31 December 2013

Champion

Author: Marie Lu
Series: Legend #3
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

While Legend is not one of my favorite young adult series, it is certainly a series I will add to my buy list to read again.  The characters are engaging, even if it is difficult to believe they are only sixteen years of age.  When reading the novels, I feel like I am watching a CW show, where they have twenty somethings playing high schoolers.  I know I mentioned this is my Prodigy review, and yes, perhaps in a different culture raised in war times it is something that could happen.  I just have a hard time believing it.

Lu spends a little bit of time delving into the backstory of the tension between the Republic and the Colonies in Champion, but I still felt it was a little underdeveloped.  In addition, as we explore this world that isn’t too far off (only 150 years in the future or so), it started to feel a little more towards sci fi and not just a dystopian/war series.  My main point here is the country of Antarctica.  The technology that keeps the city warm is only just hinted out as a huge dome they passed through easily as they flew in, and the buildings hundreds of stories tall, as well as the technology used to make the citizens live in a video game more or less seemed more sci fi than realizable.  That being said, I wish we could have spent more time in Antarctica with June and Anden, as this sci fi world Lu hinted at was actually much more fascinating than the Colonies or the Republic.

While Day’s health situation plays a major role in this novel, his relationship with June isn’t too smothering in the way that teen relationships can be in young adult series.  Granted, we see touches to two love triangles in Champion – Day/June/Tess and Day/June/Anden – but they aren’t too overwhelming or obnoxious.  And while the relationship between June and Day is still a huge subplot of the novel, it isn’t annoying until towards the very end.

I will say, even though I was disappointed with how Lu chose to end the novel by focusing on Day and June instead of the conflict between the Colonies and the Republic, up until this point it was very action packed.  I dare even say it was a page turner and I had a hard time putting it down as Anden, June, Day and the Patriots struggled against the clock to come up with one last hail Mary attempt to prevent a surrender to the Colonies.  Again, it was difficult to believe how young most of the characters were – even the young Anden – but I got over it… for the most part.

The name of the novel is something I don’t really get.  Prodigy and Legend both alluded to June/Day.  And on the back cover of the Champion novel, it alludes that one of them will be the Champion… which does not fit the context of the novel really at all.  If anything, the champion would arise between the conflict between the Colonies and the Republic.  But seeing as how that pans out, the word champion really doesn’t suit that part of the novel as well either.


As for the ending of the novel, considering how focused this novels were on June and Day over the dystopian, I wasn’t disappointed with it – apart from the sudden departure from the conflict on the streets.  Indeed, I actually appreciated the ending, especially with the fast forward in time to ten years down the road, where I could finally see the characters fitting their ages.  I do wish that the series had been a little more focused on the war between the Colonies and the Republic and a little less centered on the relationship between Day and June, but all and all it was an engaging series that while perhaps didn’t surpass the hype as quoted on the front of Legend, but may have lived up to it.

Only the Good Spy Young

Author: Ally Carter
Series: Gallagher Girls #4
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

We are finally getting somewhere, plotwise(ish).  This novel picks up pretty much where the last one left off, with Cam in the UK with Bex and her family, getting up to some spy mischief with MI6.  And if I ever had any inkling of a doubt that the plots in this series were completely absurd, the beginning of this novel finally confirmed it 110%.  But Carter’s writing style is still witty enough and fun enough for a light lazy day read, and with a running plot now crossing through the different novels, it is definitely more interesting than the first two novels in the series.

While we still have a hint of boy craze centered around Zach, it is finally definitely a subplot and not a central theme in this novel.  This novel focuses on why the Circle is after Cam, as well as introducing the question or whether or not Mr. Solomon is a good guy or a bad guy, something I never thought I would even consider, as – like Cam and gang – I never thought for a second that Mr. Solomon could have been a double agent.  But now… well, while my subconscious held true throughout the novel that there was no way he broke bad, my mind began to wonder as the plot continued to unfold.  And even Zach, the resident bad boy who Cam can’t seem to shake, starts to show shades of grey.


While the absurdness of the plots and the styles used for the prose don’t warrant suspense for a plot that could be potentially suspenseful in a different light, the series is still staying interesting enough to read.  And while I doubt I would ever buy this series to reread over and over, it’s still a fun read, especially for the young adult genre.  With a still highly unresolved plot at the end of the novel, Carter continues to drag me along with Cam and crew into the next of the series.

28 December 2013

Don't Judge a Girl by Her Cover

Author: Ally Carter
Series: Gallagher Girls #3
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

After the first two novels in this series, I wasn’t so sure if I wanted to keep reading or not.  While I liked the idea of a whole school of little Sydney Bristow’s in training, the first two novels seemed to offer very little in the way of  actual spy action.  Instead, it was some light training but mostly teenage girl fluff as Cam found herself with a crush on a different boy in each of the two novels.  So when this one started out, I was pleased to see lots of action and while mentions of the previous boys existed, they didn’t make an appearance.

That is, at least, until you get past page 100… then the series appears to revert back to its roots as Cam runs into an unexpected guy from her past again, and all attention turns, it seems, to boys, boys, boys once more.  Granted, the plot of the story at least doesn’t revolve completely around a guy in this novel, but he still plays an important role.  When he isn’t popping up unexpectedly, Cam seems to almost always be expecting him to pop up.


Once you get past the boy madness that hits around page 100, I think my biggest beef with this novel is the ending.  Sure, it has a plot twist that you can kind of guess as it is logical, but it is still unexpected when Carter throws it at you.  But the problem with the ending is that it leaves a lot open ended.  The entire plot of who/why someone makes the kidnapping attempt at the beginning of the novel is left completely open ended and unresolved.  So while I still am not all that impressed with this series, especially after loving the Heist Society novels so much, now I feel as if I have to read the next novel in the series, just to see if they resolve the plot of this one or not.  And if not, then I will be truly mad.

Prodigy

Author: Marie Lu
Series: Legend #2
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

The story of Day and June continues as they run away from Los Angeles to seek shelter in Vegas.  As part of their escape and in return for aid to help Day’s injured knee, the duo agrees to assist the Patriot rebels, giving them the one thing they have desired for so long and been unable to obtain – Day.  While they are reunited with Tess, Day and June soon find themselves split up as June is sent to get close to her previous acquaintance Anden, and Day is left to follow behind with the second group as part of their plan to assassinate the Elector in an attempt to start a Republic wide rebellion.

But when June finds herself alone and close to the new Elector, the plan begins to unravel as she starts to question the motives of the Republic and whether the Elector is really who he seems and who they believe him to be.  And with June off alone with the Elector while the rebels watch on, the romantic angle between her and Day becomes a central theme in the novel as jealousy start to flare and while Tess starts to suggest that perhaps she is no longer happy with just playing the little sister role to Day, adding in the elements towards one or even two love triangles.


While the romantic elements of the novel began to annoy me, the plot was still interesting enough.  Prodigy didn’t hold my attention from the get go like Legend did, and it was more of a character development novel for an extended period towards the middle.  But as the assassination plot begins to unfold, the story line picks up pace again, and then before you know it you are barrel rolling towards the end.  The ending itself is a little too lovey dovey centered for me, and doesn’t end on a crazy climatic cliffhanger like you’ve come to expect from trilogies, but the writing and plot are still interesting enough that I am prepared to go full steam ahead into Champion to see how it all ends and what will become of the Republic and the Colonies.  Unlike a lot of the novels I read, I find the plot of this series much more interesting than the characters, while still managing to enjoy the story overall.

24 December 2013

Starters

Author: Lissa Price
Series: Starters #1
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

An interesting and also slightly terrifying sci-fi plot.  When human life expectancy increases well past 150 years, the elders in the community, known as Enders, aim to relive their youth by controlling the bodies of youngsters in the population, known at Starters.  Promised wealth beyond what anyone could imagine, youth are drawn into the program with the promise of only three sessions of being a Starter, or a host body for an Elder to control (it reminded me somewhat of Avatar).

The heroine of our story, Callie, is lured into the program even after her initial interaction with the company rubbed her the wrong way in a last, desperate attempt to care for her young brother.  Things start off okay, and she even meets a handsome stranger to introduce a bit of the obligatory young adult love triangle element.  But once she reaches her last assignment as a Starter, a full month of being a host (which she will have no recollection of when the time is over), things start to go array.

While not as chilling as the theme could led it to be, I did like first person narrative in this case.  As Callie interacts with the Ender using her body, the time gaps from the rental lead to an interesting aid in the development of the plot and help add suspense.  Like Callie, readers are in the dark of all of the events that transpire during the rental period, and we only find out what has happened as Callie puts the pieces together.

