28 February 2015

Perfect Ruin

Author: Lauren DeStefano
Series: The Internment Chronicles #1
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I was not the biggest fan of the Chemical Garden Trilogy, but I did think that DeStefano showed promise with her writing.  She just didn't have the plot there to really invest me in the series with that series.  Still, she clearly had the talent with her writing style, so I thought I would give her new series a try, especially with the second novel due out soon.

Perfect Ruin is definitely a step above her previous series, though my issue with the Chemical Garden Trilogy is that it got worse and worse which each novel, so I am not completely sold on the series as a whole yet until I get to crack open Burning Kingdoms next month and take it for a spin.  Still, this series shows promise.

It's certainly a unique world.  Internment is a portion of the planet that has somehow broken away and is hovering up in the sky, above the poor souls still stranded on the ground below.  I know, I know.  This premise in general makes absolutely no sense.  How can it stay up there?  How does this odd wall of wind keep people from escaping when they jump?  How did it break away from the ground and float up in the first place?  Try not to think about these issues, or I doubt you will enjoy this novel at all, especially since DeStefano makes no attempt to even touch on the subject.

Still, here is Internment, this small "Utopian" society in the clouds.  It is ruled by a king who enjoys the power he has over his people, and includes people who are not content with living out their highly restricted and controlled lives in the sky.  Morgan is one such girl.  She cannot help but think about what lies on the ground below Internment, and her inquizzical brain is too large for her small bubble of a society she lives in.  Basically, she takes after her brother.  While their characters are not fascinating, I do adore the dynamic between them.  And the characters in this novel, in general, are likable and relatable enough.

Internment's utopian is thrown for a loop with the murder of a young girl.  Suddenly, Internment isn't the safe, mild mannered society it has been for as long as people can remember.  And the mystery of who killed this young girl and why shakes Internment to the core.  Morgan finds herself suddenly caught up in the middle of it, and the path it leads her down is one she never could have expected.

Perfect Ruin is a unique, interesting story, though it isn't as completely gripping and fast paced as I thought it could be.  Based on the ending, I can honestly say I have no idea which direction the next novel will take, which is a little nerve wracking with DeStefano, as I seem to recall a similar notion with the Chemical Garden, and it certainly took a turn for the worse.  But I am willing to put my reservations aside and go into the next installment with an open mind, hoping for the best.

25 February 2015

The Last Time We Say Goodbye

Author: Cynthia Hand
Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

This is a public service announcement: do NOT start reading this book unless you have a handkerchief or a box of tissues on hand or close by.  This story will leave you an uncontrollable, sobbing wreck.  The evening I finished this book, it got so bad my husband made the comment, "Just stop reading it," because I was crying so hard while I read.  But, of course, you cannot simply stop reading this book.  You have to finish it.  YOU HAVE TO.  The ending of this novel is what makes it such a wonderful read.

The ending is perfect.  The title is perfect.  Even the COVER is perfect.  I rack my brain, but I cannot remember a recent novel I've read where I can say that all of these are true.

I am probably nitpicking, but there are a few things that keep me from giving this novel the full 5 stars, I will reread until kingdom come.  The first is how things play out for both her brother and his friend.  I know it is a touchy subject matter, but it just feels too coincidental to me to believe in that part of the story line.  The other is her mother, and more specifically how her conversation in the car with her mother suddenly brings about such a change.  I would love to believe it is the truth, but the rational part of me thinks it would take a longer time for the changes to really take effect.  That it wouldn't be an overnight 180 reversal.

But again, I am nitpicking.  I will admit it.  I cannot even begin to understand how difficult it was for Hand to pen this novel, with her own brother's teenage suicide an inspiration for the story.  Just reading this novel, the thought of my younger brother being in the same position as Lex's brother, brings a fresh wave of tears to my eyes.

I thought her Unearthly series was well written (though admittedly I still need to read the final novel), but thought the romance was perhaps a bit much in that series.  With The Last Time We Say Goodbye, I have no such qualms.  It is the perfect balance of genres, and well worth the read.  I will be adding this one to my collection for sure.  Fans of John Green will certainly love, because it has the same heart warming/heart wrenching tale, but Hand does a much better job of making the story feel realistic.  There are no crazy wild goose chases or road trips or trips halfway around the world in this novel.  There is only the story of a teenage girl, and how she tries to come to terms with her younger brother's decision.

