Nannah's Bookbox

Nannah's Bookbox

Queer, disabled, and way too invested in YA lit. Always searching for more diverse books!

!!! spoiler alert !!! Review
2 Stars
Angelfall  - Susan Ee
Quick question before I begin: did this book exist as a Supernatural (CW) fanfiction before it became what it is now? It feels like the plot's apocalypse (angels attacking humans without knowing from whom their orders really come from or why but obeying them without question), among other details, could come directly from the floors of the show's writers' room. That, or things are just all starting to sound similar these days. I haven't really read a lot of angel YA fiction, so maybe I'm not the best person to be making judgements.

But speaking of the apocalypse itself, that's one big problem I had with Angelfall. There's never a reason given as to why it happens. I get that this book is the first of a trilogy and that the angels themselves don't know why it's happening, but as a reader it's hard to accept that the book can just end without giving some sort of explanation as to why it began in the first place. It also weakened what conclusion it had, as it couldn't really close anything regarding the apocalypse plot because it didn't have a reason for opening it (especially seeing the angels couldn't really care less about the why and the most our protag, Penryn, seemed to give this whole matter was a passing couple of thoughts).

The writing really wasn't spectacular, either. I just really couldn't get past how emotionally empty and telling the prose was. It just felt like breathing shallowly. There was even a chapter where she just used the words "Art Deco" about twenty times to describe everything in the room. Not to mention I can't even count the number of times that Penryn had to stop the scene in order to marvel at the "Olympic" beauty of Raffe, the fallen angel. His perfect body, velvety skin, firm chest, or whatever else she spewed out during those moments. The writing had some truly horrific moments, too, like that kiss. Ogh, that kiss. "My body melts into his and I'm hyperaware of the hard muscles of his chest against my breasts, and the warm grip of his hands around my waist and shoulders, the wet sliding of his mouth on mine." Goodness gravy, please no.

I also had some problems with the sexist themes going on in the book. Firstly, Raffe goes on about the Nephilim, but only mentions angels with the Daughters of Man, and mentions that the wives of the angels received worse punishment than the Nephilim themselves. Later, to get into the aerie, Penryn must put on a small red dress and some makeup (and I'm treated with a lovely ounce of slut-shaming, thank you, Ee). Why? Oh, because the angels like to take in (only the most) beautiful human women to wear on their arms as they party. I also learn that there's angel women--but human/angel interaction seems to only exist when it's to demean human women.

Characters here were nothing special. It might have had something to do with the lack of emotion with the writing, but I couldn't connect with these characters. They seemed two-dimensional, more like bursts of sarcastic dialogue than actual people. Or, in a few instances, just personality quirks instead of being characters, like the Weasley twins--oops, I mean, Tweedledee and Tweedledum (really), two red-headed twins.

Now, I'll give this book one thing: it certainly was addicting. I kept reading it and kept going. I can't even really say why. Things kept moving (though where it was going, I couldn't say). Things kept happening, even if there wasn't a clear reason. It did make for good action.

I don't even know if I want to talk about the ending, though. It was gruesome, yes, and horrifying, but I didn't connect with it. What reason did it have to be so absolutely grotesque? There was no build up. Also, why didn't Raffe hear Penryn's heartbeat or breathing and know she was alive when he was bringing her back to her family at the end? Angels have excellent hearing, as was said many times throughout the book. She was right against his chest at the time. Am I to believe he couldn't hear that? Along the same line, am I supposed to believe that not once did Penryn wonder if Raffe was somehow short for Raphael? Not once?

In any case, maybe this novel just wasn't for me.
4 Stars
The Raven Boys
The Raven Boys  - Maggie Stiefvater
(4.5, really)

Okay, so stories that deal with "true love," boys that go to private schools with their own fancy sweaters and such, and love triangles usually don't interest me, but I had to read this because of Adam Doyle's breathtaking cover art. Well, that and because I adored Maggie Stiefvater's The Scorpio Races, but it's impossible to resist Adam Doyle. Impossible. If anyone claims to never have judged a book by its cover, they're lying.

In any case, I ended up falling in love with this dang novel. And it's dang love story and its dang boys in their dang fancy sweaters and such.

The book begins with a nice and creepy scene outside a church on St. Mark's Eve, in which the protag, Blue, sees a spirit who calls himself Gansey. Because Blue's not a psychic like the rest of her family, seeing this spirit means only two things: he's either her true love, or he's someone she's going to kill. Or probably both.

Now, the love story unfolds with the classic, "oh god, he's a rich private school boy with money out his ears we will never be friends" Pride and Prejudice kind of affair, but the book's plot chooses not to revolve around their little love story (even with a +1, making this a dreaded love triangle but one that actually doesn't seem forced or convoluted). There's a LOT going on in this book.