This novel is one that boasts “Fans of The Hunger Games will love it” and if you know anything about my reading style, you know I hate it when people try to compare novels to THG, especially when – like this novel – you see little similarities between the two.  While nothing like THG, Starters is still an interesting novel.  I started reading it around the same time as I started Legend, and while Legend sucked me in much more quickly to the point where I set Starters aside until I plowed through Legend, it was interesting enough that I finished Starters before I even open Prodigy to continue down the Legend trilogy.


Starters ends with not so much a cliffhanger per se, but with an interesting twist and a key decision for Callie to make that sets it up for the next (final?) book of the series, Enders.  While Starters is not necessarily a novel I would read again, it certainly held my attention and was interesting and unique enough to make me want to read Enders, which I am currently on the waiting list for at my local library.

23 December 2013

Legend

Author: Marie Lu
Series: Legend #1
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

It boasts on the cover that it deserves all the hype the book has received, and while I really haven't heard much - or any - of said hype, this book has been popping up all over my Goodreads account and I see it all the time on Amazon and at bookstores.  Now that the series has concluded, I have decided to give it a go where I can binge all three in the trilogy if I so desire.

Now that I have finished the first novel, I believe I do, in fact, desire to do just that.  It isn't that Legend in an action packed, full throttle suspense novel.  Almost the opposite, as I close the dust jacket of the novel and set it aside, I realize just how little action the novel had.  Granted, there is some suspense towards the end with the situation Day finds himself in, but I have little to any doubt of how the situation will resolve itself, so I didn't exactly feel like I was on the edge of my seat.

The characters are a little hard to relate to as well, as they seem awfully young for their characters, their lifestyles and their experience (for example, June's crazy abilities of observation and skill and Day's seemingly high number of experiences with the ladies at the ripe old age of fifteen).  But I let this slide, as perhaps in a society wrought with plague and death and murder children grow up and mature and live life to the fullest far quicker than they do in our sheltered society.

I didn't find anything special or unique in Lu's style of narration, and nothing about Legend screamed out that this series will become an instant favorite and must have addition to my collection.  But as I read through the pages, I found it harder and harder to put the book down to pay attention to television or another book or even to polite conversation with the people around me.  Somehow, this young girl and this young boy that appear very early on to be fated to be star crossed lovers seem to draw me in with their ordinary dialogue and point of view.  And while, looking back on the novel, it doesn't appear as if a whole lot happened, Lu has certainly put together the premises for the potential of a very exciting follow up.

20 December 2013

The Fault in Our Stars

Author: John Green
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I was skeptical to start reading this novel as I had heard rumors it was a tear jerker.  Indeed, I borrowed the ebook from the library twice and never got around to reading it before I finally got on the waitlist for the hardcover from the library and finally caved and read it.  My timing was not the best, as I just had a grandfather who passed from cancer and the feelings are still a little raw after a one year battle of treatments after surgery.

This novel could best be described as a young adult romance novel between two star crossed lovers.  I think the target age range and thus the style of writing is what really prevented me from fully engaging with these characters.  Unlike a novel similar to My Sister's Keeper, this novel is written for teenagers, and thus is not as descriptive or detailed as its adult targeted counterparts.  As such, at times I had a hard time believing in these characters and never felt they were fully developed.  Their lives were solely about their ailments and how it affected them, and Green did little to explore else in their lives which I think hindered the novel.

In addition, the way the novel plays out is rather predictable.  While I couldn't guess 100% how it would end, I knew with certainty it was either going to play out one of two ways by the time Green introduced both Hazel and Gus, and I think that hindered my ability to bond with the characters as well.  I know with a disease like cancer, it almost has to end in one way or another, but when you can guess how it ends right at the beginning, it lessens the tragedy you feel the characters go through as you read along.

With that being said, it still brought tears to my eyes for the last 40 pages or so.  And I like the eloquence and bouts of sophistication Gus brings.  He is, hands down, my favorite of the characters as he reminds me a lot of my grandfather.

While nothing Earth shattering and completely heartbreaking like My Sister's Keeper, I think The Fault in Our Stars in a fresh young adult novel that touches on tragedy and young love that does not have the unrealistic fairy tale endings that most of the novels in its genre today spew.  So while John Green didn't blow my socks off with this first novel I've read by him, I am certain to explore the rest of his literature out there.

16 December 2013

Ascend

Author: Amanda Hocking
Series: Trylle #3
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

The final book in the Trylle trilogy, I have a bit of mix feelings about Ascend.  On one hand, Wendy is not as annoying as she was at the beginning of the series when we are first introduced to her in Switched.  It is not necessarily that she has grown or matured in any way, but more of the fact that she is not stumbling around between her human family and her magical life anymore.  In addition, the Finn issue has effectively been resolved, so there is no back and forth and back and forth of her pining over him and being depressed when he chooses his duty to his kingdom over her.

The story lines progress well in the finale, apart from the climax and the resolution with her father.  This part I found a huge letdown.  Hocking builds the need to solve the conflict with the Vittra starting almost in Switched, but definitely from the early stages of Torn.  The resolution to the issue of defeating her father is so swift and over so quickly that it is almost a complete letdown after the entire Ascend novel has built to the moment.  For an analogy, imagine a huge balloon you have been inflating for two hours, and then someone comes over with a needle and bursts it right as you are ready to tie it off.  That is how I felt with the end of the novel.

Besides the ending for the fight with the Vittra, however, I did enjoy the novel.  I still don't feel that I ever really connected with Wendy's character - or any of them for that matter - but it was a fun, light quick read.  Loki continued to dazzle me, and I cannot put into words why I love his character so much, but he really helps turn the series around and make it credible.  Perhaps because he is the one character in the entire series that doesn't seem so one dimensional.

After I read Hocking's Watersong trilogy, I was so disappointed with the writing and the storytelling that I decided to reread this series (that I had purchased after reading the series twice previously) for fear that I had built it up in my head to be much better than it actually is.  And while she is no master storyteller or literary genius (and never will be), this series is a fun young adult series for even the casual reader to enjoy for a weekend.  It is not deep or impactful by any means, but it is a series you can enjoy over again.

15 December 2013

The Elite

Author: Kiera Cass
Series: The Selection #2
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

The first time I read this book, back in April, I could barely give this book a 3 star rating.  I felt the plot was slow, not a lot happen, and that Mer was increasingly annoying with her wishy washy self and her inability to decide between Maxon and Aspen.  The whole "plot" seemed like a melting pot of mess.  To tell the truth, the first read through felt like self inflicted torture.

This second time around, I fared a little better.  Perhaps it was because I read it almost back to back with The Selection, so the story line continued quickly on between the two.  Maybe it was because the jumbled plot lines seemed to fall a little more into place the second time around, when I already knew somewhat what to expect and where it was going.  Or maybe I just paid a little more (or a little less) attention this time around.

I will say, Mer is still annoying in her constant back and forth between Aspen and Maxon to the point where I highly suspect she is massively bipolar.  One minute, she is ready to accept a marriage proposal from Maxon should he ask.  She is ready to be a princess and rule the kingdom with him.  Then an almost imaginary switch seems to flick in her mind (caused by a situation or action that does not seem that huge in my mind) and she has cast aside Maxon completely and cannot believe she ever found herself attracted to him in the first place.  She runs back to Aspen, who of course accepts her with open arms, and they are back to making out in secret in dark rooms of the castle as if they are back home and nothing has changed.  And then another medium impact action or situation occurs, and America finds herself once again with weak knees and swooning for Maxon again, and tosses Aspen aside without another thought.  That it pretty much the entire novel, back and forth between the two like a pinball.

I cannot tell if she is just young and naive or super shallow, but all of her actions says to me that perhaps she doesn't love either of them, or she would not be so easily able to just jump back and forth between the two.  My love/hate relationship with America aside, however, I found myself enjoying this book a little more than the first time I read it, though it still didn't have the Bachelor/Bachelorette feel of The Selection that I enjoyed so much the first time, even though I despise watching reality TV.

With her mind seemingly made up and the end and a fixed goal in mind, hopefully The One will deliver in the areas where The Elite no doubt crumbled and that America will stay on her "warpath" of determination, instead of flopping around like a fish out of water again.  And hopefully some kind of plot will finally develop from these seemingly ridiculous attacks on the castle from both the north and the south, and that this plot line won't just disappear into the ether like a side character on The West Wing.

