Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Review: Requiem by Lauren Oliver

They have tried to squeeze us out, to stamp us into the past.

But we are still here.

And there are more of us every day.

Now an active member of the resistance, Lena has been transformed. The nascent rebellion that was under way in Pandemonium has ignited into an all-out revolution in Requiem, and Lena is at the center of the fight.

After rescuing Julian from a death sentence, Lena and her friends fled to the Wilds. But the Wilds are no longer a safe haven—pockets of rebellion have opened throughout the country, and the government cannot deny the existence of Invalids. Regulators now infiltrate the borderlands to stamp out the rebels, and as Lena navigates the increasingly dangerous terrain, her best friend, Hana, lives a safe, loveless life in Portland as the fiancée of the young mayor.

Maybe we are driven crazy by our feelings.

Maybe love is a disease, and we would be better off without it.

But we have chosen a different road.

And in the end, that is the point of escaping the cure: We are free to choose.

We are even free to choose the wrong thing.

Requiem is told from both Lena’s and Hana’s points of view. The two girls live side by side in a world that divides them until, at last, their stories converge.

Hardcover, 391 pages

Published March 5th 2013 by HarperCollins Children's Books 
(info grabbed from GoodReads)

There was some intense fangirling when I received my copy of Requiem.  Really… just intense, whole nine yards squealing and giggling.  I even texted book buddies that I got it and that they should be jealous.  So did the last in the trilogy hold up to my over-the-top expectations?  Yes.  It was pretty spectacular if I do say so myself.  There are no spoilers in this review if you haven’t read Delirium or Pandemonium.  But if you haven’t read them yet, I strongly suggest you quit reading this review and go check them out.  That and why would you read a review for the last in a trilogy if you haven’t read the first two?  Anyway, if you haven’t read any of the trilogy yet, skip down to the last paragraph just before the final thought.

Requiem provided all that the end of a series should and that is one simple thing: CLOSURE.  Things tied up in a way that the story can live on in the readers mind, while not leaving any plot holes or lingering questions hanging in the air.  Really, Requiem was just… solid.  Solid goodness.  I wish this could be said of all dystopian trilogies written by someone named Lauren (I'm looking at you, Lauren DeStefano).

Maybe not everyone will be happy with the ending of Requiem, but I certainly am.  You can't make everyone happy, especially when there's a love triangle.  I honestly probably could have handled more feels, but I'm really not complaining.  Over the course of the three books, the Delirium Trilogy became about much more than just the love story.  It wasn't the main focus of the third book (at least for much of it), but it fit.  There is so much going on in Lena's life (like arson and bomb threats) at this point that it makes sense that she isn't always focused on her love life. 

All in all, the Delirium Trilogy was an extremely satisfying read filled with thrills, feels, and a plot line that made sense.  I recommend the series to anyone who is interested in science fiction who isn’t turned off by a heavy romance factor.  The focus of the Delirium Trilogy was on the characters and the relationships that form in the dystopian world Lauren Oliver created.  The science and politics are never really a main focus.

Final Thought: 9 out of 10 toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Classics Challenge (#3)

Merricat Blackwood lives on the family estate with her sister Constance and her uncle Julian. Not long ago there were seven Blackwoods—until a fatal dose of arsenic found its way into the sugar bowl one terrible night. Acquitted of the murders, Constance has returned home, where Merricat protects her from the curiousity and hostility of the villagers. Their days pass in happy isolation until cousin Charles appears. Only Merricat can see the danger, and she must act swiftly to keep Constance from his grasp.

