I've read and enjoyed a number of Rusty's teen humor/romance/horror stories, so when Decadent Publishing e-mailed me about his latest book, I jumped at the chance.
You've no doubt seen the surge of supernatural, and specifically zombie material these days. And really, a lot of it is the same. Zombie outbreak occurs, main characters try to survive while slowly but surely they get picked off one by one... It's a pretty bleak outlook, to be sure.
But Rusty chooses a different point of view. What happens after the bite, the turn? What if death isn't the end? And what if the heart keeps working even after the heartbeat stops? His zombies still pack the bite, but a few still keep their brains even after their organs shut down—and not all of them are friendly. So now our protagonists have to deal with learning the ins and outs of being undead, defeating their menacing, bloodthirsty foes, and still contend with teenage hormones.
This particular outbreak happens in the small coastal town of Catfish Cove, Florida. Max has just gotten detention with an assorted bunch of misfits when the Principal comes on the school's TV announcement system screaming about zombies, only to be promptly chowed down upon moments later. Max's best friend, Brie comes into the room a few seconds later, chomping on a severed limb of her own, then decides to share with the class. Max and the rest awake a few minutes later to find themselves under the supervision of a shady Proctor and a lot of armed guards who aren't too stingy with their tasers.
Oh yeah, and the kids are all zombies now.
Max is our narrator for this tale, and I'll be honest, I didn't know what to make of her. Sometimes she comes off as a prep, sometimes a brain, but she's tough and sensitive too. I guess she's out-of-the-box enough not to turn anyone off, but it made her a little hard to grasp. I would have liked a little more fleshing out of one aspect or another instead of being completely relatable.
Oh, and is she ever talkative. Not out loud, per say, but she does tend to ramble in her narration. It's like those comparisons made on Family Guy, but if they went on for twice as long. I'll admit, after a while I started to skim until it got back to the now.
Anyway, her classmates include Jaycee the mean-girl cheerleader, Bobby the geek, Cory the good-guy turned bad-boy but in a sexy way, Nikki the street-smart maybe goth, and Brie the best friend. Unfortunately, I saw all of these as either throw-away or under-utilized.
Nikki was actually the stand-out for me. I was impressed with how much backstory as she got later on, but didn't see it in any of how her character was presented throughout. She's described on page one as "the Tramp (or so they say) With A Heart Of Gold (or, at least, silver)," and that's really all she's painted as for the majority of the book. Then there are these wow moments that really got me interested in more of her story, but too late, story's over. Maybe next time.
If you hadn't guessed it from the summary, Cory's gonna be the love interest. He doesn't do much to warrant it, but he's not the worst guy in the world, so I didn't have much of a problem with it. The romance, while there, doesn't go much farther than googly eyes and held hands. Again, Cory and the romance could have used a little more fleshing out.
Detention shared a lot of similarities with Zombies Don't Cry: both had good zombies and bad zombies, both had electricity as a staple of the zombie lore, both had a Grand Council and a Zombie Law of sorts... In fact, save for a couple naming differences (Reekers vs Zerkers), both books/series could easily be set in the same world.
That being said, Detention wasn't nearly as fleshed out in terms of the world-building. They tell you about some things, mention others, but in the end a lot of subjects are abandoned. Like the Grand Council — I know from Zombies Don't Cry, that they serve as a government who pass down and enforce the rules about secrecy, not spreading the zombie virus, etc. etc. But here they are mentioned once and dropped just as quickly.
The Reapers are handled much the same way.
"They are like zombie GI Joes, okay? Our version of the military. Think, oh, I dunno, SWAT, the CIA, the Navy Seals and the FBI all rolled into one. When the humans can't handle an infestation, the Reapers move in and take over. That's when you know you're really screwed!" "Wait...the zombies have...an army?" He just nods his head and gets back to barricading the door. [Location 1799]
Okay, so I get why they come to the school to handle the bad zombies, but why do they go after the 'good' zombies? Are they completely mindless? If they're like the CIA and the FBI, then surely they have the intelligence not to take out their own people.
But none of that is ever really addressed. There's talk about how the data gathered here, and later harvested from the Reekers, is supposed to help in outbreaks down the road. That this entire procedure is not only to help them, but others in the future. Then why are the Reapers sent in to effectively destroy everything? Why aren't they trying to salvage what they can? Sure, it makes for more action, but it leaves a lot hanging.
And another dangling plot line that left me utterly confused: There comes a point when Max does something completely on instinct, to the objections of another character. I don't really object the instinct thing - it works in some cases, and the supernatural/paranormal is one of them. But I never got a real explanation for why the instinct was triggered in the first place. They talk about what it did, and that it's ultimately a good thing, but between this, that, and the other we never find out why she did it, or why the other character would object. Even after reading it through a second time, I still don't get it.
So, after all that I don't know whether I want this to be its own series, or whether I think it works better as a companion or spin-off book to the Living Dead Love Stories (Zombies Don't Cry). As it stands now, I think I'd classify it as a companion novel, one set in the same world but different place. However, if it was ever revisited and fleshed out a little more, I'd love to see it expand into its own series (or companion series).
Overall, Detention of the Living Dead was an action-packed, funny and witty zombie novel. Though it could use a little more meat on its bones (and what zombie doesn't?), for the price of a couple bucks it's well worth the few hours of enjoyment that it gives. Not too graphic with gore, and barely containing romance or language I'd say it's appropriate for Middle Grade and High School. If you're looking for a zombie book that provides some laughs with its gore, snarky teens and unique zombie lore, then you definitely need to check out what Rusty has to offer.
Approximate Reading Time: 3.5 hours
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this e-book from Decadent Publishing in exchange for a fair and honest review....more
In Victorian England, there is a special institution where two men intend to help lycanthropes suppress their nocturnal transformations, while searching for a more permanent cure. One evening, they discover a rare type of werewolf - one trapped eternally in a half-human, half-wolf form - that they believe could be beneficial to their research.
'Martha', however, believing her shape is due to her being a Messiah to her brethren, wishes to see the other werewolves embrace their curse. Can she be treated and cured? Or will her 'Lord' have his way?
First and foremost, this is a novella. At 104 pages (including the title and acknowledgement pages), there isn't a lot of room to go off and explore the entire world, nor to grasp much of the complexity in the main characters. And yet Barsby managed to pack in a lot into a small package.
The story is told in the perspective of journal entries of a nameless doctor. Actually, it's unclear if he is a doctor since his work involves a strange mix of psychology and studying lycanthropy. At the very least, he and his associate, Harlston, run an asylum for werewolves. It is our narrator's hope to cure this affliction and allow his wards to return to their normal human lives.
