With starting a new job and trying to manage self-care in quarantine, I wasn’t able to read too many books this month. But I read some good ones for sure. Here’s all the books I read during March!
What was your favorite book you read this month?
If you’ve never heard of this book or watched the movie, you’re missing out on one of the masterpieces of our time. And I don’t say that lightly. This book may be hard to grasp, as it covers thousands of years, several different story lines, and vastly different writing styles. But at the heart of the book is a similar thread of lessons: that the powerful exploit the weaker, and we have to learn from our history to create a better future. I was overwhelmed by this fiction novel, which reads much more like a nonfiction book that is literally predicting our future with ingenious precision. Seriously. I can’t recommend this book enough.
For most of this sequel Witcher book, I was a little disappointed. The short stories were more disjointed and not as fairytale-oriented. But the last few stories really jerked the heartstrings and made me remember why I love this strangely affectionate, white-haired monster hunter. I can’t wait to continue the series!
I got this book anticipating a good mystery set in a medieval castle in Ireland with a gloomy painter. Unfortunately between flat or sexist characters, nonsensical plot lines, and bizarrely edited writing, this story fell very flat for me. I powered through and finished, but I wasn’t happy about it.
If you’re looking for a fluffy fairytale-like YA book, this would be a great pick. Bertie is a lovable and goofy MC who lives in a magical theater with characters from all of the plays ever made. The beginning was a little rough to get into—there’s a lot of “scene changes” that are like fourth-wall breaking. But the story was fun and exactly the lighthearted stuff I needed.
As charming and witty as the first book. I thoroughly enjoyed listening to this audiobook. The story was a great continuation with new and more outrageous plot-twists. I was really looking forward to the conclusion of the series but…
Unlike the other two in the series, this one felt awkward and overstuffed with too many people and plot lines. I kept losing track of who was involved with who or had screwed who over. We lost sight of Nick and Rachel for most of the book, which was disappointing. I was left feeling really confused and dissatisfied. But it was still really funny and witty at parts.
What books should I read next? I have a small list, but I’m always open to more. Leave any suggestions below. Also, what book from my March list would you want to read or want a full book review for?
The Dream Peddler is about a traveling salesman named Robert who has the ability to whip up potions that give people any kind of dream they want. He comes into this new town on the same day that Evie and George’s son, Ben, goes missing. As the townspeople begin to distrust Robert and his product, more secrets in the town start to pop up.
I tried. I really did try to like this book. But things just kept piling up, and more terrible things kept happening. Eventually, I realized that it was just a bad idea to have read this book in the first place. It was like a magical realism Christian fiction book, which was not what I was expecting at all. The writing was somewhat fun and whimsical, but the characters were boring, bland, annoying, or just one-dimensional. There were also few-to-no character arcs.
Even though I did enjoy some of the flowery, poetic writing, I almost feel like this story would have been better suited as a short story or novella. 300 pages made it a little long-winded. Nothing really happened in the book. It was pretty vanilla in all regards. In the end, the problem wasn’t the writing necessarily, but the story and all of its characters.
If you’d like to check out my spoiler-section read below in “Life Is But a Dream”
Let’s get into the nitty-gritty. The plot, the characters, their actions, and some smaller tidbits that just didn’t work for me. Lastly, I’ll talk about my favorite part of the book.
The hardest part of the book for me to digest and unpack is the fact that nothing truly happens. Everyone starts at the same place they end. The only exception is Evie, who slightly recovers from her child’s death but that has nothing to do with anything but time being able to heal wounds more than anything else can. There’s a big scene where a kid steals from a cash register and nothing ever comes of it. Jackson gets Cora pregnant, and he never gets found out. Robert wrestles with his grief of leaving his wife and daughter to live this new life, and he doesn’t change or grow at the end. The author might be trying to make a commentary about how nothing ever changes in this town, and no one ever gets what they deserve, but I just don’t feel like that was shown strongly enough. For one, the author stays separate from the narration the entire time, only letting the characters speak their own thoughts. But so many times throughout the book it turns very preachy about porn, masturbation, and the duties of women. I just felt like it strayed too far from the magical realism realm.
The magic was such a side-lined aspect of the book that it felt like it wasn’t there at all. Robert could have been selling inappropriate pictures without magical properties, and the results of most of the book would have been the same. There were so many times where the townspeople seemed like they were going to riot and kick Robert out of their town, but they never did. So whose fault is it really that he keeps selling potions?
