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Before 2013, zombies were my anathema since before I could remember. I couldn't stand them at all. It wasn't just a casual dislike - I actually vehemeBefore 2013, zombies were my anathema since before I could remember. I couldn't stand them at all. It wasn't just a casual dislike - I actually vehemently hated these undead abominations. Like, what's the point of brain eating monsters when there are interesting monsters? Please note that at that time, my idea of an interesting monster was, sadly, Twilight vampires and that speaks for itself.
However, in early 2013, I got into zombies for the first time - mostly due to copious amounts of The Walking Dead and Jonathan Maberry books. While I'm still not incredibly into the monsters themselves, I've figured out that, for the most part, zombie books make for interesting soap operas and
Now that I've finished boring you with my story, I'll get to the review and hopefully, it'll make sense as to why I started with a stupid story.
Rise Again Below Zero is my first encounter with Ben Tripp and I'm hungry for more. I haven't read the first book of the Rise Again duology but it's really not necessary for one main reason.
Ben Tripp doesn't fall for the same mistake that many authors do in sequels. The relationships between the characters aren't taken for granted, but instead are reinforced and reintroduced in the second novel. Even the characters experience growth throughout the book. This is a fairly rare occurrence in most books and I enjoyed seeing the characters grow.
The relationships were incredibly strong and they played a large part in the book. If you remember the awkward story in the beginning (how could you forget?), I said that I liked the soap opera-ness of zombie books.
I'm less interested in the zombies and more interested in the human interactions. Rise Again Below Zero showcases this aspect of the subgenre incredibly well. Built on relationships, Rise Again Below Zero keeps the reader going because of the fantastically conceived and executed relationships.
In a strange turn of events, I actually really liked Tripp's zombies. From what I can tell, the zombie types were not present in the first book (correct me if I'm wrong) but in this one, they were used very well. While not too strong, the zombie 'classes' were very well done. It was never really overpowering and the focus was still the human characters not the undead ones.
Tripp's main strength is in his character building. Danny is a beautifully flawed character who's actions are not always commendable but understandable and relatable. She's not a delicate flower nor as hard as she'd like other's to believe. I found her incredibly likable.
While the book has a large focus on Danny and her reflections, the secondary characters are incredible in their depth. Rise Again Below Zero is full of genuinely good people, despite their flaws. Tripp was able to create the depth needed for this book and he did it perfectly. He was able to create multi-dimensional characters, instead of making black and white; good and bad archetypes. Good was not completely and utterly pure. Bad was not overly bad or entirely despicable. The 'good' characters had strong flaws but did not let them overcome their inherent goodness.
As heavily character driven book, the plot was not lacking. It could be pretty slow at times, especially during the heavily retrospective sections, but the tension and excitement was perfectly utilized. The circumstances which Danny found herself in were engaging and at times genuinely frightening. The plot twists were brilliant and kept me at the edge of my seat.
Rise Again Below Zero was a fantastic, entertaining read with characters that I felt connected with and genuinely cared for. I recommend it to anyone looking for something other than the average zombie/dystopian book. ...more
Under the Empyrean Sky was a thrilling and exciting ride, full of memorable characters and memorable places. While most definitely not flawless, UnderUnder the Empyrean Sky was a thrilling and exciting ride, full of memorable characters and memorable places. While most definitely not flawless, Under the Empyrean Sky is extremely entertaining and enjoyable.
While the book wasn't especially unique, Wendig used some more commonly used tropes and elaborated on them. There were a few things that just didn't really add up in the book such as the Hunger Games-esque lottery where life couples are chosen. I've never really understood these, and in this book less so. What's the point in the government choosing your partner if it's totally random? Is it to break moral? Is it because they could? Was it the aliens? The world may never know.
(view spoiler)[Also, Cael's father running a secret rebel organization was a bit out there. I like how Cael and his father had a complex relationship, instead of him being absent in the story, but how did Cael's father even have time to run a secret organization? (hide spoiler)]
Cael is an incredibly memorable character with a very defined personality. Though the book is in third person, I mistook it for first on more than one occasion (the POV changes were very jarring). He's not a perfect nor always likable character, but I thought he was written extremely well. His views on women were very close-minded, however.
The secondary characters were, while not nearly as well developed as Cael, also enjoyable and interesting characters. Cael's two best friends were almost too similar to each other for my tastes but I liked them all the same. Pop, Cael's father, was a surprisingly well done character. It's not often that fathers - or parents in general - are given the time of day in YA and I'm always really happy when they are!
Talking about women, Under the Empyrean Sky had a very misogynistic feel to it. Women were portrayed as weak and never mentioned without talking about a man. Women were docile and it often seemed like their only merits were their attractiveness. Attractiveness is a deciding factor on whether a woman is good or bad. Gwennie = attractive = good. Wanda = ugly = bad. Under the Empyrean Sky definitely does not meet the Bechdel expectations.
