Bites

Pub Date: October 10, 2017
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Here is a thing everyone wants:
A miracle.

Here is a thing everyone fears:
What it takes to get one.

Any visitor to Bicho Raro, Colorado is likely to find a landscape of dark saints, forbidden love, scientific dreams, miracle-mad owls, estranged affections, one or two orphans, and a sky full of watchful desert stars.

At the heart of this place you will find the Soria family, who all have the ability to perform unusual miracles. And at the heart of this family are three cousins longing to change its future: Beatriz, the girl without feelings, who wants only to be free to examine her thoughts; Daniel, the Saint of Bicho Raro, who performs miracles for everyone but himself; and Joaquin, who spends his nights running a renegade radio station under the name Diablo Diablo.

They are all looking for a miracle. But the miracles of Bicho Raro are never quite what you expect. (goodreads.com)

Here’s the thing: I have kind of a love/hate relationship with Maggie’s writing. I HATED the Lament series and as a result didn’t even attempt The Wolves of Mercy Falls series. I read THE SCORPIO RACES and thought it was pretty good. I no (haven’t read the last one yet). And now we get to ALL THE CROOKED SAINTS.

Meh.

I feel like this was a book where the publisher was like, Maggie write a book because you word good. And Maggie gave them a book with words and they published it. I didn’t think it was necessarily overwritten. I did like the fairy tale-esque sort of style she was going for. But I felt it was really rambly in a trying-to-be-quirky sort of way that I really wasn’t digging. This felt like sort of an experiment she was trying and for me it didn’t quite click.

All those rambly, dangly loose ends do end up tied up at the end, and rather nicely. Everything felt far less rambly and random and scatterbrained at the end and I actually rather liked the end. Just not thrilled with the road she took to get there.

I liked the world she developed so close to my own home (Arizona, this story is set in southern Colorado) so I felt pretty rooted in the setting itself. I liked the sort of magical realism she dabbled in with the miracles and the process through which people have to go through in order to come out the other side of them. I just didn’t feel all that connected to any individual character because she kept hopping all over the place to tell everyone’s stories.

It’s a whimsical story in its darkness and light, but for me it was read from a distance. I didn’t feel invested in anything. But that’s the trouble with fairy tales, isn’t it? Personally I think they’re a gamble in that you can tell a tale that either sucks a reader in or leaves them at a distance. Then again that’s really true of any writing. But doubly true to these kinds of tales.

Maggie paints a good scene. She’s descriptive in ALL THE CROOKED SAINTS without being overwritten. I just didn’t connect with the particular style she was going for. Didn’t love it; didn’t hate it. Just kind of meh. I look forward to her Ronan books though. Absolutely.

3.5

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Published: April 5, 2016
Publisher: Tor Teen
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Becket, walking her dog one winter evening, fears it’s an abandoned baby left out in the cold. But it is something else—something evil—and it tricks Becket into opening a doorway to another realm, letting a darkness into our world, a corruption that begins transforming Philadelphia into a sinister and menacing version of itself…but only at night.

The changes are subtle at first, causing Becket to doubt her senses and her sanity. But soon the nightmarish truth is impossible to deny: By day, the city is just a city, but at night it literally comes alive with malevolent purpose. Brick and steel become bone, streetlights turn into gallows, and hungry alleys wait to snare mortal victims. Terrified citizens huddle indoors after dusk, as others succumb to the siren song of the night, letting their darker sides run wild.

Once, Becket’s biggest problems were living up to her police commissioner father’s high expectations and a secret crush on her best friend’s boyfriend. Now she must find a way to survive and protect her loved ones…before the darkness takes her as well. (goodreads.com)

How horribly disappointing. It sounded so good and even the blurb by Kendare Blake, whom I love, said it was dark and horror-ridden and fantastic. I don’t normally give author blurbs any regard, but I love Blake’s work so yeah. It’s going to carry some weight.

The world itself was actually really awesome. This insidious infiltration of this other dark, fantastical world into modern Philadelphia was terrifying, the way things changed, the way things existed in the corner of your eye, maybe you were seeing things, maybe you weren’t. The build-up with that was fantastic. And then how people started to change and basically just live on their ids, creating terror where the constructs, inanimate objects come to life, couldn’t get. And how all of this happened at night and went back to normal during the day. It’s terrifying. It really is.

But that’s about all the good I found the book. Becks is a vaguely condescending teen who does NOTHING for 95% of the book before taking really dumb and poorly thought out action at the end that’s entirely antithetical to the “think everything through cop’s daughter” mentality she built up during the entire book. The entire book where if she’s not getting pushed around by her selfish friend, she’s either commuting to and from school or cowering in her house. Becks literally does not move the plot at all. It moves her. This is, like, a cardinal sin of writing. Yet here we are.

