[I received a copy of this book through Edelweiss.]
An alternate-world story where a company named Death-Cast informs people of their impending death, and in which a lot of aspects of society are built around this: ‘Deckers’ (those people who got eh alert that they have less than 24 hours left to live) get meals , night club entrance, etc. free; a lot of blogs get devoted to chronicling their last hours, as they go about trying to make the most of what they have left; and an app, Last Friend, allows people to connect so that they’ll be able to spend that time with someone. (It is to be noted that because D-C only announces the day one is meant to die, and not the causes, a lot of Deckers try not to stay with close friends and relatives, in case their death will be due to a terrorist attack, car crash, or any other type of circumstances that could wound those other people.)
The novel follows two teenagers, Rufus and Mateo, as they meet through Last App and get to live their last day together, making memories, becoming friends, realising what they missed on, but also becoming the people they would’ve liked to be—in a somewhat paradoxical twist, in that perhaps they would never have done that, and perhaps never even known who they wanted to be, had they had their whole lives still ahead. I found this story dealt with its themes in a touching but never depressing manner. I would’ve been very miffed indeed if it had been about moping and lamenting; obviously the two boys aren’t happy about it, but they go around trying to make the most of it, trying things they may not have done on their own, and so on.
Of course, as the title explicitly says, the reader knows from the start that they both die at the end, and part of my interest in this was also to find out how they’d die, if it would leave them enough time to grow into that friendship I was promised, and whether events unfolding around them would indeed be the ones leading to their demise, or not.
I enjoyed the characters in general. Mateo’s way of gingerly opening up to braver actions was adorkable. Rufus had the making of a ‘bad boy’ but also revealed he definitely had a heart of gold. How they go about their last day was empowering. And I also liked the minor characters whose point of view I got to see as well. They were diverse (in many ways, including background, ethnicity and sexual preferences—by default I tend to consider every character as bi unless proven otherwise, cheers for Rufus here), and they allowed me to get a glimpse into the other side, what the living had to go through when confronted with the knowledge that their best friend had received the alert, and what D-C employees and related people also get to feel. (I don’t think spending your career as a customer service rep announcing people they’re going to die before tomorrow is very healthy in the long run.)
For some reason, though, I wasn’t a hundred percent invested in the book. To be fair, I suspect that’s partly because I was invested in interesting non-fiction books at the same time, and those demand more focus and attention from me. But I think that was perhaps also because of the theme: very interesting, yet necessarily leading to ‘live your life to the fullest because you’re not immortal’. Which is true, and expected, and because of this, it makes it hard to deal with it in a way that hasn’t been done already. Another thing I wasn’t sold on was the more romantic involvements; I think full-on friendship would’ve worked better for me.
Conclusion: Perhaps not a definite favourite for me, but I'll happily pick another story by this author in the future.
The Awesome by Eva Darrows
My rating: 3 of 5 stars
Margaret Cunningham isn't your typical teenager. For one, she's well acquainted with the monsters that lurk in the shadows - well, most of them, anyway. Unable to aid her mother in hunting vampires, Maggie goes about rectifying the rather frustrating issue. As it turns out, her virgin blood works against her, its purity potent enough to send the bloodsuckers into a deadly and uncontrolled frenzy, and that's not good for anyone. Problem is, with little friends, and a small amount of social skills, the quest for "The Sex" may be the most difficult job yet.
(WARNING: this review may contain spoilers.)
I admit, the stylised and colourful artwork of the cover is nice to look at and undoubtedly draws the eye. As such, it was a pleasant gift to receive and probably one of the most unique covers in my sizeable collection. Now let's get to the actual review, shall we?
One thing's for sure - I would've enjoyed this one a lot more in my teenage years. For me, on a personal level, my sense of humour has changed considerably in the last decade, and whilst there were moments that brought a smile to my face, I just couldn't fully appreciate the adolescent banter (and the abundance of synonyms for "penis"). Regardless, the book was short enough that it didn't impede or become a chore to pick up, and overall there's one word I would use to describe it as a whole - fun. It didn't require much energy; the writing was quirky, and the plot easy enough to entertain. Certainly not a masterpiece, and nothing that'll stay with me for a long time to come, but it succeeded in filling up a few hours.
A major aspect of the story is the close bond between mother and daughter, however I found it a stretch to call it a normal parent-child relationship, and it struck me more of a friendship than anything else. Maggie referred to her mother by her first name, and Janice even went so far as to push her daughter into losing her virginity as quickly as possible, which seemed completely irresponsible and truthfully, a bit weird. Indeed, sex had a large part to play, and it all came down to Maggie striving to take her hunting apprenticeship to the next level. In Darrows' universe, monsters are public knowledge and often a threat to society, however we learn throughout that they don't necessarily have to be evil. Vampires however, the freshly turned in particular, simply can't resist that virgin allure, and thus we have the general plot - a seventeen year old trying to use sex to get a promotion.
Sounds a tad off, right? Either way, I tried not to overthink that aspect, and instead take it for what it was supposed to be; which was, first and foremost, lighthearted amusement. Maggie's inner monologue didn't irritate me much at all, as I'm generally fond of over-confident, snarky protagonists. Yes, she was immature as all hell, but she wasn't the worst, and by God, I've been infuriated by some main characters before. I digress...
Several events unfolded along the course of the book, and it was by no means boring as the story spiralled in different directions. As characters were introduced, they were likeable, but not lovable. I especially enjoyed the zombie side-plot of Julie, despite feeling it wasn't properly explained or concluded (the living dead need love too). The romance between Maggie and Ian was cute, regardless of the somewhat questionable means by how they originally met. Janice, well, I touched upon her further up. I'm not saying she was a bad mother... Or am I? I'm really not sure. As I said, it was weird.
It occurred to me more than once, that this would've been a decent first instalment of a series, however as of writing this review, I believe Darrows has no plans to continue with Maggie's adventures.
She skimmed the tip of her finger around her mouth to capture any unappealing smudges, and then did Duck Face. Duck Face was supposed to be a 'come hither' kissy pucker thing, but it more resembled a genetic deformity. I was pretty sure if I wanted The Sex, Duck Face was not the way to go.
© Red Lace 2017
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Holly Black is my latest author crush. It helps that many of her books feature the Fae and Fae characters are one of my favourite things.
The Cruel Prince was one of those books that I asked my public library to order and then fidgeted while I waited for it to arrive and to be catalogued. It was worth the wait, in my opinion. It may be a young adult book, but that didn’t prevent me from enjoying it too.
I like Black’s version of the Fae—they don’t play nice, they aren’t always fond of mortals, and there are rules that both sides have to follow. Jude is a mortal girl, living in the Fae world, trying to fit in despite the sneers of her contemporaries at school. She and her mortal sister are picked on and disparaged by the princes and princesses of the Realm of Faerie. And, of course, there’s a boy—Prince Cardan, the cruel prince of the title—who captures her imagination, though maybe not in a good way. Jude decides that if she can’t be accepted by playing nice, perhaps she can scheme and plot her way to a protected position in her adopted world and she proves to be highly adept at it.
It’s pretty obvious where this story will be heading in the second book—Jude & Cardan obviously have some chemistry, despite the rather evil trick on Cardan that Jude indulges in. However, it’s not immediately clear how Black is going to change these passionate enemies into a couple. Now I just wish there wasn’t a whole year to wait for the next installment.