Quickfire Reviews • Waistcoats, Perks, Symmetry, Beauty Queens, and Dark Minds

Quickfire Reviews

Waistcoats & Weaponry

Book: Waistcoats & Weaponry by Gail Carriger
Rating: 5 out of 5 teacups

It’s been a while since I finished this book but aaaaahhhhh I had so many feels! Everything was so exciting and I very much adored the girls leaving the school grounds (so to speak) and adventuring. Not sure how much I like the romantic interest bits but ughhh I just love the world that Carriger created. Plus, I really adore reading about girls being kickass. The whole secret agent thing is fabulous and I love just how much these girls care about each other, especially in this book when they’re hellbent on helping Sidheag. Ugh. SO good!

 

The Perks of Being a Wallflower

Book: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 teacups

Alas, I wanted to like it more than I did. It wasn’t a terrible book, far from it, but I think maybe the whole coming of age bracket in the genre is just not my thing. Perks reminded me quite a bit of The Catcher in the Rye, which made me rage a lot at the time. I just have no patience for main characters like these and maybe I would’ve liked the book more had I been younger, you know? It’s not bad, it’s just not my thing and I couldn’t really identify with Charlie at all. I was just exasperated with him. Not the character’s fault, of course, I just have very little patience with these stories.

 

Her Fearful Symmetry

Book: Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
Rating: 3 out of 5 teacups

Niiiiiice book. Here’s the thing with Niffenegger’s books: I can’t really build up an emotional connection to them, I will not fangirl or moan about them, but I will be incredibly intrigued by them. In particular, Her Fearful Symmetry wasn’t very big on the likeable characters front, I couldn’t identify with any of them and the mystery was easy to unravel if you wanted to (I sort of called everything, and the things I didn’t call I at least sort of had an inkling about), but ohhh the story-telling was pretty neat. It kept me glued to the pages (actual pages, for once! I read a physical copy of a book, go me!) and I just had continue reading so I could find out if my suspicions were true. They were. I’m afraid the title sort of gave a bit of it away, after a while, but this book combines some of my favourite things: twins, ghosts, and being set in the UK, and I really enjoyed how it all turned out. Only three stars because it wasn’t much of a OMGWTFBBQ sort of book, but it was good and I liked the dark tone of it, the differences between the twins, the twins trying to figure out why their mother wasn’t allowed to visit with them and stuff like that. I really liked that.

 

Beauty Queens

Book: Beauty Queens by Libba Bray
Rating: 5 out of 5 teacups

If you do not like this book, please take your opinion out with the trash where it belongs. (I kid. You are of course welcome to dislike a book. Any book.) I loved Beauty Queens. It was G.R.E.A.T. It was hilarious and beautiful and full of sarcasm and satirical remarks on good ol’ ‘murricah and by god, I loved it so so so much. The characters, a bunch of pageant contestants, started out really shallow and dumb — just like you’d expect, but then bam! These are all smart girls who know how to do certain things and they’re winners at life on this seemingly secluded island. I loved everything about them and whether or not you think it’s silly to set up a story like this, it just made me grin from ear to ear. This is a book about kickass girls doing awesome things, quite unlike what society expects of them. I loved the inclusion of LGBT issues particularly and idk Libba Bray wrote a fabulous thing here and I am glad that Ren told me to read it.

 

The Darkest Minds

Book: The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken
Rating: 4 out of 5 teacups

Oooh, I liked this book a lot more than I expected! Which is good because I bought a physical copy of it and I always get more upset when I dislike physical copies. The premise of kids with brainy powers is particularly fascinating and I quite like seeing it all through the eyes of Ruby, who is far from perfect. Most of the time YA protagonists are just good at everything they do and of course the hero isn’t the shy quiet kid, but I am always so much more interested in those characters. Ruby grows a lot as a person and while other readers might be frustrated with how naive she is, I understand where she comes from. The girl is sixteen, for heaven’s sake! I’m pretty sure I was worse than her at that age. The only thing that bugged me was that I didn’t really understand the implications of the “disease”, either because I didn’t get it or because it wasn’t explained very well. But there were kids dying left and right and there was no explanation for that, only that the kids who weren’t dying were ~~~evil~~~. So. I hope I can figure that out for myself before I start Never Fade.

Isa

[Isa] Also Known As (Also Known As #1) by Robin Benway

Also Known As (Also Known As #1) by Robin BenwayyTitle: Also Known As (Also Known As #1)
Author: Robin Benway
Published: February 26, 2013
Rating: 3 out of 5 teacups
Find it at: amazonbarnesandnoblebookdepositorygoodreads

Which is more dangerous: being an international spy… or surviving high school?

Maggie Silver has never minded her unusual life. Cracking safes for the world’s premier spy organization and traveling the world with her insanely cool parents definitely beat high school and the accompanying cliques, bad lunches, and frustratingly simple locker combinations. (If it’s three digits, why bother locking it at all?)

But when Maggie and her parents are sent to New York City for her first solo assignment, her world is transformed. Suddenly, she’s attending a private school with hundreds of “mean girl” wannabes, trying to avoid the temptation to hack the school’s elementary security system, and working to befriend the aggravatingly cute son of a potential national security threat… all while trying not to blow her cover. — Goodreads Description

Also Known As was a really fun and quick read! You can always lure me in with promises about schools or teenage espionage and, oh look, this has both!

