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
For a while now, I've been starving for some good YA circus fiction, so I imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon this one and that gorgeous cover.For a while now, I've been starving for some good YA circus fiction, so I imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon this one and that gorgeous cover. The blurb made me wary, though, because it seemed like the book would take a more paranormal romance kind of path, not to mention that it feels like someone should've reined in whoever wrote it because it gave far too much away from the plot. I was write on both accounts.
My biggest gripe with this novel is that the circus is only a plot device that barely figures into the story. It could've been a school or an academy, and it wouldn't have made a difference in terms of the setting's importance, so I felt a bit cheated. Admittedly, close to the first hundred pages take place in the circus, but that's only until the actual story starts. And once it did, it went from zero to a million in .05 seconds flat.
To say this novel has a breakneck speed is an understatement, but that’s not necessarily something good for me in this case. The story jumps into hyperspeed seemingly out of nowhere, starting with a very passive beginning and speeding away into a dangerous race for survival that gave the story a very disjointed feel to it. Moreover, I can’t very well say that the fast pace of the novel made for an interesting or exciting read. These characters were just running around, scattered like ants, waiting for something to happen and having very petty and repetitive conversations with each other until someone swooped in and forced the story to move along.
The simple and basic plot structure of the novel contributed even more strongly to that, as well. The plot is too loose, which gave ample space for repetition and boring and flat introspection, instead of sorely-needed world-building and characterization. The characters, including the “heroine”, never grew up from semi-stereotyped sketches, remaining static all throughout the novel. They were predictable and shallow to the point where you could pretty much guess what they would say or do in every single scene, not only because they did it time and time again, but also because there wasn’t much to them besides that particular attitude reserved uniquely to them. You could tell Jett would always say something supportive and loving and Pru would say something “bitchy”. These characters were given absolutely no room to grow, and then they were used shamelessly like props to satisfy some emotional need of Flo’s, the main character.
I liked that the author had no problem with multiplying the body count. Most authors these days contain themselves when it comes to killing characters, and more often than not, that affects the narrative. But the deaths in this story were done in a very callous manner than was aimed directly to playing with Flo’s emotions. The story would kill off someone she didn’t like, just so that she could rise above it all and show herself to be so sad about someone who was generally horrible to her. Then the climax of the story rolled along and dealt a pretty awful death to manipulate both Flo and the reader, immediately followed by a twist that left a very sour taste in my mouth.
Flo was a pretty generic main character, the sort of blank slate heroine we are supposed to empathize with and root for because she experiences some generic insecurities, is generically bullied by some generic mean girls who are jealous of her specialness and the attention she receives from some generic nice and “gorgeous” guy, and who’s just such a good person in her thoughts, even though she never actually does anything good or heroic. I hated the way the story kept shoving in my face how great Flo was, how brave and good and kind, when in the story itself, she was none of those things. And then you had this dull guy after her for no reason whatsoever, brought together because the author deemed it so and not because there was any chemistry or noticeable bond between them.
There was little to no world-building in this novel, and as a result, the plot feels forced and full of holes. Things never quite made sense to me, and the “bad guys” were so prosaic and unimaginative, their actions and their mission so banal, it was hard to care at all about their trite contribution to the novel. There was barely an explanation for their existence, and the one that was offered was so patently absurd, it was exceedingly hard to take seriously any aspect of this story. And I won’t even mention how preposterous the idea of shifters is within the context of this world, as nothing is said about them or the whole point of their existence, and no aspect of it is explored aside from some generic “getting carried away by the animal instincts” BS.
The potential was there all along and Ormond seemed like a talented enough author to take this story further, but the novel remained static and banal all the way through. All in all, the novel is just generic, not terrible on any account, but definitely mediocre. Perhaps with more tailored expectations, the fast-pace and high stakes will be enjoyable and provide the necessary excitement to make this a worthwhile reading experience, but that was not the case for me. ...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
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
Juvenile writing, an insufferably idiotic and boy-obsessed main character, lack of world-building, age inappropriate writingThis book was unreadable.
Juvenile writing, an insufferably idiotic and boy-obsessed main character, lack of world-building, age inappropriate writing and dialogue, a maddening fixation on the boring romance, generic characterization, a frustratingly slow pace, and a complete disregard for the impact of rape on a character.
I have nothing else to say about this book. ...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
One can always count on Rachel Hawkins to deliver great doses of fun and charming entertainment, as well as reliable, engaging heroines that are realiOne can always count on Rachel Hawkins to deliver great doses of fun and charming entertainment, as well as reliable, engaging heroines that are realistic, strong and very easy to root for. Sure, her stories are not exactly a fountain of originality and, truth be told, there's very little substance behind all the fluff, but her books never fail to remind me that it's perfectly acceptable to think a book's good even when it is solely pure entertainment and it doesn't take itself too seriously. But ultimately, while this one was certainly fun, it failed to live up to the promise of the first one.
Rebel Belle was a bit of a surprise for me because, although I already expected to be entertained, I did not expect the brain candy to also be absolutely badass and engaging the way it turned out to be. There were many elements about the story that I expected to be irritated by, but, somehow, it all turned out great. So I had some expectations of Miss Mayhem, and though it certainly delivered the appropriate levels of fun and sassyness, Miss Mayhem seem to just stumble along from beginning to end, balancing on a very thin thread of a plot that felt like a filler in the series.
