BagEndBooks

Snow Flower and the Secret Fan - Lisa See

 This book made me feel sick. The description of the foot binding. Ugh. It's sickening. Even worse than corsets.

I also found myself becoming frustrated with Lily's constant insistence that she was in the wrong in her actions toward Snow Flower. She was wrong at times, but Snow Flower was also wrong at times. Lily's action in The Letter of Vituperation may be been dreadful, but it was only the final cut in the severing of an already damaged friendship. Snow Flower lied about everything, then when Lily found out about Snow Flower's circumstances, Snow Flower justified her lies because she didn't want Lily to pity her, but if Lily had known about Snow Flower's troubles when they were children, then Lily would have grown used to the idea and been more able to comfort Snow Flower without showing pity. Snow Flower continued to lie to Lily even after they were married. She lied about her husband's abuse of her, her actions with her husband, and even about her health. Lily took refuge in convention whenever she became uncomfortable and didn't know how to act. If she had known the truth of Snow Flower's life when they were younger, she would have been more comfortable in her reactions to Snow Flowers troubles, but she spent years thinking that Snow Flower was rich and more eligible than herself, only to find out in a few moments how bad her friend actually had it. And I am frustrated at how Lily blamed herself for misinterpreting Snow Flower's words on the fan. Any person in the world would have looked at those words and believed what Lily believed. Because of Snow Flower's Dishonesty and Lily's ignorance in how to comfort Snow Flower without making Snow Flower feel she was being pitied, their friendship disintegrated.

This was a heartbreaking story about a friendship full of lies and misunderstandings. In many ways I hate reading stories about such damaged relationships because it's frustrating to watch the mistakes people make in relationships when you want to take them aside and tell them off for hurting their friend, but it also makes me think, and make me consider things I've done in my relationships with my friends that may have hurt them, that I didn't even realize. I wish the story would have had a happier end, but I also can't see how it could have done. There was just too much hurting on both Snow Flower and Lily's parts, for the story to come to a happy ending, though at least Snow Flower apologized to Lily before her death, and at least Lily made some reparation for her actions, to Snow Flower's son and granddaughter.

The Isle of the Lost - Melissa  de la Cruz

 

I read this book because I enjoyed the movie. To illustrate why I didn't like this book very much, I guess I should go over why I liked the movie.

I liked the movie mostly because the idea was a good one. Villains trapped on an island with their children who didn't do anything to deserve incarceration? That's an incredible idea. It was made more interesting by the fact that the children must have been born on the island. I mean, the villains were imprisoned for twenty years, but the kids were only about sixteen. The other thing I liked about the film was the acting. Sure, sometimes the side characters felt forced, but the four principle characters were played by very good actors. I also liked the moment when Lonnie was surprised and heartbroken to learn that the villain kids were not loved by their parents. Disney's Descendants wasn't what I'd call a good movie. A lot of the plot points were really stupid and the parents didn't seem like the evil villains we were asked to believe they were, but the idea was a really good one.

So why didn't I like the book? Well, they didn't seem to be in bad enough shape. In spite of their impeccably fashionable costumes, in the 'Rotten to the Core' song we get a decent glimpse of how much of a slum the island is. There are people sleeping in little more then warehouses. There are people who seem like good people just trying to get by (that the four main characters victimize.) The MCs don't appear to belong with their fashionable clothes, and during one of Evie's verses she's standing among a bunch of beautiful like-new scarves that obviously don't belong in the scene. But we still get an idea of the poverty and suffering on the island. In the book, the villains are not scrounging for food or suffering for lack of clothing. They only receive the leftovers that Auradon doesn't want, but there is still more than enough food. The villains even care enough to give their kids schooling (in the arts of being evil, but honestly I didn't think there would be a school at all.) Given the fact that we are expected to believe that the villains don't care about their kids, it seems stupid that they'd care to make them go to school. I feel like they'd just expect their kids to learn their wickedness by watching them, but why would they go through the effort of enforcing school for children they didn't care about?

I am also rather skeptical about an island full of villains electing anyone, even Maleficent, to be their leader. If they're all as self-serving and terrifying as we're led to believe that they are, then none of them would want anyone but themselves to be the leader, though they might bow to the scariest one's demands, I don't think they'd actively call them leaders.

The other problem with this was that Cruella was the cruellest parent (at least that we've seen) on the island. She neglects Carlos, and forces him to clean the house and take care of her and her clothes. She treats him like a slave. And in the film Carlos was the only one who said actually expressed interest in going to Auradon--or rather, interest in getting away from the isle and his mother. We see Jafar, Evil Queen and Maleficent saying mean and nasty things to their kids, but they never do more then speak nastily to them. I know that both the book and the movie are for kids so I can understand that they didn't want to scare the targeted audience with descriptions of parental abuse, but c'mon. These are evil villains who we're asked to believe don't care about their kids, and don't care about anything but themselves. We're told that these villains are the worst in the world, but we're never really shown it. Evie's mother even seems to care about her a bit--mostly because she's beautiful, but still.

