Twisted Fate is, in all likelihood, one of the most poorly written novels I've ever read and definitely the most pathetic attempt at a psychological t...moreTwisted Fate is, in all likelihood, one of the most poorly written novels I've ever read and definitely the most pathetic attempt at a psychological thriller I've ever had the misfortune of reading. The writing was atrocious, there was no point to the 1 billion different POVs in the novel, there was really no story, certainly no mystery for it was predictable as hell, and to call this novel the We Were Liars of 2015 is an affront to We Were Liars and the entire genre. Horrible book. More of a rant review to come. (less)
Truth be told, I picked up this book because it was short. I have such limited amounts of time left to read now, that I want to make the most...more4.5 stars
Truth be told, I picked up this book because it was short. I have such limited amounts of time left to read now, that I want to make the most of it, and I thought that, this one being so short, I could finish it in no time and pick another one up immediately. While this was definitely a very quick book to read and I read it almost entirely in two hours, I stopped myself, something I rarely do while reading, because I didn't want to finish it. This book is such a strange, lovely, compelling book, I didn't want it to end.
As wondrously beautiful as it is heartbreaking, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is quite possibly the best YA book of magical realism I've read. Gorgeously written, this mesmerizing story takes hold from the first page and refuses to let you go. This is a very visceral experience. I felt it all, page after page. I laughed out loud unexpected one moment, and the next my heart would be be crushed under the tragedy of what this curious family experienced. Life was so cruel with them, and yet they had the most beautiful lives, and all because of love. I adored how this novel represented love, in all of its forms and shapes, be it good or bad, and that made the novel so achingly realistic, as hard as that might seem to believe.
The book wasn't perfect and there were a couple things that I struggled with, some paths the novel took that I could've done without, but the final product was so beautiful, so wonderful and lovely, all of my complaints seem irrelevant. Magical realism tends to be either a hit or a miss with me, but this one is an utterly gorgeous, wonderful and strange book that found its way into my heart and refuses to leave my mind for, what I'm sure, will be a long time. (less)
The Bargaining is quite possibly the most terrifying book I've read in a while. I might be in the minority in this one, but I quite liked the author's...more The Bargaining is quite possibly the most terrifying book I've read in a while. I might be in the minority in this one, but I quite liked the author's YA debut novel, The Murmurings, so I expected The Bargaining to be creepy, but this one surpassed each and every single one of my expectations by far. The horror scenes are just so spectacularly written. It's amazing what West managed to do with this one because her delivery of tension and horror was relentless and deftly written to the point that they were a full-blown sensory experience, even as they stayed locked safely within the pages of my book. This is the first time in a really long time, probably since I read White Space, that I read a book deep into the night and the story has me jumping at every sound and fearing the shadows in the corners.
But The Bargaining is a lot more than just fantastic horror scenes. The story, the world-building, the atmosphere and the development of a broken main character are all executed amazingly. It was really hard for me to tear myself away from this book. It was almost physically painful to have to put it aside because the book was riveting, mesmerizing, so utterly enthralling. West not only knows how to write creepy, she makes you crave it.
What's interesting is that this book carries the typical aspects of the recycled horror story we are all tired of reading about or watching on TV. Someone with some sort of emotional baggage is forced to live with some family member somewhere else, that place is in a small town where they are immediately given the cold shoulder because something horrible happened in that place long ago, someone warns them about the place, freaky things start happening in that place and the main character goes out of her/his way to find out the history of the place even though everyone that knows is reluctant to do so. The story of The Bargaining could be condensed in that simple and sterile summary, and we are all extremely familiar with that. But somehow, West made it engaging and original.
The delivery of horror and creepy was relentless, and even if it got just tiniest bit repetitive towards the end, I still enjoyed it immensely. From beginning to end, West keeps you hooked with it, but, truth be told, when the drama unfolded in the novel, though engaging, it was very slow paced. I didn't find it boring in the slightest, but I can see how some people might find it a bit too slow.
I love how West writes broken heroines. She makes them so realistic, it is very easy to empathize with them, and Penny is not an exemption. What's interesting about her heroines is that, although broken beyond repair, they are never weak. Penny was pessimistic, broken and hopeless, and yet she was still determined, strong and driven. She might've crossed the line into over-dramatic one or two times, but I never stopped believing her grief, her guilt and her baggage.
