Saturday, 30 November 2013

Review: The Almost Girl by Amalie Howard

The Almost Girl by Amalie Howard
Publisher: Strange Chemistry
Released: January 7th 2014
My Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Seventeen-year-old Riven is as tough as they come. But coming from a world ravaged by a devastating android war, she has to be. There’s no room for softness, no room for emotion, no room for mistakes. A Legion General, she is the right hand of the young Prince of Neospes, a parallel universe to Earth. In Neospes, she has everything: rank, responsibility and respect. But when Prince Cale sends her away to find his long-lost brother, Caden, who has been spirited back to modern day Earth, Riven finds herself in uncharted territory.

Thrown out of her comfort zone but with the mindset of a soldier, Riven has to learn how to be a girl in a realm that is the opposite of what she knows. Riven isn’t prepared for the beauty of a world that is unlike her own in so many ways. Nor is she prepared to feel something more than indifference for the very target she seeks. Caden is nothing like Cale, but he makes something in her come alive, igniting a spark deep down that goes against every cell in her body. For the first time in her life, Riven isn’t sure about her purpose, about her calling. Torn between duty and desire, she must decide whether Caden is simply a target or whether he is something more.

Faced with hideous reanimated Vector soldiers from her own world with agendas of their own, as well as an unexpected reunion with a sister who despises her, it is a race against time to bring Caden back to Neospes. But things aren’t always as they seem, and Riven will have to search for truth. Family betrayals and royal coups are only the tip of the iceberg. Will Riven be able to find the strength to defy her very nature? Or will she become the monstrous soldier she was designed to be?
 (from Goodreads)

The Almost Girl was an enjoyable read, and though I had a few issues with it, I'm invested in the characters and will probably be reading the next book.

Riven was a pretty interesting main character. There was a lot we didn't know about her at the start - the first time we were introduced to her was in the prologue set a few years before, where she was running from some kind of compound and everyone was referring to her as "General". I was impressed that a fourteen year old had managed to achieve "General" rank already, but we didn't really find out what the prologue meant until a bit later on - so that kept me intrigued. I did think she had a lot of issues she needed to sort out - she was definitely too judgemental and I didn't like the way she just labelled other people sometimes. But I think a lot of her problems stemmed from her horrible childhood - the death of her mother, her separation from her sister and her despicable father who was obsessed making her a perfect soldier, and now a mission to save her best friend Cale... She sort of had to become harsh and cynical and unfeeling in order to survive. As the book went on, she did start to express emotion more and became more accepting of herself.

I wasn't too impressed by Caden, who was the love interest. I didn't like the way he treated his girlfriend, he said "you're not like other girls" to Riven, which to me is not a compliment and just insults all other women for no reason, he barely questioned anything that happened and I just felt like the whole relationship was a bit insta-lovey They literally knew hardly anything about each other. Caden wasn't a terrible person and I didn't hate him, but eh. I feel like he should have been a bit more "what the HELL is going on right now" instead of just following everyone. And why was he with his girlfriend if he didn't even like her? I get that we were supposed to see her as someone "not nice", but did he not feel the slightest bit of guilt for going after Riven when he was still with someone else? Just ugh. 

Plot-wise, I liked the settings and the different structures of the two worlds, but I found a lot of things were very predictable. I guessed about Cale from the start and how he and Caden were truly connected. I guessed the purpose of Riven's mission very early on. Even though I was intrigued by Riven's mystery and secrets, I pretty much had it figured out way before it was revealed. There were a few interesting twists, but most of it wasn't hard to work out. It was a bit of a shame, but at least the book was still fast-paced and pretty action-packed, which helped make up for it. I did feel like things were resolved a bit too quickly at the end, though I am intrigued to find out what happens in future books. I still have a few questions, such as (spoiler: why Caden was cloned) which will hopefully be answered.

Overall, The Almost Girl was a decent read with an interesting premise and a lot of good action scenes. The romance was a bit cheesy for me, but if you can ignore than, then definitely give this book a go.

Sunday, 24 November 2013

Review: World After by Susan Ee

World After (Penryn & the End of Days #2) by Susan Ee
Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton
Released: November 21st 2013
My Rating: 4.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

In this sequel to the bestselling fantasy thriller, Angelfall, the survivors of the angel apocalypse begin to scrape back together what's left of the modern world.

