So I knew it was a play's script. And I knew it wasn't written solely by JKR. And I had a rough version of the plot figured out, so all that's fine. ISo I knew it was a play's script. And I knew it wasn't written solely by JKR. And I had a rough version of the plot figured out, so all that's fine. I wasn't expecting a single-year romp of Potter Offspring and Friends like the original series. And definitely, I want to see this play.
But as a story, this was frustrating because Harry Potter has never even come close to being the best part of Harry Potter. And there was a lot of Harry being obnoxious and COMMUNICATION ISSUES ALL OVER THE PLACE. Like, LET ME SIT Y'ALL DOWN FOR AN INTRODUCTORY COMMUNICATION CLASS. BECAUSE YOU ALL SUCK.
And it reminded me of some of the more obvious flaws of the wizarding world. I love the world JKR created and it's super fun to read about, but it's populated by people with a great lack of common sense. And witchfolk need to get with the technological times: some cell phones would have solved a lot of problems, TBH.
The second act/half is actually good, because it finally gets into the time-turning story and such. But the first half was mainly excruciatingly dull.
Two high points: Scorpius, who is absolutely adorable and knows how to be a good friend, and Hagrid's little speech near the end (see my last status update below).
Regardless of what JKR says, this isn't canon: it's a completely different medium, not wholly written by JKR. It posits that Cedric, whose entire characterization is being a decent guy, would somehow (view spoiler)[decide to become a Death Eater merely after being humiliated in front of the school. You know, the school that routinely mocks Harry Potter and his friends. The school that usually gets over itself. (hide spoiler)]
And apparently, if Hermione hadn't married Ron, he would have married (view spoiler)[Padma Patil (hide spoiler)] because THAT makes sense (14-year-olds: your future mate hinges on who you date now, apparently). And Hermione herself (view spoiler)[remains single and becomes a crotchety, Snape-like Defense Against the Dark Arts professor, (hide spoiler)] because THAT makes EVEN MORE sense.
Things that make more sense: Hermione marrying Viktor Krum, Hermione remaining single and happy, Hermione moving to Australia and meeting someone there.
Ron isn't canon. While Harry is obnoxious, it's unfortunately not very different from his brand of teenage obnoxiousness. Ron, on the other hand, has turned into a dimbulb, the awkward uncle. He gives Harry's son a love potion as a joke--this from Ron, the guy nearly killed after drinking a love potion while at Hogwarts? He's not funny, he's...it feels like he had no place in this story, but a blank stand-in named "Ron" was occasionally inserted so people could see the Golden Trio again.
Heck, Delphi says (view spoiler)[she was born in Malfoy Manor before the Battle of Hogwarts. Bellatrix, her mother, wasn't pregnant in the books, even if I believed that Moldy Voldy would father a child, which is ludicrous. (hide spoiler)]
There are many other problems. (The Trolley Witch is nearly 200 years old? Uh-huh.) Best I can tell, this should be thought of the way that new "official" Agatha Christie or Sherlock Holmes books are approached: they have official seals of approval, but they're not part of the original stories, and shouldn't be considered canon.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
First, I admit that I skimmed the majority of the book, but second, it's hard not to skim because Kiera Cass seems to have a talent for writing the duFirst, I admit that I skimmed the majority of the book, but second, it's hard not to skim because Kiera Cass seems to have a talent for writing the dullest, most insta-lovestruck teenage girls.
Credit where credit is due: The Siren is much better than The Selection. The writing is better, the story is better, the worldbuilding is better. And it's that rare animal in YA: a standalone novel.
In a nutshell, the Ocean (the worldwide supply of water, essentially, who is also sort of a god) must take women and turn them into immortal-for-100-years sirens to sing people to their deaths, because the Ocean feeds off of occasional human lives. Eighty years after becoming a siren, Kahlen falls in twu wuv with some guy and basically upsets everything. (His name is Akinli, because another thing Kiera Cass does well is picking ridiculous names for characters.)
