Book Suggestions – Farla


I don’t want to spend time on books people already know suck, so as a measurement let’s look to Goodreads and their four-star rating, which Unwind readily manages so we’re not exactly talking high standards here. You can recommend a book with a rating under that, but you have to make a case for why the book’s noteworthy in its failure.

Also, books that aren’t Book One of X are preferred. The current trilogy+ situation takes forever.

I’m not doing Mortal Instruments or anything else by the author because she’s a plagiarist.

I’m skipping things that have already gotten this treatment, No Twilight or Fifty Shades, Inheritance Cycle, Harry PotterHush, Hush or House of Night (done twice!).


The Scorpio Races:

Apparently kids race on freaky water horses that hate them and some of them die, for some reason.

Grave Mercy:

The main character is an assassin I think.


“all the people aged 20-60 dying in a plague, and yet the surviving 60+ crowd keeps around laws that prevent teenagers from working”


I remember it being sort of like a deconstruction of manic pixie dreamgirl, with a guy narrator I hated.

Left Hand of Darkness:

Old and famous novel by Ursula Le Guin. Considered feminist lit.


“Every human 15 and older vanishes, and the town and surrounding areas (later named the FAYZ) are encased within an impenetrable bubble. Many of the people and wildlife develop supernatural powers. ”

The Pledge:

“in a fantasy country, people are divided into different classes and you must stay within your own class. Cue special girl who can speak every class language.”

Troubled Waters

“Female protagonist, political plot (kings and brides), contains an alternate world with a lot of world building things”

Rebel Angels

Sequel to A Great and Terrible Beauty.


I have heard nothing but terrible things about this.


The failures of this book tasted delicious.


“Girl who’s half-dragon in a world where dragons can disguise themselves at humans and currently hold a treaty with humans.”

Dresden Files:

I hated the first book and not enough people agree with me.

Hollow Kingdom:

Supernatural romance with goblins.

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

“The main protagonist is a ginormous Sue (Her name is Karou, her blue hair grows out of her head that colour [Incidentally, the author has bright pink hair, which, I’m sure, isn’t natural], she is an artsy art student in Prague despite not being Czeck, she is omg!beautiful and omg!talented and everyone envies ehr artistic skills, she travels around the world on mysterious errands for teeth for her father figure Brimstone, a chimaera, because she is also an orphan…)”


Is not exactly a book but it sure is a something.

Beautiful Darkness:

Sequel to Creatures and part of a four-book series, I guess the author couldn’t fit all the lack of worldbuilding into just one.


Sequel, naturally, to Eon.


Final Matched book, apparently sucks less than the others, but that’s not necessarily saying much.



Sequel to Divergent.

Children of the Dragon (Exalted):

Stop picking rapefests or this is next.


Something something mermaids?

The Culling

“it’s a teen book about a gay boy that ISNT all about his sexuality. My hopes were promptly dashed when I realized the main character is a Sparkley Sue with no real personality except Upstanding Moral Citizen, all the females were horrible, the love triangle made no sense and I STILL have no idea how big the world is because they apparently have the people to just throw them away willy nilly by the hundreds yet all the citizens fit into one stadium.”


“It’s got a strong female character, a well crafted and not overly bleak dystopian world, and the plot moves along at a good pace.
But then after that I think it completely goes off the rails- it seems like the author painted himself into a corner, plotwise, and just couldn’t get himself out of it”

Throne of Glass

“Sociopathic super assassin mary-sue main character, a nonsensical plot which is ignored half the time in favour of relationship drama, massive failures in research and basic logic.”


“In a society where you take a test at the age of ten that determines your intelligence (or something), a girl’s cop (or military-can’t really remember which) gets killed by a teen fugitive. Said girl, who’s some kind of prodigy (though it’s never really made clear), has to hunt down the teen fugitive rebel guy. And, yes, they fall in love.”

Shatter Me

Part of the beloved YA canon along with Wither, apparently?


  1. Lissa says:

    I’d be most interested in The Pledge, Starters, or Beautiful Darkness. I’ve seen good snarkings of a lot of the other books here, and I’m usually not interested in snarkings of books I haven’t read (I haven’t read The Pledge, but the premise sounds fail-tastic). I’ve read Starters and Beautiful Darkness, and they’re both awful.

  2. Curious for your feedback says:

    Have you read ‘Red Rising’ by Pierce Brown?
    It’s wonderfully written, cleverer and more nuanced than most dystopian fics. It has a few issues (numerous interesting minor female character, but the major ones are one at a time, even if they’re very compelling and have their own agency. Also -non graphic, only mentioned- rape is used a bit lightly.) but it delves deep in the worldbuilding and raises a lot of interesting questions. The plot-kickoff is a bit cliché (involves a woman’s sacrifice motivating the start of the hero’s journey) but it was done very well. And the main character is refreshingly intelligent and focused on the important things.

    1. Ember says:

      Hahaha, the title made me think “Is this some anti-communist bullshit?” but nope. NOPE. The “Reds” are the oppressed underclass and the hero wields a sickle. Maybe the trilogy is going to the same “actually, rebellion just makes everything worse, might as well just accept the status quo!” place as most of the shit that gets reviewed here, but for now that’s pretty ballsy.

