The Jewel is a strange mix of The Selection, Eve and Wither, both in content and the glaring flaws that made each and every one of these books a failu...moreThe Jewel is a strange mix of The Selection, Eve and Wither, both in content and the glaring flaws that made each and every one of these books a failure for me. Like Wither, The Jewel starts by presenting a thought-provoking situation, but then loses its path and becomes a boring chronicle of a super special main character whining about her situation but enjoying the frivolous, materialistic life imposed on her, followed closely by her falling instantly in "forbidden love" with a guy she has one shallow conversation with because "he gets me". Like Eve, this world has imposed an extremely harsh life on women in order to breed them to death, without so much as an explanation or reason beyond some flimsy post-apocalyptic BS, and places them in schools that inexplicably prepare them for everything except actually having a baby and lie to them before shipping them off somewhere to make them into baby-making machines. And like The Selection, this book is a poorly-written novel with little and yet entirely ridiculous and implausible world-building and an insipid, senseless attempt at a dystopia in which a woe-is-me perfect snowflake witnesses the weakest attempt at court intrigue imaginable.
The Jewel tries really hard, and for a moment there I was honestly entertained and engaged in the story, but the writing is elementary and uninspiring, the plotting almost nonexistent, the characters one-dimensional, and the romance goes too deep and too fast, not to mention that the entire novel feels rather vapid and trivial.
For most of the novel, not much actually happens. Oh, there's plenty of angst from Violet, but nothing of importance to the plot or development of the story occurs for most of the novel. For the greater part of the story, the novel is stuck in a repetitive loop with only slightly different situations in which Violet gets to be amazing and kind and perfect, her mistress gets to be cruel and her life is oppressive because she can't go out. The tension of the entire story hangs on the threat of Violet's impending impregnation, and not only does it take the entire novel to get there for no particular reason, but once it does, the entire situation is wrapped up with ease and gets overshadowed by the horrid insta-love and the novel's flimsy second attempt at a dystopia. Basically, the whole novel is boring, it hinges entirely on a single thread that then gets pushed aside after a long-winded wait and rendered unimportant by the insipid plot line that will force this one into a series.
There's lack of world-building in this novel that's hard to overlook, one that hurts the very foundation of the novel and makes it hard to take the entire thing seriously. There are some small info-dumps along the way, but they only show the layout of the world and give very little background information on anything. Not much is ever said about how the world came to be like this, what happened in order for people to resort to living like this, and definitely no explanation as to why everyone can have kids except the royals and why the heck some women have special powers. And speaking of the special powers, not only are they largely unexplained, at the end of it all, they really play almost no role in the novel. I'm sure all this will suddenly become clear and important in upcoming sequels, but the book holds back every bit of information that would've added depth to this novel. Instead, we have a vaguely paranormal dystopia where it's hard to see how things connect, but that doesn't matter in the end because the entire focus of the novel is suddenly and abruptly turned halfway through the story to the most impressive case of insta-love I've read in a while.
One conversation, a single one, not even a particularly long or profound one for they are interrupted after spewing some lines about music, and then they are in love. Violet immediately becomes possessive of Ash, being jealous of everyone who so much as looks at him, claiming him and raging in her head whenever he failed to even look at her, and all that is after just one measly conversation about their favorite composer. They know nothing about each other, absolutely nothing besides their favorite musician, and suddenly they are soul-mates, suddenly Ash understands her like nobody else has before. In the long run, once their situations are explained, you can see why they would understand each other, but it still feels artificial and forced, mostly because there's no tangible chemistry between them and they drop the I-can't-live-without-you-I-love-you thing way too fast. I'm guessing the author had to hurry it up a bit because the love interest gets introduced halfway through the novel, but if there was no space for believable and deep development for that relationship, then they shouldn't have pushed it like this. In the end, this is the thing that hurt the novel the most for me. I could've dealt with the lack of world-building, maybe even the cookie-cutter, generic heroine, and I probably wouldn't have still liked it much in the end, but I could've handled it. But this, this raging case of insta-love is what made me dislike the novel in its entirety. There was no depth, no development, just immediate, senseless "tru luv".
Violet is as generic as they come in YA. She was not a bad MC, but that's mostly due to the fact that there's actually very little to her. Her entire characterization is made up of the things she likes or the people she loves. She has lots of standard thoughts and angst to spare, but outside of her head, she's really nothing, does barely anything. She is the safe, standard YA heroine that risks nothing, does nothing, develops in no way and stays firmly set on the generic mold she was created as to not risk any reader not liking her as opposed to the rest of the female characters in the novel, each and every one of them unlikeable to the core. There are only a handful of good women in this novel, all of which are either a passing reference or nonexistent for most of the plot and none of which are women in power. Every single recurring female character, especially the women with any semblance of power, were evil, cruel, selfish, conniving, jealous and ruthless, and all for no particularly important reason. There's not a single interesting character in this novel. They are all bland and banal, and there's but a single line at the end that makes one of them somewhat interesting but it comes far too late to have any effect.
There was a point in the novel where I clearly understood what the author was trying to do, where the message this novel was carrying made an impact and the social criticisms shined through and seemed relevant and important to me. But that didn't last long and instead the novel chose to be bland, entirely romance-focused, trite, prosaic and pedestrian. It's clear the YA dystopian genre has run its course and that's time to look elsewhere for anything with actual significance and substance, because whatever thought-provoking and relevant idea some author might try to bring into the genre gets swallowed by the commercialism of the genre, and every shred of integrity the book might've had gets exchanged for generic plotting, flimsy world-building, gorgeous, vacuous men and insta-loves, and that seems to me worse than actually writing a horrid, but original book. Having the potential to be something and sticking to what's safe, to what sells, is a much worse crime than actually trying to go out of the box and failing because of a lack of skills. The Jewel exemplified this perfectly. (less)
I did not expect to like Stitching Snow in the slightest. First of all, it sounded far too much like Cinder, and yes, the similarities are th...more3.5 stars
I did not expect to like Stitching Snow in the slightest. First of all, it sounded far too much like Cinder, and yes, the similarities are there all the way through the book. They may have distinct plotlines and, in the end, different executions, but there are undeniable elements from the Lunar Chronicles in this novel. Second, after reading that description, I was under the impression that this would be a rather silly book. It was how wrong I was about this second idea what saved Stitching Snow for me entirely.
