Friday, September 27, 2013

August and September DNF

Two in one, because I was a bit busy at the end of August with University prep. and such. These are books that I did not finish for a good reason to do with the book. Basically this is me explaining why I couldn't finish certain books.
Icons (Icons, #1)

Icons by Margaret Stohl
This one ended up in the did not finish pile for a couple of reason. I didn't like, or really care about the main character (I have forgotten her name). She was kind of annoying and quite dull, but outside of that I didn't much care. The story line was difficult to follow, possibly because I hadn't been drawn in to it. What I know of the plot came mostly from the book jacket- I didn't really get a hint of it in the book, the way the ideas were presented was kind of convoluted and unclear.  I just barely made it to the introduction of the love interest, who didn't remotely interest me as a character.

Embrace (The Violet Eden Chapters, #1)
Embrace by Jessica Shirvington
I knew this one was going to be if-y, just because I have a minor angel prejudice, but after reading and enjoying Angelfall (review here), I was willing to give another angel book a try. So I pulled this one off of the shelf at the library. From the start the heroine bothered me, and her friend bothered me and the love interest bothered me. The way the angels were described disinterested me. Violet just isn't the sort of heroine that I enjoy reading. She seems very shallow, and I've never really liked reading about boy-crazy girls, who will try anything to get a boy's attention, and was easily swayed by her friend's opinions. Maybe that is how a lot of teenagers behave, but I personally couldn't connect to her (I am a teenage hermit, possibly). Maybe she develops as the story progresses, but I couldn't stick her out. The writing, while not bad, didn't captivate me, and the plot seemed pretty formula (and I usually deal with, and even enjoy, slightly formulaic plots, but the characters couldn't carry it). I don't even thing I finished the first hundred pages.
The Rose Throne (The Rose Throne, #1)

The Rose Throne by Mette Ivie Harrison
I wasn't crazy about this one to begin with, but I enjoy fantasy, so I decided to give it a go. I didn't end up finishing it. The magic in this world seems... kind of unexciting and not explained as well as it could have been, and the princesses themselves were sort of flat as characters. I couldn't keep track of their names, and it sort of felt like they were both desperate to have a love interest of some description, which is not the way to find someone you actually like. I didn't get very far into this one.

Overall there weren't actually too many that hit the DNF pile for any clear reason- sometimes I just forgot I was reading  book and then it had to go back to the library, or I didn't have the time and/or inclination to pick it up. Others I kind of dragged myself through or numbly continued reading even though I wasn't really enjoying them.

Books That I Finished, Though I Struggled A Bit:
Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality
This one I finished, actually, though I feel like there was a little bit of browsing toward the end. I really disliked the main character's mother- as in, when (spoiler alert) she left near the end after the pageant stunt, I hoped that she wouldn't come back.
Nameless (Tales of Beauty & Madness, #1)
Another one that I made myself finish. I feel like there could have been more of the madness mentioned on the cover. The love story part made me feel almost uncomfortable- it was a weird relationship in a lot of ways- very possessive. I did finish it, though I more dragged myself most of the time. I think a lot of aspects could have been made clearer, and the story could have lost some elements to make room for the fleshing out of others.

That about wraps it up for now. Let me know what you thought of these books. Did I get a good measure of them, or did I miss something super-spectaular.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Review: Untold

Untold (The Lynburn Legacy, #2)Title: Untold
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Series: The Lynburn Legacy
Volume: 2
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Gothic, Romance

Why I Read It: It is the sequel to Unspoken, and is the second book is the The Lynburn Legacy trilogy. (The third, Unbroken is to be released in 2014).

A Quick Intro: (Contains spoilers for Unspoken). Sorry-In-The-Vale is in danger. Rob Lynburn is gathering followers who wish for sorcery to go back to the old ways- namely gaining access to additional power through human sacrifice. Kami isn't about to let that happen. Even with her like to Jared severed, without any access to magic, without the constant support he offered, she's going to do everything she can to take a stand.

