After the Snow by S.D. Crockett is a slow, painful book until about half-way through when it turns half-way decent

After the SnowAfter the Snow by S.D. Crockett
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Title: After the Snow
By: S.D. Crockett
Genre: YA Post-Apocalyptic
Rating: PG-13 (language and violent/gore content)
Coffee Beans: 2/5. For realz
Spoilers: yes, some.
Favorite Line: The whole world and everything in it shining in the weak sun like it just been born. (pg 277, ebook) & “I’m sorry. I am.” I put out my hand. But it’s just a flame in that beating rain. (pg 281, ebook)
Disclaimer: I was given a free copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for this honest review

To date, there‘s only one book I’ve ever not finished, and it’s Brenna Yovanoff’s The Replacement. You can read my BR to find out why. So, I was very discouraged when I started reading After the Snow, and by page 4 I was thinking to myself, DANG IT! This is going to be another book I won’t be able to finish. But, I plowed through, and I’m just going to come out and say it:

I didn’t like this book.

I wanted to like this book. I really did. The cover’s pretty awesome. The summary sounded promising. But for me, it fell far short of being a good book. The first half was boring, slow, and uneventful. The second half was exponentially better, filled with action, substance, and characters, but it was too little, too late and couldn’t make up for the first half.

I’m going to save you some valuable reading time.

Ready? Here we go.

Skip chapters 1 – 16. Trust me. You won’t miss anything. Only a whole lot of backstory. In fact, to make you feel better, I’ll sum up what happens so you feel like you know what’s going on when you start reading at chapter 17:

Summary for the first half of the book (Ch. 1 – 16):

*Eh-hem*

15-year-old boy (Willo) is crazy. Like, certifiable. Talks to himself & wears a dead dog’s head on top of his to get strength and power. The dog talks to him and he talks back. Willo goes home, finds his entire family and everyone else (it’s vague as to who that is) missing and decides to go after them. On his way to the neighbors’ (whom he suspects of being involved), he meets and takes with him a girl named Mary. They fight off some wolves, then run and hide. Then he takes her to a cave, then they walk some more (in the snow, of course) towards the neighbor’s.

I have just summed up the first 102 pages.

Now you can start reading the book from chapter 17 on, where it gets substantially better.

The book wasn’t all bad, just mostly. And that’s strictly my opinion. There are A LOT of 4 and 5 star reviews out there of this book. Go and read them. Some people really liked what was between pages 1 and 304. I, however, was not one of them. Let me explain why I chose the lowest rating I’ve ever given a book:

· Let’s start with the setting. I know it’s snowing. I know it’s cold. I know Willo is in the mountains. But that’s all I know. What year is it? What’s the “world” this story takes place in like? Besides the few vague stereotypical description for a post-apocalyptic setting I had no idea what I was supposed to be picturing, which made it hard for me to be really invested into the story

· I found the main character, Willo, to be confusing at best. He’s insane with moments of clarity, but he’s constantly contradicting himself to the point of confusing the reader. And these contradictions happen only sentences apart. Which leads me to believe the author is giving credence to the protag’s craziness, but it’s not streamlined enough to be smooth.

· The first 102 pages were a waste of my time that I could have spent reading something else. Absolutely nothing pivotal to the story happened that couldn’t have been summed up by the in a few sentences from the protag’s POV

Willo’s 15/16 in this book, but the maturity of the character that comes through is far younger. In fact, Mary, who’s 13/14, seems far more mature than her traveling partner. Plus, Willo’s one crazy cat (and not in an artsy kind of way). Talks to himself. A lot. Talks to a dead dog that sits on his head. A lot. Hmmm…hard to get around and accept for me. And he seems very unemotional about the fact that his family is missing. In fact, I wasn’t invested into any of the characters until page 151. 151, people. That ain’t good
The voice of the story—the style it’s written in—is difficult to adjust to. It’s written in a very primitive, uneducated style—which I can understand because Willo’s lived in the mountains his entire life and isn’t all that educated—but it’s overdone to the point of being annoying and distracting. I thought that maybe it would be like Blood Red Road by Moira Young and I’d get used to it and fall in love with it, but here, I found myself skimming over a majority of the narrative, kinda like I did in Spanish class during tests. I got the main idea of the page, but didn’t care to understand anymore. And the text is sectioned off weird at times; I still haven’t figured out why.

