Did Not Finish, Fantasy

Review: Otherbound

Cover of "Otherbound," Featuring pink and purple text in front of two faces, mostly in darkness, facing opposite directions
Image from Corinne Duyvis

Title: Otherbound

Author: Corinne Duyvis

Genre: Fantasy

Trigger Warnings: Verbal abuse, physical abuse, blood/injury, character death

Back Cover:

Amara is never alone. Not when she’s protecting the cursed princess she unwillingly serves. Not when they’re fleeing across dunes and islands and seas to stay alive. Not when she’s punished, ordered around, or neglected.

She can’t be alone, because a boy from another world experiences all that alongside her, looking through her eyes.

Nolan longs for a life uninterrupted. Every time he blinks, he’s yanked from his Arizona town into Amara’s mind, a world away, which makes even simple things like hobbies and homework impossible. He’s spent years as a powerless observer of Amara’s life. Amara has no idea . . . until he learns to control her, and they communicate for the first time. Amara is terrified. Then, she’s furious.

All Amara and Nolan want is to be free of each other. But Nolan’s breakthrough has dangerous consequences. Now, they’ll have to work together to survive–and discover the truth about their connection.

Read To: Page 268

Review:

I wanted to love this book. I really did. The concept was awesome (person in our world is connected to someone in a fantasy world to the point where he literally sees through her eyes), lots of other people have good things to say about it, and the female lead is bisexual. I got about two thirds of the way through it because I wanted to love it. But I finally realized that I just didn’t care enough to finish it.

My main problem was Nolan. I didn’t like his parts of the story at all. He wasn’t a very active character – everything that happened to him seemed to happen by accident, and when he eventually discovers he can affect something in Amara’s world, he uses that power to have conversations with Amara – and compared to what was happening with Amara, his world was really boring. It was kind of hard to care about Nolan’s relationship with his sister when Amara is running for her life.

I was much more invested in Amara’s story. Amara was a solid character, with a lot of conflicting thoughts and feelings that gave her a lot of depth. She also had a crush on Cilla (the princess), which was a fun subplot and added some more complicated feelings to the mix. Her world was interesting – a pretty basic high fantasy world, but with interesting takes on mages and magic, and her situation was interesting. Difficult and seemingly hopeless, yes, but at least interesting.

Around where I stopped reading, though, even Amara’s world lost the plot a little bit. In the beginning, Amara and Cilla are running from their lives from mages who want to kill Cilla, but the man “protecting” them is also horribly abusive. It’s a life-or-death (or physical pain) high-stakes situation. But it kind of loses that – not that there isn’t danger, but it’s dialed down in exchange for some conspiracies. Which, to be fair, were interesting in their own right, but still felt like a step back from the danger of the previous parts.

If the story had been only about Amara, I might have finished it. Even though it lost the plot a bit, I might have pushed through to see how the conspiracies worked out. But I didn’t have the patience to read through Nolan’s parts, and I didn’t care enough about Amara’s story to push through his for hers.

I wanted to love this book, I really did. It just couldn’t make me care enough.

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Did Not Finish, Personal Development

Review: Enough Already!

Cover of "Enough Already!" featuring a picture of the author below red text on a white background
Image from Peter Walsh

Title: Enough Already!: Clearing Mental Clutter to Become the Best You

Author: Peter Walsh

Genre: Personal Development

Trigger Warnings: None (that I found)

Back Cover:

Does it seem like everything is moving so fast these days you can barely keep up? Do you sometimes feel that your life is spinning out of control? Most of us are so overwhelmed by the stuff in our daily lives — work, bills, family commitments, demands from our kids’ schools — that we rush from person to person and place to place. For many of us, life feels completely out of balance because we give one area of our lives too much attention and the other areas nowhere near enough. This crazy imbalance and the resulting stress and unhappiness you feel are the clutter that Peter Walsh wants to help you tackle in “Enough Already!: Clearing Mental Clutter to Become the Best You.”

