One Star Review Dump: Dear Killer, Never Never Pt. 3, Alice, The Walled City

I have 13 unposted reviews, written and not yet posted here, because I am bad at updating things. What is some way I can get rid of a ton of them in one go? I thought. Then I remembered: huh, I’ve truly hated a good number of books lately. And also, people like negative reviews, I think. (Khanh on Goodreads is pretty popular, right?) So here goes.

Below are four one-star reviews, in order of when I read them from least to most recently. (They go: Dear Killer, Never Never Part 3, Alice, The Walled City.) Enjoy! If you love or hate this let me know.


Dear Killer Synopsis: Rule One—Nothing is right, nothing is wrong.

Rule Two—Be careful.

Rule Three—Fight using your legs whenever possible, because they’re the strongest part of your body. Your arms are the weakest.

Rule Four—Hit to kill. The first blow should be the last, if at all possible.

Rule Five—The letters are the law.

Kit takes her role as London’s notorious “Perfect Killer” seriously. The letters and cash that come to her via a secret mailbox are not a game; choosing who to kill is not an impulse decision. Every letter she receives begins with “Dear Killer,” and every time Kit murders, she leaves a letter with the dead body. Her moral nihilism and thus her murders are a way of life—the only way of life she has ever known.

But when a letter appears in the mailbox that will have the power to topple Kit’s convictions as perfectly as she commits her murders, she must make a decision: follow the only rules she has ever known, or challenge Rule One, and go from there.

Katherine Ewell’s Dear Killer is a sinister psychological thriller that explores the thin line between good and evil, and the messiness of that inevitable moment when life contradicts everything you believe.

Review: 1/5 stars

I don’t take notes on every book I review. If I do, it’s because I’m worried about forgetting my thoughts in the earlier sections (i.e., I’m either reading it too slowly or too quickly) or–and I think you can guess which category this book falls into–I really cannot stand the process of reading the book.

My notes on this book fall into two categories: 1) poor writing, and 2) overall dumbness, for lack of a better word. Each have quotes to back up my harsh opinion.

Let’s start with the poor writing. This book features one of my personal literary pet peeves (and one I haven’t encountered since I read fanfiction as a preteen): an American who attempts–and nearly always fails–to write as a Brit. It often comes off as too try-hard-y, with British slang pouring off dialogue, but this one didn’t even try. The author didn’t even bother to control-F-change “Mom” to “Mum.” This was also just teeming with unnecessary and boring details. One time, the protagonist’s mother nods: this is described as a “motherly, reassuring, thoughtful, vaguely uncertain nod of the head.” I couldn’t believe it. At one point, the perspective–which remains first person without exception–switches to 3rd person in the middle of a paragraph, then back. The narrator also considers (at length) cutting her hair before deciding it wouldn’t be as chic as her mom’s THREE TO FOUR TIMES. Then she does it, and it’s the same conversation again.

Onto the next point: general stupidity. Let me introduce this by saying that I enjoy a book about a sociopath. And that’s what I thought I was getting: the cover’s tagline is “Perfect in her methods, precise in her madness.” But Kit is far from emotionless (unfortunately, since her emotions are always a chore)–she’s just honestly stupid, or a flat character, or both. She does things she absolutely does not want to do (I won’t say what exactly, for the sake of spoilers) for no reason. And despite being dubbed the “Perfect Killer,” she’s not that good at what she does. She is spotted at one of her crime scenes three times, and has two close calls. She befriends one victim, is convinced by another not to kill her, and punches one in the face in front of the entire student body of her high school. (To the latter, she follows up with: “I’ll get you like I get the rest […] I’ll kill you.”)

Her M.O. as a serial killer (beyond the “perfect” nature of her crimes) is that she leaves the letters requesting that particular victim to be killed with the victim’s body. If you’re like me, you’re thinking: That is the dumbest thing I have ever heard. It’s not just the hitman who can get convicted, it’s the person who hires the hitman. And it’s easy to tell who wrote the letters. Our protagonist clears this up by saying that she cleans the handwritten letters of fingerprints, and because of this there can’t be a conviction or even an arrest. BECAUSE APPARENTLY HANDWRITING EXPERTS DON’T EXIST. God.

Kit is not smart, but apparently nobody told her (or the author) that. The narrative just takes aspects of her that are stupid and deems them intelligent. One example comes from Kit’s initial conversation with the police officer in charge of her case: “‘But you’re running the show, aren’t you?’ I regretted that comment. It sounded too intelligent.”

