I have been dying for this since I read Like Mandarin as an ARC last November. Everything about that book captivated me, which might have meant my sta...moreI have been dying for this since I read Like Mandarin as an ARC last November. Everything about that book captivated me, which might have meant my standards and hopes for this one were even higher. But let me say, Kirsten did not in any way disappoint. I fell into this book just as instantly, completely entranced by the writing and the characters and the setting. I have no clue how she does it, but Kirsten always manages to infuse so much setting and description into her books without the reader realizing she's doing it, without pulling them out because it's just description... she puts emotion into even her setting and it amazes me. But the plot of this one? Loved. It's finding yourself, and coming of age, and navigating a third world country, and romance. It's a little of everything, enough of each, and woven together so magically. Bria was a phenomenal character, and I adored every aspect of her character development. Then there's Rowan, who is endearing in all the right ways, broken in the softest but most effective ones, and the right mix of cocky and sweet to be realistic and swoonworthy. I really and truly could go on and on about this book, but I'll just say, you have to read it for yourself.(less)
Picking up where book two left off and again delving into events that are in no way predictable, Mockingjay ties up th...moreThe short, spoiler free version:
Picking up where book two left off and again delving into events that are in no way predictable, Mockingjay ties up this trilogy with a bang. Hard to digest in some parts, and a gripping look at the raw, real nature of war, Collins has held nothing back with this one. Everything is intensified, and though there is a clear shift in Katniss herself, given everything leading up to it, this is understandable. There will quite possibly be no other dystopian that will top the scope and brilliance of this set.
The extended, SPOILER version:
This is admittedly a hard review to write. I can't do it justice without spoilers, and I also am just not sure I can do it justice overall. The bottom line is that Collins has written a phenomenal series, and despite my problems with this book, it easily deserves 5 stars for magnitude and scope. The way everything is tied together is absolutely astounding. Things come completely full circle in this one, from the death of Prim- the very thing Katniss tried to prevent and therefore inadvertently triggered this series of events- to the torture Peeta endured and the drastic changes in Gale.
Katniss has never been an easy character to like. She isn’t especially empathetic, but she is strong in unforeseen ways and loyal in beautiful ways. Though wishy washy in her feelings with Peeta and Gale, her intense determination to survive is the core of her character in terms of this series. Watching her almost waste away and be in a dissociative state in this book was frustrating and hard to read, but considering what she had faced up to this point, it was understandable and even realistic. It took a lot to push her there, and it took a lot to snap her out of it. Katniss’ character does not react how anyone now normally would- but how can she, considering not only the way she grew up, but everything she endured after the first Hunger Games. As she says in the book, she has killed people. Not just people, but children.
I was never really Team Peeta- he bothered me to a certain extent, but I completely see the necessity for Katniss to end up with him. I would have been shocked if it didn’t happen and his quiet, kind nature that carried through even after his horrible torture spoke thousands more about his character than any words could truly do. Though this is a fiction setting and the type of torment inflicted on him doesn’t exist, forms of it could with our modern technology. It is almost gutting to realize how much of this fiction setting could be true and impossible to even imagine being in that situation. Peeta’s desire to die isn’t selfish in this case- but noble because is knows what a danger he is. The way he figures out what is real and what isn’t is fantastic, and it is the little things like that which truly give brilliance to Collins’ creation.
Gale was another hard character to read about in this book. A complete shift from the boy we thought we knew early on, it is easy to see how living in this situation would create someone so bloodthirsty. Though I would have liked a little more resolution with him, the very fact that it was essentially his creation and tactics which lead to Prim’s death is cause enough to severe anything he may have had with Katniss. Already turning cold, I did worry about his future outside of how he ended, having lost her.
The beginning was slow for me, and it wasn’t until about a hundred pages in that I really started getting into it, but then again, war is very much a waiting game with just bits of excitement. While I did feel like the last hundred or so pages were very jam packed and almost overwhelming in information, I imagine that is exactly how Katniss felt as well. With nothing to do but push forward, even when she might want to give up, I was tugged along right with her. Finn’s death was horrible to read, and everything about him from the reason he seemed so mental to what happened after he won his Games really did justice to everything Collins had already set up.