For starters, every character has a fully-developed backstory, and their actions actually reflect their past experiences. I can't even explain how rare that simple concept seems to be nowadays, especially in YA fiction. Every action and choice is thought out and carefully expressed. Each of the four Aglionby boys are so different from each other yet avoid being shoved into a cliché. And they each have something to add to the story, to richen it, to develop it further. I also have to give props to Maggie for the relationships between these guys, because even their relationships with each other are unique and believable. It all just works, and I'm left here stunned wondering how she did it. How she managed to come so close to all these stereotypes, but somehow avoid them and create something wonderful.

Also, I just couldn't put this book down. There was an immediacy to the writing (and oohh, the writing. Such beautiful, beautiful writing. I want to kiss those words. Mmm.) that just drew me into the story and wouldn't let me stop, even for a bathroom break.

That's not to say everything was perfect, though. I did feel like sometimes there was too much going on at one time, or that things were happening with no explanation (like the ending, and maybe it was me, but I floundered for a while before I realized what the ending line really meant. Kind of seemed a bit gimmicky at that point; "get ready for the sequel, folks!"). Plus, I wanted a bit more closure. The climax happened, and then suddenly there was an ending. I wasn't sure where exactly the characters were at. What really happened? Plus, the whole story seemed to set up this "fall in love or kill him" idea, and that wasn't resolved. I get that the idea would probably span the entire cycle, but it didn't seem to be introduced that way, and it felt like being cheated.

Anyways, loved the plot, the atmosphere, the characters, the WRITING, and all the details in between. I can't wait to get my hand on the second installment.
4 Stars
The Shape of Water
The Shape of Water - Anne Spollen
This book was an interesting find for me. I was wandering the library, and I don't know what compelled me to pull this random black spine from the shelf, but when I did the cover just captivated me. Seriously, take a good look at that cover. It's freaking gorgeous (although, I have to admit what made me take this lovely home was the fact that the protagonist's name is Magda . . .).

Okay, so firstly, there's no mistaking that this book deals with water themes. Every other sentence has some simile or metaphor relating to water. Which is beautiful for a while, and then starts to get tedious. But don't get me wrong, Spollen's writing is lyrical, gorgeous, and can create some fantastical images. I don't think I've read anything that has so many beautiful lines. Just . . . the water thing can get a little overused.

This book, though, was beautiful. It got me sympathizing with an arsonist, of all people (with such great symbolism, too). The book bordered on surrealistic at times, too--with the fish family moving into Magda's head--, but never fully went over-the-top. Three-fourths of the way through, though, things started to drag, what with Magda's character seemingly not developing and her trudging through the same ruts where she didn't care about anybody or anything that I almost didn't want to continue reading. I'm really glad I did. The ending really wrapped things up in a wonderful, almost sad way. It was in the last few pages, and I wished it had started earlier on in the book, but there was closure with her decision to move forward with her life, and I was satisfied.

It's really like nothing that I've personally read before, so it was really refreshing, to be honest, although I'm not sure that I'd read it again . . .
3 Stars
Origin - Jessica Khoury
Content warnings:
-animal abuse

(3.5 stars) What really attracted me to Origin was its concept and setting: a girl is made to be the first of an immortal race deep in the rainforest. Sci-fi in a fresh location (at least, in YA fiction)--what could be better? But it didn't take me long to realize that the intriguing science fiction set-up was a clever mask disguising a much simpler and much less original romance-driven fantasy plot line.

Pia, the protagonist, is literally born to be perfect. She can't forget or bleed (although she can bruise, which is bleeding on the inside, so unless there's an explanation I simply missed I'm assuming this is a plot hole?). Now, I've seen a ton of people on this site moan about her perfection, but I loved it. It was her flaw, and it made her interesting. I mean, how many self-entitled douche bags of the here-and-now think they're the epitome of perfection without being placed in Pia's situation? I thought this was nice, to be honest. You go, Pia! Yes, at times her attitude bordered on insufferable, but I looked forward to the breakdown of her "I'm perfect because I was made to be" mentality. You had to know it was coming; it's an arc foreshadowed from the get-go.

Eio, the love interest, posed a problem for me, mostly because I wanted to love him so much until it became clear that it was Khoury's intent to have him glide through the plot only as the "incredibly hunky-chested love interest driven only by his love for her." He was basically there to propel Pia's storyline and provide her with a reason to change. He's a plot point, not a character, and as he doesn't undergo any major arcs himself as one of the leads, it seems a bit problematic. Sure, he reacts to certain events as he should (e.g., his father's death), but it's only a reaction, and he's not altered or motivated by them. His whole being and purpose revolves around how he can save/serve the protagonist, Pia, and I feel kind of cheated.

