Legend by Marie Lu

October 15, 2012 Reviews 1 ★★

Legend by Marie LuLegend by Marie Lu Published by Putnam Juvenile on November 29, 2011
Genres: YA Dystopian
Pages: 305
Format: eBook
Source: Bought
two-stars
What was once the western United States is now home to the Republic, a nation perpetually at war with its neighbors. Born into an elite family in one of the Republic’s wealthiest districts, fifteen-year-old June is a prodigy being groomed for success in the Republic’s highest military circles. Born into the slums, fifteen-year-old Day is the country’s most wanted criminal. But his motives may not be as malicious as they seem.

From very different worlds, June and Day have no reason to cross paths—until the day June’s brother, Metias, is murdered and Day becomes the prime suspect. Caught in the ultimate game of cat and mouse, Day is in a race for his family’s survival, while June seeks to avenge Metias’s death. But in a shocking turn of events, the two uncover the truth of what has really brought them together, and the sinister lengths their country will go to keep its secrets.

Full of nonstop action, suspense, and romance, this novel is sure to move readers as much as it thrills.

Legend may be the only dystopian novel other than The Hunger Games where I hear few to no complaints from my friends. That’s rather impressive, especially for a dystopian novel published in the wake of The Hunger Games among many unimpressive dystopian debuts. Massive amounts of hype made me waffle about whether or not I’d read it for months, but this adorable dress-up game created by the author and a friend reading the novel shortly before me gave me the final push I needed. (Yes, I like dress-up games. My girliness shines through!)

To me, Legend is no different than any other unimpressive debut dystopian.

Lu’s writing prowess is great and flipping through the book until there are no pages left to flip is all too easy thanks to great pacing. Day and June have their motivations and it’s easy to get caught up in their world. Some scenes, like the Skiz fight that allows the two to meet and the climactic escape, are nothing short of fantastic.

I wish I had more to praise, but that is where the things I like about Legend stop.

Generally, this dystopian world feels very… typical. Confusing it with the dystopian regime of another novel would not be very difficult for me because there is nothing that makes it stand out. Questions I had about the floods, what made the USA split into the Colonies and the Republic sometime before 2130, and the overall idea of how Day and June’s world got to where it is went unanswered. The “just go with it” method of worldbuilding isn’t one that typically works for me.

As unique in personality as they are, Day and June have interchangeable voices that made mix-ups of who is narrating what section very common. This might be less of a problem in a print copy, where the font and font color change with the narrator, but I didn’t get anything like that in my ebook. The predictable plot made reading on a little bit of a chore after a certain point. The book reminds me of an action movie, really. There’s a lot of blood-pumping action that keeps readers going, but personally, I don’t care for action movies or action books because characterization and depth are often neglected in place of action. Such is the case here.

Friends of mine who have gotten ahold of ARCs of Prodigy have been swooning all over it, but all of them were in love with Legend too. How can I be sure the sequel is actually better? Seeing a few glowing reviews from people who also weren’t impressed by Legend might sway me, but until then, I do not think I will be reading on.

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Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

October 14, 2012 Reviews 0

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth FamaMonstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama Published by Farrar Straus & Giroux on September 4, 2012
Genres: YA Paranormal
Pages: 304
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
DNF
Fierce, seductive mermaid Syrenka falls in love with Ezra, a young naturalist. When she abandons her life underwater for a chance at happiness on land, she is unaware that this decision comes with horrific and deadly consequences.

Almost one hundred forty years later, seventeen-year-old Hester meets a mysterious stranger named Ezra and feels overwhelmingly, inexplicably drawn to him. For generations, love has resulted in death for the women in her family. Is it an undiagnosed genetic defect . . . or a curse? With Ezra’s help, Hester investigates her family’s strange, sad history. The answers she seeks are waiting in the graveyard, the crypt, and at the bottom of the ocean—but powerful forces will do anything to keep her from uncovering her connection to Syrenka and to the tragedy of so long ago.