I liked the idea more than the execution. A world where the ocean must feed upon human lives to live? Tell me the stories of previous sirens. Clearly (as one character points out) some people in the past had to have seen/heard them and lived, because many cultures have a siren-like myth. Tell me about them.
Unfortunately, we're told instead of a depressed girl who has little to do other than mope around and moon after the boy she meets. And of course, it turns out that (view spoiler)[they are soulmates. Like, she will literally die if she doesn't go with him eventually. His voice is like a siren's to her. (hide spoiler)]
The plotholes and unexplained stories are the most intriguing--and therefore frustrating. Why does the ocean require human sacrifice? What did it do before there were humans? Are you telling me that a couple hundred people from a single boat are enough to sustain the ocean for a year? Dude, people drown all. the. time. The story mentions The Ocean can communicate via any water--ocean, snow, puddles--therefore implying The Ocean is all water--surely deaths from inland drownings and avalanches should count, too.
When did the whole siren thing start? WHY ONLY YOUNG WOMEN? We get a short explanation:
Why do you think there are only young women in My service? I cannot take mothers, and I cannot take wives. [...] Wives will long for their husbands. Singing a song that primarily entices men is excruciating for a truly faithful wife. And to separate a mother from her child is the height of cruelty. I think any parent forced to endure a life permanently distanced from their child would lose their sanity. It wouldn't do for someone is that kind of agony to live this life. They could be volatile. That's dangerous for all of us. But daughters? Daughters are meant to strike out from their families eventually."
That is....not entirely wrong, I suppose, but the Ocean says this to a girl who has been suffering in agony for 80 years of taking lives, so there's no basis for the "daughters will suffer less!" mentality. And this still doesn't explain why it has to be teenagers. I know plenty of 20, 30, 40+ women who are unmarried and have no children.
Heck, you know what I'd read? A bunch widowed (or never-married) old women as sirens.
EDIT: You know what else bugs me about that quote? Sirens' voices do not "primarily" entice men. They entice everyone. Kahlen and her mother were affected as much as her father and brothers. Never is it shown that men are affected more. Do the sirens just have to be attracted to guys? Could you have a gay or bisexual male siren? Could a lesbian or asexual woman not sing correctly???["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
So this started as mildly creepy, took a turn into a much creepier territory tinged with paranormal horror, and then ended in an over-the-top blaze ofSo this started as mildly creepy, took a turn into a much creepier territory tinged with paranormal horror, and then ended in an over-the-top blaze of disappointment. Boo.
The Beginning We're introduced to Angela and her friends (Cara, Issie) at a juvenile correctional facility. The trio make up the high-security, violent-offenders group, which seems mostly like an excuse for there to be only 3 of them (there are more lower-tier offenders). Angela isn't the most interesting protagonist I've read, but she's a decent narrator.
The facility is abuzz when a new, tiny 10-year-0ld girl arrives and is immediately put into the Segregation block, the highest level of security. Girls in Seg don't get to leave their rooms, and Angela explains they are the most dangerous, girls that should really be in a mental hospital instead. As the story progresses, it becomes clear to Angela that the little girl, Jessica, is somehow able to set things on fire with her mind. Also, her eyes go completely black when that happens, which is horror-story shorthand for BAD CREEPY THINGS HAPPENING.
At this point, the story is decent. Slow, you can tell it's building up to something. Some scientist arrives to recruit for an apparently-prestigious program called "SciGirls." Angela is talked into befriending Jessica. Dangerous things are hinted at.
