31 December 2014

The Queen's Army

Author: Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #1.5
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Ah, finally, a novella in the series worth reading, and a rather perfect way to finish out my 2014 reading list as I eagerly await the next installment(s) of the series coming in 2015.

The Queen's Army is the background story for Wolf, who is probably my favorite character from Scarlet.  He is such a dynamic character, and I fell in love with him during the series, so a background story for him was well received on my end.  Now, don't get me wrong, there is still nothing Earth shattering with this novel, and it certainly isn't a must read for the series, but I finally found a novella that seems to add something to the series, and it is worth the short amount of time it takes to read it.

This novella follows Wolf from a young boy of 12 when he is conscripted into the Queen's Army, and follows him through his training.  I'm glad I didn't read this novel before Scarlet, even though it is tagged volume "1.5" in the series, as it does ruin a few of his shocking character traits and background that added to the excitement in Scarlet.  But as I am working my way through a re-read of the series now, it is a perfect bridge between Cinder and Scarlet to transition into the new group of characters introduced.

The Little Android

Author: Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #0.6
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

It wasn't until just now as I opened the novellas's page on Goodreads that I made the connection to The Little Mermaid.  If I hadn't read the tagline of the synopsis that blatantly states that it is a retelling of The Little Mermaid, I doubt I would have ever guessed.

I am, and most likely forever will be, a fan of Marissa Meyer's writing, but her short stories/novellas for this series so far just have not been my cup of tea.  Like Glitches, The Little Android is an okay story, but I don't think it enhances the series in anyway.  In fact, apart from a short - but important - cameo from Cinder, it hardly feels like a Lunar Chronicles story at all.  All the familiar aspects of the series are there, sure, but it doesn't add anything overall to the saga.

While I at least rather enjoyed the plot of Glitches, the plot for The Little Android felt weak.  The Little Android summed up in one quick sentence is about a robot who loves in love with a human, who is in love with a cyborg.  A rather unique love triangle, to be sure, but the aspect of the love triangle is perhaps the most interesting element of this story.  Perhaps it was hard to relate to an android who thinks it is feeling human emotions, especially when you are only connected to the characters for eight short chapters.

Regardless, I will be skipping this novella on my next series reread.

29 December 2014

The Winner's Curse

Author: Marie Rutkoski
Series: The Winner's Trilogy #1
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

At times, Kestrel makes such foolish decisions that I want to rip the pages from the book and scream aloud at her.  And I'm not talking about her decision to buy Arin at the auction, although that is definitely not one of her better decisions made it turns out.  At times, she seems like she might have what it takes to be a strong, independent heroine for teenage girls.  But then she cowers at important decisions, and changes her mind.  It's not that she's wishy-washy, per se, but she doesn't have enough self esteem.

And yet, I still like this novel, even though Kestrel leaves a lot to be desired.  Rutkoski perhaps focuses too much on the romance between Kestrel and Arin, and even Kestrel and Ronan, as - of course - every YA novel needs a love triangle.  The romance in the novel isn't all that interesting, although the motivations behind the characters that perhaps lead to this love triangle sometimes are.  If Rutkoski had focused a little more on the tensions between the slave society and the dominant society, I think this series could have made my must read list.  And based on the ending, which feels a bit rushed setting up the scenario for the next installment, I have hopes that she plans to do just that.  So I already have the next novel on my wait list for the library, and hopefull Kestrel can grow a pair for 2015.

23 December 2014

Skink No Surrender

Author: Carl Hiaasen
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

First of all, Skunk Apes?  I've lived in Florida for 25 years and never once have I ever heard that name before.

I find it hard to sympathize with a high school girl who runs away from home with a 26 year old stranger she met on the internet.  And ditto with a high school student main character who drivers across the state with a complete stranger that is more than a little cuckoo.  And then there are the irresponsible parents in this novel, mainly Richard's mom.  She doesn't seem concerned at all that her son is off with a stranger.  A simple call to another person she has never met for a character reference on the strange man that has her teenage son in the car seems enough to clam her down.  Completely whack.  Every single character in this novel should be institutionalized.  Seems like an article you would read in the newspaper about a body found in the swamp.  Jeez.

I know Hiaasen takes liberties in a lot of his novels for youths with unbelievable plots, but this one definitely takes the cake.  The plot is just so outlandish that it was hard to get into the story.  Definitely my least favorite of his novels that I've read thus far.

15 December 2014

Let the Sky Fall

Author: Shannon Messenger
Series: Let the Sky Fall #1
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

Wow.  Talk about some dysfunctional family dynamics in this novel.  While Vane seems to have an okay relationship with his foster parents, Audra and her mother are definitely on the other end of the spectrum.  There are a lot of secrets between these two, a lot of open hostility and resentment, and a LOT of love lost.  Honestly, it's kind of amazing they haven't killed each other already.

While the concept of mastering and controlling an element such as wind is interesting, Messenger doesn't quite pull it off.  Especially since winds don't typically blow in just one direction, so the thought of four different languages of wind for the four main cardinal directions seemed like quite a stretch and a weird concept.

The characters in this novel feel very one dimensional.  Vane has dreamt about Audra for ten years, ever sense he survived the tornado that killed his parents and wiped away his memory of his past.  She is the only thing he remembers, and he's rather obsessed with her.  So when he's out on a double date and sees her in the restaurant, it's as if all his prayers have been answered.  It doesn't seem to matter if the knows the first thing about her, the novel is all about his feelings for this mysterious gal of his dreams.

While there is a bit of a plot to the story, it feels like the plot is there only to drive along the romance between Vane and Audra.  And though they seem destined to be together,  even though Audra keeps claiming that they can't be, they have no real chemistry I could see.  So when coupled with the lack of a gripping plot, this novel falls short and leaves a lot to be desired.

14 December 2014

Ruin and Rising

Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #3
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

Even though we only met a few weeks ago, it's hard to say goodbye to the Grisha gang.  Ruin and Rising certainly wasn't what I expected.  Though Bardugo wrapped up the series nicely, there were some definite plot twists I never would have seen coming.  I have kind of mixed feelings about the ending, as it didn't exactly go the way I wanted, but that happens sometimes.  And though it wasn't the ending I necessarily expected or desired, it was still a proper sendoff to these characters and this masterfully crafted world.

I felt Alina really grew throughout the books, and her decisions in Ruin and Rising put to rest all the qualms I felt against her at the beginning of the series.  Her character is dynamic, constantly shifting.  Her relationships with Mal, Nikolai, and the Darkling are complex.  Even minor characters have impactful importance in this conclusion to the series.  I loved the return of Baghra and how her character line plays out.  Genya, David, Zoya, the Apparat... the list seems to go on and on with characters that help make this series what it is.  In my opinion, that is one of the major strengths that Bardugo has that a lot of other YA series lack.  She takes the time to develop the minor characters, and remembers to include them in the plot.  They are not only there to help get the plot out of a sticky situation.  They are developed, multi-dimensional characters by their own right.

Where Siege and Storm felt a bit like a filler novel, Ruin and Rising suffers no such issues.  It is jam packed with plotting and action and suspense.  And a little bit of heartache and surprise as well.  While I felt the pace at the beginning of the novel and at some points in the middle were a little slow, the plot was a bit like an avalanche careening down the side of a mountain.  It continued to gain steam until it barreled you through to the climax, then left the final pieces of the plot to be tied up in the end in the conclusion.

Considering how much death and despair are in this series, and considering the entire series takes place during a war, I found the ending a bit too 'Happily Ever After' for my taste.  But then again, Bardugo could have gone the Lauren Oliver or the Veronica Roth route and blown the entire series to pieces with the final installment of the series.  So while it was no Mockingjay (which seemed to have just the right amount of 'happily ever after' and 'oh God, how could she let this happen'), I thought the finale paid proper homage to the series, even if it isn't the way I would have written it.

Definitely a series that I will be adding to my personal library in due time.

09 December 2014

Black Ice

Author: Becca Fitzpatrick
Rating: 1.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

It is difficult to find a place to start with this review, so I will attempt to start at the beginning and work my way through to the end.

I did not even make it through the prologue before I already had issues with the first character presented in this novel.  At page six, I was already thoroughly fed up with Lauren.  Something bad was obviously going to happen to Lauren, that much was obvious, and I wasn't even going to feel sorry for her when her untimely death came because, hey, it was going to get her the attention she so desperately sought.

By page 32, I wasn't any more impressed with our "heroine" of the story, Britt.  The most important night of her life was her high school homecoming dance, all because she thought she might be crowned queen?  If that isn't shallow, when then I don't know what it.  But it was obvious early on that she was going to be a girl that peeked in high school.

