You guys, I have been so excited to read Origin. Unfortunately, just because I think a book sounds awesome...moreOriginally reviewed on A Reader of Fictions.
You guys, I have been so excited to read Origin. Unfortunately, just because I think a book sounds awesome does not mean that it actually will be. Sadly, I found Origin to be an entirely disappointing read for me, full of mistreatment of animal, bitching, and unsurprising plot twists.
Origin kicks off with animal torture. Yup. They believe in animal testing in Little Cam, the scientific community where Pia has lived all of her life. In the first chapter, she and Uncle Paolo (not really her uncle, but she calls everyone there Uncle or Aunt, since they all aided in her creation) put a sparrow through a cruel test. This is not the last instance of animal abuse in the book. If you're an animal lover, be warned that this book will make you extra super sad. I didn't like that and it set the tone for the novel.
The next thing that turned me off to Origin was Pia, our heroine. In novels, so much hinges on one's relationship to the main characters; there are some authors that can interest you in horrible characters, but that is rare and difficult to do. In theory, Pia is just the kind of person I would totally want to read about, since she, through the power of scientific inquiry, has been rendered immortal. Blades cannot cut her and she has crazy stamina. I love people with powers, people beyond human.
However, the scientists raised Pia for all of her seventeen years telling her how perfect she is. Well, after being told that for so long, she believes it, and acts accordingly. Perfect Pia is, in my opinion, a perfectly pretentious prat. Ugh. I just wanted to slap her for the whole of the opening of the novel. After helping with the torture/research of the sparrow and constantly thinking about how completely gorgeous and wonderful she is, Pia's little paradise is thrown into chaos with the arrival of a new female scientist. Pia immediately hates this woman for being too alluring and taking attention away from Pia. She refers to the woman as Dr. Klutz for half the book, even though the doctor has done nothing to garner her hatred. Later that night, at the fancy birthday party she insisted upon, Pia is upset that everyone's dancing but her, even though she turns down an offer to dance with someone she deems unworthy.
Pia is, simply put, one of the snottiest heroines I have encountered. Though she does grow up through the book, her transformation did not balance out my hatred for her earlier self. Honestly, if I didn't feel compelled to finish this for reviewing reasons, I might have DNFed. Another annoying habit of Pia's is her habit of referring to Wild Pia, her internal self that wants to go crazy in the jungle and reminded me unfavorably of 50 Shades' inner goddess.
Things got worse during the initial scenes after she met her love interest, aka the only boy her age she has EVER MET IN HER LIFE. Sorry if I don't swoon over the romance when she LITERALLY has never had any other options. Her standards are pretty low at this point. Anyway, they meet and she says racist things, assuming he's an idiot because he's a native, and he says sexist things, because she's a girl, AND EVERYONE'S OKAY WITH THAT. Except for me. Here's a sample (though keep in mind that this comes from the ARC and could be changed in the final version):
"'How do you know English? Uncle Paolo told me you natives were ignorant about everything outside your own villages.' 'I'm not ignorant,' Eio objects. 'It is you who are ignorant, Pia bird. My father taught me English.'"
And a bit later, misogyny:
"'I will take you back,' Eio announces, rising to his feet. 'I can find the way,' I say. 'I will take you back,' he repeats in a firmer tone. 'It's not good for a woman to walk alone in the jungle without a man to protect her.' He thinks I'm a woman. I stand a little taller. 'Well, all right. If you want.'"
So now, they've bonded and she still is judging him:
"I feel like I've discovered some fascinating new species. Homo ferus: wild human. An unpredictable, nocturnal creature usually found in trees. Caution: may cause bewilderment and disorientation. Also, prone to teasing."
Maybe I'm being overly sensitive, but since I don't tend to be the most touchy or PC person in the world, I'm guessing that some other readers will probably be irritated by these exchanges as well. I just found most of the book to be in rather poor taste, and the characters, at best, to be meh. I had very little interest in Eio or anyone else.
The bad guys and the good guys were clearly demarcated from the very beginning with no surprises. Everything was completely black and white, so things that should have been twists I saw coming from a long way off.
As far the dystopian stuff goes, it's definitely not especially dystopian. It's more dystopian in a microcosm. Certainly, Pia has discovered that her little world might not be what she always thought it was. There is some hinting that perhaps the corporation involved controls governments too, so it could be large-scale dystopian, but the focus is really on Pia (no wonder she's so vain) and not so much on the dystopian elements.
Despite all of that, I'm sure some people will enjoy this book, but it was not for me. I would probably be willing to try another Khoury book down the road, assuming I heard good things about the heroine. If you think you can handle Pia, then you might want to try Origin; if she sounds awful to you too, you may want to pass on this one.(less)
Whoa. What an incredibly dark and well-done novel. I have absolutely no doubt that Ilsa J. Bick will come to be recognized alongside authors like Laur...moreWhoa. What an incredibly dark and well-done novel. I have absolutely no doubt that Ilsa J. Bick will come to be recognized alongside authors like Laurie Halse Anderson. She clearly has no problem plumbing the darkest and most terrifying of human emotions. Like Anderson, she also focuses on teens, on the bad stuff - not the shiny vampires and the sweet first loves.
Reading this book...it's going to hurt. Jenna is incredibly messed up. You learn this up front. She's spent a year in an institution, put there after it was discovered that she'd been cutting. So yeah, going into it you know her family's a mess and that she is too, but you don't know the full extent of it. The awfulness just keeps on rolling; I only wish that there were not people out there who have likely actually lived lives like Jenna's.
The main plot is about Jenna's relationship with an older man, her science teacher Mr. Anderson. Obviously, this too is a completely dark and forbidden thing. At the outset, you don't know what's going on exactly, but you definitely have your suspicions and you're pretty sure it's bad. Bick does an amazing job of highlighting the difficulties of understanding such a case.
Nothing in this book is black and white. For one thing, Jenna is not an especially reliable narrator. It's hard to know how much of what she believes to be true is actually true. Such realizations can be just as mind-blowing as reading through the book itself is. I got completely sucked into her story and to seeing from her point of view. Then, when I would step back and think about it, I had to face the fact that things may not be what they seem at all.
Fans of Laurie Halse Anderson or Patricia McCormick will love undoubtedly love this book. Do not read it without due preparation: i.e. tissues and/or something super sappy and happy to help you recover afterwards.(less)
I really, really would like to find a mermaid book that I like a lot, but that search will be continuing. Of Poseidon is a book...moreOriginally posted here.
I really, really would like to find a mermaid book that I like a lot, but that search will be continuing. Of Poseidon is a book that most readers are probably going to love or be entirely annoyed by. Banks has a definite style, one that will either amuse and enchant you, or that will make you roll your eyes vigorously over and over again. For me, it was the latter.
Problem one is the host of YA tropes in the characters and their relationship to one another. Emma, a card-carrying member of the Bella Swan school of heroines, is exceedingly clumsy: "I'm betting Cinderella didn't feel this foolish, but then again, Cinderella wasn't as clumsy as an intoxicated walrus" (2). Note, too, Banks' sense of humor. This pretty much captures it perfectly. Emma meets Galen, Syrena prince, by tripping and smashing her face into his chest. We are treated to these inner thoughts:
"Tripping is bad enough. Tripping into someone is much worse. But if that someone has a body that could make sculpted statues jealous—and thinks you've broken your nose on one of his pecs—well, that's when tripping runs a distant second to humane euthanasia." (5)
This girl seriously needs to sort out her priorities. Also, she spends way too long thinking about the awkwardness of the situation. While she's thinking, she remains plastered against him, because obviously that's less weird. Everyone trips sometimes. He would laugh and move on if it were the real world. It's not though, so no one's phased by how long she presses her face against his chest on first acquaintance. Here's one more quote to explain my distaste for Emma: "If stupid were a disease, I'd have died of it by now" (119). This attitude is so unhealthy. I encourage girls not to think of themselves this way, even as a joke.
Galen, of course, is drawn to her from first meeting, purportedly because his mermaid (sorry, Syrena) senses are tingling. Meant to be together, blah, blah, blah. They met while she was on vacation (during which time her best friend got eaten by a shark). She goes back to Jersey and he shows up in her school with an identical schedule. When she tries to avoid him after the first class let out, he grabbed her wrist and, when she tries to pull away, he grips harder (41). This is a primo sign of a controlling guy. I was not surprised to learn that he had 'serial-killer eyes' (290). Among his other charming qualities, he also bosses her around constantly and takes advantage of her memory loss to convince her to accompany him somewhere.
I would also like to point out that Emma completely forgets about Chloe's death and that she's supposed to be sad within a day of Galen's showing up at her school. Meanwhile, her mother hears that Emma tripped and hit her head, freaks out and accuses Emma of sleeping with Galen, her boyfriend. The two are not dating and she refuses to believe anything else. He was a transfer; it was his first damn day at that school. WHAT WHAT WHAT?
The other big problem I have is the inconsistency of what the Syrena know about humans. Galen is an ambassador to the humans, which basically means a spy. He is bewildered by: phone books, people having more than one name (first and last), lip gloss, and countries. At the same time, he is capable of using a phone (likely a fancy modern one) and driving a car (note: one with a manual transmission). He was also capable of passing all of the high school classes she was taking. Plausibility fail.
Of Poseidon had some seriously major flaws, as I've pointed out, but it was still a quick and enjoyable read. I suspect many people will enjoy it more than I did. (less)
I have always loved rereading, and with my memory it's both a necessity (if I want to remember any details of my favorite books) and a pleasure. Even...moreI have always loved rereading, and with my memory it's both a necessity (if I want to remember any details of my favorite books) and a pleasure. Even once I have a book pretty well ensconced in my head, I love to revisit the characters, to discover intricacies of the plot or little jokes that previously escaped me. On first rereads, I can be caught off guard by twists I had forgotten. In this case, though, my first reread of a book I've reviewed on my blog, I am rereading a book I didn't care for originally. You see, I read it and it left a bad taste in my mouth, but then everyone with similar taste read it and thought it was awesome, and I just felt I had to try again. Unfortunately, I still don't love it, but I do think I was a bit overly harsh in my first assessment, when I simply was not in the mood for the story.
