I’m kind of on a roll with teen mysteries lately. I found I Spy Dead People while I was looking for infor...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
I’m kind of on a roll with teen mysteries lately. I found I Spy Dead People while I was looking for information about the third book in Gemma Halliday’s delightful Deadly Cool series. Her name popped up as the coauthor of this book, which is a complete fallacy. Halliday didn’t co-write I Spy Dead People, she published it. This is, possibly, a cheap gimmick, but one I have no objection to. I probably wouldn’t have purchased I Spy Dead People if Halliday’s name hadn’t been associated with it, and that would have been a shame. It’s a fun teen mystery with a dash of paranormal.
I Spy Dead People introduces us to teen sleuth Piper Grimaldi, a girl inspired by strong heroines like Veronica Mars and Buffy the Vampire Slayer. (Kind of dated for a 15 year old at this point, but I’m not complaining.) Piper and her father just moved (for the zillionth time) to a neighborhood in suburban Massachusetts. Such is Piper’s life; her dad writes True Crime and every year they have to follow a new story so her father can write a new book. Piper’s sick of moving (it’s hell on her social life) and hopes Texas will stick. Especially when she meets a potential best friend and–even better–a potential love interest.
Though the love interest gets mentioned in the blurb, the romance in this one is scanty at best. In fact, I’m not even rooting for the obvious guy. I prefer the guy whom Piper firsts describes as kind of a skeezeball. (I liked him from the start, probably because of the fedora. I don’t care what Piper says, they are cool!) Piper spends most of the book trying to solve the mystery of her next door neighbor’s murder. She doesn’t have much time for romance. Her determination to solve the crime is fun and funny and, thankfully realistic. As a 15 year old, Piper’s scope is limited. There’s only so much she can discover with her limited resources and sometimes her investigation looks a lot more like snooping. Still, you gotta appreciate that she gets the job done, even when it’s at risk to her own life.
About Piper’s supernatural ability, I’ll say little. I don’t know if it’s spoilery to reveal, so I’ll just say that it adds a degree of interest that I really liked. I look forward to learning more about her powers as the series progresses. I still have a lot of questions, but I look forward to them being answered. Yes, I’ll definitely be reading book two. In fact, I can’t wait for it to come out. Jennifer Fischetto has written a delightful teen mystery and created a fun new heroine. I think Piper and I are going to be new best friends.(less)
Over and over I’ve mentioned my craving for teen mysteries, so I won’t belabor the point again. Needless...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
Over and over I’ve mentioned my craving for teen mysteries, so I won’t belabor the point again. Needless to say, I snapped up A Girl Named Digit the moment I saw it at my favorite local independent bookstore (say that three times fast!). That said, I’ve had the attention span of a gnat lately, so my reading of Digit was slow as molasses. I picked it up and put it down without regard to how much I was enjoying it.
So, what’s the story? Farrah (aka Digit) lives in LA with her actor mom, her professor father and a younger brother. She’s happy living in the traffic capital of the world because it offers plenty of opportunity for her to read her beloved bumper stickers. Farrah’s biggest secret is that her interest in numbers borders on the obsessive (okay, maybe that’s a understatement). The pressure to fit in has led her to conceal her talents. She’s so perfected the guise of a self-absorbed teenager that she runs with some of the most popular girls in her school.
Then she cracks a terrorist cell’s code and attracts the attention of the FBI. Luckily for Farrah, the agent that gets the case is a boy genius, cute and not much older than her. Unluckily for Farrah, her life is danger. A few days kept in close confinement gives Farrah and Special Agent John Bennett time to bond and to get closer to solving the case.
A Girl Named Digit was a fun read. Everything, down to the chapter titles, is infused with the kind of humor I like best. Digit’s internal monologue is a hoot. She sees the world through a unique lens and since the story is told from her perspective, we’re privvy to it. It’s just too bad that, despite all that humor, I never really connected to Farrah. I like characters that use humor to deflect, but only if I’m also allowed glimpses of the deeper emotions behind the humor. Farrah was a little too glib and her arc a little too shallow for me to be invested in her character. Don’t get me wrong, there wasn’t anything unlikeable about Farrah. I’d be happy to while away some time with her, but I won’t be calling her if I’m looking for a more meaningful connection.
So, while I liked Farrah and was interested to see how her romance with John (The Prodigy FBI Agent) would play out, I felt a lack of something while reading Digit. It’s hard to evaluate the books that are a little bit better than good but still not great. A Girl Named Digit was middle of the road, but a decently paved one with those little reflector thingies in the center. I would recommend if someone asked me if I knew of any books about teenage math geniuses, but it won’t be making my Top Teen Mysteries list anytime soon.(less)
Narrator Review: Marisa Calin is a perfect fit for Gwen. Her intonation is a great pairing with Gwen’s sl...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
Narrator Review: Marisa Calin is a perfect fit for Gwen. Her intonation is a great pairing with Gwen’s slightly irreverent, modern teenager narrative. However, while I do think she did a nice job, Calin’s performance doesn’t make or break the novel for me. Calin’s narrative style is enjoyable without being transcendent. I’d have been just as happy to read the physical version.
Book Review: It was conceit that led me to read Ruby Red when it came out three years ago. As you may know, I’m attracted to novels that are lucky enough to share my awesome name, whether in title or character name. I was also influenced by Jenny’s (Supernatural Snark) positive review, so much so that I ended up buying the hardcover as a birthday present for myself and was entirely, pleasantly surprised.
The Ruby Red books are lighter fare. If you’re looking for something to angst over and you love it when tragedy throws a malicious wrench in the romance, look elsewhere. But if you like romantic comedy (or you’ve just sobbed your heart out and need to give your tear ducts a break), I highly recommend this trilogy. And now that all three volumes have (finally!) been published in the states, you’re all set for a marathon! Side gripe: even though these books have been out in Germany for FOREVER, the U.S. publishers decided to dole out each volume in yearly installments. If you thought waiting for each successive Harry Potter book was hell, just imagine how much worse it would have been if you could have read books one through seven all at once if only you’d mastered the Greek language. Just saying.
What makes this series for me is the cast of characters. Of more importance to me was Gwen’s relationship with her best friend Lesley and the gargoyle/demon Xemerius. Speaking of Xemerius, I really, really wish I had a supernatural companion. (If only my cat would start talking and, you know, return my affection. I could send her out on scouting missions and she could spy on people for me! I know, I know–I should have gotten a dog.)
The relationship I was least invested in was Gwen’s with Gideon. I was rooting for them to get a happy ending, but wasn’t viscerally connected to the romance. This may have been due to Gideon’s hot-and-cold attitude towards Gwen during books one and two, but I pretty much guessed what was going on with him and didn’t get too worked up about his jerkiness. I knew there had to be a Reason and I wasn’t wrong. I’ll admit, though, that the abrupt shift from “I must push you away because I love you and this is the only way to save you” to “I love you, let’s be together” was a bit abrupt. But, like I said, it wasn’t the most important part of the novel for me so I was willing to overlook it.
Plot-wise, there weren’t any surprises in this novel. I don’t know if I’m incredibly astute or if we were meant to know, but this third installment wasn’t about revelations to the readers, but to the characters. I’ve got to give props to Kerstin Geir for making me care enough about the characters to stick around long enough to see how they’d react to information I already knew. Most of the time, when this happens, I groan and grumble and wonder how they can be so stupid that they don’t already know. I mean, come on!