This novel felt like Becca wanted to write a mystery/suspense novel, but wanted to target it to teenagers.  Thus, she vastly dumbed it down and then added a sick Stockholmy love interest just to make it even worse, which turned a marginally potential story into an utter mess of a flop of a novel.  The line in the story that I thought best summed up Britt was, "In the end, I deleted the text.  I wasn't going to manipulate my boyfriend.  I was seventeen now, above games" (pg 178).  I loved how Britt said this as if,somehow, not manipulating her boyfriend made her magically mature.  And from the looks of their relationship from the flashbacks, she didn't even sound like she liked her relationship with Calvin.  He wanted to keep their relationship a secret, he embarrassed her in front of his friends, and - oh yeah! - he cheated on her to boot.  So what girl with any form of self respect would even consider wanting to get back together with him, much less still be pining over him months later.  If she had had any self respect, she would have been the one to dump him, not the other way around.

The other line that really pegged Britt was, "...if I thought this through, I'd realize I was making a mistake" (pg 241).  It became rather obvious to me early on in the book that Britt didn't waste much time thinking, unless it involved swooning over guys.  This line from the novel sums up the entire story perfectly.  She needed to think more.  I've never met a girl as dumb as her, probably because they all got murdered in the woods over spring break.  Good Lord, girl, have some self respect and some common sense.

My issues with this novel did not end with just the character of Britt (there wasn't, in fact, a single likable character in the entire story).  The "plot" was so laughable that it was hard to take any of the novel seriously.  But, of course, since it was a suspense/mystery novel, I had to read it through to the end to see how it ended up.  Let me just tell you, it did not get any better.  I am not a master of statistics, but if I were, I would calculate the odds of all the revelations of the characters tying in together just so.

I did, however, get some enjoyment out of this story, and by the end I took to paraphrasing it aloud to my husband as I read, which became a lot more entertaining than the story itself.  To avoid spoilers if you still want to read this disaster, skip below.  I hated Hush, Hush (mainly due to the same issues I had here based on reading my review I wrote way back when) as well, and am officially never picking up another Becca Fitzpatrick novel again.


Paraphrase of the Black Ice plot:

This high school girl is in a love triangle with her cheating ex-boyfriend and this stranger she met at a 7-Eleven that knew way too much about her personal life that ends up kidnapping her.  And then her cheating ex-boyfriend ends up being a serial killer, and the high school girl is locked out of the cabin in the woods in a snow storm trying to figure out how to get back in to save her kidnapper from her serial killer ex-boyfriend.  This ex-boyfriend, it turns out, killed the sister of the kidnapper.

The only acceptable ending for this novel would have been if an avalanche had come storming down the side of the mountain and killed them all, the end.

Siege and Storm

Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #2
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

Alina is back and on the run.  Crossing the True Sea with Mal, she finds herself hidden away in a different kingdom, a stranger in every sense of the word.  And while she enjoys her alone time with Mal now that they have confessed their affections to each other, it is not all peaches and cream and paradise of love.

It doesn't take long for Alina to find herself in another sticky situation.  After all, they have to barter what they have, which leaves a trail behind.  They've hardly had the chance to catch their breaths before they are facing the Darkling once more, and this time he is sporting a terrifying new power that pushes Alina's power to its limit.

She is forced to return to Ravka, and since there is no love triangle between her and Mal and the Darkling anymore, Bardugo introduces the snarky pirate fiend to keep the unnecessary love triangle alive.  I truly do not understand why most YA authors feel the need to try to create love triangles at all costs.  This story carries so much power on its own, and the relationship drama is just messy, getting in the way of the plot.  Especially when Alina has two princes asking for her hand in marriage as well.

Apart from the love triangle flop, I have to say that Alina seemed to come into her own element in this sequel.  She is no longer the girl desperate to be loved (although this is perhaps because she has found it now) and appears to have learned from her mistakes.  The faults I saw in her in Shadow and Bone don't feel like such a burden in Siege and Storm, and because of that we got along better.  In fact, if anything, Mal is the one who started to bug me in this novel instead of Alina.

The plot feels a bit slow at some points, almost as if this entire novel is a bit of a filler between Shadow and Bone and the conclusion of the series, as I felt that a lot of the elements were repeated from the first novel.  But Bardugo adds dragons, and pirates and creepy shadow monsters, oh my!  These elements really help carry the novel along on to give it is own identity.  The introduction of Prince Nikolai is an utter delight.  While some of the other characters can feel a bit stale at times, he is such a dynamic and multi-dimensional character and I fell in love with him almost immediately.

We had the stag in Shadow and Bone, and now the ice dragon in Siege and Storm.  The promise of the firebird in the final installment of the series has me excited for the finale, as the fate of Ravka rests in the hands of Alina, who precariously balances her desire to help her kingdom and the feel of the power of the Sun Summoner.

06 December 2014

Dark Triumph

Author: Robin LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin #2
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Seldom is a sequel better than the original, but I found it to be so with the His Fair Assassin series.  While it was weird transitioning to a new narrator and a new main character in the story, Sybella is far from a stranger.  And while Ismae spends little time in this novel, she still crops up from time to time.  In this prospective, the series reminds me a lot of the Graceling Realm series.

Dark Triumph takes away the best features of Grave Mercy - the politics, the intrigue, the corruption, the plots - and leaves behind the most annoying trait of Grave Mercy - the constant attention to romance.  Sure, romance still plays a part in Dark Triumph.  After all, it is hard not to when you are dealing with a group of lady assassins that use their sexuality as a ploy to gather information and to kill.  And unfortuantely, Sybella reacts in much the same manner that Ismae did, which brought upon its fair share of annoyance on my part.  But it doesn't force the romance down your throat at every turn of the page, which was a refreshing break.

While I likes Ismae enough, Sybella is a fascinating character.  She comes from a very unhealthy family dynamic, which is why she turned to the Coventry in the first place  (the resolution at the end with her and her brother, however, felt a bit too much like a happy ending in my opinion; I definitely felt it was a bit out of character for him).  While she is faithful to Saint Mortain, her goal is to sly the father who has plagued her for her entire life.  We get to dive deeper into the twisted ways the sisters of the Coventry work, especially as we see how they manipulate Sybella in a similar fashion as they did Ismae.

What really makes Dark Triumph feel like a sequel and not just a companion novel is the fact that the novel picks up right where Grace Mercy ended, though it takes a different forks and follows Sybella as she continues on the cause.  While it is still a far cry from an instant classic, LaFevers definitely made strides towards the better with this novel.

05 December 2014

Panic

Author: Lauren Oliver
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

It's official; I honestly do not understand how Lauren Oliver rose to such fame.  I can only say I wasn't too disappointed with Panic, because I did not go into the novel with high hopes.  Before I Fall was an okay stand alone novel, but the Delirium series was a mess of disappointment.  And yet, I figured I would give her one more shot to redeem herself.

Unfortunately, Panic was a flop.  To begin with, the complete premise of the novel seems laughable absurd.  "Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do."  So, wait, you are telling me that for seven years, none of the adults and none of the police in Carp have tried to put a stop to this absurd game that the graduating seniors play?  Not even after kids have become paralyzed and, what's more, died?  Really?  Talk about irresponsibility.  And Oliver's claim in the novel that the entire police force in town is just too stupid to catch them is a laughable attempt to just write off my concern.

Okay, I can understand the lure from the seniors' point of view, I guess.  After all, $67K is a lot of dough.  But even that was a difficult part of the plot to stomach.  These kids have nothing better to do than to terrorize each and every kid in the school into donating a dollar into the pot each day of school?  And if they don't, then they are bullied and even beaten?  By who?  Where does the pot go, if the judges are supposedly unknown to everyone?  They all just toss a dollar into a collection pot and walk away?

Let's bypass the plot, as I could go on and on about its absurdity all evening, and focus on the characters in the story.  None of them were likable.  Sure, I felt sorry for Heather, who decides to compete in Panic on a whim when her boyfriend breaks up with her and starts immediately shoving his tongue down another girl's throat.  Who wouldn't want to jump off a cliff after that (um, me)?  Her family life is even worse, with an alcoholic mother who spends all her time partying with her boo than raising her two kids.  But then Heather went and did something so stupid as to letting the game take advantage of her situation when she had finally found a more healthy alternative.  I had a hard time sympathizing with her after that.  Plus, she spent an excessive amount of time moping about either Matt or Bishop, and I just couldn't deal with her.

Dodge is hardly any better.  His reason for entering Panic was all about revenge, reverting to the stone age wisdom of an eye for an eye.  As if that would solve any of his problems.  It wouldn't, and could only end him in jail (except for, of course, the fact that the police in this town were apparently useless).

