Stacey Kade does not disappoint in the thrilling conclusion to her Project Paper Doll series. The finale kept me on the edge of my seat, full of actioStacey Kade does not disappoint in the thrilling conclusion to her Project Paper Doll series. The finale kept me on the edge of my seat, full of action. This book essentially presents a more intimate version of the Hunger Games, where the contestants in the trials have to compete against each other but are really competing against the awful people who thrust them into the Trials to begin with. The setup of the Trials, once revealed, really illustrated how utterly deplorable the organizers and scientists are.
Kade never stops surprising me, and I loved what she did with Zane and St. John. I assumed that St. John was as evil as the other two scientists, and that Zane would be brainwashed. Instead, the book focused in on Zane’s insecurities and made him a willing participant, while St. John turned out to be a decent guy.
Ariane and Zane are, as always, immensely lovable. Seriously, they are some of my favorite characters. Their chemistry is sizzling, and I was thrilled we finally got to see them share some romantic moments without being interrupted. It was good to see Rachel again. And Kade managed to introduce new players into the game yet again, further convoluting the situation, by throwing in Jessica.
I have to say, I was not totally thrilled with the ending of the book. (view spoiler)[ The climactic action scene, where everybody gets shot or whatever, was incredibly confusing to read… I didn’t really understand what was going on. That’s surprising, considering I’ve loved Kade’s action scenes up to this point.
Also, the line Ariane draws about not killing, letting Ford do the killing instead… I just don’t think that difference is material. Ariane is totally complicit in the ending of someone’s life. Does it really matter, in the greater question of morality, whose finger clicks the trigger? Not buying it. Again, disappointing, because I always love the ethical dilemmas Kade presents.
The last-minute reveal that Rachel and Ariane are related… it didn’t add to the story, just felt like a last-minute soap-opera twist thrown in for additional shock value. Finally, the last chapters, which flash-forward a few months to give an impromptu happily-ever-after, felt rushed and undeveloped. Considering how close the reader is to Ariane, getting a blow-by-blow of every event, reading that “I worked it out with the government, and it’s all good now” felt like being cheated out of part of the story. The lesson: epilogues never work! Not for Suzanne Collins, not for J.K. Rowling, and not for Stacey Kade. (hide spoiler)]
Those issues aside, this book was still a fantastic read. I simply couldn’t put it down. I laughed at the wit of the characters, and my emotions seesawed right along with theirs. This series will be hard to top for the next YA books I read… and I will now read anything Stacey Kade writes. Bring on the next series!["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I have to wait 24 hours for the next book, and it is AGONY, I tell you!
The Hunt is everything it should be, a stellar second installment in Kade’s triI have to wait 24 hours for the next book, and it is AGONY, I tell you!
The Hunt is everything it should be, a stellar second installment in Kade’s trilogy, living up to the skyrocketing standard she continues to set. It picks up right where The Rules left off, and follows Ariane and Zane as they go on the run. It’s a textbook example of how to do a middle book right: up the stakes, change the setting, introduce exciting new characters, have an action-filled climax, and leave on the cruelest of cliffhangers.
I loved the expansion of Ariane’s world, the rival corporations and other hybrids. It makes perfect sense, and in no way cheapens anything that came before. We leave Wingate behind for the suburbs of Chicago, where we get to meet Zane’s mom. I loved what Kade did with Zane’s mom – instead of a saintly woman fleeing her abuser, we get a flawed and fascinating character whom I never knew whether to sympathize with or not. I also thought the hybrids were very intriguing, and felt really awful after what happened in the climax.
What came across so incredibly well was just how out of their depth Ariane and Zane were. There was no “safe at home base,” no clear plan that would fix everything, no way to win at the game. I remarked on how well Kade did this in Ghost and the Goth, but it bears repeating: her characters are wonderfully intelligent. They do their due diligence, thoroughly analyzing things to make decisions. I was so happy I was reaching some of the same conclusions they were, because they were the logical conclusions. They also have the wherewithal to analyze moral dilemmas, and debate Ariane’s question of identity, human or alien. I feel like that could lead to some excellent late-night discussions with fellow fans.
