Allied

Rating: 
Author: Amy Tintera
Series: Ruined (Book 3)
Genres: Fantasy
Pub Date: May 2018 (read May 2018)

I’m between 3 and 4 stars on this book, but after writing this review I’ve settled on 3 stars. Allied is the final book in the Ruined Trilogy. I won’t give a whole lot of a plot synopsis because I don’t want to spoil the first two books, but if you haven’t read the first 2 you should probably skip this post. I’ll keep this review spoiler free for Allied though if you have read the first 2.

I was pretty much trash for the first book in this series. I didn’t expect to love Ruined, but it was so fun and fast-paced that I just got totally pulled into the world. I loved Cas and Em in the first books and Olivia is straight up crazy and I was just totally flabbergasted by her character in the first 2 books. I didn’t love Avenged as much as Ruined and while I liked Allied and was excited to return to these characters, it’s not quite the series finale I was hoping for.

Let’s start with what I liked. This was still super fast-paced and enthralling. We get perspectives from a larger cast of characters and I enjoyed the addition of Gallo and Mateo to the story. What I liked so much about Ruined was that it’s not a traditional good vs. evil narrative and the idea is that there’s not really a right and wrong side. Both parties have made mistakes and harmed other people and at some point you have to start working at forgiveness and reparations instead of continually chasing after revenge and violence. I really liked Cas in this novel and I thought that his character had some really great insights.

I loved when he was reflecting on how easy and good things used to be for him, but how he had to acknowledge that while things were good then for him, they were not good for Em, and so you can’t romanticize the past because the past is painful for some people. I thought this was so relevant to America (and Canada too!) and Trump’s whole “Make America Great Again” approach to politics. Sure, America was great for rural white folks 30 years ago, but that success was also built on racism and oppression and you can’t romanticize it just because things were good for you.

I also liked that Cas and Em arrived at a point where they were able to talk about their families again. Even though their parents both did bad things, they were still loving parents in their own ways and I loved that they were able to look fondly on the memories that were positive, while acknowledging that their parents still did bad and inexcusable things.

There are things I didn’t like that much about this novel though. While it was still a fast-paced book overall, I thought the pacing was a little off in the middle. We go from battle to battle and then all of a sudden there are all these political negotiations in the middle. I thought it was super cool that Tintera basically disbanded a monarchy in favour of democratic government in this book, but I thought the location within the plot was so odd. She ramps up the reader with all these battles and escape scenes and then suddenly there’s just all this boring negotiation. It brought the plot down a little and I thought it was overdone and a bit unneccesary.

I was also a little over the romance in this novel. I’m sorry, but Cas and Em have pretty much already decided to be together before this novel and the chemistry just wasn’t really there anymore. I don’t want to be super critical because I still liked reading about them and having just read A Court of Frost & Starlight (which was way worse and a lesson in how to totally kill a romance dead), this wasn’t actually that bad. I do think the author tried to re-focus the romantic emphasis on several other characters, but they just didn’t work that well for me either. I really liked Aren and Iria, but they both just fell a little flat for me in this novel. Aren just doesn’t make mistakes anymore apparently and Iria wasn’t as moving for me in this book.

My biggest criticism is just that I didn’t think this book was clever. Characters always find themselves in these crazy situations that you have no idea how they’re going to get themselves out of and then the author writes this crazy sequence to resolve things, but that didn’t really happen in Allied. I was waiting for this epic showdown with Olivia and her cronies and things just kind of fizzle out. I feel like Tintera wrote herself into a situation that she couldn’t elegantly write herself out of and the action towards the end of the novel felt forced. I had also anticipated some plot twists and surprises from some of the secondary characters that just never materialized and left me feeling disappointed that the plot was so simple. I kept waiting for more.

Anyway, I did really like this series overall. I liked the writing and the fast-paced nature of the story. Was it perfect? no, but I did get a lot of enjoyment out of reading this series and I totally flew through each of the books.

Love, Hate & Other Filters

Rating: ⭐⭐
Author: Samira Ahmed
Genres: Young Adult
Pub Date: Jan. 2018 (read Apr. 2018)

This was disappointing. I picked this from my library’s limited selection of audiobooks because I’ve been having a lot of success with Young Adult audiobook’s lately and I’ve been seeing some buzz about it.

To be honest, I didn’t even look at the synopsis, I just new it was about an Indian teenager who was into film. I didn’t like the Maya’s voice from the beginning and I found her such a whiny narrator to listen to. When I hit the 20% mark and this book was still just a surface level romance novel, I debated DNFing and went back to look at the synopsis. When I realized the main premise of this book was actually supposed to be about a terrorist attack and the struggles many Muslim people suffer to be accepted after any terrorist attack, I decided to stick it out.

