narfna’s #CBR5 Review #100: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

Offical-Allegiant-CoverI’m going to say it right up front: the reason I did not like this book had nothing to do with the ending.

Well, almost nothing. The ending was what she was building up to, and since I had a problem with the build-up itself, I sort of do have a problem with the ending by extension, but that’s just semantics. Actually, I was so burned by this series after Insurgent that I wasn’t looking forward to reading this book at all, so when I accidentally spoiled myself over THAT THING before I had even cracked the spine on my brand new copy, it had the opposite effect on me it had on most readers. It actually made me more excited to see how she was going to pull it off. And I was still disappointed. Sigh.

I do have to give Veronica Roth credit. She may have fumbled the execution (a lot, in my opinion), but I do think she had her priorities straight. She was dedicated — perhaps too much so — to seeing out her themes and serving the narrative, as opposed to taking the easy way out in the way she ended her story, which is what her readers wanted her to do. The problem here is that the structure of this third act in the story is just a big old mess, and the way she crafts her words and her sentences and her dialogue, I think, actively worked against the goals she was shooting for.

From here on out, be warned, spoilers ahoy.

Let’s acknowledge the elephant in the room: Tris totally bites it. She croaks. She is annihilated. She goes belly up. She buys the farm. She’s checking out the grass from underneath. She goes the way of the dinosaurs. She’s popped off. She’s permanently out of print. She’s shuffled off the mortal coil.

She’s stone dead.

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narfna’s #CBR5 Review #98: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

steelheartThis wasn’t my favorite Sanderson ever. I had some issues with it on a technical level, but the worldbuilding was SO MUCH FUN that it almost didn’t even matter. (It’s actually kind of a relief to read a book of his I don’t LOVE ALL CAPS because it means he’s only human after all. Dude writes SO MANY BOOKS and they’re ALL GOOD.)

Steelheart, the first book in Sanderson’s Reckoners series, is an extremely creative take on the superhero genre. It’s been ten years since an event people have dubbed Calamity, which granted certain members of the population superpowers. These people are called Epics, and they are all of them huge dickwads: violent, egomanical, emotionally unstable, power-hungry assholes. With the appearance of the Epics, society descended into chaos. Epic after Epic took control over whole cities. The government collapsed. In some cities, Epics rule like monarchs. Such is the case with Chicago, now called Newcago, which is ruled by an Epic called Steelheart, who has the power to turn anything to steel, and is seemingly invincible.

This is where our protagonist, David, comes in. David’s father was a firm believer that one day an Epic would come that would be good and kind, who would wish to help rather than hurt. David’s father is murdered by Steelheart, right in front of David’s eyes, when he was ten years old. Steelheart then demolished the bank they were in and killed everyone in it, except for David. David is now the only person alive to have seen Steelheart bleed. And he’s gone looking for a group called the Reckoners, whose sole mission is taking out Epics one by one. He knows he’s the only person alive that might be able to help them take down Steelheart, and he’s made it his life’s mission to do so.

Like I said, exploring this world that Sanderson created, learning its rules, was pure pleasure. It was refreshing to read a take on superheroes that had the superheroes as the bad guys. It’s a very cynical outlook on human nature, and I found it intriguing, especially given the presence of David’s father, who believed so strongly that Epics could be good. It bodes well for future installments in the series. I also really liked that this book had a self-contained element to it, a beginning, middle and end. It also felt a bit like a crime/heist caper story, which was really fun.

I did have some issues with it. With a couple exceptions, the characters didn’t really grab my emotions by the balls or anything. I didn’t care about most of them very much, and actively disliked the one that kept saying y’all to refer to a singular person. I know I also had some other technical issues with it, but it’s been over a months and a half since I read it, and I don’t remember what those issues were. Also of concern is the protag, David. Because he’s so driven by his mission, he doesn’t have much of an emotional arc. The focus in this book is definitely on plot and worldbuilding, and I’m hoping in future books we get a bit more characterization for him and the others. I know plot and worldbuilding are Sanderson’s strengths, but he can do characters too. I’ve seen him at it.

