Over and over I’ve mentioned my craving for teen mysteries, so I won’t belabor the point again. NeedlessThis 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....more
Narrator Review: Marisa Calin is a perfect fit for Gwen. Her intonation is a great pairing with Gwen’s slThis 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....more
Lately, I’ve been really enjoying computer geek stories (maybe it’s all the episodes of The Big BangThis 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....more
I don’t usually go in for dragon stories–I have a feeling these are going to be famous last words–but I’mThis 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....more
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 theI'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. ...more
I would imagine that, as a writer, the hardest thing must be to come up with a unique premise. Well,This 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....more
I’ve never been so happy to be proven wrong about self-published books. And All the Stars is theThis 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!...more
Doomed was a book I wanted to like, but couldn’t. The premise is entirely promising–an update of the clasThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
Doomed was a book I wanted to like, but couldn’t. The premise is entirely promising–an update of the classic Greek Pandora myth is enough to pique my interest. What is not so successful is the execution. Right from the start, Doomed and I got off on the wrong foot, since immediately it falls into one of my YA Pet Peeves: The Absent, Neglectful Parent Who Leaves the Heroine Home Alone For Long Periods of Time. It’s rare that an author can pull off Absent Parent Syndrome without triggering thoughts of plot contrivance. Doomed was not one of those rare times, and that meant that I began the book giving it a hoary eye.
From there, Doomed did not improve. When Pandora releases the virus that triggers the apocalypse, things start happening fast, and this irritated me for two reasons. One, there were great leaps of logic that had me scratching my head. More than once I found myself wondering how Pandora and her two male companions–Theo and Eli–came up with the theories they did, or had such faith in their veracity. In a time of such chaos, such surety came across as foolhardy.
The second reason was pretty specific. In the book, Pandora and her friends go out for pizza just as the apocalypse is beginning. There’s mass panic because people don’t have cash to pay for their food and the credit card machines don’t work. I’ve worked in retail, and it’s true that computer malfunctions and power outages are major inconveniences, but you know what? The store I worked at never let that stop them. They stayed open and took imprints of credit cards come hell or high water. And I also found it hard to believe that the apocalypse would begin at a pizza joint.
What I’m saying is this: Considering the nature of Doomed apocalypse, the speed at which the society unraveled felt forced. I didn’t buy into the urgency and that made the rest of the book fall flat for me. Add that to my belief that Pandora & Co were making bewildering leaps in logic and and eye-rollingly painful love triangle you get one unhappy reader. I love books that take place during the apocalypse–but not even the genre could save Doomed....more
Narrator Review: When I was first listening to The Prey, I had a hard time getting used to Sean Runnette.This 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....more
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 forBy 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....more
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 samI 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. ...more
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 isI 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....more
I was excited about Shadowlands for two reasons. One: witness protection! Two: Gothic! An automatic recipThis 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....more
I’m one of those people who often thinks they were born into the wrong era, so I really like books whereThis 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....more
Last year, when I read Unraveling, it was a nice surprise. I’d missed all the buzz about it and hadnThis 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)]...more
When an author begins with a British setting, then adds in an abbey and a young lord, they’ve prettyThis review was originally posted on Ruby's Reads.
When an author begins with a British setting, then adds in an abbey and a young lord, they’ve pretty much guaranteed an audience in me. And, with the success of Downton Abbey, I’ve been in luck. Publishers are on the hunt for read-alikes, and YA imprints are no exception. When I began dipping my toes back in the NetGalley pond, there were two titles I requested right away: Cinders and Sapphires and Summerset Abbey. And when I got declined for Cinders and Sapphires (I thought, as an educator, I might have a chance) and accepted for Summerset Abbey, my desire to read the latter went through the roof.
Things started off okay. I knew immediately that Summerset wasn’t going to be the best historical I’d ever read, but I enjoyed the introduction to the world and the characters. Plus, the aforementioned young lord shows up pretty fast. While it didn’t pass my stringent Rules of Titles tests (is the Countess of Edgmont called Lady Edgmont [right] or Lady Charlotte [wrong]?), Summerset Abbey was entertaining enough to keep me going. For a while, anyway.
Where the book fails isn’t in its representation of the era in which it is set. It fails in its characters. There are three main ones, and the story alternates between those mentioned in the description: Rowena, Victoria and Prudence. Each sister has a story, complete with a potential love interest–fortunately. Unfortunately, all of the characters are lame. There really isn’t a better descriptive word.