This novel is nothing if not serious. It has strong, disturbing elements, and a very jaded, emotionally-stunted, and very rough main character. Essie is almost impossible to like at points because of the way she treats those around her, especially the love interest. She was harsh, inconsiderate and brusque, and annoyed me sometimes, but then it was explained and it all made sense. It was only logical that Essie would be this way, and I didn’t have to like it, but the author made it possible for me to understand her, which resulted in some very interesting characterization and an even more impressive character development for Essie in the end. Even when I didn’t like how jaded Essie, I had to appreciate how thorough and consistent the author was with her characterization. Essie was a really well-developed and rounded character. She was the perfect product of her upbringing, and who she was permeated every single thing she did. There was never a flaw in her characterization, and yes, she was too rough sometimes, outright terrible and selfish at others, but it went perfectly with whom the author intended her to be and, in the end, that made her a very realistic and well-written character. She is not perfect and she was never intended to be so, which made for a very interesting take on Snow White, considering Essie was nothing like the original character – quite the opposite, really. Aside from her really rough aspects, Essie is an extremely competent main character. She is absolutely brilliant, misses nothing and never lacks common sense, she is tough and perfectly capable of taking care of herself.
The only problem with Essie’s incredible characterization is that, as a result, all the other characters in the novel paled by comparison. There was no other character in the novel that was even half as interesting as her and that included the love interest. Dane was a decent character, and I did like that his character made a transition between who he was before he met Essie and who he turned into after, since he was a bit condescending and selfish when he met her but then turned into a completely different person, into a very decent love interest, when he fell in love with her, though the love did happen a bit fast and the L-word was dropped seemingly out of nowhere and without much preamble. I like the person he became after he fell for Essie. He was supportive and understanding, even protective without controlling her, but he did take a bit too much of Essie’s abuse stoically. What I liked about him the most is that he gave Essie her space and waited for her to decide and make a move, to decide the path their relationship would take.
The author was clever with how she placed the original elements of the story into her retelling, like the dwarfs and the poisoned apple, but in the end, this was a very loose retelling and the story wouldn’t had been hurt in the slightest if the apple design on the necklace, her real name or the number of robots had been changed.
The novel is full of technological terminology and elements, which did wonders for the sci-fi atmosphere of the novel, but got a bit overwhelming at points. The plot was a bit erratic sometimes and, truth be told, I never quite got the point behind King Mathias and Queen Olivia’s evil reign. It actually seemed kind of silly to me and it lost me a bit when the truth was revealed. Truth be told, I didn’t care for this novel for over half of its length. But somewhere along the line, without me even realizing it, I started caring and, for no discernable reason, I was suddenly very invested in the story and eager to know what would happen next.
In the end, it wasn’t the story itself what made me like it. The story was okay, the action entertaining and the romance was interesting and occasionally sweet, but I am far more intrigued by this rough, jaded main character, who departs from the usual YA heroine mold and was definitely not what I expected. When it comes down to it, yes, the Lunar Chronicles is better, but somehow, I ended up liking this book far more than I expected. (less)
Slow-paced and meandering in terms of plot, the strength of Star Cursed, like with Born Wicked, lies on the honest strength of Cate, the rela...more3.5 stars
Slow-paced and meandering in terms of plot, the strength of Star Cursed, like with Born Wicked, lies on the honest strength of Cate, the relationship between the three sisters and the bonds that bind all these women together. This book is rather uneventful until the last third of the story and it does feel kind of repetitive for the firs two thirds of the story, but the tension between Cate and Maura, the tenderness of Cate and Finn's romance and the threat of the Brotherhood's brutality more than kept me interested even when, admittedly, there wasn't much to be interested in.
Like with Born Wicked, this is a character-driven story, to the point that this whole prophecy thing went to the back of my mind because I was a lot more invested in the relationship between these girls. I liked how different Spotswood made them, how she bound them together and gave them importance regardless of whom they were and if they stood with or against the main character. This is one of the things I loved the most about this series: it never has to say the word "feminist" in order to make it clear that this novel is all about women standing together, supporting and helping each other against what's unfair for all of them, regardless of their personal feelings towards each other.
I liked Born Wicked slightly better than I liked this one, but this was still a strong second book with a shocking ending and a great foundation for a fantastic final book. (less)
It sounded like Pretty Little Liars and it was written by the author of Pretty Litte Liars, so, honestly, I got exactly what I should've exp...more3.5 stars
It sounded like Pretty Little Liars and it was written by the author of Pretty Litte Liars, so, honestly, I got exactly what I should've expected from the beginning instead of allowing myself to hope for something different: this was extremely reminiscent of PLL.
Truth be told, I've never read the Pretty Little Liars books, but I did see the first season of the show in its entirety and I don't think I need to read the book to see just how similar in structure, narration, plotting, development and characterization this book is to Pretty Little Liars. The author tries very hard to make it different to the novel that made her a household YA name, but once it stuck, the similarities were very hard to shake off.
