Not rating because I didn't finish (though I did both to google the ending and am now very glad I didn't finish it, because I...more(Recommended by my mom.)
Not rating because I didn't finish (though I did both to google the ending and am now very glad I didn't finish it, because I would have been unsatisfied). I am probably the only person who didn't enjoy this one, as I've only read glowing reviews. (less)
Handcuffs is guilty of having a synopsis that's kind of more compelling for me than the actual novel. There was nothing inherently wrong with it, and...moreHandcuffs is guilty of having a synopsis that's kind of more compelling for me than the actual novel. There was nothing inherently wrong with it, and I really, really enjoyed the last, oh, 20% of the book, but the build-up left me not particularly caring about any of the characters. To avoid any spoilers, I'll say that if I'd known that Handcuffs was a novel about a family's reaction to the bad economy, a layoff and hard times, I would have probably approached it with a different mindset. As far as the mean girls element, it was not as well executed as I've read, such as Courtney Summers' Some Girls Are. What I will say is that I loved the realness of the hyper-connected world of teens. It's messed the hell up, and I'm sure glad I'm the age I am, because I cannot imagine how much it sucks to live in that world now.
Probably more of a 3.5 star read, but the Netherworld continues to be so interesting, so I rounded up. Sophie is kind of a bee-yotch in this series, b...moreProbably more of a 3.5 star read, but the Netherworld continues to be so interesting, so I rounded up. Sophie is kind of a bee-yotch in this series, but she's definitely more compelling in this novella than in the previous books. This is definitely one of the stronger YA paranormal/urban fantasy series I've encountered. Each installment is compelling and engaging.
I received this one as a present from a good friend who knows I love stuff like this. This is a super-fun book of random infographics and facts. There...moreI received this one as a present from a good friend who knows I love stuff like this. This is a super-fun book of random infographics and facts. There were loads of things that prompted me to go done the rabbit hole of Google, because my interest was piqued.
The first short story was just okay. But I have very, very strong opinions about the whole shapeshifter thing, and this contained some details that bu...moreThe first short story was just okay. But I have very, very strong opinions about the whole shapeshifter thing, and this contained some details that bugged me and didn't have as much of Frost's trademark snappy dialogue. My verdict for "Pack" is probably 2.5 stars. She's so good at what she does in her Night Huntress series, but this story didn't work for me. This one is also the most overtly romancey of the three--the other two are more on the urban fantasy side of the scale.
Read contribution #2, In Sheep's Clothing by Meljean Brook, while I was having my tea this afternoon (a habit I can't break), and loved it! So much so that I would looooove to read an entire book or series about the two main characters fighting crime together (I have a soft spot for both crime fighting duos and werewolves, so this would appeal to me). Bonus: it takes place in rural Oregon! 4+ stars
Ilona Andrews' Grace of Small Magic was also very good. Initially, I was confused by the world (perhaps it takes place in a world in another Andrews series?), but the plotting is fantastic for a piece of this length. I love the complexity of the magic in thos story. Very clever and unique. 4 stars
Overall, I recommend this anthology for anyone curious about either Brook or Andrews, as I was. The Frost contribution isn't up to her usual quality (it's also the shortest), so take it with a grain of salt. At 99¢ (in Dec 2011), it's great value.
Putting this one on ice for awhile. I loved Angelfall but this sequel seems very unfocused and I'm 50% in. Maybe it's me, maybe it's the book... I'll...morePutting this one on ice for awhile. I loved Angelfall but this sequel seems very unfocused and I'm 50% in. Maybe it's me, maybe it's the book... I'll revisit it later.(less)
Read for my book club. The writing is nice and I appreciate Cam's snarky, bitter voice. However, there was something a bit... contrived... about this...moreRead for my book club. The writing is nice and I appreciate Cam's snarky, bitter voice. However, there was something a bit... contrived... about this story for me. Maybe it was just a smidgen too gimmicky or had just too much story hooks, but I kept feeling like I could see each moment when the story was just a bit too clever (and now that i know it's an Alloy book, that sort of makes sense). I also think the third person was a strange choice for this story, since the only perspective is Cam's and we don't get a lot of depth from the other characters, but that's a personal taste thing. With that said, it's still a well-done book, so... for me, this was just okay, but I bet a lot of other people will feel/have felt differently.(less)
Hmmmmm... the first, oh, 75% of this one was kind of meh, despite the creative setup and interesting and funny narrator. The last 25% was outstanding....moreHmmmmm... the first, oh, 75% of this one was kind of meh, despite the creative setup and interesting and funny narrator. The last 25% was outstanding. I'll probably give book two a shot, because it promises and even more unreliable narrator, which is one of my favorite tropes.(less)
I'm convinced the writer of the book description never read this book. The book description just makes it sound like a generic teen book with no subst...moreI'm convinced the writer of the book description never read this book. The book description just makes it sound like a generic teen book with no substance and there's actually a lot going on in this one, especially with the realistic love hate relationship between Gemma and her best friend.
