Darth Pony

Ruling the galaxy is so overrated.

Jackaby

— feeling ghost
Jackaby - William Ritter

This book was an unexpected delight. It’s nothing new or groundbreaking; just your standard Sherlockian detective novel with a supernatural twist. But goodness me, it’s fun! And full of memorable characters, both living and formerly living, human and formerly human. Jackaby is adorably insufferable and Abigail is adorably ordinary. Jenny is adorably transparent (hah!) and Douglas is adorably, er, adorable. The one downfall for me is that the mystery is a bit lacking. I identified the murderer right away, but it didn’t lessen my enjoyment much (and looking at the GR reviews of people I follow, this seems to be a common occurrence). I’ll be picking up the next book in the series for sure.

My Lady Jane

My Lady Jane - Brodi Ashton, Jodi Meadows, Cynthia Hand

If you’ve ever wondered what it might have been like if William Goldman of The Princess Bride fame had written and directed some sort of Ladyhawke/The Tudors mashup for a YA audience, get yourself a copy of this book. It’s a bit of silly revisionist history featuring Tudor England with shapeshifters. I was after a light, fluffy read, and this fit the bill pretty well. I found it very entertaining, though the narrators’ asides got more annoying as the story progressed, and the references to Game of Thrones, Monty Python, The Princess Bride, etc., induced more eye rolls than giggles. And I really felt rather sorry for the way Princess Mary was portrayed. Poor Mary! You deserved better.

World of Trouble

World of Trouble: The Last Policeman Book III - Ben H. Winters

Well.

 

Well, well, well.

 

What an end to the series.

 

I don’t know what I was expecting when I picked up this series. I love disaster movies and EOTWAWKI scenarios, and I also have a certain fondness for mysteries and police procedurals. I had no idea how those themes would mesh. As it turns out, they mesh brilliantly.

 

Winters somehow seamlessly blended an existential literary novel with a gritty crime novel and a suspenseful doomsday novel. And then he did it again. And again. And he wrapped it up in a believable way that just felt genuine and right. He did it so very well and left me with so many feelings that I have officially decided to forgive him for Sense and Sensibilities and Sea Monsters. Life is too short to hold grudges anyway.

 

Cue book coma in 3 . . . 2 . . . 1 . . .

 

Countdown City

Countdown City  - Ben H. Winters

Solving crimes while the whole world has an existential crisis. Who knew these two things would go so well together?

 

Former Detective Henry Palace is still an interesting character. Though he’s officially retired from the force, being an officer of the law is pretty much all he knows how to do. It’s what gives him purpose. So while other people are off going “Bucket List” or choosing to exit the world on their own terms, Henry is searching for a missing man at the behest of the man’s wife. Because no impending cosmic cataclysm can keep Henry from being who he is and doing what he does.

 

Once again, Winters delivers an engrossing story. So engrossing that you almost forget to ask yourself things like: why civilization hasn’t gone full-on Lord of the Flies yet; where these mysterious government supply shipments are coming from; why no one has electricity unless it’s convenient to the plot; why everyone and their dogs aren’t stockpiling water while their kitchen taps still work; etc. They are persistent, nagging questions, but not too distracting.

 

I still don’t like first person present tense narratives, and I noticed a handful of typos, but the story is so good that if Winters can keep it up for another book, I just might forgive him for that whole Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters thing.

 

Maybe.

The Last Policeman

The Last Policeman  - Ben H. Winters

One of the things I love about science fiction, disaster movies, and pre/post-apocalyptic stories is the examination of the inevitable breakdown of society. To see it from a detective’s point of view, during the course of a murder investigation, was something new to me and it made for some damn fine reading.

 

Detective Henry Palace is an interesting character. He’s a pedantic by-the-book sort who sees no point in losing it just because a ginormous asteroid is on a collision course with Earth and set to render the planet uninhabitable if it doesn’t destroy it outright. Nope. He’s got a job to do and he’s going to do it. The impending doom of the entire planet is no excuse for people tossing their morals to the winds. Though he’s not entirely likable, he is relatable (to me, at least, being a fellow pedant and all), and I found this book absolutely engrossing. The thing I found most annoying about him was, as the investigation progressed, his repeating cycle of “Aha! That’s it! Why couldn’t I see it before? I’m so stupid! No, wait. That’s it! Why couldn’t I see it before? I’m so stupid!” with varying degrees of self-blame for his perceived slip-ups. Still, it’s a minor nit-pick and didn’t impact my enjoyment much at all.

 

Minus points for being written in first person present tense, which I’ve never liked but will tolerate for a good story, and this was a spanking good story.

Percy Jackson and the Last Olympian

The Last Olympian  - Rick Riordan

Super quick "review" for a book that took me way too long to get through (no fault of the book's, I assure you). A mostly satisfying end to an entertaining series. Perhaps I shouldn’t call it the end, though, as the last chapter sets up the sequel series. Percy’s a nice guy, but I’m a little tired of hanging out with him. Just in case he’s in Heroes of Olympus, I think I’d better take a break before diving in.