I also thought that the four characters didn't altogether match the impression we'd gotten of them in the movie. The movie starts with the four of them terrorizing the less evil citizens of the island, but, while the book ends with the author saying that the characters ran off to terrorize the others on the island, only Mal and Jay had ever done that before. Carlos was bullied by the other children as well as his mother, and it seems highly unlikely that he would just start doing the bullying. Evie seems to have a bit too much propensity for good in her. She wasn't taught to be honest, but even though she lies, her first instinct seems to be to help others (like Carlos,) and her line in Rotten to the Core ("I broke your heart? I made you hurt?") doesn't seem to fit her at all because she spent most of her life isolated, and she hadn't any experience breaking hearts even if she were disposed to do so. The four of them had only just become (almost) friends and I didn't really think that they would have been comfortable wreaking havoc together so soon after Mal decided to stop hating Evie (also, in the movie, Evie's not inviting Mal to her birthday party was mentioned in passing, as something that maybe bothered Mal a little bit over the years, but not something that had festered and caused her to attempt vengeance on Evie as it was portrayed in the book.) Because Mal and Jay were (almost) friends at the beginning of the book, and they were the trouble makers, they are the only ones who's behavior in the film matches their behavior in the book.

The author also should have watched a few more Disney films. I didn't find many errors, but the most egregious one was that Perdi and Pongo were complaining about having to pay four 101 college educations when they only had 99 puppies. They were dogs numbers 100 and 101 (and if you read the book there were only 97 puppies because there were 4 adult dogs, Pongo, Mrs. Pongo, Perdita and Perdita's mate.) Even the fact that the dogs were complaining about anything didn't fit with the world we were given in the film. Not with the way that Dude acted more or less like a normal dog, and no one treated him like a person. I also don't understand why Anastasia and Drizella (and their children) are on the island. Even if you disregard the sequels where Anastasia gets a happy ending, (not to mention Iago in the Aladdin sequels) Anastasia and Drizella are guilty of nothing more than bullying. Behavior we see from everyone in Auradon--from Audrey, daughter of Sleeping Beauty, to Chad, son of Cinderella, to the one science teacher who took Evie's mirror in the film. and none of those characters are sent to the Isle of the lost for their behavior. The last error that I was more inclined to forgive was that Doc said something about his son, Doug, when in the Descendants movie, Doug was Dopey's son.

I don't like very many of the Auradonian characters. In the film I liked Lonnie well enough, and in the Wicked World YouTube show I started to like Jane better, but I didn't really like Ben and Ben in the book is just as dull and uninteresting as in the film. I also found myself feeling rather annoyed with how stupid both Belle and Beast behaved. Beast seemed stupider, but Belle being a book-nerd, it was more obvious with her. No matter how I look at it in either movie or book, it's beyond stupid that someone would be crowned king while his parents were still alive, while he was still in high school. It would make far more sense if they waited until he graduated high school, and maybe college.

Another problem with the book (and the movie, but it's more obvious in the book) is the question of who the villain kids' other parent is. Especially because Maleficent keeps telling Mal she's just as human, weak and good as her father. Um, Mal is sixteen and Maleficent has been imprisoned on the isle for twenty years. All of the characters parents must have both parents among the prisoners of the Isle, (and what good person would create a child with someone they consider evil.) After I watched the film I thought that it would have been good if we'd seen villain children with two different villains for parents. I mean, Jay and Mal already act like siblings, so why not make Mal's dad be Jafar and Jay's mom be Maleficent?

I will probably give Return to the Isle of the Lost a go, but after this book, I don't really expect to like it that much. And don't get me wrong, the Descendants movie isn't great. It's a corny, half baked plot, and poorly created world, with (mostly) good actors, but a really good original idea. I liked the movie because it led me to imagine what (at least in my head) seems like a much better story using the same idea of imprisoned villains, not because it was a good film. The book didn't add anything to the poorly created world and, if anything, it took away some of the things that had been left to the imagination, that could have been better. The plot was even worse than the movie, and the characters didn't seem to fit well with what we'd seen of them in the film.
Clockwork Angel  - Cassandra Clare

 

I like Tessa. She is interesting. She is afraid of others and afraid of herself. She has experienced a lot of hardship, even before her kidnapping. Even though she's had such a difficult life, and a terrifying few weeks, Tessa still loves deeply and easily.

I really don't like Will Herondel very much. I know he's a lot of people's book crush, but he's very like Jace, and I didn't like Jace that much either. Arrogant, selfish characters usually irritate me to no end, and, while Jace had a tragic backstory and Will appears to have one as well, it's rare for the backstory to make me like an irritating character enough to make me forgive their irritating or cruel behavior. Will and Tessa's relationship felt unnatural. It seemed normal for Will, who seems to be a player, to be attracted to pretty Tessa, and it seems normal for Tessa to be attracted to handsome Will. What seemed odd was how quickly Will decided that he actually loved her, instead of just wanting to use her. The other odd thing is that Tessa is a smart girl who has read lots of books. You'd think she'd have known--or at the very least taken Sophie's words under advisement--that Will was not a good person to love. From what I could tell, Tessa had stayed at the Institute of about a week. That seems far to soon for she and Will to have grown to love each other, especially since their personalities don't seem like they would mesh well. That said, I did like the epilogue, since it seemed to show some character growth (finally) on Will's part.

