Entry 4: What’s Left of Me (The Hybrid Chronicles #1) [RECOMMENDED]

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Author: Kat Zhang
Genres [according to Goodreads]:
Fiction > Science Fiction > Dystopia
Romance
Fantasy > Paranormal
Young Adult > Teen
Contemporary
Language: English
Published/Publisher: September 18 2012/Harper Collins
Pages: 343
Format Read In: Hardcover

Summary from Goodreads:

Eva and Addie started out the same way as everyone else–two souls woven together in one body, taking turns controlling their movements as they learned how to walk, how to sing, how to dance. But as they grew, so did the worried whispers. Why aren’t they settling? Why isn’t one of them fading? The doctors ran tests, the neighbors shied away, and their parents begged for more time. Finally Addie was pronounced health and Eva was declared gone. Except, she wasn’t…

For the past three years, Eva has clung to the remnants of her life. Only Addie knows she’s still there, trapped inside their body. Then one day, they discover there may be a way for Eva to move again. The risks are unimaginable–hybrids are considered a threat to society, so if they are caught, Addie and Eva will be locked away with the others. And yet…for a chance to smile, to twirl, to speak, Eva will do anything.

My Review [SPOILERS AHEAD]:

“We’d been born with our souls’ fingers interlocked. What if we’d never let go?” Eva; What’s Left of Me, K. Zhang

Whoa what a book! It’s definitely a thrill ride from start to finish.

I didn’t feel bogged down by the information that introduced us to his warped version of the Western world (when the author calls the land ‘The Americas’, I assume she meant USA, Canada and Mexico) which is always something I’m cautious of when starting a new series; it’s a tiring blunder that often turns me off from reading the book ’cause I’m still trucking through all the facts that are crucial to the story. But I felt like the author really took her time and presented them well. The main theme of what is means to be a human drew me to the book in the first place and I’m glad the author jumped right into it without dilly-dallying.

I also really liked the way she writes! I could really feel all that Eva and Addie were feeling; all their emotions and feelings and reactions were captured really well and definitely made me feel exhausted after a scene (in a good way). I was at the edge of my seat, wondering what they would find next or whether they were really going to escape this time. It was great that the focus, even right up till the end, was on the souls and how one felt trapped while the other was terrified of being trapped. There were times when I greatly sympathized with Eva and disliked Addie but by the end, my sympathies were easily split as I began to see what Eva taking over would mean for the dominant Addie; when the book is told from Eva’s perspective, it’s not hard to imagine why it took me while to warm up to Addie.

The other characters were great aids, too, though I didn’t feel like we got enough time to spend understanding them so they felt rather one-dimensional to me (both the dominant and recessive souls). Jaime was introduced far too late for me to really care for him while Kitty was a rather forgettable, little-sister type who had no qualms trusting a stranger like Addie/Eva. Mr. Conivent was your average, neighbourhood villain with only one focus that’s never really explained. We definitely didn’t get to hear much from Devon, and Ryan seemed like the run-of-the-mill nice guy. Hally I felt was relegated early on as the air-headed but lovable sidekick while Lisse was the stronger-willed anchor that was more a yin to Hally’s yang. Which is fine, but the charm of these souls in my opinion is that they aren’t so different from each other; one isn’t the smart one while the other’s the dumb one, one isn’t the pacifist while the other is the brute. They share their characteristics like they share feelings. I can kind of forgive this fault in fleshing out the side characters since this is a series, thankfully, and the focus needed to be on the girls, but stiiiiiil…

Dr. Lyanne was the only one I really felt was coming into her own: a doctor whose own brother is a hybrid works in an institution that locks up hybrids and kills one of the souls? SO MANY QUESTIONS! I’m excited to read more about her and Peter and Jackson (whom I’m kind of suspicious of; who smiles that much?), the rest of the Underground and the world outside of the Americas.

It was especially interesting to me to see the book touch on real-world issues like racism, the distortion of history and governments lying to the public. The last one is pretty common theme but it’s different in every book and I never get tired of it!

All in all, I’m glad I picked this book up from the library and will definitely keep going with the series. The plot is unique and well-formatted. I still have many questions regarding the hybrids and where the troupe is headed to next. I’m not wholly invested in the drab love story, another fault of the book, but I’m very excited to see how Eva and Addie’s lives will shift now that they can share their body properly.