First published in 1962

(info grabbed from GoodReads)

This was one of the books on my Classics Challenge list that I was super excited to read.  We Have Always Lived in the Castle is as a beautiful, albeit slightly disturbing, example of American gothic literature, with Merricat a shining example of an unreliable narrator.  As many others have pointed out, the opening to the book speaks much louder than what is simply on the page.
My name is Mary Katherine Blackwood. I am eighteen years old, and I live with my sister Constance. I have often thought that with any luck at all, I could have been born a werewolf, because the two middle fingers on both my hands are the same length, but I have had to be content with what I had. I dislike washing myself, and dogs, and noise. I like my sister Constance, and Richard Plantagenet, and Amanita phalloides, the death-cup mushroom. Everyone else in our family is dead.
Right off the bat, we get a sense of the off-kilter way Merricat thinks, and it doesn’t slip for a moment in the book.  While reading, you get this odd nonsensical feeling and a clarity of what is her sanity.  What makes this book such a gem is that we do see the world from her eyes whereas that would be completely lost if the novel was written in third person.

The reason We Have Always Lived in the Castle is a great book for aspiring Young Adult writers to read is because it has an exemplary use of the unreliable narrator.  The unreliable narrator is extremely common in young adult literature today -- anytime a book is in first person, this is used as the reader is limited to what the narrator is seeing/doing/thinking.  In Young Adult, the focus tends to be on relating to characters, which is why first person is ideal as it is easier to grow empathetic and relate when you are reading through their eyes.

Final Thought: “I-could-have-been-a-werewolf” out of 5 toadstools

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Review: The Archived by Victoria Schwab

Imagine a place where the dead rest on shelves like books.

Each body has a story to tell, a life seen in pictures that only Librarians can read. The dead are called Histories, and the vast realm in which they rest is the Archive.

Da first brought Mackenzie Bishop here four years ago, when she was twelve years old, frightened but determined to prove herself. Now Da is dead, and Mac has grown into what he once was, a ruthless Keeper, tasked with stopping often—violent Histories from waking up and getting out. Because of her job, she lies to the people she loves, and she knows fear for what it is: a useful tool for staying alive.

Being a Keeper isn’t just dangerous—it’s a constant reminder of those Mac has lost. Da’s death was hard enough, but now her little brother is gone too. Mac starts to wonder about the boundary between living and dying, sleeping and waking. In the Archive, the dead must never be disturbed. And yet, someone is deliberately altering Histories, erasing essential chapters. Unless Mac can piece together what remains, the Archive itself might crumble and fall.

In this haunting, richly imagined novel, Victoria Schwab reveals the thin lines between past and present, love and pain, trust and deceit, unbearable loss and hard-won redemption.

Hardcover, 328 pages

Published January 22nd 2013 by Hyperion 
(info grabbed from GoodReads)

Victoria Schwab is becoming a fast favorite author for me as I love her original ideas and the way she writes.  Like in The Near Witch, her prose tends to be more long winded and breathy, giving it an ethereal feel.  It didn't have quite the effect that it did in The Near Witch, as this is an urban fantasy and would be less appropriate.  The writing is even paced and relaxed, and it never rushes.  While I do enjoy fast paced books, I also like more relaxed reads like this one.  Though the writing makes this story more relaxing to read, the story itself is not.  The Archived is full of action and butt-kickery, as Mackenzie’s job requires it. 

In The Archived, our main character, Mackenzie, works doing maintenance for the library that houses the dead.  (HOW COOL IS THAT?)  But by maintenance, I mean she has to chase down awoken spirits in the dark cloisters of the space inbetween the library and the real world and lead them back to the library -- sometimes by force.  The mystery of the book is that many more spirits are waking without any apparent reason.  Mackenzie already had her hands full with keeping her job a secret, but with an influx of spirits, it becomes more than simply overwhelming.

There is some romance in The Archived, but it’s not a huge part of the book.  More like sprinkles on top than the ice cream that is the mystery.  It is also interwoven with the rest of the plot, so it doesn’t feel like it was tacked on for marketability.  I guess that means it’s not-so-much sprinkles and more like the cookie dough in cookie dough ice cream -- it would be vanilla without it and who wants vanilla?  Bring on the cookie dough!

