Sunday, March 30, 2014

Some books I really didn't enjoy...like AT ALL.

Once in awhile I read something that rubs me the wrong way, sometimes in more than one way, and the ranting that ensues- in public, in my head, to my husband- can be pretty over the top. I mean, I could fuel a small suburban with the energy I expend on disliking said book. Thank god it's not often, but alas, every once in awhile you have to hit a stinker to make the great books stand out even more. Or at least that's what I tell myself to help get through them. I would say that a truly bad book can inspire more passion in me than most average books and sometimes, if it's truly heinous, more passion then I have for some of the books I truly love. Talk about mis-spent energy! So let me take up my soap box, and get these out of my system so I can spend my energy on loving some more worth while books.

From Goodreads:
Your heart beats only with their permission.

Everything changed on The Day. The day the windows shattered. The day the power stopped. The day Dol's family dropped dead. The day Earth lost a war it didn't know it was fighting.

Since then, Dol has lived a simple life in the countryside -- safe from the shadow of the Icon and its terrifying power. Hiding from the one truth she can't avoid.

She's different. She survived. Why?

When Dol and her best friend, Ro, are captured and taken to the Embassy, off the coast of the sprawling metropolis once known as the City of Angels, they find only more questions. While Ro and fellow hostage Tima rage against their captors, Dol finds herself drawn to Lucas, the Ambassador's privileged son. But the four teens are more alike than they might think, and the timing of their meeting isn't a coincidence. It's a conspiracy.

Within the Icon's reach, Dol, Ro, Tima, and Lucas discover that their uncontrollable emotions -- which they've always thought to be their greatest weaknesses -- may actually be their greatest strengths.


Riding high on my enjoyment of the the Beautiful Creatures series, I was super stoked to see that Margaret Stohls independent venture was in the library ebook collection.  I had my then new and sparkling Kobo, and I couldn't wait to read my first ebook.

To be fair, I'm generally not a sci-fi kinda gal. My husband disputes it, but really, I'm a tough sell on time travel or aliens and the like.  BUT this was an author whose 4 previous books I'd enjoyed so I figured I likely couldn't go wrong. Also, people on the twitter vine were raving about it, and usually that's a pretty good indicator I'm in for something fun.

Two things really sunk this book for me though. The characters were unappealing and often dry, and the premise seemed like something I'd read 30 times before.

It got off to good start, in the first few pages I was intrigued and drawn in by her set up and the players. It was ominous, but Ro seemed infectiously good natured, and although it had a dystopian vibe to it I wasn't yet feeling like it was derivative. Maybe if there had been a bit more character development prior to Ro and Dol being captured it could have carried me into the much heavier alien invasion-esque parts of the story. Maybe I would have been a bit more invested. However, Lucas was introduced immediately and the friction between him and Ro, over Dol and over loyalties was too much, too soon, and I was constantly rolling my eyes. Drama, drama, drama people. Just putting it there doesn't automatically make it work. I have to give a sh*t about these characters first. Really I do. An awkward love triangle does not a story make.

What's worse is that this sank all the actual plot led tension for me, I was so constantly annoyed by these characters that I didn't care what was going on, it all became tedious.  That being said, the plot was painfully uninventive. Four kids, all who survived when others didn't, turns out they have "super powers" which conveniently make them the perfect weapons to rescue humanity from the aliens. Of course backgrounds, dead parents, live parents and messy love octagons all come into play. So I Am Number Four/False Memory but done with none of the finesse or stylish plot twists.

This was a seriously painful read for me, and the only thing that kept me from DNF'ing it was Stohl's name. I was convinced she was going to pull some last minute trick to make me like these kids, to suck me into the story. Alas, she did not.

Icons, by Margaret Stohl
Published by Little Brown, May 7th, 2013
Buy Icons on Amazon

From Goodreads:
Alexa Hollen is a fighter. Forced to disguise herself as a boy and serve in the king's army, Alex uses her quick wit and fierce sword-fighting skills to earn a spot on the elite prince's guard. But when a powerful sorcerer sneaks into the palace in the dead of night, even Alex, who is virtually unbeatable, can't prevent him from abducting her, her fellow guard and friend Rylan, and Prince Damian, taking them through the treacherous wilds of the jungle and deep into enemy territory.

The longer Alex is held captive with both Rylan and the prince, the more she realizes that she is not the only one who has been keeping dangerous secrets. And suddenly, after her own secret is revealed, Alex finds herself confronted with two men vying for her heart: the safe and steady Rylan, who has always cared for her, and the dark, intriguing Damian. With hidden foes lurking around every corner, is Alex strong enough to save herself and the kingdom she's sworn to protect?

Oh good god! The reasons I loathed this book are actually legion. I'm not sure if I can hold back my angst over all the heinous faults this book commits. But I will try to limit myself.

