Monday, December 29, 2014

Review: Cruel Beauty by Rosamund Hodge


I feel like I need to explain myself here. So many people I know love this book, and I just didn't. I'm not even sure it was an "It's not you; it's me" situation. The book simply could have been better—namely, it could have been longer, and not YA, and less confusing.

"Longer and not YA" are not typically suggestions I have for books. I am pretty much open to labeling anything as YA, because I love YA without shame, and I'm not sure I've ever complained that a book was too short before. But the simple truth is that Cruel Beauty would have been so much better as an adult book. An extra 10-20k words would have helped enormously with my biggest issue: there was too much going on in too little time. It got overwhelming. I couldn't keep track of which goal Nyx was trying to accomplish at which points—is she trying to save Arcadia or Ignifex? Is she trying to come up with his name or find the four Houses? Why does it keep mentioning this box? If this is a high fantasy, not set in our world, why does it use gods and heroes from our mythology? (That last one threw me off a lot.) Not to mention Nyx's wishy-washy feelings about everything: she hates her sister, she loves her sister; she despises her family, she owes her family; she wants to kill her husband, but wait she loves her husband; she doesn't trust Shade, she defends Shade. Whiplash, thy name is Triskelion.

After putting this book down for a few days short of a year and picking it back up where I left off, it became pretty clear why I couldn't do it all at once: Nyx's narration. It grated on me more than any first-person narration ever has, and I can't really put a finger on why. I think at certain times it felt more like she was listing events and feelings and legends more than telling her own story. "This happened, and I felt this way, and I thought about it for at least two paragraphs, and then I got over it and this happened," etc. etc. It was extremely monotonous.

The fantasy itself was very unique and creative, but once again I feel like it would have been easier to understand (and also more believable) in an adult novel. Adult novels have more room to go into the history and mythology of their fantasy worlds, while this one felt like it was all cramped in because the author only had so many words to work with—though even as a YA book, it could have been longer. The length of Throne of Glass would have been perfect, I think, but instead this one was shorter than a Stephanie Perkins novel. What? Why?

Now, for the one thing I did like: the romance. Was it insta-love-ish? Yes, but I could kind of understand why these two characters (I'm not giving that love triangle the time of day) would fall for each other fairly quickly: they're kind of the same. Nyx made it abundantly clear that she was kind of terrible, and we knew from the beginning that Ignifex would be kind of terrible. I loved their banter with each other, and how they kept each other on their toes. Ignifex was a fascinating character—he reminded me of the Darkling, if the Darkling had redeeming qualities. Ignifex was no hero, but he clearly cared about Nyx and was not trying to use her, which I think is key in a Beauty & the Beast retelling. The Beast cannot have ulterior motives for taking care of the "Beauty," and even though Ignifex started being nice toward Nyx before he really cared about her, it wasn't because there was something wicked going on. It was because there was more to him than she thought. Which, hi, is the actual premise of [the Disney version of] the fairy tale.

Was it achingly romantic? At parts. Was it beautiful? Sometimes. But you had to wade through the muck of Nyx's monotone and the confusing infodumps to get there. This is one of those books that are almost more satisfying to read when you ignore everything but the relationships. I could have loved the world Hodge created, but that's difficult when it feels less "created" than "described."

Review: A Darker Shade of Magic by V.E. Schwab

Source: galley from Macmillan
Publication: Feb 24 2015, Tor

Kell is one of only two magicians who can travel between four different Londons—parallel Londons, three of which feature magic as a regular part of life. Kell's London is Red London, the only one that has both magic and order. He is a ward of the Red crown, an adoptive brother of sorts to the prince, and secretly, he's also a criminal. Kell has a bad habit of smuggling artifacts between the different Londons because it turns out that people from non-magical London are fascinated by magical things, and people from magical Londons are fascinated by mundane things. On one of his travels to White London, where there are a lot of shadows and two evil monarchs, Kell finds himself in possession of a powerful relic from Black London, and he knows he has to return it to where it came from—except that Black London has been permanently closed off because its magic became too dangerous.
Enter Delilah Bard, thief and aspiring Grey London pirate, who wants nothing more than adventure and renown. After picking Kell's pocket and finding the Black relic, she gets caught up on his situation and insists on coming with him to return it. Cue obstacles and enemies and magic.

The more I think about this book, the more I love it. I don't understand. While I was reading it I liked it just fine for the first half, much more for the second half, but I wasn't prepared to shout my love for it from the rooftops. But now I sit here, having finished the book two days ago, and all I want to do is tell people about it.

Right from the start you can tell that this is going to be a solid novel, because the prose is very sure-footed and consistent. Schwab knew what she was doing when she wrote this book. She explains the world without dumping giant piles of information onto the page; she gives her characters personalities and traits primarily through their actions; and she keeps the plot going while also allowing her characters both reflection and forethought. 

If you like fantasy but struggle to get into those big, sweeping high fantasy worlds, this is the book for you. It's not really set in our world, but our world does play a part in it. You don't have to familiarize yourself with a map or strange names of places that don't exist, and the magic feels entirely organic to the Londons that have it. You won't find yourself flipping back a few pages to recall something that you had already been told, hoping to find an explanation for something else later on. Reading onward becomes a natural state of existence with this one.

If you like quirky, epic, mostly moral characters with penchants for crime, this is also the book for you. Lila Bard owns my soul right now; she's a fully fleshed-out character with a lot of hardness and a little vulnerability and enough spark to start a forest fire (good thing she doesn't live near a forest). You don't really get a sense for Kell until you see him through Lila's eyes—at which point you realize he is kind of a socially inept dork, but somehow he's full of charisma at the same time. And magic. He's really good at magic. Which comes in handy when you deal in dangerous magical artifacts that are wanted by dangerous magical monarchs. What also comes in handy: a thief who trusts no one. These two do so much saving each other.

Now, I know what you're thinking. Two main characters, one male and one female, you see each of them better through the other's eyes... must be a romance, right? WRONG.

Which, of course, is my favorite kind of romance.

You see, there is ostensibly no romance between Kell and Lila, but it is painfully, beautifully clear that there could be. That there should be. The respect and admiration for each other that they develop from enemies to not-quite-friends to okay-sure-we're-friends, all the way to fixed-points-in-each-other's-worlds, are the qualities that I look for in fictional [also real] romantic relationships. I love me a slow burn, and this is the slowest of them all—the kind where you're not even sure anyone sees it but you. But authors do these things on purpose, and trust me, you'll all see it. I know because this is exactly how I felt about Blue and Gansey — right down to the possible alternate-romance Blue/Adam or in this case, Lila/Rhy — and we know how that's going. [Aside: When I tell you a relationship reminds me of Blue/Gansey, you better take note. That is basically the highest compliment I can give.]

The main characters are the life of the party here and they could easily carry the story on their own, but as if they weren't enough, the side characters are interesting as well. I found myself attached to them despite the fact that they don't get nearly as much screen time. Rhy is the perfect foil for Kell: trusting where Kell is not, socially adept where Kell is not, and unsure how to be cynical where Kell is nothing if not cynical. I do declare that this shall be a bromance for the ages. And then there's Holland, Kell's almost-enemy, who I really just wanted to hug even though he's pretty terrifying. We've also got Barron, Lila's father-figure-person who she keeps at arm's length because she's Lila, but he is consistently there anyway, and Parrish and Gen, Rhy's guards who totally did not need to become actual characters but they totally did. Every character is a character, whether they needed to be or not.

