Thursday, July 25, 2013

Review #1597 The Rose Throne by Mette Ivie Harrison

Review: #1597
Book: The Rose Throne
Author: Mette Ivie Harrison
Rating: one star (out of four)
Release date: May 14, 2013
Publisher: Egmont
Pages: 400
Source: NetGalley

This book had one of the most unsatisfying ending I've read in a LONG time. It was SO ambiguous. Each person just went off on their own. Not good closure. Also, so much was made of the prophecy and then nothing happened. It felt very weak. I didn't like the tension between Issa and Kellin...especially when their relationship took a completely different turn. There was also a lot of darkness and killing. So much poison?! The world building needed help and certain things weren't explained well. I didn't understand the culture or world until halfway into the book. It was kinda annoying. On the good side (because there were things I liked about this book) I did stay interested enough to finish the book and I did love the cover. But overall it was a disappointment.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Review #1596 Wednesdays in the Tower by Jessica Day George

Review: #1596
Book: Wednesdays in the Tower
Author: Jessica Day George
Rating: two stars (out of four)
Release date: May 7, 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury Children's
Pages: 235
Source: NetGalley

This was a cute middle grade fantasy. I especially liked that it was all about griffins. We need more griffin novels! I love the castle's personality and the way it interacts with other people. One thing I was not expecting for this book: a cliffhanger ending! Haven’t read one of those in a while. And I think I didn't realize it was going to end so abruptly was because I was reading an electronic book...and assumed there were more pages and then I was done. But I still really enjoyed the story and thought it was a good follow up to Tuesdays at the Castle. Jessica Day George has interesting characters and sweet stories.  

Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Review #1595 The Lightning Dreamer by Margarita Engle

Review: 1595
Book: The Lightning Dreamer
Author: Margarita Engle
Rating: two stars (out of four)
Release date: Mar. 19, 2013
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Pages: 182
Source: NetGalley

This book was a fast read. It featured a Cuban poet’s life portrayed through the eyes of a young girl. I liked the brief look into her fictionalized history and I enjoyed hearing her thoughts. Sometimes I thought the story was a little sparse with details, but that might have just been the poetic form it was written in. I still got a bit of the culture, though. The story itself wasn't something I ultimately fell in love with but I can see why it won an ALA award. It was good historical fiction novel and featured a topic I wasn't familiar with and illustrated it well.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Review #1594 Frogged by Vivian Vande Velde

Review: #1594
Book: Frogged
Author: Vivian Vande Velde
Rating: two stars (out of four)
Release date: Apr. 2, 2013
Publisher: Harcourt Children's Books
Pages: 208
Source: NetGalley
This story was very short and fairly sweet, if not a little boring at times. I’m usually a fan of Vande Velde, but this book needed more “oomph” or something. It was very young, very middle grade book and while I normally like this age category, I wished the plot had been developed more. I only partially cared for the characters and felt they should have had more interaction in their scenes. Overall, not something I’d recommend.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Review #1593 The Flame in the Mist by Kit Grindstaff

Review: #1593
Book: The Flame in the Mist
Author: Kit Grindstaff
Rating: two stars (out of four)
Release date: Apr. 9, 2013
Publisher: Delacorte Press
Pages: 464
Source: NetGalley
I fell in love with the cover - that’s what kind of drew me into the book. It’s one of the first high fantasy middle grade novels I’ve come across in a long time that deals with dark elements, but handles them in an age-appropriate way. Though there were still some parts that made me squirm because they were a little gruesome. But I did like the characters and the plight of the young girl. It was interesting to see how Grindstaff handled this intense setting without going overboard on the dark elements. The plot was a little predictable at times, but not enough to cause hinder my enjoyment, and there were a few things I did not see coming. Overall I enjoyed the story and setting, but it wasn’t an instant favorite.

