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Confessions of a Bibliophile

An aspiring writer and bookstore employee with an incredibly bad book-buying habit... I'll read just about anything (so long as it will appeal to my interests in some way), but my main loves are YA and sci-fi/fantasy. I also like quirky history and science books and will book nerd. A lot. Currently in the process of weeding out my personal library. Find me on Twitter @princess_starr or check out my YA book, Snowfall, on Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/240027



Safiye is used to the bullying. She tries not to let it bother her, but she feels as if no one understands. Well, almost no one. Adam understands, but he’s just words on a computer screen. As she learns more about him, the mystery only deepens. Can their friendship survive his life and death secret, or will she come to see him as a monster?


LIVING DEAD BOY is 19K+ YA novella, loosely based on/updated version of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and is available on Smashwords for all platforms for the scarily low price of 99 cents.



Reblogged from I'll think of a damn title later:

**love this


Aka me and my best friend.


Mrs. Poe by Lynn Cullen

Mrs. Poe - Lynn Cullen

One of the things that I’ve caught on from working in a bookstore are the various trends in books and what’s becoming popular in certain genres. It’s a lot more prevalent in YA fiction (although that’s where my primary focus lies), but even in straight adult fiction, I’ve noticed certain trends. For example, in historical fiction, there’s a trend popping up of “fictionalized historical romances of famous men and the women who loved them.” It started with Loving Frank, and The Paris Wife is pretty much the breakout title of that type. (Note: I haven’t read any of these either, but I have my own reasons.)


Mrs. Poe is the latest in this crop, and I will admit to being more interested in this than any of the above mentioned titles. Edgar Allan Poe is what I cut my horror teeth on in eighth grade, and like a lot of people, I’m fascinated by his tragic life and even stranger death. Plus, you get into the scandal that Rufus Griswold created, and just the sheer influence Poe has had in culture (how many writers have a mysterious Toaster that no one’s figured out the identity yet?), you can see why a dark, gothic exploration of a woman who was infatuated with Poe would have been really interesting.


The romance in this reads like a fifteen year old Goth reading all of Poe for the first time, and ranting about how nobody really understands Edgar Allan Poe and no one appreciated him at the time and he’s just so tragic and misunderstood. This completely ignores and waves away Poe’s personal faults and pins them on other people, mainly on his wife and his mother-in-law. For as tragic as Poe’s life was, dude was messed-up; he was an alcoholic gambler who died under really suspicious circumstances. And yes, the scandals involving Rufus Griswold and Elizabeth Ellet did tarnish Poe’s (and Frances Osgood’s) reputation, but he wasn’t the poor little lost puppy who got kicked his entire life.


The characterization is terrible. Frances Osgood reads like a clingy snob who can’t stand any other women getting close to “my Edgar” and how she’s the only person who can understand him. (After only knowing each other for roughly six months.) I understand that this a fictionalization of the events, but this is more of Alternate Character Interpretation on the far end of the realism spectrum. I’m not as familiar with Osgood or her work, but from what I’ve read of her life, I really don’t think she would have acted in this way, even in private. (Also, I should point out that after having read up on Frances Osgood, I really don’t like that Cullen forces her to be a struggling writer who wants to be taken “seriously.” No. Just no.)


And speaking of Alternate Character Interpretation, Virginia Poe and her mother. *sharp breath* I really don’t like how Virginia Poe is portrayed at all. In this book, she is a childish, flighty woman who only exists, in the end, to be pitied for “getting in over her head” and again, not understanding how deep and complex and omg how wonderful Poe is. No. This is lazy, lazy characterization that takes a stereotypical view of the “other woman” and making her petty not only undermines the actual historical personage, but is completely insulting to their actual relationship. I hated the last minute revelation that Mrs. Clemm is the one trying to kill Osgood, because of incredibly trite and lazy reasons. There is a really interesting scandal in the historical record that gets entirely discarded and only noted at towards the very end of the book. This could have been a complex exploration of a love triangle without the women hating on one another, especially in a time period where social mores were so much stricter and different than what we know of today, and why was Virginia Poe so accepting of this friendship between her husband and Osgood. And Cullen goes for the laziest exploration that has been told time and time again. No. The premise in this book is predictable, stereotypical and fairly insulting.


And Poe himself. I hate to say that he is the best written character in the book, but I think it’s largely because of the rose-tinted glasses Cullen forces on Osgood. And I hate it, because it completely ignores all of his flaws as a human being. There’s two mentions of the drinking, in the context of “Oh, Frances, he’s never touched alcohol when he’s around you.” To go back on the above characterization of Mrs. Clemm, the darker aspects of Poe’s life are largely blamed on her essentially gaslighting Poe into thinking he’s depressed and insane. No, uh-uh. Fuck that. As I said at the very beginning, this is someone looking at Poe’s life, not fully comprehending the circumstances, and going “Oh, he’s just a tortured little puppy who just gets how dark the world is and we need to cuddle him.” If there had been one scene of Poe getting drunk on his own terms or something that explored Poe’s darkness without the external influence, I don’t think I would have been as angry with this.


Also not helping is the ending. She gives Osgood and Poe a happy ending that again, completely disregards the historical record. It ends with Virginia’s death and Poe learning that Osgood’s new child is his. And I don’t want to say that “They should suffer for the sins of their affair!” but. The fact that what happens to Osgood and Poe is regulated to an author’s note, with no foreshadowing or consequences in the text of the book is –I hate to sound like a broken record, insulting to the historical record.  (Oh, and Cullen’s theory that “Ulalume” is really about the aforementioned illegitimate child who would die four months later feels like she picked it off an undergraduate lit major’s paper—with the said paper being written based on a cursory glance on Wikipedia.)


