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The Guard

GuardThe Guard by Kierra Cass

Pub: Feb 2014

The events of The Elite as told by Aspen. (If you have no idea what I’m talking about, you’re probably not going to care about this book.)

Opening lines:

“WAKE UP, LEGER.”
“Day off,” I mumbled, pulling the blanket over my head.

I figured if I’m going to finish out The Selection series (if nothing else, to see Celeste get her comeuppance), I’d better keep up with the novellas along the way. Let me tell you right off: there’s really no need.

What I liked: Seriously, I didn’t hate this novella. It was a quick read, and probably would be a really good catch-up for anyone who’d read The Elite right away and wants a quick recap before The One.

What I didn’t like: That’s all it was. I can’t think of a single thing in this novella that hadn’t already been established in The Elite. I was hoping for some sort of inside info — WHY he says Maxon is a good actor, for instance or what REALLY happened when the king and prince were supposedly in New Asia, even more about what happened when America ran away from the rebels. Something! Anything! Needless to say, I was pretty disappointed.

Cinder

CinderCinder (The Lunar Chronicles #1) by Marissa Meyer

Pub: 2012

A mechanic in a future world tries to save her stepsister from a plague and prevent the handsome prince form finding out that she’s really a cyborg.

Opening lines:

The screw through Cinder’s ankle had rusted, the engraved cross marks worn to a mangled circle. Her knuckles ached from forcing the screwdriver into the joint as she struggled to loosen the screw one grinding twist after another.

With the recent release of the third book in this series, I found myself wondering once again why I hadn’t taken the time to read this yet. It’s got a fun mix of elements, from fairy-tale re-tellings to cyborgs to an insane/supernatural race of people that live on the moon. It’s one of those things that sounds so crazy, there’s no way it can’t be awesome.

What I liked: I loved the sci-fi aspects (the mind control, the cyborgs, the search for a vaccine for a worldwide plague) and how the author tied in so many of the Cinderella elements (a cruel stepmother, a handsome prince throwing a ball, even an old beat-up car the color of a pumpkin) and yet made it new and fresh, turning Cinder into a character who was trying to rescue the Prince, rather than the other way around. And on that note, it was nice to see a female lead who didn’t spend the entire book swooning over the handsome love interest.

What I didn’t like: Well, if you’re paying attention at all, you’re likely to be able to figure out the ‘twist’ at the end within the first fifty pages or so. It also ends on a cliffhanger, so be sure to have Scarlet ready to pick up as soon as you’re done with it.

Overall: Really fun sci-fi twist on a fairy tale

The Elite

Elite

The Elite (The Selection #2) by Kiera Cass

Pub: 2013

Of the 36 girls invited to the palace to compete for the prince’s heart, only six remain, and America struggles with questions of whom she loves and where she belongs.

Opening lines:

The Angeles air was quiet, and for a while I lay still, listening to the sound of Maxon’s breathing. It was getting harder and harder to catch him in a truly calm and happy moment, and I soaked up the time, grateful that he seemed to be at his best when he and I were alone.

What better weekend to get absorbed in a YA love-triangle romance than Valentine’s? If nothing else, it made me appreciate being in a secure, committed relationship and NOT having to worry about any third (or fourth) person in the equation. Yeeesh.

What I liked: I did like that we got a bit more world-building in the sequel, got to learn a bit about what came to pass to get the country to that point.

What I didn’t like: Um… the characters?

So, our main character tells the prince that she likes him. You know, likes him likes him. What does he do? IGNORES HER for the next two weeks while spending time w/ the other girls! No, no, no, no.

So, (slightly spoilery) one of the girls gets kicked out and physically punished for the treason of being caught secretly meeting with another guy while part of the Selection. So what does Aspen do? Almost IMMEDIATELY arranges for America to come meet him in secret so they can talk about it! No, no, no, no.

And these are the options that America spends 80% of the book going back and forth about. Every time Maxon does something she doesn’t like, she runs to Aspen. Every time Maxon does something she DOES like, she completely forgets about Aspen. And then she has the gall to get mad at Maxon for kissing someone else when she’s been doing the same thing w/ Aspen the whole time. Seriously, Maxon, pick someone else… America has some major growing up to do before she’s ready to be anyone’s wife.

Heads up: Some [non-graphic] violence

Overall: If you’re a fan of love triangles, this book’s for you.

Enclave

Enclave

Enclave (Razorland #1) by Ann Aguirre

In a Freak(zombie)-filled post-apocalyptic world, Deuce comes of age in her underground civilization and must team up with outsider Fade when her Enclave exiles her.

