If You Wrong Us was a surprisingly gripping, quick paced and entertaining novel that, while not entirely original and certainly not without flaws, hadIf You Wrong Us was a surprisingly gripping, quick paced and entertaining novel that, while not entirely original and certainly not without flaws, had some unexpectedly decent writing, a remarkable understanding of criminal law (over which I was excited, that being my favorite class last semester and all the material still fresh in my mind) and a lot of potential for a great YA psychological thriller. Unfortunately, the novel quickly unraveled during the second half, ultimately delivering very messy and underwhelming climax.
This is a very short novel that flies by and makes it very hard to tear your eyes away. The subject, the careful delivery and the approaching trainwreck makes for a highly entertaining read, which I certainly never expected. The dual narrative worked pretty well with the thrilling atmosphere of the novel, though I did struggle with differentiating Johnny and Becca's voice from one another. Each voice was infused with a certain degree of personality, in one of the cases it was obvious one of the POVs was entirely unreliable, but it didn't made much of a difference in the tone of each of this character's, which made it hard to keep track of who was telling what part of the story sometimes. Another two nameless POVs were added in there, one concerning a website for confessions which was initially intriguing, but ultimately contributed nothing to the story and tended to drag on, disturbing the flow of the action. There is an crucial plot twist concerning those two perspectives, but it was still not important enough to disrupt the nice rhythm Johnny and Becca had going on with the narration.
I understand unreliability was key to one of the POVs, but even facts were hard to follow with the characters, particularly when trying to understand the timeline. I originally liked the jumpiness of both narratives, mostly because they started their stories at different times in the chain of events, but soon enough it became hard to place the actions and events, especially because they didn't keep a straight timeline in their narration.
The tension was well handled in the story and it was consistent throughout the entire novel. I liked the way the characters presented themselves, and though a bit generic sometimes and not entirely deep, they were successful in conveying the type of personalities that worked well with the story and the atmosphere. I did struggle with trying to connect the methodical nature of one of the characters and the constant talks about the effort they've placed into planning this situation with the overall half-assed plan they ended up trying to make work. Much of the novel hinges on the unpredictability of the character's motivations and actions, and I can't honestly say that worked often in favor of the book. They sometimes felt like they came out of nowhere, other times inconsistent, and others were just a tiny bit predictable.
The biggest flaw in the novel, however, is the rushed ending. There was barely any built up for it, and worst of all, for the sake of the pace and a supposedly unexpected twist, several sub-plots were forgotten. Several things the characters said ended up amounting into nothing, some of their actions made no waves in the plot whatsoever, and that ended up hurting the impact of the novel and its credibility as a tightly woven and tense thriller. The abrupt nature of the climax made it underwhelming and it almost felt like not much thought had gone into it. Though it represents a great leap in character development, it doesn't feel that way. For a story that felt so convoluted throughout most of the pages, the ending was too simplistic and it ended up reveling just how underdeveloped and underwritten the story, the characters and the plot were.
This is one of those novels that are mindlessly entertaining, their strength lying on how easy and quick it is to read them. There's nothing profound or complex, not much in the way of stellar storytelling. It's just morbid fun. In terms of quality, this novel is pretty much a 2.5, to be honest, but the fast pace and strangely compelling story made it a surprisingly enjoyable reading experience....more
We'll Never Be Apart is a fairly standard psychological thriller that would've ranked safely close to the decent line had it not relied almos1.5 stars
We'll Never Be Apart is a fairly standard psychological thriller that would've ranked safely close to the decent line had it not relied almost entirely on a twist that has been over-abused by authors recently, especially this year. I can think of about 4 different books released in 2015 alone with the exact same premise, one that's certainly sensationalist and has its roots deep into overblown and far too often misinformed ideas about psychology, but that's entertaining nonetheless - except when one has been forced to read about it in just about every "edgy" new YA attempt at a psychological thriller.
Aside from the monumental suspension of disbelief needed to overlook all the holes in the plot and setting, this novel also requires extreme patience from the reader as everything is revealed in a very self-indulgent and frustratingly slow pace, all so that we can be left with little else besides a lukewarm feeling of detachment and indifference. This is not an exciting novel nor is it compelling in any way or form, either. For such a short novel, it dragged far too much, almost like it was embedding its nails on the ground to try and prevent the whole thing from moving on. The worst part is that it is not so much the slowness that bothered me, but the lack of reward for my patience. I can handle slow books, and in fact, most people would correctly argue that most of my favorite books are actually very slow paced. But there's a difference between slowly building a complex world or well-developed characters, and just being slow for the sake of delaying the "big reveal" over which the entire point of the novel depends. This book firmly positions itself in the latter category.
Moreover, there's very little substance to the novel, no depth whatsoever. A book that hinges entirely on a psychological theme desperately needs more than some Wikipedia article's worth of depth and profundity. I don't doubt the author has experience dealing with the topic of mental health, but she chose one of the most complex psychological problems for her story and then delivered little besides the hugely overblown and sensationalized aspects of the issue that the media has been promoting for years. That, mixed with a thin thread of a plot, deliberately shallow characterization and flimsy relationships based entirely on superficial conversations and generic character traits, made it really hard to take anything about this novel seriously. Twice in the novel, the main character laments the absence of her roommate and new friend, bemoaning how much she needs her and wishes she were there to help her through the current problems, and twice she's only capable of mentioning two small and generic topics over which they shared similarly small and generic conversations that we are supposed to believe led to a deep and emotional bond. Similarly, we are supposed to believe the bond between her and this new guy, particularly the lengths he's willing to go for her, because they claimed something clicked between them when in fact the whole thing was strained and forced.
The book is not original and it offers no rewards to readers already experienced in the genre - or anyone who has read one or two YA psychological thrillers, really. It is frustratingly predictable and it bothers me when authors pull a later-years M. Night Shyamalan and hope the audience will forgive the painfully slow and uneventful 90% of the work because of that one "twist" that takes place towards the end (which is the very same complaint I had with Twisted Fate). It's not clever and it is not enjoyable. It is simply lazy writing. In spite of all this, the author did a decent job with the atmosphere of the novel overall and writes well enough, so I'll round my rating up to two stars. Besides, the book can be enjoyable, but it depends entirely on how well you predict the twist. If you do it from the first line, like me, maybe it's better for you to move along. ...more
The Unquiet is an eerie and bold sci-fi/pseudo-dystopia that is a lot more concerned with introspection and the emotional impact of an invasi3.5 stars
The Unquiet is an eerie and bold sci-fi/pseudo-dystopia that is a lot more concerned with introspection and the emotional impact of an invasion and war than with the action, romance and fast-paced adventure that becomes the priority in YA novels about alternative universes and the training of soliders/assassins. This novel is surprisingly poignant and touching, told in a very haunting and sensitive way that resonated strongly with me. In all honesty, I don't think I've ever read a YA novel quite like this one within the sci-fi/dystopian genre and I don't think I ever will again.
Unlike any other book within the same genre, The Unquiet takes its time to develop, slowing the pace almost to a crawl in order to painstakingly detail the psychological and emotional weigh these characters must carry because of the mission they had been raised to fulfill that contrasts starkly with what they have seen with their own eyes. This novel is an examination of morality, loyalty and love, and how all of those can be twisted depending on the perspective one takes and how it can all change from a second to the other. It's fascinating to see in action the clever techniques Everett employed as an author to highlight just how important the repercussions rather than the actions were to her characters on a very emotional level. For example, it's common throughout the novel for scenes of death and violence to be brushed over, not even detailed in real time, but recalled by the character so that she could spend the narration going through the aftermath on such an event, so that we could witness the development the characters derived from such an action. I thought all this absolutely riveting.
That undeniably means that the novel is extremely slow, almost to the point of being boring. Personally, I was never bored, but that was because I was so hooked in the way this character saw the world and dealt in a very psychological level with her two different realities (what she had been taught and what she experienced). If you cannot connect with this kind of introspective storytelling, with this sensitive a story and these emotionally complex characters, then it is pretty likely you'll be bored out of your mind. This novel is not concerned with being entertaining and action-packed or even fun. This novel turns the whole YA dystopia/action/sci-fi theme and magnifies into it, focusing on the development of the characters, how they learn to cope, to live and understand the brutal reality they live in, how they handle becoming their own person with their own thoughts and ideas and morality when they have been trained to follow orders and not ask questions.
I was so intrigued by how we usually see our heroines and heroes doing brutal things for the sake of "the good side" and our minds brush over the fact that those things could be considered bad from a whole other perspective, something other heroes and heroines never seem to be bothered by. Here we have characters who struggle with the moral complications of everything they've been thought and everything they do. We witness how they battle with themselves, their own thoughts and try to find themselves amidst it all. We see how there can be a duality of good and bad in who you are and how that may not entirely define you. This novel never actually passed moral judgement over its characters and allow them to showcase their moral and emotional complexity, a very profound and sensitive touch that speaks greatly of Everett's skills as an author.
This is a very emotionally mature novel, especially within this genre in YA fiction. I certainly never expected it to be this way. Truth be told, I wasn't even aware that I had liked and enjoyed this novel so much until well after I had finished it. For most of my reading experience with this novel, I thought I was just mildly invested in it. It wasn't until the last few pages came around that I realized how much of an impact this melancholic novel had on me. This is not a happy novel nor a fun reading experience, and it's not interested in being either of those. A haunting experience, The Unquiet might just be one of the most original and touching novels I've read this year, one that took me entirely by surprise and still refuses to let me go. ...more
This is the third book I've read this year with analogous style and premises, the other two being The Boy Meets Girl Massacre and Diary of a Haunting, both of which similarly employ the diary/journal device to tell the story of an unreliable girl's horrifying paranormal circumstances, and for the most part, I think The Dead House is marginally more successful than the previously mentioned because of the better quality of the writing and plotting. But while The Dead House provides with a much more satisfying and technically superior execution, it loses control of the story halfway into the novel and ends up being far too long-winded for its own good. By the time the climax rolls around, my excitement had dwindled considerably, almost to the point of exasperation and boredom.
All in all, The Dead House is a decent novel as far as YA horror goes. It provides a unique angle to the tired journal device by layering the storytelling with interviews, notes, video transcriptions, psychological and police reports and newspaper cut outs, effectively providing an interesting clinical and seemingly objective tone to the entire narrative and allowing the story to expand beyond the narrator for a more complex cluster-fuck of a read. The downside to all of this is that it becomes repetitive, and after the techniques lose their newness as the story goes on, they become fairly tedious to get through as well.
I understand and commend the author's intention in wanting to develop her main character's insanity/horrors and to give space to all these background information to settle and provide the reader with a dual perspective on the story that could easily go either into psychological or paranormal explanations, which, for the most part, worked pretty decently. But I think the novel is far longer than it needs to be and that worked against the quality of the story because it started to rely on the same devices, character interactions and actions over and over, turning the scenes that were supposed to be disturbing, unsettling and horrifying into crutches to move the story forward.