RATING: 3.5/5

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Entry 4: What’s Left of Me (The Hybrid Chronicles #1) [RECOMMENDED]

Entry 3: Picnic at Hanging Rock

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Author: Joan Lindsay
Genres [according to Goodreads]:
Young Adult > Fiction > Literary Fiction > Historical Fiction > Classics
Cultural > Australia
Stand-alone Novels > Short Novels
Mystery
Thriller
Language: English
Published/Publisher: April 28th 1977/Penguin
Pages: 192
Format Read In: Paperback

Summary From Goodreads

In 1900, a class of young women from an exclusive private school go on an excursion to the isolated Hanging Rock, deep in the Australian bush. The excursion ends in tragedy when three girls and a teacher mysteriously vanish after climbing the rock. Only one girl returns, with no memory of what has become of the others…

My Review [SPOILERS AHEAD]:

“Although we are necessarily concerned, in a chronicle of events, with physical action by the light of day, history suggests that the human spirit wanders farthest in the silent hours between midnight and dawn. Those dark fruitful hours, seldom recorded, whose secret flowerings breed peace and war, loves and hates, the crowning or uncrowning of heads.” – Picnic at Hanging Rock, J. Lindsay

Unlike most of the books I’ve picked up, I actually found this one stashed away in the bookshelf in my family room. When I asked my mom (the only other person who reads as much as I do in my family) about the book, she had no idea where it came from, which was kind of freaky and highly appropriate for the kind of story it held.

To say that this book was an engima wrapped in another engima, enveloped by a confusing mystery, cradled by a plot that jumped all over the place, nannied by unfinished riddles and raised to adulthood in the frightening silence of the Australian outback would be a vast understatement. In a nutshell, this book will MESS. YOU. UP. My brain certainly kept malfunctioning on me, as it tried to follow one illustrative analogy after the other. But good luck trying to use any form of high school English class deduction skills to decipher the metaphors; frankly, I don’t think there actually were any but there can be no other explanation!

The summary is actually a perfect explanation of what happened in the book, and is the only solid fact you get for the rest of the novel concerning the main mystery. Three school girls of Appleyard College–Miranda, Marion Quade, and Irma Leopold–visit Hanging Rock, an actual geological location in Victoria, Australia, for a picnic on Valentine’s day. Accompanying the girls are the mathematics teacher Miss Greta McCraw and the French teacher Mlle. de Poitiers. The three girls, followed by outsider Edith Horson, separate from their classmates to explore more of the mysterious places hidden around the Hanging Rock. They eventually decide to take a break in a clearing. Up till then, the book didn’t seem out of the ordinary.

Then sh*t gets real.

Miranda, the obvious leader whom all the girls (I am not kidding you, literally ALL THE GIRLS, including the female teachers) are in love with (also am not kidding you; some of them may be straight, but all of them are swinging Miranda’s way with the ferocity of a thousand queer punches to the face), looks up into the distance, ignoring her companions, and without a word, gets up from resting in the grass and begins to wander off quickly. Irma and Marion follow her without hesitation, leaving Edith who struggles to follow them but cannot keep up. In hysterics, Edith runs right back to the group and collapses, having as much trouble as I did over trying to figure out what the hell she’d just witnessed (in my case, what the hell I’d just read).

I am leaving no details out, I swear. The three girls literally just go off, with no explanation or any other literary fluff, no indication where they are headed or if they are following something. It takes the author two paragraphs, much of which was filled with Edith’s frantic scrambling after the girls, to set in motion the whole sh*it storm of the book.

And you know what? Same thing happens with Miss McCraw. While she was still sitting with the other girls, it’s described in the book that she simply got up from sitting with the other teacher and wandered off as well; whether in the same direction as the other three girls, I can’t really figure out.

I just…WHAT? What even!? And if you think this is ever explained, I have some bad news for you, my friend. This is not one of those mystery novels that is solved at the end. You literally spend the whole book following the aftermath of the disappearances; you watch the panic that seizes all the other girls morph into an almost violent frenzy–especially against Irma, the only girl that comes back–you watch the Headmistress slowly lose her mind as the pressure of the media and the residence of the town push her to quarantine the whole school and everyone in it, and eventually push her to murder one of her students and evidently commit suicide, you watch every other side character try to rack their minds to figure out why weeks and weeks, then months and months of searching lead no hints, no clues, NO NOTHING, about the disappearance.

Try as you might, too, when you try to put the pieces together. But it’s already a journey to find those damn pieces.

