A thoroughly engaging and nicely written short story that seamlessly combined well known fairy tales, like Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Be3.5 stars
A thoroughly engaging and nicely written short story that seamlessly combined well known fairy tales, like Red Riding Hood, Beauty and the Beast and a hint of Snow White, and presented them in a very original, fascinating and beautiful way. I wish it had been longer, but still, lovely story. ...more
A very original tale that mixed folk tales with the modern world for a very quirky and enchanting result. Though I loved the general idea behind the sA very original tale that mixed folk tales with the modern world for a very quirky and enchanting result. Though I loved the general idea behind the story as well as the message that drove the ending, it felt a bit abrupt and the story deliberately moved away from what probably would've been a far more fascinating plot. A nice story, overall. ...more
A chilling, twisty, beautiful and utterly spectacular illustrated volume, reminiscent of the fairy tales I grew up with, the dark and creepy ones withA chilling, twisty, beautiful and utterly spectacular illustrated volume, reminiscent of the fairy tales I grew up with, the dark and creepy ones with lessons that were taught through horror and misfortune instead of happily-ever-afters. Very original stories, gorgeous art displayed in different styles, and atmosphere that was exactly what I was looking for, Through the Woods is a quick and very compelling read that will remind you of your love for age-old, dark stories and leave you wanting for more.
The story took some time to pick up and I struggled with the writing at points, - not that it wasn't absolutely gorgeous, poweAbsolutely spectacular.
The story took some time to pick up and I struggled with the writing at points, - not that it wasn't absolutely gorgeous, powerful and purposeful, rather, it was more about me getting used to it's style -, but The Winner's Crime is an amazing addition to the series, it sets the stage for the climax nearly perfectly, and might've even been better than the first one, which is definitely something I never thought I'd say. A mesmerizing world, court intrigue, dangerous mind and political games, and heartwrenching drama, The Winner's Crime is beautiful, clever and heartbreaking. Can't wait for the third one.
The Ghosts of Heaven is as mystifying, riveting, brilliant, unsettling and complicated as you can expect from Marcus Sedgwick. What Sedgwick4.5 stars
The Ghosts of Heaven is as mystifying, riveting, brilliant, unsettling and complicated as you can expect from Marcus Sedgwick. What Sedgwick accomplished with this novel transcends genres and breaks down barriers. He gives us four completely different and yet eerily similar stories that go deep into the mysteries of the universe, of life and the human mind, all within the short amount of pages given to each story. This is a gorgeous work of fiction, but also of philosophy, psychology and history, all wrapped up in Sedgwick's trademark profound, intelligent and gorgeous prose.
Having said that, I honestly don't think this book is for everybody. I was absolutely mesmerized by the novel, but these stories are all about the symbolism rather than about action or even the characters themselves. The four stories are connected through certain symbols and ideas, and the focus of the novel is mostly that, in the shifting and mysterious meaning of the spiral, of its perpetuation through time, of the endless cycle of human life and a person's capacity for darkness. This is one of those books that wants to make you think, not just entertain you. Quite frankly, if one jumps into this novel just expecting to be entertained, one will miss what makes this novel so amazing and will probably just be bored instead.
In this volume, Segwick takes us on a journey through time. First we met a brave, motivated girl in prehistoric times that wants to be more than what her tribe wants her to be, then another clever and strong girl stuck right in the middle of dangerous Puritan times, followed by a troubled young man working at an asylum in the 1900's where strange procedures and ideas are being born, and finally, into the far future, where a disturbed man begins to discovers mysteries about the universe, and himself, that perhaps would be better left untouched. Every single one of the stories is spectacular in its own right. Each one featured a distinct narrative style, a unique tone and atmosphere, each one rich in details and all of them connected through the symbolism of the spiral, which seems to be followed all through time and even space by tragedy and human depravity. Although Sedwick says in his introduction that the stories are written in a way that allows you to read them in whatever order you like, I would recommend reading them in the order they were printed, since reading them randomly will most likely spoil another one of the stories.