It was not a coming of age novel, and there was no epiphany moment for any of the characters.  There are no memorable quotes, and no defining moments in the story.  It was swallow, and pointless, certainly not heartfelt.  Though the writing itself wan't bad, reading it just felt like a colossal waste of time.


03 December 2014

Shadow and Bone

Author: Leigh Bardugo
Series: The Grisha #1
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

Orphan Alina has never had high aspirations for her life.  She seems perfectly content working with maps, while bunking off from her duties to hang out with her childhood friend, Mal.  It becomes quiet apparent early on that while Mal and Alina are best friends, having grown up orphans together, she clearly wants more but he doesn't seem to even realize she's a member of the opposite sex.  And thus the teenager pining begins.

While I love the world that Bardugo creates in The Grisha series, I cannot say that I fell in love with Alina.  As she finds out that there is more to her life than she ever expected, she takes it rather well, though she struggles with her new identity.  She seems to fight her destiny, while she is quick to find herself drawn toward the mysterious and perhaps dangerous Darkling.  At some point throughout this novel, Alina turns into a cliche female narrator in the young adult genre.  She finds herself growing closer to this dark, handsome new stranger while all the while, she is still pining over her separation from Mal and metaphorically pulling petals off flowers wondering if he even misses her or not. A lot of Alina's life seems to revolve around these two relationships, and it gets a little old.

And yet, I cannot help but love this world of Ravka.  It is damned by the Unsea and the Shadow Fold, which hold evil monsters lurking to ravage any human in sight.  I love the constant twists and turns in the plot, especially as Alina is introduced into this entire other side of the world.  Secrets and mistrust abound, and she struggles to know who she can trust, if anyone, while she struggles with her own bare identity.

While the plot surrounding the Shadow Fold is epically amazing, Alina's decisions often left me fraught with anger.  Though she is but an orphan of simple upbringing and training, and though she is perhaps a bit to preoccupied with her feelings towards members of the opposite sex, I still respected her, until she started making the decisions towards the end of the novel that left me scratching me head.  With equal parts disbelief and disgust, I watched her turn from a rather brave heroine to a young girl driven solely by her heart.  She lets her hear rule her better judgment, trying to save the object of her affections, though she knows very well it endangers her entire kingdom.  She had to know that her antagonist was never going to keep his word and that her decisions made out of sheer desperation would never lead to a happy ending for her or anyone else, but she cowers to him anyway.  I lost a lot of respect for her in this regard.  And I can see why Bardugo chose to write the story in such a manner once I concluded the novel, as it played so well into how the plot unraveled, but I felt it cheapened the result.  Though the ending to Shadow and Bone is far from a happily ever after, I still felt like Alina got off a little too easily compared to what she was up against.

Though, I will admit, what I had in mind would not have led to much of a sequel.  And I must confess, my fingers are already itching to pull back the cover of Siege and Storm and to stink into it.

30 November 2014

Ignite

Author: Sara B. Larson
Series: Defy #2
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I received an ARC of this novel from the publisher for an honest review.

Once again, the cover sucked me in.  Such a beautiful cover, even more enchanting than the cover to Defy was.  I wasn't 100% sure I wanted to continue this series after I finished Defy, but when I saw the cover to Ignite, I got pulled in once more to the realm of Antion.

Ignite definitely feels like Defy.  It certainly suffers from the same issue of Alex spending far too much of her time worrying about her romantic entanglements (I even highlighted some of my favorite most absurd interactions between Alex and Damian and even Alex and Rylan).  These woeful teenage romance moments wouldn't have been such a big deal, except for the fact that King Damian is far from safe, and they still face enemies from every side it seems.  Alex even admits that she has more important things to focus on, yet her thoughts always seem to circle back to our dashing new king no matter how dire their situation becomes.

I will admit, however, that at least the romantic aspect of the story has a purpose in Ignite that wasn't evident in Defy, even if you have to wait until about halfway through the novel to see why.  But Larson ties in Alex's feelings for Damian into the plot, and it works to support the novel.

While I didn't see a whole lot of character development in this novel, the plot makes up for it.  While it is hardly a mystery, the charming and beautiful Vera is certainly an interesting character to keep your eyes on in this novel as she sends a shock wave through court almost immediately upon her arrival.  And while Alex spends perhaps a little too much time worrying about who sits in the center of Damian's affections, there is still plenty of action and plotting in the story to keep the plot moving.  While she is too focused on her feelings for the men in her life, she is still a pretty empowered gal, which is refreshing for the most part to the genre.

Though it is still not an instant classic of a series in the making, I do believe Larson made progress with the series with this second installment.  I now look forward to the next novel in the series, while before I wasn't sure if I would continue it or not.  After all, I am a sucker for medieval fantasy novels, and Ignite continues to include the elements of magic and swords play to keep me coming back for more.

Dead City

Author: James Ponti
Series: Dead Point #1
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Perhaps I am just a little too old for this book or a little too obsessed with zombies right now to fully appreciate this novel.  I like the Walking Dead type zombies, the kind that have no brains, no logic or reasoning.  The empty, rotting shells that just roam around with faulty motor skills, trying to eat brains and to get cut into pieces.

The zombies (a term which, it turns out, they do not like being called.  They prefer undead) in Dead City are different.  For starters, there are three levels of them.  The Level 3s are the closest to the type of zombies I am used to, and even they are pretty tame in Dead City, although that might be tailored to the target audience.

Apart from my small beef with the zombies, I actually enjoyed Dead City though it is written for pre teens.  While the secondary characters aren't really developed, our main heroine and narrator, Molly, is.  Her rather tragic back story even leads to empathy on my part.

The way the Omegas operate was a little counter intuitive to me, although by the end of the novel I can understand why Ponti set it up that way.  And the ending of the novel definitely takes an astounding twist, one I never would have guessed.  It is rather awkward how Ponti returns to the prologues at the beginning of the novel at the end, as it seems as if it is added as only an afterthought, not really tying into everything else that had been happening up until that point with the plot.  But then Ponti throws in the last few paragraphs, and things definitely get interesting.  You can tell Blue Moon is going to be a very busy and very stressful novel for Molly.

I would definitely recommend this novel to younger readers.  For the young adult age group, and older readers like myself, it is still a fun read, but some of the enjoyment I can see for the younger crowd is going to be overlooked by older readers.

25 November 2014

Heat Wave

Author: Richard Castle
Series: Nikki Heat #1
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

I'll admit, I came late to the Castle party, as I just started watching the series about a month ago.  So it was purely coincidental and somewhat kizmet that I saw this book while pursuing the stacks at the library.  Naturally, I had to check it out, if for no other reason than the fact that Nathan Fillion's portrait on the back cover made me laugh.

I wish I could have enjoyed this novel more, but it basically reads like an episode of the television show with the names changed.  Admittedly, you would expect some level of likeliness, as the characters are based off of the work Castle does with the NYPD.  I expected, however, the glossy language that Castle sometimes uses in the show while painting an absurd possibility for a case.  Instead, we get a run of the mill tie-in crime/mystery novel without much pomp or circumstance.

The diehards out there that can soak in everything Castle will probably enjoy this book.  Even I smiled to myself a few times as some of the classical Castle type quips in the prose.  But if you are expecting a crime novel with depth, this isn't what you are looking for.  As a fan of the show and of crime stories, I think I will leave Richard Castle to the television show, and the ghost writer "Richard Castle" to the more hardcore fans of the series.  If I had been on the fence with my decision, the last paragraph of the novel would have sealed the deal.  It is so cheesy and seemingly against every tough as nails characteristic of the character Nikki Heat that I literally laughed aloud as I read it.

24 November 2014

Stolen

Author: Melissa de la Cruz & Michael Johnston
Series: Heart of Dread #2
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

It's been a while since I read Frozen, and I'll have to admit that the story and the characters did not really come back to me as I made my way through Stolen.  It's never a good sign when series fail to leave a lasting impression, and having finished Stolen, I know it will be the same for the second novel in this series as well.

There is nothing seemingly wrong with Stolen.  Much like Frozen, it dives into this very unique futuristic, fantasy world that also has touches of medieval fantasy with the inclusion of dragons.  Yet, the characters, the prose, and the plot all fail to make much of an impact. The story is rather bland, and the fact that Nat and Wes spend the entire novel pining over each other did not help maintain interest much.

The revelation at the end of this novel (which revolves around Wes's sister, which I don't see as too much of a spoiler as the first tagline of the story synopsis is 'Who is Eliza Wesson?') seems awfully coincidental regardless of how thinned out the population may be.  De la Cruz and Johnston, of course, explain this by chalking it up to fate/destiny.

