30 June 2013

Lullaby

Author: Amanda Hocking
Series: Watersong #2
Rating: 3 / 5 Stars
Verdict: Borrow

I think we are finally getting somewhere with this series.  I, at least, have not given up hope.  I was rather disappointed with Wake after reading the Trylle trilogy because I thought it could have been better.  With Lullaby, I think we got closer, but I certainly wouldn't mark this series with top literacy ranks.  The dialogue still falls a little flat and is somewhat cheesy.  The characters, even though they've had another 290 pages to develop, still feel mostly one-dimensional.  And the relationships are a tad bit cliche.  In fact, for a main character that is struggling with a HUGE life changing event and another main character who is trying to piece her life/family back together, this book certainly spends an unnecessary amount of time on teen relationships.

As hinted at, this book is not going to win any literacy awards.  The writing style is typical YA and there is no flash or bang, no quotes that will stay with you forever.  The fantasy is a bit over the top, as mentioned with Wake, where you not only have sirens of the sea, but they turn into horrible bird like monster that rip the hearts out of humans.

Still, when you take the series at face value, it's a fun, quick read.  Enough for me to already be awaiting Tidal to arrive from my library next week.  I don't think I will be buying and rereading this series multiple times like I did with Trylle, but I think this series is better than a lot of the other YA garbage out there.  While Hocking's writing style may not be unique or masterful, she is still creative and her ideas atypical of the current state of literature.  I would give it a go, but don't expect your mind to be blown.

29 June 2013

Playing with Fire

Author: Bruce Hale
Series: School for S.P.I.E.S.
Rating: 2 / 5 Stars
Verdict: Bury

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher, and I really tried to enjoy it.  After all, I grew up on the likes of Artemis Fowl and Alex Rider, and this book seemed to be on par with those series at first glance.  I had a hard time putting my finger on why, but this series just doesn't add up to others in the genre.

For one, all the character names in this book are absurd apart from the man character, named Max.  We have a guy named Dijon (yes, as in the mustard).  Then we have Cinnabar (which made me hungry for a cinnabon every time I read it) and her sister Jazz.  The list goes on and on so I will spare you.  I know this shouldn't have bothered me as much as it did, but I just could not get over the character names in this novel.  In a novel with an unrealistic plot, I want the characters to be at least somewhat realistic to help me suspend my belief.

And then you have the entire character of Annie, the headmistress of the school/orphanage/whatever you want to call her.  Her broken English was so annoying I had to just glance over the majority of her dialogue in the book.  I know this is a typical characteristic given to characters not just in novels but in video entertainment as well, but come on.  It was way over the top in this book.

Then I get to the plot itself.  It wasn't that the plot was bad, it was just that the novel was written in such a way that I never connected with Max or any of the other spy orphans.  You would think having a main character that is an orphan would automatically garner some sympathy, but it surprisingly didn't in this case.  The subplot of the possibility of Max's father being alive played out to conclusion, but when we reached the climax I did not even care about the outcome.  The second half of this book was really hard for me to get through; I definitely struggled.

While I am usually a huge fan of spy novels (especially of over the top spy novels featuring adolescent spies), this one never managed to catch my interest.  It's hard to explain where the book took a wrong turn (the characters, the plot, all of it), but it definitely fell short of solid entertainment.

28 June 2013

Knocked Out by My Nunga-Nungas

Author: Louise Rennison
Series: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson #3
Rating: 3 / 5 Stars
Verdict: Buy

And so the circus continues!  The Loonleader (AKA Vati) has returned from Kiwi-a-gogo land with horrible timing.  For one, he is interested in Georgia's life and she is not interested in sharing it (especially since she is freshly suspended from school).  For two, the rents decide his return is a perfect excuse for a family vacation since they did not make the trip down to Kiwi-a-gogo to visit him.  So Georgia is off to Och Aye land with the fam, even though she swears she will not be dragged kicking and screaming away from the Sex God, who is showing interest in her again.

Even with all the hysteria of Libby and Angus and even Jock McThick, the beginning part of this book was the slowest.  The real waterworks (from laughing so hard, that is) do not commence until Georgia lands back at Stalag 14 with the rest of the Ace Gang.

Once home, Georgia faces conflicting feelings.  She is, of course, madly in love with the SG who she can't seem to form a coherent thought around.  Not that it matters, because all she wants to do is snog him senseless (even though she is afraid her lips will puff to Angelina Jolie proportions from overuse).  But then tack on to that the fact that Ellen starts to date Dave the Laugh and Georgia begins to feel.... what is that?  Jealousy?  Well, that is where it gets really good.  Throw in phone conversations with Jas, and forget it.  I couldn't pick out my favorite line if you wanted because it's pretty much a nonstop laugh riot from there on out.  It just takes a while to get there.

