[Ren] Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1) by Patricia Briggs

Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1) by Patricia BriggsPick For Me badgeTitle: Moon Called (Mercy Thompson #1)
Author: Patricia Briggs
Published: May 12th, 2014
Rating: 3.5 out of 5 teacups
Find it at: amazonbarnesandnoblebookdepositorygoodreads

Disclaimer: I’m not a fan of werewolves and I’m generally bored by shapeshifters and similar paranormal elements. I started this series because I was intrigued by a short story set in the same universe. All things considered, I thought this book was okay.

The protagonist, Mercy, is a badass werecoyote. She also doesn’t look like the person on the cover of the book, since she spends most of the time wearing ill-fitted borrowed clothes because she tends to lose or destroy her own shirts… but then again, when ever have fantasy covers been realistic. Problem is, for a badass werecoyote, she’s also rather dull. As I was reading, I felt as if the book had the potential to be really entertaining, if only I wasn’t stuck inside the boring POV of Mercy Thompson. Which, you know, is a bit of a problem since the series is named after her. I sat on this review for a while, and after a week or so the only thing I remember about Mercy’s personality is… uh… she has a cat?

The secondary characters are marginally more interesting, though my enjoyment of Adam was slightly dampened by the fact that he looks like a corner of a love triangle. The worldbuilding and lore is by far the most interesting part of the novel, even considering that I don’t care much for werewolves. In fact, I didn’t mind when the action was paused for a bit of info dump, though it might be annoying if you’re into whatever Mercy is doing at the time.

As for me, I’m on the fence about this series. Bits of it were really cool but I think I’ll need a break of several months before my next dose of werewolves, especially since a love triangle seems to be looming over the horizon.

[Ren] The Heiresses by Sara Shepard

The Heiresses by Sara ShepardPick For Me badgeTitle: The Heiresses
Author: Sara Shepard
Published: May 12th, 2014
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 teacups
Find it at: amazonbarnesandnoblebookdepositorygoodreads

Summary of the story: there are five rich girls, who all have rich girl problems. My problem is that five is way too many characters, given that they all have the personality of cardboard cutouts. No, wait, cardboard’s too cheap… faux marble statues, maybe. The beginning was rather dull. I read on the back cover that one of the poor rich girls was going to die, and I looked forward to that because it meant one less POV to keep track of, but I still had to spend several long chapters reading about her organic baby food and her designer footwear. Then she died! Hooray!

But the book remained dull. I feel very disappointed, because I was in this for the torrid affairs and illegitimate love children and dirty secrets, but everything was told in such a dull way! This might be the problem: things were told. Every time that there was some buildup because a character hinted at some dark secret in their past, a couple of chapters later they told me about it. And those flashbacks were so dry, it felt like reading a newspaper article. Not even a juicy gossip magazine, just a boring newspaper that only gives you the bare facts. Oh, look, this character is a murderer. This one had an affair. This one likes to party. Yawn. The few bits of suspence came from Poppy’s death. Here at least the action took place in the present and there was something a stake. Was it murder? Were the other heiresses in danger? I was hoping more of them will die because I didn’t like them very much, but at least that part of the plot was entertaining.

The characters were also a disappointment. I read Pretty Little Liars and it was entertaining enough, but the characters were kind of immature since they were all dumb teens. This book has adult characters, so I assumed I would like it better — wrong. Despite their age, the Saybrook heiresses all act like dumb kids. The dialogue is a gold mine.

“That hat is hideous, by the way,” [Elizabeth] added, turning back into the bedroom.
It’s Hermès, Aster wanted to snap.

Poor Aster hasn’t grasped the idea that things can be both hideous and expensive. She might be my favourite character, just because she’s the dumbest. She spends the book miserable because her allowance is being cut and she’s forced to work and she doesn’t, like, know how to use Excel or anything.

Again, the plot about Poppy’s death is the one redeeming thing about the book because the girls finally start putting their heads together and they try to figure out the Big Dark Saybrook Secret. There was quite a lot of red herrings, and at one point nothing seemed to make sense, but the solution was very neat and made me want to smack my forehead because of course that’s what happened, that actually made sense! I was actually very pleased with the end and with the fact that tiny rays of character development started to appear over the horizon.

