There were a lot of things I liked about "Red Queen". (Enough to make me probably read the next book on a rainy day.) However, there werWeeeeelllll...
There were a lot of things I liked about "Red Queen". (Enough to make me probably read the next book on a rainy day.) However, there were a lot of things I didn't like too.
Taking place in a dystopian/fantasy/sci-fi (there were bits of each genre) society in which the superpowered Silvers rule over the normal(er) Reds, "Red Queen" centers on Mare. Mare is a poor pickpocket, all but supporting her family while her three brothers are off at war due to mandatory conscription. Mare assumes that she's going to be sent to war as well, until a friendly stranger--who turns out to be MORE THAN HE SEEMS DUN DUN DUUUUN--hooks her up with a job at the royal household. Court politicking, shocking secrets~, and relationship problems abound from there. All the while, a rebel group called the Scarlet Guard is plaguing the Silver elite.
If that all sounds like a retread, that's because it is. (Apparently, there's even a book with a similar color-based society setup out there. Which kinda bugs me.) Mare reminded me very much of Katniss Everdeen, to the point that the first few chapters were alarmingly familiar and difficult to get through. As usual, the lives of the little people in dystopian worlds bore me to tears. Like, bro: I don't give a fuck about Mare's families woes because I've seen this all before. I wanna see these Silver royals everyone is bitching about.
Once we do meet those royals, the book instantly picks up and becomes something of a page-turner. I was very intrigued by the upper-class Silvers. Which, again, isn't much of a surprise because it's me. But their society genuinely intrigued me, particularly when it came to the royal family. Each royal parent--tyrant king Tyberias and Queen Elara--has a favored son. And those sons, Cal and Maven, seem to love each other while remaining constant rivals.
The power system of the Silvers was cool too. I read another review comparing it to the X-Men, and that makes sense. But powers among the Silvers go along with bloodlines. (The Queenstrial, in which the girls of major families show off their abilities to win the prince's hand, was probably my favorite part of the book. What a cool concept--a beauty pageant in which you win by being the baddest of them all.) I wanted to know more about this part of the book--particularly when it came to the coolest powers. ("Singers" can manipulate people with their voices. "Whispers" can warp your mind. How are these not the coolest powers?) And above all, I loved Queen Elara, the power behind the throne and general mommy dearest awesome-lady.
Of course, there was a lot that fell flat. Mare was a typical everygirl thrown into the spotlight, unexpected abilities and all. I never felt overly attached to her, and her constant second-guessing and poor decision-making really bothered me. Also, she's instantly thrown into a love triangle that fell truly flat. I'm not even vehemently anti-love triangle, but I felt absolutely nothing for either guy or his relationship with Mare.
The big twist wasn't so big a twist for me, and the cartoonishness of the villain just... Yeah. It felt like Aveyard was borrowing big time, and after a book full of borrowing that I excused, it felt like a slap in the face. I just didn't see it.
For all that I enjoyed "Red Queen", I was generous with my rating. I didn't connect much with the book, and while it has some nice elements, they need a lot of work before I get excited for the sequel....more
I'll add to my review soon, but I have to say this right off the bat:
Penguin, if you do not give me at least a sequel to this book (preferably two; "EI'll add to my review soon, but I have to say this right off the bat:
Penguin, if you do not give me at least a sequel to this book (preferably two; "Ember" SCREAMS trilogy to me) I am going to throw a massive hissy fit. Why such a clearly marketable and well-done book was given a single-book "trial"? (I assume) deal is beyond me. Sabaa Tahir deserves more respect than that, because woman is TALENTED.
"An Ember in the Ashes" does something few YA books actually do: you know, go there. This is one of the goriest YA novels I've read this year, and it's set in a take-no-prisoners world. (Though I'm not *exactly* sure where the "ancient Rome" comparison comes from, as "An Ember in the Ashes" definitely has a world of its own.)
Told in the alternating perspectives of Scholar-turned-undercover-slave Laia and Elias, warrior extraordinaire, this is a story of rebellion and resistance and ultimately a lot of suffering. (A lot, a lot of suffering.) Laia is struggling with a bargain to save her brother from certaind doom, acting as a spy under the nose of one of the most terrifying characters I've found in YA. Elias is the son of said villain--who, if anything, treats him worse than she treats a lot of people--and is trying to find a way to desert his overlord-like position when he becomes a candidate to be the next emperor.
