Book Review: Silhouette of a Sparrow by Molly Beth Griffin

In the summer of 1926, sixteen-year-old Garnet Richardson is sent to a lake resort to escape the polio epidemic in the city. She dreams of indulging her passion for ornithology and visiting the famous new amusement park — a summer of fun before she returns for her final year of high school, after which she’s expected to marry a nice boy and settle into middle-class homemaking. But in the country, Garnet finds herself under the supervision of equally oppressive guardians — her father’s wealthy cousin and the matron’s stuck-up daughter. Only a liberating job in a hat shop, an intense, secret relationship with a daring and beautiful flapper, and a deep faith in her own fierce heart can save her from the suffocating boredom of traditional femininity.

Silhouette of a Sparrow is a coming-of-age story about a search for wildness in a confining time, and a simultaneous quest for security in an era full of unrest. It is the tale of a young woman’s discovery of the science of risk and the art of rebellion, and of course, the power of unexpected love.

This book is lovely. I know it may be terribly twee to use that word to describe a book, but honestly, it’s been a long time since I read a book that was this sweet and earnest.

It is only a very short read, though. It took me a few sessions because I wanted to savour it. Normally short books only leave me wanting more, and to be honest, this one did. I felt like it needed an extra 50 to 100 pages. All the drama towards the climax just seems far too neatly resolved, and it kind of made me raise my eyebrows at one point. It’s not particularly a rushed ending, but unfortunately the story does become victim to the short length of the book.

As much as I love Garnet, I sometimes felt there was a lack of tension too — we’re told a lot about how she’s terrified of having to go back to a boring life where she’s expected to marry her boyfriend and unable to indulge in her passion for biology by studying at a university, but not necessarily shown. Certain events in the book should leave her a bit shaken, especially towards the ending when it seems like all of her dreams have been dashed permanently, but it’s all kind of glossed over, unfortunately.

I absolutely love the romance between Grace and Isabella, though. It’s well done, and I’d definitely recommend this to people looking for MOGII and LGBTQ books. I know I found it on an LGBTQ book recommendation blog on Tumblr, and decided to buy it after falling in love with the blurb on Amazon.

I tend to run out of things to say about books I really like, such as this one, so this is going to be quite a short review. Needless to say, this was great but fell victim to its brief page count. Still, Molly Beth Griffin did manage to pack in some beautiful writing and believable character development, which is always a plus.

Verdict: 4/5.

Book Review: The Class Book of Baby Names by Katie Hopkins

Katie Hopkins believes a name is a short cut to understanding everything you need to know about a child and more importantly the parent standing behind it.

Take Ashley. Shut your eyes and picture mum: legging clad, slightly overweight and clutching Primark bags twice the size of her latest baby. There may be another one on the way, but you can never be sure.

There only so many times you can hear ‘TYLER’ yelled aggressively across a playground before you work out Tyler means trouble.

Katie Hopkins has created the Class Book of Baby Names as a response to requests for her to #ratemyname. There will be some candid thoughts on characters you recognise. You will also find inspiration for more intelligent sounding names to set your child on a path to greatness.

Amazon | GoodReads

To all budding writers of the world: I have a challenge for you.

Open up your word processor of choice. Put your finger over the keystroke for your favourite letter of the alphabet. Keep your finger held in place until you eventually hit 40-45 pages. Save, and put this document on Amazon for the criminal charge of £1.53. At least your book will be considered a postmodern work of art, and not the rantings of a smug, bellicose harridan who is desperately trying to cling to some modicum of cultural relevance, despite the general public growing tired of her schtick.

Scrolling through her Twitter feed, which is somehow less painful than this entire book, you’ll discover a few things about the esteemed author.

  • Katie Hopkins hates women who want maternity leave.
  • Katie Hopkins hates the idea of gender-specific prizes and shortlists.
  • Katie Hopkins hates working class women who are tasteless enough to name their child Tyler.
  • Katie Hopkins outright despises left-wingers.
  • Katie Hopkins hates working class people.
  • Katie Hopkins hates middle class people.
  • Katie Hopkins hates upper middle class people.
  • Katie Hopkins hates Muslims.
  • Katie Hopkins hates people who are overweight.

In fact, we could go on for hours. Katie Hopkins just seems to be a hate elemental. If we could harness the energy she puts into being vitriolic for the sake of TV ratings and column inches, we could illuminate our corner of western Europe like a supernova for years to come.

There’s a disclaimer to begin with, of course. Katie Hopkins insists that more politically correct people actually say exactly what she spews behind closed doors, and thus, are ‘closet Hopkins.’ I think she’s describing a different kind of creature altogether – the ‘closet Hopkins’ is actually some breed of hobgoblin that spouts xenophobic regurgitations whenever you open the cupboard under the sink. “Eastern European plumber. Ain’t right, support British trade,” it grumbles, glaring its hateful little eyes out from behind the waste food bin, and sticking its nose back into The Sun newspaper.

Also, there’s the fact that, unlike Hopkins, I was raised with basic human decency and taught at a very young age to not judge others, or be a nasty little bully.

You’ll learn in this book that judging little children by their names is perfectly de rigueur in Hopkins’ twisted view of the world. Little kids who had absolutely no say in what they were called. Little kids who, despite the chance that they could grow up to be very respectable and responsible working adults, will be turned away by Hopkins due to being saddled with a name like Wayne or Tanya.

