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.