The Dead House does provide with fairly entertaining thrills and nicely-written scenes of terror and violence. But the in-betweens make the story drag and ruin the effect of some of the scenes, plus, it over-complicates what is a fairly simple story that doesn't want to settle in what exactly it wants to be, jumping far too much from psychological thriller to horror without as much cohesiveness and conciseness as it should've had. It's weird, but by the time I finished this novel, I felt like I had read about 4 book's worth of content.
And for a novel with so much time spent on seemingly meaningless character interactions, most of them ended up being little more than puppets as far as their complexity and definition went. We had vague descriptions of who they were physically, a handful of lines dedicated to their emotional and mental states, and so their actions throughout the story felt jerky, pulled only by the strings of the author's desire and needs. There isn't much reason why anyone in this novel do the things they do. We are supposed to just label them crazy, damaged, disturbed or simply slaves to their teenage desires and that's it. Two fairly important secondary characters, Naida and Ari, always appeared ridiculous to me, their characterization, motivations, actions and conversations far too outrageous and forced into the narrative of the story. The romance, likewise, felt strained, forced and underdeveloped.
For the first half, this book was actually very enjoyable and engaging, but as the story dragged, the pages went on and on and on with basically the exact same scenes and conversations, my feelings for the novel changed drastically. There are some really decent plot twits in there, but the novel is so single-mindedly focused on delivering twist after unexplained, underdeveloped twist that even that grows tired after a while. Moreover, some sub-plots were left hanging and no clear answer is given at the end for, well, anything at all.
The novel is okay, entertaining to a degree and surprisingly engaging. It's too much of a cluster-fuck, too needlessly convoluted and complex, and it drags too much, but still, a decent read, all in all. ...more
I don't think I've read a book this harrowing, a story that handles so perfectly and unflinchingly the topic of rape, consent and rape cultur4.5 stars
I don't think I've read a book this harrowing, a story that handles so perfectly and unflinchingly the topic of rape, consent and rape culture since All the Rage, and this one goes even deeper than Courtney Summers' brutal account of life after rape because What We Saw focuses on the hell that immediately follows this barbaric act on the victim, when she has to see her life transformed from one second to the next into an open book for all to see and judge. This book is the perfect representation of rape culture, which at this point, most people insist it doesn't exist.
This book is not an easy experience, not an enjoyable read in the slightest. It is brutal, honest and doesn't shy away from throwing at the reader the multiplicity of facets and repercussions that a rape has. A rape is never just a violation of the integrity and autonomy of one's body, is an assault on the mind and the heart, a vile thievery of anyone's dignity as a human being, and it stains everything about that person. I waited so many weeks after reading it to even think about writing a review because of how horrified this book left me. I read it only a few days after finishing a one-week course on feminist law theory focused on Race, Class and Gender where we read The Story of Jane Doe. If you think that what this book portrayed is nothing more than just exaggerated fiction, look up that book and read what that woman had to go through, how she was repeatedly victimized and dehumanized by the very government that's supposed to protect her and every other woman from going through this, how she was consistently blamed for her own brutal rape and how, in the end, nobody cares about these women as anything more than 5 minutes of scandalous media and how, even in today's supposedly advanced society, we still see the rape of women through a misogynistic, objectifying and thoroughly patriarchal gaze. In fact, go to YouTube and check out the comment sections on the music video about campus rape that Lady Gaga launched a couple of days ago. Read through those victim-blaming, sexist, insensible, vitriolic spiels of sub-human viciousness and tell me there is no such thing as rape culture.
What I loved the most about this book is how it chose to tell this story from an outsider's perspective, someone initially reluctant to be involved, to look deeper into things and be forced to come to the realization that the people she knew are not who they are, that things are rarely how most think they are, and most importantly, how the social politics in our society will inspire people to come together to systematically destroy a single woman when she dares to go against a man or a group of them to decry their abuse of her autonomy and dignity. What's more horrifying about this novel is how realistic it is, how damaging gender roles and internalized misogyny have already proven to be in cases like the Steubenville High School rape case and so many others where the victim's have been blamed, harassed and brutalized to the point where many of them had ended up in suicide. All because people refuse to look closer.
But this novel hardly remains focused on the rape culture behind actual rapes and actually goes out of its way to have the characters engage in dialogues and conversations that highlight the careless way with which we objectify and sexualize women, how we perpetuate oppressive and outdated notions about sexual behavior and how they are supposed to diverge according to sex and gender, and how women are conditioned into allowing men to feel entitled to their bodies and to feel vindicated when adopting damaging attitudes and behaviors. Moreover, the novel includes the lyrics of several wildly popular song and even discusses in painstaking detail a very popular movie and Broadway play that are mindlessly promoting the use and abuse of women as nothing beyond blow-up dolls and male entitlement over them.
Was it all a bit ham-handed sometimes? Truth be told, yes. But that matters very little when one considers the near flawless way in which this book delivers its intended message. It is a compelling and deeply engrossing read that lands blow after blow, brutal realization and brutal realization, with an accuracy and impact that will knock the breath out of you, even if you are aware of how realistically portrayed this rape case is in the novel, how seamlessly Hartzler has blended reality and fiction. This book is, in all likelihood, the most important book I've read this year, a book that needs to be read by everybody so that we can finally begin to move together towards a future where this is not allowed, where rape is treated with the same seriousness and severity as every other crime and the victim is never once brutalized by the public with more viciousness than the criminals themselves.
It. Is. Never. The. Victim's. Fault. NEVER. ...more
The Suffering is the perfect example of how much an author can grow and learn between books, how experience can be a wonderful teacher if the person iThe Suffering is the perfect example of how much an author can grow and learn between books, how experience can be a wonderful teacher if the person is willing to develop and work their craft. About a year ago, The Girl from the Well left me feeling disappointed. It showed promise and was a decent debut novel as a whole, but there was potential wasted and it ended up being a slightly underwhelming novel. So it was with no small amount of apprehension that I approached The Suffering. As it turns out, I had absolutely nothing to worry about.
With a more structured plot, more focused storytelling and meticulous writing, Chupeco fulfilled with the Suffering the promise her debut novel had, ultimately delivering with this one the great novel that The Girl from the Well should’ve been. Instead of shifting back and forth between multiple points of view, The Suffering concentrated on the narrative of Tarquin alone. Of course, reading from the perspective of Okiku sounds more appealing, but the flow of the story worked a lot better this time around by fixating only in Tarquin’s POV, and stranger still, Okiku was even more compelling a character through the eyes of Tarquin as well. The result reminded me of Anna Dressed in Blood to some extent, as they are both told from the perspective of a teenage boy with a mystifying connection to a girl ghost that enjoys tearing people apart – not to mention the inclusion of the infamous Aokigahara forest in Girl of Nightmares, which is the setting of most of the action in The Suffering as well – but that’s where the similarities end.
Tarquin is a decent narrator, perhaps not as compelling as Okiku was in the first novel (ignoring the slightly frustrating and repetitive bouts of fractured narration, which are successfully contained in this novel, resulting in a more satisfying use of that technique), but a very engaging and solid point of view nonetheless. He carries the weight of the novel well, and what’s interesting is that even he is aware that he’s hardly the most important or fascinating point in the novel, so a lot of attention is given to Okiku, their relationship and the horrors they are experiencing, as opposed to a more introspective look at his life and what he feels. There were certain points where he failed to come across as a believable teenage boy to me, but it was still a commendable effort on the author’s part, and in any case, fulfilled its intended point extremely well. His voice conveyed beautifully the confusing, disturbing but ultimately touching nature of Tarquin and Okiku’s relationship, which I loved to see developed in this novel. The writing, likewise, is fantastic, a bit repetitive a handful of times, but perfectly suited to the style of the novel.
The Suffering is legitimately creepy and a very well-executed YA horror novel as a whole. It was chilling and disturbing, and it delivered flawlessly the Japanese horror atmosphere while maintaining the due respect and loyalty to the culture. Unlike the first one, the introduction to Japanese culture didn’t take over the narrative and plot, and instead was worked seamlessly into the story. Chupeco never left the reader blind to what was happening and dealt important – and very fascinating – information about the customs and background that shaped the atmosphere of the novel without it ever feeling like info-dumps. Moreover, it was all so mesmerizing. I love Japanese culture and learning about these dark bits of history (real or inspired by reality, both) was immensely fascinating and riveting.
This novel kicks off strongly and it remained a thoroughly gripping read from beginning to end, never once relinquishing its complete hold on my attention or lagging in any way or form. The story is fast-paced and wildly entertaining, but never is the complexity of the novel sacrificed in exchange for breakneck speed and enjoyment. It dealt twists into the story that melded together almost perfectly, and I didn’t even mind the seemingly disjointed first third of the novel that deals with a situation in America rather than Japan, because it all fit together so well. Chupeco managed to keep the intensity of the story all the way through, keeping me focused and entertained even in the most passive of moments in the story. This is a book that I positively did not want to stop reading, and I can’t remember the last time that happened to me.
The entire half of the novel dedicated to the Aokigahara forest, the dolls, the Hell’s gate and the ritual was very near perfection to me. Chupeco didn’t hold back with the horror, death and disturbing brutality, and still, somehow she managed to intersect legitimately touching moments of love, friendship and bravery. The climax and ending of the novel were amazing. I had my doubts about it when I saw it coming, but the result was unexpectedly satisfying, very different from what other novels would’ve done, and provided for a perfect ending to this series, perpetuating the morally ambiguous and anti-hero air of the novel that set it apart from others in the genre from the very beginning.
In spite of the rocky start that was The Girl in the Well, I am very sad to see this series come to a close. The Suffering was a fantastic book in its own right, but it excels as a sequel because of the way it managed to take the good from its predecessor and deliver a superb continuation to the story that tops the original in every single way. Chupeco’s growth as an author is palpable all throughout this novel and firmly positions her within the group of authors I am keeping a very close eye on from now on. In all likelihood the best Japanese-inspired YA horror novel I’ve read, The Suffering is an excellent conclusion to a solid duology and one of my favorite novels of the year. ...more
Ruthless is the most stressful, disturbing, never-wracking and visceral experience I've had with any book in a while. I desperately wanted to keep reaRuthless is the most stressful, disturbing, never-wracking and visceral experience I've had with any book in a while. I desperately wanted to keep reading, but at the same time, I stayed away from it for hours at a time because of the powerful impact it had on me. Deeply engrossing, brutal and terrifyingly realistic, Ruthless is a fantastically written story of survival and, simultaneously, a short, fascinating study of both the good and the bad parts of human nature.
When I picked this up, I had no idea this story would be this intense, that it would leave me this stressed and tense and on edge. I expected the typical lukewarm YA thriller, the one with exaggerated and unrealistic odds but still manageable enough for a generic heroine to handle with almost superhuman abilities and unrealistic feats of human strength. Ruthless was nothing like that. In fact, the story actively worked against the main character. With every step and rounded corner, she was mercilessly ambushed by the story, brought down with terrifying brutality. That's what makes this novel so great, because it's all about Ruth as a character. Her tenacity, her strength, her spirit. Adams gave us a magnificent heroine, one that actually deserves to be called a heroine, one the kept fighting, kept struggling and never had anything handed to her by the grace of the story or the author.
