Vengeance Road: A Book Review

“So long as they go down, I don’t much care if I go with ’em”

Book: Vengeance Road

Author: Erin Bowman

Vengeance Road

Blurb:

When Kate Thompson’s father is killed by the notorious Rose Riders for a mysterious journal that reveals the secret location of a gold mine, the eighteen-year-old disguises herself as a boy and takes to the gritty plains looking for answers and justice. What she finds are devious strangers, dust storms, and a pair of brothers who refuse to quit riding in her shadow. But as Kate gets closer to the secrets about her family, she gets closer to the truth about herself and must decide if there’s room for love in a heart so full of hate.

In the spirit of True Grit, the cutthroat days of the Wild West come to life for a new generation.

My thoughts:

I’m going to alienate a lot of people by saying this, but I’ve never been a huge fan of Erin Bowman. Throughout her Frozen series, I was reading out of a sense of duty (‘You like young adult dystopia, ergo you must like this book’) than any real fondness or appreciation for it.

In a lot of ways, this book reminded me of Moria Young’s Blood Red Road. It features a very tough female heroine, who’s supremely comfortable with weapons. And that’s awesome. Unfortunately, it also has a lot of grammatical mistakes to authenticize ‘dialect’. Unfortunately, that took a lot away from the experience for me. I was jarred every time I came across an  “Int” or an “Em” or an “I’se”. Let’s just say: It was a pretty bumpy ride.

So were there any positives?

Definitely. I loved the plot-line. Vengeance, cold blooded kills and dressing up as a guy- It’s like the Ms. Bowman wrote this book with me in mind.

By extension, i loved the MC. The plotline was very character-centric. You know the plot was built for the character rather than the for the plot. But Erin Bowman has done a fantastic job with both.

“”Now for the love of God, lower that damn pistol.”
“All right,” I says.
And I do.
Right after I shoot him through the skull.

Plus, when was the last time you read a YA book set in the Wild West. Oh! That’s right-never. And it was fun. Outlaws and a search for gold- I loved the plotline. And it’s probably why I stuck to the book as long as I did.
A quibble that might be minor or major to you depending on who you are. Some of the supporting characters are completely cliched stereotypes. The Native American girl had immense respect for nature, was an amazing guide and crept silently. To top it all off, she spouted off white stories. Ugh!
Then there was the mountain hermit, who kept panning for gold. He was as expected- big, loud, trigger-happy, superstitious, flannel-shirt clad and socially awkward.
I’m sure some of these facts are necessary to being a Native American or Gold Miner of the time period, but it’s like that was the sum total of their characters.

The romance in this book gave me whiplash. Since when is a guy playing hot and cold attractive? Someone needs to tell YA authors that teenage girls are not masochistic. They don’t thrill by falling in love with guys who can’t make up their minds, anymore than adults do.

If dialect is something you can overlook and the Wild West and badass female MC’s are what you want, I think you’ll like this book. Otherwise, stay far far away.

Overall Rating: 2.5/5

Books You Might Like: Eon

Quotable:

“See you in hell, mister.”
And that’s where I’m going, sure as the sun will rise, ‘cus I feel nothing. No remorse. No guilt. Not even a sliver of doubt. He deserved it, and I’d do it again.

What’s Wrong with New Adult Romance?

I am a huge fan of young adult fiction. Therefore, that implies I am a huge New Adult fan too, right? Well…no not exactly. New Adult is part of that murky grey area which falls between young adult fiction and adult fiction, much the same way young adult fiction is close to middle grade but not exactly it. New Adult (NA) fiction is a developing genre of fiction with protagonists in the 18-25 age bracket. Supposedly, it’s meant to be an ‘older’ YA ( I’d rather the world not insult YA with such a label).

New Adult fiction tends to focus on issues such as leaving home, developing sexuality, and negotiating education and career choices.

When it’s put like that, New Adult doesn’t actually sound bad. Actually, it sounds pretty good. It sounds like a coming of age tale, a figuring out of what you want to do with your life kind of story. Unfortunately, though that may be the intent- in practice it doesn’t often work out that way.

New Adult focuses extensively on love romance sex. I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with sex or embracing your sexuality or even exploring your sexuality, but I’m not exactly comfortable reading a book about sex and only sex. I’ve gotten to reading books about romance (yes, I even enjoy them) and I’ve come to understand that sex is often a part of them but I really, really dislike it when the sex is written really explicitly. If I do come across an explicit description of the act, I usually skip past it. This works well with YA books and even adult fiction because they usually have a plot that’s not dependent on long, detailed descriptions of what happens in bed (or in the shower, or the kitchen table, or the…I think you get the point). However, most new adult romances can’t claim that. A lot of people are blaming this new phenomenon  on the hugely popular novel Fifty Shades of Grey by E. L James (which I never plan to read, by the way). But we can’t completely blame this annoying PWP (porn without plot) on a single book.

Most New Adult romance books don’t deserve to have the title ‘romance’ in them. The romance in these books is sometimes so unhealthy, it’s almost funny. Sorry, that came out wrong; Unhealthy relationships are never funny- never. BUT what’s somewhat funny/awkward/annoying/sad is that people start idealizing these messed up relationships and the twisted characters in these relationships, saying they want those relationships too. But it won’t be funny anymore when people start emulating these relationships because these relationships are seriously twisted.
They often feature guys chasing girls who constantly refuse their attentions. But of course, the guys don’t listen and continue pursuing her, forcefully kissing her and afterwards saying something like ‘You know you wanted that.’ or ‘See, you liked that didn’t you?’. People, that is horrendous on so many levels. When a girl says no, she means it. She doesn’t mean ‘Oh! Go ahead and continue molesting me.’ That’s not sexy at all; that’s rape.
Another thing which isn’t sexy but is really creepy, is jealousy and all the things that come with it. Girls should be allowed to have other guy friends and guys are allowed to have other female friends without the say-so of their significant other. In real life, jealousy is not attractive- it’s painful, embarrassing and makes it tough to combine your social life with your love life (thus wasting time). Things which come with it include guys saying stuff like ‘You can’t wear that’. (Beautiful Disaster) ‘That’s too revealing.’ Girls, we’ve all complained when our dad’s don’t let us wear what we want. Why would we consider it romantic if a boyfriend did the same thing?
When the guys on the cover are all hot, shirtless and tattooed- it’s probably a NA book. And looking good may let you get away with a lot, but that’s not really a healthy message to spread. If you’re like me and want even your fiction reading to feature healthy relationships- a good test to keep in mind would be if someone clinically bad-looking did this, would you let them get away with it? Or would you scream bloody murder- or worse- rape?

Another thing that’s really distinctive about this genre is  the dramatic, soap-opera like plots, and  broken characters with “issues” ranging from history of abuse, anger management issues, and troubled family lives. Apparently their ‘issues’ give them a free pass when dealing with life. It allows them to be petty and insecure, it allows them to fake everything about themselves and it allows them to treat their significant others really badly. And anyone who disagrees with that is just plain unsympathetic and uncaring. An example of such a book would be Lovely Vicious where the fact that the protagonists were sexually abused allows them to play humiliating, childish pranks on each other.