      Roman names again, though. What the fuck is up with that?

      1. Gust says:

        I dunno how it’s going to end, since I haven’t finished the last book yet, but it seems to be going for a message “Revolution isn’t clean and perfect, there will be a lot of sacrifices and death along the way, but there’s hope that there will be a better future, which makes it better than just lying down and accepting your fate.”

        Wonder what farla’s going to make of the rape subplot in the first book.

  3. illhousen says:

    Night Watch by Sergei Lukyanenko.

    It was a big hit on Russian fantasy market back when translations of Western stuff were hard to come by, and I’m curious about your thoughts on it. I’ve read it a long time ago, back when my taste was non-existent, and even then I picked up on how pretentious this book was (holy fuck, it has music lyrics by a popular band just inserted into the text because the protagonist likes them).

    The outright batshittery doesn’t start until book three, as I recall, but there should be enough stuff to talk about, especially since the book has some peculiar problems plaguing modern Russian fiction.

  4. Lud says:

    Has anybody mentioned Ready, Player One?

    I’ve mostly seen glowing praise for it, but…

    I’m not the kind of person that would go to a place where everybody loves the book and say: “BUT WHAT ABOUT-”

    I’m not much of a thinker and even I could find several things that puzzled me, and some narrative choices that felt really empty.  I wonder if you’ve read it and what you thought of it.

  5. Jennifer george says:

    Red Rising — Hunger Games meets Ender’s Game

    On the one hand, this book is full of cool stuff. It has one or two fun plot twists. On the other hand, the character is a huge Marty Sue and there’s a painful thread of misogyny. Possibly my favorite example of this is a woman who randomly doesn’t want her rapist to be punished so it gives the main character a chance to show how he’s so just and strong by punishing the rapist anyway. Said rapist of course gets slotted into loveable rascal position thereafter cause the main character earned his respect by being so tough.

    Throw in some over-the-top purple prose, some self-congratultions from the author for daring to make the lovable rapist bisexual, a 4.2 rating on goodreads, and we have ourselves a sporking. Also, there’s a movie coming out.

  6. Jade Bunny of the Moon says:

    Pegasus by Kate O’Hearn

    1. Raven says:

      Very late, but if Farla is going to read anything by Kate O’Hearn, it should be Shadow of the Dragon.  It’s.  So bad.  No world building.  What’s the name of the fictional country?  Who knows.  What country is the evil king invading?  Who knows. Why is the evil king invading the other country?  Who knows.  Also, all girls have to be married by 13.  This is been the law in the kingdom for generations, but the protagonist reacts like she’s never heard of this law in her life.   Also also, the dragons don’t breathe fire.  Why would you put non-fire-breathing dragons in your book?

  7. Gust says:

    Some more books by Jim Butcher!

    Codex Alera – Tried reading, really boring.

    Aeronaut’s Windlass – steampunk thing.

    Not by Jim Butcher: Perfect Ruin. YA dystopia set on a floating city. I’ll quote the Goodreads summary:

    On the floating city, you can be anything you dream – a novelist or a singer, a florist or a factory worker… Your life is yours to embrace or to squander. There’s only one rule: you don’t approach THE EDGE. If you do, it’s already over.

    Morgan Stockhour knows getting too close to the edge can lead to madness. Even though her older brother, Lex, was a Jumper, Morgan vows never to end up like him. There’s too much for her at home: her parents, best friend Pen, and her betrothed, Basil. Her life is ordinary and safe, even if she sometimes does wonder about the ground and why it’s forbidden.

    Then a murder, the first in a generation, rocks the city. With whispers swirling and fear on the wind, Morgan can no longer stop herself from investigating, especially once she meets Judas. Betrothed to the victim, Judas is being blamed for the murder, but Morgan is convinced of his innocence. Secrets lay at the heart, but nothing can prepare Morgan for what she will find—or whom she will lose.

    1. Socordya says:

      Perfect Ruin seems like something that seems very interesting but will inevitably be incredibly disapointing.


      edit: Oh! It’s by the Wither author.


      1. illhousen says:

        Oh! It’s by the Wither author.

        *Runs for the hills.*

    2. illhousen says:

      Speaking of Butcher, I’ve heard from a few sources that he’s planning to write a YA book focusing on Harry’s daughter, though I couldn’t find a quote by him confirming it. Does anyone know anything about it?

      From what I’ve heard, it sounds like a Harry Potter rip-off about a magic school of some kind. So, something to look forward to.

      Morgan Stockhour

      OK, now I’m imagining DF Morgan as a YA dystopia protagonist. It’s hilarious. Love triangles resolved with stabbing.

    3. Socordya says:

      Aeronaut’s Windlass – steampunk thing.

      I looked at the synopsis on the author’s website, and it doesn’t sound like steampunk at all whatever the author says. Just non-medieval fantasy.

  8. K says:

    Dresden Files. If your looking to mind of step out of the big list of books in the official series, maybe just do some of the short stories? Heroet, Last Call, Love Hurts, Day Off and Backup come to mind, or the Bigfoot trilogy, but pick whichever you want. They’re all horrible to varying degrees.