*ARC generously provided through NetGalley by publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Review #1590 Graceling by Kristin Cashore

Review: #1590
Book: Graceling
Author: Kristin Cashore
Rating: two stars (out of four)
Release date: Oct. 1, 2008
Publisher: Harcourt
Pages: 471
Source: Library

Graceling has been on my radar for YEARS. I saw all the hype when it came out, but for some reason it never made its way to my reading pile. Weird, huh? So I was excited we were going to read and discuss it for my Writing for Young Adults class taught by Jennifer Lynn Barnes. I do think the hype did Graceling a disserve though – I wasn’t disappointed with the novel per se, but I didn’t end up enjoying it as much as I would have anticipated. I liked the imaginative setting and plot, but there were still several aspects I thought were “off.”

I liked the terminology and the different uses of the word “grace” and “graces.” I also liked the world and its descriptions – Cashore managed to give you a detailed history without it feeling like an info dump. It gave hints of the setting and explained some aspects while leaving other things a mystery. That was handled well and I appreciated getting some of the information right away and being left in the dark about other parts. Another thing I thought Cashore did well was her use of plot; specifically her plot revelations.

Spoilers below. Highlight text to read.

I didn’t expect Po’s graceling to be different. She had even hinted at it several times earlier, but I hadn’t seen coming and it caught me by surprise. 

I wasn’t a huge fan of Po and Katsa’s relationship. I didn’t quite grasp Katsa’s reasoning why she couldn't get married. She kept going on and on about how she would feel restricted or “confined” or whatever, but that didn’t fly. It mostly made me feel sad for Po and I wished that Katsa would compromise. (Because guys, Po is just the sweetest.) Po was the one who was willing to do whatever Katsa wanted and he seemed to be the one who was giving the most in their relationship, while Katsa was being selfish. Fictionally, their relationship worked, but I felt like it wouldn’t have worked in the real world. Po would have tired of being the one to compromise all the time and left. I guess what irked me was that I really liked Po and felt like Katsa was being unfair and obnoxious. Maybe Cashore’s reasoning didn't work for me.

Another thing that bothered me was how fast the conflict was resolved. It was like MAJOR DRAMA and then OH LOOK IT’S OVER. It was so sudden, I almost didn’t believe it. Actually, I didn’t realize it was over, I had to go back and reread some pages because I thought it had been a DREAM or something. There needed to be a better transition or something! We’ve been waiting the whole book for this good stuff and then it’s gone before we can even blink. I wanted more! Cashore had been pretty good with the tension and conflict up until that point. While I didn’t thoroughly enjoy Graceling as much as I had wished, I can still see why it became popular. I might recommend it.

Review #1589 Middlemarch by George Eliot

Review: #1589
Book: Middlemarch
Author: George Eliot
Rating: three stars (out of four)
Release date: 1891
Pages: 904
Source: Library 

In my Fiction Novel grad class we were assigned a “long classic novel” to read. I choose Middlemarch. We analyzed the writing style and structure, particularly looking at how older novels are different from books published today. I wasn’t sure what to expect from this novel, but I knew George Eliot was a pseudonym for Mary Anne Evans.

It felt reminiscent of Jane Austen, but instead of having a somewhat “everything ends happily” type of wrap-up that JA tends to do, this book offered a more realistic/bleak outlook. Some characters lived happily ever after, some made do with what they had, and some definitely had to live with their poor decisions. I liked seeing the portrayal of characters from page 1 to page 800. With such a thick book, there was LOADS of room for character development and intrigue. By the time I finished Middlemarch, I felt like I knew each person and all of their quirks and mannerisms. It was great!