These things are all pretty common across the genre. In fact it’s so bad that now, even when I like the author, I’m not able to read any of their books if they write a new adult book. When it comes to books, I’m so optimistic about authors I like, I give them the benefit of doubt and read their books even when I know it’s a NA book. And each time I do that, I set myself up for disappointment and disgust.  Considering the fact that a lot of YA authors are now dabbling in NA (and vice versa) this affects me a lot more than you would actually think. I’ve liked a couple of J. L Armentrout books (like Stone Cold Touch) but when she writes under her New Adult pseudonym as J Lynn, I’m not able to stomach her books. The same goes for Ann Aguirre and Sophie Jordan.

Exquisite Captive: A Book Review

Book: Exquisite Captive (Dark Caravan Cycle #1)

Author: Heather Demetrios

Exquisite Captive (Dark Caravan Cycle #1)

Blurb:

Forced to obey her master.
Compelled to help her enemy.
Determined to free herself.

Nalia is a jinni of tremendous ancient power, the only survivor of a coup that killed nearly everyone she loved. Stuffed into a bottle and sold by a slave trader, she’s now in hiding on the dark caravan, the lucrative jinni slave trade between Arjinna and Earth, where jinn are forced to grant wishes and obey their human masters’ every command. She’d give almost anything to be free of the golden shackles that bind her to Malek, her handsome, cruel master, and his lavish Hollywood lifestyle.

Enter Raif, the enigmatic leader of Arjinna’s revolution and Nalia’s sworn enemy. He promises to free Nalia from her master so that she can return to her ravaged homeland and free her imprisoned brother—all for an unbearably high price. Nalia’s not sure she can trust him, but Raif’s her only hope of escape. With her enemies on the hunt, Earth has become more perilous than ever for Nalia. There’s just one catch: for Raif’s unbinding magic to work, Nalia must gain possession of her bottle…and convince the dangerously persuasive Malek that she truly loves him. Battling a dark past and harboring a terrible secret, Nalia soon realizes her freedom may come at a price too terrible to pay: but how far is she willing to go for it?

Inspired by Arabian Nights, EXQUISITE CAPTIVE brings to life a deliciously seductive world where a wish can be a curse and shadows are sometimes safer than the light.

My thoughts:

‘Oh gag me!’ I think I actually said that out loud when I first saw the title of this book. Um…can I just say the title evokes a very different kind of book (I’m thinking explicit BDSM). The cover was nice enough but it wasn’t enough to help me change my mind (you know what they say about first impressions- they’re the most important).For that matter, neither was the blurb. So, I bet you’re wondering ‘Why exactly did she read this then?’. That’s a good question. A very good question. I’d tell you the answer but I’m not sure of it myself.

But that’s kind of irrelevant right now since I’m so glad I read the book. The world-building was a little hard to process (for the life of me, i can’t remember all five of the jinn races) but at the end of the day it worked pretty well, providing a beautiful, dramatic backdrop to the plot of the story.  But other than the unfamiliar terms, it was amazing. With short, selective flashbacks and believable dialogue she creates Arjinna, a fictional realm which feels so realistic.Through these flashbacks, we learn about a complex military coup (and Nalia’s pivotal role in it), the realm’s social injustice and brazen attitude to violence.

I’ll tell you one more thing that’s essential to the plot- the characters. This book is very character driven.  Can you imagine anything more compelling than forced slavery, Stockholm syndrome, exotic djinn, a war torn land and a shit-load of guilt? I can’t (but that’s probably explains why I’m a terrible author).I just described our main character for you. She’s trapped in a position of eternal servitude, but somehow she never comes across as defeated. She takes part in small, little rebellions against her ‘master’, Malek like wearing different clothes from the ones he gifted her or purposely misinterpreting wishes. She’s passively aggressive- I love passive-aggressive characters espescially ’cause they usually come with a huge dose of wonderful, wonderful sarcasm.

Sometimes I felt that the light sarcasm was the only thing in this book which kept it from crossing the line over to the ‘adults’ section. With Nalia’s guilt, her unwilling seduction of Malek and the question of slavery rearing it’s head at every turn, this book had a lot of dark themes going on.  The humor that counter-balnced all of this was veryw ell placed and not over-done.

That brings us to the romance of the story; it’s terrible. There’s a love triangle but that’s not completely unforigvable. What is unforgivable is how abusive both the male characters are. Unfortunately, this is something we see in a lot of young adult fiction. I’ve written about it here.
Malek, her ‘Master’ is physically abusive. He traps her in silver bottles (silver is poisonous to jinn), throws her into walls and tells her stuff like “We belong together.” CREEPY. And then he tries buying her stuff in ‘forgiveness’. I was disgusted when Nalia actually felt something ‘real’ for him. However, by the end of the story it’s made clear that it was just a serious case of Stockholm Syndrome and when Nalia completely denounced him and his love for her, I burst into spontaneous applause.
Raif is really no better. He doesn’t go as far as hurting Nalia physically but he keeps her at arms length, constantly referring to her as a ‘Goat’s whore’ and reminding her of the terrible tragedies suffered by the majority of the djinn at her hands and the hands of her people. He backs her into corners, bargaining to give  her freedom if she betrays an oath that she took ages and ages ago. I hate to say it- no actually I don’t- but that’s not the most healthy relationship either.

The ending is a pretty good segue for the next book, Blood Passage,which should come out in 2015. There were no cliff-hangers so I wasn’t left with a burning desire to read the next book right away but I think this is one of the books I’ll look forward to next year.

My Ratings:

Cover: 2/5
Plot: 4/5
Characters: 4/5
Romance:1/5
Plotholes: 2/5
Ending:3/5
Overall Rating: 3/5
Books like this: Shatter Me (for the romance) by Tahereh Mafi,  Grisha trilogy by Leigh Bardugo

6 Tropes That YA Would be Better Without

I love young adult fiction. I really do. I love reading about people my age, who face similar things but react so differently. I love the way it’s so easy to slip into their characters and into the amazingly detailed worlds. But (there’s always a but, isn’t there), I can admit that the young adult genreisn’t perfect. Some messages that some young adult books convey…well they’re unhealthy (not to mention completely untrue) to say the least. I’ll be touching on some of them in this post.


 

  1.  Boys and girls can never be just best-friends.

    This is not entirely a Young Adult fiction phenomenon. In fact, in real life many people seem to believe this too. But I’m going ahead and starting my list with this thing because it happens all the time in young adult fiction. It usually goes like this: Boy and girl have been best friends since they were babies, one of them develops romantic feelings for the other, they refuse to tell their friend because they don’t want to ‘ruin things’, inevitably they wait too long and a new romantic interest shows up, they get jealous and they end up confessing their love and boom- instant love triangle. I’m serious this trope has been overdone (that’s why it’s called a trope).
    Characters stuck in this trope: Gale and Katniss from the Hunger Games, Simon and Clary from the Mortal Instruments (at least for the first few books)
    Books which managed to evade this trope: I’m going to be a little more specific- I want  male and female main characters who are not related to each other (and neither of them can be a LGBT for this to work) but who still don’t have romantic feelings for each other, no matter how much you tilt your head and squint. Not surprisingly, this lowers the list quite dramatically and the only thing I can think of off the bat is Forever Mine by Elizabeth Reyes (and even that comes with a whole set of other problems). In it Sarah has a great relationship with her best friend Sydney, who is male and has his own girlfriend.


