Archive for August, 2012


Collapse by Richard Stephenson

Collapse by Richard Stephenson

Published July 5th, 2012 by Stephenson & Powers Publishing House

Picture and synopsis from the Goodreads book page

Author’s Website: http://rastephensonauthor.blogspot.com/

Book can be purchased at: Amazon (I also found a listing at B&N, put it was just for the paperback and at like $40.00 so I decided not to list it here)

Disclaimer: I received a free copy of this book in exchange for an honest review.  No compensation or promise of good review was promised in exchange or the book.

Synopsis:

America is falling, ready to join the Roman Empire as a distant memory in the annals of history. The year is 2027. Tired and desperate, the American people are deep in the middle of The Second Great Depression. The Florida coastline is in ruins from the most powerful hurricane on record; a second just like it is bearing down on the state of Texas. For the first time in history, the Middle East has united as one and amassed the most formidable army the world has seen since the Third Reich. A hidden army of terrorists is on American soil. This is the story of three men: Howard Beck, the world’s richest man, also diagnosed with Asperger’s Syndrome. Richard Dupree, ex-Navy SEAL turned escaped convict. Maxwell Harris, a crippled, burned out Chief of Police of a small Texas town. At first they must fight for their own survival against impossible odds. Finally, the three men must band together to save their beloved country from collapse.
Rating:

Review:

I was not really sure what I would end up rating this from the beginning until the very end, I still am not entirely sure that’s the right rating.  This one was difficult for me since I honestly did enjoy the book very much.  But even though I enjoyed it, I didn’t (and still don’t) feel it was as good as my usual 4 or 5 star book.  So this is somewhere between a 3 and 3.5 star book.

Collapse is a story about the demise of the United States.  Debt is ever mounting, the country is in a never-ending war with the Empire of Iran, a hurricane has devastated Florida and killed millions, wildfires rage across much of California, and that’s just the beginning.  The novel follows several characters on their individual journeys through the tumult all over the country.  There is Richard DuPree, a former Navy SEAL who is currently imprisoned for murder in California.  There is Malcom Powers the current President of the United States. Maxwell Harris is the Chief of Police in a small town in Texas who has spent most of his career crippled and addicted to painkillers.  And finally we have Howard Beck, the wealthiest man in the world and creator of the world’s very first true artificial intelligence program. The story is told alternately from all of their points of view as events unfold until finally the circumstances bring all of the together.

I really enjoyed all of the individual characters.  We didn’t see Malcolm Powers as much as I might have liked, but he was a good character when we got him.  Max Harris was my least favorite of the characters and I can’t really say why.  There was nothing wrong with the character, I just found him boring. Richard was fascinating, I looked forward to every single one of his chapters so that we could learn more of his story.  My favorite character however was Howard Beck.  He was funny, witty, and really just took the story to another level.  His interactions with his AI program (Hal) were priceless and Hal became a character in his own right as a result.
The plot of the novel was also very good.  Everything that happens in the book was something that you can read safely because it seems like it would be so far away if it ever happened.  But at the same time, looking around this country, you could see the possibility for all of it to actually happen.  To me, that is what makes a good dystopian novel. A plot that seems far away but entirely plausible given the current state of events in the world.  I really loved seeing the individual plots moving forward and wondering how it would all come together and bring these people into the same sphere of reality.

So all of these things sound really excellent right?  What could possibly be giving this a 3 star rating?  Well, here it is.  There was a lot of jumping around in this novel, both in timeline and narrators.  While I liked the narrators, we jumped around in the plot timeline so much that it made me feel like I was reading through 6 months worth of plot even though it all takes place in a few days.  Because we jump around narrators so often, a lot of things get repeated.  I think I heard about the impending hurricane in Texas probably 6 times before it actually happened and about 8 times after.  Every time we switched narrators, we got told a lot of the same things that we’d just been told by the last one.  This got a bit tedious and made it harder to engage with the plot.  It also got predictable and tiresome to have EVERY chapter end in a cliffhanger.  I spent a lot of time wondering what the cliffhanger for that chapter would be rather than focusing on the plot, not a good thing.  I think the right editor could tighten up the storytelling a bit and really make this sing even more than it does right now.

The final shining star for this novel is the ending.  While we had cliffhangers through the entire book, I didn’t feel like we ended on that big of cliffhanger.  Maybe a little one, but nothing major.  If the story was over and no other story was forthcoming I would have been completely satisfied with the ending.  With another story coming, it intrigued me enough to make me want to know.  It was the perfect way to end this book and I loved it.

