What’s that?  Another new feature this week?

Killing the TBR is my way of holding myself accountable for books I’ve purchased but haven’t read.

Each month, I’m going to pick three books that I’ve had for longer than a year, but haven’t yet read.  I’ll need to finish these books within 30 days, or no buying new books that following month.

This month, my picks are the His Dark Materials series by Philip Pullman.  I have literally owned these books since I was in high school (I graduated over seven years ago), and I’ve still never read them.  They also tie in to the Banned Books Week feature that I’m planning, so there’s no time like the present to finish them.

I have until October 17, 2015 to finish.

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Victoria Darling dreams of becoming a world-renowned artist.  Sent to France by her parents to attend a fancy finishing school, she secretly paints with an all-male atelier.  One day, their nude model doesn’t show, and Vicky volunteers to pose for her classmates.  Word of this reaches her parents back in England, and she’s whisked home amid the scandal.  The only way to salvage her reputation, and that of her family, is a quick marriage to the son of a wealthy businessman.  But Vicky’s not worried about reputation; she concerns herself only with furthering her art career.

So, the first thing I have to mention?

VICKY IS THE WORST.

Does she care that she might singlehandedly dismantle her father’s career? Not really.

Does she see her future husband as anything more than a bank account? Nope.

Does she consider cheating on said future husband with her muse? Absolutely.

She falls into the company of some suffragettes, but does she think of them as anything more than a possible art school recommendation?  What do you think?

There are flawed characters, there are charmingly imperfect characters, and then there is Vicky, who is the literal worst.

For a girl of her social class in this time period (1909), and with all the education she received, you may think that Vicky would understand societal pressures.  She might understand that she’s literally ruining her father’s career with her shenanigans.  But she doesn’t seem to understand that.  She rebels for the sake of rebelling.  For the time period, she had a lot of freedom, but she’s not satisfied.  She won’t take no for an answer, and ends up making stupid mistake after stupid mistake.  Throughout most of the book, I just wanted to grab her by the shoulders and tell her how much worse she was making things for herself.  You can be an artist, Vicky!  Just stop being dumb about it!

Vicky finds herself intrigued by the women’s suffrage movement, but, of course, not because she believes in it.  Not really.  No, it’s because there are famous artists affiliated with the movement, and she thinks that if she can get her artwork in their promotional materials, if she can get her artwork up on the murals, if she can get one of those artists to write a recommendation for her… maybe she can get into art school.  That’s it.  That’s her motivation.  Because Vicky is the literal worst.

Through the women’s suffrage movement, she meets Will, a gorgeous policeman who agrees to pose for her art school portfolio.  Will obviously falls for Vicky, who consistently fails to mention that she’s engaged, and even brings Will to her future home because it has good light for painting, or something like that.  Did I prefer Will over her actual fiance?  Yes, of course.  Her fiance spends most of the book drunk or gambling, or discussing being drunk or gambling.  But did I think she was being fair to either one of them?  No.

Vicky seems to find no issue with using people for whatever she needs.  She uses the suffragettes to further her application to art school.  She uses Will as inspiration for her paintings.  She uses Edmund, her fiance, because his fortune will pay for her admission to art school.  I can’t think of one honest relationship Vicky has in this book.  She even uses her brother, her best friend, and her lady’s maid.  It’s awful.

The book is entertaining, and I read through it pretty quickly.  But it’s also infuriating, because I wanted so badly to find some redeeming quality in Victoria, and there was just nothing there.

I’ll file this one under main characters I just didn’t click with.

Final rating: ★★☆☆☆

Today’s Top Ten Tuesday is a freebie, so I thought I would go with one that I missed posting a couple weeks ago: ten characters you just didn’t click with.

I can usually find something redeeming in most characters.  Even if they’re awful, at least we know why.  But sometimes, the character just falls flat.  Or they’re terrible for no reason.  Sometimes they devolve over the course of a series.  There are a lot of reasons not to like a character.

Here are ten characters that immediately came to mind:

  1. Ani FaNelli from Luckiest Girl Alive: You know how, in Gone Girl, you can understand why Amy is so angry about her life and so done with her husband?  Yeah, Ani has all that negative energy, but it comes off as really petty.  Like, she’s taking her horrible high school experience out on her fiance, who has literally nothing to do with it.  And she wants to make her high school classmates “pay” like ten years later, when really 99% of her problems in high school were her own fault, so her whole character just doesn’t work.
  2. Aislinn from Wicked Lovely: How do I even begin to explain my problems with Aislinn?  Her grandmother consistently warns her to be careful.  She is not.  Bad things happen.  She strings along her best friend.  She strings along the faery who falls for her.  And, aside from that, she really just… exists.  There’s nothing special about her.  No spark.  I just couldn’t find any way to connect to her.
  3. Victoria Darling from A Mad, Wicked Folly: Oh, Vicky.  You think you’re so special, but you’re so annoying.  I get it, you’re an artist, and you’re so creative, and you just can’t be held back.  But that doesn’t mean that you can use people, literally every person you meet, for your own purposes, completely disregarding their feelings.  Come on, Vicky.  You’re better than that.
  4. Mia Wentworth from Falling Fast: Mia is one of those characters that I think you’re supposed to pity.  She was hurt in a car accident.  Separated from the love of her life.  Kept under lock and key by her controlling parents.  Her beloved grandmother died, leaving her alone.  This is all very sad, but most of Mia’s problems stem from her overprotective parents, and she is an adult.  She can tell them to leave her alone, to let her live her own life.  She just doesn’t.
  5. Logan Montgomery from Big Girl Panties: A big name personal trainer falls for an overweight widow, and then spends the entire course of the book trying to make her lose weight so she’ll look like she belongs with him.  No thanks.
  6. Ruby Rose from the Ruby Rose series: Granted, I’ve only read the first book, but Ruby is a disaster.  I think she’s supposed to be a Veronica Mars-type character, but she’s just so dumb that I could barely keep reading.
  7. Tris Prior in Insurgent: Tris is pretty cool in Divergent, but I could not connect with her in Insurgent.  She went from being a strong, powerful, intelligent leading character to an emotional, whiny, unreliable teenager who purposely lies and deceives for no good reason.
  8. Tobias Eaton in Allegiant: Much like Tris, Tobias also devolves as a character throughout the course of the series.  At the beginning of the series, he’s this cool, tough guy with a hidden heart of gold.  In Allegiant, he is no longer the strong leader from Divergent.  Now he’s this stupid, easily manipulated, petty, jealous teenager.
  9. Kestrel from The Winner’s Curse: Please don’t sell me a book with the promise of a strong, feisty heroine when what you’re actually giving me is a spoiled brat who flails around at the slightest hint of trouble.  I might have liked Kestrel more if I didn’t have preconceived notions of what she would be like.
  10. Frenchie Garcia from Death, Dickinson, and the Demented Life of Frenchie Garcia: Frenchie is one of those characters that’s supposed to be like, really intriguing and interesting and edgy, but she comes across as really mean, and I was entirely unsympathetic to her.  I thought I would really like her character, but I could not get on the same page.

