This book must have been a nightmare to edit. The cover copy says it has "a poetically minimal writing style". PutAmazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks
This book must have been a nightmare to edit. The cover copy says it has "a poetically minimal writing style". Put in layman's terms, it has a simple vocabulary, absolutely no quotation marks, no traditional chapters, and a ton of phonetically-spelled words. For example, "I figger if only we could unnerstand crow talk..." It's almost dialectical, except its throughout the narration and dialog, which I'm sure will put some readers off immediately. I admit it took some getting used to, training my mind to be lazier and not wince with each misspelling, but after a few pages (and with the audiobook's help) I managed to wade through and get to the heart of the story.
Saba is our narrator and heroine of this story. Brought up simply and fairly isolated in the post-apocalyptic wasteland, I have to admit, the writing style is fitting. Saba is your typical tough heroine. Thrown into a tough situation, she turns tough to deal with it. There are times she borders on cold and unlikeable, especially when it comes to her little sister who she can't help but blame for their mother's death. Maybe it's the fact that I'm an older sibling too, but I didn't hold her initial coldness towards her sister against her too much. Plus she's on a quest to get her brother back, so she's obviously got family values in the right place. And it's not like she goes out of her way to hurt her sister or anything...
Unfortunately, that's mostly all we get from Saba. She's tough, determined, loyal, and a great fighter. She's got some major flaws to work through, too, but really that's the summation of her character. And she's the most well-defined character of the bunch.
That, I feel, is the fault of the pacing. The story starts slowly enough. Saba and her sister begin their quest slogging through the desert after their brother. Then they're captured. Then a month flashes by off-screen. Then we return to a timer of four-or-so weeks getting set on the rest of the book. I was happy for the faster pace, and it really does pick up in a good way after that, but there's so much to do. In that time they've got a huge chunk of traveling do to, obstacles to overcome, battles to wage, and a villain to fight, leaving little time left to introduce and establish the other five (six if you count sis) main characters.
Much of that time was spent on Saba's love interest, Jack. Jack was easy enough for me to like: he's your typical man of mystery with a sense of humor, a rogue of sorts. And I do like me some rogues. But nothing was ever really done with him. He kept these secrets, but when Saba finally pried the information out of him, I never saw any reason he'd be keeping the information from her in the first place. The reveals never felt all that deserving of the intrigue surrounding them. So, I guess I approve of Jack in the sense that he had a sense of humor and wasn't a bad guy, but even he wasn't as fleshed-out as I would have liked.
The romance between the two is pretty standard fair, apart from it's strange formation. It's a bit of love at first sight, but what really gets things rolling is this heartstone Saba inherited from her mother. Story goes that the heartstone stays cold until the owner approaches their heart's desire, then it warms to hot until they touch. So whenever Saba gets closer to Jack this stone starts heating up. I guess instead of having a pushy, matchmaking best friend, this stone works instead.
Which begs the question, is this story a Fantasy? Or at least Paranormal? At the beginning of the book, the issue of star reading, and having fate written in the stars is discussed. It's believed that their father learned how to read the future from the stars and perform magic rituals, but his latest efforts have been failures causing the siblings to doubt. Saba also has a couple of prophetic dreams, one of which pertains to Jack. So with the heartstone and the star reading and the dreams, is that enough to call it outright Fantasy, or just a post-apocalyptic novel with paranormal elements?
And speaking of the post-apocalypse, I loved the setting. Some time after our modern society (known as the Wreckers) has somehow wiped itself out, all that remains is our landfills and a few hollowed husks of our cities. But unlike other books I've come across with this setting, there aren't hoards of zombies ravaging the wastes, nor vampires ruling the few hubs of cities. No, it's just humans left, and they can either help you or hurt you.
I wouldn't go so far as to call it a dystopian, seeing as there's not much of a government running things. We eventually come to find that there's a "King" running things in this area, but his "rule" never felt as absolute as in typical dystopians. Plus there are the Free Hawks and other factions fighting for territory rights, so it has more of a lawless feel than a faux-Utopia. (The Free Hawks - now there's another thing I would have loved to have known more about!)
Unbeknownst to me when starting, Blood Red Road is the beginning to a trilogy. I suppose I should have guessed it based on the YA trend of trilogies lately (not to mention the title page). But really, the ending feels very complete. There's still some loose ends to tie up, but in terms of the narrative, it's a clear stopping point. I guess on the bright side, if you didn't love it there's no cliffhangers propelling you forward. But I don't honestly know what else there is to do. I guess I'll have to find out when I pick up the sequel.
Overall, Blood Red Road was an intriguing story with some unfortunate pacing and character development issues. I'd recommend it to those who enjoy tough YA heroines or post-apocalyptic questing novels, and don't mind some romance on the side. No language or sex to speak of, but there is cage-fighting and some battles waged, plus the writing style to contend with so I'd put this in the high school and up range. If you're in the mood for an unorthodox writing style but still want a story with some grit to it, then you might want to check out Blood Red Road.
From a familiar premise arose a story so nailbitingly gripping I literally could not put it down. Though I had my suspicions that this series could turn into a Hunger Games lite, I was pleasantly surprised to find a refreshing complexity and ingenuity in the sequel that has me even more excited for the conclusion. So if you prefer your dystopia with more subterfuge than battlefields, you'll definitely enjoy the unexpected turn this series took as much as I did.
I'll admit, I didn't find Cia very engaging in the first book. She read almost too perfect and lucky for my taste. This time, however, I felt she really got the chance to show her worth. For one thing, the challenges and trials set for her were much more intellect-based, drawing us farther from not only repetition from The Testing's storyline, but also naturally distancing her from Katnis. But what I found most stimulating about Cia this time around was how much she was legitimately afraid.
It's one thing to fear threats that are right in front of you. Someone is firing a gun at you, someone is running at you with a knife: you either react correctly or you don't. Now that the preliminary Testing is over, the questions aren't simply on a page or in an arena, now Cia's entire life is under evaluation. Does she perform adequately in class? Does she socialize the proper amount? Is she making the right choices in friends? Is she feeling too much stress? Cia is completely aware of all this evaluation and knows that even one step out of line could cost her her life, and I loved feeling her fear. Her fear, her uncertainty, her anxiety all came together perfectly and made me feel for her character in a way I just didn't in the first book. So I guess sign me up for the Cia fanclub, I'm sold.
Possibly another factor that endeared Cia to me was her treatment of Tomas. Whereas Tomas was the major and obvious love interest in book one, he is nearly non-existent here. Part of that is due to Cia knowing he's hiding a major secret from her, part of that is due to them being physically separated by different studies. Regardless, I appreciated the "Main Man" not being a huge deal as far as Cia's story was concerned. Sure, he's still there and still fairly important in Cia's plans, but their relationship doesn't take precedent over the life-or-death government conspiracy Cia's mixed up in.
Which leads me straight into the meat of the book. Whereas the last book was much more action-packed, which led me to my Hunger Games comparison, this one focused instead on a more covert story. Instead of kids killing kids out in the open with knives, explosives, and crossbows, all the backstabbing now lies in puzzle-solving and information-gathering. This gave the whole plot more of a Big Brother, 1984 vibe, which I definitely appreciated. Maybe it's just me, but I kinda like the idea of toppling a big bad enemy with brains instead of who's got the biggest guns.
And speaking of big bads, what about that evil government I ranted about last time? I believe I called them completely illogical and stated that their attempts to quell rebellion were solely responsible for their citizens wanting to rebel. Well, that may still be the case, but I do have to say, they are a LOT better at their game than I gave them credit for. I mean, I thought they were kinda dumb in the first book. Powerful, sure, but pretty stupid. I sincerely rescind any and all implications that they were mentally challenged in any respect. They are terrifyingly smart, so much so that they gave me chills. I may be rooting even harder for Cia, but at the same time I'm kinda scared to tick off this fictional government.
Picking up almost exactly where the first left off, it wasn't too hard to reacquaint myself with the characters and story. But the ending, now that has me scrambling for the next book. I don't know that I would call it a cliffhanger as much as I would a complete game-changer. One big enough you'll probably want to have the last book handy for when you finish it. As far as sequels go, this far exceeded my expectations and completely changed my mind about the entire series. I'm both terrified and excited to see where the conclusion, Graduation Day will take us, and I'm eager to start in on it tomorrow.
So, overall I found Independent Study to be a riveting and game-changing continuation to what appeared to be an average dystopian trilogy. Fans of the first book should find this one refreshingly different with its covert slant on the popular dystopian formula, and I'd highly recommend it to anyone looking for a YA take on 1984. Much less violence this time around, but a couple deaths and general conspiracy themes have me recommending it for high-school and up. Yet another example of a series proving me wrong, Independent Study shows that you can't judge a series by its first book, so check out a copy today and experience the new twists and turns yourself.
Perhaps I've been reading too many well-written and utterly fascinating Dystopian books lately. Maybe I've grown tAmazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks
Perhaps I've been reading too many well-written and utterly fascinating Dystopian books lately. Maybe I've grown too used to the idea that the world is doomed, humanity has all but killed itself, and the future holds nothing but torture and injustice. Or perhaps I've heard too much praise for the series. Because when it came to Uglies, I just didn't get the punch I was expecting.
The world of Uglies was both dark and fascinating. Inequality is a thing of the past because after age 16 everyone looks beautiful. If you think about it, it's kinda true. To quote from the book:
"Everyone judged everyone else based on their appearance. People who were taller got better jobs, and people even voted for some politicians because they weren't quite as ugly as everyone else." [...]
"Yeah, and people killed one another over stuff like having different skin color."
It's sad to say so, but who doesn't judge a person based on their appearance, take in that first impression? You may not always act upon that initial judgement, but it's in our mindsets. So it would seem that there are no downsides in creating a society of equality, where everyone can be gifted with equal beauty for free.
But in a world created by humans, are there such things as equality and freedom for all? Yeah, the book's labeled Dystopian: you do the math.
As far as Dystopians go, I thought this one was less relatable than most others I've read. Oftentimes I read a book and see parallels, or read a scathing social commentary that makes me want to change what I'm doing, to go out and make a difference now, before everything goes to hell. Here, though, everything is so distanced from the world today. All we see of today's culture is ruins, artifacts, and the characters can only wonder how we survived. It's as if we're seeing ourselves from an alien's perspective instead of a descendant's.
Which in turn made it less heavy-handed and much more focused on the story at hand. Because I didn't feel like I had to go stop things myself, I was able to engross myself in the world and characters more fully. On the one hand, I appreciated being able to relax and just enjoy the story, but on the other hand, I wasn't as distracted from things I didn't like...
Tally Youngblood was our eyes to this world of Uglies and Pretties, but honestly I found her a little hard to root for. A bit of a prankster, she starts off as being all about fun and excitement. She'd break the rules, but only as much as was expected, never enough to jeopardize her own future as a Pretty. But when that future is endangered by Shay, she's pretty quick to throw her under the bus.
I suppose that all added to the journey in which Tally is supposed to change. But when a good half of the book is spent with a narrator who is a shallow, disloyal, promise-breaking liar, it makes it harder to shift your thoughts and root for her when she changes. Also, other characters continually make her out to be special, when she does little-to-nothing to deserve such praise. The villain seems to think she has some great influence over people, her boyfriend thinks she's wiser and more serious than anyone else, but I never figured out why.
