Archive | July, 2011

Review: The Scorch Trials by James Dashner

18 Jul

Series: Maze Runner, book #2

Published: October 12th 2010 by Delacorte Books

Details: Hardcover, 360 pages

My Rating: 2.5/5

My Summary:

Second installment of The Maze Runner trilogy. Thomas and the gladers discover that the maze was only the beginning, as they enter phase two in the trials set up by WICKED. Interesting world, but would have liked less trials, and more on the background of the project. I also keep having issues with the underdeveloped characters. Won’t continue the series.

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A few chapters in:

The Maze Runner told the story of a couple of teen boys who find themselves in the center of a giant maze, with no recollection of their pasts. I didn’t outright love the book, but I thought it was intriguing enough to want to read the sequel. The ending in particular had me hooked as it promised revelations about the reasoning behind the maze, and more on the dystopian world outside.

Enough said, I started reading The Scorch Trials and I’m now a few chapters in.

We enter the story exactly where The Maze Runner ended. Thomas and the other gladers have been rescued and are enjoying their first night of good sleep in dormitories provided by the rescue team. But that peaceful sleep shatters the next morning when all hell breaks loose.

The first thing they notice is that their dormitories are surrounded by screaming “cranks” – which is what the insane disease-affected people are called. Then, they discover that the entire rescue team has been murdered in the kitchen. Thomas finds that his friend Theresa has disappeared and in her place there is a new boy, Aris, who appears to have come from another group who also went through the maze.

Not surprisingly, Thomas already overfull head is now swarming with a million new questions. As is mine. Thankfully, just as my head is about to explode with questions, a man appears in the dormitory. And he reveals the following:

The Maze was phase one of a series of tests which essentially were designed to monitor the reactions of the human race, and pick out who is the most fit to fight the world catastrophe which is currently going on in the world right now. The man also tells them that Phase two is about to begin, which is predicted to be even tougher than the maze (if that’s possible).

The next day the boys are instructed to march outside the dormitories, into the blaring sun of a destroyed world in order to complete phase two. And this is where I am now. The boys are marching through a desert land towards a city, and I can only imagine what they will encounter there. Crazy cranks for sure..but what else?

 
 
 

 
 
 
After finishing the book:

I can’t help but feeling a bit disappointed. I read this sequel in order to understand why someone would put the boys through the maze. I read it in order to find out more of the dystopian world outside. None of that materialized here.

Instead, we got a rehash of the maze runner. The only thing that changed were that the boys now knew that they were being put through some kind of trials. Apart from that little detail, it was the maze all over again. The boys stuck somewhere, where they had to survive various “variables” thrown at them, all directed by the creators of WICKED. In the end, the sequel didn’t bring us anything new. It felt very much like a middle book, whose only goal was to take us readers to the book three where the BIG CONLUSION will be revealed. I could have easily skipped the book entirely and gone straight ahead for the final book The Death Cure instead, and not feel the slightest lost.

The biggest downfall however were the lack of development in the characters. I said it in The Maze Runner, and I’m saying it again here. I could not connect to the main character Thomas. Which is strange, since I’ve been following him through two full books now. I’ve been watching him being beat up, betrayed, kissed and what not else, and all I feel is nothing! I’m wondering if it is because he’s got a bit of that Mary Sue syndrome, always doing the right thing in every situation, always good at everything he does. I’ve never been a fan of characters that are too perfect. Yet, even so, it’s strange that I care so little about him.

And that goes for the rest of the characters. Apart from maybe Minho, I couldn’t have cared less who died and who survived. Granted, we know very little of the other characters, which in itself is another fault of this series. When they start off on their phase two journey in this installment, there are twenty or so boys in the group. Yet it seems as if Thomas (as well as the reader) knows of only Newt, Minho and Frypan by name.  The rest of the group is reduced to nameless stand-ins, only there to be killed along the way (in order to spare the main characters).

I wasn’t a big fan of the romance either. I mean, it felt like Thomas had more chemistry with Minho than with Teresa. Likewise with Brenda. There was just nothing there, and I consequently got tired very quickly of all the angst regarding these two girls. I wish it had been skipped all together.

The question is now: Will I continue the series?

These first two installments are promising a final conclusion to the series that will explain the grand scheme of the WICKED . Only, I am almost positive I will end up being disappointed again, just like I was disappointed with the escape from the Maze.

