No matter how many times I’ve told myself in the past to remember that ‘if you feel like your bag is uncharacteristically light, your wallet must be not in it,’ I still get caught by it…

Cinder by Marissa Meyer

Cinder (The Lunar Chronicles, #1)Cinder by Marissa Meyer

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

There’s certain charm in fairytale re-tellings.
I personally like the sense of safety you get when you kind of know what where it is going to go, but read it for the experience anyway. Well, everyone knows this, it’s why we still get new movies based on fairytales all the time and watch them none the less.
This… has hints of a number of fairy tales, but they are only hints, there for no particular reason but to be there. I wouldn’t call it a re-telling in any way.
I think it has a number of interesting elements tied together by strings that seem more often than not too thin.
Story elements spring out of nowhere or die in nothingness… often enough to mildly bother me, but not often enough to actually hate it.
The whole concept of Lunars and shells and how do they work and where did they come through seemed underdeveloped, under-explained, and a bit too far-stretched.
I was sort of glad that Prince Kai was not a haughty blind (idiot) with a tone of issues like princes so often are in YA books, but on the other hand he seemed a bit too nice to be believable as an Emperor.
In fact, believability is a rather big issue with this book as a whole. The whole state of the Earth, the relationships between races, the reasons for the way cyborgs and androids are treated, Lunars, as I have already mentioned it… Hardly anything is ever explained in a believable way, and most issues are glided over in a manner that says ‘this is YA sci-fi, stop thinking and just accept things at their face value and swallow down without chewing’.
I can’t say I loved it, but I would like to see where it goes from here.

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On Subscription Book Boxes and YA pt.2

I lived my life entirely unaware of YA and its trends, but after this year of subscribing to boxes there’s now a whole list of YA book series I vehemently don’t want to have anything to do with, even without reading them myself, even though they appear on my instagram feed every single day. It is because they seem so popular that I had to open goodreads pages to see if I would want to read them too, and after reading reviews and seeing what they were about… all I got was ‘I don’t understand humans and I’m not sure I want to’ whiplash, which sent me looking for boxes that would focus on something else.

Unfortunately, they were not easy to find. Most of those that do exist don’t ship outside US. Or don’t even include bookish items, which does take out half the fun. The Bookish Box seemed like a great choice at first, because they have an adult option, but soon enough I found out that not only the adult books are unrelated to monthly themes of their boxes, they are more often than not contemporary fiction paperbacks (and all those I received were by female authors, and at least one of the books I received was actually YA disguised as an adult novel). I just couldn’t see the reason to create an adult option if the book included would be completely unrelated, and all of the items and t-shirts would still be focused on YA fandoms.

I’d also like to confess that I find it difficult to keep my negative opinions on the fandoms to myself. Almost every subscription box is having a ‘special box’ for the sequel of The Cruel Prince that is coming out, and they keep showing up in my feed talking about how much they loved it, and I feel like I need to clench my teeth to not write them ‘But I kind of thought it was disgusting and I don’t understand why are you acting like everyone should be hyped about it.’ (And this one was actually one of those I did read, because it was in a box last year.) On one hand, I know in my head that commenting on someone’s post to say ‘But I hate this thing you like’ is a stupid thing to do, but on the other… I kind of wish people who provide a ‘service’ like these boxes would consider opposing opinions as well. As in, as a subscriber, I would like to be able to kindly ask for them to stop only including items related to a small selection of fandoms (ACOTAR, Raven Cycle, Six of Crows, Shatter Me, etc.) and focus on something else. But as usual, I have to come to terms with the fact that my opinion will be a minority no one would care about. The clear answer would be to look for different people and services, but the selection is just not there… If you want to get pretty special editions of newly released books with goods – you’ll have to deal with people hyping out about and pushing to you a lot of fandoms you dislike. You want to have more freedom of genre selection – resign to choosing book-only subscriptions and likely older paperbacks.

Another subscription box just announced an adult fantasy option, and I for sure will try it out, but the first box is yet to arrive, so I can’t really say anything.