I was under the impression that this was a stand-alone novel, so I was very disappointed when I reached the last few pages of the novel with no clear resolution in sight and was given a rather abrupt ending and cliffhanger, which, truth be told, disrupted what up until that point had been a very enjoyable experience. Aside from that, this book is fast paced, engaging and full of drama, exactly what one expects in a book like this. The characters are a bit stereotyped and function with a pretty similar mindset to those in PLL, but they were certainly varied and easily distinguishable. The characters did have an infuriating tendency to make the stupidest choices, of endangering themselves and worsening the situation for no other purpose than because the plot required it, which happened so often, it got tiring really quickly.
Every single possible high school cliche is thrown in there, from the characters to the events and the social predicaments, but Shepard has the impressive ability of making them, if not exactly different or original, then definitely interesting and engaging enough to keep me hooked to the story. The situations she placed her characters in fulfilled their purpose, and while some of them were silly and could've been easily resolved, they did have the desired effect of contributing to the atmosphere of the mystery and trapping the characters even tighter within the web of lies and secrets they tangled themselves in.
Most of the secondary characters are absolutely irrelevant, cliched or brushed over. There were plenty of them, and I understand the importance of keeping the focus on the main 5 girls, but their relationships with the rest of these characters seemed rather shallow to me. The mystery of this novel proceeded in a very standard fashion, but I still cannot say with certainty I know who's behind it or why, which made me more interested in the sequel than I had any intention to be. The twists were not hard to see coming, but they are still delivered confidently and exactly when needed, leaving a remarkable impact on the story.
This is a standard mystery as far as the genre goes in YA, and The Perfectionists is was far too reminiscent of PLL in spite of the author's best efforts, but I would be lying if I said this book wasn't extremely engaging. It went by fast and I was very entertained from beginning to end. The book is not without its flaws, but in the end, that doesn't take away from the entertainment value or the addictive quality of the novel, which I'm beginning to suspect is the entire reason behind the success of PLL. (less)
This book is a complete 180 from what I'm used to reading from Mr Sedgwick. I had already associated him with creepy, Gothic stories like Wh...more
This book is a complete 180 from what I'm used to reading from Mr Sedgwick. I had already associated him with creepy, Gothic stories like White Crow and Midwinterblood, both of which I loved, so it took some getting used to the innocence of this new narrator and the simplicity of the story. While I didn't love this one as much as the previous two and it did take me quite a while to get into the story, by the end, I even surprised myself by actually feeling invested in the story and the mystery behind Laureth's search.
This is a very straightforward novel; very light in terms of plotting, with very little action or excitement and a rather uninspiring ending, and truth be told, the novel didn't engage me until the last third of the story, but when it finally did, it did so with an intensity that I never would've anticipated. Suddenly, I was tearing through the pages, desperate to see how this would conclude, to learn the big mystery behind the coincidences. Some of that excitement collapsed rather abruptly by the anti-climactic ending, but I honestly feel like I got a lot from this book.
Aside from the brilliant philosophical, historical and literary lessons, by the end of this novel I felt like I had won experience. I'm probably making very little sense right now, but that's how I felt. This is a book I only mildly enjoyed, to be honest, and it wasn't one that I was completely invested in, but it was a book that, in the end, caused a lingering impact on me, light and subtle as it was. I do feel like the author was trying just the tiniest bit too hard sometimes, thought, especially when the narration attempted to impart important life lessons.
This story demands a monumental suspension of disbelief and it just moves from one point to the other erratically, but there was a sensibility to it that affected me more than the impossibility of some of the events or the occasional feeling of disjoint. And of course! A book about coincidences is bound to have plenty of its own, but even if there were admittedly plenty, it would be a lie to say that the story relied entirely on them to move on.
In the end, in spite of the implausibility of some events, the slow plot and the disappointing ending, the book managed to make me care about these characters and to want desperately to see their adventure all the way to the end, mostly because of how beautifully written it was. The emotional impact can't rival those of my other two experiences with Sedgwick's books, but I still enjoyed this book far more than I initially thought. (less)
Whenever I think back on this book, it is, I kid you not, like an explosion of awesome in my brain. I know, very eloquent of me, but that's...more
Whenever I think back on this book, it is, I kid you not, like an explosion of awesome in my brain. I know, very eloquent of me, but that's exactly what it feels like. When I think about the mystery behind this novel, the big reveal, the explosive ending, I get giddy and start praying to the gods of YA for a quick release for the sequel. And yet, when I start tearing it apart in my head, when I go to the details instead of looking at the whole picture, there's just something missing from this novel.
This book was nothing like the only other novel I've read by this author, Eve, for which I am immeasurably thankful. I severely disliked Eve, but I was glad to see that, not only did these two books have absolutely nothing in common, Blackbird was a step up in basically every single thing that bothered me from Eve: it had better writing, better characterization, tauter plotting and at least some attempt at world building and background information.
What differentiates the book the most is the author's decision to tell the story in second person POV. Though I mostly tend to love books told in second person, I struggled with this one. This is going to be a make or break point for most readers, and though I tolerated it for the most part, the truth is that I often found myself wishing the author had chosen a more traditional style to tell her story. I simply failed to see the point of it, other than bringing something new to the genre, that is. In most books I've read in second person, there is a purpose to the way the story is told. More often than not, the narrator is telling the story in that way because he or she is addressing the narrative to a specific person. In this case, the only reason I can think of for why the author would choose to tell the story this way is because she wanted the reader to connect with the character, to feel like the character and internalize her experience so that the thrilling nature of the story had more of an effect. The logic behind my reasoning lies on the fact that the main character, Sunny, is left more or less a blank slate throughout the story, with barely any discernible personality traits, pretty standard emotional responses and no quirks or defining aspects, aside from her circumstances, that would mark her as a different individual. This is one of the reasons why the book failed to capture me completely. It's not so much that I didn't like the POV as much as it was that I just didn't see the purpose to it, because if it was, indeed, to put me in Sunny's shoes, it didn't work as well as I imagine the author intended. Sunny remained separate from me entirely and she failed to make much of an impression as a main character.
