Review: The Cage (The Cage #1) by Megan Shepherd

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Initial reaction: 2.5 stars overall, I liked the setup and really liked the beginning, but it dragged its heels far too many times and force fed the relationships far too much for me to really like it more than what I did. I want to follow the series, though.

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This is another YA sci-fi/dystopian series I’ve picked up in the past year where the premise had a ton of potential for the set-up, but the way it executed left me feeling exhausted and uber annoyed by the time I finished it. Pretty much the way I felt about Victoria Aveyard’s “Red Queen” I could say I felt about Megan Shepard’s “The Cage”. Yet, I still want to see where this series goes.

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Review: Red Queen (Red Queen #1) by Victoria Aveyard

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Initial reaction: My thoughts are – if you go into this novel with any kind of expectations, you might end up disappointed. For me, it was an okay read and held my attention through the novel, but far more often than I wanted to be – I felt annoyed with certain aspects of the novel – from the focal points of the plot (frustrating and overfocused love triangle, Mare making really stupid decisions, etc.) to other aspects.

Full review:

I honestly think “Red Queen” had potential to work with as far as being able to mold a distinct narrative that could hold its own. Problem is that this book is so painfully derivative that it took away any kind of potential distinction in its delivery. I’m mentally facepalming in the aftermath of reading this and asking “Why?” It’s not that hard to be creative with this kind of plot and make it more immersive as well as distinct. It’s far too easy to align yourself to a template and stick to that template so fast that you suck all the fun out of what your work could potentially become. Unfortunately, that’s precisely what Victoria Aveyard ended up doing.

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Review: Half Wild (Half Bad #2) by Sally Green

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Initial reaction: Seriously, I want to love this series. I want to love it. There are parts of it that I want to applaud and sing praises for Sally Green at least in the idea of where she wants to take this series, but honestly – the execution leaves much to be desired. Much of this book I felt like I was waiting on my hands for something to happen, and when finally something significant and engaging does happen, it’s near the end of the book.

I’ll finish out this series, certainly, but I hope the last book isn’t this plodding for details and development. Not holding my breath on that though, since this pretty much had the same problems as the previous book, with a few new ones to match.

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SNEAK PEEK: An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir

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This is just a sample copy of “An Ember in the Ashes” that I received from NetGalley (and as a promo I picked up at Barnes and Noble – they had them in a display that I picked up. It was actually rather nice for them to present it in a little booklet form.)

So basically, this is a showcase of the first chapter of the work and it held my attention from beginning to the point where it concluded. It’s dual perspectives that show an overarching conflict in a brutal dystopian society. I was somewhat surprised by the graphic violence and notation of rape – it doesn’t pull punches. The narrative was easy to move through, and the perspectives of the characters palpable even if it’s not clear what type of society they’re in exactly. I’m intrigued enough to continue, and I would rate the first chapter probably around 3.5 stars.

Review: Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

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SteelheartSteelheart by Brandon Sanderson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I read Brandon Sanderson’s “Steelheart” twice, once in galley form and the second in audiobook form. I think listening to the audiobook bumped up the rating for me, so this is a solid four star read. MacLeod Andrews was an amazing narrator, and perfect for David’s voice throughout the narrative. Couldn’t have asked for a better performance.

I expected an epic journey out of “Steelheart” and for the most part, I got it. But unfortunately it was a bit of a slog getting there in places. The prologue has quite a bit of intrigue – a world where superheroes are the enemy. In this case, they take the form of Epics – beings with superpowers ruling over the human world in a dystopian environment full of fear and control. David is only eight years old during a fateful day in the bank, when Steelheart makes an appearance against another powerful being who goes on a killing spree inside the bank. But Steelheart is no good guy. It’s clear that he’s there for his own motives as David and his father get caught in the crossfire, and leads to tragic results.

But not before David witnesses events that expose Steelheart’s weakness.

“I’ve seen Steelheart bleed. And I will see him bleed again.”

Epic lines, no?

Fast forward ten years later to where David attempts to join a group known to kill Epics, called the Reckoners. David gives them quite the surprise as he ambushes one of their operations, then reveals he’s been spending the last several years collecting information on each of the Epic weaknesses he’s been able to gather. The group, including the rather dubious Megan and the just, but stern leader “Prof,” isn’t ready to trust David at first, but gradually, as they realize they have an opportunity to take down Steelheart once and for all – they warm up to him and include David in their operations for one grand stand. I really liked watching the characters interact and came to care about them over the course of the story and their attempts to fool and draw Steelheart out for battle. It doesn’t come without costs, and there’s plenty of action, intrigue, betrayal, and humor to go around. And as with Sanderson’s other narratives – a beautiful eye to the worldbuilding. I liked the variety presented in that quite a bit.

But you want to know what kept me from rating this book higher? The overabundance of gun/weaponry details and planning strategies that could’ve been streamlined a little better. Some of it I could understand, but more often than not – it really dragged the pacing of the story in turns. I felt the weight of that as I went through the narrative, and I couldn’t help but think “Dude, this is too much.” (The use of the word “sparks” might’ve been a little much as well, but while that might bug some people with the substitute swear in this particular world, it didn’t bother me except for its frequency.)

I was more intrigued by the interactions of the characters and their push towards confronting Steelheart, and while there were certain turns of the story I saw coming, I was actually more forgiving of those elements. I could understand this was a rebel group and appreciated the knowledge of what they used in their respective battles – but I think the narrative wouldn’t have lost anything if some of that had been cut down. The narrative might’ve even moved quite a bit faster in pacing since it did notably get sluggish in the middle as it pushed towards the group’s confrontation (among other surprising reveals).

Nonetheless, this story held my attention through until the end, in both versions of the story but especially in the audio narrated version. I’d recommend it and certainly will be reading more into the respective series to come, considering there are a few story seeds that it throws for the series to continue forward. Ultimately – I think Sanderson did well with the YA narrative, and certainly was worth the time delving into.

Overall score: 4/5 stars

Note: I received this as an ARC from NetGalley, from the publisher Delacorte Press.

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