I would imagine that, as a writer, the hardest thing must be to come up with a unique premise. Well,...moreThis review was originally posted on Ruby's Reads.
I would imagine that, as a writer, the hardest thing must be to come up with a unique premise. Well, okay, there are probably several hardest things about being a writer. The point is, though, that when your genre is insanely popular--as Dystopians these days--it's hard to make your own stand out. As a reader, I'm at the point where I'm pretty much over totalitarian government Dystopias and this, I think is one of the main places where Traced and I had our greatest problem.
As I see it, Traced had four main issues: One, there was too much telling and not enough showing. Several times I had to remind myself that there were stakes involved. Megan Squires told us that The Hub (Traced's totalitarian government) controlled everything--in fact, there are several conversations about it--but I never felt that she showed it to us. It's difficult to generate fear of a government based solely on character say-so. More crucially, however, there's little-to-no information about why the Dystopia came about. Writers of Dystopians often overlook this and thereby drive me nuts.
Two: The love triangle sucks. Besides feeling that they entirely too dichotomous,I couldn't muster up much enthusiasm about either of the boys vying for Tess' affections. I knew that I definitely hated one of them after he backhanded a chicken across a chicken coup. Not cool. I don't care if the hen hurt the heroine--it's an effing chicken. You do not smack them across rooms. End. Of. Story. Tess' indecision between the two boys did not add up to a compelling dilemma. On the contrary, they made me dislike her intensely. Tess' lack of honesty with herself, with her family and with the two boys was, frankly, detestable. So, I guess issue 2 1/2 is: I hated the main character.
Three: It's not believable. A government that bans watches? Um...yeah, you're going to have to convince me real hard on that one. First you'd have to make me believe that a totalitarian government would do such a thing and then you're going to have to convince me that they'd be able to enforce it. And your argument better be pretty darn convincing.
Four: I've finished the book and I still don't get what tracing is. Or how Joel (one of the love interests) is able to figure out that it's going on with Tess based on a vague childhood memory. Or how she's supposed to understand her "gift." Or use it. Or possibly interpret it. Or...anything except go, "Huh?" Which is what I did upon reaching the last page.
I'm not even going to go into the ending, which made as little sense to me as the rest of the book. Suffice it to say: skip this one.(less)
I can’t decide if knowing this was a Persephone/Hades story in advance of reading Solstice was a good thi...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
I can’t decide if knowing this was a Persephone/Hades story in advance of reading Solstice was a good thing or a bad one. It’s not a retelling–more an extension of the myth–but knowing the connection made it easy to figure out the mysteries of the novel. Sometimes I like it when the reader knows more than the MC. Sometimes it makes the MC appear stupid. Solstice straddled that line more than a few times–but whenever I started to doubt Piper’s intelligence, something would hold me back from a full-0n eye-roll.
And, anyway, despite being able to guess at a number of things, I really enjoyed Solstice. I read it during a heatwave, which was incredibly–and a trifle scarily–apropos. There I was, sweating away while reading descriptions of a cracked and dehydrated earth. I don’t usually like tales about global warming–they always seem way too probable–but the earth of Solstice intrigued me. (Plus, there’s the added benefit of an easy solution at the end.) I hate experiencing the heat, but I love to read about it. In books, heat is equated with high tension and passion, which–hello! I love both of those things. Then, the heat usually reaches a crescendo– Oh. I just realized that there’s a sexual metaphor going on here. *clears throat* *moves on*
So, yes, I enjoyed Solstice. I liked fitting the pieces of the puzzle together (figuring which character was which god, etc) and witnessing their earthly manifestations. For example, Piper’s mother can glance sideways at a plant and leaves will wither and die. I loved this–it was so perfectly expressive of her character. On the other hand, I had trouble picturing the characters as gods. They were so human and I so think of gods as powerful, omnipotent, manipulative and inscrutable. Piper’s mom best fits my concept of a deity, what with her decision to possess her daughter entirely and at all costs. And maybe that’s the problem? This is PJ Hoover’s book and she didn’t sell me on her conception of the Greek Gods; her writing wasn’t strong enough to reinvent them for me.
The other weakness of this novel was Piper’s best friend, Chloe. Her story was kind of mess and, frankly, hard to follow. Every time I read a passage with Chloe in it, I’d become confused and I still don’t really understand what happened. I thought maybe Chloe was going to get a story of her own (possibly with Rhadam as her male counterpart), but as far as I can discover, Solstice is a stand-alone. It could still happen, of course, but I don’t feel I got to know sane Chloe well enough to be more than slightly irritated by her descent into madness. Which, by the way, I think was totally Piper’s fault.
So–the million-dollar question: Would I recommend this book to anyone else? And the answer is–I already have. I told my dad to read it and I’m eager to discuss it with him when he’s done. That is, if I can keep myself from pestering him while he’s still reading. I’m also really hoping that PJ Hoover writes something new, really soon. Getting a contract with Tor Teen suggests bright things for her future–and I’m eager to see what she’ll do next.(less)
Narrator Review: When I was first listening to The Prey, I had a hard time getting used to Sean Runnette....moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
Narrator Review: When I was first listening to The Prey, I had a hard time getting used to Sean Runnette. His voice is a little bit too mature for a seventeen year old boy. However, by the end of the first book, I’d grown to appreciate Runnette’s nuanced narrative style. He does a fantastic job with Gene and I even appreciated the way he embodied Sissy. Without a doubt, I’ll be listening to the rest of the books in this series, rather than reading them myself.
Book Review: My tolerance level for gore is only slightly higher than my tolerance level for white chocolate (IT’S NOT CHOCOLATE!). When my roommate watches The Walking Dead, I have to go to my room, close the door, put a pillow over my head and sing “LALALALA!” at the top of my lungs so I don’t accidentally hear any zombie noises. But this book? Oh, this book? I loved it, gooey, cheesey, melting flesh and all. Okay, I gagged at those parts, but I kept listening.
Before I continue with my review, let me recap a little. At the end of The Hunt, Gene was outed as a human. It also turned out that his crush, Ashley June, was human. She sacrificed herself so Gene could get away. Well, and come back to save her later, of course. (If you get the sense that I’m not an Ashley June fan, you’re right.) Unable to save her, and needing to get away from the ravenous vampire-creatures, Gene takes off on a river voyage with the hepers beneath the dome, including Ben, Sissy and Epap.
The Prey picks up so exactly where The Hunt left off that my head was spinning, trying to remember all the details of the last book. I know that I’ve complained about authors recapping in series books, but a little easing back into the world is, I think, necessary. No matter. I was soon swept up in the action and I never looked back. Andrew Fukuda is a master at creating suspense. It was almost unsafe to read The Prey while driving because I was gripping the steering wheel so tightly. I don’t think I ever breathed easy, not even when Gene, Sissy and Co. finally arrived in “the land of milk and honey, fruit and sunshine.”
The Prey isn’t without flaws. Gene, the main character, often irritated me. He’s still learning how to put others first, and he’s lucky that he’s got Sissy there to show him how it’s done. (Seriously. She’s awesome like that.) He’s also slow to understand what’s going on in the human village, even if he senses that something is off from the very beginning. The village scenario is pretty standard to dystopians, but I think Fukuda does a pretty good job of explaining how it came to be. He manages to humanize the elders (as much as that’s possible), but disappointingly doesn’t do the same for the village girls. I wanted have a better understanding of why they obeyed the elders. Or at least one that confirmed my suppositions. And I’m pretty sick of the he’s dead/he’s not dead back and forth about Gene’s dad.