I'm very conflicted in my opinions on the supporting and side characters. For the most part, I liked Harriet, although she seemed a bit scripted (an odd thing to say about someone whose whole being is a series of lines and actions, but I mean her words were so predictable or forcibly charming that I was afraid I'd create wrinkles in this beautiful book from squeezing it so hard). Her whole arc seemed to unfold like an actor who knew her lines too well, even if I do admit I still had interest in her and her character. Like I said: conflicted.

Now, to nitpick to the extreme, I have to say that although Pia's father made me want to jump up and cheer near the end, there was this specific couple of lines that really struck a wrong nerve with me. Pia tries to explain his shyness as though it's something that needs to be explained. As if shyness or awkwardness are negative personality traits caused by some past trauma or drama and are not normal to be had. Again, I'm really being specific here, but it was the way those thoughts were worded that really bothered me.

Speaking of bothersome, those dang scientists. Almost every scientist in Origin was a cliche: cold, heartless, unsympathetic. In short, sacrificing humanity in the name of SCIENCE. (Also, there were too many characters that received names in this book, I think--shoot! who was this again? I kept thinking that, but I was too lazy to flip back and check.)

Oh. Khoury, this is where you shine. It's obvious that she did her research, because the jungle came to life with such beauty and vivid imagery. I LOVED the setting, and I would read Khoury's future books just based on the life of her setting imagery, because that is such a huge part of making a story breathe, and she nailed it.

Okay, so the plot is clearly fantasy when it's being marketed as science fiction, and though I do love good fantasy, it was annoying to be fooled. But I think Khoury had every intention to make this book fit the sci-fi genre and just didn't realize what sci-fi actually meant . . . or something.

For the plot to work, it really needed to rely on Pia being kept in the dark, but Pia is super intelligent--kind of comes with being born perfect. So why didn't she ever ask any of the important questions? For the sake of plot convenience? I refuse to believe she was so easily duped and manipulated, not someone so smart.

As the emotion and drama heightened in the last quarter of the book, things began to get a little silly. The suspense became nothing but a predictable capture-tag game where Pia turns around only to find her antagonists once again a step ahead of her, using someone she loves as leverage for her to cooperate. And this happened over and over and over.

About the content warnings:
The animal abuse is just ridiculous. It feels as though it's used for dramatic effect only to show how serious things really are (like, really really), and it made me want to scream until I hurled. Animal abuse for special effects? And this is no little matter. It happens a lot more than once, and these scenes are described with great detail. Seriously, if this kind of thing affects you, please don't read.

Regarding racism . . . okay, I understand the need for creating cruel and horrid characters and letting the readers know that they act the way they do because they're frigging disgusting people, but Pia continued to call Eio, the boy she was infatuated with, as her "wild boy," in her thoughts until the end. This I'm not so okay with, because it was presented in a neutral, even positive light. And the whole plot ended up seeming like another "white savior" story (think Avatar).

There were a lot of sexist themes running amok in this book, too, with Eio giving Pia a necklace that basically means she belongs to him . . . without her consent. When this finally comes to light, Pia even likes it. I just didn't see any reason for this. There's also a pretty blatant sexist comment, one that Pia takes no offense to and even regards as complimentary:

"'I will take you back.' he [Eio] repeats in a firmer tone. 'It's not good for a woman to walk alone in the jungle without a man to protect her.'
He thinks I'm a woman. I stand a little taller."

I just . . .

I realize I tend to be pretty darn critical on reviews, but I did enjoy reading Origin. It had the potential to turn into something much greater than a simple love story, but I don't fully regret the ride. And I applaud Khoury for writing a book with a setting and characters the genre hasn't seen much of. If you like love stories and don't take the plot on the jacket as advertised, then this is an okay read.
4 Stars
Sever - Lauren DeStefano
This one's hard to rate. I keep wandering from the fourth to fifth star, because while I really enjoyed it and loved how it closed the trilogy, there were things I felt were passed over somehow or that didn't make sense in the context of the novel.

I LOVED that DeStefano balanced the tragedy of her world with happy moments. Oh, I loved it, especially after the weight of the second installment, which kind of felt like a gigantic cat had just parked itself on my chest and wouldn't budge, no matter how many treats I tempted it with. The relationship between Cecily and Rhine was a bright light in this dystopia--something I really connected with, and I really loved seeing more of here. And on the topic of Cecily, her character was beautifully fleshed out and developed. There was such beauty and attention to detail when it came to characterization (well, this was always one of DeStefano's strong points, but I felt it really shone here), and it made the novel all the more engaging.

There were, however, a couple scenes where I felt cheated. Cheated out of emotional potential, or just scene time in general. like the twins' reunion, Linden's death, and Rhine and Gabriel's reunion at the end. I just . . . feel like they were supposed to feel HUGE but ended up feeling so brief, explained in a couple of paragraphs. Maybe for shock factor, but I just didn't feel the emotional attachment to these scenes--places where I should've wanted to cry and scream but didn't. Don't get me wrong, what she had was well-done, it just didn't feel . . . done enough! Or maybe it was overdone. Like overcooked steak, and I wanted it rawer, more juicy, more REAL. Less dry somehow. This is all, of course, personal opinion.

