BLOG TOUR REVIEW: Road Out Of Winter – by Alison Stine #blogtour @HarlequinBooks

Hello and welcome to my stop of the Road Out Of Winter blog tour! A huge thanks to Lia Ferrone for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I don’t read nearly enough dystopian stories and there was just something about the blurb of Road Out Of Winter that made me want to try it straight away. And it definitely turned out to be an unique and satisfying read! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts…

Title: Road Out Of Winter
Author: Alison Stine
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: September 1st 2020
Publisher: MIRA
Finished reading: August 29th 2020
Pages: 227

“I never realized, before last year, how dull winter was. How much the same of everything.”

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

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It’s a fact that I don’t read nearly enough dystopian stories, so I jumped on the chance to join the blog tour of Road Out Of Winter for not one, but two reasons. One: it was the perfect excuse for me to pick up the genre again. And two: the blurb itself had me completely under its spell and I loved the sound of the illegal marijuana growing angle. I’ve been looking forward to dive into what sounded like a fascinating story, and now I’ve read it I can confirm that it is without doubt out of this world. Unique, bitterly cold, mesmerizing and even terrifying: Road Out Of Winter gives us an image of an alternative near future with an air of possibility that will chill you to the bone.

There are a lot of interesting elements in this story, but let’s talk about the setting and the dystopian world first. Although there isn’t an exact date mentioned as far as I know, you immediately get a feel that the story is set in an alternative near future that is very close to our current world. This gave the dystopian elements even more impact for me, as it is quite easy to imagine how it could be like if the cold winter months suddenly never left again… And trust me, after more than two months of cold winter weather, that IS a terrifying thought. The main dystopian aspect of Road Out Of Winter is basically that somehow the season meter is stuck on ‘winter’. This might seem like something minor, but when you start thinking about the cycle of nature, growing plants and how many industries rely on weather changes, you will start to realize just how big of an impact this neverending cold will have on life. Road Out Of Winter does an excellent job portraying the effects and consequences as well as how far out of control things will spin.

What I also loved was the illegal marijuana growing element and how the plant growing element is incorporated into the plot in general. I’ve always had a strange interest in stories with a drugs element, and it was interesting to learn more about Wil’s background and home situation before the cold never left. The drugs element is mostly focused on the before, but the plant growing element will be important throughout the story and really shines through in Wil’s character with her having the talent to make things grow even under the most difficult circumstances. The growing element for me represented the hope for a better future, and I liked how it kept popping up along the way.

Road Out Of Winter can in a way been seen as a dystopian road trip story, where unlikely characters spend time together on an improvised and dangerous road trip while trying to reach a better and warmer destination down south. The dystopian vibe will mean a lot of obstacles and challenges, and there is no doubt whatsoever that this road trip will be no picnic. It has been interesting to follow their struggle as the different characters in play meet those challenges; the different plot twists and obstacles showing us more about the dystopian world and the consequences of no longer having no other seasons but winter.

As for the characters… Wil was without doubt an intriguing character, and it is her strength and perseverance that keeps everyone going. That said, I do think that her character lacks proper development, and the same can be said for all the other main characters in play. There is a lot of mystery around both their background and past, and they don’t exactly grow much during the story either… It’s as if they were frozen in time along with the stuck winter season, but somehow weirdly enough it did mostly work for the story. I think it has to do with the fact that they are basically a random bunch of individuals being thrown together on an impromptu road trip; it makes you forgive the fact that you don’t know almost anything about their background, as the characters are mostly living in the present anyway and they have more pressing things to deal with.

That said, I do have to say that I was quite disappointed by the final developments in the story. After everything that happened before, I felt that the ending was both rushed as well as what I consider way too open. The story left lots of questions unanswered and I didn’t feel my journey with the main characters was concluded or even paused in a satisfying way. I’m not sure if I missed the memo that this was actually the first book of a series, or the story simply ends this way, but the fact is that the final part did put a damper on my overall reading experience.

