29 April 2014

Don't Turn Around

Author: Michelle Gagnon
Series: PERSEFoNE #1
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

Don't Turn Around is compared to The Girl with the Dragon's Tattoo, and I have to admit that it is a rather fitting similarity.  A perhaps dumbed down, not quite as complex or dark young adult styled The Girl with the Dragon's Tattoo, but still a good novel for people to read that followed that series.

Noa wakes up, confused and rightly terrified.  She's hooked up to an IV drip and can hear strange voices close by.  She can't remember where she is or how she got there.  When a doctor finally comes to see her, he tells her she's been in an accident, but Noa has enough critical thinking skills to realize that something isn't right.

As soon as Noa escapes, she is on the run and on a mission to figure out what the heck happened to her, setting the tone and the pace for the rest of the novel.  Meanwhile, Peter is hacking his way merrily through other people's information when he stumbles upon some information that some very important people do not want him to have, which becomes clear to him quickly with a guy shows up and breaks down his front door.

Noa and Peter are seemingly connected through the group that Peter started for hackers called /Alliance/, and are linked when Peter calls upon Noa's hacking expertise to help dig more into this Persefone project that only has these strangers kicking in his door, but has his parents all worked up as well.  On the run and in need of money, Noa decides to help Peter dig more into this mysterious group.

Seemingly unconnected elements and insignificant characters all wind up playing their parts in this debut novel of the series as the plot unravels, unfolds, and then becomes even more interestingly complex.  While the plot revolves around the theme of teenage hackers, it has the element of a viral theme as well, as the PEMA virus is a majority concern in the world at the time and becomes increasingly important to the plot as they discover how deeply linked Noa may be to the Persefone Project and the PEMA virus.

While the characters do not seem completely developed yet, they are far from one dimensional and continue to gather strength as the narrative unfolds.  And perhaps the hacking skills these youngsters possess is a little difficult for me to believe for 16-year-olds, especially one that has been in and out of the system her entire life and who doesn't seem like she would have had much access to computers in her foster homes, The Center, or juvie, it's still an engaging enough plot that I am willing to overlook the thought and not obsess over whether it is closer to fiction or nonfiction.

Don't Turn Around ends with adrenaline pumping through all circuits, so I am definitely excited for digging into Don't Look Now, which is enticing me easily from the bookshelf across the now.

27 April 2014

The Prince

Author: Kiera Cass
Series: The Selection #0.5
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

For super obsessive fans of The Selection series who simply cannot get enough of America and Maxon, The Prince might be a welcome hold over until the next installment in the series.  For the rest of the casual Selection readers, The Prince offered very little new material.

The tagline for the novella totes that before Aspen broke America's heart... There was another girl in Prince Maxon's life...  And Cass does introduce one new character by the name of Daphne, but it is hardly the "thrilling" novella the publisher wishes you to believe.  The relationship between Daphne and Maxon plays the main focus for the first 25% of the novel, but if you've read The Selection you already know that Maxon has never kissed a girl before, so we already know going into the novel that it cannot be much of a serious relationship between Maxon and Daphne.  And, indeed, it proves not to be, and Cass makes Daphne out to be a whiny and demanding character.

Once you get past the annoying new character introduction, the remainder of the novella hardly ventures away from the material in The Selection and simply repeats selected scenes from the first novel and just in just a slightly different point a view, although the majority of the story is just the same repeated dialogue.

Thus, while avid fans may enjoy this short repetition of events, it's hardly a short story worth getting excited over.

Earthbound

Author: Aprilynne Pike
Series: Earthbound #1
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

Earthbound is a classic example of the phrase "Don't judge a book by its cover".  While the cover is beautiful and fascinating, the writing and story are anything but.  Earthbound centers around Tavia, an interesting name to be sure, who is the sole survivor of a plane crash that everyone thinks no one should have been able to survive.  Orphaned by the crash, Tavia is sent to live with her aunt and uncle.

Earthbound starts out as a paranormal novel when Tavia starts seeing a mysterious yet charming guy following her around.  Then she sees someone walk through a wall and sees people start to flicker when no one else has an inkling of an idea of what she is seeing.  And then comes the Mary Poppins pockets, where Tavia can inexplicably pull an unlimited number of Chapsticks from her pockets.  By the time we got to the Chapsticks, I was already leaning towards fantasy, and that scene in the library may have been the turning point where this novel lost me.  Until that point, I was still pretty interested in the mystery behind the paranormal, but once Earthbound took a swerve and changed lanes for fantasy, I was pretty much done for.

The paranormal elements in Earthbound turned to reincarnation/mythical/fantasy at the same time that the plot shifted from mystery to a heavy emphasis on romance.  While I enjoyed the fantasy elements of Pike's Wings series, she seemed out of her element with this debut novel for the start of a new series.  The young heroine of Tavia was so dumb and lacking of street smarts that she had me literally rolling my eyes and groaning at some points in the novel; one instance that truly sticks out (that Tavia later admits to herself was probably not the wisest decision she has ever made) was when she went frolicking off through the woods in the cold after some random dude who had been following her, just because she had a dream about making out with him.  Sure, that's the kind of person I want setting an example for teenage girls, jeez.

All and all, Earthbound felt flat and not very emotionally driven, and the premises of the novel, for lack of a better word, felt dumb.  The term creating goddess just didn't sit well with me, or the entire concept behind the novel in general.  Add in the fact that the novel became driven by romance, and Earthbound was just not my cup of tea at the end of the day.

23 April 2014

The Dark Shore

Author: Kevin Emerson
Series: The Atlanteans #2
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

For such a long, drawn out book, but the end of the novel I felt like little if nothing of real importance happened.  Sure, Emerson tried to cram a bunch of last minute twists and revelations in the end, but by that point most of the revelations were hardly relevant or didn't seem to be that important.  It felt like Emerson through in a bunch of unnecessary curve balls in the end for perhaps a shock and awe effect since the first 3/4 of the novel was so dull, but it was definitely too little too late by that point.

While The Lost Code was nothing special, it at least showed potential.  Emerson built himself an unique world for the fans of the likes of Percy Jackson, but he failed to cash in on the plot potential in The Dark Shore.  The characters, through 470 pages here and another 400+ in The Lost Code still never got any substance or depth.

