Review: “Under the Never Sky” by Veronica Rossi

Under the Never Sky (Under the Never Sky #1) by Veronica Rossi (Click for Goodreads)

Since she’d been on the outside, she’d survived an Aether storm, she’d had a knife held to her throat, and she’d seen men murdered. This was worse.
Exiled from her home, the enclosed city of Reverie, Aria knows her chances of surviving in the outer wasteland – known as The Death Shop – are slim. If the cannibals don’t get her, the violent, electrified energy storms will. She’s been taught that the very air she breathes can kill her. Then Aria meets an Outsider named Perry. He’s wild – a savage – and her only hope of staying alive.
A hunter for his tribe in a merciless landscape, Perry views Aria as sheltered and fragile – everything he would expect from a Dweller. But he needs Aria’s help too; she alone holds the key to his redemption. Opposites in nearly every way, Aria and Perry must accept each other to survive. Their unlikely alliance forges a bond that will determine the fate of all who live under the never sky.

3 1/2 stars

You guys have no idea how long this book was on my list. I mean, seriously. I wanted this SO MUCH when it first came out, and I was ecstatic to have finally gotten it after hearing such great things about it.

So you can imagine my frustration with the entire first half of this book.

The biggest issue for me was the amount of unexplained exposition. I kept having this feel of being THIS CLOSE to falling head over heels for this book, just as soon as a few more things made sense. However, it seemed like every time I approached that precipice, I was attacked with more words that I was supposed to figure out on my own. “Blood-Lord,” “Scire,” “Aether storms”–that’s only the beginning of the strange words. Actually, I felt like I was being taught to read Shakespeare all over again, hearing my teacher say “Now, if you don’t understand the word, read the words around it and see if you can infer its meaning.” I can usually forgive this in a book somewhat, if I’m enjoying the read, but this continued until almost exactly half way through.

The characters of Aria and Perry aren’t exactly stellar in the first part either. Aria seems to be devolving into your typical cliché female heroine and Perry is having a bipolar characterization where he isn’t sure if he should kill his brother and take over his tribe or leave his tribe altogether because he doesn’t want to hurt anyone.

But then you reach that almost exact middle point of the book. On one page, you have Perry thinking that menstruation smells like violets. On the opposite page (the book switches between Aria and Perry’s POVs), you have Aria freaking out because she can now “conceive at random.” I stared at these pages for a good long time wondering just what in the world was happening. Then I turned the page, warily.

And the book got exponentially better.

Aria and Perry become likeable characters. Aria shows you that she isn’t a whiny, helpless girl, but she isn’t obnoxious (too much, anyways) either. Perry gets more depth, and you begin to understand him (and his tribal structure, thank goodness) so much better. Add in Perry’s best friend Roar and the interesting and there-for-too-few-pages Cinder with his AWESOME power, and you’ve got a fantastic mix of characters and story that flows along so much better.

You then, of course, proceed to have some YA romance, but it honestly wasn’t so bad. Aria and Perry do take the chance to get to know and trust each other before deciding they love each other, which made me absolutely delighted. It was decidedly real. Until the last few pages of the book, which made me roll my eyes, but also made me want the next one NOW. So, you know.

Overall, I did enjoy this book. Perhaps someday I’ll reread it a few more times and see if I can get some more understanding out of the first half. The world, the characters and the story throughout were wonderful, it was just in the second half that they were fantastic. Fans of dystopian should be aware that Under the Never Sky would have possibly been more appropriate with a sci-fi label, because it’s very easy to forget this is supposed to be our Earth we’re reading about, but I really liked that. You can bet I’ll be reading the sequel!

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Waiting on Wednesday #9

Waiting on Wednesday is a feature hosted by Breaking the Spine.

Title: Darkness Before Dawn

Author: J. A. London

Expected Release: May 29, 2012

Summary from Goodreads: This electrifying new trilogy blends the best of paranormal and dystopian storytelling in a world where the war is over. And the vampires won.
Humans huddle in their walled cities, supplying blood in exchange for safety. But not even that is guaranteed. Dawn has lost her entire family and now reluctantly serves as the delegate to Lord Valentine, the most powerful vampire for miles. It isn’t until she meets Victor, Valentine’s son, that she realizes not all vampires are monsters….
Darkness Before Dawn is a fresh new story with captivating characters, unexpected plot twists, a fascinating setting, and a compelling voice. Written under the name J. A. London by a talented mother-son team, the trilogy is perfect for fans of True Blood and the House of Night and Morganville Vampires series.

Why I’m Waiting: Because I’m a sucker for vampires. (Yes, the pun was intended. Shush, my sense of humor is SPECTACULAR.) Also, dystopian. Through them together and what do you get? Hopefully something amazing, like Julie Kagawa’s The Immortal Rules, which I loved. I am CAUTIOUSLY excited about this book, because they can be so hit and miss with me, but it really does sound interesting. Plus, a mother-son writing team? I’m just curious to see if that works at all, story aside. 😛 (Although, about the cover, could they have made it look anything more like the Fallen series? Whether you like the Fallen series or not, I prefer uniqueness in a cover…)

Don’t forget to check out my Two Year Blogoversary Giveaway!

Review: Wither by Lauren DeStefano

Wither by Lauren DeStefano

4 stars

“Thanks to modern science, every newborn has become a ticking genetic time bomb—males only live to age twenty-five, and females only live to age twenty. In this bleak landscape, young girls are kidnapped and forced into polygamous marriages to keep the population from dying out.

When sixteen-year-old Rhine Ellery is taken by the Gatherers to become a bride, she enters a world of wealth and privilege. Despite her husband Linden’s genuine love for her, and a tenuous trust among her sister wives, Rhine has one purpose: to escape—to find her twin brother and go home.

