Bites

yackers
17234658Published: November 4, 2014
Publisher: Harper Teen
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Marguerite Caine’s physicist parents are known for their groundbreaking achievements. Their most astonishing invention, called the Firebird, allows users to jump into multiple universes—and promises to revolutionize science forever. But then Marguerite’s father is murdered, and the killer—her parent’s handsome, enigmatic assistant Paul— escapes into another dimension before the law can touch him.

Marguerite refuses to let the man who destroyed her family go free. So she races after Paul through different universes, always leaping into another version of herself. But she also meets alternate versions of the people she knows—including Paul, whose life entangles with hers in increasingly familiar ways. Before long she begins to question Paul’s guilt—as well as her own heart. And soon she discovers the truth behind her father’s death is far more sinister than she expected. (goodreads.com)

This was both this month’s YAck book and one I’ve had on my shelf for a while so yay! Two birds, one stone. The concept sounded interesting and, of course, the cover’s beautiful. It’s hard to resist, really.

From the second I started reading it I felt like I was shoved into the middle of a story and it was very disorienting. To the point where it took me a few chapters to really get my bearings and settle into the characters and really get a feeling for them. I really wasn’t too invested in the plot until a rather deadly surprise happened in one of Marguerite’s other worlds that it really piqued by interest. Unfortunately that was short lived because she bounces out of that world and into another one almost immediately after that incident.

The timing of everything just felt really misplaced. I didn’t feel like the major plot twist was so much of a twist as opposed to violently shoving the plot off the track, taking a right angle turn so fast you’re up on two wheels, and then smashing back down again. It was such a violent and unexpected diversion from the storyline as presented throughout the book that it felt less like an actual part of the story and more of a “written into a corner, need to get out of it” sort of thing. It just didn’t fit very nicely for me.

I liked the alleged science behind the book. I’m certainly not in a position to verify whether any of it’s even remotely accurate or whether it’s pure speculation, but I certainly like it better than time travel (which I can usually poke holes in within seconds of starting something with it). But the notion of each universe being mutually exclusive unto itself leaves a major question in the unresolved plot element of the book: why?

SPOILER ALERT

So one very similar dimension is just slightly ahead in the technology game from Marguerite’s dimension so they already have the technology the starting dimension is striving to get, yet they’re sending spies to follow Marguerite around . . . why? This other dimension is already ahead. They want her because you can only have one cognizant rift jumper per world and the big guy needs her. But what could possibly be his end game? What resources does a world with only a handful of years difference actually have that the slightly more advanced world doesn’t? There wasn’t any mention of any kind of natural degradation or nuclear wars or anything. The fight was for technology. But again, why? The fight just seems rather thin to me.

As for characters . . . eh. They’re okay. Marguerite isn’t really all that active in her role. She gets shoved from one dimension to another, but can’t really do a whole lot so she just waits around for Paul and Theo and then rift jumps again. There’s character development there but not necessarily to the growth of Marguerite as a character. It’s only relevant to information she finds out in the story that changes her notions of what’s going on. I wouldn’t necessarily call that growth.

I don’t know. Not really impressed by  A THOUSAND PIECES OF YOU. Neat concept, but I’m not finding the main character all that compelling and the Big Bad aspect doesn’t feel all that solid to me. At this point I’m not interested in reading further into the series.

2

I received a copy of this book from the publisher in exchange for an honest review.

yackers
16102412Published: October 15, 2013
Publisher: Balzer + Bray
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Centuries after wars nearly destroyed civilization, the two islands of New Pacifica stand alone, a terraformed paradise where even the Reduction—the devastating brain disorder that sparked the wars—is a distant memory. Yet on the isle of Galatea, an uprising against the ruling aristocrats has turned deadly. The revolutionaries’ weapon is a drug that damages their enemies’ brains, and the only hope is rescue by a mysterious spy known as the Wild Poppy.

On the neighboring island of Albion, no one suspects that the Wild Poppy is actually famously frivolous aristocrat Persis Blake. The teenager uses her shallow, socialite trappings to hide her true purpose: her gossipy flutternotes are encrypted plans, her pampered sea mink is genetically engineered for spying, and her well-publicized new romance with handsome Galatean medic Justen Helo… is her most dangerous mission ever.