While the world of the Heart of Dread series continued to expand itself in its uniqueness, the faults in the characters and the overall plot were not enough to really keep the story going.  So while I was able to finish the novel, I never really invested myself in it.  The two main characters are driven by two goals throughout the novel - Wes to find out what happened to his twin sister he hasn't seen since they were seven or eight and Nat to try to help protect the marked - they also have the goal of finding each other once more.  It's such an elaborate world to build for what basically boils down to another teen romance, and though the fantasy plays a significant role in this novel as Nat learns about the control of Ether, it isn't developed overall well enough to really make a lasting impression.  Based on what little I've read of de la Cruz's other novels, however, if you are a fan of her writing and her style, Stolen will still continue to entertain you.

23 November 2014

The Queen's Daughter

Author: Susan Coventry
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I am going to openly admit my ignorance right off the bat by saying I didn't realize this novel was historical fiction until I read the Author's Note.  I've never heard of Joan before, but if Coventry's story even hints at reality, she certainly had an interesting life.

The Queen's Daughter is a rather hard novel to engross yourself in, which is why I couldn't rate it any better than I did.  It took me nearly a month to read, while I started and finished several books in the meantime.  There is no underlying plot to the story except that it tells the story of Joan's life.  The novel starts when Joan is only about eight years old.  And though the novel only spans 370 pages in length, it covers her life well into her mid to late twenties.  That is a lot of story to handle in one novel.  While a lot happens in the book, to cover such a long time span the vast majority of it is barely glimpsed at most of the time, while the story focuses mainly on Joan's marriage.  And while it was certainly interesting, it was hardly the most exciting part of the story.

I also felt that The Queen's Daughter was severely watered down in order to make it a one off novel instead of a series, and to address it towards the young adult crowd instead of adult historical fiction.  I think Coventry would have been much better off flushing the story with details, really diving into the parts she may have glossed over in passing in the novel.

That being said, adding more detail early on might have deterred me from finishing the book at all.  As it stood, I didn't really get hooked into the story where I could read more than a chapter in a single seating until I was a good halfway to two thirds of the way done.  And after such a rough life and rather unhappy marriage, while you would hope Joan would finally find happiness in her life towards the end, I saw the ending as a fluffy wish fulfillment conclusion.

22 November 2014

The Goddess Inheritance

Author: Aimee Carter
Series: Goddess Test #3
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

'He pulled back enough to look at me, his eyes searching mine.  "You're not the girl I met in Eden.  She didn't break down in tears every time something didn't go her way."

"I'm not-" I started, but then another tear rolled down my face.  "My family's gone.  No one's letting me help, and every time I try, I screw things up even worse."'

This exchange between James and Kate perfectly sums up this series for me.  Yes, Kate is a whiny cry baby.  Yes, every time she tries to do something, she jumps the gun, usually doing something without discussing it with anyone else first, and ends up making things worse than they were before.  And she wonders why everyone just wants her to stay put and shut up.

I tried to give each book of this series an open mind when I started it.  I'm not sure if I succeeded, but all three failed to pull my interest in at all.  Kate is a lackluster narrator and a weak heroine.  She spends the vast majority of her time pinning over Henry throughout all three of the novels.  She is ruled by her heart, which wouldn't necessarily be a bad thing, except she never consults her brain before she acts on matters of her heart.

With each book in the series, Carters tries to develop more of a plot.  And for a while, I was almost interested in The Goddess Inheritance, until Kate's personal issues reared their ugly heads.  The weak dialogue and the underdeveloped characters didn't help the case either.  And the conclusion to the plot?  Are you kidding me?  Carter spent the vast majority of the final two novels in this trilogy building up to this epic war between the Council and Cronus, the vengeful Titan God.  The way Carter chose to tie up this conflict was so deflating I had to laugh.  So much time spent trying to build suspense, and the resolution petered out like a car running out of fuel.

I continue to scratch my head as to way this series has such high reviews on Goodreads.  After all, the high ratings were the reason I picked up this series from Carter since it was totted as a "romantic fable".  It's hardly romantic, except for the spurts of times she finds herself together with Henry and typically manages to make a mess of things.  And even my interest in Greek mythology couldn't shine a little light on this series.

21 November 2014

The Goddess Interrupted

Author: Aimee Carter
Series: Goddess Test #2
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

While Goddess Interrupted at least had a plot to keep me somewhat interested, it wasn't that much better than The Goddess Test.  While the first two thirds of the novel were interesting enough, but the time I reached around page 220 or so, Goddess Interrupted started to fall back into the follies of The Goddess Test.

Goddess Interrupted picks up where The Goddess Test left off, though it skips the summer season that Kate spends with James.  When we catch up with our narrative princess, she is returning to the Underworld in preparation to be crowned as the Queen of the Underworld and spend her first half of the year of what she expects to be her happily ever after life with Henry.  Unfortunately, she quickly realizes that it is not going to be all sparkles and rainbows as she had expected.  Her happily ever after with Henry does not get to start immediately, as they are attacked by the Titans.  And then it's all downhill from there.

My fundamental issue with Goddess Interrupted is that Kate's entire life and happiness seems tied into her relationship with Henry.  Every time she starts to doubt their future, it's as if the world has ended, especially when Persephone comes back into the mix.  Instead of trying to talk it out rationally with Henry, like a mature married couple, she gets instantly jealous and at one point cries endlessly at the thought that her new marriage to the man she doesn't even know but instantly loves might be on the rocks before it even begins.  And she even admits that she's acting irrationally, but yet does it anyway.

I realize the Goddess Test series is designed as a romance series, with the paranormal aspect as a secondary.  But Kate teeters towards the Bella Swan extreme of the spectrum, completely obsessing over her love life to the point where it makes the novel hard to read.  Of course, a lot of teenage girls seem to guzzle these types of stories down like soda, but I wish the female "heroines" of today's young adult literature would be a little more independent and self assured and a little less "OMG-what-if-he-doesn't-love-me-my-life-will-be-over".  And the ending?  Well, I can certainly say I wasn't expecting it.  But it also didn't make me want to read the conclusion to the trilogy either.

20 November 2014

Captive

Author: Aimee Carter
Series: The Blackcoat Rebellion #2
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I received an ARC of this novel from Harlequin Teen for an honest review.

One of my fundamental issues with Pawn, the first novel in this series, was the fact that Carter didn't seem focused, or even interested, on developing the dystopian world around Kitty that she was risking everything - including her life - for.  Well, she certainly seemed to venture towards that direction with this sequel novel of Captive, the second in The Blackcoat Rebellion trilogy, which focuses almost entirely on the dystopian surrounding Kitty, and her direct involvement in helping bring the revolution.

The problem with Captive, however, is that Kitty never finds her ground.  Carter aims for the shock and awe style with Captive, tossing in one plot twist after another.  And though several were rather predictable, it did leave me guessing until the end.  Unfortunately, the number of plot twist led the novel away from a lot of realism, which makes it hard to emphasize with the characters, which is a big role in a good series for me.

The main character that irks me so is our lead man, Benjy.  Kitty loves Benjy more than her own life, it seems.  Yet Benjy serves no real purpose to the novel, except as a pawn (the abundant use of this word in the novel irked me as well) to help control and manipulate Kitty, which is done time and time again.  But Carter never stops to even attempt to develop Benjy into any start of character.  He is simply the love of Kitty's life, no questions asked.  This reader wants to know why!

Kitty, for that matter, is rarely developed herself.  She spends most of the novel second guessing who she can trust and who she should help, and doing the exact things people tell her not to do.  I oftentimes find myself rolling my eyes at her actions as she tries to assert her independence, only to make a mess of things.  I also found myself annoyed with our narrator on more than one occasion.  I realize it is a lot to deal and a lot of responsibility to lead a rebellion at such a young age, but Katniss handled it rather well.  Kitty just doesn't feel like a strong, independent character that I can relate to.

The only character that appears to be developed at all is Knox, and Carter throws so many plot twists at him that you really don't know what to expect, which I guess makes him my favorite character at this point as it certainly makes him the most interesting.

Pawn was by no means a standout in the young adult genre, and Captive isn't either, but I still find myself interested in the series as a guilty pleasure.  I find it laughable that Carter teases at a love triangle between Kitty-Knox-Benjy for the beginning of this novel and throughout a good portion of Pawn, but then tries time and time again to throw obstacles between Knox and Kitty to prove that she will only have eyes for the wonderful Benjy, who we still know nothing about.  And though Carter might have been swinging for a home run and ended up with a sac-fly to outfield with the rather sloppy and oftentimes awkward development of the plot in Captive, which deals with the dystopian side of the series, at least we got some sort of development in this novel.  I wouldn't say it suffers completely from a sophomore slump, but I wouldn't put it on par with Pawn.  Hopefully Carter can take the best aspects from Pawn and the best aspects from Captive and combine them together for a better than average conclusion in Queen.

