Review: Crashed by Robin Wasserman (Cold Awakening, book 2)

Living with other mechs since her wealthy parents transplanted her brain into a mechanical body to prevent her from dying in a horrible accident, Lia becomes a pawn in a religious leader’s movement to outlaw mech technology and eradicate machines such as Lia.

Rating:  ★★★☆☆ – liked it
Genre:  young adult fiction, ya science fiction, ya dystopia
Pros:
  well written, allegorical, realistic
Cons:
  slow paced, frustrating main character, realistic

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I’m giving this book 3 stars because every problem I had getting into the book and enjoying the story was because I personally didn’t like Lia (the MC), and with the first person POV it’s all Lia all the time. If I had liked her I can tell this story would have been entirely engrossing.

One of the things I really liked about the writing is also one of the things I liked the least. That is, that the characters and their actions were so realistic.

Despite being mechs, with damage resistant bodies and memory back-ups in case they are destroyed, none of them are elite fighters or even excelling at anything much. They are completely realistic teenagers. Give them extra-strong bodies and they pull extra-dangerous stunts. Put a group of them in a house and leave them to their own devices, they screw around (in all meanings of that phrase) and bicker. There are no “maturity level of an adult, leading a teenage revolution” sort of characters. Just a group of kids with problems, facing the destructions of all their rights, trying to figure out if there’s even anything they can do about it.

The reason I almost wish it wasn’t so realistic? The constant bickering leading nowhere at all! Not to mention, hardly anything ever got done. (It was the last 1/3 of the book before they really got down to making any moves.)

This book deals a lot with prejudice. Mechs are struggling to even be seen as people. Wasserman portrays it accurately, with nuance from character to character. As opposed to a homogenous group who all feel the exact same way and hate without logic. Not everyone against the mechs is just an evil creep; some are just angry and looking for someone to be angry at, some are confused and genuinely think they are on the right side, some hide behind religion. Of course, some are just hateful people, too.

I definitely recommend this series so far. Wasserman’s writing is good enough that I enjoy it even with first person narration (something I personally hate) and a main character who sometimes tested my patience.

Review: The Impostor Queen by Sarah Fine

Chosen to be their queen, Elli grows up surrounded by luxury only to be banished when she fails to inherit essential magic, a situation that leads to devastating revelations about her world’s magic and the role Elli was meant to play.

Rating:  ★★★☆☆ – liked it
Genre:  young adult fiction, ya fantasy, magical fantasy
Pros:
  bisexual protag, interesting magical mechanics
Cons:
  hard to get into, first person narration, felt a bit too long for the story

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I definitely recommend this book and look forward to reading the sequel, but I think it’s important to know going in that it’s difficult to get into for quite a while. I think it took me almost half the book to actually start caring what was happening. If it hadn’t been for all the positive reviews online I wouldn’t have even kept trying.

There’s quite a bit of foreshadowing. I can’t quite decide how I feel about it. On the one hand, I love foreshadowing and always appreciate it, but on the other hand… It was really obvious foreshadowing and made the story overly predictable. Never once did I wonder what was coming, it was all pretty obvious from the very beginning, never a drop of mystery as much as the story tried.

If you are cool with first person narrators, you may not have as much trouble with this book as I did, but I really feel it hindered the story’s movement. I can only assume the intent is to keep us within the realm of what the main character knows, and have us learn as she learns, but it isn’t done well enough to feel worth it.

I did enjoy that her abilities were realistic. When she’s banished she is woefully unprepared for the real world and I appreciate that even with her book knowledge, she still had to learn how to do things. I’ve seen way too many fantasy novels where the protag is just magically good at things, but not Elli! It makes her much more relatable.

The mechanics of the magic are really interesting and I found myself glad the protag is who/what she is, as opposed to just a “late bloomer”. I won’t say more so I don’t spoil anything, but I feel like it serves the story better this way.

That’s about everything I can say without giving spoilers, but I’ll put some of that below if anyone wants it:

[start] I really love that Oskar and Sig’s personalities resemble their ice and fire!

I love that Elli has to learn to accommodate for her missing digits, that was an excellent touch.

I am almost 100% sure that the Valtia is Soturi. [end]

Review: The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson (Little Blue Envelope, book 2)

Seventeen-year-old Ginny Blackstone precipitously travels from her home in New Jersey to London when she receives a message from an unknown man telling her he has the letters that were stolen just before she completed a series of mysterious tasks assigned by her now dead aunt, an artist.

Rating:  ★★☆☆☆ – it was ok
Genre:  young adult fiction, young adult romance, ya contemporary
Pros:
 fast read, picturesque
Cons:  
annoying romance, out-of-control hormones

9462775This was an extremely easy read; once I actually sat down to read instead of grabbing the book here and there in-between things I breezed right through it.

I would recommend this book to:

  • people who really liked the first book
  • younger readers of YA novels
  • people who like the YA Romance genre

I didn’t actually fall into any of those categories, but I hate to leave a series unfinished and I didn’t NOT like the first book. So since I had this one on my list already and I wanted something aggressively contemporary to cleanse the palate after a classic novel….

I really think this book could have been improved by removing the romantic sub-plot. In fact, I’d hardly call it sub-plot, it tended to take over everything. I genuinely can’t remember the first book being like that… Either it wasn’t or I blocked all the romantic crap from my memory so it just seems like it wasn’t.

My biggest complaint is that Ginny needed serious help controlling her hormones. At one points she literally SWOONS! Like…excuse me??? What??????

Other than that, the book isn’t actually bad. It’s not good either. The first was better. But it isn’t a bad book. Someone pointed out to me that they think this is a book best enjoyed by people who are actually the characters age (18) or younger, and I think that’s probably true.

