26 August 2016

I'm Moving!!!

Dear devoted readers,

I am currently in the process of merging all my blogs into one centralized blog on Wordpress.  You can start to follow me at Cabeza de Cre-Cre.  I will be leaving this blog operational, but I will no longer be updating it.  All book reviews have been migrated to the new blog.  I am still in the process of updating the books and series lists on the new blog, so please feel free to continue to look around here while the dust settles.

Thanks.  <3

25 August 2016

Losing It

Author: Emma Rathbone
Series: 1.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

When I got back we commenced a heavy-breathing make-out session wherein I felt like I was on a swaying rope bridge.

Yeahhhh...  So this story is kind of like that ^

This is Julia Greenfield.  At twenty-six years old, she is still a virgin.  And that is a problem for her.  A BIG problem.  As in, she can't focus or think about anything else.  She even quits her job, packs up, and moves to live with her aunt (that she barely knows) for the summer in hopes of finding some guy she can have sex with.  No joke.

As someone who wasn't allowed to date until she was sixteen, and then didn't date much in the early years of college because hey, turns out engineering was actually a little hard, I went into this novel thinking I would be able to relate with Julia.  Perhaps not completely, but at least some.  I thought I would find her enduring and the praise on the back of the book promised "every single page... contains a line so funny" and that it is a "witty and insightful novel".  To which I now must shout from the rooftop: LIARS, LIARS, PANTS ON FIRE!  It could not have been further from the truth.

Julia Greenfield, it turns out, is annoying.  Reallllllly annoying.  She is the epitome of everything that I dislike about most the women I meet (this is not sexist, I don't believe, as I am a woman myself and, indeed, these things bother me with most people in general, regardless of sex).  She is self centered, she has zero work ethic, she talks like a Valley Girl (actually, all the characters do.  The novel is riddled with horrible, annoying dialogue such as "Yeah" this, and "Yeah" that).  If I had sat down and read this book in one sitting and done a drinking game every time someone said 'yeah' I would have ended up in the hospital with alcohol poisoning before the night was over.

Here are some of the things that really turned me off of Julia - who, by the way, feels like an older version of Blair from Gossip Girl, which is at least a somewhat less frustrating read:

1) She goes snooping through her aunt's stuff!  Her aunt is kind enough to take her in, even though she seems like a recluse/introvert.  And how does Julia show her thanks?  She waits until her aunt goes to work, then goes rummaging through all her drawers in her bedroom.  What a prick.  I would go ape crazy is someone did that in my house.  They'd be on the street that very night.

2) She gets in a car accident because she's too busy paying attention to her goddamn phone.  Are you kidding me?  I was like Bradley Cooper with the book in Silver Linings Playbook at this point in the story.

3) She dumps all her responsibilities and any sense of decency if she thinks she might get lucky.  And then, quite a few times, she ends up leaving with her tail tucked between her legs.  For someone sooooo desperate to have sex, she sure does walk away in the middle of a lot of opportunities in this novel.  Not that I blame her.  I wouldn't have been caught dead with any of these guys.  But I wouldn't have been so desperate in the first place.  Have some self respect, girl!

4) She has no motivation for life in general.  She doesn't know what she wants to do, she floats along through jobs, but she makes no effort to better her situation for herself.

5) And, oh yeah, she isn't funny AT ALL.

Why did I waste my time?  For Losing It was a true waste of time.  Losing It?  More like Losing My Mind Over It.  Ugh.

21 August 2016

Seraphina

Author: Rachel Hartman
Series: Seraphina #1
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

"I scrupulously hide every legitimate reason for people to hate me, and then it turns out they don't need legitimate reasons. Heaven has fashioned a knife of irony to stab me with."

Hartman knows how to write some serious prose, I will give her that.  Unfortunately, it's bogged down in a confusing plot that didn't feel all that well pieced together.  It was a bit like trying to read a Nolan movie in print version.  But, unlike a movie, this book is more than a two hour commitment.  I found myself a little confused more than once.  I feel like if I did a reread, it would make a lot more sense.  But I think Hartman could have helped readers by setting up the story a little better (and maybe putting the dictionary/appendix in the front, since I never skip to the back of the book).