What I Thought: Wow. A lot went on in this one. Kami's up against some serious odds. Rob gathering sorcerers intent on claiming the town as a sacrifice pool. Lillian Lynburn intends to take a stand against her husband, but she doesn't want the help of anyone who isn't a sorcerer (because, you know, there's so much help of that variety). Her father has found out that about all of her mother's lies, so there's trouble at home. Kami is facing it all without the constant emotional support that Jared used to offer. He, of course is being his impossible self, and cold shouldering her. Still, she's trying to plow through it all. She's a very strong person that way, though she struggles with being independent- she's never been completely alone before, and interprets being independent as trying not to let anyone know when she's having a hard time. There are more sorcerers in Sorry-In-The-Vale, and Kami's trying to find a way to recruit them, as well as protect herself, her friends and her family against the magic that is once again all over their little town, and find a way to stop Rob Lynburn from taking said little town as his own.

I think Kami's outlook is generally pretty great, given all that is going on. She's someone who manages to be sarcastic without seeming jaded, and she's incredibly determined. As a protagonist, she really pulls the story along. This trilogy is very character-driven. The plot is interesting enough, but I really read it of the characters. I loved Angela in the first book- she's the jaded foil to Kami's constant passion about all things, but she's always fierce and determined, and always has Kami's back. Rusty played a bigger role in this book than he did in the previous one- he generally lightens the mood, but he does have few serious moments in this book. Jared was as infuriating as he always is (I say that in the nicest way possible, of course). Ash gets some more background and development. Holly is having some problems of her own (okay, lots of problems of her own, but I'll let you read the book). Kami's dad is great (I see where Kami gets some of her best characteristics). Lillian was infuriating, there were moments where I kind of wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake her. There are all sorts of complicated relationships between all of the characters. The humour, typically of the dry, sarcastic variety, was a nice bright spot whenever things got too grim or intense. In spite of what a mess our good guys can be (and they can be quite a mess sometimes, and half the time they can't work together to save their lives) you can't help but get attached to them, and cheer for them.

I'm really, super eager for the next book. In 2014. Which needs to come soon, because we've been left quite a cliffhanger, on top of a very bad situation.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Review: All Our Yesterdays

All Our YesterdaysTitle: All Our Yesterdays
Author: Cristin Terrill
Series: All Our Yesterdays
Volume: 1
Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Romance

Why I Read It: I like science fiction, and time travel is always an interesting idea. This has been on my TBR list for a while now (since before it came out- actually when the cover was different).

A Quick Intro: Em has been trapped in a cell for months. The world outside is falling apart, and all she can do is wait- she's got the voice of the boy in the cell next to her and a hidden note reading "You have to kill him". She knows what she has to do. She has to go back in time and stop the time machine from ever being created, no matter what the cost. She knows that fourteen versions of herself have tried and failed, leaving her in this present, where she is imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic doctor, who is only keeping her alive because he wants something from her.
Four years earlier: Marina is in love with her best friend James, who is a science prodigy, and may finally be starting to notice her. Until everything falls apart, and suddenly someone is trying to kill James and his life is crumbling. Marina will do anything to keep him safe- she's always been on his side, no matter what. But in light of a horrible truth, will she truly be able to stay with him?

What I Thought: Well, this isn't my first time travel book. It probably won't be the last. I have to admit I knew who both Em and the unnamed doctor were from the start. That said, I was still interested to know how they got to that point. In the beginning I found Marina pretty self-centered and shallow as a character, something she herself acknowledges later on in the story. James was clearly somewhat erratic from the beginning- even Marina, who adores him in the start admits that he's scared her before. Em has seen too much- she hardened, but she fears not hardened enough. She's been tortured, lost her friends and watched her world be destroyed, and she's quite broken. Finn is a very steady character. He's got heroic potential at the beginning (he goes after the shooter, in spite of being unarmed and probably more than a little traumatized). His first instinct is the right thing, and Marina has good intentions. They're both facing something that will be horrible if they do it- but even worse for them and the world if they don't.

