1/5 – DNF at 32%
In short: Agatha Christie wannabe. Shitty plot, shitty characters, shitty editing.
But, I have to put a longer review. Mainly because this was supposed to be a buddy read with Emma. Too bad this book sucked.
I wish I was joking. Emma gave me three choices. Illuminae (a book I DNFed… but might try again one day), The Call, and this one. I thought this one would be the best because 1) I’ve read a few of Werlin’s books and enjoyed them, and 2) I love the book she stole the title from.
But it sucked.
The characters were just bad. Sure, they ticked diversity boxes — a gay character, a POC character, a disabled character, mental illness rep, etc — but they were written so badly that I couldn’t do it.
This book had two POVs, Caleb and Saralinda. Caleb is the mental illness rep and Saralinda is the disability rep. But Saralinda is written so badly that I wanted to die. Sure, the way she talks (aka how she’s written) shows how sheltered she’s been, but that doesn’t mean I have to like it. She’s a childish character and it was unbelievable that she was supposed to be that age.
Caleb, I could stomach more. Until they started using DID (Dissociative Identity Disorder; formerly Multiple Personality Disorder) as a fun and interesting way to make a twist. And also play on the stereotypes of the disorder.
And then the plot is just a knock-off. I mean, if you’ve read And Then There Were None then you know it. Kind of. This one has five kids and, from what I read, one “murder” that I’d call accidental death at the moment since I didn’t get past it. Yes, over 30% and there was only one murder. Fucking lame.
And I was pretty sure the rest was them speculating about their parents and other odd things happening. Aka, no extra murders. That’s so lame. How dare Werlin take Agatha Christie’s name like this?
This was a lame book. It was badly edited because it was ten times too long. There were whole chapters that added nothing to the story that could have been edited out. I expected more of this book and I’m disappointed by it.
I have a very specific number for my rating, don’t I? That’s because I totaled up all of my individual ratings to see how it evened out over the whole book. And I think that basically describes my thoughts about it.
It started off with a bang, but I thought it cooled quickly with some good stories in the middle. A lot of the stories actually blended together for me. I thought there were a lot of F/F stories. I expected to have a ton of M/M stories, but there weren’t too many. Now, I love F/F stories, but, by the end of the collection, they all blended together because they were so alike.
I was also surprised that there were two stories that featured transmen (one M/F and one M/M) in some way. My shock is because I’m used to there being more about transwomen than transmen. It would have been nice to have something with transwomen in there.
Also, no bi or pan stories either, unless I didn’t catch hints dropped that a character identified as such. I think that one of the last stories had a bi love interest, but it was never really stated.
There was a lot of diversity within the stories even though I thought there could have been more sexual diversity. Lots of rep for various cultures, which made my heart sing at times.
My favorite stories were: Roja, And They Don’t Kiss at the End, The Dresser & the Chambermaid, Every Shade of Red, The Secret Life of a Teenage Boy, and Three Witches.
It should surprise no one that both of the stories with transmen and the one story with an ace person are in my favorites. The other three are an M/M and the two F/F stories that really stuck out to me.
Overall, I thought this was a good collection that I could see myself rereading one day. Keep reading for my mini-reviews of the stories!
Roja by Anna-Marie McLemore: 4/5
My little transboy heart was full with this one. Especially as I just had top surgery (literally one week ago – 3/13/18), so I’m really in tune with that facet of myself. I think it was the author’s note and one passage from the story that choked me up, as our MC described how she always saw Leon as a man, no matter what his body said. And that he was hers. God, I’m getting teary just thinking about it.
But, why a star off? I got choked up. I got emotional. That’s not usually how I am (although Chantel will beg to differ). I just thought it could have been developed a little more. I wanted more concrete details. Did our MC really have some witchy power? What happened to Leon? All the details kind of blended together for me and didn’t quite meld. I really enjoyed it in the end, but I thought it could use a little more.
The Sweet Trade by Natalie C. Parker: 3/5
Cute. It was cute. I liked the characters and the story being told, but I just wanted more. I really wanted to have more to the story where I found out more about them and if Clara or Pearl had those feelings before or if it was the first time they noticed them or some combination. It just didn’t feel as developed as I wanted it to me, even though I thought the story was super cute.
And They Don’t Kiss at the End by Nilah Magruder: 4.5/5
MY ACE HEART. It was so sweet. So, so sweet. I loved how it was really a character study with an internal drive rather than something external. It was all about Dee not having the word for her sexuality when she was describing it perfectly. And the guy, Vince, so sweet.
Can you tell I thought this story was sweet and cute and lovely?