Seraphina is another dragons-in-disguise-as-humans novel.  Hartman pulls it off a lot better than Kagawa did in Talon however.  Unfortunately, Seraphina's plot, like Talon, suffers from a little too much emphasis in romance.  While at least - thank the stars - a love triangle is not involved, it still kind of is actually.  Seraphina starts crushing on Kiggs, who is engaged to his own cousin (ewww.  Gotta love that royal inbreeding).  To make matters worse, Seraphina is a halfblood (half human, half dragon).  Don't even get me started on how that's even possible.

Though there is a peace treaty between the humans and the dragons, there is anything but ease between the two species.  As such, I didn't really understand the entire bell theory and how some dragons were exempt from wearing them, and how no only really seemed bothered by that.  But then, later down the road, when the idea of bleeding everyone to see if they bleed red like a human or silver like a dragon comes up, everyone seems to lose their wits.  And all the public places apart from a special section of the village are segregated where dragons are not allowed.  So that really didn't make a whole lot of sense to me.

The fundamental plot of the novel - who killed the (king? king's brother?  Kiggs's uncle?  I don't even remember, but let's just say some human royalty) - takes way too long to build to fruition.  And the climax of the story is just plain anticlimatic, as the novel is told from Seraphina's POV and she's barely paying any attention to the battle/action at all.  Hartman has beautiful writing, but a lot of the time it just feels frivolous.  Still, she finally built up some steam near the end, which makes me hopefully for the second installment in the duology.  Fingers crossed.  I want more dragons!

20 August 2016

Power Play

Author: Kate William
Series: Sweet Valley High #4
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

All Robin Wilson had ever wanted was to be popular, but it seemed she had been going about it the wrong way.  All she had to do was be confident, take care of herself, and treat the people around her the way they deserved to be treated...

I liked this series growing up, didn't I?  I could swear I did, but I am finding it harder and harder to remember why.  I know I liked the Sweet Valley Twins that I read, and I was obsessed with the SVU for a while, but maybe I never actually read the series when they were in their prime in high school.

Oh boy, so here we go again.  Let's start with Robin this time.  She wants to join Jess's Sweet Valley High Beautification Committee (only started so that Jessica can run for Miss Sweet Valley High since she has been too self centered to have any extracurriculars on her resume), but Jessica and her elite snob jackwad friends don't think Robin is the 'right type' of person to join the club, so they make her go through a whole song and dance of high school hazing that is pretty messed up, hoping she will drop out on her own accord.  Robin, obsessed with popularity, goes along with humiliating herself (because why not?), then - when things don't exactly go her way - she drops out of school to be homeschooled and hit the gym and get a makeover, so that maybe she could be popular.  I'm sorry, but exsqueeze me?  How is this the message we want to send to teenage girls?  If you get bullied in high school but a bunch of bitches, just drop out and buy into the whole stereotypes of beauty, stripping yourself of your identity, and then you too can be popular!  Ummm, f*&^ no.

Jessica is as much of a brat as always.  How have her parents not sent her off to a boarding school yet to get her attitude adjusted?  Even Elizabeth is a little annoying in this one.  Miss Goody Two Shoes wants to be helpful, so she meddles in the Robin situation which, surprise, surprise, backfires completely.  Like we couldn't see that one coming.

Where are the parents in this series?  Is it just me, or do these books tend to teach the wrong kind of moral story?  The only one I almost want to feel sorry for in this novel is Lila, but she's such the cliche of a spoiled rich kid that I can't.  These characters are all archetypes without any depth.  And whenever you think they might develop into an actual human like character, it always seems to go sideways.  Another disappointing letdown.

19 August 2016

Talon

Author: Julie Kagawa
Series: Talon #1
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

Wait.  I was a dragon.  What the hell was I doing?

The quote above from Talon pretty much sums up this novel for me.  Ember and Dante are friggin dragons, yet they pretty much just act like annoying, regular, run of the mill human teenagers.  Dragons actually play a very minor role in this "groundbreaking modern fantasy series" (ha!).  Not only do the dragons walk around in human form, but they are forbidden from shifting into dragons, which makes this novel pretty much the dragon equivalent of Twilight.

