Hush, Hush (Hush, Hush, #1)

Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


So much teenage idiocy…
I have a mixed feeling about this book, because, on one hand it seems that there is a passable fantasy-suspense story plot lurking on the background, and the main character is not too terrible (she even seems to use her head…sometimes…more so in the beginning, than towards the end), but the rest of it…
Characters, without exception, are either just creepy (or creepy and disturbing) or mostly faceless.
This book reminded me of that ‘find the main character’ meme where people make fun of anime by showing a picture with a room full of identical characters with brown-black hair and hardly any facial features drawn, and among them a single character with pink hair and detailed expression.
This is exactly how his book feels, with the exception that when a character has a face or a name they will be creepy as hell… Or, all males will be creepy and disturbing in a dangerous way, and all females creepy and preoccupied with sex (including the 70yo housekeeper). There are no classmates except for the creepy stalker boys and one vain venomous cheerleader. There are hardly any teachers other than the Coach “teaching biology” by talking about sex, and “councillor” who is even worse. People in the shops and restaurants are creepy. Police are creepy. (The mother maybe the only exception, but she is also absent most of the time.)
It would’ve actually maid so much more sense if the “twist” of this book was that all this time we were reading an account of a mentally unstable (paranoid and delusional) person (who understandably lost her marbles after her father was murdered), and that was the reason why every person who came into focus in her POV acted suspicious and disturbing, and why so much weird shit was happening around her. The explanation “it was all in her head” would’ve maid this a much better written book. Because when it’s not in her head, the “tunnel vision” and “one colour” world building make this into a rather weakly written fantasy book.

Then there’s the problem of the ‘best friend’ of the ‘who needs enemies with friends like this’ variety, (a.k.a. the reason for all problem situations in the book) where you want to strangle this ‘positive character’ more than all the creepy negative characters in the book. Literally the worst character in the whole book, by far. And I don’t comprehend her existence.

Things are kind of happening, but it actually feels like they are not, because we are not getting any closer to the answer to the “what the hell is going on” questions for at least for 250-80 pages, and things of repetitive nature (Someone got hurt. Did boy A or boy B do it? Is something supernatural going on or am I loosing my mind?) keep happening on the sidelines, keep raising the exactly same questions over and over, but giving absolutely no answers.

The ending was actually better than I expected it to be, but I wish we didn’t suddenly devolve into romance, just like that, after a whole book of unhealthy and not-okay behaviour.



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Wicked Saints (Something Dark and Holy, #1)

Wicked Saints by Emily A. Duncan

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


To be honest, this is a case of ‘I don’t think I’ll know if I even like this until (if) I read the sequel’.
There’s such thing as few too many twists and few too many lies.
For example, I’m not sure if I feel like all main characters changed their personalities and beliefs too abruptly for it to be believable, or if it can actually be believable in the circumstances.
(Should we really change sides so much and feel comfortable with characters who murdered and tortured under our noses?)
I feel uncomfortable to comment on any story developments, other than say that the ending is a chaos and I don’t think I enjoy where it went…unless I see it go somewhere else in a future book.
If I judge from the fact that I really don’t like ‘mind game’ books in general (as in constantly not knowing what is real and what is really going on), then I suppose I don’t like this book. But I think I need to see where it all tries to lead to just to be certain. Because right now, there are more questions than answers.
This book on its own gives too little to judge on.

There is an interesting style, and I especially enjoyed the ‘excerpts’ at the beginning of each chapter. More importantly, kudos for making it into a fantasy world ‘vaguely inspired’ by slavic cultures than actually borrowing from them more than names. I think it is an interesting and well-developed world, even if small and unhappy.
At the same time I feel there is a substantial room for improvement in terms of writing.
It’s on a simpler side, it doesn’t really grab you, it doesn’t make you feel like you can’t let yourself put the book down. And little things, like overuse of the word ‘boy’ got on my nerves sometimes.
Reading this book felt like watching its story on fast-forward. That unbalanced way of catching some random moments very clearly and just flying by the rest of events.
The action sequences were a bit hard to follow. Not really written in a way that would make it easy to see what is going on around the main character and why. Maybe this is also related to my ‘fast-forwarded’ impression.

Overall, ‘chaos’ is the most true impression of this book, and it leaves me confused. Question is, will it untangle or will it continue in the same tone and manner?