The second half of this book is fast-paced, engaging and thrilling. The first part is almost the entire opposite. The first half stumbled around a bit, slowly and awkwardly at times, which I suppose goes nicely with Sunny's state of mind at that point in the story, but also left me feeling slightly disconnected from the story for most of the novel. It was also stuck in a sort of repetitive loop where Sunny did mostly the same thing over and over and had very little to show for it. I was a bit exasperated with it by the time the second half rolled around, but somehow, against all odds, the story managed to reel me in completely, which is a feat not many books managed to accomplish after an uninspiring first half.
To be honest, none of the characters made much of an impression on me. They were not particularly well-rounded, nor were they given much time to develop and grow, but the hook of the story is not the characters but the mystery and the brutal game behind it all. The progress of the novel relied a bit too much on coincidences or conveniences during the first half, and though there's a certain suspension of disbelief required to make the novel work as a whole, the second half was far too engaging for me to care. Which is why I have so many conflicting feelings for this book.
This book was cool, but that's mostly because of the mystery behind the novel and the reason behind Sunny's situation. The execution of the book might've failed a bit when it came to taking it to its full potential, but I was still engaged and invested enough to go through it all rather quickly and anticipate the sequel now. The novel is flawed, but for some reason it has lingered and I think back on it with an excitement I never expected to have. It took a while to get there, but once it did, I had a really good time reading this book and I am very eager for the sequel. (less)
Wicked Games is really difficult book to talk about because of how conflicting one's feelings can be about this story. On one hand, this novel is a se...moreWicked Games is really difficult book to talk about because of how conflicting one's feelings can be about this story. On one hand, this novel is a sensationalistic and preposterous portrait of the Crazy Ex-girlfriend trope full of grossly overwritten and cheesy scenes of gazing into each other eyes, and unbelievably stupid and irresponsible behavior. And then, on the other hand, Wicked Games is, in the end, a surprisingly engaging, exhilarating and thrilling train wreck that's impossible to look away from, and in my case, enjoy thoroughly.
This book has a really, really bad reputation in this site. It seems that GR has collectively hated it, and it's easy to see why. This book touches on topics and, at a glance, misuses them, like the cheating and how some characters excuse it, and even some apparent instance of slut-shaming and girl hate. The first one might be a bit true, but that is not the case with the second one. The narration offers no judgment on the behavior of any of the characters, so the comments on their behavior come from the characters themselves. It is true that a mother tells her daughter that the fallout of her sleeping with a guy with a girlfriend is not her responsibility, which is a lie, but that's more a reflection of the character's loose parenting rather than the actual message the novel is trying to send, though, granted, the novel does go out of its way to showcase Jules' perfection.
In a similar fashion, no character other than the absolutely deranged one makes any kind of slut-shaming comments. The truth is, nobody in this novel save for the girl that's clearly insane makes any kind of negative comment against Jules and the exploration of her sexuality. No other character says anything about her and the many sexual secrets that are revealed about her. So, it says a lot about the novel's stance that the one character slut-shaming is quite obviously the one that we are not supposed to take seriously under any circumstance. That Lilah decided to go after Jules instead of Carter was more about what she wanted than because the novel condemns and hold women entirely responsible for cheating. The point of the novel is that Lilah is obsessed with her relationship with Carter and wants to force it to continue even though the relationship ran its course a long time ago, so it stands to reason that she would go after Jules as the threat to what she wants, which is to keep Carter.
That is not to say that those two are the only problematic aspects of the novel, but they are certainly the two most discussed in this site. My biggest issue with the novel was the portrayal of Lilah's sickness. While not entirely inaccurate or unrealistic, her condition was a bit exaggerated at points and took a turn for the ridiculous towards the end of the novel. Having said that, it was precisely that which made the novel so compelling and so hard to put down. Olin worked the tension in the novel well and I went the entire book with a knot in my stomach in anticipation of whatever crazy thing Lilah would do next.
I didn't like any of the characters in this novel, and though the novel didn't exactly shove Carter and Jules at them, it did put a bit of an effort into portraying them a bit too nicely, particularly their relationship and how hopelessly in true love they were. It's not that they weren't decent human beings all in all, but they did have a tendency to justify their unbelievably stupid decisions. I also could not understand how their brain worked sometimes and how they could be so ridiculously oblivious to reality. Carter had one of the biggest cases of absolute denial I've seen in a novel, and despite everything Lilah did, he repeatedly convinced himself that nothing would happen, which continuously endangered everyone around him, which is not impossible to believe but made for a very frustrating experience.
And then there's Jules. She is getting stalked, harassed and attacked because she slept with this guy. One would think that getting away from the guy, maybe regretting desiring him so much, would be the most natural response, after all, her life turned into a living hell after she associated herself with him and liking a guy can only take so much. Well, not Jules. After everything Lilah did to her, and she still went to sleep each night hoping one day Carter and her could be together. Are you kidding me? Her situation should've had a negative effect on her impression of Carter simply by his association with the person responsible for making her miserable. I would've expected, at the very least, for her to, maybe not stop wanting him if is was really true luv (eyeroll), but to stop actively wishing for a chance for them to be together in the future when she should've been terrified of any immediate association with him.
