Dystopian novels have been disappointing me left and right these days. I don't know why. I'm not that hard to please. Yeah, I...more Actual rating: 4.5 stars
Dystopian novels have been disappointing me left and right these days. I don't know why. I'm not that hard to please. Yeah, I see your eyes rolling at that. *grin* But seriously, give me likable characters, solid world building and a good conspiracy theory and I'm good to go. Well, I guess there are only so many ways to tell the story of a deranged society killing off its children for the greater good. So, I went into What's Left of Me with, how do I say this? Er... low expectations. And wow. I was not expecting to love this book, but wow. I absolutely LOVED it! I mean, geez. Where do I even begin? Should I start at the premise? How about the realistic characters? Or maybe I should just make this entire review into a fangirl's shrine of amazing prose? This book is all of those things and more.
Let me start with that gorgeous cover for a minute. I have a confession, which is more or less public information: I'm a cover whore. There. I totes said it. Yes, yes. I know the drill, "BOO, YOU WHORE!" It's just that I get a peek of a beautiful cover and my eyes gloss over with desire. I know I should heed the advice and not judge the book based on the cover, but I can't help it. I'm a judgy little judger. Usually, this just sets me up for a supreme let down when I actually get a chance to read the book. But occasionally, I find those diamond in the roughs like What's Left of Me, where not only does the cover scream, "Pick me up, dammit, and read me!" but the story fully captivates me. That is the bread and the apple butter, my friends.
And not only does the cover look stunning, but it truly captures Eva and Addie. Eva, the recessive soul that should have disappeared according to her society, was born and marked for death. And Addie, the dominate soul, destined to forget her best friend and other half. But they share a secret. They are hybrids, a title coined to those with recessive souls that refused to just fade away. To the government they are deemed a threat to society and therefore must be locked up, contained, fixed or be killed.
The best part of What's Left of Me was the relationship between Addie and Eva. I have to sit and applaud Zhang's skill at crafting two very different characters, who share the same body, yet they struggle to portray just one person to everyone else. Against her better judgement, Addie agrees to practice letting Eva take control of their body. She knows what this could mean for them if they are caught and discovered. However, she also knows how much it means to Eva to not just be the soul everyone else thinks is gone. Eva wants to be real. So they take the risk and their worst fears are, unfortunately, realized.
We'd been born with our souls' fingers interlocked. What if we'd never let go?
The bond and love these two sister had for one another was phenomenal and, at times, tear jerking. Though, I should say I did not cry during this novel. But I will say it was deeply emotional when the sisters internally struggled to fulfill both souls' needs without depriving the other. Of course, this was nearly impossible. Eva is the recessive soul and as such is used to literally taking the backseat to whatever Addie needs or wants. At times that frustrated me to no end because I could just feel Eva ready to burst free and be her own person, but Addie would take those moments away from her.
I was caged in our body and caged in his arms and, somehow, the former was the real prison.
And while I remained angry at Addie for her selfishness, Eva not once blamed her sister for the way she felt. That is not to say they always got along. There were quite a few times they stopped talking to each other in the novel, but I just loved how they made up. Side note: Can you imagine having a fight with your sibling in your head? I mean, if my sister and I shared one body... let's just say it'd be WW3 up in there. There'd be major ass kicking. Bet on it. Probably something along the lines of this:
Not only did Zhang have to keep track of Addie and Eva's characters, but she created two characters in one body in several different instances. Now, I know from reading that sentence, that may A) not make a lot of sense or B) not sound very difficult. But it fascinated me how Zhang pulled it off. There were times where Addie and Eva would be talking with a character only for him/her to switch mid-conversation to their other soul. So you have two different mannerisms, facial expressions, tone, ect. for this one person and you have Addie and Eva able to not only tell the difference between the two, but to also convince the reader of the switch. And I'll even take it a step further to say that after a certain point I could tell which soul was who before Addie and Eva confirmed it for me. I think this is a testament to just how well these characters were crafted.
And that is where the pacing and plot come into play. At first I thought the book was moving too fast in the beginning because I was getting introduced to a bunch of new characters and STUFF was happening very quickly, but I think it works well that way. Looking back, What's Left of Me doesn't really have much downtime because something is always happening, but at the same time it doesn't read like a thriller either because it's not exactly action packed. Oxymoron? Why, yes. But it was riveting and I felt I NEEDED to figure out the mystery to why the hybrids were treated so badly. Interestingly, I would usually take this time to point out and complain about world building flaws. There is very little mention of the outside world and how they deal with hybrids. BUT, and you're going to have to trust me on this, it works in this instance. The reader is intentionally kept in the dark until a few plot twists are revealed. Even after completing the novel, I feel like there is so much more to come.
So, yeah, I rambled there a bit, but this novel was so fascinating and awesome. After all that I just have one last thing to say: More now, please.
ARC was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss. Thank you!
Dystopian novels disappoint me the most out of any other sub-genre.Arclight has to be one of my most anticipated books of 2013 and I was not disappoin...moreDystopian novels disappoint me the most out of any other sub-genre. Arclight has to be one of my most anticipated books of 2013 and I was not disappointed. Despite the fairly predictable plot twist, Arclight does offer strong writing and imaginative creatures: The Fade. Which basically means this review will be a lovefest of all things Fade.
The strongest point in Arclight is without a doubt Josin's writing style and her beautiful descriptions. Every scene was so visual in my head and this was so important because by only reading the blurb, it's hard to understand what the book is really about. The world is so different and it's covered in darkness. Josin slowly reveals to the reader how things came about while still maintaining some sort of ambiguity. I really think that is where a lot of dystopian novels fail to grab me. Some don't seem to let the reader know anything about their world. It's just usually a "My world is terrible, people die. Deal with it." kind of thing. But not in Arclight. The reader finds out more as Marina does and that part was not predictable.
