*I received a copy of STAINED in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley. Thank you!
Why I Wanted To Read STAINED:
Having read and loved Cheryl Rain...more*I received a copy of STAINED in exchange for an honest review via NetGalley. Thank you!
Why I Wanted To Read STAINED:
Having read and loved Cheryl Rainfield's novel Scars, I was extremely excited when I was contacted to take part in the tour for Stained. With Scars, which I stumbled upon in a rather roundabout way, I was drawn in immediately, and I was eager to find out whether Stained would have the same type of effect.
Despite knowing I liked Cheryl's writing style, however, Stained also represented a departure in genre for me. While it is still in many ways a contemporary novel, Stained also has suspense and thriller elements. It was very interesting reading something that both delved so deeply into its core characters and moved at a frantic pace, using in-novel timestamps to move everything along.
So, are you curious to find out what I thought of Stained? Read on and I'll share my thoughts. Hopefully I'll also convince you of why you should really sit down and check Stained out, regardless of what genre(s) of fiction you normally settle in with.
There is part of me that wands to skip writing a review all together and just go "Read it! Read it now!". But that would do both me as a reviewer, and this absolutely mind shattering book, a disservice.
The first thing I must tell you all is that while Stained is beautifully written, it is not a book for the faint of heart. Many books about abduction, violence, abuse and rape within YA take place after the trauma to the main character has occurred. We deal with the aftermath, the overwrought emotion, the 'what happens next'.
In Stained we live the experience, which is something that I found very gripping as a reader, but which I am very aware my cause triggers for some people. I'm extremely glad that Cheryl decided to take her book this route, as she is brutally honest and does not romanticize this the way I've seen a few other writers do. This is a journey into the depths of the heart of darkness. There are things that happened in Stained that made my skin crawl. But the important thing here isn't how horrible what happens to Sarah is. What matters is that despite being trapped in this living nightmare, we see a girl with the strength to not only survive, but also have the strength and desire to live by novel's end. (How she gets there and what, exactly, happens along the way? You'll have to read Stained to find that out.)
Stained is both a very tense, emotional novel, and a very meticulous, character driven one. I loved both Sarah and Nick. I think that Sarah is a fantastic main character and I really appreciated the fact that we see both her strengths and weaknesses, and then see these things effect her during her abduction. I think that there is a great deal of challenge in creating a character who can balance having both strength and vulnerability. With Sarah, Cheryl succeeded in striking that balance time and again.
As for Nick? I loved, loved, loved Nick. Nick is not your typical YA hero. He's fat. He's a nerd. He's a little out of the main stream. Yet he is oh so very real, and I loved his feelings for Sarah--both romantically and as a friend. I also really loved how his perspective was used to break up sections of the novel, both to increase and break points of tension, and to give the reader a glimpse of what was going on in the outside world. Further, with the amount that he (and her family) cared for Sarah, the amount they stood to lose if she was not found, my dread increased tenfold. I think that it was vital to show us that Sarah had things to live for, people who loved her. By sharing Nick's perspective, the reader will get that message loud and clear.
The last thing I want to give a nod to is that this is another book I've read this year that has the theme of super heroes being incorporated into showing the progression of a character's awareness of her own self worth. This is an idea that I find really fun and inspiring, and I loved the idea that if Sarah could somehow get out of this mess, she and Nick might be able to make comics together. When things were at their hardest, remembering how much she valued the ideas of her heroic character, Diamond, was one of the things that gave her the strength to keep going... I've never been in the situation Sarah faces in Stained, but as a lover of comics, video games and fantasy novels, I could immediately relate to this aspect of her personality and how it served as both her passion and a method to cope with the challenges in her life.
Purchase or Pass?:
Stained is the kind of book that I wish everyone would sit down and read. From the beauty of the writing, to the depth of the characters, to the importance of the message, to the absolutely gripping plot... There is so much here that was brilliantly done that it's honestly very hard to get it all into words for you guys without going too far and risking turning this review into a novella.
Just trust me (provided something here didn't flash a warning off in your head)... This is one of the must-read books of 2013 and I'm certain that even as we pass into the new year, it will undoubtedly keep that must read status. Stained is a story of love and loss, hope and despair, sorrow and survival. Above all, it is a story of courage, hope, and the will to live that will stick with you long after the final page has been turned.
Hype. It can be such a rush. But it can also be a dangerous and cataclysmic force that can bring a blogger to her knee...moreMy Rating: <3 <3 It's Okay.
Hype. It can be such a rush. But it can also be a dangerous and cataclysmic force that can bring a blogger to her knees. I know I'm not the first to talk about it. I know I won't be the last.
I've been extremely hyped to read Meant To Be. I've wanted this book for months. I've mentioned it in numerous blog posts. I've tweeted about it. I threw a pretty big fit when I finally got it in the mail from Amazon. And I decided to give it the dubious honor of being my Valentines Day Read.
No pressure, right?
You've got to be kidding.
I've built books up like this before and it's turned out okay, because they ended up being books I loved. But it was only a matter of time before my pressure cooker ways came back to bite me on the butt, and Meant To Be happened to be their catalyst of choice.
For what it's worth: hype is dangerous. And hype from yourself is likely the most dangerous kind of hype there is. Watch your step, guys. This review could get messy.
Meant To Be had all the substance of a piece of bubble gum. There just wasn't anything there.
I know that likely seems like a really weird way to talk about a book. I mean, I wasn't sitting down to read Great Expectations and I wasn't expecting that. But--and this is a big but--one thing I've come to expect from YA contemporary is that it tends to make me think and feel. That even if there is one plot line that has lots of sugar and sunshine, that there is often something deeper at work. Something to really sink my teeth into.
And in this book, that simply was not so.
The trip to England should have been epic, but for me it was ruined by Julia randomly and subconsciously reinventing her character when the only thing *I* found wrong with her was a potential expectation that others should act *like* her. The "romance" between her and Jason was a hot and cold mess that I totally didn't believe in for multiple reasons. And since these two things basically summed up the plot... you do the math. I thought it sucked!
The writing itself was beautiful and descriptive. The author did a good job on her research. But her pacing, her weird characters and the (obnoxious) message I took away from this book--essentially that being a moron is to be commended (Can you tell I didn't like Jason?)--made all of the technical praise I can concede to its credit not matter. Because...
I hated it! (Wow... I don't think I've *ever* said that about a book in a review before. Eep!)
Okay. Now that I've dropped the H-bomb on this poor book's head, I want to make something really clear: my feelings here are very personal. (1) We have the hype train I talked about in my intro. And (2) My actual feelings toward the book, my true reason for despising it, is deeply personal and probably won't effect 99% of those who read it.
Julia: you are okay! You don't need to change (at least, not NEARLY as much as most people think you need to.) It's OKAY to be a planner! It's OKAY to be a bit nerdy / geeky! It's OKAY to have dreams and goals and go after them. And *gasp!* It's OKAY to follow the rules--as long as YOU believe they are right.
It's NOT okay to find love with a boy who makes you feel you need to change the core of who you are in order to receive or be worthy of that "love"--because that is not what love is about! Love is, first and foremost, about accepting and appreciating people for who they already are. *headdesk times 1000!!!*
It's DANGEROUS to go to random parties in a country you've never visited before with a guy who is clearly a moron. It's STUPID to chase some random guy all over a foreign city when you can't remember what he looks like.
Okay, guys. I'll stop.
I thought that I was going to be getting a Lucy and Ed situation from Graffiti Moon, which is one of my favorite books ever. And that totally was not the case here at all. But, let's forget that... Let me yell at Jason now...
To Jason: You, sir, are a moron. I've never seen such an obnoxiously hot and cold "love interest" before, and I hope it's a long time before I see one again. I did not like you. Why you have my boyfriend's name I don't know--though I'll confess that *might* be part of the whole "the problem is me" thing I talked about above. ;) You could be funny, but half the time you were just obnoxious. Could Julia use a bit more fun? Sure. But last time I checked 'fun' and 'pain in the ass' have very different meanings and 3/4 of the time you were a total jerkface to her and if *I* had been your partner on a trip I'm very certain I would've been on the next plane back home.
Now, as a writer I must say that it's obvious that Julia and Jason are both a bit too close to caricatures to really get too mad at them. They took their roles as miss perfect and class clown to such an extreme that they lost a great deal of their realness for me. It's a shame it went this way.
The rest of the cast really didn't have enough depth for me to really say much to or about them. They did their parts and they didn't really hurt anything or effect why I felt the way I did about this book. Oh: I felt sorry for the poor English teacher. Yeah, that covers it.
I did not buy into this one at all.That's really sad, because I know I am a *lot* like Julia and my own boyfriend, Jay, balances that super uptight I-must-plan-everything and OFFG I can't say / think / feel / do THAT it's *WRONG!!!* aspect of me. It took me years to get to the point that I'm at and, much like Julia, I didn't get the way I am from having anyone breathing down my neck. My family's really chill. It's just the way I am.
(The huge difference between Julia and I--and the one thing I felt she needed to learn--was that it's fine to be the way we are, but it's not fine to expect anyone else to live up to our expectations for ourselves. That is unrealistic and does not work. We are a tip on the iceberg that is humanity and I do NOT blame people for not wanting to go near it! Forget how crazy we drive you and think for a moment how crazy we drive ourselves, because it *does* happen and it can be a daily struggle to remove head from butt and realize our anal retentive tendencies usually aren't going to be things that will end the world...)
On a random and slightly amusing note: Jay predicted this book might tick me off. ;)
A guy like Jason (the hero of this book) would have been someone I would have kept as far away from as possible, because in real life a Jason would totally annoy me. But if he had worked well with Julia--if they had helped each other grow, rather then the book seeming to idolize his behavior and vilify hers, maybe I could have gotten behind these two more then I did. However, that is not the case (on both accounts).
And again: the hot and cold thing with his attitude just really ticked me off. I would not put up with that and I don't like the idea of Julia putting up with it, either. Getting together with a guy who is a totally barf inducing jerkwad does not meet my definition for a "Happily Ever After". (The ending itself is 'right'--my problem with it is the character who causes that ending, since I didn't like him.)
Okay, first my reaction: I can't remember the last time I was so utterly, heart-shatteringly, tear-inducingly disappointed in a book. I feel sad and angry and (this is going to sound weird...) betrayed. This one actually *hurt* to the point that I got all that fantastic stuff for my birthday and I haven't been able to bring myself to touch any of it--even now, two weeks later--because I am still reeling with grief over this novel. I honestly don't know how to move forward, and I *need* to because I know I have stuff I need to get read. (Both my stuff and review stuff.) I don't want to taint another book with my sorrow and rage and the slimy-gutted feeling of emptiness I'm left with over this one.
