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review 2016-04-02 02:38
Review: The 100 (The 100 #1) by Kass Morgan
The 100 - Kass Morgan

Quick review for a semi-quick read. I had been on the fence about reading Kass Mogan's "The 100" series. I think the tipping point was me finally taking the plunge and watching the CW series of the same name. The first season interested me enough to see what the book series had to offer, only to realize that the book is a horse of a different color entirely (seriously, do not go into the book series thinking that it mirrors the TV series of the same name. Certain characters who die early on in the TV show survive in the book, though some plot parallels and backstories exist).

I didn't care much for the novel on the whole, to be honest. Even told through multiple perspectives, I thought that there was a bit too much emphasis on romance alongside the survival aspects and stakes the story put forward. It had a decent framework, but that's all it was - framework. Bare bones, even. I'll admit I was invested enough to see where it wanted to go, but I also felt like banging my head against the wall for numerous reasons. The story is all over the place. Not only is it told between several perspectives (Clarke, Wells, Glass, and Bellamy), but the story jumps willy nilly between past and present events. The characters and presentation feel much more flat than they deserved for the tale. And there were certain lines that were such cheese that I couldn't take them seriously at all. One of the heroes saying that he'd take off his shirt "at some point?" Teens making stupid and morally jarring decisions just to be with the one they love? Pfffffft. Not here for that noise.

I'm not saying I didn't care at all about the character tragedies, but it felt jumbled and force-fed, more than I could tolerate for space that could've been used to further develop the world, the rules and regulations in which they are repressed under, and the characters themselves to give them more flesh. I found myself rolling my eyes at the over the top declarations and writing. It just felt...very painful to read at times.

I find the TV series problematic in points, but I think the book might be worse for wear. I may decide to pick up the next two books just to see what happens, but I can't say I feel invested in it because the presentation had so much potential only to leave much to be desired. (Literally and figuratively.)

Overall score: 1.5/5 stars.

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review 2016-02-26 01:46
Review: Glass Sword (Red Queen #2) by Victoria Aveyard
Glass Sword (Red Queen) - Victoria Aveyard

Initial reaction: I think I'll see this series through to it's end, but this book was very mediocre, worse than the first book. The intrigue of the beginning and ending did not make up for how disjointed, meandering and derivative this book turned out to be. Unfortunate, because I really think it had the potential to be stronger. :-

Full review:

My first full written review in about three weeks (broken internet - long and absolutely infuriating story), and it's going to be a (constructive) rant.

"Glass Sword" manages to take things that were decent about the first book and completely leave them by the wayside, turning it to an experience for the worst. I'm a bit at a loss for words for how mediocre it was in full reflection. The only good thing for certain I can say about this book is that the audio narrator did a fine job. I picked up this book from Audible using one of my credits around the time it was released. I've heard Amanda Dolan on a few other books before, and she did a great narration with this. If I hadn't read this via audio, I probably would have had an even harder time getting through this narrative. Dolan was able to infuse emotion that wasn't really delivered through the prose by itself.

Initially I came into this read hoping it would improve upon the first book in the series. "Red Queen" really wasn't the worst YA dystopian book I'd read, but it was very, VERY derivative (and grossly overhyped - reading the backstory on the publication of this novel and how it came to be made me realize exactly why that was the case. It saddens me to think about it.). Still, considering Mare's overarching journey and the political conflicts and places it could potentially go, I figured the series would be able to grow away from its derivative leanings, maybe even give Aveyard a chance to spread her narrative wings and improve upon the initial story with more development and characters that would be worth caring about.

I can deal with unlikable protagonists, and I could even understand if a main character (like Light/Kira in "Death Note" and Lelouch in "Code Geass") ends up with a really profound sense of power and ends up being corrupted by abusing that power when horrible circumstances rise to the surface. That kind of storyline has the potential to produce great things. If only Aveyard had the narrative prowess to craft a truly developed anti-heroine who would truly struggle with the weighted consequences of her actions (and I would've probably enjoyed the power/morality struggle from a female character's perspective in that case).

But Mare's an arrogant, unapologetic mess of a character, taking the reader on a meandering self-loathing journey through a great majority of the story. "Glass Sword" commences where the last book left off in terms of Mare and company making a grand escape and trying to find more red and silver blooded characters with special abilities like Mare to overtake the Silver domination and the would-be King who betrayed her trust and his ruthless mother. Mare's in a dark place in this novel - bitter and angry at the betrayals and her previous manipulation as a puppet by the Silver Court. That's palpable, sure, and I wasn't complaining in the very beginning as the novel got off to a more adventurous start with these potential points of tension. But when this information begins to repeat itself through many, many areas of the story, and Mare is the only character whose head we're in, it gets old very quickly. I feel like Aveyard - in these quite frequently overwritten displays - spent so much time trying to hammer home these repetitious details and being not so subtle with Mare's TCO status that it completely undermined the novel. This wasn't helped by the fact that you could still play YA dystopian BINGO with the tropes, themes, and even full scenes of this book. It didn't feel like a book with its own identity.

