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BOOK REVIEW – Until the Beginning (After the End #2) by Amy Plum

BOOK REVIEW – Until the Beginning (After the End #2) by Amy PlumUntil the Beginning (After the End #2)
by Amy Plum
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

When Juneau's clan disappeared, she lost so much more than her friends and family. She soon discovered everything she thought she knew about her life was a lie. Her people's gifts were actually secret abilities that others wanted, desperately enough to kidnap an entire village.

Juneau and her new companion Miles's cross-country journey to find her clan has led them to a game preserve in New Mexico. Now Juneau's people are finally within reach, and she will stop at nothing to save them. But she has a target on her back too, because unbeknownst to her she is the key to unlocking everything. To rescue her people - and herself - Juneau must discover what she, and her abilities, are truly capable of.

▨  Take away the banter

Where is the chemistry between Miles and Juneau? Their hilarious dialogues? The slow growth of their affection? If I’m being fair, I could have seen it coming at the end of book 1. Because what did I love so much in Miles and Juneau’s relationship at first?

Their differences. Their banter. The hilarious complete inability for Miles to stand wildlife.

Now, I’m not saying that he morphed into some super country man, but he evolved for sure and – oh god, I can’t believe what I’m going to say buthe was funnier when he was clueless. I know, I suck. Sue me. But take away the banter, and there’s not quite enough sparks between them to make me interested in their relationship. Contrary to After the End where I was delighted by their interactions, I couldn’t help but notice the fact that they felt forced here. In my opinion, anyway.

Moreover, as I said, it can sound weird that I complain about Miles’s changes, because usually I’m all for character development but in my opinion he lost too much of his own identity, too much of what made me love him in the first place. Although some of his thoughts made me smile still, it occurred way more rarely than before. So, yes. Okay. He grew up. I’m not saying he’s bad, because he’s not. Yet I lost any connection I could have in After the End. I don’t care anymore, and I’m the first to be sad about it, trust me.

Finally, talk about one of the most anticlimactic sex scene I ever read (for a couple I ship, let’s say) : I just didn’t care, like, at all, as it appeared from nowhere. Of course it’s YA so everything fades into black and I’m completely okay with that but still, I’m usually more invested, while here, it didn’t even make me smile. If anything, it annoyed me, because of course no protection for Juneau. Okay, they’re “one with the Yara” and so can’t get any disease, there’s that. Anyway, what about kids? That’s not like the girl could have been on the pill, living recluse the way she did and all. But OF COURSE THAT’S FANTASTIC, because everybody knows that it’s always the case on the first time. Oh, wait – that’s because of the Yara. Silly me.

▨  Please don’t change anything, you might interest me

If the story is still fast-paced, almost nothing happens until the end, and even then I wasn’t enthralled nor captivated by the story.

Basically, Juneau wants to save her clan. Miles is trailing along with her. Whit is not to be trusted. Powerful dudes try to kidnap her, because she’s SO important.

Ring a bell? Oh, YES. It was the plot of After the End. Well, now, you’ve got the same here, without the shocking beginning and the hilarious conversations. Yikes.

To be clear, I felt like we ran round in circles, and the last development about the abilities of Juneau and her clan didn’t satisfy me as I wasn’t a big fan of the so-special status of Juneau it implies. In a word, if the Yara didn’t convince me in the first book, my interest didn’t increase here, but I sure rolled my eyes pretty often, I have to admit.

▨  Add some cartoonish villains

Indeed the villain(s)’s (lack of) characterization makes him (them) so superficial that if his (their) behavior is (are) truly awful and disrespectful (and fucking crazy), I didn’t feel anything toward him (them) : while my brain was able to see how bad he is (they are), yet I never felt anything. No fear, let alone fury. My heartbeat never grew wild. Not for a second. Truth be told, their portrayal are cartoonish, as they offer no nuances. Not nearly enough anyway.

I like nuances. I’m in love with nuances. Please give me nuances.

▨ To sum up, Until the Beginning wasn’t terrible, and Amy Plum knows how to write for sure, but it lost me along the way – so much that I’m not even sure that I’ll read the last book, because sadly, I’m not sure I’ll feel the need to. There will be no book 3, apparently.

BOOK REVIEW – After the End (After the End #1) by Amy Plum

BOOK REVIEW – After the End (After the End #1) by Amy PlumAfter the End (After the End #1)
by Amy Plum
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

Synopsis:

She’s searching for answers to her past. They’re hunting her to save their future.

World War III has left the world ravaged by nuclear radiation. A lucky few escaped to the Alaskan wilderness. They've survived for the last thirty years by living off the land, being one with nature, and hiding from whoever else might still be out there.

At least, this is what Juneau has been told her entire life.

 

When we’ve been waiting for months to read a book, we can’t help but be afraid to feel disappointed in the end. Let’s get this straight : You can stop holding your breath, because it wasn’t the case here. Indeed while After the end is by no means a flawless book, it delivered almost exactly what I expected : adventure, strong and funny characters, coherent world-building, pretty good writing, and no insta-love. However it lacked something to become a favorite of mine, and I’ll explain why I’ll try, anyway.

