Ostensibly, This is Not a Test is a novel about a group of teenagers dealing with a zombie apocalypse, but in reality, the zombies are just a backdrop. This book is more about depression, suicide, and somehow finding a reason to survive against all odds. There’s not a whole lot of action, and we only meet the zombies face-to-face a couple of times – most of the novel is spent inside a fortified school, where the characters get to know each other and Sloane works through her many issues.
Sloane was best friends with her sister, Lily, and they shared in the abuse their father doled out. Lily was practically her world, and so when she runs away and leaves Sloane behind (despite promising her she’d wait for her), Sloane finds no reason to keep living. The abuse gets worse, and Sloane decides she wants to die. Even as zombies ravage the town, her mission is clear – find a way to die that doesn’t put everyone else in danger.
It’s easy to get angry at Sloane, but I find that you must be able to understand her and forgive her. She can be mean and selfish at times, but she’s a very damaged character. Those who have dealt with depression, the desire to commit suicide, or any other mental illness might recognize the bleakness of being in Sloane’s mind. They might recognize how she lashes out at others, even when she doesn’t actually want to hurt them. I know I do.
It’s hard to get attached to the other characters, simply because this isn’t their story. This is Not a Test is very much centered on Sloane, and she spends a good deal of time shutting everyone out. Even when she finally lets up, and even when she gets involved with another one of the survivors, I didn’t find myself particularly caring for anyone else. I find this inability to deeply care for the entire cast the novel’s weakest point.
Overall, it was a good book and I’m glad I read it. It’s probably not one that I will revisit in the future, but I’ll still be reading any book Courtney Summers comes out with. Her strength is in creating a believable main character and her writing is lovely, and she remains one of my favorite young adult authors. (less)
After Sawyer’s football-playing boyfriend dies, she receives a note in her locker, suggesting that it...more**spoiler alert** As seen on Ink and Tea Reviews!
After Sawyer’s football-playing boyfriend dies, she receives a note in her locker, suggesting that it wasn’t an accident. Someone may have discovered his abuse, which she kept hidden from the world. But as Sawyer attempts to remain a normal high school student, more people end up dead, and it seems to be that she has a vengeful stalker, snapping pictures of her from afar and killing those who harm her.
I read this book in one setting over the course of a couple of hours. Not because I needed to know what was going to happen next, but because I kind of wanted to just get to the next book. It’s a shame, because I had heard many good things about this book, but I just didn’t like it at all. The mystery wasn’t compelling, the characters were one-dimensional, the romance was boring, and the villain was, quite frankly, insulting. With that said, the prose is one of the few things I didn’t have a problem with, so if my criticisms do not seem to be a big deal to you, I would say to give the novel a try.
I feel like the plot wouldn’t have worked if the characters hadn’t been so mind-numbingly stupid. Sawyer rare told people what was going on – for no discernable reason – and when she did, no one believed her. Even when they had absolutely no reason to doubt her. If you need to make your characters really dumb to make your story work, it’s probably not a very good story.
What I hated most, though, were the characters. Maggie is the mean popular girl who used to date Sawyer’s (now deceased) boyfriend. Predictably, Maggie has no personality outside of being “a bitch.” There is nothing I hate more than when an author decides to have undeveloped female characters with no more than one personality trait, all to prop up their ~superior~ main character. Also, Chloe, who I quite liked at first, being the scrappy trailer park girl, was the only notable girl character besides Maggie and Sawyer. And guess what? It turns out she’s evil.
And I guessed that only 80 pages in.
But! Not only is Chloe evil, she’s an evil lesbian, murdering people to prove her love for Sawyer! If your only gay character is evil, that’s a problem. If every female character besides your main character is evil, that’s a problem. Before I realized that Chloe was going to be the villain, I was hoping she would just be a lesbian. Sure, she had boyfriends, but I smelled that lesbian subtext a mile away.
The romance is also boring and cookie-cutter. We have a “unique” protagonist and a muscled, dull love interest. Seriously, is it just me, or do the majority of MCs in YA novels seem to be the same character?
I really didn’t like this book, but I also have a nagging feeling that I’m going to forget most of it within a few days. I had to make this review quickly – even though I read the book today – because I was already unable to recall a few things. Overall, it just wasn’t for me. (less)
I read Going Too Far with complete ambivalence. I cannot say that there were a plethora of offensive, glaring faul...moreOriginally on Ink & Tea Reviews.