     

  2. No matter what your ‘soul mate’ does, you should forgive them.

    Stalking you, scaring you…hurting you– we’ve all been taught in real life that we should never be with a person who doesn’t respect you as a person or who scares and hurts you. It’s called abuse people. And no matter what the situation is, it is unforgiveable. So why did we forgive  Four so easily for taking a part of Tris’s ear off with a knife (on purpose) in Divergent or Patch trying to scare Nora into leaving him alone in Hush, Hush? And before you feminists get all superior- it’s not just the men who hurt women. In the Hunger Games, Katniss toys with Peeta’s emotions and pretends to love him before revealing it was all just a sham. And what does Peeta do? He just swallows his pride to play the part of the not-so-star crossed lover for the sake of the Capitol and Katniss’s family? Sure, it’s  different but at the end of the day- it’s just another kind of abuse.
    Books stuck in this trope: Like I mentioned above, Divergent, Hush, Hush and the Hunger Games all fall into this category
    Books which are totally against this trope: Wanderlove by Kirsten Hubbard deals with emotional abuse,  Bitter End by Jennifer Brown and But I Love Him by Mandy Hubbard deal with physical abuse.


  3. Parents and  teachers (basically all adults) are incapable of fully understandin and helping you.

    Like my English teacher would say, a huge part of being a teenager is wanting to show that you’re self-sufficient and independent. In other words, we teenagers would like to believe we don’t need no grownups. So in books like the Iron King by Julie Kagawa, the parents are the last one who are let into the loop. Because they wouldn’t need to know that their son is being held hostage by the fae and has been replaced with a changeling, would they? Nope, not at all. Even the Harry Potter series is not safe from this trope. Dumbledore, though a great man is eventually shown to be fallible and most fans believe Harry would have been better off never trusting him in the first place.
    I can not, and I repeat- can not think of a single young adult fiction book in which there is a reliable adult around who the main character trusts and tells them about everything.



  4. Whining can be endearing.

    Bella Swan from Twilight is perhaps the most well-known for this trope (boo-hoo, i’m not pretty, it rains so much here, my boyfriend won’t turn me into a vampire, he wants to celebrate my birthday, and it rains so much here *sob*) but there are others too. Zoey from the House of Night series and Cassia from the Matched trilogy, I’m looking at you. Authors, there’s one really important thing you need to know about teenage girls: Most of us are not whiny and none of us find whiny people endearing. If you need to give your narrator’s voice a little bit of oomph, then whininess is not the way to go.
    Some books without this trope: Graceling by Kristin Cashore, Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder and The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman- all three are great books with non-whiny heroes who have excoriating circumstances thrust upon them but still rise to meet the challenges with minimal self pity and whining.


  5. Love at first sight exists

    This trope exists in so many forms. Of course there is the ‘You don’t need to walk by again, I believe in love at first sight’ but perhaps the most common form in young adult fiction is ‘I had never seen that boy before but I felt an instant connection’. The ‘We met in a dream and that’s how we fell in love’ one’s pretty common too. All so different but they have one thing in common- they’re all annoying.  Not to mention unrealistic.
    P.S. the ‘We met in a past life’ one counts too. Cheaters *sticks tongue out*
    Character stuck in this trope: Ethan and Lena from Beautiful Creatures, Daniel and Luce from Fallen
    Books without this trope:  The Gallagher Girls and Heist Society by Ally Carter. I’m not sure if Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan gets to go in this category or not. After all, Kami and Jared have never met but at the same time they’ve been each others best friends (even if each of them thought the other was imaginary).  But it’s so good, I’m going to go ahead and put it here.


  6. Everything will work out (even if you do nothing)

    So here’s what happens when you’ve got a huge problem that stresses you out completely- a magical and amazing outsider will come in and wave their magical fairy wand and your problem will disappear forever. How often does this happen in real life? Once? Twice? Oh wait, I remember…never. You usually have to work hard to make your problems disappear. Even if they do disappear, it’s because you’ve matured and grown and thus have bigger problems to worry about. So yeah, I hate happy ever afters when the main characters do nothing to deserve them.
    In fact, there’s a fancy latin name for this whole trope. It’s called deus ex machina. Wikipedia defines it as a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event, character, ability or object. It also makes it pretty clear that this is undesirable.
    Books with this trope: This is What Happy Looks Like by Jennifer E Smith and The Chemical Garden Trilogoy by Lauren DeStefano
    The exceptions to the rule: Lord of The Flies by William Golding- but only because I think if it went any further, I would have freaked out.


 

So that’s a list of some things I hate about YA. What about you?

Uninvited: A Book Review

Book: Uninvited (Uninvited #1)
Author/Authoress: Sophie Jordan

Uninvited (Uninvited, #1)

Cover: 4/5

  I like the simplicity of the background and the clothes Davy is wearing. They contrast and really highlight the hair ( see what I did there?).  In fact, I loved the juxtaposition so much, I actually attempted to draw it. Unfortunately, the hair that I drew came out nowhere near as beautiful as the hair on the cover. And the tagline : They say she’s a killer. One day she will be. Pure genius.

The cover’s obviously pretty and the hair twisting into DNA strands at the end is super cool but…I still can’t give the cover a 5. I guess I can blame part of it on my dislike for covers with pretty girls with amazing hair on the cover. They’re a dime to a dozen, and honestly-they’re sort of cliché and unoriginal.

Plot: 2/5

Blurb: The Scarlet Letter meets Minority Report in bestselling author Sophie Jordan’s chilling new novel about a teenage girl who is ostracized when her genetic test proves she’s destined to become a murderer.
When Davy Hamilton’s tests come back positive for Homicidal Tendency Syndrome (HTS)-aka the kill gene-she loses everything. Her boyfriend ditches her, her parents are scared of her, and she can forget about her bright future at Juilliard. Davy doesn’t feel any different, but genes don’t lie. One day she will kill someone.
Only Sean, a fellow HTS carrier, can relate to her new life. Davy wants to trust him; maybe he’s not as dangerous as he seems. Or maybe Davy is just as deadly.

My thoughts: I like the whole idea of the Homicidal Tendency Syndrome. I really do. It makes sense. After all, hasn’t mankind been trying to figure out how to identify psychopaths, sadists and murderers from the beginning of time? I like the idea that it can be identified by a single gene. And I can see how that idea will inevitably lead to a mandatory test issued by the government to see if it’s citizens carry that ‘kill’ gene.
But in the book, it remains pretty much nothing more than an idea. Sure, we see how badly people who are HTS positive are treated. In fact 3/4th the book was spent in boring, repetitive descriptions of how the MC had it all- close friends, an amazing boyfriend, a close family who adores her, an acceptance into Julliard and the general respect of everybody else- and how she lost it all in one swoop when she was tested HTS positive. I can understand that it was hard for her to be treated badly and I appreciate the point Sophie Jordan tried to make: that a lot of HTS people were treated really badly even though they didn’t deserve it. But, come on 3/4th of a book? That’s way too much. There’s no action, romance or anything halfway interesting in that part of the book. Zero. Zip. Zilch. Nada.

It does pick up after 3/4th the book after Davy gets sent to a special facility created by the government for training. But it was too little, too late.

Characters: 1/5

Davy: I did not like Davy at all. She was judgemental and snobby. And it took her forever to accept that she really was a HTS carrier. In fact most of the book, her attitude is like:

I’m different. The exception.