I appreciate what Samira Ahmed was trying to do with this book. She addressed several different themes: the struggle of Indian daughters to breakaway from their parents expectations, the struggle of any teenager to pursue a career in something as unstable as the film industry, and the xenophobia and hate against Muslims and those who are “othered” in the United States. These are all great themes and I was interested in exploring the different ways people react in the aftermath of a tragedy and how some people let their hate overcome them, while others fight for those who are marginalized. But I thought the execution in this book was terrible.

Honestly, this was a romance novel with a brief look at some of the themes I’ve discussed above. It didn’t explore any of these themes in any great depth and I thought all of the characters emotions were very surface level. This book had more unyielding parents (I’ve read a lot of books of this nature lately), but the drama felt really forced and not authentic. In theory I understood that Maya’s parents were trying to protect their daughter in a world that is not very kind, but no one used any reason in this book (Maya included), except for her Aunt, and everyone felt extremely 1-dimensional. The main story was ultimately a romance and it wasn’t a very well written one. It was so cliche and I just couldn’t help rolling my eyes through the entire thing. This book just had so much more potential, but it got bogged down with a heavy romance and the author barely explored any of the complex themes she introduced into the story.

Even though this tacked something I haven’t seen addressed much in literature, I would not recommend this book. It was too poorly written and executed. Pick up I Am Not Your Perfect Mexican DaughterThe Nowhere Girls, or The Poet X instead.

Avenged

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: ⭐⭐.5
Author: Amy Tintera
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Pub Date: May 2017 (read Mar. 2018)

Between my monthly challenges, my book club, Canada Reads, and Netgalley, I finally got a chance to read this sequel to Ruined. I’ve been trying to get to it for the last 2 months and I finally found some time. I shouldn’t have worried though because I devoured this book in a single day.

I LOVED Ruined. I know it’s not ground-breaking literature or anything, but it was just such a fast-paced and fun read! Avenged picks up right where Ruined left off, with the Ruined returning to their homeland after rescuing Olivia. This one has a bit more politics than the first one, but it’s still a fast paced read. I didn’t love it quite as much as Ruined, but I’d still give it a solid 3.5 stars.

Em and her sister Olivia have just returned to Ruina. Em is the oldest, but because she doesn’t have powers, the throne passes to her sister Olivia. The torture Olivia suffered at the hands of Lera has weakened her emotionally, but it has only strengthened her powers. She becomes incredibly powerful, but has little interest in politics and negotiations, so she proposes a diarchy with her sister whereby they will both be queen.

It’s a rough start for the Ruined. Their castle was destroyed by Lera and Vallos and the land in their country is dying. Em wants to continue their alliance with the Olso warriors because she fears the Ruined cannot survive without their aid and supplies at this time. Olivia doesn’t want their help and feels that her and Aren are strong enough to protect the rest of the Ruined and can teach them all how to be stronger.

At the same time, Cas struggles to take control of his own country in the wake of his parents death. He made a pact with Em that neither would attack each other, but his cousin (and only living relative) Jovita sees this as a huge sign of weakness and makes a coup to take control of Lera. She tries to attack the Ruined again and all hell breaks loose between the 4 kingdoms.

Like I said, I didn’t love this as much as Ruined, but it was still a solid second novel. Olivia is a 100% certified psychopath and she makes for an interesting and intense story. She had a pretty crazy introduction at the end of Ruined, but she was really only just getting started then.

I liked that this novel is still very morally grey. You definitely root for Em and Cas and their quest for peace, but you also couldn’t fault Olivia for how she felt about Lera. She was tortured by Lera for a year and even though Cas didn’t directly play a role, a simple ‘sorry’ isn’t enough for Olivia, especially when he’s done nothing meaningful to help the Ruined, like provide supplies or help them re-build their homeland.

“No. His regret was not enough for Olivia. Regret did not give her back her mother. It didn’t erase the year of torture she’s endured. No apology, no matter how sincere, was enough for her people.”

I also thought the dialogue was fantastic and I love how witty the characters are. Ruined had quite a bit of humour woven into it and Tintera continued that humour in this book. I can’t wait for the final book of the trilogy to come out in May!

Then She Was Gone

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: .5
Author: Lisa Jewell
Genres: Mystery
Read: Feb. 2018 (Pub date: Apr. 24, 2018 in North America)

Thank you to NetGalley and Atria Books for providing me with a free electronic copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.

Lisa Jewell has been on my list of authors to try for a while now, so I was really excited to get an ARC of her new book, coming out this April. Then She Was Gone had me spellbound for pretty much an entire day. I think I read like 60% of this book in one sitting.

I actually quite like mystery/thrillers. I don’t read them all that much, but I do get really into them when I finally pick one up. The only thing is that I can get pretty disturbed by mystery novels and I definitely got disturbed by this one.

Then She Was Gone tells the story of Ellie Mack, who walked out the house one day when she was 15 years old and was never seen again. Her mother is obviously devastated by the loss of her daughter; her marriage falls apart, her relationship with her other 2 children suffers, and for 10 years, she struggles to find any kind of closure and is unable to move on. Until she meets Floyd Dunn and his daughter Poppy and finally begins to reawaken and believe she might be able to start to piece her life back together.

