Thursday, June 28, 2012

Review: Infinity by Rachel Ward

Title: Infinity
Author: Rachel Ward site
Format: Hardcover, 256 pages
Published: 5/01/2012
Publisher: Chicken House (Scholastic)
Source: Library

**Spoiler Alert** Infinity is a sequel and may spoil the rest of the series for you. You have been warned.

“Because everyone wants to live forever.

No matter what it takes, Sarah's desperate to escape from the numbers.

Always numbers. Sarah loves Adam, but can't bear the thought that every time he looks in her eyes, he can see her dying; can see her last day.

It's 2029. Two years since the Chaos. Sarah and Adam are struggling to survive. She knows he always envisioned them together "'til death do us part." But will a child come between them? The child she loves. The child he saved.

Little Mia was supposed to die that New Year's Day. The numbers don't lie. But somehow she changed her date. Mia's just a baby, oblivious to her special power. But ruthless people are hunting her down, determined to steal her secret.

Because everyone wants to live forever.”

Basic Synopsis:
It’s 2 years since Adam went on television to warn people of the Chaos and London is in shambles. The survivors are living in tent cities across England, forced to fend for themselves. Adam and again pregnant Sarah are preparing for another tough winter for their family. But everything changes when government workers on motorcycles snatch Adam, Sarah, and Mia away to an underground government facility. They want Adam to tell them peoples number, to decide whether some refugees are worth bringing aid. Or so they say. Saul, the head of the facility seems to want something else from Adam.

One of the reasons I was disappointed reading this book is that there’s not really any character development. There aren’t really any new characters, and we’re left with the exact same characters from The Chaos. In all honesty, the characters left me bored. I didn’t find out anything new about them; nothing about them changes.

The only kind of new main character is Mia, Sarah’s biological daughter. There’s a lot of speculation on Adam’s part about whether Nan had given Mia here number or if she somehow stole it. It’s meant to be a kind of mystery throughout the book, but it’s never really answered.

Plot and Story:
I feel like Infinity was a wasted opportunity. I was really disappointed, because I really enjoyed the first two books in the series, Numbers and The Chaos. I didn’t see anything special or new in this book. There were a couple of surprises in the ending, but nothing “mind-blowing” as described.

Well, I’m sorry to say that overall Infinity was unsatisfactory. As far as disappointing books go, Infinity is second only to Crossed by Ally Condie. ‘Nuff said. I give it 1 of 5 stars, because I know this one could have been so much better.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Review: Lies Beneath by Anne Greenwood Brown

Title: Lies Beneath
Author: Anne Greenwood Brown site
Format: eARC, 303 pages
Published: 6/12/2012
Publisher: Delacorte BYR
Source: Netgalley
Challenges: Ebook Reading Challenge (hosted by Workaday Reads)

“Calder White lives in the cold, clear waters of Lake Superior, the only brother in a family of murderous mermaids. To survive, Calder and his sisters prey on humans, killing them to absorb their energy. But this summer the underwater clan targets Jason Hancock out of pure revenge. They blame Hancock for their mother's death and have been waiting a long time for him to return to his family's homestead on the lake. Hancock has a fear of water, so to lure him in, Calder sets out to seduce Hancock's daughter, Lily. Easy enough—especially as Calder has lots of practice using his irresistible good looks and charm on unsuspecting girls. Only this time Calder screws everything up: he falls for Lily—just as Lily starts to suspect that there's more to the monsters-in-the-lake legends than she ever imagined. And just as his sisters are losing patience with him.”

Basic Synopsis:
Calder and his three sisters, Maris, Pavati, and Tallulah, have a mission. To avenge their mother by killing Jason Hancock. Ever since their mother died, Maris has become the matriarch of the family. She is the cruelest sister, and all Calder wants is to be out of her control. Maris makes Calder an offer, get close to Lily and use her to lure her father out into the lake and she will set him free. If he fails, she will never let him go. Getting close to her is easy, and soon he has Lily wrapped around his finger. The only problem? Calder has started developing feelings for her. Will he trade freedom for true love?