What's particularly interesting about Ruth is that, in spite of being one of the strongest heroines I've read about in quite a while, she is nowhere near perfect. She is not unbreakable and definitely she doesn't breeze through this book and the horrible situation she's been placed in. She fights every step of the way with tooth and nails, she never gives up, but she is not left unaffected by this. Her psychological unraveling under the weight of the events that take place in the story is fascinating and extremely well-written. Adams managed to write a book where, the more vulnerable and raw the heroine is, the stronger and tougher she gets. Ruth was so riveting a character and a fascinating heroine to follow. She is flawed and so thoroughly human, she was one of the most compelling aspects of an already compelling story. She was a utterly believable young woman, a realistic heroine all the way through.
Half surviving being hunted, half wilderness survival, Ruthless takes place within the span of two or three days and never once loses it breakneck speed. This is a very graphic and disturbing read, one that doesn't shy away from the horrors of the situation, though it is toned down somewhat. One of my favorite things about the novel is how, using a dual narrative of flashbacks in between the narration of the actual story, it provided a fascinating overview of the two main characters in the novel, the way both of them bordered most of their lives between good and bad choices and how that shaped them into the persons they were today. It laid out the stage beautifully for the situation they found themselves in, the choices they made and the way they acted in it.
There were some religious undertones in the narrative that turned me off a tad from the narration and there was a rather careless use of the word slut at the beginning of the novel that, though I see its need in that moment, still left a sour taste in my mouth, but these are pretty much all the concrete complaints I have of the novel. This book is about human resilience and courage, and it did a fantastic job portraying the good parts of humanity while still allowing for the darkest, more sinister parts of it to show as well, and not only through the antagonist. I particularly loved the climax, the way it all comes down to a close and the impact it had on Ruth. I adored that the novel never tried to make an unrealistic leap from normal teenage girl to invincible avenger out of nowhere, that instead it allowed itself to take a more realistic and strangely powerful turn. I also loved that the novel made a point of showcasing how internalized misogyny can insidiously grow into something truly terrifying and how the careless way in which some people talk about women affects the way women are perceived and treated.
An engaging, well-written, fascinating and disturbing read, Ruthless was more than a pleasant surprise for me. This is a fantastic thriller and survival story, a deeply engrossing study of humanity and probably one of the best YA thrillers I've read in quite a while. ...more
What a waste of a perfectly good story. The first 50 pages or so are very engrossing, but then the mystery, the characters and the story itse2.5 stars
What a waste of a perfectly good story. The first 50 pages or so are very engrossing, but then the mystery, the characters and the story itself fall through the cracks that being overly ambitious left in this book. The book should've settled in just one of the two POVs. There was no need for both of them, and the shifting between the two hurt the suspense in the novel for no purpose whatsoever. I understand the allure of both characters for both of them were interesting enough to warrant attention to their stories, but by choosing both, neither got the development they needed. Emily remained a fairly static character that contributed nothing to the narrative and Damon's increasing psychological unrest felt manufactured and forced. Neither ever truthfully contributed to the tension in the novel with their unraveling psyches, and to force some blossoming attraction between them added nothing to the novel and was far too strained, even though it was barely developed in the story.
The novel loses momentum far too soon, decelerating abruptly and slowing down to a repetitive crawl. No effort whatsoever was made into hiding the actual culprits and secondary characters were brought back into existence and then quickly forgotten whenever it was necessary. Emily and Damon made for some pretty boring leads, even though they started the novel as the complete opposite. The rest of the characters aren't even worth mentioning for they left no impression whatsoever. The only semi-interesting character in the novel was the dead girl as she was presented through memories and flashbacks, but I hated the way in which she was characterized. The only remarkable character in the entire narrative and she was given barely any characterization at all, just enough to subtly demonized to the point that it felt like the story itself was saying, not only that she was partially responsible, but that she deserved what happened to her. And that's it for female characters. The other three female characters besides the MC are a backstabbing ex-best friend, a random Muslim girl (only character of color in the entire novel) that has one line in the entire novel, and the MC's drunk mother. Yay for female representation. Not that the male representation fares any better as they are all equally flat and uninspiring, but at least a bit more effort and numbers were given to them.
Deliberately short of details to prolong a predictable mystery, an overwritten story that still left characters vastly underdeveloped, and an emotionally bereft narrative make The Killing Woods a very underwhelming book that truly had the potential for so much more. ...more
I feel extremely conflicted about my feelings for this novel. To be honest, I didn't care much about it when I started reading and I was pretty certain the feeling would continue all throughout the novel, but somewhere along the way, I ended up caring and I was a lot more entertained than I care to admit. This novel grew on me in a very insidious and inexplicable way. While it is extremely obvious why a novel like this one should be very appealing, from the exhilarating games and the political intrigue to the strong and loyal heroine and this interesting new world, Court of Fives had several things working against it, least of which wasn't simple genre fatigue. So, while I may have expected to be entertained, I didn't expect to like this novel much.
What makes Court of Fives such a difficult novel to sort my feelings for is that it is simultaneously familiar and original. There were many elements to the story that felt like I have read them previously in a dozen different other novels, but there was a feeling to the book as a whole that made it feel unique, although nowhere near unique enough to distance it from the plethora of other novels that deal with similar ideas, characters and storylines. The biggest problem that Court of Fives faces is, like I said previously, genre fatigue. Yet another story about a different and strong heroine who lives in a fantasy/dystopic, racist and misogynistic society and whose life gets turned upside down by the evil powers that be, whom she must face and eventually defeat to protect her loved ones. Court of Fives took several turns along the way that I didn't expect and Elliott did make the concept her own, but that doesn't mean I wasn't constantly drawing parallels between this novel and every other that has burst into this particular scene for the last 5 years.
The writing in this novel is solid, though it was awkwardly repetitive sometimes, particularly during the start of the novel. While I appreciate that the author kept the info-dumps to a minimum, I was a bit lost when it came to the world-building for a considerably large part of the novel. I liked in general the idea behind this world, but there are parts of it that are still very unclear to me and others that seem outright inconsistent. The same goes for the games because, for a story that spends such a large amount of time describing these games and the participants' roles in them, there are some parts of it and their purpose that remains a mystery to me. I failed to see the big deal about this game and the skill required to be a champion in them. It's basically a Ninja Warrior obstacle course that 4 people run at the exact same time. Essentially, the background of this story felt like it had been hastily painted in big, bold strokes, with just enough effort so the world sounds different and interesting, but full of blank spaces and details that were supposed to be covered by the fast pace and high stakes of the central story.
The story is very engaging, but that's mostly due to how easy to like are Jessamy as a heroine and her need to save her family, a quest that drives the latter half of the novel. However, for most of the novel, there's no clear plot or direction in the story. Jessamy is just driven from point to point because of circumstances outside of her control and she just sort of rolls with it. That is not to say that it is not interesting to read about, but since the actual story doesn't really kick off until halfway through the book, I fail to see how that previous half was not used to expand on the world-building and characterization and to set a firmer foundation for the central plot of the novel. As it is, the foundation of this plot is rather shaky and unsatisfying, and truth be told, when one stops to think about it, this novel is full of holes and inconsistencies. The motivation behind the antagonist's plan makes very little sense and, had he been given a lot more characterization or if the famous war beyond this city that controls half the actions of the characters in this novel had been explained in a deeper, more expansive way, the very plot point that sets in motion this plot would've been a lot more believable and solid. Moreover, there were a lot of plot points in this novel that worked out simply because the author willed it that way and not because they had any chance of being successful under believable circumstances.
I did, however, end up liking the characters quite a lot. Sure, they were not exactly very well developed and their relationships were sometimes a little strained and forced, and the peripheral characters functioned in cliches and stereotypes most of the time, but, somehow, I still enjoyed reading about them. My biggest problem with the characters is that they were somewhat inconsistent, and what they showed through their actions and what Jessamy told us in the narration didn't always match. For example, I was never able to make head or tails about Jessamy's relationship with her father. Their interactions felt forced and strained and I would always get the feeling that they secretly hated each other because they didn't know each other at all. That's what their conversations and actions towards each other told me as a reader, but then Jessamy would tell me she was the closest to her father out of her sisters, that he loved and engaged her the most out of all his daughters. It was a constant battle between telling and showing, and that would've been fantastic if Jessamy had been an unreliable narrator when it came to her father because of some intense denial or misguided desire to be loved by him at all costs, but that never came across through the story or the characters. Jessamy was also particularly inconsistent when it came to her own motivations and desires. I know she's a teen and they are hardly ever paragons of constancy and reliability, but the fickleness of her desires, motivations and emotions went to the very core of who she was supposed to be as a character and often gave us moments were she would contradict her very own words or actions from one moment to the next.
Having said that, I think she was actually a pretty decent heroine. She was extremely loyal to her family, brave and willing to sacrifice anything for what she wanted, including friendship, her future and the possibility of romance. Jess's dedication to her family and how that guides her actions for the second half of the novel were, in all likelihood, my favorite part of the novel. Even if they had very to little actual chemistry and it took off far too quickly, I genuinely liked how the "romance" was handled in this novel, though it is somewhat problematic, because it showed a very different dynamic from what I'm used to read about in YA. There was a spark of romance in there, and I liked that Jess used and manipulated it to fit her own ambition, not in a sadistic or evil way, but in a way that made it clear that she had priorities in her life and that she was not above doing hurtful things to help her family and survive. In an endless line of YA novels that give us "heroines" willing to die and sacrifice the world rather than break it off with the pretty boys they just met, this novel gave the romance subplot a very intriguing angle that I'd like to see develop in further novels.
Court of Fives had many flaws and one of my biggest issues with the novel is that it didn't use all the racism and sexism in the story for anything else other than to make Jess's life just the tiniest bit more difficult. They weren't explored in any meaningful way and were brought back into the story only when someone needed to be mean to Jess and her family. The story does give a quiet strength to the women in the novel that makes them shine brighter than the men, but that feels more like a result of the particular focus given to the female characters rather than some deliberate attempt to subvert the sexist regime of this society.
Regardless, I ended up enjoying the novel and becoming invested in it to the point that I am surprisingly eager to read the next one. It is far from a perfect novel, but I genuinely believe most of the issues with the story are the result of the mess that usually is a first novel in which you need to establish a complicated world with complex politics, give readers characters they can enjoy reading about and setting in motion several plots to feed a couple of sequels. That doesn't excuse the ultimately average execution of the novel, but it gives me hope for really good sequels and an entertaining series to look forward to. ...more
It would be very hard not to compare this one with Vengeance Road as they both have similar settings and essentially follow almost the exact3.5 stars
It would be very hard not to compare this one with Vengeance Road as they both have similar settings and essentially follow almost the exact same plot line for the first 50 pages or so. But that's about as long as it lasts as they quickly diverge and turn into very different novels that I enjoyed immensely. While Vengeance Road stays true to old Western stories of revenge, guns and gold, Walk of Earth a Stranger uses the Western background to tell a story more full of magic and survival that reminded me of the many stories that populated literature during the period of Realism.
