I haven't read a lot of captor/captive romances that I actually liked, which is unfortunate because I love that trope--in theory. The problem is, I almost never see an author who can carry it out to my satisfaction. They want to make apologies for the captor-slash-rapist. They want him to be a nice guy, even when he's taking advantage of the heroine or beating her black and blue. They want him to be redeemable. They want to have their cakes, and eat them too, and without any of the calories, to boot.
That just does not fucking happen.
Here's the thing about captors/rapists; if they were nice guys, they wouldn't be abducting women. They wouldn't be raping women. They wouldn't be hitting women. And why? Because that's not what nice guys do. You can make a captor or a rapist sympathetic but you can't make him a nice guy, so don't even try. PRISONER was a great book because the authors didn't even try.
Abigail Winslow is a young graduate student teaching a prison memoir course that she plans to publish later. She's idealistic, bookish, and compassionate, and even though she is excited about the glory of posting these prisoners' dark secrets, she also genuinely hopes that the experience will prove therapeutic.
Grayson is one of the prisoners. He's attracted to Abigail as soon as he sees her, but it's a dark, ugly attraction that could destroy just as easily as it could create. His beauty is probably his only redeeming factor, but it's also the greatest weapon he has at his disposal--as well as his own personal cross to bear. One day, Grayson manages to escape from prison, and he decides to take Abigail with him, showing her just how dark his secrets really are as he embarks on a quest for revenge.
The psychological element to this book is probably the best part of PRISONER. Each character's voice--Abigail's and Grayson's--is distinct. I believed their motivations. I understood their stories. They were tortured, yes, but believably so--and their angst was definitely valid (holy shit). And the sexual tension between them was very well done, and just as twisted as I would expect it to be in a captor/captive...well, not really a romance but, you know. Erotica.
The first 50% of this book is a lot better than the second 50%, but the revenge plot kept me turning the pages even when I began to get a little frustrated with Abigail and Grayson. Honestly, I never would have picked this up on my own because I'm so frustrated with this genre as a whole, but a friend I trust recommended this to me, and since I've loved every thing else she's ever made me read, I warily picked this up--and immediately I found myself with a book I couldn't put down.
I'm a little unhappy that they're making this into a series because I can't imagine the other books being half as good as this one, but hey, maybe they'll surprise me. This one certainly did.
So I'm pretty sure hiring a bunch of super villains and then having them blow stuff up in China and Russia in the name of 'Murrica puts you firmly on the side of chaotic good...or makes you a psychopathic government agent. *shrug* Either, or.
The Suicide Squad, a.k.a. Task Force X, is the gov't name for the super baddies they've hired to go on super sekrit missions of dubious morality. (I was surprised that this concept goes back to 1959, but hey, what hasn't DC already done? They've been around longer than the Simpsons.)
You're probably wondering how the gov't managed to persuade these guys to do the dirty work that not even the superheroes would touch. That's easy. A handy-dandy get out of jail free card.
Or, failing that, by implanting remote-control-activated bombs in their heads.
The members of this group kept getting hurt, so The Suicide Squad was a revolving door of cameos pretty much, but some of the members are Manta, Harley Quinn, Joker's Daughter, Deadshot, Boomerang, Deathstroke, and Reverse Flash.
Their missions take them first to Russia and then to China, and without spoiling anything too specific, let me say that there is a focal theme here: LABS FULL OF EVIL SHIT. Meanwhile, the anti-Mulder (Sage) and the anti-Scully (Waller) fight and hate on each other, and basically conspire to fuck the other person over while trying to oversee this task force from hell.
I feel like I should have enjoyed this more than I did. I wanted to enjoy it. But I feel like the concept wasn't very...credible? It would have been interesting to see how they captured these villains in the first place and persuaded them to sign up. Some of them, like Manta, did this voluntarily. I also feel like the bulk of the story consisted of the villains (especially Harley and Joker's Daughter) fighting with each other or whining or making bad jokes...like at one point, Harley starts singing along with a Taylor Swift song. Just...because.
This didn't really work for me, but if you like crossover comics--especially these kinds of crossover comics--then it'll probably work for you.
THE NYMPH KING opens with an orgy. Well...post-orgy. Nymph heart-throb Valerian is chilling in a bed with four human women who are mindless with bliss from being fucked by his magical peen. And even though he has to go train his men for battle, the women beg him for a second round, and he's like, "FUCK BITCHES, GET MONEY."
I had a lot of issues with THE NYMPH KING. A lot.
