Review: Skinned by Robin Wasserman

Skinned (Cold Awakening, #1)Skinned by Robin Wasserman

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

To save her from dying in a horrible accident, Lia’s wealthy parents transplant her brain into a mechanical body. But now people look at her differently. Can her life ever go back to normal?

*** Note: The Skinned Trilogy was re-released with new titles and covers, renamed the Cold Awakening Trilogy. In this case, ‘Skinned’ was republished as ‘Frozen’. ***

TL;DR – This review got a bit lengthier than I intended. Short review: Book is good. Writing is solid. Worth the read. Looking forward to book two.

The writing is done well. As anyone who has read more than a page or two is aware, Lia is a fairly self-centered protagonist. She doesn’t pick up on much to do with the people around her. However, Wasserman manages to write in such a way as to make obvious to the reader what is going on with the people in Lia’s life, while also making it completely clear that Lia remains clueless. This is often done through the way a character says something to Lia or when she makes an off-hand comment about something.

I’ve read novels where the reader needed to know what was really going on while the protagonist remained oblivious, but it’s not often that I see it done so well as in Skinned.

The entire book was pretty allegorical where bigotry was concerned, and I love that. We see the way religion can be used to “excuse” hatred of those who are different, along with strong allusions to racism (some overt, some not). My favorite thing is the dehumanization that goes along with bigotry is made so blatant it’s impossible to miss.

I’d also like to mention: this is a book by a Jewish woman, so if you are one of the people taking the challenge to read books by more diverse authors, you should consider this or her other books.

Lia being so self-absorbed I really wanted to hate her, but the way she is treated makes it hard. Typically, I would write off a self-centered character right away, but watching her be mistreated [start]by literally everyone she ever thought cared about her[end] made me feel for her against my will.

I will say, I felt it took way too long for Lia to take the route we all know she needed to take. [start]That is, she clung to her old life for way longer than I was willing to read about it! I couldn’t believe it was almost the end of the book before she even started considering that she ought to move on with her new life![end] While I was reading, I kept catching myself mentally complaining that she wasn’t hanging out with any Mech-heads!

Fair warning, you won’t see much character growth from Lia in this book, but I’m hoping it will come in the sequel.

I’d also just like to say, as I said before I even knew I’d be writing a review for this book: I hate Jude. I found his personality grating; he seemed like a cocky jerk. I’m fairly certain this was intentional, but it doesn’t stop it being annoying to read his scenes. [start]Who does he think he is? Mech-Jesus?[end]
I have a bad feeling the second book (Crashed/Shattered) is going to include a romance between Jude and Lia and I can already feel the annoyance about it building when I’ve yet to even open the book.

I don’t like Ho Zo one bit, either. The things she does are understandable when you look at it from her perspective [start]she felt guilty because she was supposed to be in the car, but seriously there is no reason to be a bitch all the time[end], but the girl clearly needs better coping mechanisms. Like, take a chill pill. Literally. There’s a b-mod for everything. Use that shit.

Also, and this is completely spoiler-y so don’t read it if you haven’t finished the whole book: [start]Why didn’t Lia at least attempt to get her oh-so-powerful father to make them try the Download on Auden anyway??? Like yes, I understand the requirements, but her dad can do sooo many things and has sooo much sway, and yet she doesn’t even ask him to try and save Auden??? Noooo, she just runs the fuck away! FFS LIA!

To be clear: I’m not bothered that she chose to run away. If I was her I’d have run away pretty much the second I figured out how to run! My problem is that she just ran away without even considering taking a moment to try and help the only friend she had.[end]

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Abandoned: Psych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson

Psych Major SyndromePsych Major Syndrome by Alicia Thompson

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

College freshman and psychology major, Leigh Nolan, finds her problem-solving skills woefully inadequate when it comes to her increasingly tangled and complicated romantic relationships.

I don’t always rate abandoned books, and certainly don’t review them, because often I feel like I don’t have a right, having not read hardly any of it. However, with this book, I disliked it by page 28 and couldn’t find a single reason to keep reading, so I’m including a 1 star (did not like it) rating and a brief review.

