Meh. It was okay. But for a trilogy that began so strongly, and appeared to pick up momentum in book 2, I found this final installment to be a tepid a...more Meh. It was okay. But for a trilogy that began so strongly, and appeared to pick up momentum in book 2, I found this final installment to be a tepid affair. From the very beginning this series tantalized me with mentions of Black Wings and sinister, dangerous things. It never quite lived up to that promise for me. There is simply waaaay too much emphasis on the romantic elements to suit my tastes. These books were obviously not written to please me.
The pacing for this one just felt "off" as well, really uneven. The ending feels rushed, and important developments are over too quickly. (view spoiler)[Hell was a few pages. Getting in and getting out should have been a much bigger part of the novel (hide spoiler)].
And *enough* with the love triangles already!! Jeesh. (view spoiler)[Killing Tucker pissed me off (it felt like cheating to suck as much angst out of the plot as possible). This worked in book 2 when Clara's mom dies, but to use this device again felt overly manipulative. Then to *bring him back* from the dead just felt too *deus ex machina*. Oh, it's okay. Haha. Fooled you! He's not really dead! You didn't think I'd kill him for *real* did you? Silly girl.(hide spoiler)]
And now I do feel like a silly girl for having stuck with this series for so long.
I'm going to go read about zombies and the end of the world.
Silly, sweet and lots of fun, yet with a pleasing underbelly of bite. Newly minted grim reaper Lex returns in this sequel to Croak. Like most sequels...moreSilly, sweet and lots of fun, yet with a pleasing underbelly of bite. Newly minted grim reaper Lex returns in this sequel to Croak. Like most sequels worth reading, the stakes have become higher, and the world-building a little more fleshed out and fully realized.
Things I liked:
The Junior Grims of Croak actually act like normal teenagers. They don't know everything and can be impulsive and smart-mouthed. The chemistry between Lex and Driggs continues to be made of win. And while the copious make-out sessions had me rolling my eyes, what else would two hormone driven teenagers living in such close proximity get up to? Plus, hilarity ensues when Uncle Mort has to play chaperone all the time. His vigilant attempts to halt any over-enthusiastic pawing sessions did make me laugh.
Speaking of -- Uncle Mort. I keep picturing him as Woody Harrelson. He's brash, funny, sarcastic and a welcome adult presence in a world populated with angsty teen Grims.
The world-building. This version of the Afterlife rules, even if it is a little too rainbows and lollipops sometimes (Edgar Allen Poe needs a bigger part in the next book). Zara's plan, the search for the Wrong Book, Lex's exploration of her Damning capabilities - (view spoiler)[not to mention Drigg's discovering his exact opposite ability to un-Damn (hide spoiler)] - all add up to a nice bit of escapist reading. I'll be definitely seeking out the final book in the trilogy.
This is going to be a tough one to review. I'm not sure how I feel yet. Emotions are kind of scattered all over the place and my brain is cramped into...moreThis is going to be a tough one to review. I'm not sure how I feel yet. Emotions are kind of scattered all over the place and my brain is cramped into the shape of a pretzel. (less)
If you haven't read Rot & Ruin (the first of the Benny Imura books) I highly recommend that you do. This is shaping up to be a spectacular series...more If you haven't read Rot & Ruin (the first of the Benny Imura books) I highly recommend that you do. This is shaping up to be a spectacular series with a lot of heart. Love the writing, love the world-building, love the characters -- especially Benny's older brother Tom (be still my heart). Book 3 Flesh & Bone is coming in September, and to my utmost, fangirl delight -- it's been confirmed that there will be a Book 4 next year, Fire & Ash. *happy dance* The series definitely has its fans, but I still don't think it's getting nearly the attention it deserves, and I really want to play my small part in changing that.
This short story is set between Books 1 and 2 and it has been such a delight to re-visit Benny's world (and Tom!!!!!!) In the Land of the Dead is a series of vignettes woven together describing various aspects of life inside the fences protected from the Rot and Ruin. Whatever you do, DON'T read this story first because it is majorly spoilery for Book 1. For fans of the series, it is a gracious treat easily savored.
