Soul Screamers series by Rachel Vincent (My Review)

 BOOK 0.5 – MY SOUL TO LOSE

I’m not sure if this book was released before the others but I read it first and I’m glad I did, although I guess you could read this at any point during the series.

It’s easily the best of the bunch and a well written account of Kaylee’s frustrations at being incarcerated for something thats as confusing to her as it is to the outside world. The emotion weaved into this novella is admirable, and it sets the scene perfectly for what comes in the books which follow. I loved it from start to finish. My Goodreads review can be found here:

BOOK 1 – MY SOUL TO TAKE

I liked this book a lot. Firstly, she’s the crazy girl, who has this inexplicable urge to scream with a family all set to put her straight back in the loony bin if her father doesn’t explain.

Thankfully, she finds someone who believes she’s telling the truth about people dying and when said believer draws out the truth, I found myself a little bit annoyed by the lack of information shared by those in the know. What kind of family, however shallow would let someone be condemned knowing full well she isn’t crazy, purely because they don’t know how to explain? Then have someone fly half way around the world to fill said lunatic in when they have all the answers right there but aren’t willing to share them?

That aside, I totally bought into the fact she’s a Daoine Sidhe and the events which followed. In terms of characters, although I’m no fan of her family I like Kaylee a lot and I see why Nash likes her. Her insecurities aren’t any different to those of your average female MC, but in many ways she’s strong and I like that about her.

Made for a good read and balanced normality with the fantasy element really well. It was enough to make me go and buy the next book, and I liked the reaper element a lot! Interesting spin on how death-related mythological creatures are connected and something different to anything else I’ve read before. Read it, I swear you’ll like it! My Goodreads review can be found here:

 BOOK 2 – MY SOUL TO SAVE

This was the point I thought we’d see more character development, specifically from Tod and Nash but it didn’t really happen. Tod is described as a little bit creepy, slowly disconnecting from the human instincts that drove him in life, but he kind of defies that description when he interacts with Addison and in places I found that a little jarring.

Nash on the other hand seems dead set that his brother isn’t the caring undead family member he ought to miss. If Tod died when he was young, Nash would surely have been devastated. He seems completely indifferent to the emotions that ought to be troubling him and in fact, the one who seems to lack in emotion at times is Nash himself, particularly when it comes to Addy.

I like Kaylee a lot, and I like Addison just as much but I can’t really find anything that makes Nash worth Kaylee’s time, except for maybe the fact they’re of the same species. She talks a lot about how they’ve done so much to make them right for one another, but she’s the pissy, emotionally driven instigator and for much of the book it seems that Kaylee is the one driving things forward, giving out orders and making Nash help her. It was at that point the credibility started to err for me because he’s supposed to be the one with the knowledge, the one who knows what they can and can’t get away with. After enjoying the first two books so much, this one was kind of a let down for me.

 BOOK 3 – MY SOUL TO KEEP

Oh, wow, Rachel Voncent redeemed herself with this book, BIG TIME!

I was disappointed with the last in the series (see why on my review) but she really brought her A-game with this one. Not only does it hit back with the emotional void that was Nash, she’s hit the nail right on the head with some very real issues while she was at it.

Not only does this book focus on an intricate and emotive plot, it also addresses drug use and the associated dangers, resulting in a very blunt, appropriate message that’s not overly in your face and at no point seems forced or convenient. Where I thought the last book wasn’t really headed anywhere in terms of character development, now I’m seeing Tod in a totally different light and understanding why I was liking Nash less and less.

At this point, I’m beginning to wonder if Kaylee picked the wrong brother and having finished the book I’m really sad with the dilemma she’s now facing. I didn’t even go make a cup of tea before I picked up the next book. My Goodreads review can be found here:

 BOOK 3.5 – REAPER (a novella)

Well, Tod was always my favourite brother, but knowing what I do after reading this, I like Nash less than ever. I think Rachel picked the perfect place to disclose the details of Tod’s past, and to shed light on a different perspective of Nash and how he came to be the man he is.

The way it’s told is both chilling and heartwarming. I honestly think up to the moment I picked this book up, I knew enough of Tod to have my doubts about Nash’s perception of him and hallelujuah Rachel, thanks for confirming my hunch.