I just don’t understand why there’s this mystery surrounding the death of the kid, Ben. The author writers two scenes about Ben as he leaves the house. The story kind of toys with the idea that there might have been foul play involved, as if there was something deeper to his story. But no, the kid was just chasing the moon and broke through the ice into a bay. It was disappointing, especially when the second scene (almost at the end) reveals nothing new. It would have been so much more interesting if someone like Jackson had actually killed him.
Speaking of Jackson, his character confused me to no end. He’s a pretty flat character—just a flirt who goes around and winks at all the girls. But then there’s also this very subtle hint that he might not actually be into women (besides forcing himself on them frequently).
There’s these lines:
“He would buy as many [potions] as it took, and then he would dream of women, only women, each more beautiful than the last. Their beauty and passion would overwhelm him, and there would be no more confusion.”
Later in the story, he tells Robert that the potions didn’t work for him. I don’t know what the author was trying to do with this. Maybe make Jackson seem more sympathetic because he lives in a town where his true self would never be accepted? But in a text that pretty much spells most things out, this aspect is so subtle that it’s hard to tell what the author is going for. Also it’s suggested that he forced himself on Cora? So I can’t really be sympathetic for him…
But most of the love life in this book was like that, besides Rolf and Christina who were actually kind of cute. I hardly ever felt like the husbands and wives loved each other in this town.
I only feel like I can argue this is a negative part of the book, as no time or place was specified in the text. But the moral high ground so many characters take, as well as the sexism and out-dated rules these people follow, are just annoying to read about. I guess the book might have been going for an early 1900s feel, but at the same time, I just couldn’t vibe with the beliefs of these people. Everyone in the town was just the worst.
Then there’s also the fact that new characters were being introduced to the story by the third quarter of the book. I just didn’t have the capacity to remember or care about any of these new people.
The only aspect of the book I did enjoy was some of the dialogue and poetic language. The book has a good flow of words, and I could picture things well in my mind. The problem was that I didn’t like the pictures half the time. Despite my complaints, I did really resonate with these lines, if only because of my move to LA.
“I’ve been to many towns like this one before and known many people who thought of leaving but never did. And maybe if they did leave, sure, their lives would be better, but then again maybe not. Life is a matter of routine, in a sense, no matter where you are. Big city, small town, it doesn’t make much difference… There’s no adventure in leaving, when you come down to it. I’ve built a life on leaving, and I can tell you now, even that becomes routine.”
Life can be difficult when you choose to stay or when you choose to leave. Or when you read books that aren’t in your usual genre.
I don’t really think that reading outside of my comfort zone was the wrong thing to do. Every once in a while, I love picking up a random book and reading it. But I definitely think this was a bad case of reading a book solely based on the cover art. Maybe next time I’ll actually look into a book more before reading it.
Have you or someone who know read this book and liked it? Change my mind about what this book is supposed to mean—I would love to hear your thoughts!
Hello everyone! I finally got my reading butt into gear this month, even though it was a short one. If you’d like a full review for any of the books below that don’t have one already, let me know! I’d love to extend my thoughts on any of these books. Also, let me know if you feel different about any of these books. I’d love to hear your opinions.
On audiobook, I found this book to be super engaging and intriguing. The story follows four siblings after their trip to a fortune teller who tells them what days they will die. The stories were tied together well, and I felt invested in each sibling’s story. I just felt like the ending was a little predicable and fell a little flat for me.
Finally finished this one. For a classic, it was a pretty easy read. The biggest complaint I have about the book is that the pacing was so slow. But I expect this out of most classic books, to be honest. It was thoroughly entertaining to read all of the sexist lines about women not being able to handle themselves against such a horrible monster. The book also had a large build-up for like two scenes of okay action. I think my expectations were so high from years of knowing the basics of the story that the original fell short.
Another classic that I just felt meh about. I didn’t know that this book was so conceptual and ethereal. I also listened to it on audiobook, but I just found it to be so boring and underwhelming. The kids bicker through the entire book, and the solution to defeating the big bad was…love… I know this book has been so influential for a lot of people, but it just wasn’t for me.
