Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Black Ice

* This review contains spoilers. *

Britt and her best friend Korbie are spending their vacation hiking in the Tetons and staying in Korbie's parents' cabin. They could be lounging on a beach somewhere, but Britt can't afford it and Korbie wants to be supportive after Britt's breakup. On the way to the cabin, a sudden storm hits and they lose their way. They abandon their car and wander in the deep snow until they happen upon a cabin. Inside are two attractive men who seem nice at first, but it becomes clear they are involved in crime and possibly the disappearance of local girls. The men hold the girls hostage and force Britt to guide them through the forest to freedom. She has to comply with their demands or be killed, but she pieces together evidence and plots her escape at the same time. Hopefully she can survive long enough to bring the men to justice and return to her life.

I hated Hush, Hush and its sequel Crescendo, but I wanted to give Becca Fitzpatrick one more chance to impress me. Black Ice sounds like a fast paced thriller, which I typically enjoy. However, I underestimated how much I would not enjoy the overall story. Fitzpatrick's writing is actually engaging. The narrative flows well and somehow kept my interest despite the fact that the characters are awful and the main romance is based on Stockholm syndrome. Britt wants to come off as clever and intelligent, but is really just naive, immature, obsessive, and incredibly lucky she wasn't murdered, much like Nora from the Hush, Hush series. Even in life threatening situations, she can only think about her ex-boyfriend every second. Supposedly, she was training for her trip for months, but never showed any sort of real knowledge on how to survive in the wilderness. Korbie is awful just like Vee in the Hush, Hush series. Their "friendship" is all about one upping each other, putting each other down, and just generally being horrible. Who wants friends like that? I don't understand how both of these relationships Fitzpatrick writes about are never addressed as being incredibly toxic or why she even insists on writing the same characters in similar situations.

On to the "bad boy" Mason/Jude (who of course can't stick to just one name). He is not attractive or mysterious or sexy. He is a criminal who was an accessory to killing a two law enforcement agents, a hit and run, and a robbery. He also kidnapped Britt, threatened her, and held her against her will. I don't care how hot the guy is or how nice he is after that, he obviously is not a good or desirable guy. Apparently, Britt's brain turns to mush in the presence of moderately attractive guys and she just can't help but fall in love with them. The reader is supposed to be happy that he gets away with all of his crimes in the end, which is disgusting and crazy. The super fluffy happy ending was cringeworthy. Britt's ex-boyfriend Calvin is the bad psychopath of the piece and it's supposed to be the huge twist of the book. I saw it coming from miles away. His reasons for killing the girls were misogynistic and horrible, but the narrative seems to confirm his misogyny rather than dispelling it.

I read to the end because I love a good train wreck, but I won't bother to read another Becca Fitzpatrick novel. She seems only to be able to write about toxic friendships, abusive love interests, and vapid, shallow characters, which I am wholly uninterested in.

My rating: 1/5 fishmuffins

Monday, December 29, 2014

Princess of Thorns

Princess Aurora is a briar born child (the only one besides her brother) set to inherit the kingdom of Norvere were it not for an ogre inheriting it instead. Queen Ekeeta wasted no time after taking over to imprison Aurora's family and insinuate ogres into the castle. Freed and empowered with fairy gifts by her mother's sacrifice, Aurora and her brother Jor escape to prepare for the day they will claim back their kingdom and make it once again safe for humans. Unfortunately, close to the prophesied time, Jor is captured by the ogres and Aurora will stop at nothing to get him back. She poses as him and enlists the help of roguish Niklaas to travel and gather an army. Nothing goes as it should: her plans fall apart; allies betray her; and she finds support in unlikely places. Will Aurora reclaim her kingdom and defeat the ogres?

Princess of Thorns is not what I expected from a fairy tale retelling. The first two pages are confusing with two different prologues kind of smashed together and not well explained. It took me a little while to process that Aurora is not Sleeping Beauty, but Sleeping Beauty's daughter. Having this Aurora and the classic fairy tale Aurora share a name was confusing at first. The story plays out as a retelling and continuation of the Sleeping Beauty story along with dashes of Little Red Riding Hood, Rapunzel, The Swan Princes, and other fairy tales. Although drastically different from the original tale, Princess of Thorns retains the fairy tale elements and becomes a unique story. I loved many of these elements that were familiar, but changed for this retelling. Aurora's fairy gifts in the classic tale are benevolent and only serve to benefit her. Not so with this Aurora. While her gifts of enhanced strength, bravery, mercy, and a heart no man she loves can defy are pretty useful, they are also a curse. The strength and bravery are the most useful, but the mercy takes away her free will. She literally cannot be unmerciful even if it is essential to her goals. The last one is weird and really just a plot device, but the effects are devastating. Once she loves and kisses someone, even in a platonic manner, their entire existence is dedicated to serving her. They are a shell of their former self and lose any personality they might have had. I like this double edged sword quality of the gifts and the grisly way in which they were bestowed upon her (which was with her mother's suicide).