Peter examines the six key areas of your life — Family, Relationships, Work, Health, Money, and Spirituality — and shows how these unique parts of your life are so interrelated that if just one is cluttered, that clutter will creep into the other areas and throw your life off balance. He then offers a step-by-step plan that helps you acknowledge and address the emotional and mental clutter that holds you back from living the richly fulfilling life you deserve.

Read to: CD 2 of 5

Review:

This book just advertised itself as something it wasn’t, that’s the long and short of it.

It’s all about mental clutter, right? I assumed clearing mental clutter would involve tools like mind mapping, stream-of-consciousness writing, meditation, and that sort of stuff applied to different areas of your life to help you calm your mind.

Nope. I got through the section on relationships and part of the section on jobs, and it basically operates on the premise that all bad things are clutter. Communication problems? Clutter. Don’t like your job? Clutter. Negative emotions? Clutter. Which really felt like a major stretch – I always interpret clutter as “too much stuff taking up space,” not as “anything that is bad.”

It felt like Peter Walsh really wanted to write a life advice book, but he’d already branded himself as an organization person, so he decided to reinterpret life problems as clutter so he could write his life advice book without going off brand.

And honestly, it wasn’t even that great of life advice. The relationships section was all about communicating with your partner (not even how, just that you need to) and compromising, and didn’t even touch on friendships, relationships with family, or anything outside romantic relationships. When I stopped at the career section, it was going through the generic advice of “think about what you want your career to be, not just your job” and leave your job if you hate your boss.

This book is utterly unremarkable and, in my opinion, pretty much useless. It’s not really a book about decluttering your mind, it’s a slightly-worse-than-mediocre general life advice book that only gives broad, sweeping overviews of narrowly-defined areas of your life. In short, it’s not helpful and just plain bland.

Did Not Finish, Fairy Tale

Review: A World Without Princes

Cover of "A World Without Princes," featuring a blond girl and a black-haired girl on either side of a blond boy whose face is in profile. Below them is a crest with two swans, one black and one white, on either side and the title of the book on a scroll across the crest.
Image from The School for Good and Evil

Title: A World Without Princes

Series: The School for Good and Evil #2

Author: Soman Chainani

Genre: Fairy Tale

Trigger Warnings: Kidnapping, attempted violence

Spoiler Warning: This book is a sequel, so it will have spoilers for The School for Good and Evil.

Back Cover:

In the New York Times bestselling sequel to Soman Chainani’s debut, The School for Good and Evil, Sophie and Agatha are back in Gavaldon, living out their Happily Ever After, but life isn’t quite the fairy tale they expected.

Witches and princesses reside at the School for Girls, where they’ve been inspired to live a life without princes, while Tedros and the boys are camping in Evil’s old towers. A war is brewing between the schools, but can Agatha and Sophie restore the peace? Can Sophie stay good with Tedros on the hunt? And whose heart does Agatha’s belong to—her best friend or her prince?

Read to: Page 76

Review:

Immediately after finishing The School for Good and Evil, I reserved this book at the library. The School for Good and Evil was fantastic, and I wanted to read more and find out how the story turned out.

I’m not really sure how to put into words how I feel about this book. In many ways, it was a letdown. (Obviously, since I didn’t finish it.) But it could have been great and I’m really disappointed in some of the choices made for this book.

Warning: long review ahead – I have a lot of Feelings about this one. Scroll to the bottom for the tl;dr version.

Agatha and Sophie bothered me a tiny bit – not in the sense that I didn’t like them, because I still loved them, but in the sense that they weren’t the same people they were at the end of book one and it felt like a little of the character development from the first book had been undone (although I couldn’t put my finger on exactly why). Overall, it was a minor problem that I probably could look past, especially if they developed in this book as much as they did in the first one.

I loved the world. I loved it in the first book and I loved it here. There were some changes to the school (which I didn’t get fully introduced to before I stopped reading), but I think I would have enjoyed those, too. The entire concept of the world is amazing and I love it.

