Showing posts with label two and a half stars. Show all posts
Showing posts with label two and a half stars. Show all posts

Saturday, July 22, 2017

[Review] The Young Elites (#1) - Marie Lu: Witch Hunts and Renaissance Vibes

In THE YOUNG ELITES, Adelina survived a fever that gave her special powers. When she accidentally kills her father and is sentenced to death, someone saves her last minute.

What intrigued me: I didn't quite know what this was about but just heard anti-heroine and immediately got a copy.

Flawless writing but confusing setting

THE YOUNG ELITES is a typical fantasy take on witch hunts set in medieval-inspired world with Italian renaissance influences with a side of Greek mythology. The world is actually what I struggled the most with. Lu didn't manage to conjure up images in my mind and really grip me and get me invested in it. I struggled with the city names and settings from the first to last page, never quite knowing where what is taking place and how I'm supposed to picture it.

The powers of the Elites remind me a lot of fanfiction meets superheroes in a very unflattering way. Everyone who was affected by a fever years ago grew strangely-colored hair and weirdly colored eyes. Throw in a couple of scars and you got yourself the Elites. The concept is so nice but the execution makes me not want to take the Elites and their mission seriously. Paired with the fact that they're all gorgeous and good-looking and coming from rich families, I just couldn't. I was hoping to read about actual outcasts, to read about gritty, bitter antiheroes. THE YOUNG ELITES will definitely not give you that experience.

Too Angsty and Not Badass Enough

Nonetheless, Lu is an incredible writer. There is so much beauty and emotion packed within the first 50 pages that I thought I was going to love this. You can easily feel Adelina's pain and will find yourself rooting for her from the first page. I like the overall concept of these outcasts teaming up to reclaim the throne under the command of the wayward prince. It makes for a really interesting premise, but beyond that severely lacks in storytelling. 

The story takes forever to actually get going. It essentially feels like Adelina is walking through the world endlessly meeting new people who explain the world to her and give more info dumps, but you'll still find yourself confused by what's actually happening. It's such a slow story. I think with that premise THE YOUNG ELITES should have been an action-packed story about a secret society of badass warriors. It just doesn't read like that. 

Rating:

★★½

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

THE YOUNG ELITES feels like an angsty dystopia when it should've been the start of a series of blood-thirsty warrior chronicle books. It's definitely an interesting spin on the genre, but couldn't win my heart because the story itself just doesn't pack a punch.



Additional Info

Published: October 7th 2014
Pages: 355
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Genre: YA / High Fantasy
ISBN: 9780399167836

Synopsis:
"I am tired of being used, hurt, and cast aside.

Adelina Amouteru is a survivor of the blood fever. A decade ago, the deadly illness swept through her nation. Most of the infected perished, while many of the children who survived were left with strange markings. Adelina’s black hair turned silver, her lashes went pale, and now she has only a jagged scar where her left eye once was. Her cruel father believes she is a malfetto, an abomination, ruining their family’s good name and standing in the way of their fortune. But some of the fever’s survivors are rumored to possess more than just scars—they are believed to have mysterious and powerful gifts, and though their identities remain secret, they have come to be called the Young Elites.

Teren Santoro works for the king. As Leader of the Inquisition Axis, it is his job to seek out the Young Elites, to destroy them before they destroy the nation. He believes the Young Elites to be dangerous and vengeful, but it’s Teren who may possess the darkest secret of all. 

Enzo Valenciano is a member of the Dagger Society. This secret sect of Young Elites seeks out others like them before the Inquisition Axis can. But when the Daggers find Adelina, they discover someone with powers like they’ve never seen. 

Adelina wants to believe Enzo is on her side, and that Teren is the true enemy. But the lives of these three will collide in unexpected ways, as each fights a very different and personal battle. But of one thing they are all certain: Adelina has abilities that shouldn’t belong in this world. A vengeful blackness in her heart. And a desire to destroy all who dare to cross her.

It is my turn to use. My turn to hurt."(Source: Goodreads)



Have you read THE YOUNG ELITES?

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Thursday, April 27, 2017

[Review] We Are the Ants - Shaun David Hutchinson: Alien Abductions and the Apocalypse





In WE ARE THE ANTS, Henry is frequently abducted by aliens and presented with the choice to either prevent the apocalypse or let the world end.


What intrigued me:
 Alien abductions and the world is ending? Count me in!

... is that it?

