Monday, February 24, 2014

{ARC Review} Fire & Flood: Victoria Scott

Rating: 7/10
Series: Fire & Flood #1
Genre: Fantasy, Survival, Thriller, Science Ficiton, Young Adult
Publication Date: February 25, 2014
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Page Count: 320
Source: Netgalley
Format: e-ARC 
Recommended For: Fans of the Hunger Games and Panic
Goodreads Synopsis: A modern day thrill ride, where a teen girl and her animal companion must participate in a breathtaking race to save her brother's life—and her own.

Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can't determine what's wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She's lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she's helpless to change anything.

Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It's an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother's illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there's no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.

The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can't trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?

*I received this book as a digital ARC which does not in the slightest affect my honest review of this book*
 
My Background: So there has been A LOT of hype about this book in the blogging community. I know sometimes a book doesn't live up to the hype, which I credit to the reader expecting too much from the book. I went back and forth as to whether I should rate this 3, 4, or 5 ink jars, but finally settled on three, only because of how similar it was to The Hunger Games. Although, if I had read this separately, I am sure my rating would be 5 ink jars. Anyway, so I was on Netgalley (even though my feedback ratio is already so pitiful), and I couldn't resist requesting Fire & Flood. I did it anyway because I thought, "What the hey? My feedback ratio is so low, and this book has been so hyped up about, I'll never get approved." Well, I was just about to leave for school when  I got the email from Scholastic saying my request had been accepted. You can imagine the fireworks going off around me in my imagination. Anyway, so I started the book Friday, finished today, and here is the review.
 
Plot /10: When I first told my mom about this book, there are two conclusions she drew. Number one, it's like The Hunger Games. Number two, was that the Pandoras are like deamons in the His Dark Materials trilogy. Something I would like to address is that Brimstone Bleed is extremely similar to The Hunger Games. The major differences are that you are not required to kill anyone or be the last one standing to win/continue on to the next ecosystem. That of course, cuts down on a lot of the gruesomeness and the possibility for graphic-ness. There is also the aid that the contestants get, and the rests between ecosystems, as well as information through the Devices. Nevertheless, there are similarities that I was very wary about how similar it was to The Hunger Games. The main rules were what really made the two books similar, and some might see it as copying. The crux of both competitions is the same, but what really set Brimstone Bleed apart is the competing for a family member. In The Hunger Games, you were fighting for your own skin, which may sound selfish, and gave room for people to try and save one another, as Peeta and Katniss did. In Brimstone Bleed, you are fighting, and giving everything you got (improper grammar) for the person you love, brother, mother, daughter, competing is about selflessness for someone other than yourself. 

The Pandoras, are nothing like deamons in His Dark Materials, besides the fact that they protect their human. Pandoras can be killed, they do not talk, they are not a human's soul. The list does go on and on. Basically, Victoria Scott proved my mom's assumption wrong. Anyway, competitors in Brimstone Bleed get to choose their eggs depending on their egg's appeal, such as the color, size, etc. I know a lot of people discussed them, but I personally didn't feel as big of a connection to them. 

About the plot itself of the book, Fire & Flood is a survival competition, similar to the reality television shows my mom hates. What I do want to say is that I was leaning towards two to three stars, or even a DNF around exactly one third of the story, but the story gradually picked up and started hurtling toward the land of books Sofia loves. This might be personal opinion, or mood swings (I am a teenager after all), but the book does pick up.

Characters 7.5/10: Guy. Guy. Guy. I freaking LOVED him. At the end of the year, he will be one of the my top book boyfriends. He is so swoonworthy, and perfect. Not just as a guy who I want to be my boyfriend. I also mean it as a character. In so many paranormal romance, or even any romance novels, once the girl and the guy are a couple, the guy (get it?) goes into over-protective mode. He doesn't let the girl do anything without him, and becomes the one to kill all the spiders, or people in some cases when we all know how perfectly capable she is. This cliche story continues when the girl does something the guy doesn't want her to, usually like handing herself over to the evil force of the story. My point is that Guy doesn't do any of that crap (excuse my language). Brimstone Bleed is unlike The Hunger Games because the contestants have someone to fight for, instead of just their lives (in some cases). While Guy does protect and love Tella, he still has sick cousin to fight for, and can't go completely hero-ey for her. Guy is there as a confidant, he's there for protection, he's there as a comforter, but what he's not there for is to baby her, something I am very greatly for. He does go after Tella to protect her, but when they do meet up, they're a team, even more so than Katniss and Peeta. While Guy does have ripped abs, and looks like a greek god without his shirt on, he and Tella have equal footing in their relationship.