Most importantly, what I appreciated more than anything else and think Collins absolutely nailed was the idea that no side is necessarily right in a war. Though the Rebels’ cause seemed great, once the inner workings of it were brought up, it was clear that it wasn’t really anything above the Capitol itself. A drive for power and a selfish need for survival even at the expense of others drove this book. The actions of the Tributes easily reflects that of the Capitol, and the way everything tied together and the overall metaphor of this series still astounds me, even a month after reading.
While I did have to digest this book and the closing to the series for a day before I fully appreciated it, Collins has written something astounding, gutting, and maybe even a little too realistic for some parts of the world. It’s almost easy to imagine being in the well to do, no worries Capitol, knowing what exists in other parts of our world while we often seem to do little about it. Overall, Mockingjay was a successful end to a bold series, and will stay memorable for years to come.
Intricate and intriguing, Beautiful Darkness delves deeper into the Caster world, both building it more and creating new questions. With many of the s...moreIntricate and intriguing, Beautiful Darkness delves deeper into the Caster world, both building it more and creating new questions. With many of the same characters and a few new ones, things kick up a few notches in this installment in the series. Garcia and Stohl continue to smoothly blend a modern setting with a supernatural world. The Southern setting is still striking, memorable and well done, holding a very true not to small towns of the Deep South while maintaining a fluidity for anyone not accustomed to that way of life.
Ethan is still loving, thoughtful and intelligent. His heart is firmly with Lena, and the character development he gained in book one carries through to this one. Even when he is in clear denial of a situation's truth, the reasons are clear and concise. Ethan endures some heartbreaking challenges in Beautiful Darkness, handling some more smoothly than others, and the impact it has on him comes through strongly by the end. I switched from wanting to hug him to having a strong desire to smack him upside the head and knock a little sense into him, and it is this shifting that signifies how well Garcia and Stohl are able to write their narrator.
Lena goes through her own trials and changes, all seen through Ethan's eyes which adds an interesting perspective and bias. She is confused and unsure, guilt ridden and overwhelmed. Her actions are both understandable and frustrating, and she drives this book's plot in a big way. Lena is both an open book and an enigma in this book, as she was in Beautiful Creatures, and Garcia and Stohl continue to both strengthen and shroud her overall character and personality.
Apart from Lena and Ethan, the side characters continue to hold a strong presence, and their personalities are well developed and brought forth. Link is a great best friend, willing to have Ethan's back no matter the situation. He is caring and funny in the dorkiest, most awkward of ways, and brings quite a bit to the table. Ridley, my personal favorite character, makes her appearance in this book and of course brings all the trouble we'd expect with every new lick of a lollipop. She slips into this plot in a surprising way, and shows up when you least expect it to build her character and purpose. Her quips are perfectly delivered and her nonchalance well written.
This plot is unpredictable, intricate and brilliant. When linked with the book one events, it's overall nature is astounding in how deep everything runs, how well thought out and put together it is, and how beautifully things play out. Though parts did lag for me, the overall scope is fantastic. With small things that end up being something important, plenty of tie ins to the Beautiful Creatures events, and numerous unforeseeable twists, Beautiful Darkness takes Ethan and Lena's struggles to a new level.
By the end of the book, the majority of this book's events are wrapped up, with just hints of what might be coming. Despite those hints, the specifics remain unpredictable and innumerable. The writing is still smooth, detailed in a subtle way and very strongly able to build scenery in a reader's mind. From the great cast of characters, the realistic and detailed setting, the intricately built world and unpredictable plot, Beautiful Darkness is another great installment to the Caster Chronicles and showcases the natural ability of Garcia and Stohl in the simplest of ways.
Emotional, tumultuous and encapsulating, Tell Me A Secret will slip the reader into Rand ’s world from the start. Cupala has an astounding ability to...more Emotional, tumultuous and encapsulating, Tell Me A Secret will slip the reader into Rand ’s world from the start. Cupala has an astounding ability to infuse emotion in even the most simplest of sentences, forming a very palpable bond between the reader and Rand. The overwhelming sense of loneliness, fear and confusion which penetrate much of this novel will pour into the reader.
