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theinsomniacreader

The Insomniac Reader

Books and snarky commentary inspired by insomnia induced reading marathons.

 

 

Under the Empyrean Sky (The Heartland Trilogy #1) - Chuck Wendig *I received this book for free on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

One day while on my lunch break I picked up a copy of [b:Blackbirds Miriam Black 1|12944651|Blackbirds (Miriam Black, #1)|Chuck Wendig|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1334862930s/12944651.jpg|18101226] on impulse. I thought the author's name looked familiar and then it hit me one day that the writer of the book was also the guy behind one of my favorite blogs. I breezed through the book in two reading sessions, downloaded more of his books on to my Kindle, and I've been a happy fan ever since. So when I received a free ARC of his latest book, I was very excited to read it.

Trying to figure out how to review it has been a challenge though. So I kept on putting it off. This is always a bad idea but better late than never I guess.

Under the Empyrean Sky is the first book of a YA dystopian series. In this world, the privileged people live up in the sky, while the Heartlanders, the people who live and work for those privileged sky dwellers, live under some pretty bleak conditions. Mutated corn destroys their soil and overall climate. Education has been done away with. Disease and high infant mortality rates are common. Marriages are arranged in a kind of lottery. Every move they make is government controlled. Naturally, said government is corrupt. Beneath the Heartlanders, there are the bums and hobos, living off the grid without homes. They have a bad reputation, because even the Heartlanders need someone to feel superior, too. Like many characters of this story they are not what they seem.

The story focuses on Cael, his family, his two best friends, and the one girl who he loves. Cael and crew work as scavengers, and often end up competing with the shitty mayor's shitty but damaged son. Once Cael realizes there's a way out of the Heartlander life, a way to rebel against the system, him and his friends go together to start their adventure and (one guesses) start a revolution.

Cael is a character who annoys the shit out of me. I have no problem with that, but if I'm going to describe the protagonist, it needs to be said. I don't completely hate him. He's a good egg. But god is he fucking annoying. He takes out his anger at the unfair world around him on others, always with the self-righteous yelling, and doesn't see that him looking down on the hobos and bums are the same exact thing as the way the Empyreans look down on the Heartlanders. He never thinks things through, and never seems to see long term consequences. Toward the end of the book he seems to begin growing up which is promising.

Wendig is good at developing characters that are interesting, whether you like them or not. In this story, people aren't always who they seem to be, and a few of them seem to be hiding secrets of their own for their own reasons. A lot of their surface selves are predictable and familiar, but even in a place where the government controls your every move, people try to hold on to their layers and nuances.

The pacing of this book is fast and likes to torment the characters with one road block and conflict after another. At the time I read this book after finishing [b:Code Name Verity|11925514|Code Name Verity|Elizabeth Wein|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1337034341s/11925514.jpg|16885788] and [b:A Monster Calls|8621462|A Monster Calls|Patrick Ness|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1356015593s/8621462.jpg|13492114]. These were books I also loved, but it was a refreshing change. It's a completely different emotional response. Wendig goes for the reader's frustration at seeing their characters get attacked with one unfortunate event and catastrophe after another, while [a:Elizabeth Wein|52320|Elizabeth Wein|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1206789548p2/52320.jpg] and [a:Patrick Ness|370361|Patrick Ness|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1244216486p2/370361.jpg] went after the heart and mind in different ways. It's the difference between getting punched in the gut and being electrocuted.

The one thing about this book that seems like a flaw, but might turn out interesting and exciting in upcoming books, is the amount of issues it addresses. Right now the threads are some what scattered. Is it addressing the the Just World Fallacy? The consequences of climate change? The importance of education, the downfalls of ignoring poverty? Gender studies, social norms, marriage, corrupt government citizens that are only progressive to people who can afford it? Disease, insufficient healthcare and on and on. There's a lot of ground for this series to cover, and I hope Wendig can find the balance between this and the personal conflicts of the characters.
Under the Empyrean Sky (The Heartland Trilogy #1) - Chuck Wendig *I received this book for free on Netgalley in exchange for an honest review*

One day while on my lunch break I picked up a copy of [b:Blackbirds Miriam Black 1|12944651|Blackbirds (Miriam Black, #1)|Chuck Wendig|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1334862930s/12944651.jpg|18101226] on impulse. I thought the author's name looked familiar and then it hit me one day that the writer of the book was also the guy behind one of my favorite blogs. I breezed through the book in two reading sessions, downloaded more of his books on to my Kindle, and I've been a happy fan ever since. So when I received a free ARC of his latest book, I was very excited to read it.

