The following are books that I was REALLY excited about reading but was totally underwhelmed. This list begins with the least to most underwhelming book of 2017 so far. Please click the covers for full reviews.
It’s almost six months into 2017 and I’ve read about 30 books. Normally I don’t read backwards (books older than 2017) but I had a Harry Potter reread with friends and I started the Queen’s Thief Series to be ready for Thick as Thieves by Megan Whaler Turner so because of that, I haven’t read as many 2017 books as I normally do. It’s been a low rating year so far, bummer, but I was able to come up with ten of my faves.
Please click the covers to read the full review. This list is in order ending with my fave of 2017 so far.
DRUM ROLL PLEASE……………..
This is the spoiler edition of That Inevitable Victorian Thing by EK Johnston.
In this alternate world, the coming out season is soon underway. Yes, the coming out season where girls and boys of age and class attend parties during a season. Helene is a plain jane who comes from humble means, Elizabeth is a celebrity socialite, and Margret is the princess of England and they all end up at the same party. In this world, people are matched by a Computer. You upload your DNA and it finds your perfect match. Some people live by the Computer and marry their match while some believe in free will.
So let’s begin with the okie doke-Henry and Lizzie were Helene and Margret. I didn’t see that coming and I thought Johnston set that up quite well. At the point of this reveal, I was really liking this book but I soon found myself not caring about their romance. I thought it was sweet but I didn’t have an attachment to either of the ladies (they were boring as hell) so I wasn’t invested in their romance.
I hated that the American States were not explained during the novel. All we got was that we were bigoted pirates with horrible food. There was no explanation about what happened after the failed American Revolution but Johnston added it to the author’s note. I know this book isn’t about American but considering a LARGE amount of people that will read/buy this book will be American, I think she could have added a little bit more backstory.
I was pretty confused through half of the book. I wasn’t sure how the Computer came to exist. Was it because one of the early queens didn’t want her kids to marry politically? I don’t know. I also wasn’t sure if New London was New York or Helene’s mom actual occupation.
That entire storyline about August and the pirates was so anti-climactic-COME ON!
THAT ENDING! So August, Helene, and Margret are going to have some weird polygamist situation? Is Helene going to be banging both of them? Or is August going to left out in the cold to watch? I’m so confused but at any rate; Johnston fairy tale endings are killing me.
That Inevitable Victorian Thing
By: EK Johnston
Genre: Science Fiction
Expected Publication: October 2017
Bang Bang Rating:
In this alternate world, the coming out season is soon underway. Yes, the coming out season where girls and boys of age and class attend parties during a season. Helene is a plain jane who comes from humble means, Elizabeth is a celebrity socialite, and Margret is the princess of England and they all end up at the same party. In this world, people are matched by a Computer. You upload your DNA and it finds your perfect match. Some people live by the Computer and marry their match while some believe in free will. I can’t say much more because it’s full of spoilers but if you want to read the spoilers, click here.
I wanted to like this book because I liked Exit, Pursued by a Bear and this has a similar formula. It begins as a simple story but it slowly reveals a serious subject. Victorian Thing began quite well-it’s a new world and it was organized very strategically. Midway through however, it began to fall apart for me.
This book is set in Canada, Johnston’s homeland, and although I live mere hours from Canada I know literally nothing about our neighbors to the north. Here’s what I know about Canada: their bacon is round ham; they make a lot of maple syrup; they dip potato chips in ketchup; it’s cold; and their prime minister is cool as hell. I didn’t realize how little I knew about Canada until I read this book and I know this sounds bad and I apologize but I’m not interested in Canadian history. I applaud Johnston for including Canadian historical fiction and I think teens will benefit but I didn’t know what was historical fiction and what was Johnston fiction and I usually research but I didn’t because I didn’t care.
Although all the characters were likable, none of the characters were memorable.
The world had potential because it’s the 21st century and everyone is still wearing corsets and the monarchy is head of state and everyone uses Match.com and the American Revolution didn’t happen. I have, however, read several books where computers are a cautionary tale but Victorian Thing didn’t really do anything special with this overused plot device-bummer!
