The Quotes Show Its Stupid: Toward a Secret Sky by Heather Maclean

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Shortly after 17-year-old Maren Hamilton is orphaned and sent to live with grandparents she’s never met in Scotland, she receives an encrypted journal from her dead mother that makes her and everyone around her a target. It confirms that her parents were employed by a secret, international organization that’s now intent on recruiting her. As Maren works to unravel the clues left behind by her mother, a murderous madness sweeps through the local population, terrorizing her small town. Maren must decide if she’ll continue her parents’ fight or stay behind to save her friends.

With the help of Gavin, an otherworldly mercenary she’s not supposed to fall in love with, and Graham, a charming aristocrat who is entranced with her, Maren races against the clock and around the country from palatial estates with twisted labyrinths to famous cathedrals with booby-trapped subterranean crypts to stay ahead of the enemy and find a cure. Along the way, she discovers the great truth of love: that laying down your life for another isn’t as hard as watching them sacrifice everything for you.

Source: GoodReads

I know I’ve ranted about YA fantasy being eerily the same.  Well, YA paranormal also falls under the same rut.  The only thing is, I was hoping since this genre has sort of disappeared in the past five or so years, that when there was a YA paranormal released-like Toward A Secret Sky– it would be something different.

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Only thing is, this book is probably as cliche as the books that were being released in the heyday of this genre.

Usually I’m not one for using quotes in my review, but I think this is one DNF where quotes sill exemplify why I didn’t finish this book.

Exhibit One:

My mother was totally beautiful-a former Miss Springfield-and I  looked nothing like her.  While she had olive skin and shiny black hair.  I got my Scottish father’s pale white coloring, light green eyes, and cray, thick, curly blonde hair.  The kind of hair that once made a hairdresser cry because the haircut came with a free blow-dry, and she counted on the whole process taking three hours.  Of course, it wasn’t California blonde or even all-the-same-color blonde.  It was someone once told me, “dishwater blonde.”  Just what my self-esteem needed: hair that reminded people of dirty water. (9-10)

Of course, this is our description of our MC who is described as being “Plain” because she has dirty blonde hair that’s curly.  I should mention later on when she starts attending school in Scotland, everyone is envious over said hair.  Furthermore, being a dirty blonde myself, I always find it insulting when people talk this way.

Exhibit Two:

I was kissing the hottest guy ever.  He was so hot, even his hair was red.  We were logging in the long grass, kissing deeply, like it was our new way of breathing.

It was hot outside, and the kissing was making me even hotter.  Everywhere he touched me, my skin burned.  I never kissed anyone before, and certainly like this.

(13)

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Do I even need to say anything about this?

Exhibit Three:

Even the “normal” food in Scotland wasn’t normal.  French fries, which were called “chips”, looked like the fries back home, but instead of being crispy and yummy, they were soggy and not.  Chips were called “crisps”, which was a true description, but they didn’t have any fun flavors like ranch or hickory barbecue.  In fact, they didn’t have barbecue anything at all.  They’d never heard of brownies or cornbread (“Why would you put corn in bread?” my grandmother asked).

(14)

Disinterested teen,  who insults the area the area that she’s in.  I’ve been to Ireland-I know different country than Scotland, BUT we the area I was staying at had a Tesco (the same store this ingrate went to) and the store was fairly large, though not Super Walmart size, and they pretty much had anything you wanted.  Also, having had chips/fries in both the US and Ireland, I can tell you there really is not that much different.   So, I’m guessing that Scotland’s version isn’t that different either.

Anyway, a pet peeve of mine in any YA book is when the character will trash the area they just moved to.  Especially if its a foreign country.  America’s reputation has pretty much been shot by Donald Trump, we don’t  need little fictional ingrates like Maren to ruin it further.

Exhibit 4:

Hew as the most breathtaking guy I had ever seen and-thank you, God!-seemed to be about my age.  His wavy chestnut-colored hair fell over his forehoead, but not enough to hide his dark blue eyes.  He was tall and broad shouldered, but had a thin waist.  he carried his bulging frame like he  was wearing football shoulder  pads, but I could see from where his white tunic shirt hung open at his chest that he was all bare skin and muscle.

(30)

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Do I need to say more?

Exhibit 5:

I could tell by Jo’s flat tone that Elsie was not her favorite person.  I’d have to remember to cheer her up later by letting her know “Elsie” was mainly a name for cows in America.

(44)

Wrong.  Elsie is the name of a very cute diminutive Corgi  (AKA Wonder Corgi) who is upset that she is being compared to a cow.  She says she is going keep barking  into  Maclean’s ear until this is rectified.

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Wonder Corgi not Wonder Woman, but close enough.