Trying to figure out how to review it has been a challenge though. So I kept on putting it off. This is always a bad idea but better late than never I guess.

Under the Empyrean Sky is the first book of a YA dystopian series. In this world, the privileged people live up in the sky, while the Heartlanders, the people who live and work for those privileged sky dwellers, live under some pretty bleak conditions. Mutated corn destroys their soil and overall climate. Education has been done away with. Disease and high infant mortality rates are common. Marriages are arranged in a kind of lottery. Every move they make is government controlled. Naturally, said government is corrupt. Beneath the Heartlanders, there are the bums and hobos, living off the grid without homes. They have a bad reputation, because even the Heartlanders need someone to feel superior, too. Like many characters of this story they are not what they seem.

The story focuses on Cael, his family, his two best friends, and the one girl who he loves. Cael and crew work as scavengers, and often end up competing with the shitty mayor's shitty but damaged son. Once Cael realizes there's a way out of the Heartlander life, a way to rebel against the system, him and his friends go together to start their adventure and (one guesses) start a revolution.

Cael is a character who annoys the shit out of me. I have no problem with that, but if I'm going to describe the protagonist, it needs to be said. I don't completely hate him. He's a good egg. But god is he fucking annoying. He takes out his anger at the unfair world around him on others, always with the self-righteous yelling, and doesn't see that him looking down on the hobos and bums are the same exact thing as the way the Empyreans look down on the Heartlanders. He never thinks things through, and never seems to see long term consequences. Toward the end of the book he seems to begin growing up which is promising.

Wendig is good at developing characters that are interesting, whether you like them or not. In this story, people aren't always who they seem to be, and a few of them seem to be hiding secrets of their own for their own reasons. A lot of their surface selves are predictable and familiar, but even in a place where the government controls your every move, people try to hold on to their layers and nuances.

The pacing of this book is fast and likes to torment the characters with one road block and conflict after another. At the time I read this book after finishing [b:Code Name Verity|11925514|Code Name Verity|Elizabeth Wein|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1337034341s/11925514.jpg|16885788] and [b:A Monster Calls|8621462|A Monster Calls|Patrick Ness|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1356015593s/8621462.jpg|13492114]. These were books I also loved, but it was a refreshing change. It's a completely different emotional response. Wendig goes for the reader's frustration at seeing their characters get attacked with one unfortunate event and catastrophe after another, while [a:Elizabeth Wein|52320|Elizabeth Wein|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1206789548p2/52320.jpg] and [a:Patrick Ness|370361|Patrick Ness|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/authors/1244216486p2/370361.jpg] went after the heart and mind in different ways. It's the difference between getting punched in the gut and being electrocuted.

The one thing about this book that seems like a flaw, but might turn out interesting and exciting in upcoming books, is the amount of issues it addresses. Right now the threads are some what scattered. Is it addressing the the Just World Fallacy? The consequences of climate change? The importance of education, the downfalls of ignoring poverty? Gender studies, social norms, marriage, corrupt government citizens that are only progressive to people who can afford it? Disease, insufficient healthcare and on and on. There's a lot of ground for this series to cover, and I hope Wendig can find the balance between this and the personal conflicts of the characters.
A Monster Calls - Patrick Ness, Jim Kay I probably shouldn't have read this book after reading [b:Code Name Verity|11925514|Code Name Verity|Elizabeth Wein|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1337034341s/11925514.jpg|16885788] because much like Verity, this book will do this to you:

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A lot.