Despite the unsatisfying ending, Road Out Of Winter is still an unique, fascinating and highly readable dystopian story that will make you wonder what would really happen to our world if the cold winter weather suddenly becomes the only weather throughout the year. If you are looking for a little something different and a dystopian road trip in the middle of a cold cold winter sounds like your cup of tea, you will be in for a treat!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

ALISON STINE lives in the rural Appalachian foothills. A recipient of an Individual Artist Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA), she was a Stegner Fellow at Stanford University. She has written for The Atlantic, The Nation, The Guardian, and many others. She is a contributing editor with the Economic Hardship Reporting Project.

SOCIAL MEDIA

Author Website // Twitter // Instagram // Goodreads

BUY LINKS

Harlequin // Barnes & Noble // Amazon // Books-A-Million // Powell’s


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YVO’S SHORTIES #158 – VOX & One Summer In Paris

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two completely different genres I ended up having a similar reaction to… But not in a good way. Both VOX by Christina Dalcher and One Summer In Paris by Sarah Morgan had elements that made me really angry, and sadly enough influenced my reading experiences negatively.


Title: VOX
Author: Christina Dalcher
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: August 21st 2018
Publisher: Berkley
Finished reading: April 13th 2020
Pages: 336

“Monsters aren’t born, ever. They’re made, piece by piece and limb by limb, artificial creations of madmen who, like the misguided Frankenstein, always think they know better.”

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I’ve been meaning to read VOX for a long time now, and I was honestly really curious to see how I would react to this story after seeing so many mixed reviews. I went in blind and as I started reading I thought I was going to love this story… The writing seemed spot on for and I actually studied Wernicke’s aphasia as part of my Spanish philology degree, which made the topic all the more intriguing for me. The dystopian alternate present is both utterly terrifying and fascinating; it’s the perfect foundation stone to build the rest of the story on. While VOX definitely has that feminism feel, it wasn’t too much for me and I liked how this aspect was incorporated into the story. BUT. Sadly there were also quite a few things that ended up infuriating me. I will keep things short to avoid a full rant, but let’s just say that I wasn’t happy at all with certain characters and how they behaved, the appearance of a love triangle, animal tests, the ending… The character behavior part can partly be explained as something belonging to this dystopian world, but that doesn’t mean my averse reaction was less real because of it. And the ending was kind of an anti-climax for me and didn’t really do the rest of the story justice. It wasn’t a bad read and I agree it would make for a very interesting blog club read and discussion, but I sadly didn’t enjoy VOX as much as I thought I would.


Title: One Summer In Paris
Author: Sarah Morgan
Genre: Contemporary, Romance
First published: April 4th 2019
Publisher: HQ
Finished reading: April 15th 2020
Pages: 464

“Being yourself is the one thing every person should excel at.”

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I know this is not my typical genre, but I’ve been craving a lot of contemporaries lately and I love a travel/foreign setting theme, so I thought this story set (mostly) in Paris would be a good fit. Things started out great (and also a lot darker than expected) and there were a lot of things I did love in One Summer In Paris, including the Paris setting and the dynamics and growing relationship between Grace and Audrey as well as the bookshop, French language learning, explaining of dyslexia and alcoholic parents past and even Audrey romance with Etienne. BUT. I absolutely hate it when the cheating/affair element plays a big role in a story. Especially the reaction of Grace and more importantly Mr. Bastard aka David himself were simply infuriating. Oh yes, this part of the story made me so SO angry!! And not only behavior of David and decisions of Grace, but also how lightly the topic is treated and how Grace and Sophie’s months of suffering and their lives being ripped apart were brushed away like that. Ugh. The ending definitely wasn’t what I was hoping for either and not even Audrey’s POV and bookshop related reveal (which was too predictable as I guessed it straight away) could save the story for me. I guess it’s unpopular opinion time again?


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ARC REVIEW: The Electric Heir – by Victoria Lee

Title: The Electric Heir
(Feverwake #2)

Author: Victoria Lee
Genre: YA, Science Fiction, Dystopia
First published: March 17th 2020
Publisher: Skyscape
Finished reading: January 10th 2020
Pages: 479

“Just because something is a stereotype doesn’t make it true.”

