29 Nov 2014

Mini Reviews: November Edition


It has been far too long since I have posted on here, but sometimes I just want to read books without feeling the need or pressure to review them, hence my disappearance. However, I am currently in the mood to review some books, hence my reappearance. That's the wonder of having a no-strings book review blog. I recently posted a full-length review of a book I finished, but I have a handful of others I've read during my previously unannounced hiatus from here that I'd like to give mention to. Perhaps more reviews will come later, but I cannot allow myself to make any promises. However, here are the three I'm mini-reviewing today:

The Aftermath by Jen Alexander

The Aftermath is a game played by humans living in a futuristic world. The characters? Real human beings. I don't want to spoil too much so I won't go into why people play or how people end up as characters, but I'll say this: the characters do not realise they are that. Except somehow, miraculously, our protagonist does. Slowly, as the book begins revealing, main character Claudia realises she is not in control of her every movement, and as she eventually discovers hints at what is going on, seeks out full control of her own body and an escape.
Not to sound cliche or anything, but fans of The Hunger Games will enjoy this book. The genres are similar, though the details not. I personally loved this book. There were so many times where I felt like I was in the game with the characters. The writing helped me imagine everything perfectly. If there's one thing I love in any genre, but especially in my sci-fi and fantasy, it's great world building, and Jen Alexander did just that with The Aftermath. This one was a page turner, and the little plot twists thrown at you are great. The closer you get to the end, the more suspenseful it gets, and the ending, well. I won't spoil, but my basic reaction was WHY, CLIFF-HANGER, WHY (in a good way, of course). Do I recommend The Aftermath? The game, no. The book, heck yes. I look forward to book two.
4/5 stars.
The Aftermath on Goodreads.

Defy by Sara B. Larson

A land where sorcery is banned, a female forced to disguise herself as a male in order to survive, and a kingdom in corruption. Defy has everything I love in a fantasy debut. Protagonist Alexa is a member of the prince's elite guard, and has sworn her life to protect him (spoiler alert: the prince has the personality of a rotten basket of fruit - or does he). When Alexa and the prince are captured by the kingdom's enemy, both of their secrets risk being revealed just as a common enemy lurks closer.
This book was so great. My kind of fantasy. So many great characters and such a solid plot. There's a love triangle but I have to say, I loved it so much. It was well done and there's nothing wrong with a good love triangle, to be quite honest. I cannot wait to see what the sequel has in store for all of these characters. And just for fair warning, this book gets dark. It's a great 'females rising up from oppression' read as well (to give you an idea of that and the darkness I mentioned: female orphans are forced to be impregnated against their will by males, and their children taken from them to become guards for the kingdom. They're basically broodmares, and just what Alexa is trying to avoid by disguising herself as a male). Book two is out the end of December, and I cannot wait! Fans of Tamora Pierce and Sarah J. Maas will love Defy, guaranteed. Solid 5/5.
Check out Defy on Goodreads.

I've Got Your Number by Sophie Kinsella

A little out of my genre comfort zone is this humorous contemporary read. I've Got Your Number is about about-to-be-married Poppy, who is robbed of her phone shortly after losing her engagement ring, and is about to short circuit when she finds a phone in the trash. This phone belongs to a business man's assisstant, who chucked the phone when she up and quit. Poppy, desperate to have some sort of life line (her cell was her life, you understand, her everything!), manages to convince said  uptight and reluctant businessman (Sam Roxton) to allow her to keep the phone until she gets a new one and her ring turns up, with the promise that she will forward all of his emails to him. And she wouldn't dare pry into his personal life, nor he into hers... Full of footnotes, emails, text messages, and some humorous snooping, I've Got Your Number is a hilarious read that I honestly could not put down (I read it in a day. I was on vacation, but still). This is one of those 'chick lit' novels that would make a fantastic rom com film - seriously, I could see it all play out in my head. Although if a film could actually do Kinsella's humour justice, I am not sure. The book was great, and it's a perfect light, funny read. For me it was a break between heavier genres, but I enjoyed it just as much. This book was my introduction to Sophie Kinsella's writing (I'll admit I've seen the Confessions of a Shopaholic movie - it was all right - but have not read the books), and I've her newest, Wedding Night, sitting on my shelf ready to be picked up the next time I'm ready for a break between by fantasy and sci-fi reads. 4.5 stars.
I've Got Your Number on Goodreads.

Review: Atlantia by Ally Condie

Title: Atlantia
Author: Ally Condie
Genre: Futuristic Fantasy/Mythos
Format reviewed: hardcover first edition

Can you hear Atlantia breathing?

For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamt of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose.

Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.

Maybe I'm just super used to series, but everything seemed to be solved pretty quickly. The beginning of the book felt slow to me, but about halfway through it picked up enough that I didn't want to put it down. Had I not been curious as to what exactly was up with Rio's aunt and fellow siren Maire, I might have given up. In the end, I am glad I didn't, because it was a nice story that was enjoyable overall. The writing was good, the characters believable and human, and the romance honest.

In truth, if this book were longer or there were more books, I think I would have enjoyed it more than I did (although that is not to say I did not enjoy Atlantia). I'd have loved more of a chance at world-building, to see more of the Above and how exactly it functioned, and to see how the Below restored itself and how the people Below reacted to everything going on Above and with the sirens. Also the disease many characters had been infected with, Water Lung, I was interested in learning more about. I just wanted more. But not bad for the stand-alone that it was. I'm glad a friend read it before I did and told me it was a stand-alone, because like her I would have expected more than just the one book and would have enjoyed it less. It all does sort of seem to end abruptly, and if you are not expecting it to end when those pages run out, you will be left confused - not being it does not tie up the loose ends, but because it was not what you expected.

What I really liked about Atlantia was Rio's character. She was so human and believable that it made her character and her romance fun to read. I don't want to spoil much for anyone who has not read this yet, but I do like how Rio focused more on what she wanted, and on finding out why her sister went Above, than on her love interest. She was willing to set him aside if need be, to give him up for the bigger picture, which is lacking in many YA (and let's be honest, many books with romance) reads. Not that I want more characters to give up their love interests, but there are times when characters put their new romances in front of things that are more important that make me question the character's sanity - haha. But I do like a little romance in my reads. I loved how understandably selfish she was, but yet selfless at the same time. She was human, she was likeable, and she was honest.

The siren lore was interesting, especially to me, for I'm a big fan of mythology (and writing a siren novel myself). Atlantia was a fun tie-in of multiple genres, those being mythological, fantasy, a little sci-fi, and futuristic. If you are a fan of any or more of those and love stand-alones, I recommend giving Atlantia a shot. If you've read Ally Condie's Matched series, this is quite a different tale. And if you find yourself getting bored, I do suggest sticking it out, as the story does pick up eventually and you get most of the answers to the questions raised earlier, making up for the earlier lull. Everything all unfolds rather quickly towards the end.

Overall, I enjoyed Atlantia. As a stand-alone novel, it was pretty good. I myself would have loved a two or three book series to allow for more world-building and to get to know secondary characters better, but Ally Condie made the story work in a satisfying way in the near three hundred pages. For anyone sick of trilogies and looking for a stand-alone that is not contemporary, Atlantia would make a good choice. This is definitely one you want to pick up knowing it is a lone book to avoid disappointment, and one you want to give a chance past the halfway point.

3.5 stars

Atlantia was published October 28, 2014
Check out Atlantia on Goodreads