31 January 2015

Scent of Magic

Author: Maria V. Snyder
Series: Healer #2
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

After Avry's miraculous and somewhat unbelievable escape from death, the gang is more determined than ever to stop King Tohon from taking over the Fifteen Realms.

Scent of Magic definitely feels like a follow up to Touch of Power.  We bring back all of favorite characters, although their amount of involvement and their face time with readers dramatically changes as our band of rebels is separated into different groups, each on important tasks.  With Avry and Kerrick split apart, a lot of the sarcastic wit that made the first book so enjoyable disappears.  Although after the romantic notions set forth at the end of Touch of Power, I cannot stay I am entirely disappointed.  I still feel no chemistry whatsoever between these two.  Although the quick separation after confessing their feelings at the end of the first novel makes for a lot of pining thoughts in this sequel, which I could have lived without.

Snyder's writing continues to be a little confusing.  This series is right on the verge of being unable to tell if it is young adult or adult fiction.  The story and the length feels as if Snyder has developed a adult fiction plot, but the quality and the style of the writing screams young adult.  I don't know if it is the fault of the author's writing ability, or a fault of the plot planning, but it is a bit annoying at times.  Especially since the characters don't even seem able to curse.  The way she gets around it is similar to how broadcast prime time televisions shows do it, and the execution is so poor it's laughable.

And let's not forget this cover.  Miss Avry's healing power works by taking on the pain and wounds of those she heals, yet on the cover she has beautiful, flawless skin.  There isn't a scratch or scar on her.  You mean to tell me of the dozens, if not hundreds, she has healed in her lifetime, she doesn't have one visible scar?  That aspect of the cover really irked me, probably more than it should.  But I think Avry is too beautified for the cover art, which makes me lose some respect for her.

Again, not the strongest of series I've read, but it's an interesting, unique fantasy world in a genre of cliches and overdone plots.  With enough originality to sustain interest over the entire length of its 414 pages, I'm willing to overlook its flaws and enough it for what it is - a light fantasy novel with a dash of romance.  I already have the third novel from the novel, so I'll probably dive into it next.

Fairest

Author: Marissa Meyer
Series: The Lunar Chronicles #0.5
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

On one hand, I feel like Marissa Meyer has taken this national bestselling author on her debut novel a bit to her head, and it now flushing this series out for all that it's worth.  Fairest, tallying only 222 pages with large font and line spacing, is more a novella than a novel, yet the MSRP on the barcode is $17.99.  And the beginning of this novel drags on for a bit, so it begins to feel like she's leaning towards quantity over quality.

But then again, I couldn't seem to put this book down.  It definitely gets more interesting the further you get into the plot and the further down the rabbit hole Levana decides into crazy town.  The beginning is disturbing, as she's a fifteen-year-old in love with a mid- to late twenties married guard, much to her sister's delight in teasing.  And her sister?  Do not even get me started on the dysfunctional family dynamic between her and her sister.  You can almost sympathize with her.  Except for, of course, the little mini murdering spree she starts to go on.

It is definitely a different tale in the series, but it's still interesting in its own, unique way.  Levana is certainly an interesting character, and knowing where she comes from makes her a little more relatable.  If nothing else, you can at least see how she ended up the person she is.

It definitely isn't a story I would pay $18 to buy, but it's a book I will probably buy off the bargain shelf eventually to add to my collection as I continue in my Lunar Chronicles obsession.

26 January 2015

The Inventor's Secret

Author: Andrea Cremer
Series: The Inventor's Secret #1
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Starts out with a bang, but the plot fizzles out once we really start to get into the story.  Charlotte causes heads to turn when she brings back a mysterious stranger with her to their young adult hide out, especially since this stranger has no recollection of who he is or where he's from.  But Charlotte insists that he's harmless, and they wind up having more important things to worry about.  Such as the secret that Jack's been keeping, at least from Charlotte.

I am still relatively new to the genre of steampunk, but I am definitely a fan.  And the world that Cremer creates for this story is awe inspiring, if only she had used it more than simply the backdrop it becomes.  Her concepts are masterful, but the execution becomes less than desirable the further into the tale we weave.

