Archive | October, 2010

Review: Nevermore by Kelly Creagh

29 Oct

Series: Nevermore, book #1

Published: August 31st 2010 by Atheneum

Details: Hardcover, 543 pages

My Rating: 3.5/5

My Summary:

Well written debut about cheerleader and an outcast goth guy who are assigned an English project about Poe in school. First half of the book is of them gradually growing fond of each other despite their differences. The second half the book turns horror/supernatural as they are thrown into a dream world interwoven with Poe’s stories. A fuzzily explained dream world drags the grade down. Still enjoyable read.

A few chapters in:

I read various book blogs raving about this book and its wonderful romance, and so naturally I was intrigued.

After reading a few chapters however, I am sceptical. The premise is so similar to other paranormal romances that it almost put me off. Isobel, the heroine, a popular girl and cheerleader, is paired up in class to do a project with this outcast and weird, yet strangely good-looking boy in school. (Heard this plot setting before anyone?) Naturally, she’s horrified in the beginning, but I assume she will warm up to him eventually. I haven’t got that far though, and as I said, I am slightly wary. I hope that their (what I assume to be)  growing fondness for each other actually shows. As it is now, it’s been a bit too awkward and weird between them, him not uttering many words at all. Hmm..

It has got great reviews though, and so my hopes are still up for an exciting novel. Let’s see how it plays out..

After finishing the book:

So I finished the book a few days ago, and I’m still not quite sure what to think.

I think I find it difficult to sum it up because I really liked some parts and disliked others. As you know, I started out sceptical, but as Isobel and Varen got to know each other better it got interesting. But then, just as I was getting really hooked, it took a dive into that supernatural dream world and my interest was lost again.

First however, let me point out that the writing is excellent. It is detailed, hence the length of the book, but not tedious like other books I’ve read (see The Pace). The reason why it’s not tedious is because the details make sense. If something detailed is explained, more often than not, that particularly detail is important for the plot later on in the book. Which makes me want to pay attention, because I know I may be rewarded later. So kudos to Creagh for that!

The plot however, as hinted earlier, was uneven. The first half of the book was good in the sense that I liked how Isobel and Varen gradually grew fond of each other. It certainly took some time. Isobel, despite committing social suicide by hanging out with Varen, was surprisingly much more open to talking to him than he with her. Consequently, at the start I was wary of Varen. He was being rude and arrogant for no other reason than for the fact that Isobel was (on the surface) a popular cheerleader. Then gradually we get to know more about Varen and understand where he is coming from. Suddenly his grumpiness made sense to me. Their feelings for each other slowly start to grow into something more – romantic.

But, just as that starts to develop, the supernatural plot takes over. Varen disappears. Isobel somehow ends up in a dream world chasing him and trying to understand how to solve the chaos. She stumbles through one weird surrounding through another, meets a number of strange creatures, her ex-boyfriend being one of them as he visits the dream world as the red death. (Don’t even ask me what that was about – I have no idea!). And all the while the strange Mr Reynolds keeps popping up here and there, helping (or not helping) Isobel with fuzzy advises.

To cut it short, I felt like I was reading a great contemporary novel about two people with different backgrounds falling in love, then got interrupted and thrown into a David Lynch movie where nothing made sense.

Moreover, I didn’t buy the whole epic romance between Varen and Isobel. I understood their connection at the start, but it went from “I think I might like you” to “you’re the love of my life” in two seconds. Like ..wait..what? Did I miss something?

I think I would have like the two of them (Isobel and Varen) to have had a bit more time together in the “normal world” before all the craziness started. And I would have liked the craziness to have been a bit less crazy or at least stayed crazy for a shorter period of time.

The Bottom Line:

All that being said, it’s still a good book, which had me glued to the pages througout some parts. It’s well written with an original story. I can definitely see potential for a good series and it’ll be interesting to see where it is heading from now on.  I just hope that we are provided with explanations in the next book so that this dream world makes better sense. Sequel is to be published sometime in the fall next year.

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Review: The Truth about Forever by Sarah Dessen

23 Oct

Series: No, stand-alone

Published:  April 6th 2006 by Puffin

Details: Paperback, 374 pages

My Rating: 4.5/5

My Summary:

Beautiful and heart-felt story about Macy who after her father’s death shuts down emotionally. Problem is, everyone else thinks she is fine. This goes on until she crosses paths with the chaotic but warm Wish catering crew and learns to live again. I laughed, I cried, my heart felt with Wes and Macy. In short, a wonderfully told story. And yes, I am now officially a Sarah Dessen fan!