Maybe Hopkins lives in a fantasy world where children are nameless until they acquire language skills and magically blurt out the one name that becomes theirs from that day forward. That’s perhaps the only way this could work, because unless little Kyle learns about changing one’s name by deed poll and gets legal aid to do just that, Hopkins is basically picking on a small child for something that is completely out of their control. If you don’t see how that’s wrong, please tell me how a 40 year old ‘television personality’ and ‘businesswoman’ sneering at some little kid’s name is somehow correct in your universe.

This book is, from what I can tell, a very lazy fabrication cobbled together by some rubbishy digital publishing house who made their interns scrawl through Hopkins’ timeline, back when she jumped on an opportunity to ‘rate names’ with a hashtag that provoked morbid curiosity at first, which soon turned into snobbery and the fact that Katie Hopkins’ brand of ‘comedy’ is about as funny as Jim Davidson at rock bottom trying to impersonate Dane Cook.

You see, as Hopkins tries to say, she doesn’t just make a snap judgement on the kids’ name when she pulls away her kids from the riff-raff they attend school with. (Which begs the question – if you hate state schools so much, why not home educate your children with a tutor, or send them off to an upper-crust private school?) She also judges based on the mother stood behind the child. If she’s wearing leggings at all, is a bit overweight, or perhaps looks like a hippie, Hopkins institutes a code red for her children to never play with that ruffian Tyler, or his friend Jayden.

Apparently, if my mother had named me Ruby like she originally intended, Hopkins would look down on her as a cursed vegan cyclist. Neither of my given names are in this book, which is rather amazing. You’d think that at least some effort would be put into a digital publication, rather than blithely printing the results of what Hopkins could reasonably respond to that one day on Twitter when #ratemyname was being bandied around. The introduction is less than one hundred words, and about the only thing the publishing house have really done that differentiates this book from a .pdf file of Hopkins’ timeline is added in a table of contents, and perhaps created the most half-assed book cover that has ever existed.

Reading this book is akin to having the Spanish tickler scraped across your frontal lobe. Hopkins’ vitriolic pigswill actually gets boring after a while, and almost totally predictable. Oh look, this name is a vaguely ‘common’. Yep, there’s some comment about fat mothers. Oh, this name is vaguely exotic or hippie-sounding. Yes, the mother probably has ‘hygiene issues,’ according to Hopkins. Yawn.

1/5

Book Review: Halo by Alexandra Adornetto

An angel is sent to Earth on a mission.

But falling in love is not part of the plan.

Three angels – Gabriel, the warrior; Ivy, the healer; and Bethany, the youngest and most human – are sent by Heaven to bring good to a world falling under the influence of darkness. They work hard to conceal their luminous glow, superhuman powers, and, most dangerous of all, their wings, all the while avoiding all human attachments.

Then Bethany meets Xavier Woods, and neither of them is able to resist the attraction between them. Gabriel and Ivy do everything in their power to intervene, but the bond between Xavier and Bethany seems too strong.

The angel’s mission is urgent, and dark forces are threatening. Will love ruin Bethany or save her?

Amazon | GoodReads | The Book Depository

There was a time in my life when I was super impressed with authors like Christopher Paolini got published at a young age. Of course, I didn’t know anything about his publishing connections, but reading Eragon for the first time when I was 13 made me wonder if I actually could start writing and also get a book out there. I wrote all sorts of tawdry crap, and looking back on it now is absolutely painful. I only had a vague understanding of how to build worlds and create characters, I over-utilised my thesaurus and any attempts at emotive writing were really maudlin affairs that just seemed completely telegraphed with no sense of build-up. I insisted I was a serious writer, though, and although I never plucked up the courage to submit my writing to a publisher, I did put writing on the back-burner for several years while I sorted out what I was going to do with the rest of my life. I’m glad that I did. I would be seriously embarrassed, not as an author but as a human being, if I ever wrote and believed in the same crap espoused in Halo.

Halo does not give you a thrilling story with loveable characters and deep emotional connections. Halo is a depiction of romance written by an immature sixteen year old following a Twilight binge. It throbs with purple prose and is devoutly conservative and preachy. Girls who are in any way sexually active are demonised, love is presented as co-dependency and idolisation rather than a sweet, romantic relationship, there are plot holes that one could drive the Knight Bus through, as well as several elements of Twilight that the book apes almost wholesale. (One such example: going to a town called Port ____ to go shopping for formalwear. Seriously.)

The book sets us up with rather grand stakes, in that God has deemed this one little town in the US to be in need of the counsel of an archangel, a seraph and a regular angel named Bethany. There’s demonic activity brewing in the area, and it’s up to our angels to stop it…!

But, psh, who cares about that when there’s a hot boy called Xavier for Bethany to swoon over and question her angelic status? Our angelic trio (well, Gabriel and Bethany – Ivy the seraph is stuck at home) decide to attend school to make people get back in touch with their spirituality. Supposedly, the mere act of an angel being nice or organising a social awareness programme turns even the most ardent atheist into a ‘good church-goer’. Rather than do the logical thing, which would be to throw themselves into investigating the demonic activity, or doing volunteering in the town, so they can see the trouble firsthand, they just shrug their shoulders and stay indoors watching movies to learn how to acclimatise to human life, and give humans the cold shoulder. While living in a huge Georgian-style mansion with a baby grand in the living room, mohair blankets and cashmere throws.

