These Broken Stars (Starbound #1) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner Review

TBSFinalCoverThis review is probably going to be all over the place because I’m writing it at work so my thoughts are more than a little disorganized.

LOVED IT LOVED IT LOVED IT!!! (glad I got that off my chest)

When I’m working, it’s usually so hectic that I’m unwilling to read something heavy or something from a series that I’m following because I don’t have time so I end up reading  sporadically, anyway, I picked this up with no expectations whatsoever which was an amazing thing. I fell in love with the story and the characters and read it in one go (so glad that it was an off day) I could not put it down for even a minute. I kept dreading that I’ll get a call and have to get back to work and not be able to finish it.

These Broken Stars is about Tarver and Lilac, two unwilling people who have to learn to work together to survive on a strange planet after their spacecraft crashes and they are the only survivors on this seemingly uninhabited planet. There are strange things afoot like disembodied whispers, sounds of people crying with no people to be found among others. Lilac and Tarver declare an uneasy truce when they realise that they have to stick together to survive but their relationship gradually moves to friendship and then something deeper that they’re both reluctant to admit to. There aren’t many secondary characters to distract you from the two main protagonists and the story.

Kaufman and Spooner didn’t spend a lot of time giving the readers backstory on what lead to terraforming other planets, they also don’t give us a timeline for when these events take place which is refreshing. These Broken Stars is very well written and was very entertaining. The planet Tarver and Lilac find themselves on is very well conceived and realised. The mystery of this uninhabited planet was also well written; they give us just enough information to keep us hooked without giving away too much. The pace of the book was consistent and steady. There was a lot of traveling but it didn’t feel dull and monotonous and there was plenty of character development to go around.

Lilac LaRoux is probably the most famous girl in the universe since her father is one of the most powerful men, if not the most powerful. She’s had a very privileged life and has never wanted for anything. But all that comes with a price, she’s always in the limelight and everyone who meets her is either after her money, the power that being associated with her brings or to get close to her father. She’s on her guard all the time. On the outside, she is like the ultimate spoilt brat, who cares only for gossip, clothes and shoes but there’s another side to her, one that longs for freedom, to live her life on her terms. She feels stifled, able to let her hair down with only a select few people and even then she has to mind her Ps and Qs. So when they crash land on this strange planet, she is completely out of her comfort zone, this place is alien and she has no skills that can help her survive here and she knows that. She desperately tries to cling to the hope that her father will come to her rescue (sooner rather than later). She’s the person who probably changes the most through the course of this misadventure. She goes from being completely dependent on Tarver to someone who can take care of herself and is instrumental in their survival. Sure, she’s difficult in the beginning but that hostility on her part is more a defense mechanism. Her transformation is very well done.

Tarver was pretty likeable from the very beginning. He is very sure of himself, especially on the strange planet. This is where he also has his douchebag moments. But, there is also a reason for his behaviour. While they got along very well during their first meeting, Lilac puts him down rather harshly when they meet again. She does it for his own good but Tarver doesn’t know that. He thinks she really is a spoilt brat. That opinion slowly changes to grudging respect when she puts up with everything that’s thrown her way. Since Tarver is kind of in his comfort zone, his personality remains pretty much the same. He’s not badly written, he just doesn’t grow as much as Lilac does.

Their relationship also felt real because of the way it unfolds, it is gradual and organic. They were always going to end up together but the way it happened here was nice. There was also a little twist at the end and while I didn’t see it coming, it didn’t feel contrived.

There were some secondary characters like Lilac’s entourage and her father, but the former don’t feature long enough to truly register as characters and therefore don’t make much of an impression. In that sense, their loss didn’t feel as devastating as it should have. The latter on the other hand, for a majority of the book, we see him through Lilac’s eyes, someone who simultaneously makes her feel safe and trapped. But again, he didn’t feature enough to make any sort of a lasting impression.

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This Shattered World (Starbound #02) by Amie Kaufman and Meagan Spooner Review

This Shattered WorldWow!! I just finished reading This Shattered World and I am still reeling. This just blew me away! I was absolutely spellbound by this. And I might have liked this a teeny tiny bit more than These Broken Stars (but just a little bit) This might easily one of the best books I’ve read all year.

This time, we are on the planet of Avon and things are not going well. The planet is not developing as it should be and nobody can figure out why. There is a tenuous peace between the local population and the soldiers, stationed there to maintain peace. But there is something more sinister at work here, something called the Fury that drives normally peaceful people to suddenly turn into violent maniacs with no provocation. Amidst all of this are Jubilee Chase and Flynn Cormac, one a soldier, the other a rebel who find themselves becoming each other’s unwilling allies.

