Boy Robot, Simon Curtis

I gave this book a 3/5 on goodreads because I DNF it and I don’t believe I can really give a true “rating” for a book I didn’t finish. Giving it an “average” rating seems fair, as I strongly suspect if I pushed through to the end that I would give it a 1/5 but still it probably deserves the benefit of the doubt. I made it about 50% through this book.

Boy Robot has a decent premise; there’s robot children whose powers manifest at age 18 and shadowy government conspiracies about using them as weapons. Some scary branch of gov’t hunts down those robots who are living free in the world. Supposedly it has some LGBT representation. I could probably guess which characters that applies to but at my 50% mark saw nothing definitive.

This book suffers from the same issues several other books that border YA/Adult fiction written by men suffer from: rape is added for seemingly nothing other than shock factor and has no bearing on the plot, but readers are just supposed to blink past it. What is the point of the rape scenes in this book? To show me the people working for the EVIL GOVT ORGANIZATION are bad? Yeah dude. I fucking know they’re bad. You didn’t need to throw in a rape for me to figure that out. If characters aren’t being raped they’re otherwise being tortured, abused by their parents, etc., etc. It’s not that I have an issue with these things in a book. It’s just that it’s exhausting to read constantly. The book is steeped in this never-ending, unavoidable cloud of negativity because everything is bad and awful and it’s like… I shouldn’t feel emotionally drained trying to slog through all the BS in this book. Can’t I just like… enjoy the book?

On top of that this book makes heavy use of flashbacks/filler chapters which anyone who reads my reviews know I find unbearably dull. Like, I’ve spent maybe 6 chapters with the main character and it feels like a billion others with random people I don’t know and won’t ever be important again. On top of that, like nobody’s got names so I can’t even frigging tell if I’ve read a chapter in this person’s POV before. All in all, pretty much impossible to read. Hugely disappointing, especially because I was gonna use this book for my AI square on fantasy bingo, but it is what it is.

La Belle Sauvage, Phillip Pullman

La Belle Sauvage the first book in a new series by Philip Pullman and a prequel to his super popular and awesome His Dark Materials trilogy. I understand that The Book of Dust will also be a trilogy. The first book follows a boy who gets drawn into some shadowy underworld stuff because a sweet little infant, Lyra, is living at the priory near his parent’s pub/inn, and he gets caught up in the adventure or whatever.

Disclaimer: I found this book super boring and the characters uninteresting. And following that, confession: I don’t remember the main character’s name . LOL. Martin maybe? John? I dunno, he had a boring little boy name because he was a boring little boy. This book isn’t ultimately awful, it just doesn’t intrigue the way the first series does. Perhaps my hopes were set too high. The most exciting parts of this book are parts when characters we recognize make small appearances, such as Lord Asriel (aka love of 12 year old Heather’s life). Otherwise, none of the new characters really inspired me to care about them much, except maybe the old nuns who were so sweet. There’s an interesting villain dude, who’s super insane and beats his own daemon (!?!?!), but because this is a YA book, Pullman doesn’t really go full-dark on us. Instead we get merely a glimpse of this dude’s true depravity. It’s like, go hard or go home, you know? And it kinda feels as though Mr. Pullman just wanted to go home.

Plot-wise, this book suffers from being split into two distinct plots, but not really being clear on that front. We spend an ETERNITY slumming it around whatever little podunk English suburb our main character lives in, and then by the time we are finally like, adventuring, the adventure takes TOO goddamn long and is SO boring. Like, are we going to London or not? Why have we stopped at every small island along the way and had inane and stupid adventures? You really spend a LOT of time in a boat with these characters, which might be bearable if the characters were likable or interesting, but as I’ve previously established, they aren’t.

What this book does WELL is the sort of political maneuvering that was awesome in His Dark Materials. There are little children-led spy organizations wherein children rat out their friend’s parents for certain behaviours, beliefs, etc, which is a super sinister way of monitoring the citizenship. I mean… they’re kids. They’re everywhere.

Ultimately I give this book a cat-sleeping-all-day: pretty much what the cat was gonna do anyway. Not good, not bad.

