The Egypt Book I Wanted: In a Perfect World by Trish Doller

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Caroline Kelly is excited to be spending her summer vacation working at the local amusement park with her best friend, exploring weird Ohio with her boyfriend, and attending soccer camp with the hope she’ll be her team’s captain in the fall.

But when Caroline’s mother is hired to open an eye clinic in Cairo, Egypt, Caroline’s plans are upended. Caroline is now expected to spend her summer and her senior year in a foreign country, away from her friends, her home, and everything she’s ever known.

With this move, Caroline predicts she’ll spend her time navigating crowded streets, eating unfamiliar food, and having terrible bouts of homesickness. But when she finds instead is a culture that surprises her, a city that astounds her, and a charming, unpredictable boy who challenges everything she thought she knew about life, love, and privilege.

Source: GoodReads

I love books about travel.  I love emerging myself into other country’s history and culture.  If done right a book about traveling will very easily end up on my favorites lists since I’ll feel like I’m emerging into a whole new world.  If done wrong, it will have me raging so hard.

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Luckily, for Trish Doller In a Perfect World had me smiling throughout the entire book.  Was it perfect, no there were some parts that were a little unbelievable, but I think overall the general feel of the novel worked.

Full disclosure I have never been to Egypt or anywhere near that area of the world, but from what I read it did seem like Doller did her research.  Or at the very least, she did a better job than Colleen Houck did with that God awful mummy book of hers, which isn’t exactly a high bar.  And it did address the geopolitical issues in the area that many other books that take place in the area often overlook.

The Egypt that Doller depicts is multi-dimension you see the good and bad bits of it, and above else it feels real.  I think the fact that the location itself is a character, its much the same way where I felt that Paris and San Fransisco were a character in themselves in Stephanie Perkins books.

The plot of this book isn’t really there that much.  Sure, there is a love story and sure the character grows, but it’s not that plot heavy.  And maybe that’s why I didn’t really like what happened to the eye clinic at the end of the book.  It just seemed too random and out of place more than anything else.  Merely a way to end the story sooner rather than later.

And while I understand why Doller chose this plot point, it still came off a little cheap.  Just like the end of the book.  Don’t get me wrong, the romantic part of me liked the ending but the more realistic part of my brain was crying foul since I know that the situation would be a lot more complicated than Doller made it seem though.

That aside though, I really did like this book a lot.  It’s the perfect summer book for escapism.  The characters were depicted and their parents were more than just merely there because-hey, seventeen year olds need parents.

The main character’s parents, in particular, are well drawn out and felt like real people.  I particularly liked the father’s relationship with Caroline throughout the book.

I also liked the romance for the most part too.  The relationship builds up realistically and it does address the problems that the two characters are going to face.  Again though, not such a big fan of the ending even though it was cute.

If you can’t get away this summer and want something that can transport you to another location if only for a few hours.  This is your book.

Overall Rating: A-

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I Gave Up: The Truth About Happily Ever After by Karole Cozzo

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Chin up, Princess, or the crown will slip.

A theme park princess must put her life back together after her happily ever after falls apart in this contemporary YA romance from Karole Cozzo, author of How to Keep Rolling After a Fall and How to Say I Love You Out Loud.

Everything was supposed to be perfect. Alyssa has a job she loves, working as Cinderella at her favorite theme park; a fantastic group of friends; and a boyfriend who will no longer be long distance. But as the summer progresses, her prince becomes less charming and more distant, and Alyssa’s perfect summer falls apart.

Forced to acknowledge that life is not always a fairy tale, Alyssa starts working to pull her herself back together. Fortunately, she doesn’t have to do it alone. With her friend Miller’s support, she’s determined to prove that she’s more than just a pretty princess. And with his help, maybe she’s finally ready for something better than dreams. Maybe she’s ready for something real.

Source: GoodReads

I will give myself this after nearly five  years of consistent blogging (six if you count the sporadic first year) I know when to DNF something.  I decided that The Truth About Happily Ever After wasn’t for me after thirty pages.

To be fair, it’s not horrible if  you like super saccharine books that you can pretty much figure out the entire plot from the blurb.

