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(Art by hamburger.)
The Beginning (Animorphs, #54) by K.A. Applegate
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Okay -- it's complicated (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

The first half of this last book was great. It looked at the impact of the war on all these kids. What happens to the "bad guys" (Yeerks). What happens to the other aliens. I loved it and believed it, especially how Jake changed once the war was over. Or how he didn't change, as the case may be. Some kids were able to leave what happened and what they did behind, and some could not.

Though this was a YA book, it pulled no punches on the morality of acts done during war. Cassie, the pacifist, speaking to a Yeerk, about Jake's act of genocide.

"Jake did what he had to do."
"Did he? Someone flushed the Yeerk pool into space. Did he have to do that, too? They were unhosted Yeerks. They were harmless."
"We needed a div —" I stopped myself.
"A what? A what did you need? A diversion? You're going to tell me you needed a diversion so Jake massacred seventeen thousand sentient creatures? A diversion?"

But unfortunately, and somewhat bogglingly, the book didn't end there. The whole second half of the book started a new adventure. An unfortunately not very believable one. *announcer voiceover* Animorphs In SPACE!

Worse than the ending being pointless and unbelievable, it ended on a cliffhanger. The whole series, ended in the middle of an action scene.

I suppose young readers wouldn't have been satisfied with the ending at the halfway point of the book. There was no action, it was too thoughtful. Perhaps young readers don't want "realistic impacts of war".

But man, for an older reader? The latter half of the book ending SUCKED.

Eight hours or so later: I've had time to think on the end of the book, as well as to read others' reviews. While I still dislike the latter half of the book, I understand the point of it. As unbelievable as it is, it sort of gives a happy ending for Jake, since he's a man unable to leave war behind. I just wish the author had been able to do it in some other way.

The first half of the book was so great though. The author said she wanted a realistic look at a war, and she completely succeeded at that in this series.

Rating for first half of the book: Loved
Rating for second half: Disliked (or "hated" if I'm being honest, but that pains me to write)
I averaged it to: Okay


I went back to check my ratings for the whole series.

Loved: 12
Liked: 17
Okay: 7
Disliked: 14
Hated: 7

I read three of those extra Chronicles/Megamorphs books, and of them 1 I hated and 2 I disliked (included in the count above). That's why I'm kind of unenthusiastic about reading the ones I skipped.

I kind of thought my overall ratings would be higher. 29 books were liked/loved, 21 were disliked/hated.

Was the series worth reading? Yeah. Even with issues, it was. Even with the sometimes silliness, it was nicely dark and often realistic. It was also interesting (and somewhat boggling) to see what could be gotten away with in YA books. I actually want to reread the whole series right now.

Elementals: Ice Wolves by Amie Kaufman
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

This was an odd book. I loved the setting and the worldbuilding. I loved the characters. But the story didn't hold my interest at all. More than any book before, every page or so I had to go back and reread, because my mind had wandered from the story.

Set in a fantasy world, a few humans have the power to shapeshift into animals. Each land has two animals that can be shapeshifted into. In the country this story is set in, people can transform into wolves or dragons. In his case, the two groups are at war.

There was so much interesting about this story. I loved how different the wolf and dragon cultures were. I think the issue was that the main character (a child) made really stupid mistakes and assumptions. His decisions and actions were believable for a young kid to make, but for adult reader me it was so frustrating. However, this book is for ages 8-12, so I can't fault it for having kid characters making realistic kid decisions.

Sadly I won't be continuing with this series.
The Absolute (Animorphs #51) by "K.A. Applegate" (Lisa Harkrader)
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Hated(Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

This series is 54 books long. This is book #51. So why was it so so so bad? Okay, in this case I can answer that: Because I'm not the target audience. Young readers probably liked this one a lot, for reasons adult readers likely did not.

This book was like the worst, most nonsense action movie ever made. The Animorphs decide to go to the government to tell them what's happening, so Jake sends Marco, Tobias, and Ax to visit the local governor.

This mission somehow ends up involving a train heist.
Marco (in gorella morph), Tobias (Hork-Bajir), and Ax in his real body end up kidnapping the governor and racing away in a limo with her.
Somehow they blow up a yacht.
There are multiple battles with the US military.

I'm so annoyed, there are so few books left, and this one seemed a complete and utter waste (other than one paragraph at the very end).

The Sacrifice (Animorphs, #52) by "K. A. Applegate" (Kim Morris)
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Loved (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

This review is different than all the other Animorphs ones. I wrote it as I was reading it, instead of once I was finished. This was such a book, it's jarring how much things changed between the beginning and the end of it.