14 December 2013

Horde

Author: Ann Aguirre
Series: Razorland #3
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Man, what a rather lengthy finale to the trilogy.  While Outpost was not exactly a power read, it was still a much quicker trip through than Horde.  This one definitely took me a while with its 400 plus pages combined with a lack of action and suspense.  Much of the novel includes walking around from town to town to town and back to town to try to gather up enough soldiers to fight in a group against the large zombie horde (hence, the name).  Thus, the novel is a series on walks and talks, with just a hint of action sprinkled here and there in between which made it a hard book to pick up and binge through.

After finishing the ending, I would have liked it better if it had been written in the third person and the epilogue had been dropped.  Then it would have at least had an eloquence to tie in very nicely with one of the mentioned plot lines of the Razorland trilogy.  As it was, the series was not bad, but it is not something I would invest the time in again to read all the way through.  It took me long enough to get through it the first time.  I have discovered I have a difficult time finding a good, solid zombie series to really invest myself in.  The Forest of Hands and Teeth was good, but other than that the state of literature for young adults has really washed up dry in this genre for me.  Using that fact alone, I would recommend reading through this series once if you are a zombie enthusiast for lack of better literature out there (at least that I have found).  As a stand alone without comparing it to its peers, however, Horde and the Razorland series as a whole fell short for me.  It never really grabbed my full attention and held the suspense.  With its length, it pattered off and lost me at times, and I had a hard time finishing the last novel.

07 December 2013

Torn

Author: Amanda Hocking
Series: Trylle #2
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

While Switched started off rocky, Torn doesn't have as much of that problem.  Granted, it starts with a pouting Wendy that runs away from the Trylle when she learns that Finn will no longer be watching over her, leaving her little reason to stay when she has been missing Matt and her aunt so much.  So she runs away from her responsibilities and her new world to seek comfort from what she knows.  On this respect, I scoff at Wendy - she seems like an annoying, whiny, self absorbed girl who doesn't take other people's thoughts and feelings into consideration and doesn't think through the consequences of her actions.

While the beginning doesn't start off rocky, it does start off a bit slow and it is still a bit of a jumble with the back and forth between the mundane world and the magical one.  But one character in this novel makes up for almost all the other downfalls - Loki.  I can't put my finger on why I like Loki so much.  Perhaps because he is a bit of an enigma, perhaps because he is one of the few characters that has more than one dimension.  We don't really know where his true loyalties lie, which helps add some suspense and intrigue to the series.  His interaction with Wendy and the others is always entertaining as well.

Amanda Hocking is still far from a knock your socks off writer, but she writes in a contemporary, quick to read style that makes for a light beach or weekend in bed reading.  And while a lot of the dialogue is lacking and some is a bit eye rolling worthy, it is still a good guilty indulgence that definitely seems to get better as the series continues on.

05 December 2013

The Selection

Author: Kiera Cass
Series: The Selection #1
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

On the surface, this novel is just another fluffy, romantic young adult novel.  Indeed, it isn't much more than this below the surface either.  I can't, for some reason, place my finger on just why I enjoy this novel as much as I do.  Perhaps because every girl, young or old, since has dreams of being a princess.  And princes always have their charm; Maxon is no exception to that rule.  He is young and naive.  He tries to do the right thing when the king doesn't listen to his views as much as he should.  He is shy and has never really fallen in love, except perhaps with young America Singer, who is none the wiser.

Now, when we get to America Singer, my love starts to falter.  For one thing, her name is ridiculous.  Indeed, most of the names in this novel are absurd and laughable.  She is a bit flaky and wishy washy, and seems to have little to no appreciation for the opportunities she is so lucky to have.  Instead, she focuses all of her attention and energy on boys and love.  First, she is all about Aspen (another crazy, stupid name).  Then, she starts to perhaps have feelings for Maxon.  And then it becomes very clear the series will be a love triangle between the two.  While America has a few shining moments, such as her actions towards her help/maids and the way she treats the other girls selected, she is in no way a role model.  She doesn't seem to have much self respect and independence; her life seems to resolve solely around the man of the hour, which is something I could never approve of.

I am not a fan of the Bachelor, or reality television in general, but for some reason that setting in this book sucked me in, which helps make up for the lack of development of the dystopian background setting.  The dystopian going on in the background is a bit of a plot pusher, and is only mentioned here and dropped there and then picked back up just when you had forgotten it.  Perhaps it becomes more of an actual plot piece further on down the series, but it's a bit of a jumble in this first novel in the series.

Cass certainly didn't blow me away in this debut, and I hardly doubt she will ever become a classic writer to embed herself in the genre, but it is a fun, light, quick, addictive read, more of a guilty pleasure than anything else.

01 December 2013

The Horse and His Boy

Author: C.S. Lewis
Series: The Chronicles of Narnia #3
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

While The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe was at least entertaining because it introduced us to the beloved characters of Susan, Peter, Edmund, and Lucy, The Horse and His Boy follows instead in the footsteps of the Magician's Nephew.  Lewis introduces readers to a lot of new characters all at once (a few of which are talking horses) and it is hard to connect to them because I associate Narnia with the kings and queens.  And while they do make a brief appearance in this novel, it is hardly enough to get excited about.  And while Aslan is present for a bit as well, I have never really cared much about Aslan.  A talking lion is a little hard to sympathize with.

This book does pick up in the end with some excitement, but I was already so confused by the end that it didn't have much impact on me.  I read dutifully through the entire novel, but most of it went in through the eyes and out through the ears, completely bypassing my memory.  By the time we got to the battle at the end, I wasn't even sure why they were fighting or who the other side even was, which toned down the excitement.

I will say, I'm glad I never finished this series as a kid as I don't think I would have enjoyed it much and then I never would have been interested in seeing the movies.  Prince Caspian is next in the series, however, so I am holding out hope.  Still not quite sure why these books have become classics though, as they are not something that would seem to stick with you throughout your childhood or life and don't really seem to withstand the test of time either (apart from the movies, which were ok but not great by any means or standards).

30 November 2013

Switched

Author: Amanda Hocking
Series: Trylle #1
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

So after reading the hugely disappointing Watersong series by Hocking, I needed a reaffirmation that I actually did enjoy the Trylle trilogy and that I wasn't remembering it wrong and completely disillusioned.  So I took a break from my never ending library stack of books and dove back into my own collection to read this one again.

I will admit, the beginning of this novel is very, very weak which does not set a great president for the rest of the series.  The narrator, Wendy (and while I LOVE Peter Pan, the name Wendy is a pretty awful/plain one), s not all together likable at first.  She meets this mysterious Finn and almost instantly falls not just for him for but for his entire story.  I may have been very naive growing up compared to my peers, but if some guys started staring at me through my bedroom window at night and tried to convince me I was not exactly human and just I should run away with him, my instinct would not be to run away with him.  Instead, I would either call the cops to get him locked up or murder stab him in fear of my own life.  But the beginning of this novel is so fast paced for lack of a better term, that Wendy soon finds herself abandoning her family and jetting off to unknown lands with this still very much stranger.

Once they reach the magical world of Fralalala (yes, I know this is not the actual name, but I can't spell it off hand as it was never one of my vocab words growing up), the plot does get better however.  You can almost forget how stupid and naive our Wendy is, and at this point Hocking does actually start to become something of a storyteller.  Sure, some of the dialogue I still wince at, and warming up to Wendy takes a while, but it does at least surpass the garbage that was the Watersong series, so that is comforting.

While I never really bought the whole Finn and Wendy relationship, I do still remember enjoying the rest of this series and will chug through Torn and Ascend next as well.  A veil has been lifted from my eyes, and I realize now that Hocking will never be a great writer.  She will be sandwiched in there with the likes of Kiera Cass and company, but she is at least a step ahead of Stephanie Meyer.  Unless reading through Torn and Ascend again change my mind, the beginning of this novel and the entire Watersong series tell me that she just doesn't have the grasp of likable, true to life characters, and her female characters are too obsessed/boy crazy over guys to ever be independent or strong, which is a huge deal breaker with me.  But I guess all female characters can't be Katniss Everdeen.

Fruits Basket, Volume 23

Author: Natsuki Takaya
Series: Fruits Basket #23
Rating: 5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

The series could have been two to seven volumes shorter, with a lot of filler material removed.  Almost the entire middle of this series, in fact, could be cut out.  The removal of the curse was very anticlimactic in hide sight, as it just sort of... happened.  The plot was a bit coincidental, including Kyo's relationship with Tohru's mother that was hidden expect towards the end of the series.  And well, a lot of the characters were annoying to the point where they were hard to read through.