There’s another thing that bugged me about that secret mailbox of letters. People tack on money to their handwritten letters, which doesn’t super make sense since Kit doesn’t kill everyone, but whatever. My main problem is that the mailbox is very commonly known in the seedy underground of London–so why doesn’t anyone steal the money? It’s behind a loose tile in the women’s bathroom of a café!

Kit’s motivation for being a murderer is solely rooted in the motivations of her mother. Apparently her mother had been a serial killer but almost got caught and had to stop, so she trained her daughter and is able to satisfy her violent tendencies through the knowledge that Kit is murdering. Which doesn’t make sense, because that’s not how violence works, and also Kit feels things, often anti-murder emotions, and this motivation just doesn’t seem strong enough to me.

And I wish I could say this book was at least thrilling or entertaining. But I never enjoyed reading this. So…

Bottom line: nope. Can’t recommend.


Never Never Part 3 Synopsis: New York Times bestselling authors Colleen Hoover and Tarryn Fisher are back with the much-anticipated final installment in the Never Never novella series.

Together, Silas Nash and Charlize Wynwood must look deeper into the past to find out who they were and who they want to be. With time ticking down, the couple are in a race to find the answers they need before they lose everything.

Can they regain what they once had? And will it restore who they once were?

Review: 1/5.

Are you familiar with how thin the walls are in dorm rooms? If you are, take that and multiply it by a thousand and you’ll have my scenario. If you aren’t, I’ll give you some examples: I can’t fall asleep until no one in my hall is talking. I unwantedly hear my next-door neighbors’ conversations word for word. If someone upstairs is playing music I can feel the bassline. I try to be as quiet as I can since I know if I make a noise louder than a pin dropping it could wake the goddamn dead.

But even though I was reading this at 1 a.m. on a Wednesday (WELL after quiet hours!) I couldn’t stop myself from scoffing. And groaning. And generally expressing my distaste. Loudly. I actually said “Oh, GOD” at the very last line of the book. To myself. In an empty room.

I dare you to read a teenage boy theorizing that a Grand Mystery–you know, one that spawned three novellas?–was caused by him and his girlfriend’s breakup going against ~destiny~ and not want to scream into the fucking abyss. I’m sorry for the language, but how did that even get published?! How is that in print?! A 3.47 average rating is pretty low for Goodreads, but I’m honestly surprised it’s not even less. Like one star, for example. Just every single reader giving this book one star. What a waste of time. I HAVE PAPERS TO WRITE, COLLEEN AND TARRYN!

I think I gave myself frown lines reading this.

It’s not super well-written, and it’s hard to tell whether that’s because the writing itself isn’t good or the characters are garbage or a mix of the two. Example: “‘I’m seventeen years old. I think I have the right to change.’ This guy. I want to roll my eyes at him, but first I need him to give me more answers.”

I never felt intrigued by the mystery. Maybe that’s my fault for launching abruptly into this having entirely forgotten the other novellas. Silas and Charlie, individually and together, made me want to GAG. But the most unforgivable aspect of this for me was just that it’s dumb.

Dumb mistakes, like saying they’re at a gas station an hour away from their destination on one page, then that they have two more hours till they get there on the next. Dumb reasoning, like seeing that two characters have small eyes and are kinda pale and assuming that one is the other’s father with no other evidence. Dumb perspective, since Charlie referred to herself more in the third person than first. Just dumb choices. Why would people take pictures of Silas because he sat in a puddle? WHY?!

Bottom line: I politely request to punch each and every one of these characters in the face, and then have a Silas ’n’ Charlie style memory loss so I never have to remember any of this book.


Alice Synopsis: A mind-bending new novel inspired by the twisted and wondrous works of Lewis Carroll…

In a warren of crumbling buildings and desperate people called the Old City, there stands a hospital with cinderblock walls which echo the screams of the poor souls inside.

In the hospital, there is a woman. Her hair, once blond, hangs in tangles down her back. She doesn’t remember why she’s in such a terrible place. Just a tea party long ago, and long ears, and blood…

Then, one night, a fire at the hospital gives the woman a chance to escape, tumbling out of the hole that imprisoned her, leaving her free to uncover the truth about what happened to her all those years ago.

Only something else has escaped with her. Something dark. Something powerful.

And to find the truth, she will have to track this beast to the very heart of the Old City, where the rabbit waits for his Alice.

Review: 1.25/5

Well, as a retelling, that did a rather curious job.

I was so excited to read this book! There is something about the idea of a retelling in which Alice has escaped from an asylum that so fits the wondrous aura of the original book. Yet this did not stick to any of the plot-points, truly. Which was very disappointing. I imagine it would be extremely difficult to manufacture a narrative from the nearly unrelated curiosities of the original Alice in Wonderland—Tim Burton certainly struggled—but it seemed like the only thing this attempt did was take some names.