…Is what I would have liked to say, but then the epilogue is like “fuck that, maybe I was lying before and that is not the real solution of the mystery, maybe there are many Bigger Badder Darker Secrets yet to discover, so get ready for the next 12 books!!!” so I’m back to disappointment after all. If (when?) book #2 comes out, please bludgeon me over the head so I won’t read it. It’s for my own good.

[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.

[Ren] The Princess Curse by Merrie Haskell

The Princess Curse by Merrie HaskellPick For Me badgeAvengers vs X-Men badgeTitle: The Princess Curse
Author: Merrie Haskell
Published: September 1st, 2011
Rating: 4 out of 5 teacups
Find it at: amazonbarnesandnoblebookdepositorygoodreads

I’m on a fairy tale kick lately, so I’m very happy that Isa chose this book for me to read. It’s a very interesting and original retelling of The Twelve Dancing Princesses, a story about a group of princesses who are forced to dance to the point of exhaustion every night. My first impression wasn’t very positive: to be honest I found that the first 40% of the book were rather slow-going and not very interesting, because nothing much happened aside from a lot of worldbuilding and introductions of characters. One of the problems is that I was already familiar with the story. So while everyone in the castle is wondering why the princesses’s slippers have holes in them every morning, I’m like “well that’s because every night they go down the secret tunnel and dance underground, duh”.

The book’s own backcover mentions the dancing and the underground, so it’s not even as if that’s meant to be a big spoiler. I felt that the first several chapters followed the fairytale too closely, and maybe it would have been more interested if the book had started with Reveka’s first attempts to discover a cure for the curse instead of starting so far back.

…Oh, right, Reveka. The original fairytale has some boring, nameless hero who tries to break the curse so he can marry one of the princesses. The book has Reveka instead. Reveka is thirteen and she’s apprenticed to the castle’s herbalist. She wants to break the curse and get the reward money so she can join a convent, because being a nun in the 15th century means you don’t have to marry some dolt and instead you can spend your life working in your herbarium and figuring out how plants work. That last bit doesn’t sound very interesting to me, but Reveka is super into plants so good for her.

I like Reveka, though at times I forget that she’s just thirteen because she acts and speaks as if she’s much older. That may be because back in the day people started working younger and got married younger and so on (and Reveka does point out a couple of times that she is old enough to be married) but she was just a little too mature to be believable as a kid. Still, she’s a funny protagonist.

“I understand that you don’t want to marry me,” I said. “I mean, I don’t know why, since I’m simply delightful to be around. But to each his own taste.”

One of my favourite things about Reveka is that she wasn’t suddenly all-knowledgeable about plants as the plot required it. Most of the time she didn’t know what to do and had to look things up in her book, or she had to ask the herbalist or other adults. Reveka is not a child prodigy, she’s a regular apprentice who sometimes gets things wrong because she’s still learning, and that made her sympathetic to me. I also liked how herbs and plants played such a central role and the herbalist was sort of a cross between a doctor and a scientist.

The setting is also very interesting: the country of Sylvania where Reveka lives is fictional, but very realistic and based on neighbouring Transylvania and Wallachia. I believe that many details, like the threat of a Turkish invasion and the style of dress and the ruling system, are actual historical detains. It’s very different from the generic fantasy setting that I imagined from the cover, and I was intrigued. Don’t get me wrong, the cover is very pretty, but Reveka wears a simple chemise and her hair is pushed back under a cowl so who is this stranger with the fancy dress and flowing hair?

Anyway. Halfway through the book Reveka finally figures out an important thing about the curse, and that’s when the book becomes, in a word, awesome. Up to then I was rather underwhelmed by the plot, but then the author started mixing in bits of other fairytales and myths. That made it much more interesting for me, because I no longer knew what was going to happen and the story felt completely original. I’m trying very hard not to spoil anything, because part of the fun was not knowing about each plot point in advance, but there’s a bit where I thought that the story was going to feature one of two YA tropes, and I was trying to figure out which trope I would despise less. But then the story subverted both tropes… by having Reveka act like a person with a brain who makes her own decisions about her life. And also by not making a thirteen-year-old fall in instalove with anyone, because the book outright acknowledges that it would be problematic and that we’re not going there.