Right before I started reading this, I was listening to a bunch of podcasts that recap Point Horror novels and one book they were doing was real heavy in ableist language around mental illness. One of the podcasters deals with a mental illness on a daily basis and she expounded on how harmful this kind of language is and how likening a mental illness to the worst thing that could possibly happen to a person is so incredibly damaging.

Then I started reading NIGHTSTRUCK and was dumbstruck by the number of times terms like crazy and variations of spaz were used. Not to mention Becks thinking multiple times that she’d rather have a brain tumor than lose her mind (when trying to figure out if the night changes she was seeing were real). Had I not listened to those podcasts I don’t know if I would have been as sensitive to such language, but seeing as how I did listen, and how pervasive this language was, I felt like I was getting slapped every time I read it. It was incredibly heavy-handed in the first half of the book and then trickled down, but was still there. Kind of awful.

And then back to Becks’s condescension, because she’s supposed to be this enlightened, smart kid who’s in AP everything yet runs her mouth about mental illness like it’s nothing yet won’t call a dick a dick when she sees it in some iron work. It’s a phallic symbol. Every. Single. Time. Phallic symbol. And it was mentioned multiple times because it’s really what started drilling into Becks’s head in figuring out what’s going on. It’s the marker she uses to bring Luke into everything. Not a dick or a penis or a schlong. Phallic symbol. Yet she doesn’t know to cool her shit about mental illness. Slightly inconsistent there.

I wanted to like NIGHTSTRUCK so bad. The world is so creepy and how it comes into fruition is just fantastic. But everything else just sucks. Becks is a less-than-appealing character who is barely tolerable most of the time, inconsistent in her intelligence and decision-making abilities, and literally does nothing for most of the book. Great, so does she do a whole lot more nothing in the sequel? Guess I’m not going to find out because I’m not going to read it. And that makes me sad.

2

Published: September 25, 2013
Publisher: Image Comics
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Suzie’s a normal girl with an extraordinary ability: when she has sex, she stops time. One night she meets John… who has the same gift. And so they do what any other sex-having, time-stopping, couple would do: they rob banks. In the vein of THE 40-YEAR OLD VIRGIN and BRIDESMAIDS, Image Comics invites you to come along with MATT FRACTION (Hawkeye, SATELLITE SAM) and CHIP ZDARSKY (Prison Funnies, Monster Cops) for the series that puts the “comic” back in “comics” and the “sexy” back in “sex crimes.” (goodreads.com)

So putting the “sexy” back in ” sex crimes” is skeevy at best. Who thought of that? The more I read it the more grossed out I get. Yeah, let’s make violent rape sexy. Granted, that’s not what this comic is about and I imagine it’s just a play on words because there are no actual sex crimes in this book, but there are people who have sex and then commit crimes together. Yeah. Real shitty play on words there. Real gross play on words too.

I have no idea what he hell this is. The main character lost her dad in some weird office mishap where he was thrown out the window. Mom circled the drain and Suzie found orgasms? I have no idea. It’s supposed to be funny but that’s not what I was picking up. I mean the tag line on Goodreads is “A sex comedy for comics.” So written by dudebros for dudebros? I don’t want to judge the authors based on this one comic because I haven’t read anything else, and the blurb is more than likely by the publisher, not the authors. But this is just all kinds of gross in the way it’s marketed.

And the story is lackluster. Again, girl loses dad, mom circles the drain while Suzie finds orgasms. She has some kind of synesthesia when she comes and when she meets a guy who sees the same thing when he comes they somehow start robbing banks or something. I have no idea. The story is disjointed at best. You’re not missing anything. If you want sexy go watch Cinemax or something. At least it’s more visually appealing and you don’t have to concern yourself with a story.

1.5

I received a copy of this comic from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Published: October 8, 2014
Publisher: Image Comics
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Everything you thought you knew about witches is wrong. They are much darker, and they are much more horrifying. Wytches takes the mythology of witches to a far creepier, bone-chilling place than readers have dared venture before. When the Rooks family moves to the remote town of Litchfield, NH to escape a haunting trauma, they’re hopeful about starting over. But something evil is waiting for them in the woods just beyond town. Watching from the trees. Ancient…and hungry. (goodreads.com)

Not to be confused with volume 1, which collects the first six in the series. This is just WYTCHES #1.

That being said, it’s creepy as hell. Between the art and the story itself . . . because I needed another reason to be afraid of the woods. Lucky for me I don’t live around them anymore so NO WORRIES.