Before I finish up, a few words on the time travel aspect of the Ruby Red Trilogy. I’m not generally a big fan of time travel books, but this series played the time travel just right. There are lots of rules, regulations and period-appropriate clothing. I’d like to spend five minutes in Madame Rossini’s closet. Hilariously (to me, anyway), Gwen often spends her daily time travels sleeping or studying. She has very little control over her official time travels and is ordered around without explanation. The time travel is incidental to the major conflict. It’s pretty dressing and maybe a little bit of sleight of hand and I like it that way.
Emerald Green‘s ending is at once satisfying and a little silly. Everything is wrapped up in a neat little bow. The conclusion doesn’t bear scrutiny, but I liked how happy it was. It may not be realistic, but sometimes I don’t want reality. Occasionally, I prefer to wallow in the fantasy of happily ever after. It gives me an inner glow. I can’t recommend this series highly enough for someone looking for a pick-me-up read.(less)
I’ve heard absolutely nothing about this book. I haven’t seen it featured on any blogs, nor read any revi...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
I’ve heard absolutely nothing about this book. I haven’t seen it featured on any blogs, nor read any reviews (that I recall). Also, I haven’t read The Gallagher Girls books, so the comparison in the description means nothing to me. This was kind of refreshing. I read this book because it sounded interesting and that was all. The end result was middling. Young, Gifted and Dead wasn’t the hidden gem I want every book to be, but I’ll definitely be reading book two. I’ve already checked to make sure it’s not on NetGalley. I don’t want to miss it if it gets added.
The description sets up the story for the reader and the book itself jumps right in. Lily’s death is no spoiler because it happens right away. But don’t worry! Alyssa’s eidetic memory (Cam Jansen anyone? Anyone?) allows the narrative to dip back in time whenever necessary. If there’s a detail that needs to be pulled, given time, it’ll be accessed. Which–bam!–you’ve got a great setup for a sleuth. Problem is, it’s not such a great technique for making me care about Lily’s death. I mean, yes, untimely death is tragic. Lucy Carver made me understand that even if she didn’t make me feel it.
I felt like all the relationships in this book were more tell than show, but that may have been because I didn’t connect with any of the characters. Alyssa felt more like a tool for the readers to use to solve the mystery and my impression of Lily and Paige (Alyssa’s two closest friends) was of people who kept their distance. Maybe it’s a British thing? The best relationship in the book was Alyssa’s with Jack. The couple gets off to a rocky start but I appreciated that, once they decided to be together, they were together. Even if I felt they delved into “I love you” territory too quickly, there wasn’t a protracted, “I love you but I can’t be with you” plot. It’s refreshing to see teen fiction (any fiction, really) setting aside the will they/won’t they stuff in favor of the concept that relationships involve work, trust and communication. You know, the stuff you have to face once you get past the initial, “Wow, you’re cute!” stage.
If I found the interpersonal relationships a bit lacking, that’s okay, because Young, Gifted and Dead is more about the mystery, anyway. I liked how events unfolded slowly, with real investigation and few leaps in logic. Alyssa’s photographic memory came in useful more than once and it’s used well. Just because Alyssa can remember everything, down to the smallest details, doesn’t make the investigation easy, though. She still needs to connect the dots, draw conclusions and talk to people. It takes her a while to solve the case, but it’s done with old-fashioned grunt work.
I have to say, though, that the process was better than the resolution of the mystery. Not because it didn’t make sense, but because it felt impersonal somehow, and didn’t jive with Lily’s backstory. I can’t be more explicit without offering spoilers, but I was disappointed when the last secret was revealed. Still, I’m eager to revisit St. Jude’s Academy. I liked the minor characters best, so I’m hoping to see more of them in future books. And who knows–maybe Alyssa and Jack will grow on me.(less)
Lately, I’ve been really enjoying computer geek stories (maybe it’s all the episodes of The Big Bang...moreThis review was originally posted on Ruby's Reads.
Lately, I’ve been really enjoying computer geek stories (maybe it’s all the episodes of The Big Bang Theory that I’ve been watching lately), so The Boyfriend App was one of those books that came along at the right time. But, basically, The Boyfriend App is a romantic comedy in disguise–and who doesn’t love a romantic comedy? Alright–fine! Half the population. Whatever. I’m well-aware that my readership is mostly female, though, so our lesser halves don’t count at the moment. Just kidding. Sort of.
The Boyfriend App is a fizzy bellini of a book. It’s sweet, indulgent and makes you feel giggly and good. They really nailed it with the cover. Sure, there’s a technological twist, but there’s no technospeak to, er, speak of. I’m completely computer illiterate (this is only a small exaggeration), but I understood things as Audrey explained them. Katie Sise does a fabulous job of making the reader believe that Audrey knows what she’s talking about without getting too complicated for the less technically-minded among us. I actually understood an episode of The Big Bang Theory better because of The Boyfriend App. I don’t know if that’s high praise, but it is a fact.
The strength of this novel isn’t in the mystery (it was kind of eye-rolling, to be honest), or the technological twists, but in the characters. There are a lot of them–which I don’t usually like–but each one is interesting and individual. Also, Audrey’s cousin, Lindsey, is a fashion blogger and that gives us a little behind-the-scenes peek into the blogging world we spend so much time inhabiting. That was really fun. The villain is villainous, but not without positive attributes (none that make her actions forgivable, but at least there’s dimension).
The weakest part of the novel was the romance. I liked the love interest, but we didn’t get to spend much time with him. Their breezy courtship fit with the pace and tone of the novel, but failed to add any depth. Surprisingly, that was okay with me because I liked The Boyfriend App for what it was–a light, fun read. Like when a coworker brings in a loaf of zucchini bread to share among the staff. You weren’t expecting it and it is very nice surprise but it’s no chocolate cake.(less)
I don’t usually go in for dragon stories–I have a feeling these are going to be famous last words–but I’m...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
I don’t usually go in for dragon stories–I have a feeling these are going to be famous last words–but I’m familiar with Shana Abe’s Drakon books. They–or, rather, Shana–have been recommended to me since I’m a fan of alpha heroes. So, when I heard that Shana Abe was going to write a young adult novel, I automatically added it to my TBR. I was particularly excited about it because I’ve had such a bad run with YA historicals and historical fantasies. I knew, from having read The Smoke Thief, that I could expect an enjoyable read.
What I did not expect was to love it. I got a third of the way through and I was already on the internet making sure it was going to be a series. Here, finally, was a novel that worked as a historical and a fantasy both, with a heroine who didn’t feel transported from the 21st Century United States. Specifically, an impoverished heroine who wasn’t about to risk her entire future by having a smart mouth, or by spouting radical opinions that hadn’t even been thought of in her era. More on this another time–Small and I have had numerous discussions about this.
I think that Lora was the first heroine that I’ve really like in a long time. She’s kinda classy. I liked that she knew when to stand up for herself and when to toe the line. I also love that, while there were two potential romantic leads, it becomes clear pretty early on, which boy is the object of Lora’s affections. That doesn’t mean I wasn’t rooting for the other guy…I totally am, and I still think there’s hope…but I liked that Lora wasn’t all, “I love him. NO! I love him.” She has a genuine connection with both of them, and I think all of the relationships in the novel will evolve naturally–just like in real life!