I read Going Too Far with complete ambivalence. I cannot say that there were a plethora of offensive, glaring faults, but I did not enjoy the story, and upon finishing, I neither had the desire to think further on what I had read, nor was I excited to review it. As such, I read this at least a week ago, and have been putting off the review until now. It might be clear by now that romance is not my preferred genre, and I do not always pay close attention to the synopsis when going into a book, especially if it has come highly recommended. This is what happened with Going Too Far – it’s a straight-forward romance, and romances rarely leave me anything other than bored.
The writing in Going Too Far was smooth and enjoyable, and if Jennifer Echols ever writes something in a genre I’m a bit more fond of, I will certainly give it a try. I had no problem with the prose, nor the main characters and their developments – I found both Meg and John to be realistic and believable, although I wasn’t the biggest fan of John. In fact, I thought it was a bit more interesting when it seemed that John was a much older fellow (but, really, how did Meg get him confused with a middle-aged man?) and that there was going to be a dysfunctional, torrid love affair.
The actual direction of the story – a normal ol’ romance in which the main characters must overcome their inner demons – was just a bit too boring and fluffy for my tastes. I thought John was kind of a douchebag, with his constant berating of Meg and his eventual causing her (on purpose!) to have a panic attack. It never seemed as though he actually cared for Meg and appreciated her flaws – but, instead, put her on some sort of pedestal and had affection for an idealized version of her.
You know how there’s this trope in romance where there’s a dysfunctional sort of guy, and the female love interest just “fixes” him by trying to change his personality to make him easier to be involved with? I kind of felt like John was doing that to Meg. And I LIKED Meg, with her casual sex, her dyed hair, her drunken highness, and her desire to live life to the fullest in case it was snatched away from her. She was flawed and interesting! John was just so straight-laced and he frowned upon everything she did; I’m just not convinced that they were actually compatible.
I did wish there was a bit more depth to the minor characters – like Meg’s best friend, Meg’s parents, the EMT guy, and the antagonistic drug-dealing-son-of-a-lawyer. That, perhaps, would have made me a bit fonder of this book, distracting me from the plot that was just not my style. As it was, though, I felt that the minor characters were just shadows, shallow and lacking, with only hints of something more.
Going Too Far’s plot twists weren’t really twists at all, and I saw them both coming. John’s backstory was obvious from the beginning, and I had suspected Meg’s, as well. And as I didn’t really want John and Meg to get together, I wasn’t rooting for them, and there was little suspense. There was nothing I wanted them to overcome, because the entire time, I was just thinking, “Meg, don’t bake the fruit cobbler, John isn’t for you.”
In the end, I’m not sure I would recommend this book to anyone, although I’m sure some would enjoy it. For me, however, it left me bored, and I didn’t appreciate the relationship, which…well, was the book. That doesn’t mean I wouldn’t read a non-romance novel of Jennifer Echol’s were she to write one, however.(less)
The Mockingbirds was intended to be a quick read while I was sitting in Starbucks one day with a cr...moreThis review is also found on Ink & Tea Reviews.
The Mockingbirds was intended to be a quick read while I was sitting in Starbucks one day with a craving for some high school drama. I had seen mixed reviews for the book, so I went into it not expecting a whole lot. Unfortunately, my expectations were met.
Our protagonist is Alex, a teenage girl at a boarding school that demands excellence. After a night partying and drinking, she is raped by another student – Carter. The first part of the book primarily deals with the question of whether she was raped or not, as she cannot recall the details, and is, at first, unsure of if she just made a mistake or if Carter took advantage of her. Eventually she decides that, yes, it was rape, as she was in no state to consent, and so she calls on the Mockingbirds, a sort of secret society at Themis Academy that try and punish other students.
First, let’s get one thing clear – this isn’t a bad book, it just wasn’t for me for a few reasons I will expand on shortly. Second, a lot of the criticism of this book came from the fact that some people believed that Carter did not, in fact, rape Alex. I am not one of those reviewers, and I believe that it was CLEARLY rape, and it is somewhat confusing that this is a contested fact.
