THE THOUSANDTH FLOOR (The Thousandth Floor, #1): Review (ARC)

24921954The Thousandth Floor (The Thousandth Floor, #1) by Katharine McGee
Published by HarperCollins on August 30, 2016
Genres: young adult, science fiction
Pages: 448
Format: Paperback (ARC)
Amazon Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | IndieBound

Rating: ★★★★ 


Futuristic Gossip Girl. If that phrase intrigues you, then definitely pick up this book.

The first pitch I heard for The Thousandth Floor included those three words, and they are very, very accurate. Which kind of makes this book hard to place, genre-wise, because, while it’s set in the future, I’m hesitant to place it under “science fiction.” Sci-fi would cover all the advanced technology introduced in this book, but I feel sci-fi would mean this book is set on another planet and spaceships. In my mind, it’s more of a “futuristic contemporary,” if that makes sense.

I worried this book would be biting off more than it could chew. Futuristic New York, big secrets, and five different people to follow, all in one book together from a debut author? It sounds like a lot to deliver.

But Katharine McGee pulls it off. She skillfully balances everything, walking that very thin line between the seamless juggling of so many elements and dropping all of them. I’m very impressed.

This book shows the frivolity and luxury of affluent teens in futuristic downtown NYC. There are parties, lies, secrets, and many instances of backstabbing. The book does a fantastic job of displaying both the opulent show these teens put on for their peers and the ruthlessness behind the golden curtain of their world.

And those five narratives we follow? Never once did I get them mixed up. All five characters are completely different, with big changes happening in each of their lives and big secrets they’re keeping. I never got confused about who was who. They’re all very unique in more ways than one, and they’re all incredibly clever and cunning. These are not people you want to mess with, regardless of how wealthy (or, in some cases, how poor) they are. They don’t mind getting their hands a little dirty to get the job done, and I liked that. Each character was fascinating to read about, and, though I didn’t always agree with their decisions or like what they did to each other, their actions and reactions were definitely realistic and consistent.

On that note, this is a character-driven novel, which means the plot is character-driven, as well. Everyone we hear from plays a critical role in the events that occur in this story, and you don’t expect it to come together, but it does, nicely and cohesively and very cleverly. Some fellow early readers complained that the pacing was off, but I didn’t feel it was a problem; I enjoyed the slow build-up. It gives enough time to acquaint you with the characters and thoroughly set the stage for all the drama that goes down as you–and the other characters–begin to unravel the truth. (I’ll warn you that the ending is cliffhanger-esque, and leaves us with more questions than answers, so just keep that in mind while reading. That frustrated me a little bit and is one of the reasons I didn’t completely love this book).

None of this would work, of course, if Miss McGee weren’t a capable writer, but she is. In fact, the writing was one of my favorite aspects of The Thousandth Floor. Her style is both easy to read and cleverly descriptive without being overkill. It’s like smelling jasmine: fresh and pretty, but also never too overpowering. There was just the right mix of fluff and depth, like with sweet potato chips: yummy, but also lean and (kind of) healthy for you.

All in all, a solid, fun, and fascinating novel on all fronts. (I’m even more impressed that it’s a debut.) I didn’t adore it, but I definitely really enjoyed it, and I’m ready for more. If you have a fascination with big cities, bright lights, and not-so-little white lies, definitely check this out.

Many, many thanks to Brittany of Brittany’s Book Rambles (and #BBTC on Twitter) for sending me this ARC, and thank you to HarperCollins and the author for supplying it. I really enjoyed the read!


A post-review note: spoiler alert on the ending

Avert your eyes if you don’t want to be spoiled by the ending! It will ruin a big part of the novel for you!

You sure? Okay, here it goes. 

I felt I had to mention this, because I know a lot of readers who would really appreciate knowing this. This book is diverse in many ways, and one of those ways is in the depiction of a lesbian romance between Mariel and Eris. I’ve seen several reviewers call on authors to write LGBTQ+ romances where those in the relationship have a happy ending (i.e., both characters are still alive at the end of the novel). This novel, while it features a LGBTQ+ romance, also kills off one of the partners, so keep this in mind if this kind of thing upsets you as a reader.