In a lot of ways this book reminds me of a Hallmark movie, it’s not going to be anything special but it will entertain you if you’re in the right sort of mood.

I wasn’t in the mood.

To be frank about it, it actually reminded me of one of those Simon Pulse Romantic Comedies I read when I was a teen.  Unpredictable fluff that is kind of cornball and cheesy.

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So yeah…I gave up.

To be fair, going in I knew it was either going to be hit or miss.  With books like this, in order to be successful the voice needs to be great or there needs to be some sort of twist that makes the otherwise mundane story interesting.

With this book there was none.  I guess the biggest twist was that the obvious love interest wasn’t classically handsome, BUT honestly that’s not much of a twist if you look at all of the various sitcoms out there where the slightly chubby and average looking guy gets the supermodel wife.

Oh, and the theme park that was pretending it wasn’t Disney World but so obviously was.

But honestly, there are a lot of YA books that take place at various theme parks and I haven’t really found any of them THAT interesting.

Overall Rating: DNF.  I only read thirty pages, so I don’t really feel like giving this one a rating.  Just know that this one was not for me and unless you like cliche, it’s probably not for you either.

Just Because You Gender Bend Doesn’t Mean You’re Mulan: Flame in the Midst by Renee Ahdieh

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The only daughter of a prominent samurai, Mariko has always known she’d been raised for one purpose and one purpose only: to marry. Never mind her cunning, which rivals that of her twin brother, Kenshin, or her skills as an accomplished alchemist. Since Mariko was not born a boy, her fate was sealed the moment she drew her first breath.

So, at just seventeen years old, Mariko is sent to the imperial palace to meet her betrothed, a man she did not choose, for the very first time. But the journey is cut short when Mariko’s convoy is viciously attacked by the Black Clan, a dangerous group of bandits who’ve been hired to kill Mariko before she reaches the palace.

The lone survivor, Mariko narrowly escapes to the woods, where she plots her revenge. Dressed as a peasant boy, she sets out to infiltrate the Black Clan and hunt down those responsible for the target on her back. Once she’s within their ranks, though, Mariko finds for the first time she’s appreciated for her intellect and abilities. She even finds herself falling in love—a love that will force her to question everything she’s ever known about her family, her purpose, and her deepest desires.

Source: GoodReads

It’s time to be a Debbie Downer, while there have been lots of positive reviews for this book this review isn’t going to be one of them.  Instead, it’s going to be me being extremely grumpy about said book that I gave up on about 90 pages from the end because NOTHING interesting had happened and I didn’t understand what Mariko was trying to do.

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First of all, the Mulan retelling bit?  Other than gender bending and hanging out with a group of guys, don’t see it.

Oh, and this book takes place in feudal Japan NOT China.  Big difference there, publishers.  I know that both countries are in Asia.  BUT they are different countries with severally different histories and cultures.  For example, did you know Japan is where the novel originated (thank you, Where in Time is Carmen Sandiego PC Game that I beat about 40K times during my childhood).  I bet unless you played that game or studied Japanese history you didn’t know that.   Also, if you only watched the Disney movie you probably don’t know that Mulan actually was not an original Disney project-shocking, not, since Disney usually adapts various folklores and stories rather than having original projects.  The origins of the story, obviously, are from China.

So…yeah, I don’t necessary know if calling this a Mulan retelling is a good idea, but I guess I could see where marketing was going with this one…

Anyway, the initial set up is an interesting one.  The MC escapes for her life because bandits are trying to kill her and then decides to infiltrate the bandits to find out why they killed her.

And that’s when the book flops because the character does every stupid thing possible when with the bandits, while being depicted as clever.

Look, I get it, you need to have some moments of stupidity to fuel the story but when the character keeps acting stupid and doesn’t do anything to further her plan except make stupid mistake after stupid mistake with to add to another stupid plot point which results with her making out with a guy who probably tried to kill her…

Yeah, I’m not a happy reader.

In Ahdieh’s first series she used a love/hate relationship too and that worked because it was a Scheherazade retelling and you know…kind of happens in that story.  Here though, it annoyed me.  I didn’t like any of these bandits.  I didn’t care for them.  I didn’t care for the lead, or any one else.