I found much of the book cartoonish and over-the-top. This is especially noticeable in the beginning of the book, and although it decreases later on, it definitely impeded my getting absorbed into the story. Alex’s sarcasm is ridiculous – she doesn’t have that dry, witty sarcasm, but has that over-the-top sort of immature sarcasm of “yeah, okay, whatever.” Random scenes she imagines will be described to us when they really don’t need to be – for example, Alex hears the phrase “knock out” and so we get half a page of her imagining herself in a boxing ring. It just seems unrealistic and like a bit of a caricature of the way minds really work.
Themis Academy seemed to be suffering from a bit of Adults Are Useless. The faculty doesn’t believe that the students behave badly, so The Mockingbirds are the law. Maybe this wouldn’t bother me so much if they went to the police with their evidence, or forced the school to take notice, but that’s not the case. The punishment for every case is that the guilty party must relinquish what they love most. So if Carter is found guilty, his punishment is that he gives up water polo.
Giving up water polo. For raping a girl. I’d prefer him to be put in jail, get expelled, get put on a sex offender registry, SOMETHING. But giving up water polo? Really? That’s just offensive.
I wasn’t invested in any of the characters. Of course, I wanted Carter to be found guilty, but this was less for Alex’s sake and more for the principle of the thing. Alex’s friends seemed to each have one specific personality trait that was played up, so they didn’t seem like real people. Instead of any sort of character development or fleshing out personalities, more attention was given to describing their outfits. The teachers were useless. It’s unfair to call them characters, really, they were just there to show that Alex couldn’t get help from the school.
Oh, Alex entered into a relationship with one of the Mockingbirds, Martin. I didn’t buy the romance at all, primarily because the text claims they were in love. There was very little chemistry, and I thought it was more realistic when it seemed like Alex was using Martin to get over her trauma. Towards the beginning of the book, Martin was introduced as a guy Alex only really knows because he’s friends with her best friend’s boyfriend. Then, towards the middle, they begin to strengthen their friendship, and that was believable and totally fine. Then, suddenly, Alex remembers that she wanted to be with Martin at the party where she got drunk, and not long after, they’re admitting their love for each other. It was just kind of an abrupt change.
So, The Mockingbirds isn’t a keeper for me, unfortunately, and it wasn’t the most enjoyable read. I had to force myself to finish it over the course of three days, when I was whizzing through other books and dreading having to re-open this one. I might still read other works by the author if the synopsis catches my eye, but I’m not reading the sequel. (less)
Review originally on Ink & Tea Reviews, where I gave it 3.5 stars. I rounded up here.
Avry is a selfless healer with a pure heart who is rescued fr...moreReview originally on Ink & Tea Reviews, where I gave it 3.5 stars. I rounded up here.
Avry is a selfless healer with a pure heart who is rescued from execution by a band of rogues. By rescued, of course, I mean kidnapped, as they intend to use her to heal Prince Ryne, whose body has been frozen in time to prevent the plague from killing him. The leader of the group – Kerrick – claims that Ryne is the only hope to put the Fifteen Realms back together, stop the fighting over who should rule, and make things right ever since the plague. Although Kerrick can be an asshole, especially if Avry is insulting Ryne (he’s very, very obsessed), these rogues are actually quite nice, so it’s not surprising that Avry becomes attached to them and learns to enjoy their company. They are a very close group and Avry slowly becomes an integral member of their makeshift family, which was very lovely to read.
I did love this book, but part of me loves it most for what it could have been. I’m used to elaborate fantasy novels ala George R. R. Martin, and so I wanted more – more political intrigue, more information on the workings of the government, a reason to root for Ryne over Tohon (and Kerrick’s man-crush on him isn’t enough to convince me that Ryne is going to be the greatest ruler ever), and perhaps a bit more world-building. Still, the fact that I wanted more did not majorly detract from my enjoyment of the novel, because I became so attached to the world and characters that I just filled in the blanks in my head!
My favorite characters were the villains. Tohon is our main antagonist, and he has the ability to compel people and control emotions, which he uses against Avry quite a bit. I was worried that he was going to become a love interest, but I think (please tell me I’m right) we dodged that bullet. Tohon is a terrible person with the hobbies of experimenting on children and using his powers in dastardly ways. This guy also has a very loose definition of consent, and I think he’s a little bit crazy.
The other villain I adore is Jael, Kerrick’s ex-fiance. She’s a bit of a warrior, has the power to control air (meaning she can literally take your breath away), and is power-hunger, manipulative, and has a huge ego. She appeared only for a short amount of time, and I cannot wait to see her more. She, Tohon, Kerrick, and Ryne all went to school together, and so they have backstory that is touched upon and that I am absolutely obsessed with. Oh, and Tohon is obsessed with her, and more than anything else, I want them to get together and wreak havoc!