I'm not a fan of the fated-to-be-mated trope. It tends to be used as an excuse to squeeze together two characters who have no romantic chemistry on their own, while also apologizing away for things like dubious consent or rape--who cares if she doesn't want it? It's true love, dammit! They're soulmates! It's meant to be!
Which is pretty much what happens here. Shaye, our female protagonist, is the bridesmaid at her mother's sixth wedding, moping around, being a bitch, insulting her stepbrother, and pretty much just being awful. Right after her mother tells her to stop being a Debbie Downer, and suggests that maybe it would be good for her to hang out with Sexual Harassment Stepbrother, the nymphs come from the sea to abduct some human women to sleep with, because they are powered by sex!
All of the women who aren't claimed by men are carried off to the sea (which makes Shaye's mom sad, because the nymphs apparently release this hormone that makes them insatiable to mortal women--she's begging them to fuck her, while her husband just stands there like WTF). Shaye is wearing a seashell bra and a grass skirt, which is prime molesting wear, and you're an idiot if you think that Valerian and a couple other nymphs don't take advantage of this. Which they do.
Interestingly, the women who are fated to be mates to the nymphs seem to be immune to their aphrodisiac-hormones, and I'm not sure what this is supposed to say...that they are somehow better than the women who, in a drug-induced frenzy, hurl themselves at the nymphs and beg to be fucked? Because that doesn't seem fair to me. Not only does it implicitly suggest that these poor women who are being drugged into their sex-crazed states are somehow at fault for their behavior, it also sends the disturbing message that good brides are supposed to be reluctant and ignorant about sex.
Because Shaye, despite being in her twenties (late twenties, I think), is a virgin who knows absolutely nothing about sex. And this makes Valerian really excited, because even though he is a sex champion, he finds the idea of an awkward woman who knows absolutely nothing about sex irresistible.
BECAUSE THAT IS SO REALISTIC.
Most of their "relationship" consists of a bickering back-and-forth that wouldn't be out of place in a junior high school. Lots of name-calling, sexual innuendo desperately worked into every conversation to the point of the hero sounding like a creepy old man at a bar, and foot-stomping and things like GRRR! being written into the narrative to show the heroine's FRUSTRATION! at this man. GRR! HE IS ANNOYING! DID YOU NOT KNOW? LET ME SHOW YOU! GRR! GRR!
Another thing that really annoyed me is how rape is brought up by this book. Valerian does not know what rape is (ha!). He has to have it explained to him, and when he does, he laughs. The concept of a woman not finding him attractive enough to let him have sex with her is a completely foreign concept. What is an unwilling woman? Isn't a woman willing by nature?
The other nymphs are similarly puzzled by the concept of rape and this seems to have been done more for comedic purposes than to instill any actual social commentary about rape and what might be said about a race of otherworldly characters who rely on the use of hormones to make women sleep with them. But then, homosexuality is also used as a gag in this book, too. OH NO! MY HORMONES WORKED ON A DUDE! A DUDE WANTS TO SLEEP WITH ME! OMG! WHAT DO I DO! I'M A MAN! MEN DON'T HAVE SEX, EVER!
What the fuck.
The fact that these guys are part of a Greek pantheon (Poseidon makes an appearance) just makes this even more stupid, because the Greeks were all about homosexuality. Apollo was bisexual (but more interested in men, IIRC) and several of the gods had dalliances that were not het. IT WAS A THING.
I started skimming at around page 200 and I can say that I'm just really not impressed. Vampires? Dragon men? Greek gods? Nymphs? This book suffers from the same world-building flaws as A HUNGER LIKE NO OTHER--it throws a whole bunch of different races into a book without really explaining why, and just expects the reader to roll with it without question. (In fact, the plot to this book is pretty similar to AHLNO except Valerian is weenier than Lachlain and Shaye is far, far, far more bitchy and annoying.)
This was my first Gena Showalter book, and I was not impressed. A friend of mine says that her other series are better, so I'll probably end up giving her another shot. But not this series. No, no, no. NO.
P.S. At one point Valerian actually fights over Shaye with another nymph. Using swords. And is the scene described as something like testosterone fueled? OFC.
It makes me sad to give this such a low rating because until now I have loved everything that I've read of Lauren Oliver's work.
VANISHING GIRLS is about two sisters, Dara and Nick. They used to be inseparable, even as they began to grow apart. But then Dara gets into a terrible accident that disfigures her face, their parents get divorced, and nothing is the same since.