Throughout the book she judges the HTS carriers harshly. Really harshly. And when someone judged her or pointed out that she was a HTS carrier as well, she used to get very, very angry, whiny and tearful.  Another thing I hated about Davy was her Mary-Sue’ish factor. About it- it was waaay up there. She was a music prodigy– she has an amzing voice and sheplayed the violin, piano, cello and God only knows how many more instruments. Okay, I guess that justifies her early admission into Julliard. I’m not annoyed with that part. It’s plausible even if it’s kind of out there. But here’s what I do have a problem with:

“And as if being a music prodigy isn’t enough, when you were four years old you walked into my room and finished the puzzle that had been kicking my ass for the past week.”

You have the breeding the other girls lack. Gentility, if you will

So let’s do a mental tally of what Davy’s like so far

  1. She’s pretty
  2. She’s a music prodigy and she’s crazy talented.
  3. Everybody loves her. Her parents, her brother, her friends, her boyfriend. You name it- they love her (until they find out she’s HTS positive, anyways)
  4. She’s super smart too.
  5. She apparently has ‘good breeding’ and ‘gentility
  6. She was lucky enough to be born rich unlike most HTS carriers. Not that she took advantage of it, because then she wouldn’t be sweet enough.

Kay, really how much more Mary-Sue can you get?

The side characters…well, most don’t play a major role.

Family: Her Mom and Dad don’t exist in the book until they have to sign a waiver allowing her to go to the killing school. I guess that was supposed to prove a point. Like how they withdrew their support or something but it didn’t come across like it. It seemed more like Sophie Jordan forgot they were supposed to exist at times. She did something similar with Davy’s brother. He was the ex-‘family screwup‘ (his and Davy’s word’s- not mine) and he would randomly pop up to say something ‘inspirational’ and ‘caring’ and then pop back out of the story until the next time Davy felt like she needed motivation.

 Old friends: Davy’ boyfriend passive-aggressively makes her breakup with him after she becomes HTS positive. Maybe he’s a boy but he definitely doesn’t deserve the friend part of boyfriend. But even he doesn’t even compare to Davy’s best friend, Tori. Now Tori breaks all of friendship’s major rules and then some. First of all, she discusses Davy behind her back. Then this part is where the ‘and some’ comes in- she reports her so-called best friend for having violent tendencies after Davy breaks up and slaps her previously mentioned jerk of a boyfriend. Can you believe that?

New friends: Davy didn’t really make an effort to make any new friends after she was found t be HTS positive. She thought she was above them or something. Gil was her only friend throughout. He was one character that I was rather ambivalent towards. He was a computer genius, got perfect ACT scores, was kind of a wimp physically but really loyal deep down.  A cliché. But he might grow into his role in the next few books.

Romance:1/5

This is the part of the book in which there’s a major difference of opinion. Some people like Sean. Others really, really don’t.  Personally, I fall into the second category. He’s the hot, smooth bad boy who warns the MC not to trust him, pushes her away but rescues her anyways. Yes, that one. The one who’s been featured in, what a thousand books? already. Seriously someone should write a new type of love interest. It can’t be too difficult.

Action:5/5

 Throughout most of the book, I was like Wait- what? That makes no sense at all. But I never actually gave up on the book. Somehow the action and the general fast-pace of the book kept me reading. Even when this book passed a point in stupidity at which I close most books. And because I can say that, I can say that the action in this book was pretty well written.  In that respect, this book kind of reminds me of Divergent. Or maybe I was reminded of that book only because of the part where the HTS carriers are taken to a secure facility to be trained and taught how to kill effectively.

There are plenty of descriptions of violence that aren’t sugarcoated for a younger audience. But even then, this book managed to stay within the boundaries set for young-adult. Nothing was exaggerated for the sake of evoking a sense of disgust.

This book has the most important element necessary for a dystopia: a very real sense of fear, frustration and helplessness. A sense that things are bad and they’re gonna get worse. I’ve read plenty of dystopian books that have failed to convince me that things are really that bad, but there’s no danger of that here.

Plotholes:3/5

Sophie Jordan was able to incorporate a lot of important, mature themes like nature vs. nurture, hypocrisy, how treating people as if you expected violence from them actually encourages violence, how women are generally treated as means of entertainment and how they are simultaneously patronized and feared. It was commendable that she brought in all these issues but somehow none of these issues worked their way to the forefront. They all sort of sunk into the background, pretending to be unimportant while an inane, annoying romance and a vague, shaky plot enjoyed the limelight.

Dialogue: 2/5

I searched this book, cover to cover but all I found were these meh-sentences. Nothing particularly catchy or inspiring here.

“Exactly what he wanted me to do. Exactly what they all thought I would do. Everyone in here. Everyone out there in the world. A world so afraid of carriers, it makes killers out of the innocent.”

“Never forget that we are more than the genetic code. We can be more than labels applied to us. We can be more than what others whisper behind our backs. Free will exists. We need to choose to be the best we can be and we need to help others do the same. Believe in yourself.” 

 Overall Rating: 2/5

This book came with a lot of expectations. Not just for me (although I did have them after reading Ms. Jordan’s book Firelight which was actually pretty good)  but for everyone. This book has been compared positively to Article 5 by Kristen Simmons, The Program by Suzanne Young and Reboot by Amy Tintera. All major dystopian books which have made big names for themselves. But somehow the work managed to be ordinary, bland and clichéd. Just another case of a book that didn’t live up to it’s high expectations. Kind of like The Selection by Kiera Cass if you think about it.

Lovely Vicious: A Book Review

Book: Lovely Vicious (Lovely Vicious #1)

Author/Authoress: Sara Wolf

Lovely Vicious (Lovely Vicious, #1)

Cover: 2/5

It’s good looking enough but I can’t remember a single time when Isis ever went swimming. So, it’s pretty much inaccurate unless Sara Wolf wanted to convey the fact that Isis felt like she was drowning…okay that’s kind of metaphysical. Too metaphysical. 2/5 for the cover.

Plot: 3/5

Seventeen-year-old Isis Blake hasn’t fallen in love in three years, nine weeks, and five days, and after what happened last time, she intends to keep it that way. Since then she’s lost eighty-five pounds, gotten four streaks of purple in her hair, and moved to the Buttcrack-of-Nowhere Ohio to help her mom escape a bad relationship.

All the girls in her new school want one thing – Jack Hunter, the Ice Prince of East Summit High. Hot as an Armani ad, smart enough to get into Yale, and colder than the Arctic, Jack Hunter’s never gone out with anyone. Sure, people have seen him downtown with beautiful women, but he’s never given high school girls the time of day. Until Isis punches him in the face.

Jack’s met his match. Suddenly everything is a game.

The goal: Make the other beg for mercy.

The game board: East Summit High.

The reward: Something neither of them expected.

The blurb’s a bit misleading. I thought it would be a cheesy, fun, flirt love-hate romance. It definitely is not.

Sure, Jack is an Ice Prince and Isis is cynical and disbelieving of love but there is so much more to the story than that. By the time you get to chapter 5 or so you’ll find out that Jack works as an escort and Isis was abused emotionally. Their backstories are truly tragic and I think the representation of who they become because of their experiences is pretty accurate.Through most of this book, I felt like a balloon was trapped in my throat. It was just so sad at times but Isis would never let me cry. Her tough, cynical, overtly-honest words refused to let me feel any pity for her. Only sympathy. Even when I got near the end of the middle and found out that their backstories were a lot more tragic than originally stated, I still couldn’t cry because neither Isis or Jack were the type to appreciate crying.