But I digress.
Avry does dislike Kerrick at first, but they do, as expected, fall for each other. This is not in any way a case of insta-love, and it organically develops in a way I can really appreciate. I actually quite like their relationship, although I will miss the more tense and angry relationship that they began with. Just as their relationship was expected, however, I found some of the plot developments to be somewhat predictable. I actually think I called pretty much every twist, all the way up to the ending.
There was a bit of a problem with pacing, as well, with exploring taking up the bulk of the novel and actual plot developments speeding by too quickly. We would have a chapter that would encompass a month, and then a chapter that encompassed only a day, so it was a bit difficult to understand the way time passed. The ending also wrapped some things up a bit too neatly and conveniently, which might be one of my largest gripes, and for which I docked the rating by half a point.
All in all, this was a good start to the series, and it set the stage for what is to come. The next installment will undoubtedly expand the backstory, the world, and tie up a few plots with the characters. I hope we will get to know the characters better, get more interaction between the old schoolmates (there is some serious obsession between these guys), and learn more about the political workings of the Fifteen Realms. I’m eagerly awaiting the next book – Scent of Magic – which is due later this year, and you'll definitely see a review from me. (less)
I didn’t pay enough attention to the synopsis, as I went into Easy thinking it was more of a dra...more**spoiler alert** Originally on Ink & Tea Reviews!
I didn’t pay enough attention to the synopsis, as I went into Easy thinking it was more of a drama about a girl dealing with the aftermath of a sexual assault as opposed to a romance. I tend to avoid books in which the plot is essentially a love story, and had I known what Easy really was, I would have definitely skipped it over. I’m thankful that I was under the wrong impression, because Easy was fabulous, heartfelt, and made me sob while reading it in the bathtub!
Easy begins with Jacqueline being attacked by an acquaintance that has always seemed like a decent sort of guy, and the only reason he didn’t succeed in his attempted rape is because a fellow student beats him up. Alarm bells immediately went off when Lucas, Jacqueline’s savior, berates her for not paying enough attention to her surroundings. If there’s one thing I cannot stand, it’s victim-blaming, and so I was prepared to wade through yet another book that makes it seem like the victim’s responsibility not to be attacked. Fortunately, this heartless remark is just thanks to Lucas being a flawed character, and the narrative is certainly not one that blames the victim.
After the initial attack, the book goes into romance territory, and Jacqueline deals with her attraction to Lucas in an attempt to get over her long-time boyfriend, Kennedy. Although Jacqueline does eventually deal with the aftermath of the attack (and must try to avoid her attacker, Buck, following her and attempting to assault her again), the book primarily focuses on the romance and relationships between the characters. Despite romance being the overall plot, it is the handling of the attempted rape that made me love this book. Had it been less of a romance, I’m sure I would have loved it even more, and it would have received at least four stars.
With that said, the romance was well-done, and I was rooting for Lucas and Jacqueline to get together and make it work. For those who are fans of romance with a tortured love interest, I’m sure they would love this book, and probably adore Lucas. The characters were well-rounded and believable, with my favorite being that of Jacqueline’s roommate and unlikely best friend: Erin, the peppy, badass cheerleader who helps Jacqueline not blame herself for Buck’s actions, and who loves to injure the groin of potential rapists.
When Easy goes back to being a story about rape, it does it so, so well. This comes full circle in the last portion of the book, when a young girl, Mindy, is raped by Buck. Jacqueline had previously decided not to go to the police when she was attacked, but now that there is another victim, Erin convinces both Mindy and Jacqueline to speak up about their attacks. Fiction mirrors real-life in the way that other characters react to this: many people do not believe them for a variety of reasons, from the fact that they weren’t virgins to the fact that Buck was a popular guy who seemed perfectly nice.
Jacqueline defends herself, and she finds an unlikely ally in one of the sorority sisters. It was this part of the book that made me cry, when some of the girls make it clear what the message of this book is: victim-blaming is not okay. Rape is never anyone’s fault but the rapists. The victim has no obligation to not be attacked, it is the attacker who is at fault. Nothing but “yes” gives consent: not having consented before, not not being a virgin, not drinking, not knowing the guy, nothing but “yes”.