Reading progress update: I've read 64 out of 361 pages.

The Last Olympian  - Rick Riordan

"And I know some of you might be thinking: aren't all demigods related on the godly side, and doesn't that make dating gross? But the thing is, the godly side of your family doesn't count genetically speaking, since gods don't have DNA. A demigod would never think about dating someone who had the same godly parent. Like two kids from Athena cabin? No way. But a daughter of Aphrodite and a son of Hephaestus? They're not related. So it's no problem."

 

NICE TRY, RIORDAN. BUT IT'S TOO LITTLE, TOO LATE.

 

Behold! My unconvinced face:

Reading progress update: I've read 40 out of 361 pages.

— feeling bad smell
The Last Olympian  - Rick Riordan

I haven't had much reading time lately, and yet I still feel compelled to interrupt what little time I do have to whine about how all these demigods pairing off in romantic relationships gives me the ickies.

 

Charles Beckendorf, son of Hephaestus, is dating Silena Beauregard, daughter of Aphrodite. Hephaestus is Aphrodite's half-brother, so these kids are already some sort of cousins, but that's not all. Hephaestus is also Aphrodite's husband, so technically these kids are also step-siblings.

 

You guuuuuuuuuys!!!

 

Percy Jackson and the Battle of the Labyrinth

Percy Jackson & the Battle of the Labyrinth - Rick Riordan

In lieu of a proper review (which I just haven’t felt like doing lately), I present to you a Percy Jackson Checklist:

 

☑ Monsters show up at school; shenanigans ensue.

☑ A quest is given; Percy’s participation is crucial.

☑ Other characters have to school Percy on Greek mythology because apparently he can’t be arsed learning all this stuff his life might depend on him knowing.

☑ Token mentions of ADHD.

☑ Annabeth is conflicted and angsty.

☑ Luke is conflicted and sad/angry (sangry?).

☑ Kronos is six steps ahead of everyone.

 

I could probably keep going and expand this into a Percy Jackson Bingo Card. But, much like Percy learning Greek mythology, I can’t be arsed.

 

I wasn’t thrilled with the advent of the love triangle (square . . . ish?) in this book, even though it meant Percy finally got a love interest not related to him. I will not be fooled into thinking that Percy will end up with anyone other than Annabeth, his first cousin once removed. Bleh. I’m still enjoying the series overall, but this kissing cousins thing does dampen my enthusiasm a bit. I should’ve kept reading this series as it came out. You know, before I realized pretty much everyone at Camp Half-Blood is related to each other.

Percy Jackson and the Titan's Curse

The Titan's Curse (Percy Jackson, #3) - Rick Riordan

After re-reading the first two books in the series, I’m finally getting to the books I missed. New material! Yay! I don’t feel the need to review this one in depth, so I’ll just say a few things:

 

  1. I am still really enjoying this series, its problematic elements notwithstanding. And I think it holds up well, despite being a tiny bit dated.
  2. Re: problematic elements, I have family with ADHD. They’re in no way, shape, or form accurately represented by Riordan’s idea of teenagers with ADHD. I’m continually dismayed (but not surprised) at the gimmick-ifying of medical conditions in mainstream media.
  3. There are Percy + Annabeth shippers in the world and I cannot. I cannot! She’s his first cousin once removed! That’s not even legal! Would YOU want to date your cousin’s kid? (Your answer better be no! Bleh!) And I know Aphrodite is totally shipping them right there on the pages, but she’s cheating on her half-brother husband with her half-brother lover, so HER JUDGMENT IS EXTREMELY SUSPECT.

 

Ahem.

 

*deep cleansing breath*

 

Anywho, on to book four.

SPOILER ALERT!

Reading progress update: I've read 375 out of 375 pages.

Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief (Percy Jackson and the Olympians #1) - Rick Riordan

This was a re-read, and this is as close as I'm going to get to reviewing it. I started this series 10+ years ago and don't think I got any farther than book two. I loved this book the first time around. I loved it this time around as well, but I noticed some things that didn't leave an impression last time. For instance:

 

  • The Greek gods are really, really terrible parents. Total deadbeats, every one of them.
  • Sally Jackson got a super raw deal, voluntarily marrying and staying with an abusive asshole to protect her son. This is seriously messed up.
  • Gladiola the Poodle also got a super raw deal. How many people and animals have to sacrifice their happiness for Percy’s sake?
  • For most of the book, Annabeth seems to have a crush on Luke. They are first cousins. I know the Greek gods weren’t fussy about incest, but ew.
  • Sally totally murdered Gabe with her son’s encouragement. And sold his corpse through an art gallery. Sally’s a murderer and Percy’s an accessory. . . . Yay?