Not only do we find out the truth about Tod, we find out the truth about his sibling, and its kind of startling, it actually felt really good to finally have proof that I wasn’t reading these two all wrong. It just goes to show really that both brothers are closed books, and both are unwilling to share their somewhat jaded histories. I was left with the impression that on Tods part the reason is guilt, whereas on Nash’s part the motivation should be (and yet somehow, disturbingly it isn’t) shame.

Now, as stated in my previous review I really wish Kaylee had the option to pick Tod. I mean, all the things he’s done for Addy, for his mum, for his brother… I realise there was never a triangle and neither Tod nor Kaylee had any interest in one another but seriously, as much as I like Kaylee, I think she can do better than Nash! My Goodreads review can be found here:

 BOOK 4 – MY SOUL TO STEAL

Oh how I both love and hate Sabine! She’s written perfectly, to the point where I sympathise, and at the same time despise that girl. Good job Vincent!

Tod, for me got a whole lot more involved in Kaylee’s life than his brother, and Nash’s constant “I’ll talk to her” conversations with Kay became somewhat repetitive, as did Kaylee’s constant paranoia. Meanwhile, Tod seems like the only one with a handle on things throughout the entire book. I totally wanted to bang all their heads together, but only because its so well written and so angsty that the turmoil that defines this book had me completely sold on their emotions, hook line and sinker. My Goodreads review can be found here:

 BOOK 5 – IF I DIE

Hoo-freakin-ra! It happened! That thing I didn’t see coming even with SEVEN books to prepare me for it! Okay, Kelly… calm down. By this point you might be wondering why I haven’t added the back cover blurb to any of these books. The reason for that is, if you haven’t read the first and you read the blurb for the second, it kind of spoils the first. For example: Book 1… Kaylee can’t stop screaming and she doesnt know why. Somewhere in the middle of the book she finds out she’s a Banshee and that’s written on the back of book 2. By the time you reach the review of book 5… you pretty much get the spoiler for ALL the previous books and I didn’t want to ruin it for the reader. For the very same reason, I don’t read the back covers ahead of time myself and this is one of those series where I wish I had, only because I wouldn’t have been cursing the characters for not going where I felt they ought to.

This book is easily the most tumultuous of the bunch. It has some seriously intense scenes, some of which had me in tears. I should say by this point I am completely in love with Tod, not bothered in the least what happens to Nash and liking Sabine more than I did in the last book. I’m also wondering why Sophie’s dropped off the radar and whether Uncle Brendan is a tool for the plot, or just a straggler. His input seems more convenient than anything else but hopefully that will change in the next book.

The end of this book is not only heart wrenching, it’s unexpected and the plot basically took twist after twist after twist. I LOVED that! What I didn’t love was that things go through Kaylee (frequently). I’m not talking ghosts or spears, I’m talking fear, emotion. “Fear went through me like a blah blah on a blah”. Her pulse also “spikes” at least a hundred times a chapter and stuff washes over her a lot too. “Calm washed over me like an ocean wave” type stuff. I don’t know if that bothers me so much because it was a major distraction I picked up on with the “Maze runner” trilogy, or if it’s just so repetitive that most people would read it. There’s a lot of eye swirling on the part of the Banshees too. Everyone’s eyes swirl, constantly. I get that, do we really need reminding so often? Speaking of which, the mundane details make this book a lot longer than it would have been if the details of how KAylee scratched her dog’s ears whilst opening the fridge door, or how she repeatedly picked up her soda can to swig in between dialogue.

The last thing that confused me was the soul reaping of banshees versus humans and the fact that not all Incubi babies have souls. There was a lot of complicated detail on that, which didn’t really resolve the question and I found myself thinking “I still don’t get it but okay, whatever”.

Having said all that, this is my favourite book in the series so far, and the ending completely floored me. I was up til 2am on a work night, in tears, heart racing. Really, if you can get past all the monotony, between the lines is a fabulous story!

My goodreads review can be found here:

 BOOK 5.5 – NEVER TO SLEEP (a novella)

(I haven’t read this one yet)

 

 

 

 BOOK 6 – BEFORE I WAKE

(I haven’t read this one yet)

 

 

 

 BOOK 7 – WITH ALL MY SOUL

(This is the last in the series and isn’t due for release until March 2013)

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The Five People You Meet in Heaven – Mitch Albom (my review)

This book is one of those that everyone says to read, but always seemed a little too trippy for my tastes. I didn’t like The Lovely Bones, or The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus because they were a little bit too weird for my taste and for whatever reason I assumed this boook would be a lot like them.