The other frat brothers want to deal with the situation internally by expelling him from school and not allowing him to return to the fraternity. Thankfully, Easy says “this is not enough.” Buck is a rapist, he needs to actually be punished, not just pulled from an activity or school. That doesn’t save any future victims. That doesn’t really punish him. And so the girls press real charges, they don’t go to a tribunal of students to give him a slap on the wrist. Unfortunately, again in a case of fiction mirroring reality, Buck doesn’t get a long sentence, but it’s more than he would have gotten had they not pressed charges.
Easy had another flaw, and that was that some of the built-up conflict was dealt with too quickly and too conveniently. But this is the only flaw worth mentioning (other than the fact that I had wanted less romance and more plot), and all-in-all, this was a successful book with true heart and emotion. The message was spot on and was something we don’t hear nearly enough. If you love romance with a plot: please, please read Easy. You won’t be disappointed.(less)
**spoiler alert** This seems to be a polarizing book -- either you love it or hate it -- but I'm right in the middle.
Unlike plenty of other reviewers,...more**spoiler alert** This seems to be a polarizing book -- either you love it or hate it -- but I'm right in the middle.
Unlike plenty of other reviewers, I wasn't annoyed with Hannah. I don't find a suicidal person to be overreacting. I don't think depression is something someone can just snap out of, and I understand that seemingly small things can create a catastrophic reaction in the mind of someone on the edge.
In fact, I quite liked Hannah. I enjoyed her tapes more than I enjoyed being in the mind of the main male guy. I appreciated that she stood up against the victim-blamers that were, inevitably, reading and listening. The only qualm I had with her was that she was insanely harsh on the teacher guy. With her level of vitriol towards him, I expected that he had raped her, or had done something else reprehensible. He was the only one on the tapes that I felt bad for.
I appreciated that the characters had different voices -- a fact that shouldn't warrant praise, but is occasionally hard to find in gritty young adult books.
I did have to suspend some belief -- I don't think, in real life, the tapes would seamlessly pass from person to person. I don't think the troubled car guy would have been able to really make sure of that. I think people would have reacted with more anger, too, in being blamed for a suicide.
This was a good book for a quick read in a coffee shop, but it's not something I'm going to think about for much longer. In fact, I've already forgotten many of the character's names. This isn't a book that will haunt me, or stick with me, or give me any pleasure from reading again. I don't regret reading it, but like a casual hook-up, I'm ready to part ways.(less)
Janie is a teenage girl with a tough life. In addition to being poor and having a drunk, emotionally negligent mother, J...moreAlso on Ink & Tea Reviews.
Janie is a teenage girl with a tough life. In addition to being poor and having a drunk, emotionally negligent mother, Janie has the burden of experiencing the dreams of others. If someone falls asleep and begins to dream, Janie comes right along for the ride. This becomes a huge problem when she begins to experience someone’s nightmares, which affect her so strongly that she has violent seizures.
This book sounded so interesting! Dreams are so fascinating, there are so many directions to go, and with the addition of horrible nightmares? It just seemed like such a great concept. The execution, however, was most disappointing, and I really struggled with finishing this book. It’s a short book, too, and I just wanted to drop it. I have the entire series, so I’m in the midst of debating whether or not I’m enough of a masochist to go ahead and read them, too.
So, why was this book so bad? First off, the dreams themselves were so boring. The dream sequences weren’t fun. They weren’t interesting. They did not let us get to know the characters that were experiencing them. In fact, most of the dreams were such clichés, that I don’t understand why the author chose to make a dream-based book if she had no fresh ideas. Really, the only dreams we see are those overdone showing up in nothing but your underwear dreams and sex dreams. They dragged and were so dull that I wonder if the author wanted to just get the dream scenes over with to get to the romance.
However, the romance wasn’t any better. Janie and her love interest, Cabel, were both as interesting as cardboard. There was no chemistry, but really, that was no feeling of any sort in this book. I didn’t have the slightest concern or care about any of the characters, the plot, anything. Anyway, Janie more than experiences Cabel’s dreams – which are, by the way, the aforementioned nightmares – she participates. But that doesn’t make it any more interesting. Cabel is, apparently, a “bad boy.” Janie learns that he sells drugs, has a bunch of sex, and has a troubled past. Their relationship becomes strained when she finds out that he is involved with a flat, one-dimensional popular character. Like everything else in this book, however, it seemed completely forced.