The stories are all relatively simple, but exquisitely written and detailed, and they all carried, in their own unique way, the mystery of the spiral, the eternal loop of human curiosity, the unending circle of time, the unfathomable depth of endless darkness and the unknown, and the never-ending pursuit of knowledge. Sedgwick explored this metaphor in many different ways, places it in different contexts and considered it from shifting points of view, and by the end, I had like 12 different theories, but that's exactly the point of the novel. It doesn't present you a problem with a clear solution. It wants you to think further, to look around and consider it under a different light, to see the swirling, unstoppable mystery of the world alive all around us. It's simply fascinating, and as usual with a Sedgwick book, I feel like I got something really important from reading this novel. Plus, more obscure Edgar Allan Poe fun facts, which are always an awesome thing to take from a Sedgwick novel.
I found myself somewhat disconnected from two of the stories, which was a slightly jarring experience after being so profoundly invested in one that either preceded it or followed it, but I still enjoyed these stories immensely and thought them brilliant by themselves and as a whole. This is a very intriguing novel that goes deep into themes rarely seen in YA. The Ghosts of Heaven goes beyond just presenting a story and getting the reader to care about some characters, and it rarely bothered to explain every single part of the mysteries because it wanted to leave that up to you, the reader. Sedgwick is very clever and hesitant when it comes to the strange and seemingly impossible in the novel. He makes you wonder about it all and neither confirms nor denies the possibility of the magical, leaving the decision of what's real and what's not, what's right and what isn't all up to you. The ending of the fourth story sort of puts a mind-bending, incredible end to that debate, so whatever order you finally decided to read these stories in, I really recommend reading the fourth story last. The impact of the twisty ending is that much stronger that way.
As expected from Sedgwick, The Ghosts of Heaven is an utterly fascinating, unbelievably clever and absolutely riveting volume. ...more
Twisted Fate is, in all likelihood, one of the most poorly written novels I've ever read and definitely the most pathetic attempt at a YA psychologicaTwisted Fate is, in all likelihood, one of the most poorly written novels I've ever read and definitely the most pathetic attempt at a YA psychological thriller I've ever had the misfortune of reading. The writing was atrocious, there was no point to the 1 billion different POVs in the novel, there was really no story, certainly no mystery for it was predictable as hell, and to call this novel the We Were Liars of 2015 is an insult to We Were Liars and the entire genre.
It sounds harsh, I know, but I can't help it. This novel left me steaming with anger and frustration because it is the type of poorly written novel that hangs entirely on a "mind-bending plot-twist" that's supposed to make me forget how badly plotted, terribly written, horribly characterized and senseless the whole things was because, wow, plot twist! Basically, it was like one of those last M. Night Shyamalan movies that smacked you in the face with a big twist in the hopes that it could redeem how boring, tedious, and pointless everything before it was. Except that I can't even concede Twisted Fate the honor of calling that ending a "plot-twist". It was evident from the beginning and there's nowhere in the novel a decent attempt at hiding it.
Twisted Fate has some of the flattest, most mind-numbingly boring characters I've ever read about. They were all supposed to be so deep and twisted and disturbed, and yet they all sounded so lifeless and forced, like chalk outlines of what they were supposed to be. And they all sounded alike and as equally monotonous because every single character in this novel gets a freaking POV. There are about 10 different POVs in the novel, and only two actually contributed to the "story", and I think I'm being generous. The rest either praised Sydney's amazing superiority for no reason I can discern, or fulfilled the chorus role in old Greek plays where the chorus would come out of nowhere and foreshadow horrible, terrible things, lamenting that the characters didn't see it coming. They should've come in when the novel started so I wouldn't have had to face the horrible, terrible thing that was actually finishing this novel.
