The Last Star (The 5th Wave #3) by Rick Yancey

The Last Star (The 5th Wave #3) by Rick Yancey

thelaststarThe Last Star is the final entry in The 5th Wave, a trilogy about aliens, teenagers and the end of the world. It is also a morality play about what matters. Why do cars, jobs and stuff matter so much when, in the end, it is all about our relationships and love.

I’m sorry to say that I found the ending to be unsatisfying. Yancey wove such a puzzling yarn that I felt like he didn’t completely untangle all the knots. To be fair, there was a lot going on. But, I read the last pages and I felt a big, internal: “huh?”

This book also reminded me of The Road. “From piles of blackened bones to corpses wrapped head to toe in tattered sheets and old blankets, just lying there in the open like they’d dropped from the sky, alone or in groups of ten or more. So many bodies that they faded into the background, just another part of the mess, another piece of the urban vomit.”pg 70.

The Last Star also raised big questions about civilization and its durability. How thin is the veneer on civilization? What would it take for humanity to turn on itself? Most dystopian writers say, not much.

I don’t know. I’m of two minds on the issue. One part of me says, civilization is a flimsy set of agreements that could easily crumble with enough fear, famine and plague.

The other part of me, the eternal optimist side, says that there is something within each of us that even the worst calamity couldn’t touch.

Kill the body, yes. Kill hope, yes. But kill the soul and its purpose? No. I feel like that part would find a way. And part of that soul’s purpose, I think, is connection to others. That means, civilization. So, there’s something more permanent to it, something fated.

Anyway, The 5th Wave as a three-part story is intense, gritty and could lead to some excellent discussions because it leaves a lot of open-ended questions and ambiguous answers. Rather like life.

Thanks for reading!

Doomed Queens: Royal Women Who Met Bad Ends, From Cleopatra to Princess Di by Kris Waldherr

Doomed Queens: Royal Women Who Met Bad Ends, From Cleopatra to Princess Di by Kris Waldherr

doomedqueensA quirky yet educational list of Doomed Queens that is organized by time period. I learned a lot and was entertained- everything that I look for in a non-fiction book.

“While kings were also vulnerable to political upheaval… for the most part men pulled the strings at court. Therefore any woman blocking the way to power was a threat to be eliminated. Common ways to bump off an inconvenient consort included beheading, burning, drowning, poison, stabbing, strangling, starving, and forcing suicide.” pg 8, ebook. Shocking, isn’t it. One would think that a queen’s power would afford her a measure of protection, but it didn’t.

Here’s one of the facts I learned: “Arsinoe’s story has been overlooked in the face of her more successful older sister, Cleopatra… But in death, Arsinoe was buried with the queenly honors that had been denied her in life. Her remains were interred in a tomb in the Temple of Artemis, one of the seven wonders of the ancient world.” pg 31, ebook. If you’d like a historical fiction book about Arsinoe, may I suggest The Drowning King.

I also learned the Roman viewpoint of the fury of Boudicca, queen of the Iceni: “Dio Cassius later wrote, “All this ruin was brought upon the Romans by a woman, a fact which in itself caused them the greatest shame.”pg 37, ebook. Silly Romans. Here’s a historical fiction about Boudicca if you’re interested: The Eagle and the Raven.

Doomed Queens includes plenty of puns and amusing witticisms. Take this passage from the chapter about Brunhilde: “… the queen of Austrasia incited a forty-year war between her realm and Neustria that made the Hatfields and the McCoys seem downright Merchant-Ivory. “ pg 44-45, ebook.

Or in Sibyl of Jerusalem’s entry: “Sibyl’s marital history took on Liv Taylor proportions as she became engaged, married, widowed, and annulled in varying combinations. pg 53, book. Burn.

Recommended for readers interested in royal stories and unfortunate yet powerful females. Reluctant readers may enjoy Doomed Queens because of the short chapters and light-hearted delivery of some seriously sad history.

Thanks for reading!

Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1) by Gail Carriger

Etiquette & Espionage (Finishing School #1) by Gail Carriger

etiquetteA cute, young adult book with a steampunk theme that takes place at a “finishing” school which isn’t about etiquette at all.

I made the mistake of reading this without realizing that it was based in a world from another series of books. I’m guessing that I would have enjoyed it more if I had read the other set first.

Etiquette and Espionage had plenty of fun moments in it. One of my favorites is when Sophronia inexplicably claims that werewolves enjoy the theater. From one of the other books? I’m assuming so. But it sounds legit.

I also loved when one of the students bemoans the fact that she doesn’t believe she’ll ever be able to kill anyone and the teacher comforts her with the fact that she may never have to. What a relief.

But funny moments do not a story make. The plot centers around Sophronia’s introduction to a world filled with spies that she didn’t know existed, the concealment of a highly desirable piece of equipment that has something to do with wireless technology, and, of course, fashion.

