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Review – Restore Me (Shatter Me #4) by Tahereh Mafi

Restore Me (Shatter Me #4)

By Tahereh Mafi

SummaryJuliette Ferrars thought she’d won. She took over Sector 45, was named the new Supreme Commander, and now has Warner by her side. But she’s still the girl with the ability to kill with a single touch—and now she’s got the whole world in the palm of her hand. When tragedy hits, who will she become? Will she be able to control the power she wields and use it for good?

Source: I preorded a hardcover

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Review:

If you know me, you know that the Shatter Me series is one of my absolute favorite YA series. I reread it almost every year because I sometimes miss the unique writing style and I just haven’t found anything quite the same. So when I found out the author was continuing the series, I was excited. And I knew we’d be getting a POV from Warner, which I liked in Destroy Me, so I thought Restore Me would be amazing.

What I liked about Restore Me:

As a dystopian story, even I will admit the Shatter Me series failed to really give readers much in terms of worldbuilding. We are caught up in Juliette’s brain and she was not aware of a lot of what was going on. She was also focused on other things. As the story progressed and she turned outward, we got a lot more information, but there was still a lot to build on. I liked that Restore Me acknowledged that by being a book that dealt with the state of the sector and became more of a global book since there were additional characters, areas, plots, and Juliette wasn’t the only narrator. In terms of dystopian stories, Restore Me was a great book that dealt with the hardships of running things, leading others, and fighting against an entity that oppresses people.

As a standalone, if we vaguely knew some backstory about the series, it would be a good dystopian novel of its own that would compete with the likes of The Hunger Games, Divergent, etc.

However, it’s not a new series.

It’s a continuation of a series. It’s a continuation of a series I love, a series that is written differently than this book… and that is where it ultimately fails for me.

To understand why I didn’t like Restore Me, you have to understand why I love the original series.

I love that the series starts with Juliette in an asylum frantically counting and crossing out her thoughts and then progresses and the writing style with it. As Juliette grows into a person who isn’t so afraid of her own bad thoughts and demands to exist in her own way, the crossing out of lines stops and she becomes who she was always meant to be. And along the way, her relationships and own perception of other people change as well. It’s so ingenious because we realize as readers how unreliable she is as a narrator when she’s trapped in her own head. Although the outside plot of the original series was open and largely unexplained, the story arc of Juliette was completed. She became herself. The story was never about the rest of the world. It was a story about her. The poetic writing worked with the story, the fact that Juliette’s narration wasn’t focused on the outside world was sort of the point to me.

I already said that there was definitely room to expand upon the actual world of Shatter Me and include other characters, but that it wasn’t the point of the story. While the original series is a YA dystopian series, it’s not really a YA dystopian if you compare to other books. For me, the story mirrors growth. Juliette’s relationship with Adam was a symbol of what society always wanted her to be, what she thought she HAD to be to survive, and her growth and development into a confident and strong person who discovered her own strength didn’t leave room for that scared and meek girl Adam loved. Her relationship with Warner was a result of finally understanding herself, what she was capable of, etc. She even said in Ignite Me how awful it was that the entire time she was counting in a corner in the asylum, she was capable of walking through concrete and didn’t know.. didn’t get angry or focused enough to even try. That’s the point of the series to me. We see Juliette’s character growth and her narration changes along with her.
So this is why I didn’t like Restore Me:

Restore Me feels like what happens when you grow up and perhaps grow out of things. You grow up and think, You’re a teenager, Juliette, what could you possibly hope to accomplish by becoming Supreme Leader? Did you really think you could do this without any hardships? And who falls in love with THE ONE at your age? You guys are bound to have issues. Do you even really know him? Ugh, you are so immature! And what about the rest of the world? Why didn’t anyone explain The Reestablishment? 

