Friday, January 25, 2019

NOPE!: a book tag

Today, I felt like doing something a little different, and I stumbled across the "NOPE!" book tag on YouTube -- and, what do you know, people on book blogs do it, too!

Photo by FuYong Hua on Unsplash

This is a tag for books that, for whatever reason, just got you to go "NOPE NOPE NOPE." (By the end of this post, I guarantee "nope" will no longer look like a word.) I can't find the original for this one -- if you know who created it, please tell me so I can credit them!

Also... here be spoilers! You have been warned.

Tagged by: Nobody. Myself. But this video by paperbackdreams is what made me decide to give it a go.

Tagging: Literally anyone who wants to do it. Go forth and vent.

1. NOPE ending: a book ending that made you go NOPE either in denial, rage, or simply because the ending was crappy.



The ending of Warcross wrecked me. It was such a good book, but... holy shit. The TEARS.

2. NOPE protagonist: a main character you dislike and drives you crazy.

I was gonna say Bella from Twilight, but honestly, that seemed too obvious. So I think I'll go for Adrienne from Notes From My Captivity, which I reviewed here. I found Adrienne to be incredibly unlikable; she was judgmental, she was mean-spirited, and all her character growth came too little, too late.

3. NOPE series: a series that turned out to be one huge pile of NOPE after you’ve invested all of that time and energy on it, or a series you gave up on because it wasn’t worth it anymore.

I actually can't think of one! There are plenty of series where I read one book and was like "nah" (see this list), but I can't think of one that I got into then gave up on. Unless you count Warrior Cats... that second series, man. What even was that?

4. NOPE popular pairing: a ship you don’t support.

Agnieszka and the Dragon from Uprooted. I wasn't terribly fond of Agnieszka as a protagonist -- I found her dull and one-dimensional -- but the Dragon was just an asshole. Their relationship lacked buildup, and just seemed to go from "You're a tool, I hate you!" to making out in 5 seconds flat. I stand by what I said in my review of this book: Agnieszka and Kasia would've made a better couple, and a more interesting story.

5. NOPE plot twist: a plot twist you didn’t see coming or didn’t like.

I'll go for "NOPE in a good way" for this one... the way the mystery in One of Us is Lying is resolved fucked me up. It fucked me up REAL bad. I promise you won't see it coming.

6. NOPE protagonist action/decision: a character decision that made you shake your head NOPE.

Preeeeeeetty much everything the main character of Stalking Jack the Ripper did. (That's a book I gave up on, so I can't even remember her name, or much about her, just that she did not have the best decision-making skills.)

7. NOPE genre: a genre you will never read.

I'll try anything once, but I doubt I'm too likely to pick up any religious fiction.

8. NOPE book format: book formatting you hate and avoid buying until it comes out in a different edition.

I don't like eBooks much. I can't really explain why, but I just cannot focus as well with them. I have a Kindle but I literally never use it. I'll accept ARCs in eBook form since that's easier (and cheaper) on the publishers, but if I have the option of getting a hard copy, I'll pick that, every time.

Photo by Sophie Elvis on Unsplash

9. NOPE trope: a trope that makes you go NOPE.

Love triangles. Please God make it stop. Also, "bury your gays" and the "evil gay" stereotype. It's 2019, this is getting ridiculous.

10. NOPE recommendation: a book recommendation that is constantly hyped and pushed at you that you simply refuse to read.

Anything by Cassandra Clare, and the Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas. (Especially the latter, since even people I know who really like the books agree the series kind of goes to crap after a few books.)

11. NOPE cliche/pet peeve: a cliche or writing pet peeve that always makes you roll your eyes.

So many... off the top of my head, protagonists that complain about how unattractive they are constantly, instalove, "overprotective" or "oppressive" parents and/or teachers that don't actually do anything that's that bad, high school "alpha" girls with zero depth, chemistry, or motivation, love triangles, and "chosen one" narratives. (That last one CAN be done well, but rarely is.)