The villains were maybe not my favorite thing about the book, but I get the feeling they were not the real villains of this story. Astrid and Athos Dane were evil, no question, but their evil didn't make me shiver. It didn't make me ponder what it means to be human, or give me nightmares—though surely they would be terrifying to look at, what with those black veins and all. All the two of them really did was prepare me for something much, much worse in the next book. Or the book after that (is this a duology or are there going to be more? SOMEONE TELL ME NOW).

And wow, I can't wait to see where Kell and Lila go next time.
Now I'm off to read the rest of Victoria Schwab's books, because strangely this is the first one I've read.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Favorite Books of 2014

It's the most wonderful time of the year!
Which is a thing you say when a) It's the holiday season, b) You have that song stuck in your head, and/or c) You are writing a "Favorites of the Year" post.
Which I am doing.

I haven't written a ton of reviews this year, mostly because for the first half of 2014 I was doing a lot of schoolwork and working 25-30 hours a week and when I wasn't doing either of those things, I was reading. I'll try to write more reviews in 2015.
BUT I am still doing this post right now because I love doing these posts, and also I have to tell you somehow what I've been reading this year.

So, I give you: Paige's Favorite Books of 2014*

*That is, 2014-release books that I have read.

I'm starting with the series-enders, because there's no way I could rank them amongst the other books. Also, there were a lot of them:

20. Unmade by Sarah Rees Brennan
Fun fact: Unspoken is the easiest YA book in the world to sell to people looking for a book they haven't heard of before. I have proven it to myself by selling 13 copies of it this year — in an independent bookstore with a YA section that does not see a whole lot of action, that's a lot of copies. I have never, ever had a customer reject this book once I have told them about it. Maybe I'm just really good at my job, or maybe this series is magic. I'm betting on magic because Lynburns.
I actually reviewed this one! You know my issues with it, but you also know that it made me cry. Which is basically all that matters, so.

18. Dreams of Gods & Monsters by Laini Taylor
I finally read Days of Blood & Starlight, you guys! And this one, too! Man, this book is so good. I read half of it sitting around at my friend's house while she wasn't even there; that's how good it is. I want Laini Taylor's imagination and creativity and also her cats, because look at them.

17. Ignite Me by Tahereh Mafi
I reviewed this one too! Perfect book is perfect. Juliette showed us what she was capable of. Kenji was awesome. Adam was awful. Warner was unapologetically Warner. My favorite thing about this series is that the prose had as much of a journey as the characters. It reflected its narrator in a way that you've probably never seen before, and Ignite Me didn't just show us or even tell us how far Juliette has come; it made us feel it.
16. The Retribution of Mara Dyer by Michelle Hodkin
THE RETRIBUTION OF MARA DYER FINALLY CAME OUT!!!! I had a near-death experience when I went to work to get my copy only to find out IT HADN'T COME IN YET, so then I went to [mumbles] and got one and read the whole thing that night because TWO YEARS, PEOPLE. And then I had several more near-death experiences while reading it because dang, this book is full of murder and dying and almost-dying and there's even one part that's like Romeo & Juliet and let me tell you something, I had to re-learn how to breathe. I'm pretty sure.

15. Isla and the Happily Ever After by Stephanie Perkins
ISLA AND THE HAPPILY EVER AFTER FINALLY CAME OUT!!!!! I got it 2 months early and read the whole thing in one night because a) Stephanie Perkins and b) THREE YEARS, PEOPLE. I actually felt guilty about it, because I knew there were people who had been waiting just as long as I had. But to be quite honest, my guilt did not last long — negative emotions never last long when you're reading a Stephanie Perkins book. Isla didn't quite live up to Lola for me, but there was no way I wasn't going to love it anyway. She is such a relatable character (I'm a strange mix of Anna and Isla, I think), I can't help but feel like there are probably legions of girls out there who feel like this book was written for them. [P.S. CRICKET, MY LOVE]

15. Ruin & Rising by Leigh Bardugo
My favorite series-ender of the year, oh man, did I love this book. Haters to the left because Leigh Bardugo knew what she was doing when she wrote this series, even though the majority of her fandom did not. I'm sorry but this is one fandom to whom I am not willing to give ample amounts of credit, because so many people missed the whole point. Alina made choices for herself in this book, she decided what her life was going to look like and who was going to be in it, based on what she wanted. If you ever for one second thought she wanted to be Sankta Alina, you're deluding yourself. So heck yes, I'm happy she got the life she actually wanted with Mal and didn't spend the rest of her life as the Darkling's plaything or being worshipped by a country of people who didn't understand her. The framing of this series is that of a dark fairy tale turned on its head — she had to kill the prince and she didn't want to be a princess or a queen. She was an orphan who just wanted a modest life, wealthy — as my friend Richard Campbell Gansey III would say — in love. A life without sun summoning or ruling is not a life without power; Alina exercised her power by simply choosing.

And now, for the rest:

14. This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner
This one technically isn't even out yet, but it does come out in 2014 so here you go. It has more characters than the first book and more sources of tension and a woman of color as the protagonist! And she didn't get whitewashed on the cover! Plus, she's an awesome character, and so is her love interest, and this series is awesome at giving us complicated, well-written, believable characters, so read it.

13. Since You've Been Gone by Morgan Matson
Morgan Matson is so good at writing my perfect read-in-two-sittings books. They're long enough that you can stretch them into two sittings, but fun enough that you want to keep reading them. Plus, friendship and slow-burning romance and music [aside: I felt so validated by the musical options in this book, because Emily's playlists were like my music from 2-4 years ago, which I still listen to occasionally, and Frank's playlists were what I listen to all the time now. So many of the songs mentioned are actually in my iTunes library, which NEVER HAPPENS for me.]

12. Veronica Mars: The Thousand-Dollar Tan Line by Rob Thomas & Jennifer Graham
25% of my year was spent in anticipation of the Veronica Mars movie, which was like a superlong, super-epic version of a Veronica Mars episode. Reading this book was like watching an actual, regular episode of Veronica Mars, and I loved it. How many things are better than watching an episode of Veronica Mars? How many things are better than reading a good book? NOT MANY.

11. The Good Sister by Jamie Kain
I think this book has flown under most people's radar. I only found it because I do this thing at work where I stand in the YA section and look for spines I haven't seen before. No, really. Of course, I found this one the week it came out and was like, "Sure, why not," and wow. Wow. This little book blew me away — very emotional, very unique, slightly mysterious. You think you know where it's going, but you don't. Definitely read this one over, say, Belzhar, which I liked but think is a little overhyped when you've got debuts like this one happening.

10. The Young Elites by Marie Lu
I think this was one of the most hyped books of the year, and with good reason. Moral ambiguity for the win.