Now, my recommendation: Please, once again I want to make it very clear that my reaction to Meant To Be was deeply personal. There is a lot here that is well written and I can understand how many other readers have sat down with this book and totally loved it. It just wasn't for me, and it's level of 'not for me' was on a strong and almost repugnant level of not for me that I hope takes another two years of blogging (or more, please God let it take more time...) before I witness it again.
If YOU are interested in reading this novel, you should go for it. (Provided something I've said doesn't trigger something from you, obviously.) But did I like it? I already answered that earlier, and I don't want to type that again. Words have power, you know.
How often do we, especially as book bloggers, hear that trite old phrase? I know I've...moreMy Rating: <3 Disappointing.
"Don't judge a book by it's cover."
How often do we, especially as book bloggers, hear that trite old phrase? I know I've heard my share of it. And it cannot be denied that the cover for Darkness Before Dawn is truly lovely. Almost enchanting in it's melancholy, from the position of the model, to the colors, to the swirling title font.
But does what lies within warrant such carefully constructed art? Can the plot, characters, setting and tone come together to make this book a complete package? That's what you're here to find out. :) Read on and I will do my best to explain why I feel that, alas, Darkness Before Dawn succeeds most highly at making the adage quoted above ring painfully true.
The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
Only sunlight can save us.
We built the wall to keep them out, to keep us safe. But it also makes us prisoners, trapped in what's left of our ravaged city, fearing nightfall.
After the death of my parents, it's up to me--as the newest delegate for humanity--to bargain with our vampire overlord. I thought I was ready. I thought I knew everything there was to know about the monsters. Then again, nothing could have prepared me for Lord Valentine . . . or his son. Maybe not all vampires are killers. Maybe it's safe to let one in.
Only one thing is certain: Even the wall is not enough. A war is coming and we cannot hide forever.
Okay, let's start with the good. The world building itself was quite intriguing. I've seen vampires and dystopia put together before, and have loved the combination. I want to make it clear that *this* is not where the book went astray. I love the idea of the vampires being in charge. I love the way London built her society. (Her? His? Not sure which here since this is a mother / son team if I remember correctly -- I'll give major props to that. Getting to work with a loved one on a novel would be a fascinating experience.)
The delegate. The night watchmen. Dressing up in certain attire when meeting Valentine. All of this was extremely well done and put together. The tone, mood and pacing of the book definitely matched the melancholy I described when I saw the cover. So far we're in the good.
So what drove me nuts? I feel that the characters were used as plot devices, rather then the plot furthering the characters. Dawn is suppose to be smart. She's suppose to have all of this underlying emotion about what has happened to her family. Yet time and again she does the dumbest things that made me want to smack her upside the head and go "What the heck is wrong with you?".
I totally understand that there are plot driven stories and there are character driven stories. But I feel that given the history we are presented with and the actions the characters take the balance just swung too far. The plot itself was already solid with an interesting world. But I've said it a zillion times: if the characters don't work for me, odds are high the story didn't, either.
If it makes it any clearer how I felt about the plot, or how the book held my interest. I read this while I was working on edits and when I was reading this, I was constantly thinking how glad I would be to get back to work. This book did not hold my attention and I found myself checking how far I'd read every twenty pages or so. In a book of this size, that is a very bad sign. I really, truly, wanted to like this and that is why I stuck with it. I'm actually kind of devastated that I dislike it quite as much as I do. It sort of snuck up on me.
Okay, so since we're already talking about Dawn, let's shift gears and get right into the heart of it. She swung like a pendulum for me. One minute I thought she was brave, or insightful, or interesting or complex. And the next I was back to "What the hell are you doing?". Dawn's set-up / backstory / etc. does not, in my opinion, leave her with excuses to be stupid. Survival should be a priority one for her. Yet time and again I found her risking herself in situations where it was totally unnecessary. Withholding information that would be important to humanity for reasons that were never totally clarified (leaving me to figure the author(s) thought, "Victor is hot so I won't tell." *gah!* Your Parents Were Killed By Vampires.) I think it's clear I am not a member of the Dawn fan club. Moving along...
Taegan, how I hate you. Let me count the ways. I hate how stupid and impulsive you are. I hate how you are so often the reason that our heroine does many of the dumb things she does throughout the book. I hate that we rescued you from that party at the beginning--Dawn so should've left you there. She might have avoided several complications. (Victor, for instance. Trust me, I'll get there.) I think that's enough mud flinging at Taegen, though. She's a character--it's not her fault that there are likely fleas with more intellect. (I'm extremely sorry that I seem so damn grumpy about these characters, but seriously? I don't think I've ever read a book where the characters drove me quite this batty. Usually low scores from me are either because I couldn't click with the novel and don't know why, or because the writing style wasn't for me.)
Lastly, we'll talk about the boys. Uhh... is there anything to say here? Michael was alright, if a bit protective. But we all know he's just there as a foil to Victor and that he's the one Dawn is going to really want--whether she knows / admits it or not. It's just the way that something like this works. For what it's worth, Michael was likely my favorite character in the book. He had his head on straight, he seemed to be aware of what was going on in the world he inhabited and his actions actually made sense. Was he a swoonworthy guy that's going to be on my top ten boyfriends list anytime soon? Nah. But at least he had his act together.
And lastly, we come to Victor. Dude, what happened? I was so ready to meet you and totally fall in love, but you were about as interesting as watching paint dry. Part of this is that Victor did not seem to have any strong defining characteristics. I didn't really feel anything that drew me in and made me want to know more about him. London did a good job of making Dawn dislike him in the beginning once she realized what he was (although there was an issue with that. I'll get to it below.), but that may have been done too well. This was an aspect where I liked Dawn and backed her. By his very being what he was, and her initial reaction to him, I was compelled to dislike Victor as well. Unlike Dawn, however, I never really changed my mind.
First off: this is the kind of 'love triangle' that doesn't work. Why? It's predictable. No matter what happens, no matter what you tell me throughout the book, we all know how this game is going to end. It has to. The way the ending happened was clever, I will admit that. And it does leave me wondering how the romance will be effected. But it still doesn't detract from this issue.
The other huge problem is that the romance actually undermines the credibility of the heroine. Did I buy it that Dawn might find love with a vampire despite her past? Sure. Forgiveness, redemption, etc. are themes I use a lot in my own writing. However, the way that her interest in Victor is apparent from word go--even after she knows the truth and in contrast to her outward behavior--irritated me. I normally wouldn't be quite this strict about this issue, but, yet again: her parents were killed by vampires. Her behavior just didn't ring true for me and that tainted anything between these two.
For me, this may well be the biggest disappointment of 2012. I have taken *forever* waiting to write this review and hoping that I would change my feelings about the book even slightly, but it's just not happening. Darkness Before Dawn had a truly brilliant premise and some great world building to back it up. But the characters all fell flat on their faces in one way or another, and for me personally character is story.
If you have been considering trying the book, please don't let me dissuade you. My issues with the book were of a deeply personal nature and your experience might be completely different. Pay close attention to what was said, rather then the score, here. (less)
*A huge thank you to the lovely people at Random House for sending me this book as part of Blog It For...moreMy Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 Awesome!
*A huge thank you to the lovely people at Random House for sending me this book as part of Blog It Forward!
Sometimes as readers we need to read one of those special books that remind us why we read. Why we spend countless hours taking words on a page and allowing our mind to weave them into worlds filled with sights and sounds, textures and tastes. Why this crazy habit makes us feel more alive, even as we often slip into worlds that our day to day round would do everything in it's power to tell us are not real.
Likewise, for those of us who write, we sometimes need a reminder of why we allow ourselves to succumb to the madness. The random snippets of conversation that pop into our heads, the waking up at 3 a.m. to jot down a description for a 60 foot tower made of key lime pie. You get the idea, the point, I hope. It can be weird!
What happens to you when you love a book? Do you carry it with you when you go for a ride in the car? Do you bring it to the dinner table while you are waiting for the food to finish cooking? Do you start finding people who you want to loan your copy to when you are only 3/4 of the way through? I did all of that here.
For me, BZRK was a gigantic reminder of why I love both reading and writing. It does so many things that hooked me, fascinated me, terrified me and really made me think. It is written in a very interesting fashion with characters who are all true shades of gray. But I am getting ahead of myself here. Let me break this down and I'll tell you why you absolutely must read this book.
The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
Time is running out for the good guys. But what happens when you don’t know who the good guys really are?
Noah and Sadie: newly initiated into an underground cell so covert they don’t even know each other’s real names. Trained for combat on the nano level, they are thrust into a war they can barely grasp.
Vincent: feels nothing and cares for no one. Fighting a personal battle with Bug Man, the greatest nano warrior alive.
The Armstrong Twins: wealthy, privileged, fanatical. Are they the saviors of humanity or authors of the darkest conspiracy in history?
On one side: Charles and Benjamin Armstrong’s Nexus Humanus. On the other: a group of teen hackers who call themselves BZRK.
Twenty-first-century warfare that takes place on the macro and nano level for the highest stakes: humanity’s free will.
It’s time to choose sides.
Yesterday I posted about not being able to get hooked on anything I've started reading. When the UPS guy came with BZRK I decided that I would flip it open and at least get a feel for the writing. Read the first chapter or two if they caught my interest. Well, I finished BZRK at 10:30 last night. After carrying it with me in the car and reading at the dinner table while I waited for dinner to finish cooking. So I think "interested" might be a bit of an understatement.
Basically, the big question in BZRK is: "What is more important, freedom or happiness?" The interesting thing is that it's not as straight forward as it sounds. Because the moment you have to make a choice between these two things, due to a need to fight for them, the question changes to "What will you do for freedom?" or "What will you do for happiness?" and when this happens, things can get very, very ugly.
I love the fact that the book drops us off at a mental institution on page one, showing us what happens when a member of BZRK is defeated. We immediately see the stakes of taking part in this war, up close and personal, before we even really know (from the inside of the book, at least) that a war is going on. We are then thrown into the final minutes of Sadie's (Plath's) brother and father's lives. What makes this whole introduction so awesome, is that we actually suffer with the characters through the things that make them able to become who and what they do by the end of the book. It grabbed me immediately, threw me into their corner, and had me moving through the book full steam forward wanting answers and seeking something -- justice? closure? I don't really know -- for these story people.
