Review: Something Strange and Deadly

Something Strange and Deadly
Something Strange and Deadly by Susan Dennard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Philadelphia 1876. The Dead are rising. A zombie delivers a letter to Eleanor Fitt. Whoever controls the Dead Army has her brother. She avoids her mother’s choice of husband for the lab of Spirit Hunters, including the maddeningly stubborn yet handsome Daniel. The situation threatens her reputation, and the lives of everyone in the city.

This book has been whirlwind of action. Starting with the first scene when Eleanor witnesses a zombie attack, till the end of the book, it is fast-paced and exhilarating. Gowns and grandeur is mixed up with dead and voodoo in this awesome period book, and the protagonist Eleanor is a girl ahead of her times. Despite her mother’s scheming to get her married off to the most eligible bachelor, Eleanor is fixated on first finding her missing brother. The search for him leads her to the Spirit Hunters, and the mess of the zombies, as well as Daniel. And I should say – the chemistry between them – it’s good that lab didn’t burn down. He cares for her and wants to protect her, but doesn’t consider a dainty little lady who can’t handle it. And her attraction towards him despite his nefarious past just fuels the tension between them. Plot-wise, well, I saw the major twists coming from afar – they were predictable. The pacing, though fast, wasn’t consistent and both together were probably the two low points of my experience reading this book. However, elaborate writing and romance more than made up for it. Highly recommended for those who are craving adventure this moment.

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Review: Generation Dead

Generation Dead
Generation Dead by Daniel Waters

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

All over the country, a strange phenomenon is occurring. Some teenagers who die aren’t staying dead. But when they come back to life, they are no longer the same. Feared and misunderstood, they are doing their best to blend into a society that doesn’t want them.

The administration at Oakvale High attempts to be more welcoming of the “differently biotic.” But the students don’t want to take classes or eat in the cafeteria next to someone who isn’t breathing. And there are no laws that exist to protect the “living impaired” from the people who want them to disappear—for good.

When Phoebe falls for Tommy Williams, the leader of the dead kids, no one can believe it; not her best friend, Margi, and especially not her neighbor, Adam, the star of the football team. Adam has feelings for Phoebe that run much deeper than just friendship; he would do anything for her. But what if protecting Tommy is the one thing that would make her happy?

Generation Dead is a zombie novel with shades of Warm Bodies and the Princess and the Frog thrown in. From the cover, it comes across a romance oriented novel, with probably a little humor and laughs about zombies acclimating to living, but in the subtext, the book delves into abuse of people considered different by society, be it homosexuality or race. The author metaphorically brings that out in this new America where there are undead teens trying to co-exist with the living. They are bullied, and beaten and even killed, but they try to make their fellow classmates aware that they too deserve a place in society.

Besides the main arc, there is a lot of smaller plots that enrich the story immensely. Pete and his hate against the zombies is brought about vividly through his perspective, which humanizes him without excusing him. Adam and his feelings for Phoebe, for which he is resolved to do anything, even help out the zombies, shows the power of one person making a radical change. Phoebe is, of course, the main driver of the story, since she takes the first step towards friendliness with the undead and also making her friends understand from their perspective. She, however, is human and keeps getting caught in a bigger battle between the living and the not. Her relationship with Tommy, I felt, was sweet but swept aside for development with Adam. And with that ending, I can somewhat see where the plot is taking. Nevertheless, I am excited to read the next and the next.

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Review: Life Before Legend

Life Before Legend
Life Before Legend by Marie Lu

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

As twelve-year-olds struggling to survive in two very different worlds within the Republic’s stronghold, June was starting her first day of school at Drake University as the youngest cadet ever admitted, and Day was fighting for food on the streets of the Lake sector.

Life Before Legend has two short stories – one of Day’s first kiss, and the other of June’s first day. For 12 year olds, both are plucky, fierce and strong people, as can be seen by Day’s act of selflessness and June standing up to bullies. You can’t think of them as kids, when one has to live on the streets, scavenging for food, while the other has to stand up to ridicule and scorn, but I couldn’t help but gush imagining them as gawky little teens! I wouldn’t give away much of the story, but Day’s story? Not as mysterious as hinted as in Prodigy; it was sort of okay with a hint of creepy. June, well, girl was always badass and what more can be said of that, besides her also being incredibly smart. I, however, would have preferred her infamous record climb or something like that.