Having being only mildly impressed with Carson's debut novel The Girl of Fire and Thorns, it was with immense satisfaction that I realized Carson had no intention of making of this novel anything similar to her popular debut series. While they both do share a focus on survival and making long, arduous and extremely dangerous travels through hostile lands, Carson's craft is a lot more refined here, the writing tighter and the story more structured. Like with her first novel, there is a bit of a loose plot working as the spinal cord of the story and it does feel sometimes like the actual story has yet to begin, like this is an introduction to what the real novel is supposed to be, but unlike TGoFaT, I can't say that either bored me or bothered me.
This novel certainly builds up slowly, but the pace was consistent and takes off after a couple of pages that make the considerable bulk of the novel go by unexpectedly fast. Carson presents and exceedingly well-researched world that feels authentic, and chapter after chapter you can appreciate the painstaking detail that she gave to each and every single aspect of this world. For the most part, it feels very realistic which contrasts rather strongly with the small paranormal edge given to the story through Lee's ability to sense and find gold. You can tell that will be important later in further installments, but aside from being what propels the plot in motion, there's really no particular emphasis on her power and it sometimes feels a bit tagged on to the story. Sometimes I would even forget she had this power, only to be reminded by some of her inner dialogue or a small scene where she would use it because it doesn't play much of a role in the overall story except for the manufactured complications where it became a necessity.
Lee is a really fantastic main character. She's brave and smart and a character that's really easy to like. I really enjoyed experiencing this novel through her voice and I particularly loved the emphasis the author gave to Lee's observations about how this world was built upon the backs of women, how it abused them and then discarded them. There was a focus on the power of women, on their quiet strength even when they are invisible, and their capacity to survive almost anything. There was a lot of power in the way the novel talked and portrayed women, but I felt like a particular choice regarding one of the other female characters towards the end tarnished the overall idea and the message it was trying to convey, especially because of that character's inclusion in the small romantic tension in the novel.
Speaking of which, there is a small spark of romance in the novel, though it's of the very slow-burn variety and remains as something barely more tangible than a promise for next installments. I liked that particular choice because, considering what these characters have to go through in this novel, any instance of actual romance here would've felt forced and out of place. I'm glad Carson decided to sacrifice the romance for the integrity of the survival aspect in the novel, but I do wish she had spent more time with the secondary characters who remain fairly static and stereotyped all throughout the novel, with only one or two standing out as a bit more complex than the rest.
Walk on Earth a Stranger is a very enjoyable novel in spite of its grittiness (or maybe even because of it in my case) and a surprisingly engaging first installment in a series. This is a compelling novel that manages to be realistic and sometimes even brutal without ever losing the spark of hope, a story that made a commendable effort in showcasing diversity and notions of social progress even stuck in what was one of the most oppressive and intolerant periods in recent history, and, ultimately, a great effort that definitely succeeded in making me commit to the series. ...more
What a strange, lovely novel Belle Epoque turned out to be. Not a particularly fun or entertaining novel, definitely not as profound as it co3.5 stars
What a strange, lovely novel Belle Epoque turned out to be. Not a particularly fun or entertaining novel, definitely not as profound as it could've been, but still, thoughtful and original in a sense that YA rarely is. Instead of focusing on the romance or getting lost in the beauty of the times, instead of using the story to bring another tiring, perfect main character who does nothing wrong, the author didn't shy away from giving us a flawed and average main character in a strange, emotionally and psychologically taxing situation who ends up being, essentially, the eyes through which we learn about situations and characters a whole lot more interesting than herself. That in itself was a pretty big risk. I commend the author's commitment to the story where she would rather make a point than make up this ridiculously perfect main character that never grows, develops or makes mistakes, but, ultimately, Maude herself suffered as a character because, pretty much, everyone else was more interesting than she was and it was a bore sometimes to go through her scenes of introspection.
At times, I really liked that the author purposely made Maude so average and unassuming so that we could better enjoy the strong characters around her, but at others, I struggled with actually caring about Maude at all. What I appreciate the most about this, however, was that this was a perfect technique to avoid the infuriating girl-on-girl hate that pervades in YA, but it had the downfall of making Maude rather uninteresting and, for some reason, also softened the impact of her emotions on the reader. Maude felt like such a passive observer for so much of the novel, than when it was her time to deliver on the big emotions and make big leaps in characterization, it almost fell flat for me. It wasn't that I didn't care about her, but simply that I didn't care enough to make a difference. I did generally like what the author did with Maude as a character, and I enjoyed that Maude was allowed to grow and develop by making mistakes, by making bad choices and turning into a unlikable person because it made for great characterization and it felt natural. I really enjoyed the way Maude got caught up in the fantasy of living this life that was never meant for her, which is when she came off as the most realistic for me.
What struck me the most powerfully about Maude was her need to survive, how she was willing to do anything to hold on, and her development as a character felt natural, and I know there aren't many authors out there willing to tarnish the perfection of their main characters so they can learn. But, ultimately, Maude was still a two-dimensional character at times. Aside from her need to survive and prove the people from her past wrong, the other big emotion I perceived from her was the emotional blow working as a repoussoir had on her self-steem, which I suppose is the very point of the novel, certainly, but never went as deep as I would've liked it to go and was mostly static and repetitive.
There's not a particular focus on romance in this novel, which was a refreshing change, and a definite spotlight on friendship, which was one of the strongest aspects of the novel for me. While not developed further more than was necessary, Marie-Josée and Isabelle were two very compelling and strong characters that reinforced the message of the novel. Far more interesting that Maude herself, they often carried the weight of the scene, the chapter and even whole sections of the story. They even embodied the message of the novel more strongly than Maude herself. They were not fully-fleshed and sometimes even felt like a draft of their own characters, but reading about Maude in their company were often the most engaging parts of my reading experience.
Belle Epoque is a very original novel with an unusual take on what could've been a recycled story. I was expecting for Maude to have a Cinderella story, for her to go from ugly duckling to beautiful swan like many other novels, and I was very pleased when, not only did that not happen, but when I realized that setting itself apart from that was one of the points of the novel. Slightly heavy-handed in delivery, sure, but this book still made very important points on beauty and shallowness, in personal strength and self-steem, in fighting for your dreams and yourself as a human being with feelings and dignity, and all that endeared me to the novel.
Definitely slow, Belle Epoque could've used a bit more liveliness, a more engaging current to Maude's narrative and more emotional strength behind her voice. It's not a novel that will have to reading deep in to the night, not one that will deliver thrills or excitement. It's a slow, thoughtful process the reading experience for this novel, and I think that was precisely the point. I think it could've been better, but that's just me wanting to derive more enjoyment, more meaning from this novel, to make it a whole lot more memorable and give it a lot more impact than it had, because, in the end, I think Belle Epoque is exactly the type of novel it wants to be and that, even if it does not make me love it as desperately as I wanted to, it does deserve my respect. ...more
Is this book ridiculous? Yes. Absolutely preposterous? Definitely. Does that mean it wasn't absolutely entertaining? Nope. You see, this is one of thoIs this book ridiculous? Yes. Absolutely preposterous? Definitely. Does that mean it wasn't absolutely entertaining? Nope. You see, this is one of those books that you roll your eyes at, that make you snort at the sheer absurdity of it all, but it's also one that you just can't stop reading, no matter what. It is compulsively readable, very intriguing and undeniably riveting. I was hooked. So yeah, there were inconsistencies in the story, plot holes, and a deliberate over-stretching of a plot that couldn't possible be stretched any farther, but I had fun reading this novel, as in, legitimate, authentic and thrilling fun. The book is twisty and does all the things an intriguing mystery is supposed to do. I sort of figured the whole thing out about a third into the story, but the book kept me guessing, and that's what this type of book is supposed to do, which is something that most YA mystery/thriller fail horribly at.
I felt like some of the characters could've used a bit more dimension, like the big reveal could've been a bit more polished, the antagonist given a stronger motive, and I could've done with a lot less sexualization of the girl love interest, although I was happy to see that she owned her sexuality with unapologetic confidence, but truth be told, this is not a book that made an impact on me in terms of quality. It was just a thoroughly enjoyable, very engaging read, which was exactly the kind of book I needed to read at the time I picked it up.
Max's voice was believable, realistic and engaging, and I actually liked what the author did with Parvati's characterization, but you have to be prepared to deal with these characters making terrible decisions for the sake of prolonging the plot. Like I said, this book is so unrealistic it actually physically hurts, but all in all, it's a very readable, entertaining book that I had to stop myself from reading in one sitting, and that's, in all honestly, all I wanted out of it. ...more
Well, fuck. I actually liked this one, definitely a hell of a lot more than everyone else here. And I can see why most people have hated this3.5 stars
Well, fuck. I actually liked this one, definitely a hell of a lot more than everyone else here. And I can see why most people have hated this one, seeing as how I was initially very turned off by the book myself. But it grew on me, and I'm not sure I can explain how. This book is weird and strange and odd and very frustrating at times, but it was just so ridiculously different. It reminded me of the edginess of Holly Black's Modern Fairy Tale series, but with Moskowitz's unique style of disruptive, jumpy and screwed up narration.
In true Moskowitz fashion, this book is a physical manifestation of trigger warning. It is edgy, dark and provocative, it is very sex-positive, has unflinching scenes of sex and child prostitution, and has an exceedingly dark sense of humor. This is definitely a very mature YA read, and even if the aforementioned hadn't been included in the book, this still would've been a very polarizing book because of the way it is structured. Shifting back and forth between past, present and even freaking future, A History of Glitter and Blood is, literally, a book in pieces, a story in the making. Thus, the narration is constantly shifting back and forth, interrupting the story and breaking up the narrative flow to let some stream of consciousness pour in. That makes the style very hard to get used to at first, but once I got the hang of it, once I understood the importance of the story being told that way, I found myself liking it immensely.
I don't think I've ever read a book like this one. This book actually reads like it is being written in real time, at the very same time you read it. This had a very strange effect of binding me emotionally to the story and the characters, far more than I thought possible and definitely more than I would've if the story had been told in more traditional styles. This a very simple and straightforward story and not much actually happens overall, but the way the story is told makes it seem and feel a lot more eventful and bigger and seemingly more important than it actually is. This book is bizare and I'm still reeling from the experience of reading it.
It is also very honest and effortlessly inclusive and diverse. I like how it simultaneously made big and understated points about very important and mature issues like sex, from sexual discovery to desire, from sexual exploration, same-sex relationships, sexual inhibitions to even bold statements about rape and sex work. I liked that the characters themselves were so complex and very often unlikable and thoroughly selfish but still interesting and good at heart. The relationships between them were complicated and strange and sometimes disturbing, but still loving and caring and true. This book is a freaking contradiction, a love story that's not a love story, a history of a war and a world that's not supposed to be about one girl, but really, in the end is all about this one girl.