♦ On the upside ♦

Fun characters! Maggie was a lovely character to read about, especially since she was extremely realistic as far as my opinion goes. There’s the old teenage drama trope, sure, but it felt very close to the drama that I observe in the teenagers I encounter. Her best friend Roux was absolutely hilarious, to say the least, but could also be very serious when the situation required it. I really liked her and her attitute and I hope to see more of her in the sequels.

Maggie’s specialty: safe-cracking! It made for an intriguing premise — a teenager being raised as a spy but not necessarily to do some fancy martial arts kind of bad-guy-fighting, but rather as somebody who knows exactly how to do a specific job and that’s what they stick with. It made the story more down-to-earth, despite the general not-so-normal life as a spy.

The focus on wanting to be normal. Like any other teenager who is different, Maggie yearns to be normal and to lead a normal life. Maggie’s struggle with wanting to be normal and also a perfect spy was very authentic, as far as books about teenage spies go.

The writing was very straightforward and easy to follow along, which made for a quick read.

♦ Favourite Quote ♦

“Do the passport thing,” Roux piped up. “That’s really effective.”

♦ On the downside ♦

Having read Ally Carter’s books about teenage girl spies (and also the ones about teenage criminals because hell yeah Ally Carter ♥) I was a little let down. I don’t mean to compare them quite so intently but Ally Carter has spoiled me. Also Known As is a very nice book but there’s just something missing that gives it a little bit of a kick, you know? It doesn’t wow me. The story is nice, the writing is nice, the characters are nice, but nice isn’t omgwowamazing.

Occasionally the characters were a little too authentic. I shouldn’t complain, not after praising it, but I had trouble following Roux’s mood patterns and resulting attitude.

♦ Should you read it? ♦

Sure. It is a nice read after all. There’s room for improvement and if you’ve enjoyed Ally Carter’s books (or even Gail Carriger’s Finishing School series) you might want to lower your expectations, but I think it’s enjoyable all the same!
Isa

[Isa] The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce #1) by Alan Bradley

The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce #1) by Alan BradleyPick For Me badgeTitle: The Sweetness at the Bottom of the Pie (Flavia de Luce #1)
Author: Alan Bradley
Published: April 28, 2009
Rating: 3 out of 5 teacups
Find it at: amazonbarnesandnoblebookdepositorygoodreads

It is the summer of 1950–and at the once-grand mansion of Buckshaw, young Flavia de Luce, an aspiring chemist with a passion for poison, is intrigued by a series of inexplicable events: A dead bird is found on the doorstep, a postage stamp bizarrely pinned to its beak. Then, hours later, Flavia finds a man lying in the cucumber patch and watches him as he takes his dying breath.

For Flavia, who is both appalled and delighted, life begins in earnest when murder comes to Buckshaw. “I wish I could say I was afraid, but I wasn’t. Quite the contrary. This was by far the most interesting thing that had ever happened to me in my entire life.” — Goodreads Description

This was a pretty lovely read, and I think if I had been younger, I might’ve enjoyed it more.

♦ On the upside ♦

Flavia was adorable! She’s into chemistry, very no-nonsense about the state of affection in her family and a very, very curious child.

There was a lot of culture shock on my part, most likely due to somehow expecting the story to be set much earlier than it was really set (it says 1950, so I have no idea why I thought differently), but it was a good kind of shock. It was really interesting to read about Flavia’s world and how things sort of worked back in the day.

♦ Favourite Quote ♦

Nobody loved me, and that was a fact. Harriet might have when I was a baby, but she was dead.
And then, to my horror, I found myself in tears.
I was appalled.

♦ On the downside ♦

Unfortunately, the mystery just dragged on for too long. I have a limited attention span as it is because I am a goldfish, and this was really trying for me. I wanted to know all about the mystery, but it just took forever and there was so much unnecessary yammering about things unrelated to it. :(

Flavia was often too adorable. I know, I said it was a good thing, but eventually it gets old when the kid is just reciting random chemistry babble. Especially to someone who gloriously flunked chem in high school.

I also think that the family dynamic could have benefitted from somebody who actually cares about Flavia. She must lead a pretty loveless life (obviously, because she’s dead serious in the quote I included) and that’s a shame considering that she has two sisters, after all. An absent father I understand, even some sort of sibling rivalry, but there’s hardly any love shining through at all. I never know whether they truly care when she’s missing or whether it’s just for appearance’s sake, you know? That’s pretty frustrating to read about.

♦ Should you read it? ♦

Tough question. You should pick it up if you like small mysteries and don’t mind that the book could’ve benefitted from some heavy editing to clean up some of the “useless” information. It’s a nice read for a younger audience around Flavia’s age.
Isa

[Isa] Rivers of London (Peter Grant #1) by Ben Aaronovitch

Rivers of London (Peter Grant #1) by Ben AaronovitchPick For Me badgeTitle: Rivers of London (Peter Grant #1)
Author: Ben Aaronovitch
Published: January 10, 2011
Rating: 3 out of 5 teacups
Find it at: amazonbarnesandnoblebookdepositorygoodreads

Peter Grant may have been a probationary constable for the Metropolitan Police Service back in January, but he’s certainly not now. After a spooky encounter with a ghost, he’s now a newly appointed Detective Constable and first wizard-in-training in fifty years trying to solve a series of mysterious violent outbreaks and riots. Add to that a case of couples counselling for a god and goddess who are anything but easily handled and Peter’s got his hands full.

Just like the reader! There’s a lot of things I liked and a lot of things that frustrated me quite a bit.

