Saturday, 28 March 2015

Review: Half Wild by Sally Green

Half Wild (The Half Bad Trilogy #2) by Sally Green
Publisher: Penguin
Released: March 26th 2015
My Rating: 5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

After finally meeting his elusive father, Marcus, and receiving the three gifts that confirm him as a full adult witch, Nathan is still on the run. He needs to find his friend Gabriel and rescue Annalise, now a prisoner of the powerful Black witch Mercury. Most of all he needs to learn how to control his Gift – a strange, wild new power that threatens to overwhelm him.

Meanwhile, Soul O'Brien has seized control of the Council of White Witches and is expanding his war against Black witches into Europe. In response, an unprecedented alliance has formed between Black and White witches determined to resist him. Drawn into the rebellion by the enigmatic Black witch Van Dal, Nathan finds himself fighting alongside both old friends and old enemies. But can all the rebels be trusted, or is Nathan walking into a trap?
(from Goodreads)

I just. Words fail me. This book. THIS BOOK. I honestly can't stop thinking about it, even now, though it's been weeks since I finished it.

Nathan...I can't tell you the extent of my feelings for this character. The stuff he had been through, the stuff he had to keep going broke my heart. No-one would let him be happy. And this book was dark. I mean, the first book was too and this one generally continued in that fashion. It was a bit graphic at times so it's not for the faint-hearted. But back to Nathan. I don't even know what to say. He was...having a hard time. That's an understatement. He was determined to find Annalise and I just knew, KNEW that it would not end well. I couldn't understand why he was so obsessed with her. I know that she was nice to him as a child, and the only one who ever gave him the time of day but..ugh! I felt like he'd fixed it in his mind that he was SUPPOSED to be with Annalise and nothing else would ever compare. He had this image of her that wasn't true to reality and he wouldn't let anything ruin it. It was so difficult to read sometimes, because Nathan was more than Annalise had ever seen. She'd only ever seen one side of him, the only side he was comfortable showing her. He couldn't talk to her about things like his Gift, and his difficulty controlling it. He couldn't talk to her about the people he had to kill, or his father, or anything he thought would scare her off. She didn't really understand much about him, because he was hiding a huge part of himself, the side he thought was "bad" - and yet he couldn't see it. It wasn't even about good and bad. It was just about doing what you needed to do to survive, and that shouldn't have been something he had to hide. He was already struggling so much with accepting himself and his Gift and everything that had happened and there was this underlying feeling of not being good enough for Annalise that he had to put up with as well. I know he wanted to be with her but it just seemed impossible that it could ever work out and all I wanted was for him to even acknowledge that as a possibility.

Gabriel...well we all know I'm Team Gabriel in this love triangle. Have been since book one. He and Nathan were just so close. At the start of this book, Nathan was so worried about him. He waited in that cave for him to come back all that time. And they just trusted each other. Nathan COULD talk to Gabriel about everything, and vice versa. They understood each other. Gabriel knew that were lots of different sides to Nathan and he accepted them all. I just loved their interactions and every scene they were both in. The dark humour. The way they stuck together. And it's not like Nathan wasn't aware of his feelings for Gabriel [spoiler, highlight to read] ahem the "do you kiss all your friends like that" scene [end of spoiler] but he was just too hung up on Annalise to consider any other relationship. I kept wondering if there really was any hope for them but Sally Green knows how to keep you in suspense. I honestly have no idea how it will end. And Gabriel! He stuck with Nathan through everything. Okay he sort of blindly hated Annalise and thought she was a traitor that would be the end of all of them, but he was nice to her and he went to rescue her and he always had Nathan's back. I really liked his character. He was loyal to a fault in a way, but he was also kind of funny, a strong fighter and could bring people together in a way that others couldn't. He had a pretty depressing past too, with his sister, and I loved the scene where he made a certain vow. Ugh why couldn't these characters just be happy for once!

Annalise...I didn't hate her. I could understand how she felt. She was locked up just for paying attention to what her family considered the wrong type of person. Her own relatives didn't even bother to find her went she was missing, and yet she still loved them. She didn't know where she fit in anymore. But at the same time, I couldn't actively like her. She was too naive. What did she expect to happen? That no-one would die? That Nathan wouldn't be involved in the killing? I don't know what she was thinking. Did she not understand that this was what her brothers were doing? Killing people? Why was it okay for them, but not for Nathan? Or was it just the brutality of it all? Her decision in the end...ugh. She just had no idea what she was doing or the consequences it would bring. And I don't even know what's going to happen in the next book.

