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Feminist Killjoy. Badly Behaving Bookliker. Writer and reader of all things speculative. 

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The Unbecoming of Mara Dyer
Michelle Hodkin
Diablo III: Storm of Light
Nate Kenyon
Progress: 133/341 pages
William Gibson
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Freda Warrington
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Ancillary Justice
Ann Leckie
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Charlie Higson
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Ann Aguirre
Halo - Alexandra Adornetto Disclaimer: There are no SPOILERS in this review, because you can't spoil a book in which nothing actually happens. However, in the interest of forestalling any screeching and whining on the matter, consider this your SPOILER warning. Screech and whine at your own peril. I am cranky, and I bite.There are bad books. There are awful books. There are books you want to hurl across the room or light on fire. There are books that make you want to cry and scream, claw your own eyes out, and/or stab someone to a brutal and bloody death.And then there's Halo.Some people might go easy on Halo because of Alexandra Adornetto's tender young age. I am not one of those people. Adornetto is not that young, and anyway sentiments like "oh, she's just a teenager" are insulting to teenagers who act and think like real people and not one-dimensional little monsters. And she's not the only person responsible for this heinous travesty of a book being sold on bookshelves around the world. No book has made me consider self-publishing quite as seriously as Halo. Not because I think I can't get published, but because this book drained most of what was left of my trust for the publishing industry. It's as if the industry as a whole inflicted paper cuts all over my body and then poured a concoction of lemon juice and salt over my head. (This, incidentally, is kind of what it feels like to read Halo.) I have defended the industry for years, and then they turn around and stab me in the back with this overstuffed, poorly written piece of tripe. It seems whatever integrity was left in the industry is gone. Next time I see an agent or editor insist they only want books they love, I'm going to be much less inclined to believe it. No one loved Halo. It was not hearts that lit in the eyes of whatever editor decided to give this trash a chance to see daylight; it was dollar signs. And it seems that no one actually did any editing on the damn thing once it was bought. I could hand my manuscripts over to my bunnies for editing and come out with better results. First of all, nothing happens in Halo. A dumb as shit angel flouncing around brushing her teeth, walking her dog, going to French class, and falling in love with a boy she doesn't even know DOES NOT CONSTITUTE A PLOT. I read more than half the book and in that time, there was no conflict. Bethany and her siblings are sent to earth to fight the "Agents of Darkness", and then we wait around for over two hundred pages for one to even show up. Shouldn't combating the "Agents of Darkness" involve, you know, combat? The relationship between Bethany and Xavier presents no real conflict or challenge either: after Bethany reveals herself to Xavier, basically betraying her mission and all the rest of humankind, a "higher power" okays the situation. That's it. She receives no punishment, does no penance, and it's implied that her relationship with Xavier is sanctioned by God. Otherwise she dithers about clipping her toenails and thinking she's better than everyone else because she's not obsessed with prom (yet) and boys and technology.Speaking of that relationship, though...that's not a relationship. I'm tired of this Twilight-inspired insta-love soul mate crap. I wrote a dystopian novel inspired by how fucking sick of this shit I am, so that should tell you something. Bethany and Xavier have small talk like three times before they're in twoo wuv foreva. Then, instead of showing us their relationship blossoming and growing stronger, Adornetto recaps montage style all the things they do together and how very much this miss each other, OMG all the time, whilst we, the readers, suffer through page after page after page of all the banal, menial details of Bethany's life. If you're going to make your book all about the romance, at least show us the goddamned (no pun intended, I swear) romance! Though to be frank, I wouldn't want to witness much of this "romance". It's an unhealthy co-dependent relationship, in which Xavier treats Bethany like a child (the airplane thing? it happens) and Bethany folds to being "protected" and bossed around by him as if that's just the way things are supposed to be. Sometimes it was easier not to argue with Xavier when his objective was