In this world werewolves are men who, after receiving the bite, turn into wolves every night. While in that form they have no control over their bodies, though some do retain their minds through the experience. The transformations are painful and wild, and some of the patients have killed as the wolf. It is primarily for this reason that they, or their loved ones, have sought help here.
One night, however, the two doctors (for lack of a better term) discover a young female who is permanently fixed between the two forms - and anthropomorphized wolf who still has the power of thought and speech. Knowing that she might be key to helping the other patients, they bring her back to the asylum for further study. But our narrator quickly discovers that her unique form is only half as interesting as her mind.
The narrator, for being nameless, was surprisingly complex. He's seen firsthand the harm that these creatures can do, but instead of condemning them to death he seeks to help the man return to control. He's also looking somewhat into the origin of the creatures - whether it is divine interaction or a condition of the psyche.
This struggle of thought is only complicated by the newfound female's message, which has a new God choosing her to help usher in a new world where werewolves rule. Her story was doubly intriguing for me, since I took a literature class on madness in college. Is she mad, or are those around her simply refusing to look at a new perspective?
I thought, even for a novella, the world-building was exquisite. The details that were missing only made me hungry for more. And the writing style only helped to sell it. Harkening back to the style of Stoker's Dracula, the matter-of-fact tone of the initial journals only makes the later emotional entries that much more evocative. Again, some details such as country, climate, etc. etc., would have been nice, but keeping it open made it so it could have been almost anywhere.
I did have a couple problems with the book. Putting aside the few typos, the journal entries made it difficult for me to discern what tense was proper, and I noticed it change randomly a couple times, jolting me out of the book. I also was disappointed with the ending — we go through the entire book with this nameless narrator, learning his story, only to jump to a completely different person's story for the end of the book? Sure, it answered some nagging questions throughout the book, but I wanted the narrator's reaction! At least a line or two. But instead all we get is "The End?".
Still, if I heard there was going to be a sequel or an expansion of this novella, I'd jump on it. Barsby's writing proved to be entertaining, and his story was both thought-provoking and emotional. Given a little more attention to characters and the length to include more details, I'd be happy to dive back into this world.
Overall, The Werewolf Asylum was an interesting mix of psychology and theology. Though it contains no language or sex at all, due to some violence and the tone of the novella it's probably more geared toward an adult audience, but I could see some young adults reading it as well. And while I found the questioning of theology to be thought-provoking, I can see some readers being turned off instantly. Still, I think fans of the werewolf genre should definitely sink their teeth into a copy, even if it is just an electronic one (be careful of shock!).
Approximate Reading Time: 2 hours
Disclaimer: I received a copy of this e-book from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review....more
I've owned this book for quite sometime, though it's taken Reading With Tequila'sgroup read to finally delve into it. I've also been long overdue, acI've owned this book for quite sometime, though it's taken Reading With Tequila'sgroup read to finally delve into it. I've also been long overdue, according to certain friends, for reading Gaiman's books. And having seen the movie, I was interested to see how the book/movie stacked up, and if I preferred one over the other. With all that in mind, I dove into Stardust.
Tristran, who I would rename Tristan if I were reading out-loud, was not much of a character to follow. He's a hero of unique and mysterious lineage, who possesses gifts he didn't know he had, and who embarks on a quest of true love without much thought at all about what he might need along the way. Any other book, he'd be dead in two seconds. But here, everything works out for him. It's almost sickening how easy things are for him.
And then there's his prize, the "attractive woman with a hot temper" who he discovers is in fact the fallen star Tristran set out for. When she's first discovered and captured by our hero, she (rightly) refuses to aide him in dragging her away. But a few minutes later, she begrudgingly agrees to join him, hobbling along on a broken leg. That was sure easy. Honestly, for being a person, the star (sometimes called Yvaine) doesn't do much more than an inanimate object. She sure didn't have any more of a personality.
In fact, I'd have to say the most interesting characters were the villains. There's this side story involving seven brothers vying to become the heir to the throne, which involves them all trying to kill each other. And then there's the main villain, the Witch Queen who is out to capture and kill the fallen star in order to regain her eternal youth. These villains are all dark and wonderfully evil, and it was fun to follow them through their dark journeys. Their endings were somewhat disappointing, but not completely unforeseen given the type of story this was.
Oh, yeah. Did I mention this is a fairytale?
Having said all of that, I really can't fault the book for sticking to the fairytale tropes. Having it read to me via audiobook took me back to when my mom used to read me Grimm's Fairytales*. This was a much longer, much more intricate fairytale—one that was obviously written for an older crowd. And yet it had all the same elements that we grew up knowing and loving. The hero who could do no wrong, the fair maiden who was to be his prize, and the villains who we loved to hate and, in some cases, fear.
And make no mistake, this is a fairytale that strives to be just that. It isn't a modern fairytale, it's not a new imagining, a twist, or an expansion on ones you might know. As such, you'll no doubt find problems in characterization, huge coincidences, and conflict resolution if you go at it like it was a regular fantasy novel. This isn't a really a novel in anything more than binding**. So if you're looking for something deeper, you might want to try something else. Perhaps the movie?
I mentioned before that I'd already watched the movie adaptation of Stardust. Honestly, I wish I hadn't. Mind you, I haven't seen it in ages and didn't think I'd remember much at all. But as I read, I found myself remembering quite a bit, actually (primarily the ending). And since I knew/recalled how things fitted together, I'm sorry to say I can't report as a true first-time reader.
However, with my strange combination of reading/hearing the book for the first time while following the story for the second, I can report that I still greatly enjoyed the reading experience. I found the story clever and whimsical enough that I didn't mind re-learning things as much as I thought I might. And really, the language and tone of the book differ so much from (what I remember of) the movie, it's two completely incomparable experiences. Both enjoyable, but definitely different.
And speaking of experience, I think my experience was greatly impacted by the fact that I listened to the audiobook as I read. Hearing another person telling the story instantly brought me back to my childhood, putting me in the right frame of mind. It's said that poetry needs to be read aloud to be experienced properly, and I think some stories are the same way. Fairytales, ghost stories, old legends, all require the right ambiance to evoke the best response, and I think verbal storytelling is the right ambiance. Just something to keep in mind.
Overall, I loved this adult fairytale. I'd recommend it for fantasy lovers who are in the mood for a fun adventure, Brothers Grimm gore, and a teensy bit of romance. There is one sex scene (comprised of two paragraphs) and one F-bomb, along with quite a bit of violence. Still, I think a crafty storyteller could easily make this a great story to read to their kids, so I don't really have an age recommendation. If you're craving something nostalgic, whimsically simple, and with just enough of an adult spin not to feel guilty about it, I'd go pick up Stardust.
