Sunday, July 31, 2016

The Winner's Kiss by Marie Rutkoski

Some kisses come at a price.

War has begun. Arin is in the thick of it with untrustworthy new allies and the empire as his enemy. Though he has convinced himself that he no longer loves Kestrel, Arin hasn’t forgotten her, or how she became exactly the kind of person he has always despised. She cared more for the empire than she did for the lives of innocent people—and certainly more than she did for him.

At least, that’s what he thinks.

In the frozen north, Kestrel is a prisoner in a brutal work camp. As she searches desperately for a way to escape, she wishes Arin could know what she sacrificed for him. She wishes she could make the empire pay for what they’ve done to her.

But no one gets what they want just by wishing.

As the war intensifies, both Kestrel and Arin discover that the world is changing. The East is pitted against the West, and they are caught in between. With so much to lose, can anybody really win?

Rating: 4/5 Stars


And another series that comes to an end...

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I know this review is kind of late because everybody has already read this book, but I’m always afraid of finishing series, so I try to push the last book away and away until I can’t resist anymore.

The Winner’s Kiss was an action-packed and fast paced book that lead readers into a heart-stopping finale. Although I did find it underwhelming in certain aspects, I still enjoyed it very much.

I don’t know what it is about this series, but I feel like it hit its peak in the first book and then slowly went down. I enjoyed The Winner’s Curse (just ask anybody I talked to when I finished it, I pretty much shoved it into everyone’s face saying they HAD to read it), but was quite disappointed with The Winner’s Crime; the second book felt like a filler, an in-between for the last book to come. The story basically consisted of Arin and Kestrel making assumptions about each other, but never talking about what was really happening because of “reasons”. 
Miscommunication as a plot device to create drama is not one of my favorite routes for a story, specially one that’s hard-core romance. That’s because, if the couple can’t do something so simple as to say “Hey, shit is going on” then I can’t believe that their romance is one for the ages, destined to be together forever… Blah, blah. I just can’t. The foundation for a healthy relationship is communication, but Kestrel and Arin couldn’t tell each other the most simple things because they were too damn proud and distrusting.

The third book goes away from all of that and it picks up where TWK ended; with Kestrel incarcerated and Arin on his way to war.
I wasn’t sure what direction the story was going to take, but I was surprised to see how certain things developed but then I was glad because it allowed the characters to develop in more complex ways. This is, by far, the more character-driven of the three books. It deals with hurt and forgiveness and how people deal with it.

Perhaps my one complaint is that it wasn’t as pumped as I was hoping this ending was going to be. I mean, yes there were some super tense moments that kept me glued to the page, but there were problems that were solved way too easily or weren’t even paid any attention to when this was THE END of the story.

Overall, a good ending and great for the fans of the series!

PS: I had written this review on the 16th, but totally forgot to post it!




Nerve by Jeanne Ryan

For fans of The Hunger Games

A high-stakes online game of dares turns deadly

When Vee is picked to be a player in NERVE, an anonymous game of dares broadcast live online, she discovers that the gameknows her. They tempt her with prizes taken from her ThisIsMe page and team her up with the perfect boy, sizzling-hot Ian. At first it's exhilarating--Vee and Ian's fans cheer them on to riskier dares with higher stakes. But the game takes a twisted turn when they're directed to a secret location with five other players for the Grand Prize round. Suddenly they're playing all or nothing, with their lives on the line. Just how far will Vee go before she loses NERVE?

Debut author Jeanne Ryan delivers an un-putdownable suspense thriller.


Rating: 1/5 Stars

“A great phone without Mom and Dad complaining about the bill would be heaven. But am I willing to put myself on the streets to win it?”


Take a fucking guess, guys.

The reason I wanted to read Nerve was because of the upcoming movie starring Emma Roberts and Dave Franco, if you haven’t seen the trailer check it out because it’s AWESOME.

Unfortunately, the book wasn’t so great. I know the blurb says for fans of The Hunger Games, but in reality it’s more for fans of The Selection; applicants have to submit an entry to participate in the online game known as NERVE where people can be paid to do dares or pay to watch.

Vee is a regular girl, kind of reminded me a lot of Bella Swan (Dark hair, big eyes, great lips, thin but also curvy? Who is super jealous of her super gorgeous and amazing blond friend). Only Bella Swan was much more likeable than this girl.

                               description

Vee is always doing safe stuff, she feels more comfortable working backstage than auditioning for the main roles at her school plays. She’s shy, she’s “good” AKA she’s really boring and whines all the time about being boring… it wasn’t the most thrilling combination ever.

“Recklessness is not part of my personality. Shy, hardworking, loyal, all of those boring Capricorn traits, that’s me.”


I knew that going into it, the story would be quite different from the trailer. But I was hoping that there’d be at least some excitement to it, you know?

Instead, the dares are kind of lame, but at the same time way over the edge, if that makes any sense. For instance, the reason Vee was selected to play in NERVE was because she did a preliminary dare in which she had to throw water over her head on a public dinner and say “COLD WATER MAKES ME HOT” so she grabs a little plastic cup and throws some, but somehow that infinitesimal amount of water soaks through her shirt and bra and makes them see-through, so her video becomes popular.