OH, plus Cullen does one of the biggest pet peeves that I have with historical novels. I knew going in that this was going to center around the New York City literary circles in 1845, so that was going to have the Who’s Who of the emerging American literary canon. Except Cullen brings in every historical character by doing the “Why, hello *insert historical person*! How is your *insert famous work here* coming along?” There’s a cameo by Nathanial Hawthorne, and the line said to him is literally “Not now, Hawthorne! I’ll read your draft of The Scarlet-whatever soon.” (pg. 120 in the ARC) At which point, I wanted to reach through the book and backhand the author because NO.  (The ‘graham cracker’ line is so much worse and awful.) It’s not clever, you’re not funny, and it takes a really skilled writer to pull it off exceptionally well. For example, look at current Doctor Who which uses this joke a lot—except, half the time, the historical person in question is fairly well-established and the joke is on the present-day characters. Sometimes it works, and sometimes it doesn’t. But when it’s this exaggerated nudging and going “HEY HEY GET IT??” it just pisses me off.


There’s a very fascinating story and relationship that could have been explored really, really well. But Cullen decides to take the laziest interpretation of this affair and gives a cookie cutter, tongue bathing romanticized view of very complicated people and the relationships that they have (especially with the Poes) and boiling it down to “Oh, nobody understands this strapping, intelligent man but me, and I’m the only woman who can ever love him, but oh our circumstances forbid it!” It spits on the historical record, and tosses out the more fascinating story for whatever reason that I cannot fathom. There’s probably better biographies that you could find about Poe that have better interpretations and theories than this.


Longbourn by Jo Baker

Longbourn - Jo Baker

It’s strange that I don’t really read a lot of the perspective retellings, because I find the idea of the perspective flip of a classic novel or story fascinating; I just…haven’t read that many. (I haven’t read Wide Sargasso Sea. To be fair, I only read Jane Eyre a few years ago and I didn’t love it, so…yeah. *hides*) And I’ve mentioned before about my feelings towards Pride & Prejudice, particularly considering the umpteenth upon umpteenth adaptation/retelling/reworking/update. So, this was something that really caught my eye. A retelling of Pride & Prejudice but from the servants’ perspective and Lizzie and Darcy aren’t really major characters? GIVE IT TO ME.


I will give the book this: the book doesn’t really linger on the events of the original novel until Lydia’s elopement with Wickham and does focus on the lives of the servants. Which I did like. However, Sarah is a very bland character, the book’s layout is very disjointed and I have issues with the shoehorning of representation in here. Not to mention, the class divide isn’t as widely explored aside from a complete derailing of a canon character and a few throwaway lines.


The lack of exploration of the class divide is what really disappointed me with this book. There were several food riots at the time, famines, crop failures, privatization of land and debtors’ prisons.  Even  being a servant in a household, while being more  comfortable, wasn’t a guarantee. (Which is touched on in here after Charlotte Lucas marries Mr. Collins.) But we don’t get to see that divide at all. Especially since one of the main characters is the adopted son of a farming family, but there’s really nothing. When Sarah says she wants to leave Pemberly and Lizzie’s service, I’m fully on Lizzie’s side because Sarah’s giving up a good job for really stupid reasons.


I really can’t get with Sarah. The beginning of the book when she’s musing on doing her chores was really good and I liked it. (Okay, this is normally something I hate in a lot of these books, but I did like Sarah mentally snarking about “Oh, if Lizzie Bennet had to wash her own petticoats she wouldn’t go traipsing through the mud.”) But as time goes on, I liked her less and less—there’s really nothing to her. Sarah talks about how she wants more from her provincial servant’s life, but it’s never specified what she wants. (And this is keeping in mind the limitations on her and her position in society.) I get that she wants to marry well and that she doesn’t want to be a servant for the Bennets forever…but once James comes on the scene, it’s nothing but “Oh, he is so ~mysterious~ and handsome and dangerous.”


To tangent here: representation in historical novels. I am all for this, except when it feels like “Oh, well, we need this because LOOK THERE WERE BLACK AND GAY PEOPLE IN REGENCY ENGLAND, DID YOU KNOW THAT.” (Uh. Yeah.) I bring this up largely because of Ptolemy Bingley, who is a black manservant at Netherfield and has a thing for Sarah. And I was really disappointed with it, because exploring an interracial relationship in the Regency period and in the lower classes would have been fascinating and interesting and you can talk about the social mores and no, let’s have Sarah moon over the mysterious bad boy footman. And nearly every time someone talks about Ptolemy, it’s basically “OH HE’S BLACK. WHAT WOULD THE NEIGHBORHOOD SAY.”


James is the worst part of this book. His characterization isn’t that bad—especially since he is cast as the mysterious handsome man with a dark and dangerous past—but there’s nothing for me to see why he’s here in the first place. His own personal story is to talk about how war is hell and that the militia officers like Wickham or Darcy wouldn’t really experience the horrible aspect of fighting the French.  Which, again, I would be fine with…if the book didn’t grind to a halt in the last third to do the backstory dance. It could have better integrated into the bulk of the book itself, and having the massive infodump towards the end is irritating to me.


The other thing that I don’t like about the massive third act infodump is the reveal of James’ background: he’s the illegitimate son of Mrs. Hill. And Mr. Bennet. And it’s inferred that Mrs. Hill became the Bennets’ housemaid just to see Mr. Bennet all the time and how much she hates Mrs. Bennet and the fact that they never had a legitimate son is punishment for abandoning Mrs. Hill.


*tears hair out*


It’s a stupid reveal, I’m sorry.  Why would Mr. Bennet acknowledge the fact—even to Mrs. Hill—that his son is hanging around the household and that he has an obligation to James to watch out for him? The whole conflict of the end of the book is about scandal brought to the family; why is his illegitimate son hanging around? Even more, egregious is that James doesn’t know who his real parents are, but he wants to work for Mr. Bennet because “Oh, he was nice to me when I was a boy!”


Exploring different sides to famous literary characters can be interesting, if it makes sense and it’s really well done. This just feels like “Oh, well, Mr. Bennet is the more sensible of the two and he probably doesn’t love Mrs. Bennet so let’s give him the complex backstory.” Except…I don’t like this backstory. I don’t.


(Oh, and btw, in case you forgot that Mr. Wickham is a horrible, evil person, he’s a legit pedophile to boot in here.)