The rest of the characters, though the vary in exposure throughout the novel, are still very interesting. From the seemingly standard one, an energetic stepmother, to the strangest, a boy with a twisted past, a strange a ability and a determination to right a wrong, the character were intriguing and added several layers to Penny as a main character and the atmosphere of the town. Miller, in particular, was an outstanding character that I would've love to read more about. Thankfully, there's no romance in this novel. There's the insinuation of one, but it never happens, and I think the novel benefited from the lack of romance, for its absence allowed the author to concentrate on other matters that, ultimately, made the novel all the more original and better.
I was more than willing to give The Bargaining 5 stars, but there were a couple of plot holes towards the end that I had a hard time overlooking, plus the resolution of the conflict was a bit of a letdown. It's still a fantastic ending, but I honestly don't see how it fits into the story, into the mythology West created for this novel, and I fail to see how such actions could possibly secure the ending West wrote for Penny. Moreover, I don't expect West to explain every single little thing, of course. That's part of the enchantment of this setting, but there were a couple of lines towards the end that I couldn't make sense of and there were some aspects of the mystery I would've appreciated more information on.
Aside from some questions about the story and a resolution that baffled me a bit, The Bargaining is a thoroughly fantastic novel that gets everything right, from the atmosphere, the setting and the background story, to the horror and the characters. It is a very well-written and chilling novel that excels in the YA horror genre and that leaves you craving for more. I went into it expecting a somewhat satisfying experience like with The Murmurings, but I got a whole lot more from it and it quickly became one of my favorite books this year. (less)
A very interesting concept applied to an atmospheric novel with a few nicely written horror scenes that, sadly, still left me feeling somewhat disappo...moreA very interesting concept applied to an atmospheric novel with a few nicely written horror scenes that, sadly, still left me feeling somewhat disappointed and that I struggled tremendously to connect with.
Although it was very intriguing, it was still really difficult to visualize the paranormal aspect of the novel, and though the novel's premise promised originality and creepiness, the truth is that, safe for one or two scenes, the novel was rather tame as a whole and it often felt very familiar as far as the characters, their back stories and the events of the novel went. Moreover, the truth is that the novel is actually more of a detailed tragic story of guilt and family issues than about creepy paranormal phenomena. The latter is very present in the novel, of course, but it's not exactly the point and certainly not what I was expecting. And in spite of how full of emotional issues and relationships this novel is, I never connected with the novel, was often rather bored and even considered dropping it one or twice. It is not a bad novel, on the contrary, it is actually quite decent, but, sadly, it failed to meet much of my expectations.
I will withhold my rating and some other thoughts on this book until we are closer to the release date.(less)
While Remember Me is much tighter in terms of storytelling when compared to Find Me, it has some of the same flaws, mostly when it comes to the overal...moreWhile Remember Me is much tighter in terms of storytelling when compared to Find Me, it has some of the same flaws, mostly when it comes to the overall predictability of the mystery and characterization.
This sequel is definitely a step ahead from its predecessor when it comes to the writing. The novel is more focused on the plot, whereas the first one meandered away from the plot when it felt like it to focus on the romance or high school BS, and the story in this one is a lot more solid and believable than the first one. Moreover, as someone who has let down by the first one, the sequel is a lot easier to get invested in, and drew me in better than the first one because this one felt more like the thriller mystery I expected from the first one. As opposed to Find Me, Remember Me was more than just moderately enjoyable and actually managed to be engaging. However, Remember Me has the same glaring flaw as Find Me: it is predictable as hell. Maybe not as horribly predictable as Find Me, but still, fairly easy to figure out. At least with Remember Me, there were other things to focus on, sub-plots that the author handled nicely, like Wick's internal turmoil, - though she turned a bit towards the melodramatic with her constant wondering of if she was good or evil because of the things she did -, and the tension in her life.
Sadly, the characterization was another flaw that was impossible to ignore for me and almost made me give the book 2 stars. Like with Find Me, there's an uncomfortable abundance of horrible men in the story, and I mean every single of the male characters. Simply told, this novel is actually scarily sexist. I'm sure that's not the author's intention, at least not with these two, but even the love interests are irritating and controlling. Like in the first one, every single adult man in the story is disgusting, condescending, controlling, manipulative and despicable, and almost every single young adult in the novel is a perverted, sexist, abusive, manipulative, self-entitled asshole. It's disconcerting, really, but there's not a single intended good guy representation in the novel, and I wish I could say the love interests at least were good, but, at least for me, they were also unintentionally badly characterized.
They might not get anywhere in this novel, but there is, in fact a love triangle. Wick might not make-out with him, but there's a deep connection between them that drives a wedge in her relationship with Griff, so whatever this novel might be advertising, there is, in fact a love triangle. And while I admittedly enjoyed the banter and saw the connection between Wick and new guy, he's still the typical, suave, smirking, no-means-yes ladies-man that crossed the line several times into creepy and stalker territory.