If it sounds like a complicated plot, that's because it is. There's a lot going on here: a resistant, spying, trials, love connections, magic... Laia and Elias's stories are almost entirely separate for the majority of the novel, but when they finally intersect--sparks!
Yes, there is a love triangle. Actually, there are two. Luckily, almost all of the characters in that love triangle are compelling. Unluckily, the one that isn't is the novel's major weakness for me. Keenan is Laia's resistance love interest (whereas Elias is here bad boy forbidden love interest). He barely shows up in the story in comparison to Laia, Elias and Helene--more on her in a minute--and when he does, he's not all that interesting. Typical "rebellion before romance but I still like you girl but ACCEPT UR DESTINY but stay safe" Gale Hawthorne type. I HATE the Gale Hawthorne type. Keenan just pales in comparison to every other major character in the book; he barely interacts with Laia, yet one line goes on about how her heart yearns for Keenan but her body wants Elias.
I mean, yeah. I get that your bod wants Elias. Yes girl, yes. But it seems a bit premature for Laia's heart to want anyone. She really doesn't have enough grounding interactions with either boy for her heart to be ready. Her body, on the other hand...
Then there's Helene. Oh, how I love Helene. Helene is what makes the love triangle(s) work. Because while I'm fairly certain I know what the endgame will be, Helene throws it into question. She's Elias's best friend who obviously has deep feelings for him... But she's super hot, confident, and capable in her own right. She isn't ignored as the sister-type by Elias, because shit, how could anyone ignore Helene? She's totally awesome, and--like Laia and Elias--totally flawed. In some ways, she might be my favorite.
In a lot of ways, I see her in the series villain, Elias's mother. She's a female military commander, which is great enough. And she's a female villain--a foul one at that, with absolutely no redeeming qualities. (Even her one moment of sympathy turns into... well, a not so sympathetic scene.) Like, what a *horrid* person. What an unrepentantly awful human being.
"An Ember in the Ashes" never lets up. The only reason why it's not a five-star read is the flatness of Keenan and the fact that if this book is a standalone, it's the most unsatisfying one on the face of the earth. But I hold on to hope that it will be given a sequel, and I'll be waiting with bated breath for the followup. ...more
"The Jewel" is one of those books that could have a fun concept--not an original concept by any means; it's "The Handmaid's Tale" gone YA,Oh. Oh, why.
"The Jewel" is one of those books that could have a fun concept--not an original concept by any means; it's "The Handmaid's Tale" gone YA, and not even the first of its kind in that respect--and for a lot of the book was in fact, fun... Only to be brought down by an annoying main character and an insufferable "love" story.
Basically: in this dystopia-meets-magic-meets-sci-fi world, royal women are unable to give birth. Thus, they bid on young women capabale of carrying their children. These women aren't just fertile myrtles, however. They're also capable of performing "Auguries"--basically, they're magically gifted. The introduction of magical abilities in this book was one of the first things that seemed out of place. The rest of it, for all the royalty and prestige, is fairly sci-fi-esque. Doctors implant women with fetuses that aren't biologically theirs, syringesI are wielded constantly, mysterious pills are forced onto young women. Where'd the magic come from? I don't even know.
Anyway, as derivative as the entire concept was, that's something I knew starting the book and I didn't mind it. I wasn't expecting a classic. I was expecting a fun YA novel. The world of the royals was the most interesting part of the book. (That, and the weird ickiness of surrogacy. Even though the concept of Violet getting pregnant didn't seem nearly as much of a Thing as it should have been, seeing as she was too busy playing dress-up and making eyes at Ash to consider her uterus.) The Duchess, ostensibly our evil villain, was the most well-done part of the novel. She was over the top as YA villains often are. But she also clearly wasn't the *worst* person in the book. What can I say? I liked the bitch.
