Tuesday, October 9, 2012

So Long, Farewell, Auf Weidersehen, and Goodbye

As I'm sure you can already tell I haven't updated Novel Minded in a while. (Since August!) I've decided to go on a long, if not indefinite, hiatus. I've gotten way too behind on reviews and trying to crank one out for every book I read has made reading much more of a chore than  fun than  at this point. So, at least for now, I will not be updating Novel Minded. I would like to thank all of my readers for taking the time to read from my little corner of the web. Thank you again and maybe we'll meet again someday.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Future Release Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

Title: The Diviners
Author: Libba Bray site
Format: ARC, 578 pages
Release Date: 9/18/2012
Publisher: Little, Brown BYR
Source: Borrowed from a librarian

Do you believe there are ghosts and demons and diviners among us?

Evie O’Neil has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City--and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is the city of speakeasies, shopping, Broadway plays, and movie palaces! Soon enough, Evie is running with glamorous Ziegfeld girls and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will, curator of the Museum of American Folklore, Superstition, and the Occult—also known as the Museum of Creepy Crawlies.

Will is haunted by the occult, and Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And they will soon discover something dark and evil has awakened… ”
-Book Jacket

In The Diviners, in its many chapters we see from the point of view of many characters. Too many to write about. So I’m going to focus on the two most featured characters, Evie and Memphis.

Evie is a modern girl in a modern world. She’s no stranger to a drink, and loves to party late into the night like any flapper. She loves attention, and will go to just about any means to get it, many of them selfish. Though she has good intentions, things never quite seem to work out the way she plans. Evie starts out as not very likable. But she did grow on me. It’s not that she get less selfish/attention getting, but it gets to be more understandable. I still wouldn’t want her to be my best friend, but she does have good intentions.

Memphis is a black number runner for the local numbers game (local lottery), and writes poetry by moonlight in the local cemetery. Both of his parents are out of the picture and he’s just trying to take care of his younger brother who, like Evie, is developing supernatural powers. Memphis actually didn’t leave a huge impression on me. I liked him well enough, but I’m not  sure how I feel about him yet in the series.

And just something else I wanted to mention, I loved that there are some LGBT characters thrown in the mix of characters. It’s unfortunately rare in historical fiction. (Although it should be said that Libba Bray’s other historical fiction/fantasy series “A Great and Terrible Beauty” also had an LGBT character. Go Libba!)

This book should not be mistaken for a murder mystery. It’s not a story about a spunky girl with supernatural powers solving crimes as the book jacket suggests. As the reader, it made pretty clear for the start who/what the murderer is. The book is much darker than that. The parts with the killer are just downright spooky and creepy. Real goose bump and heebie jeebie producers. The Diviners is of a slower pace than I’m used to and its about 600 pages, so it felt and read like a long book.

Another adjective I would use to describe The Diviners is “introductory”. Even though there is a lot of book here and there was definitely a plot and plenty of suspense, it feels like we only get a glimpse of the characters and of what is to come in the series. It’s almost like a “calm before the storm” or “here it comes” kind of feeling.

I just love Libba Bray. She’s not only one of my author gods, she always weaves a damn good story. I know my review is already very long so I’ll keep it short and sweet. I give The Diviners 4.5 of 5 stars. If you like historical fiction or just good fantasy, do yourself a favor and pick up a copy.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Review: Shut Out by Kody Keplinger

Title: Shut Out
Author: Kody Keplinger site
Format: Audiobook, 6 discs
Narrator: Kate Reinders
Published: 9/07/2011
Publisher: Brilliance Audio
Source: Library
Challenges: Standalone Reading Challenge (hosted by Icey Books), and the Completely Contemp Challenge (hosted by Chick Loves Lit)

“Most high school sports teams have rivalries with other schools. At Hamilton High, it's a civil war: the football team versus the soccer team. And for her part, Lissa is sick of it. Her quarterback boyfriend, Randy, is always ditching her to go pick a fight with the soccer team or to prank their locker room. And on three separate occasions Randy's car has been egged while he and Lissa were inside, making out. She is done competing with a bunch of sweaty boys for her own boyfriend's attention

Then Lissa decides to end the rivalry once and for all: She and the other players' girlfriends go on a hookup strike. The boys won't get any action from them until the football and soccer teams make peace. What they don't count on is a new sort of rivalry: an impossible girls-against-boys showdown that hinges on who will cave to their libidos first. But what Lissa never sees coming is her own sexual tension with the leader of the boys, Cash Sterling...”