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

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After enjoying the first book of this duology last year, I was excited to meet up with the main characters again in The Electric Heir. But before we continue with my rambles, can we just take a second to admire this absolutely gorgeous cover? Both Feverwake covers are simply stunning and most definitely fit this story as well, as it can be seen as a direct reference to the magical powers so fundamental to this story. Cover love aside, there are quite a few other elements that made this duology work for me.

The first thing that stands out in the Feverwake books is the dystopian setting and worldbuilding in general. While not entirely original, the dystopian world where a magical virus ravages the world, killing most and leaving the survivors with supernatural powers, is without doubt intriguing. While roughly based on actual US states and cities by name, the story has an obvious dystopian feel both because the country and government as we know it is long gone and the story is actually set in the future (2123 to be exact). The worldbuilding itself isn’t all that extensive, but solid enough to give the story the right backdrop.

One of the things I liked most about both books was the magic and the fact that there was a wide range of different supernatural powers as well as level of strength after surviving the virus. It was interesting to see the different characters develop their power over time as well as seeing the power change them… And as the blurb already states, the sudden absence of that power too. Magic is without doubt essential to the plot and definitely spiced up this story! As for the plot itself… It was interesting to see the new direction this story took. Lehrer is clearly the supervillian of this story and the main goal is to defeat him before things really spin out of control. I do admit that some parts of the plot were quite cliche and the pace can be considerably slow in points. Especially the second made the story drag in certain parts, but overall curiosity won out as I wanted to know how it would all end.

There are a lot of trigger warnings involved when it comes to The Electric Heir, including genocide, abuse, rape, mental health, suicide and addiction (full list available on the author’s website). There are a lot of deeper meanings to be uncovered while reading this duology and some parts even give off a political vibe, but I personally thought this only gave the story a little something extra. There are quite a lot of heavy elements included in The Electric Heir and if you are looking for a balanced and happy story this would definitely be the wrong place to look for it. But life isn’t all about happy endings and it made this story feel a lot more realistic because of it. I personally found the ending itself of The Electric Heir a bit abrupt, but I guess it does give you closure and all in all it’s a well rounded duology that wrapped things up nicely. If you are looking for an entertaining YA dystopia that isn’t afraid to go dark, love a good LGBT romance and don’t mind a dose of teen angst and a slower pace, this Feverwake duology is definitely for you.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #131 – The Last & The Chain

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two 2019 crime releases that have created a lot of buzz and that I’ve been looking forward to finally pick up… I ended up having mixed thoughts about The Last, but I literally finished The Chain in one sitting despite a few minor issues.


Title: The Last
Author: Hanna Jameson

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Dystopia
First published: January 31st 2019
Publisher: Penguin
Finished reading: November 1st
Pages: 352

“History is only the sum of its people.”


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Oh boy, do I feel conflicted about this title! I’ve seen mixed things about The Last ever since it came out, but there was just something about the blurb and the ‘locked-room mystery‘ feel I couldn’t resist. I have to be honest and say I was a bit wary to pick it up myself though, but in the end I couldn’t resist the temptation and decided to see for myself what I would make of The Last. I still stand by the fact that the premise of this story is both fascinating and simply brilliant, and I absolutely loved the dystopian feel. It definitely gave this story an unique twist and it was simply fascinating to see the different characters react to the nuclear attacks and the aftermath. There were a few things that irked me though. First of all, I was a bit disappointed to find out that the whole investigation to find who is behind the death of the little girl is mostly pushed into the background. After reading the blurb, I thought that it would be given a more prominent place in the plot, but instead The Last focuses more on the surviving after a nuclear disaster part and should be considered more dystopian than mystery/thriller. Think The Walking Dead or The Road, but without the zombies and more people involved… Not a bad thing necessarily, but not exactly what I was expecting. I also struggled with the writing style and more specifically Jon’s voice. I can’t put my finger exactly on the why, but there was just something about the way he narrates what happens that really annoyed me. I wasn’t really a fan of the abuse, rape and hints at cannibalism incorporated into the plot either, mostly because of the sometimes crude way these elements were incorporated into the plot. Cutting things short, there were things I loved and things that didn’t work for me in The Last, and I ended up having mixed feelings about this story myself. I can definitely see why this story can work either way for you depending on how you react to the different elements.


