I know a lot of people might be confused why I decided to continue this series despite disliking each book aloWarning: spoilers.
Absolutely no stars.
I know a lot of people might be confused why I decided to continue this series despite disliking each book along the way. I get that it might seem pointless to subject myself to mediocrity purposefully. But I'll be honest, a small part of myself enjoyed the terribleness in a sense of morbid fascination.
Without a doubt, Darken the Stars is the worst of the three and actually angered me. While books one and two can be swept under the rug as simple wish fulfillment gone terribly wrong, this one is a flaming pile of dog shit.
I didn't really have any intention of reviewing Darken the Stars, but after browsing other reviews, I feel morally obligated to say what no one is talking about. Kricket falls in love with the primary antagonist of the series -- the guy, who at one point, tries to choke her under water into submission. I'm not talking about a poorly written Stockholm syndrome. This is a legitimate romance that the author attempts to sell the reading on and it's so horribly offensive.
The entire novel is based around Kricket finally being in the palm of Kyon's hands, right where he wants her. She's trapped on his beach and makes several attempts at escape with no success. Each time she does try to fight Kyon, he hurts her in some way. He also chooses what she wears and makes it clear that her opinions and wants mean nothing. Basically, he's disgusting and the farthest thing from romantic.
However, somewhere along the lines, Kricket starts to fall for Kyon by way of a forced alliance (of course) and "changes" him. This is so very problematic. First, it completely glosses over the severity of domestic abuse. Second, you can't FIX people, certainly not abusers, with love. Out of the blue Kyon starts showing affection and a little more respect for Kricket. Then we find out that her mother entrusted Kyon to look after Kricket, which is supposed to explain why he sought after her so hard in the first two books. Kricket accepts this and starts to rationalize some of his abusive tendencies and dismiss the others. There's even a point in the book where she refers to him as "my psychopath." Also, there's a lot of sex between them, where Kyon insists on getting Kricket to confess her love as he pounds into her. >insert vomiting<
What's worst is how so many reviewers are so pro Kyon as a love interest and it's got me going HUH? I'm not the kind of person that is usually bothered by how others react to books, but in cases like this, it really disturbs me to see it. And I think it's entirely irresponsible for an author to portray an abusive relationship as romantic. It's sick.
Side note: this entire series revolves around the mental, emotional, and physical abuse of one female character by way of the people who supposedly love her. Who the hell thought this was a good idea?
Anyway, this is a case where my curiosity really did me no good. But I just had to know how it ended and the fact that it was free on Kindle Unlimited didn't help. Next time I'll try to remember that just because I CAN, doesn't mean I SHOULD. I definitely don't recommend this, not even for the lols. Stay far away. ...more
The romance isn't too bad in this one if you forget the fact that it's an Insta love romance. It has a good amount of cringeActual rating: 1.5 stars.
The romance isn't too bad in this one if you forget the fact that it's an Insta love romance. It has a good amount of cringe worthy moments that'll make you vomit in your mouth, same amount of wish fulfillment wankery and moments of intense eye rolling. But this time with sexy times! Sex in a bed! Sex in a dirt hole! Sex against a tree! Whoo hoo, sex, baby, yeah!
So why did I read it despite disliking the first book?
Answer: The narrator is pretty great and it was free on Kindle Unlimited. I was curious on where the story would go, so I decided to give it a chance, and I was entertained. I can see why people like the book even though it's not really my cup of tea. And yet, I'll probably end up listening to the last book, because at this point, why not?
I almost gave Sea of Stars 2 stars because it is a better novel than the first. But thanks to that ridiculous plot twist at the end, I'm knocking off half a star. Review to come. ...more
Welp. Another case of pretty cover and terrible book has struck me again.
Kricket is a super special girl. She has special powers, special eye color,Welp. Another case of pretty cover and terrible book has struck me again.
Kricket is a super special girl. She has special powers, special eye color, special hair color, special name and spelling of said name. She's really beautiful, but doesn't know it and every guy wants her body for himself... some as old as dirt! She's also The One at the center of a prophecy her super special mom prophesized long, long ago in a galaxy far, far away.
Are you rolling your eyes yet?
Never have I read a book with so many ridiculous tropes balled up into one novel. Not that there is anything inherently wrong with tropes because even I have a certain weakness for some. For example, I fall prey to the "girl and boy hate each other, but slowly fall in love through forced interaction" trope every time and I'm not ashamed to admit it. But Under Different Stars reads like a self-indulgent writing experiment with absolutely no purpose.