My main problem is the entire concept of this book – at the end of book one, Agatha chose Sophie over everything else, and now she’s regretting her choice and wishing she had chosen Prince Tedros instead. I hated that. It didn’t fit with Agatha’s character and it was a horrible, forced straight romance angle when if there had to be a romance, a romance between Agatha and Sophie would fit so much better.

And it’s not just because I like gay romances better than straight ones (although I will admit I do). There really is a lot more potential for a romance between Agatha and Sophie than between Agatha and Tedros. Agatha obviously cares for Sophie a lot (protecting/helping Sophie was 99% of her motivation in the first book), and Sophie seems to also care, if not as deeply.  Book one ends with a very emotional, touching moment where Agatha chooses Sophie above everyone else. Even at the beginning of this book, they still care a lot about each other and stick together through everything.

On the other hand, Agatha barely interacted with Tedros at all in the previous book (except for trying to help Sophie catch is interest). She recognized him as handsome, like everyone, but instantly flagged him as unattainable and, to the best of my memory, never even considered liking him romantically. He’s hardly even a major character – he barely got any page time in book one, as the focus was more on Agatha and Sophie. Any feelings Agatha has for him can only be motivated by his status (son of King Arthur) or his dashing good looks, which is incredibly shallow and not something I think Agatha would do.

As my fiance pointed out, the concept of a character making an important choice and then regretting it later on is an interesting one, and I will admit that. It’s unique and interesting. But there’s no reason for Agatha to regret her choice except for Soman trying to force a romance where one won’t work. All through the first book, Agatha chose Sophie. She always chose Sophie over everything, even her own Happily Ever After. A romance growing out of their deep friendship would make perfect sense. Even a plot without a romance at all would be fine. But whatever attraction exists between Agatha and Tedros is based on looks or status, which is shallow and sad. (And honestly I love Agatha and want better than that for her.)

Okay, I’m going to stop now because this review is getting long. But I have a lot of feelings about this book. It could have been great with an Agatha+Sophie romance (or even no romance at all). But what’s actually going on in A World Without Princes … it’s disappointing and out of character.

And who knows, maybe it would have gotten better if I’d continued the book. But it seemed like the entire premise would be Agatha trying to redo her choice between Sophie and Tedros, and I honestly didn’t want to read about that, no matter how much I loved the characters in book one.

tl;dr

Any feelings Agatha had for Tedros were based on his looks and/or his status and (in my opinion) forced by the author. In book one, Agatha always chose Sophie over everything else, and there’s no reason for her to stop that now. If the concept was different and we returned to the School for Good and Evil for different reasons, with Agatha staying in character and continuing to choose Sophie – or at least getting to know Tedros enough that having to choose made sense – I would have loved this book. (And I would have loved it even more if Agatha and Sophie fell in love.) But as it is, I was disappointed and upset that this book wasn’t the sequel I wanted.

Definitely read The School for Good and Evil, it’s totally worth it. And give this one a shot. I admit I can be really picky about certain things, and maybe if you keep going it gets better. It wasn’t necessarily a bad book – it just wasn’t the one that I wanted. Maybe you’ll like it more than I did.

The School for Good and Evil series:

  1. The School for Good and Evil
  2. A World Without Princes
  3. The Last Ever After
  4. Quests for Glory
Did Not Finish, Finance/Money

Review: I Will Teach You To Be Rich

Cover of "I Will Teach You To Be Rich," featuring bold black text on an orange and green background
Image from Ramit Sethi

Title: I Will Teach You To Be Rich: No Guilt, No Excuses, No B.S., Just a 6-Week Program That Works

Author: Ramit Sethi

Genre: Finance/Money

Trigger Warnings: Fatphobia, classism, misogyny

Back Cover:

You don’t have to be perfect to be rich. Or the smartest person in the room. Or a type-A personality. In fact, with Ramit Sethi’s six-week program to financial independence, you can start with any amount of money, do just 85 percent of what he suggests, and succeed brilliantly through good times and bad.