Rowena manages to arrange for Prudence to come to Summerset Abbey despite her uncle’s objections, but then proceeds to ignore her and treat her like a servant. And when she feels bad about doing so? She only acts more stuck-up. Victoria, the youngest of the three, is all talk and no action. She badgers Rowena for forcing Prudence to become a lady’s maid and then forgets about her for pages at a time, and doesn’t do anything to actually help Prudence. Unless you count her last, ridiculously misguided attempt. And Prudence complains about her situation as a lady’s maid–an outsider among the servants and and outsider among the inhabitants of Summerset–but doesn’t do anything about it, either. Ultimately, she makes a TSTL decision that makes no sense at all.
Here’s what really gets me: Prudence’s situation (lady’s maid job aside) is actually a really compelling one, and perfectly suited to the time period. The 1900′s–especially in England–were a time when old traditions were starting to lose ground. The master-servant relationship was being tested and redefined. There were more opportunities for men, but more importantly–women. It makes me weep to see such juicy meat for a story go to such waste.
I think Summerset Abbey will definitely find an audience. Fans of the Luxe Series by Anna Godberson will probably enjoy it. The more discerning reader, however, will need to keep looking....more
You know how some books read like movies? How there’s some quality to the writing that makes you think,This 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....more
Since Impostor is kind of like X-Men: The Teen Years, I expected to like it–a lot. To say I was disappoinThis 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....more
I'm continually surprised at how much I've enjoyed these books. I don't like zombies and I'm a wimp as far as gore is concerned. Still, there's somethI'm continually surprised at how much I've enjoyed these books. I don't like zombies and I'm a wimp as far as gore is concerned. Still, there's something compelling about Ilsa J. Bick's storytelling and, as an added bonus, I think Katherine Kellgren is a talented narrator. Overwhelming at times, but talented, especially during action sequences....more
One of the things I enjoy about Dystopians is the myriad of ways in which they come about. Global warmingThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
One of the things I enjoy about Dystopians is the myriad of ways in which they come about. Global warming? Civil War? Genetically engineered bees? Check, check and check. I more than just enjoy, though. I believe that back story is key to any good Dystopian. If the author doesn’t have a solid, believable reason for his/her oligarchic, misogynist love/water/air/land-less world, I’m going to be dissatisfied. End of story.
Sadly, an easily comprehensible back story wasn’t enough to make Stung a success. In a word, it felt rushed. There wasn’t enough time for anything. For Fiona to make up for her lost years (the ones between 13 and 16 are not to be missed), for the romance to develop, for the corruption to be revealed, for the Dystopia to become…not. I can’t believe I’m saying this–since stand-alones are so rare that I’m usually rooting in the opposite direction–but Stung should have had at least two more volumes.
However, even if more books had allowed Bethany Wiggins to slow the pace of her story, I’m not sure it would have worked for me. I was very much struck by the fact that the last age Fiona remembered being was 13. Even if she was physically 16, she’d missed three years of psychological development. Because of this, I was the slightest bit skeeved by the romance, and I have serious doubts about Fiona’s state of mind. That kind of thing has got to mess with you. Hence the need for more volumes–time for Fiona to process and adjust a little. Or, even better, Wiggins could have left that twist out entirely. I wouldn’t have minded.
The neatly packaged ending didn’t work for me, either. Everything is resolved and wrapped up nicely in a tidy bow. Don’t get me wrong–I’m all for resolution and happy endings! I just don’t like it when they’re too easy. For one thing, it makes things unrealistic. For another, they feel perfunctory. I want my MCs to earn their happy endings. In Stung, I simply made a face and turned off my Kindle....more
I went into The Rules with few expectations. As mentioned above, I hadn’t read anything by Stacey KaThis review was originally posted on Ruby's Reads.
I went into The Rules with few expectations. As mentioned above, I hadn’t read anything by Stacey Kade before–I hadn’t even read any reviews of the series or, frankly, heard anything about it. Still, the description of The Rules was enough to pique my interest. I liked that it was SciFi rather than paranormal. And I hoped that would be enough to put an interesting spin on the “girl with a secret” storyline that is currently so prevalent in YA.
