Archive | November, 2012

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

28 Nov

Rating: Three out of Five Stars

This was a very interesting book for me. I am usually a trilogy and series reader because I feel like a complete story can’t be told in 300 pages (unless I am in the mood for a fluff book). This book proved that while it CAN be done to a certain extent, the story is just not as engaging as it could be.

Scarlet is a wonderful retelling of Robin Hood. You can still see the “historical” storyline but it gives a dynamic perspective of the story from another person. Well imagined, my friend! The only thing that strikes me as overpowering was the foreshadowing. To write a good story of course foreshadowing is needed, but there is a time and place and a LIMIT. I enjoy quiet hints and and slight teasing of things to come. But these clues were blaring neon signs in a bar. In a way, it made the story seem naive, the finesse was missing.

Regardless of the writing flaws, the plot was fun. It was fast paced and dramatic, even if it stretched reality a bit. I did enjoy Scarlet. She’s a spunky fierce heroine with pink power ranger skills. It was exciting to read her and get to know her a little. Her emotions are a bit skewed and rollercoastered a lot but the action in the book made up for the slower parts. I wish that we could have seen a little more of the relationships between the boys and Scar, but with a one book story, it’s difficult to create more than one fully developed character.

The ending did leave a door open for a sequel, which I would jump on the chance to read. They already have romance, action, a villain, a love triangle… the bones of a great series is there and I hope that Gaughen writes another!

 

The Selection by Kiera Cass

26 Nov

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Book One of The Selection Series

Rating: Five out of Five Stars

I love you. I love this book. It is amazing. The end.

In the words of my mother, “This book is Hunger Games meets The Bachelor.” UH HELLO! Greatest description ever.

The Selection is, by far, one of my greatest guilty pleasures in a long long time. I like to stick with fluff books for what fluff books are. You know the kind, tidy little happy ending books you read when you just get done with intense books like The Maze Runner series or Birthmarked? Well that was what I was planning this book to be. I needed a break. But oh heavens above! did I fall in love with this series! It has romance, action, drama, mystery. I cannot even TELL you how obsessed with this story I am.

It has an interesting twist on the post apocalyptic plot which I AHdore. And what’s amazing about this book is that Kiera Cass creates unique and believable characters. I was worried that Prince Maxon was going to end up like Leland in Wither, sweet and charming but naive and happy to be oblivious. But he isn’t and it’s sooo nice to have a romance be, oh I don’t know, DEVELOPED in a YA novel. It does have the Almighty Love Triangle, but it’s not overpowering or overshadowing so it doesn’t make it as annoying as it usually is.

Gag me with my amount of flattery right now but I can’t help it. I love me some princes, dystopia, and realistic heroines. Any girly girl will LOVE this book. And, like me, give it to your mom to read! It’s nice to throw them some bomb YA novels once in a while.

 

Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld

21 Nov

Book One of Leviathan Series

Rating: Three out of Five Stars

I am a huge Scott Westerfeld fan after the Uglies series. It’s on my “Ultimate Top Favorite Series” list so I thought I would push my boundaries a little bit with a an author I enjoy. So cheers to me for frolicking into the meadow of steam-punk land hand in hand with my good friend Scotty! Whoo!

Unfortunately, I was kind of punched in the face by a meadow tiger with this book. I hadn’t really done any research on steam punk before but I figured “how different could it be?”. Being a SciFi, fantasy, dystopia, post-apocolyptic genre lover I talk A LOT about WSOD (Willing Suspension of Disbelief). For those that don’t know what it means, it’s basically how far can an author push a made-up world/plot in story before your brain goes “this is too surreal for me to enjoy”. Leviathan exploded my WSOD. The concepts were just too crazy for my meek mind to handle. The only way I had any idea what was happening was because of the pictures that Westerfeld inserted into the chapters. I read a lot of crazy shit, dragons that talk, mind magic, hell I love the batshit crazy world of Alice in Wonderland! But this history meets furturistic technology, Darwin meets Apple, Inc. Holy crap balls, what a ride.

Needless to stay, I like to be punched once in awhile. It’s the only way to learn and grow and all that jazzy jazz. I like the overall plot and characters, even though it was all a tich bit Bourne Identity-ish (they NEVER get hurt? WTH!) and happenstance may be a little TOO coincidental.

If you are looking at moving into steam punk, this a good book to ease into. I will read the rest of the series eventually, but I think I need to get my bearings again, do a little research so I can comprehend the basics so that next time I will enjoy it and not play catch up the whole time.

