Man, this book was awesome and impressive. To be honest, although there are a lot of good MG stuff out there, I'm still a bit wary of this
Man, this book was awesome and impressive. To be honest, although there are a lot of good MG stuff out there, I'm still a bit wary of this demographic because there is a fair amount of books out there in this category that is absolutely juvenile. But The Screaming Staircase screamed unique, it screamed different, it screamed FANTASTIQUE! in big, bold letters. There is so much to love in this book: the endearing, well-polished characters; the enchanting, well-written narration; and the hypnotic, effective atmosphere. LOVE LOVE LOVE!
One thing you should know about me is that I love a good scare. I relish the feeling of getting creeped out as it's one of those sensations that make me feel so alive. When I'm with friends and we're having sleepovers, I love sharing ghost stories with them, to the point that I suggest we go out ghost-hunting in supposedly haunted places (which was never realized, by the way... in the end, we become wussies) and sometimes, I even have the audacity to encourage using an ouija board to communicate with otherwordly beings (also never realized... the chances of it backfiring are rather high!). Long story short, I love horror. From movies to real life experiences, I've seen them all. But for some reason, books with ghosts never made me feel as scared. Most often than not, the horror factor in these books is utterly laughable, and I find myself disappointed over and over again.
But goodness, The Screaming Staircase totally changed all that. I can sincerely say this is better written than a lot of Young Adult novels out there.
The world is plagued with ghosts, ever since The Problem started, and the government has been using kids to find and exterminate them. Why kids? Because since their senses are still developing, they are more sensitive to these kinds of things. One of these agencies is Lockwood and Co., and independent organization (meaning free of adult supervision) run by three people - Anthony Lockwood, George Cubbins, and Lucy Carlyle. Together, they run into a lot of obstacles and a lot of mysteries, some of them possibly changing their lives forever.
For a Middle Grade book, this is dark, gritty, and quite violent. I was honestly expecting something a bit more mellow and gentle, maybe a simple ghostly apparition of a harmless ghost, but damn, the ghosts here are not just fucking scary but they are dangerous, too. There are different types, and the most dangerous ones can change their appearances and can kill. They can touch you and the area touched will rot. Of course, a lot of the ghosts ARE harmless, but there are a number of them, those who died violently and whose energies are still contained in certain objects, who can really make you think twice about engaging them. I loved how it gave me that violent sense of urgency and suspense, how it made me want to hide under the covers, and how it actually made me open my lights before sleeping.
I guess the writing is a factor of that, too, considering how it was so effective in giving the book a spooky atmosphere. Sure, there are instances where it's light-hearted and fun, but in the scenes that matter the most, it has done an excellent job of immersing you in the story and making you feel you are with the characters as they explore the haunted places. The description of the surroundings, the description of the feelings they feel when they sense a dangerous entity is near, the internal narration of the main character, Lucy... all of it were absolutely BRILLIANT. I cannot stress this enough. I've read a lot of horror in my time, but none of them EVER made the mood right, at least, not as effective as Stroud has done.
The characters were fun to read as well. Lockwood was adventurous, brave, reckless, and calm; George was sarcastic, cynical, intelligent, and cautious; Lucy was endearing, talented, and emotional. They're all so different in many ways, but together as a group, they were amazing and blended beautifully. It was fun to see them banter, protect each other, sort out the puzzles, etc. etc. Just for their dynamics and interaction alone, this book's already worth it.
Honestly, I have troubles deciding which is this book's strongest asset - the narration, the characters, or the mood/atmosphere? All of them were absolutely well done and written that's it's hard to pick. It's that amazing. I absolutely recommend this to everyone, especially those who want to give themselves a good scare or want to read something unique, fun, and dark at the same time.
I was really looking forward to this book because I thought I'd finally get to read something like Crimin
Man, this was such a huge letdown.
I was really looking forward to this book because I thought I'd finally get to read something like Criminal Minds or Lie To Me or, heck, even CSI. I loved those shows; I gobbled them all up when I first learned about their existence. The Naturals promised me that, but unfortunately, it was a disappointment all around.
These are what The Naturals consists of:
* 50% drama from an unnecessary love triangle; * 20% of Cassie overthinking things, apart from being dull and lifeless; * 20% of the characters being self-centered narcissists, basking in all their supposed talents and glories; and * 10% actual plot
Of course, I should have expected this given that it's, after all, Young Adult, but it's kind of hard not to feel bummed out when you expected a story that actually explores the psyche of a criminal without being pretentious about it. It was already hard enough to suspend my disbelief of the super prestigious FBI hiring a bunch of teenagers who are supposedly "natural" at reading emotions, spotting liars, reading someone's psyche, and are actually better than their adult counterparts who do this for a living, but for this book to add insult to injury... ugh.
Let me better explain my frustrations:
1.) Cassie. Throughout reading the book, I did not feel for this girl at all. I did not root for her, I did not like her. PERIOD. She was amazingly bland, and her 1st person narration felt like reading someone narrate a story from a detached point of view. Every time something huge happened, she sounded absolutely monotonous in describing "her feelings" (and there were honestly very little...) and the surroundings that the events turned out more anti-climactic than anything else.
She's also nosy. Dear woman, if the guy doesn't want to spill his secrets yet, don't freaking force him. God, you make me crazy.
And she over-thinks. A LOT. I mean, okay, I guess if you're a Natural profiler (yes, with a capital N, as portrayed in the book), that's a given, but god, could she be please less pretentious and all-high-and-mighty about it? I get that she's perceptive, but sweet baby Jesus, it annoyed me to no end how she would see someone do something in a particular manner and immediately conclude, "Ah, this person is like this! Ah, that person is like that!"
And yes, I get it, Cassie. You're a Natural. You're so good at observing people. You are SO perceptive. I get it. Stop rubbing it in.
2.) Side characters. The other characters have personalities, but they're so cheesy and unoriginal. We have a cocky guy who thinks he's all that and who's smug all the time who can read emotions, we have the loner guy who has a dark tragic past who's also a profiler, we have a bitchy girl who can spot lies, and we have a quirky girl who's supposedly like Reid from Criminal Minds, who can give you statistics for the most mundane of things. Can they not be anymore stereotypical? T_T
AND YES, I GET IT. YOU'RE ALL FUCKING NATURALS!!! Is there a need to repeat your extraordinary talents over and over???
3.) Unnecessary love triangle. UGH. This part made me roll my eyes SO MUCH. As expected, the bland heroine enters the fray and the two guys in the team, of course, suddenly take an interest in her. She hasn't done anything redeeming, she has no fucking personality, and I'm supposed to believe they both like her already? What the flying fuck?
One of the cheesiest moments in this novel was how they all decided to play a game of Truth or Dare (LOL!!!!!!) and of course she was dared to kiss one of them... OF COURSE... That had my eyes rolling around and around and around like a ferris wheel. And of course, the other guy strikes back by kissing her again later... and OF COURSE the heroine is torn between her feelings for the two as she's always blushing at both of them T_T AHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH. And of course, by the end of the book, we still have no idea who she's inclined to like more.
What saved it from becoming a 1 star was the ending and the plot that was present in the last 15 or so percent. A bit predictable, but it was interesting. There's also no cliffhanger, and it ends nicely in a way there's still room for more content in the future books.
Just fix this nonsense love triangle and add a personality in the heroine please and this could be better....more
Since we're way past the time when Paranormal Romance was the trend, many have deemed it proper to attribute their dystopian books to the one and onlySince we're way past the time when Paranormal Romance was the trend, many have deemed it proper to attribute their dystopian books to the one and only that started this "Dystopian Craze", the Hunger Games. However, when books get compared to this precious book in their blurbs and synopses, I instantly become wary and suspicious, not only because I'm against riding the success of another novel, but also because, more often than not, the excitement that was built would only result to mere and utter disappointment. "For fans of the Hunger Games!" "Like the Hunger Games!" "Similar to the Hunger Games!" I could just drown in the amount of blurbs that had these only to find out later that they were very subpar. I just find it absolutely sad that there are attempts to make a half-assed dystopian book just to ride the bandwagon.
I guess publishers has noticed this, so they decided to put in another great series to the mix to attract readers: Game of Thrones. My friends, if you've watched and read the books, you'll see that GoT is very, very complex. It features an intricate and intriguing web of relationships and scandals that can even shock the hardest of hearts. It features twists and turns that would make a reader cry and throw the books in good frustration.
Relic doesn't even come close. Did it frustrate me? Hell yes, it did.
I am utterly offended how it even dared to say it's for fans of the Hunger Games AND the Game of Thrones when its premise is so ridiculous and simple. I am offended how the blurb said it's a high fantasy when it's nowhere near like it. I'm offended how it promised me a good read when throughout reading it, I was either a.) bored out of my frigging mind; b.) laughing my heart out because of how nonsensical it was.
Okay, first, the premise. It was ridiculous. I understand the need to give something original, but holy mother of god, this is not something I would've considered for any book even if I were high on drugs. So some apocalyptic event happened that killed billions of people on Earth (not explained what it was yet), and a handful of people evacuated to the icelands in the North and found a new settlement called New North. Two hundred years later, the community became more backward than forward with the women doing maidenly, demure roles who can't possibly do hard work as the men, and the men being chivalrous and shit and blah blah blah. There is obvious marginalization and there are even classes where some are deemed higher than the others. Right, I'm expected to believe something like that when their ancestors just came from the world we have today. But alright, for the sake of this book, I'll go along with that.
Then, we find out that this new civilization worships some sort of sacred book that dictates their laws and traditions called The Lex. And their leaders tell the people that the world has ended due to certain evils. What are these evils, you ask? They blame the end of the world on man-made medicine like Tylenol, Advil, Prozacs for ruining the mind; on sodas like Coca-Cola for weakening the bodies; on cards like Visas, MasterCards, American Express for toppling rulers; and on the super tech company Apple... yes... that Apple with a quarter-bitten fruit as a logo. They believed their ancestors worshipped this god, with the tablets like iPads as their altars and shit like that.
Granted, the book explains later on (albeit rather shakily) that things are not what they seem and that there is a huge (gasp) lie, but sweet baby jesus, what the flying fuck is this??!! Sure, I've never seen something like this before, but there's a good reason why it has never been seen before, and it's because it's just beyond ridiculous. Am I supposed to take something like this seriously? When you're making a dystopia, the book has to make sure the premise is believable. You have to make sure that the reader would also think the setting is feasible in the future, and that you instill an internal fear of what is going to happen and what may happen. Tylenol, Advil, Coke, Mastercard, Apple... yeesh, yeah right. Take all of that and forget about wars of conquests, or religious wars, or attempts of making nuclear energy and weapons, just blame it on poor Santa Clause Coke for making us all obese and unhealthy.
The book tried to be serious and different, but it still read like the same formulaic books we've been given throughout the years. There's a hierarchy, some Triad leaders, and of course, there's the competition where the brightest of the generation go against each other in the cold wild to look for relics from the past that would remind the community the role these relics had in the destruction of the world two hundred years past. Eva, the main character, who only had a few months of training compared to the others who have prepared for this all their lives, go against them and all odds, to win for her deceased twin brother. Okay.
Here's the thing. The internal first-person narration of Eva was awful. Absolutely horrible. It was very monotonous and robotic, and very telling than showing. Paragraphs upon paragraphs, pages upon pages, I'd been given descriptions of what the main character was seeing, the description of the surroundings, what she was doing, etc. etc. that her personality, if ever she had one, wasn't shown. She was as bland as a cardboard, and as interesting as watching paint dry. Usually, when we have first person narratives, it should be more personal, more intimate. I should be given a deeper relationship with the character, but because it was so fucking dull, I didn't feel for her and didn't even root for her. I just wanted to get this book over with already. And the times where there were personal thoughts, it would be in the form of questions. ALL THE FREAKING TIME. Question after question after question, giving the impression that she's really deeper than what we think her to be, but I've always found this a cheap tactic.
There would be questions like (non-verbatim):
Is Jasper really who I think he is? Or did he just come up to me to make me believe he was really hurt or was he just spying on me?
What did Eamon mean when he said he must do what he must? Was he going to do something unthinkable?
There were a lot more but I've forgotten most of them. These are just some of the questions that I thought from the top of my head, but probably aren't the questions word-for-word. But, in any case, the deal here is the narration never felt personal to me. It was too formal for my taste. It was dull, it was lifeless, and I skimmed so much that I didn't even miss anything vital. And did I say she had no personality whatsoever? Yeah, that and kept on mentioning her twin brother all the time.
"But I'm stronger now because I have Eamon's strength with me."
"I struggle, but I remember that I have Eamon within me, too."
"This is not just for me, but for Eamon's dream as well."
And seriously though, the competition's supposed to be the hardest thing ever, but she's conveniently winning challenges after challenges without ever finding any real obstacle. As a character, she didn't grow at all. She was monotonous and dull from start to finish, and the scenes that were supposed to be exciting were dragged along by her lifelessness. It was just mind-numbingly boring.
And lol, the entrance of the romance in the end was so anti-climactic. Here we are, talking about lies and scandals and then, "Can you not see my feelings for you?" Dudes and dudettes, have you ever heard of the word "transition"?
Also, what is up with the jargon of words sprinkled all over the book? There were a lot of unfamiliar words placed here and there that I never really understood and never really thoroughly explained, like "upernagdlit", "inuit", "nunassiaq", and "quiasuqaq". DAFUQ, MAN?!
Overall, I'm sorry to say but I cannot recommend this book. You're free to read it for yourself and form your own conclusions, but I, personally, did not enjoy it, and would not wish my family and friends to endure the same torture. Do not let the blurb fool you - aside from the competition theme, it's not similar to the Hunger Games, and it's not even half as close to the Game of Thrones. If you're going to read this book with the expectation of reading something like those series mentioned, you will be sorely disappointed. ...more
Just to let y'all know, I don't read New Adult a lot. There was Easy and a few others I can't recall right now, but it was never a genre that absoluteJust to let y'all know, I don't read New Adult a lot. There was Easy and a few others I can't recall right now, but it was never a genre that absolutely enthralled me. A lot of them are more cliché than the YA dystopias we are getting, and some are downright trashy. It's just not my thing. But that doesn't mean there aren't "gems" out there, because they exist, as Unteachable by Leah Raeder has proven. NA isn't my favorite genre, but this book is making me reconsider.
I don't really know how to describe this book other than it being absolutely raw, intense, and honest. I read this with no high or low expectations, and man, did it hit me like pick-up truck! I have no doubt in my mind right now that was a quality book, and books in this genre should strive to reach its calibre. Yes, folks, Unteachable has set the bar high. If ever the time comes that I'll read another NA book, it better be this excellent or better, lest it will get three stars or less from me.