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Review: Prodigy

Prodigy
Prodigy by Marie Lu

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Injured and on the run, it has been seven days since June and Day barely escaped Los Angeles and the Republic with their lives. Day is believed dead having lost his own brother to an execution squad who thought they were assassinating him. June is now the Republic’s most wanted traitor. Desperate for help, they turn to the Patriots – a vigilante rebel group sworn to bring down the Republic. But can they trust them or have they unwittingly become pawns in the most terrifying of political games?

As much as Legend lacked in world-building, Prodigy made up it. June and Day, both are on the run, and their pain is nowhere close to decreasing. Day is still haunted by his family’s deaths and June is still having mixed feelings about the Republic, more so now that the Elector has changed to Anden. Anden seems sincere and wants to make changes to the Republic, but the Patriots want him out of power in any case. But as they go about their separate missions, there is a lot of things that don’t add up. And the things that don’t add up and the things that they encounter start wedging between them, and even though you know that they are the OTP, it all seems so hopeless between them too, especially at the ending. Still, I believe that love will prevail, and June won’t let of Day. Characters are written so well by Lu, and she makes them the major focus of the story development. Repeatedly, it is quite shocking that we are talking about 15 year olds being asked to assassinate people or become faces of revolution. It hurts on a Hunger Games level to think about how messed up the militarial state of the Republic is.

For a dystopian, the plot does rely on romance subtly. Major driver for the plot, though, is the political maneuvers that are being played. We also get the canon history, and that was a plus, because then the world makes so much sense. I was beginning to wonder why all dystopians take place only in the US of A, but this one explains it at least. I still hope to see the rest of the world also to have some role in the next, which is also the finale. Sadly, I don’t have the book yet and since I want to complete this hardback collection, I will have to wait.

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Review: Legend

Legend
Legend by Marie Lu

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths – until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Legend, in it’s world-building, does come off like a standard dystopian YA novel. Oppressive government? Check! Divide between rich and poor? Check! Rebels? Check! One true face of rebellion? Big check! So, what is new, you might ask? The conspiracies, and the romance. Yep, romance, even though it doesn’t really feel like it, with June’s isolated nature and Day’s mistrust due to his life, there are times when you feel it won’t work out. And her being sent to hunt him down doesn’t help matters, but what I loved is how they brought out the best in each other. She turns her back on what she knows to step into the light with him, and he becomes more than a Robin Hood when he is turned into the Mockingjay Partiot’s cause. I would recommend this purely for the developments, but the world isn’t that impressive.

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Review: 3:59

3:59
3:59 by Gretchen McNeil

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

3:59 is an amazing science fiction novel about parallel universes. Josie Bryne is an overachieving whiz kid, who is recently saddened by a betrayal from her best friends. In her anger and sadness, she agrees to swap places with herself in another universe, which seemed better. Being the daughter of a scientist who specializes in parallel universes, she is quite intrigued by the idea, as well as the chance to go a world where that sadness hasn’t touched her. Turns out, that world is worse than hers and she is trapped thanks to the other Josie (Jo) who tricked her. As she acclimates in this slightly different world and slightly different life, she looks for a way back to her world. Her determination is strengthened when she discovers she wasn’t the first to do so.

3:59, on a world-building level, derives from the Schrodinger’s paradox, and as little as I understand of physics (bio geek here), this book’s canon made quite a lot of sense to me. I admit, there were times when I was stumped, but 12th grade physics kicked in and I went with the flow. The writing was surreal and the author certainly didn’t pull any punches with the plot. The characters were fleshed out well, particularly those of the other world, and I was very much interested in what the consequences of Nick’s brother’s existence would be. Sadly, this book doesn’t seem to have a sequel, so as much as I loved it, it hurts to say goodbye to the characters. Really, one of my favorite standalones!

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Review: Will Grayson, Will Grayson

Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two strangers cross paths. Two teens with the same name, running in two very different circles, suddenly find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, culminating in heroic turns-of-heart and the most epic musical ever to grace the high-school stage.

Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a cute, hilarious and heart-touching book about acceptance, and understanding. The concept of the story is simple – call it coincidence or the universe at work, two Will Graysons meet one night and though their lives don’t directly intersect one another’s, the presence of the other is a big change in each one’s life. Will Grayson #1 is a bit of a cynical guy, who doesn’t believe in caring or speaking up. #2 is a depressed guy who is gay but dealing with a friend who is very much interested in him. The story for #2 isn’t about how he comes to terms with his sexuality and all, if that’s what you are thinking. It more with how both the Will Graysons wake up and look outside themselves. #1 feels inconsequential next to his friend Tiny Cooper, who later on becomes #2’s boyfriend. It’s all very cute in the start and typical of John Green books, gets sadder but fortunately not TFIOS level sad. No deaths in this one, whew! The alternating voices of both Will Graysons are remarkably done by Green and Leviathan, and the way the story twines together is beautiful. I especially loved the ending, which was pretty sweet.

