This book sets out to be a sort of homage to old-school horror films. As an ideal, it is certainly appealing, but I don't think the book succeeds. ThaThis book sets out to be a sort of homage to old-school horror films. As an ideal, it is certainly appealing, but I don't think the book succeeds. That is probably due to the fact that it is nowhere near as well written and clever as, let's say, the movie Cabin in the Woods, to be taken as a serious homage, nor is it campy and self-aware enough to be a more tongue-in-cheek kind of tribute.
I can appreciate the originality that went into the construction and development of this book. The authors' creativity really shone throughout the entire reading experience. But originality can only take you so far when, in all honestly, everything about the book is just plain bad.
Is it intentionally bad precisely because it is meant to imitate old-school horror films that are, by today's standards, kind of cheesy? Maybe. It's certainly a possibility. Still, even if they are cheesy today, what we like about watching all of those monster/slasher films is that they are fun. And guess what this book isn't?
Overall, this is is a difficult book to get through. The narration is insufferable. Winnie's voice is grating, whiny, immature, pretentious and hateful. And there's no purpose to her rampant, dismissive condescension and contempt. This is not some complex narrator we have here. She's just really that poorly drawn. And the narrative style itself is irritating and almost impossible to take seriously, never mind enjoy. At first, the use of visual aids through the novel was an interesting gimmick, but it got old really fast and it disrupted the story.
Moreover, the books spends sooooooo long setting everything, building up the anticipation for some big climax, for some spectacular reveal and then... nothing. Not only was it anti-climactic, by the time the end rolled around, I was as bored as I had been since the beginning. And it wasn't worth it. Not the overly dragged set up, not the eternal passages about nothing at all.
Plus, not a single one of the characters was even remotely interesting. Same with the ominous promise of a monster, the cliche horror, the contrived romance. The whole idea behind this novel was either to horrify or to entertain. In my particular case, it failed on both fronts. ...more
If You Wrong Us was a surprisingly gripping, quick paced and entertaining novel that, while not entirely original and certainly not without flaws, hadIf You Wrong Us was a surprisingly gripping, quick paced and entertaining novel that, while not entirely original and certainly not without flaws, had some unexpectedly decent writing, a remarkable understanding of criminal law (over which I was excited, that being my favorite class last semester and all the material still fresh in my mind) and a lot of potential for a great YA psychological thriller. Unfortunately, the novel quickly unraveled during the second half, ultimately delivering very messy and underwhelming climax.
This is a very short novel that flies by and makes it very hard to tear your eyes away. The subject, the careful delivery and the approaching trainwreck makes for a highly entertaining read, which I certainly never expected. The dual narrative worked pretty well with the thrilling atmosphere of the novel, though I did struggle with differentiating Johnny and Becca's voice from one another. Each voice was infused with a certain degree of personality, in one of the cases it was obvious one of the POVs was entirely unreliable, but it didn't made much of a difference in the tone of each of this character's, which made it hard to keep track of who was telling what part of the story sometimes. Another two nameless POVs were added in there, one concerning a website for confessions which was initially intriguing, but ultimately contributed nothing to the story and tended to drag on, disturbing the flow of the action. There is an crucial plot twist concerning those two perspectives, but it was still not important enough to disrupt the nice rhythm Johnny and Becca had going on with the narration.
I understand unreliability was key to one of the POVs, but even facts were hard to follow with the characters, particularly when trying to understand the timeline. I originally liked the jumpiness of both narratives, mostly because they started their stories at different times in the chain of events, but soon enough it became hard to place the actions and events, especially because they didn't keep a straight timeline in their narration.
The tension was well handled in the story and it was consistent throughout the entire novel. I liked the way the characters presented themselves, and though a bit generic sometimes and not entirely deep, they were successful in conveying the type of personalities that worked well with the story and the atmosphere. I did struggle with trying to connect the methodical nature of one of the characters and the constant talks about the effort they've placed into planning this situation with the overall half-assed plan they ended up trying to make work. Much of the novel hinges on the unpredictability of the character's motivations and actions, and I can't honestly say that worked often in favor of the book. They sometimes felt like they came out of nowhere, other times inconsistent, and others were just a tiny bit predictable.
The biggest flaw in the novel, however, is the rushed ending. There was barely any built up for it, and worst of all, for the sake of the pace and a supposedly unexpected twist, several sub-plots were forgotten. Several things the characters said ended up amounting into nothing, some of their actions made no waves in the plot whatsoever, and that ended up hurting the impact of the novel and its credibility as a tightly woven and tense thriller. The abrupt nature of the climax made it underwhelming and it almost felt like not much thought had gone into it. Though it represents a great leap in character development, it doesn't feel that way. For a story that felt so convoluted throughout most of the pages, the ending was too simplistic and it ended up reveling just how underdeveloped and underwritten the story, the characters and the plot were.
This is one of those novels that are mindlessly entertaining, their strength lying on how easy and quick it is to read them. There's nothing profound or complex, not much in the way of stellar storytelling. It's just morbid fun. In terms of quality, this novel is pretty much a 2.5, to be honest, but the fast pace and strangely compelling story made it a surprisingly enjoyable reading experience....more
We'll Never Be Apart is a fairly standard psychological thriller that would've ranked safely close to the decent line had it not relied almos1.5 stars
We'll Never Be Apart is a fairly standard psychological thriller that would've ranked safely close to the decent line had it not relied almost entirely on a twist that has been over-abused by authors recently, especially this year. I can think of about 4 different books released in 2015 alone with the exact same premise, one that's certainly sensationalist and has its roots deep into overblown and far too often misinformed ideas about psychology, but that's entertaining nonetheless - except when one has been forced to read about it in just about every "edgy" new YA attempt at a psychological thriller.
Aside from the monumental suspension of disbelief needed to overlook all the holes in the plot and setting, this novel also requires extreme patience from the reader as everything is revealed in a very self-indulgent and frustratingly slow pace, all so that we can be left with little else besides a lukewarm feeling of detachment and indifference. This is not an exciting novel nor is it compelling in any way or form, either. For such a short novel, it dragged far too much, almost like it was embedding its nails on the ground to try and prevent the whole thing from moving on. The worst part is that it is not so much the slowness that bothered me, but the lack of reward for my patience. I can handle slow books, and in fact, most people would correctly argue that most of my favorite books are actually very slow paced. But there's a difference between slowly building a complex world or well-developed characters, and just being slow for the sake of delaying the "big reveal" over which the entire point of the novel depends. This book firmly positions itself in the latter category.