Still, I didn't hate Tally. I thought she was relatable, with flaws as well as kinda major brainwashing/conditioning to account for the more serious faults. And she was brave and loyal when the moment really called for it. I was put off by how often she would promise things, only to knowingly break her promises a few pages later, but I can overlook a few things for her fighting spirit and sacrifices she makes for others later down the line.
Unfortunately there's not much to say about the other characters in the book. Shay is written mainly as a plot device for Tally to act off of. She's passionate and opinionated one moment, pushing Tally to a new level of rebellion, and the next she's a shallow and jealous ex-friend because Tally stole 'her' boy. David, the romantic interest, is basically just that. He shows Tally the truth behind the government conspiracy, praises her up one side and down the other, and then serves as the guilt to drive her to action later. There were some more incidental characters, but none of them got nearly enough screen time to develop personalities of their own.
So with my feelings of partial indifference toward both romantic leads, what did I think of the romance? Well, it had it's ups and downs. Thankfully, the love triangle was squashed rather early. Yes, Shay liked David and held a grudge against Tally about it, but it was very clear that David would never reciprocate her feelings. I also liked that Tally didn't have love at first sight. In that sense, I did think she was rather mature and serious, though she did have a lot of guilt and thoughts of "How can I tell him what I did?" which got annoying after a while. Still, I approved of how the relationship developed and their treatment of one another, so I guess I'd endorse the pairing.
I'm actually surprised to have found this much to harp on. Believe it or not, I think fondly of Uglies, and am very much looking forward to continuing with the series. Perhaps it wasn't the most thought-provoking or heart-wrenching of Dystopians I've read these days, but I did find the story and characters engaging while I read, and I'm eager to see what happens next.
Now for the ending... About three-quarters through, once I started thinking about the series as a whole, I'm sorry to say that I was able to predict the ending. Thankfully, I didn't know exactly how it would come to pass, but I did get the gist correct. And if anything, it helped me prepare for the cliffhanger that was to come. Yes, there's a cliffhanger. And yes, you should have the next book handy. But while Tally's story is unfinished, her journey of growth and self-discovery comes to a satisfying conclusion (pause) at the end of this book.
Overall, Uglies was an enjoyable Dystopian. I'd recommend it to fans of YA, Dystopians, SciFi, or any combination of three with some romance on the side. Though no language or sex, there are a few fight scenes with mild violence and some character deaths, but I'd say middle school and older will enjoy reading this. With another intriguing what-if scenario, if you're wanting a change from the heavy-handed and depressing fare that the Dystopian genre has pitched to us lately, you'll definitely want to check out Uglies for yourself.
As I'm rather late in reviewing this book, I'm sorry to say that I was not completely impartial in my reading of iAmazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks
As I'm rather late in reviewing this book, I'm sorry to say that I was not completely impartial in my reading of it. I'd read less than savory things about this book/series. Now, I don't remember exactly what I'd read, nor do I want to find and read it again as I feel it's important to express my personal reactions, plus I don't want to repeat someone else's words. That being said, I admit that I went into this book expecting to hate it.
Well, there's good news, and there's bad news. The good news is that I didn't hate it. Unfortunately, I didn't much like it either.
Wither came in at an all-around "Meh" for me. I don't hate the book as a whole, but I also don't think I would have missed anything by not reading it. Ultimately, I never felt like the book knew what it was. It was kind of a romance, but Rhine and loverboy barely got any time to know each other. It sorta had a Dystopian rebellion feel, but there was never any attempt to "fix" anything, just escape it. There were bits and pieces of commentary on marriage, motherhood, sex, science, and freedom, but everything ended up buried by Rhine's personal plot.
And speaking of our main character, Rhine was whiny, passive aggressive, and completely self-absorbed. I'm sure we're supposed to notice the good things about her: that she doesn't bully the servants, that she cares about the well-being of her "sister-wives", that she's a free spirit who only wants to rejoin her brother and love whom she wishes. But all I saw was a girl who complained about everything yet never did anything about it. And what little she does do is always aided by accomplices, who then pay dearly for their part in it.
She constantly schemes about running away from the manor, escaping and finding her brother. To do this, she plays the part of a loyal and well-behaved wife so she can become the most trusted. But do her plans ever involve escaping with the other wives? Do her plans ever involve overthrowing her captors? Nope, just me, me, me, and I, I, I.
Now Jenna, one of Rhine's two sister wives, was a character worth caring about. Her real sisters were in the same van that brought her to the mansion, and now eighteen, she doesn't have much time left, so she's resigned herself to living in the luxury that's been afforded to her. But that doesn't mean she won't work as hard as she can to help her fellow wives. Selfless and experienced in more things than either of the other girls, I would have loved to see into her head as she actively worked to free Rhine. But instead she's left in the background, only surfacing when she's helping or being punished for her rebellions.
But if that weren't infuriating enough, we then have Linden Ashby: architect, husband, and glorified slave owner (NOT to be confused with the real-life actor of the same name). No, as much as I dislike Linden as a character, I loathe the author's treatment of him even more. 'It's okay to love him because he's a nice guy who cares about his wives' happiness.' 'It's okay to love him because he's naive and doesn't know what's really happening.' Ahem, excuse my language for a minute as I call BULL SHIT.
Linden supposedly thinks that his wives were brought to him from a finishing school of sorts, that they all were volunteers willing to be sister wives and have children with wealthy husbands. But if that were true, why does he keep them on a floor with locked windows, no stair access, and an elevator that only takes a keycard for use? And why does the property have a holographic forest completely obscuring the path to the gate? Even if he didn't install these measures himself (he has an evil scientist father for that), he has to realize what they're there for.
Yet the author would have us believe that he's really a saint. That Rhine would (and should) fall in love with him because he's just so kind. And he has so much depth because he can draw both beautiful and gruesome pictures. That he's a suitable crush and love-triangle member because he loves Rhine so much. Shame on you, DeStefano. Unless you were truly writing about a case of Stockholm Syndrome, there is no way to justify the 'excuses' you've written around Linden.
But if Linden was one corner of the love triangle, and Rhine another, then you would think that my favorite of the three would have to be the remaining corner. Unfortunately, Gabriel—"servant" of the manor—was hardly even there. Rhine and he share a camaraderie because they're both slaves under different names. But with a majority of their time together mentioned in passing, and his disappearance halfway through the book, it made it hard to see him as anything more than an act of defiance. It felt like Rhine was going to have a secret relationship with him because it was a freedom she was being denied. And that he reciprocated her affection was only a convenience.
So between the barely-written boy of convenience, the glorified slave owner written up to be a saint, and the completely self-absorbed woe-is-I 'heroine' of the story, I could have cared less for any one of the three in the love triangle. Put simply, the romance didn't work.
If there was any consolation for reading this book, I will say that the world was intriguing. Apparently World War 3 sank every other land mass besides North America. Clever lie to manage the populace (sadly, doubtful), or convenient way to keep outside governments from muddying up the plot, regardless it still serves as an interesting backdrop for the main story. But what really stood out to me was the naturalists vs cure-seekers.
Naturalists think that humans screwed up enough, that they should just accept their fate and get killed off, while cure-seekers are not only continuing to have children (who will die in 20/25 years) but are also conducting numerous genetic experiments on (presumably) these children. An interesting conundrum to have—to have children in order to keep humanity alive on the off-chance that they do eventually find a cure, but also subjecting them to equally short lives. But where books like The Hunger Games did the question on the morality of motherhood justice (could you subject your child to a tragically short life?), this book simply swept it under the rug in favor of Rhine and her romance.
Overall, the more I thought about it, the less I liked Wither. If you're starved for an alternative YA romance set in the dreary near-apocalypse, then you might give this a try. Though no language or violence, there were many references to sex, prostitution (though thankfully no rape), and a childbirth scene. Based on that and the heavy subject matter, I'd suggest no younger than high school pick this up. An intriguing what-if scenario, sadly overshadowed by awful characters and a failed romance, read Wither only if you've got extra time and patience on your hands.
This book has it all. Space battles, estranged twins coming together, psychic powers, love/hate relationships, govAmazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks
This book has it all. Space battles, estranged twins coming together, psychic powers, love/hate relationships, government conspiracies, human rights activism... But, honestly, where the plot was full of action-packed things happening, I found it slightly lacking in substance.
Where characters were concerned, I just didn't connect. Lissa was our main character, the one we were supposed to relate to as her world is turned upside-down and she's thrust into this spectacular adventure. But with her, we're never given a base of normalcy to attach to. I mean, I get what Howson was trying for: an ordinary girl thrust into extraordinary circumstances. But from the start she's already experiencing abnormal events, already ostracized from her peers, already facing a life-changing decision. I never got a feeling for how she was before everything happened in order for her personal-growth journey to mean anything.
Lin was by-far the more interesting of the two. A girl with strange powers growing up in near-isolation, being told she's worth nothing, with strange visions of another life being her only source of hope. And then, getting to experience her escape, her triumph, her confusion at the outside world, at these 'morals' being instilled in her—now that would be fascinating to read. Observing her was okay, but without seeing the inner workings of her mind there were too many times where she felt underdeveloped. I mean, for having broken free, run away, and having a survive-at-all-costs mentality, I would expect a far less pacifistic personality, even if it was only with her sister.
And really, the two sisters' bond was the best part of the two characters. Watching the two of them interact, having absolutely nothing in common yet having to cooperate and compromise to reach a goal, was easily my favorite part. I especially enjoyed the soul-searching moments when Lissa was faced with the thought that perhaps her sister wasn't human, like when she had to explain fundamental moral concepts such as why killing/harming another person was wrong. Seeing her struggle to understand, and ultimately to love someone so intrinsically different from herself was by far the strongest aspect of the book. Do I think it might have been stronger from Lin's perspective? Perhaps...
Additionally, I thought the book had some other interesting insights in regards to morality, human rights, sociology and even a little psychology. I will say I was very skeptical of Lissa's treatment by her friends/peers. In my experience, confirmed medical conditions (especially those that result in bruises and blackouts) aren't seen as jeering material unless you're much younger, and even then it's not like the whole class would be that heartless. But besides that, I enjoyed the debates regarding what made a human, if killing was ever justified, and detachment from feelings.
Unfortunately, that all wasn't enough to make me "feel" this book. As I said, there's a lot here to keep your attention. A lot of things happen bang-bang-bang, one right after the other. But the disconnect from the characters, especially the main character, just left me feeling kinda "meh" after I was done. Perhaps it was the choice of writing in 3rd-Person Limited rather than 1st? I mean, I was interested to know more about the world/universe they inhabited, and I had fun while I was there. I didn't dislike the book, or Lissa, I just didn't really care at the end.
As far as the ending was concerned, I liked it. It was open enough to leave room for sequels, but also complete enough not to leave you feeling gypped or overly anxious for the next book. Honestly, I was a little disappointed when I discovered that there is indeed a Book 2 scheduled for 2014. And not because I have tons of books already on my plate, but because I was genuinely happy with where it ended. Our characters went through their adventure, changed, became stronger people, and, as with most stories, still had their lives ahead of them. Sure, there's more things left to be done, but I don't know what else there is to explore about them. I'll probably check out Unravel for curiosity's sake, but I think other readers could easily leave this as a stand-alone novel without too much heartache.