The book makes excellent use of third person multiple POV. We get into the action quicker then our 'main' hero and heroine do. (Although I think I'd personally say this is more of a cast book.) I think Michael did a great job of using this style of writing to its maximum effect. I also think, for the major changes at least, that he did a great job of making it clear who's head we were in. There were a few times that he did jump back and forth, or when he switched quickly because a character was no longer conscious, but it did not bother me. However, the most confusing thing, and I think this was partially on purpose, was getting use to someone describing the "macro" or "real world" happenings and then jumping to the "nano" or "inside someone's body" view. As I read further into the book this became less jarring but at first it definitely spun me for a loop.
The first thing I want to say here is that each member of BZRK chooses a new name when they join, and these tend to be names of famous people who had various issues throughout history. I'm telling you this so that when I talk about characters you won't be left scratching your head.
The next thing I want to say, was that these are some of the most interesting characters that I have encounted in a long time. The "good guys" aren't necessarily good, and the "bad guys" motives and desires are not always instantly evil. I love this in a story. It's possibly my favorite thing and I am always delighted to find a tale where an author is not afraid to explore it.
Noah (Keats) and Sadie (Plath) both essentially want revenge. Noah's brother was a member of BZRK and was taken out, and therefore went crazy. Sadie's brother and father are killed by someone from Armstrong Fancy Goods Corp. (AFGC) I thought that it was clever how these two were paired up, and how they immediately caught onto this fact. I liked the fact that we got to see both of them at their "low" at the start of the book, and then basically watched them take a hero's journey as they learnt what was going on and became part of it as the story continues. Further, I liked the fact that they did not go from being innocent to doing a full 180 and going "Let's kick butt!". Instead, they actually faced fear, doubt, sadness and frustration.
Vincent really intrigued me. Unable to feel pleasure because of a medical condition, yet he still has no qualms in getting involved with Dr. Anya Violet, and despite the fact that I never fully got the feeling there was anything between them (that was real -- and I will get to that.) he did want to protect her. Vincent was also largely responsible for Noah and Sadie's training and is generally considered the leader unless orders come from Lear (the actual leader of BZRK, whose identity is still a total mystery!).
My favorite character, though, is Caligula. He's the BZRK enforcer, the guy you don't want to have drop by for a cup of tea if you've done anything that might be considered a breach of trust or a flat out betrayal. Why did I love him so much? Because Michael Grant built him up to be a major bad ass, and on that account he delivered in every way. That alone wouldn't do it for me, though -- Caligula seemed to have a sense of humor and a very tongue in cheek sense of style -- who doesn't love a guy in a purple velvet top hat? He also doesn't seem to be one of the people actually fighting at the nano level, so it leaves me very curious how he got involved with BZRK and what his deal actually is.
Lastly, my gushing about characters would not be complete if I didn't talk to you about the Bug Man. The Armstrong Twins might be the one with the vision, but Bug Man is the guy a lot of the key characters have an actual ax to grind with. Thing is, he's a sixteen year old guy who happens to be a bit too good at games and who got scooped up to be part of Nexus Humanus. Does he buy into the "in the name of happiness" stuff? No way. Does he want to be The Man and have fame, influence, a hot girlfriend, etc.? Hell yeah. Bug Man was not always a likable character, but he was one with motives I could understand. They came from roots that were, of themselves, not evil. Rather, it is how he took action to achieve his dreams that has him in hot water. That makes for a terrific antagonist.
While I do not feel that this book is a "love" story that I would anxiously recommend to readers who like the kinds of books I normally review, I feel that the take that Michael Grant spins in the romance department is interesting and worth a few words. Is there chemistry and interest between Sadie and Noah? Yes. Does it seem instant and caused by immediate stress and circumstances beyond their control? Yep. But are they aware of this and do they address it? Absolutely. Which is something that I do not feel is common in your typical YA book.
But wait, it gets better. One of my favorite things about BZRK was the parallel between Bug Man and Jessica v.s. Vincent and Anya. Bug Man thinks Jessica is gorgeous, but he's kinda 'eh' looking with a not so fabulous personality. In short, he figures there is no way that he could ever get with her through normal means. So what does he do? He uses his abilities with nano tech to wire her to think that everything good leads to him. He essentially makes her his slave.
Vincent, on the other hand, needs research and facilities that Dr. Anya Violet can get him access to. He is not certain that she will help him willingly, though, so he uses his abilities to begin wiring her brain. Remember: Vincent is suppose to be fighting to preserve people's ability to have free will. And unlike Jessica, where the deed is fully done, with Anya we see a woman who is going through the process of having this done, and who is smart enough and knowledgeable enough to realize that Vincent is doing it, yet who has no power to stop him.
Bug Man wishes Jessica would choose him, but he ultimately made her choice for her. Vincent is using his abilities to strip someone of free will, all the while fighting to preserve humanity's right to have free will rather then being turned into a hive mind by Nexus Humanus.
Take a moment. Breathe. Now, try to wrap your head around all of the implications of that. I am impressed and eager to see how these things continue.
This is what I love most about being part of Blog It Forward. BZRK is not a book I would likely have picked up on my own, and I would have missed out on something totally awesome. I need to point out that there is a fair amount of actual science in what is being discussed in this book, but it is not bogged down in terminology and never takes away from the story. I also want to praise the fact that Michael Grant did such a great job at describing things at the Nano level. He did so in such a way that it would be relatable and able to be 'seen' by a reader, and at the same time had it make perfect sense why gamers would be drawn to it.
BZRK isn't just a great book, it is a totally mind blowing experience that will leave you lying awake and thinking long after you turn the last page. If you haven't read it yet, I'd highly recommend checking it out!(less)
I downloaded this oh, say, ten seconds after I first heard about it. I had no idea prior to receiving...moreMy Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 Awesome!
I downloaded this oh, say, ten seconds after I first heard about it. I had no idea prior to receiving an e-mail that Greta was planning to publish something. But as has been the case before, the moment one of my friends does publish something I have to read it. I have to weigh in. As a fellow writer, I feel like there is no better I can do then to read their creation and share what I think.
Well, this certainly went beyond that. I love fairy tale retellings. Little Red Riding Hood has certainly been done before, but it's not the most common story chosen. (That honor tends to go to the princess stories -- Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, Cinderella, etc.) Not to mention the fact that this looked like it was going to have an absolutely brilliant trio of twists. (1) Riding hood became Ryder -- a boy. (2) The wolf is a fourteen year old girl, and she and Ryder fall in love. (3) Oh yes, I should mention she's a werewolf, too. Can you see why I was so anxious to dive in? Not your mother's fairy tale, is it?
Long story short, how could I not read this? It's the type of story I would have read regardless. I want to make that abundantly clear. Regardless of who something is written by, either I can pay attention, I want to keep going, I am enchanted, entranced, enthralled. Or I am not. With regard to Ryder, I absolutely could not put this down. If I hadn't been tired last night I likely would have finished it in one sitting. Read on to hear my thoughts on this beautifully written and unique take on a timeless tale...
The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
Everyone has a secret. You're lying if you don't. Fourteen year old Piper has tried to keep her secret hidden. Everyone who finds out always winds up dead. Only the man in the dark suit knows the truth. A man she only met once. The man who made her what she is today. The man who bit her. But that's all about to change.
Piper Glendale is on the run from the moon as her secret Sister Wolf wars with her. Fighting for control, Piper tries to keep her buried deep inside. But sometimes her sister breaks free.
Escaping from an institution, The Sister Wolf claws her way out. On the run her powerful body runs dry. The sun has finally risen. Piper has regained control.
Awaking in a cemetery, she prowls through the grave stones in search for food and shelter. Overlooking a hill, Piper sees a boy. A boy who is about to change her life. A boy in a faded red hood.
Based on the beloved children's classic Little Red Riding Hood, "Ryder" is a modern retelling with a twist.
The first thing that I want to say, and I'm going to get to it right away since it's right there in the summary, is that I thought the blend of extremely descriptive and vividly image driven writing paired very well with the random sprinklings of freeform poetry that were used throughout the book. The writing style chosen for Ryder felt fresh and different, and was always used to enhance what the characters were experiencing; never to simply draw attention to itself. It caught me off guard at first, but as I made my way through the book it blended in very well.
Another thing that stood out was that the aspect of Little Red Riding Hood which Greta chose to keep was the relative sense of poverty that the story evokes when compared to many other fairy tales. So often in fairy tales (once again mainly refering to the princess ones, I suppose) we see characters surrounded by a setting of great splendor. This is also often the case in YA love stories. Ryder deals with a homeless girl who has a wolf living within her, itching to break free under the strain of the full moon, and a boy and his grandmother who are barely getting by. At the same time, though, I feel that Greta did a great job of showing that despite the issues that might make their life seem imperfect, she also showed that regardless of this fact, they still had something worth fighting for. I connected deeply with Ryder and Piper and I genuinely wanted to see them happy.
I liked the blend between the dull grays of a very stark reality that most would not instantly want to inhabit blended against a very sinister magic that seemed to merely be counting down the hours to Piper's demise. There was no fairy godmother here who was going to make everything magically better for these two regardless of what they did. There was also no woodsman who was going to come by and make their problems disappear. Red Riding Hood, by it's own nature, is a passive fairy tale and I think that Greta did a great job of turning this on it's head. If her characters wanted to survive they would have to make that happen for themselves.
Piper was incredibly intriguing. One one hand, she is a fourteen year old girl, homeless and wracked with guilt over the deaths of her parents. On the other she is a werewolf, possessing a dual nature that makes her capable of changing her form under the light of the full moon. She struggles with the duality of what she is. She questions where she ends and her Sister Wolf begins. While she is ultimately a heroic figure, at times I could not help feeling that this was what it might be like to see the events of Frankenstein from the point of view of the Creature, or of The Tempest through Caliban's eyes. Every story needs some form of antagonist, some opposition or conflict that drives the plot. While Piper's Sister Wolf was not the only issue in the book, she is a situation that is far closer to home then most people -- real or fictional -- will ever get to their personal demons.
Ryder takes the basic concept of Riding Hood and basically makes it explode. Aside from a certain amount of innocence and trust and a red hood, the role is very much open for interpretation. Greta took hold of this and ran with it. Where Red Riding Hood is a very basically constructed character (as most storybook characters are) Ryder was deep and complex. While he did not have something living inside of him like Piper did, he had his own struggles, his own past issues that he had to deal with, that made him real and memorable. The grimly realistic and mundane nature of Ryder's issues contrasted beautifully with the more darkly whimsical nature of the things that Piper faced. I think that gave the book a very balanced pace and a very stark feeling, making it a little frightening in both a supernatural way and in a way that reminds us that this world is not always a pretty place.