So while frolicking may not have happened, I tripped and stumbled into a quite enjoyable genre, once I have background. Snaps for new books!

Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

19 Nov

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Rating: Three out of Five Stars

Neil Neil Neil… the things you do to me.

My first experience with Mr. Gaiman was with Stardust. And much like my reaction to Stardust, Neverwhere completely and effectively Blew. My. Mind. I read so many YA novels when I experience a story as well written, intensely thought out and completely unique as this, my small, unfed mind can’t handle the awesomeness. It over powers me.

Basically what I am saying is that once again, Neil Gaiman creates a wonderfully different book. He has perfected the balance between WSOD and fantasy. He creates such a real picture that is so logical and yet completely absurd. Much like the other books I have read of his, I feel like the whole story I am bumping into everything in a pitch black room and then once the story ends, the light turns on and I realize that oh, this is my own damn bedroom. It suddenly all makes sense. I constantly feel I am being tossed in a hail storm of confusion but I am so ingrained into the story I just can’t stop reading and then “LIGHTBULB” it all makes sense.

I do feel like the lack of romance in this story is a detriment. He tempts and tickles us with the briefest moments of a swoonworthy story line but never gives us the whole shabang. I mean come on man! I just want a little love action!

Neverwhere is a GREAT book for fantasy lovers, especially those who enjoy urban fantasies. And I would encourage all my YA-loving friends to read this and get a dose of a truly magnificent writer.

Tithe by Holly Black

15 Nov

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Book One of The Modern Tales of Faerie

Rating: 2 out of 5 Stars

I was really excited to read this book. I love stories about the fey and I had heard Holly Black was a Great in the YA world. I love her essays and reviews of other YA books so I thought this would be an instant favorite of mine. Let’s just say…that wasn’t the case.

I was so confused throughout this book. The story jumped around much I felt like I was on a literary trampoline. I just plowed through it so I could get to the end where maybe all the random BS in the plot would make sense. The storyline and thought process of the main characters as well as their narration was so disjointed that a majority of the time I was so baffled I had reread paragraphs over and over again just to follow the conversation. The characters made assumptions and decisions that the reader didn’t/couldn’t understand because there was nothing that led up to the conversation. It was just BAM “I love him” BAM “I will take on a Queen” BAM “Now I am scared and confused.” It was an insanely frustrating read and in my opinion, poorly written. (I do refuse to give this book only one star though because I am hooked just enough to read the second book. Maybe it’s more because I want Black to redeem herself or maybe it’s because I like the story? Not too sure. But I think option A.)

Kaye is a teenaged high school dropout. Roiben is a good faery forced to go bad. And then they fall in love… *sigh*. NOT. This romance is so unnatural in the way it developed I was uncomfortable with it. There were sparks of connections I clung to but overall the relationship was…. creepy? Creepy, unrealistic, sorta like the weird pedophile thing going on. And yes, I will go to the pedophile route because Black doesn’t ever give us an understanding of Roiben’s age vs. actions vs. understanding. So all I can think of is “Dude you are like 300 years old going after a baby foul mouthed 16 year. Gross.” I don’t understand why YA authors feel the need to create that heart-stopping-instant-love-at-first-sight crap. It’s an plot piece that’s hard to control and keep balanced because when it’s insta-love, readers can never feel a true connection or understand it. Add on that none of the characters were fully developed, none had ANY sense of human emotions or self preservation and you got yourself recipe for disaster.

As I said before, I was not impressed. But I am hoping that this was just a warm up and that Holly Black will bounce back with a second book that my WSOD meter will like better. I looooved Holly Black’s short pieces, I really hope that I just read this in the wrong mood.

UnWholly by Neal Shusterman

14 Nov

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Book Two of the Unwind Series

Rating: Four out of Five Stars

Two weeks later and my mouth is still hanging open from this book. I couldn’t even begin to write this review until now because my mind needed to process the awesomeness that is UnWholly. Neal Shusterman, you are quite the writer of epic books.

My first thought when I closed this book was “Damn, this needs to be read to every high school kid in America.” And then it needs to be mandatory reading for all adults. Seriously, this book is eye opening. It’s incredibly well written with characters you hate and people you love and relationships you become infatuated with. I really think that when my brother and sister and children get old enough to handle the concepts, I will force them to read this.

The most shocking thing about this book is that it’s so possible! With the US becoming so insanely polarized over issues and people’s ruthlessness increasing, I can see that with a few tweaks, our country could turn out like this. And it’s horrifying! It’s like George Orwell’s 1984 for our 2012 culture. Shusterman is saying “Wake up America! Ya’ll are going down a long dark path to Crazyland!”

