Great way to sample YA paranormal authors, 3.5 stars
LOVE IS HELL is a neat little anthology composed of five paranormal romances from five popular yoGreat way to sample YA paranormal authors, 3.5 stars
LOVE IS HELL is a neat little anthology composed of five paranormal romances from five popular young adult authors: Melissa Marr, Scott Westerfield, Justine Larbalestier, Gabrielle Zevin, and Laurie Faria Stolarz. The stories include a tension-filled romance about a ghost with unfinished business, a futuristic perfect world where hormones and sleep are turned off, and a seal faery's struggle with the two tugs on his heart, the sea and his mortal love. (Plus two more tales.)
Reading this anthology was a great way to sample each author's work, and I enjoyed four of the five stories. Each tale had a distinct beginning, middle and end, even though they were short. I was most impressed with Marr's "Love Struck" and Larbalestier's "Thinner Than Water." Both of these stories featured faeries and strong female protagonists. I could have easily enjoyed a novel-length story about each setting and the characters that were created.
Westerfield's futuristic tale about a world where sleep isn't needed and the ups and downs of teenage hormones are suppressed was interesting with likeable characters. With a short story, though, there wasn't as much time as I would have liked to become comfortable with the brave new world he created for his characters. Stolarz's tale about a romance between girl and ghost was nice but predictable. Zevin's tale about the blur between fantasy and reality was the one story that I did not enjoy. The author tried to make what seemed like an obvious point about the potentially dangerous blur between the two, but I didn't feel that the story was well-executed.
Overall, this book was a great way to check out new authors and a nice way to finish each evening with a complete story each night before bed!...more
Carrie Ryan's debut novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, is a dark, dense, and meaningful book. Though it wasn't what I was exDark but gripping debut
Carrie Ryan's debut novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, is a dark, dense, and meaningful book. Though it wasn't what I was expecting, it more than made up for that with its strong writing, complex world, and exploration of difficult issues.
Mary has grown up in a fenced village her entire life, kept in by the fear and mortal risk of being attacked by the Unconsecrated. The village, believed to be the only hub of humanity remaining, follows strict rules as dictated by the Sisterhood to keep themselves intact. However, based on the stories her mother told her, Mary believes there is more to the world beyond the fence. Soon, Mary finds herself and those she loves in danger, questioning all she has been taught and struggling for ways to survive.
Told in first person, Ryan's writing style flows easily and is evocative of Mary's inner thoughts. The style is somewhat messy, with run-ons and sentence fragments, but it works. The character's voice and her wishes/desires seem real for her age. Mary comes across as selfish and unconcerned about how her actions affect others. Other reviewers have mentioned this made it difficult to connect with her. While I agree, I found Mary's thoughts and motivations honestly reflective of a teen girl with dreams of greater things outside the fence. The novel also explores many complex issues, including love vs. commitment, personal vs. communal fulfillment, and change vs. tradition. The monsters in Ryan's book, the Unconsecrated, are truly scary. As the reader, you never doubt the mortal danger they pose. The experiences of Mary and her small group are harrowing and real.
Though I enjoyed the book, there were some weak points. The book is very dark with only a glimmer of hope. Some plot elements, like the breach of the fence and the ending, seemed contrived. They were there as obvious ways to move the plot forward and to set up the sequel. The love connections between characters were not explored or developed very deeply. It seemed more like lust or reaching for something outside of oneself, not love. I did like, however, one of the scenes near the end that Ryan wrote to show that we often take love for granted and don't realize the strength of our connection to others until it is too late.
All in all, /Forest/ was a great but dark read. If you're looking for a young adult novel with more weight and meaning than usual, I highly recommend it. I'm looking forward to the continuation of the story in the sequel, The Dead-Tossed Waves (Forest of Hands and Teeth, Book 2)....more
After reading Carrie Ryan's debut novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, I couldn't wait for the release of her next book. The DeaGreat companion novel
After reading Carrie Ryan's debut novel, The Forest of Hands and Teeth, I couldn't wait for the release of her next book. The Dead-Tossed Waves (Forest of Hands and Teeth, Book 2) did not disappoint. Gabry, the daughter of Mary, has grown up in the sheltered sea town of Vista, watching her mother take care of the lighthouse and dispose of the undead Mudo (Unconsecrated) that wash up on the beach. Gabry's life has been about fear of the Mudo and staying safe. After she takes a risk by following her friends and her crush over the Barrier one night, her entire world unravels. Her web of friends and family are missing, dead, or infected, and the only answers and hope seem to lie beyond the Barrier. Despite her fear, Gabry must decide what risks are worth it to survive, both emotionally and physically.