I have two main issues with The Girl of Fire and Thorns: Elisa and religion. I'll discuss Elisa first. Initially, I was very excited to read a fantasy novel centering around an overweight heroine. Such a thing simply isn't seen. You do get some muscular heroines (like Kel from Tamora Pierce's Protector of the Small Quartet) who stand out from the svelte, trim crowd, but an unfit heroine...not so much. Then I met Elisa. She irritates the heck out of me. When the reader first meets her, she has sister issues like crazy, no self-esteem, hates herself for being fat, and eats everything in sight. Because of her inferiority complex, she moans and whimpers, blaming everyone else for her own shortcomings.
What I hoped for was a plus size heroine who would be okay with her size, but, instead, Elisa hates herself for it, yet refuses to do anything about it, taking a sort of perverse comfort in not trying, because she doesn't think she could live up to Alodia anyway. She does, through the course of the story, lose some of the weight, though she never becomes slender. With the loss of weight, her sense of self improves, and she looks at her previous clothing and deems it a tent, judging her former self. If she doesn't have sympathy for herself, why should I? She does sort of comes to term with her size, whatever it may be, to some degree later, I felt, but only because she found a boy she knew would love her no matter what she weighed. Again, I would really like this to come from inside. Maybe I'm being too picky because something about her narration just grates on me, but this is how I felt.
Pretty much the only thing I like about her in those first couple of chapters is how she wishes for an old, ugly husband or one with pock marks, even if it is so he won't be disappointed in her. Of course, what she actually gets is the most beautiful man she's ever seen, King Alejandro. For all that she hates how attractive she is, she kind of swoons all over him for a while, falling prey to his charms without really knowing anything about him.
I will give Elisa this, though. When the chips are down, she usually steps up. In quiet moments and social situations, she feels awkward and comforts herself with food and hatred of herself and others. In the midst of adventure, her mettle shows through. I like that Elisa so much better, and, thankfully, she comes to the forefront as the novel progresses. Even at the end, though, there's something about her that just grates, though I can't put my finger on precisely what. Oh, and I know this isn't a smooth transition but this thought doesn't merit a full paragraph, I could have done without a full chapter that kept mentioning how she'd pissed herself. Mentioning it once is good enough; I can remember it happened without constant descriptions of the acrid smell, okay?
Anyway, moving on to religion, Elisa happens to be the bearer of the Godstone, the Chosen One. This sounds really exciting and comes with some nice bling (a big jewel in her belly that appeared when she was a baby), but mostly just means she has to pray a lot and likely eventually give her life in service. For those that don't know, I am not religious, but I did minor in theology, so I do have some tolerance for religious discussions. I do not, however, generally like it to be a main theme in my novels. Sure, this religion has been made up, but aren't they all? The constant praying and such just wears on me. Again, this is my own issue, and other readers obviously weren't bothered, but, for those who are sensitive to such things, be forewarned.
As far as the other characters go, I really wasn't interested in most of them. The only female character I like is the prickly Cosmé. I appreciate her candor and her refusal to pretend to like people when she doesn't. Alejandro, Elisa's hottie husband, is incredibly weak and pathetic. He just bores me to tears. Hector, his man-at-arms, hasn't been given a ton of personality yet, but fits into the same archetype as the heroes from Grave Mercy and Touch of Power, so I like him thus far. Humberto, Cosmé brother is a sweetheart and reminds me a lot of a puppy. Rosario, Alejandro's son, actually was one of my favorite characters. He already has way more sense than his father.
The best thing about the novel, what really saved it from being all the way down in the 'didn't like it' end of my rating scale is that Carson does do some surprising things. While much of the book did feel unoriginal, she throws in some genuine twists. She's not afraid to hurt her characters, and I love that in an author. I hope she continues to take the plot in somewhat surprising directions.
I will be listening to Crown of Embers shortly, and I hope I like Elisa a bit better in that installment. I've seen The Girl of Fire and Thorns compared to Kristin Cashore's novels or Maria V. Snyder's and so far, I don't see it, but I'm going to give the series another shot.
Narration: Jennifer Ikeda's narration fits the story very well. She has a gift for accents, which helps keep the characters clear and separate in my mind. The voices she gave suited the characters well, and at no time did her narration make me roll my eyes. Her tone suited Elisa quite well, I felt. Her voice was an easy one to pay attention to.(less)
Lauren Morrill is awesome. I’m privileged to know her IRL as well as through her deliciously fluffy novels. So, yeah, that’s a...moreActual rating: 4.5 stars
Lauren Morrill is awesome. I’m privileged to know her IRL as well as through her deliciously fluffy novels. So, yeah, that’s a thing. Funny story: she’s in my book club, but I totally didn’t know it the first time that we were at a meeting together. Someone mentioned Meant to Be, and I was all “I love that book,” and then the room released a collective held breath and was all “oh hey, that woman is Lauren Morrill and that could have been hella awkward.” Thankfully, I did love it; knowing me, that’s not always the case. Getting more on track, Morill’s sophomore novel proves that Meant to Be wasn’t a fluke. Being Sloane Jacobs is every bit as fun and fluffy as Meant to Be, with bonus family drama, pop culture references, and rarely covered (in YA at least) sports.
Last year, I read Notes from the Blender by Brendan Halpin and Trish Cook. It was completely adorable, with excellent teen characters and touching on...moreLast year, I read Notes from the Blender by Brendan Halpin and Trish Cook. It was completely adorable, with excellent teen characters and touching on real issues. Halpin has done it again, this time partnering with Emily Franklin.
Multiple points of view can either be amazing in a book or completely awful; there doesn't seem to be too much of an in between. Both of Halpin's books that I have read are great examples of good ways to do it. Of course, it's a bit easier with two authors, each writing their own character. Still, I love it entirely, because it gives both of the characters their own unique voices.
The opening scenes, where Luke becomes convinced that Tessa is crushing on him, are absurd but in a totally true-to-life way. His analysis is way off, obviously, but who's isn't? He starts evaluating everything, reading only the things that add up to the answer he expects to find. Of course, none of this would have happened without the prodding of other people. This is clearly an argument against matchmaking.
The controversy about whether Tessa and Josie should be allowed to go to the Prom just makes me fighting mad. I mean, how could that possibly hurt anyone else? Of course, even worse is that I know there's a book about this because things like this really happen, because so many people in this country are still so parochial that they think it matters who people fall in love with. Come on, America, get over it! Oh, and at this point, I need to include a fantastic quote from Luke's part of the narration; keep in mind that it could be different in the final copy of the book:
"There are people who think I'm a hero because I'm standing up for biblical values. Like I've ever read the Bible in my life. Maybe if I did, I could find the part about how making a girl's life into a living hell is something that God thinks you should do."
Really, this was just the sweetest book. I completely love the message, one of acceptance and open-mindedness. There's no hating on Christianity or religion in general. Halpin and Franklin aren't trying to demonize anyone. I want to add a copy of this to my personal library and shelve it metaphorically next to Will Grayson, Will Grayson, though not literally, because I shelve alphabetically by author. This book made me cry and laugh out loud. Not many do that.
Now, go listen to some Lady GaGa (aka Miss Kaboom) and let your freak flag fly, be it what it may. We're all better when we're ourselves!(less)
For whatever reason this book just did not work for me. All of my reviewer friends with similar taste enjoyed it a lot, like Great Imaginations, Cuddl...moreFor whatever reason this book just did not work for me. All of my reviewer friends with similar taste enjoyed it a lot, like Great Imaginations, Cuddlebuggery, and Xpresso Reads. Perhaps I was not in the right mood, or maybe this falls under the category of books that mean that the readers most similar to me only agree with me on three out of four books.
This really should be a book that I love, and I'm not entirely sure where everything went wrong. I mean, it sounds so perfect for me: dystopian fiction about kids with powers. Obviously, I love dystopias, and I also will read anything I can get my hands on about people evolving powers ala X-Men. Some of the problem might have been my mood, but, whatever the case, this story fell entirely flat.
The writing, while not awful, did not stand out for me in any way. Within this book's pages, I saw several of those overused, annoying sentences, including one where the heroine doesn't realize she's not breathing and another where she hears a scream that she then figures out is hers. Of course, the fact that the font size, in the ARC at least, is so large exacerbates the childish feel to the writing. Take, for example, the very first sentence: the needless capitalization irks, as does the comma after "Garden." Again, it's certainly passable YA writing, but did not work for me at all.
What really kept me from engaging with this story is my lack of connection to Ruby. In a first person narrative, having a compelling, well-drawn MC is crucial, and Ruby is not that. She never really coalesced into a realistic person. At different points in the novel, she seems to be entirely different in terms of her personality. In the camp, for example, she allows her friend to be punished in her stead, unwilling or unable to leap to the friend's defense. Later on, she regularly joins the fray to protect friends, and is considered strong and trustworthy, ready to fight. While, yes, I can see that she might have been operating under different rules in the camp than on the run, I never got any sense of her going through a change. She doesn't evolve; she's just suddenly different, without any sort of "well, I'm free from camp now, so I can be me again!" and it makes her feel very uneven.
The other characters are better, and the story becomes much more readable when she joined up with Chubs, Zu, and Liam. Chubs and Liam are definitely my favorite parts of the book, particularly the book-obsessed Chubs. Then again, one of the books Chubs has is Watership Down, which Ruby read before entering the camp, and then feels the need to quote obsessively throughout the book, because apparently she still remembers exact lines. Sure. Are you getting the sense I didn't like Ruby by the way I sidetracked my discussion of the others to complain about her?
The plot moves in stereotypical dystopian directions. Insert dramatic chase here. Insert cookie cutter bad guys around every corner. Add false sense of safety here. Begin separating the friends. Throw in a surprise bad guy, but make it entirely obvious he's bad so the reader can indulge in some dramatic irony! Now, for increased drama, add a love triangle into the mix and bake at 350 degrees. Finally, remove plot from oven and cut slices out of the main character's heart. AND DONE.
