ARC REVIEW: The Living – by Isaac Marion

Title: The Living
(Warm Bodies #3)
Author: Isaac Marion
Genre: YA, Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: November 13th 2018
Publisher: Zola Books
Finished reading: November 13th 2018
Pages: 384

“It’s easier to fall than to climb, and yet against all logic, life keeps rising.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Netgalley and Zola Books in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Before I start I have to make a confession and say that I probably would never have decided to read The Living if I would have read The Burning World before requesting a copy of this final book. Why? I was considerably underwhelmed by the sequel, and I had serious problems with the writing style. Still, part of me hoped that this final book of the Warm Bodies series would be an improvement and a satisfying conclusion to R and Julie’s story. Sadly it wasn’t meant to be. The Living follows the same structure as the sequel and even intensifies the confusing writing style and structure as the end is coming near. Once again, I felt that the story in general lacks a proper plot and that both plot and characters were mostly all over the place and running into random trouble instead of following a coherent line. As for the writing style: especially the WE chapters were frustratingly confusing and there were too many jumps and switches between past, present and the different characters to make for a coherent story. I can forgive a zombie story not being scary and the humans being the bad guys for once. This is actually quite a refreshing angle. I can forgive the romance, especially since we are spared a love triangle. But between the writing, lack of proper plot and general feeling of confusement I can’t say I had a great time reading The Living, and to be honest I was relieved when I finally reached the final page. I didn’t find the ending particularly satisfying either… All in all not exactly a positive experience unfortunately.

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WARNING: Possible spoilers! Please don’t read this summary if you haven’t read the first two books of this series yet. I’ll keep the summary super short but it’s impossible to keep it completely spoiler-free…

R used to be a flesh-eating zombie, but now he is breathing again. But what if he was something worse before he turned that first time? He finally remembers his former life, and what he has learned terrifies him. Especially if he things how it will change how Julie sees him… R feels the only way to redemption is to destroy what he once helped create, but how to start such an impossible task? And who will help him achieve that goal?

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I was really hoping The Living would be a more positive reading experience for me, but sadly it was a repeat experience of The Burning World. The whole different stages of zombies and returning to life angle is without doubt refreshing, and the story has some interesting aspects. But between the writing style, lack of plot, confusing POV switches and WE chapters I just couldn’t enjoy this final installment. I was in fact relieved it was finally over, and that is never a good sign. If you are able to connect to the writing style though, you will probably have a significantly better experience.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #62 – The Burning World & Elevation

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two stories that ended up disappointing me unfortunately. The Warm Bodies sequel The Burning World by Isaac Marion and the ‘impossible to understand why this is horror’ Elevation by Stephen King.


Title: The Burning World
(Warm Bodies #2)
Author: Isaac Marion

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: February 2nd 2017
Publisher: Atria
Finished reading: November 6th 2018 
Pages: 512

“There’s no bigger threat to the world than people who think they can improve it. “


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I confess I actually read the first book so long ago (three years) that I confused my feelings for the first book with another zombie read. Oops? It turns out I wasn’t convinced by the first book Warm Bodies, and sadly this sequel didn’t wow me either. The first thing you have to know before you start the series is that the zombies are not actually scary and they are in fact not the real enemy. That on its own isn’t a real problem, as the idea of having different kind of zombie states is actually quite interesting and original. What I didn’t expect is just how NOT scary either book is. And of course, the romance plays a big role in the story. While I appreciate the idea of a zombie and human being together and all (you can’t deny it’s a slightly disturbing but original idea), it doesn’t lend itself for the most exciting plot. And talking about plots, I found that The Burning World in general lacks a proper plot and that both plot and characters were mostly all over the place and running into random trouble instead of following a coherent line (although things might become clearer in the final book I guess). This wasn’t the only thing I struggled with though, as more importantly I wasn’t a fan of the writing style itself. Especially the WE chapters were frustratingly confusing and there were too many jumps and switches to make for a coherent story. The story was overlong for me with its 500+ pages and I sincerely hope my experience with the final book will be better.


Title: Elevation
Author: Stephen King

Genre: Contemporary, Fantasy, Science Fiction
First published: October 30th 2018
Publisher: Scribner
Finished reading: November 8th 2018
Pages: 160

“This was the same. Not a wind, not even a high, exactly, but an elevation. A sense that you had gone beyond yourself and could go farther still.”