You see, I don’t think there is a brilliant solution. There is all this talk about variables and killing patterns and how it’s all supposed to bring them closer to a cure. Considering the awful things these boys have gone through, there has to be a seriously brilliant solution to explain all this, and frankly, I don’t think there is one. Dashner did not deliver in regards to “the solution” to the maze,  and I have a strong feeling he will fail to deliver in the last installment as well. Hence, I’ve decided to leave this series.

The final installment The Death Cure to be published in October this year.

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Review: Anna and the French Kiss by Stephanie Perkins

5 Jul

Series: No, stand-alone

Published: December 2nd 2010 by Dutton

Details: Hardcover, 372 pages

My Rating: 5/5

My Summary:

Anna is sent to boarding school in Paris, befriends a group of people, among them the hottie St.Clair. Now, on the paper it sounds fairly ordinary. But don’t let that fool you. This is an AMAZING book!! So real, it felt like I was there with Anna, walking the street in Paris and falling in love. Simply put, A MUST READ!

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A few chapters in:

This is a book that created quite a stir when it hit the shelves in December last year. I remember reading a flow of rave reviews. It’s contemparary fiction, which means no paranormal creatures in sight. More chic-lit than paranormal romance.

In other words, not my usual cup of tea, but as you know if you’ve followed my blog, from time to time I like to read a contemporary novel, in particularly if they have received amazing reviews. Because paranormal stuff or not, if it has a great love story, I want to read it.

My hopes with this one is that it’ll be as wonderful as Perfect Chemistry, which took my breath away. Let’s see if it’s up for the challenge.

Oh, and not to forget, this book surfaced as the next book to read on my “what to read next poll”. Thanks again to all who voted!

I’m now a few chapters in:

Anna’s parents, or rather her hot-shot dad, has enrolled her into a boarding school in Paris for her senior year. She’s not too happy about this, because she never had a say in his decision and she’s also scared since it’s her first time living away from everything she knows.

Well, she barely has time to unpack until a friendly face pops into her room to welcome her in. Meredith, her next-door neighbour is an arty girl who’s been in Paris for a few years already. She introduces Anna to her group of friends who include the couple Rash and Josh and the hottie Etienne St. Clair.

Anna immediately takes an interest in St. Clair, but soon learns that not only does he have a long-term girlfriend, but Meredith also has a crush on him. In other words, he is strictly off-limits.

And this is as far as I’ve got, but I’m guessing Anna and St. Clair will find a way to get together anyway. Let’s see how it goes!
 
 
 

 
 
 
After finishing the book:

I remember my book depression after reading Divergent a couple of weeks ago. I was depressed because I thought it would be some time before I read anything equally amazing.

Well, I think Anna and the French Kiss just cured that depression, because WOW what a deliciously wonderful little book.

It completely swept me away. I read it in one sitting, then went right back and started reading it again! It’s been a couple of days now since I finished it (for the second time), and I’m still thinking about it. So much that I find it hard to get into anything new.

Just WOW.

It’s hard to believe now that I was bit wary at first when I started reading it. Reviews were great of course, but it just looked so ordinary on the paper (girl goes to Paris, meets boy and falls in love), that I suspected it to be just another chic-lit. Even a couple of pages in, I was still not convinced. Anna meets St.Clair pretty much on that first day in Paris and it’s obvious that he is the one she’ll fall for. I was wondering what could possibly happen to keep me interested throughout all of the 300 or so pages?

Well, at chapter 2, I had my last coherent thought. After that, I lost it and got completely swept away as Perkins took me on a ride that felt so REAL that I could have sworn I was there wandering the streets together with Anna and St.Clair in Paris.

Real. That’s the secret right there. It felt so real!

Firstly, the story is described in such a way that you are with Anna on every step of the way, every emotion, every conversation is detailed so that you’re literally there in the same room as her, all the time. The characters are all wonderfully flawed and so spot on described that I saw them all in front of me. Not only Anna and St.Clair but also the others in their group and some of her their class mates.

Secondly, the vividly described setting of Paris. I’ve lived in Paris, and visited it many times after. And I can assure you that Perkins describes a Paris that is real. I wouldn’t be surprised if she’s lived in Paris too. What I loved the most is that she doesn’t glorify it, the way a tourist may do, but describes it with all its peculiarities as well, which had me laughing out loud a couple of times. Don’t despair though if you haven’t visited Paris. Just be prepared that you will most likely want to catch a plane to Paris in the immediate hours after having finished the book.