The Dark Shore introduces a new setting and some new characters, but it felt like the same story all over again.  At the end of the novel, the plot was exactly the same as where we left off in The Lost Code, and all the new characters introduced failed to make a lasting impression or importance.  I find it difficult to name one new character that is actually still relevant to the story by the end of the novel.

The Dark Shore definitely took a step back from The Lost Code, which wasn't the strongest debut novels of a series to begin with.  And in The Dark Shore, Emerson threw in a seemingly ridiculous teenage love triangle as well, just for good measure, that did not help either.

While the far-fetched elements of The Lost Code were difficult to believe, as least they showed some unique potential.  in The Dark Shore, Emerson continues to drawn those elements to such extremes that the novel became so much of a fantasy set in a real world type setting that the novel became difficult to read, and I found myself lost to the series, probably for good.  I may try the final installment in the series, but I am not holding any high expectations for it.

21 April 2014

Burn Bright

Author: Bethany Frenette
Series: Dark Star #2
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Audrey is back, along with her whole Kin, and trouble is brewing once more.  As I did not entirely pay attention to the entire Harrowers, Guardians, Remnant, and the Beneath portion of Dark Star, I started out at perhaps a bit of a disadvantage going into Burn Bright, but it honestly didn't take much away from the plot.  The Beneath is never truly explained/detailed or developed; it is simply the place that Harrowers/demons that can take the form/shape of a human if it isn't too lazy pop off to and occasional kidnap humans to in convenient escapes.

With Iris taken care of, Burn Bright introduces a new antagonist in Susannah, who is also looking for the Harrower but is interested in taking out any Guardian she finds in the meantime.

The plot and subplots of Burn Bright feel childish at times (Tink's boyfriend drama as just one example; Audrey's mom's "relationship" with their cop friend as another, and Audrey's relationship with her father as one more), but Burn Bright is still a fun read for perhaps a beach book.  The universe that Frenette creates has a lot more potential than her writing gives it, which prevents the novel from really pulling your interest into the plot.  But younger readers in the young adult genre will hardly notice.  And the romantic element between Audrey and her Guardian Leon is a lure in for the females in the YA genre as well, although it hardly seems like a stable, mature relationship to me.

Burn Bright has enough twists and surprises to excite the reader into finishing the novel, but not enough to make you want to devour it again.  The characters are flat, one dimensional and underdeveloped, and the plot pushed forward without a lot of develop as well.

20 April 2014

Paper Towns

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

Quentin has been in love with Margo Roth Spiegelman since as long as he can remember.  She has been his next door neighbor since they were two, and while she might not have the classic girl next door looks, charm, or innocence, that never stopped Q from falling clichely in love.  The fact that, now in high school, they hardly hang out does not stop Q either.

While one part high school romance, Paper Towns runs through deeper levels.  After Quentin and Margo spend an... interesting (to say the least) night together, Margo ups and disappears.  As someone who has run away several times before and as a legal adult now, neither her parents nor the cops seem too concerned, but Quentin makes it his life mission to follow the bizarre clues that Margo left behind to find her - alive or dead.

While the suspense isn't frightening or fast faced, it definitely exists as we follow Quentin through the poor excuses of clues that Margo leaves behind, wondering if she really has just run away and left clues because she wants to be found, or if she has killed herself and left clues to where one might find her body.  The ending isn't completely satisfying, and it felt selfish and rather unrealistic, but again - we are dealing with a 18 year old who still leaves clues when she runs away from home.  Repeatedly.

Unlike Quentin, I do not love Margo Roth Spiegelman.  I find her immature and childish, and wish she would grow up and face the realty of the real world that she is so desperately trying to escape to.  The one part I did like about the ending was the reactions on Lacey's and Radar's parts.  I do not find Q's obsession with this girl interesting, but that didn't stop me from enjoying the book.  After all, Paper Towns for me was more of the road taken instead of the destination reached.  And sure, the clues were rather ludicrious, as was Q's road trip, but still.  The novel introduced me to the fascinating concepts of paper towns, and it has some wonderfully remarkable quotes it in that I found compelling and insightful and impacting.

It is a moving story, but not for Margo Roth Spiegelman's adventures, but for Quentin.  Everyone has goals in life, and his goal is to love this girl who he has loved forever but who has never really loved him back, and his goal is to find her, and save her, and bring her back so that perhaps one day he can be with her.  And her goal is to escape from the paper people in the paper towns where she has lived her entire life.  Even Quentin's friends are interesting and add to the story, even if for the most part all they are concerned about are prom and getting laid before graduation.

While not a classic in the making, Paper Towns is classic John Green and is a story about two teenagers getting ready to graduate from high school into the real world and how these two very different teenagers deal with that pending doom and uncertainty.  And it's a story about one of them growing up and letting go, which is what every teenager secretly hopes for and fears at the same time.  Margo Roth Spiegelman never impressed me (if anything, her childish vandalism and revenge annoyed and slightly stared me), but Quentin did, because he refused to give up, and he stood by what he believed and what we wanted.  How many of us can truly say we've done that?

18 April 2014

Glitch

Author: Heather Anastasui
Series: Glitch #1
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

My feelings towards Glitch parallel my feelings for Ignite Me, which is rather ironic as I read them simultaneously.  A base plot that seemed to offer promise, the premise of the novel got too bogged down in romantic entanglements and poor execution to really be enjoyable.  The fact that the cover was soooo pretty that it blinded my judgement did not help either.

The premise of the novel reminded me of Scott Westefeld's Uglies series, which was my first true dabble into the dsytopian society universe all those many moons ago.  But then Anastasiu added another element to the mix, as if that type of plot would not be compelling enough or not complex enough.  For good measure, Anastasiu threw in the paranormal element as well, similar to Westerfeld's Midnighters trilogy to keep of the comparison.  And while Uglies and Midnighters were both sound series, throw them together, and Westerfeld would have given himself the same mess that Anastasiu ended up with (with perhaps a little less romantic sap).