Overall, Linked was an interesting story, though I found the characters a bit lackluster. I'd recommend it for those who enjoy YA science fiction with some romance and morality issues thrown in. It does contain some violence and a low-scale PG romance, and a few descriptions of human testing may disturb the more squeamish, but everything is very brief. If you're looking for a futuristic society where it seems the wrong people were put in charge, and it's fate rests on the shoulders of two young girls, then you should give Linked a try.
I have no idea how I'd never heard of this book before. In the same vein as Ender's Game, this is a provocative and complex look at our society through the lens of a possible/probable future. And just like Ender's Game, I don't want to spoil too much of Unwind. It may have come out four years ago, but it is just as relevant and engaging now as it was then, and I truly think reading it is an experience that shouldn't be missed.
In the not-too-distant future, technology has enabled transplant surgery to have absolutely no failures. No rejection of foreign parts, no tissue decay, no problems. This means that nearly every medical malady, augmentation surgery, and accident-caused emergency can be solved by cutting out and replacing organs, limbs, and even parts of brains. But where do the replacements come from?
Why, unwanted children, of course.
See, the Pro-Life vs Pro-Choice issue went from heated debate to all-out war, culminating in the United States' Second Civil War. The resulting compromise of the war was that every child's life cannot be terminated from conception to age 13. Once a child reaches 13, however, their parent/guardian can choose to have them "unwound". The government is then tasked with dismantling and re-using each and every part of the child through transplant surgeries. thus enabling them to live on as parts of other people. The window of unwinding is from ages 13 to 17, for upon reaching 18 the person is considered an adult and cannot be harvested.
The book focuses on three main characters—Connor, Risa and Lev—each slated to be unwound. Connor is the typical Unwind: brash, easy to anger, prone to violence, a typical bad-boy screw-up. Risa is a ward of the state and is sent to be unwound due to less-than-spectacular grades and budget cuts. Lev is the tenth child of his very religious family, and is therefore chosen to be their offering, their 10% giving, their tithe. Each has their own story, their own issues, but it's when their lives cross that we see what they're truly capable of.
The book is told in limited 3rd person, with each of the chapters changing which POV we're reading. The book mainly focuses on our three main protagonists, but every so often a chapter will introduce another perspective. Perhaps a juvie cop on the Unwinds' trail, or another one of the Unwinds that they encounter. And this is where the book really shines. Changing perspectives could easily be a jumbled, confusing mess, especially when drawing upon so many characters, but by clearly separating them into their own chapters (some as short as 2 pages) it keeps the reader informed while still introducing us to completely new perspectives. It's one thing to have the characters encounter an enemy, it's another to put us inside the head of that enemy, even if it's only for a few moments, to see their way of thinking.
And that is where the big issues are tackled. Not only through our protagonists' experiences, but through the eyes of those who would unwind them. Is it moral? Is running a chop shop for human parts okay so long as it's only the undesirables? If a hand is transferred from an unwound person to a whole person, does that mean the original owner is still living? Is there such thing as a soul? And does that soul live in the body, or does it exist apart from it? When does a life become worth living? When does responsibility for that life transfer to the one living it? Is one life worth more than another?
All of these questions (and more!) are addressed, and differing views are presented for each and every one. But as far as answers go, this book doesn't really give any. Everything is subjective, even down to the seemingly obvious 'do not kill'. If a body part never ceases living, even in a separated state, then it follows that the original person never died. And if that part is used to save or better the life of another person, then isn't it worth the harvest? But I'm digressing into more questions again, and I could quite literally go on forever listing them, so I'll just stop now and let you discover them for yourself.
Unfortunately, if there was one issue that I feel wasn't given its real due, it was the Pro-Choice side of the debate. There is a chapter in which a young mother leaves her newborn on a doorstep. She thinks to herself that she wasn't really ready, that she's happy she doesn't have to end the life herself, and after she leaves, that she is thankful that the responsibility now falls to someone else. Since it is against the law for any mother not to give birth once she has conceived, I can see how giving a Pro-Choice example would be difficult. It's a little hard to give a woman control over her own body and still force her to give birth, right? And as this is the only view we are given of abandoning a child, it hit me as particularly one-sided against even giving the choice of parenthood. We do see other girls handling babies/motherhood, but it still never really felt like a counterweight to the abandoning mother.
One extremely effective counterweight against unwinding, however, is a chapter in which we actually experience a character being unwound. From the child's point of view. Turns out that in order to ensure a person continues living, they have to be kept awake through the entire procedure. Though slightly spoilerish (in that it might diminish the impact of reading it in the book) the video below shows pretty much what I mean.
Now, I have a bit of a phobia of needles. So in discussing the removal of my wisdom teeth a few years back, I asked that instead of having an IV and being put under, I would instead have local anesthesia and laughing gas, and be awake through it. I always get weird looks and shudders when I describe it. So you'd think I would do just fine with this scene. But trust me, it was nothing like what is described in the book (or depicted in the video). I felt sick just reading (even moreso watching) it, and I had tears by the end. With that said, watch at your own risk... Unwind Short Film But if you're okay with that level of squeamishness, then you shouldn't have any problems reading this book. Even though the surgery does take place on-screen, there is absolutely no gore described. And yet the experiences feel no less real or impactful. It may be on a few ban lists due to inflammatory content, but it shouldn't turn anyone away because of blood and violence. Which makes the book all that more recommendable.
Overall, Unwind is not be an easy book to read, and as such, it won't be an easy book to talk about. There are a lot of triggers in here—political, religious, moral—which are likely to raise questions and spark a debate. But I believe the debate is worth having, and this book provides an excellent starting point. If you need a genre distinction, it's definitely a YA scifi with dystopian elements, but I can easily recommend it for those who enjoy political thrillers as well. It does contain many complex/heavy topics, and some mild violence and references to sex, so I'd say high school and up would enjoy this the most, especially for discussion. If you're looking for an insightful and complex story that harkens back to current real-world issues, I'd suggest you go find a copy before you get unwound.
Eoin Colfer is indeed back at it again. Upon the completion of his widely acclaimed Artemis Fowl series, I genuineAmazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks
Eoin Colfer is indeed back at it again. Upon the completion of his widely acclaimed Artemis Fowl series, I genuinely hoped he would come back with something equally as charming. He's always had this way of writing compelling characters. Whether they are serious or humorous, human or alien or demon or fae, they've always felt real; like you wanted to be their friend, or were relieved they were on the other side of the page. And sure enough, once again Colfer doesn't disappoint.
Riley has been an unwilling apprentice to a murderer for as far back as he can remember. But though fear keeps him at his master's heels, don't take him for a simple lackey. Quick-witted, agile, and cautious, Riley is the street-smart Victorian urchin with a heart of gold who you'll find yourself rooting for immediately. Joining him on his journey toward freedom and self-discovery is Chevron "Chevie" Savano, an equally street-wise gal from this century who is eager to prove herself. Don't let her looks or stature fool you, Chevie is a fighter and will stop at nothing to protect the victimized or capture the crooks, even if it doesn't always mean playing by the rules.
But by far the most compelling character in this book was the villain, Garrick. Honestly, if he weren't completely evil—that is if he wasn't power-hungry and enjoy killing people—then I wouldn't mind having him for a friend. He's smart, witty, jovial at times, and apart from the whole killing thing, seems genuinely fun to be around. And his backstory only makes you want to like (or at least sympathize with)him more. I guess in a way I can now understand how people might be attracted to Dexter or Hannibal. Even if you abhor their methods, you can still sorta kinda root for them.
And true to form, these characters shape every aspect of the story. Every action they make is based upon their own history, morals, reactions. There is never an out-of-character moment, or one where you're screaming at the characters to stop acting stupid (unless they're actually being stupid) because you can't believe they would do something like that. You believe everything they do, everything they say, because they never contradict themselves. They never act uncharacteristically stupid, romantic, brash, or anything. They don't feel like puppets of the author or the plot, but rather like they're the ones telling their stories.
Did I mention how much I love Colfer's plots? It never ceases to amaze me how much the characters drive his stories. No natural disasters, no random catastrophes, everything that happens in this book is because someone decided it would happen. Okay, maybe except the time-travel thing with Garrick. But all the puzzles, the tricks, the games, the chases, they're all put in motion by characters. There are no coincidences, or at least none that aren't justified by motivations or science. It's a regular Good vs Bad, Sherlock vs Moriarty -style showdown. And figuring out just how everything pieces together, learning that it does all piece together, was my favorite part.
In terms of being a SciFi story, time travel does play a significant role in the plot. But in terms of explanation and paradoxes and such, it's actually quite minor. Mostly it sets up the backstory, begins the chase, and then is used as a means of escape a couple times. As far as techno-babble goes, there is really very little to worry about. And the same goes for historical terms as well. Though maybe half the book takes place in 1898, there's not much one has to know beforehand. Just know that telephones didn't exist back then, and you should be fine.
As a series start, I'm very curious as to what future books have in store. The ending wraps up fairly neatly, with all the mysteries and puzzles solved, all the backstories revealed, and goals still ahead for our heroes. But then the last couple pages happen. I thought perhaps we'd be following the W.A.R.P. team on new time-traveling adventures, but now I don't know what to think. Still, I suppose it works as a stand-alone in terms of character journeys, but for anyone as gripped as I was with the ending, we'll definitely be coming back for more.
Overall, I was happy to read The Reluctant Assassin for its intriguing characters and finely woven plot. I'd recommend it for SciFi or time-travel buffs or anyone who likes character-focused YA adventure stories. Absolutely no language or sex to speak of, and non-gorey or off-screen depictions of violence lead me to suggest this for middle-grade and up. Whether you're already a Colfer fan, or just looking for the next great book/series to start, you shouldn't hesitate to pick up The Reluctant Assassin for yourself.
I picked this up on recommendation from the blog of Kiersten White, one of the author's writing buddies and critique partner, and decided to tackle it the last night before it had to go back to the library. So basically I had a book I knew next to nothing about with only a few hours to experience it. Frankly, I'm a still a little stumped about what to think about it.
Let's start at the beginning. Fiona (I can't help but think Shrek!) has the gift/curse of invisibility. It's a genetic thing, she was born that way and can't activate or deactivate the ability, so her body is always invisible. What she was also born with was a crime boss for a father who is set to use anything and anyone to obtain more wealth and power. If that means sending his telekinetic wife and invisible daughter in to rob banks, then so be it. Fiona doesn't enjoy her life of crime, but since her father's ability turns him into a literal woman magnet, she can't say no to him. That is, until he decides his personal thief would make for a great assassin, prompting Fiona and her mom to run for it. Now Fiona is hiding out with her mom in a podunk town in Arizona, trying to live out a normal, teenage life.
Fi is both complex and confusing, which made her realistic...and confusing. On the one hand, she's got a tough shell from growing up in a crime syndicate, training for spying, thieving, etc., and dealing with a broken family. She's also smart enough to know that she can't change into a happy-go-lucky teenager just because she's not (currently) under her dad's thumb anymore. But on the other hand, she's got a lot of personal baggage from her upbringing and her invisibility that she's trying to overcome. Also, she's horrible at math, possibly due to a brain injury from being dropped in the delivery room (you try catching an invisible baby!).