I picked this book on audiobook at random, partially because it was so short. It was quite the different perspective, as it’s about a fifty year old gay man as he tries to find happiness again. I reminded me of Hector and the Search for Happiness in a good way. It had a lot of witty lines and author snipes that I chuckled at. But in the end, it was just okay.
I had seen the movie before I listened to this on audiobook, but I quickly fell in love with this book. It was different in all the good ways, while also still have some of the most intense scenes I have ever read in a book. The narrator did a really good job as well. There are a couple things that hold me back from five stars including the jarring perspective the book was written in. Though this ended up working in favor of the suspense, it was hard to get into at first. The ending also seemed to drag. For me, it’s always the endings of suspenseful books that can make or break the whole thing.
The Braid is a story of three women from different countries and very different backgrounds. I’m one of those people who read and don’t really predict what’s going to happen in the end. For that reason, some people might have seen the end of this book coming, but I was so pleasantly surprised about how all the stories wrapped up. Honestly I think this book was a joy to read. A little gem among the shelves, if you will. So I would definitely recommend this book to anyone who likes female power in their reads.
This collection of semi-autobiographical short stories was so refreshing and real. It was a short read, but heavy in a lot of the themes and messages throughout the book. I definitely resonated with some of the stories over others, but that’s pretty typical of a short story collection.
I’ll be sharing a full review about this book soon, so I’ll keep this short. The book is about a guy who sells dreams in a small town. I was just so disappointed in the magical realism of this book, the lack of character growth, and the story in general. But that’s alright. It just wasn’t for me.
I found this book in the popular section in my library and thought, “What the heck, why not?” This book is about a bunch of rich girls in a boarding school who are only obsessed with being as thin as possible. This book was hard to read as someone who’s struggled with food habits before, but at the same time the writing was beautiful. I really enjoyed it.
I was so disappointed by this book. Everyone including me was drawn to this book because of the gorgeous cover. But the book was so lukewarm for me. A schoolhouse of girls try to survive as they face physical mutations from a mysterious disease. There was something about the writing that made the whole book feel vague and distant from me as a reader. Check out my full review of Wilder Girls to see my thoughts on all the minutia.
Fireborne is a fantasy book set during the years after a political revolution. There’s dragons, too. So that’s great. I wrote a full review of Fireborne that you can check out if you’re interested. I was really impressed with the combination of fantasy and world issues, but there were just a couple story issues that made it not a full five stars for me. I’m really looking forward to book two!
Have you read any of the books I read this month or any books by the same authors? Let me know your thoughts in the comments below. Happy reading everyone!
If you’d like to read my spoiler review section, keep reading through to the section titled “Into the Fire.”
So many YA books start before the revolution, but this one takes place several years into a new dictatorship/oligarchy that replaces the monarchy. It’s a concept that has been seen so many times throughout history, and I think it’s great to show the consequences of a rebellion in a fantasy setting. I’ll tell you this, it’s not all rainbows and sunshine when the original government gets overthrown — even if they were tyrannical.
The story follows the split-perspective of Annie and Lee, both orphaned from the revolution but in very different ways. They have grown up, dealing with the harsh realities of their new world. Now they’re part of the elite guard of dragon riders. But as the revolution becomes more complicated and other conflicts arise, the two must decide if they will continue to fight for this new government or lose themselves in the similarities between both regimes.
In order for me to give a book five stars, it has to be a fantastic story, but it also has to contain something that transcends the pages. This book did a great job of making a fantasy world still comparable to our society. There were just too many little story things that took it down a star for me. All in all, I thoroughly enjoyed the book and would recommend this book to anyone who likes fantasy and reading about class struggle or the consequences of revolutions. Also, can I just say how refreshing it is to read a YA book with a decent Lexicon?
There were so many things I liked about this book: a realistic descent into chaos after a revolution, vulnerable male characters, people talking through their psychological trauma, and so much more. But there was also a handful of details that I didn’t think worked well. Let’s talk about those first.
Although I loved the split perspective of Annie and Lee at times, there are some points where this structure worked as a plot crutch. Usually, this would happen when Lee or Annie encounters huge emotional events like when Annie and Rock “have to” burn a villager. We’re in Lee’s perspective when she first tells him what happens, and then we get to see a scene from her perspective. But this whip-lash of going forward and backward in time (while still being in present tense) was a little jarring at times. Not a huge deal. Just bein’ a picky reader.