As irreverent and entertaining as he is practical and wise, Sethi explains how to beat banks and credit cards at the fee game, automate your cash flow, negotiate for a raise, manage student loans, and enjoy your lattes and Manolo Blahniks by practicing conscious spending. It’s how to master your money with the least amount of effort – and then get on with your life.

Read to: Page 117

Review:

Ah, a classic financial book. Full body with the usual advice, and the usual note of fatphobia. The flavor of classism is especially strong in this one, and I’m even detecting a unique note of misogyny, as well as a deep overtone of condescension …

Okay, all jokes aside, this book was bad.

My fiance wanted me to read this and see if it was any good. I didn’t have high hopes for it going in (I’d previously unsubscribed from Ramit’s email list for misogyny and fatphobia), but I was determined to power through.

Of course, there was the requisite fatphobia that comes with personal finance books (bad budgets are fat, good budgets are fit and toned). There was also a healthy dose of condescension. Ramit has a tone of “I know more about this than you” and “this is so simple you’re stupid/lazy for not doing this before.” There was also a surprising dose of misogyny – comparing choosing between two investment brokerages to choosing between “two hot blonde twins,” for example.

But still, I was determined to power through. There was actually some good advice on negotiating credit card rates, surprisingly. That was really the only good information in the book, though – the rest of it was stuff like calling budgets bad and boring and then telling you how to budget while calling it a “conscious spending plan” and claiming it’s completely different. Like, dude, I’ve been budgeting since I was 14. I know a budget when I see one. You’re not special. He even recommends the envelope BUDGETING system, for goodness’ sake.

I finally gave up – or, more accurately, rage-quit – at page 117. The heading on that page was “What If You Don’t Make Enough Money?” and I was thrilled – finally a financial advice book that takes poverty and minimum wage into account! And then the entire premise was people actually have more wiggle room in their budget than they realize, they just don’t want to change their spending. The two examples I got through before closing the book:

  • Cook at home more. (Ignoring the fact that most minimum-wage workers have to work multiple jobs, leaving them no time to cook, and the fact that it’s actually cheaper to buy pre-packaged stuff and the McDonald’s dollar menu than buy everything fresh and cook it yourself.)
  • Don’t buy the new iPhone every year. (Find me one minimum-wage worker who buys a new phone every year, I dare you. I’m working at nearly twice minimum wage and I still can’t afford a new iPhone every year.)

It was basically the premise that “there’s no such thing as a poor person, there’s only people who are to stupid/bad at handling money to be not poor.” Which is incorrect, classist, and incredibly insulting.

Despite the book’s own view that it’s 100 times better than any other personal finance book, it was an unspectacular, condescending, and classist rephrasing of already-told tips and the same old tropes. It honestly wasn’t worth the 117 pages I gave it.

Did Not Finish, Work and Business

Review: Drive

Cover of "Drive," featuring red text on a white background
Image from Daniel Pink

Title: Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us

Author: Daniel Pink

Genre: Work and Business

Trigger Warnings: None

Back Cover:

Most people believe that the best way to motivate is with rewards like money—the carrot-and-stick approach. That’s a mistake, says Daniel H. Pink (author of To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Motivating Others). In this provocative and persuasive new book, he asserts that the secret to high performance and satisfaction-at work, at school, and at home—is the deeply human need to direct our own lives, to learn and create new things, and to do better by ourselves and our world.

Drawing on four decades of scientific research on human motivation, Pink exposes the mismatch between what science knows and what business does—and how that affects every aspect of life. He examines the three elements of true motivation—autonomy, mastery, and purpose-and offers smart and surprising techniques for putting these into action in a unique book that will change how we think and transform how we live.