I encourage everyone to read this. It’s controversial and scary but my oh my will it help you realize what you want out of this world. And that is what makes a great book. I always commend a book that test my morals and ideals. UnWholly will do just that.

Glitch by Heather Anastasiu

12 Nov

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Book One of the Glitch Series

Rating: Four out of 4 Stars

I adored this book. And the more I step away from it and let it process, the more I find myself thinking about it. Although originally I gave it three stars, any book that keeps me thinking about it days after I have finished it gets bumped up to the next level.

Let me preface this review by saying that I do understand the negative comments about this book. And having read the reviews before I read the story I was almost going to pass this book by. But I am sooo glad I didn’t. Here are my two issues:

1.) Glitch is obviously a debut author’s book and not a seasoned writer’s work. We can see evidence of a newbies writing throughout the story. The most obvious places to me was when Anastasiu described to character movements. She wouldn’t fully describe a scene and so when she would have a character do some action, you where thrown out of the story. For example, Zoe and Adrien would climb onto the bed but she wouldn’t say they laid down or sat up so you couldn’t fully create the picture in your mind. But then she would say “Zoe leaned forward and put her hands on her knees”. And you would have to now rework the picture of the scene in your head to put Zoe in a position that would allow her to do that action. While the overall story was thought out, there are general techniques that Anastasiu will need to work on in the next book.

2.) Anastasiu took on a huge task writing an character that doesn’t have emotions. After all, books are based on a characters emotions! The problem was that you need descriptive words you get from having emotions to create a fluid and beautiful story. So sometimes Zoe would describe pictures or people using words like “warmth” and “compassion” when she really shouldn’t have any understanding of warmth or compassion if she doesn’t understand emotions right? Right.

So those two glaring negatives aside, I did enjoy this book and look forward to Book Numero Dos. The issues of the book were very technical and show the authors youth in writing. But I did think the way she wrote Zoe’s relationship with Max and Adrien was well done. Anastasiu definitely captured how confusing emotions are and how much we feel effects how we act. I enjoyed being apart of Zoe’s journey of emotional discovery, it was realistic. I thoroughly enjoyed the dynamics between Max and Zoe. I realize this relationship has been criticized immensely, but in my opinion it was SO TRUE! And bravo for not creating a weak character who DOES have a morsel self respect. I liked how we finally have a female character who does have morals, even if she doesn’t understand where they come from.

Ratings: My Explanation

9 Nov

Now that I have a few reviews posted, I feel the need to explain my ratings so everyone is clear on how my opinionated mind works. But just a quick word on reviews first. You’ll notice I don’t ever write summaries of the books. I always link up the cover to the description on Goodreads (which, btw, everyone should create an account to. Life changing. Seriously.) but never go intro great details on what the book is about. In my mind, you can read a description of the book a thousand times in a thousand places but when you are reading a review, you want an opinion: the good, the bad and the ugly of it. I also always try to avoid spoilers. So while I may mention things about what happens in the book, I try to keep it vague because my review are geared towards people who have not read the story yet.

Ok- onward!

My rating scale is a five star rating scale stolen directly from my Goodreads account.  If my review is hovering in between two different ratings, I try to bump it up to the next one and give the author the benefit. After all, writing is a shit-ton of work and I feel like maybe that half star on some obscure rarely read blog will magically make that authors life better. A girl can dream right? I mean if I had written a book I would want that half star. But I am ADDing… focus…. Here is my rating scale description.

1 Star – 50 Shades of Terrible.

I rarely, if ever, give a book a single star. I think most books have potential to be good read for the right audience. Excluding that crap that is the 50 Shades series, which disgusted me.  A horribly weak protag, possessive and repulsive love interest and poor writing? It’s not even the graphic scenes that bothered me, it’s that the sex scenes are so poorly written all I see are crappy words strung together! WHY IS THE FEMALE SEX SO DUMB!?! Ima a hit bitch with the full works of Jane Austen the next time someone mentions how great that Twilight fanfic is. AHHH!

Sorry, got a little angsty there. My POINT is that when I rate things just consider 50 Shades my lowest level.

2 Stars – Very Mediocre (you MUST say this with a New York accent.)

I consider these books at the meh-why-do-I-have-to-finish-it level. These are the books that I have to pump myself up to read. I tell myself “Sydney, the faster you read it the faster you are done! Yay!” Maybe the character annoys me, the world is poorly built, my WSOD meter is stretched too far… you catch my drift.