Approximate Reading Time: 3.5 hours
*You know, the one where Cinderella's step-sisters chop up their feet to get the slipper to fit and get their eyes pecked out at the end. Or where Snow White chokes on the apple and is revived when the dwarfs drop her on her head. Great bed-time stories, huh?
**Actually, it turns out this was originally released by DC Comics as a four-part illustrated story. I think people seeing that binding would get the storytelling/fairy-tale reference a lot easier, don't you?...more
This review is for those who have read or are familiar with the previous book, Solid, or don't mind knowing some spoilers for iAmazon ~ Series Website
This review is for those who have read or are familiar with the previous book, Solid, or don't mind knowing some spoilers for it. Settling, however, will remain spoiler-free.
This sequel was a hard one to process for me. Now, I'm not sure if it was me —if reading this during a moving day and when I was already tired made me extra cranky— or if it was the book itself that let me down. I wanted to love it, I really did, and I apologize in advance for the snark in the following, but... But let me back up and start at the beginning.
I re-read Solid for a couple reasons: firstly, I wanted a recap since it'd been nearly 9 months, and while a page-long summary is provided at the beginning of Settling, that doesn't help me with personalities or the author's style; and secondly, I love revisiting series from the beginning to get an idea of how it works as a whole—how does one story flow into the next, does the mood shift, is it a natural progression, etcetera. So going into Settling I thought I knew what and who I was dealing with.
Clio, our narrator and main character, seems the same as when we last left off. I mean, she's had all of maybe a week to change between books, so how different could she be? She's still sarcastic and sassy, really tight with her friends, and optimistic about what lies ahead. Then she finds a dead body and pulls a complete 180. She tries to isolate herself whenever possible, dreads talking about anything to anyone, and is super critical of herself at all times.
Okay, I buy that finding a dead body could be pretty traumatic, and it makes more sense than her just going psycho for no reason. What I don't buy is that seeing the dead body of someone she doesn't care about was more traumatic than witnessing the shooting in the last book. I got that she's in a downward spiral and totally needs some therapy ASAP (I'll go more into this later), but the trigger didn't make sense to me. Actually, I didn't even know there was a trigger until I went back looking for one for this review. So, for me, Clio was pretty much a psycho for seemingly no reason for the majority of the book.
The rest of the crew, as explained slightly above, was severely lacking. Since Clio detaches herself from social interaction, we have to suffer through that alone time too. But what we do see of the group is pretty consistent with what we knew them for in Solid.
Bliss still likes to be blissfully unaware of anything serious or scary (my personality is probably not compatible with hers, so I'm sorry for the bias against her). Garrett still tries to turn everything into a joke or pop culture reference (and I love him for it). Miranda is actually my favorite of the group due to her duality of being egotistical and trying not to be—she has conflict and feels the most real to me.
The three new kids (I count Alexis because she was in maybe 4 pages of Solid) have definite potential. Alexis got a ton more 'screentime' here, and I was super glad she did. Even though all the kids are within a few weeks/months of each other age-wise, Alexis seems more experienced and wiser, and it made her a great sounding board/therapist for Clio when she needed it. Rae and Xavier were great for their short stints, and I hope we see more of them in the future.
Then there's Jack. Jack...how do I say this...Jack feels like a cardboard cut-out to me. He has since book one. Now, I know this is me being cynical, but I don't believe that there is a perfect guy. The fact that everything he says and does is perfectly tailored to Clio's (and most other peoples') needs, screams ROBOT to me. Obviously he's not a robot in the story, but he doesn't read plausible to me. Even his conflict (not having an ability) seems to be for Clio's or the plot's sake—for them to respond to/utilize.
Which brings me to my biggest complaint of the book: the plot-character-relationship didn't feel organic. I've read some great books that have character-driven plots, and I've read great books with plot-driven characters. Character-driven plots either involve a villain making hell for the protagonist who must grow and meet the challenge, or the protagonist continually makes decisions that sends him/her into challenging situations. A plot-driven character is one thrown into an impossible situation randomly (falling down a rabbit hole, in a zombie apocalypse, etc.) and must learn to cope with what's thrown at them. Either one makes for great literature if utilized properly.
Settling, however, seemed like the ending was written first and everything else needed to lead to that.
We need Boy to be alone at Point W - How do we accomplish that? Make Girl and Boy have fight at Point U - About what? Make Girl do something stupid at Point L - Out-of-Character moment, why? Make Girl experience trauma at Point E - Explanation plausible.
I never felt like the character's actions naturally led to the next point, leading me to see everyone as either out-of-character, or acting implausibly. It irritated the hell out of me for easily the majority of the book.
Which brings me back to my point about Clio obviously needing therapy and receiving none. This is a military complex, not a public school, not a volunteer soup kitchen, a freaking military complex. They know about post traumatic stress. Why Clio didn't receive anything after the shooting in book one is beyond me, but that she had NO follow-up after the dead body, not even a debriefing is just plain negligent and bordering on implausible.
And speaking of implausible, I don't even know what to say about the "romance". Let me just include a couple snippets from the make-out scene:
Then, by none of my own volition, I abandoned my chair to meet him in his — uninvited maybe, but not unwelcome. [...] So this is why Eve was the slandered one, the seductress, I thought. That first taste of him, like the first bite of the apple, was the drop that knocked down the floodgates. And in that same instant I knew there was no going back, that nothing could stop the wave I was riding. He stopped fighting and met me at its crest, joined me in the us.
[Settling, Location 1892-1901 in Kindle ARC]
After the extremely tame cuddling and single kiss in Solid, not to mention the fairly innocent cuddling earlier in the book, I was neither expecting nor prepared for this interlude. And that's not even half of what's there.
I know I haven't touched on the majority of the plot, or the mystery therein, but I'm sorry to say it felt bogged down by all the aforementioned problems. The mystery plot really wasn't all that bad, but similar to the previous book, it showed up and starred primarily at the end, with absolutely no clues leading to the big reveal. Clio's inner struggle was the lead for the majority of the book and, once the pesky murder thing is solved, it's straight back to her at the end.
Ultimately the book didn't work for me. It's the second in a trilogy, but that doesn't give it the excuse that it doesn't have to stand alright on its own, and it really really didn't. Clio's story lacks the beginning-middle-end structure it needed, and the ending suffered greatly for it. If I wasn't already wow'd by book one, and if book three wasn't already the predetermined ending, Settling would be the end for me. I feel like I'm settling for Settling, just because Solid was good and Sound should have a big bang for the finale.
Overall, I can only recommend Settling for those who enjoyed its predecessor and are looking to finish the trilogy with Sound's upcoming release. It's still in the YA Sci-Fi/Romance category, though I'd recommend the age-range of the series be bumped up to late high school. Language and gore are consistent with the previous installment, but the romance/sex has gone up considerably and is geared toward more mature readers. I do plan on checking out Sound pending its upcoming release Summer 2012, and I dearly hope it gets better, not only in plot, but for poor Clio too!