If I had one complaint–and it certainly wasn’t the gorgeous, detailed setting!–it was that I think Shana Abe presumed a little too much on her previous readership. Since it’s been so long since I read The Smoke Thief, I can’t really lay claim to any knowledge of the Drakon folklore, and I don’t count myself as a loyal follower. I had to double check that “Rue” was a character I’d met before (she’s the heroine of The Smoke Thief), and certain details scratched at my mind like I should have recalled them. Sadly, I didn’t. Instead of frustrating me, however, not knowing these details made me really excited about going back and reading Abe’s Drakon books. I’ve left them unfinished for far too long!
If you haven’t already read The Sweetest Dark, you should. It will satisfy you to the last page, even as it leaves you eager for more of its wonderfulness.(less)
I've only seen the movie, but this struck me as Girl with the Dragon Tattoo-light. Which worked for me, as I still wish I could forget I ever saw the...moreI've only seen the movie, but this struck me as Girl with the Dragon Tattoo-light. Which worked for me, as I still wish I could forget I ever saw the movie in the first place. It was a quick listen with mile a minute action. It doesn't stand on its own very well, at least in terms of characterization. It definitely needs the next book in the series to round things out. (less)
The Distance Between Us is the perfect summer read. Okay, maybe not the perfect one—there’s no armchair t...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
The Distance Between Us is the perfect summer read. Okay, maybe not the perfect one—there’s no armchair travel to be had here—but the content is just right. It’s girl meets boy with a liberal dose of humor coated in characterization. Side note: Caymen’s name did not make me think of the Cayman Islands (and is never really explained), but of the caiman, that smaller cousin of the alligator.
Though the driving force of the story is Caymen’s mother’s ongoing prejudice against the wealthy, it really takes a back seat to the romance. Caymen’s mother runs a doll store that acts as both their home and their only source of revenue. It’s also how Caymen and her love interest, Xander, meet. It’s sarcasm at first sight. Despite her mother’s lifelong warnings against rich boys who will use and discard poor girls like her, Xander worms his way into Caymen’s life. Better, he actually courts her—which is an old-fashioned way of putting it, maybe, but it’s also apt.
Caymen is an instantly relatable character. Yes, she’s sarcastic, but she doesn’t alienate people with her sarcasm. I think she and I would really get along, which is always a good sign in a character. Better, I think she’d make me laugh and that’s just about my favorite trait in a human being ever. Snark doesn’t define Caymen, though, which is honestly refreshing. Authors tend to overdo sarcastic heroines, but West gets it just right. Caymen uses humor to defuse serious situations, but she genuinely cares about the people in her life and struggles to find the best way to support her mother without being eye-rollingly self-sacrificing. Xander, in turn, is a great foil for Caymen. He’s patient, he doesn’t rush her and he encourages her to talk rather than brush things off with her patented dry humor.
Another thing I really enjoyed about The Distance Between Us is that it doesn’t fall into the traps that come standard to the rich boy/poor girl story. There were a lot of moments in the story where I was prepared to groan at the cliché I thought was coming only to be pleasantly surprised when West took the situation in a slightly different direction. The only part of the book that failed to please was the ending, which felt a little bit rushed and incomplete. The romance between Caymen and Xander comes full circle, but the plots with Caymen, her mother, their financial worries and her mother’s past gets short shrift. I needed more resolution; especially considering that Caymen’s grandparents disowned their daughter when they found out she was pregnant.
I read The Distance Between Us in a day and even stayed up late to finish it, which—since I’m an old fogey, now—I don’t often do anymore. The Distance Between Us is a snappy read. That’s what makes it perfect for summer: the feeling that you could finish it during one long, happy day at the beach or by the pool. I’ll be digging my copy of Pivot Point out of my TBR pile, but I sincerely hope Kasie West writes something else in this genre—I can’t wait to gobble that up, too!(less)
I would imagine that, as a writer, the hardest thing must be to come up with a unique premise. Well,...moreThis review was originally posted on Ruby's Reads.
I would imagine that, as a writer, the hardest thing must be to come up with a unique premise. Well, okay, there are probably several hardest things about being a writer. The point is, though, that when your genre is insanely popular--as Dystopians these days--it's hard to make your own stand out. As a reader, I'm at the point where I'm pretty much over totalitarian government Dystopias and this, I think is one of the main places where Traced and I had our greatest problem.
As I see it, Traced had four main issues: One, there was too much telling and not enough showing. Several times I had to remind myself that there were stakes involved. Megan Squires told us that The Hub (Traced's totalitarian government) controlled everything--in fact, there are several conversations about it--but I never felt that she showed it to us. It's difficult to generate fear of a government based solely on character say-so. More crucially, however, there's little-to-no information about why the Dystopia came about. Writers of Dystopians often overlook this and thereby drive me nuts.
Two: The love triangle sucks. Besides feeling that they entirely too dichotomous,I couldn't muster up much enthusiasm about either of the boys vying for Tess' affections. I knew that I definitely hated one of them after he backhanded a chicken across a chicken coup. Not cool. I don't care if the hen hurt the heroine--it's an effing chicken. You do not smack them across rooms. End. Of. Story. Tess' indecision between the two boys did not add up to a compelling dilemma. On the contrary, they made me dislike her intensely. Tess' lack of honesty with herself, with her family and with the two boys was, frankly, detestable. So, I guess issue 2 1/2 is: I hated the main character.
Three: It's not believable. A government that bans watches? Um...yeah, you're going to have to convince me real hard on that one. First you'd have to make me believe that a totalitarian government would do such a thing and then you're going to have to convince me that they'd be able to enforce it. And your argument better be pretty darn convincing.
Four: I've finished the book and I still don't get what tracing is. Or how Joel (one of the love interests) is able to figure out that it's going on with Tess based on a vague childhood memory. Or how she's supposed to understand her "gift." Or use it. Or possibly interpret it. Or...anything except go, "Huh?" Which is what I did upon reaching the last page.
I'm not even going to go into the ending, which made as little sense to me as the rest of the book. Suffice it to say: skip this one.(less)
Sapphire Blue picks immediately after Ruby Red ended, and I bring this up because it’s been over a year s...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
Sapphire Blue picks immediately after Ruby Red ended, and I bring this up because it’s been over a year since I read the latter. Being dumped right back into the story as though I had just come from the last page of Ruby Red was disconcerting and confusing. In other words, not a great start. While I was struggling to recall the events at the end of Ruby Red, Sapphire Blue continued full steam ahead. It was enough to make me wonder which is the worse offense: zero recapping of the events of the previous book…or too much recapping? I still don’t know, but I can tell you that neither method satisfies.
In addition to feeling like I’d been dumped in the middle of someone else’s Thanksgiving dinner, the narrator, Marisa Carlin, rubbed me the wrong way at first. In all, my initial impressions of Sapphire Blue were not favorable. Fortunately, I had the wherewithal to stick it out. My memory caught up with the story and Carlin’s vocal talents grew on me. By the end of the book, I was railing against the publishing system that is determined to put so. Much. Time between installments in a trilogy. ESPECIALLY SINCE EMERALD GREEN HAS ALREADY BEEN WRITTEN AND PUBLISHED. *Takes deep, calming breaths*
In Ruby Red, we were introduced to Gwen, and Gwen found out that she–and not her obnoxious cousin Charlotte–was the one that had inherited the time-traveling gene in her family. As a result, Gwen missed out on the extensive training that Charlotte received and no one thinks she is up to the task of being the Ruby. While I greatly enjoyed Gwen, and this book, I was sick of everyone undervaluing her all the darn time. Even more important to me than Gwen showing all these people just how wrong they are, is my need to see Gwen demand common respect from those she works with. It’s true that Gwen is ignorant of a lot of information that she needs to have as a time traveler, but that does not mean that anyone has the right to be so rude.