My feelings about Tella are a bit mixed. She wasn't a Katniss, she wasn't a June, she wasn't a Tris. She couldn't fight with a bow and arrow, gun, or knives like some super-ninja. Neither was she a symbol of strength in character. But what I realized was that that was okay. She wasn't weak (like my first impression of her), whiny, or helpless (a major turn-off), she was an ordinary girl fueled by love for her brother that happened to love makeup, styled hair, and leopard slippers.

I'm going to call the various Pandoras in the book characters, because even though they weren't human, and couldn't talk (which would have been really cool), they were still a very prominent part of the story. They were all animals with somewhat super-human powers and no names which made them a little hard to keep track of. Maddox was one of the cutest/best animal accompaniments I've ever seen in a book, especially because of his awesome power that I won't be revealing. 
Romance 7.9/10: Most of my opinions about Guy and Tella were said in 'characters'. Bottom line, they are a great couple and cohesive team. I really like them as a couple, and they are my OTP of 2014....so far.

Cover & Title 8/10: May I just say, I am IN LOVE with the cover of Fire & Flood? I don't know who the hec designed it, but cudoos to you. The image of the burning white feather is powerful, striking, and if I was scanning in the bookstore, it would most definitely catch my eye. I had expected to find out exactly what the cover and title meant, that it was this huge 'AHA moment'. The truth is, there wasn't one. I think the designer just thought the cover was wicked cool, showed it to the author, publisher, and all of those other people they needed to, everyone thought it was amazing, and that was it. The 'Fire' part of the title may come from the desert ecosystem, as well as Tella's moments of courage and bravery. The 'Flood' part may come from the river that Tella and her allies had to cross. Those are my guesses. Nevertheless, if I was judging the book by the cover and title, this would 100% be one I would buy.

Pacing 5/10: The pacing wasn't the best in Fire & Flood as I explained previously in 'plot' because of how the action dragged. In any survival story, there is the risk of too much conflict (natural disasters, enemies, internal conflict), or too little (more than enough planning and strategics, lots of staring into space, etc). The pacing definitely could have been written better, especially in the space between the two eco-systems.

Ending/Continuation: There is an 80% chance I will be reading the sequel of Fire & Flood so I can see what happens in the other ecosystems, as well as have a chance to read more about Guy. Now that I think about it, ARCs are great, but I now want to find out what happens so badly, and it pains me to to think about the year or so until the sequel. The ending is a 7.75/10 because there was this HUGE revelation/WTH moment where we learn more about the oh-so-mysterious Guy, as well as some information about Brimstone Bleed that shocked me more than Thalia Grace when she's annoyed at Seaweed Brain. At the same time, the place it ended was a little awkward in terms of the eco-systems and how it was an in-between phase.
 
Quotes 4/10: Fire & Flood will not be winning any 'meaningful quote awards' from me any time soon, but Victoria had this uncanny ability to be downright hilarious. At random moments, Fire & Flood would make me laugh at loud. I tweeted her because I really wanted to post this quote, but she made me promise not to spoil the context. True to my word, all I'm going to say is that this scene was one of the best in the book.
"The cheetah. Ate. My finger." The girl looks at each of us. "That's what you're telling me? That Jaxon's Pandora ate the pinkie from my right hand? My writing hand?" "To be fair, he won it from M-4....They battled for it." "That is like, the best way for my finger to go."
Conclusion: Despite the many uncanny similarities between Fire & Flood and The Hunger Games, this book is an individual, new gem of the science fiction world with an uber swoony Guy, and how far you will go for your family members.
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