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review 2014-04-07 08:45
(almost) 3 bags full
Dorothy Must Die - Danielle Paige

But sometimes you need to light a fire.

If only. Dorothy Must Die was one of the most anticipated debut novel of 2014 of mine, and so far, it's been the biggest disappointment for me and my three bags of wool. It was barely a flame, not even able to attract a moth like me, driving me to skip it at times for Archie comics and I don't even like them. Not to say it was a drag(it totally was but I'm being nice), but it's the same fairytale-the Wizard of Oz- extended, instead of retold with imagination and fuckery like I expected.

Dorothy is evil, the yellow road is crumbling, and crows have human eyes and ears.

-in times like these, the Wicked will rise!

What entails is a shoddy revolution, Wicked Witches, mutilated monkeys and the rest. And yet, it's pretty much the same story I saw(sadly, yes) back when I was in the second grade(woe used to be me). There's the evil ruler(in this case, Dorothy), there are the witches(in this case, Wicked) who recruit a girl from Kansas(in this case, not so sweet and named Amy), and words are flipped. However, this didn't affect, or contributed to my mild feelings for the characters were interesting, and had more depth than your average prom king and queen in a typical American flick(where, incidentally, they're the first ones to be slashed/chopped/mutilated). And that was the strongest factor in favor of Dorothy Must Die for me.

From Kansas girls to her rat to the witches and the Tin Woodman, not one character was brushed off with superficiality. Certainly there were character who didn't play much of a part, didn't have enough screentime for us to get acquainted, but in snide and side remarks, one can gather that they're much more than they appear as first, or act as. Case in point: Mombi, the Wicked witch of...somewhere.

Another pro to be noted was there were certain gruesome creatures, certain whimsical beings that were fun to imagine.




While we're on that, I must add that the book lacked a certain atmosphere, sans which the story didn't work for me. The enchantment was lost on me, and I was bored for a 4-fucking-32 pages while. In itself, the writing and telling of the land of Oz, its description, was juvenile, and had it not been for the dark subjects discussed(self-mutilation, forced child labor et cetra), I would've suspected it to be a light read. Yet I don't mean to imply that Amy's voice was lacking; simply that when one encounters an exotic, decrepit land like Oz, one expects a tone to be set for full engagement in the story. And Ms Paige failed to meet my standards on that count.

The story is straight-forward for most of the book, with no twists or turns or misdirections taking place. All work and no play(with the characters) made the book a bogus read.

Moreover, and I wholly realize I might be acting fastidious and impossible, there were a number of inconsistencies, trivial details lacking/erroneous/mismatched. Strap in, it's gonna be a long one.

1.First off all, the biggest twist to this rather plodding story, the one that provided a bit of umph! factor that is introduced at almost the end has already been given away in the blurb. Spoiler much?

2.Amy and the trailer she lives in are flown away by a tornado to the land of Oz. Yet weeks later, she spies on her mom searching and finding an old sweater of Amy's in a strange place. Where did that come from?


The princess felt that their conversation ruined the apple-eating experience and was therefore a violation of the Happiness Decree...
It[eating apples] was against the Happiness Decree. It's not worth the risk.

Is it deliberate or am I reading it wrong?

4.Nox is introduced as the strongest fighter in the Order, yet Melindra almost always defeats him because Melindra was by far the best of us all. I guess you could always say there's a difference being the best and the strongest, but I'll tell you that that registers on bullshit-radar.

5.According to some:
Amy is the one one to kill Dorothy because.
But the because is so stupid you don't want to know.
Because you[Amy] understand her(since they're both from Kansas).
There was no understanding required for their plan.

According to others:
Amy is the one to kill Dorothy just because.
Because there are certain tools and people and methods.
(They're both from Kansas.)
(I think I like this better, more mysterious.)

6.Multiple characters change their appearances, Polyjuice Potion style.

First character is Amy, pretending to be someone she isn't amongst people who have known the person she is pretending at for a long time. I think it's safe to assume Amy had been magically provided with the poor person's voicebox along with their entire appearance, because surely Amy wouldn't have been able to fake her voice for so long.

