Review: Wild

Published by HarperTeen Genres: Contemporary, Retelling, Young Adult
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss

The forest is full of secrets, and no one understands that better than Cade. Foraging, hunting, surviving— that’s all he knows. Alone for years, Cade believes he’s the sole survivor. At least, until he catches a glimpse of a beautiful stranger…

Dara expected to find natural wonders when she set off for a spring break camping trip. Instead, she discovers a primitive boy— he’s stealthy and handsome and he might be following her. Intrigued, Dara seeks him out and sets a catastrophe in motion.

Thrust back into society, Cade struggles with the realization that the life he knew was a lie. But he’s not the only one. Trying to explain life in a normal town leaves Dara questioning it.

As the media swarm and the police close in, Dara and Cade risk everything to get closer. But will the truth about Cade’s past tear them apart?

A YA Tarzan retelling.

When I read it…

I read this between July 10th and August 7th.

What I’d heard before I read it:

Almost nothing. This is a 2014 release I requested but didn’t end up starting immediately and then have heard pretty much nothing about since.

What worked for me:

  • The premise: I really liked the idea of a modern day Tarzan retelling, and although it’s difficult to talk about too much without spoilers, I liked the way Mallory had set everything up.
  • Sofia: Dara’s best friend Sofia was fun, and sweet, and I liked the way she was always looking out for Dara.
  • Cade: I liked Cade, and his naivety regarding life outside the forest made me feel for him instantly.  I loved seeing his life in the forest, how competent and comfortable he was in the wild.
  • The forest setting: I really liked seeing the national park, both through Dara’s eyes and Cade’s.  The two see the forest so differently, and I really loved seeing the beauty, the danger, the usefulness, all as complementary facets.

What didn’t quite work for me:

  • The romance: I just found the romance way too much, way too soon, and it didn’t work for me at all.
  • The ending: While I enjoyed the story as it was going on, the ending was a real disappointment for me.  I have no idea what the best ending should have been – indeed, part of the reason I was so hooked was because I had no idea how it was going to end – but I just found the ending ultimately quite unbelievable and unsatisfying.
  • The justification for life in the wild: I liked the idea, but I felt like it needed a bit more back story to make it believable – while I could see one parent resorting to such extreme measures, I’m not sure I could see both agreeing to it, at least without seeing a little more of their lives and personalities before living in the wild.

I wanted to like Wild, but for me, this was definitely a case of the execution not living up to the premise.  I didn’t really like the vast majority of the characters, which probably explains a lot about why I didn’t like the book as much as I’d hoped to. I couldn’t understand Dara, who wasn’t spooked by someone stalking their camp.  I was irritated by Josh’s change from protective to basically absent. I was also frustrated by their overall relationship: despite having been in a long term relationship, Dara seems to feel their relationship is doomed and founded on very little in common.  I felt like the author was trying to discredit the relationship from the beginning, to make room for the potential romance between Cade and Dara, but that meant I either felt their relationship was implausible to start with, or that the rather abrupt change made no sense!

Other reviews of Wild: The Young Folks | The Daily Prophecy | There Were Books Involved

One StarOne Star

Review: Ruined

Review: RuinedRuined by Amy Tintera
Published by HarperTeen on 03-05-2016
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon
Goodreads

A revenge that will consume her. A love that will ruin her.
Emelina Flores has nothing. Her home in Ruina has been ravaged by war. She lacks the powers of her fellow Ruined. Worst of all, she witnessed her parents’ brutal murders and watched helplessly as her sister, Olivia, was kidnapped.
But because Em has nothing, she has nothing to lose. Driven by a blind desire for revenge, Em sets off on a dangerous journey to the enemy kingdom of Lera. Somewhere within Lera’s borders, Em hopes to find Olivia. But in order to find her, Em must infiltrate the royal family.
In a brilliant, elaborate plan of deception and murder, Em marries Prince Casimir, next in line to take Lera’s throne. If anyone in Lera discovers Em is not Casimir’s true betrothed, Em will be executed on the spot. But it’s the only way to salvage Em’s kingdom and what is left of her family.
Em is determined to succeed, but the closer she gets to the prince, the more she questions her mission. Em’s rage-filled heart begins to soften. But with her life—and her family—on the line, love could be Em’s deadliest mistake.

