Friday, May 31, 2013

Review #1493 Dust and Decay by Jonathan Maberry

Review: #1493
Book: Dust and Decay
Author: Jonathan Maberry
Rating: three stars (out of four)
Release date: Aug. 30, 2011
Pages: 519
Publisher: Simon & Schuster for Young Readers
Source: NetGalley

Initial thoughts: I pretty much almost DIED from suspense all the way from page 100 til the end. Truly. I felt like I was going to have a heartache. I was so attached to the characters - I couldn't see how things were going to end, and then things got worse and I simply Could. Not. Put. It Down. To. Save. The. Life. Of. Me. And that ending, man oh man. I mean, it ended well enough, don't get me wrong, but if there was a sequel, I'd be itching to get my hands on it fairly quick. Also, this book and the first one feel more like 4.5 stars....and noted, this book seemed to have more violence and was more disturbing. Also noted, I tagged this book as "dystopia" but that's not really right - it's more like post-apocalyptic thriller...I just put "dystopia" there as a way to remind me to make a new tag. But seeings how I JUST finished it, my mind is still processing and I'll be working on a longer review.

Review: The story picks up right where the first one book left off. Even though I had a lot of questions, I wasn’t annoyed when Maberry took some time answering them. The characters were just as engaging as in Rot and Ruin and I was even more worried about them because the stakes were so much higher! This was a nail-biter of a book...with me sitting on the edge of my seat going, “are they safe? Are they safe NOW? WHAT IS THAT AND WHY DIDN’T I SEE IT COMING?”

I really wanted them to survive and when you’re in a zombie-filled landscape, sometimes the chances don’t look too good. But I thought Maberry did a good job of having them constantly be in danger without it being too unbelievable. There were several parts throughout the book where the author threw things at the characters I hadn’t seen coming and I was so caught up in the story I hardly put it down. I simply had to know how everything would end! It’s an intense tale, but something I think any fans of fantasy/sci-fi/or thriller will enjoy.

It does a good job of giving you glimpses into the humanity of the characters and I found myself really liking them and wishing I could pull them out of the story and hang out. I mean, in most cases I want to go IN the stories and hang out, but I’m going to give a firm NO to jumping into a zombie-infested world. Thanks, but no thanks. Still, I was so vested in the characters and their journey. I feel like I keep repeating this, but the drama and suspense was handled well – without going into overboard. I’d definitely recommend, especially for fans of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, Ship Breaker, Divergent, and The Hunger Games – if you like high stakes and love watching drama unfold in seemingly unimaginable ways, this is a series for you.

Review #1492 Rot and Ruin by Jonathan Maberry

Review: #1492
Book: Rot and Ruin
Author: Jonathan Maberry
Rating: three stars (out of four)
Release date: Sept. 14, 2010
Pages: 458 
Publisher: Simon & Schuster for Young Readers
Source: Library

Initial thoughts: Whoa, INTENSE. Said in a rush: Letmejustsayafewthingsrealquick. It felt like..A zombie book about the human condition/a mash up of Uglies by Scott Westerfeld and The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan/was a super thrilling read! I had so much trouble putting it down. Whew! Okay, so there's just a smattering of my thoughts...I'll have to let it seep into my head a little bit before I even think about writing a full review. It's in the works, folks!

Now, I’m not normally a person who reads zombie books. Something about the idea living dead kinda sets me on edge. Plus my overactive imagination is GREAT at setting up all sorts of horrific possibilities. (I tend to have strange enough dreams as it is, so no need to encourage THAT mental department.)

But still, I was drawn to this book and once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. It was intense, dark, scary, and emotional. All in a good way. I so desperately wanted the characters to be okay and I followed their plights, eyes riveted to the page, fingers cradling the book. And even though it was a zombie novel, I was completely immersed in the world and I wanted to know more. How did the people survive? What did society look like? Where was society headed? It reminded me a little of The Forest of Hands and Teeth, but not as bleak.

I pretty much tore through the first book and was glad I had the second book near by to read as well. The story was engaging and the characters were dimensional and fleshed out (no pun intended.) But it was a good story and I’m so glad I picked it up. Definitely something I’d recommend to others – especially if you like the edgy stuff they’ve been putting recently and don’t mind some minor gore. Hey, if I can stand this book, it’s probably not too bad because I’m a wimp. Read it!