Miss Mayhem was slightly similar to Rebel Belle in content. School drama, love triangle issues, BFF complications and a single social even where hell breaks loose, but, somehow, it wasn't as engaging as the first one, mostly because this one felt forced to some degree. The story felt slightly disjointed from what the first one had already established, not because it didn't follow the original, but because it didn't flow naturally from it. By giving it a similar structure to the first one, this one felt repetitive and, truth be told, rather pointless.
I didn't connect with the characters in this one, made harder by how supremely exasperating and silly they were at points, and their issues seemed overdramatic and ridiculous to me. Their actions didn't go with the characters, which means that for most of the novel, the characterization was all over the place and all so that specific events could happen to turn up the teenage angst to the max. For some reason, the love triangle kept shifting back and forth, turning into a love square and changing parts out of nowhere. Most characters didn't even play an important role in the story when it came down to it, and they all seemed to run around in circles with no idea where they were supposed to go, just hoping for the whole thing to be over. There was just something missing from the group dynamic and the whole thing just ended up feeling forced. Every single obstacle in their way felt deliberately placed there and that made it really hard to feel invested in these characters and their story because the whole thing felt contrived and strained, very much like this was a middle book and some things absolutely needed to be set for the big finale no matter what.
I don't feel like this novel contributed much to be mythology at work in this story, nor to the characterization of the main cast. The antagonist in this one felt cliched and didn't participate much in the story, and the conflict behind the novel was very unfulfilling, half-baked and anti-climactic as it was. Additionally, the writing was definitely not Hawkins best.
Unfortunately, Miss Mayhem was yet another victim of the middle book syndrome. It failed to meet the effortless entertainment and cleverness of the first one, and it's nothing more than an obvious, shaky platform for the third one. As a sequel, it's weak and unsatisfying, by itself it's flawed and rather pointless. It admittedly offers enough mindless entertainment and fun that works great with its short length and lighthearted content, but as a whole, the novel falls short from what it should've been. ...more
Messenger of Fear is basically what you would get if Hot Topic and an After School Special had a baby: from the obvious, cliched bullying, to the seemMessenger of Fear is basically what you would get if Hot Topic and an After School Special had a baby: from the obvious, cliched bullying, to the seemingly philosophical realization that, *gasp*, there's both good and evil inside all of us, and right down to the tight, faux leather clothing, the crazy and totes rebellious colors for hair and cosmetics, tattoos and the cheesy skull buttons in a black, long, Goth jacket, because why not? That's how creatures of the underworld/otherworld/whatever-the-hell-this-mythology-is-supposed-to-be dress, right? When they sign up for the job, they are automatically given a 40% discount on all of their Hot Topic purchases, otherwise, they wouldn't be creatures of darkness.
Grant tried. He did put in a commendable effort in making this more than just the pseudo-philosophical, cliche, stilted, predictable mess it was, but, in the end, this book barely goes over the 200 page mark by being pointlessly long-winded, taking itself too seriously, trying to teach "valuable lessons" about the nature of humanity, and stretching what little is there of a plot that feels like the prequel to the actual story. Basically, the plot of this first novel is what authors nowadays reserve for 30+ page overpriced novellas on Kindle that promise to "explore" the world and the characters before delivering the actual story. What Messenger of Fear does is set the stage, introduce the reader to this world and this needlessly convoluted mythology through a blank slate of a main character with a very predictable story and forced, grating and stilted narrative voice that's supposed to convey the profoundly philosophical dimensions of good versus evil and everything that's in between (hint: us humans) but instead is at once boring and cheesy and definitely trying way too hard.
The story in this novel is so unstructured, so simple in basically every aspect except for the pointlessly convoluted and nonsensical mythology they tried to push in towards the end, that it ends up being kind of painful. It jumps back and forth between a couple of different, textbook bullying situations in the hopes of prolonging what little plot there is and giving new dimensions to the good and evil theme (hint: us humans, we are both good and evil, you're welcome), but it gave the novel a feeling of disjointedness. It didn't feel like it was that way on purpose, but rather because there were only about 15 pages of actual plot and they needed to pump all the filler they could into this novel to inflate it into an acceptable 200+ book, regardless of how messy, jumbled and loose the whole thing ended up being. I will give it this, the novel certainly has a good atmosphere, and I'm pretty sure that's about the only reason I made it to the end.
