Wednesday, July 23, 2014

UnWholly (review)

4/5 stars

UnWholly (Goodreads | Amazon) may be better that the original Unwind.  For me, I found some logic problems with Unwind (see review here) but overall enjoyed the book anyways.  The sequel, however, I could just sit down and enjoy - maybe because I'd already accepted those flaws.  The book, more than the last, did delve into some more of the politics surrounding the Heartland Wars, which helps slightly fill the logic-hole.

But I'm not wanting to complain about this book because by and far I enjoyed it.  Plus I can't tell you too much about the politics due to spoilers.  Like Unwind before it, this book follows the stories of AWOL Unwinds running from the juvie cops.  We get to revisit familiar characters from the last novel, Connor, Risa and Levi, to see how they're doing and growing up but we also get to meet a new group of characters, including Starkey - a problematic storked unwind - and self-righteous tithe Miracolina.  The most interesting and through provoking character was Cam, a mish-mash Frankenstein created from parts of unwound teenagers.

As with the previous book, UnWholly likes to ask the big questions - what it means to be alive, if people have a soul, etc etc.  That's what I like most about these novels, they're unafraid to tackle taboo and controversial topics.

Something that I really liked in UnWholly was the inserted real news-articles.  Those gave it a dimension of realism, breadcrumbs from the real world showing the path to the fictional realm Shusterman has created.  While the whole idea of unwinding seems so far-fetched, when you real the political background in light of the real world articles you begin to realize that maybe it's not as absurd as you originally thought.

Overall this is a worthy sequel, a thought-provoking book that you'll be thinking about after you put it down.

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Silver Linings Playbook (review)

4/5 stars

Silver Linings Playbook (Goodread | Amazon) is the third Matthew Quick book I've read.  All 3 have been excellent, I love his simple, no-nonsense but clever writing style. Personally, I think he's reached my instant-read list. Silver Lining Playbook follows post-mental breakdown Pat as he tries to put his life back together after being released from a mental health facility. As a character, he comes across younger than his age but in this novel it works because he's struggling with mental illness and refusing to deal with reality.  His only goal is win back his ex-wife Nikki, by any means possible (losing weight, reading the books she's read, improving himself).
"I am practicing being kind rather than right, so Nikki will be able to love me again when apart time is over."
This book has an interesting and believable cast of characters, from his sports-loving therapist, to a mother who just wants to fix her son and most-importantly the second main character, Tiffany who is also struggling with mental illness. All of the characters have their flaws, each broken in their own way but most are trying to help and support each other.

Because I am a huge sports fan, I loved the way sports were handled in this novel.  The camaraderie surrounding the Philadelphia Eagle's team, the way the family's mood was impacted it and the support Pat had from practical-strangers because they shared this love was something that was delightfully realistic and hit close to home for me.
"I think all it takes for different people to get along is a common rooting interest and a few beers."
We've reached the point where reviewing this book seems like a moot point.  Everyone (but maybe me) has watched the movie or at least knows the basic plotline.  The book is superb, a surprisingly near-perfect debut novel (and as a reader of many debut novels, they're rarely this flawless).  Quick writes accessible, clever books that are simultaneously easy to read and make you think.  As far as I'm concerned, everyone should check out his books.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

One Past Midnight (review)

2.5/5 stars

When looking at my friends ratings on Goodreads, I feel like the outlier on One Past Midnight (Goodreads | Amazon). Part of me wonders what I missed.  I can't say the book is terrible or hard to read, but there are some very integral parts that I just don't believe and a relationship that's blatantly insta-love.

One Past Midnight is the story of Sabine, a girl who lives two lives.  At midnight every night she transitions from one world into another.  Where she lives, who she hangs out, who her parents are, is entirely different in each world.  In one world, she's the rich girl who has the perfect life.  In the second world she's a poor girl who's parents work too hard.  Because of the secret she's forced to keep, she struggles to build deep relationships or feel like she's truly living. For her whole life, there have been certain rules between the two worlds.  But suddenly, things start to change and Sabine realizes that maybe the rules no longer apply.

First I'll say the good about this book.  It's unafraid to ask big questions about what it means to be alive. Sabine's struggles to figure out who she is in light of her two lives is the strong point of this book.

However, for me, what doesn't work outweighs the good.  First, there's when Sabine tells her poor-life parents, a father who admittedly is distracted and not invested in his family life, and expects them to believe her. The whole scenario doesn't seem realistic, not like something a teenager would do it.  It's an important plot point in the book and I just can't quite believe it.

Another problem was the instalove.  I could see how some could argue that it didn't happen instantly.  But really it does.  Yes the first meeting between the two is the typical argumentative flirting you see in these type of stories, but Sabine pretty immediately starts day-dreaming and having feelings for a guy she barely knows.  From there, like it always does, the relationship escalates quickly. The love story is too central to the plot to ignore or forgive.  It's not some side-plot to a greater story, but a key element of Sabine's story.

This is a book that I'm sure will work for some people.  But for me, believability in characters and relationship trumps whatever good it might have going on.

I received an advanced reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review. 

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Midnight Thief (review)

4/5 stars

Midnight Thief (Goodreads | Amazon) is the type of book I have a soft spot for.  Following a young but gifted thief growing up in the slums surrounding a palace, it is part adventure novel, part fantasy with a dash of castle politics.  It's written in the vein of Tamora Pierce (may she live long and write all the books), which is something I always need more.  Give me young spunky girls fighting oppression and trying to survive in a world that's not built for them any day. Give me them every day! For these books I am your ideal reader.