A few chapters in:

I’ve been reading quite a few young-adult novels these last couple of months, and consequently I’ve  also come across Sarah Dessen. It’s impossible not to, as she is somewhat of a legend in the young-adult literary market. She has published a number of feel good novels, usually coming of age stories about teen-age girls with various issues. In doing so, she’s created a little following of admirers, raving about her books just about everywhere in the blogosphere. So after reading the 111th five-star review of a Sarah Dessen book, I made my decision. This is it. I’m going to read at least one Sarah Dessen book, just to see what all the fuss is about.

Once that decision was made I only had to pick one of her books. Which didn’t turn out to be so easy. Every Sarah Dessen-fan has a favourite novel – and those favourite titles vary about as much as the collection itself. After reading a couple of reviews and checking the goodreads overall reviewer-grade I finally settled for this one (currently grade 4.29 which is promising).

I am now 100 pages in and I am liking it so far. The writing style reminds me slightly of Simone Elkeles in how easy it flows, detailed but not too detailed, and with a great pace. The characters are likeable and easy to relate too. I got caught in the story almost immediately and am already finding it hard to put it away.

The main character is Macy Queen, also known as the girl who saw her dad die of an heart-attack. Even though one and a half-year has passed, she has not recovered. The problem is, everyone else thinks she has. Instead of fully grieving she put the cap on, and went on about life as if she was handling it fine, not wanting to trouble anyone. Appearance got important, as that was the only thing she could really control in order to convince everyone she was fine. She met her boyfriend Jason, who was as concerned with perfectionism and appearance as her. And all was well, on the surface at least.

Until summer comes and Jason heads off for a summer camp, leaving Macy alone to take care of his dead-boring library job. One day Macy crosses paths with the Wish catering crew at one of her mother’s open house events. They are a mix of craziness, chaos and warmth – all of which Macy has been avoiding ever since her father’s death. But she is tired of living a life devoid of emotions, and decides to take the leap and get to know these people better.

That’s as far as I’ve got but I’m liking it..a lot!

After finishing the book:

Ok, so I’m officially a Sarah Dessen fan. I loved it.

The funny thing is, not much happens in terms of plot. What I described earlier was basically it. Macy shuts down after her father’s death, then meets this new group of people, among them the artistic good-looking Wes, and starts living again.

Yet, it was such a great read. The characters are all so alive and well-rounded I found myself caring for them pretty much straight away.

What I also loved was the relationship between Wes and Macy. In so many YA books I’ve read lately, the romance happens out of thin air, basically one look is exchanged and then boom they are in love. In this book however it’s well founded and it feels real. They get to know each other first, they open up, become friends and first after a while does it become romantic. That’s the way it should be.

It also deals with grief – how we all grieve differently and how it’s important to accept that. And it deals with fears of letting people in – of getting hurt, but how rewarding it can be if you dare to be yourself and let people in. Macy shuts off because she is afraid that other people can’t handle it if she shows them her true self. It turns out others can handle it just fine.

The Bottom Line:

Essentially, this book touches on a lot of truths in life that we are all aware of but that sometimes seems so hard to put in practice. Things such as really talk to people you care about – even if it seems hard.

In short, it’s such a lovely book – sad, funny and hopeful. It made me want to go hugging everyone I care about and tell them how I really feel. Life is too short not to do otherwise.

Also, it made me want to go straight out and get my hands on another Sarah Dessen book, because wow she really is something!

Review: Deadly Little Secret by Laurie Faria Stolarz

21 Oct

Series: Touch, book #1

Published: December 16th 2008 by Hyperion

Details: Hardcover, 252 pages

My rating: 4/5

My Summary:

Similar plot to Twilight, as in girl gets rescued by mysterious boy in near car accident at the school parking lot, then is teamed up as lab partners with said boy, who acts strange around her. But despite the similarities, it holds its own, because it is well written, with witty dialogue and with a very likable heroine. I really enjoyed this book. Sequel is called Deadly little lies.

My Full Review:

I heard from other reviewers that this book was a real page-turner. Which is exactly what it was. I read it in one sitting, and that was not my intention when I sat down with it.