We have two main characters, a pair of sisters called Sydney and Allison, who are total opposites. Sydney is the trouble maker, the rebellious but brilliant girl that reads for pleasure and skateboards, and Allison is the cutesy, sweet, naive girl that sees the good in everyone, bakes blueberry muffins and sounds like a freaking 5 year old. The reason why everyone bows down to Sydney's intellectual superiority, even adults, is because she reads a couple of unspecified books and knows how to use the word "philistine". I shit you not. I read! I know tons of words! I must be a fucking genius by this book's standards!
Sydney was so unbelievably pretentious. She was so brilliant, she could skip school every day and go to detention every night and still be the class Valedictorian because she knew the word philistine, used it in a sentence once or twice and could play this stupid game in which they make anagrams while they get high. That's all the proof we get of her supposed superior intelligence. Her dialogues with this one other pretentious "genius" friend were so painfully awkward. He would string together preposterous sentences with big, pretentious words and let the world bask in his superior intellectual glow. Every time he talked, I remembered that scene from FRIENDS when Joey uses the thesaurus to write a letter because he wanted to sound smart.
Then again, on Sydney's defense, every single piece of dialogue in this novel was painful. You know how sometimes, when an adult learns some phrase or lingo the youngsters are using, they start saying it all the freaking time? Like that time my aunt got a Facebook, learned of "Lol" and "YOLO" and started to write those two words at the end of every status update? Well, in this novel, the choice phrase was "420 Blaze it". I don't partake on weed smoking, but like everyone in the world, I know people that do and never in my life have I ever heard them use that phrase in all seriousness, much less every time they make the tiniest reference to smoking weed. It was awkward and forced, exactly like an adult trying to act like a teenager.
Moreover, this novel refused to give details about anything. It mentioned skateboarding repeatedly, since it was the center of Sydney's "trouble making tendencies", and never actually went deeper than that. No tricks, techniques, only a passing reference to Tony Hawk, who's being out of the scene for, what?, ten years now? It mentioned hacking several times as well and the only related word mentioned is "coding". Again, no details. One of the most important aspects of the plot is that this guy edits films, and not once is there anything said about it. The novel just mentioned some broad, general activity and expected the reader to go along with it without any type of detail. That's lazy writing at its finest.
There is absolutely no depth to anything in this novel. It tries so, so hard to be profound and dark and twisted, and it honestly gave me secondhand embarrassment to see it flop repeatedly on the ground like a fish out of water. Simply put, this novel was just way out of its depth. It tried to be much more than it had the capacity to be. You can expect this novel to be as introspective, profound and cognizant as a Kim Kardashian diary entry.
The narration was flat and unexciting, delivered in such a monotonous way, I felt like I was taking a non-stop 3 day seminar on watching grass grow. The earth-shattering discoveries the characters made were told in the same way we heard about Allison picking blueberries for her muffins. Not even the abrupt climax carried any spark of excitement to it. The writing was so passive, so removed from the emotions of the characters or the intensity of the situation, that my reading experience was a flat-line from beginning to end.
I know some people will still be surprised by the ending, and I don't mean to disrespect them when I say the twist in the novel was evident from the very first page. That it was predictable is not even the real issue. I saw the plot twist in We Were Liars coming and I still enjoyed the novel, though that might have something to do with We Were Liars having actual substance to it, unlike this one, but that's not the point. It's not that it was predictable, or even that it was preposterous and badly constructed, it's just that the entire plot twist hinges entirely on misinformed psychology and on every single character deliberately ignoring all the radioactive red flags or indulging the main characters just cuz. Again, lazy writing.