A couple of times, I thought maybe Bracken had done something to catch me off guard, but those would turn out to be fake out twists, followed by the totally predictable things I was expecting all along. She writes using the Chekhov rule. If someone gets mentioned more than once, it will be used before the book is finished. This rule helps, of course, but it was so heavy-handed that I knew precisely where the story was headed.
There's a lot of potentially good things in this story, and it wasn't terrible, though I know my ranting might make it seem that I hated it. It just bored me pretty much all the way through. For a book about kids with powers like telepathy and telekinesis, there sure is not too much done with the powers. Stupid kids, if you all just use your powers against the grown ups, this is all over! Also, if all of the kids either died from that disease or developed these powers, why has the government not developed a proactive plan? All they're doing is slowly killing off the remaining kids when they should be turning this to their advantage on the global scale. The reaction to the crisis does not seem believable.
Listen, ranting aside, lots of people have loved this book, and I urge you to check out those reviews I linked to before taking this book off of your to-read list. Sometimes I just do not agree with anyone, and this could be that time.(less)
Middle school sucked for me. You may think I'm exaggerating, but I'm really not. During the entirety of middle school, I never had any real friends. I...moreMiddle school sucked for me. You may think I'm exaggerating, but I'm really not. During the entirety of middle school, I never had any real friends. I may have looked normal, but I was still definitely an outcast. I cannot imagine going through what Auggie went through. His strength of character to be able to face that situation is incredible.
Part of why he could survive the experience was just Auggie. He's a smart kid and really loved the learning part of school. When people stop to notice, he's funny. Having gotten to fifth grade and maintained a fairly positive attitude despite the staring and the people screaming at his visage is just courageous. In addition to his own strengths, he was lucky enough to have supportive people in his life. His parents and sister would do absolutely anything for him; their family is so loving and happy. Plus, he made a couple of friends to stand by him on the first day of school, Jack and Summer.
This book nearly made me cry. Multiple times. For those who don't know, this is pretty rare. Unlike one of my friends who I will refrain from naming, tv shows and books are not constantly making me cry. The tears that threatened were caused both by sadness and happiness, which is pretty awesome.
Kids are cruel. Never once have I doubted this, having been the victim of some verbal bullying myself as a child. Being surprised or scared at an unfamiliar face is unfortunate, but really cannot be helped; that response is instinctual. What is absolutely awful is the way that people continue to judge him, refusing to get to know Auggie's amazing qualities. Just because he's ugly, they do things like pretend that if they touch him they'll get The Plague. Like ugliness is catching. It's not like Auggie has a transmitable disease.
Even worse than kids, who know what they're doing but at least have ignorance as some amount of an excuse, are the parents. One parent in particular tries to get Auggie kicked out of the school, because she feels like he's brought the level of the school down, even though he's a trillion times smarter than her son. This same mother photoshopped Auggie out of the class photo.
Anyway, I'll stop with that now, because, really, you should read the book for yourself. I also want to mention that the method Palacio used to tell the story was highly effective. The narrative begins and ends with Auggie's perspective. In the middle, you hear from classmates, his sister, and some of his sister's friends. By bookending the story with Auggie, you're really able to see how much he has grown, and the other people's perspectives reveal how much he touched their lives too.(less)
OMG, you guys, pardon me while I flail freaking everywhere over how incredibly hilarious and wonderful and perfect for me this book is! Ahhhhh! There...moreOMG, you guys, pardon me while I flail freaking everywhere over how incredibly hilarious and wonderful and perfect for me this book is! Ahhhhh! There are certain authors who are just like made of magic for me, you know? Their every written word speaks to me. They're funny and clever, and say express the things that I think and feel all of the time, and, were I the kind of person to mark up my books, their books would be a mess of notes. Well, Lauren Morrill has just joined that esteemed crew with her debut novel Meant to Be.
I could tell straight off that this novel would be a fantabulous read for me. The book opens with, "There are certain things in life that just suck. Pouring a big bowl of Lucky Charms before realizing the milk is expired, the word 'moist,' falling face-first into the salad bar in front of the entire lacrosse team . . ." It you can make me laugh with the first two sentences, things are looking up. I proceeded to highlight a bunch of quotes that spoke to me and made me laugh. If you go on GR, right now and look up quotes by Lauren Morrill, I added all of them, because I'm a nutter and obsessed.
My very favorite aspect of Meant to Be is how well-drawn Julia is. She totally rocks, but which I mean she's kind of awkward and judgmental and anal-retentive. Julia might have more in common with me than any heroine I've ever encountered, with our main differences being her skill as a swimmer and her dedication to homework. Julia, like me, is not a rule-breaker, pretty much as a rule, and, when she does break them, it's this sort of painful mix of fun and fear. She loves reading more than just about anything else and has only one close friend, Phoebe. On top of that, she's introverted and has curly, frizzy hair she cannot figure out what to do with. My advice to her on that last one is confidence; if you pretend it looks awesome, a lot of people will be fooled.
What was most familiar to me about Julia was her perspective. Julia's mental dialog is pretty much exactly what it's like to live in my head, especially my less self-aware high school brain. Despite being incredibly intelligent and witty, Julia, when in a social situation, generally fails to prove herself verbose and lacks witty retorts. Yet, in her head, she has this constant judgmental, snarky commentary running at all times, which, of course, deserts her at times of need. She also has a temper and doesn't realize how harsh or superior she comes off to other people. To me, Julia is one hundred percent realistic, believable and hilarious.
I will say that the only other strongly-developed character is Jason, and even he takes a definite back seat. This is no surprise given how caught up Julia is in her own world and impressions of things and people. Since it's just like my mind, I can tell you right now that she's not the most reliable narrator. Meant to Be is definitely driven by Julia, so I suspect that if you don't like her the book won't be much fun for you.
The romance does not go anywhere surprising, but it's totally one of my favorite formulas. I've always been so weak to the boy and girl who don't like each other at first plotline, because of my love of Pride and Prejudice, which Morrill is obviously a total fangirl about too, based on the numerous references. Shakespeare comes up a lot too, of course, but, if this is actually a retelling of anything (I thought it was a Shakespeare retelling, though I suspect I made that up), it's of P&P.
In Meant to Be, Julia has to deal with a lot of personal issues surrounding her own expectations. She has love built up into this epic construct in her mind, and it's totally messing her up. Again, I relate to this to an insane degree. Her realizations are important ones and I think this sends a great message to teens compared to all of the obnoxious teen love lasts forever stuff. While Jason and Julia do, I think, have amazing chemistry, I also don't know what I see them making a great couple for all time, and I like that.
The last thing I must mention is the setting. Meant to Be takes place during a class trip to London. Julia has signed up with out her best friend and is stuck with a whole bunch of other teens she mostly doesn't like while trying to enjoy herself in a foreign country. Girl, I have been there and it is unfortunate, especially since I didn't have a Jason. Meant to Be is one of those books that makes you feel like you're traveling. I already wanted to go to London so, so much, and now I want to just pack up and go right now, though I'm far too plan-oriented for that, as Julia would understand.
Though I had a couple of small issues with Meant to Be (mostly to do with the cell phones the school provided for them during the trip, which I so do not see happening), I completely adored the whole book and will be devouring everything else Morrill writes as soon as I possibly can.
Shaun and Georgia Mason are adopted siblings and well-respected bloggers. Georgia's a newsie, meaning that she tells the truth without bias, only the...moreShaun and Georgia Mason are adopted siblings and well-respected bloggers. Georgia's a newsie, meaning that she tells the truth without bias, only the facts. Shaun's an Irwin (as in Steve), which means he likes to poke zombies with sticks. Oh right, did I not mention the zombies? There are zombies. And they do want to eat your brains or any other part of you they can get a hold of. Anyway, back to Shaun and Georgia. They, along with their fictional/techno-genius friend Buffy get selected to follow along on Senator Ryman's presidential campaign, which is super amazing, because the government has never taken bloggers seriously before. They're thrilled, until mysterious and awful things start happening around them.
My description of Feed kind of sucks, but I can't really think of how to improve it. Suffice it to say that there are zombies, mayhem, politics and sarcasm. What more does one need? It really is harder sometimes to summarize a really good book, because they tend to be a little deeper, making it hard to put all of the awesomeness into a summary. Thankfully, I can mention all of that in my review.
Zombies are ridiculous. We all know this, even those of us who rather like to read about them. There's not really any scientific reason to believe zombies possible; personally, I would more readily believe in pretty much any paranormal creature before I would believe in zombies. Unicorns? Sure, my young self is delighted and says they exist! Vampires? Why not? People can be cannabalistic, besides Catholics already drink their saviors blood. Back to pseudo-seriousness, though, Feed has the best explanation of zombie-fication that I have seen thus far. Grant also does a good job of giving a description and then doing the authorial equivalent of shrugging her shoulders and telling the audience to suspend disbelief, but in a good way.
I absolutely loved Feed from the first page. Why? Georgia/George. She is fantastically snarky and grumpy and sarcastic. She's like me, only with worse eyes (mine suck, but at least I can go out on a sunny day). Not every other character feels fully dimensional, but they are all built out in a believable way, to the degree that George understands/cares about them. George is standoffish and only bothers to learn about certain people, so everyone wouldn't be distinct in her world.
The writing is pretty fantastic. I always know an author has talent when he/she can write distinct voices and you can tell who's who without necessarily needing to be told. Grant achieved this. The little snippets from the various characters' blogs so obviously correspond to one or the other, even before you reach the part telling the author's name.
The format was pretty great, too. The bulk of the story was told from George's perspective, with only well-integrated background. The quotes from blogs enabled Grant to put in some more back story, which might not have fit in the flow of a characters every day thoughts without making the novel feel forced.
One thing that really amazed me about Feed was that it wasn't a dystopia the way you would expect. You would generally think that the zombies were the problem, right? Not really. I mean, they are a concern, but society has figured out how to live with the problem. The United States really is much the same as it has ever been, which is why the fact that it's a dystopia is even more of a creepy reflection on our current lifestyle.
In some ways, the society in Feed is the one I would least be willing to live in of all of the dystopias I've read. Okay, only in one way. But still. What's my problem with this rather-better-than-most vision of the near future (2040)? Needles. These people get blood tests approximately 85,000 times every day, to ensure that they are not in the process of becoming zombies. As a person who refuses to get the flu shot every year because I'd rather take my chances, this is not a future I want to be a part of. Needles are the worst.
