Review | Gates of Thread and Stone by Lori M. Lee

In the Labyrinth, we had a saying: keep silent, keep still, keep safe.

In a city of walls and secrets, where only one man is supposed to possess magic, seventeen-year-old Kai struggles to keep hidden her own secret—she can manipulate the threads of time. When Kai was eight, she was found by Reev on the riverbank, and her “brother” has taken care of her ever since. Kai doesn’t know where her ability comes from—or where she came from. All that matters is that she and Reev stay together, and maybe one day move out of the freight container they call home, away from the metal walls of the Labyrinth. Kai’s only friend is Avan, the shopkeeper’s son with the scandalous reputation that both frightens and intrigues her.

Then Reev disappears. When keeping silent and safe means losing him forever, Kai vows to do whatever it takes to find him. She will leave the only home she’s ever known and risk getting caught up in a revolution centuries in the making. But to save Reev, Kai must unravel the threads of her past and face shocking truths about her brother, her friendship with Avan, and her unique power.

2 cupcakes

As soon as I finished Gates of Thread and Stone, I had to go back and read the synopsis to see why I had picked it up in the first place. It turns out that the blurb was extremely misleading: I came in expecting a lot of time manipulation and the Labryinth out of Greek Mythology, and unfortunately, the latter was nowhere to be found.

The beginning of Gates of Thread and Stone held so much promise. The brief introduction to the Labyrinth (unfortunately not of the minotaur variety) was intriguing, Kai’s relationship with her brother, Reev, was extremely heartwarming and filled with fierce love, loyalty and protectiveness, and Kai’s ability to slow down time sounded really neat. Unfortunately, as soon as Reev went missing, the story started to go downhill.

While I initially admired Kai’s loyalty and determination, and found myself enamoured by her narrative voice, I quickly found myself wanting more from her. Her ability to manipulate time was scarcely seen, and the focus was, instead, on developing Kai’s physical strengths. While I understand that the ability to defend oneself is important, the story lacked a sense of urgency or a feeling of danger, in part due to its slow pace, causing these scenes to feel out of place.

Another area where Gates of Thread and Stone lacked impact was the relationship between Avan and Kai. Although Kai kept mentioning that her focus was finding her brother, the number of times that she blushed over her thoughts of Avan and fantasized about his neck was rather ridiculous (seriously, a whole paragraph was dedicated to that). Kai and Avan let their feelings go unmentioned (aloud, anyways) for almost the entire story, causing the search for Reev to be overshadowed by romantic angst.

The world-building was confusing at best, as it contained elements that ranged from dystopia to steampunk. It hinted at several different mythologies, however many of these didn’t seem to fit the story very well — such as the gargoyles, who appeared at the beginning and were never mentioned again. I understand that this is going to be a series, so the world-building will likely be elaborated upon in later books, however as it stands, I’m still not entirely sure what the world of Ninurta even was, let alone how it came to be.

Overall, Gates of Thread and Stone had a lot of potential, but its slow pace, overwhelming “romance,” and disjointed world-building caused it to fall flat.

Review | The Bodies We Wear by Jeyn Roberts

A streetwise girl trains to take on a gang of drug dealers and avenge her best friend’s death in this thriller for fans of Scott Westerfeld and Robin Wasserman.

People say when you take Heam, your body momentarily dies and you catch a glimpse of heaven. Faye was only eleven when dealers forced Heam on her and her best friend, Christian. But Faye didn’t glimpse heaven—she saw hell. And Christian died.

Now Faye spends her days hiding her secret from the kids at school, and her nights training to take revenge on the men who destroyed her life and murdered her best friend. But life never goes the way we think it will. When a mysterious young man named Chael appears, Faye’s plan suddenly gets a lot more complicated. Chael seems to know everything about her, including her past. But too many secrets start tearing her world apart: trouble at school, with the police, and with the people she thought might be her friends. Even Gazer, her guardian, fears she’s become too obsessed with vengeance. Love and death. Will Faye overcome her desires, or will her quest for revenge consume her?

2.5 cupcakes

Having read and enjoyed Dark Inside and Rage Within, I was really looking forward to reading The Bodies We Wear. Its Kill Bill vibe and promise of delicious revenge drew me in, and while it delivered on some levels, I was left feeling fairly underwhelmed.

I loved the dark, gritty world that Roberts created. Although Heam’s origin wasn’t explained very much, it isn’t difficult to imagine its existence or why it would appeal to a significant portion of the population – a drug that allows you to glimpse Heaven for the price of dying momentarily is quite an interesting concept.

