Archive | October, 2011

Review: Blood Red Road by Moira Young

21 Oct

Series: Dustlands, book #1

Published: June 7th 2011 by Margaret K. McElderry

Details: Hardcover, 459 pages

My Rating: 5/5

My Summary:

An outstanding debut featuring Saba, who in a dystopian future heads out in search of her kidnapped twin brother. This is an epic adventure of enormous proportions, involving cage fighting, giant killer worms, a prison break out, mad chases across the desert, sand storms and a swoon-worthy romance. And I loved everything about it; the kick-ass heroine and her palpable growth throughout the book, the sibling love, the romance, the action, the writing. Absolutely amazing!!!!

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Synopsis:

Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That’s fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba’s world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back.

Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she’s a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.

Blood Red Road has a searing pace, a poetically minimal writing style, violent action, and an epic love story. Moira Young is one of the most promising and startling new voices in teen fiction.

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My Thoughts:

I just finished reading Blood Red Road, and I absolutely LOVED it!!

or

“Frikin’ amazin’, that’s what it was”. If I were to speak like Saba in Blood Red Road.

Which, after reading this book, I nearly did!

As you’ve probably heard, the writing of the book is depicted as the dialect the characters speak. That is, you’ll get sentences like:

He ain’t bin right fer a long time.

Which, truth to be told, made me wary of this book. I knew some reviewers claimed that after a few chapters, you’d get used to it. But seeing as English is not my native tongue, I wondered if that applied to me as well.

Well, fear not! I did struggle for the first few pages, while mapping a few of the changes in my head:

fer – for

jest – just

naught – nothing

bin – been

But once the major changes had registered with me, I ceased to notice. And before I knew it, I’d flown through the book in no time at all.

Looking back at the writing now, I’m glad it was depicted the way it was, as it made me get a better feel of  Saba’s world. A world of illiteracy and roughness where intellectuals don’t exist. Where all that matters is your skill to survive.

In a way, the world was fairly similar to what I usually encounter in fantasy genres. People are dirty, rough and simple, there are taverns named One Eyed Jack, the land is traveled by horse or foot, no technology in sight and it’s all ruled by an evil king. The only signs of a dystopia is the talk of “wreckers” which supposedly are us, who vanished from the face of the earth in some kind of world disaster many years ago. Traces are left from our era, useless wreckage such as broken planes and cars that can be found scattered in deserts or ghost towns.

Either way, whether the feel of the world was dystopian or fantasy, it was amazingly well-crafted. I felt as if I could turn around 360 degrees and see exactly what Saba saw with her own eyes, at all times throughout her journey.

As a character, Saba was amazing too. As were all the other secondary characters in this book. I immediately took a liking to them all, and had my first tear slip at page 71, when Saba’s sister Emmi talks about the loss of their mom. Yes folks, this is emotionally packed stuff!

Yet, it never gets too much. Saba is such a strong heroine, the kind that doesn’t take crap from anyone. She fights, she struggles and she gets on with it, no matter the circumstances. If I have ever seen a true kick-ass heroine, Saba is the one! I simply loved everything about her. Her tough act, her growth, her vulnerability, her trust issues, her red hot, her rawness and honesty. I especially loved her complex relationship to her siblings, Emmi in particular. Anyone who has a little sister will know what I mean.

There is romance, and holy smoke how I loved those two together. A match in heaven, without doubt. Both as head strong, both as fierce, both survivors. It made me swoon, big time.

That said, you should know that the romance is not at the forefront of the book. In fact, it takes roughly 250 pages before he even enters the picture. What’s so great though is that it didn’t matter. Romance or not, I was practically glued to the pages from start to finish. My mind reeled, I had trouble breathing during the action sequences, tears fell during some of the most heart-breaking family scenes. I had to stop at times, just to remind myself that “Relax Tess, it is only fiction!”.

