Gated is a fascinating glimpse into a cultish community whose leader has convinced them to remove themselves from a corrupt society to await the world...moreGated is a fascinating glimpse into a cultish community whose leader has convinced them to remove themselves from a corrupt society to await the world’s inevitable end and that they are the worthy few who have been chosen to survive. This story is told from the perspective of Lyla, a teenager whose parents decided to follow the community’s strange yet charismatic leader, Pioneer, after the disappearance of their oldest daughter.
I was pleasantly surprised at how much I enjoyed Gated. Even after reading so many positive reviews, I wasn’t expecting to so quickly and easily be utterly caught up in the story of this strange community. I’ve always been intrigued, as I’m sure many people are, by cults and I’ve wondered what it is about these leaders that would cause moderately intelligent people to believe in their outrageous beliefs so wholeheartedly to the point that they entrust them with the safety and well-being of their children. I think that Gated explored this extremely well. While I loathed Lyla’s parents throughout most of the book because of the ridiculous amount of control over their lives that they willingly handed to Pioneer, I was also fascinated by their refusal to even consider any idea that challenged their beliefs. Also, the way that Lyla tried to force herself to trust that her parents were right and almost force herself to defend their way of life despite her own doubts was compelling. It wasn’t hard to connect with and feel for Lyla in the difficult situation she was faced with.
The relationships between Lyla and her peers were a bit awkward and completely believable. Since Lyla seemed to struggle with so many doubts about things the others seemed to easily accept, it was difficult for her to feel fully connected to many of her peers. This may be the only time I will ever say that a love triangle worked. Of course, it wasn’t really a love triangle though, more like a young girl being pushed one way by outside forces but being pulled another by her own natural instincts and it felt entirely genuine. Even the dialog was perfect, she said some of the silliest things which was perfectly fitting for a girl who had been so very sheltered. One quote that made me actually laugh out loud was when the boy she wasn’t supposed to like gave her her first taste of Cheetos.
"He's my Cheeto - bad for me, but now that I have a taste for him, I can't leave him alone."
While Lyla was clearly the main character, Pioneer definitely kept the story interesting. I kept asking myself, is he completely cracked out of his mind or is he some sort of mad genius? Whatever he was, he definitely had that creepy cult leader factor. I thought he was downright scary and any scene that included him made my skin crawl.
I wavered between a 4-5 star rating throughout the entirety of the book but because aspects of the ending didn’t work for me, I decided to go with 4 stars. The audio narration by Alicyn Packard was excellent, providing an authentic voice to the main character and keeping me engaged in the story. I would highly recommend this audio to anyone considering reading Gated. And I would certainly recommend reading Gated. I actually considered adding this to my “Best of 2013” list, if it weren’t for those few issues I had with the ending, I would have done so. (less)
Omens started out really strong. I was immediately drawn in to the drama surrounding Olivia finding out the truth about her birth parents and how her...moreOmens started out really strong. I was immediately drawn in to the drama surrounding Olivia finding out the truth about her birth parents and how her family reacted. I was fascinated with how she came to find Cainsville and with the town itself. I was loving the story all the way up through the halfway point but then it started to fall off a bit. What I had, up to that point, thought was going to be a paranormal thriller ended up being more of a conspiracy filled suspense drama. The paranormal elements were mentioned throughout but then went unexplored kind of leaving the reader hanging. The "reading omens" aspect was one of the best things about the book so when it went in a completely different direction than what I felt I was promised, I was left feeling a bit disappointed.
I enjoyed the interaction between the two main characters. I like the relationship that's building between them and that it is not one of those instant-love situations. It took me a while to warm up to Gabriel, it happened at about the same rate that Olivia started looking at him differently, so I thought that was really well done. Gabriel has a lot of annoying traits and habits and Olivia views him very realistically which is refreshing. He is the more consistent of the two characters in the way his actions match his personality as I was led to understand it. Her actions are a bit more all over the place.
It seemed like Omens promised one thing but delivered something very different. Maybe if I had been looking forward to suspense with a ton of conspiracy theory and convenient coincidences, I wouldn't have been left feeling underwhelmed by how Omens ended. I may still read the next book in the series with the hope that the paranormal aspects will be more prominent in future books in this series. I can see the potential for this to be an amazing series. I love the concept of a town like Cainsville and I do want to see where this series goes.