The romantic scenes between Carter and Jules were eyeroll-inducing to the extreme. They were overwritten and cheesy to the point of secondhand embarrassment, but that, aside from some instances of too much exposition, were the only faults I saw with the writing overall. It wasn't spectacular writing, but it was decent enough and worked the tension in the novel in the way that exceeded my expectations. Part 2 of the novel is absolutely ridiculous and the climax of the novel went a bit too Hollywood on me, but I still enjoyed its train wreck quality the same way I enjoyed the first half of the novel.
I can't say that I liked the novel, but I was undeniably entertained by it from beginning to end. My interest in the novel never waned and the story kept me engaged all the way through. In spite of its many flaws, the truth is that Wicked Games is very entertaining and worked its angle really well. It is thrilling, has lots of tension and made of Lilah a very powerful presence that was impossible to ignore or dismiss. At least in my case, the book did exactly what it set out to do. (less)
Jackaby is what you would get if you took The Monstrumologist and stripped away all the disturbing and horrifying aspects of the novel, leavi...more3.5 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. (less)
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...more4.5 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. (less)
This book is a mix of I Hunt Killers and Dear Killer, except that I am insulting I Hunt Killers by even mentioning it in a review for this book (which...moreThis book is a mix of I Hunt Killers and Dear Killer, except that I am insulting I Hunt Killers by even mentioning it in a review for this book (which says a lot, seeing as how I didn't exactly love that book in the first place), and that Killer Instinct accomplished the impressive feat of being even worse than Dear Killer.
This entire book was so patently absurd, so horrifyingly bad, I am considering this novel a torture device. This book is one of the worst-written pieces I've ever read, and it sucks, because I know what the author tried to to, but it just didn't work. First off, there was the shitty psychology behind the entire book, starting, but not limited to, the main character. Her narrative voice was painfully dry, and I know that the point was to make her sound like she was emotionless, but the result wasn't the clear image of an emotionally stunted character, but an awkward, stilted, stumbling narration that felt disjointed, disruptive and amateurish. The narration jumped from one moment to the next in the most awkward and sudden ways with no apparent connection and with a tendency to just lead from one thing to another with no grace or skill. Simply put, this book was badly written, and that was the least of its problems.
There's also the characterization. Every single character in this book was irritating, cartoonish, shallow, flat and poorly written, which, of course, includes the main character but is best exemplified by the villain, which has to be the worst, most incongruous and absurd attempt at a plot twist I've ever read about, but I'll stay away from that one to avoid spoilers for whatever brave and unfortunate soul out there wants to read this stack of papers I'm very sad to know some trees died to make. I'm glad Lane called herself an idiot every couple of pages because she saved me the trouble of pointing out how monumentally idiotic this girl is to the extent that she deserves. Of course, every one else thinks she's a special genius who's like nobody else out there, but honestly, this girl is so outstandingly dumb and ill-prepared, she makes Kit from Dear Killer look like an actual Einstein of murder.
The worst thing about Lane is that she's a shallow characterization of what seems to be that one generic and vague article on Yahoo! someone may have read about people prone to become serial killers. Nothing about this character was realistic, and instead she was this cartoonish idea of what people assume are the defining traits of the emotionally and psychologically disturbed. She even had this super traumatic, repressed event from her childhood and constantly wondered about her genetics, all of which seemed to have been taken straight out of second-rate psychology textbooks. And she was so ridiculously inconsistent as well; one minute she claimed not to feel anything, the next she was listing all these feelings and emotions, then she claimed to be unbelievably smart and prepared, the next she was fumbling around because she had no idea what to do, and of course, one minute she was talking about her desire to kill and dismiss all moral code, and the next she was getting all moral about this, talking about right and wrong and wanting to make others pay for killing, which, if I'm not mistaken, is exactly what she wanted to do.
The rest of the characters aren't even worth mentioning. They stumble around as their stereotyped and badly written existences, awkwardly dropping in and out to remind you that they exist. Truth be told, not a single character was important in this novel at all. Lane remembers them when she needs them, for either information or emotional extortion for the reader, and then goes about her way. There's a very poor attempt at romance here along with a slightly disturbing and thoroughly inefficient love triangle. The romantic interests are so ridiculously generic they are not even worth remembering since, like the rest of the characters, they add absolutely nothing to the story.
The one thing about the characters that's extremely important to talk about is the horrible way this novel treated female characters. This book was so profoundly offensive and demeaning, I have no idea how I managed not to throw my tablet against the wall. For no reason whatsoever, the novel set out to destroy, humiliate, demean and devalue every single female character in there, especially the MC's sister, Daisy, by slut-shaming her to oblivion. Lane constantly refers to her as a total slut and makes off-handed comments about how everyone knows how much of a whore she is and at what sexual activities she excels. The novel even shows this 14 or 15 y/o girl blowing a guy and being totally blasé about her sister walking in on her, even asking her later if she enjoyed the show. Moreover, it shows her as this whiny, pathetic, selfish, childish creature starved for attention who beds anyone for no reason, because she doesn't even seem to like sex in the first place. The author didn't even care enough about her to find a reason for her behavior, no, she just said "here's a slut, she has sex and she's a total slut and that's it". That is offensive enough, but that the main character herself went out of her way to denigrate and put down her own sister is simply appalling, not to mention absolutely inconsistent and hypocritical, seeing as how Lane was a) supposed to be totally unfeeling, b) against all social constructions, c) willing to dry hump to orgasm (or so she claims) the fingers of a guy she's talked to only twice right in the library as a way to distract him and then have sex with him just to get it off her list.
There's also this other wildly-generic mean girl/crazy-ex girlfriend stereotype that goes around harassing Lane because she's hanging out with this totally generic guy. She quickly gets labeled as a crazy, unstable, alcoholic stalking bitch that sends pictures of herself having sex with the guy to the MC (who knows how because in this novel private phone numbers and emails are apparently public domain and are instantly downloaded into your brain as soon as you meet the person, so there's no need for the person to actually give them to you). There's no purpose to this character. She's just there to distract the reader from the fact that this book has no plot. The only other girl in the novel is this faceless voice on the phone who's there to be used by Lane whenever she needs information. That's it.