Also, even though they are two completely different stories, both books you leave you doing a lot of thinking.

This is my first Patrick Ness book. But from what I've heard about him his books tend to take a piece of you and when it comes to this book it is very true. This is not just some Lifetime movie sob story. The characters are complex and the story is very well developed.

Jim Kay's illustrations are beautiful. I heard there was going to be a non-illustrated version being released. For those adults who are ashamed of looking at pictures I guess. They're really missing out on some beautiful artwork for the sake of appearing to only read mature books.

[b:The Knife of Never Letting Go|2118745|The Knife of Never Letting Go (Chaos Walking, #1)|Patrick Ness|http://d202m5krfqbpi5.cloudfront.net/books/1277071696s/2118745.jpg|2124180] has been on my shelf waiting to be read for some time. A Monster Calls just bumped it up higher on the list.
Code Name Verity - Elizabeth Wein This book is almost impossible to review. You run the risk of revealing too much to people who may not have read it yet.

That being said, there are some points I want to make.

1. This is a slow read in the beginning. Take your time with it. It's worth it. This was not meant to be a fast read that you breeze through in one or two sittings and your done before your tea gets cold. It's more the kind of book where you have to invest a little more time into the characters. But they'll stick with you forever once you do that.

2. Pay attention to the foreshadowing. They are wonderful clues that turn the story into a kind of puzzle for the reader to piece together.

3. There are no obnoxious love triangles! There are no obnoxious triangles! There are no obnoxious love triangles! Hallelujah Glory Be to all the gods I don't believe in there are no obnoxious love triangles!

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At last, a break from reading about love triangles and female characters gushing over one guy, but then the other guy. But what about that other guy? And then that guy?

In fact the focus on the book was friendship instead of romance. This was so refreshing for me. A look at the love between best friends instead of a girl's torn emotions between two douchebags and the prettier and/or more wounded shithead wins.

4. Go. Go and read this book now. By any and all means.

5. You should also listen to the audiobook, which is very well narrated and listening to it after reading might help you pick up anything you might have missed in the story.
It's Just a F***ing Date: Some Sort of Book About Dating - Greg Behrendt, Amiira Ruotola-Behrendt Full disclosure: I don't like dating self help books. On the whole I think they're based on bullshit as their main job security seems to be gender stereotypes, and the insecurities of others.

So then why bother reading one if I'm not going to like it and just complain about it? Why should I step out of my comfort zone and read something I know I probably won't like? And why give my obviously biased opinion on the internet? Honestly?

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That and I was curious. Maybe I'm wrong about these "Date like I date. Fuck like I fuck. If it fails then you're the loser for not being like me. Enjoy your lonely life with your fifteen cats why no I'm not manipulating you like your last boyfriend did AT ALL! By the way, you're fat." guides. And since I received this book for free I figured it would be no big loss.

So I downloaded my ebook, did my best to erase my mind of any preconceived notions, and started reading to try and figure out why so many people are into these dating guides.

I still don't get their appeal. But I could have ended up hating this a lot more than I do. I'm not as angry as I thought I would be right now.

Before I start with the things I didn't like, let's start with the positive things I was able to find in this book. I liked how the book mentions that it's important to do what's right for you and to know what you want. That yes, things like self worth, having a life, not being clingy, not having unrealistic demands, not tolerating jerks, not settling for less, not needing a man to complete you, not compromising your standards, and taking control of your life are very important things. I also liked that they reminded readers that most dates/relationships won't work out. That doesn't mean it was bad or a complete failure. It just didn't work. It happens. It's life. It's just a fucking date, after all.

Good job, Greg and Amiira. This is how you got me to not hate you.

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Seriously, I was impressed. Didn't see that coming.

