Review: Everless

 

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Summary from Goodreads:

“In the kingdom of Sempera, time is currency—extracted from blood, bound to iron, and consumed to add time to one’s own lifespan. The rich aristocracy, like the Gerlings, tax the poor to the hilt, extending their own lives by centuries.”

Is Everless the new Caraval?

Thoughts:

Last year Caraval by Stephanie Garber— who actually has a blurb on the cover of Sara Hollan’s book Everless — was the most hyped book of 2017 and met with disappointment by many. While I actually gave Caraval a five star rating, many did not understand the appeal. Caraval was released about the same time last year (1/31/17) as Everless (1/2/17) was. At least with Caraval one of the plot points that saved it for others is that there was actual sisterhood represented in the story. I suppose there’s something about the new year that gives people rose-tinted glasses about brand new debuts. There’s less reader burn-out because you just started a new year of reading, which makes me wonder if Everless would have been as successful six months into the year if people had more to compare it to.

I read the first 150 pages of this book. The very first few chapters were interesting, but what eventually followed was not enough to keep me reading. Jules, our main character, is swept away to the kingdom of Sempera to work as a servant in order to earn time to save her father. There is foreshadowing early on that hints that there is more to Jules than meets the eye. Of course she’s going to be the hero. I’m not dumb.

For me to even remotely like a book, it needs to be above average in at least 3 of 4 categories: world-building, dialogue, characters, and overall story.

World-building: It was intriguing and mostly decent, but relied on every other fantasy trope. You know how Cinderella is the most vanilla of fairytales? Well, Everless is pretty vanilla but with sprinkles on top… just enough of something extra to make it interesting.

Dialogue: NO ONE TALKS IN THIS BOOK. Every scene with a new character lasts half a chapter and we’re back into the same stream of consciousness of our 2D main character. At one point, she encounters a childhood friend and I got excited because she might actually have a full conversation with a character Instead? His tongue has been cut out. How convenient. 

Characters: I could tell there’s more that meets the eye with every character but the author didn’t give me enough time to care about why. After reading reviews and accidentally coming across spoilers, I learned that nearly every guess I had about the “twists” were correct. There is ONE twist out of three I didn’t see coming, but that’s because I didn’t read the whole book. Though based on the reviews, I would’ve figured it out anyway.

The Story – NOTHING WAS HAPPENING. I mean, we were getting introduced to the world and learning about Jules and her past. I tried to be patient. Of course, we need an exposition. Of course we need some background. That’s okay. But when we’re finally in the castle and introduced to five different important characters, they just sort of float around as if they aren’t important to the story.

The theme of the rich and the poor, and the excessively wealthy who take from the less fortunate is strong. It’s quite saddening. And while the author uses metaphor to bring up such an important issue, it didn’t feel that far from current events. The pacing isn’t that bad— I just got bored being stick inside the Jules’ head. It’s well-written overall. Just super trope-y for my taste. After reading A Darker Shade of Magic, Shadow and Bone, Throne of Glass and The Bone Season I needed something fresh and clever. Not to mention, the character is supposed to be seventeen years old and she feels like she’s thirteen. For those who don’t have fantasy fatigue and could read just about any fantasy they can their hands on, this book is NOT bad.  I just wish the author didn’t quite literally save the best parts for last (not based on my own knowledge, but what other reviews say).

Rating: N/A – I didn’t finish the book but I’m leaning toward a 2  star first impressions rating.

Note: My thoughts are based on my first impressions of Everless. My reading goal is to never continue something I’m not personally enjoying. I read almost half the story and I felt I quickly gathered what direction the story was going and didn’t feel compelled enough to stick around.

Unless you really don’t like tropes or for the plot to take a backseat for a long time, please don’t be discouraged. Maybe this book wasn’t for me.

Has anyone read this book that felt so-so about it, too? What do you think? Does it get better? Let me know!

–  Vanessa

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Review: Shadow and Bone

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Rating: 3.5 stars

Oh, boy. This is awkward.

I was prepared to wholly love, or at least, like this book… but I didn’t.

Summary:

Shadow and Bone is set in “The Grishaverse” and follows Alina, who grew up as an orphan and apparently has no knowledge of her powers (just like Harry Potter had no idea he was a wizard even though he talked to snakes and made things happen that were unexplainable). She is a soldier for the First Army (?) and early on she has to survive a trip to the Shadow Fold. She and her friends are attacked by the Volcra, which forces her to release a “dormant power” as stated in the original synopsis. This leads to a series of events in which she is taken from Kribirsk to Os Alta and must train like a Grisha. She lives like royalty and falls for the infamously evil Darkling and learns the truth about he intends to use her for.

Review: 

Here’s the thing: I hated Alina. I disliked how passive and stupidly Alina always acted.  I also disliked the whole, “You’re special and you’re going to change the world blah blah blah.” We have your classic “Chosen One” and I just wasn’t feeling it. I thought the beginning was most interesting, but the middle sort of lagged for me. This world of magical elite wasn’t at all mysterious or intriguing to me. In The Hunger Games, Suzanne Collins successfully conveyed the secretive aspect of the Capitol. Even though I hated the Capitol, I wanted to be there. Or at least know all the secrets.  Readers were emotionally  invested in the concept of the Capitol because the author gave us plenty of reasons to hate it there. In Shadow and Bone, I didn’t feel like I hated or loved Os Alta.