Take, for prime example, the romantic element in this novel.  It becomes so heavy, it feels as if the plot drops out of the story almost completely for the bulk of the middle.  The novel becomes all about Charlotte's relationship with Jack, and how neither can be sure of their feelings as their worlds continue to shift and change around them.  Not only does Cremer go for the cliche love triangle angle, but she even takes it a step further and adds a fourth element into the mix, as if it wasn't already too heavy to start.  The tangle of the relationships in this novel really disinterests me for the majority of the middle of the story, but I still cannot help but try to like it.

Cremer gives all the makings of a great story.  Likable characters.  A mystery to solve (who is this Grave kid anyway, and why the heck can't he remember anything?).  The ending certainly leaves the story open for continuation, and if done without all the nonsense of Charlotte and Jack and company liaisons, then it really shows promise.  Cremer certainly has the potential, if she can manage to cut out all the excess fat.  I will definitely read the next installment, but I have my fingers crossed that we can focus more on the plot and less on the relationship drama in the sequel.

24 January 2015

All Fall Down

Author: Ally Carter
Series: Embassy Row #1
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

Any series by Ally Carter is destined to be a guilty pleasure read for me; I cannot stay away from these unrealistic, teenagers turned spies/thieves/murder detectives.  I fell in love with Heist Society, which brought me to Gallagher Girls, which leads me now to Embassy Row.

Oh Grace, what a terrible fate life has dealt you.  You witnessed your own mother's murder, yet everyone is determined to tell you you're crazy.  After all, your mother wasn't murdered.  The fire that took your mother's store and her life was an accident, no matter what you saw.  But you know better.  You remember the man with the scar on his face.  You remember your mother being shot, right before your eyes.  And while all you want is justice served, all you get is locked up for being crazy.

All Fall Down starts with Grace returning to the country of Adria, some very popular and important country for the United States embassy, but one I've never heard of (hmmm, I wonder why), to join up with her maternal grandfather who she hasn't seen since her mother's death.  With a father and brother serving their country, Grace has nowhere else to go.  To make matters worse, they put her in her mother's old room, and she finds out that Alexei, her childhood friend, is tasked by her brother to keep an eye out on her.

But the importance of these matters fall insignificant when Grace casts eyes upon her mother's killer.  And suddenly, she is a girl on a mission, determined to prove to the world - and, more importantly, her grandfather - that she isn't crazy and to bring her mother's killer down.

All Fall Down is classic Carter.  It's somewhat witty, somewhat eye-rolling.  There is, of course, an element of romance, but it isn't too heavy and doesn't distract from the plot.  It's outlandish, completely unbelievable, but a total blast of a read.  It's a quick novel to take in, with a surprise twist ending I never would have guessed.  The ending is also very open ended, so I know there will be a sequel.  Though the plot of this novel is wrapped up so well, I'm not sure where the next story will take us.  But I'm giddy as a schoolgirl to find out.

18 January 2015

Don't Let Go

Author: Michelle Gagnon
Series: PERSEFoNE #3
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

It's the end of the line for our teenager hackers turned super heroes.  Nora's clock is ticking, as she fights the aftermath of her abduction in the second novel.  With her failing health, she is more determined than ever to stop the evil madman.  Just trying to write the synopsis for this book reminds me how outlandish the plot is, but I still cannot help but enjoy this series.  Sure, it's as out there as an Ally Carter series plot.    But it's a fun ride, with likable characters and enough plot twists to keep you interested and guessing until the end.

Considering the odds stacked against our heroes in this finale to the the trilogy, I found the ending a little too happily ever after for my taste all things considered, but it is young adult literature after all.  Though fast paced and action packed, this third novel feels drawn out, as if Gagnon knew how she wanted to end the novel, but needed another 100 extra pages to get there.  Nora, Peter and gang spend most of the time jumping from one roach motel to the next, or slumming it in condemned buildings that are even worse.  Daisy became rather annoying in this novel, and she and Teo cause some headaches for everyone.  Although they are perhaps the most down to Earth characters, the most realistic of the lot.

If you can get past how unrealistic the plot of this series is, then I think you can really enjoy it.  If you try to imagine it in the real world, then you'll probably hate it.  It is definitely a series where you need to be able to suspend your disbelief.