Benny's hilarious exchange with best friend Lou Chong made me laugh as they both stress and fret over the troubled young women they each have feelings for. It is a tender moment of innocence and normalcy in a world that has become an abomination sparsely populated with traumatized survivors, choked with fear and grief.
Another scene which delighted me to my toes has Tom continuing his combat and self-defense training of Benny and his circle of friends. Here, Benny is mercilessly teased by everyone when he screams "like a ten year old girl". Benny claims it is his warrior's cry sure to intimidate his enemies.
“It wasn’t a scream,” insisted Benny. “It was a high-pitched yell.” “Uh huh,” said Chong. “A hunting call.” “Right,” said Nix. “Like eagles use.” “Sure,” said Tom. “It was a battle cry--.” “Dude,” said Morgie, who sat on the bench, his shaved head still bandaged. “You screamed like a little girl. I’m kind of embarrassed to know you.”
Ah Benny. Still so much to learn young grasshopper.
So what are you waiting for??? This series is all kinds of awesome. If you start now you'll be all ready for Book 3 come September. How much do I love? Let me count the ways.(less)
Anyone remember Dead Like Me? I flipping LOVED that show, and was so profoundly irate and indignant when dull-witted, moronic executives ripped it off...more Anyone remember Dead Like Me? I flipping LOVED that show, and was so profoundly irate and indignant when dull-witted, moronic executives ripped it off the airwaves after its second season, with so much story left to tell. I will always remember it as an outstanding piece of television where young Georgia Lass is killed quite spectacularly one spring afternoon by an auspicious toilet seat that careens out of the sky after falling from the Russian space station. Smartmouth, antisocial George doesn't "pass over" into any recognizable afterlife however. Instead, she is recruited (against her will) to be a bonafide Grim Reaper. Her job is to "reap" the souls from dead bodies and send them on their merry way across a barrier she isn't allowed to cross. Sound morbid? It isn't. It's deliciously dark, shot through with potent humor, sharp observations, genuine emotion and a brilliant cast. I miss it still.
When I read the premise of Croak it immediately made me think of Dead Like Me. But I knew better than to hold this little book up against that show's richly developed canvas. That doesn't mean Croak is a bad book, because it isn't. It's sweet and funny and fun. Unlike Georgia Lass, Lex doesn't have to die to become a reaper. Instead, having gotten in trouble one too many times in her adolescent life, she is shipped off for the summer to stay with her eccentric, unknowable Uncle Mort who just happens to live in a tiny speck of a town known as Croak. When angry, violent, sarcastic Lex shows up in Croak she's in for the surprise of her life. Rather than milking cows and shoveling pig shit all summer long, her Uncle is going to teach her all about reaping the souls of the dead. She'll even get her own scythe.
I liked the world-building here. There are some nice details about reaping and death and souls and what happens after, though many of those details fall on the side of fluffy and superficial. Still, it is interesting finding out about "the rules". The set-up is gradual and natural and doesn't feel like a big info-dump. Uncle Mort is suitably crazy and charming and kept reminding me of Woody Harrelson in Zombieland. The "romantic interest" (c'mon, you knew there'd be one of those, right?) is actually a winner. This isn't insta-love (well, yes and no) but I didn't care because Driggs (I swear that's his name) is actually pretty funny. I really warmed up to his character. Some of the dialogue he and Lex share reminded me of my favorite screwball comedies from the 30's and 40's. And this made me giggle:
What happened next was an odd conglomeration of each of them moving in to give the other a hug, each thinking that the other was moving in to do something more, a subsequent dual retreat in the form of an awkward, octopus-like limb flailing, and a grand finale of something that could only be described as a clumsy, platonic chest bump. It wasn't pretty.
Snicker. For a breezy summer read to make you smile and keep the pages turning, you could do a lot worse than this little book. I've already added Book 2 - Scorch to my to-read pile. Interested to see where the story goes next.
I don't know, maybe I'm just getting too old and curmudgeonly for these types of stories. Too much angst and melodrama, this time around, not nearly e...moreI don't know, maybe I'm just getting too old and curmudgeonly for these types of stories. Too much angst and melodrama, this time around, not nearly enough of that spectacle and heart-stopping action found in Blood Red Road. Even the excruciating dialect and lack of punctuation bothered me, when I barely noticed it last time, so engrossed was I in the story.
