Archive | May, 2011

Review: Across the Universe by Beth Revis

31 May

 Series: Across the Universe, book # 1

Published:  January 11th 2011 by Razorbill

Details: Hardcover, 398 pages

My Rating: 3/5

My Summary:

Amy wakes up on a space ship 50 years early of landing because someone unplugged her frozen box. At the space ship she soon realizes something is wrong with the way things are run. Her only ally seems to be Elder, who is born to be the new leader of the ship. This book was a bit too slow-going for me, and lacked in characterisation. I did enjoy parts of it though, because of the world building and the interesting ideas that were brought up. I may or may not read the sequel A Million Suns.

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A few chapters in:

The next book to top the poll of what book to read next is Across the Universe by Beth Revis. Once again, thank you all for voting, I really appreciate it!

This is a book that created quite a buzz when it was released a few months back, I’m guessing partly because of its originality (I mean, romance on a space ship?), and partly because of its stunning book cover.

I’m now a few chapters in. Amy and her parents have agreed to be shipped into space (preserved in ice), in order to wake up a few hundred years later for the arrival on a new planet.

It took me quite a few chapters though to just piece that bit of information together.

You see, the beginning is confusing. As a reader you jump right into the complex sci-fi world Revis has created, with tubes, blue-sparkling liquids and weird ice coffins. As soon as I started to grasp what was going on (more or less), the story forwarded a few hundred years into time and I found myself on the space ship, with feeder and keeper levels, gravitation tubes and biometric scanners.

My confusion was total. I felt a bit like I did when I started reading The Host  (Stephanie Meyers’ sci-fi novel), which also required a bit of concentration at the start. But just like in The Host, it all started to make sense after a while.

At the spaceship we follow Elder, who is a teenage boy, born to be a leader of the 2000 or so people who live on the ship. He is in training with the current leader “The Eldest”, but is generally just feeling lonely and left out of all the important stuff.

One day, someone unplugs one of the ice coffins in the basement of the ship. And that’s how Amy wakes up, 50 years or so early of the destination. Who unplugged her and why?

And this is as far as I’ve got, but I think I’m liking it. It’s a bit slow-going and has a melancholic feel to the story. Yet I’m intrigued by the intricate world-building Ravis as created and of course by the romance that’s bound to happen between Amy and Elder.

 

 
 

After finishing the book:

I finished the book last night, and I’m sad to say that I wasn’t thrilled by this one. I’m wondering now if it was because I was expecting something else from it (romance in space) or because the story just wasn’t captivating enough. Maybe a combination of the two?

There were parts of it that I liked though. The premise was interesting and I kept turning pages to find out what was going to be revealed of the world on that space ship. It was also very well written, so that I literally felt like I was on board myself.

Moreover, I liked the interesting ideas that were introduced on how one could survive in an enclosed space for generations and what actions are necessary to ensure the survival of such a society. Come to think of it, Across the Universe also dealt with the same ideas as in The Uglies Series, that is; how much damage are you allowed to cause for the sake of the greater good?  In Uglies, the authorities “solve” the problems of the society in much the same way as in Across the Universe. In both books I turned pages to find out more of the hidden truths that I knew were there.

Only, I enjoyed Uglies so much more.

Uglies had a sense of a great urgency and a quicker pace, that made me race through the pages. Across the Universe on the other hand, trotted along quite slowly. Now, I don’t mind slow-going, as long as it is enjoyable to read, usually due to great characters (see Unearthly). The problem here though was that it was slow-going AND lacked great main characters.

When you think about it, it’s strange that I didn’t connect with Amy and Elder, as they both had their own POV. But despite reading quite a lot of their inner thoughts, I never felt like I truly cared. Most importantly, I failed to see the connection the main characters Amy and Elder supposedly shared. Amy is mostly feeling upset all the time (from having woken up 50 years before her parents), and treats Elder as just another guy. Elder goes out of his way to support Amy, and I couldn’t fathom why he was that besotted with her – more than that he thought her unusual red hair was pretty. In fact the two of them hardly had any moments together where I felt like they connected. It was more like: “we’re the only two young people here, hence we have no other option than to stick together”.

My other main issue was that by the time the mystery was revealed, I had already guessed it. As I’m not usually a person who figure out mysteries before time, I think it’s safe too say that there were too many obvious hints pointing towards the conclusion.

Finally, the ending left me disappointed. Now, how do I say this without being spoilery? Let me just say that I wasn’t happy with the way things ended for a few of the characters. I thought all of these people were interesting, each in their own way, and I had hopes that they would provide something interesting (ideas, complications etc ) before they were dismissed.