Title: The Chain
Author: Adrian McKinty

Genre: Mystery, Thriller, Crime
First published: July 9th 2019
Publisher: Orion
Finished reading: November 13th 2019
Pages: 369

Civilization is just a thin, fragile veneer over the law of the jungle: Better you than me. Better your kid than my kid.”


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There has been quite some buzz around this title ever since the first reviews started popping up… Hyped books and me have a bit of a strained relationship, but there was just no way on earth I was going to resist that blurb. Now I’ve finally had the chance to read The Chain, I’m definitely a fan. After a slower read, I was really craving for a dose of something fast, exhilarating and properly twisted. The Chain came to the rescue! I literally finished this story in one sitting, unable to put my kindle down and impatient to discover how it all would end. Mind you, I did have some minor issues with the story, but overall I had a brilliant time reading this story. Lightning fast, properly wicked and one hell of a premise: there is a lot to love in this story if you can forget about a few minor blips along the way. It’s true that I really started to doubt about the credibility of it all as things started to escalate further and further. It’s true that I guessed at least one major plot twist really early on. It’s also true that I’m still not sure if the ending was all that satisfying for me. And it’s definitely true that I had mixed thoughts about the main characters. BUT. It is also true that The Chain grabbed me from the very first chapter and it was hook, line and sinker as I keeped turning those pages and neglecting pending chores in the process. And it is most definitely a fact that the premise of this story is simply brilliant. If you are looking for a fast-paced, disturbing and engaging thriller ride, I can suggest joining The Chain and see for yourself what the hype is all about.


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BLOG TOUR REVIEW: The Disappeared – by Amy Lord #blogtour #RandomThingsTours @annecater

Hello and welcome to my little stop of the The Disappeared Random Things blog tour! A huge thanks to Anne Cater for inviting me to be part of this blog tour. I think 1984 is one of my favorite dystopian classics along with Fahrenheit 451, so the promise of another dystopian bookish story instantly made me curious. I was definitely happy with what I found! Want to know why? Please join me while I share my thoughts on The Disappeared.

Title: The Disappeared
Author: Amy Lord
Genre: Dystopia, Science Fiction
First published: May 2nd 2019
Publisher: Unbound
Finished reading: May 27th 2019
Pages: 368

“Our stories are how we grow and understand our place in the world. They give us a voice. They are fundamental to our being. We shouldn’t have to live without them.”

*** A copy of this book was kindly provided to me by Anne Cater and the publisher in exchange for an honest review. Thank you! ***

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Both 1984 and Fahrenheit 451 are among my favorite dystopian classics and I love books about books in general, so it’s easy to understand that when I read the blurb of The Disappeared I was immediately intrigued by the premise of this story. I definitely don’t complain about what I found instead either… It might be true that certain aspects of the plot might not be all that original, but there is also no doubt I highly enjoyed my time with The Disappeared. If you enjoy dystopian fiction with a bookish focus, you will be in for a treat with this story.

The Disappeared is set in a near future alternative UK where a new government is in power and controls absolutely everything. Think 1984, think censorship and being forbidden to read certain books or having thoughts that are against the government. The story is set in a terrifying alternative world where there are almost no books, no phones or modern gadgets and people are forced to live in tiny apartments and are no longer allowed luxury… Unless they form part of the new government of course. This contrast between this ‘elite’ life and the rest of the population is a big one, and is described very well with the help of the main character’s mother. The stark contrast between the different lifestyles is showed in Clara’s mom, particularly in how she had to make a choice after Clara’s dad was taken away all those years ago. It’s true that she lives in luxury now, but it came at a price… And would that price be worth it? Clara herself never accepted the new situation and was soon shipped off to boarding school in Scotland. This is yet another example of this contrast as ‘normal’ difficult people tend to disappear into thin air rather than relocated to a remote but safe location.