On to the review!

A grizzly, a tiger, a wolf, and an Andalite appeared as if from nowhere and quietly knocked the ten men unconscious.

For a series about war, about an alien invasion of the entire planet, there is oddly little death. I can think of only two deaths in the 52 books so far, and both were implied and off camera. I guess that's part of this being a YA series. [Now, near the end of the book, I have to laugh at that observation. Boy how things changed...]

While the writing and story in this book were good, I still had lots of issues with the characters' actions. Remember, there are five (now maybe twenty) kids trying to defend the whole Earth from an alien invasion.

Immediately, the human-Controllers began to morph.
"Jake!" Rachel's voice was shrill. "Let's get them before they're in battle morphs!"
"No! We give them a fair fight. We fight the Yeerks. We don't become them."

When you're a few people fighting a whole army, to try to fight "fair" is insane.

Okay, but I'm getting ahead of myself. This is an Ax POV-story, and such a good one. Ax finally completely grows up, he sees humans how we really are, and he hates us for it. How very cool is that? That after 50-something books, Ax changes enough to hate us (and it's completely believable, doesn't feel like the character did a 180 just for Plot Drama).

But for all Ax matured, the rest of the Animorphs seemed to go in the opposite direction. The group comes up with a plan to win the war, to drive the Yeeks off the planet, but they don't want to do it because some innocent people might get hurt. What in the world do they think will happen to ALL people people if this battle is lost? It was so frustrating. Understandable, but frustrating as hell.

But they end up doing the plan anyway, and some innocent people do get killed. The reactions and conversations about it seemed so realistic.

"Well, [the surprisingly successful win] is something," Marco pointed out. "But you know what the saddest thing about this whole situation is?"
"l wouldn't even know where to begin," Cassie answered.
"The saddest thing is that this is our greatest victory. And I've never felt more depressed in my entire life."

The end of the book was so sudden, I actually blinked in surprise and tried to scroll more. "Wait, that's it?". A really, really good note to end on. This was one of the best books in the series.

Just two more to go. *sob!*

Animorphs #53: The Answer by K.A. Applegate and Michael Grant*
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Liked**(Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

I've fought them for more than three years. I was just thirteen when I started.

Can you imagine a group of five children spending three years not just taking part in guerrilla warfare, but commanding it all, no support from any adults at all? And having to keep their efforts secret from everyone, their parents included?

Two or three books ago, there was a great line. I wish I had saved it. Jake, the leader of the Animorphs, was ordered by his mother to clean the basement. The battles were getting worse, the Animorphs were losing. He hadn't slept in days. He was in pain from wounds. And his mother still had the power to make him do chores.

What strikes me most about this book is how old their voices have become. This is a Jake POV book, and he sounds like a man. An old, old soldier with scores of battles under his belt.

We were just kids. But in some ways we were the ideal guerrilla fighters. The morphing power let us fly and dig and crawl, sense, hide, and fight with far more than human power. Our youth made us the least likely of suspects.

So different than the last couple books, in this one they start finally, finally making the hard calls. How hard? How about using a bunch of disabled children as cannon fodder? Knowingly let them die? Watching them get killed?

And not just disabled children:

Seventeen thousand. Living creatures. Thinking creatures. How could I give this order? Even
for victory. Even to save Rachel. How could I give this kind of order?

Aliens. Parasites. Subhuman.

"Kill them," I said.

That's what war is about, isn't it? Making the other side subhuman?

This book, the second to last one, ended on a cliffhanger, but a completely unexpected one.

* Michael Grant himself said "I’m Michael Grant author or co-author of Animorphs", he stated he wrote more than half (up to 90%) of the books credited to K.A. Applegate. I know his writing, and this book feels like his work, not hers at all.

** If comparing to only Animorphs books, I'd rate this one a loved. It was one of the top 10 in the series. Compared to other books though, it doesn't quite reach a loved rating.
The Diversion (Animorphs #49) by "K.A. Applegate" (Lisa Harkrader)
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

This book got such good reviews on Goodreads, but it didn't do much for me.

With only a few books left in this 50+ book series, the war is getting closer to being full fledged. (I can't help but wonder why we didn't hit this point at book 10 instead of all the way at the end of the series.) The bad guy aliens have (finally) realized that they're fighting Earth kids, so they're going after their families. This book was all about getting the families somewhere safe.

Unfortunately, once again, the whole thing wasn't believable. Including things like a blind adult woman who apparently was completely able to live alone and had a life, who would rather die than stay blind.