Moreover, there's very little substance to the novel, no depth whatsoever. A book that hinges entirely on a psychological theme desperately needs more than some Wikipedia article's worth of depth and profundity. I don't doubt the author has experience dealing with the topic of mental health, but she chose one of the most complex psychological problems for her story and then delivered little besides the hugely overblown and sensationalized aspects of the issue that the media has been promoting for years. That, mixed with a thin thread of a plot, deliberately shallow characterization and flimsy relationships based entirely on superficial conversations and generic character traits, made it really hard to take anything about this novel seriously. Twice in the novel, the main character laments the absence of her roommate and new friend, bemoaning how much she needs her and wishes she were there to help her through the current problems, and twice she's only capable of mentioning two small and generic topics over which they shared similarly small and generic conversations that we are supposed to believe led to a deep and emotional bond. Similarly, we are supposed to believe the bond between her and this new guy, particularly the lengths he's willing to go for her, because they claimed something clicked between them when in fact the whole thing was strained and forced.
The book is not original and it offers no rewards to readers already experienced in the genre - or anyone who has read one or two YA psychological thrillers, really. It is frustratingly predictable and it bothers me when authors pull a later-years M. Night Shyamalan and hope the audience will forgive the painfully slow and uneventful 90% of the work because of that one "twist" that takes place towards the end (which is the very same complaint I had with Twisted Fate). It's not clever and it is not enjoyable. It is simply lazy writing. In spite of all this, the author did a decent job with the atmosphere of the novel overall and writes well enough, so I'll round my rating up to two stars. Besides, the book can be enjoyable, but it depends entirely on how well you predict the twist. If you do it from the first line, like me, maybe it's better for you to move along. ...more
The Unquiet is an eerie and bold sci-fi/pseudo-dystopia that is a lot more concerned with introspection and the emotional impact of an invasi3.5 stars
The Unquiet is an eerie and bold sci-fi/pseudo-dystopia that is a lot more concerned with introspection and the emotional impact of an invasion and war than with the action, romance and fast-paced adventure that becomes the priority in YA novels about alternative universes and the training of soliders/assassins. This novel is surprisingly poignant and touching, told in a very haunting and sensitive way that resonated strongly with me. In all honesty, I don't think I've ever read a YA novel quite like this one within the sci-fi/dystopian genre and I don't think I ever will again.
Unlike any other book within the same genre, The Unquiet takes its time to develop, slowing the pace almost to a crawl in order to painstakingly detail the psychological and emotional weigh these characters must carry because of the mission they had been raised to fulfill that contrasts starkly with what they have seen with their own eyes. This novel is an examination of morality, loyalty and love, and how all of those can be twisted depending on the perspective one takes and how it can all change from a second to the other. It's fascinating to see in action the clever techniques Everett employed as an author to highlight just how important the repercussions rather than the actions were to her characters on a very emotional level. For example, it's common throughout the novel for scenes of death and violence to be brushed over, not even detailed in real time, but recalled by the character so that she could spend the narration going through the aftermath on such an event, so that we could witness the development the characters derived from such an action. I thought all this absolutely riveting.
That undeniably means that the novel is extremely slow, almost to the point of being boring. Personally, I was never bored, but that was because I was so hooked in the way this character saw the world and dealt in a very psychological level with her two different realities (what she had been taught and what she experienced). If you cannot connect with this kind of introspective storytelling, with this sensitive a story and these emotionally complex characters, then it is pretty likely you'll be bored out of your mind. This novel is not concerned with being entertaining and action-packed or even fun. This novel turns the whole YA dystopia/action/sci-fi theme and magnifies into it, focusing on the development of the characters, how they learn to cope, to live and understand the brutal reality they live in, how they handle becoming their own person with their own thoughts and ideas and morality when they have been trained to follow orders and not ask questions.
I was so intrigued by how we usually see our heroines and heroes doing brutal things for the sake of "the good side" and our minds brush over the fact that those things could be considered bad from a whole other perspective, something other heroes and heroines never seem to be bothered by. Here we have characters who struggle with the moral complications of everything they've been thought and everything they do. We witness how they battle with themselves, their own thoughts and try to find themselves amidst it all. We see how there can be a duality of good and bad in who you are and how that may not entirely define you. This novel never actually passed moral judgement over its characters and allow them to showcase their moral and emotional complexity, a very profound and sensitive touch that speaks greatly of Everett's skills as an author.
This is a very emotionally mature novel, especially within this genre in YA fiction. I certainly never expected it to be this way. Truth be told, I wasn't even aware that I had liked and enjoyed this novel so much until well after I had finished it. For most of my reading experience with this novel, I thought I was just mildly invested in it. It wasn't until the last few pages came around that I realized how much of an impact this melancholic novel had on me. This is not a happy novel nor a fun reading experience, and it's not interested in being either of those. A haunting experience, The Unquiet might just be one of the most original and touching novels I've read this year, one that took me entirely by surprise and still refuses to let me go. ...more
Sometimes, your instincts are right and your first impression is spot on. Sometimes, granting second chances only serves to reinforce what you alreadySometimes, your instincts are right and your first impression is spot on. Sometimes, granting second chances only serves to reinforce what you already knew from the start.
My relationship with Veronica Rossi extends for only two books and a short story, and it's already been rocky enough to demand an immediate and permanent separation. Apparently I'm in the minority when it comes to her stories, but I seriously don't see the appeal. My impression of her books has been pretty consistently reinforced by every story I've read by her: the promise of a wildly imaginative and original idea used to disguise what is, in reality, a generically (and barely) plotted and uninventive narrative full of generically appealing characters that ultimately leave barely an impression behind, fading away almost immediately upon reading the last line.
Riders is very different from Under the Never Sky, at least thematically. But my feelings for both can be succinctly summarized with "that's it?" Quite honestly, the only sort of impression this book made on me is how aggressively, violently male the novel was. I understand the need to make sure that your male character sounds like an actual male, which is something some authors struggle with when adopting a narrative told by their opposite sex, but there is certainly a level of too much that this book blew right past. It felt like being stuck for hours in a conversation with one of those guys who need to constantly remind you how much of a macho man they are. It was relentless, distracting, and very off-putting.