15 January 2015

Touch of Power

Author: Maria V. Snyder
Series: Healer #1
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Avry of Kazan is one of the last - if not the last - healer in her realm.  After the plague, Avry has to hide her skills, for the healers were blamed for the start of the plague that threw their realm into chaos and ruin.  But a simple healing of a young child brings Avry into the crosshairs, and she soon finds herself in a world of trouble.  Though a band of rebels rescues her from an untimely death, the price she must pay - healing a prince she does not believe should rule the kingdoms - may be more than she's willing to sacrifice.

I like the plot of Touch of Power, though it feels a little sloppy and not all that well thought out in a few places.  The romantic aspect of the novel is a little forced and not really necessary, but it isn't overly annoying or slap you in the face abundant.  There's simply no chemistry between the characters that Snyder joins, and the significant age gap grosses me out a little as well.  But I can see how she uses it to help motivate the plot.  Without the chemistry, however, it makes some of the plot progress weak and unrealistic.

The characters themselves, however, are likable (well, perhaps not all of them).  They are dynamic and well developed, and we really get to know the small band we follow throughout the novel.  I think my favorite side character ended up being Flea, if for nothing else than his determination to learn to juggle.

The world of the Nine Kingdoms that Snyder creates is vast and interesting, even if perhaps some of the politics of the powers in struggle for rule go a bit over my head.  The conclusion of this novel certainly leaves enough to be explored in the sequel, which I will continue.  The ending is a bit weak with the conclusion predictable, but I am sure if she went in any other directions, fans would have been in an uproar.

Nothing dramatically unique or powerful about this novel, which can be a bit slow paced in sections, but it is an interesting novel if you like fantasy with just a hint of romance.

11 January 2015

Frostfire

Author: Amanda Hocking
Series: The Kanin Chronicles #1
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I have to say, I am not at all surprised that Amanda Hocking's next venture into a YA series takes us take into the Trylle world.  After all, the Trylle series is what put her on the map in the first place.  It's certainly what made me a fan.  And after the disastrous flop of the Watersong series, even I was excited at the prospect of returning to the Trylle, though a bit reserved now.

Frostfire brings a new set of characters, a new plot, even a new setting, but it definitely carries the same familiar feel of the Trylle series.    Frostfire is narrated by nineteen year old Bryn, a Kanin tracker that wants to join the king's elite guard squad, even though she has to work twice as hard since she is female.  To start off our tale, Bryn is sent to bring back a changeling, a young man named Linus.  Sound kind of familiar?  It should.  After all, the Trylle series starts with a male tracker sent to bring back a changeling, a female, of high social status in their society.

Frostfire is set four years after the conclusion of the Trylle series, and things have not gotten much more peaceful for our trolls in hiding.  The elusive Konstantin Black, who Bryn was majorly crushing on when she was younger before he went and tried to kill her father, is paired up with another miscreant.  Together, they are trying to capture changelings before they are brought back to Kanin to take their rightful place with their birth families.

As is a requirement for all Hocking novels, Frostfire contains a hearty dose of YA romance.  Even though Konstantin tried to kill her father and she has sworn revenge on him, when she runs into him, she cannot help but think that everything may not be what it seems.  Perhaps he isn't the cold blooded killer he appears to be.  Maybe even more sinister plots are in play.  And if that isn't complicated enough, Bryn has a flirtatious relationship with the Rektor, Ridley, who is essentially her boss (and older than her to boot).  When Ridley starts to change from his womanizer styled lifestyle to be in a real relationship with a drop out tracker Bryn trained with, Bryn decides that perhaps she might actually have feelings for her boss, even though she has forbidden herself to date within the workplace (although she has apparently broken this rule once already, as she has some awkward run-ins with an ex-boyfriend tracker).  Needless to say, this novel is full of a lot of tension, frustration, and awkward moments that can get a little nausea inducing.