 

 

Mood and Music Monday: 8/29/16

Hello, everybody! Welcome to this week’s Mood and Music Monday!

Mood and Music Monday is a weekly meme I’ve started, wherein I’ll post a song and talk about how it relates to my day/week, as well as a few other things. (And, in case anyone’s wondering, this meme has no relation to Lauren’s [from Always Me] “Music Mondays.”) Feel free to participate and to leave a link to your posts down in the comments!

Here’s the update for this week:

SONG(S) OF THE WEEK

What are you listening to? Today, I’ve been listening to “Lonely Boy” by The Black Keys, one of the few songs I’ve actually heard by them. I’m normally not too into that kind of sound, but it’s nice to have a few go-to “angry-sounding” songs to listen to, you know what I mean? Anyway, I like rocking out to it. (And the lyrics are a little too relatable.)

What are you reading? This past week, I finished The Thousandth FloorFinding Audrey, and My Soul to Save. The first one was my favorite out of the three, and a review of it will be up tomorrow! I’m hoping to start Throne of Glass soon and make some more progress on my ARC of Elite, sequel to Hunter.

I would probably have read a little bit more (I’m supposed to be halfway through Throne of Glass right now), but it’s been a difficult week, and school just started today for me, which might mean less posts during the week.

On that note, I’m going to try and keep up with my posting schedule while in school, but I don’t know how possible that will be. We’ll see, I guess.

What are you drinking? Kombucha and water. The real question, though, should be, what am I eating? And the answer to that is chocolate. Always.

Any goals for this week?  Getting back on track with my reading schedule while balancing school. We shall see if I survive through the week. 😉

How about you?

  • What song(s) are you listening to today?
  • What is your current read? Are you enjoying it?
  • Do you have any plans or goals for this week?

AN EMBER IN THE ASHES (An Ember in the Ashes, #1): Review

Hello, all! Welcome to the weekend!

In just three days, one of my most anticipated reads comes out. It’s called A Torch Against the Night, and it’s the sequel to one of my favorite reads this year, An Ember in the Ashes. Only, I never actually reviewed Ember, so I figured I might as well do that now. Without further ado, here is my review of An Ember in the Ashes by Sabaa Tahir!


20560137

An Ember in the Ashes (An Ember in the Ashes, #1) by Sabaa Tahir
Published by Razorbill on April 28, 2015
Genres: young adult, fantasy, romance
Pages: 446
Format: Hardcover
Amazon Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | IndieBound

Rating: ★★★★★


I can’t believe I almost didn’t read this book. Because I loved it, and now I understand why this book is so popular. (Honestly, it deserves all the hype, because it gave me all the feels.) Sabaa Tahir, you have yet another fan.

The World-building

Okay, so this is kind of a tricky category to review, as most of the book takes place in a military school called Blackcliff Academy, and it’s difficult to comment on a world we don’t see very much of. But I can tell you right now that what we do see is brutal, dark, and well-developed. Blackcliff is a terrifying place to be, with strict rules, a fierce, ruthless supervisor known as the Commandant, and awful punishments should you disobey.

It seemed frighteningly real to me, and that’s probably because it’s not sugar-coated. Sabaa Tahir doesn’t shy away from the torture servants and students face if they disobey or don’t live up to their superior’s expectations. People get hurt. Life is dangerous. Safety is never guaranteed, and Sabaa Tahir never goes out on a limb to save her characters; she lets them suffer the full consequences of their actions in this world.

I’ll admit that the whole Scholars versus Martials thing didn’t hold up as well as I would have hoped it to, but the realness, the grittiness, the ruthlessness of this world more than makes up for it. There’s a fun mythology aspect, as well as a rich sense of culture. I’m very excited to see more of this world in future books.

The Characters

To me, this was the strongest aspect of the book. I always worry about dual-narrative novels, because I worry I’ll confuse the two narrators, but, here, that wasn’t an issue. Both Laia and Elias are well-developed, driven characters, strong and determined in different ways. I connected with them right away.