Calder is just your usual murderous mythical creature, fighting against his nature. He was very self pitying and in the end tries to be a martyr.

Lily was kind of an empty character. She has a thing for Victorian poetry. For supposedly being strong willed, she would do pretty much anything Calder told her. As soon as they get together, she completely loses her fire. I also didn’t like that she romanticized everything.

Is it just me, or do these characters (and set up) sound familiar?

Plot and Story:
I didn’t like the way that the chapters would jump far forward without a lot of explanation. I also thought that some actions of the characters in the book weren’t very well described. And the worldbuilding left much to be desired. It was confusing. However, I was a little surprised by the ending.

I’ll start by saying that I’ve never really read a mermaid YA book before. They are starting to become quite popular. This book was definitely a letdown, but I won’t give up on mere-fiction just yet. I give Lies Beneath 1.5 of 5 stars.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Review: I Hunt Killers by Barry Lyga

Title: I Hunt Killers
Author: Barry Lyga
Format: Hardcover, 359 pages
Published: 4/03/2012
Publisher: Little, Brown and Company
Source: Library

“What if the world's worst serial killer...was your dad?

Jasper (Jazz) Dent is a likable teenager. A charmer, one might say.

But he's also the son of the world's most infamous serial killer, and for Dear Old Dad, Take Your Son to Work Day was year-round. Jazz has witnessed crime scenes the way cops wish they could--from the criminal's point of view.

And now bodies are piling up in Lobo's Nod.

In an effort to clear his name, Jazz joins the police in a hunt for a new serial killer. But Jazz has a secret--could he be more like his father than anyone knows?”

Basic Synopsis:
Jasper Dent,known as Jazz, is the only son of the world’s most infamous serial killer.Before he was caught and sentenced, Butcher Billy taught Jazz everything heknows about murder. But now there’s a new serial killer in Lobo’s Nod. Butdespite his pleadings, the sheriff, G. William, refuses to believe it’s aserial killer. So Jazz is forced to take investigations into his own hands, toprove that there is a serial killer in Lobo’s Nod. But Jazz wonders if, withall his father’s brainwashing, it’s just a matter of time before he takes upthe family business.  

Jazz’ssarcastic and has a dark sense of humor, he’s also a great actor and definitelya charmer. His biggest worry that it’s inevitable that he’ll become a serialkiller, just like his father. I liked Jazz, and I was invested in hiswellbeing. He wasn’t my favorite character though. My favorite character wasHowie, Jazz’s type A-hemophiliac best friend/sidekick. Every other thing thatcame out of his mouth was hilarious. You just never know what he’s going to saynext.

Plot and Story:
I Hunt Killers is dark, disturbing, and downrightbloody. Very bloody. It’s an unputdownable mystery/thriller, and sure to makeyou squeamish. I hung on every word. The book ran at a pretty fast pace, whichwas great for me.

I reallyliked that it was a YA mystery. There aren’t enough of those. Let alone onesthat you can’t guess the plot. And I know that, in real life, the policeprobably wouldn’t let a 16 year old boy help them find a serial killer. Butthat didn’t bother me and I loved it anyway.

I picked thisbook for no other reason, than that Barry Lyga wrote it. (He’s one of my “author gods”)I loved his debut The AstonishingAdventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl and would recommend it to anyone.  IHunt Killers is a nonstop thrill ride and the first of a series I can’twait to read. I give it 4 of 5 stars! Definitely a must read for fans ofmystery.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Author Gods

I’m not a religious person, I’m technically an agnostic. But I do have gods that I worship. They’re my author gods. These are the authors that have so impressed me with their work that I listen to everything they say. I will read anything that they write, and just about anything that they blurb. In a way, they control what I read. They are like reading mentors, but also teach me life lessons. Here are some of my author gods, and what they taught me.