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The Selection by Kiera Cass

The Selection by Kiera Cass

Published April 24th, 2012 by HarperTeen

Author’s Website: http://www.kieracass.com/books/

You can buy this book at: B&N and Amazon

Synopsis and picture from the Goodreads book page

Synopsis:

For thirty-five girls, the Selection is the chance of a lifetime. The opportunity to escape the life laid out for them since birth. To be swept up in a world of glittering gowns and priceless jewels. To live in the palace and compete for the heart of the gorgeous Prince Maxon.

But for America Singer, being Selected is a nightmare. It means turning her back on her secret love with Aspen, who is a caste below her. Leaving her home to enter a fierce competition for a crown she doesn’t want. Living in a palace that is constantly threatened by violent rebel attacks.

Then America meets Prince Maxon. Gradually, she starts to question all the plans she’s made for herself- and realizes that the life she’s always dreamed of may not compare to a future she never imagined.

Rating (out of 5):

Review:

This one is closer to a 1.5 than a 2, and I agonized over that a LOT.  I didn’t enjoy the book or like any aspect of it.  But it was not as bad as others I have read and rated 1 star before.  So a 1.5 seems the most logical choice.  This initially was a book that I fell for the cover for and bought it and took it home.  It was only after that I learned about all the drama and issues surrounding the author and her agent.  This disappointed me and I put the book away.  But I figured that since I have it already, I might as well read it with no prejudice about the earlier events.  To be quite frank, if I hadn’t already bought a copy, the author’s behavior would have been enough for me to never read it…but that ship had already sailed.

I had several huge problems with this book.  First was the writing itself.  I was under the impression that these were characters in their late teens, but the dialogue sounded like I’d run across a group of 12 year old girls gossiping in the school hallway.  The writing and dialogue was very immature, even for a YA book.  Of course I probably should have feared this when the dedication was “Hi Dad! *waves*”  No, I did not make that up, a grown adult actually wrote that in a published book.  It got worse when she uses “for reals” and “realzies” in the acknowledgements at the end.  The writing started to make a bit more sense after that.

My second big problem was with the premise of this book.  The government depicted here is a total monarchy, but if that were the case then there is no chance in hell that a common girl who was not of royal blood would EVER be married into that family.  That is how total monarchies work.  Now, if this was similar to the current British monarchy where the royal family is mostly a figurehead and has no political power then it would make sense.  But it did not.  The plot was also SO painfully predictable.  Of course America was going to be one of the Selected, of course there was going to be a love triangle, of course the ex would show up again, of course she’d end up actually having feelings for Maxon.  Naturally America would be the ONLY logical option for Maxon. I could have guessed all that from the blurb on the cover, which is a bad sign for the book.

The history in the book also annoyed me.  What was the point of telling me the history of the country’s birth if there was going to be zero other world building?  Yes, there was a caste system but it was so vague that I’m still not sure I get the logistics of it.  There is a monarchy and rebels, but its not explained what they are rebelling about so it’s hard to care.

One more point I want to address, what is wrong with some of the people in this book?  America’s mother basically pimps out her daughter, urging her to enter herself in the Selection because if she’s chosen then the family will get money and a better social standing.  Really?  You’re pimping your daughter to the prince for money and social status? But it got worse.  The girls in the book are required by law to remain virgins until they are married.  They have to sign a form that they are, in fact, virgins and if proof is found otherwise they will be executed for treason.  Then they make it a point that, even though that’s the law if the prince asks you for something, ANYTHING, you don’t tell him no.  So, if he wants to have sex with you, even if you do not want to you are still required to tell him yes.  Yes, that is exactly what it sounds like.  Rape is perfectly cool as long as it’s the prince.  And yes, I know, it turned out to be a misunderstanding and blah blah.  I don’t care.  It was still put out there and it made me sick to my stomach to see such a thing being touted in a book for teenagers.

Short ranty bit here, why am I supposed to care about any of these characters.  America is a whiner.  She whines about being poor when her family has chicken, pasta, tea with lemon, and popcorn for dessert while they watch tv.  You ain’t poor honey, get over yourself.  Aspen is an idiot who didn’t even belong in the book.  All we know about him is that he has a machismo complex that’s out of control and he likes making out with America before he convinces her to pimp herself out to the prince too…for his peace of mind and all.  We don’t get to know any of the girls in the Selection hardly at all.  We are told to hate Celeste and told to like Marlynn (or whatever her name was), but no one else is discussed in any kind of detail that you give a damn about them at all.  Maxon acts like a girl most of the time so I can’t really like him either.  And ultimately I wish this book had been written more like an actual episode of The Bachelor, then it would at least have been interesting.