Let’s take a look at this graph, shall we?

As you can see, I can’t say that the plot was always fast-paced, because my interest in the story fluctuated. Indeed, if I wasn’t bored in the beginning, I wasn’t enthralled either, mostly because I didn’t quite understand what the situation was. Now, perhaps it’s my fault because… I didn’t reread the blurb. Imagine my surprise to switch between Juneau’s POV in a post-WW3 world where the world is destructed and the regular teenage life of Miles in high school! See? I was kind of lost there, and I can slap myself for it. Wait – no, actually, no. Because if I got the choice now, I wouldn’t change my decision to not reread the blurb or any review before reading it, as the surprise effect was incredible to enjoy. So, people, I won’t say too much about the plot either. Just know that Juneau lives in a little community and is able to use Nature’s powers in order to get information from her environment. Yes. Magic. As for Miles, well… He is our regular rich teenager who lives in a big city and I’m not saying anything else about him for now, otherwise I’ll spend my review rambling about him.

Then they meet, and … Nope, no insta-love, no insta-lust either, only a girl who thinks this city guy is a complete moron and a boy who finds the wild girl batshit crazy. Let’s take a moment to savor this.

“I turn to him. “Actually, I don’t trust you. Frankie told me not to, but he also said I had to be honest with you.”
“Who the hell is Frankie?” A note of hysteria creeps into Miles’s voice.
“Frankie is the guy who sits and drinks beer on the corner of Pike and Pine. People call him Crazy Frankie.”
“You take advice from an insane alcoholic?” (…)
“He was my oracle,” I respond.”

I absolutely adored their banter, their misunderstandings, and MILES – OMG. Miles was such a drama queen – fucking HILARIOUS, for real. He’s lost, he spends his time freaking out about everything Juneau says or does and doesn’t trust her guts one second. But then, how could he react differently? I mean, I did used to camp so the wilderness doesn’t scare me but Juneau – Juneau is talking to the fire for fuck sake! And the raven. Oh god, the raven. Let’s talk about a weird pet. Therefore as you can guess, the middle part was my favorite by far : I laughed, swooned, was hooked.

“I’m lying here in a tent, pretending to be asleep but actually fearing for my life as I watch a bunny murderer have a conversation with our campfire.”

However, despite the fact that their relationship grows rather slowly – trust issues, guys – I didn’t quite felt their physical attraction until the very end. Banter? Yes. Friendship? Yes. Let’s kiss? Nope. Not really, and thus I didn’t find this particular evolution completely credible – Not at that moment at least. I ship them so hard now.

“Well, normally I would say that Whit wouldn’t hurt a flea. But from what Poe here told me –
“Poe?” Miles interrupts.
“The raven,” I say.
“You named the bird?” Miles asks, his voice tinged with a note of hysteria.”

I didn’t reviewed the whole graph, but that’s pretty clear, right? Please say yes.

Now, let’s talk about my loves and peeves, okay?

+++ The characters, especially Miles : as I said earlier, in my opinion what makes this book its strength is clearly the way the characters act around each other (except that kiss, okay, I won’t go over that again). Between the sarcastic and down-to-earth Miles and the strong-minded and nature connected Juneau, everything leads to fireworks and damn, I loved that something fierce. Moreover, to my delight, both evolve throughout the story.

++ The trusts issues were particularly well-handled, as they can’t never really know who and what they can believe and trust – and follow their own agenda.

As Serj Tankian would say sing,

♬ ♪ Lalalalalalalala lie lie lie
Lalalalalalalala lie lie lie
Lalalalalalalala lie lie lie
Lalalalalalalala lie lie lie
♬ ♪

► You get the general idea.

+ I wasn’t convinced by the Yara magic, from which I got too many deus ex-machina vibes : even if her powers don’t always work, it was frankly way to convenient sometimes, for real.

In a nutshell, why should you read it?
✔ Because Miles will make you laugh for sure
✔ Because Juneau isn’t whiny and fights for what she wants
✔ Because the twists toward the end captivated me
✔ Because… What? Isn’t it enough?

BOOK REVIEW – After the End (After the End #1) by Amy Plum

BOOK REVIEW – After the End (After the End #1) by Amy PlumAfter the End (After the End #1)
by Amy Plum
Purchase on: AmazoniBooks
Book Depository
Add to: Goodreads

*4.5 Stars!*


I am on fire. A golden statue alight, flames licking around me, melting the snow into puddles at my feet, heating Juneau’s face and reddening her nose and cheeks. She leans in closer until her lips are touching mine. And as she kisses me I disperse into a million tiny flames, sparks flying up into the cold winter air and diffusing once they hit the starry night sky.

