Tag Archives: young adult

Dune, Treasure Trolls, and the Last Airbender All Walk Into a Bar…

I think it is important you know that a) I read The Girl of Fire and Thorns by Rae Carson (Greenwillow Books – HarperCollins) in two days because it was so fun and I didn’t want to put it down and b) some of it was unintentionally hysterical.

***Spoilers Below***

Our story opens with our fat heroine being stuffed like a sausage into her wedding dress. No, I am not being mean. That is how they put it. Elisa is fat and has a seriously unhealthy relationship with food. I was actually pretty psyched to have a heroine that wasn’t lithe and athletic off the bat, except that every other paragraph they talk about how fat she is and how she loves sneaking into the kitchen for food. It was kind of beating a dead horse after a while, but I really liked how they explored how different characters reacted to her while she was fat and later skinny. Elisa has gained so much weight in a short amount of time, that she is too big for and rips her wedding dress, for her rush wedding.

Elisa is to marry King Alejandro of Joya d’Arena. She doesn’t understand why he wants her and not her beautiful and cunning sister… despite the fact that Elisa herself is incredibly smart and educated in her own right (She is a wiz at battle tactics!) and happens to be God’s chosen one and bearer of the Godstone. What it the Godstone you ask? It is a diamond like stone that God put into her navel on her naming day and it means that she is destined for some kind of great service. A new bearer of the Godstone is chosen every 100 years, like the Avatar without the cool bending. So, Yes. Large person with a gem in her belly button = Treasure Troll Avatar. Just go with it. It works really well within the world Carson has created.

Despite her obsession with her weight and food (which, I love food, so I could relate to that. They even put a recipe in the back of the book for Elisa’s favorite food, Honey-Coconut Scones!), I really like Elisa. She is only 16, so she obviously has some growing up to do, but right of the bat, she starts asserting herself in little ways. Her new husband is beautiful beyond words, but she is afraid of her wedding night and asks to wait. He agrees and asks if she would like to talk and get to know each other, which I hadn’t really expected. Alejandro is not a bad guy, but I get the impression that he is weak. Elisa is clearly willing to overlook this because he is so pretty. Don’t judge. We’ve all been there…

The journey from her home to Joya d’Arena is long and arduous. Their caravan  is attacked by Los Piedros, all of her things are burned, her nurse is killed, but she somehow finds the strength to save Alejandro by killing one of their attackers who has cornered him… by stabbing him over and over again. Despite being terrified, she is not just able to survive, but protect those around her. She definitely has a strong emotional reaction after this whole event, but she ends up better for it.

We soon set into her life at court where Alejandro has asked that their marriage be kept a secret for now, along with her Godstone. Lots of secrets, but what is a royal court without secrets? Elisa is at least given the old Queens quarters (the King is widowed with a son) and asked to sit on the council. Long story short, her maid Cosme, who hates her right off the bat, discovers her Godstone, then drugs and kidnaps her, taking her on a month long journey across the desert.

Through the desert and to a hidden city, Elisa gets stronger, loses weight, and begins to learn more about her kidnapper, her people, and the WAR that is happening without anyone in the city knowing about it. Cue Elisa becoming a leader of this tribe, and using her Godstone for guidance. (It gets warm when she prays or someone good is around and goes icy when bad things are approaching). I kept expecting characters to call Elisa, Muad’dib and for her to go into the Litany Against Fear every time she started to pray (which is a lot). At least no one needed Stillsuits.

Elisa really starts to come into her own after she is captured by the enemy army and outsmarts and kills their Animagus (crazy powerful magicians that the enemy has the shoot flames and get their power from blood! Only a few exist), escaping the camp. She becomes the leader of a revolution, but it is not enough to hold back the war that is quickly coming to Joya d’Arena. As a bearer, Elisa is too valuable to be on the front lines and goes back to the castle and king, WHO DOESN’T RECOGNIZE HER… and once he does, he is WAY nicer to her than he was when she was fat.

Throughout all of this, Elisa is trying to figure out her purpose and how to use the Godstone for magic like the Animagus do (withGodstones stolen from dead Bearers). The book culminates in four Animagi cornering Elisa, the King, his son, and Elisa’s protector in room. About to die, Elisa instead CARE BEAR STARES them with her Godstone. For serious. It was hysterical and awesome. Bad guys dead, army flees, king dies and Elisa is Queen Regent until the kings son comes of age.