Basic Synopsis:
Somehow, a rivalry started between the football team and the soccer team of Hamilton High. Lissa’s boyfriend Randy is the quarterback and therefore very involved in the rivalry. Lissa is tired of being put second to a stupid feud. Her plan to break up the rivalry: get all of the girlfriends of both the football and soccer team to go on a sex strike. And, surprise, it stirs up a whole lot of trouble…

Lissa is very organized and neat, controlling and over protective. She puts herself in charge of everyone she holds dear. Lissa is kind of a shrew, but she definitely knows it. I’m not sure why, but that makes her more likable. She also kind of has a reason for being an over protective. Anyway, I warmed up to her. Not exactly a surprise since I have a thing for imperfect protagonists.

I’m also a sucker for hilarious best friends, which is why I loved the character Chloe. She’s extremely confident and funny, and I wish I had a real live Chloe in my life. She is also often the unexpected voice of reason.  

Plot and Story:
I like the whole message/conversation about sex that happens throughout the book. The way the characters converse about sex is very honest and frank and informative in a very non-invasive way. It isn’t about using protection or STDs, but about how different individuals feel about it. Those who like it and those who don’t, those that are scared of sex and those that want to wait. Since I’m not a big “contemporary romp” fan, the informative conversation was its saving grace for me.

Last fall, around the time Shut Out came out, it was the book everyone and their mother were reading in YA. And though the buzz has gone down, I finally got the chance to pick it up and I’m so glad I did. Shut Out is funny and meaningful. It’s definitely one of the best contemporary YA novels I’ve read. It definitely lived up to the hype. I give it 4.5 of 5 stars. I would highly recommend it!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Review: Draw the Dark by Ilsa J. Bick

Title: Draw the Dark                       
Author: Ilsa J. Bick site
Format: Hardcover, 338 pages
Published: 10/01/10
Publisher: Carolrhoda Labs (Lerner)
Source: Library

“There are things in Winter, Wisconsin, folks just don't talk about. The murder way back in '45 is one. The near-suicide of a first-grade teacher is another. And then there is 17-year old Christian Cage. Christian's parents disappeared when he was a little boy, and ever since he's drawn and painted obsessively, trying desperately to remember his mother. The problem is Christian doesn't just draw his own memories. He can draw the thoughts of those around him. Confronted with fears and nightmares they'd rather avoid, people have a bad habit of dying. So it's no surprise that Christian isn't exactly popular. What no one expects is for Christian to meet Winter's last surviving Jew and uncover one more thing best forgotten the day the Nazi's came to town.”

Basic Synopsis:
Christian Cage is a 17 year old artist, living in the small town of Winter, WI. Strange things have always seemed to happen to those close to Christian, so most of the town is wary of him. When Christian ends up sleep painting on the side of a barn belonging to the richest and most influential man in town, it opens up a whole new can of worms involving a mystery over half a century old.

As for Christian, I don’t have much to say one way or the other. He’s a very unimpressionable character for me. He was definitely on the angsty, everybody-hates-me, depressed/crazy artist side of things. I did like that another character in the book plainly pointed this out, so I know it was intentional. I don’t usually like self-pitying protagonists though, so it’s a given.

Plot and Story:
Draw the Dark is definitely an unconventional book written in an unconventional way. It is also a hard book to critique because I’m not sure of all that happened. It took me 100 pages of the book to finally understand what was going on, and then I was lost for the last 100 pages. It was an incredibly hard book to follow and understand. I don’t think at all that Ilsa Bick was just winging it or BS’ing the reader in any way. I could tell that the author had a clear picture of what was going on. The problem was in conveying her vision to the reader.

Something positive I can say for the book is that, in the middle part I understood, the book does cover an interesting piece of US history I was unaware of. I would say what it is but for those who intend to read the book, I don’t want to spoil anything.