This Shattered World is a long book and there were times when I wondered what more could there be that these two characters hadn’t undergone already. Turns out, plenty. The world building was superb. The planet of Avon was in the relatively early stages of terraforming so there weren’t a lot of plants and no animals but the planet itself with its weather and the never-ending fog was very realistic. I found myself on this strange planet right along with the main protagonists. The mystery also unfolds slowly and you learn a little more as the story progresses and that is what makes the discovery even more chilling. There were times when I thought I could get guess what would happen but I was constantly proven wrong, right up until the very end. Another aspect that I liked about Shattered World was that Kaufman and Spooner didn’t paint either side as good or evil, both sides had their fair share of sensible and hot heads. But the strongest aspects of this book (arguably even this series) were the characters. They were what made the book even more enjoyable because I was so invested in them. I was terrified for them and judging by the previous book, I had a feeling that their journey wouldn’t exactly be a walk in the park. I loved these characters, even some of the minor ones.

Jubilee Chase (Lee) is one of the main protagonists and she is a captain in the armed forces stationed on the planet. She has a reputation of being ruthless, fearless and incredibly efficient. She is also someone who cares about those under her command. When we start the book, she is just a soldier, very secure in her identity and also the conviction that she is doing the right thing, saving lives and maintaining the peace. But all of that is challenged when she meets Flynn, a rebel. I love Lee because of how practical and no-nonsense she is. And the fact that she really is ruthless, in that she does what needs to be done. She is also an excellent soldier. She was always more lethal than the male characters and I loved that about her. She was an amazing character and easily one of the best female characters that I’ve read recently.

Flynn in contrast, in a lot of ways, was the antithesis of what Lee was. He was easily the more patient of the two and less bloodthirsty. From the very beginning, he was trying to come up with ways in which he could avoid the bloodshed and make the ceasefire more permanent. He was not afraid of making difficult choices, even when they cost him his home and his people. He was kind and could be incredibly sweet. Before Lee, he too thinks that all soldiers are bloodthirsty and is constantly challenged by this girl who’s not afraid of him and his people in the least. But he was also quick to adapt to his rapidly changing worldview. He recognises that in Lee he has a rare ally who can really help him realise his dream, that of peace on Avon.

I also loved the growth of their relationship. In the beginning, Flynn actually kidnaps Lee, so obviously she was feeling less than charitable towards him and he too, didn’t trust her. At that point, all she is, is a source of information and if not that then a bargaining chip. But he soon realises that she won’t talk and the military won’t make a deal with the rebels and the two suddenly find themselves making choices that at the time, neither can make sense of. In so many books, there is instant romance (which I find very unrealistic considering that they couldn’t even stand each other two chapters ago) Lee and Flynn are bound together through their shared experiences, experiences that they can’t share with anyone else. I also loved that Lee was the more practical of the two and Flynn the dreamer. They perfectly complimented each other. I loved their romance even more because of how slowly it grew; it felt more real and relatable.

There were a bunch of secondary characters this time around. Molly was certainly one of my favourites. He was protective of Lee even when it was perfectly clear that she was more than capable of taking care of herself. He genuinely cared for her. There were a host of others, those like Sofia, Commander Towers and Sean who were also notable. Even one of the chief antagonists, McBride, wasn’t simply an evil villain but someone to whom; a life devoid of war/violence just didn’t make sense.

I was absurdly happy to see Lilac and Tarver, my only complaint was that they were hardly there. But of course, I also realise that this isn’t their story. But both are instrumental in the discovery that Lee and Flynn make. I loved Lilac and Tarver as well..

This Shattered World along with These Broken Stars are books that make me want to revisit their worlds. I have only just finished the former and already I feel like I am being beckoned back to this strange universe. I can’t wait to see what adventures Kaufman and Spooner have in store for us and if these books are any indication, then I am sure that they will be absolutely awesome!

The Wicked Within (Darkness Becomes Her #03) by Kelly Keaton Review

urlI am glad to have finally finished this series. This book has been languishing with me for quite sometime but for some reason, I just couldn’t get around to reading it. I did try once earlier and ended up putting it aside for later. But this time, when I finally started, once I really got into it, I found that I couldn’t stop reading. It is really quite enjoyable.