But, really, the flaws just made The Prey that much more awesome. Or, rather, they made me realize how much I good the book really was. The Prey was completely engrossing. The ending left me hitting my steering wheel in frustration because it doesn’t just end on a cliffhanger, it ends on one that makes you go, “WHAT?! HE COULDN’T HAVE ENDED THE BOOK THIRTY SECONDS LATER?!?!” Basically, the most successful cliffhanger in the history of cliffhangers. I must have book three. I simply must.(less)
By turns mystifying and enthralling, Michelle Gagnon sure knows how to tell a story. I don't usually like multiple narratives, but this one worked for...moreBy turns mystifying and enthralling, Michelle Gagnon sure knows how to tell a story. I don't usually like multiple narratives, but this one worked for me. The narrator did a great job with all the accents she had to portray. I'm kind of hoping to revisit this concept, but I don't know if there are any plans to make it into a series. The ending was probably a little too schmaltzy, but I ate it up anyway.(less)
Last year, when I read Unraveling, it was a nice surprise. I’d missed all the buzz about it and hadn...moreThis review was originally posted on Ruby's Reads.
Last year, when I read Unraveling, it was a nice surprise. I’d missed all the buzz about it and hadn’t read a single review (and I remember how weird that felt!) and I really only picked it up on a whim. As soon as I started, though, I was hooked. I read it from cover to cover. I downed it like it was peanut sauce. And when I got to the last page, I began waiting for Unbreakable to be released.
Unbreakable picks up about four months after the end of Unraveling. Janelle’s (our) world is in chaos. Martial law has been declared, school is pretty much cancelled, and untold numbers are missing. At first this appears to be related to the disasters caused by two universes almost colliding (oops! I spoiled Unraveling!), but Janelle soon finds out that something far more sinister is going on. Well, more sinister than IAD agent Taylor Barclay showing up, seeking Janelle’s help.
Although reluctant at first, Janelle eventually agrees to help Barclay solve the mystery of the missing people. What they discovers is that the people aren’t just going missing–they’re being kidnapped and sold into slavery. And Ben is somehow involved. Grudgingly teaming up with Barclay, Janelle leaves her world for Prima, in the hope of finding Ben, her friend Cecily, and stopping the kidnappings.
Unbreakable does some awesome things. It brings back Janelle, whom I love for her down-to-earth-kick-ass-ness. That girl is all, “I’m too old for this shiz” and she’s not even 18 yet. It also transforms Barclay from “kind of douche-y” to swoon-worthy. Which brings me to this: I totally don’t like Ben anymore (spoiler rant below). I’m TEAM BARCLAY all the way. There’s one particular scene where Janelle and Barclay are hiding in close proximity…it’s hot. And possibly entirely in my mind but, well, an obsession was born, folks. An obsession. Was. Born. Which is why I hated the ending. I can’t find out if this book is the last in the series, but I sure hope not. I will be incredibly sad if it is. My overriding thought on reading the last page of Unbreakable? This better NOT BE THE END.
(view spoiler)[A few words about Ben: I liked Ben in Unraveling. He wasn’t my favorite hero ever, but I liked him. In this book, he managed to entirely lose my favor. Sure, he’s placed in an impossible situation and he has to make impossible choices, but I still feel like he made crummy ones. In this book, Ben kidnaps people for the slavery ring because he thinks he’s saving Janelle’s life. Honorable? Er, not really. Romantic? Nope. Girls are being kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery. Lots of them. Would I subject anyone to that to save someone I loved? I don’t know and I hope I’ll never have to find out. BUT. I can’t believe that Ben could have thought that Janelle would have been able to live with herself knowing what her existence cost other people. Is any of this fair to Ben? Probably not, but my heart doesn’t really care. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Narrator Review: After listening to Matthew Brown narrate The Fox Inheritance, I could not have imagined...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
Narrator Review: After listening to Matthew Brown narrate The Fox Inheritance, I could not have imagined anyone else as Locke. Not only does Matthew Brown embody Locke Jenkins, he does a delightful job with all the other characters. I don’t doubt that this is because Fox Forever is entirely Locke’s story–all the characters are seen and heard through the filter of Locke’s perceptions–but I think even that is something that Brown manages to convey. The slightest intonation makes me wonder how accurately I’m seeing Raine, Xavier–and especially Jenna–given who is relating the conversations or events.
Book Review: Although The Fox Inheritance and Fox Forever are technically sequels to The Adoration of Jenna Fox, I see them more as companion novels. Jenna’s story was a stand-alone as far as I’m concerned. Jenna reached the apex of her journey long before Locke was ever resurrected and, frankly, I wasn’t happy with the way that their stories converged at the end of The Fox Inheritance. Fortunately, Fox Forever deals with all the issues I had with Locke and Jenna’s reunion, almost without a word on the subject. That’s what I call good writing.
In Fox Forever, Locke is called on to return a favor. Since he promised, Locke knows he must answer the call, even if it means putting living on hold. At the end of the last book, Locke set out to live his life. He’s in a hurry to catch up on all the years he missed. In particular, he wants to hurry up and live so he can get back to Jenna. Locke may have spent 260 locked in a black box, but he’s still got every bit of a teenager’s impatience for life to “start.” And, though he believes that repaying the favor is just a thing he has to do before getting on with his life, what Locke doesn’t realize is that doing so will bring all his desires to fruition faster than he could have imagined. Just not in the way he imagined.
I won’t say that Locke’s job of repayment (aka the plot) held any surprises. I guessed every twist and turn. Honestly, I thought it was slightly run-of-the-mill. Locke’s circumstances (and, I’ll admit, the cool futuristic elements) make it just interesting enough to save the story from banality. Some unique takes on a familiar plot would have upped the ante for me, but I didn’t hate what I got, either. I already knew I liked Locke (and Fox Forever doesn’t change that), and I liked Raine, even if I wanted more depth from her. The other characters were bland, mostly, though I was glad to see the return of sentient bots.
Fox Forever is a love story, a coming-of-age story and an exploration of what it means to be human. While this concept has been a recurring theme in each of the Jenna Fox books, Locke’s story pushes the envelope. Jenna had that all-important 10% that made her still human, but Locke is entirely man-made. His memories, his very consciousness, are/is a product of science. Is it his capacity for love that makes him human? And what about his mind kept him from turning insane, like Kara? Locke doesn’t know, and this book is about how he comes to terms with the strange, bewildering journey that has been his life.
And the ending? Well, it’s a happy one, which is good–but while there were elements I liked and elements that I found to be too convenient. I’m sorry the series is over–I would have liked Kara to have a story–but Locke and Jenna have completed their journeys. Am I any closer to understanding what it means to be human? Sure, a little. But three books can’t answer that question–props to the author for exploring the question.(less)
Okay, confession: When I first found Taken on Goodreads I thought it was the sophomore novel by the autho...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
Okay, confession: When I first found Taken on Goodreads I thought it was the sophomore novel by the author of Plain Kate. My bad! It’s actually the debut of a talented new author, one with surprising vision and delightful skill as a writer. While Taken won’t make my list of top books this April, it was plenty enjoyable and a quick read with lots of positive elements.