Speaking of burning that villager though, this seemed so out of character for Annie that I was immediately thrown out of my reading immersion. Are you telling me that just because the villagers aren’t giving them enough of their food supply, that in an instant without any other warnings, Annie just decides that they should burn people? After everything that she’s gone through with people getting burned to death? I know this moment was supposed to make them question whether or not they were just as bad as the monarchy, but at the same time, it was unbelievable for Annie to do this. It would have been entirely different if she had witnessed Rock’s dragon burn someone and then voiced her anger at him.
Rock’s eyes meet mine in a silent question. I nod once to show I’ll do it. Though, I suppose, I have to. Rock’s dragon hasn’t sparked yet. He could cause injuries, but for the full effect of this demonstration, we require flames.Pg. 328
A similar but more effective time the gang questions whether or not they’re just as bad as the previous rulers is when they’re making plans for the food distribution. Here they discuss the iron working class getting less food than the elite gold class. Lee and Annie have a reasonable and diffcult discussion about why this has to be this way, but that still doesn’t change the fact that their pal Cor will have to give his sister scraps. It was emotional. It was realistic. And it wasn’t preachy. It’s a real problem people in history have had to navigate before.
Scenes went really fast in this book, often jumping over travel time within single sentences. I got used to this flow, but it made fight scenes go super fast. Even the last major dragon battle between Lee and his cousin Julia was so quick and inconsequential that it ended up feeling pretty rushed. But Lee got a great speech out of it afterward so…
Let the blood on my hands be my offering; let the spoils of my battle stand as proof of my loyalty.Pg. 422
One last major critique I have about the book is the dragons. The writing style was very non-descriptive, which I can deal with. You only get physical descriptions every now and then, and they come across very naturally. But if someone asked me what the dragons were like: how big, what color, what details do they have — I wouldn’t be able to tell you. Which is kind of disappointing? I love dragons. And the connection that the riders had with the dragons, which I would describe as similar to how Eragon sees through Saphira’s eyes, was very emotional and intense. But the dragons don’t have a voice in the rider’s minds, and they seem very robotic. More dragons in book two, please.
I think my favorite aspect of the book was how well the consequences of the revolution were explored. People are uneasy and unsure about their new leaders and guards. When the gang has to take food from people or give speeches, the villagers would often would hate them for being so similar to the monarchy. And it would really pay an emotional toll on the main characters in different ways. For example, Annie, who had grown up in these villages and feared dragon fire, was now spit on and cursed by the people. It was just an incredibly powerful image. There’s a lot to digest with these parts of the book, which makes me excited for future books in the series.
The characters are also pretty well fleshed out. And I could tell they were fleshed out because I actually cared about most of them. Pitting Annie and Lee against each other even though they were best friends, and being able to see the story from each of their unique perspectives, was a super unique reading experience.
My only note in the character category is that it often felt like Annie had more depth than Lee. I think part of this issue was the result of him keeping his princely secret from everyone. But even when we were in his head, he was often pretty bland. Annie had to overcome not only the stigma of her birthplace but also her place as a female dragon rider. Meanwhile, Lee had to overcome…? It was an interesting dynamic that he had to face and report to the man who had killed his entire family. Even more interesting that he eventually agreed that the new ruler was right. But it was only because of the way Annie would describe Lee that I really ended up enjoying his character. I also think Lee reminded me of Zuko from Avatar the Last Airbender, so it was pretty easy to like him when I realized they were so similar.
I was especially impressed by Power, a major antagonist, who breaks several stereotypes when he helps out Annie with her training. He was still a crummy person, but he was realistic because he chose Annie over his hatred of Lee.
I know some people were pissed at Lee for acting like he owns Annie when they were children, but I could write it off as post-traumatic stress from everything he had gone through as a kid. People were waiting on him hand and foot, and suddenly he has the blood of everyone on his body? Yeah, that’s gonna mess a kid up.
Anyways, I really enjoyed this book. It was a dense and impressive read. I’m looking forward to book two!
Check out my review on Wilder Girls, Beautiful Creatures, or The Sun Is Also a Star if you liked this review. And let me know if you’ve read this book and what your thoughts were — especially if they were different.
Happy Fiction Friday everyone! I decided that I should branch out a bit — and basically only a little bit — and go for a Sci-Fi writing prompt this week. I usually don’t write Sci-Fi, but there’s been something in me that’s been calling out to the genre, so I said hey, what the heck. And here we are.
