Jane Eyre in Space: Brightly Burning by Alexa Donne

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Seventeen-year-old Stella Ainsley wants just one thing: to go somewhere—anywhere—else. Her home is a floundering spaceship that offers few prospects, having been orbiting an ice-encased Earth for two hundred years. When a private ship hires her as a governess, Stella jumps at the chance. The captain of the Rochester, nineteen-year-old Hugo Fairfax, is notorious throughout the fleet for being a moody recluse and a drunk. But with Stella he’s kind.

But the Rochester harbors secrets: Stella is certain someone is trying to kill Hugo, and the more she discovers, the more questions she has about his role in a conspiracy threatening the fleet.

Source: GoodReads

Another day, another YA Jane Eyre retelling.  Someone get me a triple shot of vodka please.  Oh, I already used that in another review in recent past.  Too bad using it again.

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Seriously, though, I did not like this book.  Big surprise.  I feel like I’ve been saying that since Memorial Day.  God will this slump ever fucking end?

Don’t answer that, I’ll probably be disappointed.  To be fair, the last have been more meh reads than actual hate reads but still.  Is it so much to ask for a decent Jane Eyre retelling?  That was the question I kept asking myself as I read Brightly Burning and earlier in the weekend when I read My Plain Jane.

Unlike the previous book, Brightly Burning follows the source material pretty closely at least in regards to the romance.  If anything it overly romanticizes things and diminishes things like Rochester’s age to make the book more appropriate.

No.  Rochester is not nineteen it does not work.  If you’re going to do a Jane Eyre retelling you should keep the ages of the characters relatively similar to the original.

I’m just saying the dynamics aren’t going to work if Rochester is nineteen which doesn’t even make sense with the weird ass world building that’s going on here.

So, essentially this is Jane Eyre in Space!  Yeah, that’s literally what it is.  The space part is pretty much thrown in there.  They try to make Jane do something useful like be an engineer-I think Donne got that off of Cinder– but it really serves little purpose.

Much like Jane Eyre being in space served very little purpose.

The world building is pretty bad here.  And I’m not that strict with world building.  I mean, I can overlook a lot of things here but this literally screamed I’m going to set my story in space because that’s different and that equals a publishing contract.

I know, I know, I’m a very cynical person.

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I think what the general consensus of wrong-ness with Jane Eyre retellings is that they just focus on a random element of the story-usually the romance-and fail to capture what really made the book a classic.  I guess that’s expected since most of these YA writers are not near the caliber that Bronte was.  BUT…I still could hope that a book might be able to capture the strength of Jane without making her seem too much of a Pollyanna or to recreate the Rochester/Jane dynamic showing its thrones and all and not romanticizing Rochester.

I digress though…

This book Pollyanna-izes Jane plus it adds sugar upon sugar to the Rochester/Jane relationship where it makes my teeth hurt.

I get it governess themed stories are popular, but if you want to do a Jane Eyre retelling, you probably will want to actually flesh out the characters and you know keep elements of the original.  Meaning, don’t diminish certain plot points or try to justify Rochester’s actions to make the story.

Also, if you’re going to use space as your backdrop.  Do some actual world building and not have a random plot hole that is our big twist.

Overall Rating: A C.  It’s decent ( I guess).

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How Droll: My Plain Jane

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You may think you know the story. After a miserable childhood, penniless orphan Jane Eyre embarks on a new life as a governess at Thornfield Hall. There, she meets one dark, brooding Mr. Rochester. Despite their significant age gap (!) and his uneven temper (!!), they fall in love—and, Reader, she marries him. (!!!)

Or does she?

Prepare for an adventure of Gothic proportions, in which all is not as it seems, a certain gentleman is hiding more than skeletons in his closets, and one orphan Jane Eyre, aspiring author Charlotte Brontë, and supernatural investigator Alexander Blackwood are about to be drawn together on the most epic ghost hunt this side of Wuthering Heights.

