I got so caught up in NaNoWriMo 2018 that I forgot to post about which of my Halloween Reads I got through. My plan had been to read:
- The Westing Game by Ellen Raskin
- Contagion by Erin Bowman
- The Hazel Wood by Melissa Albert
- Sadie by Courtney Summers
- The Lies We Told by Camilla Way
The Westing Game I read in a day, and I probably should’ve read it back when I was a kid and in the book’s target reader demographic. I genuinely enjoyed the book and thought the mystery was interesting. The book would have gotten 5 stars out of 5 from me… if it weren’t for one particular character. Turtle, one of the major characters, was not my favorite. I’m generally not a fan of “child genius” characters, or genius characters in general, because I find them unbelievable. Not because child/adult genius don’t exist but because a character can only be as smart as the person(s) writing them (and statistically speaking, whoever is writing that genius is probably not a genius, no offense to writers of geniuses). So Turtle was cast as a preternaturally smart kid, largely because she was interested in and understood the stock market. I’ll grant that she had some smarts, but she spent so much of book trying to solve the mystery puzzle in a very self-focused way — rather than focusing on the mindset of the man who created the mystery puzzle — that I couldn’t give her intelligence too much credit. Also, her self-focused solution to the mystery and her childish behavior towards other characters (like her habit of kicking people’s shins when they made her angry) made me think that she was much younger than she actual was. I was putting her age between 8 and 10 years, and then 1/2 to 3/4 of the way through the book you find out she’s actually 13 or 14. What? Really didn’t like Turtle and while overall I liked the ending, I found the resolution to her particularly story and the roll she played in the mystery completely unbelievable, so 4 out of 5 stars for this book. Okay, I’ll get off my anti-Turtle soapbox now (I clearly had some ranty feelings about her.)
I don’t know why it took me so long to start reading Contagion but I enjoyed it. For me, it was another 4 out of 5 star book and I will be reading the sequel (Immunity) that comes out next Spring. However, it’s a low 4 stars and I would have rated it a 3 out of 5 if it weren’t for the last 1/3 of the book. Even though the story is fast-paced, the beginning 1/3 of the book didn’t engage me much so it took me a much longer time to read than it should’ve. A lot of time is spent introducing the eight main/ only characters, which I normally don’t mind, but I didn’t particularly care about these characters and honestly I can’t say I cared much more about them by the ending. I do care enough about their fates to read the sequel, though. Another issue I had is that while the book regularly raises the stakes, as seven of the characters are crew members investigating a tragedy that occurred on an isolated planet, these raised stakes depend almost entirely on the incompetence of the crew leader. The whole book, all the other characters acknowledge her incompetence, and to a certain extent ignore or undermine her authority, which I found… annoying. It definitely decreased my enjoyment of those moments and I wish the author had created the conflicts and dead ends that she did without having them be the result of the crew leader’s poor decision-making. (The fact that the incompetent leader was also a woman also got a raised eyebrow from me; however, the other women in the story were fairly capable and competent so that wasn’t a problematic as it could have been).
I’m currently reading and almost in finished with The Hazel Wood, which I’m really enjoying. It’s the perfect creepy Halloween read. The tone of the story reminds me a lot of Holly Black’s Modern Faerie Tales series, given that this is a story about a girl whose grandmother wrote creepy, dark fairy tales. Aspects of the plot and the character relationships also remind me of Magonia by Maria Dahvana Headley, but I like these things much more in this story as I think they work better (Magonia also suffered, IMHO, from a genius character who I often rolled my eyes at). I didn’t feel compelled to read Magonia’s sequel, but I will read The Hazel Wood‘s.
Even though I have the physical copy of Sadie, I want to listen to the audio book because there’s a podcast in the story and I’ve heard that listening to these sections gives you a better feel for the story. So I’m waiting to read this until I can get the audio book from my library.
I haven’t started The Lies We Told yet, but will as soon as I finish The Hazel Wood. My slow pace in reading the beginning of Contagion and a cold I caught as the seasons changed in October meant I didn’t get to this before Halloween, but I keep hearing it’ll be a quick read once I start it.