Thursday, August 21, 2014

The Bone Season (review)

3.5/5 stars

I know The Bone Seasons (Goodreads | Amazon) is supposed to be the next big thing book-wise.  Set in 2059, when an organization named Scion is ruling most of the major cities in the world, The Bone Season is part-fantasy part-dystopian. Paige Mahoney is a criminal just for existing in a world where any sort of magic is illegal, Paige, a dreamwalker, works for the magical mob in London.  That is until she's caught, arrested and taken to a clairvoyant prison where she learns that world as they know it is a lie.

The world building in this book is detailed and interesting.  I appreciate the hierarchy  of different clairvoyants it established, how some are more valuable and some practically worthless.  The idea of outlawing magic and thus giving the criminals power is intriguing, it makes this book feel like a quasi-prohibition-era mob movie.  Sometimes the world building is actually too detailed and it slows down the story considerably, to the point where you can skim passages of explanation without missing much plot-wise.

So for me where does this book seemingly fail? I never felt connected to the characters.  They felt like cardboard cutouts that I was supposed to care about but really couldn't.  There's a couple of points where someone hurts a character that Paige has just recently befriended and it's suppose to be this major impacting moment in the novel, only I didn't feel much of anything because these side characters felt underdeveloped and more like accessories to Paige's story than people in themselves.

So the question, I suppose, is "Will I read the next one?"  Probably if the reviews are good.  Maybe now that the over-explaining is done we'll get some honest-to-goodness plot movement and some fleshed out characters.  It's an interesting enough world, with the criminal underbelly and outlawing of magic, to explore again.

I received a paperback copy of this book from the publisher.  

Sunday, August 17, 2014

Mary: The Summoning

4/5 stars

It felt odd to be reading Mary: The Summoning (Goodreads Amazon) during the summer.  This book is creepy YA horror novel, the type of book that should be read on a crisp October day, as the sun sinks below the horizon, not on a hot day in the middle of July.

This book has just the right amount of suspense and quite a few surprises along the way.  Almost every young girl has tried to summon Bloody Mary at some point in her life (why did that seem like such a good idea?), so it's hard not be drawn into the creepy ghost story since it feels like it could've easily happened to you. The descriptions of Mary were appropriately creepy and the book gave her a backstory that every young girl wondered about.  It doesn't just summon Bloody Mary, but attempts to answer "Who is Bloody Mary?"  This is probably the strength of the novel, it doesn't just create a monster but creates a character who becomes a monster with a backstory and motivation.

I was surprised by how much I liked this book.  Even though the characters weren't completely fleshed out, they didn't fall into the popular-girl stereotype I expected and for the most part didn't fall into the trap of girl-against-girl hatred you often see.  Instead, as stupid as their choices may have been, this group of four friends attempted to watch out for each other and all their in-fighting was understandable.

If you're looking for a Halloween read (you should be!) then this book will fit your needs perfectly.  Mary: The Summoning is YA horror, a difficult genre to master, done really well.

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

Monday, August 11, 2014

Can't Look Away (review)

4/5 stars

Can't Look Away (Goodreads | Amazon) is a unique picture of grief, the story of a well-known beauty vlogger whose sister is killed by a drunk driver and how she deals with her family, the trolls and her loss. Maybe what I like most about this book is that Torrey Grey is such an imperfect character.  She's shallow, concerned with looks, re-gaining her popularity in a new town, clothes and what everyone thinks about her.  For much of this book Torrey is fake to almost everyone around her.

To me, that feels real.  Torrey is trying to be something she's not anymore, to keep up appearances and to control the aspects of her life she knows how.  It's easier to deal with climbing the social ladder than face her sister's death and her guilt over the circumstances surrounding it. And Torrey is riddled with guilt, even if she hides it from the world, because she had dragged her sister to the mall that day and they had been arguing when the drunk driver came down the street.

The grief in this book feels real.  It's not textbook and pretty, but a whole family of people facing it in different ways and royally screwing up at every turn because grieving is really hard.  Dealing with grief, loss and guilt brings out both the worst and best in people.

Another thing this book does well is capture the YouTube audience.  I once dabbled in vlogging and have quite a few trolls of my own.  The reactions of the trolls and Torrey both seem completely realistic based on my experience with the internet.

This book does a lot of things right, deals with grief authentically, creatures a popularity-obsessed teenager (rather than the "different" trope that's common) who is developed and complex and even managed to have quite a few funny and cute moments to keep the book from feeling too heavy.  For a book about grief in the age of the internet, the tone was perfect and the book well-worth reading.