WE ARE THE ANTS has a fantastic premise and an equally great narrative voice. Hutchinson absolutely had me from the first page, the cynic and observant way he writes Henry is incredibly entertaining and fun. However, all this can't mask the fact that there really isn't much to WE ARE THE ANTS aside from the premise. 

All characters in this are painfully obvious plot devices. The main problem I had with everyone in this book that Henry doesn't show any attachments whatsoever to the people surrounding him. How is the reader going to be enamored with the characters if they are all introduced like worthless scum bags? Henry's cynicism may be entertaining for the first 100 pages, but it quickly gets insanely tiring. 

Getting abducted? What else is new...

Another problem I had is that Hutchinson romanticizes depression. Protagonist Henry get depressed very early on when he realizes that the world's fate is in his hands and I just don't like the way this gets handled. The whole atmosphere just screams "your typical depressed kid from a broken home finds love and gets cured", and that's exactly what you're getting in WE ARE THE ANTS. The story has so much potential, but I think Hutchinson absolutely ruined everything that lured me to this story with the execution. 

Especially the abduction part is written so frustratingly boring that I can't wrap my head around it. Henry doesn't theorize about it much, or appears scared or worried about it! The only emotion he displays is annoyance, which seems to be pretty much his default.

WE ARE THE ANTS is nothing short from being a regular novel about a kid's high school troubles. The alien part is so redundant that this doesn't even feel like Sci-Fi. Absolutely a disappointment.


Rating:

★★½☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

WE ARE THE ANTS is just an average contemporary with a side of aliens. If you like that, and aren't expecting too much world building or fantastic characters, go ahead!



Additional Info

Published: 19th January 2016
Pages: 455
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Genre: Sci-Fi / Aliens
ISBN: 9781481449632

Synopsis:
"There are a few things Henry Denton knows, and a few things he doesn’t.

Henry knows that his mom is struggling to keep the family together, and coping by chain-smoking cigarettes. He knows that his older brother is a college dropout with a pregnant girlfriend. He knows that he is slowly losing his grandmother to Alzheimer’s. And he knows that his boyfriend committed suicide last year.

What Henry doesn’t know is why the aliens chose to abduct him when he was thirteen, and he doesn’t know why they continue to steal him from his bed and take him aboard their ship. He doesn’t know why the world is going to end or why the aliens have offered him the opportunity to avert the impending disaster by pressing a big red button. 

But they have. And they’ve only given him 144 days to make up his mind.

The question is whether Henry thinks the world is worth saving. That is, until he meets Diego Vega, an artist with a secret past who forces Henry to question his beliefs, his place in the universe, and whether any of it really matters. But before Henry can save the world, he’s got to figure out how to save himself, and the aliens haven’t given him a button for that."(Source: Goodreads)


Do you like books about alien abductions?

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Tuesday, November 1, 2016

[Review] Modern Romance - Aziz Ansari: Digital Age and Dating

In MODERN ROMANCE Comedian Aziz Ansari explores the peculiarities of dating in the age of technology.

What intrigued me: I was in the mood for some Non-Fiction.

More academic than funny

MODERN ROMANCE reads more like a sociological study than a humorous little book peaking fun at dating habits in the 2010s. Undeniably a lot of work went into this as most chapters contain the outcomes of multiple surveys and interviews with people from different age groups. While that is quite the interesting premise, I feel like MODERN ROMANCE would have benefitted more from mixing humor with anecdotes exlusively. Aziz is incredibly funny and MODERN ROMANCE just doesn't embrace that.

Knowing Ansari's stand-up I was hoping for basically a novelized version of one of his performances. Lots of stories, lots of fun things to laugh about. This absolutely isn't what MODERN ROMANCE is, it's an academic study in my opinion that doesn't quite committ. 

Decent Bedside Table Read

It's half anecdotes half academic text and this is just not a flattering combination. I ended up skimming many passages simply because I wasn't interested. It truly does read like a lecture, which isn't surprising since this book has been co-written with a sociology professor. 

Initially MODERN ROMANCE lures you in with pretending to focus primarly on the digital age- which is why I picked it up - but essentially it compares generations. I'm not quite sure what MODERN ROMANCE is trying to do, it certainly doesn't deliver any new revelations that you didn't know if you grew up in the last 20th century. Ultimately I do think aside from a bedside table read that you can skim through whenever you're feeling like you need a light distraction, it's probably just a pick for people who really love Aziz Ansari.


