31 May 2015
Series: Once Upon a Crime Family #1
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
While the name of the novel itself is rather poetic and suitable for the story, the name of the series is pretty laughable and cheesy. And this comparison between the titles actually does a decent job of summing up my feelings for this novel overall. The premise for the novel is intriguing, but the execution is almost terrible. Penny has a blood disorder that makes her a fragile little princess confined within the walls of her Family home. But Penny doesn't want to be the caged, fragile bird they all treat her as. She is interested in the family/Family Business - the illegal organ transplant market.
Rare blood disease? Crime family in organ transplants? Before going into this novel, I though Schmidt had hit YA gold for originality. Unfortunately, the further you get into Hold Me Like a Breath, the more cliche it becomes. In the end, this novel falls into the jumble of the genre, just another YA romance story with a premise to hook readers in that doesn't deliver. Schmidt never capitalizes on the plot goldmine of potentials based on the situations she creates. Instead, the story focuses on star crossed lovers. And, as if to add insult to injury, Schmidt includes a love triangle as well.
Perhaps I expected too much out of this novel, which is why I feel so jolted now that I've finished. I wanted depth, suspense, intrigue, and since we are dealing with crime families and feuds, lots of bloody and guts and murder. Instead, these elements are used simply as the backdrop and filler, implemented mostly to move the plot from one romantic arc to the other. So while there is nothing wrong with Schmidt's writing style, there isn't anything great about her story telling either. Definitely not a series I'm going to bother continuing down the line.
29 May 2015
Series: The Descendants #1
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
As you may know by now, I am a sucker for a fractured fairy tale novel. And while I haven't been all that impressed with de la Cruz's novels in the past, I have to admit that The Isle of the Lost isn't half bad. It follows the children of some of the class villains in childhood fairy tales, thanks to its Disney backing. In this novel, all the villains have been rounded up and put on an island that disallows magic, thanks to King Beast. I have to admit, though, of all the heroes from the "Disney" fairy tales, I would think that Beast would be the last one to condemn all the villains. After all, isn't the entire premise of Beauty and the Beast about redemption, and how things aren't always what they seem? As a character who starts out a villain himself, you would think he of all villains would be the most reluctant to cast them all away without a second chance at redemption. But perhaps I am getting too deep into what is, after all, a MG/YA novel.
Redemption does, however, play a rather major role in this novel. Though they are children of well known villains, not all of them want to follow the ways of their misguided parents. This novel is there story, and it's interesting enough to hold my attention the entire read through. While there is nothing special about the story, I can definitely see have obsessive Disney fans will gobble it up with a spoon and demand more. And, apparently, it is going to be a television show on the Disney Channel as well (which leads me to believe that perhaps the novel is just a marketing ploy in the larger scheme of things). But regardless, it is a fun read for a lazy weekend, which enough throw back mentions of the classic fairy tale characters to make you reminiscence on your childhood if you, like myself, grew up with the characters and the fairy tales.
28 May 2015
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Ask the Passengers has all the elements and the potential to be a breakout standalone novel in the YA genre. Unfortunately, it falters with its characters and character development and the execution of its plot. While King still delivers a story worth reading that can hold your attention to the end, you might find yourself wondering why King stretches the realism so far the story almost feels unrealistic.
Perhaps it is because of the subject matter on hand. Astrid is a high school student in a small, overall narrow minded town. She is unsure with her sexuality, which is what the premise of the story revolves around. And as equal rights and homophobia are both still major issues in today's society, I can see why King makes such a huge deal out of them.
Now, perhaps it is my perspective that is off. After all, I had high school friends that struggled with their sexuality and then struggled on coming out to not only their family but their friends. But I never found myself in that position, questioning myself and what I wanted. So maybe I'm not in any position to judge. But to me, King presses the issue so far that it makes the story feel fake, and takes a bit of the sympathy I feel towards Astrid away.
Astrid doesn't just have to worry about what her parents will think, though that is certainly one of her top worries. Her mother hardly ever leaves the house, but likes to dress up in fancy clothes and high heels for her telecommuting position. In addition, her mother has written her off as a lost cause and instead focuses her attention on Astrid's younger sister. Her mother also has little patience or love for her father, who's only reaction is apparently to spoke copious amounts of pot. And even Astrid's younger sister turns into a huge prick as the story unwinds.