This is the first novel I read by Grant. I know the guy's a very popular author, so I was expecting something that lived up to that reputation. But Messenger of Fear is so pedestrian and banal, so simple, I have a hard time reconciling the image of an experienced, beloved and best selling author with this product. The novel is not terrible, hence the two stars, and it's certainly not one of the worst books I've ever read, but the book is so unremarkable, so mediocre, it left close to no impression at all. I'm making fun of the novel, but, honestly, I barely remember it all and it's only been about a week since I read it. This was not a creepy novel full of horror and the nuanced exploration of humanity I was promised. This book struggled to be at least engaging for 200 pages, let's not even talk about actually being fun, and being creepy and nuanced and introspective and horrific was entirely out of its reach. I don't know if this is just Grant's trademark style or if it is just one weak novel in a line of brilliant novels, but I'm really not interested in finding out. There was nothing in this novel that made me want to come back to this world or this author. It was far too ambitious in its premise for what it actually delivered and it was capable of delivering. Messenger of Fear is predictable, slow, disjointed and trying too hard, ultimately a weak offering in basically every single aspect....more
Mistwalker was a complete and pleasant surprise for me. I certainly had some expectations of it; the moment I read the very intriguing summar3.5 stars
Mistwalker was a complete and pleasant surprise for me. I certainly had some expectations of it; the moment I read the very intriguing summary for this book, I knew I needed to read it. I'd been craving a good, original paranormal book for quite a while and this books seemed promising. Still, I was aware that YA paranormal books these days are a gamble that I usually lose. The market is saturated with unoriginal, recycled garbage full of tropes and stereotypes, far too heavy on the romance and far too light in substance. So imagine my surprise when Mistwalker turned out to be none of those things and actually delivered a unique and engaging story, with layered characters and not a single one of those dreaded YA stereotypes that I've come to hate so much. No love triangle, an actual plot instead of a romance-heavy story, genuine and diverse characters that came across as honest and never tried to hard to be either genuine or diverse, a beautifully-crafted atmosphere, and a heartfelt story that I was actually invested in. The book is not perfect, and I did struggle with some aspects of it, but the uniqueness of this book had already skyrocketed it safely into Rayne-approved land.
I never thought I'd say this, being someone who thinks fishing is about as interesting as following the rotations of a fan, and who hates seafood, but holy crap, the world of Broken Tooth was fascinating. I loved the juxtaposition of the realistic hardships of living in a small, poor, fishing town, and the mysticism of the place, the old-fashioned superstitions, the old-timey view of a life on the sea, the mystery of the lighthouse, and the touches of magic and the paranormal. Mitchell did a magnificent job with the setting and the atmosphere in this book. It was rich, mesmerizing and absolutely beautiful, and also kind of eerie. This is not a horror novel, nor is it scary in the slightest, but there's a sort of eeriness to it, something ominous that you can't quite shake, and it was beautiful. Mitchell captured the feeling of a small town and infused it with magic and the power of superstitions and it worked marvelously.
Willa was a main character that was really easy to root for. She was genuine, honest, and pretty clear with what she wanted. She felt authentic to me, and she's a pretty good example of how to write about a character that's different and wants different things from others without going into special snowflake territory or shoving down the reader's throat just how unique and special she is. She was flawed, made plenty of mistakes and had some pretty ugly feelings trapped inside of her, but they all felt realistic and natural to the character. She was a layered and complex protagonist that developed nicely throughout the novel through, not only the events in the story, but also through her meaningful relationships with other characters in the novel.
The Grey Man, for his part, was a very interesting character with an ambiguous morality and unflinching honesty that I came to like really quickly. His narrative also displayed the best of Mitchell's writing and contributed greatly to the atmosphere of the novel. I also particularly liked that Mitchell avoided the paranormal creature/human love affair entirely and opted for developing Grey and Willa's relationship in a completely different way.
I really liked that Mitchell didn't waste a single important character in her story, certainly not on stereotypes or strict roles of convenience. There's a lesbian character in there for whom being a lesbian is only part of who she is and not her entire definition, which is a continuous struggle with representation in many other YA works. She is a perfectly normal girl with ambitions and feelings and flaws who just so happens to like girls. Then there's the ex-boyfriend, who's a sweet, supportive and genuine person during his relationship with Willa and after, and who's not vilified in any way because of a single mistake he makes. And then there's the "mean girl", whose not a mean girl at all because Mitchell effectively deconstructed this stereotyped and humanized her, making her an honest, flawed person that's suffering almost as much as Willa herself. There's really no antagonist in the story, no evil person to mindlessly hate, and that's something that meant quite a lot to me in my reading experience with this book. Every person is a complex and flawed world of their own, and not one of them is vilified in order to make the heroine look better. Willa's a heroine in this book because of her own actions and decisions, and the way she chooses to fight her internal battles.
Basically, this is a book about grief. Almost every character in this novel is grieving in their own ways, and the main story focuses on how these characters can find it in them to move on. I liked the way Mitchell developed this theme, how she seamlessly worked it into the story and into the development of the characters without saturating the plot and making it heavy and depressive. The novel was nicely written as a whole, though I did admittedly struggled with the cohesiveness of some dialogues and some scenes. The book never once felt disjointed, but some parts were slightly hard to follow.
The biggest issue in this book is actually how slow it is. Personally, I didn't think it was boring, but the book has a very gradual development and a very passive pace that feels almost languid. This is not a book to read for fun or excitement. It is a short book, but it is one that takes its time to develop the characters and the plot, the latter which is admittedly pretty straightforward and simple. That resulted in repetitiveness sometimes, but I never felt like this hurt my enjoyment of the book at any point. I know this is where the book fails for most readers, but I think the novel is worth sticking through the unhurried pace of the story.