While I didn't mind that aspect so much in the Trylle series since the plot and setting were so unique, a little bit of the novelty has worn off this time around since we've been around the block with Hocking once now already.  Oftentimes, Bryn feels very childish for her age, and her elders even more so.  The prose is hardly an instant classic in the making, and quite a few situations are eye rolling.  But, I don't know... I guess the cameo appearance of Tove has me hoping that we'll get more crossovers with the original Trylle series, which just might be worth the shortcomings of this new narrator and series.  The ending was certainly interesting enough to make me want to read the next installment.  And even if it turns out to be a flop, all three novels in the series will be published by the end of 2015, so at least I will only have to wait and suffer through less than a year for this series.  Despite its short comings, however, I am still holding out hope that Hocking can pull her act together for a solid sophomore act.

09 January 2015

This Shattered World


Author: Amie Kaufman & Meagan Spooner
Series: Starbound #2
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

It's been a year since I read These Broken Stars, so I don't remember much about it expect for thinking it's definitely not as good as it's cracked up to be.  But I thought I would go ahead and give This Shattered World a go, as I am always a sucker for some final fontier action and sci-fi in general.

Since I oftentimes like to go into movies and books blind to avoid any kind of spoilers, it took me until the second or third chapter to even realize we are following a different set of main characters than the first novel.  This Shattered World is set in the same universe as These Broken Stars, but on a different planet in a different time with different characters.  I got almost all the way to the end of the novel before I even saw how this book connected to the first.

This Shattered World definitely feels a lot like These Broken Stars.  It's space(ish) like, but with limited to almost no actual space travel.  It focuses on a young couple on different sides of the social spectrum.  Indeed, this time Kaufman and Spooner take it one step further and put them on different sides of a war on the planet of Avon.  The focus is quickly thrown towards Jubilee and Flynn, first on how they are pitted against each other with her working for the military and him a rebel, but the focus then starts to almost immediately shift to romantic insinuations between them.

Similar to the first, I felt that the "space" side of the novel was nothing special, although it allowed the similar paranormal/sci-fi elements the duo pair of writers introduced in the first novel (which I wasn't really found of).  The space part of the novel is more of a backdrop than anything else, and the story could easily have been written on Earth without any of the elements being any different.  Still, the romance wasn't too in your face for the whole 400 pages, and the plot did start to get interesting a little bit before midway of the novel.

Not a series I would read more than once, but the story is well enough written and the characters are likable enough, abet cliche oftentimes.  Definitely nothing revolutionary for the space opera genre, but I think general romance readers will enjoy this novel, especially if they liked the first in the series.  Lilac and Tarver do make cameo appearances in this sequel, though they are far from the focus.

08 January 2015

Blue Moon

Author: James Ponti
Series: Dead City #2
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Molly and the Omega gang are back and ready for their next big adventure.  That is, if they can get approval from the review board to keep their rag tag team together after Molly's mishaps in the first novel.

Based on the way the first novel ending went, I thought Blue Moon was going to be a bit more of an emotional roller coaster for Molly as she realizes that her mother is still alive and deals with the repercussions.  And while Molly does have a few scenes with her mother in this sequel, for the majority of the novel her mother stays in the shadows, hardly involved in Molly's life or the plot.  If anything, Molly faces more emotional turmoil at home, where her father starts taking cell phones as hostages in order to spend more quality time with his two leading ladies.

Blue Moon focuses on the Original 13 from the mining incident, which goes back to the fallout of Molly's actions at the end of the first novel, since she took one of them out of commission (with the help of her dear old mother of course).  Ponti follows the same style he uses in Dead City, from the Prologue set in time towards the very end of the novel, to another twist ending I certainly did not see coming.  All the same likable characters are back, and a few of them even get larger roles for this sequel.  The dialogue and Molly's narrative style are the same, although I don't find her quite as quirky and snarky as younger readers might.

All and all, a solid novel for this series.  I think a young audience would enjoy it even more than I did, but it's still a fun, light, quick read for the older audiences that still enjoy YA novels and the likes that are trying to find decent zombie stories out there.