Though Persis is falling for Justen, she can’t risk showing him her true self, especially once she learns he’s hiding far more than simply his disenchantment with his country’s revolution and his undeniable attraction to the silly socialite he’s pretending to love. His darkest secret could plunge both islands into a new dark age, and Persis realizes that when it comes to Justen Helo, she’s not only risking her heart, she’s risking the world she’s sworn to protect.  (goodreads.com)

This was our YAck book for July and I was assured that ACROSS A STAR-SWEPT SEA is a companion, not a sequel, and I wouldn’t have to read FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS in order to get what was going on.  Halfway into the book I had to confirm that with Laura because I had no idea what the hell was going on.  All of this world terminology that wasn’t grounded in anything, references to events without any exposition, I couldn’t keep which island was which straight and who was hurting who and whatever else was going on.  Even with hindsight the book still reads like a mess and I’m actually getting a little bit of a headache thinking about it.  Turned out that most of my fellow YAcks DNFed the book out of utter disappointment.  I guess #1 was fantastic with all of the WORDS and #2 didn’t even come close.  Considering how my eyes have crossed I can totally see that without reading book 1.

I’ve never read THE SCARLET PIMPERNEL and I don’t even know the story so any aspect regarding or relating to that that I comment on can be ignored if it’s something that should be answered within the aspect of the retelling.

I felt that the overarching topic, slaves rebelling against masters who become tortured slaves who then start to rebel against their former slaves-turned masters, is actually rather delicate because it’s begging sympathy for a ruling class who’s no longer ruling because the people they held under and hurt rebelled against them and are now returning the favor but that’s bad so the aristocracy is fighting back and I think you’re supposed to be on their side but . . . The vicious cycle is mentioned in the book, about how it’ll be never-ending unless someone stops the cycle.  But with how delicate of a discussion it really is (because you’re still looking for sympathy for slave masters, basically) it was approached incredibly callously.  The book was far more concerned about how gorgeous Persis was and her exploits wearing her mask of idiocy in order to hide that she was really the spy known as the Wild Poppy and any message the story is trying to give is lost.  It gets mired in confusing feelings and kisses and late night swims and clothes and BY THE WAY DO YOU KNOW HOW BEAUTIFUL PERSIS IS HERE LET ME TELL YOU AGAIN that it actually made me uncomfortable to read.

I also had issues pegging the ethnicity of the people occupying the islands.  I was under the impression that they’re some kind of European until Persis plays with Justen’s Brillo hair and likens it to an otter pelt (again . . . uncomfortable) and then they mention how pink the newcomers are so that leads me to guess that after generations of what is basically inbreeding on these Polynesian islands they’re a smorgasbord of ethnicities that tend toward darker complexions?  But Justen is Persis’s first encounter with kinky hair?  Leading me to believe that she’s definitely fairer (her skin is golden brown? a good tan?) and leading into my original assumption that the last people on earth are of the whiter European variety (especially the people with money) and again . . . UNCOMFORTABLE.  It’s all just very strange.

But thinking all of this I feel like I’m pulling way more out of the plot than the tone would otherwise indicate.  Because it’s a bit more about a growing “forbidden” relationship that starts off antagonistic and Persis being a flake and sometimes she rescues people from the other island where everyone who disagrees with the tyrant is being drugged into a stupor.  The “science” of this world is rather all over the place.  Maybe because I had such a hard time nailing anything else down that when the “science” came into it just got sucked into the funnel and mixed up with everything else.  I don’t know.  I had a hard time keeping people, situations, science, clothing straight.  It just all felt like a mash-up and we have these certain elements that need to make it in so let’s make sure they’re all in.

It started out okay enough but it just devolved into that mash-up.  Almost as if it were getting too serious (and fairly early on) so we needed to bring in pretty clothes and kissing and intimate moments and make sure it didn’t go too deep.  Despite the fact that the story is fairly deep; it just wasn’t allowed to go all the way to the bottom, doing a total disservice to what could have been a solid story.

This isn’t going to put me off of Peterfreund’s writing entirely.  I hear her killer unicorn stories were good and my fellow YAcks still rave about the first book in this particular series so I’m not turned off yet.  But ACROSS A STAR-SWEPT SEA is one to be skipped, especially if you haven’t read FOR DARKNESS SHOWS THE STARS.  I know it’s supposed to be a companion but . . . it’s not.

1.5

September 8, 2015

yackers

22544764Published: May 19th, 2015
Publisher: Del Ray
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.  (goodreads.com)

This was one of those books that I wanted to love but just didn’t, and I think a lot of my fellow YAcks felt the same way.  While the writing was rather beautiful it just dragged on for far too long, it gave us a relationship that didn’t make sense, and possibly three different teaser endings before the book actually ended.  It was a struggle for me to finish, starting right around the last 20% of the book or so, and I ended up begrudging that last bit because it JUST WOULDN’T END.