 Libba Bray has taught me to be confident and strong, and never be afraid to make light of the situation.

Lemony Snicket taught me from an early age that no matter how bad thing are, there is always somebody that has it worse. That I should always be grateful for what I have.

Neil Gaimen taught me that somethings we humans do without thinking are pretty stupid. And that cats have a lot of interesting things to say.

Jonathan Maberry taught me that even the bad guys are human. Even serial killers are brothers, daughters, and husbands.

Barry Lyga taught me how much anger a person can have. And that sometimes it’s best to let go of anger.

Ned Vizzini taught me that I’m not alone, and to take serious subjects with just a touch of optimism and humor.

Laurie Halse Anderson taught me how to be brave. That above all else, life must go on no matter the situation.

M.T. Anderson taught me to look at my own actions from another’s perspective. Not everyone sees life the same way you do.

Scott Westerfeld taught me that the future may not always be golden. And that you can only be beautiful if you yourself think you are, and are a good person.

Amy Kathleen Ryan taught me that right and wrong are relative. She taught me to be skeptical, and to never assume anything.

Do you have any “author gods”? What have your favorite authors taught you?

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Review: Girl Parts by John M. Cusick

Title: Girl Parts
Author: John M. Cusick site
Format: Hardcover, 218 pages
Published: 8/10/2010
Publisher: Candlewick Press
Source: Library

What happens when a robot designed to be a boy’s ideal “companion” develops a will of her own? A compulsively readable novel from a new talent.

David and Charlie are opposites. David has a million friends, online and off. Charlie is a soulful outsider, off the grid completely. But neither feels close to anybody. When David’s parents present him with a hot Companion bot designed to encourage healthy bonds and treat his “dissociative disorder,” he can’t get enough of luscious redheaded Rose — and he can’t get it soon. Companions come with strict intimacy protocols, and whenever he tries anything, David gets an electric shock. Parted from the boy she was built to love, Rose turns to Charlie, who finds he can open up, knowing Rose isn’t real. With Charlie’s help, the ideal “companion” is about to become her own best friend.

In a stunning and hilarious debut, John Cusick takes rollicking aim at internet culture and our craving for meaningful connection in an uber connected world.”

Basic Synopsis:
Set in the near future… It all starts when a girl named Nora Vogel kills herself on a live web cam over the internet for all to see. David is just browsing the web when he sees it and watches. He thinks nothing of it until he is called into the psychiatrist’s office where he is confronted about doing nothing to stop it. He is diagnosed with “dissociative disorder”. His recommended course of treatment is to get a Companion, a robotic girl whose universe revolves around him to help him relate to others.

There was something very human about David and Charlie. David is a very popular boy who has the pick of any girl he wants. Of course he doesn’t treat them well, and doesn’t care for long term relationships. Charlie is very smart and reclusive, but is also kind of arrogant and puts himself in a league above others.  Both were imperfect characters, which I always like, and they both had an air of realism about them. And Rose was very likable, and I was really rooting for her throughout the book. She’s na├»ve, but she really takes a stand for herself. She gains more confidence and self respect, while remaining humble.

Plot and Story:
There is a kind of ease and disconnected-ness about the writing. I was interested to see what happened in the story, but I didn’t feel particularly connected with the characters. It was almost like viewing them from a distance, but not exactly in a bad way. It is pretty steadily paced, and I wasn’t left bored. And although the book is only 218 pages, Girl Parts wasn’t too long or too short, it was just right.  The ending of the book is unexpected. I’m not sure whether I think it’s good or bad. It was just different.

