Thursday, April 11, 2013

New Dystopians

 Okay, maybe it would be more accurate to call these sci-fi, paranormal, dystopians. But that just seemed a bit much for a blog post title, don't you think? These are all new releases I've recently read. One good, one bad, one just plain baffling. :D

From Goodreads:
In this gripping exploration of a futuristic afterlife, a teen discovers that death is just the beginning.

Since her untimely death the day before her eighteenth birthday, Felicia Ward has been trapped in Level 2, a stark white afterlife located between our world and the next. Along with her fellow drones, Felicia passes the endless hours reliving memories of her time on Earth and mourning what she’s lost—family, friends, and Neil, the boy she loved.

Then a girl in a neighboring chamber is found dead, and nobody but Felicia recalls that she existed in the first place. When Julian—a dangerously charming guy Felicia knew in life—comes to offer Felicia a way out, Felicia learns the truth: If she joins the rebellion to overthrow the Morati, the angel guardians of Level 2, she can be with Neil again.

Suspended between Heaven and Earth, Felicia finds herself at the center of an age-old struggle between good and evil. As memories from her life come back to haunt her, and as the Morati hunt her down, Felicia will discover it’s not just her own redemption at stake… but the salvation of all mankind.

My Rating: 3 / 5 stars

Level 2 would be the baffling book of the batch. I wanted to like it and I thought it had a rocking premise - so much potential. But it was just weird. And unsatisfying.

I love the idea of there being this waiting area after death. It was creepy and interesting to read about Felicia and her fellow drones and the way they shared and rated their earth life memories. It was so claustrophobic to read about their existence (I almost used the word life, but that's not quite accurate is it? :D) and freaky to think that they might be stuck there forever.

Enter side plot about it all being a huge conspiracy with evil angels called the Morati trying to keep the drones where they are because the Morati were feeding off their energy, trying to break portals open into heaven since they aren't allowed into heaven. That was the story I wanted more of and I wanted to read about Felicia and Julian working together to fight them.

Instead, most of this book is Felicia reliving her earth memories and trying to make sense of her earth life. There are lots of things about Felicia's past being held back for the reader throughout the novel, trying to create suspense. Instead, I found myself kind of annoyed. Is this a contemporary novel, where Felicia comes to terms with the awful events of her life, thus allowing her to move on to the next level? Or is this that cool story with evil angels and Felicia hacking in the afterlife and freeing her fellow drones? It's neither. Not enough time is spent on the stories to make either of them feel complete.

The big fight and resolution at the end are so rushed, so info-dumped, that after it was over I wasn't sure I had any idea what had just happened. Or why, especially. So confusing.

Definite kudos for a creative premise, but the execution did not work for me. So, unless I see some super good reviews for book 2, I don't know if I'll be reading it next year.

Content: Some swearing, some sexual-ish content: Felicia does take all her clothes off in front of her boyfriend hoping for some (he refuses because he's super religious and has signed a church thing saying he'll be a virgin until marriage).

From Goodreads:
Fia was born with flawless instincts. Her first impulse, her gut feeling, is always exactly right. Her sister, Annie, is blind to the world around her—except when her mind is gripped by strange visions of the future.

Trapped in a school that uses girls with extraordinary powers as tools for corporate espionage, Annie and Fia are forced to choose over and over between using their abilities in twisted, unthinkable ways…or risking each other’s lives by refusing to obey.

In a stunning departure from her New York Times bestselling Paranormalcy trilogy, Kiersten White delivers a slick, edgy, heartstoppingly intense psychological thriller about two sisters determined to protect each other—no matter the cost.

My Rating: 4 / 5 stars

Mind Games was so good. My favorite Kiersten White so far. Don't get me wrong - I thoroughly enjoyed her Paranormalcy series, I just found Evie annoying occasionally. Mind Games has no fluff. It is a psychological thriller (like the summary says), both intense and fascinating.

Not gonna lie, it was a little dark at times. Fia's mind is messed up and she has been manipulated into doing things (like assissinating people) because of the society that is keeping her sister hostage, essentially. Fia can be depressed and tortured and she's a great unreliable narrator. You never know what she's going to do and she keeps her thoughts secret and acts purely on impulse (both habits she needs in a world where people can read her mind and see her future if she decides her course too much ahead of time). Lucky for her, her impulses are always right. She has perfect instincts, which I thought was a very cool power. She's a great fighter and a super spy.

Annie is also a wonderful characters. Blind, but with the ability to see the future, she makes a great pair with Fia. These two girls have not had it easy, but they do their best to work together and try and protect each other. Overall, I thought the whole story was well done. I loved the spy elements and how they work together to fight the system they're stuck in. I don't want to give too many more details, because I don't want to spoil anything, but this book is a wild ride of instability and surprise. The ending is heartbreaking but fitting. I wanted something different for Annie and especially Fia, but things are in place for a killer sequel. I can't wait to see where it goes.

Content: Yeah, plenty violent at times. Not gory, though. It's mostly situational intensity that makes it so scary. Little swearing and the occasional sexual innuendo, but nothing much.

 From Goodreads:
You or your Alt? Only one will survive.

The city of Kersh is a safe haven, but the price of safety is high. Everyone has a genetic Alternate—a twin raised by another family—and citizens must prove their worth by eliminating their Alts before their twentieth birthday. Survival means advanced schooling, a good job, marriage—life.

Fifteen-year-old West Grayer has trained as a fighter, preparing for the day when her assignment arrives and she will have one month to hunt down and kill her Alt. But then a tragic misstep shakes West’s confidence. Stricken with grief and guilt, she’s no longer certain that she’s the best version of herself, the version worthy of a future. If she is to have any chance of winning, she must stop running not only from her Alt, but also from love . . . though both have the power to destroy her.

My Rating: 2 / 5 stars

I knew going into this that it wouldn't be my favorite, but I was in the mood for fast-paced and intense one day so I pulled it out of my library pile. So horribly dark and violent. Yikes!

I had a really hard time connecting with West (and every other character in this book). She's so withdrawn, so obsessed with being a fighter and keeping everyone out of her life that there was no way I was going to feel connected to her. This book would really have benefitted from some comic relief, some show of humanity from West. I just didn't get her. She was a killing maching. I don't know why she decides to become an assassin, why she was motivated to anything she did in this book.

I didn't understand anything about this world, actually. It's never explained in a really convincing way why this society feels the need to create doubles of each person and force them to kill each other off as children/teens. Some mumbo jumbo about there being a huge war outside their compound and to keep themselves safe every person needs to be capable of fighting and killing. Not good enough for me. I thought it would have been better if alternates had been explored more, been given better personalities. Because it's not like they're robots. They're actually people with families and hobbies and lives. They just happen to have an identical twin. West is an alt herself. Plus, there's no way this kind of constant murder wouldn't have major psychological effects on their society. Instead, people go on to live happy lives after the murder in their youth. Not believable.

What I was hoping for was for West to fight the system. To not believe in it. Maybe to get to know her alt and see her as a person. Instead, she does exactly what the system asks her to, without question. She's bothered, of course, but there are no hints that she's interested in changing anything about the status quo.

Oh yeah. Technically there's a bit of romance too. I guess. Not sure I would call it that. Remember how West refuses to get close to anyone? It's a pathetic attempt at a love story.

So, overall, pretty bad. Read it if you can suspend your belief and want a fast-paced action story (and really, the whole cat and mouse game between West and her alt is intense and well-written suspense). But I won't be reading the sequel.

Content: Loads of killing. Bloody and stomach-turning at times. Swearing, no sexual content.

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