So we've got Fiona: a rebellious teen trying to deal with trust issues with family and friends, learning disabilities, hiding from organized crime, invisibility and low self-worth, guilt from past crimes, AND teenage romance/angst. If you thought that description was a convoluted mess, you would be correct. I'll admit, there is A LOT crammed into these 350 pages, and the majority of it is about Fiona. But while I appreciate the effort to not make an unchallenged, flawless, snarky heroine, I don't think I would have minded a little less complexity in exchange for a little more time and focus on what was left.
Unfortunately, anything that didn't have to do with Fiona was less than stellar. Between the underdeveloped and overly huge supporting cast, the disparate tones, and the underutilized world-building, it felt sloppy.
There are a TON of important side characters in this story. There's Fiona's family of five, then there are her classmates Seth, Brady and Bea, and their families (one of which has six members). All of these people possess rare and sought-after abilities, all of them play important roles in the book, but very little time is given to any of them, save for the love interest, because so much has to go to Fi. Bea especially felt like more of a plot device than an honest-to-goodness friend. Of course, it could have been worse considering the very first thought Fiona has about her is something along the lines of, 'Darn her for looking so great while sitting next to that hot guy.' The two could have easily become enemies or (the even more loathsome) frienemies, but thankfully ended up being fairly genuine friends. Unfortunately there was so little time spent on Bea that we see her mainly as the lone girl friend, rather than a full character in her own right.
Thankfully (for some), the romance was handled better. Our love interest (who will go unnamed due to slight love-triangle drama) was nicely revealed both in attitude and backstory gradually, as our main character was ready for it. While I can't say I approve of him entirely due to 'knowing what is best for Fiona,' even if it means hiding the truth and/or deceiving her, I can't fault the guy for his devotion and wit. What can I say, smart guys with mouths on them are my Kryptonite. Much of the romance, especially when they both decide to admit feelings for each other, feels cheesy. It worked, but I admit I was rolling my eyes through a lot of it. Still, I was glad it knew when to take a backseat to the other drama, like Fiona's family issues.
But speaking of pacing, I thought this book's pacing was excellent. Even reading into the wee hours of the night/morning, I never checked the clock or felt bored. It kept me engaged throughout. I also never felt rushed or confused when it came to what was happening in the story. The plot points were very well paced, and Fi's development flowed nicely. Granted, there was A LOT to cover with Fi, but I think most everything was either resolved or sufficiently touched upon to signify growth.
Tonally, this book is a mess. First we're given the gritty underworld that Fiona is running from, which leaves us with an ever-present fear and near paranoia that it will come to bite us throughout the book. But the entire middle section throws in high school, small town adventures, and an admittedly cheesy romance. And yet there are the very real issues of struggling with self-confidence, learning to trust people after they've hurt you, and trying to find your place in the world. But oh noes, we've gotta pass that math test or be humiliated for all eternity!!! Add in that ending and... I hate to say that books need to fit an archetype or niche, but there is such a thing as having too many eggs in a basket, and I don't think that cramming forty things into your character's story just to see how they'll affect and change her is necessarily a great strategy.
Especially when it leads to glossing over the world that you've set everything in. Basically, a few decades ago everyone started taking pills to negate the effects of radiation, but these pills ended up genetically altering everyone turning the entire planet into X-Men. Some people have useless 'abilities' like having pink skin and pointy ears, or emitting a skunk-smell when you're scared, but some people have amazing abilities like telekinesis, flight, or invisibility. Crime lords control the trafficking of these outlawed pills (because they enhance the abilities) by recruiting and/or forcing those with these amazing abilities to work for them. ...And that's basically as much explanation as was given in the book.
I can understand wanting to set your characters in an amazing world. I can understand wanting to give your main character an amazing ability, but still have them go through normal activities. How would an invisible girl be able to go to a normal school? If everyone else were freaks too! Sure, it makes sense, but that doesn't mean we don't want to see more of that world and less of Podunk America. I've heard people describe this book as X-Men meets The Godfather, and I'm not surprised that they're horribly disappointed by what they read. A crime syndicate of super-powered mutants going up against other super-powered syndicates or super-powered law enforcement? Hell yes! A super-powered former-criminal hiding out in middle America, worrying about boys and math tests? Interesting choice...but not what many people will sign up for.
Upon first picking up this book, I was kind of glad that it didn't have a series name on the front. There are a lot of series and trilogies out now, it was nice to see a standalone. And, reading through it, I do think it works as a standalone title. Fiona's story led to a nice crescendo and had a tidy ending. However, seeing that there is a sequel (Blindsided) scheduled for January, I'm also kind of glad. I hope to see more of this world the author has created, including much more of the criminal underbelly, and get a better peek at what our heroine can really do. Sure, invisibility doesn't lend much to strength, but it's really unkind to tease us with a line like, "You should really learn to fight," and then not follow it up with ANY lessons.
Overall, Transparent had an interesting premise but suffered from a sloppy execution. I'd recommend it for those who read YA and enjoy coming-of-age stories with female protagonists and romance, but with the disclaimer that it is less like X-Men meets The Godfather, and more like X-Men meets Witness. It does contain violence and some mild teen romance, so I'd say high school and up would enjoy this the most. So if you're thinking invisibility would be a walk in the park, you might want to check out Fiona's perspective in Transparent.
The latest installment in the Robert Langdon series may not talk about the secret life of Jesus, plots of Popes, oAmazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks
The latest installment in the Robert Langdon series may not talk about the secret life of Jesus, plots of Popes, or hidden rituals of the Freemasons, but don't let that lull you into thinking it has nothing provocative within. Rather than chasing questions about the hidden past, this book looks toward the future of humanity, posing questions about morality and the greater good, all while following the clues of a mad scientist who threatens the world from beyond the grave. With the clock ever ticking, Langdon may have finally met his intellectual match.
Robert Langdon is, and has always been, very much the intellectual everyman. He doesn't go out of his way to find trouble, nor does he hold a very exciting position. But somehow, some person in power always drags him into a puzzle where lives are at stake and the clock is working against them. It's as if he's the Arthur Dent of time-sensitive historically-based terrorist threats. And frankly, I found him boring. He's not witty or clever in the way he speaks, he's not particularly dashing in looks, he's polite, he's knowledgeable (almost unbelievably so), and, as I said, he isn't one to seek out trouble. So we're left with an Indiana Jones stand-in who solves puzzles without bashing skulls.
Don't get me wrong, I'm all for the nerd getting the spotlight for a change. But I do find it hard to believe that every person he meets (especially the women) are instantly charmed by him. It happens every time; he always has an attractive woman hanging onto his arm to marvel at his intellect and scream at the dangerous parts. But whereas Indiana Jones had pure eye-candy trailing him, Langdon somehow manages to charm extremely intelligent women who still drool at his every word. Okay, I'll give the ladies more credit than that, but I'm still perplexed at how such a dry (albeit polite and knowledgeable) personality can garner so much instant affection.
If there's one thing that tries to balance Langdon out, it's his inevitable trusting a bad guy. It happened before in all three novels, it happens again here. Some deceptions are shorter than others, but it never fails that Langdon is trusting someone he shouldn't with crucial information. I guess if he's so smart about everything else, his one weakness would be in reading people. And yet, it never seems to leave that much of an impact.
Which leads me to the major flaw I have with the Langdon series as a whole: everything always plays a little too perfectly. Each piece falls into place at the exact right moment, every character acts and reacts perfectly, Langdon always has the answers or knows the exact person to talk to, he always falls for someone's deception/trap until it's almost too late, and despite having no training or reason for it, he's always in the middle of the action-packed finale so that he can get the final motives. It's all a well-orchestrated plot, but after reading through four of these adventures, it's getting easier to notice the flailing baton conducting the symphony.
Not that I don't marvel at the work as I'm reading it. I always enjoy the complexity of the puzzles, learning new things, watching the characters and the plot come together piece by piece. Brown certainly does a good job of pulling you into the action, the chase, the intrigue, and the scenery such that putting the book down becomes more of a chore than wading through the 450 pages. It's really only after the action lets up and you're given a moment to reflect that all the conveniences, the fantasy, and the effort becomes visible. It's a fun ride while it lasts, but the adrenaline buzz might leave you wishing for more.
Hopefully that's where the book's many, many questions will come in.
Is humanity getting too big for its own good? Is it moral to cut off the leg to save the body? Would you kill half the population to save the species? Should governments put a limit on reproduction in order to stem overpopulation, even at direct opposition to religions against contraception? Is genetic engineering ethical, moral, too close to playing God?
These are only some of the questions that you might enjoy discussing amongst friends, enemies, and book groups.
But what I found most interesting about Inferno as opposed to previous Langdon novels, was that many of the questions posed above weren't answered. Certain characters came down on one side or the other, but most of the main cast either didn't have an opinion, or simply didn't voice it. It was very much a story about grey territory and ambiguity. When it comes to history, events either did or didn't happen, it's very cut and dry, but in regards to morality, ethics, and looking toward the unknown of the future, it's much harder to give solid answers. I found this both interesting and a little lazy on the part of the author, especially when it came to key characters not knowing what side to fall on. I would have liked a little more solidity from them, even if it didn't necessarily reflect Dan Brown's own opinion. Not a huge failing, but a little disappointing.
Overall, Dan Brown's Inferno was an exciting ride through historical puzzles and modern intrigue that any Robert Langdon fan won't want to miss. A thriller that skirts the line between reality and science fiction, I'd recommend it to anyone who enjoys chasing down clues and solving puzzles a la Indiana Jones. As with all the Langdon books, Inferno relied a lot on visuals. Descriptions of architecture, paintings, maps, and historical objects were all wonderful, and I can see a visual companion (or movie) being extremely helpful down the line. It does contain some violence and very polarizing moral questions, so you may want to take that into consideration before diving in. A great discussion book which is sure to leave you turning pages well into the night, you won't want to leave Inferno smouldering on the shelves too long.
It probably seems cliché to compare a YA Dystopian to The Hunger Games, eh? I mean, just because there's an evil gAmazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks
It probably seems cliché to compare a YA Dystopian to The Hunger Games, eh? I mean, just because there's an evil government forcing kids to fight kids in a no-holds-barred setting, does that mean it's really okay to slap the label "Hunger Games Clone" on it and call it a day? Well, no, but can you blame me for at least thinking it?
Our narrator and heroine in The Testing is Cia. Cia is smart, athletic, kind, and loyal. Oh, and trusting to a fault. Yep, her trust in others is actually a fault. Makes sense when you think about kids fighting kids. But my biggest problem with Cia was that trust seemed to be her only fault. She always knew the right answer, never was impulsive, waited to break down in a secure location, could run, shoot, climb, dodge, and fix exactly what she needed to. I liked Cia as a person, but with everything going her way all the time, I found myself not worrying about her nearly as much as I felt I should.
Cia is accompanied through most of The Testing by Tomas. For a romantic interest, I found him pretty bland. Tomas is supposed to be handsome, smart, and compassionate. Cia knows this from having grown up with him. Unfortunately the reader is only told this, all the while witnessing his actions repeatedly contradicting Cia's 'knowledge' of him. As such, I didn't find the secrets concerning him all that surprising, nor did I really care one way or the other if he and Cia were together or not.