I really like Gem. We don't get to know him as well as Tessa and Will, but he is a very good man. I like that about him. What I don't like is that it seemed like the author was setting up a potential love triangle (or square, maybe) between Will, Tessa, Gem (and Sophie.)

Charlotte, Henry and Jessamyn were interesting characters as well. I liked Charlotte's brave, no-nonsense attitude, especially because of her obvious affection for Henry. I really liked Henry. He's the typical bumbling, but brilliant genius who isn't always aware of the affect his words and actions might have. Jessamyn isn't meant to be likeable. I hated her at first. She is somewhat like Will in her arrogance and selfishness, but, though, like Will we only got a small glimpse of her tragic backstory, the glimpse made me understand her desire to get away from the Shadow World, and it made me think that she may be suffering from some psychological problems. I also liked her more than Will because she showed incredible bravery when she had to, where as, mostly lacking fear, Will was merely reckless.

I'm still not sure how I felt about the villain. He was sinister and his ability to manipulate so many people is downright terrifying, but we have so few answers about his motives, that I still can't tell whether he's going to be a strong or weak character.

Overall the plot went very well. There are some interesting new tidbits on the Shadow World, and the tension in the plot kept me reading past midnight, but most of the questions we had were not resolved at the end of the story. I understand that this is a trilogy and the author has to keep us engaged enough to want to continue the series, but I wished that we would have gotten some answers, so that the book would have felt somewhat satisfying at the end.

Isle of the Lost

Isle of the Lost, The: A Descendants Novel (Descendants, The) - Melissa  de la Cruz I read this book because I enjoyed the movie. To illustrate why I didn't like this book very much, I guess I should go over why I liked the movie.

I liked the movie mostly because the idea was a good one. Villains trapped on an island with their children who didn't do anything to deserve incarceration? That's an incredible idea. It was made more interesting by the fact that the children must have been born on the island. I mean, the villains were imprisoned for twenty years, but the kids were only about sixteen. The other thing I liked about the film was the acting. Sure, sometimes the side characters felt forced, but the four principle characters were played by very good actors. I also liked the moment when Lonnie was surprised and heartbroken to learn that the villain kids were not loved by their parents. Disney's Descendants wasn't what I'd call a good movie. A lot of the plot points were really stupid and the parents didn't seem like the evil villains we were asked to believe they were, but the idea was a really good one.

So why didn't I like the book? Well, they didn't seem to be in bad enough shape. In spite of their impeccably fashionable costumes, in the 'Rotten to the Core' song we get a decent glimpse of how much of a slum the island is. There are people sleeping in little more then warehouses. There are people who seem like good people just trying to get by (that the four main characters victimize.) The MCs don't appear to belong with their fashionable clothes, and during one of Evie's verses she's standing among a bunch of beautiful like-new scarves that obviously don't belong in the scene. But we still get an idea of the poverty and suffering on the island. In the book, the villains are not scrounging for food or suffering for lack of clothing. They only receive the leftovers that Auradon doesn't want, but there is still more than enough food. The villains even care enough to give their kids schooling (in the arts of being evil, but honestly I didn't think there would be a school at all.) Given the fact that we are expected to believe that the villains don't care about their kids, it seems stupid that they'd care to make them go to school. I feel like they'd just expect their kids to learn their wickedness by watching them, but why would they go through the effort of enforcing school for children they didn't care about?

I am also rather skeptical about an island full of villains electing anyone, even Maleficent, to be their leader. If they're all as self-serving and terrifying as we're led to believe that they are, then none of them would want anyone but themselves to be the leader, though they might bow to the scariest one's demands, I don't think they'd actively call them leaders.

The other problem with this was that Cruella was the cruellest parent (at least that we've seen) on the island. She neglects Carlos, and forces him to clean the house and take care of her and her clothes. She treats him like a slave. And in the film Carlos was the only one who said actually expressed interest in going to Auradon--or rather, interest in getting away from the isle and his mother. We see Jafar, Evil Queen and Maleficent saying mean and nasty things to their kids, but they never do more then speak nastily to them. I know that both the book and the movie are for kids so I can understand that they didn't want to scare the targeted audience with descriptions of parental abuse, but c'mon. These are evil villains who we're asked to believe don't care about their kids, and don't care about anything but themselves. We're told that these villains are the worst in the world, but we're never really shown it. Evie's mother even seems to care about her a bit--mostly because she's beautiful, but still.