When the ending came, I just wanted more. So thank god there is a sequel. That said, Blood Red Road can be read as a stand-alone too, since everything wraps up in a satisfactory way. There are a few open ends of course, just to keep you a little bit curious for what’s to come next. But no cliff-hangers in sight.

On a final note, what’s up with DeMalo? He played a minor role here, but I’ve got a strong feeling his role will expand. I guess we’ll find out in 2012 when the sequel is published. Cannot wait!!!

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Review: Wolfsbane by Andrea Cremer

20 Oct

Series: Nightshade,  book #2

Published: July 26th 2011 by Penguin Young Readers Group

Details: Hardcover, 390 pages

My Rating: 2.5/5

My Summary:

In this sequel of The Nightshade series, Calla finds herself struggling with the consequences of having left her pack. She and Shay are being cared for by the Searchers, but the rest of her group, including Ren, are still with the enemies. I loved Nightshade, but was less than thrilled with this one. Too much talking and info dump. Not enough action. In the end, not much was solved, and it finishes off in a cliff-hanger. All in all, disappointing.

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Synopsis:

When Calla Tor wakes up in the lair of the Searchers, her sworn enemies, she’s certain her days are numbered. But then the Searchers make her an offer—one that gives her the chance to destroy her former masters and save the pack—and the man—she left behind. Is Ren worth the price of her freedom? And will Shay stand by her side no matter what? Now in control of her own destiny, Calla must decide which battles are worth fighting and how many trials true love can endure and still survive.

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My Review:

Only 50 pages in, my “filler warning bell” started ringing. (The bell that rings when I see filler-signs, usually in sequels, see Linger or Desires of the Dead.)

I tried to ignore it, because I wanted to like Wolfsbane. I had been dying to read it ever since I finished the amazing Nightshade a couple of months ago. But the more I read, the higher the bell rang. And after another 100 or so pages I could no longer deny the fact that my “warning bell” had a valid point. The plot was definitely missing!

Throughout the first 250 pages, we follow Calla and Shay as they hang out at the Searcher’s quarters. Doing what you may ask?

Well, bickering. That’s what they do. They sit around and talk, joke, banter, discuss things and once in a while drink coffee or take a tour on the grounds. Then back to talking and joking around some more.

Literally 250 pages of dialogues, I kid you not!

You know, I’m usually a fan of dialogues, since they are a convenient way of showing what the characters are like, rather than the author telling us through descriptions. My problem with these dialogues though were that they seemed to have no purpose, other than serve as fillers.

A pattern that would repeat itself over and over again, was the following:

A vital piece of information needed to be delivered, maybe half a page at the most. But throw some bickering of the group in between that vital piece of information and voila! Three pages have been filled rather than a half.

It would usually go like this:

(One line of actual information)

“You’ll rendevouz with Grant tonight”, Silas said, pulling a crumpled piece of paper out of his jeans pocket. “I just got confirmation”.

(Start bickering)

Anika reached for the note. “Silas, we’ve talked about keeping correspondence neat”.

“I was in a hurry”. He shrugged.

“I wouldn’t touch that if I were you”, Connor said. “You don’t know where that’s been”.

“Shut up, you louse”, Silas snapped.

“Louse?” Connor laughed. “How deep did you have to dig for that one?”

(End bickering)

(One line of actual information)

(Start bickering..)

You see what I mean? It went on like this for the entire novel!

It also felt like Cremer tried so hard to make the searchers a likable bunch of people, that in the end, it felt forced. All their bantering and bickering felt like “Oh look at us! We’re so cool, deep and fun, we listen to cool music, we play guitar and on top of it all, we are kick-ass warriors who can wield all sort of lethal ninja-weapons”.

Sorry guys, but you did not impress me.

It felt more like a parody of other warriors, or as if Cremer had just read The Mortal Instruments and tried to create a new kind of Shadowhunters. Same type of bickering, same tight relationships, same weaponry rooms with enchanted weapons and the same type of enormous headquarters situated all over the world. There was even the same type of war going on against our parallel world, a demon world with black magic.

