YES FINALLY THANK YOU! Ann Aguirre's world building has two things going for it: 1) It makes logical...moreOriginally posted at Small Review
YES FINALLY THANK YOU! Ann Aguirre's world building has two things going for it: 1) It makes logical sense, and 2) I can picture it perfectly. Reading Enclave was like watching a movie unfold before my eyes. Her world is immersive, it's scary, it's oppressive, it's bleak, and it actually makes sense!
They make sense, too! I can't say I exactly like Deuce or relate to her, but I do find her intriguing to read about. I loved seeing the world through her first person narration. Enclave's society is like a really screwed up psych experiment (a la Lord of the Flies) with a bunch of malnourished kids calling all the shots. I'm horrified, but I'm totally fascinated. 10000000 points to Ann Aguirre for making her characters and society develop in a way that is actually consistent with human psychology (something a few recent dystopian authors have failed to do).
The dystopian awakening
Deuce of course realizes her dystopian world isn't as full of win as she had originally thought. In YA dystopians this great epiphany usually comes from the insta-love guy or the quirky best friend. Not here! Yay! More points to Ann! Deuce doesn't really do a 180 in her thinking. She was always very logical, and so when she gets new information about her world, she logically adjusts her conclusions. Hey authors, see how much better that is than relying on the quirky throwaway best friend?
I was loving the romance during the first half of the book. It's a slow burn based on mutual admiration with not a speck of insta-love in sight. Fade is badass, mysterious, and he so nails the "sexy but innocuous touch." But then the author totally KILLED it in the second half! The stupid love triangle rears its head and Fade becomes a complete weenie. Seriously, he becomes that dog that pisses all over itself while rolling onto its back. What's up with THAT? As if that wasn't bad enough, the other guy in the triangle is an ugly scarred up sadistic RAPIST. He's vile in every way. ARE YOU KIDDING ME?? How in the world am I supposed to get on board with that?!
Heck yeah! Does the idea of post-apocalyptic badass zombie killing sound fun to you? Then you're going to LOVE it in Enclave. Deuce and Fade are both hunters and so they spend most of the book killing zombies (or, in this book, Freaks). The fight scenes were so awesome in that heart-pounding, makes-me-wish-I-could-hit-things-without-hurting-myself kind of way. THIS is what kept my eyes glued to the pages and is the reason I cannot wait for the sequel.
What? Oh, there's a plot? I'm sorry, I was so absorbed by the fight scenes that I forgot we're actually supposed to be doing something here. So, ok, the plot is actually pretty sparse and unfinished in this installment, but it does set up some interesting questions. If you're cool with that wandering type of plot like in Cormac McCarthy's The Road or Richard Matheson's I am Legend, then I think you'll be just fine with the plot of Enclave. It's even got a bit of a quest-y feel to it.
The fighting and near-constant peril make for a brisk pace that keeps the book from dragging. Short chapters help, too. I was sucked in from page one and couldn't put it down until I had finished (like, a day and a half later...ok, I had to sleep at some point). There were a few things I thought were flat out stupid and out of place (those little creatures, the "dream"), but they were minor and I kind of just ignore them.
Pretty much a cliffhanger. If I cared about a certain character who is left in peril with their fate unknown then I'd probably be ripping my hair out. As it is, I couldn't care less about that character, so I'm fine with the ending. Things leave off on a turning point, so it's a good place to stop, but this is very much only part one of a story (no story arcs are resolved). I'm totally on board for more zombie-killing action when Outpost is released in 2012.
I enjoyed the first book in the series (The Ghost and the Goth, review), so I was super excited when I found out the...moreOriginally posted at Small Review
I enjoyed the first book in the series (The Ghost and the Goth, review), so I was super excited when I found out there was going to be a sequel. The first book ends well as a standalone, but this second book relies enough on the events of the first that you shouldn't read the sequel until after you've read the first book.
The Ghost and the Goth tackled serious issues with a good dose of levity, and that same winning combination is here as well. Alona provides mean-girl snark but still manages to be completely lovable. Will is a lot more sure of himself now and seems to be in the process of taking control of his life again. Both characters grow a lot throughout this book and it is their growth that adds a depth to the series that isn't really hinted at on the covers. It was nice to fall back into the swing of things with this pair. They work so well together; I could happily read many more books featuring them.
