Monday, September 1, 2014

Giveaway: The Awakening of Miss Prim

via Goodreads
Here it is, folks!  If you want to win your very own copy of The Awakening of Miss Prim, enter using the Rafflecopter widget below.  The winner must be willing to provide me with a mailing address, which will only be used to send the book.

This giveaway will run from September 2, 2014 12:00am EST through September 9, 2014 12:00am EST.  If you win, you will have 48 hours from my first contact to respond, and then I'll be moving on to the next person!

****Sorry sorry!  Also, for the "Comment on the blog" entry, you cannot use a Facebook timeline post to enter, as that violates Facebook's TOS.  Any entries with that as the link will be disqualified.****

a Rafflecopter giveaway

UPDATE 9/9/2014: AND THE WINNER IS RACHEL!  Thanks for entering everyone!  I hope I can do this again soon!

Friday, August 29, 2014

Review: The Awakening of Miss Prim

The Awakening of Miss Prim: A NovelThe Awakening of Miss Prim: A Novel by Natalia Sanmartin Fenollera
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

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

3.5/5 stars (Oh how I wish Goodreads did half stars!)

"I'm cold. Would you mind taking me home now?"
"Mind? I'm always happy to take you home, Prudencia."


Prudencia Prim shows up in an isolated town, to apply for the position of librarian. It turns out to be in a man's home, which also functions as a school of sorts, and this man (never named, other than as "The Man in the Wing Chair") is the perfect person to infuriate, frustrate, and turn Miss Prim into an emotional pretzel. She prides herself on her civility, her delicacy, her own good manners and intelligence, and frequently turns her nose up (quite literally, to a somewhat comedic effect) at other people's faults. But she learns that her way is not the only way, that there are other people who live different lives, more peaceful and happy lives, and maybe her prudish and stuck-up ways aren't exactly making her the best person she can be.

I'm afraid I may have missed the point of this book. Rather than laughing at Prudencia as I think the author might have intended, I found her insufferable and a bit stupid. I'm amazed, with all of her haughtiness, that she managed to make an entire village full of friends. She overreacts easily to just about everything, and only towards the end does she allow herself to feel anything short of indignation that someone would speak to her plainly and without "delicacy." Although the last couple of chapters sort of redeem her, I'm not sure I followed where the author was going with the "idea" of Miss Prim.

And yet, for all of my inability to feel comfortable with my own understanding of the work, I thought it was well-written and funny, an interesting story, and I'm happy to have read it. I'm giving it the full four stars rather than knocking it down to three because of that, and because I quite enjoyed hating the main character. Not to mention the bluntness of the children, who are relatively minor characters but give the book much of its charm. Also, I really want to move to San Ireneo de Arnois.

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Do you want to read this book?  If so, keep an eye on this blog in the next week or so because you'll have a chance to win it!

Monday, August 18, 2014

Review: Fractured Dream

Fractured Dream (The Dreamer Saga)Fractured Dream by K.M. Randall
My rating: 1 of 5 stars

[Disclaimer: I received a free ebook from Net Galley in exchange for an honest review.]

*sigh*

I really wanted to like this one, but what sounded like an interesting fairy tale-inspired fantasy turned out to be a melodramatic, overwrought teen romance drama.

Story Sparks (yes, that is her name, and it drove me nuts) is abducted, along with her two best friends, by a water goddess (Sandeen) who tells her that she used to be a goddess herself and needs to dispatch an evil overlord who is trying to destroy her world and the fairy tale world. Seriously, this actually sounded interesting. Not so much. Her uncle was abducted by the same water goddess before Story was born, and her mother has been a bit batshit about the lake ever since. So when Story goes missing, of course her mom (Edie) completely falls apart. After that we don't hear from Edie for pretty much the rest of the book.

So Story ends up going off on her magical quest to save the world, but doesn't have all the information she needs because Sandeen and pretty much everyone else in her life feels the need to keep secrets and not tell her anything, but still expect her to save them all. Okay, right.

There is a lot of sexual tension between Story and her best (straight) friend Adam (I say straight because her other best friend, Elliott, is gay, so no sexual tension there except between him and every single male fairy tale character he meets, because apparently he's a giant ho). The sexual tension between Story and Adam is weird, because apparently they aren't actually interested in each other, even though they each get jealous whenever the other shows any interest in anyone else. But eventually Story falls in love with someone, and Adam is all "Woe is me" until he meets someone else, and then it's like there was never anything between them from the start. What?

The secrets and lies and convoluted story line were way too much for me to handle. And the "origin story" that Story gets several times throughout the book changes so drastically, because everyone has a different version. Whose is right? Apparently only the last one you get in the last few pages of the book.

The writing was juvenile and sweeping. There was definite obvious use of a thesaurus. Every single character was beautiful no matter who they were. An old crone? Oh she was beautiful even with all the wrinkles on her face. The most normal guy on the planet? He's gorgeous and Elliott is drooling all over himself. No room for ugly people here! And the overbearing romantic style of the writing was too much. I felt like I was reading a book that was being put on as a play with some really bad actors who would get down on one knee and soliloquize to an inanimate object. Story's heart broke every time Nicholas looked away from her or frowned at her. It was trying way too hard to be a great book, and didn't try to be a good book.

I really don't understand how this book has almost completely five star reviews on Goodreads. It was not good. Story was a giant pain in the ass, and none of the other characters were even close to like-able. And the writing was just plain teen.

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Tuesday, August 5, 2014

Review: Shadow and Bone

Shadow and Bone (The Grisha, #1)Shadow and Bone by Leigh Bardugo
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

More like 3.5/5 Stars, but I did really enjoy it despite its shortcomings, so that's why I gave it the full 4.

I have skimmed a few other reviews, and one thing I noticed is that people didn't appreciate the attempt at Russian culture. I know pretty much next to nothing about Russia, I wasn't born there, didn't grow up there, barely studied it in school, and while some of my friends were learning Russian in high school I was busy with Spanish. I couldn't even begin to comment on the Russian elements in this book because I would inevitably be wrong. So all I will say is that I hated (and I mean HATED) having random "Russian" words thrown in in italics for effect. If you're going to throw around terminology like that, at least give us more than a sentence to absorb what it actually means, because I pretty much skipped every single one of them after I learned what a kefta was.

Secondly, a lot of people have said that the first person teen girl narrative (so incredibly overdone today) is distracting, and she reads more as a damsel in distress than a strong female character. This is pretty much accurate and I agree. I thought Alina was pretty ridiculous at times, especially when she randomly *squees* with Genya over clothes and hair and girly things. From the first couple of chapters, Alina didn't seem girly at all. AT ALL. And I don't care if she's girly or not, but at least let her character be consistent. Too often I was taken out of the story by Alina's change in personality, and it became very distracting.

Thirdly, what is it with books where people in authority grab the main character by the wrist and lead her (almost always a "her") somewhere she doesn't want to go?

But despite the book's shortcomings, and that ending that was completely out of character for Alina, I had a good time reading it. And that's mostly what matters to me when reading. I have problems when the flaws outweigh the good, but in this, even though I minded, and even though I didn't like Alina as a character, the read was enjoyable. It was pretty fast-paced and exciting, even though nothing is really explained (like HOW exactly Alina "trains" her talent, and why she trusts one specific person over anyone else ever ever ever), and even with its flaws. A shaky but interesting fantasy. I look forward to seeing what else this author can do.

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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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