The writing itself isn’t horrible, and again, I really like the premise. But we never get a full exploration of the class divide aside from a few scenes, and there’s so many things in here that could make this a really interesting book. (Again, I loved the fact that Sarah nearly goes for Ptolemy, and then she ends up going with Broody FitzBastard.) Even though it’s not what I was dreading with a blow-by-blow recount of the original book, the missed opportunities are really glaring.

The Android's Dream - John Scalzi

Reading John Scalzi is like going in expecting to read a nice little satire of science fiction, and then suddenly being slammed with the most outrageous concept ever but it’s very straight-faced and at the end you’re sitting there thinking “What the fuck did I just read? I know it’s good. But what the fuck.” (The Old Man’s War cycle is probably the most straight example of all of Scalzi’s work that I’ve read; I’ve yet to get to Fuzzy Nation or Agent to the Stars.)


This is a book that begins with a revenge tragedy that culminates into a thirty-page fart joke that will threaten the existence of Earth and it’s played completely and utterly straight. I don’t know why I was so shocked by the set-up of the premise because I’ve read Scalzi before. I should be expecting this. And it just gets progressively more fucked up as the plot snarls into a massive Gordian knot of “What the hell just happened?” to the point where even cutting it isn’t an option.


(I actually gave this to my sister years ago after I finished Old Man’s War and had picked this up. When I told her that I was reading this and I had no idea how this book started, she looked at me, and yelled at me for giving her the book in the first place.)


One of the things I really love about Scalzi’s alien creations is that he does come up with really ridiculous xenobiology and some of the most horrifying and disgusting alien functions and anatomy in the eyes of humanity (see the Kathungi fertility cycle), and yet it comes off as very sincere and matter of fact. Scalzi really makes his aliens feel more realistic and human by giving them very human traits and emotions. Especially once we get to the Nidu and the win-Getag clan’s rise to power, and they’re so devious in how to execute the entire plan and it’s done so well.


And it should be mentioned that the major twist of the book when Harry Creek finds the titular Android’s Dream does actually make some sense when things are explained. (Oh, that explanation was horrifying.) And the other thing that I like about Scalzi’s work is that he does put a lot of thought into the resolution and solutions to the problem and still manages to find ways to put up a roadblocks for the protagonists. Which is really hard to pull off and to pull off well.


If there’s anything that I didn’t love, I think that I wasn’t a huge fan of Harry and Robin. They’re good characters, and I enjoyed them, but they felt kind of bland? I’m not sure—I really don’t want to say that Scalzi’s written these character types before, but a lot about the language and the chemistry between Harry and Robin felt like “I’ve read this before.” [spoiler]It’s more prevalent with Brian Javna; I have seen Scalzi doing the very tech-savvy supporting character who has the key to everything. I thought it was fascinating how Javna managed to preserve himself and then having Harry to figure out a way to resurrect his best friend, but again, Brian’s dialogue and characterization did feel like a bit of retread.

[/spoiler] I really liked Archie’s character the most, specifically him being caught between this vast conspiracy and what he’s been ordered to do by the Church of the Evolved Lamb. (Btw, I love that the Church of the Evolved Lamb is a whole spoof of Scientology that ends up being a sincere religion that ends up being right. It’s kind of beautiful.) And I really liked how much thought Scalzi does put into all of his characters, even the minor ones.


That all said, it’s still a really good book. The twists and turns are pulled off really well, and even though the plot is incredibly dense and complicated, it’s still explained well to the reader. (Really, the only thing you’re going “What the fuck am I reading?” at is the sheer “NO WHAT THE FUCK DID HE JUST SAY? DEATH BY FARTS?” Amongst other things.) I really enjoyed it, and if you’ve read other Scalzi books and enjoyed them, you’d like this too.

Guitar Girl - Sarra Manning

This is one of those books that I tend to keep waffling back and forth on; it’ll sit on my shelf for a few months, and I’ll think “Oh, did I really like that book? Maybe I ought to read it again.” And then I read it and back on shelf it goes.


Which isn’t to say that this is a bad book…yet it’s not one that’s terribly memorable. I will say this about Guitar Girl, while it’s a typical “teen girl experiences the darker side of fame” novel, the plot is a little more blunt than other more well-known novels with similar plot lines. But it’s incredibly fast-paced with the plot which can work at times, but doesn’t work all of the time and feels too-rushed, especially given the length of the book.


What I do like here is that the main conflict and driving momentum of the plot is Molly Montgomery and her being manipulated by her manager does actually read as realistic and makes sense. For all as Molly goes on about being an adult and able to make her own decisions can read as “bratty teenage girl,” it is a fairly realistic portrayal; add to the fact that that attitude is what allows Paul to really manipulate Molly emotionally. I also really liked that Paul doesn’t take advantage of Molly sexually—aside from the one kiss—but it is this emotional manipulation that feeds on “I’m going to make you into a star. You don’t need your parents, you don’t need to listen to your friends, you listen to me and I will take care of everything.” (The fact that this is common, especially given the number of young women stars in the last two-three years with varying ‘breakdowns,’ is frightening and does add a level of realism to this.) 


And Molly didn’t read as bratty all the time to me. The only thing that I don’t like is her relationship with her parents—I did get her attitude of wanting to be more independent and being able to make her own decisions, and that’s fine. But I didn’t get any sort of love between her and her father (Molly’s mother is largely nonexistent, aside from being the go-between) until right up until the end. A lot of that is due to the fact that the plot forces Molly to be away from home, but we really don’t get to see a lot of interaction between her and her father for three-fourths of the book. So, their reconciliation at the end doesn’t really ring as true to me because we haven’t seen much of their loving relationship together.


But that said, I do like that Molly is very concerned with her friends, and that they (specifically Jane) are reacting badly to fame. While it doesn’t really help a lot with the plot, given that we’re seeing what happens through Molly’s eyes and it needs Jane to propel the plot along. However, I really liked that Jane’s choices and spiraling out of control is what makes Molly decide to walk away at the end. I liked that she doesn’t choose to leave fame because of what’s happened to her, it’s because that Molly’s afraid that her best friend isn’t going to make it through a full year of touring. And I liked that it’s very blunt about Jane’s decisions and what happens to her without vilifying her for sleeping around or drinking or partying.


