Review: This Shattered World by Meagan Spooner and Amie Kaufman

Review: This Shattered World by Meagan Spooner and Amie KaufmanThis Shattered World by Amie Kaufman, Meagan Spooner
Series: Starbound #2
Published by Disney Publishing on 2014-12-23
Pages: 400
Genres: Science Fiction, Science Fiction YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: These Broken Stars

The second installment in the epic Starbound trilogy introduces a new pair of star-crossed lovers on two sides of a bloody war.

Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.

Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet's rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.

Rebellion is in Flynn's blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.

Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.

This Shattered World was a glorious read. It was one of those books I devoted an entire weekend to – not wanting to put it down, but never wanting it to end. It had everything I love in a good novel, and now I expect even more perfection from the final book in the trilogy.

In my review of These Broken Stars, I waxed on and on about how many wonderful social and political plot threads the novel wove together. This is still the case in This Shattered World, and it is still the high point of the novel. With that point out of the way, let me tell you about the characters.

You know that line about how the bravest thing you can do in war is not kill? That was the first thing I thought of when I met Flynn. He’s a pacifist in a war zone – which is the very definition of brave. I often have issues with characters being too indecisive or, well, weak – but while Flynn may not want to kill, he is by no means weak. I adored watching him struggle to keep true to his beliefs when it would have been easier to pick up a gun. Meanwhile, picking up a gun was exactly what Jubilee did best. She’s seen the chaos caused without the military and – to her – the word “revolution” means nothing but death. She may be on the “wrong” side as this book starts out, but she has all the right motivation.

Watching these two dramatically different people come together when, let’s be honest, they should have shot each other on sight? So, so, so satisfying. Spooner and Kaufman do not choose easy people to tell their tales – and that’s what makes their work so rewarding to read.

But don’t be fooled by all the guns-and-love stuff. While this is a tale of love between people from warring factions, This Shattered World is by no means a Romeo and Juliet story. Jubilee and Flynn aren’t interested in saving themselves at the expense of everyone else – rather, they want to save a whole world, risking themselves in the process.

Bottom line? This Shattered World is pure science fiction with a well-incorporated romantic plot, that just happens to be aimed at young adults. But its smart, thoughtful exploration of corporate capitalism is something fans of any age will appreciate. Highly recommended.

Review: Eve & Adam by Michael Grant and Katherine Applegate

Review: Eve & Adam by Michael Grant and Katherine ApplegateEve and Adam by Katherine Applegate, Michael Grant
Published by Macmillan on 2012-10-02
Pages: 291
Genres: Science Fiction YA
Source: Purchased myself
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And girl created boy…

In the beginning, there was an apple—

And then there was a car crash, a horrible injury, and a hospital. But before Evening Spiker’s head clears a strange boy named Solo is rushing her to her mother’s research facility. There, under the best care available, Eve is left alone to heal.

Just when Eve thinks she will die—not from her injuries, but from boredom—her mother gives her a special project: Create the perfect boy.

Using an amazingly detailed simulation, Eve starts building a boy from the ground up. Eve is creating Adam. And he will be just perfect... won’t he?

I was quite apprehensive about reading to read Eve & Adam! I adored Katherine Applegate and Michael Grant’s Animorphs series growing up, as well as her Everworld series (click to read my rave of their books). They were some of the authors responsible for making me such a voracious reader. So… picking up one of their novels as an adult? That made me nervous! What if it was terrible??

I need not have worried – it was fab. Eve & Adam reminded me of why I loved their work as a kid. Grant and Applegate have a dark but optimistic view of the world. They never worried about making good people do bad things – or letting bad people be responsible for good. It’s a hard message to get across but they manage every time. Eve & Adam had that message in spades and, just as I did when I was 7, I loved reading about the conflict it created.

Eve & Adam explores ethics in a way only science fiction can. Are we allowed to play God? When can its benefits outweigh the suffering caused? Always? Sometimes? Never when it comes to humans, but Always when it comes to animals? What if it is your mother you have to judge? What if she is both God and the devil? Which of these roles is defines her more? Grant and Applegate don’t preach the answers to these questions, rather they let the characters explore both sides for themselves. It was really well done.

