Backlist Bonus: The Dead-Tossed Waves

6555517by Carrie Ryan
YA Dystopian
2 of 5 stars

This sequel wasn’t nearly as enjoyable as the first book. Although we get to see the lighthouse and Gabry’s life that Mary fought so hard for in The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Gabry herself is so annoying that you just want the story to end.

Gabry is one of the weakest characters I’ve encountered. In fact, her lack of agency was so prevalent I included the sentence structure for most of her thoughts in my Goodreads review: “I wanted to [insert course of interesting actions, revealing my true feelings, etc]. Instead, I [did the complete opposite and was as passive and silent as possible].” Gabry never finds her feet in terms of making her own place in the zombie-filled world and the decisions she does make are usually dumb. She’s consistently frustrating.

The world remains interesting, dark, filled with bleak insights into what a post-zombie apocalypse society is like. Difficult decisions about humanity abound. But Gabry is not the person to take you through this story or world with any semblance of common sense or interest, and the supporting characters aren’t strong enough to save you.

Flat characters and flat-lined pacing, this book is a good concept that doesn’t reach its potential, and that always makes me sad.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, The Dead-Tossed Waves is available on Goodreads and on Barnes & Noble’s website here. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard – A dystopian America ruled by super-powered silver-blooded elites, in denial that a commoner red-blooded uprising is going to happen. See my review here.
  • Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion – “R” doesn’t remember much before he became undead, but when he sees Julie he starts feeling urges he hasn’t felt in a long time—they might almost be human. This is a charming retelling of Romeo and Juliet with zombies.
  • Bones & All  by Camille DeAngelis – Maren wakes up on her 16th birthday to her mother’s abandonment. Maren understands. Since Maren was a baby, she’s consumed everyone who has ever loved her—bones and all—and her mother probably feared she was next. See my review here.

Red Queen

17878931by Victoria Aveyard
YA Fantasy
2 of 5 stars
Debut novel – February 10, 2015

I finally picked up this book based on all the good reviews, but unfortunately I can’t add my own. Points for good cover art and a couple of good buzz lines…and that’s about it. It’s marketed as a YA fantasy novel but it felt more dystopian in actuality. The “fantasy” aspect was more political than anything.

Mare Barrow is a dumb protagonist. I hate saying that, but what is it with all these characters growing up on the streets and yet knowing nothing about how to survive? How does she have no people skills whatsoever? She can’t charm anyone or read anyone either? Despite repeating the mantra “Anyone can betray anyone” a million times, she’s still shocked that the Silver royalty has its own agenda. Worse, she’s the kind of dumb that hurts her allies–anyone who tries to help her ends up dead.

The world-building is the typical shallow realm of the rich vs. the working-class poor that supports them, and that isn’t the worst cliche. We also have the best friend with slight romantic leanings who joins the rebel cause that becomes too extreme. We have the rebel HQ in a land “destroyed” by radiation. We have the perfect younger sister whom everyone loves (no doubt slated to die near the end of the trilogy, possibly leaving the best friend at fault). And finally we have the “sentinels,” a police security force that highlights how unjust the justice system is. Additional lost points for having no-name maids that Mare doesn’t bother speaking to.

The story was slow to start, hard to get through, and the ending failed to engage me despite its chaotic attempts at drama. I was just relieved it was over. It’s clear that the author grabbed some key bits from The Hunger Games, Divergent, and the X-Men but this felt like a bad, boring mashup instead of a blockbuster.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Red Queen is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins – The narration and political intrigue are highly similar here. Katniss is an unwilling pawn in the game of government and it’s her internal struggle to do what she feels is right not just for herself but for the world that resonates. This is a bleak book, and while I didn’t necessarily enjoy its length, seeing how the machine of war, politics, and media works is invaluable for broadening your perspective. See my review here.
  • The Named by Marianne Curley – Time-travelers trying to subvert the Order of Chaos’ attempts to change time meet up and struggle to outwit the evil alliance. Again, the similar narration and the characters coming to terms with their various powers are in the same vein as Red Queen.
  • Dragonfly by Julia Goulding – A somewhat typical character pairing of opposing monarchs are brought together to fight a common enemy. I remember enjoying the world-building and the character development of Tashi and Ram as they learn to understand one another and what they can do to save their kingdoms.
  • Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch – Another teenage girl discovering her powers and identity against the backdrop of war must fight to free her kingdom, even if it means giving up her own dreams. See my review here.
  • Allegiant by Veronica Roth – Another teenage girl at the center of a revolution must decide what to do with the information that explains divergence. Equally full of political intrigue and power struggles.
  • The Selection by Kiera Cass – This features a girl chosen for a competition to win the prince’s hand (Queenstrial anyone?). It has a similar premise and narration, though I personally haven’t read it yet.

