Sunday, July 13, 2014

Review: Elizabeth is Missing

Elizabeth Is MissingElizabeth Is Missing by Emma Healey
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher for the purpose of a review.]

I can't say too much about the actual story of this one without giving pretty much everything about the book away. But stylistically it was beautifully written. It grabbed my attention from the start, and as I read page after page of Maud's descent into either Dementia or Alzheimer's (it's never mentioned which one it is in the book, and I'm not sure if it was meant to be known) it broke my heart piece by piece. Maud's one focus, the repeated statement "Elizabeth is missing," leads to the story of a completely different missing person. Her first-person narrative jumbles between the past and the present. I wanted to know throughout the entire book: Where is Elizabeth? And what happened to Maud's sister? The end took me by surprise. I wasn't expecting to even enjoy the book, but I definitely loved it.

I received a Kindle Edition from NetGalley, and I believe it was before the release date. There were some typos, fairly non-impeding to my read. Mostly spacing issues and some words got stuck together. Otherwise it was done well.

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Monday, July 7, 2014

Review: Extraction

Extraction (Extraction, #1)Extraction by Stephanie Diaz
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the publisher in the Goodreads First Reads giveaway.]

Note: There are some relatively minor spoilers in this post, but as I discuss later in the review, they are completely predictable, so they aren't really spoilers.

I've been reading a lot of YA fiction and sci-fi lately. I think that may have been the reason I didn't LOVE this and only liked it. The market is saturated with Hunger-Games-esque books where kids are disposable, constantly in danger, and often forced to kill other kids. There is always a protagonist who is "better" than the rest in some way, special, able to withstand torture that would have broken another person in her (more often than not female) position. I caught a lot of reference to The Hunger Games, Divergent, and even Eve in here, which all of course hearken back to much earlier science fiction such as The Handmaid's Tale and Rollerball Murder and the like. It makes sense that readers like what they like, and want to read more of it. But I'm at the point where they all read the same to me.

Style-wise, this was no different than any other dystopian SF I've read lately. It's in first person present tense, with a female narrator, who doesn't know where she comes from but finds out she's special in some way and decides she doesn't want to conform (because conformity is *always* a bad thing, no matter what). So she becomes hell-bent on proving herself and eventually ends up a rebel. That's the entirety of this book, in a nutshell. It's well-written, intriguing, and I enjoyed the read, but there's nothing truly different about it other than the fact it's on a planet with a toxic moon.

It was also completely, absolutely predictable. Of course Clementine would be picked as an Extraction at the last second. Of course there's a truly horrible character who attempts to rape her twice (because that's the "in" thing in YA dystopians, isn't it? And how gross is that sentence for being true?). Of course she becomes a rebel, because that's what these protagonists do. And that's not a bad thing, because questioning authority and thinking for yourself is always a good idea. But the fact is, it's predictable. And that doesn't necessarily make for a good read.

And of course there are my usual gripes about word choice, there were an awful lot of people who slipped hands around Clementine's wrists. Apparently that is the best and only way to describe the act of taking someone by the wrist and leading them in another direction. There were also numerous typos, especially towards the end of the book when one sentence made absolutely no sense. This I will chalk up to the fact that I read an advanced copy, and I hope that these errors have not made it into final publication.

The love story was rather meh. The introduction of a potential second love interest was clumsy, since I can't see Clementine as someone who is so easily swayed in her feelings, but she seems to take a liking to Beechy before she finds out he's married, at which point that entire angle is dropped (as it should be, but shouldn't really have been introduced to begin with). Her body language and his are all quite awkward, and their friendship is fast, forced, and very strange.

If you haven't immersed yourself into the world of YA dystopian SF lately, go ahead and read this book. It wasn't "unrecommendable," to use a made-up word. I liked it enough to finish it, and to actually put a good amount of effort and thought into what I wanted to say. It was fun, entertaining, and well-written for the most part. Most of the people I follow would probably enjoy it as well. But it's not really ground-breaking or unforgettable (as the blurb on the giveaway brands it), certainly not something I would call "great literature." For what it was, it's worth the three stars.

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As an aside, if you are interested in reading this book, there is a giveaway on the Goodreads page (just click the title link at the top of this page) for one copy, ending July 22, 2014.  You must be a member to enter.

Monday, June 9, 2014

Review: Prototype

Prototype (Archetype #2)Prototype by M.D. Waters
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I won a copy of this book in the Goodreads First Reads giveaways.]

This book was like a hell of a lot better than the first one. It still had its problems, but overall the story was better, and the action a lot better too. It wrapped up very neatly (and I mean, pretty much every loose end is tied up), which is almost always a plus for me (I hate loose ends, especially at the end of a series), although maybe a little too neatly? Not sure yet.

Since I don't want to spoil this book for anyone who hasn't read Archetype yet, I won't post the rest of the review here.  If you want to read it, you can click here!

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Friday, June 6, 2014

Review: Archetype

ArchetypeArchetype by M.D. Waters
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I won a copy of this book in the Goodreads First Reads giveaways.]