I found the main character’s personality grating. She complained a lot, but actively chose to ignore her problems or any ways of fixing them, instead choosing to….you guessed it, complain some more! With all the complaints about herself and her life she had, she still somehow managed to talk about herself as if she thought she was super special, even to the extent of denigrating others to show how special she was. I’m aware that some character progression would probably be made later in the book, but when I tried to imagine forcing my way through this book long enough to get to that, I wanted to jump off a balcony…

The boyfriend was an asshole, which is more of a personal annoyance, not a flaw in the novel. It’s perfectly normal to have a character the audience isn’t supposed to like, but when it’s a book where I personally can’t even like the main character, it’s hard to deal with the annoying characters, too.

Actually all the side characters felt fairly…..not even just unrealistic, but affected and fake-interesting.

Basically the whole thing felt like the author was trying to hard to create uniqueness.

In an attempt to discover if the book would improve, I took to Goodreads reviews (which I didn’t bother with before reading because someone recommended this one to me personally, a choice which I regret) and discovered people to be pretty divided. A love it or hate it sort of thing.
But what settled the matter of keep slogging through or give up, was a review by Maggie whose resolve I applaud (they actually managed to finish the book). Their review covered a part of the book that got pretty racist. Not having made it this far into the book myself, I recommend you read their review for yourself here.

After reading about it, I realized I wasn’t willing to force my way through a book I didn’t like just to have to read a scene like that!

I will point out that someone in the comments of Maggie’s review says Alicia Thompson has admitted this scene was wrong and claimed to learn from it, but since I couldn’t find any proof of this anywhere, I’d take that with a grain of salt. If true, I’m glad, if not, I’m not surprised, and either way it doesn’t excuse anything or make me willing to finish this book.

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Completed: The Tale of Elske by Cynthia Voigt

The Tale of ElskeThe Tale of Elske by Cynthia Voigt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Raised among the barbaric Wolfers, thirteen-year-old Elske is saved from becoming the Volkking’s Death Maiden by her grandmother, and flees north, where she becomes the servant and friend of Princess Beriel–who is determined to claim the kingdom that is her birthright, stolen from her by her treacherous brother.
The Tale of Elske (or ‘Elske’, depending on which version you have) is the fourth and final novel in the loosely-connected, non-magical fantasy series Tales of the Kingdom.

This is the third time I’ve read Elske’s story and I think I love it more each time.

As always, I loved catching the little hints at events and beloved characters from the previous novels. And I noticed some less obvious points of symmetry this time around, which I’ll credit to the turn of Fortune’s Wheel.

Cynthia’s writing here is as beautiful as ever, to the extent that I found the novel hard to put down, despite my determination to read it slower than the last times, and even found myself clutching the book rather a long time after I was done reading. There is something indescribably enjoyable about the way Cynthia Voigt builds and describes a world, and her books are worth reading for that fact alone.

I’m not sure which I found more entertaining, when people automatically underestimated Elske (her knowledge, her abilities, etc.), or when they found her inscrutably strange and instinctively recognized the strength inside her.

It was gratifying to watch as Elske changed and grew, sometimes even to the extent that she surprised herself. Voigt is a master of character development, no doubt about that.

I did find myself lost once regarding where they were located in the world, which didn’t happen in any of the previous Kingdom novels, but the time I am talking about happened only once and at the beginning when Elske didn’t quite know where she was either, so I give it a pass. Who knows, perhaps it was intentional.

One thing I appreciated was that the Volkaric, this world’s “barbarians”, were not the “dark-skinned barbarians” so common in fantasy works. The book could’ve had more diversity, but some descriptions of people in various places were left vague enough to be whatever the reader liked.
I also found myself thinking a few times that the story could be improved with that universal improver of stories: lesbianism, but alas it wasn’t meant to be this time.

From here I think everything I have to say contains at least small spoilers so you can use your own judgement on reading it or not:

[start]I would have liked to see Beriel’s battle, or at least had more of it recounted, but then it’s Elske’s tale not hers so I’ll just have to imagine it myself from the bit that was shared with Elske.

Like Elske, I panicked a bit when I learned of Win’s actions and his precarious fate!

