Friday, 10 August 2012

Feed by Mira Grant

 I am SUPER excited to have a guest reviewer here for the first time! Please welcome a blogger I admire VERY much, if I were to become a real blogger, I'd want to be like her (and she's an amazing friend) Working For the Mandroid's, Leslie: 

"From the very first sentence, I deemed Mira Grant’s Feed awesome and, really, how could I not when it starts with:

“Our story opens where countless stories have ended in the last twenty-six years: with an idiot – in this case, my brother Shaun – deciding it would be a good idea to go out and poke a zombie with a stick to see what happens.”

Grant had me and she didn’t once lose me in the six hundred pages that make up this post-apocalyptic zombie tale that isn’t really about zombies. There are only four scenes that actually include zombies on screen and only two scenes with any real sense of danger, the more suspenseful one being the opening 20 pages or so. Instead the zombies act as background elements to explain the collapse of our world into a slightly warped version of the life we know. It’s today with more guns, bleach showers and the occasional dead person jumping out of the shadows wanting to snack on your skull, but all together, it’s not that different.

Instead Feed focuses on the new form of media and politics in this rapidly adapting culture, built partially around the most visceral of fears and the need for freedom. Georgia and Shaun are bloggers, who get picked as the media pool for a Republican candidate running for president at a time when bloggers aren’t taken serious by the older generations. The story follows their experiences on the campaign trail as a politically-motivated conspiracy starts playing out around the caravan of political advisors, interns, and supporters that follow their candidate around. Zombies are constantly a threat on the edges of the story, but the damage that living humans can do to one another becomes a bigger issue than the shuffling undead. It’s definitely an interesting way to inhabit a zombified world.

There are a fair number of characters in the book, but only two that really get fleshed out. Shaun is the crazy brother, who likes to poke zombies with hockey sticks and generally put himself into mortal danger as long as a camera is rolling on him. He’s goofy, sarcastic and wonderful. The immaturity and silliness that he shows in public is nicely countered by his sensitivity and sincere concern for his sister, Georgia. He’s like a guy from Jackass, but with a hidden gooey center. And he’s really funny.
But it was Georgia who made me love this book. She’s the newsie of the bunch, very dedicated to the truth and her beliefs in journalistic ethics. She’s a great character to live inside of (the book is in first person): sardonic, cynical and just slightly insane with her dedication towards her chosen field. She has ocular Kellis-Amberlee – or essentially “zombie eyes” – that require her to wear dark glasses all the time to prevent permanent damage to the point of blindness. Combine that with her uniform of Kevlar and other pieces of tactical gear and she’s like a little journalistic terminator with her old-school mp3 recorder and bad attitude. If you can’t tell, I quickly became enamored with Georgia to the point that I didn’t care when her inner narration halted the story completely so that she could go on a five page history lesson on this or that disease or rant about society/television media/politicians. I was right there with her and, with my own personal background in journalism, spent a good portion of her journalistic rants thinking, “YES! THAT! That’s how I want things!”

But then again I’m a huge geek.

So there are some pacing issues that, if you’re not as interested in the history of this world, how things came to be as they are, or Georgia’s personal views on the political process, then there will regularly be chunks of exposition that will most likely bore you. I didn’t mind each piece of information filled the world out just a little more and Grant has filled in a lot of the tiny details that often get overlooked in post-apocalyptic books. Other than that, my only real issue was with the blog posts used to cap the chapters. Each was dated, but the dates combined with the story itself really screwed me up with the passage of time. Or maybe the Republican convention does take place in March of an election year and I was confusing myself unnecessarily. Either way, I had a hard time connecting the blog posts that often didn’t correspond to any one event to the story itself.

I was really disappointed that I was the only one in the book club that read the whole thing prior to the meeting, mostly because it meant I had absolutely no one to commiserate with on how absolutely devastated this book left me. Emotionally Grant covers all the bases: Georgia’s dry sense of humor had me laughing out loud regularly, moments of tension that left me unable to put the book down when it was far past my bedtime, and a sudden twist that left me staring into the blank space, distraught for days after I finished it. Even now five days later, thinking about a certain short section (no spoilers!) brings tears to my eyes and makes me hurt, but I’m also a huge sap who becomes far too emotionally invested with the lives of fictional characters.