  9. K says:

    Also the new short story Cold Case is also horrible and somehow manages to fuck Molly over even more. Which is saying something, given all that Butcher’s done to her in the last few books of the main series, but he does. It’s like an onion.

    Bonus points: It includes one of the rare POC (though minor/side, of course) characters of this series getting brutalized even further, both to give Molly (and I’m sure eventually Dresden, because of course it’ll loop back around to him, unless Butcher forgets or decides to make him not care) more stuff to angst over, and also just because. Maybe Butcher’s just run out of ideas for what to do with Ramirez, I don’t know. I hope not, considering what Butcher did to the other POC character last time he had that problem. *looks at Susan*

  10. Socordya says:

    The Chemist , by a certain Mormon author known for her illustrious contributions to the supernatural romance and vampire genre.

    Come on, you know you want to.

    1. Embershine says:

      Oh man. I read this one and was blown away by how terrible her character creation abilities have gotten. It’s no exaggeration to say she copied and pasted the personalities and interactions of her most popular characters from Twilight and the Host, but the names are different, so they’re totally different you guyzzz!!!

      Main love interest guy whose name I can’t remember for the life of me IS Bella. So altruistic it’s actually painful, healing hands character trope taken to insane and unrealistic degrees, and falls so in love with MC immediately that we get this interaction:

      Him to his brother who showed up to rescue him: Omg, I know this psycho woman kidnapped me and has literally been torturing me with chemicals injected into my veins that cause horrific agony for the past hour, and also we just met, but your behavior is SO out of line right now, apologize to her for being rude!!!

      I wish I was joking. It actually is this bad. MC is her normal ‘no one can forgive me, I’m a monster’ personality, her love interest is a male version of Bella/Wanda (but he’s a guy, so it’s different, rightttt??), and the dynamic between him and his brother is virtually identical to Ian and Kyle from the Host book. The romance is unrealistic bordering on insanity. Instant soul mates even though ‘we met because I tortured you and literally ruined your entire life’.

      The one saving grace of this novel was the depth of details about her assassination lifestyle. If she spent the entire novel talking about the chemicals she created and the ways she’s been forced to utilize them to save her own life, and the ways she’s had to get creative with unfair weaponry in combat to defend herself, it would have been an interesting book as a whole, if not a great one. If Stephanie Meyer had created new characters, with new interactions with each other, this might have been halfway decent. But the altruistic MC has gone from mildly cringey to exasperating to just plain bad, and she apparently doesn’t know how to write anything else.

      1. Embershine says:

        I wouldn’t want to inlflict this novel on anyone…but at the same time I’d love to see Farla rip it to shreds mercilessly, haha!

    2. Hyatt says:

      She wrote another book?!

      I guess after The Host flopped the media stopped pushing everything she writes.

      1. Embershine says:

        This isn’t even the funniest one, though. Have you read her new Twilight book, ‘Life and Death’? It’s genderbent Twilight. Beau and Edith instead of Bella and Edward. Although the writing is actually much better than the original Twilight, the concept is still hilarious.

  11. Raven says:

    The Sword Art Online light novels.  Even just the first one.  If for no other reason than it would be interesting to draw comparisons between it and the Abridged series, which you liked so much

    1. CrazyEd says:

      God, I’d do this one myself if I had a copy of the actual light novels. As it is, I only have…

      The Forbidden Chapter.

      1. Embershine says:

        You know, I just found copies of the official english translations at the library the other day. It might be worth checking for.

      2. illhousen says:

        Incidentally, I’ve recently watched a dramatic reading of the porn chapter by the SAO Abridged cast. It was glorious.

        “Adding pubic hairs would be too resource-intensive, but let’s definitely do vaginal fluid dynamics.”

        1. Socordya says:

          Incidentally, I’ve recently watched a dramatic reading of the porn chapter by the SAO Abridged cast. It was glorious.

          Where is it?

          1. illhousen says:

            Nowhere now. They did a 24 hour marathon on their twitch channel two weeks ago to raise money for their friend with cancer, but it was intended as a “you have to be there” moment, so they didn’t save it.

            You can, however, find their dramatic play of VA-11 HALL-A there and other stuff.

            It’s mirrored on youtube, which would probably be easier to watch:

    2. illhousen says:

      Speaking of SAO, Progressive may be more worthwhile to take a look at. It’s fairly well-documented by various parties why SAO sucks, but I didn’t see much about the rewrite.

      1. CrazyEd says:

        That’s because it’s not so much a rewrite as it is a fleshing out of the massive timeskips in the Aincrad arc, and basically everything is still the same and all the core problems are identical. Going into the new material would just be harping on every single missing pubic hair, and then at the end, saying “so yeah it’s still misogynistic, just more so, but the series adds more stupid crap about its female characters with every volume, so that’s nothing new”.

        1. Too Lazy To Log In (Roarke says:

          Know what’s funny? I read the Progressive manga awhile back (apparently it’s since been canceled) and it actually felt, to me, like a huge improvement over the original novels. Asuna was transformed into an actual character who is smart, competitive, and strong-willed.

