Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Ever since The 5th Wave came out a couple months ago, I’ve heard nothing but people raving about how un-put-down-able it is. I didn’t know much about it other than it was about aliens (which, enough said, right? I mean ALIENS!) and was apparently The Awesome. It’s been way too long since I’ve read an alien book that I absolutely loved (like, decades-long. Hm. This is a problem.), so I was super excited when my library got a copy right before I was about to leave for a couple weeks of various travels. Traveling times are always great reading times, so I tucked this one into my luggage (along with several other books, obviously. My luggage was heavy.) and started reading a few days later.


The Plot (from Goodreads):

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it’s the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth’s last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie’s only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

My Thoughts:

I’m going to try to give away as little as possible of the plot in this review, because I honestly feel that going into this book knowing essentially nothing about it is the way to go. It made each reveal thrilling and satisfying, and made it impossible to stop turning pages. It’s been a while since a book has led me to stay up way past my bedtime, because I simply could not put it down. But this book was one of those books that reminded me how much I love reading, and how much I love the sci-fi genre in particular. This was the alien apocalypse book I never knew I always wanted.

So let’s get into it. The 5th Wave follows two primary points of view, Cassie and another guy whom I will let you discover as you read (he is not, as the blurb suggests, Evan Walker — although Evan does get one short POV section, as does one other character). Both eighteen-year-old protagonists have survived the atrocities of the first four waves of invasion, and both have suffered heavy losses. Their stories run parallel for most of the book, with neither of them ever being aware of the other’s existence (either pre- or post-invasion), but there are common threads in each of their narratives that keep the stakes climbing for both of them. It’s brilliantly executed, and kept the tension ratcheting up throughout the story.

Each of the characters in The 5th Wave was a fully-realized person. You can see how Cassie progressed from normal high school senior to semi-automatic-toting survivalist, and the same is true for all the main characters, from children to teens to adults to aliens. I felt like I knew these people, and it made me that much more invested in their struggle for survival against staggering odds.

I loved — loved — the logic of the waves of invasion. Both the order of events and the execution were — with one minor exception — flawless. (I took issue with the birds. I have questions about the birds. But the rest of it is so well done that I don’t really care.) The aliens took a sculptor’s approach to the eradication of humanity, removing massive chunks at the start, then pulling out their fine tools to whittle down the survivors. It was terrible, but fantastic at the same time.

And as far as the story itself, it was a constant adrenaline surge from beginning to end. Rick Yancey didn’t pull any punches. Each loss hurt, and victories came at a price. There were no characters who felt safe, no challenges I was sure could be surmounted. It’s one of the reasons this book is so hard to put down — you just don’t know if they’re going to make it. In a story where 97% of the human race is dead at the beginning, survival and success are very much not guaranteed.

Overall, The 5th Wave was a thoroughly entertaining roller coaster of a book that kept me up all hours of the night. The premise is fantastic, the characters felt real, and the twists and turns of the plot kept me constantly on my toes. I loved it.

Feature & Follow (August 24) – Worst Cover on a Great Book

Welcome to the Feature & Follow Hop, hosted by Parajunkee’s View and Alison Can Read!

If you’re here for the first time, I’d love if you could follow via email, RSS, LinkyFollowers or Networked Blogs. Just let me know your follow method of choice in the comments, and I’ll be happy to return the favor.

And if you’re not new, welcome back! Repeat visitors are better than a Snuggie on a cold night. (Come on. You know Snuggies are awesome.)

This week’s question:

Q: Worst cover? What is the worst cover of a book that you’ve read and loved?

Oh good, this one’s easy. I really, really loved this book. I hate the cover. So much that I will never buy a physical copy of this book, even though I am all about physical copies, because I don’t want it on my shelves. Digital only for me.

1. I understand that the tear of blood is actually very  relevant to the plot, but ewwwww.

2. WHY IS SHE WHITE? NO. Unacceptable. (If you haven’t read it, the main character is Asian.)

(Seriously though, it’s an awesome book).


Review: Defiance by C.J. Redwine (@cjredwine @harperteen)

I’m so glad I finally get to share this book with you guys. I’ve been sitting on this review for months, itching for time to move faster so that I could gush about just how awesome it is. And the day is finally here! Defiance by C.J. Redwine comes out NEXT WEEK (8/28/12) and trust me, this is one you want to get your hands on as soon as possible.

(Go here if you’d like to read my interview with C.J.!)

The Plot (From Goodreads, because it’s too complex for me to summarize on my own)

“Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city’s brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses, host dinner parties, and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father’s apprentice, Logan—the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same boy who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but fierce belief in her father’s survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.

At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city’s top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor’s impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.

As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can’t be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.”

My Thoughts

This book had literally everything I love in a story.

