The Program immediately grabbed my attention with its eye-catching cover and description. I love reading about conspiracy theories in my free time be
The Program immediately grabbed my attention with its eye-catching cover and description. I love reading about conspiracy theories in my free time because I'm a nerd with nothing better to do, so when a book comes along that sounds like it might be up that alley, I'm definitely going to take notice! I didn't really know much about this going in other than what was on the inside cover, but I had high hopes for a conspiracy laden novel in the same vein as The Twilight Zone!
---Characters--- Sloane is the main character in The Program. She and her boyfriend James are navigating their lives and trying to survive without getting flagged for The Program, where people inevitably come back as shells of their former selves, memories missing. Anything could send them there - even crying - as the country panics to save their young adults from the suicide epidemic. And so, Sloane doesn't allow herself to show emotion except when she's with James. As her life falls apart around her and one by one her friends are either taken into The Program or "terminate" themselves, it's obvious that it's only a matter of time until she ends up in one of the two categories.
I liked Sloane for the most part. She fought like a champ, refusing to give up and lose her memories, and never stopped fighting even to the last page. I could definitely admire her will to survive The Program and come out in tact. It felt like I was there with her as she experienced the hopelessness of knowing she was really at the mercy of those around her. I didn't fully understand the decisions she made in every instance, especially when it came to Realm, but I still liked her.
The two love interests (you knew there would be a love triangle) were James and Realm - James from before and Realm from The Program. I didn't fully love either of them, and if I had to pick one of them to "win" I'm not sure who it would be. Both cared about her deeply, although Realm did some pretty reprehensible things. James was obnoxious and arrogant, but Sloane seemed to find that endearing. Either way, I enjoyed both of them and the love triangle actually made sense in this story rather than detracting from it.
I also enjoyed the more minor characters of Lacey and even Miller. The parents in every case really got under my skin. They all seemed incredibly weak and deluded. It makes me wonder how people might really react if something like this were to occur.
---Setting--- Suzanne Young did a great job of bringing this not-to-distant-future world to life! There weren't many locations featured, but the Program facility especially seemed to come off the page in a totally creepy way. I could definitely feel the dread of the characters as they roamed the stark white halls and smelled that hospital scent. I felt like I was right there sneaking around with Sloane and Realm (or James) throughout the book.
The other setting I felt was really well-done was the river. It was written in such a way that I could understand the peace that came over Sloane when she was there, especially when the rest of her life is so chaotic and depressing.
---Plot--- Speaking of depressing, that's what this book is. Granted, it's about a world with a suicide epidemic among young people. Still, I didn't realize just how bleak a world I'd be diving into with The Program. There are brief moments of happiness here and there, but for the most part I felt like I might get flagged while reading this book!
Perhaps that feeling is part of the originality of The Program, or maybe it's just because I usually steer clear of anything that's not going to give me the warm fuzzies at the end. I'm not quite sure if there's supposed to be some deeper commentary on problems in the mental health system, but I wasn't really in a mood to contemplate that much further. Please fill me in if you know something I don't!
In any case, The Program is pretty unique, at least among the books that I've read. The story, though bleak, did draw me in and make me want to find out what was really going on! Unfortunately, I didn't find out. I felt like there needed to be more backstory - more answers about what caused the epidemic and where The Program came from. There was one (what I assume was supposed to be) big twist, but it was actually quite predictable, although I'm still at a loss of whether or not the epidemic is something deeper and more sinister. The ending was satisfying though, and didn't end on a huge cliffhanger.
---In Closing--- I really did enjoy The Program even though I'm a little hung up on the depressing nature of the book (about an epidemic of depression and suicide). I'll definitely read book two to find out what happens next, although I don't feel a huge rush to do it right this second....more
I've been on a little bit of a fantasy kick recently so, with a gap in my heart left by the endings of An Ember in the Ashes and Crimson Bound, I wen
I've been on a little bit of a fantasy kick recently so, with a gap in my heart left by the endings of An Ember in the Ashes and Crimson Bound, I went in search of something equally amazing to fill the void. I didn't know a whole lot about Snow Like Ashes other than that I haven't seen many (possibly any) negative reviews in my circle of bookish friends. With a free Audible credit on hand, I decided to give this one a try. I went in with very high expectations and came out, well, a little disappointed.
---Characters--- Snow Like Ashes is a story of eight kingdoms: four Seasons and four Rhythms (more on that later). Meira is a refugee of Winter, having escaped with a handful of others when Spring attacked sixteen years ago. She has been raised alongside Mather, the future king of Winter, and their only goal is to reclaim two halves of a locket that hold all of the kingdom's magic. Of course, Meira is held back where Mather is allowed to go out on dangerous missions and she doesn't like that. In fact, Meira pretty much doesn't like anything from the very beginning of the book and that's kind of my problem with her.