In some ways, this book excels its predecessor. Ryan's writing was strong in the first novel, but it's even better this time. First-person, present-tense can be a difficult style to use, but Ryan does it well with writing that is descriptive and evocative. The protagonist, Gabry, is very relatable, and characters are more well-defined in this book. Sense of place is strong, as is pacing; Ryan doesn't hesitate to take the reader into dark action in the first 30 pages and doesn't ease up after that. Relationships between characters feel real, and the romantic/sexual tension is palpable and aching. The story also allows the reader to know what happened to Mary, even if it's decades later, and questions are answered about the mythology of the Mudo/Unconsecrated. Like the first book, the novel explores complex issues, including the purpose of life, the repercussions of one's actions, and the selflessness of real love. Differently, though, the reader is left with more hope for the characters.
In other ways, however, the book wasn't as good as the first. Some plot points felt recycled, like the repetition of dangers, the need to flee, and the love triangle. Having read the first book, there was also a certain predictability that nothing would turn out well. There's a lot of death and destruction, and some of the main characters engage in or silently condone some very bothersome or violent actions. The story finished with little closure and an obvious cliffhanger ending to set up the sequel.
All in all, though, this was another dark, gripping read from Ryan, and I look forward to the continuation of Gabry's story in the next installment. Though it can be read as a standalone, I would recommend reading THE FOREST OF HANDS AND TEETH first. There are a few clues and poignant moments along the way that won't resonate unless you've read the first book....more
Nearly perfect dystopian romance with a slow burn, 4.5 stars
In Ally Condie’s MATCHED, Cassia lives in an apparently utopian world where the Society deNearly perfect dystopian romance with a slow burn, 4.5 stars
In Ally Condie’s MATCHED, Cassia lives in an apparently utopian world where the Society determines everything for its citizens in order to assure optimum results: job placement, food intake, spouses, and even time of death. When Cassia is paired with her best friend Xander at her Match ceremony, everyone is happy and relieved. However, when Cassia gets home, she sees a different face flash across her Match screen: that of the quiet and elusive Ky. Even though she’s told it’s a mistake, Cassia begins to want to learn more and more about Ky, and in the process, she begins to question the carefully controlled world the Society has created. Soon, Cassia finds herself battling against the Society’s rules to love the boy she chooses and to keep hold of the words and freedoms she’s discovered.
MATCHED lives up to the hype that has surrounded its release and then some. One of the strongest aspects of the novel is its world building. The book uses clear, well-written, descriptive language to create a future that seems natural with its Matching, elimination of “unnecessary” items, and close control of its citizens. When Cassia begins to realize that the Society has been giving its people just enough to keep them complacent, you feel angry on her behalf for all of the human experiences they’ve been carefully denied. In this way, the novel deftly examines what constitutes utopia versus dystopia. Consistent pacing moves the plot forward, but it’s a slow burn, similar to Maggie Stiefvater’s SHIVER or LINGER. Instead of being action-packed like THE HUNGER GAMES, this narrative focuses on the compelling power of words, choices, and love. Character development occurs through actions and flashbacks, instead of telling, and family members, like Cassia’s parents and grandfather, are given important supporting roles. Although there is a love triangle, Cassia is presented with two different but appealing (and nice!) options. The romantic relationship that results builds slowly and achingly over time and for realistic reasons.
While I enjoyed almost every moment of MATCHED, the book could have benefited from more character development for Cassia and a less obvious direction for the love triangle. I would have expected more conflict given her history with one of the boys. Also, while the novel has a finished feel, I wish the sequel’s plot arc didn’t seem so obvious.
