Showing posts with label two stars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label two stars. Show all posts

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

[Review] Station Eleven - Emily St. John Mandel: Epidemics and the Apocalypse

In STATION ELEVEN, an epidemic outbreak changes the lives of different people forever. 

What intrigued me: I felt like reading some dystopian.

Very Literary

I tried my best with STATION ELEVEN, but we just weren't meant to be. This one of those extremely literary books that you have to have a taste for, and I think I'm just lacking that. 

STATION ELEVEN is written absolutely beautifully with multiple POVS that each unfold the lingering pandemic a little bit more. I was fascinated for a couple chapters, but quickly lost interest when I realized that this is an extremely quiet story. And what can I say - I like my dystopian books to be gritty, fast-paced, and action-filled. STATION ELEVEN is none of these things. It's a story about survival over the years that couldn't be more niche.

If you're looking for classic dystopian lit, this might end up disappointing you just as much as it did me - STATION ELEVEN demands your full attention at all times. So many protagonists, so many details to pay attention to, so many filler chapters. You really have to be invested in the story and the characters. 


It's Not You, It's Me

STATION ELEVEN is one of those epic reads that span decades, have dozens of protagonists, and are more about the world than the characters. Add a couple time jumps in and you know exactly what kind of book this is I personally cannot empathize this for the life of me. This is very much a hard case of It's Not You, It's Me syndrome. It's undoubtedly a skillfully and beautifully written book that just oozes talent and magnificent prose, but for me personally none of this matters when I find the story unengaging. Again, this is a by no means an objective judgment of the quality of this book, this is just me having peculiar taste.

Ultimately I think the thing that just made this unenjoyable for me is that STATION ELEVEN is more about the journey and the story as a whole than what is happening in the moment. Everything comes together in the big picture - but this technique personally never works for me because I'll lose interest on the way if the journey isn't filled with plot twists and secrets and adventure.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

STATION ELEVEN is a little too literary for me and absolutely not my cup of tea. I expected a regular dystopian story, but got an epic decade-spanning saga. You have to be in the mood for these kinds of books.



Additional Info


Published: September 14th 2015
Pages: 416
Publisher: piper
Genre: Adult / Dystopian
ISBN: 9783492060226

Synopsis:
"One snowy night Arthur Leander, a famous actor, has a heart attack onstage during a production of King Lear. Jeevan Chaudhary, a paparazzo-turned-EMT, is in the audience and leaps to his aid. A child actress named Kirsten Raymonde watches in horror as Jeevan performs CPR, pumping Arthur's chest as the curtain drops, but Arthur is dead. That same night, as Jeevan walks home from the theater, a terrible flu begins to spread. Hospitals are flooded and Jeevan and his brother barricade themselves inside an apartment, watching out the window as cars clog the highways, gunshots ring out, and life disintegrates around them.

Twenty years later, Kirsten is an actress with the Traveling Symphony. Together, this small troupe moves between the settlements of an altered world, performing Shakespeare and music for scattered communities of survivors. Written on their caravan, and tattooed on Kirsten's arm is a line from Star Trek: "Because survival is insufficient." But when they arrive in St. Deborah by the Water, they encounter a violent prophet who digs graves for anyone who dares to leave."
(Source: Goodreads)



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Friday, December 23, 2016

[Review] Fire of the Sea - Lyndsay Johnson: Mermaids and Magic Jewelry






In FIRE OF THE SEA, mermaid Aeva falls in love with a human and has to battle her evil nemesis again.

What intrigued me: I haven't read a decent mermaid book in ages!

Less telling, more showing please!

I had high hopes for FIRE OF THE SEA. Being advertised as a mermaid story mixed with Norse mythology, I was absolutely intrigued.

The world building is truly very extensive and well-thought out, but this novel severely lacks in execution and structure. Especially the beginning, 8-year-old Aeva fighting against the evil enemy of their kingdom and winning, doesn't even tell us much about what this story is going to be about. In general FIRE OF THE SEA very much feels like a sequel to a much more interesting book. 

FIRE OF THE SEA awkwardly flip-flops between character introductions and narration and I really have to admit that the first 50 pages of this were very boring and difficult to read. Johnson doesn't quite manage to put this undoubtedly very intricate world into words, mostly because nothing really is explained much. The reader almost completely has to rely on what they think they know about mermaids and then just awkwardly try to create an image of this world on their own.


Weak World Building

FIRE OF THE SEA really could have used less telling and more showing, and also fewer characters. I truly couldn't disinguish all the people from another and in the end it sort of reads like everyone has the same personality.

Aeva's magic armlet plays a huge role in FIRE OF THE SEA and honestly, it tired me so much. It's like a Deus Ex Machina permanently attached to her arm. It knows all answers, it has emotions and can communicate with her, and of course it can also defeat any and every enemy. This again ties in with the biggest problem of this book - the lack of world building. So many things in FIRE OF THE SEA would've made for fantastically unique story elements, even the Deus Ex Machine bracelet, if they were just explored and explained better and with more care. 


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

FIRE OF THE SEA was a disappointment because of the lack of world building. I just wasn't swept up into this world as I hoped and simply didn't care much for Aeva and her story.