It’s certainly a compelling story that starts decades in the past with a woman basically being consumed by a tree, which is horrifying. And then fast forwards to the present about a girl being heinously bullied and that ending . . . poorly. Not for the victim, though. Although it’s not anything she’s going to be able to forget for a while.

It’s got a bit of a chosen one syndrome going on with the main character there although I doubt her path is going to be saving the world. Eaten by tree wytches, maybe.

I do like how the witches in this world aren’t traditional witches, which is why they’re spelled wytches. They’re these gnarly, beastly things that require blood sacrifices in order to stay alive. Again, horrifying. Didn’t need another reason to fear trees. Really didn’t. But this is good because I actually find the story creepy. And the art. The art is kind of terrifying too. I need to get me the rest of the series now.

4.5

I received a copy of this comic from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

Published: June 14, 2016
Publisher: ROC
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Irene is a professional spy for the mysterious Library, a shadowy organization that collects important works of fiction from all of the different realities. Most recently, she and her enigmatic assistant Kai have been sent to an alternative London. Their mission: Retrieve a particularly dangerous book. The problem: By the time they arrive, it’s already been stolen.

London’s underground factions are prepared to fight to the death to find the tome before Irene and Kai do, a problem compounded by the fact that this world is chaos-infested—the laws of nature bent to allow supernatural creatures and unpredictable magic to run rampant. To make matters worse, Kai is hiding something—secrets that could be just as volatile as the chaos-filled world itself.

Now Irene is caught in a puzzling web of deadly danger, conflicting clues, and sinister secret societies. And failure is not an option—because it isn’t just Irene’s reputation at stake, it’s the nature of reality itself… (goodreads.com)

I absolutely adore this book. I don’t adore books often, but when I do I ADORE them. Cogman has balanced whimsical, dark, funny, daring, crushing, romantic tension, suspense, and thrills fantastically. And the world she’s created OMG I love it. LOVE IT.

After coming off of Rachel Caine’s book with a similar concept of an all-powerful library controlling the world, I was a little skeptical. I wasn’t sure what to expect. But this idea that at the center of these multiverses sits the most expansive library ever (we’re talking like it could literally take you years to walk from one end to the other) and within it are highly trained librarians who are sent out into these various worlds to hunt down books that would be beneficial to the library to have . . . Evie would be jealous.

And then these infinite number of multiverses branch out from the center of this library like spokes from a wheel and only Librarians, who have their own powerful language, can traverse the universes and none of the universes know about each other or the Library itself. Time stands still in the Library and people don’t age. If Librarians happen to have children (which they don’t very often) they have to send them to school in one of the universes so they’ll grow up. If someone is injured and tended to in the Library they have to go into one of the universes to heal. People live for literary hundreds of years within the library and when they’re ready to retire (aka die) they choose a universe and go and live out the rest of their days there. I just . . . I love it.

Most of the Librarians are recruited from the various worlds, including Irene’s student, Kai (who is totally dreamy and I don’t normally get book boyfriends but he’s one of the few I do have). She’s assigned to take him on this mission to retrieve a very specific copy of Grimm’s Fairy Tales from a world overrun by Chaos. In this book Chaos is a malevolent force that usually brings with is very disruptive fairies and other insidious creatures that overrun the world, but which the occupants ultimately view as normal, effectively corrupting people. And if a Librarian is corrupted by Chaos in some way, they’re not allowed back into the Library until the corruption is removed, which is what happens to Irene and Kai and their mission ends up going tits up real quick.

The mission ends up evolving well beyond anything they, or the Library, could have expected and things get rough. Cogman does get pretty dark, but the tone she maintains throughout the book is, like I said above, practically whimsical. But it’s not pretentious nor does it invoke some kind of Austenian flare. It’s just light and lends itself to some drier humor despite the things happening in the story.

I loved being in Irene’s head because throughout the story she’s this very composed, very professional woman that plays everything by the book. Yet in her head she’s effectively drooling over Kai and cursing people left right and center. But she filters all that out by the time the thoughts get out of her mouth so she always appears to be the air of professionalism, or whatever her cover requires her to be. She thinks fast on her feet and always at least gives the appearance of having a solution even though she might not.

Totally adding the next book to my reading list. Because things were left off at the end that I really need answers to and the little snippet of the next book there totally got my attention. Ugh. I haven’t felt like this about a book in a long time. It’s a great feeling. Read THE INVISIBLE LIBRARY immediately. If you’re a book lover you will love it. If you’re a world-building lover you’ll love it. If you have eyes you’ll love it.

5

I received a copy of this book from the publisher through Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.