As for the more technical side of writing... overuse of dialogue tags, purple prose, and bad pacing. I've wanted to throw so many books for shitty pacing. Also, stream of consciousness narratives. Has never been my thing, never will be.

12. NOPE love interest: the love interest that’s not worthy of being one. A character you don’t think should have been a viable love interest.

I know this is an unpopular opinion, but fuck Cardan from The Cruel Prince. Seriously. That guy's a dick, and Jude can do so much better.

13. NOPE book: a book that shouldn’t have existed that made you say NOPE.

Gonna go full-predictable and say Fifty Shades. Just nope. On so many levels.



14. NOPE villain: a scary villain/antagonist you would hate to cross and would make you run in the opposite direction.

This is a bit of a cheat, but IT from the novel of the same name by Stephen King. Particularly when IT's in the form of Pennywise the clown. I've never read the book, but I saw part of the miniseries with my father when I was nine. I am currently twenty-one years old, and I am petrified of clowns to this day, and if I'm walking alone at night, I will literally go out of my way to not go too close to a sewer.

(As you can imagine, the two months or so when ads for the 2017 movie were EVERYWHERE were not fun for me.)

(Thanks, Dad.)

15. NOPE death: a character death that still haunts you.

Fucking Remus Lupin. I'll never recover.

*Celine Dion playing in the distance*

16. NOPE author: an author you had a bad experience reading and have decided to quit.

Maggie Stiefvater. I know a lot of people love her books, and I was a fan of Shiver in middle school, but when I tried to read The Raven Cycle years later, it just didn't do anything for me. If you like her, I'm glad, but her writing style just is not for me.

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Thank you so much for reading this book tag. If you liked it and would like to support my work, click on either of the buttons below to donate -- Buy Me a Coffee is a small, one-time donation, but becoming a Patron has several benefits and rewards. Either way, it's a huge help to me. A special thanks to those of you that choose to contribute! Even if you can't donate, you can feel free to follow me on social media; the links are in the top-right corner.

If you want to do this tag, leave me a link to your post in the comments!


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Thursday, January 24, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: How to Experience Death for Beginners by Jessica Branton (ARC)

NOTE: This book has not yet been released. I was given an advance reading copy by MindBuck Media in exchange for an honest review. This book will be out February 14, 2019. If you wish to send me an ARC, check out this page.



TITLE: How to Experience Death for Beginners

AUTHOR: Jessica Branton

GENRE: paranormal / mystery

PLOT SUMMARY: Casey Darling is gifted (or, if you ask her, cursed) with the ability to enter the minds of people in their dying moments. She sees everything -- their joys, their sorrows, their greatest regrets. When a serial killer begins to target her small town, Casey's power causes her even more torment than normal, especially when the FBI realizes she has an unusual knowledge about the victims. Casey now must try and keep her powers from destroying her life, keep her friends and family safe, and keep herself off the suspects list.

FIRST THOUGHTS: I really thought I would love this book. If you follow my reviews, then you know that I am all about thrillers and mysteries, and come on -- just look at that title! Unfortunately, though, this book was kind of a mess. The characters were unlikable and the mystery wasn't well-executed. Overall, the basic setup is good, but there are so many factors weighing it down. (And, honestly, when I found out the now-adult author was fourteen years old when she wrote this book... Let's just say that explains a lot.)

THOUGHTS ON PLOT: For a murder mystery, this book was almost completely lacking in suspense. While Casey's powers were interesting, and the fact that she winds up working with the FBI is a great plot idea, the execution just did not work for me. (I'm not sure if the working-with-the-FBI thing is a spoiler or not. It's in the official summary on Goodreads, but it takes over half the book to get to that part -- which was also disappointing.) I never really thought that Casey or her loved ones were ever in danger. The killer does murder one of Casey's friends, but it happens so early that we barely even know her, so we don't feel the loss. In fact, we barely know any of the victims. A lot of the plot issues stem back to character issues, which I'll discuss below. In short, the fact that we didn't really get to know the killer or their victims really worked against the plot in a major way, and made it difficult -- if not impossible -- to care.