When I read it…

I read this between April 19th and April 22nd.

What I’d heard before I read it:

Virtually nothing – I’d heard Amy Tintera’s name before, but I haven’t read any of her books.  I just loved the cover and the synopsis!

What worked for me:

  • Emelina: I love kick-ass characters, and we all know I have a weakness for the anti-hero, so of course I was bound to love Emelina, our feisty and ruthless main character.  She’s not quite Manon Blackbeak, but she’s still pretty awesome.  She’s not all-powerful or superhuman; she’s more Arya Stark than Daenarys Targaryen, and that’s okay!
  • The shades of grey: Again, stories and characters that aren’t clear-cut good/bad are a bit of a weakness of mine so I loved how the characters in this are shades of grey.  Rigid points of view and prejudices have to be questioned, and everyone in the story has to see whether they’re willing to bend at all – or break.
  • The idea of guilt and redemption: The characters in Ruined are absolutely ruthless, there’s no doubt about that, but they’re not all heartless. I loved the fact we see characters questioning their decisions, their actions, their opinions, instead of being able to kill and manipulate completely without remorse.

“You did what you had to do.”
“I did what I chose to do.” Tears spilled over her cheeks, staining his shirt.
“Then choose better next time.”

What didn’t quite work for me:

  • The world-building: The world-building seemed a bit simplistic, and a bit vague for my liking.  I’d have liked more on the different kingdoms, the people, the history of the Ruined and their abilities.  This is a very quick read, so I wouldn’t have minded a longer book with a bit more backstory thrown in.
  • The romance: I liked Em, and I liked Cas, I’m just not sure I was convinced by Em and Cass as a relationship.  I love a good ship I can get behind, but as much as I liked these two characters separately, I never truly rooted for them together romantically.  As a political alliance, absolutely, as a romance, I wasn’t sold.

This was a quick and easy, addictive read.  I liked the premise, the characters and the shades of grey, but it didn’t have the same extensive world-building found in my favourite YA fantasy series.  A great start to a series, and definitely a series I’ll be continuing, but ultimately not a new favourite.

Other reviews of Ruined: Nick & Nereyda’s Infinite Booklist | Here’s to happy endings | Of Spectacles & Books

One StarOne StarOne Star

Review: The White Rose (Amy Ewing)

Review: The White Rose (Amy Ewing)The White Rose by Amy Ewing
Series: The Lone City #2
Published by Walker Books, Limited on 1-10-2015
Genres: Dystopia, Fantasy, Love & Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon
Goodreads

Violet is on the run. After the Duchess of the Lake catches Violet with Ash, the hired companion at the Palace of the Lake, Violet has no choice but to escape the Jewel or face certain death. So along with Ash and her best friend, Raven, Violet runs away from her unbearable life of servitude.

But no one said leaving the Jewel would be easy. As they make their way through the circles of the Lone City, Regimentals track their every move, and the trio barely manages to make it out unscathed and into the safe haven they were promised—a mysterious house in the Farm.

But there’s a rebellion brewing, and Violet has found herself in the middle of it. Alongside a new ally, Violet discovers her Auguries are much more powerful than she ever imagined. But is she strong enough to rise up against the Jewel and everything she has ever known?

The White Rose is a raw, captivating sequel to The Jewel that fans won’t be able to put down until the final shocking moments.

SPOILER ALERT: As book 2 in a series, this review will contain spoilers for The Jewel, so stop here if you don’t want to see them!

Plot: ★★★
Characters: ★★★
Readability: ★★★★

The Story

Violet Lasting, former surrogate for the Duchess of The Lake, is running from The Jewel and the Duchess herself after being caught with Ash.  Running from the city, learning more about The Auguries and the stirrings of rebellion made for a gripping and fast-paced follow-up to The Jewel.

When I read it…

I picked this up on the 1st of October and couldn’t put it down – finished the 3rd of October 2015.

