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Pulse by Danielle Koste
Published January 1st 2018 by Danielle Koste
Source: Purchased from Author
Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Rowan Platts is addicted to success.

When she’s presented with the chance to work on a top secret project fronted by her idol, renowned virologist Dr. Margot Miller, Rowan signs her life away without second thought. The realization she’s gotten in over her head comes only after the subject of their study is revealed: a boy with a bad attitude and an uninhibited taste for human blood.

He’s a medical anomaly. Having the ability to crush metal with his bare hands and hear a heartbeat from across the room, it would make Rowan’s career if she was the one to discover what made him so unusual.

Easier said than done, with a subject who prefers snapping necks over answering questions.

So, IDC what they’re saying about vampires being an early 2000’s trend, over and done – give me a book about them and I’ll still read it happily. Enter, PULSE.

The premise was really cool! I really liked the idea of approaching the trope from a medical perspective, and appreciate the effort that went into setting up an overall atmosphere to match. But, while the writing didn’t hinder the story, and the set-up was interesting, the overall execution fell flat: it came off as a little lifeless and very pointed, littered with blatant tells that showed the author had a very specific idea in mind for this story, which isn’t in itself a bad thing, but when story elements are sacrificed to keep the story on a certain path, well, thats when things start to fall apart.

I‌ was in a scribbly sort of mood while reading PULSE and took notes, which I‌ do just about once every blue moon, so, brace yourself? And, if you’re in a long-rambling-review-reading sort of mood – let me explain.

I really liked Rowan at the start! Particularly, the unabashed way she strove for success; it was bold and driven in a way that I‌ found nothing short of admiring. It colors the way she sees a lot of things, like her very specific perception of Miller, because of it. Our introduction to her paints her as tenacious, hints at a morally questionable side, and sets the stakes.

But then Rowan meets Lyall, the story rEALLY starts, and that is when things start going a little awry.

Rowan comes off as driven for success, might I‌ say slightly manipulative, and with an almost callously selective moral compass at the beginning. But then, when we get to the talk about her reasons for wanting to break Lyall out, it seems to go against everything we’ve been suggested and everything that’s been established about her character. The complete 180 in her approach to the laboratory happenings might’ve been more fitting and less jarring had there been some sort of catalyst to her change of mind, something to force her to reflect, but that’s the thing – there is none. In the bigger picture, sure, there’s all her interactions with Lyall, but throughout the story, they’ve never affected Rowan herself so much as they’ve affected her perceptions of other people, if that makes sense? Rowan’s character is inconsistent, propped up by a suggested ideal by the author at the beginning, and then taken apart to suit the direction of the story as the plot progresses.

(And, the characters keep floating this idea that Rowen’s like Miller, but I‌ don’t see it at all? Rowan is an inconsistent plot-aid, and Miller is a one-dimensional villain.)

Rowan’s also prone to making unprompted leaps in logic, especially from single-instance observations. It’s the first thing you’re told when you set foot in lab – everything and anything you assert needs to be backed up, or someone’s going to come at your work with a pen, or a laptop, and tear you apart in 10000 characters or less. Okay, so maybe that last part applies strictly to my university’s internal system, but the sentiment still stands: no professor’s just going to… take your word for it, at face level – “I trust the look in your eyes” – a sentence or two without examining the evidence or without further discussion. At best, it’ll be “your hypothesis seems promising – let’s go.”

This review’s getting longer and longer, so cue: some more lab-related inconsistencies, rapid-fire.
> The insistence to wrap up Lyall’s vampirism in a Wikipedia-article conversation about hemoglobin, cringiness aside, is stark and confusing when held up to the writing’s later insistence on various descriptions of “the monster within.”
> Rowan and Lyall’s important conversations that took place within the lab, despite him being a literal test subject, just magically happen to not be recorded?
> No one in the lab cares about the actual LIVE SPECIMEN when they have… limited numbers? They’re all just. Willing to give up the live specimen? Because of a small set of numbers and the possibility of recreating him in the uncertain future? Thats. That’s not how any of this works?????
> No one calls Lyall a vampire – which is kind of weird, that they stumble across this super speedy and super strong guy who needs blood to survive and falls apart with blood thirst, and no one, not one of them, mentions anything about vampires? Like if some hat my lab was examining started talking and telling me I was a Slytherin, I’d be like what the fuck is that the sorting hat? Lets put all our cards on the table: a vampire is exactly what he is.