Additional Info


Published: March 24th 2014
Pages: 424
Publisher: 48Fourteen
Genre: YA / Mythology / Norse Mythology
ASIN: B00JCZQUGM

Synopsis:
"Sharp, sleek, and golden. Like the dagger she has worn since childhood, eighteen-year-old Aeva is all three of these things. But there is something else that this mermaid and her prized weapon share – they are both hunted.

Hidden within the caves off Iceland’s dark shore, Aeva waits to take her place as the next ruler of the Mermaids. But when Aeva uses her potent and alluring song to save a drowning human, she disrupts a delicate balance. Realizing she has unexpectedly bound herself to Gunnar, Aeva is torn between duty and love.

Aeva severs one life to begin another, and soon finds herself not only rejected by the sea, but also stalked by an old enemy. As the worlds of myth and man intertwine, Aeva will challenge fate to protect her own sacred relic and the man she loves.

But legend and lies cast an intricate net. With time and safety quickly unraveling for Aeva and Gunnar, there is only one clear course: Find and defeat Delphine before she can shift again."(Source: Goodreads)



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Saturday, December 17, 2016

[Review] I'll Give You the Sun - Jandy Nelson: Twins and Grief

In I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN twins Noah and Jude tell the story of their lives before and after their mother's death.

What intrigued me: I felt like reading some contemporary.

Feels more magical than Contemporary

The biggest problem I had with I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN starts right in the beginning. It's the prose. Nelson has an overly ambitious super flowery writing style that is filled with metaphors so creative that I struggled to understand whether things were literally happening or simply metaphors. It's that apparent. I was a little disappointed to realize that this isn't a Magical Realism novel but a straight up Contemporary that just overdosed on the metaphors. With this writing style Nelson certainly would be able to pull of a magnificent book with magical elements, but I digress.

The main problem I had with I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN is the concept. One POV follows thirteen year-old Noah, a gay teen that's struggling with his sexuality and wanting to get into art school. First of all - his voice is way too young for YA. Would this be a Middle Grade Contemporary it would've been way easier to stomach, but combined with having the extremely long chapters alternate between 16-year-old Jude three years later and him, it's just too much of a stretch for my taste. 

POVs don't fit together

I also think that beyond this concept, I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN doesn't have premise or even just a plot. Nothing of importance happens and Nelson very heavily relies on her flowery writing to carry the almost train-of-thought-esque narration. I just couldn't be bothered, the fact that I really disliked Noah's extremely young voice in combination with Jude's that feels more like traditional YA, it threw me off a lot and made reading this equal a chore. I hated Noah's chapters so much that I found myself skimming through them sometimes just to get to Jude. 

I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN would've been so much better as a duology with aged up characters. Had Noah been a little older, only a year or two, and had he gotten his own book this could've been epic. Considering the length of I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN I just couldn't be bothered to stay enthusiastic throughout the whole thing because there is nothing in this book that warrants the length. It severely lacks in plot and therefore just fell absolutely flat for me, despite being the work of an exceptionally talented writer.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

I'LL GIVE YOU THE SUN is a classic it's not you, it's me novel. I really disliked everything about it, but is hardly an objective judgment of the style and writing. Nelson is a talented writer, but her style just isn't for me.



Additional Info

Published: 21st November 2016
Pages: 480
Publisher: cbt
Genre: YA / Contemporary
ISBN: 978-3-570-16459-4

Synopsis:
"Jude and her twin brother, Noah, are incredibly close. At thirteen, isolated Noah draws constantly and is falling in love with the charismatic boy next door, while daredevil Jude cliff-dives and wears red-red lipstick and does the talking for both of them. But three years later, Jude and Noah are barely speaking. Something has happened to wreck the twins in different and dramatic ways . . until Jude meets a cocky, broken, beautiful boy, as well as someone else—an even more unpredictable new force in her life. The early years are Noah's story to tell. The later years are Jude's. What the twins don't realize is that they each have only half the story, and if they could just find their way back to one another, they’d have a chance to remake their world."
(Source: Goodreads)



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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

[Review] Modern Romance - Aziz Ansari: Digital Age and Dating

In MODERN ROMANCE Comedian Aziz Ansari explores the peculiarities of dating in the age of technology.

What intrigued me: I was in the mood for some Non-Fiction.

More academic than funny

MODERN ROMANCE reads more like a sociological study than a humorous little book peaking fun at dating habits in the 2010s. Undeniably a lot of work went into this as most chapters contain the outcomes of multiple surveys and interviews with people from different age groups. While that is quite the interesting premise, I feel like MODERN ROMANCE would have benefitted more from mixing humor with anecdotes exlusively. Aziz is incredibly funny and MODERN ROMANCE just doesn't embrace that.

Knowing Ansari's stand-up I was hoping for basically a novelized version of one of his performances. Lots of stories, lots of fun things to laugh about. This absolutely isn't what MODERN ROMANCE is, it's an academic study in my opinion that doesn't quite committ. 

Decent Bedside Table Read

It's half anecdotes half academic text and this is just not a flattering combination. I ended up skimming many passages simply because I wasn't interested. It truly does read like a lecture, which isn't surprising since this book has been co-written with a sociology professor. 