Honestly, it is a difficult book to describe because there is way more detail and love triangles and world building that happen in this book. It was just so fun to read. Pick it up. Read it (and maybe send me a copy of the second one because I really want to read it).

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Dystopian Futures Blender

Apparently I wrote a glowing review of the first of this series, Delirium.  I wish I still had access to that book to refresh my memory before I dove into Pandemonium.  I love a good series but I hate waiting on the next installment.  Then when it FINALLY arrives, I have to reread the rest of the series to remember what’s going on.  It’s a combination of my old age coupled with the copious amounts of dystopian YA that I read.

I don’t have a lot of complaining to do about Pandemonium, but I do have to say that it’s starting to feel like Hunger Games was spliced together with Matched and Divergent.

Pandemonium‘s format was especially confusing for me.  Oliver flips between two timesets, ‘then’ and ‘now’ which are pretty self explanatory, if a little disjointed.  ‘Then’ focuses on Lena’s time in the Wilds; her escape with Alex, where he is captured and presumably killed, her induction into the tough group of outcasts that fight against the Cure, and their somewhat boring struggle for survival with little food and scanty shelter.  The ‘now’ chapters follow Lena after she has been reintroduced into the cured civilization, complete with a fake tattooed ‘Cure scar.’  She and two other members of the resistance (Raven and Tack in case you need to know) are infiltrating the DFA (Deliria-Free America).  Lena’s mission is only to fit in and observe, she is in the dark about the larger objective.  The DFA is led by Thomas Fineman, who is pushing for the Cure to be administered even earlier–despite the fact that it is largely unsuccessful on anyone younger; instead resulting in brain damage or death.  The poster child of the movement is his son, Julian, who has a brain tumor that causes seizures.  The Cure will probably kill him, but death is better than delirium–so the DFA says.

When she is instructed to attend a DFA rally, and not let Julian out of her sight, both Lena and Julian are kidnapped by Scavengers, another group of non-Cureds that are more like anarchists.  After days alone in a cell together, a dramatic escape, and the revelation that the Scavengers and the DFA are in cahoots, it’s little surprise that Lena and Julian start getting a little cosy.

Spoilers ahead! Continue reading


I Won’t Be ‘Forgotten’ How Bad This Book Is

London Lane has amnesia, Fifty First Dates style. As in, every night at 4:33 a.m. her mind becomes a blank slate. However, unlike Drew Barrymore, London can remember her future.
This little malady as you might imagine, causes her some difficulties. Since she keeps this a secret from everyone but her mother and her best friend Jamie, all her teachers and schoolmates just think she is hopelessly stupid and forgetful. London programs her phone and writes herself helpful reminders (that seem completely unhelpful) like what to wear that day. I keep wondering why she doesn’t print out her class schedule or keep some sort of detailed dossier, but this is just one of the many things that drives me nuts about her freakish imaginary mental disorder.
After I finished this book I kept having a hard time nailing down exactly what it was that made me hate poor, afflicted London. After taking a quick second look through the book it came rushing back to me. Its not just Cat Patrick’s limp, teenage-attempt-at-poetry writing, or the major plot holes or incongruities or the empty dialogue. I mean, it’s some of those things. But mainly I hate London because she is a whiny, self-obsessed bitch. This is the girl that thinks things like,”even though I have the benefit of knowing that I’ll grow more beautiful each day- and that Carly will never look better than she does right now…” or that frequently notes that her best friend (and only person that can stand her) Jamie, looks “alarmingly like a hooker” and is the “kind of girl boys love to flirt with-not date.”

Jeez with friends like these! London also has a less than charming Bella Swan-esque habit of disdaining anyone that seems eager to be kind or friendly to her. I think, we the reader, are supposed to infer that these unfortunates that always are around to lend London gym clothes, or help her in class, are ‘uncool’ and therefore worthy of London’s inner-monologue sneers. Know that I think of it, London really is the poor man’s Bella Swan here; no magical boyfriends, but plenty of moaning, ‘adorable’ clumsiness, and general lack-of-personality disorder.

