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.