This prompt is from Deep Water Prompts, and they seem to have a lot of great ones. As always, I’m going to write for 30 minutes, and just see where the story goes. If you write along with me, I’d love to see your writing as well. Don’t forget to check out my other writing prompts!
It was only when my hands brushed against the clammy walls that I realized I was asleep. My eyes flicked open as my stomach dropped with a sudden overwhelming amount of dread. It was dark in the hallway, with the only light source coming from the faint green glow of wall lanterns.
Then came the whispers. They reverberated from wall to wall, hitting me with their muffled voices. I thought I could hear my name, but then again, isn’t that what everyone hears?
Squinting into the darkness ahead of me, I realized that with that many voices, surely I should have seen someone up ahead, walking towards me.
I glanced behind me, but there was no one. There wouldn’t be. Not this late. The lab got to work so early in the morning, and with everyone forced to stay on base for this experiment, there wasn’t any reason to stay up this late.
It’s just my head. Still half asleep. I should turn back. I should go to my room.
Every corridor in this base looked the same. The only indication of what hallway I was in was the number painted over every door. But I was so far into this hallway that I didn’t even see a door.
I decided to listen to my instinct and walk towards the way my back had been turned. The likelihood that I had been doing multiple turnarounds was not that great, but then again, I had never sleep-walked either. At least as far as I knew.
There was a soft buzz radiating from the wall lanterns, and as I passed underneath them, I couldn’t help but feel like something was watching me just from the darkest parts of the hallway. But my feet kept moving, even with this fear rising in my tingling fingers and dry mouth.
When the double door leading to the next hallway come into view, I stopped walking. My whole body went numb as I stared at the number. 43. 43. 43. 43.
My breathing hitched as my heart rate rose. The sleeping quarters were in number 15. There were only 40 numbers I was told of. It was reasonable to assume that there were more numbers that I wouldn’t have access to, but here I was. In a restricted area. That I had somehow gained access to in my sleep. And I hadn’t been shot yet.
I hesitated to reach out for the door handle. What if these people worked at night, to make sure that no one interfered with their work? What if I was one step away from being caught?
The whispers had gotten closer to me, coming from behind door 43. This time I was sure I could hear the sing-song call of my name.
I should run. I should run out this door. Run as fast as I can back to my station.
I reached for the handle and pushed.
My eyes blinked as they adjusted to the brighter light of this hallway. For some reason the door had been tinted, not showing that this hallway was lit up with the normal fluorescents that were used during the day hours.
There was a long table, but that wasn’t what I was looking at. Sitting on the edge of the table was a girl, maybe close to my age or a few years younger. Her hair was loose and wavy around her neck. Her skin was a creamy brown and exposed through her thin dress.
“You found me,” she said with a soft smile. “Now find me for real.”
My body convulsed and I fell to the floor. But no — I sat up. I was in my bed. It was dark, but I could see the green glow under my bedroom door from the hallway lanterns. My hands were clammy, my breathing absolutely too fast.
A dream. That was all. Just a dream.
I laid back against my pillows, a hand rested against my chest so that I could feel my heart as it slowed down. This wasn’t the first time I had dreamt of wandering the halls past where my clearance let me go. But I had never dreamt of something so specific.
It’s just because you saw those helicopters arrive today, I tell myself. Your head is telling you that something big is going on. But nothing is. Of course, it isn’t.
I go back to sleep, but even as I close my eyes, I can still see the girl. And I wonder if it’s true what they say: that you can’t dream of anyone you haven’t seen before.
As I send my 70th query letter between the two different book series I’m trying to publish, I find myself wondering: why am I still trying to publish this way? The answer is complicated, slightly prideful, but also embedded in the fact that I don’t only want money. I want people to be able to read my book. I want to belong to something.
When I was in high school, I managed to get my book (Spell Bound, Kristen McDonald) published through a legitimate publishing house — Black Rose Writing. Though now that I look back on it, I realize that being on my own to navigate this publishing process was a nightmare. They’re one of the few companies that accept unsolicited query letters (for anyone who doesn’t know, unsolicited means you can send your work without being represented by an agent or someone on the “inside”). Me being the little naive teenager I was, I considered this to be a plus.
