Wednesday, 14 December 2011

Review: Beautiful Creatures

Beautiful Creatures
Beautiful Creatures by Kami Garcia

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

When I started reading Beautiful Creatures, I didn't quite know what to expect. It's been a while since I read from a male p.o.v. and at first I found it kind of strange - Ethan's entire life before meeting Lena, in fact, felt really alienating to me.

As soon as Lena appeared, though, it seemed like everything just lighted up. I thoroughly enjoyed the mystery (who is she? what is she?) which was perfectly paced, and I found Lena's struggles to be absorbing and real.

The only problem I had was kind of with the ending. I don't know, for me it didn't really seem like that hard a choice, and that's all I'll say about that for fear of spoilering everything.

All in all, a highly recommended book of haunting love, heartache and magic.

View all my reviews

Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Review: Demon Girl (Rae Wilder #1)

Title: Demon Girl
Author: Penelope Fletcher
Series: Rae Wilder #1
Genre: YA Paranormal Dystopian
Age restriction? 10+?
Published: 7 October 2010
Recommended for: I wouldn't recommend it.
Buy: Demon Girl @ Amazon (Free Book)
What seemed like an interesting idea was ruined by lack of editing. Too bad, really.

DESCRIPTION (via Goodreads): Rae Wilder has problems. Supernatural creatures swarm the earth, and humanity is on the brink of extinction. Stalked by a handsome fairy who claims she is like him, demonkind, Rae thinks maybe it was a mistake breaking the rules by going over the Wall into demon territory. Plunged into a world of dark magics, fierce creatures, and ritual sacrifice, she is charged with a guarding a magical amulet. The changes to her mind and body are startling, but rather than accept her purpose she struggles against who she is destined to be. Throw in a big lust for a vampire who can't keep his hands off her, and life starts to get complicated. Rae is forced to make the ultimate choice: to live and die human, or embrace her birth-right and wield magics that could turn her into something wicked, a force of nature nothing can control.

REVIEW: I thought this sounded like a fun and original story and couldn't wait to read it. Sadly, I simply couldn't get through the egregious grammatical errors, homonym confusion, and general lack of editing.

This could be a great book, but I simply could not finish it. I have great respect for Indie authors, but this is one book that really needed a good editor. Besides the language issues, the plot needed some serious tightening up and the pacing - oh lawd the pacing!

It read like an unedited NaNoWriMo attempt, sadly. Most disappointing indeed.

RECOMMENDED FOR: I couldn't finish it.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Review: Delirium

 Title: Delirium
Author: Lauren Oliver
Series: Delirium #1
Genre: YA, Dystopian
Age restriction? None
Published: 1 February 2011
Recommended for:
Buy: Delirium: The Special Edition @ Amazon

Great YA Dystopian with a few minor flaws. A stellar idea executed very well overall.

Lena Holoway is counting the days until she can have her operation and be free of the curse of love forever. Unlike many of her peers, she doesn't resent the government's interference in her life - she welcomes it, counts the days until it can happen. Because love is dangerous. Love hurts. And love kills. Lena knows this first-hand - that's the reason she's living with her aunt and her two cousins.

Desperate to escape the "curse" her family must bear, the increased scrutiny, the whispers of them being sympathizers, eager to just be normal and happy and free, Lena doesn't even consider that things could be, (should be?), different. Until the day of her evaluations to determine her future partner and life course, when the Sympathizers stage a protest. When she meets him, and her entire life and everything she thought she knew gets turned upside down.

Well-written and captivating, Lauren Oliver's Delirium is a gentle look at identity, feelings and duty as well as being a decent love story and a terrifying glimpse into what might be.

One of the things I particularly enjoyed about Delirium was how every symptom, every justification given for the outlawing of love is made to make absolute sense. I mean, it's true: love is dangerous. Love has caused people to kill themselves and others. Love has driven people insane, it's shattered nations and leveled empires. It's irrational, unexplainable and uncontrollable. And yes, it freaking hurts! It hurts a lot, sometimes.

The only major problems I had with Delirium was that the romance between Alex and Lena seemed a little bit too "pat" and easy and the Authorities of this Dystopian world seem slightly incompetent and useless. I mean, if you're going to have a totalitarian government that wants to control people up to and including what they feel, you'd need to be stricter and it wouldn't be so easy to sneak out after curfew and so on.

Still, all in all this was an excellent and satisfying read with a memorable (albeit cliffhanger!) ending.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Lovers of YA and anyone with any interest in dystopian fiction.