Source: GoodReads

In theory this book could’ve been written for me.  It has all the sorts of things I love: Jane Eyre retellings, ghost hunting, a team of authors who wrote probably one of my favorite books in 2016.  But in the end the book sort of flopped for me.

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Note, I’m giving it a middle of the road rating though.  For all intents and purposes I have read way worse in 2018.  Which isn’t a good thing.  I’m honestly thinking of hitting some backlist books pretty soon to get me out of this rut of awfulness.

The concept of this book I said it cat nip for yours truly.  I am currently watching that stupid Ghost Adventures show (fondly referred to Ghost Douche Bros) while I am drafting this.  And yes, I enjoy Ghost Douche Bros more than this book.  Because at least that show has a sense of style about it that this book does not.

Hell, if I even knew how the mythology worked in this book when I finished it.  All I got is you die and come back to life you can see ghosts.  Okay…that really doesn’t make sense and there’s something called beacons that are never really fully explained…okay.

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Also, it make a fairly lousy Jane Eyre retelling.  Jane Eyre is one of those books that’s constantly retold over and over again in YA.  Some retellings I like better than others, this one really did not work.

I sort of hated the fact that Charlotte Bronte was included in the book.  I get that this was a fictionalization of the author and all that jazz, but I kept thinking of Charlotte’s actual life during this and was like no…plus, lady died extremely young so that sort of sours the ending besides the fact…

I get it’s alternative history but still.  CHARLOTTE BRONTE HATED JANE AUSTEN.  I just have to fucking say it.  There were so many Austen references I figured Ms. Bronte is rolling in her grave over them.

Also, the way Jane’s story is written completely ruins Jane Eyre. And yes, while I do find the romance between Jane and Rochester problematic, I found the ending of this book even worse.  It made me grimace at how they resolved things to hit at Jane getting a happy ending.

FYI, the look alike replacement love interest is never a good thing.  The reader doesn’t care if they look like X.  We can’t see X in the story.  We like X based on how he’s described his personality, not his looks.  Having a character fall in love with someone instantly because they look X just grates of my fucking nerves.  Not that I loved X here, but you get the idea.

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It’s a trope that needs to burn.

While My Lady Jane was full of humor and had an understated Princess Bride-ish quality about it.  This one one is like yeah we know we’re funny and trying to be like The Princess Bride let’s literally rift one of the most iconic scenes from the book and movie out and place it in the book.

All I have to say is My Plain Jane, you have offended The Princess Bride, prepare to die.

The one thing in this retelling I did like was that they expanded on the character Helen.  In the original source material, she merely is there to die.  While dead here, the character does have some growth development as a ghost which is nice.

I don’t really recommend this one if you loved the past book or are a fan of the authors or Jane Eyre.  It sadly doesn’t work.  However, it’s not a complete failure since there are some things about the book that interest me.  However, I really wasn’t a fan and the only reason it is staying on my shelf is I’m a bit peculiar about having an entire series on my shelf.

Overall Rating: A C+

Super Vanilla: Stay Sweet by Siobhan Vivian

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A summer read about first love, feminism, and ice cream.

Summer in Sand Lake isn’t complete without a trip to Meade Creamery—the local ice cream stand founded in 1944 by Molly Meade who started making ice cream to cheer up her lovesick girlfriends while all the boys were away at war. Since then, the stand has been owned and managed exclusively by local girls, who inevitably become the best of friends. Seventeen-year-old Amelia and her best friend Cate have worked at the stand every summer for the past three years, and Amelia is “Head Girl” at the stand this summer. When Molly passes away before Amelia even has her first day in charge, Amelia isn’t sure that the stand can go on. That is, until Molly’s grandnephew Grady arrives and asks Amelia to stay on to help continue the business…but Grady’s got some changes in mind…

Source:GoodReads

I have been on a  slew of shit reads lately.  Yeah, I know a harsh way to start the review, but I’ll just say it now, Stay Sweet isn’t bad.  It’s a little bland and other than the twist towards the end of the novel there’s nothing that really stuck out to me, but it didn’t turn me into a rage inducing Book Hulk like some of my other recent reads being said.