While we’re on the topic of weird jumps, they’ve literally been doing the same thing to Lyall for chapters, but suddenly halfway through Rowan decides to feel bothered by it and?‌ What changed??? (I’ll answer that rhetorical question nothing did; the entire story operates under a static set of stakes, but at choice points beneficial to the plot, the characters themselves suddenly decide that they’re going to start doing things differently.)‌ SO‌ THEN when Miller. Finally. Starts to feel off to Rowan, it’s nothing that Miller hasn’t done or said before. The scene’s literally just Miller being Miller, for the 100th+ page in a row, but somehow this?‌is the straw that broke the camel’s back? Rowan’s even helped and stood by Miller, her self-professed idol, against Phelps, her kindly mentor-professor-boss, before, in the face of arguably more blatantly Bad words and actions, but somehow it’s This Particular Scene that does it in for Rowan, and we have hardly any prompts as to why.

Lyall’s also a mess, characterization-wise. He’s a caricature to suit Rowan’s development and the story’s progression; his moods always reflect the best (and most predictable) way to move the plot forward – not necessarily contained to Lyall, the character. Case in point: his change of heart at the end. I’m doing my best to keep this review spoiler-free, so I’ll just say that, like a lot of things I’ve pointed out, there’s absolutely zero build-up and lead-in. Also, his entire relationship with Rowan.

So, honestly, thank fuck for Cameron, often the sole voice of reason, and also the one who finally asked “what makes alien boy so special?” because – add that to the list! – I have no clue.

And then, more specific things:

In the vein of not being very self-aware, the narration doesn’t always seem to follow Rowan, despite the chosen POV. I.e. when Rowan realizes that she’s in over her head, there’s a place in the narration that conveys this, and then the character directly conveys it again, a little while later, and it’s these little disconnects that makes the writing feel a little off, a little hard to get into.

Also, the dialogue feels stilted at times. Many conversations in PULSE don’t quite flow so much as they… jump?‌ From one thing to another, seemingly purposefully, because there’s always some big line, some big idea at the end that needs delivering, even if the conversation doesn’t start quite at the right point to deliver it. Certain lines like, for example, “Morality is the disease, and I’m the cure” – just by looking at it, written out here, you can see the proud jazz-hands flashing-neon-lights looky-looky-here but in-text, it lacks impact because it lacks the buildup and proper conversation placement.

So, PULSE. The premise was cool, but the execution was less than idea.

Archangel’s Prophecy (Guild Hunter #11) by Nalini Singh
Published October 30th 2018 by Berkley
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Midnight and dawn, Elena’s wings are unique among angelkind…and now they’re failing. The first mortal to be turned into an immortal in angelic memory, she’s regressing. Becoming more and more human. Easier to hurt. Easier to kill.

Elena and Raphael must unearth the reason for the regression before it’s too late and Elena falls out of the sky. Yet even as they fight a furious battle for Elena’s very survival, violent forces are gathering in New York and across the world.

In China, the Archangel Favashi is showing the first signs of madness. In New York, a mysterious sinkhole filled with lava swallows a man whole. In Africa, torrential monsoon rains flood rolling deserts. And in Elena’s mind whispers a haunting voice that isn’t her own.

This time, survival may not be possible…not even for the consort of an archangel.

I heard this ended on a cliffhanger so I thought I’d wait until Archangel’s War came out and I’m sO CLOSE BUT I CAVEEEEED.