You may have heard that there is a love triangle and that is true, but it's not a bad one. There are two guys who are vying for Marina's affection, Tobin who I wasn't really sold on and the other is... "Honey Bunches". That is what I will call him because he was filled to the brim with sweetness! Both guys do have their faults. Tobin carries a chip about on his shoulder and blames Marina for something that happened in the past. And on the other hand, "Honey Bunches" is the jealous type, but I honestly can't blame him for his anger (you'll have to read the book to see what I mean).
And then you have the Fade themselves which was nothing short of brilliant. I absolutely love them and it's what really sold me on this novel. They are so different and fascinating. I especially love the way they communicated and their ability to say so little, but their words packed so much punch. It was the way they viewed the world and each other and the way their names transcended human language that made me truly believe Josin did an AMAZING job developing them. And OMGosh, I just want to tell everyone about my favorite part, but spoilers! I will say it was right before the ending when secrets are being revealed and Marina has this moment of clarity. She looks at "Honey Bunches" and ahhhhh!!! My feels and that scene made sweet, sweet lovin'.
Now that isn't to say that Arclight was perfect. It's one of those books that dives into the whole "I'm the new girl in this strange world and I don't know who I am". I really love those books for the mystery and for finding out the story behind the main character's memory loss. The problem is when you already see it coming and that anticipation that should have been building for a good period of the novel is all for nothing. However, even though this was Arclight's biggest problem, it didn't really bother me that much and gave me similar feelings to how I felt about the plot twist in Cinder. By the time the Big Reveal came around, I was already so invested in the story and the characters.
But strangely, there was a good that came out of the predictability. I was very surprised about all the characters' reactions to the twist, especially Marina's. She chooses one guy over another and I did not approve. All throughout the novel, and particularly the second half, I was shipping Marina and Honey Bunches hard. Like, there was no doubt in my mind that Marina would end up with the guy I was rooting for. And yet, she didn't and I was so unhappy. I felt all my feels melting faster than the Wicked Witch of the West. Thankfully, I did discover the other day that there is a sequel, Meridian, and I honestly couldn't be happier because knowing this completely changes my original thoughts on the ending. All is not lost and dammit, THIS SHIP SHALL SAIL ON. *pumps fist* Plus, I need to read more about the Fade. Overall, I *really* enjoyed this book and I can't wait to find out more about the characters.
Wow. I loved this book. I was so impressed by all the research that was clearly done and the way everything lined up for the ending. My goodness, THAT...moreWow. I loved this book. I was so impressed by all the research that was clearly done and the way everything lined up for the ending. My goodness, THAT ENDING. Starglass feels like very old school sci-fi for the younger generation and I couldn’t find any plot holes in my reading. The only reason why I didn’t give it 5 stars is because the beginning is pretty slow and could possibly turn off less patient readers. It worked for me because I fell in love with North’s prose. But once the climax hits, the plot went nuts. I would highly recommend this to fans of Beth Revis’ Across the Universe series.(less)
Sometimes when I hear of professional critics or other authors looking down on the YA genre, I can't help but to shake my head...moreActual rating: 4.5 stars
Sometimes when I hear of professional critics or other authors looking down on the YA genre, I can't help but to shake my head and pity them. "The Young Adult genre is for kids!" they cry. "There's no depth!" they exclaim. And then I read a book like Fault Line and it's clear that those people have no idea what they're talking about. What other genre is able to connect so deeply with people of all ages? What other genre can push the limits as much as YA does and have us re-evaluate the way we see the world through the eyes our childhood we may have long moved past?
Fault Line is not an easy book to read. It's raw, gritty and dark, but it's important. It doesn't tell a new story or one we're unfamiliar with. It highlights a situation in a way that really forces the reader to address the effects of how our society has dealt with rape and how it continues to shape how we view the victim. For me, Fault Line really resonated and made me cry. This will be a book that lingers.
Ben meets Ani and is immediately smitten with her. Her blunt and straightforward personality is not something he's used to and causes him to keep on his toes. Much of the book's first half focuses on their romance and relationship. Their first date, awkward feelings, first kiss. It's sweet the way they fall for each other. You can tell they both care for each other deeply and it eventually develops into love. They're just normal teens, doing what normal teens do.
Unfortunately, all of this unravels after Ani attends a party Ben decides not to go to and the consequences of that night changes everyone. At the party, Ani is gang raped by a group of guys and left passed out with no recollection of the event of the night. In the aftermath, she is left broken, a former shell of the girl she used to be, unable to move past the traumatic experience.
Ben and Kate, the friend who was with her at the party, are guilt-ridden as they are plagued with the what-ifs and could-have-beens. Ben blames himself for not attending the party with Ani. Kate blames herself for not keeping a better eye on her best friend. And Ani. Ani blames herself and everyone, and in the process, losses her self-worth and identity.
This book was so incredibly written. Sure Fault Line could have been written from Ani's perspective, but it would have lost Ben's obsession with fixing Ani, his horror of seeing is girlfriend self-destruct and the domino effect it had on his own life and family relationships. His narration is not always comfortable as he says things or does things that he doesn't mean. However, it was so realistic because he's just a kid, trying desperately to protect and help heal Ani.
Ani and Ben's character development is not going to work for everyone. There's no doubt that her and Ben's life spirals out of control. Ani, who was once the talented artist and jewelry creator, barely smiles and suffers from Rape Trauma Syndrome. Ben, who has the promising future as swimmer and a potential scholarship, can no longer muster up the motivation to get in a pool and becomes obsessed. These characters do develop, just in the most heartbreaking way possible.