I liked her a hell of a lot more than our protagonist. Violet. Lasting. Named for her eyes, which I didn't buy off the bat because violet eyes don't really exist and they definitely don't exist on newborns. (Every name in this book is fucking ridiculous. Alexandrite. Garnet, for a boy.) Violet is pretty; everyone tells Violet she's pretty, even if they've only known her for two seconds. Violet is super talented with the Augury stuff. All of this does have a technical reason, as it makes Violet valuable enough to be bought by the Duchess--an important figure--in the first place, but it still irked me. Violet makes an instant friend in Lucien, who, seeing as he was castrated, wears dresses and says things like "honey" all. the. time. (I feel like ever since The Hunger Games came out, every dystopian book has an offensive, androgynous, ambiguously gay man to befriend our heroine. Lucien takes the cake because he even prettifies Violet, making him a Perfect Cinna Clone.) Violet also has a friend in Raven, a fellow surrogate who seems infinitely cooler. And don't forget Violet's lady-in-waiting Annabelle, who is mute. We don't know why; it's a Hunger Games thing, I imagine.
Who am I missing? Who... Who... Oh, yes! Ash. Ash, the hot gigolo type who comes in to teach the Duchess's niece how to sex but of course falls for Violet. She speaks like two words to this dude and even though it could get them KILLED is instantly giggling over him and feeling all hot and bothered when he's in the room and downing champagne to cool her jealousy when he... I don't know, does his gigolo duty. Honestly one of the worst YA romances I've ever read about. So bad. There's literally no reason for these people to be in love with each other. But they are. Immediately.
Violet's also ridiculously naive. Like, when Ash tells her that he's--*gasp*--slept with the mothers of some of his clients because they pay him, she's shocked. How did Violet not make this logical leap before? We don't know. There are several "twists" that I figured out fairly quickly and they're only twists because Violet is such a dipshit. She's also rather needlessly defiant even though it's obvious that if she wants to make it out of this, she needs to keep her head down. None of these things are leaps. They're so clear to the reader that the heroine looks like even more of an idiot for not figuring them out ahead of time.
I'm giving this book an extra star mainly because the distracting interesting-ness of the plot kept me from really disliking it until the last thirty pages or so. But when those last thirty pages hit, I went from "this is dumb but entertaining" to "FJIAFJOJ WHY". It was just... not good....more
I hesitate to call Uninvited dystopian. It references a few things that clearly exist within our own present-day society (liGood idea. Poor execution.
I hesitate to call Uninvited dystopian. It references a few things that clearly exist within our own present-day society (like "Glee") but exists in a world where murder runs rampant (yes, moreso than it does now) the cause of which has been identified as a gene. As can be expected, our heroine, Davy, is identified as a carrier and her life pretty much sucks from then on.
The summary made me think I'd like this one. Trouble is, once I actually began to realize the circumstances of this story, all promise fell apart. I cannot imagine that a government would so quickly deal with "HTC" carriers the way they do in this novel. It doesn't seem like HTC is something that's been around for decades; it seems like a fairly recent discovery. Yet the president listens to the advice of one particular doctor and everything seems to revolve around things like forced tattoos and detention centers and the prospect of death... I just cannot imagine that this would happen so easily in modern America. I mean, it takes forever for our government to get anything done. Is the Senate just--gone?
The gene itself is really confusing and honestly, I lost interest in the entire situation by the time Davy's new supervisor (if you can call him that) started making sexual advances. I'm really sick of teens in dystopians that focus on mental illness being taken advantage of by authority figures. (See: The Program.) It's not only disgusting but overused as a plot device.
The reactions of Davy's parents and in particular her mother seem completely ridiculous. Especially--again--considering the fact that the new vibe the gene gives off indicates to me that these people did not grow up in an HTC-aware culture. Her friends were offenders along the same lines. They turn against her so quickly that it seems unnatural and unearned.
The book does pick up in its second half, and there is chemistry between Davy and her male lead. But it's too little too late. I didn't hate Uninvited. It just didn't compel me at all, and some if it seemed ridiculous....more
I'm not sure what I was expecting from The Program. My expectations tend to be low, however; so I know that I wasn't expecting a deep meditation on suI'm not sure what I was expecting from The Program. My expectations tend to be low, however; so I know that I wasn't expecting a deep meditation on suicide and depression. The book is not either of those things. That said, if the (inaccurate) discussion of those two topics is at all triggering for you, STEP AWAY FROM THE BOOK. I know that a year ago, I may not have been in the best place to read The Program, so approach with caution.