I pretty much hated everyone and wanted to tell them they were fucking stupid.

Which isn’t how the jacket described the book at all.  Like, Mariko was described as being this clever character.  Yet, everyone and I mean EVERYONE can figure out her motivations.  Which is ridiculous beyond words.

I am not going to even start on how abusive and annoying I found the love interest.

In the end though, what drove me to DNF this book was the extremely slow pacing of this book.  The fact that I had gotten so far in the book and it seemed like nothing had happened, was enough for me to DNF it.  That and the random make out scene that came out of nowhere.

If you really like the gender bend trope, you might want to give this one a try.  But for me it didn’t work.  I think if anything it made me long to write that book where a boy has to pretend to be a girl in order to save his life/spy on the evil rulers or what not and falls in love with the MC who is all powerful and shit and deals while the guy who is a gal in disguise has to deal with the unfortunate shit that comes with being female-i.e. sexism.   And yeah, I sort of feel pumped to write that now.

Overall Rating: A DNF.  I think this might’ve been a bit of a more subjective than objective DNF though.  The writing is decent, but man did I get annoyed with the characters and the snail pacing of this one.

Eight Steps to Write a Cliche YA Fantasy: Frostblood by Elly Blake

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The frost king will burn.

Seventeen-year-old Ruby is a Fireblood who has concealed her powers of heat and flame from the cruel Frostblood ruling class her entire life. But when her mother is killed trying to protect her, and rebel Frostbloods demand her help to overthrow their bloodthirsty king, she agrees to come out of hiding, desperate to have her revenge.

Despite her unpredictable abilities, Ruby trains with the rebels and the infuriating—yet irresistible—Arcus, who seems to think of her as nothing more than a weapon. But before they can take action, Ruby is captured and forced to compete in the king’s tournaments that pit Fireblood prisoners against Frostblood champions. Now she has only one chance to destroy the maniacal ruler who has taken everything from her—and from the icy young man she has come to love.

Source: GoodReads

I remember when I read Red Queent that I commented that it was pretty much standard cliche YA fantasy.  However, I’ll give Red Queen credit for being mildly entertaining and attempting to try something because after reading Frost Blood it seems like its not trying one fucking bit.

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 I know, I already wrote a recipe for cliche YA fantasy with with Red Queen, but hey, since YA fantasy isn’t being original why should I be that original with my reviews.  For those of you who want the Red Queen derivative of the recipe you can click here.  So, without further ado here’ s how you can make your very standard very cliche YA Fantasy using these ten eight easy steps with  Frost Blood as a guidepost :

Step One You Must Have a  MC with a Special Power or Some Sort of Specialness.  

In this case, we have Ruby and her power is the power of fire.  Get it, ’cause her name is Ruby.  I should’ve added that her name has some symbolism shit involved in it, but I’m not.  Her power is like forbidden in this fantasy dystopian world that makes her ultra special, especially since everyone is killing fire bloods off.

Step 2 The MC’s Family Gets Killed or Put into Dangerous Peril Which Gets MC in Some Dicey Situation

Check. Check. Check.  Ruby’s mom gets killed within the span of fifteen pages and she’s thrown into jail accordingly.

Step 3 MC is Rescued by Mysterious Rebel Group

Yep, by two hooded figures one’s an old  monk and the other’s a grumpy guy that has a tragic backstory.  You can totally tell that the old monk’s going to be the love interest, right?

That’s sarcasm by the way.

Of course, the old monk’s not the love interest its the rude broody guy who keeps his face covered-we later learn becuase he’s disfigured.  But still has breathtaking eyes-’cause you know this is YA and these books have to be a little bit shallow.