Lastly, I have no idea why this needed more than one book.  Another few hundred pages and the story would be done, so what is the point?  I don’t care enough about this story to like one book, I certainly am not going to like two or three books.  And a final ranty bit, why the hell do we keep peddling weak assed women to teenagers?!  All America cares about is that she’s with Aspen and gets married.  That is just about her sole focus in the entire book.  Though I will say she handles breakups better than most YA characters, meaning she doesn’t get suicidally depressed and stalk him.  But instead she’s just weak and the first second the ass shows back up goes right back to sucking face with him as though nothing happened.  Most normal people don’t have these co-dependent, unhealthy relationships!  Why do we in YA!

Blank Confession by Pete Hautman

Blank Confession by Pete Hautman

Published November 16th, 2010 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers

Author’s website: http://www.petehautman.com/

Photo and synopsis from the Goodreads book page

This can be bought at B&N and Amazon

Synopsis:

Shayne Blank is the new kid in town–but that doesn’t stop him from getting into a lot of trouble very quickly. The other kids don’t understand him. He’s not afraid of anything. He seems too smart. And his background doesn’t add up. But when he walks into the police department to confess to a murder, it quickly becomes apparent that nothing is as it seems. There’s more to Shayne–and his story–than meets the eye. As the details begin to fill in, the only thing that becomes clear is that nothing about Shayne’s story is clear at all.
Rating (out of 5):

Review:

Having never read a book by Pete Hautman before I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  I had read a review from someone I know who loved it, and it sounded intriguing so I picked up a copy to see if my first impression was correct.  Initially I was excited by this book.  It was being told through the POV of a friend of Shayne’s who knew the story that he was telling to the cops.  This was interesting but not fascinating.  I didn’t really connect with the character and I feel that it made it VERY obvious what was going to happen based on who was narrating and what he said.  But even though I had the horrible feeling it was going to end up exactly like I suspected by chapter 2, I carried on.

I don’t really feel like all that much happened in this book.  The tension level was set at 10 from the beginning of the book, but then nothing really happens and we’re hearing all these extraneous details that I didn’t really care about.  I wanted to know who Shayne killed and why, I didn’t want to know about his friend who wears second-hand suits to school to stand out or the friend’s sister who’s got a penchant for bad boys.  I wanted to know about things relevant to the plot, and the only time I got that was when they were referring to the person who he claims he killed, which didn’t really make it that hard to figure out.  The only way it was ever going to be anyone else is if Shayne is a complete psychopath, which is not what he was portrayed to be.

And it did end up being exactly who I suspected it was going to be, and so the tension in the book never really ramped up again after the first few pages.  One thing I did like about this book was the part about  Shayne’s past and his history.  That was interesting and I really enjoyed it.  Unfortunately that was, quite literally, the very last chapter.  In the end I can’t say that I particularly loved the book, but it was decent enough.  If you are looking for a mystery, this is probably not the book for you since the predictability levels are off the charts.  However, I did find it to be a very poignant statement about bullying which seems to be so prevalent in the youth of this world today.  For that reason I am rating this a 3, not great but decent enough that I wouldn’t discourage anyone from reading it.

Archangel’s Blade by Nalini Singh

Published September 6th, 2011 by Berkeley Sensation

Author’s website: http://www.nalinisingh.com/blade.php

Photo and synopsis from Goodreads book page

 

Synopsis:

The severed head marked by a distinctive tattoo on its cheek should have been a Guild case, but dark instincts honed over hundreds of years of life compel the vampire Dmitri to take control. There is something twisted about this death, something that whispers of centuries long past…but Dmitri’s need to discover the truth is nothing to the vicious strength of his response to the hunter assigned to decipher the tattoo.

Savaged in a brutal attack that almost killed her, Honor is nowhere near ready to come face to face with the seductive vampire who is an archangel’s right hand, and who wears his cruelty as boldly as his lethal sensuality…the same vampire who has been her secret obsession since the day she was old enough to understand the inexplicable, violent emotions he aroused in her.

As desire turns into a dangerous compulsion that might destroy them both, it becomes clear the past will not stay buried. Something is hunting…and it will not stop until it brings a blood-soaked nightmare to life once more…

 

Rating (out of 5):

 

Review:

As you may have noticed, I am a huge fan of the Guild Hunter series by Nalini Singh.  I have breezed through the first four books in just a few months and already have the book of novellas and 5th installment on order.  Even with how much I had loved the series so far, I admit to being a bit apprehensive at the idea of a book about Dmitri.  I was intrigued with Dmitri and wanted to know more about him but an entire book?  I wasn’t quite so sure about that.  Yet, even though apprehensive it turned out spectacularly and I think I might like Dmitri more than Raphael!

Dmitri is a character unlike any that I have read recently.  He is a hard man, a dangerous man.  But there is a depth to him that I admit I wasn’t expecting.  I loved getting a glimpse into Dmitri’s life before he was a vampire and at the same time it was heartbreaking to watch it unfold.  I understand his character in a way I never thought I would, and I absolutely love him.