Which leads me into another tirade. Gwen’s love interest is Gideon. The two have intense, believable chemistry, but Gideon is a jerk. He’s among those that undervalue Gwen–which is a GINORMOUS no-no in my book of desirable hero traits. Also, he yanks her around, emotionally speaking, and flirts with Charlotte. I suspect we’re going to learn that he has “reasons” for his behavior, but he’s another one that I wish Gwen would tell off. He’s going to have lots of ‘splaining to do in book three, and even then, I suspect I’ll still want him to do some serious groveling.
So. With all those complaints, how was it possible to like this book? It just was. The premise is intriguing and there’s plenty of mystery around to distract you from sh**** side characters. Xemerius, Gwen’s pet gargoyle, is hoot, and something like the conscience on her shoulder. If your conscience is slightly rascalacious. And Gwen’s best friend Lesley–not to mention most of her family (Charlotte and her mother excluded)–are heart-warmingly supportive. Then there’s the light, humorous note that threads its way throughout the book. It reminds me a little of Helen Field’s Bridget Jones books, though decidedly less manic and not as self-depreciating. Still, it’s that comedic tendency that draws me to Gier’s writing. I surely hope she has more stories sitting on her back burner, because after Emerald Green comes out, I’ll be wanting more!(less)
I’ve never been so happy to be proven wrong about self-published books. And All the Stars is the...moreThis review was first posted on http://rubysreads.com.
I’ve never been so happy to be proven wrong about self-published books. And All the Stars is the kind of book I’m always searching for, regardless of who published it. Well-written, tightly plotted and titillatingly characterized, here lies a masterwork. In fact, I’m kind of surprised that this book hasn’t gotten more buzz. I heard about it on The Booksmuggler’s blog (it was featured on their Radar and then Ana reviewed it), but it was sheer happenstance that I saw it on NetGalley. I requested it on a whim–everyone probably knows by now that I’m on a NetGalley ban–and was lost in the story before I even knew it.
And All the Stars tells the story of Madeline Cost (not Maddie, Leina only to her cousin Tyler), and how she survives the apocalypse by shucking her loner status and binding together with a motley crew of teenage survivors. As the story opens, Madeline is in an underground station, at the center of the apocalypse. Unbeknownst to her parents, Madeline snuck away from home to meet her cousin Tyler at his Sydney apartment. Too bad this act of rebellion coincided with the apocalypse. All over the world, in the most populated cities, mysterious spires have erupted from the ground. These spires (which I imagine look like the Swiss Re building in London, left) are like ginormous mushrooms. They’ve sprouted from the ground and emit a thick cloud of dust (to continue the mushroom analogy, I thought of them like spores).
Madeline escapes the underground station and makes it to her cousin’s Sydney apartment only to experience dramatic changes as a result of inhaling the dust. Most of her body turns midnight blue, dusted with sparkling white stars (the cover makes sense now, doesn’t it?). Her metabolism drastically quickens and she discovers that she has new, frightening powers. Maddie’s instinct is to huddle up and wait, but it’s the hunger that drives her out, where she meets a string of teens also affected by the dust.
Among these teens, Madeline discovers the girl who will become her best friend and the boy who just may be first love. Unfortunately, they’re all on the run for their lives. Those spires, it turns out, are the work of an alien race intent on using humans for their survival. Though Madeline (as the one with the most “stain” on her body), is the aliens’ most-wanted human, the bewildered group of teens bands together and forms a close-knit group. This, perhaps more than the apocalyptic storyline, is the heart of And All the Stars.
Before I give anything else away, I better shut up. I couldn’t possibly unveil all the layers of this book in one review. I wouldn’t even want to. Like all good books, it’s a thing best discovered for yourself. There are a few curious elements (cell service and electricity during the apocalypse?!?!) and the epilogue is a bit schmaltzy and baby-studded, but well-deserved. Just trust me when I say that this is the book to cure your apocalyptic ennui. Think you’re over them? Think again!(less)
I can’t decide if knowing this was a Persephone/Hades story in advance of reading Solstice was a good thi...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
I can’t decide if knowing this was a Persephone/Hades story in advance of reading Solstice was a good thing or a bad one. It’s not a retelling–more an extension of the myth–but knowing the connection made it easy to figure out the mysteries of the novel. Sometimes I like it when the reader knows more than the MC. Sometimes it makes the MC appear stupid. Solstice straddled that line more than a few times–but whenever I started to doubt Piper’s intelligence, something would hold me back from a full-0n eye-roll.
And, anyway, despite being able to guess at a number of things, I really enjoyed Solstice. I read it during a heatwave, which was incredibly–and a trifle scarily–apropos. There I was, sweating away while reading descriptions of a cracked and dehydrated earth. I don’t usually like tales about global warming–they always seem way too probable–but the earth of Solstice intrigued me. (Plus, there’s the added benefit of an easy solution at the end.) I hate experiencing the heat, but I love to read about it. In books, heat is equated with high tension and passion, which–hello! I love both of those things. Then, the heat usually reaches a crescendo– Oh. I just realized that there’s a sexual metaphor going on here. *clears throat* *moves on*
So, yes, I enjoyed Solstice. I liked fitting the pieces of the puzzle together (figuring which character was which god, etc) and witnessing their earthly manifestations. For example, Piper’s mother can glance sideways at a plant and leaves will wither and die. I loved this–it was so perfectly expressive of her character. On the other hand, I had trouble picturing the characters as gods. They were so human and I so think of gods as powerful, omnipotent, manipulative and inscrutable. Piper’s mom best fits my concept of a deity, what with her decision to possess her daughter entirely and at all costs. And maybe that’s the problem? This is PJ Hoover’s book and she didn’t sell me on her conception of the Greek Gods; her writing wasn’t strong enough to reinvent them for me.
The other weakness of this novel was Piper’s best friend, Chloe. Her story was kind of mess and, frankly, hard to follow. Every time I read a passage with Chloe in it, I’d become confused and I still don’t really understand what happened. I thought maybe Chloe was going to get a story of her own (possibly with Rhadam as her male counterpart), but as far as I can discover, Solstice is a stand-alone. It could still happen, of course, but I don’t feel I got to know sane Chloe well enough to be more than slightly irritated by her descent into madness. Which, by the way, I think was totally Piper’s fault.
So–the million-dollar question: Would I recommend this book to anyone else? And the answer is–I already have. I told my dad to read it and I’m eager to discuss it with him when he’s done. That is, if I can keep myself from pestering him while he’s still reading. I’m also really hoping that PJ Hoover writes something new, really soon. Getting a contract with Tor Teen suggests bright things for her future–and I’m eager to see what she’ll do next.(less)
Narrator Review: When I was first listening to The Prey, I had a hard time getting used to Sean Runnette....moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
Narrator Review: When I was first listening to The Prey, I had a hard time getting used to Sean Runnette. His voice is a little bit too mature for a seventeen year old boy. However, by the end of the first book, I’d grown to appreciate Runnette’s nuanced narrative style. He does a fantastic job with Gene and I even appreciated the way he embodied Sissy. Without a doubt, I’ll be listening to the rest of the books in this series, rather than reading them myself.