It's hard to give a blow by blow review of Glitch because the novel never really engaged me, and reading it felt more like a homework assignment than anything else.  While Zoe started off potentially as an interesting character, she never grew any potential and gave a lackluster performance.  She meets Adrien and almost instantly falls for him, but circumstances change and then all the sudden she finds herself with Max (still not 100% sure I know how that happened).  Both of them are glitching as well and so they each have the capacity to feel things, so of course Max is pressuring her to do more (which is what a good boyfriend does, of course), but Zoe is still having feelings for the mysterious Adrien that keeps propping up and blah blah blah blah blah.  The characters never got any development or depth, and the suspense element never kicked in even though the series had a potential for a wickedly interesting and terrifying plot because it centered too much on Zoe/Adrien/Max and less on the implications of what that type of society leads to.  And when Anastasiu finally does get around to that part of the plot, I was already so fed up I just wanted it to end.  Even the ending was a lackluster performance, resulting in a series I am dumping after the first shot.


17 April 2014

Ignite Me

Author: Tahereh Mafi
Series: Shatter Me #3
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

I seem as of late to have fallen into a pattern of selecting dystopian novels that are more paranormal than I originally thought, more romance driven than I excepted, and way worse than I had hoped.  I am beginning to wonder if it is just poor selections on my part, poor recommendation on Goodreads's part, or just the current state of the literature for the young adult genre these days.

Ignite Me, ah.  I read the Shatter Me series in conjunction with The Chemical Garden trilogy and while perhaps equally disappointing as I continued through the series, at least the final installment wasn't quite as horrible.

Shatter Me started off with an interesting enough narrator/character and with such an unique writing style that in intrigued me.  And while the writing style toned done the intensity into Unravel Me and Ignite Me, it still lost its charm as I believe I mentioned before.

Ignite Me started out pulse pounding out of the gate when Aaron announces that everyone died, and quickly fizzled out soon after into nothing.  Juliette has lost most of her charm now that she knows she isn't crazy and has started to learn to harness her power and its potential.  Now that she isn't worried about killing every person she touches, she can focus all of her energy instead on her harmonies and the love triangle between her and Aaron and Adam (the latter two who are, of course, brothers).

Similar to The Chemical Gardens, Mafi's focus in the Shatter Me series is not on the feeble dystopian society she created as a backdrop for the story, but on the romantic angle of the love triangle in the series.  Ignite Me ramps up that pain and takes it to a whole new level.  For starters, Adam becomes super annoying and starts yelling at everyone about everything and can't seem to walk into a room without losing his temper and laying into Juliette.  I was hoping he would quickly get taken out as a casualty of war.

Then there's Warren AKA Aaron AKA his other name I already forgot, we is still the bad boy, angst driven, love struck puppy who has long his mysterious air and thus all of his charm for me.  Instead of not being able to tell what his true intentions really are, now I know that everything he does and everyone he decides to take onto his side is all because of his obsession for Juliette.  Ugh, barf bag please.

Juliette, for her part, is no better.  Now that she is safely able to touch at least some people, she is in teenage lust/hormonal overdrive, unable to stop thinking about the two boys in her life and very quickly jumping into bed with one of them.  Well, good for you, you strong, independent woman (not!).

The only salvageable part of this novel could have been the dystopian angle, but Mafi quickly threw down rain on that parade as well.  While the plot is supposedly a preparation to ramp up an attack/retaliation on Aaron/Adam's father and the Reestablishment, it really isn't.  Juliette spends the majority of her time "training" either yaking to Kenji (who I swear had to be gay) or fussing over either her relationship with Adam, her relationship with Aaron, or their relationship to each other.  Even the final "showdown" at the end was anticlimactic, except that it finally allowed the story to end.

Spoiler alert for the last sentence:  it the world that Mafi created ever did exist the way it played out, they would probably be even more screwed now that Juliette is going to rule the world.  Good grief, Charlie Brown.

16 April 2014

Sever

Author: Lauren DeStefano
Series: The Chemical Garden #3
Rating: 1.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

Given the plot of Fever and the potential that the ending of Fever offered, I thought for sure that Sever was going to be better than its predecessor and that it would at least have a chance of being somewhat decent... but I was wrong.  If possible, Sever was even worse.

Rhine quickly (and once again) escapes the grasp of the crazy Vaughn, and is determined (once again) to find her brother.  In fact, the basic "plot" of Sever is almost identical to Fever, except that Rhine now has Linden and Cecily by her side instead of Gabriel.  And while I hate to admit it, the only interesting part of this entire trilogy was when Vaughn was terrorizing and causing harm to the girls.  Other than that, the plot of the novels is so bland that it was hard to even focus.

Once again (a common theme from this novel) Rhine finds herself going back and forth and back and forth through a few locations looking for a few people (one still her brother, and one Gabriel again).  And the novel has a few shocking twists, one of which is highly coincidental if you ask me (the one involving Rose's past), but other than that it was another lack luster attempt on DeStefano's part to develop a romantic dystopian novel.

Even the returning characters in this novel have lost their charm.  Cecily, broken and abused and ultra clingy and needy, is somehow more annoying than she was in Wither when she was begging for attention due to her pregnancy.  And Linden is so naive to his father's true intentions that he was actually appalling.

Then DeStefano introduces the concept of the Chemical Gardens for the very first time, even though we are almost through the trilogy.  And perhaps she does actually explain them, but I was so bored with the novel by then I was hardly focusing to the minute details.  And once the trip to Hawaii comes around, forget it.  I had no idea what was going on by that point.  Sever felt like DeStefano had gotten a little bored with the love triangle angle after the first two novels as well and thus in Sever attempted to turn the focus back to the dystopian society that motivated all of Vaughn's actions.  But by the time she got around to jumbling a half assed plot together, it was already too late and only succeeded in muddling an already hopeless story even more.

Again, perhaps I missed it in my skim reading attempt to get through this novel, but I don't think the true meaning/cause behind the dystopian society, brought forth by whatever caused everyone to drop dead at 20 or 25 was even resolved.  So not only was the plot that "carried" through the entire series not well thought out, developed, or delivered, but then to add insult to injury, it was not even brought to a conclusion!  Forget it, bah.