And if that isn't even to make you feel sorry for Astrid, let's focus on her friends next. Her friends have a secret of their own, one they use Astrid to help cover up for. And though Astrid is understanding of them and in no way judgmental, they don't exactly return the favor for her. And her friend that she might have more than just friendly feelings for? Well, that friend pressures Astrid so much that it's amazing Astrid stays friends with them at all. Even Astrid admits how much of a pushover she is. And then, just in case that isn't enough, there's everyone else in the small little gossip town that Astrid lives in.
As you can see, Astrid's life pretty much sucks. So no wonder she prefers laying on the picnic table in her backyard, staring up into the sky and sending love and thoughts to the passengers on the planes that fly overhead. As someone who works in aviation, this is the part of the novel I liked the most. Even though the mid-life characters on the planes still sound like pissed off or confused teenagers, I loved the bond between them, and the power that Astrid's good intentions have. I also like the philosophical side of the novel, as Astrid contemplates if motion is possible or not.
Overall, I don't think Ask the Passengers is an award winning novel. But it is a coming of age story written well enough to hold my attention. I only wish the characters weren't written to have such extreme characteristics and personalities.
25 May 2015
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Princess of Thorns is the second fractured fairy tale like novel I have read from Stacey Jay. And though the previous focused more on the romance over the plot, at the end of the day I find myself surprisingly favoring that novel over this one.
Now, don't get me wrong. Princess of Thorns is a well written, entertaining tale. Aurora is a fiercely strong, independent young woman whose interest is more on protecting her kingdom and taking back the crown that is rightly hers than on finding herself a prince to marry. Niklaas, on the other hand, has only one objective in mind - to marry Aurora and to break his curse before his eighteenth birthday. The fact that Niklaas has no idea his traveling companion is actually the princess whose hand he seeks to wed instead of her brother she pretends to be allows for many awkward and sometimes rather funny situations along their journey.
While the characters are dynamic and well enough developed, I had difficulty at times during the book following the plot. While the story is interesting enough, it isn't thoroughly engaging, and thus it took me a while to get through. The length of my read could contribute to some of the issues I have with understanding the plot. So while I think it is definitely a novel worth a read, it is one I would back burner if more exciting novels come along before you get the chance to read it.
19 May 2015
Series: An Ember in the Ashes #1
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
An Ember in the Ashes is a well written novel, but it feels timid at times. It has its main underlying plot, but it seems hesitant to stick with it, and instead veers off to focus mainly on tangent points throughout its breadth. At the end of the novel, we still don't have resolution for issues sprung right at the beginning of the story. And while I realize this is the first novel in a new series, you have to give the readers something to hang their interest on. As it is, this almost 450 page novel feels like it is simply a stepping stone, a build up for the rest of the series, which I find very frustrating.
The characters are good, solid, but they aren't great. And it isn't because they are flawed. That I actually enjoy. And it isn't even that they are hard to relate to. It's more their interactions with each other and in terms of the plot. For example, I don't like the way Hel shifts into almost a polar opposite version of herself almost instantaneously towards the end of the novel. It feels like a tactic Tahir uses in order to progress the plot, but she does so at the sake of the integrity of the characters.
Not only is there a love triangle in this story, but there are two! And neither one of them is very interesting. Both of the main characters caught in them are too wishy washy with their emotions/feelings to be taken seriously in any of their romantic inclinations.
I do like how the title of the novel ties the end to the beginning, bringing the story full circle. That is always a soft spot for me. As for the series itself, I'm not sure I'm sold on it yet. I guess we'll see how much hype shows up when the next installment is released.
16 May 2015
Series: A Court of Thorns and Roses #1
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
This is one of those awkward novels that appears to be a romantic tale between a human and a centuries old mythical/fae creature. I'm not the biggest fan of romance stories to start, but romance between two "people" that shouldn't even be able to breed? That brings the ick factor into the story for me.