Second character is...let's take a variaable:X. And yet, here's how X is recognized:
Their[gender pluralized] voice was all X.

Third character...whatever.

7. A sly, nervous grin.
What the actual fuck is a sly, nervous grin?
I can't grin slyly and nervously simultaneously, and believe you me, I did try. Hell, I went out to smile at the stray dogs lazing outside my gates. And I have a little-graver-than-slight phobia of canines.

8.I didn't know what was Good or Wicked anymore. All I knew was what was right.
And ignoring an innocent kidnapped and tortured is so right.

Whew! Glad we're done with that, now I can concentrate on expounding on the very few positives I have.

Dorothy was a fantastic protagonist:kick-ass not only because she can literally kick-ass, but because she has the personality and voice of a kick-asser. She is bitter, and doesn't have the noblest reasons for wanting things always, albeit she's a good person at heart.

...just to say I had someone

Here she admits that she would help someone, anyone just to say that she had someone to help whom she'd go to any lengths for. She is played or maybe she isn't, she never knows; this, as expected, confuses and frustrates her. Doubt and questions creep in; is her noble cause really hers?

Despite failing to set the tone, each chapter ended on these awesome punch lines; and there were wonderful quotes in between that helped in describing the characters, their passions and so much more.

Something about that much sweetness didn't feel right.

And then I thought: Bring it on. There’s no place like anywhere but here.

I didn't want to believe her, but I knew all too well that you can't always get what you want.

"Magic loves change," she said with a sigh. "Do enough of it and it will warp you in strange ways..."

A personal favorite:

We're off to see the wizard!

Thus my mixed bag of feelings can be shortened down to two indisputable particulars:
The land of Oz didn't enchant me.
Monkeys are awesome.

A better book, with similar outline, would be The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making. It's middle-grade, but it will twist your emotions so much more, and the little hint of wayyy-into-future romance is more heart-warming than the one here.

Ultimate rating: 2.5

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review 2014-02-18 17:07
Rebel Belle - Rachel Hawkins



that is simply all you need to know about this book. but i like the sound of my own imagined voice much more than my real voice which, frankly, after more than fifteen years, has gotten rather tiresome. nowadays, i speak in the voice of… someone Irish. with a very pronounced Irish accent.


makes the review so much more interesting, don’t it?


if you ever felt alienated a bit by Hex Hall whilst still fawning over it, were ever slighted by Demonglass and all that endued; if you’re sick, just goddamn sick! do put Rebel Belle on your watch list.[unless, like you're really sick and you're avoiding hospitals because of them needles, don't do that. take care of yourselves, 'kay?]


all those pesky details that annoy me about YA characters and trends; all those stupid cliches that curtail my enjoyment, Rebel Belle alleviates, or avoids, depending on the situation.


on the surface, glancing at the overall plot, it’s formulaic and cozy. girl lives purr-fect life: boyfriend purr-fect and sweet and caring and sporty, popular and with reputasio, gaggle of friends, purr-fect image and body. purrrrrrrrrrrrrr-fect, sometimes sans furry playmates and companions.


girl obtains power, girl becomes guardian, crosses paths with mortal enemy and lo! there is lurve.


but there be problems.


boyfriend: goes ex, after a whole round of possessiveness, asshole-ry, cheating. in the end, he’s bad.


gaggle of friends: we shun thee! save the world and you’re off the it list. best friend turns out to be a real bitch.


popularity and reputasio: goes down the drain because only Hercules is allowed to go save the world, without repercussions from inferior mortals.


however nada, no, nyan, nyeh!


here’s how it goes:


boyfriend: there be troubles indeed, but he’s all very chivalrous about it. actually, he’s *mostly* a nice guy all round. nice boyfriend; they both just grow apart. (view spoiler)


gaggle of friends: there isn’t really a gaggle. there are friends, and they don’t much notice anything weird. her best friend is love. to expound, she’s a teenage girl and they have their shits and giggles, but she’s there for harper, and believes her. she’s even present for harper’s kick-boxing(et cetra) classes, sorta like a voyeur watching her get beaten up but still! friends are voyeurs!(but not all voyeurs are friends, gettit kids?) yet bad things are in store for her.




