In the city of Aramanth, the lives of its citizens are ruled by a color-coded caste system of standardized tests. How well one does on the yearly “Hig...moreIn the city of Aramanth, the lives of its citizens are ruled by a color-coded caste system of standardized tests. How well one does on the yearly “High Examination” determines what you do for work, where you live, and even what color clothing you wear. Those that test poorly find themselves consigned to the dismal one-room tenements and menial labor of the Grey district, while those who test well can eventually aspire to life in the mansions and illustrious careers of the White district. Free thinking and creativity are unheard of, but most of the city’s residents are content with their way of life. One family, however, is not. The Haths, Hanno and Ira, have raised their three children, the twins Kestrel and Bowman and baby Pinpin, to believe that there are more important things in life than moving up in society’s ranks. They teach their children the old stories that everyone else has forgotten, such as the legend of the strange, archaic structure that still stands in the middle of Aramanth, known as the Wind Singer. The tales go that once the Wing Singer made beautiful music that made everyone in Aramanth happy, and kept away evil. The Wind Singer’s “voice”, however, was lost long ago, causing the conditions in the city to deteriorate rapidly. When one day Kestrel rebels, tired of the endless rules, regulations and tests, and her entire family is put in jeopardy, she finds that the only way to save them and the entire city from their horrible fate is to find the Wind Singer’s voice and return it to its rightful place. Armed with only an old map, she and her brother Bowman, and their friend Mumpo, must set out on their quest, which will bring them face to face with a more sinister evil than any they could have imagined.
I picked this up from the library because I have been in kind of a slump as far as reading goes. I have a bunch of books that I’m in the middle of right now that I just can’t seem to slog through past a certain point. I wanted something fun that I could read quickly, and I figured this would be just the thing. While overall I thought this was a pretty good book, I did have some issues with it. The main thing I didn’t like about it was that it seemed, even for a YA book, to be very thinly fleshed out. I thought that the set-up for the kids’ big quest was very good, but once things got moving I felt like the author glossed over too much. After Kestrel, Bowman and Mumpo get started on their journey, they have various adventures, of course, but I felt like these were rushed through and there wasn’t enough detail given about the places they go and the people they meet on their journey. It’s like the author was too focused on getting them from point A to point B to tell us what was happening in-between. This frustrated me, because we’re given glimpses of a unique, interesting world outside the walls of Aramanth, and we’re told next to nothing about it. Also, I felt at the end that things were tied up just a little too neatly. Various problems were resolved too easily to be believable. This seemed to be a problem throughout the book. I didn’t like how most of the time things just conveniently fell into place. The characters would get into a scrape, and instead of finding a way out of it themselves, some miraculous solution would just fall into their laps. With those negative things aside, this book did have a pretty good message at the heart of it, and the characters were essentially likable and easy to root for. Probably the things that bothered me about this book wouldn’t bother a reader more in the age group it was intended for. Also, it did accomplish what I wanted it to. It passed an afternoon quite quickly and got me out of my slump of not being able to finish anything. I don’t think I’ll be reading the rest of the trilogy, though.(less)
I'm sure everybody probably knows (or has at least heard of) the premise of this story by now. This is the tale of a little book thief (known to her f...moreI'm sure everybody probably knows (or has at least heard of) the premise of this story by now. This is the tale of a little book thief (known to her friends and family as Liesel) who has caught the attention of our unlikely narrator, Death himself. Liesel has had a difficult life attempting to grow up in the shadow of Germany's Nazi regime. At an early age, her mother and father are taken away from her and brother for being communists. On the way to their new foster home, her brother abruptly drops dead, and the scene haunts her nightmares for many years to come. It is at his funeral that she steals her first book, The Gravedigger's Handbook, and begins a legacy that will have far-reaching consequences in her future. Now, though, she must begin a new life in the house on Himmel Street belonging to Rosa and Hans Hubermann, her new foster parents. They are polar opposites, Hans is gentle and thoughtful, a painter by trade who supplements their income by playing the accordion. Rosa is a fierce woman who hides her kind heart behind a barbed-wire fence of tongue-lashings peppered with swear words. This new life is challenging as well, as the war tightens its grip on everyone, especially Hans and Rosa, who have been known to be sympathetic to the plight of the Jews who are being massacred. Soon the integrity of all three will be put to the test when a promise made by Hans comes back to haunt him, in the form of a terrified, starving young man who arrives one day on their doorstep, seeking sanctuary. He is a Jew.
