The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

5W FINAL COVER.indd

Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction
Publisher: G.P. Putnam’s Sons Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: May 7th 2013

3 OUT OF 5 STARS

“How do you rid the Earth of humans? Rid the humans of their humanity.”

It started with the earth losing all power, then the tides coming in followed by a disease that killed most of humanity. Now they’re walking around wearing human faces and it’s impossible to trust anyone – that’s why Cassie stays alone. When Cassie is forced to work with Evan Walker she starts to accept that maybe the 4th wave is survivable – but what will the 5th wave be?

Yancey has constructed and exceptional and unique sci-fi story of alien invaders. The opening of the book explaining the different “waves” is one of the most intriguing and thrilling openings I’ve ever read. I would read an entire novel about the first four waves anthology style with different characters explaining how they handled earth slowly being taken from them.

The place the story lost me was when Cassie met Evan Walker and the inclusion of Zombie’s point of view. The middle chunk of the book is very slow and even the ending has lost the thrill of the opening chapters. It stops being about people trying to survive an invasion and becomes a story about heroes and romance.

Speaking of romance, it feels forced. There’s very little build-up or reason (aside from “wow you’re the first boy I’ve seen in a while”) so it feels sort of awkward. Characters are also fairly ready to sacrifice a lot for people they barely know, which can sort of make sense based on the situation but really makes the relationships feel rushed all the same. I didn’t really get attached to the romantic counterparts in either POV or feel like the characters were really in love.

Zombie’s storyline is definitely important for the plot twist – but it’s a twist that could have been more interestingly told through Sammy. Zombie and his whole cast of characters are one-dimensional and boring. For a book featuring Cassie as the protagonist in the blurb there are far too many zombie pages, and they make the book a lot more of a slough than it needed to be.

The other issue is that The 5th Wave feels incredibly small scale. The whole world is being attacked but somehow everything important is happening in a few days walking distance from Cassie in Ohio. The entire earth to choose from and Ohio is chosen with no real reasoning or explanation. Outside of the few beginning chapters it feels more like Ohio is incredibly unlucky than that the whole world is dealing with this at the same time.

The opening of the book is so powerful and gripping that it’s clear Yancey could have taken this in a brilliant direction examining the world and humanity as a whole. What we have instead is a brilliant start that dwindles into fairly average tale of teen romance and heroism. The ideas are so solid, and Yancey has so much incredible potential but it just wasn’t executed in a way that made a majority of the book feel special.

For Fans Of: The Girl with All the Gifts

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Winter by Marissa Meyer

Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Fantasy, Romance
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: November 10th 2015

5 OUT OF 5 STARS

“Yeah, but broken isn’t the same as unfixable.”

Cinder and her friends are determined to take down Levana to save Earth and Luna from her tyranny. Princess Winter is Levana’s beautiful step-daughter, well loved by all except Levana herself. Winter’s life is a series of torturous moments and it’s driven her more than a little mad. With Winter – Cinder, Scarlet and Cress might actually have a chance to win the revolution they’ve been planning for.

As a final book in a series Winter certainly goes above and beyond expectations. At a massive 824 pages readers get all they hoped for and more.

Despite the length, it feels like a light read. I never once felt bogged down by the number of pages. Meyer’s writing style is action packed – and it’s easy to find yourself 100 pages deeper before you realize what’s happening. It did suffer a bit from the main characters fighting for page time – the book felt less about Winter than one would assume from the time – but overall it excelled at finishing all the stories readers were dying to hear.

To be honest there are a couple of things I didn’t like about the series. Levana’s appearance playing a big role in her downfall was disappointing. She was evil to the core but it’s her unattractive physical appearance that they tear her down for? I also wasn’t a huge fan of each of the main characters finding true love – but this is a fairy tale. All fairy tales end when the princess finds her prince, so while it was a little cheesy it definitely stayed in the spirit of the story. Winter’s role as the Snow White character is definitely well-done – even if it feels the loosest. The other girls seem to share far more elements with their original stories but Winter is a joy all on her own.

As a character Winter is complex; she’s not strong but she’s one of the most powerful weapons to use against Levana. Shes got some mental instabilities but crazy doesn’t mean evil. She’s constantly struggling to be good, to not become like her aunt and it’s satisfying to see her succeed when she does. Scarlet and Cinder are tough, they’re fighters – but I find it much easier to connect with Cress and Winter who can’t fight, but do their best anyways.