3 Stars – Head nod worthy.

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Yep pretty much sums it up. I wouldn’t buy it but I would recommend it to a certain audience.

4  Stars – I would buy it.

These are the books I truly enjoy. They are the books that I push onto other people just so I can talk about them. If I borrowed the first from the library, I would go to Half Price Books and pick up the series. I want to crawl into these books, befriend the characters. These are also the books that make me think, shift my view about things. I enjoy thought provoking books and many of the books at this level do just that.

5 Stars – Obsession.  

Think Harry Potter. Inheritance Series. Graceling Series. Uglies. My favs. These are bought brand new and have a special rotating spot on my book shelf. You must read all of these books because they are the bestest ever omg-I-love-them-so-much-I-might-burst books. Totally gush worthy status.

I hope this helps! I just wanted to make sure we are all on the same page. hahaha page! Get it?! Cause we like to read!  No? Ok…

“A great book should leave you with many experiences, and slightly exhausted at the end. You live several lives while reading it” – William Styron, Conversations with William Styron

The Demon King by Cinda Williams Chima

7 Nov

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Book One of Seven Realms Series

Rating: 4 out of 5 Stars

I read The Heir Chronicles in one week flat so when I was bopping around Goodreads one afternoon at work and found out she had another series, I. Was. Pumped. And now after reading the first book in the Seven Realms series, I am happy to say it’s even better than the Heir books.

The Demon King (which is a badass title, btw) instantly captures your imagination. I love a book that comes out swinging without confusing the crap out of you with way too many details. The story starts out slower initially but the world she creates within the first couple chapters is like a picture being painted before your eyes. Even now, books later, I can still put a pen to paper and draw all Seven Realms, the city, the clan, everything. The world she creates is so real and tangible I feel as though I could get on a plane and fly to it.

One of my favorite things about Chima’s writing is her ability to create realistic characters. And she never just creates one, she creates two or three or four and each one has depth and a true and separate personality. I hate when authors have changing POVs and yet only fully develop the one or two main character’s emotions. But from Han and Raisa to Amon and Bird, Chima’s gives each one motivations, fears, dreams, and worries. The diversity of characters leads to a much more colorful and captivating story because the plot never becomes bland or stagnant. They each have their own prospective (usually very different) that gives the reader multiple view points so they can understand all aspects of issues and problems. Hell, she even makes you feel pity for asshole Micah at one point when she spent the whole book making you hate him!

The way she ends her books is another gush point of mine. She doesn’t leave you dangling on the edge of a cliff hanger but makes you salivate for another bit of the story. She peaks the story with enough time for you to calm your breath without wrapping up loose ends. She tidies up the story just enough to not make you mad at her for ending the book (you know what I mean by this I’m sure). It’s truly an art.

Simply put, read this book. If you like fantasy and want a vacation from the real world, this is a great getaway.

Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie by Maggie Stiefvater

6 Nov

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(Books of a Faerie Two)

Rating: 3 out of 5 Stars

After reading Lament, I wasn’t necessarily running to the library to rent Ballad. But after reading Ballad, I wanted hightail my faerie-loving-ass to the book store to buy the third book in the series. (Which was going to do until I found out book three is not yet published -_-)

Anyways, I think Stiefvater had a nice warm up with Lament and hit her stride with Ballad. Dee annoyed me in Lament with her star-struck teenage love and I was worried that the story would continue down that road in book two. But alas! I was wrong. And I am very happy to be proven wrong.

Ballad: A Gathering of Faerie is written in James’s perspective. I find James much more realistic and down to earth than Dee. I want to be friends with James. I want to play music with James. And I think Nuala is a bad ass, despite her need to wring humans dry in order to survive. They both have feelings that we can relate to. It’s not the punch-drunk-shot-gun love that Dee and Luke have in Lament, it’s true feelings. And the best part is, we get to watch those develop! In a natural and uncreepy way. James is a good guy with a great talent, and his lust to be better doesn’t outweigh his sense of reality. I like that he actually learned from his experiences in Lament (i.e. faeries are evil and manipulative) and doesn’t bow down to Nuala automatically. I also like how Nuala changes. She goes from evil-doer to real-person compassionate. But it’s not a switch, it’s a process. Stiefvater takes the time to actually build a story and create a realistic situation this time and I couldn’t help but root for James and Nuala. Because I felt like this time (thank goodness), I got a chance to know and understand them. I could relate to them. It was awesome.

If you like fairies but thought Lament was shallow, trust me when I say book two is leaps and bounds better than book one. It’s definitely worth the read.

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