Laia reminded me of myself in a lot of ways. She feels clumsy and self-conscious, and she doesn’t necessarily see herself as well-poised or capable/worthy of certain things, but she’s not afraid to do what needs to be done in order to protect those she loves. And to me, that’s very realistic. This is one of the first novels I’ve seen where that insecurity and self-consciousness is balanced with a strength grounded in her determination to save her brother. It really makes her come alive as a character. She doesn’t spend all her time moping about how unworthy she is. She doubts herself, but then she proves herself wrong. I really like that.

And yet, as great as Laia is, I love Elias. He’s my baby, you guys. Elias is an amazing example of how to write a conflicted, sensitive, realistic male character without making him a pile of mush. He’s strong, but, like Laia, Elias doubts himself and his strength sometimes. His entire life, he’s been trained to be a warrior, but what do you do when you realize maybe the cause you’re fighting for isn’t a very good one? We see him struggle to figure out what it really means to be selfless, brave, and free, and if it’s possible to be all three at once. And it’s so interesting.

Also, Helene is really cool, as minor of a character as she is. I’m excited to see more of her in Torch.

The Plot

By the time I actually got around to reading this, I had only two days to finish it before it was due at the library. During summer, this wouldn’t be a problem, but keep in mind I was still in school at this point of the year. So, less than 48 hours to finish an almost-450-page book, which didn’t include all the hours spent at school/doing homework/sleeping.

But it turned out to not even be a problem. Because I could barely put this book down.

I stated in the world-building section of this that Sabaa doesn’t spare her characters from the cut-throat world they live in, and that makes for a thrilling plot. The plot is always moving. These characters are constantly in danger and peril, and I was almost always worried about them: Laia as she tries to figure out how to rescue her brother while working as the Commandant’s slave, Elias while he tries to figure out who he wants to be and how to shape his future in a world that is not so kind to those who do not agree with its rules. Everything’s multi-layered, and there are several big surprises that are just brilliant.

The competitions Elias and co. had to go through gave me Hunger-Games-meets-Gladiator vibes, but they managed to be totally different and unique from anything else I’ve read. Sabaa doesn’t hold back in those, either.

The Romance

This was so fun. It’s like a love triangle, but it’s also unrequited in some aspects? It’s complicated and messy and sometimes a little frustrating, but that’s part of what makes it so realistic, in my opinion. This is a great portrayal of I-might-like-by-best-friend-but-I’m-not-sure-how-the-heck-do-we-deal-with-it.

Also, Elias doesn’t turn into a puddle of goo like all these other YA guys I’ve been reading about lately do, which I appreciated. I love it when characters in couples compliment each other instead of fading together, and this was definitely a case of the former. I’m not sure whether or not I’d be spoiling anything if I mentioned any other names, so I’ll just say that the next book promises a very interesting dynamic in this category, for sure…as well as a very awkward one.

Overall, I would highly recommend this to anyone in search of a fun, thrilling fantasy with well-developed characters and some great lessons on what freedom and bravery really mean. Can’t wait for Torch!

REIGN OF SHADOWS (Reign of Shadows, #1): Review


25577715Reign of Shadows (Reign of Shadows, #1)
 by Sophie Jordan
Published by HarperTeen on February 9, 2016
Genres: young adult, fantasy, romance, retellings
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Amazon Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | IndieBound

Rating: ★★★★ 


When it comes to this book, I’m pretty sure I’m the black sheep. I’ve seen a DNF review, a one-star review, and a two-star review from people whose reviews I trust. But I think this is one of those strange cases where I’m in the minority.

Because I really liked this, you guys. As in, I almost read the entire thing in one day. Reign of Shadows completely enveloped me, and I really enjoyed the ride.

The World-building

This was probably my favorite aspect of the novel. The dark has always fascinated me, ever since I was a little girl. And that’s probably why this novel’s premise appealed to me: a Rapunzel retelling set in a kingdom shadowed by constant night. And the world-building didn’t disappoint.