Initially MODERN ROMANCE lures you in with pretending to focus primarly on the digital age- which is why I picked it up - but essentially it compares generations. I'm not quite sure what MODERN ROMANCE is trying to do, it certainly doesn't deliver any new revelations that you didn't know if you grew up in the last 20th century. Ultimately I do think aside from a bedside table read that you can skim through whenever you're feeling like you need a light distraction, it's probably just a pick for people who really love Aziz Ansari.


Rating:

★★½

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

MODERN ROMANCE is a well-researched book and has its fun moments, but ultimately wasn't quite what I expected and disappointed me through being more academic than funny. If you don't mind that, MODERN ROMANCE still makes for a nice bedside table read.



Additional Info

Published: 19th September 2016
Pages: 352
Publisher: Goldmann
Genre: Adult / Non-Fiction / Sociology
ISBN: 978-3-442-17619-9

Synopsis:
"At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love. We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection. This seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago. Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. With technology, our abilities to connect with and sort through these options are staggering. So why are so many people frustrated?

Some of our problems are unique to our time. “Why did this guy just text me an emoji of a pizza?” “Should I go out with this girl even though she listed Combos as one of her favorite snack foods? Combos?!” “My girlfriend just got a message from some dude named Nathan. Who’s Nathan? Did he just send her a photo of his penis? Should I check just to be sure?” 

But the transformation of our romantic lives can’t be explained by technology alone. In a short period of time, the whole culture of finding love has changed dramatically. A few decades ago, people would find a decent person who lived in their neighborhood. Their families would meet and, after deciding neither party seemed like a murderer, they would get married and soon have a kid, all by the time they were twenty-four. Today, people marry later than ever and spend years of their lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soul mate.

For years, Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at modern romance, but for Modern Romance, the book, he decided he needed to take things to another level. He teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Wichita. They analyzed behavioral data and surveys and created their own online research forum on Reddit, which drew thousands of messages. They enlisted the world’s leading social scientists, including Andrew Cherlin, Eli Finkel, Helen Fisher, Sheena Iyengar, Barry Schwartz, Sherry Turkle, and Robb Willer. The result is unlike any social science or humor book we’ve seen before."(Source: Goodreads)


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Saturday, October 15, 2016

[Review] Rebel of the Sands - Alwyn Hamilton: Middle Eastern Fantasy, Guns, and Djinn

In REBEL OF THE SANDS, Amani wants to escape her abusive family by leaving town and ends up having to team up with a fugitive.

What intrigued me: Mostly recommendations from friends.

Very Unique and Hard to Get Into

REBEL OF THE SANDS has a beautifully unique setting that's somewhere between a Middle Eastern and a classic Western town. Surprisingly, the mashup isn't as strange as you'd expect. There's shooting, djinns, other malevolent creatures and magic. It's certainly something that I have never seen before in YA and therefore definitely gets the full score if we're talking originality. Though I do think that REBEL OF THE SANDS plays into stereotypes too much and does very little to help you familiarize yourself with the world. 

I love that Hamilton drew inspiration from Middle Eastern culture, but I really would've wished for her to make it easier for the average reader to truly understand the culture. Similar to the criticism I had for THE WRATH AND THE DAWN, which also features a Persian-inspired world, I would've been over the moon happy if there was a glossary included. So many words of Arab origin that you'd never understand or recognize unless you're googling what it means, little nods to clothing and culture and food, that you'd have no way of understanding. 

I think especially when you're not including a Western setting, considering that this is a book first published in the US in English, you have to consider that that will frustrate readers. It did frustrate me and take away from the narration because I was constantly looking up words and absolutely couldn't get truly immersed into the world.

Gimmicky and Lacking in Execution

Ultimately it's a mixture of the lackluster storytelling that just didn't get to the point, and the confusing world building that really didn't make REBEL OF THE SANDS match my taste. Hamilton merrily uses lots of info-dumps at the most inconvenient times that made me want to skim, skip, or even quit altogether. I never quite grew invested in the story, all about it felt gimmicky to me and kind of unbelievable. 

REBEL OF THE SANDS tries to be a western with paranormal elements, but also a classic high fantasy novel and the genre-mashup just doesn't work. I found it lengthy and boring and the writing too bulky and awkward to pull all of it off. At the core there is just no story to tell. REBEL OF THE SANDS purely relies on the world building (which is pretty much summed up by "there are monsters in the desert"), and that just doesn't work. While the setting is interesting, I think this lacks severely in execution and storytelling and I wish there was more to it all aside from the unique setting. 


Rating:

★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?


REBEL OF THE SANDS tries to bring a new perspective and breath of fresh air into the genre, but doesn't quite deliver. If you generally enjoy Westerns, you still might enjoy this. But don't expect this to be the first Western to get you into the genre.

Important: It has come to my attention that Hamilton's portrayal of Middle Eastern culture is a little offensive. Please read the review by my blogger friend Aimal, she's Pakistani Muslim and makes some valid points that you should take into consideration.



Additional Info

Published: August 22nd 106
Pages: 352
Publisher: cbt
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9783570164365

Synopsis:
"She’s more gunpowder than girl—and the fate of the desert lies in her hands.

Mortals rule the desert nation of Miraji, but mystical beasts still roam the wild and barren wastes, and rumor has it that somewhere, djinni still practice their magic. But there's nothing mystical or magical about Dustwalk, the dead-end town that Amani can't wait to escape from. 