9. Landline by Rainbow Rowell
I read adult books this year, you guys. This is the only new-release adult book I read this year, and it was the second-most nominated book for the adult Summer IndieNext, and they chose MY REVIEW. That's how you know I think you should read a book: if I force myself to eloquently gush about it.

8. Panic by Lauren Oliver
I told you guys last year that this would be on the list in 2014. I read it so long ago that I don't remember a whole lot other than thinking it was really unique and obviously Lauren Oliver is ridiculously talented, but I will definitely be reading it again sometime.

7. Atlantia by Ally Condie
An atmospheric utopia with elements of politics and mythology? Sign me up. I've found that this is another easy one to sell because it's so different from other "dystopias" (utopias) out there, and it's a standalone! Which tells you right there that this book is never going to do what you expect — and it doesn't. If you want a book that never falls into cliche-traps, you want Atlantia. Honestly, it's made of awesome.

6. Cress by Marissa Meyer
I am so late to this series, I know. The first two books should have been on my lists for the last two years. I live in shame. Do I really even need to say why this book is awesome? Space Adventure Squad, fairytales, Cinder's sass, Kai's general excellence, Cress's adorable optimism, Thorne, Scarlet, Wolf, I could go on...

I reviewed this! So good. So important. I will probably read this book so many times.

4. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
I am ashamed that I never wrote a review of this because there is so much to talk about. Cady is a perfectly flawed protagonist (I hesitate to call her "heroine" because of reasons), you get so far inside her head in this book that you forget to look for the way out until it hits you in the face. Man, I read this book in one sitting with other people in the room and I guarantee if I had been alone I would have required a drainage system in my room so that I didn't drown in my own tears.

3. The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski
This is the kind of book that's better to go into without expectations, so you can let it completely blow you away. Of course, I can't put this at number 3 for the year and expect you to not develop expectations, so here's what I loved about it: political intrigue (I love me some political intrigue), a solid frenemyship-turned-romance, NO MAGIC. A high fantasy with no magic, have mercy on my soul, this is what I've always wanted. Bless you, Marie Rutkoski, for this world and these endlessly clever and frustrating characters. (Also, I read the Winner's Crime a few months ago and just... wow. PUT THIS SERIES ON YOUR TBR RIGHT NOW.)




I don't know

My favorite two books of the year, ALPHABETICALLY BY AUTHOR, are I'll Give You the Sun by Jandy Nelson and Blue Lily, Lily Blue by Maggie Stiefvater. I cannot betray one by picking the other as my favorite, though of course they are both perfect books and would probably be all gracious and say that the other one deserved it more anyway, but SHUT UP YOU NOBLE BOOKS I WILL NOT CHOOSE.

Possibly I need to go to bed.

Let me tell you about I'll Give You the Sun. This book is like reading a work of art. Somehow it has bursts of color on every page; it captures the passion of an artist and the relationship of two characters whose lives inspire and defeat them; it is an accurate representation of what it is to be twins. Twins are like other siblings, but not. Nobody who's not a twin quite gets it, and that's not because of """twin telepathy""" or from being so much alike or any of those things; it's from having a built-in best friend from the moment you're born (you could say before, but let's not get carried away). There's resentment and competition, but there's also loyalty and an odd closeness and the ability to say things to each other that you wouldn't say to anyone else because they would probably look at you funny. It's knowing that a rift between you would alter your entire life. This book shows all of that and more, and it's just flawless. I'm going to own so many copies of this, my friends.

Now, you all expected Blue Lily, Lily Blue to be on my list. You expected it to be #1. None of you are shocked right now. What can I say about this book that I didn't already say about The Raven Boys and The Dream Thieves? Honestly I've had a hard time finding sufficient words for how subtly different and surprising and somehow still consistent this installment of the series is, which is why I haven't really attempted a review. It definitely parallels TRB more than it does TDT, but it keeps the general excitement and adventure that TDT has as well. The magic, the new characters, the cave spelunking (I just really liked the symbolism of them all being tied to each other in the darkness of the cave — that Stiefvater and her metaphors). The relationships — ugh, the relationships, words, where are my words? It's almost 2am. Adam Parrish, he's gonna save my baby because his character development was through the roof in this book; Blue Sargent, she's gonna have some stuff to deal with and I can't wait to see her deal with it; Gansey, my baby, he's gonna be more human than king and he's gonna figure it all out and let his people save him and he's gonna survive; Ronan is gonna keep surprising us and being the fierce knight we all know he is; Noah is gonna find peace, one way or another. These are the things I want because I care about these characters so, so much. I don't know what I'll do if any of them don't get the ending they deserve — oh god, why does it have to end? Now I'm sad. 2015, please take your time because I'm not ready.

I need to sleep.

But, you know.
GOOD BOOKS, 2014. *pats 2014 on the head*

It's slightly unfortunate that only one male author made it onto my list, but I've already got a couple for next year and also the male authors I read this year were not new releases, so they didn't qualify. Sigh. I really honestly don't even pay attention to the author's gender when I'm picking which books to read.

Monday, November 17, 2014

Review: An Ember in the Ashes (April 2015)

I received this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.
With An Ember in the Ashes, I let myself do the thing I never let myself do, which is have high expectations before going into a book. It's usually a mistake, and I usually end up resenting the people who give me those high expectations when the book inevitably does not live up to the hype.
But this one. This one.
"You're not like other books," I said to it, because unlike with girls, that is actually a compliment to books.
"I know," it replied.

In her debut novel (debut novel!??), Sabaa Tahir tackles a lot of things. Race, class, slavery, war, gender, family, magic, and a little bit of romance. It takes place in Serra, a Middle Eastern-esque country divided between the conquering Martials and the conquered Scholars, which bear a remarkable likeness to the Spartans and the Athenians. Laia and her family are Scholars, eking out a modest and repressed existence among what is left of their people, while Elias is a Martial soldier who has been training at the military school Blackcliff since he was about eight years old. That's right, these people aren't messing around.

When a Mask (a graduated Blackcliff student and military officer) comes to Laia's home, kills her grandparents and takes her brother, she sets out to find the Resistance—the group of rebel Scholars who have been working for years to take the country back from the Martials—and convince them to help her find her brother, who may already be dead. But of course, nobody in this world does anything for free, and in exchange for their help, Laia must infiltrate Blackcliff in the most dangerous way possible: being a slave for the ruthless Commandant, who's been known to disfigure slaves immediately and kill them after about two weeks.

It's there that she meets Elias, of course, but what I loved about this book is that the two of them have their own distinct stories going on, and while meeting each other certainly affects those stories, it doesn't drive them. The plot does not fall into the black hole of clandestine hookups and constant excuses for the main characters to be together; it allows their relationship to take a backseat to their story. Laia has a brother to save and Elias has a competition to not-win and they both have a few shady characters to figure out. There are hints that the two of them have entwined fates, but the book is written in first-person present tense for a reason: you can look to the future if you want, but sometimes the now takes precedent. Laia and Elias are both suspicious of the Augurs who insist on waxing didactic about things to come, and their refusal to stray toward those enigmatic storylines is, at this point, what will keep readers reading.

