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!

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Review: Bite Club by Rachel Caine

Review: Bite Club by Rachel CaineBite Club by Rachel Caine
Series: Morganville Vampires #10
Published by Allison & Busby
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Glass Houses, The Dead Girls' Dance, Midnight Alley, Kiss of Death, Ghost Town

After discovering that vampires populate her town, college student Claire Danvers knows that the undead just want to live their lives. But someone else wants them to get ready to rumble.

There's a new extreme sport getting picked up on the Internet: bare—knuckle fights pitting captured vampires against each other—or humans. Tracking the remote signal leads Claire—accompanied by her friends and frenemies—to discover that what started as an online brawl will soon threaten everyone in Morganville...

Thoughts: Just a warning: this review is more of a rant than anything else.

My dislike of Shane/Claire has morphed into a burning hatred. He is turning her into a wimpy, cowing version of Bella Swan (sorry, Bella) – and it is so much worse because I KNOW Claire can stand up for herself. But when it comes to Shane, she is happy to roll over and let him call all the shots. In Bite Club, it went from bad to abuse.

While I understand that Shane was “damaged” during this book, I felt like a lot of his behavior was his “natural” behavior. It was like seeing Shane drunk: his inhibitions lowered and he turns violent. I am having the same Nash/Kaylee (Soul Screamers Series) problems with their relationship – but unlike that one, I know Shane/Claire one won’t end as happily for me. Loathe loathe loathe loathe.

In a way, it all comes down to Myrnin. I love is Claire and Myrnin’s mutual appreciation for each other’s intellect, and I think their partnership is fantastic. Midnight Alley remains my favourite book in the Morganville series almost entirely because it is a Myrnin/Claire book. That Claire has continued to work for him despite Shane acting like a nutcase is my only source of hope. Whenever Shane would start to rant about Claire working for Myrnin, I felt like I was witnessing a 1950s husband telling his wife to quit her job: it’s unfair, selfish and reflective of his own insecurities.

And I really don’t know where everything went wrong. I used to adore Shane and Claire together – he was protective, but not psychotic. I really thought I could “trust” Shane with Claire; that he would value her intellect and respect her choices. I am really starting to doubt that now.

So why am I still giving this book 3 stars? Well, unlike the last Morganville installment, this book certainly inspired emotion. That’s a step forward in the right direction… that they were negative emotions? Not so good.

Bottom line? Bite Club is a horrifically frustrating book. I keep reading on based on the strength of previous installments and in the (vain) hope of improvement.

Review: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

I tried Grammarly‘s check for plagiarism free of charge… because cool cats aren’t copy-cats.

Review: Neverwhere by Neil GaimanNeverwhere by Neil Gaiman
Published by HarperCollins
Pages: 400
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Richard Mayhew is a young man with a good heart and an ordinarylife, which is changed forever when he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk. His small act of kindness propels him into a world he never dreamed existed. There are people who fall through the cracks, and Richard has become one of them. And he must learn to survive in this city of shadows and darkness, monsters and saints, murderers and angels, if he is ever to return to the London that he knew.

 

Thoughts: Neverwhere is one of those classic novels that everyone loves to love. It is heralded as a masterpiece in urban fantasy and… maybe it was when it was written. Neverwhere was published in 1996 which – while not exactly the stone age – was a primordial era for the UF genre. And unlike the early Anita Blake books – which have aged beautifully – Neverwhere doesn’t make the muster.

That’s not to say it isn’t a wonderful book. It is an homage to the city by someone who obviously loves it. It is a creative piece of work that – now that I think about it – made me feel like I was visiting the Night Vale version of ol’ Londontown. That said, there were two major issues I would be remiss not to point out.

The first: the characters. Despite the 300+ words of the novel, the characterizations were weak. Very, very weak. I had no sense for any of any of their motivations – not even those of our narrator and protagonist. Gaiman spent his words on the world building, and not on the characters. I honestly can’t believe this is by the same man that wrote The Doctor’s Wife… but I’m willing to forgive because on the whole it-was-pioneering-at-the-time thing.

My second issue was with the overwhelming familiarity of the plot: London is weirder than we’d suspected, male protagonist is thrown into aforementioned weird world, and male protagonist learns the ropes and falls in love with it. Dull. If you loved Rivers of London by Ben Aaronovitch or A Madness of Angels by Kate Griffin, you will probably adore Neverwhere. It is feels like the inspiration for both of those books and – as the original – is significantly better. But I just couldn’t learn to love it.

Bottom line? Neverwhere is well-written but lacked any and all emotional depth. That said, it is a classic urban fantasy novel. You may want to pick it up just on that.

Review: Gone by Lisa McMann

Review: Gone by Lisa McMannGone by Lisa McMann
Series: Dream Catcher #3
Published by Simon & Schuster on 2010-11-01
Pages: 240
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Wake, Fade

Things should be great for Janie - she has graduated from high school and is spending her summer with Cabel, the guy she's totally in love with. But deep down she's panicking about how she's going to survive her future when getting sucked into other people's dreams is really starting to take its toll. Things get even more complicated when she meets her father for the very first time -and he's in a coma. As Janie uncovers his secret past, she begins to realize that the choice she thought she had has more dire consequences than she ever imagined.

Thoughts: Who else remembers how the blogosphere exploded in outrage when Gone came out back in 2010? For those of you who don’t. it was rather similar to the outrage we recently saw when Veronica Roth’s series ended (which I still haven’t read – I KNOW). A lot of people adored the series, and were rather outraged by the very existence of Gone.

Well, four years later, I finally understand.

It’s not that Gone is a bad book… it just isn’t a book. It had no over-arching plot, no murder mystery and, really, nothing changes at the end of it. It is just a really, really, really lengthy epilogue.

Let me give you a the Hunger Games example (spoilers of THG, obviously):

Let’s say Suzanne Collins skips her epilogue and writes a whole extra book instead. In it, Katniss and Peeta decide to have children. Katniss then thinks about her decision, decides to stick with it, and they have children. Voila. There you have it: the District 12 version of Lisa McMann’s Gone.

Fortunately, the book hasn’t put me off the whole series. Wake and Fade are still magical novels that I’d highly recommend but… you can skip Gone.

Bottom line? Gone isn’t the last in a trilogy. It’s the lengthy, frustrating epilogue of an extremely good duology. Skip it. No really, you aren’t missing a thing.

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