Inferno 3.5Apparently this kind of action/thriller just isn't my thing. There were many times I felt like I was listening to a Dante-esque version of...moreInferno 3.5Apparently this kind of action/thriller just isn't my thing. There were many times I felt like I was listening to a Dante-esque version of The Amazing Race (a TV show where contestants find clues that take them running frantically all over the world completing seemingly irrelevant tasks to get to the next clue.) Much of the action just confused and/or bored me. The plot was fascinating and the way the problem of over population was used in context with Dante's vision of Hell was definitely interesting. But Inferno repeatedly lost me in the erratic race from clue to clue. What really grabbed me about the story was the plausibility of a situation like the one described. Overpopulation is definitely a relevant issue today and many statistics online verify some of what was proposed in Inferno (I know this because I stopped reading to Google these statistics, this alone tells you how intriguing this book was.) It is terrifying to imagine what the wrong kind of scientist could release into the world in the hope of solving the population problem. The story was resolved in a way that I honestly didn't see coming. I am not scientifically inclined so I have no idea if what was being suggested is even possible, but it seemed logically sound and gave me something to think about and will likely spark a lively discussion with the best friend once she finishes reading it. The scenery was awesome! One thing that I enjoy about Dan Brown's books is that it explores many of the places that I would so love to go. That part of this story took place in the Hagia Sophia and in and around Istanbul made me quite happy! I hope that one day he writes a story that explores more of the art and history of Istanbul, there would certainly be enough material to work with as that whole area has such cultural significance. So, location was definitely a win in this story. The aspects that didn't work as well for me were the action sequences and the suspense surrounding the good guys and villains. Also, some of the twists were just too farfetched at times and there was so much running around that I often lost the thread of the story and found myself wondering what in the world Robert Langdon was even trying to accomplish. I will say that Langdon is much more committed to that type of chaos than I could ever be. I would have checked out the Hagia Sophia, wished everyone the best of luck, and went the hell home. The characters were okay. I didn't feel any significant connection with any of them but that could be because I never knew who was telling the truth. It was like a whole bunch of Snapes running around causing havoc and I wasn't sure why(Harry Potter reference) Several had compelling background stories but I had no idea if they were even the truth or was part of some super secret false identity. Ultimately, it was worth the read and presented topics that were worth thinking about. I suppose Dante would be somewhat pleased that he was featured in a book likely to become a blockbuster summer movie, but he might also have wished that it had been written by someone with a bit more literary style and finesse. I would recommend this to anyone who enjoyed The DaVinci Code or who likes gratuitous action and chaos in their thrillers.(less)
The Immortal Rules is a dark, violent, edge of your seat, up all night kind of story. And it is hands down the very best book I've read all year. I re...moreThe Immortal Rules is a dark, violent, edge of your seat, up all night kind of story. And it is hands down the very best book I've read all year. I read and loved Kagawa's Iron Fey series, but The Immortal Rules is even better. I mean, the first line of the story starts with a public execution, and it just gets darker from there. I was 9 pages in when I knew this book would make it to my favorites list.
The world that Kagawa has created is terrifyingly brilliant with an almost post-apocalyptic or dystopian feel. The US has been decimated by a disease that almost destroyed the human race to the point that vampires, who had before hidden among humans were alarmed that their food source was being wiped out and so created cities where they ruled and kept the humans penned in like sheep under the guise of "protection". Because outside these walled cities among the ruins of other towns and cities were inhabited by mindless scavenging "rabids" which are essentially vampire zombies. Yes, I said Vampire Zombies. So the vampires protected the humans from these things as well as provided food and necessities to the registered and in return for this protection, the humans were required to give a quota of blood every couple weeks. Those unregistered humans were not required to give blood, but they also were not given food and the penalty for stealing is death. The majority of the humans live in what is called the Fringe, outside the walls of the inner vampire sanctum, but inside the walls of the city itself and out of reach of the rabids.
The main character, Allison, was basically a street urchin, living in abandoned building, eating garbage, bugs, rats or anything just to stay alive. Allie's bravery, loyalty, and wit quickly endeared her to me. She seemed to be always struggling with a balance between self-preservation and the need to protect those she cared about. Kagawa certainly wasn't kind to her, this poor girl, throughout the story gets the crap kicked out of her both physically and emotionally as she attempts to hang on to her humanity. While Allie was a kick-ass main character, everyone in the story had a depth and background that made the entire story just come to life. I was drawn so deeply into this story that there were several times that my husband spoke to me from right in front of me that I didn't even notice him standing there. (He so loves when I do that :P)
And yes, there is a bit of romance between all the blood and starvation. Vampire Zombies be damned, teens will insist upon falling in love, no matter how hopeless it seems. In this situation, however, the romance was absolutely fitting. It built so slowly from them beginning to trust one another based on their actions, then coming to understand one another's differences. It added yet another poignant element to the story and it definitely worked, despite their differences and despite how impossible things may seem.