I love first person narratives. I love how it allows the reader to see the deepest thoughts of the character and make the story feel more personal and genuine. The narrative in this case is one of those rare ones that really does it right. I liked the main character, Maise. She's spunky, feisty, rebellious, and sarcastic. But behind that brave façade is a kind and fragile spirit that seeks those who can and are willing to understand her. Despite the fact that I am nowhere like Maise, I couldn't help but forge a deep relationship with her as I read her thoughts and fears throughout the book. It was like listening to an old friend tell her life story with all the intricacies, or listening to a grandparent recall his childhood with such vibrancy. I loved how the narrative absolutely and perfectly captured each moment in striking and resounding detail without going too far too much.
Let me make it easier for you guys.
If I could compare the narrative to one thing, I'd compare it to Van Gogh's Starry Night
Give it a long look. In it, you feel a sense of melancholy. You sense the painter's sorrow, pain, and pent-up feelings. But even with this knowledge, you can't help but feel awe. You can't help but feel how the sadness makes the painting so beautiful, how the pain makes it bewitching. You are enthralled by it all.
That's how the narrative in Unteachable feels to me and why it's so memorable. The author has woven a tale that's largely sad and painful, but it's so beautiful to read and consume at the same time. The characters grew to me, the story grew to me, and eventually, everything grew to me, that it made me feel a hundred percent immersed in the book.
I also loved the subject matter, as it's so real. Age gaps are something that I don't read often in fiction. The last time I read age gaps being the central conflict in fiction was when I tried to read a Danielle Steel book. It happens often in the real world - younger person falling in love with a significantly older person and vice versa - that I was legitimately wondering why there aren't any more books about this. I was so happy when I found out the relationship here was something like that because I could finally read something I could somehow relate to, since I'm also in such a relationship. It was fun to read, and since I felt very attached to Maise, it felt like seeing a dear friend of mine enacting how it was for me then. I loved how it was portrayed so genuinely and so honestly, how it effectively showcased the possible conflicts that could rise (especially since it was a teacher/student relationship, too), and how it illustrated a healthy bond between two people depends on the efforts of both parties, and not because of factors like age.
Overall, I absolutely loved this book, and am recommending it to those who love New Adult and those who'd like to enter this genre with a good book. There IS a lot of sex in it, though, and thankfully, they were hot, hot, HOT! Honestly the best I've read ;-)
Like post-apocalyptic fiction, I love apocalyptic ones, too. I love reading about the sense of
Wow, this book fucked my mind inside and out.
Like post-apocalyptic fiction, I love apocalyptic ones, too. I love reading about the sense of urgency that goes along with it, that kind of emergency where everyone is scrambling and panicking about an event that would end the world as we know it. I've read a few good ones, but more often than not, a lot of them use the same old formula that a new, refreshing voice in these genres is in order. I think I've found that voice in Jason Vanhee. Oh boy, Engines of the Broken World may not be the best apocalyptic fiction out there, but it's definitely one of the more interesting ones that didn't just give me that feeling of urgency, but that feeling of dread as well.
Merciful and Gospel Truth live in a village far away. Their mother just died, and everything else seem to be dying as well. They only have themselves to turn to, save for a talking squirrel named the Minister, who is one of God's many instruments to guide the people to be good so they go to Heaven, and a Widowed woman named Esmeralda Cally and another woman over the hills named Jenny. They discover a mysterious fog closing in on them, getting nearer and nearer by the day, and find out they may be running out of time before the world completely disappears. The Minister seems to be keeping secrets, the spirit of their mother seems to be haunting the house, they are trapped and don't know what to do.
Usually in apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, religion is there, but it's usually in the form of something evil, like sacrificing people for a made-up god, or it being a sanctuary for those clinging to hope. I don't always mind either way despite being Christian, because it's just part of the story, and I try to keep an open mind as much as possible. But what makes this book so different from others is how the apocalyptic event is very closely tied to religion and makes it work.
It's funny how a book with a God punishing the people for the second time around for their greed and corruption became the most unsettling book for me to ever read. This is the first apocalyptic book that really, really, REALLY gave me a sense of dread of the inevitable end. There is no cop out. There are no aversions to the crisis. The end is coming, and there's nothing to be done to reverse it. I tried to read the book in a neutral point of view, casting aside my Christian reservations, and loved every second and every page of it. It has an absolutely haunting voice, and the narrator, Merciful, is successful in giving me that looming feeling that there's nothing to be done and we can only prepare for the end however we can in the context we're stuck in. Every time she would have flashbacks of the happier times, it gave me a lonely feeling deep in my heart. Every time she'd face the "ghosts" of the house that have their own agendas, I felt a disturbing sense of suspense and I felt scared for her. Every time she'd be confused with who to trust, what choice to follow, my heart would break for her. It really gives you that feeling of bleakness, but this sense of trepidation was so enchanting as well.
I really applaud the author how she was able to nicely tie this with a well-known religion and not make it preachy. I'm Christian, and I admit I may be a bit bias in this aspect, but the religion part in this book showcases more of the spiritual side of it. It reminded me of many of my Theology classes with my Jesuit professors about faith and accepting we can never understand God, and God is just is. Usually, in an apocalyptic event, I see characters cursing their gods and asking them why does this have to happen, why do these people have to die, etc. etc. and while that is shown here as well, there is also that acceptance and welcoming of the end despite being so afraid and scared. I absolutely recommend this, but it is recommended with reservations. I recommend reading the book for what it is even if you're an Atheist, or a follower of another religion, etc., and I guarantee you'll enjoy it as long as you read with an open mind.
Also, that ending. God, that ending. It's still on my mind up to this day and I can't forget about it. I loved how it didn't cop out. I loved how beyond the pages, it scared me, made me feel alone, made me feel insanely claustrophobic. I don't think I can ever be as strong as the main character here. It's so haunting and chilling.
The publisher is going to hate me for this... but yeah.
One of the reasons why I didn't write a review right after I read this book was because I didn'The publisher is going to hate me for this... but yeah.
One of the reasons why I didn't write a review right after I read this book was because I didn't really have anything to say, aside from the fact that it was forgettable. I thought I just needed a wee bit more time before officially submitting my insight, despite the dangers of forgetting it even more with the passing of time. But, hey, I live the dangerous life, so bring it on, yeah? #MedyoBadGirl
So here I am, almost more than a month has passed, and instead of providing criticism or praise, I am typing filler to at least give it a fair amount of character count (like I said, I live the dangerous life...). I search near and wide, even going as far as the deepest pits of my mind for anything... ANYTHING at all... but I still cannot scrounge up anything to say about this book. Aside, of course, from the fact that it was forgettable. But way back in University, I mainly survived by cramming (Cram Culture FTW), as when I am pinched for time is when my creative juices start to really come out and overflow, so let's just pretend I am in that situation (I am really typing filler here... #MedyoBadGirl).
So... let's just say this book is kind of Titanic-ish, but instead of a boat in water, it's a huge vessel soaring in the sky, an innovative technology made possible due to a certain kind of beetle that can somehow make stuff fly. There has been a hijacking, and the protagonists are set to find out who masterminded it and to stop it before... you know... things end up horribly wrong.
Sigh... this was really forgettable. Even that summary is mediocre by my standards. But, I digress.
Anyway, if I find something unforgettable, it usually means I couldn't connect to the story or the characters, and I think that's what happened here. The narration, I felt, didn't leave much room for me to personally sympathize with their plight, although I'll blame the fact the chapters were kind of all over the place. There were three protagonists and it would often jump from one character to the other, with some dedicated to a backstory that happened back in time during the war, which we will later learn has a significant role in the hijacking. To be honest, I am not fond of this kind of writing as I would rather be emotionally invested in one or two characters, instead of having a broader view of many of them (as per the saying "Quality over quantity"). It didn't help that it also felt kind of monotonous, with little to no internal narration (at least from what I remember, because otherwise, I wouldn't have been bored to death).
I thought the plot was kind of confusing, too. When I was reading it, I remember scratching my heads at certain moments that seemed to come out of nowhere... like they were totally random. I definitely feel this would have worked better if it was targeted for teenagers or adults, as children protagonists handling a serious hijacking seems a bit unrealistic and doesn't leave room for a lot of drama and internal conflict.
Would I recommend this book? Although I didn't hate it, I obviously did not like it either, and it wasn't emotionally fulfilling enough for me to remember all the details even right after I finished it. While I wouldn't be running down the street cursing its name and warning people to get away from it, I also certainly wouldn't be busy urging people to get it, either. I wouldn't recommend something I didn't enjoy, lest alone even remember half of it, to my friends and family. :/ Hopefully, my next read of this author's works would be better.
You see, while dystopias, apocalyptic, and science fiction stories are generally my favourite genres, I do
This was a really beautiful read.
You see, while dystopias, apocalyptic, and science fiction stories are generally my favourite genres, I do enjoy a sappy, sad story every once in a while. Reading about situations that force your throat to tighten and your heart to squeeze makes me feel somehow alive. Is it weird that I actually look forward to being a sobbing, snotting mess when it comes to books like this? Maybe, but I always loved that feeling. But This Song Will Save Your Life takes it up a notch higher. Aside the poignant, emotional writing that efficiently the messages it wanted to send across, this book is so good because it's so relatable.
I, for one, never experienced bullying in school or from my peers. When I was in middle school and high school, I had absolutely no idea that was actually going on. Everyone was so nice, everyone had their own group, nobody antagonized the other. At that time, I've always believed that was just something you see in TV shows (I know now that this is not the case, and it makes me sad this is still ever-so rampant). I had groups of friends, but there were times I was also lonely. I never identified myself with one group. I jumped from this to that, back to this again, in hopes that I'd be able to finally find a clique I could truly associate myself with. I may have had a lot of groups to hang out with, but I wasn't really... there. I was in an all-girls school, and seeing how the tomboys (or wannabe tomboys) were the ones who were the most popular, who were the most sought-after, I actually tried to become one. I sported boyish clothes, learned the boyish walk, forced myself to look at cheerleaders and single someone out to be my "crush" (this is really funny now, in hindsight). But that façade was exhausting, and it wasn't who I was, and it was during that time that I felt lonelier than ever.
And this book truly hit the nail on the head when it came to feeling that way. The need to fit in. The need to be liked by others. The need to be acknowledged and identified. And how it would just mean the world to you to be finally accepted. It's kind of hard to express those needs in words, and it amazes how this book seamlessly and effortlessly expressed all of that and more with its voice. It was just so honest and genuine. You can truly feel the loneliness and frustration of the main character from the pages, that I couldn't help but feel sad during the first few parts of the novel. Yeah, it had a few jokes here and there, and there were attempts to lighten up what were heavy scenes, but it was melancholic throughout — raw and intense.
The only problem I had here was Elise's being... judgemental. Yes, she didn't like being judged for her clothes, for her taste in music and whatnot, but she frequently judged others, too. She was absolutely proud that she loves 70-80s music, that she thought people who liked otherwise were less intelligent human beings. I didn't like this side of her, this pretentiousness, and I wished there were less of that. I get it that you loved old bands, but come on, girl, there's no need to be condescending... it makes you look like a hypocrite.
Other than that, this was a fantastic book about growing up and broadening your horizon. Anyone who has ever felt loneliness will easily find themselves relating to Elise's situation and troubles, making it quite a painful (in a good way) and uplifting experience. Elise found herself in music, and perhaps you will also find a piece of yourself in her journey, too.
An ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my thoughts in any way....more
How many times have we seen our dear, precious stories from childhood start that way? How many times h
Once upon a time, in a land far away…
How many times have we seen our dear, precious stories from childhood start that way? How many times have we read about beautiful princesses, tricked by a witch, or a goblin, or other nasty creatures, and eventually saved by the prince and lived a "Happily Ever After"? How many times have we wished for our own fairy tale ending, to have our own prince swoop us up and run off towards the horizon?
I, for one, during my early years, wished for that a lot. I sighed, imagined, daydreamed. I even fantasized about being Ariel and having my very own Prince Eric (call me creepy, but hey! I was young!), about having to live in a big castle with luscious gardens and with servants tending to my wants and needs left and right (this got amplified when I visited some castles in France and Germany. They were absolutely beautiful).
So, what do these have to do with The School for Good and Evil?
Imagine all the things you've seen in fairy tales. The princesses, princes, evil witches, henchmen, sidekicks, talking animals and beanstalks. Take all of that, add a few others more, put them in this book, divide them between good and evil, make competitions who are the best in such and such, in which the highest tier of the groups will become the wealthy, just king/prince and the sorcerers and witches, and the bottom of the can the ponies/mice and cockroaches.
And then what?
THEN MAKE FUN OF THEM!
Ladies and gentlemen, the closest thing in pop culture that I could think this book is similar to is Shrek, not just because of the many fairy tale references (and that the school is responsible for the fairy tale characters becoming who they are), but also because of its subtle mockery of the clichés and stereotypes common in these stories. I, for one, laughed a lot and amused myself greatly.
At the School of Good, we have princesses who think of their beauty and their princes, and we have princes who think of their macho-ness and their princesses. There, they have classes on Animal Communication, Chivalry, Beautification and the like. At the School of Evil, we have the sons and daughters of brutes, witches, and evil sorcerers past, who are ugly, who bask in the negativity of everything, and who would study hard in Uglification, Henchmen Training, Curses and Death Traps for a wart or two (yes, in one of their classes, if you correctly answer something, you get a wart plastered on your face! A wart on the chin would make you fearsome!).
These were all so ridiculous, yet so true in many fairy tale stories we've come to know and love, that I found myself laughing at every chapter. And oh, when the princes appeared, and the knight in shining armour Prince Tedros came out with a "…halo of celestial gold, eye blue as a cloudless sky, skin the color of hot desert sand, he glistened with a noble sheen, as if his blood ran purer than the rest," I imagined this:
(Not that he's really like that, mind you… but with all the mockery going on, I couldn't help it!)
It became even more priceless in the eyes of Agatha and Sophie, two readers not from the magical, fairytale realm, who were kidnapped from the outside world and taken to this very place for reasons unknown. Sophie had wanted this all her life, and like the other princesses, she cared a lot about her beauty, about her prince, about becoming a princess. Agatha, on the other hand, had lived all alone, friendless, at the town cemetery, where she thought of dark things and cheered villains for their quest of power. You'd think Sophie would go to Good, and Agatha to Evil, but it turned out it was the other way around!
I loved Agatha's dry wit and humor. She thought all the princesses were shallow, and was wary of their extreme devotion to handsome, golden boys, make-up kits, and gowns. I couldn't help but find her adorable and endearing, with her snark, sarcasm, and hatred for anything girly. To be honest, even though she may like dark things and whatnot, she was more "Good" than the princesses and princes with their snobby and shallow personalities, and every time she was treated with condescension, I couldn't help but think, "How can these people be Good? If you're really a Good, shouldn't you help others in need?" I was rooting for her from the very beginning, hoping that she'd be able to teach these superficial kids a lesson on how to be a real Good.