Hardly any Jack. I wanted more of his part of the story, and not just his absence and Saba's brooding over possible deceits and betrayals. Her episodes of "acting out" grated on my last nerve through most of the story too. After everything she's been through, seen, survived, I expected a maturity that just didn't manifest itself.
...and hints of a love triangle....WHYYYYYYYYYY!!!??? ::pulls out hair in aggravation::
Not enough forward development of the plot either, a horrible sin that most sequels of a trilogy can't seem to avoid committing. I was so impressed with Young's execution of Blood Red Road however, I really expected her to pull it out of the fire and separate herself from the pack. Sigh. She did not.
I'm still enjoying the role of Nero the crow and Tracker the wolf. Reminds me of what I loved about the movie The Beastmaster when I was a kid. This pang of nostalgia fondly remembering a B flick from 1982 will not be enough to salvage this series if I don't get more -- much more -- meat on the bone in the final book. (less)
Short story collections and anthologies are always a mixed bag for me. Not only do I struggle with my own personal hang-ups when it comes to the short...more Short story collections and anthologies are always a mixed bag for me. Not only do I struggle with my own personal hang-ups when it comes to the short story format itself, you pretty much know going in to any anthology there will be hits and there will be misses. If you're lucky, a few will emerge as outstanding pieces of awesomeness, and I'm thankful to report I experienced that here.
Two things attracted me to this collection: 1) Ellen Datlow (editor extraordinaire) and 2) you had me at dystopia. I'm addicted to tales of dark and dangerous futures comprised of post-apocalyptic landscapes, where human survival is not a given, and the long and suffocating reach of a rigidly controlled society is profoundly felt.
I admit that these days we've gotten pretty footloose and fancy-free when it comes to our definition of dystopia. I'm not a purist by any means, but there are elements I expect to see (or not as it were) if I'm going to consider a story full-on dystopian. Much of it has to do with how well the society and its rules are conceived. Dystopia (just like the devil) is in the details. But we are talking about a spectrum. And there are an infinite number of spaces on that spectrum where a story can fall. The joy comes with the discovery of just how much variety and interpretation can be applied to a genre, how much can any one writer push the boundaries past what we've come to know and expect.
For whatever the reasons (and pundits and academics will argue the causes til they run out of oxygen), YA publishing is in the throes of a passionate obsession with dystopian tales and end-of-the-world scenarios. Readers are responding in kind, feeding the monster. And I couldn't be happier about that. The more authors, new and established, are encouraged to play around in the dystopia sandbox, the better off the genre will be. Push it to its limits, see what it can do, uncover all it has to teach us and the infinite number of ways it has to thrill and chill.
The short stories comprising this anthology (like every other anthology I've ever read) are not equally strong. There are definite misses where either the idea is confused or fumbled altogether, the characters underdeveloped, the prose weak. But I don't want to focus on the negative here, because there are also some outstanding pieces of writing not to be missed.
After the Cure, Carrie Ryan: You may already know Ryan from her Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy (which I highly recommend checking out). Here, Ryan tells the story of a young girl who is a recovering blood-sucking predator of humankind. In a new post-apocalyptic world of survivors, she has been cured. But it has left her lonely and longing for something more. No longer quite human, but no longer able to run with her pack, she seeks out the company of a young man with a tragic past. The writing here is beautiful, the mood melancholy.
The Great Game at the End of the World, Matthew Kressel: This one has such a weird and dreamlike quality to it, with an unsettling underbelly vibe that I can't quite call sinister, but feels like something Lovecraft could have written. A brother and his younger sister are the sole survivors of a mysterious, unknowable, cataclysmic "event". The siblings are forced to adapt to their new environment. All I can say is that it's a strange and wonderful piece.
Reunion, Susan Beth Pfeffer: Pfeffer is a prolific and bestselling YA author. This story is dark and damaged in so many ways, with a nice twist at the end. There aren't a lot of details about the society, but what we do get is reminiscent of Nazi Germany or Communist Russia. A mother and daughter proceed to interview young girls in the hope of finding their child / sister who was stolen from them years before. They recount their ordeal to her, how they had to submit themselves to the murderous whims of savage soldiers in order to find out her fate. This one is so tightly plotted, it had me sitting on the edge of my seat.