I was born during the second holocaust. People had told us legends of a time when human beings lived longer. I thought they were just stories.

I’ve taken a break from YA dystopian/post-apocalyptic stories, but I happened to see this one again the other day and figured it’s been long enough since my last foray into the genre that I’d give it a whirl.

What I liked: An underground society… zombies… I really liked the enclave aspect and exploring what it’d be like to live underground. The world-building in this first part was really neat, and reminded me a bit of The City of Ember, which I’ve always really liked.

What I didn’t like: Love triangles annoy me, and this one shouldn’t have even been an issue, considering the ‘third wheel’ was kind of a creep. Also, the second half becomes more violent and it ends on a cliffhanger, which I’m not really fond of either.

Heads up: Violence, gore, rape, and other things with the potential make your skin crawl

Overall: Not for the squeamish, but a good read for those still interested in YA dystopian/paranormal stories

Steelheart

Steelheart

NEW this week…

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

4 of 5 stars

In a near-future world where superhuman Epics rule by force, David joins a group of rebels known as the Reckoners to bring down the dictator who killed his father.

“The heroes.  You said they’ll come.  Let them stop him!”

“Sometimes, son,” my father said, prying my fingers free, “you have to help the heroes along.”

This book was, in a word, Epic.

Between the original superheroes-are-all-dictatorial-baddies premise to the clever main character who can’t form a decent metaphor to save his life — but tries often, with humorous results — I felt like I’d been waiting for a book like this for a long time.  The characters, even the minor ones, were well-written, the Epics were awesome and I loved that each one has a weakness, so it becomes more of a puzzle to figure out what it is, rather than just a “go in there guns blazing” kind of story.

This book kept me up, wanting to read “just one more chapter,” and although it is supposed to be part of a series, I felt satisfied by the resolution of this book.  The ending took a couple twists that were very well done — the hints were there, but it came together in a way that was still unexpected.

I’m already looking forward to the sequel coming out next fall, called Firefight.

Glitter & Doom

Glitter

Glitter & Doom by Bethany Griffin
Masque of the Red Death #1.5

Pub: Mar 2013

2.5 of 5 stars

A novella that fills in some of the gaps that of what took place for April and Kent during The Masque of the Red Death.

“Be pretty… It’s the only thing that might protect you.”

Perhaps if I had read this sooner after I had read The Masque of the Red Death, it wouldn’t have taken me so long to become re-acquainted with the characters, but as it was, I had a hard time getting into the story.  The violence and torture in the first few pages certainly didn’t help matters.

Once I had re-oriented myself to Masque‘s world, though, I appreciated the tidbits of information and the insight into two of the ‘sidekick’ characters.  Since the entire thing took place within the time frame of the first novel, I’d assume that those skipping this and moving straight to the sequel would be filled in on important facts later, and wouldn’t really be missing a whole lot of the story.

ClassicsRetoldThough no bloggers will be covering Poe’s stories during the Classics Retold project in September, many will be finding retellings of other classic novels, including other 19th century novels as found at BookishWhimsy.

The Testing

Testing

NEW this week…

The Testing by Joelle Charbonneau
The Testing series #1

2.5 of 5 stars

When Cia Vale qualifies for The Testing, a series of tests that will determine the students in the post-apocalyptic nation’s University, her father shares with her disturbing information about what really goes on in The Testing.

I know this room.  White walls.  White floors.  Black desks.

This is the Testing room from my father’s nightmares.

From the very first pages, I was drawn back to City of Ember‘s graduation ceremony where the almost-adults anxiously await word on the future chosen for them.  From there, we make a switch to The Hunger Games for a “you are the chosen ones!” journey from the poor outskirts of civilization to the shiny, bright capitol.  After that, we’re treated to a Divergent-type testing for three rounds before being thrown out into the wilderness, fighting for survival Hunger Games or Crossed-style.  If you’re looking for an intense dystopian along these same lines, this is a book for you.  Also, a couple twists at the end did actually have me looking forward to the next book in the series.

But, I nearly put this book down… a couple times, not just because of its blatant similarities to other novels in its genre.  Part of what kept me reading was wanting to figure out WHY??  Why these tests?  Why those opponents?  Why did the “powers that be” judge the testing in the way that they did?  Why allow so many of the “best and brightest” to be killed off?  Why are so many of these “best and brightest” so sociopathic that they think it’s a good idea to kill off the competition anyways??  Why?  Not to mention the “well, what happened to [so-and-so]?” questions.  And, sadly, none of those questions are answered.