I realize that A Court of Thorns and Roses is supposed to be a Beauty and a Beast styled fae tale, but Feyre hardly seems like Beauty, and Tamlin is far more amicable than the Beast. In fact, their is only one, or perhaps two (at most), scene where Tamlin even acts beastly at all. In addition, I never really liked Beauty and the Beast because of the love story. I liked it because of the talking and singing household appliances and place settings.
My fundamental issue with this novel is that the plot revolves completely around the romance instead of the romance between the character revolving around the plot. Since I never felt engaged with the characters or their romance, the plot felt thin and dis-interesting. It is just interesting enough that I read to the end of the novel, but there were definitely sections that I wanted to skim read through. And even though this novel is most certainly the first in a new series, it's not exactly a series I am interested in continuing.
If Feyre wasn't so invested into Tamlin, then I might have actually liked her character. The way she's introduced, she definitely has potential to be a strong, independent lead character. After all, she is out hunting in the woods they are warned not to venture into, and she is providing for her family that seems so ungrateful. I actually thought Maas overdid the characteristics of the sisters and her father, as they were so ungrateful and self centered that they almost felt unreal. But Feyre's fierce instincts for survival and protection of her family only last until Tamlin shows up. And though he drags her from her home, she almost immediately falls for him. Then all her likable characteristics fall to the back burner as the romance takes center stage. And since Maas spends so much time trying to force the romance, she never takes the time to develop the characters.
I still have high hopes for her other series, but this one flopped for me.
15 May 2015
Series: The Selection #0.4
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Come on Cass, give me something to work with here. We do not have even a touch of a dystopian society going on in the background. We do not have any of our normal main characters. And there isn't even any humor or touching moments to limp it through to the finish line either.
Instead, we have Maxon's parents, Clarkson and Amberley. In addition, we also have Clarkson's alcoholic mother and rather abusive father. So I guess we know where Clarkson gets his tendencies from. But instead of eliciting sympathy from me, this revelation about his parents' personalities and relationship only further alienates me from the main character, Ambereley. She watches Clarkson's reaction to his parents arguing, and someone that makes her only all the more resilient to stay and win his hand? That is classic battered woman complex right there. Had Amberely been a sensible woman, she would have seen this behavior as a red flag. But I guess it becomes the lesser of two evils: stick with the enemy you know (the horrible conditions in her neck of the woods that are slowly eating away at her health, or with this prince with violent tendencies that could at least offer her a better lifestyle). Regardless, Ambereley gets no sympathy from me. Instead, she is just another character that goes to show that Cass really has an issue with writing strong, independent female characters.
This novella did absolutely nothing for me, and I was rather disgusted in the characters while reading it.
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Everyone sing with me know, on the count of three. One. Two. Three. "Bill Nye, the Science Guy. BILL! BILL! BILL! BILL!"
Okay, now that I've gotten that out of the way, let's get down to business. I have to say, I feel a little cheated since I heard the StarTalk Radio he joined in which he covered a lot of the interesting tidbits he took from this book that I hadn't know about. For example, the new species developing in the London Underground? Pretty fascinating. But since it was already spoiled to me, it took away some of the shock and awe from hearing it in the audiobook.
In addition, I would consider myself a rather educated young individual. So between my schooling (including the anthropology class I took at university) and the documentaries I've watched, there wasn't a whole lot I learned from this book, except from some biology stuff which, quite frankly, still went over my head. I think I'm a little bit out of the target audience for this book. But regardless, my husband and I both found it interesting. It is well pieced together, and covered a much broader range than I expected. It's a great read for people who are taught creation at school (what?! but that's a heated debate for another time), as well as for people who are just curious about the world around them. It's probably not a book I'll buy and ever read again, since there was little new I learned about it, but it definitely captivated my attention for the whole of the 8 CDs in the audiobook (except for, ok, the microbiology stuff, where I kind of zoned out a little at all the big words).
14 May 2015
Rating: 1.5 / 5 stars
Royally Lost is a cliche filled young adult romance that has little uniqueness and holds little interest. Both Becca and Dylan and self centered and disinterested in anything that has to do with their father, who apparently checked out of parental roles for the most part when their mother died, and their new step mommy that they both seem to hate with a passion. Their parents, by the way, might just be the most irresponsible set of guardians I have read in a long, long time. Dylan spends the trip running from one free beer to the next, or sneaking out to meet new friends at parties to do shots.