It is funny, frivolous and frothy. I found that I wanted more substance. Recommended for a light summer read around the pool and, perhaps, you may want to read The Parasol Protectorate series first, starting with Soulless.

Thanks for reading!

Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) by Rachel Caine

Ink and Bone (The Great Library #1) by Rachel Caine

inkandboneIn Ink and Bone, knowledge and power is the name of the game.

“The Library holds itself to be the keeper of both knowledge and wisdom, but it is not true. So much should never be held in the hands of so few, for it is a natural, venal habit of men to hold to power. And knowledge is the purest form of power.” pg 51

Printed books, called originals, are now highly prized and illegal to own without a dispensation from the Library. The Library is an entity without borders as powerful as the church or a country, with soldiers and animated machines called automatons, protecting its buildings, holdings and librarians.

Not everyone follows the Library’s restrictions and a black market has formed for books. Jess and his family of smugglers runs and sells books at great threat to life and limb. Other factions also resist the Library. They’re called Burners and they destroy books with Greek fire, a dangerous and deadly concoction that burns flesh as easily as paper.

“The original scroll had been destroyed by a Burner at the Alexandrian Library ages ago, but there had been one copy made. … Owning it carried a death penalty. When you steal a book, you steal from the world, the Library propaganda said, and Jess supposed it might be true.” pg 22, ebook.

Jess’ smuggler father decides that he needs eyes and ears on the inside of the most powerful institute in the world, so he arranges an opportunity for Jess to join the Library. And that is where this story really begins.

The beginning of Ink and Bone bothered me because of its obvious parallels to Harry Potter. A promising young boy on his way to a magical school boards a train and meets a slightly bumbling, shy boy and the smartest girl in his class. But after that cliche “train introduction”, the story improves.

While reading this story, I was reminded of the divide between those who love holding traditional books in their hands and ebook readers. The Library has discovered a magical method to use tablets and change the words on the page, very similar to ebooks: “Do you agree it should be wrong to own original works?” Of course, Jess knew he ought to say; it was the standard answer. The Library was never wrong. But something made him say, “I’m not sure.” That woke a glint in Wolfe’s eyes. “Why not?” “I’d like to hold one,” Jess said, quite honestly. “To feel the weight and history of it in my hands. A blank can’t be the same, sir.” “No,” Wolfe agreed. “A blank is a poor, pale imitation, though the words are arranged in precisely the same order; it is the difference between an idea and a physical thing.” pg 61, ebook. I enjoy both books and ebooks, but I can see why a reader would prefer one over another.

I enjoyed the general ideas of this book, but between the warring factions, actual wars, magic, alchemy, Library history, twin brother, character backgrounds, book burners or eaters, teenage romance and angst, the story lost its cohesiveness. Caine could have written three different stories with the material contained in one.

Beyond simplifying the story elements, I just couldn’t get over the fact that the librarians weren’t good guys. Yes, I’m biased. 🙂 But every librarian I’ve ever known has been a guardian of knowledge, not gate-keeping tyrants.

Recommended for readers who enjoy their young adult fantasy a little scattered and who are open to the idea of sinister librarian-types.

The Infinite Sea (The 5th Wave, #2) by Rick Yancey

The Infinite Sea (The 5th Wave, #2) by Rick Yancey

theinfiniteseaGritter and more disturbing than The 5th Wave, Cassie, Ben, Ringer, et al are still trying to survive the end of the world. The mystery of the aliens increases. The manner in which the war against humanity is waged sinks to new lows. Yancey takes the story on some unexpected turns and I liked them.

The pace of this story is relentless and the lines are blurred between the “good guys” and the “bad guys.” It gives you a tension headache if you don’t take a break from it every couple of chapters. At least, it did for me. “Anyway, no debt is ever fully repaid, not really, not the ones that really matter. You saved me, he said, and back then I didn’t understand what I had saved him from. … Now I was thinking he didn’t mean I saved him from anything, but for something.” pg 128.

But for what! Yancey answers most of the questions he introduced the reader to in The 5th Wave. He also weaves in some complications. I won’t say anything about those… but they’re very serious and deadly. “No one can be trusted,” I said. “Not even a child.” The cold bored down to my bones and curled inside the marrow.” pg 148.

“I understand the game within the game now: There is nothing private, nothing sacred. There is no part of me hidden from him. My stomach churns with revulsion. He’s violated more than my memories. He’s molesting my soul.” pg 188. The aliens still seem to have the upper hand with the technology that can peer into people’s minds. With all of the creepy things in these books, that bit bothered me the most.

Will our intrepid teenage-survivalists solve the mystery of what the invaders want or what they are before everyone is dead? I don’t know… but I’m going to read the last book and find out. Recommended for young adults or the young-at-heart who enjoy dystopian/mystery thrill-rides.

Thanks for reading!

The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave, #1) by Rick Yancey

The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave, #1) by Rick Yancey

the5thwaveMajor spoilers ahead. Please do not read if you haven’t read this book.