Poorly written, barely and badly plotted, based on superficial research and general assumptions, not to mention the boring story and the uninteresting and flat characters, Twisted Fate is simply one of the most painful books I've read this year. It hurts to give such a brutal negative review, but the only positive thing I can give the book is the message about girls not having to stick to stereotypes, to be however and whoever they want to be and not live to fill specific expectations, which was awesome and was basically the only reason why I bothered to finish the novel, because that means the author's heart was in the right place and that she had some really good ideas, but, unfortunately, that was not enough to redeem the glaring flaws of every other single aspect of the novel. ...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
Trial by Fire is, essentially, a handful of good ideas thrown haphazardly into a story, wrapped with very flimsy world-building and held together withTrial by Fire is, essentially, a handful of good ideas thrown haphazardly into a story, wrapped with very flimsy world-building and held together with every single YA trope out there. Aside from the general premise of the story, which promised alternate universes after the Salem Witch Trials, there is absolutely nothing in this book that won't seem familiar to anyone’s who has read even the back blurb of a YA PNR novel:
- Mary Sue who constantly complains about being unattractive by fixating on some ridiculous "flaw" that we are supposed to sympathize with is relentlessly told by basically every guy out there that she's gorgeous: check.
- Mary Sue who thinks she's completely ordinary, but somehow ends up being the single most important person in every universe for reasons unknown: check.
- Mary Sue who is simply so much better and special than everybody else because she likes something that, although literally millions of people in the world like, she is the only one in the story who does, like being vegan: check.
- Out of nowhere, the Mary Sue who had never attracted a single guy in her life suddenly has a legion of ultra-gorgeous hotties after her: check.
- Ultra-gorgeous hotties hate her at first, want her to stay way, generally treat her like she’s a walking plague and then fall head over heels in love with her because of how special she is: check.
- There’s magic and power, but no explanation for them, and antagonists that say they have a plan but never actually get off their asses to do anything important: check.
- The whole plot, in spite of the dire situation in the story, is really about the two main characters falling in everlasting true love: check.
I felt betrayed by this novel. I read disappointing books more often than good ones lately, but this particularly disappointment I took personally. Trial by Fire had so much potential. I wasn’t expecting it to blow my mind, but it had so many elements that should’ve, at the very least, made me really happy. But the novel used those elements to set the stage for these two people to meet and then pushed it all back with barely an afterthought, to a degree that the novel sometimes even felt forced and oddly disjointed.
Some vague excuse would be given just to take the main character from place A to place B where she would experience a life-altering change, and when that was over with, she would be immediately be pushed into a another place without even offering that last plot point the dignity of a clear resolution. Sometimes, the before and after of a very important plot point is as crucial as the development of that important plot point, and when they are brushed over like this, they hurt the impact of the plot point and the quality of the storytelling. That was one of my biggest problems of the novel. It’s like the author couldn’t bother to care about the thread that bound the important events as long as the main characters got there, and that’s just lazy writing.
There’s barely a plot in this novel. Like I said, it’s a handful of events, interspersed with long stretches of nothing, usually Rowan making blueberry pancakes or kinky painting sessions that were about a second or two away from turning into threesomes. Because of course, who cares about the threat of war and who has time to describe the history of this strange place when you can describe in detail freaking blueberry pancakes.
The world-building in this novel is definitely original but far too strange and heavy to come across with the little amount of attention the author gave to it. It’s a strange combination or old and new, and I had a very hard time reconciling the juxtaposition of these elements. We were left to make head-or-tails about this world on our own. We were given a brief and general history and descriptions of only what immediately concerned Lily, which left a lot of questions about the world that the novel seemed to not care about enough to answer. It was certainly interesting and I understand the need for some mystery if this is to turn into a series, but a world as complicated as this one needed a lot more work. It felt disjointed to me, and the only thing I managed to glean from it all was a general message of “science is bad”.
But the weakest things in this novel, by far, were the antagonists. I don’t think I had ever seen in my entire life as a reader antagonists with such a monumental lack of foresight. Our terrifying adversaries weren’t smart enough to even realize that going up to a door empty-handed and demanding to see the main character everyone’s trying to keep a secret would have never resulted in anything other than them laughing and closing the door right on your face. One of the villains literally does that. Then he says something along the lines of “maybe I should’ve known that wouldn’t work.” Yeah, no shit, Sherlock. And then the main antagonist, who supposedly has this brilliant, super-secret master plan, sends the main character in the love interest’s path, knowing from personal experience that the main character can’t help falling in love with him, and then whines about her plan going to hell because, surprise, surprise, Lily fell in love with Rowan. These antagonists were pathetic. They offered nothing to the story and, quite honestly, their very presence was laughable.