Any other characters included were only present to further the plot, serve as conflict, or pound home the idea that The Testing is deadly. I understand the need to impress upon the heroine (and reader) the severity of the situation for tension's sake, but I wish it weren't so transparent. I never really got to know the personalities of most anyone past maybe a couple paragraph's description. And the couple that did reveal more either acted like a caricature of a good or bad person. I never felt any humanity from any of them.
Now, I'm usually strictly a character reader. Give me a great character with nothing happening around them and I'm content. Give me a great character in an intriguing setting and I'm enthralled. So given the fairly meh characters, I must have hated this book, right?
Well, actually the setting almost made up for it.
I'll admit that The Testing does have a lot of similar elements as the aforementioned book/series. Girl gets chosen by the government to participate in dangerous competition against other kids her age in order to win a highly coveted position of power and esteem. Only difference here is that death is neither an expected nor foregone conclusion.
This government is sneakier about their evilness. Set in post-apocalyptic America, the United Commonwealth is all about rebuilding the world that the wars and ensuing natural disasters devastated. Thus they entice the best and brightest children to show their stuff in The Testing in order to go to University and make a better society. And so as not to give candidates any unfair advantages, The Testing takes place in complete secrecy, concluding with mind wipes so none of the participants, successful or failed, remember what happened. Passing candidates move on to the University to continue their studies, while those who fail are given jobs in different cities. Which, of course, allows for as much evil as the government cares to accomplish.
Unfortunately, the more plausible execution of their plans doesn't make up for the completely illogical reasoning behind them.
So, in an effort to rebuild your decimated population and restore life to the wasteland, you've gathered the smartest teenaged graduates in the entire nation (over one-hundred this year) and set them to compete for 20 coveted University spots. Why on earth would you have failure result in death? Why would you enable and encourage perfectly preventable suicides, and accidental deaths, and murder? Where is the sense in killing off your second or third smartest citizens? An attempt is made to try and explain the original logic behind this asinine event:
As I eat, he tells me that the Testing process was designed years ago by Dr. Barnes's father, who believed that the Seven Stages of War occurred because world leaders did not have the correct combination of intelligence, ability to perform under pressure, and strength of leadership to lead us out of confrontations. That the only way to ensure the United Commonwealth did not repeat past mistakes was to test the future leaders of our country and make sure they had the breadth of qualities that would not only help our country flourish but keep our people safe. Over the years, several Commonwealth officials have questioned the necessity of such strong penalties for failing The Testing. Some even say that the Testers rig the outcome of the tests so that those who are too smart, too strong, and too dedicated are weeded out. For those are the ones who feel not only compelled to rebuild the Commonwealth but also to question its laws and its choices. Anyone who voices negative opinions about The Testing is either relocated to an outpost or disappears. [pg 144]
I guess I can understand wanting to root out possible bad eggs. Find out which people/kids might be psychopaths and deal with them before they gain power. I can even understand wanting to eliminate possible threats of rebellion by simply disposing of failures instead of letting spurned geniuses gain followings elsewhere. But, gee, you know why people rebel? Maybe because the government is doing stupid, evil things which aren't in the best interest of the people.
Granted, it's not confirmed that absolutely every failure of the tests is killed. But forcing the consumption of possibly poisonous plants, rigging explosives, including potentially deadly booby traps, and sanctioning the candidates to eliminate their competition by any means necessary? It doesn't take a genius to put the pieces together and realize that there are gonna be 80-some intelligent kids dead. And that's 80-some minds that aren't working on the solutions to better the planet.
And yet, despite all of that, I still managed to enjoy this book. What can I say? I like underdog stories, I like plucky heroines, and I like stories with good pacing and tension. And if I'm really being honest, The Testing had all that in spades. I'm also still curious about how exactly this government functions, given the fatal flaws the leadership obviously possesses. We know there are rebels out there, so secrecy can't be the only thing they have going in their favor. So I'll definitely be picking up the next book or two in the series because, despite my better logic, I got hooked.
So, overall I found The Testing to be an exciting start to an interesting series. It's very comparable to The Hunger Games, so if you're not already burnt out on YA Dystopians with romantic subplots, I'd say give this a try. A lot of violence and some mild kissing has me recommending it for high-school and up. While I found the villain a bit illogical and the characters lacking, I will say that if you're looking for an edge-of-your-seat story that values brains over brawn, you may want to check out The Testing.
While technically I read this as part of the Chez Apocalypsebook club, I can also 'blame' my purchase of it on Emi of Oktopus Ink for her review of the third book, Cress. But that's more than enough name-drops and links for one intro, what about the book itself? Well, with a cover like that, you can bet seeing this on shelves definitely piqued my interest. Add in the mash-up element of Cyborgs and Cinderella, and I was more than ready to be whisked away into a weird and wonderful SciFi Fairytale.
Our main protagonist and Cinderella re-imagining, Cinder, is quite the firecracker. Part downtrodden member of society, part spunky tomboy, and part star-crossed lover, she is both familiar and fresh. Far from the passive character who lets friendly mice and birds do the work, this mechanic is not only hardworking, she also isn't afraid to sass her evil stepmother when the occasion warrants it. Maybe not that unique in terms of today's YA heroines, nevertheless Cinder was a fun new interpretation of the classic role.
Prince Kai, on the other hand, didn't have much going for him. Granted, the original story only has the prince serving as the one-night love interest and savior, but even though here we get to know him over the course of multiple meetings during a week, we still don't get much. He's kind to and protective of his subjects, he's extremely tactless and sarcastic toward people he doesn't like, and he's interested in Cinder. Oh, and he's hopeful of finding this long-dead person to come and help solve the world's political problems. Perhaps not the greatest guy you'd want in charge.
In terms of their romance, I gotta agree with the book club leaders: it wasn't very believable. Granted, neither is the original material, but at least that's built on a fantasy premise to begin with. This story is trying to flesh things out and give more substance, and I'll admit that making their relationship develop over the course of a week instead of one night is a good start. Yet, even with the extended time frame their whole relationship is built off of lies/secrets, plus their conversations are practically pointless. They have nothing in common, how can either of them think this is a good idea?
Okay, I can understand Cinder's infatuation. I mean, after being given so little attention and praise for her whole life, the sudden friendship with an attractive member of the opposite sex is bound to induce thoughts of romance, no matter how practical she claims to be. Kai, on the other hand, has SO much on his plate, what with a plague and an impending war, why is he making jokes and ogling this mechanic? We know he doesn't think of her when she's not around, as evidenced in the sections told from his perspective, so how are we supposed to root for this relationship? Sure, we're rooting for Cinder's happiness, but I can't say I'm rooting for this guy.
But even more than the let down in the love interest, my biggest disappointment was probably the underdeveloped world-building. While enough to get the characters from point A to point B, it left far too many questions for the critical reader. For example, why are cyborgs considered lesser people? Sure, it adds a cool layer to the Cinderella story, giving a socially acceptable reason for her to be treated like a slave in her own 'family', but we never learn why or how society came to that decision. Was it induced by propaganda because of needing 'lower' test subjects for the plague? Is there a bad luck superstition associated with people who already befell misfortune? Are people pissed because cybernetic surgeries come out of their taxes? Any of these would be valid explanations, but as none were chosen we're just left to wonder.
The lack of world-building also had me questioning the placement of the story. Why China? None of the characters really acted overly 'Chinese', save for a few honorifics, saying the surname before given name, and a random Buddha statue or kimono thrown in for good measure. I get that this is supposed to be the future, so maybe a couple hundred years and two devastating World Wars have diluted the culture to Could-Literally-Be-Anywhere-istan. But I feel like if you're going to select a nontraditional location that has foreign flair, then give it the foreign flair! Give us some distinct landmarks, clothing, religion, food, something that justifies the setting. As it was it felt like it just wanted to be different without actually being different.
In case you couldn't tell by all the references I've already made, this story is still very much the classic fairytale. If a reader was unfamiliar with the original maybe the nods to the classic story wouldn't stick out so much, but as someone familiar with multiple versions of the Cinderella story (Grimm's, Disney's, Ella Enchanted (book and movie), and Ever After) I found a few of the references painfully obvious. For example, at one point Cinder and her robot pal rummage through a junkyard and happen upon a beat up old orange car, to which the robot states, "It looks more like a rotting pumpkin." Gee, I wonder if that will ever come into play later.
It also had a few instances of foreshadowing that felt less like foreshadowing and more like obvious winks to the camera. Gee, this mysterious person keeps coming up in conversations, I wonder if that will be important. I kept thinking that maybe, just maybe it would be this huge fake-out, because really it couldn't be that obvious. Nope. It's exactly what you think it'll be.
And yet, for all it's faults, I found the whole fairytale aspect utterly charming. It was fun seeing the framework of Cinderella holding up something else entirely. It gave the whole story more of a cutesy feeling, even undermining the plague and the political intrigue. After all, who cares if the world goes to war if it means the hot prince can fall in love with a lowly mechanic? Yes, the larger issues and overarching storyline do feel a bit at odds with the fairytale elements at times, especially concerning the romantic elements, but it's enjoyable for what it is.
That ending though, what a doozy. I can't say I fully understood Cinder's actions at the ball, but I'm definitely interested in what comes next. I guess if you don't like the book then there's not a huge draw to continue with the next one, no huge cliffhanger or anything like that. But if you're like me, you're going to want Scarlet and Cress as soon as possible. How are other fairytales going to fit in, how will Cinder's story pan out, and will Earth enter into a Lunar war?
Overall, Cinder was a fun concept and introduction to what looks to be an intriguing series. I'd recommend it for anyone interested in Fairytales with a SciFi twist, Monster Mash-Ups, or those who enjoy YA Paranormal Romance. No language, sex or violence, but there are a couple plague-related deaths, and with the politics and general romance I'd suggest this for those in high school and older. So if you're feeling a little nostalgic but want something new, or are in the mood for something a little silly yet serious, you should definitely take a little time and give Cinder a read.
I don't really know what I thought going into this. I guess I knew it was pretty popular, and it was about a socieAmazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks
I don't really know what I thought going into this. I guess I knew it was pretty popular, and it was about a society where love was 'cured' and that the main character was bound to rise up and fight the system, but I didn't really have any other expectations. And I think that perhaps that was best.
Lena, our main character and narrator, is a bit of a mixed bag when it comes to YA heroines these days. Starting off, she's the typical ho-hum, average-looks, bookish-but-not-nerdy, orphaned, straight-laced, late-teenaged girl. Knowing our YA tropes (and having read the book jacket), we know she's going to undergo some radical change in the story and fight the system, but I was actually pretty surprised and impressed with how much time and effort was put into her character pre-shift. Getting to know just how indoctrinated Lena, and by extension the society as a whole, was into this 'Love Is A Disease, Government Knows Best' mentality was not only integral to the storyline but also getting us invested in her as a person pre- and post-shift.
But enough about Lena as a main character, what about Lena as a person? She's generally kind, studious, and straight-laced, as I said before. Most of her life has been dominated by her mother's death and trying to distance herself from it. Others see her as predisposed to infection by amor deliria nervosa, see it as running in the family, using her mother's suicide as an example of how the love disease can kill. This has both terrified and strengthened Lena to the point where she is both self-deprecating/self-conscious but also thick-skinned against others' opinions. This leads her to seek out the truth, even it means breaking the rules or facing the judgement of others.