It made me feel happy to get some ace rep in here, and to have it in a non-awkward and a chronistic way. It never felt like I was getting a lecture or being taught about asexuality because that term wouldn’t have been used in the 1970s. It felt specific to the time, all while capturing the timeless feeling of asexuality (the non-aromantic side of the spectrum, though).
Burnt Umber by Mackenzi Lee: 4/5
Another super cute story. So far, most of these are fluffy and cute. I like that. But I loved how this was set in the 1600s, far before there was a more modern idea of queerness. It felt very outside the scope, yet, again, it connected deeply to a boy knowing that he’s not interested in women and trying to figure that out. Along with navigating that unattainable crush we’ve all had and realizing the person in front of you is the one you ought to be with.
The Dresser & the Chambermaid by Robin Talley: 4.5/5
I have to admit, I spent a lot of this story researching. I kind of got interested and decided to figure out who Princess Amelia was. Finally, I figured out she was daughter of George II and that was cool. Obviously, this one caught me. I love some good history tossed in and historical figures.
And the characters were so great. Country girl versus city girl. Not in a women pitted against each other way, but just the obvious differences that come from that. I found them both so cute and fun and charming. They were a joy to read about, really.
The mini-tension that came about near the end of the story was well-placed, but not overdone. It could have easily been overdone, too. In the end, I felt like I could have read a whole book about these characters. Especially Barnaby. Because, y’all, he seemed like a joy to have around.
New Year by Malinda Lo: 4/5
This one was unique compared to the others. Instead of following a blossoming relationship, it showed a Chinese American girl in the 1950s discovering she’s not straight through a chance encounter with a male impersonator. It was a lot of fun. While it wasn’t like the others, that made it stand out all the more. Plus the diversity! Chinese Americans in the 1950s with a nod to Maoist Communism and American fears. It just made me smile because I liked how it was purely a teen discovering herself.
Molly’s Lips by Dahlia Adler: 3/5
I can think of someone who would enjoy this story more than me. Maybe because I’m not into music. I don’t learn every fact about the artists I listen to. Sure, I’ll listen to them over and over again, but I don’t have to know every teensy thing about them.
Molly and Annabelle never exactly jumped off the page for me. They were there and I could understand how they felt — we’ve all mourned a celebrity death in our lives — but, other than that, it didn’t work for me. I think that if it was just a little bit longer, I would have enjoyed it more.
The Coven by Kate Scelsa: 3/5
I have about the same critique for this as the last time. I liked the story and the meaning behind it of the MC’s confliction over her brother, but I also wish that it had been longer to let me get a glimpse of their relationship at its fullest. It felt unfinished. A good snapshot, but unfinished as a whole.
Every Shade of Red by Elliot Wake: 5/5
WELL THAT HURT.
But, Elliot Wake wrote a M/M romance with a deaf character and a transman character. Set back in the 14th century. And was a reimagining of Robin Hood. Like holy fuck. That was a good ass story. And one of the only stories that didn’t have a happy ending. But what should I expect from Wake? I just loved that this was an own voices story and was a really well-crafted story. Maybe it’s more of an impulse to give it5 stars, but it also was just a damn good story.
Willows by Scott Tracey: 2/5
While this was a longer story, it felt as if more went unsaid than actually stated. And I didn’t like that. If it’s going to be more of a fantasy/paranormal theme, then I need more explanation than it sort of being hinted at. I don’t like making assumptions about the author’s world.
So, this one wasn’t my favorite. I didn’t think it was developed as much as I wanted it to be, even though it was a longer story. Maybe it’s because I wasn’t paying as close attention to it, maybe it was because it wasn’t the best story. And what a shame since this is only the third (I think) M/M story in here.
The Girl with the Blue Lantern by Tess Sharpe: 3.5/5
Another fantasy, but more explained. At least slightly. At least, the world the MC was coming in contact with wasn’t important to understand. Just that it was there. I thought it was sweet and interesting, but still not my favorite. I just didn’t connect to it as much as I wanted to, hence the brief review.
The Secret Life of a Teenage Boy by Alex Sanchez: 4/5
Aw, this was a cute one. It pulled at my heartstrings just right. A boy knowing he likes boys, being teased for it, not out to everyone in the late 60s, and falling for a guy. It was such a teenage story that it made me smile. Sudden “love” for this person because hormones tell you you’re in love and you don’t know what it all means just yet. Then, you realize that you can’t be in love and you can’t run off because there are things at home. Even in a place that isn’t accepting of it.
It was just sweet and a story that left you wanting more and hoping he was able to be who he was, but also knowing he has something within him that will keep him safe no matter what.