Tell me: What characters have you had trouble connecting with?  Do you agree or disagree with my picks?

Happy Grandparents Day!  I feel like we don’t often see grandparents in YA, but there are two books in recent memory with pretty awesome ones.

First, Wicked Lovely, a book I actually didn’t much care for, did feature a really supportive grandmother who only wanted what was best for the MC.

Second, in What I Thought Was True, Grandpa Ben looks out for Gwen, supports her best interests, tries to protect her, but cheers on her relationship, too.

Have any literary grandparents stood out to you recently?

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I am a huge fan of Huntley Fitzpatrick’s. I read My Life Next Door a couple years ago, and What I Thought Was True earlier this year. I loved both. I was eagerly anticipating the release of The Boy Most Likely To (even had the date circled on my calendar), but I just didn’t love it as much as I loved her other two books.

We first met Tim in My Life Next Door as the twin brother of Sam’s best friend. Alice is Jase’s older sister. You might remember Tim from MLND as a hot mess, but after being kicked out of school, and out of his home, Tim is getting his life back on track in TBMLT. Newly sober, Tim moves in with the Garretts, where he promptly butts heads with Alice, who has taken on the role of parent after her father’s accident and her mother’s recent pregnancy. Another person to look out for – just what Alice absolutely didn’t need. But soon, Tim and Alice develop a sort of friendship, and then a relationship, and maybe it turns out that they balance each other out pretty perfectly.

I’ve seen a lot of people try to review this book without spoilers, but seeing how there’s a curveball in the first few chapters, it’s pretty much impossible. I’m going to put my review under a read more.

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Let me start by saying this: I love babies. I will babysit your infant any day. I will sew cute bibs for you, spend endless hours shopping for baby clothes, and ooh and ahh about your pictures and videos. But that does not mean that I want babies in my YA.

Let’s face it. There’s very little that “the unexpected consequences of Tim’s wild days” could mean, aside from a surprise baby. But still, I was not expecting the majority of this novel to focus on child rearing. Is this supposed to be a cautionary tale? Is there a lesson here? Or it is simply a plot device so that Tim is forced to grow up a little? I couldn’t tell.

As if Tim didn’t have enough going on in his life – trying to stay sober, to keep away from drugs, to get himself back on track – a baby is added to the mix. And, although he doesn’t remember sleeping with Hester, the baby’s mother, he immediately accepts that the child is his, without a paternity test. Father a child? Sounds like something I might do.

And this creates the main conflict of their relationship. Tim doesn’t feel that Hester is a good mother, so he takes on most of the responsibility of raising Cal. Alice has enough on her plate just dealing with her own siblings, so for her now sort of semi-boyfriend to add another child to the mix might just push her over the edge. Does she really want to become a surrogate mother to yet another child? Maybe she should rethink her budding relationship with this guy. Or… maybe she’ll just accept it, as almost everyone in this book does.

TBMLT doesn’t have a lot going on aside from the baby thing. Tim and Alice’s relationship builds very slowly, almost to the point that, when they finally get together, I was left thinking, where did that come from? I definitely got the sense that Tim had a thing for Alice, but I never really got the sense that Alice reciprocated. Sure, she learned to tolerate him, maybe even enjoy his company, but I didn’t get any of those firework feelings I got with Sam and Jase in MLND.

Some threads from MLND are carried through into this book. Sam and Jase, of course, make appearances. Sam’s fight with Nan is mentioned, though for the life of me, I can’t remember what it was about. The accident is brought up and becomes a semi-important side plot, mainly for Alice, but also a bit for Tim. And, as expected, the little Garretts appear and steal the show in their brief scenes. Patsy was my favorite, with her possessiveness toward Tim.

Overall, I think that TBMLT is definitely the weakest book I’ve read by Huntley Fitzpatrick. The baby thing did not have a satisfying end. The relationship did not have a satisfying build up. The dual-POV was jarring. There was too much angst. It’s still far better than a good amount of the books I’ve read so far this year, but it’s not up to the level that I expect from Fitzpatrick. Still, I definitely recommend it for any of her die-hard fans, because if nothing else, you’ll enjoy the throwbacks to her other novels.

Final rating: ★★★☆☆