And it feels like the author came at the story with all of that in her mind and proceeded to (sorry) RUIN everything I loved about the series. Like when you pick up an old favorite with new adult eyes and realize maybe the main character was immature. Like when you watch The Little Mermaid as an adult and think maybe Ariel’s father was right and Ariel is being a brat and she’s only 16, so she’s still a kid in the grand scheme of things.

OR.. the author, having been a YA author and in the YA community, has read much more YA than she did previously, discovered where other series were having success, and proceeded to pepper the story with tons of YA tropes, issues, and worldbuilding in order to provide conflict because thats what other successful YA stories have.

OR both of those things happened. I’m not really sure.

Either way, Restore Me is just not what I expected.

I found it to be an unncessary continuation of the story that proceeded to destroy most of what I love about the series.

To explain: In the book, it’s been 16 days since the end of Ignite Me and our cast of characters have changed dramatically.

Juliette, who FINALLY discovered herself and her potential, proceeded to turn into an unsure, somewhat whiny, and clueless girl (not even the same unsure girl she used to be) after just 16 days of success in overthrowing the Supreme Leader. Also, the one person she had a mutual connection with and strategized with and trusted is no longer her go to person for help because of … reasons? Suddenly, she’s just a completely different person for no reason and everything she respected about Warner is suddenly forgotten or something?

Warner, who loves Juliette with all his heart and has COMPLETE confidence in himself and Juliette, suddenly turned into this weird person who doesn’t communicate at all and second guesses himself and also offers Juliette no assistance despite being the type of person who 16 days ago would have drawn up a complete spreadsheet on who everyone leading each sector was and how to win them over or beat them. He knows his job and wouldn’t just leave Juliette hanging.. or wouldn’t have 16 days ago.

His new “personality” legit angered me. Like… IDK who the F this Warner is, but even if I give him credit for grieving and also wanting to give Juliette space to lead, there’s literally no possible way he’d ever let things spiral out of control the way he did. Their entire relationship was BUILT on TRULY understanding one another and I just don’t believe they would have the crazy communication issues after just 16 days, EVEN knowing that Warner keeps a lot to himself. It’s like the author spent the entire original series building this whole mutual understanding and amazing relationship only to decide that Juliette shouldn’t need a man, even a man that makes her a better person. It feels like the whole point of Restore Me was watching the author try to make Juliette independent by destroying her relationship with Warner. Or maybe just create discord for plot suspense. Either way, the Warner I knew wouldn’t watch Juliette flounder in a society she knows nothing about while he holds the key to helping her understand the other sectors. He wouldn’t have done that in a million years.

Kenji, who became an amazing friend, is suddenly back to being the Jokester, except blander than usual.

Castle, who was always a naive and optimistic leader of the rebellion suddenly became super organized and knows everything about the sectors and decides to share all the news in passive aggressive sneaky ways in order to cause chaos and discord between Juliette, Kenji, and Warner. What happened to the Professor X type of character? Suddenly, it feels like he exists only to make everyone second guess themselves by being passive aggressive.

And to top it off, the author also decided to pull a Sarah J Maas (I love you, Mafi and Maas, but for real).. and decided to whip up some secondary characters with mysterious backgrounds and throw them into the story for fun. If I didn’t know and love the original series, maybe I’d be up for this, but I was already frustrated by the old characters who were suddenly different people and I SO didn’t have time for actual different people.

Also, there’s no more amazing poetic writing.

Basically, it’s your typical YA dystopian novel complete with over the top plots, unnecessary miscommunication drama, relationship drama, and mysterious characters along with the twist of WHO IS JULIETTE REALLY. (Which, again, would be fine if this wasn’t a contination of a series that was completely different 16 days ago!) If it wasn’t for the fact that the series already existed and was completely fine by itself, Restore Me was a kind of exciting first book in a dystopian series. The ending was cool, the drama, though over the top, was fun, and there was definitely more of a focus on things aside from Juliette and her head, but this was just so unnecessary.

I LIKED being stuck in unreliable Juliette’s head and watching her grow. I liked Warner and the way he believed in her and inspired her to be amazing. I liked the ambiguous not really explained dystopian setting. I liked the crossed out sentences and purple prose. I liked it all.