When I first started reading it I was struck by the similarities to Twilight.  Camelia, the heroine is saved in a near car accident at the school parking lot by a mysterious guy, then teamed up with said guy as lab partners in class. This guy, Ben, is mysterious and an outcast in school. And all though not vampire, he’s got this whole “if I get too close to you I might kill you” kind of thing going on. Pretty much like Twilight.

Yet, somehow it works, and I got sucked into the story anyway. A number of reasons to this:

Firstly, I liked the heroine. She’s witty, tough and has got a reasonable voice. I could feel myself agreeing with most of her decisions. Except for possibly putting herself into the most dangerous situations, but I guess there would be no story otherwise. I also grew fond of her two friends, real funny the way they kept bickering at each other.

There is also a stalker following Camelia, and his diary notes are inserted here and there so that we get to follow his twisted thoughts. That was really creepy and had me on the edge of my seat most of the time. The identity of the stalker is unknown. Of course, seeing as the weird phone calls and letters start about the same time as Ben arrives at her school makes Ben a primary suspect. Yet, we don’t know until the very end, and I for one, was surprised to find out who it was.

The one thing where it may have been lacking slightly for me was the chemistry between Camelia and Ben. Seeing as we don’t get to know that much about Ben it’s hard to follow how they are so connected. I didn’t feel it. Maybe it develops into something more in the following books. I hope so.

Ben’s strange abilities are also somewhat fuzzily explained, and I didn’t completely understand why it was so dangerous for him to be touching Camelia.

Nevertheless, because of great suspense and a likeable heroine I still very much enjoyed reading this first installment of the Touch series, and I look forward to reading the sequel Deadly Little Lies soon!

Review: A Great and Terrible Beauty by Libba Bray

13 Oct

Series: Gemma Doyle, book #1

Published: July 4th 2005 by Simon & Schuster Childrens Books

Details: Hardcover, 403 pages

My Rating: 2/5

My Summary:

About Gemma, who after her mothers death is sent to a boarding school in Victorian England, where she befriends a group of girls with whom she starts a secret club and uses forbidden magic to enter a magical world. For me it lacked in characterization, none of the characters were likable, and so I didn’t care about the book. Possibly ok for teens.

A few chapters in:

Harry Potter for girls. That’s how some people have described this book. I have also heard it’s very young adult – as in – you may need to actually be in your teens to appreciate this book. In short, I’ve heard a lot of various opinions of this series, some less flattering than others. But seeing as it’s recommended by a huge amount of people, and seeming similar to Harry Potter (which I loved), I thought I might as well check it out.

I am now 100 pages in, and I’m stricken by how similar this is to Immortal (note that Libba Bray published a few years previous to Immortal). We have a grief-stricken girl, arriving at a haunting, old private school, not getting the warmest welcome. The click of popular girls treat her badly, and her only friend so far is her room-mate who is a plain and ordinary girl, also poor and an outcast as she was sent there on a scholarship. There is a necklace, passed on from the dead (or sick) family member, which seems to hold secrets in regards to the heroine’s hidden powers. There is also a diary, written by someone else entirely, who experienced the same confusing powers as the heroine, but years previously. Oh, and there are visions as well, and strange dreams. And not to forget, a dark mysterious boy who lingers in the area, watching our heroine, but with unknown intentions.

Did I miss anything? That’s as far as I’ve got, but the premise really does share some striking similarities with Immortal, just saying.

Am I liking it so far? Sort of. I’m not completely captured, possibly because it got me bored reading the same story yet again. I also understand reviewers saying it’s aimed towards young adult only. It feels as if I may be too old for the target audience here. That being said, it’s well written, and I have a feeling it might get better. Let’s see what happens..

After finishing the book:

So what can I say? I wasn’t captured in the beginning and I’m sorry to say it stayed that way throughout the novel.

As I said earlier, Gemma the protagonist is sent to a boarding school in England after her mother’s death. There, she befriends three other girls and they form a secret club, first as a joke but as Gemma’s powers are revealed, it grows into something far more serious and eventually spirals out of control.

So why did it not capture me? I have one word for that: characterization. I didn’t care one bit for Gemma or neither one her three friends. They were immature, stupid and irresponsible, all of which I could have forgiven them in the beginning seeing as they were only teenagers. But there is no growth! Gemma keeps trusting these girls, and I can’t for one understand why, seeing as how they behave in various situations in the book (torturing an animal and having their best teacher at school fired among other things). Gemma might be a nice girl but she is too weak. She seems to know right from wrong, but keeps making stupid decisions anyway due to peer pressure (basically whenever the other girls whine).