It's going to confuse some readers and anger others. But it's also going to raise important questions on victim-blaming, a central theme of the novel. Who is to blame for Ani's attack? Is it Ben for not going to the party? Kate for not protecting her friend when she thought something was wrong? Or is Ani the one to blame for consuming alcohol? For making out with guys, table dancing, announcing to the crowd she would hook-up with the guys? Did all those things make her rapable?
These questions don't surprise me and they do show up in one form of another from Ben, Ani herself and the student body. But they are only a distraction from the real issue, because victim-blaming serves only one purpose: it takes the blame away from the one person who deserves it the most, the rapist.
"I heard one of them say something to his friend like 'We're gonna love this ride' when he was going upstairs with her."
This is, unfortunately, how our society works. All one has to do is look at the most recent rape cases in the media. Just think about what happened with the Steubenville, Ohio rape case. The victim-blaming was astounding. "Oh, she was drunk. She doesn't even remember, how does she know she was raped. She was asking for it. She agreed to it." Ani's situation isn't so different.
I think about this book and then I think about all the other women out there whose story I don't know or hadn't heard because she was too afraid or chose not to speak up or the attack was covered up. As a community and society, we generally suck when it comes to crimes against women and seeking justice for victims.
"Although the police are investigating the party, chances are, they won't pursue it."
Instead, we reason it away: Maybe she was confused. She was drunk. She probably wanted it.
"Could've been roofies, though. I've seen chicks act like that when they're buzzing on Special K. There was a bunch of E going around at the party too."
"Ani, it's still considered rape if you weren't fully conscious. You didn't really make those decisions. You have to be sober to consent."
And make excuses: Maybe she had a history of doing what she did? Maybe she was just "one of those girls."
"I'm not really a jump-in-the-sack-after-the-first-month kind of girl."
Blame other parties: Maybe it's just how she was raised. Probably a broken family or the parents weren't involved in her life.
"When you asked me to have sex with you, I thought I should get her opinion on the whole thing. I knew I wanted to, but we'd only been going out for like a month and sometimes my judgement gets a little skewed by your sexy baldness."
"I figured my mom might help me see through all the hormone drama so I could look at things rationally."
Sympathize with the rapist: But the guys who were with her were equally drunk! They didn't know what they were doing because they were wasted, too.
"Yeah, a couple of guys came down talking about the show. They were the ones who called her the hot little Manhole."
(Interesting how they were sober enough to remember it, tell their friends and brag.)
But again, why do those things even matter? How are saying any of these things better than Todd Akin's "Legitimate Rape" comment? It isn't. But this is how things are. This is how society deals with rape cases in the media. We feel like we just don't know enough to call it rape. And while we sit around in our comfortable, familiar skins debating an incident we were miles and worlds away from, victims and their families suffer. This is the reality.
But Fault Line is not a grandiose mystery novel where the main character sets out to discover the truth of that night. Its focus is on how Ben and Ani cope in the aftermath of her attack. It's about a victim struggling to reclaim her herself. It's about feeling powerless with helping the person you love, watching how one situation ruins a person to the point where they aren't the same anymore and might never be again. What do you do? Run away? Tell someone the secret that's not yours to tell? Stand by that person when it seems they don't even want you around anymore? There are no easy answers.
I should warn readers that this book does not have a happy ending. In fact, some will find it very unsatisfying because of its openness. However, I found it very realistic. The road to Ani's recovery would most likely be hard and long and the novel ends with her at her worst. I'd like to think she eventually gets better, but that doesn't always happen in situations like this.
If I have one negative thing to say, it's on the prologue. It didn't think it was necessary and detracted from the final scene in the novel. (view spoiler)[I know some have complained that the lighter was added for shock value, but I didn't feel that. Foreign objects used in gang rape is, unfortunately, not uncommon. (hide spoiler)]
This is going to be The Book That Divides. Personal views and experiences are bound to play a factor in how each reader receives Fault Line. Some people are going to love Ani, while others will hate her. Some may question the incident, while others will strongly connect with it. Some are going to question Ben's actions, while others applaud. Either way, Desir has us talking and with a topic that is so very misunderstood, that's never a bad thing.
Highly recommended for older teens and joint reading for younger teens with their parents.
ARC was received via Edelweiss from the publisher. Thank you!
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Whenever I look at What's Left of Me and Once We Were's covers, I can't help but to think that the cover artist truly gets this series and how clever...more Whenever I look at What's Left of Me and Once We Were's covers, I can't help but to think that the cover artist truly gets this series and how clever he/she is. This always gets me excited because I love seeing the cover actually mean something to the book. As much as I love pretty dresses, it's the depth and complexity that I really crave. It's the kind of cover that you don't quite understand just by looking at it, but as you start reading, pieces of the puzzle fall into place. If What's Left of Me's cover shows Eve, the recessive soul, struggling to find her voice and strength, then Once We Were depicts two souls (the outlines of the face), two distinct personalities, searching for their own identities. But how independent can you be from someone who you share a body with? Someone who has a different set of hopes, dreams and goals? And what if you were the recessive, finally in charge of some of the bigger decisions? How do you cope with the newfound responsibility? And what if you screw up?
"Maybe I really had been meant to fade away."
In Once We Were Addie and Eva are presented with something they'd never thought were possible: the ability to "go under", where one soul would purposefully fall into an unconscious slumber to allow the other privacy. This works out well for relationship purposes, allowing Eva and Ryan some much needed alone time (because, yikes!, talk about awkward when you're trying to make-out with your boyfriend), but it also allowed something Addie and Eva never really encountered before, keeping secrets. And unfortunately, those very secrets continued to push them further and further away from each other.
