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review 2018-05-13 17:38
Flawed - Cecelia Ahern

I can't believe I sat through this entire book.

 

This is an example of what happens when an author tries to mimic a YA dystopian future, but doesn't flesh out the world enough. This is what happens when the author concentrates on all the wrong aspects completely. This is also what happens when the author puts in a very shoddy and superficial love triangle, has the main character make constantly bad decisions (despite being supposedly "clever" and "flawless", by the admissions of everyone else around her), and manages to cram far too much content into too few pages.

 

It's disappointing, really, because the first chapter was really well-written. The world seemed well thought-out, it was a novel idea, but by gods that's where it ended. About two-thirds of the way through the book, it felt like the author had no real idea what she was doing, and it just felt like an utter trainwreck by the end of it. With a sequel planned, no less.

 

Here's the setting, then: the book is set in a world where people are branded for being "Flawed". That's for making morally unethical decisions - be it lying, stepping out of line of society, stealing from society (that's also in a metaphorical sense, too, which leads to all sorts of trouble). It also includes helping out another Flawed person.

 

In this world, Flawed people are treated like subhumans. They are constantly monitored, are bound by a strict curfew, must stick to a diet of bland food, are despised by the rest of society, and no more than two of them are allowed to be together at one time.

 

Oh, and they are *physically* branded when they become flawed - the courts have a branding iron placed upon a part of their body, branding the letter F on their body, and they must wear a red armband so everyone knows they are Flawed.

 

The first chapter of the book begins with our main character witnessing one of their close friends being arrested for being Flawed, for no other reason than because she took her ailing mother to a different country to administer euthanasia to them. So far, so good. We can already tell that the justice system is fucked up. Tell me more.

 

Our main character is called Celestine North. She's a model member of society and is deemed to be near-perfect. Class-A student. 

 

What happens is that she sees an old man suffering on a bus, and helps him to his seat. An old man who is Flawed. By doing so, she has aided a Flawed person, and is deemed Flawed herself. And punished accordingly.

 

Despite being only 17, the major courts are very angry at her and have her branded 5 times at different places on her body (mainly because this becomes a very public case for the media, her father works in the media as well), especially when she refuses to admit that she was wrong.

 

This, uh, seems a bit excessive. 

Not to mention that the main villain, Judge Crevan, goes further and puts a sixth brand on her spine without anaesthetic, which is quite illegal and fucked up.

Basically, that chapter was very hard to read and is mainly about the main character being tortured excessively because that's apparently the only way the author can make this impact upon us.

 

This part also takes half of the book.

 

We already know this happens from the synopsis on the back of the book. By the time it happens, the book is half over. Uh...I'm sure you could have made your book a bit longer? It hardly feels like anything happened except Celestine's court case...

 

Somehow, the next half of the book concentrates on how Celestine finds a way to fight back against this tyrannical organisation. Almost as if she's hardly weakened at all from being branded six times and subjected to prejudice and torture. There's also a graphic bullying scene which is also very hard to read through.

 

You're telling me that this one character has been put through to hell and back and, without even a thought for her own safety or anything, immediately starts trying to bring down Judge Crevan for administering that sixth brand illegally - I mean we could have some more thoughts from herself on the matter, maybe? Just a little? It just felt like she did it for terms of plot alone...

 

Nothing was fleshed out enough. There's another Flawed boy called Carrick, and Celestine somehow falls for him. They say one sentence to each other. That's all. Yet she somehow spends most of the book searching him out because she feels a connection to him - she doesn't even KNOW him. it's ridiculous.

 

Which makes one love triangle after another - her boyfriend Art who mysteriously disappears after her trial, then comes back, then finds out she is going to a party with another boy, then throws a jealous fit and disappears (and he NEVER returns again). And then another love triangle with Art and her sister?? Are you serious? Why put him in the book at all?!

 

There are also so many plot holes because apparently criminals have a separate justice system of their own, and once they serve their time, they get to have a normal life. As in, they're not Flawed. It doesn't make sense. How can you make someone Flawed for helping another Flawed being, and say that makes them lower than a murderer? Why is the criminal not also Flawed? It makes no sense at all...

 

A lot of the book was also based on the political impact.