          She felt like an actual deuteragonist as opposed to just the Main Heroine. Parts of her character arc had nothing to do with Kirito, like the conflicting feeling that she failed her mother’s high expectations by getting trapped, but those expectations led in large part to her looking, even briefly, for escape in the game.

          1. illhousen says:

            Sooo… It’s progress.

            1. Roarke says:

              Haha, yep. I’m not going to argue that it’s suddenly a masterpiece or anything. But it’s a stronger jump in the right direction than, say, anything Butcher ever had. I personally am positively inclined towards the manga, enough that I’d take a crack at the light novels.

            2. illhousen says:

              Hm, well, my hopes are not exactly high, but I actually wouldn’t be surprised if it’s honestly better than the original.

              Above all else, SAO is juvenile. It has all of the hallmarks of an amateur young male author writing his first novel with zero idea of what he’s doing.

              I can believe that he could do better when having another go at the concept with more experience.

              On the other hand, certain… worrying tendencies, such as the use of rape as a throwaway plot device, were rather persistent throughout SAO, even in later parts, so I don’t exactly hold my breath.

            3. Roarke says:

              Mm, very true. The story itself is just more well-put together, especially since it’s no longer littered with absurd timeskips. Aside from the better treatment of Asuna, I can’t speak to whether Reki is still cool with having the spectre of sexual violence hanging over female characters or not.

              Speaking of the Spectre of SV, I tried reading the Goblin Slayer manga and just could not get myself to take it seriously. I’ve almost never seen a work deal with its own premise with such bad faith as Goblin Slayer.

            4. illhousen says:

              Is it the anime someone here cited as proof that the hypothetical anime this video uses as an example is actually not hypothetical?

            5. Roarke says:

              First off, good video. I should check out more of his stuff. And yes. The hypothetical anime is basically Goblin Slayer. Just dump a Batman/Punisher analogue into the world of orcs raping women (and eating men) and you’ve got Goblin Slayer.

              Like, I’ll read a work that has rape. I just re-read all of Game of Thrones; 99% of its villains are and/or command rapists. But the thing about Goblin Slayer that makes me accuse it of bad faith is that it’s trying to have its satire cake and eat it too. It stops thinking at the premise of: “Goblins are actually a huge threat that deserves to be taken seriously.”

              The people in this manga, Goblin Slayer excepted, are the typical people you’d find in an isekai or game world anime. In a world where human women are the reproductive bottleneck for goblins (I can already hear that video going ‘That’s the way the demon god made them!’), you wouldn’t be sending untried Level 1 teenage anime girls to purge them, much less without helmets (there’s seriously a page where a girl without a helmet gets knocked out by a sling, and in the next page guess what’s happening?).

              Basically what I’m trying to say is that I was expecting something, anything, to change in the Vanilla Isekai Society acknowledging the way their goblins were different. Goblin Slayer aside, there wasn’t such a change. There should have been a militia of Goblin Slayers. An army regiment dedicated to defending those villages. Some recognition that it’s worse to let goblins kidnap women than kidnap cattle. I dunno. I’ve been stewing on it forever.

  12. nev says:

    Do you still plan to do Rebel Angels? I like your analysis of the first one, it’s spot on.

  13. illhousen says:

    The Basilisk Murders by Andrew Hickey.

    Hey, remember LessWrong and their brand of craziness? Someone wrote a satirical mystery about them. I’m kinda inclined to read it, but I think I’d rather inflict it on you first.

  14. FFN Lurker Without a WP account says:

    I’ll admit to sort of wanting to see Scorpio Races shredded. Did like it, but not the best as reading into stuff thought it really needed worldbuilding.


    (Uh, by the way, the link I assume is supposed to be to Harry Potter reviews leads to a tumblr called reviewingrowling that just has recs on apps to download?)


    1. CrazyEd says:

      Yeah, that Tumblr got deactivated a long time ago, so it’s best to just ignore those links.

  15. Ghost says:

    With the film coming out this year I’d probably recommend people read the Mortal Engines books. They are quite decent and it’d be nice to know that some people know what the story’s actually like when the movie turns out to be a mushy cliché storm rather than being actually decent like the books are.

    1. Keleri says:

      Ohhhhhhhh shoot I had these confused with the Mortal Instruments books, who and whose author I’m contractually obligated to hate due to ancient fandom drama.

      1. Ghost Of Us says:

        Mortal Instruments had fandom drama?

        1. ? says:

          Not exactly Mortal Instruments itself. It was back when the author was in the Harry Potter fandom.

          1. Ghost Of Us says:

            Ah, okay.

            1. Act says:

              IDK why people are being vague: Basically, Mortal Instruments is a Harry Potter fanfic with the serial numbers filed off, and the original fanfic was hugely plagiarized. And the best case scenario, that she rewrote the plagiarized chunks for publication, still means that scenes, character interactions, and setting info is plagiarized. At absolute best, Clare has some integrity issues.

            2. ? says:

              I wasn’t intending to be vague but yeah I should’ve been a bit more specific. 