there are no mean girls; there’s an awkward, young woman who has some clashes with harper, which IMO was uncalled for seeing how many times harper’s helped her but harper was being kinda hard. but there aren’t any of the prevalent cat-fights because it’s all mostly civil and words can’t touch this!

popularity and reputasio: there are hitches and ditches to jump over. times are when she falls, but folks are nice, despite the fact they’re southern*, which i loved.


anywho, the story behind her powers be greek and all, oracles and witches. vair, vair interesting but not so more than the character dynamics. there are people and spells hunting david: he revels and dreams futures in solitude while she kills her history teacher with pick stilettos and gains mysterious powers.

(guess who i wanna be.)


turns out, david is the second male oracle in a history of all-powerful women oracles, who could either be made to gain enormous powers, which could mutate and cause him to destroy legions(as happened with the first) or left to grapple and straddle his half-assed powers that come with being a guy. harper can kick-ass, and must now protect him. she can kick HUGE, multiple asses.


it’s all fun and games until someone’s abducted, most of the town is mind-compelled, a psychotic teenage witch with a knife catches up with them. but fact is, it’s fun yet so! there are a few angst-y scenes when harper isn’t sure she wants to devote her entire life to david; neither does david expect/want her to. in fact, he’s vehemently against the notion.


the romance is hate-to-love and what can i say? i’m guilty of loving it much more than any other trope. especially when people are from opposite sides of the battleground. the battleground here is childhood and high school, not the real one. they’ve both hated the other since they were kids, and he’s given to writing snide articles in the paper about her. however, he’s got a reason; a very fucking valid reason i couldn’t, wouldn’t argue with. (view spoiler)


in this aspect, harper irked me in the beginning. she doesn’t rebuke him in the first few chapters because


(a)she needs to suck up to his aunt- his only family- who’s playing a major part in her life.


(b)she’s a southern belle, and you don’t do that.


but she pulls up her big girl panties! she puts him in his place, and even goes so far to falcon-punching her then-boyfriend when he’s being a dick(another time, another place). there’s the fact that she can’t tolerate the f-word, but she comes around. you go, girl!

they had hilarious moments, kiss-y moments, almost moments and the bad ones, too. i hope ms hawkins doesn’t give up on the bad moments in book #2; they’re totally worth it!


favorite part:
ordinary girls gain ninja-bility. they’re so happy, and that made me so happy, reading while they jumped and kicked and shadow-boxed and fought.


saddest part:

(view spoiler)


the book has its share of irritants and issues. the foremost of which is, why in the name of the oracle of delphi(which i am not in the possession thereof) would an oracle be able to gain such destructive powers? oracles are supposed to be conduits for visions, for words from the gods, for the paths that fate might take! if an oracle grows powerful, *i* suppose that their clairvoyant powers would grow more astute and clearer. *i* don’t think they’d gain powers to grant falcon-punching powers directly. *i* suppose their words might spur people on to falcon-punch other, but the ability comes from within the subject.


but nature’s a fickle character. far be it from me to restrain her in my own limited gamut of biology. plus, i don’t much know about mutation beyond x-men and zombie/vampire novels. oracles could mutate into mages, who am i to judge?


the climax and last scenes were exciting and there ensued so. much. enjoyment. for me, everything was done just right and that ending was fabulous! the power of three, baby!


i exhort you to read this book. and i really do want the next book. if you enjoyed Hex Hall, you’re sure going to love Rebel Belle. if not, then, there’s hope for you yet! you might enjoy it!


*it’s been implied in countless books that southern people have nothing better than to drawl and gossip and clutch pearls.(i don’t have much experience with pearls but i persuaded four people at this wedding i attended the previous weekend to part with these fake-pearl necklaces. but they were complementary and i wasn’t really interested in them. the real shine for me was in the fact that only that boys and men were getting it. girls and women were given fake-gold bracelets(and for some reason, i didn’t get that either). but then i gave one back to my brother, who was the first giver, and another to my little cousin for he was suffering my own ailment[see gift-bereft-ment], and the other two my sister took, and i have seen neither hide nor tail of them since. oh and there was this true pearl ring that i lost within a month of obtaining it.)(what did we learn to day? i am generous.)


thanks to the publishers for providing a review copy.

