Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Horde by Ann Aguirre

Hey, guys! So today we're reviewing "Horde," by Ann Aguirre. It's the last book in the Razorland Trilogy (starting with "Enclave"). It's a dystopian, post-apocalyptic book, one of my favorite kinds of YA, complete with badass protagonist, unique antagonist, a romance I shipped from day one, and an engaging, action-filled, fast-paced plot.

So, the cover: I preferred the cold dark shades of the previous books (blue and green) but the blood is a nice touch. I just wish it was maybe black with silver branches. Meh. I don't judge books that belong to awesome series by their covers.

The characters: DEUCE! I love you! Deuce grows even more during this book, although she doesn't actually get much time to, considering all the war-faring she has to do. Deuce is realistic and kick-ass at the same time, which is a feat for a YA character, especially a dystopian/post-apocalyptic YA character. She doesn't always succeed, she makes a lot of mistakes, and she's got so many flaws you can't help but admire the author for writing her. Also, the amazing parts of her character are absolutely stunning. As for Fade, I can't help but miss the Fade from the first half of "Enclave" - the Fade whose fighting skills were unmatched; the Fade who survived on his own for years and was an admired Hunter; the Fade who sometimes showed off just a little as if to say "I'm badass and I know it". He's still swoon-worthy and unwaveringly loyal and an amazing fighter, but still. I miss Fade underground. Stalker has improved a lot and shocked me a little with what he did, and Tegan has grown as well. She's independent and brave in her own way, and no longer relies on Deuce and the others to keep her safe. The surrounding character (especially the boy who carried the flag, I loved him!) were all well developed and round. The new character introduced were very impressive, like Morrow. This was some brilliant character writing.

The plot: the beginning and middle were about the same level as "Outpost," the second book. They weren't as thrilling and un-put-down-able as "Enclave," but they were engaging. I particularly loved Deuce's failures at what she was trying to achieve. She set out overconfident, but gradually and realistically achieved what their goal was. And then there was the last third of the book. It was absolutely stunning. It was chock full of action, extremely fast-paced, gripping, and I could barely stand to blink while reading it. I didn't put it down until I was done, and it reminded me why I love this series so much. And then there was the ending. It was beautiful and perfect, and I have a case of book depression (you know that feeling when a series you love is over and you don't know whether to laugh or cry?). While I was reading the epilogue, I wanted to shout (and I'll try not to spoil anything) "BELIEVE IT PEOPLE! IT'S ALL TRUE!" In any case, it was perfect. Not just the characters, this was some brilliant writing.

If you haven't started this series yet, definitely read it. Gabriel doesn't seem as impressed with this series as I am, though. It's not for everyone, but if you share the post-apocalyptic part of my taste in books, it will be worth it. What impresses me is how Ann Aguirre seems to understand how I feel about words and storied. Some of the things she said mirror my thoughts exactly. So seeing as I've been singing praises of this book, I'm sure it doesn't surprise you when I say, for this book and the series as a whole:

3.5 stars.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Hey, guys! A lot of long-awaited last books have come out, and we have been greedily devouring them all while trying to forget that there are things we desperately have to be doing. (We've realized we might need an intervention.) So, today's review is for "Allegiant," by Veronica Roth, last book in the Divergent trilogy.

Cover: the colors are impressive, and this time, the symbol on the cover isn't a faction symbol. I wasn't sure what it was until I started reading, but it makes sense now. I approve of this one's motto: "One choice will define you." The word "will" instead of "can" portrays a sense of finality that this book definitely provided.

Characters: I'm sorry to say, the characters didn't have the same effect on me as usual. Four, especially, seemed completely different in this one. He mistrusted Tris, succumbed to his fear (the one thing the old Four absolutely refused to do, one of the main things that defined him), and he made mistakes the Four we knew never would have done. As for Tris, thankfully, she was her typical self. She grew even more in this book, and stayed true to herself until the very end. We get to see Caleb in a slightly different light, although I can't say I like him. What happened to some of the characters was heartbreaking, whether alive or dead. Unfortunately, even while I was reading, I found myself dearly missing Divergent.

The plot: I'm not sure why the plot progressed the way it did. It wasn't terrible, and it made some sense because they were now both inside and outside of the faction city, but having two plots run parallel and then solve one in the middle and the other towards the end just didn't have the unity that the first two books had, especially the first one.

The ending: I can see what Roth hoped to accomplish by this, but it was completely unnecessary and deserves an entire star deduction for it. It shouldn't have happened. There are circumstances when this would have made a book stunning, but this is definitely not one of them.

Overall, I can't believe I'm saying this, but this book was a disappointment. I can't bring myself to give it a high rate, because of how much more I have come to expect from this series, but I can't bring myself to give it no stars, because I loved Divergent. Letting a series I love go is usually painful, because I can't come to terms with the fact that I won't ever see these characters in the future again. This time, it was painful because it disappointed me, and I can't put the series as a whole on the altar I thought it would deserve. It was really disappointing. :(

1.5 stars.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Breakable by Aimee L. Salter

Hey, guys! So, we kinda died there for awhile, but we're alive and back now, so, sorry for the break. This review is for "Breakable," by Aimee L. Salter, and it is completely honest and no money was exchanged for this review.

The cover has meaning so don't write it off just yet!!!

I'll start off by saying that this book surprised me in a very good way. Reading the synopsis, I wasn't sure what to expect, but once I picked up the book, I couldn't put it down. It was engaging and unique, and I finished it in one sitting. Chick-lit isn't usually a genre I love, so congrats to Aimee L. Salter for that.