The ending felt somewhat rushed… I didn’t even realize that we had reached the climax of the story, I thought that we were just leading up to it and then suddenly it was over and we had a happy end. So that felt like a letdown. But I adored how the epilogue let things open: it’s a bit like Chalice in that regard, that it lets me free to imagine what will happen next to the protagonist and everyone else in the castle. Like Chalice, I wish that there was a sequel but at the same time I’m glad this is a standalone, because I feel it’s better to finish a book wanting a little more rather than slogging through a trilogy and wondering why it’s dragging on for so long. And in this case I definitely want to read more from Merrie Haskell!

[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

[Ren] Havemercy by Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett

Havemercy by Jaida Jones and Danielle BennettPick For Me badgeTitle: Havemercy
Author: Jaida Jones and Danielle Bennett
Published: January 1st, 2008
Rating: 2.5 out of 5 teacups
Find it at: amazonbarnesandnoblebookdepositorygoodreads

Mechanical dragons! Mecha dragons fueled by magic and piloted by daring aces, who protect the sky against a foreign army! I really wanted to care about this book, because the premise sounded awesome, but ultimately it just felt a bit bland to me.

First off, the book is divided between four POV characters, and those four don’t really interact with each other. Even after the POVs “pair off”, so to speak, the two pairs are literally miles away from each other and it felt as if I was reading two books about two separate groups of people. It took me a while to become interested in the characters and their story, because I kept bouncing back from one POV to the other, and they were all narrated in first person which was confusing at times.

Havemercy is what saved the book for me. I really liked her, and I kept feeling she needed more scenes. She was a huge part of Rook’s life and she only showed up once or twice, which was a shame. I did like the middle part of the book, when things finally started moving and the characters interacted more. The end was disappointing, though, and there was too much focus on the relationship between Hal and Royston which was boring because it was obvious that they were going to be together anyway.

I think my biggest problem with this book is that it doesn’t really have heart. It never made me care too much about the characters, because I never felt that they were really in danger. The Ke-Han were never going to invade, Royston and Hal were never going to be separated, Thom was never going to be sent away by the Esar. There was never any immediate sense of danger. There were many casualties in the end, but I got the feeling that the book didn’t care because it wasn’t any of the main characters, and so I didn’t really care either.

Part of the issue could be that the authors started off as fanfiction writers. If I had already felt an emotional attachment to those characters, I would have liked their story better. But the authors failed in getting me attached to the characters in the first place. It’s a shame, because there’s some really good worldbuilding and this could have been a stellar book, but it just didn’t grab me and it didn’t make me want to read more books set in this universe. Pity.

[Ren] Allegiant (Divergent #3) by Veronica Roth

Allegiant (Divergent #3) by Veronica RothPick For Me badgeTitle: Allegiant (Divergent #3)
Author: Veronica Roth
Published: March 18th, 2013
Rating: DNF at 25%
Find it at: amazonbarnesandnoblebookdepositorygoodreads

I tried. The first two books in the series were entertaining enough, there were some bad young adult tropes but they were an easy read as long as I suspended my disbelief about the ludicrous factions system. I thought “whatever, it’s just the way this crazy world is” and kept reading. The problem is that as soon as the book explained to me when the factions were formed and why, I laughed and abandoned the book.

The problem is that Veronica Roth wrote herself in a corner with the factions. There was no way to rationalize a system with that many flaws. The logical thing to do would have been to just ignore it and go with the story, focusing on the conflict between the factionless and the allegiant. Lots of successful books and movies have a basic premise that doesn’t make a lot of sense, but that doesn’t matter much if the story is compelling. Unfortunately, not only the “explanation” of the factions made no sense, it also turned the book into a dead bore.

This is the third book already, so I would expect that most of the worldbuilding and character building has already been done (even though the world makes no sense and the characters are two-dimensional) and that the book would deal with solving all of the pending conflicts. Right? Wrong. Instead, the book just stops all action for a bunch of chapters, and literally sits down Tris and her friends to explain how factions work. It’s the clumsiest plot dump ever, it makes no sense, and it killed any interest I might have in finding out what happens next.

Why should I sit through I don’t know how many more chapters of new characters talking about what a great idea the factions are (they aren’t), and of Tris being stupidly noble (or nobly stupid, or just stupid), and of Four turning into a useless copy of Tris (down to the fact that his POV is indistinguishable from Tris)? Oh, right, because I wanted to find out whether Four dies at the end like I thought he would since the first book. Well, I asked Isa about that, and then she linked me to a review that told me real quick what happened at the end. It sounded completely ridiculous and I don’t regret cutting my losses and giving up on this book.

[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] 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.
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] 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