Pregnant at the start, Rand denies the possibility. Her thought processes and constant deals- if I haven’t started by this event, then I’ll take a test- strike the teenage mindset from the start. Rand ’s intelligence comes across but the immaturity inherent with her age mingles comfortably with it. Her refusal to acknowledge certain situations and turning a blind eye to obvious clues also plays into not only her age but her character. Her reasons for doing things run years back and a large part of the story is Rand coming to terms with everything that’s happened over those years. Through well placed flashbacks, smooth transitions between past and present, and striking scenes, not only is Rand's relationship with Kamram explained but her memories of her sister and the very rocky relationship between Xanda and their mother. Rand's own rebellion, anger, and hurt run deep, spilling out in unexpected places. With each new curve thrown at her, Rand matures a little more and her overall character development is phenomenally handled. Her resistance to some of the changes keeps the reader in the teenage mindset while still holding, overall, a more mature and knowledgeable tone.
Rand’s sense of fear and uncertainty is magnified by her home life, two parents who exist separately in the same house. Torn apart by Xanda's actions and death, Rand ’s house has not provided much haven for her in years. Her mother is overbearing, controlling, and made from steel. Her father is quiet, shouldering far more guilt and burden than he deserves, and seemingly more lost than the mother. Cupala’s bold, strong writing brings both parents to life and I found myself disliking them throughout much of the book. Though their own reasons could be understood, watching Rand ’s struggles made it hard to empathize with them because they were watching it too. In that fact alone, Cupala showcases her writing talent- but she strengths it more when she brings sympathy to these characters at surprising but well placed times.
Delaney is a character likely to be unanimously hated and one thing I admire about this book is that although there are hints of her own motivations, overall, Cupala does not make excuses for her. Rand got involved with her, gave up things for the friendship, and is learning to live with the outcome. This is a driving force of much of the book but the constant presence, even when she isn’t physically there, of Delaney is strong. This is a well crafted character, one meant to be hated and blamed. Cupala pulls this off but still manages to dissuade some of the reader’s dislike by the end in how she not only develops Rand and matures her narrator, but in the events and focus towards the end of the book.
Kamran is another character who will elicit mixed feelings from the reader. Hints of dangerous but a very endearing, deep mind create a nice blend. His looks are apparent but not focused on and the way he and Rand meet is interesting, unique and holds intonation for future parts of the book. But he is human and flawed, possibly more flawed than others. Throughout much of Rand’s pregnant, he isn’t around and this ratchets up the overall feelings of desolation and loneliness. I often found myself wanting to smack him and scream that all Rand needed was him. Despite this, Cupala finds a way to twist things around, changing the reader’s feelings towards him subtly throughout the book. I didn’t despise him the entire time, and though Rand is the narrator, enough of Kamran’s own feelings and actions come through.
Also notable, the darker side of Rand is portrayed, from her bullying ways to her harsh treatment to a former best friend but again, Cupala does not excuse or justify. She simply puts it on display, letting the reader make of it what they will rather than trying to force their opinion. A large part of this style comes from the events Rand is going through, some of which even women prepared for pregnancy never face. She is forced to grow up quickly and handles it as smoothly as possible. Cupala shows this development and change in mindset, allowing Rand to acknowledge things she's done while also having a new found ability to see an overall picture.
The plot is a whirring one, prevalent on the emotional atmosphere and playing out a potent path that can happen with teenage pregnancy. Cupala very smoothly brings to the light the notion that a teen pregnancy impacts many people and the way those people handle it impact the pregnant girl. Left essentially on Rand, this is a very strong coming of age novel for a girl going way past her years as a result of not only her present circumstances but prior events in her life. Learning to let go of some things, understand others, and open doors for the future are a big thing for Rand . The emotions and thoughts she experiences are ones even adults can still experience.
This is a very stunning debut, providing intense evidence towards how strong Cupala’s natural writing ability is. There are numerous different elements of the book, a few separate arcs which tie together at unexpected times, in surprising ways, and leaving the reader with a strong sense of closure by the end. Her descriptions are in depth, her scenes realistic and vivid. For anyone who has ever experienced or known someone in this situation, Cupala will tear open wounds and force a reconnection. For those who haven’t, she portrays it strongly enough for the reader to feel as though they experienced everything Rand did, from the pain to the confusion, and everything along her very twisty path.(less)
Bold, action-packed, and engaging, Jealousy continues the Strange Angels series smoothly and with all new twists and reveals. The plot keeps at the sa...moreBold, action-packed, and engaging, Jealousy continues the Strange Angels series smoothly and with all new twists and reveals. The plot keeps at the same steady pace as the first two books and several of the characters return to continue Dru's story.