Marti, Ryder's grandma, was also well fleshed out. I have a feeling she knew that Piper's life was not easy and that she was doing her best to help even if she didn't simply take Piper under her roof. (You must realize that her circumstances would not allow that, and that it would have broken the symbolism of the source material. The fact that Piper either snuck in or was brought in by Ryder is very important.) I really enjoyed the story of how she met her husband; it added a layer to her character and because of something related to it became important to the overall plot.
As with most fairy tales, the love and attraction between the main characters came quickly and easily. That was fine with me, because the question of when would he love her was never the real issue. Rather, it was at first would he continue to love her after knowing the truth, and then would he survive loving her once that decision had been made.
Now, sifting all of those questions that center around Piper's issues aside, I also liked the fact that we got to see a very clear picture of what life would be like for these two if they could get past the problems that life was throwing at them. This story took place over the span of several months so we got a clear image of these two characters not only growing together, but also of the fact that they had staying power outside of the supernatural issues that could have separated them. People don't need to have a werewolf inside to have trouble in the love department. The fact that Ryder and Piper wanted to be together, period, was really important. And I think Greta did a good job at making their feelings for each other feel sincere and natural.
I know that I have already given this book praise for its vivid descriptions. I also want to take a moment to tell you that these can be gory, shocking and quite horrific. This did not overly bother me, but not everyone is the same and since this stood out to me that tells me it is something I should make sure people are aware of when they pick this book up. The way that the story is written is definitely to it's benefit. But it is what it is, if you get what I am saying.
If you enjoy fairy tale retellings, beautiful writing or werewolves then you must read Ryder. It's gripping, it's original, and it will stick with you. (less)
I've done quite a few events with my friends Darkfallen...moreMy Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 Awesome!
*A copy was provided by the author for review.
I've done quite a few events with my friends Darkfallen and Greta over at Paranormal Wastelands. I've also never been lead astray about a book by these two. So, when they invited me to be part of the Miss World blog tour, I took one look at the summary and went "Hell yes!".
I'm very glad that I did. I have a lot to say about Miss World -- starting with the fact that this book is definitely not for everybody -- but I personally really enjoyed it. But I'm getting ahead of myself. Let's rewind and start at the beginning, shall we? Read on to find out my thoughts about this extremely original and unique book...
The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
It's 1993. Kim Ho wishes she were Courtney Love, instead of the chubby 16-year-old who clashes with her traditional Chinese parents. Her very own Kurt Cobain arrives in the form of Kevin, a 26-year-old failed musician. But Kevin uses Kim's rock-star dreams to exploit her, and those dreams die along with the real Kurt Cobain.Too scared to tell anyone, Kim conjures up a cross-dressing imaginary friend and dates Walter Riordan, the cute boy from special-ed. Walter helps her recover, but after a joke snowballs into a plot to murder Kevin, Kim's forced to choose between revenge or her sanity. This is a truly daring and original coming-of-age novel about one girl's quest to reclaim her power from those who've stolen it.
I love it when I can say that a book "took me back". I've always had a thing for history, and when a book explores a part of it that I have actually lived through it leaves me with this really weird and wonderful feeling. Now, first up I need to tell you. I wasn't part of the whole Nirvana thing. But that really didn't matter as I read this book. I had my own bands that I followd at the time, and while I would likely have been a bit younger then Kimmy is here one of the things this book made me immediately want to do was go back and listen to the songs I personally recalled from this time.
Music, and it's power to heal, is a huge part of Miss World. Music is also often a huge part of one's identity during the teen years, regardless of what time period you are talking about. This is one of the things about the book that I think makes it just as applicable today as it might have been if it had been available to those at the time it is taking place. In music we seek self, solace, understanding, safety, a voice to speak for us when we can't necessarily speak for ourselves.
But Kimmy's silence is far more profound then simply needing music because her life is filled with the general "sense of suck" that most of us think our lives are as a teen. Kimmy has a very pushy and unforgiving mother, struggles to walk the line between Chinese traditions and being an American teenager, battles her own insecurities with regard to her self esteem and must rise above the ashes created as she experiences and must come to terms with sexual abuse.
There are several words that immediately come to mind when I think of Miss World, but as far as plot and substance, I think the most immediate would have to be "fierce". Randi Black does not hold back in any way, shape or form. She looks every thing she aims to tackle straight in the eye and makes no attempt to sugar coat it.
I've seen a lot of people questioning how old someone should be to read Miss World. Before I tackle this, and I feel I must tackle it because it's come under some controversy, a quick background on me. My mother bought me my first "adult" romance novel when I was in high school -- to be turned into a report for my grade 11 English class. My family has always had a very open door policy about entertainment -- my parents preferred talking about things and knowing what was going on, rather then "forbidding" things and having us hide them instead.
Here's the bottom line on Miss World, in my opinion: the sort of girl who is going to be drawn to this novel is likely to also be the type who does not need her family's permission to read it. She likely has a mind of her own and is going to do her own thing one way or the other anyway. There is some very, very graphic stuff here and it's very straight to the point. But it really all tied together to enhance this book and make everything seem very real. And the "realness" of Miss World is one of the things that compelled me to keep reading it for the entire day it spent me to finish it, when I had only intended to read a chapter of it to see what it was about.
I really liked Kimmy. She was flawed but fabulous. I feel that Randi really captured the depths of a fully developed character here; one who possessed traits that were endearing and issues that ensured that she truly had a story that needed to be told. I enjoyed accompanying her on her journey and felt very close to her despite the fact that our backgrounds -- relationship with family, culture, etc. -- were vastly different. I was a little worried when I first got the book and wondered whether there would be much for Kimmy to say to me, but by the end I truly felt that I had made a new "friend" as far as this character goes, and I am very anxious to see her story continue.
I also really like Walter. And yet again, he is far from perfect and definitely has issues. I thought it was really cool seeing him and Kimmy get to know one another, discovering the things that they did share (particularly music; which can be such a powerful binding force) and how they drew them together despite things they did not share (academics, for instance). I think Walter's role in the story was very important and that he added a great deal of depth and a great vantage point from which to see Kimmy's growth, which was very needed.
Joey. I must, must, must talk about Joey. Because I *loved* Joey. I have never seen someone so perfectly capture the wonder, limitless insanity and whimsical joy of an imaginary friend -- especially when the need for that friend comes from absolutely heart wrenching pain the way Kimmy's did -- as Randi Black managed to convey with Joey. He had some of the best lines in the novel, he was an absolutely brilliant instrument through which to show what Kimmy was enduring and his moods and behavior were a great doorway through which to show us how Kimmy was handling the things that had happened to her. I can't say enough good, or give enough praise, here.
The last character I want to talk about in detail is Kimmy's mother, Yan. I think that a fine line was walked here. I could never totally put my finger on whether Kimmy's mother totally hated her, thought she was doing what was best (and for *who*?) or whether she had some kind of illness and was mood swinging between these two extremes. Regardless she was an extremely interesting character and her issues, and the issues her issues caused for Kimmy, created a fertile ground for the issues that Kimmy faced making them understandable, if not acceptable, to the reader. When you see what Kimmy has been through, the "why?" of what she is going through becomes abundantly clear.
I'm not sure if this is really the right way to talk about Walter and Kimmy, but for the sake of avoiding confusion, and since I can't come up with a better term, I'm going to leave it as is. The thing is, what happens between these two characters is so much more then a typical boy meets girl, boy and girl fall in love, situation.
Walter, in some ways, is a stepping stone to Kimmy being able to stand on her own two feet. He represents her ability to reconnect with the real world. He is the one she confides what happened to her to, which is absolutely essential to her ability to heal. He likes her the way that she is, which is a strong contrast to her mother's constant attempts to alter everything about her. Yet he is ultimately flawed in his need to avenge the wrongs done to her, and despite how sad it is to see the two begin to fall apart because of this, it is absolutely vital.
Kimmy's understanding that she does not need vengeance to move on, and that Walter is wrong for wanting it for her, is a huge part of seeing how she is healing. Also, the way that the book ends (...you're not getting that from me) is amazing in how it takes everything it has built up and leaves it hanging by a thread. There are at least three different ways I can see things going from here and I am absolutely dying to see which road it will take. (Probably one I never consider, actually. ;) )
Miss World is not necessarily a book that everyone is going to love. But I think it is the kind of book that everyone should at least read. Regardless of your reaction to it, you *will* have a reaction. I'm fairly confident in saying that this is the sort of book where you aren't going to come out of it feeling num. Be prepared to face some issues that might make you squirm, but realize that everything in the book is there for a reason and the book would not be the same without it.
Miss World is an always fierce, at times funny, and absolutely fabulous novel. It's a flashback to a time when for many teens, music was what we had to connect. It's a story of losing and then learning to love oneself. It's honest. It's real. It makes no apologies for what it is. But if you've got the guts to give it a go, it's a story you won't soon forget.(less)
This book was recommended to me by Joanne over at The Fairytale Nerd. When I went to Chapters and pick...moreMy Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 Awesome!
This book was recommended to me by Joanne over at The Fairytale Nerd. When I went to Chapters and picked it up I had two thoughts. One: Oh, pretty cover! and Two: God help me -- if this makes me mad and I throw it at a wall I'll have to get it redone.
My walls need not have feared. I didn't just like Tiger's Curse. I actually loved it so much that I ordered Tiger's Quest and Tiger's Voyage even though I wasn't done with the book yet. This is my kind of story and I really loved getting wrapped up with Kelsey's adventures in India with Ren and Mr. Kadam. I also loved meeting Kishan. (Pssst! Can I keep him?) But now I'm rambling. Let's get this review underway so I can share all the details.
The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
Passion. Fate. Loyalty.
Would you risk it all to change your destiny?
The last thing Kelsey Hayes thought she’d be doing this summer was trying to break a 300-year-old Indian curse. With a mysterious white tiger named Ren. Halfway around the world. But that’s exactly what happened. Face-to-face with dark forces, spellbinding magic, and mystical worlds where nothing is what it seems, Kelsey risks everything to piece together an ancient prophecy that could break the curse forever.
Tiger’s Curse is the exciting first volume in an epic fantasy-romance that will leave you breathless and yearning for more.
As much as I loved Tiger's Curse I must tell you that the book starts slow. This is likely Colleen Houck's way of gently letting the reader get to know Kelsey before the adventure begins. As with all fantasy novels that use a call to adventure, this may work for you or it may not. Personally, I found myself drawn to the book right away, although I will admit that the speed I read at and the amount I read in a sitting definitely went up as the story progressed.