The Middle The book doles out answers sparingly, always giving you just enough to convince you to keep reading. Why is Angela in juvie? (view spoiler)[She accidentally knocked a woman down the stairs while she and her boyfriend committed burglary. As a reader I couldn't tell whether the woman died or was just badly hurt. (hide spoiler)] What's up with Jessica? (view spoiler)[The doctor-scientist wants to study her because she can't figure out where Jessica got her powers. Scientist knows how to induce powers in the actually-evil SciGirls program, but Jessica wasn't part of that. Scientist gets progressively more desperate, culminating in multiple murders. Jessica is in custody for killing her foster parents--intentionally killing the dad, so it sounds like there was abuse involved. (hide spoiler)]
What's the secret of Angela's family? (view spoiler)[Her mom doesn't want her home, and if a family member doesn't sign her out, Angela (as a minor) is stuck in custody until she turns 18. (hide spoiler)] Cara's secret? (view spoiler)[She and the scientist's assistant, Mary Anne, are hooking up after lights-out. (hide spoiler)]
The tension keeps going up as things become more dangerous, and it becomes clear that the scientist has her own secrets, so it makes you think that the ending will be really good
The Ending The ending ruins the entire thing. Ugh. First, (view spoiler)[almost all the girls in the facility disappear because they were "accepted" to "SciGirls," and they're never heard from again. Then, Mary Anne is murdered and they think Jessica did it, but it turns out it was the scientist, who also has the magical fire powers. (hide spoiler)]
So the girls (view spoiler)[finally escape and eventually find a cabin that's stocked with food and has a working phone and is entirely too convenient and exists only as a place for the final showdown. The door isn't even locked. Evil fire-magic scientist shows up, Cara and Issie escape, Angela stays behind with Jessica to fight. The scientist reveals no one from the juvie center was ever going to live, sets it aflame with her magic (presumably killing all the remaining guards and girls inside), gets wounded by Angela, the cabin catches fire, Jessica dies and Angela is seriously burned. Book ends with the revelation that Angela has caught the fire-magic. (hide spoiler)]
We don't learn (view spoiler)[anything else about the evil SciGirls or the scientist, who steals Jessica's dead body. We don't learn if Cara and Issie make it away safely. We don't learn the fate of the juvie center and its inhabitants. We don't learn what Angela thinks she can do, as she's burned and still technically a fugitive from the juvie center. AUGH. (hide spoiler)]
WHAT KIND OF ENDING IS THAT? A crappy one. It almost feels like it's setting up for a sequel, but by all indications it's a standalone book. And it feels like a standalone, except for the ending where SO MUCH is unresolved and messed up. If it weren't for the end, this would have been a great book. And if I was mid-teens or younger, I probably would have loved this, but at this point it's just too easy to see its flaws.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
"You're a jerk, and just in case you were thinking of being more of a jerk, let me demonstrate that I have a GIANT MAN-EATING CAT-MONSTER under my con"You're a jerk, and just in case you were thinking of being more of a jerk, let me demonstrate that I have a GIANT MAN-EATING CAT-MONSTER under my control. Have a nice day." -Amalie, basically
There is a reason this book is rated the highest of the quintet, and that reason is Cammon is awesome and Amalie is awesome and Sharon Shinn is an amazing author. Various (hidden) spoilers below for those curious.
This book continues the tradition of focusing mostly on one of the core characters (in this case, Cammon) while continuing to show the full group of main characters. In addition, the political problems that had been bubbling in previous books finally boil over into full-out war.
As we saw in prior books, Princess Amalie and her stepmother Valri continue to join the main group of powerful mystics and warriors. In a (futile) attempt to prevent war, it's decided that Amalie needs to get married, in hopes that a good union will prevent some of the rebellious noble houses from actually fighting. (Spoiler: it doesn't.) (And considering Big Bad Halchon is only willing to see himself or his spawn on the thrown, it's not actually a spoiler.)
Cammon, who is bae with his ability to see through any and all lies, is enlisted as a sort of psychic-emotional bodyguard for Amalie, to tell the royals who would be unfit. But this brings unintended consequences: (view spoiler)[first, Cammon falls for Amalie as is totally expected, honestly, and second, Cammon eventually discovers that Amalie is a mystic.
And not just a regular mystic--"regular" meaning fireball-throwing, or emotion-reading, or shape-changing, I guess--but a thief mystic, the exact same kind as mystic-hating Coralinda Gisseltess, the witch who endorses a religious crusade of mystic-killing.