All in all, a very satisfying conclusion to a very haunting, dark, and lovely trilogy that will stay with me for a long time (in its actual form and as a source of inspiration). DeStefano is a master at crafting beautiful prose, and I can't wait to get these books on my shelves permanently. :)
3 Stars
Reached - Ally Condie
I'm not sure how to introduce this one . . .

I don't feel like there wasn't enough story to actually sustain a plot, and especially not for the finale of a trilogy! Basically you have a plague and there needs to be a cure. That's pretty much the core of the plot, and the bulk of the book consists of scientific observations, studies, and tests performed in search of the cure. Not that that's not interesting, but this book is fairly long and to have this all go on for 512 pages with character asides about their problems in love (. . . rectangles?) didn't really do it for me.

I did, however, adore Lei, Anna, and every mention of Cassia's grandfather. Those characters really shone in this book, and really kept me reading. They were strong, beautiful, and they were written with such care and sweetness that lacked with many other ones.

The writing kind of grew on my nerves in some places. I never got a sense of some characters and gestures, because they were constantly written in ways that didn't ever tell me anything. (i.e.: Her smile was beautiful. She looked at my sympathetically. Her eyes were lovely. I could tell she was nervous. It was beautiful.) I wanted to be shown how things were beautiful, why people looked nervous, etc., but I was just told everything, over and over, and I ended up just rolling my eyes in between dialogue. Because that's what this book ended up feeling like: a few paragraphs of prose stuck between dialogue.

I don't know. Reached just didn't do it for me.
4 Stars
The Book Thief
The Book Thief - Markus Zusak
Oh, did I cry at the end of this one. I might not be able to write a coherent review at the moment; that ending just reduced me to a pile of snotty tissues. Let's be honest. Zusak's writing and style really swelled to something gorgeous then. He really took time to make it pretty dang perfect.

The last half really kept me glued to the pages, but I wish the first had the same immediacy. I found the book a little hard to get into--I think, maybe, until Max made his entrance. It almost seems to me that everything that came before him was backstory that I wish had been abbreviated somewhat.

I did really enjoy Death the Narrator and his little inputs, surprisingly. It's not something I'd usually fall for, but I think, especially towards the end, the narrator really made sense to me. It made such an impact that would've been lost without it.

I also have to mention that I absolutely adored Rudy Steiner (though not the bit with the blackface; I think the book could've done without that, to be quite honest . . . ). The way Zusak connected his every action to something that happened later in the book was brilliant, albeit heartbreaking. Even mentioning what happens to him early on didn't lessen the pain when his scenes finally occurred in the end.

Anyway, I can't really write more than that at the moment. I'm still frustrated and blubbering.
1 Stars
Wanted: Janosik
Wanted: Janosik - Andrew  Matthews, Dylan Gibson
Oh . . .

Mr. Matthews, if you're going to write a book about a semi-historical hero from a culture you're probably not all that familiar with (and this is a pretty darn good assumption after what I just read), then you need to do some research!

This book made me want to cry. I believe this is the only children's novel about Juraj Jánošík in English right now, and it does nothing to teach anyone about him. It's obvious Matthews didn't even bother to do something even so little as a wikipedia search on Janosik, because he got the most basic facts wrong. I can't believe this got published when no one checked it for historical accuracy!

-Janosik was not born in Poland! He was born in what's now Slovakia . . . If you're going to blatantly say it, why stray from the truth?

-Janosik's parents were Martin and Anna, not Tomas and Rosa. Martin and Anna . . . these names aren't really all that difficult to swallow, so why was there need to change them? Did Matthews just not bother to look them up? Heck, this information is also in--what--the third paragraph of Janosik's wikipedia page? Also, Janosik's first name is Juraj (or Jerzy if Matthews wanted his book in the Polish perspective) . . . his first name isn't actually Janosik . . . (face-palm).

Okay, besides those horrible, horrible lies, HOW DARE JANOSIK BE ANGLICIZED? FYI, Janosik was not Robin Hood under a different name. He kind of became a Robin Hood-like figure in legend, but he wasn't the same exact guy! This book was basically a Robin Hood story with some of the names changed. I'm serious, there's a "Sheriff of Nottingham," too, named Duke Edmund who collected taxes from the farmers, which drove Robi--I mean, Janosik to steal from the rich and give to the poor.

It's one thing to take some creative liberties, but this is outrageous. The whole thing about Janosik is that he's the SLAVIC hero. Yet this book completely destroys his entire culture. There's nothing about the costumes in the many illustrations to suggest Carpathian Mountain culture, either. He even wears a freaking hood! Where's his hat, his belt, his trousers? Where's any iconic remnant of who he really was? (hint: there isn't. Don't try too hard to find one.)