In short, I felt that the ending was too simplistic, too black and white and too obvious. It felt rushed as if the author just wanted to get it over and done with. Given the intriguing premise, it therefore left me underwhelmed.

The question is now: Will I read the next book?

Maybe. I’m sort of curious to see what happens next, but certainly not dying to know. The sequel A Million Suns to be published sometime next year.

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Review: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand

9 May

Series: Unearthly, book #1

Published: January 4th 2011 by HarperTeen

Details:  Hardcover, 435 pages

My Rating: 4.5/5

My Summary:

About Clara, an angel-blood who receives her purpose on earth, which involves a boy in her school. All though a somewhat slow plot, I loved reading this one! The well-drawn characters and witty writing won me over. The only tiny issue I had was the non-ending that left too many open threads. Sequel Hallowed to be released next year and cannot wait!

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A few chapters in:

I’m so loving my new poll where you readers can vote what book I should read next. I mean, what better way than that to get great book recommendations?

The last book that you voted for me to read was Nightshade, which earned a stunning 4.5. In other words, I loved it!

Now the time has come to pick up the next book of the poll with the most votes: Unearthly by Cynthia Hand. Thanks again to all of you who voted!!

This book created a buzz in the blogosphere when it was released a few months back. It tells the story about an angel, or a part-angel living on the earth. But that’s all I know.

So far, and for some reason, angel stories haven’t made a huge impression on me. I think it has something to do with that angel personality.You know, they’re supposed to be “perfect, flawless, divine, beautiful, all-knowingly, reassuring” and what not else. Which in my book only equals: boring! I’m hoping Unearthly will prove to be different.

Ok, so I’m now a few chapters in. Clara our 16-year old heroine is a part-angel. She lives with her mom and brother (also part angels) in California. Apart from that supernatural fact, they live fairly ordinary lives, like any other people.

Then one night Clara has a very vivid dream about a forest fire and a boy. It turns out that the dream is a message to her of what her purpose will be on this earth. As her mom explains to her, all angels have a purpose which will be revealed to them around that age. Now it’s up to Clara to fulfill her purpose. Which means, she needs to find that boy.

In the vision, she catches the license plate of the car of the boy. Not long after, her mom arranges for the whole family to move to Jackson Hole in Wyoming, as the little town of the license plate is called. All for the sake of Clara’s purpose.

Already, on the first day in her new school, Clara encounters the boy from her vision. And she reacts.. by fainting in front of him, so that he ends up carrying her to the school nurse. Here, I almost rolled my eyes, as I envisioned that whole “we saw each other and now we’re in love” – scenario unfold in the next couple of pages.

That doesn’t happen though. And thank god for that. Instead, after that incident, Clara is experiencing some problems getting his attention again. Christian, as the boy is called, has a girlfriend, and he seems pretty content with keeping it that way.

In other words, apart from Clara receiving her purpose and their big move to Wyoming, nothing much has happened. Yet, I am loving it already!

Why?

Well, the writing and the characters are exceptional, that’s why. Clara is another one of these really cool heroines, with a voice that really strikes a chord within me. She’s real, with good and bad traits, and she’s smart and witty.

The writing reminds me a bit of Richelle Mead, need I say more? Suffice to say that Hand describes everything with just the right amount of quirkiness and irony, so that it makes a really enjoyable read.

Let’s hope the rest of the book stays that way!

  

 

After finishing the book:

So I finished Unearthly , and what can I say? You’ve probably already guessed that I loved it. Yet, the ending left me feeling slightly disappointed, which is why this book doesn’t reach a stunning top grade.

But more on that later. First on what I liked:

Two things: The characters and the writing. Wow! Just wow! I could literally picture them all in front of me, that’s how well portrayed the characters were. Especially Clara who has now moved in among my greatest heroines of all times (yep I see another top 5 list emerging). She was just so real! Worrying about the right things , thoughtful but never whiny, with a healthy relationship to her family, insecure as well as strong, tough, vulnerable and with a great sense of humour. The other secondary characters followed suit,  Clara’s mom, Angela, Wendy, Tucker and Jeffrey. Christian (the guy Clara is supposed to save in her purpose), is probably the character I felt the least for, only because he is portrayed as too perfect. And you know what I feel about those ones..yawn!

Yet, that didn’t stop me from thoroughly enjoying this book. Which brings me to the next item, the writing. Wow! I loved the wittiness of the descriptions. It didn’t feel forced, as is so often the case when authors try to write witty, rather it felt natural, as if that’s how Clara would have described her story.

