Thursday, January 30, 2020

JUST JULIET by Charlotte Reagan

Rating: A rainbow jumper that doesn't quite fit me

Summary:  A highschooler realizes she's bisexual when she meets and is dazzled by the new girl in school.

Would you read more by this author? Possibly, but I'm not rushing to.

This book has been recommended to me a lot, so I was rather disappointed that I failed to love it. It covers the entirety of Len's senior year and just never seemed to develop much urgency in my opinion. The only things keeping the girls apart at the start was that Len needed to break up with the guy it was obvious she was going to break up with and she didn't realize she liked girls, but it was quickly clear she liked Juliet and while she spent a while being preoccupied about identifying her sexuality, she never seemed to have much issue with it. She didn't realize she was bisexual, but wasn't upset to learn she was.

This book felt like a retelling of a year of someone's life more than it really felt like a novel. Things happened, but it's hard to really call them a plot. So, basically, the book was just really character driven and light on things to fight against or overcome or achieve. Some people really like that type of romance and wouldn't have spent half the book going, "That's nice, but why am I reading this?" I'm just not one of them.

And the ending? I was solidly "meh" over it.

Len and Juliet were likable enough, I guess. I say "I guess" because I never really accepted Len's sense of humor. She and her friends are constantly attacking each other, calling each other nasty names, and being generally mean. They proudly self-describe as bitches, and it just really didn't work for me. It went beyond teasing and well past the point that they seemed really toxic and like people I'd be alarmed to learn my kid was hanging out with.

The two characters I really did like were Juliet's cousin and his boyfriend. There's a companion novel about them that I actually am tempted to pick up as it sounds like they had a lot more drama to overcome in their early relationship. But, well, I'm not sure the cousin was really very likable when not seen being cute with his boyfriend, so I hesitate.

Overall, I don't exactly regret spending the time to read this book. I did manage to finish it. But if it served any purpose for me, it was to prove that I'm right in wanting to revise a stronger plot for my work-in-progress.


Below you'll find the notes I took as I read. Clearly, they contain major spoilers.




6% The fact that London's plays aren't on Broadway brings Juliet's narrative into question. I'm assuming her mother isn't actually dead.

9% I wonder why Juliet is going to the new school...

12% Scott and Lakyn really are too adorable.

13% Yes! No one takes an intolerance seriously! That's exactly why I tell people in allergic to bell peppers.

37% Well, that coming out was odd. I can't figure out if I love the playful bitchiness this friends group has or hate it.

39% Apparently Juliet's mom really is dead. Go figure.

44% Ok, that was adorable. I'm not sure how the tension for the rest of the book will go. Will there be an argumentduring the date? Or will it just be trying to figure out how to come out to everyone? Lacey already knows, but the other friends and parents don't.

45% Hmm... Does Mom suspect something?

56% I'm not sure why she's so scared to tell her parents. They seem to know already. And if they had a problem with it, they'd have pressed the subject rather than waiting patiently for her to feel comfortable enough to come out.

71% I clearly was wrong to expect better of her parents. They didn't throw a fit, but they seem overly concerned.

80% I'm increasingly uncomfortable with all this "playful" hate speech the characters direct at each other.

84% This vacation is cute, but I'm not sure what the point of all this is.

92% Juliet is going to London. Bet she'll be really confused when she asks for directions to Broadway.

94% And now they're breaking up to go to different schools. Why did people tell me to read this thing?

95% At least Len's living with Lakyn and Scott.

100% Hooked up again at the boys' wedding. And hopefully are now over the "me first!" attitude that split them up.

Overall, just not my type of book I think. No conflict. No excitement. And then they decided their relationship wasn't as important as doing whatever they hell they wanted without regards to the other party, getting back together only when it was convenient for them.

Friday, January 24, 2020

The BEDEVILED Series by Shani Petroff

Rating: A  jewel-encrusted pitchfork in sparkling pink hues

Summary: The daughter of the devil fights against the evil world that is middle school.

Would you read more in this series? I would, but as the last one came out in 2010, I don't anticipate there being any more.

