It's not that this was bad -- it just wasn't a complete story. Like, this was interesting, and it was a fun idea, but the actual story part is somethiIt's not that this was bad -- it just wasn't a complete story. Like, this was interesting, and it was a fun idea, but the actual story part is something you kind of have to imagine for yourself. ...more
Oh god. I've had this book on the go for two WEEKS and I'm a third through. It's a painful slog at this point, and I'm going to have to return it to tOh god. I've had this book on the go for two WEEKS and I'm a third through. It's a painful slog at this point, and I'm going to have to return it to the library soon, so I'll try again but right now this has to be on the Did Not Finish shelf.
1. Pacing. The pacing seriously slipped in this one, and that's the main thing that carries you through the series. Here, the buildup is slow, which turns out to be a huge problem for me. Previous books have started in medias res. This starts about forty feet back of the starting line, which means getting to the starting line requires me to be much more into this than I am.
2. Characters. The main characters remain kind of boring, except for Holden, who is oh-god-feign-sleep-until-he-goes-AWAY boring with a side-dish of seriously annoying "I am the only important person who understands" delusion. But in the second book, the secondary characters were truly interesting and compelling and made up for the main ones. In this one -- well, Anna is interesting. I enjoy her friendship with the society lady, and I love this portrayal of an actual religious person in SF who is neither the bad guy nor an idiot. But the rest are so forgettable and dull that my caring just...isn't there at all.
3. Misjudged investment. I suspect that at this point the authors thought I would have lots of feelings about the series characters. I do not, except a deep yearning for James Holden to get his jaw broken and then wired shut for at least a book. So when they're put in jeopardy, or their reputations are, I'm just like, oh god, do we have to do this? Can we just skip to something that matters? What about another goo attack? When I'm rooting for the body horror to start up, you know something's gone very wrong.
This book isn't terrible. It's just terribly boring.
But I'll give it another try in a bit, see if I can push past this morass of blah. For right now: DNF....more
Well, however you felt about the first book in this series, that's roughly how you'll feel about the second one. Much of this book is a color-by-numbeWell, however you felt about the first book in this series, that's roughly how you'll feel about the second one. Much of this book is a color-by-numbers sequel. There's even another prologue with another girl in jeopardy, and much of the plot is driven by a man's obsessive desire to save her.
There are improvements, though. The man in this case is the father of the (very young) girl, so the plot-driving obsession is much less creepy. Even better, there are some new characters who are actually not purchases from the Stock Character Bargain Store (remaindered shelf). Both Bobbie (a space marine) and Avasarala (an old cranky UN bureaucrat) are great; they're people, I enjoyed them, I was interested to read about them. And they got narratives! Actual women, with point of view sections! These authors CAN do it; apparently they just forgot in the first book.
Unfortunately, the authors didn't exactly realize what they had there. (I was very much hoping that Bobbie would join the team for good.) They persist in their delusion that James Holden is likable (he isn't) and that his relationship with Naomi is interesting (it isn't).
And all their other old problems persist, too. They continue to write superficially; this whole book is supposed to be about trauma, and the way it drives us, but all the trauma responses are so skin-deep and so similar that it really doesn't work at all. They're still doing action movies in book form -- read fast, forget fast, basically. And they still want us to care about the wrong things for the wrong reasons. And they're still missing a good fact-checker; my copy is peppered with notes that basically say "this doesn't work that way" and "but that's what a concussion IS" and so on.
Am I enjoying the books? Yeah, they're light and fast-paced and entertaining. But I'm not buying them, because these aren't books you'd ever want to read again. They're the book version of cotton candy. (But flavored with alien goo.)
There are three kinds of fiction books that feature disabled characters: ones that happen to feature disabled people but are about something else, oneThere are three kinds of fiction books that feature disabled characters: ones that happen to feature disabled people but are about something else, ones that are about disability (or partially about disability) and are written for disabled people, and ones that are about disability and written for non-disabled people.
This is the third kind: a book that is not for disabled people. So I am not a part of its audience. I acknowledge that. And it is well-written, and easy to read, and it mostly manages its plot well. But I read the whole thing feeling vaguely ill. "It isn't like that," I kept thinking. "This isn't how it goes." And then -- uh, spoilers follow -- you get to the Happy, Uplifting Ending, and, wow. Did they really give the disabled kid a major award and a standing ovation just for...existing while disabled? Does August end up as everyone's mascot -- to the extent that they call him "little dude" -- and remain sexless and cute while his friends go on to discover relationships and progress toward adulthood? It's just. It's a reiteration of so many disability stereotypes. And it's all told in a way that makes it palatable and acceptable to non-disabled people, without a single thought that disabled people might ever read it.