Nick is trying to reach out to Dara to repair what used to be between them, and it almost seems to be working. Until Dara disappears. It might seem like a game, but there's another girl who disappeared recently too, named Madeline Snow, and Nick can't help but wonder if maybe the two disappearances are linked.
There are a lot of stories told in this mold, and half of them are told by Jessica Warman. VANISHING GIRLS, unfortunately, brings nothing new to the table, coming across instead as a rehashing of all the cliches that are typical to this genre. Troubled girls? Check. Small town secrets? Check. Illicit sex? Check. Boy issues? Check. It reads more like a shopping list of tropes than a book.
I did read VANISHING GIRLS to the end because I was invested enough in the mystery portion of the book that I wanted to see it through to the end, even though I had to do a lot of skimming to get there, but I wasn't overly pleased by the ending. It seemed...contrived. I know that's a terrible thing to say, since all books are contrived to some extent, but in this case, there was no foreshadowing or anything that made me sit up and say, "IT ALL MAKES SENSE!" It seemed abrupt.
There is a love story squeezed into this book, but it doesn't contribute much either. None of the characters had any sort of personality or anything. I almost have difficulty believing this is the same Lauren Oliver who wrote BEFORE I FALL, one of the handful of books that has made me cry.
Shirlee Busbee was pretty famous back in the day for writing crazy bodice rippers, most notably LADY VIXEN and GYPSY LADY (which I own). I love bodice rippers, so I was curious about her work, and when I saw SCANDAL on the shelf of my local used bookstore for a buck, I grabbed it.
SCANDAL is a very odd book, and, unfortunately, not a very good one. I think part of the problem is that the hero and heroine are married very early on in the story, which takes away a lot of the sexual tension romance novels use to propel interest in what happens to the characters, and emotional investment in their continued well being (they have to fuck, dammit! #OTP).
It also combines a metric fuckload of tropes into one bloated volume, and...and it's too much.
Nell Anslowe is a Lady of Quality but nobody wants to marry her because she's crippled. This happened when she fell from a horse as a young girl. She went over a cliff (killing her horse) and banged up her head, and ended up in a coma for several weeks. Her fiance at the time didn't want to marry a crip, so he decided to spread rumors that the fall had addled her brains, making her a candidate for Bedlam. (What a gentleman, eh, ladies?) Because of this, and insecurity about her unfortunate handicap, Nell has been on the shelf for all these years.
There's a bastard named Tyndale, though, who's neck-deep in vowels, and he is more than willing to marry Nell for her money. Unfortunately, he's not very good at masking his intentions and Nell refuses him. But "NO" is just white noise to this man, who decides to sneak into her room and kidnap her on a dark and stormy night, intending to spirit her away to Gretna Green, forcibly consummate the marriage, and then enjoy her fortune at the risk of her ruination. What a bastard. Nell manages to fight him off, though, and runs away to an abandoned cabin to take shelter.
At the same time, a man named Julian is chasing after his step-sister, who he believes has eloped with a handsome soldier. When he sees Tyndale's abandoned curricle, he thinks his sister and her eloper were also caught in the storm, and also finds himself in the cabin. Imagine his surprise when he sees not his sister, but a hot, wet woman in a scanty nightdress...OH THE TRAITOROUS CHILLS!
They get married, blah blah blah. Nell doesn't let him sleep with her for a while because she didn't want to get married, and she wants some time to get used to him. Which was interesting, because usually in these types of books, the hero insists on a wedding night and then the heroine (who starts out reluctant) has the orgasm of her life and realizes that this is teh luuuuuurve.
I started out liking Nell quite a bit because it was cool to read about a heroine with a handicap who had learned to deal with her difficulties and didn't define herself by them, but by the middle of the book I found myself increasingly frustrated with her. Even though it's obvious--obvious--that her husband loves her, she's convinced that he's holding a torch for his dead wife. The minute after they have sex for the first time, she interrogates him about her(!) and then seems surprised and put out(!!!) that he doesn't want to discuss his previous marriage in the marriage bed of his current wife.
There's also a murder plot. Nell has psychic powers(!!?!?!) for some reason, and has these prophetic dreams about a man in shadow who kills women in graphic and unpleasant ways in the depths of a hidden dungeon. At first she thinks these are just horrible nightmares, but later on in the story, evidence arises that suggests that these murders are actually happening. No excuse is given as to why Nell has these visions, except that maybe her falling and hitting her head precipitated it?