Instead of Edward, London has Luke Henry, omg-so-cute new boy whose ‘vintage band tshirts’ and ‘chuck taylors’ let us know that he’s so hipster and like, totally bored with the whole mainstream style, man. Oh, and he’s an artist.  When London meets Luke she can’t remember him, or I guess more accurately, can’t future (I will now be using this as a verb, take note) him. Major plot hole alert.

Let me ruin the rest of it for you…

Continue reading


Guest Post: Bitterblue AKA Saf is a Toolbag

Today, I would like to hand the blogging reins over to my sister, The Llama (This is not just her blogging name. She generally prefers us to call her Llama, due to her love for the majestic spitting creatures.). After reading this, I think that we will all agree that she should be writing more for us here on Rampant Reads. So without further ado, I give you “The Llama Reviews Bitterblue.”

I’d like to say that I first started Bitterblue by Kristin Cashore (Dial, May 2012) with a little trepidation. Although I loved the epic cheese that was Graceling, I had significant trouble getting into Cashore’s prequel, Fire. So, it was with a slightly skeptically raised eyebrow that I picked up Bitterblue.

Fortunately, my worries are largely without merit. One of Graceling’s greatest assets was its pure readability. Despite clocking in at 576 pages, Bitterblue maintains the same page-turning quality as its predecessor. The story rarely lags and the multiple plots ensure there’s always something delicious in the hopper; making it an ideal book for a long weekend, plane ride, or camel trek. For this, the credit largely goes to Cashore’s excellent pacing and writing, as the plot itself occasionally wears thin.

The story is an extremely ambitious one that any writer would struggle with. Essentially, it’s about the rebuilding of Bitterblue’s psychologically and culturally crippled kingdom after the downfall of King Leck. The kingdom is divided into those who want to silence the crimes that took place during Leck’s reign, and those that want to bring the past to light. Conflict, backstabbings, hidden plots, and juicy intrigue results. In the midst of all this turmoil, Bitterblue grows into a Queen, a woman, and forms a relationship with a total toolbag. Po and Katsa also scamper around, accompanied by various Council members. A few memorable new characters are also introduced, like the fabulous librarian Death (Don’t let the stupid name throw you. He rocks).

If this sounds like a lot, that’s because it is.

But to give credit where it’s due, Cashore’s attempt at these highly challenging storylines largely pays off. There are, however, some issues that were (for me) pretty glaring. They don’t stop Bitterblue from being a fun read, but they do keep the book from reaching the next level. If you don’t want to be spoiled, stop reading here.

PS: I almost forgot to add that throughout the entire story I was desperate for a cast list and maps, only to finish the book and discover they’re tucked away in the back of the book. God only knows what the editors were thinking jamming them in there, but do yourself a favor and find them before starting Bitterblue.

YARG! YE BE APPROACHIN’ SPOILER ISLAND, MATEY!

1)    Saf is a tool bag.  Sapphire, or Saf, is Bitterblue’s love interest for the novel. He is also a self-righteous, narcissistic toolbag of the highest order. Which, I actually don’t have a problem with in and of itself.

Bitterblue is inexperienced, insecure, and emotionally damaged. Sadly, it makes sense she’d go for the toolbag. So even though you cringe for her while she’s making groveling apologies to the guy who stole her friggin’ crown and insults her after she saved his life, you also get it.

My problem is where he magically decides to act human again for five minutes, and they end up having sex. Which doesn’t sound so bad in and of itself either.

Except for the fact that they have sex right after she’s been completely and utterly traumatized by watching her advisor/father figure admit to horrific crimes and commit suicide while she desperately attempts to cling to him.

WAT.

I get that you asked for consent. And made sure to ask if she was really, really sure. Which is sweet. I guess. But HOLY SHIT. That’s like asking a girl who has 6 Appletinis whether or not she’s sure, and then banging her anyway. Yeah, I guess it’s nice that you asked, but…..how is deflowering a person right after a horrible trauma not basically rape?! The fact Saf is obsessed with the fact Bitterblue normally has more power than he just makes it worse.

But apparently, it’s not rape to Cashore, because Bitterblue is magically OK with the whole thing later on. And toolbag conveniently leaves the Queendom, so the repercussions of banging a guy who’s a proven toolbag never materialize. I don’t need to add how disappointing it is this comes from the author who treated the sex lives of Po and Katsa so well.