Kade also made the most of her two POVs, allowing the reader to see situations from Zane and Ariane’s disparate world views. It also drove home how difficult it must be to have a telepath in a relationship. Every time Zane was thinking something awkward (which, like most people, is quite often), I just kept worrying that Ariane was reading those thoughts. It made me appreciate just how difficult that invasion of privacy was, and Zane gets many brownie points for not getting mad about it (since Ariane couldn’t control it). And since we also get Ariane’s side, and the pain that reading thoughts brings to her, I am able to fully empathize with both of them.
While I can usually take or leave romance, Ariane and Zane’s romance leaves me breathless. It’s such a fantastic relationship, and it’s great seeing them work at it. If only they were not always getting cockblocked – the instance around page 230 actually made me growl in frustration. Is it too much to ask for some happy romantic fluff?! (Yes, I realize it is too much to ask, but still…) That’s part of what makes the end so tragic, and left me feeling like I was sucker punched in the feels.
(view spoiler)[ That ending!!! It’s like the ultimate Greek tragedy, where all the characters are doing things that are right in their minds, but are missing a crucial piece of information! And then when Zane dies… I was shocked, but I actually believed Kade would go through with it. And just when I had numbly accepted Zane’s death, we get the stinger with Emerson St. John. It’s literally the only thing that could make The Trials more painful than Zane actually dying… I can already tell that book will destroy me! Yet it makes so much sense, and was so cleverly set up with foreshadowing throughout the book. I really must applaud Stacey Kade for that, even though it hurts. (hide spoiler)] ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
Just as disappointing as the second installment, this book is so hackneyed as to nearly descend into parody. It honestly calls to mind the Eragon bookJust as disappointing as the second installment, this book is so hackneyed as to nearly descend into parody. It honestly calls to mind the Eragon books with how absurd it is. Despite being only a halfway-decent swordsman and constantly weak or injured, Jaron cuts through dozens of enemy soldiers like butter. In the middle of a battle, he and Roden decide the other soldiers can handle it and step away for a chat. Jaron is insufferably moody, with his temper constantly flaring up at ridiculous things, and he does some supremely dickish things (the thing with Roden at the end comes to mind).
Throughout the book, he has no idea what to do, and ohmigod he won’t survive because there’s just no way, only for a completely improbably rescue to happen, and have Jaron go “Yes, I brilliantly planned this the whole time.” Riiiiight. His plans are not clever, they are idiotic; and the fact that they succeed against all laws of probability is not his success, but the writer’s failure. Same goes for the “twist” at the end - (view spoiler)[ if there’s no body, she ain’t dead! (hide spoiler)]
I can scarcely believe this is from the same mind that gave us the excellent False Prince. I promptly returned this book and the second to the bookstore, and most certainly will not read this author in the future.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
What happened? What happened to the fun and inventiveness of the first book? What happened to the cleverness and charisma of Jaron? This is the most dWhat happened? What happened to the fun and inventiveness of the first book? What happened to the cleverness and charisma of Jaron? This is the most disappointing sequel I’ve read in years.
The biggest problem is Jaron. What was a reckless attitude in the first book becomes a death wish here. He essentially goes out of his way to put his life in jeopardy… frankly, I’m glad (view spoiler)[his leg got busted, (hide spoiler)] because he pretty much got what he wanted. Jaron needs a sassy gay friend - think about your life, think about your choices!
Other than the newly insufferable Jaron, the rest of the book was one dreadful cliché after another. The girl he pushes away for her safety! The thief with a heart of gold! The sweet kid who needs to get out of “this life”! The pirates with an utterly incoherent “code” that dictates they do what the story needs! And most eye-roll-worthy of all, (view spoiler)[ Roden turns out to have just needed a hug, and is a good guy really deep down once Jaron reminds him of this at the last moment. (hide spoiler)] ["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
The Girl at Midnight is pretty standard YA fantasy fare, and a well done version of it. It is VERY reminiscent of City of Bones, but I also think it iThe Girl at Midnight is pretty standard YA fantasy fare, and a well done version of it. It is VERY reminiscent of City of Bones, but I also think it is a better version of City of Bones, so no objections here.