Thursday, 1 December 2011

Review: Shifting


Author: Bethany Wiggins
Series: This is a standalone book, I think.
Genre: YA, Paranormal Romance, Urban Fantasy
Age restriction? None.
Published: 27 September 2011

Buy: Shifting @ Amazon
Breathes new life into a familiar theme with an incredible main character and fast-paced, action-packed story.

Maggie Mae's life has been everything but a fairy tale. After the death of her parents and family when she was only five, she has spent close to thirteen years in the foster care system, drifting from home to home, never belonging but trying her best. It was only in the last two years that she's had trouble with the law, trouble which led to her latest foster family begging her social worker to find her yet another home... but someone follows her. Someone who wants her dead.

With so little time to go before she turns eighteen and graduate, Maggie Mae hopes that this foster home will be her last and that she will just be able to hold out until graduation to enter an unsure future. When she meets Bridger, she warns herself not to get attached, that everyone she gets attached to comes to harm, besides, Bridger is not even allowed to date local girls, never mind an orphan scarred from years in the system... but her heart has plans of its own. How can she keep her secret from Bridger, elude the hunters that are intent on killing her and survive for long enough to even have a future?

I enjoyed Shifter a great deal. It's an exquisitely crafted book and Maggie Mae is one of the most sympathetic-without-being-pathetic characters out there. Her life is hard but she's not letting it get her down for one second. The plot is tight and action-packed with heart-stopping pacing and some genuinely surprising twists and turns, and the romance! Beautifully executed, the romance is the heart of the story, knitting it all together into one brightly coloured and extraordinary read.

I had some issues with the resolution of the plot - it felt slightly deus ex machina to me - but other than that, this is a wonderful and satisfying book that will stick with you long after you've read the last page.

RECOMMENDED FOR: Fans of Urban Fantasy, Young Adult or Paranormal Romance.

Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Waiting on Wednesday #7 - 30 November 2011

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine, that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating.

Waiting on Wednesday is one of the harder memes for me to participate in, since I am notoriously impatient and there are SO MANY books that I simply can NOT wait for. This week, however, I have a clear winner:

Phoebe Kitandis

 What if you forgot your identity and had to rely on other people to tell you who you were?

And what if to discover your true self, you first had to unravel a mystery so big and terrifying you were not sure you’d survive solving it?

When Marshall and Elyse wake up in each other’s arms with zero memory of how they got there or who they are, it’s the start of a long journey through their separate pasts and shared future.

Terrified by their amnesia, the two make a pact to work together to find the answers that could jog their missing memories. As they piece together clues, they discover they’re in the idyllic mountain resort town of Summer Falls, where everyone seems mysteriously happy, but as Marshall and Elyse quickly learn, darkness lurks beneath the town’s perfect facade. Not only is the town haunted by sinister ghosts, but none of its living inhabitants retain bad memories of anything—not the death of Marshall’s mom, not the hidden shame in Elyse’s family, not even the day-to-day anguish of high school.

Lonely in this world of happy zombies, Marsh and Elyse fall into an intense relationship...but the secrets they uncover could be the death of this growing love—and the death of everyone, and everything, they love in Summer Falls

Besides being the name of one of the kick-ass-in-a-creepy-way girl tributes in The Hunger Games, Glimmer just sounds incredible, doesn't it? I just finished reading Whisper by this author and now I simply cannot wait to devour any other work she may produce.

So, what are you waiting on?

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

If you haven't read it yet Review: Jumper

Title: Jumper
Author: Steven Gould
Series: #1 Jumper
Genre: Young Adult, Urban Fantasy, soft sci-fi
Age restriction? 13+ for adult themes, sexual violence, abuse and other explicitly described violence, including terrorism.
Published: 5 February 2008

Buy: Jumper: A Novel @ Amazon

An intense character-driven book with much more meat and a completely different story than the movie.

DESCRIPTION (via Goodreads): What if you could go anywhere in the world, in the blink of an eye?  Where would you go?  What would you do?    
Davy can teleport. 

To survive, Davy must learn to use and control his power in a world that is more violent and complex than he ever imagined.  But mere survival is not enough for him.  Davy wants to find others like himself, others who can Jump.(more...)

REVIEW: Let's just first get this out of the way: YES I LIKED THE MOVIE (mostly because Samuel L. Jackson ;p). Lots. It was fun, exhilarating and all that jazz an action/adventure movie these days must be. But it was also, not to fine a point on it, as shallow as a puddle after a summer shower, also as these kinds of movies tend to be. Despite that, I enjoyed the movie for what it was, but the book is something completely different from the movie. Best you sort that out in your mind right quick (luckily, being a veteran Stephen King reader, this is an exercise that comes easier to me).