Ivy, despite outranking Gabriel several times over in angel lore, is reduced to playing second fiddle. It’s always Gabriel who has the right solution to a problem, or who convinces people into making the right choice. Gabriel, the archangel who revealed the birth of Christ and watched Sodom and Gomorrah burn, now teaches music at school and surfs. I’m quite sure that’s sacrilegious in Catholic doctrine, to anthropomorphise an angel like this, but who cares about that when Bethany can talk at length about his bronzed skin and perfectly sculpted body?

I don’t quite know how a book this preachy was brought out by a major publisher, when it firmly belongs in some Christian publishing house’s slush pile, and not marketed as the latest hot teen romance novel. As well as preachiness about religion, you’ll be forced to swallow down preachiness about conservatism and the vegan lifestyle, as well as the behaviour and musings of an immature, pathetic main character who does everything but focus on the mission for over 200 pages. Once Xavier and Bethany become an item, the plot flails weakly for anything that could provide something of interest, before the demonic villain Jake Thorn finally comes into the picture. In the last 120 pages or so. I was reading an e-book version with no page listings, but believe me, the middle of this book dragged out so much that when the villain finally showed up, I was cheering and whooping and hoping for him to actual kick the plot up its backside.

Which he does. In a rather ridiculous manner. I’m sorry, you’re telling me that an angel who regularly attends church service, reads the Bible and prays daily wouldn’t have the slightest suspicion when a guy with a snake tattoo, dark clothing and drops more than a few obvious hints about his otherworldliness? Like his reluctance to attend church?

Speaking of this, the book has several research fails — for somebody who claims to be interested in theology, the author thinks that an angel would have no idea what alcohol is, and continue to sip at an alcoholic drink even though it’s making her feel funny (um, what about Eucharist…?), and has only a rudimentary grasp on angelic lore. There’s references to Lucifer and God’s covenant of archangels, and also this implication that archangels are the most important in the hierarchy of angels, compared to a frigging seraph who has little to do except hand out fair trade leaflets and bake cookies for the church bake sale.

Xavier and Bethany’s relationship isn’t a cute little romance. At times, it’s even got these creepy daddy/daughter tones. Xavier treats Bethany as if she’s made out of glass, pushes her into eating when she’s not hungry as if he implicitly knows what’s best for her, and I lost count of how many times Bethany states throughout the narrative that she needs Xavier and without him her world shatters. Or something to that effect.

There’s a way to do romance, and this is not it. Bethany and Xavier don’t have a magnetic attraction, we’re TOLD over and over that they do, rather than shown the extent of their relationship. One or two shocking moments along the way pale in comparison to all the times we have to sit through every single cheesy moment where they talk about how they love cuddling and kissing along the jawline or dribbling over each other. (Theological scholars – isn’t that idolatry? Bethany’s devoting herself to Xavier more than she is to God, right? Answers on a postcard, please.)

I fail to see what the problems are in Venus Cove that would require a visit from an archangel and a seraph. I mean, there have apparently been car crashes and mysterious epidemics, but… the decision to set this book in Georgia is kind of glaringly faulty. Georgia is a state where a large portion of the population are Christian – Southern Baptists, to be precise. There’s some overlap with Baptist and Catholic practices, so I guess I’ll let the obvious Catholic overtones slide, but let’s take a look at Venus Cove. It’s a town of 3,000 people on the Georgia coastline. (Speaking of which, the exact location is not mentioned in my copy – I had to read Hades to find out if we were in the United States or just some beach town in Australia.) There are beaches, a 1950s-style pavilion and promenade, and nearly every character we meet lives in a large house and attends a respectable Christian private school. What on earth could be plaguing people who are so, so rich and privileged to be able to live in a picturesque coastal town and living in a gigantic house?

The book could have had this subplot about how wealth doesn’t make you happy. How the people in Venus Cove have no sense of community, because all everybody does is try to out-compete one another, there are family feuds over inheritances, and there are people who have scaled the mountain of success and promptly discovered that that being on top of the world has not given them the happiness they thought it would. That would make for a premise that our angels could perhaps help with. People have lost faith and need it to be restored. Shame that this version of Venus Cove was never written. One could cut out a few scenes of purple prose describing the furniture in rooms or how nice love feels or whatever, and actually draw blood from this boring plot-stone, but it never happens.

Bethany outright states at one point that she is secretly glad that she wasn’t dispatched to somewhere in the world that was seriously needy, because the mere news images of these events is enough to make her want to cry. Aside from this disgusting attitude towards the seriously disadvantaged in the world (hint: if you think that you getting upset at the sight of misery is more important than helping the people out of that situation, you’re a terrible person), she causes so much trouble in this book and her internal monologues often read like those of a spoiled four year old. We’re supposed to sympathise with her. Any time it is pointed out that Bethany is doing something wrong, she immediately shifts the blame elsewhere, whining about how she deserves happiness and everybody is ganging up on her, and it’s not faaiiiir.

The gender normativity in these books is stifling. I mean, of course, boys don’t like make-up but they do like engines, and girls must only ever want to talk about make-up or emotions. Girls are presented as irrational and men as rational. We’re supposed to like Xavier for his ‘black and white’ view on the world, or the fact that he thinks Bethany is too weak to carry her own damn school books. Xavier’s sister has an interesting personality, but she’s instantly drowned out and seen as this overly-bitter and flighty little madam. A girl named Taylah cannot walk ‘demurely’ because she is promiscuous, and Bethany uses every opportunity to shame the girls around her for being interested in their appearance. All the gender equality and feminist rhetoric that has been accomplished in the past century seems really distant from this book. You have an angel with supernatural powers as the main heroine, and you just make her into a weak little thing who can barely take two steps without needing to be supported by her man!