Not to mention this entire novel seems to take place in . . . you guessed it! The the time period of . . . the ROBIN HOOD legends, the late 1100s! No way, right? Never mind that a simple google search will reveal that Janosik was born in 1688, hundreds of years later! But we've already established that this author doesn't give a turd for historical accuracy, so I guess this really shouldn't sting by now. But Janosik's brigand years were such a colorful time in Carpathian Mountain history! This was the Wild West of Europe! They had pistols and ciupagi (axes) and highwaymen and bandits and everything that could've made this book unique, historically accurate, and engaging for readers who've only been exposed to Robin Hood.

. . . and who the heck is Leon (Janosik's right hand man in this horror)? Come on, get some names right. You've got maybe 2-3 good names in here, get at least some of his band right. GOOD GRACIOUS.

I'm done. I'm so disappointed.
3 Stars
Dialogue: A Socratic Dialogue on the Art of Writing Dialogue in Fiction (Elements of Fiction Writing)
Dialogue: A Socratic Dialogue on the Art of Writing Dialogue in Fiction (Elements of Fiction Writing) - Lewis Turco
This was pretty decent.

I thought the book didn't really deliver what it promised on the cover (i.e. "How to get your characters talking to each other in a way that vividly reveals who they are, what they're doing, and what's coming next in your story"), even if it did have some useful information. Most of the formatting/grammatical issues that it covered I already knew about, which is why I didn't pick out a book on dialogue's structure and where to put quotation marks, etc.

I was very glad that it covered things like adverbs and unnecessary words that mark out a newbie writer. There were some concepts and issues very well-explained here, and I was grateful to have read this for those reasons, like how the use of dialect in dialogue has changed over time, and about what's acceptable nowadays. That was so interesting.

And I loved that that the book was written using dialogue. So clever! It was a bit unnerving at first, but I grew to love it, actually. I didn't like the book's slightly sexist tone, though, or its tendency to accentuate stereotypes--especially gender, cultural, and classist stereotypes. That's something you really shouldn't do in your writing . . . maybe he should've mentioned that. Or explained that the book was an example of that as well.

Anyway, it was interesting at times, but I don't think I'd necessarily recommend it.
4 Stars
Scarlet - Marissa Meyer
Hmm. I think this book sort of has the "2nd book in the trilogy" syndrome. You know the kind: where a book doesn't really have an end or a self-standing plot and only serves to connect the first and third book. Scarlet was that kind of second installment.

That's not to say there were things I didn't enjoy. Scarlet moved at a quick pace and never had a dull moment (even if it did have some frustrating ones). Cinder was still a darling spitfire, and "Captain" Thorne made me laugh out loud a couple times, although I wished he brought more to the book than comic relief. I'm hoping he'll have some point to the plot in the third installment; crossing my fingers! Kai was also wonderful in his brief moments. He stood on his own and really tried to do his best in his unfortunate circumstances.

I did, however, have some problems with our newcomers Wolf and Scarlet. On one hand, I ADORED Wolf when he first was introduced. I loved the relationship between the two in the beginning. However, I feel like my fascination waned as the novel progressed . . . pretty quickly, actually. I feel like the book would have been much stronger if Wolf's motives would have been kept in the dark a bit longer.

I was also frustrated with the character development or, rather, the lack thereof. To be honest, I think the character who developed the most was Kai, and he had the least scene time out of everyone! Most of the time, Scarlet annoyed the heck out of me. She seemed a little hypocritical. To me, she hated her father for the same reasons I disliked her.

But I'm still looking forward to the last book in the trilogy! Hopefully it'll give Cinder and Kai more scenes and have a more firm hold on the plot.
3 Stars
Warm Bodies
Warm Bodies - Isaac Marion
Maybe it's 3.5, maybe, but there's a lot that pushed it back down to three.

But first, I'm going to cover what I really, really liked about Warm Bodies:

Perry Kelvin. He was a great, fleshed-out character, and I wanted more of him every time he was mentioned. There was great care put into the Perry/R dynamic that wasn't present throughout the rest of the book, in my opinion, and I hungered for it in a way comparable to zombies hungering for brains and memories. I loved, loved loved the way that eventually the voices switch from italics to quotes as the book progresses. That is, Perry's thoughts starts off in quotations because he begins more real than R (who's thoughts are in italics, more voiceless), and later R switches to quotations because he's more realized now than Perry. It's brilliant and subtle. I adored it. If the rest of the book were so gorgeous and subtle, I would've given this the easiest five stars of my life and would probably be out buying every version of this book right now.