Feed is an awesome and unusual zombie book, and it actually has a great conclusion that feels like the story is completely wrapped up. It doesn’t need two sequels, though I own both of them and will eventually read them. I can’t imagine either comparing to Feed though. It’s a fully formed world with great characters, who I would probably be friends with if they actually were real people. It feels different from the other zombie books I’ve read because the zombies are such a small piece of a much larger, more complex story. I’d recommend it even to those who aren’t usually into the walking dead inhabiting their stories. Feed is now in my top 10 of 2012, hanging out with Robopocalypse and fellow zombie tale Dearly, Departed.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

City of Bones by Cassandra Clare (Mortal Instruments book one)

Summary: When fifteen-year-old Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder - much less a murder committed by three teenagers covered with strange tattoos and brandishing bizarre weapons. Then the body disappears into thin air. It's hard to call the police when the murderers are invisible to everyone else and when there is nothing - not even a smear of blood - to show that a boy has died. Or was he a boy?

This is Clary's first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons. It's also her first encounter with Jace, a Shadowhunter who looks a little like an angel and acts a lot like a jerk. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace's world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in ordinary mundanes like Clary and her mother? And how did Clary suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know...." Summary from GoodReads

Anyone who's read more than a couple of my reviews can tell that I'm a tough critic, BUT I'm trying to be better about that. In keeping that in mind, I will tell you the plus and minus of this book (and try not to dwell on the minus).

The Plus: It truly is a young adult book. No sex, very little violence, no swearing. If you're going to label a book YA, I prefer it really be PG to PG-13 rated. In keeping in line with the YA label, the characters seem like authentic teenagers, especially the protagonist, Clary. She's unsure of her feelings, she's stubborn, she's kinda whinny, she's your typical 15 year old. It's easy to imagine being a teenager and going through what Clary does. The biggest plus? The ending, finally something original. Really made me want to read on in the series.

The Minus: Some of the characters are pretty two dimensional, I don't need a super amount of detain about every characters, but it might be nice to know something about the more prominent characters, like Isabel and Alec and their family, maybe that's coming in the other books in the series? But really, its not that big of a deal. The biggest deal was that I didn't really like Jace, and he's the main male character. He's arrogant, sarcastic, rebellious, and kind of a jerk. So, typical teenage boy, but it's not really like he's even nice to Clary (so why she likes him is a bit of a mystery, guess he must be cute). It was kinda funny at first, but got old really fast. It's hard to love a book when the one of the two main characters is annoying.

Bottom Line: It's a good book. It's age appropriate with an interesting story. The complains I had are minor and despite them I really enjoyed the book. Grade: B+.

-Written June 26, 2011

Monday, 14 May 2012

Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children by Ransom Riggs

A VERY special thanks to Fernando from "Working for the Mandroid" for guest reviewing for us! 

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.

Good fairy tales take time to build. Good fairy tales are passed down generation to generation. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children builds a world, characters, plot and, best of all, provides pictures. This twisted Alice in Wonderland starts off with a murder. A peculiar murder that plays with the mind of our 16-year-old protagonist, Jacob Portman. Jacob witnesses the last bizarre moments of the life of his beloved grandfather, Abe Portman. 
This relationship coupled with the odd circumstances of his death serve as the foundation for Jacob's quest for truth. Abe loved to tell stories of a childhood that he spent with orphans with peculiar abilities. Abe's death haunts Jocab to the point of paranoia, leading him to the care of a psychiatrist who recommends Jacob face his grandfather's past as a method for coping with the loss.
Now Jacob is forced to see how deep the rabbit hole goes, and the opportunity for him to peel back the curtain on the fantastical stories Abe would tell. Often books that play with this type of wonder bring the "truth" of reality crashing down on the protagonist. Instead of that this book accepts its peculiar nature and uses it to showcase its characters as well as provide insight into who Jacob really is. 
The book is peppered with fantastic pictures to aid the reader in understanding the peculiar nature of the children Jacob is meeting. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children also creates a locale that is perfect for a boy dealing with self discovery: an island with limitless possibilities.  The story speeds along with great imagery both literary and photographic. As Jacob faces his grandfather's past and begins to discover a new purpose, he also builds the self confidence of a young hero. All along the way we are treated to the amazing abilities of the peculiar children. 
The plot of this book starts off as a quest for the truth then transforms the plot into an action adventure. Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children straddles that line very well. It does not ditch the mystery, it simply chages its focus and adds an antagonist. The antagonist is where most of the book club decided the weak point was. When the plot switches gears, the villain's motives are evil but oddly veiled in flimsy hierarchy that begs for clarity.   
My decision not to spoil specifics in the book is really in the hopes that you will go enjoy it all on your own. The book tackles the familiar literary tropes of love, friendship, feeling like an outcast in adolescence and mixes in the oddities of Miss Peregrine's peculiar children.
The biggest complaint that we had in reading this book was the incomplete ending. The book very clearly leaves the reader wanting to continue on Jacob's journey. It however, closes on a mediocre half ending; many plot points are closed and clearly addressed; however, a larger quest is about to begin. I think that is a strength, it leaves the reader wanting to join in on the new adventure, so be forewarned - it may leave you wanting to read on past the last chapter.