I spent much of Spring Break’s car trip steadily making progress. I enjoyed every chapter. There were times when I didn’t want to stop reading because it was so good - I was completely vested in the story. My favorite aspect of the novel though, was Eliot's tone – it was snarky and there were SEVERAL parts where I laughed out loud at the snappy dialogue or descriptive passages. The first sentence hinted at the type of humor that would be featured throughout. As soon as I read that line I chuckled to myself and settled into a comfortable position for a delightful read. And Middlemarch did not disappoint.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Review #1588 Anthem for Jackson Dawes by Celia Bryce

Review: #1588
Book: Anthem for Jackson Dawes
Author: Celia Bryce
Rating: one star (out of four)
Release date: Apr. 30, 2013
Publisher: Bloomsbury
Pages: 240
Source: NetGalley

It’s really hard to get excited for a book about cancer patients. Especially KID cancer patients. But I was intrigued by the premise on NetGalley and figured I needed another excuse to curl up at home and sob.

I’ve only read a few books that I would consider “good” (for lack of a better word, maybe, “poignant” or “heart-breakingly-bittersweet”?) cancer books. Drums, Girls and Dangerous Pie and The Fault in Our Stars being the primary two. So it’s kind of hard to top those two books, (which, if you haven’t read them, you should. What are you doing reading the rest of this lackluster review? Grab some Kleenex and those two books!) but like I said, I was intrigued by the short description online.

I thought this story was hollow. I didn’t think the characters were well-rounded and I wanted more interaction from EVERYONE. I never felt like I was scratching the surface of their REAL emotions and struggles. Nobody felt real. I was annoyed with most of the conversations because they seemed like placeholders for real conversations that were taking place elsewhere. The story was predictable and I didn’t like the characters. It fell flat - there wasn’t a lot of depth behind motives or actions throughout the story and I kept waiting for the novel to actually do something.

I was mostly annoyed with the way the story was told. It seemed like it was trying to hit so many standard points and in doing so failed to tell the real story. It was trying so hard to be THAT life-affirming-cancer-book and it wasn’t even close. I was not impressed with the story, the characters, the relationships, or the ending. It was mainly “blah” and didn’t feel completed. I wouldn't recommend.

*ARC generously provided through NetGalley by publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Review #1587 In Too Deep by Coert Voorhees

Review: #1587
Book: In Too Deep
Author: Coert Voorhees
Rating: two stars (out of four)
Release date: July 9, 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion
Pages: 336
Source: NetGalley
One aspect I enjoyed about this book was the information about deep sea diving. The descriptions felt realistic. I never questioned the author’s expertise. I was even interested in learning MORE about how much time and effort it took to get certified and the dangers of deep sea diving. The author did a good job of incorporating the information without overloading readers. But unfortunately, that part of the novel was one of the few things I liked. I didn’t like how the characters interacted with each other and the romantic plot felt forced. Other parts of the story were confusing and a few times it felt like the plot jumped around randomly. It actually felt spliced together, or maybe I just didn’t understand the train of events. Either way, this book didn’t feel entirely successful and I wouldn’t recommend.

*ARC generously provided through NetGalley by publisher in exchange for my honest review.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Review #1583 Pretty Crooked by Elisa Ludwig

Review: #1581
Book: Pretty Crooked
Author: Elisa Ludwig
Rating: zero stars (out of four)
Release date: Mar. 13, 2012
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books
Pages: 368
Source: ALA 2012

From the get-go, Pretty Crooked looked like it’d be an Ally Carter type book and for that reason I was intrigued. But it largely paled in comparison. The characters didn’t feel fleshed out and by the time I got to the end I was really, really, REALLY ANNOYED with how things were resolved. It felt the whole story had been meaningless. It bugs me when people do illegal things and then have basically no consequences. I read the entire book hoping it wouldn’t end badly, but I still had this sinking suspicion I wasn’t going to like it. The value system for Willa’s motive and aspirations seemed kinda petty and superficial. She didn’t seem capable of making good choices and I could only shake my head at her decision-making through out. I didn't understand where she was coming from and I thought most of her actions were faulty. And that ending. SO FRUSTRATING. Not something I’d recommend.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Review #1581 Reel Life Starring Us by Lisa Greenwald

Review: #1581
Book: Reel Life Starring Us
Author: Lisa Greenwald
Rating: two stars (out of four)
Release date: Sept. 1, 2011
Publisher: Harry N. Abrams
Pages: 304
Source: ALA 2011

I had a hard time getting through this story. It felt so...juvenile. I mean, I know I read a lot of middle grade/younger books, but most don’t feel like they’re beneath me. And this one did, a smidgeon. I had trouble relating to Dina because she felt shallow. I wanted more depth in her actions, something to make me like her, but instead I found myself annoyed with her. I think it may have been the writing style, but I didn’t like the story’s progression or characters. It always felt unbelievable, which in some cases, is amusing, but not in this book. I think other people might end up liking this book more than I did, but it was definitely a dud for me.