This book should have worked for me. It really should have. Mermaids may not be my favorite creatures in the world, but I like them enough and Monstrous Beauty sounded exactly like the kind of tantalizing, creepy story I could fall in love with.

So why didn’t I?

Fama has the creepy part down; some of the novel’s descriptions are great, such as when Syrenka kills a man and tears apart his chest so she can feed on his lungs. That there? Genuinely sent chills up my spine. Small scenes like that may have been all the good I saw in this novel. Otherwise, the narration (usually in the chapters happening in 1872/1873) tended to do a good bit of head-jumping when narrative consistency is my preference and what works best for me.

The characters never earned any emotional investment from me and I kept getting annoyed at Hester. No, she absolutely can never love anyone or be with them, even though two people who are together don’t necessarily have to have sex. And birth control and abortion? Totally nonexistent, even though she brings up birth control once. The relationships just sort of happen and one can only accept them if they want it to work. I couldn’t because I didn’t feel the strength of the characters’ bonds. I made most of the connections before Hester did and whether or not this was intended, it’s not something I like doing while reading.

Perhaps the answer is in the mermaid myth itself. This is not the first time I’ve seen mermaids needing to marry human men to gain souls, though this one goes a step further and makes it so she must also carry a human man’s child. The idea of a woman needing a marry/have a child to have a soul is problematic in itself no matter how old or common the idea is in mermaid mythology. Every time I tried to get into the story, that jumped out at me again. In general, I had a hard time putting together an image of the mermaids in my head, though an email from the author helped clear up some of my questions.

Whatever the case, Monstrous Beauty‘s chosen variety of creep is simply the wrong kind. Just as some people are specific about which brands they use to make foods, I’m very specific about what kinds of creepy work for me. This did not have the right kind.

And that is why Monstrous Beauty is a DNF.

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Dead Sky Morning by Karina Halle

October 13, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★★½

Dead Sky Morning by Karina HalleDead Sky Morning by Karina Halle Published by Self-published on October 13, 2011
Genres: Adult Horror, Adult Paranormal
Pages: 358
Format: eBook
Source: finished copy from the publisher
three-half-stars
With the Experiment in Terror show finding some success, amateur ghost hunters Perry Palomino and Dex Foray embark on their most terrifying investigation yet. A tiny, fog-shrouded island in the rough strait between British Columbia and Washington State has held a dark secret for decades: It was a former leper colony where over forty souls were left to rot, die and bury each other. Now a functioning campground, Perry and Dex spend an isolated weekend there to investigate potential hauntings but as the duo quickly find out, there is more to fear on D’Arcy Island than just ghosts. The island quickly pits partner against partner, spiraling the pair into madness that serves to destroy their sanity, their relationship and their very lives.

Quick disclaimer as always: The author is one of my friends. This in no ways affects my review or rating.

-rubs circles on temples- Oh, what these books do to me… I like them and I’m sooooooo glad I’ve got all the available books in reach for when I’m in the mood for them, but I got issues with them sometimes.

Dex and Perry’s latest assignment takes them to D’Arcy Island, where a bunch of lepers died and now no one wants to camp there because the place is supposed to be haunted to hell and back. The descriptions of the island, its hauntings, and how Perry and Dex start to slowly fall apart as the days go on are fantastic and really claw their way into you. Their complex relationship gets kicked up a few notches (especially because of the thing in the tent). I did drift from it every now and then, but as I’ve done with past novels in the series, I read them in large sections. That’s apparently a thing with this series and me: I read them slowly but all at once.

I generally love the way the novel is written, but at times, it got a little too heavy-handed. Like this quote from the 61% mark on my Kindle:

“There was something weird happening between us. I didn’t know what it was. I felt like it had been building up for the last couple of days, some strange chemistry or an overload of tension or something.”

Considering readers have been up to their necks in the sexual tension between them for two-and-a-half books by that point, that’s just telling us something we already know. I have a few similar quotes highlighted, along with some bits of rough writing and small typos. It’s one of my things to do that with any book.