So many books in this series are in the meh to bad range, and yet I still feel the series as a whole is worth reading. Strange. (Edit: After entering the year's books into Goodreads last night, I wonder if that's true? Once I'm done with the series, I'm going to see my average review for the series as a whole.)

The Ultimate (Animorphs #50) by "K.A. Applegate" (Kimberly Morris)
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Liked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

I guess it gets to a point in any war when you wonder if your side are the good guys or not. The Yeerks are questionably the bad guys, but are the Animorphs the good guys anymore?

With only five Animorphs against the whole Yeerk army, they decided they needed more members. For surprisingly logical plot reasons, they decide the only trustworthy kids to give morphing abilities to are physically handicapped kids. Suddenly instead of just a few Animorphs, they have dozens.

Until Cassie. In probably the worst decision of this entire series, Cassie did the most stupid thing anyone has ever done. She gave the object that grants the morphing power to the Yeerks. Why? No good reason, other than "it felt like the right thing to do". Literally, she said that. I guess that must be one of the reasons why she's the least popular character in the fandom.

Goodreads is now up to date | The Boys

Somehow I fell out of habit of copying my reviews into Goodreads... about a year ago. So I had more than 50 reviews to copy over. (Boy I wish you could just automatically import them from elsewhere.)

All caught up as to this point!

While I'm making a post, The Boys is really, really good TV. (TV? I guess we can't actually call it that. From Amazon Prime.) If you like superhero movies but always wanted a more realistic take on them, this show is for you:

What happens to all the people in the building when the super tosses a car through it? And really, how do people act when they have so much more power than everyone else around them? It sure as heck isn't usually like a saint.

I have one ep left to go, but I completely love this series. Bring on season two!

Edit: Warning: The Boys spoilers in comments. Read with care if you haven't watched it yet.
The Resistance (Animorphs #47) by "K.A. Applegate" (Ellen Geroux)
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Hated (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

When there are 30 or 40 books left in a series, a bad book is less annoying. But when there are seven more left to go, a bad one seems criminal.

Oh this book was so bad, in so many ways. First off, for completely no reason, fully 50% of the book was about a different story. Half of it was about the Animorphs, fully half of it was about Jake's great great grandfather in the Civil War. For no reason, just because Jake glanced at the man's journal, we the reader saw what was happening in the grandfather's time. Why? It was completely pointless.

And the half of the story about Jake and the Animorphs? It was worse than the Civil War half of the book.

I really don't like the Hork-Bajir aliens, but their leader is even worse. (The race as a whole is so stupid they can barely talk, but their leader is smarter than humans. And probably psychic.) The whole of the Yeerks' army was coming to attack the valley the free Hork-Bajir aliens live in, but instead of doing the reasonable thing and moving elsewhere, they wanted to stay and fight. So of course the Animorphs had to stay and help them.

There just happened to be some campers in the woods nearby, so Jake told them what was happening to get their help. But the campers were all Star Trek fans, so they endlessly asked if the Animorphs were aliens, were in the Federation, could beam them up... they were just so amazingly stupid and unbelievable. You see some kids transform into animals, I think most fans would know that is different than a TV show they like.

Ugh. This whole book was just so bad.

The Return (Animorphs #48) by "K. A. Applegate" (Kimberly Morris)
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Disliked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

I'm so torn about this one. It was a roller coaster, but not in a good way. My emotions while reading it went: "What the hell, this makes no sense." "Oh I guess that explains why." "Wait, this makes NO sense..." "Oh that explains it, I guess." "What the hell, this makes no sense..." over and over. The book was supposed to be a mindfuck, making you confused over reality, but it didn't really work.

So much of the book didn't work for me. I never liked the gods' meta fights in this series, so Crayak being a main player in this story wasn't a good fit for me. (Plus he was kind of dull, stupid, and unimpressive for such a powerful being.)

The 'return' in the title is David coming back. David, the short term sixth Animorph that the original five basically killed (trapped as a rat). His trilogy was one of the most powerful arcs in the series, and bringing him back did the character no justice at all.

All that being said, I liked the ending a lot. It was one of the most mature moments in the series so far.

Since I like the dark elements of these books, this one should have worked for me, but it didn't. The whole thing just seemed so childish and I guess I didn't buy most of it.

Only six more books to go. It's going to be sad when I'm done with this series.