Honor is another character that I found both heartbreaking, real, and inspiring at the same time.  She is another flawed character but with an inner strength that makes her a great character as well.  I enjoyed her story no matter how hard it was to stomach at times.

The plot was one that was more predictable to me than the previous ones.  I enjoyed watching it play out and was surprised a few times, but ultimately there weren’t any earth shattering reveals.  But not everything needs to be about the surprise.  It was still a great story!  Someone is targeting Dmitri and essentially sending him a challenge.  He partners with the traumatized hunter Honor to figure out who wants to come after him.  It is quickly revealed that this is connected to an angel that Dmitri killed, Isis.  Since that was a thousand years ago,  grudges are something that near-immortals can hold for a long time it seems.  I liked the idea between the parallel plots.  First we were trying to help Dmitri figure out who wants revenge on him.  And we are also trying to help Honor get her own revenge for the horrific attack on her just months earlier.  The stories were similar enough that it was easy to follow them both and see the connection.  But they were different enough that they were engaging in their own right.

My only real disappointment with this book was the villain.  I have found all the villains from previous books to be terrifying.  I would get goosebumps and shivers when they were mentioned in the book and they had an air of menace that couldn’t be ignored.  This villain didn’t give me that impression.  Mostly I found him, and his story of revenge, to be rather pathetic actually.  He was a weak and petty little thing that didn’t really make me feel that Dmitri or Honor were in that much peril.  Not having your characters in mortal danger is not the hallmark of a good villain.

Regardless of the lack of a decent villain, I loved the story a lot.  The intricacy and engaging stories about Honor and Dmitri more than compensated for where this book was lacking.  It easily gets a four star rating from me and a nod to my new favorite character, Dmitri.

 

Sharp Objects by Gillian Flynn

Published January 1st 2006 by Shaye Areheart Books

Cover and Synopsis from the Goodreads book page

You can buy this book at: B&N and Amazon

 

Synopsis:

WICKED above her hipbone, GIRL across her heart
Words are like a road map to reporter Camille Preaker’s troubled past. Fresh from a brief stay at a psych hospital, Camille’s first assignment from the second-rate daily paper where she works brings her reluctantly back to her hometown to cover the murders of two preteen girls.

NASTY on her kneecap, BABYDOLL on her leg
Since she left town eight years ago, Camille has hardly spoken to her neurotic, hypochondriac mother or to the half-sister she barely knows: a beautiful thirteen-year-old with an eerie grip on the town. Now, installed again in her family’s Victorian mansion, Camille is haunted by the childhood tragedy she has spent her whole life trying to cut from her memory.

HARMFUL on her wrist, WHORE on her ankle
As Camille works to uncover the truth about these violent crimes, she finds herself identifying with the young victims—a bit too strongly. Clues keep leading to dead ends, forcing Camille to unravel the psychological puzzle of her own past to get at the story. Dogged by her own demons, Camille will have to confront what happened to her years before if she wants to survive this homecoming.

With its taut, crafted writing, Sharp Objects is addictive, haunting, and unforgettable.

Rating (out of 5):

Review:

This was a re-read for me in preparation to read Gillian Flynn’s new book Gone Girl. I originally bought Sharp Objects after seeing it on a store shelf and feeling immediately drawn to the cover art.  It was so simple but poignant and gripping.  I had never heard of Gillian Flynn but bought the book based on my love of the cover and I was so far from disappointed.  And reading it for the second time now, I enjoyed it and loved it just as much as I did the first time.

This book is not a happy book.  If you are looking for a book where the heroine meets the man of her dreams, the bad guy faces justice, and everybody lives happily ever after then perhaps you should keep looking.  Camille is one of the best characters I have ever read.  She is flawed, unhappy, deeply mentally disturbed, and yet you can’t help but feel drawn to her.  You know immediately that she has had a long, tough life full of enough trauma to mentally scar someone for life, and in Camille’s case physically as well.  This was portrayed in a very realistic and gritty way, which I appreciated.  So many books these days seem to wish to sugar coat everything.  Yes the serial killer is slaughtering little girls, but look the heroine is falling for that cop and the bad guy will get his in the end!  There are no fluffy, fairytale endings here.  And I love it!

I think the thing that made this book absolute perfection for me was just how badly it had me snowed.  I consider myself a pretty hard person to trick into falling for red herrings.  Normally I can smell a red herring from a mile off.  But I didn’t see it coming in this book.  I thought I knew who was murdering these little girls.  I was reading through every page for clues, absolutely glued to the page.  I thought I had it all figured out.  I was practically shouting at Camille through the pages, “Can’t you see that it’s your mother?!  What’s wrong with you? How can you be so blind, it’s right in front of your face?!”  And in the end, I was dead wrong.  My jaw hit the floor and I sat there in utter shock with the book open in my lap.  I did not see it coming and I was stunned that I was pulled into the deception that deeply.