It’s hard to care about the book when you are not invested into neither one of the main characters. I’m all for rounded characters portraying both good and bad traits, but these girls seemed to portray flaws exclusively. I would have loved for these four girls to eventually bond and care  for each other as in a true friendship. That never realized though as they were all too absorbed into their own personal goals to truly care about one another.

There is also a weird sort of romance in the book, made up almost entirely by sensual dreams. I’m not sure of why Gemma starts dreaming about Kartrik, seeing as they don’t share one single good moment together. He’s basically threatening her or being plain rude every time they meet. There is also not much of an explanation to why Kartrik made the effort to follow Gemma from India, and incorporate himself into a Gipsy community in her proximity, just to be able to watch her and advise her not to do magic. It seemed a bit too far-fetched to me, but sure, maybe there are explanations in the following two books, what do I know?

The ending fell flat as well. I don’t even think I fully comprehended it. Why was the villain suddenly defeated? What happened? There was a lot of rushing and swivelling and then suddenly Gemma got away. Or maybe I wasn’t paying enough attention, because to be honest, at that point I had all but given up on the book.

The Bottom Line:

All this being said, and to Bray’s defence, I may be too old for the target audience. Or rather, I know for a fact that I am. If I had read this book at say, the age of 14, chances are I would have loved it. But as it was now, at the age of 32, this book did not deliver. I won’t continue the series.

Review: Immortal by Gillian Shields

4 Oct

Series: Immortal, book #1

Published: August 4th 2009 by HarperTeen

Details: Hardcover, 368 pages

My rating: 1/5

My summary:

Don’t waste your time. It had a good premise about a girl who is sent to strange and haunting private school Wyldcliffe and meets mysterious boy. But the writing is poor, the characters one-dimensional and the plot predictable and full of holes. I never got into the story, and couldn’t care less what happened, not even towards the end. Possibly ok for teens under 15.

Synopsis:

Wyldcliffe Abbey School for Young Ladies, housed in a Gothic mansion on the bleak northern moors, is elite, expensive, and unwelcoming. When Evie Johnson is torn away from her home by the sea to become the newest scholarship student, she is more isolated than she could have dreamed. Strict teachers, snobbish students, and the oppressive atmosphere of Wyldcliffe leave Evie drowning in loneliness.

Evie’s only lifeline is Sebastian, a rebellious, mocking, dangerously attractive young man she meets by chance. As Evie’s feelings for Sebastian grow with each secret meeting, she starts to fear that he is hiding something about his past. And she is haunted by glimpses of a strange, ghostly girl—a girl who is so eerily like Evie, she could be a sister. Evie is slowly drawn into a tangled web of past and present that she cannot control. And as the extraordinary, elemental forces of Wyldcliffe rise up like the mighty sea, Evie is faced with an astounding truth about Sebastian, and her own incredible fate.

Gillian Shields’s electrifying tale will dazzle readers with suspense, mysticism, and romance.

My thoughts:

I feel terrible for what I am about to say, but there’s no way around it. I did not like this book.

I actually had a bad feeling about this one only one or two chapters in. It starts with the heroine Evie arriving to Wyldcliffe boarding school, and in the first two chapters her background information  is thrown in, meaning all the events leading up to her being sent there are explained in between the lines. Usually that type of info is weaved into the story so that I hardly even notice it’s there. Here it was done in such a clunky way that it felt as if lights went on blinking – background info coming!! – every time anything was added, detaching me from the story because of the sheer clunkiness of it.

But I kept reading..don’t ask me why but I did.

About the plot. Well, it  has been done before. Girl arrives at a boarding school after the loss (or sickness) of a family member, only to find out that things are not what they seem at said school. She meets a handsome boy with a dark mysterious past. Somehow all the secrets (of the school and the boy) are linked to her past, and most likely also linked to the dead (or sick) family member.

Even though the plot is a far cry from original it could have been saved with good characterization and writing. This is where it falls short. Now, firstly let me explain: I don’t have the best skills in determining the writing in a book. Usually it goes something like this: “Wow this is something I know I could never achieve myself = great writing” or “Hmm this is something I could have written myself = pretty bad writing”.