 

This is where the book really fails, because Celestine is made out to be this great paragon of a rebellion against the organisation, even though nothing like that actually happens. If the book had been twice as long and the rebellion happened near the end, then maybe it would have made sense...but barely anything is fleshed out at all! It's somehow fast-paced without anything happening.

 

Like, her teachers at school refuse to teach her because she's Flawed. The one teacher who agrees to home-school her turns out to have political motives for her to speak at some kind of gathering of the Flawed and it just gets ridiculous. I got the impression that the Flawed aren't allowed to have gatherings like this, but apparently it's legal? There wasn't enough detail about any of this at all.

 

Oh, and don't get me started on Celestine herself.

 

She makes so many bad decisions. She goes around poking her nose into all of these situations which would see her in tons of trouble, and gets almost nothing for her efforts. She is easily tricked into attending a party by one of her classmates (who then kidnaps her and locks her in a shed to try and make her miss her curfew). And she keeps trying to search for that one guy called Carrick for no real reason other than because he was her age and happened to be in the same cell as her. (Again, they never said a word to each other.)

 

I see a lot of people hating on Celestine, but she's not a terrible character. She's just extremely bland and not that compelling of a protagonist. Her sister, Juniper, is actually rebellious and seems to know what to do, and I'm surprised that she doesn't have a bigger part to play. Her granddad is cool too. It's like everyone except Celestine is a decent character.

 

Near the end, the story dives into ever-more ridiculous territory as Celestine somehow single-handedly starts a riot just by standing up to a police officer (just one), has a long extended conversation with her teacher's Flawed husband (he appears just one chapter before the end and yet talks for several pages about plot-important stuff, even though he is also really drunk at the time and I couldn't take anything seriously here), and finally we discover that the other judges are turning on Judge Crevan and are willing to help out Celestine if they join their side.

 

Like, all these people are so willing to help Celestine. It's not as if she's alone. All these political sides everywhere, except I don't care at all because the author has forgotten to flesh out all of the other parts of the world. It just doesn't add up at all. It's just a really badly-written dystopian future (it feels more like a dystopian present) and so little is left out.

 

I don't know why Celestine acts so stupidly throughout the book, yet everyone excuses her actions and says what a clever girl she is because she studied mathematics. (The teacher's husband tells her that she can use mathematics to work out how to get out of her situation. I did mathematics at university. He's an idiot.) I don't know why the author chose to delve into the political side and leave out everything that could have been interesting.

 

I don't understand the reason for the terribly-written love triangle, or the love interest that never appears until the end, or the boyfriend who disappears in the second half of the book, or the desire to make the villains so ridiculously evil and sadistic that I can't take anything seriously anymore. 

 

By the end of it, I had come to the conclusion that this book is so bad that it's good. And good god, I am not reading the sequel.

 

 

 

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review 2018-05-09 08:10
Blog Tour w/Review - Spies, Lies, And Allies

 

 

 

About Spies, Lies, and Allies:


Summers are supposed to be fun, right? Not mine. I've got a job at my dad's company, which is sponsoring a college scholarship competition. I just found out that, in addition to my job assisting the competing interns, I'm supposed to vote for the winner. Totally not what I signed up for. 

 

There's a crazy guy running the competition like it's an episode of Survivor. Then there’s Carlos, who is, well, very distracting –– in a good way. But I can't even think about him that way because Crazy Guy says any fraternizing on the job means instant disqualification for the intern involved.

 

As if that's not enough, an anonymous weirdo with insider intel is trying to sabotage my dad's company on social media...and I'm afraid it's working.

 

Much as I'd love to quit, I can't. Kristoffs Never Quit is our family motto. I just hope there's more than one survivor by the end of this summer. 

 

Buylinks: https://entangledpublishing.com/spies-lies-and-allies-a-love-story.html

 

 

 

Excerpt from Spies, Lies, and Allies:

 

“Let’s see where helping me on my project falls on this list.” Carlos picks up a pen and clicks it, eyeing me from underneath ridiculously long lashes.

 

Cautiously, I take a tiny step toward his desk so I can read the list.

 

“Number three.” I point to the napkin. “Teamwork.”

 

He nods and underlines the word. I notice he’s added numbers six through ten. Nothing is written next to those numbers, except for ten, next to which he’s drawn a smiley face.
“What’s that for?” I point to the smiley face. He leans back in his desk chair and grins up at me.