But as frustrated as I was, and as exasperated I felt when I finally finished and felt nothing wasreally answered, after a few days away from the book, I started to see the appeal of a mystery like that. With strings unattached, you kind of have to think harder and it was almost fun to do so, believe it or not. It also was kind of nice to see how the characters were as confused as you are; no surprise characters with vital information popping up anywhere.

The characters themselves were quite interesting. The writing is pretty old-fashioned, but you could still get a feel for the characters, even Marion and Miranda who only stuck around for 36 pages. However, in a book that placed so heavy a burden on the actual mystery and plot, some of the characters were still relatively one-dimensional. The descriptions of the settings were top-notch and probably the book’s highest pride.

I’ve seen many different theories on what happened and what different imageries mean, and I think that all plays into the novel’s charm; no two theories are similar and no theory is without a decent base.

Apparently the book was made into a movie. I’d like to watch it if I can find it. There is also an extra chapter written by the author, scrapped in the final production, that claims to answer the mystery. I’m debating about reading it because I’m still quite hooked on the idea that it is simply unsolvable but who knows, my curiosity might take over some day.

RATING: 3/5

Entry 3: Picnic at Hanging Rock

Entry 2: The Immortal Rules (Blood of Eden #1)

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Author: Julie Kagawa
Genres [according to Goodreads]:
Young Adult > Fantasy > Urban Fantasy > Supernatural > Paranormal > Vampires
Science Fiction > Dystopia > Apocalyptic > Post Apocalyptic

Romance > Paranormal Romance
Language: English
Published/Publisher: March 26th 2013/Harlequin Teen
Pages: 48
Format Read In: Paperback

Summary From Goodreads:

Allison Sekemoto survives in the Fringe, the outermost circle of a walled-in city. By day, she and her crew scavenge for food. By night, any one of them could be eaten. Some days, all that drives Allie is her hatred of them—the vampires who keep humans as blood cattle. Until the night Allie herself dies and becomes one of the monsters.

Forced to flee her city, Allie must pass for human as she joins a ragged group of pilgrims seeking a legend—a place that might have a cure for the disease that killed off most of civilization and created the rabids, the bloodthirsty creatures who threaten human and vampire alike. And soon Allie will have to decide what and who is worth dying for…again.

My Review:

Blah story. Blah heroine. Blah characters. Blah everything. It wasn’t totally awful but I would never recommend this book to anyone. Honestly, I picked it up knowing it was yet another vampire story but kind of hoping that it would be different (especially since I was told it was a “fresh new take on the whole vampire tales”–which, yeah it was but don’t let that fool you) and, not going to lie, I was pretty excited to find a WOC (a Japanese-American women, in this case) as the main character rather than the same generic white girl.

I guess this book sure taught me a lesson: regardless of how diverse and different a story may appear, YA culture is YA culture, regardless. Which of course means the same cheesy, boring, unoriginal romances (with Zeke, the beautiful, blonde, kind, selfless, fearless, strong, perfect, uber-human white boy with some warped Daddy issues; hello sir, haven’t we met before? In the millions of other YA books I’ve read, perhaps? Yes, yes we have; and how are you not dead yet?), “tough” heroines who don’t have much to show for their strength other than biting sarcasm and the couple of times she’s bared her fangs and her cool-ass sword (that katana was wasted), ridiculous female-female fighting over a man (where the other girl is OBVIOUSLY a bitch for no real reason and stands so little of a chance that you can’t actually call it a love triangle) which I am SO unbelievably over, and a plot that struggles to be more complicated than it really is and just ends up losing you at some point.

The fact that Allison only gets whinier and more Zeke-centered in the next books makes me shudder.

The side characters themselves, I could explain their whole personalities in one sentence and that is not a good thing. They are honestly all caricatures of some overused stereotypes; I personally judge a book a lot by the characters, so that was a huge disappointment.

The one character I did enjoy was Kanen, Allison’s sire who seemed like a character with a lot of potential, and I did like the way the authoress described the settings, from Allison’s hometown to a desolate Chicago. And despite having to read it more than once, I did also sort of like the idea of the virus, its history and the idea of the rabids, zombie-like monsters who are a threat to humans and vampires alike.

But even the positives couldn’t make me stop from feeling like I was dragging myself through mud just to finish the book. So I’d skip this.

P.S. Also, apparently vampires cry blood…PLEASE.

RATING: 2/5