            3. SpoonyViking says:

              She didn’t even plagiarise only the HP books, she also plagiarised a whole bunch of authors (Terry Pratchett included).

            4. Act says:

              Yeah, if I recall correctly, part of how she avoided detection so long was by pulling from like 5 different books at various points.

            5. Hyatt says:

              The plagiarism stuff falls into two groups. First is she made a habit of referencing much funnier works via one-liners and near quotes in her fics. Those were intended to be recognized as references and enjoyed as such by her readers, but as she didn’t attribute any of them (I think her excuse was that it was meant to be an Easter egg hunt for her fans?) and they were so prevalent, a case can be made that a lot of her fans thought she was a witty writer based on words she’d taken from other writers.

              Second is what she actually got banned from fanfiction for, which was copying multiple paragraphs with minimal alteration from a somewhat obscure fantasy book. Her disclaimer was that the inspiration came from a book and she’d forgotten who wrote it. With how similar the passages were, it was clearly straight up plagiarism. She later tried to claim that she copied the passage in a notebook and later forgot that she hadn’t written it herself, and also that the original author Pamela Dean had given her permission to use it, but those excuses fell flat.

              Her defense squad tries to conflate the two, saying that she was banned from for plagiarism because of the referencing, which she never claimed was her own writing, pushing the actual plagiarism to the side. Both show her problems as a writer and with riding on better authors’ coattails, but while the references are a gray area, she did straight up plagiarize, no beating around the bush.

            6. Ghost Of Us says:

              So hypothetically speaking, if you were to make a reference to something that another writer did (in fanfiction, not in a officially publish novel), as long as you explain where it came from, are you okay to make the reference or no?

            7. Act says:

              Well, Clare wasn’t actually covertly alluding to things — she was directly copying lines of dialogue and then later on claiming it was purposeful reference and not plagiarism. There aren’t many hard-and-fast rules in writing, but I would say “Don’t copy other writers’ lines word for word” is about as close as you can get.

              For actual references though, they’re generally bad for two reasons: One, they seriously date you work. Two, I subscribe pretty heavily to the ‘don’t remind your audience of superior works’ rule — inviting comparison by the audience between you and someone they love so much it’s a cultural meme is just asking for them to compare you to whoever and have you come up short. (I’m not talking about, like, epigraphs, ftr.) There are obviously people out there talented enough to make it work but when it fails it fails so spectacularly that it’s just not usually worth the risk.

            8. Keleri says:

              She’s also just wanky/shenanigansy in general– there is old-timey drama about getting fans of her fanfic to buy her a laptop and such, but when the Mortal Instruments TV show came out she also did various flip-flops in opinion about it as fandom reaction to each episode changed. Integrity/humility score not great, never great.

            9. Hyatt says:

              I think CC got away with overloading the references because she used so many from so many different sources that most of her audience didn’t know that the funny lines surrounding the reference they recognized weren’t actually her writing either. So instead of them being reminded of superior writing while reading something inferior, they thought the whole work held up as well as the great thing they knew.

    2. Indiscretion says:

      Oh, I remember seeing the trailer for that before Jurassic World. It looked pretty nice, and was the one trailer with a female protag (other than Serenity which is ???). Shame how it ended up, sounds like.

  16. SpoonyViking says:

    Muktuk Wolfsbreath: Hard-boiled Shaman. I don’t know if I should recommend this to Farla (because she’s been reading “Dresden Files” and she’s usually the one who tackles comics) or Act (because it’s a noir-inspired work), so just consider this a recommendation to you both, alright? Actually, I’m recommending the stories to everyone, because I really liked them!

    Basically, the author took narratives about shamanistic practices of Siberian indigenous people (mostly Mongolian, I think, but he never clarifies that) and reinterpreted them as noir stories, so Muktuk is basically a Marlowe-style PI who uncovers people’s dirt in order to cleanse whatever spiritual affliction is harming the community.

    There’s a DC Comics miniseries published under the Vertigo imprint which is just called Muktuk Wolfsbreath: Hard-boiled Shaman, and another book (called Muktuk Wolfsbreath, Hard-boiled Shaman: The Spirit of Boo) which collects both the story from when it was published as a webcomic and some stories which were published as newspaper strips. Both can be found on Amazon, but since they’re a bit old (the Vertigo miniseries is from ’99, for instance), I don’t know how easily they can be found on regular bookstores.

    You can peruse most of the “The Spirit of Boo” story in the archived site here: Unfortunately, it ends right before the story’s conclusion, but it should be enough for you to determine whether the story is interesting. The Vertigo miniseries has a grittier art style, by the way, much closer to what you’d see in Neil Gaiman’s Sandman, for instance.

  17. illhousen says:

    Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children.

    The very first thing we see the protagonist do after the prologue ends:

    “I spent the last afternoon of Before constructing a 1/10,000-scale replica of the  Empire State Building from boxes of adult diapers. It was a thing of beauty, really, spanning five feet at its base and towering above the cosmetics aisle, with jumbos for the foundation, lites for the observation deck, and meticulously stacked trial sizes for its iconic spire. It was almost perfect, minus one crucial detail.