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We Hunt the Flame (Sands of Arawiya, #1)

We Hunt the Flame by Hafsah Faizal

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


For the most of this book, I though I would be able to at least give this book 3 stars (1 for its events, 5 for its words, divide the sum)…but somewhere closer to the final 3rd even the writing I found compelling and interesting had turned to the worse. While most of the prose in this is very well done and indicates a talent, there is really something wrong with the way relationships between people are written here. And the closer they became, the more that ‘wrongness’ stood out for me. But that’s not my biggest issue with this book.

I wonder when we will finally move out of this fashion of YA books that all begin the same: the theme of oppression, mental or physical slavery and domination, a presence of some kind of absolutely evil/disturbing/disgusting egocentric monarch getting off on abusing others, and our hero/heroes just taking it. The genders change, the worlds change, we can be on Earth, Cosmos, or some other land; we can change favourite English cuss word to ‘daama’ and ‘elves’ to ‘safir’, but it’s still all the same overused and tired formula.
These stories may be dressed in different images and names, but they all smell exactly the same. Of some weird YA fascination with abuse, humiliation, and misery that makes me vomit a little in my mouth. And of making death and torture trivial and commonplace.

Here, once again we have out shackled heroes grinding their teeth, psychopathic antagonist monarch torturing and killing for fun (or for some great purpose and fun) (who are also exactly the same in every book), reluctant forbidden attraction, hidden destiny to change the world…
You read and 50 pages in you can pretty much tell where this will go and which of the introduced characters will end up where. Then you read on hoping the book might still surprise you and prove you wrong…and in never does. If anything, it kept getting worse the closer it got the part III of the book. The childish

‘And then his grip
began
to falter.’

the awkwardly written ill-fitted developing relationship (even when you know it was going to happen from the very beginning, the way it was written in just felt…all wrong). And then the mess of an “ending” with so much wrong there too.

I don’t read YA that much, but even I find myself very tired from seeing this same set up and bone structure everywhere. I wish one day when I get a new YA book in my mail it would really be NEW.

That said, some do it better than others and it has to be said that the writing, imagination, and world building in this book are all at least admirably good. I believe the author really possesses a keen talent with words, but (only in my personal opinion) it’s a shame that it was used to join the line of identical YA misery stories.
Because no matter how attractive your characters are, and imaginative your world setting is, what matters in the end is the following:
Did this book tell me something new?
Did reading this book bring any positive or pleasant emotions? (Did it leave me with something good?)
Does it feel like I would want to revisit/re-experience/reread this book in the future?
And for me personally, answer to all these questions is the same – No .
Because why would I want to re-experience something that didn’t bring anything good or positive into my life?

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Warrior of the Wild

Warrior of the Wild by Tricia Levenseller

My rating: 2 of 5 stars


Very simple, very short, very shallow, very YA. In other words: mleh.

I don’t really understand why YA publishers keep doing this…putting is so much efforts and hype, making beautiful covers and lots of promotion for something that has practically no substance inside? Seems to me like it should stand against the pride of anyone working in book publishing, but oh well…
This book is supposed to be about almost-adults being outcast and dealing with deadly dangers and tasks, but it reads like about a group of 12 y.o. kids playing around at heroes.
This story is not bad. There’s just nothing to it. Same can be said about the quality of writing.
The plot turns are extremely predictable, the characters are flat and stop feeling authentic because of the way they speak time after time, a lot of the settings (like ‘spears’ being old weapons and no one knowing how to use them) are weird and unplausible, the insta-love, the gay sidekick, the main character who is naive, self-absorbed, and uninteresting…

‘It’s not about giving in to the first boy who ever acted interested.’
Yes, it is. And you’ve done it twice.

But this book also doesn’t really last long enough for any of this to really really get on the nerves…so ‘mleh’ remains is the most fitting description. So sad when the cover is the only really good thing about the book.