But say what I will about the series, I do love the ending.  It proves that even though the series was developed about the Zodiac curse, this whole time it really has been about Tohru and her relationships with everyone.  I think Tohru gets a worthy send off from Takaya, and that the other characters do as well.  The series is wrapped up, but it also leaves it open ended to a point as well to allow the characters to continue to grow up and live on past the conclusion of the series.

Fruits Basket, Volume 22

Author: Natsuki Takaya
Series: Fruits Basket #22
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

Tohru is still in the hospital, and the best friends are refusing to allow Kyo to see her.  They challenge him with a "Isn't there something you should be doing?" and he realizes that, in fact, there is.  So he sets off to do just that.

I will say, for a series that originally revolved around the Zodiac animals, we haven't actually seen any of them take their animal form in quite a while now.  And even more, Tohru and Rin seemed so determined to find a way to break the curse for their own reasons, and yet try as they might they couldn't find a way.  This part of the plot, believe it or not, made the most sense to me.  After all, this curse has been around for generations upon generations.  If it were that easy to break, wouldn't someone have already figured out by now?  And then, to just have the curse start breaking randomly without explanations for some of the characters... I'm sorry, but that seems like a cop out to me.  Way too easy with little satisfaction in the explanation.

Ignore the curse breaking (which is kind of hard at this point though), I did like this volume.  Yuki gets another moment to shine, and Tohru and Kyo finally get to have the heart to heart they have been scrambling around for a while now.  I don't like Akito full 180 transformation in such a short about of time, as it seems like just a VAST change from how he/she was introduced in the beginning.  But whatever.  Plot-smot.  I did like the back story/legend of how the Zodiac curse came to be though.

27 November 2013

Fruits Basket, Volume 21

Author: Natsuki Takaya
Series: Fruits Basket #21
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

Tohru and Kyo finish their heart to heart.  I still find it highly coincidental that Kyo met her when she was little and that he was there at the time of her mother's death.  Especially since he seems to be carrying the guilt of that day with him all the time and it weighs heavily on his heart.  We even find out how it changed the course of his life and set things in motion that we were led to believe were something else.  If all of this is true, I would have thought that it was have at least been hinted at prior to the last few volumes with more than just the baseball hat.

But alas, let us not dive into the overall plots in this series least the whole thing unravel around us.

Akito finally starts to seems human, but it takes a huge catalyst event that sets the tone for the rest of the volume.  With everything revolving around this one event, things may seem a little slow, but we do get a heart to heart between Kyo and Yuki that is probably my favorite scene involving the two of them, and Yuki gets his shining moment for his own love life.

While breaking the Zodiac curse is hardly mentioned, if mentioned at all, in this volume, it still carries the final underlying plot along while relying heavily on the relationship between Kyo and Tohru, which is her main reason for wanting to break the curse.

25 November 2013

So Mote It Be

Author: Isobel Bird
Series: Circle of Three #1
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I started watching The Secret Circle on Netflix and when I realized it was based on a book series, I could have sworn I had read it before initially before getting through the pilot.  Then I read deeper into the full plot of the series and realized it was different than the book series about witches I had read in early high school.  But then my curiosity was peaked, and I was determined to remember which series I had read.

After a lot of different search phrases in Google, I finally realized it was the Circle of Three series.  So proud of myself for finding the series and remembering the correct one, I decided I should read it again.  It took a little library hunting, but I finally got my hands on a copy of So Mote It Be.

Now I don't remember how much I liked this series growing up, but - assuming I was pretty devoted as I remember I read a good way through the series if not in its entirety - I will start by saying the literature does not stand the test of time.  Reading this novel in my early twenties, the dialogue and much of the plot seemed cliched and weak.  The characters were rather one dimensional, except for the three high schoolers that end up forming the circle - they at least had two dimensions... kind of.

Still, it was an okay read while watching a movie in the background.  Nothing really original or anything that stood out, but okay for a first novel in a series.  The true test will be when I read the second novel, if I can manage to get my hands on it as well.  While I have no doubt it will be littered with the same teen "angst" and tendancy toward boy craziness, hopefully the Wicca aspect of the series will have a chance to develop more, as it is still more of an underlying theme in this first novel.

23 November 2013

The Eternity Code

Author: Eoin Colfer
Series: Artemis Fowl #3
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

While the Artemis Fowl books many not hold up 100% over time, I have no doubt they age well.  Well the dialogue may seem a little juvenile at times now that I read this book in my mid twenties, it isn't as bothersome as you would expect.  And the returning characters from the previous two novels in the series certainly help you forget as you dive back into this series (again and again).

With his mother healed and his father returned home in The Arctic Incident, Artemis Fowl II is going straight (whether he likes it or not)... but not until he pulls off one last trick, thanks to some fairy technology they snagged during their previous adventures.

But Artemis's plan soon goes off the rails when he is outsmarted not by Foaly or Holly but by a full grown human adult.  After being outsmarted and having the fairy technology he stole now stolen from him, Artemis must enlist this help of his frenemies, which is where the novel really starts to pick up.

I don't care how old you are, how weak the dialogue may seem to be at times, or how outlandish the plots grow the older you get, I am hard pressed to outgrow these novels.  While the dialogue may not be seem age appropriate for the adults, I eagerly eat up witty banter.  And how could you not love Mulch Diggums?  Even as Artemis starts to grow up and become a more responsible adult, we can't help but wait for him to break bad again.  And as soon as you close the book cover closed, you can't help but want to gobble up the next adventure.

18 November 2013

Fruits Basket, Volume 20

Author: Natsuki Takaya
Series: Fruits Basket #20
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

Finally, the web is starting to unravel and things are starting to heat up.  We see two more Zodiac members apparently break the curse, although perhaps one of the "saved" members hasn't broke the curse after all... Takaya leaves a cliffhanger at the end to reveal in the next volume.

While I miss the presence of Yuki in this volume, I can't deny I enjoyed a breather from the student council gang.  Ren and Akito are heavily featured in this volume, as we get even more back story into why their family hatred runs so deep.

Kyo and Tohru finally confront each other, after spending much of the past few volumes rarely seeing each other and not saying much when they did.  While this is also left on a bit of a cliffhanger, we get some back story here as well.  And while I find it hard to believe that Tohru met so many of these characters (Kyo, Yuki, the student council guy, etc.) when she was younger, I guess stranger things could happen.

I will say, though, this volume finally answers my wish of putting some life and excitement back into the series after it lost its footing and grip there for a while.

17 November 2013

Fruits Basket, Volume 19

Author: Natsuki Takaya
Series: Fruits Basket #19
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

I had hoped this volume would be a substantial plot volume, but it turns out to be mostly filler once again.  While Tohru and Kyo have a moment, and the younger of the Sohma zodiac clan discuss Kyo having to be locked away in the cat room by Akito, these plot points only cover maybe 1/5 of the volume.  The rest deals mostly with the annoying student council group.  And while Nabe is linked to Tohru's past, the backstory has nothing to do with the Sohma family and really little impact on the plot overall, although the side plots with the student council members do give Yuki more face time since he doesn't seem able to be around Kyo and Tohru in the same room anymore.

Again, definitely not a very strong volume but with one four left, they have to start getting interesting pretty soon!

Altered

Author: Gennifer Albin
Series: Crewel World #2
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

I will admit, when I read Crewel back in May, what drew me to the novel was the cover.  And I know that one shouldn't judge a book by its cover, but the cover was just so beautiful, sitting there on a shelf at the library surrounded by all these other books with covers that paled in comparison.  Luckily, the book was just as fascinating as its cover.

When I saw the cover for Altered, I almost puked.  Then I saw the redesigned cover for Crewel and almost lost my lunch again.  To take such a beautiful design and replace it with these news one - I hope someone in the design team got fired after this one.

I didn't judge Altered by its cover, but the analogy seems to hold true.  While Crewel was as beautiful a novel as its initial cover, Altered was about as interesting as its newly revamped cover designs.  With Ad on Earth, the time-space manipulation on her part takes a back seat to a lot of other plots that crop one.  One of these plots is the love triangle between her and the two brothers, which becomes angst ridden and at times over the top and annoying.  We get to meet some interesting new characters on Earth, but the time-space manipulation is what Crewel revolved around and while Altered is still based on the same fundamental ideas, it isn't used as much in the book overall and that led Altered to be a bit more stereotypical of young adult fiction.