But aside from that intense (and abused) form of characterization, the book puts little to no effort in fleshing out any of the other characters in the novel. They are all given vague stereotypes (the charming Latino; the studious British boy; the angry African American) and then left to pointlessly roam around until they are needed. Their interactions never seemed authentic to me, and the immediate hatred that the narrator felt for the only black guy in the novel upon meeting him struck me as slightly racist.
The one girl in the novel is no different. She has no personality, no characterization. She's literally only there to sort of give whatever plot's in there some direction and to be the object of the main character's affection. It was almost painful to read about the main character's developing feelings for this girl, when really, there was nothing there. I was actually surprised when something did develop between them, because it was obviously forced by the will of the author and not because it flowed naturally from the characters. They had zero chemistry and barely given any time to get past their own names before they were falling for each other. I can put two water bottles next to each other and get more chemistry out of that than what I got from these two characters.
In fact, there was no emotional depth to anything in this novel. It was exceedingly hard to engage with any aspect of the story when the story itself failed to summon any shred of convincing emotion for whatever happened to the characters. It is also especially hard to care about anything at all when nothing actually happens. The story moves from point A to point B without much fanfare, without any interest in making the progression interesting or engaging. The pointless of the plot itself - first the road trip, then the hiding - made it really hard to stay focused on the story, because there really wasn't anything to hold my attention or to justify any interest in my part. If you, for some reason, really enjoy watching ridiculous displays of manliness and pathetic pissing contests among testosterone-overdosed teenage boys, then congratulations, you've found your new favorite book.
Towards the beginning, the narrative style of the novel really caught my attention. The main character tells the story as he is being interrogated, and that was a pretty awesome way to kick off a story, but shortly after that, the effect fizzled out and, once the flatness of the plot and characters became evident, the novel lost whatever little appeal it held for me.
As I read, it felt like the novel itself failed to summon any sort of excitement for what was happening, like it was perfectly aware that it was flat-lining and it couldn't have possible cared less. That makes me care even less, and for anyone keeping score, my caring levels were already pretty down in the negatives. And that's the worst part: I don't hate the book in the slightest. I just don't care for it at all. And if a book can't make me care for it, well, then that's a book that might as well had been left unread. ...more
This is the third book I've read this year with analogous style and premises, the other two being The Boy Meets Girl Massacre and Diary of a Haunting, both of which similarly employ the diary/journal device to tell the story of an unreliable girl's horrifying paranormal circumstances, and for the most part, I think The Dead House is marginally more successful than the previously mentioned because of the better quality of the writing and plotting. But while The Dead House provides with a much more satisfying and technically superior execution, it loses control of the story halfway into the novel and ends up being far too long-winded for its own good. By the time the climax rolls around, my excitement had dwindled considerably, almost to the point of exasperation and boredom.
All in all, The Dead House is a decent novel as far as YA horror goes. It provides a unique angle to the tired journal device by layering the storytelling with interviews, notes, video transcriptions, psychological and police reports and newspaper cut outs, effectively providing an interesting clinical and seemingly objective tone to the entire narrative and allowing the story to expand beyond the narrator for a more complex cluster-fuck of a read. The downside to all of this is that it becomes repetitive, and after the techniques lose their newness as the story goes on, they become fairly tedious to get through as well.
I understand and commend the author's intention in wanting to develop her main character's insanity/horrors and to give space to all these background information to settle and provide the reader with a dual perspective on the story that could easily go either into psychological or paranormal explanations, which, for the most part, worked pretty decently. But I think the novel is far longer than it needs to be and that worked against the quality of the story because it started to rely on the same devices, character interactions and actions over and over, turning the scenes that were supposed to be disturbing, unsettling and horrifying into crutches to move the story forward.
The Dead House does provide with fairly entertaining thrills and nicely-written scenes of terror and violence. But the in-betweens make the story drag and ruin the effect of some of the scenes, plus, it over-complicates what is a fairly simple story that doesn't want to settle in what exactly it wants to be, jumping far too much from psychological thriller to horror without as much cohesiveness and conciseness as it should've had. It's weird, but by the time I finished this novel, I felt like I had read about 4 book's worth of content.
And for a novel with so much time spent on seemingly meaningless character interactions, most of them ended up being little more than puppets as far as their complexity and definition went. We had vague descriptions of who they were physically, a handful of lines dedicated to their emotional and mental states, and so their actions throughout the story felt jerky, pulled only by the strings of the author's desire and needs. There isn't much reason why anyone in this novel do the things they do. We are supposed to just label them crazy, damaged, disturbed or simply slaves to their teenage desires and that's it. Two fairly important secondary characters, Naida and Ari, always appeared ridiculous to me, their characterization, motivations, actions and conversations far too outrageous and forced into the narrative of the story. The romance, likewise, felt strained, forced and underdeveloped.
For the first half, this book was actually very enjoyable and engaging, but as the story dragged, the pages went on and on and on with basically the exact same scenes and conversations, my feelings for the novel changed drastically. There are some really decent plot twits in there, but the novel is so single-mindedly focused on delivering twist after unexplained, underdeveloped twist that even that grows tired after a while. Moreover, some sub-plots were left hanging and no clear answer is given at the end for, well, anything at all.
The novel is okay, entertaining to a degree and surprisingly engaging. It's too much of a cluster-fuck, too needlessly convoluted and complex, and it drags too much, but still, a decent read, all in all. ...more
I don't think I've read a book this harrowing, a story that handles so perfectly and unflinchingly the topic of rape, consent and rape cultur4.5 stars
I don't think I've read a book this harrowing, a story that handles so perfectly and unflinchingly the topic of rape, consent and rape culture since All the Rage, and this one goes even deeper than Courtney Summers' brutal account of life after rape because What We Saw focuses on the hell that immediately follows this barbaric act on the victim, when she has to see her life transformed from one second to the next into an open book for all to see and judge. This book is the perfect representation of rape culture, which at this point, most people insist it doesn't exist.