Agni is an okay character but I never felt truly involved in her story.  I was just kind of coasting along, reading what was happening, instead of being a part of it.  Kasia was far more interesting and a much more robust character and a total BAMF at that that it was hard to take my eyes off of her.  Meanwhile we have Agni who starts getting wishy-washy over a guy who’s a total dick to her and she struggles to progress in her education because the Dragon’s never heard of encouragement.  She becomes largely self-taught and then stuff happens and she ends up leading the charge to fix it.  At the same time she’s still this awkward young adult who doesn’t know how to maneuver a lot of social situations and ends up fumbling her way through things and getting lucky on the other end.  Thinking back on it she really wasn’t that stand-out of a character at all, even before Kasia.

The Dragon was just a dick.  A curmudgeon who squatted in a castle and took women every ten years.  How the relationship between he and Agni even existed is beyond me.  Other than perhaps a small eye flicker or maybe a misconstrued signal the Dragon is nothing but antagonistic to Agni, shows next to no kind feelings toward her, and yet ends up bedding her.  Neat.  While the two scenes were rather hot and well-written they were wholly unnecessary and added nothing to the plot.  They didn’t even make sense because the Dragon has next to no redeeming qualities about himself.  Seriously.  The only admirable thing this guy likes to do is fend off the Wood.  That’s pretty much it.  He’s a jackass to everyone else, Agni included.

The world, though, was rich and glorious.  I liked how the world was known in that it appeared somewhat Polish and referenced other known areas and countries but existed unto itself with this Wood and this problem.  How Novik portrayed this forest as being not only sentient but vindictive was kind of terrifying.  And the things it did to people only amped up that horror.  This was the best part of the book.  I loved reading the Wood scenes, both the good and the terrifying, because it added so much depth to this pseudo-known world that it was a breeze to visualize it.

With that being said, especially toward the end the descriptions got bogged down in themselves and with my frustration at this never-ending book already being high it just started to annoy me when I would get a paragraph about a leaf, or some other such minutiae.  Add in to that the teaser endings throughout the book where it appears the plot could be done but it’s not because you’re only halfway through the book.  It got worse the closer to the end it got because IS THIS THE END?  No, there’s still more.  NOW?  Nope.  Still going.  Like tripping over stones you think that last one was it and then your toe catches another.  It got annoying.

On top of that I really lost interest once Agni and the Dragon parted ways temporarily.  When was that, the halfway point or so?  Maybe a little later but not much.  We got introduced to the political order of the kingdom with balls and politics and showboating and it was just blah.  Despite the fact that the Dragon is a pretty crappy character, outside of the un-relationship those two had I did like their interactions.  They are what made the story seem so easy to read despite how dense it was.  End that and I have to slog through a kingdom capital and by the time I make my way out the other side I’m just over it.  I wanted the book to end.

So UPROOTED is one of those books that actually has pretty glorious writing in it and a wonderful world.  Very lyrical and engaging when it comes to just the story but it also has a sagging middle and that sagging middle leads to a rough ending because you just had to slog through a bunch of fat.  Not to mention Agni is more pushed along in the story with Kasia taking center stage whenever she’s in the scene, being a far more dynamo of a character.  Agni does stuff but it’s more reactive where Kasia is a bit more proactive.  Plus she’s just more interesting.  And the Dragon?  No.  Crappy character all around, he’s basically a tool to make the plot work.  He’s not appealing, he’s not endearing, he doesn’t do anything that would make him likeable but I’m just supposed to be on board with him and then he and Agni’s relationship?  No.  Doesn’t work for me.  Overall it’s a tough one.  It’s not that I didn’t like it but I don’t know if I’d necessarily recommend it.  I certainly wouldn’t read it again.  I’ll put this one in the middle somewhere.

3

January 10, 2015

yackers
13549218Published: March 4, 2014
Publisher: Greenwillow
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

When Ileni lost her magic, she lost everything: her place in society, her purpose in life, and the man she had expected to spend her life with. So when the Elders sent her to be magic tutor to a secret sect of assassins, she went willingly, even though the last two tutors had died under mysterious circumstances.

But beneath the assassins’ caves, Ileni will discover a new place and a new purpose… and a new and dangerous love. She will struggle to keep her lost magic a secret while teaching it to her deadly students, and to find out what happened to the two tutors who preceded her. But what she discovers will change not only her future, but the future of her people, the assassins… and possibly the entire world.  (goodreads.com)

This was our YAck book for November and we were all pretty excited to start reading it (after the pregnancy porn fiasco, don’t ask) but when those of us who were reading did we walked away going ‘we should have stuck with the pregnancy porn.’

This was a shockingly long book where nothing happened for about 80% of it.  The protagonist has two emotions, she’s surrounded by assassins that don’t actually kill anyone on page, the entire story takes place in a cave and the plot was hidden under a rock for most of the book.