Approximate Reading Time: 4.5 hours
Disclaimer: I received this ARC from the author in exchange for a fair and honest review....more
First tip: Don't read the prologue if you don't want spoilers! Yes, it offers a cute little preview of the fun and excitement thAmazon ~ Author's Blog
First tip: Don't read the prologue if you don't want spoilers! Yes, it offers a cute little preview of the fun and excitement that is to come, but it also reveals the outcome of the final chapter. So, trust me on this one, just start on chapter one and if you're not instantly hooked, just wait until chapter four—that's when the real action starts.
And by action, I mean the most hilarious, cheesy, B-movie antics you ever could have dreamed up. Fans of the SAW franchise should shop somewhere else, because this horror is more akin to that of Fright Night, Big Wolf on Campus, or the original Night of the Living Dead. Not that the stakes aren't just as high for these characters—no one wants to be a werewolf's next snack—but let's say that the suspense, monsters, and gore are kept to a B-movie budget and thus Ushers, Inc. is pretty kid-friendly.
That goes for the characters, too. Abby, our narrator, may be a junior in high school, but don't get her confused with those swooning teen girls from other YA novels—this girl's got bite! Just from reading her voice I connected with her instantly. Snarky, brave, loyal, and pretty darn kick-butt, Abby is one heck of a heroine. And so what if she's got a few thoughts about boys and dances? A girl's gotta have other interests besides battling the undead.
Luckily she's not alone: Tracy, Cliff and Zach are great friends to have when you're in a bind. Tracy's a bit soft-spoken at times, but she has your back when you really need it. Cliff may be a bit of an ass at times and a huge nerd at others, but that brain of his comes in pretty handy when you're trying to find silver in a convenience store. And Zach...well, he may be clueless in the relationship department, but he's not afraid to distract a rampaging werewolf if you're in a pinch.
There is a bit of a romance—after all, what B-movie would be complete without the pre-and-post-battle kisses? But I'm happy to report that the romance wasn't overly gushy, distracting, nor out of place. Which is great, because there wasn't much room for it to work anyway.
This is a short novel—only 120 pages—and so the pacing is pretty breakneck throughout. The beginning offers little introduction to their world—one in which werewolves, vampires, and zombies have been "out of the closet" for seven years now. The history of the monster outing is finally explained in chapter six (page 35), however (besides the prologue) there isn't even a mention of monsters until a rather jarring arrival in chapter four. Kind of important details, don't you think?
Another lightly-handled important detail would be the villain(s) of the story. Yes, despite the majority of the story being about random monster encounters, chapter 15 introduces us to the existence of an evil plot, which means an evil plotter. But it's been 78 pages, and there's only 42 left... You see what I'm getting at here? The villain(s) ended up being kind of a joke, which I guess fits well with the B-movie theme... But still, I would have liked to have had more done with it.
Overall, I'd recommend this to anyone who's a fan of cheesy horror movies, monster movies, werewolves, vampires, zombies, sassy heroines, or YA. This is a light-hearted, action-packed, monster-slaying story sprinkled with just a touch of teen romance that is sure to entertain readers of all ages. Language and gore are kept PG at the most, and romance is nothing above a kiss or two, so though it features high-schoolers, I'd definitely recommend it for the younger teens, too. And while this is finished as a stand-alone novel, I certainly wouldn't mind seeing a second, third or even 27th installment down the line!
Approximate Reading Time: 2.5 hours
Oh, and one last quick note... From the prologue: "Clasping one end [of my bowtie] in my hand I snap it out, watching a long, thin but strong silver chain uncoil until it‟s like the whip that old guy used in Raiders of the Lost Ark." I'm only in my 20's, but am I the only one who cringes when Harrison Ford is called old? I can't even tell if its referring to the actor (now 69) or the character (then 39). Either way, I don't want to admit he's old!...more
You remember in school when you were given a picture and told to write a story about it? Or maybe you've had a writing exercise where you have to use a picture and a phrase within your short story. Well, regardless of whether or not you've done it yourself, I think we can all agree Ransom Riggs has gone above and beyond the minimum requirements.
I'll admit, the photographs did creep me out when I first received the book. The majority of them are of children in carnival clothes, all with blank or staring faces, almost like they're daring you to judge them. It gave me a horror-esque vibe when I first saw it, which I'm sorry to say put me off reading it for quite some time. But regardless of whether this book was inspired by the many Ripley's Believe It Or Not-esque photographs or whether they were sought out after crafting the peculiar tale, I'm glad they were included. It gives the entire work a uniqueness that not only enhances the reading experience, but is sure to remain in the minds of readers for some time after completion.
The story focuses on Jacob, a teenager who has grown up hearing strange stories from his grandfather. Stories of children who have fantastical abilities, a kind old bird who watches after them, and horrible monsters who would like nothing better than to gobble them up. Much like believing in Santa Claus, however, he eventually grows out of the fantasies his grandfather tells. That is until his grandfather dies at the claws of one of the monsters he knows can't be real. Now it's up to Jacob to journey to the orphanage from his grandfather's past in order to uncover the truth.
While the age of our protagonist and the type of journey he takes is very similar to the typical YA fiction these days, I found the tone and style of this book fitting for a much broader audience. The writing is very matter-of-fact and reflectional rather than conversational or stream-of-consciousness. It's almost like reading a journal, or a research journal rather than having a narrator who is speaking directly to the reader.
As such, compared to most modern-day YA adventure fiction, I felt a little distanced from the narrator, Jacob. Sure, I could still tell his personality, and most of his emotions at certain points, but it did feel very much like he'd had some time between the events happening in the book to when he is telling us. It's not a bad thing, just different from what I imagine most YA readers would be expecting.
The supporting cast was equally distant, in terms of the writing, though I still got some instances where personalities shone through. Four of the 'peculiars' in particular had especially great dialogue that made me fall in love. And does every invisible man nowadays require a snarky personality? I'm not complaining, mind you, but I had to chuckle at the stereotype that seems to be forming. The rest of the children had enough description to let me differentiate them by name, but not quite enough to make me all that interested. And Miss Peregrine was...a bit more underwhelming than I would have liked, serving as a typical knowledgeable adult who won't reveal anything until 'the right time'. I don't know, I never got a clear enough read on her, so I'm still not 100% sure of her yet...
Which I suppose worked well with the whole mysterious feel the book had going for it. If the creepy pictures weren't enough to make you uneasy, the majority of the book centers on Jacob's quest to discover what is real and what isn't. It's a bit of a mystery, a bit supernatural-fantasy, with some action and adventure sprinkled in now and again. Ultimately, I was never absolutely sure what to think of anyone or anything, which made the entire experience the right kind of unsettling.