Every Heart a Doorway, Seanan Maguire

“Every Heart A Doorway” by Seanan Maguire was a light, fun read but really rather disappointing. Even though it won like a billion fantasy awards. It has a really awesome premise. The main character is attending a school for those children (mostly girls) who find themselves drawn into- and then out of- other worlds, and helps them learn to cope with life in our world afterwards. And of course there’s lots of delicious little tidbits about the other worlds which is very interesting. So, with the premise being that tantalizing, your mind is racing and you’re like WOW, there’s so much amazing stuff that you could do with this, you want to know more, you want to read all about the other cool worlds and you’re really impressed by the vision and how the worlds are categorized. There’s High Nonsense, High Logic, High Magic, etc, like every possible fairyworld is possible to get to. And I mean, from a mental health standpoint, what DOES happen if you go to Narnia and you can’t ever go back? But the story ends up being just a basic murder mystery, so you’re like.. Eh…

The main character doesn’t even go through much of a journey on her way to the end of the book. I can’t REMEMBER HER NAME right now and I read it like three days ago. Lydia? Sarah? I honestly would have to find the book. So the main character is probably the least interesting of the cast, and doesn’t develop like, at all, but the other characters were various shades of cliche, and only Jack seems to make any forward progress. Every Heart A Doorway did have a diverse cast in the way of having one trans character (who was kicked out of a fairyland when they discovered he wasn’t a princess), the main character is asexual, and some other characters cross-dress. (And one of them has a girlfriend who is a skeleton ……???) It ends up being like a buddy-buddy team up to uncover the mystery, (and dispose of some bodies), and then at the end (TOTAL SPOILERS), Lydia/sarah/main girl, ends up going back through her doorway (fairyland portal or whatever) to the Halls of the Dead where she will be happy(?).  I even feel kind of guilty ragging on the book, like maybe I should just appreciate it for what it was? But you’re like OMGGG, the potential, the whole time you’re reading it.

So even though it’s like a quick light romp (if you don’t count the brutal murders), there’s obviously some heavy themes as people are coping with being totally unable to return to a place that really resonated with them.Mostly their parents think they are actually insane after their experiences, so that’s pretty rough. But the themes were presented heavy handedly imo so you’re like rolling your eyes.

It reminded me of heavily of The Invisible Library series, with their ordering of different worlds as High Reason/High Chaos, and obviously of the Magicians, and Quinn’s obsession with returning to Fillory. The Invisible Library is of a similar quality (like- just not that good? but still enjoyable?) and The Magicians is much better but not YA. Every Heart a Doorway is like YA quality/text but .. brutal murders, lots of ’em, so I’m not even sure how to classify it.

 

Still interested in  Every Heart a Doorway? Find it on Amazon

Rather delve into the epic world of The Magicians & sequels? —> Click here

Ooo, the Invisible Library sounds good?! —> Find it here

Carry On, Rainbow Rowell

It is a truth universally acknowledged, that a novel in possession of a YA plot, must be in want of a Chosen One. Unfortunately for Rainbow Rowell’s Carry On, Simon is like, the Worst Chosen One Ever. This is good news for us readers though because it makes for a really hilarious and entertaining book.

So Carry On can kinda be summed up as gay Harry Potter if Harry was actually pretty crap at being a wizard and Harry/Draco was a thing outside the world of fanfiction. The fact that it’s a HP spoof doesn’t take away from the novel though. Some spoofs you can’t read without constantly thinking of the original, but despite the obvious similarities in setup, I found it very easy to immerse myself in this world and not constantly be thinking of how X or Y thing relates to the source text. There were only two real exceptions. There’s at least one character who is basically just a HP character with her name changed (but since it’s Hermione who is one of the best HP characters it is nice to spend more time with her). Some of the plot twists were a little predictable, not so much because they were unoriginal as because I could kind of figure out exactly which Harry Potter tropes were going to be subverted. Still, I really liked the story that evolved and I wouldn’t have wanted the plot to go a less predictable way because I appreciated the message that came out of it.

The relationships (platonic, romantic, and familial) and characterizations in this novel were beautifully done. Simon is definitely a teenage boy, but even when he was doing stupid teenage boy stuff it felt very honest and justifiable. I didn’t have the usual YA reading experience of being like “OH, MY, GOD, I know you’re a teenager but you can’t be THAT stupid!!” I genuinely got where Simon was coming from and appreciated the ride watching him grow along the way, which I think is indicative of masterful writing. The romance was cute and ultimately believable since I can totally buy that two teenage boys would actually be that dense in their romantic approach to one another.

Really enjoyable read for people who like easy, quirky YA fantasy and good LGBTQ+ rep! I rate this book sunbathing kitten slowly moving across the floor to stay in the light through the window because that’s what I was for the bulk of the afternoon refusing to put this book down.

Interested? Find Carry On on Amazon.

 

Caraval, Stephanie Garber

Stephanie Garber’s Caraval is the story of Scarlett, who enters a dangerous, confusing game– the Caraval– in order to find her missing sister. Along the way there’s some intrigue, romance, and even a little bit of magic. I heard so many good things about this book. It was one of the finalists for the GoodReads Choice Awards, and it’s been all over most of the book blogs I enjoy. I can see why people love Caraval, but for me, it didn’t live up to the hype.