Stylistically, I found some of the narration a bit redundant, asking questions for the reader that the reader had thought to question pages prior, and often replacing actual dialogue with “and then we talked about this…”-type narrative.

Overall: Intense dystopian YA for fans who are bummed b/c The Hunger Games and Divergent and Matched triologies have all been completed.

Requiem

Requiem

NEW this month…

Requiem (Delirium #3) by Lauren Oliver

3 of 5 stars

In parallel story lines, Lena fights within the resistance as her best friend Hana prepares for life within the society.

Maybe they were right about the cure.  I am no happier than I was when I believed that love was a disease.  In many ways, I am less happy.

Half of this story is written from the perspective of Hana, now cured, preparing for her wedding to the mayor of Portland.  These parts were full of secrets, danger, and held my interest.  In fact, I found myself wanting to skip through Lena’s chapters in order to catch up to Hana’s story because I found it more interesting.  Four stars to these parts.

Lena’s chapters… meh.  Two stars.  The run-and-hide and run-and-fight and constant descriptions of their poor living conditions just seemed to drag, and Lena’s perpetual emotional pendulum that swung back and forth from Julian to Alex and back around again made me want to shake her.  “JUST TALK TO THEM.  RELATIONSHIPS ARE ABOUT COMMUNICATION!”  I didn’t like how they treated one another, so when it came down to the final decision of whom Lena would be with, I found that I didn’t even really care anymore.

Overall:  Thumbs up to Hana, thumbs down to Lena.

Other books in the series:
Annabel (Delirium, #0.5) Delirium (Delirium, #1) Hana (Delirium, #1.5) Pandemonium (Delirium, #2) Raven (Delirium, #2.5)

Annabel

Annabel

Annabel: A Delirium Story by Lauren Oliver

3 of 5 stars

Pub: 2012

This novella focuses on the life of Lena’s mother, Annabel as she reminisces about her own teenage years and plots her escape from the Crypts.

Amazing, how hope lives.  Without air or water, with hardly anything at all to nurture it.

Oliver’s poetic narrative resonates throughout this novella, and we catch a glimpse into the thoughts and dreams of Annabel, Lena’s mother.  I enjoyed the story, and loved the unique perspective of a woman who was ‘cured’ of strong emotions, and yet felt them nonetheless and had to hide them in order to keep the family whom she loved.  Very sweet, and gave more insight into how the world became what it was at the beginning of the Delirium series.

I do wish it had been longer, and that it had contained more information that wasn’t already gleaned from the other  novels.  This one could definitely be skipped without missing any of the plot of the series.

Overall: Beautiful prose showing yet another side of the Delirium world.

Other books in the series:
Delirium Pandemonium Requiem Hana Raven

Dualed

Dualed

On Shelves Tomorrow…

Dueled by Elsie Chapman

2 of 5 stars

Publication date: February 26, 2013

In a dystopian city which contains identical “Alts” of each underage person, it is finally West’s turn to eliminate her Alt and prove that she is the Alt worthy to live in the society.

You always said that when it was your turn, you wouldn’t run or hide.  I would have thought that of anyone, with you doing what you do, you’d be more than aware that you’re almost out of time… Ten days, West.  That’s all.”

The Hunger Games-esque premise of this dystopian intrigued me, and the book kept up a quick pace that held my attention, but overall, I was disappointed with this one.  I did, however, appreciate the fact that there was NOT a love triangle!  Thank you, author!

Dystopians are meant to be extreme, but this one seemed simply illogical to me.  There were too many things that I couldn’t wrap my head around, and that distracted me from the actual story… for instance:

  • Because of a war going on and widespread infertility, the Board decides to systematically eliminate half of their own population?  Huh?
  • Though each person is responsible for eliminating their own Alt, Strikers can be hired on as assassins, and it seems that the Board just kind of looks the other way.  Doesn’t that kind of defeat the purpose of training everyone to be soldiers?
  • It seems that just about anyone can be hired on as a Striker, regardless of their skills (or lack thereof), which doesn’t seem to make very good business sense
  • [highlight for spoiler]In order to “protect” Chord from her Alt, West drugs him and leaves him… exactly where her Alt expects to find him, at his home.[/spoiler]

Aside from those issues, as I finished the book, I found myself wondering what the point of it was.  The way that it ended didn’t create any major change in West’s attitude towards the Alt system that was set up, and — unlike The Hunger Games, where it’s obvious that the people are opposed to how unjust it is to kill off children — no one in this society seems bothered by that moral dilemma.

Overall: The killer premise failed to live up to my expectations, but it still might be a good read for die-hard dystopian enthusiasts.

Other books in the series:
Divided – coming Feb 2014

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