So at the conclusion of the book, I loved the characters, I loved the story, I loved the ending, I just loved the damn book.  It was gritty, dirty, disturbing, dark, dank, and violent and that made me appreciate all the more.

 

Red Leaves and the Living Token by Benjamin David Burrell

Published April 5th, 2012 by the author

Cover and synopsis from the Goodreads book page

This book can be purchased at: B&N and Amazon  (Please note: On B&N and Amazon this book is available in three parts, the ebook I am reviewing is all 3 parts)

Disclaimer: I received a copy of this book from the author in exchange for an honest review and participation in this blog tour.  No other compensation was received other than the book and a positive review was not promised.

Synopsis: Doctors tell Raj that his son Emret won’t survive his illness. As Raj struggles to prepare himself and Emret for the inevitable, he’s confronted by Moslin, his son’s nurse, who’s been filling Emret’s head with fairytales about heroic quests and powerful disease curing miracles. Emret now thinks that all he has to do is find the mythical Red Tree from the nurse’s stories, and he’ll live.

In an attempt to protect his son from further emotional damage, Raj asks Moslin to stay away from Emret. He returns hours later to find them both missing.

He searches the fairytales for clues to where they may have gone and stumbles upon stories that, strangely, he already knows. He saw them in a vision just before his son disappeared.

Rating (out of 5):

 

Review:  The description of this book says everything that you need to know as a reader.  I couldn’t possibly add to it, so I won’t try.  Emret is a sick little boy and most likely going to die.  In a desperate attempt to get a miracle, he goes on the run with his nurse and without his father’s knowledge.  Raj is frantic to find his son missing and follows them but finds himself on a much more complicated journey than he first expected.  I really enjoyed this book, it intrigued me and kept me entertained at every page.  With that said, I must point out a few things that prevented this from being a five-star review.

There is some editing issues with this book.  As far as I am aware, I received a final copy of this book, but it could use another read through from an editing perspective.  There is nothing too egregious but the minor problems were so frequent that I have to comment on it.  For example, on nearly every page I could find things such as: “I’m am” or sentences that seemed to be missing words or had a plural form of the word when the sentence called for singular.  Ultimately, the editing issues weren’t bad enough to affect my enjoyment of the story but it was impossible not to notice.

My only other complaint would be that I felt as if not very much was explained to me.  It wasn’t explained very well what the Token is, or why it’s important.  You get a vague sense of why it matters, but the full story is a mystery.  It’s also not clear exactly why everyone wants the Token, other than to find the Red…but we don’t really know why they are all that vital either.  What does Emret’s illness mean?  What is “losing his binding”?  What’s a binding, why does it get lost?  I don’t know any of those things either, and I wanted to.  I still enjoyed the story immensely, but I would have preferred getting a more complete history and explanation of a few things.

But enough with the minor issues this book had, because the rest was simply fabulous.  I loved the story!  Emret was such a great character and was very relatable and likeable.  He believes in miracles and is determined to find his miracle.  No matter how many times he ended up being disappointed and Moslin lost faith, he never did.  I liked that about him and I found myself rooting for him to find his cure because he worked more than hard enough to get it.  Raj was also a really likeable characters.  He’s not a perfect man but he’s trying to be the best father he can be for his son and protect him from some of the more unpleasant realities of his situation.  But when it all comes down to it, he will cross nations to find and protect his son, and he does just that.  His journey isn’t perfect.  He makes a lot of wrong decisions that ultimately make it harder for him, but he never gives up.  I get so used to reading characters that are perfect in every way that I found Raj to be very refreshing.  He’s not a perfect guy, but he tries his damnedest to make it right anyway.  Great, great cast of characters.

The imagery in the plot is also fantastic.  Some authors have a hard time conveying action scenes, because these scenes rely so heavily on what is happening and not what is being said.  But Ben Burrell does this in a very vivid and engrossing manner.  Every aspect of the scenes was something I could see playing out in my head because it was described that well.  I couldn’t have been happier with this since I love reading a book that I can see in my head.  To me, that is the mark of a good storyteller.   I find it interesting that this author got his start in script writing, since I have found that script writers often have a hard time making the transition to full length fiction. Nothing could be further from the case for this book.  This holds true for the different races that are present in the book.  Each is different and you can tell has their own motivation, but all of them seem to center around finding this Token.