The action and adventure was incredible. There were scenes that literally left me gasping and curling into a ball, and that’s not something I typically do while reading. I’m normally a much more…stationary…reader. But the tension in some scenes was nearly palpable, and I couldn’t help myself. I was  invested.

It also was a mishmash of all my favorite genres. There were elements of sci-fi, post-apocalyptic, steampunk, romance, and of course, fantasy. And when I say “mishmash,” don’t misunderstand me. I mean it in the best possible way. This book may have a genre identity crisis, but that’s just because it defines its own new genre of pure awesome. So no, I’m not quite sure how to categorize it, and with some books, that would be a problem. Not here. Defiance blends genres seamlessly, and left me hungry for more fantasy-sci-fi-post-apocalyptic-steampunk-romances.

Too bad I don’t know of any.

The characters of Rachel and Logan were strong, personable, flawed, and passionate. They each had their own unique voice, and I loved how the narrative shifted between the two of them. The characters balanced and complemented each other well, and their relationship quickly skyrocketed to the top of my list of favorite YA pairings. I thought their alternating voices kept the story constantly fresh, and I was completely engaged from beginning to end.

The character of the Commander made for a deliciously evil antagonist. The kind you want to slap every time he enters a room, or maybe cower from underneath a table. Just when I thought he couldn’t be more despicable, he was. But he also wasn’t a caricature of a villain. He seemed frighteningly real and terrifying.

And as for the story itself, it was unique, exciting, and thrilling. I wasn’t really shocked by anything that happened, but I also didn’t find it at all formulaic.  There were no twists for the sake of twists, nor were there any payoffs that didn’t feel earned. The story simply unfolded the way it needed to.

Since I don’t want to write a 100% gushy review (much as I may want to), I’ll mention the couple tiny criticisms I had with the book, so you don’t think that C.J. fed me some crazy-making Kool Aid. First, I wasn’t completely in love with the ending. It’s good and exciting, but I like my endings to have more resolution, even if they are part of a trilogy (which this is. Yay!) Would it keep me from recommending the book? Heck no. But I do wish a little more was wrapped up by the end.

And the only other thing — which is so small as to be inconsequential, except that I’m noticing it in a lot of YA fantasy books lately — is the overuse of the word “crimson” in regards to blood. As in, “her hands were stained with crimson.”* This is not unique to Defiance. As I said, I’ve noticed this a lot lately in YA fantasy. A couple times, it works. But after a while, I just kind of want authors to use the word “blood.” Or even “red.”

But as I said, that is a tiny, tiny gripe. Mostly because I feel like I need to gripe about something to keep it real.

Overall, Defiance was a fantastic, exciting read that kept me riveted. It’s unique and special and splendid. One of my absolute favorite books of 2012. If you love a good adventure with magical elements and strong characters, this one is for you.

Content Guide: Contains fantasy violence

*No, that is not an actual quote from the book. It’s just an example of how the word could be used.

Review: Suffocate by S.R. Johannes (@srjohannes)

I won a digital copy of Suffocate, Book 1 in The Breathless Novelette series by S.R. Johannes, in a giveaway (fancy that, me winning a giveaway)! I read it one lazy Sunday afternoon when I wanted something quick and exciting to occupy my brain. I hadn’t ventured much into the world of novelettes prior to this, but this one sounded like a lot of fun.

Since I’m bad at writing summaries that are short, and since this is a review of a novelette and I don’t want my review to be longer than the book itself, I’m copying the blurb from Goodreads:

The Plot

“For centuries, the world outside the Biome has been unlivable. Today, marks the first time anyone will attempt to leave the suffocating ecosphere. Eria is not worried because her scientist father has successfully tested the new Bio-Suit many times. It’s a celebratory day until something goes horribly wrong. In the midst of tragedy, Eria uncovers a deep conspiracy in her perfect bubble. If those responsible find out what she knows, they won’t stop hunting her until she takes her last breath.”

My Thoughts

If novels are like a television series or mini-series, a novelette is like a single episode. Suffocate didn’t waste any time in getting to the heart of the story: a terrible accident, and Eria’s frantic search to discover what went wrong, accompanied by her father’s intern, Ash. As they search through the mysterious innards of the Biome for the truth, they are pursued by mysterious baddies, and lots of crazy sci-fi discoveries are made amidst nonstop action. There’s even a brief moment of romance squeezed in. And then it winds up with a great twist ending that I kind of suspected (but not really).

This book was fun, fast and furious. I liked reading about the world of the Biome, and even though the book is short, the world-building was decent and the pacing was good. I never felt like I was being rushed or that the story was being crammed into a too-small space; this is just one of those stories that didn’t need 100,000 words to tell it properly.

If you’re looking for a quick, exciting sci-fi read to fill a couple hours by the pool or on a rainy day, I’d recommend picking this one up!