16 November 2014

Glitches

Author: Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #0.5
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

As a self proclaimed fanatic of Meyer's The Lunar Chronicles, I was thrilled when I found out her short stories/novellas ties to the series were available to read for free on Wattpad.  I started with Glitches, as I have been planning to reread the series, and thus wanted to reread it in order including the online stories.

Glitches, unfortunately, just doesn't have the same magical feeling as the books in the series.  While it features all our favorite original characters from Cinder, this addition to the series does little to add to the saga.  It is a fragment of different scenes that revolve around Cinder's arrival to her new family after her surgery where she came a cyborg.  While this story adds a few details and some weak dialogue, it doesn't really contribute much to scenes we already know have happened through the narration in the other novels.

For the most avid of fans, Glitches might be worth the read.  And it certainly doesn't take up much of your time.  It's even useful if you need a Lunar Chronicle fix before the next release in the series.  But overall, Glitches doesn't feel worthy of the Lunar Chronicle series, falling flat without a plot or much of a purpose, yielding very few new details of things we already knew happened.

The Goddess Test

Author: Aimee Carter
Series: Goddess Test #1
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

While wait for my ARC copy of Captive to arrive, I decided to give Carter's Goddess Test series a shot.  I went into it realizing it wasn't my favorite genre, as it is pushed as being a romantic story.  But the romance element of the novel wasn't the main reason I couldn't get into this series.

First off, there seems to be very little plot.  When Kate is tagged to take the "tests" to see if she can be the new wife of the Underworld ruler, we don't really know what any of the tests are until the final few pages of the novel.  Even then, Carter admits that the characters didn't even seem to know what all the tests were until they were ready to pass their judgement on her, which seems like a very thrown together story without much of a planned plot.

The character development was also a disaster, as there wasn't really any.  Kate meets Ava when she first arrives in Eden (her mother's childhood home where she wishes to remain until her pending death).  Ava is your stereotypical cheerleader dating a good for nothing jock who can't seem to break the habit of falling for the guys that treat her like trash.  Kate herself isn't even developed as a character either.  All I know about her is that she takes the whole "I am the ruler of the Underworld, come be my wife for six months out of the year" remarkably well, and seems to be far too trusting and naive.  The romantic element comes into play when she meets the strange Henry who can bring people back to life.  As if a switch flips in her head, at one point in the novel Kate just up and decides she has feelings for Henry and wants to make him feel the same for her.

I'm not really sure what Carter's point in writing this story was.  It certainly didn't seem like she put a lot of effort into it, and I certainly didn't put much effort into reading it.  Perhaps the young girls that thrive on the paranormal romance series will find some interest for Carter's series, but for people who enjoy a good novel, I wouldn't suggest it.  I'll stick with her Blackcoat Rebellion series for the time being.

10 November 2014

The Young Elites

Author: Marie Lu
Series: The Young Elites #1
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I enjoyed Lu's Legend series, so I was looking forward to reading The Young Elites, especially as it branched further into the fantasy genre than the dystopian.  The Young Elites carried a lot of familiar elements to the genre, including a group with - for lack of a better term - magical abilities that are ostracized for their talents.  Though I am not certain I exactly understood where their magical/paranormal talents rose from, I believe it came from a plague like disease, in which a handful that were fortunate enough (or unfortunate enough, depending on how you look at it) to survive were gifted these abilities from different ancient gods.  Certainly not how I would go about it, but it worked for the purpose of the story.

Enter our narrator (or, at least, the only character we follow where the prose is told from the first person POV).  Adelina is one such malfetto, and she is definitely an interesting character.  From the beginning, she is set up to be our protagonist, but there is an evil darkness lurking inside Adelina that makes you question her likability as the main character throughout the novel.  It's an interesting dynamic, and not one that authors typically explore.  Lu did well with it, and as such she developed Adelina into a very dynamic character.  After all, Adelina wants to do good and help the other malfettos, yet she also sets out to see how she can benefit herself, as the call of power is very alluring to her.

As it is a young adult novel, there is - of course - an element of romance in the novel, but it isn't stifling.  And the absence of a love triangle was refreshing for a change as such has seemingly become a staple to young adult novels regardless of their genre.  Lu integrates the romance well into the overall plot of the story, and thus the romance helps to develop the plot instead of hinder it.

While I felt a lot of the action left more suspense to be desired, it was still a well written introduction to a new series.  Marie Lu continues to set her novels apart from most other YA series currently being published as she shies away from the stereotypes and develops her own style.  The "epilogue" leaves an interesting seed for the plot of the next novel, which I will be sure to read when it comes out.

Though The Young Elites is nothing earth shattering, it is a novel worth reading.  I do hope Lu dives further into the details of her fantasy realm she has created for the series with the next novel, as one of the issues I had with this book was the fact that the world she created is unique, yet serves only as a backdrop in the novel.  For a fantasy series, I would love to see more development into this new world.

20 July 2014

Alienated

Author: Melissa Landers
Series: Alienated #1
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

And so continues my summer of reading young adult novels with pretty covers that are sure to disappoint as they are focused on romance and crazy paranormal happenings or in this case, aliens.  While I am a die hard sci-fi fan, I'm not one to truly appreciate time travel or aliens (especially aliens who speak any human language and are very similar to humans).  As such, I went into Alienated without much expectation.  And since I didn't have high expectations, I wasn't disappointed.

The L’eihr aliens made contact two years ago, and Cara now finds herself center stage as she, somewhat unwillingly, enters into an exchange program with the L'eihr.  As the first part of the exchange, a L'eihr alien (who is basically human as far as I can tell, except for his mind speak ability) comes to stay with Cara's family.  In the second part of the exchange, Cara will be shipped off to Aelyx's home world to learn about their species and home planet.

The characters are a bit one dimensional.  Cara is the stereotypical uber smart valedictorian who is obsessed with being the best, though she hardly studies at all during the course of the novel.  Aelyx is also highly intelligent and isn't exactly human friendly, but falls almost immediately for Cara and the rest of his host family.  As soon as you realize the story is about an exchange program and that Cara is going to have a teenage guy living in her house for a year, well the rest of the plot isn't too hard to figure out from there, so the romance was not something that blindsided me in this story.

While I am not a big fan of YA romance, I still enjoyed Alienated.  I liked Cara's blog posts, and she was even dare I say humorous at times.  Sure, the characters were one sided, but they were still likable enough though for the most part they were underdeveloped.  As the vast majority of humankind is not exactly excited about the prospects of a more intelligent life form making contact and now staying on their planet, Cara and Aelyx both face a lot of hatred and bigotry as the exchange program begins.  Cara soon (rather conveniently) finds herself alienated (ha, see what I did there?) from pretty much everyone she knows, which allows her to spend almost all of her time with Aelyx.  But Aelyx has a secret agenda up his sleeve, and Cara soon realizes that he may not be entirely as honest as he lets on, especially as their friendship continues to grow.

It does weird me out to think of a relationship between a human and an alien, and it is just entirely too convenient that their alien life from has the EXACT SAME DNA even though they boost how evolved they are.  But alas, this is young adult after all, so try not to dwell too much into it.

A summer read for certain, but interesting enough that I'll probably find a copy of the second novel when it comes out next year to see where these characters end up next.

Unravel

Author: Imogen Howson
Series: Linked #2
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I was probably more disappointed in this novel than I have the right to be.  Perhaps the stunning cover sucked me in and made me believe the story would be as enticing as the art.  Perhaps I was still so excited about Linked, especially since my copy just arrived for my personal collection, that I held Howson up on a pedestal where she didn't belong.  But man, it's hard to figure out where to start with my review for Unravel now that I finally trudged the entire way through it.

Or, perhaps, no it's not.  I'm going to start with Elissa, and on the same note her relationship with Cadan.  Man, Elissa seems like a typically teenager in this novel.  She spends almost the entire novel whining and complaining about the same things over and over again.  And her continual deficit of self assurance in her relationship with Cadan made me want to reach through the pages of the novel and choke the biotch.  I even had the same problem with Lin in this book as well.

Linked was great because it was such an unique sci-fi story turned space opera.  Though I didn't necessarily like the paranormal element they added to the story, the perks of Linked far outweighed the flaws.  In Unravel, it felt like Howson made a complete 180.  While Linked showed signs of the romance aspect, it was tolerable.  In Unravel, it becomes center stage, and you spend half the novel listening to Elissa's self conscious inner monologue while she goes back and forth over her relationship with Cadan.  The addition of parents into the equation only made things 10x worst.  It was infuriating reading Elissa have the same doubts and then have the same fight with Cadan over and over and over again.