It just made no sense, this is a game where people are PAID to do dares, I bet there are thousands of people doing worse shit than this, and she somehow gets picked for a little water on her shirt?

The plot was lame, Vee is paired up with Ian, a super-hot, super-cool, super-boring and unrealistic guy that instantly falls in love with Vee (and viceversa) and they have to do the dares together. 
The dares themselves didn’t make much sense, since they weren’t bad enough (except maybe for one?) to explain why so little people got to the end. For instance, in one the two of them had to go to an abstinence reunion and ask for a condom, and of course Vee complains all the way through and feels awful. But on the next dare she has to pretend to be a hooker in a part of her twon where people get killed and she’s totally fine with it! 
Just when you think, ok maybe she’s getting used to the idea now?? She has to drink a beer on camera, and complains that “she can’t believe NERVE is making underage kids drink alcohol on camera!” 

Maybe the biggest problem for me was Vee, as a narrator she was terrible, not to mention an awful person. Vee had a crush on the biggest jerk on the planet, he is an actor at her school play, and he touches her without her consent, embarrasses her, takes the video of her nipples showing and shows it to everybody even though she begs him not to (but she’s still totally into him). 
But then, the unthinkable happens and in the last play when the Jerk had to kiss her best friend, Syd, for the final act, the kiss is prolonged for FIVE SECONDS.

That’s right! So it’s that only kiss and not her best friend’s claims that the guy is a total jerk and they should stay away from him, that convinces Vee that Syd is a backstabbing bitch and she should enter NERVE to prove her years’ worth friend that she's better than her.

Because that… makes total sense, right?

Throughout the whole book, it’s shown that Vee is a real asshole. Not only did she treat her best friend like scum for nothing but she was constantly complaining about the game, even though she KNEW what it was about and what she’d signed into. She keeps wondering “How is it that the game knows so much about me?!” as if it were a big secret, when in reality the girl posts everything she thinks and feels on social media. IT WAS IMPOSSIBLE NOT TO KNOW GAWWWDDDDDDD!

But of course Ian, super gorgeous and perfect Ian thinks Vee is the shit, and amazing, and kind and perfect even though he’s only known her for forty minutes.

I didn’t enjoy the way women were treated her, either. All women treated each other as “bitch” or “slut” and every single one of them (except her best friend, but she was an asshole in Vee’s eyes for NOT being an asshole) were awful to each other.

I kept reading to find something of that amazing factor that there was in the trailer, but no such thing happened. The construction of the story was sloppy, the writing forgettable and the romance incredibly forced and silly.

The ending also is… weird. I think it’d have made more sense as a series, but NERVE is a standalone so the final scene looks clunky.

In the end Nerve was a huge disappointment, it had tired tropes, horribly behavior toward women, and a boring and nonsensical plot.

Saturday, July 30, 2016

Lips Touch: Three Times by Laini Taylor

Three tales of supernatural love, each pivoting on a kiss that is no mere kiss, but an action with profound consequences for the kissers' souls:

Goblin Fruit
In Victorian times, goblin men had only to offer young girls sumptuous fruits to tempt them to sell their souls. But what does it take to tempt today's savvy girls?

Spicy Little Curses
A demon and the ambassador to Hell tussle over the soul of a beautiful English girl in India. Matters become complicated when she falls in love and decides to test her curse.

Hatchling
Six days before Esme's fourteenth birthday, her left eye turns from brown to blue. She little suspects what the change heralds, but her small safe life begins to unravel at once. What does the beautiful, fanged man want with her, and how is her fate connected to a mysterious race of demons?



Rating: 3/5 stars

BookTubeAThon: A book by an author you love.

Alright, yes. I know that BTAT ended on Saturday and that I’m super late to the party, but in my defence I started this book last week… I just got too bored and ended it now :/

I first read Daughter of Smoke and Bone about two years ago and absolutely LOVED IT! It was one of those books I adored everything about and enjoyed from beginning to end, something that doesn’t happen to me very often. Maybe it was because of this that I was wary of the second book. I mean, even though you love the first one there’s always the chance that it was just a fluke and the second installment isn’t as enjoying, right? But then on February I finally had the nerve to read Days of Blood and Starlight and I loved it as well! So Laini Taylor remained as one of my absolutely favorite authors since then.

I bought Lips Touch Three Times next to Dreams of Gods and Monsters earlier this year, but I had been afraid to read either until last week.
A.Because if I read DoGaM then the series will end and WHAT WILL I DO WITH MY LIFE?!
B.Because if I read LTTT then I would have one book less by Laini Taylor to be amazed with.

That’s why I decided to go with Lips Touch Three Times and get a small taste of her stories… and it was ok but nothing as good as I remember from her other books, which left me underwhelmed. There was nothing radically wrong with the short stories; the writing was beautiful and the narration imaginative, I was just too bored most of the times. There are three short stories in this 260 something pages and I was too BORED to even bother and finish the book all at once, or at least one story.
Had it not been for Laini Taylor I might have DNFed this one.