2)    Revelations and Psychology

Cashore comes very, very close to saying interesting things about the psychology of trauma, damage, and healing. Unfortunately, she never quite gets there. The story never really reaches the depths of psychological insight it flirts with, and things are left feeling a bit slap-dash at the end.

For example, the revelations that her advisors have been behind the murder of the truthseekers. It seems a huge jump for men who had to be forced to commit crimes…and are broken by their deeds…to move to voluntary murder without blinking. Cashore merely addresses the conundrum with a single throw away line; so instead of understanding their mental damage and clearly seeing what took them to this dark place, I was left as confused and surprised as Bitterblue herself. Very unsatisfying.

As an aside, I’m also not convinced that the level of Leck’s atrocities wouldn’t have been better conveyed with a lighter touch. The explicit detail used is cringe-worthy, but not necessarily called for or even the most effective means of conveying dread. It almost feels lazy.

Long story short: Bitterblue is a flawed but well crafted novel, and despite issues with tricky subject matter, I look forward to reading Cashore’s next work.


In Which The Title Matches My Mental State

I’ve been working 15-16 hour days for two weeks now, so when people ask me questions like ‘what’s your name,’ or ‘have you read my email’ my face freezes for at least five seconds while my overworked underpaid brain tries futilely to churn out some sort of socially appropriate answer.  But, good news, we have a new toilet!  So I don’t have to wait until I get to work to pee anymore which is super whichever way you look at it.  It’s a testament to how much I’ve been out of the house lately that the toilet just mysteriously appeared one day and I know nothing about its origins but I’m not about to question it.  I’m just going to assume it descended from heaven like a magical Jesus toilet and be happy with that.  Again—not a lot of sleep people, so yes, I just talked about my toilet for five minutes and worked Jesus into the equation.

So appropriately, since I’m semi-delirious, I’m going to smoothly segway into my review of Delirium by Lauren Oliver (HarperCollins 2011).  See what I did there?!  Originally, most of my review was just me squealing.  I totally had amor deliria nervosa for this book.  Which, if you were in the Delirium-verse just means I loved it.  Illegally.

In the not-so-distant dystopian future love has been categorized as a disease: a bad-decision-making, irrational-reaction-causing, fatal disease.  But luckily for us, scientists have found a cure—a procedure whose description sounds suspiciously like a lobotomy, though Oliver never makes that connection.

Seventeen-year-old Lena can’t wait to have her procedure.  The doctors won’t perform on anyone under the age of eighteen unless the disease has become a dire case—since operating early causes ‘brain damage, partial paralysis, blindness, or worse.’  Since Lena has seen the disease bring about the death of her mother and her cousin, she is fearful of contracting it herself.  All that stands between her and a lifetime of safety and quiet detachment is her evaluation—where a panel will assess her in order to pair her with her future mate.  A good match could elevate her family, something her Aunt Carol pushes for relentlessly.

But during her evaluation, Lena can’t focus.  Instead of giving her practiced ‘safe’ answers, i.e. that she finds the cautionary tale of Romeo and Juliet frightening and that her favorite color is blue (“black is too morbid, pink is too juvenile”), she panics and describes the color of the sky over the ocean.  While her review crashes and burns, she is saved by, oddly enough, a herd of cows.  When she looks up, for a moment she sees a boy smiling down at her from the observation deck.

Though the officials try to pass the cow stunt off as a delivery mix-up, everyone knows it’s a prank by the Invalids, the sympathizers who don’t believe in the procedure or love being a disease, who are rumored to live outside the electrified fence.

Lena is just relieved to have a second chance for her evaluation, but in the weeks that remain before her 18th birthday, her life begins to change in unexpected ways.  Her best friend Hanna introduces her to verboten music and secret societies, and despite her best efforts, she is drawn close to the boy she saw watching her evaluation—Alex.

I have to stop now or I will give everything away, but you can pretty much surmise that love—not so much a disease as she thought.  I really loved Lena, and unlike some other dystopian America’s I’ve visited recently (*cough* Bumped *cough*) her world and secondary characters are layered and believable.  Though Lena’s internal dialogue sometimes borders on sappy melodramatics, this is young adult, so I kind of secretly enjoy it.  She’s a character that is easy to sympathize with and root for.  The love at first sight, passionate do-or-die declarations, and power of illicit indie rock will appeal to teens (and maturity-stunted adults much like myself).