What I’d heard before I read it:

Actually very little – I downloaded a copy through Edelweiss because I can’t resist a dystopian, even though I thought The Jewel was just okay.  I tried to avoid reviews of this one because I knew this book would either make or break the series for me and I didn’t want to let anyone else’s opinions skew my own!

What worked for me:

  • The pacing: I found this fast-moving, gripping and easy to get engrossed in
  • Getting a few more answers: I was frustrated by the lack of information in The Jewel and felt it was trying too hard to be mysterious, so I liked getting some more information in The White Rose
  • Character development: Violet was less perfect and much more real feeling, and I loved getting to know Garnet & Raven more
  • The romance: The relationship between Violet and Ash is more developed, and less shallow feeling, which I definitely enjoyed

What didn’t quite work for me:

  • Ash: There were times when I liked Ash but there were also times I couldn’t stand him, and I guess I’m just not convinced by him.
  • The world-building: like in The Jewel, I still feel like maybe there’s just too many elements, and they still feel somewhat disjointed, though the information we did get definitely made this less of an issue than in the first book
  • The cliffhanger: it’s sad but true that cliffhangers feel so common now that I was looking for it – and I thought it was easy to see coming

Overall thoughts:

Overall, I enjoyed The White Rose, and I was definitely more hooked by it than I was by The Jewel, but it just didn’t wow me.  I liked the quick pacing and the storyline, but I also always had a slight feeling that something was missing.  I felt like I never truly connected with the world, and it just didn’t stand out enough for me to give it more than three stars.  I suspect I’ll end up re-reading The White Rose before the final book comes out, as I have a feeling I won’t remember all that much.

Will I continue the series?

I’ll be keeping up with the series, but the sequel isn’t one I’ll be pre-ordering or rushing out to pick up on release day.

Other Reviews of The White Rose: Ex Libris | Laura’s Little Book Blog | Feed Your Fiction Addiction

One StarOne StarOne Star

The Invasion of The Tearling (Erika Johansen)

The Invasion of The Tearling (Erika Johansen)Invasion of the Tearling by Erika Johansen
Series: The Queen of the Tearling #2
Published by Transworld Publishers Limited on July 16th 2015
Pages: 380
Format: ARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon
Goodreads

With each passing day, Kelsea Glynn is growing into her new responsibilities as Queen of the Tearling. By stopping the shipments of slaves to the neighbouring kingdom of Mortmesne, she crossed the Red Queen, a brutal ruler whose power derives from dark magic, who is sending her fearsome army into the Tearling to take what is hers. And nothing can stop the invasion.

But as the Mort army draws ever closer, Kelsea develops a mysterious connection to a time before the Crossing, and she finds herself relying on a strange and possibly dangerous ally: a woman named Lily, fighting for her life in a world where being female can feel like a crime. The fate of the Tearling - and that of Kelsea's own soul - may rest with Lily and her story, but Kelsea may not have enough time to find out. In this dazzling sequel to her bestselling debut The Queen of the Tearling, Erika Johansen brings back favourite characters, including the Mace and the Red Queen, and introduces unforgettable new players, adding exciting layers to her multidimensional tale of magic, mystery and a fierce young heroine.

Plot: ★★★
Characters:
★★★
Readability:
★★★★

 

I liked The Queen of the Tearling, but I wasn’t wowed by it – I was frustrated by the staggering amount of questions left unanswered, and I felt the world-building was a little lacking.  The Invasion of the Tearling has a rather different feel, and I think I preferred it.

In The Invasion of the Tearling, we not only see Queen Kelsea trying to cope with the Mort invasion, but also Lily, a pre-Crossing woman who provides some insight into just what life was like.  The alternating point of views could have felt jarring, particularly since one set of chapters feels like fantasy and the other like dystopia, but somehow that really worked.  The changing storylines weren’t enough to jolt me out of the story, they were just enough to keep me curious and build my need to know just how the Crossing worked.  In general, the plot had me absolutely hooked, and I really enjoyed the novelty of switching time periods – the women were developed enough, and the setting different enough, that I never doubted where I was in time.