I could go on. This book is one of the absolute worst I have ever read, and I was foolish enough to thrown myself down on this blade again. One can only hope that the author has matured over the years and looks back on this book knowing there are major improvements she could have made if only she was emotionally mature enough to consider that internalised misogyny is not the way to make your female character look sympathetic, and nor is co-dependency a desirable romantic relationship.

1/5.

Relevant Links

Katya’s excellent review.
The Sparkle Project Review
Adornetto’s 2010 article on ‘Why Teenage Boys Suck More Than Vampires’.
Adornetto’s article on safeguarding one’s virginity.

Nessa Dissects: Halo by Alexandra Adornetto – Epilogue

You know, Halo could have ended nicely on its final chapter. This epilogue is loaded with complete waffle followed by a sequel grab. It could have been an ambiguous ending where the reader believes that Bethany really has been spirited back up to Heaven after praying that Xavier would have a blissful life, and then taking up a job as his guardian angel. It would be much more satisfying than this poorly thought-out sequel grab.

In fact, it’s pretty much rehashing the fact that Ivy and Gabriel have been spending weeks healing Venus Cove of its wounds, mostly by modifying the memories of anybody who could have been involved, except for Xavier.

Bethany walks to school with Xavier, and sees a familiar face.

“Bethie!” Molly ran to catch up with us as we reached the gates of the school. “What do you think of my new look?” She twirled around, and I saw that she had undergone a complete transformation. She had dropped the length of her skirt to below the knee, buttoned her blouse up to her chin, and fastened her tie neatly. Her hair was pulled back in a severe braid, and she had discarded all of her jewellery. She was even wearing the regulation school socks.

(Gif warning. Also thanks to Goose for this amazing gif.)

So Molly is a ‘better’ person now that she has subscribed to the draconian rules of gender normativity espoused throughout this book. Thankfully, she’s only doing it to impress Gabriel. After Xavier suggests to her that she could try being herself and/or get with another guy to pique Gabriel’s interest, Molly returns to her old self.

She yanked her hair loose, tore open her buttons, and ran off, probably in search of some poor boy to use as her prop in the master plan to win Gabriel’s heart.

Oh yeah, Molly is somehow bad for doing something that Xavier suggested she do. And she’s ‘using’ boys. Oh fuck this.

But guess what Bethany finds when she opens her locker? …Well, my e-reader isn’t displaying any images, but from memory it’s something like: “The lake of fire awaits, milady.”

Yes, the book ends with Jake tipping his fedora to Bethany with a little note.

In the acknowledgements, Adornetto credits somebody called ‘Moo-Moo’, for his invaluable insight into the male psyche. I’m going to be sighing with my head in my hands for a good hour or so.

Feel free to join me, and thank you very much for reading, if you’ve been following these posts since I first started doing them in May. (Well, technically October 2013, but that was just a Halloween thing.) I won’t be doing another Adornetto book, thank you. I might look into Ghost House, seeing as it’s written a good four years after Halo and hopefully the author has matured and become a decent writer in that time.

*reads reviews*

Aw hell no.

Nessa Dissects: Halo by Alexandra Adornetto – Chapter 32

Aftermath

This is the penultimate chapter, thank god. I’ve already read ahead and by gum, this is perhaps the LAZIEST final chapter (not counting the epilogue) that I have ever seen in any printed book. That’s mainly because of the pacing, though. I was talking it over with Goose, and this book is something like 20% beginning/build-up, then a very, very drawn out 75% of ‘middle’, and 5% ending.

In the weeks that followed, my brother and sister did their best to tidy up the confusion that Jake had left behind. They visited the families affected by the crimes he’d perpetrated and spent a lot of time trying to rebuild trust in Venus Cove.

Okay, I would have thought that a couple of weeks would be more than enough for an angel ‘with limitless energy’ to recover from a demon attack, but what do I know, eh?

My sister wiped the memory of Jake’s activities from their minds, careful not to touch any other unrelated recollections. [...] When she was done, they remembered the newcomer Jake Thorn, but no-one recalled having any association with him.

“Hey, you guys remember that one guy who attended our school for a few weeks? Who nobody associated with? Yeah, ’cause he was British. Kind of deserved what he got.”

We cut to Molly asking after Jake, and Bethany informs her that he has been sent back to boarding school in England. (Which is certainly worse than hell. Ask anybody who’s been to one.)

“Shame,” Molly commented. “I liked his tattoos. Do you think I should get one? I was thinking one that says ‘leirbag’.”

[...] 

“Gabriel doesn’t like tattoos,” I said. “He says the human body is not a billboard.”

Yeah, which is why Ivy has that golden snake tattoo on her arm and… seriously, can we stop this conservative attitude towards tattoos? Like, forever? I know these guys are angels and they’re kind of paraphrasing Leviticus 19:28, but come on. Not carving your flesh or making tattoo marks is basically decrying the heathens who would flagellate themselves in times of mourning, and tattoos back in Biblical times were seen as idolatry. Some translations refer to ‘tattoos’ as ‘branding’ or ‘printing’. Come on, though, that’s serious Old Testament stuff. Do you think that somebody who lived a really good, virtuous life and got themselves a few tattoos along the way is going to be kicked out of Heaven for that?

Bethany’s hardly left the house since the incident with Jake, due to the emotional trauma, as well as having badly burned wings. Bethany cries for Jake, but not due to what he did to her, but because she could have saved him, if only he had let her.