One of the most endearing traits that got me hooked to Lena was her distaste towards children. I know, I know, I'm a horrible person, and so is she. But really, it's not that she is cruel to kids, or that she hates them outright, she just doesn't find them easy to connect with and so would much rather avoid them. Now, you could go all psychologist on this and say that it stems to her troubled memories of her mother, or being bullied by other kids after her mother's death, but personally I saw it as an interesting (and completely believable) aspect for a female teen romance character to have.
Hana, Lena's best friend and confidant, was also a great hook for me. While most of the YA I've read has the main character's BFF either fighting them on the change or playing a supportive but greatly lesser role, Hana actually spurred Lena's shift in thought. Even through their fights and disagreements, their feelings toward each other don't change. It's refreshing to not see a 10(+)-year friendship suddenly blow up just because of one fight. I can only hope to see more Hana-like characters make appearances in other books.
Which brings us to the only other important character, the main love interest, Alex. I'm always drawn to a sense of humor, so Alex was instantly appealing as a romantic interest. But even with the humor, he always felt mature and laden with responsibility. Perhaps the fact that he was older helped portray his maturity, but as the seriousness of things started ramping up, it was nice to feel like he wasn't just some love-sick kid doing things off the top of his head. Even as the romance got pretty lovey-dovey, you still got the sense that he'd thought things through and had escape plans ready. Yes, he was in love, but he was still rational about the situation they were in.
As far as romance goes, this book had a lot more than I expected. There's no sex (it's still YA after all), but there is a lot of pining, yearning, kissing, and general angst. You hear about this dystopian society where love is illegal and you know there's bound to be some love, but also a rebellion. Well in the battle of Romance vs Dystopian, I'd say book one of the Delirium trilogy definitely fell on the side of Romance. Not that the world is underdeveloped in terms of the dystopian society, but the plot is focused on Lena and her discovery that Love isn't bad moreso than overthrowing the love-destroying government. And considering we're dealing with only book one, I'd say that's not a bad thing, just something to take into consideration if you're not a fan of romance novels.
In terms of the world-building, I was completely hooked. In case you didn't know, Love is seen as a disease (amor deliria nervosa) which causes anxiety, heart palpitations, violence, suicide, and all kinds of other problems. So the US government has created and mandated a cure, much like the chicken pox vaccine, which must be administered ASAP after you turn 18. Because everyone post-cure is so placated, there's no competition, no drive for advancement, so marriages, jobs, and general happiness are assigned by the government as well. Essentially, without love there is no hate, no ambition, no conflict, no fear of abandonment, no pain. Sounds like Utopia, right?
I'll admit I was continually thrown every time they mentioned living in Portland (Maine) and visiting the beach, as I live in Portland, Oregon and it is not by the ocean. But besides that little personal twitch, I could not get enough of the functionality, the history, and even the politics of this society. The rationalization of destroying love was so well crafted that it was terrifying to find myself agreeing with some of it. Having the world be so similar to our own only made it that much more chilling to envision.
But my favorite glimpses of the world came from each of the chapter starts. Before the start of each chapter Oliver included an 'excerpt' from a reference book, pamphlet, or the Safety, Health, and Happiness Handbook (Book of Shhh) about something concerning amor deliria nervosa or its cure. Most fascinating for me were the re-writings of biblical passages like this one of Genesis:
The devil stole into the Garden of Eden. He carried with him the disease —amor deliria nervosa— in the form of a seed. It grew and flowered into a magnificent apple tree, which bore apples as bright as blood. —From Genesis: A Complete History of the World and the Known Universe, by Steven Horace, PhD, Harvard University [pg 24]
It was not only informative but also a little chilling to read all the propagandized writings that were created to serve this new government's needs. Really drove the point home about how much they were about complete control.
Which brings me to my main question about the world... Why did they even bother imprisoning criminals/rebels? I understand allowing the insane or minor miscreants to serve time as a warning, but why keep the 'lifers' alive at all? It seemed kinda stupid to me in terms of a dystopian government and really nothing more than a plot contrivance. Don't worry if you/your love is captured because they'll just be thrown in jail. As of the end of this book, I really don't see any logic behind holding rebels in jail as opposed to silent executions. Perhaps it will be explored further in the sequels.
As the start of a series, Delirium did exactly what it was supposed to. It introduced the setting, the rules, the conflict, the goal, and gave us characters we can root for. That being said, I wouldn't say it's quite fleshed out enough to be a stand-alone novel. There are many hints at events or plot points in future books, a few too many loose ends, and a major cliffhanger that would only satisfy a fan of Shakespeare. So if you think you're going to enjoy this book, you'd best have Pandemonium and Requiem handy upon completion.
Overall, Delirium presented a fascinating but chilling look into a world where Love is not only a disease, but a crime. I'd highly recommend it to fans of romance or dystopian YA, or those who are looking for a good starting place for either genre and like well-developed heroines. There is some language (including the F-bomb), clean teen romance, and some violence involving police raids, so on the whole I'd recommend this for high school and older. I don't know where or when Love will find me, but after reading this book I'm just grateful that it's still out there to find. So if you're looking for a new book to love, definitely give Delirium a try.
If the title and summary weren't enough of an indication, this book deals with some heavy stuff. We're talking kidAmazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks
If the title and summary weren't enough of an indication, this book deals with some heavy stuff. We're talking kidnapping, assassinations, blackmail, espionage, and mental breakdowns — and the characters caught up in the middle of all this are both in their mid-to-late teens when this is happening. As much as this may seem like a relatively short, kick-ass heroine action story, it's actually quite the dark character study.
Fia, arguably the main heroine of the book, is a sassy, kick-ass assassin who does things in the spur of the moment. She acts and thinks a bit strangely at first, but everything moves so fast it's hard to get a real read on her. It's not until the story progresses (mostly through flashbacks, ironically) that it's revealed exactly how and why she's become this fidgety, self-deprecating, fighter chick at the ripe young age of seventeen.
Some might find her hard to relate to at first, but I was hooked instantly by her lack of hesitation in every situation. I envied that about her. I've noticed that I tend to live primarily in the past, second-guessing most of my decisions and actions, and am often so worried about not messing up that I generally remain in the background. Fia was the exact opposite, and while not exactly someone I would pin up as a role-model, it was enough to get me invested in the rest of her story.
Annie, Fia's older sister and our other narrator, was a character I related to immediately. Being blind, she is often seen by others as completely helpless and innocent. Fia feels protective of her and wants to shield her from as much evil as she can. The Keane Institute sees her as an obedient tool who they can easily control because of her disability. Annie, meanwhile, uses her mental gifts—including the ability to see the future—to outwit the Institute keeping her captive and keep her sister safe.
I did enjoy the sister/sibling bond that came across between these two. Both are very protective of each other, almost at the detriment to their own safety, but their relationship isn't all sunshine and rainbows. They still fight, they still argue, they have misunderstandings, they have trust issues. It's a very hard look at what one is willing to do for someone you love the most. Are you willing to kill for them? To die for them? To live without them? It was both heartwarming and heart-wrenching to read sometimes, especially coming from inside each of their heads.
The book is told in from the POV of each of the sisters, and I'll admit I did have trouble telling who was narrating at each switch. Each chapter starts off with the narrator's name in large bold letters, and yet I still had to look back up and make sure I was in the right person's head. It's not like I expected Annie to start describing being blind at the start of every sequence, but I would have liked a little more differentiation between the two at times, especially in the flashbacks.
Yeah, that's right, there are A LOT of timeline shifts. If you get right down to it, only three days total were covered in the present. Flashbacks spanning ten years make up the other half (maybe more?) of the novel, giving us insight into the characters' troubled pasts. It was a cool way to introduce them and their stories, and I think it worked, but I can also see some people having problems following the very non-linear path. Each chapter indicates exactly when in time we are, so it's not all that hard to figure out, but I know non-linear storylines are a bane to some readers, so they'll most likely want to steer clear.
Another style people might have issue with is the fact this story is told in first-person, present-tense, stream-of-consciousness. Some people will not enjoy it. They don't relate to the characters, making the story impossible to become immersed in, or they simply don't enjoy reading stream-of-consciousness. I thought the whole thing was very easily read, nervous ticks (Fia has a tic of repeating something three times) and all, and that the present-tense made the story very fast-paced and action-oriented. But again I acknowledge that, like with 3D movies, there are people who won't enjoy the book because of the medium in which it is presented.
But speaking of mediums, let's delve into world Mind Games presents. Partly sci-fi, partly paranormal, in this world there are some select women gifted with psychic abilities. Readers can read thoughts, Seers can see glimpses of the future, Feelers can sense the emotions of people around them. The chemical makeup/genes for these abilities are limited to females, but that doesn't mean men can't use their powers for personal gain. Mr. Keane, mysterious head of the Keane Institute, is doing just that; recruiting young girls, bribing them with special treatment and promises of power, then using their abilities to make his company profit and power. But Fia is a unique case. She not only doesn't fit the normal branches of abilities, but her impulsiveness makes it harder for any other psychics to track her. He merely has to figure out a way to control her.
Which brings us to our male supporting cast. James Keane, son of the big boss and newly instituted head of the Psychic School, has had Fia's eye for a while. He's good looking, witty, has a dark sense of humor (that matches Fia's perfectly), but Fia's always-right internal compass has him pegged at wrong, wrong, WRONG! Adam, on the other hand, is innocent, kind, and not bad-looking either, but there's something he's hiding that could spell doom for Fia, Annie, and all girls like them.
Depending on which book summary you read, there either is a romance, or there's no mention of one whatsoever. I kind of feel this way about the book. If you're looking for a romance, there's one to find. But if you're not looking for one, or don't hold it as the most important element, then it's easily overlooked in the grand scheme of things. I think there are romance elements that will carry forward in the series, but in terms of this book alone, there's not much substance beyond some on-again-off-again crushing.
As a book, I thought Mind Games hit all the targets. In terms of the series, it has me excited to see what's coming up. The ending has closure in as much as it solves an issue that we're introduced to, but there is still a lot to do before the series/trilogy is finished. Toward the end, I thought I knew exactly what was going to happen, but there was enough of a twist there that I was still kept on-edge through the last page. Ultimately, it did what a first book should do: introduce the world, the characters, and the goal. And I'm excited to return for a deeper dive into this fascinating world.
Overall, Mind Games had me hanging on every word even after I was done. A psychological thriller masterfully wound around two realistic sisters, I'd recommend it for YA fans looking for a darker sci-fi or paranormal action story. No language that I can remember, nor sexual situations, but violence and some heavy themes have me rating this at high school and up. If you're looking for something that will have you questioning what you know, what you think you know, and what that lady across the room giving you the weird stare knows, then look no further than White's latest offering, Mind Games.
I've been on a bit of a "girl power" kick lately, so reading a book both written and narrated by guys was a very nAmazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks
I've been on a bit of a "girl power" kick lately, so reading a book both written and narrated by guys was a very nice change of pace. Not to generalize at all, but I enjoyed reading a story where life or death didn't hinge on falling in love with the right/wrong guy. But I'll come back to that later.
It's been a few years since the ice caps melted, the majority of the atmosphere dissipated, and humanity was forced into hiding from the sun. Most people live either below the surface in underground colonies or in five BioDomes which filter out the worst of the sun's harmful radiation. They can generate their own night stars, clouds, and even rain underneath the dome; it's almost like the global collapse never happened. So obviously, it's the perfect place to run a summer camp for kids.