I need to include a few paragraphs so that you’ll understand:

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1)  The paragraph below is taken from Clara’s first time alone in a ski lift:

I decide to go for it. I get in line. When I near the front, an employee punches a hole in my ticket.
“You alone?” he asks.
“Yeah.”
“Single!” he shouts toward the back of the line. “We have a single here!”
So embarrassing. I suddenly wish I had goggles.

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2)  And this is from one of Clara’s first meetings with her goth class mate Angela:

I’ve been waiting for maybe five minutes, completely creeped out by this point, when Angela comes bursting through a side door.
“Wow, sorry,” she says. “Orchestra went late.”
“What do you play?”
“Violin.”
It’s easy to imagine her with a violin tucked under her chin, sawing away on some mournful Romanian tune.

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3)  Or this part below is taken from the first time Clara flies:

Of course, I’m not flying so much as coasting over the treetops like a hang glider or a freakishly large flying squirrel. I think the birds in the area are dying laughing watching me try not to crash.


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Do you see what I mean? The book was filled with these kind of  detailed and witty descriptions, that had me chuckling out loud. It was just such a pleasure to read!

As for the plot, I know other reviewers have complained that it was too slow-going. And I can see what they mean, because not that much happened in terms of plot. We get to follow Clara as she adjusts to her new life in Wyoming, finding friends, falling in love, and trying to find out what her purpose is. That’s really all. I suppose this is the downside when you, as Hand did in this case, develop your characters slowly and take the time to describe the setting. Consequently, the plot suffers.

Yet, because of the joy of reading all these fun bits and pieces of Clara’s life, I didn’t care too much that the build-up was rather slow. I suppose another reason why I didn’t care too much was the romance, which was just Wow! Heart-pounding! I loved their chemistry which just sizzled off the pages! And I loved the fact that it took time for them to get to know each other, before they fell in love. It made it all so much more believable. The moments they had together were just adorable! Having finished the book, I even went back and read through those pages again, because I could not get enough of the two of them. Like I said, adorable! And let me tell you, the guy Clara falls in love with is SO swoon-worthy, I was voting for him big time!

Yeah, that’s right, I was voting for this guy, because this book features another one of those love triangles. All though, like in so many others, there is really no question of who Clara will choose. At least, that’s how it seems to me.

Finally, I believe this book would have gotten a 5/5, had it not been for the ending. Because I was expecting more. No, scratch that, I was expecting something. Some explanation, some kind of wrap-up or some resolution. What we got was not so much an ending but a cessation of words. Given the long and slow build-up I was expecting something to be revealed, not only, “oh get the next book and you’ll find out”. I feel about as clueless as I was when I started reading, which doesn’t go down too well with me.

Nevertheless, like I said before, I loved the ride up until the end. And let me tell you, I have very high hopes for the sequel now. Considering the great setting provided in this first novel, my guess is that the sequel will be extraordinary. There is so much potential now! A great premise has been set, with great characters that I truly care about and intriguing clues that have me thinking that there is so much more to the story than we know now. Did I say I had high hopes?

Sequel Hallowed to be published (oh man, that’s a long wait!) sometime next year.

Review: Glimmerglass by Jenna Black

7 May

Series: Faeriewalker, book #1

Published: May 25th 2010 by St. Martin’s Griffin

Details: Paperback, 294 pages

My Rating: 3/5

My Summary:

About Dana, who runs away from her alcoholic human mother, to stay with her faery father. She soon realizes that she has a unique ability that makes her a great threat to the people in power. In other words, she is in danger. This book starts out great, then started sagging in the middle with fuzzily explained motives and political faery intrigues. Great secondary characters though. I may read the sequel Shadowspell.

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A few chapters in:

I usually don’t pay much attention to beautiful book covers, because to me they are nothing more than just that.. book covers, and hence no proof whether the content is good or not.

However, last week I think an exception occurred. I passed through a book store, and somehow ended up walking out with Glimmerglass in my hand, even though I had no idea what it was about (apart from the obvious faery theme), nor did I know if it had received good reviews.

Then what happened?

Well, a gorgeous book cover lured me in. That’s what happened!

I have checked a few reviews now, which hasn’t really helped as they are all quite mixed. So, let’s just hope for the best now, shall we?

I’m a few chapters in and at least I am intrigued by the opening of the book, which is a good sign.

Dana, our 16-year old heroine is tired of living and taking care of her drunken mom, and so she decides to go and live with her dad instead. The thing is, her dad is a faery, and he lives in Avalon which is the only town in the world where faeries and humans can co-exist, a kind of border if you like to the fairy world. So Dana jumps on a plane to head over there.

She barely touches ground before she gets into trouble. Instead of her dad meeting her, she’s picked up by her aunt Grace who locks her into her home claiming it’s for Dana’s own protection.