I've been wanting to read this book for awhile, as everybody and their brother seemed to be raving about how wonderful it is. I just finished it today, and there is a lot of food for thought in this book, which I've only just begun to mull over. Here are a few of my impressions, so far. First of all, I have to say that with all the hype, I was expecting something really and truly earth-shattering, something that would suck me in from the first page and not let me go until the end. The fact that I really didn't get this is what really has me tossed up about how to rate this book. On the one hand, I feel it was a strong book that deserves some praise, but on the other hand I felt it just didn't live up to the image of the masterwork of modern fiction that I had been led to expect. In fact, I found the first part of the book really didn't hold my attention very well at all. However, once the story picked up momentum and I started to get to know and become involved with the characters a bit more, I found it easier and easier to keep turning the pages. The plot of this book still doesn't seem to have a very definite structure, it's more made up of snapshots in the life of Liesel, key moments that somehow influence the eventual climax of the story. And of course, once Max shows up, you know that the book is not going to have a happy ending, and while the story remains engrossing it starts to take on a more morbid quality. It's like watching a train rushing towards an inevitable collision...you know it's going to be ugly, but somehow you can't take your eyes off of it.
That being said, while the overall tone of this book is anything but happy, there are a few moments of beauty that shine through like the sun on a cloudy day...they're quickly overshadowed again, but they seem all the more beautiful for their scarcity. However, these few brief moments don't rescue the book from its overall bleakness. Now I'm not saying that everything has to be happy and fluffy and full of singing bunny rabbits, but I definitely teared up quite a bit throughout and the ending was nothing but the waterworks for me (I'm just glad I wasn't trying to read it in public). The author definitely deserves kudos for being able to stir up emotions like that in the reader, even if the emotion is sadness. Overall, I think I'd rate this a solid three and a half stars. Three doesn't seem like enough, but there was just nothing about it that really struck me enough to want to give it more.(less)
**spoiler alert** I wanted to see if Stephanie Meyer was any better at writing adult sci-fi. Apparently not. I got as far as the part where Melanie is...more**spoiler alert** I wanted to see if Stephanie Meyer was any better at writing adult sci-fi. Apparently not. I got as far as the part where Melanie is just meeting Jared and she's all ready to get it on but he's all "Sorry I know we're like the last man and woman left on earth that haven't been taken over by aliens yet, but you're only 17 and I'm 25 so we can't have sex...besides, we don't have any birth control because of the end of the world and all".
Okay, and I know Stephanie Meyer is like a Mormon or something and is trying to send a message to people about sex before marriage, like she did with Twilight. And I totally respect that and her view on the matter, because that view happens to reflect my own. HOWEVER, if you are going to be writing a novel in which romance happens to play a huge part, you really need to handle the topic better than that. Part of the reason why I really didn't like the Twilight books was because the characters constantly made stupid, unrealistic decisions, and most of their thought processes and motivations really made no sense. Like Edward's whole "I'm not going to turn you into a vampire, even though I really have no good reason for that decision other than something about a soul". That felt to me like it was just a device the author used because she wanted to be able to write more books and milk the series for all it was worth. When I got to the above-mentioned part of The Host, I had a flashback to similar aspects of the Twilight series, and I really didn't want to go down that road again.