Friday, 13 April 2012

John Dies at the End by David Wong

John Dies at the End David WongSummary - STOP. You should not have touched this flyer with your bare hands. NO, don't put it down. It's too late. They're watching you. My name is David Wong. My best friend is John. Those names are fake. You might want to change yours. You may not want to know about the things you'll read on these pages, about the sauce, about Korrok, about the invasion, and the future. But it's too late. You touched the book. You're in the game. You're under the eye. The only defense is knowledge. You need to read this book, to the end. Even the part with the bratwurst. Why? You just have to trust me. 

The important thing is this: The drug is called Soy Sauce and it gives users a window into another dimension. John and I never had the chance to say no. You still do. I'm sorry to have involved you in this, I really am. But as you read about these terrible events and the very dark epoch the world is about to enter as a result, it is crucial you keep one thing in mind: None of this was my fault. -GoodReads

4 Things you should know about John Dies at the End

Since David Wong, the author of John Dies at the End, is also the senior editor of, I could think of no better way to honor this book than to put the review in their format. I've even split it up into two pages to make it closer to the real thing.

I should start off by saying that although the four things you should know about this book all contain some level of criticism, I did enjoy the book to a certain extent. But you should know what you’re getting into, so without further ado, here are the four things you should know about John Dies at the End:

#4. They’re making it into a movie…

….which is probably a better format than a book for the kind of story it’s telling. One of the book club participants called it a “series of short vignettes.” Not surprising, since the book is already divided into four sections: a prologue (which it is not), Book I, Book II and an epilogue. The four sections are related, but sometimes not clearly so, and the visuals of a movie will probably tie things together a bit better. 

The biggest problem with the format is that while the first book “They China Food” is an enjoyable read, the second, “Korrok” isn’t. It suffers from strange pacing and a plot that careens wildly from scene to scene. By the time it reaches a conclusion, you are not entirely sure what really happened.

#3. It’s a sloooooow read.

I’ll admit it. I love to crash through a book as quickly as I can to get to the ending. That’s why I can’t ever solve the puzzle in an Agatha Christie novel – I missed some clue on an early page that would have tipped me off. But I do appreciate a complex book, so long as I feel like I’m not getting hampered in getting to the ending.

John Dies at the End throws up roadblocks constantly. It skips around in time and in place. Crucial characters are intoxicated often. Descriptions are given and then taken back by the characters as they discover what is and is not real. The entire story is set as a story being told to someone - and at one point the storyteller tells a story that someone else told him that is embellished to the point of hilarity. But the use of these devices add up and it makes the book very dense and difficult to wade through.

(What's after the jump contains both NSFW references and a spoiler. You've been warned.)

Friday, 9 March 2012

Touch by Jus Accardo

"When a strange boy tumbles down a river embankment and lands at her feet, seventeen-year-old adrenaline junkie Deznee Cross snatches the opportunity to piss off her father by bringing the mysterious hottie with ice blue eyes home.

Except there’s something off with Kale. He wears her shoes in the shower, is overly fascinated with things like DVDs and vases, and acts like she’ll turn to dust if he touches her. It’s not until Dez’s father shows up, wielding a gun and knowing more about Kale than he should, that Dez realizes there’s more to this boy—and her father’s “law firm”—than she realized.

Kale has been a prisoner of Denazen Corporation—an organization devoted to collecting “special” kids known as Sixes and using them as weapons—his entire life. And, oh yeah, his touch? It kills. The two team up with a group of rogue Sixes hellbent on taking down Denazen before they’re caught and her father discovers the biggest secret of all. A secret Dez has spent her life keeping safe.

A secret Kale will kill to protect" Description from GoodReads

I just reread this description... I'm not sure I know what this "secret" is Kale will kill to protect, the description basically spills all the "secrets" right there. Nothing shocking happens. Oh, on with my review (sorry to spoil it for you).

