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.