Here's the thing though. There's only so many times you can repeat those things before I start to wonder if you think your more loyal fans are complete idiots. Because after so long of being reminded of the same things over and over again, I started thinking this:

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And there's really only so many times you can remind me to stop looking so awful and put on some make up because if you look good you'll feel good without me eventually thinking this:

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This is when they start playing into unrealistic beauty standards to remind you how your job is supposed to sit there and look pretty so that a man can "chase" you. But, judging by the endless section about how you should not, OH MY GOD, absolutely SHOULD NOT be clingy, I think they figure sitting and being pretty is about all they can handle. Because apparently all their readers do this on the first date:

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Look, women are not human decorations/antelope hybrids of insanity.

Oh, and the whole "Should I ask him out on a date?" question.

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Men don't like it when you out right ask them out! It will make them shit their Batman pull-ups and then he won't feel like a big boy anymore! Men like the chase! Like you're playing African safari, you pretty little prey you! Men are told they're supposed to ask women out! No guy is told to just be pretty and wait for a girl to ask them out! We all fight gender stereotypes but I follow them because it makes me money! I know it's unfair but oh well!

1. If a guy gets that offended about you asking him out, you just dodged a very insecure whiny bullet.

2. I'm not just pretty. Thanks.

3. Get a grip and loosen up the rules a bit.

But a small amount of credit can be given to Greg by admitting that if asking guys out works for you, then hey, go for it.

Points were unfortunately lost by me having to endure pages of cutesy "I'm not really asking you out but I'm going to try to convince you to ask you out by essentially asking you out but gently and all coy-like TEE HEE!"

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At the end, the underlying message seemed to be "You do all THIS work because you do this and this wrong because it's a woman's nature. I don't know why. I just made that up." while men don't have to do all that much because "It's men's nature to do it. Sorry, kitten/hot stuff/Ladybug." and that self-help dating rule makes me tired.

Oh, and about thinking calling your readers kitten/hot stuff/Ladybug is funny or whatever?

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The thing that earned them the extra star is that, really, I do think they care. I find their condescending repetition and adherence to gender stereotypes that do not apply to everyone insulting. But I can't outright call them assholes.

But, here's the thing. The good parts of this book? Us women folk will get it the first time you say it. And if some of us don't, we probably need therapy.

*I received this book for free on netgalley*
Who Could That Be At This Hour? - Lemony Snicket, Seth I only read the first book of Snicket's popular A Series of Unfortunate Events. I enjoyed it. I plan to finish the series at some point. But as an exhausted book series junkie, I have a hard time getting overly excited about series these days. There are just too many of them out there. And they take up a lot of time, especially when it seems like the writer is just crapping out mediocre stories for profit. By the third book you might realize that things are starting to get boring and it's only downhill from there. It could be the fifth book and it seems that the writer forgot that they were continuing a series and not vomiting nonsensical sentences until something book length happened. Or you could end up reading a series you don't like all that much, you know the writing is not all that good, the characters annoy you, but you're already invested in it so now you have to know what happened.

It's exhausting.

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But then every so often a series comes up that makes me excited about spending the time and money reading about the same characters again.

When I started reading, I didn't think I was going to like this book, and was beginning to regret my "Oooh the cover is pretty and it's pretty cheap on Amazon right now!" impulse buy. It begins with a young Lemony Snicket working for the painfully incompetent S. Theodora Markson in the mostly abandoned and very strange town called Stain'd-by-the-Sea. They're hired to retrieve a statue of the Bombinating Beast, which may or may not be stolen.

I really didn't think it was going to be interesting, but as you start to get into the book more, the story starts to become an interesting puzzle. New characters are thrown in, both helping and complicating Snicket's mission. All the fathers of this town seem to be sick. Or kidnapped. Or busy. But they're mysteriously never around. Adults are few and far between. The only taxi is driven by two boys who accept book recommendations as a form of payment. This Bombinating Beast statue, supposedly a silly tchotchke, is suddenly incredibly valuable. There's a reporter's daughter who reports everything that happened in a town where nothing happens. There's a strange coffee drinking girl from somewhere else who is trying to get her father back from a mysterious villain who can mimic any voice.

Then there's Snicket's other mission. Because he does this "in order to do something else."

I had no idea where any of it was going. I still don't know. But you know what? It was fun.


You've won me over Lemony. So when the second book finally comes out, what I want you to do is to shut up and take my money.