Unfortunately this book was very hard to understand and I wasn’t always sure what was going on. I really wanted to like it because I’d liked Ilsa J. Bick’s other novel Ashes so much.  In the end, I give it 2.5 of 5 stars.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Future Release Review: Glitch by Heather Anastasiu

Title: Glitch
Author: Heather Anastasiu site
Format: eARC, 371 pages
Release Date: 8/07/2012
Publisher: St. Martin’s Press (Macmillan)
Source: Netgalley
Challenges: Ebook Reading Challenge (hosted by Workaday Reads)

“In the Community, there is no more pain or war. Implanted computer chips have wiped humanity clean of destructive emotions, and thoughts are replaced by a feed from the Link network.

When Zoe starts to malfunction (or “glitch”), she suddenly begins having her own thoughts, feelings, and identity. Any anomalies must be immediately reported and repaired, but Zoe has a secret so dark it will mean certain deactivation if she is caught: her glitches have given her uncontrollable telekinetic powers.

As Zoe struggles to control her abilities and stay hidden, she meets other glitchers including Max, who can disguise his appearance, and Adrien, who has visions of the future. Both boys introduce Zoe to feelings that are entirely new. Together, this growing band of glitchers must find a way to free themselves from the controlling hands of the Community before they’re caught and deactivated, or worse.”

Basic Synopsis:
Zoe is glitching. She has broken free of the Community’s brain-washing Link and has started to feel emotions and see in color. Along with developing telekinetic powers. Zoe has to escape and soon, lest she be discovered as a glitcher and deactivated. But she’s not the only glitcher in the Community. When they reveal themselves, Zoe dreams of escape and rebellion. But not all her fellow glitchers plan on leaving. Can they make it out of the Community alive?

Zoe is a person waking up and discovering emotions, not to mention telekinetic powers. She has a strong moral compass and wants to save and help everyone no matter the cost to herself. Zoe is a cry baby. She cries and screams in surprise way too much for my taste. It’s understandable for her situation and it’s not necessarily a bad thing. It just annoys the crap out of me. But I could disregard that. I know that I’m picky and I try to put that aside for my reviews. Even if Zoe didn’t cry at the drop of a hat, she like many heroines before is a textbook case of PCD. (Perfect Character Disorder) She’s just too unrealistic and inhuman to be likable for me.  

Plot and Story:
This review took a lot more thought than usual. I knew when I’d finished that I wouldn’t read a sequel, and that I didn’t care for the book. The tricky part of writing this review was figuring out why. I’ve come to the conclusion that there are two reasons. Firstly, Glitch isn’t very original. It feels like bits and pieces of other books and movies slapped together in a hardcover. The book makes sense, and there is a plot. I’m not saying that it was a mindless read, but it’s in no way fresh and new. The second reason is in a way the cause of the first; I found the book utterly forgettable. It just slid right off my brain as though it were coated in oil. I don’t entirely know why, but it just isn’t a memorable read.

I love science fiction in YA, but I’m sorry to say that Glitch didn’t wow me. I give it 2 of 5 stars. 

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Review: The Eleventh Plague by Jeff Hirsch

Title: The Eleventh Plague
Author: Jeff Hirsch site
Format: Audiobook, 6 discs
Narrator: Dan Bittner
Published: 8/01/2011
Publisher: Scholastic Audio
Source: eMedia Library

“In an America devastated by war and plague, the only way to survive is to keep moving.

In the aftermath of a war, America’s landscape has been ravaged and two-thirds of the population left dead from a vicious strain of influenza. Fifteen-year-old Stephen Quinn and his family were among the few that survived and became salvagers, roaming the country in search of material to trade. But when Stephen’s grandfather dies and his father falls into a coma after an accident, Stephen finds his way to Settler’s Landing, a community that seems too good to be true. Then Stephen meets strong, defiant, mischievous Jenny, who refuses to accept things as they are. And when they play a prank that goes horribly wrong, chaos erupts, and they find themselves in the midst of a battle that will change Settler’s Landing--and their lives--forever.”

Basic Synopsis:
His mother is long dead and he’s just buried his grandfather when his father gets into an accident and falls into a coma. Now that Stephen is on his own he has no one to follow. Who will Stephen be? Will he follow in his grandfathers footsteps and leave everyone behind, survival his only agenda? Or will he be more like his mother and father and be more than the world would make him?