Garret is human, and after dragons killed his family, he has made it his life's mission to hunt them down and kill them all (Talon's Edward).  Riley (Talon's Jacob) is a rogue dragon, who grew tired of the bad guys in the Talon hierarchy, and wants to save Ember from the same oppression.  At the heart of it, Talon is just another young adult love triangle romance between these three.

While it has a few interesting points, Talon is pretty much a dud throughout.  I think the most interesting relationship was between Ember and Dante, and it was lost in the flood of her romance with Garret and Riley.  And the most exciting part of the novel was probably her Talon training sessions and her shifting into dragon form, which barely happen at all.  Instead, Talon is full of cliche and eye roll worthy dialogue and prose such as:

 "Screw you both.  I don't need any of this.  I'll find my own way home."

Which is kind of ironic, since a lot of this novel involves Ember getting a ride home from Garret.

And very soon, I was going to show a certain red-haired hatchling the true face of Talon, and convince her that she belonged with us.  With me.

Barf.

"Be careful, Riley.  Don't get dead."

That one's just bad grammar.

And my favorite, which I think was supposed to be super macho and awesome in the heat of the battle, but just made me laugh:

"Heartless bitch!" he snarled, flames licking at his teeth in rage.  "You won't touch them.  I'll kill you first!"

Exclamation point and all!

Talon felt wholly unoriginal, another forgettable YA paranormal romance novel in a saturated genre.  Though, I'm sure, that means it will be devoured excitedly by the masses who enjoy this type of story.  Shame on Kagawa for playing on my current obsession with dragons.  I just wish there were more YA dragon novels out there actually focused on dragons.  This series, which looks like it is already slated for at least five novels, is dead for me after one.

16 August 2016

A Walk in the Woods

Author: Bill Bryson
Rating: 4.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Buy

There is no point in hurrying because you are not actually going anywhere.  However far or long you plod, you are always in the same place: in the woods.

Bryson's humor might not be for everyone (he is definitely a little snarky, something I can relate to), but I think everyone can find at least one thing in this book that they can relate to.  It isn't just about the discovery of the beauty of America that is being more and more threatened everyday.  It's also about self discovery, particularly for Bill's partner in crime who is an alcoholic in recovery.  It is a story about perseverance, and redefining what it means to succeed in the things that you try.

I am very Monkish when it comes to nature (Nature!  I got nature on me!  Wipe, Natalie!), but this novel makes me want to thru hike the AT before I die.  While I usually like to admire nature from afar, Bryson paints a picture that can only really be truly experienced if you are in the thick of it - out in the middle of the woods, sharing small shelters with complete - and sometimes annoying - strangers while soaked to the bone with blistered feet.  It is also a tale about the change nature has encountered in America during our development into a first world country.  It cautions about conservation, or rather things done in the name of conservation.  It cautions about the ignorance a lot of Americans face simply because they've never experienced the amazement that is the undeveloped wilderness of America.

I am one of those people that believe we are reaching a new age in America.  With all the technology so readily available at their fingertips, most kids no longer go outside and play.  Vacations into the wilderness are a thing of the past, and the average age of people who visit our nation's national parks is staggeringly high.  There is a large portion of Americans - including the politicians who govern our country - who do not even believe in global warming and climate change.  It's a scary world we're facing, and the experiences and beauty Bryson witnesses during his adventure are exactly the reason we need to stop being reactive and start trying to combat the problem now, before it's too late (I'm talking to you, you science deniers!).

You don't have to be an eco nut like myself to enjoy this novel.  Bill and his travel companions have enough misadventures to enthrall the casual reader who isn't looking for any deeper meaning.  But I implore you as you read to pay attention to the adoration Bryson has for the nature he experiences across the 2,000+ miles of the AT.  In his own words:

I gained a profound respect for wilderness and nature and the benign dark power of woods.  I understand now, in a way I never did before, the colossal scale of the world.  I found patience and fortitude that I didn't know I had.  I discovered an America that millions of people scarcely know exists.  I made a friend.  I came home.

I couldn't have put it better myself.

15 August 2016

Firefight

Author: Brandon Sanderson
Series: The Reckoners #1
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I lowered the gun.
My name is David Charleston.
I kill people with super powers.