Overall, I think Stephanie Meyer has some good ideas for stories, but a good story is nothing without good characters. All of her characterizations so far seem very flat and contrived. They are soulless and seem to exist only for the purpose of moving her plots along. That may be okay for some people who aren't too picky about what they read, but it doesn't work for me at all.(less)
I liked this book well enough, but not as much as I had hoped to like it (especially seeing as how the author wrote the screenplays for Hook and Muppe...moreI liked this book well enough, but not as much as I had hoped to like it (especially seeing as how the author wrote the screenplays for Hook and Muppet Treasure Island, two movies I loved as a kid and still love to this day). The story doesn't really get going until over a hundred pages in, so it took me awhile to get into it. The second half of the book is a lot better, but still leaves the reader with a lot of unanswered questions (presumably there is to be a sequel, though I haven't found out when, if ever, it will be released). One thing that really bothered me was the style of writing. It seemed like the author was trying to imitate the style of a classic adventure novel, but it ends up reading more like a florid romance. I was really getting sick of hearing about James' "blue forget-me-nots" (his eyes) and "flowing, raven-colored locks".
I do have to say that I LOVED Brett Helquist's illustrations. I was a big fan of his work in A Series of Unfortunate Events, and it was nice to see it again.
For me, at this point, the series could go either way. I'm curious enough about what happens to read the second book when it comes out, but I'm a bit wary of it. This novel was a lot of set-up, so hopefully once the story really gets ripping it will be better.(less)
This was an intriguing and engrossing book, but I got to a certain point in the story and my stomach couldn't take it anymore. Not that it was particu...moreThis was an intriguing and engrossing book, but I got to a certain point in the story and my stomach couldn't take it anymore. Not that it was particularly graphic or anything, but the whole idea of the pox party creeped me out.(less)
Only works if you pretend the MC is suffering from some sort of PTSD-related, bestiality-tinged Stockholm syndrome. "I was attacked by wolves and am s...moreOnly works if you pretend the MC is suffering from some sort of PTSD-related, bestiality-tinged Stockholm syndrome. "I was attacked by wolves and am severely mentally scarred, yet I am totally in love with this one wolf THAT I DONT KNOW IS ACTUALLY A HUMAN, and that's normal. Also, my parents are so stereotypically uninvolved, neither of them thought it might be smart to put me in therapy after this horribly traumatic incident."
I'm developing a theory that most YA is only tolerable if you pretend the MC is mentally ill. (less)
I've been letting my thoughts on this one percolate for awhile. I'm really torn about how I wanted to rate it. When I really think about it, four star...moreI've been letting my thoughts on this one percolate for awhile. I'm really torn about how I wanted to rate it. When I really think about it, four stars for this book seems like too many. This is not high quality writing by any means. The prose is simplistic, the characters other than Katniss are not developed at all, and the premise doesn't really hold up well to close scrutiny. Plus there's another one of those godawful love triangles...I guess that's what I get for reading YA, but honestly, can't someone PLEASE be original and write a book without one for once?
Sigh. But despite all that, this is really a page turner. I couldn't put it down, and honestly I didn't start thinking about all the things that are wrong with it until after the fact. While I was reading it, I got caught up in the story and I just wanted to find out what was going to happen next. And while now all I want to do is pick it apart, I can't deny the fact that I really enjoyed it while I was reading it.
I guess maybe I shouldn't be such a book snob. But meh, it's who I am.
I'm about halfway through Catching Fire, and so far I'm a lot less enthralled with it than I was with the first installment. I'm sure I'll have a big, juicy, book-snobby review when I'm done with it. Stay tuned!(less)
**spoiler alert** Okay, so I've been sitting here racking my brain trying to figure out something good to say about this book. First, quick plot summa...more**spoiler alert** Okay, so I've been sitting here racking my brain trying to figure out something good to say about this book. First, quick plot summary: It's about a sixteen-year-old girl named Ever whose entire family was killed in a tragic car accident. She survived, but mysteriously gained the ability to read peoples' minds, see peoples' auras and see dead people (including her younger sister Riley, who was killed in the accident). She moves from Oregon to Laguna Beach to live with her rich attorney aunt, who is her only surviving relative. She retreats into a downward spiral of grief and guilt, because she feels like it's her fault her family was killed in the accident. Also, she finds her new ability to read peoples' minds overwhelming, so she basically just hides herself in over-sized jeans and hoodies and blasts her iPod all day long at school (she doesn't actually ever have to pay attention in class, because for some reason her new abilities also allow her to touch a book and magically know everything it says). Back in Oregon she was a popular cheerleader with a hot boyfriend, but all of the popular kids at her new school hate her passionately and for no particular reason, and spend every spare moment of their time thinking about what a loser she is (she can hear their thoughts, remember?) although you would think they would eventually find something better to do. The only people she manages to make friends with are a goth girl named Haven and a gay guy named Miles, although why they're even friends with her is mystery because she doesn't ever do anything but sit around and feel sorry for herself.