taking care of me.This after Xavier forces her to eat an energy bar despite her insisting that she's not hungry. After he gets her to do his bidding, he literally fucking pats her on the head. (Girls, if your boyfriend ever pats you on the head like you're an obedient puppy, kick him in the nuts and then dump his ass. Seriously. You are a person, not a pet.)Because, let's face it, Alexandra Adornetto wouldn't know feminism if it jumped up and smacked her on the tits bit her on the ass. I nearly went through the roof on more than one occasion. Adornetto adores playing into nasty sexist stereotypes. Bethany herself spends time literally thinking about how much she can't wait to get back to Xavier's strong, protective arms and daydreaming about being rescued by him.I liked the way he held me; as if I were fragile and likely to break if he held too tight."...absorbed in my fantasy of being stranded on a secluded island somewhere in the Caribbean or held captive on a pirate ship, waiting for Xavier to come and rescue me...Girls (except for Bethany, of course, because she's speshul) talk about boys, boys, and boys--and did I mention boys? Boys, of course, only do things that are considered appropriately manly:“Because I’m a man,” Xavier said. “And men don’t wear makeup unless they’re emo or play in a boy band.”“I’m a boy. We like engines.”Both Bethany and her sister Ivy end up in situations where boys basically sexually harass them. They stand around whimpering like wounded Chihuahuas until Xavier arrives to rescue them--both of them. Because girls can't protect themselves, amirite? Adornetto, dear, THESE ARE FUCKING ANGELS. THEY HAVE DIVINE POWERS. Are you for fucking real? Then there's the entire Romeo and Juliet thing. Ugh, I want to barf. Not only do we get the world's worst literature teacher, who is a "romantic" and believes the romance angle of Romeo and Juliet (which in a sane reality does not exist), but then we get this argument about what the book is really about, with the "studious" girls pointing out that it's a story about two dumb lust-filled teenagers and Bethany insisting it was true love. Romeo forgot about Rosalind in five nanoseconds not because he was a horny teenage boy, but because Juliet was The One. His Soul Mate. *barf* Yeah, The One is a concept that was made up to make arranged marriages seem less skeevy and wrong; it is not a real thing. But what am I saying? Those studious girls wouldn't know real love if they tripped over it, right? I mean, see how they react to the idea of having to write a love poem:The studious girls, who’d never had to rely on their own imaginations before, flew into a panic.Yeah. Adornetto loves stereotyping that much and this was one of the most angry-making examples. It's a lot of misogynist bullshit, the idea that girls who study and work hard and care about their educations are just boring losers. And they are all the same, mind you. Seriously, Adornetto even writes them speaking in unison because they are just soooo cut from the same cloth. This is a real thing that happens in the book:“We don’t know what to write about!” they wailed. “It’s too hard.”“Just think about it for a while,” said Miss Castle in her floaty voice.“Nothing interesting happens to us.”“It doesn’t have to be personal,” she coaxed. “It can be a total figment of your imagination.”The girls remained uninspired.“Can you give us an example?” they persisted.“We’ve been looking at examples all term,” said Miss Castle in a dejected tone. Then an ideafor a starting point came to her. “Think about qualities you find attractive in a boy.”“Well, I think intelligence is very important,” a girl named Bianca volunteered.“Obviously, he should be a good provider,” her friend Hannah piped up.Miss Castle looked at a loss. She was spared having to comment by a contribution from adifferent quarter.“People are only interesting if they’re dark and disturbed,” said Alicia, one of the goths.“Chicks shouldn’t talk so much,” drawled Tyler from the back of the room. It was the firstthing we’d heard him say all term, and Miss Castle was graciously prepared to overlook itsderogatory nature.Got that? If you consider your education important, you are just an imaginationless loser, so stfu. And you're an even bigger loser if you find qualities like smart and successful to be desirable in a man. UGH! It's all such anti-feminist nonsense, right down to the teacher refusing to remonstrate Tyler's dumb ass because, you know, women are polite and demure and shit. Fuck that. I'm a woman, and demure I ain't. (My sailor friend once told me I could make a sailor blush. For reals.) And because this whole conversation was not stupid and painful and ridiculous enough, we get bonus stereotyping with a "goth" girl talking about people being "dark and disturbed" and a jock guy being a sexist douchebag. Really