The same thing applies to Molly’s relationship with Dean and the problematic elements between them. I liked that they do have the bad relationship where all they do is fight and snipe at each other, but they can’t help but go off and snog their brains out. And even then, Dean’s very cagey about letting everyone else know that he and Molly have been snogging their brains out. (And again, Paul—I really like that we get to see that Paul’s been emotionally manipulating Dean as well.)


(It should be noted that Paul pretty much reads as a skeevy douchebag in bright flashing letters from the first page he shows up. There’s really no hiding that fact.)


My other problems with the book are mainly due to the length. My copy runs a little over two hundred pages and the plot takes place over a year, and there’s a lot that gets dropped. For example, Tara’s characterization doesn’t really get fleshed out beyond being the quiet, shy  supportive friend but given the ending, it doesn’t really feel true that she would abandon and turn on Molly like that. (The one line that hints at that suggests bisexuality but it’s never explored and written off as “Oh, she was drunk.”) I don’t like how fast the plot moves—I get the meteoric rise to stardom, but this is so fast that it comes off as slightly unbelievable. Unbelievable given that this is set in 2004-05, pre-takeoff of YouTube. The amount of time between when the Hormones form and when they get signed is less than a month, and it’s a little too quick for me to believe. I will give this to Manning, though—I do really like the music aspect to this. It plays to Molly’s character that she still believes in changing the world on nothing more than three chords and the truth, only to have Dean bluntly tell her that “No, even with three chords, you still suck.” I did like that at least at the beginning, Molly does have to work at being good a guitarist and even after being signed, she has to work really hard.  Again, there’s not enough to Molly’s relationship with her father to actually feel like there’s a payoff to it at the end.


As I said at the beginning, this isn’t a bad book, but it is kind of unmemorable, especially with the writing and the part of the ending. If you like this kind of book, I’d check it out as it is a blunt portrayal of the darker side of fame; if not, I’m not going to say skip it but it’s not a must read. (To be entirely fair, I scrounged this up at the bargain shelf at Half Price Books for fifty cents. Yeah.) There’s some good things in it, I’m probably not going to kick it off my shelf, but I’m not going to go singing its praises.

The Bride Wore Size 12 - Meg Cabot

It’s always sad when series end—not just the ones with the absolute set number of books, but even the ones that could go on for a while. The flipside being that of course, you don’t want the series to limp on forever until you want it to end out of mercy, but still. (*cough*Sookie Stackhouse *cough*) But it’s still sad because you don’t want these characters to go away and even if it’s the proper send-off, it’s still…I want more.

Moreso here because this is my second time that I’ve said goodbye to Heather and company. Big Boned does actually serve as a nice little wrap-up to the first three books, and the constant pushing back of …Ready to Rock did lead me to think that this was going to be a trilogy and I was fine with it. And then we got the fourth book last year, and then this is the grand finale with a big wedding and everything.

(I have to say that I really love the title The Bride Wore Size 12 over the original title, Size 12 is the New Black. The finalized title is so much more film-noir-esque.)

This is, in my opinion, the best of all Meg Cabot’s series. The Heather books are so very much Meg’s style, but there’s this underlying maturity with a slight edge of cynicism which really works. It also falls away from the atypical chick lit tropes, and that is a major plus in my book. Aside from the first book, there’s no handwringing over misconstrued encounters with other women (and even then, there’s an in-character reason for it at that point). In regards to this book, with a lot of other chick lit series that involves the main couple getting married, the plot is mainly all about the jitters and the bridal breakdowns and the best friend pep talks and “omg can we really do this?” (And which Cabot herself did in Queen of Babble Gets Hitched to some point.) Here, the wedding stuff is not only almost done, but Heather is just not dealing with that shit on top of everything else that’s going on in her life. I really like that there’s barely any focus on the wedding, aside as a running gag involving Heather missing her appointments. The only thing that’s important to the wedding that does play a major role is the reappearance of Heather’s mother and Heather dealing with her.

And the great thing about this all is Heather and Cooper’s relationship. In the last two books, you’ve really seen how much they love each other and how comfortable they are in this relationship, and it’s a fairly mature relationship in that there is no handwringing and misconstrued encounters to throw issues in their way. I love their relationship; I love their banter together (“When I get home, I’ll give you another injection.” “If I recall correctly, I gave you the injection.”), I really love the fact that they have sex all the damn time and enjoy it. They are fantastic together, and just ugh I love them.

Also with the last two books, I’ve really enjoyed the mysteries in both. They’re not mind-blowingly brilliant, but they’re cleverly set up that you can see the through line on the reread. In here, we know that something’s up with Prince Rashid, and that it’s not that big of a conclusion to think that even if he’s not directly involved with the main murder, his people have something to do with it. (I did kinda partially call the reveal with Ameera; my guess wasn’t as thorough as what it ended up being, but I was on the right track with it.) I really liked how much the plot hinges on dormitory code of conduct rules that pays off the reveal of suspect and the reason behind the murder really well. (A little over the top, much like the other murderers in this series, but again, it’s standard in this for overreacting murderers.)

(I’m really trying not to make comparisons with the other chick lit-murder mystery that I just read but this? THIS IS HOW YOU DO THE TWIST. It’s set up to make you think that Rashid is the driving force behind the murder of RA Jasmine, and then the reveal of the actual murder does make sense and you can see how things fit together. It not only makes sense, but it’s set up fairly subtly within the plot.)