Destined to wind up "wed or dead," Amani’s counting on her sharpshooting skills to get her out of Dustwalk. When she meets Jin, a mysterious and devastatingly handsome foreigner, in a shooting contest, she figures he’s the perfect escape route. But in all her years spent dreaming of leaving home, she never imagined she'd gallop away on a mythical horse, fleeing the murderous Sultan's army, with a fugitive who's wanted for treason. And she'd never have predicted she'd fall in love with him... or that he'd help her unlock the powerful truth of who she really is." (Source: Goodreads)


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Wednesday, October 12, 2016

[Review] Daughter of Smoke & Bone (#1) - Laini Taylor: Chimeras and Wish-Granting


In DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE, Karou who was raised by wish-granting chimeras yet knows nothing of their world, is cast into the human world after angels destroy the portals she uses to visit her family.

What intrigued me: Honestly? The hype about Taylor's writing. I didn't even know what this is about when I started it.

Promising

DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE starts off with a lot of world-establishing backstory that I really would rather have skimmed. The awkward part is, the side characters that are used to establish the world aren't really that important after all and could have as well just have been omitted.

The real story and actual premise with the angel attack only starts about a hundred pages in (!!). In consequence, the book is structure-wise all over the place. While I do found the world very intriguing and absolutely longed for any and every explanation that clarifies the demon/chimera mythology, the book does its best not to do that, but play into clich├ęs instead.

...but everything goes wrong

The novel is divided into two parts: one being the introductory storyline, following Karou around and learning more about her family - fabulously developed world, super interesting concepts that are SO unique that I'm in awe. It's witty, it's charming, it's fun, it had all the ingredients for a five-star-read.

The second part though, is a cheesy, rushed and unnecessary instant love romance with a character that doesn't even talk to Karou until about 65% into the book, and that truly ruins the story. Not even the plot twist (that you could see from a mile away!), redeemed this book for me. I didn't enjoy anything involving the angel Akiva and felt utterly confused and thrown out of the story whenever he suddenly got his own point of view chapter for seemingly no reason.

To me, he absolutely destroyed this wonderful book. I don't have a problem with adding romance to this story per se, but his introduction is just way too late and his only attribute is his beauty. I don't understand why he was even in this, if Taylor wanted a love interest, I would have absolutely enjoyed seeing the hilariously cocky ex-boyfriend Kaz with Karou. It would have certainly made more sense, but like this I feel like his character is just a set up for the inevitable love triangle in the sequels.

I honestly don't know what happened here, the book absolutely changes directions half-way in and makes all the mistakes you can make to the point that this doesn't even feel like it's the same person writing the story anymore.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE could have been epic. Its concept reminds me a lot of INKHEART, similarly bubbling with new ideas that I haven't seen in any other novel before, creating a rich and imaginative world. The romance, however, absolutely ruined this, causing DAUGHTER OF SMOKE & BONE to be nothing but yet another urban fantasy read with a sappy instant-love romance and an unsympathetic melodramatic pretty-boy love interest.



Additional Info

Published: September 27th 2011
Pages:  418
Publisher: Little Brown Books
Genre: YA / Urban Fantasy
ISBN: 9780316134026

Synopsis:
"Around the world, black hand prints are appearing on doorways, scorched there by winged strangers who have crept through a slit in the sky.

In a dark and dusty shop, a devil’s supply of human teeth grows dangerously low.

And in the tangled lanes of Prague, a young art student is about to be caught up in a brutal otherworldly war.

Meet Karou. She fills her sketchbooks with monsters that may or may not be real, she’s prone to disappearing on mysterious "errands", she speaks many languages - not all of them human - and her bright blue hair actually grows out of her head that color. Who is she? That is the question that haunts her, and she’s about to find out.

When beautiful, haunted Akiva fixes fiery eyes on her in an alley in Marrakesh, the result is blood and starlight, secrets unveiled, and a star-crossed love whose roots drink deep of a violent past. But will Karou live to regret learning the truth about herself?"(Source: Goodreads)



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Monday, August 29, 2016

[Review] Truthwitch (The Witchlands #1) - Susan Dennard: Magic and Persecution

In TRUTHWITCH, Safi has the ability to see truth and lies through magic and is in big trouble when people realize what she can do.

What intrigued me: I've been in the mood for some witches.

Magic for the Sake of It

TRUTHWITCH immediately sucked me in through the marvellous writing. Dennard uses one of my favorite ways to start a story - jumping right into the scene and leaving the reader trying to find out what's going on. I was absolutely infatuated with the idea of these two havoc-wreaking girls who also happen to be witches, but after a few dozen pages quickly realized that there is one thing missing:

TRUTHWITCH heavily relies on it's massive foreign-yet-familiar world that's somehow reminiscent of Funke's spellbinding Inkworld trilogy. But where the Inkworld is cohesive and strucutred, TRUTHWITCH absolutely doesn't explain anything. Dennard chooses to introduce us to its world by simply mentioning words. Bloodwitches, Truthwitches, magic ropes. Everything is magic somehow but beyond the name of said magical object or person we aren't learning anything about the world. It's blatanlty obvious that this world building may be extensive but isn't well-thought out. Especially with the inciting incident: Truthwitch Safi is chased by a Bloodwitch all of a sudden. What's a Bloodwitch? Why is he immortal/invincible? What did they do? Why are they being chased??