And Griff... He was never a favorite of mine as a love interest, but in Find Me, I had felt nothing above indifference towards him. But in this one he annoyed the shit out of me. What a sanctimonious, preachy, controlling, self-satisfied, self-righteous asshole. He manipulated Wick however he saw fit, pushed her to be what he wanted her to be and held their relationship as a hostage if he didn't get his way. He claimed to understand her an accept her as she was, but he wanted to control her and make her whatever he wanted her to be, and the novel fully justifies him. He didn't have to agree with what Wick was doing, but he never tried to understand her, never attempted to see things from her angle or look into the why of things. When he saw he couldn't control her, he just went, but still felt entitled to meddle in her affairs, inquire about her relationship with new guy and throw back on her face that, to quote Taylor Swift, they were never ever ever ever ever getting back together.
The thing with these novels is that they try so hard to be all about girl power and girl doing things most people think they can't, that it actually opens the way for a whole lot of sexism. There's the despicable characterization of almost every single guy in the novel, and there's the fact that the novel is unintentionally contributing to sexism towards girls as well. I know how the internet is. I spend a considerable amount of time on the internet and I've read comments that had made me want to rampage, so I know that the novel is not being unrealistic in the slightest when it shows an asshole of a guy using the line of "but she's a girl" to justify his disbelief about that person's ability to do anything. It's awesome every time Wick proves them wrong, of course, but she's special. The only reason she can show him up is because she's the special main character, so, in the end, the sexist asshole is sorta right in his opinion to dismiss the rest of women because Wick is the only one that can do it because she's the special one. And if that wasn't enough, there's barely any female presence in the novel besides Wick. She has a friend whose name I've already forgotten who has two lines in the entire novel, a sister that shows up max three times, and a woefully incompetent stepmother that's there to vacillate between absentee parent and meddling one when appropriate.
I liked Wick a lot better this time around, mostly because I finally believed her and her baggage, the tension in her life and all the things that were at stake. She ended up being a lot more authentic for me this time around, instead of this mold of what a cool hacker girls is supposed to be. Like I said, she was kind of melodramatic at points, but I liked her voice a lot more this time around.
I think I'm too deep into the series to turn around now. I wish I could, because the series is definitely not bad, but it's not one I'm invested in and is definitely one I find some aggravating flaws in, but at this point, I should probably stick around for the last novel. In the end, these books are fun and enjoyable, quick and fast-paced and fairly entertaining, in spite of whatever beef I might have with it. (less)
Feral is a bizarre, disconcerting and unflinching novel that, while perhaps a bit longer than it had any need to be, managed to keep me intri...more3.5 stars
Feral is a bizarre, disconcerting and unflinching novel that, while perhaps a bit longer than it had any need to be, managed to keep me intrigued from beginning to end with its eerie and original plot, amazing atmosphere, and intense psychological undertones.
After starting strong with back to back chapters full of gruesome descriptions and unflinching brutality, Feral took a while to get back into the rhythm with which it kicked off. Truth be told, there were several times in the story when the novel crossed the line into boring and uneventful territory. As much as I'd like to say that the atmosphere made it worth it, the fact still stands that sometimes that wasn't enough, not even for me. This book is about a 100 pages too long and there's a long, trying part of continuous exposition that seemed like it would never end. At that point, I felt completely disconnected from the novel and I had begun to think that there was very little the novel could do to turn me around. I can't remember the exact point in the story where it happened, but somehow, the novel managed to turn me around and I felt like my unwillingness to give up on my curiosity paid off. I can see how many readers would be turned off with the book because of that stretch of pages where the story seems to go nowhere, but personally, the strength of the atmosphere and the quick psychological unraveling that followed made it worth it.
What's interesting about Feral is that, even though the core of the novel is the mystery of what happened to Serena, it never felt to me like that was the actual focus of the novel. It's not only the amount of different ongoing plot lines, it was more about how that mystery triggered some really intense psychological issues and made the book into the paranoid, strange and eerie novel it was. In fact, the mystery itself is not hard to predict. While the novel does turn into a confusing blur of reality and fantasy, the murderer is pretty much pointed out to the reader since the beginning. I was a bit surprised by how the murder happened, but definitely not by the who or the why.