I should also be said that there is a lot of the character growth since the first book. You see how Heather does grow throughout the books and accepts what her life’s become and finds happiness. For example, Jordan—it took me the entire book to realize that Jordan, who’s one of my favorite characters, wasn’t in the book. And this book doesn’t need Jordan, because Heather’s found her closure with him and Tania and he doesn’t need to be in it beyond the off-hand mention at the end during the wedding. (That, and Jordan’s been largely replaced by his sisters, Jessica and Nicole. Who I like, but they’re not as hilarious as Jordan.) I really like that Heather’s personal plot is her having to confront the last thread from her pop star life with her mother’s return, and even then, Heather’s still not comfortable with having her mom in her life and that you can see that it’ll be a while before they truly reconcile. And Heather really is a fantastic character. You see that she really loves her job and cares about the kids in her dorm, but she manages to balance her cynicism with her optimism, and despite having people mention that Heather’s gotten so used to all the deaths in the past year has ‘hardened’ her. But Heather acting nonchalant is shown as an act she puts on and inside, she’s torn up about Jasmine’s death.

Other things I love about this book: I love that the plot focuses on intra-college politics, and that this is the second book in the series wherein the murder does play a role in regards to that. Even with Fischer Hall’s rivalry with Wasser Hall and Simon Hague. (Which I can’t read Simon Hague now without mentally thinking of STEVE. CARLSBURG. Because that’s who Simon Hague is for Heather Wells. Oh, Welcome to Night Vale has eaten my brain.) A major part with the Rashid angle is that his father’s donation is such a big part of what’s going on with the college. And again, from the last book: can I have a redo of college and have Heather and Lisa Wu as my dorm directors? Because they’re awesome.

I also love that Cabot is on the mark about a lot of the arbitrary points she makes. Her characters do tend to slip into “statistical recitation of something I read on the Internet,” but that’s how her characters generally are. This opens with Heather very politely calling a ‘well-meaning’ mother out on slut-shaming. I really love that Heather is forced to get a gun, and while she does ultimately use it in the end, she very clearly states that she doesn’t like it and it might be okay for other women but not for her, thanks. (Oh please tell me the pink-clad woman Heather relates about seeing at the firing range is a take that to Sarah Palin. It’s an obvious cheap shot, but it’s so good.)

(And okay, the one all of us long-time Meg Cabot fans are probably the most happy about: LIZZIE! Lizzie Nichols is Heather’s dressmaker and I sealclapped when she popped up. )

As I said in the beginning, this is Meg Cabot’s best series so far. The first four books did have issues but they’re fairly solid fun reads, and The Bride Wore Size 12 definitely ends on an absolute high note. It’s also one of her mature series, not just because of the massive amounts of sex that Heather has (remember, first book has Heather and Jordan going at it on Cooper’s hallway runner, plus the best callback in the third book), but also in how it deals with harder topics like sexual harassment, domestic abuse, and personal responsibility; it’s not perfect, but in comparison to more popular series, it’s handled very admirable. In fact, for Cabot’s younger fans moving on to her adult series, this is the one I’d recommend them to start with for those exact reasons. And they’re fun.

As happy as I am to see Heather and Cooper go off into the sunset, I am sad that this is the end for them. I really loved this series, and I really love this book. This is the series that I do recommend all the time to people, and with very good reasons apart from the fact that I’m a huge fan of Meg Cabot’s. If you haven’t read the others before, definitely do, and if you’re unsure about this volume, it’s a definite read.

The Bride Wore Size 12 - Meg Cabot

So headcanon, concerning the cameo at the end?


Lizzie Nichols was a Heather Wells fangirl. She's moved on like everyone else has, but when Heather's dragged through Lizzie's doors (grumping and trailing behind her future sisters-in-law and wedding planner), Lizzie totally had a FREAKOUT and was all "OMG YOU'RE HEATHER WELLS I used to listen to you all the time-"


And Heather's all "Yeah yeah yeah 'Sugar Rush' what happened to me I'm happy can we move on please."


But Lizzie's very sincere about it and she's SO EXCITED because she gets to make HEATHER WELLS'S WEDDING DRESS and the first time she meets Cooper Lizzie tells him he's much hotter than Jordan. (Cooper mentally groans.) And Ava and Tiffany are standing around going "Why the hell are we freaking about this client?" and Lizzie's all "IT'S HEATHER WELLS YOU GUYS."


And the scene at the end, Ava and Tiffany are standing by the door, listening to what's going on while Lizzie's swatting them away to give Heather and her family some privacy god.



The Bride Wore Size 12 - Meg Cabot


Reblogged from Nessa's Thoughts:

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Chronicles of Narnia Series #2)

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (The Chronicles of Narnia, #2) - C.S. Lewis, Pauline Baynes Upfront disclaimer: Yet another book I can’t review properly because I just have too much of an attachment to it. I don’t ignore the flaws of Lewis’s work or implications…but I also recognize the fact that I have too many feelings and memories surrounding this book to look at it objectively. The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe is in fact one of my first introductions to fantasy, having read it in fourth grade (and consequently watching the BBC adaptation. Thank God for WETA and the post-Potter family fantasy film boom, for better or worse.) Actually, I didn’t read the other six books in the series until much later on, not out of ignorance, just…this is what I was most familiar with.But as I said, this is my first proper introduction to classic/modern fantasy and there’s still a lot I love about it. Mostly because of Lewis’s world-building and his tendency to throw every aspect of mythology/modern folklore, and while the narrative style is very reminiscent of the time, it does give a certain charm to the books. (Plus highlighting the disconnect of Narnia vs. our world, particularly in the final pages.) And a lot of the scenery is incredibly vivid and really jumps off the page, which is why I think this had such an effect on me when I was younger.However—I have reread the books in the last few years, whenever the last movie came out—it is a very thin plot, and a book that wouldn’t take me all too long to read nowadays. Events happen quickly without a lot of prelude and a lot of the plot happens by chance. Yet even recognizing this, and for the specific audience that it was written for, it’s a strong book, especially with the expansion in the later books and the full consequences of the Pevensies’ time in Narnia (or even people of our world’s interaction with it) . It is a good stepping stone into fantasy, especially for a pre-Potter¬ age audience.(Again, I do recognize the flaws of Lewis’s arguments especially in the later books and the heavy-handedness of the message. Very heavy-handedness. However…I have a lot of memories of this book growing up, it’s very hard to detach them from that.Btw, publication/film order over chronological/intended.)