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I was curious when I saw a new Stephen King was coming out, and I’m sure we can all admit that cover is gorgeous. Even though Elevation is a novella and I don’t read a lot of those, I was really looking forward to reading it. The first thing that stands out for me is that I have no clue whatsoever why this novella is marked as ‘horror’. Contemporary romance with a hint of sci-fi and even a far-fetched urban fantasy… Maybe. But horror? I don’t think anyone would find Elevation scary unless you are afraid of hights or stepping on the scale. That was the first thing that went wrong for me. The second thing had to do with the characters. I know it’s only a novella, but the characters just felt like one big cliche for me and didn’t add anything interesting to the story for me. A big problem, as the story is mostly focused on them. I did like the huge focus on the running, but overall there wasn’t really that much of a plot to talk about. Just a guy losing his pounds until he is closer and closer to zero… Not horror, not thrilling at all, and mostly a cliche contemporary story on how one person’s doom can bring other people together. And mostly just a meh story for me.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #59 – The Giver & The Giving Tree

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time two ‘giving’ stories and two modern classics… The Giver by Lois Lowry and The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein. I probably would have enjoyed these better if I would have read them a long time ago, because at this point they didn’t make the impact I thought they would.


Title: The Giver
(The Giver #1)
Author: Lois Lowry

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: April 26th 1993
Publisher: Ember
Finished reading: October 28th 2018 
Pages: 208

“The worst part of holding the memories is not the pain. It’s the loneliness of it. Memories need to be shared.”


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Warning: unpopular opinion ahead… First of all, I have to say that I probably would have enjoyed this book a lot better if I would have read it 15-20 year ago. I have been meaning to read this so-called modern classic for years, and I think the story itself has a bigger impact on younger readers than adults. That said, the worldbuilding and story of The Giver reminded me a bit of Brave New World with a new twist. It was quite an interesting take on a dystopian world, where everything is controlled in such a way everything seems the same. This contrast with Jonas and his experiences once he starts training as a Receiver on its own is fascinating. Especially as he starts discovering more about his world and his eyes are truly opened… But somehow, I wasn’t able to enjoy the actual story as much as I thought I would. This is probably just me and not the story, especially since this modern classic is so loved. I’m glad I did finally read The Giver though, as I finally know exactly what the story is all about.


Title: The Giving Tree
Author: Shel Silverstein

Genre: Children, Picture Book, Fiction
First published: October 7th 1964
Publisher: HarperCollins
Finished reading: October 30th 2018
Pages: 64

“… and she loved a boy very, very much– even more than she loved herself.”


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I have been meaning to read this picture book classic for ages now… When I came across my copy the other day I picked it up on a whim. I can see the appeal of The Giving Tree, where the tree is like a mother to the little boy, and the writing style is spot on and really flows. BUT. I did have my doubts about the message behind this story. Why? Well, the tree isn’t exactly treated with respect and only gives and gives and gives without ever receiving much in return… Not exactly a healthy relationship I would want to show to my kids. Especially since this message is never questioned and even when the little boy grows up to be old the relationship still doesn’t feel equal. Maybe I’m overthinking this, but it still made me feel slightly uncomfortable as children tend to soak up everything like a sponge.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #56 – Rebel & Evidence Of The Affair

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around a YA sci-fi sequel and a contemporary romance novella… Two completely different genres, but both stories I enjoyed.


Title: Rebel
(Reboot #2)
Author: Amy Tintera

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: May 13th 2014
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: October 20th 2018
Pages: 352

“Maybe you need to take a look at who I am, instead of who you wish I were.”


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It took me years to finally start this duology, but after enjoying Reboot recently I decided to pick up the sequel while the first book was still fresh in my memories. I have to say that the second book didn’t disappoint and is just as good or even slightly better than the first. Between the writing style and likeable characters it was really easy to fly through Rebel. Sure, I would have liked to see a slightly more complicated and developed dystopian world, but its simplicity didn’t bother me all that much either. The idea behind the Reboot duology might not be completely original, but it works as a charm anyway. This success has a lot to do with the writing, fast pace and the main characters. Wren and Callum are so easy to like and the romance somehow didn’t bother me at all… The humor is spot on and it was interesting to see how the duology ended. I really appreciate this story being wrapped up in two books; it saves us from the story being dragged out and instead gives us two strong books to savour. If you haven’t read this duology yet, enjoy reading YA sci-fi/dystopian stories and like me treasure ‘love triangle free’ stories, both Reboot and Rebel are must-reads.


Title: Evidence Of The Affair
Author: Taylor Jenkins Reid

Genre: Contemporary, Romance, Novella
First published: September 20th 2018
Publisher: Amazon Original Stories
Finished reading: October 21st 2018
Pages: 115

“It is funny the crazy things our brains make up to save us from the truth.”