14 April 2014

Unremembered

Author: Jessica Brody
Series: Unremembered #1
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

I cannot remember the last time I was so disappointed in the direction a novel took.  By page 17, I was completely hooked into the mystery and suspense of who this girl was that woke up in the middle of a plane crash as the only survivor.  Especially when the doctors tell her that no one should have been able to survive.  Then throw in a mysterious necklace with an engraving of S+Z=1609 and a stranger that sneaks into her hospital room and unplugs her drip, and you have the recipe for an amazing story that will be implanted in my mind forever.

Unfortunately, the plot did not unravel in a spellbinding, mesmerizing way.  Instead, Sera goes to stay with a foster family and fumbles around as she tries to remember who she is, where she comes from... anything about herself.  I feel like Brody took such an amazing potential of a plot and had to dumb it down in complexity and suspense to fit the young adult genre.  And then, to top things off, the plot centered more around the romantic element of the novel between S+Z than on the actual mystery of the survival of the plane crash.

And the realization of who Sera is.  Well, the novel went from a great work of believable fiction to a completely unbelievable science fiction novel that made me roll my eyes and groan.  I thought Unremembered was going to be an amazing, suspenseful general fiction novel, but instead it turned into a fantastical romance novel.  Such a shame, as I really thought it had almost limitless potential.

13 April 2014

Fever

Author: Lauren DeStefano
Series: The Chemical Garden #2
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

The characters in Wither were what interested me about the novel.  The way Wither ended, I was worried that the departure from the house of just Rhine and Gabriel would leave Fever without the charming qualities of Wither.  I was not wrong to worry, and found rather quickly that this worry was exactly the case and what was in store for the vast majority of the novel.

While Rhine and Gabriel stumble around trying to find Rhine's brother in Manhattan, they meet some new characters and find themselves in some rather horrible situations, what made me - and Gabriel as well - wonder if perhaps Rhine had made a mistake in wanting to leave the house so much for the outside world.  Especially considering the main reason she left was to reunite with her brother, and she quickly discovers that finding her brother while prove extremely difficult if not impossible.

I will admit, the last fifty pages or so of Fever where its saving grace that prevented the entire novel from being a complete waste of time.  Even though the first 300 pages were almost impossible to finish, the last 50 pages actually made me excited for Sever.  The last 50 pages were descriptive and certain parts actually made me cringe to the point where my boyfriend asked me what I was reading.

So far, the series has been less than impressive, but unlike Wither, Fever ends on a note that makes me protectively excited for the conclusion of the series, while Wither ended on a note that made me worry.  Hopefully my instincts will be right again.

12 April 2014

Wither

Author: Lauren DeStefano
Series: The Chemical Garden #1
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

DeStefano introduces yet another dystopian society series to the young adult collection with the addition of The Chemical Garden trilogy.  Like many others, the details on the dystopian are scarce and not well defined, though DeStefano tries to blanket that with the fact that the main character, Rhine, spends the vast majority of the novel trapped into a building with no connection to the outside world, including her twin brother she was taken from when she was captured and stolen away.

Like many other young adult series, Wither also focuses heavily on the romance elements.  And while a love triangle seemingly develops between Rhine, her new stranger of a husband Linden, and the charmingly helpful assistant Gabriel, it is not the only love interest in the novel, for Rhine is not Linden's only wife.  In DeStefano's dystopian society, all women die at the ripe age of 20 years old, and the men follow shortly after at the age of 25 years old.  No one knows why, but many of the wealthy of the first generation (who did not have the same expiration issue) are trying desperately to find a way around it, including Linden's creeping and menacing father.  When Linden's wife and true love, Rose, nears her expiration, Linden's father brings three new women in, including Rhine, for Linden to wed and bed.

So while a love triangle between Rhine-Gabriel-Linden exists, it also competes - for lack of a better word - with the love pentagon between Linden-Rose-Rhine-Cecily-Jenna, which is definitely an interesting twist.  While the concept of Linden having three/four wives and Rhine forming relationships with her sister wives disgusted me, it was definitely an interesting dynamic that DeStefano explored that I really haven't read about in other young adult novels.

The excitement level in Wither was subpar for a dystopian novel, and again Wither focused heavily on the romance element.  But even then, it was still an interesting enough read to remain entertaining the entire way through as the characters develop into more than just one dimensional shells, and the relationships they all develop with each other are increasingly dynamic and interesting.  With the way that Wither ended, I wonder if the second novel in the series will be able to hold onto what made this one enjoyable, though it opens up the possibilities of other plot elements that could make up for the elements that might not carry over.

10 April 2014

My Unfair Godmother

Author: Janette Rallison
Series: My Fair Godmother #2
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

Chrissy Everstar is back, and is just as impatient and quick to flick her wand as usual.  I fell in love with the quirky fair godmother with the first novel in this series as Rallison tangled some beloved fairy tales into the life of one Savannah Delano.  A sucker for fractured fairy tales, the comedy and chaos that Rallison delivered in My Fair Godmother made me want seconds.

Unfortunately, some of the charm and magic that Rallison was able to deliver with Savannah and gang was lost in translation with the introduction of a new main character in the form of Tansy Miller.  While you instantly feel sorry for Tansy and her issues with her parents (particularly her remarried father), she doesn't deliver as much to the novel as Savannah did.  And some of Chrissy's charm of crossing different fairy tales together as she botches wish after wish after wish does not translate well in this novel.  While the style of writing and the character of Chrissy is the same, the novel overall doesn't carry the same humor and charm that drew me into Rallison.

Unfortunately what was left was a mediocre plot with characters that were interesting enough but not particularly engaging.  I was rather disappointed, as Robin Hood is perhaps my second favorite children's hero/story I grew up with, right behind Peter Pan.  And while the novel included Robbin Hoodlum and his Merry Man that robbed from the rich, but gave only to their poor selves, the charm of these beloved and slightly backwards characters from childhood stories just wasn't the same this time around in Chrissy's extra credit project.

