29 February 2016

Bluescreen

Author: Dan Wells
Series: Mirador #1
Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

After the Partials series, Wells pretty much guaranteed I would give a shot to anything and everything else he writes.  I've been anticipating Bluescreen for a few months now, and it did not disappoint.

LA in 2050 is exactly what you would probably expect it to be (although, to be honest, by 2050 I would expect LA to be a wasteland due to a water crisis, but there are always technology advances that might remedy it).  Technology is key, and everyone is plugged into their devices.  Not only do smart devices reign supreme, but now they are chipped into people's brains so that you can be plugged in 24/7.

It's a scary world, and yet it is coming.  People are obsessed with social media and tweeting and checking in when they go out to eat and then taking pictures of their food or their outfits or a selfie with their dates.  The world that Wells creates feels not only possible but probable.  And the resulting issues that arise - such as the power of Bluescreen - are terrifying because I can see them happening at some point.

The plot is great.  It is fast paced with a lot of moving parts that come together well.  Romance is minimal (though the small spattering of it could have been hinted at a bit better; it feels a bit forced and disjointed when shoved into the plot), and you have a strong female lead in Marisa, who is imperfect but tries her best.  I love the parts of the novel that look into her family life and how she's a role model for her younger sister, since she is effectively the oldest child.  Mari is a great example of what I hope to see as a strong female lead in YA - though she skips school, she is intelligent.  And while she, like everyone else, is plugged in, she sees the dangers and pulls herself out.  She's protective of her family, and she tries to look out for her younger siblings, even when they annoy her.

A few parts are somewhat predictable (such as the identity of Lal) and another few are somewhat annoying (such as the tease about the accident when she was young right at the very end), but on the whole I really enjoyed Bluescreen.  This is definitely a series I will be continuing and adding to my personal connection.  This series is everything that I thought The Mortality Doctrine series should/could have been.

28 February 2016

Silver Shadows

Author: Richelle Mead
Series: Bloodlines #5
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

I don't want to go as far as to say that this series is turning into a train wreck, but we are definitely losing steam and I'm getting less and less interested in the plot.

The last novel left off with such potential for a fast paced, action packed adventure of Sydney stuck in re-education after her sister turned her over to the Alchemists for the less than professional texts found on Adrian's burner phone.  After the state re-education left Keith in, I thought this novel would be jam packed with twisted, messy, hard to read details of Sydney's torture while trying to purge her mind, and Adrian's tireless efforts to find and save her.

Instead, we get Silver Shadows.  While the conditioning training Sydney has to bear by being made physically sick while watching happy Moroi is a little messed up, it is nothing compared to what I was expected, nothing that would have turned Keith to the jell-o puddle he became.  And Adrian?  For all the mushy, sappy love interest Mead have shoved between him and Sydney, he's kind of a dick in this one for a good portion there.  After a while of being unsuccessful in finding her, he gives up and reverts back to getting drunk and partying all the time at Court.  Ahhhh, nothing like true love.

The plot for Silver Shadows is just not engaging.  Even when Sydney finally starts trying to throw together a means for escape, it hardly peaks my interest.  The elements to the underlying plots that have carried this series this far are pretty much nonexistent in this one, and I spend the entire novel waiting for something to happen, when nothing really does.  And the one thing that does happen?  The decision Adrian makes to try to save/protect Sydney?  It's so poorly written/planned by Mead that it just feels disjointed from everything else going on, like a final Hail Mary pass.  I tried to invest in this one, I really did, but it just doesn't make the cut.

21 February 2016

The Titan's Curse

Author: Rick Riordan
Series: Percy Jackson & the Olympians #3
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

This is definitely a series geared toward middle grade kids.  While it carries over a lot of the action and adventure for older readers, I think a lot of the humor gets lost in the pages for readers such as myself.  There are still a few funny parts, but by and large the plot it the biggest factor for me.  Still, I can definitely see the charm for younger readers and it's probably a series I'll read to my kid someday.

I think the biggest issue I struggle with is the dialogue and the language.  I understand that Riordan dumbs it down for 10 to 15-year-olds, but some of it is just cringe worthy at times.  And with everything being dumbed down, I think it pulls a lot of the emotional connection away from the story (for example, when a character dies or disappears, it's hard for me to even care because I don't feel the character's own agony through the writing).