The writing was stellar, flawless. Kagawa effortlessly built this bleak and frightening world populated with terrifying creatures, a broken society, and a heroine with a strength built on years of pain and disappointment and yet a capacity to love that almost defies that world she grew up in. I don't know what I was expecting when I picked up The Immortal Rules, but I know I had no idea I would be so completely blown away by this incredible story. If you haven't read this yet, you should do so immediately.
Speechless Chelsea Knot is the best friend of the most popular girl at school and is known for her ability to ferret out, and expose, the good gossip....moreSpeechless Chelsea Knot is the best friend of the most popular girl at school and is known for her ability to ferret out, and expose, the good gossip. When she spills a secret that has violent repercussions, Chelsea makes a decision to do the right thing even if it means losing that all-important popularity. Suddenly, she's on the outside and getting back all that she's dished out in the past and then some. An article she reads in the National Geographic inspires her to take a vow of silence since talking without thinking has gotten her into this mess. The beginning of Speechless was very slow and angst filled. The characters were all largely unlikable, a bunch of selfish, shallow teens with entitlement issues. I couldn't stand Chelsea and didn't feel particularly sorry for the position she found herself in. I even thought about marking this DNF and moving on to something else. I'm really glad that I didn't though, because as the story progressed, it slowly became more than it first appeared. The vow of silence she took seemed to be for selfish attention seeking reasons initially, but the unforeseen result of not speaking allows her to really examine the person that she is as well as the people and things she had surrounded herself with. Her silence also caused her to listen more fully to what people where saying and to consider their words instead of simply replying. Through her vow, she learns about friendship, accountability, loyalty, and the power of words. Her character grows very slowly throughout the story as she acknowledges some hard truths about herself and attempts to become worthy of the new friends she's made and, of course, the boy. There's always a boy... :) No flowery prose or layers of meaning, the writing was as simple and straightforward as the story itself and felt authentic and perceptive. I enjoyed Speechless much more than I thought I would after reading the first couple chapters and encourage anyone who chooses to read this to push through that initial reaction to these characters because the book does get much much better.(less)
Amelia Anne Is Dead and Gone Amelia Anne is dead and gone but she apparently left behind her thesaurus because her story was quite adjective-alicious....moreAmelia Anne Is Dead and Gone Amelia Anne is dead and gone but she apparently left behind her thesaurus because her story was quite adjective-alicious. But, once I waded through the overabundance of metaphors and descriptive prose, it was a fairly ok read....until the last 30 or so pages. That ending was bullshit. I was so angry about the fact that I had been drawn in to the suspense of this murder/mystery only to be rewarded with some half ass muddle-muck of an ending. Not to mention that it just WOULD NOT, COULD NOT logically have happened that way. (view spoiler)[ If someone is beat in the head with a tire iron and then repeatedly bludgeoned around the face and body, I refuse to believe they would be coherent enough to correctly analyze the extent of their injuries enough to know they are dying and then request that a complete stranger that suddenly appears out of the bushes on a dark road in the middle of the night finish the job and kill them. There is NO WAY IN HELL that, once he confesses to killing her (and explains that it was at her request), hiding evidence, interfering with and investigation, etc, the state would give him only probation for it after deciding that she would have died in another hour anyway. I'm sure SOMEBODY would have suggested that perhaps calling an ambulance might have been a better choice in the situation. Even with our screwy justice system, this could not have possibly played out like this. I know of a girl in the town where I grew up who went to PRISON for 3 years for taking her car to a car wash the day after her husband murdered someone. And she had nothing to do with the actual murder but her ass was still charged with accessory after the fact or some such thing. So it's just not a plausible or even a logical ending (hide spoiler)]This less than perfect ending, the overly descriptive writing, and the fact that I found the main character, Becca, to be utterly unlikable, left me a rather grumpy reader after finishing this book. I guess one could look at it as Becca was a "flawed" main character, but I just thought she was nothing but angst and asshattery. This is an example of some of her "personality" "Rebecca Williams?""That's me," I said, hoisting my backpack. The fat girl-whose named turned out to be, hilariously, Bonnie Biggs-smiled and waved at me. Ugh. Needless to say, I did not enjoy Amelia Anne is Dead and Gone and certainly don't recommend it. However, there are other people who thought that this was a wonderful story and if you're at all curious about this book, take a look at Wendy's review here for another perspective. (less)
What's Left of Me explores what it might be like to be an unwelcome guest in your own body, within your own mind. In this world, each body is born inh...moreWhat's Left of Me explores what it might be like to be an unwelcome guest in your own body, within your own mind. In this world, each body is born inhabited by two souls. By age 7, most children have "settled", meaning the recessive soul has faded away leaving only the dominant soul. When this doesn't happen, those left with two souls past puberty are considered hybrid. Hybrids are considered sick and dangerous and are sought out by the government to be hospitalized and corrected.