Only, in The Mortal Instruments it worked, because I saw it in action. It was an on-going thing, as in, they would head out and meet demons and fight them on a daily basis. Here, not so much. It was more talking and yada yada yada. I never felt any urgency, and I certainly never felt that they were skilled or talented. They made a huge fuss over preparing well and making plans, but when they actually went out there, it ended up being the most unplanned thing I’ve ever seen, which quickly went downhill as soon as they set foot on enemy territory. Skilled warriors? I think not.

Another thing that fell short for me was the love triangle. Surprisingly, because if you remember my review of Nighshade, I devoured Calla’s difficulties with choosing between her alpha mate Ren and the newcomer Shay. In this installment however, Shay has turned into an obnoxious macho guy who would not take no for an answer. Ren is practically absent the entire novel, save from a 3 second cameo appearance, and like most reviewers have commented, I missed him!

Moreover, I no longer recognized Calla. She lost her spine in this book, and was walking around feeling lost and guilty most of the time. A shame, since Calla was one of my favorite heroines in Nightshade.

The ending is a cliff-hanger, and promises more of Ren, which I have to admit is intriguing. Nevertheless, I am considering ending the series here. Unless of course, the next book Bloodrose recieves stunning reviews.

Bloodrose to be released in January next year. For all you “Team Ren” out there, see a teaser chapter here.

Review: Hex Hall by Rachel Hawkins

10 Oct

Series: Hex Hall, book #1

Published: March 2nd 2010 by Hyperion Book CH

Details: Hardcover, 323 pages

My Rating:  3.5/5

My Summary:

Light and fun read about Sophie, who after casting a particulary bad spell gets sent to Hex Hall, where she learns one or two things about the magical world and about herself. This is a Harry Potter for girls, with a distinct teen-age feel to it. As a 30+ year old, I found it slightly too immature. Yet because of the witty voice of Sophie, and a good pace, it’s still an entertaining read. Sequel is called Demonglass.

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Synopsis:

Three years ago, Sophie Mercer discovered that she was a witch. It’s gotten her into a few scrapes. Her non-gifted mother has been as supportive as possible, consulting Sophie’s estranged father–an elusive European warlock–only when necessary. But when Sophie attracts too much human attention for a prom-night spell gone horribly wrong, it’s her dad who decides her punishment: exile to Hex Hall, an isolated reform school for wayward Prodigium, a.k.a. witches, faeries, and shapeshifters.

By the end of her first day among fellow freak-teens, Sophie has quite a scorecard: three powerful enemies who look like supermodels, a futile crush on a gorgeous warlock, a creepy tagalong ghost, and a new roommate who happens to be the most hated person and only vampire student on campus. Worse, Sophie soon learns that a mysterious predator has been attacking students, and her only friend is the number-one suspect.

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My Thoughts:

I remember saying in my review of A Great and Terrible Beauty that it was described as a Harry Potter for girls.

Well, scratch that. This is the Harry Potter for girls!

Let’s see:

  1. The main character Sophie is sent off to a boarding school for magical folk.
  2. Said school is essentially a pale version of Hogwarts, with ghosts floating around, furniture that change shapes, spooky bathrooms and classes featuring subjects such as The History of Warlocks and Transformation.
  3. Like Harry, Sophie was brought up in the human world, hence is a complete novice when it comes to all things magical.
  4. Like Harry, Sophie is famous in the magical world, given her family status, and I won’t say anymore here due to spoilers.
  5. Like Harry, Sophie is special and has a dark streak to her witch craft, which makes her not only a prime target for evil forces, but also has her doubting her own goodness.
  6. Like Harry, Sophie has a tendancy to get herself into trouble, with pretty much everyone at school, earning her several punishments and detentions.
  7. Like Harry, Sophie find herself an archenemy pretty much straight away.
  8. Like in the Harry Potter books, the plot revolves around students getting attacked at school by a mysterious evil force.