The romance aspects are pronounced, but develop organically. Aurora and Niklaas bicker, tease, and fight on their travels and develop a real relationship. Since Aurora is disguised as her brother and she knows the devastated effects of her fairy gifts, romance is the last thing on either of their minds. I found this so refreshing after so many boring instalove teen romances. I also loved the world in general. The ogres were especially interesting with their religious fanaticism and rise to power. Aurora's stepmother was a particularly interesting character because of her doubt ad her ability to think for herself despite being commanded to the contrary. Their religion advocates the destruction of all non-ogre beings as their heaven. I really would have loved to read more about how they rose to power, the intricacies of their religion, and how the stepmother came to her conflicted feelings. A lot of this is glossed over which is a bit more interesting than reading about romance. I could definitely see this one book expanded to at least two to accommodate more of the history of the word instead of those very awkward and confusing prologues.

Princess of Thorns is an enjoyable read that is filled with excitement, adventure, and chock full of fairy tales. I loved the characters, the twisting of fairy tale conventions, and the world. It could have been expanded to avoid awkwardness and show the history of the world and how it got there. The positives definitely outweigh the negatives and I look forward to other books by Stacey Jay.

My rating: 4/5 fishmuffins

Sunday, December 28, 2014

A Thousand Pieces of You

Marguerite Caine is an aspiring artist who happens to have physicist parents. These physicists have made groundbreaking discoveries, including inventing a device called the Firebird that can take a person into one of the infinite parallel universes that exist. Unfortunately, this revolutionary invention makes them a target for opportunists. Paul, a graduate student who earned the trust of the scientists and Marguerite, seems to have murdered Marguerite's father and escaped with their invention into on of the multitudes of universes to escape the law. Marguerite and another grad student have to follow Paul through these dimensions and bring him to justice.

Based on the description, you might assume that this book is an action packed thriller, but you would be very wrong. This is a romance through and through, which I don't have a problem with, but it would have been nice to know beforehand. Like a typical teen novel, a love triangle forms and troubles our heroine, but then turns into a love square. The romance isn't terrible. I like how the different romances develop, but not always how they end. The science fiction takes a backseat to the romance, but is still intriguing. Travel to the parallel universes is something that I don't read about often, so I was excited to see this author's take. When travelling to these other dimensions, a person takes over the body of the version of themselves in the universe. The traveler has no memories of their alternate life, so they have to find out more about their life and fake like they are the version that belongs there. (Although there are convenient inconsistencies that help forward romances.) This is an interesting take and takes away the confusion of having two of the same person in one dimension. I loved the different dimensions and looking at the different ways civilization, technology, and pop culture developed. Some dimensions aren't very different from this one. Others are drastically different. My favorite was the one that seemed to be a century behind due to slow development and alternate history.

I had numerous problems with the novel. A lot of technical questions are avoided because Marguerite is an artist with little to no knowledge of the science. This is a bit of a cop out and allows the author to create the science fiction without fleshing out specifically how or why it happens. I had a big problem with Marguerite assuming Paul killed her father on no evidence at all. Is it so much to ask that some characters have half a brain and ask some questions before jumping to huge conclusions? Also, Paul and Marguerite are in love in all of the dimensions they go to. It stands to reason that this would not be the case in all dimensions because one or the other wouldn't exist or might be evil or simply living in different parts of the world or one of them might be dead. However, they seem to be in love because they are fated to be together forever. I personally find fate incredibly boring because it doesn't bring free will or the circumstances I mention into account and also does not mesh with the scientific aspects of the novel. The true villain of the piece is revealed to be  an evil and young version of Steve Jobs. He's one dimensional caricature, practically twirling his mustache and tying a girl to some train tracks while he swims in his mountains of dirty money. This aspects was ham handed and boring to read,

The overall concepts were much more interesting than the actual story. Many aspects simply didn't mesh well together. There were a lot more things I had a problem with than I enjoyed. I enjoy Claudia Gray's work and will continue to, but this was a miss for me. I won't be continuing the series.

My rating: 2.5/5 fishmuffins