I appreciate that the author actually tried to be inclusive and have POC characters as well as LGBTQ ones, but they were massively underdeveloped, objectified and, in one particular case, killed without being given a single line and very little description other than to make sure everyone knew he was gay. It actually made me feel uncomfortable. Rowan, the main love interest, is Native American, and the point the novel tried to make about him the entire time was that he was absolutely gorgeous by using long passages to describe his features. I’m glad a POC was a love interest, but I feel like the story objectified him a bit. There was very little to like of him besides his beauty, because honestly, Rowan was a total asshole.
This novel was too convoluted, tried to bring so far too many things to the table, and most of them were really great ideas, but the story refused to commit to development of any of them. It just threw them at the reader and hoped that what they represented would stick so that they could be pushed aside unceremoniously in order to place the spotlight on the romance. Trial by Fire is a perfect example of a novel that could’ve been amazing and instead chose to be more of the same. It wasted all its potential and stuck to the same tired YA tropes we read over and over again. I was given very little in exchange for my high expectations and that’s why it is highly unlikely that I’ll continue the series. ...more
Truth be told, I picked up this book because it was short. I have such limited amounts of time left to read now, that I want to make the most4.5 stars
Truth be told, I picked up this book because it was short. I have such limited amounts of time left to read now, that I want to make the most of it, and I thought that, this one being so short, I could finish it in no time and pick another one up immediately. While this was definitely a very quick book to read and I read it almost entirely in two hours, I stopped myself, something I rarely do while reading, because I didn't want to finish it. This book is such a strange, lovely, compelling book, I didn't want it to end.
As wondrously beautiful as it is heartbreaking, The Strange and Beautiful Sorrows of Ava Lavender is quite possibly the best YA book of magical realism I've read. Gorgeously written, this mesmerizing story takes hold from the first page and refuses to let you go. This is a very visceral experience. I felt it all, page after page. I laughed out loud unexpected one moment, and the next my heart would be be crushed under the tragedy of what this curious family experienced. Life was so cruel with them, and yet they had the most beautiful lives, and all because of love. I adored how this novel represented love, in all of its forms and shapes, be it good or bad, and that made the novel so achingly realistic, as hard as that might seem to believe.
The book wasn't perfect and there were a couple things that I struggled with, some paths the novel took that I could've done without, but the final product was so beautiful, so wonderful and lovely, all of my complaints seem irrelevant. Magical realism tends to be either a hit or a miss with me, but this one is an utterly gorgeous, wonderful and strange book that found its way into my heart and refuses to leave my mind for, what I'm sure, will be a long time. ...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
A very interesting concept applied to an atmospheric novel with a few nicely written horror scenes that, sadly, still left me feeling somewhat disappoA very interesting concept applied to an atmospheric novel with a few nicely written horror scenes that, sadly, still left me feeling somewhat disappointed and that I struggled tremendously to connect with.
Although it was very intriguing, it was still really difficult to visualize the paranormal aspect of the novel, and though the novel's premise promised originality and creepiness, the truth is that, safe for one or two scenes, the novel was rather tame as a whole and it often felt very familiar as far as the characters, their back stories and the events of the novel went. Moreover, the truth is that the novel is actually more of a detailed tragic story of guilt and family issues than about creepy paranormal phenomena. The latter is very present in the novel, of course, but it's not exactly the point and certainly not what I was expecting. And in spite of how full of emotional issues and relationships this novel is, I never connected with the novel, was often rather bored and even considered dropping it one or twice. It is not a bad novel, on the contrary, it is actually quite decent, but, sadly, it failed to meet much of my expectations.