Sophie… well… Sophie is Sophie and she is NOT Good at all. I couldn't stand this girl. She went from annoying to downright unbearable to absolutely horrible, but even though that's the case, her character development was one of the best I've ever seen. Her development from bad to worse even overpowered that of Agatha's. You'd probably be asking how I've come to this conclusion when she's the "villain" of the two, but it's true! Sophie's desire to be a princess and have her own prince placed her in a lot of trouble, putting a dent not only in her dream to be with Tedros and be a princess, but also in her friendship with Agatha. I couldn't help but hate this girl so much with her antics, but in the end, if you look at the overall context of the story, it would all make sense, and you don't need to like her in order to appreciate her "growth". One thing is for sure, this girl makes the whole reading experience a hellish ride. She was bad, yes, but she was misguided at the same time, and you'll feel sorry for her for it.
In the end, though, this book is more than just a story about fairy tales and how they came to be. It's a story of love, magic, and ultimately, friendship. A friendship that goes beyond mere looks, that forgives, that helps and listens; a friendship that looks into each other's hearts and understands despite your faults and misconceptions. Sure, Sophie made me see red. Agatha made me want to cry for her. But the ending… wow. The ending was awesome. The rollercoaster ride of intense emotions was well worth it just for that ending.
So, all in all, this book will make you smile, laugh, cry, mad, and will make your heart tight with so many conflicting emotions. I absolutely recommend this to those who'd want an original take on fairy tales and magic, and to those who'd want to read a touching story of friendship.
…they kissed, and they lived happily ever after.
An ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my thoughts in any way. Thanks for copy, HarperCollins!
P.S. The drawings are preeeeeetty! For best results, right click the images and click Open Image in New Tab, so you'll see it in a higher resolution :D
If this book could be summed up in one sentence, it would be this: it's all over the place. I swear, it is. What could have been an interes
If this book could be summed up in one sentence, it would be this: it's all over the place. I swear, it is. What could have been an interesting and intriguing novel turned out to be a mess of many dilemmas and problems, and throughout reading it, I wasn't 100% sure what kind of book it was supposed to be. Mystery? Romance? Psychological? About finding and accepting your sexuality? A bit of this and a bit of that? Truthfully, I don't mind reading a book about various themes, but it just bothered me how none of them was ever developed enough. The characters, the web of stories and intrigue, the dilemmas of the individuals... it tried so hard to incorporate them all that they all turned into one messy slop.
So, there are three main "stories" or points of interests in this book:
1.) Dez's manipulating and blackmailing of Riley's life in an attempt to make her love him. 2.) Riley trying to find her own sexuality. She got dumped by a boy, turned to girls, got turned down again, and is now in an identity crisis. 3.) A local teacher has been murdered, and Riley wants to find out who did it.
Pretty heavy stuff, if you ask me. They're not even substories. It would have been possible, yes — I've seen books that juggled a lot of stuff before and they worked, believe it or not, but this one simply lacked the execution to make it deliver.
POI #1 - The Controlling Madman
I really couldn't appreciate Dez as a character. He's demanding and wants everything to go according to how he wants it to go, making him controlling as heck, to the point of trying to manipulate the events of Riley's life to steer her towards him. I didn't like him... at all. It's a bit weird because the book made him turn out to be nicer than what he really is, as if making us like him despite his flaws, but it was just hard to do... no way am I going to empathize with someone who'd go through so much trouble just to control the life of the girl he supposedly loves.
And seriously, every time he tried to convince her she is straight, that she must be straight, and she couldn't be any other way, my blood boiled. If you truly love her, why are you forcing her like this? It just weirded me out. I know it's part of the story, and he does find the error of his ways later on, but still... he's just unlikeable. It was kind of painful for me to go through his narration how he would do anything to make sure she goes according to his plans... I mean, it would be okay if he was kind of like the anti-hero and he gets serious repercussions for it later on, but no... we're supposed to like him, to feel sorry for him, to cheer him, etc. etc. and IMO he got away easy.
POI #2 - The Identity Crisis
Now this is another part of the story that I think took up a lot of the scenes. Not only is Riley supposedly really pretty and really talented in acting, she's also gay, but after the school finding out about it, she becomes the school's outcast. Her scenes are a bit of her investigating the murder of her teacher, but a lot of it are also her insecurities and conflicted feelings regarding her sexuality. I think this aspect was unique, and not something you see in YA everyday, and while I don't think it was executed excellently, it still did its job of portraying how it is when a person's undergoing an identity crisis. It's just sad that it had to be mixed up with a murder mystery that's not only badly delivered but is also full of plotholes that stitches would prove to be impossible...
POI #3- The Murder Case
This one didn't really make sense to me and why it was there. As other reviewers have stated, it felt like it was really important at the beginning because of how everyone seemed to be suspicious — from the students, to the best friends, to the side characters, to the mayor, etc. etc., making us feel there's a more sinister theme working behind the scenes — and then, it simply vanished when we get to the middle part, only to randomly appear at the end with a "I'm back!" sign. It felt like a filler, to be honest, and the book wouldn't really have turned any differently if this part of the story were gone.
And the plotholes! What happened to the stickers and stuff that were full of numbers for attorneys and the supposedly scandalous things about the mayor that were inside her picture frame? Why was her beloved book in the Devlin's home? And when we do get to the part where we find out who was the killer, it left me feeling... nothing. Very empty. Not even a "Oooh, I didn't see that coming" or a "Ooohh, I totally called that." NO. I just didn't care. Some of them may have been answered, but I was too tired to even be concerned about it...
All in all, it's just a sad thing that this book struggled so many problems altogether, for it totally did that at the expense of execution and delivery. I couldn't really pinpoint what kind of book it was, because it was all over the place. It was a decent read, but it definitely could have been better. Much better.
Final verdict: 2.5 stars
An ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my thoughts in any way....more
This book surprised me a lot. I can't believe how I thoroughly enjoyed this. I'm a little cautious of films, series, or books that are set
This book surprised me a lot. I can't believe how I thoroughly enjoyed this. I'm a little cautious of films, series, or books that are set in a school for rich kids, because, you know, Gossip Girl (which I didn't like very much), but wow! This was a lot of fun.
Prep School Confidential is your usual murder mystery book, except this time you're dealing with really powerful people, and in an environment where everybody has something to hide and where no one's absolutely innocent. Everywhere you go, there are shifty eyes, there are hidden agendas, there are backstories that can blow your mind. I loved how it kept me second-guessing everyone, from thinking "oh, this guy's totally innocent" to "holy shit, I know it's him!" and ultimately to "what the flying fuck is going on?!" And that's not a bad thing, by the way. Bottomline is: this book has a lot of twists, a lot of juicy, sizzling secrets, and a lot of intrigue. It initially looks fun (don't be fooled by that cover!) but it gets darker later on. DON'T TRUST ANYONE.
Even though it was a little predictable, I still thought it managed to hold itself to make it interesting and engaging. I attribute it to its easy writing and voice. It's set in 1st person POV and our narrator is Anne, a young girl from New York who accidentally set her school auditorium on fire and was eventually sent to a rich boarding school in Boston. She's wild, young, and reckless, but when the moment calls for it, she can be so kick-ass. I loved her humor, her wit, her overall personality - she totally carried this novel. Sure, she wasn't that likeable at first... she appeared to be shallow and selfish, but she changes later — from being someone superficial to smart and righteous, willing to stand up and find the truth when everybody else doesn't.
My only complaint is her being wishy-washy. You see, there's a love triangle here, and while I normally don't mind love triangles, it bothered me to no end how she couldn't (or wouldn't) decide which one she likes more. She'd think of Guy A, then wonders about Guy B. She'd blush at Guy A, then feels nauseous with Guy B. I was flabbergasted each time she'd think of these guys in the middle of a murder investigation, how she kept on thinking how cute they were, how attracted she was to both of them, how she felt something for BOTH of them... That really turned me off. Hopefully this will end in the next book and she finally decides who's really for her.
The plot is linear as it's a traditional whodunit book. I just love that there are so many secrets, how the whole thing is a tangled web of lies, deceit, and scandal, that we still have a lot of room for more detective work in the future sequels. It doesn't even end in a cliffhanger! How cool is that?
Overall, I totally recommend this book to those who want to read a fun and dark whodunit mystery in a rich-family setting. The level of intrigue is exponential. I can't wait for Anne to expose everybody's bullshit! Imagine Revenge x Gossip Girl. Something that awesome. With a spunky lead. If that doesn't entice you, I don't know what will!
Final Verdict: 4 / 5 stars
An ARC was given in exchange for a review. This did not influence my thoughts in any way....more
Ladies and gentlemen, I may have just finished
Right now, this is what I'm thinking to myself:
WHY DID I NOT READ THIS SOONER?!?!
Ladies and gentlemen, I may have just finished the best historical fiction I've ever read. Granted, this is not my favorite genre, and to be honest, I have not read a lot about it, but WOW. This book hooked me from beginning to end, with its fast-paced action scenes, adorable characters, intriguing politics, talks of strategies and what have you... it was an A-M-A-Z-I-N-G experience. Period. No other words.
I'm a big fan of Ancient Rome, and I am especially wary of historical fiction books based off it, because it's so easy to screw it up and it's so hard to make it engaging. We mostly have records that don't give a lot of details that could really tell a comprehensive story, but Conn Iggulden amazed me. He has mad writing skills, spectacularly creating a vibrant, genuine Roman atmosphere and brought characters, who I've only read about in history books, to life, making them not just a name, but a person. I swear to the highest heavens, it felt like my history books came to life. It was that immersive, engaging, and atmospheric. I totally felt I was in Rome, seeing the scandal of Julius Caesar's death and assassination and the justice that was served when the Liberatores were executed with my very eyes... etc. etc.
In short, Conn Iggulden gave the stories and records of Ancient Rome justice.
There are so many to love in this book. The characters, for one, were amazing. I love how the author made the people who used to be just mere names and letters to me come to life, easily making me so connected and attached to them. The fact that these individuals are based on real people that breathed the same air and drank the same water milleniums ago just made the impact all the more amazing and personal. I loved Octavian, Maecenas, and Agrippe, and to an extent, I adored Mark Antony as well. They were fantastic characters and I'm sure during their time of living, they were extraordinary people as well. Iggulden really built them up well and made them as genuine as possible, which I really appreciate.
The politics and conspiracies were amazing to read as well. I just loved how governments worked at this particular time, before the Roman Empire and after. There were just so many crazies and so many awesome rulers, with a lot of intrigue and plots behind the scenes. This one did not disappoint in that aspect. Even though we know Julius Caesar was killed due to a plot by the other senators who believed he was becoming too powerful and influential with nothing to check or balance him, I kind of understood their viewpoint, too. Things are not black and white, as everyone's motives were as valid as any. Octavian's, I can understand; Brutus and Cassius and the other liberatores', I can understand as well. I loved how the book gave me a deeper understanding in this angle, to what could have happened from what could have been felt at that time in Rome — making the overall story and context a tad bittersweet.
And the action scenes! My god, they were fantastic! One of my classes when I was still in university was about Ancient Greece and Rome, or pretty much the early European civilizations. For a few weeks, we talked about the military tactics that were used then - the legions, the formations, the signals, how they worked, how soldiers made up for lost/fallen people — and it was just awesome how Iggulden incorporated them here with precision and accuracy (I may be wrong, but it felt accurate to me!). Seriously, reading the book felt like watching a movie about the wars of Ancient Rome. It was so fun to read the action scenes, with the strategies and tactics discussed, the fighting on land and water, all those conflicts... ahhh... pure bliss, I tell you. Pure bliss.
Overall, this was fantastic. I'm really regretting I didn't read my ARC sooner. when I found out this was a series, I had thought I need to read the first four books first, but to be honest, there's no need for that as this can stand on its own. If you're looking for a fantastic retelling of the wars and conflicts and conspiracies of Ancient Rome, get this one ASAP. It's refreshing with a writing style that's engaging and fast-paced, with a moderate amount of details done right that would instantly immerse you in its brutal world of politics and military tactics. And the characters! Don't forget the characters!
There were a lot of reasons why I really wanted to read Starry Nights.
La première raison:The setting is in France. I love France. I studied there for a while, stayed for a bit in Strasbourg, Paris, and Épernay, and spent time with a few foster families. My boyfriend is French. I love their champagne. You get the picture. I'm not the ultimate Francophile, but that country has a special place in my heart. C'est claire?
La deuxième raison: J'adore les arts! I absolutely love art. The time I spent walking inside Musée du Louvre was one of the best 3 hours of my life. Art coming to life sounds pretty awesome, if you ask me, so this book really took the word "excitement" to a whole different level.
Starry Nights therefore had the perfect recipe. I was absolutely ready to devour this book and love every minute and every page, ready for it to give me that precious nostalgia of my time in France - all that art, history, and l'amour... but alas! It was not meant to be. In the end, I only felt disappointment that left an overwhelming bitter taste in my mouth.
First of all, it's set in France. In Paris. Paris, while not exactly my favorite city in the world, is still a magical place that's very distinct from other cities; it has something that sets it apart from others. Be it la tour Eiffel, or the lack of high-rise buildings, or that coffee shop Paul that seems to be everywhere, whatever. The thing is... Paris is different. So why the hell wasn't it described enough? You can't just throw in the picture of Eiffel tower on the cover and expect us to just imagine the place automatically. Throughout the book, I was waiting for the details of the place, but there were almost none. Paris wasn't represented enough, wasn't illustrated enough. I couldn't picture anything. It didn't give the City of Love justice.
Sure, it's not a travel guide. I'm not expecting this book to give me a vivid, bright picture of what Paris looks like, but DUDE. What's the point of putting the characters and the plot in a different setting and not describe it at least in moderate detail, not give enough information with regards to what it looks like? I was expecting this book to take me back there, to give me that French vibe, but honestly, with the way the novel turned out, it felt like it could've taken place anywhere. It threw the names Musée d'Orsay and Musée du Louvre around, but lol, it felt like it could've been any other Museum. It didn't feel special at all.
Like for example, the place Montmartre was thrown. They were supposed to meet some people there, and the only description I've gotten was the fact there was a steep hill with lots of streets. LOL!!! Really? REALLY? I stayed in Montmartre for a few days and I can describe it better than what was given in less than a minute. There's Moulin Rouge, there are at least two metros (there are probably more though), there's like a street full of sex shops, there's a steep hill with a famous restaurant that was in a Hollywood movie once, on top of the hill is Le Sacré Cœur, and there's a sort of bazaar nearby full of artists that would sell their works from €30-€200. And oh, there are a LOT of shady kids waiting by the metro entrances that would ask you to donate money for the blind and would NOT leave you the fuck alone 'til you do so (unless you're stealthy and sneaky).