What the heck is Willo’s goal? It’s all over the place, and when he does have one, it’s unfocused. Meandering. When he discovers his family missing, he wants to find them. Then, when he thinks he knows who the traitor is (“married” to his sister) he wants revenge. Then he comes across Mary, one thing leads to another, and they find themselves in the city. He still has his distracted goal of getting to the culprit (and his sister). Then he gets separated from Mary. Then he bunks with a nice old man and his wife for the winter. His new goal is to find Mary. Wait, what about that goal of finding his family? He gets back to that. Then his goal is escape and heading back up to the hills. But wait, Mary! Once reunited, their goal is to get to the sea to get on the ships with the Resistance to get to some islands. Then they change their minds and want to go south. See what I mean?

The ending made me mad. NOTHING was resolved. NOTHING.

What I liked:

Crockett, at times, has beautiful imagery and a very simple way of saying things that resonates truth (thanks to Willo’s simple way of thinking and isolation from the “real” world)

The second half of the book was packed with tension and action and all-around great writing and storytelling. If the book had held that impact from the beginning, this would’ve been a VERY different BR.

The cover

I almost didn’t finish this book. Almost. But, I’m determined not to have one DNF book on my list in 2012, if I can help it.

Look, as always, read it for yourself. It wasn’t for me, but it may be for you. It’s never fun writing BR’s for books I didn’t like. The author worked hard on the book. They love it. I just hope there are more people out there that love it more than me.

Happy reading, my friends!

The Glimpse by Claire Merle Gives us a Real, Scary Future, but Doesn’t Dig Down Far Enough

The GlimpseThe Glimpse by Claire Merle

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The Glimpse
By: Claire Merle
Genre: YA Dystopian
Pub Date: June 7, 2012
Rating: PG-13 for some disturbing and slightly mature scenes at a loony dump.
Coffee Beans: 3.5/5
Spoilers: Nope
Favorite Line(s): “It was like a curse. He was her antidote. She was his poison.” (ebook, pg 35), “She stared at him fiercely, but her eyes snagged on his blue irises and her heart back-flipped, landing askew in her chest.” (ebook, pg 175), “Ana baulked like a horse reaching a ten-foot-high jump.” (ebook, pg 177), “Her mind felt like sludge the whole world had walked their dirty boots through.” (ebook, pg 256)
Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for this honest review

Publisher’s Summary:

Throughout England people are now divided into Pures and Crazies according to the results of a DNA test, with the Pures living in small Communities cut off from the madness of society, and the Crazies living outside the walls in the squalor and mayhem of the City. Until the age of fifteen, Ana has lived a privileged existence amongst the Pures, but her whole world crumbles when she finds out that there was a mistake with her Pure test. She is actually one of the Crazies, and one day in the near or distant future she will become sick. But Ana has already been promised to Pure-boy Jasper Taurell. Jasper is from a rich and influential family and despite Ana’s defects, wants to be with her. The authorities grant Ana a conditional reprieve. If she is joined to Jasper before her 18th birthday she may stay in the Community until her illness manifests. But if Jasper changes his mind, she will be cast out among the Crazies. As Ana’s joining ceremony looms closer, she dares to hope she will be saved from the horror of the City and live a ‘normal’ life. But then Jasper disappears. Led to believe Jasper has been taken by a strange sect the authorities will not interfere with, Ana sneaks out of her well-guarded Community to find him herself. Her search takes her through the underbelly of society and into the pits of the human soul. And as she delves deeper into the mystery of Jasper’s abduction she uncovers some devastating truths that destroy everything she has grown up to believe, but she also learns to love as she has never loved before.

My Review:

What?!?! The surmounting cases of mental disease as the main plot in a dystopian tale? A pharmaceutical company ruling the world through the creation of a one-pill-fix-all? GENIUS! I don’t know why this hasn’t been done before.