The characterization in this novel is rather strange. I don't feel like the characters were entirely flat, but their characterization is definitely minimal and they remain slightly underdeveloped as the story goes. What's interesting is that, while the characters themselves weren't what you would call profound, the relationships established between them before Claire even arrived at Peculiar always gave me the feeling that they were complex and full of history, even though the author never actually spends a much time developing them or focusing on them. All of them added dimension to the characters and made them intriguing, allowing them to step out from their stereotypes in a way that made them seem original and different, even if they were not fully fleshed out by themselves.
The writing in the novel is great, particularly in the descriptions of gory or eerie scenes, which the author wrote with such care and attention to detail, it was very easy to immerse oneself entirely in them, but there were some odd lines and strange word choices along the way. Where this novel truly excels is in the atmosphere it managed to create for this town. This novel is being shelved as horror, but I wouldn't really identify it as such. It has a couple of gruesome and disturbing scenes, one or two that could pass as a horror, but the book is more eerie and creepy than outright horror, and all that's due to the fantastic atmosphere that the author infused this town with. There's been a lot of talk about the feral cats in this book, and their presence did, in fact, add a lot to the tension and atmosphere in the novel, but once the climax came along, their role in the story, especially in the way Claire saw them, felt a bit silly to me.
There's no romance in the novel, for which I'm grateful because I don't think the book needed it in the slightest. The resolution of the novel is a bit strange and I'm not entirely sold on it, but it was definitely interesting and took the novel in a turn that, while not entirely unexpected, it didn't fail to be engaging and thought-provoking.
Feral was a nice surprise for me. It took some time getting used to, but it sank its claws on me and ended up being a very riveting experience. Bizarre and eerie but mesmerizing, Feral is an original, atmospheric and fascinating psychological thriller I was very glad I decided to pick up. (less)
Contrary to what I expected going into this one, I actually quite liked Oblivion. Sure, it meanders a lot in terms of the plotting, it's over...more3.5 stars
Contrary to what I expected going into this one, I actually quite liked Oblivion. Sure, it meanders a lot in terms of the plotting, it's over a 100 pages longer than it needs to be and it does get repetitive at some points, but I found the whole thing riveting for some reason.
I think that what hooked me about the novel is how different it is. Oblivion is edgy and bold and it went in directions that I did not expect it to and that I am sure not many authors would dare to go to. From the story to the characters, the author didn't shy away from rawness, brutality, ugliness and flaws, and that had an impact on me that I did not expect. Callie, our main character, is a perfect example of that. She is clearly disturbed, definitely not perfect, prone to making mistakes and sometimes unapologetic about it, but still not wholly unsympathetic and definitely not uninteresting. She was a strange brand of YA heroine, a flawed, broken one that definitely had me intrigued from beginning to end.
I found the way the author handled the romantic plot in the novel fascinating. I am used to authors glorifying first loves, sanctifying guys and bleaching away all the possible ugliness out of young love. It is all perfect and glorious and squeaky clean. That is not the case in Oblivion with Callie and the other two wheels in her love triangle, Elijah and John. In fact, this whole love triangle is a messy tangle of mistakes and terribly wrong reasons, a wreck for all intent and purposes, and yet still fascinating. I liked it because it was honest, brutally so, but honest nonetheless. It never tried to paint love as this saving grace, as this true, beautiful, pure thing that never gets confused or tarnished. Quite frankly, all the relationships in this novel were flawed, even ugly, and yet I never once doubted their existence. I honestly believed Callie and Elijah loved each other, sick as it was, and I actually believed Lindsey and Callie did love each other as sister, horrible as that relationship turned, all of which I find absolutely fascinating and which I consider a fairly great show of skill on the author's part. That doesn't mean I agree with some of the things that went down in this book, especially how quickly things got serious between John and Callie and definitely how the relationship between Lindsey and Callie developed, - especially the amount of slut shaming and mean girl drama -, but I can't say it didn't keep me interested or that it hurt in any way my feelings for the book.
The writing in this novel does need some getting used to. It's jerky, repetitive, disjointed at times and vague at others. There were times where I honestly got lost and had to go back and reread because I hadn't been able to understand what had happened at one point and had become relevant at another. But in the end, I think this added a believable quality to Callie's damaged psyche. I particularly liked how the graphomania was used, how it contributed to the mystery and helped develop the story. The story could've definitely unfurled faster than it did. The book takes quite a while to get anywhere and there was a point where it started to get very repetitive. I was also slightly disappointed by the fact that, in spite of the characters' efforts, the mystery kind of gets solved by itself,and there were admittedly some holes in the story or things that are left slightly and unconvincingly unexplained.