Reading it, there were some things I liked. I thought the premise had potential…I just wasn’t impressed with the execution. Plus, I had issues with Ariane’s decision to risk revealing her identity. Although the description suggests she does it in order to defend the weak, she really does it to get revenge on the school’s mean girl. Perhaps my sense of self-preservation is over-developed, but that wouldn’t be a good enough reason for me to risk capture. I also thought it lessened the stakes of what was, essentially, driving the story.
If my issues with Ariane weren’t enough, I was also lukewarm about Zane. He’s supposed to be a reformed Big Man on Campus, complete with a rep as a jock and a “cool” clique. At the beginning of the book, Zane is good friends with the mean girl that Ariane wants to teach a lesson. Due to personal tragedy, Zane has supposedly seen the error of his ways. I didn’t buy it. If the mean girl was as mean as Kade painted her, and Zane went along with her shenanigans, he had a lot to make up for. Falling for a social nobody and regretting his actions wasn’t enough of a reformation. And the mean girl? She was so mean as to be one-dimensional. I felt that way about a lot of characters–Zane’s dad being another example.
The big question with any series is: did I like it enough to read the next book? Well, The Rules was a mediocre read for me. I didn’t love it, but I didn’t really feel enough to hate it, either. I didn’t particularly connect with any of the characters and I read with minimal interest in the plot. When I got to the end, I set it aside and didn’t think about it again until I picked up my (metaphorical) pen to write this review. So, I think I’ll be skipping the next one....more
The beautiful cover of What I Saw and How I Lied attracted me way back when it was first puThis review was first posted on http://www.rubysreads.com.
The beautiful cover of What I Saw and How I Lied attracted me way back when it was first published in hardcover, but it took me a long time to pick it up and read it. I would like to add that in addition to being a nice cover, the image of a girl putting on bright red lipstick turns out to be terribly relevant to the story. So, a nice pat on the back for Scholastic. The time period of the 1940s is one of my favorites, so I was looking forward to reading this book. Not many authors write about the post-war period, especially Teen authors, so this book was like a double treat. I expected to fully enjoy this book—after all, it won the National Book Award in 2008—and I’m sorry and, perhaps embarrassed to say that I didn’t. Now comes the hard part: explaining why.
The first reason that I did not like What I Saw is because I was hard pressed to find a character I enjoyed. It wasn’t Evie. It wasn’t her mother or her stepfather. It sure wasn’t Peter. It wasn’t Wally or even Grandma Glad. This, right off the bat, is a terrible way to read a novel. I thought, at first, that Evie was going to improve—this is, after all, a coming-of-age story. It’s the kind of book where you can expect to dislike some aspect of the character’s personality. The problem was, I never moved past my initial dislike. I didn’t like Evie at the end of the book any more than I liked her in the beginning. In fact, I thought she was kind of an idiot. For the next part of my review, I’m issuing a spoiler warning, so beware!
* * * * * SPOILER * * * * *
Judy Bundell paints (or tries to paint) Evie as a young, naïve character. There are things going on all around Evie that she fails to understand. For example, her mother is sleeping with the man that Evie has a crush on. Her stepfather is not as financially secure as he has led Evie to believe. There is Anti-Semitism in the world. Gah! The things that Evie doesn’t know could fill a book—oh, they have already, haven’t they?
Let me give you the general plot line: Evie is a fifteen-year-old girl from Queens. It’s 1947 and her stepfather has return from Europe and the war and started chain of stores that sell household appliances. One day Evie’s stepfather, Joe, decides to take the family to Florida for a late summer vacation. When they get there, Evie, her mother and Joe make friends with the Graysons, a stylish couple that owns a hotel in New York. They also meet young ex-GI Peter Coleridge, on whom Evie immediately develops a crush. Unbeknownst to Evie (who thinks that Peter returns the instant attraction) her mother and Peter begin an affair. Though Evie views her mother as cover for her daily car rides with Peter, she doesn’t realize that she is the one who is the third wheel. There is also the fact that there is some thinly veiled animosity between Peter and Joe. Finally, Evie is struggling with the fact that she has always lived in the shadow of her beautiful, glamorous mother. She is struggling to have the confidence in herself to become the woman she wishes she were.
I was fine with Evie struggling to find herself. I could understand her desire for a man who was a man and not a boy. What I didn’t buy was that she was too naïve to sense that there was something between Peter and her mother. I’m not saying that Evie should have been able to guess exactly what was going on, but there were times when I couldn’t believe that she didn’t sense any underlying currents. I guessed what was going to happen the first time Peter and Evie’s mother met, and I didn’t go out with them every day, day after day. It made me think not that Evie was young and naïve, but that she was as dense and perceptive as a brick.