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The Fault in Our Stars

The Fault in Our Stars - John Green I've been trying to start a new book, but for now that seems impossible. I've been sucked into this story, and it's going to take some time for me to walk away from the tale of Hazel and Augustus and everyone else around them.

This was a beautiful, witty, heartbreaking story. I'd be willing to recommend it to just about anyone.
The Fault in Our Stars - John Green I've been trying to start a new book, but for now that seems impossible. I've been sucked into this story, and it's going to take some time for me to walk away from the tale of Hazel and Augustus and everyone else around them.

This was a beautiful, witty, heartbreaking story. I'd be willing to recommend it to just about anyone.
Masque of the Red Death - Bethany Griffin When I started reading, I wasn't sure if I would like this book. It started out sounding very shallow and uninteresting. But the book, like many of its characters, is very deceptive at first. It eventually unravels into a fascinating story with complex characters.

In this dystopian world, there is a plague called the Weeping Sickness, killing countless people. Araby is the daughter of the scientist responsible for the masks that prevent people from catching this plague, but the prince limits access to them so that the rich are safe and the poor are left in a state of desperation and fear. Araby and her best friend April forget all the pain around them by drinking and abusing drugs in the Debauchery District.

Araby and April are not entirely what they seem to be on the surface. Araby is living with the guilt of her twin brother's death, and made a vow to never enjoy the things he would want to but now obviously can't. Suffering from depression, nightmares, and a family that hasn't been the same since her brother died, she abuses a drug called oblivion to cope with the pain. She becomes the heroine of this story when she meets a boy who tells her about a revolution that can save the city.

April is the prince's niece and unlike Araby she's born into privilege. Jaded and self-aware, she uses her looks to get by, and seems about as shallow as they come at first. April has to be the most surprising and delightful character for me. She knows how to fool people, has no interest in being the good girl, and turns out to be one of the most complicated characters in the story.

I don't want to give away too many spoilers. But the novel is full of death, revolutions, rebellions, betrayal, and explosions. The author creates a dark mood throughout the entire story. All in all this was an excellent homage to Edgar Allen Poe.

There are two boys, Elliott, April's insane brother, and Will who has his secrets. It's obvious that an obnoxious love triangle is going to form between those two and Araby, and this is the story's biggest flaw for me because I am tired of YA writers using the love triangle in their stories. Please, try something else. Anything else. The love triangle is getting old and way too obvious. I keep hoping for YA to evolve past this point.

But, if it bothered me that much, I'd give up reading YA by this point, which hasn't happened yet. So I'm just thankful that the story was interesting enough for me to forgive that flaw. I only hope the sequel proves to be equally intriguing.
عودة الغائب - شريف شوقي A decent introduction to BIID. The writing could have been better and I thought it ended very abruptly with no real conclusion, but the subject is very interesting.
عودة الغائب - شريف شوقي A decent introduction to BIID. The writing could have been better and I thought it ended very abruptly with no real conclusion, but the subject is very interesting.
Mothership - Martin Leicht This book was...interesting. Interesting in that it makes you ask the question "If you found out the hot guy in school that you lost your virginity to was really a part of a beefcake alien race that impregnates earth girls with their powerful sperm that overrides the most effective form of birth control to keep their race going would you keep the baby and still love the guy?"

Oh, and you're officially sterile after you have this alien baby, by the way. So this severely limits your choices and you don't even get a warning. About any of this. You just thought you were having sex with the really hot guy in school. And as far as you know he's just a hot earthling boy.

To be honest, I'd probably have to chop his alien manhood off and burn it no matter if he does finally realize that what's going on here is wrong. But life and people are strange.

This could almost be interpreted as a sci-fi series against the stupidity of abstinence only education, but I don't think the authors are really trying to lean on any particular side of the political fence when it comes to family planning.

Some parts of the story are just absurd. Like that James Dean is still alive because he's a part of this practically immortal really hot alien race.