Oh, David, so full of yourself.  You kill one little High Epic and now suddenly you are the master slayer.  Forget the fact that you can't stop oggling and pining for another Epic, one you definitely wouldn't kill.  Or that the leader of your Reckoners squad is an Epic.  Or that you get a lot of help from other Epics - whether willingly or unwillingly - in this novel.  Nope, David is just the Steelslayer.

I don't mind David all that much, to be honest.  I think he says 'Sparks!' entirely too frequently, but I chalk that up to the author wanting to say an expletive without actually having to write one, which is becoming more and more frequent it seems.

The plot of Firefight feels a little more reformed than Steelheart was.  It feels like Sanderson writing and the way the plot unraveled also added a little more action this time around, even if it still felt slow during parts.  And I like how the the goodness of the Epics isn't so black and white as they tried to make them out to be in Steelheart.  There is a lot more gray area this time around, which adds a complexity to both recurring and new characters.

Unfortunately, a lot of this novel is still wasted on teenage romance that really doesn't do anything to further the storyline.  Lines like:

'Stop it, I thought at myself.  Prof is right.  You need to get Megan out of your head.  Enjoy what you have right now.'

Weigh heavily on the plot, and David is far too interested in Megan.  There is even a little hint of a love triangle teased for a while, which only soured my mood.  Still, there aren't too many young adult superhero/super villain novels that I've found out there yet, and the story is interesting enough.  We shall see how Calamity goes.

14 August 2016

Icefall

Author: Matthew J. Kirby
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

The synopsis on the inside cover jacket totes "...terrible acts of treachery soon make it clear that a traitor lurks in their midst.  A malevolent air begins to seep through the fortress walls, and a smothering claustrophobia slowly turns these prisoners of winter against one another."

That, coupled with the awesome looking cover, made me think this was going to be an intense, exciting novel.  Instead, the story is more centrally based on Solveig.  And her story is kind of droll.  While they are surrounded by ice and stranded on the island waiting for the ice to thaw for her father to return, Solveig learns to be a skald.  A skald, back in Vikings time, was a storyteller.  So, in essence, this is a story about stories.  And a raven.  And unfortunately, it wasn't that entertaining.

The main plot, with the sabotage, would have been pretty interesting if it hadn't been buried behind Solveig's raven and storytelling.  The pace of this novel ended up so slow it was hard to stay interested in it.  The only reason I finished reading it is because I'm working on a Norse styled novel of my own, and Viking novels are hard to come by.  

11 August 2016

Split the Sun

Author: Tessa Elwood
Series: Inherit the Stars #1
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

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

In Split the Sun, the second and final novel in the Inherit the Stars series, we are introduced to a new leading character, Kit.  It has been a while since I read the first novel, Inherit the Stars, so I cannot say with full confidence that this novel does not link back to the original in any way other than the universe, but for me Split the Sun did not trigger any recollections of the first novel.

My fundamental issue with Split the Sun is that I honestly can't really tell you what the plot was supposed to be.  Elwood works on a handful of different subplots, but none of them take center stage to grab the reader's attention.  If I had paid closer attention to the synopsis of the book, it alone would have given me this clue as even the summary seems to be a bit everywhere with no real focus.  I have never done this type of review before, but here's the synopsis from Goodreads below with my comments thrown in.



The Ruling Lord of the House of Galton is dead (this does feel a bit like carry over from the first novel, as I seem to recall the characters in the first one causing all sorts of havoc.  But again, I can't be certain), and the nation is in shock—or celebrating, depending on the district. Kit Franks would be more than happy to join him. (you mean 'them' right, not 'him'.  Who is 'him'?)