Xavier’s visit was the only part of the day I looked forward to. 

*sigh*

He threw himself back into the task of looking after me

Looking after you? Like you’re a hazard unto yourself normally and you need a man to keep you safe? PLEASE.

[...] and seemed to have accepted the supernatural world without question.

That’s rubbish. Sorry, but it is. This guy is from a devout Christian family. Knowing that his religion is actually true would blow his mind and perhaps instil a further curiosity in him. I know I’d be asking tonnes of questions about religion if I ever met an angel. (Though I already know one thing: “Human beings have neither the aural nor the psychological capacity to withstand the awesome power of God’s true voice. Were you to hear it, your mind would cave in and your heart would explode within your chest. We went through five Adams before we figured that one out.” Thanks, Alan Rickman.)

But then again, Bethany praises Xavier for his black and white outlook on the world. So I guess this is just normal behaviour for him.

“When I’m not with you, I feel like I’m wearing a pair of glasses that turns the world grey.”

“And when you are with me?” I asked softly.

“Everything’s in technicolor.”

"0182148_corn-and-cheese-chowder "

I feel like this has just been thrown down my throat. And for those of you who don’t recognise what that it, it’s not a bread-bowl of vomit — it’s a cheese and corn chowder.

God, this is so cheesy it’s almost like it really was written in the 1950s.

Despite Xavier’s presence, however, Bethany still has nightmares of being taken back to Heaven and not being able to say goodbye to Xavier.

Without him, nothing in my world made sense.

Look, Adornetto. Please, please don’t confuse love with dependency like this. There’s no reason to make Bethany such a weak excuse for a female character just because you think a hawt rich white boy should totally take care of you and settle down beyond a white picket fence and have a family of six kids or whatever.

Bethany has so many opportunities to be better than this. Many. I don’t want to shame anybody for wanting to be a housewife. But Bethany here is an angel on a mission, and she’s crowing over Xavier and his beautiful nutmeg hair and turquoise eyes like he’s the be-all and end-all of her existence, and unable to handle any form of separation from him. That’s not love, that’s dependency.

When her wings recover, Bethany wakes up late one night and decides to go out flying. She also creeps into Xavier’s room and prays to God that he has a blissful life, because clearly Xavier is the prime-time candidate whom God should be focusing on. You know, an able-bodied, wealthy, conventionally attractive cisgender white guy in a quaint coastal town is somebody who really needs God’s favour, as opposed to people in really disadvantaged situations elsewhere. Fuck this book.

There in front of me was His greatest creation of all. Angels may have been created as watch guards, but I felt like I could sense in Xavier a great power — a power to change the world.

How is this not idolatry? How is this not something God should cast Bethany out of Heaven for? Read fucking Angel Sanctuary. Alexiel goes against God’s orders, and what’s her punishment? Being cast in ice and having her soul thrown to the Earth, to forever reincarnate in individuals who are going to live miserable, pain-filled lives. Alexiel and Bethany ought to swap places. Seriously.

Also, why are you just now figuring out that Xavier is super-speshul? How the hell will Xavier change the world? Is he secretly Utena Tenjou? There is actually a basis in this, though. In the third book of this miserable trilogy, Ivy reveals to Xavier that she once came across a married couple, who were having trouble having children. Ivy made their bodies ‘healthy’ (which makes an IVF baby like me an abomination, I guess) and perhaps a tiny bit of her angelic powers rubbed off on Xavier. It doesn’t quite read as foreshadowing, though. It’s too crap for that.

Before leaving, I took a final look around his room. I took in the ll.A. Lakers flag pinned to the wall, read the inscriptions on the trophies that lined the shelves.

ll.A. Lakers? That’s a formatting error, I guess, because how you you spell LA with two Ls? We aren’t in Wales here, people. (In which case you’d be pronouncing it as a kind of throaty hissing noise. The *hiss*-A Lakers.)

Also, Xavier keeps the feather he found in his car after his and Bethany’s first date in a little wooden box. Isn’t that technically like the creepy old practice of keeping a lock of your lover’s hair?

Oh, whatever. ON TO THE EPILOGUE!

Nessa Dissects: Halo by Alexandra Adornetto – Chapter 31

Deliverance

WARNING: SUM OF DIS CHAPTA IS XTREMLY SCRAY. VIOWER EXCRETION ADVISD.

Thankfully, this chapter isn’t about that horrifying movie from 1972. Nah, it’s the old, Biblical definition of deliverance.

When Bethany wakes up, she’s pinned down in a ‘long car.’ Presumably you mean a limousine? Whatever. She tries to fight her way out, but Jake’s followers force a pill down her throat to sedate her. In other words, the journey was far too boring to write and an excuse was needed for Bethany to black out again.

She wakes up again to discover she’s tied up in the lounge of a large Victorian-style home. Bethany being Bethany, she takes the time to explicitly describe the smell of the room, the furniture, the carpet, the wallpaper, the portraits and the light fixtures, rather than focus on the fact that she has her arms bound behind her and a foul-smelling gag stuffed in her mouth. I mean, I’d be fine with this if Bethany was scoping out an exit or considering the different weapons she could use if Jake tries anything once she escapes or is let out of her bounds. But no, it’s more important that we learn this:

Portraits in heavy gilt frames hung above the marble mantlepiece, and their faces watched me archly as if they were in on a secret I had yet to discover. There was one of a Renaissance-looking gentleman in a ruffled collar, and another of a woman surrounded by five nymphlike daughters, all with Pre-Raphaelite hair and swirling dresses.

