Give the Dark My Love by Beth Revis

Give the Dark My Love (Give the Dark My Love, #1)Give the Dark My Love by Beth Revis

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A tiring experience, not nearly immersive enough to outweigh its cruelness. 

I’m really on a fence with this one. On one side, this book gets pretty dark and tries to appeal to more mature readers by talking about heavier moral issues and questions of life and death, and it isn’t bad per se.
On the other, it still features the very YA shallow writing and world-building, dismissal of supporting characters… including the one who was probably supposed to be the second main character, since he gets his own POV and all, but ended up a repeatedly dismissed in both writing and story as a  shallow insta-romance love interest (I can’t say I counted, but the Nedra/Grey chapter ratio is something like 3-4/1, and a lot of Grey chapters are hardly longer than 1 page… I mean, why even do it if he can be so easily dismissed?).
The biggest issue I have with this book is with the way it ‘skims’ over everything, barely touching the surface. The time flies, days, weeks, months, lives, are only mentioned flying by, the flow of time doesn’t feel real, the reader has no chance to plant their feet in the world and look around, see how they feel about all of it. Nedra is strong, talented, clever, and mature girl… but she is also single-minded, closed-minded, arrogant, and dismissive in a very unpleasant way. I didn’t like reading in her 1st person POV because it was full of ‘I know what is best and everyone needs and appreciates me, and if they don’t understand how important what I do is they are clearly useless’, which was made worse by the shallow world-building that made it hard to feel the horrors of the plague real and see what was really going on in the world that it would make Nedra’s attitude at least more proportionate. I do not want to go in details to spoil the actual story content, but every time she would act almost likable and say something reasonable, it felt like a ‘fluke’ (or like the author/editor had to add it as an afterthought) and then she go back on it right away or acts like it was a mistake to feel anything human. Nedra is a tiring character to follow, but the Grey is written so shallowly he is even worse…

And that was the impression I got from this book – it’s not bad enough to actually hate it, but it’s so tiring to read and not nearly immersive enough to compensate for its cruelness.

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Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston

Heart of Iron (Heart of Iron, #1)Heart of Iron by Ashley Poston

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It’s packed with good ideas, but betrayed by rushed execution.

It’s a good book. And while I liked the story and think that it’s pleasantly enough written, here’s why it’s 4 stars and not 5:
-It feels underdeveloped and rushed. Like a movie instead of a book. Or like someone took a much longer and complicated novel and made an abridged version of it. There were very nice ideas and moments, but it didn’t feel like they were explored. I honestly felt like I was being rushed through the story, without getting the full experience.
-Perhaps related to the previous point, but it also asks the reader to take for granted a lot of things without explaining how they really work in the world. Or much about the world in general.
-It didn’t really escape the ‘teenage heroine that makes you want to smack her for her stupidity’ curse of YA literature. I don’t know if it got a bit better towards the end, or if I just got used to it.
-There were cringy moments that personally rubbed me the wrong way. Felt like cringingness for the sake of cringingness – and while I know some people are fans of that, I am not.

I do think it’s good read… if you don’t mind being left with more questions than answers and completing the world you’re reading about in your head instead of getting it from the book, or feeling like you just watched a nice sci-fi movie, instead of reading a novel, and I also think I’ll try to pick up the sequel when it comes out, but I do think it leaves a pretty noticeable ‘something’s missing’ aftertaste.

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Ash Princess (Ash Princess Trilogy #1)Ash Princess by Laura Sebastian

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

A book captivating enough to make me ignore the fact that I hate a lot of its ideas.

This book is written well enough so that I couldn’t stop turning pages, even though after every chapter I kept thinking “torture, intrigues, love triangles, spies, and disgusting people who get off humiliating others? I like none of those things and don’t really want to be reading about them… especially now”. In fact I actually had to skip through some of the more unpleasant parts closer to the end.
And yet, I think this is one of the better YA books out there, just from the way it’s written, especially for people who don’t mind the above mentioned.

I do sincerely hope, thought, that the second book will contain less of the themes I hate to read through, and more of new original ideas and good writing. Though I’ll probably buy it regardless, since I’m interested to see where the story will go.

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The Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen

The Bird and the BladeThe Bird and the Blade by Megan Bannen

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Disappointing execution of a disappointing concept.