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Shadow of The Fox (Shadow of the Fox, #1)

Shadow of The Fox by Julie Kagawa

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


The first impression is very simple—reading this is like watching anime in text. Not just because it’s Japanese. It’s the whole imagery, concepts, attitudes, flow of the narrative. I suppose it’s probably a very different book for you when you don’t actually live in Japan and feel like every image from this book you’ve already seen somewhere before. But I’m at least glad that this at least was written by someone who knew what they were writing about.
I also suppose that his ‘anime’ nature fits very well with the YA trend of mixing childish with gruesome deaths and cringy concepts (of people not having free will and being tortured in general). And this is really all the description I can come up with: it’s like anime, childish and bloody at the same time, full of yokai monsters and talk of samurai honor; cringy enough to keep me from really liking what is going on.
Minus points for the cliff-hanger ending, as predictable as that turn was, but plus point for the Epilogue—that bit was very satisfying.
On one hand, I might be curious about what will happen to the characters from now on, on the other I don’t know if I’m actually willing to read two more books to find out…



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Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles, #2)

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book gave me too much anxiety.
Not that it means it’s a bad book. I suppose for those who like to be kept on their toes while reading and constantly worry who will betray who, who will give up on who, who will have to sacrifice what, how much longer will we need to suffer interactions that involve the evil queen that is too evil and too powerful, how many will die… it’s a big plus.
Yet, personally, I don’t need even a milligram of extra anxiety in my life and it made this book damn hard to read (I had to put it down a couple of times and read 2 other books while reading this one to dilute it).
Though this book does introduce a character that I feel like will be my most favorite in the series (but now I’m also feeling anxiety regarding the fact that they might be killed off in near future).



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Heartstone (Heartstone #1)

Heartstone by Elle Katharine White

My rating: 3 of 5 stars


This re-telling had a lot of potential, as an idea, but some things just didn’t work… The contrast between ‘grumpy and misunderstood’ persona and ‘lovable’ persona of the hero was just not represented organically. The change between the two personas was too drastic, and the fact that Alastair constantly referred to common people like trash and said ‘loving someone like her is beneath him’ was too much and should not be forgiven/explained by temper. A lot of his actions didn’t look like something that could be explained by grumpiness and temper, but in stead appeared to be genuine cruelty. It was overplayed and not believable. In fact, there were a number points about the writing I’d like to pick on… Like the fact that the hero was constantly referred to by his family name, even in places where it felt unnatural, because there were multiple members of his family present in the scene.
The first half of this book was very mild and slow paced, presenting dozens of little mysteries of ‘why could’ve that person said that/acted that way’ in a constant stream. In that classic style of the literature this takes as the basis. Unfortunately, I feel like half of them were not even addressed properly by the end of the book. It builds a lot of mysteries, and then drops them in a very anticlimactic way. Too many questions not nearly enough answers.
And the ending was too rushed and mangled. It was both too bloody and too trivial. As in, there were supposedly all these lives lost on the background, cities destroyed, and many Riders who were supposedly as strong as the main heroes dead where named characters survived, and it didn’t even look like we were supposed to care much.
The human nemesis was dealt with behind the scenes on the background which was a throw away.
In fact, I’m not sure what exactly were we supposed to care about at that point… the revenge story line was skipped over, most of the war was skipped over, the romance was mostly skipped over, weddings were skipped over… None of the events of the ending were really brought into focus, and collectively felt like a short summary, compared to the slow pace of the first half of the book.
Also, the ultimate sacrifice by the ‘love rival’ felt like an unfortunate plot choice. Another life just thrown away in a convenient way (how much cooler it would be if she just cut out herself from the worm instead, eh?).



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The Gilded Wolves (The Gilded Wolves, #1)

The Gilded Wolves by Roshani Chokshi

My rating: 4 of 5 stars


This book genuinely surprised me. Mostly because I reached that point where I don’t really expect to ever like anything YA anymore.
This books is filled with sparks of something great that speak of real talent. (Personally, I think the author should just drop the YA and switch to full-scale adult fantasy.)
Each character is a fully developed separate entity, and it is very clear when the POV changes. Their backgrounds and personalities are detailed and captivating. Personally, as someone with ASD, I appreciated the insight into Zofia’s mind. The world is complicated, with elaborate descriptions that sometimes feel even a bit too complicated, but I think it only makes it more attractive for the imagination. I loved many of the descriptions, especially the ones that included characters’ feelings about the landscape around them. The interactions between characters are great, even if there were a couple of times where they were overplayed for the sake of humor and broke the immersion.
I’m not a fan of puzzle-mysteries or ‘heist action’ stories, but the writing and the characters kept me reading and kept me interested in this world.
I have mixed feelings about the composition of the ending and the related angst… the decisions made for a couple of human relationships and ‘down-up-further down’ emotion structure were not particularly pleasant, but somehow I want to hope that some things will be righted in the next books.
Definitely a series to follow.



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