Read to: CD 3 of 7

Review:

I thought this book would be similar to The Power of Habit in that it would teach me the psychology behind motivation and how to motivate myself. And I read Daniel Pink’s book on creativity, A Whole New Mind, back in high school and it was the book that made me realize not all nonfiction was boring. So I had really high hopes for Drive.

The bad news is it’s the wrong genre.

If you look up at the genre I put at the beginning of the review, it’s “Work and Business.” I picked it up thinking it was “Personal Development.” I was wrong. The good news is Daniel made it very clear at the beginning of the book that he was going to focus more on motivating employees than motivating yourself.

I was pretty disappointed, but I stuck it out for a bit, hoping that I could find something valuable that I could personally use. And there was some interesting stuff (for example, that people tend to be more motivated when they have more freedom and flexibility) – it just wasn’t really applicable to me. It just got boring for me since I wasn’t getting much out of it.

On the flip side, though, if I was a business leader and had employees, this probably would have been immensely valuable. After all, that’s the audience this book was written for. I just happen to not be in that audience.

Did Not Finish, Post-Apocalyptic

Review: Stung

Cover of "Stung," featuring red text on a black background and a translucent image of a honeybee superimposed with an image of a syringe
Image from Bethany Wiggins

Title: Stung

Author: Bethany Wiggins

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic

Trigger Warnings: Death, blood/gore, alluded threat of rape

Back Cover:

Fiona doesn’t remember going to sleep. But when she opens her eyes, she discovers her entire world has been altered-her house is abandoned and broken, and the entire neighborhood is barren and dead. Even stranger is the tattoo on her right wrist-a black oval with five marks on either side-that she doesn’t remember getting but somehow knows she must cover at any cost. And she’s right. When the honeybee population collapsed, a worldwide pandemic occurred and the government tried to bio-engineer a cure. Only the solution was deadlier than the original problem-the vaccination turned people into ferocious, deadly beasts who were branded as a warning to un-vaccinated survivors. Key people needed to rebuild society are protected from disease and beasts inside a fortress-like wall. But Fiona has awakened branded, alone–and on the wrong side of the wall . . .

Read to: Page 72

Review:

I have mixed feelings about this book.

Okay, let’s back up. I wasn’t all that excited about reading this. I picked it up because I’d heard of it many, many years ago and it was on clearance for $1 at my local bookstore. Those are the only reasons. I finally started reading it because I ran out of library books a few days before my next library trip.

I really like the concept. You get quite a bit from the back cover, and even though I didn’t get too far into the book, the world was great. It was dark and gritty and violent and fascinating, the kind of place where even when you know it’s day you picture the sky full of black clouds. And I really like that kind of setting. It was shaping up to be a pretty solid post-apocalyptic world.

The part that I couldn’t get past was Fiona. And not really Fiona herself. It was that it’s made really clear that she’s in her late teens and has an obviously well-developed body, but she’s lost a big chunk of her memory and still thinks she’s 13. The first ally character she meets has her disguise her gender because “it’s unsafe to be a girl” – and the reader knows exactly why, especially when you see the rough and rowdy bands of men roaming around, but Fiona is still 13 in her head and has no idea. And even though her body is older, it felt really gross and creepy to me to hang rape threats over the head of a 13-year-old kid.

Also it felt kinda weird for me, a 20-year-old, to be inside the head of a 13-year-old. It never really bothered me when I read middle grade books, but for some reason this one felt like an invasion of privacy.

Honestly, that was my only problem with the book. Without that part, I don’t think I would have found it spectacular, but I think I would have enjoyed it. That one little detail just gave me an uneasy feeling, and I couldn’t keep reading.

The Stung series:

  1. Stung
  2. Cured
Did Not Finish, Post-Apocalyptic

Review: Firefight

Cover of "Firefight," featuring glowing gold text on a background of dark red torn apart to reveal a golden sky
Image from Brandon Sanderson

Title: Firefight

Series: The Reckoners #2

Author: Brandon Sanderson

Genre: Post-Apocalyptic

Trigger Warnings: Death, blood/gore

Note: This review contains spoilers of the first Reckoners book, Steelheart.