But the main thing I wanted to hide here in the spoiler tags was this: WHAT THE FUCK BERIEL!? ELSKE HAS NEVER BEEN ANYTHING BUT LOYAL AND A TRUE FRIEND AND YOU HAVE TO THROW A LITTLE BITCH FIT AND END YOUR FRIENDSHIP FOREVER BECAUSE SHE AND THE EARL WANT TO MARRY?????????
(Note: I recognize the goodness in having characters with flaws, but that doesn’t make me any less pissed at Beriel.)
[end]

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Completed: The Tale of Oriel by Cynthia Voigt

The Tale of OrielThe Tale of Oriel by Cynthia Voigt

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Oriel, a strong and remarkable young boy taken into captivity as an infant by a cruel man, decides to escape from his life of hardship and betrayal and takes Griff, his loyal companion, with him.

I have more to say and maybe I will, but for now I just want to say that I love Oriel.

And that thing that happens towards the end, I knew it was coming, but reading Oriel and loving him made me forget so it shocked me and hurt just as much as the first time!

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Completed: Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink

Prophecy of the Sisters (Prophecy of the Sisters, #1)Prophecy of the Sisters by Michelle Zink

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

In late nineteenth-century New York state, wealthy sixteen-year-old twin sisters Lia and Alice Milthorpe find that they are on opposite sides of an ancient prophecy that has destroyed their parents and seeks to do even more harm.

God I wanted to like this book so much…. The premise is interesting, combined with a unique setting for this type of story. This book had so much potential, but it just didn’t seem to come together.

From chapter to chapter it felt disjointed, like the story didn’t fit together quite right.

I found myself thinking often that I wish I could have read this story from Alice’s POV instead of Lia’s, because Alice would be more interesting. And Lia didn’t really feel like the main character, despite it being her story. More often I found myself reading each scene wondering what Alice was up to, what Alice was thinking, what Alice’s childhood was like!

I also found it frustrating that very little of their information came from discovery of any kind. They didn’t do research, they didn’t parse out the prophecy, they just had a series of info dump tea parties where someone tells them what they need to know.
Then, once they have new information, they never seem to really go over what they know and what they don’t to make conclusions. They start to go over it a few times, but they just stop everytime for no real reason. And they never dig for details. Whatever someone is willing to tell them is plenty. Why keep digging, it’s only life and death, right?

I mentioned earlier not being able to see how this story could possibly become a series, and now that I’ve read the end of this book I have to say…. I see how it’s going to be a series, but I don’t think it should be. Honestly this entire book read like ‘part 1’ of a single novel, the part you rush through to get to the meat of the story.

I don’t see myself reading the sequels unless someone can make a really good argument for it. I also don’t think I’d recommend this book to anyone.

That’s as much as I can say without spoiling anything, but there’s a bit more for anyone who wants it:

[start]Major complaint: 3 pages of suicidality magically ended by wind????????????????

I found myself wishing a lot of the time that Lia would just open the Gate and let the Souls fuck up the world so something INTERESTING would happen![end]

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Review: The Barcode Tattoo by Suzanne Weyn

The Bar Code Tattoo (Bar Code, #1)The Bar Code Tattoo by Suzanne Weyn

My rating: 1 of 5 stars

Things for Kayla progress from bad, as in being told her computer grades disqualify her from an art scholarship, to worse, when she refuses to accept an identification bar code tattoo on her seventeenth birthday.

I was very disappointed in this book. The premise had so much potential, but the writing was poor and the plot was not developed well at all. Maybe if she rewrote the whole thing and got a better editor….

Actually, I’ll elaborate just a bit on the “poor writing” comment: It was written as if by a 13-year-old writing their first story for English class. That is to say, the idea was solid enough, but the execution needs work. There were several scenes where it seemed as if the author didn’t know where her character’s were. For instance, at one point they went from laying together by a pond or lake (I can’t remember the specific water feature) and then one of them kneels down by the other. There were other problems, a rambling writing style that was unclear much of the time and bland the rest. This is why I say it isn’t just a problem of the writer, but also a problem of the editor not doing their job well.

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