So not only is Evie completely blind to the situation between her mother and Peter, she is also completely oblivious to the nature of the relationship between Peter and her stepfather. Evie knows that Joe doesn’t like Peter, but even though Peter drops some pretty heavy hints, she never even guesses at the nature of the conflict between the two. This bewildered me. As a teenager I was constantly making up stories. Maybe I’m alone here, but I think of teenagers as being ace at jumping to conclusions. But maybe Evie is the exception to the rule.
I also never felt like I was really immersed in the post-War period. Blundell definitely dropped hints and made chronologically relevant allusions to 1947, but I was never quite able to suspend my disbelief. It just felt like modern day to me, despite Evie’s reflections on Victory Gardens and rationing.
I also want to write about it Peter. I didn’t like him and, frankly, I couldn’t see why Evie did. Sure, he was “movie-star handsome”, but he was also a liar and a thief. Not to mention he was sleeping with her mother. Granted, Evie didn’t know any of this, but that’s partly my point. Evie never questions anything Peter says, even when he slips up. The author’s hints that Peter isn’t who he says he is are blatant enough for the readers to suspect him almost in the beginning. I remember being a teenager, and I remember being gullible, but Evie is more than gullible; she’s slow on the uptake. I also failed to understand her repeated insistence that Peter “was a good man”, even when all was finally revealed about him.
This review is getting pretty long, so I’m going to try to wrap this up. I can’t finish this review without touching on the main thrust of the novel—the lies that Evie tells. I can understand why she told them. I can’t say that I wouldn’t have lied if it meant saving my own parents, no matter what they did. But there was something off about Evie’s decision. The fact is that Evie’s lies drastically changed her relationship with her parents in a significant way. In the beginning of the novel, Evie is controlled by her mother and by Joe. At the end, due to the lies that she tells, she ends the novel as the person who now has the power. Evie seems to revel in this, which, in my opinion, puts a distasteful spin on her actions and makes them not as noble as they appear to be. ...more
I was really excited about this book. I thought I had unearthed a heretofore undiscovered (This review was first posted on http://www.rubysreads.com.
I was really excited about this book. I thought I had unearthed a heretofore undiscovered (by me) Teen Paranormal Romance Set in a Private Boarding School. And I had. And it wasn't terrible, but it wasn't great, either. All in all, this was a pretty average book. There was nothing new or surprising in it and there was nothing in it that got me excited one way or the other. I mean, in either a good way or a bad way. True, I rolled my eyes at certain points, but sometimes I do that when I'm reading a book that is a guilty pleasure. Shadow Hills doesn't qualify as a guilty pleasure book. Whether or not I'm eager to get to the end of a book is one of the benchmarks I use to gauge how much I like what I'm reading. That's probably true for you, so I'll just say that I was eager to finish Shadow Hills. But not because I wanted to see how things turned out at the end--because I wanted to move on to the next book in my TBR pile.
Shadow Hills takes place in one of my favorite settings. Which I've mentioned already, so there's no need for me to tell you what it is for the six thousandth time. The main character and narrator, Persephone "Phe" Archer, has come from LA to go to school at Devenish, your standard East Coast Prep School. It's somewhere in Massachusetts. There's no point in my rehashing all the things the description tells you about this novel, so I won't. But the death of Phe's sister plays a much smaller role in this book than it suggests. Phe's sister (predictably named Athena) died some time ago--six months to a year. I don't know why, exactly, but that surprised me. I think it took some of the immediacy away from the story--but on the other hand, it gave Phe enough time to have moved on and eased up on grieving enough to move on with her life a little.
Phe is fifteen, though she doesn't come off the page as one so young. This could be attributed to the death of her sister, but she seemed a little too, I don't know, adult-minded to be authentically fifteen. Also, I couldn't help feeling that she was a bit Mary Sue-ish. I say this without knowing anything about the author. Except what's on the back cover blurb. But I suspect that Anastasia Hopcus is as much a music snob as Phe. Even if Phe isn't a Mary Sue, she's a wee bit on the perfect side. If she has flaws we don't see them much. She's attractive, of average height, a good swimmer, a decent student, makes friends easily, sticks up for herself and others, and it all kind of got boring after a while. What foibles Phe has are cute. Like snorting when she laughs or blushing easily.