These quotes are pretty much why I quit the book.  I could find more, but honestly I don’t want to.  Like I said, usually I avoid doing quote reviews, but I think in this book’s case the quotes exemplify why I didn’t want to continue.

Overall Rating: DNF.  Avoid.

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Too Bad It’s Dim: Into the Dim by Janet B Taylor

When fragile, sixteen-year-old Hope Walton loses her mom to an earthquake overseas, her secluded world crumbles. Agreeing to spend the summer in Scotland, Hope discovers that her mother was more than a brilliant academic, but also a member of a secret society of time travelers. Trapped in the twelfth century in the age of Eleanor of Aquitaine, Hope has seventy-two hours to rescue her mother and get back to their own time. Along the way, her path collides with that of a mysterious boy who could be vital to her mission . . . or the key to Hope’s undoing.      Addictive, romantic, and rich with historical detail,Into the Dim is an Outlander for teens.

Source: GoodReads

There are so many Outlander plugs for this book it’s sort of hilarious.  Especially when after you read the book and are like book is nothing like Outlander.

Save for the brief Scotland setting and time travel aspect.

The book was NOT what I was expecting to say the least.  I was actually excited when I read that Eleanor of Acquitaine would be making an appearance.  I recently watched this excellent documentary on ACORN called She Wolves and one of the episodes discussed Eleanor.

Eleanor was bad ass.

In this book though…meh.  She’s barely even a significant character.  And Henry the II hardly seems as magnetic as he was described in She Wolves.

Bah.

That isn’t the worst thing about the book though.  What is the worst thing about the book is the main character.

Oh, Hope.

Ugh.

Much like Bella Swan, Hope is just very annoying in general.  She is one of those characters that is pretty much useless, but is told by everyone she’s not.

They’re like:

Oh, Hope, you’re so beautiful and special and it really just makes your eyes want to bleed.

Seriously, this is so 2006.

I am rambling, aren’t I?

At this point, the rambling is more or less because there is nothing to pick at about the Bella Swan “Special” heroine cliche.  It is more or less a big no no in YA.

Complicating matters is that neither Hope or her mother seem endearing.  At the beginning of the book we’re told that Hope was kept away from the neanderthals in her home town becuase she was “special” and her snooty mother home schooled her.

The way that Hope speaks with such disdain surrounding her other relatives astounds me.  There’s one point in the book she tells her father that he’s not her real dad because there’s not a biological between them and I’m like-come  on.

Though to be fair, her father’s a bit of a douche since he dumps her off with relatives she doesn’t know in a foreign country in order to go on a cruise with her new squeeze.

Has he ever seen Taken?

Obviously, not.  And so at this point in this review you’re probably like another YA book with horrible people what else is new.

Anyway, once the book moves to Scotland things start moving-well, not really.  We have a hundred pages of dribble of bad usage of dialect.

Seriously writers, unless your name is Mark Twain do not attempt to use dialect.

Fuck that.

I couldn’t even stand Twain’s writing because I hate dialect.  In fact, the only writer allowed to use dialect is JK Rowling when she’s writing Hagrid’s lines.

Anyone else, screw you.

One of the things I find really offensive about dialect is that it cheapens and generalizes a culture.  Here this exemplified.

I recently started watching a 90’s Scottish TV series called Hamish McBeth.  I can tell that no one in that show talks like the characters in Into the Dim.  Furthermore, adding thou and thus to make the English authentic sounding to medieval English is bull shit.

I can tell you that medieval English was completely different from the English that I am writing right now.  As part of my undergraduate degree I was required to take an early English literature class-Think Beowulf to Milton- and on the first day of class my professor delighted the class by reading parts of Beowulf out in old English (here’s a Youtube link of a reading if it if you’re interested).

Sounded like complete gibberish to me.

The Elizabethan  era is when modern day English really started to make its appearance.  This wasn’t until hundreds of years after Eleanor’s time period.   And anyone who has read Shakespeare knows that this is where all those “thus” and “thou” make an appearance.

So from a schematics perspective, the book failed.

It also failed when it came to the shitty love interest trope.

Any regular reader of this blog knows that I love to ship books.  But there was no way in hell that I could ship the ship in this book.  It was just blah beyond belief.  And just too convenient.   Honestly, the book would’ve been better without the ship with the boy with the weird colored eyes.

There were some things about this one, that might make the sequel interesting to pick up, but I really don’t know if I’m going to do it.  Besides horrible characters, use of dialect, and a boat load of YA cliches, the writing in general was really clunky.

Overall Rating: I’m thinking a C-.  There were some interesting things about Into the Dim, but it did not live up to expectations.  In fact, I really don’t think it was ready for prime time.  Hopefully, Taylor’s next installment in the series will be less clunky and won’t include five thousand mentions of the word lass.