Anyway, before I get sidetracked, what I mean to say is the setting was very underwhelming. The city, the museums, it didn't give me that magical feeling, not even the feeling of nostalgia, or that feeling we're somewhere different from the usual American town/city, and this aspect therefore turned out very disappointing. It definitely had so much potential, but in the end, it felt like being given a hamburger with no meat (I'm hungry, okay >_<).
One of the things that made this story interesting at first was its paranormal aspect. For Julien, the things or people in the paintings he's surrounded with come alive at night. They go out of their bronze or silver frames and manifest themselves in the flesh, totally giving us that Night at the Museum vibes. Unfortunately, this aspect felt underwhelming. Once again, I'm not expecting an art guide or anything like that, but Paris is the city of art and history. Centuries ago, art thrived here. It lived here. And until now, countless paintings still hang the walls of different museums all around the country, including paintings from the 13th century and those even older than that. You'd think more pieces of art would be featured, even in passing, but it just fell short. This is another reason why Musée d'Orsay and Musée du Louvre felt lacking - not many paintings were presented, at least the paintings that make Musée d'Orsay THE Musée d'Orsay or the Louvre THE Louvre. Get what I mean? Thus, it felt like it was any other museum.
In short, it did not feel French. It did not feel like it was in France. And therefore, I didn't even connect to the characters because everything else felt so inadequate and inefficient. I wish I could care more, care about Julien's powers coming to light and his falling in love with one of the paintings, but I couldn't. I didn't. And besides, insta-love? Really? :/ I never understood this one... you hang out for a couple of hours and you love each other already? Sure, it must have happened in real life several times, but it's often exaggerated in fiction and I can't get its appeal.
There were a lot of things about the plot that bugged me, too. Dude, Musée d'Orsay and Musée du Louvre are really bigshots when it comes to the preservation of artifacts and history. These institutions are well-guarded, and I'm pretty sure there are CCTV cameras all over the place, so how the frack did Julien sneak in and get away with it every night? It must have been explained later, and I may have missed it, but it was still unbelievable how he stayed a little before midnight, touched the paintings, and sneaked out at 2 or 1 o clock in the morning each and every time. Uhh... sure...
It also really bugged me how his best friend easily accepted Julien's "paranormal powers" like they were just talking about the weather. The build-up was lacking, there wasn't enough tension to build excitement... the list could go on and on. And that ending? SUPER CONVENIENT. Ugh, it still pisses me off whenever I think about it. I didn't even feel sad because I kind of knew things would become all right without much trouble, and I felt crushed when my hunch was right.
Perhaps I am not this book's audience. Perhaps it would appeal more to those who are looking for a fluffy, romantic read, those who don't overanalyze and those who don't care for much exposition. If you're that kind of person, you may enjoy this. Despite my complaints, I did think it was a decent story, but it just wasn't for me.
I am still at a loss for words. It's amazing how the stories of fictional characters can push you to look deep within yourself, encouraging you to finI am still at a loss for words. It's amazing how the stories of fictional characters can push you to look deep within yourself, encouraging you to find your own answers to the same questions asked. Very rarely do I feel so connected that my heart bursts with emotions so raw and intense, that my soul feels broken but also warm and complete at the same time. Reading this book was a unique and uplifting experience, and I kind of understand why it had a bidding war for film rights. It's that good, folks. It's that good.
In this book, there's a crisis. The world is encountering a phenomenon never seen before. The dead are returning, unaged, looking as they were when they died, confused and oftentimes treated less than humans. Instead of following one person's story in a line, we get to see other people's lives, too — how they took the news of a deceased loved one coming back to them, what they have felt about it, and what they've learned from it. It shows a web of relationships where one's little story is related to another's, and as a reader, we learn something from each and every one of them. And that, somehow, makes everything a wee bit harder.
We mainly follow the lives of Harold and Lucille Hargrave, whose 8 year old son, Jacob, arrived on their doorstep, their son who 50 years ago drowned at a nearby river. For fifty years, they've lived on without their child. It's been a hard journey, but they survived, and meeting their son again was like fate giving them a chance to remember how it was to enjoy life and its simplest pleasures, to love again, to forgive, and to let go.
Sure, the world-building is a bit sketchy, and there's a bit of plothole in which it was never explained why the Returned came back, but I didn't care. The whole book gives you this feeling where there are just some things that can never be explained, some things that are best left just as they are and appreciated for what they are. That sometimes, we just need a little bit of faith and hope, and find meaning in it. I don't know, but you can say it made me think about things a lot. About my life. About my relationships with other people. It made me philosophize about the meaning of life. After turning the last page, I choked up and felt an urge to go to my family and friends to say I love them and that I'd risk my life for them. Until now, whenever I think about this book, I can't help but feel teary-eyed. The impact was just too great.
I'm not going to say a lot about this one to you guys. You'll have to read it and find your own answers and interpretations; let the magic come to you in its own way. It's very powerful, emotional, and poignant, with stunning prose and real characters whose feelings and hardships are not hard to empathize with. Human nature can be scary, but at times, it can be so beautiful, too. Thank you, Mr. Mott, for writing such a masterpiece. Needless to say, in one way or another, my life was changed.
Let it go, Harold. Love him. Then let him go.
An ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my thoughts in any way.
WARNING: THIS BOOK IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART, FOR THOSE HANGING ON TO THEIR LAST SHREDS OF SANITY, AND FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT TAKE CRAZY
WARNING: THIS BOOK IS NOT FOR THE FAINT OF HEART, FOR THOSE HANGING ON TO THEIR LAST SHREDS OF SANITY, AND FOR THOSE WHO CANNOT TAKE CRAZY PLOT TWISTS. IT'S INSANE, I TELL YOU. INSAAAAANE!
This is what Parasite by Mira Grant made me feel:
* It made me want to go on youtube to look for videos of carnivorous plants. Needless to say, I stumbled upon the weird part of that crazy site again. CANNOT UNSEE WHAT HAS BEEN SEEN. * It made me fucking scared of elongated little buggers who may just have the capability to enter your body and stay there... FOREVER. * It made me want to sit in my little corner and rock myself until the end of time. * It made me want to put protective gear... IN MY SKULL. * It made me want to die now before I feel nature's wrath upon us. * Basically...
This book is both disgusting and fascinating, both disturbing and engaging. I've never read anything by Mira Grant before, but holy hell! I'll surely buy her books from now on! This one was mad crazy good! I mean, sure, I blame the sudden appearance of my fears of parasites/worms/carnivorous plants or whatever thingies on this author, but to be honest, I regret nothing.
Here we have Sal who's had an accident, and thanks to a tapeworm installed inside her body, she finally got the chance to live again. When she woke up from her vegetable state, she remembered nothing - not even her language, the name of her parents, absolutely nada - and had to start at zero. 6 years later, she's finally better and is a contributing member of society. Yeah, she still gets therapy sessions and medical check ups at SymboGen, the institution who helped her live again, and is still guarded by her parents day in and day out, but at least she's living. Then suddenly, people are transforming. There's a sickness going around where people suddenly stop being themselves and become empty, lifeless shells moving about. SCARY EH?!
For the first 40 or so percent, we're left in the dark about almost everything. It was very slow, and it gave us an overview of Sal's life and her relationships with other people. But honestly, I didn't mind it very much because it made me understand what the heroine was going through, and the hardships she was facing. Grant really has this uncanny ability to make these fictional people feel so real and genuine; nothing sounded forced or unnatural at all. You can feel Sal's frustration and insecurities overflowing from the pages, while also sensing the tension escalating all around. There were small scenes here and there, but you can totally feel the eerie atmosphere building up as you put the pieces of the puzzle together.
And then everything went loose after 50%, where you get your answers and some shocking plot twists that I didn't see coming. I swear, at exactly 52%, my jaw dropped to the ground, with my mind going WTF WTF WTF?!?!?! It's that intense and gripping, dude. I have no other words. Sure, there were a lot of scientific terms dropped here and there, and I'm no zoologist, virologist, or heck, I'm not even that good at science, but I still enjoyed reading all about them. DO NOT GOOGLE THE TERMS PLEASE. THIS IS FOR YOUR OWN GOOD!! It becomes incredibly fast-paced, with lots of creepy and heated scenes with the heroine against the "sleepwalkers", against her family, and against the corporation that installed the tapeworm inside her and everyone else. At the last page, I was like this:
Also, there's some good character development here, too, with regards to the heroine. At the beginning, I didn't really like her that much (although I understood her) because she came across as too whiny, and too forceful with her feelings of rebellion against.. well.. everyone else! And the fact that she kept on saying she didn't know what to do, she didn't know what else to do, when the answers were kinda obvious... BUT!! She matures in the end, and I really liked how she stopped whining and finally did something for herself. You go, girl! You need to respect and love yourself more!
All in all, it was a fricking awesome read. I can't wait to read Book 2 and Mira Grant now officially joins the ranks of other authors in my to-watch-for-future-novels list. This book is hauntingly compelling and amazingly creepy. It gives a lot of food for thought when it comes to biotechnology and bioengineering. It sure taught me that not all progress is good progress! I sure hope the sequel is along the way!
Have you ever had dreams where they were so surreal and weird that they didn't make sense at all? Those kind of dreams where the most rando
Have you ever had dreams where they were so surreal and weird that they didn't make sense at all? Those kind of dreams where the most random of things meshed together in a gruesome way, making them visually look like Dali's paintings, except only ten times more bizarre? It's this book. A huge sloppy mess that gave this out-of-the-world feeling, like you're frozen in time and surrounded by distorted faces and deformed objects. I wish I could describe it better, but in a nutshell, this was how All Our Pretty Songs felt like to me.
The story could have been pretty decent, you know? Two girls who are co-dependent on each other, both of them being each other's strengths and weaknesses. They've gone through a lot since they were kids, and have only each other to rely on. The nameless narrator describes herself as a bit tomboyish, and describes Aurora as free-spirited and beautiful. Then a musician named Jack appears, the narrator falls in love with him, making her spend less time with Aurora. Aurora meets a skeleton-looking man who promises her things she can't resist. A dark story of a strong yet also fragile relationship. But of course, there were things that got in the way...
1.) The writing
Here's the thing. I hate walls of text. When I turn a page and I see a lengthy paragraph, I internally groan inside. Huge paragraphs make me sad and grumpy, and they demotivate me from reading any further. They feel boring, read boring, and they make me exhausted. Unless that paragraph is explaining something about the world, I don't want any of it. Nada. Zilch. Unfortunately, this book was full of it. Walls of text after walls of text, and the worst part is? A lot of them have purple prose.
You see, the narrator has this tendency to talk about certain things in metaphors and similes, over and over. Jack would play a song, and she would give dozens of sentences comparing it to the sea, to the moon, to the grass, to the barking of dogs, to a deep internal despair that it's like "an animal is living inside you", on and on and on, back and forth, yada yada yada blah blah blah. IT WAS EXCRUCIATING. Like, I get it. He owned that song. His voice was great. Is it really necessary to continue giving it flowery descriptions that mean the same thing anyway? I didn't see the point. I understand that it was meant to make the prose more poetic, that the narrative of stream consciousness was supposed to make it deep and dream-like, but it was highly annoying and over-the-top. I just rolled my eyes and balled my fists to control my growing annoyance.
Here's an example:
A single note, faint and sweet, travels all the way from the stars to fall lightly to earth, and then another, scattering soft as rain. His music is like nothing I have ever heard. It is like the ocean surging, the wind that blows across the open water, the far call of gulls. It catches at my hair, moves across my skin and into my mouth and under my tongue. I can feel it running all through me. It is open space and mountains, the still dark places of the woods where no human beings have walked for hundreds of years, loamy earth and curtains of green moss hanging from the ancient trees. Salmon swimming against the current, dying as they leave their eggs, birthing another generation to follow the river back to the sea. Red-gold blur of a deer bounding through the woods. Snowmelt in spring, bears lumbering awake as the rivers swell, my own body stirring as though all my life has been a long winter slumbered away and I’m only now coming into the day-lit world. As he plays the party stills. Birds flutter out of the trees to land at his feet and he is haloed in dragonflies and even the moonlight gathers around him as though the sky itself were listening. The music fills every place in my body, surges hot and bright in my chest.
AND THAT'S THE INCOMPLETE PART OKAY. AND THERE ARE MORE OF WHERE THAT CAME FROM.
Honestly, I really appreciate McCarry's way of connecting words and making them sound more beautiful than they are. I don't have that gift, and it's a struggle for me to do the same, but there's a limit where it gets too much too quickly. There's this line where it doesn't give the book justice anymore and only muddles them (coughShatterMecough). In the end, it only made me want to gouge my eyes out. Walls of text + purple prose for me is a bad, bad, BAD idea, and it only makes me feel disoriented. I guess you can say that while I was reading this book,I envisioned it as a Dali painting (which are awesome, but they're bizarre...)
2.) The Paranormal Aspect That Popped Out of Nowhere
Even though there was an abundance of lengthy paragraphs and purple prose, I liked where the first half of the book was going. It totally gave me that contemporary feel of growing up and finally becoming your own person separate from your best friend. The fact that they've been together for so long and then having their own identities seemed like a good story that I was willing to forgive the purple prose and walls of text... but around 60-75%, it became one huge clusterfuck and I found myself shaking my head and wondering if I was reading a new book altogether. Suddenly we have talks of people transforming into beastly creatures, of visiting Hell, of meeting Satan, of draining your souls, etc. etc. and I'm like... WHAT THE FLYING FUCK IS GOING ON?! The transition was horrible. And things were jumbled enough already and the PR aspect just had to make it worse!
I have no idea why this is a trilogy and how this will be continued, but one thing is for sure: I am not continuing. Aside from these two complaints, I found the nameless narrator annoying. She insta-loves this musician dude who's way older than her and gets jealous easily. I mean, I'm all for age gaps and stuff like that, age is just a number after all, but their romance wasn't developed enough in my opinion. The narration had too much flowery descriptions and flashbacks, a lot of them unnecessary and irrelevant, that it was just left out and we're simply expected to accept their relationship as the best thing ever.
But I do appreciate how the narrator realizes later on that the world doesn't revolve around her. I do love how the book gives the message that there are things out there that are larger than us, that our loved ones may love something more than you (like art, music, careers). But that's it, I guess.
Overall, I'm not sure if I'd recommend this book. Sure, it's dark and kind of gritty in a certain sense, but I'm not kidding about the walls of text and purple prose. If you don't like that, I recommend steering clear. Otherwise, feel free to try it out. Many others have given it 4-5 stars, and it may be a hit for you, but it was definitely a miss for me.