♦ On the upside ♦

I really enjoyed Peter as a character. He’s well written, dead funny and I quite liked reading things from his POV, even though I usually steer away from male MCs. Aaronovitch did a remarkable job in developing that character and I was really hooked by Peter’s narration.

Similarly intriguing were the premise and the magic system that the author used. He combined magic with science, had Peter experiment to figure out the limits of what magic can do, and it really shows that he put a lot of thought and planning into it.

I particularly enjoyed all the lore and myth about the river spirits, learning about all the rivers that eventually join the Thames. Usually the most us non-Brits learn about water in London is that the Thames exists but nothing more than that, so that was very educating and I loved how every little stream played some part in the grand scheme of things.

♦ Favourite Quote ♦

I certainly wanted to scream, but I remembered that, right then and there, Lesley and I were the only coppers on the scene, and the public doesn’t like it when the police start screaming: it contributes to an impression of things not being conducive to public calm.

♦ On the downside ♦

It was dragging a lot. I don’t know if I only felt this way because I took forever to finish it since I couldn’t find the time to properly sit down and read more than three pages, but towards the end of it I just wanted it to be over and it just didn’t happen. I’d look at the percentage, thinking “surely it must be over quite soon” and I still had 20% to go. And it just didn’t end.

There was entirely too much action happening, especially after three quarters of the book were already over. Every time I figured that I had reached the climax, something more was about to happen. In fact, there was no real climax at all. It just kept going on and on like the author tried to cram as many fitting magic things into the plot as possible, not really caring whether or not they were relevant. In the end the story just sort of petered out, finally trickling to a stop.

Generally there was a lot of useless information in the book. I understand wanting to share as much as possible in regards to the world you’ve built, but there was a lot of yammering about this river and that river and going here and going there, and I think that the story could’ve worked just as well with 300 instead of 400 pages. The premise was good but at one point it was just overdone, and less pages might’ve helped with the awkward typos that nobody caught and the mixed up names that were really quite embarrassing (how can you not know your characters’ names???).

♦ Should you read it? ♦

Yes. All in all, I liked the book well enough to be interested in the sequels. It was a pretty fascinating read and I really hope to learn more about the magic of this series. :D
Isa

[Isa] Since You’ve Been Gone by Anouska Knight

Since You've Been Gone by Anouska KnightReview copy badgeTitle: Since You’ve Been Gone
Author: Anouska Knight
Published: July 29, 2014
Rating: 3 out of 5 teacups
Find it at: amazonbarnesandnoblebookdepositorygoodreads

ARC provided by Harlequin via NetGalley.

How do you learn to love again?

In one tragic moment, Holly Jefferson’s life as she knows it changes for ever. Now to the external world, at least she s finally getting back on her feet, running her business, Cake. Then she meets Ciaran Argyll.

His rich and charmed life feels a million miles from her own. However, there s more to Ciaran than the superficial world that surrounds him, and he too is wrestling with his own ghosts. Will Holly find the missing ingredient that allows her to live again and embrace an unknown and unexpected tomorrow? — Goodreads Description

I’ll kick right off with the one thing that made me request this book on Netgalley: The gorgeous cover. It immediately caught my eye and I adore it so so much. The blue background, the cakes, the title font and position… it just makes for such a gorgeous composition! (Though I have to say that the original UK cover from 2013 is lovely too. That one would fit right in with my Lucy-Anne Holmes books!)

There’s a lot of talk about various cakes in the beginning, and though I would’ve enjoyed more details about the cakes, I really liked that! Cake! The world needs more cake. Holly, the main character, bakes cakes on commission and that’s how she meets Ciaran after all. No epic love story between those two without the cake, yo. Or story of facepalm-inducing awkwardness, because that’s what happens. Really, Holly is so socially inept, it’s a miracle that they even have customers? But it’s awfully funny, too, because as a reader you just know that occasionally the love interest will overhear the stupid things that come out of the MC’s mouth and it made me giggle like a fool.

I also giggled like a fool every time Ciaran did something awfully sweet. Boy, that man would do anything for Holly, and it makes me swoon a little, no lie. And giggle. Lots of giggling. I’m silly like that.

Of course there are also things I wasn’t too fond of. There’s minor writing things like grammar issues and strange formatting (only an issue with my digital ARC file, I am sure), especially where there could be ligatures on actual paper (i.e. every time there was an “fl” in a word, there’d be a space between the f and the l in my ARC), but I got used to that quickly and just ignored it. No need to nitpick about that, considering that it’s not the finished copy.

Another thing that might make other readers skip this book is the predictability. It’s extremely predictable. I didn’t mind so much because, quite frankly, if I request chicklit I expect to be served just that. I actually quite enjoy formulaic prose like this. There’s all kinds of ~deep~ fiction out there, loads of action-y and political stuff in dystopian novels, your typical love triangles in YA, etc., but sometimes I just want to read something cute that will make me happy in the end and make me giggle and that’s when I turn to chicklit. No shame in the predictability of that.

What bothered me more in regards to the writing was that the author kept beating around the bush on some issues where it was really unnecessary. Like, really, if you’re going to have one of your characters let out some swearwords, don’t mince them down? Using “mutha-funkin'” only makes it look ridiculous because everyone knows what that character is actually saying, so why not just write it down like that. Nobody says mutha-funkin’. Nobody. Similarly, if you’re going to give your readers some sexy bits (yay, sexy bits! I was pleasantly surprised!) don’t turn it into an innocent mystery that makes one question what exactly it is that is ~down there~.