“Goblin Fruit” 2/5

This one was the most fun with the grandma’s commentary, but it only happened in one page and then it was gone. As far as story goes, Goblin Fruit was my least favorite. I liked the concept, a girl who wants something so badly she ignores what’s happening around her and the dangers of wishing to be someone else. I think it’s something a lot of people could connect with, myself included, but I just wasn’t feeling it. The narration felt too forced sometimes and even a bit ridiculous.
Not my cup of tea.


“Spicy Little Curses Such As These” 2,5/5 stars

I guess it was… ok? I didn’t hate it or was as bored as with the first story, but I couldn’t find anything great in it besides the concept that was overshadowed with boring story telling.
God, I sound like such an asshole.


“Hatchling” 3/5 stars

This was a bit more fun for me because of the three, Hatchling was the one that reminded me of Daughter and Smoke the most. But still, SO BORING! Usually Taylor’s writing can capture me from the first page, but I struggled a lot with all of these stories.


Overall, I enjoyed seeing more stories by this author because it’s clear that she has a wonderful imagination. But being her one of my favorite authors, these short stories were a disappointed compared to what I’ve read before.


Wednesday, July 27, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Ever the Hunted by Erin Summerill



Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly even hosted by Breaking the Spine which spotlights upcoming releases we are eagerly anticipating.

This week's book is:

Ever the Hunted
By Erin Summerill

Publication date: December 27th

Pages: 400

Summary:
Seventeen year-old Britta Flannery is at ease only in the woods with her dagger and bow. She spends her days tracking criminals alongside her father, the legendary bounty hunter for the King of Malam—that is, until her father is murdered. Now outcast and alone and having no rights to her father’s land or inheritance, she seeks refuge where she feels most safe: the Ever Woods. When Britta is caught poaching by the royal guard, instead of facing the noose she is offered a deal: her freedom in exchange for her father’s killer.

However, it’s not so simple.

The alleged killer is none other than Cohen McKay, her father’s former apprentice. The only friend she’s ever known. The boy she once loved who broke her heart. She must go on a dangerous quest in a world of warring kingdoms, mad kings, and dark magic to find the real killer. But Britta wields more power than she knows. And soon she will learn what has always made her different will make her a daunting and dangerous force.


Why am I anticipating this book?

I'm always looking forward to new fantasy novels, and the fact that Britta has to hunt down her father's killer and former friend looks like a good way to bring excitement into the story.

What books are you anticipating?

Sunday, July 24, 2016

Bone Gap by Laura Ruby

Everyone knows Bone Gap is full of gaps—gaps to trip you up, gaps to slide through so you can disappear forever. So when young, beautiful Roza went missing, the people of Bone Gap weren’t surprised. After all, it wasn’t the first time that someone had slipped away and left Finn and Sean O’Sullivan on their own. Just a few years before, their mother had high-tailed it to Oregon for a brand new guy, a brand new life. That’s just how things go, the people said. Who are you going to blame?

Finn knows that’s not what happened with Roza. He knows she was kidnapped, ripped from the cornfields by a dangerous man whose face he cannot remember. But the searches turned up nothing, and no one believes him anymore. Not even Sean, who has more reason to find Roza than anyone, and every reason to blame Finn for letting her go.

As we follow the stories of Finn, Roza, and the people of Bone Gap—their melancholy pasts, their terrifying presents, their uncertain futures—acclaimed author Laura Ruby weaves a heartbreaking tale of love and loss, magic and mystery, regret and forgiveness—a story about how the face the world sees is never the sum of who we are.

Rating: 3/5 stars

Me: *Getting into the car*

Mom: So, how was your day? Still no internet?

Me: Nope, it might be fixed next week but we still don’t know for sure.

Mom: So what did you do today, any patients?

Me: No, I started reading a book. The one with the bee, got to the half of it.

Mom: *curious* Really? What is it about?

Me: I’ve got no fucking idea.

Mom: What do you mean? What did you read?

Me: I’m not sure, there was a girl that was missing, maybe kidnapped, but nobody believes the kid that saw it happening. Apparently she’s living in some kind of fantasy land with some creep, but I’m still not sure she’s even real.
There was also a magical horse that appeared out of nowhere and can kind of fly… I think, I’m not sure either.

Mom: Sooooo… what’s happening now?

Me: Well, I think the kidnapped girl, Roza, is in a castle and the guy who took her keeps asking whether she loves him or not. Oh, and the horse is now friends with a goat that also came out of nowhere.

Mom: 
                               


As you can see, Bone Gap was a very confusing reading, but I did get to enjoy it about 70% into it once I got to see more of the characters and the fantastic elements began to make some sense.

This is definitely one of those books that I’ll enjoy a lot more on my second reading because, even though I did love the story in the end, the beginning was so confusing and boring I just wanted to drop it. Many fantastical elements are introduced into the story and tied with the plot in a way that (at first) was confusing since I didn’t have enough information to understand its meaning. Things improved when the characters got to be more established and I could begin to see where the story was heading, but before it was too messy to follow.