I will withhold my rating and some other thoughts on this book until we are closer to the release date....more
While Remember Me is much tighter in terms of storytelling when compared to Find Me, it has some of the same flaws, mostly when it comes to the overalWhile Remember Me is much tighter in terms of storytelling when compared to Find Me, it has some of the same flaws, mostly when it comes to the overall predictability of the mystery and characterization.
This sequel is definitely a step ahead from its predecessor when it comes to the writing. The novel is more focused on the plot, whereas the first one meandered away from the plot when it felt like it to focus on the romance or high school BS, and the story in this one is a lot more solid and believable than the first one. Moreover, as someone who has let down by the first one, the sequel is a lot easier to get invested in, and drew me in better than the first one because this one felt more like the thriller mystery I expected from the first one. As opposed to Find Me, Remember Me was more than just moderately enjoyable and actually managed to be engaging. However, Remember Me has the same glaring flaw as Find Me: it is predictable as hell. Maybe not as horribly predictable as Find Me, but still, fairly easy to figure out. At least with Remember Me, there were other things to focus on, sub-plots that the author handled nicely, like Wick's internal turmoil, - though she turned a bit towards the melodramatic with her constant wondering of if she was good or evil because of the things she did -, and the tension in her life.
Sadly, the characterization was another flaw that was impossible to ignore for me and almost made me give the book 2 stars. Like with Find Me, there's an uncomfortable abundance of horrible men in the story, and I mean every single of the male characters. Simply told, this novel is actually scarily sexist. I'm sure that's not the author's intention, at least not with these two, but even the love interests are irritating and controlling. Like in the first one, every single adult man in the story is disgusting, condescending, controlling, manipulative and despicable, and almost every single young adult in the novel is a perverted, sexist, abusive, manipulative, self-entitled asshole. It's disconcerting, really, but there's not a single intended good guy representation in the novel, and I wish I could say the love interests at least were good, but, at least for me, they were also unintentionally badly characterized.
They might not get anywhere in this novel, but there is, in fact a love triangle. Wick might not make-out with him, but there's a deep connection between them that drives a wedge in her relationship with Griff, so whatever this novel might be advertising, there is, in fact a love triangle. And while I admittedly enjoyed the banter and saw the connection between Wick and new guy, he's still the typical, suave, smirking, no-means-yes ladies-man that crossed the line several times into creepy and stalker territory.
And Griff... He was never a favorite of mine as a love interest, but in Find Me, I had felt nothing above indifference towards him. But in this one he annoyed the shit out of me. What a sanctimonious, preachy, controlling, self-satisfied, self-righteous asshole. He manipulated Wick however he saw fit, pushed her to be what he wanted her to be and held their relationship as a hostage if he didn't get his way. He claimed to understand her an accept her as she was, but he wanted to control her and make her whatever he wanted her to be, and the novel fully justifies him. He didn't have to agree with what Wick was doing, but he never tried to understand her, never attempted to see things from her angle or look into the why of things. When he saw he couldn't control her, he just went, but still felt entitled to meddle in her affairs, inquire about her relationship with new guy and throw back on her face that, to quote Taylor Swift, they were never ever ever ever ever getting back together.
The thing with these novels is that they try so hard to be all about girl power and girl doing things most people think they can't, that it actually opens the way for a whole lot of sexism. There's the despicable characterization of almost every single guy in the novel, and there's the fact that the novel is unintentionally contributing to sexism towards girls as well. I know how the internet is. I spend a considerable amount of time on the internet and I've read comments that had made me want to rampage, so I know that the novel is not being unrealistic in the slightest when it shows an asshole of a guy using the line of "but she's a girl" to justify his disbelief about that person's ability to do anything. It's awesome every time Wick proves them wrong, of course, but she's special. The only reason she can show him up is because she's the special main character, so, in the end, the sexist asshole is sorta right in his opinion to dismiss the rest of women because Wick is the only one that can do it because she's the special one. And if that wasn't enough, there's barely any female presence in the novel besides Wick. She has a friend whose name I've already forgotten who has two lines in the entire novel, a sister that shows up max three times, and a woefully incompetent stepmother that's there to vacillate between absentee parent and meddling one when appropriate.