I also thought that the four characters didn't altogether match the impression we'd gotten of them in the movie. The movie starts with the four of them terrorizing the less evil citizens of the island, but, while the book ends with the author saying that the characters ran off to terrorize the others on the island, only Mal and Jay had ever done that before. Carlos was bullied by the other children as well as his mother, and it seems highly unlikely that he would just start doing the bullying. Evie seems to have a bit too much propensity for good in her. She wasn't taught to be honest, but even though she lies, her first instinct seems to be to help others (like Carlos,) and her line in Rotten to the Core ("I broke your heart? I made you hurt?") doesn't seem to fit her at all because she spent most of her life isolated, and she hadn't any experience breaking hearts even if she were disposed to do so. The four of them had only just become (almost) friends and I didn't really think that they would have been comfortable wreaking havoc together so soon after Mal decided to stop hating Evie (also, in the movie, Evie's not inviting Mal to her birthday party was mentioned in passing, as something that maybe bothered Mal a little bit over the years, but not something that had festered and caused her to attempt vengeance on Evie as it was portrayed in the book.) Because Mal and Jay were (almost) friends at the beginning of the book, and they were the trouble makers, they are the only ones who's behavior in the film matches their behavior in the book.

The author also should have watched a few more Disney films. I didn't find many errors, but the most egregious one was that Perdi and Pongo were complaining about having to pay four 101 college educations when they only had 99 puppies. They were dogs numbers 100 and 101 (and if you read the book there were only 97 puppies because there were 4 adult dogs, Pongo, Mrs. Pongo, Perdita and Perdita's mate.) Even the fact that the dogs were complaining about anything didn't fit with the world we were given in the film. Not with the way that Dude acted more or less like a normal dog, and no one treated him like a person. I also don't understand why Anastasia and Drizella (and their children) are on the island. Even if you disregard the sequels where Anastasia gets a happy ending, (not to mention Iago in the Aladdin sequels) Anastasia and Drizella are guilty of nothing more than bullying. Behavior we see from everyone in Auradon--from Audrey, daughter of Sleeping Beauty, to Chad, son of Cinderella, to the one science teacher who took Evie's mirror in the film. and none of those characters are sent to the Isle of the lost for their behavior. The last error that I was more inclined to forgive was that Doc said something about his son, Doug, when in the Descendants movie, Doug was Dopey's son.

I don't like very many of the Auradonian characters. In the film I liked Lonnie well enough, and in the Wicked World YouTube show I started to like Jane better, but I didn't really like Ben and Ben in the book is just as dull and uninteresting as in the film. I also found myself feeling rather annoyed with how stupid both Belle and Beast behaved. Beast seemed stupider, but Belle being a book-nerd, it was more obvious with her. No matter how I look at it in either movie or book, it's beyond stupid that someone would be crowned king while his parents were still alive, while he was still in high school. It would make far more sense if they waited until he graduated high school, and maybe college.

Another problem with the book (and the movie, but it's more obvious in the book) is the question of who the villain kids' other parent is. Especially because Maleficent keeps telling Mal she's just as human, weak and good as her father. Um, Mal is sixteen and Maleficent has been imprisoned on the isle for twenty years. All of the characters parents must have both parents among the prisoners of the Isle, (and what good person would create a child with someone they consider evil.) After I watched the film I thought that it would have been good if we'd seen villain children with two different villains for parents. I mean, Jay and Mal already act like siblings, so why not make Mal's dad be Jafar and Jay's mom be Maleficent?

I will probably give Return to the Isle of the Lost a go, but after this book, I don't really expect to like it that much. And don't get me wrong, the Descendants movie isn't great. It's a corny, half baked plot, and poorly created world, with (mostly) good actors, but a really good original idea. I liked the movie because it led me to imagine what (at least in my head) seems like a much better story using the same idea of imprisoned villains, not because it was a good film. The book didn't add anything to the poorly created world and, if anything, it took away some of the things that had been left to the imagination, that could have been better. The plot was even worse than the movie, and the characters didn't seem to fit well with what we'd seen of them in the film.

Clockwork Angel

Clockwork Angel - Cassandra Clare I like Tessa. She is interesting. She is afraid of others and afraid of herself. She has experienced a lot of hardship, even before her kidnapping. Even though she's had such a difficult life, and a terrifying few weeks, Tessa still loves deeply and easily.

I really don't like Will Herondel very much. I know he's a lot of people's book crush, but he's very like Jace, and I didn't like Jace that much either. Arrogant, selfish characters usually irritate me to no end, and, while Jace had a tragic backstory and Will appears to have one as well, it's rare for the backstory to make me like an irritating character enough to make me forgive their irritating or cruel behavior. Will and Tessa's relationship felt unnatural. It seemed normal for Will, who seems to be a player, to be attracted to pretty Tessa, and it seems normal for Tessa to be attracted to handsome Will. What seemed odd was how quickly Will decided that he actually loved her, instead of just wanting to use her. The other odd thing is that Tessa is a smart girl who has read lots of books. You'd think she'd have known--or at the very least taken Sophie's words under advisement--that Will was not a good person to love. From what I could tell, Tessa had stayed at the Institute of about a week. That seems far to soon for she and Will to have grown to love each other, especially since their personalities don't seem like they would mesh well. That said, I did like the epilogue, since it seemed to show some character growth (finally) on Will's part.