But there were things that I really didn'tlike. Like the zombies in the beginning not acting enough like zombie monsters for there to be a noticeable enough change at the end of the book. I get that R needed to be relatable but I don't think he really needed a "zombie society" with a structured marital system. I thought And there were pictures that just didn't fit right, or were almost quite laughable, like the "scary" skeletons handing out polaroid pictures.

The climax fell flat. To be honest, I couldn't even quite tell you what resolved the climax. Why did the skeletons all just wander away (which in itself is kind of a disappointing resolve in itself)? I just . . . I don't understand! What was the point of making the (thing) with Grigio almost erotically slow? Maybe it was all for effect, but if so, I didn't feel anything. I feel like Perry and R should have had a part in this climax, but Perry wasn't there, and it wasn't much about R. This all just didn't seem to work for me.

Now to the worst bits. I don't know how these little tidbits made it to publishing. But there were some really horrible language and sentences that I just couldn't handle: fat-shaming and some sexist language. At one point, R and Julie somehow come onto the topic of zombies eating overweight people. Yes, that's right, because this somehow needs to be talked about? And do you know what R does? R sticks his tongue out, points to it, and gags. He gags Apparently even zombies are picky, and they won't eat overweight people because they have to "pick around the fat" or something. I couldn't believe my eyes.

And wait, that's not even the worst one. Just wait. I found this gem on page 132: "Julie studies me dubiously, like a photographer forced to consider a chubby model." Never mind the mentioning of an emotion outside of dialogue (in adverb form!), this is absolutely horrendous. I actually gasped. Only the fact that this was a library copy kept this book from sailing across the room.

And then we come to some sexist language. It was kind of pervasive in undertones throughout the entire book (and I really wasn't surprised this was written by a guy), but sometimes there were things that came up that were completely unnecessary. Such as mentioning how Julie was as "unpretty as I've ever seen her" or something like that. Dude, R, you're a zombie. Even if he weren't, Marion still doesn't need to have that observation mentioned in his main protag's thoughts. It's just . . . all like an undercurrent in this book. I was so sick of Marion at the last page. I just feel like he's this massive fat-shaming, sexist douchebag, and the last thing I want to do is read more of his books to see what else he unconsciously writes into his dialogue/prose.

All in all, there were a lot of sweet parts in Warm Bodies, however, and I did love the ending about the real cure. That was lovely. I do love Nora, and there were beautiful moments in the book that I drank up and treasured. However, there were also disgusting crap that destroyed the narrative and parts that didn't quite make sense that really clashed with what I loved.
3 Stars
Promised - Caragh M. O'Brien
Ugh, this review hurts to write.

I adored Birthmarked and Prized. I loved the world O'Brien set up and the characters she introduced and the stories and romance she spun, but Promised just fell flat for me. It broke my heart. The lovely characterization, especially with Gaia and Leon, just didn't seem fully-fleshed out in this last installment. It seemed like they weren't given the same care as the first two books.

I think what bothers me the most is the plot. Nowadays, it's like every third book is a war or a major conflict that really isn't a plot at all. Things happen, but there's no real drive, it's just subplots going on to stir up drama for the sake of it, to fuel on this war that undoubtedly happens, because like I said, it's the third book. Heaven forbid the third book ends peacefully or in away that doesn't involve massive bloodshed or violence or bombs or guns or . . ., etc. Maybe this is just my opinion, but I'm so sick of it. I thought there was real potential for a beautiful, hopeful ending here, but nope, things just had to get worse, and I never really understood why. Why did things just have to fail? Every idea--BAM. A failure. Everything had to go wrong. I can't really think of an idea Gaia had that actually went right in this book! That's so frustrating for a reader to have to deal with!

I don't know. The love square, what was left of it, was pretty darn unbearable here, especially because I thought it'd been over and done with. It just left a day-old taste in my mouth. I really wanted to love this, and I was disappointed.
3 Stars
Ashes - Ilsa J. Bick
Oh . . .

I was so ready to give this book 5 solid, beautiful stars. I was so ready.

Until I got about halfway and it was as if some undistinguished dystopian author ran up to Bick, snatched her pen, said, "I got this," and wrote the rest of the novel in the style of every other YA book out there, adding a second love interest, 15+ unnecessary characters, what seemed like a whole other plot, and took away what I loved (did I mention absolutely loved)about the book's first half.

Basically, the first half of the book: 5 stars.
Second half: 2 stars. Maybe less. I can't decide right now. Talk to me later after I recover from this heartbreak and betrayal and downed at least 3 cups of tea.

However, let's return to the glorious, dark, and awesome 250 pages of Ashes. Gosh, I wanted to run up to my friends and shove this thing into their faces, waving it around and screaming. I wanted to wail its praises and everything. I mean, it's not without its flaws, certainly--the prose is somewhat clunky, especially in action scenes, where sentences continue to be very long and flowery, taking me out of the scene and the energy; not to mention that the Minnesota was described literally as a "lumberjack" wearing plaid and a turtleneck. I'm surprised Bick didn't take a swing at his accent, too. But maybe I'm just sore because I'm a Minnesotan myself . . .