But there were times I burst out laughing. Sure their antics were a little….implausible and immature. But they were hilarious. And they lightened the mood considerably. Without them, this book would have been gloom and doom and full of angst. With it, it was dark with a streak of humour.

Characters:4/5

Isis: She comes across as totally confident and in-control but she’s hiding a insecure mess. She’s been abused- mentally, emotionally and physically and it’s done a number on her self confidence. But she’s really loyal. And that’s what gets her dragged into this whole ‘war’. Isis was a character I really enjoyed. I read this book in bed and I she made me roll off it  laughing with her intensely sarcastic and sometimes deeply inappropriate retorts.

Jack: I get the feeling that I’m supposed to like this character, but I just can’t. It’s a mess. He’s too ice-cold for me to really feel anything for/about him. He keeps on doing stuff which is morally…just not done. I really don’t have much tolerance for this guy. Maybe he’s supposed to get my sympathy but he pretty much dug his own hole. What I do like about him: In the ‘War’, he’s able to keep his own. When Isis comes up with a one-liner that would have embarrassed me to pieces he notches up the ‘War’ another level with a clever quip and a less-than-clever prank.
Also his Mom was really cool. Although isn’t it a bit sad when you like the love interest’s Mom more than you like the character?

Kayla: Okay, this she was a really interesting character. One that might be more interesting than the MC…Nah, she isn’t but she comes a close second. Kayla is Isis’s best friend but their relationship isn’t that simple. For one thing, Kayla gets seriously annoyed whenever someone takes her for just another pretty face. She isn’t and Isis is one of the first to actually acknowledge it.  Kayla has a serious crush on Jack. So that’s one thing that really complicated their friendship.
I think I was kind of creeped out (just a little bit) when Isis paid Jack to take Kayla out on a date. I was even more creeped out when he agreed (because it was kind of obvious that he liked Isis) but it became clearer by the end of the date. Kayla reminds Isis of a prettier version of her younger self- naïve and carefree.

Besides these characters, there was a whole cast of supporting characters who were pretty amazing. I think I especially loved Wren. He plays a huge part in this book and despite the fact that you should think that he’s evil ( gasp!- he’s Nameless’ cousin) he’s actually the sweetest and most caring character in the book.

Knife Guy was hilarious (not that you would think that from his nickname) and Avery definitely played her frenemy part well.

Romance:1/5

Yes, I agree that Jack and Isis are like a modern-day Romeo and Juliet.  But only because the whole Romeo and Juliet romance was pretty messed up. They were 14, Romeo ditched another girl for her, they got married, killed relatives, forgot about silly things like- I don’t know, pulses?, and poisoned themselves. Yep, totally messed up. And that’s what the romance in this book is like. It’s not a hate-love relationship. It’s like  a hate-hate turned into lust relationship. Gross.

But I can see the attraction. Maybe… deep down, somewhere.

Writing: 5/5

There were two things I loved about the book. One was Isis. The other was the dialogue with Isis.

“How did you find me? If you hacked into the Club’s computer to look up my appointments – ”
“Whoa, I think you overestimate me, shitlord. Last time I checked all I did was be in the wrong place at the right time. I saw you and had to – ”
“Stalk me.”
“ – delicately approach you. In a sideways manner. From behind. Without being seen at all. For ten minutes.”

I would love to slap you right now, but I’m currently wielding a nine pound ball and I’m afraid that would be called murder

“You’re drunk.”
“Yeah, and you’re ugly, but do I complain about it? No! Because I don’t complain about things that I can’t change. That’s called intelligence.”

Don’t you have something to better to work on?” I hiss. “Like golfing or eating prunes or dying?”
The old lady looks shocked.
“Okay, sorry, not dying. But seriously, prunes are good for you.”

Plotholes:2/5

Most of the war was completely unrealistic. At times, it got really, really vicious. I kept on thinking something like ‘He/She went too far. They’re gonna get screwed.’ throughout the book. The Principal’s involvement was really pushing it too far. I mean since when would a professional get involved in such a childish and immature prank war?

At times it seemed like this was a fanfiction. A bunch of fun, hilarious events haphazardly connected to each other with a bucket load of immature insults thrown in. I’m certain that the war part of this book would’ve been a lot of fun to write but in the realistic scheme of things, it doesn’t make much sense. It was created solely to show that Isis and Jack could take a whole lot of crap and keep moving. Which is an admirable message, but I think the ‘War’ was the wrong way to go about showing that both characters were strong, creative and versatile individuals.

Warning: The book features quite a bit of profanity. It kind of bugged me so I’m including that here.

Ending: 4/5

Oh my gosh. This is the definition of a cliff-hanger. <spoiler> She gets amnesia, forgets about Jack and meets Sophie </spoiler>. I need to see where this is going. It’s heart breaking. Heart-breaking I tell you. This was really, really well-written.

Overall Rating: 2.5/5

I’m sure this was a fun book to write and it was definitely a fun book to read but if you actually think about this book for a minute, then you’ll realize most of this book makes no sense. The only redeeming features (the ones that stopped this book from being put in the same category as Matched or The Selection) was the excellent dialogue and the some of the characters. If you can ignore every thing else, then you should really enjoy this book.

 

The 5 Most Over-Rated YA Books

There are some books for which the anticipation of reading them is far better than actually reading them. You know what I’m talking about. Those books that friends swore up and down were great, brilliant and genius, the ones publishers touted as the book or the last book in a series which just falls flat. There are some books which surprise you in a good way but then there are those which shock you and make you  kinda understand what people mean when they say ‘I don’t like to read’.

Well these are mine. My disappointments, fails, whatever you want to call them. The top 5 most over rated books I’ve read or at least tried to.


 

1.)

The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3)

Book: Lord Of The Rings

Author: J. R. R. Toilken

Description:  Through the urgings of the enigmatic wizard Gandalf, young hobbit Frodo Baggins embarks on an urgent, incredibly treacherous journey to destroy the One Ring. This ring — created and then lost by the Dark Lord, Sauron, centuries earlier — is a weapon of evil, one that Sauron desperately wants returned to him. With the power of the ring once again his own, the Dark Lord will unleash his wrath upon all of Middle-earth. The only way to prevent this horrible fate from becoming reality is to return the Ring to Mordor, the only place it can be destroyed. Unfortunately for our heroes, Mordor is also Sauron’s lair.

Why it’s on this list: It was probably the writing. Did Toilken really have to drag and stretch everything out? If you thought the ooh-pretty-picture syndrome in Eragon was bad, then there are simply no words to describe the sheer over-description in this book. Does each tree need a rhapsody sung about it? Does each flower need a ballad in its name? Do you like it when world history is info dumped on you in annoyingly large chunks of poetry? Well, unless your answer is yes… then you won’t like the writing style of the book.

Another thing that annoyed me about this series (or book actually I didn’t get too far) was the insipidness and shallowness of the society the characters live in. It’s as if other than a few major players, no one in the world gets a personality; they’re just zombies.

I think this book put me off fantasy for quite a while.