Review #1580 The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Review: #1580
Book: The Scorpio Races
Author: Maggie Stiefvater
Rating: three stars (out of four)
Release date: Oct. 18, 2011
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pages: 404
Source: ALA 2011

You know those moments right after you wake from a vivid dream and reality is slowly shifting back into focus, like pieces of a jigsaw puzzle slowly arranging themselves into a picture? That’s what it felt like coming out of this story and back into reality.

It was eerily haunting and fae-esque. There’s really not other way to describe it except: it felt like magic. The writing, the prose, the descriptions, and setting. Everything permeated this sort of hidden fantastical magical feel that left you missing something you couldn’t quite put your finger on. Like I said, haunting. It was this crazy feeling I couldn't shake, even days after reading. The novel was also interesting because while it didn’t feel like very much was happening, there was so much description and pages in-between the action that I never noticed the lull.

When I started reading, I felt this subtle shift of change, it was unlike anything I’d ever read before. It’s still haunting my mind. I couldn’t quite figure out whether I liked it or not the whole time I was reading. (Side note: I hadn’t been a big fan of the Shiver/Linger/Forever books by Stiefvater, so I was really surprised with how much I ended up liking this novel.) It had such a way of capturing my attention and making me believe there was no other world but the one inside these pages and I was surprised by how much I missed it after I was finished.

The last couple of pages were what did it for me. As soon as I realized how it was going to end, I was in love. I think I even teared up a little, right there, because it was beautiful. The Scorpio Races is an evocative, haunting story featuring wild creatures, lilting prose, and magical elements that will not disappoint.

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Review #1579 The Queen of Kentucky by Alecia Whitaker

Review: #1579
Book: The Queen of Kentucky
Author: Alecia Whitaker
Rating: two stars (out of four)
Release date: Jan. 2, 2012
Publisher: Poppy
Pages: 375
Source: ALA 2012

This story was different than expected, but I ended up liking. It was interesting to see Ricki Jo's journey and I must admit, I had a decent amount of respect for Luke. I was surprised Luke was such a steady companion, but was glad Ricki Jo could rely on him. He was definitely my favorite character. Though it did hurt me to see how far Ricki Jo had to deviate before realizing what was right in front of her. One scene was particularly painful because I was she might go too far. But luckily the story turned around near the end and things resolved nicely. It was a little bit of a predictable story in that I figured from the get-go this novel’s arc, but I enjoyed seeing the progression and liked the story.

Review #1578 Diverse Energies by Tobias S. Buckell

Review: #1578
Book: Diverse Energies
Author: Tobias S. Buckell
Rating: one star (out of four)
Release date: Oct. 1, 2012
Publisher: Tu Books
Pages: 368
Source: NetGalley

I read the first couple of stories and then gave up on finishing this anthology. The initial stories I read left a bad taste in my mouth and while I had initially planned on finishing the book, I just never made it back.  

First story: I did not like at all. It was horrific and sad. It also was a little too graphic for my taste. It had too much of war and was frankly, a depressing. I guess it was too close to home and the ending was a letdown. Not the kind of story I want to spend my time reading.

Second story: almost as creepy as the first, and this one was very violent as well. I wasn't sure why there needed to be so much blood and gore. That was pretty much the entire story and it was pretty horrific. Not something I'd ever want to see on the big screen. I don't want to think about robots attacking humans out of spite. Very creepy.