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: Horde by Ann Aguirre

Review: Horde by Ann AguirreHorde by Ann Aguirre
Series: Razorland #3
Published by Feiwel & Friends on 2013-10-29
Pages: 432
Genres: Dystopian YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Enclave, Outpost

The epic conclusion to Ann Aguirre's USA Today bestselling trilogy. The horde is coming. Salvation is surrounded, monsters at the gates, and this time, they're not going away. When Deuce, Fade, Stalker and Tegan set out, the odds are against them. But the odds have been stacked against Deuce from the moment she was born. She might not be a Huntress anymore, but she doesn't run. With her knives in hand and her companions at her side, she will not falter, whether fighting for her life or Fade's love.

Ahead, the battle of a lifetime awaits. Freaks are everywhere, attacking settlements, setting up scouts, perimeters, and patrols. There hasn't been a war like this in centuries, and humans have forgotten how to stand and fight. Unless Deuce can lead them. This time, however, more than the fate of a single enclave or outpost hangs in the balance. This time, Deuce carries the banner for the survival of all humanity.

Thoughts: I’ve been Team Aguirre for years now. She is one of my all time favourite authors and, unfortunately for the world, I think she is shockingly underrated. This woman excels in every genre she puts her hand to – be it urban fantasy, Young Adult, Romance or Science Fiction. Every time I pick up one of her books I remember that this? This is why I am a reader.

With that glowing praise in mind, let’s move on to Horde, the final book in Aguirre’s Razorland trilogy.

When I think back to the first book – Enclave – I see now that Aguirre had had this dramatic conclusion planned for us from the beginning. It seemed like a simple “zombie” apocalypse novel at the time and, while I adored it, I never could have foreseen Horde. I would never have predicted her creating such a complex universe, taking such a different view of strong women at the end of the world, or completely twisting the definitions of “good guys” and “bad guys”.

That is because I made the assumption that, as Aguirre was writing YA, she would stick to a lot of YA tropes. For instance, you don’t let your YA heroine take off on adventures that will last months, seasons, years… because then she won’t be a 16-year-old anymore. She’ll be a competent adult. Well, screw tropes. War takes a long time and, unlike Katniss, Deuce does not have a fully trained army sitting in the wings ready to start fighting. Deuce needs to build the world she wants to live in from the ground up.

It is a long slog (timeline-wise, Horde covers the longest period of the three books) and SO MUCH happens. Seriously, a LOT OF PLOT. *luxuriates in plotty-YA novel* Yes, it is a book about growing up. Yes, there is some romance. But mainly it is a book about re-establishing the human race. It takes TIME and PAGES, people.

I can’t say too much more, as my favourite aspect of Horde is an extremely spoilery plot twist. One that made me feel as though Aguirre’d read my criticism of Killbox (one of her adult Science Fiction novels) and decided fix the problem this time round.* I was punching my fist to the sky screaming “YES THIS” when I got to it… leave me a comment if you know what I’m talking about!

Bottom line: Horde is an EPIC, thought-provoking conclusion to a stunning series. I cannot recommend the Razorland series enough. Go forth and get the whole bloody trilogy in hardback. They’re worth every penny.

* Note that I am under no illusion that that happened but, nevertheless, am extremely happy to see that one of my favourite authors has readdress one of the few issues I’ve ever had with her writing. So… yay!

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!

Audiobook extract

Review: Outpost by Ann Aguirre (+ Audiobook Excerpt!)

Review: Outpost by Ann Aguirre (+ Audiobook Excerpt!)Outpost by Ann Aguirre
Series: Razorland #2
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 317
Genres: Dystopian YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Enclave, Horde

Deuce’s whole world has changed.

Down below, she was considered an adult. Now, topside in a town called Salvation, she’s a brat in need of training in the eyes of the townsfolk. She doesn't fit in with the other girls: Deuce only knows how to fight.

To make matters worse, her Hunter partner, Fade, keeps Deuce at a distance. Her feelings for Fade haven’t changed, but he seems not to want her around anymore. Confused and lonely, she starts looking for a way out.

Deuce signs up to serve in the summer patrols—those who make sure the planters can work the fields without danger. It should be routine, but things have been changing on the surface, just as they did below ground. The Freaks have grown smarter. They’re watching. Waiting. Planning. The monsters don’t intend to let Salvation survive, and it may take a girl like Deuce to turn back the tide.

Thoughts: I loved Outpost. It was rough, tough, gritty and glorious.