The world of An Ember in the Ashes is unique but simple— we are already familiar with the concept of a scholar state and a military state, and even a world where those two states are at war. By adding its own names, magic, and mythology, it designates itself as high fantasy, and does so more naturally and more successfully than others because every element is so organic to the setting. The magic feels Middle Eastern; the legends sound Middle Eastern. It's hard to imagine this world without them.

The setting provides a foundation for the race and class politics that are inextricable from the story— the dynamic being that race has essentially no bearing on class. How refreshing it is to see the "lower," i.e. conquered class comprised of both darker-skinned, darker haired people and fair-skinned, redheaded or blonde people. Likewise to see the Commandant with fair skin and blonde hair, but one of her slaves with the same. I can't wait to see more of this in both this series and YA in general, the way we have already seen some of the female gender role obliteration that Tahir has given us. [Helene and the Commandant are powerful women in the military, one of whom is constantly underestimated by everyone around her, and the other who has only ever been underestimated by her father. But Strong Female Characters are not the only kind of female characters in this story—Laia herself is no warrior. She believes herself weak, has insecurities and makes mistakes, but she is compelling because despite this, she keeps trying. By the end of the novel, she has discovered her own ability to grow into whoever she wants to be, and it's honestly one of the most empowering reading experiences I've ever had.]

Would I have liked to see more male gender role obliteration? Yes. Other than Darin being the one in need of rescue by his little sister, men aren't really presented as being capable of weakness. All of the men in the book are warriors, rebels or swordsmiths, none slaves or kitchen workers. Possibly the closest it came was Zak, the reluctant, softhearted warrior living in his brother's shadow, or Leander, who's always obsessing over his fiancé. But they are both still warriors. Along with that could maybe have been the threat of rape to men, too; the book certainly doesn't shy away from the threat of rape to a slave or even a female soldier in a school full of male soldiers, but why couldn't the Commandant's cruelty have extended to men weaker than her, too*? Why did the boys never have to be afraid of a woman more powerful than them? Rape is not a crime committed exclusively by men with female victims, and while I appreciate the look at what it's like for these women (especially as it reflects so many social orders in the real world), the book could have been a little more empathetic and progressive in that respect. Yes all women, but not just women.

*Though it is fantastic that rape is not portrayed as the only or even the worst thing that could happen to a woman—the Commandant leaves people with physical scars that will affect their entire lives. The women who are victims are not always victims because they have ladyparts.

But this is only the first book in the series, and the next book promises to bring new things. Along with the development of Elias and Laia's relationship (and the changes in their relationships with Helene and Keenan), which has been believable and perfectly-paced, it's already set up the primary goal and destination for the next book. And I am so, so looking forward to it.

Recommended for: EVERYONE, specifically fans of Legend by Marie Lu, Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

Friday, November 14, 2014

Review: In the Afterlight

Okay, I have a lot of reviews to write.
I'll start with In the Afterlight, because someone actually asked me for this one.

When I finished Never Fade, I thought I was going to die before the final book in the series came out. Like, what even was that ending? How can you do that? Also: never trust an e-reader, because they fool you into thinking there are more pages when THERE ARE NOT.

But I didn't reread Never Fade before starting In the Afterlight, and to be honest I was confused to the point of boredom for the first 30 pages or so. Strangely, I didn't really remember a thing that any of the characters were talking about, or why they were doing the things they were doing, or even where they were. A little bit of a brush-up would have been nice— I'm not talking the annoying summaries that Vampire Academy has in every book, but leave me some crumbs, maybe?

Once it got going, though... nope, I was still bored. Ha! You thought I was going to say something nice! I started to figure out where and why and all those types of questions, but I still wanted to find out when. As in, when is something actually going to happen? The whole middle half of the book (from the 25% mark to the 75% mark) is planning. Organizing, strategizing, planning and back-up-planning. There are a few times where the characters have quiet moments to shine, which were the moments I was living for, but I could have done with about 100 fewer pages of the constant worrying about doing things without actually doing things.

And Liam. I realize that Liam is a little too well-natured and optimistic for his own good, but I really didn't need it drilled into my head repeatedly by Cole and Ruby, who insisted on treating him like a child. Ruby knew perfectly well that he was capable of leading people and accomplishing pretty much whatever he wanted to accomplish, but she wouldn't let him in on any of her godforsaken planning because— what? They couldn't have used someone whose primary concern was helping other people, rather than exacting revenge or taking down the entire psi camp system? I don't buy it. Maybe Cole had a reason for not trusting Liam with the whole revolution thing— he hasn't seen Liam in action, doesn't know what he's been through or what he's capable of, but at the same time he never gave him a chance. It was like:
COLE: Okay, fine, prove yourself, little bro.
LIAM: Great! I really think that—
COLE: LOL no you don't. You don't think. And also you're wrong, and you should leave.
LIAM: But—
COLE: Hey, I gave you a chance. You blew it. You're not ready for this. While you've been messing around, running for your life and learning to survive and hiding from people who would institutionalize and torture you, I've been training in a professional facility of rebels and brooding. I do a lot of brooding, bro. Also speeches. So I think I know a thing or two about who is ready and who is not, and also I was totally elected into this position and did not just take it for myself without input from anyone else.
LIAM: I definitely call shenanigans.

My shining lights through the dark days of underground living were Chubs (god, I love Chubs and his "big Chubsie mouth") and Vida and especially Zu. Zu saved the entire book the moment she [spoiler alert] opened her mouth. She somehow managed to be a reminder of each of the original characters' value as humans, while actually being a whole person unto herself. I couldn't get enough of that girl or her friendship with Vida.

Once things got moving, the book was sincerely great. Ruby's character development made me finally 100% love her, and Liam finally had his moment to shine (sorry Cole had to be sacrificed in the name of Liam getting a chance to prove himself, but I'm actually okay with it). The rest was moving but never preachy, compelling but never shallow, and that ending. That ending was absolutely perfect. Strangely, the last sentences of both the book itself and the acknowledgements made me cry. God, I'm so lame.
"And the open road rolled out in front of us."
This was my favorite kind of ending, which, if you've read my series-finale reviews before, you know is the bittersweet, somewhat open kind, like Requiem. Ruby mentions that Liam will go back to North Carolina and she'll go back to Virginia and they'll have to find a way to make it work, but any discerning reader will notice that a) Those two states are right next to each other, and b) They will both be 18 soon and can pretty much live wherever they want. The separation isn't permanent, but it's what needs to happen for now, because they finally have their parents back. And that's more than okay. So until they reenter their former lives with their families, they're going to reenter a more recent former life, but one with a sense of peace: driving, together, with no destination in mind.

I promise to do reviews of Blue Lily, Lily Blue (which I read almost 2 months ago and still haven't reviewed because I basically just want to write the word "perfect" over and over), and The Retribution of Mara Dyer. I'm writing that down so that I can't slack off.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

A Summary of Dislikes: Crash Into You

Going into this book, I was optimistic because it has:
  1. Nice cars
  2. A female main character who knows cars better than a lot of the male characters around her
  3. A character who struggles with anxiety
Basically, I thought all of these things could be handled really well and that I—someone who can appreciate a nice car though I admit ignorance on the mechanics, and who deals with anxiety especially in situations that call attention to me—would come out of it feeling satisfied. I also liked Pushing the Limits and liked Dare You To even more. I was looking forward to the guys in this series finally having to acknowledge that girls should be respected not because they are ~girls~ but because they are people.