Some parts don't make much sense right now, but might be explained in future books in the series. And some of it is a bit predictable and leans too much on the sappy side of things. But I think I'm looking forward to the next book. It combines seriousness with humor in a way that is engaging, and it makes you want to know what happens next.

UPDATE: There are some problematic things with this book that are nagging me.

These pregnant and soon to be sterile alien incubators seem to be taking it pretty well. I mean, they freaked out when they found out. And they did stand up to these sexy aliens more than once. But after that, they seemed to suffer from a kind of Stockholm Syndrome. It's like after their choices were taken from them they were very "Well, what can we do about it? I have no control over anything now." Their acceptance of their powerlessness bothered me. The only one who seems to have the desire to regain any control over her life is the main character. I guess it streamlines the story but it's something that bothers me.

Speaking of the main character, her main point seems to be that even as a teen mom you can follow your dreams and everything will work out and lalalala. Which is fine for her. She has the support of her dad and her best friend and her baby alien daddy. Far as I can tell, while she may not come from complete wealth and privilege, she isn't living in poverty either. Not to say that being a teen mom isn't difficult for everyone it happens to. But access to resources that help you take life's opportunities and the support of your loved ones makes a big difference here. If it turns out that the entire point of this series is "Everything will be fine in the end and you can make your dreams come true no matter how bad things are." I'm going to be pissed off. If teen pregnancy were only slightly more difficult than not getting pregnant as a teenager, it would never be such a problem in the first place.

I found it interesting that access to more effective birth control and a way to find out your pregnant within 24 hours after sex resulted in more restricted access to an abortion after the first 2 months of pregnancy. Is this birth control/STD vitamin that's as effective as sterilization accessible to all girls/women and incomes? What if your parents are morally opposed to it? How common are back-alley abortions? Are these problems rendered non-existent in this future alternate reality? Those things are never really addressed.

SECOND UPDATE: Also, apparently the aliens who are supposedly the "good aliens" in the story have been on Earth for some time now, and most of them are the reason for major contributions to music, art and science in society. One of the main character's reasons for keeping her alien baby is that she doesn't want to rob the world of the person who might cure cancer or whatever. Here's the thing, even though this alien race is capable of superior intelligence, her alien baby daddy is a moron. He COULD be a genius if he wanted to be. But he's perfectly content with being an idiot. Clearly just because you're destined to be some genius, that doesn't mean you will be. It's the whole the individual vs. the species argument that's a big part of the book, and for some reason using populations of teenage girls as incubators is supposed to help the species. Nope can't see that being bad for society at all.

I don't know how in a book where there are two kinds of aliens intent on impregnating teenagers to continue their race there can be a good team and a bad team, but maybe that will be resolved in the rest of the series. Like at least one of them will think "Even if we're the reason for Mozart, that doesn't mean we should be doing this."

The book is very problematic, but maybe that's what helps make it interesting. I hope some of these issues are addressed as the series continues.
Mothership - Martin Leicht This book was...interesting. Interesting in that it makes you ask the question "If you found out the hot guy in school that you lost your virginity to was really a part of a beefcake alien race that impregnates earth girls with their powerful sperm that overrides the most effective form of birth control to keep their race going would you keep the baby and still love the guy?"

Oh, and you're officially sterile after you have this alien baby, by the way. So this severely limits your choices and you don't even get a warning. About any of this. You just thought you were having sex with the really hot guy in school. And as far as you know he's just a hot earthling boy.

To be honest, I'd probably have to chop his alien manhood off and burn it no matter if he does finally realize that what's going on here is wrong. But life and people are strange.

This could almost be interpreted as a sci-fi series against the stupidity of abstinence only education, but I don't think the authors are really trying to lean on any particular side of the political fence when it comes to family planning.

Some parts of the story are just absurd. Like that James Dean is still alive because he's a part of this practically immortal really hot alien race.

Some parts don't make much sense right now, but might be explained in future books in the series. And some of it is a bit predictable and leans too much on the sappy side of things. But I think I'm looking forward to the next book. It combines seriousness with humor in a way that is engaging, and it makes you want to know what happens next.