Backlist Bonus: To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before

15749186by Jenny Han
YA Contemporary
2 of 5 stars
Book 1 of a duology

This is a cute premise, and certain parts felt very Boy Meets World to me, but overall it’s probably not worth the time if you have a long to-read list. The characters are flat and the plot barely involves the letters, or much of anything else, unfortunately. It has a middle grade voice trying to convince you Lara Jean is 16 and not 11. It’s obvious from page 30 who sent the letters, but Lara Jean literally never wonders how they got out there, and is nonchalant about how it screwed with her life once she does find out at the very end. Actually, she never sticks up for herself, come to think of it.

There’s so much to work with here, and I feel like the author barely scratched the surface of it. Lara Jean is half-Korean in a white school. She could have had actual relationships with her older and younger sister. She could have a real friendship with her only female “friend” Chris (who is portrayed as a “slut,” so I’m not sure how they stayed friends for long since they have little in common, but that’s a separate issue).

If you pretend Lara Jean is younger, this could be a good summer read for a day or two. Since there is one sequel planned I will probably check it out this summer just to see if Lara Jean or any of the other characters experience a significant character arc. I have a feeling I’ll be less disappointed now that I know what to expect (i.e. a middle-grade novel, not YA). I happen to love the cover art for both books, for whatever that’s worth.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • The Absolutely True Story of a Part-time Indian by Sherman Alexie – Junior is an aspiring cartoonist trying to navigate his life as an awkward nerd living with his impoverished family on the Spokane Indian Reservation, and his decision to attend the nearest white school to better his life.
  • Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell – An emotional and vivid tale of two teenagers over one school year as they meet, fall in love, and fight to make it last.
  • The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith – Hadley Sullivan meets Oliver (a Brit) on her flight to England for her father’s second wedding to a woman she’s never met. The story follows twenty-four hours in Hadley’s life that might change her future.
  • Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist by Rachel Cohn, David Levithan – Told through dual narration, Nick and Norah meet at a chance concert and spend a crazy twenty-four hours together in New York City trying to find their favorite band’s secret show, and falling in love along the way.

Written in Red

15711341by Anne Bishop
Fiction/Paranormal fantasy
3 of 5 stars

This is a frustrating book on several levels. The main issue for me is the fact that the world and characters are interesting but they never DO anything. 80% of this book is Meg sorting the mail, or Simon having meetings and doing paperwork to prove he’s running a business. I guess if the author never worked in an office she’d think sorting mail is fascinating, but it isn’t. The world also doesn’t provide concrete details outside of the mail room….the rudimentary map has a note saying the “geographically challenged author only included the bits needed for the story” and this becomes painfully obvious. We are given no idea of the state of Thaisia (America, I think?) or the surrounding countries/continents named, or how anything is working or even how far apart referenced cities are. I wanted so badly to know more or to have the characters do SOMEthing but it never happened.

To go along with this, many characters reason away strange or bad decisions with a reiteration of “we do this to keep the Others from eating us” and “we do this because we want stuff from Humans” but the whole balance of government and economics is nonsensical and flimsy. I don’t encounter truly dumb characters very often, but there are several in this story and it’s bad enough to be distracting. The plot moves at a glacial pace and the only event happens in the last 80 pages or so – and that only because of horribly bad decisions. “He needed to figure out what was wrong about this [obvious suspicious activity] before something bad happened.” I wish that was more of an exaggeration.

This doesn’t touch on other issues that can problematic for readers – cutting yourself portrayed as useful/pleasurable/just an addiction, and misogyny between ALL male and female characters (literally “If you don’t do what I say Meg, I will eat you! Stupid female!”). Women are in this story to be mysterious/dumb and make bad decisions that they later endure harsh punishment or lectures for. Also something I don’t notice often in stories but here it’s hard to miss. Stranger still that it’s written by a woman…

This is a series of 5 books but I don’t think I’ll be hanging around for the rest of it. I went to a signing by Bishop where she read an excerpt of Vision in Silver and yep, we are still sorting mail and dealing with the same issues from the first one. No thank you. The characters and concept (and nice cover art) are the only reason I give it 3 stars, but I’m being generous.

If you’d like to see more reviews or buy a copy for yourself, Written in Red is available on Goodreads and its parent company Amazon. Please consider supporting your local bookstore!

Similar reads:

  • Apparently Bishop and Patricia Briggs write in the same vein and have a lot of books out, so if none of this put you off, there is plenty more out there!
  • The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black features vampires living among us with more action and suspense.
  • Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor also has magical beings sharing our space with zero mail sorting. See my review here.
  • If mysterious worlds don’t bother you then try Neil Gaiman or Diana Wynne Jones – they know how to do it in such a way that you won’t be annoyed.

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