Enter Damen Auguste, the new guy at school. He's tall, dark and handsome. He's mysterious. And he is instantly obsessed with Ever. He sits next to her in biology (no wait...English...sorry, I was thinking of something else) and Ever realizes he is Someone Special, because she can't read his thoughts or see his aura, and whenever he speaks to her or touches her he silences the psychic cacophony in her head. Please, stop me if you think you've heard this one before. He basically proceeds to string her along, at one moment making her think he likes her, the next flirting with one of the popular girls. Oh, and he fabricates flowers out of thin air. Eventually he admits that yes, he does like her, but he still keeps acting mysteriously. Disappearing for long periods of time, not telling Ever anything about his past, not allowing her to visit him at his house. He never eats anything, just drinks a mysterious red liquid he carries around with him at all times. He has super strength and super speed and is rich for no apparent reason. Ever eventually draws the conclusion that he is a vampire. Gee, I wonder why? But Damen sets her straight. No, he is not a vampire, why would Ever ever think something like that? He is an Immortal, with a capital I, which is something totally and completely different. After all, Damen doesn't sparkle. The process by which one can become Immortal is a little bit vague. Something about Damen's father being an alchemist Long Long Ago and Far Far Away who discovered the secret to immortality. But basically, in addition to the whole never dying thing, other perks include being psychic and reading auras and talking to dead people, being able to manipulate matter and travel between dimensions (and I'm assuming you probably get free air miles and a cool bumper sticker too).
So, as you by now may have figured out...EVER is an Immortal TOO! GASP! It was actually Damen who rescued her from the car crash, and he saved her life by making her an Immortal. Hence why an otherwise ordinary car crash turned her into Freaky Psychic Girl. But why on Earth would an Immortal (with a capital I!) like Damen be interested in saving the life of a teenage cheerleader? This is where it really gets good, because it turns out Ever has actually lived before, in fact she has been reincarnated many many times. And in each incarnation, Damen found her and they fell head over heels in love, but she always died tragically shortly after they met. Damen couldn't bear to lose her again, so he turned her into an Immortal (still with a capital I!) so they could be together forever and for always. Though why it took him that many lifetimes to figure out all he had to do was give her some Immortal Juice and it would prevent the cycle from repeating itself over and over and over is beyond me. And no, Immortal Juice was not actually capitalized in the book, that's just me trying to get into the spirit of things.
But [dramatic pause:] little do Ever and Damen know that the reason Ever always died tragically in all of her previous lifetimes was because Drina, Damen's Immortal wife and the requisite Saucy Redhead, always found Ever and killed her because she was jealous. So let's recap. Damen and Drina: married. Damen meets Ever: instant True Love. Drina, upset (rather justifiably, in my opinion) that Damen is cheating on her, kills Ever. Damen, never catching on to the fact that Drina is the one responsible for killing Ever eleventy-billion times over, goes back to her. Ever reincarnates as someone else. Lather. Rinse. Repeat. So, surprise surprise, Drina shows up and tries to kill Ever again, and almost succeeds due to the fact that Damen is nowhere to be found for some reason. But Ever heals herself...wait for it...WITH THE POWER OF LOVE! Then Damen whisks her away to a magical place called Summerland where it's all rainbows and candy and bunnies and squirrels hopping around singing. Then some other stuff that doesn't really matter happens. Then Drina shows up again to tries to kill Ever, and Ever defeats her by punching her in the heart chakra, which instantly kills her because...wait for it...DRINA HAS LOST THE POWER TO LOVE! Then it's happily ever after...but wait! There's a sequel! So there's some foreshadowing but I honestly don't remember what happened because I frankly stopped caring a long time ago.