That being said, the book did feel a bit rushed. There is a lot crammed into this book  – hell, we don’t even meet Adam until the last quarter of the novel! And since timing was an issue, there weren’t as many “character moments” as I would have liked. While I enjoyed the narrators, I didn’t care too much about any of them. And when a romantic triangle popped its head out towards the last part of the book? I didn’t really care either way. I would have, I’m sure, had the book been spread out in a duology. Unfortunately, the lack of “feels” brought my rating down by half a star…

Bottom line? If you like thought-provoking YA novels or enjoy science fiction of any kind, you’ll enjoy Eve & Adam.

Review: Cress by Marissa Meyer

Review: Cress by Marissa MeyerCress by Marissa Meyer
Series: Lunar Chronicles #3
Published by Macmillan on 2014-02-04
Pages: 560
Genres: Science Fiction YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Cinder, Scarlet

In this third book in Marissa Meyer's bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, now with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and prevent her army from invading Earth.Their best hope lies with Cress, a girl trapped on a satellite since childhood who’s only ever had her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker. Unfortunately, she’s being forced to work for Queen Levana, and she’s just received orders to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice. When a daring rescue of Cress goes awry, the group is splintered. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a higher price than she’d ever expected. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing prevent her marriage to Emperor Kai, especially the cyborg mechanic. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only hope the world has.

Thoughts: After the genius that was Scarlet, I expected great things from Cress. And while it wasn’t quite as stellar, it was certainly an amazing book.

I came to a rather surprising conclusion while reading Cress. Namely, that my enjoyment of Meyer’s writing is completely character-based, rather than author-based. With most authors, I find that if I am luke-warm about one book, I will feel the same about the next. But in Meyer’s case, it depends completely on the character she is writing. As she changes narrators, she completely immerses herself into that character’s mind. So, obviously, if I don’t particularly like one character, I am not going to enjoy the writing. Now, you’d expect all authors to change their style according to characters, but most don’t. Most tend to write in one style, expressing one set of values – albeit in different ways. Meyer can switch it up while still keeping control of the overall plot. Quite a feat.

That being said, since I didn’t particularly like Cress as a character, I wasn’t quite as enraptured with her book. My feelings were reminiscent of the way I felt about Cinder in her book (but not in Cress… I’ll get to that later). Cress is young, naive and was far too enraptured with Thorne. I understand this girl was locked away with no company and her behaviour was only reflective of that… but that still didn’t make it enjoyable to read. Again, Meyer is way too good at getting into her character’s brains. So when you aren’t so keen on knowing what they think, then you don’t love it.

Fortunately, rather like Scarlet, Cress follows the POV of many, many, many characters. We jump back and forth from Cress to Scarlet to Kai to Cinder, so on and so forth. Not only was I totally fine with that, I loved it! There are so many fantastic revelations taking place all over the planet(s), Meyer needs to jump about in order to keep up with the action. And yes, just like its predecessors, there is a ton of action! From Mexican stand-offs to kidnappings to space-ship crashes, Marissa Meyer delivers page after page of keep-you-up-all-night content. It’s a joy to find such well-written, engaging plot in a YA novel.

Also, the multiple POV’s meant I could check in on two of my favourites: Scarlet and Wolf! Oh my heart. While they weren’t featured as prominently as I would have liked, they still made me squee. And surprisingly, I really enjoyed checking in with Cinder. While I’ve always liked her, she’s never been my favourite character. But over the past two books, she has really grown into her own skin. Her self-loathing is dwindling and her confidence is booming – she is really turning into the Queen she is meant to be. Thanks, Ms. Meyer!

Bottom line? Another well-written, action-packed installment of the Lunar Chronicles. While I wasn’t the biggest fan of Cress herself, I am looking forward to seeing how Meyer develops her character in the future!

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Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Review: The 5th Wave by Rick YanceyThe 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Series: The Fifth Wave #1
Published by Penguin Random House on 2013-05-07
Pages: 480
Genres: Science Fiction YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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The Passage meets Ender's Game in an epic new series from award-winning author Rick Yancey.