Book Review: My tolerance level for gore is only slightly higher than my tolerance level for white chocolate (IT’S NOT CHOCOLATE!). When my roommate watches The Walking Dead, I have to go to my room, close the door, put a pillow over my head and sing “LALALALA!” at the top of my lungs so I don’t accidentally hear any zombie noises. But this book? Oh, this book? I loved it, gooey, cheesey, melting flesh and all. Okay, I gagged at those parts, but I kept listening.
Before I continue with my review, let me recap a little. At the end of The Hunt, Gene was outed as a human. It also turned out that his crush, Ashley June, was human. She sacrificed herself so Gene could get away. Well, and come back to save her later, of course. (If you get the sense that I’m not an Ashley June fan, you’re right.) Unable to save her, and needing to get away from the ravenous vampire-creatures, Gene takes off on a river voyage with the hepers beneath the dome, including Ben, Sissy and Epap.
The Prey picks up so exactly where The Hunt left off that my head was spinning, trying to remember all the details of the last book. I know that I’ve complained about authors recapping in series books, but a little easing back into the world is, I think, necessary. No matter. I was soon swept up in the action and I never looked back. Andrew Fukuda is a master at creating suspense. It was almost unsafe to read The Prey while driving because I was gripping the steering wheel so tightly. I don’t think I ever breathed easy, not even when Gene, Sissy and Co. finally arrived in “the land of milk and honey, fruit and sunshine.”
The Prey isn’t without flaws. Gene, the main character, often irritated me. He’s still learning how to put others first, and he’s lucky that he’s got Sissy there to show him how it’s done. (Seriously. She’s awesome like that.) He’s also slow to understand what’s going on in the human village, even if he senses that something is off from the very beginning. The village scenario is pretty standard to dystopians, but I think Fukuda does a pretty good job of explaining how it came to be. He manages to humanize the elders (as much as that’s possible), but disappointingly doesn’t do the same for the village girls. I wanted have a better understanding of why they obeyed the elders. Or at least one that confirmed my suppositions. And I’m pretty sick of the he’s dead/he’s not dead back and forth about Gene’s dad.
But, really, the flaws just made The Prey that much more awesome. Or, rather, they made me realize how much I good the book really was. The Prey was completely engrossing. The ending left me hitting my steering wheel in frustration because it doesn’t just end on a cliffhanger, it ends on one that makes you go, “WHAT?! HE COULDN’T HAVE ENDED THE BOOK THIRTY SECONDS LATER?!?!” Basically, the most successful cliffhanger in the history of cliffhangers. I must have book three. I simply must.(less)
By turns mystifying and enthralling, Michelle Gagnon sure knows how to tell a story. I don't usually like multiple narratives, but this one worked for...moreBy turns mystifying and enthralling, Michelle Gagnon sure knows how to tell a story. I don't usually like multiple narratives, but this one worked for me. The narrator did a great job with all the accents she had to portray. I'm kind of hoping to revisit this concept, but I don't know if there are any plans to make it into a series. The ending was probably a little too schmaltzy, but I ate it up anyway.(less)
I thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's a retelling of Snow White, but the differences are subtle enough that you don't feel as if you're reading the sam...moreI thoroughly enjoyed this book. It's a retelling of Snow White, but the differences are subtle enough that you don't feel as if you're reading the same old tale again. The world-building is also fascinating--if a tad complex. I'll need to spend more time in this world before I can understand it. Lili St. Crow hints at complexities that aren't fully explored in this book. I'm really hoping that the next book (a Cinderella re-telling) expands on what we learned, rather than moving us to a new sphere. (less)
I’ve told you about my Bookish Preference for twins, so I imagine you know (or can guess) that B...moreThis review was first posted on http://rubysreads.com.
I’ve told you about my Bookish Preference for twins, so I imagine you know (or can guess) that Beautiful Lies was an auto-read for me. The story goes like this: identical twins Rachel and Alice are ” ‘monochorionic, monoamniotic twins,’ which means [they] are identical twins who grew in the same amniotic sac and shared one placenta” (p.18). It’s a real thing. I Googled it. Yet, despite this rare closeness, in the recent months, Rachel and Alice have grown apart. Rachel has become the “good twin,” while Alice has begun acting out in the usual ways–drinking, wearing heavy makeup, hanging out with lowlifes (one in particular) and getting arrested. Okay, maybe the latter isn’t “usual.” Then one of the twins goes missing, and nobody believes it when the other twin insists that her sister is in danger.
I haven’t read any of Jessica Warman’s books before, so I approached this one with few expectations–just a pleasurable hum of anticipation. And I’m happy to report that it was a solid read. Except…the description gives a few of the twists and turns away. Personally, I think unreliable narrators work best when we’re not told up front that he or she is unreliable. It’s a tool that’s effective when we are left to discover it for ourselves…not when we are told that it’s going to happen. Then, the narrator isn’t unreliable because I never relied on them in the first place. You know what I mean?
It’s hard for me to review this book without giving away some of the important elements, so I’m going to keep things as brief as I can. The writing here is good, but not inspired. I didn’t particularly like the narrator, and I didn’t really sympathize with her. I felt that she was selfish. SPOILER: Particularly in her decision to keep quiet about her sister when she first went missing. She knew that if she told her aunt and uncle who she really was, they would have called the police right away. So why did she keep quiet? I also would have preferred to hear the story from the other twin’s perspective. And don’t get me started on the ending. It was abrupt and too unresolved. Beautiful Lies doesn’t make me want to go glom Jessica Warman’s backlist, but I won’t reject anything she wrote out of hand, either.(less)
I really enjoy this series. Told in the epistolary style and featuring a believable cast of characters, I think this series is underrated. Not only is...moreI really enjoy this series. Told in the epistolary style and featuring a believable cast of characters, I think this series is underrated. Not only is it well-written, it has the added exotic element of being Canadian. Yes, I said exotic.(less)
I was excited about Shadowlands for two reasons. One: witness protection! Two: Gothic! An automatic recip...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
I was excited about Shadowlands for two reasons. One: witness protection! Two: Gothic! An automatic recipe for success. You would think. Sadly, Shadowlands fails on both counts and, on top of that, the writing is mediocre and the plotting worse. Even though the book starts right in the middle of the action, more than once I found myself asking, “That’s it?” You know you’ve got problems when your villain underwhelms, which Steven Nell totally did. For a deranged sociopath, he’s dumb and kind of boring. Maybe I’ve read too many adult thrillers, but I like my sociopaths to be sociopaths, you know? Not slightly-over-the-top-stalkers. Just saying.
And because Steven Nell is so meh, this takes away from the urgency of the plot. Not to mention the Witness Protection should-be-awesomeness. Even Rory’s family is unimpressed. Rory’s father and her sister Darcy could not have been less-concerned with her brush with death or the fact that some guy is, you know, intent on killing her. Not that I’d be too sad to see the last of Rory, either. She’s a judgmental party-pooper and a downer. No wonder Stephen Nell wants to kill her.
Furthermore, there are tons of glaring plot-holes and missing details. Rory and company go into hiding by themselves with no help from the FBI or other authorities. Then they never hear from them or wonder why they haven’t been in touch. There are none of the 1,001 minor little details that would make being in witness protection so wrought with tension. I’m supposed to be from Manhattan? BUT I KNOW NOTHING ABOUT MANHATTAN! Oh, wait, that’s right! THEY CHANGED MY LAST NAME! Mr. So-and-So was talking to me!