I love the concept behind Caraval. The game itself was a delight to read. The contestants follow clues to lead them to the final prize, but the world of Caraval works in strange ways and it’s difficult to know who can be trusted, since some players will do whatever it takes to win. On top of that, the mystery of the Caraval’s master, a man named Legend, keeps you guessing throughout the novel.

What sucks most about the novel is the same thing that sucks about most YA novels: the romance. I’m super over novels where young girls fall for dark, mysterious, brooding guysHoney, he’s just a douchebag, and revealing alternative explanations for someone’s crappy behaviour after the fact doesn’t justify those behaviours or make them any less crappy. “Cool motive, still murder,” right? On top of that, the romance– or lack thereof– was super dull. There is literally zero genuine chemistry between Scarlett and Julian. The moments where Scarlett questions whether or not she likes him come at you out of left field because there’s literally nothing preceeding them that would give her reason to like him, other than his pretty face.

The ending of Caraval left a lot to be desired for me, as well. There were a ton of twists and reveals which is normally cool, but multiple times I felt like, “wow she really went there! gutsy!” and then Garber pops up and she’s all “nyeaahhh! psych!!” The ending we get is ultimately too safe and too boring for me, considering what we could have had.

Caraval will definitely remain a hit with certain types of readers. If you like your romance steamy if not necessarily with much substance, if you’re into intrigue and puzzles, or if you’re a sucker for happy endings, this may be the book for you. A fun and fast read, definitely, but a little too on the light side for me. I rate this book: poolside-lounging cat…. 3 and half stars.

Have a poolside snooze with Caraval, on Amazon.

The Boy on the Bridge, M R Carey

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The Boy on the Bridge (link goes to Amazon) is an excellent sequel that will answer some questions about the previous book, “The Girl With All the Gifts” (which I have also reviewed on this site) and enlarge the world that M R Carey so brilliantly brought to life in the last novel. There are a few things which really challenged me while reading and kind of distracted me from the experience, but I still enjoyed it.  (Slight spoilers for first book follow- please just read it, it’s amazing!)

One of the most challenging things is that the bulk of this book takes place before the events of The Girl With All the Gifts; the scientists that it centers around are travelling in “Rosie”, which you will remember from the first book. So straight away you’re suspicious and you’re like, I’m totally on guard and I won’t let myself get close to ANY OF YOU because I know you are all dead.  The main character, Samrina, is revealed to be pregnant, so you’re like, I know you’re double dead. Does everybody actually die? Ehhh…. You’ll find out.

There is a surprising amount of action for a book that mostly features driving around in a huge armoured science lab/bus. I always enjoy the brisk pace M R Carey has and again even the moping around chapters advance something.  He says a lot with few words when it comes to description. I wasn’t super interested in the political plot (seems a lot less threatening when you’re having to contact them via radio!) but it did nicely contrast the other major conflict in the story.

Five stars. It was a great book. Both my cats were like Ummm?? We are orphans now because you’re spending too much time reading???

 

maurice- bookz

 

MOM???

The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, Mackenzi Lee

I’ll be honest, this is not my usual genre. This book was recommended to me as a BISEXUAL TIME TRAVEL BOOK so obviously I immediately rushed to buy it in the first available format I could. Tragically, this is in actuality a bisexual HISTORICAL FICTION book, which is really nothing like bisexual time travel, a fact that resulted in much sadness and tears.

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I also made the quite frankly massive mistake of starting this as an audiobook (like I said, I leapt at the first available format), and was thoroughly convinced by chapter 2 that this book SUCKED. I am so very glad I eventually gave up on my 10 bucks or whatever it was I sank into that audiobook and just got the ebook from the library. Buddy, lemme tell you: this book… DOESN’T suck. At all.

Continue reading “The Gentleman’s Guide to Vice and Virtue, Mackenzi Lee”

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Holly Black.

Sigh. What to say about Coldtown… This book had a lot of promise. Our initial main three characters are interesting and have a fun dynamic. Our protagonist Tana is just your regular girl with a sad past trying to make it in a world where vampires are real and live in military-policed quarantine zones called Coldtowns. Her charismatic ex-boyfriend Aiden and mysterious and insane vampire Gavriel join her on a mission to the nearest Coldtown that ends in her discovering quite the plot. This is where things start to fall apart.

Continue reading “The Coldest Girl in Coldtown, Holly Black.”