Review | Heartless by Marissa Meyer

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Summary

Cath may be the greatest baker in all of Hearts. All she wants to do is open a bakery with her best friend and maid, Mary Ann.

But Cath is also the daughter of a Marquess, and daughters of Marquess’ do not start businesses with their maids. Daughters of Marquess’ marry their King, if he has his eyes on her–and the King of Hearts certainly does.

Except Cath doesn’t love the King. He’s a simple man who, while fifteen years her senior, acts as though he’s fifteen years her junior. He, like most of the kingdom, prefers to sweep problems under the rug rather than take them head on. And he loves her baked goods, but even Cath knows Queens can’t be bakers.

Still, Cath goes along with the King’s advances to please her mother and society. What should she care, she will probably open her bakery, and reject the King in the end. And it’s not like she’s in love with anyone…

…until she meets the King’s new fool, Jest.

Review

The first half of Heartless is brilliant. Up to par with what she presented in The Lunar Chronicles, Meyer’s Wonderland draws on the source material and makes it her own. I was entirely enchanted with her world. I loved how she didn’t explain the rules of Hearts, giving just enough context so the reader could accept aspects of the world without worrying too much over the details. I am, of course, referring to the dreams that result in material objects.

Likewise, her characters were well designed. I liked the way Cath’s obsession with food was conveyed through the language used to describe the desserts. I was completely enthralled with Jest, who was charming and kind. It was very easy to sympathize with Cath over the King (god, he was annoying). I especially appreciated how rounded Cath’s character was. I identified with her dreams, I understood her indecision, and I recognized her flaws and judgement.

But Heartless just drops the ball halfway through. It was such a strange experience–I was so invested in the story for the first half, and then it suddenly bored me. I can even pick out the exact scene where it happened.

I analyzed it for a while, and I think what made me so disinterested was that the story got lost in the source material. It tried clinging to original elements from Alice in Wonderland, without truly explaining it.

And I know I mentioned earlier in this review that I enjoyed how Meyer didn’t completely explain the rules of Hearts. But the rules of the treacle well, looking glasses, and the maze sort of need explaining. I didn’t understand the political struggles at all, and cramming this information without properly expanding upon it made me disinterested and distanced. It took the tension away from the climax. It took the excitement out of the ending.

And yet, I wouldn’t completely disregard the book. I think the story itself is fairly compelling in terms of considering the effects of our decisions, about who we put first, and about what happens when we aren’t active in our fate. I think I’m going to end up posting a few more thoughts on this later on, because despite it all, this novel really made me think. And while the story may not have been as compelling as I expected, the themes certainly were.

Final Verdict: Maybe. As much as I appreciate and respect Marissa Meyer, I don’t believe this was her best work. While I enjoyed her writing and premise, the story loses momentum halfway through.

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Review | Hunger by Michael Grant

The children of the FAYZ are hungry…but am I hungry for more story?

Summary

It has been three months since the adults disappeared. Three months of kids being kids. Three months of the FAYZ.

For Sam Temple, it has been three months of acting as father for the three hundred odd kids of Perdido Beach. No one else wants to take responsibility, but every kid has their limits, and Sam is reaching his.

As for his twin, Caine, it has been three months of torment. Driven mad with fever from what he calls the “Gaiaphage,” he has retreated back to Coates where only the loyal and scared stay by him.

Food is now dwindling. What they had is now either eaten or spoiled, and a hunger looms over everyone—including something no one ever imagined.

Plot

There’s something really strange about this series. No matter how depressing, frustrating, and disturbing it gets, I find myself going back to it…even if I’ll put it back down after a few pages.

I definitely like how this book shifts from the power struggle with the struggle for survival. That is not to say that the struggle for power was there, it’s just less prevalent. Instead there are about seven story lines going on at once (or it feels that way) and they don’t really come together.

The plot twist was really clever. I have one big problem though, and that is why would Caine keep going once he realized what was going on? I mean, come on, he can’t be that arrogant.

Characters

Grant has a knack for knowing what kids would do in certain situations. He just doesn’t really have a knack for making them identifiable.

Sam’s frustration is so understandable…even for adults. No one likes being stressed out. No one likes having all the responsibility. And watching it build up makes him ridiculously relatable. Even so, Sam isn’t my favourite character. He’s more annoying that likeable, mostly because he’s like Leo in The Blood of Olympus—he only ever thinks about his girlfriend. This wouldn’t be as big of a problem if I actually liked the nerdy girl, Astrid.