That being said, this book is a little forgettable.  I started writing my review about thirty minutes after I finished the book, only because I know it’s going to go from my memory fast.

What I liked about the book: it was very summery.  I like light hearted books in the summer time, and while there were a few darker moments in this book it was for the most part pretty light.  I mean, there’s only so many ways you can make ice cream dark.

I also found the characters to be relatively unoffensive for the most part, although bland.  Though I do have to say, the book overall underwhelmed me.

The blurb says that feminism is going to be a strong theme throughout the novel.  Honestly, other than one character’s decision I didn’t really see any shades of feminism throughout the book.  I looked.  So, to quiet the disappointment I am inserting a gif that defines feminism.

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I thought that this book could’ve been a strong story about female friendship, however the friendship ended up being a bad friendship and took a backseat to the kind of weird romance.

I did not like the ship in this book.  For one thing, there was a weird power dynamic that gave me the icks.  And for another, I really did not like Grady he seemed like a weak character who didn’t have a spine.  And I don’t do spineless and neither should Amelia.  But Amelia was sort of spineless too…so.

God, Amelia.  She is the main character in the book.  Though, the novel is not told in her point of view.  It’s in this weird stilted third person POV.  I don’t know if that’s Vivian’s typical style-this is the first book I read by her-but it just made the book seem off to me.  This is just a preference thing, but it just didn’t work.  It probably didn’t help that the lead was also extremely weak and pretty much devoid of any personality, other than she wants to work at the ice cream parlor for the summer.

The ice cream was the most interesting part to me.  I actually bought a fairly decent ice cream machine  this year, so I’ve been trying out different recipes and was interested in reading this.  However, I was just shaking my head at how ridiculous hard it was for these characters to make some decent ice cream.  Seriously, couldn’t they just invest in a copy of The Perfect Scoop already and call it a day?

Digression aside, I think Vivian did over complicate the process.   Probably on purpose to give the plot some extra fodder, but still.  A basic Philadelphia style vanilla isn’t that complex.  You’re not even making a custard, but I digress (again).

A lot of things were either over complicated or essentially all realities were suspended in order to add to the plot.  It annoyed me.  I also hated how a GoFundMe was essentially used to resolve all of the MC’s problems (including the rift with her friend) at the end of the book.  Did I mention I fucking hate GoFundMes.  Now occasionally, there will be a worth while cause up there, but its not an adequate way to raise money for a business.  And there is a lot of pandering that goes on on that website as well.

At the end of the day, I found Stay Sweet to be fairly inoffensive.  I just don’t think it’s one of those books that’s going to stick with me a week or so from writing this.  It wasn’t bad though.  If you like quick little summer time reads, you might want to give it a try, but it is far from perfect.

Overall Rating: C+

 

The Time I Almost Threw A Book in a Toliet: One Small Thing by Erin Watt

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Beth’s life hasn’t been the same since her sister died. Her parents try to lock her down, believing they can keep her safe by monitoring her every move. When Beth sneaks out to a party one night and meets the new guy in town, Chase, she’s thrilled to make a secret friend. It seems a small thing, just for her.

Only Beth doesn’t know how big her secret really is…

Fresh out of juvie and determined to start his life over, Chase has demons to face and much to atone for, including his part in the night Beth’s sister died. Beth, who has more reason than anyone to despise him, is willing to give him a second chance. A forbidden romance is the last thing either of them planned for senior year, but the more time they spend together, the deeper their feelings get.

Now Beth has a choice to make—follow the rules, or risk tearing everything apart…again.

Source: GoodReads

Even though my father has a tendency to be an all around terrible person, he has his moments of wisdom.  One Dad signature phrase that came into mind after reading One Small Thing  was, “I need a triple shot of vodka.”