I also always appreciate an ending that doesn’t leave me screaming, which occasionally happens in trilogies.  I want to read more and know more about the world Victoria Schwab is designing, but I’m not ripping my hair out in agony waiting for the sequel.  However, I’m not a particular fan of cliffhangers.  If you need to be rocking in your chair with questions for the next book, this may not be for you.  But if you want a solidly great book with an awesome mystery, a heroine who can hold her own, and lyrical prose, The Archived is most likely a good fit for you.

Final Thought: 9 out 10 cookie dough toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Classics Challenge (#2)

Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead, subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity.

She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman's passionate search for a wider and richer life than Victorian society traditionally allowed.

With a heroine full of yearning, the dangerous secrets she encounters, and the choices she finally makes, Charlotte Bronte's innovative and enduring romantic novel continues to engage and provoke readers.

First published in 1847

(info grabbed from GoodReads

Okay… so this is super late.  I meant to post my little ditty about Jane Eyre at the end of February/beginning of March.  But here we are in the middle of April.  Good job, Momo.  But I wanted to say something meaningful and do the book justice -- not just blab about whatever (like I did with that Jules Verne book I read in January.  What was that book again?  Encyclopedia of Fictional Marine Biology?  Eh… something like that -- it’ll come to me).  Moving on:

Victorian literature has a special something that has been lost over the ages.  The poetry of its prose, the way a scene is painted rather than simply written, the witty banter characteristic of its dialogue: all things rarely found nowadays.  Jane Eyre is the first published story of the Brontë sisters and a pinnacle of Victorian literature.  It encompasses all that was fiction at the time.  The poignant tale of Miss Jane has inspired readers for generations, and it's not hard to see why.  Jane Eyre triumphs in her story, eventually finding light in the world after emerging from very dark beginnings.  All the while through her struggles, she never gives up who she is or her beliefs for anyone.

The beauty of Jane Eyre is that it is not in anything involving the fantastical.  It is about the life of one young woman, and that is fantastic enough in and of itself.  The way Charlotte Brontë writes, it is as if she took a block of literature and carefully carved every line and curve into the book.  Everything is written with precise beauty and clear intention.  There isn’t a word in the entire novel that could have been without; not a single sentence that could be changed.  These words and sentences paint a scene more complex than those written today.  It could be compared literally to art: modern literature exemplifies the more simplistic style of Andy Warhol; still beautiful and still art.  But Jane Eyre is not simple -- Jane Eyre is Van Gogh.  Each word and sentence and phrase is each a brush stroke dragged and layered and pulled across the canvas that is Starry Night.  Each small stroke combines into a much bigger and beautiful picture that screams with emotion.  It is heartbreaking and uplifting.  It is sublime.

Final Thought: “YOU-CANNOT-RATE-ART-IN-NUMBERS” out of 5 toadstools

Sunday, April 14, 2013

Review: Sever by Lauren DeStefano

With the clock ticking until the virus takes its toll, Rhine is desperate for answers. After enduring Vaughn’s worst, Rhine finds an unlikely ally in his brother, an eccentric inventor named Reed. She takes refuge in his dilapidated house, though the people she left behind refuse to stay in the past. While Gabriel haunts Rhine’s memories, Cecily is determined to be at Rhine’s side, even if Linden’s feelings are still caught between them.

Meanwhile, Rowan’s growing involvement in an underground resistance compels Rhine to reach him before he does something that cannot be undone. But what she discovers along the way has alarming implications for her future—and about the past her parents never had the chance to explain.