While on the run from the department of social services, Kricket is abducted by a group of men who share the same violet eye color as her. They end up taking her to a different world, and surprise, surprise, she's an alien with powerful abilities that are highly sought after. She's immediately thrust into a world where females are valued as much as a prized show dog and whose vernacular verges on both corny and juvenile.
Yet despite being born with a vagina and thus seen as lesser than her male counterparts, every male she runs into wants her. Whether for political gain, selfish wants or sexual conquest, Kricket is a highly sought after commodity, and much of the novel is a pissing contest between various man folk. One that seems interesting at first, but quickly losses its appeal with every new suitor.
Though most of the novel takes place over the course of a week, possibly two if I'm being generous, Kricket manages to fall in love with one of her original captors, Trey. I can usually pick out who the love interest is from the very beginning and Under Different Stars didn't even bother making this remotely difficult, nor did it make an attempt to keep the lovers apart. As I previously stated, this novel is very self-indulgent and doesn't particularly care to stay the course of what was originally laid out in the beginning for the reader.
At one point Kricket confesses her love to Trey only to be rebuffed and in her words "friend-zoned" due to his already established previous engagement to a childhood friend, something she was well aware of beforehand. Yet, imagine my surprise when while Kricket is yet again fawning over Trey, claiming her undying love, and he AGAIN telling her no, that he suddenly tells her that he's broken it off with his fiancé and wants to be with her. And then an argument over who loves who the most ensues, ending with her basically begging him to deflower her and he saying he wants to marry her instead. Because nothing else matters but their love, guys!
Oh, kitten. Oh, honey. *makes out*
It's the first time I've ever read a scene that does a complete 180 with no warning whatsoever.
To say this Under Different Stars has a bad case of wish fulfillment is a complete understatement since Kricket can, in fact, wish her way out of certain circumstances. Whatever Kricket wants, she has the power to get. Kricket doesn't want to marry someone? No worries, another male suitor will have him killed. Kricket wants Trey to be with her and ditch his childhood sweetheart? So it shall be done. I mean, the amount of wank that went into this novel is shocking.
Kricket isn't the heroine of the story despite her situation. No, instead she is the heroine of the story because the world is setup to be terrible so she can be the shining ray of light. With so many male characters that belittle her and constantly want to control both her powers and body, Kricket is the stanch feminist who desires to be in control of her own destiny. While all the men attempt to mansplain to her, they later find out that she's actually a genius whose "brain lights up like a christmas tree" on a scanner. They frequently tell her how she can't defend herself and yet Kricket has the most powerful powers out of everyone. Everyone in the book is deliberately horrible, so she can look flossy as fuck.
To make matters worse, the ratio of male to female characters is nauseating. Only three, including Kricket, have lines in the book and I'm pretty sure I can count on one hand how many times they chatted with each other one page. Two other female characters are mentioned, one being Kricket's dead mother and the other Trey's fiancé. Everyone else is virtually male or just not mentioned. Ugh.
(view spoiler)[Also, why is her name Kricket?! Why is she the only one with the super odd name? Why does she spell it with a K?? (hide spoiler)]
A part of me is confused, surprised and disgusted with myself for continuing to listen to the audiobook even when I knew there was no way possible for it to redeem itself with me, but I'm such a stubborn reader with a pinch of masochism. Maybe under different stars I could have liked this book, but it's made up of too many of the things I dislike to have ever had a chance. Such a shame because I really do love those covers.
More reviews and other fantastical things at Cuddlebuggery.["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
I really think I'm physically incapable of giving Ben Hatke's books anything less than 5 stars. The reasons for this being that Hatke continues to creI really think I'm physically incapable of giving Ben Hatke's books anything less than 5 stars. The reasons for this being that Hatke continues to create such memorable characters and beautiful artwork. After reading all of his works, I totally consider him an auto-buy-author for me.
Not only are his books enjoyable for myself as an adult, but my kids absolutely love his works too. What makes Hatke's books stand out for me the most is that each of his main characters have been of different races. Sometimes it can be difficult to find this in childrens' books, so you have no idea how good it feels when you hear your daughter say, "Hey! She looks just like me!" Tears, guys. Tears.
Not only do his books feature diverse characters, but they feature strong female heroines who have super fun adventures like traveling through space, imaginary creatures, and the newest edition: a female mechanic!
But on to the review! Little Robot is a charming story about friendship and accepting differences. Our heroine is a very capable kid who doesn't exactly fit in with other kids her age. She enjoys fixing objects and creating new and improved versions things. Meanwhile, there is a little robot who has escape an assembly line and somehow their paths cross. And, thus, two unlikely friends become the best of friends. Through the book, their friendship changes. Our characters learn boundaries and how to deal with disagreements and acceptance.