In the end, in spite of all its obvious flaws, I found myself oddly pleased with this one. I didn't expect to, not even when I was reading it; it wasn't until the end that it even hit me that I'd actually enjoyed the novel, but the truth is that the novel managed to mesmerize me somehow from beginning to end, and these days, that's not something I can easily ignore in spite of the novel's flaws. Eerie, disturbing and even somewhat brutal, Oblivion was a riveting book and a nice surprise for me. I can see where other readers would hate it, but I appreciate the author's boldness, the originality of the book and the rawness of it, regardless of its many flaws. (less)
The Jewel is a strange mix of The Selection, Eve and Wither, both in content and the glaring flaws that made each and every one of these books a failu...moreThe Jewel is a strange mix of The Selection, Eve and Wither, both in content and the glaring flaws that made each and every one of these books a failure for me. Like Wither, The Jewel starts by presenting a thought-provoking situation, but then loses its path and becomes a boring chronicle of a super special main character whining about her situation but enjoying the frivolous, materialistic life imposed on her, followed closely by her falling instantly in "forbidden love" with a guy she has one shallow conversation with because "he gets me". Like Eve, this world has imposed an extremely harsh life on women in order to breed them to death, without so much as an explanation or reason beyond some flimsy post-apocalyptic BS, and places them in schools that inexplicably prepare them for everything except actually having a baby and lie to them before shipping them off somewhere to make them into baby-making machines. And like The Selection, this book is a poorly-written novel with little and yet entirely ridiculous and implausible world-building and an insipid, senseless attempt at a dystopia in which a woe-is-me perfect snowflake witnesses the weakest attempt at court intrigue imaginable.
The Jewel tries really hard, and for a moment there I was honestly entertained and engaged in the story, but the writing is elementary and uninspiring, the plotting almost nonexistent, the characters one-dimensional, and the romance goes too deep and too fast, not to mention that the entire novel feels rather vapid and trivial.
For most of the novel, not much actually happens. Oh, there's plenty of angst from Violet, but nothing of importance to the plot or development of the story occurs for most of the novel. For the greater part of the story, the novel is stuck in a repetitive loop with only slightly different situations in which Violet gets to be amazing and kind and perfect, her mistress gets to be cruel and her life is oppressive because she can't go out. The tension of the entire story hangs on the threat of Violet's impending impregnation, and not only does it take the entire novel to get there for no particular reason, but once it does, the entire situation is wrapped up with ease and gets overshadowed by the horrid insta-love and the novel's flimsy second attempt at a dystopia. Basically, the whole novel is boring, it hinges entirely on a single thread that then gets pushed aside after a long-winded wait and rendered unimportant by the insipid plot line that will force this one into a series.
There's lack of world-building in this novel that's hard to overlook, one that hurts the very foundation of the novel and makes it hard to take the entire thing seriously. There are some small info-dumps along the way, but they only show the layout of the world and give very little background information on anything. Not much is ever said about how the world came to be like this, what happened in order for people to resort to living like this, and definitely no explanation as to why everyone can have kids except the royals and why the heck some women have special powers. And speaking of the special powers, not only are they largely unexplained, at the end of it all, they really play almost no role in the novel. I'm sure all this will suddenly become clear and important in upcoming sequels, but the book holds back every bit of information that would've added depth to this novel. Instead, we have a vaguely paranormal dystopia where it's hard to see how things connect, but that doesn't matter in the end because the entire focus of the novel is suddenly and abruptly turned halfway through the story to the most impressive case of insta-love I've read in a while.
One conversation, a single one, not even a particularly long or profound one for they are interrupted after spewing some lines about music, and then they are in love. Violet immediately becomes possessive of Ash, being jealous of everyone who so much as looks at him, claiming him and raging in her head whenever he failed to even look at her, and all that is after just one measly conversation about their favorite composer. They know nothing about each other, absolutely nothing besides their favorite musician, and suddenly they are soul-mates, suddenly Ash understands her like nobody else has before. In the long run, once their situations are explained, you can see why they would understand each other, but it still feels artificial and forced, mostly because there's no tangible chemistry between them and they drop the I-can't-live-without-you-I-love-you thing way too fast. I'm guessing the author had to hurry it up a bit because the love interest gets introduced halfway through the novel, but if there was no space for believable and deep development for that relationship, then they shouldn't have pushed it like this. In the end, this is the thing that hurt the novel the most for me. I could've dealt with the lack of world-building, maybe even the cookie-cutter, generic heroine, and I probably wouldn't have still liked it much in the end, but I could've handled it. But this, this raging case of insta-love is what made me dislike the novel in its entirety. There was no depth, no development, just immediate, senseless "tru luv".