In addition, the parts of this novel that focus heavily on the time-space fabric of weaving push at the boundaries of the limitations of my suspension of disbelief.  In Altered, Albin introduces an accelerated timeline; without going into spoiler details, this means that part of the universe is aging/moving through time faster than the other part.  This allows Albin some interesting play with characters and storylines, but it weaves the complicated web of the world to the point where I have to strain myself to believe in this universe at all anymore.  Especially when Albert Einstein gets thrown into the mix.

Overall, Altered falls from the pedestal that Crewel set for the series.  But I do have hopes that the third installment in the series (perhaps the last if it follows the current trilogy theme) will find a way to get back on track.

16 November 2013

Fruits Basket, Volume 18

Author: Natsuki Takaya
Series: Fruits Basket #18
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

The reverse of its predecessor, this volume starts off weak but grows stronger as the focus shifts.  The first portion of this volume focuses on Machi, Kimi, and the rest of the student council Yuki side band.  Again, I have always found these characters dull and rather trivial without giving much to the overall plot of the series.  As such, I never enjoy reading the parts that focus on them and find these parts to be page fillers.  As least in this volume, they focus on one to one relationships a bit between these filler characters and Yuki, and give Yuki a bit of a romantic inclination apart from the zany and crazy Yuki fan club.

Once we get through their nonsense, we get to the good stuff - i.e. focus on breaking the Sohma Zodiac curse.  We find out what's been going on with Rin and why she is in the state she is in.  And we build on the relationship between her and Haru, which I have to admit is pretty sweet.  We get a new addition to the Sohma clan, and Kiro becomes a little less of a whiny, obnoxious boy and starts growing into a teenager/adult.

The ending of this volume is the best though, as we finally shift our focus back onto breaking the curse to free the characters, and the attention is put on my favorite character, Kyo.  Hopefully things will finally pick back up into full swing in the next volume.

15 November 2013

Fruits Basket, Volume 17

Author: Natsuki Takaya
Series: Fruits Basket #17
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

The first two thirds of this volume are solid in my book.  We get some shocking revelations about Akito and Kureno, one of which I had forgotten since the last time I read the series.  We get some background into why Akito is are crazy and evil as he is, and why Kureno decides to stay by his side even after the way Akito treats all the zodiac members.  We also learn a little bit about Shigure.

The last one third of the volume or so is not as interesting.  Shigure's editor makes an appearance will are her loud, obnoxious crying/yelling/desperation.  Both the Yuki fan club and the student council also crop up with the mention of graduation drawing near.

I have to be honest, the Tohru and Kyo relationship is one of the biggest reasons I read this story again and again (and even the Yuki and Tohru at the beginning), and it has been pretty scarce in recent volumes, so hopefully it will pick up soon.  Especially since the supporting characters in this series, on a whole, are rather annoying.

I will say that the scene between Tohru, Arisa and Hanajima was awesome and definitely made this volume.  With the Kyo/Tohru interactions lacking, the second best is the three musketeers together.

11 November 2013

Resist

Author: Sarah Crossan
Series: Breathe #2
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

With the current fads in young adult series, I just assumed this series would be a trilogy (at least).  But I just finished reading Resist, and I realized 'Hmmmm, I'm pretty sure this is the end of the series'.  And lo and behold, I was right.  A duology it appears.

With only two book in the series, it would be hard for me to give reasons why not to read it, or even buy the two novels for that matter.  Neither are extremely lengthy or excessively wordy and why I was a little disappointed with the ending, I think it was because I was sad to see the characters go so soon and not because I felt cheated.  Granted, the climax of the novel is like an atomic bombing setting off with all the action and adventure going on, and then the conclusion is a full 360 of calm and collected action instead, which was a little hard to swallow after my pulse had been pounding for so long.

I think Crossan could have extended Resist to be a little longer and fleshed out the ending for a tighter, more fulfilling ending, but hey - that's kind of life isn't it?

The narrative in Resist got even more complicated than Crossan presented in Breathe.  Not only did we read through the POVs of Alina, Bea and Quinn, but Crossan introduced Ronan as a narrator as well.  I often found myself having to flip back a few pages to the start of the chapter to remind myself who was telling that particular part of the story.  But while the narration got a little convoluted through all the different POVs, the plot at least never felt that way.  I thought Crossan did an excellent job wrapping up where Breathe took off.  It didn't live up to my expectations 100%, but then a book hardly ever does.  Perhaps after I buy both novels and read them again, directly back to back, I will grow to appreciate it more.

Overall, however, I stand by my original review of Breathe - the two novels in this series are a breath of fresh air compared to a lot of the crap writing floating around in the genre these days.  And while many of the stereotypical elements are there (the hinted at love-interest triangles, the teen romance, etc. etc.) they aren't overbearing in the way Crossan weaves them into the story.

10 November 2013

My Sort of Fairy Tale Ending

Author: Anna Staniszewski
Series: My Very UnFairy Tale Life #3
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Full disclosure, I have not read the first two novels in this trilogy.  I have never even heard of these novels before or the author and did not realize this book was the third in a series until after I have received the galley copy from the publisher.

Even though I hadn't read the first two in the series, I decided to give it a go.  And while I know I would have enjoyed it more if I had more back story on the characters, it was still an enjoyable read.  This book does not have much in the way of character development, but it hints at characteristics that sound as if they were introduced in the previous novels.

The comedy isn't as funny as Stanszewski probably intended, but it may have hit the target better with its target audience, which is quite a bit younger than myself.  Indeed, I have the feeling I would have enjoyed this novel a lot more if I were about ten years younger.  With that said, I probably wouldn't recommend this book to my peers of my age, as the plot is a little silly and fast paced without a whole lot of development.  But for preteen and young teenagers, I reckon they would be able to easily look over these obstacles and really enjoy this novel.  I would recommend that they start from the beginning of the series, however, instead of just jumping in for this final novel.

08 November 2013

Dark Star


Author: Bethany Frenette
Series: Dark Star #1
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

A refreshingly interesting debut novel from Bethany Frenette.  Audrey lives in the shadow of a superhero mother, who moonlights at night as Morning Star, a vigilante superhero.  I have recently found myself deep into the television show Arrow, so Dark Star seemed like a perfect transition into a novel vigilante.

Audrey soon realizes that her mother is more than she ever expected.  And she learns that her ability to read cards is just the tip of the iceberg into her family's pool of talents.

What starts out as a paranormal novel with some card readings quickly turns to high fantasy as we dive deeper into Audrey's family history.  While I probably would have enjoyed the novel better if it stuck simply to its paranormal early roots, it wouldn't have had much of a plot.

Frenette introduces the Kin and Harrowers, and a plot that is a little hard to keep track of between the two.  I treated Dark Star as a quick read and skimmed over the deeper parts of the plot (such as the Circles, the Beneath and how things went down between her parents and Verrick), focusing instead on Audrey's actions now instead of trying to understand the history and the purpose of the Harrowers and the  Remnant.

Even with the unique terminology that is difficult to read, Dark Star is still an interesting, fast paced ride.  A few scenes felt awkward, a bit like rookie mistakes so to say.  The food fight between Audrey and Leon stands out as a blaring example, but other than that the book is still entertaining.  A romantic element exists in the novel, but it isn't overbearing and doesn't take away from the plot in general.

While this debut novel in the series wrapped up the major plot rather nicely, Frenette still left herself plenty of avenues to explore later in the series, and I look forward to reading about them early next year in Burn Bright.

07 November 2013

Fruits Basket, Volume 16

Author: Natsuki Takaya
Series: Fruits Basket #16
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

While introduced by the fact that Kyo met Tohru's mother when he was younger, the first half of this volume revolves not around Kyo and Tohru's mom, but about how her parents met through the early years of her life, up until her mother met Kyo.  And while it is a cute story, it is also kind of creepy how much older than her mother her father was and how they met in the first place and just how their entire relationship unfolded.  It seemed a bit like something you would warn your young daughter about.

That aside, the first half of the volume was pretty slow because it really didn't focus on the Sohma family.  Once we wrapped up with Tohru's parents, then we switched to Machi and the student council gang.  Again, yawn.  The New Years ball is thrown in at the end, but it is sandwiched together which a whole bunch of characters thrown together all of a sudden.  The volume went from slow and drawn out to way too crowded and time passing much too quickly.

Definitely one of my lease favorite in the series so far, but at least it has a cute Kyo/Tohru moment.

06 November 2013

Allegiant

Author: Veronica Roth
Series: Divergent #3
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

When I completed my third or fourth reading of the  The Hunger Games series, a family friend recommended Divergent to me.  This rec came right around the time Insurgent was released, so I read Divergent and Insurgent fairly close together.  While Divergent peaked my interest and was entertaining enough, Insurgent fell flat until the very end.  It was only the tail end of Insurgent that even convinced me to give Allegiant a try.