These novels certainly aren't deep, but they are entertaining.  I don't see the connection between Percy and Annabeth that is apparently supposed to be there (and Annabeth's obsession with Luke is just plain weird), but I Grover is always charming.  Some of the newer characters I can stand to live without - the Hunters, for example - but the story has enough go to keep me entertained.  I just wish these parents would be a little less negligent!  Although, I guess if that were the case, they wouldn't have demigod children to begin, sooo....

Inherit the Stars

Author: Tessa Elwood
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

The first half of this novel, I'm not impressed with much at all.  The second half, however, actually grows on me a little.  While I have some serious qualms with the plot - take, for instance, the fact that the one story arc I actually care about, Wren, isn't resolved to my liking - there is a fair amount of fast paced excitement in the latter section of this novel.  There is even one scene that is so visceral and well written that it had me cringing so hard I could barely make out the words through my eyelids.

I will even admit, the story between Asa and Eagle even grows on me there in the final pages of the novel.  In the beginning, it feels like just another played out young adult romance of two people thrown together who perhaps resent each other a bit for it.  And honestly, for the vast majority of the novel, I cannot care less about the relationship between them.  But they band together when it is needed, and Elwood does a good job of making their progression together seem viable.  There isn't one precise moment where she just flips the switch between them from hate to love or vice versa.  It's seems to develop naturally based on the circumstances surrounding them.

Unfortunately, the plot it is a bit of a jumbled mess.  In the beginning, Elwood throws you right into the thick of things.  In well-developed cases, I almost prefer this method of storytelling, as it keeps me invested while I try to piece together the different aspects of the world.  The worst thing an author can do in info dump all at the beginning.  Inherit the Stars, however, never pulls all the pieces together enough.  I'm still confused about how the House system works, especially since it seems different in each solar system.  I am also still completely lost on the aspect of bloodchips/the medchips in general.  How they work, why they were created, who gets to have them and why.  The whole thing is just a puzzled mess in my head.  Also, the Blight.  A vague mentioning on Asa's behalf seems to indicate what caused it, but if I read into that correctly, it seems crazy it could have been the whole cause.

Then there are all the different twists and turns this story takes.  It starts off being about how Asa is trying to save her sister Wren, who is unconscious, and Asa blames herself for that.  This initial plot point I actually really like.  And yet, it's thrown onto the back burner almost immediately.  Thinking it is the only way to save Wren's life (AKA to stop her family from pulling the plug on Wren's life support), Asa sneakily takes her sister's place in a blood bond to another House, a relationship that was set up to help aid one system that needs fuel and another that needs food.  The plot really seems to fall off the rails here, and it just gets further and further away from the original point that grasped me in the first place.

And Asa's character herself.  I cannot count how many times she says 'I am Fane' and Fane do not cry, etc. etc. etc.  And yet, for a good portion of the novel, she cannot seem to quit bursting into tears.  It really grates on my nerves, and starts me off on a bad foot with her character.  She's never really able to recuperate after that in my mind.

While Elwood makes descent strides towards the end of the novel to pick it up by its bootstraps, I don't think she quite accomplishes it.  Though the ending is unexpected but also rather fitting and has me smiling a half grin, I still don't think Elwood quite manages to pull this one off.

18 February 2016

Glass Sword

Author: Victoria Aveyard
Series: Red Queen #2
Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars rating
Verdict: Buy

HOLY CRACKERJACKS.  What... the... what?  Dang.

It's hard to even process and try to figure out where to begin with this one.  Mare is such a BA heroine because she is so inherently flawed that at times throughout the book, you aren't quite sure if you should be rooting for her or not.  She is complex, and darker than most female young adult narrators.  Take for instance the main character of Throne of Glass, since I'm currently reading through that series as well.  While that character is a supposed assassin, she seems kind of... pathetic? most of the time.  Perhaps pathetic isn't the precisely correct word, but you catch my drift.

But Mare?  Dang.  She has that level of rage that takes over and explodes, quite literally takes to her powers of manipulating lightning.  And she isn't always in control of her thoughts and actions, which is why even her friends and brother are sometimes worried/scared of her.  Aveyard does an amazing job with Mare's character development, especially which her dysfunctional feelings towards Maven (again, perhaps one of the only young adult love triangles I've actually been able to invest in because they are all just so messed up).

