Unwept by Tracy & Laura hickman
If i could sum up Unwept in two words, it would have to be:
I've read plenty of books where the author(s) do not do an adequate job with character development/world building/magic system/etc and I am left with an overall question mark about what the book was even about.
I'll be honest - when I started Unwept I was worried that scenario was going to happen again. I hated that...I have fond, fond memories of Tracy Hickman's participation in the Dragonlance series and I have read and enjoyed a few of the books he has written in concert with his wife, Laura. So, when I started Unwept with absolutely no clue what was happening...well, it was worrisome.
But I kept reading.
And I am glad that I did! Unwept turned out to be a fun, surreal ride. In this novel we meet Ellis who has no recollection of her past. She comes to consciousness, waking from a horrific nightmare, finding herself on a train bound for a small, seaside town in Maine. Everybody she meets seems to have knowledge of her and her past...but the can't (or won't?) give her the answers she is desperately seeking. To make matters even more disorienting, Ellis is visited in the dark of night by a mysterious suitor who keeps trying to take her away from the small Maine town. Unsure of what is going on, Ellis embarks on a journey to discover her past...but is she ready for the answers she may find?
The reader is definitely in the same boat as Ellis. You discover Ellis' backstory along with Ellis. At times this can be frustrating...I would have enjoyed a little bit of insider knowledge at the start of the story. I think it would have made the book more enjoyable? But, really...I don't know. Maybe it really is best to be on the same page as Ellis. *shrug*
I think this book requires a little bit of patience to wait and discover the story along with Ellis. And the fact that Unwept starts a series should tell you that you're in for the long haul on this one. I devoured this story and am looking forward to seeing how the next chapter unfolds.
The one by Kiera Cass
And....this season of The (Dystopian-ish) Bachelor is now concluded.
I finally have my answer...Aspen or Maxon? Maxon or Aspen? Which dude does America end up with? And now I know. But you shall find no spoilers here...and don't go peeking at the end of the book to find out, either - it will definitely take a lot out of the story ('cause let's face it...the decision between the two is pretty much the whole story).
So, other than finally knowing who America ends up with...this was an ok book. Not my favorite of the three...I think I enjoyed the first book the best. I enjoyed the different characters floating in and out of the first installment. This final installment is (obviously) focused on wrapping things up and bringing the story to its conclusion. As it should. But there were parts that seemed flatter than I would have liked...lots of talking and whining (if I had a nickel for every time Maxon whined/wavered/wimpered, I would be a rich lady. Or I'd have a few bucks at any rate...enough for a frappucino at least...). Not as much plot movement in my opinion. Oh, a lot happens...it just wasn't as layered as maybe the first one was.
The One is still immensely readable and absorbing, just as the first two were. I enjoy Cass's writing style - it makes for a quick, fun read. I found myself wanting to know a little bit more about the conclusion than was written. The conclusion was satisfying, but I think it could have been fleshed out a bit more (especially with certain characters) to where the ending seemed all the more complete than it already was...and maybe tie up a loose end or two. I really can't go into detail lest I let something slip.
One thing I wish was tackled more in the trilogy as a whole (and definitely in the final installment) was the issue with the Northern and Southern Rebels. The potential was there to really delve into the worldbuilding and the politics, but we were given just enough to make it a plot point and then we moved back to the Selection. I understand...the trilogy is about the Selection, not the Rebels...but I think it could have added more depth to the story and given it an actual dystopian feel. As it stands, it's categorized as dystopian fiction, but without an emphasis on building the dystopian world it really just turns into a literary version of the Bachelor.
Which I am obviously ok with...because I devoured these three books. But still...the world building could have been more structured and detailed.
So, four stars for this one.
The Hunger by L.J. Smith
This book celebrates its 20th birthday this year. First published in 1994, The Forbidden Game starts my favorite series from L.J. Smith. In fact, this book has a treasured spot on my "all-time favorites" shelf.
In this first installment of the trilogy, we meet Jenny Thornton who is searching for a fun gift to bring to her boyfriend's party. She stumbles upon a store she never knew existed and meets the store's only employee, the oh-so-gorgeous Julian, who sells her a game in a plain, white box. Once she makes it to the party, however, Jenny thinks she may have made a mistake. Her friends decide to give the game a try, however, and in doing so they begin the fight for their lives.
This book is part Labyrinth and part Jumanji. A young David Bowie can easily be imagined as Julian. And a game coming to life and forcing its players to fight for their lives within the constraint of The Game? Well...that's obviously Jumanji (although I think Jumanji came a short while later?)
If you've enjoyed The Vampire Diaries or The Secret Circle, be sure to check out this other gem from L.J. Smith. This is easily my favorite Smith book/series.
Vessel by Sarah Beth Durst
You know that recurring nightmare? The one where you spend days...weeks...looking forward to something special (a date? a wedding?) The day finally arrives and you get all dolled up and head out to your something special. Oh, and of course, your entire family/friend base comes with you to be witness to your something special. You show up to your thing...and wait. And wait.
The other person involved in the something special never shows up and you are humiliated before your entire social circle. What do you do then?
That's pretty much how Vessel starts off. Liyana has waited and trained her whole life to be the vessel of her desert clan's deity. Her life has been spent waiting. She has to preserve herself and her body to the best of her ability because she knows, one day, it will no longer be her own. When the ceremony finally arrives, Liyana does everything she's supposed to do and dances to her goddess. Only her goddess never arrives. Seen as an unfit vessel, Liyana is exiled by her clan into the harsh desert where she discovers Korbyn, the raven deity, and finds out that someone or something is kidnapping deities.
Vessel seemed more like folklore than a novel. Durst creates a vivid desert society filled with many distinct clans and cultures. There are several stories/fables throughout the novel that give the world a rich feel to it.
The story starts out at a really nice pace while the world is being established and as we get to know Liyana. Once those things were completed, however, the story really takes off in an almost hurried pace. I wish the story could have continued at the same pace throughout.
I did think Vessel was a nice departure from your "average" YA fiction. Yes, there was romance...but it wasn't the main focal point of the story. Yes, there were touches of the cliche YA love triangle, but since the romance wasn't the focus of the story, the triangle didn't become overpowering.
Definitely give Vessel a try if you are looking for a fantasy that's a little different than your average wizard/elf/fae variety.
The Guard by Kiera Cass
Whelp...this was just ok. The Guard is a short novella detailing some of the events from Aspen's point of view. It's an uber quick read and, to be honest, didn't really give a whole lot of new information or character development. I know that Cass has to make it standalone so as not to put those who don't read it at a disadvantage...but on the same token, I do wish we had learned a little bit more about Aspen. Instead, it was just him pining after America while we re-read what already happened in the second full-length story The Elite.
I guess I was hoping for some new content (even if it's totally unrelated to the overall plot), rather than just a rehashing of the last portion of The Elite
I really enjoyed the earlier two full-length installments in The Selection trilogy, but Aspen was never one of my favorite characters. (Which, btdubs, if he ends up getting the girl in the final book, I may be a little miffed. Not that my opinion will sway the book's final outcome...but yeah.)
I'm still looking forward to The One...mainly because I'm curious as to which guy America will choose. Only a few more months to go!