Rating:

★★½

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

MODERN ROMANCE is a well-researched book and has its fun moments, but ultimately wasn't quite what I expected and disappointed me through being more academic than funny. If you don't mind that, MODERN ROMANCE still makes for a nice bedside table read.



Additional Info

Published: 19th September 2016
Pages: 352
Publisher: Goldmann
Genre: Adult / Non-Fiction / Sociology
ISBN: 978-3-442-17619-9

Synopsis:
"At some point, every one of us embarks on a journey to find love. We meet people, date, get into and out of relationships, all with the hope of finding someone with whom we share a deep connection. This seems standard now, but it’s wildly different from what people did even just decades ago. Single people today have more romantic options than at any point in human history. With technology, our abilities to connect with and sort through these options are staggering. So why are so many people frustrated?

Some of our problems are unique to our time. “Why did this guy just text me an emoji of a pizza?” “Should I go out with this girl even though she listed Combos as one of her favorite snack foods? Combos?!” “My girlfriend just got a message from some dude named Nathan. Who’s Nathan? Did he just send her a photo of his penis? Should I check just to be sure?” 

But the transformation of our romantic lives can’t be explained by technology alone. In a short period of time, the whole culture of finding love has changed dramatically. A few decades ago, people would find a decent person who lived in their neighborhood. Their families would meet and, after deciding neither party seemed like a murderer, they would get married and soon have a kid, all by the time they were twenty-four. Today, people marry later than ever and spend years of their lives on a quest to find the perfect person, a soul mate.

For years, Aziz Ansari has been aiming his comic insight at modern romance, but for Modern Romance, the book, he decided he needed to take things to another level. He teamed up with NYU sociologist Eric Klinenberg and designed a massive research project, including hundreds of interviews and focus groups conducted everywhere from Tokyo to Buenos Aires to Wichita. They analyzed behavioral data and surveys and created their own online research forum on Reddit, which drew thousands of messages. They enlisted the world’s leading social scientists, including Andrew Cherlin, Eli Finkel, Helen Fisher, Sheena Iyengar, Barry Schwartz, Sherry Turkle, and Robb Willer. The result is unlike any social science or humor book we’ve seen before."(Source: Goodreads)


Do you know Aziz Ansari?

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Sunday, July 3, 2016

[Review] And I Darken (The Conquerors Saga #1) - Kiersten White: Vlad the Impaler and a Badass Anti-heroine





In AND I DARKEN, the vicious Wallachian princess Lada and her gentle brother Radu are abandoned by their father Vlad Dracul to be raised in the Ottoman Empire.

What intrigued me: I absolutely love books about anti-heroes.

Fantastic Characters

AND I DARKEN doesn't read like a typical YA High Fantasy book. Don't let the blurb fool you, this isn't a story with dragons and magical creatures, this is alternate historical fiction, inspired by the famous Vlad Tepes. It's well researched, it's full of historical figures you might recognize if you're a history buff, and it's a pretty well-rounded book.

A huge portion of the book is spent on backstory, pages and pages telling us of Radu's and Lada's childhood to supposedly make us understand them and their choices better. I do have to say that the characters in AND I DARKEN are fantastic

The biggest strength of the novel is that it manages to create a realistic portrayal of nearly all of its characters, but sadly sometimes this comes at the expense of the narration. The writing is impeccable and White seamlessly manages to pull of multiple POVs without making it awkward at all. The fact that we get so much backstory does help with character establishment, but it also makes reading this equal a chore. The blurb promises the story of a vicious teenage princess, but the first 150 pages read like a family chronicle Game of Thrones style. I'm talking that part of Game of Thrones where Martin describes the ingredients of a sandwich for 3 pages.

Only for history buffs?

AND I DARKEN absolutely stands out within the genre, but I just wish there was more plot and more action to it all. White does not need so many pages to establish that Lada is brutal and mean and that Radu is a small ray of sunshine, I absolutely hated that there are so many time jumps. It makes getting attached to actual plot impossible when everything around them is constantly changing. I didn't understand the politics, I didn't really manage to create a basic understanding of who's fighting whom and why, mostly due to the story being told over the span of several years. 

It does read more like a family chronicle than a regular fantasy story. If you're not familiar with the actual history behind this story, I assume you'll feel similarly.

While I do appreciate to see something different in AND I DARKEN, I wish it was more dense, more focused on world building and less on the characters. At the end of the day this story just doesn't need to be half as long as it is. 