Also, sadly enough, 2 out of 4 of the boxes I subscribe to right now have announced their November themes and after reading the descriptions of the books to be included I was torn between skipping a month for both or giving it a shot even though both of them sounded like something I’d clearly hate to spend my time on…

In the end, I made a choice to save some money and skip… (Just to forget about my reasoning and order 2 new boxes to try out instead the next week.)

Honestly, it feels like a waste of money in more ways than one, because I clearly can’t read this fast to actually read all the books I receive and not add them to a quickly growing TBR pile, and also because I don’t even feel healthy enough to read anything but fluffy fanfiction most of the days anyway… Not to mention that YA subscription boxes more often than not focus on fandoms I have no real use for. I put away the books I don’t feel like reading, but also can’t get rid of them before I even try, and they just pile and pile… And then there’s also the fact that shipping costs as much as box itself.

But this state of my mind is also the exact reason I keep ordering them because it’s kind of like receiving a small present every time and it feels like I need that feeling to keep myself afloat every month. And the more I receive something I can’t really feel any positive emotions about, the more it makes me to look for more of boxes to order… (I know it sounds pathetic and not exactly effective, but beggars with chronic depression can’t exactly be chooser of what we use to keep ourself from the very rock bottom.)

So next month (or more like the beginning of December, considering the shipping time) I will receive 3 new boxes and will have to choose which ones I want to keep, and whether or not I want to cancel those I put on hold this month… And how to stop myself from wasting money on things I don’t need just because I’m getting brainwashed by pretty instagram pictures.

 

 

On Subscription Book Boxes and YA pt.1

I’m subscribed to about 4 different monthly bookish boxes (and always in the process of looking for more/exchanging for new ones).

I treat them sort of like a ‘blind date with a book’ system, and a way to get to know new releases while living in a non-English speaking country. Because usually, to buy a new English book, I would have to decide that I really want it, make an informed decision carefully, read all about it on goodreads or elsewhere, and be sure it’s worth spending that money, because ordering on Amazon from Japan is not always cheap and not always quick (they have a lot of books in stock to be delivered next day, but half of the time they ship them from UK.)

Unfortunately, even though there’s a ton of subscription book boxes out there, and there are many lists that talk about them to help you choose, I very soon found out that no matter how many there are, none of them (at least as far as I could see, having  searched online a few times) really match what I’d really want from a subscription book box.

My wishes are pretty simple:

  • Worldwide shipping.
  • Bookish goods.
  • Fantasy, sci-fi (maybe historical fiction, detectives, mysteries).
  • Preferably new releases, but not critical.
  • Not YA.

I don’t really remember how did I first found out about book subscription boxes, but then very soon they flooded my instagram and I couldn’t help but want to subscribe to more and more.

The thing is, most of subscription boxes, and certainly the most ‘loud’ ones, are all about YA. And to be honest, I don’t think I would read a single YA book if not for them.

Not that I was too biased, since I never really knew about them to form an opinion other than ‘it means they are for kids’. And I hardly ever read books for kids when I was one. Save for Harry Potter, but I don’t think that really counts. That is also why I didn’t really feel too cautious about YA when I ordered my first subscription box, because I simply decided that (after seeing on instagram that a lot of seemingly adult people were enjoying them) maybe I misunderstood the categorization, and people just called all new fantasy and sci-fi books YA (sort of like people in Japan call literary fiction ‘literature’ and most of genre fiction ‘light novels’).

It wasn’t before I received my first few boxes that I felt like I seriously needed to look into something that wasn’t so focused on YA. I can’t even say what exactly it is about YA… Well, to be honest I still kind of unclear on what makes YA so YA, but the books, even where I could like the story itself, seemed… too shallow, too thinly connected… more like an overly simplified summary of a book that could happen, but didn’t because someone either rushed it out or was told to make it more simple… And at first I thought that it was just those books and those authors, but after this year it seems to be the only thing that I can attribute to YA as a unifying factor. Along with tiny chapters and the feeling that it was made to resemble a movie more than a book, and to be read in few hours–take only slightly more time than it would take to watch a movie.