Zoo: Alien Lockdown by Phil Price
Traditional or self-published: Self-published
Rating: Hated (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

So many authors of self-published books try to trick you into buying their books. They make up a fake publisher, they do everything they can to try to hide that they're self-publishing. The latest new trick they seem to be doing is listing an editor next to the author's name. They probably think that it will fool some people into buying the book, thinking it will be edited better.

This one listed an editor. This one was, like so many self-published books are, full of typos, grammar issues, spelling mistakes, etc.

I have no idea what the story was like. Stopped reading at the 5% point. If the author can't be bothered to edit the book, why should I bother to read it?

Partial book credits:
Point reached in this books: 5%
Previous abandoned book total: 542%
New total: 547% (5 books)
Your Robot Dog Will Die by Arin Greenwood
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Disliked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

This story had such potential. Set in the future, most animals have gone extinct. Because of human geneteching, there are only a small handful of dogs left in the world, and all of those hate humans (somehow the genetic changes made them lose all of the evolution towards working with people). A company took advantage of that opening and started making realistic(ish) robot dogs as pets.

Sounds interesting so far, huh? It's just too bad the writing couldn't carry the story.

Nothing in the world building was believable, to the point where often times some new detail about the world would just jar me out of the story.

The main character was boring and uninteresting, and every other character was flat and had no personality at all.

Such a shame. The story had sounded so interesting.

Partial book credits:
Point reached in this books: 20%
Previous abandoned book total: 522%
New total: 542% (5 books)

The Deception (Animorphs #46) by "K. A. Applegate" (Elise Donner)
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Disliked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

You know, in this series they knock people out a lot. They hit them over the head with metal things, Marco in gorilla morph punches them on the head, tiger morph hits them with a paw. Throw them head first into stone walls. Lots of people get hit hard on the head, and the kids always say/think/assume they're completely fine. I guess they hadn't known about traumatic brain injury back in the 90s?

Anyway, onto this book.

So, with eight books left in the series, the war has finally started for real. Open warfare. The kids are no longer trying to hide their morphing or their attacks.

The Yeerks too are no longer trying to hide their attacks. Their new plan is to start another World War, so humans kill each other and make it easier for them to take over.

All that being said... this story was pretty hard to believe. The Animorphs (children) steal and fly one of the Air Force's newest, fastest jets. Crashland it into the ocean and walk away completely healthy and without injury. Then they reach an aircraft carrier that the Yeerks are going to use to start World War 3. All too fast, the military people there figure out what's going on, who is on which side, and start fighting side by side with the Animorphs. At one point Ax (an alien, in his alien form) asks one of the soldiers if he can use his DNA, and the guy says "I'd be honored". All this in less than an hour or so since they crashed the plane in the ocean.

Still, with the not quite believable stuff, the story had some interesting elements. Ax POV. Interesting insight into what can and does happen during war. Too bad the interesting parts were so brief and far between.

Zoo Girl by Jennifer Bardsley
Traditional or self-published: Self-published
Rating: Hated (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

This story was so pointless. Bad story, badly written, waste of reading time.

The Earth is destroyed. (Or so they think.) Three teenagers are captured by aliens and put into a zoo. The male teenager only gets fed if he has sex with the two girls. One of the girls doesn't want to do it with him. Ending turns out not just that the Earth isn't destroyed, but somehow has spaceships that can go to other planets. (Was this story set in the future? Who knows!) And the aliens were all "roaches" so the humans used what appeared to be bug spray on them, then they rescued the one teenage girl who hadn't wanted to have sex.

The writing quality was so bad in this. Just a complete waste to read. (It doesn't count towards books read for the year, since it was just a short story.)
Over the Moon by Natalie Lloyd
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Loved (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

This was such a good book, in so many ways.

The world the author crafted was amazing. This wasn't even a YA book, it was younger, but the quality was as high as you could want. Set in some fantasy world, the magic has vanished. A substance called Dust has replaced it, and Dust is just about the opposite of magic in every way. Touch it and all your worst emotions will come to the surface. Be around it longer, and you won't have any emotions at all. It makes the whole world dull and drab.

The people of the local town are in a bad situation. Their economy had been based on weaving starlight (magic), but without that, all the men have to go work (and die) in the mines, and the women/girls have to work for rich families. There is no protection for anyone, poor people (which is most people) are used and abused.

Enter Mallie, our main character. Born with one arm, she sneaks into a job meant just for boys (orphaned boys). Though she's neither, her personality is strong enough that she earns the right to stay.

The rest of the plot focuses on what happened to the magic and how Mallie can help the people of her town.