Chief among Taken‘s attributes are the characters. Gray, the main character, is smart, brave, vulnerable and annoying all at once. His two love interests (yes, two) are both equally three-dimensional. Unfortunately, even though two interesting romantic leads should be a good thing, I’d made my choice about who I wanted Gray to be with before I even met the alternative. And even though the love triangle doesn’t really come into fruition until the last part of the book, it became the worst kind of love triangle when it did, meaning that I ended the book on a sour note.
While the love triangle didn’t really work for me, there were other elements to appreciate. The world-building is interesting, though it was reminiscent of another other book I couldn’t place. Or maybe I just experienced book-long deja vu. Bowman doesn’t believe in letting the grass grow underneath her plot or characters. Secrets are shared and problems are solved with a straight-forwardness that speeds you through the book.
I enjoyed Taken even though I had issues with it, the love triangle being the primary one. If the love triangle lasts long into the series, I’ll probably stop reading. I find it difficult to respect an MC who fools around with one love interest when he knows he still has feelings for another girl. Taking both the flaws and attributes into account, Taken lacked whatever it is that makes a book special for me.(less)
One of the things I enjoy about Dystopians is the myriad of ways in which they come about. Global warming...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
One of the things I enjoy about Dystopians is the myriad of ways in which they come about. Global warming? Civil War? Genetically engineered bees? Check, check and check. I more than just enjoy, though. I believe that back story is key to any good Dystopian. If the author doesn’t have a solid, believable reason for his/her oligarchic, misogynist love/water/air/land-less world, I’m going to be dissatisfied. End of story.
Sadly, an easily comprehensible back story wasn’t enough to make Stung a success. In a word, it felt rushed. There wasn’t enough time for anything. For Fiona to make up for her lost years (the ones between 13 and 16 are not to be missed), for the romance to develop, for the corruption to be revealed, for the Dystopia to become…not. I can’t believe I’m saying this–since stand-alones are so rare that I’m usually rooting in the opposite direction–but Stung should have had at least two more volumes.
However, even if more books had allowed Bethany Wiggins to slow the pace of her story, I’m not sure it would have worked for me. I was very much struck by the fact that the last age Fiona remembered being was 13. Even if she was physically 16, she’d missed three years of psychological development. Because of this, I was the slightest bit skeeved by the romance, and I have serious doubts about Fiona’s state of mind. That kind of thing has got to mess with you. Hence the need for more volumes–time for Fiona to process and adjust a little. Or, even better, Wiggins could have left that twist out entirely. I wouldn’t have minded.
The neatly packaged ending didn’t work for me, either. Everything is resolved and wrapped up nicely in a tidy bow. Don’t get me wrong–I’m all for resolution and happy endings! I just don’t like it when they’re too easy. For one thing, it makes things unrealistic. For another, they feel perfunctory. I want my MCs to earn their happy endings. In Stung, I simply made a face and turned off my Kindle.(less)
Narrator Review: Rebecca Soler did a magnificent job of narrating Scarlet, to the point that I’m thinking...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
Narrator Review: Rebecca Soler did a magnificent job of narrating Scarlet, to the point that I’m thinking of “rereading” Cinder, just to see what she did with the first book in the Lunar Chronicles. Her Cinder is brash, sarcastic and vulnerable all at once, and clearly a separate voice from Scarlet’s. Maybe it’s the slightest suggestion of a French accent in the parts of Scarlet narrated by the titular characters, but Soler nails it. She’s similarly adept at portraying Wolf, without resorting to the gruff manliness that female storytellers often use. Soler’s Prince Kai is, perhaps, the weakest of the three main portrayals, but through no fault of the narrator. I already checked to see what other books Rebecca Soler has narrated, and added some of them to my Audible wishlist.
Book Review: I crazy-loved this book. I listen to audiobooks in my car (Audible purchases being the only exception), and I frequently took the long route while I was listening to Scarlet. Or sat in my driveway, unable to turn off the radio. Or offered to be the one to go on the lunch run. Anything to get back in the car. The narrator was great, yes, but Meyer is also a talented writer. She keeps you interested in the story despite the frequent changes in perspective.
I like Marissa Meyer’s work for the same reason that I like fairy-tale retellings. I know what I’m going to get. I know the basic plot (and most likely the outcome). But knowing what’s going to happen doesn’t make the journey any less pleasurable. What I love about fairy tale retellings is the fresh exploration of a familiar tale. This is especially true in the case of the Lunar Chronicles, where we derive a great deal of joy in seeing how Meyer reinterprets fairy tale standards. How does Meyer evoke Little Red Riding Hood, and tell an old story in a new way? Delightfully, with a whole host of small details, that’s how.
On the characters, I have to say that Wolf was, hands down, my favorite. I’m sure no one is surprised by this. It’s more than just his name, though! He’s kick-butt, tortured, and smexy. Sigh. Lucky Scarlet. Speaking of whom: I liked Scarlet a lot, too. There were certainly times when I wanted to hit her upside the head in hopes of knocking some sense into her, but I liked her slightly hysterical, panicking, illogical personality given the situation. Heroines who always keep their heads and never, ever let their emotions do their thinking…well, they’re just too cool for me and I don’t want to hang out with them because they always make me feel bad about myself.
As long as the next books in the Lunar Chronicles feature Scarlet and Wolf, I’m set. Cinder got on my nerves with her constant refusal to use her Lunar powers (we get it already), but I still liked her. Prince Kai bored me. He’s completely powerless in an extremely realistic way. Principled world leaders don’t have it as easy as you’d think, which I totally buy and which is totally uninteresting from the perspective of plot. I’m definitely waiting on Cress and I’ll absolutely be holding out for the audio version!(less)
I really like apocalyptic stories. I like how they force society to readjust, how they disturb the status...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
I really like apocalyptic stories. I like how they force society to readjust, how they disturb the status quo, how all the rules suddenly go out the window. It’s fascinating to me, far more interesting than Dystopians where new rules have replaced the old ones and they’re bizarre and vastly different from ours. PODs seemed like the perfect book for me, based on my reading preferences. Sadly, though, it fell short of expectations.
PODs’ primary flaw is that it tries to be too many things. It’s an apocalyptic story, a post-apocalyptic story, a zombie story, a survival story, a romance and a coming-of-age tale. I’ve read books where all of these elements have been interwoven, but I think Michelle Pickett threw her net a bit too wide. She didn’t try to incorporate the elements of all of these story styles so much as have all of them occur within the span of her book. Since this is going to be a series, it would have been better to have book one be the apocalypse, book two life in the PODs, three, life in a post-POD community and four, life on the outside. To have all four stages in one book was to do a disservice to each.
I also didn’t really like the main character. For Eva, out of sight was out of mind–except for David, her love interest. He’s her sole concern once she gets out of the POD. I kept waiting for her to at least try to contact her parents or her other POD-mates. Especially since it was set up for her to try to find her parents when she got out (she convinces them to go to an isolated cabin where they might escape the virus). Sure, they’re probably dead, but doesn’t she want to know for-freaking-sure? I would.