3 / 10

THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS: Casey Darling is, unfortunately, one of my least favorite protagonists I've read lately. I understand that she has good reason to be stressed out, and that teenagers are extremely imperfect, but there's a difference between having a protagonist that's imperfect, and having one that's flat-out unlikable. Casey was usually the latter. To me, she came off as extremely judgmental and sometimes downright cruel -- especially to her sister Christina. Christina was also frustrating, partially because the author couldn't seem to decide what she wanted her personality to be; it seemed to change depending on what the plot needed. Cameron as a love interest and as a character was extremely bland; we don't know a whole lot beyond, "he's troubled, he has a bad relationship with his dad, and he likes Casey." The side characters were all one-note and underdeveloped -- most of them could've been cut entirely and the story would've lost nothing. In particular, I would've cut Tiffany, Phoebe, and Alex, and given their (limited) roles to Danny, since he was the only side character that did much of anything. (Unfortunately, this did not stop his personality from being extremely flat.) The school "mean girl" (whose name I've already forgotten) seemed like a very shallow Regina George imitation, and she contributed nothing to the plot.The actual killer was also a major letdown. Their lines were cliched and their personality was one-dimensional, and they had basically no motive, which just isn't interesting, let alone scary. Overall, Casey was probably the most developed character in the bunch. Even if I didn't like her, she at least had more than one personality trait.

2 / 10

THOUGHTS ON WRITING STYLE: One thing I will say about this book is that it is easy to read. I breezed through it, and I had no difficulty following. However, it was also bogged down by cliched dialogue, awkward sentence structure, and some really, really flat "actions." (Though as someone who can't write action for shit... I sympathize.) As mentioned above, the author wrote this book when she was fourteen, though she's an adult now. A fourteen-year-old being able to write something this long is nothing to sneeze at, and I can certainly understand wanting to revisit your old stories. But if you're gonna publish something your teenage self wrote... consider a rewrite.

3 / 10

THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL STUFF: Oy vey. This is one of those books where, on the surface, there's some good representation -- the main character's best friend is bisexual, a character struggles with self-harm, multiple characters have issues with depression, and the main character's sister has selective mutism. But when you get into how those things were portrayed... yeah, we got problems. I'll start obvious: Danny is a textbook example of the Gay Best Friend stereotype, which I talked about here. My problem isn't that he's campy and flamboyant; my problem is that that is all there is to him, and he rarely gets to do anything besides be Casey's BFF. I also take issue with the way Cameron's self-harming is portrayed, specifically the idea that Casey's love is enough to stop him from dong it. That's a damaging and inaccurate message to send, especially to teens who may be reading. It's true that a supportive partner or friend can help someone make strides towards their recovery, but no relationship can single-handedly fix something so serious. (This is one aspect in which I could really see that the author was fourteen when she wrote this. I myself had a simplistic, love-conquers-all view of mental illness at that age -- one that I thankfully grew out of.) Finally, let's talk about Christina. Christina is portrayed as having selective mutism, which developed after her and Casey's father died. I was interested in this, because I haven't read a mute character in a novel before, but the way it was portrayed just did not sit right with me. There were points where it felt like the other characters were treating Christina like a child -- and they're never called on this. Infantilizing disabled people is a serious problem, and you see it happen in media and real life all the freaking time. No matter how well-meaning the offender is, it's condescending, unhelpful, and outright insulting. I also really did not like how Casey would act like Christina being mute is a choice, like Christina is deliberately being difficult. While it's true that a depressing number of people do act like this towards disabled people, and Christina does call her on it a couple times, Casey doesn't ever seem to change or realize what a load of crap that is. So we're left with an extremely unlikable protagonist passing judgement on someone whose disability is poorly portrayed, which is just a waste.

2 / 10

FINAL THOUGHTS: As you've probably gathered, How to Experience Death for Beginners was just not my cup of tea. I'm glad I gave it a chance, and I really do think the plot had potential, but overall, it was a huge letdown. I'm glad other people like it, but I personally did not.