> The back-and-forth, the ease and openness to communication, and the stability and depth of Elena and Raphael’s relationship will forever be my favorite thing about this series.
> The Legion has a bigger presence in this story!! That was cool.
> This was… really slow? Which, on one hand, makes sense, because it’s the book leading up to the Big Angel War (I’m assuming, because, Archangel’s War). But on the other hand, this was the eleventh of eleven books leading up to the Big Angel War, and all the previous books had no trouble with this, so I really think it’s just a This Book problem and not a problem of its placement in the overarching story.
> There was also a ton of recaps. A TON. Something like the previous ten books distilled to a couple of paragraphs and them crammed into every feasible place you could find. Which, overall, made Archangel’s Prophecy read as more filler-y than anything else.
> I ended up skimming through a fair chunk of this. I love Nalini Singh and I’ll still read anything she puts out, but this was the most filler-y, draggy, and disappointing book in the series by a long shot, and I’m pretty sad about that.
> Most everything ends on an ambiguous note, and I felt like this book was just going around and around in circles without ever really getting to the point 🙁 Like this was what the entire book was supposed to be aBOUT but then it ended juust before the Big Happening? Even all the other stuff – the family stuff (I’ve got my eyes on you, Jefferey – you better shape up, yeah?), the angelic/vampiric mystery stuff was just… glossed over… they took up a lot of physical pages but didn’t seem to take as high of an importance as Elena’s immortality business, and yet.

(But, am I still going to read Archangel’s War? HELL YEAH. One more month to goooo)

Wild Things (Chicagoland Vampires #9) by Chloe Neill
Published February 4th 2014 by NAL Trade
Source: Library
Rating: ★★☆☆☆

Since Merit was turned into a vampire, and the protector of Chicago’s Cadogan House, it’s been a wild ride. She and Master vampire Ethan Sullivan have helped make Cadogan’s vampires the strongest in North America, and forged ties with paranormal folk of all breeds and creeds, living or dead…or both.

But now those alliances are about to be tested. A strange and twisted magic has ripped through the North American Central Pack, and Merit’s closest friends are caught in the crosshairs. Gabriel Keene, the Pack Apex, looks to Merit and Ethan for help. But who—or what—could possibly be powerful enough to out-magic a shifter?

Merit is about to go toe to toe, and cold steel to cold heart, to find out.

In hindsight, the series took a bit of a nosedive after around book four, but somehow I’ve already wandered this far in, so I’m going to see it to the end, dammit. I love all the secondary characters (the shifters! Malik! Jonah! her grandfather’s crew! Luc! Lindsey!) and some of the Merit/Ethan scenes are so soft and precious! but mostly not. On the whole, Ethan has the characterization of a cardboard standee – it’s been nine going on ten books now, and I’m still trying to figure out what his charm points are? The striking/glowing/blazing/insert-choice-adjective-here green eyes Neil keeps reminding us about? And Merit’s been demoted to a hand-wringing bystander who watches the house and waits dutifully for her boyfriend to come home/save the day. :/

Blood Games (Chicagoland Vampires #10) by Chloe Neill
Published August 5th 2014 by NAL Trade
Source: Library
Rating: ★½☆☆☆

While Merit didn’t choose to become a vampire or Sentinel of Cadogan House, she vowed to fight for her House and its Master, and she’s managed to forge strong alliances with powerful supernaturals across Chicago. But even though Merit has had wild adventures, this may be her deadliest yet…

A killer is stalking Chicago, preying on humans and leaving his victims with magical souvenirs. The CPD hasn’t been able to track the assailant, and as the body count rises, the city is running out of options. Vampires and humans aren’t on great terms, but murder makes for strange bedfellows. Can Merit find the killer before she becomes a target?