The Perfect Weapon (Journey to Star Wars: The Force Awakens)

Star Wars: The Perfect Weapon - Delilah S. Dawson

One of my favorite things about the Star Wars EU is how random background characters from the movies are given names, personalities, histories, etc. This short story does an excellent job of that with the extremely good-looking black-skull-cap-wearing mercenary in Maz Kanata’s castle. We get backstory, a cool adventure, and a bonus mystery to ponder. What’s in the case? Anakin Skywalker’s old lightsaber? Luke’s severed hand? Both?? Neither??? Feel free to speculate wildly. We’re given next to no clues to go on.

READY PLAYER ONE

Ready Player One - Ernest Cline

I am a gamer girl and an eighties child. It was a pretty fun decade to spend most of my childhood in and my nostalgia for the video games and music and movies of yesteryear is pretty strong. When someone described this book to me as “eighties nostalgia porn” I was all, “I am SO THERE for that!” So color me disappointed when I didn’t love this book quite as much as I thought I would.

 

I think what’s keeping me from loving READY PLAYER ONE with an unrestrained 5-star passion is this persistent feeling I had throughout that Cline had actually written an eighties homage movie script and then tried to pad it to book length. It delivers on the nostalgia bigtime and some parts I found really entertaining, but . . . I just . . . sigh.

 

I found the infodumps clunky and unwieldy. Boring pace-killers, all of them (and there were many). Same with the romance. Wade is basically a Gary Stu. And the writer’s convenience is so heavy-handed it should share the byline. READY PLAYER ONE by Ernest Cline and Writer S. Convenience.

 

The only parts I really enjoyed were when Wade was actively trying to solve the puzzles (and I really, really enjoyed those parts). So maybe I’ll love the movie like I thought I’d love the book. Unless Matt Frewer’s not in it. Then there might be some table-flipping.

I Was Here

I Was Here - Gayle Forman

I Was Here is a good book with an important message about picking up the pieces after a loved one commits suicide. It is raw. It is visceral. And it is almost ruined by the trope-eriffic, cliché-ridden romance. Why, Gayle? Why?! This was ever-so-much more annoying than that sneaking into the ICU scene in If I Stay devolving into pure sitcom silliness. I want to love you, Gayle, but you won’t let me with this nonsense! Gah! Details under the spoiler tag.

 

Cody, our virginal heroine, hates the love interest, Ben, on sight because of a misunderstanding. Mr. Love Interest is a devastatingly hot rocker with magic color-changing eyes and a propensity to sleep around. But inside he’s really sweet and gentle and loves his little sister and kittens. So, of course, they’re drawn together by their mutual grief over Meg’s suicide, and Cody’s mere existence cures Ben of his flirty ways and his smoking habit. And then they have emotionally fraught sex. With tears. Such original! So edge! Much wow! *headdesk*

(show spoiler)

The Last Ever After (The School for Good and Evil #3)

The School for Good and Evil #3: The Last Ever After - Soman Chainani

This was an entertaining end to an entertaining series. I know that’s kind of lukewarm praise, but this kitten squisher clocks in at 655 pages and roughly 400 of those are mostly filled with Agatha bickering with Tedros and constantly battling her self-doubt while Sophie, being monstrously selfish (as usual), obstinately reinstates the old love triangle that wasn’t nearly as annoying in the first two books. I could’ve done with at least 100 fewer pages of that. Maybe 200. Since I was bored with the angst my inner pedant had plenty of time to focus on the little issues that have slightly irritated me throughout the trilogy.

 

Authors. There is nothing wrong with using ‘said’ as a dialog tag. It doesn’t matter if it gets repeated umpteen times in the book. It’s one of those words readers don’t even really notice. If you try to avoid it and replace it with alternative dialog tags, they stick out like a sore thumb.

 

Also, what’s the deal with Hester? She’s the daughter of the witch that Hansel and Gretel shoved in the oven and baked to death when they were kids. Hansel and Gretel are now wheelchair-bound relics. Hester is a teenager. How does that work?

 

And why does this book seem to forget the fact that Sophie straight up murdered multiple people in the first book? I mean, book two seemed to forget all but one murder most of the time, but at least it made a point of that one murder haunting Sophie. I can’t remember if it got more than a passing mention in this book.

 

TL;DR: This series is a fun romp through slightly twisted fairy tales with lots of true love and killing and maiming and stuff. I usually see it marketed as Middle Grade, but I'd say it's more upper MG or lower YA (what with the killing and maiming and stuff).

 

And one last thing: I want Merlin’s hat.

 

The End

 

...Or is it?*

 

*No, no it isn’t. The author is writing another series featuring the same characters.

A World Without Princes (The School for Good and Evil #2)

The School for Good and Evil #2: A World without Princes - Soman Chainani

The fairy tale world is messed up, people. Seriously. The combination of dark grit and silly fluff is starting to do my head in. What with all the killing and torture and life-or-death struggles, I keep forgetting these characters are barely pubescent children. It’s disturbing and entertaining at the same time. I’m still enjoying the series overall, but this book drags a bit and it took me about 200 pages to really get into the story.

 

On to book three!

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Bellman & Black
Diane Setterfield