The world building is good, with two warring magical races of bird-people (Avicen) and dragon-people (Drakharin, give or take a few consonants). At no point was I confused about anything going on. The Avicen and Drakharin are at war with each other – no one quite remembers why – and I very much appreciate that neither side was painted as the hero or villain here. Grey does a good job showing that the good guys are not the ones fighting on the “right” side, but rather the ones who want peace.
This book gets major LGBT bona fides for having gay characters without making their homosexuality a Thing. In some ways, this shows how far we’ve come in the eight years since City of Bones – where Alec had to have a whole big coming out arc, Dorian and Jasper are just gay without anyone treating it as out of the norm. I wish there was more of that in fantasy.
Grey also did a good job showing the trauma Echo goes through after killing someone. This is different from the usual trope of “killing is the line hero won’t cross,” and was a pleasant surprise.
I was less impressed with the romance, as it did get to be eyeroll-worthy. Grey messed up early on, by making Echo ditch her friend Ivy to spend time alone with her new boyfriend. That is one of my pet peeves, and made me dislike Echo for a while. But the real problem came towards the end.
(view spoiler)[ So, when Echo, Caius, and co. are off to see the Oracle, one gets the sense they’re on an urgent mission. But just as they’ve started moving, Echo has an emotional crisis (see: killing someone). Caius then goes off to comfort her. So far so good. But then Caius and Echo spend pretty much the next 24 hours kissing and canoodling in the Black Forest, all thoughts of important firebird-related quests forgotten. Their fellow travelers apparently have no objection to this, just making camp where they are (despite having gotten nowhere) and leaving the lovebirds alone.
Of course, the other characters may as well have not been there. After Echo and Caius finish canoodling, they finally get to the Oracle. Only two people can actually go see her, so Echo and Caius go (despite very little reasoning as to why the two of them are most qualified), leaving Ivy, Dorian, and Jasper to just hang out. Why did the three of them even come along then? To camp out? The marginalization of the supporting characters is, frankly, laughable. (hide spoiler)]
The twist at the end was completely obvious to whoever has read fantasy. But those issues aside, I enjoyed reading this book, and am on board for book 2.["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>...more
I read The DUFF after seeing (and totally loving) the movie. The book is vastly different, but I really liked it as well. It’s one of very few YA bookI read The DUFF after seeing (and totally loving) the movie. The book is vastly different, but I really liked it as well. It’s one of very few YA books where the teenagers are as foul-mouthed and sexually active as real-life teenagers are, which made for an unusual but very nice reading experience....more
The Other Queen has an extremely tedious beginning – I can see why so many of my friends DNFed it. Gregory’s penchant for repeating things to hammer hThe Other Queen has an extremely tedious beginning – I can see why so many of my friends DNFed it. Gregory’s penchant for repeating things to hammer home a point, along with her “as you know, Bob” expository style, made the first hundred pages a real drag. Mary kept exclaiming in French, Bess kept kvetching about balance sheets, etc. However, once the characters settled in – Mary in captivity, Bess in financial straits, and Talbot falling in love with Mary – the story got moving and became very enjoyable.
I enjoyed this book because I only know the bare essentials about Mary, Queen of Scots, and knew nothing of Talbot or Bess of Hardwick. I therefore got to learn about them as the story went along, only knowing that it was all bound to end badly with Mary’s execution. I liked that there were no villains in this book – any of Gregory’s books that feature Henry VII or VIII are very villain-centric, so this was a welcome change. I sympathized with all the characters – Mary trying to gain her freedom and birthright, George trying to do the honorable thing in a world without honor, and Bess trying to hold on to the fortune she’s spent her life cultivating. I got the sense I maybe wasn’t supposed to sympathize with Bess, but I can appreciate how important financial independence was to a woman of those times.
