Saturday, 26 May 2012

[REVIEW] Spell Bound by Rachel Hawkins

Published: March 2012
Publisher: Hyperion Books
Age Group: Young Adult
Series: Hex Hall #3 [end]
Just as Sophie Mercer has come to accept her extraordinary magical powers as a demon, the Prodigium Council strips them away. Now Sophie is defenseless, alone, and at the mercy of her sworn enemies—the Brannicks, a family of warrior women who hunt down the Prodigium. Or at least that’s what Sophie thinks, until she makes a surprising discovery. The Brannicks know an epic war is coming, and they believe Sophie is the only one powerful enough to stop the world from ending. But without her magic, Sophie isn’t as confident.

Sophie’s bound for one hell of a ride—can she get her powers back before it’s too late? [From Goodreads]

As much as it hurts me to say this, I will admit that I was one of those people anxiously waiting for this book to be released. But I am happy to say that it took me about one month to actually start reading it.  I guess I was only excited for the waiting...  Well, it all went down hill from there.

Spell bound isn't a bad book, it just seemed to emphasize every flaw I missed in the prior books in the Hex Hall series.  Firstly, Rachel Hawkin's writing is very simple, border-line elementary (and I really don't mean to be harsh.)  Of course there are many other books that I absolutely love that write like this.  Twilight, Fifty Shades of Gray (which is a little bit different because it's adult fiction) all use very simple structure and dialogue.  The only thing that bothered me in this book was that the simplicity of it made me feel disengaged from the reading. Unlike the other two series' that I mentioned, I never once felt like I was a part of the story, which sort of ruined part of the experience for me.

Secondly, Rachel Hawkins assumes that the reader will not remember what happened in previous books and opts to put in detailed explanations to allusions of events from the first two books.  I hate that.  If the reader really wants to know what happened, they can go read the book, there is no need to waste words re-iterating what happened.

Also, this may tie in with the elementary writing but when I was reading this book, it was very, very, VERY evident that Rachel Hawkins was pushing the plot forward.  I find that the best books have the plot advance seamlessly.  Characters can travel between locations without you even fully realizing that the plot has moved forward.  That wasn't the case for this book.  [SPOILERS START HERE] At the beginning Sophie finds the Brannicks, then when it is clear that Sophie needs to get her powers back but the only way to is unknown, BAM, Sophie "magically" gets whisked away to the location.  Conveniently she meets Archer there, who was missing for the first half of the story mind you, and the romantic love triangle between Sophie, Archer and Cal starts again. Oh now Sophie's unsure of getting her powers back, oh, lets make a random guy send her a message, AND now she's all powerful and off to save the world.  She also conveniently breaks free from the bad guys even mind control in just a paragraph.  No waste of words there. [END SPOILERS]  I may just be being picky here but it really seemed like all this events were just happening because the story needed to move forward - and possibly end.

There was one part that surprised me, so kudos to you Ms. Hawkins. [SPOILERS START HERE AGAIN]  When Cal sacrifices himself for Sophie, I was shocked. Truly.  Then I realized that Rachel Hawkins probably killed him off so that there was no dispute over who Sophie would end up with.  Well Rachel Hawkins, I liked Cal more than Archer...just saying and I found the death to be unfair and forced, like the rest of the book.[END SPOILERS]

Lastly, the covers.  I know that for every review I've written on this series, I've said how much the covers suck. Well this is no exception.  It really sucks.  I don't think I need to re-emphasize that.


Saturday, 12 May 2012

[REVIEW] Insurgent by Veronica Roth

Published: March 2012
Publisher: HarperTeen
Age Group: Young Adult
Series: Divergent #2
One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris's initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

New York Times bestselling author Veronica Roth's much-anticipated second book of the dystopian Divergent series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.(From Goodreads)

Insurgent: "Noun.  A person who acts in opposition to the established authority, who is not neccessarily regarded as a belligerent."
Well now that explains the title.

Insurgent was as amazing as Divergent. The middle book of the trilogy, I often find, is the worst one, not because of bad writing but because there seems to be more explanation than actual action.  Insurgent is no different.  Divergent was the book that introduced us to this dystopic world while Insurgent is the book that explained the complexity of the world.

Tris and Four's relationship improves (of course!).  I loved the fact that their relationship seemed normal as well.  They had arguments and made up afterwards and that made it seem more like a relationship anyone could be in. I found it more relatable. Sadly, there were some parts that I felt were forced. As much as we all love a good romance scene between our two love birds, I feelt Veronica Roth included them just because the fans wanted it.  At times, it really didn't seem necessary, rather not even in the right moment.  It's just like intense battle or strategy time and then romance scene.  It just didn't seem to fit.

There comes a time when I'll stumble upon a book that leaves me too scared to read further, often because I don't want to know what's going to happen next.  Of course I'll cave and read it.  That moment happened while reading Insurgent.  300 pages in and getting more and more excited until I come upon one part where I just couldn't go forward.  I remember staring at one page for 10 minutes telling myself that everything was going to be okay and that I just had to keep reading but inside I just couldn't.  Guess I definitely wouldn't pass for being Dauntless, eh?  For a book to make me feel that way is absolutely amazing and I applaud Veronica Roth on that.

Now on to the negative, this book wasn't as exciting as the first.  Probably because I could sort of predict what was going to happen. Some parts seemed obvious (anyone else felt that too?) unlike the first where the entire book seemed like a completely different story.  I guess since this is dystopic lit, it had to follow the whole pattern of a somewhat utopic society turning dystopic through a rebellion/revolution of some sort.  Like the hunger games (but not the same!) it was clear that Divergent would get it's uprising in this book so some of the actions weren't that surprising.

It also seemed like Veronica Roth had planned an ending to the second book and wrote towards it because throughout the novel, there seemed to consist of several mini sub plots, more like arcs, that combined together helped in developing the main plot.  I won't say that's bad just that the last couple pages seemed more intense and suspenseful than the entire book.

Honestly thought, Divergent was my favourite book for 2011 but I can't say the same for Insurgent.  It just lacks some parts that made Divergent special for me.  Insurgent is amazing but just not as good as it's first. (BUT YOU SHOULD STILL READ IT BECAUSE THE SERIES IS AMAZING!!!)

BUY (although leaning very closly to the MEH side)