07 January 2015

The Rule of Thoughts

Author: James Dashner
Series: The Mortality Doctrine #2
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

Oh, James Dashner, what have you gone and done here?  Actually, I know exactly what you did.  You sat at your desk and thought, 'Hey, what if I take The Eye of Minds and just reverse the plot?  Now that Michael is known to be AI, we'll make him human instead of in the first book where he was known to be human and we made him AI.  And then, since he thought he lived in the Wake when really he was in the Sleep in the Eye of Minds, now we'll make him think he's in the Sleep when he's really in the Wake.  And then I can use the same basic plot as the first novel and just change the details around so it feels like a new story'.  Suffice to say, to me this sequel feels like it is retelling almost the exact same plot as the first novel.  They still spend the entire novel teamed up with VNS trying to chase after Kaine and shut him down, and Michael is still teamed up with his duo of friends.

I tried to give Dashner the benefit of the doubt and go into The Rule of Thoughts with an open mind, but this is a sequel I just couldn't stomach.  Since I wasn't all that impressed with the first novel, reading pretty much the same story over again feels like an insult on my intellect.  The group still spends way too much time in the Sleep, even though they admit that it makes it about 500 times easier for Kaine to track them that way.  And when you reach the end of this novel, you still are completely unsatisfied that you've reached any sort of conclusion, because Dashner just throws another Hail Mary "shocker" of an ending, and once again absolutely nothing has been resolved, even though we are two novels into this series now.  I say "shocker" in parenthesis as, since I basically read this novel already, I guessed the ending well before I reached it.  In fact, I was kind of surprised the characters themselves couldn't get their heads out of their butts and figure it out, as Michael sees hints along the way, but just seems to ignore them.

I gave it a valiant attempt, but this is the end of the road for me and Dashner.  There are so many better written, better plotted novels out there to spend my time on.  Sorry Michael.

06 January 2015

The Eye of Minds

Author: James Dashner
Series: The Mortality Doctrine #1
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

Michael is a gamer, taken to another level.  He spends almost all of his time on the VirtNet, plugged into his Coffin in a very Matrix like scenario.  He can feel pain from this alternate reality, can feel it when he dies, and spends most of his time mindlessly playing games with friends in the VirtNet that he has never actually met in the real world before.  A bit of a social commentary, perhaps?

He is also a hacker, which is the main skill that gets him and his duo of friends into real trouble.  They are tasked by VNS (which seems to be the government body overseeing this virtual world) to try to track down the antagonist of this story, the mysterious Kaine, who is somehow pulling chips out of player's arms in the VirtNet.  By doing this, he can apparently kill them in real life by killing them in the virtual world.  Not that this really makes any sense at all to me, but I went with it in order to get through the book, as this is a fundamental plot for the story.

But the further down the rabbit hole I got, the more and more of a mess this story turned into.  It was a bad combination of The Matrix, Inception, and I don't know what else.  I shudder to think of a society that allows kids to spend all their time sucked into a virtual reality.  Especially a game that they play laying in a coffin, no less.  In the entirety of this novel, Michael doesn't go to school once.  In fact, he is kidnapped by an agent from VNS on his way to school, while he is thinking about how much school he has recently skipped.  To which begged the question: where are all the reasonable adults in this society?  Michael is raised by a housekeeping/nanny, as his parents are never home.  His housekeeper is the only adult he has interaction with in the real world.  And as we progress through this novel, we see adults that are obsessed with gaming as well.  At one point, they spend a few days in a row playing the same game over and over with a group of adults.  It just seems like such an absurd world Dashner has created that would be unsustainable, as no one is actually working or doing anything productive to contribute to society.  They are simply spending all their time - waking and sleeping - playing games in a virtual world.

The plot plunders through this digital world.  We probably only spend a small handful of pages in the actual world, the rest taken up by different games and different levels in the VirtNet.  And the entire novel follows these three kids as they hack their way, over and over (through the code somehow, from inside the game!), through these different levels of the VirtNet, while Kaine tries to block them at every crossroads.  The plot became monotonous and boring fairly quickly.  And then the ending.  Oh the ending broke just about every sci-fi rule I adhere to.  Dashner really went for the shock factor with this one.  The ending made me feel like I was basically just reading a tech'ed up version of The Maze Runner, which I didn't enjoy either.

