Super Slow Start But Overall Good: Hunted by Meagan Spooner

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Beauty knows the Beast’s forest in her bones—and in her blood. Though she grew up with the city’s highest aristocrats, far from her father’s old lodge, she knows that the forest holds secrets and that her father is the only hunter who’s ever come close to discovering them.

So when her father loses his fortune and moves Yeva and her sisters back to the outskirts of town, Yeva is secretly relieved. Out in the wilderness, there’s no pressure to make idle chatter with vapid baronessas…or to submit to marrying a wealthy gentleman. But Yeva’s father’s misfortune may have cost him his mind, and when he goes missing in the woods, Yeva sets her sights on one prey: the creature he’d been obsessively tracking just before his disappearance.

Deaf to her sisters’ protests, Yeva hunts this strange Beast back into his own territory—a cursed valley, a ruined castle, and a world of creatures that Yeva’s only heard about in fairy tales. A world that can bring her ruin or salvation. Who will survive: the Beauty, or the Beast?

Source: GoodReads

The Beauty and the Beast remake came out this week (haven’t seen it yet, but I’m hoping to next week) so of course a YA retelling of the fairytale had to come out around the same time.

To be fair to Spooner though, there’s a lot of YA B&B retellings.  I think there’s just something about the fairytale that begs itself to be retold.  Perhaps, it’s the whole fact that author’s keep trying to explain why this fairytale about Stockholm syndrome is romantic even though it really shouldn’t be.  Regardless, it’s a perennial favorite of YA authors everywhere and Spooner’s retelling adds nicely to the collection of retellings out there but it’s not perfect.

The biggest problem is the first third of this book.  Oh, God, it is slow.  So freaking slow.  I almost DNF’d it.  That’s how slow it is, but I kept pressing on.  I don’t know what compelled me to, but I’m glad I did.  Once the book gets started its good.

Not great, but good and I did enjoy it.  Spooner has an interesting twist on the story.  One I’m glad that is addressed because the whole “more” aspect of the movie always did annoy me.

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Here, though it’s a fundamental part of the story affecting Beast and Beauty and I’m glad it had a point in the story, besides being just a way Beauty views herself as an outsider.

I also liked the atmosphere that Spooner created.  I really felt like the world was unique, and I later learnt was inspired by some Russian fairytales which I was unfamiliar with.  It worked really well.

As far as Beauty’s relationship with the Beast in this one I was sort of meh about.  Sure, it’s the familiar love story but the chemistry never reached the levels that some other YA retellings-I’m thinking of Cruel Beauty and ACOTR and even Uprooted.  Honestly, I really didn’t feel the romantic tension between the two characters for most of the book and instead thought how unhealthy the relationship was.

Never a good thing, but still there are far worse YA couples out there.  And for what it is worth the twists that Spooner added to the story almost remedied the awkwardness of the ship and the bad beginning.

So overall, while there were some neat things about Hunted it is hardly the best YA adaptation of Beauty and the Beast out there.  Still, if you are a Beauty and the Beast fan and/or want to look at a retelling with an interesting twist, you might want to give this one a try.

Overall Rating: A solid B.

 

I Lack Focus: This Shattered World by Aimee Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

The second installment in the epic Starbound trilogy introduces a new pair of star-crossed lovers on two sides of a bloody war.

Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac should never have met.

Lee is captain of the forces sent to Avon to crush the terraformed planet’s rebellious colonists, but she has her own reasons for hating the insurgents.

Rebellion is in Flynn’s blood. Terraforming corporations make their fortune by recruiting colonists to make the inhospitable planets livable, with the promise of a better life for their children. But they never fulfilled their promise on Avon, and decades later, Flynn is leading the rebellion.

Desperate for any advantage in a bloody and unrelentingly war, Flynn does the only thing that makes sense when he and Lee cross paths: he returns to base with her as prisoner. But as his fellow rebels prepare to execute this tough-talking girl with nerves of steel, Flynn makes another choice that will change him forever. He and Lee escape the rebel base together, caught between two sides of a senseless war.

Source: GoodReads

These Broken Stars was probably one of the most hyped up books in 2013.  I remember liking it, but not loving it.  I sort of had the same feeling This Shattered World, but I think the first book was slightly better (it’s been awhile).

That being said, there are lots of good things to say about This Shattered World.  I’ll start with what worked the most for me: Jubilee.

She is just awesome.  This is how main characters should be written.  She’s tough, funny, and doesn’t fall into the typical stereotypes you see with YA heroines.   She was what made this book.

As for Flynn…meh.  I like him enough, but it’s really hard to get past the whole kidnapping thing.

But as far as kidnappers go, Flynn isn’t horrible.  In fact if he wasn’t a kidnapper, I really would’ve appreciated the fact that he was a beta male in a genre full of alpha douches.