My memory is not what it used to be, so I don't remember what happens in the next installment, but I have a feeling I will enjoy it more than this one as Georgia continues to deliberate between the god and the laugh.

Wide-Awake Princess


Author: E.D. Baker
Series: The Wide-Awake Princess #1
Rating: 3 / 5 Stars
Verdict: Borrow

I have to say, I loved the beginning of this book and the ending. The middle part is what took me a while to get through. While nothing like the story of Sleeping Beauty I heard growing up (for instance, I did not even realize she had a younger sister, and I didn't think her name was Gwen), I liked the premise of the tale. But the plot seemed to lose me a bit in the middle, which is why I didn't like the book any more than I did.

I feel like the book could have been shorter and the story not necessarily condensed but less all over the place. While I am generally a fan of fractured fairy tales, this book seemed to take it a little too far. I was great with the idea when it was just the story of Sleeping Beauty. But then the author went a little crazy towards the middle and threw in the frog princess, the princess and the pea, and Rapunzel, all fairly close to each other. The middle chunk of this book was rather a mess, especially with the sheer number of princes Annie racked up to get to the castle at the end.

While not one of my favorite fairy tales retold, it was still a fun read, and the ending made it worth it. I don't see it being a good series, though, and I doubt I will be reading the next installment, Unlocking the Spell, even though I already have it checked out of the library.

27 June 2013

On the Bright Side, I'm Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God

Author: Louise Rennison
Series: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson #2
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
Verdict: Buy

Georgia, Jas and the gang are all back for round two. And not only does Georgia have Robbie to worry about, but now Dave is thrown into the mix as well. And Dave the Laugh really is a laugh. Shame the SG stole the show. Although, at the end of the day, Libby and Angus actually show the show. And Uncle Eddy pretending to be a dalek? Well nothing beats a good Doctor Who reference! Bloody hysterical, the whole lot of them. Cannot wait to read the next one to find out what in the name of pantyhose happens next.

24 June 2013

Beginning Pearls

Author: Stephan T. Pastis
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
Verdict: Borrow

I received an ARC of this book from the publisher. I haven't read any comic strips regularly since I graduated from high school and moved away from home about six years ago. Back when I did live at home, however (and had access to a daily newspaper), the funnies were definitely my favorite part (they didn't even have Suduko in the paper back then). Pearls Before Swine was one of the comic strips I highly enjoyed reading.

Since I haven't kept up with the strip, this collection of old strips was a great little read because it was new material for me (or so old I don't remember reading it the first time around). Even though the collection is targeted to a young audience, it's a great fun read for people of all ages. I definitely chuckled aloud several times.

The collection is broken into sections by "main character" and I have to say that Rat is the funniest (by far), followed by Zebra and Goat. This book would make a great addition to any bathroom collection. I am sure I will be reading through it again before too long.

23 June 2013

Debt Collector (#1 - 3)

Author: Susan Kaye Quinn
Rating: 3 / 5 Stars
Verdict: Bury

I received a galley reading copy from the publisher for review. The debt system that runs this novel is a great idea. It reminded me of the movie In Time. The thought of bean counters and debt collectors is chilling and terrifying... a great conceptual plot. The delivery, however, left a lot to be desired. Take, for instance, the main character - Lirium. He, like most (if not all) debt collectors is addicted to the rush of the "hit" when he collects the remaining life from someone the bean counters have decided are too far in debt to live any longer. He lives a life of taking hits (a junkie high) and paying them off to the people the society deems the future thinkers/creators of the world (a junkie low). He is also addicted to prostitution (hiring prostitutes, not being one). And moving, apparently.

I didn't feel like much happened in these three short stories/"episodes". While Lirium showed some humanity and redeeming qualities at the end of the first episode, I still have a difficult time relating to him. And while the three episodes are linked together, the plot seemed rather sloppy, thrown together and not all that exciting.

While I am fascinated by the potential of this unique world Quinn has designed, I was rather disappointed with the execution. With all that being said, with "episodes" as short as these, it is worth the time investment for the read. While perhaps not my cup of tea, it is an entertaining ride. Just expect to read the entire series if you want any sort of resolution; after reading the first bundle of three short stories, I still didn't reach a climax or resolution in the plot.

18 June 2013

False Sight

Author: Dan Krokos
Series: False Memory #2
Rating: 3 / 5 Stars
Verdict: Borrow

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher. I think the greatest difficulty I had with this novel is the fact that I have not read its predecessor, False Memory. Prior to receiving a copy of this novel, I had never heard of the author or the series. With that in mind, I think I had a severe handicap going into this book. While I typically complain when books in series spend a lot of time rehashing information from previous books in the series, I wish this book had done more of that style of recap since I struggled to really understand fully what the deal was with Miranda & gang. I think then I wouldn't have been so confused.