Addie is the dominant soul in this story, Eva the recessive. They have spent the past few years pretending that Eva has faded until a schoolmate finds out their secret. The schoolmate, Hally, and her brother Devin are also secretly hybrids as well as being foreign which means they are distrusted in the current political climate. Eva wants to trust them but Addie isn't so sure, the consequences if their secret were revealed could be deadly.
The story is told from Eva's point of view and was at times very poignant as I was forced to consider what it would be like having to constantly live in my own head pretending that I don't exist to the outside world. The relationship between Addie and Eva felt genuine and the feeling between the two was expressed beautifully in the dialog they shared. With two souls inhabiting the body of each of the characters, you would think that the story would be confusing. Surprisingly, it was not. Each soul had their own individual voice and were easily identified.
I think that Eva was an especially well written character. Her great longing to be acknowledged, her loneliness, and her genuine love for Addie was beautifully expressed and I found myself continually drawn to her.
I enjoyed the unusual storyline, the relationships between the characters, and the beautiful writing that compelled me to continue reading late into the night. If I have one complaint about What's Left of Me it is that I would have liked to have had more information about the world and why children were born with two souls and why not settling is considered so dangerous. (less)
The Reapers Are the Angels I have read so many glowing reviews of The Reapers are the Angels that I simply had to see what all the fuss was about and...moreThe Reapers Are the Angels I have read so many glowing reviews of The Reapers are the Angels that I simply had to see what all the fuss was about and even though I was warned ahead of time about the bloody bits, I still wanted to read this. I decided to listen to this on audio and I think the narrator did an amazing job giving voice to the conflicted and unique character that was Temple. I would certainly recommend this audio to anyone who is planning to read this. Temple was an intriguing character, so full of contrasts, she was kind and considerate but with the capacity to become extremely violent if provoked which made sense considering the dangerous world she grew up in. She was also extremely intelligent, logical, and self-aware but at the same time illiterate and simplistic in many ways. Her character fascinated me and reminded me, in a lot of ways, of Saba from Blood Red Road except Temple was much more complex. I was fascinated with the way she accepted the world for what it was and did her best to work within it instead of fight against what she could not control. I have to say, Temple is one of the most interesting characters I’ve read. The writing was vividly descriptive and unapologetically raw. It brought to life a bleak and desolate world overrun by the undead who were themselves more pathetic and sad than scary. The pockets of survivors that Temple came upon showed the best and worst of humanity. It was interesting to see the many ways that desperation and hopelessness may cause people to react. There were some people and situations that pushed the boundaries of believability, even for a zombie book but for the most part, I could realistically imagine that this is what the aftermath of a zombie apocalypse would look like. For some reason, I felt really disconnected from the story. I’m not sure whether it was the third person narration or the philosophical and highly allegorical way this was written, but while I could pick out a hundred beautifully phrased quotes, I was never truly engaged in the story. At times I felt that the writing was almost a bit pretentious and that it tried so hard to be literature as opposed to genre fiction that it overreached and ended up just being absurd. Or it could simply be that I am more interested in being entertained by a story than in trying to ponder life’s mysteries or decipher allegory. I definitely enjoyed listening to The Reapers are the Angels and, while it wasn’t really my thing, I can certainly see where other people would appreciate the writing style and depth.(less)
Definitely didn't like this as much as Feed. The last 3 hours of the audio were the best of the entire book and I'm glad I stuck with it when I was re...moreDefinitely didn't like this as much as Feed. The last 3 hours of the audio were the best of the entire book and I'm glad I stuck with it when I was ready to put it down in frustration. Full review soon.(less)
This was an interesting twist on banshees and fae. I really enjoyed it. There were some of the things that are cliche in YA fantasy fiction, but overa...moreThis was an interesting twist on banshees and fae. I really enjoyed it. There were some of the things that are cliche in YA fantasy fiction, but overall I thought it was a fun and entertaining read. I'll probably read the rest of the series. (less)