Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Fallen by Lauren Kate

I don't read 1 star books.  I pride myself on being able to give it up if it's just not happening for me.  I have generously gifted this review with two stars when in reality it was probably more of a 1.5 star read.  I don't know what it was that propelled me through this snoozer?  Maybe it was the promising tag-lines on the cover: "sexy" "ultimate romance" "New York Times best seller?"  I started to realize around page 250 that I was not really reading but mostly skimming for good stuff.  I was on page 250 for goodness sake, the good stuff had to show up eventually, right...RIGHT?!  Spoiler Alert, it did not show up...ever :(  And now I am left feeling cheated out of good book-reading time.
Problems I had with this book:
1.  It was boring.  There was no real action until the last 100 pages.
2.  There was no exposition.  It's the 1st book in a series.  I at least expect some sort of explanation for the set-up of this fantasy world.  Like what's the deal with angels, how do fallen angels work, why does Luce see shadows, WHAT THE HECK ARE THE SHADOWS?  I like the explainy parts of books.  It helps me feel more involved and invested in the story world.
3. Many tings are left unexplained.  Not just limited to the lack of world building, major plot points are left unexplained (I won't spoil them for you in the event that you actually DO want to read this book, I mean each book has it's audience, needless to say, for this book that is not me).  Perhaps (and I sincerely hope)they will be discussed in more detail in future books, but I guess I will never know since I don't expect to continue on in this series.
4.  The romance, which was supposed to be awesome and ultimate, felt dull and boring.  Daniel's a jerk, which I totally get and am not faulting him for.  I actually often enjoy the "hot, elusive jerk turns sexy romantic partner" story line in many books, but this one seemed forced.  We were supposed to assume that Luce & Daniel new each other in previous timelines but were not given enough background pieces to really understand their bond.

I don't know.  I am sure there are kids out there who will love this.  I just didn't.

To sum up, you might like this book if you enjoy: sappy, unrealistic romance, paranormal/fantasy themes, teenage drama.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Where Things Come Back by John Corey Whaley

Apparently I'm on a "weird books about boys" streak.  I don't quite know what I thought about this book (I guess I'm still processing).  The story is told in two parts: that of an average small-town boy, Cullen Witter, and that of a lonely missionary Benton Sage (and later Cabot Searcy). The parts do eventually come back together.  Two strange events converge the summer after Cullen's Junior year in high school, the illusive (possibly imaginary) Lazarus woodpecker is spotted in Cullen's hometown and his younger brother Gabriel goes missing.  The story weaves between the emotions of losing a sibling and the strangeness of being 17.

I just don't know if it worked...for me.  I understand what the author was trying to go for, but I never really grew attached to any of the characters.  It was only a little over 200 pages, so maybe the lack of depth was what had me looking for more?

I would recommend this to: mystery seekers, those who like contemporary fiction, stories of friendship, stories about siblings.

May you enjoy it more than I.  Hey it won a Printz for goodness sake, someone obviously liked it!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Grasshopper Jungle by Andrew Smith

This book was so weird it bordered on wonderful.  That's a thing right?  You know like a pint of some odd ice cream flavor that you try just one spoonful of but keep going back to just to make sure you still don't quite like it and then you've managed to eat the entire pint?  That's not just me...right?  Right?!
So back to books and not weird ice cream flavors, Grasshopper Jungle reminded me a lot of Middlesex by Jeffrey Eugenides (but with 6 foot tall man-eating bugs, you know cause that makes any book infinitely better).  It is the story of a young Polish boy, Austin Szcerba and his attempts to test fate by living a "normal" life in the tiny Iowa town of Ealing, Iowa. This is not going to happen for poor, confused Austin.  He is definitely pre-destined for awesomer, weirder things. There are crazy giant bugs (but not til later).  There is a quasi-love-triangle (but not til later).  What there is a lot of is a boy, trying to figure out who he is, how he effects the world around him and how his history effects him, always.  The history sections were randomly interspersed throughout the tale but they were wonderfully written and terribly interesting (that may just be the history teacher in me talking...you be your own judge).