...Which brings me to the biggest downside of Queen of the Dead: Alona and Will's relationship. The book opens with the two of them together, tentatively feeling out (literally, though maybe not so tentatively then) a romantic relationship. The first few chapters are absolutely perfect! Wow, who knew PG/PG-13 kissing could be so hot?? Even though they're together, they still maintain a love-hate relationship that sizzles.
The honeymoon ends far too quickly though, and instead of getting a book full of Alona-Will goodness, most of the time they don't even share page time. Huge, teasing disappointment.
Instead, Will spends a lot of time with Mina, a ghost-talker like Will. I understand why Will wants to spend time with Mina--she's a ghost-talker AND she has connections to his father, but, ugh, I so hated her. I bonded majorly with Alona over our shared dislike of Mina.
While Will is being a traitorous meanie (ok, so I'm biased), Alona spends her time getting into trouble. Alona is a strong personality and she can totally stand on her own without Will (can you tell how much I love Alona? She's a BFF character for sure), but boy does she know how to make a mess of things. These parts were fun because she just kept digger her hole deeper and deeper. I enjoyed her scenes a lot more than the Will/Mina scenes.
I should probably mention that the book alternates chapters between Will's perspective and Alona's perspective. Both voices are completely distinct and the dual narration does a really good job in allowing the reader to connect with the characters when they're talking and also see another side of them through each other's eyes. It also helps events move along at a nice pace and teases you to keep reading ahead.
The story itself is good, but I wanted a little more. The first book had more of a mystery than this one. Honestly though, this isn't a series that I read for the plot. I read it because I love the characters and the world of ghost-talkers. We do gain more insight into ghost-talkers in this book, but our understanding is still tantalizingly incomplete. We also learn that Will's dad had a whole lot of secrets that Will is only beginning to uncover.
I'm not sure how I feel about the resolution. It's, well, I can't really say anything without giving away spoilers, but I'm not sure I like it. I trust Stacey, though, so I'm holding out judgement on that until after I see how she handles it in book three.
This one is wrapped up pretty well, so I'm not sure what the blurb is talking about with a "killer cliffhanger." This isn't really a cliffhanger--killer or otherwise. I mean, there's definitely more to Will and Alona's story, but this main story arc is wrapped up just fine. That doesn't mean I'm not still impatiently awaiting the next book, because I so am! If you liked The Ghost and the Goth, then definitely check out Queen of the Dead.
I realized something about myself when reading Between the Sea and Sky: I totally stereotype mythological creatures. And I don't really like it when their books deviate too much from my preconceptions.
When it comes to mermaid books, I expect and want them to be light frothy fun with a sweet romance and an "easy read" plot. Luckily, Between the Sea and Sky perfectly fit my mermaid stereotypes and gave me exactly what I wanted.
Esmerine is my perfect mermaid. She's super sweet and a little naive. She has an almost childlike openness and I couldn't help but love her.
Will we be sleepover best friends? Eh, I don't think I got to know her well enough for that, but I would totally invite her to my book club (she's a reader! I love characters who love books.)
And, ok, we would also gush about her romance with Alan. Even though they met when they were kids, they hadn't seen each other for years and their reunion was kinda rocky. I could sympathize with the one-step-forward-two-steps-back progression of their relationship. No insta love or messy love triangles here!
Ugh, what a jerk. He had such a pole up his butt.
Wait! Don't run away yet! He's supposed to be jerky in the beginning, but I promise he gets a LOT better.
Still, even though he turns into a stand up guy, I spent a good part of the book thinking Esmerine could do SO much better that it was sort of hard to love him. I like him though and I think he and Esmerine make a cute couple. She'll mellow him out and I can see him doting on her and being all sweetly protective of her.
A message worthy of Disney
The big message here is following your heart, and every character struggles with the expectations of others versus their own desires. Can you really go wrong with such a heartwarming message? That kind of Disney-sweet message pretty much gets me every time, and Between the Sea and Sky was no exception.
I could also relate to the characters' feelings of not quite belonging. Many of the characters march to the beat of a different drummer, and I liked how Jaclyn Dolamore emphasized that it is okay to be different.