This is the final chapter of Ari’s fight with Athena and this time the entire city of New 2 is at stake (along with the lives of everyone Ari cares about) I read the first two books a very long time ago and didn’t refresh my memory before starting this so there was a bit of a disconnect but I soon overcame that. I was just not as invested in these characters as I might have been had I reread the previous instalments. This time around, Ari and her friends are approached by Athena’s (unwilling?) henchwomen, Menai and Mellinoe, with a proposition: if she can find the Hands and bring her child back to life (he was turned into stone a very very very long time ago) then she will lift Ari’s curse and leave her and her friends alone. Sound too good to be true? Well, Ari had the same concerns, she doesn’t trust Athena and judging by her previous track record, I can’t say I blame Ari for her cautiousness. Of course, she soon discovers that a similar offer was made to the Novem with the minor difference where she offered to make one of them immortal with all her powers thrown in for good measure. Being the goddess of wisdom and battle strategy, Athena knew exactly how to cripple the Novem so that they couldn’t unite against her and it worked like a charm. Soon all hell was breaking loose with Athena attacking a city, an ancient Egyptian god rising from his Sleep and a whole bunch of other crazy stuff.

Part of the reason I enjoyed this book so much was that it was fast paced. The action started fairly late in the book and didn’t let right up until the very end. But the initial part was also fun because it was laying the groundwork of the big fight to come. The quiet moments were nice and they didn’t slow the narrative in the slightest. It was a very satisfying conclusion to the series. It is still Ari’s narrative with bits from Sebastian’s perspective, which I thought, worked well. Plus, I was also glad to see some very annoying characters meet their end.

I liked Ari, she was kick ass and didn’t waste time second guessing herself or whining about her life. What I also liked about her was that when she had doubts, she spoke about them instead of wallowing in them. And with regard to Sebastian, she was supportive of him without being a doormat and when he was acting like a jerk, she wasn’t afraid to call him on it. I like straightforward heroines and Ari was certainly that. I also liked that she wasn’t afraid of asking for help, which was such a welcome relief.

Sebastian acted like an ass sometimes but having his POV certainly helped in that regard. And he was quick to apologise (and mean it) He was going through the transformation into a vampire and for some reason he was afraid that if he let Ari in, she would see him differently and he didn’t want that. Of course, he soon realised that this approach wasn’t going well and worked hard to repair the damage. But when Ari needed him, he was always there. Also, he didn’t take her for granted.

The rest of the gang was back of course but I didn’t really connect to them apart from Violet and Henri. There were some nice moments with Ari, Crank and Violet. Violet is someone who really stood out from the rest group, perhaps because she was so different from the others but also very lovable. We finally find out about her origins and I certainly didn’t see that coming. So that was unexpected.

And now on to Athena. I love Greek mythology and Athena is among my favourite goddesses so it’s always tough to see her as the out and out villain. But I’m glad that Keaton made her a more sympathetic character in the end. She was still batshit crazy but it was nice to read that she had been good and kind once and it was a crippling loss that started her on this destructive path. That the reason Artemis and Apollo stuck with her was because they still loved her and she loved them. That it wasn’t borne out of blackmail, as it was earlier implied (I do remember some stuff from the second book, yaay J)

It was nice to see more of Ari’s father and that they were starting to bond. Bran is around as well and as hard ass as ever. We also meet his daughter, Kieran and she’s just as kickass as her father. Menai and Mellinoe were as ambiguous as ever, though I quite like the two of them (I would have liked to see more of them, maybe a spin off about the two of them wreaking havoc together?)

I thoroughly enjoyed this book and it was a lot if fun. Once I really got into it, I ended up reading till 2 in the morning. Good fun…

Cursed (Fallen Siren #1) by S.J. Harper Review

CursedThis was quite a disappointment. For one Emma was supposed to be an ancient Siren and yet her mannerisms, her personality didn’t reflect that. I get that she’s meant to blend in but this is written in the first person and in her own inner monologues, if it hadn’t been explicitly stated that she’s ancient, I would not have known. Eternity is a very very very long time and it must weigh heavily on the person who’s been alive for centuries and none of that is apparent. This should have been even more pronounced considering she’s been punished to a life where she’s forbidden from falling in love and the punishment to flouting that is even more painful.

Zack was a nice guy and seemed genuinely sweet but there was nothing very interesting about him. Frankly, I just didn’t care about Emma and whom she got together with. There’s even an hint of a love triangle with a Vampire, I wish I cared…

The world building is also a little remiss; Emma has been around since the age of the Greek gods so what happened to those gods? Where do they live. We know that Demeter hangs around but what about the other gods? There was absolutely no mention of them. There were also other paranormal creatures like the Vampires and the Werewolves (and granted that the series is not about them per se) but they just seemed to pop up (especially the Vampires) and it seemed a little abrupt almost like the authors made that up on the spot.