The format of this story is fascinating. It has 5 parts and a lot of different narrators. It is predominantly narrated by Laurel Mack, Ellie’s mother, but it does alternate to several other perspectives throughout the novel. Most notable for me was that it’s partially narrated by Ellie herself in the first part and we learn almost immediately who our main suspect for her disappearance is. I was so surprised that we learned this information so early in the story and I felt like the first part (~15%) was almost a book in itself.

From there, Laurel meets Floyd and is transported to an entirely new life. I found this part of the story a little boring, but Jewell still did a good job at keeping me intrigued because I still wanted to know what actually happened. This part mostly just felt a little in contrast with the first part of the novel, which has a super strong start. It only took 1 chapter for me to get totally into this story.

It is a little predictable what happens, but it’s so freaking weird that when I was guessing at what might have happened I was like, “surely not” and tried to dismiss my prediction. Parts of the novel are definitely very disturbing and Jewell does create subtle atmospheric changes to her writing as the novel progresses. I actually really liked the end of this book. While I predicted some parts, the end did surprise me and while parts of it are heartbreaking, I appreciated Jewell ending her story this way.

I liked Laurel’s transformation throughout the course of the novel. I was frustrated with her at times and I have to admit, I did find some of her actions a little unbelievable and not to be in line with her character.  Laurel lost her daughter and couldn’t move on for 10 years, so I found it really hard to suspend disbelief that she wouldn’t be incredibly suspicious of some of the weird coincidences of this book and that she didn’t always trust her instincts. Like I said though, this book had me totally spellbound and I would like to read some more of Jewell’s work!

Tiger Lily

 

 

 

 

 

Rating: .5
Author: Jodi Lynn Anderson
Genres: Fantasy, Young Adult
Read: Feb. 2018

Apparently I’m on a bit of EpicReads kick and have just read two books in a row recommended by Margot Wood. I was a little skeptical about whether I would actually like Ruined or not, but I loved it. Tiger Lily I suspected I would really like, and I did, but maybe not quite as much as a thought I would.

You’ll have to forgive my ignorance of the Peter Pan universe, I have only ever seen the Disney film and that was ages ago, so I actually remember very little about Peter Pan, with the exception that he’s the boy that never grows up. I didn’t remember who Tiger Lily was at all, but this story basically focuses on the love story Tiger Lily has with Peter before Wendy shows up. The story is narrated by Tinkerbell, who can’t speak, but follows Tiger Lily around and is a little bit of an omniscient narrator since she can flit back and forth and spy on all the characters.

First of all, the writing is beautiful! Props to Jodi Lynn Anderson, this is the first of her books that I’ve read and I was really impressed with the writing. I never really cared for Tinkerbell in the film, but she makes a damn good narrator. In some ways this is a coming of age story. Tiger Lily has always been a bit of an outcast in her village and when she saves an Englishman who washes up on shore she becomes even more of a pariah because the villagers are scared of catching the “aging disease” from him since they never die of old age.

When she is betrothed to marry a mean villager named Giant, Tiger Lily starts spending more time away from the village and meets Peter and the lost boys and they all become very much enamoured to one another. Peter is impetuous, rash, and often unreasonable; he has a need to always be the strongest and the smartest. As the leader of the lost boys, he takes on a lot of responsibility in taking care of the boys, but he is also very lonely. He has been a boy for a very long time and you do get the sense that he is ready to grow up.

Tiger Lily is very much a young girl. She also makes rash decisions and doesn’t think too much about the consequences of her actions. She loves her village and Tik Tok, the shaman who found and raised her, but she also yearns for more. She doesn’t want to be trapped in a marriage to Giant and spend forever cooking and cleaning for him. Peter enables her escape into a new world where there are no rules. She wants to be a part of Peter’s world, but she also finds it impossible to leave her village behind.

I liked that the characters in this novel had so much depth. I didn’t really like Peter, but I liked how Anderson wrote all of these characters and captured their essence. There is definitely tragedy in this story and it is incredibly heartbreaking. The characters are all looking for and needing different things and yet nobody can be what the other person needs them to be. There are several stories going on at once and you can very much feel the era of change that is upon the island. The world is progressing, but Neverland has always been a place onto itself. The Englishman eventually integrates himself into the village and pushes christianity on the villagers, shaming the villagers for their false idols and Tik Tok for dressing in women’s clothes. It’s hard to watch the villagers forsake their traditional spirits and way of life, but it’s equally upsetting to witness the ignorance that has flourished in the village for years.

It’s a very interesting story. I think I’m probably at a 3.5 for my rating and I can’t quite pinpoint what I didn’t love about it. It’s a bit slow moving in the beginning and I never really got super into it. The writing was definitely my favourite part and how heartbreaking the story is. I really did grow to love these characters and I really felt for their hardships.