(shout out to my part-time job for letting me sit in a room full of books and letting me read said books during hours, supporting my much-belated UF romance kick)
Blood Games was a pretty solid 1.5 stars. I’m going to preface this and be honest and admit that my enthusiasm for the series has long since died, but I’ve gotten this far already, and I’m nothing if not stubborn.
– I really like the Scooby Doo, episodic mysteries. It’s nice to have some overarching plot tying all the novels in the series together, but it’s also really nice to be able to get some sort of solid closure at the end of every novel. It didn’t really work out with Blood Games, though – it’s just gotten to the point where there’s so much? The serial killing, Ethan’s plotline, the RG, Darius… and Blood Games keeps sliding in favor of Ethan, making everything else feel like tiny, poorly done afterthoughts.
– It feels like Neill’s trying to keep all the elements, the jokes, the plot threads, etc from all the previous books, and then add an extra heaping onto that, but there’s too much that’s been recycled too many times, and it’s really not working anymore.
– Ethan is a self-centered egomaniac. He’s always been a self-centered egomaniac, but all his me!me!me! speeches and petty theatrics here just made him even more so one.
– Merit needs to draw her line in the sand and she’s going to have to do it soon because it’s been ten books and Ethan STILL keeps pulling the same old shit. IMHO he should’ve stayed gone, and we could’ve gotten, say, a Merit/Jonah pairing instead. Or, honestly, a Merit/anyone-who-isn’t-Ethan pairing. Or just Merit, friends, and chaotic Chicago. That’s more than enough material for a series.
– oh, and fuck the fake proposals. fuuuuuuck them.

Night Broken (Mercy Thompson #8) by Patricia Briggs
Published March 11th 2014 by Ace
Source: Library
Rating: ★☆☆☆☆

An unexpected phone call heralds a new challenge for Mercy. Her mate Adam’s ex-wife is in trouble, on the run from a stalker. Adam isn’t the kind of man to turn away a person in need—and Mercy knows it. But with Christy holed up in Adam’s house, Mercy can’t shake the feeling that something about the situation isn’t right.

Soon her suspicions are confirmed when she learns that Christy has the furthest thing from good intentions. She wants Adam back, and she’s willing to do whatever it takes to get him, including turning Adam’s pack against Mercy.

Mercy isn’t about to step down without a fight, but there’s a more dangerous threat circling. Christy’s stalker is more than a bad man—in fact, he may not be human at all. As the bodies start piling up, Mercy must put her personal troubles aside to face a creature with the power to tear her whole world apart.

Oh man, Adam’s likeability score plummeted ass-first into the ground and then kept falling. Who shares ~tender looks~ with his ex-wife in front of the current wife he proclaims to be very much in love with? Who stands by while his ex-wife lobs attack after attack at and attempts to turn the pack against his current wife, and then is just like, yeah, that happened? Who does that? And then instead of apologizing and maybe groveling a little as he should, he does the whole ~condescending but I’m pROUD OF YOUR LEVEL-HEADED ACTIONS YOUNG LADY~ thing. Haaard pass, thanks. And Mercy just? Doesn’t stand up for herself? All but martyrs herself in her head? (the blue hair dye thing doesn’t count she literally nearly dIED for Adam’s speshul snowflake ex-wife and after putting them all through the blender and withholding crucial information and after Mercy ended up in the goddamn hospital fixing problems she still has the gall to threaten her? On her hospital bed? And yeah Christy might have blue hair, but everyone hates Mercy. So. Who’s the real winner.) And then there was the rest of the pack, and, yeesh. This was just one large internalized misogyny party, with a generous helping of victim blaming.

Playlist for the Dead by Michelle Falkoff
Published January 27th 2015 by HarperTeen
Source: Purchased
Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Here’s what Sam knows: There was a party. There was a fight. The next morning, Sam’s best friend, Hayden, was dead. All he left Sam was a playlist of songs—and a note, saying that he took his own life. But what Sam doesn’t know is: Why?

To figure out what happened, Sam has to rely on the playlist and his own memory. But the more he listens, the more he realizes that his memory isn’t as reliable as he thought. Especially when someone claiming to be Hayden starts sending him cryptic messages, and a series of violent attacks begins on the bullies who made Hayden’s life hell.