And the plot.  It seems maybe a little slow as first, and there is a lot of travel as they move about the kingdom trying to save and recruit Newbloods, but it is a steady ramp up and by the end it is hard to put the book down.  There are a few spots that hit suddenly and slow the pace, but it's because they are shocking and you are unprepared, as are the characters themselves.  It's full of deceit and half truths, and none stop action.  And while Mare is far from perfect, and she isn't quite the perfect character either, she's pretty impressive, as is this entire novel.  The ending was a little weird, and I'm not in love with the set up for the next novel, but it definitely offers a lot of promise for dark, angry, vengeful things to come.

The Fiery Heart

Author: Richelle Mead
Series: Bloodlines #4
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

The sudden introduction of a second narrator halfway through this series certain threw me for a spin.  In the young adult genre these days, the introduction of a second narrator during a series typically spells the death of the first narrator.  And while I'm not too worried about Mead killing Sydney off, at the conclusion of the novel I can see why she did it, and I am not 100% entirely off course.

This installment in the Bloodline series is definitely for the romantically inclined.  There is so much dialogue and internal thought relating to the relationship between Sydney and Adrian that it oftentimes makes me want to roll my eyes and simultaneously barf.  A lot of it is so cliche and just fells forced, like the relationship hasn't quiet had enough time to develop into the feelings our narrators - Sydney and Adrian - are now professing constantly 24/7.

While I can see how Sydney and Adrian as well suited for each other and how their relationship is paramount for her character development, I am not a big fan of how heavily their romance plays into the plot of this novel.  The plot is very heavily centered on their romance, and it becomes a bit tiresome.  I think the relationship between Sydney and her sister, Zoe, is far more interesting as well as Sydney's relationship with her father, but they don't have nearly enough face time in this story, even though it seems like they are going to be playing major factors in the next installment.  So the plot for The Fiery Heart could have been much better, but then again, from the title, what was I really expecting?

The ending of this novel sets up for an interesting follow up, and I definitely think I'll like the next installment better.  I do like the progression of Sydney's work to try to distance herself and even protect herself from the Alchemists in this novel, and there is even an interesting scene where Sydney has to face one of her biggest nightmares - Moroi who are actually interested in forcibly drinking her blood.  I think Mead could have done a little more of an in depth character study with Sydney at that crossroads, but I'm glad it at least made the book and she has to face the reality that while she loves Adrian, he is - after all - a vampire.

I also like the character study we get with Adrian in this installment, and how we get to see first hand how the spirit affects him.  As someone who suffers my own mood swings at times, I can relate on a level to some of the things he goes through, and how important it is to find someone and some hobbies to help keep you centered.

16 February 2016

Seriously... I'm Kidding

Author: Ellen Degeneres
Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

This book is friggin hysterical.  There is no other word for it.  H-y-s-t-e-r-i-c-a-l I tell you.  I actually laughed aloud, slightly bent over at the waist at the steering wheel during a red light funny.  The worst part of this audiobook?  It's too short.  It didn't even last me a week.  But it's humorous enough that I'm sure I'll listen to it again.  I might even buy a copy of the actual book for my coffee table.

I've listened to a lot of audiobooks by comedians lately, and this is by far the funniest of the lot so far.  And it's the most relatable of them as well to date.  Ellen's book goes off on such random tangents (like the part where she's sitting on the beach) that sound exactly like my brain's dysfunctional pathways to nowhere.  It's like she's my long lost, much older twin.

The key is, don't take this book seriously.  I'm not kidding.  More than half of the stuff in this novel is most likely, probably a lie.  But nonetheless, it's funny.  FUNNY, I tell you.  So get the audiobook and listen to it.  Just don't send Ellen a picture of you listening to it in your bathtub... unless you have a view of Colorado out your open bathroom window.  Then it would probably be okay.  And thank God they finally got her not so subtle hint about the Finding Nemo sequel that is coming out later this year.

11 February 2016

Room

Author: Emma Donoghue
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

I have got to stop reading depressing books.  I have a tendency to get too involved and take it to heart and it wrecks me.  Room just finished doing that to me.

I'm sure if you've heard of the book/movie by now, then you know the plot, so I'm not even going to attempt to summarize it for you.  I will say that the book is told in the POV of Jack, who has just turned five years old.  I think this is both a strength and a weakness to the plot.  On one hand, in the second half of the book it opens it up to chaos and discovery and anarchy, which only makes the book better.  On the other hand, I think it takes away a bit of the empathy.  Since Jack doesn't understand what's going on a lot of the time, he isn't too worried or scared.  So even though I know this terrible thing is happening, since he isn't emotionally invested a lot of the time, I'm not either.  And his almost clinical descriptions of Ma's struggle lack understanding, so I even fail to emphasize with her a lot as well.