At first, I was intrigued by our protagonist, Faye. Her anger was all-consuming, so I was really interested to see how her self-destructive pathway to revenge would play out. Unfortunately, despite her constant reminders of how much of an amazing fighter she was, Faye wasn’t really that much of a badass. She spends the majority of the story pitying herself (which was understandable at first, but then began grating on my nerves) or fawning over the mysterious Chael, leaving much to be desired in the actual “revenge” aspect of The Bodies We Wear. Also, for an individual who has been exposed to Haem, she didn’t seem to suffer any of the side-effects that the other addicts did – aside from the scarring, that is. She barely spoke of her addiction and managed to attend school on a regular basis, all of which should have been impossible, given the way that Haem had previously been presented. Despite this, I did enjoy her transformation over the course of the novel as she learned about forgiveness and the power that it holds; I just wish that she had lived up to the Lisbeth Salander comparison.

The romance is where The Bodies We Wear really went downhill for me. The “mysterious” Chael (whose identity I had pieced together within the first ~50 pages) admits to stalking Faye, yet he’s gorgeous enough that it’s acceptable. It wasn’t the best first impression, and their interactions over the course of the story felt forced and unnecessary.

Overall, The Bodies We Wear had a strong start but it wasn’t quite what I was expecting (or what it was marketed as), leaving me fairly disappointed.

Book Review: The 100 by Kass Morgan

In the future, humans live in city-like spaceships orbiting far above Earth’s toxic atmosphere. No one knows when, or even if, the long-abandoned planet will be habitable again. But faced with dwindling resources and a growing populace, government leaders know they must reclaim their homeland… before it’s too late.
Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents are being sent on a high-stakes mission to recolonize Earth. After a brutal crash landing, the teens arrive on a savagely beautiful planet they’ve only seen from space. Confronting the dangers of this rugged new world, they struggle to form a tentative community. But they’re haunted by their past and uncertain about the future. To survive, they must learn to trust – and even love – again.

2 cupcakes

After hearing friends rave about CW’s adaptation of The 100, I thought that I should give it a try. Its plethora of action scenes and relationship drama made me understand why it was optioned, but unfortunately it was nothing more than a quick, shallow read.

The 100‘s first failing is its world-building, or lack thereof. The details of the ship, how it came to be, and the Gaia Doctrine are incredibly vague. Any explanations that are mentioned were so brief and minute that they failed to answer any of my questions, so I would have loved if there was an extra hundred pages or so to elaborate upon this world.

What disappointed me the most, though, was the fact that the romantic aspects of the plot took the forefront over more important matters, like trying to survive on a potentially dangerous planet. Wells and Glass love their respective partners more than anything else, including their own lives, and their POVs are continually filled with romanticized thoughts. And, to make matters worse, there’s the beginning of a love triangle, and many, many poor decisions made in the name of love. Including my absolute favourite line: “To save the girl he loved, he’d have to endanger the entire human race.”

Despite the fairly similar thoughts, it wasn’t difficult to tell the characters apart – which was nice, considering there were four distinct perspectives to deal with. I wasn’t able to connect or empathize with any of the characters, as none of them felt three-dimensional or real. I suppose that Bellamy irritated me the least, since he at least had a backstory that wasn’t centred around romance, and his unfailing support for his sister was quite nice to read.

Overall, The 100 didn’t contain a lot of substance, but I can certainly see it making a decent television show.

I received a copy of this book from Netgalley in exchange for an honest review.

Book Review: Shatter Me by Tahereh Mafi

1


No one knows why Juliette’s touch is fatal, but The Reestablishment has plans for her. Plans to use her as a weapon. But Juliette has plans of her own. After a lifetime without freedom, she’s finally discovering a strength to fight back for the very first time—and to find a future with the one boy she thought she’d lost forever.

 

My Rating:  2 cupcakes

 

At first, Mafi’s writing style is quite interesting: beautifully written prose filled with metaphors and vivid imagery, and the interesting decision to use strikethroughs to simulate the writing in Juliette’s journal. However, after combining that with grammatically awkward numbering and repetition of the same words over and over and over, it becomes somewhat painful to read. There were even some metaphors that made such little sense that they completely disrupted the flow of the story and left me staring at them saying, “um, what?”

“He shifts and my eyes shatter into thousands of pieces that ricochet around the room, capturing a million snapshots, a million moments in time.”

“I hate the lackadaisical ennui of a sun too preoccupied with itself to notice the infinite hours we spend in its presence.”

“So many people had to lose their homes and their children and their last 5 dollars in the bank for promises promises promises so many promises to save them from themselves.”

“Warner thinks Adam is a cardboard cutout of vanilla regurgitations.”

“Hate looks like everybody else until it smiles. Until it spins around and lies with lips and teeth carved into semblance of something too passive to punch.”

I could probably keep up a steady stream of quotes for quite a while since there are about ten of these on each page, but I think I’ve made my point. There’s certainly nothing wrong with flowery prose if used sparingly, but it becomes distracting and tedious when employed in excess.

Once you get used to Mafi’s writing style, the story itself is decent. I wouldn’t classify it as a dystopia though; sure, something went wrong and there’s limited food and problems with the seasons that the Reestablishment is trying to fix, but that seems to take the backseat to the romantic aspects of the plot. And, oh, was there romance. Within the first seventy pages, Juliette is in love with Adam – but don’t worry, it’s not instalove because they’ve had feelings for each other since childhood, even though they had never spoken two words to each other until now. Isn’t that convenient? Needless to say, I never really bought the history between them, and found myself rolling my eyes every time they confessed their love for one another or started making out at the most inopportune times.