And weirder it gets, when in the middle of the night she gets kidnapped from her aunt’s cell by two stranger teenager sibling faeries, and taken to an underground get-to-together.

The kidnappers don’t seem to be the bad guys though. Kimber and Ethan as they’re called, explain to Dana that her aunt Grace was holding her imprisoned for selfish political reasons. It appears as if Avalon is getting closer to an important election, and both Dana’s aunt and dad are fighting for the throne.

It’s believed that Dana has some kind of power that could cement the victory, which is why aunt Grace thought it necessary to keep her locked away. However, what exactly that power is, remains a mystery.

And that is as far as I’ve got. But like I said, I’m intrigued. The start promises a great world-building, as we dive into Avalon and the land of fairies with unseelie and seelie courts, monsters and a cute faery healer (Ethan). 

 

 

After finishing the book:

So, I just finished Glimmerglass and I wish I could say it was as great as the cover promised..

But unfortunately, I can’t. Because this book was just okay.

As seen above, we literally get thrown into the story as Dana goes to live with her dad in the gate town of the faery land , also know as Avalon. She immediately gets into trouble, is kidnapped a number of times by various people, faces monsters and meets a cute fairy. In other words, so far I was really enjoying it and I felt confident it was heading towards at least a 4/5.

Then gradually, starting from somewhere in the middle when Dana finally finds her dad, my interest started to fade, and I’m having troubles putting my finger on exactly why.

I have a couple of theories though:

First of all, the pace and the thread of the plot halted once Dana found her dad. Up until that point, it had been an exciting ride to follow Dana as she was searching for her dad in an unknown country filled with dangers and strange faery people. When she did find her dad, everything halted. Because what now?

As Dana was now safely tucked into her dad’s place, the plot took a political direction with Dana’s dad heading off to various political meetings to try to sort out how to protect Dana the best. Whenever action was needed there would be a random attack on Dana, then once again she would be moved to a protected place and more political meetings followed. In short, the plot suddenly felt random, rather than well-thought.

However, all this (political stuff) would have been okay if only I had understood better why Dana was in such mortal danger.  

It is explained that the reason why everyone is after Dana is because she is a faery walker, and while I understand the idea (someone who can walk in both worlds – faery and human), the reasons why that made her such an incredible threat were quite vague. I mean true, the last faery walker was apparently no angel, and yes I do get that Dana can bring dangerous technology into the faery world, as well as magic into the human world. Yet, I still don’t get how that makes her a huge threat to everyone, so much that she can potentially cement a victory for anyone who allies themselves with her.

And while speaking about fuzziness, I thought the world-building was a bit fuzzily drawn too. Especially this whole thing  with fairies not being able to enter the human world and vice versa. Why was that? And what about Avalon? Why could both species co-exist there? I would have loved to get a better feel for Avalon and what made  that place so unique. As it was now, I had a hard time picturing the place in my mind.

I also didn’t quite get all the political stuff. It’s explained that a fairy consul is to be appointed soon which is creating quite a stir, but I had a hard time connecting this bit of information to Dana’s story. True, tension ran a bit higher than usual in Avalon, but how is Dana being a fairy walker helping a consul to get elected? By bringing technology into the fairy land or what?

Or maybe I’m asking too much from the start of a series?

I just don’t know. All I know is that I like to feel immersed into a world, and while the glimpses that I got from this faery world (water witches, knights, seelie courts etc) were intriguing, never did I feel completely immersed. I think simply because the glimpses that I got were too few.

Lastly, I felt that the villain in the end was drawn a bit too black-and white for me. I like my villains to be multi-dimensional with a well motivated agenda rather than just “I’m evil and this is what evil people do”. The villain in this book definitely fit the latter category. 

However, as much as it sounds like I’m bashing the book now, I did give it a 3/5 for a reason.

Essentially, what saved it from a lower grade, was the characters, combined with the glimpses of the fairy world that we got. In fact, I liked pretty much all of the secondary characters; Dana’s stern and blunt dad, the secret-police look-alike Finn and his rebellious goth son, the insecure Kimberly and the womanizer Ethan.

Strangely enough the heroine Dana was the character I felt the least for, or rather, she was just okay.  In fact, she felt like any other teen-ager, with her rebellious acts against her father, insecurities and pouting around. In other words, not particularly strong, but she may experience growth in the following books.

Which leads me to: Will I read the following books?

To be honest, I don’t know. The sequel Shadowspell is already out on the shelves, and the third installment is to be released this summer. Judging by the reviews of Shadowspell, there is some improvement to the series, so I might give it a go. But it won’t happen anytime soon.