In fact, I really loved the friendship between the characters because it was an issue my own kids could relate to. They could easily keep up with the pace of the story and tell when a character was "being mean" or "not being very nice," according to my kids. The simple, yet candid storytelling was an instant hit for us and provided a good discussion on what it means to be a good friend.
The illustrations in Little Robot is nothing short of breathtaking. But this is no surprise to me as I've been a huge fan of Hatke's art for a long time now. What I loved best were the full spreads with vivid colors. It was a great way to tell the story without actual words -- something that is great for my 5-year-old since he is not yet a reader. (The one thing my kids did seem to notice right from the start was the main character's lack of pants! Hehe.)
It kept him interested and we'd frequently stay on those pages and just admire the artwork. Likewise, the text was very simple and is perfect for early readers. My 7-year-old was able to read the entire book on her own.
All in all, this is another fantastic book from Hatke. If you have little readers in your home or enjoy picture books yourself, I would definitely recommend this one!
Review copy was provided by the publisher for an honest review.
My eye twitched after I finished Velvet. I rubbed it, it twitched again. Apparently, my eye didn't know what to make of Velvet any more than I did. WaMy eye twitched after I finished Velvet. I rubbed it, it twitched again. Apparently, my eye didn't know what to make of Velvet any more than I did. Was it bad or was it good? Did I enjoy it or did I hate it? Is it possible to say yes to all of those questions? Just a heads up that this review is going to be even more convoluted that usual and skip around a lot. I regret nothing.
At first glance, Velvet appears to be the same Paranormal Vampire Romance novel we've all read a hundred times. Girl moves into a new town. Girl meets Hot Guy who's never shown interest in any other girls in town. Girl almost dies, but Hot Guy saves her. Blah, blah, blah... romance. So if you are tired of this kind of set up, then prepare to be highly disappointed for the first 40% of the novel. That fact is, if Velvet had been published during the Twilight Era--let's be honest, it totally belongs there--it would have probably been a huge hit. But now, it has a lot working against it. Readers expect more from their PNR and the Twilight-esqe model is, frankly, played out.
But moving on to what you actually really care about: was this any good? That is such a complicated question so, I will give an equally complicated response. Velvet is like an Oreo Cookie. It's not the best cookie you can have, but it will satisfy your desire for one. The end pieces are pretty terrible by themselves and the icing in the middle is just way too much high fructose corn syrup in one go. The cookie works okay when it's together, but still kinda leaves this weird aftertaste in your mouth. It's like your body subconsciously knows that you fed it a sub par treat and denied it a chocolate chip cookie. But at the same time, you find yourself reaching for another Oreo and your body is strangely okay with this. And after you've finished the entire pack, you end up craving a real Cookie.
The first 40% is an absolute struggle. It features a ridiculous premise (Adrian's demon, vampire father wants to impregnate Caitlin to produce more vampire babies for reasons), awkward dialogue (though some parts are chuckle worthy) and scenes that is sure to make your eyes roll. In fact, most of it is so unreal, that I often wondered what went through the author and editor's head when green lighting this. I really hate to say that because it sounds like an insult, but it was so bad to the point of hilarity, which made me wonder if I was reading actually reading a satire. If that was the case, then bravo to both West and her editor because they nailed it.
Oh shit. That's totally what Velvet is, isn't it? West purposefully stuffed every overused cliché into Velvet to both poke fun at PNR and attempt to write a better one at the same time! AHHHH, the world just came full circle!
Or maybe I just read it as a satire to actually make it through the book? Also a possibility.
But I'm getting ahead of myself. I need to really tell you guys how ridiculous the first half is. Many would say Velvet is just like Twilight. That's true, but not true enough. Others would say Velvet is nothing like Twilight. I guess, in a way, that's true, too. But again, not true enough, in my opinion. Velvet has an explanation for how vampires came into existence and it's as confusing as all getup, but at least the attempt is there. Then the love interest, Adrian, is actually a decent guy. He respects boundaries and goes away when Caitlin tells him to hit the road. So, I'd say Velvet is like Twilight with manners, science and a ridiculous/frustrating/fascinating plot.
While I was reading Velvet, I found some parts so unbelievable, that I went to find out what inspired West to write it. What I discovered was something shocking... she was inspired by Twilight! She wanted to write a vampire novel with a slightly different spin and therefore, it is inevitable for this novel to be compared to its inspiration. Just like how we all love to compare Fifty Shades of Grey to Twilight. Oh damn, I just went there. Anyway, in many ways, she did improve on an existing Vampire Novel Template. She excelled where Stephenie Meyer didn't for me. And I can't believe I'm about talk about some things I liked about Twilight. WTF has this world come to?