fucking nice. This is the kind of shit that should never, ever, EVER make it into a published book.It's the kind of sexism that plays into rape culture in a very dangerous way. It insists on the fallacy that boys are x and girls are y. Like, you know, boys are aggressive and girls are timid. Boys are horny and girls are boy-obsessed. If a girl gets raped, hey, she should've known better, boys just act that way! Duh! Clearly she shouldn't have been running around thinking about boys all the time and wearing makeup and pretty clothes, because boys are Cro-Magnon morons who can't control themselves. Ick, ick, ICK. It makes me feel all warm and face-stabby inside. And in its own way, the book preaches just that sort of nonsense, like the scene where Bethany goes to Molly's for a girls' night and finds a full blown party. She gets drunk and has to be rescued by Xavier, of course. And later she thinks "who knows what could have happened" if Xavier hadn't arrived, and you don't need to be a rocket scientist to put together the pieces. Adornetto loves preaching, not just about how wearing short skirts and makeup is shallow and bad. Technology is bad (is in fact basically causing the breakdown of the human race), and so is eating meat. And being a goth will inevitably make you evil, as evidenced by the "goths" jumping ship to Jake Thorn the moment he looks at them with his stereotypical "evil" green eyes and his stereotypical "evil" long black hair (the dude even has a fucking snake tattoo). Being impulsive will apparently mean you literally die in a fire, since instead of talking about what he loved about his ex-girlfriend, the only thing Xavier mentions about her is how she was impulsive and this was bad, mmkay. It's also bad to follow your dreams if it means not listening to your parents. And even though there was no direct preaching against being gay, the book is so gag-inducingly heteronormative that that brand of preaching is implied with practically every page. I swear, if she ever comes to town for a book signing, I will go and Glitter Bomb her. And I will make sure my husband video tapes it.Fuck, the whole book is so stupid, I can't put it into words. It's a bloody turducken of stupid. There are inconsistencies everywhere, like Bethany saying she got her dog "weeks" ago when it had only been a week. Why send three angels to combat the forces of darkness in a tiny podunk town whose worst issues are a particularly virulent flu? There are bombings in the middle east, and Bethany is sitting around picking her nose in some place called Venus Cove. (Do NOT get me started on her implications that the middle east is inherently more evil than anywhere else in the world. Just don't.) They're supposed to bring faith back to humans, but they can't even be friends with them. And if something bad is happening elsewhere in the world, this is their solution:“All we can do is pray for divine intervention.”You are divine intervention, you fucking morons. You're angels! Sinfully dumb angels, but angels nonetheless. If this is the best God can do, the world at large should probably put its head between its knees and kiss its ass goodbye.Finally, we have the writing, which is...it's...I mean...oh fuck, are there words for this? Everything is overwritten. Now, I like a decent amount of description. Unlike many readers, I read to relax my imagination. It seriously just keeps goinggoinggoinggoinggoinggoinggoinggoing like it's the goddamn Energizer Bunny and books can distract it. (Not always. If you ever see me reading a book and notice I haven't turned a page for forty-five minutes, well, now you know why.) Also, left to its own devices, it may well turn your world into some kind of cold-pizza-and-LSD-fueled nightmare. But holy fuck, Adornetto overdoes it like whoa. You might wonder how a book in which nothing happens can being almost five-hundred pages long; it's because it's completely stuffed with banal details and description of everything. Just on and on and on and on. SHUT UP ALREADY! Just sitting here thinking about how many times in half the book I had to read about what who was wearing, what Gabriel's eye-color was, how nice Ivy is, how beautiful all the angels are, how much Bethany loves/missed Xavier, what this looked like, what that looked like, how Xavier's STUPID FUCKING BANGS FLOP IN HIS EYES, gives me a headache and a lot of boiling rage. This book is an insult. It's an insult to writers, it's an insult to readers, to teenagers, to women, to men, to gays, to straight people, to the entire planet. I can't even talk about this anymore; my head hurts every time I think about this mess. So I will leave it at that. Except for one thing. With all the mention of Xavier's bangs flopping in his eyes, he started to look like this:Now that you will never be able to unsee that, I will be about my merry way.