Also, his vocabulary.  I know Donoghue points on it that he can spell V-O-L-C-A-N-O with his cereal and why, but it just seems so inconsistent to me, how he can go from saying the plural of hippopotamus (which I don't even know) to Room and Duvet and Rug, etc. etc.  I think that takes a little bit of the realism away from the story for me.

Oh, and the music videos.  That little detail there really got me.  As someone who lives with a cheapo antennae and no cable, I can tell you with certainty that none of the three broadcast channels they are picking up in Room is going to be playing any rap videos at all.  In fact, a lot of the shows he watches on TV don't seem realistic.  And I realize I'm nitpicking, but it's these few small details that really keep me from immersing myself completely into the story.

The rest though?  It's good.  So good.  I still teared up a few times, and the ending is perfect.  And while Ma ends up being a little selfish and a little annoying, it's to be expected.  I certainly don't blame her.  And she has some memorable lines that I'll take with me out of this book and that will live on.

Oh man.  I think I need some ice cream and a stupid comedy to bring myself down after this one.

10 February 2016

Someday, Someday, Maybe

Author: Lauren Graham
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I will start by saying if I had read the actual book instead of listening to the audiobook, I probably wouldn’t have finished it.  For one, while it is a general fiction, there is still a dose of romance in it (and a love triangle at that).  Secondly, it revolves around the world of trying to be an actress, which is also something that is not a particular interest to me.

Still, I’m currently rewatching Gilmore Girls and I’m working on the last two seasons of Parenthood, so Lauren Graham has been on my mind recently.  When I found out she’d written a book and that she reads it for the audiobook, I decided to give it a go from my local library.

Lauren Graham reading the novel is the primary reason I stayed vested in it. She has such a unique voice, and it almost felt like Lorelai Gilmore reading to me for a month of commuting.  On point to the actual story, it’s okay.  And really, just okay.  Nothing particularly stands out.  Franny is likable enough, but she isn’t a gripping character, so to say.  Without an extensive amount of humor, this novel seems to just float along in a realistic fiction realm.

While I can relate to some of the choices Franny makes, and some of the situations she finds herself in, again the plot itself isn’t wholly original and spins an ordinary tale in the world of entertainment.  The romance is also a little cliché, as Franny and Dan concede at one point in the novel when Franny goes to see a movie and complains that the love triangle isn’t realistic at all, and Dan points out that it seems the same as the situation she is currently in.  I have to laugh aloud at that point, since it makes the point for me that, when you get down to it, this novel isn’t wholly original, love triangle included.

If anything, I would suggest the audiobook for your mindless daily commute.  But I wouldn’t bother with picking up this novel to read.  Now give us the last four episode/movies of Gilmore Girls please =)

09 February 2016

Heir of Fire

Author: Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass #3
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I keep thinking I'm going to pick up the next novel in this series and be blown completely away, but it just hasn't happened yet.  Heir of Fire suffers from the same follies as its predecessor.

For one, Heir of Fire feels farrrrr too long.  It almost became a chore trying to get through the entirety of the novel.  Though the plot surrounding Celaena finally picks up in the last quarter of the novel, the rest of the novel seems to flounder at a slow pace.

The addition of new characters doesn't help my interest either.  The story arcs split and multiple, and for some of the characters I'm still not entirely sure what their importance to the story really is (AKA the Thirteen with the dragon type things that are having the competition throughout the novel).  And for the characters we already know from the previous two novels, I'm still not really vested in them either.  Dorian and Chaol stall out in their story arcs, and Celaena's new friend in Rowan doesn't really seem to mesh either.  A lot of the points feel forced, and yet there are a few parts in the novel that actually grabbed my attention and were a bit exciting.  Others I seem to have glossed over and am not sure how they fit into the story.

I don't know if I'm just missing a key or what, but I still can't really get into this series, no matter how hard I try.  I'll give the series one more shot with the next novel since I'm already on the waiting list at the library, but at this point I'm not that optimistic.

07 February 2016

The Indigo Spell

Author: Richelle Mead
Series: Bloodlines #3
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Oh Sydney, what am I going to do with you?  This series is a prime example of when a third person narrative would be better suited to the characters that the first person.  Because even though I like Sydney's main characteristics - smart, organized, caring - her main thoughts in this novel - counting her calories and obsessing over kissing Adrian - drive me up the friggin walls.