Ann Aguirre is one of those authors whose works I end up hoarding. I want to keep her books for “rainy days” because her work is flawless. But sometimes this hoarding can lead to me disliking a book, because I’ll have waited too long and end up not remembering a thing. I adored Enclave when I read it in 2011, but that was a whopping 2.5 years ago. Perhaps I wouldn’t fall back in love with Deuce and Fade? Perhaps I should have read this book last year when my memory was still fresh? *frets*

Luckily, this was not the case! Despite taking a 2+ year break from the Razorland series, I fell straight back into sync after only 5 or so pages. Aguirre does a great job at reminding you of previous events – using some strategic-and-short flashbacks and some seamless references – without making it feel like she is Reminding You (TM).

Anyhow, on to the book.

Deuce has started to work her way up my list of all time favourite heroines. She is courageous, kind in her own way and possesses a level of pragmatism that I envy. She understands those who hate her, though she won’t let them get in her way. She doesn’t let a bit of emotional turmoil stop her, and she certainly won’t let some man “own” her. She is also developing from the soldier she was trained to be: thinking for herself, and not accepting things at face value. This girl is a leader.

Deuce is also confident in her romantic feelings, thank god almighty. Yes, there is a “romantic triangle” of a sort in Outpost, but it is not a psychological triangle. Deuce always knows what she wants, which made me accept and even enjoy the wee bit of romantic tension that played out in Outpost.

Moving away from Deuce’s awesomeness, Outpost was also a fantastically plotty novel. We learn a whole lot more about the origins of Aguirre’s post-apocalyptic world and we gain some amazingly creepy insight into the “Freaks”. Just… OMG. I really, really, really need to know more. It kills me that there is only one book left in this trilogy, because I want a prequel, a sequel and a tie-in novel.

There was also a wealth of wonderful secondary characters and sub-plots in Outpost. A lot is going on in the background and we get to see peaks of it all through Deuce’s eyes. Aguirre has built a fantastically complex world; you can tell there’s a backstory behind every little detail. Now that’s my kind of storyteller.

Bottom line? This is my first 5 star rating of the year, and I’d give it six stars if I could. Brilliant book in a brilliant series.

Outpost Audiobook

Thanks to Outpost’s publishers, I am happy to be including an fabulous 10 min excerpt from the audiobook version of Outpost. Give it a listen!

Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Review: Scarlet by Marissa MeyerScarlet by Marissa Meyer
Series: Lunar Chronicles #2
Published by Feiwel & Friends, Puffin on February 7th 2013
Pages: 452
Genres: Fairytale Re-tellings, Science Fiction YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: Cinder, Cress

The fates of Cinder and Scarlet collide as a Lunar threat spreads across the Earth...

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her.

[Note: I've edited this summary, as the official version has spoilers for the end of the book! #Fail]

Thoughts: It is an absolute TRAGEDY that I am only now writing this review. Tragedy, I say, because Scarlet is everything I’ve ever wanted in a YA novel and you’ve all had months not knowing that. Fortunately, you can go out now and get it. Right now. Go on. I can wait.

Got it? Good. Now we can talk.

You see, I normally have serious issues with the Red Riding Hood retellings. Despite liking Cinder, I had been apprehensive about how the story would play out in Scarlet. But, without spoiling the novel for you, let me just say this: Meyer’s portrayal of Wolf and his pack makes me want to send her gold stars. No really, actual gold stars. If anyone has her address, I’ll send them now. It was genius.

The strength of this book is in its characters: Scarlet‘s heroine is independent but extremely loyal to her family. She’s tough and worldly, but not so hardened by life as to stop loving. She reminds me of Mercy Thompson from Patricia Briggs’ novels – which is quite the compliment, I assure you. As for the Wolf in the tale: he has the right mix of violent-and-distrust-worthy and worthy-of-redemption. So many authors strive to write bad boys and just end up pissing me off. Marissa Meyer, I am happy to report, is not one of those authors. Wolf is a victim in this tale; albeit a victim that can rip your throat out.

Scarlet follows directly on from Cinder and, because of that, it follows more than one POV. This can at times mean serious confusion and reader fatigue… but not in this case. The action was easy to follow and the transitions between narrator only heightened the tension. The only critique I have is that, well, I don’t particularly like Cinder as a character and so wasn’t too interested in what she had to say. Her chapters unfortunately dragged my rating of this book from 5 to 4.5 stars.

Besides my dislike of Cinder’s character, one of my biggest peeves from Cinder was the predictability of the plot – something I am happy to report Scarlet has none of. While I could certainly tell that none of the characters were quite who they said they were, I didn’t know what to expect. Scarlet‘s plot twists and turns had all the oomph I love. There were leaps from moving trains, fights in empty theatres and kidnappings galore – but, best of all, I didn’t see any of them coming.

My goodreads updates for your amusement:

My Goodreads Progress for Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Bottom line: Scarlet is a brilliant, brilliant book. Even if you weren’t impressed by Cinder, you’ll love it.

 

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