Which made the twist towards the end of the book all that more jarring. I really don't want to go too much into it here, since saying much at all would only diminish its impact for those who haven't read it yet, but suffice it to say that I had to applaud the jaw-dropping realization that Jacob has to face a good 3/4 through the story. This book truly drives home the fact that our world is full of magic if only we know where to look, though not all of that magic is good.
And speaking of things that may or many not be good, I've got to talk about a couple problems I had with the book. First off, the romance. Yes, it's YA and 9 out of 10 books have to have some boy-meets-girl (or visa versa) love story, but the style and pacing of this book didn't allow for much growth between the two. Jacob seems pleasantly surprised at best that the girl has feelings for him, and yet we're to believe that she factors majorly into his decisions? I suppose it's a major draw for those who aren't interested in angsty YA romances, but then keep it as a mutual crush, don't try to pin life-altering decisions on it. Hopefully this will be fleshed out further in the sequel(s).
Another thing I hope gets a lot of fleshing out is the time-travel magic. Granted, time travel is going to be confusing and paradoxical no matter what, but I would have liked a little more explaining at times. Yeah, I understand why things were kept vague/mysterious, but I'm really hoping that we get more solid answers as the series progresses.
Still in spite of, and in some ways because of the time travel elements, there is a timeless quality about this book which is partly why I think it appeals to both younger and older readers. The journalistic narrative style, the historical references, and the period pictures and dialogue all combine to make the story seem like it could take place any time, with any person. With so many books attempting to appeal to the now, trying to get the clothes, the slang, and the pop-culture right, it was great to read something that didn't pay attention to any of that. And in doing so, not only did Riggs create something unique from much of today's YA, but something I believe will continue to stand out in years to come.
Overall I found Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children to be a surprisingly pleasant journey into the unknown realms of our own world. Fans of fringe science, creepy photographs, and paranormal mysteries will no doubt enjoy this book immensely, but I'd also recommend it to those who like YA fantasy or adventure, since this book doesn't necessarily look it on the cover. Between the creepy photos and some disturbing/violent scenes toward the end, I'd recommend this for middle grade and above, though you might want to stick to daylight reading depending on your disposition. If you're looking for a book that's a little unique, or dare I say peculiar, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children is an edge-of-your-seat story that will have you questioning what you know to be real, what is possible, and what might be lurking just out of view.
Disclaimer: I received an ARC of this book from Medallion Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.
I started this one pretty late. In fact, it was after 2am, and I was only planning on reading for an hour or so, until I got tired. I ended up reading the whole thing right then and there. I could not put this book down.
Rusty's style of writing has always appealed to me particularly because it mirrors the way I think, speak, and write. It's not super descriptive or waxing poetic - it gets straight to the point and throws in some sassy commentary from the narrator. The first-person present narration may not fit everyone's liking, teenager or not, but I think it definitely lends itself to a faster connection between story and reader.
The main character of this story, Lily, is a lot like Rusty's other heroines, Abby and Maddy. She's strong, snarky, sarcastic, smart, not hard to look at, and supernaturally talented. She's a bit unsure of herself and overly critical of herself a lot of the time, which made her particularly believable, but at the same time is able to pull herself up and become strong when those around her are vulnerable. So even though she's Third Sister, which pretty much equals playing 3rd fiddle, she's still badass in her own right.
Perhaps it's because I've seen her past incarnations, or maybe it was just my outlook this time around, but I'm sorry to say I had two really big problems with Lily. First, she seemed overly whiny to me. Particularly in the beginning, every other sentence was a complaint, a sarcastic complaint, or just a negative observation. Yeah, teenagers aren't exactly the happiest people on the planet, but she's a vampire for crying out loud! Enough with the whining, and go punch something! Second, and this is slightly spoilerish...but I thought she took WAY too long figuring things out. For being in-the-know about vampires, she sure didn't seem to catch on very quickly. Or at all. Yeah, this might all go back to her passive personality or her lack of confidence, but that didn't make it any less frustrating for me.
But on to the supporting bunch. Stars all the way around. I did feel slightly bad for Zander and Grover for getting the stereotypical geek names in addition to stereotypical geek builds and personalities, but I thought that working with stereotypes actually made them shine that much more. Alice and Cara weren't as active as I thought they would be, so I really didn't get as much character as Lily described. But Tristan and Bianca were both people I loved to hate, though I will admit I ended up kinda liking both of them in their own ways. It's complicated.
Even though it's definitely a teen book, don't think the older crowd will get lost in pop culture references. Lily is essentially stuck at seventeen for eternity, which means that she's been seventeen since she was bitten in the 1980's, which means she's been in three separate decades of teenage pop culture. Between having Jessie's Girl on the stereo in the prologue, and a 21 Jump Street shout-out midway through, it might be the target audience who has some googling to do. Nothing extensive or way important, but some fun for older YA readers to be sure.
So yes, teenage characters in high school means it's filled with the typical high school drama. Okay, maybe not so typical when vampires are involved. But yeah, there's a lot of Mean Girls drama, high school popularity politics, and a couple romance triangles thrown in for good measure. The upside? Some pretty awesome vampire action at the end. I'll admit it, there wasn't nearly as much as I'd have liked, but what there was was really nice. A bit gory but not too graphic, if that makes any sense. I guess I'd say horror but not slasher, which is typically how I like it.
Honestly, I'm a bit torn about the romance. I both like how it was handled, and yet am unsure if I really do like it. At the same time, I don't know how to really discuss it without spoilers. So I guess all I'll say is this: as much as I liked the 'decision' Lily made in the epilogue, I kinda feel she was forced into it, thus I'm not sure if I'm happy. I'll leave it at that.
Oh, one last thing before I do my recommendations... Spoiler-free prologue!!! I was sooo happy to read the prologue and realize it happened completely before the first chapter! I know it's not a necessity, but it still made me happy. Thanks, Rusty!
Overall, Vamplayers was a book I just couldn't put down. If you're looking for some vampire with your teen drama, but don't want a gushy romance, this is definitely a viable option. Not huge on romance, gore, or language, I'd say it's appropriate for Middle Grade and up, but it's probably better suited theme-wise for high school YA and up. With a fast-paced story, kickass characters, and vampire lore that is sure to leave you craving for more, you'd best hunt down Rusty Fischer's latest paranormal thriller, Vamplayers, before it decides to hunt you!
Clio (Calliope) Kaid thought everything was normal. Well, as normal as having a famous writer for a mom could be. BuAmazon ~ Powell's ~ Series Website
Clio (Calliope) Kaid thought everything was normal. Well, as normal as having a famous writer for a mom could be. But between the moving around the country and changing schools every year, everything else seemed to be pretty clear cut.