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Even though contemporary romance isn’t really my genre, ever since reading The Seven Husbands Of Evelyn Hugo I had no choice but add Taylor Jenkins Reid to my list of exceptions. There is just something about the way she writes that makes me forget all about the fact that is not my favorite genre, and she is one of the few authors that can make me enjoy it. I’ve heard great things about this novella, and there is no doubt that Evidence Of The Affair has only reconfirmed to me that I have to read more of her work. I loved the fact that the story is told exclusively through letters, and just how well we get to know the characters despite its short length. It was interesting to see how things developed, and I actually quite liked the ending as well. It’s short, well written, well crafted and entertaining, and 200% worth your time.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #54 – Reboot & They Both Die At The End

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two YA read that both turned out to be great reads. The first Reboot by Amy Tintera, a series I will be continuing very soon. The second They Both Die At The End by Adam Silvera, a book I’m very happy about to have finally picked up.


Title: Reboot
(Reboot #1)
Author: Amy Tintera

Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: May 7th 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: October 12th 2018
Pages: 365

“We might have been monsters, but we were still stronger and faster and far more useful than any human army.”


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I’ve been meaning to start this duology for years now, and I’m definitely glad I finally did so. YA dystopians can go both ways for me, depending on the cliches and the dreaded love triangle, but I’m happy to say Reboot was a success for me. First of all, a big round of applause for not having a love triangle! There are romance scenes of course, but somehow they didn’t bother me as much as I liked them together. The writing style is spot on for me and I’m definitely looking forward to read more of Amy Tintera‘s books after this. The writing draws you right in, and the dystopian world Reboot is set in is quite interesting. Not all that original perhaps with the virus and all, but entertaining enough anyway. I liked the idea behind the reboots and how they are all different depending on how long they were dead before they rebooted… What makes this story so enjoyable is the fact that some of the characters are easy to like and you will find yourself rooting for them soon enough. I had a great time reading Reboot and I will be starting the sequel very soon. Fans of the YA dystopian genre will have a great time with this one.


Title: They Both Die At The End
Author: Adam Silvera

Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: September 5th 2017
Publisher: HarperTeen
Finished reading: October 15th 2018
Pages: 376

“I’ve spent years living safely to secure a longer life and look where that’s gotten me. I’m at the finish line, but I never ran the race.”


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They Both Die At The End is one of those titles I’ve been meaning to read for ages, but somehow managed to pospone anyway. I’m glad I finally did pick it up! There is just something about Adam Silvera’s writing style that draws you right in and keeps you invested until the very end. I was expecting another contemporary romance read, so I was more than pleasantly surprised by the science fiction like twist of this story. Of course I knew there were going to be sad moments because as the title suggests, both main characters will die before the story is over. But I really liked the idea behind the Dead Cast, Last Friend App and how they spend their last day together. Sci-fi with a romantic lgbt twist, and a whole lot of carpe diem before they kick the bucket. The author is a pro at creating characters that both feel real and are easy to connect to. I took to both characters instantly and this is probably why this story worked so well for me. I enjoyed learning more about them as well as the people close to them… And I actually liked the random different POV chapters mixed in between as well, since they will all somehow connect in the end and it just felt like putting together a big puzzle. I wasn’t sure what to think of the ending, but overall there is no doubt They Both Die At The End is worth the read.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #48 – City Of Ghosts & All These Things I’ve Done

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two new series I’ve started; one that has become an instant favorite and one that I won’t be continuing. I’m a huge fan of Victoria Schwab‘s work, so of course I loved her new MG story City Of Ghosts as well. I can’t wait for the next book! And I was hoping All These Things I’ve Done by Gabrielle Zevin would be interesting with the dystopian and mafia angle, but not such luck…


Title: City Of Ghosts
(Cassidy Blake #1)
Author: Victoria Schwab

Genre: Middle Grade, Fantasy, Paranormal
First published: August 28th 2018
Publisher: Scholastic
Finished reading: September 13th 2018
Pages: 272

“If we were a comic book, this would be our origin story. Some people get a spider bite, or a vat of acid. We got a river.”


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It’s no secret that I am a huge fan of anything that Victoria Schwab writes, so after a few mediocre reads I turned to her books for something good. Just reading about how excited the author herself is about City Of Ghosts made me pospone my scheduled read of The Archived and pick up this new story instead. City Of Ghosts delivers right from the cover until the very last page. I knew I could trust my instincts when I picked up this title, but this first book of a new MG paranormal series has proven once again you cannot go wrong with anything Schwab writes. It was hook, line and sinker when I started reading City Of Ghosts and I had to put all other tasks on hold until I finished reading it. The writing, the characters and their development, the Scottish setting, the ghosts, the plot… There is a lot to love in this story, and Cassidy and Jacob have already found a place in my heart. I loved the story of her parents, the motive behind their travels and how well it works with Cassidy’s own story and development. Reading about the Scottish setting was almost like being there myself seeing all the sights… It was a truly delightful read and I can’t wait what the next episode has in store.