Overall, this is one of those books where at the midpoint it was pretty good but it slowly started to decline and the last 10 pages tanked it for me.
I read 8 books in April. To see my full reviews, click the titles.
Sparks of Light by Janet B. Taylor: I read and wrote a review for SLJ (School Library Journal). You can read my review on the website or in the publication in the coming months. Click Into The Dim to see my review for book 1.
Through the Woods by Emily Carroll: I read this for my FYA (forever young adult) book club. This is a graphic novel of short horror stories. I’m not a graphic novel reader and I probably don’t give the art the appreciation it deserves but out of the five stories, I only liked three.
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowling: This is the second time reading this and it just gets better.
The Thief by Megan Whalen Turner: There’s a lot of hype about this series that is currently on book 5 so I decided to read it. This was published in 1996 and although some people my be put off because of the slow plot, I enjoyed it and I’m excited to read the rest of the series.
3/4 Little Monsters by Kara Thomas: Although the ending didn’t quite do it for me and the character development was lacking, most of the book was suspenseful and enjoyable. I especially liked the comparison of teen girls to little monsters; I thought it was accurate and would make a good discussion.
DNF-Jane Unlimited by Kristin Cashore: I don’t DNF often because I like to power through but this book was too long to power on. It was written well but there was too much going on and I wasn’t interested in the subject matter; however, I do recommend it
The Gentlemen’s Guide to Vice and Virtue: Although it was a fun read, it wasn’t a critical read. There were too many tropes and several of the major parts of the story didn’t drive the plot.
All the Crooked Saints by Maggie Stiefvater: I finally read a five star book and I can’t believe it took me this long. This book is nothing like the Raven Cycle so please don’t go into it thinking it will be a sweeping love story with complicated characters. This is a stand-a-lone 288 page novel that is EXTREMELY character driven that’s full of metaphors and symbolism. It took a discussion with my co worker to fully like it but once I did, I loved it.
and my book assignment for SLJ. That makes 8 for May. Will there be any bangs?
The Thief (The Queen’s Thief #1)
By Megan Whalen Turner
Publication Date: 1996
Bang Bang Rating:
Book 5 is coming out and it’s receiving a lot of hype so I decided to start the series to see if it’s all that.
Disclaimer: I don’t know Greek mythology so this added to my enjoyment.
Gen is a thief but not a good one because he got caught by the King of Sounis in this parallel Grecian world. One day the magnus, the king’s scholar, frees Gen and tells him he needs his expertise and thus begins their long journey. Accompanying Gen and the mangus is a soldier named Pol, a duke’s wimpy son named Sophos, and the magnus’ asshole of an apprentice named Ambiades.
Gen has been in prison for a while and he’s a bit of a dick. Some people may find him insufferable but I concluded that Gen knows he’s needed and he’s been in prison so he’s going to milk this for all it’s worth and it works because when he’s hungry (which is a lot) they feed him and when he’s tired they rest. The bulk of this novel is their journey on horseback and during this time, Turner begins her character development and world building. I was afraid that this old ass book would not provide anything new by the way of character, plot, or world building but I was pleasantly surprised. When the story opens, you don’t know anything about anyone including Gen but during their long journey, you learn everything about everyone so therefore I didn’t find it boring. Sure, some of the characters were a bit tropey (Pol and Ambiades) but I found the magnus to be a refreshing character. The revelation of the three countries and how they intersect was well written but I really needed a map. Hopefully the new covers/new editions include a map.
I think Turner is a good storyteller. She gave you all the information you needed to follow along. I don’t know if this is a 1996 thing but no one had ages. If this were published today, there would definitely be ages. Also, did anyone catch the gay undertones? Overall, this was a solid intro into a new series that I’m excited to dive into it. I just hope that if there’s a book 6, Turner doesn’t take five years to write it.
I highly recommend you begin The Queen’s Thief Series. Don’t read any reviews because they might contain spoilers. I found some fan art that I think was spoilerish and I exited immediately.
As I stated in the spoiler-free review, Crooked Saints is full of symbolism and themes so I’ll discuss spoilers through my interpretation but please be aware that I could be wrong.