Becca is no better, quickly falling in with the young Nikolai, who happens to be an European prince who is also self centered. Nikolai, who is expected to join the military as the crown prince of his kingdom, runs away from home because he doesn't like the fact that he never has any freedom and isn't allowed to make decisions about his own life. Nikolai spots Becca and Dylan at port on one of their stops along their riverboat tour. These coincidental run ins become habit at each port, and the romance blooms extremely quickly between Becca and Nikolai to the point where he start stalking her and her boat at every port every day.
I'm all for the Cinderella story of a royal prince falling for a common girl, but Stanton's story is just laughable. The characters are all one dimensional and unlikable. The romance between Nikolai and Becca happens so quickly that it doesn't feel possible for it to be legitimate. Stanton's prose isn't able to carry to novel, either, as it is light and typical of a subpar young adult novel. Even some of the phrases that Becca uses as so out of character for a teenager starting college in a few weeks that it's actually laughable, and the vast majority of the dialogue between the three teenagers doesn't feel like anything I would ever hear in real life.
Royally Lost feels a lot like The Prince and Me, but without any of Julia Stiles's charm. And even she couldn't carry the movie the entire time. With lackluster characters, Royally Lost has no lifeline to cling to, and falls completely flat on its face. For readers who are only looking for a light YA romance for a summer beach read, this book might have a little promise. But Royally Lost was royally lost on me.
12 May 2015
Series: The Kanin Chronicles #2
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
It's really hard for me to decide if I think Amanda Hocking is actually a talented writer or not. When I first read the Trylle series, I enjoyed it. Sure, the prose isn't majestic or awe inspiring, but the story is unique and the characters likable enough. But it feels like with each new series she starts, she gets further and further away from the things I liked about the Trylle, and her writing seems to center on the things that bug me.
So let's start with a little list of what I like and what I don't like about this second installment in the Kanin Chronciles.
What I Like:
- the world/environment Hocking creates
- the mystery at the heart of the plot
What I Don't Like:
- the juvenile prose
- the immature romances/hot-cold switches in an instant
- the Skojare queen (she is rather annoying)
- the Skojare prince (my initial impression of him is that he feels like a carbon copy from the Trylle trilogy... just take a guess at who I mean)
- the lack of real development in the plot/execution of the plot; though it progresses, it is extremely choppy. The prose is really missing an eloquent flow to make a well written novel.
And what is it with Amanda Hocking's female main characters and their eagerness to bang their love interests so easily? I didn't see it as a problem in the Trylle series, but definitely had the same issue with the Watersong series, which I was definitely not a fan of. And now we're here in the Kanin Chronicles, and I'm facing the same irritation. These characters haven't built any kind of relationship (besides having the narrator claim they have these forbidden feelings, which I really don't feel in the story), have only kissed twice, and spent the remainder of the time fighting with each other. But then she invites him into her bed quickly, effortlessly, and without a word. What? Have some self respect, my girl! It feels as if Hocking foregoes the plot just in order to get to the "juicy stuff", and even that is so cliche and weakly written that it's practically laughable. Their relationship is so bipolarly hot-cold with the snap of fingers that it's hard to find realistic at all. And their emotions/feelings change so quickly and dramatically, it's hard to believe they have any kind of any true feelings for each other. Plus, thanks to Hocking's writing, I don't even feel any chemistry between them at all.
I also face irritation with Bryn's narrative. It feels so weak at points, like it is written as a tween trying to act as a teenager instead of an adult trying to write as a teenager. I come back to the same conclusion I have had with a lot of Hocking's novels: that she has some rather unique ideas and plots, but her writing can definitely be weak, which can turn a promising plot into a flop of a novel. I'm sure I'll read the next installment, since she is banging out this entire trilogy in less than a year and it's slated for a few months from now, but it's not a series I am going to add to my collection unless she completely blows me away with Crystal Kingdom.