This stands representative for the entire experience you'll have reading this. Zero explanations. Zero structure and logic, despite a giant world that you'll want to desperately know more about.

...everything else? Top notch.

At the core, TRUTHWITCH is so very well-written involving the most fantastic friendship between the leading girls Safi and Iseult and I wish, I desperately wish the magic system made sense. I wish the world building wasn't so la-di-da and standoff-ish. I grew so attached to the characters so quickly and I absolutely love Safi's character voice, which makes it all the more difficult and tragic to say that I genuinely didn't like this at all. 

TRUTHWITCH is by no means a book that you should skip because of that; I feel like this is a deeply personal thing - I personally like my magic to be cohesive and to make sense immediateley. The dilemma with TRUTHWITCH is that everything else about this novel is very close to perfection. The characters are great, the writing is top-notch, the world feels absolutely real. 


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

TRUTHWITCH is by no means a bad novel. I guess it comes down to personal preference; I'm a factual person that likes clear-cut descriptions and explanations. If you don't mind that and want a solid High Fantasy read that will suck you into its world, TRUTHWITCH is the right pick for you.



Additional Info

Published: August 22nd
Pages: 512
Publisher: Penhaligon
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9783764531348

Synopsis:
"In a continent on the edge of war, two witches hold its fate in their hands.

Young witches Safiya and Iseult have a habit of finding trouble. After clashing with a powerful Guildmaster and his ruthless Bloodwitch bodyguard, the friends are forced to flee their home.

Safi must avoid capture at all costs as she's a rare Truthwitch, able to discern truth from lies. Many would kill for her magic, so Safi must keep it hidden - lest she be used in the struggle between empires. And Iseult's true powers are hidden even from herself.

In a chance encounter at Court, Safi meets Prince Merik and makes him a reluctant ally. However, his help may not slow down the Bloodwitch now hot on the girls' heels. All Safi and Iseult want is their freedom, but danger lies ahead. With war coming, treaties breaking and a magical contagion sweeping the land, the friends will have to fight emperors and mercenaries alike. For some will stop at nothing to get their hands on a Truthwitch.(Source: Goodreads)



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Thursday, August 11, 2016

[Review] The Darkest Minds (#1) - Alexandra Bracken: Dystopian Concentration Camps and Road Trips





In THE DARKEST MINDS an illness epidemic is causing children to either die or develop supernatural abilities. The government's reaction to that is to stick all survivors into correctional facilities. After five years, Ruby Daly manages to escape.
What intrigued me: Recommended by a friend. I had no idea what this is about.

Concentration camps in dystopian YA? Yikes.

THE DARKEST MINDS starts off with pages and pages of backstory from the protagonist Ruby's childhood to establish the world. 
The concept is nothing that I haven't seen before (similar to SHATTER ME or THE PROGRAM), and it just didn't knock my socks off. Thurmond, the facility that Ruby is imprisoned in for the first 100 or so pages, is a very sloppy and uncanny version of this world's concentration camps. It's there for nothing but shock value and it doesn't even do a great job at that. 

I was simply bored and contemplated quitting multiple times because there was just nothing interesting about this because Bracken does her best to withhold as much information as she can get away with. Ruby's experiences at Thurmond are nothing but a plot device, and this book would do so much better if it had just started right at Ruby's escape instead of torturing the reader with a whopping 80 pages of info dump world building backstory that's absolutely unnecessary to understand what's going on.

Your average road trip story

I didn't find the world of THE DARKEST MINDS extensive enough to really get to me - superhero-like abilities in dystopia are very difficult to pull off and require a lot of world building to get me really into it. I crave explanations, especially in dystopian novels and the lack thereof didn't really make this more enjoyable for me. 

Essentially this is a "rebels on the road" kind of story. It really reads like an elongated road trip, and as charming as the characters are, the weak premise just can't carry this. It reminds me a lot of UNDER THE NEVER SKY, which in my opinion had the same problem - too much pointless running around instead of actual story. I found it really boring and not really living up to the promising start at Thurmond. 

Rating:

★★

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

You aren't really missing out if you skip this one. I did like the characters, but found the whole concept not groundbreaking enough to want to read the sequels.



Additional Info

Published: December 18th 2012
Pages: 488
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Genre: YA / Dystopia
ISBN: 9781423157373

Synopsis:
"When Ruby woke up on her tenth birthday, something about her had changed. Something frightening enough to make her parents lock her in the garage and call the police. Something that got her sent to Thurmond, a brutal government “rehabilitation camp.” She might have survived the mysterious disease that had killed most of America’s children, but she and the others emerged with something far worse: frightening abilities they could not control.

Now sixteen, Ruby is one of the dangerous ones. When the truth comes out, Ruby barely escapes Thurmond with her life. She is on the run, desperate to find the only safe haven left for kids like her—East River. She joins a group of kids who have escaped their own camp. Liam, their brave leader, is falling hard for Ruby. But no matter how much she aches for him, Ruby can’t risk getting close. Not after what happened to her parents. When they arrive at East River, nothing is as it seems, least of all its mysterious leader. But there are other forces at work, people who will stop at nothing to use Ruby in their fight against the government. Ruby will be faced with a terrible choice, one that may mean giving up her only chance at having a life worth living.' to
 "(Source: Goodreads)


What's your favorite Dystopian read?