This book is not an easy experience, not an enjoyable read in the slightest. It is brutal, honest and doesn't shy away from throwing at the reader the multiplicity of facets and repercussions that a rape has. A rape is never just a violation of the integrity and autonomy of one's body, is an assault on the mind and the heart, a vile thievery of anyone's dignity as a human being, and it stains everything about that person. I waited so many weeks after reading it to even think about writing a review because of how horrified this book left me. I read it only a few days after finishing a one-week course on feminist law theory focused on Race, Class and Gender where we read The Story of Jane Doe. If you think that what this book portrayed is nothing more than just exaggerated fiction, look up that book and read what that woman had to go through, how she was repeatedly victimized and dehumanized by the very government that's supposed to protect her and every other woman from going through this, how she was consistently blamed for her own brutal rape and how, in the end, nobody cares about these women as anything more than 5 minutes of scandalous media and how, even in today's supposedly advanced society, we still see the rape of women through a misogynistic, objectifying and thoroughly patriarchal gaze. In fact, go to YouTube and check out the comment sections on the music video about campus rape that Lady Gaga launched a couple of days ago. Read through those victim-blaming, sexist, insensible, vitriolic spiels of sub-human viciousness and tell me there is no such thing as rape culture.
What I loved the most about this book is how it chose to tell this story from an outsider's perspective, someone initially reluctant to be involved, to look deeper into things and be forced to come to the realization that the people she knew are not who they are, that things are rarely how most think they are, and most importantly, how the social politics in our society will inspire people to come together to systematically destroy a single woman when she dares to go against a man or a group of them to decry their abuse of her autonomy and dignity. What's more horrifying about this novel is how realistic it is, how damaging gender roles and internalized misogyny have already proven to be in cases like the Steubenville High School rape case and so many others where the victim's have been blamed, harassed and brutalized to the point where many of them had ended up in suicide. All because people refuse to look closer.
But this novel hardly remains focused on the rape culture behind actual rapes and actually goes out of its way to have the characters engage in dialogues and conversations that highlight the careless way with which we objectify and sexualize women, how we perpetuate oppressive and outdated notions about sexual behavior and how they are supposed to diverge according to sex and gender, and how women are conditioned into allowing men to feel entitled to their bodies and to feel vindicated when adopting damaging attitudes and behaviors. Moreover, the novel includes the lyrics of several wildly popular song and even discusses in painstaking detail a very popular movie and Broadway play that are mindlessly promoting the use and abuse of women as nothing beyond blow-up dolls and male entitlement over them.
Was it all a bit ham-handed sometimes? Truth be told, yes. But that matters very little when one considers the near flawless way in which this book delivers its intended message. It is a compelling and deeply engrossing read that lands blow after blow, brutal realization and brutal realization, with an accuracy and impact that will knock the breath out of you, even if you are aware of how realistically portrayed this rape case is in the novel, how seamlessly Hartzler has blended reality and fiction. This book is, in all likelihood, the most important book I've read this year, a book that needs to be read by everybody so that we can finally begin to move together towards a future where this is not allowed, where rape is treated with the same seriousness and severity as every other crime and the victim is never once brutalized by the public with more viciousness than the criminals themselves.
It. Is. Never. The. Victim's. Fault. NEVER. ...more
The Suffering is the perfect example of how much an author can grow and learn between books, how experience can be a wonderful teacher if the person iThe Suffering is the perfect example of how much an author can grow and learn between books, how experience can be a wonderful teacher if the person is willing to develop and work their craft. About a year ago, The Girl from the Well left me feeling disappointed. It showed promise and was a decent debut novel as a whole, but there was potential wasted and it ended up being a slightly underwhelming novel. So it was with no small amount of apprehension that I approached The Suffering. As it turns out, I had absolutely nothing to worry about.
With a more structured plot, more focused storytelling and meticulous writing, Chupeco fulfilled with the Suffering the promise her debut novel had, ultimately delivering with this one the great novel that The Girl from the Well should’ve been. Instead of shifting back and forth between multiple points of view, The Suffering concentrated on the narrative of Tarquin alone. Of course, reading from the perspective of Okiku sounds more appealing, but the flow of the story worked a lot better this time around by fixating only in Tarquin’s POV, and stranger still, Okiku was even more compelling a character through the eyes of Tarquin as well. The result reminded me of Anna Dressed in Blood to some extent, as they are both told from the perspective of a teenage boy with a mystifying connection to a girl ghost that enjoys tearing people apart – not to mention the inclusion of the infamous Aokigahara forest in Girl of Nightmares, which is the setting of most of the action in The Suffering as well – but that’s where the similarities end.
Tarquin is a decent narrator, perhaps not as compelling as Okiku was in the first novel (ignoring the slightly frustrating and repetitive bouts of fractured narration, which are successfully contained in this novel, resulting in a more satisfying use of that technique), but a very engaging and solid point of view nonetheless. He carries the weight of the novel well, and what’s interesting is that even he is aware that he’s hardly the most important or fascinating point in the novel, so a lot of attention is given to Okiku, their relationship and the horrors they are experiencing, as opposed to a more introspective look at his life and what he feels. There were certain points where he failed to come across as a believable teenage boy to me, but it was still a commendable effort on the author’s part, and in any case, fulfilled its intended point extremely well. His voice conveyed beautifully the confusing, disturbing but ultimately touching nature of Tarquin and Okiku’s relationship, which I loved to see developed in this novel. The writing, likewise, is fantastic, a bit repetitive a handful of times, but perfectly suited to the style of the novel.
The Suffering is legitimately creepy and a very well-executed YA horror novel as a whole. It was chilling and disturbing, and it delivered flawlessly the Japanese horror atmosphere while maintaining the due respect and loyalty to the culture. Unlike the first one, the introduction to Japanese culture didn’t take over the narrative and plot, and instead was worked seamlessly into the story. Chupeco never left the reader blind to what was happening and dealt important – and very fascinating – information about the customs and background that shaped the atmosphere of the novel without it ever feeling like info-dumps. Moreover, it was all so mesmerizing. I love Japanese culture and learning about these dark bits of history (real or inspired by reality, both) was immensely fascinating and riveting.
This novel kicks off strongly and it remained a thoroughly gripping read from beginning to end, never once relinquishing its complete hold on my attention or lagging in any way or form. The story is fast-paced and wildly entertaining, but never is the complexity of the novel sacrificed in exchange for breakneck speed and enjoyment. It dealt twists into the story that melded together almost perfectly, and I didn’t even mind the seemingly disjointed first third of the novel that deals with a situation in America rather than Japan, because it all fit together so well. Chupeco managed to keep the intensity of the story all the way through, keeping me focused and entertained even in the most passive of moments in the story. This is a book that I positively did not want to stop reading, and I can’t remember the last time that happened to me.