I was fascinated by all of it: the dwellers, the atmosphere of the forest, the ways cities and individuals adapted to survive, the bat sickness, even what little we heard about the political state of Relhok. I’ve never really seen a fantasy world quite like this. It was all so unique, and yet just the right balance of old and new (kind of like in Finnikin of the Rock). The world here was dark and intriguing, and I kept wishing we got more of it, because I loved it.

The Characters

I was worried I wouldn’t be able to keep track of two narrators, but that wasn’t much of a problem for me. Luna and Fowler are both solid, strong, determined characters in their own right, and I enjoyed reading about them.They were easy to relate and get attached to, and I found myself cheering them on and worrying about them whenever they ran into danger. I can’t wait to connect with them even more in the second book. 🙂

Also, can we talk about how competent Luna is, despite her disability? Luna is a great example of how you can be a strong and competent person despite any physical/mental hindrances. I admire her stubbornness and her bravery, despite the challenges she faces with said disability; it’s something worth applauding. I don’t think I’d be able to function nearly as well as she’s able to.

I didn’t like Fowler as much as I liked Luna, but I liked him well enough. He’s just as strong and stubborn as she is, but I liked how that didn’t necessarily mean he was all macho; he had his own insecurities and vulnerabilities, and I enjoyed that.

Another thing I didn’t necessarily expect was to get so attached to Sivo and Perla, Luna’s “guardians” in her tower. I really liked them.

The Plot

There is action and just a touch of suspense. However, most of the plot is character- and romance-driven, so, a fair warning to all my friends who aren’t interested in reading a romantic fantasy, if you’re looking for something that focuses on other aspects, don’t look here. I, for one, enjoyed it, though. I felt there was a great balance of action and character development.

The Romance

This is the one area that prevents me from rating this a solid 4.5 stars, and that’s mainly because of its pacing. Like These Broken Stars, this novel contains a slow-burn romance, and, like These Broken Stars, it’s really well-done…up to a certain point. Because once they finally admit their feelings for each other, there were a few cheesy lines where I was kind of like, Really?

However, this is what bothered me the most: the time frame of the relationship. How long have they known each other, really? A month? Maybe two or three? ((SPOILER)) I would have liked them to have waited a little longer before they got as intimate as they did; the build-up seemed unrealistically fast, to me. They went from A to B, and then B to Z in terms of physical intimacy not very long after this point, which bothers me.

(On a mini-tangent note: Why do characters have to sleep with someone right after they reveal their feelings to each other? I think, given the right circumstances, perhaps that could happen in real life, and I get that this is fantasy, but I don’t think it’s realistic at all.) ((END SPOILERS))

Overall, though, I still really enjoyed Fowler and Luna’s relationship. They both balance each other out really well, and they try hard to protect each other, even if what they decide to do in order to keep the other person safe isn’t necessarily the best decision to make. Yet, despite their sometimes-conflicting interests and desires, neither one of them sabotages the other to get what they want; instead they just let each other do their thing, and I liked that a lot.

If you like a heavy helping of romance in your fantasy and you’d like to see some fascinating, solid world-building, I’d recommend you check this one out. In the meantime, I’ll be in my little corner of the pen, baa-ing and waiting eagerly for 2017.

WiP Wednesday: 8/24/16

Hello, and welcome to this week’s #WiPWednesday post! #WiPWednesday is a weekly meme started by Brigid Gorry-Hines from Wordfare. Every Wednesday, I’m supposed to post an update about my WiP (Work in Progress), including word count and where I’m at in writing/revising it. Hopefully, doing this meme will keep me motivated to continue working on my WiP.

So let’s get started! I’ll try to fill out these categories as best as I can.

WIP:  The L.S. M.S.

Writing or Revising? 

Still rewriting scenes, and I’m at the same point I was last week.

Current Word Count: 98, 131

Hey, look! I added more than two words! 😀

How It’s Going:

I meant to work on my manuscript this week so I’d actually have something to report, but something unexpected happened today, and I kinda sorta maybe had a breakdown. So, yeah, no writing today, unfortunately. Maybe tomorrow? I have some ideas I want to see if I can develop and incorporate into the story.