When a group of people capture Penryn's sister Paige, thinking she's a monster, the situation ends in a massacre. Paige disappears. Humans are terrified. Mom is heartbroken.

Penryn drives through the streets of San Francisco looking for Paige. Why are the streets so empty? Where is everybody? Her search leads her into the heart of the angels' secret plans where she catches a glimpse of their motivations, and learns the horrifying extent to which the angels are willing to go.

Meanwhile, Raffe hunts for his wings. Without them, he can't rejoin the angels, can't take his rightful place as one of their leaders. When faced with recapturing his wings or helping Penryn survive, which will he choose?
 (from Goodreads)

I am completely in love with this series, but reading each book is torturous, because now all I can think about is the dreaded wait until the next one...

Word After was a great follow up to Angelfall. While not quite as good as book one, I still really enjoyed it, and I just adored the characters so much. PENRYN. That girl was brilliant. Her feelings towards Paige were so great to read about - I mean, she loved her sister, and deep down she knew that what Paige did wasn't really her fault, but at the same time she couldn't help but be a little afraid, and see the girl before her as more of a monster than her sister. I thought maybe World After would  be a little boring, because a lot of the book was spent looking for Paige, much like in book one. But it was actually really different, and it was more Penryn's journey of trying to understand her sister and this new situation they were in - by the end of the book, I think perhaps they became even closer than they were before. And of course, Penryn was her usual awesome self. Narrowly escaping death a ton of times, finding herself in the most unusual of situations - and let's not forget her fab sense of humour, which had me smiling despite the less than happy circumstances. And oh my God, the interactions with Raffe's sword. That just cracked me up. The sword was sort of sentient, so Penryn found herself talking to it (her?) quite a bit, and there was this one scene where she was trying to get the sword to show her something, and I almost died. I will never again see the words "dusky pink" without laughing.

Raffe was just not in this book enough for me. It took over 300 pages for he and Penryn to reunite, and while I did really enjoy seeing the flashbacks of him, and I got why he wasn't around at the start, I really did miss him! However, when we finally did get to see him again, it was all good. I was really worried that the relationship between he and Penryn would become all mushy and cheesy, but it wasn't like that all! There was still the same hilarious banter from book one and it was just so funny and cute and made me realise just how much I had missed them travelling together. I mean, I did enjoy Penyrn on her own, and the flashbacks were great because we got to see Penyrn from Raffe's point of view, which was very interesting. But nothing could beat the two together, and I am so looking forward to their relationship developing even further.

Penyrn's mother had a slightly larger role in this book, and I have to say, I was intrigued by her. It was hard to tell when she was talking nonsense and when she was actually talking about something really serious. She acted very strangely sometimes, but often acted with a lot of insight as well and I am very curious to see what will happen with her character. She was also really overprotective of Paige - and I have to say, Paige really creeped me out. I was feeling the same as Penryn really - I felt so terribly sorry for her and I knew she wasn't a bad person - but at the same time...o_O.

Plot-wise, I had no idea where it was going and the revelations we got in this book about the angels, and why they were doing what they were doing, were surprising, but made a lot of sense, so I am really excited to find out what happens next. There weren't any huge twists or shocks, per se, but it wasn't predictable either. I was still confused about a few things by the end, but I'm hoping they'll be cleared up in the future. And I must say, the locusts were so incredibly creepy and scary and I did not like them at all. There were a few gruesome scenes involving them, so if you are really, really averse to that kind of thing, beware (though to be honest I am the most squeamish person ever and had no problems with Angelfall or World After).

Overall, World After was a great addition to the series, and seriously, could I want the next book more? I need it now. Highly recommended to everyone. Start this series. Don't be put off by the angels (read my review of Angelfall for more on that).

Monday, 18 November 2013

Liz's Lists #3


Do you like making lists? I do. In fact, I make lists for everything. So I have decided as I am so often making lists, I may as well share some of the book-related ones with you, as sometimes they're actually quite interesting (unlike my many, many to-do lists, which are often abandoned...). Today's list (inspired by Allegiant...) is a list of my least favourite YA books.