I highly recommend this book.  It’s a quick, fun, interesting read that will have you fervently turning the pages until the very end.  And even after it’s over, you’ll find yourself thinking about the story a few days later and wondering what happens next.  Hopefully you won’t have to wait very long…I hear there are at least a few other books planned as follow-ups to this one.  I know that I will be reading it, because I want to know what happens next.  And I want to know if the beings mentioned at the temple are humans, I really just have to know.

Also, if you haven’t already checked out the other stops on this blog tour, so give them a look.  I read each and every one, and all participants have done a fantastic job with a great book.

Review: Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Scarlet by A.C. Gaughen

Published February 12th, 2012 by Walker Childrens

Picture and Synopsis from the Goodreads book page

This book can purchased from B&N or Amazon

Synopsis:

Many readers know the tale of Robin Hood, but they will be swept away by this new version full of action, secrets, and romance.

Posing as one of Robin Hood’s thieves to avoid the wrath of the evil Thief Taker Lord Gisbourne, Scarlet has kept her identity secret from all of Nottinghamshire. Only the Hood and his band know the truth: the agile thief posing as a whip of a boy is actually a fearless young woman with a secret past. Helping the people of Nottingham outwit the corrupt Sheriff of Nottingham could cost Scarlet her life as Gisbourne closes in.

It’s only her fierce loyalty to Robin—whose quick smiles and sharp temper have the rare power to unsettle her—that keeps Scarlet going and makes this fight worth dying for.
Rating (out of 5):

Review:

To start off this review I want to warn you, this is not going to be a nice review.  I always try my hardest to be even-handed with my reviews, pointing out the good AND bad in every book I read.  But every now and then a book comes along that I dislike so much I cannot be fair or even-handed.  Scarlet is one of those books.  I have been looking forward to reading this for months!  I love fairytale retellings, I love the story of Robin Hood, and I was intrigued at the idea of “Will Scarlet” being a girl.  I was so excited about this book that when I saw it on the library shelf I practically pole vaulted over a group of people to get to it before anyone else saw it.  It was almost something out of Mission Impossible.  Unfortunately, it was a HUGE waste of my time and I ended up finishing it and then practically throwing the book back at the library’s book drop just to get rid of it.

A few words about the plot.  The plot itself was not a bad one!  Scarlet is posing as a boy in the band of thieves and a thief-taker who she has had a previous run in with shows up in town.  Not only does she have to help the band protect the townspeople but has to worry about not being captured by this sadistic and evil man.  This was all good.  The plot moved a bit too slow and so most of the really good stuff was in the end, but I could have overlooked that.  It was also painfully predictable.  About page forty or fifty I remember thinking to myself, I know who Scarlet is, I know how she knows Gisbourne, and I know her back story.  Well, it took until page 230 but I was right!  I wish I wasn’t because it made it annoying and stupid.  The ending was also a major fail, but I’ll get to that when I go through the awful characters.
Now, let’s start off with Scarlet.  She is an infuriating character.  She is strong, smart, witty, and very clever.  Those are all fantastic things and I was so happy to see it after a run of being disappointed with YA heroines.  Unfortunately Scarlet was not only all those good things but also intermittently a complete idiot, selfless to the point of being suicidal, and her inner dialogue made me want to scream in frustration.  She runs around with two guys practically throwing themselves at her feet and insists on thinking “No, it’s impossible that they like me that way, impossible!”.  Wake up you moron!  She starves herself simply because she feels guilty that other townspeople can’t afford to eat.  Um, okay.  And you dying of starvation is going to help them how?  They already depend on you and the band to help put food on their table so again…starving is going to help them how exactly?  Yeah, that’s what I thought!  And I really don’t understand why her inner dialogue was always in “commoner” english….she’s a noblewoman in disguise, which wasn’t that hard to figure out, so why do her thoughts speak commoner too?  Irritating!  She also says more than once that she despises being a woman.  That’s a great message to send young girls!  Then at the end, my God the end.  She is the runaway fiance of thief-taker Gisbourne (which I completely called by the way), and decides that she has a great idea to save Robin from being killed by him.  Why, she’s just going to turn herself into Gisbourne and agree to marry him!  That sounds like a great idea!  He only cut your face up, was prepared to force you into marriage at age 13, and tried to kill you when you said no!  Wait, I smell more selfless suicidal behavior here.

On to the unnecessary love triangle.  I didn’t like the love triangle idea to begin with, it came across as forced and contrived.  But it got worse when I realized that both males in this love triangle are complete and utter pigs.  First there’s John.  He’s a typical playboy, flirts with anything that wears a skirt and takes more than a few to bed just because he can.  Suddenly, for no apparent reason except that he finally saw her in a skirt, John decides he’s in love with Scarlet.  He then proceeds to tell everyone in town that she is his girl, despite her saying absolutely not.  He consistently violates her boundaries without invitation and takes advantage of her in vulnerable states to kiss her, hug her, or cuddle up with her to sleep.  She continues to tell him that she is not interested in him, yet somehow he thinks that persisting will make him more attractive to her at some point.  Right, whatever.  Don’t like John at all.

