30 March 2016

Queen of Shadows

Author: Sarah J. Maas
Series: Throne of Glass #4
Rating: 1 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

I tried.  I really, really did.  I kept at this series, hoping upon all hopes that it would finally suck me in.  And there were some parts of Heir of Fire that held my interest, so I really thought that Queen of Shadows was going to be the one.

But I just can't anymore.  The jig is up, as they say.  I've had this book out from the library for about three months now, and I've been trying to trudge through it for well over a month.  I hate to throw in the towel and call myself a quitter, but this one is serious torture and I'm not that much of a masochist.  It's sooo long and it's sooo boring and there isn't a single character that I like much at all.  The plot is kind of everywhere, pulled in far too many directions by so many different groups in different parts of this vast world.  It is a Game of Thrones for YA readers?  I don't know, because I didn't get more than 20 pages into Game of Thrones either.  But at this point, I'm just done with the whole Throne of Glass series.  The optimism has worn off, and I'm going to take it at face value - it's boring and not worth my time.  Sorry, Maas, but kudos on the rise to fame.  You can definitely consider me jealous of that.

29 March 2016

Gregor the Overlander

Author: Suzanne Collins
Series: Underland Chronicles #1
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Due to my obsession with the Hunger Games, it is pretty much a guarantee that I am going to read everything Suzanne Collins writes.  So when I discovered that prior to the Games she'd written a middle grade series that sounds a bit like Narnia, well heck yes I'm going to check that out.

Gregor the Overlander is definitely focused towards younger kids.  I tried to keep that in mind as I read it, but I think there are a few aspects in here that I didn't enjoy as much in my older age as I would have as a kid.  For example, all the talking animals.  Talking bats and spiders and the kind would have scared the poo out of me as a kid.  Now, I read it with a bit of indifference.

Also, while Gregor's little sister - Boots - is probably very charming and offers a lot of entertainment and maybe even a little comic relief for younger fan, I think she loses a little charm with age.  Not that she isn't completely adorable, because she is.  Just more along the lines of her broken/still developing English can get a little tiresome after a while.

Gregor's relationship with his father is uber sweet, and it one of the main story arcs in the novel as Gregor and Boots try to survive in the Underland they suddenly find themselves in after being sucked into an air vent in the laundry room of their apartment building.  Once they meet the humans who live in the Underland and hear about the prophecy told by one of the original settlers, this prophecy takes center stage, but the mysterious disappearance of Gregor's father still plays a factor throughout the novel.

There is a lot of action, some suspense, and even - gasp - sabotage!  I will admit I read this novel will a bit distracted with other things, but it's still an entertaining and quick read, and it's a series I'm interested in continuing.  It's even a bit like How to Train Your Dragon, if you swap out dragons with big bats.  And I definitely found it more entertaining than the majority of the Narnia novels.  So I have hopes for the remainder of the series.

27 March 2016

Towering

Author: Alex Flinn
Rating: 1.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

Ugh.  I could tell almost from the very beginning that this story was going to be wholly unremarkable.  The writing the flimsy, the characters are underdeveloped to a fault, and the mystery at the heart of the plot just isn't that interesting.  I can buy into the golden hair growing supernaturally fast.  And I can even stomach the healing tears since I did see Tangled.  But the voice than can be heard from miles and miles away?  And the apparent ghost in this story that's haunting the house?  Now, come on, that's too much for even me to suspend reality for this fracture fairy tale retelling.

There's just nothing going for this story.  Wyatt is a snooze, Rachel is a naive bore, and Danielle's story isn't very gripping.  The romance between Wyatt and Rachel isn't organic in the slightest and is laughable once they "develop" a "relationship".  The writing is weak, and dialogue a bit cliche and vapid.  The plot isn't original enough to make a mark of its own, and it isn't true enough to previous tellings of Rapunzel to have my undying devotion.  So in the end I'm simply left with a novel I have to power read through just so I could finish and take it back to the library.

I picked up this novel because I'm working on writing a Rapunzel retelling of my own.  And, frankly, because the cover looks awesome.  But looks are deceiving in this case, and I wish I'd taken the lackluster response on Goodreads as a sign and just avoided this one.

26 March 2016

Etiquette & Espionage

Author: Gail Carriger
Series: Finishing School #1
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Ahh, steampunk.  It has been a while.  And I have missed you so.  So glad we could embark on another journey together.  And a fun one at that.  While I don't quite think E&E is the steampunk version of Harry Potter, it is definitely fun.  There's a bit of sass, and Sophronia isn't near as polished as most of the legacy members of her "finishing school".

This book might suffer from a few too many elements.  Not only do we have steampunk and teenage assassins in training, but we have betrayal and - as if those three aren't enough - we have werewolves and vampires to boot!  I could have lived with the paranormal/supernatural creatures.  I think the vampires and werewolves took my interest down a little.  But it's still a fun read.