 

2.)

The Selection (The Selection, #1)

Book: The Selection (The Selection #1)

Author: Kiera Cass

Description: For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in a palace and compete for the heart of gorgeous Prince Maxon.


But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself—and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

Why it’s on this list: You should read my review here. It’s practically a rant on what all I hate (a word that’s not nearly strong enough) about this book. The sketchy world-building with the awkward caste-system and nonsensical history was a major complaint. But that complaint was eclipsed by the shallowness of the characters and their interaction. Nothing about this story was smooth- from the dialogue to the plot. It all seemed very haphazard and thrown together. I’m not at all sure why this book was so celebrated. I mean, sure it had a nice cover but this book is the reason people say:  don’t judge a book by its cover.


 

3.)

Looking for Alaska

Book: Looking for Alaska

Author: John Green

Description:  Miles “Pudge” Halter’s whole existence has been one big nonevent, and his obsession with famous last words has only made him crave the “Great Perhaps” (François Rabelais, poet) even more. He heads off to the sometimes crazy, possibly unstable, and anything-but-boring world of Culver Creek Boarding School, and his life becomes the opposite of safe. Because down the hall is Alaska Young. The gorgeous, clever, funny, sexy, self-destructive, screwed-up, and utterly fascinating Alaska Young, who is an event unto herself. She pulls Pudge into her world, launches him into the Great Perhaps, and steals his heart.

Why it’s on this list: If you know me, you probably know my opinion on John Green’s books. If you don’t, well you can read it here.  And if you want my opinion on this book particularly you can read it here. This book was kind of an awkward read for me. There were several parts in the book where I was like : Wait, what? Why would they do something that stupid? The answer wasn’t clear to me by the end of the book. So this was a pointless read besides a boring one.


 

4.)

Matched (Matched, #1)

Book: Matched (Matched #1)

Author: Allie Coondie

Description: Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate… until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

Why it’s on this list: Yet again, it’s the characters which break this book. The world building wasn’t too bad. But only because the world was completely lifted off The Giver by Lois Lowry (fantastic read, by the way). The romance in this book was completely screwed up. We have a love triangle which features Cassie: the robot, Xander: the best friend and Ky: the ‘aberration’. So completely predictable. Forbidden love Romeo and Juliet-esque style follows and it is mind-numbingly insipid. But it makes sense because that’s what the characters are too. None of them have any sort of free thought or talent. I’m all for making characters ‘ordinary’ and ‘believable’ but this was just overdone.

 


5.)

Twilight (Twilight, #1)

Book:Twilight

Author/Authoress: Stephanie Meyers

Description: First, Edward was a vampire.

Second, there was a part of him – and I didn’t know how dominant that part might be – that thirsted for my blood.

And third, I was unconditionally and irrevocably in love with him.

When Bella Swan moves to the gloomy town of Forks and meets Edward Cullen, her life takes a thrilling and terrifying turn. With his porcelain skin, golden eyes, mesmerizing voice, and supernatural gifts, Edward is both irresistible and impenetrable. Up until now, he has managed to keep his true identity hidden, but Bella is determined to uncover his dark secret.
What Bella doesn’t realize is the closer she gets to him, the more she is putting herself and those around her at risk. And it might be too late to turn back…

Why it’s on this list: A lot of you are probably wondering this. I mean it’s not like Twilight has a good reputation, so how can it be over-rated? It had a good reputation. Once upon a time. In 2009 or so? But here are the common list of complaints: Bella Swan is a boring,wimpy Mary-Sue based on the author, Edward Cullen is a creepy, blood sucking, sparkly stalker and the romance between them is unhealthy.  And that’s basically the summary of this 498 page fiasco. How could you possibly not say this book is overrated?


So that’s the list. Which book do you think is the most over rated?

5th Wave: Book Review

Book: 5th Wave

Author/Authoress: Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave (The Fifth Wave, #1)

Cover:4/5

It’ pretty, isn’t it? It also fits the book pretty well. In fact, I can imagine several scenes in which the picture on the cover would be appropriate. 4/5 stars for this cover.

Plot:

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up

Contrary to what the blurb suggests, this book is not about zombies. Not even close. It’s about aliens. Evil aliens.

For some reason (which is not revealed in this book but which will probably be revealed later), aliens decide to take over the Earth. Not content with simply being considered superior and having humans completely downtrodden, they want to remove all humans from the face of the Earth. And to do so they will go to extreme lengths. Really extreme. By extreme they mean much more than electromagnetic waves which prevent satellites and electricity from working and diseases for which there is no cure. I can’t tell you much more about the plot without give you spoilers. Just let it be known that it’s spooky, creepy and at points nail-bitingly scary. And more full of twists and turns than a road up a mountain.

Characters: 4/5

Cassie: Cassie is an overly-sarcastic and flawed (she knows it too) heroine who made a promise to her dear and departed Dad to keep her brother safe. Except he gets captured by aliens in the disguise of soldiers. So it’s her job to get him back. As soon as you read the first few pages, it’s obvious that she’s deeply paranoid and missing a few marbles here and there. But we can excuse her for that. After all, she has been through a lot. Fans of Katsa (from Graceling) and Penryn (from Angelfall) will probably love this character.

Evan: He’s the love interest. And is a pretty interesting character if I do say so myself.  Just as insane as Cassie and defintiely more dangerous. He saves Cassie’s life (this is debatable). However I really can’t tell you much without giving major spoilers. But since, I want to talk some more about this awesome character, let me give you 3 words: He’s a traitor. Okay that tells you a lot while telling you absolutely nothing. But hopefully, this hint makes you curious enough to read this book.

Ben Parish: This guy carries a whole lot of emotional burden. Ben Parish is driven by a desire for revenge against the aliens who murdered his sister, and his own guilt because he was unable to stop them. He’s crazily loyal and a pretty fierce protector. He would have made an ideal soldier but then he finds out the evil plot. Good for him, not so much for the aliens. Also, for some reason it is impossible to simply refer to him as Ben. Hence he is always known as either Ben Parish or zombie.

Nugget: He’s Cassie’s little brother and is sometimes stupidly naïve and trusting. But he’s only 5 so I guess it’s pretty much justified. I think one thing I envy him for is his blind faith in Cassie and then in Ben. Despite being so young, he’s pretty much able to hold up his own in the team and I found his POV super interesting.

Besides these gems, we also have side characters who are pretty well rounded. We have the emotionally-stunted, Annie-Oakley like Ringer (three guesses why that’s her nickname in the Army) and the brilliant survivor who used to be Cassie’s dad.

Romance:2/5

Okay, the romance in this was pretty bad. For some reason, Cassie has a huge crush on Ben Parish, a guy who she hasn’t seen since the beginning of the end of the world. …we-ird.

Then, if the romance between Cassie and Evan was a pattern of  footsteps, it would be like: one small step, one small step, a huge leap, another leap, run back as fast as possible, stampede forward (the space of four huge, flying leaps). Definitely weird. But if it’s any consolation, there was some chemistry between the two. And it wasn’t just because both of them were kind of crazy and weird.

Dialogue:4/5

This book is extremely quotable. We have the deep, profound stuff like:

“We’re here, and then we’re gone, and it’s not about the time we’re here, but what we do with the time.”

Cruelty isn’t a personality trait. Cruelty is a habit.”