I felt like Elissa was a suicidal teenager while reading the narrative of this novel.  Rarely any of it happens in deep space, and if she isn't worried about Cadan, then she is having doubts about Lin or fighting with her instead.  While angsty teenagers may love this novel, it was hard for me to get through.  It's difficult to tell if Unravel was the end of a series or if Howson wants to continue with the series further, but I feel as if I must go back and treat Linked like a stand alone novel, especially since it worked well that way.

19 July 2014

Of Neptune

Author: Anna Banks
Series: The Syrena Legacy #3
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Of Poseidon focused on Emma learning about her roots and her heritage as a member of the Syrena (sort of, since she is a Half Breed).  Then Of Triton focused on restoring Emma's mother, the long lost princess and love of Grom, to her rightful heritage as a princess of the Syrena.  With everyone pretty much restored and the two groups somewhat at peace now, Of Neptune decides to take the focus to a third group of Syrena, located in land in Tennessee as descends of Neptune.

After the death of his beloved friend, Galen decides perhaps he needs a bit of a vacation to get other recent events, and Emma goes along for the ride, although not before her grandfather suggests they take their trip to Neptune, where Emma realizes she is not the only Half-Breed left.  The introduction of a handful of new characters gives Banks the opportunity to throw in the obligatory young adult love triangle, which was a bit annoying as it seems as if Emma and Galen were already well on their way to a happily ever after.

While I felt we didn't have enough face time to truly connect to the new characters Banks introduces, especially since Of Neptune wraps up the series, it was still an interesting enough plot, and it didn't feel as if it was a retelling of the same old story like a lot of novels in young adult series these days.  I don't feel as if Of Neptune was a necessary addition to the series; Banks could have easily wrapped the series up after Of Triton just as well as she did with this novel (I wasn't 100% sure it was the end of the series until I dug a little deeper online) but I guess trilogies are the name of the game these days.

There was enough intrigue and excitement in the story to keep me interested, even though it wasn't anything super impactful.  It was interesting to see same ties link back into the first and second novels through the new set of characters, and the story involved Emma and the original crew enough to keep the story moving, though the side characters from the first two stories weren't as important in this novel, so it lost a bit of its interest there.

Overall, still not a series that will keep you up late at night getting through the pages with the need to read all three back to back, but a quick enough leisure read to hold my interest.  If my puppy hadn't chewed through the library binding of this novel, I wouldn't have bought it, and it's not a series that I would purchase for my personal library to read several times more, but an interesting enough story for fans of mermaid type novels for a read through of the entire series.

17 July 2014

Of Triton

Author: Anna Banks
Series: The Syrena Legacy #2
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Based on the cover for the second installment in the series, I honestly didn't think I would enjoy the second installment.  From the cover, it looks like Banks is going to play heavily on the young adult romance in the series, but I was pleasantly surprised to find that Of Triton focused on the romance less than Of Poseidon did.

Of Triton picks up where Of Poseidon left off, with the stunning realization that Emma's mother is the long lost love of Galen's brother.  Galen is determined to reunite Grom and Nalia to prevent the imposter from the other clan from marrying Grom.  Nalia, however, refuses to believe that Grom is still alive, so she takes off with Emma on the run.

Emma and Galen actually spend a good majority of this novel apart, and it doesn't bother me too much.  It allows for some more character development and exposes some of the other relationships in the series, while making Emma call into question her relationship with Galen once more on where his true intentions lie.

It doesn't feel like much happens in Of Triton; the bulk of the novel focuses on returning Nalia to her true birth right.  The end conflict between the Tritons and the Poseidons brings some action to the story.  At only 246 pages, Of Triton is pretty quick and precise, though the pace can seem a little slow at points since we are just watching one gang chase after another.

I will throw a little bit of a spoiler alert when I saw that one of the characters I really liked dies in this novel, and it actually impacted me some, which doesn't usually happen when I'm reading young adult romance novels.  I like how the characters feel the impact as well; a lot of times (I especially notice in first person narratives) the characters seem to just pass right on by the death of a friend or a loved one.  Banks takes these deaths to heart.  Emma still feels the loss of her friend Chloe, and brings it up every so often in the narrative.

Still not an impactful novel with brilliant quotes or lasting impressions, but Of Triton is an entertaining read for a summer beach novel.

15 July 2014

Of Poseidon

Author: Anna Banks
Series: The Syrena Legacy #1
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I'm not going to lie; Of Poseidon is not the type of novel I would typically read, and it is obvious from the get go that it is going to be very Twilightish with respect to writing style and romance heavy plot.  I will also admit, however, that I actually kind of liked it.  My main reason for starting this series was, let's face it, it's about mermaids.  Or Syrena as they are called in this novel.  Perhaps the young woman not knowing she's a mermaid, but finding out from the handsome, ultra attractive, slightly older male character is not the way I would like to go about reading about a mermaid story, but you take what you can get.

For a story about mermaids, this novel spends an awful lot of time on land.  And the parts that are spent under water are not especially descriptive of the surroundings.  The writing is rather childish at times, and some of the moments that are clearly meant to be funny are definitely lost on me.  Emma tendency to use the phrase Ohmysweetgoodness also really started to irritate me towards the end of the story.

Of Poseidon is not a thought provoking or deep story by any means.  It has little substance and definitely focuses on the romance between Emma and Galen.  But for some reason, I still enjoyed it on the guilty pleasure level.  Rayna is quirky enough and just a tad under obnoxious to add a level of interest in the characters.  Toraf, while being a love sick puppy, is also charming in his own way.  Without these side characters, the novel would definitely struggle to have any substance at all, but the addition of them and thus their interactions with Emma and Galen offer enough reprieve from the romance to make Of Poseidon readable.

While this series is definitely geared towards readers who enjoy Twilight styled "literature", it's still stomachable if you like a story of creatures from under the sea.  The only other young adult series I have read about mermaids so far is Amanda Hocking's Watersong series, and so far I definitely prefer this series to that one.

Avalon

Author: Mindee Arnett
Series: Avalon #1
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

Unfortunately, the best part of this novel ended up being the cover, which I will admit is pretty mesmerizing.  Unfortunately, the story was not.  It had all the potential to make a very impactful debut for a series; after all, it is pretty much the young adult version of Firefly.  But while Firefly took a little while to get into and then left you breathless, Avalon started out interesting enough and then left you wondering where in the world Arnett went so wrong.

I think I expected too much from this book, and thus I was doubly disappointed.  I wanted something Joss Whedon-ess, and I got something more along the lines of Revolution or Under the Dome or even Jericho.  The characters were fine, but never really impactful.  Jeth and gang never suck you into their lives and adventures like Mal and crew, and when you get right down to it, the characters are really what make a good story, especial in space opera novels.

Again, I am probably expecting too much from a space opera novel written for the young adult novel, but I couldn't help but be optimistic since it is a genre that not many attempt because most fail so miserably.    I think what made Firefly so great was that there really weren't any aliens; it was still the struggle of humans versus humans.  But while Avalon focuses on the struggle of Jeth and crew against other humans towards the beginning, we branch out when they go to pick up the ship lost in the space version of the Bermuda triangle, and everything goes down hill from there, especially when the mention of possible aliens.  I am not a big fan of alien novels, and I think it was probably from that point on, if not sooner, where I really lost interest in this novel.

I did manage to finish reading it, so the writing wasn't completely garbage, but the story just didn't grip my attention.  All the action and adventure you would expect from mercenaries in space was dumbed down by teenage drama and even the romance, which I really didn't care for.  The pacing was rather slow, and I grew bored of the plot and the story in general before too long.

I was really hoping to get into Avalon, as there really aren't too many space/sci-fi novels out there in the young adult genre, but Avalon was just not my cup of tea.

11 July 2014

Kindness Goes Unpunished

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

I took a step back from the Longmire novels for a little while whilst I buried myself in the young adult genre, but which season three underway now, I figured I needed to get through my next installment of the Longmire novels, so here we go!

What I really enjoy about Longmire is the western scenery, as well as the tribal backdrop as well, and with Walt traveling to visit Cady in Philly, this novel really didn't have that western goodness to it, which lost a bit of its appeal.  Though I love Cady in the television show, she's not the same in the novels, and we really don't get to explore her character much in this novel either as she spends almost the entire book in a coma.  You did get to explore Walt's relationship with his daughter some, however, so that was at least touching and helped make up for the other short comings.

Kindness Goes Unpunished just felt a little out of its element and off its game with Walt and Henry in Philly.  They take a back seat to the local law enforcement as they try to figure out just what happened to Cady, and then Vic's arrival down the road didn't really help matters in my opinion either.  I know a lot of people are a fan of the Walt and Vic relationship, but I actually found it kind of disturbing, especially since Walt is much closer to her mother's age and Vic is a lot closer to Cady's age.  All and all, Kindness Goes Unpunished is almost a novel I would chose to skip from the series, and if I end up buying some of the novels to add to my personal library, unless I get this one dirt cheap or free, I doubt it will make the cut.