While the movie is all about Davy and how he tries to escape the Paladins, who want to get their evil hooks in him and stop him from jumping or whatevs, the Paladins don't even exist in the book. I found this worked excellently for the book, turning it to more the story of a boy who's trying to literally escape his abusive past but keeps getting drawn back in while having to make hard choices about morality, privacy, agency and responsibility.

Other stuff I liked:
  • The author pulls no punches. There are some violent scenes in the movie, but in my view it's nothing a teenager these days hadn't seen a million times on TV or in a game and here it's not just gratuitous. (PROTIP: If you're looking for a book for your child to read, looking at the AGE OF THE PROTAGONIST is the best way to see if it's in your child's age bracket. Seriously, how do people not know this?)
  • I enjoyed the voice of this book. Davy is a great character and is written in such a way that even when he says something in his own head, we can see what the thought behind it is, even if he doesn't necessarily have that level of knowledge yet.
  • I really liked how seriously Davy took responsibility and how hard he tries to convince himself that it's okay, he doesn't need to feel guilty, and yet he still can't help but feel guilty about things he can't necessarily control. 
  • I couldn't put the story down. Although the main conflict isn't introduced until much later in the book, the narrative creates enough conflict with Davy and his coming to terms with his powers to keep you enjoying page after page even before the real "story" starts. Personally I wouldn't plot it like that, but it worked in this instance and some of the events in this "backstory introduction" become very important when looking at and understanding some of David's later choices.
  • Solid ending. Always good, especially good here, even though it's the first of a series.
  • Subtle yet effective glance at some feminist themes in relationships: the problems the dominant narrative of sex as a transaction creates for the individuals involved who don't want to follow that narrative yet know no other way, things like that mentioned in passing, things most girls and some guys have to deal with and normally sooner rather than later was really gratifying and added a bit of (sorely needed) depth to David's romance with Millie.
  • I didn't really feel the romance between David and Millie. There were great aspects around this arc (see the last bullet above), but I found most of the romance to be slightly passionless and pretty meh. Could definitely have been handled better.
  • The descriptions in the action scene sometimes went by too fast, especially with his jumping thrown in. It was hard for me to maintain a sense of what exactly was going on in the battle scenes.
RECOMMENDED FOR: "Soft" Sci-fi fans, those who like both contemporary YA and urban fantasy, anyone looking for a male protagonist, anyone who felt the movie slightly "lacking" and is willing to read this book as a YA and not a hardcore science fantasy. Just don't bother with the second book and you'll be golden.

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Review: The Replacement

Title: The Replacement
Author: Brenna Yovanoff

Genre: Young Adult Urban Fiction/Fantasy
Age restriction? 12+ at least, it gets pretty macabre (and gruesome) and there's some cursing.
Published: 21 September 2010
Recommended for: If you're looking for a fresh concept and some dark, grim variety, this is the book for you.
Buy: The Replacement @ Amazon

Excellent concept and lots of grim darkness, though the plot and characters may be a bit cold to some.

DESCRIPTION (via Goodreads): Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, Mackie comes from a world of tunnels and black, murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattoed princess. He is a replacement - left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago when it was stolen away by the fey. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood and consecrated ground, Mackie is slowly dying in the human world. (...more)

REVIEW: I enjoyed reading The Replacements, although at some times it felt like it was trying too hard to imitate something like Donnie Darko (which is referenced). The plot and characters could seem cold and distant to some readers, but was just what I needed after numerous Teen Angst Tee Em books to clear my palate for more.

What I liked:

  • It was pretty dark and grim. I loved that.
  • The author pulls no punches - vivid, sometimes gruesome imagery and honest descriptions of difficult-to-sympathize-with emotions like the desire to stay safe and unnoticed, apathy and depression was done very well.
  • Did I mention dark and grim? This what the Fae should be like! 
  • Despite the darkness and grimness, a heartwarming plot with the main character building truely heartfelt relationships.

  • The main character, Mackie, is difficult to emphasize with - mostly because he's not human and part of what that entails is a certain distance and aloofness.
  • Also, "Mackie"? Seriously?
  • The "Big Bad" was just too stereotypically bad, with nothing redeeming at all - no nuance. I found this incredibly disappointing, especially because its counterpart (The "Good Witch", if you will, because Big Good she ain't) was incredibly nuanced and not all goody goody unicorns and rainbows and stars.
RECOMMENDED FOR:Anyone looking for something a bit more substantial and grim and/or gruesome on the Young Adult scene.