On a whole, the plot was definitely quick paced and exciting. I think this series will make a great movie or television series adaptation for young adults. Personally, though, the overall theme of the book (and shall I guess the series as well) doesn't cater to me. In the end, it ended up more of a fantasy novel than a sci-fi novel like I originally thought when I was introduced to the characters who are all clones of the same five people (the group of five is called Roses, although I am still not entirely sure why). I did not have issues with the multi-universe part of this book; that logic I still classify as sci-fi and probable even. What I had an issue with was how the multi-universe world was introduced and how it was used as part of the plot. The characters jump through this Black that I still don't understand. It appears as a sea that links the universes as if they are streams. A little MIB for me, but I could almost buy that. But then Miranda is standing in the Oval Office and suddenly just gets sucked in the Black and into another world? And then somehow ends up 1000 years in the future? Once I got to this point, my heart sank because I knew I had lost interest.

The eyeless also completely confused me. They crossed the line from sci-fi into fantasy for me as well. They reminded me of the little black things in Kingdom Hearts, which is how I pictured them for the rest of the book even though that isn't how they are described in the book.

Regardless of how convoluted the plot began and no matter how confused I got, I have to say I did like the ending. And the Noah-Miranda situation throughout the book reminded me of the ending of Dollhouse (with Echo and Paul). Indeed, when I started reading this book, I saw a few similarities between Dollhouse and this novel, although the comparisons shrank as I dived deeper into the novel.

At the beginning of the book, I was determined to get False Memory once I finished this one and then read both to fully understand this one. By the time I reached the end of the novel, I decided I didn't need to bother reading the first novel in the series because I don't plan to continue reading the series. That being said, all and all in the end it was still a good novel. Perhaps if I had read False Memory and connected with the characters already and understood the world created in the series I would have enjoyed it a lot more too.

17 June 2013

Spark

Author: Amy Kathleen Ryan
Series: Sky Chasers #2
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
Verdict: Buy

Now this is what I am talking about. One of my biggest complaints about the first book in the series, Glow, was that it had a little too much teen romance for my liking. While the subtext still exists in this book (after all, Waverly's relationship with the Mather's turning Kieran had to be resolved, and then - of course - there was the issue of Seth as well) this volume of the series is packed with a lot more action and inner and intra ship politics than worrying about who likes who. As it should be. With the threat to the entire species on the line, no one should be thinking about their little romances.

Not quite full of twists and turns at every chapter, this book still takes you on a wild ride. You have the distrust with Anne Mather. You have the distrust growing in the ship between the Waverly-Sarah-rescued girls gang and Kieran and his league. And now you have the mistrust of Waverly of most of the crew for the unsettling question of why she left the parents behind. While the ending is not as satisfying as it should have been because it ends on quite a large cliffhanger, it makes sure I will be eagerly awaiting the next installment!

With a quick little post script, I do still have to complain that some of the science in this series seems far from sound, but my engineering brain is a little rusty and I don't have time to actually work out the calculations myself, so I chose to continue to ignore those facts and remind myself what this book is - a light sci-fi young adult novel.

16 June 2013

Private

Author: Kate Brian
Series: Private #1
Rating: 1 / 5 Stars
Verdict: Bury

This book was a jumbled mess. So let's take it one step at a time. First, the plot: it was thin to begin with, and then made less and less sense as you went along. Considering the requirements of the Billings House, the ending doesn't even make any sense what so ever.

So then there is Thomas. Girl falls for first guy she meets, what a shocker. But hey, guy is cute so why not? She then finds out he has rich parents but that they aren't all they're cracked up to be. Awwww, he's like me, she thinks. So she just hands over her virginity like it's nothing, this naive little 15-year-old. Then, shocker, guy isn't who he seems to be. And then, well, I don't want to ruin the ending in case you actually want to read this book and even more unlikely enjoy it, but yeah. The end of his plot line is stupid too.

Now let's get back to Reed, our narrator. She is oh so happy to be going to this special, private school with her scholarship to get away from her pill popping mother. Considering she has a scholarship, you would think she would be really smart and a super star on the field. But she appears to only go to practice twice in the entire book for soccer, doesn't even hit the lacrosse field, and flunks all her first exams. Also, she is completely one dimensional. She starts off the book arriving at the new school and worried because she is so anti social and doesn't like hanging out with people. She apparently likes to read all weekend. But as soon as she gets to Easton, she is OBSESSED with the Billings girls. This entire book is how she wants to get in with the ultra popular girls. Kind of weird for a girl who hates socializing, right?