I am having a very hard time trying to come up with ways to describe this book, to make it sound appealing, because the truth is that it is not and there's very little I could say about my experience that would make anyone want to read it, and I honestly don't want to entice anyone into reading it. This is a very difficult book to enjoy, I'll admit that, and it takes very specific circumstances and characteristics on the part of the reader to actually end up liking this book. Basically, I'm admitting to liking this book because of something akin to the planets aligning: strange, coincidental and very specific circumstances that are likely to happen very rarely henceforth. I'm pretty certain I didn't make sense, but hey, it often felt like the book didn't either, so what the hell.
A singular reading experience, unique and strange and completely bizarre. I'm still not certain about my exact feelings for the novel itself, but I know that reading it, that the book as a whole was too much of a different and unrepeatable experience for me to give it anything else besides this rating. Would I recommend it? Definitely not. Most of the negative reviews I've read for this novel are spot-on and definitely more trustworthy than mine, but I still liked this fucked-up book against every single one of my instincts and natural inclinations and there's nothing I can do about it. ...more
If you had asked me a couple of years ago what I thought of anything Western related, I probably would've derisively snorted away your question. ThenIf you had asked me a couple of years ago what I thought of anything Western related, I probably would've derisively snorted away your question. Then I was forced to watch True Grit and suddenly I didn't even know myself anymore. Come Vengeance Road followed shortly by Walk on Earth a Stranger, and now I'm fairly certain everything I know is a lie because, dammit, apparently I do like Western related things.
Vengeance Road is gritty, rough, brutal and merciless. Basically, what you should expect from a Western story set right smack in the middle of the Gold Rush. I don't know much about Western stories besides guns, saloons, sand, gold, stetson hats and tumbleweeds, but Vengeance Road pretty much checked every single box in what I've seen in other works and felt like a real Western adventure, one that had me riveted from beginning to end. It is definitely a very refreshing change in YA, especially because Bowman didn't shy away from more mature staples of the genre for the sake of keeping it traditionally YA.
This is a revenge story, and the greatest part is that it stays that way from beginning to end. This is not a redemption story, one that starts with vengeance and ends with forgiveness, and this is definitely not a cautionary tale. All the way throughout the book, the only goal is revenge and retribution and Bowman gave us a perfectly capable, brave and thoroughly engaging main character more than up to the task. Kate's moral ambiguity and unflinching honesty made her a fascinating and very engaging narrator and main character. It was extremely satisfying to finally read about a YA main character that doesn't try to disguise her intentions, that doesn't try to justify her actions or attempts to make herself seem better than she is. That is not to say that she was an unfeeling pillar of badassery. Kate still had some flaws, doubts and concerns that humanized her and made a great balance with her single-minded pursuit of revenge. She wasn't always the nicest person, she did worry about shallow, petty things, and she did show grief, but to me all those things strengthened her as a character.
I enjoyed the technical choices Bowman made for the novel, particularly the dialect. She handled with impressive success the dialect of the times and that enriched the setting and the atmosphere of the novel. If Saba's narrative annoyed you in Blood Red Road, then be warned, a similar technique was used here, though I personally enjoyed it a whole lot more and thought it perfect for this novel.
The novel is somewhat slow at points, but the pace picks up after a while. Personally, I was never bored, but there were some repetitive bits in the story. I'm still not sure about my feelings for how the novel introduced and used Native Americans. Don't get me wrong, I loved their presence and I'd love to see more and more of them in many other YA novels, but it seemed to me like the novel was portraying them in the slightly stereotypical "noble, mystical savage" way and I do wish they'd had more of a role in the novel that just been a necessary plot device for a particular scene in the story. Just one character stood up from them and that was mostly because she spends part of the journey with the main characters, and I did liked her a lot. I just wish they had amounted to a whole lot more in the novel.
There is some romance in this novel, though it builds up very slowly. What I liked the most about it was how reluctant to it both parts were and it was a very refreshing change to see how their attraction worked even against their own intentions. I thought romance would feel forced within the context of this novel, and while it was not perfect or ever felt entirely natural, I did like how it developed, how it grew at a slow pace and turned into something that felt right with both characters. I particularly enjoyed the imperfection of it, how it manifested itself through the characters and made them choose paths that added layers to their characterizations, particularly towards the end.
There was a twist towards the end that I'm still not entirely sold on. It didn't hurt my overall impression of the novel as a whole, but it did leave me feeling unconvinced and almost unsatisfied with the climax of the novel. It demanded a bit too much suspension of disbelief on my part and, personally, I felt like it didn't add much to the novel besides some shock value. I didn't feel entirely discordant in the novel, but it didn't entirely fit into it either, at least to me.
Vengeance Road was a great reading experience. I didn't expect to like it much, so it was a great surprise for me to enjoy reading it so much and actually being sad about finishing it and knowing that there would be no more. It is a very quick and engaging read. It is well-written and well-plotted and Bowman did a pretty great job with the story. I'd never read anything by her before, but if her other books are like this one, I'll be getting into them immediately. ...more
I kept jumping between 4 and 3 stars with this one because, though the novel lacks finesse in some of the technical aspects of storytelling, this wasI kept jumping between 4 and 3 stars with this one because, though the novel lacks finesse in some of the technical aspects of storytelling, this was a fast-paced, thrilling and very entertaining novel that went deep (at least, it seemed deep for a computer noob like me) into hacking and the cyberworld, or at least, deeper than other YA hacking novels have gone that have left me wanting for more. But towards the end of the novel, I found this effort to be simply alright. It was admittedly entertaining, but there was something missing from the novel, some sort of soul behind it that would make some sort of lingering impact on the reader. The characters never came alive for me, the climax of the novel was somewhat anti-climactic and resolved a bit too easily, and I felt like the story, particularly the conspiracy behind it all, was too convoluted and overreaching for its own good. Ultimately, a fast-paced and thrilling read that, while lacking in depth, delivers enough entertainment to make the experience worthwhile if not lasting. ...more
Mistwalker was a complete and pleasant surprise for me. I certainly had some expectations of it; the moment I read the very intriguing summar3.5 stars
Mistwalker was a complete and pleasant surprise for me. I certainly had some expectations of it; the moment I read the very intriguing summary for this book, I knew I needed to read it. I'd been craving a good, original paranormal book for quite a while and this books seemed promising. Still, I was aware that YA paranormal books these days are a gamble that I usually lose. The market is saturated with unoriginal, recycled garbage full of tropes and stereotypes, far too heavy on the romance and far too light in substance. So imagine my surprise when Mistwalker turned out to be none of those things and actually delivered a unique and engaging story, with layered characters and not a single one of those dreaded YA stereotypes that I've come to hate so much. No love triangle, an actual plot instead of a romance-heavy story, genuine and diverse characters that came across as honest and never tried to hard to be either genuine or diverse, a beautifully-crafted atmosphere, and a heartfelt story that I was actually invested in. The book is not perfect, and I did struggle with some aspects of it, but the uniqueness of this book had already skyrocketed it safely into Rayne-approved land.
I never thought I'd say this, being someone who thinks fishing is about as interesting as following the rotations of a fan, and who hates seafood, but holy crap, the world of Broken Tooth was fascinating. I loved the juxtaposition of the realistic hardships of living in a small, poor, fishing town, and the mysticism of the place, the old-fashioned superstitions, the old-timey view of a life on the sea, the mystery of the lighthouse, and the touches of magic and the paranormal. Mitchell did a magnificent job with the setting and the atmosphere in this book. It was rich, mesmerizing and absolutely beautiful, and also kind of eerie. This is not a horror novel, nor is it scary in the slightest, but there's a sort of eeriness to it, something ominous that you can't quite shake, and it was beautiful. Mitchell captured the feeling of a small town and infused it with magic and the power of superstitions and it worked marvelously.
Willa was a main character that was really easy to root for. She was genuine, honest, and pretty clear with what she wanted. She felt authentic to me, and she's a pretty good example of how to write about a character that's different and wants different things from others without going into special snowflake territory or shoving down the reader's throat just how unique and special she is. She was flawed, made plenty of mistakes and had some pretty ugly feelings trapped inside of her, but they all felt realistic and natural to the character. She was a layered and complex protagonist that developed nicely throughout the novel through, not only the events in the story, but also through her meaningful relationships with other characters in the novel.
The Grey Man, for his part, was a very interesting character with an ambiguous morality and unflinching honesty that I came to like really quickly. His narrative also displayed the best of Mitchell's writing and contributed greatly to the atmosphere of the novel. I also particularly liked that Mitchell avoided the paranormal creature/human love affair entirely and opted for developing Grey and Willa's relationship in a completely different way.
I really liked that Mitchell didn't waste a single important character in her story, certainly not on stereotypes or strict roles of convenience. There's a lesbian character in there for whom being a lesbian is only part of who she is and not her entire definition, which is a continuous struggle with representation in many other YA works. She is a perfectly normal girl with ambitions and feelings and flaws who just so happens to like girls. Then there's the ex-boyfriend, who's a sweet, supportive and genuine person during his relationship with Willa and after, and who's not vilified in any way because of a single mistake he makes. And then there's the "mean girl", whose not a mean girl at all because Mitchell effectively deconstructed this stereotyped and humanized her, making her an honest, flawed person that's suffering almost as much as Willa herself. There's really no antagonist in the story, no evil person to mindlessly hate, and that's something that meant quite a lot to me in my reading experience with this book. Every person is a complex and flawed world of their own, and not one of them is vilified in order to make the heroine look better. Willa's a heroine in this book because of her own actions and decisions, and the way she chooses to fight her internal battles.
Basically, this is a book about grief. Almost every character in this novel is grieving in their own ways, and the main story focuses on how these characters can find it in them to move on. I liked the way Mitchell developed this theme, how she seamlessly worked it into the story and into the development of the characters without saturating the plot and making it heavy and depressive. The novel was nicely written as a whole, though I did admittedly struggled with the cohesiveness of some dialogues and some scenes. The book never once felt disjointed, but some parts were slightly hard to follow.
The biggest issue in this book is actually how slow it is. Personally, I didn't think it was boring, but the book has a very gradual development and a very passive pace that feels almost languid. This is not a book to read for fun or excitement. It is a short book, but it is one that takes its time to develop the characters and the plot, the latter which is admittedly pretty straightforward and simple. That resulted in repetitiveness sometimes, but I never felt like this hurt my enjoyment of the book at any point. I know this is where the book fails for most readers, but I think the novel is worth sticking through the unhurried pace of the story.
There are two points of view in the novel, and though I really liked how Mitchell worked the narrative through both of them and how she managed to make both voices sound different, I'm still not convinced they were both absolutely necessary to the plot. I really liked the dimension the dual narration brought to the story and the mythology behind the plot, plus the way they worked to add layers to the characters, but it sometimes interrupted the flow of the story. Ultimately, I enjoyed both POVs immensely, and I understand the need for both in the novel, but I was never quite convinced of the need for both.
Ultimately, this was a very satisfying novel that gave me a whole lot more than I expected and actually resurrected somewhat my hope for the future of paranormal YA. It's not a perfect novel in itself, but Mitchell made it as perfect as it could be, and I really appreciate what she achieved with this story. It is different and engaging in a way very little other PN YA books have been in a while and I look forward to reading more from this author. ...more
The moment this started to sound like a mix between Ten and They All Fall Down, I knew this had NO BUENO written all over it. But I decided to give itThe moment this started to sound like a mix between Ten and They All Fall Down, I knew this had NO BUENO written all over it. But I decided to give it a fighting chance. True, I'd hated the shit out of the two short stories I'd read from these authors, but what the hell? The book was short, kids were dying all over the place, what did I have to lose? Besides several hours of my life I am never getting back, I almost lost my e-reader because that's how hard I wanted to throw it against the wall in frustration with this book.
