Review: Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

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In the world that eighteen-year-old Mare Barrow lives in, wealth and power belong exclusively to the Silver Elites. They run the country because of the color of their blood and the supernatural abilities that they possess. Mare’s own people, the Reds, are the lowly servants, soldiers, fishermen, and common folk who work tough jobs until their backs break, or until they are killed in the battlefield. For centuries, this has been how their world worked, and no one ever dared defy the rule of the land.

Unlike her younger sister Gisa, who apprentices as a seamstress in the city market and sells her work to Silver merchants and nobles, Mare possesses no special skills. She is, however, quite the gifted petty thief. And this skill has tided her and her family over during the hardest days.

When Mare finds out that her childhood friend, Kilorn Warren, lost his job as a fisherman’s apprentice and has no choice but to be Conscripted, Mare nearly loses it. Conscription requires all eighteen-year-olds without jobs or apprenticeships to enlist in the army and fight in the war. All of Mare’s three brothers are already Conscripted. She will not let another person she loves be corrupted or killed by war.

In a desperate effort to save Kilorn’s life, Mare turns to the local black market and asks their help to smuggle Kilorn out of the Stilts. They agree, but for a fee that will cost Mare dearly.

When things take a different turn, Mare hits the streets again to steal whatever she can. She stumbles upon a mysterious stranger who catches her in the act, but gives her money anyway. The next day, Mare finds herself with a job as a servant at the king’s castle.

It’s the strange events that take place at the king’s castle that convince Mare that she can never trust anybody, and that anyone can betray anyone. It’s also there in the company of powerful Silvers that Mare discovers something about herself that will forever change her life.

This book has been on my to-read list for the longest time, and now I just can’t help wishing I read it sooner. I’m not a big fan of YA fantasy / adventure books, but I figured I had to give this one a shot. And I’m so glad I did because I really enjoyed reading about the world of Reds and Silvers.

Sure, the plot is not anything new, but it still brings something different and exciting to the mix. Red Queen is well-written and well-paced, and it wasn’t difficult to keep track of all the names, locations, and characters. Victoria Aveyard has created a rich and fascinating world that makes readers want to explore all its deep and dark secrets.

I like that the main character is not obsessed with boys. It’s not a romantic book, but it does have its rare romantic moments. (Hello, Prince Maven. Hello, Prince Calore.)

Red Queen is just a peek into the complex but exciting world of Mare Barrow. There’s still so much to know about the Red and Silver bloods, and the uprising that’s slowly taking place. But that’s for us to find out in the sequel. This first installment is filled with exciting twists and unpredictable turns. It’s a decent read that promises quite a few shockers from start to finish.

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Burn for Burn Trilogy by Jenny Han and Siobhan Vivian

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Lillia Cho is rich, smart, beautiful, and popular. She also knows her childhood best friend, Alex Lind, is in love with her. He’s also rich, smart, handsome, and popular. He’s one of her oldest, most dependable, and most trusted friends. Unfortunately, she just doesn’t feel anything romantic for him. So when Lillia finds out that Alex has his sights set on her younger sister Nadia, and that something went down during one of their many wild parties, Lillia swears he’ll be sorry he ever laid a hand on her sister.

Kat DeBrassio used to be friends with the most popular girls in school, Rennie Holtz and Lillia Cho. They were thick as thieves, and summers were always a blast. Until queen bee Rennie decided to stop being her friend shortly after Kat’s mother died of cancer. Rennie chose Lillia. And if that wasn’t awful enough, Rennie made Kat’s life a living hell from then on. She bullied and spread malicious rumors about her just because she wanted to. One day, Kat decides that she’s had enough. It’s time for Rennie to have a dose of her own medicine.

Mary Zane has been holding on to the humiliation and heartbreak caused by her erstwhile friend Reeve Tabatsky for years. That fateful day at the ferry dock is something that Mary will carry with her for the rest of her life. What hurts the most is that Reeve doesn’t even know how much damage he’s caused. He’s still loved by all, still popular, still good-looking, his life so full of excitement, and his future so filled with promise. But he can’t get away with what he did. It’s time people knew what a horrible person he truly is. And Mary Zane is back to make sure that he pays for what he did. No matter what.