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Because seriously, after reading this shit if I was a drinking lady (which I’m not for health reasons) I’d totally be getting smashed right now.

Instead, I put in a Burn Notice DVD so I can watch Jeffrey Donovan kick ass when he was moderately attractive-season one Michael is where it’s at folks, before the severe bulking up and Paul Ryan hair dye.

Television diversion aside and Dad quoting wisdom (seriously, my asshole father having actual wisdom still confound me) aside, I really hated this book.

The concept in just general should’ve gotten it a one trip visit to the slush pile.  Pretty much falling in love with your sister’s murderer should be a no no.  But hey….I get it.  There have been storylines that took this stupid plot line before.  Like the late great All My Children in which big shot journalist Brooke English fell in love with this pastor who got drunk and killed her daughter all those years ago before becoming a pastor.

However, All My Children was smart enough to cut their loses and end this ship.  It’s really hard to do in a book and God this ship really never got off the ground.  I’m sorry but random drunk hookup does not equal sexy like Watt would like the audience to think.

I think my biggest concern with this book was that it just pushed too many buttons and there wasn’t any redeeming features.

The parents are assholes.  They angered me.  The whole taking off the door off of the MC’s room was something similar that happened to me when I was a teen.  It still annoys me to this very day that my mother thought that was all funny hahaha that she took my door off because God forbid I wanted some privacy.

Thankfully, my mother even though idiotic in that moment wasn’t nearly as bad as the parents in this book.  I think that Beth’s parents are seriously in contention for the Golden Charlie of 2018.

They are just outright terrible people.  So is most of the cast of this book.  Funny, titling this book Terrible People might’ve actually been more in its benefit than how it was presented.

I’m not naive.  I knew going in that the concept was going to make me squeamish.  However, I thought it would’ve been done with a little finesse just not a little you’re like so hot at a party and then instant hook up and pretty much forget that the guy killed your sister because he’s hot.

The book, honestly, sort of goes against the Erin Watt brand.  While it does have its signature flare for the over dramatic never going to happen bat shit insane bits.  It’s not a fluffy romance.  In fact, romance was the last thing I thought about when I read this book. I did not want a romance with this book.  Instead, I wanted to hit the protagonist with a big stick of reality and get her out of her psycho parents’ house and away from her so called friends.

One Small Thing is just really a bad book when it comes down to it.  I can’t find one thing about it that I can say I enjoyed. I mostly kept reading-then skimming-because it was so spectacular that it blew so much.

I will have to say my tolerance for this shit is really surprising me these days.  This used to be the sort of book I would bemoaning at and ranting about, but other than almost throwing it in my toilet when I read it-I know, sometimes it surprises me at how immature I still occasionally might be.  One would think that having a professional degree and being licensed to practice law in two states would make me a bit more mature, but nope book still almost went into the crapper.  Only reason it didn’t was because I didn’t want to call out maintenance agains for my apartment unit-the air was out most of last week AND then the place decided to just go ahead and flood on Saturday.

Overall Rating: Fail.  I don’t know what to say other than that.  There was nothing redeemable about this one.  Save your money, and if you are really desperate and live near me I’m donating my copy to the local library soon so check it out.

I Hate Clara: The Way You Make Me Feel by Maureen Goo

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From the author of I Believe in a Thing Called Love, a laugh-out-loud story of love, new friendships, and one unique food truck.

Clara Shin lives for pranks and disruption. When she takes one joke too far, her dad sentences her to a summer working on his food truck, the KoBra, alongside her uptight classmate Rose Carver. Not the carefree summer Clara had imagined. But maybe Rose isn’t so bad. Maybe the boy named Hamlet (yes, Hamlet) crushing on her is pretty cute. Maybe Clara actually feels invested in her dad’s business. What if taking this summer seriously means that Clara has to leave her old self behind?

With Maurene Goo’s signature warmth and humor, The Way You Make Me Feel is a relatable story of falling in love and finding yourself in the places you’d never thought to look.