If you're looking for an interesting, page-turning YA romance/dystopian, you're in the right place. Young kept me hooked, despite my misgivings, and she actually succeeded in one very surprising way. I'm not one for previously-established relationships in YA; I find them bland and boring. Sloane and James, however, were quite cute and touching. Of course James was far too adorable to be a Real Boy--I liked him a good deal more than Sloane, further elaboration later--but otherwise their romance came off as fairly believable, circumstances aside.
I also liked Young's attempt at complexity with certain characters--even when she failed--and the general theme of history repeating. Call it cliche, but I enjoy this idea of fate and destiny in novels, when it's done right. In the case of The Program it actually didn't come off as forced. It could be clunky at times, of course, but overall the story was much better than it could have been.
That doesn't mean it was entirely good. As much as I enjoyed The Program I had a huge problem with the clumsiness of its setup and Young's lack of sensitivity. Suicide is a huge issue to explore, and here it just felt like a plot device. Depression expressed through black spirals on notebook paper? Huh. The treatment of mental illness seemed incredibly shallow, which was borderline offensive (and that's coming from someone who has been diagnosed with a mental illness and is currently dealing with depression). Furthermore, the program itself was basically just another Evil Institution out to thwart our teen lovers. Um, okay?
I couldn't imagine a near-future world where this would be allowed. What happened to therapy? We know antidepressants are outlawed in this world, but what about good, old-fashioned talk therapy? Then the treatment itself just... didn't make much sense. I'm not usually one to pick at dystopian scenarios, but this was really glaring.
There was also this weird theme of Sloane being victimized by men, which I did NOT appreciate. She's framed as this helpless femme who rarely, if ever, makes an independent move. SLOANE does not make the first move towards her love interest, not the first important one, either. SLOANE is sexually victimized by not one but two men. SLOANE complacently takes the first pill offered to her by her obviously-evil therapist, despite the fact that she has no reason to comply so easily. (I mean, sure, the intravenous method was a threat, but she didn't even put up much of a fight.) Basically, Sloane cries and kisses and cries and kisses and swallows some pills and cries and kisses some more. She doesn't have to be a Strong Woman (TM) but Young could have done a lot better.
That said, points for including a sexual teen relationship where they talk about condoms a lot! +++
At the end of the day, when I look at The Program as a typical YA novel, it's fun. When I look at the deeper issues, it's kind of disturbing, but not beyond repair if there is a sequel.
The Cover<>: I like this one. Good job on including the yellow scrubs, designers. Too bad I'm pretty sure this scene doesn't occur in the book? 3/5. ...more
I loved "Unwind". However, I only discovered that there was a sequel very recently--though I'm usually on top of things like this, I'd never really coI loved "Unwind". However, I only discovered that there was a sequel very recently--though I'm usually on top of things like this, I'd never really considered the possibility of a sequel to "Unwind". As open-ended as it was, there didn't seem to be a need for a continuation. It could have gone with or without. So I was a little cautious about reading "Unwholly"; but luckily, with little need. Although it isn't quite as good as its predecessor, "Unwholly" takes "Unwind"'s concepts and expands upon them, opening the storyline for what will hopefully be a satisfying conclusion.
Shusterman is very, very good at handling multiple perspectives. He also does a good job with world-building, and solved a lot of "Unwind"'s plot holes with this installment. Although I've read some reviews in which people complain about the Connor/Risa romance, I don't think that it takes up too much of the plot. It adds a bit of teen humanity to some very grown-up characters. Shusterman does a good job of giving each character their moment in the sun.
"Unwholly" takes the "Unwind"'s issues and expands upon them. Yeah, it's great that Connor and Risa were able to help fellow AWOLs--what now? What happens now that Lev is no longer a clapper, no longer a martyr--but something else? He doesn't dole out happy endings like lesser writer would. "Unwholly" is very much a "Yeah, everything turned out okay-if-not-perfect in the last book--what now?" kind of story. Even Connor and Risa's battle-born relationship isn't left untouched. Both of them have a lot of issues resulting from their stay at Happy Jack; so does Lev. Shusterman doesn't skimp on these problems.
Shusterman also introduces a few new major characters, in particular the devout tithe Miracolina and bitter Stork Starkey. In all honesty, although I could sympathize with Starkey on a cerebral level, the way Shusterman wrote his perspective--too much slime and not enough depth--made him an annoying character. I did appreciate his role as a plot device, though--a question mark in a new regime, a character who was there to make us wonder if Connor is really the right guy to lead.