Rust With Wings, Steven Gould: I loved this one because it is such good ol' fashioned, high octane fun of action and peril. It has its roots firmly planted in the 1950's sci-fi tradition of "bugs gone wild".
The Marker, Cecil Castellucci: Interesting idea satisfyingly realized. Trust me, that's all you need to know.
Before I wrap this up, I do want to mention "Faint Heart" by Sarah Rees Brennan because it is the only one that reads like the beginning of a novel, rather than a short story. The cliffhanger ending left me screaming "Nooooo!" because I desperately wanted to know what was going to happen next. It is a "deadly games" premise where certain males are forced to compete to the death in The Trials. The sole survivor wins the hand of the "queen" - a genetically cloned model of perfection. I was just really getting into the story and warming up to the characters when it was over. This aggravated me more than pleased me.
This anthology is a rich grab bag, so don't be shy about diving in because you're sure to find something to suit your tastes. Just for the sheer variety of the stories -- I never knew what to expect next -- and the overall quality of the writing, I am highly recommending you check it out! (less)
I don't know how I'm going to do this, move through the hours like someone who wants to still be breathing when I had so firmly made up my mind to stop.
Wow. This little book has completely floored me. I was not expecting something so deep, so very melancholic yet shot through with the irrepressible human need to hope. Not just irrepressible, Summers shows us that hope is irreducible. Stripped to its basest core, hope just might be the evolutionary urge that has kept us going as a species for millennia -- in the face of disasters and war, atrocities and cruelty, in the face of bottomless grief, crushing despair, paralyzing loneliness and love lost. And I have no doubt that when the zombie apocalypse comes, it will be this amazing capacity to salvage hope from the ruins that will save us.
In This is Not a Test we meet Sloane, a young woman who has lost her ability to hope and thus, her will to live. She is alone with a father who beats her, abandoned by the only person in this life she has ever loved, her older sister Lily. Lily always told her they would escape together, that she would wait for her...and then she didn't. The depth of this betrayal slices through Sloane leaving her panicked, floundering, numb, then finally resigned. Her sister always said that Sloane would die without her -- and now Sloane has decided that she was right. At the point when Sloane knows she cannot possibly continue to live for another single intake of breath, zombies come pounding at the front door. The world is in chaos. Death is in every backyard, on every street corner. And suddenly, the young woman who was going to take her own life, is now running for it.
Yes this book has zombies but PLEASE, if that's not your thing, don't let it keep you from reading it. This is a story rich with emotion because Summers has such a genuine talent for creating memorable, unique characters. A book of six teens where every voice is distinctive and grounded firmly in reality is rare and precious. Hell, that's rare and precious for fiction period. The way these kids relate to one another, approaching with caution, testing for vulnerabilities, seeking approval, acceptance, a safe unconditional embrace, just left me riveted. I can tell you, I WAS IN THAT HIGH SCHOOL with them. I felt their fear and pain. I watched them come together, pull apart, rage and cry ... and I cried with them. Oh yes, there were tears people.
So many reviewers have pointed out that this book isn't about the zombies, but I would add that it's not just about the zombies. Because unlike some other books, the zombies are more than mere window dressing here or a fleeting, ill-defined threat. While there are very few actual sightings and encounters, there remains a stifling, almost suffocating sense of them at all times. In fact, there are several truly terrifying scenes, scenes that only work because Summers understands the critical relationship between tension and release. There is so much quiet in this novel, that when she ratchets up the suspense to a scream in the final 40 pages it's enough to make your heart beat right the fuck out of your chest.
I really loved everything about this book. I could search for flaws, as I'm sure they exist, but I'm not going to. I got lost in it. I thought about it when I was away from it, and I couldn't wait to get back to it. I was reading it on the bus on my way home today and nearly missed my stop because I was so engrossed. Read this! READ IT! I can't state it any more emphatically than that. Don't believe me? Read Catie's review. She'll convince you.
