Darth Pony

Ruling the galaxy is so overrated.

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!

— feeling alien

May the Fourth Be With You!

The School for Good and Evil

The School for Good and Evil - Soman Chainani

So. This book.

 

It’s sort of an alternative fairy tale . . . ish. More Brothers Grimm than Disney.

 

It’s dark and violent. Kids are tortured and unfairly punished and people are straight-up murdered.

 

It’s light and funny. It pokes unmerciful fun at fairy tale tropes while at the same time embracing them, often to hilarious effect.

 

It’s got powerful messages about friendship, love, loyalty, and self-worth, but it doesn’t seem to take them all that seriously and doesn’t mind contradicting them on occasion.

 

In short, I’m not entirely sure what I just read, but gosh! it was fun, and I’m diving straight into the sequel.

A Closed and Common Orbit

A Closed and Common Orbit (Wayfarers) - Becky Chambers

I’ve written and deleted an opening paragraph for this review at least five times. It’s funny how I’m almost never at a loss to articulate my dissatisfaction . . . and then when I feel like no amount of gushing would be too effusive, I can’t find the words. Maybe I’ll come back and try again later, but even after letting the story marinate and the afterglow fade a little, every attempt to express why I loved this book turns into a super spoilery Becky Chambers love fest.

 

So instead I’ll just say I loved this book and its characters and their stories and all the feelings they gave me and all the lumps in my throat that I had trouble swallowing. From this day forward, if Chambers writes it, I’m probably going to buy it. In hardcover.

Octopussy and the Living Daylights

Octopussy and the Living Daylights (James Bond, #14) - Ian Fleming

This is Fleming’s second Bond short story collection, published posthumously. I’m sort of sad (but not really) that I’m at the end of my Bond reading journey. It’s been an interesting couple of months.

 

#1 OCTOPUSSY: 2.5* A tale of avarice and treachery told via a flashback within a flashback. Thrilling stuff. (Not really. Bond was hardly in it. He didn’t even have time to say or think something bigoted, racist, or misogynistic.)

 

#2 THE PROPERTY OF A LADY: 2.5* This one involves mild international intrigue at an auction. Also, Bond gets more than enough page time to think misogynistic thoughts about an unattractive, flat-chested Russian double agent.

 

#3 THE LIVING DAYLIGHTS: 2* In which Fleming once again works overtime to prove that Bond is “too good for murder”. Decent twist at the end, but the extra dose of sexism, including but not limited to the crack about how girls should play the cello “sidesaddle”, effectively cancels out any points the twist might’ve garnered.

 

#4 007 IN NEW YORK: 1* A super-short and pointless story about Bond’s polite contempt for New York City. Includes a recipe for scrambled eggs. Make sure you have a good English toast rack on hand. Heaven forbid you serve the eggs with “dank” toast.

SPOILER ALERT!

The Man with the Golden Gun

The Man With the Golden Gun (James Bond, #13) - Ian Fleming

If you take bits of previous Bond adventures, throw them in a cocktail shaker, and give them an almighty shake, The Man with the Golden Gun is what will pour into your martini glass.

 

Once again, Bond is sent on a mission that is tantamount to suicide. [See: You Only Live Twice, etc.]

 

Once again, Bond finds himself in Jamaica kicking around with Felix Leiter. [See: Live and Let Die, Thunderball, etc.]

 

Once again, Bond is inexplicably hired as an assistant by a villain who doesn’t really need his services for a job that mainly involves listening to bad guys sit around and plan their crimes. [See: Goldfinger]

 

Once again, Bond ends up on a train fighting for his life. [See: Diamonds are Forever, From Russia with Love, Goldfinger, etc.]

 

Once again, Bond somehow gets to take the high road even though he’s there to straight-up murder somebody. [See: every other Bond book]

 

Once again, Bond makes a series of moronic mistakes and yet is carried through on the back of his stupefying good luck. [See: every single Bond book]

 

Once again, Bond is severely injured and has a long convalescence with a beautiful woman to look forward to. [See: nearly every Bond book]

 

It’s like a Not-So-Greatest Hits, and it gets boring fast, naked women tied to railroad tracks notwithstanding.

SPOILER ALERT!

You Only Live Twice

You Only Live Twice (James Bond, #12) - Ian Fleming

‘Balls, James. You’ve been running through a bad patch. We all hit ‘em sometimes.’

(And by “bad patch” he means “severe depression”.)

‘M. just thought you’d be the best man for the job. You know he’s got an entirely misplaced opinion of your abilities.’

(Yes. Yes he has.)

 

Bond is understandably depressed after the events of On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. After screwing up two assignments and generally losing the will to live, Bond is sent to Japan to try to winkle some spy secrets out of Tiger Tanaka, the head of Japanese intelligence. In exchange for these secrets, Bond is asked to cosplay as a deaf and dumb Japanese guy in a groan-worthy display of literary yellowface to infiltrate Doctor Shatterhand’s Castle of DEATH, which sounds cool but is really just an old castle with a garden full of fumaroles and poisonous plants and venomous insects that’s become a popular place for people to commit suicide.

 

BUT WAIT!

 

Doctor Shatterhand is really Bond’s nemesis, Blofeld, and he has to be assassinated because he’s “collecting death” and this whole suicide thing is super embarrassing for the Japanese government, even though suicide is regarded culturally as a perfectly good way to restore your family’s honor, and this Castle of DEATH is saving the Transportation Dept. heaps of trouble by luring potential suicides away from train tracks all over the nation. Still, it’s unacceptable and this “Doctor” must die by a non-Japanese hand, because reasons.

 

So Bond, thirsty for revenge and totally prepared after a crash course in Japanese culture and a whole afternoon of watching other people train as ninjas, sets out to slay the dragon with the help of Kissy Suzuki, a former Hollywood actress who speaks English and might be slightly psychotic since she wants to keep Bond and love him and pet him and call him George. FOR-EV-ER. Or at least until he wanders off into Russia to find clues to his past after a traumatic brain injury leaves him with near-total amnesia.

 

(Actual footage of book’s plot.)

 

Seriously, though, the star of this book is Japanese culture, to which Fleming actually manages to provide some accurate insight (aside from some absurd assertions about sumo wrestlers, but I’m not convinced that wasn’t a case of Tiger Tanaka taking the piss). The rest is . . . well, I suppose it’s justification for my mental association of these books with old Dirk Pitt novels. All that was missing was a Clive Cussler cameo.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

On Her Majesty's Secret Service (James Bond, #11) - Ian Fleming

In this adventure Bond gets an undercover assignment to ferret out the elusive head of Spectre, who has developed a sudden and inexplicable hankering for membership in the Peerage. So Bond heads to the Swiss Alps posing as a heraldry expert . . . and almost blows his cover in the first 24 hours because he’s an arrogant prick. Bond is supposed to be one of the best agents in the Service, but in this book he borders on gross incompetence at times. His performance is so bad he even berates himself on occasion. Even though he has reservations about the job and going undercover, it’s like he’s still bought into his own myth and his stupid assumptions are quite costly.

 

This one was just okay for me. I was hoping to like it more, as the movie of the same title is one of my favorites in the franchise. Oh well. At least the “curing” of “allergies” through hypnosis was worth a giggle or three. This also got a giggle out of me:

Griffon Or broke in excitedly, ‘And this charming motto of the line, “The World is not Enough”. You do not wish to have the right to it?’

Sorry, Griff. MGM bought the rights. ;)

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The Cuckoo's Calling
Robert Galbraith