There's a lot of action in this one. Em and Finn are racing the clock to do what they have to, and Marina is trying to keep James safe, while becoming increasingly concerned about whether or not she is doing the right thing. There's an emotional element in that there's a struggle to do the right thing, ans what the right thing truly is.

I know some people didn't like the ending, but I enjoyed it. Without spoiling anything, it is really bittersweet. There's some sadness- it doesn't end perfectly for the good guys, and a lot is left open. I like this one as a stand-alone actually, it doesn't feel to me as if it needs a sequel, and I'm not really sure if I'll read it when it comes out. We'll see.

I don't really subscribe to the theory of time travel in the book (do I sound geeky or what?), but it was interesting to explore. What if you could change the future by stopping something from happening in the past? This was an interesting read, which touched on the cost of doing the right thing, and the cost of our actions, and sacrifice.

If you've read this one, drop me a line in the comments. I would love to know how everyone else feels about the ending and the book in general. Do you think it needs a sequel? Was the ending good or terrible? Why? (Just make sure to put a spoiler warning for anyone who hasn't read it, since it is still in the first month or so.)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Review: Fangirl

FangirlTitle: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Romance

Why I Read It: This one has had some really good reviews, and seeing as I too am starting university (I'm in Canada, so we call it university here, but from what I've gathered, it is very similar to what colleges are in America). Also, the premise of this one makes me think of Tumbr. (they're actually doing it for a book club there...)

A Quick Intro.: Cath lives for her fandom (Simon Snow, which is this universe's Harry Potter). She reads the books, watches the movies, has all of the memorabilia and writes fanfiction. She's always been withdrawn, and does everything with her twin sister, Wren. Until Wren decides that she doesn't want to share a room with Cath when they go to college, and Cath is thrust into a completely new situation without anyone to hold her hand.

What I Thought: Having just been through the first couple weeks of post-secondary education (what else should I call it? I sound like a guidance councilor) myself, I can relate to being in a pretty new, foreign situation. I'm lucky enough to be rooming with a friend of mine, and not too far from home, so I don't have the total culture shock that Cath goes through. While I'm a big fan of a lot of things, I've never really been one for fanfiction, but I could connect to trying to explain or avoid explaining a fandom you are part of to people (has anyone tried to summarize a book, only to realise that you sound crazy?) even if I've never been that far into a fandom. So those were two aspects I could connect to. The anxiety that Cath felt hasn't been too much of a problem for me so far, but I've had my moments.

I really enjoyed this book. Realistic fiction has never been my prefered genre, but this one was a fun read. It had moments of seriousness (Cath's family situation, her stress about writing her own work in her own world, her fear she might have inherited their dad's mania). She's just trying to find her way, and she's really not sure she can do it.

Cath's room mate, Reagan was great. She terrified Cath in the beginning, and eventually ends up taking Cath under her wing. She's a very energetic, alive character- she's older, she seems comfortable in her own skin, which is part of why she intimidates Cath. The love interest, Levi, was a pretty decent guy. He seems like a person- someone with character quirks and flaws, and he genuinely seems to care about Cath.

This is definitely my favourite realistic fiction this year so far. It has a lot of elements that I think a lot of readers will identify with. We all feel a little lost sometimes. Goodness knows we all feel awkward. So this was a sometimes fun, sometimes serious, quite connectable read.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Review: Descendant

Descendant (Starling, #2)Title: Descendant
Author: Lesley Livingston
Series: Starling
Volume: 2
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal

Why I Read It: It is the second book in the Starling trilogy (I think it is a trilogy?). Which is the sequel to the Wondrous Strange trilogy, which I really enjoyed.

A Quick Summary: Mason has crossed the bridge into the underworld, and Fennrys is determined to get her back, for both himself, and to stop her from becoming a pawn in causing Ragnarok (and by pawn I mean the trigger). Of course he as to recover from being shot in the shoulder followed by the train he was on exploding as well as a sea monster, but, details. He's not going to fight on the right side this time.