Oh, and, less seriously, you may have noticed in my less-than-inspired description that there's a character called Buffy. She's actually named Georgette, but she figured, hey, I'm short and blond and cute...what else would my name be? Loving the reference so hard. And I'm fairly certain that Joss Whedon would appreciate it and the book as well. (I could be wrong, but this is my guess.)
To conclude a final iteration of how much I enjoyed this book (which I totally need to add to my personal collection and NEED the sequel to) and a quote in honor of my friends Heather and Nori, both awesome bloggers: "No levels, no van. No van, no coffee. No coffee, no joy." Seriously, go read this one! (less)
Touch of Power ranked among my very favorite books I read last year. Needless to say, I wanted Scent of Magic like my cat wants deli meat. With such h...moreTouch of Power ranked among my very favorite books I read last year. Needless to say, I wanted Scent of Magic like my cat wants deli meat. With such high expectations, it's perhaps not surprising that the book fell a bit short. This is definitely not her best book, but still ensnared me. Scent of Magic may not be as beloved to me as the first book in the series, but there's plenty of action and powerful women.
One of the best thing about reading Snyder books is that they will always be chock full of incredibly strong, sassy women. Avry, the heroine, of course, has healing powers, which can also be used to fight, in addition to being well-trained with weapons. On top of that, she's incredibly bright and willing to do just about anything to help friends, and almost as much to help people she does not even know. What I love about her is how little vanity she has; at one point, she offers to heal a friend's facial injury to save her from the scars, even though then Avry would have to bear them instead. She also prefers practical clothing to beautiful dresses.
However, Avry's not the only strong woman in the book. Jael and Celline are varying degrees of bad guys, but are incredibly powerful. Even better, women fight in the armies of this world and can even rise to positions of authority. Women like Leah and Wynn do not have any powers to aid them, but they still kick so much butt. A lot of novels have strong heroines, but, in order to emphasize her uniqueness, otherwise contain only meek female characters.
Snyder also gets the villain just right. Tohon ranks pretty high up on the list of villains that horrify me. He has insanely powerful magic, which he can use to make zombies and to make Avry weak in the knees (I did not like what happened with that at all btw). Aside from that, he's crazy. He goes from friendly to murderous in no time; his moods are unpredictable. Not only that but Tohon's the brilliant kind of crazy: he pretty much equals Ryne for military strategy. Basically, he's terrifying because it's very easy to imagine him winning.
Sadly, I didn't feel the same love for this installment as the previous. I think a lot of that had to do with the separation of Kerrick and Avry. At the end of the first chapter, Kerrick and Avry part ways to accomplish different things in the war against Tohon. One of my favorite things about Touch of Power was the dynamic between the two of them, which obviously can't happen if they're not together. Plus, now that they're a couple, they don't have the same sexy banter that they did before even when they're together.
The other issue with the two of them being apart for most of the novel is that Snyder changed the narrative style. All of Touch of Power was from Avry's first person perspective, even when the group separated from what I recall. In this one, Snyder added relatively brief chapters from Kerrick's perspective. Avry's perspective remains in first person, but Kerrick's bits are in third person limited. This device might have worked better for me had his sections been counted as chapters (only Avry's are numbered, while his are headed merely Kerrick) and been written in first person as well.
These next couple of points will reference spoilers, though without specifics. While I love these characters and want them all to survive, you guys know how much I appreciate an author that will make their characters really suffer. Snyder can do this, I know she can, but she doesn't exhibit that ruthlessness here. Everyone freaking kept coming back to life! It's to the point of absurdity. Sure, a few people Avry cares about dies, but the main characters can apparently not be killed. That really lessens the impact of the plot.
Despite those issues, I was still debating between 3.5 and 4 for the rating, since I did really enjoy the book and get caught up in it. The deciding factor ended up being the ending. The fact that she ended this installment on the exact same cliffhanger as book one makes me want to throw all the things. Avry and Kerrick are once again united and temporarily safe, but one of them might die of a disease! Oh noes! Goddammit! Obviously neither of them is going to die permanently, so why even bother? Plus, this is so incredibly redundant. I hate everything about the ending.
In spite of everything, I did still quite enjoy reading Scent of Magic and will be eagerly awaiting book three, and really anything Maria V. Snyder chooses to write. I need to find time to read her first series, because I've heard it is worlds better than this one, which I like a lot.
As a huge fan of superhero stories, I could not resist Mike Jung's debut novel, Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities. Yet again, my instincts for middl...moreAs a huge fan of superhero stories, I could not resist Mike Jung's debut novel, Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities. Yet again, my instincts for middle grade novels have served me well, because Jung's novel is every bit as stupendous as its main superhero.
Packed with superhero stunts and villainous mayhem, Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities will surely delight any and all superhero fans. The tone matches up well with the movie The Incredibles, fun, action-packed, focused on family, and with a little bit of romance on the side. For older readers, Jung throws in cute references to classics of the superhero genre. For example, I noticed a street named after Brian Michael Bendis.
Vincent Wu and his friends run their own (unofficial) fan club for the city's famed superhero Captain Stupendous. Vincent, Max and George are not remotely popular, but they have each other and can comfort themselves in the awareness of their superior knowledge of Stupendous' exploits. Their lives get changed for the more exciting when they learn the secret identity of Captain Stupendous...and he's not anyone they ever would have expected.
Vincent, Max, and George make such a convincing group of nerdy friends. They squabble, have their own sets of inside jokes, tease each other mercilessly, and, most importantly, have each others' backs when need arises. The inclusion of Polly is my favorite part, because she shows them how powerful girls can be, even though they have trouble believing that at first. Polly totally rocks, and I love the wonderful message that Jung sends about strength through her character.
Vincent's parents are largely absent during the book, divorced and both busy with their jobs, father as a genius inventor and mother as school superintendent. However, despite their lack of physical presence, there is no doubt of how much they care for their son. They call him and check on him, and do their best to protect him. Perhaps most touching is his relationship with his mother's boyfriend, Detective Carpenter. He treats Vincent with respect and honors his opinions in a way Vincent hasn't ever really felt from adults, which helps him open up in this new set of challenges.
Serious messages aside, this book is almost entirely hilarious. There's the awkwardness of first crushes, the superhero/villain banter, and plenty of gross scenes, including one rather spectacular one involving a lot of vomit. Young readers will no doubt love all of these things. To top it all off, there's a scary robot and a bunch of epic battles. What more could you ask for?
The supervillain plot follows well-tread lines, and will not be shocking to older readers. Really, though, the focus is not on the supervillain, so much on heroism and how size doesn't really matter when it comes to defeating the bad guy. Though a bit anticlimactic, the showdown with the villain is hilarious and fitting. Just know that this isn't one of those stories that ends with the defeat of the villain.
I highly recommend Geeks, Girls, and Secret Identities for anyone who enjoys superhero tales, young and old alike. The book reads quickly, and comes with a bunch of perfectly-matched illustrations by Mike Maihack.(less)
In Austenland, Hale played with the characters of Pride and Prejudice, a rather obvious place to start, what with P&P's popularity. Honestly, I wa...moreIn Austenland, Hale played with the characters of Pride and Prejudice, a rather obvious place to start, what with P&P's popularity. Honestly, I was disappointed by Austenland. Hale is one of my favorite authors, because of the originality of her characters and the...honesty of her stories. Austenland read like any Jane Austen spinoff, but I wanted it to be special. Plus, as an Austen-obsessed girl myself, I somewhat wonder whether nurturing our desires for a hero is a wise course.
With that knowledge, I came to this one with slightly lowered expectations. Expecting just a fun Austen-inspired romp, I was pleased with the results. I was not, however, astounded by its quality. This series does not rank anywhere near the Bayern books or The Actor and the Housewife. However, they are fun little guilty pleasures for those who like to think they may get a hero of their own someday.
I definitely liked this one better. For one thing, the novel Hale primarily drew her inspiration from for this one is Northanger Abbey, which is warring with P&P to be my personal favorite. The opening lines and the gothic content, perfectly mirror Northanger Abbey, although the murder mystery and the hero are quite changed.
There is not much Northanger Abbey inspired fiction out there, largely because Catherine is a less interesting heroine. Like Catherine, Charlotte does not have the makings of a heroine. She also has the tendency to let her imagination carry her away. However, Charlotte is much more mature than Catherine, both in age and intelligence. Charlotte is capable of some serious business acumen. Actually, this was one of the weak points of the novel, since the character of Charlotte seemed to switch back and forth between the brainless heroine and the logical, clever woman. The two parts of her character did not mingle well, and she seemed rather more like two women or like she has identity dissociative disorder, a suspicion enhanced by her constant discussions with her Inner Thoughts.
The romance herein is not a sweep the reader of her feet vicariously kind of deal. That works here, I think, even if it's not as exciting necessarily. The right decisions were made for the characters. Nor was the end result surprising, at least to me. Once the characters were assembled, I wondered what I would have done as an author, and I was right. High-fiving a million angels. (less)
I love epic fantasy and I also love Russian things. While not set in the real Russia, Shadow and Bone's setting is very Ru...moreView all of my reviews here.
I love epic fantasy and I also love Russian things. While not set in the real Russia, Shadow and Bone's setting is very Russia-like. The country is Ravka. The fantasy elements are incredibly cool, with the Grisha powers ranking almost Cashore level of original (which is as high as it gets). The Shadow Fold and the volcra, too, are so creepy and fascinating.
Speaking of creepy and fascinating, I have to talk about the Darkling. From the first scene where he appeared, he totally captured me, even though I was pretty sure he was a terrible guy. Seriously, he is like majorly alluring. I don't know whether I should root for him or not, because he's got this whole evil dictator vibe, but also seems like he might be better deep down. I don't usually go for bad boys (although that seems a bit mild for the Darkling), but wow.