Deznee Cross is a rebellious teenager to the nth degree. She will do anything, and I mean ANYTHING in an attempt to make her emotionless father upset, which he never is, so it's all just a ridiculous waste of time. As is most everything else about this book. The characters in general aren't at all believable as humans, with or without abilities. From Deznee's willingness to follow a guy she's just met to an unknown destination, to her fathers complete lack of emotion about anything, especially when it comes to his own child, to Kale, who I had a whole laundry list of issues with.

Dez's "badass" boyfriend Kale was the worst part for me. From the moment she meets Kale she blindly follows him, running away into the night with a guy she just saw kill someone not 10 minutes before, oh and who just tried to kill HER, (yes, I saw the explanation that it was to rebel against her father, I'm not buying it, no one would do this). And speaking of stuff that's not believable, the inconsistencies in what Kale knows and doesn't know were ridiculous. Basically the only things he doesn't know pertain to sexual activity, he's the world's best dancer, but he has no idea why a cute girl would want to touch him. This was just an excuse on the author's part to explain in excruciating detail hand holding and kissing. I guess it's supposed to be tantalizing, but I found it awkward and ridiculous. It further led to the feeling that Kale was bland, boring and sort of an idiot. An example of further idiocy? Sure! If Kale is deathly afraid of Deznee's father, why would he go into her house after he knows that Cross lives there? This kid can kill with a single touch and the one thing that scares him is this dude, logic tells you he'd avoid that dude's house like the plague and go off being a "badass killer" somewhere else, but no. I guess he wants to get it on with Deznee SO BADLY that he repeatedly goes to the house of the guy trying to kill him. We're supposed to believe that teenage hormones conquer all fear and danger, how romantic. I found myself wishing Deznee would ditch Kale and get back together with Alex, at least he sounded interesting and the brief back story we got on he and Dez was far more interesting and believable then anything we learned about Kale.

I should also mention the bad sentence structure, forced teenage language and occasional misspelled word too. These things usually are not a huge deal for me of the story is good, but in this case, nothing is good, so those of you who are sticklers for good writing skills, look elsewhere (there's even a part where they call Alex by a different name, as if his name used to be Fred and they replaced it with Alex and forgot to change one of the names, oops).

Bottom line: The book was predicable and forgettable, not to mention the unbelievable characters. Not the worst book ever, but still a waste of time. Grade: C-.

Monday, 20 February 2012

Ex-Heroes by Peter Clines

Summary -Stealth. Gorgon. Regenerator. Cerberus. Zzzap. The Mighty Dragon. They were heroes. Vigilantes. Crusaders for justice, using their superhuman abilities to make Los Angeles a better place. Then the plague of living death spread around the globe. Despite the best efforts of the superheroes, the police, and the military, the hungry corpses rose up and overwhelmed the country. The population was decimated, heroes fell, and the city of angels was left a desolate zombie wasteland like so many others. Now, a year later, the Mighty Dragon and his companions must overcome their differences and recover from their own scars to protect the thousands of survivors sheltered in their film studio-turned-fortress, the Mount. The heroes lead teams out to scavenge supplies, keep the peace within the walls of their home, and try to be the symbols the survivors so desperately need. For while the ex-humans walk the streets night and day, they are not the only threat left in the world, and the people of the Mount are not the only survivors left in Los Angeles. Across the city, another group has grown and gained power. And they are not heroes. -GoodReads

Review -I read this book more than a month ago, and originally someone else was going to write the review, so I haven't thought about the book since finishing it, and unfortunately until sitting down to write this review, I had mostly forgotten it. I guess that says something about how engaging the book was for me. This review will be pretty basic, as I've forgotten most of the details.

The beginning of the book is spent watching our heroes wandering though the wasteland that used to be Los Angeles, salvaging supplies and killing zombies. This is cool, at first, but it drags on for pages and pages of description of blowing up body parts and occasional celebrity zombies. Once we do get to the plot the book is half over and we find out much of the information we got in the beginning was irrelevant to the point of the story anyway. This was my biggest complaint, so much of the book (and my time) was wasted on vivid descriptions of zombie destruction, which sounds great, but in actuality, it got old really fast.