The one thing going for The Eye of Minds is that at least it isn't a total snooze feast like The Maze Runner.  The pace progresses pretty quickly, and it is definitely a mind tease since Dashner is in no way limited to the rules of the universe is this mind boggle of a virtual reality world.  The ending kind of made me want to read the next novel, since it seems like Dashner might be able to pull out a decent sequel if he can pull together a solid plot and avoid of the needless hacking and coding that took up so much of this novel.  The fact that I can read these novels in a day doesn't hurt either.  But it's definitely nothing that I'll be adding to my collection.  If you liked The Maze Runner, you'll probably gobble this next series from Dashner right up.  But if not, I'd steer clear.

05 January 2015

Cured

Author: Bethany Wiggins
Series: Stung #2
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

Oh, Bethany, what happened to this series?  Talk about a sophomore slump.

First of all, let's talk about Jacqui/Jack.  Similar to Fo in the first novel, Jacqui has to pretend to be a male in order to survive outside the walled city, especially now that all of the raider's women have escaped.  This once overweight gal who loved to eat is now a treadmill running, boy looking narrator.  And while she sounds like she should be this BA heroine, in reality she's pretty much a cry baby who is way too trusting.  For a while, it seemed like every other page she was bursting into tears.  She really started to get on my nerves.

Now let's talk about the plot.  While Stung has undertones of romance between Fo and Bowen, Wiggins beats you over the head relentlessly with the romance in this novel.  As soon as Jacqui meets up with Fo, Bowen and Jonah to search for Fo's mother and Jacqui's brother, I instantly thought Wiggins was going to force a romantic element between Jacqui and Jonah.  And then Jacqui runs into Kevin, who helps save her from the raiders when she gets the gang into a bit of a pickle.  As soon as Jacqui meets Kevin, I knew where the romance was going to really come from, and I wasn't wrong.  It's too much, Wiggins, way too much.

There is hardly a plot at all in this novel and the gang goes around and around in circles, only looking for the people they first set out to find for about 25% of the time.  Most of the time, Jacqui is either kissing Kevin, thinking about kissing Kevin, or wondering who Kevin really is.  Several parts were hard to even get through.

While the presence of Fiona, Jonah, and Bowen at least made the story stomachable, they are such minor characters compared to the new narrator that even they couldn't save this disaster.  I don't remember the last time I was so disappointed in a sequel.

04 January 2015

Danny Dirks and the Heir of Pendragon

Author: S.A. Mulraney
Series: Danny Dirks #1
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

I received a free galley copy of this novel from the publisher for an honest review.

I love stories of King Arthur, especially now that I've seen the BBC series of Merlin (and, of course, Monty Python and the Holy Grail).  I have seen the entire series at least twice (the movie too many times to count), and it made me fall in love with both Merlin and King Arthur, only deepening my love for medieval styled stories.  When I saw this story of Danny Dirk, a modern descendant of Arthur Pendragon, I had to give it a try.

Perhaps I am just too much older than the target audience for this novel, but I couldn't get into the story.  First of all, the story has almost nothing to do with King Arthur legends, apart from being able to talk to dragons (which I do believe was Merlin's forte, not Arthur's) and from the appearance of Excalibur.

Not only can Danny Dirks communicate with dragons, but he falls in love with one too.  Granted, this lovely lady dragon can take human form, but still.  It's a dragon.  Doesn't that violate bestiality laws?  Perhaps such a question would not even arise for a middle school reader, but it gave me the creeps throughout this novel, and I could never get past it.

While Danny Dirks and the Heir of Pendragon isn't a terrible novel, there is nothing that sets it apart in its genre.  Its use of the Pendragon name is shady at best (Gwen was a dragon that Arthur fell in love with and thus that is why Danny can talk to dragons?), and the plot and the characters are thin and under developed.  The plot is often slow paced, and it felt as if it dragged on while I read it (it took me a month to read).  Maybe younger readers (middle school aged) would enjoy it, but definitely not for older readers or fans of Merlin & King Arthur.  In fact, a modern descendant of Merlin doesn't even arrive in the story to help Arthur's heir.  This is the first novel in a series, but it's the only installment I'll be reading.

03 January 2015

Stung

Author: Bethany Wiggins
Series: Stung #1
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

I will admit, the opening pages of this novel did not sell me.  I love a first person narrative, such as Gone Girl, where you unravel the pieces of the story with the character.  It's the purest form of suspense in writing.  But I wasn't sold on Fiona from the get go, and had to warm up to her as she navigated the terrifying world that Wiggins creates in this dystopian universe.