Source: attheendofthestory.wordpress.com/2014/02/17/rebel-belle
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review 2014-02-14 10:31
Stolen Songbird - Danielle L. Jensen

To me, Stolen Songbird is a story caught between The Blue Sword and Cruel Beauty. It lacks the intricate prose of the former, its detailed background and the memorable characters along with the creative world and concept of the latter. Yet it has intriguing affairs of its own.

While on her way back to her farm, carrying eggs and dillydallying because it's her last day and soon enough she'll be on her way towards singing operas with her mother in cities far and beyond(excuse me for a moment. I can do it, I can remember her name, one goddamn name, memory! Ha!), Cécile is kidnapped by a longtime asshole of her acquaintance. She's then transported into tunnels, where she crawls and screams and fights and runs, all to end up bloodied and terrified at the feet of the troll king, who intends for her to bond with his son, Prince Tristan, and break the curse that has entrapped the troll kingdom ere long.

Shit happens fast enough as their union doesn't break the curse. Now, Princess Cécile becomes a resented prisoner but the king still has hope that the progeny of the new couple would surely break the curse. Entail the typical YA fantasy romance where they talk of not wanting to do it, she's terrified and he's disgusted, he's rude and a troll, she's human and feeble, feelers they do grow and although they can each read the other's emotions because of the union, misconceptions arise; they kiss, make up, fight, commit to detest-ability in moments of jealousy and the rest you can figure out.

BUT WAIIIITTTT! There are things unexplored beyond the curse. The troll kingdom and its hierarchy; there's story beyond their union. Revolutions, slavery, resentment, mad brother with a side dish of Troll politics. These things are different.

I don't know about you, but I don't think I've read a YA fantasy novel with revolutions, per se. There was Eona, and a few other but I don't think they fill the slot. However, it seems that the slot is still empty; Stolen Songbird didn't fill it.

Because first and foremost, it's a romance novel. A romance that takes time and grows because the characters need to grow and get acquainted with us. The love part takes up almost the entirety of the novel, and the revolution, we barely get a hint of. Thing is, Tristan is the one who leads the revolution, but chapters in his POV are very few, and when we do actually get to them, they revolve around Cécile, for the most part. What she's feeling, what she's done, what he's done to her, what she could mean for his plans, and wait a second, he's conversing with his father about something else! Hallelujah! Oh no, there's Cécile entering the scene. That accounts greatly for the lack of tense atmosphere, planning, words and deeds.

In this matter, Cécile's chapters have far more material. Don't get me wrong, she does all that he does, but since her chapters are greater in number, there's a lot of space to fill. The job is accomplished by escapades, side characters, discovering about the revolutions and witches and curses, meeting the slaves.

Stolen Songbird's characters have absconded some of the most irritating tropes of YA fantasy novels: Cécile and Tristan exist of their own, and are not dependent on the other; neither is a doormat, and there's no insta-love, or whining and complaining, or speshul-ness with snowflakes dancing around because there's fucking underground. That, in itself, wouldn't be a bad thing. Yet their personalities can have lists composed of everything we'd like to see; that's all they are are:lists. All the good things, and none of the bad. All the good things individually and nothing, no quirk or hint of true-ness, emanates from them. For me, they're forgettable. I was invested to a degree in their story but now, I couldn't give two shits about the ending nor their heartbreak nor what might ensue. Their voices hooked me for the time being, but there was no captivation involved; and now, almost two days later, I find them boring.

The troll world doesn't have a linear history, nor present. One could call it complex, with the disfigured nobility and the commons and the slaves bereft of magic. Power rules and power matters. Gender doesn't determine shit, blood does. Because blood carries troll power. Get this, gender doesn't fucking matter. She-trolls go to school and can inherit property; they can own their lives and rule their homes. POWER MATTERS. You'd think-I thought- that such a world would be almost free of misogyny. Yet at every turn, I encountered such sexist notions:

It was to his advantage – he had only two daughters, one of them now dead – and a new young wife gave him another chance at a son.