Despite my initial wariness due to the immense hype, MATCHED exceeded my expectations with its carefully crafted world and slow-burning romance. This book will be perfect for those who enjoy a thought-provoking but less action-driven dystopian read. I enjoyed it so much that I’m already looking forward to the next installment to see where Condie leads Cassia, Ky, and Xander.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy....more
Emotionally gripping debut with a few stumbles, 3.5 stars
Lauren DeStefano’s debut novel, WITHER, opens with a harrowing scene: young women have been pEmotionally gripping debut with a few stumbles, 3.5 stars
Lauren DeStefano’s debut novel, WITHER, opens with a harrowing scene: young women have been plucked off the streets and forced into the back of a van. Some will be killed, and others will be sold into polygamous marriages. Ever since geneticists made a mistake, all women die at age 20 and all men at age 25. Along with two other women, Rhine is sold to a wealthy man as a replacement for his dying wife. Locked away in his mansion, Rhine must decide whether to accept the life of luxury she’s been provided or whether to risk everything to escape back to a world of freedom and her twin brother.
WITHER opens with the best first chapter I’ve read in a while, and the story’s hook will grab readers immediately. The book excels in its chilling depiction of the realities of Rhine’s world, and the writing doesn’t shy away from descriptions about sex and sexuality, the inner workings of the polygamous marriage, and how different people would adapt to the situation. Through its story, the novel also touches on hot issues like assisted reproduction and genetic engineering. Rhine and her two sister-wives, Cecily and Jenna, are sympathetic as characters in their own unique ways. I found their complicated relationships with one another to be the most compelling in the book. The novel also finishes with an ending that can stand on its own, even with the known sequel forthcoming.
Despite the extremely strong opening, storyline, and created world, the book faltered a bit. The mythology and world building regarding the “virus” and the resulting society was not always clear and had some plot holes. Rhine’s romantic relationship with Gabriel, the servant boy, wasn’t very moving, and some of the characters’ actions were unclear in their reasoning or felt manufactured. For example, Rhine’s flip-flopping about whether to stay or leave didn’t always feel genuine. The different relationships depicted between Linden, the husband, and each of his wives also felt out of character for each woman at times.
While I did find a few things that could be improved, DeStefano is obviously a strong new force in the young adult dystopian genre, and I look forward to seeing where book two in her trilogy leads.
Note: This review refers to an advance reader's copy. ...more
Great initial pace and action but disappointing second half
Ann Aguirre's young adult debut, Enclave, takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where peoGreat initial pace and action but disappointing second half
Ann Aguirre's young adult debut, Enclave, takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where people have been relegated to underground tunnels in order to survive. Deuce's survival to age 15 grants her the right to choose her place in society. When she takes on the scars that mark her as a Huntress, she also takes on a dangerous life catching food and battling the zombie-like Freaks. Paired with a rough and withdrawn boy named Fade, Deuce starts to learn that things may not be as the leaders have told them and that greater threats, like thinking Freaks and possible punishment, may lie ahead.
ENCLAVE's strengths lie in its fast pace and streamlined length that kept me reading, so much that I finished it easily in one day. The creative rendering of post-apocalyptic New York provided a solid backdrop for the story and, like other writers in this genre, the author didn't shy away from depicting the grotesque or cruel situations or people that would exist in that world. Deuce was also a strong, physically-able heroine that will appeal to fans of The Hunger Games. Even though a romance occurs, it wasn't the focus of the story and it didn't replace what was happening with the characters otherwise, which I appreciated.
Even with this set-up for a potentially good tale, ENCLAVE didn't wow me, though. Unclear or insufficient world building ran throughout the novel, including contradictions regarding characters' abilities to do certain things, the qualifications for the different classes, and how or why the apocalypse happened and led to their current societal structure. Problems with the story became most noticeable in the second half of the book when the pace slowed down significantly, and some major plot problems appeared there due to a change in setting and circumstances for the characters. Character development stagnated or reversed at this point, and one character's apparent redemption and personality shift seemed too easily obtained and unbelievable. The obligatory hinted-at love triangle also appeared. As the story ended, the deus ex machina "fix" felt out of place and the story ended at an unfinished point that was an obvious set-up for the sequel, which made the book feel almost like an extended prologue.
While the Razorland trilogy has the potential to be a rollicking post-apocalyptic read for some, it didn't catch me in the way I hoped it would. With its strong female lead and her likable male counterpart, I hope that Aguirre uses the next book to explore her characters further and to create a more solid and believable world in which to base their stories....more
Note: Since I posted my review of Insurgent almost a month ago, I figured it well past time to finally finish my review of Divergent. So here ya go, wNote: Since I posted my review of Insurgent almost a month ago, I figured it well past time to finally finish my review of Divergent. So here ya go, world!