That's when the government tells her that she was involved in an unauthorized genetic experiment, and that she's to report to a secure location, along with 99 other teens, so that they can help with any abnormalities caused by this alteration.
So it's off to a new school once again. At least this time she'll be a freak among freaks, right? Nothing like sharing an unknown deformity to bring about teen bonding. And she'll need those bonds if she's going to get to the bottom of a conspiracy on the compound. One that might even date back to before she was born...
Calliope, better known as Clio (though, I find Calli an equally valid option), is your basic teen heroine. Personality-wise, she ranks a bit on the meek side, though she does have sarcasm and sass when the pressure isn't on. In a fight, her super power (invisibility) doesn't exactly lend itself to fierceness, so her main strength draws mainly on loyalty to her friends.
And these sure are good friends to have. Bliss can be a tad annoying when the pressure mounts, but her heart is definitely in the right place. Garrett (my favorite) is a jock and a joker, so if you can get past his sometimes abrasive personality, you'll not be short of laughs. Miranda is definitely the least likable of the group, her main weakness being tact, but she's intelligent and is slowly getting the hang of having friends.
And then there's Jack... Charismatic, handsome, multi-talented, and very interested in Clio. Their romance was very sweet, though a bit predictable. Jack was very much a support (literally at times) for Clio, but I'd have liked to see things go a little slower and keep her more independent even after he comes into the picture. I found it particularly interesting that his powers are still undiscovered, yet he possesses enough strength of character to power through when he needs to.
Teens with super-powers and government conspiracies are hardly new concepts, but I enjoyed Solid's take on things. Altering a specific chromosome certainly sounds plausible, and after years of accepting toxic waste or microwaves gave people super-powers, it's not that much of a stretch that an altered bit of DNA could do the same. But where most novels have the teens struggling to control their new abilities, Clio and the others are instead learning how to awaken them. In fact, there seem to be no consequences of having powers, and had the government not told them they would have lived normally...
But having the government involved makes everything better. I'm sure for anyone not directly involved in the military or government, it's all too easy to accept that there are things being kept from us. We don't see where all the money is spent, we have information withheld for the sake of National Security, and they have seemingly limitless resources at their disposal... How could they not be running secret experiments?
Still, they're trying to make up for it. The military compound-turned-campus where the kids were sent was nearly a character in and of itself. I loved picturing the old architecture of the dorms paired with the high-tech medical and athletic facilities. Granted, Clio said the old buildings weren't exactly picturesque, but a girl can dream, right? And though I'm normally not into sports, I'd totally want to take a run in that "gym" they have. Then again, Miranda's right, they totally needed a pool.
Unfortunately, there were also a few small issues I had with the book...
Firstly, as someone who has had issues with blood draws for a few years now (small, hard-to-find, easily breakable veins), the medical scene was about the least believable thing I've read. Sure, in theory everybody's veins are in the same place, but the doc's at least gotta look at the arm before stabbing away and getting a successful blood draw.
Then there was the dialogue—it didn't feel wholly believable at times. I know, teen language is hard, and what may seem real to one person may seem stilted to another. To me, there were parts where it just didn't seem like genuine conversations. Partly, I think there was too much 'thinking' going on between the dialogue. It seemed like Clio had to reflect on absolutely everything she said, or her cohorts said, as they said it. A bit chunky for my tastes, sorry.
Another concern I have is the obvious dating within the book. There are a lot of references to current pop culture (Bush twins, Jonas Bros, New Moon, etc.) that I'm not sure will translate well in the future. Sure, pretty much all of the references should make the teens of now giggle or at least nod knowingly, but I don't know that it will have the same relevance 5+ years from now.
Okay, that looks/sounds like a lot, but really the only major problem I had was the pacing. The prologue offers enough of a tease that got me interested in reading, but then nothing happens for the entire first half of the book. Well, not nothing, but nothing regarding the 'special abilities' the teens are supposedly discovering. Every time I thought it was the perfect time for the powers to suddenly manifest...nothing.
Unfortunately the ending was equally aggravating, with the main conflict being resolved without much conflict at all. I don't want to give away too much, but suffice it to say, a lot of talk and not much action. In fact, the resolution felt more like an exposition dump than a discovery by the characters. Not exactly the full character journey I was hoping or expecting...
Still, overall I found Solid an entertaining read. I'd recommend it for those who like YA Romance with a slightly Sci-Fi twist. Language, sex, and gore are practically non-existent, so I'd say this is appropriate for a middle-school reader, however, I'd recommend it for older readers only because I think the pacing is geared toward more patient readers. Though a little rough at times, Solid was a solid introduction to endearing characters and an intriguing concept, which I look forward to exploring further in future installments.
And speaking of sequels, the second of the series, Settling, happens to be coming out July 4th! Head on over to the Solid Series Website for more information.
Elizabeth Darcy has everything a woman could ask for: a large estate, a steady income, a husband she loves and who love~ Amazon ~ Borders ~ Powell's ~
Elizabeth Darcy has everything a woman could ask for: a large estate, a steady income, a husband she loves and who loves her... Then why is it that lately she can't even bring herself to smile?
Not that there's much to smile about with the zombie menace still vexing England. But the lingering threat is made deadly personal when Darcy is bitten by one of the stricken! Despite knowing it is her duty to behead and burn any soul befallen the plague, Lizzy cannot bring herself to kill her beloved. Not if there could be the slightest chance of a cure.
However, to obtain this supposed cure Elizabeth must place everything on the line. Her honor, her pride, and her family hang in the balance... Love is a strong motivator, but will it be enough to save all she holds dear?
The real question is: If Mr. Darcy became infected, would Elizabeth have the fortitude to behead him in time?—Salon.com (Pride and Prejudice and Zombies)
Apparently, Steve Hockensmith decided that question was well worth answering. In this sequel to the zombie-infested hit, we find Elizabeth and Fitzwilliam Darcy four years into their marriage. But while the unmentionables are still roaming the countryside, there's little room for wedded bliss. Especially since, as a married woman, honor and decorum has forced Lizzy to give up the blade.
That, I think, was my first problem with this book. Even if society demanded it, I can't see Lizzy succumbing to stupid mandates such as these. Nor could I see her husband enforcing them. Their understanding of each other at the end of the previous book seemed to indicate an equality and respect toward the deadly arts. I just don't think it reasonable (or believable) that four years have passed without Elizabeth wielding blade or staff against Satan's army.
This complaint aside, we don't have to wait too long before Lizzy dons her weapons again. In fact, by page 34 we are treated to an artful slaying using a razor-bladed parasol with sword-handle! Unfortunately, that is just about all we see of Elizabeth Darcy's fighting for the entire novel. On the whole, her role disappointed me the most. I was intrigued by her reluctance/fear of bearing children (learned on page 14), but that was really the only nuance her character offered through the whole, despite the main plot being initiated/centered on her plight.