The world-building is for crap.  Really, I shouldn’t say that.  There is no world-building to speak of because everything takes place in a cave.  The entire goddamn story is in a cave.  So dark, dank, dreary rocks.  And glowstones.  Lots and lots of glowstones.  And stalactites.  Those are EVERYWHERE.  Everyone is at risk of being impaled by one at all times.  The world was so bereft of color and depth that it may as well have taken place in ether, like a purgatory of a book world where the characters are in space and no one can hear them whine.  It was just blank.

Ileni is a dolt.  If she’s not forgetting she’s surrounded by assassins and having to remind herself of the fact that they could kill her at any time (in case the reader’s forgotten, too, you’ll get this at least one per chapter) then she’s interior monologuing about her luck in life and moaning about how she’s stuck in a cave.  Yet when she gets the opportunity to escape she doesn’t because she has a job to do and well she MUST do it.  *facedesk*  We’re in Ileni’s head a lot here and my god is it a dull and redundant place.  I was so incredibly bored with reading about her thimble range of emotions that it’s a miracle I even made it to the end.  And Tellis.  Eff that guy.  You can call that Ileni’s third emotion, pining away for this dude whom we never see but even with Tall, Dark and Assassin-y in the picture Tellis is still on Ileni’s mind.  I’m guessing it’s for depth but I’ve seen deeper cracks in sidewalks.

And the end?  More like PS: PLOT.  Ileni turns into a completely different character because apparently she’s Sybil and the plot that the book spent zero time developing gets dumped in your lap and is over in such an ungloriously unspectacular way that your breath catching on something actually happening is just you choking on your own spit.

Save yourself the energy and read a map or something.  At least it’ll show you a bigger, better world than what DEATH SWORN does.  With all it’s promises of fantasy and assassins and dying magic you’d think there’d be a lot to work with here.  Nope.  Assassins actually killing people is sorely lacking for a book taking place in a world of assassins.  We get an inexperienced, magically dying kid teaching a room full of kid assassins, a job that she could have fought to get out of but instead she accepted even though she knew she was setting herself up to fail but she still demanded all the respect of her same-aged students while partying and making out with them.  Effing sigh.

It’s just a poorly built, poorly plotted, poorly characterized book that was set up to be something it wasn’t.

1

November 25, 2014

yackers
12680907Published: May 1, 2012
Publisher: Dial Books
Author: Website
Info: Goodreads

Eight years have passed since the young Princess Bitterblue, and her country, were saved from the vicious King Leck. Now Bitterblue is the queen of Monsea, and her land is at peace.

But the influence of her father, a violent psychopath with mind-altering abilities, lives on. Her advisers, who have run the country on her behalf since Leck’s death, believe in a forward-thinking plan: to pardon all of those who committed terrible acts during Leck’s reign; and to forget every dark event that ever happened. Monsea’s past has become shrouded in mystery, and it’s only when Bitterblue begins sneaking out of her castle – curious, disguised and alone – to walk the streets of her own city, that she begins to realise the truth. Her kingdom has been under the thirty-five-year long spell of a madman, and now their only chance to move forward is to revisit the past.

Whatever that past holds.

Two thieves, who have sworn only to steal what has already been stolen, change her life forever. They hold a key to the truth of Leck’s reign. And one of them, who possesses an unidentified Grace, may also hold a key to her heart . . .  (goodreads.com)

Would it be a sufficient enough review to just say I heart this book and move on?  No?  Alright, I guess.  *kicks sand*

Well, again, it’s been a few months since I’ve read BITTERBLUE and it wasn’t a book that the YAcks actually got around to talking about so I don’t have a lot to even fall back on so I’ll do the best I can.

The love interest aspect of it reminded me of Cinda Williams Chima’s Seven Realms books between Raisa and Han, the queen and the pauper, basically.  That’s what happened here with Bitterblue and the Love Interest whose name escapes me.  It was very push and pull, there was a lot of lying going on and it was all rather tumultuous but it was interesting to see it develop.  It was also rather heartbreaking knowing that Bitterblue had to be so secretive about everything.  She’s a queen that’s doing the best she can in the aftermath of a manipulative, sadistic tyrant who also happened to be her father but it’s not ever good enough.  She’s cracking under the pressure and escaping to this other world within her city is a means for her to really see what’s going on and put her duties in perspective.

Of course there’s all sorts of intrigue and backstabbing and Fire and Po having raucous sex off-screen and it’s all rather swoon and gaspy and HOW WILL THIS END but I would be lying to say the story doesn’t round itself out.  Of course it does and in the most heart-smashing sort of way, just like the other Graceling Realm books.

That’s pretty much all I have on this one because remembering specifics this far out is difficult and I don’t own a copy to reference so I’m at a loss.  There’s beautiful writing and beautiful world-building and beautiful characters that have a tendency of destroying me from the inside out and it’s all rather wonderful.  And somewhat masochistic but wonderful still.

5