There are two points of view in the novel, and though I really liked how Mitchell worked the narrative through both of them and how she managed to make both voices sound different, I'm still not convinced they were both absolutely necessary to the plot. I really liked the dimension the dual narration brought to the story and the mythology behind the plot, plus the way they worked to add layers to the characters, but it sometimes interrupted the flow of the story. Ultimately, I enjoyed both POVs immensely, and I understand the need for both in the novel, but I was never quite convinced of the need for both.
Ultimately, this was a very satisfying novel that gave me a whole lot more than I expected and actually resurrected somewhat my hope for the future of paranormal YA. It's not a perfect novel in itself, but Mitchell made it as perfect as it could be, and I really appreciate what she achieved with this story. It is different and engaging in a way very little other PN YA books have been in a while and I look forward to reading more from this author. ...more
My first experience with a Heather Brewer book didn’t go well in the slightest. Even though I was well aware that I was way out of the target audienceMy first experience with a Heather Brewer book didn’t go well in the slightest. Even though I was well aware that I was way out of the target audience for her Vladimir Tod books, Eighth Grade Bites had been recommended to me so many times, I figured it was one of those cases were every person can find something to love in it. I was wrong. Dead wrong. I absolutely hated the book to a degree where I pretty much turned my back on every single book she published thereafter, even though some of them sounded quite intriguing, like her YA dystopian novel The Legacy of Tril: Soulbound. But one day I woke up and decided I had held a grudge against her for far too long and, thus, I swallowed my apprehension and jumped into The Cemetery Boys with only some mild skepticism.
I might’ve hated how she developed her ideas in Eight Grade Bites, but I never doubted Brewer had it in her to delve into dark themes and use them in her favor with a very original flair. She sometimes tried a bit too hard, but the feeling that something was wrong, that there really was something creepy in this mysterious little town came across beautifully in this novel. Brewer handled the tension in the novel amazingly well and kept the mystery engaging and fascinating almost flawlessly all the way through. In fact, this has been one of the few times when guessing the big plot twist early in the novel hasn’t bothered me in the slightest.
Brewer dominated her use of a teenage boy’s voice as the narrator of the story. It came across as realistic, though not exactly likable. She really did a great job in making Stephen talk, act and, especially, think like a teenage boy, which is not something many YA female authors master. I did think she got carried away sometimes, particularly when it came to how Stephen saw Cara because the way he sexualized and objectified her got a bit creepy sometimes, but I can’t accuse her of not being realistically male in almost every aspect.
One of my main problems with the first of the Vladimir Tod books is that it tried too hard to be edgy, hip and cool and teenage goth, and to me it felt like I was having a conversation with one of those emos that hang around Hot Topic, draw Sharpie pentagram on their arms to piss off adults, and write bad song lyrics about the darkness of life because their parents gave them a curfew or wanted them to get good grades. It was hard for me to not roll my eyes, and though in considerable lower levels, I felt like that was also present in this novel. It’s really hard to sympathize with characters that “join the dark side” because of the overdramatic ways they think about their circumstances. I’m not dismissing the harshness of Stephen’s, or Cara and Devon’s, circumstances, but their “pain” was so histrionically thrown at my face, their actions so rooted in the darkness of their lives, that it came off as a bit cartoonish and hard to take seriously. Plus, that combined with some generalized characterization, made it really hard for me to care about any of these characters.
I had a vague idea about these characters, but I think only Stephen managed to come across as realistic, and in spite of that, I never actually managed to care about him at all. My only interest in the novel was the mysterious mythology Brewer was working on here. Devon might’ve been the most interesting of all the characters, I don’t think he was used to his whole potential.
My favorite thing about the novel was the mythology, how it drove the mystery, how it was completely independent of the big plot twist and the clever “end” Brewer gave to it. The tension and atmosphere of the entire novel hinges on this mythology, or at least for me it did because I honestly couldn’t have possibly cared less about the game Devon and his boys played with Stephen, and it works marvelously. I loved how Brewer played with the lines between the possible and the impossible, faith and fanaticism, reality and fiction, sanity and madness, and she did it all beautifully through the mere suggestion of the Old Ones. This added a great feeling to the setting, did wonders for the atmosphere of the novel as a whole, breathed life into that town, and made the entire novel very engaging for me.
The climax was a bit too far-fetched for me, though not entirely unpredictable, and it made me question the point of the entire novel. The entire plot seemed pointlessly drawn out after the big reveal, mostly because it made kind of senseless a few of the relationships and plot developments in the novel. But since I never cared much for that, it didn’t make much of an impact on me. Ultimately, I was okay with the novel as a whole and it turned out to be a satisfying experience for such a short novel, but, admittedly, most of the enjoyment I derived from the story came from a single remarkable aspect. The rest was simply okay for me.
So maybe some of my apprehension for everything Brewer was a bit unjustified. I actually love it when that happens to me, when authors show me they have it in them to turn someone around, and now I’m more open to the idea of trying more of her books. I still think this one could’ve been even better, but the fact that I can’t say I severely disliked any aspect of it is a monumental improvement from where my relationship with Brewer started. Overall, a very short and entertaining story with a great atmosphere, realistic narration and fantastic mythology, that can be easily read in a single sitting. This book has Brewer written all over it, so fans of her will most likely love it, and those of us who didn’t or are new to her can find something in here to hold their attention and entertain them for a few hours. ...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 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. ...more
Be Not Afraid is, simultaneously, a strangely original novel as well as a very familiar one. Galante took t2.5 stars generously rounded up to 3 stars.