 

“Not sure yet.”

 

My heart throbs in my chest and my imagination is off and running, fantasizing about

number ten.

 

Carlos points to number five: nicknames. “I think this is where we left off at lunch.” He clicks his pen repeatedly and I resist the urge to snatch it out of his hand. “I’d prefer not to be nicknamed for a pasta, but I gave you a cereal nickname, so…” He shrugs but keeps his eyes on mine.

 

“I…pasta…what?” He’s not making sense.

 

He bites his bottom lip, and I have no trouble picturing what will make me “smiley face” if we ever make it to number ten. Also, I’m pretty sure he’s a mind reader because his gaze drifts down to my lips, then back up to my eyes.

 

“The Manicotti. Who is it?” He glances across the room. “Elijah? He can be sort of cheesy.”

 

My mind analyzes his words, sliding them around like one of those puzzles where you have to move a string through twisted metal. And then it clicks.

 

“You read my notebook! You’re the one who—” Panic zings through me as I remember what I wrote about him, Carlos is trouble, and his editorial comment, True. Is Carlos adorable?

 

Apparently I’m not the only spy around here.

 

“Why’d you pick this desk?” I’m desperate to change the subject.

 

“I like the view.”

 

“But it’s better by the windows.”

 

“Depends on which view we’re talking about.” He gives me a cryptic smile, one that makes my stomach dip. “Anyway, I saved your notebook. You’re lucky no one else read your notes.”

 

Mortified and defiant, I cross my arms over my chest. “You didn’t have to read it. You could’ve just returned it.”

 

“I was just checking to make sure you’d listed all of Mr. Mantoni’s rules.”

 

“Uh huh.”

 

Across the room, Elijah stands up and stretches. He glances at us, an amused smirk twisting his lips like he knows something I don’t.

 

Carlos writes on the napkin again. Number six: healthy disagreement.

 

“You’re kidding, right?”

 

His responding grin packs more heat than it should.


“I think we’ve gone off track.” I’m proud of how calm I sound, even though my nerve endings are exploding like firecrackers.

 

 

 

Spies, Lies, and AlliesSpies, Lies, and Allies by Lisa Brown Roberts
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Laurel wants a summer job, but she wants to spend time with her incredibly busy workaholic dad also. Offering her services as an assistant, she ends up meeting with all the company's interns who are fighting for a scholarship. When she finds out who she is actually working with she freaks.

Carlos is just one of the hotties she is to help over the summer. He is a busy family man, who also hopes to get to college. The sparks between them are lit almost immediately. Only problem with this is the timing. He is disqualified for the scholarship if he is seen dating or fraternizing with Laurel.

This book just shot out the gate. The release timing was excellent, with all of the great Star Wars and pop culture references. Laughing my way through, I had a hard time putting the book down just to eat! This author has quickly become a must for me.


***This early copy was given in exchange for an hones review, by Netgalley and its publisher.

View all my reviews

 

 

 

About Lisa Brown Roberts:


Award-winning romance author Lisa Brown Roberts still hasn’t recovered from the teenage catastrophes of tweezing off both eyebrows, or that time she crashed her car into a tree while trying to impress a guy. It’s no wonder she loves to write romantic comedies.  


Lisa’s books have earned praise from Kirkus Reviews, Publishers Weekly, and the School Library Journal. She lives in Colorado with her family, in which pets outnumber people. Connect with Lisa at www.lisabrownroberts.com.

 

Author Links:


Website ~ Twitter ~ Facebook ~  Instagram ~ Goodreads ~ Newsletter

 

 

 

 

 

Giveaway:
Signed copy of Spies, Lies, and Allies + some spy-related swag
 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

 

OR if you prefer, you can click direct to the giveaway:

 

http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/1cb554951254/

 

 

 

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review 2018-04-30 04:47
The Youth & Young Loves of Oliver Wade
The Youth & Young Loves of Oliver Wade: Stories - Ben Monopoli

"This was the tragedy of growing up a closeted gay boy: you've had no practice when it matters."

 

We meet Ollie near the end of Paintings of Porcupine City, so we don't really get to know him that well when he and Fletcher hook up. These books have always been more gay lit than M/M, so I was only disappointed that we didn't get to know Ollie better. This collection of short stories fixes that. It chronicles Ollie's life from his first school dance to his meeting and first date with Fletcher.