Unfortunately, there was just too much of the same-old-same-old in this book. When the girls did get respect from guys, it was because of their ladyparts (like, even when a total buttmunch was impressed with Rachel's car knowledge, it was more of a "that makes her different and hot" thing than a "wow let me talk to her about cars because we have a common interest" thing). The main characters were clichés, and frustrating ones at that, and the secondary characters caught my attention far more. I don't think that's how it's supposed to work.

All I'm going to remember about this book is how uncomfortable it made me feel—uncomfortable with the way girls are viewed in the book, uncomfortable with how horrible the parents are, uncomfortable with how all of the cars are apparently female (because they're objects?) but none of them have names, and of course, uncomfortable with the fact that the book mentions a Chevy Comet.

There is no such thing as a Chevy Comet

Mostly, I didn't quite buy Isaiah and Rachel's relationship as much as I bought Echo and Noah's or Ryan and Beth's. Isaiah becomes obsessed with her pretty much the moment he sees her, deciding that she's an angel because of the way she looks. Of course, Rachel fulfills this expectation: never had a boyfriend, never been kissed, never done anything her parents or her brothers didn't want her to do, until now. Isaiah was looking for an angel, and Rachel was looking for trouble-but-not-really-trouble, which is exactly what Isaiah is. He looks like trouble; everyone thinks he's trouble, but he's not. How convenient.

To be honest, Isaiah really bothered me—which is probably sacrilege to say because he seems to be everyone's favorite Katie McGarry guy, but I don't care. I do not like the way he talks about girls (I felt this way with Noah, too). I do not like the way he gives the impression that girls are delicate flowers to be protected, but then turns around and tells Rachel she is strong. It felt like he was just telling her what she wanted to hear. I do not like the frequency with which he casually uses the word "bitch" in regard to women who are only trying to help him. I do not like the possessive terms he uses when he's talking about Rachel, "my angel," "my girl," or when he's talking about Echo, "Noah's girl." I understand that some girls don't mind this, that they might even find it attractive, but the idea of having possession over another human is something that my mind rejects completely. Granted, I know Isaiah doesn't actually think he owns Rachel and he doesn't, like, treat her as if she's currency, but he does occasionally try to control her under the guise of "protecting" her, and that's just way too Edward Cullen for me. He rarely lets her speak for herself around other guys, instead choosing to hold her hand and stand in front of her like she's a shy child.

As for Rachel, she was a cliché too. The quiet sister of four overprotective brothers who won't listen to her even when she does manage to open her mouth for once. The girl who is into cars but hides it because her super-girly mom doesn't like it. The girl who thinks her purpose is to please other people, so she makes herself sick on a regular basis trying to do so. The girl who doesn't want to be viewed as weak but somehow doesn't realize that she's doing that exact thing to herself and another person—seeing her mother as too weak to handle the truth. And don't even get me started on the hypocrite brothers, who screw up their own lives so badly but expect Rachel to be perfect. I don't understand how they could be so protective of her and then be one of the main causes of her pain, acting like they love her too much to let anything happen to her but then insisting that she keep quiet about her panic attacks. Ethan, with his "I'll only cover for you if you're really just driving, but I expect you to cover for me even though I've never once told you where I go when you do." Just. Ugh.

The only characters I really liked in this book were Logan and Abby. Not knowing who Take Me On was about, I was seriously hoping it would be one (or both) of them. But it's not. It's about one of the hypocrite brothers, and I'm so not interested. Crash Into Me was too long as it is, I don't need to put myself through another one.

Three stars because it was a decent book if you can get past the total lack of gender-role destruction that I expected.

Monday, September 1, 2014

In defense of If I Stay

Sometimes, I really like BuzzFeed and the fact that it doesn't feel like it's written by professionals or media experts.
Sometimes, I don't.
This post, unfortunately, is because of the latter.

Apparently, this compilation of hateful misinterpretations appeared on BuzzFeed the day the If I Stay movie came out, claiming to be a list of reasons why If I Stay is upsetting "for all the wrong reasons." It is not what it claims to be.

This is a list of reasons why the author of this particular list did not like the movie. Period. That is all it is. And because this is the book that got me into YA literature and therefore I'm super protective of it, I am now going to go through the entire list and tell you why the list is a flagrant disregard for the actual things the movie— but more importantly, the book— is about.

So. Here we go.

  1. "If I Stay is no The Fault in Our Stars." Okay, then. Right off the bat we're making a comparison that is not being asked to be made, does not need to be made, and frankly should not be made. If I Stay is not trying to be The Fault in Our Stars, and saying that it is is like saying that the Chronicles of Narnia are trying to be Harry Potter. Gayle Forman's book came out three years before John Green's book did, and frankly this whole trend of determining one YA book's or movie's value by comparing it to another one is not doing anything for anyone. These two books are not about the same thing, they don't have the same tone or the same characters or the same questions or the same answers. The only thing they have in common is their genre: contemporary YA. By comparing them, you're saying that all contemporary YA novels and movies are derivative and in competition with each other, which they are not.
  2. "If I Stay is an effort to capitalize on the same audience as TFiOS." Um, so basically this "second" point of yours is the same thing as the first, only now you're affronted by the fact that the movie studio wants you to see this movie if you liked TFiOS. Here's the thing: they also want you to see it if you didn't like TFiOS. They want you to see it if you didn't even see TFiOS. You also seem upset by the fact that the movie wants you to cry, but didn't pack enough punch for you as "OK? OK," or whatever.  [By the way, it's not "OK"; it's OKAY. Get it straight.] But you know what? That's a subjective opinion. I don't give a monkey's toenail about "Okay? Okay," but I sure as hell got all sore-throat trying-and-failing-not-to-cry over "You still have a family, Mia." You're angry that the movie didn't have the same effect for you that TFiOS had, fine. But that's your fault, because you went in with the wrong expectations. Maybe you should have read the book first.
  3. "If I Stay's romance is shaped by a particular kind of wish fulfillment" Aren't all romances,