Super cute, vintage Jen Echols read. I had hoped it'd be more of a romcom like Major Crush, but it was still a fun, satisfying read that I finished in one evening. I enjoyed this more than her other 2011 release, Love Story.
Oh, and the first couple chapters read like an issue book, but that doesn't continue, so don't worry. (Seriously... during the first couple of chapters, I was like, "WTF? Jennifer Echols wrote an issue book?! Arg."
And, I have to note that I always appreciate that Jennifer's books always feature diverse characters, and this one continues that trend.
The One That I Want really made me look forward to Echols' adult release, coming out next year--she's so good at creating tension and fun chemistry between characters, and does so with a sense of humor, that I'm eager to see how that'll translate to an adult audience.(less)
I am desperately seeking a kick-ass survival book. If I hear that a book involves lifeboats and/or being marooned on a island, I am all over it.
As a result, I had high hopes for S.A. Bodeen’s young adult survival novel, The Raft.
Unfortunately, like the other survival story I read this year, The Lifeboat, The Raft didn’t live up to my (very high) expectations. With that said, I think there’s an audience that will enjoy this lost-at-sea, Hatchet-style novel.
Robie is a 15-year old with an unusual life. Her parents are researchers and she lives on Midway Island. She frequently hops a ride on the cargo plane between Midway and Honolulu, where her aunt lives and has a measure of independence that’s unusual for someone so young. It’s on one of these trips to visit her aunt that she leaves suddenly, following a frightening encounter with a stranger on the street. Because the phone lines are down and her aunt is out of town, no one knows that Robie’s headed back to Midway.
On the flight back, the plane experiences engine trouble and crashes into the sea. The co-pilot she’s never met before, Max, tosses her a life vest and deploys the plane’s lifeboat. Suddenly she and Max are alone in in the boat, adrift at sea. They have no water. They have no food (except a single bag of Skittles). There are sharks. It’s cold, it’s miserable and their only hope is that someone finds the raft—and soon.
Alone with the stinging of my scalp. Alone with the pain in my chest. Alone with the rain on my face. Alone with my freezing wet clothes, clammy dead weight against my skin. My breathing slowed. Alone with the truth…
The Raft focuses squarely on Robie’s struggle to survive at sea. She copes with sharks (a lot of sharks), mind-numbing twist and the pains of hunger.
This half of the story moves very quickly, but it never feels all that scary. It’s an interesting thing when the plot moves quickly, but it’s not engaging. I broke my Kindle while I was reading this book and even though I’d nearly finished, it took me weeks to remember that I needed to return to it. The quick pacing without tension just didn’t work for me.
I wanted Robie to be terrified, or proactive, or completely morose. Instead, it felt like she was going through the paces of survival because she knew that she was in a YA novel. I knew that she was scared of the sharks, because I’m told that Robie’s scared of the sharks, not because I could ever feel her terror.
I did, however, appreciate the many little touches that shined a light on the environmental issues faced by the world’s oceans.
“Ouch!” I’d stepped on something sharp and I looked down. An albatross chick, only a skeleton, still half feathered with silvery black down, most of the body eaten by crabs. I grabbed a stick and probed inside the ribs, what used to be the gullet, poking at a pile of red plastic. Caps from plastic bottles, fake plastic cherries, even a red toy soldier missing one arm. I shook my head. One of that season’s chicks whose parents had inadvertently killed it. When adult albatross fished on the surface of the ocean, they mainly feasted on squid eggs. But, with all the garbage in the ocean, this chick’s parents must have honed in on the color red, and ended up filling their chick’s belly with plastic. So it starved to death even though it thought its belly was full. It had been full, just full of the wrong stuff.
It makes sense that Robie is aware of these issues because of her parents’ work and living on Midway. For a younger audience, this exposition—which is well-integrated into the context of the story—could be very enlightening and moving. I’ve heard that parent-child book clubs are a thing these days, and because of this (and several of the decisions Robie has to make), The Raft would make an excellent book for discussion in a group like that.
I had other two big issues with The Raft.
