BLOGTOBER Day 2: TBR Jar Round #7
It’s been almost two months since I lasted posted my TBR jar reviews, and there are a couple of reasons for that. The main reason is that I am back at work and I’m struggling to juggle everything, and blogging is the hardest thing to fit in because I have two young children who are incredibly grabby.
However, the other reason is that I actually didn’t finish reading all of the books I pulled out of the jar for the first time in August (and I didn’t finish them all in September, either!).
Before, I held off until I’d finished all five of the books and then published a post with reviews for all five of them. This worked when it meant the post was being delayed for a couple of weeks, but when it’s becoming months instead it’s just not feasible.
Instead, I thought I would review the four books which I picked out of the jar and actually read, and then give you a couple of reasons for why I keep delaying on the last one. Hopefully one or two of you will have already read it, so you’ll be able to convince me to pick it up!
Without further ado, here are my thoughts on the books I picked out of my TBR jar in August…
We Are Watching by M. Stephen Stewart – 1 star
This is a difficult book to read, because the writing is dreadfully clunky. It took me two weeks to trudge through this story, and I found myself wishing that I’d called it quits and DNF’d as soon as I started having trouble at the 10% mark.
The prologue of We Are Watching is the strongest part of the story. We meet an astronaut who is in mortal peril, experiencing the catastrophic failure of his ship, but who is desperate to get home to his wife and child. I flew through this part of the story and found myself eager to continue, wanting to see what would happen next to the intrepid explorer.
Sadly, after the prologue we instead follow the astronaut’s son, Trainee Henry “Hank” Malone, and the bulk of the novel fails to live up to the brilliance of the prologue. Because the first few scenes are so intensely focused there is a great sense of atmosphere and emotion, but the larger world that surrounds Henry is poorly crafted and incoherent. Characters are referred to by multiple different names in an unnatural way – I kept thinking two or three people were being referred to, rather than just one person – and none of them have any memorable qualities. In fact, it’s only been a month since I finished this book and I’m already struggling to remember names or descriptions for any of the characters, as they just don’t have any impact at all.
The same can be said about the world. Whereas some dystopians have very unique settings (Divergent and The Hunger Games being two which pop to mind), We Are Watching has some interesting aspects but they are brushed over too easily. The idea of people getting money through shares and likes is a great piece of social commentary – taking the way that people are so obsessed with getting validation through social media and twisting it into a currency is genius! – but this is never explained or explored thoroughly. Sometimes dropping your reader in the deep end and refusing to simply explain your world works brilliantly, but other times it makes it impossible to get to the bottom of what’s really going on, and sadly We Are Watching falls in the latter camp.
I try not to judge galleys too harshly for any spelling mistakes or grammatical errors that may be scattered throughout, as they aren’t finished copies and often contain errors, but I wouldn’t be surprised if We Are Watching was a first draft which had received no editing at all. As well as the characters and the world being rather flat, the action sequences were awfully described, making it impossible to picture anything that was going on. I found myself rereading paragraphs to try to get to the bottom of what the heck had just happened, only to end up shrugging and continuing on with the story because it still made no sense to me. Reading shouldn’t be this much of a mental workout!
I’m not quite sure why there needs to be a sequel as everything seemed as though it could have been neatly wrapped up, but this won’t be a series that I end up continuing.
Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher – 2 stars
From one rant review to another, it’s time to talk about Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher.
This book could have been brilliant, if it hadn’t been for the suicide aspect.
That might sound stupid, because even if you don’t know anything about Thirteen Reasons Why you likely know that it’s a book about suicide, but my point is that it doesn’t have to be.
In Thirteen Reasons Why we follow “nice guy” Clay Jensen. Everyone loves Clay. He’s wonderful. However, his world is flipped upside down when he receives a box of thirteen tapes in the mail. The tapes are from his classmate Hannah, who recently died by suicide, and the tapes explain the reasons why she decided to end her life – all thirteen of them.
Clay is sure he wasn’t really meant to receive the tapes, because he didn’t do anything wrong to Hannah! But he also can’t ignore her last wishes, so he embarks on a journey to learn the truth behind Hannah’s pain.
The issues I had with this book are spoilery, so if you haven’t read it and still feel interested by it then feel free to keep on scrolling.
Hannah didn’t need to die for this story to be impactful. A story of a victim getting revenge can be powerful without the victim dying by their own hand. The threat of a second set of tapes circulating that will get leaked if the recipients don’t follow Hannah’s instructions to the letter gives the plot high stakes by itself, so Hannah’s death feels like a cop out. Wouldn’t this story be more interesting if she outed her abusers to each other and then stood back and watched them tear each other apart in an attempt to keep their secrets? Yes, Hannah would be in danger, but it would add much more tension to the plot and make the story far more interesting.
That being said, I just don’t think Jay Asher knew what he was doing with this story. Hannah’s character is all over the place, and she switches quickly from being a victim to being a bystander enabling abusers to get away with their actions while all the time pretending to have a backbone. Most of the events of Thirteen Reasons Why are completely unfeasible (which is probably why it made for such a popular TV adaptation – who doesn’t love wild and wacky teen drama shows like Pretty Little Liars or Riverdale?!).