In any case, I loved the slow and simplistic approach to the beginning, especially with Alex's brain tumor and the introduction of the zombies and the three main characters' predicament. And what I love most is that the zombie cause is explained here, and in a way that's actually quite possible, or more believable that in most stories. Not to mention I actually get to experience it happening! That's so fascinating (in a sick, horrid way). Still going on about this brilliant first half, the character relationships were amazingly done. The growth between all of them made me melt into this puddle of emotions. Really, it did. I absolutely adored the relationship between Tom and Ellie, I can't emphasize that enough. It was so real and sweet, and so refreshing compared to most relationships emphasized in YA books published today (AKA: romance romance ROMANCE ROMANCE DID I MENTION?).

So the most disappointing aspect about when the book switched gears completely was when all that was lost, and Bick gave up those subtle and beautiful relationships for the shallow standard YA garble that's swarming the shelves everywhere. Around page 250, I swear that's when it happens, smack in the middle of the book, everything changes. I wanted to run up and help the Ents release the river and drown what was once beautiful but now had started to stink (forgive me for this reference, I really just had to say it!).

Had the author just decided three characters weren't enough to carry a plot? I was shocked. Really, I was completely thrown when I had to deal with all these new characters thrusted upon me with no warning and was expected to care for them in some way. Why would I care? Why should I care? This whole town of Rule is just another dystopian city setup, a horrible city disguised as something nice (a ruse everyone can see through right away, so why the lengthy shtick at all?) that carries on for another 200 pages. Like I said earlier, another love interest is added, I assume because the concept of two love interests is soin fashion right now, with a whole bunch of random super powers and random dogs and random side plots and characters that really don't seem to have any immediacy or point right now. Maybe they do in the future, but it doesn't seem all that important to me. The plot in the beginning was so tight, so pressing and beautiful (yes, that's probably the 50th time I've used that word to describe the first 250), and then it's completely disregarded for a disorganized mess--for what? To set up something else? To add some sparkle?

The zombies seemed an afterthought in this part, even. Really, an afterthought; as in, mentioned at the very end. Oh yeah, this book has to do with zombies! I forgot!

I almost want to cry I feel so betrayed.
3 Stars
Chronicles of Ancient Darkness #1: Wolf Brother
Chronicles of Ancient Darkness #1: Wolf Brother - Michelle Paver
Though I just want to point out that it's really 3.5 stars. The .5 is important.

I first have to say something positive about this book, because I the setting was so fresh and lovely and I want to give Paver the biggest and tightest hug ever for creating this wonderful world around a hunter-gatherer culture instead of the same setting, the same kingdoms and cultures over and over. Ugh this was so lovely a change, my goodness. The culture was in every page, every dialogue, every thought. It was beautiful and easily the strongest and most beautiful part about this book. And, obviously, my favorite thing about it!

Well, besides the character of Wolf. Wolf was my favorite character and really shone here. His voice was stellar (with his cute words for things we're familiar with, like Big Wet [a river] and Tall Tailless [the main protag]). However, I think the other characters kind of fell flat for me. I wished there had been more development with Torak and Renn, or at least a more solid grasp of their character besides using them as bodies to carry out the plot line.

And now, unfortunately, I feel like I have to talk about what I didn't necessarily like about Wolf Brother. The writing seemed stilted at times, dialogue a little unnatural and forced--put in place just to move to the next plot point or to get the next idea across to the readers rather than how the actual characters would interact. I feel like Paver sat with a very detailed outline and just checked off the bullet points. It can be a tough thing once you're so familiar with your own work to read it with fresh eyes and see where this kind of thing happens . . .

The ending also seemed a bit rushed to me. I feel like I had to read the last couple chapters two or three times to see if I understood it. I felt like I don't understand why it happened why it happened, just that Paver wanted some kind of heartbreak and bittersweet aspect to the ending. I don't feel like it worked the way she wanted it to. Maybe if she'd spent a little more time on the actual parting it would have worked a little better, but as it was, I didn't feel the emotion as I should have (or even wanted to!).

So all in all, it's a pretty decent book. I probably won't continue for the writing and the characters, although I applaud Paver for her creativity in the world-building.
3 Stars
Divergent - Veronica Roth
I'm a little nervous about reviewing this book, mostly because of the overwhelming positive reviews.

Because although I wanted to be swept away into the craze, Divergent left me feeling pretty lukewarm. Don't get me wrong, Roth definitely has some skill as an author. She can put together some beautiful sentences and really create some fantastic imagery when she wants to. However, overall, I don't think the story came together as something that worked for me.