This rant review might go on for a while, so if you don't want to stick with me all the way to the end, here's the short version: This book really fucking sucks. It's just awful. Like, gouge-your-eyes-out-with-rusty-spoons-and-pour bleach-on-your-ears-in-the-hopes-it'll-get-to-your-brain-and-erase-away-the-terrible-memory-of-having-read-it awful. For those who want to stick around for the long version, I'll throw in some gifs to make the experience a lot livelier.
This book is just like every other YA thriller/mystery about someone hunting down teenagers and killing them in gruesome ways out there, so there must be a set of RULES out there that YA authors shared amongst themselves. Since I am not privy to that particular information, I'll make my own based on what I learned from The Rules.
Rule #1: Insert every single teenage stereotype in there. The more outdated, overplayed and excessive, the better.
The jock with the heart of gold with the secret love for the quiet girl nobody notices? Welcome aboard! How 'bout the mysterious, kinda freaky-looking, weird guy with a vendetta against all the characters? Oh, how about we make the main character the sweet, shy girl nobody acknowledges but who's smarter, kinder, stronger and better than everybody else just 'cuz? The dumb one who gets easily manipulated by everyone, is revered only by how pretty and "easy" she is and goes running at the first sight of trouble? The ambitious social climber willing to step over everyone to get to the top? The gorgeous and ambitious mean girl with a secret who's really not that bad? A group of douche bros who only think about sex and alcohol? Bring them all in. And they are rich and popular and entitled, so of course they are a bunch of horrible people. Oh, but we need some diversity. Here. Have a guy with a Japanese name and a chick with an Indian name and let's cleverly not say anything else about the ethnicity of any other character, especially the crazy one that's in a gang, even though there might be some hints that he's black. It's not racist if we don't say it.
I don't think I've read about a more uninspired and cliched group of characters since Welcome to the Dark House. Not only that, they were also boring as fuck. Not a single one was in the slightest even remotely interesting. The lack of development or believable growth, the absence of layers to their personalities and the way they were used to check every single box in the stereotype checklist made them impossible to like, much less be engaging in the slightest. I care not a single fuck about any of them, not enough to even bat an eyelash when they were killed. It's a murder mystery! I need to care that someone's killing these kids, even if I don't care for the teens themselves. And yet...
Rule #2: To distract from how stereotyped and unoriginal your characters are, give them some stupid little trait. Don't even think about it. It doesn't even have to make sense. Just throw it in there. It's not like they'll notice. It's a YA book after all.
The psycho ex-boyfriend that's on a gang? Yeah, he has a black chihuahua that he adores and take with him everywhere. See how creative this character is? If he were a normal psycho ex-boyfriend who's on a gang, he would have a more menacing dog, like a Bulldog or a Rottweiler, not a freaking chihuahua! Did I just blow your mind or what?
And the shy girl, you see, she can be a leader and has a really great mind for mystery. You know how? She likes to play Clue. That's right: the mystery authority in this novel got her title by playing Clue with her 8 year old brother. Seriously, hold on to your seats because the character depth here will blow you right out into outer-space.
Rule #3: Make these characters as melodramatic, conniving and suspicious as possible. The more outrageous the better. Give them some really over dramatic rules to live by. Remember, they are teenagers. They need some really hardcore rules to live by. There are social steps to climb, after all. Really important life goals right there. Oh, and start every single chapter with one of those rules. They don't need to make sense or relate to what's going to happen next. Trust me. I write good.
We just don't understand. These kids have been so hardened by life's burdens. Robin has loved Kyle for so long, but she's the coach's daughter and that's against the rules. Romeo and Juliet had it easy compared to them. Oh, and Beth, poor Beth. She had to live outside of the popular group for years. For years, I tell you! She can't trust anyone or all she's worked for will crumble before her. She would not be invited to parties anymore! Think of the parties!
The way this bunch of little shits talk, you'd think they'd gone through the biggest hardships in the history of humanity. Who the fuck has an extremely detailed set of rules to live by? Teenagers at that. And if they do, why are they all based on the one characteristic that's supposed to define them, like the one dimensional chalk outlines that they are? Robin's kind, so all of her rules are about being sweet and kind to everyone. Kyle's all about respecting rules. Larson's a manwhore, so they are all about cheating whenever he can. Beth wants to be popular, so they are all about using people and trusting no one. August has some serious Lannister feelings going on for his dead sister, so they are all about cheesy notions of revenge. Hiro plays the drums, so here's an idea, let's make them all analogies about playing the drums!
Rules #4: Randomly change from POV to POV for no reason at all. The perspective doesn't matter. Just jump back and forth, but for the sake of cohesiveness, keep the same unemotional and sterile and disjointed narrative voice. Nobody needs to care about these stereotypes kids, I mean, they are only going to be murdered, after all.
You have like 14 different characters, might as well use them to see half a page from their perspective, you don't even need a reason. The technique was useful for when one of them was in particular danger at that point, and it was admittedly used in several occasions in the novel, but there were plenty of other times where the narration would shift from one POV to the other for no particular reason, and the interesting thing here is that it almost made no different at all. The writing in this novel feels particularly disjointed because the first half of the novel unleashes this torrent of info dumps about the characters, but by the time the second half comes, the narration, all throughout and regardless of the POV it was told from, sounded dry, sterile and stiff. That actively worked against the characters and effectively erased any interest I might've had in them and their role in the novel. The writing was awkward sometimes, riddled with some really odd word choices and sentence arrangements that made the reading experience rather bumpy and uncomfortable. It was not unreadable, but I didn't like the writing and I thought it added nothing to the characters or the atmosphere.
Rule #5: Whenever someone is introduced, shit exposition and info dumps all over the page. Tell everything. Reveal everything you have from the get go. This is a mystery. Who needs mysterious characters with mysterious motivations and pasts, right? Oh, and make those internal monologues as vacuous and cliched as possible, you hear me? Before I forget, also put foreshadowing everywhere. Have every single character utter some line about feeling like someone's going to die tonight or some other bullshit about death being in the air. Instant tension. You're welcome.
Every couple of chapters, even before the horror started, someone would look into the distance and drop some eerie line about feeling like something horrible was going to happen or that someone was going to die. It wasn't enough that whenever one of these assholes was introduced we learned their entire life stories in a matter of seconds along with their particular ambition (hint: popularity!) and a very one-dimensional look at their one trait, delivered with all the grace and subtlety of an elephant on roller-skates, but they would also end their introductions with some cheesy exclamation of "having a bad feeling about this" or feeling like the night would end badly. Every. Single. One. Of. Them. This is the most blatant abuse of foreshadowing I've seen in a while, going heads to heads with Twisted Fate, a book that introduced about 8 POVs into the story to literally just talk about how awful it was that the three main characters never saw coming the horrible, horrible things coming for them. Extreme use of foreshadowing tension does not make. And I know someone's going to fucking die. It's right there in the book's stupid description.
Rule #6: Is the plot stuck? Just have every character hear one his or her companions screaming in horror in the distance. It doesn't matter that you've used that 50 times already. Trust me, it never gets old. Just let them scream in horror at each other. Or better yet, have a chick in hysterics just randomly run away in terror from the group and safety whenever there's a lull in the conversation.
Every time they split up, which was about a dozen times per chapter, someone would hear screams into the distance. I get it, someone's murdering teenagers, but every single character had a moment when they would hear one of his or her companions screaming in horror in the distance and the trick got old really quickly. It was basically a volley of terrified screams aimed at me every couple of pages. If it was meant to chill me or set me on edge, it failed epically, as things are bound to do when you do them about 500 times in the span of less than 300 pages.
And right before someone screamed in terror, some idiot would just run away in terror, sometimes even randomly and right in the middle of a conversation. And by someone, I mean hysterical women, of course. Who else. Quite frankly, all these morons deserved to die.
Rule #7: The action slowing down? Need to get your characters from point A to point B? Scooby-Doo, my friend. Just steal the basic plot from every Scooby-Doo episode ever.
Oh, no! Someone's missing! You know what that means?
That has worked terribly the last couple of times and has only helped the murderer to kill us even faster. Should we change tactics? Nope.
And then, exactly like Scooby-Doo, a chase would follow the splitting up almost immediately. And predictably. Over and over and over and over again.
Rule #8: Your story could use a bit more tension. Throw wild animals in there. Don't look at me like that. It doesn't need to make sense. Just one more thing hunting down these kids. Pfft, of course a deranged murderer is not enough. What kind of a writer are you? Vicious. Hungry. Wild animal. Go.
I shit you not. A mountain lion. Just randomly strolling around. For no reason whatsoever. I don't even know what the fuck to say about this. They were in front of the ocean, in a very secluded area and nowhere did it say that they were close to some woods or something that would give an inkling as to why a fucking mountain lion decided to crash their murder party. Seriously. A motherfucking mountain lion.
Rule #9: You need some romance in there, some passion. Okay, pick the main girl, obviously, and that guy. Who cares if they'd barely interacted before this? Make it so they are so hot for each other, they can barely keep their hands off each other even if their friends are getting killed one by one. No time like the present for a good make-out session.
You know teenage passion; it comes at the strangest of times and what can you do about it? Does it really matter if all of your friends are dying horribly around you? C'mon. You are the shy girl, he's the school king. This needs to happen now. Blood and guts all over the wall and all. Urges are urges. He's so impossible to resist, with his controlling nature and manipulation, oh, and the way he manhandles you and orders you around to get you to do what he wants. So, so sexy. Wait, is it hot in here or is it me?
Rule #10: Hmmm. It seems like you are running out of possible culprits. Here's what you can do. Pick the most unlikely of characters. Give them the shittiest, most nonsensical backstory you can think of and then chalk it all up to insanity, because, you know, "crazy" is the magic word to smooth away all plot holes.
I just love how most YA author think someone being "crazy" can make up for every single inconsistency, lack of logic or sense or just flat out stupidity in their damn plot twist. Really, not insulting or misinformed or lazy in the slightest. Insanity is YA's favorite Deux Ex Machina, and who cares about your twist making sense or fitting into the story, it's all about the shock value of the twist. Perfect example: the murderer in this novel. Insanity should not be the scapegoat of every single fucking twist in a novel, especially when you base it on a thoroughly absurd and ridiculous psychological state.
Bonus Rule: Some things make no sense, right? Forget about them. Just quickly look away from them, kill some other shitty kids and they'll soon forget all about it.
I'm supposed to forgive how absolutely ridiculous everything in this novel was because I'm supposed to be only entertained by the violence and the mystery of the story. I'm supposed to excuse the vapidity of the characters, the lack of logic in the story and the ginormous plot holes throughout because it's just a short, silly book that's there just to entertain. Fuck that. I see no reason to care for a story that didn't matter enough to whoever put it out there to make sure that the product had some integrity to it, that it offered quality in terms of writing and plotting, at the very least. And I just learned this might be a series.