Many series end with disappointment. This is not the case with The Lunar Chronicles. It doesn’t feel rushed or cheap; Winter is the happily ever after readers deserve.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: The Winner’s Curse

Illuminae by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Genres: Young Adult, Science Fiction, Romance
Publisher: Knopf Books for Young Readers
Publication Date: October 20th 2015

5 OUT OF 5 STARS

“Am I not merciful?”

Ezra and Kady lived a relatively quiet life in an illegal mining settlement in the middle of nowhere. Unfortunately it hasn’t gone as unnoticed as everyone thought. Rival cooperation BeiTech decides that the best strategy is to eradicate the competition. Kady and Ezra manage to flee on one of three ships, but BeiTech isn’t going to let witnesses escape. With BeiTech on their tails, a mutating pathogen infecting the survivors, and an AI that’s a little less than sane, Kady and Ezra will have to keep fighting just to survive. More importantly they’ll have to fight to find out the truth and see what they’re really up against.

Illuminae is a book where the format could completely make or break it. Luckily it’s done wonderfully. The plot is intriguing in it’s own right but the way the story is told is what makes this book exceptional. Chat logs, dossiers, stored AI data, it’s very much like a found footage film in novel format. It is a book that needs to be read carefully, but don’t let the page count intimidate you, it’s a quick and fun read.

The format does throw you in with little explanation. The first little while I was thoroughly confused about, well, everything. Usually this isn’t ideal, but I think in Illuminae’s case, it works to the books advantage. As the story unfolds more things become clear. I began to understand the slang and the setting before I knew it. The format keeps a certain sense of mystery and suspense laced throughout the book. There were several twists that I didn’t, and couldn’t, have seen coming and without the style they wouldn’t have been executed as well.

The characters – even the AI – are easy to connect with. Ezra did rub me the wrong way for a bit but he never felt less than real. Kaufman and Kristoff have written a story about hacking and technology but managed to keep the core of the book very human. I was attached to characters I barely knew and I felt every tragedy that the protagonists faced as deeply as they did.

Though the start was a little difficult, Illuminae definitely pulled through. By the middle I was clinging onto every word wondering what would happen next. It managed to be funny and frightening in ways that traditionally written books rarely are.

Above all this book is well executed and beautiful. However, it’s definitely not going to be for everyone. If you don’t enjoy the format, you won’t enjoy the book, even if they plot intrigues you. It is a book where the style matters just as much, if not more than the story. If the format is your thing it’s brilliant, if it’s not your cup of tea you’ll be left confused and vaguely disappointed.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Cinder

Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

Genres:  Anthology, Fantasy, Horror, Science Fiction
Publisher: William Morrow
Publication Date: February 3rd 2015

3 OUT OF 5 STARS

“I wonder, Are fictions safe places? And then I ask myself, Should they be safe places?”

A collection of stories by Gaiman meant to upset, disturb and prompt deeper thought from readers. Trigger Warning explores the darker parts of life. Explores things that create disquiet in the soul, the things that make us what we are.

There is no shortage of oddities in any of these stories, unfortunately that doesn’t stop many of the stories from falling flat. A lot of the short fictions Gaiman has included are just odd, but not in an interesting way. At times stories just feel like they’re dragging on even though nothing much is happening.

Collections are tricky, very rarely can an author include twenty or more great stories. The problem then becomes that the middle stories between the masterpieces feel weaker in comparison. Neil Gaiman is an excellent author, but by putting all the stories back to back it’s easy to see which are the stars and which are the padding.

“Orange”, “The Case of Death and Honey”, and “Nothing O’Clock” stand out as the three most captivating stories. “Orange” is written in a refreshing and unique questionnaire style and tells a strange, slightly off-putting tale. The other two tales are based off of Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Who respectively and would fit in nicely with the original material. “The Sleeper and the Spindle” was perhaps my favourite, but I have reviewed that previously.

Despite Neil Gaiman’s reputation for producing unforgettable work, Trigger Warning is forgettable as a whole. It does contain a few diamonds in the rough but as a whole the book averages out to just that: average.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Slasher Girls & Monster Boys

Fairest by Marissa Meyer

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Dystopian
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends
Publication Date: January 27th 2015

4 OUT OF 5 STARS

“She cried for the girl who had never belonged. A girl who tried so hard, harder than anyone else, and still never had anything to show for it.”

A prequel to the other stories in The Lunar Chronicles, Fairest dives into the backstory of Lunar Queen Levana. A story of love, war and heartbreak, Queen Levana finally receives the depth that any good villain deserves.

There is a saying in writing that “every villain is the hero of their own story”. Now there is some argument about whether or not this is always true, but it certainly is in the case of Levana. She wants what is best for her country, and is striving for it. She is interested in her country, unlike the rest of her family. She is willing to devote herself to what she believes is the greater good.