The star of our story is Owen, an average 15-year-old kid at summer camp. Owen is a bit of an outcast, not because of his interests or physique (well, maybe a little) but because he's from one of the fringe colonies, whereas everyone else at this camp is a dome native. You'd think winning the lottery was a good thing. He's not out to overthrow the camp bully or find lost treasure or anything. He'd just like to make it through the summer with his bones intact, his skin not fried, and maybe a little attention from that hot councilor-in-training wouldn't be so bad.
And then he drowns. Way to go.
One of my favorite character quirks of Owen is how he pictures what's going on on his insides. While drowning, and a couple times when he gets what might be called 'a gut feeling', he pictures these technicians inside brain running around. Most times they're trying to avert a crisis, but occasionally they just stand around and calmly process new data coming in. It certainly takes some of the drama out of your lungs filling with water. And it also takes some of the drama or eye-rolling out of those 'gut feeling' scenes. You know, those times where a character leaves their room in the middle of the night, not because they know something is happening, but because they have a strange feeling they should leave now. The brain techs don't completely resolve the problem of plot convenience, but they did make it much more palatable and entertaining for me.
And that humorous, eye-winking tone is reflected throughout the story. In many ways, I could compare The Lost Code to Harry Potter in its prophecy and power of three elements, but I also saw a bit of the Hunger Games in its dystopian government with a rebellion that the kids are kinda thrown into. What differentiates it from both, however, is its tone. There's a light-hearted quality to everything that's happening, even when things take a turn for the gory. And trust me, things do get pretty gory there at the end. But even with the whole world hanging in the balance, Owen still has the determination and the hope that pushes him (and the reader) along. Even in the face of the complete destruction of all of humanity, I'm still more hopeful than I ever was with The Hunger Games.
I think a little of that light-heartedness also stemmed from the drama-free romance. A huge difference when compared to so much of the girl-centered YA out now. Sure, this had a romance, and there were moments at the end where it was almost 'I can't live without you', but at the same time the book wasn't afraid to have a little fun with it. There's a scene towards the middle where Owen is freaking out in his head about how this kiss is going to happen. It's all set up, they're leaning in, and he's just going nuts. And then she shoves a brownie in his mouth instead. I couldn't help but smile at the clever deflation of what could have been a completely mushy love scene.
I will say I was a little surprised by one of the semi-romantic thoughts that ran through Owen's head, though. It's still fairly early on in the budding romance/crush, and the thought of 'raising babies together' comes up. It's hard not to draw comparisons with female authors writing female characters here...but I can't remember the last time I read a book where babies even crossed the mind of a YA character. A girl may consider spending the rest of their life with the guy, but the last book I can remember that even mentioned the possibility (or not) of children was The Hunger Games. I don't know whether to attribute that to the author's idea of teenage boys, the characterization of Owen, or the fact that in this series humanity is facing complete obliteration.
Another thing that kinda surprised me was the Owen's and the other teens' extremely fast acceptance of 'facts'. Owen drowns in chapter one or two. No doubt about it, he legitimately drowns. But through some strange force, he's still alive. Not only does he have this mystery to solve, but he also has a cryptic message from the girl who pulled him out of the water (and has a crush on) that he is struggling to decipher. Ultimately, he meets up with the girl and a group of three other teens who are going through the same thing.
Everything they know is described in a couple paragraphs. Okay, maybe a page of dialog. And it's just accepted. They know next to nothing, not why or how, and yet are perfectly content to keep doing what they're doing.
You'd think Owen might be confused or eager to move ahead in the mystery, but nope. He's perfectly content to just join the club, and it's only when more weird stuff happens that he actually learns more. Okay, they don't have to be The Scooby Gang, but you'd think they would be a little less passive with what's happened to them. I know fear is a strong motivator for keeping the status quo, but you'd think fear would also prompt more investigation into their strange condition. Not a huge problem for me in terms of the narrative, but something I definitely scratched my head at.
As you might imagine, the environmental message here is anything but subtle, yet at the same time it's not preachy either. It's not telling you to go plant trees or stuff like that, but it does paint a picture of what extreme climate change might/would do to the earth and, in effect, humanity. The main plot is still following this kid and his journey into the fate of the world, but it's impossible to get to his story without the devastation that the planet has already faced. I still wouldn't call it preachy, but it's something to take into consideration if you don't want an environmental story.
For the start of series, I thought The Lost Code accomplished a great deal an did so effectively. The setting is introduced and gone into with a lot of detail, yet with more that can still be fleshed out in the sequel(s). We have characters who are engaging and who I'm excited to see their growth as the books continue, though I was disappointed that one of the characters introduced later on won't be as recurring as I initially thought (still holding out hope for him). There was some predictability to it, just from having read other YA series, but there were still a lot of twists and turns that provided uniqueness. I'll be interested to see if Owen remains the sole narrator in the sequel, or if it changes altogether. And ultimately, I'm excited to see what else is in store for our heroes and what resolution can come to stop the end of the world.
Overall, I enjoyed The Lost Code immensely. Emerson's story was simultaneously fun, thought-provoking, action-packed, and sweet; an adventure I'd highly recommend to any teen, guy or gal, who is looking for a little mystery, a little romance, some dystopian, paranormal/sci-fi, and environmentalism, all wrapped up in a story about summer camp. Character age and complete lack of sex or language have me putting this safely in middle-grade level, but if violence or gore is an issue for you, I'd keep this for high school readers. So if you're looking for a book to make you thankful you can still enjoy the sunshine, or if you're curious how Atlantis factors into a book where the world is primarily a fiery wasteland, you should definitely pick up The Lost Code for yourself.
Really, if you've read this far into the series, how could you not automatically pick up Book 10?
Now, I'd like to talk first about the Young Wizards series as a whole. I've seen some reviews claiming that Games Wizards Play is 'not as strong' as previous books, or is "a weak entry in the series". Looking back, I've noticed that the odd-numbered books (1, 3, 5) tended toward huge, universe-at-stake events, while the even-numbered books (2, 4, 6) focused more on the reactions to the big events. Nita and Kit's Ordeal was followed by figuring out how to approach Wizardry with their parents. Nita's battle against her mom's cancer was followed by her coming to terms with her own limitations and how to move forward. Not to say the even books didn't have their own excitement, but those seemed to be more of surprises than the main focus of the entire book. The formula did change a bit with books 7 and 8, with Wizard's Holiday acting more like a precursor to the all-out WAR in the 8th book. Book 9 stepped back to have a much needed calm-after-the-storm feel, while still throwing more at Nita and Kit to deal with.
And frankly, these characters weren't ready to be pitched into another war. Yes, Games Wizards Play is slower-paced in the sense that there aren't spells being thrown every two seconds, the universe isn't being swallowed by a black nothingness, and our character's lives aren't being threatened throughout the book. The main event, for all intents and purposes, is a Magic Science Fair. Is that the most exciting thing ever? No.
But this book focuses on the characters first and foremost. Nita is working with her newfound visionary talent, Kit and Nita are both figuring out their new relationship status, Dairine is dealing with Roshaun's disappearance. Everyone is taking a breath, looking inward for a little bit (what, a whole month or two?), and moving forward. Is it white-knuckle, edge-of-your-seat riveting? Maybe not. Is it "weak" for being so? Absolutely not.
As always, Nita is an absolute joy to read. Her wit, her stubbornness, her insecurities, everything about her reads like a friend you'd love to know. Kit is less focused on in this entry, possibly because of his heavy involvement in the last book, but the couple times we do get in his head, he's still the old friend we know and love. And Dairine has matured a lot. Sure, she still runs her mouth when she feels like it, but at least now she knows and plans for the fallout of her actions. And seeing her in a mentoring role, that was great.
Both the mentees, Penn and Mehrnaz, while not given main character status, were still both amply fleshed out. Penn is a guy I loved to hate, and frankly couldn't wait til he got his comeuppance. Mehrnaz is much easier to sympathize with, what with her being shy and unsure of herself. Her home life isn't all it's cracked up to be, and I sincerely hope that Dairine's influence was helpful to her future coping. Frankly, I wouldn't be adverse to seeing either of these guys in the future. I know TV shows with kids/teens are always trying to pass the torch to the younger generation, and I'm usually against that one hundred percent. But, so long as Nita, Kit and the crew are wrapped up well enough (in future installments), I wouldn't mind seeing Penn or Mehrnaz again.
As far as Nita and Kit's relationship went, I liked it. I thought it was sweet. I know some reviews (I really need to stop reading those) thought it was unnatural how slow they were taking things. I'd argue that it was nice to have a relationship more focused on preserving friendship and insecurities rather than immediate sexual confidence, annoying pet names, and incessant snogging. In another unconventional turn of events, there was an interesting chapter in which gay relationships and asexual relationships were discussed. And it was done naturally. I'll admit I was a little surprised that the subject was mentioned at all, just in terms of what else I've been reading, but the conversations in which it occurs are both natural in terms of how it's broached and how it's discussed.
Can I just say that I love this series? So. Freaking. Much.
That being said, I do have an issue with this book's ending. Not spoiling anything, I promise. The ending was just...so abrupt. The big, flashy, exciting climax happens in the span of about 15 pages, then the denouement takes another 15-20 and only really focuses on two of the six main participants. What?! Was there a page limit? Why are we suddenly getting no information on these characters? I understand a lot of books don't want a completely wrapped up ending, wanting to leave some of it up to the readers to fill in the gaps, not wanting to spoon-feed everything to us. But really? Over 600 pages and only about 30 of those dedicated to this ending?! There's leaving people wanting more, and then there's this.
Still, Games Wizards Play is one of the best books I have read in a while. It does the characters justice, and serves the series well. I read this mostly while at work, and there were times I just couldn't keep from smiling.
I would say in recommending an age-range for this book, the series really does do a good job at weeding out the under-prepared by itself. If, say, an elementary-school kid sped through So You Want to Be a Wizard, Deep Wizardry, and High WizardryHigh Wizardry, I think they'd get a little caught on the much slower-paced and historically dense A Wizard Abroad. I know it took me a couple tries to fully appreciate that book, even in high school. The Wizard's Dilemma is definitely a little older in subject matter, and pairing it with complex techno-speak (I think) helps steer it towards more mature readers. If at this point, you've already made it through the other nine entries with all their techno-babble, philosophizing, battles, loss, and the like, then you've got no problem continuing on.
Perhaps not my personal favorite of the series, it still gave me another great experience into this world where magic pairs seamlessly with science and the power of youth and imagination are nearly limitless. Now I'm itching to reread the whole series, just to stay in this world a little longer. Oh, and I agree, Pluto will always be a planet to me.
I think I remember the movie more than the book. Though, actually, I do remember the book I got from the library smelling like somebody had barfed inI think I remember the movie more than the book. Though, actually, I do remember the book I got from the library smelling like somebody had barfed in it. Yuck. But, regardless, I do remember really liking the story when I was young....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
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.
When I first picked this up, all I knew was on the front cover: Tahereh Mafi had written it (one of the first blogAmazon ~ Powell's ~ Jan's Paperbacks
When I first picked this up, all I knew was on the front cover: Tahereh Mafi had written it (one of the first bloggers I started following) and it apparently featured a female whose touch is lethal power. Not much to go off of, but I wanted to be surprised.