Goal for Next Week:  

Finish the scene I’m working on, for starters. Then I can focus on other things.

HUNTER (Hunter, #1): Review

24397041Hunter (Hunter, #1) by Mercedes Lackey
Published by Disney-Hyperion on September 1, 2015
Genres: young adult, post-apocalyptic, science fiction, fantasy, urban fantasy
Pages: 374
Format: Hardcover
Amazon Barnes & Noble | Goodreads | IndieBound

Rating:  


Goshdarnit. I really, really wanted to like this book. It sounded so cool.

I was given an ARC for the second book, so I wanted to read this before I dove into that so I knew what was going on. Only, now I’m dreading reading the sequel a little. Because this book was excruciating to read.

This is what it looks like when you have an excellent idea, but horrible execution. Hunter promised an exciting and different world, with plenty of action and suspense. But that’s not what this book delivers.

First of all, this book was really boring. About 100 pages in, I started skimming. (I was bored by page 30, but 70 pages later was when I reached my breaking point.)

That tragedy they mention happens somewhere near the 300-page mark–only 74 pages from the end of the book. In the meantime, we’re subjected to Joyeux’s (what a ridiculous name) experience getting dressed up fancily, eating expensive meals, and going on Hunts. The Hunts, at least should have been exciting, but they weren’t.

I feel the writing was to blame for this. The style is written in a way that’s seems like it’s supposed to be quirky, but just came off as condescending and trying too hard.

Now, right now, I bet you’re thinking, Well, if these Monastery people are all wrapped up in protecting and helping everyone, why aren’t they in Apex in the first place? … And I don’t have a lot of answers, but…  (19)

See what I mean? Just let the readers think for themselves. They’re not stupid.

Same here:

“Understood. Moving in your direction.” Good; he wouldn’t be coming on the run, but he would be moving in the right direction in case everything went sour. (222)

Um, we know he’s going to be in your direction. Couldn’t you just have said, “Good. It would be nice to have him in the area, just in case something bad happened”?

Another instance:

…what bounded through it were four pure-white winged lions. I knew they were lions, because I’ve seen pictures of lions–but of course, no real-world lion ever had wings. (158-159) 

Oh, I hope not. Poor zebras.

One more:

There were no signs of human habitation. That didn’t mean that there weren’t any humans here, it just meant that there were no signs of them. (197)

That second sentence is totally unnecessary. If you needed to put something there, you could have said something along the lines of “If people still lived here, they were doing a good job not showing it,” which would say the same thing with less redundancy.

Here are a few more cringe-worthy quotes:

This building was Purposeful, like that, capitalized. (80)

Sigh.

Knight ate his eggs methodically. So did I. (217) 

And then there’s no mention of what, exactly, that method is. If you’re going to even bother using that adverb, you need to elaborate on it.

We’re told a lot of things instead of being shown them, and that’s one of the first big rules you don’t break in writing: Show, don’t tell. I’m really shocked that no editor caught this; telling runs rampant in this book.

I mentioned a little earlier how Joy’s Hunts should have been exciting, but they weren’t, and the writing is at fault here, too. Normally, when you’re writing a high-action scene, such as a chase or a fight, your writing changes to keep up with the action of the scene: Your sentences are shorter and to the point, and your paragraphs get shorter, because there’s a lot of the action-reaction dynamic going on, and you’re covering both sides of that dynamic. Thus, the topic changes, and a paragraph change is needed.

This did not happen during Joy’s Hunts. Instead, we’re treated to thick paragraphs with descriptions of the creatures Joy and her Hounds are fighting, musings about home, possible attack strategies (which, again, makes sense, but she rambles about them, so even those parts drag), and the like. All the immediacy is lost, and it makes even the fight scenes boring.