I read this series in one big burst and decided to just do one big review of all of them because I'd be saying largely the same things about them all. Each book has a very similar plot: Angel uses the powers she inherited from her dad, Lou (AKA Lucifer) to try to help herself or her friends, things get messed up by the powers either being too literal or not literal enough, Angel runs around trying to fix the situation, and things eventually work out somehow. The repetitive nature didn't really hurt my enjoyment of the stories though. It reminded me a lot of the Melissa Joan Hart version of Sabrina the Teenage Witch, which I adored despite being an adult before it debuted.

The series is solidly Middle Grade and stars a cast of eighth graders led by Angel, who learns on her thirteenth birthday that her mother wasn't being hyperbolic when she described her dad as the devil. (He had agreed to stay out of Angel's life until she was an adult, then said thirteen counted because several religions say so and because US states frequently try thirteen-year-olds as adults in court. In fact, they're in Pennsylvania, a state which has tried at least one twelve-year-old as an adult, so he could have played this card a year earlier.) By the end of the first book, she has realized she inherited his supernatural powers and is causing chaos with them.

Angel is a vibrant character. Although she sometimes makes shallow and rash choices, it is very easy to excuse them with the explanation that she's thirteen. Her best friend is very similar. When the third book saw her getting all of her wishes granted, she delved into a more selfish place than I expected her to, but I think maybe one of the wishes changed her attitude toward life.

Angel has a love interest who she feels she must hide her powers from. I never figured out why she felt she couldn't tell him. (Again, I was reminded of Sabrina, who did eventually tell Harvey what was going on, but took her time about it.) He was a nice kid, popular but not a jerk. I got a little tired of hearing about how cute he was, but it's hard to fault a tween narrator from getting wrapped up in her crush's cuteness.

The mean girls who pick on Angel are incredibly shallow. I kept expecting to see a hint of more from them and never did. I like to think that if the stories continued into high school, they'd eventually grow into better people. Or at least more complex ones.

The character with the most change over the series is a guy called DL. We never learn what DL stands for, although I have a theory. (His last name is Helper, so my guess is Devil's Little Helper.) He is the boyfriend of the chief mean girl and comes in acting truly awful. But he shows moments of genuine concern and at several times seems to be more aware of what Angel is than he should be. By the end of book four, he seems to be sick of his girlfriend and possibly moving on to Angel's bestie. I found him really intriguing because I never could figure out what he deal was.

Overall, I found the books on the simple side, but was okay with that since this is Middle Grade literature with a young narrator who hasn't learned to see the world in shades of grey yet.

I would be very interested in picking up this story a few years later, maybe looking at Angel's senior year of high school. I'd also actually be interested in seeing Angel's parents star in a romance. At the end of things, they clearly still care about each other and I think it would be fun to see a single mom learning to trust her daughter's father again even though he's literally the devil.


Below you'll find the notes I took as I read. Clearly, they contain major spoilers.




26% I didn't take notes in the first quarter because my phone was dead and the power was out. It went by quickly. I was a little surprised that Angel is only 13 and in middle school since one of the later books mentions prom in the title. Maybe she ages. Or maybe it's a middle school prom?  (Correction: it's and UGLY dress rather than a prom dress. And is for a middle school formal.)

So far, Angel is alright but I'm liking Lou. The devil usually is a show stealer. :)

Also, Angel is crushing on Cole, but I predict Max will be her object of affection by the end of the series.

27% Angel LIKED having the entire stadium sing her Happy Birthday? I would have died of embarrassment. Also, did these girls sell their souls to be rock stars or something?

29% I'd say begging on his knees for his daughter to talk to him is overly dramatic, but Lucifer is typically over-the-top with the drama.

40% Lucifer's face on a volley ball is straight up weird.

60% Yeah, Cole is possibly really shallow. Although it's also possible that he didn't know what else to talk about so stuck to something they have in common.

64% At least she made the right choice when pressed.

65% Why is she believing Lou quit? He told her mom the same thing and was lying then. ... She figured it out it quickly. Ok.

77% The meanness has really escalated.

