Bullet Reviews: Gemina, Heartless, Torch Against the Night

Round 3 of Bullet reviews! I'm still working my way through November 2016, but I'm hoping to finish November this week and then I'll only be 2 months behind on reviews instead of 4! The bar is so low haha

This week's books are Heartless, A Torch Against the Night, and Gemina. These were all "big" 2016 releases, ones that I/the bookish community was hugely anticipating. One book exceeded my expectations, one was a disappointment, and one was just as incredible as I thought it would be. So which one was which? Check it out below!

Heartless by Marissa Meyer

Genre: fantasy, fairy tale retelling
Rating: 3/5 stars

What I liked:
  • the descriptions of the food! I love cooking and baking, and all the descriptions of Cath's baking made my mouth water and inspired me to try baking some lemon-flavored things
  • Jest was a really cool character, as was the Hatter. It was interesting to see how archetypal Alice in Wonderland characters were reimagined for this Queen of Hearts origin story
  • I loved how dark this book got towards the end. For a book that started out talking about pies and cakes it sure didn't pull any punches when it came to blood, fury, and darkness at the end.

What I didn't like:
  • I was frankly bored for most of the book, nothing seemed to be happening and then all of a sudden Cath became the diabolical Queen of Hearts in the span of a few dozen pages. I wish there had been more darkness in her throughout or at least a more gradual transition
  • Cath was such a boring character at the beginning, and I didn't really like how the relationship between Cath and Jest was portrayed. It could have been developed so much more, I just didn't find their love very compelling so that made it hard to swallow a lot of the end because so much hinges on the strength of Cath's feelings about Jest
  • I adored the Lunar Chronicles because of the characters and the humor despite all the darkness, and this book just didn't have that. I didn't connect with the characters as much as I did the Lunar characters. Maybe this story was doomed because I don't like Alice in Wonderland all that much?
Recommended for... 
anyone who loves Alice in Wonderland and fairy tale retellings. Most people have enjoyed this one more than I have!

A Torch Against the Night by Sabaa Tahir

Genre: Historical fiction, fantasy
Rating: 4/5 stars

What I liked:
  • I listened to both book 1 and 2 on audio, and as much as I liked the voice for Elias, I didn't like Laia's narrator. I loved Helene's narrator, though, so that was a definite improvement from book 1
  • I don't like Laia much in general, so it was awesome that this book focused less on her and made room for Helene, who quickly became my favorite character of the series. She has to make the hardest choices of anyone, and sacrifices more than anyone else. She's broken but you know she will pull herself together and be stronger for it.
  • No middle book slump here! This was an exciting story all on its own, with lots of big reveals and cool elements added to the world/overall story arc
  • Biggest improvement from book 1: Much less propagation of rape culture. I was sickened by how much Ember in the Ashes spread ideas like "the pretty ones get raped more, they're asking for it". This book is still brutal but it is full of female friendships and mentors and women helping one another instead of tearing each other down.
  • Marcus is a lot smarter than people give him credit for, that was a welcome surprise! But also an unwelcome surprise. You'll know what I mean if you've read it.
What I didn't like:
  • I still don't like Laia. She's so whiney and incompetent and pretty selfish and honestly I don't get what everyone sees in her. At least she's trying, I guess?
  • The Warden was terrifying, as was the Commandant, but I just wish the villains were a little more 3D. They are truly frightening but I like more complexity and moral ambiguity in my antagonists
Recommended for: people who enjoy suspenseful, lyrical stories about war and revenge. There's more magic in this book than the previous one but I would still characterize this more as alternate history than fantasy

Gemina by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Genre: science fiction
Rating: 5/5 stars

What I liked:
  • I thought Illuminae was mindblowing and intense and hilarious, and Gemina had the same winning formula! It was just the right mixture of the familiar and the new, because the plot and characters were obviously all new but it still had the same level of intensity/suspense in the plot and sass from the characters
  •  I absolutely love how both books feature badass young women saving the universe(s) and a lot of humor mixed in to offset the disturbing, devastatingly sad, and horrifying parts. 
  • I love the visual experience of the pages telling a story through art and words at the same time.Marie Lu's drawings were a great addition, and the illustrations worked great even on a kindle!
What I didn't like:
  • This book was just a tiny bit less shocking than Illuminae, just because it's harder to be completely surprised the second time around. It was still awesome, though. I wouldn't even say that I actually disliked being less surprised haha
  • My only complaint is that in the kindle version Ella/Pauchok's text is the same color as the background 70% of the time so I couldn't read most of her witty banter. That was incredibly disappointing because she was my favorite character, but that's my own fault for rushing to buy a kindle copy instead of waiting for a hardcover to ship
Recommended for... fans of science fiction and fast-paced, suspenseful stories with a big dose of humor

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