Coralinda doesn't believe she's a mystic, of course, just that the "Pale Mother" blesses her. But the prevailing theory, courtesy of "Dark Mother"-blessed Ellynor from the previous book and matching fire-wielding Senneth, is that various gods are responsible for mystics' powers, and the Pale Mother has little power of her own but reflects what she is given--thus currently only reflecting Coralinda's hatred. (hide spoiler)]
Between those un/expected events, Amalie comes into her own. We've seen that she's a very smart young woman with political acumen, and it should surprise no reader when she eventually decides to marry (view spoiler)[Cammon (hide spoiler)], refusing to marry anyone else.
I appreciated how Shinn wrote these parts: Amalie isn't a love-struck fool, and she understands what's at stake. But she also understands the benefits of her chosen spouse over others. The eventual solution wraps that all up: (view spoiler)[Cammon is "discovered" to be noble Ariane Rappengrass's long-lost son. Ariane is revealed to have had a real stillborn child within a few years of Cammon's birth, and few people knew she was pregnant; it's both personally sweet and politically smart when she agrees to go along with Cammon's "new-found" ancestry. (hide spoiler)]
Of course, Cammon and Amalie being awesome characters are not the entire book. War breaks out, people die, and there's a final showdown with both traitorous Gisseltess siblings. The war isn't a single battle, and the long days of fighting and sick anticipation of waiting to discover who joins and survives fights make the last fifth of the book a heart-pounding read.
And it's no spoiler to say there's a happy ending, despite (view spoiler)[the death of King Barryn. I did mourn him, because he was a smart character, but his death did advance the plot in a necessary way.
Halchon Gisseltess dies, after all the torment he's caused Senneth. We can infer that he has the same or similar thief-magic as his sister, because merely his touch is enough to prevent Senneth from flaming anyone. Even better than him dying in a large battle, there's a lot of satisfaction in his death by Tayse: after Halchon tricks and kidnaps Senneth, her Rider-husband Tayse and other friends find the traitors and kill them dead. FINALLY.
Coralinda agrees to one final, giant magical showdown with Senneth et al., where she is finally beaten by the combined powers of every mystic in the core group, filtered through either Cammon's amplifying magic abilities or Amalie's similar thief-moon-etc. magic, or both. It's one of those intense scenes that's hard to follow entirely because so many things and it's the climax and my heart started pounding and I read super fast and probably missed some stuff because it was so exciting. Whoops. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
"It has just as much kissing and talking as you'd expect from a Rainbow Rowell story--but far, far more monsters."
That phrase, from the dust jacket, i"It has just as much kissing and talking as you'd expect from a Rainbow Rowell story--but far, far more monsters."
That phrase, from the dust jacket, is a good way of summing up Carry On. It exists as a real novel, based on a fictional same-named fanfic of a fiction character from a different real book, Fangirl.
Do you have to read Fangirl to enjoy this? No. But it might make more sense--it's clear in Fangirl that the world of Simon Snow, Carry On's hero, is based on that of Harry Potter. In Fangirl we get excerpts from both the "official" Simon Snow books was well as the in-book fanfic "Carry On," on which this story is based.
I think it helped me to have a basic idea of who the main characters already were--and that the world and characters were a twist on Harry Potter. Simon is, as Rowell said in the author's note, "kind of an amalgam and descendant of a hundred other fictional Chosen Ones."
The book is character-heavy and other-plot-light, which I gather is Rainbow Rowell's thing. She does it well, though I would still have enjoyed more exploring of the magical world. (Someone write fanfiction. Fanfic of a novel of a fanfic in a novel. This is getting meta.) Simon is a slightly boring, generally adequate Chosen One/protagonist, but the other characters, including roommate-nemesis Baz and best friend Penny, were more fun and interesting to read about. ...more
At first, Octavia Butler appears to have time-traveled to 2016 and mashed Donald Trump and Ted Cruz together to create a Texas senator running for preAt first, Octavia Butler appears to have time-traveled to 2016 and mashed Donald Trump and Ted Cruz together to create a Texas senator running for president who says, I kid you not, "HELP US TO MAKE AMERICA GREAT AGAIN."