Highly readable addition to the dystopian genre
In Veronica Roth’s debut novel, Divergent, Beatrice lives in a futuristic Chicago where society has been divided into factions. Each faction has a singular virtue, and at the age of sixteen, everyone must choose the one to which they will belong for the rest of their lives. After Beatrice makes a choice that shocks even herself, she is thrust into a world of competition and violence. Renaming herself Tris, she struggles through the physical and psychological challenges that come, all the while hiding a part of herself. As she becomes closer to her trainer, Four, and learns about growing unrest between the factions, Tris must decide how to survive, whom to trust, and how to be true to all the parts of herself.
Divergent is a highly readable addition to the growing dystopian genre. With compelling action scenes, quick pacing, and clear writing, I was pulled quickly into this book. Tris is a strong, able protagonist who grapples with real issues, and the story doesn't shy away from showing her as less likable or selfish at times. All of the characters are flawed in their own ways, and this made them more believable. One of the most likeable characters is Four, Tris's trainer and love interest, and the story does a wonderful job of portraying tenderness and concern between strong individuals, instead of the over-the-top mushy stuff often seen in other novels. Another strength of the book lies in its examination of larger issues, including how and why to choose your own path in life, whether all virtues are worth cultivating and to what extent, and how religion plays a role in the type of lives people choose to lead.
Even with these strong points, Divergent wasn't a perfect fit. Tris's character sometimes seemed inconsistent, and she often excelled at new skills too easily to be believable. Unclear world building also pulled me out of the story a few times and left me wondering how society had evolved to the described point. A few noticeable plot holes also jumped out regarding what the leaders did and did not notice about Tris's different abilities. The dramatic ending pulled at the heart, but it mostly felt like a way to clear up some complications and set up specific plot points for future novels. It's obvious that the plot will span the coming books, but the main conflict was revealed too late and made the ending seem rushed and disconnected from the first 400 pages of the book.
If I had judged Divergent on plotting and world building alone, I would have rated it as three stars. However, the tale's ability to sweep me up into the action, drama, and romance made it a quick read that I'll definitely recommend to others, thereby bumping it up a notch. I'm really looking forward to see what Roth does in her coming books, including Insurgent, where I hope she'll expand her world building, close up a few plot misses, and keep the swoon coming....more
Well-paced adventure but could use more worldbuilding, 3.5 stars
Moira Young's debut, Blood Red Road, envisions a desolate post-apocalyptic world where Well-paced adventure but could use more worldbuilding, 3.5 stars
Moira Young's debut, Blood Red Road, envisions a desolate post-apocalyptic world where resources are limited and nothing can be taken for granted, even family. Saba has grown up on a dry wasteland, knowing only her own family and a few wayward travelers. When a dust storm blows in four mysterious horsemen, Saba's beloved older brother Lugh is captured and taken away as words about a prophecy swirl in the air. Determined to find Lugh and bring him home, Saba sets out on a dangerous journey across the dustlands. On her quest, Saba finds both enemies and allies and challenges that test her and the very foundation of the corrupt society in which she lives.
BLOOD RED ROAD delivers a fun, well-paced read that's packed with adventure. Different than many other action tales, female characters in this story were never portrayed as less capable than men; in this world, gender seemed a moot point in most cases, as each person battles to survive regardless of sex. Saba knows how to survive because she's lived a hard life, not because she's just discovered a magical power or hidden talent. This realism made me believe more in her character and made me more invested in her struggles. Saba's character was also very believable due to the author's unique writing style that uses dialect-based spelling and missing punctuation. I know some other readers found this style distracting, but I thought it provided a good sense of place and circumstance.
While the action and intrigue kept me reading, the book did suffer from limited world building and character development. The how or why of the post-apocalyptic world was never explained, and there were somewhat unbelievable character changes in Saba by the end. A simple action-adventure tale can be fun, but I wanted there to be a deeper meaning and greater exploration of issues that arose. Problems and challenges that the characters encountered were also too easily resolved. Though the romance thankfully didn't overtake the story, it felt tacked on and sometimes unnecessary or too convenient.