08 April 2014

Pawn

Author: Aimee Carter
Series: The Blackcoat Rebellion #1
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

This novel starts out with the introduction of the main character, Kitty, for all intents and purposes falling the test that determines her caste and thus her success for the rest of her life.  Disappointed that her ranking as a three will effectively ruin any chances of her being able to have the life she desires with her boo, Benjy.

Her life is decidedly thrown to the wolves when she ends up being auctioned off to the highest bidder thanks to her limited ways of making money/a living thanks to her new ranking.  As they are auctioning her off, even though the entire situation completely disgusted me, I couldn't help but laugh.  After all, our main character's name is Kitty, which definitely sounds like a stripper/prostitute name to me, and thus her situation was almost fitting.

The situation Kitty soon finds herself in - woken up changed into a One with unseen consequences and circumstances, I have to admit was not what I was expecting (I did not read the jacket cover synopsis, which made the change of events even more startling).  And while towards the beginning, I didn't think I was going to enjoy Pawn, it surprised me by keeping me plugged in and curious all the way through the end.

Don't get me wrong, Pawn is far from perfect.  Some of the details in the novel seemed a little silly or absurd to me.  One example to point out is how her eye color plays such a crucial role in why she was selected for her role, but her dexterity didn't seem to matter at all, which seemed a little backwards to me.  Colored contacts seem like an easier solution than having to relearn how to write (especially in the short amount of time she is given).

As a chugged my way through Pawn, it reminded me more and more of Kiera Cass's The Selection series, and I found I had the same feelings towards the end - while the dystopian is not really developed, while the characters are nothing special to root for, and while the writing is subpar - your typical young adult prose - by the end I was heavily engaged without understanding why.  Indeed, I have a feeling that Cass and Carter sat down for tea and biscuits once morning and both brainstormed the same style of novel, throwing back and forth ridiculous character names, half formed dystopian ideas, and a similar caste system and love triangle.  Cass then went away to write The Selection, and Carter followed with Pawn.

This novel definitely has romance as a main plot, but with a twist from your average love triangle.  Sure, a love triangle exists between Kitty and the two main males in the novel (Knox and Benjy), but there is also Knox's relationship with Lila that plays a factor.  And while I am not one for love triangles and all the romantic crap, I do have to admit that the Kitty and Knox dynamic in the novel intrigued me, far more than any interaction with Benjy made.

Pawn also had some serious plot twists in it that I did not see coming, but that weren't so far fetched that they were unbelievable.  What was unbelievable was the heat of the moment dialogue in this novel, which was so absurd and childish it was actually laughable.

Pawn is definitely not a novel that will ever go down in history as classic literature, a staple of its era, but it is surprisingly entertaining.  The family love in the novel is definitely interesting to say nothing else.  I will not eagerly be awaiting the next in the series, but I will certainly be keeping tabs on it to read once it comes out.

07 April 2014

Linked

Author: Imogen Howson
Series: Linked #1
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

I follow along with the generic saying "Don't judge a book by its cover", but I will be the first to admit that this cover is all I paid attention to before I decided to give this book a read.  Not only are the color selections perfect, but the scattered/spliced images are perfect.  I figured the writing wouldn't be as pretty as the cover (perhaps pretty on the surface, but a little shallow in the plot, I guessed) but I must say, I was pleasantly surprised but what awaited me between the folds of the cover.

Since the cover completely drew me in, I wasn't even 100% sure of the synopsis of this novel before I dove in.  After the fact, I kind of prefer it that way.  I was almost a third of the way through the novel before I realized, much to my delight, that it was going to be a space opera novel.

Linked appears to take place thousands of years in the future.  Earth is no longer the main hub for humanity, but there was a reference to two thrown in to Old Earth.  Well, color me intrigued.  Hopefully this is something they will explore a little more further down the line in the series.  I will say, and I am no doubt nit-picking now, but I always find it mind boggling that space opera novels still use standard references of time (the 24 hour format).  Especially in novels like Linked, where Earth is no longer a factor, it seems archaic to still base a universal time system off the rotation of the Earth on its axis.

One other point of Linked that didn't quite sync with me was the romance aspect of the novel.  Since it falls into the young adult category of novels, a romantic inclination was all but mandated.  From close to the beginning, I hedged my bets on Elissa and Cadan (I was not wrong).  Still, the romantic side of the novel wasn't too stifling, and it only deterred from the plot a little, right towards the end.  My biggest issue with the romantic element in Linked it that it seemed rather forced, as the entirety of the novel spanned only a few days time, but their relationship involved from a simplistic younger sister of a friend to something much more in such a very short time.  But I guess, when you follow the rules of relativity, time passed different for them while they were hopping through space.

Romantic issues aside, Linked was a rather stellar novel.  The characters, well not as well defined as I would have liked, were none the less thought provoking and none of them took away from the story.  The story was original and intriguing, and their was definitely a hook towards the end that I didn't see coming at all (perhaps because it just seemed too fantastical to me, but I was able to suspend my disbelief).  The way the novel ends was interesting, as I felt that Howson had to push to expand it to be open ended for continuation into a series.  A few slight alterations to the last couple of pages, and Linked would have made a fine stand alone novel itself.  Even though I thought Howson could have soundly ended it with this one volume, I am eagerly awaiting the follow up novel.

The Lost Code

Author: Kevin Emerson
Series: The Atlanteans #1
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

The Lost Code is an interesting introduction to a new young adult series.  Upon first glance, it appears to be tailored towards the older fan base of the Percy Jackson series.  After all, in the Lost Code we find a group of teenagers who find themselves suddenly sprouting gills and able to communicate underwater (special powers, suddenly found, a la Percy Jackson).

The Lost Code also has hints of The Hunger Games to pull in another group of readers.  Set in an interesting dystopian world where the majority of the population has been killed and now a select few have the opportunity to live in the protection of the Eden domes that combat the harmful elements of the planet.  Yet these Eden domes are fall from the utopian environments they appear to be.

While The Lost Code is definitely a unique twist to the young adult fantasy realm, I didn't completely buy into it.  The characters are interesting enough, but not all together engaging.  Right off the bat, Owen is completely smitten with camp counselor Lilly, and this attraction is a theme throughout the novel, which is something I wasn't too excited about.  And while the premise was interesting, it is so far fetched that trying to relate with any of these characters as they discover the truths behind the Eden domes proved difficult.  The book was rather lengthy too; perhaps if it had been slimmed down a little it would not have been quite so difficult to follow through to the end.