But at the end of the day, I had to pay out of pocket for 100 copies, I had to edit the manuscript myself (with a 9th grader’s experience in the English language), and I received little-to-no marketing besides the book being released online through major outlets.
A person who publishes a book willfully appears before the populace with his pants down. If it is a good book nothing can hurt him. If it is a bad book nothing can help him.-Edna St. Vincent Millay
After hearing all of this, you may think that I wouldn’t want to go through a nightmare like that again. Maybe I should just publish through Amazon and skip the trouble. But instead, this experience has made me feel like the only route that will work for me is to get represented. Maybe part of me is just such a purist: I feel that getting published the traditional way feels like the only option for me. But I know it’s more than that.
Also, I can’t edit myself — even as an adult. And I’m not about to shovel out a large sum to have someone else do it for self-publishing either.
Why am I still trying to go the “traditional” route for publishing? Why do I believe that finding an agent is the route for me? There are several reasons.
While I am continuously sending query letters, I have looked at self-publishing expenses before. I’ve even requested packages and received numerous phone calls from people who try to get me to join their programs. The bottom line is always the same: I don’t have money to self-publish through these companies. So many of these places offer only slightly different packages for you. Some offer a set amount of money to receive a set amount of books. Others help with marketing but you have to pay for everything along the way.
I still encourage anyone who feels at all compelled to write to do so. I just try to warn people who hope to get published that publication is not all it is cracked up to be. But writing is.-Anne Lamott
But who really has money for this? It’s an investment for sure, but books won’t make you that much money unless you’re selling a ton of copies. But it’s not about the money for me when it comes to books.
Really, as a broke kid with college debt living in LA, my only chance to get published right now is through some kind of book deal with a publishing house. While self-publishing companies claim to push as low as 500-1000 dollars to get published through their system, that price is just not practical in my current situation. I loved this line from firstwriter.com, “Remember, it’s better to have 15% of something than 50% of nothing.” When you publish traditionally, you have such a better chance of your book getting read and purchased.
While I’m sure there are plenty of horror stories about agent-writer relationships, at the end of the day, I need someone to advocate for me. I need to know that I have someone on my team who is trying to market my book as much as I am. Why? Because until I can reasonably support myself with my writing, I’m going to have to work another job. Which leaves very little time to actually market my own books. Not that I wouldn’t push it HARD on every platform that I can. But this means that I’m going to need to get a good marketing deal with a publishing house.
As someone trying to be picked up by the largest publishing house possible, an agent is a necessity. They’re going to be the ones who are able to push my work through what so many people call the “slush pile” and seen by publishing houses.
It’s estimated that about 300,000 books get published every year in the US. And these are the books that are not self-published. So yeah, the odds are not in my favor. Even with a small, published book under my belt. Plus with the trends of genres always changing like the tide, it’s hard to catch the right agent’s attention.
I can’t tell you how many articles and YouTube videos I’ve watched about “How To Get an Agent” or “Why Agents Aren’t Picking Up Your Book.” But at the end of the day, I’ve seen just as many agents tweet things about how it’s just luck. It’s just subjective. It’s just a personal opinion. And you just have to find the right one at the right time.
As a young man just beginning to publish some short fiction in the t&a magazines, I was fairly optimistic about my chances of getting published; I knew that I had some game, as the basketball players say these days, and I also felt that time was on my side; sooner or later the best-selling writers of the sixties and seventies would either die or go senile, making room for newcomers like me.-Stephen King
According to theadventurouswriter.com, agent Janet Reid “gets 100 query letters a week; other agents in her office get 500 queries a week. Reid may request 4 partial manuscripts from those 100 query letters.” I know agents have a hard job. I follow quite a few on twitter, and I see how exhausted they are by writers who just don’t understand what “no” or politeness means.
But that’s easier said than done when it feels like you’re running out of people to send your work to.
Even worse, I’ve seen even agencies not accepting unsolicited query letters. At that point, I wanted to throw in the towel. How can I even hope to be published traditionally when there are all of these hoops to jump through? And yet I persist. Why? It might be because I still believe in this industry and want to be added to the YA shelves of every bookstore across the world. Or maybe I’m just crazy. Who knows?
All I know is that I will continue to write and continue to push my writing out into the world.
My personal journey is to travel the narrow path of traditional publishing, but I know this isn’t everyone’s choice. What are your thoughts and reasons for wanting to self-publish or traditionally publish? I’d love to hear where you are in this process and how this journey has been for you.