P.S. and I was so excited to learn that Courtney Summers is Canadian! Yay, Canada :)
Women and men. Girls and boys. People I might've known but can't recognize anymore. There is every shade of blood--black, brown, red, pink. All eyes looking at us through that same milky film that sees us for what we are and what they are not anymore.
Not a horrible ending to a trilogy which began with such promise, but definitely the weakest of the three. The first half is a lot of meandering and f...more Not a horrible ending to a trilogy which began with such promise, but definitely the weakest of the three. The first half is a lot of meandering and false starts and waiting for something to happen. The villains are cut-out caricatures. However, I thought the ending quite strong and very exciting (bumping it to 3 stars). It is dark and violent, emotional and nail-biting. (view spoiler)[ The fate of uber-villain Saul - eaten by rats - is pretty awesome if I do say so myself. Mia swapping Sarah's number and saving her life is beautifully written, especially since she gives Sarah the ability to see auras. The new baby being born with no eyes was also interesting, especially from Adam's point of view. What a gift for a father, to love his precious child in the moment rather than living with the certain knowledge of their death date. (hide spoiler)]
If you began this series, and are wondering even the tiniest bit how Ward has finished it, then definitely pick this book up. (less)
Short and sweet. Interesting to get things from Four's pov, though I found the voice to be a little less than mysterious and a bit whiny. How Tris per...moreShort and sweet. Interesting to get things from Four's pov, though I found the voice to be a little less than mysterious and a bit whiny. How Tris perceives him, and how she must unravel his personality for herself worked extremely well for me in Divergent; this felt more like an enjoyable writing exercise on Roth's part, but lacked any real depth or substance. (less)
That was exhausting. I am tired, annoyed, frustrated, and hugely disappointed. Writing a review for this one is gonna hurt. ---- My problems with this...moreThat was exhausting. I am tired, annoyed, frustrated, and hugely disappointed. Writing a review for this one is gonna hurt. ---- My problems with this second installment of Mike Mullin's Ashfall series are many I'm afraid to say, and too big to ignore. I really like this guy, and I wanted this novel to be great in the shadow of its awesome predecessor. Not. Even. Close. Without any spoilers for Ashfall or Ashen Winter, here is some of what's caused my sadness and frustration.
Anyone who knows me even a little, knows I'm a Stephen King fangirl. I love the man, okay? Not in a creepy Annie Wilkes I want to chain him to a bed as my "pet" sort of love, but his books are like meth to me. I'm hooked. I gotta have 'em. But that doesn't mean I can't put my critics hat on when need be too. I don't slaver and drool over everything the man writes. And contrary to popular critical opinion, I have no interest in reading the man's grocery list. Which brings me to one of my more recent King disappointments (it does happen). Under the Dome for me was good, but far from great. And here's why. I bring it up now because it's the same effing problem I have with Ashen Winter:
Under the Dome starts with a bang...and maintains its narrative momentum throughout. It hurtles along at an almost break-neck speed, but for a book that's over a 1000 pages, such a pace begins to wear in places. It becomes an at-times uncomfortable frenetic pattern of -- and then this happened, and then this happened, and then this happened.
Ditto Ashen Winter. It too starts with a bang and hurtles along at lightening speed for (in my opinion) a bloated 600 pages. The action sequences are too many to count, and exhaustively and excruciatingly described.
As with Mira Grant's book Feed, I fear Mike Mullin has fallen in love with his research and wants to include every single thing he has learned. What's worse, no detail is too small. In my review for Feed I write that: "I respect any author who goes the extra mile to "do the research" and "get the details right" but sweet holy Moses, there is no need to put EVERYTHING YOU'VE EVER LEARNED into the story." I didn't think it would be possible, but that's even doubly true here.
Another thing that annoyed me and took me out of the story too many times to count are the cliffhangers which come at the end of almost Every. Single. Chapter. It's cheesy. It made me feel like I was reading a middle school chapter book or a "choose your own adventure" type deal for the kiddies. This is such a sharp departure from Ashfall I really don't know what to make of it. Ashen Winter may feature cannibals and sex slaves but it still felt ultimately "childish" to me.