Thursday, May 30, 2013

Review #1491 Secrets, Monsters, and Magic Mirrors by Donald B. Lemke

Review: #1491
Book: Secrets, Monsters, and Magic Mirrors: Stone Arch Fairy Tales Volume 2
Author: Donald B. Lemke
Rating: one star (out of four)
Release date: Aug. 1, 2011
Pages: 176
Publisher: Capstone
Source: NetGalley

There was something off with this book. I was looking forward to reading it because it was a graphic novel and involved fairy tales - so win-win, right? Unfortunately, I didn't end up liking it as much as I had hoped. I felt like the stories could have been handled better, I didn't like how they portrayed the characters or setting. I did appreciate how each story had unique illustrations, but I didn't care for the them, or the way they chose to tell the story. This book was just kind of a disappointment. I went into it with an open mind because I hadn't read anything like this, but the contents of Secrets, Monsters, and Magic Mirrors just did not sit well with me.

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

Review #1490 Lola and the Boy Next Door by Stephanie Perkins

Review: #1490
Book: Lola and the Boy Next Door
Author: Stephanie Perkins
Rating: one star (out of four)
Release date: Sept. 29, 2011
Pages: 338
Publisher: Dutton Books
Source: ALA 2011

I was pretty excited for this book. I picked it up from ALA and there was a lot of hype. The buzz was good, so props to the publisher for orchestrating that. Unfortunately, though, this book was a letdown.

There were some situations and perspectives I didn't like in this book and I wasn't a big fan of Lola. Her personality was irksome at times. Though I kind of have a crush on Cricket, though I wasn't sure what he saw in Lola. There were parts of this book that made me smile and the writing was pretty good, but I wasn't a fan of the characters or the choices made. Especially Lola. She needed to make a decision and instead of taking forever to decide what she wanted and being wishy-washy. I mainly felt annoyed because her decisions affected other people and I wanted those other people to be happy and they couldn't because Lola was being selfiish.

I didn't see how Lola was so fact, parts of her personality bugged me a little because I felt she was overly dramatic. I wanted to see something different. There were also some other elements that I didn't particularly agree with and if you're more conservative you probably won't like this book. Not something I'd recommend.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Review #1489 Vanish by Sophie Jordan

Review: #1489
Book: Vanish
Author: Sophie Jordan
Rating: two stars (out of four)
Release date: Sept. 6, 2011
Pages: 294
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: ALA 2011

Well, things certainly got much more complicated in this book. And I definitely felt the likes vs. dislikes slipping downwards. Also, please note this is a review for a second book in a trilogy. I've tried to keep spoilers out of this, but tread carefully.

I thought the draki society was very domineering and it almost felt a little like a cult because of the way it was governed. It was very controlling and I DID not like that aspect at all. And while I can understand that they must be very careful because they're hunted and all that jazz, I still wasn't comfortable with some of their decisions regarding Jacinda and her other family members. I was totally in favor of her mother taking her away in the first book! It would also allow Jacinda to grow up and start making better decisions without constantly being scrutinized by their dragon colony.

I was horrified by the idea of clipping Jacinda's wings. That seemed VERY cruel. I couldn't imagine how horrible that would be for Jacinda and the fact that they would even suggest it gave me a bad taste in my mouth. I didn't like the scenario and I didn't like how the first book had ended, though it did do a good job of driving the suspense forward. But I was annoyed with Jacinda again in this book. Her relationship with Cassian didn't make me happy either. I still didn't trust him and I wasn't sure why he was being so kind to her. There were a lot of things that didn't add up. I didn't like most of the characters and I felt the actions taken in the story were unrealistic at times, too.  I wanted more justification behind those aspects and I still wasn't happy with the idea of a half-dragon/human relationship. It felt a little wrong? I'm not sure, it just was on the edge of being uncomfortable for me and THAT made me uncomfortable. I'm pretty sure I won't be reading the final book, even though it left a cliffhanger at the end of this book.

Review #1488 Firelight by Sophie Jordan

Review: #1488
Book: Firelight
Author: Sophie Jordan
Rating: two stars (out of four)
Release date: Sept. 7, 2010
Pages: 326
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Library

Okay, I have a MAJOR soft spot for dragons. Dragon books especially. So when I picked up the sequel to Firelight at ALA I was more than excited to start reading this trilogy. And there were certainly parts of this book I enjoyed, but there were a decent amount of things that made me a little bit hesitant in my enjoyment.

Parts I liked: the whole idea of a people who could TRANSFORM into dragons. How cool would that be? The ability to fly? Having scales?! (Eh, maybe not so much...but you're a dragon, baby!) I'm all about shape-shifting creatures and especially when it involves magical creatures. The drama in this book was also handled fairly well because Jacinda was constantly in turmoil. And while I was a fan of Will, there were certain things that bugged me about him. But I'll get into that later. I liked the story and kept reading because Jacinda seemed to be getting herself into more and more trouble and I wanted to see how things would resolve.