Of all of the characters, Warner was the only one with depth; he was simultaneously repulsive and compelling, making him a rather intriguing villain. Adam and Juliette were both really bland and fit nicely into their cookie-cutter roles of “hero” and “damsel in distress.” It wasn’t until the last ~80 pages that Juliette finally did something useful, but by then I had been exposed to enough of her naivety and self-loathing that it was too late to change my opinion.

The ending of Shatter Me was by far my favourite part of the story (and no, it’s not only because it was finally over). The action started to pick up, and we were treated to an institution that was very similar to Charles Xavier’s School For Gifted Youngsters. While it kind of came out of nowhere, it was a nice change from the incessant romance that passed as a plot.

Overall, Shatter Me was a disappointing read. If the sequel is written in the same vein as the ending, I’ll consider giving it a try.

Book Review: Eve by Anna Carey

The year is 2032, sixteen years after a deadly virus—and the vaccine intended to protect against it—wiped out most of the earth’s population. The night before eighteen-year-old Eve’s graduation from her all-girls school she discovers what really happens to new graduates, and the horrifying fate that awaits her.

Fleeing the only home she’s ever known, Eve sets off on a long, treacherous journey, searching for a place she can survive. Along the way she encounters Caleb, a rough, rebellious boy living in the wild. Separated from men her whole life, Eve has been taught to fear them, but Caleb slowly wins her trust…and her heart. He promises to protect her, but when soldiers begin hunting them, Eve must choose between true love and her life.

My Rating:  2 cupcakes

Described as “Romeo and Juliet meets The Hunger Games,” I knew I had to add Eve to my ever-growing to-read list of dystopian books. Unfortunately, despite the gorgeous cover and promising synopsis, my reading experience was less than enjoyable.

The premise of Eve is interesting enough: after a plague wiped out the majority of the population, New America is struggling to rebuild. Orphaned boys and girls are sent to segregated schools, and after graduation are either sent to labour camps (for the boys) or to hospital beds in order to bear children and help repopulate the Earth (for the girls). While the idea of a woman’s worth being tied to her ability to reproduce isn’t unique when it comes to dystopian novels (see: Wither, The Handmaid’s Tale), it is certainly interesting (and disturbing) enough to create a compelling story… right? Unfortunately, when it comes to this story, the answer to that question is no.

One of the many issues that I had with Eve was the world building or, in this case, the lack thereof. We have this plague that wiped out 98% of the world’s population – and that’s all we’re told about it. Sure, we’re given a few descriptions of affected humans, but as to how/where/why the plague started, your guess is as good as mine. Then we have the issue of repopulating the planet. If the goal is to reproduce as quickly as possible, why are they relying solely on 18 year old orphan girls instead of the adults who are living in the city? Also, why would they go to all of the trouble (and cost) of educating these girls for 10+ years in subjects that include classic literature and waltzing when this schooling will never be used? This world just made no logical sense, and seemed to serve only to create a tragic back story and a sense of betrayal since those are always necessary.

And then we have Eve. She’s constantly mentioning that she’s the valedictorian of her School and that she’s smart, but we never actually get to see any proof of that; for the entire book, she comes across as naive, easily swayed, selfish, and unlikeable. At first, I was willing to accept her naivety – after all, she had been sheltered and given a false perception of the world – but that was no excuse for her lack of common sense. Within the first 70 pages, she sees a bear cub, decides that it must be like Winnie the Pooh and pets it, not realizing that it’s dangerous and that there’s probably an angry mama bear somewhere nearby. After that experience, you’d expect her to become a bit smarter, right? Unfortunately, it’s safe to say that petting a wild bear cub was one of her better choices, as it neither resulted in death, injury or abandonment – all of which Eve manages to inflict upon her friends with her poor decisions.

The romance aspect of the plot was where I completely lost interest. I didn’t mind Eve’s love interest, Caleb, who lived underground with a group of runaway orphan boys in a setup that reminded me a lot of Neverland. I did mind how easily Eve managed to fall in love with him, especially after being taught throughout her entire time at school that you should never trust men because they are horrible savages who only want to rape you. Not to mention that when Caleb rides away with her on horseback after saving her from a bear, Eve is offended when he says that she’s not his type – and that’s a mere day after escaping from School. There’s just no way that her entire belief system could be rewritten in such a short period of time.

On a positive note, Carey’s writing style is fluid and filled with some beautiful quotes. The plot is well-paced and there are enough twists and turns to keep your attention throughout the quick read. The secondary characters were interesting and generally likeable – especially Arden, who would have made an excellent protagonist.

Overall, Eve did not live up to my expectations. With some more detail about the world and a larger role for the supporting characters, the remaining books in this series may prove to be more enjoyable.