Now that I have finished the series, I wish I had just dropped it after Insurgent and called it a day.  It is not that Allegiant is inherently bad, it is just that it is not inherently good either.  The action and suspense in this book - which clocks in over 500 pages - is limited and sparse.

The characters don't leave the impact that others do, in the series as a whole.  When I picked up Allegiant, I got it on loan from the library and thus did not have time to reread Divergent or Insurgent to refresh my mind.  So while a few names stuck in my brain - such as Four - the first part of Allegiant was trying to refamiliarize myself with the characters on the fly, which is never a good sign for a series.  I honestly did not even remember Tris's name.

I guess a good thing you could say about Allegiant is it definitely wraps the series up.  And I did like the ending, although it got increasingly hard the last 150 pages or so to force myself to keep reading as I knew I had other books on my shelf that needed to get read and reading this book became more and more of a chore instead of entertainment.

At the end of the day, Allegiant and the Divergent series as a whole never impacted me the way I like trilogy series to.  I never bonded or even connected with the characters, and the universe that Veronica Roth creates, especially the expanded one she introduces us to in Allegiant, felt short on the coat tails of writers like Scott Westerfeld and Suzanne Collins.  So while Divergent was a better series than Twilight, now that I have completed it I won't be adding the hardback editions to my collection of books to read over and over.  Indeed, I doubt I will ever pick up another one of these books again.  Lackluster seems to be the perfect word to my reaction to Allegiant.

30 October 2013

Beta

Author: Rachel Cohn
Series: Annex #1
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

Beta started out as an interesting concept.  We are introduced to a "Beta" clone just as she is being awoken.  She is one of the first of her kind as a teenage clone, and we discover in order for a clone to survive, its "First" has to die.  Then I guess the First's memories are transplanted into the clone, but the clone - unlike the human First - does not have a soul.  While the Beta remembers the memories of its First and is loaded with a basic knowledge and vocabulary, the Beta still starts with the social characteristics of a young child.

The Beta that narrates this story, called Elysia, is sent to replace a family's dead daughter.  She gets to live in a perfect utopia of a world, although she soon discovers that this seemingly perfect world is anything but.  She spends the first part of the novel trying to acclimate herself with her surroundings, her new family members, the other teenagers on the island, and their behavior and vocabulary she isn't programmed with.

While the book can be classified as having sci-fi themes as it deals with cloning, I would hardly call it a sci-fi novel.  There is no interesting descriptions of the technology or really why the society has developed the way it has.  The clones seemingly just exist to cater to the whims of the humans who no longer want to work but somehow still make a living.

While the plot and the characters are interesting to start, it gets very cliche towards the middle and by the end I found myself hardly caring at all except for finishing the novel.  The plot lines become cliche, and the story begins to remind me of Twilight for some reason I cannot quite peg.  Of course, a love triangle has to be thrown in as well since it is a modern day YA novel.  While there was still one or two surprises left towards the end of the book, when it ended on the cliffhanger, I closed the cover and was ready to return the book to the library with no need to follow up on the Annex series again.

The biggest theme in the novel is that the clones are not as docile as the humans believe.  It is a "classic" A.I. issue where the clones become self aware and realize they have feelings and perhaps they don't want to be slave anymore.  But even with the "classic" plot line, Cohn's YA style of writing doesn't allow the story to take the plot very far, as it finds itself stuck in a pool of swallow, cliched water.

26 October 2013

Death Without Company

Author: Craig Johnson
Series: Walt Longmire Mystery #2
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

While different from the television show (which was my first introduction to Walt Longmire), the Cold Dish was an interesting enough read and a well enough written mystery - even if the ending left something to be desired.  It was a decent enough debut novel to have me venture into Death Without Company, the second novel in the series.

While the plot of this novel was interesting enough - Walt and crew set out to find Mari's murderer when the ole sheriff Connally is determined her death at the assisted living facility was in fact murder and not just death by old age and bad health.

I found this novel a lot harder to follow and get engaged in than the preceding one.  It took me a while to read, and with the numerous number of characters that are introduced in this book, it was hard to recall them all as I picked up where I had left off a few days before each time.  By the time I got to the end and the mystery was solved, I am not even sure I remember all the characters involved and how they relate to the beginning of the story.

That being said, it's not a bad novel.  For people who love mystery novels in general, I am sure they will find it a great read.  And Walt still has his moments of internal thought that make you want to laugh out loud.  Henry Standing Bear doesn't play as big of a role in this novel (which is a shame, because his banter and relationship with Walt is what really got me through the first novel) but Cady plays a role in this book, and her dialogue and relationship with her father brings its own entertainment.

As a mystery novel goes, I think there are much better options out there.  Certainly, the Walt Longmire Mystery series so far has been a little lackluster and a bit disappointing to me.  But where the plots and mysteries fall sort, the characters help pick up the slack to balance them out well enough for a library read or a loan from a friend.

24 October 2013

Fruits Basket, Volume 15

Author: Natsuki Takaya
Series: Fruits Basket
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

The rift between the Sohmas and Akito exists for obvious reasons, but in this volume we get a little more insight into the reasons behind Yuki's disdain for the god of the Zodiac animals.

In addition, the school performance of Sorta Cinderella is finally performed, and it is as hysterical as you might expect.  And while the play doesn't go exactly as scripted, it reveals two secrets two actresses are trying to hold in.

This volume is heading in the right direction and helps develop the plot towards motivations towards breaking the curse.  I just hope the pace continues to pick up.

07 October 2013

The Unidentified

Author: Rae Mariz
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Mariz creates a social networking crazed world that pulls you in slowly and then keeps the pages turning even though you may not understand why.  The Unidentified isn't a fast paced thriller, and while there is a bit of a mystery as Kid tries to found out more about the so called Unidentified group, the pace of the book is still rather slow.

I did not get hooked on this novel right away, but the further I got into it, the more it interested me.  I thought it was going to be a social commentary about how much the lives of today's youth revolve around social media and networking and how we over share to the point of wondering if nothing about ourselves is left a secret anymore.  To a point, I guess this book still delivers some aspects to that point.  But what started out as an interesting premise along these lines fell off the rails by the end.  The world Mariz creates is hard to take seriously as well.  Dozens of "Games" around the country/world where kids pick the fashion, what's trending, everything?  No more schools?  What about the rest of the world outside of the Games?  If you stop to think about the possibility of this novel even for a moment, it immediately becomes less and less attractive as a good read.

Nevertheless, it is a quick read that teens may enjoy, even though the ending definitely felt like a letdown.

01 October 2013

Fruits Basket, Volume 14

Author: Natsuki Takaya
Series: Fruits Basket #14
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

This volume focuses mostly on Rin and Yuki.  Rin, like Tohru, is determined to find a way to break the Sohma curse not for herself but for the sake of others.  She goes to Shigure, who she hopes will have an idea, but she comes up empty handed in that respect.  What she doesn't discover to find, as she ends up passing out and eventually winds up in the hospital, is that she finds a friend in Tohru despite her own wishes.

Yuki focuses on the student council board and his zany new friends, including the girl who rips apart the room without explanation.  We get some back story on some secondary characters, but it really doesn't interest me much however.  And a revelation in the Yuki/Tohru relationship is made.

The greatest interest in this volume is right at the end, when they reveal the casting for the school play.  The plot line is definitely starting to drag, so hopefully Rin or Tohru can make a break in the Sohma curse soon.

30 September 2013

Breathe

Author: Sarah Crossan
Series: Breathe #1
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Finally, a breath of fresh air in young adult (*rim shot*).  Seriously, though, Breathe was better than expected for a typical young adult novel in this day and age.

First of all, the story is told in the typical first person narrative, but it is told through three different narrators - Bea, Quinn, and Alina.  All three have quite different lives and personalities and each endures different aspects of the story.  When all three are woven together, they make a solid narrative.

This story also contains your typical young adult love triangle.  But it's only typical in the fact that it exists in the novel.  For starters, Crossan switches it up with two girls and one guy instead of the typical two guys obsessing over one girl.  And while the romance/live triangle exists, it doesn't smother you as you make your way through the novel.

As for the world Crossan creates, it's a new type of dystopian even though it contains a lot of the familiar aspects (corrupt 'government', small controlling interest trying to maintain monopoly, a small group fighting for change out in the deserted world... etc etc.).