“But she’s his wife,” Tristan said indignantly. “She is duty-bound to go wherever he wants her to go.”

"...I can certainly tolerate drunkeness in myself, but not in a woman."[Says Tristan.]

FAAAAAAAAAAACCCCCK? There were more. Did you know, in all these centuries, Trollus was rules only by kings? Don't tell there was never a Montigny(the royal family) daughter powerful enough to defeat her predecessor. Just fuck.

And once more:

The second[rule] is that no human male may touch a troll woman, whether it is against her will or not.

Get this: troll males can hump and bump human females; it's frowned upon but there are no restrictions. She-trolls can be as powerful as He-trolls, depending on their blood. And that addition: whether it is against her will or not- that's fucking offensive, in a world like theirs. Implies that not only do they not trust the female trolls to be unable to protect themselves against humans, their judgement is skewed. I don't think it's chivalrous, it's stupid and fuck.

For once, I was so excited to read a YA fantasy where girls were on equal footing with boys; a world whose traditions weren't stooped in our age-old discrimination. This is a good post exemplifying my feelings.

Not only was the inclusion of misogyny inconsistent with the world building, it was also fucking excessive and unavailing.

Without those choice lines, the book would've been the same; they don't affect the story in any fucking way. A picture, a name of a female ruler in the library wouldn't alter the story. This is my question: Was the inclusion solely for the purpose of custom? Because that's how it is in YA book? Fuck. Fuck. Fuck.

And I'm not even a fan of Nicki Minaj. But she's so right

Another thing I'd like to know is why does the kingdom of Trollus have a curfew.

The side characters are all well-developed, especially Marcus. I love that he tried to (view spoiler) when shit happened. There was the usual another girl thing, the subversive type where the author tries to show that the other girl isn't a bitch, and has feelings of her own. This trend started because authors tried to write more feminist novels, to show that girls don't need to fight because they love the same guy. But my sensors are so overwrought: this thing's been done so many times. I wish it weren't there at all. But it was, and far be it from me to tell what an author should or not do.

Yet I still wish. I wish that if the authors do include it, I wish for once the girl weren't so fucking beautiful and mesmerizing and curvaceous on the outside; for once, can't a guy share a platonic and intimate relationship with girl who loves him but isn't a super model, AND she does the job of making the MC jealous? And then can we have the props follow? The feelings and all? Can the MC not ever be jealous of a girl with plain features? Says my finicky side.

For the sake of being fair and shit, I must add that she was a loyal person and had her own grievances, who might have been nicer to Cécile in a world where there are two Tristan's. [I want to read a book where two girls pine over the same guy, and there's no friction between them; they're united in their pining. Actually, there was something similar in [book:Persuasion], and obviously, there are so many incidents in real life.]

Also, the book says that due to an old tradition of inter-breeding amongst them to preserve their blood, the nobles and royals are all disfigured. Even the 'other girl' has an internal, hereditary problem, yet Tristan is perfect. In. Every. Fucking. Outward. Way. He doesn't even have pointy teeth. Seems to me, he should be the most disfigured of the lot.

I was going to rate the book three stars, but writing this review has made my feelings more coherent, thus the lack of half a star.

Anywho, besides all that, the scenes with sluags in especial were credible, reminiscent of The Descent: Part 2, which is to say, it was very atmospheric and disgusting with the pool of shit and all. It was a gripping novel that had me hooked whenever I was available for hooking. The character introductions plus developing relationships. very, very little about revolutions and the politics beats the lack of revolution-izing by a very minor factor.

All romanticising and characterising, no revolutionizing. :/

I certainly would encourage you to give Stolen Songbird a try; it's not a bad book, actually. Some of the things just weren't to my taste.

Review copy provided by publishers.

[If you can't figure it out, this review was written in two parts. Yesterday, when I was feeling mild after an unexpected evening nap, and today, after getting access to my computer after almost a two-day hiatus. I was feeling ecstatic. Go figure.]

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