But the kidnapping trope…it’s hard to get past.

The world building is extremely intricate.  It’s very easy to get lost in this book.  In the title of my blog post I state that I lacked focus during this book. It’s totally true.  There would be times I’d just get so absorbed in the writing, I’d completely forget what was happening.  It’s one of those effects that sort of has mixed results.

For a book that had so much going on its world, there is a surprising amount of action in it as well.  It reminded me why I like space operas.  Honestly, YA has some really good sci-fi inspired series right now…but I’m digressing it.  As a space opera, this one and its predecessor are pretty darn amazing.  I really could see a CW show using this concept.

As previously stated, sometimes the world just got a little hairy and I did lose focus.  I also, didn’t like the cut scenes.  I started skimming them towards the middle of the book and should have kept paying attention to them because the were important (hint,hint).

It was also a little jarring how the first book’s plot came rearing its head in this installment.  I get that it’s a companion book to These Broken Stars, but key to the word companion.  I was also assuming it could be read as a standalone-and it could to a degree.

The cameos of characters from the prior book were fun, but I really didn’t like how it had a quasi sequel in the you have to read the previous book feel to it. Even though I did, read the previous book.

In all This Shattered World is a great edition to YA sci fi.  Sure, it has it’s faults.  But like its predecessor, it’s fun.

Overall Rating: A solid B.

If Titanic and Romancing the Stone had a Baby in Space :These Broken Stars by Aimee Kaufman and Meagan Spooner

Probably one of the most gorgeous covers in 2013

This book has gotten a lot of hype.

To be blunt about it, I sort of get blogger hives when I have to read a book that everyone else is gushing about because I don’t usually gush.

Just call me the grinch of reviewing.

To be serious though, I really do get nervous about reading these books because I feel like I should like them and if I don’t it’s almost…well, like going out on a blind date where your b.f.f. says Mr. Date is going to be perfect for you and you’re like no.

In other words, it makes for a very awkward moment.

The verdict here, well, I didn’t hate These Broken Stars, but at the same time I think all the hype might be a little too much.  Don’t get me wrong, it’s not a bad book.  Technically, it excels on multiple levels.  And I was engaged.   But it’s not, well, what I was expecting.

The book is essentially a survival story.  The gigantic spaceship (think the Titanic but in space)  crashes and our two leads end up on what appears to be an abandon planet and have to surprise, surprise, rely on each other to survive. And much like that old Michael Douglas movie where he destroys Kathleen Turner’s shoes and clothes, the same thing happens here.

If you’re not a fan of survival stories, you’re probably not going to like this one.  Also, if you like your books to focus on more than two characters this book probably isn’t for you either.  But if you can get past these two things the book is actually really well written and the characters are for the most part pretty likable.

I’ll start with the writing first.  Technically, this is probably one of the best books I’ve read with multiple writers.  Or at the very least it’s better than that cluster fuck known as Frozen.  Spooner and Kaufman worked well together.  I did not feel like the work was disjointed, but at the same time it was obvious that there were two different people writing the novel (there were two main leads and both of them sounded like different people).

The pacing also worked for the most part.  Although, this book has a slow start it after you finish reading it the pacing makes sense.  I understood why Kaufman and Spooner took their time and for what it was worth, the dragging of the plot worked.

The characters were also well formed.  I liked both Lilac and Tarver.  Neither of them fell into the YA stereotypes for the most part.  Tarver reminded me a bit like a younger Michael Westen, at least that’s what his voice reminded me of.  He didn’t have the usual emotional trauma to make him an asshole like every other male lead seems to have in a book today.  As for Lilac, while I wasn’t quite a fan of hers as I was of Tarver, she grew on me.  I think what liked is that she started out being this cold character, but Kaufman and Spooner ever so slowly revealed that there was a lot going behind that perfect facade without being too cliche. Even though it should’ve been cliche.

However, even though I am giving this book lots of praise, I did have some issues with it.  However, my faults don’t rely with the fact that the book was predictable.  Rather, it relied on the ending.

I really don’t want to go into particulars for spoiler purposes, but it just didn’t work for me.  I was still left with two many questions and it honestly reminded me of the ending of Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull which I hated.  Plus, everything just ended more than a little abruptly.  Which I sort of get because the book is going to have a sequel, but the sequel isn’t going to feature Lilac and Tarver which makes the whole situation even more infuriating.

I guess what I’m getting at is I’d rather have them have ended it with that certain character’s fate remaining unchanged.  It sounds harsh and I sort of would’ve hated it, but I think it would’ve made more sense than the ending that it had.  It’s not that I didn’t like how the book ended, I wanted a happy ending…it just didn’t make sense.

Overall, I’m going to give this one eight out of ten (B/B+).  I think a lot of people are going to like this one, but it’s not what the hype makes it appear to be