Zach, the hero and designated "hot guy" also suffers from the Perfect Syndrome. He's extremely good-looking, kind to his elders, superpowered and supersmart. He stands up for others and rescues kittens from rooftops. Okay, I made the last part up. But, seriously, when Zach's alter-ego (and enemy and cousin) showed up on the scene, I wanted him to be the hero because, hello? Dark chocolate-y bad guys are infinitely more interesting than vanilla-y boring wonder boys. Yawn. Unfortunately, the bad guys crosses too far into evil jerk territory to be an realistic foil for Zach. In fact, he's so perfect he doesn't really have any competition. You know, I think I was more disappointed in this book than I thought when I first started this review.
The thing that this book suffers from the most is that vanilla thing I mentioned. I don't really have a problem with vanilla, as a flavor, but I'd much rather eat dark chocolate. I didn't really care whether or not Phe and Zach got together. They were too cutesy together and everything was too easy. I was talking to a friend once about how a couple on a TV show I liked was sooo boring and she said that was probably the sign of a good relationship. If that's so, then Phe and Zach will, in all likelihood, spend an eternity together. ...more
Since I listened to the audio version of this book, I'm splitting my review into two parts:This review was first posted on http://www.rubysreads.com.
Since I listened to the audio version of this book, I'm splitting my review into two parts: 1) The Book and 2) The Narration. The Book The Iron Fey opens with Meghan Chase telling the story of her father's inexplicable, unsolved disappearance, and how it led to current life as the stepdaughter of a poor Southern farmer. On the surface, Meghan's life is normal, if a bit dismal. She doesn't have fashionable clothing, the guy she likes doesn't seem to know she exists (nor does anyone else for that matter), she only has one friend, and her mom won't agree to take her to take the test for her driver's license. Little does Meghan know that her problems aren't as mundane as she thought they were. You see, Meghan is half-Fae. And her brother has been kidnapped in order to lure her into Faerie. And it turns out her best friend is Fae. Not just any Fae, but the famous Puck, and all these years he's been watching over her on behalf of his king, Meghan's father. Just when Meghan thinks things can't get any worse, she meets her stepmother, Titania, and witnesses the opening salvo of a war between the Winter and Summer Courts. These are all incidental to Meghan's quest to rescue her brother. Or she thinks they are, anyway. She leaves the Fae Courts to embark on her rescue mission. Along her intermittent way, she's accompanied by Grimalkin, the Caith-Sith, Puck in his Fae form, and Ash, a prince of the Winter Court. Meghan is not my favorite heroine. It would make sense for her to be ignorant of Faerie ways, but Meghan isn't just ignorant, she's thick-skulled. When she encounters things that are different from her expectations, she becomes easily bewildered and, ultimately, doesn't take action. Also, I find it a little unbelievable that she was so entirely ignorant of all things Faerie. It would be nearly impossible for her not to have developed some sort of preconceived notions about Faeries--especially since she's obviously read A Midsummer Night's Dream because she knows who Puck is. What I found most irritating about Meghan was her constant goodness. Kagawa overdoes Meghan's pacifism a wee bit too much. It's like when vegetarians are turned into vampires or werewolves. Okay, I get it. The heroine loves all god's creatures. There were times when I (who hides her face during boxing movies) wished someone would inject her with some bloodthirsty juice already. As for the other characters, I never felt that I got to know them very well. Ash is kind of typical Fae--cold and stand-offish, haughty, but beautiful--and Puck is Puck. Grimalkin was a slightly more interesting character, but not very. Kagawa left these characters largely unexplored, and while that makes sense in Grim's case, it's not so for Puck and Ash. At least, I don't think it is since they're Meghan's romantic interests. Not that I think Puck has a chance. I can even understand a little mystery about Ash, but Meghan's spent most of her childhood with Puck as a friend. Wouldn't she know more quirks of his personality? Or maybe wonder why she was friends with someone who was never, ever serious? There was very little hint of their shared past history, which seemed odd, given that he was her only friend. I'm not saying that I didn't enjoy listening to this book. It's more that there wasn't anything special in it for me. I wasn't particularly attracted to either of the male leads, and Fae just seems like the woods at first and a junkyard later. A few times, Ash does things with his winter magic, but having finished the book, I have very little idea what it means to be fae--or in Meghan's case, half-fae. I don't know if I'll be listening to the next book in the series. The Narrator A good narrator is hard to come by, and I think this is especially true for teen books. The range of voices required is, frankly, exhausting, and I've listened to far too many narrators give characters bizarre quirks of speech (impediments, lisps, etc) in order to illustrate who was speaking. By and large, Kristine Hvram did a good job with Meghan, but many of her male characters sounded alike. I confess that I cringed every time she used the word faerie because she put so much emphasis on the "fae" part. Maybe this is how you pronounce the word, but it annoyed me anyway. ...more
I DNF’d this one. Now, this is something I rarely do with audiobooks. Usually I can make it through any audiobook, no matter how awful, by sheer virtuI DNF’d this one. Now, this is something I rarely do with audiobooks. Usually I can make it through any audiobook, no matter how awful, by sheer virtue of laziness. I mean it. If I don’t have another audiobook all cued up and ready to go, I’ll listen to whatever I’ve got on my phone or in my car’s CD player. Especially if I’m in my car. I will NOT pull over just because my iPhone has inexplicably decided to play chapter three all. Over. Again. Better that than silence.