It seems that this is not the only shared factor between Tim Burton’s adaptation and Christina Henry’s. Both focus upon the plotline of Alice defeating the Jabberwocky (which is somewhat ridiculous if you think about it). Both require a certain blade to kill it. Both have weird sexualizations of the plot points, which is so odd because the original Alice is a CHILD. (Especially Henry’s—the entirety of the book was centered upon human trafficking for prostitution and sexual assault.) Both have significantly aged Alices, perhaps to fit this. Maybe Henry was adapting Burton’s take on the book rather than the book itself. It all came off as very plagiarized.

Things, specifically, that bugged me about Henry’s take: Alice travels with her middle aged mental-institution-next-door-neighbor, whom she is in love with for some reason? He, to the best of my detection, is not modeled upon a character. The Rabbit is a villain, the main one, and does not share any attributes with the original White Rabbit. In fact, it seems that Henry may have intended the Rabbit to mean the March Hare? Everyone in the book is a villain and there is a strange incorporation of characters from Through the Looking Glass, but not the important ones (Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum and the chess pieces, for example, go undiscussed. Maybe in the next books). In general it was so frustrating to try to compare this book to the original, because it didn’t add up. And that is all the fun of retellings!

After 291 pages of unspeakable violence, the ending of this book was unbelievably anticlimactic. We follow Alice and Hatcher, her extremely old, my-only-character-trait-is-I’m-a-crazy-murderer love interest, as they battle their way to the two “boss” characters: the Rabbit and the Jabberwocky. I don’t want to spoil anything, so I’ll just say we encounter these guys for a total of the last dozen pages. Very frustrating.

God, I’m so upset by how much I hated this. What a cool concept, entirely dashed.

Bottom line: if you like very violent books, you may like this. If you like retellings, you will not. I sure didn’t.


The Walled City Synopsis: 730. That’s how many days I’ve been trapped.

  1. That’s how many days I have left to find a way out.

DAI, trying to escape a haunting past, traffics drugs for the most ruthless kingpin in the Walled City. But in order to find the key to his freedom, he needs help from someone with the power to be invisible….

JIN hides under the radar, afraid the wild street gangs will discover her biggest secret: Jin passes as a boy to stay safe. Still, every chance she gets, she searches for her lost sister….

MEI YEE has been trapped in a brothel for the past two years, dreaming of getting out while watching the girls who try fail one by one. She’s about to give up, when one day she sees an unexpected face at her window…..

In this innovative and adrenaline-fueled novel, they all come together in a desperate attempt to escape a lawless labyrinth before the clock runs out.

Review: 1.35/5 (The .35 is out of pity for how I didn’t finish this.)

A day and a half ago, I was telling you all I didn’t want to DNF it. Now, I’m DNFing it.

If you’re familiar with my (work in progress) 2016 favorites shelf, you’re aware that a lovely little number called Wolf by Wolf is featured in it. That book is so great. (If you’re not familiar: 1. It’s YA and a hypothetical historical fiction, exploring a different scenario in which the Axis powers won World War II and also centering on a badass global motorcycle race; and 2. Pick. It. Up.) If you are familiar, you may know that the sequel came out earlier this week. It is one of my most anticipated reads of the year. I am unbearably excited and continually checking my Amazon shipping status.

If you’re wondering why I’m yammering on about this duology, it’s because they’re by the same author. I’ve been anticipating reading this book for a long time but I’ve saved it for the final pre-sequel stretch, both to stave off my crippling enthusiasm and to remind me why I loved the book.

Here’s the thing, though. I hated this book.

The characters were flat, the writing was mediocre to rough, and–worst flaw of all when compared to Wolf by Wolf–this shindig was goddamn boring.

Also, what the hell genre is this? Unless an entire history from today until when this book takes place was revealed in the last stretch, I see no reason to believe this is a dystopia. If it’s fantasy, it’s the lamest fantasy ever. Things like Styrofoam and Gucci exist?! So uncreative. Bleh.

I had to stop reading because this was killing my excitement, and I refuse to allow for that to happen. This was making me question just how creative Graudin’s concept of hypothetical history was. She wrote it, of course, half a century after The Man in the High Castle was published, and likely in the wake of a renewal of that story’s readership when the Amazon series was announced. (God, what a great series.)

Anyway. So goes my eighth DNF. I hate doing this, guys, mainly because it makes me feel unqualified to complain. But…

Bottom line: I found this book silly, confusing, flat, uncreative and boring, as well as an excitement-killing monster. Nope, nope, nope-ity nope.

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