Stephen is really a boy lost. He has always followed others and hasn’t ever had to decide things for himself. He’s trying to find out who he really is. What kind of person he wants to be, and what paths he will take. Stephen is a very admirable character. I feel like he starts from scratch, without a formed personality and decides on his own to be a good person. To help others, and to be loyal to the ones he loves. And also to, eventually, own up to his responsibilities.

Jenny is lovably stubborn. She never holds back and refuses to just stay safe on the side lines. I loved that she’s no one’s damsel in distress. She stands up for herself and whatever she feels is right, never pushed around by anyone. I liked that she was so kick ass without being arrogant.

Plot and Story:
Something that I think is very unique about The Eleventh Plague is that it isn’t just a post-apocalyptic YA novel. The post-apocalyptic element isn’t the main part of the story. It really should be categorized as a coming of age story.
One of the reasons I love this book so much is because I agree with everything the author is trying to convey. And this story says a lot. For a book under 300 pages it speaks volumes. Something that may turn off some readers is that the pace of the book is kind of on the slow side. Usually that is something I would complain about, but the rest of the book is so good it didn’t bother me at all.

Do you ever read a book and really liked it, and then a lot of time passes and you think back on the book and doubt it was as good as you thought it was? I started having these doubts after a few books I’d thought I’d loved had their unfortunately obvious flaws pointed out to me by other bloggers/friends. (None that I’ve reviewed though) I’m happy to say that rereading this book I regained some faith in my book critiquing abilities. (I’d originally read the ARC in August 2011) I loved The Eleventh Plague just as much, if not more than before! I give it 5 of 5 stars, and if you haven’t read it yet you should definitely give it a try!

Friday, July 6, 2012

Review: The Butterfly Clues by Kate Ellison

Title: The Butterfly Clues
Author: Kate Ellison site
Format: Hardcover, 325 pages
Published: 2/14/2012
Publisher: Egmont USA
Source: Library
Challenges: Standalone Reading Challenge (hosted by Icey Books)

“Penelope (Lo) Marin has always loved to collect beautiful things. Her dad's consulting job means she's grown up moving from one rundown city to the next, and she's learned to cope by collecting (sometimes even stealing) quirky trinkets and souvenirs in each new place—possessions that allow her to feel at least some semblance of home.

But in the year since her brother Oren's death, Lo's hoarding has blossomed into a full-blown, potentially dangerous obsession. She discovers a beautiful, antique butterfly pendant during a routine scour at a weekend flea market, and recognizes it as having been stolen from the home of a recently murdered girl known only as "Sapphire"—a girl just a few years older than Lo. As usual when Lo begins to obsess over something, she can't get the murder out of her mind.

As she attempts to piece together the mysterious "butterfly clues," with the unlikely help of a street artist named Flynt, Lo quickly finds herself caught up in a seedy, violent underworld much closer to home than she ever imagined—a world, she'll ultimately discover, that could hold the key to her brother's tragic death.”

Basic Synopsis:
Penelope, who prefers to be called “Lo” has severe OCD and compulsively steals/hoards things. When just outside Cleveland, the bad side of town called “Neverland”, a girl known as Sapphire is murdered. Lo has never met her, but she feels inexplicably connected to her and decides to try to solve her murder herself.

Penelope has severe OCD and a compulsion to steal beautiful things. Her life is ruled by numbers, everything she does must be done in 3’s, 6’s, and 9’s to “keep her safe”. The Butterfly Clues is one of the most empathetic books I’ve read. I could really feel as Penelope felt, her emotions are so easily conveyed within the pages.

Plot and Story:
The Butterfly Clues is full of mystery and suspense. I ended up with a lot of theories as to the killer was, and who “Bird” was. But I wasn’t ever really sure until the very end. I was also didn’t guess right who Bird was. I was very surprised. So, some of the book was predictable and some of it wasn’t. This book kept me guessing, and I like that.

My one and only complaint about this book is the ending. It didn’t match the tone of the rest of the book at all. It went from a mystery/thriller to a light contemporary romp for the last 15-20 pages. And I really don’t understand why.

Except for the ending, I really liked this book. It was fast paced and uputdownable from the first chapter. I give it 4 of 5 stars. I’m really excited to see what debut author Kate Ellison will write next.