Step 4 MC Has “Problems” Controlling Her Power But Essentially Solves Them in a Book Montage

Because we need a montage…..every book’s got to have a montage…but without a catchy theme song unfortunately.  No just boring passing of time scenarios where the MC does boring shit for a few pages and we are told she has control over her powers with not really any progress shown save for maybe the occasional scene of verbal banter.  She just needs  that to get good enough to deal with the ridiculous tournament/competition that happens in these books because said tournament in Hunger Games, Throne of Glass,  etc. (though I digress about Throne of Glass, but people disagree with me so…)

Step 5 The Ridiculously Hard Tournament/Gladiator-ish Competition that Our MC Defies the Odds

‘Cause we have to show the MC is bad ass.  Of course, she’ll struggle a bit but you know she’ll survive when no one else does…  Also, again Huger Games and Throne of Glass did it so we should do it too.

Step 6 Someone in the book has a secret royalty

Big spoiler twist it’s not the MC, but there’s always the second book.  And considering little was said about daddy dearest I’m sure that bombshell is a coming.

Step 7 Standard Fantasy Prophecy Made about Saving the World

Enough said.

Step 8 Obligatory Sequel Even Though Book is Resolved

Uh, duh. $$$$

Okay, I tried to think of two more steps but totally failed at that. The OCD part of me is annoyed though because I wanted a whole ten steps of cliches, but considering this book has two more installments coming out I think there’s plenty of room for it to fit more cliches in here.

The thing is even though Frost Blood is extraordinary cliche, the writings not half bad.  I was able to get through it pretty fast-grant it, after about page 200 I started skimming pretty hard.  Mainly, because the book was so bland.  There were no interesting characters, they were all pretty much your typical archetypes of a YA fantasy.  And honestly, after I finished reading Frost Blood  I just felt a mixture of sadness and anger.

Has the trend on YA fantasy gotten to the point where anything that’s halfway decently written with the requisite tropes tends to get published?

With Frost Blood it would seem that way.

And honestly, I shouldn’t be that surprised.  The same thing happened when YA paranormal got oversaturated, the YA dystopia, and New Adult.  So, it really shouldn’t surprise me that the fantasy shared the same fate.

The thing is, it just seems more glaring obvious to me with high fantasy than those other genres. I think maybe it’s because the sky’s sort of the limit with this genre.  And YA tends to take it in only one direction. Does that mean, I don’t expect to see tropes?

No.

I get it that tropes are going to be a part of most things, but its how you utilize them and make them your own.  And unfortunately, it seems with YA fantasy that’s not the case.

Overall Rating: A C- hardly original but it’s not the worst thing I ever read.

Creepy: Cure for the Common Universe by Christian McKay Hedicker

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Sixteen-year-old Jaxon is being committed to video game rehab . . .

ten minutes after he met a girl. A living, breathing girl named Serena, who not only laughed at his jokes but actually kinda sorta seemed excited when she agreed to go out with him.

Jaxon’s first date. Ever.

In rehab, he can’t blast his way through galaxies to reach her. He can’t slash through armies to kiss her sweet lips. Instead, he has just four days to earn one million points by learning real-life skills. And he’ll do whatever it takes—lie, cheat, steal, even learn how to cross-stitch—in order to make it to his date.

If all else fails, Jaxon will have to bare his soul to the other teens in treatment, confront his mother’s absence, and maybe admit that it’s more than video games that stand in the way of a real connection.

Prepare to be cured.

Source: GoodReads

I DNF’d this sucker in less than 50 pages.  Full disclosure, I’ve noticed lately after I binge a series there’s a higher rate for me to DNF and unfortunately for this book I finished it after I binged on A Court of Thorns and Roses and the Travis book series respectfully.

It stood no chance.  But it probably would’ve helped had the book actually been good-I’m just saying.

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Second disclosure, I’m not really much of a gamer.  The only gaming system I ever owned was the old NES system that my dad bought and eventually got tired of and gave to my sister and I,  and my mom was ridiculously strict about not letting us play on it and hid it from me  and my sister, and then lost it when she hid it and refused to get any other gaming system for us, so most of the gaming I’ve done besides the old old versions of Super Mario Brothers, Super Mario Brothers 2, and that crappy Where’s Waldo game,  oh and Tetris, has been  primarily  PC games.  Mostly the Nancy Drew games.  I found that my mom couldn’t pick up a desktop and take it a way, so those games made a lot more sense to me.  Plus, she could never complain about Nancy Drew.  She though they were educational (and she was right to some degree, but not really).