Be Not Afraid is, simultaneously, a strangely original novel as well as a very familiar one. Galante took the bones of your typical YA PN novel, - the special girl with the secret power, the sad past and the seemingly unattainable crush, attending a school she doesn't fit in and suddenly becoming entangled in a horrifying situation that appears to be beyond her capabilities -, and breathed new life into it with a weirdly fascinating new concept and a very strong focus on the family bonds of the main character. The problem with Be Not Afraid is that, in spite of its best efforts, it is ultimately rather disappointing as a horror/paranormal YA read and completely forgettable as a whole.
Sort of a mix between Possess and Conversion, maybe even The Merciless, Be Not Afraid presents an interesting mix of classic horror and paranormal elements, - like the eerie religious school, the exorcism scenes and imagery, the freaky actions of a girl who dabbled in things better left untouched -, but makes a practice of pushing those elements, what admittedly brought the book to my attention in the first place, to the background to bring forth into the focus of the narrative the emotional struggles of this character with her sad past. I commend Galante for making a point out of exploring her main character, her past and her relationship with her family members, all of which is usually pointedly ignored by other authors, and I usually enjoy reading about the emotional and psychological struggles of a character with a very difficult story, but, in this case, the subject got too heavy when compared with the overall mood of the novel, and truth be told, they were not as compelling as they should've been if they were going to take hold of the entire plot of the novel and take away the spotlight from what would've made this novel a whole lot more entertaining and riveting.
In spite of the tremendous effort on the author's part to make of Marin a realistic and touching character we would ache for, I had a really hard time connecting with her. She was a elusive as a character and lacked a presence in her own story when it came to everything else besides her condition and paranormal power. Moreover, the way her story progressed left much to be desired, especially when it depended on seemingly disjointed events relating to some other character rather than on her own decisions and actions, because otherwise, Marin would've remained a pretty static figure throughout. Like I said, the novel was written in a very emotionally conscious way, making the entire book a detailed, tragic story of guilt and family issues than about creepy paranormal phenomena, and in spite of how full of emotional issues and relationships this novel is, I never connected with the novel or the character, was never emotionally invested in them, and bored with the whole thing more times than I would care to admit.
None of the other characters left any sort of impression, their participation in the story strictly adhered to their specific roles, and the romance itself was lukewarm and uninspiring, not to mention, very typical and unrealistic under the YA standards of seemingly unattainable guy suddenly revealing he has feelings for the girl that's barely a stain in the wall of his life and who he had never bothered to acknowledge until that point when he needed her. Actually, most characterizations were inconsistent and rather convenient upon what the plot required at that specific moment.
The novel does have a very well done atmosphere and a couple of nicely written horror scenes that were very close to being worth the long wait for the novel to finally coming around to remembering it was supposed to be a horror story. Sadly, 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. When it comes to the paranormal aspect, although very intriguing, it was still really difficult to visualize, understand and to see it as an integral part of the novel, as opposed to a selling point to mark it as something different from other paranormal offerings.
Be Not Afraid is a decent novel, certainly not the worst horror/paranormal YA novel I've read in a while, but this novel sins by the way it got stuck in the middle, sinking in a puddle of mediocrity and blandness, being pretty much unremarkable and forgettable in every way. It didn't leave me with much of an impression besides an overall feeling of indifference, and that's not what I want to feel when I read a novel. Galante proved a couple of times that she's more than capable of creating very creepy scenes and that she is very oriented towards character depth, so I would be interested in anything else she writes, but Be Not Afraid was simply not for me. ...more
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 failuThe 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. ...more
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 someho3.5 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. ...more
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 rela3.5 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. ...more
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 ecl3.5 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. ...more
The Girl at Midnight is a very entertaining and admittedly lovely mix between Daughter of Smoke & Bone and City of Bones, with similar elements buThe Girl at Midnight is a very entertaining and admittedly lovely mix between Daughter of Smoke & Bone and City of Bones, with similar elements but less intensity than the former, and with a comparable urban feel and characters but less convoluted a world and mythology than the latter. It also shares a couple of elements with Shadow and Bone and, to some extent, even the forthcoming Magonia, so this novel is pretty much destined to be an instant favorite with YA fantasy lovers.
Unfortunately, in spite of the book's best efforts, all this meant that, while the premise sounded original and unique, or like it would, at the very least, take familiar elements and breathe a life of its own to it, the feeling of familiarity never quite goes away, a feeling that is exacerbated by characters whose entire characterization follows almost point by point that of very well-known and beloved characters from other series and a plot that's, ultimately, far too predictable. All in all, it is a decent and engaging read, but it lacked depth, and although nicely executed through and through, it failed to make any sort of meaningful impact on me.
The Girl at Midnight is a perfectly nice novel takes the reader through a highly entertaining and thrilling tour of the world and its magical, hidden corners. The book is fast-paced and surprisingly fascinating. I was honestly never bored and I was quite intrigued by this world and its magical inhabitants. My slightly positive impression of this book is carried mostly by the effortless way in which the author made this world appealing, even when it felt like I'd seen it before. I think Grey did a good job with the world-building in general, for she made it authentically engaging and captivating. I wanted to more know about it, about its history and how it is spread throughout the world, and though we spent more time in its human areas, the magical atmosphere never let up.