The pace of this book is disjointed and the novel has a sort of an episodic kind of flow that has Lane jumping from random case to random case for what I assume is ripping off Dexter more efficiently. The cases she randomly stumbled upon were so outrageous and Lane was so woefully unprepared for any of them that the fact that she managed to come out of every single one of them victorious was due entirely to the grace of the author's will. This book was a disjointed, absurd mess that, in all honestly, gave me secondhand embarrassment.
Finally, the ending was the cherry on top of this mess. It was just as clumsy, poorly-written, ill-fitting and ridiculous as everything else in this novel, but this one took the cake because it was all for shock value alone. I was never completely certain of who the villain was, although that was mostly due to how bumpy this whole mystery is, but the villain was still in my top two suspects, and I kept hoping that character wouldn't end up being the bad guy because of how disrespectful that would've been. It's not so much because of who the character was, even though that certainly did enough damage, but it was about how poorly that was handled and written, and how the entire purpose of having that character be the bad guy was to shock the reader. It was almost offensive, to be honest.
Awful is just one of the words I would use to describe this novel. Badly researched, poorly characterized, horribly plotted and terribly written, not to mention offensive, this book might just be one of the worst book I've ever had the misfortune of reading. Quite frankly, this book was insulting. It was a train-wreck from beginning to end, and not even an interesting or morbidly enjoyable one at that. I've yet to read a YA serial killer book that even remotely satisfies, and if this novel is any indication of where that particulay theme is heading, just count me out. (less)
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 f...moreThere'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. (less)
Truth be told, I didn't want to like this book, don't ask me why. I actually managed to remain interested but only mildly invested in the story for about a third of the book, but soon after that, I found myself not only enjoying the novel, but also caring deeply about it.
This novel is nuanced, insightful, poignant and heartfelt. The narration is made up of too much telling instead of showing and loads of exposition, but the result is still beautiful. I stand in awe at the ability of this author to carry so much emotional power in her writing at such a young age. This is a very intelligently written novel and, though I was skeptical at first, I ended up really enjoying how Zhang incorporated math and sciences into the narration, how she used to her advantage terminology and laws of physics to pack a punch in her story and convey through them very human states.
In a surprisingly small amount of pages, the author managed to include and explore several topics, from love, sex, friendship, jealousy and suffering, to stronger social ones like depression, rape, suicide, abortion, drugs and bullying. It got a bit too after-school-special at times, even a bit stereotyped, truth be told, but that didn't demean in any way its emotional impact or importance. I can't say I cared for the way some of the themes and topics were handled, though it is to be expected when such strong topics are brought into a YA story. Some were left hanging, like the sexual assaults, whereas others conveyed a message I do not agree with, like this idea that you will regret it and be permanently damaged if you have an abortion. Other themes were a bit heavy-handed and unsubtle in the way they were handled, but, for the most part, Falling into Place handled its issues with care, respect and finesse.
The narration in this novel in non-linear, which gives a slightly disjointed feel, but one I found myself enjoying nonetheless and which worked really well with what the novel was trying to do. The narrator is pretty interesting and lends a pretty heartfelt feel to the novel, but I was a bit disappointed to find out who he/she was. Don't get me wrong, it was a very fascinating POV and certainly an original one, but, by the end, it felt to me like it took away the sense of sharp realism to the novel. This is a pretty quick novel and one that's also surprisingly easy to get through in spite of the heaviness of the topics discussed and the many science references. Things wrapped up a bit too (view spoiler)[ happy for my taste (hide spoiler)], but the ending underlined the whole point of the novel beautifully: You are not alone and you can be helped.
The most interesting thing about this book is how the characters were a bit faceless, intentionally so. They have personalities, a few quirks, emotions and hobbies, but for the most part, they are brushed over. I find it fascinating that, in spite of all that, they were not exactly shallow or flat. They were a bit stereotyped, sure, and they could've always used a bit more depth, but the simplicity of their characterization only served to highlight their issues even more, which in turn, humanized them a lot and made it really easy to care for them. Zhang worked their emotions, their plights and broken spirits really well and conveyed them to reader honestly. I liked that she offered every single one of her characters a complex nature that neither demonized them nor sanctified them, regardless of what they had done in the past. Some characters might've gotten off a bit too easy with the things they had done, but the narration offers no judgement, just honesty and hope. I'm really glad this book took the time to dissect the role of the typical popular mean girl, humanizing her, sometimes maybe excusing her a bit, but finally presenting her as a human being with defects and needs, which is far more than most YA authors would even think to do.
This is a very emotional and powerful novel. The novel is flawed, but it conveys its message perfectly. I am surprised by how much I liked it, but the novel is pretty easy to like. It is honest and poignant and drives the point home strongly, even if not with as much subtlety as I usually prefer. A very heartfelt, lovely written novel that explores the teenage mind in a careful and insightful way that speaks loudly of the skill and thoughtfulness of this new writer. This is a lovely book, sad, yes, but a very touching experience I did not expect to like it, was not even receptive to in the beginning, but ended up enjoying it wholeheartedly in the end. ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Winterkill is a very atmospheric and lovely-written story that, though it has plenty of tension and suspense, feels long-winded and loses its effect halfway through the book because of the slow progression of the few events that take place in the novel. Ultimately, although it does have a couple of interesting new aspects to it, Winterkill is basically just like every other standard YA dystopian novel out there.