    fictional or not? Because that's what romance is: wish fulfillment. If the person you're with isn't fulfilling your wishes, why would you be with them? If you're attracted to someone, or have chemistry with someone, or are in love with someone, it's all wish fulfillment. If they're not who you want or need them to be, the romance is not there. It does not exist. What you have instead is tension. Tension between the characters who realize that something isn't working— which is what happens when Mia might be leaving Adam to go to Juilliard. He doesn't get mad at her because she might be moving; he gets mad at her because she lied to him about it. She didn't tell him, and it's something that affects his life too. They're supposed to be in this together, and she completely shut him out. So yeah, he acts like a jerk for a second. He's a teenager. First you complain about wish fulfillment and then you complain when Adam has a realistic reaction to something that upset him. He is not Augustus Waters; his moment of weakness was never going to be the part where he sits in a gas station parking lot in the middle of the night, crying because he couldn't do one simple thing for himself. If I Stay is more about relationships than people; sure, all of the characters have their own crap that they're dealing with (I, for one, loved that they gave Adam more family backstory in the movie), but the central focus when it comes to Adam is that he and Mia are in love with each other but it might not work out anyway. It's about how inconvenient it is to fall in love and stay that way when you're 17 years old and your dreams are taking you in different directions. Functionally, their relationship could not be perfect all the time. It wouldn't have made sense. Mia had to deal with this whether or not there was a life-or-death scenario involved— Adam even says it, in both the movie and the book, when he realizes that if Mia gets into Juilliard, her decision is already made. She has to go. The issue is wrestled with completely separately from the ramifications of the car accident; Adam came to terms with the possibility of a long-distance relationship, even if he wasn't happy about it, long before he learned that Mia was in the hospital.
  4. "Mia's mom and dad, unexpectedly, turn out to be the most charming part of the movie." Yeah, so? I think your complaint here is that the "Family Ties element" of their relationship with Mia "gets funneled into Mia's constant feelings of self-doubt." I keep trying to make sense of that so-called sentence, honestly I do, but it seems to be mostly just words arranged in what you think is an appealing way. Mia's relationship with her parents is fantastic; that's the whole point of the whole book. She feels insecure because she's not like them and she wishes she were— but that doesn't mean she thinks they don't love her. In no way does her self-doubt overshadow her relationship with her parents or make it less important, because if it did that, there would be no story. Her parents encouraged her to go out with Adam not because they liked him and wanted him to be their new son, but because they could see that Mia liked him, and they didn't want her to be afraid of him. "She shouldn't be afraid to hang out with those guys; they're us," her mom said. They simply pointed out that Mia had been hanging out with people like Adam her entire life.
  5. "And why is Mia so plagued with doubts?" You know what? This paragraph doesn't deserve a response. All this paragraph does is complain about the female protagonist and how passive and boring she is, never mind the source material. Never mind that the character herself is actually witty and talented and loyal and fighting for her life. How dare Mia be insecure, even though you've just listed every single thing that's wrong with her? How dare she agree with you about herself? But I'm sure that if she were less "passive" (you know, while she's IN A COMA) and had more confidence, the problem would be that she was too unrelatable like Katniss or too headstrong like Clary or too annoying like every other female character ever. I'm done.
  6. Blah blah blah death is not a choice blah blah milquetoast blah blah why does she need encouragement to live when the most important people in her life are dead? I'm rolling my eyes so hard right now. We get it. You hate Mia. You hate the idea that people can choose whether they live or die— which, just to be clear, is an idea that the book refutes, understanding that people like Mia's parents would never have chosen death— and you hate that someone with such a good life still ahead of her would consider giving up. But those are your opinions, not incontrovertible facts. The book is written in first-person for a reason: it puts us in Mia's shoes. We see everything from her perspective, and we know why she might choose to go. She's unsure about whether her relationship with Adam will last; she doesn't know yet if she got into Juilliard; and her family, her main source of encouragement and love, is suddenly gone, ripped out of her life so suddenly and heartbreakingly. They've always been the ones helping her decide what to do, because that was their job and they were good at it, and they're not around anymore. She doesn't know what life looks like without them and she isn't sure she wants to. So yeah, she needs to be encouraged to live. I would too.
  7. "If I Stay turns out to be the ultimate they'll-miss-me-when-I'm-gone fantasy." No?????? It
    doesn't??????? This story is not about Mia sitting around and watching everyone cry over her while she laughs maniacally from beside her comatose body. It's not about her self-pity and it's definitely not about spite— she has no one to spite. Not once in the entire movie (or book) is she happy to see these people crying and pleading with her to live, telling her how much they need her. The story is about how much she needs them. Adam didn't "run frantically back to her side, apologizing for being a jerk." He apologized to her, as I said before, long before she was in a hospital bed, and he ran frantically back to her side because he wanted to see her. I'm sorry you don't understand how love works, but Adam didn't promise to move to New York because he wanted Mia to open her eyes; he promised because he wanted her to know she had a future. The car accident that killed Mia's family did not win her anything, and how dare you imply that it did. Yes, the movie makes it seem like she won the fight with Adam, but she didn't. She didn't even stay for Adam. Aside from the fact that (spoiler) they break up after the first book/movie ends, the fight was never about whether Adam would come to live with Mia in New York. It was about whether their relationship could survive their divergent paths. That fight doesn't end just by virtue of their living in the same city.
All of this is not to say that I didn't have problems with the If I Stay movie, especially when it comes to the things they changed from the books. Adam was not supposed to promise to come with Mia, he was supposed to promise to let her go. That was important to me. But these problems that supposedly make it upsetting for the "wrong reasons"? Judgmental, subjective, and wrong.

Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Review: The Murder Complex by Lindsay Cummings


The first half of this book was great. It was the kind of great where I had no idea what was going on, but I was interested in finding out. In the battle between questions and answers, questions were dominating. But I was ready for answers to rebound, thinking they'd lose the battle but win the war. I was on board with the no-prisoners-taking heroine and the strong, weeping hero.

And then I started wondering if I was actually going to get any answers.
And then the questions kept winning battles, because when the answers came to fight, they weren't armed with explanations.

I think there is a particular brand of science fiction that I just don't get along with very well. It's the kind that makes good science evil, and lets it take over the entire story. When all of the background information and even the character histories revolve around the futuristic science of the book, I can't deal. I need more than that. I need characters to be people and have relationships, not just experiments whose relationships are defined by their world. I need subtlety and complexity built into every character, in the ways they act and react, in the way they treat others and how they communicate, and in the way they see the world. I need to know without a doubt that in a given situation, this character would not do anything differently. I need a string of affection or hatred or some powerful connective emotion to attach me to a character. 

These characters have the strings, ready to tie themselves to me, but they never quite got around to the tying.

As for the plot... well. This book was so bloody and action-packed it's almost like nothing else mattered. Aptly, people drop like flies in The Murder Complex, and our heroine is so busy cracking necks and thrusting (not shooting!) arrows through eyeballs that I think she's trying to distract us from the scatterbrained plot and the fact that all but one of her relationships are one-dimensional and boring. When I wasn't asking myself, "What the flux is going on?" I was asking myself, "And I'm supposed to care about this... why?" Absolutely nothing about this book was subtle. There were no undertones, no characters worming their way into my heart, it was just. constant. ACTION. At one point I was exhausted for Meadow, when I figured it was finally time for her to rest and suddenly her father* wanted to do some training. What did she do? She kept going. Kudos to you, Meadow, but I'm human, and I'm a fan of sleeping after I've been running and fighting and killing all day-- no, all week. 

Basically, there wasn't anything about this book that didn't keep me interested. It was just that there also wasn't anything that kept me caring. It was all action and science and bad guys, and not a whole lot of human moments. And the human moments are kind of why I read in the first place.