Now I am woman enough to admit this could be more my fault than the book's fault. I am NOT a fan of action movies. I barely (if ever) go to the movies over the summer because the gigantic, exploding, frantic, mostly special effects all style no substance blockbusters just don't do it for me. I'm more likely to walk out with a headache and a scowl on my face, than jittering with excitement and awe. That's what happened here with this book. Mullin can write action, no doubt of that, but there's just TOO MUCH action and not enough dialogue or genuine suspense. Suspense ONLY works if it is paired with tension and release. Nobody understood that better than Hitchcock. If it's ALL release -- a go, go, go, fast and furious approach -- then you really miss the tension, that vital inexorable build that is so critical to creating suspense.
Okay, last criticism. Because this book is chock full of action, Alex and Darla (Alex especially this time) are running around behaving like movie action superheroes -- jumping, leaping, dodging bullets, getting shot, breaking in, breaking out -- at one point hanging on to the bottom of a MOVING TRUCK Robert DeNiro style à la Cape Fear. Really??? C'mon!!!! As each disaster and run of bad luck kept piling up (fodder for the chapter cliffhangers), I began to think it should have been subtitled: a series of unfortunate events. In my review for A Breath of Snow and Ashes I write: "how many times can any handful of people escape from prison, mob scenes, near death, kidnappings, etc, etc." I can suspend disbelief with the best of them, trust me, but even this was too much for me I'm afraid.
Okay, so that's the ugly truth of the bad news. The good news? Mullin is a very talented writer, and despite my disappointment here, I will continue to seek out his books. The other good news? While I'm not recommending Ashen Winter, I will continue to highly recommend Ashfall; it is awesome, and succeeds in every way where its sequel does not. (less)
Alright, alright! I admit it, it got to me -- it freaking absolutely got to me. If I were Superman this little book would be my Kryptonite. Why did I...moreAlright, alright! I admit it, it got to me -- it freaking absolutely got to me. If I were Superman this little book would be my Kryptonite. Why did I think I would be immune? I was so smug going into this, feeling secure in my awesome, arrogant certainty that the sure to be oodles of maudlin and reams of cliches would keep me safe and sound from any wrenchings of the heart. My overall dubiousness and cynicism would serve as my protective shield, offering immunity against such ruthless emotional manipulation -- nay exploitation -- about to be perpetrated against my person. Sick kids? Cancer? Dying sick kids with cancer? Dying sick kids with cancer falling in love? Really? You're going to go there so completely and unapologetically and still expect me to respect you in the morning?
Despite all the obvious pitfalls lying in wait for John Green, he manages to avoid just about all of them (seemingly with ease). I experienced a level of integrity and commitment to the subject matter that gave sufficient weight and depth to what could have just as easily turned out to be breezy and shallow.
That's not to say that this story wallows in gloom and gravitas -- far from it. It's funny. I laughed out loud -- out loud -- and when I wasn't doing that I snickered, grinned, and tittered (yes, there were a few titters). I also bawled like a baby, but the laughter came first, and the tears were earned.
Hazel Grace -- our terminal narrator -- is lovely. You will notice she doesn't always act or speak like your average teenager, and that's because she isn't one. Hazel has been in a staring contest with Death since she was 13 years old. He hasn't beaten her yet, but it's changed her, in more ways than any of us non-terminal people could ever comprehend. Our casual intellectual acceptance that we are all terminal and will one day die is not nearly the same as carrying Death on your skin and in your bones, to feel life seeping out of your pores and stalk you in the night. To sit on your chest and steal the breath from your malfunctioning, fluid-filled lungs.
Augustus Waters is sheer delight and I don't give a donkey's ass that the way he and Hazel speak to one another is unrealistic because it is filled with such a sincere sweetness and adorable, lovable humor I couldn't get enough. It broke through my armor, tore a hole through my cynical self, and had me falling head over heels in love with these two. Each is defiant in the way that only a young person battling Death can be defiant, they are warm and insecure and brave and foolish and selfish and sad and real. I'm not going to say realistic -- we could argue that point til the cows come home -- but not once did they ever stop being authentic.
What can I say? I loved them. I loved this book. Okay?