very, very slow. I got at least a 100 pages in before I started seeing the actual underlines of a plot taking place. I think this might be due to the book trying to be too many things at once - the book had an agenda of liberating women in their sexuality, sure, but it also tried to play out a mystery angle as well as being just a regular good chick-lit. It did not succeed completely in any of those areas, but the ending and the overall feel of the book was wrapped up amiably, so I still ended up enjoying it.
I also had trouble seeing how this would be empowering to any woman, as for the good half of the book all of the women (particularly widows) were pretty much, well bitches. Bringing somebody else down does not empower you - it's not how women's empowerment works, and I think sometimes the book got lost in hurtful stereotypes, and while it tried to break some of them, it definitely imposed even more of them on.
Now onto the juicy stuff - the erotic stories. Or "the super awkward cringy stories". Because that's what they were, I honestly enjoyed only about 3 stories out of all of them, and the first few ones that were told were completely awful and not sexy at all. The story of Rita and Meera was the only one that stuck with me as being moderately sexy.
I think the reason that erotic stories came out awkward was because it felt as if the author was using those stories for a shock value of a giant contrast between extreme modesty of Sikhs and the extreme rowdiness that some of the widows showed. It just didn't feel plausible.
If I'm being honest the 1st half of the book and the second one felt like they were written by a different person. First - awkward and cringy, without a clear plot, relaying heavily onto stereotypes to highlight the wrongs of a strict and closeted community. Second - plot centered, more fluid and open minded about both the modern Punjabi women and traditional ones (although traditionalism was still sort of frowned upon).
There is a dark undercurrent that runs under these stories, which I really appreciated, but also felt that it could have been explored just a tad bit more. In the end I ended up enjoying Kurumpal and Mindy the most. Kurumpal moving on with her life and obtaining the confidence she felt she lacked all of her life was truly empowering. And Mindy, while such a small example, was a great point of how traditional isn't bad, as long as you approach it correctly.
In the end I enjoyed the book and it's something that will stick with me for sure, but is it worth the GIANT hype wave that it got? No, not really. The writing is very mediocre, and there were few insensitive things in here that I can definitely see being offensive to people of this culture. I am not one of them and I still found them offensive.
(it's important to mention that this rating is for the audio book. If I read the physical copy I'd have probably given this 3.75 stars)
Seanan McGuire and me don't go well together, apparently. I was perfectly content in giving up this series after book one (which I gave 2.25 stars to), but then I saw an audio book of it on Libby and thought "why not?". Big mistake.
I was ready to DNF the audio book of this after about 30 seconds in. After the marvelous narrations of McLeod Andrews and Rebecca Soler (of the two previous books that I audio'd) this felt like nails on a chalkboard.
Now, I know it's probably unbelievably rude to say this, as the book is narrated by the author herself, but that is just how it felt. For starters, she reads way too fast. I could only listen to small chunks of it before getting a huge headache from concentrating so hard (and yes, rewinding sometimes). And I thought I was a fast talker! Then, she inhales audibly before reading a particularly large chunk of a paragraph in that one breath. Cringe! Lastly, the volume - some things are read so low that I had to turn up my volume, and then immediately followed by the loudest screeching in my ear causing me to lower it down immediately. And then repeat the whole process.
However, after about an hour or so it seemed that she found her perfect speed and slowed down a bit - so at least I was able to listen to it without giving myself a giant headache.
So that was my experience with the audio of this book. Would I have liked it better if I read it instead of listening? Yes. But the whole point of me giving this series another chance was because audio book didn't require anything of me and I could listen to it without taking away from my actual reading time.
I also should mention the main reason of why I'm not a good audience for these books - the "telling not showing" style does not work for me. At all. If I'm reading a fantasy book (be it a novel, or a novella in this case) I don't want to be told of an adventure - I want to experience it. I don't want to be pointedly reminded of reasons why things are happening, or how am I as a reader should be reacting to these things.
For a book that short Down Among the Sticks and Bones felt extremely repetitive. I cannot even begin to count how many times something about "sisters drifting further apart because of their parents" was mentioned. Over and over again. Yes, their parents are dicks. Yes I get it, I can make these connections all on my own, now move on with the plot, please.
All of that negativity aside, I did enjoy the story itself. I liked the atmosphere, and I liked the bleakness of it all. I liked Jack, a lot. I did not like Jill. At all. I liked Dr. Bleak, of course. I hated their parents, who wouldn't?
As with Every Heart a Doorway, I found something to really dislike - Jack's complete inability to physically interact. Now, don't get me wrong - I absolutely get why she was like that, and for the most part I was really on board with it. But what I couldn't condone is Jack thinking that her "condition" was absolutely justified and that Alexis had to just live with it. She didn't think of Alexis's feelings, or how Alexis needed pure uncovered physical contact just as much as Jack couldn't give it to her. And I mean "bath, tooth brushing, flossing and medical exam" (WTF??) before she would even touch her girlfriend? If that is not messed up, I don't know what is.
I'm not sure if I'll continue further along with the series, I might. I am truly curious about the characters and the plot intertwining throughout all of the books, it's just the execution of it all is what I'm not so keen on. But we will see.
Unraveling Oliver is my second book by Liz Nugent, the first one was Lying in Wait, which I absolutely loved. Unraveling Oliver was also good, but I will be honest - I expected things to be more shocking than they were. Maybe I'm just heartless, I don't know, but it could have been darker, you know.
The book definitely started out with a punch - that first sentence lets you know right then and there how the book was going to go. And it did deliver throughout, it did. Things fizzled out a bit by the end, which was a tad disappointing, but not in any capacity to ruin the story for me. I enjoyed the book pretty much from cover to cover.
I do want to mention that while Unraveling Oliver is advertised as a thriller, it's not really. Sure it's dark and twisty, and indeed thrilling, but it's more of a portrait study of Oliver. He talks about himself, then other people talk about him - different opinions and events forming the clearer and clearer picture.
There is a sub plot for one of the side characters that is also very good, while it is still greatly connected to Oliver, it brings a lot of depth to the story, and especially the times in which this story was set. The pacing of the story was perfect - I never once felt bored or distracted. Granted the book is only 260 pages, but somehow that is a perfect length. I wouldn't wish this book to be any longer, or shorter.
I am proud to say that I did figure out Oliver's "dark secret", but I was also wrong to whom the secret applied. It's hard to review Unraveling Oliver without giving anything away, but I will just say this - there are some monsters in this book, and there are no happy endings in Liz Nugent books. And I need more from her. I'm addicted.