*her relationship with her father is the one I mentioned that is not one-dimensional or boring. Her judgment is so clouded that she thinks he doesn't love her because he's always only cared about training her-- but she slowly comes to realize, why does he train her so hard? Because he needs her to survive. Because he can't lose her. He doesn't show affection because he thinks it toughens her up. Brilliant.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

Review: The Secrets of Lily Graves

This cover is aesthetically displeasing on many levels, the most important of which being IT HURTS MY EYES.
Source: HarperCollins
Format: print galley
Pub date: May 13, 2014

Summary from Goodreads (I've taken the liberty of crossing out the parts that are actually not relevant to the book at all): 
Growing up in a house of female morticians, Lily Graves knows all about buried secrets. She knows that perfect senior-class president Erin Donohue isn’t what she seems [although this has nothing to do with having grown up in a house of female morticians]. She knows why Erin’s ex-boyfriend, hot football player Matt Houser, broke up with her [again, said knowledge not related to the house of morticians]. And she also knows that, even though she says she and Matt are just friends, there is something brewing between them—something Erin definitely did not like.
But secrets, even ones that are long buried, have a way of returning to haunt their keeper.
So when Erin is found dead the day after attacking Lily in a jealous rage, Lily's and Matt’s safe little lives, and the lives of everyone in their town of Potsdam, begin to unravel [kind of]. And their relationship—which grew from innocent after-school tutoring sessions to late-night clandestine rendezvous—makes them both suspects.
As her world crumbles around her [becomes less normal], Lily must figure out the difference between truth and deception, genuine love and a web of lies. And she must do it quickly, before the killer claims another victim [wow, what a horrible way to end a synopsis. It's too bad nobody's actually that concerned about the killer claiming another victim].
I was both pleasantly and unpleasantly surprised by The Secrets of Lily Graves, and I'm trying to figure out how I can be both. Pleasantly, because it was a quick read, had funny moments, and focused on a somewhat unconventional characters: the protagonist, Lily, lives and works in her family's funeral home, and her best friend has a physical deformity that does not define her. Unpleasantly, because the romance was told, not shown, and frankly the ending just sucked. If this book was Friday Night Lights (which is another issue I had, I'll get to that in a second), the ending was season 2.

I really liked Lily as a character, and her family was great in that it kind of reminded me of Blue's family in The Raven Cycle. Just a bunch of women with a weird job, living in a house together and hoping but not really believing they have any kind of control over the teenager in the house. Perfect Bob was cool too. The high school drama was a bit cliché, what with the popular crowd hating Lily because she's different and ohmygod she hangs out with (TUTORS) the Queen Bee's boyfriend, but if I'm going to start deducting points based on high school clichés, I've got a lot of backtracking to do.

My main problems with the book were these:

  • It's stupid, but I really couldn't get past the Friday Night Lights thing. You know, the thing where the author was like, "Yeah, I'll make the main character's love interest a quarterback! Why not name him Matt and give him the number 7? Oh, and the football team should be the Panthers!" Because honestly, I don't like being forced to compare new characters to Matt Saracen. It's not fair to them, putting them in a battle they can never win.
  • Neither investigation— Lily's nor the police's— worked for me. Lily was always jumping to conclusions without really explaining her logic, because she didn't really have logic for a lot of them, and she would stick with those conclusions for an annoyingly long time and then change her mind so suddenly I felt whiplashed. The police were just idiots most of the time. Lily was right when she said the killer was laughing at them for spending so much time on her and Matt, because they had no evidence to use against Matt. 
  • The romance. Sorry, but a few flashbacks to friendly moments between Matt and Lily, the casual mentioning of the times they almost crossed a line, and Matt's sudden availability when Erin dies a day after he broke up with her do not add up to a believable love story, if you ask me. I would've liked to have seen those moments, so I didn't have to question their devotion to each other.
  • The end. Basically, it ruined the one well-developed relationship Lily had, and inserted a weird melodramatic plot element that was resolved in a glossed-over manner in the epilogue. Don't get me wrong, finding out who killed Erin was a super twist and I fully support that part, but I felt like it could have been done without taking this one relationship down with it. And the whole thing where the last chapter is like, "So-and-so was shot! So-and-so is dead!" and the epilogue is like, "We reached So-and-so in time so it was NBD"? Naaaaaaah. Nope. I could cross out that entire part and it would not make any difference whatsoever.
Other than alllllll of that, though, it was enjoyable. The humor was seriously dark sometimes, which I loved, and it's well paced and all that jazz.
Yeah, that's all I've got.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

What we talk about when we talk about Logan Echolls

Yesterday I saw a post in defense of Piz that started with "I can't believe I even have to write this post." Well, I'm going to have to steal that sentiment, because I genuinely cannot believe I am sitting down to write this post right now. In defense of Logan Echolls.
Not because I can't believe I'm defending him, but because I can't believe the negativity toward and the dismissal of his character that's been surrounding the release of the Veronica Mars movie. Some people really need to watch the show again and remember just what a fantastic character he is.

Yeah, she used to accuse him of a lot
of evil. And she was wrong.
I've been flip-flopping between making this a post about Logan specifically and making it a post about the "bad boy" in general, but I've decided Logan needs me more than the bad boys do. Because he is not one of them. Logan Echolls was originally created as the "obligatory psychotic jackass" of Neptune High-- it would have been fine to dismiss that Logan as the bad boy and continue rooting for whatever other boys (boring as Duncan or unfitting as Piz) were vying for Veronica's heart. 

But the Logan Veronica Mars knows? Is not that Logan. The writers gave him a chance because there was more to him than that-- there's more to anyone than the high school TV show tropes like "bad boy"-- and what we learned was that this boy has deeps.
I'm not talking baggage, or issues, or whatever other negatively-connoted words you're drumming up right now.
I'm talking deeps.
It's not okay to dismiss him anymore, and I won't stand for it. If you like Piz and you're ticked that he and Veronica broke up, fine, whatever, I probably can't help you. But if you're ticked that Veronica ended up with Logan, of all people, then pull up a chair because you need some counseling and I'm here to help.