The next thing that needs saying is that Colleen Houck is a "details" writer. She has a very descriptive style of storytelling, which coincidentally is probably the only way this book would have worked. With Ren the way he is, and he and Kelsey traveling many places as a pair, having the book be more dialogue driven would have been a problem. The fact that the book is really descriptive actually worked for me here, too. I know I've given other authors a hard time about this, but Colleen succeeded in getting me to care about what she was describing, recognize it as being of value and pay attention.
This is a book with a tightly knit cast, and one of the major characters can only be in human form (and therefore speak) for twenty four minutes every day. In setting up her tiger mythos this way, Colleen presented herself with a challenge as a writer and I feel that she handled it admirably. I also want to commend her on how she balanced the tiger aspect of Ren and Kishan. There are definitely some things about them that do not match up with actual tigers, but since they are under a spell, seem capable of thinking in a human way even when transformed and the changes serve the story, I was good with this.
One complaint that I have heard about this book, and that I did notice to a certain extent, is that Kelsey seems to be a bit of a passenger in her own adventure. I am not going to weigh in on this here, since I know that this is book one of a series and there is a possibility that this well be addressed at a later time. We all know how I feel about passive heroines. However, for the *most* part (I'm going to ignore the "hunt" scene) Kelsey seemed like a relatively smart character who had her head on her shoulders where the adventure was concerned -- she was determined but believable and vulnerable as someone who is not use to the presence of danger should be.
I really like Kelsey. I found her compassion, courage and optimism in most things very admirable. I found her biting sarcasm fun too at times, although I think we may have seen a bit too much of it directed at Ren. I'm hoping we'll see more of Lokesh in the future -- the series needs an actual villain figure in my opinion. If Kelsey wishes to douse him with some of those acidic words that will go over well. I felt that on a general front that Kelsey was likable and well done. On a romantic front we have a few issues, but I'll get to those soon enough.
Ren is absolutely charming and totally swoon-worthy. I loved how kind he was to Kelsey, how he always looked out for her safety and comfort, and at the same time, how he didn't take her crap when she had her pain in the butt moments later in the book. It's clear that Ren is head over heels for her, but he generally exuded an air of confidence that kept him appealing from book start to book finish. Part of me does not get why he wants Kelsey at the moment, but if she *is* what he wants, I wish him all the best. Seeing him unhappy or in any way mistreated broke my heart because he seemed so sweet.
Kishan is my kind of guy. I loved his attitude and the clear differences between him and Ren. I also liked the fact that despite the fact that they are different, it was still clear that Kishan has a good heart underneath all of the more scoundrel-ish tendencies. I definitely hope we get to spend more time wish Kishan in the upcoming books because I think he was actually my favorite character. I also hope that even if he ends up caring about Kelsey that Colleen will eventually let him find someone who will love him, because I'm about 98% positive that Kelsey and Ren will end up together by series end.
Last up, this section wouldn't be complete if I didn't talk about Mr. Kadam, who was another total sweetheart, albeit of the more grandfatherly variety (thank goodness -- two guys is enough!). I liked hearing about his past and feel that he was a great choice as a character from the ancient world who had grown with the modern world. I also feel that his loyalty to Ren and Kishan, as well as the affection he feels for Kelsey, is very sweet. It kept him a strong and noble character, as opposed to one who regrets the path that he took in life.
This was both the best and worst part of Tiger's Curse. Lets talk about the good first. The pace of the love between Kelsey and Ren is set up well. The book practically can be broken into four sections: "Tiger", "Hey, Kelsey! I am a man", "we are interested in each other", and "oh crap, I'm scared he'll break my heart!". Three of these I liked. One of these made me want to strangle Kelsey. Repeatedly.
I think that the tiger section is good because it gave the reader time to get use to Kelsey, get a feel for the normal and be invested before things went crazy. I think I said that earlier.
The part where she finds out that he can become a man and they are getting to know each other is absolutely vital. This let me see how things were growing between them and built up tension so that I wanted them together.
And that totally paid off when they finally kissed. The chemistry between Kelsey and Ren is absolutely scorching and I think they are totally fantastic together. The contrast between the trust and caring they built through their adventures and the obvious attraction between them was great.
Which is why "Oh, no!" really was such an "Oh, no!" for me. The before and after did not line up. There was no logical reason for the way that Kelsey behaved toward Ren for the last hundred pages or so. We are told that Kelsey has never been in love / dated before and while I could understand her fear that her first love might not work out, the level of cynicism she showed, as well as her eventual reasoning that hardened her resolve, made no sense given this background.
I had a very hard time reading this part of the book and while Colleen *did* make sure to smooth a bit of the ending out so that it did not end blazingly angry, Kelsey is still going to have to work hard to convince me why I should want her to wind up with Ren after this fiasco. (When I said I was cheering for him earlier I very literally meant him.)
Since this is the first in a series I am able to forgive this somewhat. But now my guard is up and I'll be on the bookout for this kind of craziness going forward, which is going to make it a little tougher to reel me in.
Colleen Houck is very good at evoking emotions from the reader. (Or at least from this reader?) I laughed, I cried, I yelled and I gripped the book with fear when characters faced dangerous situations. When the emotions were sweet or scary or exciting this was great. When the romance was ticking me off this gift became a bit of a curse. Overall, though, I think this is an area in which the book excelled. I don't get to praise an author for this very often and praise is definitely needed and deserved here.
Another little thing I want to mention are all of the cool little notes and clippings that are scattered throughout the book. While stuff like this can be a pain for me and make me dig out a magnifying glass, I always appreciate these little touches because they help in making me feel that I was part of the adventure.
And I think that's how I'm going to sum this up. Tiger's Curse is a truly epic adventure and I felt like I got to be a part of it. I really loved this book and I totally can't wait to continue this series. As long as you are able to forgive Kelsey for being a bit of an idiot at the end, and realize that on the romantic front you're dealing with a Fellowship of the Rings type ending, I'm sure you'll have a good time.
*I was sent a copy of this book by Entangled Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest revie...moreMy Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 Awesome!
*I was sent a copy of this book by Entangled Publishing via NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.
I think I've featured Obsidian three, maybe four times here on I Write, I Read, I Review. It's on my Christmas Wishlist. It was one of the four titles in my "What I Want Santa to Bring" Follower Friday and it was a Waiting on Wednesday selection. Point being: I've been really hyped up about this book for a while.
So when I saw a tweet looking for people to review it via NetGalley I was in another tab and requesting within ten seconds. I hadn't planned on reading anything last night. I'd actually planned to spend the evening doing revisions on Moon Dance. But I was too excited about having Obsidian on my Kindle not to check it out. I'd just read a chapter or two...
Yeah, right. I started the book around 9 p.m. and finished around 5 a.m. Apparently I'm a much slower reader then I ever realized I was. But that's not the point. The point is that this book totally wrapped me up in it's story, presenting a fascinating take on aliens, a great heroine and a hero that I kept changing my mind about whether I wanted to kiss or kill. Want my final verdict? Read on...
The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
Starting over sucks.
When we moved to West Virginia right before my senior year, I’d pretty much resigned myself to thick accents, dodgy internet access, and a whole lot of boring…. until I spotted my hot neighbor, with his looming height and eerie green eyes. Things were looking up.
And then he opened his mouth.
Daemon is infuriating. Arrogant. Stab-worthy. We do not get along. At all. But when a stranger attacks me and Daemon literally freezes time with a wave of his hand, well, something…unexpected happens.
The hot alien living next door marks me.
You heard me. Alien. Turns out Daemon and his sister have a galaxy of enemies wanting to steal their abilities, and Daemon’s touch has me lit up like the Vegas Strip. The only way I’m getting out of this alive is by sticking close to Daemon until my alien mojo fades.
If I don’t kill him first, that is.
I was hooked right away, yet Obsidian was actually a story that paced its action and tension in a very slow and deliberate way. Jennifer did a great job of getting me to settle into the characters' worlds and care about them as individuals before she let things get really crazy. Katy already has some legitimate issues coming into the book as it is. She's the new girl. She needs to adjust to a new town and make new friends. She's grieving over the loss of her dad three years ago. And she is currently without internet. (*gasps in horror*)
The way that things unfold allow the reader to be curious about exactly what is going on in this book. Thanks to the back blurb, we know that there are going to be aliens involved. But it's not until a good chunk of the way through that this becomes a front and center fixture. There are a good amount of hints and clues leading up to it, but we don't get thrown face first into the "Hey! I'm an alien!" situation.
I felt that Kat's reaction to what she leans was admirable and believable. I also felt that the way that the Luxen felt about her knowing made a lot of sense, and created a lot of tension, too. I also want to say that the way the Luxens' powers, situation, etc. were handled and described were well done. i was never confused, I never felt cheated and I was never bored.
I totally loved Katy / Kat. (I must say, it sort of felt like the girl got a name change. Not in a necessarily "bad" way, but I'm not sure which name I'm actually suppose to use here.) She was a very level headed and down to earth character who was thrown into some pretty crazy circumstances. It's always a little odd for me when I read about a character who has my name, and that was definitely prevalent here. Some of the things that people said to her in this book were harsh and I sat there, mouth totally agape on several occasions.
Daemon ... I have never loved and hated a book boy so much at the same time. Seriously. He almost made me *throw* my Kindle. On multiple occasions. And it's not that he was poorly written -- it's that he was so well written for what he was. As a Luxen, Daemon feels that he is superior to humans in every way and this condescending attitude flavors his character from beginning to end. At the same time, though, we do see glimpses of a truly sweet and vulnerable person underneath. I have to applaud Jennifer on how well she wrote him. She walked a fine line between making sure that the reader would be interested in him, and having the guts to truly create an alien being who had some mannerisms, attitudes and ideas that seemed legitimately alien.
I also liked a lot of the supporting characters. Dee was a great friend, despite the fact that she did have moments where she acted strange because of the situation that she was in. I feel that she made a great contrast to Daemon and that they played well off each other. The other Luxens at the school were all interesting in their own way, although I don't necessarily feel we spent enough time with them to build strong connections. This is understandable; I appreciate the fact that Jennifer did not let Katy and Daemon get overshadowed by a huge cast. I also really liked Lesa and Carissa. I felt that their differing personalities and the dose of 'normal' that they brought to the story was needed to keep things balanced.
Forget: "He loves me, he loves me not." Instead, we are faced with "I like him, I hate his guts." *laughs* These two had so much heat / tension / chemistry that it could fry bacon. But they fought like cats and dogs. Some of the things that Daemon said to Katy really ticked me off and I sat there thinking "Oh my God, if a guy said that to me I'd throw something at him. Or want to crawl into the woodwork. Or both." Katy has more guts then I do. She stands up to Daemon, even when she is hurting on the inside.