Of course, he's not the only man candy in this book. Yes, there is a love triangle, but I declare myself okay with this one, so no worries. The other guy is Mal, Alina's childhood friend, who she's been hopelessly in love with for ages. I have to say that I was pretty much immediately into him as well, mostly because his name is Mal. In my head, I see Malcolm Reynolds, so he has to be awesome.
Alina starts out pretty weak, although still with some serious gumption. It was an utter pleasure watching her grow and discover herself. I also really liked the way she changed as she came into her powers. Bardugo has written such a wonderful metaphor for what subverting your real self does to you. By the end of the book, Alina is a definite heroine.
What I hate about this book is knowing how long I probably have to wait for more! The ending of Shadow and Bone isn't a cliffhanger, but there's still tons that needs to be resolved and waiting is going to be painful. I need to procure a copy of this for myself, and so do you!(less)
Guys! This book was SO perfect for me. Like, seriously, how did I not read this sooner, because it is made of awesomeness. Beli...moreOriginally posted here.
Guys! This book was SO perfect for me. Like, seriously, how did I not read this sooner, because it is made of awesomeness. Believe that I don't say this lightly: Throne of Glass is like The Hunger Games meets Grave Mercy. As with both of those delightful books, Throne of Glass features a powerful heroine, lots of action and some delightful, non-instalove romance.
The opening of Throne of Glass finds Celaena in the salt mines, where, after having been captured, she has been sentenced to work until she dies. Lucky for her, she now has another option: she can serve as the Crown Prince's contestant in a competition to decide the new King's Champion, aka personal assassin. An eighteen year old girl might seem an odd entrant, but Celeana Sardothien is actually the most feared assassin in the country.
I expected to have some trouble believing in Celeana as such an epically intense assassin, especially since she had quite the reputation by the time she was 17. However, Maas totally sold it. At every turn, Celaena strategizes possible escapes and considers the various ways that she could murder or maim the people around her. Her thoughts are bloody and focused. She has been raised to be an assassin since childhood, and she does it well.
Trust does not come particularly easily to Celaena, but she is still capable of humor and caring. In fact, if I had any issue with the book at all, it was that she seemed almost too quick to re-humanize after what happened in the salt mines. However, I want to believe that she could bounce back like that; it's part of why she is so strong. Celaena has power mentally and physically, and, despite being a trained assassin, she's a genuinely nice person, rarely mean out of spite.
The other characters are just as vibrant, if a bit black or white. I really appreciated Celaena's friendship with Nehemiah. What made it so delightful was that they seemed to bond over real things, not their situation or boys. Instead, they found common ground in both being powerful women forced into lives that don't especially suit them. Also, they both hate Lady Kaltain, who fills the classic money-grubbing, evil bitch role perfectly.
Then we have the boys. Yes, Throne of Glass has a love triangle. Weep not, though, because this is a tolerable one. Interestingly, from what I've heard, the story didn't have one initially, which is curious. However, it's here now and I deem it acceptable. I really like both guys, even though there's only one I would allow to guard my heart. Ahem. Crown Prince Dorian is sweet and passionate, definitely a bit of hopeless romantic, who's undoubtedly going to have to choose between the crown and his heart. Chaol is gruff and obnoxious at first, but entirely loyal and wonderful on further acquaintance. He's also definitely the kind of guy to encourage strength in a woman, rather than trying to protect her.
I thought the world building was fascinating, although I definitely think we've only barely reached the surface. There's so much more going on here than has been described yet. I anticipate faeries and alternate universes, as well as more to be made of this glass castle. Still, I'm really liking the foundations that Maas has laid here. The world thus far is fairly typical fantasy, but well-written and with excellent action scenes.
Speaking of action, I haven't explained the comparison to The Hunger Games yet. Well, the competition between the various assassins, thieves and soldiers is very reminiscent of the arena. There are definitely differences, but the similarities are stark. The training room scenes definitely reminded me of the ones in THG, as well as the fact that there were 24 competitors. Oh yeah, and some grisly deaths!
If you love fantasy novels like I do, you will most definitely not want to miss out on Throne of Glass. It comes out on August 7, so go get yourself a copy ASAP!(less)
Going into this, I had already seen the negative reviews rolling in from trusted sources. I am really grat...moreOriginally reviewed on A Reader of Fictions.
Going into this, I had already seen the negative reviews rolling in from trusted sources. I am really grateful for that, because, had I not known, I'm pretty sure this would have been an even worse reading experience for me. Since I knew not to expect anything at all, I was better able to appreciate the few things that entertained me.
The society set up in Glitch is, at least, dystopian, not just marketed as such, so that is good. It is not, however, particularly original, feeling from before the first page like so many others. In a little section before you begin the book itself, it says that secrets "started the wars and almost destroyed the planet. Secrets and lies and destructive passions. But we were saved from all that. We were logical. Orderly." This pretty much sets the tone for Glitch. I feel like a quarter at least of the dystopias I read are built around this basic premise: X causes terrible wars, so we have eliminated X with this drug/technology/whatever.
The very first issue I encountered as I began to read Glitch was the awkwardness of the first person storytelling for this kind of tale. Zoel is glitching, meaning that her connection to the Link intermittently crashes. During these times, she can think for herself and feel emotions and see colors. Ordinarily, she is completely logical, which apparently also means zoned out and zombiefied. Anyway, moving past that, I could not deal with narration that would tell me the Link had just reasserted control and she was no longer capable of thinking, followed by numerous emotion-fraught thoughts. Anastasiu never successfully made the Link sound like it was working on Zoe.
The next problem I noticed was Zoe. She is one of those heroines that is eternally surprised by everything. She has no survival skills. Like none. She does whatever people tell her to do, except when her telekinesis kicks in and does things FOR her. She spots Adrien following her everywhere and is all like, hey, that's vaguely creepy. Then, she gets taken by some official to a room where he generally is horrifying. Adrien breaks in and takes out the official and drags her up above ground, even though she doesn't know him and he won't answer any damn questions. Girl, don't even.
Heather Anastasiu decided to create new swear words for this future: "shuntin'," "crackin'" and "godlam'd." Certainly, swear words do often change with time (as some words used in my parents' day, for example, have lost impact or ceased use), so I totally get why she did this. However, they didn't come off as authentically belonging to these characters or this world: they read like obvious substitutions for the words we use now and made me immediately dislike Adrien, the one who said them all the time. Most irritating to me was godlam'd, which seems to exist solely to make it clear that it means goddamned. I mean, what would the longer word be if you reinserted the part now replaced by the apostrophe? Godlambed? Godlaminated? Godlamaaed? I can't think of anything that would make any sort of sense. Also, would a logical, emotionless society really still cling to religion enough to use an epithet built around God? These words might have worked better had there been any other changes between our modern terms and theirs, because they would not have stood out as much. The only other original word I noticed: "gnangy."
Yet again, I was disappointed to be reading a dystopia where the good guys and the bad guys are precisely who you think they are from the outset. Seriously, why is this the case with so many dystopias? Haven't you heard of twists? Or shades of grey? (Note: not 50 Shades of Grey)
At this juncture, the review is going to be entering spoiler territory, so continue at your own discretion.
Now, I have to talk about the 'romance' in this book. We have both instalove and a creepy stalker/rapist. Awesome, right? The instalove bothered me, but really pales in comparison to the other issue. Still, let's start there. Adrien has been crushing on Zoe ever since he saw her in his visions of the future. He takes her to his mom's house after breaking her out of school, where they make out and declare undying devotion to one another. Then they have to wipe her memory so she can return safely to school.
Up to this point, I wasn't in love with the book, but it was steaming along at a fairly respectable 2.5. The book had issues, boring and uninspired, but meh. Then things happen. It gets so much worse.
Back at school, with no memory of Adrien, Max, who Zoe tutors, requests additional study sessions at his house. Conveniently, parents work until ten PM, giving them lots of alone time in his bedroom. Max promptly confesses that he glitches too, can look like any other person, and that he wants to see her genitals (no joke...this scene was mad awkward). Teen boy + new emotions + seeing porn by accident = ATTEMPTED RAPIST. He proceeds to force many make out sessions on Zoe, and she lets him even though she's not enjoying them, because, obviously, it's nice to let boys do things with you, unless you're COMPLETELY sure you like some other boy better. Only then should you stop them. (Note: FALSE)
When Adrien comes back into the picture, Max begins to get insanely jealous, which means more forced kisses, some grabbing and lots of yelling. Finally, Zoe figures out that she's in OMG TRU LURV with Adrien. Note that all of this takes place with lots of sneaking into bedrooms, despite this being against the rules, surveillance and Regulators everywhere. Max sees them kissing and reacts in precisely the way you would expect: shoving her up against the wall, forcing a kiss on her again, and saying she WILL BE WITH HIM SOMEDAY.
All of this happens, plus Zoe finds out that Max was spying for the enemy. Still, SHE DOESN'T HATE MAX AND WANTS TO BE FRIENDS. Even Pinkie Pie would not want to be friends at this juncture. Honestly, I feel like I have a better understanding for Max's character than I do Zoe's. I mean, he at least has a reason for behaving the way he does. Her actions make no sense. She has no motivations. AAAAAGHHHH.
Summing up, Glitch is as filled with glitches as the heroine. I suspect some people will like it, but most will be disgusted by the lack of personality in the heroine as well as the lackluster plotting and writing.(less)
Scarlet is one of the books I have been completely desperate to read, since the moment I heard it was being published. A reenvisioning of a legend! A strong heroine! How could this fail? Well, in the past, a lot of the books I most wanted to read turned out to be really disappointing and awful. As a result, I held myself back, prepared myself to be disappointed.
Guess what? Scarlet totally was not disappointing. At all. I maintained my skepticism for a while, but Scarlet completely won me over. I had a lingering concern through most of the book, namely what exactly Gaughen was going to do with Maid Marian's character. Thankfully, what she did with the character was awesome.
What a fantastic way to retell the story of Robin Hood. Making one of the characters a girl changes so many dynamics, improves them in my opinion. Even better, Gaughen was able to make all of these changes without greatly altering the legend itself; it still fits within the parameters set by the accepted tale. That is seriously impressive. If I could, I would give Gaughen a high five.