I don’t think I’ll be reading the second book in this series. I’d be willing to try Michelle Pickett’s Concilium series, but the PODs books are done for me. If I had liked Eva better, I might have been able to overlook the mish-mash that is the plot. Since I didn’t, I’ll pass on the rest of Eva’s journey.(less)
You know those books that reach such a fever pitch of popularity that the very fact that so many people l...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
You know those books that reach such a fever pitch of popularity that the very fact that so many people loved it turns you off? The Selection was one of those books for me. Despite having gotten my copy when the book was first published, it took me over a year to get around to reading it. Was it worth the wait? Not really–but I do think it was a good thing I didn’t read it when my anticipation was so high. My opinion of The Selection probably benefited. Sadly, this isn’t saying much.
The Selection is basically The Bachelor Goes Dystopian. Since I’m the only person on earth with little-to-no interest in TV dating competition shows, this was not a recipe for success. I was frankly bored with America’s “dilemma.” She doesn’t want to be princess; didn’t even want to enter the lottery to enter the competition. It was only that her mother bribed her and her boyfriend said he’d never be able to live with himself knowing he’d taken away her one chance to become royalty. She never expected to be chosen! And now that she has, and her boyfriend has thrown her over, she might as well go ahead with it For the Sake of Her Family.
Yes, America’s that girl. The one who makes a “sacrifice” so her family can rise out of poverty and then complains about it through the whole book. She’s that godawful 21st Century girl plopped into a historical novel, only this time it’s a Dystopia. America’s the only one that questions the caste system, the only person who cares about her servants, the only one who is above competing for the prince’s affections. By the end of the novel, I was so over America that I would have stuck my tongue out at her if I hadn’t been afraid she’d see me.
Sadly, if America was awful, the other characters were worse. Aspen’s a douche and Prince Maxon is worse. Maybe it’s just that I don’t go in for sensitive heroes, but honestly. You’re supposed to be the ruler of a country someday, dude! Grow a pair, already, and give America the boot she so richly deserves. And while you’re at it, use some of your sovereignty to make America shut up.
This is a Dystopian, so I can’t review The Selection without addressing the world-building. There’s some (expositional) backstory, but the more I think about it the less it makes sense. I understand why a new government needed to be formed, but why a kingdom? And why a caste system? It appears to exist solely to make the book possible. Furthermore, the violent rebel attacks? Not particularly violent.
The worst part of this book is the end, which sets up the rest of the trilogy for what looks to be a painful love triangle. If it weren’t for that, I might have considered reading The Elite. However, the last few chapters create such a painful scenario that I doubt I could bear to read any more. If I liked either of the male love interests, I’d be upset with America for stringing them along. As it is, well, I can chalk it up to just another unlikeable aspect of a character in a series I won’t be continuing to read.(less)
Narrator Review: Right out of the gate, Sean Runnette did not strike me as the right narrator for The Hunt. For one thing, his voice was far too gravely and deep to suggest "teenage boy." For another, it's slightly pedantic. Runnette won me over as I got to know Gene a little better--Gene is methodical and intensely cerebral--and these are things that are communicated through the quality of the narration. On the other hand, I've never met a male narrator who can voice a female character to my satisfaction, and Runnette is no exception. Review Review: I am the world's biggest wimp. I hate gore, and I will never, ever see another boxing movie for as long as I live. The scene in the body switch episode of Glee where Tina conks her head on the bottom of a fountain nearly ruined the episode for me. I bring up my squeamishness because The Hunt is extremely graphic in terms of grossness, the eating of humans and general gore. And, yet, despite the scene where a vampire essentially turns into gooey cheese (I just vomited a little), I loved this book. I had issues with 90% of the characters, but it made me think, and it stuck with me. To me, that is the mark of seriously bada** writing. The most interesting question that The Hunt brings up for me is what it means to be human. Gene, the narrator, has only survived amongst these vampire-zombies by completely subverting his humanity. And while it's saved him, it's also killed him. His is a character that I was on the verge of disliking, even to the very last word. Gene flirts with being irredeemable and it's that, more than the threat of his being discovered, that kept me on the edge of my seat. I can't really talk about the rest of the characters because doing so would be spoilery, but I want to touch on what I said about disliking 90% of the characters. The characters I was rooting for the most were the ones the least seen. Sissy totally kicked butt and, of course, I'm a sucker for kids. They better live, do you hear me Andrew Fukuda? Fortunately, I'm fairly certain we'll be seeing a lot more of them in the next book. Another thing that I enjoyed about The Hunt was its sheer bizarreness. Fukuda must have had a lot of fun coming up with the whole armpit/elbow make-out scene. After I read that part, I hurried over to Small's blog because I needed to talk to her about it, pronto. There are plenty of bits from the world-building that will make you go, Wait, WHAT?! And then there's the wrist-scratching. Finally, there were definitely times when suspension of disbelief was required. When Gene gets chosen for the Heper Hunt, it means leaving behind all the tools of his deception. The vampire-zombies don't sweat, bathe, have hair, require water and, apparently have perfectly groomed fingernails. Fukuda makes a big deal about all the rules Gene's father taught him to survive. Some of the problems are addressed--the need for water being one of them. But others--the lack of deodorant, how he got a razor, etc.--required the readers to look the other way. Not to mention the sheer unbelievability of being in control of yourself at all times. Humans just aren't made that way. Or maybe I just mean that I'm just not made that way. Who knows. I highly recommend The Hunt for anyone interested in the Paranormal and Dystopian genres. In fact, I recommend it to almost anyone, period. It's insanely gripping, thought-provoking and exciting. The only problem? The sequel isn't even listed on Goodreads yet.(less)
This review was originally posted on http://www.rubysreads.com. I'd like, first of all, to tell you that I loaned this book to my dad before I read i...moreThis review was originally posted on http://www.rubysreads.com. I'd like, first of all, to tell you that I loaned this book to my dad before I read it. When he gave it back to me he said, "I didn't get what the title was in reference to until the last third of the book." There's really no point to this anecdote except that it made me laugh and I thought it might do the same for you.
I'll be honest with you, I go through phases with Dystopians. Sometimes I really like them. At other times, I only like them when they have no magical element. Then there's the phase where I think if I never read another one, it'll be too soon. Cinder has three strong things going for it:
It's a fairytale retelling. It features a colony on the MOON. Cyborgs.
When I was a child, one of my favorite books was This Place Has No Atmosphere by Paula Danziger. In a nutshell, the book is about a teenage girl forced to move to the moon. Ever since then, I've been a fan of books that have moon colonies. We don't make it to the moon in Cinder, but I've got my fingers crossed for further installments. Oh, wait--wasn't I trying to review Cinder? Yeah, I think I was. Cinder didn't grab me at first. I think it wasn't until I was about a quarter of the way into the story that I really got into the narrative. From there, I was hooked. What's fun about fairytale retellings is that you already know the basic plot, and even most of the characters. Since you do, the game becomes discovering how the author interprets the fairytale. Frankly, I loved Cinder. All the elements of the Cinderella tale tumble and rolled together with a bit of Star Trek and a smidge of This Place Has No Atmosphere. It's no wonder that it appealed to me. It's unique world-building on top of great storytelling. The characters are complex and refreshing interpretations of characters that are practically older than time. There were a few predictable elements I'm perfectly comfortable overlooking, but on the whole this is a book I'd recommend to almost anyone, from Cinderella fans to Dystopian ones. Count me among the hordes looking forward to Scarlet when it comes out in 2013.(less)
These days, Dystopians are a dime a dozen. Sometimes, when I’m surfing Goodreads, looking for n...moreThis review was first posted on http://rubysreads.com.