In the end it’s a good reading, but certainly confusing and probably not for everybody!



Saturday, July 23, 2016

The Program by Suzanne Young

In Sloane’s world, true feelings are forbidden, teen suicide is an epidemic, and the only solution is The Program.

Sloane knows better than to cry in front of anyone. With suicide now an international epidemic, one outburst could land her in The Program, the only proven course of treatment. Sloane’s parents have already lost one child; Sloane knows they’ll do anything to keep her alive. She also knows that everyone who’s been through The Program returns as a blank slate. Because their depression is gone—but so are their memories.

Under constant surveillance at home and at school, Sloane puts on a brave face and keeps her feelings buried as deep as she can. The only person Sloane can be herself with is James. He’s promised to keep them both safe and out of treatment, and Sloane knows their love is strong enough to withstand anything. But despite the promises they made to each other, it’s getting harder to hide the truth. They are both growing weaker. Depression is setting in. And The Program is coming for them.


Rating: 1/5 Stars

                       

Today at work there was no internet.

This week I’m working at a medical clinic as a secretary to cover for a vacation. Sadly, yesterday morning some workmen accidentally cut down the internet cable (somehow not killing themselves in the process, thank God) and that brought us two major problems.

1.We can't authorize the medical orders we receive because they are all done online, which means we’ll have to do them all at once as soon as internet is up again.
2.It’s winter holidays for us, which means that pretty much everybody but us is out of town, so there aren’t many patients to attend. Without work and without internet, the eight hours are a torture.

Now, why should you care about this? You shouldn’t, it’s boring as f*ck but it explains why I read this entire book today. Because I had nothing better to do (ok that’s not totally true I still had the Chrome dinosaur game, but playing it for eight hours would be its own kind of torture).

I picked up The Program because I was curious about suicide being epidemic; Why were there so many teens committing suicide? What was causing it? Was it only in the US or the rest of the world?

Spoiler alert, none of that was clarified or even talked about in this book. Instead all we got was a shitty representation of mental illness, one dimensional characters and a useless love triangle that was there only for the sake of drama (had I cared for it, that’s is).

Now, with most of my reviews I try to find a positive aspect in every book. I mean, even though I didn’t like it doesn’t mean that it’s horrible, is it? Well no such thing happens here. The best thing I can say about it is that the writing is simple and makes it easy to read. THAT’S IT

I know that it’s always a hit or miss with books representing mental illness, and now that I can see the reviews for it I agree that a dystopian setting was not the best choice to portray this story. But no matter what choice of setting or genre, the representation of mentally ill people on The Program was still one of the worst I’ve had the displeasure of reading in a while.

For some unknown reason, teenagers are committing more and more suicide (again, is it just in the US or what about the rest of the world?). It’s gotten to the point where teenage suicide is considered an epidemic. As a result, a new experimental program has been created to fix this called… the Program (what is it with dystopias and their names for stuff? Would it kill them to make it more original??) But the… Program is not perfect, it works by brainwashing teens and eliminating their memories so they won’t be suicidal anymore (don’t ask me how that makes sense because it doesn’t).

Sloane has lost her brother because of the pandemic, and then her best friend because of the program. Now all she has left is her boyfriend James and best friend Miller but she’s afraid that the Program will take that too, and afraid that they could take her as well.

Every time I read a book about mental illness I try to keep an open mind because I know that not everybody experiences it the same, so I won’t go around saying “Oh that’s not how I see it so it can’t be true!”
Sadly enough, this is not a case of “it’s me not you” this is a case of an author who tried to use mental illness as a plot device and didn’t even do any kind of freaking research on it.

When I first started reading, I knew that there was something wrong. The Program forbids students from doing sports (because the competition would put too much stress on them) forbids them from expressing their feelings (you cry and you’re sent to being brainwashed). Basically the program did EVERYTHING you should NOT do to help people with depression and/or suicidal tendencies.

But first I was optimistic and thought “Huh, maybe this program represents people’s misconceptions about mental illness and how they affect people?” I mean, it made sense. We know that there are many clich├ęs and beliefs about this, so when people try to help they can end up doing more bad than good.

The further I got into the story the more I realized that that was not the case here, and that in fact the whole book was one huge misconception about depression and suicide told as “fact”.

Look, I know that when you write (and particularly fantasy or dystopian) you can take a few liberties. After all, books would be boring if authors did everything by the book and didn’t create anything new, right? But you have to draw the line, and The Program takes a very serious topic such as mental illness and trivializes it to the point where it almost looks like it’s making fun of it. I’m pretty sure (at least I hope so) that this was not the author’s intention, but you can’t argue with the results here.

Nothing is taken seriously, and nothing is explored in depth. Depression here is… crying? From time to time apparently? And suicide is something that happens all of the sudden and for no reason at all. One minute the person is totally fine, the next they have mood swings, then they start drawing black holes like in The Ring, and then they kill themselves. There was no explanation for it, these people were apparently attacked by the disease and decided to die. That was it.