This is not to say that Levana is entirely sympathetic. She is, at least to some degree, mad. At first she’s desperate for affection, desperate to feel beautiful, which is something anyone can feel sympathy for. However when she uses her lunar gift to force herself on a man things start to go downhill. She begins the novel a bright young girl, and slowly devolves into a disgusting, self-loathing woman worthy of the contempt readers will feel for her during the rest of the series.

It definitely adds more depth to the series. It lets us get into the villain’s head, understand her, maybe pity her but not love her. It is made very clear that she is wicked (something she even thinks of herself on occasion) even if she was not born that way. The book is brilliant, even without a protagonist the reader wants to support. In fact an absolutely despicable protagonist is what makes this short book so wonderful.

Like all Meyer’s books it’s beautifully written, and worth reading before the final installment.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Cinder

Rogues by George R. R. Martin

Genres:  Anthology, Fantasy, Mystery, Sci-fi
Publisher: Bantam Books
Publication Date: June 17th 2014

4 OUT OF 5 STARS

“Everybody loves a rogue…though sometimes we live to regret it.” 

A collection of stories focused on those dashing characters with gray morals. Stories from prolific authors, spanning as many genres as you can imagine, each with their own depiction of a rogue. From the classic fantasy thief to lying entrepreneurs and shady actors. Characters you’ll fall head over heels for, after all who doesn’t love a rogue?

The stories are all well curated and arranged. I never found myself with two stories of similar taste back to back. There were obvious standouts, “The Rogue Prince, or, A King’s Brother” by George R.R. Martin,  “What Do You Do?” by Gillian Flynn, and  “The Lightning Tree” by Patrick Rothfuss. There were stories that I didn’t expect much from that left me in love,  “Now Showing” by Connie Willis and  “A Year and a Day in Old Theradane” by Scott Lynch. There were stories that were middling and one or two that I found a bit dense or boring. Some stories try to establish too much in the short time they had and were more confusing than enjoyable, but the majority of the stories were good. Better than good.

When working with a cross-genre anthology connecting stories can be difficult. I have too often seen anthologies fail because there was too little connection, or because author’s all had the same idea of how to incorporate the connecting theme. It’s bad when an anthology doesn’t flow, it’s worse when I have to read six stories about robot detectives in a row. Rogues suffers none of these issues. The genres vary but there is always a rogue character. It doesn’t limit itself to daggers and lock-picking rogues either. The connection was tight enough that the anthology felt together, but it allowed every author to create something different.

There are stories in this book that just don’t work as short stories, and stories that feel a little bland but they are outweighed by the good. It’s surprising for an anthology to have even one story I’d consider a 5/5 but for it to have five is astounding. This is not an anthology without disappointments (a creature I’m still positive is a myth when the anthology involves multiple authors), but it is an anthology worth plowing through. There are stories that make this book more than worth the read.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Slasher Girls & Monster Boys

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel

Genres:  Adult, Science Fiction
Publisher: Knopf
Publication Date: September 9th 2014

3 OUT OF 5 STARS

“First we only want to be seen, but once we’re seen, that’s not enough anymore. After that, we want to be remembered.”

A story told from several different points of view set many years apart but all delicately intertwined with one another. It takes place before and after civilizations collapse due to a virus known as the Georgia Flu. The novel boasts a wide cast of characters from a travelling symphony, a stage actor, a paparazzo turned paramedic and weaves an intricate story about life and survival.

The opening chapters are definitely the strongest in the entire book. It hooks the reader immediately with drama, pandemic, and death. In general the parts before or just after the outbreak of Georgia Flu tend to be the high points of the novel. The parts twenty years or so after are interesting, but even in their most exciting moments seem a little flat.

There are parts of the book that are undeniably exciting.There are little reveals littered throughout the text that surprise you, but it still doesn’t shake the feeling that it’s all very mundane. The book does not feel like a book about the collapse of civilization it feels like a daily life drama. Things happen but it never feels like anything big is happening. There is no real definable climax, the book just starts and plows steadily towards the end.

There are quite a few interesting characters presented, but I felt robbed of the chance to truly bond with any of them. Kirsten certainly gets enough page-time but more interesting characters are left on the sidelines. It was brilliant how all the characters were somehow touched and tied together by Arthur Leander. The author has developed the relationships very well and connected everything rather flawlessly. The interest is not really in the character as people but how they’re connected to the world and the other characters around them.