Rating:

★★½☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

AND I DARKEN is a very unique book with fantastic(!) characters, but the story just didn't grip me as much as I would have liked. I can certainly see many people enjoy this, especially if you're a fan of historical fiction, it's definitely a good read! Personally, if wasn't for me, I was looking for something more magical than historical.



Additional Info

Published: July 7th 2016
Pages: 498
Publisher: Corgi Children's
Genre: YA / Historical
ISBN: 9780552573740

Synopsis:
"No one expects a princess to be brutal. And Lada Dragwyla likes it that way.

Ever since she and her brother were abandoned by their father to be raised in the Ottoman sultan’s courts, Lada has known that ruthlessness is the key to survival. For the lineage that makes her and her brother special also makes them targets.

Lada hones her skills as a warrior as she nurtures plans to wreak revenge on the empire that holds her captive. Then she and Radu meet the sultan’s son, Mehmed, and everything changes. Now Mehmed unwittingly stands between Lada and Radu as they transform from siblings to rivals, and the ties of love and loyalty that bind them together are stretched to breaking point."(Source: Goodreads)


Have you read books by Kiersten White?

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Thursday, May 5, 2016

[Review] Nightmares & Dreamscapes (#1) - Stephen King: 90% filler and Eerie Conclusions. You call that horror?






This is a short story collection full of supposedly scary short story tales.

What intrigued me: I haven't read a book by Stephen King before and I'm in a massive reading slump, so reading a scary short story collection seems like a good idea!

Not scary, not even remotely horror!

My favorite thing about this is probably the foreword. The stories weren't what I expected them to be. I was hoping for a lot of scary reads, but this is just a random collection of mediocre short stories.

His ideas are very unique, inspiring, and interesting, but in no way what the title NIGHTMARES & DREAMSCAPES suggests. You aren't going to find anything remotely creepy in here, most are just tales about weird people with weird goals, but scary and nightmare-ish is a completely different thing. As it is I was somewhat entertained, but this is just not what the short story collection is advertised as and it's very disappointing, especially because this is my first Stephen King read.

However, I do enjoy King's writing style to some extent. It's easy and quick to read, but I think he overdoes it with the character building. That's also why most of his stories have very weak and slow beginnings that make you want to quit before you've actually gotten to the story. Especially for short stories, you don't need to know about the protagonist's parents and grandparents, or any other specific character building element. I was hoping for the stories to terrify me from beginning to the end but most stories can only deliver a small somewhat eerie conclusion and are 90% filler.

Individual stories & ratings

  • 1. Dolan's Cadillac ★☆☆☆☆

Plot: A widower is trying to murder the guy who's responsible for his wife's death by digging a hole and burying him and his expensive car alive.
Opinion: Not scary, just insanely boring. and long-winded. I could hardly finish this.

  • 2. The End of the Whole Mess ★★★★★

Plot: A brilliant prodigy finds a way to cure humanity from its original sin. But for a price.
Opinion: I loved this so much, it's so interesting to see how the mind of a highly intelligent character works. I would love a full-length novel about this. Some continuity issues and an unsatisfying ending, but overall SUPER interesting. Again, not scary though.

  • 3. Suffer the Little Children ★★★☆☆

Plot: Mean teacher is the only one that realizes all children in her school are possessed by monsters.
Opinion: Another boring one. The premise is very interesting, but it's not very scary and too much is left open. 

  • 4. The Night Flier ☆☆☆☆☆

Plot: Reporter seeks out someone whom he believes to be a serial killer that thinks they're a vampire, but the guy actually turns out to be a vampire.
Opinion: Horrible. Such a slow beginning, so much unnecessary monologues and backstory, and a very, very disappointing creature that isn't scary in the least. A very long story that feels like I 100% wasted my time even bothering with this one.

  • 5. Popsy ★★★★☆

Plot: A gambling-addict-turned-child-abductor abducts a monster spawn.
Opinion: I loved this. Less annoying backstory as in the previous stories and a convincing monster story, that I really, really liked. Not as scary as I wanted it to be, but another candidate that I'd like a full-length novel of.

  • 6. It Grows on You ☆☆☆☆☆

Plot: A mysterious house keeps on growing and adding new wings even long after its owner died.
Opinion: The worst case of please show instead of tell I've ever witnessed. So much backstory oh my god. Seems very pointless to me.

  • 7. Chattery Teeth ★★★★☆

Plot: A man picks up an evil hitchhiker and gets saved by a joke item.
Opinion: Interesting and a little eerie. Though too much gore for my taste. 