Though maybe that’s just how Holly’s POV works. Which is a shame. Truly, if the book had been written from Ciaran’s POV or even from a 3rd person perspective, I might have enjoyed it more than I did, because Holly is incredibly infuriating as a character. I adored a lot of the secondary characters, especially the ones that have a connection to Ciaran or build one to him; there’s Mary, Mrs Hedley, Fergal, Toby… I adored them! They were a great secondary cast and gave the book an extra kick. Not so much on Holly’s side. You see, Holly doesn’t seem to have any friends at all aside from her colleague and her sister? And as far as those went… I couldn’t get a handle on Jesse at all, he was all over the place, and Martha was possibly even more infuriating than Holly.

My biggest issue with Holly, however, is that she has no agency. At all. And everything she does is just a reaction to what others do. For instance, Charlie and Holly’s past with him and Charlie’s own individual past? I understand why the bigger bits of that can’t be changed, but I really did not care at all about his oh so tragic childhood or his oh so noble plans to do whatever it is he wanted to do because it was really irrelevant to the story. Charlie was just a plot device for Holly’s character, to give her a past and some issues, but it wasn’t much more than that. Sure, without Charlie the book couldn’t exist the way it does since he’s crucial to the premise, but it was often overdone and unnecessary. But it’s not just Charlie, it’s also with the other characters. Jesse suggests a thing to her, she reacts; Martha suggests a thing to her, she reacts; her neighbour tells her a thing, she reacts; Ciaran does something for her, she reacts. She never seems to make the first step in any of her decisions.

Then there’s Holly’s continued issues with herself. They’re understandable and even expected, but you’d think that at 95% on my Kindle she’d eventually stop running away from Ciaran. It goes like this: Ciaran tries to impress Holly, Holly squeaks and runs away. Ciaran tries to apologise for his privileged lifestyle, Holly judges him and runs away. Ciaran continues to woo her and somehow magically succeeds (congrats, buddy, Holly had a sane moment!), but afterwards when he’s gone — because, you know, poor guy has a life too — Holly wallows in self-doubt and moreover keeps ascribing traits and flaws to him that are out of this world. The guy clearly adores you, Holly, why do you keep insisting that you’re just a one-off for him? Especially when he keeps coming back?! He doesn’t deserve to be treated that way, really.

Enough with the ranting, though, because, yeah, there were a lot of things that bugged me, but I wouldn’t have finished it if I hadn’t liked it. Honestly, Since You’ve Been Gone has a lot of ups and downs but I enjoyed it all the same. It’ll be out in the US on July 29th and I’d recommend it to anyone looking for some light women’s fiction who won’t mind the predictable bits.
Isa

[Isa] Graceling (Graceling Realm #1) by Kristin Cashore

Graceling (Graceling Realm #1) by Kristin CashorePick For Me badgeTitle: Graceling (Graceling Realm #1)
Author: Kristin Cashore
Published: October 1, 2008
Rating: 4.5 out of 5 teacups
Find it at: amazonbarnesandnoblebookdepositorygoodreads

Katsa has been able to kill a man with her bare hands since she was eight – she’s a Graceling, one of the rare people in her land born with an extreme skill. As niece of the king, she should be able to live a life of privilege, but Graced as she is with killing, she is forced to work as the king’s thug.

When she first meets Prince Po, Graced with combat skills, Katsa has no hint of how her life is about to change.

She never expects to become Po’s friend.

She never expects to learn a new truth about her own Grace – or about a terrible secret that lies hidden far away… — Goodreads Description

 

Let’s get right to it: I loved it.

I’m sure two weeks down the road I’ll end up agreeing with all the less than glowing reviews I’ve seen on some points but for the time being I loved it.

Things I Liked

  • Katsa. She’s very different from what society expects of her but that’s what I love about her. Some may call her a Mary Sue, and I guess that’s well within their right to do so, but I thought she was an incredibly compelling character. Frustrating at times, yes, but compelling all the same. She’s a tomboy if I ever saw one (though that is no surprise considering what her Grace is), but she also questions herself. She’s not acting the part of special snowflake and she has genuine worries that I can empathise with a lot, especially her fear of herself and what she can do.
  • In general, I was very pleased with how many female characters there were who weren’t helpless. Perhaps unrealistic for the general time period but I enjoyed it all the same. Bitterblue was smart and quick on the uptake. Faun only had very few scenes but I was delighted to find out about her. Even Po’s mother’s agency gave her more to be than just his mother.
  • Speaking of women, I was so pleased when I realised that Cashore didn’t just handwave real-world lady issues like periods and how to have sex. She didn’t go into specifics, but just that she mentioned it in passing was a very nice addition. I always do wonder when girls go on adventures and don’t worry about things like their period.
  • The romance. Of course there was romance. Is there ever a book without romance? Probably not. But it was slow and quiet and well-paced. I wasn’t overwhelmed by it the way I often am with books that aren’t outright chicklit. Katsa and Po were amazing together and of course, as with any story that contains romance, the pair was separated at one point and it slayed me. Everything from Katsa’s fiery disdain of him to the revelation of what Po did for her was utterly delicous and I ship it so hard.
  • The plot itself. It was interesting from start to finish and I enjoyed it very much. There was something fascinating about the Graces and to learn about the mystery surrounding Bitterblue’s family. I thought that was very well done.