So I really tried with Dualed. Unfortunately, I hated the main character. West is one of those TSTL (too stupid to live) heroines you always hear about. I couldn’t stand her. I get that her entire family died–how awful! I can’t imagine!–and I can see how becoming an assassin (or Stalker) was a logical choice because it was a free form of “training” that would ensure she would beat her own Alt when the time came, but since the girl runs the moment she’s activated, that logic falls apart. Plus, not only do we miss all the action (with one or two exceptions, West’s kills take place off-screen), but I don’t see that becoming a Stalker gave West any skills at all.
And don’t even get me started on the romance. I could not have cared less about it....more
In the Shadow of Blackbirds is my most favorite type of novel. It’s A) historical, B) Gothic and C) takesThis review was first posted on Ruby's Reads.
In the Shadow of Blackbirds is my most favorite type of novel. It’s A) historical, B) Gothic and C) takes place in the 20th Century. (Note: I love 19th Century historicals, too, it’s just that they’re easier to find than 20th Century ones). It’s no surprise, then, that I enjoyed Cat Winters’ debut novel. Even if it does take place in San Diego–which is about as far from a Gothic setting as I can imagine. Far too much sun.
Blackbirds tells the story of Mary Shelley Black, beginning with her arrival in San Diego. Her father has been arrested for helping young men avoid the draft, leaving Mary Shelley with no choice but to head south to live with her Aunt Eva. The Spanish Flu is ravaging the nation and World War I is in its fourth year. Death is everywhere and All Things Ghostly are the rage. Charlatans are making money off the grieving, not the least of whom is Julius Ember, the brother of Mary Shelley’s first love.
Mary Shelley is a headstrong heroine. In any other era, she would’ve driven me up the wall. However, she’s perfectly placed where she is. Everything was changing, from emerging technologies to women’s suffrage, and she was on the forefront of that; believable in her modern views, not so much ahead of her time as a product of them. If I sometimes felt like rolling my eyes at her, well, she was a sixteen year old. They’re not known for their perfect logic, intelligent decision-making or their tolerance of their elders. I’m sure that was true, even in 1918.
In the Shadow of Blackbirds is part mystery, part coming-of-age story. It’s also a story of first love, of the hardships of life, and of striving in lieu of obstacles and tragedies. It’s Mary Shelley’s story. There are external characters–notably Mary Shelley’s Aunt Eva–but Mary is an intensely cerebral, private person. With school discontinued because of the flu, she doesn’t have any peers, much less anything to occupy her scientific mind. It makes all the sense in the world that she would set out to solve the mystery of Stephen’s death. The memory of him is the only friend she has left.
While I liked In the Shadow of Blackbirds, it was a slice of life novel. It may be argued that all novels fit this definition, and I couldn’t deny that life-changing events occurred between the pages, but Blackbirds lacked something. It felt a little scattered, as though it didn’t really know what kind of book it wanted to be. I’m not sure I could identify one theme that stood out above all others. While Mary had a number of experiences in the novel, they lacked the coherence that should have tied them together.
I’m excited to hear that Cat Winters is still writing. She’s an author with tremendous potential, and I would like to see what else she can do. If In the Shadow of Blackbirds is any indication, we’ll be in for a real treat when her sophomore novel hits the shelves....more