[All images from Goodreads. Clicking on the image will take you to the book's Goodreads page]

Breaking Dawn (Twilight, #4)

Halo (Halo, #1)

Rich And Mad

Hush, Hush (Hush, Hush, #1)

2816247

Allegiant (Divergent, #3)

Nevermore (Maximum Ride, #8)


12177772

That includes all the Twilight books and basically everything after book 4 of Maximum Ride - that series started off great and just went sooo downhill. I was thinking of putting Mockingjay and Clockwork Princess on the list, but it was really their endings that bothered me most... I have reviewed almost all of these books if you'd like to know why I disliked them! There are bound to be a few I've forgotten, but oh well. What are your least favourite YA books? Do you agree/disagree with me on any?

Saturday, 16 November 2013

Review: Relic by Heather Terrell

Relic (Books of Eva #1) by Heather Terrell
Publisher: Soho Teen
Released: October 29th 2013
My Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

When Eva’s twin brother, Eamon, falls to his death just a few months before he is due to participate in The Testing, no one expects Eva to take his place. She’s a Maiden, slated for embroidery classes, curtseys, and soon a prestigious marriage befitting the daughter of an Aerie ruler. But Eva insists on honoring her brother by becoming a Testor. After all, she wouldn’t be the first Maiden to Test, just the first in 150 years.

Eva knows the Testing is no dance class. Gallant Testors train for their entire lives to search icy wastelands for Relics: artifacts of the corrupt civilization that existed before The Healing drowned the world. Out in the Boundary Lands, Eva must rely on every moment of the lightning-quick training she received from Lukas—her servant, a Boundary native, and her closest friend now that Eamon is gone.

But there are threats in The Testing beyond what Lukas could have prepared her for. And no one could have imagined the danger Eva unleashes when she discovers a Relic that shakes the Aerie to its core.
(from Goodreads)

Relic was a strange read. The story was not what I was expecting at all, and while it certainly was a different idea, I'm not sure how I felt about it overall.

Eva was someone I wanted but struggled to like. She was participating in the Test because her twin brother, Eamon, died and she felt she had to take his place. And while this was noble of her and she obviously loved her brother a lot, her attitude was just so difficult to accept. I understand that she and everyone else in the Aerie lived in a brainwashed world and that she had been brought up with these prejudices, but her casual acceptance of women being less than men, and needing more protection, and her hatred of technology and blind following of the Lex was just...hard to swallow. I completely get that it wasn't her fault, but it just wasn't fun reading about it, especially since she didn't question any of these teachings or terrible customs until the VERY end, and even then she was kind of horrified and sceptical. So while I didn't dislike her, she wasn't the best main character I've ever read about. I think I'll like her a lot better in following books once she starts to become a little more open-minded and questioning. And to be fair to her, I didn't really like any characters in the Aerie, especially Jasper (and I will have more to say about him much later) so really, it's nothing personal, and she did pretty well to find her Relics.

Lukas was...eh. I didn't buy the romance between him and Eva that was hastily brought up at the end. And if he knew so much about the pre-Healing, why did he just let Eva go into the Test without telling her anything? Why wait until after! It seemed weird that he'd kept such massive secrets from Eva and Eamon his whole life, especially since they were all meant to be friends. I liked that he didn't believe in all the restrictive crap but I just found his actions to be a bit odd. I did appreciate that his teachings and training were pretty much the main reason Eva was able to stay alive though - she managed to apply the things he'd taught her (though she mentioned "what Lukas taught me" waaay too much). I'm a bit confused about him to be honest. Still preferred him to Jasper though.

Jasper. Just...no. Maybe I'm just being overly cynical, but he seemed so fake to me. He probably did care about Eva's wellbeing, but only in terms of his own wants. He wanted a union between them, he wanted either to be Archon or have connection to one and the way he reacted when he found out people liked Eva's Chronicle more than his was just awful. I didn't really trust him, to be honest, and he way too ardent a follower of the Lex. You could tell that he truly believed he was superior and it just pissed me off, no matter how nice and caring he acted towards Eva at times. I am kind of interested to see whether he's trustworthy or not in later books, but during this book, I didn't like him and the ending meant Eva was in a bit of a conundrum concerning him.