The first was that animal death is used quite a bit to create tension and emotion, and I am just so weary of that plot device. It’s not graphic or anything (otherwise, I would have stopped reading), but this is one of my hot button issues, so it’s got to be done very, very well for me not to be bothered. Obviously, in a survival book, there’s a high likelihood of animals dying. But, it was crafted in a way that it was used to illustrate Robie’s emotions (these moments are one of the few times she really seems to experience authentic emotion).
The second is that I wished that the psychological implications of what happened would have been explored more. This is a short book, I know, but I felt like that wasn’t addressed as much as I would have liked (the book focuses very much on the physical survival aspect). The Raft had the misfortune of landing in my reading sequence shortly after Miracle, which is an equally short book that explores the aftermath of a plane crash. The subtle peeling away of the damage resulting from being a sole survivor was so well done in Elizabeth Scott’s book that even though The Raft dealt with immediate, physical survival, I wanted more in terms of the emotional side of the story.
There’s a pretty big twist about two-thirds in, which I suspected, but it made a lot of sense for the story. I think younger readers (I’m thinking middle school age), however, will find the twist fairly shocked and thrilling. But as someone who’s read a number of this type of book, I called it early on.
And that’s a bit of the lingering frustration I had with The Raft. While it’s marketed as a teen title, it felt a bit young, more like something for the 11-13 year old crowd. The messages are pretty clear and somewhat heavy-handed and there’s not the nuance that I’m used to reading in many YA novels. However, if it were marketed to the younger crowd, I would feel very differently about The Raft. I know it’s pretty typical for tweens to “read up,” so perhaps that was the intent with this story?
Interestingly, while I love survival stories, I generally find fictional ones to be lacking the tension and compelling human drama found in excellent non-fiction accounts such as Into Thin Air. I always find myself feeling like the stakes aren’t high enough, that everything falls into place too conveniently, when the very nature of survival is inconvenient. Furthermore, in great non-fiction accounts the survival stories and human stories are interwoven—in novels they often fall too strongly in one direction or the other. Perhaps I simply need to abandon my search for an excellent fictional version when there are so many outstanding real accounts that far exceed that which an author can imagine.
FNL Character Rating: Early Julie Taylor
Disclosure: Received for review from the publisher via NetGalley.(less)
I will read the next in the series, but there was zero character development in this book. It was all plot from the beginning and all the action got k...moreI will read the next in the series, but there was zero character development in this book. It was all plot from the beginning and all the action got kind of dull. Also: where the hell are the dogs?(less)
“I was in the unusual position of holding all the cards. I had to decide what to do, and only I could do it. And I was going to do it. I had faced frightening things before and had been powerless. But not this time.”
Maureen Johnson's The Name of the Star was a real surprise for me in 2011. It had a bit of everything--mystery, paranormal, romance, humor--and it all came together in quickly-paced, gripping read.
The long-awaited sequel, The Madness Underneath, continues in the same vein, but amps up the over-arching intrigue factor, building the overarching mystery that began in the first Shades of London novel.
The Madness Underneath revisits Rory, a Louisiana native in England who survived a run-in with the ghost of Jack the Ripper in the first novel, but was also profoundly transformed--in a very literal way. She's now a terminus, a human who can vanquish ghosts on contact. Her background means that she's mostly unflappable, even to her weird circumstances.
It’s possible that I have a higher tolerance for crazy talk than most people because of my background. I’ve channeled multicolored angels with my cousin and gone for discount waxes with my grandmother. I know two people who have started their own religions. One of my neighbors was arrested for sitting on top of the town equestrian statue dressed as SpiderMan. He just climbed up there with a few loaves of bread and tore them up and threw bread at anyone who got near him. Another neighbor puts up her Christmas decorations in August and goes caroling on Halloween to “fight the devil with song.”
Rory finds herself back in London after her parents sequestered her away in Bristol. She's rejoined her classmates at Wexford, the boarding school she left after her incident with the aforementioned ghost. Understandably, Rory has a difficult time adjusting, especially since her friends from the ghost catching squad (I call them the Ghost Busters in my head, but they're actually called The Shades), Stephen, Callum and Boo, seem to be missing. She's alone with her weird ability.
You cannot tell your therapist you have been stabbed by a ghost. You cannot tell her that you could see the ghost because you developed the ability to see dead people after choking on some beef at dinner. If you say any of that, they will put you in a sack and take you to a room walled in bouncy rubber and you will never be allowed to touch scissors again.