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Sunday, July 3, 2016

[Review] And I Darken (The Conquerors Saga #1) - Kiersten White: Vlad the Impaler and a Badass Anti-heroine





In AND I DARKEN, the vicious Wallachian princess Lada and her gentle brother Radu are abandoned by their father Vlad Dracul to be raised in the Ottoman Empire.

What intrigued me: I absolutely love books about anti-heroes.

Fantastic Characters

AND I DARKEN doesn't read like a typical YA High Fantasy book. Don't let the blurb fool you, this isn't a story with dragons and magical creatures, this is alternate historical fiction, inspired by the famous Vlad Tepes. It's well researched, it's full of historical figures you might recognize if you're a history buff, and it's a pretty well-rounded book.

A huge portion of the book is spent on backstory, pages and pages telling us of Radu's and Lada's childhood to supposedly make us understand them and their choices better. I do have to say that the characters in AND I DARKEN are fantastic

The biggest strength of the novel is that it manages to create a realistic portrayal of nearly all of its characters, but sadly sometimes this comes at the expense of the narration. The writing is impeccable and White seamlessly manages to pull of multiple POVs without making it awkward at all. The fact that we get so much backstory does help with character establishment, but it also makes reading this equal a chore. The blurb promises the story of a vicious teenage princess, but the first 150 pages read like a family chronicle Game of Thrones style. I'm talking that part of Game of Thrones where Martin describes the ingredients of a sandwich for 3 pages.

Only for history buffs?

AND I DARKEN absolutely stands out within the genre, but I just wish there was more plot and more action to it all. White does not need so many pages to establish that Lada is brutal and mean and that Radu is a small ray of sunshine, I absolutely hated that there are so many time jumps. It makes getting attached to actual plot impossible when everything around them is constantly changing. I didn't understand the politics, I didn't really manage to create a basic understanding of who's fighting whom and why, mostly due to the story being told over the span of several years. 

It does read more like a family chronicle than a regular fantasy story. If you're not familiar with the actual history behind this story, I assume you'll feel similarly.

While I do appreciate to see something different in AND I DARKEN, I wish it was more dense, more focused on world building and less on the characters. At the end of the day this story just doesn't need to be half as long as it is. 


Rating:

★★½☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

AND I DARKEN is a very unique book with fantastic(!) characters, but the story just didn't grip me as much as I would have liked. I can certainly see many people enjoy this, especially if you're a fan of historical fiction, it's definitely a good read! Personally, if wasn't for me, I was looking for something more magical than historical.



Additional Info

Published: July 7th 2016
Pages: 498
Publisher: Corgi Children's
Genre: YA / Historical
ISBN: 9780552573740

Synopsis:
"No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.

Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.

Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point."(Source: Goodreads)


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Friday, June 10, 2016

[Review] The Gracekeepers - Kirsty Logan: Circus Artists and a Flooded World





In THE GRACEKEEPERS, Callanish and North live in a flooded world, one is a circus traveler, the other one lives on land.

What intrigued me: Honestly, I was just hoping for a nice Magical Realism story.

High Fantasy in disguise

THE GRACEKEEPERS truly sounds like a magical story if you've read the blurb and the writing definitely supports this. It reads like a fever dream, strange, yet very comforting. However, that kind of writing isn't for everyone. Paired with the multiple POVs, THE GRACEKEEPERS simply used two things that I personally don't like, as well executed as they may be. Especially the multiple POVs are lacking here because it very easily makes it difficult to get truly immersed in the world. 

Because the two protagonists North and Callanish lead dramatically different lives and have numerous side kicks that you have to keep up with, I easily lost interest and motivation to read this novel. Hence my reading experience felt forced, dragged out, and not really pleasant. This is by no means a bad novel, merely the beginning is lacking. The world could be super interesting, I've only ever encountered a flooded world in CURRENTS before and quite enjoyed the concept. I would've liked GRACEKEEPERS to explain more, to show me more world building. I assume the novel is trying to be Magical Realism, but honestly, it's just High Fantasy. Just throw in world building, please, this concept doesn't work for this story.

Severely lacks world building

The world building or lack thereof generally is what makes this novel not succeed in my opinion. I would've loved to see strong concepts from the first second on. There's a circus on a raft in a flooded world! This is epic! This is a great idea! Why are there so few descriptions? 

Basically we get the facts like reading a bullet point journal but NONE of the atmosphere. The writing itself absolutely cannot convey the atmosphere, it won't hurt to add a couple of descriptive scenes, would it? In a novel like this that's about two characters with vastly different lives, you can't just omit society and culture. There is almost nothing of that in this. Sometimes it feels like your average medieval-inspired fantasy book, sometimes it feels like something out of a Guillermo del Toro movie. THE GRACEKEEPERS lures with a great premise, but honestly can't deliver and immerse in the world.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

I don't think it's worth the trouble. I really wanted to like THE GRACEKEEPERS, but I do think even two stars is very generous, mostly for the idea. I didn't enjoy the story much and I think there are better similar books out there. THE NIGHT CIRCUS, PANTOMIME etc.



Additional Info


Published: March 10th 2016
Pages: 293
Publisher: Vintage
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9781784700133

Synopsis:
"A flooded world. 
A floating circus. 
Two women in search of a home. 