The 5th Wave is about the end of the world and aliens, yes, but it also explores why life is worth living.

Cassie didn’t know how good she had it until the alien spaceship appeared in the sky and life was never the same. First, there was chaos, but now it is clear that the aliens want to exterminate everyone. And, if they just want the planet for themselves, why are they waging war in such a sadistic manner? It is a mystery and Cassie is going to figure it out.

I was really into the narrative when Rick Yancey chose to change characters and continue the story from a different point of view. I felt that it was unnecessary and broke the flow.

Also, and this is another pet peeve of mine, must every young adult dystopian contain romance as a major part of the plot? The Hunger Games, Divergent, I could go on… and this. You’d think the teens would be far too busy staying alive to fall in love, but that’s clearly not the case from the literature.

I really liked the manner in which Yancey introduces his aliens. First, you get to see their results on humanity. Then, he drops breadcrumbs about how they got here. It’s creepy. “There will be no awakening. The sleeping woman will feel nothing the next morning, only a vague sense of unease and the unshakable feeling that someone is watching her. … And what the shadow has come for- the baby within the sleeping woman- will feel nothing. The intrusion breaks no skin, violates not a single cell of her or the baby’s body.” pg 17, ebook. So scary.

I read a few reviews in which this book was accused of being a copycat of The Host and I feel that it deserves a comment. They are similar in that they both contain aliens, both are dystopians and both have the alien consciousness inside human consciousness. But, those are very broad strokes. The details of the books are different enough and I feel that Yancey has his own plans for his story.

In The Host, the aliens feel more misunderstood and benevolent than the scary creatures in The 5th Wave. This book has a lot more action, The Host is more nuanced. To be fair, superficially, they seem too similar for that to be a coincidence. But in reality, they are as different as Star Wars and Dune. Wait a minute, bad comparison? 🙂

Here’s one of my favorite passages: “Forget about flying saucers and little green men and giant mechanical spiders spitting out death rays. Forget about epic battles with tanks and fighter jets and the final victory of us scrappy, unbroken, intrepid humans over the bug-eyed swarm. That’s about as far from the truth as their dying planet was from our living one. The truth is, once they found us, we were toast.” pg 19, ebook.

Also this one, for obvious reasons: “.. I have a thing about books. So did my father. … While the rest of us scrounged for potable water and food and stocked up on the weaponry for the last stand we were sure was coming, Daddy was out with my little brother’s Radio Flyer carting home books.” pg 33, ebook. Seriously. If the apocalypse ever comes, I’m going to camp out in the library, Station Eleven style. Who’s with me?

Recommended for people who like dystopians and intense survival scenes and aren’t annoyed by angst-y teen romance. The 5th Wave is one scary alien story. They’re here and they’re out to get you and everyone you know! And, so far, they’re doing a VERY good job.

Thanks for reading!

Bracelet of Bones (Viking Sagas #1) by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Bracelet of Bones (Viking Sagas #1) by Kevin Crossley-Holland

braceletofbA young adult, coming-of-age Viking tale that attempts to examine the religious differences between the Norse religion and Christianity while taking the heroine on a cross country adventure.

I liked the characters. I liked the setting. I even liked the time period. Bracelet of Bones should have been a home run for me, but it just wasn’t.

At first, I thought that the book was going to feature a struggle between pagan religions and Christians: “Most of the families living along our fjord have been baptized,” Asta retorted, “but they still worship Odin and the other gods as well.” The young priest shook his head. “I will pray for you,” he said, “and visit you again.” pg 25. But, he was never heard from again. At least, not in this title.

Then, I thought that this book was going to be primarily about Solveig’s journey to find her father. That was closer to the truth: “I’ve never felt so afraid. But I’ve never been so sure of what I have to do. Mother, my mother, my journey will either lead me to my father or lay me down like you.” pg 29. Her mother has been dead for a long time. Not a spoiler, that is explained in the first few pages of the book.

Solveig joins a few different groups of travelers on her way. Some of the characters are trustworthy, others are not, but none of them are very memorable.

My favorite parts were the storytelling moments of Bracelet of Bones and I wished that there were more of them: “This girl lived on our fjord and she told a story about how the winter was so bitter that even the gods were famished and Skadi herself had to go ice-fishing and hunting. But she told it on the eve of the spring solstice. Her words stopped the sun from warming the earth!” pg 191.

The quote that best encapsulates this story is: “…you can sit at home by the fire and stir the stew-pot and nothing much will change, or you can say your prayers and step out and face what’s unknown.” pg 275. I endeavor to step out that door and face the unknown every day. Some days I’m more successful than others.

Only recommended for those who enjoy tales about Vikings. Though it reached for thrilling heights, Bracelet of Bones feels to me like a book that chose to stay at home by the fire and stir the stew-pot.

Thanks for reading!