I really like Gem. We don't get to know him as well as Tessa and Will, but he is a very good man. I like that about him. What I don't like is that it seemed like the author was setting up a potential love triangle (or square, maybe) between Will, Tessa, Gem (and Sophie.)

Charlotte, Henry and Jessamyn were interesting characters as well. I liked Charlotte's brave, no-nonsense attitude, especially because of her obvious affection for Henry. I really liked Henry. He's the typical bumbling, but brilliant genius who isn't always aware of the affect his words and actions might have. Jessamyn isn't meant to be likeable. I hated her at first. She is somewhat like Will in her arrogance and selfishness, but, though, like Will we only got a small glimpse of her tragic backstory, the glimpse made me understand her desire to get away from the Shadow World, and it made me think that she may be suffering from some psychological problems. I also liked her more than Will because she showed incredible bravery when she had to, where as, mostly lacking fear, Will was merely reckless.

I'm still not sure how I felt about the villain. He was sinister and his ability to manipulate so many people is downright terrifying, but we have so few answers about his motives, that I still can't tell whether he's going to be a strong or weak character.

Overall the plot went very well. There are some interesting new tidbits on the Shadow World, and the tension in the plot kept me reading past midnight, but most of the questions we had were not resolved at the end of the story. I understand that this is a trilogy and the author has to keep us engaged enough to want to continue the series, but I wished that we would have gotten some answers, so that the book would have felt somewhat satisfying at the end.

Good Information, Dull Writing.

The Witches: Salem, 1692 - Stacy Schiff

For some reason an ad for this book suddenly started appearing on Youtube. An ad that seemed to imply it was just coming out when, in fact it has been out for almost a year. Either way, the ad, which was an interview with the author, got me very interested to know more.

Non-fiction books must be very hard to write. You have to stick to the facts as they are known, and if you are speculating, you have to make it clear that what you think may not be true. Stacy Schiff was good at this. What she wasn't good at was making the book interesting. Here is this book, discussing the Salem witch trials, content that is, in its own right, very interesting, but the way it's talked about makes it seem dull. I did learn more about the witch trials then I'd ever known before, and I did get quite a bit of interesting information from the book, but I was dreadfully disappointed that it was not presented better.

The book also had frequent anti-Catholic statements, which I was only willing to excuse because I think that it was intended to be presented as what the Puritans thought of Catholics, but sometimes it wasn't phrased that way so it could have been interpreted to have been the author's opinions.

The strongest parts of this book was when the author was discussing the accused witches, especially those who were killed in the frenzy. It was her discussions of the characters and their motivations that her writing was the most interesting.

SPOILER ALERT!

Enjoyable, But Don't Expect it to be as Good as the Originals

Harry Potter and the Cursed Child - J.K. Rowling, John Kerr Tiffany, Jack Thorne

There were a few typos or just confusingly written sentences, particularly in scene and action descriptions, but occasionally in dialogue, which made me feel that the publisher was in such a hurry to make this book hit the shelves that they didn't edit it as much as it deserved.

 

I have trouble reading time travel books. Ever since I read the Gideon Trilogy by Linda Buckley-Archer, the only kind of time travel stories I've been able to read without having trouble suspending my imagination are stories where people go back and everything they do already happened. In Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban Rowling used the second (and more believable in my opinion) method of time travel. In this one she used the first. I didn't have nearly as much trouble suspending my imagination for this book as I usually do with this type of book, which is probably because, even when she's writing stories as a play instead of a novel, Rowling is still very good with words. I was still skeptical at a few parts though. For instance, after Albus and Scorpius messed up time for the first time, Harry acted really weird, strict and even mean. This felt out of character for Harry, but I blamed it on the time warp that had messed up Ron and Hermione's relationship, but then after the reparation of time, Draco, Ginny and the other characters referred to Harry's forbidding Albus to be friends with Scorpius, and Draco and Harry's duel, which means that the Harry's actions happened in both the time warp and the unaltered time, which, in turn means that Harry acted really bizarrely out of character no matter which version of time you're looking at.

 

I was so nervous reading this book. Nearly everything Albus Severus did made me say "poor Harry..." After all, J.K. Rowling said that if she could say anything to Harry she'd apologize for all she put him through, and now she put him through the pain of a child who doesn't appear to like him. I had a little bit of trouble with Cedric's character. After my Pottermore sorting I was told that there were almost no Hufflepuffs who fell into dark magic so I found it saddening to learn that humiliation could lead Cedric to become a Death Eater.

 

In some ways I felt like all of Hermione and Ron's interactions were an apology for telling us that those two probably shouldn't have ended up together. In some ways I don't mind because I really like Ron and Hermione together, but there were also times where it felt a little bit forced.