So much for a quick plot summary. But basically, this was the worst train wreck of a book I've read in a LONG time. It was a blatant Twilight rip-off, taking all the things that made those books bad and making them ten times worse. What's worse is that they don't even try to disguise that this is the case. Even the covers are way too similar. In fact, my husband, who makes it a point to remain as ignorant as possible on the subject of Twilight, saw the cover and thought this book had something to do with that series. And the title of the next book? Blue Moon.
As if that weren't enough, Ever is an off-the-charts Mary Sue, and as a character she should have been scrapped from the get-go. Damen was just as irritating, and one got the impression he was just trying to get into Ever's pants the entire time. Even Drina was the most cheesy villain ever, making sure she explained every detail of her Diabolical Master Plan to Ever before she killed her.
The plot made very little sense, and while presumably there will be more elaboration made on things as the series progresses, there are some major plot holes I just don't think are fixable.
Anyway, I won this book for free as part of the First Reads program, and as much as I wish I could recommend it, I just can't. It all feels to me like one big master plan some publishing bigwigs came up with to cash in on the Twilight craze. It even had a bunch of awkward pop culture references thrown in, like someone who had no clue what they were doing thought inserting a few brand names and popular songs would make it more appealing to their targeted age range. If it seemed like the author had actually put a teeny little bit of thought or effort into developing the plot or characters I might be able to forgive a lot of the flaws this book had. Twilight, for instance, had many of the same flaws, but it seemed at least like Stephanie Meyer sincerely cared about her writing. This one just has "fast money" written all over it.
So in conclusion, save yourselves the trouble, PLEASE. You'll thank me for not having to waste your time on this.(less)
Georgia is a not-so-average teenage girl, whose life is plagued with one problem after another. Her parents are insane, her cat is trying to eat the n...moreGeorgia is a not-so-average teenage girl, whose life is plagued with one problem after another. Her parents are insane, her cat is trying to eat the neighbor's poodle and the boy she has a crush on is dating someone else. She is constantly doing stupid things and getting into awkward situations, which she chronicles faithfully in her diary.
I'm currently re-reading this series, which is one of my favorites. These books are great when you just need something fun to escape with. If you are currently or have ever been a teenage girl, you will almost certainly find something to relate to in Georgia's musings! (less)
Sometimes it's nice to read something totally different than what I usually go for. At first, it didn't...moreScandal! Secrets! Boys! Big poofy dresses! OMG!
Sometimes it's nice to read something totally different than what I usually go for. At first, it didn't really hold my attention, but I ended up liking it more than I thought I would. Now I kinda want to read the rest of the series!(less)
I'm finally getting around to reading the rest of this series, haha. Two left to go! My verdict: hilarious, as always. I love that I can just pick up...moreI'm finally getting around to reading the rest of this series, haha. Two left to go! My verdict: hilarious, as always. I love that I can just pick up one of these books and zip through it when I need to laugh. As usual, Georgia has too many boys in her life and it does nothing but cause problems. She is in the cakeshop of lurve, and how is she to choose between Masimo the Italian cakey and Robbie the Eclair? And why does Dave the Tart keep popping up when he's not wanted? It's been obvious from the beginning where this is all going, but it's still extremely entertaining.(less)
I didn't find this as unrelentingly hilarious as the Georgia Nicholson saga (it's not unusual for me to start giggling and snorting uncontrollably whi...moreI didn't find this as unrelentingly hilarious as the Georgia Nicholson saga (it's not unusual for me to start giggling and snorting uncontrollably while reading those books...it's very unattractive, trust me). But I do find myself liking Tallulah and her ridiculous knees, and this is only the first installment.(less)