But then once I got over her time-traveling abilities and actually read the book, it went downhill. So fast. So completely.
The mediocre worldbuilding from the previous book [my review] does not improve. It's hard to get a grasp of exactly how broken this place is--lawlessness reigns, but then they're having elections? Butler tried to write it as simultaneously completely apocalyptic and merely severely damaged, and the two don't play well together.
Whereas the first book chronicled Lauren's physical journey to a safer place, and spiritual journey in developing the religion Earthseed, this book purports to show the Earthseed commune 8 years later, making life work while the rest of the country elects what I would have described as a one-dimensional unrealistic bigot, except he is literally the combination of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz, complete with tacit approval of KKK-like groups, so I guess that's accurate.
The story is mostly excerpts of Lauren's journals, with a couple entries from her husband Bankole and brother Marcos, all interspersed with commentary from Lauren's daughter Larkin. The problem is that Larkin is a bitch. The book opens with Larkin bemoaning that Lauren was "so focused, and yet so misguided, there for all the world, but never there for me[...]And now she's touched me one last time with her memories, her life, and her damned Earthseed."
Here's a hint to how it turns out: Larkin is a whiny prat whose writings are directly contradicted by those of her mother, writing that she has already read and gathered. The entire book goes like this:
Larkin: I kinda wanted to know my mother, but she always loved Earthseed more than me. Lauren's journals: I want Earthseed to grow, but I am so excited about having a baby! Larkin: My mother "was a missile, armed and targeted." Lauren's journals: Humanity's destiny is the stars, still trying to figure out how to get there. I'm going to be a mother!!! Larkin: My mother was so shortsighted and it ruined my life! All she cared about was getting people to the stars! Lauren's journals: We're no safer off anywhere else, so I'm staying here with my community. There's safety here. I have a community. Larkin: I loved Uncle Marc. He was great. So much better than my mother. Marc: Lauren you're all heathens. I'm going to argue with everyone. I'm going to keep giant life-changing secrets. Lauren's journals: I literally just saved your ass from forced prostitution. If you were anyone besides my brother we'd've thrown you out already because you keep disrupting the peace. No one's forcing you to stay. Larkin: I loved Uncle Marc!!! My mother gave all her attention to her best-loved other child, Earthseed! Marc:(view spoiler)[Larkin your mother died and you were saved and placed in an adoptive home. I've actually known where you were for years, sorry I never got around to talking to you. (hide spoiler)] Larkin: I have a Ph.D. and I write stories for virtual reality games. BUT I MUST RIDICULE MY MOTHER'S CULT, THE GROUP THAT IS DOING A LOT OF GOOD ON EARTH AS IT PREPARES FOR INTERSTELLAR TRIPS. THE GROUP THAT IS DOING NO HARM. THE GROUP THAT IS DOING MUCH GOOD. THEY ARE SO RIDICULOUS. PAY NO ATTENTION TO MY LACK OF ATTEMPTING TO HELP MY FELLOW HUMANS, INSTEAD JOIN ME IN RIDICULING THESE ONES. Larkin: Uncle Marc, did you lie to me? Marc: Yeah. Larkin: OK I'll just on on hating my mother. I wonder how hard she even looked for me. Lauren's journals: I am searching SO HARD FOR MY BABY. And on, and on, and on...
Literally, instead of getting pissed at the uncle who lied for decades about her mother, Larkin decides her mother "loves Earthseed more," despite ALL EVIDENCE TO THE CONTRARY and bitches about it in her writing.
There are other problems, of course. For one, while the rise of a fundamentalist Christian KKK called "Christian America" is a big deal in the first part of the book, as society stops being such a Mad Max scene people just drift away and come to their sense. Within a ridiculously short amount of time. It's like Butler just decided that the need for persecution was over, so let's just give the country its collective brain back.