Read it.  Read it NOW.

22 February 2015

There Will Be Lies

Author: Nick Lake
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I really want to give this book a 4 or 4.5 stars rating, but the Dreaming aspect of this novel just took away so much from the plot to really make it an honest to God enjoyable YA suspense novel.  If you remove the Dreaming portions of this story, and the Coyote, then suddenly this novel is a blow your socks off mystery/suspense.  But as a whole, in the end this novel just fails to pull it all together for my taste.

There will be two lies and then the truth.

This is a common element that Lake weaves throughout the entirety of the novel, and even at the end I am not sure what the two lies are and what the truth is.  To be certain, there are a lot of lies in this novel/in Shelby's life, as she is fixing to find out.  Now that I have finished the novel and have had a few hours to dwell on it, I almost feel like the Dreaming is an element that Lake cooked up just to add suspense.  In addition, Shelby's constant comments in her narrative such as, "Later I think: I should stop saying these sorts of things to myself" drive me crazy, because they tease that the plot is going to get much, much worse for her before it gets any better.  In this case, Lake does not disappoint, for this is certainly the case.

If you can skim through the Dreaming, and ignore the talking Coyote, then this novel is still an enjoyable read.  It certainly contains enough plot twists to keep you guessing all the way to the end.  And even though the resolution to the plot is a tad bit on the anti-climatic side, I have to say I love the ending.  Love, love, love it.  It is such a suitable farewell to the story, that I do not think he could have done a better final chapter.

While I am - clearly - not a fan of the Dreaming aspect of this novel, I have to give Lake props for his prose and story telling abilities.  Right off the bat, I am invested in Shelby's story, and the further down the rabbit hole we get, the more I am attached to her character.  The prose is certainly unique, and though it is perhaps a bit awkward in the beginning, it is definitely the right call for this novel of realistic suspense woven in with paranormal dreams.

The only other issue I have to pick with Lake is take he could have done some more fact checking.  Having just driven to the Grand Canyon last week from Las Vegas, I can say with certainty that (1) it's 64, not 68, and there is no sign that says DO YOU HAVE ENOUGH GAS? NO PUMPS FOR 50 MILES.   In addition, though the Owl states with upmost certainty that, "there was a First Woman and a First Man. One hundred percent, actually, really, there was," there was not.  I even had to stop reading to do a little research on the mitochondrial eve, just to make certain.  I am sure this is one of my own little annoying personality traits, but little things like these can really distract me from a book, as I obsess over the little facts being correct.

All and all, I would still say it is a book worth reading, though I will catalog it as a read once, and borrow from the library versus buying yourself.

16 February 2015

Of Beast and Beauty

Author: Stacey Jay
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

It takes a very interesting plot in order to get me into a romantically centered tale, but Jay seems to nail it almost perfectly.  Of Beast and Beauty is a well written fractured fairy tale, even if the narrative can be a bit much at times.  All the classic elements of Beauty and the Beast are here in this tale, but it is definitely a story of its own.

The Beast: Gem - a mutant, tainted by the ill wishes of this really tricked out evil spirit that we are introduced to at the very beginning of the story, and that then teases us for pretty much the remainder of the novel until we finally get the back story on what it even is.  Gem lives outside the domed walls of the city, in the wasteland of the desert ravaged by this evil spirit.  With his tribe starving to death, Gem is one of the warriors chosen to try to help save their kind.

The Kindred Spirit: Isra - seeing as how she has been blind since an incident that killed her mother when she was three, Princess Isra is not the same book loving heroine as Belle, but she's still charming and delightful with just the right amount of naivety.  Just like Belle, she loses her father towards the beginning of the tale, and befriends the beast that others believe should simply be killed.  Unlike Belle, however, Isra is not the prisoner in this story, the beast is.  So that's an interesting turn of event.

The Rose: the garden - in Beauty and the Beast, the rose symbolizes the Beast's livelihood.  In Of Beast and Beauty, it's the roses in the garden that hold the magical powers, and they symbolize Isra's livelihood instead.  Let me be the first to tell you, these roses are a little whacked out.  They are definitely one of the more interesting plot points in the story.

Now, don't get me wrong, we're not looking at classic literature in the making here.  But it's a fun, quick read that I absolutely devoured.  The only reason I don't rate this novel as a Buy is that now that I've read it and know the outcome, it's not exactly a novel I would necessarily ever read again.  But the first read through?  Utter fab.