But Rhine has more to contend with than losing her freedom. Linden’s eccentric father is bent on finding the antidote to the genetic virus that is getting closer to taking his son, even if it means collecting corpses in order to test his experiments. With the help of Gabriel, a servant she is growing dangerously attracted to, Rhine attempts to break free, in the limited time she has left.”

Yes, another dystopian! What can I say? This stuff is in vogue right now and there’s only so much I can see or hear about a book before I snatch it off the shelves and go FINE ALRIGHT ALREADY. (It was also on sale, so that helped too.) I had researched this book on Goodreads once again, and found that several friends whose opinions I trust had loved this book, but some others had also disliked it. Once again, I came at it with lower expectations.

I must say that I was pleasantly surprised. Despite DeStefano’s world seeming to be even less of a believable concept than that of Ally Condie’s Matched (whose world building issues were discussed at length here), I believed in it—which I hadn’t believed I would. How could anyone make both extremely short life spans and polygamous marriages work, right? Apparently, DeStefano—very well, I might add. But onto that in a minute…

Let’s get what I didn’t like out of the way first, shall we? There were two things that really got to me: 1) Rhine and Gabriel and 2) the “tempo” of the plot. The relationship between Rhine and Gabriel might have been more of an issue with my personal taste, but it just felt forced. First they’re friends and then they’re kissing and then they’re friends and then they’ve got their hands on each other and then they’re friends again. I was honestly quite baffled by their relationship. It felt like a sincere friendship, but the story seemed to be trying to force it into something more. Clearly these two have a relationship coming in the next book, but I would have preferred to see them as just honest friends in Wither (which was done well in the spots where they were just friends).

The tempo of the plot was a much bigger issue, though there’s really less to say on it. There was certainly things happening and I could barely stop reading, but the book never affected by heart rate if you know what I mean. There were certainly points where the plot got to me, but they were more flashes than anything else.

But you can bet your life I’ll be reading the second book in this trilogy, titled Fever and expected February 21, 2012. Why? Because of everything DeStefano did right, and her way with words. Perhaps her way with words is one reason the plot never got to my heart rate—sometimes short and succinct are better and more gripping, aspiring writers!—but I refuse to put too much blame there because she has a way with words. Descriptions, analogies, etc—I wanted to write them down and steal them.

Also, polygamy. No matter your feelings on the subject, that’s a tough thing to write about. DeStefano never blinks. You’re never given the feeling that the marriages are right, but they never feel contrived either. How she managed to make polygamy feel like a societal convention but wrong at the same time is beyond me and I like it.

All and all, I think dystopian fans should definitely give Wither a shot. Unlike Matched, which was very romance oriented, Wither felt much deeper and plot oriented, with just enough romance to keep romance lovers happy but not turn off people who think YA romance should be burnt. Relationships in the book—such as the friendship between Rhine and Gabriel and the camaraderie between the sister wives—are excellently written and feel decidedly real. It hints at moral questions but doesn’t get preachy. In a nutshell, I found Wither to be a fine addition to the dystopian titles exploding off the shelves right now. If you enjoyed Divergent by Veronica Roth and/or Matched, I totally recommend that you give it a shot.

Review: Matched by Ally Condie

Matched by Ally Condie

4 stars

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black. The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

I came into this book not having very high expectations. Since I frequent Goodreads, I read up on this book quite a bit in deciding which of my 3 new books to read first. When a lot of different reviews say the same thing, I worry.

However, Matched was not as horrible as I had worried it would be. It certainly wasn’t the next Hunger Games, as it was boasted to be on the back of the book, but it was a fairly solid novel all the same.

After I had read the book, I went back to the reviews again, and I found myself amused. Many of them had to do with how unbelievable Cassia’s world is. While it is true that Condie’s word building could have been better—much better in places—I don’t believe she deserves entirely all the flak. Matched is a dystopian book. To me, the entire idea of a dystopian book is to shock the reader with how unreal it seems. We are supposed to wonder how the citizens can put up with the conditions and lies that the usually totalitarian government is forcing on the citizens. That’s the whole point of these books: the system needs to change. Sometimes it seems that the more outrageous the scenario, the better the book goes along. After all, how believable is a world in which kids as young as 12 need to be trained to play a game to the death? Not very, but don’t tell Hunger Games fans that. Condie’s fault lies not in creating an unbelievable world, but not explaining her world well.

I will give Condie props for handling her romance pretty well. The book is described to have a love triangle, which I think is rather false, because Cassia was never really in love with Xander though he was in love with her. It was always very clear that she was going to choose Ky. The romance between Ky and Cassia was very real, and didn’t happen in an instance, which gives Condie instant points from me. The romance is the definite center of this book.

All in all, I did enjoy Matched. To enjoy the book yourself, however, you have to be prepared to let go. If you are a reader who needs to understand every facet of the world around the characters, this probably isn’t for you because you will focus on all the holes, not the story. However, if you can let yourself just sink into the story and go along for the ride, I think you’ll enjoy it—especially if romance heavy books are something you enjoy. If you don’t enjoy teen romance, I’ll admit you’ll want to stay far away. As I said, romance is such the center of this book that perhaps the world building wasn’t even as focused on as that. After I stopped caring about the world and the lack thereof or ineffective description of why the world is the way it is, I certainly did enjoy it myself. Despite the reviews of the second book, Crossed, I am eager to pick it up. Condie has a chance to do some great things with the world that she’s created, and Matched was good enough that I’m willing to give her the chance to win me over again.