The First Fall (Incryptid, #0.6)

The First Fall (Incryptid, #0.6) - Seanan McGuire I think I’ve got the reason why I’m not jumping up and down over the InCryptid shorts, because I like the short stories, but I don’t love them: While they’re good glimpses into the Price family and their lives, but because they’re so short, they tend to gloss over certain parts. For example, with Married in Green and The First Fall, they’re both extremely important moments in Frances and Jonathan’s lives but because I haven’t really seen their courtship or their life with Daniel, there’s not as huge of an impact to me as a reader with Daniel’s death. I get the Price family’s grief, and it is a huge impact on the backstory, especially when you find out how Daniel dies…but because we only have one glimpse of Daniel in Sweet Poison Wine, I wanted to get a look into his short life to get that impact. There’s a lot set up in here for later backstory, but I wanted more of the grief and the immediate emotions rather than “Here’s what’s going to be important later.”
Sweet Poison Wine (Incryptid, #0.5) - Seanan McGuire I really had a lot of fun with this story. Bootleggers running supernatural poisonous wine to gorgons and being entangled with river hags; how do you not want to read that? This is a lot like One Hell of a Ride where it’s a nice little adventure story sandwiched between the breather moments. I don’t know why I preferred this over the other stories that I’ve read so far, but I think it’s because there’s more of mystery element here and trying to figure out who’s really behind the disappearance of the Medusa wine. Still, it’s a great story and I had a blast reading it.
Fangirl - Rainbow Rowell Pre-Big Bang Theory, pre- the real boom of the superhero movie withIron Man and The Dark Knight, being a nerd sucked. (I’m talking about 2004, here.) Even if you were into something that was socially acceptable like Harry Potter, if you admitted that you cosplayed the characters at premieres/book releases, or drew fanart or wrote fanfic, you got a Look. Not even if you admitted to being into slash or incest fic or other such fic/art, explaining the concept of why you would write/draw/create fandom things was and still kind of is considered to be the fringes of fandom. (Well, aside from the recent P2P boom, but even then, not a lot of people realize that books like Fifty Shades or Beautiful Bastard weren’t originally meant to have original characters. I’ve gotten that stare when I tell people “So you know Ana and Christian are supposed to be Bella and Edward, right?” and then have to explain what fanfic is.) There’s a reason why I really related a lot to this book. Excuse my anecdotal tangent, but I had a handful of roommates who gave me varying amounts of crap for being an anime fan, dismissing it as “Oh, my roommate likes to watch cartoons.” (My freshman year roommate, not so much. The sophomore and junior year roommates—the first semester ones-- *sigh.* Look, there’s a good reason why when I tell people how I met my best friend in my sophomore second semester, I leave in the fact that she asked me “Is that a Sailor Moon musical song playing?”) I knew exactly how Cath felt when Wren and Courtney would make jokes about how obsessed Cath is over her Simon Snow slash fic, or why she’s so apprehensive when even Reagan comments on it. But it’s not just presented as Cath being an obsessive crazy fangirl. Rainbow Rowell gets why people get into fandom and write fic and do obsess over whatever their thing is. Fandom isn’t a weird thing, nor should it be considered weird—it’s there to comfort you. It’s not going to shield you completely from the bad things in life, and nor should you use it to hide from the bad things, but it’s there when you need it. You take the important aspects of the fandom or the thing you’re into and you use that to get through the bad times. Again, to use a personal example, I wear a Saturn symbol pendant every day. Tomoe Hotaru/Sailor Saturn is my absolute favorite anime character, and largely because she was someone who I could relate to because of being lonely and bullied in school. And she was able to overcome that (after y’know, sacrificing herself and being resurrected, but that’s beside the point), and I really grabbed onto that. It’s not just because I’m obsessed with Sailor Saturn, it’s because there’s a larger personal meaning to it for me, and that’s why I wear it. But Rowell also acknowledges that yes, fandom is and can be a very important part of somebody’s life, it shouldn’t be the only thing in your life. You can’t really close yourself off to everyone and lose yourself in whatever fictional world you’ve chosen, and you need to have an anchor to the real world. Even stuff like Cath being encouraged to use her writing for more original stories is treated very positively—she’s not being told “No you must never ever write fan fic again!” but it’s more “You’re a strong writer, and you’ve honed it well, but you haven’t tried making something your own.” (And oh thank God that this is addressed like that. I’m a proponent of the idea that fanfic is a great writing tool, and to see it portrayed positively is great. OH and for having a professor who doesn’t think genre or children’s/YA or even fan fic is evil and horrible and you must write GREAT LITERATURE. My god, I got a lot of that when I said I wanted to write YA in my classes.) Speaking of college, this is a far more accurate portrayal of college life than a lot of the NA books I keep seeing pushed around. The freshman anxieties and the stress of the first semester—is the roommate going to like you; does the food suck; omg I can’t do this I have to drop out I’m an idiot. (The only thing I found unrealistic is Cath posting 2K+ word chapters to her fanfic almost daily. HOW. HOW—I never had a huge fic like hers and I dropped a bunch in my freshman year!) But I really liked that this is a frank look at college that doesn’t dress it up as high school with more booze and sex. It’s a part of Cath’s growth that she does get dragged out of her dorm room by both Reagan and Levi and starts experiencing the good parts of being in college.And I really liked Cath, and not just because I could relate to her awkward geekiness. Because her attachment to Simon Snow isn’t about her being childish or being unable to let go of the past, but because of her abandonment issues. Cath’s been abandoned by her mother, and when she leaves for school, she feels like she’s abandoning her father, and Wren’s abandoning both of them. And Cath has legitimate reasons for feeling apprehensive and scared about this—she doesn’t want to abandon her family, but it feels like she’s being forced to do so. When Cath confronts her dad about wanting to leave school, it’s not just because of her inability to write an original short story; she’s genuinely afraid of leaving her dad and have him spiral further into maniac depression. Even though Wren pushes Cath away while they’re at school, Cath’s still worrying about her sister and is there when Wren inevitably crashes. I liked that Cath is there for the people