I get that the main point of this book was to show middle grade kids that people who are different from them are human, too. And, I mean, I was a middle grade kid once, so I get how important that message is. But -- this is a story about a disabled kid where the non-disabled people around him learn Important Life Lessons from exposure to his disability. And it was written so that non-disabled readers could learn Important Life Lessons from reading about disability. I guess you use the tools you have at your disposal, but wow. It kind of sucks to be degraded to the level of a tool to be used to make other people act more human.
Rating this book is challenging. It's a grim topic, and Desmond manages to write about it with clarity, kindness, and enough of a narrative to make thRating this book is challenging. It's a grim topic, and Desmond manages to write about it with clarity, kindness, and enough of a narrative to make the book compelling. That's an impressive achievement. At the same time, sometimes it felt like poverty porn, like the book was asking me to peer through the windows and gawk at how some of the poorest Americans live.
Most of all -- well, I've been reading a lot of books lately that make me say, "But we already KNOW this!" It shouldn't need a detailed ethnography for people to know that eviction is a long-term disaster, that housing costs are too high, that people can't live comfortably or decently on welfare benefits. You just need the ability to do basic math. But, well. Looking at the political discourse in this country, I guess maybe we do need this.
And this book does have one huge added bonus: at the end, it does make concrete suggestions for solving the problems it documents. (I don't think those suggestions will ever be followed, no, but at least it provides some clues about what we should be working towards.)
I don't know. I found this book depressing, and the need for the book to exist even more depressing. But safe, decent housing is a basic human need that a lot of humans are denied in this country, and this book is a well-written, easy to read, carefully researched ethnographic look at the way that happens and what the results are.
Of all the books on poverty I've read this year, this is the best. Still kind of wish I hadn't read it, though.
I read this book because my dog managed to purchase the third volume from Amazon when I left my ipad unlocked on the couch. I have to say, the jury'sI read this book because my dog managed to purchase the third volume from Amazon when I left my ipad unlocked on the couch. I have to say, the jury's very much out on taking book recommendations from dogs, but the intial results aren't looking good.
This book sounded awesome. Genius 11-year-old girl solving crimes in historical England! Unfortunately, Bradley isn't really up to the challenge of writing or plotting something that awesome. The solution to the mystery was painfully obvious from early on. (Pro tip for mystery writers: do not write a book so depopulated that there is only one character who could, by genre conventions, have done the crime; also do not make that character behave so bizarrely that he's basically toting around a large sign saying "Pay Attention to Me, for I Am the Killer.") The rest of the characters were mostly of the deliberately eccentric type you find only in mystery novels. The book's pacing is off all the way through, and Bradley makes it worse by committing one of the more serious pacing mistakes: having a gigantic wad of exposition in the middle of the book. But all of those were, while major problems, minor compared to the biggest one.
Writing a brilliant eleven-year-old girl's first-person narrative is challenging. It's especially challenging when you yourself are not, and have never been, brilliant, eleven, or female. Or, okay, maybe Bradley was eleven once, but he's forgotten all he knew of it. Flavia has moments when she acts like an eleven year old, yes, but there are also an awful lot of moments where her voice is precisely that of a middle-aged man. Like, a LOT of moments. And, unfortunately, in a first-person novel, there's no way to recover from an inauthentic narrator's voice.
I really wanted to enjoy this book. I did not actually enjoy it very much. It's unsatisfying, ersatz, without substance -- basically the opposite of what I want in my mysteries. But I can't blame my dog for this. After all, she bought the third one. Maybe that's the point where the series gets good. Sadly, since I started with this one, I have very little desire to read on and find out. ...more
It's odd to write my first review of a series four books in, but up until this one, the series is very much exactly what it says on the tin: a fun, clIt's odd to write my first review of a series four books in, but up until this one, the series is very much exactly what it says on the tin: a fun, clever update of the classic Holmes and Watson mystery in a girls' school setting, with likable characters and quite good, though totally solvable, puzzles.
In this book, though, it's all that, but its's much more.
It's rare for an author to allow serious character development in a long, open-ended series; it's even rarer, for some reason, when it's a mystery series. But in this book, Stevens begins carefully deconstructing a lot of the classic tropes of the Holmes and Watson style mystery, and she does that to allow the characters to grow and progress -- and to develop their relationship. (view spoiler)[I really don't think that my queer eyes are reading too much into this; by the end of this book, Daisy and Hazel's relationship has changed from friendship to attraction, although the changes are cued subtly, as they have to be, given that the point-of-view character is, as yet, clueless. (hide spoiler)]
It's also rare for an author to begin to correct some of the flaws of her earlier books, but again, Stevens surprised me here. I don't want to go too much into what she fixes, because it spoils earlier novels, so I'll just say that her plots have always struck me as being carefully planned and developed, but now Stevens is bringing the same thought and care to her characters, and to the issues her books raise.