UPDATE: There are some problematic things with this book that are nagging me.

These pregnant and soon to be sterile alien incubators seem to be taking it pretty well. I mean, they freaked out when they found out. And they did stand up to these sexy aliens more than once. But after that, they seemed to suffer from a kind of Stockholm Syndrome. It's like after their choices were taken from them they were very "Well, what can we do about it? I have no control over anything now." Their acceptance of their powerlessness bothered me. The only one who seems to have the desire to regain any control over her life is the main character. I guess it streamlines the story but it's something that bothers me.

Speaking of the main character, her main point seems to be that even as a teen mom you can follow your dreams and everything will work out and lalalala. Which is fine for her. She has the support of her dad and her best friend and her baby alien daddy. Far as I can tell, while she may not come from complete wealth and privilege, she isn't living in poverty either. Not to say that being a teen mom isn't difficult for everyone it happens to. But access to resources that help you take life's opportunities and the support of your loved ones makes a big difference here. If it turns out that the entire point of this series is "Everything will be fine in the end and you can make your dreams come true no matter how bad things are." I'm going to be pissed off. If teen pregnancy were only slightly more difficult than not getting pregnant as a teenager, it would never be such a problem in the first place.

I found it interesting that access to more effective birth control and a way to find out your pregnant within 24 hours after sex resulted in more restricted access to an abortion after the first 2 months of pregnancy. Is this birth control/STD vitamin that's as effective as sterilization accessible to all girls/women and incomes? What if your parents are morally opposed to it? How common are back-alley abortions? Are these problems rendered non-existent in this future alternate reality? Those things are never really addressed.

SECOND UPDATE: Also, apparently the aliens who are supposedly the "good aliens" in the story have been on Earth for some time now, and most of them are the reason for major contributions to music, art and science in society. One of the main character's reasons for keeping her alien baby is that she doesn't want to rob the world of the person who might cure cancer or whatever. Here's the thing, even though this alien race is capable of superior intelligence, her alien baby daddy is a moron. He COULD be a genius if he wanted to be. But he's perfectly content with being an idiot. Clearly just because you're destined to be some genius, that doesn't mean you will be. It's the whole the individual vs. the species argument that's a big part of the book, and for some reason using populations of teenage girls as incubators is supposed to help the species. Nope can't see that being bad for society at all.

I don't know how in a book where there are two kinds of aliens intent on impregnating teenagers to continue their race there can be a good team and a bad team, but maybe that will be resolved in the rest of the series. Like at least one of them will think "Even if we're the reason for Mozart, that doesn't mean we should be doing this."

The book is very problematic, but maybe that's what helps make it interesting. I hope some of these issues are addressed as the series continues.
City of Bones - Cassandra Clare If I gave any less of a shit about the characters in this most predictable awkwardly written story, this book would have put me in a coma.

This was one more "Female protagonist who supposedly saves the day while somehow doing as little work as possible and maintaining the personality of a dead moth." story. With a little "All the male characters are damaged/abusive/manipulative pretend nice guys but in the end they all mysteriously become genuinely nice at the end of the story for that awww everything is going to be okay after all ending." thrown in.

I don't mind that there are bad male characters in books, or that there are bad female characters in books. But this series of one dimensional characters and pointless events gave me nothing to root for.

The clunky writing with terrible pacing and eye rolling twists that are supposed to be shocking for some reason didn't exactly help matters.
Beautiful Darkness (Caster Chronicles, #2) - Kami Garcia,  Margaret Stohl I can't tell if the writers' have improved with character development, or if I'm just getting used to Herp and Derp and the Gang.
Beautiful Creatures  - Margaret Stohl, Kami Garcia I had a hard time taking this book seriously, as several of its flaws were either incredibly annoying or downright funny. Most of the time they were both.