Walking After Midnight by Kody Keplinger: 4/5
So cute. Two women supporting each other. I’m a softie for that sort of stuff.
But, really, it was a cute story that featured a young woman yearning to leave a small town and a woman who feels far too old and washed out for her age. It’s that kind of story where they just have a night together (maybe more) to lift each other up. And also kiss.
The End of the World as We Know It by Sara Farizan: 4/5
These are all too damn cute. Set during New Year’s Eve of Y2K (god, most of the kids on here will have no clue what I’m talking about, will they?), it features two friends trying to figure out where things went wrong. Having had many friendships that fell through because I was just shut out, I really connected to how the MC felt. That pain sucks. It really sucks when you suddenly don’t have a friendship you valued.
But, anyways, the story is about those friends talking about what went wrong, then features my favorite romance trope. Something I could get behind 100%
Three Witches by Tessa Gratton: 4.5/5
YAS. 1519 in Spain. My era. And lesbians.
I think what makes this even more interesting is that lesbianism is so undocumented throughout history. That makes it so interesting when it’s tackled in fiction. And tackled so well. I was going to give this five stars because I thought it captured the feelings in such a brief, compelling way. Then there was the last part that didn’t thrill me and so I took that .5 off.
The Inferno & the Butterfly by Shaun David Hutchinson: 3.5/5
This is like a gay version of The Prestige. Okay but minus the magic and deception but add in real magic. And gay boys who have some sort of powers. It was a lot of fun, reading this one. I liked the characters, liked the story, liked the way it was developed. Yet, despite this being on the longer side, I wanted more. It felt as if I could have used more backstory for the characters.
Healing Rosa by Tehlor Kay Mejia: 3/5
I like how the stories came around, in a way. The collection started with Mexican culture and ended with it, both involving magic and witches. This one, though, didn’t interest me as much. I enjoyed the PTSD and grief rep in the story, but other than that it didn’t stand out in my mind. A good one and interesting one, but just didn’t stick out.
I wasn’t expecting to like this book. I’m being straight up honest with y’all. I really wasn’t expecting to like this. It’s a very hyped book and is YA and is about the fae. All three of those things don’t usually work for me.
But, goddammit, I enjoyed the fuck out of this book.
The plot was crafted fantastically. It had twists and turns. I could make guesses about what was going to happen next, but it wasn’t a huge deal because it felt like Black had a plan for the book. And it wasn’t up to me to figure out what her plan was since I could tell she was going to naturally lead me there. It wasn’t about hitting the next plot point for her, it was about allowing the story to unwind as I read. There were times where I gasped and put my hand over my mouth while I read wide-eyed, waiting to see how it would turn out.
It was masterfully done.
There was tension added at the right moments, time allowed for character development, and all of it heading somewhere you weren’t quite sure about.
And, those characters. Goddamn, they were good. Black developed them, peeling away their layers so you could see all of them in a good and bad light. That way they were all morally grey in the end, something that worked spectacularly well for the plot. You start off loving some and then you hate them. You hate some, then you come to see that they’re like most of us.
Another thing I liked was how romance wasn’t a thing in the book. Like, it was there, like you’d expect, but it wasn’t a major plot point. It took a backseat. And I liked that. I really liked that. It made the plot sing because it wasn’t weighed down by some love triangle crap.
Oh, and Jude was a badass. Like holy fuck. I thought it was going to be one of those books where everyone said she was a badass and I’d read it and find ways to mock it. Nope. Not here. She really was badass, but a badass with flaws and a learning curve.
The only thing I’d like to have seen more of was Jude’s childhood. It was mentioned a few times, but I would have liked to have it in the story rather than mentions of having been taught something. I think that would have strengthened an already very strong book.
So, here we are. I read and liked a hyped YA book. I think no one is as shocked as I am.
1.5/5 – DNF at 40%
Now, I didn’t expect to write this review.
Don’t you love it when I say that? It either means that I enjoyed a book I didn’t think I would or I didn’t like a book I thought I would. This time, it’s the latter. After seeing all the great reviews of this book, I didn’t like this one.
Despite that, I do have some positives. And I want to start the review off with those.
The diversity in this was great. An African culture that had black characters leading the path. I love it. I want more of it. I look forward to there being more of it. I also enjoyed the nod to other cultures having influenced this one — I’m rather sure Spain, the UK, and Portugal were mentioned in passing as having magic that destroyed them — which then brings in the color issue where light-skinned black people are more valued.
So, I enjoyed that.
Then, the stuff I didn’t like. Aka, the rest of the book.