A copy was provided in exchange for a review. This did not influence my thoughts in any way....more
Ok, premise-wise, Viral Nation isn't really that original — a virus has struck the world and left a majority of them dead and crippled. One
Ok, premise-wise, Viral Nation isn't really that original — a virus has struck the world and left a majority of them dead and crippled. One day, a cure was found because man has discovered time travel, and the crisis was averted. Now what we have is a thriving community where everyone is at the mercy of a particular corporation as they need their suppressants to go on living. We have a plot where things aren't really what they seem, and there are shadows lurking in the backdrop, eager to have more power, and will stop at nothing to get it. It's not really a new thing; I've read similar themes before. The only difference is some of those were executed better.
I'm really sad about my rating. I enjoyed this book for the first 50-60%. Even though it's not original, I thought the prose and narration were pretty well done. Yeah, some things would need a bit more exposition, but what was there was enough for me to really like it. After that mark, though, things started becoming less fun and dark, and becoming more contrived and absurd. You know the feeling where you think it could've worked out if it only weren't for this and that? Yeah, that's how I feel basically. And there are a lot of questions. A LOT.
Clover, the main character, was pretty cool. I was a bit worried when I found out she was autistic, because something like that could easily be screwed up if you don't build up her character enough and you make her inconsistent, but I think the author wrote her personality and mannerisms well enough for me not to call bullshit. As expected, Clover's extraordinary. She has this ability to memorize and remember everything she's seen. She easily gets panicked and cries out whenever someone touches her. She hums, and rocks herself when she's feeling anxious and about to blow up. I really liked how she didn't let her condition get in the way of her dreams. She can stand on her own and doesn't take bullshit from anybody.
I liked Clover's relationship with her service dog, Mango, and with her older brother, West. Their loyalty and care for each other were very heartwarming. You can really tell from their interactions with each other that they've come from a long way. To be honest, I don't see much well-crafted sibling relationships in Young Adult as good as this one, so that's a plus.
But the romance... wasn't that great. Both of their romances felt forced in order to fit with the plot, and very random. I didn't think it was developed very well. Take Clover and Jude's romance, for instance. Clover went two years into the future, and the older Jude there kissed her. She comes back, she tells him they kissed, and after that they're all lovey-dovey and "I'll protect you!" This led me to think that the romance only happened because she became aware it happens in the future, and in their timeline, I didn't really see any scenes with both of them that could really justify their love for each other, and their having knowledge that it does happen somehow in two years doesn't really count. West and Bridget's romance, on the other hand, was even more contrived. Perhaps because as a character, we don't really get to see Bridget much, so I didn't feel that connected or involved with theirs. But like Clover and Jude's, they didn't have enough scenes that made me feel their love for each other was believable. They spent some time in the sick bay, some time in a ranch, and then "I love you! Be careful!" "I love you, too!" ._. Come on, dudes and dudettes. It's gotta be more real than that.
The world-building needed some work, too. There were a lot of things that weren't really clear with the city they live in. I also really lament the fact the book didn't give us an overview of what happened with the rest of the world. Did only America survive? Did they share the cure with the other countries? How is it outside? It was very limited. The time travel aspect felt underdeveloped, too. So people go to the future, get data from there, come back and make adjustments according to what they found out. I was wondering... if they're so keen in changing the future, why won't they just go back to the past and prevent the virus from happening in the first place? Aside from that, I don't think they used this time travel thing enough. The heroine uses it twice and that's it. I mean, it's obvious that it's such a big deal in this world, so why give it less exposure than it deserves? There's so much potential in the concept, but they only used it for "Oh, what happens to me in the future?" "Am I still alive in the future?" "Oh, this person murders this person in the future!"
Guys, I think you need to get your priorities a little straighter here, yes?
And the band of heroes... ugh. You see, there are some side characters here. And apparently, they have a bigger role in the future (of course). The book tries to portray them as the next heroes, but they only appeared to me like a bunch of clowns. I mean, how am I supposed to believe they'll change the world when they don't even do anything? All they do is sit down, and wait for others to tell them what to do, data that of course comes from *ding ding ding* the future! Like, guys. If you're gonna be heroes, at least do something honorable by yourselves... how you'll become this and that in two years or more is really baffling as y'all act like schoolchildren. There were so many inconsistencies at this part, and that's why after the 60% mark, I started enjoying it less and less.
I think this book still has a lot of potential, and I'm hoping the next instalment will work on that one. Yeah, it went downhill after a while, but I'm not losing hope. Not yet, anyway. I'm still interested enough to know what'll happen next, and I hope the sequel will finally play its cards right.
Final verdict: 3 / 5 stars
An ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my thoughts in any way....more
Just so everyone knows, I love Time Travel stories. This adoration started after I read Jude Deveraux's A Knight in ShiningArmor, where a young woman finds a man from the 1500s transported in her time and she to his later.The idea of changing the future by going back to the past was just excitingly intriguing to me, and I've been on a hunt ever since for books with the same concept and quality. Unfortunately, the ones I've found were very disappointing, and I was beginning to think I wouldn't be able to find a book as good as Deveraux's. Then came All Our Yesterdays. And right now, all I'm thinking is, WHERE HAVE YOU BEEN ALL MY LIFE?!?!
This book is seriously mind-fucking good. I don't even know where to start.
I loved how it has that sense of urgency, that feeling where if we don't read fast enough, we'll run out of time, that everything will end, and our two characters' efforts will be for naught. Into the future, we see the tale unfold in Em's eyes, as she and Finn must go back to the past to make things right, and the only way to make it right is to kill him. This proves to be quite difficult, however, as they find themselves running against time, especially since the sight of their younger, inexperienced selves make the task even harder.
The plot is incredibly fast-paced, and kept me on my toes every single page, my heart pounding, my throat tightening, as I anticipated what was going to come next. I kid you not when I say there was never a dull moment in this book. And you know the best part is? THEY EXPLAINED VERY WELL THE SCIENCE STUFF! We all know the paradoxes that can result from time travel, but it was explained here very well how time is not exactly linear, and that there are forces that avoid such things from happening. So those loopholes that I've found? Poof! Right out of the window. You can really tell the plot and world-building were well thought-out and I absolutely appreciated that, especially since I'm quite cynical.
But the strongest factor of this book is neither the plot nor the world-building. What made All Our Yesterdays spectacular were the characters -Em, Marina, the two Finns, and even James.They were so three-dimensional and well-rounded that I couldn't help but imagine they were real people, and that made me feel so much for them. Em is absolutely kick-ass – she knows what she needs to do and understands the gravity of their situation, but even though her heart has hardened and her resolve like stone, she still has gentleness within her that makes her hesitant into becoming a killer. Many times she had the opportunity to kill the one she had come to kill, a person who was very dear to her in the past, but in these same instances we see her reluctance, her resolve unwavering at the sight of their younger, innocent selves.
And Marina? Even though she did questionable decisions and was whiny, insensitive, and mean sometimes, I got to love her, anyway. She was insecure and badly in love that her actions were merely because in her heart, she believed she was doing the right thing. The intentions were all there, and even though some of what she did were not exactly the best things to do, you know that she's got heart, anyway. It was so heartrending to see this bubbly sixteen year old and then Em, so hardened with the miserable experience she had and what Marina will endure as well if they don't change things. It's the contrast of the before and after that got to me, and made me understand how much the future Marina wanted to protect the younger one as much as she possibly could.
This book also has one of the most bittersweet endings I've ever read. I don't want to spoil it (even though throughout reading it, I've restrained myself greatly from taking a sneak peek of the last page just to see if things will be alright in the end) as it will take the magic away, but it seriously made me tear up. On the outside, it may not really look that powerful, but the context of the whole novel and the understanding we get from the future selves made its impact just so emotional and equally thought-provoking.
Overall, I'm excited for the rest of the world to read this. This novel is more than just a sci-fi thriller. It has values as well, and reminds us that technology is a double-edged sword, and that too much power can even blind people with good-intentions. More importantly, this book also calls everyone to love and respect ourselves more, to be strong and confident, to be humble. This is a stunning debut, and Hyperion hit the nail on the head with this one.
Final Verdict: 4.5 / 5 stars!
An ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange for a review. This did not influence my thoughts in any way....more
A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my thoughts in anRead this and my other reviews at The Social Potato!
A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my thoughts in any way.
Damn, I really don't know what to make of Rush. I have to admit that the blurb and cover made me a tad bit excited; I anticipated this book for months. Before reading, I got The Hunger Games vibes from it, but after I finished the book, I can safely conclude it has more of a Divergent feel than anything else, with its fast-paced and action-packed scenes. But yet, it left me half fulfilled and half... empty. It's not a bad book. In fact, I'd go ahead and say it's better than some published YA sci-fi stuff out there, but like others before me, I liked some parts and vehemently hated many others. Let's wing it again, shall we? Trust me, ramblings will abound.
The plot is actually pretty simple. It's not something that would exercise your mind and leave you wondering about the meaning of life for days on end, but it's successful in a way that it would leave you entertained. It's reasonably paced and full of well-written action scenes that I couldn't get enough of, but it has also left me confused and full of questions. For the first... I dunno, 85% of the book, we're left in the dark with regards to the "Game". So apparently aliens are coming to take over the world, but instead of fighting them head-on, certain teenagers who has met death are chosen to fight them in a sort of parallel dimension/alternate reality. You get points for every kill, penalties for every injury, and if you complete the mission you "respawn" in real life, healed and miraculously unscathed.
As someone who doesn't quickly suspend her disbelief, I found this concept intriguing, but full of loopholes as well, and I was hungry for answers. What? How? WHY?? Quoting from a status update, why do they have to do it when they "die"? Why can't they kill them outright? Why this game? Why are there fucking points every time you kill something if these things aren't even video game enemies but REAL enemies? It doesn't help the fact that every time the main character would ask something that would help her (and us!!!) understand the situation, the people with the information wouldn't offer her any answers. Jackson (or should I say Jackass? Okay, I kid - he came off as a douche but he did soften my heart later) would give her cryptic and one-word responses, teasing the main character, teasing us, and I just found all of that completely unnecessary. I mean, dude! The fuck! Why are you stalling important information?!?!
I mean, seriously. There were times when the withholding of vital info became a tad old and annoying. So, there was this scene where something happened in a facility in Arizona. It was apparently so huge and so fucked-up it left the other team members quite traumatized. Of course, we have to know what happened, right? Why mention it if it isn't important? But when you get the following lines, you just won't help but feel steam coming out of your ears:
"Tell me, it might save my life." "If it isn't like Arizona, there's no reason for you to know." "And it if is like Arizona?" "Then you'll find out soon enough."
Okay. So he won't give her fucking answers either way. DAFUQ!! It was highly frustrating for me to have to follow this set-up. We DO get answers later on, but we'll reaaally have to wait for a while for them to really make any fucking sense. And the explanations? They weren't even worth the wait. You'd think they'd have explosive, gut-wrenching explanations for this and that, but noooo... they were so "random" and "trivial", you'd find yourself asking, "THEN WHY ALL THE FUCKING SECRECY!!!
Aside from that, though, I think the plot was pretty decent. There are still a lot of unanswered questions and loopholes I want explained, but hey! There will still be succeeding books so I hope those get explored.
The heroine, though? It really took me some time to like her. In fact, I only started to like her in the last 10-15%. The rest? I felt like bitch slapping some sense into her. GIRL, SERIOUSLY! She prided herself as having 8 years of kendo under her belt, trained by her grandfather who was a master, but in the first few missions they had, she was as helpless as a newborn babe. I got that she was scared, but there's this thing called common sense, and it seemed like she didn't have it in the first half of the book. She'd be warned not to do this, not to do that, be careful of this and that, but she would go ahead and do all of them anyway D: No, girl, no!
She would oftentimes try to be sarcastic and witty, but they'd always come off as trying hard and sometimes mean and insensitive. According to her, this was because sarcasm's her defense mechanism when she encounters something she doesn't understand, but it only left me rolling my eyes. There was even a point where she also withheld vital information from her teammates, which only seemed to me as hypocritical, especially since she was so flabbergasted with all the secrecy, and here she went, doing the very same thing she hated getting from her peers.
She did get better in the last 30 or so percent, though. When she became assertive and finally pulled her shit together, I became proud of her and really felt she was as strong as she bragged herself to be. The only downside is we have to wait for a while for that to happen, but hey, better than nothing, eh?
I did find the romance quite... weird. I didn't think the blossoming relationship between Jackson and Miki had any real substance and foundation. It seemed to me that they just suddenly liked and *loved* each other out of the blue. I wish there were more developments and instances that would justify their bond with each other. Half of the time they were together, Jackson was being a douche with his cryptic nonanswers. I mean, if I were Miki, I'd be punching the lights out of him T_T It did get a tad sweet later on so that's forgiven. Luka's sudden romance and interest in Carly did strike me as the oddest thing ever, though.. It was like, completely random. As in I found myself asking, "Did I miss something? Why'd he suddenly like her and why are they suddenly flirting??' I hope this gets explored in the later books, though... OR ELSE!! O_O I kid. There's no 'or else'.
AND DAMN YOU CLIFFHANGER
Ok. That's a long-winded review.
* If you're a fan of Divergent and fast-paced, action-packed books, I think this one will be right up your alley. I found such instances highly enjoyable and fun to read, and I was able to visualize them in my mind as if I was playing a movie. * Get this if you want to read a concept that's highly intriguing. The game set-up is pretty fun to read, but you may need to wait for a bit to make sense if you're the questioning type like me. Otherwise, it's all entertaining. * The main character was highly annoying at first. But I approved of her once she grew some balls, so, yeah. If you find yourself being irritated, stick to it; she'll get better.
A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my thoughts in any waRead this and my other reviews at The Social Potato!
A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my thoughts in any way.
Final Verdict: 2.5 / 5
Not really sure how to put my utter disappointment and headache into words. It is not often that I get a migraine from reading a book; those are usually for the really bad ones like Wasteland and even The 5th Wave, although that's a story for another day. I really wanted to love Born of Illusion, especially after reading In the Shadow of Blackbirds, a book that made me interested in early 20th century settings and the mentality and attitude towards the paranormal back then. I was expecting a lot from this one, and although the novelty of magic, spiritualism, and psychic powers in the beginning was very delightful to read at first, it wore off after a while.... and went downhill right after that.
This is not to say this book was bad. I enjoyed it, but unfortunately, the negatives far outweighed the positives. I could only salvage very little from the disaster that happened. Sigh. Let me start off with the good stuff first, shall we?