Violet is as generic as they come in YA. She was not a bad MC, but that's mostly due to the fact that there's actually very little to her. Her entire characterization is made up of the things she likes or the people she loves. She has lots of standard thoughts and angst to spare, but outside of her head, she's really nothing, does barely anything. She is the safe, standard YA heroine that risks nothing, does nothing, develops in no way and stays firmly set on the generic mold she was created as to not risk any reader not liking her as opposed to the rest of the female characters in the novel, each and every one of them unlikeable to the core. There are only a handful of good women in this novel, all of which are either a passing reference or nonexistent for most of the plot and none of which are women in power. Every single recurring female character, especially the women with any semblance of power, were evil, cruel, selfish, conniving, jealous and ruthless, and all for no particularly important reason. There's not a single interesting character in this novel. They are all bland and banal, and there's but a single line at the end that makes one of them somewhat interesting but it comes far too late to have any effect.
There was a point in the novel where I clearly understood what the author was trying to do, where the message this novel was carrying made an impact and the social criticisms shined through and seemed relevant and important to me. But that didn't last long and instead the novel chose to be bland, entirely romance-focused, trite, prosaic and pedestrian. It's clear the YA dystopian genre has run its course and that's time to look elsewhere for anything with actual significance and substance, because whatever thought-provoking and relevant idea some author might try to bring into the genre gets swallowed by the commercialism of the genre, and every shred of integrity the book might've had gets exchanged for generic plotting, flimsy world-building, gorgeous, vacuous men and insta-loves, and that seems to me worse than actually writing a horrid, but original book. Having the potential to be something and sticking to what's safe, to what sells, is a much worse crime than actually trying to go out of the box and failing because of a lack of skills. The Jewel exemplified this perfectly. (less)
Sisters' Fate is probably one of the finales I've been looking forward to the most this year. The series is not without its flaws, but someho...more3.5 stars
Sisters' Fate is probably one of the finales I've been looking forward to the most this year. The series is not without its flaws, but somehow, it became one that I hold really dear to my heart, probably due to the mix between how weird it is that I've loved a series about witches so much and how well Spotswood has infused her novels with the type of feminism that seems to fly right by the great majority of authors in YA. In the end, Sisters' Fate was a perfectly acceptable conclusion to the series and a book that I enjoyed, but there's a slight feeling of disappointment that I can't shake because the book was just too safe.
I understand the massive undertaking that it is putting an end to a series. Looking for a way to tie all the loose ends, bring together sub-plots and send characters on the final path they'll ever walk. When it comes down to it, Sister's Fate did very well on all of these accounts. It combined the fight against the Brother's oppression of both, women and witches, with the inevitability of the prophecy and the struggle for power that took place in the Sisterhood and the rivalry between the sisters, and wrapped it all up with a series of exciting events and even a scene or two I did not expect. Spotswood definitely succeeded in bringing a nice and definitive ending to her series, but call me a skeptic because it was just too nice for me.
Moreover, while the arrangement of the events might've brought a couple of surprises, the core events of the novels were actually quite predictable. I never had any doubt that this was exactly how the series would end, even though I hoped it wouldn't be because this was the safest way too wrap it all up. The ending had a few very emotional moments that I didn't expect, but for the most part, it was slightly anti-climactic as a whole and most of the main issues in the novel were dealt with surprising ease.
But that's basically my only complaint on this final book. As expected of this series, the book was beautifully written and featured engaging and very strong characters, most of them written with an ambiguous duality to them that I found absolutely compelling. That anyone can have a character like Maura, so exasperating and trying and infuriating, and still make me like her and see there's more to her, is very telling of the kind of talent an author has. As usual, I loved the quiet but potent feminism in the novel and the way that placed all women on the same side, fighting the same battle as a single unit, regardless of their personal feelings for each other.
This is a very satisfying conclusion to the series. I expected a bit more, perhaps for more risks to be taken, but I can't say I didn't enjoy the book or the way this beautiful story was wrapped up. (less)
I did not expect to like Stitching Snow in the slightest. First of all, it sounded far too much like Cinder, and yes, the similarities are th...more3.5 stars
I did not expect to like Stitching Snow in the slightest. First of all, it sounded far too much like Cinder, and yes, the similarities are there all the way through the book. They may have distinct plotlines and, in the end, different executions, but there are undeniable elements from the Lunar Chronicles in this novel. Second, after reading that description, I was under the impression that this would be a rather silly book. It was how wrong I was about this second idea what saved Stitching Snow for me entirely.