Oh, I do want to warn any British readers: You know that thing that happens when you watch American shows about British people and you are really confused because Americans have this really romantic and strangely homogeneous idea of what exactly “British” means? That’s going to happen a lot in this book.

Completed: Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

Sense and SensibilitySense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I just want to briefly comment on my lowering Sense and Sensibility from a 4 star novel to a 3 star:

It isn’t that I found the writing less interesting or of lower quality, and I enjoyed the overall story just as much as I remembered. The only real change is that I’m older than I was the first time I read it. An entire decade older, in fact.

When I first read Sense and Sensibility I was aware that Elinor’s behavior was the better of the two, but I didn’t actually see anything all that wrong in Marianne’s. A little dramatic occasionally, but I did always feel everything she did and said was justified and logical.

Now reading it as an adult(ish), I found myself constantly rolling my eyes at Marianne’s melodramatics! And more than once I had to stop and take a break from reading because she was being so completely ridiculous…

Again, I don’t think this is anything against the book. In fact, if you think about it, my changing maturity level changing my view of an immature character’s behavior can only be a testament to the quality of the writing. Austen portrays both an immature teenager and a more mature (but no less emotional) young adult perfectly!

I only rated it lower than before because my enjoyment of the reading experience was less than before. I still think everything about the book to be of the same quality and I still recommend it just as highly as always.

View all my ratings on Goodreads

Review: The Beast is an Animal by Peternelle van Arsdale

Raised by strict, devout people after soul eaters attacked her village, sparing only the children, Alys grows up longing for the freedom of the fforest while hiding a gift that would mark her as a witch.

Rating:  ★★★☆☆ – liked it
Genre:  young adult fiction, fantasy, dark fairy tale
Pros:  
mostly well written, nice twist on genre expectation, interesting mythos, witchy midwifery, interesting characters, interesting villains
Cons:  
rushed ending, dumb romance, wait too long for diversity

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This was a good, solid 3 star book. I liked it and enjoyed reading it, but I probably wouldn’t reread it. Not because it isn’t good, but because it just isn’t such an in-depth story that it benefits from a second reading. If you are looking for an easy read with an interesting mythos, this is a good pick.

When I first picked this book up, based solely on the title, I expected it to have some sort of action (e.g. hunting). This was definitely not the case, but I didn’t find myself disappointed on that front.

One of the more unexpected aspects for me was how long we spend with the main character as a child. In most YA novels, if you see the protagonist as a child it’s for a chapter or two and then the majority of the book has the protag as a teen. In TBiaA I believe full half of the novel takes place before Alys reaches her teen years. Luckily the narration isn’t childish so it’s still enjoyable to read. (Or as enjoyable as reading about a kid in a terrible situation can be, that is.)

One of my favorite aspects of the writing was the way that when Alys is a child, the narration is just vague enough that you know what’s going on, but you might not realize everything. Then when she is older the narration of the same things is specific enough that you realize aspects of it you hadn’t before. It helps you to understand things at the same pace as Alys, and keeps you in the characters head.

There is some split-POV in this book, with a few chapters from the perspective of a set of twins, and in fact the book starts from their perspective, but the majority is Alys’ POV. Usually I don’t like when books change point-of-view, but in this case I quite enjoyed it. In fact, I often found myself identifying more with the twins than the actual protagonist.

I did deeply enjoy the Welsh influence all over the book. I wondered when I saw the “ff” spelling of “forest” and then the protag’s name “Alys” and after only a few chapters I was convinced that this was a fictional world influenced by Wales which really enhanced my experience of the book. I was able to figure out all the pronunciations of the names based on my knowledge of Welsh language, and I got to hear all their voices in my head in Welsh accents, so it was quite nice.

If you are like me, you will spend at least half the book wondering if you’ll ever see any kind of diversity. The saving here is that the main character actually addresses that. She remarks that the people from outside her village are more diverse and wonders if it bothers the people in the village. Then later we do get to spend some time away from the all-white village and there is more diversity then. Including a nice little instance of the main character learning there are people who do not conform to a gender binary. I wish the diversity hadn’t come so late in the book, but having it at all in a fantasy novel was a pleasant surprise.

I will say, I wish there hadn’t been a romance. Or if there had to be, I wish it had been less intense and more slow-burning. Luckily, the romance didn’t crop up until almost the end of the book, so I didn’t have to deal with it long. I recognize the importance of Cian’s character as a confidant for Alys, but I wish Peternelle hadn’t decided to make him a love-interest… The only reason I can think of for adding a romance towards the end of the novel would be to give Alys something to hold on to and fight for. As it is, romance is completely unnecessary for that! She would have been just as motivated by family and community and acceptance, if not more-so. There was no reason at all to have Pawl and Beti conveniently have found another orphan for Alys to pair off with! (Twilight, anyone? Ugh.)

The ending also bothered me. Specifically the “final battle” (not actually a battle, but I can’t think what else to call it). It felt very rushed and sort of unfinished. Like the author hadn’t quite figured out how to end it and had to hurry to meet a deadline. Or perhaps like too many moments had been cut out of the ending scenes… Because it isn’t exactly the ending, but the way it ended, that was disappointing. It wasn’t so disappointing that it ruined the whole novel for me, but I did find myself reading the ending twice convinced I had missed something. It just didn’t seem fleshed-out enough.

I know this review sounds a bit negative for a book I claim to like. The main problem here is that the things I would most like to praise would involve too many spoilers! I don’t want to risk taking away from anyone’s enjoyment of the book, so I’ve had to leave those things out.