And unlike in What's Left of Me, I found myself growing increasingly more frustrated with Eva as she and Addie continued to go in different directions. Their chemistry, bond and fierce determination for one another was what made it easy to connect with their story. But this time around Eva, who now gets a taste of freedom, becomes very wrapped up in the plans for a revolution that she forgets to pay attention to Addie. It's interesting how the two have switched roles in that regard and how it's Addie who begins to take more of a backseat. It's also interesting how different they really are and how little I realized this in book one.
“But the thing is, sharing hands doesn't mean sharing goals. Sharing eyes doesn't mean sharing visions. And sharing a heart doesn't mean sharing the things we love.”
I'll admit, it was difficult for me to connect with Eva due to the decisions she made and risks she took. However, Once We Were was Eva's time to find out who she is, and in that search, mistakes were to be expected. My biggest issue was the fact that she continued putting not only herself and her sister in danger, but the people who rescued her and her friends as well.
As soon as an opportunity arrived for Eva to be apart of something big where she could help change the system, she stopped thinking things through, started keep secrets, lying to those who cared about her, agreeing to compromising situations that put her sister at risk. At times, I started having conversations in my mind with Eva, going all Uncle Ben on her: "With great power, comes great responsibility." Yada, yada, yada. But I had to keep reminding myself that this is a character who isn't used to making such HUGE decisions. The redeeming factor is that she does recognize how terribly she's been to her sister and to others. She does try and fix her mistake at great sacrifice to her own person. So, Eva is far from being a terrible character, but Once We Were does show her flaws more, and sometimes at a more frustrating degree.
As expected, Kat Zhang's writing is beautiful, fluid and mesmerizing. It was one of the things that caused me to fall in love with What's Left of Me and I was so happy to see that continue here. This time around we were also treated to some sections of prose that's written in verse to show the passage of time when Eva "goes under." During that time the verses had a whimsical quality, that made me think of
in a pool
hot summer day
relaxing in the sun
Still, Once We Were didn't capture my attention the same way What's Left of Me did, and I did struggle a little to get hooked. Thankfully, the last third does pick up, but I was disappointed to have waited so long for it to do so.
What I was really curious for was more world building. I wanted to know how the rest of the world views hybrids, and since Eva and Addie's knowledge is limited, so is the reader's. This time around there we have a new character named Henri from central Africa who's able to give us a small glimpse at how the other nations few the Americas. However, their conversations are few and far between and I would have loved to know more about the other countries' views on hybrids. I'm hoping that'll be discussed more in book 3.
Final thought: Once We Were mainly focuses on Eva and Addie as individuals instead of just one person. They spend more time apart, losing the connection I had with them from What's Left of Me. But I do think this experience has really brought them closer and has set the stage for the final book in the series. With so many questions remaining unanswered, I'm eager to find out what happens next!
I had a very difficult time rating this book. One one hand, I did relatively enjoy it. But on the other hand, it had a few issues that stuck out like...more I had a very difficult time rating this book. One one hand, I did relatively enjoy it. But on the other hand, it had a few issues that stuck out like an angry throne for the entire duration of the novel. So what does that exactly equate to? A big ol' pot of "meh" for the most part, but not to the extent that I wouldn't recommend the book.
When I first heard about MILA 2.0, I was ridiculously excited to get my hands on it. The blurb sounded right up my alley and I expected a lot of action, fight scenes, technology, government conspiracies, etc. And this did happen, which is why I believe it will make a great TV show. BUT, and here's the kicker, it was the awkward romance - that's not really much of a romance - that bothered me the most, along with Mila's internal monologuing that mirrored Tris from Insurgent. *headdesk* Spoiler: That's not a good thing.
I do want to point out that writing style and plot were serviceable and enjoyable. Mila is introduced as a 16-year-old girl who has no clue she is an android. Instead she believes she is just moving to a new town with her mother after the loss of her father. After an accident that reveals Mila's truth, she and her mother find themselves on the run from bad guys. Unfortunately, they were later captured and Mila must come to terms with her android self in order for her and her mom to have any chance of survival. Doesn't that sound awesome? The chase scenes and fight sequences are where Driza truly shines in MILA 2.0. She took her time and gave a fair amount of anticipation and thrill for the reader. However, a novel can't rely on that alone. So even though I enjoyed this book overall, I have some big complaints.
I felt like the characterization could have really used some work. The only character that I slightly cared about was Mila and that's pushing it due to her borderline Mary-Sueness. This is not because they were bad characters, it's just that I didn't feel a connection to them. There isn't a lot of time spent with any one character besides the evil General Holland (and obviously, he wasn't exactly huggable) and another scientist named Lucas (BTW, what are gold-tipped eyelashes??). They all seemed very conveniently placed in the story to help Mila in some way, but in actuality, we know nothing about any of them. Mila's mom was a scientist. Hunter is a new boy at school. Lucas is a scientist that goes to MIT. General Holland is evil. Kaylee is a mean girl. They were nothing more than pawns on a chessboard. I mean, where is the depth? Why should I care about any of them just because Mila thinks about them? Furthermore, the relationships were very flimsy to me. There was no development between Mila and her mom. Or Mila and Hunter. Or Mila and Kaylee. They were just sort of thrown together and the reader is supposed to accept things for the way they are.
The Love Interest:
Okay, so this is weird for me because I think this is the first time where I actually would have liked there to have been more romance. Not because I wanted romance in the story, but because of the way Hunter's character was introduced and later left completely left out. The beginning is set up so that you believe there is going to be a heavy romantic storyline included between the new guy at school, Hunter, and Mila. Her best friend, Kaylee, also likes this Hunter guy and they end up fighting over him. Now this makes me angry for two reasons: 1. The introduction of the love interest turns a female character into a complete bitch and female stereotype. 2. Mila turns into a complete pushover and never really attempts to repair the relationship until it's too late. All that happens in maybe a week or so. The whole thing felt like such a setup.