This novel is nothing if not serious. It has strong, disturbing elements, and a very jaded, emotionally-stunted, and very rough main character. Essie is almost impossible to like at points because of the way she treats those around her, especially the love interest. She was harsh, inconsiderate and brusque, and annoyed me sometimes, but then it was explained and it all made sense. It was only logical that Essie would be this way, and I didn’t have to like it, but the author made it possible for me to understand her, which resulted in some very interesting characterization and an even more impressive character development for Essie in the end. Even when I didn’t like how jaded Essie was, I had to appreciate how thorough and consistent the author was with her characterization. Essie was a really well-developed and rounded character. She was the perfect product of her upbringing, and who she was permeated every single thing she did. There was never a flaw in her characterization, and yes, she was too rough sometimes, outright terrible and selfish at others, but it went perfectly with whom the author intended her to be and, in the end, that made her a very realistic and well-written character. She is not perfect and she was never intended to be so, which made for a very interesting take on Snow White, considering Essie was nothing like the original character – quite the opposite, really. Aside from her really rough aspects, Essie is an extremely competent main character. She is absolutely brilliant, misses nothing and never lacks common sense, she is tough and perfectly capable of taking care of herself.
The only problem with Essie’s incredible characterization is that, as a result, all the other characters in the novel paled by comparison. There was no other character in the novel that was even half as interesting as her and that included the love interest. Dane was a decent but forgettable character, but I did like that his character made a transition between who he was before he met Essie and who he turned into after, since he was a bit condescending and selfish when he met her but then turned into a very decent love interest when he fell in love with her, though the love did happen a bit fast and the L-word was dropped seemingly out of nowhere and without much preamble. I like the person he became after he fell for Essie. He was supportive and understanding, even protective without controlling her, but he did take a bit too much of Essie’s abuse stoically. What I liked about him the most is that he gave Essie her space and waited for her to decide and make a move, to decide the path their relationship would take.
The author was clever with how she placed the original elements of the story into her retelling, like the dwarfs and the poisoned apple, but in the end, this was a very loose retelling and the story wouldn’t had been hurt in the slightest if the apple design on the necklace, her real name or the number of robots had been changed.
The novel is full of technological terminology and elements, which did wonders for the sci-fi atmosphere of the novel, but got a bit overwhelming at points. The plot was a bit erratic sometimes and, truth be told, I never quite got the point behind King Mathias and Queen Olivia’s evil reign. It actually seemed kind of silly to me and it lost me a bit when the truth was revealed. Truth be told, I didn’t care for this novel for over half of its length. But somewhere along the line, without me even realizing it, I started caring and, for no discernable reason, I was suddenly very invested in the story and eager to know what would happen next.
In the end, it wasn’t the story itself what made me like it. The story was okay, the action entertaining and the romance was interesting and occasionally sweet, but I am far more intrigued by this rough, jaded main character who departs from the usual YA heroine mold and was definitely not what I expected. When it comes down to it, yes, the Lunar Chronicles is better, but somehow, I ended up liking this book far more than I expected. (less)
Slow-paced and meandering in terms of plot, the strength of Star Cursed, like with Born Wicked, lies on the honest strength of Cate, the rela...more3.5 stars
Slow-paced and meandering in terms of plot, the strength of Star Cursed, like with Born Wicked, lies on the honest strength of Cate, the relationship between the three sisters and the bonds that bind all these women together. This book is rather uneventful until the last third of the story and it does feel kind of repetitive for the firs two thirds of the story, but the tension between Cate and Maura, the tenderness of Cate and Finn's romance and the threat of the Brotherhood's brutality more than kept me interested even when, admittedly, there wasn't much to be interested in.
Like with Born Wicked, this is a character-driven story, to the point that this whole prophecy thing went to the back of my mind because I was a lot more invested in the relationship between these girls. I liked how different Spotswood made them, how she bound them together and gave them importance regardless of whom they were and if they stood with or against the main character. This is one of the things I loved the most about this series: it never has to say the word "feminist" in order to make it clear that this novel is all about women standing together, supporting and helping each other against what's unfair for all of them, regardless of their personal feelings towards each other.
I liked Born Wicked slightly better than I liked this one, but this was still a strong second book with a shocking ending and a great foundation for a fantastic final book. (less)
Red Queen is probably one of the most anticipated upcoming 2015 YA releases and it is not hard to see why. It is a very exciting book, an ecl...more3.5 stars
Red Queen is probably one of the most anticipated upcoming 2015 YA releases and it is not hard to see why. It is a very exciting book, an eclectic and fascinating mix of fantasy, paranormal and dystopia. It delivers exhilarating action scenes, greatly choreographed fights and epic battles. Every time Mare brought out her power, my heart went into overdrive, I swear. As pure entertainment, Red Queen excels. It's when one gets technical that Red Queen falls a bit through.