In this breathtaking conclusion to Lauren DeStefano’s Chemical Garden trilogy, everything Rhine knows to be true will be irrevocably shattered.
Hardcover, 371 pages

Published February 12th 2013 by Simon & Schuster Books For Young Readers
(info grabbed from GoodReads)

I wasn't planning on writing a review for Sever as I haven't written one for Wither or Fever, but I could not contain myself.  I also take pride in not having spoilers in my reviews, but today I'm throwing that out the window.  I don't care if anything is spoiled, since I really don't recommend reading this book.  I do want to start with saying that I very much so liked Wither, and I did initially rate Fever high.  However, though I was excited at the end of Fever as to what Sever would continue in the story, I was pretty unhappy with the story a majority of the book.  The world was bleak, but instead of being a gripping and exciting read, I thought most of Fever was filled with a whole lot of nothing important.  I was interested to see how these seemingly not important parts of the book would be made eye-opening and provide some insight into the mysterious illness or ... something.  I was ultimately disappointed.  Sever ended littered with plot holes and with me sitting there thinking "What the hell did I just read in those three novels?"

I don't know if I've ever read anything that had so many unanswered questions.  And, I mean, big questions. 

Plot Hole #1: Why were Rhine and Rowan so important?  It is mentioned that their DNA is different -- that there is a secret within it.  Retinal analysis is done on both twins, and then BAM! a cure is found.  A bit of explanation in between those events would have been nice.  The way it was written felt like the writer was being lazy and had no idea what to put.  It felt like words were missing.  There was no connection between the cure and the twins in the words on the page.  There were details leading up to the procedure, but they were vague at best.  These details include their parents were scientists who probably altered their DNA when they were born.  And that's it.

Plot Hole #2: Why was Rowan blowing up labs and why was Vaughn (Rhine's father-in-law) paying him to do so?  It seemed to me that this was a cheap plow to bring attention to Rowan so Rhine could find him and to simultaneously link Rowan to Vaughn.  After Rhine and Rowan are reunited, Rowan's arson escapades are never mentioned again.  It's not like he set fire to one building to get Rhine's attention; he was literally trekking around the country, giving speeches and rallies, and ending them with the explosion of large research facility.  And we the reader are supposed to believe he was just doing this... why?

Plot Hole #3: How did Linden die?  Seriously.  How?  Most people don't have a seizure and hemorrhage from a bumpy plane landing.  Especially when everyone else involved is unharmed, save for a few bruises.  If Linden had some kind of fragile brain or whatever, why wasn't it mentioned?  And his dad is supposedly a physician, but nothing medical was ever discussed.  I can only choke this up to laziness on the author's part -- there should have been more research into the medical aspect of this book.  I'm not just talking about Linden's death, but with the "virus" as well.  The only medical information that is revealed is that it is not a virus really, it's just that's what they call it since they weren't quite sure what it was in the beginning.  There's no further discussion on it.  My point being, if you're going to write a book and have it focus on any medical topic (or topic outside the author's normal expertise), do some research.  It's not hard to find a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional to talk to about speculating the possibilities of the future.  That's one of the things in science fiction that is so cool: speculating what could be.  This is where The Chemical Garden Trilogy really let me down, as it promised so much brain food for me in Wither, but didn't really provide anything beyond its promises in Fever and Sever.

I was not impressed with the writing in Sever.  I thought it to be filled with all the wrong words.  I was not impressed with the prose or storytelling; I found the writing choppy and sloppy.  I was not overwhelmed with feelings for any character, potentially least of all Rhine, our main character.  I was not particularly anything throughout the whole third book and continued to read mostly out of obligation since I already had read (and own) the first two in the series.  I have read a lot of books (I started blogging after as well) since reading Wither and Fever, so I think it's likely my tastes have grown and evolved.  I can't say that I would go back to Wither and love it as much as I did the first read through.  What I do know is I would not recommend the trilogy as a whole to anyone, at this point.  I don't really like saying that, as it is a very harsh thing to say about someone's work but also because I have already recommended this series to friends before I read Sever. 

Final Thought: "I-don't-even-know" out of 5 toadstools

If I think about this book any further, I may scream

This review is also posted on GoodReads

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Review: Goddess Interrupted by Aimee Carter

Kate Winters has won immortality.