I'm not saying this book is as good as Tamora Pierce, I'm mainly saying it's a Tamora Pierce-ian genre book (Can I make up genres like that?).  There were a few flaws, at times the story dragged a little and some of the romance (not all of it) didn't make much sense, but those are the type of things I'm willing to forgive for a story like this. Overall it was a well-built story within a believable and interesting world.

One thing I liked a lot about this book was that many of the characters were never clearly defined as the good guys or the bad guys.  Like most people, they often fell in the middle and characters who were part of problematic systems/organizations could also be good people. That's nuanced and much prefer to the cackling evil bad guy who just likes being evil.

Overall this book was a lot of fun and I found myself cheering for Kyra, despite her many mistakes and imperfections.  If you're looking for a quality book in the adventure-fantasy genre, this is a solidly good choice with a lot of potential for further storytelling within the world.

I received an advance reading copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Body in the Woods (Review)

4/5 stars

The Body in the Woods (Goodreads  | Amazon) is a nice little suspenseful mystery for the young adult crowd.  For me, this was a quick read.  There's nothing brilliant or mind-blowing, just an interesting story about three teens who find a strangled girl while volunteering with Portland Search and Rescue.  When one of the teens, Ruby, starts doing research she begins to suspect it might not be the isolated incident that the police think it is but might be the work of a serial killer.

The mystery is believably constructed with a valid reason the police don't believe it's a serial killer, which gives the teenagers a good reason to investigate the crime on their own.  What they do isn't unbelievable or unrealistically dangerous but small things that curious teens would likely do.  I think it's important for any YA mystery to use restraint on how much teens put themselves into danger for investigating crimes.  I need to believe it, which is a combination of creating characters that would try to solve a crime and giving them a reason to investigate it themselves.

Speaking of the characters, I can't say that I connected with them on a particularly deep level.  They each had their own backstories and problems which contributed to the book (and the investigation) but they didn't really jump off the page.  I was glad that the book gave the characters backgrounds made them want to investigate the crime and gave clues to the investigation.  At times, there may have been a little bit of melodrama but the book never lost the main plotline even with the switching point of views and teenagers who had a life outside of Portland SAR.

Overall a solid mystery if you're wanting something to read. I thoroughly enjoyed it.

I received an advanced reading e-copy in exchange for an honest review. 

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

Month of Me (Belated post)

Once again for the month of May (my birth month) I decided to take a break from the pressure of galleys and read whatever I wanted to read.  It was nice to make a dent in my to-be-read list (a small minor dent but still it's something) and to read books on my shelves and kindle for a change. In time, I do plan to review these books but for now I'm just going to give you a list of the books I read during May.

  1. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart -Yes it was a galley but one by a favorite author that I was dying to read.
  2. The Diviner's by Libba Bray - This has been on my shelf since Christmas.
  3. Pushing the Limits by Katie McGarry (who I think is the biggest sweetheart and who's book I bought but kept not having time to read so I saved it for this month)
  4. Indexing by Seanan McGuire - I started this book a year ago as a Kindle Serial but my Kindle always lost it's place when it updated so I waited until the book was complete to finish the story.
  5. Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell - Why did I wait so long to read this geek fantastic book?
  6. Silver Linings Playbook by Matthew Quick - I seem to like everything he writes. 
  7. More Than This by Patrick Ness - Another favorite author and a book I received at Christmas. 
  8. The Living by Matt de la Pena - I finished this June 2 but I started it in May so it's going on this list. Another favorite author and book I'd been waiting to read. 
So that's my productive to-be-read tackling month of me!  When going through this list I realized I hadn't put half on Goodreads because I'd just been reading for fun, not tracking or writing things down.  It was a great month of books that reminded me why I love to read.  I'll definitely be doing this again next May!

Sunday, June 8, 2014

Hexed (review)

3/5 stars

Hexed (Goodreads | Amazon) is a fairly cute read.  In the vein of an ABC family drama, it follows a popular cheerleader Indigo who's quirky mother runs an occult shop in Los Angeles.  Indigo tries to be normal, as normal as the teen daughter of a single-mother wannabe-witch can be.  Then one day while driving to her mom's shop she witnesses a man die.  That's when things start getting weird.  Next thing she knows she's gone from cheerleader, to trying to find her mother's stolen witch Bible while running from sorcerers and trying to figure out if she might be a witch herself.

This book, with one HUGE exception, is lighthearted and silly.  That's not a bad thing itself.  I actually like the light tone and fluffy approach to paranormal that this book takes.  What I don't like is the romance, which seems to move at hyper-speed with little development and the back-stabbing catty popular friend's that are just a little too cliche.  Also, I don't like that Indigo walks all over her childhood best friend Paige.  That whole part felt illogical.  Indigo treats Paige like shit, Paige continues to be nice to Indigo and then sticks by her when no one else does.  Let's be honest, there's no way Paige would've stuck around or risked her life for someone who treated her like Indigo did.

But here's the thing, despite the book's flaws I enjoyed myself while reading it, especially the beginning before any of the romance began.  It's a quick read and if you like paranormals and don't mind silly teen romance then you might like this book.

I received an advance reading copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.