Things I Didn’t Like

  • Bitterblue sounds way too mature for her age, even under the circumstances. She doesn’t read like a ten-year-old at all. Like. At all. But then I can forgive that in favour of the engrossing plot.
  • The plot twists were foreseeable. Though I feel like this might be more of an issue for others than it is for me. I actually thought it pretty nice to be validated in my suspicions and would’ve been disappointed if Katsa had evaded certain doom just because she’s the MC. That would’ve been more unrealistic than I would’ve liked, I’m sure.

Favourite Quote

And then she swung the door open and almost sat down on the floor in astonishment, because before her in the hallway stood Raffin.
He was muddy and smelled like horses.
“Did we get here in time for the food?” he asked. “The invitation said something about pie, and I’m starving.”

Ahhh, a man after my own heart. You can always lure me in with talk about food. :D

All things considered I enjoyed Graceling very much and would definitely recommend it. :D
Isa

[Isa] The Nightmare Affair (The Arkwell Academy #1) by Mindee Arnett

The Nightmare Affair (The Arkwell Academy #1) by Mindee ArnettPick For Me badgeTitle: The Nightmare Affair (The Arkwell Academy #1)
Author: Mindee Arnett
Published: March 5, 2013
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 teacups
Find it at: amazonbarnesandnoblebookdepositorygoodreads

Sixteen-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare.
Literally.
Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy, is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder.
Then Eli’s dream comes true.
Now Dusty has to follow the clues—both within Eli’s dreams and out of them—to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.. — Goodreads Description

Things I Liked

  • The cover! As you might know by now, I don’t really read cover blurbs or summaries of books because daaaaaang, pretty covers always lure me in. This one was really lovely, I adore the three-tone art style and it looks really shiny and attractive.
  • The premise was really interesting, too (otherwise, I probably would’ve DNFed). We’ve read all about werewolves and vampires and witches and wizards and occasionally even ghosts, but nightmares as a supernatural species? Nope. I was super into that, negl. I loved the nightmare bits of the book, the way Dusty’s abilities play out, the things a nightmare has to do and live through. It was really interesting. I also really enjoyed the concept of a boarding school for the supernatural and paranormal. Of course, considering that I’ve got a boarding school fetish when it comes to books.
  • I also appreciated the occasional feminist themes of the book! They were few and far between, but I was glad they were there, if only in the form of Selene (who deserves a medal for putting up with humanity, tbh).
  • On the hilarious side of the book, there were trash trolls. Yep, you read that right. Trash trolls. I rolled my eyes at first but the existence of them has grown on me. Trash trolls sitting in bins eating rubbish. I cannot.
  • In a similar manner I enjoyed the addition of animations, i.e. inanimate objects developing a bit of a consciousness. I could see that becoming an issue in a magic world, actually!

Things I Didn’t Like

  • All the guys are assholes. Now I’ve had my fair share of being bullied in school, especially by boys, so it’s not completely out there that certain boys would act that way towards Dusty, but ugh. Grow up. I was particularly disappointed in Eli, who was supposedly protector of the little guy back in school but now treats Dusty with contempt and aversion. It doesn’t matter that it eventually stops, it’s just frustrating. Dusty, girl, don’t let people treat you that way, even if they’re pretty boys.
  • Moving on from the asshole guys, there’s Dusty. Geek shaming to the max where Dusty is involved. I am not amused. “Most magickind teenagers were fanatics about ordinary pop culture. Almost everybody was a Comic-Con-attending play-dress-up fan boy. And he had the nerve to make fun of me. Go figure.” I’m going to go a step further and say that it’s not just Dusty who is an issue, but the author herself. Whether intended or not, this really bothered me. There’s nothing wrong with being a geek and going to Comic-Con and cosplaying. Some people enjoy being ~play-dress-up fan boys~ and others enjoy going to swinger parties. Either way, saying something like this is alienating as, pardon my French, fuck. Sure, this only shames fan boys but how many female readers might also enjoy cosplaying and going to Comic-Con? I bet there are a fuckton of them and saying crap like this, even if it’s just through the words of a character, is not okay.
  • In general, Dusty seems more like a twelve-year-old than the ripe old age of sixteen that she’s supposed to be. “If I’d been on the ground I would’ve stomped my foot at him.” Way to show how mature you are, Dusty.
  • Of course, as I should’ve expected, there’s yet another love triangle in this YA novel. Colour me surprised. Not. It’s not overly grating on my nerves (and boy, am I grateful for that) but it had me rolling my eyes like there’s no tomorrow. There has to be more to teen/YA fiction than love triangles.
  • Then there was the issue of unimaginative names (uhm, the main character’s full name is Destiny Everhart… Destiny Everhart… dun dun dun, I bet it’s her destiny to save the world or something… she didn’t even feel like a Destiny to me and I’m sort of glad that she went by Dusty instead), which not only had me groaning but in the end I was really disappointed in myself, actually. Cause, you know, Dusty’s mum is called Moira Nimue(-Everhart, but we shall ignore that in favour of focusing on Nimue). Anything about that ring a bell for you? Nimue, perhaps? No? It rang at least ten bells for me but silly old me actually just ignored it because it was just too cheesy. More fool I! I guess subtlety was not on the checklist for names in this book. Now I’m only disappointed in myself because I could’ve called at least part of the plot right at the start because of Dusty’s mother. (There’s also the case of a certain group of people being called mules… which is almost like muggles… what a coincidence…)
  • The writing. Aside from the occasional missing word in a sentence that made me go back to try and understand what was being said (dude, this can be difficult for an ESL speaker), there were some seriously weird phrasings going on. “He was a sophomore like me, but his hair was black and his eyes cornflower blue.” That’s… that’s a weird juxtaposition. You’re comparing an academic construct with personal characteristics. That’s just plain weird and makes no sense. It makes it sound like all sophomores should look similar to Dusty. Just. No.
  • I was also sort of let down by the magic world in this book. I can see that a lot of thought went into spell names and how nightmares do their thing and some thought must’ve gone into the politics, but in the end the whole thing about The Will just seems so unimaginative. It’s like this super convenient plot device you just happen to have on hand to ensure that your plot works out. There’s more to it than that, but I just feel like it could’ve been more.