Not only were the characters and the plot a hot mess, but the writing was just completely not my style. The sentences were insanely choppy, and the skill level seemed like that of an average eighth grade English student.
I might read the rest of the series, but even that thought exhausts me. I wouldn’t recommend this book to anyone, and I plan on getting rid of it pretty soon. I’d really like to cast it out of my mind. (less)
Angelfall is a post-apocalyptic novel in which angels have taken over earth in a reign of terror. People must abandon th...moreAlso on Ink & Tea Reviews.
Angelfall is a post-apocalyptic novel in which angels have taken over earth in a reign of terror. People must abandon their old lives in a fight to stay alive, so gangs roam the streets, cars are lined up on the highway, and individuals take cover in abandoned houses until someone stronger comes along and either kills them or kicks them out.
In this chaotic new world, our heroine, Penryn, is just trying to take care of her occasionally violent mentally-ill mother and her crippled little sister. When things get stressful, Penryn is usually abandoned by her mother, forcing her to be able to protect herself as well as her sister. This is how the story begins, when they witness a fight among a few angels, and Penryn rashly decides to help one of them (all on her own) after his wings have been cut off. All seems to be going better than could be expected, up until one of the angels flies away with Penryn’s sister.
So Penryn goes on a quest to get her sister back, and our lovable douchebag of an angel, Raffe, travels with her in an attempt to get his wings back.
The first half of the novel is a pretty straightforward supernatural post-apocalyptic survival story. We get to know our two main characters more, as well as meet others – primarily a human resistance group that plans on striking against the angels and taking earth back. It’s clear early on – just due to trends in young adult books, not because of any misstep on the author’s part – that Penryn and Raffe are going to end up together. Fortunately, it’s not a case of insta-love, as Penryn actually doesn’t like Raffe at first, and at times contemplates allowing him to die. No, it’s a gradual build-up, first with attraction, and then culminating into a genuine affection, although it’s never really a functional, healthy relationship. To be honest, I tend to be rather ambivalent about designated love interests, but I really liked the relationship and chemistry of Raffe and Penryn. I was rooting for them to get together, although I enjoyed all of the tension and arguments, as well.
While I quite enjoyed the first part of the novel, it was the second half that made this a five star book. Goodness, the second part of the book…we meet our villainous angels, who are as dastardly and charismatic as I could ever hope for, and things take a turn for the creepy. There’s some serious Silent Hill-esque creatures, medical experimentation, and a scary but heartbreaking twist. Everything is just perfect.
I loved all of the characters. From our main characters to our resistance members to our villains – all of which I’m sure we’ll get to know much better in the next installment of the series – the characters were interesting, engrossing, and never one-dimensional.
I never expected to absolutely adore this book as much as I do. It’s one of my favorite books I have ever read, and I plan on reading it over, and over, and over, especially in anticipation of the next part of the series. I would recommend this to anyone who reads young adult, or likes creepy things, or dystopias, or…well, anything, really. I just cannot get enough of Angelfall, and I’m seriously excited for the next book. (less)
The Daughter of Smoke and Bone is one of the best books I have read this year, and the hype has definitely been ea...moreOriginally on Ink & Tea Reviews.
The Daughter of Smoke and Bone is one of the best books I have read this year, and the hype has definitely been earned. Laini Taylor weaves words with magic; her style is eloquent and poetic without ever going over-the-top, and I’m sure she’s going to quickly become one of my favorite authors. Beautiful prose mixed with excellent characters that are constantly developing, an enchanting setting, and an intriguing plot makes this a book an excellent start to what will surely be a wonderful and immensely magical series.
The synopsis certainly doesn’t do the Daughter of Smoke and Bone justice. The plot is so much more than what is described there; it is magical and fantastic and utterly beautiful. The chimaeras have a magic in which they can buy wishes of various value, and this concept is so well-executed that it becomes such an entrancing, fascinating thing. I am usually left languid at the magical elements in urban fantasy, but it was just so well-done that it completely enraptured me.
Karou is a flawed and three-dimensional protagonist. Her thoughts, beliefs, desires, and actions are all multi-layered and conflicting in a way that makes her true to life and believable, where many characters in young adult literature fall short. Karou is described as beautiful, and for this, I was thankful, as many authors feel the need to call their characters “plain” when they are obviously meant to be conventionally attractive. Likewise, how refreshing that Karou was not some social pariah! I appreciated her blue hair and her rough-edgedness, the way she yearned for Kaz despite not really liking him, her kindness, and her unusualness.