If I had to name a negative, it would only be that the book's bad guy was kind of flat. Since this is a book for children though, I can overlook that. It's not that he was unbelievable, but I guess just because it was told in first person, and Mallie was the main character, we didn't get to see his motives or evolution.

Still, this was a completely wonderful book. It taught lessons about society and gender without once feeling preachy. Mallie was such a great main character.

Okay, I guess I can name a second "negative": The author wrapped the story up in one book, so I suppose there won't be a series. That's too bad, I'd really love to read more about all the characters.

The Unexpected (Animorphs #44) by "K.A. Applegate" (Lisa Harkrader)
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Hated (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

This late in the series, filler books are especially annoying. This book was completely pointless, meaningless. Plus it was 98% action, which is never a good match for me. It had no impact at all on the series's story.

Through stupid, unbelievable plot reasons, Cassie ends up in Australia all by herself. As in one of the earlier books, a native teenage boy saw her morphing and was perfectly fine with it, not even surprised. She ends up going home with the boy, and for more stupid plot reasons, the two of them have to amputate the grandfather's leg.


The book's setup was stupid, the middle was pointless, and the ending was an almost literal deus ex machina.

Hopefully #45 will be better...

The Revelation (Animorphs #45) by "K. A. Applegate" (Ellen Geroux)
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Liked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Reading this book after #44 was kind of jarring. 44 was nothing but filler, fluff. Nothing happened in it, nothing lasting, no changes. This book changed everything.

These books take about two hours to read, so it's a shame it took me maybe a week to finish this one. Lots of things happened, impactful things, but when I read a page here and a page there, it was hard to keep in the mood.

Very early in the series, in the first or second book, Marco's mother was taken by the brain slug aliens (Yeerks). So she was alive, but lost to him. Worse than that, the Yeerk in her head is one of the Yeerk leaders.

Marco's father is a scientist, and he and his team made a big technological leap. One the Yeerks notice. They attack, intending to put a Yeerk into the father's head.

By the end of the encounter, for the first time since the ill-fated new kid they made into an Animorph, one of them told an outsider the truth about the war. Marco told his father everything.

The end of the book was surprisingly deep, and left me wondering about Marco's motives. His father, thinking that his first wife/Marco's mother was dead, remarried. Marco didn't like the new wife much. So when he got the Yeerk out of his mother's head and brought her home... Did he lie to his father (saying the second wife had been working with the enemy all the time) so the father could be happy with his first wife again? Or did he lie because Marco wanted his family back together?

I suspect that issue will be dealt with more in the coming books.

Only nine books left to go...
Slow Bullets by Alastair Reynolds
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Loved (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

I almost gave up on this book before I started it. No copyright info (which usually means self published), and more "Praise for the Author" pages than I ever saw in any other book. Praise for the author, praise for this book, praise for that one... Turns out it's not self published, and even more surprisingly, turns out that praise was deserved.

I loved this book. Told in first person, the main character speaking to the reader, it felt so completely personal.

Set in the distant future and in space, a war between planets was just ending. War criminals from both sides (and some innocent people who got scooped up), were all put onto a ship to be sent somewhere far out of the way.

Something happened with the ship's drive, and the ship ended up mostly dead and cut off from everything. How could people who last remembered being at war get along long enough to figure out what happened? And these weren't even just soldiers, but the worst of the worst.

Because of how the story was told (the main character speaking to the reader), some details were lacking in the story. For example, where were they sending the prisoners? I have no idea, but it really doesn't matter at all. We didn't need to know, but now that the story is over, I'm curious about everything we didn't see.

I loved the story, the characters, the tech. All of it was so very good.

The Test (Animorphs #43) by "K. A. Applegate" (Ellen Geroux)
Traditional or self-published: Traditional
Rating: Loved (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

A few books back, Tobias was tortured. Seriously tortured. For hours. Physically and mentally. He was broken. He was nearly killed. Most of the kids are dealing with PTSD over the whole war in general, but for Tobias it's more this one single event that haunts him.

In this book, he not just came face to face with his torturer again, the whole Animorphs group had to work with her.

Add onto that that they morphed into probably the worst thing ever to be: Taxxon. An alien race, basically a massive worm that does nothing but eat nonstop. Dirt, people, items, anything nearby, it eats.

The plot in this book was more complex than usual for these books, which is a really nice thing. Add that to this being a Tobias POV book, with him dealing with his torturer, and it really was something else.

Cats: The movie

The Cats trailer looks REALLY good. Nice use of CGI without any uncanny valley. I'm excited to see it!

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