I wanted to like this book. And I thought I did for about two first chapters… until the language and the way the story was told begun turning increasingly disheartening. Another good idea utterly betrayed by a very pure execution.
This book fails spectacularly regarding immersiveness and world-consistency. First, I kept feeling that more and more of geographical and historical descriptions felt somehow wrong, but decided that since it’s a fictional version of the world I shouldn’t care so much… But then I almost DNFed (I had to put it away for couple days) when I reached phrase “asset to be liquidated”. Because, seriously? Did the author even try to care about how her protagonist sounded? This and many more very modern phrases and thoughts, jump out from pages, break the immersion completely, and make it impossible to believe in the setting of 1280 Asia. I don’t know if it is carelessness, laziness, or if American YA writers are simply expected to write books like they can only be read by young girls who only care for the cheesy girly feelings and ‘unconscious cuddling,’ and not about things like writing language, consistency, and believability… (It isn’t too difficult to type ‘bullet’ into a search engine and look up the etymology and first known use, is it? Though I suppose something like common sense should tell you it’s not very appropriate for 1280 even without having to look it up… And neither is “yep” Or phrases like “thanks but no thanks”.) But it made me very sad and by the second half I was kind of skimping through a lot of text, instead of trying to enjoy submerging myself in the story (because I knew I wouldn’t be able to, and only would turn more irritated by finding other examples of questionable phrasing…)
Also, the summary is misleading. “Ghosts” have practically nothing to do with the story at all, and their very short “appearance” makes place only at the very end and felt very forced and useless. Otherwise there are only memories and dreams.
Lastly, the least it could have done is follow through with its silliness and have some sort of unexpected positive ending. But noooo, it does the most boring thing of sticking with the unpleasant ending of the original story, which became the tip on the mountain of my disappointment with this book… (The author says she was outraged with it, and than just repeats it in her own work word by word. I don’t see the logic.)

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Pride by Ibi Zoboi

PridePride by Ibi Zoboi

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

Sweet but confusingly fickle teen love story. 

Would I pick this book up if I was browsing at a store? 99% not. (Might have something to do with very toxic pink of the inside cover of Owlcrate edition, tbh.) The themes in this book are something I have absolutely no first-hand knowledge of, and could hardly relate to (hoods, black cultures, teenage dating). Doesn’t mean I wasn’t interested in them, I love to read from perspectives of different cultures, but it does mean that for the whole duration of this book I couldn’t really tell if I should be taking it seriously (believing what it was putting down), or not. In fact, I would actually like to know how people who relate to the background of this story (who come from the area and cultures described) felt about this book. Is it relatable or is it laying it too thick?
I would have given this book more stars, because it has its own world, and the writing is pleasant and charming, if not for one thing – the main character. And I honestly couldn’t tell if this was a writing quality problem of inconsistency of presentation, or if it was a realistic representation of type of a teenage girl mentality I simply didn’t want to know anything about… One minute she is clever and responsible, the next she is arrogantly blind and annoying. Is she calling this boy a ‘home’, and saying how it is easy, comfortable, and ‘right’ to be with him, or is she only going out with him to make the other boy jealous? One minute she says ‘you gotta have your boy’s back’, the next she believes what someone else told her about him withing a second. In fact, she kind of seems to believe whoever was the last to talk to her. I love him, I hate him, I love him, we can’t be together,… every three-four pages the main character changes what she thinks and feels and if that’s how teenage girls are supposed to be I’m glad I wasn’t really around for that phase.
The reason I’m more inclined to believe that this is a writing issue is that a lot of other characters are treated in the same way. A boy who was supposed to be in love with her sister for a very long time suddenly is in love with other girl and there isn’t any explanation, a girls who was almost an antagonist and bitchy as hell is suddenly all nice and helping, there are characters who get introduced and dismissed right away, and story points that could have gone somewhere being dropped and forgotten all over the place… Everything is just so… fickle.
This book felt like it could have a lot of potential the way it began, but about half way through it’s like it was all rushed through and scrambled, like the author just had to finish it and be done with it, leveling behind undone more than half of ideas that she had at some point.

Should probably also mention that this book is full of poetry, and it seems like it would be a big plus for those who enjoy it.

Overall, I feel like I wish this book could have been rewritten properly, with more depth and exploration, picking up all the little branches and focusing on its own details, and then I could have actually honestly liked it.

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Learning Not to DrownLearning Not to Drown by Anna Shinoda

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

An account of a young soul trapped in a tiny world.

I might have built this book up a bit too much for myself in the beginning. I don’t really know why, but the first chapters made me imagine something really horrific happening, and it made me hesitant about taking it down from my bookshelf for a long time… Because of that for the first half of it I was swimming in this ‘is that it?’ confusion, and it made more sense only towards the very end. I think this book gave me an opportunity to remind myself how for a lot of people even things that seem little and insignificant to me can be real nightmares. That there are a lot of people who are trapped in very small worlds, with no one to get them out.
I actually liked that this book focused on not painting things in black and white, even though I personally tend to. Even though I felt like not a single person reacts or relates to things like I would in their place, I can relate to loving people who try to break your life in pieces and learning how to get yourself out.
I also think that the writing is quite good, though I probably would’ve preferred it if some scenes and issues were explore a bit more deeply. I think this is one of those books where it makes a lot of sense to read it once, and re-read it right after, from the new perspective.

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Cinder by Marissa Meyer

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

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

An interesting idea, yet shallow and underdeveloped.

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 the way they are, 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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