What surprised me the most was that 5 chapters had passed in a noisy bookstore (not my typical reading environment) and I wanted to keep reading. I was completely hooked.
The story starts out with Juliette having been locked up for the last three years. And not just locked up in prison or a mental institution, no she's been in total solitude that whole time. Well, if she wasn't nuts when she got there, surely she's nuts by now. And her narration pretty much supports that.
Here and again are lines that are crossed out. Thoughts she wants to unthink, words she won't let herself say, and feelings she can't let herself feel. She's broken, shattered if you will, into what she's been taught to think and what she dares to think. There's a stream-of-consciousness narrative at times that breaks that barrier between character and reader and it's... powerful, to say the least.
And really that's what Juliette is. Powerful. You wouldn't think someone so broken, battered, and tortured could be as brave, stubborn, or empathic as Juliette turns out to be. Even in the beginning, her crossed out thoughts reveal a defiance she just can't keep off the page—she knows she shouldn't can't be thinking these things, but still she does. It was a joy to follow her growth throughout the story, especially in her dealings with the main villain.
Warner was a villain I hated to love, but I sorta kinda did. Don't get me wrong; 99.9% of the time, I absolutely hate the stalker. But...this one time, I actually really liked him. He cared about Juliette, loved her, wanted to empower her, tried dearly to get her to love him. Yeah, he was the villain, but if his methods (and megalomania) were turned down a bit I could see him as a romance-triangle contender. ...Maybe not so much. But I still didn't completely hate him.
And perhaps that was due in part to my constant suspicions towards the main romantic interest, Adam. I'm always leery of the too-good-to-be-true love interest, and when he's placed inside a plot filled with lies, I'm doubly untrusting. What can I say? I gotta look out for my girl (regardless of not being able to talk her out of bad choices). So with the narrative in Juliette's hands and Adam being super sneaky at all times, I was always on-edge for Adam's double-cross.
Which made all the romantic scenes particularly uncomfortable for me. They were gorgeous, poetic, and sensual, despite never quite getting to second base. Again, I didn't read anything about this book beforehand besides the front cover, which means I didn't see Lauren Kate's endorsement on the back cover:
"Addictive, intense, and oozing with romance. I'm envious. I couldn't put it down."
So yeah, there was quite a bit more romance than I initially expected. Which isn't to say I disliked it. It was quite sweet after I got past my own reservations about Adam. And even though the actions never went past PG, the sensual side got rather steamy at times. Definitely a must-read for romance fans.
Quite a surprise, considering the overarching dystopian theme. Okay, the only other dystopian books I have to go off of are The Hunger Games, which were horrifying and depressing to me. But despite the world this story's set in—one of impoverished masses controlled by a super-elite government hoarding the failing natural resources—I never felt disheartened. There was always hope for Juliette, for Adam, for...
Yeah, there's a noticeable character dump at the end of the book. It started small a little over halfway through, just one here and one there. Then we hit the bump where, if you didn't know this was the beginning of a series/trilogy, you do now, cause suddenly here's a whole slew of characters that are super-interesting and I'm dying to know more about them but...there's only 20 pages left! I've already picked out my favorite, and, if you're reading this, Tahereh, you'd better not kill him off! Don't rob me of my Rodney Skinner replacement!!!
Ahem. Anyway, back to the series talk. Shatter Me is the start of what is currently drafted as a trilogy (though I always hold out hope for changes like the Hitchhiker's Guide, The Mortal Instruments, and Inheritance 'trilogies'), and I can't wait to see what Ms. Mafi has in store for us. I could make comparisons or references, but I'm sure you'll make your own once you've read the book. Wink wink, nudge nudge, say no more.
Overall, I found Shatter Me an intoxicating read that I could not put down. It's a romantic dystopian, edging on sci-fi, tucked safely within YA boundaries. How often do you get a chance at that? Language is comprised of 2 minor swears, sex remains sensual, but there is some off-screen violence and on-screen gunfire, so I'd say it's targeted toward high school and above. Do not let Shatter Me slip by. You never know if yesterday was your last chance...
I won't lie, this was a bit hard to get into at first. You have a girl and her brother being tortured by their stepfather in a town where apparently nI won't lie, this was a bit hard to get into at first. You have a girl and her brother being tortured by their stepfather in a town where apparently no one cares. Definitely not puppies and sunshine, but surely things can only get better from here. Right? Well, yes and no...but I will say that I grew to enjoy the story much more as I went on.
There were some mechanics in this piece that didn't always work for me. The narration felt a bit robotic sometimes, too technical or specific—not how I picture a 16-year-old thinking. There were a lot of "this/that" instead of spelling it out or separating with dashes. And yet, there were also flashes of genuine teenage outbursts, like wondering "what the hell...?" when something unexpected happens. It's a strange dynamic between the two sides, but it didn't hinder my enjoyment of the story.
Even though the plot isn't action-packed, there's no doubt that Carly is a strong yet sympathizing character. Being subjected to psychological and physical torture day in and day out, yet remaining strong enough to care for her little brother and put his needs before her own...is hard to read, but easy to admire. She's a problem-solver and a strategist, always looking before she leaps, but never hesitating or second-guessing herself either.
Ultimately, I wanted more! The time-frame felt a little disjointed and rushed, and I was eager for more exploration, more reflection on what was happening. Some of the explanations turned into exposition which I feel was only due to the shortened length. I loved the overall idea and the characters and would have loved to have had them fleshed out a little more, especially the mysterious Morgan and the "they" he refers to. Honestly, I think this plot could have easily filled 200+ pages, and I would have loved reading it.
Overall, this is a story that will keep you on the edge of your seat. Though this novella runs only around 80 pages, it hooks you and won't let you go until it's through—and even then you're begging for more. If you've an interest in fate or alternate dimensions and enjoy strong female characters, then I'd definitely check this out. There are a few instances of strong language (specifically the F-bomb) and allusions to rape, so do use some discretion in picking this up for younger readers. As for me, I'm looking forward to seeing what Karen has in store for us in the future.
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
Tory Brennan is just your typical high school freshman. You know the type: so smart she skipped two grades; lives on an island with a father she justTory Brennan is just your typical high school freshman. You know the type: so smart she skipped two grades; lives on an island with a father she just met; niece of a famous forensic anthropologist; spends most the time boating around with three older geeky guys. Yeah, sure. Typical.
And it's on a typical trip to the neighboring Loggerhead Island, home to a super high-tech biology research lab and off limits to outsiders, that she and her friends discover a clue to a 50-year-old mystery as well as evidence of cruel animal experimentation. Apparently not everything on Loggerhead is as official and clean-cut as it seems.
After rescuing the wolfdog puppy from the labs, Tory and the group start experiencing strange symptoms. But heightened senses, hunger for raw meat, and yellow eyes are the least of their worries when their investigation efforts start attracting the wrong sort of attention. The deadly kind. They'll have to work together if they want to stay alive and put this mystery to rest.
Fortunately, they are now more than friends. They are a pack. They are Virals.
This book was impossible to put down! I started reading this at midnight, thinking I'd spend an hour or two at the most before turning in. Four and a half hours (347 pages/57 chapters) later I finally found a place I felt I could comfortably leave them and go to sleep. I grant that the pacing isn't the best at times—I found it impossible to tease the book using the first 50 pages because nothing had happened yet—but the absence of action in the beginning was completely covered by the characters. And once the action started, it never let up—especially not at chapter breaks.
But speaking of characters, I loved each and every one of them. Tory, our freshman-at-fourteen narrator was everything I love in a female lead. She's smart, sassy, strong (though she often plays it down for the boys' sakes), wounded but trying to overcome. And her language, her pattern of speaking/thinking was exactly like I'd expect. In some ways it matched my own, such that tagging along in her head was a pretty seamless experience. Plus she's a redhead, automatic +2 points.
Tory's boys were just plain fun. Hi, probably my favorite of the bunch, was the comedian of the group. If the situation's getting way out of hand, trust him to throw in a line that lets everyone take a breath. Shelton and Ben blurred together a bit at first, but I straightened them out eventually. Shelton's the techno-wiz, but tends to spook easily. Ben's definitely the muscle, but he doesn't boast it. All three of them had great senses of humor, and though they're older, they're all intensely loyal to their leader, Tory.
It's YA, so you know there's gotta be some romance, right? Well, yes and no. There are some boy-girl scenes with flirting, some boyfriend/girlfriend references, and some definite crushing going on. However, in comparison to most girl-narrated YA, this was surprisingly tame. There was a bit of a triangle popping up now and again...and maybe it's just me, but I sense Ben might have a little crush of his own...but on the whole, everything is sub-subplot at best. It's there—it's pretty near unavoidable when dealing with high school—but it's maybe 30 pages of a 450-page book.
Instead of teenage angst, the book mainly focuses on mystery, sci-fi, and action plots. Doesn't seem to be typical YA genres these days, especially for what looks to be a sci-fi or paranormal book. I'll admit, I was surprised at how well everything was woven together. Just when you're thinking Mystery Plot caught a huge break, Action bursts in, shakes everything around, and then lets Sci-Fi take the lead. Each of the three plots seems separate, which might be offputting for some, but with the characters leading you through it all it's not too hard to follow.
The action starts off immediately, right from page one in the form of a prologue. Technically, the prologue takes place in the middle of chapter 25, so it was a bit confusing trying to figure out what the heck was going on. On the other hand, it certainly gets you hooked right away, and Reichs does a good job referencing back to the prologue in the chapter (in case you need a refresher), so I think it works alright. The action throughout the story kept my heart pounding pretty fast (the music* ensured that pretty well too).
The science/science-fiction of the story is fairly understandable. Since none of the characters specialize in the same fields, there's usually a fair bit of explanation between them for any science-y stuff. I'm a bit biased toward wolves (gee, ya think?), so I'll admit that the wolf-DNA change plotline was what drew me to the book in the first place. Didn't know exactly what to expect—full-blown werewolves, monsterous mutation, canine-centered super-powers, or mere insanity—but I was pleased with the results. Even as science-fiction, it seemed believable, obtainable at our current level of technology.
I was especially impressed with the pacing of the mystery. With the characters somewhat going about their daily lives, the pacing actually felt realistic, which only helped build the suspense. I never felt like there were convenient breakthroughs, nothing was handed to them, they had to work for every clue they found. But I suppose I shouldn't have expected anything less from the author of the Bones series.
Speaking of which, I feel I must make a clarification for those who are familiar with Bones, the TV show. The Temperance Brennan referenced in this book is NOT the one from the show, she is the one from Reichs' novel series which inspired the show. So before any Bones fans start complaining/questioning about how Tory is Brennan's sister's granddaughter (TV-Brennan is in her 20's and has a brother), please reference the books. That being said, other than that one reference to their relation, there is absolutely nothing concerning "Aunt Tempe" in Virals. She's mentioned a couple times as a minor tag to Reichs' other work, that's all.
But I think I've blathered on long enough. If you haven't gotten the gist that I loved this book, I don't know what you've been reading. Overall, I'd recommend this for fans of sci-fi, mystery and/or action who don't mind a YA style. I'd say that, between the younger-but-still-high-school narrator, lack of romance and the good amount of action, this book is definitely geared for middle school and up. If you're looking for a break from the norm, something you can really sink your teeth into, Virals will definitely keep you intrigued, mystified, and entertained.