Though these qualms had me wishing for a bit more, BLOOD RED ROAD is a still a rollicking good time that should appeal to fans of The Hunger Games and male and female readers alike. If you're looking for a closer examination of how governments go bad or why citizens resist, you won't find it here, but you probably won't mind because the book doesn't seem to have that as its goal. It wants to entertain, and it does that well. Because of that, I'll be looking forward to reading about Saba and her rag-tag group of comrades in the next installment of the Dustlands series.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy....more
In Insurgent, Veronica Roth’s much anticipated sequel to Divergent, the stakes are even higher. Tris and a small group have escaped after the simulation that killed countless people, but their struggles are far from over. Possible war looms between the factions, and Tris and Tobias are among those most wanted by the different sides. Tris must grapple with grief, guilt, and deception as sides are declared and choices must be made, including ones that threaten her and those she loves.
Though I enjoyed the first book, Insurgent was even better with clearer world building, stronger character development, and more intricate plots twists. Like Divergent, the story reads quickly and easily, but this installment has a much quieter, somber tone. Tris, Tobias (Four), and all of the survivors are dealing with the emotional and political fallout after the simulation, and it shows. All of the characters, including those the reader loves and those who are despised, are fleshed out more and given added layers. Tris’s struggle to move forward while burdened by grief and guilt is portrayed in a way that feels real and poignant. Though she engages in a lot of selfish or thoughtless actions in this book, all of those actions seem like honest attempts to deal with her loss, her choices, and how she should best work to honor those she loves. Tris and Tobias also continue to bring the swoon with simple words and small touches, despite having problems. Their relationship encounters major hurdles in this installment, but they are all reasonable and justified given what’s happening. The relationship they share provides a much-needed counterpoint to show that love and connection is worth fighting for and is possible even in a world that’s falling apart.
In addition to these strengths, the plot was unpredictable and gripping. The novel is full of unexpected alliances, betrayal, action, and rebellion on multiple fronts that keep the story moving. The world building also improved dramatically over that of the first book. I really enjoyed being immersed in the different factions, and the author’s description of each group allowed me to imagine them clearly. I also understand now why some information was withheld in the first book, given some of the significant plot reveals.
Even though this book was great read, I still experienced a few bumps. The story starts immediately after the end of Divergent with little to no recapping of events, so it took me a little while to remember or figure out who certain people were or what had happened previously. A few typos and continuity errors pulled me out of the story, and some betrayals/alliances/connections seemed a little too convenient to allow certain parts of the plot to move forward. The book also suffers a bit from middle-book syndrome in that it can’t stand on its own, and the ending leaves off in a dramatic place right after a big reveal.
Overall, though, Insurgent is an impressive sequel that leaves me eager to see where the author will take the story next. Given what’s revealed at the end of this novel, I can’t imagine how Veronica Roth could wrap up the series with only one more book, but it’s no matter to me, as I plan to keep reading whatever she offers....more
Gritty sequel failed to keep my attention like WITHER did
Fever takes readers into an even darker world than did Lauren DeStefano’s debut novel, Wither Gritty sequel failed to keep my attention like WITHER did
Fever takes readers into an even darker world than did Lauren DeStefano’s debut novel, Wither. Having escaped the confines of the mansion, Rhine and Gabriel make the run to freedom only to find that the outside world may offer even less of it. As they struggle to make their way to Manhattan in search of safety and Rhine’s twin brother, the two find that the world is populated by those both cruel and kind and that everyone is looking for a way to survive.
When I read WITHER last year, I was impressed by the author’s writing and her willingness to explore what dire things might happen in a world where all young people die early. Even with this gritty dystopian world laid out, I found the world building to be weak enough that I spent a lot of time questioning how this world came about. Unfortunately, this is the same problem I had while reading FEVER, and it seemed even more prevalent this time. Incomplete or unbelievable world building continued to draw me out of the story too often. Also, while I liked the author’s exploration of sexuality and oppression in the first book, this book’s tone comes across as even more bleak and without as much purpose. Rhine and Gabriel routinely end up in situations that felt like they were there more for shock value than for character or plot development. And when these terrible things happen, they don’t touch the main characters in the way one would expect, again making the world less believable. Because of this, I sometimes felt disconnected from Rhine and Gabriel and their struggles. I also never felt really moved by Rhine and Gabriel’s relationship, despite a few good moments. The book then finishes on a cliffhanger with little resolution. FEVER as a whole felt very much like a “middle book” where things don’t move forward a great deal.