These days, Dystopians are a dime a dozen. Sometimes, when I’m surfing Goodreads, looking for new titles, I almost hope to find a zombie story. Er, kidding. Sort of. Anyway, I find Dystopians increasingly difficult to get into. After a while, everything starts to feel samey. When I started Skylark, I thought it was going to be one of those Dystopians. Right off the bat, it reminded me of Enclave, by Ann Aguirre. Fortunately, it didn’t take long for the action to spin off in a new direction, to catch me up in its whirlwind and carry me away in its story.
Skylark has a number of familiar Dystopian elements. There is a corrupt government that exploits its people, and lies and misleads them. There are cannibal/zombies. The population goes hungry while the PTB grows plump with their spoils. There’s lots of talk about what’s good for the population at large. What’s a little bit different is the quality of the narration, and the element of Steampunk that she injects into her world-building. As an added bonus, Spooner’s ability to bring the reader into her setting is remarkable. I had clear visual images of Skylark’s ruined world, particularly the Iron Wood.
The heroine–whose name, delightfully, is Lark–was less enjoyable. For the first part of the book, she’s mistrustful, whiny and squeamish. Never mind that I’d probably be the same way. This isfiction, y’all, and I expect my MCs to have more backbone than I will ever possess. I think my frustration with Lark was based on one major thing: She doesn’t trust Oren, the wild boy who saves her from certain death. She gets all judgy and turns up her nose at his attempts to feed her, to help her survive. I (and I say this with my nose thrust firmly in the air) loved Oren from the start. Lark was just a little late to the party, though she arrives in the end. Is it too late? You’ll have to answer that one for yourself.
I mentioned that Skylark has Steampunk elements. Besides the large machines endemic to Steampunk tales, Skylark also has a small shapeshifting machine called a pixie. Originally designed to be spies for the corrupt government, Lark eventually gains one as a follower. This pixie–ultimately named Nix–is maybe good and maybe bad, but all fun. The parts where it tries to resemble a bee tickled me pink. I love small companion creatures–like Gogu fromWildwood Dancing and thePerspicacious Loris from the Leviathan books.
Skylark ends with a couple of surprises–some predictable and some not–but mostly leaves me with a desire to read whatever comes next in this series. I’m excited to be able to see another city in Lark’s ruined world. I like to think about how cities and cultures grow when they’re isolated from one another, so I can’t wait to follow Lark further on her journey. I’ll make it to 2013–but just barely!(less)
Narrator Review: Narrator Matthew Brown captures Locke perfectly, portraying his early, childlike mentality, his bewilderment over a familiar and unfamiliar world, and his ultimate disillusionment, pain and personal loss. He's a bit less skillful with female characters, but I always have a problem with opposite gender character portrayals in audiobooks. All in all, Brown is a solid narrator. Book Review: A lot of people loved The Adoration of Jenna Fox. And that meant they were uncertain about The Fox Inheritance. That’s always the way. We don’t want writers to mess with the perfection of the books that we adore. (Heh.) I, however, was excited because I thought this book would be focusing on Locke and Kara instead of swinging back around to Jenna. For me, Jenna’s story was complete. I wanted to revisit the Jenna Fox world, not necessarily the characters. I was both wrong and right about this—and I have mixed feelings as a result. The Fox Inheritance begins with Locke and Kara. They’ve been “awake” for about a year, after having spent 260 years in the little black boxes that contained their minds. If you read the first book, you know that Jenna thought she’d destroyed these boxes—and she did. But not before someone had copies made. You’ll also remember that Jenna was traumatized by her memories of the black box—and she didn’t spend 260 years in one, like Locke and Kara. Locke, in his childlike fashion, accepts the fancy house they live in, and whatever the doctor tells him, and wishes that Cara would be less upset about their situation. He naively hopes that his love will keep her from the scary edge she’s always dancing on, but he’s not really interested in challenging the status quo. Until, that is, he discovers their real purpose—they serve as floor models for rich people who plan to live past their deaths. Theirs may be a plush prison, but it’s a prison nonetheless. When the Locke finds Dr. Gatsborough sprawled on the floor of his office in a pool of his own blood, he and Cara make a run for it. While they begin their journey together, they’re ultimately separated when they’re nearly recaptured. Thus begins a race across the country. Locke knows there’s only one place Cara would go: to California to find Jenna. And not so she can give her a big hug and a kiss. Locke’s journey is one of self-discovery, and of long-delayed coming of age. When he finally meets Jenna again, it’s simultaneously explosive and anticlimactic. It was also the point of the novel where I began to have mixed feelings. Up until then, I was intrigued by Locke’s internal dilemmas—he’s a man-made human and he’s not sure how he stacks up against man-made bots. Just how different (if at all) is he? Does he have a soul any more than his new bot-friend, Dot, does? Until this point, The Fox Inheritance was Locke’s story; Locke’s coming-of-age. Then, as soon as Locke meets up with Jenna, everything becomes about her. Ironic, considering the theme of the first novel. Which makes me wonder—is that the “Fox Inheritance”? Making everything about Jenna? Seems likely. So, while I appreciated the world-building, and Locke’s story, I felt I could have done without more of Jenna. I was thinking the inheritance was going to be more amorphous and philosophical—instead, it turned out to be more of the same. I felt for Kara—everything does seem to be about Jenna. In particular, Locke’s story became an extension of Jenna’s. I kind of wish he’d never met her again. If there’s a third book—and there is speculation that there might be—I’m hoping it gives us some distance from Jenna. As I said, her story was complete for me at the end of the first book. Pearson certainly opened things up for all kinds of possibilities. My mind is whirring with them. Plus, I’m still not certain what to think about the fact that Locke’s mind was a copy of a copy. It was one of those issues that was lost when Jenna enters the story. So, please, Ms. Pearson, tell me you’re not done with this world? 4 Points: I would make dinner for this book.(less)
I am utterly impressed that Veronica Roth is only 22. This was a delightful debut, and I enjoyed it very much. Even better, she introduced me to a character named Four. I'm in love, and I'm pretty sure that he's going to leave Tris for me. He was just about to tell her when the book ended. I'm sure it'll happen at the very beginning of book two. Really. The description does a pretty good job of setting up Tris' Dystopian Chicago, so I'm not going to go into it much. I want to say, though, that I had a thought while I was reading and it was this: the Dystopian I've read that disturbed me the most was Susan Beth Pfeffer's Last Survivors series. I've been trying to analyze why this is so, and I think Divergent has helped me to figure it out. Of all the Dystopians I've read (and, admittedly, there are plenty of people that have read more than I), Life as We Knew It and the sequels came the closest to being realistic. It's not that I think that a meteor is more likely to knock the moon closer to the Earth, it's that I feel the human reactions to the disaster ring truer to me than in all other books. In Dystopians where a new world-system has been developed in order to correct the wrongs of the past, there's always a little voice in my head that says, "That would never really happen." I think it's that I have enough faith in humans to believe that we will never outlaw love or decide that it's possible to divide people into factions. In those kind of Dystopians, (of which Divergent is one), I'm never able to completely suspend my disbelief. What rings so true about the Last Survivors books is that all the characters act in ways that horrify you--but in circumstances so dire that no one could honestly say they wouldn't do the same in their place. My point is this: Tris' Chicago is horrible, but I can't quite bring myself to believe it could really happen. For me, it works better to view Dystopians like this as allegories, modern day fables. Whether she intended to or not, Roth's book makes a statement about modern-day society. For me, the book was about compartmentalization. Tris' world tries to put people into categories. Each faction embodies only one human trait, and all the members of the faction are expected to do the same. But people can't be sorted that easily. The idea anyone would think that they could is bewildering to me--and that's where the story fails to be "real". Despite all these deep thoughts on Dystopian fiction, I really enjoyed Tris' narration. She's an honest, relatable character. I was, at times, uncomfortable with the level of violence in the book. I knew it was coming as soon as it became clear to me which faction had caught Tris' interest. Yet, I was still disappointed when, despite her initial timidity, Tris eventually succumbs to it. This is totally a personal opinion. I can't even watch boxing movies, so I admit to squeamishness, and I'd be interested in another perspective on this point. As I mentioned before, though, I loved Tris' romantic interest, Four. He's all sexy and strong and I have to keep reminding myself that he's both fictional and eighteen. Plus, he does that thing where he puts his hand on the small of Tris' back. I adore that move. It sends tingles up my spine. Yum. Tris and Four's relationship is deliciously slow-boil, and I expect more good things from it in the future. Divergent ended in a way that has me anxious for the sequel. I can't wait to see where the story goes next, and how the new complications will pan out. And boy, are there complications. I'm also curious if we'll see more of the country, or if we'll stay in Chicago. I wonder if the whole world is divided in to factions in the same way. Whatever Veronica Roth has planned, I'm definitely along for the ride.(less)
I am a newbie to Neal Shusterman. The first novel that I read by him was the much-acclaimed Everlost. I enjoyed Everlost but not quite enough to by the still-in-hardcover sequel, Everwild. I picked up Unwind in the bookstore last weekend following the post-Mockingjay blog on Bookshelves of Doom. I admit that I began reading this book with some trepidation because I was not able to finish The Hunger Games. The storyline was just too gruesome for me and, frankly, I just never warmed up to Katniss. I’m sure someone will probably be thinking that I should have kept reading, but I just couldn’t.
