Sunday, December 13, 2015

Smiley facePretty Little Secrets (PLL #4.5) by Sara Shepard | Rating: ★★★☆☆

Next up on my Christmas friendly list of recommendations and reviews is a collection of holiday stories set in the Pretty Little Liars universe, planted between the first A arch and the second. It’s Christmas time in Rosewood and our girls are up to a lot. Sara Shepard brings us four short stories, one for each of our liars, and shows us just what the girls were up to between gaps in time.

“But what’s the point of it?” it serves no real substance to any plots in the future of the series. Here’s the thing, kids: it’s just a collection of holiday stories. Short stories set in the winter, in between the darkness that they face. It is meant to give us a glimpse of what they are like when A is only in the shadows and Sara succeeds at that. It’s cute. You don’t have to read it if you don’t want to, you won’t get lost if you choose not to.

But it’s still fun for the holidays!

That’s all you need to know, really. Think about that time you wrote a fluffy fanfiction about your OTP, or a subplot to a story you were working on or something that just was for fun and enjoyable. That’s essentially what that is. A little treat in between timelines to lighten the load. It does its job and is just a treat for longtime readers.

When I heard about this little guy–I was surprisingly oblivious towards it for at least a year and I only found out about it because it was only $3 at BAM in the bargain bin–I did a little embarrassing happy dance in the bookstore. No, don’t look at me like that, I’m not embellishing. I really did do a little jig.


Which, yes, lead to some interesting looks from workers and customers alike. And yes, I’m surprised I didn’t get more weird looks from others. And triple yes, it was probably more than embarrassing but I had absolutely no control over myself. I couldn’t resist. My thoughts were something like: “Christmas time with the liars? Sign. Me. Up.”

Am I right, or am I right? Sara, just take my money already.

*pushes my wallet in her direction*

Now, the good thing about Pretty Little Secrets is that it still has the dishy undertone of dirty little secrets only readers are able to take a break from the better part of danger they’ve grown accustomed to in Rosewood. I mean, A is readying herself in the shadows and is always watching but there is a significantly less amount of threat from the bitch.

Emily, Aria, Hanna and Spencer get up to no good as usual but the consequences aren’t as big as what we expect in the main series. Which means it’s a lot more fluffy and indulgent than you’re used to when reading the other books. That’s what I love most about it.

There’s still secrets and dramatics but it’s toned down a lot and set in a holiday setting. I loved it, personally, because it was great to see our girls in a different light. It won’t do much to endear readers if they don’t already like the series but it is an excellent treat for fans.

My personal favorite story was Hanna’s.

I find myself more into her and Emily’s stories at the end of the day in the main series so this shouldn’t be shocking. I was really excited to go back in time a bit and see Hanna as she adjusts to the truth that Mona was. We see her trying to come to terms with the fact that she now lives with her father and his new family, as well.

Which means more tension between Hanna and Kate. It’s typical and all sorts of high school, something that you’d expect in their earlier days. But between holiday traditions–new and old–and potential blackmail possibilities about what both girls were really getting up to that holiday season is just as entertaining as you expect.

I also liked seeing more of Lucas. Not that he was present a lot of the time. I was so into them back in the day that it felt sweet seeing them, even if I was annoyed on Hanna’s behalf for some moments and considered what would happen on his trip and what would happen to Hanna’s plans of joining a gym and crushing on her hot instructor.

Hanna’s story was the funnest, in my opinion and that’s what I’m going to leave it at. I liked how she got even with Dinah and Kate, it’s always fun to see her bring out her claws.

Meow.

Unfortunately, it is iffy the rest of the way through at best. All the other girls and their stories pale in comparison. Our other stories aren’t terrible but they just weren’t as fun as Hanna’s in my mind. I wouldn’t go too far and say they were terrible or even lackluster.

They had their moments and were entertaining enough. But Hanna’s is the superior one.