Arclight

Author: Josin L. McQuein
Series: Arclight #1
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

If I could say only one thing about Arclight, I would say it is definitely unique.  We are thrust into Marina's world as they go on lockdown from the Fade, hidden in the "security" of the Arclight.  We aren't sure what's so different about Marina at the start, but we definitely know she isn't like everyone else from the way she's treated by the others.  She sticks out like a sore thumb and she knows it.

Turns out, Marina came from the Dark, discovered in the Grey.  She doesn't have memories of who she was or where she came from before that point; all she knows is that she was saved, brought into the Arclight by Tobin's father, which cost him his life.  Needless to say, Tobin and Marina don't really get along.  At first.

As with pretty much every other young adult novel out there, there is that element of young adult romance.  It didn't bug me too much, but it was a little more predominant than I would have liked.  Thankfully, it didn't take away from the plot too much, so it was definitely bearable.

Now onto the plot.  It's hard to describe without spoiling much of the story, but McQuein weaves an interesting tale, and it certainly takes you to places you aren't expecting.  While mostly shallow to keep the young adult age level readers interested, it does bring up some interesting thoughts about what it truly means to be human.  And while it isn't exactly a terrifying book, it has some chilling moments.  The entire opening of the novel is rather suspenseful, even though you don't really know what the heck is going on at first.  The set up of the story in the beginning is masterful, I will give McQuein that for sure.  The pacing of the novel slows down a bit after that, and the story tends to drag in a few places, but overall it is an enticing read.

While it's a little difficult to see how the second novel will be as good as the first, I am certainly willing to give it a try.  I already have Meridian sitting on my bookshelf, and as soon as I get through the pile of books I'm currently reading, it's next on my priority list.

06 July 2014

The Colorado Kid

Author: Stephen King
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I looked up The Colorado Kid and then borrowed it from the library because of my new current obsession with Syfy's Haven television series.  The show credits The Colorado Kid as its beginnings and after being unable to find any media spin off novels for the show but not wanting to go down the fanfiction route, I decided to check out The Colorado Kid.

Besides James Cogan and our buddies at the newspaper, there really aren't any resembles between the novella and the tv series.  Fortunately, the story was interesting enough to hold my attention.  I don't believe King's afterword where he said he didn't believe there was any middle ground between loving or hating this story, as I fall into that category.

If the story had been a full length novel, I wouldn't have liked it because I would have thought that I had spent too much time on a story with no real plot resolution.  But for a novella that only took me about an hour or so to read, it wasn't too bad.

I mostly read this story while exercising or rewatching a TV show I've seen before; I'm not sure I would have been able to curl up under the covers with this novel and stay up all night to read it like I did this weekend staying up to watch the third season of Haven. But I have only read one other Stephen King novel before, Thinner, which I remember was pretty horrible, so The Colorado Kid increased my likelihood of reading another novel.  I'm looking at Under the Dome, as that is another adaptation television show I've been watching.

30 June 2014

Otherbound

Author: Corinne Duyvis
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

To sum up my opinion of this novel in one word: "ehhh..."

The premise is definitely unique.  I have read novels about people who can possess other people.  I have read novels where ordinary people get whisked away into a fantasy world.  But I haven't read a novel about a boy in the real world who (uncontrollably) sees through the eyes of a girl who lives in a fantasy world.

I was 50 pages into Otherbound before I even realized why Nolan was even significant to the story, and by then I was already kind of bored with his life as nothing ever happened to him except that he took pills to prevent seizures he didn't even have and he fell down and puked a lot because every time he closed his eyes, he was whisked away into Amara's world.

Now while Amara's world was definitely the more interesting story of the two parallel tales in Otherbound, it got confusing when it kept switching back and forth between her story and Nolan's.  The characters were interesting enough (at least in Amara's world), but the story got lost with the narrative always switching back and forth between Amara and Nolan, and then we would be in one part but paying attention to the other's story (which was denoted by bold font).  Half the time, I wasn't even sure who the heck was in control of whom.

While Amara's story started off interesting enough - she has powers to heal and has to protect the lost princess Cilla - my interest in her story also faded as the novel went on.  I think Duyvis sort of had an idea of what she wanted to do with the plot, but it became entangled as it developed through the novel.  The addition mages and people who lived in one world but could possess others in another realm grew too convoluted to follow, and I am not 100% sure if all of it was even explained (such as how Nolan had this power to possess another, and how he had magic in a non magical world.  Also, the ability to heal still confused me, and Cilla's whole story was still kind of a mystery at the end as well).

I don't know.  My thought is that there are so many novels out there in the young adult genre right now that I would rather read the ones that don't make my head hurt trying to get through them.  Now, don't get me wrong, some authors can pull off the multiple storylines, even when they are overlapping.  But I don't think it was Duyvis's strong point.

29 June 2014

World After

Author: Susan Ee
Series: Penryn & the End of Days #2
Rating: 1.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

I have to say, I am rather disappointed with myself that I couldn't get through this novel.  I got to page 168 and just couldn't muster the enthusiasm to carry on.  After seeing all the 4 and 5 star reviews on Goodreads, perhaps I am the odd duck out, but I just couldn't do it.  But perhaps it is because I couldn't get through SYLO which I was reading at the same time as World After, and perhaps some of its stink rubbed off on this one through osmosis.  Who knows.

Angelfall didn't blow my mind, but it was a different approach for a young adult novel than was it typical in the state of literature in today's day and age.  Some of its novelty, however, disappeared with World After.  It feels like a lot of the same plot elements of World After (for example. Penryn is worried about her crazy mom again while searching for her younger sister).  She is also still obsessing over the angel Raffe, which is just a little too weird of a romantic angle for me, especially since I am not a big fan of YA romance.

The pacing of World After seemed slow and it doesn't seem like a whole lot of significance has happened from the beginning of the novel to the point where I quit.  And I lost interest rather quickly when I started this novel.  The most interesting part of Angelfall for me was Raffe, and this novel follows mainly Penryn, who really isn't all that significant to me.

Compared to most of the other reviews for this novel however, maybe I should be ignored on this one.  Maybe I will revisit this series again once it is completed to see if I change my mind the second time through when I haven't been reading other bad books simultaneously and when I am not as distracted by life work.  But for now, I think I will part ways with Penryn & gang and continue on with some new series and complete some other ones I am more interested in.

Storm

Author: D.J. MacHale
Series: The SYLO Chronicles #2
Rating: 1.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

While SYLO was nothing special, it at least ended on an interesting premise that allowed Storm to improve upon which MacHale delivered in the first novel.  Unfortunately, Storm was even worse than SYLO and by the time I reached page 230, I could stomach it no longer.  I hate leaving books unfinished, but I have been battling with Storm for the better part of four days.  I kept waiting for Storm to impress, but instead it continued to go downhill.

While the writing and dialogue in SYLO seemed rather juvenile, Storm was even worse.  There are parts of this novel that felt like a ten-year-old wrote the story.  Perhaps that comes from adults trying to write young adult stories and overcompensating, but the writing degraded so much that it actually became laughable.  The entire fight they have over Boston versus Nevada was absurd as well.  I double checked on a map, but I was pretty sure to start that Boston was north of Nevada anyway (which it is).  This part irritated me to no end, and it was far from the only bone I had to pick.

The characters never developed, Olivia was so obnoxious I was hoping someone was going to pop her in the face.  And the "love triangle" between Olivia, Tori and Tucker was just as annoying.  Kent and Joni were annoying too, which did not really leave one single likable character in the novel.  The entire plot is so far fetched and underdeveloped that it was hard to follow (SYLO, army, navy, air force)... and where the heck are all the people?  Even though they were on an island for all of SYLO, you still would have thought they would have had an inkling of an idea of what had happened.

I tried to enjoy this series, but I couldn't stomach it.  It was definitely written for preteens and not for teenagers and older people who enjoy reading in the young adult genre.

27 June 2014

Days of Blood & Starlight

Author: Laini Taylor
Series: Daughter of Smoke & Bone
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

Days of Blood and Starlight in no way suffers from a full sophomore slump, but picking up where we left off with Daught of Smoke & Bone, I was not as mesmerized by this second installment in the series.  While (most) of my favorite characters return, we are introduced to a lot of other characters as well, and the narrative becomes a little convoluted and confusing in a few points.  Now, if I were reading the series over again after completing it in its entirety, I have a feeling this would no longer be an issue as I would be completely familiar with them all.  But the shear mass of plot and characters that Taylor throws our way in Days of Blood & Starlight is a little suffocating.