 

I have one other problem with the book. Overall the messages were, as with the other Harry Potter books, good.  Be kind. Be brave. Be careful and don't mess with time because the smallest actions can change major things in the future (so be kind and careful even if you aren't hanging out in the past as you don't know how your actions may affect the world.) But there was one message I saw that struck me as bad, and that was that you are what your parents are. This message is not a dominating force and the fact that Albus, Harry Potter's son, is kind of a jerk and Scorpius, Draco's son is very kind (and my favorite new character in the series.) But Rose Granger-Weasley has Hermione's smarts, but both Ron and Hermione's judgemental attitude and some of the snobbishness that Hermione showed when she was on the Hogwart's Express for the first time. Worse, Dephi was Tom Marvolo Riddle's daughter, and she was evil, warped and willing to destroy anything in her way. I'm sure no one is surprised that she is also Bellatrix's daughter, but I really would have liked to see a descendant of Voldemort who was kind and considerate and trying to be the exact opposite of her (or his if the descendant had been a he) parents, and what we got instead was a woman who was more than willing to follow her parents in every way. Obviously upbringing can affect a person very much and it does sound like Dephi was raised by a Death Eater who would have brought her up to love and admire the parents who didn't deserve either emotion, but again, I really would have liked to see a child of Voldemort who was the exact opposite of her parents.

 

Even though I have discussed more things that I had a problem with than things that I liked about this book, overall I still thought it was a good Harry Potter book. Was it up to par with the original series? Not quite, but I still did enjoy it. I loved Scorpius and enjoyed seeing what Harry, Ron, Hermione, Ginny and Draco were up to, and how their kids were faring. I also really liked seeing how much more Snape's character (would have) developed (if he had survived) in the second time warp. The book had plenty of places where I laughed out loud, just like the original books, and it also had quite a few places where I was going "awwwww."

 

I do suggest this book to Potter fans, but don't expect it to be quite as good as the original series.

10 Days in a Madhouse (Annotated) - Nellie Bly, BookCaps

This is an exciting and haunting narrative made even more so by the fact that it is true (at least mostly, it is possible that Nellie Bly exaggerated a few things, but given the fact that we now know how poorly the mentally ill were treated back then I would believe most of it.)

 

As a side note, I would like to say that the Librivox reader of this book is very good, though I do wish there was an afterwards or something to explain how the asylum closed (because I know that it did.)

Dear book, it's not you, it's me...

— feeling horror
True Crime Stories: 12 Shocking True Crime Murder Cases (True Crime Anthology) - Jack Rosewood

I received this book as an audiobook for free via a LibraryThing giveaway in exchange for an honest review.

 

This was, in fact, a well narrated book. The writing was good and the audible reader was decent. The stories were also rather interesting. The problem is that I was feeling depressed, paranoid and slightly nauseous by the time I finished. This is why I don't ever read horror stories. If real life is this horrifying, why do we need to make it worse with fictional horror stories? The only way the book could have made me feel worse is if it had included the murders of Jessica Ridgeway and Dylan Redwine because those were cases that I followed as they occurred, and felt sadness and fear as the police searched for the children and as their bodies were found. The audiobook was two hours and twenty minutes. I listen to my audiobooks at double speed, so I finished it in about an hour and ten minutes. I listened to it almost straight through with only a short break to eat lunch. That is approximately two thirty-five minute increments to finish one book that was both saddening and unsettling. I probably would have felt better if I had listened to only one story a day instead of all at once.

 

One other comment I have is that I appreciated the fact that, for the most part, the author focused on the victim, not on the killer. Single murders may not garner as many imitators as mass shootings, but, unfortunately there are still some who will imitate. For one or two of the stories the author did focus more on the perpetrator then the victim, and when he did I found myself feeling more squeamish and paranoid than for the stories where he focused more on the innocent victim.

 

I had never read true-crime before, and, while I did find it interesting, I don't think that it's a genre that I will read very often. If you enjoy reading about true-crime and don't mind short stories grouped together in one anthology then I would suggest this book. If reading about horrific crimes makes you feel squeamish, frightened and sad then it's probably best to avoid the genre altogether. After reading this book I find myself wanting to read Pigs Galore, Pigs Aplenty by David MacPhail or watch Little Bear re-runs to get my mind off this book.

 

 

The Hidden Oracle - Rick Riordan

Rick Riordan has a tendency to just write variations on all the same characters. This book is no exception. Apollo is Percy Jackson if someone decided to inflate Percy Jackson's head to one-hundred times it's original size. I liked Percy. I liked Magnus Chase. I liked Leo Valdez. They may be the same more-or-less character, but they're all pretty likeable. Apollo is these three characters, but unlikeable. Luckily he had had a lot of character growth by the end of the book, and there were still parts where I laughed out loud, but overall this was a weak start to a Rick Riordan series.

SPOILER ALERT!
The Wildcat of Braeton - Claire M. Banschbach

I was suffering for a huge reading slump while in the middle of this book. It was a big bummer.