While we’re still on the subject of writing style, the world-building came in some awkwardly-placed info-dumps, and even the reasoning for how the world became the way it did is kind of unknown, which is kind of frustrating. Monsters have invaded your world. Surely you can give me a better explanation for why other than, “Oh, yeah, some environmental things, and a false Rapture, and some wars, and…maybe a combination of all of those?” (Not a direct quote, by the way.)

Joy herself never really held up for me as a character. Other than the grimace-worthy writing style, she didn’t stand out all that much in the vast spectrum of YA protagonists. She never really seemed as special as everyone said she was, so it was kind of frustrating that, throughout the book, she’s not really being challenged by anyone or anything. Sure, she’s fighting with other creatures (and, sometimes, people), but, eventually, she always wins. ((SPOILER)) A prime example of this is her competing in the Elite Trials and basically acing everything on her first try. If being an Elite is such a…well, elite position, why was it so easy for her to attain? ((END SPOILERS)) There was no conflict there, and so there was no suspense. She never really has to try too hard, and, even if she did, she’s forgettable enough as a character that I probably wouldn’t have cared if her buttons ever really got pushed, anyway.

But, because there aren’t any (memorable, or lack thereof) side characters really present in this book, we’re stuck in Joy’s head and on board her train of thought. That train looooves to ramble, which got really tiring.

All in all, though this was certainly a good lesson for me in how not to write and why side-characters are so, so, so important in a story, this is one lesson I kind of wish I would have skipped out on. The only reason I finished this book was so I can read and review the sequel, which, as I stated earlier, I have an ARC for.

Keep me in your thoughts and prayers, haha. And don’t bother with this book; everything about it is forgettable.

 

 

 

Mood and Music Monday: 8/22/16

Hello, everybody! Welcome to this week’s Mood and Music Monday!

Mood and Music Monday is a weekly meme I’ve started, wherein I’ll post a song and talk about how it relates to my day/week, as well as a few other things. (And, in case anyone’s wondering, this meme has no relation to Lauren’s [from Always Me] “Music Mondays.”) Feel free to participate and to leave a link to your posts down in the comments!

Here’s the update for this week:

SONG(S) OF THE WEEK

What are you listening to? This week, I’m listening to “Neon Lights” by an artist called Pim Stones, and I can tell you that he’s not nearly as popular as he should be. A year or two ago, I stumbled upon his “The Last One I Made,” and it moved me to tears. I think he just recently got picked up by a record label, and released a single called “We Have It All.” That song is so darkly brilliant, and, if you haven’t heard it, go listen right now.

The EP of the same title is not available in the U.S., but somehow I stumbled upon “Neon Lights” on YouTube, and it’s so, so good. His work has a depth to it I’ve not found in many other artists. Definitely an artist to watch for.

What are you reading? So, this past week, I finished The Passion of Dolssa (by Julie Berry), Six of Crows (by Leigh Bardugo), Hunter (by Mercedes Lackey), The Girl Who Fell (by S.M Parker), and The Star-Touched Queen (by Roshani Chokshi). I loved Six of Crows, hated Hunter, liked The Girl Who Fell, really liked Dolssa, and really enjoyed The Star-Touched Queen. (And, yes, there is a difference between liking and enjoying something, in my opinion. Enjoyment, for me, means you savor and treasure it just a little more.)

I also…wait for it…finished Don Quixote! This calls for celebration, folks! The last “reading” portion of my summer reading assignment is finished, 1050 pages later. Whew.

So, that comes out to a grand total of six books read this week. Definitely a booked week, if I do say so myself. 😉

Right now, I’m working through my ARC of The Thousandth Floor by Katharine McGee, and it’s interesting. (Think Gossip Girl in a futuristic setting.) I’m liking it so far. I also plan to start My Soul to Save by Rachel Vincent later today.

What are you drinking? The answer to this one is easy: Kombucha.

Any goals for this week?  Reading library books and finishing those summer assignment journal entries. Also, getting back on track with my ARC reading schedule. (I’m behind!) Can I do it? We’ll see. I’ll be sure to let you know.

How about you?

  • What song(s) are you listening to today?
  • What is your current read? Are you enjoying it?
  • Do you have any plans or goals for this week?