Life, as I’ve been telling all my lovely GR friends lately, apparently is not a wish granting factory. I’ve been seeing that a lot lately and I have been in one of those totally depressed, funky moods where yeah, I’m liking books just fine but, I’m not in the best place about it. So when I looked at my Ipad and was trying to decide which dystopian to tackle (that was-and is-what I was in the mood for) I had three or four loaded and ready to go-I narrowed it down to two, and then ultimately chose this one because I’ve been excited about it the most for the longest time-and I chose correctly. I had a smile on my face the minute that Miles and Juneau met-and it very rarely left my face throughout the entirety of the novel.

Life is easier in black and white. It’s the ambiguity of a world defined in grays that has stripped me of my confidence and left me powerless.

These two are complete polar opposites-you couldn’t find a more comical pairing. One lives off the land and is in tune with nature while the other is privileged and pampered and lives in a world where everything has always been handed to him on a silver platter. I loved the dynamics of their relationship and everything in-between. There was no insta-love (GAG) and they were both (knowingly) using each other to get what they needed-it just turns out that they want the exact opposite thing….go figure.

“The guys who are following you…are they dangerous?” Miles asks finally.
“Well, normally I would say that Whit wouldn’t hurt a flea. But from what Poe here told me-”
“Poe?” Miles interrupts.
“The raven,” I say.
“You named the bird?” Miles asks, his voice tinged with a note of hysteria.

I think the biggest reason why I loved this book so much is because it wasn’t full on dystopian and it didn’t try to be. I love this genre, but sometimes authors try way too hard and it doesn’t portray quite what they want to. So, when this didn’t turn out to be a cut and dry survival story, I was kind of excited. Basically, Juneau left her clan to go hunt for food-they live secluded and ‘protected’ from the dystopian like world outside their living site from the after effects of World War III….and when Juneau returns, her dad and the whole clan included have disappeared. She knows she must try to find them immediately with her knowledge of the land and way of Kara (not even going to explain-it’s not that complicated but I would still mess it up). But when she leaves the confines of her camp and starts to get farther and farther away from what she’s always known, she finds out about the biggest betrayal she never would have imagined-there was no WWIII and she has been living a lie. And what’s worse, people are after her-maybe even one of the people she’s trusted her entire life.

“Has it shit on my shirt yet?” Miles asks, his nose wrinkling like he doesn’t really want to know the answer.
“Birds don’t shit while they’re sitting down. They would be sitting in their excrement, and if you haven’t noticed-which of course you haven’t, you”-I can’t think of an insult that fits the bill-“city boy, birds are clean.” I don’t know why I’m getting all defensive about Poe, but I can’t help correcting Mile’s glaring misconception.
“Secondly,” Miles continues, ignoring my argument, “a little while ago, you confirmed my long-held belief that birds don’t talk. Yet you just said that Poe”-he pauses-“I can’t believe I just called it that…this bird told you something.”
“I shouldn’t have said ‘told.’ I should have said ‘showed.'”
“Because that makes a difference?”

Miles lives a life of debauchery and opulence-he repeatedly causes problems in school and has finally been kicked out-a month before graduation. When he hears his father is looking for a girl who is the key to a drug he wants, Miles knows he is more than capable of finding a girl who knows nothing of the city and is virtually a stranger to the world. All he wants is his father’s approval and if he can get it by bringing the girl back in for questioning, he will do anything he can to get that accomplished. But what happens when he meets the girl and travels with her on the journey to find her clan? He starts to get to know her and see what kind of person she is. She’s as clueless as he is about the whole thing-what if his father is wrong and is after an innocent girl….what will he do then? And even more than that, what will he do when he starts to fall for this crazy girl who eats innocent wildlife and forages in the woods and is the complete opposite of his personality-what if she’s exactly what he’s been looking for his whole life: a place where he feels like he belongs. What then?

The touch of our skin sets off a reaction in me. I am immediately awake…100 percent present. And it feels like a whirlwind of thorns is whipping around in my chest, stinging me all over from the inside. That makes it sound painful. It isn’t. It’s the kind of itching sensation that makes you want to do something crazy. That spurs you forward to act on an idea you didn’t even know was in your head.

The dynamic of this story wholly worked for me and there were rarely any parts that bored me. There was information to take in at every twist and turn, but I never felt like I was getting info-dumped. It’s hard to find that in stories-that balance where there’s just enough cute, sweet, tough, travel, info….peril. It’s a delicate process and while I do wish the peril was amped up a bit, I still thought it was wonderfully done and I had hardly a complaint throughout the entire process.

It’s not like she’s wearing a dress. She just has on a pair of black jeans and a red V-neck shirt. But for once they actually fit. Juneau’s not skinny, and you wouldn’t exactly say muscular. But something in between. She’s so much shorter than me that I could easily pick her up. Of course, I refrain since I don’t feel like being punched.

So, all in all, a total win in my book-it takes a lot to make me completely happy, but this book got as close to perfect as I’ve seen in a while. When I’m in a foul mood it is quite a process to make me smile, much less laugh, so when ATE succeeded in both, I knew I would be sad to see it end. Speaking of which-that end?? Awesooooommmeeeeeee! I can’t wait until book two.

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