The world was a bit confusing and strange and at times, kind of made me laugh. The fact that people thought that Apple (creators of the iPhone) was some kind of god that people in the pre-Healing days used to worship was kind of funny. I just found it really odd though that after the polar ice-caps melting, which wiped out loads of people and caused the remaining to move to the New North, people would decide to regress and go back to such old-fashioned beliefs where men were superior to women and were the ones that held the power - where technology was regarded as evil and worshipping and dedication to the gods was of the utmost importance, and that anyone who didn't believe was a heretic. I mean, why? Who implemented this? How was it even allowed? Why on earth did people go along with it?! It was so odd to hear people refer to modern day medicines as a product of evil, and that technology should be something to be feared. Even Maybelline and Coca-Cola were apparently terrible remnants of the past. It was because of this that I found Eva's Chronicle about Elisabet so weird. I kind of skimmed it, if I'm truthful, and it was slightly disturbing. Everything these people believed about the old world was just completely wrong and they couldn't even see how manipulated and used they were. In addition, another thing that confused me was apparently the Test occurred every year - but if that were the case, wouldn't there be a new Archon every year? That's not how it seemed to work. And I didn't really get why finding Relics was so important that people would risk their lives...

Overall, Relic was a bit of a puzzling read with some bizarre ideas. It was fairly enjoyable,  but I was aware of its faults and I'm not super excited to read the next one. I might give it a go if I have the chance. 

Saturday, 9 November 2013

Review: Allegiant by Veronica Roth *CONTAINS SPOILERS*

Allegiant (Divergent #3) by Veronica Roth
Publisher: HarperCollins
Released: October 22nd 2013
My Rating: 1.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads
*Note: I own the international paperback version of this book, but am reviewing the UK release

One choice will define you.

What if your whole world was a lie?
What if a single revelation—like a single choice—changed everything?
What if love and loyalty made you do things you never expected?

The faction-based society that Tris Prior once believed in is shattered—fractured by violence and power struggles and scarred by loss and betrayal. So when offered a chance to explore the world past the limits she’s known, Tris is ready. Perhaps beyond the fence, she and Tobias will find a simple new life together, free from complicated lies, tangled loyalties, and painful memories.

But Tris’s new reality is even more alarming than the one she left behind. Old discoveries are quickly rendered meaningless. Explosive new truths change the hearts of those she loves. And once again, Tris must battle to comprehend the complexities of human nature—and of herself—while facing impossible choices about courage, allegiance, sacrifice, and love.
(from Goodreads)

SPOILER WARNING: THIS REVIEW CONTAINS SPOILERS. MANY MANY SPOILERS. I've warned you, so don't blame me if you still decide to read this and then find out something you didn't want to. BUT, as well as containing spoilers for Allegiant, this book ALSO CONTAINS SPOILERS about Ptolemy's Gate, the last book in Jonathan Stroud's Bartimaeus trilogy. So if you don't want to be spoiled about that either, THEN DO NOT READ THIS REVIEW. Honestly. It's over 2500 words long. That's a lot of damn spoilers.

Note: I really do apologise for the length of this review. I just had a lot to say...

I can't believe I'm saying this, but Allegiant was so...boring. It was like the writing style changed completely at times. Honestly, it was so dull at points that I almost gave up. The ending was unfortunately spoiled for me (thanks a lot for that, internet), so I went in expecting loads of crazy things to be happening that would lead up to that moment. But it was so boring! I mean, things DID happen, but it just wasn't exciting. The writing that pulled me in so much in Divergent was just gone. Instead of being sucked into the story and losing myself in it, I was very aware that I was reading a book. I kept thinking, "How many more pages until this chapter ends?" I honestly don't know what happened. And while I admit I did not like the ending AT ALL, that is definitely not the only reason I didn't enjoy this book.

First of all, it took ages for anything to actually happen. There were a few things - like the deaths of Edward and Tori (which were just completely brushed over and forgotten)  - but they didn't reveal or explain anything. It did get slightly better later on and become more engaging towards the end, but it was nothing compared to Divergent or Allegiant. Second of all, the dual POV just failed. The voices were so similar that even though different things were happening, I always forgot who I was reading about. I would think, "Wait, why is Tris saying that, it makes no sense..." (or vice versa) before remembering that I was actually reading Four's chapter. Their chapters basically blurred together, making the dual POV pretty pointless - we really only needed it so Four could talk after Tris died. And Four's chapters were a bit eh. I used to love his character, but he seemed to have suffered some kind of personality alteration in this book. Gone was the Four of the past, the confident, intelligent leader - in Allegiant, he basically became a gullible idiot who couldn't deal with problems and needed Tris to tell him what to do. I hated seeing that and I didn't like that Tris was portrayed as virtually flawless. When Uriah died (I LOVED Uriah, he was one of my favourites in books one and two), Four barely reacted because he was so upset about Tris. While I get that, I would have liked Uriah's death to have been more of a serious matter to him, and to the readers in general. Can't help but feel it was a little glossed over.