There are some parts of the book that make for uncomfortable reading – rape, abuse, self-harm – which were unexpected but which I felt were mostly plot-relevant.  [Very slight spoiler] Kelsea’s appearance also changes throughout the book, and I did question that – she loses weight and becomes more attractive, and the reasoning behind it was too loose for me; it almost felt like the author had decided the heroine needed to be pretty and was trying to make an excuse to change the way she’d looked until now [End slight spoiler!]

 

final thoughts

There are definitely still some unanswered questions, and the ending felt a bit anti-climactic after such intense build-up, but I was definitely more satisfied with this book than the first.  I think because it felt less like classic fantasy, and because of the dystopian-esque chapters, the world-building didn’t bother me as much, and I was glad to finally have some answers regarding the Crossing.  Unfortunately the characters were a disappointment.  The characters I really cared about were Father Tyler, Pen, and Ewen; the majority of the main characters didn’t make much of an impact, and for me, that limits this to a three-star.

Buy it? This is one I’d pick up on a deal, but I wouldn’t rush out for.
In a nutshell: An addictive plot and a unique feel, but let down a little by the characters for me.

Other Reviews of The Invasion of the Tearling: What Kara Reads | Tynga’s reviews  | The Quiet Concert

One StarOne StarOne Star

Crimson Bound (Rosamund Hodge)

Crimson Bound (Rosamund Hodge)Crimson Bound by Rosamund Hodge
Published by Balzer + Bray on 05-05-15
Genres: Fairy Tales & Folklore, Fantasy, Young Adult
Pages: 448
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Amazon
Goodreads

When Rachelle was fifteen she was good—apprenticed to her aunt and in training to protect her village from dark magic. But she was also reckless— straying from the forest path in search of a way to free her world from the threat of eternal darkness. After an illicit meeting goes dreadfully wrong, Rachelle is forced to make a terrible choice that binds her to the very evil she had hoped to defeat.

Three years later, Rachelle has given her life to serving the realm, fighting deadly creatures in an effort to atone. When the king orders her to guard his son Armand—the man she hates most—Rachelle forces Armand to help her find the legendary sword that might save their world. As the two become unexpected allies, they uncover far-reaching conspiracies, hidden magic, and a love that may be their undoing. In a palace built on unbelievable wealth and dangerous secrets, can Rachelle discover the truth and stop the fall of endless night?

Inspired by the classic fairy tale Little Red Riding Hood, Crimson Bound is an exhilarating tale of darkness, love, and redemption.

(This is a standalone novel, not part of the Cruel Beauty Universe.)

Plot: ★★
Characters:
★★★
Readability:
★★★★

Crimson Bound is so much more than a simple Red Riding Hood retelling – as with Cruel Beauty, Hodge has taken the original story and twisted it to something completely unique, and I loved the story she’s created.  The writing is as atmospheric as I expected, and the plot had me hooked – I finished the book in 3 days (2 of which I was supposed to be doing uni work!).

I loved the first three-quaraters or so of the book, but as the pacing picked up and I found myself racing through the final quarter, I found it got a little more complicated to keep up with the twists and turns, which was a bit frustrating.  Obviously leaving the reveals towards the end of the book keeps the pages turning, but it did feel a little like too much was dropped at the end, right when things are at their busiest.

Rachelle was an interesting character – although at times she was a bit too self-reflective and critical, she was also quite fierce.  Not quite Manon Blackbeak, but no pushover either.  There was a romance, which unfortunately was a love triangle, and which I didn’t particularly like.  I liked the almost New Adult feeling – the fact that there’s sex, that the characters had pasts, – and I even liked both of the love interests but I didn’t think the love triangle was necessary.  For me, one of the love interests was funny and interesting but not a viable partner, and so the triangle just didn’t make any sense.

If you like darker fairytales, this is definitely worth a read, but if you’re a love triangle hater, I don’t think this will convert you!

Buy it? This one would be worth buying in my opinion.
In a nutshell: An addictive story with writing to suck you in and plenty of twists.

Other Reviews of Crimson Bound: Rinn Reads | There Were Books Involved | Bookworm Dreams

One StarOne StarOne Star