Now you’re wondering, if I’m so lily-livered, why did I decide to read Unwind? Well, despite my experience with The Hunger Games, I was willing to give the Dystopian Futuristic Genre another chance. I hoped that someone could do it on a level that I was more comfortable with. Though that is possibly not ever going to happen, given the nature of the genre. I will say that, if the ability to finish a book is the test that measures my comfort level, then Shusterman was able to pull it off. I did finish Unwind. It was well written and thought provoking, but possibly not in the way that the author meant it to be.
Unwind tells the story of three teenagers. Matt, Risa and Lev are all scheduled to be unwound. The law of this Dystopian future is that abortions are illegal, but parents can decide to have their children unwound between the ages of thirteen and seventeen. Being unwound means that all the parts of the teenager (98%, actually) are given to another person (i.e., someone either in need of a new hand or eye or arm or else just wants a new one). In this way, the teenager is still considered to be “alive”, albeit not in his or her original form. So cutting teenagers up into bits and pieces is considered to be a sane, legal, morally acceptable thing to do in Matt, Risa and Lev’s society. Unwind begins by telling us how each of the protagonists come to be runaways from this terrible fate.
Matt, at sixteen, has been giving his parents a run for their money. He is a Rebel and a Bad Seed. He gets into fights and gets bad grades. At the beginning of the novel, Matt has found out that his parents have decided to get him unwound and he plans to run away. His girlfriend, at first, agrees to go with him and backs out at the last minute. Risa is a ward of the state that is just not talented enough to justify her existence. The money it takes to house and support her is needed elsewhere so it has been decided that she, too, will be unwound. Lev’s story is a little different. He is a tithe, a child born to be unwound. His parents had him for the express purpose of donating his body parts to those in need.
The three teens meet when Matt’s escape causes a terrible scene. Matt causes an accident that kills the driver of the bus that Risa is on. In order to make amends for the death of the bus driver, Matt kidnaps Lev, to save him from being unwound. What Matt doesn’t realize is that Lev has been indoctrinated in the unwind mentality. He views Matt not as his savior but a person who has kept him from his desired fate.
Though Risa and Matt spend most of the novel together,r Lev, through his decision to betray them, goes on his own journey. Lev experiences the most disillusionment in this novel but that makes sense, given his background and his youth. Matt and Risa already know that unwinding is wrong—their journey is more about making their lives (those that others have deemed worthless) meaningful.
Clearly Shusterman was trying to make a point with this novel. And I get that sometimes, in order to make a point, you have to take things to extremes. That’s what hyperbole is all about. Though Shusterman was successful in painting a horrific future for America, I guess I still have enough faith in humanity to believe that unwinding could never happen. The most truly horrifying Distopias are the ones that really seem possible. I think I was able to finish this book because I never suspended my disbelief long enough to picture such a future. That’s not to say that I didn’t find Matt, Risa and Lev’s world terrifying, not least because no one ever has the kind of philosophical discussion that it warrants. I kept waiting for someone to point out the obvious: if you separate all your body parts and you no longer have a conscious mind, then how can anyone still consider you alive?
I want to make sure, before I end this review, to give Shusterman props for the unwinding scene in the book, when we actually get to see what the process entails. Without resorting to gory imagery (or maybe because he didn’t), it is still the stuff nightmares are made of.