The book alternated between telling the back story of the individual heroes and what's happening in present day. I'm usually not a huge fan of flashbacks, but in this book the flashbacks were some of the most interesting parts of the story. It's the only time the characters seem at all real. Unfortunately, the author included too many characters and provided very little back story for each one. We are left interested, but ultimately unsatisfied in our curiosity about them. The book could have been greatly improved by giving us twice as much history on half as many characters.

These things being said, I get that character development and emotion were not what the author was going for when writing this book. The book reads like a script to an action movie, which is most of what the book was, action of some sort or another. Sometimes all action with very little substance can be appealing, but it's tough to do this well. As an author, if you're going to make your book all action, you should bring some originality, this book isn't original, it isn't particularly well written either. This left me skimming pages with only a mild interest on how the story ended. The most disappointing part is that it COULD have been so much better. The idea and the set up are great, it just fell flat quickly after getting started.

Bottom Line: Ex-Heroes is basically zombies vs. superheroes, without bringing anything new to the table. There's a lot of action, a lot of description of zombie destruction, but not a lot of character development, which is okay if unoriginal action is all you're looking for. Grade: C-.

Monday, 9 January 2012

GONE by Michael Grant

Summary: In the blink of an eye. Everyone disappears. GONE. Except for the young. Teens. Middle schoolers. Toddlers. But not one single adult. No teachers, no cops, no doctors, no parents. Just as suddenly, there are no phones, no internet, no television. No way to get help. And no way to figure out what's happened. Hunger threatens. Bullies rule. A sinister creature lurks. Animals are mutating. And the teens themselves are changing, developing new talents--unimaginable, dangerous, deadly powers--that grow stronger by the day. It's a terrifying new world. Sides are being chosen, a fight is shaping up. Townies against rich kids. Bullies against the weak. Powerful against powerless. And time is running out: On your birthday, you disappear just like everyone else... – From

Review: As a fan of the dystopian genre, I had high expectations for Michael Grant’s GONE, the titular novel in his current 6-book series. However, if you’ve already read a stellar dystopian series like Hunger Games, it’s hard not to draw comparisons and determine where Mr. Grant has fallen short: a dragging plot, poor character development, unauthentic dialogue and – most annoying - key thematic elements that are left unaddressed . In general, reactions to this book in our group ranged from absolutely boring to mildly entertained, but proof’s in the pudding when most of our members didn’t bother to finish the book (or even get past the halfway mark).

As outlined in the summary above, the story follows what happens when everyone above the age of 15 disappears and the kids of Perdido Beach are left to fend for themselves. Surrounded by an impenetrable force-field, the older kids - comprised of main characters Sam, Astrid, Quinn and Edilio - do their best to ration food and maintain order in the post-Phase world, struggling against animals that have developed advanced predatory mutations while some of the kids themselves have evolved newly-developed superpowers. Add to the mix a climactic power struggle when the super-powered and morally-flawed prep-schoolers of Coates Academy –led by Caine, their equally charismatic and masochistic leader - descend on the survivors at Perdido Beach, and you’ve got a pretty interesting story (at least on the surface). But then again….

*Spoilers Ahead*

Perhaps my biggest disappointment is the author’s negligence to address two of the most prevalent questions posed throughout the book: 1) Why do kids disappear when they turn 15? What’s so special about that particular age? & 2) What is the sinister creature that lives in the cave and what are its motives? If Mr. Grant had given more development to those two subjects, especially in the last few chapters to build up some semblance of suspense, then maybe I’d have some interest in the following books. In fact, it’s as if the last few chapters lose all the steam the book has worked to build. Mr. Grant has the perfect opportunity to set up a classic cliffhanger ending, one that ideally SHOULD make you want to go and devour the next book (aptly named “Hunger”) immediately; instead, the final scene of the book shows Caine, tired and beaten, shuffling off into the desert with the retreating coyote pack. Bad guys defeated. A decidedly tired and predictable ending.

Whether it was the lack of plot resolution, uninteresting characters, terribly-written dialogue – or a combination of all three - I had only *just* enough interest to finish the book and no particular craving to continue the series.

Bottom Line: Having finished the book three weeks prior to writing this review, I can only say it’ll keep your attention long enough (for most readers) to reach the last page, but there won’t be many moments worth remembering when you’re done. Grade: Solid “C”.