Nonetheless, having read pretty much everything else I own, and bored on a weekday afternoon, I dug out the battered copy I bought at a carboot sale.

I should let you know that it is a little unusual, in the sense that the main character is dead and the setting is for the most part a fairground. But the reason it’s set here is because thats where Eddie lived, worked and died. The story concentrates on there being two sides to every story (one of which is usually Eddie’s) and is set in several different times; Firstly the present, where he’s living his last minutes on the pier, then the past, where the (five) people who meet Eddie after his death reflect on how he influenced their lives or how they influenced his. There’s also a different perspective which visits different birthdays that impacted on Eddie’s life. We also catch glimpses of the people he left behind, and how he is seen through their eyes. Think the ghost of christmas past, and you’re on the right lines. Almost.

The best example I can give is the section where Eddie is taken back to the war in Vietnam. He lost friends, made choices that haunted him for the rest of his life, and felt he had no purpose on earth. But he was wrong. You see, all those little actions, no matter how insignificant they seemed at the time, prove that he was important and that he made a big difference to the lives of others. He learns many lessons, and those lessons made me think long and hard about how my life has been affected by others, how we’re all interconnected in some way whether we’ve met or not.

The book never for a moment made me question faith, or told me my own perspective on the afterlife is wrong. Instead, it just accentuates the fact that there’s so much more to life than most of us realise. It’s a lovely book, brilliantly written and something I wish I’d read a lot sooner. It’s been a week or more since I finished it, and in all honesty, I’ve found myself thinking about it pretty much every day since. The message is wonderful, and although its sad, its also very uplifting, the kind of book that makes you think. If you haven’t read it I suggest you give it a go, it’s wonderful 🙂

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The Books of Umber – P.W. Catanese (my review)

I found these books accidentally, when looking up the City of Ashes/Bones/etc (both reviewed below). I don’t know how I came across them but I did. Typo maybe, but nonetheless, a little treasure of a series that I’d never heard of before.

The synopsis for the first in the series (Happenstance Found) is;

Twelve-year-old Happenstance awakens in a cave with no memory of who he is or how he came to be there. Soon a mysterious trio arrives to take him away: the explorer Umber, the shy archer Sophie, and Oates, whose strength and honesty are both brutal. Hap and his new acquaintances narrowly escape the cavernous underworld and make their way to Lord Umber’s bustling jewel of a harbor city, Kurahaven. 

Once there, Hap learns that Lord Umber is an extraordinary man — he’s a merchant, adventurer, inventor, royal adviser, and chronicler of all things monstrous and magical. But Umber’s accomplishments can’t answer the question closest to the boy’s heart: Who is Happenstance? 

Desperate to uncover clues in his new, baffling surroundings, Hap accompanies Umber on dangerous and unusual missions. But Hap soon learns that there are powerful enemies inside the kingdom, and a ruthless assassin is hot on his trail. Faced with many unknowns, Hap knows one thing is certain: There’s a reason Umber has chosen him…if only he could determine it. 

I didn’t catch the part which said Hap is only twelve, and if I had, being more of a YA fan, I might never have bought the book. Thankfully, I overlooked this tiny detail, and found it at times easy to forget Hap is so young. The story is set in a world made of giants, monsters, fantastical sea creatures and mutinous princes. The people of this world have Lord Umber to thank for their technology. It’s a little bit magical, a little bit steampunk and a little bit storybook. It’s a credible world and I found myself wishing I could spend a day there!

The thing I liked most about the series is the fact that all this came about because people became careless and greedy and ruined the world. It touches on the things which put this world, planet earth in danger and it’s subtle, but the message is clear and it really made me think about what may come in a way dystopian novels never really have. BTW, this isn’t dystopian, not at all. It’s very much a fantasy book, but if you read it you’ll understand what I mean. It also touches on other subjects that made me look at illnesses/disabilities differently. Lord Umber for example suffers terrible depressions, and I guess has what we’d describe as something like bi-polar disorder, then Oates has a compulsion that isn’t unlike Tourettes.  Sophie only has one hand, and Hap himself has these incredibly bright green eyes. None of them are without their flaws, and yet there’s nothing wrong with any of them. I really appreciated the message between the lines and the message is written brilliantly.