I can’t say that I regret subscribing to YA boxes entirely… With my current mental and emotional state, light reads that I can be done with in few hours are sometimes actually exactly what I need. And some of the books I received were exactly that. But sometimes… There is also this another thing that bothers me about YA – it’s the ‘trendy themes’ that too many of the books I receive seem to be focused on. I have mentioned some of them in reviews I’ve written: girls kept in captivity (or under someone else’s authority in other way) and humiliated by sadistic/narcissistic people; people falling in love with their former captors or with equally narcissistic jerks; palace intrigues and spies… The overall normalization, or more likely romanticization, of humiliation and lying that are featured in 90% of YA books I received (or researched after receiving a bookish item based on).

I honestly hate it and don’t even want to think about the underlying psychology of their popularity.

 

Sadie by Courtney Summers

SadieSadie by Courtney Summers

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

This is considered YA? Really?
There are several reasons why I doubt it. Firstly, is that that while it shares the ‘reads like a movie’ aspect with a YA, its writing goes at least one lever deeper and better than any YA I have read (and yeah, maybe this is the exact reason I haven’t read enough to know otherwise). It reminded me somewhere of reading Dorothy Allison, and not only because of the obvious topics, but because of the vivid images and excellent attention to details, and especially emotional ones.
Secondly, I, at least, would consider the topic a bit too heavy for YA.
While I can’t call this story exactly unique or say that is shows something shocking we’ve never seen before, (it says it itself – girls go missing all the time; and again, people like Dorothy Allison immediately come to mind), especially since most people probably watch shows like Criminal Minds and LAO SVU, it is an artfully created experience.
It is not a long book, and it feels shorter still because of the podcast format most of it takes, and maybe that is why it is considered YA. But I don’t think it loses any depth because of its format, and I haven’t once felt like there were holes left in it. Its characters all come alive in front of your eyes, and you can feel every single one of them as if you are looking right at them. As does the scenery, and every town, even if you’ve never been to the States.
What I also appreciated about it, is that this was a story about love.
It would be easy to pull it apart, picking up at every human flaw and misguided decision, but… This book is written well enough to stop me from wanting to do it, and that is the most important point for me personally.

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Contagion by Erin Bowman

Contagion (Contagion, #1)Contagion by Erin Bowman

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I rate it 3.5-ish, but rounded it up simply because I will actually be looking forward to the sequel.

I must say, this books gets better towards the end, and not because you might think (not because that’s where the action in this kind of books begins to happen).
Unfortunately, I almost missed it, because I had a lot of trouble getting through the first half, and here’s why:
1) “A bunch of fluff-ups and kids-who-don’t-deserve-it get thrown into a deadly dangerous situation without responsible adult supervision. Who do you think will survive, if anyone?’ is how it reads for the whole first half, and I kept thinking “well, isn’t it ironic that this book tries to make fun of stupid horror movie stories and then basically follows in their step”? Enter a dozen of unbelievably stupid decisions that are likely to make a few of less tolerant people close this book forever.
2) The writing is inconsistent at best. Sometimes it bordered on the ‘okay, yeah, fine’, with an occasional sentence making my editing fingers and eyebrows twitch, and sometimes it fell entirely into the field of ‘someone really should have edited this a few more times before getting it out…’. It’s the odd word and phrase choices that don’t really fit and ruin immersion, it’s the fact that the interludes feel like they weren’t thought through enough to feel organic… It was simply speaking… too rough to be read smoothly, and it irritted me a lot.
3) More even than the surface lack of polish in writing, it really bothered me how this book treats character development descriptions. It tries to raise some issues and give its characters interesting back stories, but it kind of fails to do a good job of it – it fails to do it organically. It chews on everything extensively, explaining what people feel and why exactly, instead of showing it. Ideally, you’re supposed make a reader aware of a character’s ‘issues’ without actually spelling them out in a way that gets you thinking ‘does it really make sense that this person is aware of all their inner issues and actually name them to themselves, yet still behave the way they do…?’.
In short, it does this thing where, for the most of the story, instead of letting you pick up on things on your own, it says ‘here, I’ll spell everything out for you, name it and explain every little thing, like you’re too stupid to understand on your own’. It wants to employ interesting issues, but pretty much fails to present them correctly.

It’s hard to talk about this genre without much spoilers. So I’ll probably leave it here.
Overall, while some of the story decisions I find questionable, it gets actually interesting enough to make you want to read the sequel, even if only out of curiosity, and that is what matters.

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