15 February 2015

While We Run

Author: Karen Healey
Series: When We Wake #2
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Right off the bat, I can tell While We Run is going to be a different beast than When We Wake.  For starters, the novel is now told from Abdi's point of view, instead of Tegan's.  In addition, there appears to be a time jump between the two novels, although I will admit that even though I read When We Wake not too long ago, I don't exactly remember the ending all that well as it wasn't exactly memorable.

For a while, I actually enjoy this novel and get into the plot, even if I am still a little confused at how they got to this point throughout the majority of the novel.  The reverse narrative that is offered to fill in the gap is pretty slow to give details.  I like the change in the narrative, as I find Abdi's POV to be more grounded and a little less mushy, although it does still have its moments.

This novel starts to fizzle off with the excitement/build up towards the middle, and the ending is a little too far fetched to be practical/believable.  And, one again, the starship hardly plays a role to the plot at all except in passing, which is definitely a bit of a bummer.  One of the only reasons I gave this sequel a chance was the potential of the starship playing a larger role, and that chance is squandered.    The characters are interesting enough, but it certainly isn't a truly gripping plot by any means, and the second half of this novel took me a while to get through it since I am not really invested in the story.  It doesn't seem as if there will be another novel, but if there is, I think I'll pass.

172 Hours on the Moon

Author: Johan Harstad
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

Okay, I am sorry, but these are the three most annoying, ungrateful kids in the entire world.  Do you know what I would give to go into space?  My friend made it to the second to last round of selection to be an astronaut, and that's probably as close as I will ever come to traveling into space, even if private ventures start manned trips back into space in my lifetime.  These three teenagers, out of the billions of people on the planet, are selected to join a small group of NASA astronauts on a 172 hours visit to the moon.  And what are the reactions we see from them?  They are just worried about having homework over the summer, and pissed that their friends will be living their regular lives of fun and sun in the summer while they are away training and, oh yeah, in SPACE.  Please.  I am so disgusted with these characters this book is almost unbearable to read.

My annoyance with the characters is not the only issue I have with this novel.  Plot holes come into play as well.  For instance, how in the world could they have gotten all the equipment for DARLAH 2 up into space without people realizing they built a station on the moon?  And how could no one have seen it from Earth with a telescope?  The layout of the station looked massive, and I cannot even begin to imagine the payload that would have had to be sent into space in order to build it.  It would have required numerous trips to the moon with various shuttles, and yet it seems to have just passed by the entire general public?

After characters and plot holes, we arrive at the plot itself.  There is a small portion of this novel that is actually a little interesting, but it is short.  The plot takes a long time to build up, and all the interesting parts for me of preparing for a trip to the moon (the training, the take off, the landing, the flight itself, etc) are all pretty much skimmed over, instead focusing on these three teenagers primarily, who are not that interesting.

And then we arrive at the heart of the story, the mystery of the secret mission, and the strange letters and the incidents on the moon... well, that is just too far removed for me.  It's sci-fi for sure, but it's more paranormal than anything else, as the author comes out and flat out says that it isn't what you would expect for a sci-fi novel.  And the ending is a little predictable, and also incredibly unfulfilling and deflating.  For an award winning novel that has been translated into other languages, overall I am pretty disappointed with it.

08 February 2015

Y: The Last Man - Deluxe Edition Vol 2

Author: Brian K. Vaughan
Series: Y: The Last Man #3 & #4
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

Wow.  Just wow.  I definitely did not suspect the big reveal about who is on the other side of the phone.  Like, at all.  At all.  That plot twist definitely takes my brain for a spin of shock and awe.

And then we have Agent 711.  Apart from the fact that her name always makes me think of Slurpees, she is crazy.  Like, bats*** crazy, man.  That is the only word to describe her.  But I just love her story and her role in the book, even if it's rather twisted.  The storyline with the aeronauts definitely ends on an interesting cliffhanger.  And what happens when they land... so heartbreaking.  So incredibly heartbreaking.  It makes me thankful I am not a part of that gang, for more reasons than one.

And though it is taking them forever to get to California, it's definitely an interesting journey while we make our way there.

Invaded

Author: Melissa Landers
Series: Alienated #2
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I tried to give this series the benefit of the doubt.  I thought, with Cara going into space, this series could involve into a legitimate space opera series.  Unfortunately, the sequel is not even as good as its predecessor (which was nothing to write home about itself).