Well, isn’t it obvious where Hawkins got her ideas from? I really felt as if I was reading a girl-version of Harry Potter.

A very light version though, which lacked the depth that made Harry Potter such an engrossing read. You see, the theme dealt with here (as in Harry Potter) is quite dark. A character actually dies in this book. Still, because of the light tone of the book, this event never affected me. I didn’t feel the tragedy that the loss of that character was.

Compare that to my reaction to the fourth Harry Potter book where at the end of the book, a character died. I remembering being shocked, as a heaviness settled on me. I just couldn’t believe it had happened. And I certainly felt the grief of Harry and everyone around him.

Hex Hall could have been all that, but instead settled on being just a light, fun and easy read. Something which I liked, but didn’t devour.

Being a girl-version of Harry Potter, the romantic lead is also obvious, pretty much from the start. The romance (or crush as I prefer to call it)  was cute, but that’s about it. Sophie was a well-rounded character and a fun voice to follow. Archer however, felt a bit too one-dimensional for me. He was hot. He was mysterious. He was every girl’s crush. But then what? I would have liked to know more about him. The ending however promises more, and I have to admit I am curious to see how it develops.

Finally, I should warn the adult readers, that the book has a teen-age feel to it, and at times I felt too old (and rightly so, since I am much older than the target audience). I appreciate that Sophie’s voice felt so close to her age, not one year more or less than her 16 years. So kudos to Hawkins for portraying a teen that realistically. However, for an adult reader, it came across as a bit too immature at times.

In fact, I believe the extent of enjoyment of Hex Hall depends on the reader’s age. Say if you’re a teen or early tween, it will most likely rate 4-5 stars. If you, like me, are 30+, the grade is more likely to end up around a 3.

The sequel is called Demonglass.

Review: Unwind by Neal Shusterman

9 Oct

Series: Unwind, book #1

Published: November 6th 2007 by Simon & Schuster

Details: Hardcover, 335 pages

My Rating: 4.5/5

My Summary:

In a world where teenagers can be unwound, essentially scavenged for their body parts, the  teens Connor, Risa and Lev escape and make an attempt to survive until the safe age of 18. This is an action-packed adventure, with fully realized characters I truly cared about and a frighteningly well crafted world-building. My only minor criticism was the too-fitting ending.

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Synopsis:

The Second Civil War was fought over reproductive rights. The chilling resolution: Life is inviolable from the moment of conception until age thirteen. Between the ages of thirteen and eighteen, however, parents can have their child “unwound,” whereby all of the child’s organs are transplanted into different donors, so life doesn’t technically end. Connor is too difficult for his parents to control. Risa, a ward of the state is not enough to be kept alive. And Lev is a tithe, a child conceived and raised to be unwound. Together, they may have a chance to escape and to survive.

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My thoughts:

Unwind should come with a warning tag: Be aware, once you start you will not be able to stop.

It sucks you in pretty much straight away and keeps an extremely high-paced tempo throughout the book. Plenty of action, lots of twists. Every chapter ended with something breath-taking, which forced me to continue just one more page.

It’s told from the point of view of several POV’s, mainly our lead characters Connor, Risa and Lev but other POV’s will occasionally pitch in as well.

I’m not a huge fan of multiple POV’s since the various voices usually blend into each other, thus making it messy to follow. In Unwind however, it worked. More so, it felt like it was necessary in order to understand the various backgrounds of these teens. Especially Lev, the tithe, who has been raised his whole life to become an unwound.

As so many other reviewers commented, the world felt frighteningly real. I had a hard time at first believing in the premise, that is, how such a world came to be. Surely, the Pro-Choice side would never allow for outlawing abortion in exchange for teens getting unwound?

On the other hand, since all the human parts continue “living” in other people,  unwind is not really considered dying. Somehow, in Shusterman’s world, this twisted idea of “life in a divided state” has taken root.