The entire half of the novel dedicated to the Aokigahara forest, the dolls, the Hell’s gate and the ritual was very near perfection to me. Chupeco didn’t hold back with the horror, death and disturbing brutality, and still, somehow she managed to intersect legitimately touching moments of love, friendship and bravery. The climax and ending of the novel were amazing. I had my doubts about it when I saw it coming, but the result was unexpectedly satisfying, very different from what other novels would’ve done, and provided for a perfect ending to this series, perpetuating the morally ambiguous and anti-hero air of the novel that set it apart from others in the genre from the very beginning.
In spite of the rocky start that was The Girl in the Well, I am very sad to see this series come to a close. The Suffering was a fantastic book in its own right, but it excels as a sequel because of the way it managed to take the good from its predecessor and deliver a superb continuation to the story that tops the original in every single way. Chupeco’s growth as an author is palpable all throughout this novel and firmly positions her within the group of authors I am keeping a very close eye on from now on. In all likelihood the best Japanese-inspired YA horror novel I’ve read, The Suffering is an excellent conclusion to a solid duology and one of my favorite novels of the year. ...more
Ruthless is the most stressful, disturbing, never-wracking and visceral experience I've had with any book in a while. I desperately wanted to keep reaRuthless is the most stressful, disturbing, never-wracking and visceral experience I've had with any book in a while. I desperately wanted to keep reading, but at the same time, I stayed away from it for hours at a time because of the powerful impact it had on me. Deeply engrossing, brutal and terrifyingly realistic, Ruthless is a fantastically written story of survival and, simultaneously, a short, fascinating study of both the good and the bad parts of human nature.
When I picked this up, I had no idea this story would be this intense, that it would leave me this stressed and tense and on edge. I expected the typical lukewarm YA thriller, the one with exaggerated and unrealistic odds but still manageable enough for a generic heroine to handle with almost superhuman abilities and unrealistic feats of human strength. Ruthless was nothing like that. In fact, the story actively worked against the main character. With every step and rounded corner, she was mercilessly ambushed by the story, brought down with terrifying brutality. That's what makes this novel so great, because it's all about Ruth as a character. Her tenacity, her strength, her spirit. Adams gave us a magnificent heroine, one that actually deserves to be called a heroine, one the kept fighting, kept struggling and never had anything handed to her by the grace of the story or the author.
What's particularly interesting about Ruth is that, in spite of being one of the strongest heroines I've read about in quite a while, she is nowhere near perfect. She is not unbreakable and definitely she doesn't breeze through this book and the horrible situation she's been placed in. She fights every step of the way with tooth and nails, she never gives up, but she is not left unaffected by this. Her psychological unraveling under the weight of the events that take place in the story is fascinating and extremely well-written. Adams managed to write a book where, the more vulnerable and raw the heroine is, the stronger and tougher she gets. Ruth was so riveting a character and a fascinating heroine to follow. She is flawed and so thoroughly human, she was one of the most compelling aspects of an already compelling story. She was a utterly believable young woman, a realistic heroine all the way through.
Half surviving being hunted, half wilderness survival, Ruthless takes place within the span of two or three days and never once loses it breakneck speed. This is a very graphic and disturbing read, one that doesn't shy away from the horrors of the situation, though it is toned down somewhat. One of my favorite things about the novel is how, using a dual narrative of flashbacks in between the narration of the actual story, it provided a fascinating overview of the two main characters in the novel, the way both of them bordered most of their lives between good and bad choices and how that shaped them into the persons they were today. It laid out the stage beautifully for the situation they found themselves in, the choices they made and the way they acted in it.
There were some religious undertones in the narrative that turned me off a tad from the narration and there was a rather careless use of the word slut at the beginning of the novel that, though I see its need in that moment, still left a sour taste in my mouth, but these are pretty much all the concrete complaints I have of the novel. This book is about human resilience and courage, and it did a fantastic job portraying the good parts of humanity while still allowing for the darkest, more sinister parts of it to show as well, and not only through the antagonist. I particularly loved the climax, the way it all comes down to a close and the impact it had on Ruth. I adored that the novel never tried to make an unrealistic leap from normal teenage girl to invincible avenger out of nowhere, that instead it allowed itself to take a more realistic and strangely powerful turn. I also loved that the novel made a point of showcasing how internalized misogyny can insidiously grow into something truly terrifying and how the careless way in which some people talk about women affects the way women are perceived and treated.
An engaging, well-written, fascinating and disturbing read, Ruthless was more than a pleasant surprise for me. This is a fantastic thriller and survival story, a deeply engrossing study of humanity and probably one of the best YA thrillers I've read in quite a while. ...more
What a waste of a perfectly good story. The first 50 pages or so are very engrossing, but then the mystery, the characters and the story itse2.5 stars
What a waste of a perfectly good story. The first 50 pages or so are very engrossing, but then the mystery, the characters and the story itself fall through the cracks that being overly ambitious left in this book. The book should've settled in just one of the two POVs. There was no need for both of them, and the shifting between the two hurt the suspense in the novel for no purpose whatsoever. I understand the allure of both characters for both of them were interesting enough to warrant attention to their stories, but by choosing both, neither got the development they needed. Emily remained a fairly static character that contributed nothing to the narrative and Damon's increasing psychological unrest felt manufactured and forced. Neither ever truthfully contributed to the tension in the novel with their unraveling psyches, and to force some blossoming attraction between them added nothing to the novel and was far too strained, even though it was barely developed in the story.
The novel loses momentum far too soon, decelerating abruptly and slowing down to a repetitive crawl. No effort whatsoever was made into hiding the actual culprits and secondary characters were brought back into existence and then quickly forgotten whenever it was necessary. Emily and Damon made for some pretty boring leads, even though they started the novel as the complete opposite. The rest of the characters aren't even worth mentioning for they left no impression whatsoever. The only semi-interesting character in the novel was the dead girl as she was presented through memories and flashbacks, but I hated the way in which she was characterized. The only remarkable character in the entire narrative and she was given barely any characterization at all, just enough to subtly demonized to the point that it felt like the story itself was saying, not only that she was partially responsible, but that she deserved what happened to her. And that's it for female characters. The other three female characters besides the MC are a backstabbing ex-best friend, a random Muslim girl (only character of color in the entire novel) that has one line in the entire novel, and the MC's drunk mother. Yay for female representation. Not that the male representation fares any better as they are all equally flat and uninspiring, but at least a bit more effort and numbers were given to them.
