Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Review: Enter the Bluebird by Brendan Halpin

Publication date: September 28th, 2013
Publisher: Peter Parley Publishing
Links: Goodreads | Amazon US 
Stars: 4/5
Source: Review copy 

Enter the Bluebird is the story of Julie Rouge, who's nearly 16 and can't wait to join her mother, the masked crimefighter Red Talon, patrolling the crime-ridden streets of New Edinburgh. 

Unfortunately, Julie's mom has disappeared, and, while searching for her, Julie is going to discover that the city she calls home is even nastier, more corrupt, and riddled with toxic secrets than she ever knew. 

Enter the Bluebird is a noir YA superhero novel about secrets and betrayal and violence and love.


Enter the Bluebird tells the story of Julie Rouge, the daughter of meta human Sonia Rouge who is also known as the Red Talon. The Red Talon loses her life fighting street crime in the city of New Edinburgh. Julie is left with a costume for her new avatar: The Bluebird, which kicks off her thirst for justice and revenge. In the process, she confronts the reality of the city she grew up in and the ghosts of her mother's past.

The only other Brandon Halpin book I've read before this is A Really Awesome Mess but the two books don't have much in common. Enter the Bluebird has no room for cutesy; it's darker and grittier than your average YA book. The world building is crazy amazing: with the Syndicate: the nucleus of corruption, Snake Oil: an addictive drug and agent of evil, the Legion of Freedom, the layout and atmosphere of New Edinburgh and the world outside it. All of my senses were enraptured by this world that could easily double as a comic-bookverse. 

It's a coming of age/origin story that is far more real than any superhero story I've ever seen. Julie has the ability to fly, and in her determination to rid New Edinburgh of corruption there's a fair amount of window-breaking, fires and angsty moments by the cemetery. More than this, though, the book confronts other harsher realities: namely, the people Julie/The Bluebird rescues, who don't necessarily find her superhero stunts amazing; not from where they're standing.

"Are you kidding me?" Kendra said. "Now I get to spend the rest of the night picking glass slivers off the beds. And then I have to go out to fill a form in triplicate and hope the housing authority fixes the window before winter comes. What happens the next time it rains? What happens if the piece of glass gets in my little brother's eye? Did you think about that?"
"No," The Bluebird said. "I only thought about the person who was screaming and trying to help her. I didn't know she was too stupid to know that she needed help."
"You're the stupid one. You're dumber than your costume. You think you know things, but you don't know anything. You think the solution to every problem is to kick somebody-"
"Fine," Julie said. She tried to find The Bluebird inside her somewhere, but she could only find little hurt Julie...

I found Kendra and her little brother refreshing. They made the story all the more gripping, and showed that yes, fighting evil isn't as easy as a well placed punch. In fact, Halpin does not simplify any of the broader issues the world of Enter the Bluebird is filled with. He is unafraid to expose Julie to hurt, heart wrenching grief, people who have more than two dimensions and danger that strikes from more than one direction and never conveniently works in her favour.

As Julie struggles to pick up the pieces, make sense of her mother's death and gets infatuated with the Mayor's son, The Bluebird carries the weight of the city and falls more than once. Enter The Bluebird is, from start till end, a vividly written YA noir that I couldn't get enough of.

Rating: ★★★★

Sunday, 18 January 2015

Audiobook Review: Ugly Love by Colleen Hoover

Publication date: August 5th, 2014
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Audio
Stars: 2/5
Source: Reado.com

When Tate Collins meets airline pilot Miles Archer, she knows it isn’t love at first sight. They wouldn’t even go so far as to consider themselves friends. The only thing Tate and Miles have in common is an undeniable mutual attraction. Once their desires are out in the open, they realize they have the perfect set-up. He doesn’t want love, she doesn’t have time for love, so that just leaves the sex. Their arrangement could be surprisingly seamless, as long as Tate can stick to the only two rules Miles has for her.

Never ask about the past.
Don’t expect a future.

They think they can handle it, but realize almost immediately they can’t handle it at all.

Promises get broken.

Rules get shattered.
Love gets ugly.


This is a really difficult review to write because I love Colleen Hoover. I love how butterflying transformative her writing is; how it turns even the most tired cliches into something wholesome. And yet nothing could pretty up Ugly Love

Ugly Love is your classic New Adult redemption story: girl, Tate Collins, who's new to San Francisco meets boy, airplane pilot Miles Archer when he's drunk, huddled outside her brother's apartment door. Right from their first meeting, it's clear that something about his past haunts him; making him renounce love. When the chapters alternate with Miles' point of view, to "six years earlier" when he meets a girl called Rachel in high school, there are no doubts about the "who", just the "how" and "what". 

Tate and Miles, who's incidentally Tate's brother's best friend, soon embark on a relationship that's plain sex. But between Miles' smoldering gazes, Tate's fervent hope that it turns into something more and all the boundaries that they set only to break, they're not fooling anyone. The alternating perspectives, which shift from present to past, were a welcome relief as I didn't want to spend all of the time on either time period. There's just a lot of build up, characters that are "technically" well developed but don't mesh and poetic prose that falls flat.

This was also my first audio book ever, and "listening" to it might've only accentuated everything I disliked about the narrative structure. Miles' perspective, especially, was filled trite repetitions in his unconditional devotion towards Rachel. It felt empty, as there's nothing we actually know about Rachel other than Miles' idealized and rosy-eyed-to-the-point-of-corny account; half of which I felt like skipping. Tates' perspective felt more Miles' perspective of Tate because I cannot for the life of me get a picture of who she is, despite living inside her head for a good part of the book. 

The heart of the story is every bit of the redemption story you're promised: there's confrontation, tragedy and confrontation of tragedy. And yet, as a whole, it felt dissatisfying.  

This isn't going to stop me from reading Maybe Someday, the only Colleen Hoover book I haven't read, but Ugly Love flat out didn't work for me.

Rating: ★★☆☆☆

This post is sponsored by Reado.com, India's largest audio book store, where you get one free audio book on sign up. :) All of the opinions expressed in this post are my own.