The struggle between Mary Queen of Scots and Elizabeth I is a fascinating one. Both women stood in each other’s way, and would frankly have benefited greatly from the other’s elimination. Yet despite their diametrically opposed goals, they both did their utmost not to actually hurt the other, because the greatest danger both faced stemmed from a loss of the sanctity of a queen. I think Gregory did an excellent job with this, and I liked our few glances into Elizabeth.
In some ways, I think Mary Queen of Scots is ripe for the kind of sprawling epic Gregory usually writes, covering a large chunk of their lives. However, I have no complaints about Gregory choosing to focus on a few years with vivid details and multiple POVs. I wound up enjoying the book immensely as I went on. Only problem is I’ve now read all of Gregory’s historical novels, and have to await the next one with impatience!...more
I somehow did not read this until after reading King’s Curse, so I was already familiar with Gregory’s (probably accurate) portrayal of Henry VIII asI somehow did not read this until after reading King’s Curse, so I was already familiar with Gregory’s (probably accurate) portrayal of Henry VIII as an utterly mad monster. Having now read her version of the rise and fall of Katherine of Aragon and Anne Boleyn, it was nice to dive deeper into Anne of Cleves and Katherine Howard, who are normally mere blips on the radar of Tudor history.
I like Gregory’s characterizations of both girls, since she paints them in a sympathetic yet believable light. In particular, I like that Anne is smarter than anyone gives her credit for, and she was fun to read about after she’d escaped Henry’s clutches. Her line in the sand, that she won’t go back to him after Katherine, was nicely done – I know that many people thought Henry would return to her after Katherine Howard, but it’s clear neither wanted that. Katherine’s narration was the weakest of the three, but damn I felt sorry for her.
Jane Boleyn is fascinating – extremely cunning, yet not quite sane. While I find Gregory’s repetition tedious sometimes, I liked that Jane kept hearkening back to George and Anne, with a slight twist every time hovering between love and hate. I think if Jane and Anne had narrated the novel themselves, it would have been even more excellent. I don’t like Jane, but I enjoy her immensely.
Also, random trivia: I was born on the 450th anniversary of the execution of Katherine and Jane. So I have a connection to them. ...more
Evertrue is quite the change of pace from the first two books in the series. Nikki and Jack are together at last, and Cole loses his memory and becomeEvertrue is quite the change of pace from the first two books in the series. Nikki and Jack are together at last, and Cole loses his memory and becomes nice, which changes the dynamic of the books quite a bit. Moreso, Nikki is much more empowered in this book, instead of wallowing in guilt and despair. Evertrue serves as a fairly straightforward quest story – Nikki and co. have to do A, B, and C to bring down the Everneath, so they go about doing it. No epic twist at the end.
I liked the incorporation of more Greek myths, particularly the way Ashton included the myth of Tantalus. The question of whether Cole was playing Nikki and Jack the whole time kept me on my toes same as them. I liked the inclusion of Jules and Will, even though I would have liked to see a reconciliation among Nikki’s family (though, to be fair, this was always a story about Nikki and Jack first and foremost). In short, I thoroughly enjoyed reading this conclusion to the series, and am relieved to have a wholly satisfying and conclusive conclusion to a series in this day and age. The high point of the series is Everbound, but this is a worthy finale....more
I expected to love Little Women. I loved the 1990 movie, and my friend considers it her favorite book ever, so I thought it would be an enjDNF at 25%.
I expected to love Little Women. I loved the 1990 movie, and my friend considers it her favorite book ever, so I thought it would be an enjoyable reading experience. It was not.
The characters are so utterly saccharine as to be revolting, I can practically see their halos being held up by pillars of sugar. Beth is such an exaggerated version of shy as to be utterly revolting. And the mother is positively vile, spending her time teaching her daughters that it’s the world’s greatest sin to want something.
I could probably finish this book if absolutely required to, even if I had to skim all the stories and other crap that the girls write/perform. But since no teacher is on my ass to do so, and I already wasted over a week on this book, I see no reason to continue subjecting myself to a book I don’t enjoy. ...more