As unusual protagonists often do, Karou had a “normal” best friend – a human named Zuzana. Fortunately, she was not looked on as lesser by the narrative, nor was she discarded by Karou over the course of the book. Zuzana made for a wonderful best friend (who else teared up when she was taking care of Karou?) and a great character, and I hope she becomes more immersed in the otherworld and becomes more of a central part of the plot in later books.
The love interest, Akiva, was a great character, a bit of a douche, but completely sympathetic. He was bred to be a killer, had very little family in his life, and learned to shut emotion out entirely. He reminded me a bit of Castiel from Supernatural, especially in the way that Akiva had a fair bit of idealism in him, and that it was a person of a race he was taught to devalue that taught him how to feel again.
Prague made for an excellent setting. The imagery was so alive and beautiful and perfect, and how could you have read it and NOT had the sudden, overwhelming desire to visit Prague? The way Prague is described makes it seem like the perfect place to set this fantastical story, as if it were the natural gateway into another world. And the other world! The world of angels and chimaeras was beautifully executed. We got angel politics, chimaera government workings, culture and myth of both, and absolutely no info-dumping.
Neither the angels nor the chimaeras were the bad guys – the angels were bred to be militaristic soldiers, but they were not evil. The chimaeras are called devils in the synopsis and are not always completely human-shaped, but they are not evil. Even the douchebags are not portrayed as unequivocally evil; everyone is flawed and three-dimensional, perhaps morally grey (who isn’t, really?) but never able to be put into constricting categories so vague as “good” or “bad”. Thiago, a chimaera, is the closest thing we have to a villain, but even he is more than that.
The love story moved along quickly, perhaps even too quickly for comfort, but it didn’t seem out of place. Akiva and Kaoru were always depicted as a tragedy waiting to happen, never a happy ending in the making. Their love was functional in many ways, but it was not fluffy or perfect, and they had to deal with both internal and external forces as an obstacle to their relationship – just as one does in real life. Also, the love story never detracts from the rest of the story, and there is a constant balance, no one aspect (setting, romance, characters, etc) ever dominates everything.
Towards the end of the Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I found myself wondering if Megan Whalen Turner might have been one of Laini Taylor’s formative influences, with some of the scenes involving the various myths of creation being highly evocative of scenes in the Queen’s Thief series. This is certainly not a bad thing, as it never seemed like imitation, but rather a testament to Laini Taylor’s skill with storytelling. All in all, this series is off to a magnificent start, and it will most likely find a place on my favorites list. (less)
Some people in the Seven Kingdoms are born with a “Grace”, an extreme skill that manifests itself at a young age, and i...moreAs seen on NIGHTMARISH REVIEWS!
Some people in the Seven Kingdoms are born with a “Grace”, an extreme skill that manifests itself at a young age, and is marked by heterochromia. One can be graced with a multitude of different things, from cooking to dancing to mind-reading. Our heroine, Katsa, is graced with killing, and she is exploited as King Randa’s personal assassin slash torturer. Unexpectedly, she meets a graced fighter, and she cannot help but become his friend.
The world of Graceling is fascinating, and one of the strongest points of the novel, although fans of intricate worldbuilding ala George R.R. Martin are bound to be disappointed.
I found the prose to be quite lovely, and I believe Kristin Cashore is a talented author. With that said, the pacing was occasionally problematic, and I often felt that there was too much about Po and Katsa’s relationship and not enough about the actual plot. It was so relationship-driven that I sometimes felt like that was the plot itself, as opposed to saving the Seven Kingdoms from an evil king with a dangerous Grace.
There were also too many scenes with little action – scenes of riding around on horseback without anything happening. The bulk of the action, when the plot actually comes to head, ends as abruptly as it came. We spend almost no time with our villain, and if there’s one thing I can’t stand, it’s an underdeveloped villain! I just wish a few chapters of Po and Katsa’s trekking to their destination were cut in favor of expanding the actual drama and plot.
Now, that doesn’t mean I didn’t like Katsa and Po’s relationship. Quite the contrary, I can’t recall the last time I’ve rooted for such a functional, fluffy couple. Anytime Katsa and Po had problems, they tended to talk it out and fix it. It was so different from most young adult relationships, and I was very surprised that I was as invested as I was.