Deliberately short of details to prolong a predictable mystery, an overwritten story that still left characters vastly underdeveloped, and an emotionally bereft narrative make The Killing Woods a very underwhelming book that truly had the potential for so much more. ...more
I feel extremely conflicted about my feelings for this novel. To be honest, I didn't care much about it when I started reading and I was pretty certain the feeling would continue all throughout the novel, but somewhere along the way, I ended up caring and I was a lot more entertained than I care to admit. This novel grew on me in a very insidious and inexplicable way. While it is extremely obvious why a novel like this one should be very appealing, from the exhilarating games and the political intrigue to the strong and loyal heroine and this interesting new world, Court of Fives had several things working against it, least of which wasn't simple genre fatigue. So, while I may have expected to be entertained, I didn't expect to like this novel much.
What makes Court of Fives such a difficult novel to sort my feelings for is that it is simultaneously familiar and original. There were many elements to the story that felt like I have read them previously in a dozen different other novels, but there was a feeling to the book as a whole that made it feel unique, although nowhere near unique enough to distance it from the plethora of other novels that deal with similar ideas, characters and storylines. The biggest problem that Court of Fives faces is, like I said previously, genre fatigue. Yet another story about a different and strong heroine who lives in a fantasy/dystopic, racist and misogynistic society and whose life gets turned upside down by the evil powers that be, whom she must face and eventually defeat to protect her loved ones. Court of Fives took several turns along the way that I didn't expect and Elliott did make the concept her own, but that doesn't mean I wasn't constantly drawing parallels between this novel and every other that has burst into this particular scene for the last 5 years.
The writing in this novel is solid, though it was awkwardly repetitive sometimes, particularly during the start of the novel. While I appreciate that the author kept the info-dumps to a minimum, I was a bit lost when it came to the world-building for a considerably large part of the novel. I liked in general the idea behind this world, but there are parts of it that are still very unclear to me and others that seem outright inconsistent. The same goes for the games because, for a story that spends such a large amount of time describing these games and the participants' roles in them, there are some parts of it and their purpose that remains a mystery to me. I failed to see the big deal about this game and the skill required to be a champion in them. It's basically a Ninja Warrior obstacle course that 4 people run at the exact same time. Essentially, the background of this story felt like it had been hastily painted in big, bold strokes, with just enough effort so the world sounds different and interesting, but full of blank spaces and details that were supposed to be covered by the fast pace and high stakes of the central story.
The story is very engaging, but that's mostly due to how easy to like are Jessamy as a heroine and her need to save her family, a quest that drives the latter half of the novel. However, for most of the novel, there's no clear plot or direction in the story. Jessamy is just driven from point to point because of circumstances outside of her control and she just sort of rolls with it. That is not to say that it is not interesting to read about, but since the actual story doesn't really kick off until halfway through the book, I fail to see how that previous half was not used to expand on the world-building and characterization and to set a firmer foundation for the central plot of the novel. As it is, the foundation of this plot is rather shaky and unsatisfying, and truth be told, when one stops to think about it, this novel is full of holes and inconsistencies. The motivation behind the antagonist's plan makes very little sense and, had he been given a lot more characterization or if the famous war beyond this city that controls half the actions of the characters in this novel had been explained in a deeper, more expansive way, the very plot point that sets in motion this plot would've been a lot more believable and solid. Moreover, there were a lot of plot points in this novel that worked out simply because the author willed it that way and not because they had any chance of being successful under believable circumstances.
I did, however, end up liking the characters quite a lot. Sure, they were not exactly very well developed and their relationships were sometimes a little strained and forced, and the peripheral characters functioned in cliches and stereotypes most of the time, but, somehow, I still enjoyed reading about them. My biggest problem with the characters is that they were somewhat inconsistent, and what they showed through their actions and what Jessamy told us in the narration didn't always match. For example, I was never able to make head or tails about Jessamy's relationship with her father. Their interactions felt forced and strained and I would always get the feeling that they secretly hated each other because they didn't know each other at all. That's what their conversations and actions towards each other told me as a reader, but then Jessamy would tell me she was the closest to her father out of her sisters, that he loved and engaged her the most out of all his daughters. It was a constant battle between telling and showing, and that would've been fantastic if Jessamy had been an unreliable narrator when it came to her father because of some intense denial or misguided desire to be loved by him at all costs, but that never came across through the story or the characters. Jessamy was also particularly inconsistent when it came to her own motivations and desires. I know she's a teen and they are hardly ever paragons of constancy and reliability, but the fickleness of her desires, motivations and emotions went to the very core of who she was supposed to be as a character and often gave us moments were she would contradict her very own words or actions from one moment to the next.
Having said that, I think she was actually a pretty decent heroine. She was extremely loyal to her family, brave and willing to sacrifice anything for what she wanted, including friendship, her future and the possibility of romance. Jess's dedication to her family and how that guides her actions for the second half of the novel were, in all likelihood, my favorite part of the novel. Even if they had very to little actual chemistry and it took off far too quickly, I genuinely liked how the "romance" was handled in this novel, though it is somewhat problematic, because it showed a very different dynamic from what I'm used to read about in YA. There was a spark of romance in there, and I liked that Jess used and manipulated it to fit her own ambition, not in a sadistic or evil way, but in a way that made it clear that she had priorities in her life and that she was not above doing hurtful things to help her family and survive. In an endless line of YA novels that give us "heroines" willing to die and sacrifice the world rather than break it off with the pretty boys they just met, this novel gave the romance subplot a very intriguing angle that I'd like to see develop in further novels.
Court of Fives had many flaws and one of my biggest issues with the novel is that it didn't use all the racism and sexism in the story for anything else other than to make Jess's life just the tiniest bit more difficult. They weren't explored in any meaningful way and were brought back into the story only when someone needed to be mean to Jess and her family. The story does give a quiet strength to the women in the novel that makes them shine brighter than the men, but that feels more like a result of the particular focus given to the female characters rather than some deliberate attempt to subvert the sexist regime of this society.