Some of the more comedic flaws included:

1. Lena and Ethan, our two lovebirds, served as the Romeo and Juliet of this story. Sometimes I also liked to refer to them as Herp and Derp. How it took those two close to four hundred pages to figure out their own relationship status is beyond me. I don't even know why the reader had to be treated to pages of dialogue about it. I think the reader kind of figures it out for themselves when a good part of your story up until that point involved this:

"I am falling for you. I can't be without you."
"I'm falling for you too. But look, there are our relatives saying we can never, ever, ever be together."
"I'LL NEVER LET GO! NEVER! I PROMISE!"
"BUT WE ALL MIGHT DIE! BUT I CAN'T BE WITHOUT YOU EITHER! LET'S ENJOY THE TIME WE HAVE TOGETHER! PLEASE NEVER LET ME GO!"

It's all a bit melodramatic. Which usually annoys me to no end, but this time it was part of the book's charm.

What makes Lena and Ethan's occasional communication glitches even more amusing and nonsensical is that they can read each other's thoughts. They can communicate with their minds and the story always goes on and on about their strong connection. Yet figuring out simple things, like whether or not they're together, somehow elude them. It’s quite precious, really.

2. Ridley Duchannes. This was most amusing/heartbreaking to me. This character could have been given so much more depth, but it all went wrong. Ridley is a Dark Caster, claimed at the age of 16 against her will, the bad girl of the story. Her character is pretty tragic, and if this were done right, she’d be my favorite. She's dark, but she doesn't want to be. The person she became and the person she once was are always in an internal struggle. If that doesn't make you feel bad enough for her she also has the misfortune of being described as this:

description

Like I said, it’s very tragic.

She also gives boys pet names like “Boyfriend” “Shrinky Dink” and “Short Straw” because that is really naughty. She also needs to suck on a cherry lollipop in order for her to work her dark powers that were only really dark once in the whole story and the rest of the time she was just kind of being a jerk.

So edgy.

I’m not sure what the writers are trying to convey with that one, really. That female sexuality is bad? That being a mockery of female sexuality and letting others define it instead of owning it yourself is what makes a villain? That being sexy and bad is fun sometimes but only if you look really ridiculous while doing it? Or are the writers just trying to send the message that all women have a bit of Courtney Stodden in them, so we shouldn’t really judge? It’s hard to say really. Then I read a part in the story where Ethan thought a bunch of girls looked skanky because they were in tank tops and baby tees. I suspect that the writers have been so busy writing these tomes that make up the Caster Chronicles series that they are out of the loop on modern women’s clothing. Or I’m just a skank. Whichever. Either way the writers might want to update their attitudes towards women.

Ridley is a campy character, who could have been done a lot better if she weren’t made into a shallow party girl trying to be deep.

3. The adults wanting to keep Every. Fucking. Thing. a secret for over five hundred pages of story was both funny and frustrating. The writers clearly wanted to keep the Romeo and Juliet aspect of the story going for as long as they can drag it out. They decided to drag it out so long, with such dull conflicts involving it that the whole thing seemed kind of silly. By the time you found out why their families were sometimes half -heartedly and sometimes desperately trying to keep them apart you just didn’t have a fuck left to give about it. Mix that in with the melodrama and for a minute I thought I was reading a parody.

One less amusing flaw was the inconsistencies throughout the story. Either the two authors couldn’t get in sync with each other, or they were writing so much that after a while they just couldn’t keep the story straight. But I could have sworn there were people who get paid to check up on those things so I’d like to know why that went unnoticed. I like it when stories make sense. I always thought that was a thing most readers enjoy.

The story did have some enjoyable parts. While any character around the ages of fifteen and eighteen possessed all the depth of a deflated kiddie pool, the background adult characters had a bit more to offer. I wonder if teenagers are just as tired of Converse sneakers and not having blonde hair being a sign that you’re “unique” and “mature for your age” in their books as I am. This tells me nothing other than hair color and sneaker preference. With the adults, there was a bit more attention given to personality, which gave you a chance to become attached to them. But what really holds the story together and kept me reading was the Southern Gothic vibe and historical Civil War romance story. When it came to that, the writers knew what they were doing. They just couldn’t be bothered to work on the characters to help keep the long winding plot moving, which was very unfortunate.