We have air pilots!  Sophronia gets attacked while traveling and has to fend off air pirates.  How cool is that?  And her whole school in on a moving/floating/flying contraption.  Sophronia is a likable enough character, although I hope we dive more into her story as the series progresses.  I read this novel while multitasking a bit, so the plot didn't quite grip me, but that might have been of my own doing.  Still, it sets up a good premise, and it really makes me want to read Carriger's adult series set in the same world.  But first, I've got the rest of this series out from the library to power through.

24 March 2016

The Ask and the Answer

Author: Patrick Ness
Series: Chaos Walking #2
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

I wasn't that impressed with The Knife of Never Letting Go, but it was unique enough that I decided to give the sequel a shot.  After all, we have a bit of a civil war going on in this novel, so it left the possibility of the plot to really expand away from some of the attributes that bogged down the first novel and the opportunity for the series to really take off in the middle portion.

Unfortunately, the opposite seems to happen.  While it's nice that the POV splits between Todd and Viola in this novel - which saves us from Todd's rather obnoxious voice and poor grammar fifty percent of the time - it doesn't do much else other than that.  The novel is lengthy but not never complex, apart from a few fundamental ethical questions that arise for the characters - and that the character's don't handle well at all.

Todd buckles under the pressure of the command of the Mayor/President and does little to nothing to stand up for himself, all the while still trying to be mopey about Viola (I am the Circle and the Circle is Me or whatever that nonsense is).  Davy has a father complex and just wants to be the son that his father is hoping Todd will become.  He never really stands up for himself and is pretty much a whiny weasel the vast majority of the novel.  And Viola?  Well, she doesn't seem smart enough to think for herself and to figure out whom she should really trust and why.

To some, this novel may be character building and may give deep insight in what it means to be human and the struggle of the human condition.  To me, it's a merry-go-around where we revisit the same plot points over and over again, going back and forth in the plot between the Mayor/President, Todd, Viola and then the Ask and the Answer.  There isn't a single character this time around that I'm really rooting for, because none seem to show any gumption.  They are just act like puppets pulled by different puppeteers.  The only character I actually find rather interesting in the Speck with the number that a chapter is named after.  That part is actually kind of interesting.  The rest?  The civil war, the fantasical way of using The Noise to control people?  Just not my cup of tea this time around.

19 March 2016

Front Lines

Author: Michael Grant
Series: Soldier Girl #1
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Why do young adult authors think that you have to cram romance into every single YA novel?  This novel would have been so much more entertaining and fast paced if it wasn't so bogged down with all the relationship drama.  I'm much more interested in the friendship between Rio and Jenou than the love triangle (gag) between Rio and her two love interests.

There is one point in particular where I almost throw this book out the window a la Bradley Cooper in Silver Linings style.  It was on page 386 of the edition I read.  The squad is in the middle of a retreat after being shot at and chased down by tanks.  People are chucking 'nades everywhere, and they are marching God only knows into what.  Our heroine is in the lead I believe at this point.  And the narrator has the nerve to have her glance back to check on one of the guys and contemplate previous instances of romantic entanglement.  It INFURIATES me.  They are in the middle of war, probably shell-shocked beyond belief, and Grant is throwing in romance drama?  Give me a break!  It ruins the entire pace of the action sequence prior to this scene.

I'm not as big of a WWII buff as my husband is, so I'm not sure as to the accuracy of the events Grant describes, even if it is an alternate universe where women are drafted in the United States along with the men.  And the novel is definitely slow to start, which is a bummer since it is a hefty 544 pages.  But the characters have just enough gumption to keep me interested and the action definitely picks up in the second half of the novel.  The use of the term FUBAR is a bit excessive (though this may be accurate, as I've never served in the military myself.  But still), and some of the dialogue is definitely lacking.  But, considering I haven't found too many young adult war novels, I like it well enough.  There is nothing wholly special about any of the characters.  I'm certainly not going to be starting a feminist movement behind any of them, that's for sure, but they are just strong enough to carry the story.

Not sure if I'm going to read the next installment or not (Soldier Girl is a terrible name for the series BTW); I think it will depend on my mood when the sequel hits shelves.

18 March 2016

Into the Dim

Author: Janet B. Taylor
Series: Into the Dim #1
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

First off, whomever edited this novel needs to be fired immediately.  As in, right this moment.  Chop chop.  There are SO MANY missing or inverted quotation marks I gave up writing them in as I am prone to do and simply yelled aloud in frustration at the book.