Source: GoodReads

I just cannot get into Maureen Goo’s books.  In theory they are everything I should like light hearted contemporaries with a diverse protagonist, but at the end of the day I just can’t.  The weird thing about The Way You Make Me Feel is that if it wasn’t for the God awful insensitive and just all around terrible human being of a protagonist, I probably would’ve liked this book.

I have been writing a slew of negative reviews lately, so I think I’ll start this one off by at least talking about the good points.  I liked the idea of the food truck being a central plot line to the book.  The food in this book made me hungry and as a result this book inspired me to make some fusion corn today-okay, no it really didn’t.  I had the fusion street corn planned since I got my copy of Milk Street in the mail last week but I digress.

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A Brazilian/Korean food truck sounds amazing and I enjoyed reading the food descriptions.  I also liked some of the side characters.  The dad character was great.  And I liked Rose.  Hamlet wasn’t terrible either, if a little bland (save for his name).  I mean, if you would’ve taken out Clara this book might’ve been a winner for me.

Hell, I wanted to read more about Rose.  She was interesting.  She wasn’t a douche canoe and she was definitely more relatable than I’m Gonna Be a Stupid Idiot Clara.

But I said I was going to talk about positives first, right?

I thought the dad character really was done.  Rather, than pitching this like a summer romance (which from the blurb it totally looks like it’s going in that direction.  I think this book would’ve been a lot more successful pitched as a general contemporary.  The father/daughter relationship was the strongest aspect of the book while the romance was the weakest.  And in a way I’m glad.  Finding a YA book with strong parent/child relationships is hard, but I really sort of didn’t get why they pitched it so hard as looking like a rom com when Hamlet is maybe a secondary character at best.

I also liked the fact that the book tried to do a storyline about strong female friendships.  The only thing was that I felt the friendship between Rose and Clara came out forced because Clara is such  jerk and I just don’t see a girl as strong as Rose dealing with her shit.  Also, I hated that while Rose was important at the beginning of the novel she merrily fell into supported best friend role as the story went on.

Which brings me to the crux of the problem with the book: Clara.

Going into this book, I knew she was going to be an issue.  My friend, Nenia, was reading this book the other week and based on her status updates I figured it was going to be a DNF for me.  However, somehow I think the advance warning made me ready to deal with it. Still though, Clara is one of the most absorbed twits I’ve read about in awhile and I really don’t think she grew as a character.  More or less, the other characters gave into her.

If you’re going to have a bratty heroine and the story is character driven (as it was in this book) you need to make sure your character grows and isn’t an obnoxious brat all the time like Clara is.

There were several jaw dropping moments of her stupidity.  I think the most notable one is where she is okay cooking a vegetarian’s dish in pork fat.  That’s no tokay.  There are religious, ethical, and health concerns with doing that.  But Clara brushes it off like she does with pretty much the rest of her life as one big funny haha joke and gets away with it.

After a slew of God awful books, this one is hardly the worst one that I’ve read in awhile. I do think Goo is improving.  If Clara wasn’t so insipid, I probably would’ve rated this one higher.  It did have some stuff I liked, but God did I want to punch Clara’s stupid fictional face in.

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Overall Rating: I’m giving it a C+ take away the punchable MC and it’s a decent book.  However, the MC does bring down the story a lot.  If you can’t stand stupid jackasses this probably isn’t the book for you.

Phoned In: Listen To Your Heart by Kasie West

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Talking to other people isn’t Kate Bailey’s favorite activity. She’d much rather be out on the lake, soaking up the solitude and sunshine. So when her best friend, Alana, convinces Kate to join their high school’s podcast, Kate is not expecting to be chosen as the host. Now she’ll have to answer calls and give advice on the air? Impossible.