Overall, a novel that perhaps a more leisurely reader would enjoy more, especially one in the teenage age group.  It is probably a nice follow up novel for people who have finished Percy Jackson and are looking for the next series to dive into.  Definitely not a series that I would add to my personal collection to read again, but at least interesting enough that I'll take a stab at the second novel in the series since I already have it checked out from the library sitting on my bookcase waiting.

06 April 2014

Racing Savannah

Author: Miranda Kenneally
Series: Hundred Oaks #4
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

Before I start into my two cents about the novel itself, can I please take a moment to rant about the cover?  First off, what kind of girl who has grown up on a farm wears rubber rain boots?  And her shirt seems highly impractical for farm attire.  Then let's relate the cover to the novel itself.  We learn that our narrator, Savannah, is a redhead (and hence nicknamed Shortcake, as in Strawberry Shortcake) and that our other main character, her easily apparent love interest, Jack is blond.  Now, I know the people on the front of the novel are missing most of their heads, but the girl certainly looks like a brunette, and the guy definitely is.  So we start with a cover that already doesn't relate to the story/characters at all (the fact that Jack is always wearing cowboy boots in the novel and on the cover is wearing sneakers was also not lost on me).

Now let's get to the meat of the story.  I had not realized this book was part of a series, but to be honest I don't feel like I missed out on anything by not reading the others in the series first.  I think there were some references to characters from the first three novels, but they didn't play an impact in the story at all.  I had read a few good things about this novel online, mainly through Goodreads, and coupled with the fact that I thought this novel was about horses had me getting it from the library.  I am a sucker for a good horse book/movie/television show.

Well, it did not take me long to discover that while Racing Savannah is set on a horse farm, and that a horse named Star has some significance in the plot, the novel is hardly about horses or farm life.  The farm is more of a fancy backdrop if nothing else.  Savannah is a stable hand who moved to Jack's family farm only a few days before the novel starts, and instantly she is crushing on the bad boy Jack, who apparently has had a string of several different girls in through his revolving bedroom door.  And while Savannah knows this, and knows that a relationship with her father's boss's son, who happens to be her own boss as well, is highly frowned about, Savannah still spends the entire novel fawning over him.  Ahhh, don't you just love to read the strong, independent teenage female characters we set as role models for our youngsters these days?

Racing Savannah is nothing more than a soft core romance novel for young girls, and I really hate reading those.  I am sure I have spurted this propaganda a million times before, but I am going to do it once again right here.  The reason I loved The Hunger Games so much is that Katniss wasn't like Savannah and all the other fictional, young female character women write about to impress upon the young women in today's society.  She didn't really give a shit about boys or a relationship or what anyone thought about her romantically, and I found that so empowering.  To read about such a character, and then switch to girls like Savannah, who spend whole novels chasing after guys with horrible reputations just drives me crazy.  And, as Kenneally writes here and as so many others write in common young adult novels today, young Savannah loses her virginity right at the ripe young teenage years in high school to a guy who doesn't even want to have a relationship with her publicly.  Call me a prude, but I think that's a horrible moral to the story we are trying to teach young girls.

All this ranting said and done, I did take a little bit of guilty pleasure out of this novel, however small.  After all, it was still set on a horse farm.  The character development was so far fetched it was absurd and I could never realistically believe it could happen in real life.  After all, in a span of a week, the stable hand Savannah becomes a placing jockey?  Yeah, okay, I'm sure it's that easy.  A roll of my eyes was sufficient enough to sum up what I thought of that.  But back to the small guilty pleasure part, this novel reminded me quite a bit of the television show Wildfire, which I will admit I have watched more than once.  Savannah and Jack reminded me an awful lot of Kris and Junior, which is probably the only reason I enjoyed this novel.  Even though I found both Savannah and Jack annoying and rather one dimensional, I also found myself subconsciously rooting for them because I saw them as Kris and Junior, who I will admit I loved.  So there's that.

05 April 2014

And Another Thing...

Author: Eoin Colfer
Series: Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy #6
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

Ahhh, I can't start with anything else except I should have known better.  Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy is definitely in my top 5 favorite books I've ever written (perhaps even second, only to Timeline) and is definitely my favorite comedy of all time, but the sequels.... oh, my Lord, the sequels.

I once gave Restaurant at the End of the Universe a try.  I think I made it about 50% of the way through before I had to give up.  And even after that, my devotion to HG2TG was so great that even though I couldn't make it through Restaurant I went ahead and tried Life, the Universe, and Everything.  I didn't even make it halfway through that.  I think HG2TG was so great that a sequel never should have been attempted, especially not... five?

So after such horrible success with the others, why did I even pick this book up you may ask?  Well, because of the name on the cover.  My beloved Eoin Colfer, author of my beloved Artemis Fowl.  I even read that adult novel he wrote, Unplugged or Plugged or something and while not nearly as good, it still had quite a few chuckles to it.  So I thought hey, why not?

Well, in the beginning (or the end of the middle as this book is apparently set in), there are some one liners that definitely made me chuckle.  Nothing quite as memorable as "So long, and thanks for all the fish" or as classic as a sperm whale and a pot of petunias, but still funny.  But these one liners were not enough to carry the novel, and I soon found myself knee deep in a messy, thin plot with characters that - let's face it - have already been around the block before.  Even Arthur Dent wasn't too excited about this go around, and I don't blame him.

I think the fundamental problem with the sequels to HG2TG is that the characters really weren't the memorable part of Hitchhiker's, and that's the part of the novel that the sequels cling to.  What made Hitchhiker such as amazing masterpiece was the wit, and the randomness, and the snarky comments galore.  And none of the sequels have even come close.  With Hitchhiker, you didn't care that there was little to no plot and nothing really seemed to connect or make sense because it was so hysterical that it didn't matter.  But none of the sequels have been able to match that humour, so the pitfalls that Adams was able to get away with in the original novel become so blazing apparent in the sequels.  Colfer is guilty of this case as well.