Instead, Rory and Darcy go to parties and meet guys. Oh, and did I mention that All The Guys like Rory? Even the gay ones. She’s the most attractive unattractive younger sister around. And speaking of the guys, the one I liked best was the one that was supposed to be a jerk. And I didn’t even like him all that much. But that’s totally cool because a great male lead would be wasted on Rory.
I’m actually kind of surprised I read this book all the way to the end (which, by the way, is groan-worthy). I can’t think of a single person I’d recommend this book to. It’s worse than bad, it’s mediocre. I realize that this review has been scathing, but I did try to come up with something positive to say. I just couldn’t think of anything. I had previously been interested in reading Megan Meade’s Guide to the McGowan Boys, but that’s off. I’ll be striking Kate Brian off my to-read list for quite a while.(less)
I’m one of those people who often thinks they were born into the wrong era, so I really like books where...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
I’m one of those people who often thinks they were born into the wrong era, so I really like books where modern characters revisit earlier times. I tend to shy away from time travel books, but I do enjoy it when characters try to revisit the past while physically staying in the present. Going Vintage appealed to me for this reason, but also because my own parents grew up in the ’60′s. It was often that, as a teenager, I looked at my mom’s senior yearbook and romanticized her handmade prom dress and perfectly coiffed hairdo. Thus–instant connection with Going Vintage‘s MC.
I started to read Going Vintage back in March, when I was approved to download it from NetGalley. It charmed me a little, but I set it aside for some reason and didn’t pick it back up for quite a while. I don’t know what initially made me set it aside, but when I started reading again, I was pulled back into the story easily and willingly. Going Vintage is a light, fun read that I zipped through with astonishing speed. It’s a perfectly example of why I like teen contemporaries. Just being a teenager makes life so much more complicated than it needs to be. When you add in boys, then things really get messy.
Going Vintage‘s major asset is its charm. It captures this feeling that we all have–that the past, inherently, was a simpler time than whatever age we’re currently living in–and makes it clear we’re wrong. Technology (and other innovations) may make life easier, but they can’t change how hard it is to live. And–cliche though it may sound–love.
However. Going Vintage isn’t really a love story. It’s about family, too. Mallory (the main character) has a close, delightful relationship with her younger sister. She goes to her grandma for advice, but her grandma has her own issues. Her mother and father love each other, but still argue and disagree. It’s well-rounded and I like that. The romance is a part of the story, but it’s not the whole thing. My favorite part? Mallory becomes friends with her love interest first. I adore it when that happens–when you feel as though the couple could do more than just make out and make eyes at each other if they ever actually went on a date. Authors–take heed!
There was a lot to like in Going Vintage, and I’ll definitely be checking out Lindsey Leavitt’s next book. I think she’s got a talent for story-telling and she certainly knows how to create interesting characters. I’d recommend her to anyone who likes teen contemporaries.(less)
I have a guilty confession to make. When my younger brother was into the Animorphs series…I read them, to...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
I have a guilty confession to make. When my younger brother was into the Animorphs series…I read them, too. They were totally a guilty pleasure. And for the ignorant, Eve & Adam‘s co-writer Katherine Applegate wrote the Animorphs books. I’ve also read Gone, but it was really the wife part of this husband-and-wife writing team that attracted me to this book. Of course, the concept is intriguing–who among us hasn’t fantasized about creating the perfect guy? Oh, wait–just me? Well, this is awkward. Better move on.
Eve & Adam opens with the horrific accident that sets the events of the book into motion. Among other injuries, Eve’s leg is severed above the knee. Eve is rushed to the hospital for treatment, but just as quickly, her mother races her away again, to the headquarters of her biomedical business. In the ambulance, Eve meets Solo, a boy with a mysterious connection with Eve’s mother. A boy raised and educated by Spiker Pharmaceuticals, a boy who knows more about Eve than she knows herself.
The blurb–and the buzz–for this book suggest that Eve’s creation of Adam is the central plot in the book, but it really isn’t. It’s true that Eve’s creation of the perfect boy is both central and important to the books overall theme, but Eve’s story really centers around her relationships; the ones she has with her mother, her best friend, Solo, and even herself. Sometimes I think the book couldn’t really decide what it wanted to be about–an exploration of ethics and science or a coming-of-age tale. Not surprising, really, considering the alternating narratives. Eve’s story focused on relationships and Solo’s on the loneliness of revenge. In a way, this was disappointing because I was expecting more about Adam and the frightening, can’t-look-away concept of playing God and creating human beings to our own specifications.
I enjoyed Eve & Adam, but it was wide of the mark in terms of my really liking it. Primarily this was because of the emotional disconnect. Both Eve and Solo are incredibly rational. There’s a lot of thinking in this story. It was probably the first time I’ve read a first-person narrative and come away feeling like I never related to the characters. I was told about their emotions, and I observed them, but in a detached way. And if I don’t emotionally resonate with the characters, well…it’s not good. It’s just not good at all.
Eve & Adam was a decent way to pass the time while I was driving around in my car. Is that damning it with faint praise? Probably. As often happens with co-written books, I found it more interesting to speculate on how the two authors collaborated while they were writing. If they wrote a sequel, would I read it? Maybe. But I’m not going to spend any time feeling sad if they don’t write one. (less)
Last year, when I read Unraveling, it was a nice surprise. I’d missed all the buzz about it and hadn...moreThis review was originally posted on Ruby's Reads.
Last year, when I read Unraveling, it was a nice surprise. I’d missed all the buzz about it and hadn’t read a single review (and I remember how weird that felt!) and I really only picked it up on a whim. As soon as I started, though, I was hooked. I read it from cover to cover. I downed it like it was peanut sauce. And when I got to the last page, I began waiting for Unbreakable to be released.
Unbreakable picks up about four months after the end of Unraveling. Janelle’s (our) world is in chaos. Martial law has been declared, school is pretty much cancelled, and untold numbers are missing. At first this appears to be related to the disasters caused by two universes almost colliding (oops! I spoiled Unraveling!), but Janelle soon finds out that something far more sinister is going on. Well, more sinister than IAD agent Taylor Barclay showing up, seeking Janelle’s help.
Although reluctant at first, Janelle eventually agrees to help Barclay solve the mystery of the missing people. What they discovers is that the people aren’t just going missing–they’re being kidnapped and sold into slavery. And Ben is somehow involved. Grudgingly teaming up with Barclay, Janelle leaves her world for Prima, in the hope of finding Ben, her friend Cecily, and stopping the kidnappings.
Unbreakable does some awesome things. It brings back Janelle, whom I love for her down-to-earth-kick-ass-ness. That girl is all, “I’m too old for this shiz” and she’s not even 18 yet. It also transforms Barclay from “kind of douche-y” to swoon-worthy. Which brings me to this: I totally don’t like Ben anymore (spoiler rant below). I’m TEAM BARCLAY all the way. There’s one particular scene where Janelle and Barclay are hiding in close proximity…it’s hot. And possibly entirely in my mind but, well, an obsession was born, folks. An obsession. Was. Born. Which is why I hated the ending. I can’t find out if this book is the last in the series, but I sure hope not. I will be incredibly sad if it is. My overriding thought on reading the last page of Unbreakable? This better NOT BE THE END.