Firstly, let’s acknowledge the incredible cover art by Illustrator Aykut Aydogdu. I think this cover art is half the attraction and hype of this book. So good job, marketing team.
Alright let’s get to it. Few-to-no spoilers for this part (when regarding specific plot-points). Just a straight-shot review. If you’d like to see my in-depth analysis, read “Getting Through the Weeds” below.
Wilder Girls by Rory Power has been called a combination of Jeff Vandermeer’s Annihilation and William Golding’s Lord of the Flies by literally every popular review website. Except, it’s really like a knock-off teen version of the movie Annihilation and a watered-down version of Lord of the Flies without the social commentary undertones. The writing was vague, the plot was thin and often petty. For a book saturated with powerful girls, this book was seriously lacking some girl power.
Wilder Girls is set in a time period most likely close to ours, where a group of students at a boarding school in Maine are attacked by a mysterious island disease that kills males quickly and leaves the females with nature-influenced transformations. With anything from scales to second spines, these girls are fighting for their lives. Meanwhile, the flora around the school continues to morph and a group of scientists search for answers to help them (from a distance). The story is told from split perspective of two best friends Hetty and Byatt, while other girls and teachers are splattered in scenes here and there.
The premise of Wilder Girls is obviously an interesting one, with potential for political commentary, LGBTQ+ romances and conversations (when considering the “biological” response to the disease), and scenes of girls being kick-ass. The author did a great job of making an ailment that might have been humorous actually seem terrifying and even cool at parts. But I came into this book expecting powerful girl romance and great story.
Unfortunately, that didn’t really happen. The romance was forced and weak. The “feminist” aspect of the book was non-existent. The writing was somehow so vague and dream-like that moments felt under-described and blurry. As if the picture wasn’t completely formulated when it was written. All in all, I felt super disappointed by this book. Especially because I felt like it had so much potential. If you’re into girl drama and an interesting setting, then this book might be an okay read for you. But if you were really banking on this book being your next favorite soft Sci-Fi YA, you might be let down too.
Things started out strong. We have a sassy narrator who described their current status, with shocking details of each girls’ mutations. We have some hierarchy shifts with Hetty getting picked to be a supply-runner, which drives some conflict with her loner friend Reese. And then this line:
“She looks almost shy. But Reese doesn’t do shy. Even when she came out to me, it was like a weapon. ‘Queer,’ she said then, as though she was daring me to disagree.”
I don’t know if this passage was just out of place, forced, awkward, or all of the above. Did we have to make it such a clunky statement? This line makes me feel like Reese is obviously going to have a crush on one of the main girls. There’s no tension, no tenderness. It’s just kind of awkward? Maybe I’m crazy.
The relationship between Byatt, Reese, and Hetty gets even more complicated when Reese tells Hetty that she doesn’t want Byatt to be a part of the picture anymore. It’s just cold and toxic, and automatically makes me kind of resent Reese as a person. I want to like the main characters, but they’re all so distant and mean to each other. Constantly bickering over trivial things when they’re all literally dying from a terrible disease. It’s almost like the book is saying girls can’t stop being petty even if their life depends on it.
When Reese kisses Hetty, it was really forced and also inconsequential. They kiss near the beginning and spend most of the rest of the book fighting or running. There’s not much relationship building at all, which was super disappointing. Hetty also seems to have feelings for Byatt, who’s gone for most of the book, but she’s still okay with making out with Reese? Maybe she’s going for a love triangle, but it was pretty lukewarm.
But the trivial conflict of our protagonists is really just the icing over the poorly laid plot. Most of the driving plot points are Hetty sneaking places with little-to-no tension or consequences (at least for her and her BFFs). In a setting of fantastic beasts and creepy mutations, we see very few interactions between our girls and the fauna. The climax of the book isn’t even a major point towards figuring out the diseases. It’s just a bear trying to break into their school. That also somehow gets diluted by the fact that Hetty and Reese escape super easily. Even when the scientists are threatening to blow up their school, because they’ve given up on trying to find a cure, there’s no suspense. I just didn’t care.
It’s definitely a challenge to make readers care about sick characters who are most likely doomed to die a horrible death. But this book didn’t even seem to try to connect characters to readers. Dialogue is pretty shallow and their constant bickering doesn’t help.