FINAL GRADE: 2.5 / 10


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Thank you so much for reading this review. If you liked it and would like to support my work, click on either of the buttons below to donate -- Buy Me a Coffee is a small, one-time donation, but becoming a Patron has several benefits and rewards. Either way, it's a huge help to me. A special thanks to those of you that choose to contribute! Even if you can't donate, you can feel free to follow me on social media; the links are in the top-right corner.

If you've read or plan to read How to Experience Death for Beginners, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

A special thanks to Rebecca from MindBuck Media for reaching out to me and giving me this ARC! Even though this wasn't the book for me, I'm always pumped to have a chance to read new releases before they officially hit the shelves.



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Tuesday, January 8, 2019

New Year, New Mishaps - 2019 Resolutions


I've been told we're officially in a new year, so I figured I'd just go ahead and join in on the time-honored tradition of posting some things I hope to accomplish, so there's a record of my failure.

First, let's review the resolutions I posted last year, shall we?

1. Read 24 books.

Hey, I actually did this one! Granted, I finished book #24 with literally only a couple hours to spare, but still. 2018 was not a good reading year for me. I often went for weeks without picking up a book, especially when school wasn't in session. So, yeah -- this was a close call. But hey, I did it.

2. Read more of the Skulduggery Pleasant series.

Another one I actually did! In 2018, I read Scepter of the Ancients, Playing With Fire, The Faceless Ones, and Dark Days. Sooooo... one sixth of the books I read last year were in this series, to put it in perspective.

3. Reread Pride and Prejudice.

Nope. Didn't do it.

4. Read something on my literary bucket list.

Nope.

5. Read at least a little bit every day.

...I don't wanna talk about it.

For those of you keeping score, that's two out of five. Definitely not a passing grade. But I hope to do better this year. Let's look over my goals for 2019!

1. Read 24 books.

Well, I managed this last year -- let's see if I can do it again.

2. Read at least a little bit every day.

I doubt I'll be able to actually do this, but I can certainly try. The first week of 2019 is over and I've managed to do it so far -- only fifty-one weeks to go.

3. Finish my first draft of my current WIP.

Because I'm pretty sure if I don't finish it, my dear friends Annie and Tiffany might kill me.

4. Post on this blog at least twice a month.

This should really be, like... the bare minimum. But as we saw last year, reaching the bare minimum is often a real achievement for me. Hopefully in 2019 I'll be able to keep this blog more active.

(And, hey, this post makes two for January -- that's something!)

5. Read something on my literary bucket list.

I own quite a few things on that list... COME ON, SUSIE, GET IT TOGETHER.

6. Read at least two non-fiction books.

Okay, yeah, yeah, reading two things that are actually educational or something probably isn't all that impressive. But we have to start somewhere.

Actually, "we have to start somewhere" is a good summary of everything on this list.

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If you have any new year's resolutions, tell me about them down in the comments!



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Friday, January 4, 2019

BOOK REVIEW: Once & Future by Amy Rose Capetta and Cory McCarthy (ARC)

NOTE: This book has not yet been released. I was given an advance reading copy by the Hachette Book Group in exchange for an honest review. This book will be out March 2019. If you wish to send me an ARC, check out this page.



TITLE: Once & Future

AUTHOR: Amy Rose Capetta and Cori McCarthy

GENRE: science fiction / fantasy

PLOT SUMMARY:  For centuries, Merlin has been caught in a cycle. He finds this cycle's King Arthur, trains him to defeat whatever evil is plaguing the world... and, inevitably, Arthur fails, dies, and leaves his knights in turmoil. As he ages backwards, Merlin sees no way this cycle can end well, but he's determined to try anyway. This cycle brings him Arthur #42 -- Ari Helix, an illegal immigrant on the run. Her galaxy is controlled by an evil corporation, Mercer, and she's spent every second of her life in hiding and in danger. But not anymore. Now, she has Merlin and his magical powers, and a sword called Excalibur... and, now, a revolution to start.