I don't know, guys. I think this was too cheesy and over-the-top even for me. I wish the hero and heroine hadn't gotten married so soon, and that the story had been darker to fit with the murders: some of the sleuthing scenes in this book had me humming the Scooby Doo theme because of how ridiculous they were. I half-expected to see a painting with moving eyes or a bookshelf housing a hidden door. The secondary characters were excellent, though, and the murder was suspenseful enough that I read to the end in order to find out whodunnit.
SCANDAL BECOMES HER is about as trashy as it is possible for a book to be while also still being somewhat readable. I would recommend it for long and boring car trips, and for plane rides after the flight attendant has ordered that all electronic devices be turned-off.
I've seen this author around before, and for some reason (wishful dyslexia?) I always thought her name was Miyuki Maybe, which I thought was a delightfully quirky and existential name for a mystery author to have. Whodunnit? Whowroteit? But then I found out that her name was actually Miyabe, and I was sad.
Even though I tend to not like sweeping generalizations, one thing I have noticed about Japanese novels is that they often start out with the main character meeting a stranger who then impacts their lives. There is often such a sense of isolation in these books, and a feeling of disconnection--I'm not sure if this is because of the translations or a reflection of how the authors themselves feel in this society, but it is interesting and recurring.
Kosaka, the main character in this book, is a journalist for a mediocre periodical firm called The Arrow. One night in a bad storm he comes across the teenaged Shinji. As they are driving, they find an open hole in the street where a manhole cover has been removed. Shortly afterwards, an old man passes, looking for his missing grandson. Shinji goes pale--out of guilt, Kosaka thinks, until Shinji reveals to him that he is, in fact, a psychic and he has seen that the little boy is dead.
THE SLEEPING DRAGON is a reference to the sleeping psychic powers that are inside Shinji and another mysterious man named Naoya, and how, if treated recklessly, or if not channeled properly, they have the power to consume you or destroy you. It's an interesting premise, but wasn't really explored to its fullest potential. The main plot is Kosaka trying to figure out a) whether Shinji and Naoya really are psychic, or just delusional or conspiratorial, and b) who is sending him mysterious and threatening letters at work, and why.
I read the book to the end because I wanted to figure out what happened, but it was not a satisfying ending. Sometimes books are driven by character motivations, and things make sense in hindsight because of foreshadowing by the author. And other times, things happen, and you think, "Well, that was random. Did the author pull that out of their butt?" I am sorry to say that this was one of those latter instances. I put this book down feeling more puzzled and dissatisfied than anything else.
Miyuki Miyabe had some good ideas in this book, but I'm wondering if maybe she was trying to fuse together too many different concepts and whether this was why the book failed. I'd be willing to try a few more of her works to see if they agreed with me better, but this isn't one I would recommend.
Book #1 in this series is called THE STRANGER, and I liked it quite a bit. Even though this is a graphic-novel, it has a fighter anime flavor to it, with a royal fighting tournament comprised of both magic and combat that wouldn't be out of place in a fantasy rendition of The Hunger Games.
This book starts where the last one left off. Richard Aldana and Adrian Velba are in the championships of the tournament. They have a lot of rivals to deal with, and for some of the rivals, it's personal and they won't hesitate to cheat or use emotional manipulation in order to get what they want.
Adrian's mom and Richard finally do something about that sexual tension, and it ends up scarring Adrian for life. Although I have to say that they way they approached the little boy about it was quite sweet, and actually developed the storyline and their characters quite a bit. You don't often see adult characters explaining sex to a child in young adult books, especially not in graphic novels.
I finished this book in about twenty minutes. I think it's even better than the first in terms of what it sets out to accomplish, and the suspense is great. There's court intrigue, deception, and all sorts of complicated relationships that I'm hoping will play out in interesting ways (although Master Jensen seems to have disappeared in this one...what about his obsession with Adrian's mom?).
Is this another book trying to rip off the success of GONE GIRL?
Does it feature female characters acting in unconventional ways with an unreliable female narrator?
Does it have a twist that won't be revealed until the very end, cleverly tricking you into reading the whole thing regardless of whether you love it or hate it?
Is it a bad book?
...No, not at all, actually.
When she was a teenager, Tessa Cartwright was found in a field of black-eyed susans, lying on top of the bones of other girls. She was the only survivor of the Black-Eye Susan killer, the "lucky" one.
Somehow, she doesn't feel very lucky.