No, my favourite characters are the Coates kids, both the crazy people who decided to stay and the defectors who now work for Sam. I love to hate Drake, I love to love Dekka, Brianna and Computer Jack and I like following Caine’s story. He makes things interesting. Oh, and I freaking love Diana. She’s probably my favourite character, because she knows how to use her powers of manipulation, while still being manipulated by her own emotions. It’s an interesting struggle to read about.

Writing

I feel like this book could have been so much shorter than it actually was. It seemed to drag on at parts and it was driving me crazy with how slow it could get. A large contributor to the slow pace is Grant’s choppy style. Like in Gone, just as the reader is about to get invested, the scene changes to something completely irrelevant. What makes it worse is that it never really comes together. There is just too much going on with people starving, Sam stressing out, the mutated animals, Caine’s power hunger, general fear of the mutants, and whatever was going on with Albert trying to start and economy.

Themes

I like the ideas about responsibility and fear that the books deal with. This is where the character development is the strongest, when the kids consider and do things according to their fears and/or lusts for power. I think the book makes a real distinction between power and responsibility, and what happens when you try to have one without the other.

Final Verdict

Overall, Hunger is a decent follow up to the premise set in Gone. The story finally gets some direction, but doesn’t quite come together.

A confession: I ended up reading the rest of the series on wikiFAYZ because about 50 pages into Lies I couldn’t take it anymore. I simply read the synopsis and as to how well the series is as a whole, the plot is fairly decent. (A little disturbing, but really, it’s Gone. It’s going to be disturbing.)(Particularly some things that happen with the aforementioned beloved Coates kids.)

I might pick this series up again at a later date, starting from the beginning to get better acquainted and adjusted to Grant’s style. For now though, it’s put on hiatus.

Recommendation for the Gone Series : Maybe. If you can stand Grant’s writing style and are in the mood for a sci-fi thriller, pick this up. I personally couldn’t get into the series, but I can see how lots of a people can.

Review | Gone by Michael Grant

I’m very mixed about this book. But maybe it’s just a FAYZ.

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Summary

Things can be as normal as possible on Perdido Beach, aka Fallout Alley. That is until everyone 15 and older disappears. Gone.

The children find themselves completely alone. With no one to tell them what to do, someone needs to step up, or chaos will reign. The bullies will rule.

But the missing adults isn’t the weirdest thing to happen. The animals in the area are changing…and so are the kids.

Plot

This book is messed up. Part Lord of the Flies, part X-men, part sci-fi thriller, and even part Game of Thrones, the premise of this series is solid. With a population under the age of fifteen stuck in a confined environment, there are struggles for power, order, and survival.

For the most part, the plot is as realistic and believable as possible. I like that Sam doesn’t want to be a leader despite everyone wanting him to be. Lana’s story was a little dry at first, but it eventually got better. Grant has a very good sense of what people would do in certain situations. He’s not afraid to show what fear and desperation and greed will do to what we consider the most innocent of the population.

For every cruel, sadistic, and disturbing scene, there is one of empathy, kindness, and humanity to match it. For every Drake, there’s an Edilio, which leads me to characters.

Characters

I am impressed with Grant’s cast of characters. Not only does he keep track of a cast to rival Game of Thrones (and I can only suspect will get bigger), he gives each character a distinct personality.

Do the characters come out as sort of cookie cutter because of this? Yeah, a little. Sam’s a little too reluctant hero, Astrid’s a little too supportive girlfriend, Quinn’s a little too pain-in-the-ass-but-I-still-love-you-brah. Still, I’m impressed by the range of people represented here: white, black, asian, latino, weak, strong, good, evil, cruel, eating disorder, mental disorder—and each with a full personality and story to back them up.

The problem is surprisingly a lack of connection. I don’t know what it is exactly, but I had no emotional connection with any of these kids. And that’s mostly due to the writing.

Writing

Most of my problems with the book are because of Grant’s writing style. He’s almost irritatingly objective. He doesn’t really delve deeply, besides the main plot. It’s like I’m at a buffet and I get a teaspoon of everything except one dish where I get a full serving. To be fair, Grant’s juggling a ridiculous amount of plot lines, but right when I’m about to get invested, the scene changes.

Oddly enough, my second problem is that the story felt too long. There was an inordinate amount of what felt like filler for a book with so many POVs. The pacing was awkwardly slow for a town in a crisis, and the time wasn’t used to make emotional connections…it’s a lot of exposition.