(view spoiler)[A few words about Ben: I liked Ben in Unraveling. He wasn’t my favorite hero ever, but I liked him. In this book, he managed to entirely lose my favor. Sure, he’s placed in an impossible situation and he has to make impossible choices, but I still feel like he made crummy ones. In this book, Ben kidnaps people for the slavery ring because he thinks he’s saving Janelle’s life. Honorable? Er, not really. Romantic? Nope. Girls are being kidnapped and sold into sexual slavery. Lots of them. Would I subject anyone to that to save someone I loved? I don’t know and I hope I’ll never have to find out. BUT. I can’t believe that Ben could have thought that Janelle would have been able to live with herself knowing what her existence cost other people. Is any of this fair to Ben? Probably not, but my heart doesn’t really care. (hide spoiler)]["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>["br"]>(less)
Full disclosure: This is the second review I’ve done of this book. The first one got lost in the mis...moreThis review was originally posted on Ruby's Reads.
Full disclosure: This is the second review I’ve done of this book. The first one got lost in the mists of the interwebs, never to be seen again. And while I might feel better after some wailing and raising of my fists to the sky, I shan’t subject you to any more than I already did on Twitter. The worst part is, I was really happy with the first review. I’ll try to recreate it, but you probably already know that feeling doesn’t usually come that second time.
To sum up my feelings about Escape Theory in a sentence: I adored it. As I look over the books that I’ve read in 2013 (so far), this has been my favorite. The best part? It lived up to my enormously high expectations. In retrospect, there wasn’t really any reason for me to have those high expectations. SoHo Teen is a new imprint, and this is Froley’s debut. I’ve no more read her short story in Who Done It than I’ve watched Privileged. Luckily, whatever smidgen of clairvoyance I possess proved to be right. This time.
I suppose it’s possible that Escape Theory was the right book at the right time but, honestly, I believe it was more than that. Froley’s writing was intense and engaging. She pulled me not just into the mystery, but into the Keaton School community. I felt I was inhabiting the world. So much so that it was with great surprise that I periodically realized the book was written in the third person. Escape Theory was the kind of story that was disorienting to disengage from. Pulling myself away was like trying to escape from a vat of saltwater taffy; a sticky, messy process that left a million small bits behind.
Escape Theory‘s strength comes from Froley’s writing, true, but it also reflected the connection I felt to the main character. Devon’s internal dialogue reminded me a lot of my teenage self, even down to the moments when I wanted to shake her and tell her to get off her high horse. I did think, however, that Froley’s expended so much energy on developing Devon (and the very much dead Hutch) that the other characters felt a little one-dimensional. Even this worked, though, because the book is told from Devon’s point of view, and she has a tendency to remain clinically detached. Or to try to, anyway. Hopefully the other characters will be expanded upon in further Keaton School novels. I also hope that future stories are also from Devon’s perspective.
If I’m honest, the main mystery didn’t interest me very much. What was far more fascinating was the exploration of boarding school life and the mystery of Hutch himself. Not how or why he died, but why he lived the way he did, and why he and Devon had such a strong connection based on one night spent together. Speaking of Hutch, he doesn’t stand up to my adult standards (he dealt drugs, but that’s okay because he regulated how much each person got), but I bet the teenage me would have been as in love with him as the rest of Keaton.
I think Escape Theory‘s greatest strength comes from Froley’s ability to inhabit the teenage world. I read a lot of YA, but I don’t read it looking for an authentic teenage voice. In fact, a lot of YA (Dystopians, in particular) features teens having to mature because of the circumstances, thereby making us forget how truly young sixteen is. Froley doesn’t let us forget it, and this is most evident in Devon’s role as a peer counselor. Training or no, Devon’s in over her head when she starts counseling the best friends that Hutch leaves behind. We know she’ll be a good therapist someday, just not yet.
I loved this book, flaws and all. Lack of romance and all (gasp!). I’ve already recommended it to my brother and I have no hesitation in recommending it to my readers as well. And when you’ve finished the last page, come back here to let me know your thoughts!(less)
I’m a big fan of teen thrillers, especially since they’re not exactly thick on the ground these days...moreThis review was originally posted on Ruby's Reads.
I’m a big fan of teen thrillers, especially since they’re not exactly thick on the ground these days. Honestly, I’m the perfect example of some the way demand is created via scarcity. Anyway, I have a caveat: teen thrillers with paranormal elements are easy to find. And they can be fun, but I prefer my mysteries straight up. And I’d say Hysteria leans away from the paranormal and toward the tricks the mind can play, especially after traumatic events. And what’s more traumatic than killing someone and not remembering doing it? (Probably a few things, but let’s not go there.)
However, Hysteria isn’t about the killing itself. It’s about the aftermath. How Brian’s death affects Mallory, her family, and his family. It’s also about the deep friendship between Mallory and her best friend, Colleen. It’s not entirely successful, and I guessed whodunnit fairly quickly, but I did practically read the book in one sitting. I contend that this has to account for something. A book that encourages you to speed through the pages to the end has value, even if you don’t feel satisfied upon finishing the last page.
So, yes, I raced through this book; was absorbed by it. Even as I read, though, I was aware that things weren’t working for me. Mallory, while the traumatized victim, was not exactly a sympathetic character. Flashbacks, remembered at jagged intervals, slowly reveal the circumstances of Brian’s death. They also reveal Mallory’s relationship with him, which does not exactly paint her in a favorable light. Basically, while I thought “That sucks,” about her situation, I didn’t really feel it. Maybe I’m just cold-hearted–and I in no way mean that Mallory’s actions deserved to be met with violence–but I would have appreciated a little more self-reflection on her part. A little acknowledgement of the part she played in the whole mess. To be more specific would be to spoil, though, so I can’t really go on.
Also, the parts of the novel that I found most intriguing–how Mallory’s relationship with her parents changed after Brian’s death–got the short shrift in terms of resolution. The focus is on Mallory coming to terms with Brian’s death, and on moving past it, what moving past it means regarding her relationship with Colleen, and what moving on looks like, period. Which is why the boarding school setting felt like a convenient excuse to escape adult supervision–one of the trickiest aspects of teen fiction. I like boarding school settings, but I prefer them when they play a role in the story. I didn’t really get that feeling from Hysteria.
To sum up: Hysteria was a quick, absorbing read. It was a little like a Hostess Cupcake (RIP). It tastes good and it’s gone quickly, but it leaves you wishing you’d actually had Death By Chocolate Cake instead.(less)
You know how some books read like movies? How there’s some quality to the writing that makes you think,...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
You know how some books read like movies? How there’s some quality to the writing that makes you think, “This book should be a movie.” The Loop is one of those books. Perhaps this is because of the action-adventure-y nature of the plot, or maybe because it’s a quick, shallow read. Either way, I came away from it feeling as though I’d experienced the story in wrong medium. Kind of like if you’ve ever read the book adaptation to a movie. And, to my shame, I’ve actually done this.
I think that the best way to sum up my feelings about The Loop is to say that I wanted more. More detail, more characterization, more relationship development, more Loops. Despite the fact that the entire plot revolves around the idea of the Loop, the idea that Ben and Maggie have been re-living the same two days over and over again, most of the book takes place during one Loop. The fun of stories about time loops (the obvious comparison being Groundhog Day) is seeing the different ways the same day (or two) can go. Only seeing two variations felt like a waste of a concept.