Kit’s mother bombed the digital core of the House, killing several and upending the nation’s information structure (this feels like this should have been the core plot for the novel.  Political intrigue laying the ground work for a great dystopian where the common man rises up against the totalitarian government bottle-necking and controlling all the dwindling resources in the solar system). No one wants the daughter of a terrorist. Kit lost her job, her aunt wants her evicted (this is a major subplot that takes a lot of focus away from whatever the main plot was supposed to be.  Her relationship with her aunt and her cousin plays a heavy part in what is going on, as Kit inherited her grandmother's apartment upon her death, and her aunt and cousin has a big beef over that.  Unfortunately, her annoying aunt and her drug addicted cousin don't add much interest to the story at all), her father is using her as a shield against a drug lord (her father follows the same story line as her aunt and cousin.  She isn't close to him, he has some serious drug/gambling issues - I honestly don't even remember which it was - and causes all sorts of problems when he tries to crawl back into her life to mooch off of her.  Again, it does nothing to grab the reader's attention.  If anything, it was Elwood's attempt to make readers emphasize with Kit, but she handles everything so poorly with all the matters relating to her family that it's hard to sympathize with her), a group of political rebels need Kit to ignite an interplanetary war (I almost forgot this happened.  Another example of the most interesting aspect of the novel being lost in the host of other issues that plague the story.  Kit keeps getting kidnapped and drugged, but she's too busy worrying about her dead mom, her deadbeat family, and her love interest to really focus on what should be very disconcerting), and the boy two floors down keeps jacking up her suicide attempts—as if she has a life worth saving (a classic, cliched young adult love at first sight/instalove case for these two unfortunately.  Their snarky banter had some potential but was wasted with everything else happening)

When Mom-the-terrorist starts showing up on feeds and causing planet-wide blackouts, everyone looks to Kit for an answer. The rebels want Mom on their side (mom who is alleged dead, by the way). The government needs to stop Mom’s digital virus from spreading before there’s no record of government left (this part wasn't entirely clear to me in the book even.  I remember some hacking of video feeds and the like, but did not even realize it was a virus type issue until I got towards the very end). Both sides will do anything, destroy anyone, to make Kit crack. They believe she’s the key to Mom’s agenda and the House’s future. Worst of all, they may be right (this whole plot is so bogged down by poor planning that it's kind of hard to follow and loses most of its momentum to other plots going on in tandem).

Kit’s having dreams she can’t explain, remembering conversations that no longer seem innocent, understanding too much coded subtext in Mom’s universal feed messages. Everyone, from Mom to the rebels, has a vision of Kit’s fate—locked, sealed, and ready to roll. The question is, does Kit have a vision for herself
(it seems like she wants to kill herself, which is a vision I guess)?

Tessa Elwood’s final book in the Inherit the Stars series introduces readers to a strong, unique heroine who must chart her own destiny against a minefield of family ambitions and political agendas
(I do have to say again that I enjoyed Kit's snark.  But I would not necessarily call her strong or unique.  More like desperate not to lose her home and weak to her family and her nosy neighbor's cookies).

08 August 2016

Golden

Author: Melissa de la Cruz & Michael Johnston
Series: Heart of Dread #3
Rating: 2 / 5 stars
Verdict: Bury

She was the drakon.  Its heart of dread.  And now she was an immense, churning, howling ball of flame.

For a series routed in dragons, I gotta say, there was a severe lack of dragons in this final installment to the series.  And when the dragons - sorry, 'drakons' - are reintroduced, it is not what you would expect and doesn't last for very long.  Disappointing, as the dragons were about the one thing I liked about this series, which didn't leave much in the way for enjoyment in this last installment.

The writing is so juvenile at times that it's laughable.  As the substitution of the word 'freeze' for curse words is really frakking (heh) irritating.  Take this passage for example:

Godfreezeit... he was freezing dying... motherfreezer... Nat... Nat... where are you...

Case and point on both mentioned above.

Golden feels more like a romance than anything else, but there is no chemistry between Nat and Wes to speak of, so the plot has no grounds on which to stand.  And while they have quite a few enemies to deal with, we go through three major fights in the last third of the novel, all sandwiched in together.  It feels rushed, and there's no real action or suspense behind the prose to keep readers hooked.

While I think die hard fans of Melissa de la Cruz and the series will enjoy this conclusion, I've still yet to be impressed with anything she's written so far.

07 August 2016

Nobody Does It Better

Author: Cecily von Ziegesar
Series: Gossip Girl #7
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

Most of her life had been an endless loop of repetition, filled with the same people, parties, and predictability.  Even her dreams had been predictable, and she liked it like that.