I read that Mafi wanted to give her fans what they asked for – more plot, less poetry.. and she did, but I can’t help but think that she wasn’t writing this for fans who loved the first book. It feels like this book is for people who only sort of kind of liked the series and wanted it to be more Divergent-esque.

To be as fair as possible, I’m giving Restore Me 3 stars. It’s more of a 1-2 for me, but it’s really not a bad book, so I can’t be quite that harsh. For me, I’ll just pretend Restore Me didn’t happen after Ignite Me and maybe continue this weird spin off series by pretending it has no relation to the Juliette and Warner from the first “trilogy” and call it a day.

Star 3

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Review – Scythe (Arc of Scythe #1) by Neal Shusterman

 

Scythe (Arc of Scythe #1)

By Neal Shusterman

SummaryThou shalt kill.

A world with no hunger, no disease, no war, no misery. Humanity has conquered all those things, and has even conquered death. Now scythes are the only ones who can end life—and they are commanded to do so, in order to keep the size of the population under control.

Citra and Rowan are chosen to apprentice to a scythe—a role that neither wants. These teens must master the “art” of taking life, knowing that the consequence of failure could mean losing their own. 

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Source: I purchased a hardcover

Review

I bought Scythe because the premise seemed a bit intriguing and it was a signed copy. Mostly, I wanted to know if it would be decent. I wasn’t a fan of the Unwind Dystology after the first book because things just got to be too crazy and out there to be remotely plausible. I know that not all dystopian books will be plausible, but I feel like there should be some degree of “what if?” in order to be scarier and more thought provoking. But I loved Challenger Deep by the author, so I know that he’s 100% capable of some really amazing storytelling.

I enjoyed Scythe. It was thought provoking and a tad more believable than the Unwind Dystology, enough to where I felt more invested in the story and the society it took place in. It was still a bit far fetched and I wished that it was a little more grounded in reality.

The Scythe Commandments left WAY too much room for error and there are a handful of ways to ensure completely fair methods of population control while not leaving so much room open for the wrong sort of people to take advantage and still technically follow the rules. I hate when I see glaringly obvious ways to turn the dystopia back into a utopia, but I enjoyed the scythe way of life so I just ignored the obvious solution and kept reading. It didn’t bother me nearly as much as the whole premise of Unwind (like what parents would or could actually unwind their kids? It’s so far fetched that it made it impossible to be as thought provoking as the premise would initially sound.) But the bit plot hole was a tad bit frustrating.

I feel like the series has a lot of potential, but it could just as easily turn into a completely insane, too far from reality, type of story. Still, I flew through the pages and cared about the characters, so I had to give it four stars.

Star 4

Review – The Love Interest by Cale Dietrich

 

The Love Interest

By Cale Dietrich

SummaryThere is a secret organization that cultivates teenage spies. The agents are called Love Interests because getting close to people destined for great power means getting valuable secrets.

Caden is a Nice: the boy next door, sculpted to physical perfection. Dylan is a Bad: the brooding, dark-souled guy who is dangerously handsome. The girl they are competing for is important to the organization, and each boy will pursue her. Will she choose the Nice or the Bad?

Both Caden and Dylan are living in the outside world for the first time. They are well-trained and at the top of their games. They have to be—whoever the girl doesn’t choose will die.

What the boys don’t expect are feelings that are outside of their training. Feelings that could kill them both. 

Source: I purchased a hardcover as part of the Book of the Month Club

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Review:

It’s kind of difficult to rate The Love Interest. It was awful and made zero sense, but it did an amazing job at making fun of tired YA tropes and if that was the point, then it was kind of awesome.

