Being brutally honest about books

Monday, 22 December 2014

The Jewel (The Lone City #1) by Amy Ewing

The Jewel (The Lone City, #1) 
Date finished: 22 December 2014

I wouldn't say this book was bad, but I didn't enjoy it. I just got frustrated and couldn't see any good points. I only picked it up because my mum gave it to me and said it's meant to be good, but it was a waste of time for me.

Okay, the good: The cover. The Jewel has a beautiful cover. So much so that I didn't want to take it with me on holiday because I didn't want to ruin it. Looking at the gorgeous cover lures you into wanting to read it.

Now, the bad. First things first: I cannot stress enough how sick I am of dystopian. This story could be set in a fantasy or sci-fi world and still work, but no. It has to be dystopia. Because that's what all the popular books are these days. And I'm tired of it. Every author wants to write the next Hunger Games or the next Divergent, and if every one of them did that, there would be no original stories anymore.

The worldbuilding is problematic. Why do they have to be protected from the ocean? Why is the city in that particular shape? Who is the government/in charge? (If it's the Exetor and the Electress, that needs to be made clearer.) Why the hell do the Augeries exist? If the surrogate/Auction thing has been going on for so long and the surrogates are brought up knowing what they have to do, why do they question it? See, I love a good revolution, but there seems to be no reason for them to rebel against what they have known for years will happen to them, when they have already accepted it. And there aren't exactly revolutionaries (that we are aware of) spreading their propaganda. These questions could be answered in the next book in the series, but if there's going to be some big reveal, then there should be more emphasis on what we do know.

I honestly couldn't understand why Violet hated the Duchess so early on. She seemed to be a fair mistress, and Violet was lucky to be sold to someone who isn't as cruel as the other royal women. I think it would have made sense for Violet to like the Duchess at first - then when she found out what the Duchess expected her to do in regards to enhancing the baby, there could have been some big betrayal and their relationship could break down.

Oh yes, there is also the problem of insta love. Violet falls in love with Ash because... why, exactly? Because he's hot? Because he likes music too? Because she thinks he's like her - trapped? So is everyone else in the city! This infuriated me. I think he could have been a cool character, if they hadn't fallen for each other at first sight. It's a shame, because he had potential to be awesome.

Somehow, the writing annoyed me. It was too...polished. Too perfect. That probably doesn't make sense, because writers spend a lot of time making sure their novel is perfect. And yet, in The Jewel it just doesn't seem genuine. Maybe I simply didn't like the style it's written in? Maybe I didn't like the protagonist's voice, if she even had one? I can't explain it.

As a recently self-diagnosed tokophobic, I could at least empathise with Violet's desperation to not get pregnant and carry the Duchess's baby. The whole surrogacy thing made me uneasy, and all I wanted was for her to get out of there. I'm not sure if that was sympathy for Violet, though, or my own anxiety speaking. But I hated that she didn't get free yet. Also, the twist at the ending infuriated me! I like Garnet, and I want to know more about his involvement in Violet's escape, but I also don't want to read the next book.

Anyway, I had a lot of problems with this book. The ideas were good, they just weren't executed well. I didn't like it, but I didn't hate it either, thus the two star rating.

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Panic (Panic #1) by Lauren Oliver


Date finished: 14 December 2014

When I first read the blurb of this book I was a little wary of the "new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them" line, but I was pleasantly surprised when the book turned out to be original and unclichéd, and found myself liking it more than I'd expected.

I loved how the book took me on a rollercoaster with its twists and turns, leaving me guessing as to what would happen next. I knew from the moment the tigers were introduced that they would have something to do with the climax of the novel, but I had no idea what. I also felt anxiety when Nat told Heather to drive Dodge's car for the final challenge at the end, knowing just how that would endanger Heather. I didn't expect the winner (I won't spoil it for you) to win, so that was a nice surprise. The feeling of suspense you get throughout the novel makes it hard to put down once you start reading, and that is the first sign that any book is a good one.

The whole concept of this game, "Panic", where these teenagers risk their lives in a series of challenges over the whole summer in order to win a huge amount of money is a creative one. It's not like The Hunger Games, where the tributes have no choice but to participate, and have to kill their opponents to win. In Panic, the players have all decided to play for their own reasons - usually the money - and they all know each other. It's just as ruthless, but there are legal issues and it's not publicised. So no, Panic is not just another Hunger Games, and I think it is actually better. The fact that this book only came out this year and the film rights have already been sold to Universal just goes to show how great it is. And it will make a fantastic movie - you'll feel for the characters, despise the antagonists, and be kept in suspense.

The writing itself is pretty good, too. It's nothing special, but it's clear and descriptive enough that you can picture what's going on, and it gets the message across. Lauren Oliver doesn't show off by using fancy language features when the story itself is interesting enough and doesn't need to be embellished.

The characters all had their distinct personalities and goals, which was a bonus. I sympathised with Heather, wishing she could leave Carp behind, and Dodge, wanting to get revenge for his sister, was also believable. Heather and Dodge had surprisingly similar problems with their families, and from the blurb I first thought that they would get together. Thankfully, that was not the case, and it was made clear early on that they wouldn't happen. They both get their happy ending, though - that's what matters.

Overall, Panic is a great new YA novel and I enjoyed it a lot. I would recommend it to anyone who likes YA fiction but is sick of the dystopian genre and the usual trope of the two leading characters ending up as a couple. Take it from me, and pick it up!
I'm Alexandria, a 19-year-old reader/writer/blogger from New Zealand. I love language, history, and sci-fi. Hi! I'm always around if you want to talk, which you can do via comments, the contact form, or Facebook.

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