North lives on a circus boat with her beloved bear, keeping a secret that could capsize her life.

Callanish lives alone in her house in the middle of the ocean, tending the graves of those who die at sea. As penance for a terrible mistake, she has become a gracekeeper.

A chance meeting between the two draws them magnetically to one another - and to the promise of a new life.

But the waters are treacherous, and the tide is against them."(Source: Goodreads)


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Wednesday, June 1, 2016

[ARC Review] The Neverland Wars - Audrey Greathouse: Peter Pan and Storytelling





In THE NEVERLAND WARS, Gwen realizes magic is real when her little sister gets abducted by the infamous Peter Pan and taken to Neverland.

What intrigued me: I have never read a Peter Pan retelling!

Yes to all the magic!

THE NEVERLAND WARS isn't your average Peter Pan retelling. There are lots of retellings that paint him as the bad guy, but here it's sort of not a matter of black and white - I love that about this novel. In THE NEVERLAND WARS, magic is real and an important part of modern-day society, for example technology works through magic instead of engineering, which I found quite neat and interesting to read about. 

Generally, there is a very magical feel about this, not because it's a fairy tale retelling, but because Greathouse has such an interesting writing style. I'd say this is definitely the biggest strength of THE NEVERLAND WARS. The writing instantly transports you into a world where magic is real and I 100% believed this and thought it fits nicely. However, I have to say that the writing probably won't be for everyone. It's very lyrical and flowery. It reads like a work of literary fiction with a younger target audience. Interesting though!

Off-pace and too little "Wars"

I think THE NEVERLAND WARS has a nice idea, but I don't think the execution of the story necessarily compliments that.
The blurb suggests that this is a typical YA love story with a dash of magic, while the title suggests that this is a straight up showdown in which the adults take revenge on Peter Pan. And boy would I have loved it if THE NEVERLAND WARS was just that. I think this novel isn't daring enough. It's too much retelling and exploring and too little fight, fight, fight. The pacing is off, the structure barely there - it's a pity because I really loved the idea!

A thing that I struggled a lot with is the pace. THE NEVERLAND WARS takes an insane amount of time until it actually takes off. Instead of starting with the abduction of Gwen's sister, we get a whopping 50-ish pages of backstory, mundane everyday high school life, that bored me so much that I thought about DNF-ing this if I wouldn't give every book 100 pages before doing so.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

THE NEVERLAND WARS wasn't my thing, I was hoping for more action. But this doesn't mean that you won't maybe like it, the writing is so nice that it's definitely worth a try.



Additional Info

Published: May 9th 2016
Pages: 302
Publisher: Clean Teen Publishing
Genre: YA / Magical Realism
ISBN: 9781634221719

Synopsis:
"Magic can do a lot—give you flight, show you mermaids, help you taste the stars, and… solve the budget crisis? That's what the grown-ups will do with it if they ever make it to Neverland to steal its magic and bring their children home.

However, Gwen doesn't know this. She's just a sixteen-year-old girl with a place on the debate team and a powerful crush on Jay, the soon-to-be homecoming king. She doesn't know her little sister could actually run away with Peter Pan, or that she might have to chase after her to bring her home safe. Gwen will find out though—and when she does, she'll discover she's in the middle of a looming war between Neverland and reality.

She'll be out of place as a teenager in Neverland, but she won't be the only one. Peter Pan's constant treks back to the mainland have slowly aged him into adolescence as well. Soon, Gwen will have to decide whether she's going to join impish, playful Peter in his fight for eternal youth… or if she's going to scramble back to reality in time for the homecoming dance."(Source: Goodreads)


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Friday, May 27, 2016

[Review] True Born (#1) - L.E. Sterling: The Plague is Back with a Vengeance




In TRUE BORN, a plague has decimated the world population significantly. Only those who are born with a natural immunity and those rich enough to get their genes "repaired" temporarily, are able to survive.

What intrigued me: I find the concept of an epidemic always incredibly intriguing in dystopias.

Reading this is like rocket science

TRUE BORN centers around the sisters Lu and Margot who are approaching the day that it will be revealed whether they are immune to the Plague or not. They go through several tests, and suddenly their father hires bodyguards to protect them and all hell breaks loose. 

This is where TRUE BORN really lost me to be honest. While I am very interested in the premise, the execution and writing are incredibly eccentric and strange. To me the whole novel reads like chunks of it are missing. Many scenes involve time jumps to get to action, and sometimes they're not even denoted as such.

I couldn't, for the life of me, keep up with the character names because new people kept appearing out of the blue and acting like they had been there all along. I caught myself going back and forth so often that I quickly lost enthusiasm and the desire to even understand this very confusing world. The premise isn't that complicated, but TRUE BORN does its best to make it seem like rocket science. Lingo and complicated terms are thrown around a good dozen times before they are even explained, and the explanations we get aren't easy to grasp either.

Generally, it feels like TRUE BORN is trying to hide the fact that it has a very simple premise and seeming to come across as taking place in a very intricate, super complicated world. I had huge problems trying to picture the world in my head because it notoriously lacks descriptions. I still can't really picture what kind of dystopian future it takes place in because there is little to no imagery.