Back Cover: 

They told David it was impossible – that even the Reckoners had never killed a High Epic. Yet Steelheart – invincible, immortal, unconquerable – is dead. And he died by David’s hand.

Eliminating Steelheart was supposed to make life simpler. Instead, it only made David realize he has questions. Big ones. And no one in Newcago can give him answers.

Babylon Restored, the city formerly known as the borough of Manhattan, has possibilities, though. Ruled by the mysterious High Epic Regalia, Babylon Restored is flooded and miserable, but David is sure it’s the path that will lead him to what he needs to find. Entering a city oppressed by a High Epic despot is risky, but David’s willing to take the gamble. Because killing Steelheart left a hole in David’s heart. A hole where his thirst for vengeance once lived. Somehow, he filled that hole with another Epic – Firefight. And he’s willing to go on a quest darker and even more dangerous than the fight against Steelheart to find her, and to get his answers.

Review:

I read the first book in this series, Steelheart, as an ARC in 2013 and loved it. So it’s been several years since I read it. I honestly remember it pretty well, though, so I figured it wouldn’t be too hard to get back into book two – especially with how fantastic of a writer Brandon Sanderson is. I was actually really excited to pick this up.

Unfortunately, it kinda lost me. (And currently holds the record for only Brandon Sanderson book to ever do that.)

I actually did have a pretty easy time getting back into the world. And what a fantastic world. That’s one of the things I love about Brandon Sanderson – his worlds are A M A Z I N G. This series’ world is a dark post-apocalyptic thing where the world is ruled by cruel super-powered people, and focuses on an underground group of guerrilla warriors who are fighting them. And it is great. This book goes to a different city, so you get to explore a new city ruled by a new Epic and following new rules, and I loved the world just as much in this book as I did in the first.

There were a few details from Steelheart that I missed, but Firefight did a good job getting me back up to speed. So if you pick this up a long time (*cough*several years*cough*) after you read the first book, don’t worry, you won’t miss much.

The main reason I just couldn’t get into Firefight was David. Like the back cover said, his motivation has changed from vengeance to finding Firefight and getting answers. Except it’s mostly finding Firefight. So much of his motivation had become “oh my gosh I love her” that I couldn’t deal with it. It wasn’t so much the romance angle that rubbed me the wrong way as David’s inability to even consider anything bad about her. I just got so frustrated with the whole “blinded by love” aspect.

That’s really the main things I have to say about Firefight. The plot was pretty much the same as the previous book – kill an Epic to save the city – just in a different city and with some new characters. The world was fantastic, but I wasn’t a huge fan of the characters this time around. (Although admittedly, this may have been a little different if I’d read this directly after Steelheart.) It wasn’t a bad book by any stretch of the imagination, it just wasn’t for me.

The Reckoners Series:

  1. Steelheart
  2. Firefight
  3. Calamity
Did Not Finish, Fantasy

Review: The Young Elites

Cover of "The Young Elites," featuring the title on a background of storm clouds. The "T" in the word "Elites" is replaced with a sword.
Image from Marie Lu

Title: The Young Elites

Author: Marie Lu

Genre: Fantasy

Trigger Warnings: Parental abuse (physical and emotional)

Back Cover: 

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all.

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen.

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

Read to: CD 6 of 8 (I “read” this as an audiobook)

Review:

I really enjoyed Marie Lu’s Legend, and The Young Elites has been on my reading list for a while. I finally picked it up because I was looking for audiobooks to listen to on my commute to work and it was part of my library’s small selection. And also because special abilities + vengeance = a dark fantasy that should be right up my alley.

As you might have guessed, I wasn’t the hugest fan. But there were really a lot of good things about this book, and what made me give up on it was actually relatively minor. So let’s start with what was good about it.