Lastly, the relationship between Anna and St.Clair. I can’t begin to describe how much I loved the two of them. How they were there for each other. Their obvious chemistry. They end up going through quite a few ups and downs throughout the book, but it all felt so real and believable. Not like something that was created by the author to prolong the story. Rather it felt like what happened to them could have been a real story, you know? In fact, I’m still surprised they don’t exist in real life. It sure feels that way.

I don’t want to give too much away, but let me assure you that you will experience every single emotion that Anna feels during her year in Paris. And that you will fall hopelessly in love, as much as Anna, with St.Clair.

In fact, I got the same feelings as I did when I read Twilight for the first time. You know, the heart flutters, the feeling of actually being there with them, and the whole emotional turmoil of falling in love.

I cannot recommend this book enough! Please. just. read. it.

Note: Anna and the French Kiss is Stephanie Perkins debut novel. Her second book Lola and the Boy Next Door is to be published this year in Sep. I am counting the days!

Review: The Awakening by L.J. Smith

4 Jul

Series: Vampire Diaries, book #1

Published: June 26th 2007 by HarperTeen

Details: Paperback, 200 pages

My Rating: 2/5

My Summary:

About popular girl Elena who falls in love with vampire Stefan. Problem is, Stefan’s evil vampire brother has decided he wants Elena as well. This underdeveloped story, with contrived dialogues and shallow characters is clearly aimed for young teens only. I could barely get through the book.

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My Full Review:

I recently decided to give the Vampire Diaries a go, which is why I’m now sitting with The Awakening in my hand. With doubts creeping in: What the heck was I thinking?

Anyone who has been following blogs and reviews knows that this series hasn’t exactly received what you’d call high praise. Why then torture myself through another crappy novel? As if Evernight wasn’t enough suffering for one month.

But I suppose it’s for the same reason as when I want to see a supposedly crappy but very much talked about movie. I get this strange urge to see it just so that I can form my own opinion. (I remember watching The Da Vinci Code for this very reason.)

And let’s face it. Vampire diaries is a talked about series, most likely due to its resemblance to Twilight (note that it was published before Meyer’s work)  and to the succesful tv series which is airing at the moment.

Enough said, with these whopping high expectations, I’ve plunged into the world of Elena, Stefan and Damon (of course picturing them all as the actors in the tv series – hard not to!).

We enter the story as the beautiful and popular girl Elena returns to school after a summer in France to discover that a new student has enrolled. And not just any student but an outwordly-looking handsome young boy who seems to have no interest whatsoever in Elena.

Frustrating to say the least. Well, at least for Elena who is used to get anything she wants, especially when it comes to boys.

After a couple of weeks of “suffering” the ignorance of Stefan, as the boy is called, she is molested by another boy at a cemetery. Who comes to her rescue? Yes, you guessed it right. Stefan.

Despite a few eye-rolling moments here and there, I was sort of enjoying it though, as I found myself turning pages hoping to see some chemistry when Elena and Stefan finally got to know each other.

Well, turns out I should not have been bothered.

On that first night, when Stefan rescues her from the cemetery, they kiss. After that, Elena’s first words to Stefan (and I repeat first words), are I love you.

I mean, come on!

It’s explained that Elena and Stefan need no words to communicate to each other, because they just feel what the other one feels. Really? They have barely exchanged greeting phrases and they already know each other that well?

To me, that just signals a lazy author who can’t care enough to create some dialogues between our main characters.

When they eventually do talk (a couple of pages later), it’s generally something dramatic such as I love you, I’ll protect you, I’ll always be there for you, or something along the same lines. What happened to normal conversations?

Bah!

Once I established that this contrived soap-opera relationship was to be the main theme of the book, it was hard not to just drop it on the spot. But there are only 200 pages of the book, and I figured that if I’d got this far, I might as well continue.

At least there was Damon, who seems infinitely much more interesting than Stefan could ever be. Stefan and Damon are brothers and are mortal enemies ever since something happened way back then when they grew up. Damon is supposedly evil, but I have a feeling he may experience some development, which means he could become an interesting figure. That’s about the only good thing I can say about this series.

Elena on the other hand was a self-centered brat. Her friends were only there to support her, without any motivations or feelings of their own. There’s that one-dimensional evil bitch at school who is out to destroy Elena. Yawn. Nothing out of the ordinary.

In short, it all felt very underdeveloped. As if the story could have come to life, had more thought and investment been put into the characters. As it was now, I could not connect to anyone, and I certainly couldn’t connect to the romance of Elena and Stefan.

So yep folks, this was just about as bad as I thought. Despite its similarities to Twilight, it’s nowhere near the same league.

Do yourself a favor and skip this one.