This quote from Nobody Does It Better kind of sums up my current feeling towards the Gossip Girl series.  Each novel feels a bit like the same story, over and over.  Blair and Nate get together, Blair and Nate get in a fight, Blair and Nate break up.  Wash, rinse, and repeat.  Serena gets a boyfriend.  After five minutes, she's bored of him.  She dumps boyfriend and finds someone else.  Wash, rinse, repeat.  Jenny follows on Serena's keels trying to be just like her.  Dan makes a butt out of himself.  Vanessa does something equally dumb or unbelievable.  And Chuck just hangs out with his pet monkey (believe it or not, that's not a metaphor for anything).

In this installment in the series, the seniors are all finding out where they got in to college, or are deciding which college they want to go to if they haven't already.  They are counting down the days to high school graduation, and planning on living it up partying until they do.  This novel is a little less annoying than the last one, though it still doesn't seem like these characters are ever going to gain any growth.  Though by now I suspect that is kind of the point.  And this time around, I almost feel bad for Blair, although she ought to realize by now that her relationship with Nate is one of those toxic ones not good for you and that she ought to leave his loser butt behind.  Also, she ought to learn that two self centered, self obsessed girls are never going to survive as BFFs for life.  Oh, and not to steal things from babies.  She shouldn't do that either.

And Jenny.  Oh Jenny.  She gets more annoying each time around, although I thought the school tour with Rufus was awesome, even if it didn't end the way I had hoped.  Oh well, a gal can dream.  There's always next time (now, how many of these books are left?  I feel like I've about reached my limit on how much whiny elite high schoolers I can bare).

Dream On

Author: Kerstin Gier
Series: The Silver Trilogy #2
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

One learns so much in dreams.  Things that no one else knows.

Liv's life isn't great, but it's better than it was a little while ago.  Her rag tag band of dream walkers is no longer trying to make sacrifices to unleash a demon.  And Anabel is locked up, well away from Liv and her dreams.  And even though her mother is still dating and Liv is forced to have to merge her family painfully with his, she at least has a super cute boyfriend she can waste the hours away with dreaming.

Unfortunately, that's about it for the plot of Dream On.  Though the others are less than tempted to continue through their dream doors after the events of the first novel in the series, Liv and Henry continue to dream explore, where they find an interesting and a bit mysterious and odd character.  And Liv's sister starts to sleepwalk.  And the whole gang deals with the aftermath of the first novel.

While carrying over a lot of elements from Dream a Little Dream, Dream On feels like a filler novel.  The plot feels thin and doesn't have much to hold your attention.  It leans heavily on the dream world to carry it along, and even there the mystery of Mia's dreams isn't all that exciting.  The only mystery in the waking world is Secrecy's identity, and that doesn't hold much suspense either.  The shiftiness in Henry's character, and the deal with his family, is the only other area up for grabs and helps the plot limp along to the end.  Yet Dream On teases for bigger, badder things in the last installment, so it's hard to give up hope on the series, even if Liv turns into a typical whiny teenager when things don't start to go right in her personal and family lives in this novel.  Hopefully the last novel will make reading this one worth it, and really build on the storylines that Gier slowly weaved through this one.

03 August 2016

Steelheart

Author: Brandon Sanderson
Series: Reckoners #1
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

If there's one face we can hold on to, it's this: every Epic has a weakness.  Something that invalidates their powers, something that turns them back into an ordinary person, if only for a moment.

David lives in a strange world.  It's every kids dream and nightmare at the same time.  The unknown Calamity arrived in the sky, floating around outside Earth.  With it, it brought super powers to individual humans.  Unfortunately, these humans are greedy and self serving, and every single one of them uses their powers for evil instead of good.  Yeah, believe it or not, I can 100% see this happening.  Looting and anarchy abound.

David's father dies at the hands of an Epic (one of the humans with this unnatural abilities), and David vows revenge, no matter how long it takes.  He seeks out the Reckoners, a vigilante band of humans working to slowly take down the controlling Epics.  The fact that he grows a crush on one of the Reckoner gals only solidifies his efforts for the cause as he seeks to avenge his father.