Another stupid thing was the whole "genetics" explanation. It was so half-assed! I mean, really. There was potential, but it was so poorly explained that I almost laughed. And it also made me realise how ridiculous that NO-ONE, in any faction, had decided to find out what was outside the fence way before this, and tell everyone. So basically, the whole thing was an experiment and the factions were built so that "genetically damaged" (there's a whole reason for WHY they became "genetically damaged" but I can't be bothered to explain and it makes little sense anyway) would flourish in the environment and produce more Divergents, who were "genetically healed". What a bunch of pseudoscience bullshit. Seriously, I would have liked at least some explanation about what "genetically damaged" meant apart from the people who were "genetically damaged" were missing key traits like compassion, motivation blah blah blah. First of all, how EXACTLY did the experiments cause genetic damage? WHAT genes were damaged? HOW did they affect people and WHY were different people damaged in different ways? Why did this damage make them unable to live in ordinary society - why so much prejudice? Why couldn't it be immediately fixed by more genetic alteration - why did it take generations for healed genes to manifest?! That made no sense and we were offered no explanation! It they could be ALTERED in one generation, why would healed genes have to MANIFEST in next generations? Couldn't they just alter them again to reverse what they did? And what did "genetically healed" even mean? HOW did they heal? Did they just need time? Variety in reproduction? What CAUSED genetic healing, and why? Why were only some people Divergent and others still damaged? You can't just come up with terms and then expect readers to blindly go along with them - explanation is vital. I don't exactly have a wealth of knowledge when it comes to science, but I expect something at least believable. And I also found it hard to believe that in such a developed society, people would turn on each other for having different genetics - you think the whole "hating people because they're different" thing wouldn't be so prevalent that far in the future.

And then we come to the ending. Just what. I will admit it - I hated it. And not just because it wasn't a happy ending - because it was actually the opposite of the "realistic" ending it was so desperately trying to be. Tris dying was just...unnecessary. Are you telling me all the sacrificing she did in books one and two STILL weren't enough, that she had to die in this book for such a stupid reason? Her death didn't really even save anyone. I mean, it prevented people's memories being erased, but they could have prevented it by other means! They could have inoculated everyone against memory serum - dump it in the water supply or something. Or they could have quietly evacuated. There were loads of alternatives, so Tris's death was ultimately just meaningless, especially since she had already helped to start resolving the other problems going on. It didn't do anything except make me want to throw the book across the room. Don't even get me STARTED on the epilogue.