11 May 2015
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
I haven't read After Eden in quite some time, so I will a little lost in the beginning. But honestly, it doesn't seem to really take anything away from the story not remembering the predecessor. Ryan returns to the past/Eden's present after returning to his time at the end of the first novel. He is determined to try to save Eden's life when a cleaner from the future comes back and kills her.
But Ryan's interference to save her life comes at a cost. When he does manage to save Eden, and returns to the future with her in toe, he is taken in for breaking the law. This second novel in the duology follows the fall out of Ryan's decision, and is, for the most part, kind of a snooze feast.
For one thing, the future one hundred years from now hardly seems to have changed much. The vocabulary remains the same, which I find hard to imagine. And even though they have developed time travel and FTL drives, every day life seems mostly unchanged. Considering how much has changed in the last one hundred years up until now, I find this very hard to believe as well. Thus, the futuristic setting is little more than a backdrop for Douglas, which seems like such a waste.
Then there is the plot itself. While, if I recall correctly, I wasn't all that impressed with Eden's and Ryan's romance in the first novel, this novel feels even more dry. Eden spends her time "acclimating" by hanging out with Ryan's friends, having parties on yachts, and getting rather coozy with not one but two other guys. All the while, Ryan is locked up awaiting trial. The only part of the novel that really grabs my attention is the last little bit, and even then the plot feels like it's tossed together at the last minute, and the resolution feels highly improbable.
I love me a good final frontier/space opera novel, but this series simply does not deliver. It is more geared towards readers looking for a romance story with a bit of a twist.
09 May 2015
Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars
In a young adult genre so full of trilogies and series, it's hard to find a decent stand alone novel. It's even more difficult to find a decent one that isn't contemporary literature. But Rook is a breath of fresh air in an often stagnant, overpopulated genre.
First, we have our main character, Sophia Bellamy. She isn't content with the hand that fate has dealt her. She isn't satisfied with the father who mentally checked out when her mother passed away. And she refuses to sit idolly by while hundreds, if not thousands, of citizens are killed as a vicious ruler sets to overthrow the powers that be, along with his zealot right hand man.
Sophia, along with her brother and her dear friend, Spear, lead a rag tag band of rebels as they work to rid the tunnels of the poor souls set to die at the slice of a blade. She does it out of compassion, but she also has another, more interesting, motive as well. Sophia lives for the adventure, the excitement, the adrenaline rush of the daring cause. She can't imagine her life without it. And so, Cameron introduces us to a strong, independent, and determined young lady that is a sight to see compared to her rival female main characters in her genre.
Since this is a young adult novel we are talking about, it does have its share of romance and even a dash of a love triangle for good measure. But instead of letting the romance be the plot, the romance is only one aspect of a very intricate, thoroughly detailed plot. Even the romance added to the uncertainty readers feel as they make their way through this novel. Who is Rene Hasard? Is he the womanizing, air brained man on display at their engagement part? Or is the clever, reserved, hidden man she plays chess with? The entire novel is a game of cat and mouse, or more precisely cat and cat, between the two characters while readers try to ascertain Hasard's true motives. Even Spear has hidden secrets that unravel in this story where every character's motives and true intentions come under scrutiny.
Rook is a well developed, well written, and well executed tale. It grabs the reader's attention from the start, and holds it all the way through the conclusion. And in a genre full of never ending, dragged out series, it's a well concluded novel checking in at 464 pages. It is certainly a book I will be adding to my personal collection to read again.
07 May 2015
Series: The Selection #4
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
I really do seem to have a love/hate relationship with Kiera Cass. She has little flashes of "brilliance" where I can tell that her brain is capable of pulling together a sound plot with parts where you are so invested in the characters. But then she goes and continues this series, instead of leaving well enough alone. And, as if to spit in our faces, she throws Eadlyn at us.