All the technical aspects of Winterkill are impressively well-crafted. The author managed to infuse the novel with a very oppressive atmosphere,a sort of dreamy quality into the world and even a couple of well-written exhilarating scenes of suspense. The author did a wonderful job at setting the world, but there's very little in the way of explanations and backstory. The story of this world is made up of vague myths, which works in favor of the mysticism surrounding the village, but leaves a lot to be desired in terms of world-building. You don't know where this village is, you don't even know what period it is. You don't know anything about it, if it's an average Amish-like community in modern times, or if it's a post-apocalyptic refuge, or even if all this takes place in the past. It does lend a lot of mystery to the village, but I kept expecting a bit more, mostly because since the nature of this community is not the mystery, all of that gets pointedly ignored.
This novel is extremely slow story in general. I normally wouldn't mind so much, but most of the events in the novel go in a sort of repetitive loop and it isn't until the end that the chain breaks and something else, something interesting, finally happens. By then, at least to me, it was a bit too late. This is not a particularly long novel, but it feels far longer due to the slightly stagnant plot of the first two thirds of the novel. The general plot is also extremely familiar and follows the safe, pre-established path of almost every single generic dystopia out there.
I had a very hard time engaging with Emmeline, mostly due to the fact that she was familiar in every single aspect. She's the typical Mary Sue special snowflake YA heroine that allows people to push her and mistreat her - to which she does have a reason, but then she would selectively show a backbone only when she didn't need it or to people who didn't deserve it and that excuse would fall through -, a girl who goes thinking about a gorgeous guy she just met all the time and waits around for a guy to save her. The best Emmeline had going for her was her curiosity and her thoughtful nature, but her narrative style gets repetitive after a while and is wasted on the insta-love. She does grow in the novel, that much is true, and she learns to be brave, but with the slightly anti-climactic events at the end, all that's sort of moot point.
Moreover, Emmeline was unbelievably, outstandingly, appallingly selfish and did a lot of things out of absolute self-interest. Even towards the end, when she learns the truth behind her community, when she realizes what's at stake, it all comes down to her and what she wants and how, if she doesn't do this or someone doesn't help her, she won't get what she wants. She reminded me way too much of Mary from The Forest of Hands and Teeth, except that Mary had no problem admitting and embracing her selfishness, whereas Emmeline is constantly portrayed as a selfless martyr. Emmeline used the people around her, the people she claimed to love, and forced them to help her with her stupid plans or to keep dangerous secrets with very little explanation, but then pouted and whined when they, very reasonably, told her that it just couldn't be done. She wasn't irritating, but her voice and the way she did things so impulsively got tiring very soon.
Most of the characters in the book were there to be used as props by Emmeline and lacked characterization beyond what they could provide to Emmeline and her needs. The main love interest is included in his group. He's the generic, gorgeous, understanding but mysterious boy from every book ever who falls for the main character for no discernible reason. Lust, certainly that I could believe between those two, but the degree of love they claimed to feel for each other? Personally, I never saw it there because they were never shown to share any particularly deep connection over anything, not for lack of trying on the author's part. Another characterization that bothered me a bit was Emmeline's best friend who happened to be gay. I completely understand that in as isolated and pious a community as Emmeline's, she would try to understand her friend's situation in whatever way was easier for her, but I didn't feel particularly comfortable with her saying that he was gay because he had two souls and that it was his woman soul making him love men. The connotations behind that are slightly problematic.
Winterkill is undeniably well-written and atmospheric, but a slow moving plot and a main character I could not connect with made it really hard for me to engage with any aspect of the story. It's a lovely book, really, but if I cannot care for it in any way, then the best writing in the world cannot make up for that. (less)
Here's the thing with The Truth About Alice: this is not a particularly well-written book and the characters are not exactly fleshed out, but...more3.5 stars
Here's the thing with The Truth About Alice: this is not a particularly well-written book and the characters are not exactly fleshed out, but this is a very important and special book, especially in the YA genre.
I love YA with all my heart, but I have to admit that there is something I hate about it. Far beyond the insta-loves and the love triangles and the cliches, the worst, most hateful thing in this genre is the girl on girl hate that so many authors perpetuate in the genre, mostly through slut-shaming. It baffles me that this is still an issue, particularly in a genre that's mostly made of women and girls writing for other women and girls. The sheer amounts of casual slut-shaming and girl-on-girl you can easily find in the genre, most of it in super bestsellers, hurts the credibility of the entire genre, and even worse, it delivers terrible messages to the audience who then go on to their lives with the reinforced belief that it is perfectly okay to hate on other women and see them as competition that must be destroyed by reducing their entire worth to the amount of people they have or haven't slept with. And then there's this book.
This book gets it. This books captures pretty nicely the hypocrisy behind the slut-shaming, the horrible double standards, the hurtful consequences, the damage and the pointlessness of it all. I am really thankful to the author of this book for getting this out there, regardless of the technical issues I had with it, because this message is unbelievably important, perhaps more than ever right now.
Having said that, I do have several technical issues with the novel. The novel is told from several different POVs, and though it makes wonders for the style of the novel and the purpose of the story, the voices pretty much blurred together in my head and it was hard to keep track of who was talking when. Moreover, the characters were very cliched and stereotypes, and their voices sometimes felt like they were trying way too hard to sound like teenagers.
My biggest issue with the novel is probably how it sometimes crossed the line into after school special territory. The way the story unfurled and how the characters developed, particularly the secrets they all had, which were what made them spread the rumor in the first place, felt very after-school-special in the way that they are had a very dramatic reason behind why they did everything, and that often resulted in me disconnecting from the story or not taking these characters seriously. What I did like, though, is that the author didn't insult her readers by forcing magical changes for the better on some of the characters or manufacturing a fake happy ending where everything turns out alright and they all live happily ever after. The author respected the reality of this situation, one many have to live through every day, and she offered understanding and hope, which is the best possible thing she could've done with her story.