As an adult, I don’t have a gaming system either because of budget reasons and again, I’m more prone to play something on my computer.  Though, I am more than a little pissed off at Her Interactive these days for not releasing any credible update on Midnight in Salem (it has been 2 years, Her, and don’t give me that bull-shitty excuse that you’re changing engines even Miss Freaking Clue has been able to produce and update its games faster than you…)

Digressing aren’t I?

Guess that happens when you’re trying to talk about a book you only read 50 pages on.  Hell, I thought awhile before even drafting a review of this like if it would even be worthwhile pointing out what bothers me about it.  Well, I decided it would.  But this is going to be a bullet point review:

  • We didn’t really see the character at rock bottom: I mean, yeah he was in his room all the time gaming.  But the MC pointed out he has a 4.0 at school and it’s not like he does drugs or anything.  It seemed more like his dad and stepmom were concerned he wasn’t going to get laid.
  • Creepy Parents: Really, you want proof that your son/stepson is talking to a girl and demand to know her number or Facebook page and if the MC would’ve showed you this you would’ve let him out of rehab…priorities.  Also, stepmom is extremely young and it adds to the creepiness.
  • Creepy Rehab Center: Rehab does serve a purpose sometimes, but something about this place rubbed me the wrong way.  Maybe because I didn’t think the character’s problem was severe enough to warrant rehab.  Yes, 125 hours playing games in a month is a lot.  But honestly, if you think about it, its probably not that much in hindsight.  And honestly, if the MC is still functional (which he is) I don’t see the fucking point.
  • Creepy Counselor Cliche: Enough said.
  • Random hot chick  having instant connection with doofus MC.  Check.  At least she wasn’t a total MPDG but she was only in the book for about two pages so she might’ve actually been for all I know.

So, by looking at my bullet points I think I didn’t like the  book because there was just an overall a creepy book or it comes off creepy to me.

Overall Rating: DNF

Heavily Flawed But Enjoyable: A Court of Wings and Ruin by Sarah J Maas

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Looming war threatens all Feyre holds dear in the third volume of the #1 New York Times bestselling A Court of Thorns and Rosesseries.

Feyre has returned to the Spring Court, determined to gather information on Tamlin’s maneuverings and the invading king threatening to bring Prythian to its knees. But to do so she must play a deadly game of deceit-and one slip may spell doom not only for Feyre, but for her world as well.

As war bears down upon them all, Feyre must decide who to trust amongst the dazzling and lethal High Lords-and hunt for allies in unexpected places.

In this thrilling third book in the #1 New York Times bestselling series from Sarah J. Maas, the earth will be painted red as mighty armies grapple for power over the one thing that could destroy them all.

Source: GoodReads

Note this review contains lots and lots spoilers for the first three books in the series.

This book was the most anticipated follow up to A Court of Mist and Fury.  A book that seems to have very mixed feelings amongst fans of this series-I personally like it, but I can understand why some people might not like it.  Especially, if they favored a particular ship.  For me, upon reread, of the series the twist that was going to happen in the second book was much more obvious than it was first read.  But I can still get how fans of that ship were pissed, but overall I liked the second book better than the first because of the character development that was done (Feyre is a lot more tolerable in that installment than the first).  Not that some of the writing was atrocious.  I literally cringed with some of the descriptions  metaphors that Maas used, but usually I can give purple prose writing a pass if the story is good enough.

At least that was the case in A Court of Mist and Fury, as for the follow up though…

Eh.

I really have mixed feelings about A Court of Wings and Ruin, there were some parts that worked alright.  Some parts that had me rolling my eyes.  And every time there was a sex scene I had to roll my eyes.  xtitndc8wjdnqupxnq

Let’s talk about what worked: the book held my interest.  That’s something.  Especially considering this is a big book at almost 700 pages.  Stuff happens throughout all of it, so that’s good and some of the interactions are nice. Some is the optimum word though because when Rhys and Feyre get too mushy this book turns into fae porn.  It’s that eye roll worthy.

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That’s who bad it is.