* Despite the lack of description of the surroundings, the writing somehow gave me that 1920s vibe. I'm guessing it's from the abundance of formality in the dialogue and words exchanged between and among the characters. I really liked how I could picture the place, the faces, the clothes, the grumpiness and the smiles of each and every individual, which is quite surprising given the narration style, which I'll get to later. I probably just have a big imagination, but yeah, the feels were there.
* I also really liked how it showcased the strained relationship between the mother and daughter. I really appreciate it when YA novels at least try to include a parent and their connection to their kids in the storyline, especially since it's so lacking in this demographic nowadays. Anna and her mom's bond isn't perfect - they always misunderstand one another, with the former oftentimes feeling her mother loves her career more than her. I really felt for the heroine whenever she thought she was left out, and valued the development of their relationship as they learned more about each other. Hopefully, there will be more of this in YA books, as I strongly believe moms and dads are still vital factors in a teenager's life.
* Anna, the main character, infuriated the hell out of me, which makes it like adding insult to injury as she was already bland, boring, and as interesting as watching wet paint dry. Seriously. The story was narrated in her 1st-person POV, and the narration was just so dull that when I was reading it, it felt like listening to someone speak in a monotonous, robotic voice. It also didn't help that the sentences were oftentimes a "subject-verb" thing, which, I thought, was tedious to take in. From page 267 of my copy:
I agree. I don't want my mother to hear about it either.
I pace my bedroom after dressing for the day. Mrs. Lindsay is insane. Why do I keep running into her? Could she have been invovled in my abduction?
I have to find out more about that vision. I know it's the key to everything.
I shiver. Owen is taking me to the Metropolitan Museum ofArt tomorrow, but last night's fiasco has cast a pall over everything... I viciously jab a pin into my plack cloche to hold it in place. Cole isn't exactly a barrel of laughs; he's more... I sigh. Wonderful. Cole is more wonderful.
It's probably just me, but the left side of my brain hurt from that.
And oh, did I mention she was very wishy-washy? As in super indecisive? There was a love triangle here, which I felt wasn't really necessary, and it really annoyed me how she was leaning to both of them at different times. Her cheeks would warm every time she sees them, she would swallow every time both of them touch her, and she would always expect a kiss from both... ugh. When she's with love interest A, she would think of love interest B and vice versa, and it drove me insane. The love interests weren't even that interesting, either. One's overly mysterious, which I couldn't really fully understand why, as it led to more harm than good. I mean, yeah, I understand that confidentiality was an issue, but it really irritated me why he didn't want to tell everything to Anna and had to wait nearly at the end for it when we all bloody know well that her knowing was vital and important. I couldn't appreciate the stalling and withholding of important information. The other love interest was such an eager beaver that it was so obvious something wasn't right with him, but the main character didn't even notice until the end... and she was supposed to be really good at reading the emotions of other people! :| Geezus, what a fail.
I also found Anna very stupid and gullible, which was quite ironic because she prided herself as very street-smart. Yeah, right. So she followed this dude in her thirst for knowledge, and she found out he was a freaking fraud. A con man. And he even admitted this. But despite already knowing he was suspicious and dishonest as hell, she still agreed to meet with him, considered his offers to join him, even took his word more than the other honest dude's... which truly baffled me. Girl! You know he's an asshole and a con! Why the fuck would you even want to continue meeting with him?! She made some questionable decisions, too, which I, for the life of me, couldn't understand why. (view spoiler)[There was this scene in the middle of the book where she got kidnapped. Thankfully, she escaped and found help from some shopkeepers. When they asked her what happened, she thought to herself she couldn't tell them she was taken against her will and even tied up. WTF? Her justification: "what can I tell them? That I was taken by unknown people for reasons equally unknown?" T___T UM, YES? HELLO? KNOCK KNOCK? DOES YOUR SKULL HOUSE A BRAIN?? When people get kidnapped in real life, they also don't know why, but that doesn't stop them from reporting and telling others about it, especially when it could help them!! RAWR!!! (hide spoiler)]
* I also found the storyline a bit lacking. It was quite simple, and for a plot that involved psychic powers like seeing the future, reading other people's emotions, and so on and so forth, it didn't quite develop from there. It definitely had potential to go bigger than the usual "Why do I have powers? What do I do with it?" and the greedy villain who aimed to take advantage of it, so I was very disappointed when it ended at that, because I was fairly certain there were so much more possibilities with this kind of premise, especially with the social setting of the 1920s! Oh, well.
* I thought the climax and the ending were too abrupt.The escalation of events starting from the climax up to the ending felt very convenient. I can't really go into details, but it was very anti-climactic. In the end, I didn't care much for the characters.
* Be wary of the main character. It may just be me as a lot of other reviews liked her, but she really got to my nerves. A lot. To the point I had wished I would be manifested inside the book so that I can give her a piece of my mind of how stupid and idiotic she was. * Get this if you want to read a story of a mother and daughter coming into terms together, with psychic powers as a backdrop.
An ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review. This did not alter or influence my thoughts in any way.
Disclaimer: If you haven't read Book 1, be cautious as this review may have some spoilers.
Now that that's done with...
GOOD LORD SWEET BABY JESUS. THIS BOOK WAS SIZZLING, I TELL YOU! SIZZLING GOOD!
Honestly, I'm not coherent right now. My feelings are all over the place and I don't think I'll be able to keep myself from gushing how madafracking awesome this book was and how it made me all cray cray. I'm still going back to certain chapters just to read and experience the heart-pounding and heart-melting scenes again, so full of held-back emotions that are just threatening to overflow. Hell, I'm actually reading those chapters right now and I'm feeling butterflies in my stomach. GUUH. If you thought Burn for Burn was good, dude, you're in for a mad ride with book 2 'cause this instalment was insanely better.
I don't know if y'all are aware of it, but I hate bad boys. I get grouchy like a cat whenever I encounter a handsome but bad/rebellious/arrogant guy in YA fiction and the heroine falls for him. I would always scratch my head and wonder what the hell could she be thinking? But this book... this book made me fall for bad boy, arrogant and cocky jock Reeve... isn't that just weird and astounding?! I hated him in Book 1, hated what he did to Mary and all the sneers and jeers he gave to everyone... I was so happy when he got what he deserved at the end of Burn for Burn because... well... he's a dick. Period. No question about it. But here? Oh my, ooh lala! My heart softened and melted like delicious peanut butter. NO JOKE.
So how did I transform from a Reeve hater to a Reeve fangirl? Let me tell you. Fire with Fire starts where Burn for Burn finished. Everything has pretty much ended for Reeve, but he's determined to get back to the sport he loves so much. Rennie starts hatin' on Lillia, and Lillia is clueless why the former has given her the cold shoulder — to the point of ignoring her mere existence. Kat can't wait to get out of Jar Island but is still conflicted with her feelings for Alex, and Mary still feels what they did to Reeve just wasn't enough. Then we find out Reeve has feelings for Lillia, and the trio has decided to give him the best punishment yet... make him fall in love with Lillia more and then crush his heart after.
To tell you the truth, I wasn't exactly happy with this premise. I didn't think it was as strong as the first one. And really, 518 pages on that alone?! I was wary, definitely. But damn... I need to be more trustful because this book fricking hit the nail on the head! The journey was fantastic! I learned to love Reeve — all his flaws and his strong points — and even rooted for him and Lillia even though I was originally pinning her with Alex. Sure he's a dick, he's an arrogant prick, he's a jock whose life ended after that one night... but (god, kill me now, I can't believe I'm actually saying this) that's all a façade. He's a good guy inside, full of dreams and hopes, and he's kind. He's kind to Rennie, and his somewhat bad boy/conceited asshole behaviour is his way of affection towards his guy friends. And while he and Lillia was developing, I just couldn't help but feel for him and see him in a new light. Sure, at first it was fake to Lillia, but it eventually started to become real for her, too... and our knowledge of that just made their relationship so heartrending.
I was pretty much like this all that time:
(view spoiler)[Reeve and Lillia are making progress and we get to see them liking each other for real.
Me: *squeal* Aww, what a cutie-patootie!
Reeve admits to Lillia he likes her. He really does. But he has been holding it in for Alex's sake. Lillia wants to say yes not because it was part of the plan she and her two friends concocted, but because deep inside she really wants to.
Me: *squeal squeal* *heart going doki doki* Aww, what a cutie-patootie!!
Lillia breaks up with Reeve because when she displayed to everyone they were together, he punked out because they were in front of Rennie. He got Rennie home the night before, promised to come back, but didn't. Lillia was heartbroken especially since she went all out to tell everyone they were together only to be rejected like that. Reeve is sorry, he really is. Everything is just complicated. Even though Lillia doesn't want to, she breaks up with him, because since it's becoming too real, and even though this is a game to Kat and Mary, for her and Reeve, it has gone too far. It's not a game anymore.
Me: *heart pounding* *eyes threatening to cry* Awww, what a sad cutie-patootie!!! :( :( :(
Reeve and Lillia confront each other. They admit to each other they like one another despite a few resistances here and there. They kiss, and Rennie sees it and goes whacko. Rennie tries to ruin Lillia by saying Lillia drugged him last Homecoming. Reeve says he already knew, and it doesn't matter, and if Rennie ruins her again, there'll be hell to pay. They leave and make out, going all out with their held-back desires in his car in the woods.
Me: *squeal squeal squeal squeal* WHAT A FUCKING CUTIE-PATOOTIE!!!!!!! :Q_______
I know, I'm only gushing about the romance. It was the highlight of the book and I think it was really written well. It made me just see the people I didn't like in a different light. But I guess the narration helped in making me feel this strongly, as the book was easy to read with very likeable voices. It's told in three POVs, three different girls, three different personalities, and they all stand out on their own. The book was very hard to put down, and I looked forward to every POV change, to see and witness the story unfold from a different pair of eyes... needless to say, it gave me quite a broader understanding of the situation.
And that ending... OMG, that ending. I think I've spoiled enough (I CAN'T HELP IT, OK?? I LOVED THE ROMANCE!! CAN I HAVE MY OWN REEVE PLEASE?! I'M ASIAN, TOO! >.<) so I won't say it, but goddamn that ending. I can't wait to see what else Han and Vivian have in store for us. Book 3 will be explosive, I tell you.
Do I recommend this? HELL YES. If you haven't read Book 1, get it now, and when September 3 comes, get this, too. Contemporary high school revenge/romance stories just can't get any better than this! <3
“This shit is going to be a TV show?” was the first thing I thought of when I turned the last page of this book.
I was initially interested in 100 by Kass Morgan when I found out it was going to be adapted into a TV show on CW channel (I think. I may have got this wrong, so please correct me if I got it mixed up!). As I have mentioned over and over again in my reviews, Dystopia and Post-Apocalyptic remain as my favourite genres ever, so it's a no-brainer that I really wanted to get this book as soon as it was out. Conspiracies! Suspense! Thrills! I was expecting these all!
Like many others before 100 by Kass Morgan...
It left me disappointed...
It started with a bang. We're introduced to Clarke, imprisoned somewhere in a space settlement, for allegedly doing a heinous crime, a crime which was also related to her parents'. We're informed that in this world, as soon as a prisoner turns 18, he is granted a trial and can either go free or be put to death. Fortunately, Clarke has been chosen as one of the hundred teenage prisoners to be sent to Earth, their previous they left three hundred years ago due to the Cataclysm, an nuclear-something-radiation-something event that crippled their planet. They are to be sent there to find out if the world is still liveable, and if they survive, they will be pardoned of their felonies.
Sounds exciting, right? Yup, I was ecstatic myself. The general plot sounded like something that could attract A LOT of twists and conspiracies!
And then the romance came...
Which pretty much ruined this book for me.
What would you feel if you were stuck in a planet, all by yourself and 99 other strangers (okay, make that 97 because OF COURSE there has to be a love interest and that mandatory best friend), a planet, which, may I remind you, has been labeled toxic due to the immense radiation in the past? You'd think about survival... right? You'd at least TRY to set aside your feelings and think about how you could live for another day, right? Right. Of course. Any rational being would.
Unfortunately, Clarke and the rest of the three characters, which all have their own chapters, by the way (holy shit, four POVs?!), think otherwise. What could have been a really good sci-fi, action, post-apocalyptic dystopia turned into one mushy drama-rama, like those telenovelas from Latin America that my parents used to watch. That means a lot of conflicted feewings, jealousies, love rages, etc. etc. It made me RAGE.
Imagine this: you just crashed into Earth with the other delinquents. You're a boy and you weren't supposed to be in this operation, but you risked your life in order to "protect" the girl you supposedly "love" but hates you because you betrayed her in the past. A lot of people have been killed on impact, a lot are injured, and a lot are dying. But you focus on that one speshul girl and end the chapter with, "I'll make her fall in love with me."
If you're that kind of person, come here and let me punch you please. Many times.
I felt rage each and every chapter as soon as they got to Earth. Sure, there were some fighting over food, over equipment, over medicine, but those were in passing and in the larger scheme of things, were put aside for the romance aspect. The unnecessary, annoying part took a large percentage of the book that it drove me bat-shit insane. See, look here. If I wanted drama, I have other avenues for that (like my life, for instance) and I didn't sign up for it especially when the synopsis is all about Danger! Conspiracies! Survival! It was a constant questioning of WHO KISSED WHO, THEY KISSED WHERE, WHO IMPREGNATED WHO, WHO WAS SEEN EMBRACING WHO, and I'm like... fuck you, boo. Fuck you very much.
Here's a very memorable quote that would make you want to punch a brick wall:
Clarke rose with a groan, her muscles stiff from their hike yesterday. But it was a good kind of pain; she'd walked through a forest that hadn't been seen by a single human being for 300 years. Her stomach squirmed as she thought about another distinction she'd inadvertently earned — the first girl to kiss a boy on Earth since the Cataclysm.
Awesome priorities, by the way. /sarcasm
And because the romance aspect was the number one priority, nothing really happened on Earth in this book. Yeah, like I said, there were some fighting here and there, but generally, all of it were just idle stuff. And when exciting events started to happen, BOOM! CLIFFHANGER! GOTTA BUY THE NEXT BOOK GAIS.
The writing was also very juvenile. I did not like it at all. I found no depth in it, and was very telling than showing. There were four narrators (Clarke, Wells, Bellamy, and Glass) and chapters rotated among them, each one having a present and a past thing, which made the flow of the story absolutely terrible and wonky. I kid you not that it gave me a migraine (I had to skip the last eighty percent because it was at that point that I GAVE ZERO FUCKS ANYMORE), and a lot of the past stuff were nonsensical gibberish that could have been omitted. Because of that, the characters lacked personalities as well. The characters were complete simpletons. Girl offends guy she kissed, he storms away, and she cries about it — all in 2 pages. Next chapter. Guy gets all moody, and both are acting like they had a nasty, drawn-out confrontation when it fucking barely lasted half a page.