I really had to question what was going on between Daemon and Katy at times. I think I get the point -- that actions speak louder then words and what Daemon *does*, as opposed to what he *says* is what I'm to focus on. But wow! I know I keep coming back to it, but he could be such a total asshole. I recall actually sitting there and thinking "If you feel like *that*, why do *this*?) (Leaving that and this blank to avoid spoilers.) Fortunately, Katy calls him on this, too, which helps ensure she is not being pushed over by him.
The last thing I want to say about the romance here is that Jennifer once again shows that she is a writer willing to take risks because she actually breaks the most basic rule of romance writing. (Seriously, just read to the end of the book and you will immediately get what I am saying.) If this was a single title I would consider this an extremely bad move. However, this is the beginning of a series and the move that she makes here is what sets up the next book ... And it is ***brilliant***. I loved and hated it. Which, in this story, made total sense. I'm very impressed.
Is Obsidian worth a buy? Absolutely! I could not put this book down. The pacing, the chemistry between Daemon and Katy, the overall sense of tension that threads through the book, the laugh-out-loud funny dialogue... There is so much here that is worthy of praise. The only thing that I will say is to buy this one as a physical copy. I'm serious, guys. Kindles do not make good frisbees. Daemon will push all the right *and* wrong buttons and I don't want to be responsible for anyone having a damaged e-Reader.
Obsidian is a fantastic beginning to a new series that I am already eager to read the next book in. It grabbed me and did not let go. It was original, fresh and fun. I cannot wait to see what happens next! I've nagged about him all the way, but I already need another Daemon fix.
Ree will face the darkest form of betrayal before the year is out.
Seventeen year old Ree McKenna has three goals: get through high school, convince her crush she is more than his best friend’s little sister, and save money for college. Fate, though, has other plans for her. After the untimely death of her older brother, Ree is haunted by dreadful nightmares and terrifying visions.
To make matters worse, Ree has started to suspect that something dangerous is stalking her from the shadows. A night full of frightening surprises leaves Ree with unsettling news. Gifted by the gods with unusual powers, she must devote herself to a battle that could very well lead to not only her death, but the demise of everyone she knows and loves. After all, Ree is the only mortal standing between the Earth and utter darkness.
Set in Savannah, Ga, Mortal Obligation is the first book of The Dark Betrayal Trilogy.
I really like how Nichole Chase set up her book. The entire thing moved in a natural and logical way that let the reader get to know Ree and her friends, the situation they were in, and the changes that were happening to them in great detail. Yet at the same time, this was done without being overwhelming. We get a clear image of the 'natural world' -- by this I mean the way their life was before everything happens -- and then get to follow the characters as they learn about the ways that their lives will change as they undertake a daunting task to save Earth from a great and terrible peril.
The beginning and the ending were both strong, well written and fast paced. There are definitely some surprises that the reader will not see coming -- or at least, surprises that this reader didn't. I liked the fact that Nichole was not afraid to have her characters take risks and that she was capable of making those risks have real and valid consequences.
The middle was good, but the pace was slower since it focused more on the training, growth and acceptance of the characters; the ways in which they adjusted to their new life and the responsibilities it brought with it. Despite the slight switch in pace, I liked the way this was done because it gave me time to build connections with each member of the reasonably large cast of characters to some degree. Since this is the start of a trilogy, I feel that it was a smart move and rather important.
I think my biggest issue with the plot of Mortal Obligation might be that the ending was slightly too abrupt. It was not a full blown, completely annoying cliffhanger. It did a great job at setting things up for the next book. But I did not feel that it tapered off naturally.
I genuinely like Ree and I found her an interesting character to share eyes with for a story. I felt that she was brave and compassionate, and was impressed with how she held her own considering the situation that she is in. For a while I was concerned that she was holding it together too well, given the circumstances, but fortunately the issues that were nagging at me -- namely the difference in her future and that of all of her friends -- was adequately addressed. This was very important to me, as a reader, because until it was addressed I must admit that I was having trouble empathizing with the situation. I kept thinking "If I were you I'd tell them all to bite me!"
Paden and Roland were both equally awesome.
I'll talk about Paden first. I found him charming and liked the fact that he was protective and caring toward Ree without coming off like a crazy stalker. I enjoyed learning about his connection to the Gods and found watching him adapt to his new situation rather fun. I also felt that he had great rapport with the other Guardians and was glad to see that while he was a major force in Ree's life, that he was not the only thing / one there.
As for Roland, I loved him! He has this fascinating past that gets hinted at throughout the story. He can be both snarky / sarcastic, or totally sweet and charming. He is a Dark One (bad!) who works with the Guardians (good!) which makes me curious about how he really feels about everything that is going on. And he and Ree seem to have some very interesting chemistry, something which I fought against initially but ultimately found very satisfying.
As for the rest of the Guardians, Nichole Chase created a solid cast to help Paden and Ree in their quest. I loved the little moments between Juliette and Bryce, and I thought that the closeness of Melanie and Weylin was cute in it's own way, too. If I had to pick a favorite out of these four it would be Weylin. I seem to have a fondness for guys with a little bit of attitude.
Lastly, I cannot feel that the character section would be complete without talking about Sylvia. The fact that my opinion of her changed so drastically and so many times over shows how good a job that Nichole did at setting her character up. I loved the fact that she was so complex and that I was constantly questioning how I felt about her, since I feel that is what Ree was doing (which made total sense) as well.
Normally speaking I despise love triangles. Or at the very least, an author is fighting an uphill battle if they want me to care about them. Not so in Mortal Obligation. I adore both Paden and Roland and I found their interactions with Ree equally interesting, which made it impossible for me to totally cheer for one over the other.
Paden and Ree have been close for a long time. He was her brother Tristan's best friend before he died, and he has taken to watching over Ree since that point. Ree has had feelings for Paden for a while now. I felt for both characters in this situation. I think most girls end up with a crush on a guy who is a little older at least once in life. And as someone who has two brothers, I can understand how Paden might feel concerned about what his friend would think if he tried to get together with Ree. It made for some very good conflict and tension.
Roland is a great big question-mark. First there is the fact that he has lived for a very long time. Then there is the fact that he is a Dark One. Add to that a history with some very shocking secrets and you can bet that I was totally intrigued. (Truth be told? If I was Ree I would choose Roland. I totally loved him. But that doesn't necessarily mean I instantly think they are right for each other.) I liked how different each of these guys personalities were.
I liked the fact that both were strong, confident characters and that both were dedicated to both protecting Ree and to encouraging her to be able to protect herself. I cannot get behind romance that encourages a character to become a 'passive heroine'. I appreciate the fact that although Ree is clearly a vulnerable character, Nichole never makes her a passive one. She is on board and fully thinking from beginning to end, which is part of what made reading the book such a joy and cheering for the romances so much fun.
I am very glad to have had the opportunity to read Mortal Obligation. It combined many of the things that I feel create a great story: memorable characters, intelligent detailed world building, a gripping conflict that presents real challenges and consequences for the characters and a romance complete with a hero (heroes in this case, which, yet again, is extremely impressive!) worth falling in love with. The only thing that is really left to say is that I am eagerly looking forward to reading the rest of this series. Nichole's first book is fabulous and I think it's safe to say that we can expect great things from her.
If you're looking to read an interesting urban fantasy with great characters, lots of action and a swoon-worthy love triangle, Mortal Obligation comes highly recommended. I totally loved it and can't wait to read more.(less)
I've heard so many people say they love this book. I tend to love fantasy or paranormal romance. And I've heard a lot of p...moreMy Rating: <3 Disappointed
I've heard so many people say they love this book. I tend to love fantasy or paranormal romance. And I've heard a lot of praise for Maggie's technique as a writer. So to say I was interested in checking out Shiver would be an understatement.
I had also heard some people say that they could not get into Shiver. The writing alienated them. The way that the relationship between Grace and Sam was developed ranged anywhere from illogical to the point of being disruptive to their suspension of relief, to downright creepy.
I really hoped I would be in group #1. I do not select books that I think I am going to hate. (That would be cruel.) But unfortunately, Shiver just really wasn't my kind of book at all. Let me tell you why...
The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
Grace and Sam share a kinship so close they could be lovers or siblings. But they also share a problem. When the temperature slips towards freezing, Sam reverts to his wolf identity and must retreat into the woods to protect his pack. He worries that eventually his human side will fade away and he will be left howling alone at the lonely moon. A stirring supernatural teen romance.
First up: I'm with those who found way too much here that wanted to mess with my suspension of disbelief. As a little girl, Grace is nearly eaten by wolves. Our hero sits there while this is happening, rather then immediately doing something about it. (I don't care that he was a wolf at the time. My reaction is the same regardless: Ew!) And after surviving said traumatic experience thanks to said wolf, Grace becomes completely obsessed with him. (She refers to him as "her wolf". This happens from the absolute beginning of the book. This is before she has any idea that he is not an animal. I'll let you interpret *that* as you will, but for me it was very icky.)
The plot to this book moved agonizingly slow. Pages of text were devoted to building up the bond between grace and "her wolf". It got no better once she discovered the truth about him, either. Hello? He turns into a creature that has previously tried to eat you and you were 100% gung-ho to let him crash in your bed? Really? Can we say "too stupid to live"? Obviously Grace doesn't get eaten because of making this lousy decision, but still... The whole sense of chemistry between them seemed fake and off kilter because of how "3, 2, 1, love!* the actions of the characters showed it to be.
Grace was annoying. Everything in life totally and completely evolved around her wolf / Sam. I realize that when someone is falling in love that it can feel like the rest of the world is slipping away and that you and the object of your affection can feel like the only things that truly exist in the entire universe. Alas, it did not make for good reading here. Grace's obsession made her seem selfish and cold to me. It also made me feel that I wouldn't blame her friends and family for thinking she has a few screws lose. And, yet again, I just can't buy that she would become so obsessed with one of the creatures that tried to eat her. (Yes, I know. He saved her. But still... Ugh.)
Sam didn't really seem to have a lot of pep or personality. I found him extremely unmemorable and I could not form any sort of attachment to him. Newsflash: you want me to love your hero. Now I do realize that this is subjective and I am certainly not saying that no one else will like him, etc. But he just didn't click for me, and since the romance between Grace and Sam was so vital to Shiver that was a serious problem.
The rest of the characters blended together. Her parents, who both seemed to pretty much be off in their own little world. Her friends, who she pretty much thought were horrible when they could not understand how "important" her wolf was... (Grace, honey... Your friends are just being *normal*.) Isabelle, who is so "mean" because she wants the wolves -- whom she believed killer her brother -- to be dealt with so it would not happen again. I'm not going to go down a whole list, but I think you get the gist of what I'm saying here.