It isn't a stay up all night under the covers with a flashlight excitement of a read, but its unique enough and well written enough to be an engaging read.  Enough so that I definitely can't wait to put my name on the wait list for the next volume when it's available at the library.

Fruits Basket, Volume 13

Author: Natsuki Takaya
Series: Fruits Basket #13
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

Yuki is the last to have his parent teacher conference, and this volume definitely focuses on him for a majority.  His mother finally makes an appearance, and she is just as warm and fuzzy as you would expect.  Yuki, however, starts sticking up for himself and starts branching out and dare I say even make friends!

Tohru meets Momiji's little sister, Momo, while trying to get into the Sohma house for a visit with Kureno.  Momo is definitely a cutie and there is a very touching Momiji scene.  It almost appears as if he is starting to grow up.

Tohru and gang head to Kyoto for their class field trip, and with the whole gang included, it definitely adds to some fun and laughs.

27 September 2013

Inhuman

Author: Kat Falls
Series: Fetch #1
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

ARC received from the publisher for an honest review.

Even though I read the description and knew this novel revolved around mutations, I was still expecting zombies for some reason.  Indeed, as you start reading, the whole world is set up as the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse.  The premise is not that different in this novel if you just replace brain eating zombies with animal zombies.

I am not sure how an infection/virus/disease would work that would mix animal DNA with human DNA and make you slowly turn into(physical attributes as well as behavioral) the animal whose DNA has been mixed, but I tried not to dwell on the question much because when I did, I came up on the complete opposite end of the spectrum than the world that Falls creates.

Like most of the current YA fiction realm, this story revolves around a young female narrator.  Quite early on into the novel, she meets two new boys, and a triangle develops almost instantly.  Nothing original in that side of the plot.  She is a sheltered girl who has her life flipped when she discovers that her father is not the innocent art dealer she always thought.  When he goes missing and his life ends up in danger thanks to a corrupt "government" worker, she sets out on a race against the clock to find her dad in the scary world past the protection of the walls around her town into the feral world.  Again, a basic premise that is not 100% original.

Falls does add a twist with the mutated people that instead of acting like zombies, are at least in part animalistic from a viral disease that has killed off much of the population of the world (the whole issue of the ferals brings up the questioning of what makes us "human", and the fine line that separates us from all the other mammals out there).  Only a few scattered townships/cities still exist with no formal government in place anymore.

Once Lane ventures out into the feral world is when the plot really begins to take a dive.  Up until this point, I was really enjoying the novel as it starts off strong even though she uses hand sanitizer around 100 times in the first 30 pages (and then, ironically, later when she is surrounded by germs and manimals, suddenly she no longer has the Monkish need to feel clean/protected.  Interesting.  If you are going to give a character such a pronounced characteristic, please follow through on it throughout the entirety of the novel).  And while I never really connected fully with Lane, she wasn't as obnoxious as a lot of current day "heroine" narrators.  In this novel, it was the plot over the characters that really got me.

First, we introduce a serial killer.  Enter the smart ass, many times obnoxious Rafe.  The subplot of the serial killer is his write in/reasoning to continue his journey with her initially (we get another more realistic reason a little further down the line, though it all just seemed a little too coincidental for my liking).  This whole serial killer plot was awkward for the majority of the novel and the twistish plotline involving the return of it later in the book did not impress me.

The twist involving Everson (about his reasoning for joining the crusade) is the one that did surprise me although, again, it was far too coincidental for my liking.  But regardless of the two "love interests", my real issue with the plot revolves around her dad.  While it is the centerpiece for the main plot of the novel and her entire reasoning behind venturing out into the feral world, it takes a backseat for the last 50% of the novel.  And yes, at least this plot line is resolved (kind of) in the end, but it (too!) seemed highly coincidental and the resolution of the plot line felt far too thrown together as an aftermath in an attempt to bring closure at the end of the novel, while still leaving enough gaps to continue with the next in the Fetch series.

Overall, it was unique enough that I enjoyed it, but I am still waiting for a release this year to really just blow my mind away.

23 September 2013

Fruits Basket, Volume 12

Author: Natsuki Takaya
Series: Fruits Basket #12
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

Parent teacher conferences start as the gang's summer ends and they all go back to school.  Shigure fills in for Tohru's guardian when her grandfather is unable to make it.  And Kyo stays true to his word about wanting to spend more time with Tohru while he still has the chance.

As for Kagura, she finally has a heart to heart with Kyo, and on one hand I finally see her as a true "person" and not just a super annoying character always screaming and beating people up.  But on the other hand, her heart to heart leaves me just as irritated with her as always.

Shigure has his own little "heart to heart" with Tohru's teacher, but again I really couldn't care less about this particular side plot in the series.  Sensei shows up for Kyo's conference, however, and I always love his dialogue with the characters.  Rin is annoying and rude as always (my feelings towards her are similar to Kagura) but I guess her heart is sort of kind of in the right place.

22 September 2013

Fruits Basket, Volume 11

Author: Natsuki Takaya
Series: Fruits Basket #11
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

The Sohmas continue to enjoy the summer at the family summerhouse, and Akito continues to dampen everyone's moods.

While the last volume focused a lot on Yuki, this volume focuses a lot on Kyo.  At Akito's request, Kyo goes to visit him and the visit reveals a very sad truth regarding Kyo's future.

Ren also makes an appearance, and Tohru meets the final member(s) of the Zodiac that she hasn't met before.

Fruits Basket, Volume 10

Author: Natsuki Takaya
Series: Fruits Basket #10
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

Summer is here and our favorite members of the Sohma family head to their summerhouse with Tohru in toe.  But when the rest of the cursed family members are invited - and show up - not only do competitions start to form but tensions start to rise.

This volume is a great developmental volume for not only Yuki, but Tohru and Kyo as well.  One of the Sohma members finds out they are going to have a younger sibling.  And a surprise visitor to the summerhouse throws the whole trip into jeopardy.

This volume also introduces a new love triangle of sorts while introducing a new character, and while I am a fan of Hatori and all, this trip down memory lane seems a little unnecessary and didn't really hold my interest.  Apart from the Hatori and Shigure middle hunk of the volume, I enjoyed.

21 September 2013

Death Note, Volume 12

Author: Tsugumi Ohba
Series: Death Note #12
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

So, I am listening to 30STM's Conquistador and Up in the Air while I am writing this review, and as some of the lyrics run through my ears, I have to smile at how fitting they are for the conclusion of this series.

I have to admit, for the past five volumes or so (basically - since L died, however long ago that was) I haven't really been impressed with the series much.  It has been interesting enough to keep my attention, but it has taken me a lot longer to get through the second leg of this series than how quickly I devoured the early volumes.

The same did not hold true for the final volume.  I finished the eleventh volume just two hours ago, and I have already finished the final volume, deleted some software off my laptop, and written the review for the eleventh volume in that time.  Wow.

The ultimate battle of wits finally plays out and it is an ultimate game of chess indeed.  I have to admit, the final seven pages made no sense to me whatsoever.  I went ahead and threw "Death Note ending" into Google to try to get some perspective, but to no avail.  It led to a bunch of cry babies wailing over how much they hated the ending.  To be fair, I do not fall into this category.

This is a fight to the death

This lyric from Conquistador is what sticks out the most for me right now as I write this review and have 30STM playing in the background.  With all practicality, I knew either Light or Near was going to have to die.  It's how the entire final volume was set up in that creepy old warehouse.  And I liked the way it played out, especially since it brought into play some of the other minor characters who have been kind of a laughing joke of the series.  With this being said, I was fully ready to give this final volume 4 or even 4.5 stars.

But then I got to the last seven pages and couldn't do it because they didn't tie in with everything else.  Plus, I read on Google that a year or more after this "final" volume of Death Note they released a follow up volume 13.  And, I am sorry, but I absolutely hate it when authors follow up "finished" series with more novels/volumes (cough, Cassandra Clare, cough).  I lost a lot of respect for the series upon reading that, and I have to admit it soiled this volume for me.  I certainly won't be reading it.  Let the end be the end, writers.  Please, for the love of Kira God.

Death Note, Volume 11

Author: Tsugumi Ohba
Series: Death Note #11
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

So, I will admit I read volume 12 before writing this review.  While that doesn't change my rating of this volume, it does make me appreciate it a little more.  After all, this volume is basically a set up for the ending.  So while nothing really exciting happens in this volume per se, it does set up for an awesome game of chess in the final volume.

19 September 2013

BZRK Reloaded

Author: Michael Grant
Series: BZRK #2
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

I had kept BZRK on my To Read list for a while, so when I got access to an ARC galley from the publisher, I pushed myself to go ahead and check it out of the library to read.  I love sci fi novels and while BZRK was inherently nothing special, it was interesting enough to get me into the this sequel.