86% Yeah, you really should listened to your dad, you silly middle schooler.


40% I don't seem to be taking notes on this book... Not sure why.  Anyway... I don't know what's up with Cole. But if he doesn't like Angel anymore, it's because of her powers. The bit where they respond to thoughts and fears as well as voices desires is harsh. I would argue she should be homeschooled while she figures them out.

41% Damn, DL is Super Douchebag, ain't he? On the plus side, he'll probably do something awful to Courtney eventually.

42% Mom's cleansing ritual involves vanilla, lavender, and mint, but no sage? No wonder the devil just pops up at will.

57% The dance is two weeks away and being advertised already. I feel it should already have a theme.

80% The adults at this school really seem to enable bullying.

90% Not sure why Cole suddenly has a problem with Jayden being mean to people, but whatevs.

THE END Well, that was abrupt.


1% Picking up from the last book like that was a scene break and not a jump between novels... The last ending really did just cut off.

7% He said he'd stop messing with innocent souls. Why assume this guy's innocent? ... And the claim it was a joke is actually plausible since "Meant to put him in the major leagues and now he's a ballet dancer/Senator who's trying to outlaw the name Susan" seems like a level of screw up that wouldn't actually happen.

11% Ok, so the cock up really did happen. I don't think Gremory is a good successor...

18% I like the spine Angel is growing.

20% I'm not sure being popular is Max's wish...

35% I'm fairly confident that when Angel said Gabi would get a boyfriend too, her powers decided to give them the same boyfriend...

61% I'd been figuring the band sold their souls.  Being demons works at least as well though.

68% I'm not exactly sure why Gabi has gone so evil. I'm guessing maybe the wishing she was a star altered her personality.

75% Yeah, the big boobs wish wasn't well thought out.

82% I'm increasing curious as to who/what DL actually is. This isn't the first scene he's seemed to know way too much in. And maybe he just embraced meanness because it went with his camp persona, the one he named Courtney with. (Could his ID be related to his weird name? DL Helper... Devil's Little Helper? I mean, what kind of name is DL?)

95% I'm was willing to grant that maybe ten years ago kids still knew who Barney was, but recognizing the "You've got mail!" chime from AOL? That seems like a stretch.

96% I'm not really surprised Lou knew what was going on the whole time. He'd be a pretty crappy devil if he didn't, really.


10% I'm tempted to have a panic attack imagining being in this crowd.

17% Hmm... I wonder who Lance's manager is. Clearly someone who recognizes Angel and has powers herself.

18% Oh, dear. Angel is madly in love with herself. And not in a healthy way. You'd think she'd learn to stop doing this stuff.

19% Oh, dear. EVERYONE is in love with Angel. Everyone who was behind her, I'm guessing. Because I don't think Lance is.

24% Lance's mom is a guardian angel. Cool.

36% Teen parents. Ha.

37% If I were in this situation, I'd go find that guardian angel who's hanging around. But Angel has shown a lot of reluctance to get help.

38% I guess Lou only cured Angel, not everyone hit with the spell. Oops.

38% Point of fact: I never minded seeing my parents kiss. I really don't understand why anyone is bothered by that.

49% What's gross about mice? Mice are cute.

51% wow, Harmony is a crap angel, isn't she? Not a very good mother either. I mean, she's just leaving her son as a mouse? ... Ok, she helped. Good 

61% And now Harmony helped fix the problem she helped make. And isn't fixing the rest, but seems to think it'll work out okay.

95% Gabi and DL, huh? Yeah, I'd love to see Courtney react to that.

98% I'm not going to lie, I'd love to see this universe revisited from Maggie's POV. Can she trust the man she used to love, who clearly adores their daughter and still loves her, even though he's the the devil?

That ending certainly seemed more solid than the earlier ones. I'd be interested in continuing to learn about Angel's life. Maybe flashforward to her senior year of high school or something? She has more control over her powers, but something big happens? Her dad goes missing and she has to take over Hell. Or her baby brother is kidnapped by people who think he's the Antichrist and are trying to start Armageddon, and they transfer all of Lou's powers to the toddler so that Angel has to save both her brother and the world without her dad's help.