Not groundbreaking, yet oddly entertaining

However, as tedious as this whole confusing world might sound, it frustrated me so much that I wanted to continue. I really wanted to understand what was going on and was waiting for the moment when it would all made sense, so I could find my peace with this book. This moment sadly didn't come for me and my entire reading experience could probably be most accurately described with ???.
I did find it sort of entertaining to try to find out what exactly was going on, but I didn't, at all, form any attachments to the characters. I liked the idea of this very special bond between twins, but like many things in TRUE BORN, it doesn't seem groundbreaking. There are so many little tropes and things that I've seen so often in novels of the genre that I almost mentally found myself checking off a list.
Describing swoony love interest's eye colors for multiple paragraphs? Check. Protagonist is a special snowflake and different to everyone else? Check. Paragraphs and paragraphs of absolutely irrelevant narration to hide that there's no world building? Check.


Rating:

★★☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

TRUE BORN was a really exhausting read. I didn't connect to the characters or narrative enough to say I enjoyed it. It's undoubtedly a very unique story and Sterling has a very memorable writing style. It just wasn't for me.



Additional Info

Published: May 3rd 2016
Pages: 304
Publisher: Entangled: Teen
Genre: YA / Dystopia
ISBN: 9781633753198

Synopsis:
"Welcome to Dominion City.

After the great Plague descended, the world population was decimated...and their genetics damaged beyond repair.

The Lasters wait hopelessly for their genes to self-destruct. The Splicers pay for expensive treatments that might prolong their life. The plague-resistant True Borns are as mysterious as they are feared…

And then there's Lucy Fox and her identical twin sister, Margot. After endless tests, no one wants to reveal what they are.

When Margot disappears, a desperate Lucy has no choice but to put her faith in the True Borns, led by the charismatic Nolan Storm and the beautiful but deadly Jared Price. As Lucy and the True Borns set out to rescue her sister, they stumble upon a vast conspiracy stretching from Dominion’s street preachers to shady Russian tycoons. But why target the Fox sisters?

As they say in Dominion, it’s in the blood."(Source: Goodreads)



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Sunday, May 22, 2016

[Review] As Red as Blood (Lumikki Andersson #1) - Salla Simukka: Murder and Bloody Money






In AS RED AS BLOOD, some high school kids find a bag full of bloody money and absolutely freak out.

What intrigued me: I've been itching to read this since I first coincidentally came across this series. It's been translated in sooo many languages, I figured this just has to be good.

Contemporary or Thriller? Why not both!

AS RED AS BLOOD really is a strange book. I fully expected this to be a YA version of Stieg Larsson's Millenium books, and in a sense that (sort of) what I got. 

Protagonist Lumikki is 17, hs a sherlock-like mastermind and is incredibly perceptive, and when she stumbles upon the silly teenagers that found the bag full of money - she is instantly intrigued and wants so solve the mystery.

The problem is that AS RED AS BLOOD is really trying to be a typical contemporary set in a high school and a fast-paced detective story with a side of merciless criminal action. If you're going to mix the two, please, for the love of God, don't make it more complicated by having 328932 POVs from characters whose appearances are pretty much cameos. I absolutely hate how Simukka decided to switch to the POV of several people involved in the murder while Lumikki is still trying to figure the basics out. It's impossible for any first time reader to understand what's going on and I was so tempted to just skip this because it upset me so much to get thrown out of the story for no reason whatsoever.

Poor translation?

Another thing that I really missed is that I didn't quite get the Nordic vibe from AS RED AS BLOOD. Meaning that it feels like it could've been set in any town around the world.

The problem is probably that this is a translated work intended for the Finnish market. Many little things that should seem obvious to Fins remain unexplained, random Finnish words that I assume were untransable are splattered throughout this, and it's just not really able to paint the scenery in a way that would make it possible for non-Fins to really paint the world in their heads as they read. 

It's incredibly sad that this opportunity was wasted because there are very few translated Finnish works in YA in the first place!

Rating:

★★☆☆

  


Overall: Do I Recommend?

AS RED AS BLOOD does stand out in the genre and proves to be an interesting mix betwen crime and contemporary. Don't expect too much from it though, because the mystery isn't half as mysterious as it wants to be.



Additional Info

Published: 1st August 2014
Pages: 274
Publisher: Skyscape
Genre: YA / Thriller
ASIN: B00HFENI6W

Synopsis:
"In the midst of the freezing Arctic winter, seventeen-year-old Lumikki Andersson walks into her school’s dark room and finds a stash of wet, crimson-colored money. Thousands of Euros left to dry—splattered with someone’s blood.

Lumikki lives alone in a studio apartment far from her parents and the past she left behind. She transferred into a prestigious art school, and she’s singularly focused on studying and graduating. Lumikki ignores the cliques, the gossip, and the parties held by the school’s most popular and beautiful boys and girls.

But finding the blood-stained money changes everything. Suddenly, Lumikki is swept into a whirlpool of events as she finds herself helping to trace the origins of the money. Events turn even more deadly when evidence points to dirty cops and a notorious drug kingpin best known for the brutality with which he runs his business.

As Lumikki loses control of her carefully constructed world, she discovers that she’s been blind to the forces swirling around her—and she’s running out of time to set them right. When she sees the stark red of blood on snow, it may be too late to save her friends or herself."(Source: Goodreads)

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