By halfway through the novel, I was already glazing over the guide notes, just trying to make it to the end without quitting.  I missed half of the "plot", but found I hardly mattered since even when I wasn't speed reading it made little to no sense at all.  Thanks to the glossing over at parts, by the middle of the novel I caught fewer and fewer of the snappy, perhaps memorable one liners (if they even existed), which took the only good part from the beginning of the novel away and left me with the chore of having to finish it.

But, I will admit, I have finally learned my lesson.  Don't panic!  I will never again attempt a Hitchhiker novel other than the original, which I will continue to read over and over (and over and over) again.

Throwaway Girl

Author: Kristine Scarrow
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I received an advanced reading copy of this novel from the publisher for the purpose of an honest review.

When I was younger, I thought for a while I wanted to be a social worker so that I could help try to protect the kids that so often fall through the cracks of our social system.  Andy Burton, the main character of this novel, is one such child who I wanted to help.  I realized very early on, before I even had the chance to fully pursue that career, that I would never be able to do it successfully as the despair I would see day in and day out would tear me apart and unfortunately, I'm just not a strong enough person emotionally to handle it.

So I went into this novel praying against all odds that it would not be like a John Green novel.  For Green's novels (though I have only read two so far) have left me wading in a puddle of my own tears by the conclusions for all the heartstrings that they so ruthlessly tugged on.  Ironically, by the end of Throwaway Girl, I was disappointed that it wasn't more like a John Green novel.

For a story of a young girl who is becoming of age (turning 18) and leaving the system to be out on her own in a strange new world, the novel was surprisingly rather emotionless.  Andy deals with a neglectful and abusive birth mother before getting recognized by a teacher and put into the system.  Then she lands at her first foster family, and things finally start to look up.  But this part of the novel is told in flashbacks, and we know something happens there to ruin her happy ending.  I will admit, her time with her first foster family was perhaps the most interesting part of the novel.  Since it is told in flashbacks, it's a mystery what happens to her foster family that is looking into adopting her, and I spent that portion of the novel eagerly trying to figure out what the heck happened.

Then Andy winds up in a not so loving foster home, where she starts cutting herself and is sexually assaulted at the age of 13.  This novel could have had me curled up in a fetal position on the floor, bawling my eyes out while cursing every single character in the novel (save for Andy of course) for being such ruthless and heartless bastards.  But Scarrow's narrator is so clinical for lack of a better word.  Andy's emotions as she relives these terrible moments in her life are effectively emotionless.  I felt that Scarrow was missing the heart and soul behind the writing, and it really prevented me from deeply connecting with Andy as this tortured, completely down on her luck child.  This clinical writing style could stem from the fact that Scarrow's life was on the other side of the table, and that she was a social worker and not on Andy's side of the story.

And then from there we meet Trina.  Once Trina enters the novel, the story seems to really be more about her character than Andy's.  The ending result is so sudden and is glossed over so effectively that it almost rendered me speechless.  I actually swiped back on my tablet to see if I had accidentally skipped an entire chapter instead of just flipping to the next page.  The end of the novel feels like an entire chunk is missing out of it, and the result is a feeling that Andy so quickly glosses over the result in lieu of her happy ending that you once again feel the emotionless of the writing and thus the character.

Not quite as troubling as the Trina side note are some of the highly coincidental moments in the novel - I point mainly to the topic of Andy's mother - that seem less important on the grand scheme of things.

Overall, Throwaway Girl is engaging to the point of trying to open your eyes to the state of our child services system in the United States (while the novel takes place in Canada, I'm sure the system here in the States is no better) and makes you want to reach out and help all the children who are dealt a bad hand of cards right from the beginning who struggle to ever escape from that fact.  But the writing falls short and feels rather cold, which takes away from the truly raw, emotional connection you can sometimes make with characters that takes the reading experience to the next level.

03 April 2014

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas

Author: John Boyne
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I probably should have read a little further into the description and the reviews of this novel before I dived right in.  Perhaps then, I would not have been quite so blind sided and thus instantly drenched in depression when I realized what this novel was about.

The fact that the book is set in Berlin tipped me off almost immediately.  Then, while glancing over the starred reviews on the back of the cover, I saw the mention of Anne Frank's Diary.  Well, okay.  I knew right then and there I was in for some terrible times ahead.

But Boyne takes an interesting twist to any Holocaust novel I've read (though, I will be the first to admit, I have read very few).  Not only is the story told as it follows young Bruno on his move from Berlin to a new house he doesn't like so much that is situated right next to a fence that he doesn't understand, but Bruno is on the opposite side of the fence than you might believe at the beginning.

Bruno spends a good deal of the beginning of the novel complaining about having to move from his five story home in Berlin and away from all his friends he has ever known.  He even complains about his older sister, who is - in Bruno's words - a Hopeless Case.  In fact, I realize Bruno is nine-years-old, but that boy does like to complain an awful lot.

Then comes the introduction of his new friend, that he meets when he gets sick and tired of being cramped up in the house that he thinks is too small and goes to explore.  As an older person who knows a little bit about the time frame the novel is set in, when Bruno starts complaining to his new friend, I wanted to laugh and cry at the same.  Good old Bruno, complaining about living in a 3 story house while Shmuel is living in a hut.  Good old Bruno, asking Shmuel if he left his jumper by mistake, because it is getting awfully cold and he looks like he is shivering.

Boyne uses Bruno to show the ignorance that a lot of Germans claimed during the Holocaust.  Bruno's father servers as the archetype for the dedicated soldier to the fatherland.  Bruno's grandmother serves as a symbol to the Germans who has a conscience and knew what they were doing was wrong.

I don't think this novel lived up to the hype (after all, I've heard they've made a movie about it already and whatnot).  I found this novel in a bargain bin in the young adult section, and while the subject matter is perhaps aimed for young adults, the writing sure wasn't.  I went so far as to label it for the youth age group.  The fact that it was a youth book meant a lot of the writing was dumbed down and the children appeared much younger than they were.  But I don't want to go as far as to say it was a bad book.  Since I haven't read a lot of literature on the subject, it was an interesting point of view for a very dark point in history.  I would still give my copy to friends to borrow for a quick read, though I don't recommend they buy it themselves as it is hardly one young adults of my age would likely read more than once.