I’ll go in order…

Emily’s story started off a little silly but made a turn for entertaining about half way through; only to become wasted potential at the end. It was frustrating. I felt like it wasn’t wrapped up well enough in how she was forgiven. It also felt a bit more rushed than Hanna’s, but maybe that was just me.

Still, it wasn’t terrible and I enjoyed seeing how she handled her position of “spy” as she tried to and watching her as she became more involved. I thought we were going to see her get up to more trouble and have a nice little fling in between times, something fluffy, but it didn’t happen. Still it was pretty cute seeing her as Santa.

She got up to some pretty funny stuff though here and there and it wasn’t a complete waste. I liked seeing how certain things expanded on her character, you know? I liked seeing Emily unexpectedly bond with girls outside of the usual crowd.

I liked seeing the throwbacks between her and her new friends, like how one of the girls had a past knowing Allison. But I especially liked the final moments where she blackmails a cop (yes, you read that correctly!), who happens to be a stripper, and she did make amends for playing spy.

But overall the story wasn’t my favorite. It was the best of the remaining stories, though and that's all I can say. As usual, Hanily take the crown, kids! But who is shocked?

Next up is Aria’s story. As usual, Aria’s sub plot revolves around her love life and bad decision making in regards to it. She is definitely on the rebound and when an ex from her time in Iceland makes a surprise appearance, after being alone for the holidays, she dives right into old habits and tries to make things work with him.

And by “tries to make things work with him” I mean the two literally run off to Atlantic City to get married. Side-eye and it’s just all typical Aria Montgomery, vintage style “lets rush into things!” and blah. There were some sweet moments and humor sprinkled in, though, and again it wasn’t terrible it just was… eh. I wanted something more from it. Aria soon realizes she’s bitten off far more than she can chew and her dream man is… well…

Hallbjorn (is that how you spell his name?) has his share of secrets and turns out to be all the kinds of wrong for her. He is impulsive and turns out, he is on the run from police and is a wanted man. And then he does something ridiculous–he runs off the day after the wedding and sets free a duo of PANTHERS (no, I’m not kidding) loose on AC.

Which kind of becomes a running gag in the book here and there, as it is broadcast on news channels.

Aria plays it off and things turn out all right. But with A having witnessed it all, things could prove to be tricky for our girl knowing that A was in the shadows.

Lastly is Spencer. Ah, Spencer Hastings. I had high hopes for her story. After a lackluster addition to the collection via Aria’s holiday hijinks, I thought maybe she would be the next redeeming quality and perhaps dethrone Emily and Hanna as most interesting.

Well, her story wasn’t bad. It just…

I felt like it was more of the same. Spencer is such an interesting character but is sometimes underused in the book series.

It gets so, so repetitive. SO REPETITIVE. I’m sorry but it’s so much of the same thing as the first two A’s and it just is tiring.

We get it! She feels like the black sheep of her family, she fights with Melissa over a boy and they bond for like two seconds only to go back to cold shoulder time, her parents make her feel awful. I can’t say I’m shocked that Melissa was able to play her so easily at first when it came to the object of her affections.

I do pity her, though. It’s terrible feeling like that. And her family is kind of shit most of the time so it’s just… I had hoped for something different. A bright spot, so to speak, that would spark mischief for her and she’d do something epic and problematic.

But this? Blah, blah, blah. I did enjoy that she and Melissa teamed up towards the end when it became obvious they had been played and the guy they were fighting over was not only way older than them but married and with a kid. Typical player. He got what he deserved and the moment was great.

Not really enough to save her story but still something solid enough to note.

Whether or not you read their stories, it won’t affect the main series’ run. So if you're reading the series now, for the first time, and feel you should skip it I say go for it. Unless you really, really, really want more of these four. It was an all right read and it’s possible you won’t agree with that, so if it doesn’t seem like your cup of tea–don’t pick it up! I thought it could have been better but it was still fun and nice catching up with our favorite liars.

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