In terms of the other characters, I really liked Van and Nesbitt, two new people introduced in this book. I don't think I wholly trusted them, but Van was smart and the kind of person Nathan needed to offer guidance. And Nesbitt, well he was willing to be Nathan's friend. And he tried, even if his jokes were rubbish and pissed everyone off. How could you not warm to him? Marcus also reappeared and I really liked that Nathan got to spend some time with his father, though I wish he'd been in it more. It was interesting to see his point of view and thought processes on things. Definitely enlightening. And despite everything, I couldn't hate him.

Plot-wise...well. So many things happened that I did not expect. We saw the return of several characters playing roles I didn't think I would see. And God, Jessica was a nasty piece of work. The writing was also excellent. There was, and I'm being honest, not a single boring moment. There were scenes that just made me want to cry, that made me so so angry, that me feel hope and then despair and basically every emotion ever. The humour was so dark sometimes I wondered whether it was even humour anymore. And the ending. The ending. HOW could it end there, HOW. What did that last line even mean? How am I supposed to live, until 2016, not knowing what happens next? I haven't wanted to read a sequel so much since Harry Potter, and that is saying something. I need book three.

Overall, Sally Green is amazing, I loved this book and everyone needs to read this series.

Wednesday, 18 March 2015

Review: The Winner's Crime by Marie Rutkoski

The Winner's Crime (The Winner's Trilogy #2) by Marie Rutkoski
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Released: March 12th 2015
My Rating: 4 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Lady Kestrel's engagement to Valoria's crown prince calls for great celebration: balls and performances, fireworks and revelry. But to Kestrel it means a cage of her own making. Embedded in the imperial court as a spy, she lives and breathes deceit and cannot confide in the one person she really longs to trust ...

While Arin fights to keep his country's freedom from the hands of his enemy, he suspects that Kestrel knows more than she shows. As Kestrel comes closer to uncovering a shocking secret, it might not be a dagger in the dark that cuts him open, but the truth.

Lies will come undone, and Kestrel and Arin learn just how much their crimes will cost them in this second book in the breathtaking
Winner's trilogy. (from Goodreads)

For some reason, I did not have high expectations for The Winner's Crime. I wanted to read it a lot, but I just didn't think it would be very good. I have no idea why, since I did like the first book. But as it turns out I enjoyed The Winner's Crime a lot, maybe even more than book one, and it definitely surpassed my expectations. This time, I am very much going to be looking forward to book three.

Kestrel was trapped in a situation that required her to constantly be acting and lying and making sure no-one suspected where her true loyalties lay. She needed to try and convince everyone that there was nothing going on her between her and Arin and that she wasn't sympathetic towards his aims. As a result she had to play to a clever game to hide what she was getting up to, and I have to say she was really smart, much smarter than I would have been in her situation. At first she was reluctant to take an active part in helping the rebels first; she just wanted to keep her head down and avoid trouble. But in the end she felt like she had to do something; she couldn't live with herself if she just sat there and did nothing. I did feel like she was too closed off at times, I think she should have told the truth about Thrynne among other things but I understand how she felt and how concerned she was about keeping a low profile. Sometimes  I just felt so bad for Kestrel...especially at the end because oh my God. But I'll get back to that (oh will I get back to that). Mostly though I felt sorry for her because of this web of lies she was tangled in. It was sad that she had to pretend she didn't like Arin, or care about him. And I so desperately wanted her to tell him what was really going on, but I knew she couldn't and UGH.

Arin himself was interesting to read about. I really enjoyed his chapters; we got to find out more about him, like what happened to him in the first book all those times he wasn't with Kestrel and all the stuff he never told her, and it definitely gave us more insight into his character. We also got to see what he was planning and the people he was talking to and trying to make allies with. The Queen definitely liked him and I don't know how I felt about that. His reaction was kind of funny. Arin, however, did not spend much time with Kestrel in this book. They weren't often together. And when they were...goddamn it! He knew Kestrel was hiding something but he never found out what it was or why she agreed to marry the Prince or how she really felt - WHY couldn't he SEE ahhh! It was so frustrating  that he didn't get what she was doing. But to be fair Kestrel was lying to his face every time they met, so it wasn't surprising that he doubted her feelings. But still. These two. I have such feelings.

Plot-wise, this book was really engrossing. I really liked the scenes where Kestrel was trying to gather information to help the Herrani rebels. The moth method of passing messages for some reason really stood out for me. I think it's because I kept thinking how much easier this would be for everyone if they just had some damn phones! It would be much less dangerous. But then that would  be a whole different book. I just knew something bad was bound to happen eventually because of this risky method of communication. The Emperor (who was a horrible evil creep) was definitely playing a game and I knew he didn't really trust Kestrel. No matter what she did, he'd be watching her. The Prince though, wasn't as bad as I thought he'd be. He was stuck in this marriage too and I think he and Kestrel were forming a sort of tentative friendship (not really romantic though, I got the feeling Risha, who I quite liked, was a liittle bit in love with him). The ending though. The ending. How. What. I mean, I can't even express how I feel about what happened. [spoiler, highlight to read] HER OWN FATHER. [end of spoiler] HOW could it end like that? WHY WOULD MARIE RUTKOSKI DO THIS. I just. I'm kind of a little hung up on this ending even though I read this book months ago. At least I'm really looking forward to the next book now, and the different setting we'll probably get to explore.