All in all the book wasn’t bad. There were a lot of things that bothered me, but it was also entertaining in a way. I might pick up the sequel eventually. Maybe.
Isa

[Isa] A Spy in the House (The Agency #1) by Y.S. Lee

A Spy in the House (The Agency #1) by Y.S. LeePick For Me badgeTitle: A Spy in the House (The Agency #1)
Author: Y.S. Lee
Published: April 6, 2009
Rating: 3.0 out of 5 teacups
Find it at: amazonbarnesandnoblebookdepositorygoodreads

Rescued from the gallows in 1850s London, young orphan (and thief) Mary Quinn is more than surprised to be offered a singular education, instruction in fine manners and a most unusual vocation. Miss Scrimshaw’s Academy for Girls is in fact a cover for an all-female investigative unit called The Agency, and at seventeen, Mary is about to put her training to the test. Assuming the guise of a lady’s companion, she must work against time as she infiltrates a rich merchant’s home in hopes of tracing his missing cargo ships. But it soon becomes clear that the Thorold household is full of dangerous deceptions, and there is no one to trust or is there? Packed with action and suspense, banter and romance, and evoking the gritty backstreets of Victorian London, this breezy mystery debuts a daring young detective who lives by her wits while uncovering secrets including those of her own past. — Goodreads Description

I’m not really sure what to say about this book, honestly. I’ve been meaning to write this review for, like, five times and I just keep getting distracted. Which summarises my experience with the book in general. It’s not a bad book at all and I enjoyed the plot — the mystery, Mary’s backstory, the bits and bites we got about the Academy, it was all very intriguing. But it wasn’t really engaging. The plot couldn’t really carry it all the way and the characters weren’t fully fleshed.

Yes, we get to know a lot about Mary and even the people she’s sent to, but generally the writing was a bit lacking on the character front. I couldn’t figure out the real relationship between Mary and her schoolteachers — are they friends? Are they authority figures to her? It’s not really clear at all and I think it’s the latter but Mary occasionally uses their first names and that confused me. Then there’s also the fact that I can’t figure out the age difference between them — they have to be quite a bit older than Mary, I should think, but then sometimes it seems like it’s just a handful of years after all — and that detracted from the plot a bit.

Ideally I would’ve liked to read more about the Agency. There was barely anything about it aside from circumstantial information due to Mary’s assignment and a bit of backstory, which I found lacking. If you talk about a fancy school that is used as a cover for lady detectives, I kind of want to read about that. Sure, the story focuses on the assignment but there still could’ve been more?

And considering that there could’ve been more about the Agency, there could’ve been less about the assignment. I’m sure that some cuts here and there wouldn’t have hurt, because it was really dragging at times, especially considering the timeline — two weeks, I believe.

Of course there’s also the token romance, and frankly… I don’t dig it. I’m a giant cynic on canon ships, so take my word with a heap of salt, but it was just so heavyhanded and fake. It didn’t really feel like the characters themselves were into it. They were being written into a corner, and while that corner was occasionally funny and intriguing, it was also very frustrating. I don’t see why Mary would take interest in somebody who constantly insults her, especially after her childhood and the things she’s been through and the school she’s gone to. Girl, you deserve better, occasional non-insulting banter or not.

That said, the book wasn’t horrible. It was interesting with some issues in the character department. I’m intrigued to learn more about Mary’s past and heritage, and whether or not her schoolteachers are secretly lesbians (dear god, PLEASE GIVE ME LESBIANS), so I’ll give the second book in the series a shot. :D
Isa

[Isa] Perfect Scoundrels (Heist Society #3) by Ally Carter

Perfect Scoundrels (Heist Society #3) by Ally CarterSequel Spring badgeTitle: Perfect Scoundrels (Heist Society #3)
Author: Ally Carter
Published: February 5, 2013
Rating: 5out of 5 teacups
Find it at: amazonbarnesandnoblebookdepositorygoodreads

Katarina Bishop and W.W. Hale the fifth were born to lead completely different lives: Kat comes from a long, proud line of lovable criminal masterminds, while Hale is the scion of one of the most seemingly perfect dynasties in the world. If their families have one thing in common, it’s that they both know how to stay under the radar while getting-or stealing-whatever they want.

No matter the risk, the Bishops can always be counted on, but in Hale’s family, all bets are off when money is on the line. When Hale unexpectedly inherits his grandmother’s billion dollar corporation, he quickly learns that there’s no place for Kat and their old heists in his new role. But Kat won’t let him go that easily, especially after she gets tipped off that his grandmother’s will might have been altered in an elaborate con to steal the company’s fortune. So instead of being the heir-this time, Hale might be the mark.