To get back to the story, Hap wakes up in the middle of a peculiar world and finds himself on a sea vessel which powers through the ocean on the back of a fantastical sea beast. This is his debut adventure, and yet it is one of many adventures he ebarks upon all in the first book. The book as a whole is very well written, the characters all stand out in their own right and I liked each of them individually, for different reasons. Sophie is timid but a ferocious archer, Umber has a pompous edge but he wants whats best for the people of his world and he’s so very endearing. One confusion was that although he’s described as young, his character reads a lot older.

Happenstance has no idea who he is, where he came from or why he’s been left in the care of Lord Umber. His journey is one of self-discovery. In my honest opinion, these books got better and better. The green eyes, the confusion, the fear, it all melds perfectly and when he was afraid, I was afraid with him. When he was brave I was rooting for him. Hap is a charming little character, and I warmed to him from page 1.

Dragon Games (the second in the series) is fabulous too. The only problem being, the book wasn’t centred on dragon games. The games themselves only lasted a short while and the rest of the book was more adventuring, more discovery, more amazing creatures and more searching for answers.

The last book (The End of Time) not only brings all the unanswered questions about Hap’s identity together, it also draws the series to a credible, moving and heart warming end. Plot lines which, upon reading seemed a little bit random, at the end turn out to be relevant to the overall plot. Nothing within the series turns out to be random, and the different elements ALL come together eventually.

I see on Goodreads that some folks were disappointed with the ending, but really I thought it was perfect. The series itself is action packed, diverse in terms of destinations, creatures, characters and motives, and I never had the urge to skim read even a line.

Fantastic series, and I recommend it for readers of all ages!

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Stardust – Neil Gaiman (My Review)

Stardust is a fairytale written for grownups. Therefore, anyone who likes fairytales will undoubtedly like Stardust. The story follows a young man, Tristran, on a quest to seek out a fallen star so that he can present it to his true love. The journey takes him out of his native village of Wall, through the gap in the bordering wall (for which the village is named) and into the faerie realm. He meets allsorts of characters, most of which would not be out of place in an Enid Blyton or C.S Lewis novel, and does a lot of growing up along the way.

It’s hard to be complacent when blogging about one of your favourite books in the world. It’s no secret that I love Neil Gaiman’s work, Stardust included. You may have seen the movie, you may have read the book. Maybe you haven’t. This week I told my mum I was listening to Anansi Boys on audio, also by Neil Gaiman. “Never heard of him”, she said. Meh.

I can’t believe there are people out there who haven’t at least heard of Neil Gaiman. Then again she’s also never heard of Banksy or Wentworth Miller or The Celestine Prophecy. Maybe that can be changed. If you’re anything like her and have never seen the movie nor read the book, I highly recommend you read the book before you see the film.

Many of Neil Gaiman’s books are written with wit and charm and an unmistakeable clever elongation of sentences. This is what I love about his work. It’s so distinct. If someone showed me a passage from a Gaiman book I’d never read and asked me to guess who the author was, I’m pretty sure I’d know his work anywhere. Stardust is the perfect example of this. The following excerpt is from a scene where the MCs (Tristran and Evane) walk into a fight between a lion and a unicorn;

Tristran would have explained to her that all he could possibly hope for if he approached the raging beasts was to be skewered, and kicked, and clawed, and eaten; and he would further have explained that, should he somehow survive approaching them, there was still nothing that he could do having with him not even the pail of water which had been the traditional method of breaking up animal fights in Wall. But by the time all these thoughts had gone through his head, Tristran was already standing in the center of the clearing, an arm’s length from the beasts. The scent of the lion was deep, animal, terrifying, and Tristran was close enough to see the beseeching expression in the unicorn’s black eyes…

There’s a typical example of his style. Think of the benefits of a pail of water. Given the context of the book and Tristran’s blundering nature, it’s not a random moment of humour. The whole book is just as funny, and when you’ve met the characters and lost yourself in Faerie, then you’ll probably find it as amusing as I did.