Thursday, January 16, 2020

THE BEHOLDER by Anna Bright

Rating: An epic score played by a world class symphony on the deck of a tall ship.

Highlight of note: A well imagined alt-Earth setting and a swashbuckling crew of sailors.

Will you read more in this series? Absolutely!

Selah is the heir to the nation of Potomac. In her world, England gave up its unprofitable North American colonies when rebels on the other side of the world forced the Empire into a war. I spent a while puzzling as to what went differently in her world and ours. Obviously, the colonies that became the US failed to rebel, or to join together after being released from English rule. There are some things I pegged as different, but overall I think the theme that small things can make big changes is the relevant thing to cite. (I never figured out why England is still England. All the other nations mentioned have alternate names in this world. That didn't dampen my enjoyment of the novel though.)

Despite her deep worry about her father's health, teenaged Selah is sent on a European tour for her after the marriage proposal she offers her local friend is refused. (Europe is still called Europe. I'm not sure why.) During this tour, Selah is tasked with finding a husband to return with. She is to go to at least four places, and this book only covers the first two. The tales at the two stops covered are a bit more like two novellas than two halves of one novel. When the open ending of the book is taken into account, I get the impression that the first (only? Is this a trilogy or a duology?) two books in this series are more accurately described as a series of four novellas. Selah and the crew of The Beholder stay the same, but each court visited comes with a new cast and plot.

I liked Selah quite a bit. She grows over the course of the book and really learns a lot, although she still has a way to mature. The love interests are all interesting as well and the crew of the ship are a lot of fun to read about.

The ending of the book is very much not an ending but a stoppage of narration. Sailing from Norge really didn't feel any more concrete than sailing from England, which happened halfway through the book. There is a solid call to action for the next installment, though, and I'm eager to get started on it.

I entered the book thinking it was a romance. I does have several strong romantic arcs, but by the end of the book, it's the political intrigue that drives my desire to see what will happen next.

Overall, I loved this book much more than I expected to. (I had actually forgotten why it was in my queue and considered not reading it so that I can focus on getting the most of the three months of Kindle Unlimited I purchased on the cheap in December.) What exactly I love so much about it is hard to pinpoint, but it had me enchanted by the time the ship landed in England. My library still lists the second installment as unpurchased, but I've requested it and will probably be right at the start of the line for it when they hopefully buy it.


Below you'll find the notes I took as I read. Clearly, they contain major spoilers.




2% She calls her stepmother her "smother" I love it.

3% I love that they are deviated with wreaths for Arbor Day. I frequently feel we should do more for Arbor Day.

7% So apparently in this world, India flight back harder against the British, which cost England enough money that they abandoned Potomac as unprofitable. Clearly not the only difference in our worlds though as they abandoned Potomac rather than Maryland or Virginia... Also, the Raj was established in the mid 1800s and Potomac seems more like it came of Maryland in the 1600s, so the timeline may have been reversed? England occupied India prior to America?  Except that would have likely resulted in someone else conquerimg the Mid-Atlantic area... This says all of the empires of Europe turned inward when England went broke, but I can't imagine why that would be. So there are several differences in our worlds, but I'm not sure what they all are.

7% Hold on. There are no slaves. Without slavery most of the states south of PA wouldn't have been profitable colonies. So maybe the slaves were freed without a civil war, but maybe they were never there. Which would make the world a better place, for sure, but would also explain why the imperialism didn't work as well in our world and would mean their European North America is little like ours.

7% Where the heck is Totunkheym? Egypt? ... Tsarytsya. Russia then?

7% I wonder why England is called England and Europe is called Europe but nowhere else has the same name as it does I'm our world... ... Except New York, apparently.

8% Maybe it's the word "protocol" being in his description, but Sir Perrault reminds me of C3PO. I assume he is not the Love Interest. And the navigator is too old even if Selah does trust him on sight. I'm guessing Captain Lang is the Love Interest via process of elimination and based on an assumption that he'll be someone who is around the entire book rather than a guy she meets on stop number five of this European tour. So unless Peter comes with them, it would seem like the captain is the guy.