 

I'm having trouble reviewing this one. We got to see most of our favorite characters again. Corin repeatedly tells his men that this second war will be harder than the first because the Calorins know their fighting techniques, but I had some trouble buying that since the last time they were fighting from the trees, collecting men to help fight by saving them from slavery. The Calorins may have had a better idea of what they were up against in this book, but the Aredorians were also more prepared. That said, the book had improved in at least one way over the old one; no more video game fights without loss of the good guys. Three major characters who we care a lot about were killed in this book. I didn't cry, but I did feel emotional. In the first book, I complained because I felt like everyone surviving was unlikely, and because the book could have made me emotional with character losses. In this book I'm complaining because I didn't want characters to die. Don't get me wrong, I think that the deaths of these favorite characters made the book a lot more realistic, and it made the stakes seem real. It's like in Harry Potter, I don't like that so many of my favorite characters died, but it does make the victory sweeter.

 

I gave this book four stars. So if character deaths made me emotional, one of the flaws of the first book was fixed, and the victory felt sweet, why did I knock off a star from what I gave the first book? I guess there could be a couple reasons. I really liked the setting in Calorin, and Aiden left there a lot more quickly than Corin. I also liked Corin's POV better than Aiden's. We got some of each in this book, but I think that Aiden is a little bit more likeable when we aren't in his head. But both of those things are small. I stilled liked Aiden, even if not as much, and the English/Scottish style Aredor and Braeton are still exciting, even though both books put me in the mood for fiction set in the desert. The real reason this book lost a star is the ending. The epilogue was hard. I always find epilogues that say 'and then the main characters died' hard to read. They make me feel melancholy. But this was worse than most because most epilogues like that end with the characters dying peacefully from old age, but not this one. Aiden spent the rest of his life mourning Rona, and died in an ambush on a pass. Corin and Darrin were killed in a battle with raiders and Argusians, and as he died, Corin saw his old friends who had already died AND AHMED IS COUNTED AMONG THEM, even though we barely even saw Ahmed this book, we didn't know he died, we don't know how he died. Mera had died the year before Aiden (hopefully peacefully) and Liam also eventually dies and is buried close to Martin where they become legends. Tam played a lament after Aiden's death, and then never played again. Darrin and Corin's children were strong leaders and even though their fathers died in a raid, they were able to keep Aredor free. I don't know. This ending is just not satisfying. It's frustrating. It almost feels like a tragedy instead of a triumph.

 

So overall I really liked this book, but I wasn't a big fan of the epilogue.

 

I received an ebook from the author with the request of a review. (I also have a physical copy.)

" I'll admit that writing doesn't always come, but I'm totally against walking around looking at the sky when you're experiencing a block, waiting for inspiration to strike you. Tchaikovsky and Rimsky-Korsakov didn't like each other and agreed on very few things, but they were of one opinion on this: you had to write constantly. If you can't write a major work, write minor trifles. If you can't write at all, orchestrate something"

Dmitri Shostakovich

I Am Malala: The Girl Who Stood Up for Education and was Shot by the Taliban - Malala Yousafzai, Christina Lamb

Malala Yousafzai is an amazing young woman. She is strong, feminine, vulnerable, brave, and afraid all at the same time. I can't imagine going through the things she went through, even before she was shot. The running, and being driven from her home, and the death threats. I didn't know all that much about her before I read this book, now I really admire her. The problem with books, and especially non-fiction books, is that reading them always makes me want to visit the countries where they take place, and Pakistan is far too dangerous at this time.

Water for Elephants - Sara Gruen

This book symbolizes the reason why I am still reading YA books. I have recently become disillusioned with YA books because the majority of what I read is a recycled plot, recycled characters, with a recycled, often instalove romance. But then, I read this book. The story is unique, I don't loath the main character or his love interests, and the romance, while fairly fast, was not instalove. You'd think I'd love it, so why didn't I?

 

Well, there was a lot of cussing. I'm generally tolerant of cussing in books because I can skip over it or change it to "bleep" when I read it. I was reading this via audiobook, so I couldn't do either of the things I usually do, but even so, I probably wouldn't have allowed mere cussing to make this book, which could have been a four or five star read, down to two stars. The problem, for me, was the sex. Or the vulgarity in reference to sex. When a character was having sex or naked, the detail the author gave was far, far too explicit, making me want to cover my ears. What's worse is that the book didn't need these details. It didn't even need most of those scenes, but the ones that were necessary for the plot did not need to be that explicit. Even though, overall, I liked the narrator, the fact that he kept giving so much detail for these things made me like him a lot less.

 

Probably another reason why I didn't like the book as well is that I watched the movie (which was very good) first. For some reason I've found that most of the (admittedly few) times when I have enjoyed a movie more than a book it's because I watched the movie first. The movie cut most of the vulgarity and nudity in order to be PG-13, but it still kept the characters and story line. The movie also moved me more emotionally. It was very upsetting to see the abuse of Rosie, and I truly felt for Marlena's difficult position. In the book, the abuse of Rosie had a problem of being told rather than shown, and so it wasn't as moving, though I still did feel for Marlena in her difficult situation.