Unfortunately, better editing is not going to fix this novel.  Unlike Timeline, I don't buy into the "science" behind the mechanisms that allow Hope and gang to time travel in this novel.  And, unlike Timeline, Into the Dim isn't all that interesting.  Hope is a bit annoying, with her photographic memory and her claustrophobia that don't seem to be wholly consistent throughout the novel.  None of the other characters stand out that well either.

The background of the Scottish highlands should be breaktaking, as should the backdrop of the time of the setting.  Instead, it hardly seems mentioning in this review.  The characters and plot are so free and loose and yet they absorb all the attention in the novel.  If you are interested in the characters, then I'm sure you can find something to enjoy about this novel - like the weak attempts at romance between these teen characters that should be mortal enemies but are not (like anyone didn't see the big reveal of Bran coming.  Please) or the "mystery" about Hope's mom.

This novel had potential, but it's yet another YA novel in the supersaturated genre with cliched and over used plot runs abound. I have no interest in the remainder of the series, just like I had little interest in this novel past the opening portion (did I mention the poor editing)?  A shame, but I guess I honestly didn't expect much from a novel about time traveling.  Very, very, very few authors can pull out that plot point in my opinion (go read Timeline!)

15 March 2016

Map of Fates

Author: Maggie Hall
Series: The Conspiracy of Us #2
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Like its predecessor, perhaps the most memorable part about this novel is the cover.  Hats off to the jacket cover designer.  It's beautiful, it really is.  And again, that dress!

As for the plot, the love triangle wreck in this novel gets deeper and deeper the further into it you get and becomes so annoying it's hard to deal with.  It isn't just that the way the love triangle plays out is utterly cliche, though it certainly is that.  It just feels so forced, and the fact that someone manages to keep it in their pants because their completely drunk really doesn't do much to improve their stock as a character.  The whole thing feels messy and pointless.

I think a little of the novelty of the story is starting to wear off.  There are a lot of characters, but none of them are very complex even if they are two faced.  And while there is still some jet setting around the world, the plot and settings seem to go around in circles almost.  During the first half of the novel, I didn't mind it as much.  During the second half, when it seems like a method to move along the love aspect, it becomes a bit irritating.

I just it's still okay, but that's probably the best thing I will say about it.  It's interesting enough to get me to the end.  And I did want to finish it, even if I'm not even that interested in following the clues and figuring out the riddles since it all seems counter intuitive anyway.  A decent enough book for a read on the beach or a sick day in bed, but I wouldn't go out of my way to make time for it.  Not sure if I'm going to continue with the series or not, but I guess we'll see.  I think people who enjoy love triangles will get a lot more out of this installment than I did.

08 March 2016

The Funny Thing Is...

Author: Ellen DeGeneres
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

One of my co-workers owns this book, so after I told her about listening to Ellen's other book, she gave this one to me to read.  She mentioned the parts about seeing a cat run across the street and waiting for the dog chasing it and having to wear Depends while exercising (neither of which, coincidentally, is in this book).

I have to say, I liked Ellen's later book, Seriously... I'm Kidding, better.  I believe, however, that I can probably chalk that up to the fact that I did the audiobook instead of the reading the book (and I NEVER say that sentence).  But with the audiobook, Ellen's unique voice and hilarious inflections take the cake.  It's like listening to an extended stand up routine.

Though I didn't enjoy The Funny Thing Is... as much as I did Seriously... I'm Kidding, that's not to say I didn't enjoy it.  It is full of humor and I still found myself laughing aloud more than once.  I am fully convinced that our brains are soulmates.  The tangents and thought process divergences that take place in the novel are the exact way my brain thinks (or at least tries to think).  I think my favorite part is the dinner party with Eminem and crew (and perhaps the bonus chapter with the bonus room).

If you can get the audiobook, snag it immediately.  If not, the book is still worth a read, and it won't take you long (even with the additional 5%).

06 March 2016

The Shadow Queen

Author: C.J. Redwine
Series: Ravenspire #1
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

Another YA fairytale/folklore retelling where the main heroine is far from your average damsel in distress.  Lorelai is more kick ass than anything else.  Though she has been hiding out for about nine years since her evil stepmother killed her father in her hostile takeover of the Ravenspire kingdom, Lorelai has been biding her time.  And now she's ready, along with her brother, to reclaim the throne that is rightfully hers.

My biggest beef with this novel is the romance.  Of course our princess Lorelai is going to need her Prince Charming.  And I like that her prince is not just sweeping her off her feet.  Instead, it's a symbiotic relationship of them both trying to save each others lives over and over again.  My issue with the romance is that the prince?  Yeah, he's half dragon.  One human heart, one dragon heart.  And that just makes any kind of romantically relationship between them seem super gross to me.  It's borderline bestiality, after all.  But once you get past the entire part of him being a dragon, then it's fine!