So, great book, but not 100% perfect. The writing was good, but I don’t think Shusterman was quite able to make his picture of the future completely work. (less)
I jumped all over this book when I first spotted it on Goodreads. I really love the cover, but that might have something do with the fact that I've lusted after that model's haircut for-freaking-ever, and long since resigned myself to the fact that my own hair will never look that good. Sigh. Still, I was pleased to receive a copy of Momento Nora for review. Not just because of the lovely cover and the great title. I was intrigued by the idea of a future where you could voluntarily have bad memories removed. Momento Nora is a short book, and it feels shorter due to the fact that its told from three different perspectives. This was a problem for me because I felt that the characters suffered from getting so little screen time. I don't feel that I got to know any of the characters very well. Nora, in particular, felt unexplored. She goes from being an accepting drone to a dissident with unbelievable rapidity. I buy that the discovery she makes about her mother would lead her to the action it did, but jumping feet first into helping to publish Momento doesn't jibe with her character. I think she'd have either been more skeptical in the beginning, or have taken more convincing to get involved in something which had such serious consequences. I also wasn't certain what Nora and Micah's motivation was in creating Momento. Were they trying to convince others not to participate in Therapeutic Forgetting? It felt like teenage mischief--which would be a stupid reason risk "The Big D". It would have made more sense to me if Nora got involved because she didn't want what happened to her mother to happen again--or to anyone else. But once Nora is aware of what's going on with her mother, she's more concerned with creating Momento than the fact that her mother is being abused by her father. Another thing I noticed was that people didn't wonder about what they were forgetting. It drives me nuts when I can't remember something. I can't imagine going through life with pieces of my memory missing. I'd constantly be wondering what I'd forgotten, and I think that thought would probably consume me. It would be different if I didn't know my memory was being erased, but if I knew it? It'd be like worrying a cavity, and it surprised me that nobody ever had a similar thought. On reading Momento Nora, I was struck by the similarities between this book and Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series. In part, this was due to the use of the word "glossy". It reminded me of "bubbly". I don't mean that Momento Nora felt derivative, but that it didn't feel particularly new or inventive to me. Which is, frankly, something I look for in a Dystopia. So, while there was food for thought in Momento Nora, I didn't love it. The lack of characterization, the rapid speed of Micah and Nora's romance, and missing motivation conspired to leave me feeling ambivalent. I'm going to wait for book two to solidify my opinion--but as an introduction to a series, I'm officially on the fence about Momento Nora. (less)
In the spirit of full disclosure, I have to tell you that I've read Jenny's review of Enclave. Also, I signed up to be a part of the book tour so long ago that I forgot I was even on it. In fact, I bought a copy of my very own from the Strand way back when I was in New York. Anyway, Jenny's review led me to begin this book with a positive outlook, and nothing has dissuaded me from that point of view. Enclave is the kind of Dystopia that I enjoy. It's been compared to the Hunger Games Trilogy--as, I suspect, all future YA Dystopians will be--but whereas The Hunger Games turned me off within the first chapter, Enclave drew me in. Not just Enclave, but its terrific narrator, Deuce. One of my main problems with The Hunger Games was Katniss' voice. I found her completely unrelateable and without empathy. I don't know if that changed, but I have absolutely no desire find out. From the beginning, Deuce appealed to me. All her life she has wanted to become a Huntress, and we are introduced to her on the day her wish becomes true. It's also the day she's introduced to her new partner, Fade. I quite frankly loved this book. It's got romance, mystery, a bit of horror, but at the heart, it has palpable humanity. It's there in Deuce, who has been raised with the idea that affection between males and females is only acceptable for Breeders, whose natural instinct is protect, who is genuinely bewildered by the harsh realities she is forced to face. It's there in Fade, who finds, in Deuce, someone to trust. Even characters you want to hate have deeper layers that make you think uncomfortable, philosophical thoughts. The ending of Enclave left me itching for more. I adore the post-apocalyptic world that Ann Aguirre created, and I'm dying to learn more about the place where Deuce, Fade and co. end up. This is a series I'll be keeping a hawk-eye out for. And I'm doubly glad to have enjoyed this so much because I've got Nightfall waiting for me on my TBR shelf. (less)
One of the most successful Dystopians I've ever read was Susan Beth Pfeffer's Last Survivors Trilogy. I don't say it was my favorite, but that it painted a picture so terrifying and realistic that I squirmed as I read it. I think Wither has a touch of that same terrific realism and, for that reason alone it's a successful book. I try to imagine what it would be like to reach the end your life at twenty and, frankly, I can't. It seems such a waste. Twenty is the cusp of adulthood. You're barely out of your teen years, hardly old enough to gain any wisdom or perspective on life. I also tried to imagine a world where nineteen is considered old and...well, that doesn't work either. Of course, longevity isn't the only thing that gives us perspective--experience can do that, too. Growing up knowing when you'll die and living in fear for your life (and your freedom) can't help but grow a person before their time. But when does a person really become aware? For a great deal of our childhood, our world is made up of Mom, Dad and maybe some brothers and sisters. The nuclear family. (Bear with me. I know this isn't always true, but it is for many.) When do we become aware of the world around us? As we age, our perspective expands. The teenage years are famously self-centric. Dying at twenty barely gives anyone a chance to move beyond. And, of course, everyone knows that boys remain immature long after girls. So their extra five years mean nothing. My point is that Wither was definitely thought-provoking. I'm still thinking of it, despite the fact that I reached the last page a couple of days ago. As the description tell us, Wither takes place in a future where genetic engineering has doomed the human race. Humans are dying out faster than they can procreate. The wealthy have addressed this problem by entering into polygamous marriages. Some men have as many as seven wives (one for each day of the week). The story begins with Rhine having been abducted and taken from her twin brother to become a bride. She's one of three brides chosen to replace her husband's dying first wife. Rhine wants nothing more than to escape, to find and reunite with her brother. It doesn't matter that she's lucky, as brides go. Her husband isn't cruel, he doesn't force himself on her, and he genuinely cares for Rhine. Materially, she has everything she could ever need: clothes, food and other luxuries. At no time does Rhine consider staying on, even when she earns the coveted position of first wife. A prison is a prison, even if the chains are made of velvet. Linden, Rhine's husband, is portrayed as a nice enough guy, but one who is firmly under the thumb of his father. That's certainly true. We learn that Linden believes whatever he is told and that he is easily susceptible to persuasion. To me, he came off as pathetic. And though I tried to remind myself that there was a time, historically speaking, when girls married at thirteen, I'm still disgusted by the fact that one of his wives was that young. I got the sense that Linden was supposed to be a victim (like Rhine and her sister wives were) but I couldn't feel it. I just thought he was stupid and naive. The sad thing is that I wasn't that fond of Gabriel, either. There wasn't anything wrong with him. I just didn't particularly feel that he was worthy of Rhine. I wanted him to be better, braver somehow. The writing and world-building in Wither were good. I was fascinated and horrified by it at the same time. The highlight of the novel is Rhine's complex relationships with her sister wives. It's a strange kind of intimacy that they share, being the three wives of one man. Cecily, the youngest, is still a child. Jenna, the oldest, is a realist who faces the future with indifference. It was the dynamic of this trio that kept me turning the pages. I'll definitely read the rest of the series, if for no other reason than to find out how the "dead at twenty" thing is resolved. Also, I'm kind of hoping that Rhine joins some kind of underground resistance movement and falls in love with the charismatic leader. Hey, a girl can dream. Fair warning, though: I don't actually think that's where things are headed. (less)