The secondary cast was full of stereotypes and lacking scene time or development. Mostly they revolved around Mare, and Mare was more about herself and being the only one who could rise against the Silvers with her special blood and identity as "The Lightning Girl", not to mention with finding the people who were most likely to lead her to victory. Did anyone else notice that for people she was supposedly very loyal to, Mare treated them with an inexplicable amount of distaste/dismissal? She forgot her family half the time and their worry (and with a certain character death that happens in this book, it was like he was portrayed as an afterthought - the emotional gravity/weight didn't match the portrayal Mare spoke about). She treats both Cal and Kilorn like crap most of the time with her half-like/half-undercutting dialogues about them. And the one character who manages to call Mare out on her contradiction (Cameron - whom I mentally fistbumped and said "SLAAAY" when she confronted Mare) is viciously undercut by Mare and crafted in the framework of having conflict with Mare solely.

You could say this entire novel is convenient with how the characters possessing special abilities are - instead of weighing the balance with their specific powers specific to their lives and identities - used as plot devices to help push along Mare's journey. It's not even subtle. They're forgotten puzzle pieces and lack flesh and development. One character shows up only to completely disappear as the story marches on in the gathering of allies, with the process being described as the same journey of disbelief and issuing of choice into whether to go or stay (and for me, this was lazy writing even in the process of describing their recruitment, save for maybe one or two instances).

The last 15% of the novel delivered some decent action and palpable scenes of tension with the confrontations Mare and company come across, but a stellar ending doesn't compensate for the long slog and utterly derivative nature of this novel as a whole. I think Aveyard knows how to write endings, but she doesn't do well with character development, identity, and plot balance very well (also: SUBTEXT).

Even still, I think I'll take one for the team and try the next book to see if (again) it improves from the point it ended on. But if it's just going to repeat this same pattern, the next book may be my last. It was just incredibly hard to get through, even call memorable among a sea of much better vetted and depicted dystopian stories. It has very little, if any, heart at all.

Overall score: 1.5/5 stars.

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review 2013-10-24 07:10
Review: Allegiant by Veronica Roth (Divergent #3)
Allegiant - Veronica Roth

Initial reaction: I think a reader's reaction to this book will largely hinge on how attached to the narrative they are, and what kind of story they were expecting versus the one that came across. But I had a lot of issues with this story aside from the ending it puts across, and my rating will probably hinge on what my meditation lends in consideration with all these factors. That said, I'm probably not going to give this higher than 2-stars.

Full review:

"I'm looking for something to live for
I'm thinking 'bout it all of the time
I just want something I can believe in
I need something that I can call mine

There's nobody listening to words that I say
Tell them to live for today
One thing I know is I'm not coming back
Nobody lives forever..."


-lyrics from "Nobody Lives Forever" by The Smithereens

There's a reason I start this review off with this set of lyrics by one of my favorite groups, and probably not for the reason that some people may think, at least those that already know the events of "Allegiant." This will be a spoiler free review, and really, I'm stating this on events/themes of this entire series in addition to what this book brought to the table.

 

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review 2013-04-06 19:18
Review: Stung by Bethany Wiggins
Stung - Bethany Wiggins

Initial reaction: I definitely have a number of constructive things to say about "Stung", but in the string of YA dystopian novels I've read, this proved disappointing on many levels. The thematics, the cliches, the structuring and characterizations. And that hurts considering the premise is quite interesting.

Full review:

In the measure of YA dystopic fiction that I've personally read, there have been many titles I've completely and thoroughly enjoyed. Nancy Farmer's "The House of the Scorpion", Patrick Ness's "Chaos Walking" trilogy, Sarah Beth Durst's "Vessel", Moira Young's "Blood Red Road," to name a few. I would even count Ernest Cline's wonderful "Ready Player One" in that consideration. But for many of the prevalent titles I've perused in this genre, there have been others that have really dropped the ball. Despite having interesting premises, some cede to what one of my friends has coined the "dystoromance" genre. Meaning? The book might have an interesting backdrop of a dystopian society and sci-fi/fantasy leanings, but it's never developed. It takes a background seat and merely provides the court for the main event - the romantic relationship of two leads within the novel.

If the only problem with Bethany Wiggins' novel "Stung" were its classification as a "dystoromance" novel, I might've been disappointed, but I certainly wouldn't have been upset about it. I thought the novel had a very interesting backdrop with respect to a society where the mutant bee population was responsible for spreading a flu that wiped out the population on a wide scale, and so a vaccine was developed for it, but the vaccine started transforming people into beasts after certain levels. A young woman named Fiona, who had been comatose for many years, wakes to find her environment completely changed, a mysterious mark on her skin, her brother a beast, and on the run in an environment she no longer recognizes. Heck, she barely recognizes herself because she was 13 years old before she went comatose, but wakes to find she's in a body similar to her elder sister - a young woman.

Sounds interesting, right? Original? Inventive?