I though America was a bit self-centered and selfish and whiny when we followed her through her entire Selection ordeal. But Eadlyn, her daughter, takes the cake. Eadlyn is definitely her mother's daughter. She has this wonderful opportunity before her, but all she can see are the negatives and why it would be terrible. Cass wants to make her seem strong and independent, but she readily admits she likes having decadent desserts flown in just because, and spends a lot of time worrying about accessories for her outfits. It seems the only way Cass knows how to write a "strong and independent" female character is to make her a complete bitch that no one in their right mind would like at and say "hey, this is a great role model for young ladies". And I think the worst part is that, time and time again, Cass seems to acknowledge this in the story. I just don't see why she has to write such annoying female narrators.
The worst part about The Heir is that nothing in this novel feels original at all, and I am deeply offended that Cass and her publishers decided to basically rewrite the same story and then sell it to us as another trilogy it seems. The first similarity I see is the absurd names. Eadlyn. Ahren. Kile. Osten. Just to name a few. Seems like she insists on taking names used today and spell them in a funny way and expect us not to notice?
Eadlyn has her mother's personality and her father's position of having to do a Selection without wanting it. Kile has America's role from the first novel, even down to not wanting to enter the Selection himself, and then ending up basically being the confidant she chooses because he doesn't want to be there and thus is seen as a safe choice. She even models some of her choices after her parents, such as axing a large portion of the group on the first day because her father did it as well. It's rather infuriating, having Cass trying to literally sell me the same exact story again. I know history repeats itself, but Christ on rice. If I believe correctly, even the architecture that Kile is into is a stolen trait from Maxon from the first novel. And, as if that isn't enough examples, even the unrest in the kingdom/country is the same! Like I said, completely infuriating! The "pop quiz" is like the project America had to do where she shocked everyone with wanting to do away with the caste system. The group date reminded me of the birthday party in the original trilogy. Kile is like Maxon and Erik is like the guard.
The Heir isn't a complete suck fest, however. It has a few redeemable moments (the baseball game to name one was pretty sweet). And let's be honest, I'll probably read the next installment as well (though I won't be buying any more of these books). But Cass is definitely just milking the cash cow at this point, and it feels as if she isn't even trying. Especially by giving us a main character who is self-centered, selfish, and above it all.
05 May 2015
Series: The Girl at Midnight #1
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
The Girl at Midnight follows a rather cliche outline for a YA fantasy novel, including all the normal aspects you would expect to find (yes, even the love triangle). It feels a lot like a Cassandra Clare novel, even to the point of the dumbed down prose that feels like it goes too far at certain parts, making the dialogue or sentences almost eye roll worthy.
It's even hard to get into in the beginning, as it is a vastly unique and new world, and it feels as if we are thrown right into the middle of it without warning or much background. But the characters, the plot behind the war, and the world itself slowly combine to create a rather intriguing tale, even if the story still leaves a lot to be desired. It's not a series I will likely add to my private library, but it's interesting enough to hold my attention.
I do wish our main character, Echo, would be more engaging. While she isn't a damsel in distress type of main character, she's still rather one dimensional and hard to relate to. And while there are a few twists and turns to the story to keep the readers guessing, the "twist" at the ending I could see coming for the majority of the story.
Even with all its flaws, it's a good book to read while you're waiting for your next must read new release of the year. I'll likely pick up the next book in the series as well, but I do hope that Grey will find a way to add some more back story to the tale. This first installment is really missing that, which is why I felt so at a loss at the beginning, and while I think it was difficult for me to get sucked into the story at the beginning.
03 May 2015
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
I will be the first to admit that I am out of the target audience for this novel, and that might be precisely why I didn't enjoy it. I have nothing against the plot, save the fact that I am pretty sure it is just a mash up youth novels I have read in the past. I realize now after the fact that this novel is inspired by The Snow Queen and, rather ironically, that isn't even one of the novels I've read.
The story itself is rather slow as well, and I find it hard to connect with Hazel, our main character. I do not particularly like the way Ursu brings the fantastical world into the story and blends it with the real world. It isn't that it's difficult to follow, but it feels raw and dry, devoid of any possible realism, unlike the other stories that this novel reminds me of.
I think the target audience can enjoy this novel. After all, Hazel has a fantastical adventure as she tries to seek redemption and find her lost friend, Jack. But for me, the story feels a bit emotionless and even fell on the boring side, where I ended up speed reading through the majority of the second half.