Aside from the Russian-inspired world-building, I felt like this was like every other fantasy I read before. Not to mention, I kept getting lost on all the terminologies for which there was no explanation. Maybe in other editions of this book they have clarification? I have yet to see why the Darkling is everyone’s favorite villain, but I guess I’ll have to find out in the sequels. My favorite character was easily Mal, even though we don’t get to see as much of him.

 “I’m sorry it took me so long to see you, Alina. But I see you now.

It was a well-written book; I just wasn’t compelled by the story itself.  I enjoyed the imagery Leigh Bardugo brought to life on the pages. I felt like I was actually being transported to another world despite my reservations on the plot.

Even though Shadow and Bone wasn’t for me, I still intend to read Six of Crows.

Have you read any of Leigh Bardugo’s books? Do you like the Grishaverse? Tell me what you think in the comments!

Review: Turtles All the Way Down

Goodreads synopsis: “Sixteen-year-old Aza never intended to pursue the mystery of fugitive billionaire Russell Pickett, but there’s a hundred-thousand-dollar reward at stake and her Best and Most Fearless Friend, Daisy, is eager to investigate. So together, they navigate the short distance and broad divides that separate them from Russell Pickett’s son, Davis.”

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I went into this book with as LOW expectations as possible and I wasn’t disappointed.

Quick background: I first read Looking for Alaska way back when, but didn’t care for Paper Towns or An Abundance of Katherines. According to the Goodreads rating, many others seem to agree since they each have a less than 4 star ratings. I did like The Fault in Our Stars (TFiOs). I thought it was cute and endearing. It seems for me that a John Green novel is either hit or miss. Yet because I respect John Green as a content creator, as someone who is uplifting, and seems to be an all around cool human being, I buy his books because I’m curious to what John Green will do next.

I haven’t rated Turtles All the Way Down yet. Here’s why:

In the beginning it was difficult to get attached to Ava. I wanted more mannerisms or quirks (NOT her OCD. OCD is NOT a quirk, by the way) that would distinguish her as her own person. It was a strongly written book with a difficult topic to write about and I know John Green was writing from a gut-level. It didn’t surprise or entertain me much in the beginning but the second half was definitely the better half.

The thing about a spiral is, if you follow it inward, it never actually ends. It just keeps tightening, infinitely.

It’s no mystery that the author uses metaphors as a huge component to all his books. Turtles All the Way Down is riddled with metaphors. Sometimes it felt like a one-fourth of the book was either metaphors or quotes and poems by other people. He has a distinct way of conveying his message that is undeniably John Green. However, after all the last times, I can’t say that his “metaphor signature” is exactly groundbreaking but his readers and most devoted fans have learned to expect it.

His writing at times felt like a summary derived from his own stream of consciousness. This was one of the things that made it so difficult for me to see Ava as Ava. It’s quite obvious that Ava is based on John Green, so I had trouble feeling like Ava was her own character. I wanted to feel the character just a little more. Every time I picked up the book, I had to force John Green’s male voice out of my head.

Maybe we invented metaphor as a response to pain.

In TATWD, we follow Ava as she struggles with anxiety and Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. While my anxiety is not as severe, it was still difficult to be in Ava’s head sometimes. I don’t have anxiety on a level that is interrupting my daily life, but those endless thought patterns are something I’m no stranger to. My kind of anxiety can be either social or related to depression. I think John Green did an excellent job of portraying mental illness on a raw level and I appreciated that he didn’t sugarcoat Aza’s experience.

The missing billionaire subplot was a tad bizarre, but not completely random. It served to shape and develop Ava’s relationship to Davis. I was definitely curious about what happened to Davis’ dad and curiosity is a driving force to readership. The reason why TATWD might not be everyone’s cup of tea is because this is actually a literary book, which means the book is actually character driven rather than plot driven. The added missing billionaire plot was probably meant to appease the big YA readers. This is not genre fiction. I might even argue that this isn’t a contemporary. That is why it might feel like nothing actually happens, according to some reviews I read.

As far as major dislikes go, I did feel like Davis as this super deep and intellectual teen son of a billionaire was a bit much. While I did feel for Davis and his little brother because their dad basically abandoned them without much warning, I didn’t feel like Davis was that interesting. I will say I’m glad he didn’t turn out to be this stereotypical spoiled, rich jerk. He even ate at Applebee’s with Aza and her friends. I kind of hated all the names of the characters though. Aza sounds like it came from Hazel and Daisy sounds like it came from Aza. DAZ-Y. A-ZA. See? Similar. Also, the revelation of the meaning of the “turtles all the way down” metaphor was lost on me even though it was explained. It was a bit too obscure, but it might help if I read the book again.

The ending was bittersweet and I even teared up. I can’t think of a better way to end a novel about anxiety. Things don’t always get better overnight but there’s hope. You can get help. You can still have a mostly normal life within society. You can still have friendships. Overall, I’m glad this book was written and it has already helped SO many people. It seems to have the most impact on people who have struggled with any level of anxiety, but may go over the heads of those who aren’t really struggling all that much. I did enjoy it more during the second half. I think the book is so difficult to rate because there is a lot to process. This book spoke more to my logos than my pathos. 

While I neither loved, hated, disliked this book it made me think. I base my ratings on my feelings about a book. I don’t have too many feelings about it, but I feel the same way I would after I watching an inspiring, indie drama —- I prefer to watch a Marvel movie but I’m glad I watched the indie film because I was exposed to something deeply personal and thought-provoking from the creator. It’s an important work of art. No less or no better than other works of art. It just belongs in the world. 

“Your now is not your forever.”