But then there’s Robin.  What the hell happened to Robin?!  He starts of as gallant and brave and strong and all those lovely things we think of when we imagine Robin Hood.  Except where Scarlet is concerned.  He spends half his time trying to convince her that he’s interested in her, and the other half of his time ignoring her and treating her like trash.  Well, that’s attractive!  Then when John starts showing interest in Scarlet he loses his damn mind and turns into JealousRobinHood.  Jealousy, always so attractive in YA right?  But just to endear him to Scarlet further, he bosses her around and generally acts like he owns her.  Then the best part!  He calls her a tease repeatedly for “leading John on”, when she has done nothing but tell John to leave her alone.  Then he proceeds to call her a whore because John kissed her.  That’s right, John….kissed….her, but she’s the whore.  The innocent, no experience with men, girl is a whore because a guy kissed her, but let’s talk about all those girls you were with in the Crusades shall we?  Go to hell Robin, you’re a bastard too.

Much was the only good character because he was sweet, kind and did everything he could to be useful to the band despite only having one hand.  I loved Much!  Too bad he was a secondary side character at best.

As I think more on this book’s horrid characters, I have come to the conclusion that I blame Twilight for this.  I really do.  Because Stephenie Meyer became a HUGE bestseller all other YA authors are following her lead.  And thus we have a wave of pathetic, weak, stupid, selfless, depressing, self hating heroines who have zero instinct for self-preservation.  And all heroes in YA books suddenly have become controlling, possessive, hypocritical, judgemental, sexist pigs.  Twilight, my hatred for this book is your fault.

Insurgent by Veronica Roth (book 2 of the Divergent Trilogy)

Published May 1st, 2012 by Harper Collins

Picture and Synopsis from Goodreads

Purchase this book at: B&N and Amazon

Synopsis:

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

Rating (out of 5):

Review:

Don’t let a 3 star rating fool you, I really liked this book!  There was nothing essentially wrong with it, but it certainly was not a home run like Divergent was.  I enjoyed the plot overall but also didn’t feel that a whole lot happened.  We begin the book moments after the first book began, so we should be filled with action from the very first chapter.  And it wasn’t, not really.  The surviving group is headed for Amity, hoping that the faction will provide them shelter while they decide what to do next.  I liked this, it was a logical step in the plot.  Let’s go through this point by point….

Too much teenage angst and drama!  The first book was so enthralling from the very start, Tris is a strong female lead character, and there was minimal teenage angst.  Since it is YA, the angst is to be expected to an extent so I was so pleased when there was not much of it the first time around.  This time we couldn’t seem to get away from it.  Tris and Tobias (Four) are bickering at every turn it seemed and spent most of the book not really talking to each other.  NO!  This is not where we left that relationship!  It was just starting to bloom and form and it was awesome, a love forged in fire and war!  But they are at each other’s throats ALL THE TIME and it bugged me.  So as a consequence we spend a lot of time in Tris’ head as she goes over the drama and how to avoid it or fix it.

The plot just moved too slow and waited too long to get good.  Most of the time was spent plotting what to do instead of actually doing it.  However, once things actually got moving it was fantastic!  I loved the different side to Amity that we haven’t seen before and we gained a lot more insight into their faction and other factions as a result.  Then we have the teaser from Marcus, of information that Jeanine wants to keep secret when everyone else should know.  That was interesting since we don’t know what it is, just that it seems really important.  During this time we also get more views into Tobias’ relationships with his parents.  This gives us a view of his character that was very needed and I lapped it up.   Overall I would say that I enjoyed the progression of all the plot points and characters in the book, except Tris.  I dunno what happened to her, she went from smart, witty, inventive, and strong to being stupidly self-sacrificing for no reason other than guilt.  I can understand where it came from, but it started to get annoying with her constantly running off to get herself killed and forcing the others to focus on saving her from herself.

I loved the glimpses and progression we saw of Jeanine.  She was such a great villain.  You wanted to hate her so much and with such good reason, that other insidious (though less blatantly so) characters flew beneath your notice.  I pride myself on seeing things coming, Jeanine clouded my view of the plot and I was blindsided by several things.  Jeanine holding Tris captive to experiment on her was really interesting and I couldn’t put the book down during that part at all.  The mission to raid Erudite headquarters and get the information was also fantastic.