But if she wants a life with Henry in the Underworld, she'll have to fight for it.

Becoming immortal wasn't supposed to be the easy part. Though Kate is about to be crowned Queen of the Underworld, she's as isolated as ever. And despite her growing love for Henry, ruler of the Underworld, he's becoming ever more distant and secretive. Then, in the midst of Kate's coronation, Henry is abducted by the only being powerful enough to kill him: the King of the Titans.

As the other gods prepare for a war that could end them all, it is up to Kate to save Henry from the depths of Tartarus. But in order to navigate the endless caverns of the Underworld, Kate must enlist the help of the one person who is the greatest threat to her future.

Henry's first wife, Persephone.

Paperback, 304 pages

Published March 27th 2012 by Harlequin Tee
(info grabbed from GoodReads)

This review contains spoilers if you haven’t read The Goddess Test.

So from where we left off in The Goddess Test, everyone is a God, Kate and Henry are happily married, and all should be good, right?  Not so much.  Calliope is crazy and wants to destroy the world by releasing the Titans.  The strongest of the Gods go off to combat Calliope, leaving Kate to another dangerous quest.  This quest is even more challenging than the deadly test from the first book: Kate has to deal with Henry’s ex-wife Persephone!  *gasp* THE HORROR.

Okay, seriously, this is the real thing that did make me adore this book.  Kate has to deal with REAL marriage issues all the while in a very unreal setting.  The way the author crossed real life into the world a paranormal romance book was pure genius in my humble opinion.  I loved the way we got to see Kate struggle with emotions of being cut off from her husband and the jealousy attached to not being the first wife.  The way the novel was set up made the ending all the more heartwarming.

Goddess Interrupted proved itself to be more than The Goddess Test: there was more drama, more action, and more intrigue.  The stakes are higher as Kate is defending the world instead of just her own life.  The Goddess Test almost seems like a prequel with how it shows how Kate ended up from being a normal teenager to now being a Goddess with the real story starting with Goddess Interrupted and concluding with The Goddess Inheritance.  The one thing that did make me want to pull out my hair was the devious cliff hanging ending.  WHY AIMEE CARTER?  …I’ll forgive you this time, but only if The Goddess Inheritance holds up to the standard of the previous books.

Final Thought: 22 out of 25 toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads

Saturday, April 6, 2013

Save a Word Saturday (#15)

Welcome to Save-a-Word Saturday, a new blog hop hosted by The Feather and the Rose.
The aim is to spread love of old and unusual words by sharing them with other bloggers and thereby saving these precious, wonderful, whirling words from the dusty, lonely corners of the oldest, least visited vaults of the Word Bank.
The rules run thusly:
1. Create a lovely blog post that links back to The Feather and the Rose. The easiest way to do that would be to grab the code under the pretty Save-a-Word Saturday button. Just copy and paste it into the HTML part of your blog. 
2.  Pick an old word you want to save from extinction to feature in your blog post. It really must be an old word, not just a big one. We are trying to save lovely archaisms, not ugly giants (for example, "Dihydrogen Monoxide" is not an acceptable choice).
3. Provide a definition of your word. Use your word in a sentence (or even a short paragraph) vaguely related to the theme we have chosen this week. You may also add visual or musical interpretations of your word or your sentence. In fact, add anything that moves your creative spirit.
4. Add a link to your blog in the linky list below (it's down there somewhere). Then hop to as many other blogs as you can in search of as many wonderful words as possible!
5. Use as many of the words as you can on the people in your life. Do leave a note or add something to your own post to let us all know what wonderful old word you whipped out to befuddle your friends and relations.
This week's theme is:
And the word I have chose is:

salaciousadj. - obscene; lascivious. salacity, n.
 And my ever so wordy sentences are:

Though attempting to tiptoe as quietly as possible, Timothy had not been able to sneak past the kitchen to his bedroom at the late hour.  The light flipped on with his mother sitting facing him from the kitchen table.