On the positive side, DeStefano continues to show that she can write well, and her pretty prose allows readers to easily visualize the surroundings she describes. FEVER also provides much more information about the world outside the mansion, and sympathetic new characters are introduced. Although I don’t think it was as well done as in the first book, I also continue to appreciate the author’s willingness to examine the harsh realities that could result in a world where women become little more than sexual commodities.
Overall, FEVER failed to keep my attention in the way that WITHER did one year ago, and it didn’t leave me mulling over important issues in the same way. Even such, I am sure that many fans of the first novel will appreciate this sequel and where it sets up things for the final book. I know I’ll be reading it to see where DeStefano takes her characters and her story and whether she leaves readers with a sense of hope or just continued despair.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy....more
Don't know if I can muster a full review for this one, but it was sadly as bad as many other reviews have reported. A weak plot combined with little tDon't know if I can muster a full review for this one, but it was sadly as bad as many other reviews have reported. A weak plot combined with little to no dystopian elements (though the jacket claims otherwise), weak dialogue and poor writing, and little creativity did little to wow me. Much of the plot was sourced directly from ABC's The Bachelor show to the point that it felt like a paint-by-Bachelor-numbers book: the dresses, the mansion/palace, the mean girls who aren't there for the "right" reasons, the elimination processes, etc. And then it ended with no resolution and no motivation for me to read further. It felt more like the first third of a book, not a complete novel in a trilogy.
N.B.: Lest anyone think I am insensitive to my GR peeps' ordeals (you lovelies know who you are) re: this book, please know that I read it for my local indie who gives me oodles of ARCs in exchange for purchasing recommendations. I went into this with as unbiased an opinion as I can muster, though that non-bias does not extend to certain authors or agents in question. ...more
Lackluster mash-up of vampires & post-apocalyptic elements, 2.5 stars
In Julie Kagawa’s new BLOOD OF EDEN series, the future is a place of loss and Lackluster mash-up of vampires & post-apocalyptic elements, 2.5 stars
In Julie Kagawa’s new BLOOD OF EDEN series, the future is a place of loss and fear: most humans have died due to a world-wide plague and those who remain are controlled by vampire lords in guarded cities. Allie scrapes out a life on the edge of society as one of the humans beyond notice of the vampires. But after she is attacked, she must make a decision: die or become that which she despises? In her new form, Allie must battle between blood lust and humanity, especially as her journey takes her outside the city walls and joins her with a ragtag group of humans searching for a promised land free from vampires.
Though I went into The Immortal Rules with high hopes, I was left disappointed. Kagawa’s writing or style wasn’t bad, but neither ever grabbed me. The book also seemed too long for the tale it tells, and the premise didn’t feel very inspired. The book simply felt like a mash-up of what’s “hot” right now (vampires + pseudo-zombies + post-apocalyptic/dystopian). When the vampire or post-apocalyptic elements did appear, they felt predicable. For example, Allie’s vampire sire seemed straight out of other vampire tales (the cool, collected one who is patrician and guarded), and Allie seemed too much like the generic “tough girl” character so often seen in dystopian/post-apocalyptic novels. Because she was supposed to be so strong and hardened, some of the characterization used to describe her also didn’t feel right, like Allie’s concern for a needy, demanding refugee and her soft, reticent feelings about being kissed. The action, when it did occur, was often brutal and harrowing, but it wasn’t enough to keep me reading quickly for nearly 500 pages. The main character and those she cared about (or those who moved the plot forward) escaped true damage too easily and too often for me to be able to suspend disbelief.
On the positive side, this book might be great for Kagawa fans who are looking for her to do something darker than her Iron Fey series. The story is gritty and dark, and it doesn’t flinch at depicting gruesomely violent or harsh circumstances. The plot also includes some interesting ideas about vampirism as a disease, and the mix of that with an element of religious fanaticism among the surviving humans drew me in more during the latter half of the book.