I could not buy into this. At all. And that's saying something, because I love stories about destined couples or soulmates, so this should not have been an issue for me. Unfortunately, I think this is really a case where things that happened at the start of the book (pacing issues, character issues, etc.) impacted my mood for the whole thing. I will admire that this is not terribly fair, but that is what happened and my objective here is only to be honest.
The actions that Grace took both before and after she learned the truth about Sam didn't gel with me. The fact that Sam, who clearly hates being a wolf, wished that the bites Grace received had made her change did nothing to endear him to me, either. (And for that matter ... If getting bit by a wolf is suppose to make that person end up in the same situation, it irritates me that the rules for Grace were different. When someone is "special" in a story that should make them face a plot issue, not allow them to escape it.)
This book was not for me. Clearly, there is no denying that fact. The actual writing quality was good. It was the story itself that my issues were with. For some reason I am more likely to be forgiving of a book if the problem goes the other way around. Did you ever have to eat something for breakfast before school as a kid when your brain wasn't thinking about food yet? Oatmeal, for example? And then sat there, swishing it around in the bowl and hoping it would look like you'd made some of it disappear? That's how progression for me through this book was.
But that does not mean Shiver will necessarily be that way for you. Lots of people love it, so it's just as likely that you might enjoy it. This is a book where I would strongly recommend that you read my review carefully and consider whether the things that irritated me are things that might irritate you or not. Because my issues with Shiver were definitely very personal and likely will not apply to everybody. If you read this review and feel strongly inclined to disagree with me, be my guest and grab this up. But if I had to give a recommendation here, I'd say this is best borrowed from a library or Shiver loving friend. (less)
I was really anxious to read this book. The idea sounded interesting, and I was curious to see what I thought of images and...moreMy Rating: <3 <3 Okay
I was really anxious to read this book. The idea sounded interesting, and I was curious to see what I thought of images and writing being combined to enhance a story. I'd read some reviews before I picked it up and the largest complaint I noticed was people claiming that this was a rip-off of the X-Men. Alright, I thought. I can handle that.
But I must say, I disagree. My rating is not based on that at all. Don't misunderstand: there are things that Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children does very well. But there are too many things that went wrong; things that resulted in my feeling relief when I closed the cover. That is never a good sign. Anyway, read on and I'll tell you what I think of it. You can make up your own mind.
The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
A mysterious island.
An abandoned orphanage.
A strange collection of very curious photographs.
It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.
A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography,Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.
The Plot for this book moved very, very slow. For the first five chapters I was bored. If I wasn't reading this for the Fall Book Club, I don't think I would have made it that far.
I understand that when writing anything that is strange or different, that you must set things up and build them in such a way that the reader can follow along and understand. But I felt like everything in this book was dragged out too much. I had a hard time staying focused and found myself skimming lengthy descriptions about things I was not interested in.
The plot does pick up (slowly) as the book progresses, and by the end there was some interesting stuff happening, but under normal circumstances I would never have made it that far. I must admit, though, that the "ending" does make me wonder whether I will buy a sequel if one comes out. I'll give Riggs that.
So if the plot is as slow as a turtle, that means the characters got lots of detail, right? Nope. Or at least, I did not find myself really connecting with them in any meaningful way.
I did not connect with Jacob. I'm not sure if he was not interesting enough for me, or perhaps if this is how a guy feels when he picks up a YA book that stars a girl. I'm going to go with the first statement, though -- I love the Harry Potter books, for instance, and my favorite characters are Snape and Draco. So... Jacob. What can I really say about him? He loved his grandfather, which is something I can admire. And he proved to be a noble character, considering the choices that he ultimately made. (Spoiler: Potentially never seeing his family again or dying is much more serious consequences then being a "drug store lord" as he was complaining about in the beginning. The point being that when it ultimately matters, he does not run away.)
The children at the Home had lots of interesting powers, but for the most part they were either defined by them or by a generally singular trait or "type". Milard was invisible but smart (I'll give him credit for being brave eventually, though), Emma, who used fire, had a fiery temper to match; Wyn was strong but not very smart. Horace could see the future but was (fashionably and in his mannerisms) stuck in the past and Enoch could raise the dead but, in large part, seemed to be devoid of a conscience (which I suppose might be helpful, considering. He's not totally "evil"... he just sees things differently.)
Jacob and Emma:
I'm not going to call this "The Romance", because to me it was actually the creepiest thing in the entire book. I don't know how Riggs managed to make me feel so weirded out by what happened between these two, but he definitely did. I've seen thousand year old vampires end up with twenty-somethings and not blinked over it. Maybe it was the fact that she was previously with his grandpa? I'm not sure. All I know is that I found it awkward and weird and I did not want them together. Which is highly unusual.
The pacing was very uneven here. A slow beginning and drawn out middle are paired with a rather exciting conclusion that will leave the reader wondering what will happen next. I didn't "hate" this book, but reading it felt like walking through one of the bogs that Riggs describes -- I wasn't sure how I was going to reach the other side.
If you are curious about this book, go ahead and check it out. The images are neat and the story does get interesting. Just be prepared to ride it out until that happens. Depending on what you want from your books, your mileage may vary. Unfortunately, this just wasn't for me. (less)
So I've had Chain Reaction on my shelf for a while now. Considering how much I love Perfect Chemistry...moreMy Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 Awesome!
So I've had Chain Reaction on my shelf for a while now. Considering how much I love Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction, you'd think I'd rush and read it as soon as I finished those books. After all, I had it here ready to go.
But no. I didn't do that. And it's not because of any of the usual suspects. By this point Simone Elkeles has my confidence that she will provide a great story and a memorable romance. The reason I stalled here is because I didn't want the series to be over.
But all good things must come to an end. Chain Reaction continues the awesome storytelling present in the first two books and serves as a fitting and satisfying conclusion to a great trilogy. Now let's talk about why.
The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
Luis Fuentes has always been sheltered from the gang violence that nearly destroyed his brothers’ lives. But that didn’t stop him from taking risks—whether he’s scaling a mountain in the Rockies or dreaming of a future as an astronaut, Luis can’t stop looking for the next thrill.
Nikki Cruz lives her life by three rules—boys lie to get their way, don’t trust a boy who says “I love you,” and never date a boy from the south side of Fairfield. Her parents may be from Mexico, but as a doctor’s daughter, she has more in common with her north-side neighbors than the Latino Blood at her school. Then she meets Luis at Alex’s wedding, and suddenly, she’s tempted to break all her rules.
Getting Nikki to take a chance on a southsider is Luis’s biggest challenge, until he finds himself targeted by Chuy Soto, the new head of the Latino Blood. When Chuy reveals a disturbing secret about Luis’s family, the youngest Fuentes finds himself questioning everything he’s ever believed to be true. Will his feelings for Nikki be enough to stop Luis from entering a dark and violent world and permanently living on the edge?
Chain Reaction starts out differently then the other two books. We actually get to meet Luis and Nikki earlier in their high school days, while Luis is still living in Boulder. This is very important, because it sets up the background and history between the characters that carries throughout the rest of the book.
It also draws on one of the strengths of the Perfect Chemistry series as a whole -- the fact that characters reoccur and that fragments of past couples lives together get woven in to what is happening with the current couple. It was cool to get to "see" Brittany and Alex's wedding, and later to "be there" as Carlos proposes to Kiara. Luis' and Nikki's presence at these events, and what happens because of them, ties back in to the story that is mainly occurring. I felt it was very smart writing and pretty cool as a nod to fans of the other books.
I liked the fact that the book did such a good job at dealing with the way that different people feel about and present their nationality, as well. The contrast between Nikki and Luis despite the fact that both have parents who were born in Mexico was pretty interesting. So was the "secret" regarding Luis and the LB (Latino Blood). In regards to the gang aspect of the book, as usual it was interesting and added conflict and situations that ensured the balance that has been set for this series continues and that Chain Reaction is a page turner.
Simone Elkeles continues her tradition of creating characters who are exciting, easily related to and worth cheering for. Nikki was a great heroine. Her struggle to trust was well motivated and the situations she faced throughout the book were moving. She is under some pressure to continue the strides of success that her parents began and she does not take it well when things she decides to do divert her from that. I also loved how her warmth as a character was shown at the animal shelter. I love dogs and any character who is nice to them will tend to win me over.
Luis shares some traits with his brothers -- he's confident, charming, a total flirt and ultimately a great guy. Yet he has certain things that are all his own. He is incredibly smart and has been encouraged by his family to pursue this from a young age. He wants to be an astronaut. He also wants to do the right thing and generally tries to showcase his rebellious streak through high adrenaline activities or risk taking. As Luis learns about his past, though, he has to make tough choices and decide whether he will accept the truth of what he learns or create his own path.
The other thing, and I'm pretty sure I praised this in Rules of Attraction as well, is that all the characters readers have grown to love throughout the series make appearances and these actually tend to be important in some way to the story being told. In the acknowledgements Simone Elkeles calls the series the "books of my heart" and the attention to detail and vivid imagining of not only what happens now, within the context of the story, but also of what she shows happen in the futures of her characters, both through cameos and her epilogues for each book, make me believe that this is genuine and true.
I liked the variety of conflicts that Luis and Nikki had to deal with. Not only did they face parental concerns since both Luis mother and Nikki's parents want their children to have great futures academically, they also have unique personal issues that come into play as the story progresses. Nikki has extreme and well founded trust issues that make it hard for her to think of being in a relationship. Not only does this effect what is happening with Luis, she also interferes with her friend Kendal's relationship with her boyfriend Derek, constantly telling them that they are wasting their time.
Luis conflicts romantically change as the story progresses. Initially he is actually in a certain level of agreement with his mother He does not want to get too involved because of his dream of becoming an astronaut. As the story progresseses, new and less desirable reasons become a problem for Luis and jeopardize both his goals for the future and the relationship that he begins with Nikki.
One of the other things that I must commend Simone Elkeles for in this particular novel is that she actually has Nikki be a true hero by the end of the book. Her actions are certainly of the do-not-try-this-at-home variety, but I felt that the resolution to what was happening was very fitting within the actual story and within Nikki's character and her relationship with Luis as a whole.
Chain Reaction is another great example of a book where all the lights in the house are on. Everything lines up -- great characters, great plot, great pacing -- to make a book that I simply did not want to put down. I read this in spare moments over the course of several days because I had company and the wait between each 'sit down and read' session was torture. I constantly found my mind wandering back to the story and wondering what would happen next.