Regardless, I ended up enjoying the novel and becoming invested in it to the point that I am surprisingly eager to read the next one. It is far from a perfect novel, but I genuinely believe most of the issues with the story are the result of the mess that usually is a first novel in which you need to establish a complicated world with complex politics, give readers characters they can enjoy reading about and setting in motion several plots to feed a couple of sequels. That doesn't excuse the ultimately average execution of the novel, but it gives me hope for really good sequels and an entertaining series to look forward to. ...more
It would be very hard not to compare this one with Vengeance Road as they both have similar settings and essentially follow almost the exact3.5 stars
It would be very hard not to compare this one with Vengeance Road as they both have similar settings and essentially follow almost the exact same plot line for the first 50 pages or so. But that's about as long as it lasts as they quickly diverge and turn into very different novels that I enjoyed immensely. While Vengeance Road stays true to old Western stories of revenge, guns and gold, Walk of Earth a Stranger uses the Western background to tell a story more full of magic and survival that reminded me of the many stories that populated literature during the period of Realism.
Having being only mildly impressed with Carson's debut novel The Girl of Fire and Thorns, it was with immense satisfaction that I realized Carson had no intention of making of this novel anything similar to her popular debut series. While they both do share a focus on survival and making long, arduous and extremely dangerous travels through hostile lands, Carson's craft is a lot more refined here, the writing tighter and the story more structured. Like with her first novel, there is a bit of a loose plot working as the spinal cord of the story and it does feel sometimes like the actual story has yet to begin, like this is an introduction to what the real novel is supposed to be, but unlike TGoFaT, I can't say that either bored me or bothered me.
This novel certainly builds up slowly, but the pace was consistent and takes off after a couple of pages that make the considerable bulk of the novel go by unexpectedly fast. Carson presents and exceedingly well-researched world that feels authentic, and chapter after chapter you can appreciate the painstaking detail that she gave to each and every single aspect of this world. For the most part, it feels very realistic which contrasts rather strongly with the small paranormal edge given to the story through Lee's ability to sense and find gold. You can tell that will be important later in further installments, but aside from being what propels the plot in motion, there's really no particular emphasis on her power and it sometimes feels a bit tagged on to the story. Sometimes I would even forget she had this power, only to be reminded by some of her inner dialogue or a small scene where she would use it because it doesn't play much of a role in the overall story except for the manufactured complications where it became a necessity.
Lee is a really fantastic main character. She's brave and smart and a character that's really easy to like. I really enjoyed experiencing this novel through her voice and I particularly loved the emphasis the author gave to Lee's observations about how this world was built upon the backs of women, how it abused them and then discarded them. There was a focus on the power of women, on their quiet strength even when they are invisible, and their capacity to survive almost anything. There was a lot of power in the way the novel talked and portrayed women, but I felt like a particular choice regarding one of the other female characters towards the end tarnished the overall idea and the message it was trying to convey, especially because of that character's inclusion in the small romantic tension in the novel.
Speaking of which, there is a small spark of romance in the novel, though it's of the very slow-burn variety and remains as something barely more tangible than a promise for next installments. I liked that particular choice because, considering what these characters have to go through in this novel, any instance of actual romance here would've felt forced and out of place. I'm glad Carson decided to sacrifice the romance for the integrity of the survival aspect in the novel, but I do wish she had spent more time with the secondary characters who remain fairly static and stereotyped all throughout the novel, with only one or two standing out as a bit more complex than the rest.
Walk on Earth a Stranger is a very enjoyable novel in spite of its grittiness (or maybe even because of it in my case) and a surprisingly engaging first installment in a series. This is a compelling novel that manages to be realistic and sometimes even brutal without ever losing the spark of hope, a story that made a commendable effort in showcasing diversity and notions of social progress even stuck in what was one of the most oppressive and intolerant periods in recent history, and, ultimately, a great effort that definitely succeeded in making me commit to the series. ...more
What a strange, lovely novel Belle Epoque turned out to be. Not a particularly fun or entertaining novel, definitely not as profound as it co3.5 stars
What a strange, lovely novel Belle Epoque turned out to be. Not a particularly fun or entertaining novel, definitely not as profound as it could've been, but still, thoughtful and original in a sense that YA rarely is. Instead of focusing on the romance or getting lost in the beauty of the times, instead of using the story to bring another tiring, perfect main character who does nothing wrong, the author didn't shy away from giving us a flawed and average main character in a strange, emotionally and psychologically taxing situation who ends up being, essentially, the eyes through which we learn about situations and characters a whole lot more interesting than herself. That in itself was a pretty big risk. I commend the author's commitment to the story where she would rather make a point than make up this ridiculously perfect main character that never grows, develops or makes mistakes, but, ultimately, Maude herself suffered as a character because, pretty much, everyone else was more interesting than she was and it was a bore sometimes to go through her scenes of introspection.
At times, I really liked that the author purposely made Maude so average and unassuming so that we could better enjoy the strong characters around her, but at others, I struggled with actually caring about Maude at all. What I appreciate the most about this, however, was that this was a perfect technique to avoid the infuriating girl-on-girl hate that pervades in YA, but it had the downfall of making Maude rather uninteresting and, for some reason, also softened the impact of her emotions on the reader. Maude felt like such a passive observer for so much of the novel, than when it was her time to deliver on the big emotions and make big leaps in characterization, it almost fell flat for me. It wasn't that I didn't care about her, but simply that I didn't care enough to make a difference. I did generally like what the author did with Maude as a character, and I enjoyed that Maude was allowed to grow and develop by making mistakes, by making bad choices and turning into a unlikable person because it made for great characterization and it felt natural. I really enjoyed the way Maude got caught up in the fantasy of living this life that was never meant for her, which is when she came off as the most realistic for me.
What struck me the most powerfully about Maude was her need to survive, how she was willing to do anything to hold on, and her development as a character felt natural, and I know there aren't many authors out there willing to tarnish the perfection of their main characters so they can learn. But, ultimately, Maude was still a two-dimensional character at times. Aside from her need to survive and prove the people from her past wrong, the other big emotion I perceived from her was the emotional blow working as a repoussoir had on her self-steem, which I suppose is the very point of the novel, certainly, but never went as deep as I would've liked it to go and was mostly static and repetitive.
There's not a particular focus on romance in this novel, which was a refreshing change, and a definite spotlight on friendship, which was one of the strongest aspects of the novel for me. While not developed further more than was necessary, Marie-Josée and Isabelle were two very compelling and strong characters that reinforced the message of the novel. Far more interesting that Maude herself, they often carried the weight of the scene, the chapter and even whole sections of the story. They even embodied the message of the novel more strongly than Maude herself. They were not fully-fleshed and sometimes even felt like a draft of their own characters, but reading about Maude in their company were often the most engaging parts of my reading experience.