I think the main problem is the plot structure. For the first half of the book, I'm not quite sure what the plot actually is. It's only in the last quarter that things start to pull together, and then rush like it's supposed to have been building the entire novel. I always find that in these books where the protagonist goes off and trains somewhere that the actual training takes up most of the beginning (and in this case also the middle) and it's only halfway in or afterwards that the actual story begins. It's a pattern I'm seeing more and more often nowadays . . . But back to Divergent's main "plot," it was so hastily and sloppily done that I felt cheated by the end of the book. Not to mention there were so many character deaths that lacked purpose or focus. It felt like a climax that Roth wanted to feel climactic without having thought about why it would be climactic compared to the events that had happened thus far. Especially seeing that the villain's motives didn't seem to make any sense to me.

Another thing here is what the whole book's about: Divergence. There are supposedly five factions that make up current society: the Abegnation (the selfless-people who run the government), the Erudite (the intelligent-people who, I don't know, research and invent things), the Candor (the honest, and I've no idea what they do! Someone, please tell me, what do these people actually do?), the Amity (the peaceful, farmers and the like), and the Dauntless (the brave, basically in charge of security, etc.). And THEN there are the factionless, people who've lost their faction and get basically blue-collar jobs. They're considered to be the scum of the earth pretty much and a waste of resources, thank you for that, Roth. Thank you for that horrible and disturbing message.

But my real issue with these factions is that . . . how do they even work together to form a society that even functions? Even sort of functions? It's said that these factions formed when society fell apart, but how would this be a possible solution? Sure, it fits for creating this certain plot line, but I feel like Roth didn't think this through. AND particularly, how would they EVER agree to make one faction in charge of the ENTIRE government? How does that make sense? And you wonder why later they start to think, "Man, I don't think that was such a good idea." --> insta-plot, yo! It's beginning to feel like this whole book was a first draft that needed more thought. Also, why aren't there more people who are Divergent? There can't be so few people whose thinking spans different areas. Really, there can't. PLUS why would they let people switch factions?? Wouldn't that allow for people's thinking to change and expand, thus making them Divergent? Or are you only "born that way"?

Okay, I'll stop there with that, and I'll move onto our protag, Tris. Why, oh why, must authors try and downplay their main women characters by playing the "I'm ugly" card? Especially if she's blonde-haired, blue-eyed, flat-chested and skinny (sounds like most models to me). Plus she kept on repeating it over and over, along with "I'm short" all the time. I kept waiting for the "I'm short" thing to be used as an advantage because of how often it had been repeated, but apparently it was just used to make her more flawed, which I object to. Vehemently!! Besides this, she kept remarking on other people's appearances in horrible ways. The villain in particular (which only appeared for a second) was body-shamed, described by our protag--who was shot, may I add, and bleeding, and yet needed to note that the bad character had a spare tire and stretch marks. Thank you for this. Because we all know everyone who's evil are the ones who look less pretty than you.

Thank you.

I'd also like to add that the book kept putting guns in such a positive light. She felt safe when she had guns. Guns were the answer to EVERYTHING. Guns=solutions. Every time. Every single time.

All right, I'm getting increasingly more bitter as this review goes on. I didn't hate this book, really I didn't. But I didn't like it all that well, either. I kept thinking it'd have more to offer than the lousy, hastily-added war plot line tagged on at the end. Unfortunately I just couldn't get into it.
4 Stars
Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception
Lament: The Faerie Queen's Deception - Maggie Stiefvater
Wow, this story really grew on me.

At first, I rolled my eyes, sighed, groaned, and lolled my head around every single time Luke made another appearance because he was just another one of those love interests. But then, when I really started to think about it, and forgive me my inner feminist, what's so bad about having the leading woman getting a super attractive guy? All the men have been getting perfect princesses in stories for centuries.

However, I start having problems when these super-hot dudes begin bordering on stalkerish behavior, which Luke had a tendency to do at some points. Also, Deirdre's a smart girl, so why didn't she ever feel wary about hanging out with Luke when he continually told her he was a dangerous guy? It took her absolute proof of his past to convince her he was a not-so-innocent fellow. Other than that, and Luke's annoying pet name, "pretty girl" and his sexist remarks that were never addressed and/or corrected, which made me want to smack him, their relationship was quite touching and pretty to read.

All in all, though, the best part about this book was the faeries. They actually acted like faeries. Imagine that! I can't even begin to describe how refreshing they were to experience and to learn about. They weren't some creatures made to appear romantic or to fulfill some fantasy of the author or whatever crap some people write nowadays. That aspect was brilliant.

Although four-leaf clovers really aren't all that rare . . . in case anyone was wondering.

Lament was a nice read and, though it was too slow for me at times, and I didn't think the love triangle had a point, as well as some of the characters, I enjoyed it far more than I expected to.