So by the time Mila goes on the run, she has had a total of three encounters with Hunter (who we know nothing about), including an almost kiss. Yet, she thinks about this guy constantly throughout the entire novel. She thinks about his eyes, his hair, his "lopsided grin." I mean, the loyalty of their "relationship" made no logical sense to me. But I tried to give the novel the benefit of the doubt. I *think* Driza was trying to symbolize Hunter as a metaphor for a certain freedom Mila desired, to be a human with human feelings that didn't just mimic real emotions. The problem is that is his role seemed really random.
As I'm reading, I kept thinking that maybe he had a bigger role. Because why would Mila keep bringing him up over and over? I thought it was a bit of poorly used foreshadowing at first. But that wasn't the case here and it just ended up annoying me every time Mila mentioned him. Mila would be in the midst of an action scene and she'd randomly think of Hunter. I felt like I was being pushed to care about a character with no basis.
Based on the ending there does seem to be more romance in the second book, but again I don't feel one way or another about Hunter and I'm not sure why he likes Mila or would risk anything for her.
Predictable. It was about as subtle as a grenade in a bowl of oatmeal. But it does feel like Mila has had a bit of character growth, so I think I may enjoy book two more. And then there is the blurb:
...and a cliffhanger ending will leave them breathlessly awaiting the sequel.
There was no cliffhanger. None. I'm not sure why it's advertised as having one. That's not a bad thing, but I was expecting it and the book kinda just ended very anticlimactic. Maybe it's left out of the ARC?
All in all, even though I complained through most of this review about things that probably wouldn't bother the average reader, I do think MILA 2.0 will be a popular novel. The storyline is good and I do still plan on continuing the series because it feels like it has potential. I was tempted to rate this book 2.5 stars based on just my feelings of "meh" and disappointment, but that feels too low for it since it's not a bad book. So instead, I'll say it's an okay read for when you need a bit of action on a rainy day, but not an absolute must read.
ARC was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss. Thank you!
This is a difficult review to write. Most of the things I want to talk about (good and bad) involve giving away huge spoilers....moreActual rating: 2.5 stars
This is a difficult review to write. Most of the things I want to talk about (good and bad) involve giving away huge spoilers. Once has a pretty big plot twist early in the story - one that I'm almost ashamed to admit I didn't see coming - making it close to impossible for me to adequately express my thoughts. But I'm going to try really hard to give a nice little run down of the book without ruining it for you.
Once picks up a few months after the events in Eve and our protagonist finds herself miserable in Califi, missing both Caleb and Arden. In this installment Eve, despite her best efforts, ends up in the King's clutches in the Sand City. There she is reunited with Caleb and members of the trail, who is now a wanted man for murder of New American soldiers. However, this doesn't seem to deter Eve and Caleb from stealing moments away together. But little does she know that the King has other plans for her. Big plans.
As always, I'd like to start with the good. I was really looking forward to reading Once due to the crafty little cliffhanger at the end of Eve. I hate that nagging feeling of needing to know how things end because it bothers me over and over until I know. Thankfully, I got to find out my burning question of why the King wanted Eve so badly within the first 20% of the novel. Yay for me, but boo for you since you'll be reading a review where I attempt to skate around all the plot twists and revelations this book seemed to be chock-full of. One thing that I really liked about Once was the setting. The City of Sand is in essence a restored Las Vegas and I could definitely visualize the different locations. Carey succeeds at painting the mental image of the city and bringing it to life. I expected no less considering I did enjoy Carey's writing in Eve. I also felt myself warming up to Eve this time around too. That is partly due to her making a better attempt at helping the friends she left behind and showing more concern for others.
Unfortunately, I didn't quite enjoy this one as much as I did Eve, but I think that is mainly because I connected with the minor characters, who for the most part, are absent in Once. (I missed the dugout boys!) Instead we are introduced to a few newbies including the King, Beatrice (Eve's maid), and members of the trail. But most of the novel focuses on Eve and her constant struggle to break free from the hold the King has on her. And while I did start to warm up with her, after a while I found her actions to be a little too reckless (as they were in Eve) and I started feeling genuinely frustrated with both her and Caleb. It almost seemed like their decisions were intentionally poor just to move the plot in the direction Carey wanted it. For example, when Eve sneaks out the palace to meet Caleb, she's very concerned that he may get caught, but Caleb shrugs all concerns off. I understand that some teenagers feel invincible, but this felt like he didn't have any common sense. That surprised me because he seemed like a smarter character in Eve. He was much more cautious, but here I found him throwing all caution he used to have to the wind. By the end, he was practically flaunting a sign around his neck that read, "HERE I AM!"
Despite my bigger disappointments with this installment, I didn't hate it and did find myself enjoying the interesting relationship between Eve and the King. And c'mon, that ending! I felt like Carey and HarperCollins punk'd me when I went to turn the page and all I saw was: ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. Cruel, I tell you!
I'd recommend this book to fans of the first book, Eve. But if you disliked Eve, chances are Once will have little to offer you.
ARC was provided by HarperCollins via Edelweiss. Thank you!
Oh, geez this is awkward. I've just finished Destined and can't find a single thing to say about it because it's not very memo...more Actual rating: 1.5 stars
Oh, geez this is awkward. I've just finished Destined and can't find a single thing to say about it because it's not very memorable.
No wait. It's all coming back to me now. Mmmmmhmmmm. Let me get my glasses for this one.