This sequel, however, was similar to an English homework reading assignment.  It seems as if it took me ages to read, and I kept putting it off in lieu of television or other books I was also reading.  Procrastination at its finest.

For one, I never felt connected to these characters.  The series as a whole has severely lacked character development.  It's hard to care about the characters' situations when you don't even care about the characters in general.  And the whole Plath/Noah relationship is so underdeveloped it's more of a laughing point in the plot than anything else.

Then we get to the main plot(s) of this novel.  While the plot of BZRK was ok, the plot of BZRK Reloaded reminded me of a train wreck.  We had numerous different plot lines going on and most of them never connected or made any sense at all.  My main point here, without getting into spoiler depth detail, is the Doll Ship.  I realize Plath made one of the conjoined twins a "little" crazy at the end of the first novel when she did a haphazard rewiring of his brain, but the Doll Ship is something that appears to have been in the works long before that.  And I guess it is a legitimate concept to point at and go "Wow, these guys really are crazy sociopaths; no wonder they want to take over the world" but then we get into the gray territory of somewhat plausible sci fi to crazy sci fi.

Overall, it's hard to pin point exactly where BZRK Reloaded lost me when I was okay with the first in the series.  Perhaps it is the accumulation of all the plot pitfalls and lack of character development combined, or even something else that I can't quite put my finger on, but BZRK Reloaded was definitely not up my alley and I do not plan on taking this series any further in my reading lists.

Death Note, Volume 10

Author: Tsugumi Ohba
Series: Death Note #10
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

The game is still afoot!  Near is closing in on Kira, and Mello is getting closer by following Near (which seams to defeat the whole pretense of them being rivals to see who can figure out who is Kira first).  Light has passed possession of the Death Note onto someone he can only hope is a true believer and who can understand Kira's intentions... but having to relinquish his power definitely has to be a bruise to his ego.  And, Light runs into an old friend and might just have found a way to throw some of the suspicion away from him.  I have to admit, with Light's ego being as big as it is, it does seem pretty suspicious that the original L would be the only one who would have found out the truth by now...

16 September 2013

Death Note, Volume 9

Author: Tsugumi Ohba
Series: Death Note #9
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Can I start by saying that I'm still not convinced Mello is a guy?  He most definitely looks like a girl.

The focus of this volume shifts away from Light a good deal to focus on the rivalry between Near and Mello as both try to stop Kira first.  And while I loved the back and forth between Light and L, the battle between Light/Near/Mello just isn't quite as exciting as it was between Light and L.

The noose finds itself tightening around Light a little, and for the first time he might be outmatched.  So the suspense is still there, it's just not quite as intense.

14 September 2013

Serenity: The Shepherd's Tale

Story: Joss Whedon, Zack Whedon, and Chris Samnee
Series: Serenity #3
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I have to admit, the Shepherd was not one of my favorite characters in Firefly, but I love how he seems a bit like a walking contradiction.  His personality is great too.  But I think he works better as a member of the group and how he interacts with the other characters.

Unlike the first two volumes in the Serenity series, this volume - as suggested by the title - focuses almost solely on the Shepherd and not the Firefly crew as a whole.  So while the story is still good and interesting, it just didn't live up to the expectations I had in regards to its prequels and the television show/movie.  I don't think it would have mattered which character was the focus; I don't think I would have liked a single character volume as much as the volumes featuring the whole gang.

08 September 2013

Outpost

Author: Ann Aguirre
Series: Razorland #2
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Here is yet another book that proclaims it is for fans of The Hunger Games.  And while it shares some fundamentals similarities to THG, saying the Razorland series is like the Hunger Games is like saying people that enjoyed the Hunger Games movie will enjoy The Walking Dead television show.

But enough with my constant moaning about riding THG coattails.  I will say that I did enjoy Outpost more than Enclave, as the characters seemed to develop a lot more during the second novel in the series.  Enclave did not leave much of an impression on me the first time around and while I did enjoy it the second time I read it last month in preparation for Outpost, I still would not slap it on my list of favorites.  I will say, however, that Outpost is at least a little more impactful than Enclave.

Sure, the stereotypical love triangle obligatory to YA fiction is still rooted in the characters of Deuce, Fade and Stalker.  And I am not sure my suspension of disbelief is willing to stretch as far as Aguirre is trying to pull it with regards to the direction she is taking the zombies in.  But I have to admit, the more I dabble into the mess that is YA zombie fiction, the more I take a liking to the Razorland series.  Granted, the plots and themes can be cliched, but compared to the other body of fiction that exists in the genre, Razorland is definitely in the top 50% of its class.

While more enjoyable than Enclave, it still just seems to be missing that little something that is hard to explain but you know it when you read it.  It is not the type of book that sucks you in and demands all night binges while it slowly takes over your life.  But it is interesting and exciting enough to get me to read Horde when it comes out later this year.

06 September 2013

Perfect Game

Author: Fred Bowen
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

I am a sucker for a sports story, even one geared to tweenage boys, so I took a chance and got an ARC copy of this book from the publisher.  I'm glad I did.  A quick and easy read for someone like myself, it is a good story for 10 - 15 years old boys and girls alike.  I grew up playing fall ball and summer ball along with my brother.  And while this is a story about baseball, it's also about a lot more than that.

Bowen touches on how much pressure parents put on kids these days, even for recreational sports.  Isaac is not unlike a lot of kids I played softball with and that my brother played baseball with, whose overbearing fathers/parents tried to make them perfect at their game, all the while sucking most of the fun out of the sport for their child.

While I have volunteered with many organizations for kids, I regret to say I haven't had the opportunity to help out the Special Olympics yet, although my brother has.  As someone who grew up babysitting for a family with children with Down's syndrome, I instantly took a liking to Isaac as he began to form a friendship with Kevin and help him out of his shell and into basketball with the other kids.  "Retarded" is a word that kids when I was growing up threw around a lot, and while most kids don't mean anything by it, it can be hurtful when used whether intended or not.

This book is a baseball novel like Moneyball is a baseball movie.  It has some insightful motives that kids in the target audience might miss the virtues of, but that older readers can see and hope that today's youth can understand and accept.

Eve & Adam

Authors: Michael Grant & Katherine Applegate
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Let's start with the side characters and work our way up, shall we?  First, let's start with Maddox.  I know that he is supposed to be a trouble maker and we probably aren't supposed to like him and sure, I bet there are hundreds of dead beats just like him in San Fran.  But still.  The mere fact that Maddox exists, coupled with the fact that Aislin can't seem to cut her ties with him makes me dislike not only Maddox but Aislin as well.  I can't feel sympathy for someone who isn't willing to help themselves.  And then how Aislin's storyline plays out in the end... well, compared to how the first 250 pages of the book went, it seemed like a really quick 180 turn for her that I didn't quite buy to fit how her character was developed.

Then we get to Solo.  Supposedly super smart, and hell bent on revenge against Eve's mother because she is the reason his parents are dead.  Okay, sure, why not.  But the way the ending played out for him as well reveals he is just a kid, and even a high IQ doesn't prevent him from being pretty stupid and not thinking things all the way through.  He is smart enough to hack into her mother's company for what sounds like years, but he isn't smart enough to check all the information he is leaking from the company and cross reference it to make sure what he thinks is, in fact, the truth?  For someone with such a long, thought out plan, that seems like a major flaw.  Don't want to get into too much detail because I'd hate to spoil, but hopefully this makes sense once/if you read it.

Then we get to Eve.  I don't quite know how I feel about her.  Or her mother for that matter.  Even though half of the story is told in her POV, I still don't feel like I really connected with her on any level.  Perhaps since this story falls into the realm of sci-fi for me, and I just can't see a billionare letting her teenage daughter use multi-million/billion dollar software (especially since her mother may be against the whole God complex?).

I think my main issues with this book (beside issues with characters) deal mostly with the ending.  There is a twist, and I don't mind that at all as it makes it interesting.  But the ending doesn't seem too well developed and brings up a lot of questions to me.  Again, I don't want to get into too much detail as it would involve major spoilers, but revelations at the end seem to be counter intuitive to how the plot and characters were set up in the beginning of the story.

Overall, I think it's a fun, light sci-fi novel with the obligatory YA light romance thrown it for good measure whether it adds to the plot or not.  Good for the tweenagers and teenagers target audience, but probably a little too light and flawed for 20-somethings like myself and older that like to stick to YA.