Cute, simple, sweet. It didn't blow my mind and I doubt I'll remember the details for very long, but I'd happily read it again sometime.
This is not an action-packed story, so don't expect a whole lot of plot depth or excitement. But there IS a good, simple plotline that works and sets a nice frame for the characters to move around in. The pacing is moderate and steady and the third-person narrative voice reminded me of a fairy tale (distant, but nice).
Good for YA/adult audiences looking for something in the lighter fairy tale vein, but probably appropriate for MG readers as well.
Ok, so here’s the thing: Desi? I didn’t like her all that much in Princess for Hire. She was ok, but her bratty “I’m going to impact the prince...moreRewind
Ok, so here’s the thing: Desi? I didn’t like her all that much in Princess for Hire. She was ok, but her bratty “I’m going to impact the princesses’ lives and consequences be damned!” kick was really starting to bug me. I mean, ok, maybe I’m an old fogey, but I just wanted her to buckle down and listen to her elders because it was only through the grace of author convenience that Desi managed to not only get away with her antics scott free, but she also had the exact desired consequence happen every time when these consequences were so not the likely result.
But, whatever, the story overall was great and the last time I fell this hard for a pink sparkly world was when I begged my parents for Barbie’s Dream House and the My Little Pony castle (I got the Dream House, but no dice on the castle. Freaking Santa. Choose one? What do you think the giant sack is for??)
The world it is a changin’
Ahem, where was I? Oh, right, the pink sparkly world. That world just got even more awesome in The Royal Treatment. I’m talking promotions, and ya know what that means? A gift basket of designer clothes, a royal suite bubble, and makeup that can turn you into Mary Poppins, for starters. How freaking cool is that? I mean, ok, Mary Poppins might seem like a super prim choice, but I would totally rock that carpet bag (do you have any idea how many books I could pack in that thing?)
But that agency has some secrets behind all that glitter and rouge and, you know, I’m totally dying to find out all about those secrets. Unlike Desi, I really don’t care about learning more so I can set right any wrongs. My desire is fueled purely by the urge to snoop and gossip. Have you ever read a gossip magazine and even though a part of you knows you should be doing something more worthwhile with your time, a louder part of you just wants to gush and gasp over celebrity scandals? That’s totally how I feel. Desi can handle the altruism. I just want to vicariously play with magic makeup and learn juicy secrets.
Ok, ok, I’m not totally shallow
Yeah, whatever, I kind of am, but Desi isn’t and her desire to do good deeds was admirable. In the first book I liked her idea of helping the royals, but I really didn’t love her approach. But now? She’s so much better. I would totally let her sit at my lunch table now. She’s still all about the impacting, which, really, it’s a pretty honorable goal, but she’s finally learned to consider the consequences of her actions. Hallelujah! There’s even this one part where she gets to experience a taste of her own medicine from book one. I admit, I may have been delighting in her frustration just a little bit. Ok, ok, I was practically gloating, but it looks like Desi’s learned her lessons now. I’m so proud of her.
Even more win
I can’t not mention Meredith. Meredith is Desi’s agent and she is made of win. She was so cool in the first book and her awesomeness just rose even higher in book two. I guess falling in love really can improve a person. I miss her power suits though. Plus, there was this totally epic snipe-fest between Meredith and a real witch of an agent, aptly named Lilith. Meredith lobbed some blows that would make the cafeteria cry “oooooh you just got owned!” Bottom line: Meredith = Awesome.
The romance kicked up a notch, but it’s still totally PG. Things are of the “Too perfect to be real” variety, but I’m not complaining. It’s cute and sweet and it makes me smile. Who needs reality? We also get to see a lot more of Desi’s regular life and I have to say, I was almost as enthralled with her school play as I was with her princess subbing.
Please let there be another book (soon!)
Like the first book, The Royal Treatment ends neatly. There are a few things left open to be explored in a sequel, but all of the main plot points have been resolved. You really should read Princess for Hire first because events from that book are referenced frequently enough here that it would spoil the first book for you.
I highly recommend this book, especially if you’re looking for something reminiscent of a Disney movie with a light and sweet tone and a cute message. Even though the story wrapped up nicely, I’m dying to read the next book (please, please let there be a next book!) because I want to dive back into the world of princess subbing.