All the characters were "off," though Larkin was the worst--really, it would have been better if Larkin hadn't existed at all. Lauren's husband Bankole has turned into a thick-headed jerk, despite living the last 8 years with Lauren, he treats her like a child who acts on a whim. Marc existed for no other reason than to act like an asshole. Lauren is mostly OK for most of the book until she suddenly gains magical powers of seductively converting people in the last 50 pages.
Earthseed, the religion she created, is as vague as it was in the first book--but it's worse here, because supposedly she's got most of it hammered out. Earthseed boils down to: -"God is Change," "shape God," -AKA Live life as it comes, and be cool to one another -Humanity's Destiny (note the Capital Letter of Importance) is to go to the stars. Not much of a belief system, honestly. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
This is one of the most honest portrayals of college I've seen. Granted, I haven't seen a lot because I read mostly fantasy and mysteries. But whateveThis is one of the most honest portrayals of college I've seen. Granted, I haven't seen a lot because I read mostly fantasy and mysteries. But whatever.
This story about a reclusive introvert being forced outside her comfort zone was surprisingly good. Most characters were fun to read about and to watch develop. Reagan, the surly roommate, was a particular favorite. The whole prickly-take-no-guff-heart-of-almost-gold thing is what I aspire to be.
There isn't, to be honest, a lot of story. Outside of her fiction class, we get almost no information about how Cath does in any other academic part of college. It's a story very much about the characters, less on plot.
Having spent most of my teen years in various fandoms--fanart, fanfiction, theories, discussions, roleplaying games--I enjoyed learning about "Simon Snow," and reading exerpts of both the "official" books and also Cath's fanfiction.
Levi, the cute boy, was fun, although almost too perfect. It did feel less like reading about a person, and more like reading about a character explicitly designed to be perfect for Cath. Which he was, obviously, but still.
The time I found him most annoying was when he refused to let Cath carry her laundry because chivalry. I've been around guys like that. They are always nice and mean well, but newsflash: it's not nice if I tell you seriously to stop, and you refuse. It's polite to ask, and it's polite to respect the answer.
Obviously a huge peeve of mine. I worked in a job where almost every single man found it a cardinal sin to enter a building before women. If I got there first and held the door open for them? Nope. They would stop and insist I go before them, never mind that I have already gone out of my way to do the polite thing and hold the door, and their actions were both rude and caused a bigger delay because now I'd wasted my time and had to hand the door off to them.
In the course of the book, it's a small thing. And Cath tries to get Levi to see the same thing: it's not about your strength, it's about respecting me. I think it's meant to show Levi has some flaws, too. Anyway, it's a small thing that caught a lot of my attention. /rant...more
I realize this is 23 years old and also a good book, but this was the most poorly-proofread professionally-published book I've ever read.
Look, at my sI realize this is 23 years old and also a good book, but this was the most poorly-proofread professionally-published book I've ever read.
Look, at my status updates. I can't believe this thing got published as-is. I get really immersed in a story when reading, so I know I missed a lot of things--but the things I did see are numerous. It's ridiculous--how am I supposed to pay attention when I can't tell if someone is thinking or speaking, because quotation marks have been forgotten for the umpteenth time? Quotation marks in the middle of a sentence. A randomly capitalizEd letter in the middle of a word. Paragraph breaks in the middle of a sentence.
The book is written as protagonist Lauren's journal, but these mistakes weren't there to make it feel like the journal writer was messing up--it's just badly-edited. I hope other editions of this book were corrected.
The story itself? Absolutely engrossing. It fits well with the dystopian/apocalyptic stories that are popular now, but precedes them by over a decade. There's no love triangle, no spunky girl fighting against a corrupt government--just a girl trying to survive as her world crumbles into increasing chaos, gangs, drug use, and feudal-like slave states.
It felt scarily realistic for the most part, though I never quite was able to figure out how the world seemed to be coming apart, yet things like universities and factories were able to continue. I don't think the book could ever quite decide whether it was going for a more wild-west back-to-the-plantation kind of setting, or a more lawless society-has-crumbled feel. It did try to strike a balance, but it didn't sit right....more