I really feel like I could put this on the contemporary/realistic fiction shelf in my classroom.  It is so realistic to the hormone-fueled, confused, lost teenage boy.  Oh, except for those 6 ft tall man-eating bugs...at least I hope that parts not real!

Final recommendation: if you like history, contemporary fiction, teenagers, small-town drama, cursing, alien invasions.

P.S. I totally want my own Eden, to run around, wear jumpsuits, bounce on beds and listen to the Stones (again minus the bug-pocalypse above).

Monday, April 21, 2014

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski

I liked this book. It was a quick and engaging read.  Unlike many books where you are dropped into a world you know nothing about to fend for yourself, the environment in this book did not leave me totally confused.  The slow build helped acclimate the reader to the greco-roman-esq world where conquered people serve their newly established masters.  The mystery and intrigue kept me reading late into the night.

I really liked Rutkoski's female lead, Kestrel.  I thought she was likable in a realistic and believable manner.  Her desire to please her father while at the same time trying to be her own person is a very relatable quality for many teenage girls.  I also appreciated how Kestrel did not possess super-human strength, ridiculous assassin skills or some other type of ninja-esq quality.  She excelled instead because of her awesome BRAIN!  I know, crazy right?  I loved it.  Nerd-warriors unite, we have found a new leader!

The only qualm I had with this novel was that due to the secretive nature of both of the main characters, we did not get a really good look into their thoughts, feeling, emotions.  This did benefit the romantic tension but left me wanting more.  I guess that worked since I WANT MORE.  I definitely will read any follow-ups to The Winner's Curse.

The short and sweet:  read it if you like tension both romantic and actual war, historical fiction/period pieces, strong female characters.

Oh and if you are looking for a new book-boyfriend, may I make a case for Arin. .

Friday, April 18, 2014

The Unbound Victoria Schwab

In life, rarely does the 2nd book ever live up to the first. And don't even get me started on trilogies! But this books exceed all my expectations. This book uses a very interesting and unique fantasy premise, a world where the after-life consists of memories shelved like books in a library. It is a premise that I just did not quite get in the first book, why have people's memories kept in a library when no one can be checked out? But I believe that this installment fleshed out not only the fantastical premise but also added great depth to many of the characters. There were actually long stretches as Mackenzie's lack of sleep and post traumatic stress spiral her life out of control that I forgot I was reading a fantasy novel. Many of the descriptions of Mackenzie's mental state were so true to being an anxious, troubled teenager that I was aching for her sadness and despair.

And did I mention Wesley Ayers?! Oh Wesley, to fall asleep to your steady bass drum...New Book Boyfriend!

Highly recommended if you like: fantasy, action/adventure, hot boys, high school drama, strong female characters, or kicking butt!

It is unique, refreshing, creative, (romantic), & just plain stupendous, go, get it, now!

Cress by Marissa Meyer

At over 500 pages long, can I say that this book was not long enough? Seriously this book could have been twice the size and I still don't think we would have gotten into each and every character as fully as I would have liked. That being said, what we did get was pretty amazing. The best part of the Lunar Chronicle series, in my humble opinion, is the friendships. Don't you feel like you are a member of the Rampion's crew? Star Pilot Katie Fatiga reporting for duty! Each one of the members of this ever-expanding rag-tag bunch of misfits is endearing in his or her own way. In this book, we got to know the inside depths of Thorne's character in a very clever way (thanks to his sudden dependence on Cress). And oh Cress, sweet, sweet nerdy Cress. I feel like she is the reader's character in all her obsessive nerdy, gleeful goodness. What a great addition. I also enjoyed that we got back to more Cinder scenes (thank you to the last 10 pages especially). And less Scarlet scenes (whom I never really connected with anyway). 
The short and sweet: great story, action packed, romantic, and fabulous engaging characters. You should really read this series!