I guess this is supposed to be a dream, though, since ‘everything reeks of decay’. No, it’s just Bethany coming out of her foggy headache. Also, we’re told that this room is dark and dingy and most of the windows are boarded up, with ‘only a few bars of light [filtering] into the room’ — meaning that no way should Bethany have been able to see things in such detail. So all that you would have read about the setting of the room is rendered completely pointless.

Bethany discovers that her human body is causing her to feel hunger, thirst, and pain. Well then, what about angels having ‘limitless power reserves’? Does it really matter if you turn into your true form here, in private?

When I focused my eyes and sat up, I saw Jake Thorn seated at the head of the dining table.

But you just said we were in a Victorian parlour… Okay, let’s just make up that there’s a big door leading to the dining room or something.

He was wearing a smoking jacket of all things and had his arms crossed.

Is he auditioning for Rocky Horror? 

Anyway, he un-gags Bethany and tries to ply her towards his side again. Bethany refuses, and this happens:

I saw Jake’s face harden. His cat eyes, which were black again, seemed to glaze over.

Okay, I really want to know what the author means here. Cat eyes as in shape, or cat eyes as in having a vertical pupil? If it’s the latter, then Bethany wouldn’t be able to tell. Also, if he does have Supernatural-style black demon eyes, then how do they glaze over?

Jake suggests keeping Bethany captive and making it appear to all the world as if she has been killed. Then he’d carry out a plan to make Xavier commit suicide. Bethany cries that he’s only doing it because he’s hurt, and Jake refuses to listen to reason. So, he cuts her out of her bindings and tries to make her bow before him. Bethany refuses, and Jake tosses her across the room and makes her feel all the pain and suffering of Hell on earth.

I was an angel, and I was being filled with all the agony and darkness in the world. I knew it would kill me. 

But no fear, Gabriel is here! Yeah, Gabriel bursts through the wall in a blaze of glory. He has his flaming sword too. Huzzah! Jake’s going to be turned into a pillar of salt. (Confession — little Christian school-going me though ‘pillar of salt’ meant being turned into a salt shaker. Oops.)

Ivy comes along behind Gabriel, followed by Xavier. Um, isn’t Ivy supposed to be way above Gabriel in terms of angelic hierarchy? She’s a seraph, he’s an archangel. Why is he in the vanguard when Ivy could basically destroy Jake with a snap of her fingers? Instead she’s relegated to trying to heal Bethany.

Oh, also, the sheer power of an archangel’s sword has absolutely no effect on Jake Thorn. Which means Jake just activated his flame shield. I’m here all week, folks.

What if Gabriel failed to defeat Jake?

What would become of us then? I became aware of my fingers wrapped around Xavier’s — his hands were cooling my seared skin. As he held me, I noticed that if I squeezed Xavier’s hand a little tighter and drew him a little closer, the light seemed to respond and spread farther out around us like a protective shield. But what was it? What did it mean? Xavier hadn’t even noticed — he was too focused on trying to still my quivering body — but Ivy had. 

So yeah, Ivy tells Bethany that she has a very powerful gift and she should use it. An almost God-tier angel telling a little 9th tier angel that she’s powerful and can obliterate a demon who is currently at a standoff with an archangel a rank above her. While almost God-tier angel is sat back doing nothing.

I summoned the last shreds of energy left inside me; pushed aside the pain that threatened to drag me under and lifted my head toward Xavier. As our lips met, every negative thought was driven from my head until all I could see was him. Jake Thorn leapt back as the light exploded in dazzling beams, streaming from our entwined bodies and flooding the room.

[...]

“What is that?” Xavier cried as he shielded his eyes against the blinding blaze. Ivy and Gabriel who were standing calmly as the light washed over them, turned to him.

“You of all people should know,” said Ivy. “It’s love.”

Pictured: Bethany and Xavier.

Delivered with all the panache of an old My Little Pony TV movie.

So, an archangel and a seraph can’t do anything against this entity of pure evil, but a low-tier angel and her human boyfriend can? What the actual hell.

Look, I’ve seen this premise kind of done before… Anyone ever play Clock Tower 3? Our  heroine, Alyssa discovers she is descended from a long line of female warriors who can travel back in time and magically dispatch the evil ‘Entities’ that are haunting the ghosts of people who died in tragic and brutal ways. (Via some really freaky survival horror segments no I don’t still have nightmares about that time Corroder snuck up on me really fast.) It’s revealed a little later in the game that the power of love is super important in defeating the Entities. That actually works, perhaps because even though Clock Tower 3 is a fairly crap game (that killed Kinji Fukasaku), it’s ten times better written than this.

Xavier and I held each other tightly as the room shook, and the light burned a gaping hole into the floor.

It was into this abyss that Jake Thorn disappeared. He met my gaze as he fell. He was tortured but still smiling.

Bye bye Jake!

Onward ho to what I hope is the final chapter.

Nessa Dissects: Halo by Alexandra Adornetto – Chapter 30

Raising Hell

As opposed to Raising Hope, I guess.

Hard as I tried, I couldn’t accept Gabriel’s proposal of waiting for divine guidance. It seemed very unlike him to respond in such a way, uncharacteristically cautious [...]

Yes! So, you’re going to find Jake on his own, kick his ass and rescue Molly?

What’s that? You’re going to the cemetery but you’ll be clinging to Xavier instead of showing yourself to be independent?