And unfortunately for this book, I was reading another novel at the same time that got me really keyed up and irritated at anything to do with infidelity. When it came up in Dead Sky Morning, it took some restraint to keep myself from blowing up.

To make reading Lying Season that much sweeter, I’m going to put it off a bit and try to get a few other books read in the meantime. When the time is right, I’ll come back (and knowing me, that might happen next week).

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Between Shades of Gray by Ruta Sepetys

October 11, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★★½

Between Shades of Gray by Ruta SepetysBetween Shades of Grey by Ruta Sepetys Published by Philomel on March 22, 2011
Genres: YA Historical
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
three-half-stars
Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

Just like all the reviews say, this is a story that absolutely needed to be told. When we think of atrocities committed against humankind during World War II, we think of the Holocaust, not Stalin’s deportation of millions of Latvians, Estonians, Lithuanians, and Finns in order to put them in prisons and labor camps–and eventually kill many of them. It’s something lost to the wilds of history. Sepetys brings it to the forefront in her novel about survival in hellish times.

From the very start, Sepetys establishes who her characters are and keeps them consistent throughout the novel. What they go through tears at your heart and as more people die, either of disease or because the Soviets shot them in the head, chills run up your spine. Sometimes, it all feels so bleak and hopeless and real. Unfortunately, some of it also feels rather detached and sanitized. The novel packs a strong emotional punch, but not as much of a punch as it should.

These characters never really grow, though. They’re well-established, sure. They harden, they survive, and sometimes they die, and we always care about what happens to them, but they never truly develop beyond who they are established to be at the start of the story. There’s not a plot to move the story along either, so without a character or a plot to drive the novel, it can be easy to put the novel down and not come back to it for a while. Still, as I tend to do with novels I’m rather disinterested in but still want to read, I was able to read it in large gulps here and there.

The ending is also very abrupt. We are carried from the end of their first winter in the Arctic Circle to fifty years later, when a time capsule is unearthed by Lithuanian construction workers and they find Lina’s words. We can surmise a little of what happened to her, but there are more questions than answers.It’s frustrating, really, and it doesn’t quite fit the story.

Still, I’d read more of Sepetys’s work thanks to her subtle characterization skills, which were observed in this book and in her upcoming release Out of the Easy (which I already read and OH MY GOD, YOU GUYS, MY HEART! MY HEART!).

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Crewel by Gennifer Albin

October 10, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★

Crewel by Gennifer AlbinCrewel by Gennifer Albin Published by Farrar Straus & Giroux on October 16, 2012
Genres: YA Dystopian, YA Sci-fi
Pages: 368
Format: ARC
Source: print ARC from Amazon Vine
two-stars
Incapable. Awkward. Artless.

That’s what the other girls whisper behind her back. But sixteen year-old Adelice Lewys has a secret: she wants to fail.

Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen as a Spinster is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to embroider the very fabric of life. But if controlling what people eat, where they live and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested.

Not that her feelings matter, because she slipped and wove a moment at testing, and they’re coming for her—tonight.

Now she has one hour to eat her mom’s overcooked pot roast. One hour to listen to her sister’s academy gossip and laugh at her Dad’s stupid jokes. One hour to pretend everything’s okay. And one hour to escape.

Because once you become a Spinster, there’s no turning back.

This book makes me tired.

There are a lot of things in YA that I’m tiring of: slut shaming; girl/women hate; abusive relationships being gussied up as “edgy” and romantic when they’re not; me saying no to a book only for friends to say it’s great and then I realize my gut feeling was right when I read said book; bland love triangles that don’t really capture how difficult being in that situation can be; and so many more that I can’t even remember at the moment. Crewel, thank God, does not have all those elements to it, but it does have a few. A few too many, sadly.

The bright lights in this experience are the worldbuilding and writing of Crewel. Albin’s world is fascinating and will draw many readers in with its fairly original concepts, though certain pieces can be a little derivative of other novels, and the idea behind the looms. And ooh, what delicious writing! The scenes describing how it felt to work on the looms made me feel like I was eating the most decadent chocolate to ever exist. It was beautiful to the point of almost being torturous, it was so good.