Regardless of everything else, this is one of those rare books I would actually try to persuade people to read. It's a very simple and quick book with a very strong and important message that is very often overlooked in YA. In spite of its imperfections, I really liked the book and deeply recommend it. It manages to be thought-provoking in a handful of pages and it captured the ugly reality of an issue that many ignore, which ultimately makes it a very important story that needs to be read. (less)
We're not even halfway through 2014, and I'm almost certain this has been my biggest 1-star year to date. True, most of it is due to the facts that, a...moreWe're not even halfway through 2014, and I'm almost certain this has been my biggest 1-star year to date. True, most of it is due to the facts that, a) the more I read YA, the more my standards go up and my tolerance threshold for BS and stupidity lowers, and b) the more time I spent in GR, the less afraid I am of giving out 1 stars. I don't think it's entirely up to me, though. This year has come packed with an avalanche of pretty bad YA books. This year alone, I've read offensive books like They All Fall Down, infuriating ones like Dear Killer, thoroughly disappointing ones like Suspicion, appallingly bad ones like Of Monsters and Madness and Amity, and insufferably generic ones like One Past Midnight. And then there's Conversion. Where does Conversion stand? Well, Conversion achieved the impressive feat of falling into every single one of the aforementioned categories.
This book is offensive, infuriating, thoroughly disappointing, appallingly bad and, yes, even insufferably generic because, instead of focusing on the, I don't know, maybe that super weird thing that's happening to the girls in the school that no one seems to be able to explain, we instead get to find out about the marvels of Colleen's eternal pursuit to intellectually demean everyone around her, especially her friends and love interest, as she goes about on her quest to take for herself what seems to be the only spot available at Harvard this year. And I understand where the author is coming from and that she tried to portray the stress of being a teenage girl in a highly competitive background, but it simply did not come through. Instead of driven and competitive, Colleen was insufferably immature, judgmental and petty, not competitive in an intellectual way but in the generic YA way of hating on other girls just cuz. I didn't think it was possible, but Colleen came out of nowhere and safely positioned herself in the group of the most unbelievably irritating, hateful, petty, hypocritical, judgmental, immature, childish, bratty, privileged, self-entitled and disgusting YA "heroines" I've ever had the displeasure of reading about. She almost took the crown right off of House of Night's Zoey for the worst YA "heroine" it has been my misfortune to become acquainted with.
The book is just pages and pages of Colleen describing things in the irritating and endless monotone of a 10 y/o, giving you the entire life story of every single person that crosses the door, and then criticizing and demeaning every single one of them in her head as she saw them as competition. I like a smart girl. I love reading about smart girls in YA and I wish every single author in YA portrayed each and every single one of the main characters as smart girls, not because a hot guy comes along and tells them, but because they know it, because they've worked for it and because they are proud of it. But there's a clear line between pride and entitlement, ego-centrism, selfishness, pettiness, obnoxiousness and pretentiousness, and Colleen crossed that line, set it on fire and the danced on top of it. And the worst thing is that she really isn't even smart at all. She reminds you time after time of how brilliant and clever she is, and yet the most painfully obvious things and details fly just right over her head. Moreover, she thought she was entitled to intellectual superiority rather than actually working for it, as perfectly exemplified by this scene in which the goes into a quiz without having studied, acknowledging she's going to flunk, and then ranting at the teacher when she gets a failing grade. That's not how you show someone under stress because she wants to be the best; that's how you show how much of a spoiled, entitled brat a character is.
If she hadn't already annoyed the hell out of me with her obnoxious, immature, childish and unsubtle way of telling the story, the way she saw the world from her privileged, pretentious and egocentrically superior standpoint would've done the trick because I honestly didn't care about anything in this book, never managed to put any effort into feeling anything for any other aspect because my hate was so fiercely concentrated in this awful main character.
And it's not so much that I wasn't able to like her. I've said it before and I'll say it again: I don't need to like a main character in order to be invested in her story, but what I do need from a main character is to be interesting and interesting Colleen was not - she wasn't even a decently written character with dimensions and personality. Even stuck in the middle of a strange series of events that no one can make head or tails about, Colleen is the most appallingly boring person in the entire planet. This girl could make the end of the world sound as mind-numbingly boring as staring at a piece of cheese until it rots. There is no suspense in this novel, no atmosphere, and it was definitely not a thrilling, deep and psychological study in the events that take place in the novel and those in the Salem Witch Trials. By far, the most interesting thing in this novel was the dual POV that takes place during the actual witch trials, but even that was overdone, dragged for far too long and tediously boring.
Each and every single character in this story is painfully generic, extremely shallow and awkwardly stereotyped. Worst of all, not a single one of them was interesting in the slightest. Everything in this novel was mind-numbingly boring, and it's not because of the slightly literary style of the novel, but because the narration focused on everything besides the truly interesting event, which was the mysterious condition of these girls, and when it did concentrate on it, it was boring, repetitive and rather pointless.
There wasn't a single aspect of this book that I enjoyed. Even if I had managed to look beyond the unbelievably boring pace and the bad writing, the sheer ridiculousness of the characters and the narration's unwillingness to focus on the truly important matters would've still made this reading experience a terrible one. It's almost like the whole thing was dumbed and watered down because it's supposed to be YA. Whatever shred of interest I may have had in the mystery of this book was brutally stripped away by the tediousness of the pace, the boring development of the story, the insufferable main character and the lack of dimension to the characters and the plot. (less)
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/ dystopia...moreI 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. (less)
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...more3.5 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. (less)