It didn’t help that the story was narrated by Sloane, and she wasn’t suicidal nor depressive.
BUT, apparently she was because she wanted to cry when she remembered her brother who had killed himself, or when she was afraid of being taken by the Program and being brainwashed into someone new. I mean, the girl laughed, lived, enjoyed and not sporadically. She only felt sad from time to time when she remembered the shitty situation she was in, but because she couldn’t be 100% happy 100% of the time, she was clearly disturbed.

This happened all the time. Crying was the same as being suicidal, cutting yourself was suicidal, drawing black holes was suicidal; basically the book just took some stuff here and there and just smashed them together and said “These are suicidal thoughts! This is depression!” without having actually bothered to do any research on it.
There was no in-depth behind depression or behind the suicides, they just happened to further the plot along. It was sick.

The characters weren’t any better, they had nothing going on. They weren’t interesting, compelling or anything other than cookie-cutter.


I do not recommend this book, I’m too pissed at it. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

Waiting on Wednesday: Bright Smoke, Cold Fire by Rosamund Hodge



Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly even hosted by Breaking the Spine which spotlights upcoming releases we are eagerly anticipating.

This week's book is:

Bright Smoke, Cold Fire
By Rosamund Hodge

Publication date: September 27th

Pages: 448

Summary:

When the mysterious fog of the Ruining crept over the world, the living died and the dead rose. Only the walled city of Viyara was left untouched.

The heirs of the city’s most powerful—and warring—families, Mahyanai Romeo and Juliet Catresou share a love deeper than duty, honor, even life itself. But the magic laid on Juliet at birth compels her to punish the enemies of her clan—and Romeo has just killed her cousin Tybalt. Which means he must die.

Paris Catresou has always wanted to serve his family by guarding Juliet. But when his ward tries to escape her fate, magic goes terribly wrong—killing her and leaving Paris bound to Romeo. If he wants to discover the truth of what happened, Paris must delve deep into the city, ally with his worst enemy . . . and perhaps turn against his own clan.

Mahyanai Runajo just wants to protect her city—but she’s the only one who believes it’s in peril. In her desperate hunt for information, she accidentally pulls Juliet from the mouth of death—and finds herself bound to the bitter, angry girl. Runajo quickly discovers Juliet might be the one person who can help her recover the secret to saving Viyara.

Both pairs will find friendship where they least expect it. Both will find that Viyara holds more secrets and dangers than anyone ever expected. And outside the walls, death is waiting. . . 


Why am I anticipating this book?

Although far from perfect, Rosamund Hodge's debut novel, Cruel Beauty was a fantastic read for me. Everything about this book is interesting to me, from the ominous cover, to the title and summary it looks like a story I'll absolutely love (crossing fingers).

What books are you anticipating?

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

This Savage Song by Victoria Schwab

There’s no such thing as safe in a city at war, a city overrun with monsters. In this dark urban fantasy from author Victoria Schwaba young woman and a young man must choose whether to become heroes or villains—and friends or enemies—with the future of their home at stake. The first of two books.

Kate Harker and August Flynn are the heirs to a divided city—a city where the violence has begun to breed actual monsters. All Kate wants is to be as ruthless as her father, who lets the monsters roam free and makes the humans pay for his protection. All August wants is to be human, as good-hearted as his own father, to play a bigger role in protecting the innocent—but he’s one of the monsters. One who can steal a soul with a simple strain of music. When the chance arises to keep an eye on Kate, who’s just been kicked out of her sixth boarding school and returned home, August jumps at it. But Kate discovers August’s secret, and after a failed assassination attempt the pair must flee for their lives.



Rating: 4/5 Stars


BookTubeAthon: Read a book after dark.



“People are users. It’s a universal truth. Use them, or they’ll use you.”



I’ve heard about Victoria Schwab for a good while now, but this is my first time reading her books. Does it ever happen to you guys that you see popular books/authors and are afraid of trying of fear you’ll be the black sheep? Nope? Just me? Okay then.

This book was so interesting! And I know that that’s a shallow thing to say in order to describe something; interesting how? Why? Well that’s the thing, This Savage Song touches upon so many subjects that it’s hard to name them all; you have complex characters that are both opposite and complimentary. You have a plot revolving monsters and human nature and which is which. You have all this amazing and juicy stuff that my limited vocabulary can only describe as "interesting".

But at its core, This Savage Song is a character-driven story and it’s well done because the main characters, August and Kate are curious enough to carry on with the story.


In a world were monster are born from the evil deeds of humans, the city of Verity is divided in half. One belonging to Harker, a corrupt man who charges for the protection of his citizens against monsters (and those who fail to pay are killed) and the other belonging to Flynn, who treats monsters as his family and tries to protect the people on his side of town.

Kate is Harker's daughter, she wants to prove she can make her father proud and enter the family business, desperately trying to rid herself of any weakness.
August is a sunai, a monster born from violence and he struggles everyday to keep his humanity with him.