Parts not liked: unfortunately, there were parts of this book that didn't fly with me (no pun intended). Jacinda was very wishy-washy about her feelings in general, if not a little whiney. And we were constantly seeing her emotions flop and resolve back and forth. It got a little old after a while. I know things were probably confusing for her, but I would have liked her to debate less and choose something and then stick with it.

I also wasn't quite sure what to make of Will. The whole relationship seemed a little awkward at times and I didn't know how I felt about Will's presence igniting her draki self...that...was...kind of disconcerting? I'm struggling with the right word. Even though I'll gladly accept all sorts of crazy and ridiculous situations and settings in fiction novels, there were something about this series that felt a little off to me and I was actually a little uncomfortable with the relationship between Jacinda and Will. Maybe because he was attracted to her dragon side and that just felt weird? Eh, or maybe because his family totally hunts her family?

I can see why people fell in love with this story and I can also see why people did not like this story. I fell in the middle. I am planning on reading the sequel because I picked it up at ALA, but I'm not sure if I would have read it otherwise...

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Review #1487 The Bare Facts by Josh McDowell

Review: #1487
Book: The Bare Facts
Author: Josh McDowell
Rating: four stars (out of four)
Release date: June 16, 2011
Pages: 128
Publisher: Moody Publishers
Source: Library

I think that teenagers looking for answers or wanting to get a second opinion on this subject should read this book. McDowell handled these questions in a frank and open manner without being graphic or holding back. I also thought their distribution of statistics and facts (with appropriate citation and sources) really added to the validity of their material. I was even startled by some of the statistics. I feel society as a whole doesn't give the full picture when portraying sex, that they brush over certain aspects and I think it's good to see the other side and really know what you're getting into. And I know people have different opinions about what is and what is not appropriate, but this book showcases some aspects that aren't commonly known and might make you consider your actions.

Review #1486 Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation by Matt Myklusch

Review: #1486
Book: Jack Blank and the Imagine Nation
Author: Matt Myklusch
Rating: two stars (out of four)
Release date: Aug. 3, 2010
Pages: 480
Publisher: Aladdin
Source: Library

For some reason, this book's review is being posted after the review for the second book in the series. Not sure how that happened, but my apologies. This is my review of the second book in the series.

I wasn't quite sure what to make of this book. The beginning was very strange and I had a hard time believing what was going on. It felt a little "cheesy" or a little too stereotypical and I wasn't sure if I was even going to finish it. But once we got past the initial weird start of the story and started to see some more action I felt the book pick up. I thought the story was fairly interesting and I definitely wanted to see how Jack fit the world. It was pretty action-oriented and I felt like things progressed in a straight-forward manner. It just wasn't something I found overly compelling.

Overall it wasn't a bad book and kept most of the story moving along at a good pace and I can see some children loving this world. I wasn't all gung-ho about it, but I did read the sequel and I enjoyed it, if not for some of the major flaws in the story. I probably wouldn't go out of my way to recommend it though...

Monday, May 27, 2013

Review #1485 Supernaturally by Kiersten White

Review: #1485
Book: Supernaturally
Author: Kiersten White
Rating: two stars (out of four)
Release date: July 26, 2011
Pages: 336
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: ALA 2011

Initial thoughts: I'm still debating on my rating. I don't know if it's a 2 or 3 stars. I didn't like it as much as the first one, that's for sure - but I'm not sure how I stand...I'll give it a couple of days to mull over...but for now, it's just going to be a 2. I liked Evie's voice, but I didn't think this was as thrilling as the first one and there were some things that just didn't make sense and I kept waiting for questions to be answered...I also felt for Lend. And I kind of wish he had a bigger part in the story.

I had been such a big fan of the first book, Paranormalcy because it was snarky and playful and fun. And I kind of loved that gorgeous cover. I mean, seriously, it was fantastic. This book has a nice cover too, but I would have liked more diversity in color. And I know, here I am nit-picking over the cover art instead of talking about what I did/did not like in the book. 

I very much felt like this was in the same vein as the first one and I really liked the premise of Evie having a normal life and finding it to be lacking...but there was something amiss with this story. It was like a spark of something was missing, and I wasn't quite sure what. It still had some of the same snippy dialogue and wonderfully unique characters, but I was not in love with it nearly as much as the first book - and maybe that's because the first one was so FRESH and different after reading the ho-hum drum of paranormal YA books out there. It was a refreshing break to read this sort of book that poked fun at the idea of paranormal activity and yet it was still was an interesting read and kept me engaged in the story. It was entertaining, but I was still confused about some things (being vague because I don't want to be spoilery) and I do wish Lend had a bigger part in this story. He was just so much fun in the first book and I had been looking forward to getting to know him better and seeing what sort of relationship would develop between him and Evie. 