Sam knows he has to face up to what happened the night Hayden killed himself. But it’s only by taking out his earbuds and opening his eyes to the people around him—including an eccentric, unpredictable girl who’s got secrets, too—that Sam will finally be able to piece together his best friend’s story.

And maybe have a chance to change his own.

This book was a lot of things the synopsis neglected to include, and the synopsis was a lot of things the book neglected to include, and all in all, if you graphed out my feelings toward Playlist for the Dead, it would be a steep downward slope, with a small but noticeable kick upward during the last few pages.

THE GOOD

  • I love how minimalistic the cover is, and how it matches with the author’s other cover! (I am weak to covers please let me have this much)
  • From the title, the synopsis, and the first few chapters, Playlist for the Dead seemed like it would follow a plotline a la Jay Asher’s Thirteen Reasons Why. Thank goodness it didn’t – I hated that book.
  • I really liked Sam’s sister Rachel and her boyfriend, Jimmy! For all the shit Sam said about her, they had a very typical sibling dynamic, and I like how warm and easygoing Jimmy was, and how he took everything in stride and was just… a supporting constant in the book. That was nice. Rachel has good taste /thumbs up/
  • also Rachel likes Hawaiian pizza
  • that’s basically all the brownie points in my book, okay
  • the message at the ending made a serious effort to redeem some of the faults earlier in the novel – not everyone was pretty, not everyone was smart, not everyone dealt with things the same way, and no one was perfect. But everyone tried, and they tried in their own way, and if you made an effort to talk to others, you might realize that your story isn’t the only story.
  • It doesn’t change the fact that the guy was an asshole, but. Props.

THE NOT

“”The playlist. Has it helped you understand?”
I thought about it for a minute. “Not yet,” I admitted. “But I’m starting to see that maybe it wasn’t all about me.””

  • Do you ever just pick up a book and realize that you’re probably never going to get along with the main character? In the first few chapters, Sam managed to acknowledge that her mom was working hard to provide for the family and get angry at her for doing so in the same breath, look down on the majority of the student body for not listening to his kind of music and playing games and sharing his interests, and make his best friend’s death mainly about himself. Sure he kind of eased up toward the end (kind of? Kind of.) but really, in a book as short as this, there’s no going back from that first third.
  • Playlist for the Dead wasn’t really about the playlist, and really once Astrid came along it really wasn’t about the dead either, so much as it was about getting with the hot junior girl.
  • Plot what plot?
  • The characters, Sam aside, were either bland and generic or, in Astrid’s case, practically perfect in every way.
  • AND YEAH speaking of. Why were all the girls just two-dimensional tropes? Astrid was a textbook maniac pixie dream girl, their relationship was an entirely unnecessary shot of insta-love, and she basically showed up just to fluff up Sam’s ego.
  • Girls are people with dreams and aspirations and futures too?
  • Why did no girl in this book exist outside of her relationship with some guy?
  • Which is probably why, in stories like this, you should be able to feel something, right? But all I felt was annoyance and a general disconnect.
  • The whole thing with Archmage_Ged would’ve been interesting had it been explored, hinted at, and fleshed out more, but the buildup was just weird and lackluster and the conclusion… /cues screaming in the background/ YOU CAN’T JUST DO THAT. YOU CAN’T JUST DROP SOMETHING LIKE THAT ON US AND END THE BOOK.
  • I still don’t really know why Hayden passed away.
  • I still don’t really get the whole point of that playlist.
  • And the conclusion is… what again? “I was angry” and “I was tired” are pretty lame ways to tie up those threads, especially considering what they did. I’m having a hard time believing there wasn’t more of a follow-up from the police.

Ending with a quote from Jess after her part in Sam’s series of much-needed talks toward the end of the book, because for all the other character’s talks about her being timid and shy, I think being able to sort through her emotions think like this in the face of things was pretty brave.