Dru's character continues to grow while still keeping the same overall effect of the badass girl who understands much of the world she's both apart of and grown up around, but also has her moments of fear and weakness. There are times she is simply tired of everything but she pushes through, understanding she has few other options. Though she does things others don't completely understand, whether its the way she treats Ash and sits with him in the middle of the night or her preference for cheap but sturdy rather than expensive clothes, she comes off as a mystery to many but it builds her character with the reader.
Graves is the same gentle-hearted, kind boy he has been since book one despite his own problems and inner turmoil. His feelings towards Dru continue to show prevalent even if she doesn't completely understand them, and his protective nature towards her adds to the intensity and connection between the two. He is a steady friend for Dru and there are several tender moments between the two, adding a gentle element in the midst of the danger and action.
Christophe continues to be a mystery though much of his story is finally revealed in this book. There are many questions answered both about him and in general, and Christophe pushes the plot to a new level more than once. Even when he is physically absent, he holds a strong presence and also finds his way into Dru's thoughts often. The relationship between the two is interesting, particularly at the close of this book.
The plot continues to build the world as a whole while Dru is at the Schola, showing further aspects of the Real World. The wulfen stay with Dru, having their own part in this book. Dibs, especially, gets quite a bit of page time and is one of my personal favorite characters across the board. His reactions are great and the different aspects of him are fantastic to see more of.
Things continue to build until a blow out climax filled with drama and action before winding down and ending on a shocking, gripping ending to leave the reader very eager for the next installment. With a character's entire situation hanging in the balance and whether they are alive or dead not for sure known, St. Crow has guaranteed a continued readership with her already great series.
The writing is still strong with fantastic, unique descriptions and a very distinct voice that is easily pinned as Dru's. From Dru's snark and sass to her own way of saying things, this series has a brilliant verse which adds to the overall nature. Everything ties together beautifully and the majority of events are unpredictable and shocking. (less)
A great blend of realistic and supernatural, light and intense, Whisper is a new take on the hearing voices scenario. What seems helpful and manageabl...more A great blend of realistic and supernatural, light and intense, Whisper is a new take on the hearing voices scenario. What seems helpful and manageable at the beginning of the book starts to change, triggering much of the events that follow. Also having some unexpected twists and striking character development, Whisper draws attention back to mind reading.
Joy is happy and well rounded, but she unintentionally defines herself around her ability. Calling the thoughts she hears from people 'wishes,' Joy often goes out of her way to please people and cater to their inner thoughts. Cloaked in a shroud of good, however, it slowly becomes clear that Joy isn't hearing everything. She isn't able to understand why her sister is so dark and vastly different from her, and the tension between the two girls is realistic and intense. Joy's character goes through stunning development and changes, seeing many things for how they really are for the first time. Though some of her reactions are annoying and frustrating, it is understandable for the situation, setting and her age.
Jessica, Joy's sister otherwise known as just Icka, spends her time getting high and drunk- anything to numb her Hearing. She seems to go out of her way to cause problems for her sister and her parents, and has no friends, due in large part to her own personality and actions. Icka, too, goes through a great amount of personal growth, adding to the overall realism of this book.
The rest of the cast, from Joy's parents and aunt to Jaime, have their own hidden layers and the full picture of things is revealed at a steady pace. Though a few parts did drag, Whisper is still an enjoyable and engaging read. It isn't high action, and focuses more on the character development, but it has it's moments of uncertainty and eyebrow raising twists.
Kitanidis' writing is easy to read and gives a great overall picture. Her emotional infusions hold some power and even pulls the reader into Joy's head in a way that makes it harder to see the overall picture as well. With some subtler thought provoking aspects as well, Whisper makes for an enjoyable and lingering reading experience. As Joy is being forced to learn, it isn't possible to please everyone, and knowing the darker thoughts people have isn't as great as it might seem.