FOR STARTERS!! If you're going to steal a classic Tamora Pierce story and use it as the mainstay of your plot, then you better damn well do it justice with a kick ass heroine and some fabulous girl power story telling. Also, you better be an astounding writer. Larson has done, and is, none of these things, and my Tamora Pierce fangirl self is full of rage over it.

Alexa is the single most appalling hidden girl in the history of stories about girls pretending to be boys. Everyone she thinks she's been hidden from all these years, seems to already know she's a girl. Rylan has known forever from some slip up her brother made early on, and the Prince has "figured it out", which seems like a pretty bad sign since she doesn't have a lot to do with him. That is irritating, but certainly something I could overlook if it was the stories only fault. However Alex/Alexa who has been harbouring secrets and telling lies to friends for years is an exceptionally judgey McJudgeypants about everyone else's secrets. And her insanely over the top, girly reactions to them are so offensive to me as a woman that I can hardly think about it without steam coming out of my ears. But probably her biggest offence as a character is her appalling lack of thought for anyone around her, other than herself. As in any trite story, both the boys are in love with her (but of course), and her endlessly thoughtlessness towards Rylan is so awful I can't imagine why he still likes her.
It looked like his eyes glistened but before I could be sure, he pulled me to him and his mouth was on mine and all I could think about was the feel of his lips, his hand in my hair, the intoxicating smell of his skin, and my heart trying to burst from my chest. I wanted to lose myself in his kiss; I wanted him to take me in his arms and never let me go again. But I was all too aware that Rylan slept across the room from us. I forced myself to break away.
When Damian gave me a questioning look, I nodded over at Rylan, who was thankfully still asleep, snoring softly.
Damian sighed and pressed his lips to the groove where my jaw met my neck, just below my ear, sending a shiver of want through me...Unable to speak as he continued to kiss my throat, his lips soft on my skin. At last, when I could barely breath, I took him by the shoulders and pushed him back. He smiled wickedly at me, a teasing glint in his eyes.
"Are you sure you want me to stop?"
I stared at his mouth, my heart still pounding. I almost said no, but then I remembered Rylan.
 For that matter, I can't see what Damian sees in her either.

Between the characters I didn't like, the plot contrivances I couldn't believe, and some really unimpressive writing, this book did nothing but leave a really bad taste in my mouth. Which was seriously disappointing, since a Tamora Pierce-esque fantasy with a kick ass girl heroine is my number one soft spot when it comes to reading.

Defy, by Sara B. Larson
Published by Scholastic, January 7th, 2013
My copy kindly provided by the publisher
Buy Defy on Amazon

From Goodreads:
Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the-Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

Ok, so it seemed that Sarah Rees Brennan was one of those big holes in my YA reading. Libba Bray, Holly Black, Maureen Johnson, Cassie Clare, among others, are huge friends and fans of her work, so what other convincing could I possibly need to pick up her books?  Unspoken was getting a lot of twitter buzz in the lead up to the release of book two, so I decided to give it a go in the week before book two released, imagining that I would hardly be able to wait if I started it sooner.
Um, not so much.

Let me just start by saying that in all fairness there was something wrong with my Kobo, and I was missing 1-3 sentences off each page, which was insanely confusing and made the story really disjointed. Turns out there was an update I hadn't downloaded, whoops! So obviously there is only so much I can say about the story. I found the story lacking in finesse, and the plot was a bit stilted for me, and although I'm pretty sure that wouldn't change if I'd read a complete story, I certainly can't definitively say, having read a bastardized version.

I can definitively say I didn't get the Kami/Jared relationship at all. The I hate him/I love him?/He's a dick/He's my soulmate conundrum left me cold. Although I can appreciate that this wasn't some immediate and easy romance, I couldn't understand the confusion and aggression about them being real. I mean they described their lives and homes and friends to each other, over the years, in great detail. They had long conversations and shared things to a degree that they had to make boundaries about it. Why would they ever think the other was made up? Also, in all those descriptions, how is it they never, ever got across what they looked like? How is it possibly a shock that Kami isn't white??  I just couldn't get this relationship at all, which was fundamental to liking the story, and even more so to enjoying the big finale leading into book two.

A confusing read for me, one I'm almost tempted to try again with a completed ebook file just to prove I actually didn't like it, since soo many others do! But alas, I'm pretty sure it really wouldn't float my boat either way. The Kami/Jared thing is way to integral to the plot and I just couldn't get on board with their issues and weirdness.

Unspoken, by Sarah Rees Brennan
Published by Random House, September 2012

4 comments:

  1. Well, the first two definitely look TOO BAD or too typical
    But I really wanted to like the third one.I have heard a lot about Unspoken
    Nonetheless, I might read just to try for myself
    GREAT rantings :)
    Your reader,
    Soma
    http://insomnia-of-books.blogspot.com/

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  2. Oh No! All three of these are in my TBR pile! I'll try to keep my expectations in check.

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    1. Oh boy! I can't wait to hear what you think!

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