Another issue I have with Thirteen Reasons Why is that Clay is completely right: he shouldn’t have received the tapes. Hannah herself says that he’s a nice guy and she shouldn’t have sent them to him! The choice to narrate things from Clay’s perspective detracts from the impact of the novel. The majority of the other twelve people who receive the tapes have done heinous things to Hannah, and seeing their reactions to receiving the tapes – anger, denial, remorse and guilt – would have been much more interesting than following a “nice guy” like Clay.
The only reason we should have been following Clay would have been if the tapes had had the reverse impact on him: if he’d gone from being a “nice guy” to being hellbent on revenge and determined to destroy all of Hannah’s bullies and tormentors. Instead the sole change to his personality is him finally being brave enough to talk to girls, which means the only impact Hannah’s tapes had on him was the ability to forget about her and move on with someone else. Bleurgh.
I think the most frustrating thing about Thirteen Reasons Why is that it had SO MUCH POTENTIAL. I absolutely loved the first quarter of the novel, because the pacing is impeccable. It’s almost as though Clay and Hannah are having a conversation, because his mental asides are interspersed between her tape dialogue and it makes for such interesting reading. Unfortunately as soon as it starts to fall apart, it does so SPECTACULARLY.
Definitely one of the worst books I’ve ever read.
Silver Shard by Betsy Streeter – 3 stars
I don’t have too much to say about Silver Shard. I read the first book in the series, Silverwood, back in 2015, and although I enjoyed it at the time I can’t remember too much about the events of the first novel. I didn’t really feel like rereading it though, so I went into Silver Shard hoping that I was going to get a good recap of the events of book one so I wouldn’t feel too lost.
In all honesty, I think you would be able to read Silver Shard as a standalone if you wanted to. The events of book one were lightly rehashed but could easily have just been referring to past events in the character’s lives, as the events of book one don’t have much bearing on the events of book two.
I still really like the Silverwood family, and they definitely still gave me Winchester vibes in this book, but I found myself struggling to care for them. It seemed too obvious that everything was going to work out okay, so it was hard to muster up the energy to care when Henry gets kidnapped or Helen ran away from her parents to go and find her brother. I liked the introduction of Helen and Henry’s aunt and uncle, but it’s only been a few weeks since I finished the book and I’ve already forgotten both of their names (the uncle may have been called Christopher?) so that shows they didn’t have a huge impact on me.
The best thing about this book is still the Tromindox, who are the scary species of bad guys that the Silverwoods are in charge of hunting. Betsy Streeter has obviously thought a lot about ways to develop the Tromindox between books one and two, and in Silver Shard the monsters are even more horrifying. The idea of one monster being able to separate into lots of little monsters to swarm their prey is horrendous; it’s certainly not a bad guy I’d ever want to come up against!
The story is left open-ended, but as it’s been five years since this book was released I’m not sure whether there will be another book in the Silverwood series which is a shame. I still feel very fondly towards the first book and I think the Tromindox is one of the most creative monsters I’ve encountered, so if you’re looking to read something which is a little tropey but also has some unique aspects then this might be the perfect series for you.
Easy Prey by Catherine Lo – 3 stars
Another book I don’t have much to say about is Easy Prey by Catherine Lo.
I was under the impression that this was adult fiction rather than YA (similar to Lucy and Linh by Alice Pung, which I reviewed a couple of months ago), so I thought it was going to be really interesting to read about a teacher’s nudes getting leaked and three students potentially being involved.
Unfortunately this book was not only predictable but was also utterly forgettable. I’d guessed what was going on within the first ten percent, and it’s a good job that this book was short or I think I would have ended up DNFing it.
It’s practically impossible to talk about this book at all without giving away the so-called “twist” at the end, so I think I’ll just have to leave it there, but I just don’t think it’s realistic in the slightest (and I also thought that all of the points of view sounded really similar, so none of the characters had that much of an impact either!).
I talked about all of these books a bit more during my August wrap up (except for Easy Prey, which made it into the mid-month wrap up), so if you’d like to see me ranting about any of these titles then remember to check those out.
The book that I picked out of the jar and didn’t end up having time to read was Demon Road by Derek Landy.
The main reasons I didn’t end up picking up Demon Road include:
- it’s over 500 pages
- it’s the first book in a trilogy and I’m currently in the middle of so many different series that I don’t feel like starting another
- I don’t have a copy of the third book and don’t know how easily I can get hold of it, so I don’t want to start a series I can’t finish
- I have literally no idea what it’s about
- I’ve never read a Derek Landy book before and I feel INTIMIDATED
So if any of you have read Demon Road and recommend it, please leave me a comment down below and convince me to pick it up! I was so interested in it when I picked it out of the jar and now it’s two months later and I have no idea how to force myself to just read it.
I hope you enjoyed this ridiculously late installment of my TBR jar reviews, and I’ll see you tomorrow!