I Am Malala

I Am Malala - Malala Yousafzai Malala Yousafzai is an amazing young woman. She is strong, feminine, vulnerable, brave, and afraid all at the same time. I can't imagine going through the things she went through, even before she was shot. The running, and being driven from her home, and the death threats. I didn't know all that much about her before I read this book, now I really admire her. The problem with books, and especially non-fiction books, is that reading them always makes me want to visit the countries where they take place, and Pakistan is far too dangerous at this time.
SPOILER ALERT!
The Great Hunt - Wendy Higgins

Contrary to what the description says, this is not a retelling of the Singing Bone. In the original tale, the older brother (Paxton) was wicked and killed the younger brother (Tiern) after he killed the boar (terrible creature) and then the older brother (Paxton) took the boar and claimed the hand of the princess as his reward. Years later a shepherd sees a bone and uses it to make the mouthpiece of his horn, but whenever he plays the horn it sings a song about how the younger brother killed the boar, only to be killed by his older brother. The king eventually hears the horn singing and questions the older brother who doesn't deny that he killed his younger brother and is, himself killed and buried in unhallowed ground while the younger brother's bones are found and buried in the churchyard. Except the fact that there is an animal and whoever kills it will get the hand of the princess, and there are two brothers involved, there really isn't much in this book to claim that it was inspired by the Singing Bone. And granted this is only the first book of a duology, but given the fact that neither of the brothers killed the beast, and they are on good terms with one another, I find it extremely doubtful that the second book will be able to convince me that this story is a retelling of that story.

 

The good: I thought that Aerity was a good character. Most of the time when female characters are faced with an arranged marriage they whine, sulk or run away. Aerity, for once looks at the problem, weighs the good an arranged marriage will do for her people to the pain it will cause herself, and chooses to accept the burden. I also liked Tiern. He was a sweet and unassuming character who genuinely meant well. Unfortunately, he had almost no reaction to learning that his brother was a lashed, and I didn't think that was normal character behavior. Speaking of the lashed, I found the idea very interesting, and it was the one world-building portion of the book that I thought worked well. I also thought that the first scene was very moving, and it made me feel as thought Wyneth had just lost the love of her life.

 

The hunting scenes were enjoyable. I was convinced that the men knew what they were doing, and the boredom, followed by a few moments of action seemed believable.

The bad: Wyneth spends a couple of weeks mourning for the man who, in only a few minutes (reading via audiobook) I had been convinced she loved deeply, then a pushy jerk of a guy admires her, and pushes a little to hard to convince her to be in love with him or start an affair with him. I would have thought that was an interesting twist in the story if she hadn't reciprocated, but because Wyneth is immediately cast into something of an America Singer (from The Selection series) character ("My heart is broken...but I'm in love with this guy who I just met who is a little too possessive of me...but my heart is broken,") and that kind of ruined both her character, and the good first scene.

 

I hated Paxton. Yes, he is lashed, which is a difficult thing to be right now. No, he's not interested in having children and potentially giving them the magic that makes his life so difficult, but does he have to be such a blasted jerk? His first interaction with Aerity is to leer at her, and in almost every interaction after that he is a complete jerk, and she still falls in wuv with him. Given how unpleasant he is, but also how cute he's supposed to be, my only guess is that Aerity is deeply in lust with him, because even when people have instalove, the other person has to be at least a little bit nice first. Then Paxton spends most of the book being mean to Aerity, but then suddenly decides that he's in wuv with her too.

 

The end was frustrating. Not because of the sequel setup or the fact that Aerity ended up being engaged to the creep who has fallen in lust with her cousin, and her cousin has fallen in wuv with, in fact I thought that was a good set up. Aerity was being forced to truly give up something she wanted for her people, rather than being just lucky enough to get what she wanted, and the premise of a man who was interested in someone else in the castle, and too pushy to be considered a gentleman, being the man Aerity married is, in fact, a very interesting one. But the end fight scene felt forced somehow. Aerity catches up to them, and manages to stab the beast in it's vulnerable spot, but it doesn't die, and instead bats her and knocks her out and breaks her ribs. Then it kills Tiern, and Paxton gives up killing the beast, and his chance to be with the girl he wuvs, who also wuvs him, to "save" Tiern, but Tiern is already dead and Paxton brings him back to life. If Paxton could bring his brother back to life, why wouldn't he have waited a little longer and killed the beast and then done it? It would have made so much more sense if Tiern had been almost dead, instead of dead. Also, for some reason, after all of the tracking and hunting, and fighting with the beast, the fight seemed too fast. It went from, even after having discovered the beasts vulnerable spot, a large group of hunters and warrior women still couldn't kill the beast to three men and one strong-in-character-and-body-but-not-very-practiced-in-fighting girl were able to kill it. And even though Tiern died and Aerity was knocked out, for some reason, the fight still didn't seem dangerous.

 

I don't have high hopes for the romances, or the fairy tale this book was supposedly based after. Still I did enjoy parts of the book, so I'll give the second book a chance to prove me wrong.