that she cares about, and that for as much as she walls herself up into the world of Simon Snow, she does care about people.I also really love her relationship with Reagan and Levi. First of all, even though the two don’t fully grasp the level of Simon Snow fandom that Cath’s at, they are willing to understand her fan feels and are really interested in what she does—Reagan may not read Simon/Baz fanfic, but she understand that it’s important to Cath. But Reagan also understands that it’s not healthy for Cath to be holed up all of the time, and so she pretty much forces Cath out of her shell. (Also, Reagan’s not vilified for having multiple boyfriends. Win!) As for Levi, *swoon*. When a guy desperately wants you to read your slash fic to him out loud, you keep him. I love Levi in all of his oversized dorkiness. And also, he’s not a full knight in shining flannel—even though he unknowningly messes up in front of Cath, he does have legitimate reasons, and Cath accepts his apology without a lot of handwringing over other college girls. And I also really like that the ending isn’t Cath ultimately giving up her interests so that she can be with Levi, but rather Levi getting more into Simon Snow to understand Cath better.(May I just point out that I’m not only extremely happy that Nick wasn’t there for a love triangle, but I also LOVE that there’s this huge take that to his kind of character by him writing an anti-love story featuring a MPDG and then getting slammed with plagiarism and consequences for it. Oh, I laughed at his comeuppance.) I also really like that while a large part of the plot is centered around Wren’s pulling away from Cath, Wren isn’t demonized or put in the wrong for what she does. Yes, Wren does end up in the hospital for binge drinking and she’s punished for it, but Cath accepts that they can find their own friendships and rekindled their relationship. But there’s no scene of Cath yelling at Wren at the book’s climax that wakes Wren up to what’s going on. This is a book of moral greys for the characters, and I liked how Rowell explores this sister relationship and reconciles it. I can’t properly talk about Fangirl without getting into the Simon Snow series. This is actually the thing that got me interested in the book in the first place (coming off my Eleanor & Park high), because Harry Potter-expy satire? Sign me up. (For the record, my aforementioned best friend is a definitive Slytherin, and a mutual friend of ours is not on a huge slash fan, but a Harry/Draco fan to boot. I’ve told both that I’m going to force this on them.) I love that we not only get excerpts of Cath’s fanfics in here, but also passages from the Simon Snow series itself. (Which reads like the unholy spawn of Harry Potter and the Mortal Instruments series.) There’s even a great moment when Cath encounters one of her own fangirls and has to dance around the question of “OMG so what do you think is going to happen next in MagiCath’s fanfic?!” I really wanted to see more of the unnamed fangirl in this.In comparison to Eleanor & Park, it’s very different—there’s some gut-punching moments in Fangirl, but not as bad. And for as much fun as Fangirl is, there’s a lot deeper meaning and emotion than the cover would lead on. I really liked what this book is about and the message Rowell gives. Again, what I really love about the end of this book is that Cath isn’t forced to give up her fandom or even tone it down, but rather, her getting two people more into Simon Snow. There’s very few female-led media that addresses the idea that growing up doesn’t mean you have to let go of the things you find important, even if it’s seen as childish and trite. This is a fantastic read, and I highly recommend it.
Married in Green (InCryptid, #0.4) - Seanan McGuire I do really enjoy the shorts about the Price family, although…I don’t know? I think I’d be a lot more into them if I read them in a big anthology. Because while I like the little glimpses into Frances’s and Jonathan’s life together, stories like this one are very much breather stories and don’t really grab me as much. Not that they’re bad, they’re really good and sometimes you need a breather story. I just feel like that if I read these all in a row or in one big collection, I’d be a little more invested in it. But still, I liked this, I liked getting more into Frances’s backstory (especially since I haven’t read the first of the InCryptid shorts), and I liked the hint that things are going to go south for the Prices, but again, I’m not feeling the whole weight of it yet. But still, really well written and a nice glimpse into the Price family’s lives.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown - Holly Black Every now and then at the bookstore I work at, I get into a heated discussion with a customer over what constitutes as horror. Most of the time, the customer pins the blame on ‘that vampire book’ for ruining horror forever and no one but Stephen King can even write horror anymore. Which is an incredibly narrow and stupid argument, if you ask me. (And yes, I have had this argument. A lot.) Vampires and other various children of the night are a major part of horror, but as the last few decades have proved, you can have a book about vampires or ghosts or werewolves and not have it be necessarily a horror book.Unfortunately, it feels like YA has been splattered with the paranormal paint brush more often than horror. This is not to say that there’s no horror in YA whatsoever—Robin Wasserman’s The Walking Dark is being promoted as both a horror and a paranormal thriller novel, which is the case that I find most of the time. Barry Lyga’s I Hunt Killers is another case where the book is touted as a thriller rather than a horror book. And there’s some very creepy and disturbing murder sequences that I’ve seen in recent YA books (Maureen Johnson’s Name of the Star and Libba Bray’s The Diviners, to name two), but again, those fall more towards paranormal rather than outright horror on the spectrum.I am nostalgic for the days of Christopher Pike and RL Stine (like them or not, bear with me) where you could get with a straight YA horror novel. Unfortunately, in the post-Columbine world where mass teenage violence and death is really not a good thing, a writer cannot get away with a good horror book aimed at young adults. You can, however, have all of the paranormal creatures go after impressionable young teenagers, but I’m not adding anything new by bringing up certain vampires that have completely neutered that idea. But my point being, we’ve gotten to the romanticizing the paranormals to the point we’ve lost the horror aspect.With that, I turn to the latest offering by Holly Black, The Coldest Girl in Coldtown. This was a book that I’ve been waiting for all year, probably since Black initially announced it. I have read and really love the short story of the same name (published in Black’s collection The Poison Eaters & Other Stories), but the events of the short story don’t influence the events in the novel, just sharing the same world. (The short story is not only referenced in the