    “You used Neverleak,” Shelley said, eyeing my craftsmanship with a skeptical frown.

    “The sale’s on Stay-Tite.” Shelley was the store manager, and her slumped shoulders and dour expression were as much a part of her uniform as the blue polo shirts we all had to wear.

    “I thought you said Neverleak,” I said, because she had.

    “Stay-Tite,” she insisted, shaking her head regretfully, as if my tower were a crippled racehorse and she the bearer of the pearl-handled pistol. There was a brief but awkward silence in which she continued to shake her head and shift her eyes from me to the tower and back to me again. I stared blankly at her, as if completely failing to grasp what she was passive-aggressively implying.

    “Ohhhhhh,” I said finally. “You mean you want me to do it over?”

    “It’s just that you used Neverleak,” she repeated.

    “No problem. I’ll get started right away.” With the toe of my regulation black sneaker I nudged a single box from the tower’s foundation. In an instant the whole magnificent structure was cascading down around us, sending a tidal wave of diapers crashing across the floor, boxes caroming off the legs of startled customers, skidding as far as the automatic door, which slid open, letting in a rush of August heat.

    Shelley’s face turned the color of ripe pomegranate. She should’ve fired me on the spot, but I knew I’d never be so lucky. I’d been trying to get fired from Smart Aid all summer, and it had proved next to impossible. I came in late, repeatedly and with the flimsiest of excuses; made shockingly incorrect change; even misshelved things on purpose, stocking lotions among laxatives and birth control with baby shampoo. Rarely had I worked so hard at anything, and yet no matter how incompetent I pretended to be, Shelley stubbornly kept me on the payroll.

    Let me qualify my previous statement: It was next to impossible for me to get fired from Smart Aid. Any other employee would’ve been out the door a dozen minor infractions ago. It was my first lesson in politics. There are three Smart Aids in Englewood, the small, somnolent beach town where I live. There are twenty-seven in Sarasota County, and one hundred and fifteen in all of Florida, spreading across the state like some untreatable rash. The reason I couldn’t be fired was that my uncles owned every single one of them. The reason I couldn’t quit was that working at Smart Aid as your first job had long been a hallowed family tradition. All my campaign of self-sabotage had earned me was an unwinnable feud with Shelley and the deep and abiding resentment of my coworkers—who, let’s face it, were going to resent me anyway, because no matter how many displays I knocked over or customers I short-changed, one day I was going to inherit a sizable chunk of the company, and they were not.”

    1. Act says:

      What a well-written passage about a deeply unlikeable human being.

      1. illhousen says:

        Yeah. I’ve heard some good things about the book, how it was inspired by old-timey fake supernatural photos, how it deals with Holocaust  shadows, etc., so I’ve decided to  check out the book expecting a slightly macabre and probably thoughtful book.

        I did not expect… that.

        I mean, what is even the fuck. It’s not even plot-relevant, he leaves his job shortly after to go investigate his grandfather’s death to Wales, why is it here. What was it written for?

        1. Act says:

          Look, it’s really hard when you’re born into money and thus Innately Better than the plebes. 

          1. SpoonyViking says:

            Honestly, what I got from it was “It’s so hard being born into wealth, guys, you have no idea”.

            ETA: Well, now I just feel silly. Did you change your post, or did I hallucinate? I could have sworn you hadn’t said the first part.

            Ah, well.

          2. illhousen says:

            Yeah, the guaranteed financial stability and the lack of real consequences no matter how badly you fuck up are just awful.

            And all those people resenting you just because your family basically owns them and you purposedly do stuff that would get them fired, so unfair.

            1. The Reeds of Enki says:

              Was there a drastic shift in personality/character growth? I could totally see this bring relevant to the book in lieu of letting the reader know exactly what kind of person their protagonist is, and then contrasting it with  a character change after said main character actually has to deal with the consequences of their actions. It is beautifully written, though, absolutely. I plan on reading this just to improve upon my character descriptions, which I suck at. Everything, down to the tone of “regulation black shoes” served to influence the tone and give an idea what they look like. 

            2. illhousen says:

              IDK, I’m at the beginning of the book still, debating whether I should proceed.

              He didn’t change yet despite going through the loss of his grandfather (with whom he was very close), seeing a monster who killed said grandfather and going through psychiatric treatment in the aftermath of it, so I’m not particularly hopeful.

            3. The Reeds of Enki says:

              Hmm. Yeah, that’s tricky. Psychiatric treatment is the sort of thing one would think would incite a shift in character, but it could have been only to address his terror and not about tackling his flawed personality, which would cause more distress. Meta-wise, I think there would be a change later, but the author doesn’t want the whole plot of seeing the character change taken care of neatly in mere paragraphs addressing therapy in the beginning of the novel. But if there isn’t, then you’ve just spent an entire book with an unrelatable, unlikeable asshole who has no qualms with screwing other people over just so he won’t be mildly inconvenienced by such things as a retail job.