Belle Epoque is a very original novel with an unusual take on what could've been a recycled story. I was expecting for Maude to have a Cinderella story, for her to go from ugly duckling to beautiful swan like many other novels, and I was very pleased when, not only did that not happen, but when I realized that setting itself apart from that was one of the points of the novel. Slightly heavy-handed in delivery, sure, but this book still made very important points on beauty and shallowness, in personal strength and self-steem, in fighting for your dreams and yourself as a human being with feelings and dignity, and all that endeared me to the novel.
Definitely slow, Belle Epoque could've used a bit more liveliness, a more engaging current to Maude's narrative and more emotional strength behind her voice. It's not a novel that will have to reading deep in to the night, not one that will deliver thrills or excitement. It's a slow, thoughtful process the reading experience for this novel, and I think that was precisely the point. I think it could've been better, but that's just me wanting to derive more enjoyment, more meaning from this novel, to make it a whole lot more memorable and give it a lot more impact than it had, because, in the end, I think Belle Epoque is exactly the type of novel it wants to be and that, even if it does not make me love it as desperately as I wanted to, it does deserve my respect. ...more
Is this book ridiculous? Yes. Absolutely preposterous? Definitely. Does that mean it wasn't absolutely entertaining? Nope. You see, this is one of thoIs this book ridiculous? Yes. Absolutely preposterous? Definitely. Does that mean it wasn't absolutely entertaining? Nope. You see, this is one of those books that you roll your eyes at, that make you snort at the sheer absurdity of it all, but it's also one that you just can't stop reading, no matter what. It is compulsively readable, very intriguing and undeniably riveting. I was hooked. So yeah, there were inconsistencies in the story, plot holes, and a deliberate over-stretching of a plot that couldn't possible be stretched any farther, but I had fun reading this novel, as in, legitimate, authentic and thrilling fun. The book is twisty and does all the things an intriguing mystery is supposed to do. I sort of figured the whole thing out about a third into the story, but the book kept me guessing, and that's what this type of book is supposed to do, which is something that most YA mystery/thriller fail horribly at.
I felt like some of the characters could've used a bit more dimension, like the big reveal could've been a bit more polished, the antagonist given a stronger motive, and I could've done with a lot less sexualization of the girl love interest, although I was happy to see that she owned her sexuality with unapologetic confidence, but truth be told, this is not a book that made an impact on me in terms of quality. It was just a thoroughly enjoyable, very engaging read, which was exactly the kind of book I needed to read at the time I picked it up.
Max's voice was believable, realistic and engaging, and I actually liked what the author did with Parvati's characterization, but you have to be prepared to deal with these characters making terrible decisions for the sake of prolonging the plot. Like I said, this book is so unrealistic it actually physically hurts, but all in all, it's a very readable, entertaining book that I had to stop myself from reading in one sitting, and that's, in all honestly, all I wanted out of it. ...more
Well, fuck. I actually liked this one, definitely a hell of a lot more than everyone else here. And I can see why most people have hated this3.5 stars
Well, fuck. I actually liked this one, definitely a hell of a lot more than everyone else here. And I can see why most people have hated this one, seeing as how I was initially very turned off by the book myself. But it grew on me, and I'm not sure I can explain how. This book is weird and strange and odd and very frustrating at times, but it was just so ridiculously different. It reminded me of the edginess of Holly Black's Modern Fairy Tale series, but with Moskowitz's unique style of disruptive, jumpy and screwed up narration.
In true Moskowitz fashion, this book is a physical manifestation of trigger warning. It is edgy, dark and provocative, it is very sex-positive, has unflinching scenes of sex and child prostitution, and has an exceedingly dark sense of humor. This is definitely a very mature YA read, and even if the aforementioned hadn't been included in the book, this still would've been a very polarizing book because of the way it is structured. Shifting back and forth between past, present and even freaking future, A History of Glitter and Blood is, literally, a book in pieces, a story in the making. Thus, the narration is constantly shifting back and forth, interrupting the story and breaking up the narrative flow to let some stream of consciousness pour in. That makes the style very hard to get used to at first, but once I got the hang of it, once I understood the importance of the story being told that way, I found myself liking it immensely.
I don't think I've ever read a book like this one. This book actually reads like it is being written in real time, at the very same time you read it. This had a very strange effect of binding me emotionally to the story and the characters, far more than I thought possible and definitely more than I would've if the story had been told in more traditional styles. This a very simple and straightforward story and not much actually happens overall, but the way the story is told makes it seem and feel a lot more eventful and bigger and seemingly more important than it actually is. This book is bizare and I'm still reeling from the experience of reading it.
It is also very honest and effortlessly inclusive and diverse. I like how it simultaneously made big and understated points about very important and mature issues like sex, from sexual discovery to desire, from sexual exploration, same-sex relationships, sexual inhibitions to even bold statements about rape and sex work. I liked that the characters themselves were so complex and very often unlikable and thoroughly selfish but still interesting and good at heart. The relationships between them were complicated and strange and sometimes disturbing, but still loving and caring and true. This book is a freaking contradiction, a love story that's not a love story, a history of a war and a world that's not supposed to be about one girl, but really, in the end is all about this one girl.
I am having a very hard time trying to come up with ways to describe this book, to make it sound appealing, because the truth is that it is not and there's very little I could say about my experience that would make anyone want to read it, and I honestly don't want to entice anyone into reading it. This is a very difficult book to enjoy, I'll admit that, and it takes very specific circumstances and characteristics on the part of the reader to actually end up liking this book. Basically, I'm admitting to liking this book because of something akin to the planets aligning: strange, coincidental and very specific circumstances that are likely to happen very rarely henceforth. I'm pretty certain I didn't make sense, but hey, it often felt like the book didn't either, so what the hell.
A singular reading experience, unique and strange and completely bizarre. I'm still not certain about my exact feelings for the novel itself, but I know that reading it, that the book as a whole was too much of a different and unrepeatable experience for me to give it anything else besides this rating. Would I recommend it? Definitely not. Most of the negative reviews I've read for this novel are spot-on and definitely more trustworthy than mine, but I still liked this fucked-up book against every single one of my instincts and natural inclinations and there's nothing I can do about it. ...more