Tuesday, April 21, 2015

4 stars: A Court of Thorns and Roses (A Court of Thorns and Roses series, #1) by Sarah J. Maas

"When nineteen-year-old huntress Feyre kills a wolf in the woods, a beast-like creature arrives to demand retribution for it. Dragged to a treacherous magical land she only knows about from legends, Feyre discovers that her captor is not an animal, but Tamlin—one of the lethal, immortal faeries who once ruled their world.

As she dwells on his estate, her feelings for Tamlin transform from icy hostility into a fiery passion that burns through every lie and warning she's been told about the beautiful, dangerous world of the Fae. But an ancient, wicked shadow grows over the faerie lands, and Feyre must find a way to stop it . . . or doom Tamlin—and his world—forever." 

Expected Publication: May 5, 2015 by Bloomsbury Children's. I received a digital ARC of this story.

I began reading this one right after reading Karen Marie Moning's Fever series (I HIGHLY recommend reading this), which is also about the fae in our world, but it's very action-packed and is a breeze to read. Perhaps that is why this book was slow for me during the first 70% of the story. While slow, I still liked the premise and the writing. It was as if I was watching a movie with beautiful scenes where the colors are vivid and pop out of the screen.

The writing style reminded me of Megan Shepherd's The Madman's Daughter. Part of that could be because of the mention of various "beasts" and the fact that many of the fae wear animal-faced masquerade masks, so they resemble the characters in TMD in a way. The writing also reminded me of Moning's, because there were many similarities between this book and the Fever series, which perhaps could be chalked up to the folklore surrounding fae, which I don't know much about. I honestly did wonder if Maas was influenced by Moning though. Also, both authors tend to say what will happen right before it happens, they both provide visual descriptions of things occurring in the book after the scene has started (bad for those who visualize everything in their head as they read), and they tell instead of show sometimes. This is really just nitpicking, because I liked the book and the Fever series.

One key to good writing is to provide good character development via quotations. In too many books, I wonder why the male lead is so quickly attracted to the protagonist, when she's either boring or average. This time, we're given a very good answer,

"Because your human joy fascinates me-the way you experience things, in your life span, so wildly and deeply and all at once, is... entrancing. I'm drawn to it, even when I know I shouldn't be, even when I try not to be."

The last part of the book really caught my attention. The characters introduced at that point were the most developed and interesting, like the queen. I adored the anti-hero Rhys, and it's because of him that I simply must read the next book in the series. I wish I could explain why I love him so much, but I don't want to provide spoilers. Most reviewers are Team Tamlin, but I'm Team Rhys. Honestly, I think that for me, he made this book a winner. So much so that I want to read the second book NOW.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

3 stars: The Cage (The Cage series, #1) by Megan Shepherd

"When Cora Mason wakes in a desert, she doesn't know where she is or who put her there. As she explores, she finds an impossible mix of environments—tundra next to desert, farm next to jungle, and a strangely empty town cobbled together from different cultures—all watched over by eerie black windows. And she isn't alone.

Four other teenagers have also been taken: a beautiful model, a tattooed smuggler, a secretive genius, and an army brat who seems to know too much about Cora's past. None of them have a clue as to what happened, and all of them have secrets. As the unlikely group struggles for leadership, they slowly start to trust each other. But when their mysterious jailer—a handsome young guard called Cassian—appears, they realize that their captivity is more terrifying than they could ever imagine: Their captors aren't from Earth. And they have taken the five teenagers for an otherworldly zoo—where the exhibits are humans.

As a forbidden attraction develops between Cora and Cassian, she realizes that her best chance of escape might be in the arms of her own jailer—though that would mean leaving the others behind. Can Cora manage to save herself and her companions? And if so . . . what world lies beyond the walls of their cage?"

Expected publication: May 26th 2015 by Balzer+Bray/HarperCollins. I received a digital ARC of this story from the publisher.

This is from the same author who brought us The Madman's Daughter trilogy (you can read my review here). While the first book of that series was so not my cup of tea, I could not deny that it was well-written and would become a classic read in English classes at some point. It was because of that fact that I was eager to begin this new series based on the captivating synopsis. Unfortunately, the book really let me down.

The concept was unique and original, just like the series before it, so it had a lot of potential. It started off with a bang too; I mean we got right into the action and I was immediately immersed in the world of the story and I needed to know what was going on. There was so much potential at this point, and this was the first book to capture my attention this whole year (I'm writing this on December 31, 2014). In fact it was the only book I read cover to cover this year, so it has that going for it, considering that last year I read over 80 books. 

So where did it go wrong?

The characters were never developed. We were told information about them, but I never felt like I actually knew them. Show me, don't tell me. This book is written using first person narratives of all of those held captive in the zoo-like place. Since we are in their shoes and seeing the world through their eyes, shouldn't we feel like we know them? They remained hollow. Even the protagonist. What's bad about that is that we are told how special she is and how baffling she is to the aliens. WHY? Again, show me, don't tell me. Oddly enough, the character who I thought was the most developed was Cassian, who was the one character who never got a first person narrative. Although, I realized later that this wasn't true and he was as hollow as the rest of the characters....

Why was that? The book is written in such a way that you never can believe anything that you're reading. From almost the beginning, characters are telling you to doubt everything that's going on. And continually, you find out that things aren't true that we've been led to believe. Only, we haven't actually been led to believe anything, because ten minutes later, we're told it's not true. This isn't even a spoiler, so don't worry. Please don't tell me it's not true; you can show me, but don't tell me. Let me figure it out for myself and let it be gradual. This was done way too many times. How about once or twice in the whole book? I was never shocked, amazed or captivated by anything, because I wasn't ever surprised to learn that anything was not what it seemed. And frankly, I just didn't care either after a while.

 I think what's really maddening about this book is that it really could have been so much better. I wonder if there were beta readers. The revelations for the reader could have been so much better. There was no suspense and it was because of this that the pacing really suffered as well. The pacing got really saggy for about half the book. The story wasn't advancing and I felt like we kept going back to the drawing board. While beta readers may not have improved the writing as far as the characters are concerned, they could have had the order of some events tweaked (like what is supposed to be the twist as the end, but is revealed in the wrong order of events--SHOW ME, DON'T TELL ME AND THEN TRY TO SHOW ME. DON'T TELL ME ANYTHING--do I really have to start screaming it?) and they could have offered the advice to show and not tell. When it comes down to it, that was what prevented it from really being as good as it could have been.

So why did I give it a three star rating? Well, it was very original and it doesn't remind me of other stories. I can already tell that it will stay with me for a while, because it is memorable. Plus, it's the only book I finished this year, so it has to get points for keeping me that enthralled.