I completely understand not going down the "happily ever after". That's perfectly fine. I like bittersweet and sad endings most of the time. And had Tris's death actually been worth something - had it actually mattered - then okay. But it didn't. It really didn't. It felt like it was done just for shock value so that it could seem like it was such a great and original ending - and it wasn't done well at all. And for everyone saying "at least she wasn't afraid to do something different" - you really think killing off main characters is "different"? Do you seriously read books? Or watch films? Or TV? Or generally engage in the world? I'm not just angry that Tris died, I'm angry because she really didn't need to. And because it was so stupid that she managed to survive the death serum and then got killed by a bullet. I mean, really? WHY? The cruel irony was that Tris finally figured out that she wanted to live, that she didn't want to die - and then ended up dying, trying to protect CALEB, of all people, who was willing to sacrifice himself - and should have done so, because it would have been his ONLY redeeming action. Even Four dying would have made more sense - he was not as selfless or brave as Tris and in this book it was clear he felt a little bit worthless and insecure - a sacrifice from him could have been his final character development. And I am saying this as a person who LOVED Four in books one and two. I almost would have preferred if both of them died! But this was just so ugh. You know what was a book with a brilliant ending where a main character died? Ptolemy's Gate. I cried and cried for days after that. I never wanted to look at the book again. But deep down from the moment I read that last page, I accepted that's how the ending had to be. It was actually the best way for it. And all was not lost, because we still had Bartimaeus and he would never forget Nathaniel, just as we never would. It wasn't dressed up as some greatly meaningful or symbolic pretentious crap - it was what it was. Someone died to save others. They weren't even that nice of a person - which made their sacrifice all the more special. Tris, however, was already willing to sacrifice herself. She had shown it time and time again. And you know what? When someone who is so willing to give up their life to save people actually dies, it's boring. It's not "meaningful" or "symbolic". I HATE it when authors try to make things seem so deep as if great philosophers of the world could spend hours pondering over it. It's not meaningful. This book was not meaningful, it was just sad and stupid and pitiful and I just felt sorry for the characters and myself for investing so much time and money and energy into the series. Having a main character die just for the sake of it is not the "ultimate sacrifice"(pretty sure VR mentioned this in an interview somewhere saying Harry should have died because it would have been the ultimate sacrifice - though I can't FIND the interview, so don't take my word for it. My thoughts on the topic are the same though). It is not a "meaningful" ending or way to honour a character. There are things far worse than death - dying for a cause is something people have done over and over again - how could it ever be the "ultimate" anything? There is no glory in death and people shouldn't pretend there is. And if anything, having your character die, a character who is a clear leader, who is NEEDED to help the world be a better place after all the chaos is over, after just having solved a kind of minor problem isn't really brave at all - sticking around for the aftermath and trying to navigate a new world - now that's brave.

The worst thing, though, was the epilogue. It was trying so hard to make it seem like Tris's death actually meant something. It was a failed attempt at looking back on memories and also looking towards the future in a (yet again) "meaningful" way to give closure. All that epilogue did was make me mad. Because yes, you know what? Some memories do fade. But after just reading about a tragic death which was poorly and needlessly executed, that's not exactly something I want to hear about. How much emotion do you want to pile on me? Should there not be balance? Am I supposed to feel miserable for seven years after finishing this book? I WANTED Four to miss Tris, because I missed her. For me, it was not two years later. I didn't have that time to grieve and learn to move on. They had supposedly won, but this didn't feel like a victory. It was bleak and depressing and nothing else. I get that bad things have to happen - but in the end, isn't it to create a better, happier world? In Allegiant, bad things happened, and then more bad things happened, then more, then more. I cried A LOT after finishing Ptolemy's Gate, but Allegiant just made me angry and frustrated and I just want to start a fire so I can burn it to a crisp and never think of it again. 

Don't get me wrong. Ptolemy's Gate was not a perfect book and I will most likely never read it again. But at least it wasn't pretending to be something it wasn't. The way the characters were written made it seem like it could end in any way. I felt like, even though we spent a lot of time getting to know Nathaniel, it was worth it, despite the fact he died. Allegiant didn't feel that way at all. I just felt it was utterly pointless for us to get to know Tris, to invoke hope in us, build up such a developed relationship with Four, all to have it end that way. What was the point in all that time and effort spent? In this series, we actually saw and felt everything from Tris's POV (whereas PG was not from Nathaniel's POV all the time and when it was, it was third person -so maybe one reason I preferred it) - why bother with such detail and intricacy and development when she ultimately dies? What was the point of it? Why make it first person? A lot of people were able to guess the ending by the addition of Four's POV and seeing the interview with VR. But that was the whole thing - even people who believed she may die (and didn't want her to) would pick up the book just for the ending, with the last shred of hope that maybe she wouldn't. Marketing that gets people to buy books they know they probably won't enjoy. I bought this book after having been spoiled because I just had the NEED to read it and review it.

Some other problems: the convenient "memory serum" - ooh let's fix these problems without really having to do anything. Peter got to have a nice new beginning, without actually having to do any work. All those guilty people in the Bureau? Yeah, just sort them out with memory serum. That way no-one has to go through anymore nasty punishments that involve a lot of hard work and effort, yay! -_- Did no-one who actually deserved good things to happen actually have good things happen to them?