Warming up to Scarlet took me some time too. At first, her dialect of English irritated me and she just was not that likable with her secrets and prickly-ness. As the book went on, I found myself loving the character more and more. The more I knew about her, the more I liked her, because Gaughen did such a fantastic job explaining why she were this way. Besides, in what world would I not respect a girl who's so strong and able to protect herself? In a time when women were not allowed rights or independence, she seized them in the only way she knew how.
The romance in Scarlet is amazing too, because Gaughen really made me wonder which guy would be better for Scar. Just like Scar wonders, although she also wonders if she wants a guy. Love triangles only work if the winner of the battle is not apparent. The romantic parts were really well-written, creating a sense of longing and a lack of confidence about the correct choice. They also weren't sappy, which is fantastic.
Most exciting is the fact that the door is wide open for a sequel. So far as I know there isn't one in the works, but one probably is. Just in case it isn't, I want to put my voice out here in the internet saying "Please write one, A. C. Gaughen! Please!" (less)
A lot of interesting and dramatic stuff happens in this book. Which is why it's amazing how incredibly boring it managed to be. I had to force myself...moreA lot of interesting and dramatic stuff happens in this book. Which is why it's amazing how incredibly boring it managed to be. I had to force myself through pretty much every page. The only characters I liked at all were the twins, as they felt the most like real people. I never related to Cass, who felt strangely withdrawn despite the story being told from her perspective. She felt more like a man than a woman too.
The book jumps around in time frequently. Although the different snatches of Cass' life are pertinent to the book's plot, they still don't always feel so at the time or really later. Perhaps the book just needed to be shorter, to relate a bit less of the past. A big part of the book centers around a mystery, the conclusion of which was surprising only in its sheer lack of surprise. Everything happens after many hints and with absolutely no plot twisting.
Morrow's writing conveys an understanding of language that is commendable and literary. However, he has strange diction, which left me cold and often incredulous. For example, Morrow describes a morning as having a "heavy mackerel sky." While this is a real phrase, which I know thanks to my handy dandy Kindle, it isn't one that many people are going to know. Call me stupid if you like, but whose first thought on reading that phrase isn't going to be of a sky filled with a school of mackerels or maybe just one really big fish. In general, I found his language kind of off-putting, sort of pompous and bland all at once.
The Diviner's Tale searches, but fails to locate the water to fill the well of the reader's interest. (less)
Obviously, I was looking forward to Starters, because it includes the magic word in its description: dystopia. However, I wasn't nearly as pumped abou...moreObviously, I was looking forward to Starters, because it includes the magic word in its description: dystopia. However, I wasn't nearly as pumped about it as about a lot of others (The Selection for example. Why? Because the cover seriously gives me the heebie jeebies! Most dystopias go for the gorgeous covers to lure the reader in, but they definitely didn't here, even though they could have justifiably. I admire that they did their own thing here, but I still don't want to stare at this cover for too long!
Starters grabbed me from the very beginning. From the first words, both Callie and the society she's living in come alive. Callie is an amazing narrator, strong and sassy, even when completely at wit's end. Actually, all of the characters are incredibly awesome, full of depth and personality. I really like Blake, but, hey, I also love Michael. Heck, I even like Tyler, and I don't usually much like moppets.
When I first read the description above, I already knew that the book was about old people (Enders) borrowing the bodies of young people (Starters), so I was really confused about the whole Spore Wars business. I was worried it might be overkill; some dystopias try to make everything that can possibly go wrong all happen all at once, which can end up just being ridiculous. Anyway, Price builds a firm foundation for her world of Enders and Starters with the Spore Wars. Excellent world building! The one thing I would really like to know more about in particular is how the Enders are able to live so long, and also how the society still functions the same with so many people gone.
I find it really comforting that, despite the sheer mass of dystopian novels, with more on the way, authors can still find new, astounding things to do with the genre. Although Starters can definitely be compared to some other dystopian titles (Unwind for example), it definitely stands on its own two metaphorical feet as something unique. Her story is in no way just a reimagining of something extant or an awkward mishmash of several other dystopias (which Matched sort of was).
Even though I guessed some of the ending, I still loved it. Price didn't go for the easy cliffhanger; there's a resolution of sorts, although obviously there's still more to be done. Usually, a book is less fun if you figure out a twist early on, but I actually liked Starters more because of it, because the reason that I knew is that Price hid a clue. I love finding the one hint; it makes me feel so smart.
I think I may just have found a new favorite dystopia and possible new favorite author. My ARC informs me that Enders will come out in Winter 2011, but I'm assuming they meant 2012, haha. CANNOT WAIT. Okay, I should officially have been asleep for about a half hour now, but I just had to finish reading this. If you like dystopias, get this now. Actually, if you like good books of any sort get this now!(less)
There are some subjects that I avoid like the plague, and current politics tops the list. A subset of that is anything about th...moreOriginally posted here.
There are some subjects that I avoid like the plague, and current politics tops the list. A subset of that is anything about the US' resent wars, both Afghanistan and Iraq. Were it not for my challenge with myself to read as many Apocalypsies books as I can, I definitely would not have picked this one up. Let me just say that I would seriously have been missing out.
Something Like Normal is about a Marine deployed in Afghanistan, but Doller manages to avoid any preaching on the war itself, either negative or in endorsement. This book isn't about the political side of the war; it's about the emotions. Told from Travis' perspective, Something Like Normal is not intended to capture the truth of the war as a whole, but merely to highlight its effect on one person.
In the opening scene, Travis has just arrived home on leave, a mandated, extended leave to allow him to deal with his problems dealing with his best friend's death. Travis is not the kind of guy that I like in real life, and he's not the typical YA hero. He's flawed, even a bit of an asshole. His gut instinct is to violence, he makes too many decisions with his dick, and he doesn't recognize that his mother is just as trapped in their family as he is. I mean, if you told me that I would read a book and sympathize with a guy who hooked up with his ex-girlfriend (now his brother's girlfriend) while flirting with a wonderful girl, then I would have told you that you were insane.
Still, that's precisely what happened. Something about the writing really made everything feel so real. I got completely sucked into Travis' narration. Despite my disgust for his behavior much of the time, I couldn't help being right there with him. The writing is not ornate, not the typical style I most appreciate, but it fits Travis perfectly: blunt, slightly crude, occasionally funny, and fairly intelligent. The other aspect of the writing that made this work was how reserved, distant, and cold Travis' narration felt most of the time, the exceptions being time spent with Harper or with his marine buddies when you can feel him come alive.
Harper. I have to talk about her. I just love her, even if she made choices I never would have made. She's a completely wonderful girl, and Travis doesn't deserve her. I think she knows that, but she's been in love with him for ages and she's going to get what she wants, just like she'll find a way to pay her way through college. She is such a caring soul, shown both in her treatment of her father and of Travis. Though she may lash out initially, she always ends up doing the right thing. I have so much respect for her as a character.
Another amazing character that I really have to talk about is Travis' mom. Rarely will you see a parent lauded in a YA book review, but I really liked her. She's so completely a mom all the way through, with the care packages, the smothering hug on arrival, the clothing she chose for him, and her projects to try to help out her son's cause. At first, she seems a weak character, controlled by her jerk of a husband, but there's so much more to her. I loved watching her and Travis learn to support and understand one another, brought together through the magic of beer. In fact, the quote I chose for this book is one that struck a chord with me, because it's so like my own relationship with my mother.
There is just so much life in this novel. Part of that stems from the fact that nothing has been romanticized. Doller isn't trying to show the great American hero; she's trying to show a teenager forced to grow up much too fast and coming apart at the seems. The teens in this novel certainly do things that some parents will not want their precious snowflakes to read, but everything feels authentic. It made me cry, it made me angry, it gave me hope, it made me think, and it made me laugh, all many times over.
Despite the hype (I've yet to see a review of this that isn't a rave), I was in no way let down with this novel. Skeptics, have no fear of the subject matter, Something Like Normal is a book you'll want to read. I was scarcely able to put it down, and, when I did, I was immediately sucked back into its emotional vortex the moment I resumed reading.(less)
Undoubtedly, the most terrifying dystopias for me personally are the ones that involve the role of women in society after a calamity. Eve falls in wit...moreUndoubtedly, the most terrifying dystopias for me personally are the ones that involve the role of women in society after a calamity. Eve falls in with the like of Wither, The Handmaid's Tale, and Bumped. If reproductivity suffers, if a large segment of the population dies in some horrific event, if people are dying off younger, then women quickly lose the status they fought for decades to accomplish and become property, needed only to push out babies.
This subset of dystopias is terrifying largely because it requires very little suspension of disbelief to imagine such things coming to pass should something catastrophic occur. For all that women are much more equal now, I have no doubt that our position would not revert back to slavery and breeding chattel swiftly if that was viewed as the only way to save mankind from extinction. What's worse is that on some level, that response does make sense. What if that really was the only way for mankind to survive? I like to think there would be other ways, but what if there weren't? Is it worth it?
In Eve, the population was decimated by a plague. Many perished, including Eve's mother. Orphans, of which there were many, were gathered up and put into schools and educated until they were old enough to be of use one way or another. In Eve's school, she and her classmates are taught about the evil ways of men, of how they only want one thing and of the dangers of falling in love. They teach these lessons with examples from literature, such as Romeo and Juliet and Anna Karenina.
For the most part, this was a really interesting read, although I did find my attention waning as I got further into the story. There was a lot of running around and not a lot of plot advancement. One weird thing was a scene where Eve mentioned that she didn't remember the date of her birthday, although she did remember her mom singing a birthday song to her. Eve was young when the plague hit and she went into the school, where birthdays were not celebrated, but what kid does not remember their birthday? I mean, come on. If she was old enough at the time to have such clear memories of her mom, then she would totally remember when her birthday was.
All in all, a decent dystopian read and a chilling view of how quickly the status of women could fall. I sure hope nothing like this comes to pass.(less)
Damico has a really interesting writing style; she definitely has a cadence of her own. She also puts a unique spin on things. For example, due to Lex...moreDamico has a really interesting writing style; she definitely has a cadence of her own. She also puts a unique spin on things. For example, due to Lex's extreme violence, her mom ties her up in jump ropes to have a serious talk. Lex's mom also is obsessed with American history, particularly military history, so much so, in fact, that she named her children for Revolutionary War battles; Lex is short for Lexington.