“How do you rid the Earth of humans? Rid the humans of their humanity

“What doesn’t kill us sharpens us. Hardens us. Schools us. You’re beating plowshares into swords, Vosch. You are remaking us. We are the clay, and you are Michelangelo. And we will be your masterpiece.”

And there’s the badass, honest stuff which somehow just makes you proud to be human:

“But if I’m it, the last of my kind, the last page of human history, like hell I’m going to let the story end this way. I may be the last one, but I am the one still standing. I am the one turning to face the faceless hunter in the woods on an abandoned highway. I am the one not running but facing. Because if I am the last one, then I am humanity. And if this is humanity’s last war, then I am the battlefield.”

“You can only call someone crazy if there’s someone else who’s normal. Like good and evil. If everything was good, then nothing would be good.”

“When the moment comes to stop running from your past, to turn around and face the thing you thought you could not face–the moment when your life teeters between giving up and getting up–when that moment comes, and it always comes, if you can’t get up and you can’t give up either, here’s what you do: Crawl.”

And then there were sentences that were humorous in a dark sort of way. Just what you need when you’re in the middle of a book full of the scary and the serious.

“We’d stared into the face of Death, and Death blinked first. You’d think that would make us feel brave and invincible. It didn’t.”
“There’s an old saying about truth setting you free. Don’t buy it. Sometimes the truth slams the cell door shut and throws a thousand bolts.”
“What were they thinking? ‘It’s an alien apocalypse! Quick, grab the beer!”
“I would kill for a cheeseburger. Honestly. If I stumbled across someone eating a cheeseburger, I would kill them for it.”
Plotholes:3/5
The romance= Not good. Other than that, I don’t really have any complaints.
Overall Rating:3.5/5
Freakishly scary in some parts, this is what I had hoped what the Ender’s Game would be like. Anyone who’s a fan of aliens, apocalypses, survival and dystopian need to read this book. Falls in the same category as Ashfall by Mike Mullin, The Darkest Minds by Alexandra Bracken, Unwind by Neal Shusterman or Angelfall by Susan Ee.

 

This Is What Happy Looks Like: A Book Review

Book: This Is What Happy Looks Like

Author/Authoress: Jennifer Brown

“From: EONeill22@hotmail.com
Sent: Saturday, June 8, 2013 1:18 PM
To: GDL824@yahoo.com
Subject: what happy looks like
Sunrises over the harbor. Ice cream on a hot day. The sound of the waves down the street. The way my dog curls up next to me on the couch. Evening strolls. Great movies. Thunderstorms. A good cheeseburger. Fridays. Saturdays. Wednesdays, even. Sticking your toes in the water. Pajama pants. Flip-flops. Swimming. Poetry. The absence of smiley faces in an e-mail.

What does it look like to you?”  

This Is What Happy Looks Like

Cover: 5/5

I love the tiny boat which is probably similar to the one Ellie and Graham sailed in during Ellie’s ‘mission’ to find her father. I love the sun rising in the background which represents a happy time in their relationship but most of all I love the fact that the characters are silhouetted for their privacy- a major issue in this book. Another plus point needs to be given for the title. This Is What Happy Looks Like is not only a cute title but a fitting one too. Five on five for the cover.

Characters: 2/5

The characters in this book were not particularly strong which is peculiar for a young adult contemporary book.

Ellie is a normal small town girl who just so happens to be the illegitimate daughter of a famous politician. This is why she is constantly freaked out by paparazzi. She’s an aspiring writer, enjoys long walks on the beach and eating ice cream. I won’t criticize Jennifer’s writing style- it’s great, definitely the show not tell variety, but Ellie is such a cookie-cutter character. Quite honestly, she’s a cliché. There’s nothing really quirky or cool about her. Not her hair (which is a brownish red), her hobbies (mentioned above), her clothes (t-shirts, skirts and rubber flip flops) or her dreams. Maybe the ordinariness is part of her charm for some, but for me her normality was just boring.

Graham Larkin is kind of cliché too to be honest. He’s a bit of a stalker and goes into long tangents about why his fame is so annoying. But other than that, I did like him as a character. He was definitely more quirky than Ellie was (it’s funny how much I like character quirks)- He has a pet pig and  obsessed with finding a ‘whoopi pie’. I think this was part of what contributed to his sweet, lovable characteristic traits. When you look at all these details, do you really think that he’s the kind of guy to punch camera people? No, me neither. I was kind of annoyed when he started to go out of character; I liked him sweet and cute, dammit!

One thing I really, really, really disliked about this book was the absence of support characters. In the beginning of the book we are introduced to Quinn, a super short, super cute character who is the main character’s best friend and I thought she looked promising. My hopes were dashed, however, when she suddenly stopped being friendly with Ellie and just dropped off the radar. Olivia, Graham’s co-star had the potential to be either a great character or a bad character but Jennifer Brown doesn’t use her at all. She’s not a character at all!

The parents in this book are not that great either. Sure, Ellie’s mom is nice and protective but even then she doesn’t make much of an appearance. We get a huge backstory about Graham’s parents. About how they don’t really support him in his acting career, how his home life is a bit strained, how he moved away and is kind of glad they don’t visit, etc. But it all dissolves with a banal, trite phone call at the end.

Plot:4/5

If fate sent you an email, would you answer?

When teenage movie star Graham Larkin accidentally sends small town girl Ellie O’Neill an email about his pet pig, the two seventeen-year-olds strike up a witty and unforgettable correspondence, discussing everything under the sun, except for their names or backgrounds.

Then Graham finds out that Ellie’s Maine hometown is the perfect location for his latest film, and he decides to take their relationship from online to in-person. But can a star as famous as Graham really start a relationship with an ordinary girl like Ellie? And why does Ellie want to avoid the media’s spotlight at all costs?

I dived into this book fully expecting a cutesy, fun, breezy read with cliché, cutesy, fun, breezy characters and a cliché, cutesy, fun,breezy plotline and that’s what I got more or less. This book doesn’t get any points for morality or profoundness. In fact it inclines slightly to the horribly cheesy. But the dialogue in this book is beautiful. It’s what you could expect from teenagers. Natural, light and beautiful in it’s simplicity.

“I’m not sure I’m quite finished saying hello yet.”

and

“Salutations,” he said, and she smiled.
“Good morning.”
“Yeah,” he said. “It really is.”  

and

“I never said I was good,” he told her, taking the pen. “Just that I liked doing it.”
“That’s the best kind of good.”   

See what I mean?

Romance: 2/5

It wasn’t insta-love. Or at least that’s what I tried telling myself. They had written e-mails to each other for almost three months, right? But, no matter how I tried to think about it, I couldn’t forget the fact that this story effectively takes place over the huge (sarcasm) span of five days. Definitely enough time to build a strong, stable romance. Yep, definitely.

I was so not on board with the whole damsel in distress thing either. I kind of wanted to jump ship when he made a bet (in her favour) for a thousand bucks so that she could use the money to go to a poetry course at Harvard. Feminism, anyone?

Plotholes: 2/5

No one accidentally pen pals a stranger who ends up being a movie star. But it’s just a book and this is excusable too anyone who’s just looking for a fun, easy, light read. I honestly didn’t have too much problem with this part. After all, if I can read books about vampires and witches without complaining that they’re unrealistic, I can do the same for this one.