In a time when dystopians are all the rage, it’s easy to see the same ol’, same ol’ on the bookshelves of your local bookstore. Run down world, society crumbling, a controlling force running rampant. But The Glimpse offers us something new and fresh, and it’s welcomed.
The beginning drops you at the set-up of the conflict. Ana is in Home Ec class learning how to test water temperature for a baby’s bath (this future society focuses on the traditional values of homemaking and chastity and dresses for the girls. It’s unique.) She gets called into the principal’s office where her father and The Board is waiting for her. Apparently, they did some digging and her Pure test yielded wrong results. Her father is accused of tampering with the test and Ana’s life is forever changed. She is now labeled as a Sleeper, a person with mental disease genetic markers who isn’t exhibiting symptoms now, but will one day.

What I liked:

The premise is brilliant and original. Society is divided by a person’s mental status—the Pures (no genetic markers for mental instability) and the Crazies (individuals with any genetic marker of mental instability). The Pure Test’s validity—designed by Ana’s dad—is in question.
(And…..cue story conflict.) The world that Merle created is so real and possible is at times, unsettling.

While the feeding in of the back-story and political make up was there, it was cleverly hidden. I didn’t feel it was a “maid and butler conversation” which is good, but in the end I still knew I was being told instead of showed. Merle had a beautiful opportunity to really show the reader everything, and I don’t feel that was fully reached.

There was some great imagery: “The men and women who came to question her were always different, but they managed to create an unnervingly unified presence, like they were the close-up parts of a larger animal, whose singular striations and skin texture were always recognizable as part of a distinct whole.” Pg 57, ebook. And the way she described how horrible the loony dumps were, was perfection. It was all so unsettling and disturbing and vivid.

Reading a UK author, it’s always entertaining to see curb spelled kerb and those extra u’s all over the place and s’s instead of z’s or c’s as well as the foreign words for everyday items (i.e. fags for cigarettes). The Glimpse is a long book, but it reads pretty easily and is entertaining and engaging.

What I didn’t like:

The potential to really dig down into Ana’s world and build up layers is begging to be done. That’s why I was a little disappointed. I saw the possibilities. I hoped and was excited for the complexity and layers of what could be. But the story didn’t go deep enough. Don’t get me wrong, I enjoyed reading it, but I couldn’t help but feel disappointed at what could have been.

I was a little confused in parts of the book as to what was going on and what the setting was at the beginning. But that was in part, my own problem. I’m used to the typical dystopian setting so Ana’s world was a little hard for me to imagine (even though it was set in existing towns). I know it takes place in London, but I’m talking about the feel f the setting, the technology, etc. I started to get a better image as the story progressed, I would have liked to have a stronger sense from the first page (think Cinder by Marissa Meyer), and there were still pockets of confusion as the story went along its merry little way. Even though that was my own handicap while reading, I did feel the world was a little one layered. As I mentioned earlier, I felt this story and setting had the opportunity to do so much more than it did, and I was a little let down.

I had a slight problem with the reasoning behind some of Ana’s actions and decisions. For example: Very early on in the story, Ana tells us that she hates her father because of this one action we’re shown (and I’m assuming from some vaguely hinted at feelings from earlier in her life). Anyway, with what the reader’s given in the story up to that point, I don’t feel her feelings or actions are appropriately motivated. Now, had we been given her feelings and reactions later on in the story, after some other things happen, then yes. Completely justified. I’d hate the man, too. The last thing that somewhat bothered me was that whenever Ana comes to a conclusion or a realization, it comes across a little stiff, almost like the author doesn’t know how best to get the idea across.

The Cover:

And now the cover, because I always make a comment on the cover. I didn’t like it. Not for this book. It didn’t make sense at all. It made me think that this story was going to be a literary or contemporary piece. Not dystopian. It’s a little too clean. (Maybe that’s because it looks SO MUCH like the cover of another lit/cont story I love so much). But, this is the UK cover (from my understanding, so hopefully the US cover will be a little more dark and brooding to fit the story.) Oh, and a side note, I don’t know if the title is the best for this book. But, what do I know?

Anyway, pick it up and decide for yourself. It’s definitely worth a read. Happy reading, my friends!