Once the unwinding business established, pure greediness took over. People were getting used to the constant availability of human parts in case of accidents or diseases. And so the world ceased to care for all these unwound teens, many of them unwanted babies to begin with.

The following passage from Unwind explains it further:

“of course, if more people had been organ donors, unwinding never would have happened… but people like to keep what’s theirs, even after their dead. It didn’t take long for ethics to be crushed by greed. Unwinding became big business, and people let it happen”

Wow, terrifying world, to say the least, and somehow, every bit believable, thanks to Shusterman’s writing.

There is a touch of romance as well, to please us softies, but Shusterman keeps it there just barely visible. It never takes over the plot.

The biggest strength with the book were the characters, who were all fully fleshed out, and given realistic personalities. No Mary Sues or Gary Stues in sight. Even the bad guys had a few good traits. No one was perfect, and no one was fully evil, and I could clearly picture them all in my head.

The ending was slightly too neat, that is, everything packed up just a bit too nicely. But that’s me nit-picking on an otherwise great piece of dystopian fiction.

If you’re into dystopian this is simply put a must-read!

The sequel Unwholly is to be released sometime in 2012.

Review: Awaken by Katie Kacvinsky

8 Oct

Series: Awaken, book #1

Published: May 23rd 2011 by Houghton Mifflin Books

Details: Hardcover, 320 pages

My Rating: 3.5/5

My Summary:

Set in a dystopian world, not too far away, where people spend most of their time in front of a computer screen, Maddie meets the charismatic Justin who wants to change the world. I thought this book had an intriguing concept, and the writing was really good. The romance was steamy, all though not very memorable. Overall enjoyable but not great.

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Synopsis:

Maddie lives in a world where everything is done on the computer. Whether it’s to go to school or on a date, people don’t venture out of their home. There’s really no need. For the most part, Maddie’s okay with the solitary, digital life—until she meets Justin. Justin likes being with people. He enjoys the physical closeness of face-to-face interactions. People aren’t meant to be alone, he tells her.

Suddenly, Maddie feels something awakening inside her—a feeling that maybe there is a different, better way to live. But with society and her parents telling her otherwise, Maddie is going to have to learn to stand up for herself if she wants to change the path her life is taking.

In this not-so-brave new world, two young people struggle to carve out their own space.

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My thoughts:

Only a few chapters in, I knew that Awaken shared similarities with many other dystopias I’ve read lately, who have put too much focus on a romance, and much too little into an actual plot and a believable world-building.

The signs were there, namely:

  1. Romance with a mysterious Boy – an outcast who wants to change the current world they live in: Check!
  2. Upon meeting the Boy, the Girl who thought she was content with said world, starts to awaken: Check!
  3. Girl and Boy cannot be together in this world because of “insert controlling rule of the Society”: Check!
  4. World-building has an intriguing concept but is not fully realized, i.e. plenty of holes: Check!

Yet, despite including all the points above, Awaken still surprised me by being a fairly entertaining read!

First off, I liked following the thoughts of Maddie, the heroine. She seemed relatable to me, with plenty of insecurities, but also a risk-taker, smart and witty.

Secondly, the writing was easy to get immersed in. And it was filled with all these thought-provoking quotes I constantly felt the need to scribble down, for instance:

“Thoughts are circular, they don’t take you anywhere. They don’t have feet-they can’t gain any ground. They can trap you if you don’t eventually stand up and make a move.”

or

“You need to be content with small steps. That’s all life is. Small steps that you take every day so when you look back down the road it all adds up and you know you covered some distance. It took me a long time to accept that, but it’s true. You need to have patience.””

I was also enjoying the attraction that was slowly building between Maddie and Justin. That said, I had a few issues with Justin. He had that tortured “My life is too dangerous for you/You’re too good for me” thing going on which as you know, is something I’m getting increasingly tired of.