And then there is how Reed acts around the Billings girls. That is what really made me hate Reed. She is such a little putz. Anything they tell her to do, she does. She has absolutely no backbone at all. They tell her to break up with one of their boyfriends for them. Sure, no problem, because I HAVE to be in with these cool kids that are taking advantage of me. Meet us at midnight and sneak in and steal some exams? Well, I know better and I could get kicked out of this school which is the only thing keeping me from my pill popping mom... but okay, because I HAVE to be with these cool girls. And then she disses her dad, who is the only one who supported her in the first place? Bah, what a twat!

Done with this series, that's for sure. Girls like this is why I had mostly guy friends growing up. What a bunch of biotches.

15 June 2013

Apocalyptic Organ Grinder

Author: William Todd Rose
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I was invited to read an advanced reading copy of this book from NetGalley:

I would have enjoyed this book more without the italicized chapters. They did not add much to the plot besides back story on the separation between the two groups and how the virus came about. Instead of adding to the plot, it gave the story subtle religious undertones and made the whole premise rather far fetched and unrealistic. Then the author added to the mix magicians/wizards and kings and the so called Great Spirit as well? I was not certain which genre this story leaned toward, but it ended up fantasy in my book, which made it harder to empathize with any of the characters because I didn't believe they would ever exist in real life so it was hard to relate.

From other reviews, I thought this story was going to be more of a zombie tale. I was pretty far off. The people in this tale are humans who have suffered a virus/disease that has infected a great deal of the population. So while I did like how these "zombies" still have their humanity, I was disappointed they were not actually zombies as I had thought from other reviews. Returning to the back story chapters, these people are infected people with this virus. I honestly don't really care why. That certainly isn't what this story is about. So let's get on with the story shall we, instead of discussing a conversation between a rat and a fly.

I do like how the story was told from both sides though, following a person on either side of the infection fight. I don't think the story would have made a good full length novel but it was a decent novella since it wasn't a huge time investment. The imagery in this story is great, thanks to the descriptive prose of the author. Not a style I would normally equate with a seemingly fast paced apocalypse novel, but he makes it work rather well. On one hand, the ending was rather predictable, at least in regards to the final outcome. But how it all played out was rather unexpected and surprising.

I'm not sure what I think about the title. I see how it applies, but it doesn't catch my interest and try to draw me into exploring the book. If I hadn't been invited to read this story, I doubt it would have caught my attention as I searched for a new read online.

The Name of This Book is Secret

Author: Pseudonymous Bosch
Rating: 2 / 5 Stars
Verdict: Bury

I heard this book was like A Series of Unfortunate Events. From the name of the title to the pseudo name of the author to even the introduction, I had high hopes. By three chapters in, I had no idea why people make the comparison. Ok, I have some idea - the style is somewhat similar. But while Lemony Snicket's series is funny, Secret tries but flops. There is nothing wrong with this book per se, but it is just flat. The plot is not very engaging, the characters, besides the main two, are under developed, and there isn't anything to really hold your attention.

11 June 2013

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging

Author: Louise Rennison
Series: Confessions of Georgia Nicolson #1
Rating: 4 / 5 Stars
Verdict: Buy

Just reading about Georgia and how she treats Jas and interacts with her other friends reminds me why I didn't have many female friends growing up. All of the girls in this book are self centered, superficial, and completely boy crazy - everything I hated about girls my age growing up. They can be quite mean too, as shown in the relationship between Georgia and Lindsay.

So why am I reading this series again (I read it several years ago, before the series was finishing up) if they are all so annoying and makeup and boy obsessed? Because the books are hysterical, that's why. The diary format works great with Georgia as the narrator. And Libby and Angus provide enough laughs to deal with Georgia and her friends. Plus, the interaction with her parents is a barrel of laughs as well. Would I have gotten along with Georgia at her age? No, I would probably have hated her. But do I find these books funny? Heck to the yes!

05 June 2013

Wake


Author: Amanda Hocking
Series: Watersong #1
Rating: 2 / 5 Stars
Verdict: Borrow

I went into this novel with pretty high expectations since I really enjoyed the Trylle trilogy. I knew Wake would be different, even though it was still a fantasy novel. And while the book was okay, it wasn't as good as I thought it could be. The relationships are rather cliche, as well as the teenage dialogue. A lot of the dialogue seems to fall flat and loose. While Hocking managed to create an amazingly unique world in the Trylle trilogy, the world of Wake falls into the physical, real realm, and Hocking's creativity seems to fizzle a little. I have higher hopes for the second novel in the series and am definitely going to give it a try, although I am still worried any the awkward and cliche dialogue between this set of teenagers.