Monday, April 23, 2018

This Shattered World by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner | Enemies to Lovers IN SPACE

Starbound #2
Date Read: Feb 27 to March 3, 2018
First Published: 2014
Young Adult, Sci-fi/Fantasy
Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.
Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet's rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.
Rebellion is in Flynn's blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.
Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.
Wait, is this really happening?? Am I finally continuing with a series I started a few years back and loved but never touched again? YES, I AM! Mom, aren't you proud of me???

Okay, jokes aside, I'm finally doing this. And while I am super happy with myself, I am also super confused about why it has taken me this long to do so in the first place. These books are good. They blend fun with heavy themes and ideas. They don't shy away from death, but neither do they shy away from love and hope.

We've seen all that in the first novel, and we're seeing it now in the second one. THIS SHATTERED WORLD follows Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac, and before I start this review lets just all take a second to admit to ourselves how utterly fabulous the name Jubilee is. Like, it's one of those names that make me just happy to read it and fuck if I know why but I ain't gonna complain either.

Okay, focus, Nitzan! This is serious reviewing time!

So, at first, you're going to wonder just how exactly does the story of Tarver and Lilac connect with that of Flynn and Jubilee. That will last all of, oh, I don't know... three chapters? Yeah. Then it's just going to be kind of terrifying because you'll start to suspect a lot of things that don't bode well for anyone. And, like, it's exactly where I thought the next "logical" step will be when I was reading THESE BROKEN STARS, and yet I was really hoping it won't because man, that's some bad shit.

But enough about that bad (but good bad) parts of the novel. Let's discuss some of the great things! First, Jubilee herself. She's not just a kick-ass name, she's also a kick-ass army captain. Yeah, you've read that right. The heroine is the one who gets to be uncompromisingly badass, and yet, undoubtedly feminine. I love that. A girl doesn't have to be manly to be strong. And Jubilee is that. Strong, and fierce, and compassionate. You'd think the long years in the army and the even longer years before that as a war orphan would have left her empty and cold, but despite what some rookies might think, she's the furthest thing away from that.

And it's Flynn Cormac who helps her believe in that part of herself again. Because Flynn is a pacifist rebel. Sounds a bit like an oxymoron, doesn't it? But Flynn manages to be both entirely loyal to his planet, his people and their survival--and they're his people, by right of birth and by his choice--and yet wholly dedicated to the idea of ending the war without more bloodshed and death. Literally, the only thing he wants (aside for Jubilee) is to bring peace to his people, no matter the cost to himself. Altruistic guy alert!

Seeing these two enemies grow closer and learning to trust and lean on each other as their loyalties and beliefs change and shift to accommodate all the new information and ideas is pretty awesome, and the two make a good team. Flynn as the heart, Jubilee as the muscle, and if you say you don't like the sound of that power balance, you're lying.

Now, amongst all the praise I can say about these novels, there is one thing that really stands out to me as a negative. Mainly, that the books lack an impact of Death, despite the fact there is plenty of that to go around. Like, people die. A lot of people. Some extremely innocent, like children. Things that normally make me cry just to think about them. But here... I felt no grief. The books tell me these death had impacts on the characters. It tells me they grieve for them. But it doesn't make you--or at the very least, me--feel it. 

And I feel like that's a HUGE miss. These people who die mean something to these characters, presumably. But... like, none of them get very established--definitely not enough for me to mourn their deaths on my own--so I just felt nothing when they died, aside for feeling like it's a pointless plot-point because I couldn't feel it. Like, yeah, it's war and there is senseless death but also it's a novel so at least a few of these deaths should have a point beyond "I need a way to move the plot further". Idk. It all boils down to me not feeling anything - I'm sure it would have worked better if I managed to muster some of that.

I'm looking forward to finally finishing this series this year, and seeing how this all pans out! 

Friday, April 6, 2018

These Broken Stars by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner | This Should Be Adapted into a Movie!

Starbound #1
Date Read: Feb 20 to 25, 2018
First Published: 2013
Young Adult, Fantasy
It's a night like any other on board the Icarus. Then, catastrophe strikes: the massive luxury spaceliner is yanked out of hyperspace and plummets into the nearest planet. Lilac LaRoux and Tarver Merendsen survive. And they seem to be alone.

Lilac is the daughter of the richest man in the universe. Tarver comes from nothing, a young war hero who learned long ago that girls like Lilac are more trouble than they’re worth. But with only each other to rely on, Lilac and Tarver must work together, making a tortuous journey across the eerie, deserted terrain to seek help.