The worst part of this book was the fact that as soon as problems reared their ugly head, they were smoothened over miraculously with very little effort on either of the character’s parts. Got caught and recognized by paparazzi as the illegitimate child of a famous politician? No problem, that’s only a tiny footnote in the article which exclaims boldly that you’re Graham Larkin’s girlfriend. Seeing your parents became rarer and rarer after you became a movie star and worrying that it’s your fault? It’s not because they disapprove of your career, it’s because the flashing lights of Hollywood are too much for them. Punched a cameraman? Oh it’s okay, your director says you need to look tougher for your role in your next movie. I kid you not, these were actual problems and solutions in the book ‘This Is What Happy Looks Like’. Though some things in life really do come together at the last minute with virtually no effort, most things do not. And this is not just unrealistic, it’s an unhealthy message too. You can not solve your problems by waiting, doing nothing and hoping for the best.

Overall recommendation: 2.5/5

I’m not even sure why I liked this book. I read this book within the week so it may be recent book syndrome. After all the character’s were boring, the romance was unrealistic and the plot was kind of cliché. But there’s other things about this book too. The sweet emails that were sent back and forth, the quest for ‘whoopi pies’ and the quick, natural banter all brought a smile to my face. I wouldn’t recommend buying this book but if you ever get a chance to borrow it, please do.

  

The Hunger Games: A Book Review

Book: The Hunger Games
Author/Authoress: Suzanne Collins

The Hunger Games (The Hunger Games, #1)

Hunger Games is one of the best known dystopian young adult books and I loved it. It seems kinds of silly to me, that I dedicated this blog to young adult dystopian books and I still didn’t have a post about the Hunger Games over here. I guess I took it for granted that everyone’s read the series (and loved it too) but recently I wished a friend of mine ‘May the odds ever be in your favour’ in and got a blank look in return. To minimize my self-humiliation I  prompted them- “You know, the Hunger Games?” and got a smile and a ‘I haven’t watched the movie yet’…
I haven’t watched the movie yet?!? <Shakes head in despair>. You poor, poor deprived person.

So, here I am, reviewing the Hunger Games not just for the sake of the people who think it’s just a movie but also for people who I know have read and loved it. Be warned, this may turn into a fangirling session.

Cover:2/5

I don’t really go for the minimalist style for book covers. So the stark black background with ugly white letters proclaiming that the book’s name was ‘The Hunger Games’ and watermarks of targets didn’t really inspire much enthusiasm for me. But I can admire how the background makes the mocking-jay pin stand out. It’s probably the most recognisable young adult series just for that golden shiny pin which appears in some form or the other on every single book in the series. And for good reason too, that pin is important. Every single event in this book eventually boils down to that pretty golden pin.

Characters: 3.5/5

Katniss: The main character that everyone loves and even if you say you don’t love her, you know deep down you really do. Ever since her father died at the tender age of ten, she’s been shouldering the full load of her family almost single handily. She learnt how to hunt with a bow and arrow (actually let’s be fair to her father, he taught her before he died) and hunts illegally catching squirrels and rabbits neatly in the eye as well as bringing bigger game down. Like expected from such a character, she’s not squeamish about blood or even that squeamish about killing human living beings. To her, they’re just bigger prey. She’s suspicious and mistrusting (even of her own mother) but once you have her loyalty or do her a favour, she’ll do anything for you and do her best to get out of your debt. And her way of classifying everyone into predator and prey- totally charming.  But she has her flaws too. Can there ever be a good character without flaws? Never mind, that’s a rhetorical question. Katniss is hot-headed and stubborn and while this makes her undoubtedly cool at some times, it gets her into trouble as well. Besides that, she has the annoying tendency to see everything in black and white and label everyone and everything as evil and good. She doesn’t see blurry lines and grey areas. Another thing that annoys me about her is her priorities- they’re seriously messed up.

Prim: Prim’s the kind of cliché sweet baby sister character who the main character has to protect. But Suzanne Collins is not content to leave her flat and two dimensional. With the help of memories and Rue, Ms. Collins manages to string together an amazing back story which not only shows just how gentle, kind and sheltered Prim is but her healing genius and  tough inner strength as well.

Rue: Rue was a fabulous character. Just small and innocent enough for Katniss to protect and wise, clever and skilled enough to stand on her own. Through her, we learn more about the Capitol and through her death we develop a hatred for it. I’m not ashamed to admit- this is one death scene I actually cried for.

Cato: Is it weird that I actually liked this brutal, brain-washed Career from district 2? His intense temper and smug arrogance made me laugh, laugh, laugh. Suzanne Collins, would you please do a short story from Katniss’s archenemy’s of the 74th Hunger Games point of view?

Plot:5/5

In a dark vision of the near future, a terrifying reality TV show is taking place. Twelve boys and twelve girls are forced to appear in a live event called the Hunger Games. There is only one rule: kill or be killed.

When sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen steps forward to take her sister’s place in the games, she sees it as a death sentence. But Katniss has been close to death before. For her, survival is second nature.

Honestly, how could I resist this plot?  It’s like a twisted mix of awful reality television, a promise of lots of action  and a chilling dystopian world. Just what I’ve always wanted.

Worldbuilding:4/5

The strange blend with old fashionedness (trains and phones as a novelty) and modern technology (mutated, genetically modified animals and food appearing at the touch of a button) that’s so common for these types of books worked fantastically for this one. The world building begins on page one of this book and continues on ’til the last page of the last book. It’s slow, gradual and inspired genius.

Action:5/5

You would think that with 24 deaths, eventually all of the action will get boring. That’s not true. Not true at all. Right now I’m thinking of death by tracker-jackers. Definitely not a fun way to go.  It seems weird to compliment Suzanne Collins on the imaginative deaths she thought up for her characters, but I have to. They were really innovative and cool in a gruesome sort of ways.

Romance:1/5

Peeta: For some reason Peeta really annoys me in this book. Despite him starring in a major part of the book either directly or indirectly, I feel that we’re not really given much information about him. Even the information we are given is in the form of telling and not showing. What we do know about him: he bakes bread, he likes camouflaging, he’s selfless, he’s a good actor (or the Careers are really dumb, either one or maybe both) he’s been in love with Katniss since he was five, he remembers everything about Katniss, he was too shy to tell her that he loved her for eleven years until he announced it on national television, he refuses to let Katniss put her life in danger for his sake, etc. etc.

I think you get my point.  A large part of his personality is based on Katniss’s. So much so, he’s almost defined by her.  If you take her away, you get a kind of cowardly guy who bakes bread and likes art. Not the dreamboat everyone thinks about.

Gale: We’re only treated to him for a couple of pages and it’s already obvious where this is heading. He’s angry, rash, masculine (which means he’s not into baking or art),  anti-capitol and truly, deeply and madly in love with Katniss although she doesn’t know it yet. Other than that, he’s remarkably similar to Peeta.<rolls eyes> Oh boy!

Disclaimer: I am sick of love triangles in which there are obvious winners and carbon copy characters. 

Plotholes:3/5

Just look up, the love in this book is riddled with plot holes.

Overall rating:4/5

I am reminded again why I do not read young adult dystopia for its strong,  gradual and beautiful romances. But I loved the world building, plot, most of the characters, and the action of this book. I would recommend reading and maybe even buying this book.