For example, here's a pretty typical quote from Croak: "She wished, as almost all kids wish at one point or another, that she could turn into a pterodactyl and fly away and never come back." Obviously, Damico's really funny, but it's definitely a quirky, dark humor. Her whole style definitely took some adjusting to, but I really appreciate the snarkiness of her writing.
My initial thought, and why I was attracted to this one (aside from the fact that Gina is an Apocalypsie) is because the premise sounded very Dead Like Me. If you haven't seen the show, I highly recommend you go watch at least the first episode, which is one of the best things I have ever seen ever. Anyway, they do have some things in common, like the grim reapers and the sarcastic heroine and the dark sense of humor. However, I also got a bit of a Eureka vibe from Croak, since the town is full of such strange, intelligent people. How can those things not add up to be some brand of awesome?
So yeah, it's pretty freaking awesome. Lex is a cool character, strong, sarcastic and sassy. Plus, she's so not the typical heroine. For one thing she's as violent as Ashline from Wildefire. Also unlike most YA heroines, she really doesn't want anything to do with all of that stupid teenage hormone-driven love stuff. For that reason, she is not pleased at having to share a domicile with the unfortunately super hot (and often annoying) Briggs. All of the characters are vibrant and quirky.
If you like dark humor and stories out of the norm, do not miss Croak. Another stellar debut from the Apocalypsies! I am so excited that there's going to be more of this series!(less)
One of the main themes of the book, yet again unsurprisingly, is the question of whether life in the OASIS is really living. Cline seems to come down...moreOne of the main themes of the book, yet again unsurprisingly, is the question of whether life in the OASIS is really living. Cline seems to come down on both sides of the fence there, believing that real connections can be made mentally, stronger than those in the normal world even because the physical part does not get in the way. Still, he frequently has Wade comment on the fact that no one leaves their houses and really interacts with the world anymore, which seems to be seen as a bad thing. Certainly, in a perfect (or even halfway decent world) I do think people should not spend all of their time in an alternate reality; that's not healthy.
However, people really need an escape, because the Earth has pretty much been destroyed. Enter dystopian aspects of the story here. The world sucks. Most people, in America at least, live in trailers. And since they ran out of space for the trailers, they started stacking them in precarious towers. Pretty much everyone's poor, unless they've sold their souls to an evil conglomeration like IOI or were lucky enough to invent something like OASIS. If you are lucky enough to earn some money, you are likely to have it stolen from you by the many predators hanging around the trailers. No wonder people want to live somewhere else; in fact, if Wade gets the money, he wants to build a spaceship and get the hell out of Dodge.
Still, even without everything being a shitstorm outside the aptly named OASIS, I know anyone with a nerdy bone in their body would at least want to be there for a while, because there are planets and planes from every sci fi franchise under the sun. Try to tell me you don't want to ride on the Serenity or visit the planets from Star Wars (with the possible exceptions of Dagobah or Hoth or, well, maybe most of them actually, but I would like to check out the Death Star and Endor)! The fact that people do become obsessed with their alternate realities is no surprise though. Certainly I know a few people who would be all over that, doing quests, visiting the worlds of their favorite games, gunting...they'd never want to leave. Plus, I know I would have loved the chance to miss all of middle school and probably high school too for this online version. Not only would it save me from having to be lonely during my awkward teen years, but it also sounds super freaking cool. I mean, for history class, they can be part of a simulation in which the event they're studying takes place; I bet science was like being a kid in Ms. Frizzle's class! Who wouldn't want to learn that way?
Even better, the whole story is completely chock full of nerdy references, mostly from the 80s, but some more modern things too. This gave me a number of opportunities to nerd out. Ernest Cline clearly loves science fiction, anime, fantasy, as well as family comedies like Family Ties. He also loves Ladyhawke, which there is a debate about the book. I must share my opinion on this matter, which is that it is freaking awesome, especially the soundtrack. Plus, Matthew Broderick was such a sweetie pie when he was little.
So yeah, all nerds, science fictions lovers, dystopia enthusiasts, and video gamers who like to read will definitely want to add this one to the to read list. Personally, I hope to see more equally nerdy fiction from Cline in the future! (less)
First off, I totally dig stories set in alternative universes. There's something about it that calls to me. In Burn Mark, every...moreOriginally posted here.
First off, I totally dig stories set in alternative universes. There's something about it that calls to me. In Burn Mark, everything about the world is the same (facebook, cell phones, cars, politicians, etc), except that witches are truly known to exist and have been. Witchy powers, known as the fae, are persecuted, just like the suspicion of them was in history. Powerless people fear the fae, and hate what they fear. Set in Britain, Burn Mark portrays the life of a witch in a Britain controlled by the Inquisition. Witches are still burned, dunked and blamed for everything.
Our main characters are Lucas and Glory. Lucas is a son of a Head Inquisitor, raised in privilege and the product of a quality magic-less lineage. Surprise, surprise, he develops the fae, and, not only that, he's a very powerful witch. Through his view, the reader can see the very few options open to a witch, and the mercurial nature of the power, the fact that it does not merely pass from parent to child but can spark up at random. Glory, on the other hand, is a bit of a street rat. She comes from a long line of powerful witches and has been waiting impatiently for her fae to come. Through her, the reader views the life of an unregistered witch, living in a rather seedy criminal coven.
While I wasn't especially emotionally attached to Glory and Lucas, I still liked them and was rooting for them to uncover and destroy the corruption in the Inquisition. (Seriously, the Inquisition? Come on, guys. Almost any other word would make you sound less like prejudiced bastards, but whatever.) Though there is some romantic tension between Glory and Lucas, this stories focus is not on romance. Instead, Burn Mark focuses on the political and ethical questions inherent in a world populated by people with powers and a jealous majority without.
For some, this book was slow-moving and boring. I recommend it to readers that enjoy considering sociological questions. This one focuses on world building more than characterization. If the idea fascinates you, I definitely think you should check it out. If you're looking for a YA paranormal romance, Burn Mark is not the book you want.(less)
Tankborn was definitely another reminder to me not to judge books by their covers, which I will undoubtedly continue to do ad infinitum. Still, I know...moreTankborn was definitely another reminder to me not to judge books by their covers, which I will undoubtedly continue to do ad infinitum. Still, I know I shouldn't. The only reason I requested this on NetGalley was because of the golden word dystopia in the description. If it says dystopia, I will read it. So yeah, the cover's not the best (and, yet again, does not seem to depict one of the main characters), but don't let that stop you.
The characters and the story both intrigued me right off. It took a few chapters for me to get completely absorbed, because you're dropped into the middle of this completely unfamiliar landscape and have to get used to how things work there. Once I did, though, I could barely put the book down, except for having to work and sleep and feed the cat and all of that.
My one complaint, and it's pretty mild, is that I would really like to know more about why they left Earth. What happened there? There really wasn't too much said about that and I can only hope that there will be a sequel that might delve into some of that, and tell more of Kayla's future.
The lessons this book conveys about racism and religion are really well done, not so much lecturing as raising an ethical point and getting you to really think about the philosophical and theological leaps needed to support certain ways of being. This might make an excellent book club read for that very reason.
If you love dystopias, you will not want to miss Tankborn.(less)
Wow. After my last Apocalypsies read was such a disappointment, I was a little worried that my streak of awesome reads from those guys might be over....moreWow. After my last Apocalypsies read was such a disappointment, I was a little worried that my streak of awesome reads from those guys might be over. Well, most assuredly not. Breaking Beautiful captured my interest right from the beginning, and the continued to suck me more and more. Although the cover didn't capture my interest, I am impressed, now having read the book, with how much more accurate it is than most. Good job, Bloomsbury!
Breaking Beautiful is another one of those books that falls into the 'wonderful but so depressing it will feel like you're being eviscerated emotionally' category. I've been reading a lot of these lately, and apparently I love them, even though as a younger reader I mostly only liked happy books. I do not want to think too much about what this change in my tastes says about me.
Allie definitely doesn't handle things the way she should have. Sometimes I wanted to cry and ask her what she was thinking. BUT there is no way I could not feel completely sympathetic towards her. She behaved the way she did because she went through so much emotional and physical abuse. In no way will I judge her for not reacting a certain way. ALL of my rage goes to Trip and to all of the people who suspected what was going on and didn't say anything. Not to get all preachy, but seriously, ladies, do not let anyone do this to you. Or gents, too. No one deserves to be abused, and, if you suspect it, do something...carefully.
What made this book work, I think, was definitely Allie's character. In her every word and thought, you can feel the specter of Trip hanging over her head. Memories of him flit constantly through her head, judging her and terrifying her, continuing to hurt her in the only way he now can. His influence on her is so obvious; this is why we can relate to her so well, and feel with her.
Jennifer Shaw Wolf definitely made me tear up. This is a beautifully written book on an incredibly dark topic. If reading about abuse doesn't interest you, there's also a murder mystery. This book is beautiful, as suggested by the title, and excruciating. I highly recommend it to those who like dark YA stories with depth.(less)
As a child, I greatly adored horses and, even more, their mythological counterparts, pegasi and unicorns. It should come as no surprise then that one...moreAs a child, I greatly adored horses and, even more, their mythological counterparts, pegasi and unicorns. It should come as no surprise then that one of my favorite movies as a child was The Last Unicorn. It is very much one of those kid's movies that you either watched as a child and will thus adore forever, but, if watched for the first time in adulthood, definitely comes off as incredibly creepy. I can totally see why others don't like it, but it will forever hold a dear place in my heart.
For the most part, this graphic novel version of the story covers the same ground as the film. The look of the characters very clearly was inspired by the film version as well. The small additions to the plot in some places, and the subtractions (like the tree that freaked people out the most in the movie), made me even more curious to read the original novel. That is definitely a thing I need to do someday.