What I Thought: I enjoyed this book in a yelling-at-the-book sort of way. I sometimes got a little frustrated. I annoyed my roommate by being announcing what was going on in the book (she hasn't read any of the series, so I gave a super abbreviated version).

Okay first things first. Cameos. I miss the old cast (as in the Wondrous Strange trilogy cast) a lot, so when Maddox and Chloe showed up I was pretty happy. (We did get a couple of cameos in the last one, but this time we got Madd and Chloe. Who actually played significant roles as a part of the good guys last time.) And they (well Maddox, at least, Chloe seems to not like conflict- unless you hurt Maddox. Then she's kind of scary) actually stick around for some action scenes.

Moving on. I've never been huge on the romance in this one. I don't know... I guess, I'm not typically huge on romance in general sometimes, so it isn't altogether surprising. That said, I do feel like the romance was a weaker point in the book. (I'm not entirely sure how to explain it.) It still managed to be a driving force, but I just wasn't that interested in hearing about it non-stop.

I enjoyed the fight scenes and as always, the humour. I love dry humour, so most of these characters are right up my alley in that respect. I've always found there's something really enjoyable about how Lesley Livingston writes her fight scenes. I can picture them, but the words don't seem cumbersome, which can be a difficult balance to achieve.

So far I haven't love these as much as the Wondrous Strange trilogy, probably in part because I miss the fae world. It's always described wonderfully, so I miss that. And our heroes, seeing as I think they were a little more my personal preference. That said, I'm still looking forward to the next (pretty sure it is last) book in this series as well.

Writer's Festival

I went to my first bookish event today. Like, my first one ever. I live in Canada, so there aren't that many events that interest me nearby (what book events there are, they are typically written for people who enjoy reading books that seem to lack hope, and are all man vs. nature and man vs. self...) If you like dark internal dilemmas, there are events for you.

But you know about my feelings on hope. So these aren't for me. So there was a writer's festival, I came by the knowledge by accident- I was standing awkwardly in my university (first year...), and I saw a poster. I went with my dad. This was a tiny little festival, but it was good for my first one. It was in a kind of artsy little place, with beautiful stone buildings. I got to listen to Deborah Ellis and Lesley Livingston read a little of their books. I'd like to take this moment to point out that I've been reading Lesley Livingston's books since I picked up Wondrous Strange (at the library) I think it probably was soon after it came out (2008 or early 2009), so meeting her was really, really exciting for me. I got my copy of Wondrous signed, and picked up a copy of Deborah Ellis's new non-fiction book Looks Like Daylight. It was a really great day.

By the way, on the subject of Lesley Livingston, I finished Descendant a few days ago. My review is coming.

Anyway, I'm hoping to find more bookish events in my area (maybe even go to Toronto), because this one was really fun.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Review: Viral Nation

Viral NationTitle: Viral Nation
Author: Shaunta Grimes
Series: Viral Nation
Volume: 1

Why I Read It: This dystopian had a lot of really good reviews, and I do like a good dystopian.

A Quick Summary: A plague has devastated the world, and all of the survivors must take a daily suppressant to prevent the virus from killing them, even years later. Brilliant, autistic Clover is denied entrance to high school because she refuses to be parted from her service dog, Mango, and instead sent to an organisation that collects information about crimes from the future and prevents them from happening in the present. She is sent forward in time to collect this information. When her brother- and caretaker- West shows up on one of the lists, because he is going to commit murder, she knows there must be something wrong. Her brother would never kill anyone. She starts to question whether or not their are flaws in the system that has kept the nation stable, and begins to uncover dangerous information about the justice system, time travel and even the plague suppressant.