I liked Wick a lot better this time around, mostly because I finally believed her and her baggage, the tension in her life and all the things that were at stake. She ended up being a lot more authentic for me this time around, instead of this mold of what a cool hacker girls is supposed to be. Like I said, she was kind of melodramatic at points, but I liked her voice a lot more this time around.
I think I'm too deep into the series to turn around now. I wish I could, because the series is definitely not bad, but it's not one I'm invested in and is definitely one I find some aggravating flaws in, but at this point, I should probably stick around for the last novel. In the end, these books are fun and enjoyable, quick and fast-paced and fairly entertaining, in spite of whatever beef I might have with it. ...more
Feral is a bizarre, disconcerting and unflinching novel that, while perhaps a bit longer than it had any need to be, managed to keep me intri3.5 stars
Feral is a bizarre, disconcerting and unflinching novel that, while perhaps a bit longer than it had any need to be, managed to keep me intrigued from beginning to end with its eerie and original plot, amazing atmosphere, and intense psychological undertones.
After starting strong with back to back chapters full of gruesome descriptions and unflinching brutality, Feral took a while to get back into the rhythm with which it kicked off. Truth be told, there were several times in the story when the novel crossed the line into boring and uneventful territory. As much as I'd like to say that the atmosphere made it worth it, the fact still stands that sometimes that wasn't enough, not even for me. This book is about a 100 pages too long and there's a long, trying part of continuous exposition that seemed like it would never end. At that point, I felt completely disconnected from the novel and I had begun to think that there was very little the novel could do to turn me around. I can't remember the exact point in the story where it happened, but somehow, the novel managed to turn me around and I felt like my unwillingness to give up on my curiosity paid off. I can see how many readers would be turned off with the book because of that stretch of pages where the story seems to go nowhere, but personally, the strength of the atmosphere and the quick psychological unraveling that followed made it worth it.
What's interesting about Feral is that, even though the core of the novel is the mystery of what happened to Serena, it never felt to me like that was the actual focus of the novel. It's not only the amount of different ongoing plot lines, it was more about how that mystery triggered some really intense psychological issues and made the book into the paranoid, strange and eerie novel it was. In fact, the mystery itself is not hard to predict. While the novel does turn into a confusing blur of reality and fantasy, the murderer is pretty much pointed out to the reader since the beginning. I was a bit surprised by how the murder happened, but definitely not by the who or the why.
The characterization in this novel is rather strange. I don't feel like the characters were entirely flat, but their characterization is definitely minimal and they remain slightly underdeveloped as the story goes. What's interesting is that, while the characters themselves weren't what you would call profound, the relationships established between them before Claire even arrived at Peculiar always gave me the feeling that they were complex and full of history, even though the author never actually spends a much time developing them or focusing on them. All of them added dimension to the characters and made them intriguing, allowing them to step out from their stereotypes in a way that made them seem original and different, even if they were not fully fleshed out by themselves.
The writing in the novel is great, particularly in the descriptions of gory or eerie scenes, which the author wrote with such care and attention to detail, it was very easy to immerse oneself entirely in them, but there were some odd lines and strange word choices along the way. Where this novel truly excels is in the atmosphere it managed to create for this town. This novel is being shelved as horror, but I wouldn't really identify it as such. It has a couple of gruesome and disturbing scenes, one or two that could pass as a horror, but the book is more eerie and creepy than outright horror, and all that's due to the fantastic atmosphere that the author infused this town with. There's been a lot of talk about the feral cats in this book, and their presence did, in fact, add a lot to the tension and atmosphere in the novel, but once the climax came along, their role in the story, especially in the way Claire saw them, felt a bit silly to me.