“…maybe we all need to accept that none of us are going to be a hundred percent right. I don’t think I’ll ever stop blaming myself for my part, but in some ways it’s easier to blame myself than anyone else, and maybe someday that will make it possible for me to let myself off the hook a little bit. Because if none of us is a hundred percent responsible, then it’s probably just as likely that none of us could have stopped this from happening, even if we’d known what it was we should have been trying to do. And we probably need to accept that, just like we need to accept that he’s not coming back.”

Scarlet (The Lunar Chronicles #2) by Marissa Meyer
Published February 5th 2013 by Feiwel & Friends
Source: Borrowed
Rating: ★½☆☆☆

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She’s trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she’ll be the Commonwealth’s most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit’s grandmother is missing. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother’s whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

I’m going to be honest here: probably the only reason why I finished Scarlet was because I read it during history (because I’m a perfect model student, didn’t you know?). Because, really, anything is more interesting than history with a clueless substitute teacher. Even a story that nearly drove me to tears of boredom and frustration.

The most annoying thing about Scarlet was Cinder’s identity. Or, rather, the other characters’ inability to put together two and two and realize who Cinder was. I’m pretty close to crying, guys. Scarlet and Wolf were LOOKING for Princess Selene. By the end of the book, they KNEW the princess was secretly smuggled to earth and taken in by someone with the last name “Linh.” They KNEW that a Lunar teenager had recently broken out of prison (don’t tell me they didn’t know there were so many broadcastings about it) with the last name “Linh.” If they were really looking for Princess Selene, wouldn’t they have been just a little suspicious? Then if they’d done the math, they would have realized that – surprise! – the escaped fugitive and the princess were around the same age. Don’t even get me started on Captain Thorne (HE WAS WITH HER FOR THE LONGEST).

And KAI. It’s been maybe a year since I’ve read Cinder, so I might be wrong, but I’m pretty sure that whole capture thing at the end of Cinder and the Lunar Queen (whose name I’ve conveniently forgotten) were huge clue-ins to Cinder’s identity as Princess Selene. Of course, that’s not the only fuck-up from him. His big decision at the end to “save everyone” made no sense whatsoever. Yeah, okay, Earth’s going to be okay for a little bit. A couple years at most. But after that? It’s going to be goodbye, Earth.

Cinder? It’s best if you stick with Captain Throne. Granted, he isn’t the sharpest knife in the drawer, but at least he hasn’t doomed an entire planet. Yet.

That aside, the romance didn’t raise any points for Scarlet, either. It wasn’t terrible, I suppose. Just… lacking. There wasn’t really any base for the romance. Since romance is one of the genres, it’s pretty obvious that Scarlett and Wolf are going to get together, but when they do, it’s pretty disappointing. One minute they’re flinging fruits at each other and in the next they’re kissing in a jail cell and there’s literally no in-between.

The Queen’s Army/wolf pack left me equally interested and confused. I will admit to skipping over some details and things towards the end because I just wanted the story to hurry up and end already, but even so… the hierarchal system and the wolf/man concept just seemed hazy and I felt so lost. Other little things confused me too, like the setting. Sometimes it took a while to figure out where they were because all the settings seemed so similar, and the narrative neglected to point out any landmarks or such for clarification.

Captain Thorne, inability to see what was dancing in neon lights right in front of his nose aside, was funny and witty, and generally I liked him. Cinder too had turned quite interesting and badass (I greatly preferred her narratives over Scarlet’s). But that aside, there weren’t very many redeeming points for Scarlet as far as I’m concerned.

The way my rating system’s set up, I’ve described a one-star as “eh, don’t bother” and a two-star as “interesting enough to finish, but too many flaws for my liking” – pretty much Goodread’s “did not like it” and “liked it.” So I’m setting Scarlett in the middle. I did finish it, but would only recommend it for people who really enjoyed Cinder. Then again, 86% of Goodread-ers gave Scarlett 4 and 5 stars, so I guess I’m the black sheep?

But there’s my two cents ( ´ ▽ ` )ノ