Here's the thing: Piz and Logan are not polar opposites. They're actually very similar, if you think about it. Sarcastic, witty, kindhearted--
"But! Logan is not kind!"
Sit down and shut up for a second. Yes he is. He really, really is.
Not to defend Psychotic Jackass Logan of Pilot fame, but that was a shell of a character who made fun of Veronica as part of their rapport. Toward the middle of the season we learn some new things about him: he truly loved Lilly Kane, his girlfriend who was murdered, he feels like he's losing his best friend Duncan, and oh! His famous father, who's adored by the public, abuses him and probably his mother behind closed doors. If you can't find sympathy for this boy, how can you find sympathy for Piz, who makes fun of Veronica before he meets her and then magically changes his mind once he sees that she's pretty?  Honestly, that's just gross. And then he goes on to pursue her even though she clearly has a boyfriend and is not interested in her best friend's roommate.
Now, back to the kindness thing. I am so unbelievably tired of this attitude that dictates "Piz is the one who will take care of her and be nice to her" and Logan is some kind of selfish, uncaring beast who's too wrapped up in his own baggage to lend any kindness to anyone else. If people don't stop acting like Logan is just going to drag Veronica down, I'm going to go postal. In case you have forgotten, Logan and Veronica take care of each other. He isn't disrespectful to her friends or her father (he saves Keith's life more than once because he is an HONORABLE DUDE who VALUES HUMAN LIFE and KNOWS THAT KEITH IS IMPORTANT)-- they may not be close, the way Piz is with them, but that is not a requirement for a healthy relationship. Veronica knows she can count on Logan when it really matters, and he shows her 
a side of him that he doesn't show anyone else. I was just reading the "look inside" of the first VM book on Amazon and there are two parts that sum up my point pretty handily (as does this video featuring Jason Dohring, Kristen Bell and Rob Thomas-- though Rob's point is more anecdotal than useful):
The moments they'd spent together before he'd shipped out on his latest naval tour had been the most peaceful she could remember-- even with her anxiety about her dad. It'd been the first time she'd felt complete in a long time. 
Logan had seen through her; that was one of the reasons she loved him. He could tell her things she couldn't bear to tell herself sometimes.
What's that? The most peaceful she could remember? But wait! Piz was supposed to be the one who brought her peace and completion! *eyerolls hard*
She lets herself be vulnerable with him because she knows he's there for her, and vice versa (see: the plot summary of the movie). That's not something she can say for anyone else except Keith. Sure, Logan might throw punches first and ask questions later when it comes to someone hurting Veronica, but as an argument against him? That's just not going to cut it. Veronica can handle it. At this point you're just rooting against him because you'd rather root for the underdog.

Now, what about how he treats anyone else? Surely he has been stereotyped as a bad boy for a reason! He must have done something to earn this rep!
"I don't like him because he doesn't think before he acts and he has no self-preservational skills!"
Please. It's not not-thinking-before-he-acts as much as it is acting on instinct, and his instincts are usually right. The one time they weren't, he apologized and felt plenty of remorse, so don't paint him as some kind of sociopath who's going to end up in jail, regret free.
"But there was that one time he purposely got himself thrown in jail so he could punch people!"
Yeah, and who did that hurt? A rapist and his coconspirator. Now obviously Piz would never have done that, but the difference between Logan and Piz is that one had a traumatic childhood and the other did not. Logan's worldview might be a little skewed; he might have anger issues and a depressive personality, especially as a teenager-- and, wow, a teenager who makes mistakes, that NEVER HAPPENS-- but it's not his fault. And he's not going to completely overcome it at nineteen years old.

"You're not a killer, Veronica."
The fact is that Logan has never, ever been automatically cruel to someone who didn't deserve it*. Cruel is not his default setting. He is sarcastic, yes, and frequently impolite, yes, but neither of those qualities hurt anyone. Even after he sees Beaver (his NAME is CASSIDY!) nearly kill Veronica, and learns that he raped her, he doesn't push him off the roof; in fact, he tells him not to jump. He wants to help him, at least until the very moment he realizes that he can't. Logan Echolls does not give up on people until he is absolutely sure that he's defeated. He didn't give up on his mom, Beaver, Duncan, Dick (whose lasting friendship just proves that Logan gave him more of a chance than anyone else ever did, that Logan saw the good in him when no one else could), Hannah, Parker (who gave up on him), or Carrie, and he certainly never gave up on Veronica.
"But he did give up on her, and then he wallowed in pathetic self-pity for a really long time!"
This is Veronica's "Logan just punched
someone for me and I liked it" face.
He gave up on being with her because he realized that this time, he had done something unforgivable in her eyes. The wallowing in self-pity was his way of punishing himself for that, because Veronica was the one person who had ever shown faith in Logan and stuck around, and now she was throwing in the towel. He was feeling pretty worthless at that point; the only person who wanted him around was Dick Casablancas, whose primary concern was getting Logan back on his feet not because he cared about Logan's feelings, but because he wanted to go surf and pick up girls. This entire Logan-is-brooding-because-he's-sad-Veronica-dumped-him thing lasted for ONE EPISODE. I'm not sure how much shorter it could have been and still expressed everything he was going through emotionally. After he finally left his apartment and became a person again, he continued to be there for Veronica when he thought she needed him. So yeah, he gave up on a relationship with her because he was respecting her wishes and giving her space. But he did not give up on Veronica.

Who did give up on Veronica-- twice? Well.
Now, before you Piz fans get your panties in a bunch, I'm not suggesting that Piz should have kept pursuing Veronica when he realized she clearly wasn't into it enough. But he could have stayed a part of her life. He could have kept being there for her in some way, and he didn't-- he bailed, both times. It was all-or-nothing for him in a way that it never was with Logan, and ultimately proved that they weren't capable of being friends if they weren't also a couple. Even when Logan and Veronica broke up several times, he always stuck around-- when they didn't speak for nine years it was because she went away, and he was still respecting her space (and getting his life together in the meantime).
And not only that, but that's the difference between her relationship with Piz and her relationship with Logan: there was never a time, with Logan, when the problem was that she wasn't into it enough. Their problem was that they worried about each other too much; Veronica wanted Logan to be more stable for her and for himself, and Logan wanted Veronica to stop getting herself into situations that could hurt her. Their problem was that, at the time, neither of them could change who they were. So they needed time apart. I am not denying that they weren't exactly right for each other back then. This is a post about Logan, not their relationship, and Logan always had the potential to be right for Veronica. They both just needed to grow up.

Now, watch the movie and tell me that Logan Echolls has not grown up. (Also, read this post.) Of course, he's still the same half-serious-half-joking person who Veronica fell in love with, but he's proven himself capable of being a stabilizing force in someone's life too. That was literally all she wanted from him. And she's done believing him capable of the horrible things everyone else still accuses him of, because she knows him, and she's matured enough to get past her own trust issues. As for his issues about Veronica putting
Knows better than to accuse him
of evil now. TRUSTS HIM.
herself in danger, it seems he's changed his stance on that, too. He's come to realize that a P.I. is who Veronica is, it's who he fell in love with, and danger comes with the territory. The danger is still not going to be okay, but he wants her to be herself, whatever that entails. (see: when Veronica comes out wearing her real clothes instead of her new!Veronica clothes, and he says, "You should only wear this." He recognizes this Veronica as the right Veronica, and he's telling her to be that.)
Piz, on the other hand, was perfectly happy with a Veronica who was not herself-- and when that version of her went away and was replaced by the real one, he let her go. He had been holding on to an idea of her that was never a reality. The whole point of the movie was to show us that she thought she had changed, she thought she could be this lawyer and that leaving her P.I. life in Neptune was an "escape," but she hasn't changed and it wasn't an escape. It was a cheap replacement for the thing that made her truly happy.
Hence, Veronica's addiction-referencing voiceover that purposely confuses us: is she talking about private investigation, or Logan? The answer, obviously, is both. They're both what makes her happy, and she's spent enough time away with her cheap replacement (sorry, Piz) to recognize the real thing when she goes back. This, the place where she can be the self she wants and needs to be, is where she belongs-- with the person who wants and needs her to be that self too.
And as for the whole Logan-is-trapping-Veronica-in-Neptune argument? Please. See above. You seriously don't get it if you think that is what's happening; this is Veronica's escape. She's unleashing herself. 


*by 'automatically cruel' I mean without prior knowledge of this person or a belief that they have done something wrong