They were both similar and opposites in their struggles, both afraid of one another but still forming a strange bond thanks to the extreme circumstances they are thrown in.
I loved their friendship, and this is certainly the core of the story. There was no romance between those two, and even though I usually like some in my fantasy novels (read SOME not four hundred pages of insta-love) it fit very well here. Maybe some will come later on, maybe not. Either way I'm still happy with the friendship these two have developed here.

If there's something I wasn't a super fan off, was the writing. Don't get me wrong, it wasn't bad; it was pretty and descriptive but sometimes it could get dense and abuse repetitions.

In the end, This Savage Song was a compelling and character-driven story that's certainly worth a try!

Monday, July 18, 2016

An Ember In The Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

Laia is a slave. Elias is a soldier. Neither is free.
 
Under the Martial Empire, defiance is met with death. Those who do not vow their blood and bodies to the Emperor risk the execution of their loved ones and the destruction of all they hold dear.
 
It is in this brutal world, inspired by ancient Rome, that Laia lives with her grandparents and older brother. The family ekes out an existence in the Empire’s impoverished backstreets. They do not challenge the Empire. They’ve seen what happens to those who do.
 
But when Laia’s brother is arrested for treason, Laia is forced to make a decision. In exchange for help from rebels who promise to rescue her brother, she will risk her life to spy for them from within the Empire’s greatest military academy.
 
There, Laia meets Elias, the school’s finest soldier—and secretly, its most unwilling. Elias wants only to be free of the tyranny he’s being trained to enforce. He and Laia will soon realize that their destinies are intertwined—and that their choices will change the fate of the Empire itself.



Rating: 3/5 Stars



“There are two kinds of guilt. The kind that's a burden and the kind that gives you purpose. Let your guilt be your fuel. Let it remind you of who you want to be. Draw a line in your mind. Never cross it again.”


This book is SO HYPED. Ever since it came out (and long after) I’ve seen glowing five start review after glowing five star review, and I just needed to know for myself how amazing this book was… so I read it! *pats herself on the back* and with the help of Charysse, nonetheless.

                               arrested development eye lucille bluth winking

Now I can finally share my opinion on this book!! And that is that An Ember in the Ashes was an ok read. It wasn’t horrible, but for me it wasn’t great either. It had really cool moments but it was so filled with YA tropes and generic plots that it didn’t feel amazing; it was enjoyable but forgettable.

Are you still reading? You don’t hate me? Alright then, let’s go!

The story is set in an ancient-Rome inspired setting (loosely, VERY loosely inspired) where the Martial Empire, ruthless and unbeatable in the art of war have conquered the Scholars, who prized knowledge and facts above all. Now the Scholars are forbidden from even learning how to read and have become the Martials' slaves.
Laia is a simple scholar girl trying to live her life away from trouble with her family, but when a Martial raid kills her grandparents and takes her only brother away under the charge of being a Rebel, she’ll seek for the rebels’ help and end up infiltrating the Martial’s most deadly place; Blackcliff Academy where young men are trained to become ruthless soldiers, and find information that could free her brother.
Elias is the top soldier of his class at Blackcliff, but he wants out. Desertion is punished by death but he’s ready to risk it if it means being free of the horrors he’ll have to inforce. But the Emperor’s line starts to die, and it’s time for a new heir to be chosen from Blackcliff’s finest and Elias name is among them.

As the story develops Laia and Elias will find themselves entangled in… whatever it is that’s happening at Blackcliff.


The world-building:

I’ll admit that it had been a good time since I last read the synopsis, so I didn’t know as much as I should have when I began reading. For instance, the fact that An Ember in The Ashes was based on a sort of ancient-Rome world. BUT in my defense, there were no clues at all in the book. I mean besides there being an Empire and War, the most Roman thing they do here is wear robes… once.

                                  

Kind of.

So I didn’t remember this was based on Roman culture until someone pointed it out in the comments.
Basically th world here consists of the Martial Empire, who is ruthless and… conquers (we don’t know if they have conquered any more civilizations or how their people are or what their history is, only that they are the ones who enslaved the Scholars). The Scholars are the latest conquest of the Martial Empire (again I have no idea whether they have conquered anybody else or how their economy runs or what the heck they even do), they loved preserving knowledge and hard facts but after they were conquered their emperor (did they have like a library or something where they savaged knowledge? How did their society work?) forbid them from learning how to read and just made them slaves.
Then there were also the Tribesmen that… I guess are nomads? They were described a bit like Gypsies so, maybe they were like that? I don’t know, they were mentioned once or twice (Elias foster family is Tribesmen, but we know little about their family structure, their society, language or anything of the sort).
I was a bit disappointed with this because I wanted to know more about the world in order to understand the story better. This is about conquest and war, yet we know very little of these people’s customs or ways except the very basic (the Martials are warriors, the Scholars intelectuals).
There were some elements of magic that I really liked, Ghouls and Jinns, etc. But they were mentioned a few times here and there and nothing else. Maybe this will be explored in the next installments since it looked like they would be more important in the future, but it would have been nice to see at least the legends people knew about these creatures or anything to have something in mind when they reappear (if they reappear). But they were still a nice addition.