 

The stories are often insightful, and the ones focusing of his teen years are especially angsty. One of the college years stories includes dub-con, so be aware of that. What is fascinating in all the stories is how Ollie learns to be honest with himself and others, how he figures out what being gay means, and how he fumbles as he tries time and again to find true love - until that true love finds him.

 

I still don't know what to make of Paint Day. It's a weird fantastical element in books otherwise firmly rooted in reality, but a bit of mystical reality never hurt anyone I suppose. :D

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review 2018-04-19 20:51
Little Soldiers by Lenora Chu
Little Soldiers: An American Boy, a Chinese School, and the Global Race to Achieve - Lenora Chu

This is a really interesting book that offers a firsthand view of the Chinese school system from a mostly-American perspective. Lenora Chu is a daughter of Chinese immigrants who was raised in the U.S., her husband a white American who volunteered in China with the Peace Corps. After moving to Shanghai for work, they enroll their son in a prestigious Chinese preschool. Concerning incidents at the school spark the author’s journey to learn more about the Chinese school system: she observes classrooms in China and the U.S., talks to experts, and gets to know Chinese high schoolers and parents.

So the book is part memoir, part nonfiction. From an American perspective it’s a fascinating comparison; so much of what I tend to view as going wrong in current American ideas of education and child-rearing seems to be heightened in China, from overscheduled kids (in China it’s usually tutoring or extracurricular classes rather than swimming, gymnastics etc.), to an unwillingness to let kids play freely and explore because they might hurt themselves (other parents judge Chu for letting her son run around the living room jumping off chairs, etc., and the school states that kids aren’t allowed to talk during lunch because they might choke), to a heavy emphasis on testing. Regarding that last one, pressure for the high school and college entrance exams in China is so intense that in one town a crackdown on cheating resulted in parents and students rioting.

Which actually leads to one of the positive features of the Chinese system: Chinese families tend to treat academics the way American families treat sports, to the point of huge crowds of people gathering outside exam sites to see their kids off and shout well-wishes. While Americans face a social penalty for being “nerds” and tend to view academic success as a matter of inborn talent (so if you don’t have it, why bother to try), the Chinese have valued brains – and judged people by their test scores – for centuries, and believe that success is largely a matter of effort. They aren’t afraid to demand work from kids or to ask them to memorize. This is especially noticeable in math: while American schools tend to wrap up simple math in verbally complicated “word problems” in an attempt to make the work “relevant” to kids who won’t have a professional job for a decade or more anyway, Chinese schools forge ahead and have young kids doing more advanced problems. This is helped by the fact that Chinese teachers specialize in their subject matter from the first grade, while American elementary school teachers are generalists (who by and large don’t like math and weren’t good at it themselves). Of course it’s also helped by Chinese schools’ making no attempt to integrate kids with special needs into regular classrooms, which American schools must do.

It’s evident from Chu’s writing that all of these issues are complicated: each school system has its advantages and disadvantages, but many of the advantages come with their own negatives or are bound up with the culture and therefore hard to replicate, while the disadvantages can also have silver linings. And of course no huge country has a uniform school system: just as the U.S. has both great and failing schools, China too has huge disparities, with many rural schools being shafted.

There's a lot in the book that I haven't even discussed here: politics in the classroom, the social position of teachers, the encouragement of creativity or lack thereof, and how all this affects students in the long run. But the book isn’t a treatise. Chu keeps it lively and interesting with accounts of her own family’s experiences, and with a clear, journalistic writing style. I imagine some readers might criticize her parenting decisions – at times it felt as if she were trying to claim a high-minded rationale for a choice of school that ultimately came down to cost, while she and her husband seemed willing to accept (if unhappily) a certain amount of what many Americans would consider abusive treatment of preschool kids (such as forcefeeding, or threatening to call the police on them when they misbehave) in the interests of having a disciplined and well-behaved child. But for the American reader it’s a fascinating window into a very different school system, and into Chinese culture as a whole. It is balanced and thoughtful, and the author comes across as open-minded, curious and willing to adapt rather than pushing an agenda. I do wish it had endnotes rather than a chapter-by-chapter bibliography, for readers to follow up and learn more. But I learned a lot from this book, enjoyed reading it, and would recommend it.

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