Forced to keep a level head as she and her crew fight for one of their own, Kat comes up with an ambitious and far-reaching plan that only the Bishop family would dare attempt. To pull it off, Kat is prepared to do the impossible, but first, she has to decide if she’s willing to save her boyfriend’s company if it means losing the boy. — from Goodreads

Damn you, Ally Carter. You really need to stop writing books that keep me up until two in the morning on a work night. It’s seemingly impossible for me to read for “just half an hour” because inevitably it’ll turn into “just one more chapter” and that turns into “oh well, midnight 1am is not so bad?” which then morphs into “but I’m at 80%!”

In other news, I read Perfect Scoundrels in one go on a night before getting up early for work. As you do. I blame Ally Carter entirely.

As you can see from the rating, I really really loved this book. It was better than the second in the series (Uncommon Criminals), which wasn’t bad but simply not as good as the first. Perfect Scoundrels, however, was AWESOME. Kat, Hale and Gabby are in the middle of a job when he’s unexpectedly called away and in the resulting drama around the will of his grandmother Kat learns a lot of new things about her boyfriend and his family.

I really loved the insight we got into Hale’s family this time around. We know all these things about Kat’s family — blood relations and makeshift family alike — but Hale’s a total mystery aside from the fact that he’s a total charmer and a great asset to Kat’s crew. Like Kat we don’t even know his full name! Which is quite hilarious (and sad, negl) when she calls for Hale who stands in the middle of a group of other people whose last name is Hale.

Carter did a fab job with the plot this time, it was intriguing and kept me on my toes from start to finish. (On that note: WOMAN, THAT THING YOU DID BEFORE THE END WAS NOT OKAY, THAT WAS NOT AN OKAY THING TO DO!) Plus, it also allowed the characters to grow by leaps and bounds. I’m also really glad that Ally Carter has a way of writing teenagers that doesn’t make me despise them. I often struggle with teenage characters and teenage drama because a lot of the time they end up being caricatures of randomly assembled stereotypes, but I enjoy Carter’s books because these kids feel real.

“And so that means…”
“We have to rob the Henley,” Simon said.
Kat sank onto a truly uncomfortable sofa. “Again.”

While Kat and her crew aren’t necessarily what you would call a normal representation of a group of teenagers these days, they’re not plagued by overly dramatic character traits. Kat and Hale have girlfriend/boyfriend issues amidst the whole mystery surrounding his grandmother’s will and it doesn’t feel fake at all. Whether or not these kids are planning a heist or travelling to the moon or the chosen ones who are meant to lead the revolt that will revenge the planet or something, they still act like teenagers would act and that’s a thing I don’t see all that often in teen/YA literature, actually. Which is why I am continually impressed with Carter’s books.

I also adored the topic of family in this book. There’s all sorts of mentions of who somebody’s family is (obviously Kat has a whole bunch of uncles who aren’t related to her because hell yeah crime families) and who you can call your family and it made me tear up a bit because that’s just so important! The fact that Kat’s family (and not just her crew, but other members of her family) help Kat to try and fix this mess is not only entertaining (why hello there, Uncle Felix, I heard you look good in drag!) but also shows Kat and the reader that they still care about her despite the events of Heist Society and Uncommon Criminals.

All in all, I think 5 teacups are totally deserved. I just really loved this book and don’t care about pragmatic ratings and weighing pros and cons because LALALALALA I CAN’T HEAR YOU OVER HOW MUCH I LOVE THIS BOOK
Isa

[Isa] The Square Root of Murder (Sophie Knowles #1) by Ada Madison

The Square Root of Murder (Sophie Knowles #1) by Ada MadisonPick For Me badgeTitle: The Square Root of Murder (Sophie Knowles #1)
Author: Ada Madison
Published: July 5, 2011
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 teacups
Find it at: amazonbarnesandnoblebookdepositorygoodreads

Dr. Sophie Knowles teaches math at Henley College in Massachusetts, but when a colleague turns up dead, it’s up to her to find the killer before someone else gets subtracted.
Goodreads Description

(That’s a terrible pun and this is coming from a person who keeps making terrible puns herself.)

I read this book for May’s Pick-For-Me because I have all these cozies on my tbr and I never actuall read them. It wasn’t too shabby! Well done, Ren, your choices are getting better! (Though I should add that while it wasn’t too shabby, it also wasn’t too good. I was mostly entertained by all the wtf moments that were flung at me. It was really quite hilarious.)

There’s not much to say really because this is a cozy mystery and they kind of always follow the same rules, you know. Still, it was an interesting spin with a maths professor headlining this particular series. The mystery wasn’t much of a mystery once I figured out who did it but I was curious to see how Sophie would solve it and react. So… The plot didn’t exactly set the world on fire, and it was really quite obvious once some particular keywords were said at 48% (I totally called it) but I was fine with that. Not so much with Sophie, who was obnoxious and way too pushy for her own good (or rather the police’s good, because frankly I would’ve charged her with obstruction of justice).