Basically, The Love Interest was a dystopian novel in which a secret organization takes kids and makes them into Love Interests. Every important person will have one, but in order to ensure he or she chooses the spy, they create a Bad and a Nice in order to appeal to the person. Whoever she doesn’t pick will die. It’s outrageous and makes no sense, but I’ve read enough awful YA to be entertained by the premise. In The Love Interest, Caden started to fall for the wrong person: the Bad guy. Which was also kind of awesome because it’s about time the idiot heroine who keeps bouncing between two guys loses both, right?

Caden narrated the story and he didn’t believe he was really Nice, but played his part in order to not die. He was kind of bland and awful, as was nearly all of the dialogue, but the book makes fun of so much wrong in YA, I can’t help but wonder if it was all on purpose. 

I’m not really sure if I read a brilliant parody of every YA dystopian novel ever or another awful addition to that pile, so I gave the book three stars because it’s either really good or really bad and I shot for the middle. 

Star 3

Review – New World: Rising by Jennifer Wilson

 

New World: Rising

By Jennifer Wilson

SummaryWorlds collide in debut author Jennifer Wilson’s graphic dystopian series where Divergent meets Mad Max. 

Since witnessing her parents’ murders at the age of eleven, Phoenix’s only purpose in life has been to uphold her mother’s dying words – to be strong and survive. But surviving outside of The Walls – outside of The Sanctuary – is more like a drawn-out death sentence. A cruel and ruthless city, Tartarus is run by the Tribes whose motto is simple, “Join or die.” 
Refusing to join and determined to live, Phoenix fights to survive in this savage world. But who can she trust, when no one can be trusted? Not even herself…
The first of a trilogy, New World Rising is an epic tale of survival, instinct, trauma, and the extraordinary power of human connection.

“Savage and raw, Jennifer Wilson pulls no punches in this blood tingling dystopian.” Kimberly Derting, award-winning author of The Pledge Trilogy 

Source: I received a paperback in an Owlcrate box.

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Review:

New World: Rising was surprisingly awesome. I never really expect much from YA dystopian novels anymore and this wasn’t the starring book in the Owlcrate box, so of course I kind of viewed it as “extra” and didn’t have a lot of expectations for it, assuming it would be a mildly enjoyable book at best. 

Man, was I wrong. 

New World: Rising was really good in a way that I just don’t really see anymore in YA dystopian fiction. It was fresh. It kind of combined the aspects of post apocalypse with dystopia. Tartarus was the post apocalypse setting, the broken city taken over by tribes. A wall separated Tartarus from The Sanctuary. While we didn’t get to see the Sanctuary, it can be assumed that it’s the oppressive but perfect on the outside broken utopian society. I love that the story had both aspects of dystopian fiction. 

Phoenix was a loner who wasn’t part of any of the city’s tribes. She kept to herself, traded when she needed to, and kept access points all over the city. She survived. The comparison in the synopsis that it’s Divergent meets Mad Max is actually pretty spot on, but at the same time, I was pleasantly surprised that the book stood on its own without having to be compared to other dystopian YA novels. I loved Phoenix as a character. She was fierce, but I could tell she had a softer side. It showed when she saved a small girl without even realizing what she was doing.

The world building was superb. It was dark, gritty, and terrifying. I was caught up in the atmosphere and mystery, as well as the characters. 

If you are like me and love the dystopian genre, but it’s been nothing but disappointment recently, I highly recommend New World Rising. It’s the breath of fresh air we’ve all been waiting for.

Star 4

 

Review – The Sandcastle Empire by Kayla Olson

SummaryWhen all hope is gone, how do you survive? 

Before the war, Eden’s life was easy—air conditioning, ice cream, long days at the beach. Then the revolution happened, and everything changed.

Now a powerful group called the Wolfpack controls the earth and its resources. Eden has lost everything to them. They killed her family and her friends, destroyed her home, and imprisoned her. But Eden refuses to die by their hands. She knows the coordinates to the only neutral ground left in the world, a place called Sanctuary Island, and she is desperate to escape to its shores.