She's not the only character, either.  Angeline is annoying as well.  And while Jill finally starts to grow on me a little near the end of the novel, for the majority of it she is a difficult character to swallow too.  Even Adrian, thanks to his interactions with Sydney, is a bit too much to handle at times.

If you can get past the parts of Sydney's dialogue that are incessantly annoying, then I actually like the plot of this novel, even though it's a bit jumbled in the different story arcs coinciding.  With the Marcus plot, plus Mrs. T's sister and magic plot, and then of course the will-they-won't-they-but-God-please-let-them-stop-talking-about-it plot with her and Adrian, there is a lot going on.  Still, Mead does a pretty good job of balancing it all out and giving equal parts attention to everything happening in this novel so that none of the plots feel dropped along the way.

I'm still struggling a bit with Sydney's character - for example, how she so easily gets roped into practicing magic with Mrs. T even though she claims it is so unnatural and goes against everything she believes for her to work it.  And, her relationship with Adrian - how she keeps telling herself that nothing can happen with him since he's a vampire, and yet she finds every single excuse to hang out with him even more.  It's a big off putting since she's the main character, but I'm still hoping she's going to grow on me as the series continues.  It does feel like the plot is getting better and is less focused on all the different love relationships/dramas and more on the supernatural aspects of the world.

03 February 2016

The Golden Lily

Author: Richelle Mead
Series: Bloodlines #2
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Sydney and the gang are back and... still pretending to be in high school.  Ok, so right off the bat there are a few plot lines in this novel that still don't make much sense to me, so let's just get them out of the way first.

1.) Jill's modeling career: you would think that a gal like Jill would have enough common sense to realize that being plastered in magazines is not the smartest move when more than one large group of people is out to kill you to denounce your family's claim of ruling power.  Jill, however, can't seem to get that through her thick skull (which is one of the reasons she still kind of irritates me as a character).  But it's been a while since I was a teenager, so maybe that's just how they act?  Young, restless, out for themselves instead of personal survival?

2.) Angeline: what is the point of her character, except to annoy us further?  Granted, she has some character development throughout the novel, but it doesn't feel organic in anyway.  It feels more like she pulls a one way Mr. Hyde - Dr. Jekyll than anything else, suddenly becoming smart and developing common sense.  Oh, and the love triangle brewing between her, Eddie, and Jill?  That just feels superfluous at best.  None of these secondary characters have charmed there way into my cranky heart yet.  But here's to hoping, the series is still young.

3.) The whole point of Sydney being there: I still don't get it!  I know she's supposed to be protecting Jill until they Moroi can get the law passed that the bloodline only needs one member to rule, but Sydney is around Jill even less in this novel than in the first.  In fact, Sydney hardly ever seems to be around Jill.  And perhaps that was the point of the introduction of Angeline's character: to shove Jill's storyline aside to make room for the arrival of Dimitri and Sonya and there project of testing blood of spirit uses and how it might help bring out the Strigoi (and thus giving Sydney ample excuses to be hanging out with Adrian).  But back to the point on hand, I still don't see the Alchemist point of helping protect the vampires that they think so natural and that they, indeed, loathe the very existance of.

The Golden Lily, like Bloodlines before it, has a very slow evolving plot.  This series is definitely centered around the romance between the characters (the Jill-Eddie-Angeline love triangle, and now the Adrian-Sydney-Braydon one as well - don't even get me started on Trey and Braydon), so there are large sections of this plot that still to almost stall out since most of these characters are not very engaging.  I will say, however, that the dynamic between Adrian and Sydney is quite interesting because it poses the moral dilemma Sydney is struggling with throughout this series - how can she be so friendly with someone of the species she is supposed to despise?

The Golden Lily almost feels like a bridging novel.  There are definitely traces of ongoing plots that Mead is setting up for further down the road: The Keepers, the Warriors of Light, and the magic Sydney is learning with Mrs. T.  And while we do have a plot that is maintained during this novel, it wasn't the most interesting of ones.  This one really needs the characters to pull it through and I think it succeeded, but just barely.  But I'm certainly looking forward to the next installment to see where Mead is taking the series.  And here to hoping that Sydney continues to become more likable and relatable (hey, she ate sugar in this novel.  SUGAR!!!).