There is a lot of action in this story, which kept me flipping page after page, making this a 24 hour read.  There are dragons and magic, and a heroine who won't get up no matter how high the odds are stacked against her, and I love it.  I don't really see how this is going to be a series, but I liked Shadow Queen enough to give the sequel a go.  I've never read the original fairy tale, but I like how it follows the heart stealing queen like OUAT and not just the girl who lives with dwarfs like the Disney's cartoon Snow White.  If you like action packed retellings, I would give this one a go.

05 March 2016

The Ruby Circle

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

Like its predecessors in the series, this book is more like the monorail at the amusement park than the roller coaster.  It has a splash of excitement here and there to try to keep the readers interested, but it relies heavily on your interest in Sydney's and Adrian's relationship.  And even then, a lot of the magic has worn off now that they are blissfully married.

Bloodlines just doesn't carry my interest the way Vampire Academy did.  I got through it primarily because I had already brought two of the novels from the bargain bin before starting the series and also because I read the first five novels as buddy reads.  I like that Sydney is intellectually and that she is constantly having to redefine herself as she chips away at the brainwashing that is being an Alchemist.  But that's all she really has going for her throughout the entire series.  And yes, Adrian is charming, even though he can be a bit of a dick at times, thanks to the influence of spirit.  But they barely manage to drag this series out, since the plot just doesn't have the gusto I feel like it ought to.  And their romance?  It's more cliche and sappy eye rolling dialogue than anything else.

I don't even feel like The Ruby Circle did that good a job of wrapping up the series.  Yes, we finally resolve the Jill thing.  Although, not really.  I assume that the law has finally changed, but I don't think it was ever explicitly mentioned.  We don't know what happens with Zoe and the Alchemists.  We don't know what happens to Sydney's coven of witches.  And then there's the whole thing revolving around Declan that just opens up a whole new can of worms instead of resolving old plot lines.  I feel like the only main plot line resolved is the relationship between Sydney and Adrian, and that was pretty much one and done in the last installment when they got hitched and moved into martial bliss (though with his mom in tow).  I feel like the ending of Bloodlines is just another set up for another spin off series.  I would say that Mead should dabble outside the realm of the VA world, but I read Age of X, so I'm not even sure about that.  I am still holding out for Glittering Court next month, but all and all, I feel like this entire series is really only marketable to the fans of paranormal romance.  For them, I think they'll love it.  For me?  I doubt I'll pick these up again.  And now I kind of want to go back and read VA and see if it still holds the appeal as I remember.

04 March 2016

Starflight

Author: Melissa Landers
Series: Starflight #1
Rating: 4 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

On the BA scale from 0 to 10, I give Solara a 5.  Sure, she has criminal tats, but she only committed a crime in the first place because of 1) a guy, of course and 2) she thought she was Robin Hood.  Not exactly a criminal mastermind.  And, she ends up doing to Doran what he did to her - making her an indentured servant.  What is that saying?  Do onto others...?  Seems like this entire story could have been wayyyyy simpler if she had simply knocked him out, dragged him to the nearest money dispensary, taken him for most of what he was worth, and then simply been on her way.  She had all this money at her hands, and yet she decides to try for the outer realms to what?  Make a meager life's living as a mechanic?  I would have taken the money, gotten the tats removed, and found a decent living in the inner realms.  She's obviously not the smartest cookie in the jar.

But wait!  You might proclaim.  If she leaves with all the money, than Landers can't have this long, drawn out will-they-won't-they romance between Solara and Doran.  And we can't have that!  Alas, the romance lovers steal the show in this one, because that's exactly what you get.  And a little romance and tension between another pair of characters to boot.  Parts of this novel are way too focused on the romance between Doran and Solara - for example, the day of leave, the mushrooms, etc. etc.  And I, for one, would not have been able to forgive the other if I had been either one of them.  They treated each other like crap for a good portion of this novel.  But I guess nothing spells true love like a relationship built on lies and deceit.

BUT, if you look past Solara's poor life choices that build the plot and the romance between the two main characters, this book is actually pretty darn good compared to the other space opera novels in the YA genre.  We have space pirates!  And even a little bit of science and machinery.  We have a grumpy old captain with a SUGAR GLIDER (I have always wanted one of these).  And we have lots and lots and lots of flying through space with a band of social outcasts on the wrong side of the law (Firefly, anyone?).  The plot seems a bit disjointed in sections, and there are many subplots to the story, but Landers does a pretty good job of tying everything together in the end.  There are even some wicked plot twists that I did not see coming at all (such as GS).

While Starflight didn't blow my head right off my shoulders, it is certainly an entertaining read.  Nothing deep can be taken from the story, but when I'm reading YA space opera, I'm looking more for adventure than the meaning of life (if you want that, try Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy instead).  And this series is definitely off to a much better start than Landers's Alienated, which did little for me.