  • The world was fantastic. It felt like a fantasy southern Europe (like Spain or Italy) with Renaissance elements, and it was just plain beautiful.
  • The minor characters were pretty cool. Each was unique and had their own personalities and quirks, and there were those great characters you love to hate. (And there was even a bisexual male sex worker who was a major member of the Dagger Society and no one looked down on him for his sex work, which I thought was the coolest thing.)
  • The plot is barely touched on in the back cover, but it was not at all what I expected and it was great. (I’m not giving away any spoilers.)

All the main elements were solid and I enjoyed them. But like I said, it was minor details that I took issue with. Such as the fact that Teren is mentioned in the back cover like he’s going to be a major character and he’s really glossed over. I think he got three (very short) chapters in the entirety of what I read, and there were some interesting things going on with him, but the book doesn’t spend enough time with him to flesh it out and make it anything more than a confusing distraction from Adelina.

The romance was another minor detail that bothered me. It started off slow enough that I could look past it, but it was starting to pick up when I stopped. It was just so aggressively … trope-y? I’m not really sure how to describe it, but there was a bit of a love triangle even though it was obvious which guy was the “real” love interest and it had the whole we-both-like-each-other-but-we’re-not-going-to-say-anything-and-pretend-nothing-is-happening-even-though-it’s-obvious thing going on

The beginning is also very flashback-heavy with Adelina remembering life with her abusive father, and that was … it was hard. It was hard to read and hard to think about, and if you’ve experienced any sort of abuse it’s probably not going to be good for you.

There was one main issue that finally made me stop, though. Adelina is put in a position where she has to choose between the Dagger Society and her sister (it’s more complicated, but I’m trying to avoid spoilers). And there’s a huge running theme of her moral dilemma – should she tell the Daggers and ask for their help or just betray them? Several times she gets close to telling Enzo and chickens out. But then she’s presented with a perfect opportunity where they wouldn’t even suspect she’s been dealing with this for a while and she STILL DOESN’T TAKE IT. And that’s where I stopped. Being put in a bad position is one thing, actively making your situation worse because you don’t take the opportunities that smack you over the head is a completely different (and endlessly frustrating) thing.

I looked at the Goodreads reviews for this book, and there’s a lot of them that have nothing but good things to say about The Young Elites. And I can see why. There’s a lot of good things in here. It’s dark and poetic and has a solid world and a great plot. It just wasn’t the book for me.

The Young Elites series:

  1. The Young Elites
  2. The Rose Society
  3. The Midnight Star
Did Not Finish, Steampunk

Review: The Friday Society

Cover of "The Friday Society," featuring three girls dressed in steampunk clothes and holding steampunk weapons
Image from Adrienne Kress

Title: The Friday Society

Author: Adrienne Kress

Genre: Steampunk

Trigger Warnings: Death, mild sexual harassment

Back Cover:

Set in London at the turn of the last century, the novel follows the stories of three intelligent and very talented young women, all of whom are assistants to very powerful men: Cora, lab assistant; Michiko, combat instruction assistant; and Nellie, a magician’s assistant. The three young women’s lives become inexorably intertwined after a chance meeting at a ball that ends with the discovery of a murdered mystery man.

It’s up to these three, in their own charming but bold way, to solve the murder – and the crimes they believe may be connected to it – without calling too much attention to themselves.

Told with Adrienne Kress’s sharp wit and a great deal of irreverence, this Steampunk whodunit introduces three unforgettable and very ladylike – well, relatively ladylike – heroines poised for more dangerous adventures.

Read to: Page 115

Review:

I grabbed this from the library mainly because steampunk, but also because of the badass girl trio. I wasn’t too enthused with the romance angle, but I hoped it would be overlook-able.

I honestly put it down because it was just plain boring.

The story alternates perspectives between the three girls, and the only girl I was really interested in was Michiko. She had a really cool backstory, and I think I would have enjoyed a book just about her. Cora and Nellie were practically interchangeable, their main difference being the skills they obtained by working for different men. And when the three girls got together, Michiko didn’t speak much English, so it was basically Cora and Nellie with a background Michiko.