Twilight's beginning, while super slow, allows a good amount of build up for Edward and Bella to meet. I'm not referring to the insta love, because that definitely happened, but they had several interactions woven into Bella's boring life of cooking her dad dinner before things got started. Obviously, it goes downhill from there because the insta love arrives and sets everything on fire.
On the other hand, Velvet doesn't have the same setup and it makes it harder for the reader to be thrust into the novel with no real introduction. As soon as the novel starts, suddenly, Caitlin is in trouble and Adrian is there saving her.
"I nearly killed you, to keep you alive."
It was completely jarring to me because I was still trying to figure out who, what, when, where, why and WTF. And from then on there was a barrage of not-so-carefully constructed scenarios that forced the couple to be in close proximity. At one point the end up in a closet together and then a bed all in the same night. Yup. Adrian literally goes from not caring about any girl at the school to picking Caitlin up for school the next day.
"You're here two days and he just offers to drive you home?"
But of course, all these "happenings" are not without a purpose. I mentioned before that Adrian saved Caitlin from his demon vampire dad who wants to impregnate her. So it's his job to stay with her at all times to protect her.
"What did you mean when you said you were my personal shadow?" He rubbed his eyes. "It means that you're in trouble." I frowned, waiting for him to elaborate. "For instance--that storm? Wasn't a storm." "The storm was not a storm." "It was a disturbance." I snorted. "In the force?"
As per the usual characterization of a PNR heroine, Caitlin brushes off the impending danger until she finds out what he wants. And if those quotes made you slow blink, feast your eyes on this gem:
"He wants to impregnate me? Like, with a baby that kind of impregnate?" "I understand you're upset--" "That does not even cover the middle finger of what I am feeling--" "--but please believe me that nothing is going to happen to you while I'm here--while we're all here, my family and I." "What about when you're not here?" I sputtered. "What about when I'm at home? Or when I'm asleep? What about my family?" "This is not--he won't rape you, or anything," he said, struggling for words and looking awkward as hell. "He'll make you want him. It's--what they do. It's a game."
Because of course making someone want you, even when they actually don't, isn't rape. It's totally consensual! Like I said, the for the first 40% of Velvet, the struggle is REAL.
But then something strange happened when I hit the cream filling. I started to enjoy Velvet. My friends, who had the misfortune of being there when I decided to tell them every painful detail about the beginning, are convinced I suffered from Bookholm Syndrome. They say Velvet took my brain hostage and I started falling for my captive. But I think the real reason is, once West ditched the clichés and let the romance develop, it wasn't half bad.
Unlike Twilight, Caitlin and Adrian's romance is very slow burn. For most of the novel, they aren't "together" and don't particularly want to be, but they do have an attraction. And I have to admit, it was nice seeing their banter and watching their obvious feelings growing. West never rushed it and therefore made me appreciate it more. The only thing I have to complain about with this was that the sexual tension got ridiculous. Once Caitlin and Adrian finally admit their feelings for one another, the spend the night as his place, in his bed, clothes off, cuddling. I just don't buy that.
Another thing Velvet did right was female friendships. Caitlin's best friend is considerate and kind as well as the other girls in the novel. They hang out outside of Adrian's presence, have sleepovers and talk about topics other than boys or Adrian. Basically, what I'm trying to say here is that Velvet completely passes the Bechdel test and that's something I never expected. Even some of my favorite YA novels fail at this.
All good things came to a swift end when the final conflict caught up with the plot. Unfortunately, I was let down. I went through the entire novel waiting to find out more information about why Adrian's dad sought out Caitlin in particular only to discover nothing. I was given virtually no new development! It just ends on the same note it began, but with more romance. It was so frustrating! It feels like it was a cheap attempt to get me to read the second book and goddamn it, I think it worked because yes I'll fucking read the sequel and I'm not happy about it. UGH! Where's a real cookie when you need it?!
I don't know if I'd seriously recommend Velvet to anyone. Well, that's a lie. I kinda do want some of my friends to read it because I'm super curious of what their face would look like while doing so. And now you all know what gift you're getting on Friendship Day. I'm an awesome friend.
All jokes aside, I don't really know what to make of Velvet and I suspect its target audience is smaller than it would have been 5 years ago. If you are in the mood for cliché-filled vampire romance, double-stuffed with occasionally overly sweet, witty banter, smashed in between two, over baked, sad excuses for cookies, then this might be a good choice on a rainy day. Just remember, "C" doesn't just stand for Cookie, it stands for Crap, too. BAM!
For you visual folks, here's a book talk video on Velvet. (Yes, I drew fangs on my picture. I had one job in photoshop.)