The story is told in different times and with different perspectives, and that way we learn more about past and present and how things came to be. As always, the younger generation doesn’t really remember the situation before the drastic changes. And with the censorship oppressing free thought, the new generation is not able to learn about it either if they don’t want to be in danger of being taken away. This danger is always present and one wrong thought or word can be your end… As is shown in examples throughout the story. Clara is of course aware of this danger as well, but even though she knows the consequences she is determined to rebel and go against the government anyway.

It’s true that some dystopian cliches are involved and not all aspects of the plot are all that original, but overall it didn’t distract too much. The Disappeared has some pretty brutal moments, especially those related to the interrogation and torture scenes. Action scenes are mixed with slower and more psychological ones, but well enough balanced to keep you going. I’m not sure if the ending was all that credible as things were wrapped up a little too conveniently. Still, there is no doubt that The Disappeared is a very interesting debut that pictures a terrifying alternative world we will hopefully never encounter ourselves. Imagine not being able to read your own books anymore!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Amy Lord is a writer, blogger and digital marketer from nort-east England. She won a Northern Writers’ Award in 2015 for The Disappeared and was also longlisted in the inaugural Bath Novel Award. An earlier manuscript saw her shortlisted for Route Publishing’s Next Great Novelist Award. Amy is currently working on a new novel, which was developed as part of a year-long mentoring scheme with Writers’ Block NE.

 

 


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ARC REVIEW: The Fever King – by Victoria Lee

Title: The Fever King
(Feverwake #1)
Author: Victoria Lee
Genre: YA, Fantasy, Dystopia
First published: March 1st 2019
Publisher: Skyscape
Finished reading: March 5th 2019
Pages: 376

“Everything worth doing had its risks. Sometimes you had to do the wrong thing to achieve something better.”

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

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It was coverlove at first sight when I saw The Fever King first mentioned and after investigating further I really liked the sound of the blurb was well. I think that magic acting like a virus is a fascinating idea and a great starting point for a new series… The Fever King is set in a dystopian alternative future where a magical virus has been killing a lot of people for more than a century; the survivors end up being witchings with supernatural powers. They are basically a mix between witches and superheroes and it is an interesting take on the whole ‘a spider bit me’ phenomenon. Not everything about the plot might be all that original, but it is the characters who make this story stand out for me. For a YA dystopian series, there is a lot of focus on the characters rather than the dystopian world, but in this case I didn’t mind that much. Would I have liked to see more development of the alternative future the characters have to struggle in? Maybe. But Noam, Dara and even Lehrer make up for those holes and make this story worthwhile. Noam and Dara are easy to like and it was interesting seeing their characters and interaction evolve over time. Even Lehrer proved to be an interesting character, although I did had my guesses about him which turned out to be right… The other characters could have had more character development though. I did like how none of the three main characters is clearly good or bad, the author instead opting for blurred lines and basically humanity. The story started out quite slow, but picked up in the second half up to the point that it felt like a race against the clock. The writing is overall engaging and makes it easy to get to know and root for certain characters. Some of the plot twists were easy to guess and I didn’t agree with everything, but overall this was without doubt a very entertaining start of a new series. It does end with a cliffhanger though, so you’ve been warned…

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Noam has spent his whole life trying to help refugees fleeing magical outbreaks and trying to live in the nation of Carolinia. He was born here, but his parents have always been illegal… One day, Noam wakes up in a hospital bed, the sole survivor of the magical virus that has been tormenting the country for over a century. Him surviving means he is now a witching, and powerful enough to attract the attention of the Minister Of Defense Calix Lehrer himself. They soon discover his ability to control technology, and Noam accepts Lehrer’s offer to train him personally as a way to fight for the rights of the refugees from the inside. But that is easier said than done…

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Gorgeous cover aside, this was without doubt an entertaining start of a new dystopian alternative future series. In The Fever King magic is in fact a virus that will kill most and leave the survivors with superpowers. A very interesting take on magic and without doubt one of the stronger features of this story. While the worldbuilding is a bit simple and not that developed, the three most important characters (Noam, Dara and Lehrer) mostly make up for it as they all have something special to add to the story. I would have liked to see the other important characters being more developed though, and the pace did start out a bit slow. But the story ends in a whirlwind and will definitely leave you craving for more.