02 April 2014

Lone Survivor

Author: Marcus Luttrell
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Somewhat surprisingly, I actually heard about this novel before I realized they were making it into a movie.  My boyfriend owned two copies of it that he had borrowed from two different people that told him he should just keep it.  He and I both have grandparents that were in the military, so every once in a blue moon we get to talking about military novels and this one happened to come up in a round of conversation, so I borrowed it while we were looking through things as we packed.  It took me a while before I actually decided to read it, and it took me even longer to trudge through it until I got to the interesting part.

The novel is advertised as an eyewitness account of Operation Redwing, but on first cracking open the book you would hardly guess.  The novel starts as Marcus and crew are en route for what will become Operation Redwing, but the first third to half of the novel focuses on his upbringing, the fine state of Texas, and SEALs training.  Thus, the first half of the novel took me the greater part of three months to slowly make my way through.  After all, it was nothing I haven't watched/read about/heard about before.  But once we actually get to the portion of the novel that focuses on Operation Redwing, then hold on to your hats, folks, because it's a roller coaster of a ride downhill from there.

Sure, Luttrell glorifies the military in this novel.  Heck, he even glorifies the state of Texas.  But that doesn't take away from the situation that he and the other members of his team faced in Operation Redwing.  And, while it shows the Taliban as the enemy, it doesn't group all people living in Afghanistan together; instead, it shows what a volitile state the country is in, and shows just how difficult it is to tell the difference between a friendly and an enemy.  It also shines a light on how the media in America has gotten out of hand, to the point where soldiers are sometimes afraid to do their jobs because of how the media might portray them and the backlash it would cause.  Instead, Lone Survivor made me wonder just how many lives could have been spared - Afghan and American - if Luttrell and the other members of his team had followed protocol for the mission instead of letting the media weigh in on their decision.

01 April 2014

Unravel Me

Author: Tahereh Mafi
Series: Shatter Me #2
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I think my fundamental problem with this series is that I went into it looking for a paranormal dystopian society styled novel, when in fact it is more along the lines of Twilight paranormal romance fiction, although I will say at least the writing is a little better.

What I saw as an unique writing style for narrative in Shatter Me started to lose its charm somewhat with Unravel Me, especially now that we know Juliette isn't, in fact, crazy.  The sentences are often changed or stop and start in mid thought, which I guess is supposed to make us connect better with Juliette as the narrative feels like you are actually hearing the story from inside her head.

My biggest issue with Unravel Me, and really with the series so far, is the issue of this underlying dystopian society, as I still do not really know what this whole society is about.  Sure, we get a little more detail about the Reestablishment, but everything is still rather vague and I do not 100% get what the big deal with this Anderson guy is.  Perhaps Mafi did explain it, but I glossed over it between all the Juliette - Adam - Warner triangle jumble.

If you are looking for the next series to read after The Hunger Games, the Shatter Me series is going to leave you disappointed.  If you are a Twihard and are looking for something to read until the next Stephanie Meyer "novel" comes out, you will probably really enjoy Mafi's Shatter Me series.  It has all the young adult romance and cliche love triangle scenarios a girl could dream for, and even attempts somewhat at a plot.  The characters are interesting enough, especially Warner.  At least he isn't one dimensional and is mysterious enough (he's definitely the bad boy versus Adam's good guy) to hold my attention to where his true intentions really lay.  But as for an honest to goodness, keep you up all night at the edge of your bed in suspense, Unravel Me just did not deliver.

I already have Ignite Me on hold from the library, so when it arrives I will probably go ahead and just give it a go as well, but I honestly do not hold much hope for my interest level shooting through the roof with the next one.  If Lauren Oliver's Delirium series taught me anything, it's that was a subpar series gives you a wink of hope, you are only going to wind up severely disappointed at the end.  But then Ally Condie's Matched series got surprisingly more interesting the further I got into it, so you never know.

Ruins

Author: Dan Wells
Series: Partials #3
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

The end of an era, or so it seems.  The world Dan Wells introduced in Partials became only more intricate in Fragments, and by the conclusion of Ruins the world was so immensely developed it almost felt convoluted as I sometimes found myself almost lost in the vastness of it.  While Partials followed mainly Kira and Fragments split into two main narrations, Ruins branches off even further in the number of groups we are following, to the point somewhere in the middle where I had a hard time keeping all the different groups and story lines straight.  Don't get me wrong, the world that Wells has created is rich and vast and ever so complex and developed, but it made it rather difficult for me at times - with my tendency to speed read and gloss through certain areas of books - to keep track of everything going on.

Once again, it's hard to hold a candle to the initial volume in the series.  Partials was just so shockingly unique and amazing that Fragments and Ruins stood almost no chance.  And as Kira makes her way back across the country from Colorado to New York, we again see lapses of action in the novel as the characters make the long trek.  I think one of the main points that intrigued me in Partials right from the get go in Partials was the relationship/interactions between Kira and Samm, and Ruins for the majority lacked that as they split apart for their own reasons for Ruins.  And while Kira reunites with another character I enjoyed in both Partials and Fragments, their relationship here also does not feel the same (although it does put into perspective just how much time has lapsed since the beginning of the series, which had escaped me until that point).

Wells still delivers some twists in revelations in Ruins, though they are not nearly as interesting as the ones in the beginning of the series.  And while Ruins is still a solid novel, it did not give me the resolved feeling at the end that the series was truly whole and resolved.  I guess that is true of life itself, but for such a long and in depth trilogy, I thought the ending was perhaps a bit weak.  As I got closer and closer to the end, I began to get worried as I saw the width of the pages increasingly shrinking while no conclusion/resolution was in sight.  The ending appears rather abruptly and just did not seem to hold true to the amazingness that was Partials.

Once I have all three novels in my personal library, I will undoubtedly have to reread the entire series again, taking strides to pay more attention to the smaller details I might have glossed over in readings one and two.  Perhaps this is the type of novel that deserves my undivided attention that I have a hard time giving when I have five other novels I am also currently reading when I manage to find time in between long days of work.