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Review: Everything That Makes You

Everything That Makes You
Everything That Makes You by Moriah McStay

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

One girl. Two stories. Meet Fiona Doyle. The thick ridges of scar tissue on her face are from an accident twelve years ago. Fiona has notebooks full of songs she’s written about her frustrations, her dreams, and about her massive crush on beautiful uber-jock Trent McKinnon. If she can’t even find the courage to look Trent straight in his beautiful blue eyes, she sure isn’t brave enough to play or sing any of her songs in public. But something’s changing in Fiona. She can’t be defined by her scars anymore.

And what if there hadn’t been an accident? Meet Fi Doyle. Fi is the top-rated female high school lacrosse player in the state, heading straight to Northwestern on a full ride. She’s got more important things to deal with than her best friend Trent McKinnon, who’s been different ever since the kiss. When her luck goes south, even lacrosse can’t define her anymore. When you’ve always been the best at something, one dumb move can screw everything up. Can Fi fight back?

Everything That Makes You splits it’s narrative into two concurrent timelines – that of Fiona, with the scar and Fi, without the scar. What sets this book apart from similar books is that the timeline being further and longer from the original event that determined the split, the character develops quite differently. It’s similar to Just Like Fate, but goes extensively into how Fiona is shaped by her circumstances. Her life choices, her relationships, her reactions – everything differ so much, even though at the core, she is the same girl – slightly self-absorbed, but good at heart. At first, Fi is irritating because she is everything that Fiona should have been yet she appears to be so careless about others. Fiona is reserved, but lashes out at people who love her because she thinks she sees pity in their eyes. How these different girls go about their lives is the crux of the story.

The writing is good, and provides ample descriptions and tells a great story without really telling it. The underlying theme, is what if something had happened or not happened, how would that change you? We are, after all, a sum of our experiences, so how does nurture, or our environment, affect what we are fundamentally. It was an interesting take on this philosophy and I loved how the book presented it. The ending is happy on both counts, but don’t run parallel. Both of them have their own set of hardships, and this isn’t about who is better or whose life turned out better – it is more on how we are shaped by our life.

Received a galley from Katherine Teagen Books via Edelweiss.

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Book Blogger Hop: Mar 20-26

Book Blogger Hop

Book Blogger Hop is hosted by Coffee Addicted Writer

This week’s question is:

Do you read more on a rainy day or on a gorgeous day so you can be outside?

Answer:

Who cares about the weather when you have a book in hand? ;)

Review: The Dickens Mirror

The Dickens Mirror The Dickens Mirror by Ilsa J. Bick
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Set in an alternative London, The Dickens Mirror is within a single Now this time around. Continuing with the theme of blurring reality and fiction, Bick centers this story around Elizabeth, who is grown up and committed in this version of London. The setting is post-apocalyptic and the characters from the previous book appear in this, but slightly different. Of course, with multiverses, you can have mutliple variations on the same character, and the book plays on that. So, basic story – someone is hunting down these alternate variations of these characters and Emma is brought to this London as a kid. The adult Emma is stuck in the Dark Passages because the stain won’t allow her to leave. She and the other characters from the first, all are stuck here, and forced to live in Elizabeth’s consciousness. The build-up is definitely slow, nothing like White Space which was mostly horror and action. There is also a Arthur Conan Doyle alternate, and his reason for being there is quite interesting. The book gets very meta towards the end and truly, I cannot explain the ingenuity in words. The ending was surprisingly comforting for a reader, considering the previous book was of nightmarish proportions. I don’t know if this was a duology, but if it is, it ended pretty well, with good resolution to every character. The writing – well, there will never be a day when I don’t praise Bick. I suspect she uses the Dark Passages, with how real her books seem. ;) Honestly, she has this way of making so distinct and realistic multiple POVs, that I feel like I am living the book. There is also a meta moment at the end of the book that breaks the fourth wall and I was just euphoric at it. Oh, if only! The pace was slow, and that’s where I found it a bit lacking. For a nearly 600 page book, it was less development and more tying up everything together, so it definitely lacked in the action but certainly made up in the mind-messing department. Received an ARC from EgmontUSA via Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

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