Believe me when I say that this novel is absolutely none of these things. And as much as it stings me to say this (no pun intended), I went into this novel expecting a enthralling, resonant story, but came out of it feeling like it was an underdeveloped, disconnected, offensive, infuriating and insipid mess. Having read Wiggins "Shifting" (which I rather liked despite some issues) makes it worse because there were a lot of elements in this novel that were similar to that novel, and carried over several of the problematic measures that were in that work.

I know I'm sounding blunt about it, but there's really no easy way for me to convey my disappointment with this novel. Fiona is an insufferable heroine to follow. True, she's a 13-year old trapped in a 17-year old body. She's going to have maturity issues and a rough time catching up. She's going to be flawed, she's going to make mistakes. I get that. I wouldn't expect anyone else to think less in that consideration. There was even a part of me that thought she'd be more emotionally damaged and shocked by the revelations she came to. But while it was dealt with somewhat - which I do give credit for - I'm surprised that it didn't have more to it in this story.

The start of Fiona's journey actually wasn't so bad, she tries to get her bearings in the middle of an environment she used to know, deteriorated and in quite a bit of disarray. The introduction of a young kid named Arrin actually peaked my interest as well, and I was actually far more interested in Arrin because it was insinuated that she was younger than Fiona and had faced quite a bit of hardship. She was also pretty funny and spot on with her assertions where it counted, resourceful as well. She was a survivor as a Fecs, disguising herself in a society that had gone militant. The story left me with a lot of questions in the beginning about why the girls had to hide the fact that they were...well...girls. Between binding their breasts and cutting their hair (Fiona didn't react well to the latter).

As the reasons were given, I realized that this novel and I would have problems. If you're building a dystopian world, obviously the issues you raise with it are going to have impact. You can't let it fall by the wayside without dealing with the weight it brings, because otherwise you fall into the danger of those measures being used simply as a vehicle for conflict, rather than for dealing with them for what they are in themselves. This novel's built in a misogynistic (women are scarce, used to mate since the population's dying, and some are hunted for more fiercely than the infected beasts, treated terribly as well), ableist (people are shunned/cast off for being either physically or mentally disabled) society where the militia controls the dealings of things inside "the wall." There's very loose worldbuilding here - those are heavy issues.

Let me make this very clear: I DO NOT like novels that trivialize rape, molestation, or denounce the roles of female characters. This book did all three and it made me so upset I had to walk away from it a few times. The problem in the novel wasn't that the novel made mention of these issues - it was they way they were handled. It was so casual, I kept thinking to myself "Why on earth is this being shown this way?"

Fiona's shown being taken advantage of in several places in this novel and I was utterly mortified and baffled by it. I understand this is world being built, but it's not realistic at all. To simplify the enemy being these men who will take advantage of any woman they come across simply because she's a woman and child-bearing and use it as a vehicle for conflict, not for the issue in itself, is uncalled for. And this is supposed to be a YA novel. Consider that. This is a disturbing trend I've seen in several novels in this genre as of late, and seriously - it's got to stop.

What made me even more upset was that the only saving grace to these actions just so happens to be the love interest.

Dreyden's introduction had me seeing red because for one - it was instalust on the part of Fiona when she notes him as her captor. For another, he treats her like crap when she's disguised as a boy, and there's really no reason for it other than the mark on her. When he finds out she's a girl, let alone the girl he grew up with, he becomes nicer to her. He does apologize in spells for his actions and I probably could've gotten behind that if he hadn't been so brash in other points of the work following that. There's really very little holding their relationship together, I felt, in the context of this novel. The romantic scenes between them arrived with awkward timing - and I'm not saying some of it wasn't decent, but it felt like an overfocus, especially with the events going on around them. I would've appreciated more of Dreyden's fears of Fiona if it weren't told to me in such explicit form. I would've appreciated not being hit over the head with not only the fact that Fiona could turn any moment, but also that it could mean his death for choosing to help her. And Fiona's memories and coming to terms do not have the weight that it should have for the seriousness they should have.

And the romantic lines are so painful. I think there was even one line where Fiona's crying and they're tongue kissing and both of them are tasting her tears on their tongues. That's not romantic, that's gross. As is the matter of someone ripping their heart out for someone else because they *love* them. It's just...over the top for sentiment.

At one point, I would've said that the characters that interested me the most were the secondary ones, particularly Arrin because I liked her character up until a certain point. But then a few revelations regarding that character pretty much made me want to put down the book and not carry on with it. I decided to do so anyway and it just became worse as it went on. It's hard to care for a heroine who screws up in almost every opportunity, even to the point where she nearly kills someone she loves (which is something that happened in "Shifting" too, though on an opposite plane, both involved a gun and shooting point blank it seemed). But when you have a mysterious, somewhat spot on side character who suddenly table-flips in motivation and personality? It feels like a cheap shot in the scheme of events in the novel.

There was only so much suspension of disbelief I could do with "Stung" and I reached my limit in several spells here with how the matters, the world, the characters were handled. The ending tied up far too neatly for the build up this novel had to offer and didn't make sense to me. I couldn't in good measure recommend this work given its issues. I've read better, more vetted, versatile worlds, higher stakes, more vivid and deep personal relations and real characters in a dystopian realm than this.

Overall score: 1/5

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Walker Children's.

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