I'm not really sure what else to say. This book was a little bit of a disappointment. I liked the premise, I liked the characters, and I liked the world, but for whatever reason, this book didn't latch on to me quite as well as the first and I didn't find myself falling in love. I'd still recommend it and I'm planning on reading the final book. I just don't know when I'll get around to it.

Review #1484 Matched by Ally Condie

Review: #1484
Book: Matched
Author: Ally Condie
Rating: four stars (out of four)
Release date: Nov. 30, 2010
Pages: 369
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Source: Library

Initial thoughts: I was only going to read a couple of chapters, but then I ended up reading the entire book in pretty much one sitting. To say I was hooked is an understatement. My heart beat so fast as details were released and I started to figure out where things were going. This society was fascinating and terrifying. I couldn't get enough. I kept reading to see how things would end up. I'm SO GLAD I have the sequel, because I don't know what I would have done otherwise. Probably screamed in frustration. 

Although, I see there's a third book planned. ARGH! What am I going to do when I've finished the second book? Die? Okay, I know that's an exaggeration, but seriously, I kind of have a love/hate relationship with dystopian series because if I love the stories so much then I hate waiting for the next book to come out...

I'll freely admit I was fully on board the dystopian band wagon. And while people might argue the YA market was flooded with this genre, I couldn't get enough. From the beginning I was enthralled. I was so intrigued by the world created and I wanted to know more about how their society was run. (It also reminded me a little of The Giver and I'm in LOVE with that book.) The whole system of rules and regulations they follow every day fascinated me. I also thought Condie did an excellent job of creating the world and making it fairly realistic. Yes, yes, I know, pretty much any dystopian world really isn't all that plausible, but I never jerked out of the story going, "That's preposterous! They would never do THAT!" instead I accepted their society and even wanted to go deeper. Condie also did a good job of slowly ladling out bits and pieces of the world throughout the entire novel. You were ALWAYS finding out something new. Things were happening behind-the-scenes and being hinted at and it really built good tension. 

Some of the things I loved: the three color-coded pills, the way each person had their own special meal assignments, the artifacts they passed down from generation to general, the whole limitation of 100 poems/stories/art. And while I thought these rules were great for the story and setting, they were also disturbing as well. It was a grim sort of fascination that kept me reading because I was waiting for the world to start tearing at the seams. 

There were some things I found a little disjarring though. I really, really liked Xander, but I didn't feel like he was fully fleshed out. I wanted just a little bit more insight into his character becuase I felt Cassia told you a lot about his character instead of letting his actions speak for themselves. And I wasn't sure how much I fell for the romance aspects in this story. I didn't think it was necessarily all that convincing. I liked the plot and I certainly liked seeing the interaction between the characters, but I think it needed more depth to make it fully believable. Cassia so quickly pondered her feelings and came to conclusions, it felt a little odd (for me). But I was definitely a fan of Ky. He was cool, though I wasn't sure if I truly believed his character either. I just needed a little more. But this didn't hinder my love for the book: it was the seeping undercurrent of something sinister behind the society that kept me reading. 

I was definitely a fan, Matched grabbed me from the start and the world was so engaging I couldn't help but devour the book. I'd recommend for people who can't get enough of the dystopian genre or people who like that twist on perfect societies. If you liked The Hunger Games, Divergent, and Glitch and haven't read this book, you should definitely give it a try.

Side note: all three books are FINALLY out for this series, so if you have obsessive tendencies like me and want to read all three back-to-back-to-back you have the chance. The sequels: Crossed & Reached.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

Review #1482 Robomop by Sean Taylor

Review: #1482
Book: Robomop
Author: Sean Taylor
Illustrator: Edel Rodriguez
Rating: two stars (out of four)
Release date: Feb. 7, 2013
Publisher: Dial
Pages: 32

I liked the illustrations, but didn’t care for the story. It had a good ending, but it didn’t do anything for me. It reminded me a little of the Jetsons, even though that wasn’t a show I watched...I guess it reminded me of the idea of that show, or what I’ve always pictured in my head. The pictures were stylized and fun, but overall it was a teensy bit depressing. I think it depends on how you view things – but I can see other people enjoying this story.