Amber & Dusk

Amber & Dusk by Lyra Selene

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Unlikable heroine, cocktail of predictable YA tropes, and ‘broken glass’ dialogues.

Originally, I thought I would rate this book somewhat higher, because I had this idea that allowances should be made for the fact that this is a debut novel, and because I should be kinder… But then I experienced this profound sense of relief when I finally finished this book and was released from the feeling of nausea that had accompanied me all the time I was reading it, and realized that no… Sorry, but no.

Considering the fact that this book was actually picked for at least two book subscription boxes in December… it was an utter disappointment. The only positive thing I can say about this book is that the writing wasn’t bad.
But the subject…
Just before (previous month) I was watching people rage about the “bury your gays” trope in another recent YA novel, because everyone is so sick of it, … aaaand here we go again. And this is not even the biggest or worst ‘YA cookie-cutter’ trope of this book.
– A pretty heroine with some sort of gift, who is also ignorant about all and everything? Check.
– Lost princess who grew up hidden by others? Check.
– Court intrigues and beautiful nobles who torture the said heroine? Check.
– A cruel beautiful boy with tortured soul, who is mean to the heroine but they’ll kiss anyway? Check.
– A ‘kind of’ love triangle? Check.
– An ‘extra cruel’ monarch who gets off on torture and murder? Check.
We can go on and on.
I don’t know if we were supposed to dislike the heroine by design, but I got sick of her ‘I deserve better! I’m entitled to it! I’m worthy!’ whining after first few chapters. And she never shuts up about it. The first 70% of this book is her screaming at various people about how she ‘deserves’ all the things she imagined to exist in the court, literally everyone telling her that she doesn’t know what she’s talking about, that the reality is not like the world of her imagination, and her screaming back that they’re just trying to keep her from things that are hers by some kind of right. She was probably supposed to be fearless ans witty, but she appears to be no more that an arrogant brat who tries to mouth back to everyone in a nasty-ish way and beam with pride about it.
Speaking of which, most of dialogs felt unnatural and incomplete. I can’t even put my finger on it, but the dialogues just didn’t work, the lines didn’t fit seamlessly and didn’t convey enough.

Books like this make me seriously consider if I should just unsubscribe from all my book boxes and free myself from having to engage with this ‘YA fashion’ of same books about palace intrigues, cruel princes, and tortured heroines. At least I can perhaps hope that we’ll leave this fashion in 2018 and never come back to it again.

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Grim Lovelies (Grim Lovelies, #1)

Grim Lovelies by Megan Shepherd

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Bland, inconsistent, depressing.

I’m sorry, but not only I found this book incredibly boring, I also couldn’t find a single aspect of it I could like.
After I read first chapter, I thought I was about to read a light story about magic… I didn’t even need it to be exiting end intriguing, I just wanted it to be magical and captivating. But then it felt like it was turning more and more disappointing with every chapter. It was a struggle to read. I made myself finish it, and I won’t ever manage to remember all of the things I disliked, but here’re are some of the impressions I have left of it:
1) First of all, this story is not light, and neither it is pleasant, because you have to read about things like cutting people’s toes and biting rats’ heads off. And all the gore in it is just depressing.
2) For the first half of it I sometimes felt like I was reading some article in a cheesy housewife magazine on ‘what to pay attention to while in Paris’. Oh the name dropping… the fashion brands… the shops… the pastries…. I tried to tell myself it was supposed to be world building, but it didn’t work, and these descriptions got so very annoying so very fast.
3) I don’t know if the author was going for the whole ‘unreliable narrator’ thing, or if it just… happened, but the characters, on top of being extremely bland, are inconsistent, unbelievable, and utterly confusing. Everything about the main character is confusing. There character development is hardly there, and when it is, is more of a ‘and suddenly this naive girl is the most powerful untouchable being’. Also, she was supposed to be human for only year, and yet exactly nothing is there to back up that fact and make it believable.
The whole ‘acts as an ally->betrays everyone’ and ‘acts like an asshole -> becomes close ally’ ideas were not executed well at all. I can’t even describe what exactly was wrong, but these descriptions felt too inorganic. The only way it could work, is if you believe this is how the main characters sees the world, while accepting the fact that she is an extremely fickle person with a heavy personality disorder on top, and changes what she thinks and her whole world view every hour. Also, there were only two characters who could show some promise, but both of them were washed down the drain.
4) The way the animals are treated. As in, being an animal repeatedly described as ‘being in dark place’, horrible dead existence, not feeling anything but hunger and fear, having no ability to love or think as an intelligent being… Just… no. This, and how the whole concept of ‘beasties’ was treated and described was likely my least favorite thing about this book.
5) Ideas being pulled in by the ears. As in ‘oh, suddenly, in this magic compartment of this magic bag, I suddenly find the exact specific potion that will allow me to create an astral projection of my body, and suddenly I know exactly how to use this rare old potion, and also, suddenly, my astral body will be able to handle solid objects, and of course, suddenly, I will manage to kill one of the most powerful witches just like that’. This book is full of these forced explanations jumping out of nowhere, and none of them feel remotely believable or organic.

I will leave it at this, because I don’t even have energy to dig back and argue about how things just don’t work in this book. Nothing in it made me care enough, sorry.

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These Rebel Waves (Stream Raiders, #1)

These Rebel Waves by Sara Raasch

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Skillfully written heart gripping story of faith, politics, and prejudice

This was a very surprising read for me, because I did not expect to like it this much. First of all, I hardly ever like YA. Second of all, I don’t enjoy reading about politics and intrigues. And yet this book held me interested all the way through to the very end.
The writing is very good. The world is interesting and comprehensively built, even if small. And more importantly, characters feel true, their emotions and motivations clear and compelling. It was very easy to feel with them and for them, and never once I felt like they’ve been stupified, as I so often do with YA.
This is not a light story, it is full of blood, intrigues and betrayal. There are fanatics, religious or political, there’s torture, death, child soldiers, and the main characters have to fight for things that are so much larger than them, and against things that are so much larger the them. I liked that the ideas of right and wrong, of learning to see things from different sides, of reacting to changing circumstances no matter how painful the situation is to believe in, are in the heart of this book. This book kept me tense a lot of time, and even when I didn’t really want to be reading something that made me feel so tense, I still couldn’t put it down.
I’ll be looking forward to and dreading the sequel.

Although, I don’t know who decided to market it as a book about ‘gay pirates’ (which I learned after skimming through the first page of goodreads reviews), but it was clearly a mistake. This is not in any way ‘a book about gay pirates’.
It is worth a read though, regardless.

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