The Characters:

Laia:
The first chapter was in her POV, and it was SO SLOW. Basically, Laia is a coward, and I’m not saying it to be mean; her being a coward is the whole definition of her character it’s what she struggles with. Her mother was the Lioness, a woman known for her bravery and being fearless while Laia is constantly afraid. She struggles with trying to live up to her mother’s image knowing she was so brave while she’s unable to even speak sometimes, and although it was an interesting approach for her character, she wasn’t the best narrator the story could have had.

Look, I don’t want to say “Oh she should just suck it up and do stuff” because people react differently to these kinds of situations. I have no idea how I’d react if I were in her position (and I’m not looking forward to find that out!) for all I know, I could just piss myself and cry until someone killed me.

                               

What I do know is that as a narrator she just didn’t work. This story is about mystery and war, it’s about running ahead of the clock to complete seemingly impossible missions against the Empire. And all Laia could do was say “I know I should do this, but I’m too afraid.”

                                  

It just slowed everything down! In her chapters we get to see the story through her eyes, but Laia won’t do or look at anything! She’s too afraid to speak, she’s too afraid to spy, she’s too afraid to listen (even though it made no sense because people were willingly giving her that information and she didn’t have to spy for it).

When I mentioned that the story was full of YA tropes, Laia was one of them. She’s your typical special snowflake (don’t worry, Elias is too) who is super shy and super pretty! And all the boys fall for her.

I didn’t understand why she was always running away, she’d have people trying to warn her about something, or trying to say something important to her, but she suddenly “couldn’t listen anymore” and would run dramatically away.

"Laia, wait-"
I don't hear the rest. I'm already out the door.

                                 

All as a plot to delay the revelation of said information and drag the story along.

Not to mention that her whole plan revolves on her spying for the rebels in the house of one of the most dangerous martials on Earth, and she’s THE WORST SPY EVER.
Really, she was terrible, and it made no sense because she would be super scared to do something simple and safe, but then would go out of her way to do dumb things that would get her in danger. She never thought things through, and it got annoying after sometime to keep reading things like:

“I’ll be whipped for reading something that doesn’t even make any sense. Why did I let her see me? Why wasn’t I more careful?”

“I think of the guards talking excitedly at Blackcliff’s gate as two horseman came up the road. Laia, you fool. If I’d paid closer attention to the auxe’s gossip, I might have learned which Aspirants had survived the Trail. I might have had something useful to tell the Resistance.”

“Darin?” I forget that this is a hallucination, that I’m in a Martial forge with a murderous-looking blacksmith yards away.

Seems like a good place to say the name of a known rebel, huh? Very smart.

“Why am I asking him so many questions? It’s not my place.”

And on and on and on it went, Laia was utterly useless. Although the reason behind her spying is revealed at the end (kind of predictable though) for me it didn’t justify her being the narrator. She was still frustrating as hell.

Laia kind of gets more interesting by the end, but not really enough to call my attention.

Elias:

If Laia was the worst spy on Blackcliff, then Elias was the worst soldier in the Empire… which is weird because he was top of his class (hence the special snowflake-ness). The children chosen to be Masks come at the age of six, and from that point onward they are basically brainwashed into loving the Empire and dying for it. Elias is (as far as he knows) the only one who doesn’t agree with this vision. He hates the people he serves and the deaths he’s caused because of them, so he wants to escape. Problem is, the smallest sign of dissidence results in punishment or death. That’s why I can’t understand how on earth Elias is still alive, when he did a lot of dumb stuff that would easily expose him.
I mean, he is in his last day at the Academy. He needs to act perfectly normal or everybody will suspect he’s going to escape, AND HE KEEPS DOING DUMB SHIT THAT SINGLE HIM OUT!
He acts out of place, he publicly agrees with ways against the empire… I was really surprised that the guy had lived for so long.

His narrative wasn’t very interesting, mostly because it consisted of the Trials, which came out of the blue and didn’t seem to go with the rest of the story. That and the love triangle between him, Helene (his best friend) and Laia.

The amount of times this guy wondered whether he had feelings for his best friend and imagined how he wanted to lick her or push her against the walls were too many. Because, again! It came all out of nowhere, these feelings, these romances. They had little to do with the plot and just appeared one day and stayed for the sake of drama.

Laia’s chapters were more interesting to me because she was determined to spy and get her brother free, even if she did little to accomplish that. But what did Elaias have? He was in the Trails from time to time, then he was complaining about being stuck there, and then he was lusting after Laia and Helene.

The pace:

It wasn’t bad, the first chapter it took me some time to get used to Laia’s voice but then her missions, albeit annoying sometimes because she didn’t DO stuff, were some of the most entertaining parts of the story. I wanted to learn more with her and figure out what the Commandant was doing.

The Trails were what made the story really slow down because… well they looked kind of pointless. I think the issue for me here was that we didn’t know much about the Empire, Blackcliff, the Augurs or the Emperor before they started. But when Elias is going to desert one of the Augurs shows up like:

“Hey, I know you think I’m a phony and that I can’t read minds or be immortal, but I totally can! *proves it* Anyways, I know you’re going to escape, but you can’t, you have to stay or bad shit will happen.”