On the whole, though, The Immortal Rules didn’t have enough positive points to make me ignore the predictability or slow pace. Despite that, I hope this book finds a warmer reception with those who like her writing or are looking for a tale that combines elements from some of today’s most popular genres.
Note: Though I didn’t take this into account in my review, I have to mention the white-washing of the cover. The main character, Allison Sekemoto, is repeatedly described as Asian, but the cover model is not.
**This review refers to an advance review copy....more
Too little of too many things meshed into one story, 2.5 stars
In Veronica Rossi’s debut novel, Under the Never Sky, Aria has always lived on the insid Too little of too many things meshed into one story, 2.5 stars
In Veronica Rossi’s debut novel, Under the Never Sky, Aria has always lived on the inside. Safely tucked within her enclosed city, she has been taught to fear the disease and destruction that supposedly awaits on the outside. When Aria is forced out into The Death Shop – the world beyond the glass – she expects to die. She soon meets up with a rough outsider named Perry, however, and together they discover they may be the key to each other’s salvation as long as they can work together to survive the dangers that confront them on their journey.
Under the Never Sky takes a little something from many different genres – sci-fi, fantasy, post-apocalyptic, adventure, historical, and romance – and smooshes it all into one book. Because of this, the novel could appeal to many different readers, but for me, it felt like too little of too many things meshed into one story. Explanations about how the world worked, both inside and outside the dome, seemed shaky at best, and the same lack of clarify pervaded explanations about different characters’ special abilities. Aria as a main character also wasn’t very compelling. It took me a very long time, more than halfway through the book, to become at all interested in what was happening to her or any of the other characters. While Perry was more appealing in his complexity, the relationship between he and Aria switched too quickly from a detached partnership to a devoted romance to be believable. Their relationship and how it was described was also hindered by some truly odd and uncomfortable plot points about Perry’s sense of smell and what it could tell him about Aria.
Even with these flaws, the novel did have its good points. Once I got past the halfway point, the pace picked up substantially, and I found myself turning pages more quickly to learn what happened next. Perry was a sympathetic character with real flaws, and one of his close friends, once introduced, added a lot of levity to the story. Though the world building wasn’t always clear, the mystery involving Aria’s mother and her research was intriguing, and some of the described technologies and special senses that people had were inventive. The ending scene was also done well; though an obvious lead-in to the next book, it didn’t leave things feeling too unfinished.
In all, Under the Never Sky was a basic journey/adventure story that simply didn’t have the character development or world building that I needed to enjoy it. In the books to come in this trilogy (Through the Ever Night and Into the Still Blue), I hope Rossi paces her stories more consistently and expands on her world building to let readers really understand her world and the characters she’s created.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy....more
After being disappointed by Delirium but then loving the sequel, Pandemonium, I had high hopes for Oliver’s Requiem, the final book in the trilogy. Un After being disappointed by Delirium but then loving the sequel, Pandemonium, I had high hopes for Oliver’s Requiem, the final book in the trilogy. Unfortunately, the pace dragged throughout, and I found myself not connecting to Lena’s character or those around her. Entirely too convenient plot twists in the final quarter of the book made it hard to suspend disbelief, and readers are then left with few answered questions other than an unbelievably easy resolution to the love triangle. Only recommended to those who love the series and want to see how things turn out. ...more
Meh. I just feel so...meh about this book and the conclusion of this trilogy. I can see what the author was trying to do theme-wise, but it still didnMeh. I just feel so...meh about this book and the conclusion of this trilogy. I can see what the author was trying to do theme-wise, but it still didn't grab me. ...more
Strong relationships & better world building make for solid sequel, 3.5 stars
Through the Ever Night opens just where the first novel left off: Ar Strong relationships & better world building make for solid sequel, 3.5 stars
Through the Ever Night opens just where the first novel left off: Aria and Perry are seeking each other through the shadows of the borderlands after months apart. Though their reunion is sweet, the relief is short-lived as they return to a tribe that doesn't trust Dwellers and where Perry's new position as Blood Lord is questioned. When distrust and danger force them apart, Aria and Perry must work separately to save the world and those around them from falling apart.
Though I wasn't impressed with Rossi's debut novel, Under the Never Sky, I picked up the sequel because I was intrigued enough to see where Aria and Perry's journey led next, and I'm very glad that I did. Not only did this novel move along better than the first, but many of the problems I experienced with the debut were absent. Quick, fast-paced plotting had me turning pages to see what happened next, and many of the world building issues were cleared up, even if in convenient ways.