            4. illhousen says:

              I mean, setup for character growth is a possibility, but I get the vibe that we’re supposed to side with the protagonist. Later on, he has various sarcastic observations about his parents, the extended family and other characters, and I think we’re supposed to share in them rather than reject them as a product of a teenage mind.

              There is also the plot to consider. The way it’s going, he’s set up to join a secret society of special people separated from the rest and keeping to themselves even when they walk among the flok, which is generally not conductive to reevaluating your attitude towards ordinary folk.

              I don’t know, maybe the book would surprise me. I just consider it unlikely.

            5. Act says:

               he’s set up to join a secret society of special people separated from the rest and keeping to themselves even when they walk among the flok

              Wow, so the whole thing validates how he knows being born high-class makes him better. That flies past ‘unfortunate implications’ and square into ‘wtf was the author thinking.’

              edit: … just googled the author and suddenly it makes sense. I’d been assuming this was a woman, but 39-year-old white dude born on a Maryland plantation sounds just right. This is the typical spoiled-white-guy fantasy, where secretly the specialness women and poor people are trying to wrestle away from them is validated. That’s actually super comforting, I was picturing someone like Kelly Barnhill and was baffled as to how this was the end result, but dudebros gonna dudebro.

              edit 2: Just read the plot summary and it’s another psychiatry is evil aesop, how utterly predictable.


            6. illhousen says:

              To be fair, there is a clear attempt to draw the parallel between “peculiar children” and the experience of being a Jew during WWII, with the protagonist’s grandfather’s story being closely tied into the war and the text rather blatantly comparing Nazis with the monsters hunting those children, etc.

              I don’t know how well it’s done, and my hopes, once again, are not high, but it’s a thing that it there.

            7. The Reeds of Enki says:

              Maybe the book will surprise you in a positive way. Hopefully. It did have really good descriptive work, so there’s that at least, if only judging in a purely technical light.

            8. Farla says:

              … I wonder if he thought the metaphor would break down if the non-Jewish protagonist wasn’t a rich asshole? Are all the kids involved rich assholes? Is this some extremely weird thing where he’s so into hero worshipping the rich he figures that’s what was unfair about WW2?

            9. illhousen says:

              Probably not? I didn’t read up to where they appear, but the wiki tells me at least one character comes from a circus.

              Honestly IDK what the author was thinking.

    2. CrazyEd says:

      … To what end, though? Does he not want to inherit the company? Does he hate Shelley as a person?

      Why doesn’t she just assign him to cleaning bathrooms or something else that’s unpleasant regardless of whether or not it’s done well or poorly?

      If he really hates the job that much, why not just sit in the break room eating snacks all day?


      1. illhousen says:

        He’s a teenager annoyed at his parents for making him do things and not interested in responsibility of a job (either this one or the one waiting for him in the future) but not wanting to create a real conflict outright refusal to work would lead to, so he amuses himself by lashing out at unrelated people in ways he knows won’t get him into real trouble.

        As for Shelley, I would presume she doesn’t want to get in trouble with her boss for openly punishing the brat even if he deserves it.

        The characterization here is actually extremely plausible, it’s just, well, not a characterization I much care about.

    3. Farla says:

      Oh good god.

      I actually read the graphic novel where we just open with him being depressed by his grandfather’s death and bopping around all on his lonesome during summer vacation. There, the biggest problems were just that it was kind of boring and the time loops seemed pointless or outright counterproductive.

  18. Raven says:

    Fever, by Deon Meyer.  It’s a post-apocalyptic novel in a similar vein to The Stand, minus the supernatural elements.  It even has a conservative Christian antagonist who would be right at home in a Stephen King novel.  I actually really enjoyed the first part when I read it, but then the main character’s love interest shows up.  When he sees her he just decides that they’re going to get married, never mind how she feels about him.  (He’s admittedly a teenager, so it’s a bit less creepy than it could’ve been, but it’s still pretty terrible).  His love interest later goes on to just suddenly be in love with him after spending most of her scenes finding him obnoxious.  And then there’s the twist at the end about where the disease that wiped out most of humanity came from, and it is so dumb.  What’s best about the twist is that it’s literally in the last chapter, so the characters just kind of go “Huh, that’s a thing that happened, I guess,” and then the book just ends.

      1. Guest says:

        actually, please ignore me; it turns out I’m remembering a different YA dystopia with uncomfortable love interest dynamics that’s also named “Fever”

        1. Hyatt says:

          What are the odds, huh?

        2. Raven says:

          Probably good that you pointed that out.  It could’ve gotten confusing if Farla covered this Fever and both books ended up in the same tag.

  19. ? says:

    Most of the links in this page/post seem to go to blogspot Dragon Quill that doesn’t work anymore?

  20. illhousen says:

    So, I’ve finished reading Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. Took me a long time since I kept being distracted by better books, like the Vorrh.

    Anyway, it doesn’t get better, precisely. It just kinda dials back the smug to the usual for YA levels of sneering at side characters without ever acknowledging the protagonist’s assholery.

    Its emotional climax is actually framed in terms of the protagonist taking control over his life (by way of shooting a bad guy) in contrast to “forces that controlled it,” which is to say, his parents forcing him to work at a job he didn’t like, thus making it clear that the narrative considers his behavior acceptable if misaimed.