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YVO’S SHORTIES #85 – Shatter Me (DNF) & Wintergirls

Time for another round of Yvo’s Shorties! This time around two books that have been published over five years ago and titles I’ve been meaning to get to for a while. The first, Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi, sadly turned out to be my first DNF of the year. The second, Wintergirls by Laurie Halse Anderson, is without doubt an emotionally tough read to read with lots of trigger warnings and a prose that is both beautiful, almost bordering the magical realism realm and at the same time somehow started to irk me.


Title: Shatter Me
(Shatter Me #1)
Author: Tahereh Mafi

Genre: YA, Dystopia, Romance
First published: November 15th 2011
Publisher: HarperCollins
Finished reading: February 13th 2019
Pages: 357
DNF at 51% (182 pages)

“The moon understands what it means to be human. Uncertain. Alone. Cratered by imperfections.”


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WARNING: It’s unpopular opinion time again! Please don’t feel offended if you love this series. We are all entitled to our own reactions and feelings after all…

Ever had your sixth sense screaming at you to back off and stay away? Well, that is what happened to me whenever I started thinking about trying the Shatter Me series. I’m not sure why or how, but there was just something about it that made me think it wouldn’t be for me… But curiosity won in the end and made me ignore my instincts. I should have known better… Because sadly this turned out to be my very first DNF of the year. Why? There were various reasons, but the main one is this: I absolutely could not stand the writing style. The endless metaphors, the short sentences, the wacky grammar, the 1 2 3 4 numbers… It seemed like every single word and page was destined to annoy me to the limit and I simply reached a point where I couldn’t take it anymore. I feel sad for reacting this way to a story I know so many seem to love, but that doesn’t take away that Shatter Me and me definitely didn’t get a long. Nothing much was happening in the pages I read either; lots of words, metaphors and feelings, but no real actions or proper worldbuilding descriptions. The fact that I could already see a love triangle coming from a mile away didn’t really help either. Things might have improved in the second half, but since I had such an extreme reaction to the writing style and had already started skimreading just to reach the end faster, I decided to throw in the towel and leave this series alone to be enjoyed and treasured by those who can connect to it. Oh well, at least I know for sure now… Intuition, you were right. Sorry I didn’t listen to you.


Title: Wintergirls
Author: Laurie Halse Anderson

Genre: YA, Fiction, Contemporary
First published: March 19th 2009
Publisher: Speak
Finished reading: February 20th 2019
Pages: 300

“The sentences build a fence around her, a Times Roman 10-point barricade, to keep the thorny voices in her head from getting too close.”


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I have been meaning to try one of Laurie Halse Anderson‘s books for years, but somehow other books always ended up getting in the way. The BTB Epic Bingo challenge was the perfect excuse to finally pick up Wintergirls. I didn’t know what to expect when I started reading this story, and if you go in blind you will definitely be up for a surprise. Trigger warnings are in place for eating disorders, self harm, cutting, suicide and mental health problems… Wintergirls is a story that will bring those cold and chilling winter feels and is an emotionally draining read that shows us the struggle of the main character with her eating disorder and the way she sees herself and her surrounding world. It’s not an easy or happy read, but I thought the topic was well handled and represented in Lia. The prose is both beautiful, almost bordering the magical realism realm and at the same time somehow irked me at points. I named magical realism because the writing sometimes almost has that otherwordly and magical feel, especially the descriptions of how Lia sees herself and the world. The story also has a hint of paranormal with a symbolic feel; those two aspects making it hard to properly place the story in just one genre. I suppose you can say this is mostly a realistic fiction story with a mental health angle, where we can see how the eating disorder takes over Lia’s life through her very own eyes. I had a hate/love relationship with the writing style, but there is no doubt that the writing has that original and almost otherworldly feel and I can understand why so many people seem to love this story.


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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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