The greatest strength of the novel, however, laid in its depiction of complex and meaningful relationships between the characters, including that between Perry and Roar, Perry and the band of Six, and Perry and Marron. Most notably, the relationship between Roar and Aria was a standout. Except for a few moments of hesitation or questioning from others, Aria and Roar's relationship was never fraught with unnecessary romantic tension; instead, it was portrayed as a supportive and resilient friendship between a man and a woman, something not often seen in a young adult novel. The relationship between Perry and Aria also felt less forced and more real, and talks of scents and senses added to their relationship this time instead of distracting from it.
While I did enjoy reading this, it's not a book that struck me deeply or that stayed with me long after reading - it was simply a fun, action-filled adventure-romance. The novel was very much a middle book, in that there was the expected distancing of the lovers and the fight to come back together. Anyone familiar with this genre can also foresee what lies ahead in the final book in terms of the conflict between the outcasts and those in power. As a character, Perry also seemed too perfect. Despite the described concern of his tribe regarding his ability to lead, readers will not find a single undesirable trait in him. Though I love reading about a `good guy' hero, this portrayal seemed unrealistic, especially given the rough way Perry was portrayed in the first book.
Even with these qualms, I'm glad I took another chance on this author and was able to immerse myself in the world of the Never Sky for a few days. In the final book of the trilogy, Into the Still Blue, I hope that Rossi maintains her focus on the characters' relationships as they forge ahead into an uncertain future.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy....more
Having trouble rating this one. As a standalone, I would give it three stars for its sheer readability, but as a sequel that should be an extension ofHaving trouble rating this one. As a standalone, I would give it three stars for its sheer readability, but as a sequel that should be an extension of the first book's theme and tone, it falls flat and would only get two stars....more
Dystopian romance that seems to have it all, yet still needs a little more
In C. J. Redwine’s debut novel, Defiance, Rachel Adams doesn’t want to admi Dystopian romance that seems to have it all, yet still needs a little more
In C. J. Redwine’s debut novel, Defiance, Rachel Adams doesn’t want to admit the possible truth: that her father, the city’s best tracker and courier, may be dead. Finding herself essentially orphaned, Rachel is appalled to learn that her new Protector will be Logan, her father’s apprentice and the boy who rejected her love two years ago. When she and Logan realize that her father may still be alive and in horrible danger, they concoct a plan to slip past the gated walls of the city to find him. By doing so, they risk death in the Wastelands, the dangerous area outside the wall, or death within the city, where the cruel ruler could kill them for treason.
With its combination of action, romance, and a dystopian setting, Defiance is sure to be a hit. The novel is a very quick, easy read that flows along from beginning to end with excellent pacing throughout. Tension-filled, sometimes harrowing, action scenes move the story along, and Rachel is a feisty, capable heroine who stands up for herself and her loved ones. Redwine’s writing is strong overall and, at times, beautiful in its descriptiveness. Several important themes also underscore the story, including the importance of family (both those we are related to and those we choose) and how violence changes people.
Despite this promising combination of elements, the characters or their struggles never truly resonated with me. I had fun reading the book, but I also had an uncomfortable sense at all times that I should be feeling more strongly about the characters and what was happening to them. Though based on a solid foundation, the romance was too predictable to have much tension, and the voices of the two narrators (Rachel and Logan) felt too similar. Most notably, I was distracted by the novel’s lack of world building. The setting had many hallmarks of a popular dystopian book – a totalitarian government with a cruel leader, no fuel or electricity, tracking devices implanted into each citizen, and a patriarchal system where women are controlled by men – but the reason for this society and its development was never explained. As a reader, I could never grasp where and when this story was supposed to be taking place. When a fantasy element was introduced on top of this, it felt out of place and unnecessary. Overall, the story just felt too much like other underdeveloped dystopian adventure tales.
Even though I was disappointed in the romance and the lack of world building, I enjoyed Defiance enough that I plan to read the coming books in the trilogy to see what Rachel and Logan do next. In future installments, I hope Redwine does more to explore and expand the world she’s created and that she brings some more novel elements to her story.
Note: This review refers to an advance review copy....more