Overall, I actually kind of hated this book, it has pretty much ruined the entire series for me and I will always feel a bit guilty for inflicting such pain on other people I've recommended this series to. I feel like now that this has happened, I can't even quote this series anymore or remember the parts I liked. If to "be brave" means to preach endlessly and kill off a character unnecessarily to ram the point home, then I won't be saying it anymore. As I said on Twitter, the ending felt like a stupid choice based on poor judgement and the desperate desire to make things "meaningful", and the rest of the book was just nowhere near as entertaining as the previous ones. Sometimes, trying so hard not to be like other books doesn't make your book good, it just make it really obvious that it's trying so hard. An overdone ending is still better than a terribly thought out "shocking" ending  - though somewhere in the middle would be best. Buuut what does it matter, the money is made, movie is the works and that's that, so. I've never believed in pandering to your audience, but to completely disregard how a lot of them would feel after investing so much in this series just so you can feel superior for doing things "differently" is just as bad.

And if anyone wants to give me my money back and pay for years of therapy, that would be great.

(NB: no offence to Veronica Roth. I'm sure you are a nice lady. I just really, really disagree with you.)

Monday, 4 November 2013

Review: Resist by Sarah Crossan

Resist (Breathe #2)Resist (Breathe #2) by Sarah Crossan
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Released: October 10th 2013
My Rating: 3.25 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Resistance to the Pod Leadership has come apart. The Grove has been destroyed but so has the Pod Minister. Quinn, Bea and Alina separately must embark on a perilous journey across the planet's dead landscape in search of the rumoured resistance base Sequoia. Meanwhile the Pod Minister has been succeeded by his capricious daughter. Her brother, Ronan, is supposed to advise her, but his doubts about the regime lead to him being sent out of the Pod in search of Quinn. In a world in which the human race is adapting to survive with little air, the stakes are high. (from Goodreads)

Resist was action-packed and full of twists, but unfortunately  I didn't enjoy it as much as Breathe. Still, the series is worth reading and pretty different from other dystopian books, so I would still say give it a go.

The characters stayed separated for a while in this book (though did eventually meet up) - Jazz was seriously injured so Quinn had to leave Bea to try and get help. Alina was with Silas and what was left of the Resistance, trying to get to Sequoia, the only place left for them, and there was also the introduction of a new character, Ronan, who got his own chapters along with Alina, Bea and Quinn. Though I did like Ronan, I felt like addition of his POV was a bit too much and wasn't really that integral to the story. It made four POVs in an already fairly confusing story, and I felt like each character had less time for development as a result - especially Alina, which was a shame, as she was one of my favourite characters. I did like Bea but we did spend quite a lot of time on her, and Quinn was just...eh. I mean, he was okay. I didn't like him that much in the first book either but I felt his character just stayed stagnant despite the fact he got quite a lot of chapters.

The story took quite a few interesting turns, and the arrival of a certain character surprised, though I had been wondering if they would show up at some point. What was going on in Sequoia was really creepy, and I did not expect things to turn out the way they did. They weren't sympathetic with the Resistance and were just awful. The whole "pairing" ceremony and "breeding" was just sick, and what they did to older members of the community, like Maude and Bruce, was just horrific. I really liked Maude, she was one of the funniest characters in the book, so I really wanted her to get out of there alive. Ironically, it was with help from Ronan and Quinn's dad that not everyone got killed.

That being said, the ending. Why. Just why. I mean, what was the point? All these pages spent on something and this how things turned out. I understand that it was a dangerous place and there was fighting and conflict everywhere, but the ending felt so unnecessary to me and just didn't add anything to the story. It happened too quickly and the whole ending just felt rushed and unresolved. I was happy that Bea and Quinn got to be together because I think they deserved to after everything that happened, but ah. I just can't agree with the other stuff that happened. And so many things were left hanging - characters as well - I mean, what about Silas? How did he feel about what happened? We barely got to see any of the aftermath which I really wanted to read about as it would have least given us an idea of how everyone was feeling, and maybe some closure too.

Overall, I liked Resist and I enjoyed the series as whole, but I wasn't a huge fan of the ending. This always seems to happen to me - I never seem to be happy with the endings of last books in series, so don't let me put you off just because of that. Keep it in mind, but definitely still give this series a read if you like dystopia.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Review: Briar Rose by Jana Oliver

Briar Rose by Jana Oliver
Publisher: Macmillan
Released: September 12th 2013
My Rating: 2 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

A dark and sexy reimagining of the Sleeping Beauty fairy tale from the author of THE DEMON TRAPPERS.