(The irony to me here is that the back cover described the characters as “unforgettable,” and even after spending 115 pages with these girls, I still had to look up their names to write this review.)

I honesty could have forgiven all of that if the steampunk world was good. And honestly, the way the book is written, it seems to be trying to put quite a bit of emphasis on the world. But there wasn’t a world to speak of. It was set in London, and there were steam-powered carriages that didn’t need horses – and that’s all we get. When it’s set, or even that it’s steampunk at all, is completely left to the imagination, which is not what I want when I pick up a steampunk book.

I can’t even really comment on the plot, because I couldn’t find one. By page 115, there were two dead bodies, and instead of even really being bothered by this, the girls are in Nellie’s bedroom playing truth or dare.

I think one of the biggest things that bothered me, though, was the assistant aspect. These girls are supposed to be badass, but the only reason they’re even remotely interesting is because of their connection to different men. And the raging feminist in me got really, really upset about that because these girls (especially Michiko) had the potential to be great on their own, but there’s so much focus on their Important Male Benefactor that it seems like they’d be nothing without their men.

In short, I was disappointed and irritated and The Friday Society was bland and boring.

Did Not Finish, Science Fiction

Review: Maximum Ride Forever

Cover of "Maximum Ride Forever," featuring the silhouette of a girl with the title in red text
Image from James Patterson

Title: Maximum Ride Forever

Series: Maximum Ride #9

Author: James Patterson

Genre: Science Fiction

Warning: This book is 9th in a series, so this review will definitely have spoilers of the previous books.

Back Cover:

THE NINTH AND ULTIMATE MAXIMUM RIDE STORY IS HERE! Legions of Max fans won’t be disappointed by this encore episode in the beloved series about the incredible adventures of a teenage girl who can fly. As Maximum Ride boldly navigates a post-apocalyptic world, she and her broken flock are roaming the earth, searching for answers to what happened. All will be revealed in this last spectacular “ride”- a brand-new grand finale featuring all of the nonstop action, twists and turns that readers can rely on in a blockbuster Patterson page-turner!

Read to: Page 26 (chapter 6)

Review:

This book is described as an “encore,” which explains why I hadn’t heard of it until I saw it at the library. I thought Nevermore was the end of the series. The Maximum Ride series had honestly gone downhill after Max (Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports was the last of the fantastic Maximum Ride books), and I hated Nevermore. I picked up Maximum Ride Forever for two reasons – 1, I felt I owed it to my childhood favorite series to at least try to finish it, and 2, I wanted to give it a chance to redeem itself after the fiasco of book 8.

I made it through 26 pages before I totally gave up.

Admittedly, part of that is probably me. It’s been about two years since I last read a Maximum Ride book, so I didn’t remember much. Also I’m way older than the upper middle grade target audience. But I had hoped.

This book is best read in quick succession with Nevermore, because it jumps right into the action and emotion. And I was just too distant from these characters (who all suddenly seemed really freaking young) to get into it.

Yet another part of me not liking this book was also that I hated the ending of Nevermore, and Maximum Ride Forever is just a continuation of that. But I don’t really want to see my favorite winged bird kids in a post-apocalyptic world, I wanted to see them keep navigating the normal world as oddly-skilled mutants.

But the last straw for me was a death. The only people left alive in the world (as far as we can tell) are our bird kids, and killing one of them off was, in my opinion, a bad decision. That one was probably my least favorite, but still. Just no.

I was quite disappointed in this book, but I really don’t think I can blame the book. All my problems with the book (perhaps with the exception of killing a character) were 100% me. I think this is just final proof that I’m officially done with my favorite childhood series.

The Maximum Ride series:

  1. The Angel Experiment
  2. School’s Out–Forever
  3. Saving the World and Other Extreme Sports
  4. The Final Warning
  5. Max
  6. Fang
  7. Angel
  8. Nevermore
  9. Maximum Ride Forever