When it comes to the characters, I'm in the very strange and conflicting position of genuinely liking them because they were actually fun to read about and disliking them because of how unabashedly similar to other characters they were. Echo was a quirkier, happy-go-luckier and more naive version of Karou, and Caius had essentially the same backstory that Akiva had in Daughter of Smoke and Bone. Their chemistry, although genuine and palpable within the context of this novel, also seem borrowed straight out of Taylor's series, and the twist towards the end complicated the matter even further by adding yet another integral element from the Daughter of Smoke and Bone trilogy. The secondary characters shared a similar fate, with Ivy, Echo's best friend, reminding me far too much of Karou's best friend Zuzanna, and Dorian and Jasper were, almost identically, Alec and Magnus from Clare's Mortal Instruments. The villains and antagonists, for their part, where completely bland, uninspired and one-dimensional, which had the unfortunate effect of taking away any feeling of urgency from the novel and diminishing the impact of the story's main conflict.
The characterization is my biggest issue with the novel. I would've been fine with the overall predictability of the story, even the quirkiness of the writing and the great lengths the story went to cover up some plot holes which still left me feeling quite skeptical. All of that would've meant very little to me because it paled against the effortless beauty and easy entertainment of this novel, but the whole thing was just too damn similar to other novels to the point were they sometimes ran parallel in plot and characterization. It's a real shame because this story and these characters had the potential to shine on their own. In fact, this whole novel was brimming with potential, but it stuck to what was safe and well-accepted within the genre, and it ended up coming dangerously close to being a carbon copy of other very popular novels, all of which, in terms of quality and memorability, far exceed The Girl at Midnight.
The Girl at Midnight also suffered from other typical YA tropes, particularly the girl rivalry between the perfect, unappreciated main character and the bitchy girl who refuses to accept her for no discernible reason other than because she is lusting after a guy that is hopelessly in love with the main character. I liked that Echo admitted she never went out of her way to befriend Ruby and that she might be partially responsible for some of the animosity between them, but the less than kind commentary on Ruby and the hopeless crush she harbored for Echo's boyfriend reminded me of the tired and, quite frankly, offensive dynamic of jealous mean girl and perfect main character. Moreover, the book did have a bit of insta-love, not exclusive to Echo and Caius. I admire Grey for playing around with these tropes and trying to switch things up a bit, but once more, it felt like a half-hearted effort to reuse the tropes without them being too overly familiar.
From an entirely subjective standpoint, I genuinely liked this novel. It was a surprisingly refreshing read, engaging and entertaining and with some lovely passages and descriptions, plus a very magical atmosphere. However, from an entirely objective one, ignoring for a second the similarities to other novels, The Girl at Midnight is flawed in technical aspects that render it a perfectly lovely and fun but conclusively forgettable novel. ...more
Jackaby is what you would get if you took The Monstrumologist and stripped away all the disturbing and horrifying aspects of the novel, leavi3.5 stars
Jackaby is what you would get if you took The Monstrumologist and stripped away all the disturbing and horrifying aspects of the novel, leaving the taciturn expert and investigator of the unknown and his clever, orphaned assistant, and then placed Sherlock and his eccentricity in the middle of the story and, instead of his misanthropy, gave him the Tenth Doctor's charm and excessive confidence in his intellect. It sounds like a formula that would either rock or fail, and I'm glad to say that, although not as compelling or deep as any of the aforementioned, Jackaby is still a very engaging novel whose strongest appeal is just how entertaining and charming it is.
Jackaby is a very quick, fast-paced novel that, in spite of the thematic of the novel, is also very light in content. This is like the whimsical version of The Monstrumologist, and it is surprisingly engaging and very amusing. It is very predictable and the novel puts very little effort into hiding its every twist and turn, but the mystery is hardly the selling point of the novel. The strength of the novel lies in how utterly charming it is, though there is still a commendable effort into the development of the cat-and-mouse investigative process.
The characters are very easy to like and are quick to amuse, especially Jackaby, even though they do leave a bit to be desired in terms of depth or character development. Abigail, for her part, is a competent enough heroine, though I was a bit let down by her lack of involvement in the saving of her own life in the end. Still, she was very smart, stubborn, outspoken and vigilant, and she did a good job at not allowing herself to be completely overshadowed by Jackaby. The complemented and balanced each other really well in the novel and the chemistry between them as partners worked fantastically and naturally.
There's a lot of endearing secondary characters, and though they are not particularly deep and were admittedly a bit on the stereotyped side, they added to the charismatic feel of the story. There's a bit of romance in the novel of the instalove variety, but it was played so adorably and it was hardly a focus on the novel, so it ended up adding to the pleasantness of the story.