  21. Socordya says:

    I found what you should do after Summer Knight.


    Complete the circle. Fulfill your destiny.

    1. Farla says:

      Oh yes, I saw that! I’m legitimately excited.

      1. CrazyEd says:

        I think that’s a sign that you’re in too deep.

      2. illhousen says:

        I think the most important question is, what does the alchemist guy thinks about it? Wouldn’t writing the fourth book break the arrangement of the spheres or whatever? And shouldn’t this book, as a story beginning, be about that song?

        1. CrazyEd says:

          It took me a moment to realize what you were talking about.

          But then I did.

          My face when I did.

          Send help.

          It hurts.

    2. Actislazyandwontlogin says:

      Oooh, I just reread the Hunger Games reviews a few days ago and am both excited and slightly horrified!

      1. CrazyEd says:

        I just reread her review of the first chapter and

        oh my god

        such wide-eyes

        such optimism

        it’d be a shame if anything happened to it

    3. CrazyEd says:

      So apparently this book is going to be delving into the origin and creation of the Hunger Games themselves? Oh my god, and here I was thinking that even an author of Suzanne Collins’ level would know to keep that horribly unexplainable event close to her chest, and just ask the readers to assume something that made sense happened because it’s not really relevant to the story at hand.

      And good lord is Twitter mad about the fact that President Snow is going to be the main character. This is going to be…

      Image result for dis gon b gud gif

      You better have made a pre-order for this book already. We need it.

      1. Hyatt says:

        But it’s supposed to be starring Snow. Is he old enough to have been around for the creation of the Hunger Games?

        1. CrazyEd says:

          I believe it said he was a teenager during the book, maybe sixteen (of course it’s sixteen, it’s YA), and that the events were actually during the tenth or eleventh Hunger Games. So not the start-start, but close enough that everyone alive would know about the start of the games and it’d still be relatively new as a cultural phenomenon. The wiki says he’s 82 in the first book, which would actually check out with being a teen a decade after the start of the Games, and with the age of Donald Sutherland during the time of the movies.

      2. Farla says:

        And good lord is Twitter mad about the fact that President Snow is going to be the main character.

        Yeah, I am so torn.

        You’ve got people going NO!!! IT IS NOT ALLOWED TO WRITE ABOUT BAD PEOPLE THIS IS LAW!!! and you start to roll your eyes, and then someone else chimes in with, YES THIS WILL BE FINE BECAUSE THE AUTHOR OF THE HUNGER GAMES HAS SUCH A GREAT TRACK RECORD HANDLING THIS SUBJECT and it’s like haha no you guys have it backward villain protags are great this is going to be awful because it’s by the person who brought us the original trilogy.

        1. Roarke says:

          If anything, Collins might be much better at writing an actual villain protagonist than the kind of ‘hero’ Katniss was supposed to be.

        2. CrazyEd says:

          … Well… they’re right. Collins does have a great track record with writing amoral psychopathic mass murderers.

          I think my favourite twitter outrage was someone who said “it’ll be like Joker but for the Hunger Games”. Just try and parse that one out. It’s like an infinitely recursive double negative, forever folding in on itself.

        3. Hyatt says:

          I got the impression that it would be the story of how an idealistic young Snow turned into the Big Bad from the trilogy, and I thought if we were gonna see anyone going from protagonist to villain, I’d rather see Coin’s story.

  22. CrazyEd says:

    … So… No Twilight or 50 Shades, but…

    … Did you guys know EL James published another book, in 2019?

    Just sayin’.

    1. A Wild Birb Appears says:

      If you’re talking about The Mister, I’ve heard it was pretty heavily plagiarized from… Poldark, I think? And maybe something else as well. In case that affects anything.

      And nothing happens for most of the book, but you’ve dealt with that before.

      1. CrazyEd says:

        Based on the basic plot synopsis I read, I wouldn’t be all that surprised by that, but then again, 50 Shades of Grey borrowed its entire basic plot structure from Twilight. It also tried to borrow Twilight’s characters, but did such a poor job of writing them that they’re basically unrecognizable, so I’m not sure how much that counts.

  23. BlackOrchestra says:

    Ballad of Songbirds and Snakes would’ve been a good deconstruction, though I’m not sure if there will be more book reviews.

  24. Ivy says:

    Maybe you could do a round up of first books in Urban Fantasy series. They NEVER get better later on, and comparing a bunch of them together might be interesting.

    Some suggestions:

    Daniel Faust series by Craig Schaefer (somehow consistently got 4 stars on goodreads, despite the fact the only interesting thing in them was the demons and it barely gave them screen time because the author kept throwing everything and the kitchen sink at the protagonist and calling it worldbuilding).

    Preternatural Affairs series by S.M. Reine (the first 3 were free on Amazon, but the price was my sanity because it’s got ALL the issues of the Dresden Files up to and including the corpse oogling).

    Mercy Thompson series by Patricia Briggs (this book traumatized me enough to make me hate werewolves but not enough to make me remember the plot, if there was one).


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