Cara still has some of her wits and charm, although you can only primarily see it through her blog points she beams home now.  I guess it's only to be expected though.  After all, being stranded in a strange, foreign universe can really take the humor out of someone.  Especially when her alien boyfriend is still stuck on her home planet, while she is whisked away to his to try to help with foreign politics.  And if that isn't enough, mysterious objects start falling out of the sky, almost as if they are trying to kill her.  And, to top it all off, her boyfriend has a roommate of the opposite sex that is just a little too friendly for Cara's liking.

Summarizing the plot of this novel, it's not really surprisingly I didn't enjoy it.  After all, the plot reads like a teenage drama show, something the CW would spew out week after week.  In the end, the plot is just enough to keep me interested in reading, but bad enough that it is definitely hard to get into.  Apart from each other, neither Cara nor Aelyx are very interesting.  And a lot of their charm wears off in the second novel as we adjust to this alien race that is eerily similar to humankind.  The most likable character in this novel, in fact, turns out to be Cara's brother, Troy.

The surprise twist at the end, who is informing on Aelyx and his crew, comes as no surprise to me.  Landers works far too hard to interweave this character into the story, even though he/she has little to offer.  In fact, with all the effort put into that plot line, I totally see the betrayal coming, so it in't very heart breaking to me.

At the end of the day, this novel/series still reads like a Harlequin romance novel, dumbed down with teenage angst for the young adult genre, and a splash of sci-fi to try to garner interest.  The alien presence in the series, however, is hard to believe, especially with the route this novel takes on L'eihr.  I really wasn't planning on continuing this series with this novel, but got it from the library on a whim as it was on a new release list I was scrolling through.  So unless something similar happens down the line, I probably won't read the next installment either.

06 February 2015

Mortal Heart

Author: Robin LaFevers
Series: His Fair Assassin #3
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

The final installment in the trilogy, Mortal Heart is definitely my least favorite of the three.  And I do not say that lightly.  After all, I thought it showed the most promise for a kick butt, romantic entanglement free plot.  After all, where is a girl who is destined to live in a covenant for the rest of her life going to find a guy?  Annith has been stuck at the covenant since the beginning of the series.  Though she has honed her skills to be a fine assassin, the Sister has sent younger, less qualified girls out to tackle missions time and time again.  When Annith overhears that they plan to have her become the next seer, something instead of her snaps.  She has tried too hard for too long to escape from the covenant, only to discover they plan to keep her there indefinitely.

So Annith takes matters into her own hands and strikes out on a mission of her own choosing.  Almost right off the bat, she runs into a handsome stranger who just happens to also serve her god by guiding souls towards Death.  Cue the romantic interest and my eternal bane.  From there on out, I honestly lost interest in the story for the most part.  Throughout the course of the novel, we find out Annith has a rather shady past like the other two heroines of the story.  And yet, there is just something about her character that feels so bland.  It isn't that she isn't likable, because she is.  But I didn't feel that spark in her that the other two girls have, which made it a lot more difficult to get interested in her story.  The way her romantic interest plays out is rather distributing as well, as are the facts we learn about who she really is and where she comes from.

While the entire series has been a little fantasy entwined, this novel above the other two is too fantastical, with Death himself playing a much bigger role and being even more mortalized for more than just the briefest of moments.  While I am fascinated by nun assassins, in this novel they are hardly nuns nor assassins.  All three wind up taking lovers, and while they are plotting to try to figure out how to save Brittany and keep its rule, they hardly assassinate anyone in this novel either.  It is a lot more politics talk and marriage arrangement plots that anything else, and losses a lot of its luster for the final novel.  The ending is rather lackluster as well, which so much buildup that then sizzles quickly out to a rather hard to believe, fantasy driven conclusion.  But the novel does wrap up the plot that started way back in the first novel, and all three heroines from all three novels make an appearance in the final novel.  Still, I'm not quite sure it is worth the read just to finish the trilogy, but I did finally muck through it.

02 February 2015

When We Wake

Author: Karen Healey
Series: When We Wake #1
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Things are finally starting to fall into place in Tegan's life.  Her brother's best friend, Dalmar, has finally confessed that he has feelings for her, and she is instantly in love.  She has her best friend, Alex, to dish all the details to.  And her love of the Beatles keeps her strong.  But on the day after her wonderful make out session with Dalmar, Tegan gets shot.  And when she wakes up again, she wakes up a century later, the first successful test subject of cryo freezing.