9% Hmm... Godmother send to the the stepmother influenced Peter to reject the proposal. That would make sense. I was wondering why he would do that and was wandering between he loves another and/or he's gay, but he was bribed or threatened would also work.

13% Captain Lang is clearly a good guy who didn't understand what he was being hired for. He is a suitable Love Interest. And one assumes someone who is a Captain at such a young age in a world like that one is a suitable match for her if Peter was good enough. Of course, this assumes he is a Captain and not secretly the last prince on the tour. After all, I noticed that he said he'd never sailed across the Atlantic, not that he'd never been to Europe.

15% These suitors sound like the sort of people who wouldn't leave their homelands... Which I would guess is part of the point.

16% And the Captain has Selah's lost shoe. I'm case the Cinderella vibe hadn't taken yet.

23% Ah. And Selah has figured out that none of these suitors would take her home to Potomac.

24% I too wonder what Anansi (friend of Homer... What's with these names?) didn't say about the state of things in England. I guess we'll find out soon. I wonder if it's related to why there's no picture or age listed for their prince in the portfolio.

25% He knows how to read a map. :: Swoon ::

27% Lang is very confident he'll manage to get her home. There hasn't been much support for the theory that he's secretly one of these suitors (either one without a picture or one who has been lied about) although I haven't seen much to counter it either. He's never said where he's from, never mentioned his family, never implied how much money he has. And he's obviously the Prince Charming to her Cinderella, so why not be a literal prince?

31% I'm not sold on Bear just being a guard. Could he be Prince Bertilak's son? He seems to have lost his mother and apparently Bertilak is a widower. And Bertilak II would lend itself to the nickname Bear ... Lang could be his brother, although they'd probably look enough for that to be mentioned unless they're only half-brothers... It occurs to me that the reason Lang isn't on this field trip could well be that he didn't trust he wouldn't be outted. If the court is in on it, he could be seen there, but they couldn't tell the whole country.

37% ok, so Selah is starting to crush on Bear. Who i continue to think is not just a guard. I wonder what Lang is up to.

41% Yes, a mere guard scooping the crown prince's intended would be treasonous. So either Bear is an idiot or more than a guard.

42% An oddly familiar look between Bertilak and Bear. Yeah, totes family.

44% Wait... Igraine isn't Bertilak's sister. She's his wife, isn't she?

50% So Lang is with the mysterious cowslip people and has presumedly been off doing cowslip things. They seem to the be the ones who want to fight the evil empire rather than hide from it. Which explains why he's willing to sail into it.

51% Yep, Igraine is Bertilak's wife. Bear's their son. ... And Selah is not talking being manipulated well.

57% The King of Asgard has an eyeoatch. He's taking the Odin connectiom pretty far, isn't he?

58% And Torden (which sounds a lot like Thor) has a dark haired adopted brother who was born to enemies and describes himself as trouble.

67% Yeah, I really can't imagine this guy moving to Potomac. Plus, we haven't actually established who inherits here. That he's the head if the running stuff implies to me Torden is the heir.

73% I have a bad feeling about these summer rites.

76% Long hours of the night? In Scandinavia just before midsummer?

77% So he's not heir. He just convinced everyone to let him be the suitor because he worried about a shy bookish girl having to live with his brother. That kind of sweet.

78% Ok... That sweet. What's the catch? That he won't go to Potomac? That he dies in the rites? Or will the Beholder crew just kidnap her for the next leg of her tour?

80% So there's a psuedoRussian plot. Maybe it will kill the older brothers and make Torden heir.

85% Poor Aleksei. It totally wasn't his fault.

86% Yeah, he won't leave. And really wouldn't thrive well in Potomac anyway.

91% Ouch. They're willing to compromise but his daddy won't allow it. And Torden probably won't accept being disowned. Also, the king is an asshole.

93% The ship is gone? I wasn't expecting that.

98% Viva la restitance!

THE END Love it! Can't wait for the next book!