There's nothing particularly special about this book that makes it terribly innovative. It has the typical dystopian women-as-property-because-they-overbred-boys idea, a controlling husband, a woman who wakes up on a table and doesn't know who she is or anything about her past... It's what she figures out as she tries to understand her history that sets this apart from other dystopian SF I've read lately.

Now, I'm not saying this was a particularly bad book, but it wasn't amazing, or mind-blowing, or recommendation-worthy. I enjoyed the read, and I plan to read the second book because I want to know what happens (especially with what happened in the last 50 pages or so, and also because I won the second book too).

What I liked (in list format because I feel like it):
* The reveal towards the end as to who Emma really is
* Declan's personality coming out in full, and the way he slowly showed it throughout
* The flashes of memory (this is also something I didn't like)

What I didn't like:
* The way Emma speaks. She does not use contractions, she speaks like a robot. And I guess this can be considered a clue (no, she's not a robot), but I would have thought as her memory came back she would start speaking like a normal human being again. She doesn't.
* The descriptions of lovemaking, and love, and all that junk. I'm cool with sex in books, that's not the problem. It's just that I've never *ever* had (or heard of anyone who has had) sex like the stuff in this book. And coupled with the flowery romantic language when Emma is thinking about Declan and this mystery person she sees in her memory flashes, it was too over-the-top for me to be even remotely realistic.

As long as you aren't expecting a mind-blowing thriller, or epic SF, you'll probably enjoy this book. It was interesting, and I read it in two days. So I'm judging it for what it is, and not for what it's not (although I do wish the writing hadn't been so flowery most of the time), and yeah, I liked it.

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Monday, June 2, 2014

Review: Offworld

Offworld (Dangerous Times Collection Book #1)Offworld by Robin Parrish
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

While this was an entertaining science fiction romp, I wasn't exactly feeling the Christian SF aspect. It seemed thrown in there for effect, but even then the story didn't make sense without it. I don't know why it bothered me, but it seems like there should have been more to what happened. I kind of said to myself, "That's it?"

And if the author is using "divine intervention" to explain how the crew got through everything they did, that felt more like a cop-out than a real tribute to God. Because none of it could have possibly happened the way it did without divine intervention, but it didn't feel genuine either. Gah, I feel so confused right now.

As a book, it was pretty good. It felt like he was trying to write a movie more than a novel, though. The fact that I couldn't figure out what was going on until the last 10% could be said to be the mark of a good writer, although it could also be said that what he was positing was so surreal that no one would have figured it out before the big reveal anyway.

See how conflicted I am?! I'm trying to leave positive remarks but then I get confused again... I feel like I have no idea what I just read!

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Monday, May 12, 2014

Review: The Name of the Star

The Name of the Star (Shades of London, #1)The Name of the Star by Maureen Johnson
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

This wasn't on my to-read list, but I got it from BooksFreeSwap a while ago and had put it in a pile of books TBR, and promptly forgot about it. No idea why I "ordered" it, no idea why I wanted to read it, but it was certainly a gem of a book.

I've never been too into the Jack the Ripper mystery, but I found it all very fascinating while I was reading this book, written mostly from the perspective of a 17-year-old high school senior from Louisiana who winds up spending her senior year at a private school in London, being marked by a ghost.

I don't really like ghost stories either, but this one was particularly engrossing. The POV was a bit belabored, she sometimes read like a caricature of a modern teenager instead of a real one, although her sarcasm and train-of-thought ramblings got better as the book progressed. And for a book that's not realistic in the slightest, it definitely felt, well, realistic. I mean the way the ghosts were presented and explained, and the "squad" Rory finds herself sort of a part of, were pretty well thought-out. More so than many other books I've read lately, anyway.

Aside from Rory's somewhat mediocre POV, the only other thing I had a major issue with was the pages-long "confession" at the end, that read like a cliched scene from a superhero comic: You've (sort of) caught me, but I can kill you if I want to, so I'm going to tell you my entire story, and you're just going to stand there. It made me roll my eyes. But since I'd only knock the entire book down about a half star for that, I'll just leave my rating at 4 stars.

It appears this is only book 1 in a series, and I think I will go put book 2 on my TBR list now. Didn't particularly want to get sucked into another series, but hey, let's go with it.

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Monday, May 5, 2014

Review: Thunderstruck

Thunderstruck & Other StoriesThunderstruck & Other Stories by Elizabeth McCracken
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book in the Goodreads First Reads giveaways.]

The back and inside jacket of this book has adjectives like "magnificent" and "exquisite" and "marvelously quirky," but I didn't really see much of that in the actual stories. I wasn't, I suppose you could say, impressed with the stories themselves, and the writing style was generic in that I felt I had read several other authors who write the same way. Nothing really stuck out to me as being "magnificent" or "marvelously quirky," just a bit plain.

I managed to make it through to the end, feeling a bit more satisfied with the title story than with the rest of them, although I enjoyed "Peter Elroy: A Documentary by Ian Casey" and "The Lost and Found Department of Greater Boston" almost as much. It felt a bit like trudging through mud to get there, though, which is unfortunate because I did have high hopes for this collection. Maybe that's what did me in.

So rather unfortunately, this book is just "okay" for me, and therefore gets 2 stars. Obviously others enjoyed it more than I did, but it was not my cup of tea.