Eden finally reaches the island and meets others resistant to the Wolves—but the solace is short-lived when one of Eden’s new friends goes missing. Braving the jungle in search of their lost ally, they quickly discover Sanctuary is filled with lethal traps and an enemy they never expected. 

This island might be deadlier than the world Eden left behind, but surviving it is the only thing that stands between her and freedom.

Source: I received an Owlcrate exclusive hardcover in an Owlcrate box.

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Review:

The Sandcastle Empire was a strange book. I was confused for the majority of the story, but it was so interesting that I couldn’t help but turn the pages to see what would happen next. Because I was so intrigued and constantly surprised by the direct of the story, I enjoyed the book quite a bit.

The book definitely has a LOST feel to it, along with dystopian elements. Something happened to Eden’s world and it was under very strict rule, but her main goal was to find the Sanctuary her father wrote about in his survival guide. During a moment of chaos and confusion, Eden found herself traveling with three other girls headed off of the coast with only one way to go: towards Sanctuary.

There was so much going on with the plot. The island was really strange and it became clear that they weren’t on any ordinary piece of land. Also, the group dynamics were weird because none of them could really trust each other. And then one of them went missing and the girls attempted to find her and stumbled onto all sorts of messed up things. What WAS this place?! What was happening?

And then, suddenly, there was another group of people who showed up with characters some of the girls recognized, but not quite. Who were they? What were THEY doing here? 

I loved all of the craziness.

I have to admit, things did get a little over the top with the amount of strange twists and turns and shifting alliances, but I was so hooked. The end probably had more plot holes and rushed schemes than I would’ve liked, but it wasn’t a big deal to me. From the beginning, I knew I wasn’t reading a story that was realistic or had a tie to any world I’d recognize, so it was pure fantasy and chaos that never really needed to make sense to me. I suppose I understand if you are a stickler for realistic fiction how this book would be maddening, but I thought it was kind of fun and insane. 

I would definitely recommend The Sandcastle Empire to anyone who enjoyed Lost, enjoys being on the edge of their seat, and doesn’t have super high expectations for YA dystopian novels. This isn’t the next big hit, but it was definitely enjoyable and I had so much fun flying through the pages with a confused look on my face. No one can accuse the book of being predictable!

 Star 4

 

 

 

 

Review – Incarceron by Catherine Fisher

 

Incarceron 

By Catherine Fisher

SummaryIncarceron is a prison so vast that it contains not only cells and corridors, but metal forests, dilapidated cities, and wilderness. It has been sealed for centuries, and only one man has ever escaped. Finn has always been a prisoner here. Although he has no memory of his childhood, he is sure he came from Outside. His link to the Outside, his chance to break free, is Claudia, the warden’s daughter, herself determined to escape an arranged marriage. They are up against impossible odds, but one thing looms above all: Incarceron itself is alive . . . 

Source: I purchased a paperback

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Review:

Incarceron has a gorgeous cover and a thrilling synopsis, so I couldn’t help but pick it up at the bookstore once I saw it. It has great reviews and seemed to be a great mixture of dystopia and steampunk, which sounded pretty awesome.

The book was about Finn, a prisoner inside the awful machinery world that was Incarceron. He was sure he came from outside and had visions of stars and lakes. To everyone else, he was likely cell-born, as Incarceron was said to create life in some instances. It was an ever changing machine and the entrances had been sealed for centuries. No one could go in or out, but there were legends of Sapphique, a man who escaped. Claudia was the Warden of Incarceron’s daughter on the Outside. In the Outside, Protocol demanded that there be no progress. Only a small portion of technology was allowed to be used; everything else was Era. They said the world got too out of hand and progress was to blame. She was betrothed to a prince she was fond of until his death. His stepmother, the Queen, had a son of her own who would be heir to the throne and Claudia was betrothed to him after the death of Giles. But when she found a key and spoke to Finn in the prison, she recognized him…