What I Thought: Overall, this one was a good read. I could root for the main characters, though I did find some of their motives a little confusing. It's hard to explain why... Some of it might be because this is the first book of a trilogy, so maybe we're not supposed to know all of the motives. Clover was a readable protagonist, though she had her moments where I couldn't really follow what she was thinking (West and the suppressant -minor spoiler- couldn't she have waited to see if the sores showed up before dosing him with the suppressant? It works on people who already have the virus, so I wasn't sure why she didn't wait to see, since they had already been told that people would go through withdrawl, and West clearly was- it wasn't the virus). There was something that confused me about Clover's autism too. She shuts down when exposed to stressful/overwhelming situations (ex. situations with a lot of noise), but the time traveling didn't seem to bother her, when I feel as though anyone would have been overwhelmed by that. But I'm nit-picking a little. There were some qualities to this book that I enjoyed. The idea of using the virus-suppressant as a method for controlling the population, and how much control having monopoly over a vital resource gives the government was interesting to see. Foster City sounded like a really horrible place to grow up, and obviously some of the citizens aren't treated very well. I feel like the story was a pretty simple one, even with all of the technicalities of time travel. So while the story wasn't completely original (a lot of the story is standard dystopian tropes), I still found it an enjoyable read.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Review: Ungifted

UngiftedTitle: Ungifted
Author: Gordon Korman
Genre: Realistic fiction

Why I Read It: I love reading about brilliant people. It's one of my favourite topics to read about. Basically, I love intelligence. Also, talking about intelligence as it is defined by society, versus how clever a person actually is.

A Quick Intro: Fleeing his school's administration after an incident involving the gymnasium and a giant metal globe, Donovan Curtis hides out in a gifted program, where he was accidentally placed. "Gifted" is a word that has never been a word that has applied to Donovan, and he's pretty sure he can't hack this program for genii. But he's here, and fighting to stay, so he's going to have to try.

What I Thought: I enjoyed this one. As mentioned, brilliance is something that I  really love reading about, and reading about Donovan's struggles to fit in with the academically gifted, quirky and more often than not social awkward was a lot of fun. I liked Donovan as a character, as well as all of the other characters who also narrated. While I personally tried hard in school (generally, I had my days of complete and utter academic apathy). It wasn't that he had no potential, but that he felt no inclination to succeed, and found classes dull, essentially turning him into a bit of a troublemaker. He was an enjoyable character to read- I liked the antics. The other students and teachers at the school were both enjoyable characters to read from- I especially liked reading from Noah, who is brilliant, but finds attending a gifted school dull, and really wants to go to an ordinary school.

Donovan's effect on the gifted students was interesting in that he brought an element to the class that it didn't have before, like naming the class robot and offering up his pregnant sister for a project so that the class can get their human growth and development credit. While not academically talented, he brings some different skill set to the group.

The story is fun and engaging. I found Donovan's sister, Katie, and the story line when the class follows her pregnancy to be one of my favourite parts. I liked the class's curiosity about it and how they go from Katie find them annoying to seeing the as a support group. One of my favourite lines was "this pregnancy is a group effort" and the breathing technique. They both had me laughing out loud. I really found myself rooting for the team, and for Donovan himself.

Overall, this book was a fun, clever, humourous read, and a reminder that "smart" isn't always about school.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Review: Going Vintage

Going VintageTitle: Going Vintage
Author: Lindsey Leavitt
Genre: Realistic fiction

Why I Read It: I feel like I haven't read much realistic fiction, and I try to keep some diversity in my reading, and this one had quite good reviews.

A Quick Intro: When Mallory finds out that her boyfriend is cheating on her with a cyber-wife, she breaks up with him and swears off of technology. She devotes herself to following her grandmother's list of goals. She plans to simplify her life by avoiding all of the pitfalls of modern technology.

What I Thought: I don't really have any feelings about this one. I wasn't very interested in the characters. Mallory especially seemed quite melodramatic, and I didn't find myself rooting for her journey. Having never been in a relationship like the one she was in, I actually found myself wondering if her response was realistic (was it?). Also, is going doe to a dance that weird? She certainly seemed to make a big deal of it. I just finished high school, but her high school experience seemed to be somehow... off. I can't really describe it. I didn't really find the characters convincing or magnetic.

I guess overall, I didn't really enjoy this one. The characters and setting didn't really have any draw for me.