Ah, that's better. And yes, there will be spoilers.
I'll be honest and admit that the Wings series has been of a guilty pleasure of mine. It's not the best written book I've ever read or the worst for that matter. But it had a level of entertainment that kept me around till the end. At least that's what I tell myself because as I dove into Destined I just couldn't help but think how incredibly boring it was. And that greatly disappointed me since I was just looking for a light, fluffy read. Instead I was left with a story cornier than a box of Kellogg's cereal.
So very, very corny.
So the plot is a simple one. We all knew based on the ending of Illusions that Yuki would eventually escape with Klea and go after Avalon. She also happens to have an entire army of trolls ready to bust the doors down. That leaves David, Laurel, Tamani and Chelsea to race to Avalon and warn everyone. Fantastic. It was a fine beginning with promise. Unfortunately, that promise died when we are introduced to the biggest cop out I've read in a long time. Jamison asks David to fight against the trolls using Excalibur. It was truly a Disney movie moment. I knew at that moment it could only go down hill from there.
"David, with the name of Kings," Jamison said formally,
"It's time to discover if you are the hero Laurel has always thought you to be. Will you join us in defending Avalon?"
It seemed that they were *thisclose* to breaking out in song and dance. Then David had his Sword in the Stone moment and was told nothing could hurt him while he wielded Excalibur. And I do mean nothing. If someone were to strike him with a sword, it would conveniently miss him. Or if someone were to shoot him with a gun, the bullets would just drop in front of him. Not even poisonous AIR could harm him.
David had no previous fighting experience, but all he had to do was swing the sword and trolls would just die on the spot. He went all deus ex machina throughout the entire book.
And that's when I lost all desire to finish the book.
Everything was was just too carefully placed and never felt organic to me. The Queen orders Jamison to stay out of the fight, but when she finds out he's disobeyed her she doesn't do anything. Jamison gets taken out during the battle early on and forced to rest, but when the gang goes up against Yuki, he appears out of nowhere ready to assist. Speaking of Yuki, she turned out to be the biggest disappointment of them all. She supposedly has the ability to kill other fairies or at least be really powerful. But she was pretty much useless.
Of course with any battle there are deaths. I feel the impact of a character death is at its greatest when I actually care about the character that's dying. Duh, right? Well, there are two characters who are killed that the reader is familiar with, but I never really felt any kind of sadness for them. Laurel and Tam cared deeply for them, but they weren't around enough in the previous books for me to grow an attachment to them. They were expendable characters.
Another reviewer noted that with everything that was going on, and there was a fair amount of action, it actually felt like nothing was happening. I've been pondering how that's possible and I believe it's because there didn't appear to be much anticipation or build up to any of the scenes. At least I didn't feel any. I just went through the motions of finishing the book to be able to say I completed the series. There was exactly one part where I felt a twinge of emotion and it's where Tamani thinks he sees Laurel die and goes off on his own to kill Klea or be killed by her. But before those feelings get a chance to develop, Laurel goes running after him. End scene. That left me so angry!
Then my biggest pet peeve about YA novels starts flying around left and right. The whole, "I can't live without you!" trope. I really hate when that's used because it gives off the appearance of teens ready to end their life over a boyfriend/girlfriend. They're in the midst of a battle for Avalon, saving other fae's lives, and they start wondering why they would bother if the other were to die. Ummm... because your friends and family are still in danger?!
Then we get to the ending where there is a deadly toxin seeping into the land and killing Tamani courtesy of Klea. It's up to Laurel to save not only Tamani, but all of Avalon. And she's all:
"She wasn't sure if it mattered if the toxin infected her. Was her life worth living without Tamani? Was the risk worth one last kiss? One final embrace?"
So, you're just going to forget about Avalon then?
"He had to be alive. She wasn't sure if she could live another moment if he wasn't with her. What did any of this matter if, in the end, she was too late to save Tamani?"
Whew, sorry about that. I started seeing red again.
The ending was your typical "... And they lived happily ever after" in true Disney fashion. In hindsight, there were casualties, but none that anyone cared about (I find it interesting that Tamani never went back to check on his niece after she lost her mother! O.o Laurel was more important, I guess.). The only thing that mattered is that Tamani got to be with his one true love forever and ever. The end. Lame.
So, I guess if you enjoyed the first three books, you'll probably enjoy this one to some extent. But for everyone else, I wouldn't go into this one expecting much. Overall it was a big ol' pile of MEH.
ARC was provided by the publisher via Edelweiss. Thank you!
EDIT: Okay, here's the thing, I feel the need to clarify a few things. This review is in no way, shape or form alluding to the fact that the author is...moreEDIT: Okay, here's the thing, I feel the need to clarify a few things. This review is in no way, shape or form alluding to the fact that the author is sexist. Are there characters in the novel that are depicted as sexist? Yes. Do I think the author is sexist and that he was trying to write a sexist book? No. Did the book come off as sexist to me? Yes.
This is just an interpretation of the novel and has nothing to do with the author's intention. Just so we're clear.
Actual rating: NO STARS
I can't believe I survived. Should I laugh? Cry?
Full disclosure: I went into this book with a suspicion that I might not enjoy it after my bookish twin panned it. But since I requested this book and was sent a paper ARC from the publisher, I thought I'd try to go in with an open mind and try it out.
That was probably not the best decision I've ever made in life.
It goes without saying that this review will be long, contain spoilers and quotes that might possibly make your eyes bleed. RUN WHILE YOU STILL CAN.
There are two reasons why I felt I NEEDED to have this book. (1) Just look at that cover! (2) The blurb made it sound like a fun summer read. On both of those counts I was mislead, but especially when it came to the blurb. If you think this book has romance, guess again. If you think it will keep you on the edge of your seat, guess again. If you expect this book to be coherent in any fashion, guess again!