Maddie was also, at times, too obsessed for her own good with Justin, when for instance, she should have been paying attention to other pressing matters, such as an impending escape or her family situation. She usually acknowledged this obsession though, which made me forgive her behaviour. After all, being young and experiencing your first love can make you slightly obsessed.

The world-building was intriguing, seeing as we are really not that far from it today. Aren’t we already talking more through computer screens than face-to-face? But I wished Kacvinsky would have explored the idea further. As it was now, there were too many question marks and inconsistencies to make it truly believable. For instance, it’s said to be dead on the streets, since no people need to commute anymore. But what about all those professions that cannot be done online, such as plumbers, electricians etc. Surely not everyone could stay at home?

It’s also not very clear why the national education system Digital School feels threatened by face-to-face interactions. Nor if those type of meetings are illegal or just very uncommon. I wished this had been made clearer.

The ending felt rushed and contrived, as if an action scene was needed for the climax and something had to be thought up quickly. Thankfully though, no cliff-hanger in sight!

A sequel called Middle Ground is to be released sometime in 2012.

Review: Matched by Ally Condie

7 Oct

Series: Matched, book #1

Published: November 30th 2010 by Dutton Juvenile

Details: Hardcover, 384 pages

My Rating: 2/5

My Summary:

About Cassia, who in a dystopian future where The Society control all, is matched with Xander and then finds out that it could have been Ky. Or could it? Once the doubts are there, she can’t stop thinking about Ky, and eventually falls in love. It’s slow-going, bogged down with irrelevant details and lacks any sense of urgency. I had a hard time getting to the end without falling asleep. Recommended for fans of Delirium.

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Synopsis:

Cassia has always trusted the Society to make the right choices for her: what to read, what to watch, what to believe. So when Xander’s face appears on-screen at her Matching ceremony, Cassia knows with complete certainty that he is her ideal mate . . . until she sees Ky Markham’s face flash for an instant before the screen fades to black.

The Society tells her it’s a glitch, a rare malfunction, and that she should focus on the happy life she’s destined to lead with Xander. But Cassia can’t stop thinking about Ky, and as they slowly fall in love, Cassia begins to doubt the Society’s infallibility and is faced with an impossible choice: between Xander and Ky, between the only life she’s known and a path that no one else has dared to follow.

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My Thoughts:

I have a theory: What you think about Matched, is what you think about Delirium, and vice versa.

As you know, I was not a fan of Delirium, and consequently I am not a fan of Matched. For nearly the same reasons as with Delirium. In fact, I could almost copy and paste my whole review from Delirium and insert the appropriate names and locations because really, they are that interchangeable!

Both are set in an all-controlling society who decides where you’ll live, what you’ll work with, who you’ll marry and how many children you’ll have. Both heroines, who are strikingly similar personality-wise, meet a boy who is an outcast of the society and hence forbidden. Both girls have been assigned a match who they should fall in love with. I could go on but you get the idea.

Instead, let’s move on to my issues:

Just like in Delirium, I had problems with the world-building in Matched. For instance, I thought it odd that people didn’t seem to create anything anymore. The Society had saved 100 of everything (poems, books, songs) but nothing new was being created? It appeared as if the only tool of creation was the long-forgotten pen. But wait, can you not write a poem on your computer? It just did not seem plausible and the whole oh-so-forbidden act of writing in cursive, which is what Ky secretly teaches Cassia, had me rolling my eyes.

Just like in Delirium, I thought the romance happened too fast. Cassia started to get drawn to Ky pretty much straight away, which given what happened with the micro card, is understandable. What I didn’t understand is how quickly she thought herself to be in love with him. They barely exchanged any sentences. And when they did, it was all very stiff or dramatic.

Just like in Delirium, there was a lack of urgency. It was too slow, and there were too many redundant passages that bogged everything down so that I ended up feeling every single one of the 384 pages.