Now a middle-aged woman with a teenager of her own, Tessa is still haunted by the other Susans. She hears their voices sometimes, whispering. The voices have gotten louder because a lawyer has contacted her, hoping that she will be able to help: they believe the man they convicted for the killings, a black man named Terrell, was innocent.
But that would confirm what Tessa had feared all these years...that her killer is still out there. Waiting to finish what he started.
Tessa is an interesting protagonist. I like seeing characters who suffer from their traumas in realistic ways, and in addition to PTSD, Tessa at one point suffers from conversion disorder, which until now, I have never actually seen portrayed in fiction. So that was really neat.
The mystery of the killer is done well, and so was the twist. I didn't see it coming, anyway. I had lots of theories, but none of them were correct. The dual POV works well to reveal and conceal information, although if I do have one complaint about this it is that I felt that her killer and his actions were not really detailed enough for me to get a sense of how terrible he was. If the author had gone that extra mile in edge, this probably would have gotten a five-star rating.
BLACK-EYED SUSANS was a decent read, very much like Gillian Flynn in terms of style and tone. The author makes a lot of interesting references and writes pretty good flawed protagonists, so if you are a Flynn fan you can probably make the transition over to Heaberlin easily. I would read more by this author in a heartbeat. I hope she decides to stay in this genre for a while...
QUEEN OF THE TEARLING came out a few years ago. It had all this hype attached with its release, and there was a lot of excitement and speculation...until ARCs started making their way through the blogger community, and reviewers started going, "Dafuq?!" Even though I'm late--a few years late--to the cool kids' party, that was pretty much my reaction during the entire book.
Kelsea has been in hiding for nineteen with her two guardians. She is plain, bookish, and pretty much unremarkable except for a sapphire necklace and a mysterious scar. Guess what? It turns out she's the Queen! Not just any queen, but the long-lost heir to Tearling that people, good and bad, have been searching for all these years. And now it's time for her ascension.
Let's begin with Kelsea. The first thing you need to know about her is that she is very, very plain. The second thing you need to know about her is that she really likes books. That's it. That's all you need to know about Kelsea. But Kelsea thinks you are an idiot, because she will be constantly reminding you about these two things over the course of the book, in many pointless, and often excruciatingly uncomfortable ways.
For example, there is this character called the Fetch. I actually kind of liked his character, even though he's pretty stock as far as the ambiguously amoral but useful ally trope goes. Anyway, towards the beginning of the book he kidnaps Kelsea but then tells her that she doesn't need to worry about being raped because she's "too plain" for him. Something Kelsea finds disappointing. In fact, when meditating on her plainness later, this incident comes up several times--to her regret.
Later, Kelsea meets another woman her own age named Marguerite, her Uncle's ex-sex-slave. Marguerite is beautiful, but she tells Kelsea that beauty isn't all it's cracked up to be pretty much because it makes men want to rape you. Keslea thinks that Marguerite is just exaggerating (even though, hello, RAPEY UNCLE'S SEX SLAVE) because surely being beautiful would be better! At one point, she secretly wishes that her guards would sexually harass Marguerite after she catches them looking at her appreciatively because she wants an excuse to yell at them 'cause she's jelus.
Let's get to Kelsea's royal policies. This book has been billed as being like Game of Thrones. Well, if monarchy is a game, GoT would be chess. Queen of the Tearling would be Hungry Hungry Hippos. Kelsea isn't in the kingdom for a week before she starts turning everything on its head. She ends the slave trade that is supposedly the only thing keeping the peace between her kingdom and Mort, even though her army is totally unequipped for war or retaliation. She deposes her uncle as Regent, takes away his favorite slave girl, and humiliates him before all her guards. Oh, and then she starts fucking with the Church, and campaigning to steal all their books...because she wants them.
The world-building makes even less sense. At first, QUEEN OF THE TEARLING seems like a pretty stock medieval European fantasy setting. Which is not my favorite genre, because it's been done so, so much and all too often the characters have the depth of a D&D Dungeon Master's character portfolio. Less, even, because there's no knocking a good DM. But then...
Kelsea mentions pennies with a stately bearded man on them. Abraham Lincoln? You mean Abraham Lincoln? Surely not, no, this must be another bearded man-- And then she explicitly mentions America and England, as well as some other things like The Hobbit and The Brothers Grimm. This is not a medieval fantasy book, this is a post-apocalyptic dystopian that takes place in our future.
THIS IS THE FUTURE.