A stellar conclusion to an absolutely awesome trilogy, Chain Reaction deserves its place alongside Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction. If you have not read the Perfect Chemistry trilogy, what are you waiting for? And if you've read the other books, have no fear: Chain Reaction is the fantastic and satisfying conclusion that we have all hoped and waited for. In short: a book that is not to be missed.(less)
So I've had a few requests to review something by John Green. And I guess that maybe it is a little sad that...moreMy Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3 Great!
So I've had a few requests to review something by John Green. And I guess that maybe it is a little sad that I hadn't read anything by him if I am reviewing YA. I've also heard great things about David Levithan, so please don't take me naming Green first to mean that I think Levithan is a slouch. Anyway, my initial plan was to read and review Paper Towns (and to those who have requested it, rest assured that I will get to it.) But when I got to Chapters and was selecting books, something about Will Grayson, Will Grayson called out to me.
It might have been the musical aspect. I did that in high school.
It might have been the fact that I could check out two different authors. Seemed like an interesting concept.
Or it might have been the shiny, semi-glittery cover.
Okay, I confess: the cover hooked me. I'll gladly admit that I'm a girl who likes her glitter. :D
Anyway, this book has a lot more going for it then a pretty cover. Read on to hear my thoughts.
The Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
One cold night, in a most unlikely corner of Chicago, two teens—both named Will Grayson—are about to cross paths. As their worlds collide and intertwine, the Will Graysons find their lives going in new and unexpected directions, building toward romantic turns-of-heart and the epic production of history’s most fabulous high school musical.
Hilarious, poignant, and deeply insightful, John Green and David Levithan’s collaborative novel is brimming with a double helping of the heart and humor that have won both them both legions of faithful fans.
There were lots of interesting things going on in this book. The friendship between Will Grayson and Tiny. The developing relationship between Will Grayson and Jane. The musical Tiny Dancer and all of the changes it goes through. will grayson's relationships with Issac, Maura, Tiny, Gideon, his mom...
The whole Issac situation really hit me hard. I know what it's like to date online. I know how it feels to care about someone from a distance. I know the horror of having that person not be real. I know the excitement that can be felt when you are about to meet someone and they seem so special and perfect and wonderful and "How did I ever live without him?" ... And I think the authors did a fantastic job capturing this. I also know what it's like to have someone do what Maura does to will grayson -- I had that done to me (a fake love interest) during my own teenage years. Let me tell you: it burns. Yet again, they nailed this perfectly.
I loved the anxiety, energy and overall feeling of wonder that was evoked throughout the scenes for the play. The struggles of Tiny and the other characters to get it off the ground, and the sense that we, as readers, actually get to "see" Tiny's accomplishment, is (once again) handled extremely well. I found myself really caring what was going on here. I also found myself reading the song lyrics rather then skipping them as I might have if I hadn't been so invested.
I felt that both Will Graysons felt extremely real and that I was able to relate to their unique challenges and struggles. In short, Green and Levithan succeeded in creating a plot that both felt like it could happen and yet managed to keep it from becoming predictable or boring.
Okay, you have to admit this: the point of view focuses may be on the two Will Graysons, but Tiny Cooper completely steals the show from start to finish. I loved Tiny. I loved his optimism. I loved his kindness. I loved his overall zeal and zest for life. I loved the fact that he was a huge guy -- and as we meet him from will grayson's point of view we learn that doesn't just mean 'tall and well muscled' as I had originally pictured... Tiny is a "fatty". I don't care if he's a guy: when he said that he was comfortable with his size -- and that its how it makes others act that was the problem -- I cheered. I like the fact that while being gay is part of who Tiny is, that it clearly is not all that he is. Yet again: I have much, much love for Tiny Cooper.
Of the two Will Graysons, I think that I liked Levithan's character best. I know there are people who will definitely disagree here, but I just found a lot more in his story that I, personally, connected with. I will admit that the first time that I read from his point of view I was like "Whoa! This guy is an asshat!" But as the story continues and I got to know the character better, I was deeply invested in what happened to him. I really loved seeing him and Tiny together. I couldn't blame him for wanting to freeze Maura out. I enjoyed watching his growing friendship with Gideon progress.
The other characters were all pretty good in their own ways. For some reason I didn't connect as heavily with Will Grayson and Jane's relationship, but it wasn't "bad". I liked the fact that both Green and Levithan had parents present for the characters and that those parents were not just window dressing; it can annoy me when that happens.
I have nothing against the romance between Will Grayson and Jane... But for some reason it didn't click with me. I wasn't biting my nails and going "Oh, come on! Get together, already." I was glad they did, but it wasn't this earth shattering life-altering thing that had to happen for the book to be complete. I think that the authors realized this, too, based on when it happened in the book.
Now Tiny and will grayson, on the other hand... They just kept making me go "Awww!" Probably not what the authors were going for, but that's an "it's me, not them" thing. Me going "Awww!" is a good thing when I am talking about the romance in a book. You want me doing that. And when things took a wrong turn, I couldn't stop reading. I was desperate to find out what would happen.
And here is the thing (Massive Spoilers Ahead: They leave it in the air. We don't actually find out whether will grayson and Tiny get back together, or whether will gets together with Gideon, or whether he is still single, or what. Gah! That drove me nuts!) I can't decide whether I missed the whole point of the book, or whether this was done to let a reader reach their own conclusion.
I must admit there have been some delays with my reviews this week. Those are purely related to my life and totally not to do with the pacing of this book -- it was perfect and when the opportunity to read arose I could not put this down. Will Grayson, Will Grayson is a book that I really enjoyed, and one that I will likely be loaning to family and friends for a long time.
Honest, funny, original and memorable, I cannot recommend Will Grayson, Will Grayson enough. This is a book that deserves to be on everyone's shelf. (less)
After reading Perfect Chemistry there was no doubt in my mind that I would be reading Rules of Attract...moreMy Rating: <3 <3 <3 <3 <3 Awesome!
After reading Perfect Chemistry there was no doubt in my mind that I would be reading Rules of Attraction. I had to know Carlos' story, plus the reviews I read on other blogs assured me that this series was not a one trick pony.
I'm here to tell you that Rules of Attraction is the best of both worlds -- everything that was great about Perfect Chemistry is great here, too. But this is its own book, with its own plot and its own main characters. And there story is distinct, unique and completely worth reading.
Plot: (Summary from GoodReads)
When Carlos Fuentes returns to America after living in Mexico for a year, he doesn’t want any part of the life his older brother, Alex, has laid out for him at a high school in Colorado . Carlos likes living his life on the edge and wants to carve his own path—just like Alex did. Then he meets Kiara Westford. She doesn’t talk much and is completely intimidated by Carlos’ wild ways. As they get to know one another, Carlos assumes Kiara thinks she’s too good for him, and refuses to admit that she might be getting to him. But he soon realizes that being himself is exactly what Kiara needs right now.
If Alex's story was about trying to escape, Carlos' story is about learning that he wants to escape. Carlos has long ago accepted the fact that he needs to be in a gang to take care of his family. He knows he needs to be tough and guard himself so that no one will ever leave him again -- his father did this by dying and Alex did this by choosing a new life that could include Brittany.
The contrast between Alex, who wanted to succeed and (for the most part) had to pull himself up, and Carlos, who wanted to be who he was and yet desperately needed help even though he struggled with it, makes this book avoid being a repetition of Perfect Chemistry. I enjoyed watching Carlos' interactions with the Westfields, at his new school, dealing with the members of REACH and ultimately freeing himself from Devlin, gangs, etc. so that he could have a shot at a real future.
I'm having trouble talking about plot here. Can you tell? That's because, to me, these books are so tightly knit between plot and character that separating the two is almost impossible. I liked watching the Ultimates game, seeing Carlos' and Kiara help Kiara's mom at Hospitali-Tea and watching them go to Homecoming. The scenes with Brittany and Alex will also likely be appreciated by fans. Also, please understand that I tend to define these books by the guys because each brother gets a book. It's not that Brittany, Kiara, etc. aren't as good -- the boys just make better sign posts, so to speak.
I found myself more able to relate to Kiara, although I don't mean that to make Brittany any lesser. Kiara is not high up on the social foodchain. She has her best friend, Tuck, her family and that's about it. Until Carlos enters her life and everything kinda goes crazy. I liked the fact that Kiara was her own person and that she stood true to this regardless of how difficult it was or how scared she might be at any given time. I liked her for walking a fine line between caring about Carlos and realizing when he was real v.s. when he was talking absolute crap.
I thought that Carlos made for a very interesting hero. From page one we get that Carlos is a rebel and that he does things his own way. Yet Elkeles does an amazing job of making sure to show glimmers of the person Carlos can be. I think that is really important; she showed us that the good parts of Carlos have always been there. It's not like he goes through some type of 180 degree transformation at the end of the book. I found myself admiring Carlos, laughing at some of the things he said or situations he got into ("What's a labrodoodle?") and overall sympathizing with his situation. I wanted to see him succeed just as much as I wanted to see him end up with Kiara.
I also want to make certain that I give a bit of praise for the entire Westfield family. I think that the way these characters were handled was very well done. It's always refreshing to see an author have an active family life for the teens in their story rather then having mom / dad / siblings disappear like they were abducted by aliens. In this case, the family was actually very important to the story.
This is definitely a case where opposites attract. Kiara is shy, smart and follows her families rules most of the time. Carlos' brand of smarts is more about survival, he is cocky and he is rebellious. I like the fact that neither character's differing traits were made to be something that should be looked down on. I also liked the fact that they were shown to have things in common -- they like to fix cars, they like sports, they like to dance, etc.
In doing this, Elkeles makes her story accessible to a wide variety of readers and she avoids the pitfall of having two people fall in love because the guy was hot, with no further explanation as to why the girl was attracted to him. There was definite chemistry between Kiara and Carlos and I feel that the reader was not left in the dark about that fact, which is vital in this kind of book.
This was a page turner. I stayed up way too late reading it and didn't want to put it down. Once again, Elkeles' decision to switch her pov from Carlos to Kiara allowed her to show the story off to its best effect and she also successfully used it as a tool to keep the pace of the tale from ever faltering from moving in fast forward. There were some real issues tackled here but also some genuinely funny moments that had me laughing out loud, which is always welcome.
This is a must read for fans of Perfect Chemistry. And if you haven't read Perfect Chemistry yet, what are you waiting for? Each novel can be read independent of the other, but I feel the overall effect is better together. Rules of Attraction is a welcome and worty addition to what is shaping up to be an awesome trilogy. Highly recommended! (less)