  • 8. Dedication ★★☆☆☆

Plot: A maid consumes eats her boss' semen to work a magic spell so her child would grow up to be as talented as him
Opinion: The main flaw of the story is that it's told in retrospective. It's also really weird.

  • 9. The Moving Finger ★★★☆☆

Plot: There is a moving finger perking out of someone's drain and they really don't like it.
Opinion: Super weird. I don't know if I thought it was scary, more bloody, actually. It was okay, but I missed the ~logical explanation~ part.

  • 10. Sneakers ★★☆☆☆

Plot: The ghost of a murdered man comes back to sit on a toilet and wear dirty sneakers.
Opinion: Not a fan of public restroom horror or whatever this is. I was glad to have at least one ghost story in this though.

  • 11. You Know They Got a Hell of a Band ★☆☆☆☆

Plot: A couple on a road trip encounters a town full of dead musicians.
Opinion: Too much gore for me and a very weak premise.

  • 12. Home Delivery ★☆☆☆☆

Plot: An old-fashioned zombie outbreak story.
Opinion: Nothing special, very boring!


Overall Rating:

★★½☆☆

 



Overall: Do I Recommend?

Not as your first King read. I was disappointed because I was looking for something super scary. It's an okay short story collection, but the title is very misleading.



Additional Info

Published: June 30th 2009
Pages: 897 (1+2)
Publisher: Pocket Books
Genre: Adult / Horror
ISBN:  9781439102565

Synopsis:
"A collection of short stories, several being published for the first time, offers a spine-tingling journey to the nightmare world created by a master of sheer terror and grotesque imagination."
(Source: Goodreads)

Can you recommend some good scary reads?

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Tuesday, March 22, 2016

[Review] The Beauty, Vol.1 - Jeremy Haun: Epidemics, Beauty Obsessions, and Guns





In THE BEAUTY, VOL.1, humans are able to get more beautiful by getting infected with a sexually transmittable disease called The Beauty. When the infected start imploding all of a sudden, two detectives start investigating.

What intrigued me: Wonderful premise. I love reading about dystopian societies.




Too fast-paced

THE BEAUTY doesn't bother much with exposition, which is probably the reason why I didn't really care much for the plot until about four issues in. It's difficult to keep up with all those characters that are not introduced at all and trying to find out what their relationships are. I'm glad I even managed to catch the two names of the detectives! Therefore, because I could hardly keep up with who was who, I really wasn't as invested as I liked to be, even though the idea is really interesting and intriguing.

We're almost immediately thrown into this world, right into the storyline revolving around the two detectives Foster and Vaughn who are trying to bring The Beauty down because it's killing more and more people. The comic generally has X-Files vibe it, not only because of the protagonists looking just like Scully and Mulder, but also because it is heavy on the action and investigation side. You'll find a lot of gore-y scenes, nudity, and shootings in this.

Unflattering artwork

While the artwork is nice to look at, I don't think that it necessarily compliments the narration. There are lots of eye closeups, lots of background scenes with the characters and their families, and this is just not working very well when you don't know who all these people are and hardly any of them is actually introduced. 

Another thing that kind of bugged me is that I didn't really see the difference between the looks of the people infected with The Beauty and those who aren't. The cover artwork for the issues is way prettier than the actual artwork inside and seems to be done in a slightly different style, which is really a pity because I would have loved for this to be a little more experimental and less yet-another-detective-comic generic.



Rating:

★★½

  


Overall: Do I Recommend?

THE BEAUTY needs quite some time to kick off. With the slow start, I'm hesitant to directly say "Go read this" - I'll probably still stick around for the second volume because I just started to get interested in the story (after reading six issues). If you don't mind a slow, but fast-paced start, go ahead. I'm positive that this series will be improving in future issues.





Additional Info

Published: March 22nd 2016
Pages: 164
Publisher: Image Comics
Genre: Adult / Dystopian
ISBN: 9781632155504

Synopsis:
"Modern society is obsessed with outward beauty. What if there was a way to guarantee you could become more and more beautiful every day? What if it was a sexually transmitted disease? 

In the world of The Beauty, physical perfection is only one sexual encounter away. The vast majority of the population has taken advantage of it, but Detectives Vaughn and Foster will soon discover it comes at a terrible cost. Now, they'll have to find their way past corrupt politicians, vengeful federal agents, and a terrifying mercenary out to collect the price on their heads. "(Source: Goodreads)

Would you get purposely infected with The Beauty?

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