First, I thought the characters were flat. While I saw a whole lot of promise, they just didn’t jump off the page for me. They felt like any other character I’d read in any other YA fantasy. The firecracker lead girl who’s tough and can’t keep her mouth shut. The protective, older brother character. The sheltered girl who still knows too much about the world. The conflicted boy who is trying to be the man he isn’t and is finding his weakness.
They didn’t feel real. They felt like those archetypes.
Second, the world. I was super excited since I’m familiar with Yoruba culture and, more specifically, the Yoruba religion. Super excited. And then I realized it was loosely based off of that. There was no context to the world. I felt like it was half-formed and there were concepts being thrown in and I’m sitting there like “Where the hell did that come from??”
I love a book that challenges me, but I don’t like a book that sets it up for me to fail while I struggle.
Third, the plot. It just felt like any other plot I’ve read. Kind of as I said about the characters, I felt like I was going down the same well-trodden path without anything new. Sure, the world was different and unique, but it still felt the same. And then I could tell what was happening and where it was going.
Fourth, I hated that it was all in first person with three different POVs. It’s all “I, I,I” and I have to try and keep track of who’s talking, which pulled me out of the story. A story I was already struggling to get into because I couldn’t connect with the characters and the world was just all over the place and the plot didn’t interest me.
Perhaps it would have gotten better if I continued, but it just felt like a half-finished book to me. A very long half-finished book. So, I set it down. I loved the diversity in it, but didn’t like the finished product.
DNF at 14% – 1/5
First thing’s first.
I am asexual. I’ve identified as such since I was about 15-16 (and I’m nearly 22 now). Sex doesn’t interest me that much. While I, personally, would never discount that I could find someone I want to do that with or would feel comfortable doing it with, I’m not interested in it.
And when I heard about this book, I was so excited. Finally, a book about asexuality while embracing that you can be attracted romantically to people. Last year, I read Tash Hearts Tolstoy and thought it was a really solid book. So, I was getting excited that there would be another one out there for teens figuring out their sexuality.
Yet, it reminded me more of Vanilla, minus it offending me to the core. It just made me sad.
From the first chapter, something felt off.
I thought that it was the writing at first. Instead of it being in first-person, it was in third and Kahn kept putting comments that were what Alice, the MC, was thinking. It made the page very cluttered and confusing. Just put them in the story. Or make it first-person. Or just make it omniscient. Either way, it grated on my nerves to the point where I couldn’t concentrate on the words.
Then, it kind of got odd with her ex-girlfriend. She was demonized for wanting a sexual relationship to feel fulfilled while Alice was asexual. Maybe, just maybe, Alice should have said something before entering the relationship with someone who, as the book says, is hyper-sexual? (I have issues with the use of that, especially with the judgy tone it was used with. Everyone has different libidos and it’s all okay.) I get Alice was nervous about telling someone, but if you want an open and honest relationship, you kind of have to say something about your needs.
Then, the ace rep felt… problematic. I’ve studied asexuality for my BA in psychology, along with having my personal experiences. Most studies have found that aces respond to pornography like sexual people. They just have no interest in doing it. Alice, however, apparently didn’t respond sexually at all, even when having sex.
It just… struck me as odd. As inaccurate. Now, I’m not saying there aren’t aces who honestly feel nothing down there, even when stimulated, but that’s not what studies have found on average.
I’m not saying that the statistics found in studies covers all ace experience. If you read this book and felt that it represented you perfectly, I am so happy for you! And I’m not being sarcastic either. I’m happy that you felt represented. However, I don’t think this covered all the nuances of asexuality that are out there.
It got weirder when Alice stated at one point she didn’t have any code or whatever for a shirtless guy. She’s biromantic. So. She doesn’t find a shirtless, ripped guy aesthetically pleasing? Then, a few chapters later, she has a freaking break down over some guy who looked cute to her? It just… it didn’t add up to me. You don’t have a response to someone shirtless but you lose your shit like a twelve-year-old over a cute guy.
It felt like it was perpetuating old stereotypes that aces don’t feel sexual pleasure when research says a lot of aces masturbate or are able to call someone who is hot really hot… without wanting to have sex. Speaking for myself here, I can look at people and say that they are really attractive, but that doesn’t mean I want to have sex.
Add on top of that annoying characters who I couldn’t connect to at all because they felt like children and a writing style and characters that got on my last nerves within 10 pages equals a very unhappy Caidyn.
It’s even worse since I really wanted to like this book. I would have pushed through it, but I could tell I’d end up in a slump if I did. It upset me to write this review, but I wanted to say something amid all the glowing responses. Again, if you felt represented, that’s amazing. Just that I didn’t and I’m really sad that I didn’t when I thought I would.