The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa

Title: The Immortal Rules
Author:
Julie Kagawa
Genre:
YA Paranormal Dystopian
Rating:
PG (Awesome violence)
Coffee Beans:
5/5
Spoilers:
No major plot points
Favorite Line:
The air was thick with the smell of mold, dust and vegetation, and the house seemed to hold its breath as I stepped inside. (ebook, pg 33)
Disclaimer:
I received this book free from the publisher via NetGalley in exchange for this unbiased review.

Publisher’s Summary: In a future world, vampires reign. Humans are blood cattle. And one girl will search for the key to save humanity.

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a vampire city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten.

Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them. The vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself is attacked—and given the ultimate choice. Die…or become one of the monsters.

Faced with her own mortality, Allie becomes what she despises most. To survive, she must learn the rules of being immortal, including the most important: go long enough without human blood, and you will go mad.

Then Allie is forced to flee into the unknown, outside her city walls. There she joins a ragged band of humans who are seeking a legend—a possible cure to the disease that killed off most of humankind and created the rabids, the mindless creatures who threaten humans and vampires alike.

But it isn’t easy to pass for human. Especially not around Zeke, who might see past the monster inside her. And Allie soon must decide what—and who—is worth dying for.

 My Review:

I hate reading a book like The Immortal Rules by Julie Kagawa.

Now I have to wait an entire YEAR (if I’m lucky) before the next installment comes out.
Seriously, books like this one—engaging and addicting and AMAZING from the very first word—are dangerous. Personal relationships are in danger of neglect. You’re brought to the cusp of wasting away from sleep deprivation and lack of food. Your social life suffers. You’re been called into the boss’ office a few too many  times because you’re reading when you should be working.

But it’s all worth it, isn’t it?

Julie, simply put, is one of the most talented writers I’ve read. This book is going on The List. They way she weaves together layers and layers of plot is just astounding. And the fact that she does it with such ease and skill—that on the surface it looks like nothing when in reality it’s a very precise story and snare she’s created—knocks my socks off.

The world in which Allies lives was set up so naturally and believably, I could envision what it looked like, and most importantly, what it was like to live there, by the end of page one. People, that’s hard to do, and impressive enough to make anyone stand in awe and drool at that kind of talent.

The characters in The Immortal Rules are deep and multifaceted. You know their motivations and their reactions even though they might only be a secondary character. Every single one of them has a separate and convicting drive to their actions and it’s plain what they are. The best character Kagawa’s created is her protagonist, Allison Sekemoto. A kickass Japanese girl with a hard attitude and mad katana skills.

One thing I was completely impressed with: This book is around 500 pages, and every single one of them is jam packed with tension and risk and action for Allie. The struggle to stay alive, to find food, to keep from becoming a snack for a vampire, rival gangs, the rabids. Then, as the story progresses, the balancing act Allie has to maintain of keeping people from figuring out who she really is and keeping herself from being killed by the people she’s with and a raider biker gang. There’s no time for Allie to breathe or relax, so why should there be for the reader?

It’s 100% AWE.SOME.

This book is the perfect blend between 28 Weeks Later, Last Man Standing, The Road, Resident Evil, and Daybreakers. Seriously, perfection between two covers (or in my case, perfection in Nook form).

It begs to be said again: Kagawa is one of the most skilled YA writers out there right now, expertly weaving a complex and layered story with ease. Grabbing her reader by the shirt and ripping them into the story yelling, “Sink or swim, baby!” and then throwing them into the melee.

But there were two things I didn’t care for in the story.

One: It ended. But, Julie has another series out for me to read until book two in the Blood of Eden series comes out (a New York Times bestselling series, the Iron Fey, which I have purchased on my Nook as of…now), so at least I can fill some time with more of her amazing writing.

Two: Sometimes I felt a little lost while reading, like I’d missed something that just happened. I think Kagawa was going for the whole “I’m not holding your hand to tell you Allie got a glass of water, I’m going to let you assume she got off the couch and walked into the kitchen to get that water” thing. Sometimes I felt too much was left out. But that was only towards the end and only a few times.

C’mon. I really had to dig to find that criticism. Give me a break.

Pick up a copy, read it, and decide for yourself. Seriously, I doubt you’ll regret doing so.

Happy Reading, my friends!