Content Guide: Contains violence, death

Review: Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer (@HMHkids)

I’ve been intrigued by the premise of Life as We Knew It by Susan Beth Pfeffer since I first heard of it. It’s another “what if” book, but unlike dystopians and sci-fi, this book is set in current times, with the technology of today. What would happen to our lives if we were suddenly faced with an unexpected global disaster? How would it change our families, our friendships, our communities? These are the questions posed in Life as We Knew It.

The Plot

Life as We Knew It is written as the diary of 16-year-old Miranda. As it begins, Miranda has the same concerns of most 16-year-old girls: grades, friends, extracurricular activities, finding a date for the prom. There’s an event that her teachers and local news anchors seem excited about: an asteroid is predicted to collide with the moon, and it’s supposed to be visible to the naked eye. But Miranda doesn’t see what all the fuss is about; it’s not like the moon has never been hit by an asteroid before.

But on the night of the anticipated collision, Miranda dutifully joins her family and neighbors outside to watch this once-in-a-lifetime event. And the world’s excitement turns to horror when something completely unexpected happens.

The asteroid was denser than astronomers believed, and instead of the harmless impact they were anticipating, a quarter of the moon is destroyed. The moon is also knocked much closer to the Earth, and suddenly looms huge and menacing in the sky.

Soon, the altered gravitational force of the moon begins to cause relentless and catastrophic natural disasters all over the world: tsunamis, earthquakes, volcanoes. Electricity becomes a luxury, then a memory. Communications with other states and countries fail.

Through it all, Miranda diligently keeps her diary, chronicling her family’s struggle to keep the lifestyle they once had, which turns into their struggle to simply survive.

My Thoughts

I was totally captivated by this book. Everything that Miranda’s family went through seemed feasible in our current world, and I found myself wondering how my family would cope in a similar situation. It was chilling and frightening, because her family doesn’t react to their new circumstances like heroes in a story; they react like a regular family.

Miranda was an excellent narrator. Somehow, Susan Beth Pfeffer was able to really crawl inside the mind of a 16-year-old girl. She had the invincibility syndrome that so many teenagers have, convincing herself time and time again that nothing was going to change, that everything would soon return to normal, that things couldn’t possibly get any worse. I found myself infuriated with her when she argued against her mother’s rationing of their food, or her brother’s stockpiling of firewood. I groaned inwardly every time she mentioned that she couldn’t imagine how things could get worse, since obviously, they could. But she reacted the way I expect many teenagers would react — she resisted the magnitude of the situation, and opted instead to focus on whether or not there would still be a prom, or how her favorite figure skater was doing. But my frustrations with her character are actually a testament to the strength of the writing — I believed I was listening to a 16-year-old.

On the flip side, I loved Miranda’s mother. She was level-headed, forward-thinking, and did a marvelous job of looking out for her family. Yes, she made mistakes, had her moments of selfishness, and there were occasions where Miranda’s conflicts with her were perfectly justified. But no matter how bad things got, Miranda’s mother continued to display the kind of sacrifice and perseverance that I feel exemplifies a parent’s love for her child.

I also enjoyed the development of Miranda’s brothers, Jonny and Matt, and their neighbor, Mrs. Nesbitt. I came away from the book feeling like I really knew and understood these characters.

As for the progression of the story itself, I found it mostly believable. Miranda’s family found themselves situated in the best possible scenario in the case of global disaster: their house had oil heat, a gas stove, a wood-burning stove in a separate room, and well water. Convenient, yes, but not unrealistic — these houses do exist, after all. There were parts of the story I found far-fetched, such as being able to immediately hop onto the Internet and surf fan sites every time the electricity turned back on for 10 minutes, but those irritations were minor in the grand scheme of things. There was also a bit of propaganda the author wove into the story that I thought felt a bit awkward and out of place, but again, it didn’t really lessen my enjoyment of the overall tale.

The way the world slowly crumbled around Miranda and her family seemed disturbingly accurate. Humanity didn’t simply plunge into chaos; it descended in increments. Businesses stayed open. Currency still held value. Schools held classes. It was only as the weeks and months progressed that the direness of their situation is truly revealed. I found myself holding my breath as I wondered what could possibly happen next.

Overall, I found this to be a sad yet hopeful look at family, society, and friendship. It was a story of strength, survival and triumph, but also loss and regret. The story progressed in a quiet manner, with very little action or fanfare, and was more pensive than nail-biting. Its strengths were the characters, the relationships, and the incredibly well though-out progression from life as we know it to the world that Miranda’s family unwillingly finds themselves in.

Note: While this book does have two sequels, The Dead and the Gone and This World We Live In, I felt the ending was satisfying enough for this to have been a standalone novel. I do intend on reading the sequels, but if they didn’t exist, I still would have been satisfied.

Content Guide: Survivalist scenarios in post-apocalyptic modern world, starvation, death of several characters