Actually, the majority of the narration was spent on Kitty, Mary, and Darcy. Kitty and Mary were fun to follow as they matured and grew into independent women. Unfortunately I also felt their journeys weren't nearly as satisfying as Elizabeth's in the previous book, probably because they were compacted into side-plots. If they had been given their own books... Darcy's story, on the other hand, was less an exploration of his character and more an exploration into the psyche of a dreadful as it turns. Slightly intriguing, but not altogether welcome as a distraction from the plot we are teased with from the summary.
Most of the secondary characters are familiar to us through either Pride and Prejudice and Zombies or its post-written prequel, Dawn of the Dreadfuls. Anne de Bourgh struck me as very similar to Luna Lovegood at first—a bit wistful and dreamy—but she quickly veered off that course and became much creepier than anticipated. I can't say her story was completely unexpected, but I did find it satisfying for as little space as she had. Mr. Quayle was identifiable instantly, and I was also pleased at his finish, though again I wished more space was available to him. New characters suffered similarly.
Unlike the other books in this series, Dreadfully Ever After is not really a comedy. Much more of the prose is focused on gore and horrid depictions of death, disease, and mauling. There is definitely a lot more blood spurting here than in previous installments, and some were lingered on long enough to make me queasy. Language was stronger as well. Though only one remembered instance of a curse (female dog), there are also many untranslated French sayings, Japanese speech, and antique British words that readers may need to research their meanings.
On an editing note, I was extremely perturbed at the amount of typos. Luckily, there weren't too many altogether, but there was one recurring one that I never could quite figure out. The mental hospital where the cure is supposedly housed is referenced throughout the novel...yet it's done one of two ways. It is either the "Bedlam" Hospital or "Bethlem" Hospital. On page 141 it's called by both names in the space of two paragraphs! And it was mirrored in the audiobook as well, so I couldn't find preference there either. I can only wish that a final decision is reached in future editions.
Perhaps most disappointing to me was the end of the novel. The final chapter, taking up the last 5 pages, uses the perspective of, God help us, the ever oblivious Mrs. Bennet. We are merely given a rundown of the current physical state of the family members, effectively robbing us of any main character resolution whatsoever. I'll grant that this does give an 'open ending' to the novel, letting the reader draw her own conclusions, but it does absolutely nothing for the uncertainties that have arisen throughout the novel. The last line of the previous chapter was much more satisfactory an ending, such that I wish the last chapter had been left off altogether!
As I've touched on above, I think this book suffers mostly from disorganization and overcrowding. There are five storylines vying for attention—Elizabeth's quest for a cure, Kitty's maturation/romance, Mary's maturation/romance, Darcy's progress toward Dreadfuldom, and a commentary on England's plight as a whole—and with only 287 pages none of them really gets their full due. Not only that, but with them switching from one to another each chapter, you end up hating the current storyline for intruding on the previous, then just as you come to accept/tolerate it, it switches again! Perhaps if less were included, more focus could have been given to what was left.
Overall, this novel is not nearly as strong as its predecessors, but serves as an interesting exploration further into the Pride and Prejudice and Zombie universe. While the developments to some of the previously secondary characters were welcome, the excess of competing storylines serves to diminish the full impact the book might otherwise serve. I would recommend this to readers who already enjoyed Pride and Prejudice and Zombiesas well as it's prequel, Dawn of the Dreadfuls, penned by the same author as the sequel. This book is not nearly as humorous as its previous installments, so would most likely be enjoyed by those more zombie-inclined than fans of satire. Still, it was a welcome final chapter in the saga of Bennets vs zombies, though I'm sure some fans will be as unwilling as the undead in giving it up.
For Maddie, life probably couldn't be any stranger.
As a minder (mind-reader), she hears the thoughts and feels the emotions of everyone around her. HeFor Maddie, life probably couldn't be any stranger.
As a minder (mind-reader), she hears the thoughts and feels the emotions of everyone around her. Her boyfriend, (well, more accurately, her soulmate) Trevor, can lift things in the air and stop bullets without even moving a muscle. Her other friends can start, stop, and control fires, locate people or objects just by thinking about them, heal others in seconds, and force people to do anything they ask.
But that's Ganzfield for you. If something isn't strange, it just wouldn't be normal.
It's been a couple months since Maddie and her friends broke into Eden Imaging, simultaneously rescuing Trevor and discovering a powerful enemy. Since then, they've formed a team dedicated to protecting each other and the other students at Ganzfield. Though training has been going well, team dynamics are still off where charms are concerned. And it doesn't help matters that the newest charm recruit, Zack, seems to have extra abilities, abilities that put even Maddie on edge.
But when Ganzfield suffers a massive attack, Maddie and the others will have to put their concerns aside and work together in order to track down some answers. Unfortunately, there's a good chance those answers could lead them straight to Isaiah Lerner, a minder with the ability to kill with a thought, and who would do anything to see them all dead.
It will take everything Maddie has to keep her friends alive. But is that enough?
First off, no offense to Kate or her people, but the back cover copy needs some work. I understand not wanting to give anything away, but you need more description than just five sentences:
LOVE at "Second Sight."
The break-in at Eden Imaging put everyone at Ganzfield in the crosshairs of a killer.
Do they have what it takes to stop Isaiah?
Who will survive—and who won't?
Find out what happens next in the sequel to Minder.
I'm sorry, but if I'm looking into the series and Adversary is first on the shelf (because bookstores often go alphabetically instead of chronologically [easier/faster]) that description doesn't have enough hook to get me to look at Minder. It assumes you know too much about this world, mentioning nothing of the paranormal aspect (besides 'second sight'), and instead of inviting you into the world, it bluntly tells you to "Find out what happens".
Luckily, fans of Minder will already be jumping at the bit to do just that. And they won't be disappointed.
This book has a lot of action interspersed. And because Maddie can read minds, even if she isn't at a battle, she relives it through memories. If Minder was centered on overcoming and preventing rape, this book is definitely more about the trauma of battle and death. Kaynak's descriptions aren't overly gory or explicit, but they still hold a lot of emotion and I would again caution younger readers.
The romance between Maddie and Trevor is as strong as ever, and getting stronger. I may be a bit too happy about this, but I was glad that there was trouble in paradise. They have so much love for each other, but they still have to overcome their own hurdles: Trevor still worries that he's too dangerous and not worthy of Maddie; Maddie still struggles to find a balance between using her powers for the good of all and using them selfishly. I really liked that the troubles they face, while extreme and unique, show normal couples that no relationship is without trials, that working through them strengthens the love rather than dissolving it.