All in all, a really fun book, and I’m confident/hopeful that the issues I had with it will be addressed in future books. And even if they’re not, I’ll probably still enjoy them.

Sophia’s #CBR5 Review #63: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

AllegiantI was going to wait until I could get Allegiant (2013), the third book in the Divergent Trilogy by Veronica Roth from the library. I’d really gotten into the first book (Divergent), and only kind of liked the second one (Insurgent), so I wasn’t in a huge rush to finish up the series. However, some of my friends started up a new book club, and I wasn’t able to wait.

Allegiant picks up right where Insurgent left off. Unfortunately, Insurgent didn’t exactly enthrall me, so I had trouble recollecting both the plot and most of the secondary characters. Roth apparently doesn’t like to recap, so almost all of the secondary characters remained pretty meaningless to me.

I’m struggling with a review here, partly because I’m exhausted, and partly because I just don’t feel strongly about this one. I was disappointed. I liked the first book, but the second and third just didn’t do it for me. But I also didn’t really dislike it, either, so I just don’t have much to say. As far as young adult, dystopian trilogies go, I’d have to vote for The Hunger Games.

Continued…

Popcultureboy’s #CBR5 Review #94: The Testimony by James Smythe

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My 2nd oral history of the year, by an author I only discovered because he’s re-reading everything Stephen King ever published. It’s an excellent debut detailing the unravelling of civilisation in the wake of a mysterious broadcast that not everybody is able to hear. Full review is on my blog here

alwaysanswerb’s #CBR5 Review 56: Allegiant by Veronica Roth

 

This is the third and final installment of the Divergent trilogy, and since it will be difficult to speak another word, including giving any summary, without tremendous spoilers for the first two in the series, the rest of this review will go behind a cut.

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Ashlie’s #CBR5 Review #31: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Here is what I originally had to say when I read it in 2011: I had heard a lot of people raving about Hunger Games and finally decided to see what all the fuss about and I am ECSTATIC that I did. One of my favorite novels is 1984 so I find anything with Big Brother themes to be intriguing. Although this is Young Adult, the content is deep and arresting. It reminds me of Harry Potter in the sense that you root for the good guys and can’t wait to see what’s next.

New Thoughts: Insofar as they relate to me, The Hunger Games Trilogy is the Indiana Jones Trilogy (because there is no four) of books. What I mean is that it doesn’t matter that I’ve seen Indiana Jones a gazillion times, if it’s on TV I can’t seem to tear myself away. I decided read The Hunger Games (book one) today and couldn’t put it down if I tried. And I think I could almost start at the beginning again right now.

It’s certainly not an entirely new concept, but the dystopian setting, roller coaster of emotions, and commanding heroine are just impossible for me to resist, and I really adore it.

taralovesbooks’ #CBR5 Review #40: Dust by Jacqueline Druga

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Cannonball Read V: Book #40/52
Published: 2002
Pages: 288
Genre: Post-Apocalyptic

Dust follows a group of people in the aftermath of a nuclear war. Jo has been preparing for this most of her life by stockpiling supplies into her basement and encouraging her friends to do the same. Still, she never actually expected it to happen. When the bombs hit, she takes her teenage son and her young nephew she is babysitting into the basement cellar. Her daughter, Matty, is at the school a few miles away. While waiting out the initial few weeks until she can safely go upstairs, Jo makes a list of her close friends and family and it becomes her goal to try and find them.

This book was unique in that it wasn’t a YA book. I can’t remember the last time I read a post-apocalyptic book that wasn’t teenage based. I like YA, but this was refreshing. I also thought it was unique that it followed a woman who had prepared for this scenario. Most of the book took place in her basement or within a few blocks of her home — no traveling across the countryside or anything. The characters were great. I liked that there was a pretty wide variety of people’s reactions to the bombs. Some went psychotic, some stopped talking, some pretended nothing happened, and some simply used sarcasm to make it through the day.