"Well hello, son.  Your footsteps gave away your salacious behavior of tonight," she said with bright sternness.

Timothy just stood and sputtered as she glared at him, at a total lack of any explaination.

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Review: The Girl in the Steel Corset by Kady Cross

 In 1897 England, sixteen-year-old Finley Jayne has no one...except the "thing" inside her.When a young lord tries to take advantage of Finley, she fights back. And wins. But no "normal" Victorian girl has a darker side that makes her capable of knocking out a full-grown man with one punch....

Only Griffin King sees the magical darkness inside her that says she's special, says she's one of "them." The orphaned duke takes her in from the gaslit streets against the wishes of his band of misfits: Emily, who has her own special abilities and an unrequited love for Sam, who is part robot; and Jasper, an American cowboy with a shadowy secret.

Griffin's investigating a criminal called The Machinist, the mastermind behind several recent crimes by automatons. Finley thinks she can help--and finally be a part of something, finally fit in.

But The Machinist wants to tear Griff's little company of strays apart, and it isn't long before trust is tested on all sides. At least Finley knows whose side she's on--even if it seems no one believes her.

Hardcover, 473 pages

Published May 24th 2011 by Harlequin Teen (first published January 1st 2011)

(info grabbed from GoodReads)

There was a lot to love with The Girl in the Steel Corset.  I felt that this book blended historical fiction with science fiction better than any other I've read before, which is what I always expected of steampunk but hadn't gotten so far.  It was like if H. G. Wells and The X-men had a baby, in the best way possible (because let’s not lie, H. G. Wells and the X-Men making a baby could go seriously wrong).  I would classify the book as steampunk adventure if I had to nail it down, since that is what the book truly was: an adventure.  We explore Kady Cross' steampunk vision of Victorian London hunting down The Machinist -- a despicably superb villain -- all while meeting delicious characters, discovering steam and gear gadgets, and looking good in the delicately put together ensembles the author creates for her characters.

The prose was wonderfully fluid while fitting the time period -- something I feel is needed in a steampunk or historical fiction novel.  I don't like words out of time, where the prose doesn't fit the intended time period.  But with Kady Cross, I definitely did not have that problem.  The only issue with the prose I had was that it seemed wordy at time, which I attributed to it being very telling when it could have been showing.  The author would sometimes directly describe what was happening instead of animating the world with her words.  It make the book a bit less immersive than I would like, but it wasn't unbearable.

I loved our girl in the steel corset, Finley Jayne, but with her being the subject of the title, I had expected more of her.  More from her point of view, more with her Dr. Jekyll/Mr. Hyde duality, more of her in the story.  While our events start with her entering the picture for the rag-tag group surrounding Duke Griffin Greythorne, the book encircles the entire group rather than focusing on Finley.  The exploration of her dual being was extremely cut short as there is so much that could've happened and didn’t.  I thought that it was a bit disappointing, especially in the romantic category.  There are the beginnings of a love triangle based on the two sides of her personality that simply seemed to fall apart. 

Though I could never feel so much of a firm grip on Finley's unique personality (or personalities), the rest of the cast was much better defined.  The other characters have their own quirks and abilities, adding to their own character and relationships with the group.  The group was well balanced and thought out -- very enjoyable to read.  You could really understand the different relationships and feelings between characters.  I particularly liked Sam and Emily, with his brute force and her the genius mechanic.  Their friendship laced with tragedy slowly blossoming into something more was beautiful, and I hope their relationship with be further explored in sequels.  That, and I mean, who doesn't love a red-head with a brain to boot? 

The Girl in the Steel Corset has left me with high expectations for the sequel, The Girl in the Clockwork Collar.  I'm very much so interested in seeing how the author expands her steampunk world to New York City and getting to know a few more additions to the cast. 

Final Thought: 3 out of 4 toadstools

This review is also posted on GoodReads