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The Lorien Legacies by Pittacus Lore (My Review)

I’ve read the first two in the series – ‘I am Number Four’ and ‘The Power of Six’, and have just bought the newly released ‘The Rise of Nine’ which is book three in a series of six (I think!) books. They are more science fiction than my preferred fantasy genre, but don’t let that put you off. They’re all set on planet earth and the characters are, for the most part aliens that look just like us. The only difference is, they’re all here because a race of planet-destroying aliens called Mogadorians are hunting them down one by one.

Nine children were said to have been rushed off Lorien in order to save the race before the Mogs destroyed everyone. It turns out in the second of the books that a tenth child was actually shipped off to Earth, which is a good thing because the Mogs are picking them off one by one, in order of their numbers. The more the merrier! Each kid was numbered one to nine, and one, two and three are already dead. Every time one of them dies, a new scar is burned into the skin of the remaining kids.

Each was selected because of their potential to survive. Some were mega intelligent, others were proving to be strong, deviant, or just had excellent bloodlines and upon maturing they all develop their own ‘Legacies’ – powers. Invisibility, super strength or laserbeaming hands to name but a few. And each one was sent with a tutor – a Cepan. They’re there to teach the kids how to develop their legacies and keep them from being killed by the Mogadorians.

What I liked about the books: Number Four has a Chimera. Typical of traditional myths a Chimera is a shape shifting animal. He’s loyal and funny, and doesn’t say a lot, he just does his thing and makes me laugh. I need a Chimera in my life.

Six has an attitude, although she’s a pussycat compared to the newly introduced Nine. She’s strong and outspoken and has a sensitive side. She’s the kind of female lead girls want to be more like. Nothing whiny or petulant about six at all.

I LOVED Nine. If you’ve ever read the Wolvesof Mercy Falls, his behaviour and mannerisms aren’t unlike Cole’s. He’s laid back, laughs at the world, is often selfish and wishes deep down he cared more about the people around him. Nine is my favourite Lorien.

Second favourite is Sam. Sam is a nerd (human) who wears Nasa t-shirts and probably knows more about space than any other kid in the entire state. He’s brave, sweet and totally out of his depth, but he’s also a little like a dog with a bone. Once he’s got his mind set on something there’s no chance of changing it. If that leads to his death, capture or imprisonment, then Sam’s the guy who carries on regardless.

Their journey takes Four, Sam and the Chimera all over the US, then later we’re introduced to new Loriens on different continents. One grew up in a convent in Spain, and another spent his life in the mountains of India. With a big cast, these books have never given me time to be bored. Between Four, Six, Eight, Ten, Sam and Sarah, oh and Bernie Kosar (Four’s Chimera), the first two books were action packed and in places total nail biters. The newest book brings Nine and later Five to the table, at which point, because the characters are usually referred to by number rather than name, in places it became a little confusing. At one point all of the existing known Loriens are in the same room. Four, Five, Six, Eight, Nine and Ten. I read the third book without re-visiting the first two. I think if I had revisited them I’d have struggled less. The characters are introduced slowly, and I never had this problem before, so I guess that’s my fault.

Things I didn’t like: Four constantly refers to the Mogadorians, and with it being such a long word, it grated on my nerves quite a bit. For example: The first Mogadorian threw me a look which implied he wanted to tear my throat out. Another Mogadorian lit a cigarette. The mogadorians did this, blah blah. It bugged me. Thankfully, other characters referred to them as Mogs, whicxh was much easier to read. Then Four named his Chimera “Bernie Kosar”. For the same reason, Bernie Kosar scratched his head. Bernie Kosar ran through the trees. Bernie Kosar licked Sarah’s face. Intermingled with the Mogadorians I found myself a little frustrated. Until Four started referring to him a BK. Much easier.

I also didn’t particularly like Sarah. She seemed whiny, totally girly, and was said to be popular but I didn’t ever get to understand why people liked her, other than the fact she was beautiful. It didn’t make sense to me. She talks like a nine year old, and I’d much rather have seen Four ditch her for Six, who has a badder attitude and a lot more in common with him (not limited to the fact they’re both aliens with superpowers destined to return to some far away galaxy someday).