Daniel: Daniel’s parents died while accidentally helping a pilgrim. They turn into wood (not quite sure the significance of wood and if you have an idea, please share). Before they are completely engulfed, Daniel is chopped out of his mother’s womb.
Daniel was a hellian until he tried to steal The Holy Child of Atocha painting. He physically couldn’t lift the painting any longer and found the dedication to all the crooked saints on the back. (This is the only time the title in mentioned in the book so here’s the significance of the title). This is a real painting with a historical significance and I think this painting awakened Daniel to fulfill his higher purpose which is to become the saint. My copodcaster and I concluded that Daniel was a hell child because he was angry about the death of his parents and he didn’t want the responsibility of sainthood so if he was a bad person, he wouldn’t have to become the saint.
The thing Daniel wanted was to help someone he was not allowed to but he feared this desire would ruin his family like it ruined his family when his father tried to help a pilgrim. Daniel makes the conscious decision to help Marisita, a pilgrim he loves, (I’ll talk about her later) and he runs away so he won’t bring darkness to his family.
Beatriz: The thing she wants is to devote time to understand why the butterfly is similar to a galaxy. I tried to do some research into butterflies and galaxies and similarities but I couldn’t find any so I concluded that Beatriz wants to spend her time philosophizing and her fear is to be asked to do anything else.
When Beatriz and Daniel were 10 and 12, they discussed animals and if they could be cured with a miracle. (The Soria family had an untamed horse.) Beatriz philosophized that because horses were not human and didn’t have the concept of right and wrong, they could not posses darkness and could not be cured of a miracle. My copodcaster and I concluded that when Daniel was still in the womb, he didn’t pass along the darkness because he had no concept of right and wrong and therefore did not need a cure. We could be reaching here but regardless, it’s a great topic of discussion and the reason for the abortion debate.
Joaquin: His desire was to be famous and he feared dying alone. He wants to be a DJ and some historical fiction is his pirate radio station and the music of the 60’s makes an appearance in the novel. Joaquin and Beatriz want to find Daniel and help him but they know if they do, the darkness will get them but they find a way to help him and all the pilgrims through music. This was a minor theme; music has healing power/it can bring you out of the darkness. Because of his new new DJ job, Joaquin will never die alone because he’ll always have listeners.
Marisita (Pilgrim): Marisita literally has a dress of butterflies and is constantly under a cloud of rain. We learn that Marisita was guilted to take care of her family by marrying a man she didn’t love and concluded that she was depressed. The butterflies could symbolize not being able to take flight or Marisita not being able to be free. Butterflies symbolize the soul/resurrection/growth.
Marisita also loves Daniel and when she admits it, her guilt releases, the rain ceases, and the butterflies fly away thus her second miracle.
The Other Pilgrims: The journey of the other pilgrims are pretty obvious and my favorite was the skirt chasing priest who had the head of a coyote. Coyote’s are both a trickster and a teacher.
The Ending and Themes: The Soria family is afraid to interfere with the pilgrims because they don’t want to invite the darkness and this in itself is an issue-fear. Fear is a major theme and Beatriz finally realizes that her family lives in constant fear and they too need a miracle. Beatriz decides to perform both miracles for her family by helping Daniel.
When she finds Daniel, he is dead in the arm of Marisita (Oh the feels). As Daniel was dying, he was seeing an owl and I’m not quite sure what that means. Anyway, Beatriz sees the same owl with Daniel’s eyes and mouth. When she tries to grab the owl, it backs away until she realizes that she needs to want a miracle for the owl to approach her. When she relents, it approaches her and she grabs Daniel at the same time to give him back his eyes and breath but of course helping him causes the darkness to travel to Beatriz and she is now going blind. In order for Beatriz to perform the second miracle on her own, she has to admit that she does have feelings and she does love Pete before she goes completely blind. Pete finds her, helps her, and also becomes blind but after admitting their feelings, they complete the miracle.
- Darkness is about shame and not because you are terrible
- Face your demons and you can’t conquer demons alone
- Fear holds you back
- We must come together to be better than doing it on our own