The book definitely makes a case for the lasting power of art and why artists are important. The weaving of the stories and characters was masterful, but I didn’t really feel anything for any of those things individually. The writing was at times beautiful and at times painfully pretentious.

It’s brilliant as a whole and does have it’s moments, but it wasn’t as thrilling as it should have been.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Matched

Cress by Marissa Meyer

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: February 4th 2014

4 OUT OF 5 STARS

“Maybe great, epic romances don’t just happen. We have to make them ourselves.”

Cinder, Captain Thorne, Wolf and Scarlet are all on the run together. The Royal Wedding grows closer and closer and they still don’t have a plan to stop Levana from becoming Empress and overthrow her as Queen of Luna. Cress, a savvy programmer trapped in a lonely satellite might be just what they needed. The rescue doesn’t go as smoothly as planned and the group is shattered into pieces. They’ll have to find a way back to each other, and a way to stop the wedding, before it’s too late.

Despite having a pretty large main cast with several different POV characters, Cress flourishes instead of suffers. The female characters are all well-developed and strong without falling into the bland shell many YA heroines fall into. Cress in particular is a nice spin on the damsel in distress. She can show weakness without being a failure as a character. The plot feels much more fast paced and interesting than Scarlet. We get several great battle scenes and a lot of character development for Cress, Captain Thorne, Kai and Docter Erland. It did a really wonderful job of tying all the plot-lines together for the final story. Winter looks like such a promising character, the series is sure to finish off with a bang.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Red Queen

Maximum Ride Forever by James Patterson

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance, Dystopian
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Publication Date: May 18th 2015

1 OUT OF 5 STARS

“I know why you’re here, and I know what you want. You want to know what really happened. You want to know the truth.”

Max and her flock are forced to survive in a post-apocalyptic world, and it’s not only the weirdly mutated wildlife they have to worry about. Tension is splitting the flock, Fang must face his destiny, and Angel wants to claim hers. Will the flock be able to save the world if they can’t even save each other?

This series has been on a steady decline since the fourth book in the series. This is the ninth. Patterson himself had claimed the series was over, but he cannot bear to actually give us such mercy. his characters are twisted into caricatures of themselves. Max is selfish, stubborn and pathetic. Angel is exceptionally easy to hate when she’s meant to come out a hero. The story commits to nothing. No death, or disaster can actually tug on the heart strings because this series can’t decide where it wants to go. There’s too much going on and it’s hard as a reader to care about any of it when even the end of the world will not end this series.

The flock, which used to be the heart of the books, is hardly there at all. They pop in, say one or two lines, then vanish for another twenty chapters. The needlessly thrown in love triangles, these books have tried everything to remain relevant. I loved them once, and while nostalgia may still be enough for some readers, I cannot say that this book is good. It’s a husk of what it once was. The ending ties up similarly to Mockingjay, feeling rushed and weak. I can’t imagine why it would be rushed because no one was waiting for this book. It was meant to be over.

Series should be allowed to die with dignity. Harry Potter knew when to end, but Maximum Ride is parading it’s already decaying corpse down the aisles of bookstores hoping someone will still think it’s relevant. If you’re a fan of the series it’s hard to resist picking it up, but it’s sad to see something so far out of it’s glory days continue when it should have been put out to pasture long ago.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Hush, Hush

Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Genres: Young Adult, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Publication Date: January 1st 2013

4 OUT OF 5 STARS

“She did not know that the wolf was a wicked sort of animal, and she was not afraid of him.”

While continuing the story of escaped cyborg/lunar mechanic/princess Cinder in her attempts to discover more about who she is and help people we also follow a new character, Scarlet Benoit. Scarlet’s grandmother has been missing for three weeks, and she’s positive she’s been kidnapped. She can’t understand what anyone would want with a simple farmer. The storyintricately intertwine the characters and plots into one exciting adventure.

Another creative reimagining of a fairy tale, Scarlet focuses on Little Red Riding Hood. Unfortunately it didn’t quite fit into Cinder’s slipper. While Cinder POV is still equally exciting Scarlet feels poorly fleshed out. Her character seems to change at the drop of a hat. Her only constant is loving her grandmother so much she would walk into certain death for her. While Wolf and Scarlet’s relationship could have been compelling it felt more weak. They almost instantly fall in love. The book takes place in less than a week and the relationship they form seems far too strong given the circumstances they go through. Scarlet just felt too weak of a character to hold a POV on her own. Meyer makes up for it with an excellent plot, endless action and a cliffhanger that will make you eager for the next installment.

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Read this if you’re a fan of: Throne of Glass