In spite of how original all the components of the book sound, I never quite shook the impression that Red Queen felt very familiar. It shapes elements to suit the story in new and exciting ways, certainly, but most things about the book have been seen repeatedly in this genre. Most of its selling points for me were how original and intriguing the plot, the world and the characters sounded, but once I read, my excitement diminished considerably, because, even though they were given a fresh make-over, the elements were not exactly new. And it's not like I expect every single novel to basically reinvent the genre with groundbreaking and new elements, but I wished this book had at least arranged its components in a way that didn't feel so reminiscent of other novels.
From the powers and the general story, to the characters, the romance and even the elements of the oppressive dystopia, they all constantly made me think of other popular books in the genre. It's a bit of The Hunger Games meets Graceling or maybe Shadow and Bone, and just the tiniest bit like The Selection. The book has plenty of action, most of which takes on an arena where people demonstrate their powers and abilities in a similar fashion to The Hunger Games if they had had paranormal abilities, in order to entertain the rich and powerful while the poor suffer and are forced to bow down, which brews a rebellion that the rich wish to stop by using the main character, leading up to an end that is, essentially, the end of Catching Fire. The rest of the novel is composed of court intrigue, mean girls, multiple love interests from different backgrounds, odd alliances, make-overs and dresses, and the fabulous life of the rich.
The plot is very entertaining, albeit predictable and far too reliant on coincidences in order to move forward. Essentially, the entire story of Red Queen is a ball that was pushed down a hill from the first page and that kept rolling unstoppably all the way to the end. All the events are links in a chain intricately and intrinsically bound to each other, which, ultimately makes for a fast paced and a very straightforward plot, but perhaps too easy to predict and one that needed constant obvious devices to kept aloft.
I wouldn't say Mare was not an engaging main character, but there was something missing. I had a really hard time empathizing with her, and not for a lack of trying on my part or because I couldn't see what she was fighting for, which was made pretty clear since the beginning. I admired her passion, her love for her family, but I never connected with her, never felt fully invested in her or her struggles and never actually found her tale of woe moving. The author placed a lot of emphasis on how oppressed the Reds were, and I could easily see that, but, whether it was because of my particular disposition or Mare as a narrator, it just didn't click. Ultimately, Mare was a really hard heroine for me to care about, which is strange because she resembles most of the heroines I've love. There was just something about her narrative voice that I couldn't take completely seriously, something that didn't allow me to feel with and for her. That is not to say, however, that she wasn't badass or interesting, because she was, I just never personally felt for her.
While there's not a lot romance in this novel overall, there are some instances of romance sub-plots and a couple of love interests. The novel featured a sort of love triangle that, while it didn't have much focus in the plot, figured importantly in the developments in the story. Strangely enough, I actually liked how the love triangle turned out. The author played the romance angle from a very cynical stand-point and, not only is that rare in YA, it was very intriguing and made for a very exciting, even if a bit predictable, climax. I liked that she didn't try to show any of the love interests as perfect. Actually, no one in this book was shown as anything other than utterly imperfect, including Mare, and that made for some very interesting and engaging characterization.
The plot dragged a bit some times, mostly because, as a fairly extensive book, it hit a bit of a snag in the middle that forced it to be just the slightest bit repetitive. In the end, I was a bit disappointed with how things wrapped up and forced a sequel, but unlike with some other books, I can see how a sequel would be needed here. The author introduced many important threads that were pushed aside to focus on more immediate matters but that figured importantly in the construction of the world and the fate of the characters in the novel, so I can perfectly understand why there's a need for a sequel. Now, whether or not I'm feeling up to reading it, that's another matter that needs further consideration.
Whoever described Red Queen as epic hit the nail in the head. The fights, the action scenes and the climax are unbelievably exciting, thrilling and exhilarating. Those were the times when everything in the novel combined to make a very fantastic reading experience. I just wished I had been that consistently enthralled with the other aspects of the novel because I really, really wanted to fall in love with this one. Red Queen is, for all intent and purposes, a very fun, entertaining and explosive book that delivers fantastic fights and action scenes, which ended up being the saving grace of this entire book. It is, by no means, a bad book. Red Queen is actually a very decent first novel and a good YA Fantasy/Dystopian effort. In the end, I just failed to connect with it it and I ended up focusing too much on how it reminded me of other books. But honestly, I can see why many others would love it. Unfortunately, this time I just wasn't one of them. (less)