I don’t really understand Sophie’s motivation to ~investigate~ (if you want to call it that) other than trying to clear her friend’s name (who she is certain is innocent because she’s a nice girl… except that everyone hated the victim so literally anyone could’ve just snapped and done the deed). She doesn’t really have any skills other than saying she’s good at puzzles and considering that she feels oh so qualified it’s kind of a letdown that it takes her so long to figure it all out. (Of course we must understand that literally everyone is simply too nice to do it…)

While I didn’t have to force myself through the book (I really did want to know if I was right when I called the killer), I was still sort of disappointed by the end of it. The victim is this supposed bad person that everyone hates but then we hear from three people that that’s not true and that the victim considered Sophie to be their best friend (uhm… what?). Add to that the fact that the victim has some sort of blackmail material on some particular people and I’m just left confused because those things are never cleared up. Like why? Why? W h y? I don’t understand the victim’s motivation any more than I understand baseball. In fact, the victim is killed because they were blackmailing other people BUT I DON’T UNDERSTAND WHAT THEY WERE EVEN BLACKMAILING THEM WITH. THERE IS ZERO INFORMATION GIVEN. And on top of that some of that blackmail material is just absolutely ridiculous and in my opinion has no bearing whatsoever on the blackmail victim’s life/career/existence, and yet it’s made an issue. Like, sorry, the 1800s called, they want their opinions back.

As for the characterisation in general, the characters were all really flat and mostly identified by one signifier. The main character is a mathsy person who is aces at puzzles (or so she says…), so she’s ALWAYS doing puzzles. Like, walking from her living room to the bathroom there are three puzzles on the way that she just happens to fill out… as you do. She’s described as wearing lots of summery flowery dresses (if I remember correctly) but she doesn’t sound anything like she would do that. All I saw was a pressed middle-aged woman in a suit, tbh.

It’s just lists of facts for the characters but it doesn’t really come together. Then there’s absolutely over the top names that may be not over the top if you’re American, but I thought it was unnecessary that there was a dude called Virgil and a lady called Elteen. I actually had to google the latter because I was almost sure that that couldn’t be a name. (I’ve now learned that names in America are not as complicated and regulated as they are in Germany.) Generally it just felt very orchestrated which was more exasperating than entertaining.

And that brings me to the things that did entertain me. (And I swear they did, even though it sounds differently below.) Because I was hella entertained by the “what?!” moments. For one thing, Sophie doesn’t know how phones work. In the 2010s. Riiight. Even my tech-illiterate dad knows how his fancy smartphone works.

“Not a chance,” I said. Message received, I noticed, as the girls dropped their shoulders and sighed. Maybe it was all the texting we did these days that enabled this kind of shorthand communication even without the benefit of an electronic device.

That is possibly the most patronising and rude thing I’ve read lately about the current generation of teens and young adults. SO PATRONISING OMG GASP THEY UNDERSTOOD THREE WORDS WITHOUT YOU HAVING TO CLARIFY EVEN FURTHER THAT THERE WAS NO CHANCE OF THEM BEING LET INSIDE THE BUILDING WOW KIDS THESE DAYS THEY ARE SO WELL VERSED WITH SHORT SENTENCES IT MUST BE THE CURSE OF TEXTING THAT MAKES THEM REACT LIKE THIS. In other news, T9 is a thing of the past and I write run-on sentences on my phone like a pro. No need for ~shorthand communication~ here to save time.

I waited while the phone dialed. Or whatever these smartphones did.

I BET THEY DANCED THE POLKA BEFORE TRAVELLING TO MARS TO DO SOME WEIRD SMARTPHONE MAGIC SO YOU CAN TALK TO THE PERSON WHOSE NUMBER YOU’VE DIALLED. Or not dialled. Whatever these smartphones do…

Still, I hoped Bruce wouldn’t travel too far out of range of my cell.

THAT IS NOT HOW PHONES WORK YOU ARE THINKING OF IDK TIN CAN TELEPHONES. Sorry, when has there ever been a phone (and not some other technology) that relies on proximity to another phone? I’m flabbergasted, negl.

Speaking of how things do not work:

I’d read somewhere that cyanide had an almond smell, but that not everyone had the gene to detect the odor. Apparently I was one of those lucky ones who possessed the gene, and could smell cyanide even when there was none within miles.

THAT IS NOT HOW IT WORKS. NOT EVEN REMOTELY. HOW DO YOU EVEN RATIONALISE THESE THOUGHTS??? Hint: Probably not at all because of course this comes from the person who thinks she is smarter than the police…

I wasn’t proud of the other reason either, that I thought I was smarter than the police—hadn’t I already proven otherwise, in several orders of magnitude?—and that I’d be able to see at a glance something they’d missed.

AND YET YOU KEEP POKING YOUR NOSE IN IT.

How clever of the police to ask Woody that question. They were so thorough, maybe I was wasting my time.

THEY ARE THE POLICE WHAT DID YOU EXPECT

I was thoroughly impressed and moved to hysterical giggles because Sophie’s actions are just so misguided and outright crazy. I’m just… how does a character like this even exist and manage to justify their actions to themselves. How? It’s just incredibly amusing to me.

Oh well. All that said and ranted over and raged about, I swear the book wasn’t bad. It was an okay read with some seriously misguided character opinions and thoughts. There weren’t really any puzzle-y bits in it (except for a handful after the end but they weren’t even challenging) and the whole math-related stuff was unnecessary because it didn’t show up at all, unless it was mentioned that by the way Sophie is a maths professor!!! In case you forgot!!! She also likes to create puzzles!! The mystery wasn’t too bad, even though I figured it out before the halfway point, but I guess what irks me is that in the end there is no real closure. I still don’t know why exactly the victim was a shitty person and I still don’t know why exactly they were killed. If you like cozy mysteries and if you don’t mind the things mentioned above, you should give this book a shot. (And even if you do mind, you might get a kick out of the ineptitude of people in their 40s who do not understand how phones work.)
Isa