The ending of this book left me slack-jawed and thinking “What the hell just happened?”.  I also liked the fact that it wasn’t really even a cliffhanger.  If this were the end of the series, I would be content with how it ended.  But knowing that there is another book coming makes me anxious to find out what’s next RIGHT NOW.  I look forward to reading the last book, hopefully with less angsty moments.

Review: Archangel’s Consort

Archangel’s Consort By Nalini Singh

Published January 25th, 2011 by Berkeley Sensation

Website: http://www.nalinisingh.com/consort.php

Picture and Synopsis from Goodreads

Synopsis:

Vampire hunter Elena Deveraux and her lover, the lethally beautiful archangel Raphael, have returned home to New York only to face an uncompromising new evil…

A vampire has attacked a girls’ school—the assault one of sheer, vicious madness—and it is only the first act. Rampant bloodlust takes vampire after vampire, threatening to make the streets run with blood. Then Raphael himself begins to show signs of an uncontrolled rage, as inexplicable storms darken the city skyline and the earth itself shudders. The omens are suddenly terrifyingly clear.

An ancient and malevolent immortal is rising. The violent winds whisper her name: Caliane. She has returned to reclaim her son, Raphael. Only one thing stands in her way: Elena, the consort who must be destroyed…

Star rating (out of 5)

Review:

Time for an embarrassing confession.  When I read the above synopsis, I think I might have actually squeed like a fangirl.  Just for a minute, and that is something I have not done since I was quite firmly in my teen years.  I had thought that kind of enthusiasm was past me, but I was wrong.  I am so in love with this series that I just couldn’t contain myself.  We have heard tales of Caliane for two previous books now, and the very thought of her started to give me shivers of dread.  I was so excited that she was going to be involved in this one.  And more or less it was a satisfying book but not quite as spectacular as I had anticipated or hoped.  Let us begin with the disappointments.

Disappointment One: As much as the synopsis makes it sound like Caliane is a major part of the plot, she really isn’t.  Now, granted, she manages to cause some apocalyptic bad weather and really put a cramp in angel’s flying style.  And she appears to be responsible for some of the vampires having issues with being unable to control their blood cravings.  Her increasing power is also responsible for causing some mood instabilities with the archangels, most pointedly Raphael.  But Caliane herself is not actually present, just the looming threat of her.  Yet, when we finally do see her, it was mostly in a totally sane and normal kind of way and it failed to live up to my expectations of her as the “monster to the monsters”.  Maybe she gets more crazy later, but it definitely wasn’t in this book.

Disappointment Two:  The synopsis makes it seem as though Caliane finds Elena to be a threat to Raphael and she intends to do something about it.  Since she’s not really even conscious for most of the book I failed to see that.  Even when she is somewhat conscious and able to influence things directly, her threat to Elena was minimal compared to other characters.  Mostly I just felt let down.  I wanted to see her present more of a threat to the characters and the plot and it just….didn’t.

Disappointment Three: The sex scenes in this book lost their spark.  The last two books were steamy and sexy and awesome.  This time it just seemed like a requirement.  Is there a checklist somewhere for where they’ve had mad, passionate, rough sex?  Air, got it.  Bathroom, got it.  Bedroom, got it.  Maybe the local park will be next I don’t know.  I just didn’t think there was much point to it and most of the time I found myself thinking, “Wait, why do they feel horny at this moment again?  Oh right, they haven’t used enough possessive sentences toward each other yet this chapter so we much be possessive this way instead.”  I just didn’t care as much this time.

However, I still enjoyed the book just not as much as the previous two.  We learn much more about the seriously dysfunctional relationships with Elena and her father and with Raphael and his mother.  This was interesting to me and I enjoyed learning this but really just made me wonder why we should care about these people?  Why does Elena care about her father?  Why does Raphael care about his mother?  Because they’re “family”.  No, family doesn’t try to kill you Raphael and family doesn’t abandon you Elena.  But we did get a few teasers in there about Elena’s family and I am very anxious to find out more about that, hopefully we’ll address that in a later book.

I also liked the progression of Elena and Raphael’s relationship.  They made a lot of progress toward not being completely dysfunctional and I liked that.  Though I was frustrated with Elena a lot.  Raphael knows this world honey and he’s trying to protect you and all you can do is stomp your feet about how you’re not going to allow it.  Now a few times Raphael might have been a bit too protective and a tiny bit controlling but he is trying to keep her alive in spite of herself, and she has a history of being painfully unreasonable.  So I’m on Raphael’s side on this one.

The twist of having Lijuan be using Caliane’s wakening as a cover for some bad stuff was really good.  I enjoyed that a lot and didn’t suspect her at all.  I thought someone might be using it as a cover, but my bet was on Neha.  Having it be Lijuan was a twist that I didn’t see coming.

Overall the book was a good one and I am happy that I read it, but I enjoyed the previous two books much more than this one.