Girl Parts was a short read, but an enjoyable one. There was something distinctly different and likeable about it. I didn’t find it “hilarious” but it’s still worth reading. It was short, direct, and to the point while still being entertaining. I give it 4 of 5 stars.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Review: Monument 14 by Emmy Laybourne

Title: Monument 14
Author: Emmy Laybourne site
Format: eARC, 294 pages
Release Date: 6/05/2012
Publisher: Feiwel & Friends (Macmillian)
Source: Netgalley
Challenges: Ebook Reading Challenge (hosted by Workaday Reads)

“Your mother hollers that you’re going to miss the bus. She can see it coming down the street. You don’t stop and hug her and tell her you love her. You don’t thank her for being a good, kind, patient mother. Of course not—you launch yourself down the stairs and make a run for the corner.

Only, if it’s the last time you’ll ever see your mother, you sort of start to wish you’d stopped and did those things. Maybe even missed the bus.

But the bus was barreling down our street, so I ran.

Fourteen kids. One superstore. A million things that go wrong.

In Emmy Laybourne’s action-packed debut novel, six high school kids (some popular, some not), two eighth graders (one a tech genius), and six little kids trapped together in a chain superstore build a refuge for themselves inside. While outside, a series of escalating disasters, beginning with a monster hailstorm and ending with a chemical weapons spill, seems to be tearing the world—as they know it—apart.”

Basic Synopsis:
In the year 2024, Dean and his younger brother Alex get on the school bus in Monument, Colorado. Suddenly huge hail rains down on their town and kills many. After a near death experience escaping the bus, the14 surviving kids and their bus driver, Ms. Wooly, flee to a nearby super store. But when Ms. Wooly goes to find help, they end up on their own. Can they survive earthquakes, toxic chemicals, and just plain isolation?

I liked Dean. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but there was something very authentic and human about him that I liked. He just wants to keep his brother safe and get Astrid to notice him. He’s also kind of an underdog of the group, and I’m a sucker for underdogs.

Plot and Story:
There is something indescribably fresh and real about Laybourne’s writing. It was good on the eyes if you know what I mean.  It was very fast paced, the story was always moving. And that’s a good thing for me. I was on the edge of my seat and my heart was actually beating with excitement at all the right parts. Oh, and that action packed, cliff hanger ending. I’m still buzzing about it. I need the sequel, like, NOW! I know I’m kind of all over the place, but there are s many things to like about this book.

I was worried it would be, but Monument 14 isn’t your run of the mill post-apocalyptic. The premise isn’t the most original idea, but it is very well written and the story is quite a ride. If you’re into post-apocalyptic YA, I would definitely recommend Monument 14. I’m giving it 4.5 of 5 stars.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Future Release Review: Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo

Title: Shadow and Bone
Author: Leigh Bardugo site
Format: ARC, 358 pages
Release Date: 6/03/2012
Publisher: Henry Holt and Co. (Macmillian)
Source: Received from publisher for review

“Surrounded by enemies, the once-great nation of Ravka has been torn in two by the Shadow Fold, a swath of near impenetrable darkness crawling with monsters who feast on human flesh. Now its fate may rest on the shoulders of one lonely refugee.

Alina Starkov has never been good at anything. But when her regiment is attacked on the Fold and her best friend is brutally injured, Alina reveals a dormant power that saves his life—a power that could be the key to setting her war-ravaged country free. Wrenched from everything she knows, Alina is whisked away to the royal court to be trained as a member of the Grisha, the magical elite led by the mysterious Darkling.

Yet nothing in this lavish world is what it seems. With darkness looming and an entire kingdom depending on her untamed power, Alina will have to confront the secrets of the Grisha…and the secrets of her heart.”

Basic Synopsis:
Alina and Mal have been best friends since they were very young, orphaned by a centuries old war. Although she wishes they were more, Mal is oblivious to her feelings. In an emergency situation she accidentally reveals the power she didn’t know she had. She is the long awaited Sun Summoner, a Grisha. The only one who can destroy the Fold. She is whisked away from Mal and taken to the King’s Palace to live with the other Grisha and learn to use her power.

Alina was very likable. She’s witty, humble, and self confident with a strong moral compass. She’s just trying to find her place in the world, trying to find where she belongs. Alina and Mal were really funny together. The banter between them was actually believable, not the usual obviously scripted repartee.  