First of all, let's start with bees.  I know bees are important to the world, but it takes a bit of a stretch to my imagination to believe that the death of bees can cause the full destruction of the world.  In fact, in a similar fashion to The Hunger Games, I had to suspend a good deal of disbelief to really fall into the world that Wiggins creates.  After all, we are talking about cannibalistic beasts that are really just better functioning zombies with motor control.  And we are talking about a civilization that likes to watch this once human beings tear each other apart to the death, in a similar fashion as The Walking Dead and The Hunger Games.

I will admit, the characters in this novel aren't anything special.  Fiona got on my nerves every once in a while, and while I actually seemed to enjoy some of the romance in this story, Wiggins lays it on a bit too thick at points to where I almost want to fake gag.  But this novel is a shift moving roller coaster of a story, with enough twists to keep you fully invested.  I only read one chapter last night, turning instead to Cress as I had just finished Scarlet, but when I picked it up again this morning for spinning time, I couldn't put it down until the end, a good four hours later.  A couple of the parts are a bit cliche, as are some of the characters, but the emotion turmoil between the characters is heart wrenching to the point where I started to tear up at a few points.  And I'm not talking about the relationship between Fiona and Dreyden, but the relationships between them and their family members, especially the relationship between Fiona and her twin brother, Jonah.  Even the relationship between Fiona and Arrin is fascinating.

Sure, the prose is a bit slopping at time, especially in the beginning.  But the story itself helps mask these flaws, and though I can't possibly see how Cured is going to be as action packed and suspenseful as Stung, I'm sure going to read it to see.

01 January 2015

Far Far Away

Author: Tom McNeal
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

In a small town where nothing ever happens, everything is about to change.

The first word that comes to mind when I think of Far Far Away is strange.  For starters, the novel is narrated by a ghost.  A ghost who just happens to be one of the original Brothers Grimm.  Secondly, the tagline for the novel is a bit misleading.  After all, the green smoke pouring out of the baker's chimney on delicious pastry days can hardly be called nothing.  And our main character, Jeremy Johnson Johnson (no, that is not a typo), is hardly boring.  After all, he has a mega depressed father who hardly leaves the house, and is owner of his late grandfather's book store, which only contains two books, which are not for sale.

As Jeremy Johnson Johnson owns a book store that doesn't sell books, and his father hardly works, it is not a stretch to believe that they are heading for financial ruin, with the fate of Jeremy Johnson Johnson's inherited bookstore on the line.  And thus, with the help of his ghostly sidekick, he decides he will try out for a game show called Uncommon Knowledge, which is an exact ripoff of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, to try to earn the money to pay the loan on the bookstore before it's repossessed, which would not only crush his heart but make him homeless as well.

So I find it hard to agree that nothing ever happens in Jeremy's small town, but I will say that the plot is extremely slow to start, and thus for the reader, it does feel as if nothing of consequence is happening until very late in the game, which can make this novel a bit of a drag to get through.  Indeed, Far Far Away took me almost a month to read, as I had a lot more interesting books that I was reading simultaneously that I preferred.  The lack of chapters or even parts to this novel irked me for this reason, as it seemed I could never find a good place to stop, which made it hard to start reading to begin with.

Once the plot finally got moving (about three quarters of the way in), the pace of the story did pick up a bit.  Then my issue with the novel became that the plot was predictable.  While some readers have commented they found the story suspenseful, I found it following a rather generic model, where I pretty much guessed the ending.  Combine all these elements into one story, and it wasn't my cup of tea.  I can see how readers think McNeal was trying to spin a classical Grimm brothers story in a modern time, but if so, I don't think he accomplished what he set out to do.  The ending certainly doesn't feel like the ending of a Brothers Grimm tale.

Perhaps I am just a little too much older than the target audience for this novel.  I can see how younger kids could enjoy this story, as the characters are likable enough.  There is a hint of young, youthful romance, and it has just a dash of suspense without being too terrifying to ward off the younger readers.  Personally, though, I found the plot lacking, and though I did finally make my way all the way through, I won't be picking up this novel again.