book itself, but also the Coldtown novel was released on the same day the short story says. By coincidence, or so says Black. /fun fact!) That said, as I was reading the book, I felt less…enthusiastic about the plot.After the haunting, grotesque opening as Tana’s exploring the farmhouse and discovering the bodies of her friends, the pace crawls along until Tana and the other survivors—her ex, Aidan; a vampire named Gavriel; as well as two siblings that they pick up along the way, Midnight and Winter--make it to one of the eponymous Coldtowns. And although the plot does pick up more once they finally enter Coldtown and Tana begins to make her way out, a lot of the book falters and is really weak.It’s not to say that this is a terrible book. It’s not badly written—I love Holly Black’s writing style, and she has some fantastic descriptions throughout the novel. When Tana and her friends enter Coldtown for the first time is a really tense and fantastic description of the characters swinging above the slums of Coldtown in cages, and it’s such a shock from what you’ve been expecting the entrance of Coldtown. I really liked the scenes of Tana exploring Coldtown and befriending Jameson and Valentina—I loved Jameson, I really wanted to see more of his character throughout the book. The descriptions of the various clubs and the inhabitants of Coldtown are really well done and vivid, done in Black’s typical gritty urban fantasy style. I even don’t mind Black’s tendency to fall into fan fic-esque eye descriptors. (I actually really love the “eyes as red as poppies;” I found it to be a really cool nod to vampire lore.) The opening chapter sets such a fantastic mood to the book, where Tana is exploring this desolated farmhouse with the eerie background noise of the television—the first chapter of Coldtown is so evocative that it is a disappointment for me with the rest of this.The problem that I have with the book centers around Gavriel, and how much his story overshadows Tana’s. If this story was about Tana getting Aidan to Coldtown, dealing with Midnight and Winter, and realizing that she can’t leave, that would have been a better story. It’s similar to the short story, but you can retread similar ground and make it feel different with different characters and their reactions. Tana has a strong story already—she’s afraid of vampires because of her mother’s going Cold (the slang for turning) when she was young; but she’s attracted to the idea of being one herself. Not as strongly as Midnight or Winter do, but it’s a feeling that scares Tana and she tries not to give into that desire. Having Gavriel and having his story takes away from Tana’s story, especially since how largely Gavriel figures into the world-building of the whole book. This is what really disappointed me about Coldtown. Holly Black’s best stories are the personal ones—I loved the Modern Tales of Faerie because even though there were a lot of important changes to overall world, the hearts of the story are Kaye’s and Val’s. And that’s what I would have loved to seen here. Gavriel could have been the same character, have had the same backstory…but giving so much explanation and so much weight on Gavriel makes me lose my focus on the story. And by the time we get to the reveal of Gavriel's true identity, not only did I already call it within five lines of introducing that plot point, I really didn't care about Gavriel’s story.Gavriel is the vampire romance boy, and I think the book suffers from that. For all that he tells Tana about how “dangerous” she is, Tana’s role ends up being reduced as the trophy who can fight back, and her story doesn’t matter as much in the long run. Which is a shame, because I do like her whenever she’s not around Gavriel. I wanted to more of Tana’s desperation to save Aidan from turning and confronting Midnight with the reality of Coldtown and being a vampire, and getting out of Coldtown and back to her family. But her obsession with Gavriel makes the plot screech to a halt and I lose my enthusiasm for Tana’s character. (Plus, I think Tana had far more chemistry with Jameson than she did with Gavriel.) It takes away from the tension of Tana getting out of Coldtown when she stops every five feet and thinks “Oh, but what if I don’t see Gavriel again!”My other issue with the book is the aesthetic. Black says in the acknowledgements that this is a throwback/homage to the vampire novels of Anne Rice and Poppy Z. Brite. And that’s fine, I’m not saying that she’s not allowed to write those novels. I would like a reason for that aesthetic, especially since in our world, the deadly decadent vampire in the Victorian clothing has become the cliché. Even if it’s a throwaway line of “Oh, this is what humans expect of us.” I actually don’t mind that the vampires traipse around in period clothing and present the image of being fabulous and beautiful, but I need a reason for it. (Especially with Lucien Moreau, because he makes a big deal about being modern and a celebrity and gathering more vampires, and yet the glimpses of his feed embraces the Victorian vampire image.) When Black includes a store called the Dead Last Rest Stop that sounds like a Hot Topic on steroids, I find it really hard to take seriously. I commented to a friend that the style of that sequence wanted to be Rasputina, but I found myself thinking about a latter-era Backstreet Boys video. (Yes, that’s exactly where my brain went when I read it. I’m not exaggerating.) It even extends to the dialogue—Gavriel, again, has some really cheesy lines, like “The gates of Coldtown are as close as my own shadow” and how he describes Tana. It jolts me out of the book because that dialogue calls attention to itself. It even extends to Midnight and Winter-the goth wannabe vampire ideal is played so straight-forward with them. And yet, they barely appear once Tana escapes from their house in Coldtown, and we never fully get a grasp on how wrong they've turned out to be.And therein lies my conundrum. Is it my issue as a reader, having the cultural knowledge that I do, that I can’t get into to the aesthetic or is it Black’s job to acknowledge that her aesthetic is a cliché? This is my issue with a lot of YA horror/paranormal books is that I’ve seen so much of the parodies and the winking and nudging that I’m looking for it even when it's played straight. In regards to something like vampires, it feels like we may have to go all the way back to the Nosferatu-style vampire to make them terrifying again. (And of course, that resets the cycle and back the romanticism and so on and so on.) I wanted a throwback vampire novel where we had the charming vampires who are going to eat you at the first chance they can, but having Gavriel around takes away from that because he is the one noble vampire to show that not all vampires are evil. (Really, Black could have gotten rid of Gavriel or used him in a better way.) Again, this is not a terrible book, but I expected better from Black and her characterization and plotting, and this was kind of a disappointment for me.(This review was also posted at the Book Lantern.)