Byatt gets separated from Reese and Hetty pretty early on in the book and has her own adventure. Including purposefully giving the disease to a male scientist. I guess he was stupid enough to fall for her sick ass in a couple of minutes and kiss her. Because…feminism?
Speaking of which, feminist literature is supposed to be like a defense or establishment of equal rights of women — whether politically, socially, economically, or otherwise. I don’t think I would ever consider this feminist literature. For one, there’s nothing inherently political about the disease affecting only women. It’s not like The Power, by Naomi Alderman, where this is some sort of revelation of power dynamics. It’s just a hormone reactant. The only feminist power line was this:
“We don’t get to choose what hurts us.”
And yes, true. Preach! But that’s about it in the commentary department. I don’t need a book to be saturated in socioeconomic comments, but just because a book is an all-girl cast doesn’t make it feminist. At least in my opinion.
Byatt was by far the superior character, and I wish the story had been told by her perspective a little earlier on. She had some gorgeous poetry-like paragraphs when she was on drugs with the scientists. But she also had this gut-wrenching self-harm scene that made me tremble with nausea. It was honestly a bit much at times, but I kind of liked that about this book. It was definitely fearless with the horror descriptions. BUT, these clearly written violent details made everything else look even more under described.
There were a couple of logical errors like Hetty breaking open a window with her fist when she had a knife on her to use as a blunt force against the glass. And are you telling me that all they had to do was cut the parasite out of them and they’d be better? No scientist tried that at all before? Instead they just keep trying these drugs and gassing the girls. It’s just a little weird.
I think this book just focuses on the wrong things at the wrong time. The pacing is weird. The characters are just not great people and flat half the time. The concept was definitely interesting, but it just didn’t rock my world.
Change my mind about this book! I want to like it so much more, but right now I feel quite meh about it. What do you think?
I had a reading slump at the beginning of the month. I blame it on my anxious mental breakdowns and the usual — playing Skyrim. However, I finally got back into reading after finding the Booktube community. Mostly binge-watching ReadWithCindy. Anyways, here’s my book recap for the month. Have you read any of these books, or are they on your TBR list? Let me know what you think!
Beautiful Creatures was….meh. You can read my review, but I felt lukewarm-to-not-great about it. It was very bland with bad pacing. That’s about all I have to add to my thoughts on the book.
I actually listened to Becoming on audiobook, which is great because Michelle Obama just won a Grammy for the reading of this book. While I really loved hearing her life story and getting an inside look to what it’s like to be the President’s wife, I felt like she ran out of things to talk about in her early life. She did do a good job reading. I was entertained and engaged for most of the book. I also had an emotional breakdown when she talked about her disabled dad dying. My dad is similarly disabled, and it was like hearing my future before my ears. Needless to say, I was sobbing for most of my car ride home from work.
To Drink Coffee with a Ghost is a poetry book, and I realized a little too late that it’s actually the second part of a poetry collection. Despite this, it was definitely readable as a stand-alone. I connected to a lot of the poems about her mom, but some of them were just a little too obvious. I like poetry that’s pretty heavy in the metaphor department. So if any of you have recommendations, hit me up!
Ah, The Last Wish. This book made me believe in fairytale retellings again. I thoroughly enjoyed this book and read it really fast actually. The only reason I didn’t give it 5 stars was because it was a little disjointed at times (partially because it was a collection of short stories). But there was a lot of names thrown at you, and the “overarching” storyline was really short and non-essential for the most part. But, I’m looking forward to the other books in the series for sure. LASTLY, I think the show did a really great job of connecting these disjointed stories into one giant storyline. And I was still able to enjoy the book’s differences.
If you’d like a full review on any of these besides Beautiful Creatures (which I already did), let me know!
I’ve been reading Dracula for a while, and it will probably be another month before I finish. I mostly read it when I have nothing else to read. Or if I only have my iPad with me (because I’m reading it via Apple Books).
I’m also giving the second book of the Castor series a try. *Sighs for eternity.* I’m just trying to figure out why it’s so popular.
Lastly, I’ll be writing a full review of Wilder Girls when I’m finished, which should be in the beginning of the month of February. I’ve got a lot to say about it so far.
What books have you read this month? Do you agree with my ratings? Leave a comment below if you’d like to share your lovely thoughts.