Title: All These Things I’ve Done
(Birthright #1)
Author: Gabrielle Zevin

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Romance
First published: September 6th 2011
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Finished reading: September 15th 2018
Pages: 368

“Tragedy is when someone ends up dead. Everything else is just a bump in the road.”


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I’ve had this one on my TBR for a long time, and I have always been intrigued by the dystopian and mafia angle in All These Things I’ve Done. So of course, when I needed a book set in the future, my first thought went out to this story. I really do think this story has a lot of potential, but instead of focusing on the more interesting aspects of the plot, All These Things I’ve Done is mostly just another teenage romantic drama with a few twists. Instead of focusing on the dystopian setting, when chocolate! and coffee! are illegal and resources seem to be limited, or the whole mafia background of Anya’s family, we mostly see the typical high school scenes with star-crossed lovers, food fights and other cliche elements. Definitely not what I thought I had signed up for. To make things worse, the main character Anya is absolutely despicable. Not only is she arrogant and thinks she is better than the rest, there is a lot of slut shaming going on. She constantly looks down on other girls, insults them and then sees herself as a ‘good Catholic girl’ while she is not that innocent herself. I think these views can badly influence or even shame the teenage target group this story was ment for, making sexuality seem as illegal as the chocolate in this story. And I’m definitely not okay with that. The pace was also quite slow at points, and like I said, the few mafia references only left me wanting for more. All in all I can’t say I can recommend All These Things I’ve Done.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #39: Ink And Bone & The Mysterious Affair At Styles

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around another two titles for the Magical Readathon: O.W.L. Edition. The first, Ink And Bone, I’ve been meaning to pick up for ages, but wasn’t as good as I would have hoped after absolutely loving the Stillhouse Lake series. The second, The Mysterious Affair At Styles, is part of a promise to myself to finally start reading more of Agatha Christie‘s work… It was entertaining enough, but I still prefer her And Then There Were None.


Title: Ink And Bone
(The Great Library #1)
Author: Rachel Caine

Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia
First published: July 7th 2015
Publisher: NAL
Finished reading: August 15th 2018 
Pages: 352

“You have ink in your blood, boy, and no help for it. Books will never be just a business to you.”


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I have had The Great Library series on my TBR for way too long… After my love for the Stillhouse Lake books, I just knew I had to give in and finally try more of her work. And let’s be honest: who can resist after that cover and blurb? I had really high expectations when I started reading Ink And Bone, and this just might have been the problem here. I was really surprised it took me a long long time to get into the story… I can’t exactly put my finger on the way, because the writing itself is excellent, but it might have been the slowish pace or my lack of connection to the plot itself. There is no doubt there is a lot to love in Ink And Bone, from the main bookish references, the idea of the Library to the main characters being trained to work for the Library and the steampunk elements… And of course the war and the Burners threatening the peace. But somehow, I just didn’t feel it. I felt some of the spark was missing, and only towards the final part did that spark finally ignite. The conspiracy plot and the promise of a whole lot more action and twists makes me curious about the second book, and the final part of Ink And Bone is definitely what saved the story for me.


Title: The Mysterious Affair At Styles
(Hercule Poirot #1)
Author: Agatha Christie

Genre: Classics, Mystery, Thriller
First published: 1920
Publisher: HarperCollins
Finished reading: August 15th 2018
Pages: 304

“You gave too much rein to your imagination. Imagination is a good servant, and a bad master. The simplest explanation is always the most likely.”


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I’m almost ashamed to admit I’ve only recently started discovering Agatha Christie‘s books, starting with And Then There Were None in 2016. I then read Murder On The Orient Express earlier this year, going against my self imposed rule to try and always read series in order. So this is me trying to make up for that and starting at the beginning, where it all once started. The Mysterious Affair At Styles is actually her very first book and it was interesting to discover how her long career had begun. This first introduction to the famous Hercule Poirot was an interesting one. The references to the war were interesting and gave the story a little something extra. True, the pace was a tad slow and this story is more about cleverly concealed twists and descriptions than real suspense. It was interesting to see how the case evolved over time and how Hastings tried to figure out what really happened, and his interactions with Poirot himself. I figured out the basics of the ending early on, but being able to see the techniques Agatha Christie used to reach that ending was still satisfying. All in all not my favorite, but I’m definitely looking forward to continue the series.


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