For Briar Rose, life is anything but a fairy tale. She's stuck in a small town in deepest Georgia with parents who won't let her out of their sight, a bunch of small-minded, gossiping neighbours and an evil ex who's spreading nasty rumours about what she may or may not have done in the back of his car. She's tired of it all, so when, on her sixteenth birthday, her parents tell her that she is cursed and will go to sleep for a hundred years when the clock strikes midnight, she's actually kind of glad to leave it all behind. She says her goodbyes, lies down, and closes her eyes . . . And then she wakes up. Cold, alone and in the middle of the darkest, most twisted fairy tale she could ever have dreamed of. Now Briar must fight her way out of the story that has been created for her, but she can't do it alone. She never believed in handsome princes, but now she's met one her only chance is to put her life in his hands, or there will be no happy ever after and no waking up.
(from Goodreads)

I was a big fan of Jana Oliver's Demon Trappers series, so was really looking forward to Briar Rose, especially since I love fairy tale retellings. However, Briar Rose just really was not for me. The writing style felt really different and as much as I tried to like it, I just didn't enjoy it.

First of all, the characters. I didn't like any of them. I mean, I liked one character for a certain period of time, but then he seemed to have a personality switch, so that went out of the window. Some characters I didn't actively dislike, but I didn't like them either and it was just...eh. Briar was immature and underdeveloped. I felt like we knew barely anything about her. Josh, who was one of the love interests, was so whiny and sappy and always felt so sorry for himself for things he could easily fix ("my dad wants me to do this, but I want to do something else - oh no, what an unsolvable problem I have! I couldn't possibly make my own decisions in my own life, what a ridiculous suggestion! I will just wallow in my own self-inflicted misery and lament my life, because clearly I have so many problems and deserve to be pitied"), and even though we were supposed to like him and root for him to end up with Briar, I have to say, I preferred Ruric (the guy we weren't really meant to root for, or so I assume). At the beginning, I liked Ruric infinitely better; he was funny and charming and caring and a little mischievous, and he really looked out for Briar. I really liked their banter at the start of their relationship! But then Ruric randomly decided he actually liked Aurora, for no reason (though it was obvious that he would never actually end up with Briar) - he'd barely spoken to her and she treated him like crap! - and then it got all cheesy and he became as sappy as Josh and I stopped liking him from there on. It was just weird the way all the characters acted, and I found myself sighing at them more often than not. Pat was one of my least favourites. I'm sorry, but I refuse to believe that such an utter prick could suddenly turn around and become a really nice guy because of the influence of one person over an extremely short period of time. Too many personality switches in this book!

Plot-wise, I was so confused. First, everyone just accepted magic was real (it wasn't set in a magical land or anything - so much so that the beginning felt like a contemp book) and accepted this weird curse really easily, didn't try to find any explanation for it, and it seemed very odd. Then when the curse was activated, we kept getting told that Briar "fought the curse" and that's how she survived...how? HOW did she fight the curse? I didn't get it all, they just SAID that's what she did without explaining what "fighting the curse" entailed. And then when the curse's origin was finally explained, it was so anticlimactic and I still had a lot of questions about it that weren't answered . Secondly, the beginning was such a typical teen drama scenario that I almost gave up. When the curse first activated, I thought maybe things wouldn't be so bad, because I liked Briar's meeting with Ruric - but it went even more downhill after that. And the curse world was left a mystery - was it real? Was it a dream? Would Briar ever be able to get back? The ending was also really meh - after years and years of hating each other, Briar and Josh's family just seemed okay with them getting together (the relationship was so bland - apparently Josh had "always" loved Briar, and Briar seemed to switch to liking Josh randomly so yeah, insta-lovey and boring), Pat actually ended up with someone instead of falling down a well, like I wanted him to, and honestly, by that point I just wanted the book to end.

Overall, I really didn't enjoy Briar Rose, and while it wasn't the worst book I've ever read, it wasn't the book I was hoping for. I feel like there was so much potential for a dark and exciting retelling of Sleeping Beauty, but instead we ended up with some cliché, confusing, teen melodrama read.