Kindle Daily Deal: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Today’s Kindle Daily Deal (Amazon UK) is the creepy apocalyptic sci-fi The 5th Wave. I reviewed this book a little while ago finding it quite enjoyable, and I hear it’s going to become a movie in 2016. I think it will work great as a movie, as this book has a very cinematic feel. Even better, it’s only 99p.

Description:

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker.

Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

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Book Review: The Summer Prince by Alaya Dawn Johnson

Title: The Summer King

Author: Alaya Dawn Johnson

Rating: 2 stars

Review:

For the Queen to reign, the King must die…

In the city of Palmares Três, Brazil, the ritual of the Summer King has come again. One man will be chosen to wear the crown, one man who will win the hearts of all the people and choose the next Queen by spilling his own blood by her feet. It is a brutal tradition, but an ancient one that makes the city what it is.

June Costa has watch several Summer Kings before. Like the rest of the city she has cheered when they were crowned and cried at their deaths. It’s part of her culture, one she has never questioned. Until she meets Enki. Captivating and charming, he is chosen by many to be the next Summer King. Both June and her best friend Gil quickly fall for Enki – June sees in him the soul of an artist, one to match her own. Soon, June finds herself asking why the Sumer King must die as together they create a masterpiece that the whole of Palmares Três will never forget.

The Summer Prince had a lot of potential: it’s a post-apocolyptic, dystopic sci-fi novel featuring a Brazilian society run by women, focusing on the life of a struggling artist who falls for a boy who volunteered to sacrifice himself in a gruesome traditional ceremony that happens every few years to choose the city’s new Queen. Sounds impressive, right? Sadly, this book is pretty bad. Like many YA post-apocolyptic and/or dystopic novels not enough time is spent on the world building, and what there is focuses far too much on the what rather that the why. We are told exactly what happens to the Summer King – from the first death that started the tradition, to the choosing and voting which June participates in, to the final ceremony – but we are never told why a Summer King is needed. Seriously, of all the ways to choose a new monarch, why human sacrifice? And surely the acting of having a man always choose the Queen undermines the fact that the ruling council is deliberately made only of women? What’s worse is that the Summer King isn’t chosen based on their intellect or political knowhow. It’s literally a popularity contest, with talent shows and dressing up to wow the judges and gain votes from the public. It’d be like having the winner of the X-Factor choose the next Queen of England. (Though if this were real, I’d be far more inclined to vote for Jedward just to see them die at the end of it all.) I can’t comment on whether the depiction of Brazil was accurate or a exoticism, as I have sadly never been and don’t know that much about their culture.

I also greatly disliked the main character June. To put it bluntly, she’s a spoilt brat. She spends all her time partying and running around vandalising property in the name of ‘art’, but her life is so hard. Her so-wonderful, so-inspiring father who she still glorifies killed himself even though his family knew what he was planning and begged him not to and his daughter was only a teenager, then her mother had the cheek to try and find happiness again by re-marrying a woman who has done nothing but try to help June accomplish something with her life other than a hangover and a painted patch of wall where some crap graffiti used to be. (Hmm, that wasn’t as harsh in my mind. Oh well.) As for all the other characters they are pretty boring to be honest. In fact, that’s how I would summarise my whole experience with this book: boring. If you read the official blurb it mentions something about June and Enki ‘adding fuel to a growing rebellion against the government’s strict limits on new tech’, but that’s not really a plot line as it’s barely featured. Seriously, worse rebellion ever.

One thing I did enjoy was Alaya Dawn Johnson’s depiction of teenagers and sex. Personally, I think this is a sex positive book. Firstly, homosexuality is seen as completely normal: there are several same sex relationships that are so natural that the narration doesn’t even point out that they are same sex. It’s just stated as facts – ‘this is my mother and her new wife, this is my best friend and his boyfriend’. Secondly, there is no slut shaming in this book, and sex is never something that a character is made to feel bad for having. Now I know that some reviewers complained that June described her virginity as a ‘problem’ she had ‘taken care of’ with her best friend, but I have no problem with this. Teenagers have sex for as many different reasons as adults, and some want to lose their virginities as fast as possible. It’s not something I’d personally encourage, but if they want to do it, and they are safe about it, then who I am (or anyone else) to judge?

Anyway, to put it simply, I was bored and unimpressed with The Summer Prince. Pity.

2 stars.

Book Review: Necessary Evil by Ian Tregillis

16124692Title: Necessary Evil

Author: Ian Tregillis

Series: Milkweed Triptych #3

Cover Comment: Screams military, but I like it.