And the very next day we learn that there was one dude called Taius who was the, let’s say “original Emperor”. He was great, strong, amazing yadda yadda, but the Augurs predicted that his line would fall, so they created the Blackcliff to train new soldiers (the masks) so that when the time comes they get to do the Trails, tastes of strength to determine which warrior is the best of the best and gets to be the new Emperor. ANDDDDDD apparently the Augurs decided that the Trails had to happen RIGHT THEN and Elias was going to participate to become Emperor.

All of that, and I mean ALL of that sloppy recollection I just made was all delivered at once, pretty much like I just explained it. And that’s the whole explanation of why the Trails are in the story! It looked messy and didn’t fit with the rest of the narrative. There were hints and clues that showed there was something else going on there, but they’ll probably be discussed in the next books.

The ending was REALLY cool and kind of a let down all at once. You have this awesome battle near the end were SHIT WAS HAPPENING AND IT WAS AWFUL AND AMAZING AT ONCE. And then… it kind of slows down into something else? It was a very abrupt change, you have them all running into action and then… stops.

                                31 Biggest Dog Fails Of 2013

I mean, some stuff still happened there, but it wasn’t as amazing as what had happened before. So you had all of this amazing build up that led up to nothing.

The romance:

               

This was something that I could have been without, and I LOVE fantasy with a bit of romance, but it just had no point here. It was extreme insta-love that came out of nowhere.

Laia and Kennet:
Right off the bat, when Laia finds the resistance we meet Kennan, a guy who’s super gorgeous but treats Laia like crap. So you already know he’s going to be a love interest.

                         

When she’s assigned her mission, Kennet is designed as her handler, and their “relationship” develops through forced interactions and Kennet suddenly caring whether she gets hurt or not, and Laia marvelling at the softness of his skin and his smell…

It was forced, there’s no other way to put it. All romances in the story were so I couldn’t connect with anything they did, and romance was a huge part of the story so it lowered my rating.

Laia and Elias:

“Many of the young men around me sneak glances at her. She doesn’t seem to notice wich, of course, makes her all the more intriguing.”

                            

I have no idea of why this relationship is relevant either, but it might make more sense than her and Kennet? I mean, Laia’s family was destroyed by masks and Elias is one so it would be a nice contrast if she found herself having feelings for Elias.
The thing is, it’s another kind of insta love. Elias sees her and this is how he reacts:

“I’ve never seen her before, because if I had, I’d remember. Despite the heavy silver cuffs and high, painfullooking bun that mark all of Blackcliff’s drudges, nothing about her says slave. Her black dress fits her like a glove, sliding over every curve in a way that makes more than one head turn. Her full lips and fine, straight nose would be the envy of most girls, Scholar or not.”

                             shocked wow hugh jackman amazed awe

It’s too much, and too ridiculous. They may see each other five times, and of those times spoke only three, yet they are half-way in love already.

Helene and Elias:

Talk about ove stories that came out of nowhere. One minute Elias is swearing he has never thought of her as anything but a friend, the second he’s lusting all over her.

I felt bad for Helene, because during the most part her only role was that of being Elias’s friend/love interest. She’s the only chosen woman in Blackcliff for quite sometime, and is one of the best of her class. However, all her prowess and intelligence is hardly ever shown because she’s seen through Elias’ eyes, and even when they are about to die all he can think about is how close their bodies are or how beautiful she’s when she’s mad.

But then, she did something very shitty, and she kinds of kept doing things that I didn’t like... and I lost all love for her.


Rape as a plot device:

Before I started this book I’d heard a few complaints on the way rape was used in this book. Some said it was insensitive, others that it annoyed them and didn’t help with the plot, others that it fit the narrative because it was ancient-rome.
I found it unnecessary and a cheap way to show the cruelty of the world. You see, men in the book get beaten and cut, women get beaten, cut and raped.
I thought "ok this is kind of ancient Rome, so we'll get to see a lot of depravity and stuff, specially at Blackcliff." but it was all against women.

Maggie Stiefvater says it perfectly in her Post about literary rape how sexual violence is used against women to show something gritty, but not on men.

"I’m talking about novels where the rape scene could just as easily be any other sort of violent scene and it only becomes about sex because there’s a woman involved. If the genders were swapped, a rape scene wouldn’t have happened. "

Blackcliff was a place of violence and domination, I thought the author would show this too (if she had to) by mentioning how the students there were also raped. It's horrible, I know, but in a place like that it would have happened.
But the thing is, all students there were boys, so the risk of rape didn't exist (because apparently boys are not raped? smth). But when it comes to Helene, the ONLY girl student, she's the one who is at risk of being raped.

"Need to establish some stakes? Grab a secondary character and rape her. Possibly with a god or a mythological object if you have one handy. 
And that starts to feel a lot less like realism and more like a malingering culture of women as victims. "

Whenever there's a woman around, there's always the rape threat hanging closely. It's insensitive and unnecesary.

Overall, An Ember In The Ashes was an ok read, but nothing original or groundbreaking. I'm still curious enough to read the next book.