Then, against all odds, Lilac and Tarver find a strange blessing in the tragedy that has thrown them into each other’s arms. Without the hope of a future together in their own world, they begin to wonder—would they be better off staying here forever?
Everything changes when they uncover the truth behind the chilling whispers that haunt their every step. Lilac and Tarver may find a way off this planet. But they won’t be the same people who landed on it.
I've originally read THESE BROKEN STARS in 2014 and loved it. But as I did with many of the series I read back then (and now, too, but let's pretend this illness has gotten better, okay?) I just kind of let the series dangle with no conscious intention to do so.

But 2018 is the year for change, or at the very least the year to make myself feel slightly better about the abysmal state of my series reading, and that starts right here, right now, with the Starbound trilogy.

Now, I'm going to do something slightly different with this review. Mostly because, as I was reading it a second time, I couldn't stop this feeling that THESE BROKEN STARS will lend itself beautifully to a cinematic adaptation. Maybe by throwing this fact out there the gods of Hollywood will hear me and make it happen.

Now, as books and movies definitely move in different rhythms, the pace will have to be adjusted. The book illustrates the difficulty to survive, stranded on a deserted planet with no means of communication, by emphasizing the long journey. The inherent tension of the travel as well as the tension between our characters. On how it stretches them thin and threatens to destroy them mentally, more than physically.

The movie, being a movie, will add more mortal peril to the whole experience because while the book has just enough of that to be perfect, the movie will just need more. So I'm certain we will see more of the strange wild-life the planet has to offer, perhaps more danger with the Whispers and certainly more injuries will be sustained (eek!)

I'm okay with that. I'm okay with that because the movie wouldn't need to change much else.

Like, take our main characters Lilac and Tarver for example; who wouldn't watch a movie about the haughty, beautiful society girl who's just too afraid to let anyone too close (for good reason), and the ragged, kind-hearted, handsome young soldier and war hero who get stranded together after a horrid spaceship crash à la the Titanic?

Space is all the rage right now, Titanic has been a smashing box office success for a reason, Survivor is on its 36th season, and we all enjoy watching good looking faces on big screens. A recipe for success!

Then let's talk dialogues. You could keep them almost entirely intact (although let's be real they won't. Studios love changing dialogue. Sigh). They're fun, they're banty, they're occasionally flirty and it's so great when they are. And the delicious and thinly veiled sexual tension throughout the whole thing is definitely something Hollywood would love.

And let's not forget the contained and limited cast that allows you to explore two characters and their growing relationship, as well as the environment and the toll of isolation. Now, sure, Hollywood does love having huge ensemble casts where each audience member can find a character to connect to, so that may deter them a little bit, but it's also cheaper to have a very limited amount of actors for 75% of the movie! lol

Now, the setting is another thing that I think movie execs would love to pounce on. First of all, there is a wonderful duality of beauty and cruelty in the setting, as well as two opposite backdrops that somehow blend seamlessly. And holy hell would they be absolutely stunning on the big screen.

First, we have the Icarus, an advanced spaceship traveling in hyperspace on a luxury cruise. Imagine our heroes traveling the deck, with the windows outside showing the smudged lights of the stars as the ship passes them by. Here and there floating trays will offer food and drinks, screens and holograms will tell of news and sales. And between all that technological advances, there are the upper floors of the rich and famous, where they gallivant in Victorian dresses and corsets, pretending to be something they have only read of in history books. Already extremely compelling, right?

But then it all comes crashing down, in what would be an epic sequence of mayhem and horrifying destruction, and all the slick and manufactured perfection will give space to a land abandoned by men, where nature grows wild and creatures that shouldn't exist walk around. Where the sky breaks open and showers rain and snow. And death. All equally beautiful, yet equally repelling.

Admit it, I'm selling you over here.

And then, on top of all these great things, on top of a story of survival and love, bravery and redemption, of real versus fake, of people having more than one side to them, of right and wrong, there is a mystery.

Because the Icarus should have been indestructible - what was its iceberg? Why is no one coming to save them? Why is the planet abandoned, when it shows clear signs of human interference. And if Lilac And Tarver aren't going mad... what is the source of those visions, of those... whispers?

You're completely sold on the movie?? Wonderful. It doesn't exist. Go read the book instead, it's better than the movie (could be) anyways ;)

Monday, April 2, 2018

The Failing Hours by Sara Ney | I'm... Kind of So-So About It?

How To Date A Douchebag #2
Date Read: Feb 11 to 12, 2018
First Published: 2017
New Adult, Romance
Zeke Daniels isn't just a douchebag; he's an a**hole.