If you take out the corny love interest with Dalmar that barely makes a blimp on the radar in the long scheme of things, the premise could have made a stellar sci-fi adult fiction novel.  When We Wake, however, feels too watered down and childish and fantastical.  Even though the story is set over a hundred years in the future, apart from a few minor phrases in dialogue and the size of computers, the futuristic world that Healey depicts hardly feels any different than now.  And if you look at how far we've progressed in the last 100 years to today, that hardly seems possible.  Healey's main technique to excuse part of this lack of development is that there has been a recent, retro revival of old technology, which seems like an awfully convenient excuse to keep from having to go very in depth on what she thinks technology would be like in 110 years.  Especially since the old technology we are talking about are DVD players and Disney movies like Lilo and Stitch that are barely even current technology/new now.  Healey sets up a perfect opportunity to explore a new vision of the world, and she wastes it away on current day trivial matters.

The romance in the novel was also cliche and forced.  While Tegan is rather upset when she wakes up and finds that everyone she loves has now passed along, it doesn't take her very long to get over her one day romance with Dalmar and move on to the Dalmar look like in the current day and age.  That whole thought just rubs me wrong.  The characters, however, are likable enough, although the dialogue can get a bit annoying as Healey tries to throw in new phrases as the only change in the world since 2014. Tegan's narrative can be a bit "really?" just as well.

In the end, it's hard to believe that the fate of human mortality seems to rest on Tegan's shoulders, but sure.  Fine.  Why not?  She seems like the perfect candidate to rest the shoulders of this huge, multi-million dollar government project decades in the making on.

While it was hardly a mind blowing read, it's a quick enough read for a night in bed with the television on in the background.  And before I started reading it, I already requested the sequel from my library, so I'm sure I'll read it as well when it arrives.  After all, we are talking starships and cryo freezing here.  And we all know I'm a sucker for space novels.  So you never know what the sequel may hold.

01 February 2015

Y: The Last Man - Deluxe Edition Vol 1

Author: Brian K. Vaughan
Series: Y: The Last Man #1 & #2
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

What if, suddenly, all the men on the planet up and dead?  What if one survived?  What if he had been right in the middle to proposing to his girlfriend at the time?

Y: The Last Man is set two months after the fact.  Yorick, the 22-year-old last man standing, is on his way to D.C. to hopefully reunite with his mother and find out the whereabouts of his sister.  Along with him is his trusty sidekick monkey, Ampersand.

I am usually pretty picky when it comes to graphic novels, comics, mangas, etc, but this one caught me right at the get go.  It throws you into the world right at the heart of the adventure, with the story being told in the perspective of a bunch of different groups of people all over the world.  Being the last man standing, Yorick is of course the main attraction, but he's hardly my favorite character.

In this opening volume of the series alone, we encounter:

- democrats bearing arms against republicans (who are also bearing arms) as the wives of dead senators and congressmen try to take their seats in Washington, even though it doesn't seem like there is much of a stable government left

- a doctor who thinks she might have caused the whole thing but giving birth to a clone who dies immediately as all the other men on earth

- a group of crazy women called the Amazons that hack off one of their own boobs for one reason or another

- a band of criminal women escaped from jail

- Agent 355

- a crazy Russian woman

- and, of course, the last man on Earth, who happens to be a lovesick sap.  I honestly thought the last man on Earth would take get pleasure in the fact that it is his sole purpose to repopulate the planet.  Yorick, though, seems to only want to get to Australia, to see if his girlfriend, Beth, said yes to his marriage proposal.  Don't get me wrong, it's kind of sweet, but also incredibly selfish.  How about you take one from the team (i.e. the human race) and focus on figuring out what killed all the men so that our species doesn't die out in the next 100 years?  Please and thank you.

A fantastic, quick read.  I will definitely be devouring the next volume.  I am just hoping Yorick becomes more likable, and I really didn't start liking him/tolerating him until towards the end of the novel.  And even then, the decisions he makes kind of annoy me still.  But, alas, perhaps that is because I am a woman.

The ending I kind of expected, but it's still definitely going to be interesting to see how it plays out.  And there are some real shockers in here I never would have guessed (one word: Hero).  A great start to a series I am super excited about.