Labyrinth Lost [Review]

Labyrinth Lost[Curious Reader Beware: Spoilers Lie Ahead]

Finished!

And um…hmmm….

I really wanted to love this book. The premise was intriguing and the world’s lore was so beautifully illustrated (need I mention its cover art!). It’s very different from other YA novels that I’ve read. My main motivation to continue reading was learning the intricacies of the culture the book created.

But I didn’t love it. I don’t hate it but I would be remised to say I liked it.

I blame my own jadedness. The characters and the dynamics between them were real sticking points for me. I couldn’t really like them or find them engaging. I did root for them but only because that’s what you’re supposed to do in stories like these where the motivation to fight for family, love, and identity was noble and refreshing.

What wasn’t so refreshing was the catalyst for the plot. Alex hates an integral part of herself (her magic) because she perceives that it has caused nothing but hardship and misery for her family. She’s the most powerful of her kind and she rejects her gifts. Something about this bothers me especially since she uses magical means to fix the problem (and it unsurprisingly backfires). On its face, nothing is wrong with this premise but the way it plays out soured the rest of the story of me.

Another real sticking point for me was the dynamics between Alex, Nova, and Rishi. The way they interacted with each other was just—it was so riddled with clichés and there was nothing fresh there. I mean, for Alex and Nova, I know they’re teenagers and I know Nova’s good-looking but I could do less with the “My God, those PECS!” observations. I was having New Moon flashbacks every time Alex brought up his bare chest and the ways his tattoos were perfectly drawn over them. Otherwise, they’re bickering (granted in the “I’m suspicious of you yet trust you and kind of like you” sort of way) and when Rishi, Alex’s best friend, enters the picture, she’s bickering with Nova too.

There is one slight saving grace and that’s in LBGTQA representation but even then I’m still a bit jaded. I’m sorry to say that the Alex/Rishi pairing that ultimately comes out on top left something wanting. I caught the bond between them throughout the story (it was a breath of fresh air when highlighted) but I feel like it could’ve been developed better. Rishi felt a bit shoehorned into the narrative in the middle after the reader barely gets to know her in the opening chapters. I wanted a better sense of their relationship before the plot took over (which is mostly told to us repeatedly by the characters and story). Again, the jadedness in me.

It’s these reasons that I had to give the story a lukewarm three. I really, really, really wanted to like it more but I just couldn’t. I recommend it based on its world-building alone. It is a truly wondrous read from that standpoint.

My Rating:

3 Star

It Devours [Review]

51rgikYE3JL._SX330_BO1,204,203,200_Let me start off by saying that I did like this book. I DID… but not as much as I wanted to.

I’ve been a big fan of the Welcome to Night Vale podcast for a while now. It’s the first podcast that I ever fell in love with and so far my favorite narrative one. For those who haven’t given it a listen, I highly recommend it.

But this review is about the series’ second book, It Devours. I  love the town of Night Vale in all its absurdity and horror, but sometimes that doesn’t translate well into words. I felt this a bit with the first book, Welcome to Night Vale, but I was too in love with the world to see it.

I’m more commenting on the immersive quality of this book. When I sit down to read a book, I like to ease into the world. Get lost in its many avenues, leap those fields of logic, and get to know the characters along the way. I couldn’t completely do that with It Devours. I get enmeshed but then a detail is thrown in there halts the experience because it takes me a second to imagine how that would be. And then I have to find my groove again.

The book outside of this (major) hurdle was really good. The characters of course, and as always, endearing. The plot had that typical Night Vale zany ideas of the end of days aspect to it (though it could be quite silly. Like really silly, but at the risk of spoilers I won’t go into it) I particularly enjoyed its musings on the nature of belief and the dividing line between science and religion.

My Rating:

3 Star

The Symptoms of Being Human [Review]

317NveomEvL._SX328_BO1,204,203,200_I really appreciate YA novels (well, any book in general but YA in particular) that make me see beyond the narrative and immerse me in a feeling. A feeling so powerful and distinct that it alone carries me through the book. It makes me feel a kinship with the characters. I ride their rollercoaster of emotions and get a true sense of who that character is–their hopes, dreams, fears.

The Symptoms of Being Human gave me this feeling. The main character, Riley is so fleshed out and relatable. Their struggle to get comfortable in their own skin (they’re genderfluid) and how they navigated the world came off so viscerally. The people they surround themselves with make the story all the more enjoyable.

One thing that I really liked about this story was that the narrative never betrayed Riley. True to its message and its character, the story presents Riley as both and neither. They’re carving out their own identity in this world. I half expected the narrative to out them at some point but it never did and this really helped solidify the narrative’s message.

My main complaint about this story is that though it has a lot of emotional depth, the plot is a bit thin. Other than a highly publicized climax, the story is mostly composed of character interactions mostly at school. Other key events are not experienced by Riley. They happen outside and far from them. This is not completely a bad thing. I personally got so swept up in the high character moments to never notice while reading but upon reflection, I would’ve appreciated it more if there was more to the story. At least from Riley’s POV.

My Rating:

3 Star

The Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter [Review]

Strange CaseThe Strange Case of the Alchemist’s Daughter was an okay book. It’s one of those reads that I came away with no extreme feelings one way or another. Not because it was bad (though there were questionable elements) but because it was familiar in a way that wasn’t in its favor. Particularly its plot construction and characters.

The plot was interesting. I’m a sucker for a good mystery and, if you make it engaging enough, I’ll let it take me anywhere. It’s why I struggled to put the book down when the plot really got going. It also helps that the book pays spectacular homage to some Gothic/Victorian stories. It was awesome seeing the children of Jekyll, Hyde, Frankenstein, Rappacinni, Moreau work along Holmes and Watson to solve this mystery. Every name referenced had me wondering if I heard it before and to have certain suspicions confirmed sent my Gothic lit geek heart soaring.

In other ways, however, the mystery was also somewhat predictable. It didn’t really feel like it had any weight—especially since (spoiler warning) I felt like none of it was ever truly solved. I mean, certain parts of it were solved but the actual meat of it was left kind of hanging there and left for sequel baiting (here’s a bias: not a big fan of that. If you set up a primary mystery at the beginning, solve that one!).  There were other story elements that really undermined it but I’ll get to that in a moment.

Another thing that the book did alright were its characters. Their exchanges were fun to read and there was some nice witty dialogue that kept me amused throughout. These monster girls were interesting. I loved learning about their backstory and how they viewed themselves in the world but there was something that felt rote in their construction.

The problem was that none of them really stood out to me. They were familiar character types (the uptight one, the wild carefree one, the quiet smart type, the rough and tumble “don’t give a bad word” type, so on and so forth). Familiar character types aren’t inherently bad (let’s make that clear) but if they’re not given the proper time to flex their character muscles to distinguish themselves from other similar characters, it’s really hard to get invested. I felt none of them were truly fleshed out enough to break outside their character molds.

My main issue with this book is how the book is constructed. It’s riddled with tangents. Action, dialogue, scenes are consistently broken up by character exchanges. I know that these dialogues are meant to give character to the story, clueing the reader into bits of background and foreshadowing. More often than not, however, it took me out of the story and spoiled the mystery at points. This element really undermined the suspense and plot at times. I learned to get used to it as the narrative progressed but the little pang of annoyance every time the characters cut into a scene never left me. It tended to endear me to the characters less (Get out the way of your own mystery!!!).

This book ended up being a solid three for me. I didn’t feel too strongly about it but I didn’t hate it either.

My Rating:

3 Star