A total and complete jerk, Zeke keeps people at a distance. He has no interest in relationships—most a**holes don’t.

Being part of a couple? Nope. Not for him.
He's never given any thought to what he wants in a girlfriend, because he's never had any intention of having one. Shit, he barely has a relationship with his family, and they're related; his own friends don’t even like him.

So why does he keep thinking about Violet DeLuca?
Sweet, quiet Violet—his opposite in every sense of the word.
The light to his dark, even her damn name sounds like rays of sunshine and happiness and shit.
And that pisses him off, too.
So, I'm kind of torn when it comes to this book.

On the one hand; I really did like Zeke and Violet's relationship. I like Zeke's character development and the way he goes from someone who won't let other people like him to someone who people can love and appreciate. I liked how Violet demanded his respect and overcome her fears throughout the novel.

These two were a fun couple to follow, as I truly felt like they made each other better, different as they may be.

That being said. THAT BEING SAID. There were a lot of things I was iffy about.

First of all, I found myself wanting Ney to explore more of the things she set up in this book, same as I did in the first one.

Like the kids. The kids are such a great addition to the story, yet Ney barely uses them at all. They are something clearly added just to allow Violet and Zeke to interact more, and that sucked. Where are the adorable bonding scenes? Where are the small things that make Zeke love his little guy, and the little guy return in kind? They were so few and far between that I barely felt them, and so when the book told me at the end about Kyle and Zeke's relationship, I mostly scratched my head wondering why, again, all those great things apparently happened off page.

Then, I wanted Zeke's "friends" to recognize what is hidden under the surface the way James, an outsider, was able to perceive. I wanted them to realize their mistake about him, and to stop acting like the dude had no soul.

I wanted to hear more of Zeke's and Violet's backgrounds since that was another interesting topic that was barely touched upon, outside of the generic "that's why he/she has issues" bits.

And I wanted to see the outcomes of Zeke's various good deeds, especially Brandon's case.

As you can tell, there is a lot of "want" attached to this book.

An even bigger issue I had is of Ney's definition of friendship because holly hell I feel like Zeke's friends suck. Which is a shame because the biggest sucky of them all is Oz, and I really liked him in book one. Anyways, they pissed me so bad with their bad friendship and the way they somehow shifted the blame solely on Zeke for all of it.

*Mark the spoilers with the mouse to see them!*
**Profane language included because I feel really, really strongly about this rant**


Like, I literally wanted to choke Oz there at the end. There he is, pressing all of Zeke's buttons. Nettling him and doing it in front of someone Zeke doesn't trust. When he KNOWS Zeke. He knows that his defense mechanism is to become all dismissive and callous since we have seen that happen multiple times throughout the book.

And yet. AND YET. Oz does so anyway, and then Zeke does what Zeke always does and Oz has the gall to act surprised? To reprimand Zeke for it and pretend as if he had absolutely nothing to do with the situation? When he has absolutely no right to act disgusted?

All Oz had to do is fucking leave well enough alone. That's it. Those two would have not only started dating for realzies, but they would have reached the L word all on their own in no time, seeing how close Zeke already was to voice that thought.

Like, seriously, give me a break, motherfucker. Learn to treat yo friends better; real friends help each other succeed, not tear each other down and make them fail!

How is this book praising and hailing Oz as this great friend?? His actions are those of a frienemy at best. It's either that, or he doesn't get Zeke at all, in which case start making a real effort you fucker or take your toxic attitude someplace else.

My god!


Oh, and can I also take a moment to rant about that Coach? Like, why is this person represented as the good role model for these kids? All he says to Zeke is filled with this undercurrent of resenting Zeke's wealth. Well, screw that! The fact someone has money doesn't mean he hasn't experienced hardships, only that his hardships may not have been the same as yours. And Coach knows of Zeke's issues. Knows of them and still acts like that towards him.

His actions themselves are good, as they are forcing Zeke out of his own head, forcing him to help others, and that in turn helps him slowly let go of some of his issues. But the dialogue. MY GOD, THE DIALOGUE. It had my blood boiling in rage and my hands itching to slap him, long before I even gave a damn about Zeke.

Again, it's the whole concept of someone being mean and egging Zeke instead of showing him that he has someone in his corner who cares, and who won't just give up on him.

Am I the only one who felt this way about these things? Did I imagine it? Am I crazy???

I don't really know, and I don't really care. Everyone in this kind of pissed me off is the moral of this segment.