FIRST THOUGHTS: I was super-hyped when I was contacted to review this book -- I mean, it's King Arthur in SPAAAAAAAAAAAAACE. How could anyone say no to that? I have a semi-casual knowledge of the Arthurian legend (I know the usual stories and have Strong Opinions about Morgana, basically), and you all know by now that I'm trash for a good retelling. This book is a good start to what I hope will be a great series -- and a damn good reimagining of the Arthur story, too. Also, this whole book just makes me think of the "sword lesbian" meme and honestly, I love it.

THOUGHTS ON PLOT: Like I said, I only have a casual understanding of the original story, but from what I do know, this is a retelling that was clearly written by people who really, really love the King Arthur legend. And that definitely works in its favor -- it's great to see where the authors updated some aspects of the story, where they kept some things more-or-less the same, and where they were like "nah" and did their own thing. Even when separated from the Arthurian legend, it's still a good story about a ragtag bunch of misfits fighting against an evil empire -- with a bit of magic on their side, to boot. My only real complaint is that so much happens in this book, and in some parts, it goes by really, really fast. There were a few times when I was like, "...Wait, what just happened?" because the huge plot development happened so rapidly that I wasn't sure I just read what I thought I read. But, overall, this is a good opener for the series, and I look forward to seeing how it progresses in the sequels.

7 / 10

THOUGHTS ON CHARACTERS: Merlin and Ari are two of the most compelling and interesting protagonists I've read this year. I loved both of their character arcs, especially Merlin's. (And the fact that he's aged backwards into a grouchy teenager is just inherently hilarious to me.) Ari was hilarious, and extremely layered -- she's an impulsive teenager and focused mainly on surviving, but she's also a noble and true heroine, through-and-through. A lot of the side characters were great, though I do wish more was done with Nimue and Morgana -- especially the latter. Nimue, we didn't see much of (at least not in this installment), but Morgana, I saw just enough that I was intrigued by her as an antagonist and as a character in general, so I was disappointed when her arc wasn't played out as fully or as three-dimensionally as it could've been.

7 / 10

THOUGHTS ON WRITING STYLE: This has some laugh-out-loud hilarious narration, both in chapters following Ari and chapters following Merlin. And, as noted above, I got extremely attached to all the characters very quickly. I haven't read anything else from either of these authors, but I'm definitely interested in reading more of their work now. My biggest complaint with the writing is the pacing. As much as I liked this book and enjoyed the plot, I will admit that the pacing is sort of a mess. A lot of the action goes by far too quickly, and a lot of dramatic moments either happen offscreen or are glossed over, which makes it hard for them to have an emotional impact. I feel like this book could've used another round of edits to make it the best it could've been.

7 / 10

THOUGHTS ON POLITICAL STUFF: What drew me to this book in the first place were the words "King Arthur as a queer teenage girl." And let me tell you, the politics in this book is a gift that just keeps on giving. We have so much representation for queer identities and people of color, and as a bonus, the entire plot can be summed up as "King Arthur kills capitalism with a sword." All the minorities are nuanced and respectfully portrayed, and there's even a discussion on cissexism and how stupid it is. Other authors should take notes -- this is the sort of representation I want to see.

10 / 10

FINAL THOUGHTS: I'm so glad I was able to close my 2018 reading with such a good one! Once this hits the shelves, I don't doubt that it'll find its fanbase very quickly. I, for one, will be waiting eagerly for the second book. Whether you're familiar with the Arthurian legend or not, I think you'll enjoy this fun, fantastical space adventure. (And, authors, if you're reading this -- I certainly would not say no to an ARC of book the second.)

FINAL GRADE: 7.5 / 10


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Thank you so much for reading this review. If you liked it and would like to support my work, click on either of the buttons below to donate -- Buy Me a Coffee is a small, one-time donation, but becoming a Patron has several benefits and rewards. Either way, it's a huge help to me. A special thanks to those of you that choose to contribute! Even if you can't donate, you can feel free to follow me on social media; the links are in the top-right corner.

If you've read or are planning to read Once & Future, I'd love to hear your thoughts in the comments below!

A special thanks to Diana from the Hachette Book Group for reaching out to me and sending me this ARC! As my review above shows, I really enjoyed it.



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