*sigh*

I seem to be doing a lot of that lately.

We saw a lone mourner, an elderly woman in black, tending one of the newer graves.

During afternoon tea, there’s a shift in the air. A bone trembling chill that tells you she’s there. There are those who believe the whole town is cursed. But the house in the marsh is by far the worst. What she wants is unknown, but she always comes back. The spectre of darkness… The woman in black.

Yeah, I’m just going to watch a few cute kitten videos to get rid of the memories of me watching The Woman in Black. (God that film was creepy.)

Anyway, me making random references aside, this is a spooooky cemetery. There are ravens all around the place and… bumblebees in the lilac bushes. Terrifying.

The graves were old and abandoned, their cast-iron railings rusted. Over time, a tangle of ivy had smothered all other vegetation and now ruled unchallenged, threading its tenacious tendrils through the iron railings like rope.

Oof, that’s so purple it hurts. “Threading its tenacious tendrils?” The alliteration is an okay idea, but… oh man.

Bethany and Xavier dither through the graveyard and finally find Jake and his minions.

Jake stood on a mossy grave facing them, his legs apart and his back arrow straight. He wore a black leather jacket and the inverted pentagram hung from a cord around his neck.

As Kira pointed out in her review, well… having a pentagram being inverted makes no sense. It becomes a pentacle. The universal symbol of white magic and healing. A demon — an entity typically associated with evil — would be wearing a symbol of pure white (as in good) magic. Makes sense to absolutely nobody but the most ardent of Bible bashers, I guess.

On his head was a grey fedora.

I am rolling. Oh dear, yes, MRAs! You are in fact the devil! But it reminds Bethany of something… *gasp* Could it be the weirdo stood beside the rugby pitch a few weeks ago? Speaking of that, Xavier seems to have recovered awfully well. I thought it was a nasty fracture, but nope! Here he is, ambling through the graveyard with Bethany and not feeling any discomfort whatsoever. If he broke his ankle only a couple of weeks ago, wouldn’t it still be hurting, and wouldn’t he still be in plaster or in a plastic boot?

The thought that he’d tried to injure Xavier sent a burning anger pulsing through me, but I tried to stifle it. I needed to keep my wits about me now more than ever.

Whereas when Jake’s killed a whole bunch of other people who you didn’t personally know, you barely reacted.

Rearing up behind Jake was a ten-foot angel made of stone. It had to be one of the most chilling earthly things I’d ever seen. Despite looking like an angel, there was something sinister about it. It had narrow eyes, huge black wings that reared majestically behind it, and a powerful body that looked as though it could crush anyone and anything. A long stone sword was melded to its muscular waist. Jake stood under its shadow as though it was protecting him.

Okay, so Jake’s about to be eaten by a Weeping Angel, or…?

The statue is supposedly ten feet tall. Unless Jake is much, much taller than average, there’s no way it’s ‘rearing up’ behind him. Also, if it’s made out of stone — a material that is primarily grey – how does it have black wings? Was there some stonemason who decided to get a slab of black slate and carve it into his wings? Or is this just some kind of demonic presence? Like, this is supposed to be foreshadowing to Lucifer or something.

Oh, wait. I know. It’s an Erika!

Amusingly enough for all of us Night Vale fans, it looks like Jake’s got a whole horde of Hooded Figures surrounding him.

They were dressed strangely, some in hooded garments that shrouded their entire faces [...]

Y’see?

[...] and others in tattered black lace and chains, their cheeks powdered chalk white and their lips stained bloodred.

This is like something from My Immortal, I swear to god.

So yes, the Goths are all happy to shuffle around and deposit votive offerings at Jake’s feet. You know, of all the people a demon would target, I don’t think it would be Goths. Surely it’s better for a demon to actually corrupt people who are the least likely to be interested in dark, Hot Topic-y things.

It turns out that Molly isn’t in the group of hooded figures. Could it be that she’s going to be bound to an altar and sacrificed? Oh noes.

Jake held up his hands and the group stilled. He threw off his hat, and I saw that his long, dark hair was uncombed and tangled. He looked almost wild. When he spoke his voice seemed to reverberate from the stone angel itself.

“Is this not simpler?”

Sorry, Loki, you’re not wanted here.

“Welcome to the dark side,” he said, and laughed coldly. “Although I prefer to think of it as the fun side.” There were murmurs of appreciation from his followers. “I can promise you that nothing feels better than sin. Why not turn to pleasure when life treats us with such indifference? We are here, all of us, because we want to feel alive!” He ran a slender hand over the coarse stone of the angel’s thigh and spoke again, his voice dripping like syrup. “Pain, suffering, destruction, death, these things are like music to our ears, sweet as honey on our tongues. We thrive on them. They are food for our souls. You must all learn to reject a society that promises everything and delivers nothing.”

God, this is a long speech. If Jake’s trying to speak like a cult leader or something, he’s doing a terrible job. He should be going around to individuals and convincing them of their new beliefs, rather than delivering some sermon from on high.

“Let us invoke the twisted spirits of the night to assist us.”

Ahahaha!! Oh god, that is Grade A purple prose right there. Sounds like something Christopher Paolini would write.

Anyway, Jake’s followers all do something akin a death metal scream into the air. Which puts me in the mind of a whole group of people screaming BWAAAAAUUUURGHHH!!! from Death Note‘s second opening, because I’m a fucking nerd.

Jake smiled approvingly then glanced at his gold watch. “We don’t have much time. Let’s get down to business.”