What you will get with September Girls is an anti-climatic plot, slut shaming, gendered language, poorly represented feminism and sexism. Oh and penises. Isn't it everything you could have hoped and dreamed for in a mermaid novel?
Okay so the book follows this boy named Sam. His mother has just left him, his brother, Jeff, and his dad for some mysterious placed called Women's Land (more on that in a bit.) Sam's dad quits his job and they journey to this strange beach that is brimming with girls. Not just any girls. Highly sexualized, blond, perky breasted, toned-bottomed, tanned girls. And guess what? They all want Sam. Sam, who slut shames, starting from page 25 where he reminisces about groping a girl's breasts "through her deliberately slutty Alice in Wonderland costume." Sam, you can't feel a girl up and then slut shame her once you've gotten what you want, silly!
Then you have Jeff, who's only care in the world is having sex as much as possible over the summer. He doesn't particularly care who it's with as long as she is hot and preferably drunk. You know, the usual standards.
"Oh, who gives a fuck," Jeff said. "The point is they're hot and they're here. I hope they're already drunk when we get to the party. I hope they are ready for a piece of this." He groped his crotch obnoxiously.
Such an outstanding gentleman. Ladies, don't rush this stud all at once!
Sebastian was a really random character who didn't even have physical presence in the book, but I've decided I hated him slightly more than the others. You see, Sebastian was just full of dating advice for Sam. And when in doubt, Sam would always wonder what his good old buddy would say.
Oh, Sebastian, I'm such a boring character with absolutely no depth or personality and this hottie is talking to me. What should I say?
"Girls like to talk about themselves. If you can't think of anything to say, just ask some dumb question about nothing, and if you're lucky she'll go off and you won't have to say anything else for another ten minutes and she'll think you're a great listener."
He's like a Dr. Phil, I swear. He clearly understands the complexity of the female mind.
But... I think I might be falling for her even though we've only interacted a few times. I'm thinking about her all the time, but she seems smart and appears to be ignoring me. What now?! Should I go looking for her, find out where she lives, visit her at her work place until she relents?
"Wait, this is all over some girl? Don't be such a fucking vagina, dude! I mean, dude! You go to the beach for a month and you turn into a human tampon!"
What a guy! I just love it when someone uses the name of my genitals to insult someone! For those of you like me with small female minds, that roughly translated as:
Were any of the above quotes supposed think, "Oh hells yeah. These guys sound so authentic. This book is so--" Wait, let me see what the back of the ARC says. Oh yeah, "poetic and punchy, sarcastic and true," says Sara Shepard. Well, damn. Who am I to argue with that logic and quotes that were clearly "sarcastic and true." I suppose I'm just a sensitive little female with no humor bone in her body. In fact, I have no bones. I am made of tampons.
What I really don't understand is why Madison couldn't make any of his characters likable. Having your male characters degrade women with their words at any chance they get isn't authentic. It's insulting to both genders and a disservice to humanity.
There were times when September Girls attempted to actually tell a story. The only problem is that almost nothing ever happens. Oh, I lied. Sam does do things. Here is his routine:
-Wake up -Monologue -Walk around the beach -Monologue -Have women thrown at his feet -Monologue -Stare at a Girl's "heart-shaped ass." *raging boner* That slut. -Monologue -Come home -Skip monologue. The Price is Right is on. -Monologue -Jerk off -Ahhhh... sweet self-satisfaction! -Sleep
Oh shit, I hope not!
September Girls' biggest problem would have to be the amount of slut shaming and the overall deeming attitude toward women. (And if you are unfamiliar with what slut shaming is, here is a great article at The Book Lantern.) Jeff just looks at them as conquest, something to satisfy his pleasure. Sebastian can't be fucked to show any human decency. And Sam follows after the other two, except he takes it a step further when his brother starts hanging out more with a certain Girl named Kristle:
"He had clearly entangled himself in that dire pussy-web he'd warned me about on our first night here."
That's right, guys! Beware the female "pussy-web." It'll gettcha! What kills me about this is that it isn't assumed that his brother may like Kristle just because she's a person. Instead, they reason that if a guy falls for a girl it is strictly because of what she is offering sexually, therefore, objectifying her.
"And by the way, Kristle's a total slut, so I hope you haven't caught anything from her yet."
Tell us how you really feel, Sam.
"Okay, she's not a slut," I said testily. "Just a skank."
So glad we got that cleared up!
Not only do the men in this novel have a blatant disrespect for women and slut shame, but the Girls do as well. The one Girl who does this the most is one special ray of sunshine named DeeDee. Now, mostly DeeDee just talks a bunch of shit and makes about as much sense as a screen door on a submarine. She was also their resident Ho-olgist. She knew all about dem hos in the bible. Those are her favorite stories. Dem hos. See if you can keep up with the poetry she's spittin':
"I like the parts about hos, even if they always come to a bad end. Eat a fucking apple, you're a ho. Open a box, you're a ho. Some guy looks at you: turn to stone, ho. See you later, ho. It's always the same. The best one is Lilith--also a ho, but a different kind of ho. She went and got her own little thing going, and for that she gets to be an eternal demon queen, lucky her. No one likes a ho. Except when they do, which, obviously, is most of the time. Doesn't make a difference; she always gets hers eventually."
"Is that really in the Bible?"
"No. Some of it. Well, the ho with the apple at least."
"I never thought of her as a ho."
The ho... with the apple. I... HUH?