This series has gone from being fluffy fun to being fluffy fun with a good heart and a real soul, and I'm very much enjoying it.
And now I'll begin impatiently waiting for the release of book five. COME TO ME, BOOK FIVE! ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
We read this one out loud to our kid, and that is definitely the way to go -- makes the most of the fun narrative voice, plus it lets you piggyback onWe read this one out loud to our kid, and that is definitely the way to go -- makes the most of the fun narrative voice, plus it lets you piggyback on the kid's reaction. This one worked well for a reasonably literate first grader -- he knows enough about Greek mythology to *sometimes* guess what's happening, but not so much that he knows every single thing that's going to happen. The action moves quickly enough to keep him involved, and the writing is easy for him to follow.
Basically, I'm enjoying this one much more for the insights it's giving the kid. ("In our stories, heroes mostly win, but in Greek stories, they mostly die or get turned into things. Did Ancient Greeks like different stories than us?") And it's a fun one to read out loud that keeps us, as parents, entertained, too. Reading this to myself would be a whole different experience, but for the audience it's written for, it's great. ...more
-WARNINGS NOTE: This book is RIDDLED with animal harm and death. It's graphic, it's multiple, some of it occurs right on the page in graphic detail an-WARNINGS NOTE: This book is RIDDLED with animal harm and death. It's graphic, it's multiple, some of it occurs right on the page in graphic detail and is really distressing.-
Okay, so. The conceit of this book is that it's about the kids who aren't the Chosen Ones, the people who hold the universe together, the ones who save the world, called "indie kids" in this book. It's about the kids who live their lives on the sidelines, in the background, while other people (discussed in the chapter heads) save the world.
Great idea! Except:
1. When I was a kid, I decided that there are issue books and fantasy books, and fantasy books were much, much more entertaining and fun. I've grown up! I read other kinds of books! But, wow, this book reminded me just how much fun issue books are not. Yes, it was delightful to have a good portrayal of OCD, and I deeply appreciated that, but add in the career-driven mom and grandmother with Alzheimer's and the sister with the eating disorder and the alcoholic father and and and and and...look. Too many issues, okay? Too. Many.
2. Mike, our narrator, spends pretty much the whole book being an asshole because the girl he's had a crush on forever but never made a single move on mentioned being interested in someone else. Don't get me wrong, he has good traits -- he loves his sisters, he cares about his friends (although he never bothers to try to see them for who they are) -- but, uh, if I want to read the endless whining of dudes who are Totally in Love with This Amazing Girl who they actually do not in any way treat like a human being, Reddit is *right there*.
3. Remember how this is supposed to be about the non-indie kids? Mike's friends and siblings are. Well. Surprisingly indie. (view spoiler)[ One of them is actually 1/4 god. Like, his grandmother was a literal, actual goddess. (hide spoiler)] That's -- that's not exactly normal kid material, even though he's trying to be normal. What I'm saying is, Patrick Ness tried to write issue fiction against a fantasy backdrop, except the fantasy backdrop was so compelling, so much more interesting than what he was actually supposed to be writing about, that he couldn't stop playing with it. The fantasy contaminated his issues fiction with fun. This is a sign that he should have been writing something else all along.
4. The most interesting character in the book BY FAR is Mike's crush-object, Henna, who has problems, takes control of her life, calls people on their bullshit, and almost gets killed by possessed deer. (Not in that order.) I kept wanting to hear more about her. And less about Mike's objectifying crush on her. (view spoiler)[I did not feel better about this whole situation after they banged so that Mike could learn the true meaning of love, let me tell you. (hide spoiler)]
5. At the end of the book, one of the indie kids says, crying, "I don't know why it always happens to us. I don't know why we always have to blow up the high school." And I found myself thinking, yeah, that's a really good question, isn't it? Why did these non-indie people, kids and adults both, all sit on the sidelines and let the indie kids struggle on alone? Why are they constantly surrounded by gigantic problems that they decide someone else should deal with? Shouldn't they be...helping save the world? It's kind of important.
And the whole novel falls apart, right there, in that scene. The conceit doesn't work. Issues fiction only works when the issues are the most important thing. And this book could only work if the fantasy components weren't real. Because when the world is literally, actually ending in the background, and the main characters are too busy arguing with their friends and going to dances to do anything about it, well. It's hard not to think they're self-centered little shits.
Which, in Mike's case, is definitely true. Maybe that's the point Ness was making, that there are the people who care and try and then there are the people who don't try and only care about themselves and their little circle of humans. But, well, I already knew that. Didn't need to spend another book with them. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more