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

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Seriously Saturday Series Catch-up # 3

So it's been a long time since I wrote one of these series catch-up posts because I've been too busy hanging my head in shame.  Why?  Because for awhile I was failing in the catching up on series department. But recently the stars aligned and I read a few different books on my lis so I'm quasi back on track.

Books I've read since last update:
-Unwholly (Unwind #2)
-The Live We Lost

So where are we looking at my original list?

  1. Heist Society by Ally Carter (books 2 & 3) - Finished book 2, leaves book 3 which I have from the library.
  2. Necromancer series by Lish McBride (book 2)
  3. Cinder by Marissa Meyers (books 2 & 3) - Book 2 on request from the library
  4. Unwind by Neal Shusterman (books 2 & 3) - Finished book 2, leaves book 3
  5. Abhorsen series by Garth Nix (book 4 will be published in 2014)
  6. The Agency by Y.S. Lee (book 4 will be published in 2014) 
  7. Fallen World series by Megan Crewe (books 2 & 3) - Finished book 2, leaves book 3
  8. Iron Druid by Kevin Hearne (read at least 1 book in)
  9. Bloody Jack by LA Meyer (book 11)
  10. His Fair Assassin by Robin LaFevers (In the name of honesty, I'll admit I've already read the second book in 2014 but I want to count it. Book 3 will be published in 2014)
Elevent out of 15 are left, which isn't quite the progress I'd hoped for BUT some of those books are coming out this fall and at least one is on request from the library.  It's slow progress and leaves a lot of books left but at least it's progress.

Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Mortal Danger (review)

2/5 stars

Part of me feels guilty for how much I disliked Mortal Danger (Goodreads | Amazon).  It tried to do some good things, to acknowledge problems with society that we often see with other books and to upend some common cliches that I hate.  All of that is good and well if the book had been readable.

The story follows Edie, an overweight unpopular girl who's on the brink of suicide.  As she contemplates ending her life, an unnaturally attractive boy named Kian shows up and offers her a deal that she can't refuse.  Suddenly Edie's whole life changes, including her physique, and she's hell-bent on taking revenge against her high school foes.

The problem is: I kind of hate Edie. There's nothing really to her, aside from her hatred and unpopularity.  She doesn't feel like a real character but she's suddenly a super-special person to the people Kian works for without ever showing any spark of being an interesting character. The first 60% of this book is nearly unreadable.  Edie's the kind of self-oriented person that spends too much time whining and focused on herself.  I'm all for flawed heroines but damn I didn't want to spend anymore time in this girls head.

It didn't help that the book tended to fall into cheesy over-descriptions and eye-rolling metaphors.
"The two of us were like magnets with the same charge. No matter how much I wanted to be close to him, circumstances kept shoving us apart." 
Gag. I can't cope with that sentence or the whole love-story-from-nowhere that's behind it.  Did I mention there was an unbelievable romance in the novel? Do I even have to anymore?

Now, onto things this book did right.  After you get through the unbearable beginning, this book fleshes the high school popular characters.  That's not something you typically see, normally they're just cliches bullying the protagonist but the novel acknowledges that they have their own problems and motivations.  It also tackled some of the gender dynamics of boys pitting girls against each other and society pretending girls have no depth.  However, while it's nice to see those elements it doesn't rescue the story.

I have a lot of trouble imagining non-reviews will make it through this story.  However past the 60% mark the story drastically improves and suddenly it's readable. Just good luck making it through the beginning.

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

Sunday, July 27, 2014

More Than This (review)

4.5/5 stars

More Than This (Goodreads | Amazon) is a complicated book to review.  It's the type of book that you just need to jump into without any real expectations and perceptions.  Too much information might impact your reading experience, or worse, quasi-spoil this book for you.  However, this is a book review blog so I guess I have to tell you something.

Patrick Ness is a brilliant young adult writer.  He has few rivals, especially considering the originality of his works.  Ness gave us the brilliant dystopian Chaos Walking Trilogy, then the heart-wrenching novel about cancer and grief, A Monster Calls.  He writes characters that are complicated and diverse, no cookie-cutter suburbanites here.  His books have a tendency to punch you in the gut/rip out your heart, because he doesn't hold back for the reader's sake.

I'm going to assume it's safe to give you the basic synopsis (summarized from Goodreads).  This book begins with Seth drowning, crushed beneath the waves at the bottom of the ocean.  But for this story, that's only the beginning because the next thing you know Seth wakes up and he's somewhere else, somewhere vaguely familiar.  He doesn't know where he is, if it's hell, purgatory or a dream.  

That's all you're getting from me.  Just read the damn book already. Trust me on that. 

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.