This novel always doesn't carry that steady, seemingly perfect pace that the first novel did.  It drags on in a few points and I felt it could have been trimmed down in some areas that were not as exciting, suspenseful, or seemingly important as others.

The plot and the number of characters, however, were my only two main issues with the story.  We find Karou and Akiva on opposite sides of this mounting war, each under the command of a terrifying leader.  And then we are introduced to Ziri, who makes Karou and Akiva's relationship even more complicated that it already is by adding another possible love interest for our otherwise preoccupied heroine.

Days of Blood and Starlight felt a bit like a filler, a novel to bridge the gap between Daughter of Smoke & Bone and was preludes to being an action packed, blow your socks off Dreams of Gods & Monsters.  But while the pace seemed to lag in certain areas, it still contained enough rich narrative to stem the tides and carry me through to the next novel, which I assume will be the final book in a trilogy.

25 June 2014

Elsewhere

Author: Gabrielle Zevin
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Elsewhere is different than any other novel I have read before.  I've read other books about the afterlife, the most recent that comes to mind is Lauren Oliver's Before I Fall, but they all stem from the same philosophy of ghosts, where it is the spirit or the soul of someone who stays around after they die because they are still tied to the world for one reason or another.  Zevin takes a different spin on what awaits after life and includes reincarnation so beautifully you kind of find yourself hoping that Zevin's world is what awaits for you in the end.

First, you start out on a cruise ship.  Right there, I am hooked (unless this after life cruise ship is on the Carnival cruise line... then perhaps I would not be so excited).  Then, our hit and run heroine, Liz, finds herself greeted by a grandmother she never knew on an island simply called Elsewhere.  Still trying to get used to being dead, Liz spends her days in her pajamas (again, completely sold!) and watching down on her family still alive.

Elsewhere explores Liz's difficulty with letting go of her previous life and adjusting to the after world, especially when she finds out there is a forbidden way to communicate with the world and her family she left behind.  While hardly much happens in Liz's afterlife (after all, she is stuck on an island), it's the emotional journey that matters in Elsewhere.

The narrative of the novel was rather juvenile compared to the content of the story (while Liz dreams of growing old, getting married and having kids and spies her parents having sex, she also have a fight with Owen where they both sound like 10 year old kids, and they make up irrationally fast after that).  Some of the elements were hard to believe (the fact that every dead person passes through Elsewhere, and most stay for quite a while, but Liz really only meets a handful of people through her sixteen year stint there), and others were conveniently ignored (if everyone just works doing what they love, then who manufactures things such as cars and diving gear - and where do the materials come from - and how is gasoline provided for boats and cars, and what about the issue of bowels, since they still eat (and where is food grown and processed)?  The little details urked me, but I tried not to read into them too much as I realize this novel is written for a younger crowd.

Despite all this misgivings I had with Elsewhere, I still enjoyed the novel.  For a young adult novel written with a middle school vocabulary, it still have rather deep roots and I pulled some rather elegant quotes from the story.  One I will not likely add to my private library, but one I would not be opposed to reading again if I ever ran out of new material to try.

22 June 2014

SYLO

Author: D.J. MacHale
Series: The SYLO Chronicles #1
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I never finished the Pendragon series by MacHale, but it was a series that I started a few years back and wish to revisit.  MacHale writes more on a pre-teen level than a young adult novel, so I reminded myself of that when I started into SYLO.

SYLO is an interesting, if not a bit confusing, of a novel.  It starts off following a young man sitting on the bench in his high school football game, terrified he will be called into action, when suddenly one of the players on the field drops dead without a warning.  This kid may be the first to die on this little island town, but he won't be the last.  The novel then follows as our main character Tucker tries to discover just what happened to his teammate.  Enter Ruby, and things become even more complicated, especially as the military/government agency of SYLO takes up residence on the island and quarantines it due to the deaths piling up.

While the plot of SYLO itself is a bit sloppy and the novel was a little difficult to muster the strength to get through, the ending is certainly promising and the reason I am ready to start Storm, the next novel in the series.  SYLO opens itself up to a rather radical dystopian/post apocalyptic world and MacHale introduces a lot of unexplored and unanswered questions at the end of the novel that promise excitement and adventure for our rag tag team of heroes.  SYLO felt like one long, over extensive build up for Storm, without a lot of the character development you typically expect from slow first novels in series.  Now, if Storm ends up subpar as well, I will not waste my time further with the series, but SYLO at least shows promise at the end if you can tolerate the plot and the dumbed down narratives for the younger crowd until then.

21 June 2014

Moon Called

Author: Patricia Briggs
Series: Mercy Thompson #1
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Moon Called is Twilight for grown ups, without the horrible dialogue and love triangles.  It's Sookie Stackhouse without the sex and love triangles.  It is vampires and werewolves and coyotes, oh my!  And for the first part of the novel, it is genuinely intriguing and interesting, a gripping main character that sucks you into the story with a fresh and perhaps a bit saucy narrative.

Unfortunately, as the new character shine wears off Mercy, the plot is not there to pick up the slack.  The characters and character relationships are a little convuluted with the introduction of different clans of werewolves and clans, and the kidnapping of Adam's daughter is not a plot with enough suspense and mystery to carry the novel that otherwise just finds these characters traveling about talking to different paranormal people.  While these vampires and werewolves are interesting enough, they are not enough to sustain the book, and thus the further I got into the novel, the less interested I became.  By the end of the novel, when we solved the disappearance of the young girl, I had no emotion over the result, where in a good novel I most certainly would have.

It's hard to put a finger on the point where this novel headed south, but it had more to do with plot development than anything else.  Briggs developed the characters as a foundation for a fantastic series, but the choice of story and conflict was weak in comparison and could not hold up my expectations through the novel.   A series I do not think I will continue, but fans of the paranormal, especially vampire/werewolf series, may enjoy as I have learned that most of these types of novels are weak in plot but people enjoy them nonetheless.

19 June 2014

Elixir

Author: Hilary Duff
Series: Elixir #1
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

Elixir is your run of the mill, generic young adult paranormal romance novel.  The story is told from the first person POV of a teenage female, so no surprise there.  Her best friend is pining over her, but she choices instead to fall for the mystery guy that is hiding in her closet after breaking into her house.  Sound familiar, fans of Twilight?

The writing, while no bad, is definitely sub par.  There is nothing exciting or intriguing about Clea, except perhaps for her rather unique name.  She is a spoiled, rich girl of two rather important people and has some serious daddy issues after her father mysteriously dies in Brazil.  At seventeen, she is already making money as a photojournalist under an alias, even though she does not seem to have any formal education or proper training.

Elixir follows Clea as she reincarnates life after life, while the man of her life is immortal and watches her die over and over again as different people through different generations.  The plot is nothing unique, and the delivery of the story does nothing to make it stand out against the thousands of other young adult novels in its genre.

While not annoying enough for constant eye rolling, i.e. I was able to finish the novel without vomiting uncontrollably, Elixir was more of a speed read, gloss over story while I worked out on my spin bike or watched TV.  The plot was anything but engrossing, and when I reached the conclusion, I honestly could not have cared less what happened.

Elixir is the first in a series, but it is not one I will continue.  Fans of Twilight, Evermore, and Fallen will probably enjoy this "literature", but for fans that like more substance and plot than light romance, go ahead and skip right over this one.  Sorry, Lizzie Maguire, but I tried.

18 June 2014

Salvage

Author: Alexandra Duncan
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

This novel is neither thought provoking, thrilling or surprising as the synopsis boosts.  I have racked my brain and the best word I can find to summarize this book is boring.  Salvage is also pushed as a feminist sci-fi novel, but I hardly found Ava as a strong female lead character.  If anything, I found her naive and too trusting of strangers.  In both worlds - both on her ship and then later on Earth, she quickly becomes entangled with teenage males.  And while I would not exactly call Salvage a romantically strong novel, it certainly has the ties to the genre.

I feel like all the elements were there for Duncan to deliver an astounding novel, but all we got was a book of blah.  The novel is a whooping 520 pages long, but at the conclusion of the novel, I am hard pressed to tell you what exactly, if anything, really happened during those pages.  There is no action, there is no suspense, there is just a lot of awkward language (so sister, so so so so so), a lot of confusion on Ava's behalf, and a lot of moving around trying to fix things.

It is difficult to really dive into this novel during a review since there did not seem much of a plot to dive in to.  When Ava lands on Earth, she is searching for her aunt.  Then, she decides to search out for Luck as well.  Ava is never happy with what she has, but she never really does much about it either.  Salvage is a classic example of where I was drawn to a novel by its lush cover and its space opera ties, and was deeply disappointed by the lack of the content.  Given that it is young adult sci fi, however, I guess I should not be surprised by this face anymore.