Wendig's writing was the novel's strength. It was incredibly unique and defined. The colloquial way of writing that Wendig uses is rarely something I like but it fit very well with the themes and characters of Under the Empyrean Sky.
Overall, Under the Empyrean Sky is very enjoyable and fun. While it may annoy a lot of people, I still think it's worth giving a shot. Maybe it'll surprise you!...more
I was more than a bit apprehensive about The Tyrant's Daughter at first. While the synopsis sounded great, numerous warning flags popped up in my headI was more than a bit apprehensive about The Tyrant's Daughter at first. While the synopsis sounded great, numerous warning flags popped up in my head. Not only was the subject matter was hard to pull off, but at the end of the day, J. C. Carleson was still a white, American author - no matter how extensively they'd traveled - and the book was about Muslim royalty. Not to mention my last encounter with YA books concerning Muslim teenagers...
Laila's story is an extraordinary one. After her father was killed in a coup, Laila is relocated to the US along with her brother and mother. The Tyrant's Daughter chronicles Laila's adjustment to American high school life while having to deal with her family - including her brother's irritatingly carefree
J.C. Carleson's biggest strength is in her writing. While it was clean and minimalistic, it conveyed the intensity of the events extraordinarily well. I didn't expect much from The Tyrant's Daughter but Carleson more than delivered.
Laila was an incredibly realistic protagonist. She was far from perfect yet still relatable. Laila was far from likable as a person but I don't think I'd say I disliked her. Despite her haughty self-centred streak, Laila was a genuinely interesting and intriguing character. Her flaws and her strengths were well-developed. I could easily see a real teenager ((view spoiler)[[cough] me [cough] (hide spoiler)]) acting in a similar way as she does.
While I enjoyed the characterizations of Laila's people - her family and the other families from her home, I felt that the American characters were severely lacking and one dimensional. Even Laila's American friends such as Emmy and Ian were missing the spark that the other characters had. I couldn't like either of them because they were just too cardboard for my liking.
The story of The Tyrant's Daughter was engaging and eye-opening. Laila's whole life was turned upside down when she and her family are rushed out of their country. They are forced to exchange a life of decadence and opulence for a dingy little apartment and financial insecurity.
At the end of the day, the book was mainly about Laila trying to come to terms with who and what her father was and how her perfect family wasn't as pretty as she wanted it to be. It's also about Laila's journey of self-discovery. The 'love triangle' (a term I use loosely) was less between two boys and more of an internal strife between two parts of herself.
I appreciated how the Islamic faith was treated. It wasn't villianized or treated as non-feminist as I've seen all over media. While Laila did struggle with trying to find the real her, I appreciated that Carleson didn't totally mess it up.
Laila's story was amazing and I thoroughly enjoyed it. While it wasn't perfect, it was really good and I totally recommend it to people looking for a deeper book than the average YA novel. ...more
I've come to the conclusion that the only place I will truly be happy is in middle grade books. No matter how much I love young adult - and I do - itI've come to the conclusion that the only place I will truly be happy is in middle grade books. No matter how much I love young adult - and I do - it seems like I can only really enjoy middle grade books anymore. Maybe it has something to do with the lack of romance or it could just be because middle grade books have, generally, much stronger characters than young adult.
There are quite a few things that differentiate middle grade from young adult. Obviously there are things like writing style and the censored content but also the characters are very different from what you'd find in a YA book.
YA books are renowned for weak, stereotypical characters. While MG has its archetypes, they're generally a lot more interesting and likable than YA ones. YA girls are often weak, extremely emotional, and useless. The average MG girl is strong, heroic, and capable. While yes, this is an archetype and these characters can lack the depth that YA or Adult characters have, I'd rather, for the most part, read a MG female protagonist than a YA one.
The Mark of the Dragonfly is one of the finest examples of these fantastic MG books. The characters and the plot are absolutely amazing. Piper and Anna are awesome and adorable characters whom I may have given a large part of my heart to.
Piper is a strong, confident character and Anna is a darling little intellectual cutie. The chemistry between the two was all but tangible and I loved seeing them interact and grow together. Piper and Anna weren't incredibly developed characters but I thought they were very well done despite this.
The plot was engaging and drew you in from the first page. The first chapter has the perfect mixture of action, world building, and allure and the rest of the book delivers incredibly well. The twists were incredibly well done and did justice to the interesting mysteries.
On the flip side, the worldbuilding was incredibly lacking. I'm honestly not sure where this is set - whether another world or perhaps a parallel world. It could have even have been Earth, in the future. I'm not sure whether this was intentional or just lazy writing. It could easily be either of them.
The romance was an entirely useless aspect of the book. There was neither chemistry nor need for it in the plot. It wasn't a bad romance per-say, it just felt like it was put in because it could be instead of any other real reasons.
Overall, I really adored The Mark of the Dragonfly. It was incredibly good book with very few flaws. Honestly, the biggest flaw is that it was too short! I recommend this to anyone looking for a break from boring characters and boring plots....more