TO DEFEAT! THE HUNS!
DID THEY SEND ME DAUGHTERS?
WHEN I ASKED — FOR SONS!

God, this book and its ear-worms.

“Where are they? Bring them to me.” Two figures were thrust forward so they fell at Jake’s feet. Both were wearing hooded cloaks. Jake took hold of the figure closest to him and pulled back the hood, revealing an ordinary-looking boy whom I recognised from school, a fairly unassuming student who kept a low profile and was a member of the chess club.

Oh, of course it’s a member of the chess club.

Jake is handed a book, and only Jake recites something and the wind starts picking up does Bethany release that zomg he’s using a grimoire.

He spread his arms wide. “Exorior meus atrum amicus quod vindicatum is somes.” He was speaking Latin, but not like I’d ever heard it before. It had been altered, and somehow I knew it was the language of the Underworld. “Is est vestri pro captus,” Jake sang, his hands clutching at the empty air.

“What’s he saying?” Xavier whispered. I was surprised to find that I could translate the meaning of the words exactly.

“Come forth, my dark friend, and claim this body. It is yours for the taking.”

Yeah, it’s kind of like Supernatural, isn’t it? Demons speaking in a strange form of Latin, having solid black eyes… Also, why are they speaking in Latin? That’s a very Augustine thing — the original Bible was written in Hebrew, Aramaic, Greek, Latin, and then into many other languages. Latin being the lingua franca of the church and I guess the angels/demons in this book, is very much Catholic. I thought that angels communicated ‘without language’ — hence that long spiel Bethany goes on about in the first chapter or so about human language being frustratingly limited. Oh, what the hell am I doing expecting continuity in this book?

The chess club kid gets possessed by a vengeful spirit, and Bethany cries that she should have seen this coming.

“I befriended him, I wanted to help him… I should have sensed he was a demon.”

Why didn’t you before now? He acted weird and made several very transparent references in the poetry you wrote in class, as well as having a snake motif. You don’t need a firm grounding in semiotics to work out that he’s a being of pure evil, god damn.

Xavier put his hand on the small of my back. “This is not your fault.”

IT IS! IT FUCKING IS, XAVIER! DON’T TRY TO ABSOLVE THE ANGELS OF BLAME HERE! THIS COULD HAVE BEEN TAKEN CARE OF WEEKS AGO, NIPPED IN THE DAMN BUD. But what did they do? Twiddle their thumbs and wait for God’s approval whilst baking a cake for church coffee morning!

Bethany explains to Xavier what demons are, and how they’re never normally a problem for angels. “[...] Our powers are far greater than theirs.” Right, so why don’t you use those powers to get rid of ‘the demon problem’ before it can present a problem to your current area? Seriously, just sniff out demons using your angelic ‘sensing’ abilities, and cast them back where they came from. Boom. Done.

Of course, the next hooded figure kneeling before Jake is Molly. Her demonic possession is delayed by Jake paying attention to another girl, before finally dragging Molly to be possessed by teh evulz. Xavier comes up with a cunning plan… That is immediately ruined by Bethany being a complete fool.

I stumbled out from behind the tombstone, ignoring Xavier’s yell of protest.

“What are you doing?” I screamed. “Stop this! Jake, let her go!” When I looked at Jake’s face, it was distorted with anger.

[...]

“You!” I pointed a finger at Jake. “We know what you are.” He clapped his hands slowly and mockingly. “Well done. What a first-rate detective you are.”

Bwahaha okay, Jake, you get to wear favourite character crown for now. Sorry, Nicole. But yes, seriously, Bethany and her siblings should have been investigating. Instead, all they did was faff around for 25 chapters.

Jake insists that he’ll let Molly go, only if Bethany agrees to take her place. That’s not cliché at all!

He and Xavier also get into a taunting match, and it’s revealed that Jake was involved in the fire that killed Xavier’s girlfriend Emily several years ago. While the rest of her family got out alive, Jake made sure that Emily was tied down to her bed and couldn’t escape as the flames engulfed her. So I’m guessing her body was almost entirely cremated, because an autopsy of her body would perhaps find bruise and ligature marks on her somewhere. I don’t know, it would probably make more sense for Jake to just hypnotise her to stay in her bed, rather than physically tying her down like some old villain in a cowboy movie.

Xavier is naturally angered by this, and tries to take a swing at Jake. He simply gives Xavier a nasty case of magical stomach cramps. (What? He’s clutching his abdomen.) They’re so bad that Xavier is ‘shuddering in pain.’

In my head I tried to silently invoke God’s help by issuing a mental prayer: ‘Almighty Father, Creator of Heaven and Earth, deliver us from evil. Send your spirit to help us, and call forth the angels of salvation. For the kingdom, the power, and the glory are yours, now and forever…’

Bethany’s prayer doesn’t work, however, so she reluctantly gives herself over to Jake.

“You’re evil,” I said. “I’d never join you.”

“But naughty can be oh so nice.” Jake laughed.

Uh-huh. A being of supreme evil giggles about being naughty.

“Oh, shut up [Xavier],” Jake snapped. “Your pretty face can’t save her now.” The last thing I remembered before everything went dark was the greedy glint in Jake’s snake-green eyes and Xavier’s voice calling out to me.

Snake-green… What, the same colour as a little tree snake?

Terrifying.

Okay, so I think that should be it for this chapter. Check back next time. It’s going to be about as scary as your average Care Bears episode.