This is a fun, quirky and very fast novel that should appeal to anyone looking for a mystery without the heavy and often overwhelming tones such novels usually carry. The novel is the perfect balance between fun and seriousness and never compromises one for the other. Nothing's particularly profound or complicated, but that doesn't mean the novel fails to amuse or the characters fail to be endearing. In the end, Jackaby is a quick, light and charming novel that plays around with the elements it borrowed from classics and made them amusing and entertaining in a new way. ...more
Meda's back and she's better than ever in a sequel that's full of action, violent badassery, laughs, and surprising twists and turns. I liked4.5 stars
Meda's back and she's better than ever in a sequel that's full of action, violent badassery, laughs, and surprising twists and turns. I liked Cracked, but I loved Crushed. How can a sequel, - no, a middle book, which are notorious for always being the weakest link in a trilogy, - be even better than an already pretty decent first book? Crushed is not marginally better than Cracked, no, it is light years away in terms of plotting, characterization and writing. It's truly and simply spectacular.
This novel perfectly showcases what is very damn near flawless character development. Meda was a very engaging and amusing main character in Cracked, but she's far more than just that in Crushed. She's complex and you can see her conflicting humanity and morality every step of the way. What I liked the most is that Crewe never shied away from Meda's brutality. It's very disappointing to see so many YA authors struggling to create complex, conflicted and morally-ambiguous characters because most of them like the idea more than they like actually writing them and having their characters be anything but flawless. They forget that, not only are flawed characters more compelling, but they also have a lot more impact on the reader and a duality in their natures makes them more realistic and engaging. That's what makes Meda such an spectacular YA heroine.
Meda's struggles are very well-written and thoroughly believable. Crewe conveys her inner conflict with the same natural ease with which she convey Meda's snark and badassery. And Meda's hardly the only one to grow in this novel. Crewe managed to give so much dimension to Jo and Chi and Armand in such a small amount of pages, and Jo in particular grew so much through her relationship with Meda.
There's a bit of romance in this novel and I loved how Crewe built it up, how she shaped the tension between Meda and Armand and what she made of the relationship between them, particularly the effect this relationship had in the development of both characters. It's a really bittersweet experience, but one I enjoyed very much.
This book is twisty and has one of the best climaxes I've read in a while. The action never lets up and the novel is fast-paced from beginning to end. There's never a dull moment in the story and it all comes together in a climax that left me breathless. And it's not so much the twists as to how they were delivered, so even if you see it coming, the impact is still strongly felt.
I can't seem to have anything but praises for this novel, so why not the fifth star? That I cannot give it that last star reflects more on me than on the novel. This novel is as perfect as it could possibly be, but the fact still remains that I hate to read about Crusaders and Templars. They are among one of my most disliked topic and the mere mention of them sets me on edge, which ultimately says quite a lot about the quality of this book that I'm able to love it so much in spite of hating one of the central themes of the novel.
Most of us know about the uncertain fate of this novel, and for those who don't, you can read more about it here. I urge you to check out this series and to support the author. This is a fantastic series, and even if you don't like it, I'm sure you'll get some laughs and entertainment out of it. This is a great series by a fantastic author and it deserves to be talked about and supported.
Crushed is a superb novel that is not only a strong installment in an already great series, but that surpasses the first one and speaks greatly of Crewe's skills as an author and how one can expect this series to only get better. If you are still looking for a paranormal fix and can't find anything worthwhile in that sea of cheesy and cliched YA paranormal romances, look no further because this series is as good as it gets. ...more
There's a clear line between complex and complicated, and Unwept crossed that line very early into the novel and got more and more lost in there the fThere's a clear line between complex and complicated, and Unwept crossed that line very early into the novel and got more and more lost in there the farther it went into the story. Basically, Unwept wanted to be many, many things and to do a lot of things, and, in the end, it barely achieved to be and to do any of the things it set out to. The problem doesn't lie in being too ambitious with the story, - though for such a small book, the amount of details and ideas was overwhelming -, the real issue is when more and more layers are added to an already convoluted story without first securing the stability of the foundation. The authors left so many threads hanging and left so many parts of the story standing on flimsy foundations, that as they kept adding more mysteries and storylines, it didn't take long for the whole thing to crumble under pressure as soon as the climax came along and did nothing to reinforce the structure of the plot.
Unwept is a very interesting novel at a glance, and it certainly has some very original and fascinating ideas in there, but one can certainly have too much of a good thing, especially when the authors force the mystery by keeping all their cards close to their chests. I don't think an author should reveal absolutely everything, definitely not in the first book in a projected series and certainly not when the mystery of the novel is the driving force of the main storyline. But, as an author, you owe your readers some explanations and to deny them any kind of reason or explanation for the world so that they remain for the duration of the series is nothing short of extortion.
Throughout this novel, the reader is introduced to a very fantastical but mysterious world where elements from almost every single fantasy sub-genre can be found, and yet the thing that bounds them together is never shown. From beginning to end, the reader is as clueless as Ellis, and as the story gets more and more and more complicated, the novel ends up being overwhelming because of how complicated and unexplained the whole thing is. Just once in the entire novel there's an attempt to somewhat explain the situation in this world and it is downright unsatisfactory.
What's more, there's actually barely a plot in there. The story is slow-paced and meanders around at the pace Ellis stumbled around in this new world. The story basically starts in the last few chapters and the entire novel depends on the slumbering pace at which Ellis discovered things about the life she's living.