Rating: 4 stars

Review:

(Spoilers for the first two books in the series.)

To be given the chance to undo the mistakes of his past, to not only change the fate of his family but also save the world, Raybould Marsh has agreed to trust his most despised enemy. Gretel is one of the few living genetic experiments created by the mad Dr Von Westarp, who were used as soldiers during the Second World War. She can see the future, and has used her powers to kill Marsh’s infant daughter once already. But the only wait to save his baby, and everyone else, is to trust Gretel. As the Eidolons – a race of god-like beings who abhor humans – destroy the world Gretel is able to send Marsh back in time from 1963 to 1940 in order to save this time line from destruction and redeem himself.

Necessary Evil is a very bittersweet book. After seeing Marsh become a shadow of the man he used to be in the last book, The Coldest War, he is given a chance to change history – but for a different version of himself. He gets to see his wife, when she still loved him, and his baby daughter, who has been dead for nearly twenty years, but can’t reveal who he truly is. Marsh’s pain and loneliness is visible throughout the novel, and heart-wrenching to read.

The comparisons between Old Marsh and Young Marsh is interesting to read. Both are obviously stubborn and determined to protect their family,  but Old Marsh has become better at scheming and manipulating people: more willing to do the “necessary evil” in order to reach his goals. His loneliness has hardened him, and the possibility of saving his child has made him desperate. Yet, despite these faults, Old Marsh is a constantly sympathetic character.

The few insights we get into Gretel’s mind are fascinating, in a very disturbing way. She has been described as “evil” constantly throughout the series, and these chapters certainly show she is unstable and obsessive, willing to kill anyone who gets in her way. No-one is safe, and a few key characters are killed in a fairly gruesome way.

Ultimately, this is a satisfying and emotional ending to a great series.

4 stars.

Book Review: Man in the Empty Suit by Sean Ferrell

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Title: Man in the Empty Suit

Author: Sean Ferrell

Rating: 2.5 stars

Cover Comments: Simple, though the coloured silhouette of the man is very eye catching.

Review:

Time travel can be messy business. Especially if you celebrate your birthday every year with your former and future selves in an abandoned hotel, watching your younger selves get unashamedly drunk, whilst your older selves shake their heads in pity at how stupid and reckless you used to be. But this is where we find our unnamed protagonist, on the eve of his 39th birthday, preparing eagerly for his party as this year he gets to be ‘The Suit’.

However, his night is ruined when he discovers ‘The Body’: himself at age 40, dead. It turns out the Elder versions of him have been hiding this conspiracy from the youths, and it’s up to The Suit to determine what exactly happened, and how to stop it. Only 41, The Drunk, knows how to escape this fate, but he’s in no state to help. Things become even more complicated when an outsider, Lily, arrives at the party for the first time ever. Can she help, or is she just at risk? Can The Suit save himself?

This was an interesting concept that sadly didn’t work out for me.

Firstly, there is a huge problem with the time travel element of the book. Basically, you can either have the ‘time is linear’ theory (everything that happened happened, you can’t change history), or the multiverse theory (travel to another universe where you can change things because it’s not actually your time line). To make a time travel novel successful you have to pick one theory and stick to it, especially if this is the centre fold of your entire premise. Man in the Empty Suit, however, doesn’t do this. It starts with a linear idea of time, then suddenly revels that it can be changed, even in a small way. Since there is no mention of other universes, we must just assume that the author doesn’t understand these rules.

Now, the other issues I had was with the characters and the pacing.

I found both the nameless main character and the mysterious woman Lily to be fairly unlikable. You never really connect with either, despite being inside his head. All I can tell you is he’s arrogant, self-loathing, and an alcoholic. Even when surrounded by his other selves, the main character can only pity the Youngsters and resent the Elders, all whilst seeing his current self as better. Perhaps this is a comment by the author about how our perceives change over time, and how we view ourselves, always comparing how we used to be to what we are now, and what we’d like to become. But it seemed that the protagonist never learns from his this, only ever seeing his current state as been right.

As for Lily, even after hearing her story I found it hard to care. She felt a little tacked-on, more of a plot device to give The Suit a motive and a romantic interest, and so she fell a bit flat to me.

I also disliked the pacing and sudden change from the party to six months before hand. I felt like the story would have worked better if had been isolated to the party. It would have given a tighter time constraint, causing more tension and interest.

A couple of other questions; what happened to the world in 2071? What did the time machine/raft actually look like and how did it work? What made him build one in the first place? Why come back to a rundown hotel in 2071, of all the points in history?

2.5 stars for the original and intriguing idea.