This book however (and take into account folks that I am not a writer nor an English native speaker), I could have written better had I tried it myself. It was that bad!! Some phrases had me literally cringing. Not once did I feel it transported me into the story, rather, the writing made me detach from the story as I couldn’t help but notice how awkwardly some sentences were put together.

On top of this, the characters were one-dimensional cut-out from cardboard, with one personality trait each, if even that. I had no interest whatsoever in Evie, the heroine as she had no personality. Her so-called epic romance with the mysterious Sebastian could not hold my attention either. Their romance was all telling and no showing. They were supposedly so in love, yet I didn’t feel it anywhere, not even the slightest.

Also, it didn’t help that I knew where the story was heading as early as a third into the book – no surprises there. Needless to say, I had a hard time finishing this book. In fact, I didn’t. I quit with only a few chapters left. That, if anything, is saying something about how badly executed it was.

If you want to read a similar book, but better accomplished in terms of writing, read “A Great and Terrible Beauty” by Libba Bray. But whatever you do, don’t waste your time on this one. There are so many much better books out there.

Review: The Forrest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan

3 Oct

Series: The Forrest of Hands and Teeth, book #1

Published: July 2009 by Gollancz

Details: Paperback, 310 pages

My Rating: 3/5

My Summary:

About Mary who lives in a village surrounded by a fence to keep out the zombies that populate the forest. One day there is a breech in the fence and she and a few others manage to escape. Ryan has created a cruel and fascinating dystopian world. Unfortunately too much time is taken up by Mary’s inconsistent and whiny thoughts. All in all, ok but not great. There is a sequel.

A few chapters in:

I heard somewhere that zombies are the new vampires. I don’t know if that’s true, it remains to be seen. What I do know, is that I have never read a YA fiction before involving zombies. That alone made me curious about this book. I am now only a few chapters in, and it has grabbed my attention.

Mary lives in a village in the middle of a forest. Nothing unusual about that, except for the fact that their village is closed in by a high metal fence in order to keep out the zombies (or the Unconsecrated as they are called) who populate the forest. Once in a while, a human gets too close to the fence and is bitten by the zombies, thus turning into one of them. At the start of the book, this very thing happens to the mother of the Mary. She lost her father to the zombies only months previously, and now finds herself all alone, but for a brother who doesn’t want to have anything to do with her.

She seeks refuge with the Sisters, a religious group of women – who are also the rulers of the village. This is as far as I’ve got but I am intrigued by the original plot. Let’s see what happens next..

After finishing the book:

Ok, so I finished the book last night. What did I think?

Well, it started out great and I was really intrigued by the premise of Mary discovering secrets within the sisterhood – the rulers of her village – in the middle of the forest of unconsecrated. There were indeed secrets – the sisterhood was withholding the truth from the villagers, and I got really eager to find out what truth exactly?

But then, instead of exploring that route, we are treated to all of Mary’s thoughts regarding the brothers Harry and Travis and how she is not happy about the way events have unfolded between the three of them. Usually, I am a fan of romance, but in this particular book I found that it bothered me. As if I wanted to shout – get a grip! – to Mary. She was under constant threat, one way or the other throughout the whole book and it felt as if all she cared about was who she had been bound to marry before everything happened – and how terrible it was that it had not been the right guy.You’d think that things like that would lose its importance once your whole world crumbles to pieces? I mean who cares if you were marrying the wrong guy – it’s not happening now anyway because the world as you know it has dissappeared. Now please quit pondering the past and get yourself and your friends saved from the immediate danger happening right now!

So no, I couldn’t relate to her – and not being emotionally invested in her made me lose some interest in the book. Unfortunately.

Because it is a fascinating world Ryan has created, cruel and fascinating. She is certainly not taking the safe road – a happy ending approach. It really does feel quite realistic (as far as realism goes in a world of zombies). Some very bad things happen throughout their journey – so terrible it was hard to read at times – the harshness of it all – the heart-breaking decisions they have to make. By the end of the book you will be craving for some light – some warmth. And that may happen. The ending was interesting and definitely made me want to check out the sequel.

The Bottom Line:

The only problem is that the sequel is sure to continue via the thoughts of  Mary, and being as little invested as I am in her, I wonder if it is worth my time. I can only hope she grows. Sequel is called The Dead-Tossed Waves.