Plot and Story:
For awhile it looked like this book was going to be imaginative, but predictable. All of the pieces were fitting together into the assumed puzzle when BOOM! Out of the blue, there’s a really big twist that I didn’t see coming. Huge game changer. It totally knocked my socks off. (Not that I was wearing any) And basically right there and then, my liking of this book went from 3.5 stars to 5 full blown freaking stars.

What really sets this book apart from other fantasy novels is the superb world building. I was instantly immersed in this fantasy world that could be set in the very distant past or future. And it was incredibly easy to understand what was going on. I really liked how the language and terms were drawn from foreign languages such as Russian.

I honestly wasn’t expecting to love this book so much. I didn’t even request the ARC, I just ended up on a bulk mailing list and got it by surprise. I had it sitting on my shelf for a long time, and then realized it was going to be released soon and thought I should get to it. I wish I would have read this book months ago! It was really a splendid read! I have no hesitation giving it 5 of 5 stars. I highly recommend checking it out from your local library or going to your local indie bookstore and picking up a copy.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Review: Hoodie by Brendon Lancaster

Title: Hoodie
Author: Brendon Lancaster site
Format: Ebook, 309 pages
Published: 5/28/2009
Publisher: Self Published
Source: Received from author for review
Challenges: Ebook Reading Challenge (hosted by Workaday Reads), and the Self-Published Reading Challenge (hosted by Workaday Reads)

Hoodie tells the story of Ben a contemporary urban anti-hero, struggling to retain his integrity in a world of shifting values and find direction where few choices exist.  During his ‘summer of love’, we follow his attempts to engage with the real world with frustration and compassion.  Along the way he meets his previously unknown father in the most unexpected circumstances and discovers that there is more to his best friend’s loyalty than he ever suspected.  His experiences of job-hunting will resonate with anyone who has gone down that road.  He discovers that sex can be ugly and exploitative, and that maybe his mum is a person after all.

The story covers topical and controversial issues in a thought provoking manner and provides the perfect antidote to alarmist right wing reporting of youth issues, exploring the problems of modern day Britain from the perspective of a disempowered, disaffected teenager.  Its blend of up to date edgy realism, dream like escapism, gritty hard hitting action, humour and tragedy provides a broad appeal to adult and youth alike.

Basic Synopsis:
Ben, known as “Hoodie” to his friends “The Shady boys”, has decided that he is going to skip school altogether and just find a job and move on in his life. A local homeless man called “Old Joe” gives him a palm reading and discovers that Ben has the rare “simian lines” on his palms. This only fuels his ambition to start his life now. How will Ben and his friends fare in this coming of age story.

Ben is the definition of the double simian lines on his palms. It is supposed to mean that his head and heart lines are one and the same, and in total harmony. He’s ambitious, impulsive, and very easy going. He’s very empathetic to other people. It’s hard for me to say whether I liked Ben as a character as he wasn’t very opinionated, except about the legality of marijuana. But I did like that he was an imperfect character. No PCD. I could go either way.

As for all of the supporting characters, I found them very transparent from the start. I could tell which of the group of friends had a thing for Ben. And which of his friends wouldn’t end up doing the right thing. I wish they would have been a little more mysterious.

Plot and Story:
To put it plainly, Hoodie was very slow paced. Too slow paced for me. When a book is slow paced, I usually find myself getting distracted by other things. And when I get distracted I end up rereading sentences over and over. Monotony isn’t good for me.

One of the parts I liked the most in Hoodie were the part were Ben has vivid dreams from the point of view of different animals. They were very well written, faster in pace, and just plain interesting. The only problem is that these dreams don’t really seem to mean anything in regards to the story. They were good but unnecessary.  

Unfortunately I didn’t love Hoodie. It was a book that intrigued me, but didn’t impress me. There’s not much else to say. I give it 2.5 of 5 stars.