Additionally, while reading The Loop, I was conscious of two things. One was that the majority of books I read are written by women. The second is that I was hyper-aware of the fact that Shandy Lawson is a man. All things being equal, the gender of the author shouldn’t matter. Should being the key word. Or maybe it’s “all things being equal” that’s the key phrase. Either way, one of the measures I use for determining how “good” a book is, is how often I’m taken out of the narrative. Good books flow seamlessly, and when you lift your head from them, it’s like being pulled out of another reality. While reading The Loop, I did not experience this utter absorption.
To tie all of this in, let me explain: I’d read passages and remind myself, “This is written by a man, therefore his perceptions will obviously be different from my feminine one.” When you have to remind yourself of the differences between yourself and author, you know something isn’t working. It’s not that The Loop was bad. I enjoyed it, but in a mild way. It was like vanilla ice cream. Sweet, creamy and good, but not satisfying in the way of chocolate.(less)
Since Impostor is kind of like X-Men: The Teen Years, I expected to like it–a lot. To say I was disappoin...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
Since Impostor is kind of like X-Men: The Teen Years, I expected to like it–a lot. To say I was disappointed is too state my feelings about Impostor a little too strongly. There were elements I liked (the whole FEA [Forces with Extraordinary Abilities] setup, the idea of teens being investigators, Tessa’s connection to Madison’s family) and elements I didn’t (Tessa’s relationship with fellow Variant, Alec). Overall, the quality of the novel was uneven and, I think, suffered at the hands of the love story. The parts I was most interested in–Tessa masquerading as Madison, the investigation into her death–were overshadowed by over-angsty push-pull of the Tessa/Alec relationship. I, frankly, thought Alec was a douchebag. There’s obviously more going on than he’s telling Tessa and he comes across as the kind of guy who will jerk her around in order to “protect” her. I have no patience for these heroes and, frankly, doubt that I’d be able to suffer through another book full of it. Here’s hoping we see some changes in book two.(less)
Narrator Review: After listening to Matthew Brown narrate The Fox Inheritance, I could not have imagined...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
Narrator Review: After listening to Matthew Brown narrate The Fox Inheritance, I could not have imagined anyone else as Locke. Not only does Matthew Brown embody Locke Jenkins, he does a delightful job with all the other characters. I don’t doubt that this is because Fox Forever is entirely Locke’s story–all the characters are seen and heard through the filter of Locke’s perceptions–but I think even that is something that Brown manages to convey. The slightest intonation makes me wonder how accurately I’m seeing Raine, Xavier–and especially Jenna–given who is relating the conversations or events.
Book Review: Although The Fox Inheritance and Fox Forever are technically sequels to The Adoration of Jenna Fox, I see them more as companion novels. Jenna’s story was a stand-alone as far as I’m concerned. Jenna reached the apex of her journey long before Locke was ever resurrected and, frankly, I wasn’t happy with the way that their stories converged at the end of The Fox Inheritance. Fortunately, Fox Forever deals with all the issues I had with Locke and Jenna’s reunion, almost without a word on the subject. That’s what I call good writing.
In Fox Forever, Locke is called on to return a favor. Since he promised, Locke knows he must answer the call, even if it means putting living on hold. At the end of the last book, Locke set out to live his life. He’s in a hurry to catch up on all the years he missed. In particular, he wants to hurry up and live so he can get back to Jenna. Locke may have spent 260 locked in a black box, but he’s still got every bit of a teenager’s impatience for life to “start.” And, though he believes that repaying the favor is just a thing he has to do before getting on with his life, what Locke doesn’t realize is that doing so will bring all his desires to fruition faster than he could have imagined. Just not in the way he imagined.
I won’t say that Locke’s job of repayment (aka the plot) held any surprises. I guessed every twist and turn. Honestly, I thought it was slightly run-of-the-mill. Locke’s circumstances (and, I’ll admit, the cool futuristic elements) make it just interesting enough to save the story from banality. Some unique takes on a familiar plot would have upped the ante for me, but I didn’t hate what I got, either. I already knew I liked Locke (and Fox Forever doesn’t change that), and I liked Raine, even if I wanted more depth from her. The other characters were bland, mostly, though I was glad to see the return of sentient bots.
Fox Forever is a love story, a coming-of-age story and an exploration of what it means to be human. While this concept has been a recurring theme in each of the Jenna Fox books, Locke’s story pushes the envelope. Jenna had that all-important 10% that made her still human, but Locke is entirely man-made. His memories, his very consciousness, are/is a product of science. Is it his capacity for love that makes him human? And what about his mind kept him from turning insane, like Kara? Locke doesn’t know, and this book is about how he comes to terms with the strange, bewildering journey that has been his life.
And the ending? Well, it’s a happy one, which is good–but while there were elements I liked and elements that I found to be too convenient. I’m sorry the series is over–I would have liked Kara to have a story–but Locke and Jenna have completed their journeys. Am I any closer to understanding what it means to be human? Sure, a little. But three books can’t answer that question–props to the author for exploring the question.(less)
Lisa McMann appears to be one of those authors people either love or hate. People have pretty dichotomous...moreThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
Lisa McMann appears to be one of those authors people either love or hate. People have pretty dichotomous opinions of the Wake Trilogy, for example, and that’s one of the major reasons that I haven’t tried it, despite owning book one. However, I read (and loved) Cryer’s Cross, so I’ve been eager to try some more of McMann’s work. Crash seemed like the perfect compromise–a brand new slate–a book I hadn’t spoiled for myself by reading conflicting reviews.
Crash tells the story of Jules–middle child, loner and, most recently, seer of visions. Her parents own the second-best pizza place in town, so most of her free time is spent working–either in the restaurant or in the giant meatball truck. She’s close to her older brother and younger sister, but otherwise keeps her head down, socially speaking. Growing up, she was good friends with the son of the absolute pizza place in town; a friendship that ended because of family rivalry. Since 8th Grade, Jules and Sawyer have hardly spoken, but that doesn’t mean Jules has stopped caring.
Which is why, when the visions of the crash show Sawyer in a body bag, Jules knows she has to act. She knows she might be crazy–after all, it runs in the family–but she can’t sit back and do nothing. When warning Sawyer doesn’t work (surprise, surprise), she decides to delve further into the visions and find a way to stop the accident from happening. What follows is Jules skirting the line between sanity and insanity, choosing to look crazy because it’s the right thing to do and, for the first time, deciding not to take the path of least resistance.
One thing this book does really well is explore the thin line between paranormal and crazy. In stories where the MC is introduced to the paranormal for the first time, there always comes a point where the characters are required to suspend disbelief. It’s so easy for authors to get this wrong. To have the MC become a believer too quickly or not quickly enough can make or break a story. McMann nails it; Jules’ feelings and thoughts about her visions are just what I’d imagine my own to be, and that makes them awesomely authentic.
McMann also creates a compelling family dynamic, from the close relationship between Jules and her older brother, Trey, to their dysfunctional parents. Less successful is the romance between Jules and Sawyer. As a love interest, Sawyer definitely has potential (and their star-crossed love is inherently interesting), but the two don’t get enough screen time. Er, page time? At any rate, most of the story is dedicated to questioning Jules’ sanity or her figuring out how to prevent the crash. I’m willing to forgive a little since this is the beginning of the series, but it would be nice to see non-crash related stuff fleshing out future stories.
I’ll definitely be checking out the next book in this series. McMann was able to mix the expected with the unexpected at the end, and what happens next should be interesting. I’m also looking forward to catching up with Jules’ siblings!(less)