These three girls are brought together by their desire for revenge. They cannot do it on their own, but together, they can plot the sneakiest, juiciest, and most flawless revenge plan.

What can I say? It’s wild, shameless, and fun — I loved it! I wanted to hate it simply because these teenagers are horrible. All they do is drink, party, sleep around, and hate on each other. But those things are what actually make this trilogy such a delicious read. Plenty of booze, boyfriends, bitches, and bestfriendships here. And oh, not to mention revenge plots and ghost stories that will have your heart racing and your hands clammy.

Don’t be quick to hate because there’s more to Lillia, Kat, and Mary than meets the eye. It’s not all about boys and catfights. It’s not all about fun and games, either. It also talks about serious issues like date rape, suicide, sex, and depression. They look like a mindless read, judging from the book covers, but I can’t say that they totally sucked. I enjoyed reading them and didn’t think for one minute I wasted all those hours for nothing.

The ending leaves a lot to be desired, but I can’t really talk about it without spoiling it for you. Now that I’ve finished reading all three books, I actually miss the rich and beautiful people of Jar Island. Especially Kat and Reeve. It really sucks that they’re not real, because in my head, we’re like BFFs. Once again, I’ve managed to crush on a fictional high school quarterback, who’s an asshole most of the time, but really sweet and romantic when nobody’s looking. And once again, I have to break up with these book characters and move on to my next book. Oh, I hurt.

After You by Jojo Moyes

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Image from www.jojomoyes.com

After You picks up on the events that happened after Will Traynor’s death, which took place in the first book, Me Before You. Louisa Clark is still trying to find her way back into the real world, one without Will in it, but with all of his memories everywhere. She goes through life on autopilot; working her crappy pub job at the airport to pay the bills and buy the groceries, living in a colorless and lifeless London flat, and attending a grief support group called Moving On Circle once a week.

Everything in her life feels like a major letdown, and for once, she’s glad that Will is no longer around to see what has become of her. If that’s not depressing enough, she suffers a freak accident right in her own home, forcing her to stay with her parents in her hometown of Stortfold where more family drama awaits. Lou is so ready to accept her fate; that this is as good as it gets, and that she’s simply just not that person Will was convinced she could be.

And then one day, someone from Will’s past turns up at her door. Someone who could’ve possibly been one more reason for Will to want to live, if only they had met sooner. But this someone is even more messed up than Lou, and she finds herself asking: What would Lou have done?

For the first time in a long time, Lou finds a purpose.

What follows next is a rollercoaster of emotions as major life problems unravel and then get sorted out, families break up and make up, and broken hearts are mended and made whole again. Lou finally understands that she need not live in sadness and misery to keep Will alive in her heart forever.

Me Before You was what made me a big Jojo Moyes fan. It’s beautiful, sad, and heartbreaking, and I will forever remain a fan of Will and Lou’s love story. It was such a great book that didn’t need any follow-up book. However, if you know a second book exists out there, you just can’t ignore it. You can’t just not read it.

Overall, After You is not quite as beautiful as Me Before You, but it’s still a nice and entertaining read. For something that deals with grief and moving on, it didn’t feel dark and depressing. It’s actually light, positive, and even laugh out loud funny. Thank you to Ambulance Sam and the guys at the Moving On Circle. They pretty much saved this book for me. I loved the whole flirtation game with Ambulance Sam, and he’s just the kind of man who can get someone like Lou to start loving again.

The sudden appearance of that new major character plus the Clark and Traynor family drama just felt contrived, so I wasn’t too happy about those. I think this plot twist is just tired and too convenient. I would have enjoyed reading a story told from Will Traynor’s point of view, possibly his life before the accident, or his life while with Lou. That would have been loads better than this plot twist straight out of a daytime soap opera. This, however, doesn’t make me less of a Jojo Moyes fan.