Finally, I didn’t like the writing style, which seemed to try hard to be poetic but not quite making it. Let me give you an example (from page 175):

“Can I do it? I look out at the view from the top of the hill. The sky does not have an answer for me. The dome of City Hall in the distance certainly doesn’t. I remember thinking of the angel stories when I went to my Match Banquet. I don’t see any angels and they don’t fly down on their cotton soft wings to whisper in my ear. Can I trust this boy who writes in the earth?

Someplace deep within me – Is it my heart? Or perhaps my soul, the mythical part of human that the angels cared about? – tells me that I can.”

Now, some people might like this type of writing. Too me, it just sounds overdone.  It makes me notice the author (for trying to be poetic) rather than get immersed into the story. But then, that is just my opinion. If you like a flowery poetic language with plenty of side tracks and a few philosophical rhetorical questions thrown in for good measure – then this might be the book for you.

Or of course, if you loved Delirium.

It is however the end of the series for me.

The sequel Crossed to be published on November 1st this year.

Review: Birthmarked by Caragh O’Brien

6 Oct

Series: Birthmarked, book #1

Published: March 30th 2010 by Roaring Brook Press

Details: Hardcover, 362 pages

My Rating: 3.5/5

My Summary:

In a dystopian world set approximately 400 years in the future, 16-year old Gaia goes on a rescue mission to save her parents who have been arrested for traitory. It was an overall great read, with an intriguing world-building, good writing and a kick-ass heroine. The plot that at times felt too convenient, and a few holes in the world-building had the grade lowered.

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Synopsis:

In the enclave, your scars will set you apart, and the newly born will change the future.
Sixteen-year-old Gaia Stone and her mother faithfully deliver their quota of three infants every month. But when Gaia’s mother is brutally taken away by the very people she serves, Gaia must question whether the Enclave deserves such loyalty. A stunning adventure brought to life by a memorable heroine, this dystopian debut will have readers racing all the way to the dramatic finish.

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My Full Review:

Birthmarked started out as a 5/5.

It captivated me immediately, and for the first half of the book I had a hard time letting it go. I kept thinking about it all the time, and was dying to get back to reading whenever I was working or doing something else. In other words, all symptoms of it being a 5:er were there. But half way through my interest faded, and it didn’t peak again until just towards the end.

My overall feeling on finishing the book was that the potential was there (which is what I felt in the beginning), but that it failed to fully deliver. A shame.

But let me start with what captured me in the beginning:

The writing and the world-building drew me in so smoothly, that before I knew it, I was completely immersed into the world of Gaia, who lives outside the walls of the Enclave, the governing state. Gaia was a heroine I immediately grew fond of, because of her kick-ass personality. She was brave and tough and fought for what she believed was right.

Early on in the book, we realise that Gaia’s parents have been doing something illegal, which has been put into some sort of undecipherable code. This peaked my interest straight away, as I anticipated the unraveling of said code and secret.

We also meet Captain Grey, one of the Enclave’s tough guards, who may or may not have an interest in Gaia. He reminded me of the fierce Valek in Poison Study, which is a great compliment right there.

In short, you could safely say that my interest had been captured!

What happened next is that Gaia smuggles herself into The Enclave in order to save her parents. However, it was after some time inside The Enclave, that my interest began to fade. The plot started to feel a bit too convenient, like when Gaia needed somewhere to hide, suddenly someone would appear in a doorway and whisk her in. She would get help just about everywhere, and everything would just always solve itself, in the most random and implausible manner. I can take one or two events happening this way, but not throughout an entire novel.

Secondly, the unraveling of the secret wasn’t fully explained. I was wondering why on earth it was such a big deal, what Gaia’s parents did? And seeing as the Enclave had such a problem with inbreeding, why hadn’t they thought of said thing themselves? It seemed odd.

The ending made up for some of the short-comings, as it was action-filled, tensed and made me swoon. It’s no cliff-hanger but slightly open-ended for a sequel to fill the holes.

The sequel Prized, is to be published in November 8th this year.