"God," DeeDee said, reaching for an ashtray and stubbing out her cigarette. I couldn't take my eyes off her. "Kristle can be so ridiculous. But who knows what I'd do without her. Total ho, by the way--not that I'm judging; I actually like hos myself. Maybe I am one--I barely know what counts anymore. Being blond certainly never helped anyone's case."
She's probably even got hos in different area codes. I wouldn't put it past her.
Poor Representation of Feminism:
And this is the part that really made me rage. So Sam's mom was a housewife from what I gather from the book. Now the thing is, when you are a parent or mate that stays home, it can be very easy to fall into the rut of *exclusively* taking care of everyone else and forgetting your needs too. Moreover, everyone else in the household might forget. That's why it's so important to find a hobby, get outside the house, do things for yourself for your own sanity and health. There is a scene where Sam and DeeDee are talking about housewives and how she feels being a housewife would be fun because they don't work and they are apparently "free." Sam has a monologue moment where he says "my mother spouted about something called the Feminine Mystique" and he considered it "pure shit."
Then he goes on to say this:
"If you were housewives you could just sit around all day with your feet in footbaths full of Epsom salts."
This is a common misconception of the role of a housewife and it's one of the most under-appreciated jobs a person can ever have. That passage is problematic and further perpetuates the stereotype of a housewife being lazy and doing nothing all day. I REALLY don't appreciate the attempted humor here when in the 1950s, suburban living had a very high rate of suicides among women. (Richard Yates highlighted this a bit in his novel Revolutionary Road. There was also a film adaptation where the DiCaprio/Winslet duo wrecked havoc on my feels yet again!) Managing the home and kids while being separated from society literally drove some women insane. Even in today's world, women who stay at home suffer more emotionally then their working counterparts.
Back in May of 2012, Gallup.com did a survey of over 60,000 US women between the ages of 18-64 and their results were depressing.
Stay-at-home moms also lag behind employed moms in terms of their daily positive emotions: They are less likely to say they smiled or laughed a lot, learned something interesting, and experienced enjoyment and happiness "yesterday." Additionally, they are less likely than employed moms to rate their lives highly enough to be considered "thriving." - Gallup.com
Mothers at home also can have feelings of worthlessness and lack of accomplishment. Many of what they do, volunteering in schools and taking care of the children, goes ignored in our society. I think it was in very poor taste for Madison to use this as joke fodder in his novel. Sam was only one step away from calling her a "bored housewife." At this point nothing should surprise you in this book when it is nothing BUT female stereotypes.
So his mom stayed home to take care of her family until one day she discovered FaceBook. First, she would post things on his FaceBook wall, but then she moved onto Farmville (which I hear is ridiculously addictive). He complains about her always being in the basement on the computer all day playing this game. And when she's not playing, she's always talking about it. But according to Sam, the real problem starts when she makes friends. Because his mother having a life is definitely a major problem! I guess he expected his mother to do his laundry and cook him dinner forever and ever!
"She got all interested in this weird crap that she wouldn't have been able to tell you about before. She's reading all this poetry; she has a Tumblr, although I avoided looking at it. She won't shut up about this thing called the SCUM Manifesto..."
Sounds to me like his mother developed a hobby and found a means to have other human interaction. And hey, that's a good thing!
In the Gallup study, stay-at-home moms found other ways to cope with depression by continuing education, blogging and joining the gym to have some social time with others. - CBS Atlantica
What I also dislike is the reason why she decided to leave her family. Madison had an opportunity to show feminism in a positive light, but he instead showed an extremist. Right after she reads SCUM Manifesto this happens:
"Then one day I'm getting ready for school and she knocks on my door with a bag packed and she tells me she's going to live at something called Women's Land, where no one ever has to talk to men."
Of course. Here is evil feminism breaking up a perfectly good family. I supposed this is just as good a time to reveal my master plan. Ladies, are you ready take over the world, moving all men underground only to be used for breeding, whist women rule the world? Muahahahahahaha!
The next section spoils the ending, so click only if you are burning with curiosity or rage. Either will do.
The Girls are all bound to this little beach by a curse placed on them by their father for... reasons. I didn't really understand why this was, but I think it had something to do with seeking revenge on their mother. BTW, their dad is the Endlessness and their mother is the Deepness. Don't ask me what that means. Anyway, it's really not important. What's important is this curse because it's the reason for why the Girls are so sexual. The book has sections where the Girls narrate and they describe this "knife" they have. This supposed "knife" is basically good looks. Perky breasts, perfect butt, blond, overall hotness. This is another stereotype I picked up on where women, who approach men instead of waiting for a guy or use their looks to gain things, are looked at as "predators."
But, of course, when the summer ends the Girls go into some weird lethargic state where their hair skin become dull and their faces sullen. No boys, no "knife." So basically this is how I pictured them:
The only way each one of them to break the curse is if they have sex with a virgin boy. And they can't even initiate the encounter. They have to wait for Sam to talk to them first. So let's recap here: Not only do the Girls not have a choice when it comes to breaking the curse (well, they kinda do: break it or die), but it must be done by a male penis swooping in to liberate them. Their sexuality is not their own. It is owned by men.
I mean, goddamn! I really think this book hit on almost every way to demean a women. That is quite a feat considering I never thought I'd read a book that offended me more than Fifty Shades of Grey. Congrats, September Girls! You get the new title of Worst Book I've Ever Read right up there next to Revealing Eden.
If it isn't obvious, this book is terrible and I could never recommend it with a good conscious. But what do I know? Both Kirkus and Publisher's Weekly thought it was brilliant and gave it glowing reviews. Clearly, this is the sign of the end of the world because here's the truth: Reading September Girls was like being swept away by the ocean and drowni--
ARC was received via publisher for an honest review. No monies or favors were exchanged, though, I guess that's pretty obvious.