The characters were another strong point of the novel, and although Katsa and Po (and a bit of Bitterblue) are the only ones who get to be properly fleshed out, I was intrigued by even the more minor of characters. I’m excited to see more of these characters in later books.
Despite some of the shortcomings of Graceling, I still immensely enjoyed it, and I’m eager to read the rest of the trilogy. I would recommend it to anyone who reads young adult fantasy and wouldn’t be put off by the fact that Katsa wants neither marriage nor children – something I had absolutely no problem with. (less)
This book was alright. I held off on doing this review for a few days, and I already lost the few things I had to say about it -- the book, while dece...moreThis book was alright. I held off on doing this review for a few days, and I already lost the few things I had to say about it -- the book, while decent, was not exactly memorable aside from the dark subject matter.
I didn't really care for any of the characters. I mean, I didn't dislike them, it's just that not a single one elicited even the most mild of emotions out of me. That's how I felt about the entire book -- I have a weakness for gritty young adult books with dark subjects, but the only reason I finished this was because I started it.
Shouldn't a book about something so serious, and so personal to many of the people reading it, force emotional reactions? Shouldn't I be feeling disgust towards the dad? Or sympathy for the main character? Or anything beyond boredom and apathy?
Don't get me wrong, I don't think this is a necessarily a horrible read. I'm sure for some people, it's a great book. I just didn't have any connection with it, and for me, that's always more disappointing than reading a flat out horrendous book.(less)
I love characters that everyone else hates. I love the asshole jocks, the douche villains, and especially, the evil popu...moreAlso on Ink & Tea Reviews.
I love characters that everyone else hates. I love the asshole jocks, the douche villains, and especially, the evil popular girls. So a book where the main character is one of the mean girls? Even though it could go so terribly, terribly wrong, I am immediately intrigued.
And thankfully, Some Girls Are got it so very right.
Regina Afton is one of the most popular girls in school, being the best friend and second-in-command of Anna Morrison, the school’s queen bee. Her clique is deliciously vicious – they start rumor campaigns, they destroy reputations, they ruin lives. Regina and her friends are those girls that everyone loves/hates. However, one party changes Regina’s social status overnight, when Anna’s boyfriend comes very close to raping her. In her desperation, Regina goes to the only person she can, Kara, a frenemy and member of her clique. This was the wrong move, and Kara takes this opportunity to ruin her reputation by convincing Anna that Regina had sex with her boyfriend behind her back.
So begins Regina’s exile from her friends.
One of the things that makes me want to gush is that Courtney Summers doesn’t make Regina a good person. She’s not the unwitting accomplice to Anna Morrison’s alpha bitch, she doesn’t have a change of heart, she doesn’t decide that she wants to be a better person. She’s just a mean girl that we can sympathize with. And we sympathize with her because Courtney Summers makes these characters real. They’re three-dimensional, and they’re unforgivable, completely bad people, and I love them.
When Regina decides she wants to take Anna down, it’s not to save other students from her reign of terror, and it’s certainly not because she thinks it’s the right thing to do. It’s because she wants revenge. Some people were disappointed with the fact that Regina doesn’t morph into a good person, but I am so glad, and it seems so much more real that way.
Right after Regina loses her spot at her lunch table and with Anna and the others, she becomes anxious – she can’t be alone, so she sits next to Michael, a boy she has bullied in the past. Michael might be the only decent person in this book, and even then, he can be kind of a jerk at times – although he is completely justified. Michael seems indifferent (if a little irritated) by Regina’s presence at first, but it doesn’t take a lot for him to blow up at her and her self-centered audaciousness. As anyone can guess, Regina and Michael end up having a romance. I’m not convinced that it’s a completely functional relationship, but that might be one of the reasons I loved it so much. Their chemistry was palpable, their issues were real, and I couldn’t help but route for them to get together and somehow, despite their multitude of problems, make it work.
The other characters – from Regina’s ex to Anna herself – don’t make it easy for Regina to be happy, with or without Michael. This book is brutal, and those girls are downright abusive. Not only do they torment Regina emotionally, but there’s a good deal of violence, as well. Anyone who is a fan of three-dimensional douchebags, good contemporary young adult, or high school dramas, or just a plain good book with wonderful prose and great characters, should give Some Girls Are a chance. (less)