Ellis, for her part, was a very frustrating and inconsistent main character. She never questioned her situation and never outright sought to remedy her lack of understanding or knowledge about this world. She has no memory of who she is, she is being dumped somewhere, told nothing and expected to just fall back into this life with these people that she's supposed to know but want to tell her nothing and instead control her every step, and she's perfectly fine with it. She rarely questioned it and simply went along with all of it, more worried about how they would feel than the fact that she knew nothing about those people, about herself or this world and was expected to live this strange life and not question it. She constantly oscillated between having a backbone and wanting to find out what was going on, and then back into perfect complacence. Moreover, the way Ellis got back some of her memories was not only frustrating, but also extremely unrealistic. Memories don't come back that easily, and certainly not without any side-effects, and you just can't stand in front of a piano or an easel and just decide that you must have known how to play or paint and, poof!, here are your memories of doing exactly that. It wasn't until the very last page that Ellis showed her outrage at her situation and decided to take matter in her own hands, but by then it was too late for me.
The rest of the novel is full of shallowly-drawn and slightly irritating characters that have no subtlety in their characterization or any clear point at all. At this point, I still have no idea as to what any of this characters actually wants. The worst two characters by far were the love interests. Equally creepy, controlling, dominating and inconsiderate, these two alphas were stuck in a pissing contest with each other, claiming back and forth the main character without even wondering about what she wanted. They just came on to her, going so far as to assault her while she sleeps, never once seeing her as a person but an object to be claimed, and expected Ellis and the reader to be totally cool with this. At least Ellis spoke out against this in the end and basically told both of them to go to hell, but I have no doubt this creepy love triangle will come back and probably be all the more important in upcoming books, which is one of the main reasons why I'm not picking up the sequel.
Unwept is a collection of very good and fascinating ideas, but they are threads tangled with each other, left like that intentionally by the authors to force a series from a story that, developed rightly and carefully explained, shouldn't had have space for more installments. The book was not badly written and there was an impressive atmosphere in the book, but you cannot force a mystery and a whole story by throwing buckets of exposition and half-developed concepts at your reader and then tell them that if they want to know what it all means then they'll have to stick around for the next book, especially when it is done in such a blatant way. Lot of potential with this one, certainly full of great ideas, but in the end, without the right execution, great ideas can only go so far. ...more
I loved Arclight, which was quite a surprise for me because I honestly thought there was no originality left to be found in post-apocalyptic/ dystopiaI loved Arclight, which was quite a surprise for me because I honestly thought there was no originality left to be found in post-apocalyptic/ dystopian YA titles. One would think that I would be excited for a sequel, but the truth is that I was extremely apprehensive of Meridian, and my suspicions turned out to be true: Arclight did not need a sequel. A perfectly good stand-alone novel was forcefully turned into a series, and quite honestly, almost 500 pages and not once did I get invested in the plot or the characters.
Meridian is a decent novel, but it pales in comparison to Arclight. I would call it the "middle book syndrome", except that the continuation in the story felt so forced that if it wasn't because it is set in the same world with the same characters, this wouldn't even feel like a sequel. A common enemy for humans and Fades is introduced, and the whole book is made up of the nightmares of a few kids and the ridiculous and pointless mission to see what's behind the Dark. For a lengthy book, not much of importance actually happens. Truth be told, I don't think I could give you many details about what actually happens in the book, except perhaps to tell you that I was continually bored, and that Tobin was a whiny jerk and a totally unnecessary addition to the POVs in the book.
I couldn't even connect with the characters this time around. The story that had entranced me so much not a year ago, had barely any appeal to me this time around, which saddens me because I really liked this story and how McQuein brought it to life in Arclight. I failed to get invested in the novel, failed to lose myself in the story, and that resulted in me not being able to summon anything but absolute indifference for this book. ...more
I didn't expect to like this book. Truth be told, under any other circumstances, I don't think I would've liked this book so much. But at the3.5 stars
I didn't expect to like this book. Truth be told, under any other circumstances, I don't think I would've liked this book so much. But at the moment I picked it up, it was just so right.
The best thing this book has going for it is just how amusing it is. Meda is the perfect example of how you don't have to like a character or how the main character doesn't have to be a vision of goodness and purity to enjoy reading about her and even caring about her. She has very little going for her. She's selfish, snide, traitorous and has a particular addiction to bloodbaths - but she is just so much fun to read about. The girl is brutally honest and she has absolutely no delusions of being a monster with a heart. So she embraces it, and that made for a very different and interesting read, even though the plot of the book is not exactly groundbreakingly original. Her development throughout the book also felt natural, which is something I struggle with in many books with anti-heroes. The relationships she established throughout the course of the book felt authentic, and the characters shined for themselves instead of through Meda.
I loved that Meda is not involved in any kind of romance in this novel, that it was completely relegated to the background for secondary characters because it left the way wide open for extraordinary character development, and I also liked the message of moral duality the story sends. I don't like reading about the Templars, so that particular aspect of the story, along with the training school, the trailer park, the biker gang and the continued mentions of God, didn't much appeal to me. I wasn't too keen on the representation of demons either, but I can't say either of those aspects much influenced my impression of the novel because, really, it's all about Meda.
This book is just fun. It's a quick, uncomplicated read that comes along with an amusing and different main character and a cast of unique and entertaining secondary characters you can't help liking. ...more