Rory can't seem to escape creepy, possibly paranormal goings on, as a string of mysterious deaths around Rory's school mean that she's got to find her Ghost Buster friends and convince them to her help stop the killings before it's too late. Amidst this excitement, Rory tries to date her love interest from The Name of the Star, Jerome, finds a weird counselor who may not be what she seams and struggles through school.
Plot-wise, The Madness Underneath really clarified the Shades of London series. Like Sandra, I didn't realize the first book was the start to a series and read it as a standalone right up to the suspense-filled end when I realized there was far more to Rory's story than could be contained in a single book. With that said, there were a number of directions the series could have headed following the first book's set-up, and Maureen definitely sent Rory and her friends down a tough, tough path. In fact, I think maybe she's been spending too much time with Sarah Rees Brennan. While it doesn't end in a cliffhanger, The Madness Underneath definitely left me eager for the sequel and shocked at what these characters faced.
However, because of the big, action-packed final third of the book, the first half or so packs in a lot of set-up as new characters and situations are introduced so the pacing reads as a bit inconsistent when contrasted with both the first book and the end of this one. On one hand, these situations--such as Rory's attempts at dating--do a lot to reveal more about the characters, but I found myself wanting to rush to the action.
The waiter futzed around us, moving our bread basket and hovering pointlessly, demanding updates on our enjoyment levels while we had mouthfuls of food. If dates were like this, then dates were kind of weird. I felt like every move I made was being watched. I think Jerome felt equally uncomfortable, so we skipped dessert, paid up, and decided to take a walk around the market.
Fortunately, Rory's snarky, self-deprecating first-person narration held my attention even as the story lagged a bit.
Rory's point of view is what sets this series apart from other paranormal young adult stories. For example...
Rory on the notion of "Romantic."
(Also, for the record, if someone is called a Romantic, it should mean some sexy times, I think. Instead, what it really means is people in puffy shirts who probably had a lot of real-life sexytimes, but produced almost exclusively pictures of hillsides or people in dramatic poses, like pretending to be Ophelia dead in a swamp. I definitely call shenanigans on this.)
Rory on spicy foodstuffs.
Spicy food and I have a close relationship—an obsessive one, in fact. If it’s spicy, I want it. I want to sweat and shake and go half blind from the searing pain . . . which, now that I put it that way, seems really suggestive. But spicy stuff is addictive. That’s a known fact of science.
Rory on disfiguring scars.
“Actually,” I said, lowering my shirt, “I’ve seen worse scars. I told you about the time my grandma got a questionable boob job in Baton Rouge a few years ago?” “No?” “She got the boob job because she had a coupon for it. Twenty percent off. She had a surgery coupon. She got her boobs on sale. Those scars were worse.”
And, of course, Rory on Physical Education.
I like to talk. Talking is kind of my thing. If talking had been a sport option at Wexford, I would have been captain. But sports always have to involve running, jumping, or swinging your arms around. You don’t get PE points for the smooth and rapid movement of the jaw.
Whenever I read YA, I find myself wishing for more humor. Sure, angst and real problems are core tenets of teen literature, but being a teenager is also kind of hilarious and seems ripe for a bit of humor. So while the main focus of the Shades of London series is the mystery and ghost hunting, my big takeaway from both of the books in this series has been the good humor that pervades the pages of Rory's story.
However, it's not all fun and games and jokes about crazy relatives. The stakes are far higher for the ghost busting crew by the end of The Madness Underneath. Like The Name of the Star, this book is a complete story, but the end sets up Very Big and Possibly Life-Altering set of circumstances. Rory's relationships transform dramatically, including the introduction of another possible love interest. Characters other than Rory also face these Big Challenges, and as a result we learn a lot more about Rory.
If you're a reader who can't handle that sort of suspense, you may want to hold off until the final book in the series is published (there's no release date or title), because even I--who's generally pretty chilled about waiting for sequels--am feeling pretty impatient for the next book.
In the end, my relationship with The Madness Underneath will be decided once I know how it fits into the overall trilogy. It's a solid installment, but I read it differently than The Name of the Star because I knew that there's a lot more story to come. Regardless, this is a strong paranormal YA that's really bolstered by a suspenseful and creative mystery and a narrator I dare you not to love.
Initial reaction: 3.5 - I didn't like it as much as the first book (which often happens with second books for me), but it was still a solid mystery that's waaaaaay better than most YA paranormals. The first half or so I was completely baffled as to where the story was headed (not a bad thing, but it's so rare the YA mysteries are actually mysterious that I was confused), and the last third is action, action, action. Definitely recommended if you liked the first book and this series is highly recommended if you want a good paranormal mystery.
Disclosure: ARC received from the publisher. (less)