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it's the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth's last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie's only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

Thoughts: To hear some people put it, The 5th Wave should have been called the The 2nd Coming. The hype surrounding this novel was crazy. Absolutely crazy. So much so, that it was hard for me to separate the book from the hype even while I was reading the thing.

But now, having let it stew in my mind for a good long while, I can see why people were excited when it came out. It’s got the right mix of action, fantasy, dystopia and romance in it to appeal to a wide spectrum of readers. This is mostly down to the multiple narrators: we’ve got a mix of genders and ages (oh, and species) telling the story, and I can see how that makes the book more appealing to publishers and booksellers alike.

“Lovely, Kay. Nice insight into marketing. But was it a good read?,” you ask.

Not really.

Sorry people, but the truth is I had to force myself to finish The 5th Wave. While I could appreciate what Rick Yancey was shooting for, I found the jump between narrators extremely frustrating. Just as I was starting to become emotionally invested in a character, we would switch over to someone new. Then, by the time we’d get back to the original subject, I had lost the emotional tie I had previously had.

You  play two great symphonies at once, and they’ll just become noise. The 5th Wave was a very noisy book.

So despite the body-snatching aliens, the child soldiers, the Walking Dead style of survival, my main takeaway from The 5th Wave was a lesson in how not to structure a novel. Intellectually, I am interested in knowing how the series ends, but if everyone dies in the end, I wouldn’t really mind. Never a good sign.

Bottom line? The 5th Wave lacked any and all emotional pull, and I can’t say I’m rushing to recommend it. But if you adore multiple narrator books, perhaps you’ll love this book.  

Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Review: These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan SpoonerThese Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman, Meagan Spooner
Series: Starbound #1
Published by Hyperion
Genres: Science Fiction YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: This Shattered World

It's a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?

Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.

Thoughts: I adored this book. I savoured every page, every word, every scene. It has almost single-handedly changed my view of Science Fiction YA (just a week after I proclaimed my distrust of the genre – though I am not quite a convert yet).

These Broken Stars was not what I expected. In the spirit of the best science fiction, the novel incorporates socially-resonate themes elements into a classic tale. It is a story about social classes, corporate cover-ups and exploitation – but all in the context of a star-crossed, enemies-to-lovers romance. In short: it is my definition of a good sci-fi book.

While reading this book, I posted on goodreads that I had found my YA version of Grimspace (Ann Aguirre). I stick to that assessment. While the plots are nothing alike, both books have a certain je ne sais qoui to them that makes me feel like they are in similar verses or perhaps have the same author (Spooner and Kaufman could be Aguirre’s long-lost cousins? Well… it’s a theory). Either way, I really can think of no higher compliment than this comparison. It’s just as fierce, but with more party dresses.

On to a few specifics: These Broken Stars is a duo-narrative book, so the romance vibe is pretty apparent from the beginning. But I wouldn’t say the relationship is the sole focus of this book. The characters are fighting to survive, fighting to stay sane… it’s not until the end that they are fighting for each other. Not only did this focus make the  relationship more realistic, it gave the authors a lot more page-time to focus on the plot… something I really appreciated.

Besides the realistic romance, I loved the culture in These Broken Stars. It felt almost like the monarchical, Victorian age – where fancy dress and poetry made headline news. But instead of a monarchy, this universe is run by corporations and militaries. I loved how both characters never really challenged this establishment, but both actively hated it. They don’t start a Katniss-style revolution (and hey, their lives really aren’t as bad), but they do stir the pot. I am hoping for a bit more “fight the system” spirit in the next book.

These Broken Stars is the first book in a trilogy, but the next books do not centre around these same characters. In a similar vein to Marissa Meyer’s Lunar Chronicles, each book is set in the same universe but focusses on different characters. I think I kind of love this trend for series, as I think it gives the author a wee bit more focus. Always a good thing!

Bottom line? These Broken Stars is a unique novel in the YA section. Romantic, political and with a side of high-tech science fiction goodness. I can’t recommend it enough.

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