Magonia was an all-around very pleasant surprise. This book has been quite hyped up and that usually works against the book, for the expectations mighMagonia was an all-around very pleasant surprise. This book has been quite hyped up and that usually works against the book, for the expectations might be set to high for the reader and, sometimes, even if the book is indeed good, it might still fail to meet expectations and that makes quite a dent on the experience of reading the novel. With Magonia, I was expecting to be blown away, and while the book is not perfection incarnate, what Magonia has going for it is how unbelievably original, strange and unique it is, which shatters expectations all on its own. The author took this novel in such unexpected ways, this book really is like nothing I've read before. I mean, it has bits and pieces of other well-known novels, but they are small when compared to how distinct Magonia is in terms of narration, characterization, writing and world building. Highly imaginative, fascinating and strangely beautiful.
Before I start this I want to say that I don't really care for whoever tried so blatantly to rope in the John Green fandom by pitching Magonia as something resembling The Fault in Our Stars, because seriously, the only thing they sort of have in common is that the narrators of both stories are sick teenage girls with a low lifespan expectancy and that's about it. Saying this is like The Fault in Our Stars in any way or form is like saying that The Lord of the Rings and Guardians of the Galaxy are the exact same movie because there's a walking, talking tree in both of them. On the other hand, while that pitch might be overreaching, the one that compared it to Peter Pan and/or Stardust did hit the nail on the head in a way, because while this book does share some of its magical, wondrous concepts, all three also carry a certain spark, a feeling of breathtaking magic that makes them very compelling and remarkable works of fantasy and imagination that defy genre classifications.
The narration and writing in Magonia took some getting used to. Sometimes it is choppy and jumpy, others erratic in shape and form, but there's a certain beauty and honesty to it that tugged at me from the very first page. The language is gorgeous, and that, combined with the gorgeous merging of fact, realism and magic, gave Magonia a fairy tale atmosphere that made it hopelessly irresistible and absolutely engrossing. It was enchanting, really. The experience of reading this book brought me back to childhood dreams, to stories told by adults to incite me to unleash my imagination and to think of the world as something much more magical and precious that what I had known so far. I treasure this experience, and it more than made up for any struggles I could've had with the narrative style.
The characters in this novel are strange and unbelievably charming. It was impossible to dislike any of them. They were fascinating and certainly original, but aside from the two protagonists, who were by far the most fleshed out, I wish some more layers had been given to the inhabitants of Magonia. The main love interest, Jason Kerwin, was very quirky and strangely delightful, a very refreshing change of the typical YA male love interest. I still don't think his POV in the novel was necessary, but it didn't exactly hurt the novel in any way and his voice was still very entertaining. The relationship between them was very fun to read about, sort of unconventional at points, but still very realistic, natural and authentic.
I really loved Aza's voice and who she was as the leading lady of this story. Yes, the world is wonderful and magical and beautiful, but still, the beating heart of this novel is this strange, intriguing girl who seems to be wise beyond her years and has an understanding of the world, a very compelling way of seeing and appreciating what's around her, and so much courage inside of her. I believe it was Aza's voice what made this world so beautiful. Don't get me wrong, it was pretty freaking astonishing by itself, but I think the impact it had on me as a reader was the result of seeing it unfurl through Aza's eyes and experiencing it through her. She can be funny and thoughtful, haunting and very emotional, and at the same time sound like a girl her age and someone much older forced to grow because of the hardships she'd experienced in life. This book is about her and how she learns to be brave and stand up for what's right, no matter the cost, not exactly a new lesson in YA, but handled in a way that felt authentic and powerful in this story.
The plot might sound a bit familiar at points, and the story does take its time setting everything up before it starts to develop. I do wish the author had explored the world further, delved into the historical and cultural background of Magonia and its people, and moved past the initial phase of bombarding the reader with the beauty of the place. The conflict of the novel was a bit too simplistic, and it was certainly not bad, but I expected a bit more from it. The book left me wanting more, and since this is a stand-alone novel, I think the author didn't use this world and these characters to their full potential.
Magonia was a really pleasant reading experience. Lovely and wildly imaginative, this is a novel that collects genres and rearranges them into something really beautiful and unique. I had a wonderful time reading this novel, and that, in spite of any flaws, it's one the highest praises I can give a book. ...more
Well, as calm as I can be after reading a Courtney Summers book. If you've read any Summers book, but particularly This4.5 stars
Please Remain Calm...
Well, as calm as I can be after reading a Courtney Summers book. If you've read any Summers book, but particularly This is Not a Test, you know how this goes. The writing is glorious, beautiful perfection, the story raw and heavy and heart-crushing, and the ending the literary equivalent of seppuku. And it is amazing.
I have no idea how Summers manages to breathe so much life into her characters in just a handful of pages. The feel so real, so achingly authentic, that her novels always manage to take my breath away even if they are somewhat slow paced and, in the great scheme of things, slightly uneventful. Summers has the ability to make me care about every little thing her characters go through, and she delivers each moment with an impact that scars my heart forever.
In this one, there's the desperate need for survival and the crushing psychological weight of trying to stay alive in a world where there's really no reason to do so, both of which made This is Not a Test an instant favorite of mine, but we also get to experience Sloane from the outside and see her through Rhys' eyes, and I didn't think it was possible, but Rhys is almost as compelling a narrator as Sloane was.
Gut-wrenching, deeply emotional and beautifully written, Please Remain Call is a perfect epilogue to This is Not a Test, even if the ending is left only slightly less open than the one the first novel left us with. ...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
Be Not Afraid is, simultaneously, a strangely original novel as well as a very familiar one. Galante took t2.5 stars generously rounded up to 3 stars.
Be Not Afraid is, simultaneously, a strangely original novel as well as a very familiar one. Galante took the bones of your typical YA PN novel, - the special girl with the secret power, the sad past and the seemingly unattainable crush, attending a school she doesn't fit in and suddenly becoming entangled in a horrifying situation that appears to be beyond her capabilities -, and breathed new life into it with a weirdly fascinating new concept and a very strong focus on the family bonds of the main character. The problem with Be Not Afraid is that, in spite of its best efforts, it is ultimately rather disappointing as a horror/paranormal YA read and completely forgettable as a whole.
Sort of a mix between Possess and Conversion, maybe even The Merciless, Be Not Afraid presents an interesting mix of classic horror and paranormal elements, - like the eerie religious school, the exorcism scenes and imagery, the freaky actions of a girl who dabbled in things better left untouched -, but makes a practice of pushing those elements, what admittedly brought the book to my attention in the first place, to the background to bring forth into the focus of the narrative the emotional struggles of this character with her sad past. I commend Galante for making a point out of exploring her main character, her past and her relationship with her family members, all of which is usually pointedly ignored by other authors, and I usually enjoy reading about the emotional and psychological struggles of a character with a very difficult story, but, in this case, the subject got too heavy when compared with the overall mood of the novel, and truth be told, they were not as compelling as they should've been if they were going to take hold of the entire plot of the novel and take away the spotlight from what would've made this novel a whole lot more entertaining and riveting.
In spite of the tremendous effort on the author's part to make of Marin a realistic and touching character we would ache for, I had a really hard time connecting with her. She was a elusive as a character and lacked a presence in her own story when it came to everything else besides her condition and paranormal power. Moreover, the way her story progressed left much to be desired, especially when it depended on seemingly disjointed events relating to some other character rather than on her own decisions and actions, because otherwise, Marin would've remained a pretty static figure throughout. Like I said, the novel was written in a very emotionally conscious way, making the entire book a detailed, tragic story of guilt and family issues than about creepy paranormal phenomena, and in spite of how full of emotional issues and relationships this novel is, I never connected with the novel or the character, was never emotionally invested in them, and bored with the whole thing more times than I would care to admit.
None of the other characters left any sort of impression, their participation in the story strictly adhered to their specific roles, and the romance itself was lukewarm and uninspiring, not to mention, very typical and unrealistic under the YA standards of seemingly unattainable guy suddenly revealing he has feelings for the girl that's barely a stain in the wall of his life and who he had never bothered to acknowledge until that point when he needed her. Actually, most characterizations were inconsistent and rather convenient upon what the plot required at that specific moment.
The novel does have a very well done atmosphere and a couple of nicely written horror scenes that were very close to being worth the long wait for the novel to finally coming around to remembering it was supposed to be a horror story. Sadly, though the novel's premise promised originality and creepiness, the truth is that, safe for one or two scenes, the novel was rather tame as a whole. When it comes to the paranormal aspect, although very intriguing, it was still really difficult to visualize, understand and to see it as an integral part of the novel, as opposed to a selling point to mark it as something different from other paranormal offerings.
Be Not Afraid is a decent novel, certainly not the worst horror/paranormal YA novel I've read in a while, but this novel sins by the way it got stuck in the middle, sinking in a puddle of mediocrity and blandness, being pretty much unremarkable and forgettable in every way. It didn't leave me with much of an impression besides an overall feeling of indifference, and that's not what I want to feel when I read a novel. Galante proved a couple of times that she's more than capable of creating very creepy scenes and that she is very oriented towards character depth, so I would be interested in anything else she writes, but Be Not Afraid was simply not for me. ...more
What can I possibly say about this series that hasn't already been said (and in much better ways that I could even aspire to) multiple times?4.5 stars
What can I possibly say about this series that hasn't already been said (and in much better ways that I could even aspire to) multiple times?
Unwind was ahead of its time when it came out, and basically predicted the turn YA would take right after its much abused fascination with Paranormal Romance. Unwind was a compelling, razor-sharp and thrilling novel with a very cutting message as its foundation that reeled me in from the very first page and easily made its way into my favorite books. Of course, I was over the moon when I first learned that Shusterman would continue the series, but something felt off with the two installments that followed Unwind - (I'm not going to count the short story UnStrung, because that one didn't even feel like a Shusterman story to me, even though the events in the story became crucial for the development of the last two books in the series). It's not that they were bad, of course, I don't think Shusterman has it in him to write a bad book, but there was a certain feel to UnWholly and UnSouled, some unnameable quality that Unwind had in abundance. So I was understandably wary of this last installment. I'd liked the last two, but have failed to love them like the first one, and I was beginning to think that maybe that's what happened when so much time was allowed to pass between installments or that perhaps that was as far as the story would allow itself to be stretched without compromising its integrity. As it turns out, I was dead wrong and I've never been happier about it.
With Undivided, Shusterman finally recaptured the spark, the feel, the intensity that captivated the world in Unwind. This last installment in the series matches Unwind's pace and tone flawlessly, it delivers the same tension in the story, and the desperate and unwavering hope that identified these characters and made them so unforgettable. I still Unwind is the best book in the series, but it's fair to say Undivided is a very, very close second.