But to Kate’s surprise, she turns out to be pretty good at the hosting gig. Then the podcast gets in a call from an anonymous guy, asking for advice about his unnamed crush. Kate is pretty sure that the caller is gorgeous Diego Martinez, and even surer that the girl in question is Alana. Kate is excited for her friend … until Kate herself starts to develop feelings for Diego. Suddenly, Kate finds that while doling out wisdom to others may be easy, asking for help is tougher than it looks, and following your own advice is even harder.

Kasie West’s adorable story of secrets, love, and friendship is sure to win over hearts everywhere.

Source: GoodReads

Kasie West is the 2010’s version of Meg Cabot.  That is both a good and bad thing.  Like Cabot, she write cute, fluffy books that give you the feels and she’s extremely prolific.  Also, like Cabot, sometimes the quality suffers as a result of the prolificness.

Listen to Your Heart feels very phoned in, which is kind of ironic because it’s about a girl who who has a podcast show where people call in to ask for advice.

The concept of the story itself isn’t that original.  There are lots of stories that share the sort of plot line that this story has.   I probably watched a couple of Hallmark movies with similar plots.  What would make this concept good, is the execution.  Are the characters fully fleshed out? Is the chemistry with the characters palatable?  Is there some sort of plot twist that makes the story original despite having what appears to be a fairly generic concept/plot?

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All the answer to these questions is no with this book.  It was as if West was clearly  phoning this one in.  The MC lives near the lake  that’s her defining characterization.  And she has lots of cousins.  One whose four.  This is pointed out every time, Cora-the four year-old, makes an appearance. The only reason I remember Cora is it’s made pretty fucking clear through the book that she’s four-years-old.

There’s lots of other cousin’s too.  Most of them are as blah as wallpaper.  The only one besides Cora I remember is Liz or it Liza, whoever she is she’s the one who randomly goes to a tutoring center so that Kate can interact with Diego.

Diego is the love interest, BTW.  Though, Kate doesn’t really have feelings or decent interaction with him for most of the book.  Hell, I thought her love interest was going to be someone else who she at least sort of shared chemistry with.  But apparently, I was wrong.

Me missing ships  does happen occasionally.  See the Harry Potter books where I was not able to guess the horrid cannon couples we got-Heron is totally going to go to wizard divorce court you know it and I know it and I won’t even get started on my hatred for the shallow ship that is Hinny (it should’ve been Harmony, damn it, even Rowling knows it and now admits it).

If you made it past my Harry Potter ship rant (it really doesn’t take much to get me started) you’ll see that I really didn’t get the Diego/Kate relationship because other than a couple of interactions with the two of them, there isn’t that much interaction with the two of them.

The story itself was vanilla.  I was hoping for a couple of more plot twists than we got.  I really felt this could’ve been developed more than it was.  Even the podcast itself was boring, nothing really developed from it and I kind of was surprise that a high school teacher would actually okay an advice podcast for high school kids.  Then again, what do I know…

After reading this, a part of me felt cynical.  Contemporary YA is usually my jam.  Yes, it can be cheesy and unrealistic, but that’s part of what I love about it.  With this book I just felt complete blah-ness there was nothing that had me loving the characters or  interested in the story.  I knew what was going to happen.  Even worse, the only thing  that really was unexpected was the ship.  And it wasn’t because the ship itself was unsuspected.  Rather, it was how  banal and chemistry-less the ship was.  Hell, I thought the interaction between the MC and her archenemy was better than her interaction with Diego.

If you are a die hard Kasie West fan you’ll probably read this one and moderately enjoy it.  I’ll admit that during the days Meg Cabot was uber prolific I read every book by her even if it was not so good and told myself it was good.  I could see West fans doing that too.  However, the book is not going to sit on you later on when you look at West’s backlist.  Much like when I think of Meg Cabot’s books I do usually not think about How to be Popular (which I think is one of Cabot’s worse).

Would I say it’s the worst book ever?  Hardly.  But it’s not worth its space on my shelves and for someone who gets as much praise as West does, it was a bit of a fail.

Overall Rating: An F.