This just raises so many questions that I cannot. First off, how did we get from here to there? I'm guessing this is going to be answered in later stories but can we at least have a hint? All that we know is that there was something called The Crossing and Tearling was founded by some dude named William Tear who apparently didn't know shit about how politics or governing a people worked. Secondly, if this is a dystopian, why is there magic? Is it actually magic, or is it just another example of how backwards these people are? Is this an alternate universe? WHAT IS GOING ON? Britain and America were (fairly) forward thinking countries in their heydey so why the fuck are there "antisodomy squads" roaming around making sure nobody gets up to anything gay, and how did the church manage to wrest control again--especially when the country's founder was apparently an atheist? Where are all the books? And if there aren't any books, why can people still read? When Kelsea started lending her books out, she didn't need to teach the people she gave them to how to read, so why, if books are no longer common or even considered useful, why does this population still know how to read? Why are doctors so scarce? If doctors are scarce, why is it apparently not super uncommon for women to get cosmetic surgery? Do psychics exist in this world? If not, why did Kelsea start having prophetic dreams all of a sudden? Who the fuck is that guy who sucks the eyeballs out of children? How did the slave trade become the backbone of the Mort economy? What happened to the rest of the world--like China and Russia and India, for example. Are they watching us on their futuristic monitors and laughing at us for being the medieval fucktards that we are?
Now let's talk about the villain. She's an evil queen. Of course. She's been looking for Kelsea for nineteen years to keep her from reclaiming the throne. Of course. She failed. Of course. What you need to know about the queen is that she's probably a sorceress of some kind since she's old as hell but still looks young, and that she is evil. When she finds out one of her sex slaves snores, she orders his tongue and uvula cut out as punishment. To quote Electric Light Orchestra, Eeeevil woman. Ironically, she's one of the more interesting and conflicted characters in the book, as is Kelsea's Uncle Thomas. I would much rather read about them than fucking Kelsea over here.
Because there's a lot of double-standards. Kelsea does a lot of cruel and insensitive things. She humiliates her enemies. Enemies that she makes because she doesn't think about making allies. All she thinks about is her plainness and obtaining more books. You might think plainness would make her a more forgiving and empathetic person but you would be wrong. She envies beautiful women (while also wishing bad things would happen to them) and mocks older or ugly women for attempting to beautiful themselves. Pretty much all the female characters who aren't Kelsea in this book are painted as a) evil queens, b) victims, c) jealous hags/bitches.
And despite wanting to be beautiful, Kelsea seems to really hate women and femininity. She's described one point as being "mannish" simply because she walks like she knows where she's going. In the beginning of the book, she takes violent offense to the notion that she might at one point have played with dolls or worn dresses. There's a quote in this book saying that women scream at any kind of pain, but men scream only when they're being killed. Which begs the question: in a world that has not one, but two powerful queens, why is there so much gender stereotyping and misogyny?
And why does Kelsea buy into it? She has all those books. She ought to know that things should be--and can be--different. (I'm also wondering what those books were about. She mentions the Hobbit and the Brothers Grimm but nothing more modern. And these books mostly seem to serve as a crutch (a very weak crutch) to explain how Kelsea seems to know everything about things she ought to know absolutely nothing about--like doctors, and plastic surgeons, and recessive genes, and about a million other things.) Her guardians didn't think to give her a copy of Sun Tzu or The Prince?
I was wondering where the Hunger Games similarities would come in and it didn't take me long to figure that out. The slave trade is determined by a lottery (oh boy), and IIRC, the 'winner's' family is exempt from taking part in lotteries for a period of time. WHAT A GREAT PRIZE. You know, I think the Hunger Games wins on this one. Yeah, they were sending children to their deaths, but at least it was only a few dozen kids and not cages and cages of hundreds of babies, adults, and children who were going to get raped, tortured, have their eyeballs sucked out and then murdered, etc. Plus, entering got you food and the winners' families got a lifetime supply of food. So yeah, excuse me if I say, well, at least the HG people managed to make it look at least a little appealing.
Whenever I looked at my friends' page for QUEEN OF THE TEARLING, the schism was always what I noticed right away. 80% of my friends loathed, loathed, loathed this book, and 20% adored it, no questions asked. There was no middle ground. They all either loved it or hate it.
Now that I've read QUEEN OF THE TEARLING for myself, I'm planting my flag firmly in the "hated it" camp. I found the book very lazily written and plotted, too reliant on cliches and shoddy world building to make up for what proved to be a decidedly uninteresting and unoriginal storyline.