The characters: the main character, Stacy, is as expected an insecure teenage girl. Normally girls with excessive insecurities annoy me, but it added to the story. It was understandable, the way she accepted it as a fact. The thing about writing an insecure girl is how easy it would be to make her just like every insecure character out there. But a version of her future self in the mirror? That sets the story apart. Mark was the average best-friend-hot-crush guy who was apparently perfect in every way and could do no wrong. What made him not detract slightly from my opinion of the story was the fact that Stacy later realizes that he isn't perfect in any way, not even close. That's exactly what she says: "not even close". There were the typical mean guys and mean girls that I successfully hated - nothing special. But there was also the ex-boyfriend, Dexter, who was very interesting. he could be described with vivid diction. That's all I can say without a spoiler. Stacy's character developed a lot, and the ending bit with her conversation with the artist made the ending a good one.

The plot kept me engaged. Obviously, in a story about character growth, the characters should be your favorite part of the story. Surprisingly, I enjoyed the plot just as much. It was paced well, and never missed an opportunity to shape the characters.

Story telling: I liked that it was told by Stacy as her accounts to a therapist. It was interesting.

However, I was confused for a while towards the end, with the whole old-me/current-me changing thing. that confusion wasn't resolved until the very end, and now I'm fairly sure I understand what happened. But while I was reading it, it was difficult to keep up.

This was a good, engaging story that I found impossible to stop reading. It's not one I would keep visiting and read a hundred times over the years, partly because this just isn't my genre. If I could sum it up in one word, it would definitely be "unique", as I've mentioned several times.

So, 3.5 stars. Would I recommend it? YES!!! Gabby likes it more than I do, but even I agree that it was a great read.

Aimee was kind enough to do an interview for Gabriel and I, so here it is:

Who is your favorite author?

That's a really hard question! Mainly because it changes depending on my mood. But in terms of my favorite book of all, it was written by Katja Millay. She's an incredible talent AND a really nice, funny person. So if I have to choose, I'd say her.

In YA I also love Kody Keplinger (especially for "The Duff"), Jay Asher, and Sarah Dessen.

For adults my favorites are Diana Gabaldon, Julie Anne Long, and Mary Brown.

2. What is your favorite genre/book and is your book similar to your favorite?

That's another one that depends a little on my mood. The genre I read to "escape" is historical romance, so that's nothing like what I write. But in terms of what I read the most, it's YA. In that I read more contemporary than anything else now. But I've always had a love for those stories that you felt could be real, but were just a little magical. So I guess I do write what I love just doesn't really fit a single genre!

3. What is your favorite part of Breakable?

The kiss, without a doubt. And the twist at the end.

I love the kiss because it takes me back to that romantic ideal I always had in high school (but only lived out once), where the seemingly unattainable guy turns out to be...attainable. It's a fun moment, and fairly deep for Stacy (the main character in BREAKABLE).

I also love the twist at the end because it's the thing readers always get excited about. "That ending! I love it!" As a reader I love it when I get what I call the "Aha moment". So it was fun to deliver one in my book.

4. Do the names of your characters have meaning?

No. I just choose names that "feel right" to me as the writer and I have no idea why they do. There have been times when I haven't been able to find the right name for the first draft or two, and it ends up bugging me every time I have to use it. I'll admit to having sorted through baby name websites before, working on names by definition until I find something that suits the personality of the character. But none of these characters were named that way.

5. How have your personal experiences affected your writing?

With this book my personal experiences have been quite crucial. I was very passionate about art in high school, and I was bullied (though I didn't realize that until years later - I just thought I was unpopular). So I was able to draw on my own experiences in that sense. But as a rule I don't depict actual events that happened in my life. The main character is very different to me, so it wouldn't work to try and do that anyway. I just know what kind of tone to set, or what is a realistic interaction between characters because I lived through similar things.

6. When did you know you wanted to be an author?

I remember wanting to write books when I was very young. Seven or eight. But I didn't identify that as a "career choice" until I was about ten. And I didn't believe when I was young that I could do it. So I didn't start seriously writing with the goal of trying to get published until I was in my thirties. It's been a long journey from wish to reality for me!

7. How many hours a day do you spend on writing?

Right now, about twelve. Every day. There's A LOT of work in putting out a book. Normally I'd give 20-30 hours a week to it, depending on the week, and what other responsibilities I have. When I'm drafting a new book I tend to write for 2-3 hours solid, once or twice a day, depending on whether it's flowing easily or not.

8. Who or what inspired you to write your story?

Well, there's the well-documented "inspiration" behind BREAKABLE: that I was reading the Dear Teen Me website, in which authors write letters to their teenage selves. That inspired the core premise.

But the story came on a much more personal level. Stacy deals with ruthless bullying at school and at home. I didn't have it in my home life, but life for me was awful at school through junior high and up until about 11th grade. So once I got the story going and realized bullying was going to be a big part of Stacy's journey too, then I was determined to make sure those aspects of the story were really authentic. I drew from my experience, and from the stories I heard from my nieces and other young people I love.

9. Any ideas for self-publishing authors?

If you want to do it right you can't do it on a whim. You've got to try and replicate the process of a publisher - and no one else is going to do it for you. Be prepared to work really hard, for long hours, and potentially little financial gain. But if, like me, getting the story out there is more important than getting a ton of money, then do it and don't apologize.

Don't put more money in than you can afford to lose. Don't give in to the temptation to cut corners. And don't question your vision. No one knows your story like you do. Follow your dream!

10. Any advice for aspiring authors?

Learn the craft of fiction. I can't stress that enough. When you're in the trenches it feels like a lot of time given to something that isn't productive. But when you come out the other side and your voice is developing because your brain knows how to communicate it effectively, and your draft is flying, and you can see that you haven't stumbled down 15 rabbit trails on the way, you'll gladly give those hours twice over. It's worth it!

Thanks for having me, Gabrielle. I really appreciate all your support!
No Problem Aimee! Thanks for the ARC, I really enjoyed it.