Overall, I really enjoyed The Winner's Crime. I was an idiot to not expect great things from it, and I shall not be making that mistake with book three. Recommended.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Review: Mind Games by Teri Terry

Mind Games by Teri Terry
Publisher: Orchard Books
Released: March 5th 2015
My Rating: 2.5 stars out of 5
Find it on Goodreads

Luna is a no-hoper with a secret: in a world of illusion, she can see what is real. But can she see the truth before it is too late?

Luna has always been able to exist in virtual and real worlds at the same time, a secret she is warned to keep. She hides her ability by being a Refuser: excluded by choice from the virtual spheres others inhabit. But when she is singled out for testing, she can’t hide any longer.

The safest thing to do would be to fail, to go back to a dead-end life, no future. But Luna is starting to hope for something better, and hope is a dangerous thing...
(from Goodreads)

Mind Games was a book that had a pretty good premise but ultimately was a bit too confusing for me, and I didn't enjoy it as much as I wanted to.

Luna, the main character, was a Refuser; someone who refused to use technology, such as virtual plug-in systems, and insisted on a conventional education taught by an actual person. No-one could understand her reason for opting out; she wasn't religious and she didn't have a medical exemption. But for Luna, being a Refuser was for a reason she could never reveal to anyone - when plugged in, Luna had dual awareness, meaning that even when she was in virtual reality, she was still conscious of her body in the real world and could control her actions. But doing so made her very sick, and so under strict instructions from her grandmother, who had drilled it into her whole life, Luna never told anyone her secret. I really did like this idea, and I found the way Luna could perceive both worlds very interesting. Luna herself was generally a decent character as well; she clearly cared a lot about her grandmother, but she also hated being ridiculed and wanted to prove she wasn't useless. However, she made a lot of odd decisions and it just took her too long to work things out that were clearly obvious. First of all, she told Gecko most of her big secret like, five minutes after meeting him. Luckily it didn't turn out too badly, but come on. You don't just trust some random boy with your biggest secret you never even told your own family just because he's good looking. Second of all, there were certain people that Luna came into contact with who were clearly shady and whose suggestions were obviously part of some bigger agenda, and she only worked it out last minute when it was too late, and as a result made stupid decisions/mistakes that led to such frustrating consequences. It just didn't seem believable that someone who had spent her life being so cautious would fall so easily into these traps.

The plot, however, was my main issue with this book. I could have overlooked everything with Lila if we'd had a solid plot, but half of it just didn't make sense. Let me start off by saying that I really enjoyed the first half of this book involving the testing centre, the meeting with Gecko and the stuff with Jezzamine and Melrose and Hex. I liked the dynamic between all those characters and how things changed with the situation they were in. But after s'hacking (silver hacking) was introduced, everything just went downhill. I understand that the author did put some work into trying to explain the silver and how everything worked and all these grids, but to me, it made no sense at all. I just didn't get how some people innately had this power, how the void could be programmed into you, like what the hell? I didn't get how the void worked, or why Lila had [spoiler, highlight to read]the silver tattoos (was she born with them?!) and just knew how to control the void with barely any help [end of spoiler] and everything was so confusing. Even regular hacking wasn't explained well - I had no idea how the Implants worked at all. None of this stuff seemed to really have scientific basis and it seemed more like magic than anything else. Trying to explain it with science just didn't work and shouldn't have been attempted. I started skimming towards the end. Like, the hacking/silver/void stuff just seemed made up and not at all like it could actually be possible; I couldn't believe that it could truly be the result of an advanced technological society. And speaking of this advanced society - the world building was poor. We were never told why everyone was suddenly plugging into these virtual worlds, or what led to this happening or how PareCo became such a controlling company. World War III was mentioned a few times but again, it was never explained fully, we didn't find out what it was really about or why exactly it arose or how the outcome led to society becoming this way. And while I could believe some aspects of this novel (the more Psycho-Pass reminiscent aspects, if you've seen that anime that's a major clue), I mostly found it unrealistic and lacking explanation.

The ending I found especially disappointing, a) because it seemed rushed, and b) because we had spent so much time reading about this technology that could seemingly do anything, it then felt unrealistic that what had happened couldn't be resolved by using this technology, or at least temporarily leaving things the way they were until a solution was found. It just seemed like a sudden and kind of unnecessary decision to assume that things HAD to end that way.

Overall, I was disappointed with Mind Games. My main issue was the confusion I had, though it may just be me not understanding the explanations.