It’s probably in part that I hate the whole mate trope.  I know Maas tried to remedy it by saying there was some choice to it-whether or not you accepted the bond-but come on, with the amount of pressure that is given on these characters if they choose not to except the bond you know that there’s going to be some dastardly consequences.

Just going to say it now, poor Elain.

I didn’t get why there was a bond between her and Lucien to be honest about it.  Other than to have a reason for Lucien to not keep being Tamlin bitch-sorry for the grotesque language, but that’s pretty much what he is throughout most of the series.

The other randomness when it came to romantic relationships in this series was Mor.  There was build up between her and Azriel throughout most of the last two books, but because-and this is me totally theorizing on this aspect and it’s ONLY a theory-Maas was called out on the fact that her books lack diversity she decided for Mor to randomly be revealed as bi, with little or no character development to show that she had a preference for women in the past-in fact, she has the character state she tried to hide this aspect of herself by randomly sleeping with men to get away which I guess allowed Maas to get away without having character development.   I would be perfectly fine with this if it wasn’t so random, and if the relationship that had been building up was’t so sweet.  It was way better than Lucien and Elain at least, just saying.  But now knowing that’s not going to be an end game, I’m a little sad.  Especially since it just seems like the ship was thrown away to make Mor into a token character.  Had there been more development with Mor’s sexuality, I think I would’ve enjoyed this plot point better than I did.  As it was, it was more or like Maas was like, “Oh, shit.  They’re right.  I don’t have any diverse characters in this book, what if I make Mor bi.  That will fix it, and I’ll just change this ship with this ship and…I’m a genius”.

I should note though, Mor is not the only diverse character in the book.  There is a minor character that is mentioned to be bi and who is into threesomes and a minor extra whose a lesbian.

Yeah….it was pretty much tokenism.

gnjgblpghtcnsHonestly, if she wanted an actual QUILTBAG relationship that actually worked she should’ve just had Tamlin and Lucien get together already.  I would’ve been behind that, a lot more than I’m behind Lucien and Elain or Tamlin and anyone right now.

Probably my favorite character in this book (really in the series at this point) is Nesta.  I feel like this character remained the truest to what we were presented with in the earlier groups and grew accordingly.  I hope in future installments she’ll be a main character because she’s bad ass, vicious, and I just really like her over all.

So Nesta kept the book from completely falling apart in its later half.

Because God was the later half a bit of a hot mess.  Especially since Tamlin was such a douche canoe throughout the whole book.

It’s odd when I reread the first one, I thought maybe I’l see that Tamlin was a douche canoe from the start and Rhys wouldn’t come off as creepy as he did the first time I read the book.  And yeah, some aspects of that were there.  I mean, he’s practically useless Under the Mountain and once he and Feyre have sex the relationship pretty much falls apart, but he wasn’t near as controlling as he was in the later books or possessive.  And the creepy priestess made no impact on his life in the first one.  Hell, he even tells Feyre to leave in the first book and that she was not forced to stay in their lands.  While Rhys in the first book, I know Maas keeps saying he did what he had to do.  But drugging Feyre was not cool, even if it was to spare her from pain and a lot other shit that went down under the mountain.

And honestly, Rhys made a number of douche canoe decisions in this book that he said needed to happen but really were just made to facilitate drama.  And what he did to Mor….

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Mor really got shafted in this book on so many levels.  It’s like Maas took her hate out for this character in this installment and it just makes me fucking mad.

Is this book a great book, no.  Like the rest of the series, it is heavily flawed but it is an enjoyable read.  It has that crack-ish like quality to it that I see a lot in fan fiction and like fan fiction it suffers from a lot of problems.  While I would say that Feyre has developed over the series and is less of a Mary Sue than the lead character in Throne of Glass, there are still some obvious Sue-isms to her.  While I did like the turn the romance took in book 2, I’m not naive and know that the scenes that were between Rhys and Feyre have a cringe like quality to them.  Especially when Maas decided to bring in the whole mate trope.  Still, it’s a fun series.  And if you can look past the flaws and the ridiculousness of the series, and borderline offensiveness when it comes to how Mor was treated its an okay book.   Not what I hoped for, but it could’ve been much worse.

Overall Rating: A B.