I both liked this book and was kind of bored by it. On the one hand, I'm always fascinated by Dystopian world-building. I like to see what elements comprise a Dystopia for the author, and I think it's interesting to see the trends that formulate. One of the fairly popular ones at the moment is teen pregnancy. Megan McCafferty featured it in Bumped, it's featured in Lauren DeStefano's Wither, and here, in Dark Parties, it also plays a sinister role. I don't feel knowledgeable enough to really address what it means that this is a trend we're seeing, but it is interesting. Especially in light of the fact that, at the moment, scientists are worried about overpopulation not under. So, I wonder why no one's written a Dystopian where having children is restricted to the few and the wealthy and pregnant teens face execution. Or something. In the case of Dark Parties, Neva lives in a protective bubble called the Protectosphere. Over the generations, the people in the Protectosphere have interbred so much that everyone pretty much looks the same, and the gene pool is at risk. The former struck me as particularly sinister given the German origins of the novel. I couldn't help but be reminded of the Holocaust and Hitler's plan for an Aryan race. I don't know if the comparison would have occurred to me if the author had been, say, Guatemalan, and there's no discussion in the book about any plans by the Protectosphere's creators to create a master race. Still, it was an impression I couldn't shake. As for the story itself, it sped and dragged, then dragged and sped. Large bits were devoted to Neva's boring job at her father's office or her agonies over the feelings she's developed for her best friend's boyfriend. On the other hand, I fully confess that their illicit romance was one of my favorite aspects of the novel. In short, my feelings for this book were all over the map. I liked Neva but I got impatient with how long it took for her to figure out what was going on with the disappearing girls. Unless maybe I should be worried at the immediate turn of my mind? Huh. I think my feelings about Dark Parties can be summed up in this way: it's an excellent beginning. However, I still have dozens of questions that I want answers to, and I'm burning with curiosity about life outside the Protectosphere and the future of those still living within it. There's lots to like here, but it's an unfinished painting with lots of blank faces and spaces. I look forward to other efforts by Sara Grant in the hope of filling some of these in. (less)
I think it was the hovercrafts, but something about this book reminded me of Back to the Future. You know that scene where Michael J. Fox zips around on the futuristic wheel-less skateboard? Don't get me wrong--I love Back to the Future. It's an awesome movie. I bring the subject up because the similarity basically sums up my experience reading this novel. A lot of the Dystopian stuff--and the future tech--felt a bit derivative. I kept seeing familiar Dystopian elements: the idea of being "matched" (Matched), the no-touching between the sexes rule (Delirium), and even the idea of the transmissions reminded me a bit of Momento Nora. Maybe I just need a break from Dystopians, but that was the element of the Possession--its biggest hook--that did the least for me. As usual, my favorite bits were the relationships. Mainly, Vi and Jag's. Ordinarily, I'd be skeptical about the speed with which Vi switches her affections, but with the brainwashing element I'm willing to accept it. I buy their mutual attraction for each other. What did bother me was the sheer number of times they separated, only to have big reunion scenes. I'm also a sucker for stories where the smallest touches are meaningful. The tension that fires up between Vi and Jag at the touch of a fingertip on the arm is an electric example. Overall, I'd say it took me about a third of the book to get into the story. I think this is because I didn't really identify with Vi. I couldn't read her motives or understand all her angst and desire for rebellion. As we learn more about her, and about what's brought her to the point of being arrested and basically cast out of her society. Once she started to connect with Jag, and work with him, I began to like her a little bit more. I was pleased to hear that Elana Johnson's going to be writing a companion novel but, ultimately, I confess to hoping for a bit more resolution for Vi and Jag. Please?(less)
I'll be honest: I haven't had a great deal of success with Maria V. Snyder. I've started both the Study and the Glass series without the compulsion to finish them. Yet, I grabbed Inside Out the moment it hit the shelves. I've got a well-established love of the first person point of view, and Snyder sure knows how to satisfy it. I invariably like her heroines, and I think it's in large part due to their internal dialog. Snyder's heroines are smart, feisty and independent. These three things describe Outside In's Trella to a T. Especially if you add "slow to forgive" to the descriptive pile. Speaking of Trella, she is at once an alluring and repulsive heroine. She's that girl that draws people to her because of her very aloofness. She'd be the kind of friend you'd be afraid to confide in because neediness scares her off. Though she interacts with others, Trella's a loner at heart. She's not interested in having people depend on her. Reluctance to get involved is both her greatest flaw and her biggest attraction. She excells at playing hard to get, because she doesn't even need to try. In part, Trella is reluctant to take part because she doesn't want to let people down. She'd rather do nothing than try and fail. Also, I never got the sense that--apart from Riley--she ever really liked anyone. I suspect that Trella will never do friendships. Even at the end of the book she remains closed off. Which is a good trait for a leader, I suppose, but rather lousy in a friend or romantic partner. Though Riley takes a stab at pointing all of this out to Trella--and I admit that he has some sort of success--it's an indelible aspect of her character. And I can't help it--that turns me off. Trella's loner-by-nature perspective also means that we don't get to know many of the other characters very well. Riley's not even in this one very much. We see Trella's possible birth mother, Lamont, and theirs is really the relationship that makes the most strides, and all of that is due to changes in Trella's perspective. If Outside In has a message, it's that community is important. So is working together. The book is also strong on the message that it's important not to blur the line between you and your enemy. I don't mean that you shouldn't interact with them--but that you should be clear that the things that make a group an enemy are their actions. If Mr. X is your enemy because he tortures you when he has the upper hand, how are you any better if you do the same to him when the positions are reversed? I can't, of course, write a review of a book and not mention the romance. I said that we see less of Riley in this book, but what we do see of him, I like. In Riley and Trella's relationship, he's the one that isn't afraid to admit his feelings. Usually (and stereotypically), it's the guy that holds back. Riley doesn't. His chemistry with Trella is believable and the shower scene--hot--especially for a Teen book. I felt for him, though, because it would be hard to love someone like Trella. She returns his feelings, but she's also completely dedicated to doing the right thing, even if it places her in danger. Which it does. A lot. Trella is hurt and hurt and hurt again in this book. I'm frankly surprised she made it to the end. I enjoyed getting to return to Inside once again, and to learn a bit more about their world. For me, one of the most fascinating aspects of Dystopian fiction is watching people try to restore order. In the first book, there's a revolution. In the second book, we get to see the Insiders dealing with the aftermath, and fighting a new enemy. I don't know if Snyder is going to right another installment in the series--I rather doubt it, given the ending--but I'd be thrilled to read a book that was about the trials of turning a Dystopia into a better world. Not necessarily a Utopia, but something better than before. (less)
I am but one among many this week (and likely throughout next month) who is reviewing Lauren Oliver's Delirium. I've decided, in the name of all those other reviews, that I'll keep mine short. Or try to. I think I might have a touch of long-windedness. Delirium is that sweetheart of 2011--the YA Dystopian/love story. In Oliver's Dystopian future, love is considered a disease--for which a cure has been discovered. Oliver paints a future that's bleak and terrifying--thereby making her book a successful Dystopian. It also has likable characters. The heroine, Lena, is a seething mass of emotions. Part of her believes in the cure and fantasizes about a time when all the anxieties of youth will be erased with the swipe of a scalpel. But there's also a part of her that notices that the cure makes mothers indifferent to the pain of their own children and husbands and wives ambivalent to each other. It's emotional neutering. Delirium provided lots of food for thought. All love is eradicated in Oliver's dystopia, mother love included. For me, this raised an age-old question: if a child is raised in an atmosphere of indifference--i.e., without love--can he or she learn to love without being taught? Because Lena's mother was incurable, Lena grew up with a mother who loved her. But what about all the other children raised in households of people whose emotions have been effectively removed from their psyches? This was an interesting psychological question that I hope the series explores in later books. The other thought I had about Delirium was that I wanted to know more about how people came to view love as the root of all evil. What happened? And since I just wrote a paragraph about it, where were all the mothers? I can't conceive of mothers, as a whole, submitting to a procedure that would rob them of their love for their children. Which suggests to me that something pretty catastrophic must have happened to bring about a future like the one Lena lives in. Perhaps we'll learn more about this in the next book. I sure hope so. As for the love story, I liked Lena and Alex's relationship. It's allowed to develop and it's given time to mature. If they weren't star-crossed lovers, they'd be boring. Lena and Alex are pulled to each other, but their relationship is refreshingly free of the soul mates/desperate love stuff that can sometimes induce eye-rolling. I also liked the way that history was reinterpreted--like Romeo and Juliet being turned into a cautionary tale. But I was confused as to why Alex was living in Portland. His motives weren't even really hinted at. I mean, I get why he came there. But why did he stay? Alex knows a lot of illicit stuff, but is he part of a resistance of some sort? If he knows how much the government has altered history to reflect the idea of love as a disease, why would he want to go to school at one of their colleges? Because there's no other option? My final thought about Delirium was that I'm glad that it's not a stand-alone. It reads okay as a beginning, but I think it leaves readers with too many questions. Of course, books in a series should have unanswered questions. It's one of their major draws. But, with Delirium , I found myself more confused that intrigued. Which suggests to me that Oliver ought to have filled in a few blanks before she wrapped up the first installment of the series. (less)