The graphic novel is definitely pretty and oh so colorful. However, its brevity means that a few things have to be cut. Much of the trimming took place in the latter half of the tale, making it rather confusing and, did I not know the story, I likely would have been confused by much of the time spent in King Haggard's castle.(less)
One way I can tell a book is really good is if I'll keep reading it despite its absurdly long chapters. Such is the case with The Absolutist. The damn...moreOne way I can tell a book is really good is if I'll keep reading it despite its absurdly long chapters. Such is the case with The Absolutist. The damn book's chapters are fifty pages long each, except for the last one. My first problems were massive during the day I spent reading this. It's not one of my best traits, but I get antsy during really long chapters, wondering when they'll ever end. That feeling tends to throw me out of the book. I'm much more likely to DNF books with long chapters or, kanye forbid, NO chapters. It's a testament to the quality of The Absolutist that I simply had to finish, so that I could have my heart crushed.
My first John Boyne experience was with his middle grade novel Stay Where You Are and Then Leave earlier this year. I found The Absolutist immediately more compelling. The writing was beautiful, if lengthy, and the story sucked me in right away. Of course, the premise of soldiers in love is a bit more exciting to me than family stuff. Sorry, families, you're great, but come on gay soldiers. Of course, such stories rarely end happily and, with the narrative structure Boyne uses, you know from the beginning that this isn't one of those time. Bring on the pain.
The novel jumps around in time, but it's not confusing at all, since each section of time lasts for fifty pages. The novel opens in 1919, as Tristan goes to visit the sister of his deceased brother in arms. He wants to give her the letters she'd sent to her brother. The story alternates between the timeline in 1919 and the two men in training and then war in 1916. The story unravels in a very natural way. I generally guessed the outcome just before the story revealed anything, but I think in a way it's not meant to be surprising. There are so many stories about World War I and you sort of know how they'll end (read: not happily).
What Boyne does best in The Absolutist is dialogue, and there's lots of it. The characters came alive in their conversations, which are realistically uncomfortable. People go on weird tangents, get distracted, repeat themselves, or are completely off the wall at times. It really shows how bad Tristan is at interacting with people and was what engendered my emotional attachment. The Absolutist is actually a rather quiet novel, but its dialogue-heavy style makes it a quick read.
Boyne also focused on conscientious objection some in his middle grade novel, so this is clearly something very important to him. It's really fascinating to me, because I knew very little about them besides the obvious. I didn't even know what an absolutist was. The way that Wolf is treated at the training camp is completely disgusting, as is the treatment of any who express disgust for the war effort. I get why the army's like that, but it's horrid and eye-opening, a side of the war I knew little about before this book.
The one thing I really didn't like in The Absolutist was the ending. There's a final chapter set in 1979 in which Tristan meets up once more with Marian. He's become an author, a popular one, in the intervening years. Here, Boyne indulges in one of my least favorite conceits: Tristan has written a novel that the reader is currently reading. I HATE this trope because I KNOW that Tristan didn't write this book, so it throws me out of the story. Plus, it's been done before; I'm sure it was quite clever the first time someone thought up this "twist," but it's not anymore.
I would absolutely recommend The Absolutist for readers interested in WWI who want to get their feelings stomped on a bit. Those chapters are damn long though.(less)
Before I got to read this one, I saw a few non-flattering reviews roll in, so I was on my guard, prepared...moreOriginally reviewed on A Reader of Fictions.
Before I got to read this one, I saw a few non-flattering reviews roll in, so I was on my guard, prepared for another in a string of disappointing reads. Thankfully, I enjoyed Beta pretty much all the way through, although I am definitely immensely skeptical about where the series is heading.
Beta takes place on an island paradise, home to only the richest and most fashionable of people. These people are so rich that they have clones, programmed to be emotionless and get work done perfectly, to take care of them, because, honestly, human butlers and nannies are just so last season. The rest of the world is not so nice, and is very different from the one we know today. Details on that are somewhat limited in Beta, but I hope to learn more about the Water Wars and what the cities are like in later installments.
I do need to talk for a bit about the concept of the clones to serve this island. Honestly, I don't get it. They talked about why they needed them: because good labor is too difficult to find, since the island didn't have natives and travel to the island is exceedingly expensive. That's nice and all, but I'm FAIRLY CERTAIN that producing clones is about 80 billion times more expensive than that. Also, the whole process seems suspect to me. For one thing, the person being cloned is supposed to be dead, which makes me wonder where all of the hot, dead people are coming from. Another problem with I have with this is the whole business about how they separate out the soul from the body. Did I miss when we figured out where the soul is? Has a physical soul been located in the future?
Betas are not supposed to be able to feel or taste anything. They should be, essentially, like robots. Elysia, our heroine, is a beta, a test clone for the new teen line. Because she is gorgeous (stacked), she sells quickly and goes to serve as a companion in the home of a wealthy family. It quickly becomes apparent that Elysia is not what a clone should be, which I am thankful for, since her first person story would have been VERY boring were she actually the way clones are meant to be.
Thankfully, I did not find her narration boring at all. Cohn's writing often amused me and I really liked the rhythm of it. Basically, she used the beginning clone section for comedic value. Even early on, it's apparent that something is wrong with Elysia's programming because she is so incredibly curious. As such she asks lots of inappropriate questions. For additional reader amusement, she interprets things very literally, like wondering where a girl 'puts out the sex.' This humor was obvious, but I must admit I was still entertained.
Cohn makes an attempt at twists, and there are several in here. Most of them I saw coming from miles away. Pretty much as soon as a character was introduced, I would predict that x and y would happen to them and then a hundred pages or more later, it would. The twists at the end did get me, though, I will admit. Basically, there are enough surprises that she'll likely catch you off guard once or twice.
For most of the book, I was okay with the romance. Just okay. I don't especially care for either guy (yes, a love triangle, and one that I suspect I will come to loathe). Tahir sounds totally dreamy. Were I Elysia, I would be all over that one, because he sounds delicious. Besides, he's actually there, which helps. Still, I did not really experience any feels at their romance. Mostly, I just wanted her to enjoy herself, because why the hell not. The other boy has a history with her First, aka the girl she was cloned from, and she knows him from a brief memory. He holds no appeal for me. Still, the dynamics of the love triangle were interesting enough thus far.
Did you notice that I have mentioned THE END a couple of times as having been somewhat distinct from the rest of the novel for me? GOODNESS GRACIOUS, THE ENDING. I really wish that I could talk about this in detail with you guys, but I won't because spoilers. Here's what I can say. Things get darker, which I give Cohn props for. Something I thought was coming but kind of didn't think would happen because it usually doesn't in YA DID happen, and it was painful. That part of the end was good in a painful way.
THEN there's some things that I am just all kinds of not cool with, which sucks because I had such a pleasant reading experience up to that point, despite my nitpicking above. What it comes down to is that some trope-ish things happen all in a row and I am REALLY concerned about whether I will like the next book at all. If anyone has read this book, I would love to discuss!
So, for the review skimmers, I will say that I enjoyed reading Beta quite a bit, but I am not altogether sure how I feel about it. A lot will hinge on whether you like Cohn's writing and what happens in book two.(less)
When Unbreak My Heart first appeared on NetGalley, I actually didn't request it. I haven't read any of Walker's prior novels, I...moreOriginally posted here.
When Unbreak My Heart first appeared on NetGalley, I actually didn't request it. I haven't read any of Walker's prior novels, I don't have much history reading contemporaries, and I have a very black and white view of cheating in relationships. All of that told me this might not be the book for me. I went back and requested it when I saw some very favorable reviews roll into the blogosphere.
As I started reading, I was initially regretful of that decision. The opening of the book is so mopey and nothing really happens. All Clem thinks about is the horrible thing she's done, which slowly unfolds in front of the reader. Every other chapter goes into the past (at least until that's all explained). The others are about her summer, in which her family (mom, dad, little sister, and herself) sail down rivers on a boat. I really wondered how Walker was going to pull off a book where the characters are stuck on a boat.
Thankfully, the book picked up the more you learn about the past, and the better you get to know the other people taking this same boating trip. I know absolutely nothing about boating. Honestly, I had no clue people could take a sailing trip like this down rivers. Color me surprised. Early on, they meet four other people who are on the same timeline and route they are (an old couple, and a father and son).
The cheating aspect of the story, the frame of it, never really coalesced with me. It mostly made me angry in a way I was not expecting. Clem has become a social outcast because she fell for her best friend's boyfriend. That's bad, for sure. I mean, having those feelings and not confessing definitely violates the 'hos before bros' pact. What's incredibly NOT cool (slight spoiler) is that Clem didn't even initiate anything and yet she is the one who becomes a social pariah. Her best friend even takes the guy back. All we see of the friendship is them keeping secrets from one another. And, so far as I can glean, Amanda doesn't really even seem to like Ethan that much, so I have a lot of trouble figuring out why she would want him back, unless it's to prove something.
I think that my biggest issue was with Amanda's character. It might have helped to have better context for their friendship. We learn very little about Clemanda pre-Ethan. As it was, I never got a great sense of Amanda as a person. She seems to be a showoff. Clem definitely suffers from an inferiority complex, since Amanda is the kind of person everyone likes and can have any guy she likes. Amanda's also strange for not having been more afraid of Clem and Ethan happening, since they have this crazy obvious chemistry, and she even encourages them to go on a date. That's just weird.
What really worked in this novel were the character relationships. I loved how real Clem's family felt. The mother with her crazy cookbook, the dad with his hat, and, most especially, adorable annoyance Olive. It's so obvious how much Clem's family cares for her. They give her space for a while and they let her know that they're ready to listen when she can talk about it. They put up with a surprising number of tantrums with good grace. When she finally confesses what she's been so upset about, they are just so sweet and non-judgmental.
I also can't leave this review without talking about the adorableness of James. He may be one of the most genuinely sweet guys in YA literature. Girls, let me just say that you want a guy like this, not an Edward or a Jacob or a Noah. You want someone real who will never try to change you or tell you what to do. He has advice, sure, but he doesn't pressure you. Plus, he's a ginger. Oh, how I love redheads. He is cute, upbeat, and funny, and their chemistry is so moving.
Unbreak My Heart is well-written and touching, despite the slow start. There's a lot to be learned from Clem's story. I see more Melissa Walker in my reading future!(less)