I also love how everything isn't all about sex. Yes, there are a lot of allusions to it, and Maddie and Trevor consider it a few times, but overall the romance is sensual. It's more about loving who someone is, rather than how they look or what they can do. And yet their relationship is nothing short of steamy. I've found it a nice change of pace for a YA series.
There are a couple places where I got lost with names. One scene in particular, shortly following the first battle, had a lot of names thrown out there but no further identifications. I didn't know if we'd known these people before (if so, they weren't particularly memorable), or if the names were simply there for differentiation (instead of 'a shorter woman' or 'a deep-voiced man'). Luckily, the scenes were fairly short and unimportant.
Also, I really, REALLY wish Isaiah could be fleshed out a little more. I know he's the bad guy, and that he wants to kill everyone at Ganzfield, and that he can fry brains of anyone who gets close enough so it makes him hard to talk to... But I want to know why! I want to know his motivations. If he's crazy, I want to know what made him snap.
And it's probably just residue from reading The Mortal Instruments series, but I keep thinking that perhaps Isaiah is Maddie's father... After all, they have the same abilities, Maddie's father left ("died") while she was very young, and Maddie's mom has never been in the same proximity... But more evidence has yet to be seen, so enough of my (possibly crazy) rambling.
I did like the fleshing out of Maddie's teammates. Drew's got to be my favorite jock-type dude, and Hannah provides a good moral compass without being overly preachy. Rachel is still a little whiny, and bipolar at times, but she's slowly growing on me.
Zack...I still don't quite know what to think about him, but I don't want to give away anything either. I think he and Maddie are kinda the "Anakin Skywalker" and "Peter Parker" of the group. A lot of power, specifically power over other people, and potential but not 100% sure how to best use that power. I'm very interested to see how they both handle themselves in the future.
Overall, Adversary had everything I expected and more. If you enjoyed Minder, you should definitely check out its sequel. And if you haven't tried Minder yet...what are you waiting for?
Approximate Reading Time: 6 Hours
The third Ganzfield novel, Legacy, is scheduled for release in January. I went ahead and read the preview chapter at the end of Adversary, and I can hardly wait! ...more
Maddie doesn't know how she did it. She didn't use a gun, a knife, or any weapon at all. All she knows is that one moment the three boys were strippinMaddie doesn't know how she did it. She didn't use a gun, a knife, or any weapon at all. All she knows is that one moment the three boys were stripping her clothes off, and the next they were all dead.
After the trauma of her abduction and her attackers' inexplicable deaths, no criminal system could punish her as much as she does herself. However, much to her surprise, instead of facing criminal charges Maddie is recruited into the Ganzfield Training Program.
Located on a remote campus in New Hampshire, Ganzfield is a school for children with very special abilities. There are the charms, those gifted with verbally induced mind-control, who pretty much rule the school; sparks, or pyrokinetics, can control, summon, and extinguish fires; RV's, remote viewers, can find anyone or anything no matter the distance; healers speed up the body's own restoration processes; and minders, or telepaths, can hear people's thoughts and feelings.
Maddie is a minder, one of only four in the school, and she's definitely making a strong first-impression. It's only been a few hours and she's already started to topple the charm-imposed social order. But mixing things up doesn't win many friendships, especially when everyone knows she can hear their thoughts. In a high-school populated by super-powered teens, can Maddie survive alone? Or will she have to?
I know what you're thinking—or, rather Maddie does. You think this is all crazy. There aren't such things as telepathy or fire-starters or mind-control. Well, maybe that's just what they want you to think.
Let me first say that I absolutely loved this story. It took a little while to warm into, but once Maddie found her voice, I couldn't get enough. Read the whole thing in one sitting.
I must admit, the beginning is a little rough. It's understandable, I guess, since the narrator is pretty much in shock from her abduction on page 1. But up until the point where Maddie's powers activate (in chapter 4) it feels extremely rushed. I understand being eager to get to the institute Ganzfield and start the fantastic world-building there, but I didn't feel like enough time/thought was given to the transition between normal life and this new one. Granted, Maddie is in shock, but I still would have liked a little bit of attention paid to the move.
Maddie is a very strong character, and not just in the sense of her powers. My only issue with her is the disconnect between her personality before and in Ganzfield. Before Ganzfield, she tells us she was one of the 'smart kids', she didn't have any close friends, and there's really not much else to talk about. However, as soon as she steps into Ganzfield she's suddenly appalled by the social structure and within a couple days vows to overturn the hierarchy. It's a little too much of a stretch for me to see a quiet, non-social girl turn into Susan B. Anthony at the drop of a hat.
Yes, it's pretty easy to draw comparisons between the Ganzfield novels and X-Men: a telepathic headmaster; a secret, secluded school/institute; genetic anomalies causing super-powers; super-powered teens learning to hone their skills... But the comparisons pretty much end there.
Right from the start, my first thoughts about Ganzfield were of how unorganized things seemed to be. There's definitely no all-knowing Professor running things here, no sure-footed faculty keeping the students in line, and even the healers on staff don't fully know what they're doing all the time. On the one hand, it made the staff more relatable, but on the other hand it strained the believability of the facility.
The overall feeling of Ganzfield was, as Maddie put it, very Lord of the Flies. The charms are free to practice mind-control on their fellow students, taking bullying to a new extreme. Imagine not only feeling pressured to do something humiliating, but actually being forced to do it. Between that and the multiple allusions to rape (though the word itself is never uttered), it made reading this book hard at times. This is definitely not intended for young readers.
I thought the science behind the super-powers was pretty believable. (Then again, I'm an avid follower of Fringe.) Pretty much, certain families have developed this genetic anomaly that allows their brains to process and manipulate energy. However, though many might possess this trait, it's only activated under extreme stimulation (adrenaline, for example), so only those who are administered this stimulant drug (dodecamine) have active abilities. There are only 6 known tendencies so far, so there's not too much variety, but it's also not completely out-there.
Romance-wise (oh, yeah, did I mention there's a huge romance in the story?) it was a bit too much for me at first, but I grew into it. Everything started out (again) at a rushed pace, that I was leery about how far things would be taken. However, I was very pleased with where it ended up by the end of the book...;-)
I'm soooo glad I have the next book on hand (Thank You, Kate!). The ending of book one isn't a cliff-hanger, but there's definitely still a lot to take care of. The supporting characters don't really come into focus until the last quarter or so, so I'm really looking forward to getting them a bit more fleshed out in the sequel(s).
Ultimately, I'd recommend this book for anyone who loves a good Young Adult Romance with slight tinges of super-powers and action. Even if you aren't big on romance, but still like YA with a super-powered theme I think you'll enjoy it—I know I did! If you hate romance...yeah, it's probably not for you....more