Themes

This story is about power. Sure, survival is huge, but oddly enough the kids are much more concerned with who has power and who doesn’t. I think that shows at how dependent children are.

What I like is how the children are on a scale of pure sadistic evil (Drake) and honourable, reliable kindness (Edilio). Besides these two, everyone has a balance of good and evil. Everyone, on some level, loves, is selfish, is greedy, is compassionate. It’s a full spectra of human emotion (and yet there still is some distance between the reader and the characters…)

Final Verdict

Gone sets the stage for an interesting story. With lots of questions and just enough answers (and a lot of disturbing occurrences), the series seems to be plot and theme driven more than character driven. When it comes to series that are this long (6 books), it usually takes more than one to properly set things up.

Recommendation: maybe.  Fans of the sci-fi/thriller genre who want an action based story should look into this. I personally prefer character based storytelling, so while the story was enough to pull me in, the characters might not make me stay.

Review | A Curse As Dark As Gold by Elizabeth C. Bunce

I’ve always loved fairy tale retellings.
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Summary

When their father dies, Charlotte and Rosie Miller are the only heirs to Stirwaters Mill. Their father was the last male in the line of Millers, one of many unfortunate happenings that seem to hang over the family and the run down mill house. Charlotte is determined to keep the family business alive, but with a untrustworthy uncle, a secret mortgage, and a series of inexplicable events at the mill, it will be difficult.

It couldn’t be a curse. It couldn’t.

Could it?

Plot

This plot has a solid premise. I like the industrial angle that Bunce tries to employ, with Charlotte and her sister trying to maintain a failing industry. Behind in technology, money, and luck, it’s difficult to keep Stirwaters on their feet.

The solution seems to be the fantastical Jack Spinner, a man who can spin straw into gold. Unfortunately this is where the novel falls flat. There’s a lot of ambiguity as to what Spinner is, and he shows up so infrequently its hard to tell if he’s the antagonist or not.

Likewise, Uncle Wheeler never really felt like much of a threat. The most interesting plot is probably Randall but its not really expanded on.

Characters

I like Charlotte and Rosie. They are strong female characters, both stubborn and with flaws. I can identify with Charlotte—the elder sibling, feels like she has to do everything herself, that she’s responsible for everyone. Rosie is a mechanic, which you don’t see often in these settings.

The male characters are rather cliched though. Their uncle is a classic rake, Randall is the typical caring and considerate love interest. As for Jack Spinner, our Rumplestiltskin character, I wish I had more sympathy for him, but the way Bunce has written him doesn’t give much.

But in the end I understand the character personalities and motivations, and with that I am satisfied.

Writing

Bunce’s writing is just a little dull for my taste. Even with everything in first person point of view, I felt very removed from the story. The pace was also slow. And this is rather unfortunate, because the plot is quite interesting, but it lacks some fantastical factor.

I understand Bunce’s angle of making the Rumplestiltskin fairytale more realistic, but the whole story lacks that air of fantastical that makes the fantastical conclusion a little unsatisfying.

Themes

There’s quite a bit going on in this book, all of which I wish were just explored a little further.

First there’s the idea of superstition. Charlotte doesn’t believe in curses, and the story really seemed to push that idea of “it’s not the curse, it’s the power you give the curse”….that is until the end. So that was strange.

Thwn there’s the idea of industry and innovation. The book really picked up once Chaotte realized how far technology has advanced compared to her mill. Rosie as an engineer helps bring this idea a little, but there reallu wasn’t as much mention of it as I would have hoped.

And finally there’s the balance of home and work, which Charlotte struggles with through the novel, and gets resilved in a rather hand-wavy fashion.

Final Verdict

A Curse As Dark As Gold is a fun little retelling of Rumplestiltskin, addressing many problems we may have with the fairytale in modern times. But the book lacks a level of depth that I typically expect with retellings like this.

Recommendation: Maybe. I recommend this to fans of fairytale retellings, but with a grain of salt—it’s not the most engaging read. You might enjoy it, but you might also be a little bored.

Review | Dubliners by James Joyce (4/5)

It’s too late to change things.

Joyce is still bleak.

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Ah, almost there! These three stories—“Clay”, “A Painful Case”, and “Ivy Day in the Committee Room”—are about people who have missed their chance.

Chance at what, you ask? Just read and see. Continue reading “Review | Dubliners by James Joyce (4/5)”