The plot of the novel seemed really interesting, but it was actually very slow going for me. I wasn’t engrossed in the characters whatsoever. I think the book has so much potential, but the execution was disappointing in just about every way. Claudia was the innocent daughter of the villain in the story, yet despite her fear of her terrifying father, she wasn’t afraid to do just about all things illegal behind his back and somehow think she could save the day and help prisoners escape from a prison she wasn’t fully capable of understanding. The Queen was an even worse villain, though I’m not really sure why.  Incarceron suffered from the same old YA tropes that took away from the unique premise. The story was mainly action based, which I would’ve enjoyed had the world building and character building been more present. All of the action felt like it was done with no real understanding of the consequences. Claudia just knew people were evil or awful without really having much proof, acted on her own biased whims, and yet it all worked out in her favor. The story just seemed too simple for such a complex world and I’m still not any wiser as to the how’s and why’s of the world I was just visiting.

This is one of those times when I own the sequel and am torn between just trudging through it or letting it sit for decades on my shelf, unread. If you’re a younger teen, this book might be just what you’re looking for. It’s fun, action packed, and full of mystery and plots. But for older teens and adults, it just fell short of my expectations. I think there comes a point when the whole “adults are evil with plots of their own and I, a teenage girl with no background about ANYTHING, know exactly what I’m doing” plots just don’t work for me. 

Star 2

 

Review – Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam #1) by Margaret Atwood

 

Oryx and Crake (MaddAddam Trilogy #1)

By Margaret Atwood

SummaryOryx and Crake is at once an unforgettable love story and a compelling vision of the future. Snowman, known as Jimmy before mankind was overwhelmed by a plague, is struggling to survive in a world where he may be the last human, and mourning the loss of his best friend, Crake, and the beautiful and elusive Oryx whom they both loved. In search of answers, Snowman embarks on a journey–with the help of the green-eyed Children of Crake–through the lush wilderness that was so recently a great city, until powerful corporations took mankind on an uncontrolled genetic engineering ride. Margaret Atwood projects us into a near future that is both all too familiar and beyond our imagining.

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Source: I purchased a paperback

Review:

I read Oryx and Crake to fill the category in the Eclectic Reader Challenge for a novel that was shortlisted for the Man Booker Award. To be quite honest, I don’t typically enjoy books in that category because they are most certainly guaranteed to be boring and pretentious to me. Or wordy for the sake of being wordy. I’m just not a big fan of Man Booker Award Winning Novels even though I’m no stranger to thought provoking novels. But, like I anticipated, I didn’t enjoy Oryx and Crake. The premise was interesting, but the story was jumbled and a bit tough to get into.

I got the point of the book and the references and satire that the author intended. The overall plot was interesting, but a tad predictable in a few ways and a bit over the top. I felt like the fact that Crake was a violent and ingenious maniac was clear in early scenes, yet there were dozens of examples that served only to reinforce the point and felt like a waste of time. The science was extremely far fetched. The depravity of society was quite awful, but there were so many scenes depicting gruesome and horrible activities just to prove that fact over and over again. 

Margaret Atwood is a hit or miss author for a lot of people and I think I’m in the minority when I say I’m not a big fan of this particular novel. It’s not that I miss the point, I just don’t think it’s a brilliant piece of storytelling. There’s an arrogance in the way she writes and I feel like if I said I didn’t like it, people would just assume I’m too dull or short sighted to truly appreciate it, as if any critique is a misunderstanding. One of the constant criticisms that dystopias receive is that they are so far fetched and ridiculous (which isn’t necessarily true), yet this is somehow a brilliant dystopia despite being even more far fetched than most dystopian novels. 

Despite the many problems the world has, I am not so pessimistic as to think that the public executions and torture porn that the characters gaze at 24/7 online is in any way a cautionary tale about the dangers of the internet or the awfulness of society now. Yes, people are gross, but I just see this book, if it’s a critique on society than it’s a bit too far fetched and pessimistic for me and I’m a big fan of apocalyptic and dystopian societies. I didn’t connect with the characters or the story or even the overall message. 

Star 2