Wednesday, 4 January 2012

The Magicians by Lev Grossman

~Happy New Year everyone! My apologies for the late review. I was graciously allowed to write the review, then didn't get around to it for a month with all of the holiday tasks and festivities. But, ah, it's a new year, time for a fresh start, and all that wonderful goodness. If you are looking for a new year's resolution Goodreads has a great suggestion: I know I will be joining the challenge!~

Summary: "Quentin Coldwater is brillant but miserable. He's a senior in high school, and a certifiable genius, but he's still secretly obsessed with a series of fantasy novels he read as a kid, about the adventures of five children in a magical land called Fillory. Compared to that, anything in his real life just seems gray and colorless.

Everything change
s when Quentin finds himself unexpectedly admitted to a very secret, very exclusive college of magic in upstate New York, where he receives a thorough and rigorous education in the practice of modern sorcery. He also discovers all the other things people learn in college: friendship, love, sex, booze, and boredom. But something is still missing. Magic doesn't bring Quentin the happiness and adventure he though it would.

Then, after graduation, he and his friends make a stunning discovery: Fillory is real. "

Review: Many sources called this book the "Harry Potter for grown-ups." Well. I'm a grown- up (most days). And I completely disagree. Grossman uses many fantasy motifs that are familiar to everyone, creating the magical Brakebills School from Harry Potter's Hogwarts, Fillory from C.S. Lewis' Narnia, and even copying the idea that 4 human children are needed to rule as Kings and Queens of this mysterious fantasy land. But Grossman's treatment of this material is different from anything I can remember, and certainly a far cry from what I would have expected from a book catalogued as "fantasy." Grossman in a way pokes fun of himself for doing this. It's seems like he's laughing at the material, maybe he's laughing at the whole genre. If he was trying to write a true fantasy book, the type where the underdog struggles against (often mystical) odds to succeed, and the reader cheers him on all the way to the finish, where we are left happy and satisfied that the [fantasy] world is a better place, then Grossman failed. But I don't think Grossman was trying to write the typical fantasy.

The main character, Quentin, slouched and crawled through the book without managing to be called even a "reluctant" hero. He and most of the other characters were portrayed as selfish and bored. It was the kind of entitled malaise that I have seen all over the northeast. Perhaps Grossman was just trying to make the characters flawed humans, like we all are, but it was hard for me to cheer for such unlikable people. The action wasn't much to keep the story going, either. The author told us in a nice, sequential way how the characters progressed through 4 years of school and a period of post-collegiate drinking and orgy binges... but hardly anything happened. Today Quentin went to class and practiced magic. Tomorrow he will practice magic in complete silence. And the next day he will study some more.... I found myself excited to keep reading actually (I confess I couldn't put it down), but I think it's because I kept waiting for the action to happen. The migrating geese storyline was very fresh and interesting. But then the kids turned into foxes and did what any fox in heat would do. Oh yea, that's right, they're not kids. The characters are supposed to be college-aged, but they are often written like whiny teenagers.

It's almost 2/3 of the way through the book before the characters get to enter this mysterious world of Fillory. When they arrive we get more lovely character development, such as, "Jesus! That was a naiad, people! We just saw a river nymph! How cool is that? How cool are we? Huh? F*in Fillory, people!" And then the boys bump chests.

We quickly learn that this magical land is not such a cool place, after all. The characters (sort-of) fight through the bad talking animals, eventually eliminating the main villain. But it's all pretty gray. Right and wrong is not clearly spelled out. And surprise, surprise, the emo kids are not happy at the end. Turns out Grossman's main message is that you can't escape to a fantasy land to find happiness, and doing so may even be dangerous. Quentin didn't even find happiness back in the normal world, poor kid (er, young adult).

Bottom Line: As long as you are not expecting the traditional fairytale, and enjoy modern morality tales that don't need a happy ending, then this is a good pick. Do not put this on your new year's reading list just because it says "Harry Potter for adults." My rating: C+

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Tantalize by Cynthia Leitich Smith

"Quincie Morris has never felt more alone. Her parents are dead, and her hybrid-werewolf first love is threatening to embark on a rite of passage that will separate them forever. Then, as she and her uncle are about to unveil their hot vampire-themed restaurant, a brutal murder leaves them scrambling for a chef. Can Quincie transform their new hire into a culinary Dark Lord before opening night? Can he wow the crowd in his fake fangs, cheap cape, and red contact lenses — or is there more to this earnest face than meets the eye? As human and preternatural forces clash, a deadly love triangle forms, and the line between predator and prey begins to blur. Who’s playing whom? And how long can Quincie play along before she loses everything? "-GoodReads

No one recommended this book to me, I found it at the library. I read on the back it took place in Austin and was about a vampire themed restaurant. I though, "eh, how bad can it be?". Oh. I had no idea. There's a damned good reason no recommended this book. First off, it's about a teenage girl named Quincie Morris, yup, like the one from Dracula, but a 17 year old girl. Who, at 17 is left in charge of her families restaurant following the death of her parents, even though she has an older late 20-something uncle who helps her and who SHOULD be in charge. But really, that's no reason to complain. And this book has many.