The Comfort of Lies by Randy Susan Meyers

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Tia is a young woman who fell in love with a charismatic, intelligent, but unavailable man. Their connection had been intense, and they were good together. But when it came right down to it, he couldn’t give her the happy ending that she desperately wanted. The love affair ended, and Tia was left to fend for herself and the baby inside her. She had no family, and she could barely take care of herself. How could she even raise an innocent little girl?

Caroline’s life had always been about her career as a pathologist and as a wife to her hardworking and successful entrepreneur husband. Theirs was a quiet and happy marriage. But as time went by, she realized that her husband wanted more. He wanted to have a child. Despite her uncertainty over her capability of raising a child, Caroline and her husband adopted Savannah to give her the good life that she deserved. A good life that her young, heartbroken, and messed up mother Tia clearly couldn’t.

Juliette had always been perfectly content to be a wife and a supermom, with a booming business on the side. But deep inside, she is still coming to terms with her husband’s infidelity. She thought she had forgiven him for his transgression, but there are just some things you could not let go that easily. Especially after you just opened a letter addressed to your husband with a photo of the little girl he had no idea was his daughter.

Three women whose lives are turned upside down by one man’s moment of weakness. Do they dare go take the path of least resistance and live in the comfort of lies? Or do they accept the painful reality and do the right thing, even if it breaks their families apart?

It was a good and okay story, which basically translates to “You can skip reading this book altogether and just grab yourself a suspense thriller that is this year’s Gone Girl”. Sadly, I’ve read too many ensemble stories like this one. I don’t like ensemble stories that much because more often than not, the characters are one-dimensional or just plain annoying. Just like the women in this book (especially Tia!). Instead of sympathizing with them for every heartbreak, and cheering them on for finally making the right decision (which they should have done years ago!), I really just wanted to show up at their doorsteps and wring their necks. They are the book characters that can really drive you to fling the book across the room in frustration.

These women are thrown into a whirlpool of conflict, but it was very hard to connect with them on an emotional level. I felt like an outsider the entire time, looking in like a nosy neighbor, wanting them to hurry up already and just get to the ending. We don’t want that! We want to be right there in the middle of the action, right inside those people’s heads. The Comfort of Lies is okay when it should have been emotional, and lukewarm when it should have been heartbreaking.

Wayward Pines Trilogy by Blake Crouch

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Ethan Burke drives down to Wayward Pines, Idaho, to search for two fellow FBI agents who disappeared there without a trace a year ago. Their last known whereabouts were this small and quiet mountain town that looks too beautiful to be true. What Ethan Burke doesn’t know is that once you enter Wayward Pines, you will never, ever leave. Not because you don’t want to, but because you just can’t.

In Pines, the first book in the trilogy, a man struggles to find answers about Wayward Pines, what lurks outside the electrified fences, and the secret terror that seems to fill the lives of each Wayward Pines resident. In the second book, Wayward, Ethan Burke finally gets his answers and is now coming to terms with the reality of his situation, and how he and his family will survive in such extreme and horrifying living conditions. The third book, The Last Town, is the culmination of the horror that is Wayward Pines, and the most frightening book in the trilogy. My head is still reeling.

It’s quite difficult to give a book review without giving away too much about the story and what Wayward Pines is all about. But let me stress that Wayward Pines the television show has deviated so much from the books, and the show had a totally different ending. I liked the ending in the books much better. I watched the TV show first but felt extremely unsatisfied by the ending, so I had to read the books to find some sort of consolation. I’m so glad I did!

Fans of horror will enjoy this trilogy very much. Blake Crouch is a masterful storyteller. He writes in short, vivid, and powerful sentences that leave you gripped with fear and holding your breath. You don’t want to put it down. I think I finished the three books in just two days. I love how he painted this world so bleak and monstrous, each character struggling to keep what’s left of their humanity. It’s every man for himself now. But what happens to the entire species if they will not start working together to survive? What if death is the release, and life is the prison sentence? Will you give up the fight, or soldier on for as long as you can?