(Also, as an aside, every time I look at the cover of this book I start to hear this in my head.)


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Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Review: Poison Study

Poison Study (Study, #1)Poison Study by Maria V. Snyder
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Wow! I was not expecting to love this book as much as I did!

The writing was clean, the story was intense, and the characters were pretty "human." By that I mean that I could see them as actual people, not just objects inserted in a book to make the plot move. There are only two things keeping this from a five-star rating:

1. (view spoiler)

2. (view spoiler)

And that's all the bad I have. I highly recommend this to anyone who enjoys fantasy, adventure, danger, and a character who starts off incredibly weak (and I mean really, her intelligence was the only thing she had going for her when she came out of that dungeon) but learns to trust herself and come out of it a stronger person.

*goes off to add the other books to my to-read list*

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Monday, April 21, 2014

Review: Philomena

PhilomenaPhilomena by Mark Guiney
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I have no idea how I got a copy of this book. I may have gotten it from the author and completely forgotten, because I didn't win it in a giveaway, but in all honesty I have no clue. So in the event the author sent it to me for a review, here's a disclaimer that I didn't pay for this book, but my opinion is my own.]

For a first novel this was mostly enjoyable. There were the obvious first-novel problems with plot, pacing, details, etc. I noticed a lot of typos in the PDF, although that could just be the edition, and for all I know it's been polished in print. There were a few plot holes/things I didn't quite "get" about the book, some of the character dynamics didn't really make sense (Veronica/Forthright's dislike of each other is obvious, but it's not obvious as to why, even with the back story scene halfway through). I thought maybe the author was working up to a love triangle (which I would have disliked even more so thank goodness that wasn't it).

Basil as a character is pretty much inherently good. He doesn't seem to have a flaw, aside from self-doubt and selflessness. Cyprian is a good guy too, but he doesn't really seem realistic to me. He's a great person and seems to be a good ships captain, but what else?

The "magic" in this book isn't really magic as most people think of it, and I give some props to the author for developing something unusual at the least. It was interesting how the people who can use Words (with a capital "W") are limited and the Words aren't necessarily "words" or even explicitly stated at all times. A lot of it was that "Basil started speaking and Words poured from his mouth" kind of stuff which is great, but what exactly the Words did wasn't clear until the very end of the book. It didn't really make much sense, though, and left me with more questions than there were answers provided. I get that it's sort of hereditary, and only the rulers of Cor Nova are able to wield the Words, but Basil's sudden ability and ability to control it without really thinking about it seems like it came on too quickly.

The battles were well-written and the adventure was interesting, although I think it was a bit too easy for the characters to get where they were going. Maybe that's just because most of the confrontations were wrapped up in a chapter or two, as opposed to any lengthy derailing of the plans they kept making. And at the end, (view spoiler)

The last thing that really stuck in my craw throughout the read was how the author kept referring to characters by their whole names, instead of a first or last name, except Cyprian, Basil and Veronica. By the end of the book I had forgotten Basil's last name! But Clip McElhaney and Burt Spacklebrook (who I don't think was ever referred to as simply a first or last name) were almost always mentioned by first and last name. It is a method of naming that doesn't quite sit right with me, because I feel that if we're going to learn to love these characters, we should be familiar enough with them to know them by first or last name only. Most books I've read do it that way, and that's the way I prefer it.

As an overall experience the book was a fun fantasy novel that ends very solidly, with the potential for more, but which works as a stand-alone. I LOVE that it's technically a stand-alone because it's not another first-in-a-series that I have to worry about not getting everything out of it. I see that the author is writing more stories about Cor Nova, which is nice, but I can say I am satisfied with the way this ended.

Also, Lilith is stinking adorable and while a lot of people hate the "precocious child" character, personally I found her to be hilarious and completely believable. I also liked Forthright better than most of the other characters, despite being abrasive and rude at times (or maybe because of it).

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Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Review: The Girl with Glass Feet

The Girl with Glass FeetThe Girl with Glass Feet by Ali Shaw
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This wasn't a bad book, it was actually pretty well-written style-wise, but going simply by what the designated stars mean it was simply "OK" for me.

The side characters were never really fleshed out enough for me. Their side stories never quite fit with the main one, and didn't seem to add much to the actual narrative other than their existence. None of them help Midas or Ida in any tangible way, aside from Gustav (quite literally) at the end. Ida and Midas are simply existing in this sea of people who don't like other people and have nothing to give. Any back story that was included, and any tangents the author went into were never completed or given relevance that met my expectations.

Ida and Midas as characters aren't exactly the most shining examples of human beings, but at least Midas gets a bit of a personality "expansion" by the end. I guess you could say that was the book's one saving grace.

I was moved by the end, but that was the only part that made me feel anything besides indifference. And the only reason I felt something was because (view spoiler).

I closed the book feeling unsatisfied. Perhaps it was because I was expecting a bit more magic (you know, aside from people turning to glass), a bit more folklore, a bit more of something else that this book just wasn't. But it felt like there was so much more that needed to be said, while the author may have been valuing brevity of sorts rather than developing the narrative.

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