The one thing I really liked about the psychology of Steelheart is that even though all the superheroes are all bad guys, we keep expecting for the good ones to come.  That mentality felt very human and realistic to me as well.

I've heard amazing things about Sanderson, so I think I may have gone into this novel with my expectations a little too high.  While it's a fun read, and there are a handful of great quotes, I expected something just a little more, a little better.  There's some classic shock and awe techniques Sanderson uses with plot twists that irritated me a little, even though I honestly did not see them coming.  And there is plenty of action abound, even if it may be lacking a little in suspense.  I'm certainly interested in continuing this series, and I really want to try some of Sanderson's other fantasy work, but Steelheart just didn't quite have that readability factor I was expecting (it took me a while to get through and I found myself switching back and forth between it and a handful of other novels).

02 August 2016

These Shallow Graves

Author: Jennifer Donnelly
Rating: 3 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

I am not sure where the idea arose, but somehow I thought this novel was going to be about zombies.  You've got a hand reaching out of a book cover with the word Graves on it.  The opening chapter is people digging up graves looking for specific bodies.  So I guess my mind immediately went to zombies.

This novel is not about zombies.  Not one bit.  I think it may have been better if it had been.  Instead, it is a historical young adult crime mystery as Jo tries to find out the truth about the suspicious circumstances behind her father's death.  I think if the plot had been thinned out a little and some of the factors condensed a bit, it would have made a good mystery.   Unfortunately, the mystery feels a bit drawn out with so many different characters and identities over a long span of time that it's difficult to keep track of who is who and what we know of/what we think of everyone, which makes it feel a bit tedious.

The romance in the story does not help.  Jo finds herself in a cliche young adult love triangle, torn between the high society beau she's expected to marry (who I think is her cousin?!?!) and the "from-the-wrong-side-of-the-tracks" reporter she's gallivanting around town with to try to solve the case of her father's death.  This novel is almost 500 pages long, and I think if Donnelly had chopped out the romance that didn't seem to add much to the plot in my opinion, it would have kept the suspense behind the murder mystery going a little better.

Overall, it isn't a bad story.  The ending wasn't what I expected, although one of the main twists did feel a bit predictable once it was revealed.  It was light on the suspense, which prevented it from being a stay up under the covers novel, but it was a well thought out, well written story and Jo's character is likable and definitely relatable and a new adult female.  It was just missing that little something extra to make it stand out.

01 August 2016

The Raven King

Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Series: The Raven Cycle #4
Rating: 3.5 / 5 stars
Verdict: Borrow

... time, like a story, was not a line; it was an ocean.

So much build up, so much promise, and then... such a letdown.  The Raven King isn't bad by any standards, but I had such high expectations for the final novel in the series, and it just didn't feel like Stiefvater delivered.

For three novels, we've been following Gansey and crew on the quest for his king.  And while we finally get a resolution to this primary plot line, it feels so underwhelming after all the buildup.  It's almost a metaphor for the novel as a whole.

The Raven King, while still an interesting read, seems to stutter and almost stall out like Gansey's car.  The problems we set forth to resolve in this novel don't feel as epic as we were led to believe from the beginning, and the final resolution feel sloppy, rushed, and forced.  The book jacket teases this, "Now the endgame has begun.  Dreams and nightmares are converging.  Love and loss are inseparable.  And the quest refuses to be pinned to a path."  Sounds exciting, right?  Sounds like an epic read you would want to stay up all night cramming the story in on one sitting.  Instead, the novel felt dragging down with scenes such as trying to get Artemis out of a tree (is he in the tree? And does it really matter?), new relationships that seem to come out of nowhere, and introductions of new characters that we've never heard of but, apparently, depending on where you started, the story could be all about them!

The Raven King feels like a case of the publishers forcing an author to finish before she's ready, or of a series becoming bigger than an author expected and the author not having a clear ending in mind when the series started (ahem, Harry Potter, ahem).  While I didn't walk away from The Raven King feeling dissatisfied, for there was still that unique prose that made it so readable, and for the most part it still forces on the characters we've grown to love, I also didn't walk away in love with it either.  It had potential to be one of the most unique, amazing, wholly original series I've read in quite some time, but I think the ending knocked it away from that potential.