There's no romance in the novel, for which I'm grateful because I don't think the book needed it in the slightest. The resolution of the novel is a bit strange and I'm not entirely sold on it, but it was definitely interesting and took the novel in a turn that, while not entirely unexpected, it didn't fail to be engaging and thought-provoking.
Feral was a nice surprise for me. It took some time getting used to, but it sank its claws on me and ended up being a very riveting experience. Bizarre and eerie but mesmerizing, Feral is an original, atmospheric and fascinating psychological thriller I was very glad I decided to pick up. ...more
Contrary to what I expected going into this one, I actually quite liked Oblivion. Sure, it meanders a lot in terms of the plotting, it's over3.5 stars
Contrary to what I expected going into this one, I actually quite liked Oblivion. Sure, it meanders a lot in terms of the plotting, it's over a 100 pages longer than it needs to be and it does get repetitive at some points, but I found the whole thing riveting for some reason.
I think that what hooked me about the novel is how different it is. Oblivion is edgy and bold and it went in directions that I did not expect it to and that I am sure not many authors would dare to go to. From the story to the characters, the author didn't shy away from rawness, brutality, ugliness and flaws, and that had an impact on me that I did not expect. Callie, our main character, is a perfect example of that. She is clearly disturbed, definitely not perfect, prone to making mistakes and sometimes unapologetic about it, but still not wholly unsympathetic and definitely not uninteresting. She was a strange brand of YA heroine, a flawed, broken one that definitely had me intrigued from beginning to end.
I found the way the author handled the romantic plot in the novel fascinating. I am used to authors glorifying first loves, sanctifying guys and bleaching away all the possible ugliness out of young love. It is all perfect and glorious and squeaky clean. That is not the case in Oblivion with Callie and the other two wheels in her love triangle, Elijah and John. In fact, this whole love triangle is a messy tangle of mistakes and terribly wrong reasons, a wreck for all intent and purposes, and yet still fascinating. I liked it because it was honest, brutally so, but honest nonetheless. It never tried to paint love as this saving grace, as this true, beautiful, pure thing that never gets confused or tarnished. Quite frankly, all the relationships in this novel were flawed, even ugly, and yet I never once doubted their existence. I honestly believed Callie and Elijah loved each other, sick as it was, and I actually believed Lindsey and Callie did love each other as sister, horrible as that relationship turned, all of which I find absolutely fascinating and which I consider a fairly great show of skill on the author's part. That doesn't mean I agree with some of the things that went down in this book, especially how quickly things got serious between John and Callie and definitely how the relationship between Lindsey and Callie developed, - especially the amount of slut shaming and mean girl drama -, but I can't say it didn't keep me interested or that it hurt in any way my feelings for the book.
The writing in this novel does need some getting used to. It's jerky, repetitive, disjointed at times and vague at others. There were times where I honestly got lost and had to go back and reread because I hadn't been able to understand what had happened at one point and had become relevant at another. But in the end, I think this added a believable quality to Callie's damaged psyche. I particularly liked how the graphomania was used, how it contributed to the mystery and helped develop the story. The story could've definitely unfurled faster than it did. The book takes quite a while to get anywhere and there was a point where it started to get very repetitive. I was also slightly disappointed by the fact that, in spite of the characters' efforts, the mystery kind of gets solved by itself,and there were admittedly some holes in the story or things that are left slightly and unconvincingly unexplained.
In the end, in spite of all its obvious flaws, I found myself oddly pleased with this one. I didn't expect to, not even when I was reading it; it wasn't until the end that it even hit me that I'd actually enjoyed the novel, but the truth is that the novel managed to mesmerize me somehow from beginning to end, and these days, that's not something I can easily ignore in spite of the novel's flaws. Eerie, disturbing and even somewhat brutal, Oblivion was a riveting book and a nice surprise for me. I can see where other readers would hate it, but I appreciate the author's boldness, the originality of the book and the rawness of it, regardless of its many flaws. ...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