Quincie hires this new chef for her restaurant and spends most of the book sitting around with this really boring guy talking about boring stuff and drinking wine. LOTS of wine. Now I'm not a prude, I'm not going to hate a book because there's some underage drinking in it, BUT this was excessive. It was very much highlighted every time it happened. There was an eventual explanation, but it was just stupid.

Throughout the book Quincie talks about her BFF Kieren, the back of the book calls him her "first love", that's not true. Quincie is in love with him, he treats her like one of the guys, until the very end where everything is SUDDENLY different. Which brings me to the end...

The end tumbles out quickly and messily, like ripping a bag of potato chips down the middle, though I'd rather clean that up then read another sentence of this book. The "villain" is revealed in the last 20 pages, then the whole "big bad situation" we've been reading about for 300 pages is defused and the villain voluntarily leaves town in 2 sentences and the book is over. The "romance" resolved in a sentence. Seriously. It is literally the worst ending I have ever read. This book makes "Dead Witch Walking" look complex (remember the rodent fighting ring? More interesting than this). The only thing that prevents this book from getting an F rating is the fact that I could finish it, and it wasn't offensive (unless extreme ridiculousness is considered an offense...).

Bottom Line: Started out less the average and devolved into terrible and ridiculous. Don't waste your time. Grade: D-.

Friday, 4 November 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Summary: Beatrice "Tris" Prior has reached the fateful age of sixteen, the stage at which teenagers in Veronica Roth's dystopian Chicago must select which of five factions to join for life. Each faction represents a virtue: Candor, Abnegation, Dauntless, Amity, and Erudite. To the surprise of herself and her selfless Abnegation family, she chooses Dauntless, the path of courage. Her choice exposes her to the demanding, violent initiation rites of this group, but it also threatens to expose a personal secret that could place in mortal danger. Veronica Roth's young adult Divergent trilogy launches with a captivating adventure about love and loyalty playing out under most extreme circumstances. -From GoodReads

Review: Though I very much enjoyed it, Divergent did remind me of a couple of other book I've read in the past few years, the first is, of course, The Hunger Games, the second, to my surprise was Vampire Academy. Similarities between Vampire Academy and Divergent kept coming up as I was reading this. The young prodigy falling in love with her instructor, the mother who holds a mysterious secret, the young couple going on the run to avoid authority. It's not exactly the same, but it's certainly similar, though in the case of Divergent, it's better. I found Tris to be a far more likable character than Rose from Vampire Academy, and thankfully the supporting characters were better as well, no weak characters to protect, no one holding Tris back.
The comparison between Divergent and the Hunger Games are far more obvious, but the details are certainly different. They're both young adult, dystopian novels, they're both about 17 year-old girls training to be strong and fight. Katniss is however, nothing like Tris as a character. Tris is more relate-able and for me and therefore, easier to like. Their upbringing and families are totally different as well, which leads to the difference in their characters.
Saying that either Vampire Academy or The Hunger Games is the same as Divergent, however is like saying Harry Potter is like Harry Dresden because they're both wizards, named Harry, who do magic. They aren't the same, and in the case of Divergent, it's a better spin on the similar ideas.

The book is not perfect, there are a few scenes and situations that could have been better. As with any dytopian novel, if you think too hard about the "world" they live in, it's easy to poke holes and find unanswered questions. It's told through the eyes of a teenager, who doesn't question the way the world works, or how it got that way, therefore as the reader, we're left wondering how our world devolved into theirs. Another complaint was the description of the "test" that determines the factions. It was the determining factor for the rest of the book, and an event much referenced. It was far too simple. As a reader I found it hard to believe that this test could determine anything much less how these teenagers will spend the rest of their lives. That being said, it was easy to overlook these things and as you get caught up in the action and adventure of rest of the story.

Bottom Line: A blend between Vampire Academy and The Hunger Games, but easier to read and better. Grade: A-.