Regardless, the books are fabulous. They’re action packed, diverse in location and unlike so many Ya books, the bad guys are involved constantly. I’ve waited a long time for the third installment, and it didn’t disappoint. Nine brings a whole new perspective to the party and I’m pretty sure Seven, if ever he or she shows up will bring even more. I just hope they all get back to Lorien beofre it’s too late.

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My review of the Uglies series by Scott Westerfeld

I read this book because it was recommended on a few other people’s blogs. It seems this is a very popular YA book, and it got me curious. It’s basically a high-tech Dystopian book about how, after humans almost destroyed the earth, the government took measures to make everyone equally beautiful in order to prevent discrimination, destructionb and war. At the age of sixteen, everyone undergoes surgery to make them immune to disease/sickness and everyone is physically perfect. They’re even allowed to eat as much as they want, and are given calorie blockers to keep their weight perfect.

Pre-op kids are called Uglies, or Littlies depending on their age and are encouraged to insult one another based on their physical imperfections. They then become “Pretties”. Pretties are fun loving, and pretty much incapable of being angry, jealous, upset or emotive. They live in mansions, party hard and have no reason to fall out. Why? Because when they have their surgery, lesions are created within their brains to make them void of any emotion except happiness. The only problem is, only a small handful of people outside the government know about the lesions.

The story follows an Ugly desperate to become pretty. She’s waiting for the day she turns sixteen so she can get the hell out of Uglyville and join the party crew where her best friend Peris is waiting for her. But then she makes a new Ugly friend, one who introduces her to a secret community called “The Smokies”. The smokies are a clan who live in the wilderness, and are there because they don’t want to become pretty. She’s horrified to find mature people who’ve escaped the ties of the government, and are old, ugly and/or wrinkly. She has to decide whether to bring her new friend back to the city so they can be pretty together, or stay with the Smokies and remain ugly forever.

I completely understood what the author was trying to convey with the book. There are messages ranging from the obvious perceptions of ones-self and of others, the environmental issue, the shallow inner workings of the human mind, but it wasn’t a subtle book at all. The words “beautiful”, “ugly”, and “perfect” are used so frequently I almost threw the book at the wall.

In the second book, the MC has undergone the surgery and has had a memory wipe, so she doesn’t remember that she’s only here as a test subject for a cure found by one of the smokies. The constant use of the words “Bubbly” (everything is totally bubbly!) and “bogus” (if its not totally bubby! its totally bogus!) irritated me to the point where I just couldn’t finish the book. The final straw was when the MC’s best friend recruited “cutters”, and began self harming. They do this in order to awaken their clouded minds, so that they can remember things the surgery helped them forget, and to clear the way for a plan to get out of Prettytown and into the wilderness where a cure awaits them. I got about half way through, and decided I just couldn’t stomach a book whose characters were, albeit involuntarily, total airheads obsessed with clothes, alcohol and self mutilation. I get the message, but felt it was just too loud for me to appreciate. The characters were shallow, deceptive and didn’t give me any reason to root for them. The only one I liked was screwed over big time and I was left hoping he’d get the hell out of there and go find some Ugly to be with. The MC, in my opinion just didnt deserve him, even before she came under the control of the government. In short, I wouldn’t recommend the series, and won’t be picking up books three or four (Specials and Extras).

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Ponies: A dark and ugly short story.

I was just reading a Goodreads review on Uglies by Scott Westerfeld. I just read the book, and wasn’t sure whether I liked it or not. It wasn’t a bad book, but the underlying message on vanity and equality and perceptions of other people, whilst being very accurate in terms of the subliminal “This is what people do and its wrong” message, at the same time seemed to drum into me that people who aren’t perfect are “Uglies”, and people who are, are “Pretties”.

Whilst reading other people’s reviews of the book I found one written by a guy who swapped books with his wife. He noted that another (amazingly short)  story, around two pages long gives out the same message in a much more concise, less shallow manner. I clicked the link and read the story (which can be read online for free). It gave me the shivers, and I closed the webpage actually feeling a little bit sick. The story is grotesque, and true, and thought provoking. I dare you to read it.

The Uglies review:  http://www.goodreads.com/review/show/44455797

Ponies, by Kij Johnson: http://www.tor.com/stories/2010/11/ponies

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