Aside from that, they were just flat, annoying, and stupid. Clarke was annoying. She's this holier-than-thou character, making herself the kindest of the group when I found her very self-righteous. Wells, on the other hand, is this dude who threw away everything (EVERYTHIIIING) to follow Clarke. He's borderline, Edward-creepy with his quest to make Clarke fall in love with him again (yes, of course! Because that is SO obviously important!) Of course, like any other typical YA, here comes Bellamy, the survivalist angry/cocky loner whose role also includes the-mandatory-love-triangle! There's also Glass, another girl who managed to escape and get back to their space/moon settlement (how they got there we have no idea), who I found extremely superficial and shallow. Here she is, just escaped from a fate supposedly worse than death, and the first person she goes to is of course... her ex. Who she found is with another girl. DUN DUN DUN DUUUUUN... DRAMA ERRBODY!
Anyway, fuck them.
I see reviews where they are praising the world-building, and I'm left scratching my head because I'm wondering if we even read the same books. World-building? What world-building? Unless you count that single sentence explaining there was a sort of nuclear-ish war 300 years ago and a paragraph of the shady judicial system as world-building, then yeah, okay, fine, but I'd have to disagree. How they even got to space and built their orbiting settlement were never even explained in depth (in fact, I'd wager it was never mentioned at all. YES, GREAT WORLD-BUILDING), making everything just one big blur.
All in all, I hated this book a lot. I read this while I was on a flight back home and I totally regretted it. I could have made my flight memorable if only I chose something better. I mean, I was disappointed in a lot of dystopia/post-apocalyptic books... what would make this any different? Should've known better. I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS. If interested, I really think you're better off watching the show. It may be better than this crap and would probably explain the countless plotholes the novel has. I would imagine some things would be changed.
An ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my tRead this and my other reviews at The Social Potato!
An ARC was provided by the publisher in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my thoughts in any way. Thank you so much, Strange Chemistry!
Disclaimer: This can get quite ranty. And spoiler-y. Read at your own risk
Mother of all migraines. If there's a book that pushed me to become an angry Hulk, it's this. Playing Tyler is definitely one of my biggest disappointments this year, as it was successful in making me rage, stomp the floor in frustration, and put down my kindle because my brain was having its own form of seizures. There are just no coherent ways of expressing my utter hatred for this book.UGH.
First, don't get me wrong. I didn't go into this book expecting to hate it. I'm not the kind who'd willingly punish herself to get a kick out of it. To make things straight, the synopsis of Playing Tyler absolutely captivated me in its web. I have this soft spot for stories that have "game" concepts but eventually turns out to be more than what it is. There's just something so exciting and bewitching about characters being so into something that initially looked innocent, only to feel betrayed later on when they find out about the horrible truth. Such a concept has potential to be an awesome and epic book, but Playing Tyler... did not play its cards well. There were just so many problems that I don't even know where to start.
The blurb is somewhat misleading. It gives us that thriller, fast-paced vibe of uncovering truths and conspiracies within corporates and governments, but the first 60% of the book is like... drama. A long-winded, dragging, soap opera that is just so cringe-worthy that the word "failure" doesn't even cover it. So there's Tyler, a teenage guy with ADHD who's apparently a legend in online games. OK. Fine. I'll go along with that. He gets invited to beta-test this new flight simulation game, and if he plays long enough, he'll be offered a place in an aviation school so he can fly for real. Ok. Fine. I'm still nodding here.
AND THEN... he meets the programmer, who turns out to be Ani, who's - dun dun dun duuuuuuun - also a legend in the online gaming world! And of course, Tyler goes, Ohhhemmmmgeeeeee a guuuuurl gaaaameerrrrrr OMFGHAXORZ!!! And it's not just any gurl-omg-gamer, it's THE gurl gamer, like, she was number 1 until I dethroned her!!!
This book made it seem like guuurrrrrrl gamers are sooooo rare and it's just so utterly unbelievable that they can be as good as guys, and as a gamer myself, I am deeply insulted. But that's not the focus here. It's the pointless drama-rama. So, ok. Upon recognizing the girl, Tyler's eyes immediately goes Ka-ching INSTALOVE! and he transforms into one creepy mofo stalker. NO JOKE. If you thought Edward Cullen was creepy, you haven't seen Tyler yet. He freaking adores and worships the girl, keeps on thinking how she's so cute and so awesome and so cute and so awesome and so so so cute, as if saying it a gazillion times just wasn't enough. I know he has ADHD, but it was just so tiring for me to see him repeat it over and over without commas and periods because authenticity, yo! Anyway. Right. He wanted to ask her out, to date her, to make her his girlfriend, but she made it clear from the very beginning that she doesn't want to. So you know what he does? He texts her. Over and over. He sends her an e-mail every day for WEEKS ON END. Pleading, wanting to know her, wanting to visit her, wanting her to visit him, etc. etc. OMFG. If I were Ani, I'd have run for the hills already!!!
But nooo... not Ani. Of course not. She eventually gives in, they gorge on pizzas, have a kiss outside (with Tyler describing his excitement of that kiss and the fact that he was kissed for a page or two), and they fall in love... and... there goes the first 60% ... -_- (It is at this point I'm internally screaming: "I DID NOT SIGN UP FOR THIS!!!")
But even if the romance part was nonexistent, Tyler as a character was fucking annoying as hell. (view spoiler)[He later finds out that the game is not what it seems to be, and that he's actually harming, killing people in real life. To terminate certain people, he kills tens and hundreds of others. In the beginning, when he still had zilch idea about the truth, he was enjoying all the rush the game had to offer. He kept on commenting how the simulation "felt so real", how the "voices" of the "NPCs" seemed so genuine. He thought to himself how talented the voice actors were for really sounding authentic. But when he realizes the truth after seeing it on TV and after confronting his boss, Rick, he justifies what he was doing, saying he's "good at it" and "he's doing something right for America", all because he doesn't want to believe his best buddy Rick, a shady character who's had military training, is really deceiving him. It was so obvious from the very start that it really annoyed me how the two characters acted all surprised much later when the epiphany bell hit them. I MEAN, HELLO?! A simulation with drones that "seem too real", a project that's not even known by the company, a TV news confirming the death and destruction in Afghanistan that Tyler left the night before... and they act all... GUH. (hide spoiler)] Whatever. Fuck you, Tyler. Fuck you.
Anyway... the prose is easy to read but it can be very very annoying in Tyler's POV. He has ADHD so he narrates with run-ons that are oftentimes lacking commas and periods. For authenticity I guess that works, but I just couldn't deal with it. It bothered me too much and it failed to connect to me. If it's full of I want to kiss her oh my god she's so cute and so pretty and so awesome look at those eyelashes she's really so cute ah I wanna kiss her so bad for half a page, then I'm sorry, it's not going to work with me. Nice try for that, though. Other people could probably appreciate them but count me out.
Why doesn't he care why doesn't he just now I need him why can't he see and now I'm going to fucking die and no one will be here to save him to care when he dies to cry when they put him in the ground and all I ever wanted to do in my life was see him get better and now we're both hit.
At the end of the day, I couldn't deal with Tyler and his endless focus on kisses and his cute girlfriend and their eyelashes that "go on forever" (x_x) and the overall execution of the plot. The pacing was just so off... if we go by content, it was more of a romance than anything else... a romance that was seriously badly developed and weird and disturbing. The real plot could've been good but Tyler and Ani, who has a pretty bland personality, were just too big epic failures I couldn't ignore. I wanted to love this, because that blurb is fucking perfect, but unfortunately, I've found too many problems and thus have to conclude this review by saying this gets nothing more than 1 STAR from me.
An ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my opinion in any way.
So far, the Elemental series has been a pretty meanAn ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my opinion in any way.
So far, the Elemental series has been a pretty meaningful, albeit a bit rocky, ride. We had Storm, a fast-paced introduction to the Merricks brothers who found themselves in danger of being killed by a Guide; Spark, a character-driven book that focused on Gabriel's internal conflicts while also meeting love along the way; and finally, we have newly-releasedSpirit, a novel that featured Hunter who wasn't a Merrick but vital to the overall story all the same. Storm was okay, Spark was better, and Spirit, after deep discernment, was the best instalment of the three. It's not everyday that you find an author who can write teen boys with different personalities and voices as effectively as Brigid Kemmerer. And here I thought I loved Gabriel... but it turns out Hunter stole my heart in the end. If anything, Kemmerer just keeps getting better and better book after book after book.
What I really liked best about Spirit was how Kemmerer successfully integrated a plot full of suspense, intrigue, and drama while making it also significantly character-driven. In the previous books, I never really liked Hunter all that much as his actions were very inconsistent and those only made me suspicious and wary of him, but reading his thoughts and struggles in this book made me sympathize and understand him more. I couldn't help but imagine myself in his shoes and feel angry and frustrated myself. Even though the Merricks had good reason to not completely trust him, I still felt angry and sad at the same time, having many episodes of "Dude! It's not what you think, really!!"I do think he was a believable character and had a very genuine voice that's lacking in this demographic nowadays. His internal conflicts and his evasive nature were effectively written as it evoked strong reactions from me. Given, not all of them were positive for Hunter, but the thing is, I felt connected, and that's the most important.
And surprisingly, the love interest this time around wasn't as annoying as the first two! While I found Kate sometimes questionable, she was overall a good, level-headed heroine. Definitely a fresh air from Becca and Layne who made me want to pull my hair out strand by strand just to numb the anger I felt for them. Despite there being a romance blossoming between the two (as always), it wasn't the central factor of this book... it was more of a background than anything else, and something that moved the storyline that ultimately led to an exploding climax. I really like it when authors make bold moves with their characters. It only shows how great of a writer one is when they're not afraid to take risks AND do it well. But because I read from other reviews about a rather violent "twist" near the ending, it kinda decreased the impact for me as I was expecting SOMETHING VIOLENT to happen (yes, I expected that scene). I definitely think it was over too soon and felt it could've used a little more emotion, a little more angst and narrative. I mean, a scene like that SHOULD summon strong reactions, but Hunter's scene with his grandpa was more powerful and heartbreaking than that one. *shrug*
Now, to the nitpicky stuff...
There were a few things I didn't appreciate in this novel. These are, of course, subjective, and only got some attention from me because I'm nitpicky like that, but I can't deny these things made me scream and rage and insane.
Nitpick #1.) I couldn't stand the insta-love at first. Okay, it was more of insta-attraction, but still. Hunter met Kate and was completely mesmerized, and all the way to class, he only kept on thinking about the smell of cinnamon and apples and the blonde streaks of her hair. I thought Hunter was more... composed than this, know what I mean? When I read that scene, my eyes went a full 360 at least three times.
Nitpick #2.) I really don't know how to explain this coherently, but there's really something about Hunter and Kate's astonishment in certain things that bugged me. I know their situations were similar and stuff and I'm okay with that, but I seriously question the redundancy of some particular "omg, nobody has done that to me before!!" scenes.
Examples (made-up but they could be close to what was in the book...):
Oh, someone listened to me! "I am amazed! No one has ever listened to me before."
Oh, someone apologized to me! "I am surprised! Nobody has ever apologized to me for the longest time!"
Oh, someone did something nice to me! "I am flabbergasted! Someone's nice to me! Nobody's usually that nice to me!"
Over and over and over... It drove me nearly mad.
Nitpick #3.) Around 60%, Hunter and Kate were bantering with each other about something. That's not uncommon. But what got to me was the fact that while Kate was arguing with him, Hunter suddenlyKISSED her to shut her up. Like... wtf. That's not only wrong, but that's also cliché, old, and annoying as fuck. I can't stand this kind of scene; I don't get its appeal at all. Every time I encounter this, it feels like hearing a nail scrap a blackboard. It doesn't help that Kate enjoyed it and what ensued was a make-out session.
*END OF NITPICKS*
Overall, I think this is the strongest book out of the whole series. The straight-forward way of narrating is pretty effective, and successfully puts the feelings of the characters across to the readers. Spirit is definitely better than Spark and Storm combined, and I am only excited to see what else Kemmerer has in store for us. She knows her stuff and she knows how to write a damn good story and male characters. I wouldn't have the books in any other way (okay, maybe the previous heroines could use a bit of tough love - they were annoying!).
Update 1/10/2014: That new cover is absolutely breathtaking.
A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my review in Update 1/10/2014: That new cover is absolutely breathtaking.
A copy was provided in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my review in any way.
To tell y'all honestly, I wasn't expecting much when I read the blurb; in my eyes, it looked like it was another paranormal story where it would center on the romance, which I believe, is a little bit too common nowadays. But color me surprised — this book was actually pretty good! I started reading around 11:30 in the evening, and didn't stop until the sun was already rising at 5:30 — all in one sitting. That was how engrossed I was. Heck, I'll even go ahead and say it now: this book is better than a lot of published ones I've read this year.
I think what really made this book special to me was how it was able to make the plot character-driven, but at the same time fast-paced and full of suspense. I've read a lot of books that have tried to make their books so, and while some of them succeeded and did it nicely, many others just fail in the execution alone, so I was pleasantly delighted that Katie Hayoz incorporated it here effortlessly and beautifully. Kudos to that!
Using a 1st person narrative, the author was able to give us a clear and deep picture of the thoughts of the main character, Sylvie — her fears, frustrations, and insecurities. Every time she was sad about her parents separating, I couldn't help but feel sad for her, too. Every time she felt unconfident of the way she looked whenever she compared herself to her beautiful best friend, Cassie, I couldn't help but want to reach out and comfort her. Every time she was being bullied in her school with hoots of "Psycho", I couldn't help but want to punch something - anything - as if it could somehow make her feel better. I know, it's a bit weird, but the book's effect on me was a big magical. I loved that even though Sylvie was quite the jealous, obsessed, angsty character, it didn't make me feel detached from her (because honestly, emo characters get on my nerves); it actually made me feel for her more. I sympathized with her. I placed myself in her shoes. She did some questionable things, said some harsh words, made half-hearted decisions, but I understood what she she was going through, and the character development that ensued afterwards - her acceptance, her realizing her self worth and the worth of the people around her - became more meaningful and fulfilling. One of the ending scenes was a bit bittersweet, and in some ways, realistic. Not everything has to end absolutely in a positive note given certain circumstances (and consequences), and we all need to realize that. Heck, not everything ends that way, period.