From chapter one Meira goes on and on about how she wants to matter. We're reminded of this over and over (and over and over) throughout the book. Meira wants to MATTER, dammit! While she wants you to think that all she wants is what's best for her people, what she really wants is to do whatever she wants. I hate to tell you, Meira, but that's not how being a soldier works.... She doesn't want to do anything her superiors tell her to do - she does everything her way. She doesn't want to stay at home and let the more skilled soldiers take on the Big Bad. When she is told she must form a marriage alliance for the good of the kingdom, she doesn't want to do that either. And even in the very end when she gets what is arguably exactly what she wants, she finds a way to complain about how maybe she doesn't want to do that either. Meira was whiney and selfish and kind of a brat and I feel terrible for saying so because I know that pretty much everyone loved her and thought she was super amazing!
Mather and Theron are the two love interests (there always have to be at least two, you know!) and both are future kings. Meira has a tough life. Like I've already said, Meira grew up next to Mather, so it's not surprising that they feel romantic attraction towards each other. I actually did like his character a lot more than I liked any of the others. I really sympathized with his situation. It seemed like he was stuck between a rock and a hard place and my heart went out to him. Theron was a little more difficult to wrap my mind around though. Their "romance" seemed a little instalove-y, although it was not at the forefront of the story. The romance overall was just okay. I didn't feel anything strongly for either of the two guys in the way of romance, although if I had to pick one it would probably be Mather, just because they have history together.
The secondary character in Snow Like Ashes were pretty unmemorable, to be honest. Sir is the biggest of these and, while I felt a little twinge for him now and then, he wasn't especially likable. I felt similarly about the Winterians in the work camps.
Angra, the Big Bad, along with Herod, his minion, were... meh. They were largely absent from the story and never really did a whole lot of anything that would make me really too worried about them. A lot was -told- about Angra and the terrible things he did, but not much was shown to me through the events of the story. I feel like he definitely should have been a little more of an imminent threat.
---Setting--- The world building in this book was interesting, I'll give it that. Sara Raasch has definitely tried to create something unique and interesting in the eight kingdoms and their distinctive settings. I enjoy reading their initial descriptions... but that's about as far as it went.
Here's what I feel I've learned about these kingdoms: Winter = cold and snow + white hair, Summer = really hot and uncomfortable, etc. I didn't feel like I was there. I love it when an author is able to transport me into their world and make me feel like I'm experiencing everything right along with the characters. Unfortunately, I didn't get that feeling here.
I also thought the naming of the Season capitals were a little... silly. Jannuari, Abril, Oktuber... I don't buy it. I'm going to be really honest here: at the beginning of the book the author says she wrote the first draft when she was 12. I feel like these names were probably part of the first draft and should have been changed. It was unique, yes, but not necessarily in a good way.
---Plot--- This is my absolute biggest problem with Snow Like Ashes. If the story had been super awesome I could have overlooked the silly names of the capitals and maybe even Meira being way too into herself. But the plot ruined it for me.
First and foremost, everything was just dumped on me. Info dumps everywhere. That speaks for itself. More importantly though...
At maybe 20 minutes into this 10+ hour audiobook, when the magic of the conduits was first being explained, I knew what the big twist would be. I hoped I was wrong. I hoped it SO HARD! I mean, I'm usually pretty slow when it comes to figuring these things out. I'm usually completely blindsided! But this one was just so blatantly obvious. She basically tells you what's going to happen in the first couple chapters! But I thought that surely I was wrong. That couldn't be it! But it was. Still, when the big reveal happened at 9 hours in, I thought maybe something else would happen! Something even more HUGE! But no. Nothing really did.
Not only that, but did no one else find it super convenient how these characters just squeak past death over and over and over? Things just keep going right for them even when it shouldn't have. I definitely wasn't on the edge of my seat. Ever. Because I knew no one was going to die.
---In Closing--- I wanted to like this so much. I wanted to LOVE it! I even passed up reading Throne of Glass in favor of listening to this first. But, after reading multiple AMAZING fantasies back to back to back, this was a pretty big letdown. I did enjoy Mather and I can appreciate that the world was unique, even if I didn't love it. I'd still recommend it to fans of YA fantasy because this is one of those cases where I am definitely in the minority. Literally all of my Goodreads friends gave it a 4+ rating! Unfortunately, it just wasn't for me....more