Miracolina was a more interesting character, in my perspective. She reminded me a lot of cult members who wouldn't know reason if it hit them in the face--it's irritating, but it's not their fault. She can't be saved; she has to save herself. Also, I felt that though Miracolina's storyline was interwoven with Lev's, she wasn't there to be the love interest or the foil. She had her own story to tell.
Then there's Cam. Camus Comprix, a futuristic Frankenstein's monster. As interesting as he was, I will say that Shusterman didn't tread a lot of new ground with Cam. I mean, he really was basically a futuristic Frankenstein's monster, and not much else. He dealt with the same issues--the revulsion of his peers, the desire for a partner--from a different lens. I felt bad for him, because almost everything that was wrong with him wasn't his fault... But I'm not sure where his story's supposed to go.
As I mentioned earlier, "Unwholly" isn't perfect. I feel that Shusterman adds in so many characters that we don't get to see enough of the major players. A lot of the story seems working towards something, but I don't know what. It's very much a sequel, bridging the gap between the first and third installments. It spent so much time explaining what had happened since "Unwind" that I don't think the subsequent events got enough attention. It wasn't quite as gripping as "Unwind".
However, as much as it is a "bridge the gap" book, "Unwholly" is a good read. It's fast-paced, touching when it needs to be, and often gruesome. I highly recommend it....more
When I saw the film adaptation of "Warm Bodies" I knew that I would have to (eventually) get around to reading theTime for a bad review for Christmas!
When I saw the film adaptation of "Warm Bodies" I knew that I would have to (eventually) get around to reading the book. It's been given glowing reviews by almost everyone, and I'm not overly picky when it comes to zombie fiction anyway. I mean--as I said before, I liked the movie. I also like "The Walking Dead" TV series. I'm not in love with zombies as a myth, but they're cool.
The film and the book are similar, but ultimately two very different animals. However, I preferred the film (as you've probably guessed) for many, many reasons. The film is framed as more of a dark comedy, while Warm Bodies is depressing depressing depressing with a bit of sarcasm that's supposed to be seen as humorous thrown in every now and then. The world of the zombies... Again, I'm not a zombie purist. But these aren't zombies. Their lack of creepy-crawliness worked for the movie because of that near-constant dramedy going on. But as the novel lacked it... Ugh, it was all too much for me. Zombie school. Zombies talking--seriously talking--from the outset. Zombie marriage. (Note that the film toned the zombies down in a big way. They were more like--you know--zombies. Marion over did it.) It was downright distracting.
Furthermore, a lot of things didn't quite make sense biologically speaking. The book has illustrations of the human anatomy; R discusses the possible inner workings of his body at length. But then we have things like the Boneys... which, again, work in the movie, which didn't seem to take itself too seriously. Taking itself seriously was all the novel ever did.
The writing is good. There's some truly pretty phrases here and there. But Marion cannot--cannot--write women. He just can't. Julie is a bit tougher, a bit funnier in the movie, whereas here she's just kind of a cipher. Why does R find her so striking? I don't know. It's probably because they're really obvious copies of Romeo and Juliet, complete with the Nurse (Nora) and Paris (Perry). Nora, too, is absolutely dull as dishwater and there's one issue in particular that I can't discuss... But let's just say it didn't ring true at all.
The moment when the book really lost me, however, was when Julie decided to subtly "forgive" whichever zombie ate Perry. The thing is that this, again, worked a little more in the film because the film was lighter and you felt the impact of Perry's death less and it was dealt with fairly organically. But God, the kid's barely in the grave and Julie, without even knowing R that well, is talking about how Perry was basically already dead anyway and it's like... Just because your boyfriend was dead inside after the deaths of his parents doesn't mean him actually dying is okay???
And again, that sort of went down in the movie too but then the book treats us to PERRY telling R that it was all okay, man. He was dead inside anyway, right? And Nora waxes poetic about it too. Basically, a good chunk of the book is devoted to absolving our brain-eating hero without actually making him that much of a better person. He doesn't deserve redemption, but the book is so fucking serious that it feels he should and that it needs to justify his misdeeds.
How about no.