The plot that involved astral projection and out-of-body experiences was also quite original. That is, I actually haven't read something like this before, and I'm glad the first book I read that did have it, it was this, because I think Untethered did it splendidly. I really liked how this activity became very vital to Sylvie's life and to the story, how it became both a sanctuary and also a nightmare. I've actually been trying to experience this for a while now, but I think I'll have to take a few steps back. There are just some things in the world that are better left unknown. Do I believe in other planes and realms? Absolutely. Especially since I've had a lot of paranormal encounters myself (cups floating, waking up in the middle of the night to find a beheaded ghost beside me twitching in a reaaaally weird way...) so I do believe these kind of things are possible, and I'm glad there are authors out there writing PR stuff beyond vampires and werewolves.
All in all, I think this was an excellent read. I do believe Katie Hayoz is a promising writer, and I'll definitely read more from her in the future. There's a lot of character development, a lot of plot, a lot of drama and suspense that will keep you going to the last page. Final verdict: 4 stars...more
To be completely honest, Alienated was a very surprising read. I was expecting hardcore science fiction that was mildly altered to suit young adult tastes with a bit of romance here and there, but it turned out to be the opposite. It's a fluffy read of two students from two different worlds, one from Earth and one from another galaxy hundreds, probably thousands of light years away, as they learn from each other's cultures and endure the widening protest and violence against the two civilization's mingling of each other. So it has a lot of fluff, a lot of politics, and a lot of science fiction. And you know what else?
I LOVED IT!
The plot is actually pretty simple. Aelyx (pronounced A-licks) and two of his friends, Syrine and Eron, are to be sent to Earth in a sort of student exchange, a move that hopes to strengthen the relationship of the two planets. However, the trio has other plans, as they don't want their home to be influenced by the violence and discord human societies have showcased in their history, so they plan to sabotage everything. He later meets Cara, a human with a passionate and gentle heart and a fiery spirit, and she could just be the key to weakening Aelyx's resolve.
It may seem really cliché and worn-out due to the premise being written a hundred times in other novels, but reading this book, you'll find yourself grinning to yourself anyway, because the book's strongest point isn't the plot – it's the development between Cara and Aelyx as they learn more about each other. I swear, I laughed, I cried, and I grinned like a mad lunatic. It was so funny to read the alien guy being wary of human customs, of their food, of their sexual advances, of his OWN sexual reactions (to which he would try to recite the human periodic table afterwards... haha!!)... it felt like a learning experience for me, too. Aelyx was an adorable character, and even though as a reader you know he has other agendas, you kind of understand the reasons why he was willing to do what he planned (and honestly, if I were an alien from outer space, I wouldn't bother with humans, too. We're complicated beings =P).
As much as it was heartwarming, there were heartrending scenes too, in which I couldn't help but tear up a bit. There is a political backdrop here as many people are not keen on having aliens in their midst, and it results to a lot of betrayal and violence, and these take a toll on Cara. My heart swelled and my throat tightened whenever she would put her head up high despite all the bad things happening to her, and even more when Aelyx saw all of these and blamed himself for it. Sigh. If there's anything this book was, it was one hell of a roller coaster ride. I felt so connected to the characters that I could feel the emotions overflowing from the pages. Such a spectacular novel, this one.
All in all, this was a great read, and would be an excellent introduction to the science fiction genre to others out there who are hesitant to try it. It's full of heart and emotions, and a lot of scenes that would make you laugh, cry, and sweat (that making out scene was HOT, BABY!). 2014 will be a great year if all books are of this calibre!...more
An ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my review in any way.
Goodness gracious me. What an amazing, meaningful, tAn ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review. This did not influence my review in any way.
Goodness gracious me. What an amazing, meaningful, thrilling book. Honestly, I expected a lot from Peterfreund, given I really enjoy her writing and storytelling skillz, as well as loved For Darkness Shows the Stars, but oh potatoes!Across a Star-Swept Sea was leagues and leagues better than the first instalment in terms of characters, prose, dialogue, plot, and development! I'm really at a loss for words here, ladies and gentlemen. What a seriously beautiful book.
Let's lay out some facts first: * Is this a sequel to For Darkness Shows the Stars? Yes. * I haven't read the first one yet! Can this stand alone? Yes. * Is it really good? Hell to the YES.
Despite the fact that Peterfreund based this on an already established and famous work entitled The Scarlet Pimpernel, she was still able to give the book a voice and a life that stand on their own, with characters so distinct, dynamic and colourful; with a world so ravaged by an apocalypse long gone yet still lingers on; with a society so dysfunctional, broken, and distant; and with a plot so well-structured, thought out, and written. There is no bias here, folks, it's just good 'ole writing and storytelling.
Here are what I loved:
The characters: The main characters here are just amazing. Here we have Persis Blake, a famous socialite whose Alter Ego is the Wild Poppy, New Pacifica's infamous spy for rescuing aristos being held hostage and tortured by Galateans, and Justen Helo, the grandson of the famous Persistence Helo who found a way to cure the Reduced. We see the story unfold in both their perspectives, while also getting some from the one of the bad guys and from his sister, Remy. Honestly, the changes in POVs really worked because first and foremost, the individuals were all very distinct from one another, and the overall tone transformed each time to match their personalities. There was never a dull moment, and it was a delight to analyze the events from various perspectives. How was this certain instance perceived by Persis? What did Justen feel? How did Vania react? They're all so different that each POV change gave something new to the reader. Even the side characters, too, had unique personalities of their own! Despite having only little exposure, they were a pleasure to read, and I looked forward to scenes that involved them.
The story: The story is fantastic. It's thrilling, there's a sense of purpose and urgency, it's not dragging at all despite the humongous amount of pages. As you all know, I love stories that feature dysfunctional governments, uprisings, dictatorial regimes and tyrant rulers. I'm not sure why, but there's something about standing up to a force greater than you and succeeding not just because of your own strength, but also with the strength of everyone else, that greatly fascinate me. Of course, I already read enough about that from my political science classes, but reading it in fiction is just so much better as we get to immerse ourselves in the lives of the oppressed. That's what happened to me here. The writing was just so genuine and convincing, the escalation and development of events nicely built up that it was so hard to detach myself from the story. There is no joke when I tell you I truly felt for the characters and for the situation, bleak and hopeless it initially looked. If you're looking forward to a good read, get ready for this one, as it will take you to a rocky but fantastic ride!
The romance: The romance here is meaningful and well-developed. Of course, we all know both the hero and the heroine will end up with each other. That's not rocket science. What matters, however, are the trials and tribulations they go through together that give leeway for a relationship to grow, the development, the gradual realization of each other's worth. In this instalment, the lovers had a rocky start, and by the middle, it was still in neutral, gray grounds, but it was during this time that I felt giddy for both of them and for the confusion they felt for each other. Couple this with the political problem/background and the things they had to go through = win.
I seriously can't find a flaw in this book. None. I enjoyed every second and every page. I rarely go to sleep at 5 AM with the roosters in the neighbourhood tok-to-doodle-doo-ing and the first light showing in the sky, but I did with this gem. And guess what? I don't regret it. Peterfreund is a delightful writer and an even more spectacular storyteller, that the lack of sleep was just worth it in the end. If you're looking for a retelling of a classic with a sci-fi, post-apocalyptic feel, then you wouldn't want to miss this one come October.
An ARC of this awesome book was given in exchange for an honest review.
As a long time fan and gamer of the Final Fantasy series by Squaresoft / SquareAn ARC of this awesome book was given in exchange for an honest review.
As a long time fan and gamer of the Final Fantasy series by Squaresoft / Square Enix, I felt very honored and overwhelmed when I was given an ARC of this baby on Netgalley. I've always been fascinated with Yoshitaka Amano's artwork, for the way he draws, colors, and creates individuals, humans and monsters, is simply amazing, unique, and creative. Unfortunately, I've only seen very little of his works, most of them from freebies of the games I bought (conceptualisation of characters, etc.), so this illustration book has somehow rekindled and revived my love for him and the game series I remember being fond of.
And once more, I am simply astounded and amazed of Yoshitaka's gorgeous art and sheer talent for drawing and creating creatures I never would have imagined. And I consider myself having quite the imagination, but his take the cake. Looking at all of them, I remember the many hours and weeks I spent lost in the characters, the stories, and the games overall. The unique way he draws people, from their facial expressions down to the details of their costumes and garments, is impressive. The monsters? Even more so! They are striking, unusual, exotic, just the kind you'd expect from fantasy artists like him!
I seriously recommend this to all FF fans, especially those who played the earlier games and loved them. Buy it, if not for the nostalgia, for the art, because the illustrations themselves justify whatever price tag it gets. Now if only the series redeems itself... I'd gladly ditch all the recent Final Fantasies and lose myself in the classic ones!...more
Man, what a strange, yet meaningful and compelling book. This gave my heart backflips, made my brain shut down, blown my mind to smithereens... as in,Man, what a strange, yet meaningful and compelling book. This gave my heart backflips, made my brain shut down, blown my mind to smithereens... as in, wow. Just wow. I'm not sure this is going to be everybody's cuppa, as the book was written in a way that reaches out to those who are patient enough to get through the initial confusion, the abstraction, and the snail-like pace to truly understand and get the story. But damn, stick to it and you'll find the journey to the end fulfilling yet also so, so heartbreaking. Long after I finished this book, I was still thinking about it — what the ending and the story as a whole really meant, pushing me into a whirlwind of emotions that I just can't describe. There are some books out there that are so good but just leave you utterly speechless. This is one of them.
I won't be talking about the story too much, because as other reviews have said, giving even just a tiny bit risk spoiling the tale in its entirety. The brilliance of this book comes from the understanding and putting together of the small pieces left for us to complete. The magic is scattered throughout the pages, but it's in the explosive yet also subtle ending that you kind of assemble everything together to paint the bigger picture. We follow a troubled teenage boy who believes he may be a wolf. That he may be the one attacking the students who go out late at night. We eventually read somewhat fragmented flashbacks, getting glimpses of his childhood, a stage of his life where everything wasn't what they first seemed. We meet his grandparents, his cousins, his older brother, his younger sister, and his parents. We get to know his story and understand him better - his experiences, his insecurities, his elusiveness. And they are all oh so, so scary and saddening.
What I loved most about this book was how Kuehn really made it work with her hypnotizing writing, because honestly, it's NOT easy to formulate such a painful, traumatic tale, alternating between the past and the present AND making the reader on their toes to the very last page. There really is no definite or linear plot here. If you're looking for a book with dwarves, elves, magic, and what have you, this isn't it, but that doesn't make this book less any surreal and magical in its own way. The author has this ability to really set up the atmosphere right - full of suspense and sadness, full of pain and anger, and yet, full of promise as well. I can't describe it, really. All I can say is she successfully made my heart pound, made me tearducts dry from crying, and made me wonder and feel for and wonder again about the main character. These are things that can only be done when you really talk and connect to your readers through your words.
My first book from Kuehn and she delivered and executed this explosive, enthralling, and heart-rending story with a big bang. I'm definitely a follower from now on....more
An ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review. No money or any form of transaction was exchanged.
You Look Different in Real Life is the prime eAn ARC was provided in exchange for an honest review. No money or any form of transaction was exchanged.
You Look Different in Real Life is the prime example why I do not want to partake in the activities of Facebook anymore, where people post everything about their lives, including the mundane and who-cares stuff, for the entire world to see and scrutinize and for people comme moi to ridicule (just kidding). I do not condone activities where the private and vulnerable moments of people are made public, so when I read this book's synopsis, I truthfully winced.
But like any other bookish individual out there, I'm a sucker for good stories, especially the ones where there are a lot of character development and values to learn from. So, I decided to let myself loose and enjoy the ride for what it was.
And overall, I found the book pretty decent. We're introduced to 5 individuals who've known each other since they were six, as they were the main cast of this documentary where their lives were followed by cameras (which, also, became the most talked about documentary, like, evah). This little project is actually a 4-part project where every 5 years this cast of characters would be featured on film. First when they are six, then when they are eleven, sixteen and ultimately twenty one. They're all teenagers now, at the prime and sweet youth of sixteen and a third movie is in the works, however, it will ultimately prove to be a rocky road as things have changed and the five are not as close anymore. Why and what happened?
The Good Stuff
The side characters. I think they were the most interesting and strongest factor of this novel. There are five, right? Justine, Felix, Nate, Keira, and Rory (Justine is the main character and we see the story unfold in her perspective). All of them are flawed and struggling individuals, having something that happened in their lives that contributed to the rather broken selves they are now. They're all different from one another and amazing in their own way. I loved how I got to know each and every one of them in Justine's eyes, and the metamorphosis they all went through. It's both heartbreaking and heartwarming at the same time as they tried to find closures for their present and past selves that were seen and watched on film. Wonderful characterization!
The romance at the end. I really liked how the book wasn't centered on romance at all, as in, I actually thought there wouldn't be any of it in the first 95% of the book. LOL! Then it appeared at the end, but interestingly enough, it neither irked me nor felt random; in fact, it felt right and in place given the journey and realizations the characters went through in the majority of the book. It made my heart do a bit of backflips, to be honest. It was such a tease, though, because there were only so little of it! :<
I thought the narration was pretty well-done. It's not a plot-driven story, so if you're looking for a fast-paced drama here and a slap with accompanying "HOW COULD YOU DO THAT TO ME" dialogue there, nope, you won't find it. It's very "showing", in which, we are given a clear and bright view of the main character's psyche as well as her opinion and background of the other four. I think it was overall excellent as it did its job of making me engrossed in the story, and also, the author's prose was delightful and musical to read, so, props to that.
The Bad Stuff
Despite having an excellent narration, I disliked the narrator, Justine. Holy crap, not only was she fickle as hell, it also seemed she didn't have any sense of privacy majority of the time. At first, she didn't want to do the movie at all because of, I don't know, issues, and then in the next chapter she wanted to take back her words because apparently, she wanted to piss the directors off or something by coming up with an entirely different appearance. Hum. ¬_¬There were also a lot of vulnerable moments with regards to the other characters, and there were times Justine would simply take out the camera and record it without asking for permission, knowing full well this moment would be caught on film and edited for the viewing pleasure of the whole world. It didn't help that in the first part of the book, she was complaining of how the producers and directors or whoever took advantage of Keira's private moment when she was at her weakest in the first film, and then here she goes, doing the fricking. Same. Thing. What a hypocrite! There were times she felt so insensitive, too. Other characters opened up their sob stories and you know what she said? "Hey, put that on the film! It would make a great inspiration story!" I call bullshit.
The ending chapter felt... how do I say this? In tagalog, we would say, "bitin". I honestly don't know how to expound on that. LOL. It's like it ends, but you feel something is missing and it could have been much more, but it's not exactly "rushed". I think I was supposed to get on to something here, but I don't know what.
So far, it was an interesting read. Not perfect, but not bad, either, and I think I'd recommend it for those who want to read something touching with a lot of character development. It's quite slow, but the slowness fits. Final verdict: 3.5 stars