I've always loved Shusterman's ability to say much with very little. His writing style is perfect for this type of novel because he efficiently conveys the necessary emotion and tension in just a handful of words and expertly delivers what is necessary for the reader to experience without overdoing or disrupting the fast pace of the novel. The writing really shines in this one, not only during the tense, action-packed and fast scenes, but also during the slow ones. This book takes a bit to take off and the first 100 pages or so are somewhat uneventful because they are mostly concerned with setting the stage for what's to come and to develop the characters and their relationships with each other even further, but still, I personally never found them to be boring, and that's due to how Shusterman wrote those scenes and how, even though they took a considerable chunk of the book, it didn't feel like it because of his succinct and compact but affecting and poignant writing.
In this book, Shusterman delivered the expected action and tension, but also gave the readers some extremely heartfelt and very emotional scenes that I was definitely not expecting and even made me shed a tear or two. This series could never be called predictable, but I wouldn't say they were the type to deliver groundbreaking twists around every corner, but Undivided has plot twists a plenty, most of them unexpected and plenty of them very rage/tear/shock inducing. When I read a Shusterman novel, I expect to be very entertained, but Undivided made it its mission to also make me feel deeply, and that was something I didn't expect but loved.
Now that I think back on the novel, I am very pleased with how things were wrapped up, but curiously, it didn't feel like that while I was reading it, which is perhaps why I am unable to give this one the final half star in my rating that I know it deserves. But I have to admit that struggled sometimes with the novel, that some times there were scenes and dialogues that felt somewhat disjointed, and that I was slightly disappointed with how Shusterman decided to wrap up the novel, even though I understand that that was perhaps the perfect way to do so. In fact, I am very well aware Shusterman did a perfect job with this book as a whole, that he wrote the best possible conclusion to the series, but there's a very stubborn and irritating part of me that wanted something else, something more, something different. Reason and emotion hardly ever agree on anything, so while I understand the perfection of this book, there's a part of me that feels like there needed to be more.
Wow, this is one messy review, so I'll just leave it at that. Truly, this book is absolutely fantastic and an amazing conclusion to a wonderful series. There were some loose threads and the ending didn't fully give closure to everything, but this is the ending that made the most sense and fit the best. There's a certain sense of realism that Shusterman infused into the series, and while maybe it's hard to see how the process of unwinding could possibly be real, what made the world of Unwind so terrifying how well Shusterman captured everything else about it, how realistically he wrote the world, the society, the people that would welcome and embrace such a thing as unwinding, and he used that very same technique to set in motion the movement that could possibly take it down. So, while we do not get to actually witness the end of this, Shusterman wrote this story so well, captured society so perfectly and realistically, he left it up to us to dream the end for ourselves, and it is perfect.
So now I saw goodbye to one of my favorite series. The Unwind series was a thrilling, thoughtful series that balanced entertainment with introspective honesty and hope, so much hope and bravery. At once, Shusterman showcased in his series the worst and best of humanity and he did it beautifully from beginning to end. ...more
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 th3.5 stars
I did not expect to like Stitching Snow in the slightest. First of all, it sounded far too much like Cinder, and yes, the similarities are there all the way through the book. They may have distinct plotlines and, in the end, different executions, but there are undeniable elements from the Lunar Chronicles in this novel. Second, after reading that description, I was under the impression that this would be a rather silly book. It was how wrong I was about this second idea what saved Stitching Snow for me entirely.
This novel is nothing if not serious. It has strong, disturbing elements, and a very jaded, emotionally-stunted, and very rough main character. Essie is almost impossible to like at points because of the way she treats those around her, especially the love interest. She was harsh, inconsiderate and brusque, and annoyed me sometimes, but then it was explained and it all made sense. It was only logical that Essie would be this way, and I didn’t have to like it, but the author made it possible for me to understand her, which resulted in some very interesting characterization and an even more impressive character development for Essie in the end. Even when I didn’t like how jaded Essie was, I had to appreciate how thorough and consistent the author was with her characterization. Essie was a really well-developed and rounded character. She was the perfect product of her upbringing, and who she was permeated every single thing she did. There was never a flaw in her characterization, and yes, she was too rough sometimes, outright terrible and selfish at others, but it went perfectly with whom the author intended her to be and, in the end, that made her a very realistic and well-written character. She is not perfect and she was never intended to be so, which made for a very interesting take on Snow White, considering Essie was nothing like the original character – quite the opposite, really. Aside from her really rough aspects, Essie is an extremely competent main character. She is absolutely brilliant, misses nothing and never lacks common sense, she is tough and perfectly capable of taking care of herself.
The only problem with Essie’s incredible characterization is that, as a result, all the other characters in the novel paled by comparison. There was no other character in the novel that was even half as interesting as her and that included the love interest. Dane was a decent but forgettable character, but I did like that his character made a transition between who he was before he met Essie and who he turned into after, since he was a bit condescending and selfish when he met her but then turned into a very decent love interest when he fell in love with her, though the love did happen a bit fast and the L-word was dropped seemingly out of nowhere and without much preamble. I like the person he became after he fell for Essie. He was supportive and understanding, even protective without controlling her, but he did take a bit too much of Essie’s abuse stoically. What I liked about him the most is that he gave Essie her space and waited for her to decide and make a move, to decide the path their relationship would take.
The author was clever with how she placed the original elements of the story into her retelling, like the dwarfs and the poisoned apple, but in the end, this was a very loose retelling and the story wouldn’t had been hurt in the slightest if the apple design on the necklace, her real name or the number of robots had been changed.
The novel is full of technological terminology and elements, which did wonders for the sci-fi atmosphere of the novel, but got a bit overwhelming at points. The plot was a bit erratic sometimes and, truth be told, I never quite got the point behind King Mathias and Queen Olivia’s evil reign. It actually seemed kind of silly to me and it lost me a bit when the truth was revealed. Truth be told, I didn’t care for this novel for over half of its length. But somewhere along the line, without me even realizing it, I started caring and, for no discernable reason, I was suddenly very invested in the story and eager to know what would happen next.
In the end, it wasn’t the story itself what made me like it. The story was okay, the action entertaining and the romance was interesting and occasionally sweet, but I am far more intrigued by this rough, jaded main character who departs from the usual YA heroine mold and was definitely not what I expected. When it comes down to it, yes, the Lunar Chronicles is better, but somehow, I ended up liking this book far more than I expected. ...more
Red Queen is probably one of the most anticipated upcoming 2015 YA releases and it is not hard to see why. It is a very exciting book, an ecl3.5 stars
Red Queen is probably one of the most anticipated upcoming 2015 YA releases and it is not hard to see why. It is a very exciting book, an eclectic and fascinating mix of fantasy, paranormal and dystopia. It delivers exhilarating action scenes, greatly choreographed fights and epic battles. Every time Mare brought out her power, my heart went into overdrive, I swear. As pure entertainment, Red Queen excels. It's when one gets technical that Red Queen falls a bit through.
In spite of how original all the components of the book sound, I never quite shook the impression that Red Queen felt very familiar. It shapes elements to suit the story in new and exciting ways, certainly, but most things about the book have been seen repeatedly in this genre. Most of its selling points for me were how original and intriguing the plot, the world and the characters sounded, but once I read, my excitement diminished considerably, because, even though they were given a fresh make-over, the elements were not exactly new. And it's not like I expect every single novel to basically reinvent the genre with groundbreaking and new elements, but I wished this book had at least arranged its components in a way that didn't feel so reminiscent of other novels.
From the powers and the general story, to the characters, the romance and even the elements of the oppressive dystopia, they all constantly made me think of other popular books in the genre. It's a bit of The Hunger Games meets Graceling or maybe Shadow and Bone, and just the tiniest bit like The Selection. The book has plenty of action, most of which takes on an arena where people demonstrate their powers and abilities in a similar fashion to The Hunger Games if they had had paranormal abilities, in order to entertain the rich and powerful while the poor suffer and are forced to bow down, which brews a rebellion that the rich wish to stop by using the main character, leading up to an end that is, essentially, the end of Catching Fire. The rest of the novel is composed of court intrigue, mean girls, multiple love interests from different backgrounds, odd alliances, make-overs and dresses, and the fabulous life of the rich.
The plot is very entertaining, albeit predictable and far too reliant on coincidences in order to move forward. Essentially, the entire story of Red Queen is a ball that was pushed down a hill from the first page and that kept rolling unstoppably all the way to the end. All the events are links in a chain intricately and intrinsically bound to each other, which, ultimately makes for a fast paced and a very straightforward plot, but perhaps too easy to predict and one that needed constant obvious devices to kept aloft.
I wouldn't say Mare was not an engaging main character, but there was something missing. I had a really hard time empathizing with her, and not for a lack of trying on my part or because I couldn't see what she was fighting for, which was made pretty clear since the beginning. I admired her passion, her love for her family, but I never connected with her, never felt fully invested in her or her struggles and never actually found her tale of woe moving. The author placed a lot of emphasis on how oppressed the Reds were, and I could easily see that, but, whether it was because of my particular disposition or Mare as a narrator, it just didn't click. Ultimately, Mare was a really hard heroine for me to care about, which is strange because she resembles most of the heroines I've love. There was just something about her narrative voice that I couldn't take completely seriously, something that didn't allow me to feel with and for her. That is not to say, however, that she wasn't badass or interesting, because she was, I just never personally felt for her.
While there's not a lot romance in this novel overall, there are some instances of romance sub-plots and a couple of love interests. The novel featured a sort of love triangle that, while it didn't have much focus in the plot, figured importantly in the developments in the story. Strangely enough, I actually liked how the love triangle turned out. The author played the romance angle from a very cynical stand-point and, not only is that rare in YA, it was very intriguing and made for a very exciting, even if a bit predictable, climax. I liked that she didn't try to show any of the love interests as perfect. Actually, no one in this book was shown as anything other than utterly imperfect, including Mare, and that made for some very interesting and engaging characterization.
The plot dragged a bit some times, mostly because, as a fairly extensive book, it hit a bit of a snag in the middle that forced it to be just the slightest bit repetitive. In the end, I was a bit disappointed with how things wrapped up and forced a sequel, but unlike with some other books, I can see how a sequel would be needed here. The author introduced many important threads that were pushed aside to focus on more immediate matters but that figured importantly in the construction of the world and the fate of the characters in the novel, so I can perfectly understand why there's a need for a sequel. Now, whether or not I'm feeling up to reading it, that's another matter that needs further consideration.
Whoever described Red Queen as epic hit the nail in the head. The fights, the action scenes and the climax are unbelievably exciting, thrilling and exhilarating. Those were the times when everything in the novel combined to make a very fantastic reading experience. I just wished I had been that consistently enthralled with the other aspects of the novel because I really, really wanted to fall in love with this one. Red Queen is, for all intent and purposes, a very fun, entertaining and explosive book that delivers fantastic fights and action scenes, which ended up being the saving grace of this entire book. It is, by no means, a bad book. Red Queen is actually a very decent first novel and a good YA Fantasy/Dystopian effort. In the end, I just failed to connect with it it and I ended up focusing too much on how it reminded me of other books. But honestly, I can see why many others would love it. Unfortunately, this time I just wasn't one of them. ...more
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 exp3.5 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. ...more