Read the rest in my blog.

taralovesbooks’ #CBR5 Review #30: The Shift Omnibus by Hugh Howey

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Cannonball Read V: Book #30/52
Published: 2013
Pages: 608
Genre: Dystopian

Wool is one of my favorite books that I’ve read so far this year. Shift is a prequel of sorts to Wool that explains why people were living in underground silos with almost no knowledge about the world outside. It’s hard to explain too much about it without giving too much away, but the book starts before the silos were even built. A politician with an architect background is commissioned to work on a top secret project and from there the story switches back and forth between his life before the silos and his life afterwards. Because of deep freezing technology, we can follow the same people over hundreds of years. Simply put them in deep freeze and wake them up a century later! I have to say, that is a pretty interesting way to move the story forward to the far future without having to introduce totally new characters.

Read the rest in my blog.

narfna’s #CBR5 Review #63: The Elite by Kiera Cass

PrintI could spend a long time whaling on this book. A long, long time. But I really don’t feel like ranting right now. So I’m going to try and keep this relatively short.

I read the first book in this series last year, and while I definitely thought it was underdeveloped, poorly structured, had half-baked dialogue, and characters barely past the cardboard cutout phase, it was still weirdly readable, mostly because of its whacked out pseudo Bachelor plot. Let me explain.

The world of The Selection is supposedly a ‘dystopian’ young adult romance set in the distant future where a monarchy rules what was once America, and the population is split into castes, from 1-8, each caste responsible for different types of occupations. Our main character is America Singer (Yes, really), and in the first book she was chosen as one of thirty-five young women who the prince will choose from in a televised competition to be his future Queen. And of course America made it past the first round/book and is now one of The Elite, the final seven in the competition. This seemed like a potential goldmine of ridiculous cracky fiction. Like, with that premise, there’s no way it was ever going to be anything but ridiculous . . . except Cass writes it like she wants it to be the opposite. Like we should take a world seriously where China supposedly overthrew America because of debt.

It seems obvious to me what happened with this: Cass thought of a premise for a book series that publishers and book buyers couldn’t deny was attention grabbing, but couldn’t pull off the execution of it. It’s like she couldn’t make up her mind what she wanted her books to be about so she half-assed all of it instead of committing and fully doing just one thing. Her characters perform in governmental and social systems that have no basis in reality. One second, America is like I LOVE ASPEN! (her ex-boyfriend who is now a palace guard), and the next she’s like I LOVE MAXON!!! (the prince). And literally almost the entire plot is made up of that back and forth and back and forth. Not only is it staggeringly unoriginal, it’s actually boring, which is probably the worst sin a book can commit.

The parts that don’t involve the world’s worst love triangle are completely underdeveloped, the most egregious of these being the part where America learns tragic secrets about her country and how the monarchy got founded, but Cass barely spends time on it, which makes it come off as even more unbelievable than it was going to be anyway. And then there’s the competition itself, which is basically a joke and almost entirely wastes the potential of its concept. America and the other contestants are stuck with these really weird tasks that make me feel like Cass has absolutely no idea what running a government actually looks like. America has to throw a diplomatic brunch? Or she’ll be kicked out? What? And don’t even get me started on the “rebels.”

I feel like I should give you examples but a) I returned the book to the library, b) I finished it like three weeks ago and I can’t remember all the details, and c) I feel like it’s more important that I devote my energies to sitting on the couch all day watching Orange is the New Black. Anyway, don’t bother with this series. It’s not even the good kind of bad.

Caitlin’s #CBR5 #37: Dance of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

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This is the sequel to Masque of the Red Death, loosely based on the Edgar Allen Poe story of the same name. I looooved the first book. I also looooved this one.

It’s about a world ravaged by a horrible plague. People are dying in the streets while the cruel Prince Prospero hides in his castle. There is a revolution starting, led by Elliott (Who is my favorite and my fictional boyfriend). Araby has to stand by his side to get the people to follow, but she is torn by her love for former bartender Will. There’s more going on, but it’s hard to talk about without spoiling the first book.

I didn’t want to stop reading this book. It actually is the final book in this series, which actually makes me sad. I want more!

You can read my full review here. I am more liberal with spoilers there, so be cautious.