Then there's a bunch of other completely unnecessary things. Like zombie sex. Oh, yes. Over and over again. Why not, right? ...more
I'll admit: Dearly, Departed is nothing revolutionary within any of its genres. Nor is Lia Habel a spectacular writer. She's good, but as of now she'sI'll admit: Dearly, Departed is nothing revolutionary within any of its genres. Nor is Lia Habel a spectacular writer. She's good, but as of now she's more of that young, idea-writer than someone who worries about prose and its prettiness. She had a good idea, she ran with it, and it ended up being pretty entertaining, if not flawless.
I will recommend that you power through the first couple chapters of this book. I balked at first--it was so typical. Girl lives Victorian era--or in this case, a mildly pretentious steampunk era--girl has a daddy who died, girl is beloved and pretty yet somehow "off" and bullied, girl needs to marry for money... You catch the drill.
I never really got why Nora was an outcast. Habel didn't provide any answers besides the vague, "Oh she's modern, she likes Punks, OUTCASTS" thing. Which wasn't adequate, but whatever. Though Nora irritated me at times, her love interest, Bram, was enough to keep me interested. He was kind and sweet, and added for much of the down to Earth-ness of the novel, as well as the interesting backstory/world of the zombies.
Which is why one of the things that bugged me most about the novel was the fact that there were three other perspectives. Granted, one only occurred twice, but still. I don't care about Pamela, Nora's shrinking violet friend. Nor do I care about Victor Dearly, who was so cowardly and obnoxious that I honestly groaned whenever his chapters appeared. I care about Nora and Bram and the zombies. Pretty much.
Also, I felt that Nora and Bram's relationship was progressing at a normal rate until the end. She could have waited to slow things down; the action was also quite sudden and not nearly as interesting as Nora's adventures in zombie-land. The villains were also very cartoonish.
Overall, I think that Nora and Bram's sweet chemistry and the worldbuilding aspect of the zombies, things like New Victoria vs. the Punks--that keeps the novel going, and kept me interested in the idea of continuing with the series. I want to see more of our tentative lovers; I just hope that something keeps them from getting together officially too soon. They were getting remarkably flippant about the problems with their relationship, and though I don't want too much angst--I also feel like there are a lot of problems unspoken. We'll see, won't we?...more
I'm not going to delve into why the world of "Wither" was completely scientifically and socially impossible. Better reviewers have done so for me. I wI'm not going to delve into why the world of "Wither" was completely scientifically and socially impossible. Better reviewers have done so for me. I was drawn to the book not because of the dystopian setting, to be totally honest--but because of the polygamy set up. An interesting story that I like to tell people is that my great-great-great(great?) grandfather was arrested for having eight wives. So, you know. I'm kind of interested.
"Wither" suffered for the most part from a completely annoying main character. All Rhine did was bitch about how sucky her life was as a bride, how sucky it was with her twin (oh my gosh, we get it, you miss your twin, shut up). I had little sympathy for her; I found her sister wives, awesome, cool Jenna and bratty yet intriguing Cecily far more entertaining. She kept on waxing on about how she would escape, yet, aside from one feeble attempt, did little about it. She had a sort of Stockholm Syndrome attraction to this new life that she would basically gag over... Yet really, I have to wonder... If I had but twenty years to live, what would be the point of fighting it? Yes, I'd miss my brother, but life with him sounded pretty depressing. Call me shallow, but I would probably prefer my life with Linden.
Speaking of Linden, he was, oddly, the character I liked reading about the most. He was this mixture of nice guy + bumbling moron + innocent victim + product of his environment. I couldn't decide if I liked or disliked him. Towards the end of the book, a sick part of me wished that Rhine would shut up and live life with Linden. For all of his faults, I felt pretty bad for him. And Gabriel was such a bland, personality-less love interest that I didn't care about him at all. Destefano could have thrown Gabriel under a bus, and I wouldn't have cared. Rhine was being such a moron about him anyway.
I also disliked the complete lack of reality, particularly concerning the above relationship. I get that this is a YA book, but I find it hard to believe that in a world where it's all about the baby making, Rhine would be able to avoid Linden's advances for so long. Really. Really. He's so into her, and she somehow keeps on going, "Oh, not now"... And he buys this? Color me skeptical.
Overall, I liked some parts--mainly those including the odd marital structure between Linden and his wives. But Rhine needed to... just go. ...more