Fantastic writing and compelling worldbuilding, no matter how great, are unable to save this novel from its weak characters, lack of explanations, and how tired I am of seeing these dystopians aim for women in particular.

Perhaps I’ve read too many novels lately where women are once again forced into obedience to men. I can’t do it anymore. I really can’t. Seeing this time after time in novels, even though Crewel and most other novels end up objecting to this nasty treatment of women, has gotten depressing and at some points, it made me not want to read anymore. Even calling Adelice and girls like her Spinsters when that is such a loaded term to me hurt, though I’m sure the author used it with its negative connotation in mind–which will be great writing and something I thumbs-up her if it’s true. It’s stressing me out and I can’t keep doing this. I really can’t. (But none of this counts against the novel. I just needed a moment.)

The weak characters make it difficult to keep going despite the novel’s strong points. Adelice lacks the distinctive personality to really make her pop off the page and the supporting characters, to the two bland love interests that make up the love triangle to the shallow cartoon villains, are no better. She flip-flops between Jost and Erik and I simply don’t care. There’s no life to it.

Not everything about this worldbuilding makes sense. The neighborhoods are segregated so that boys and girls rarely, if ever, meet before it comes time to set up courtship appointments when they’re sixteen and older. Yet fathers live with their daughters and mothers presumably live with their sons. There’s sense in keeping that family unit together because the Guild likes the family unit, but that sense disappears when we remember the sexes are segregated to keep the girls’ purity standards in place. What, like adult men and adult women don’t ever sexually abuse children–even their own children?

More questions, such as what happens when married couples have sex and conceive without permission, the full limits of what Spinsters can do,, how these social dynamics came about, how people began to develop the ability to be Spinsters and Crewelers in the first place, why the men are still in control when it’s the women who really have the power, and more are left unanswered. These questions and Crewel‘s cliffhanger ending are perfect lures to bring readers back for book two in the Crewel World series, but readers who are unenthralled by the book may not want to come back.

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Top Ten Tuesday: Rewind

October 9, 2012 Top Ten Tuesday 0

Top Ten Tuesday is hosted by The Broke and the Bookish.

This week’s topic is Rewind, meaning I can choose from any past topics, and I decided to go with Top Ten Series I Haven’t Finished. I’ve also included links to my reviews of books in these series when able.

1) Experiment in Terror series by Karina Halle

I really like this series and I have all the books but the upcoming sixth book Into the Hollows on my Kindle, but there aren’t enough hours in the day or free time in the world for me to read them all when I want to! [my review of Darkhouse] [Red Fox] [The Benson]

2) The Violet Eden Chapters by Jessica Shirvington

Aussie books generally rock my socks off, but this is an exception. If I remember correctly, I skipped about sixty pages just so I could get to the end and find out what happened. This was one book I didn’t want plaguing me with questions about how it ended (because that’s the hell I go through when I DNF books). [Embrace]

3)The Divergent series by Veronica Roth

I was one of those people left unimpressed by this hyped-up dystopian novel. I don’t plan to read Insurgent or even try to find out how it all ends. I just don’t care. [Divergent]

4) The Throne of Glass series by Sarah J. Maas

It’s not necessarily a great series, but I had a lot of fun reading it and I’m looking forward to the next book. Unlike another book with beginnings on Fictionpress that eventually led to a major publishing deal [glares at Thoughtless by S.C. Stephens], I can see where Throne of Glass got its fans. [Throne of Glass]

5) The Shadow Falls series by C.C. Hunter

I read three books of this five-book series and I am stopping there. I’m supposed to be a good girl and not read a book solely to snark it anymore. (It’s still fair game if a book I expect to like becomes snark bait.) Besides, slight improvement in the third book showed me the series isn’t going to be my go-to fun for a train-wreck read anymore. It’s still going to be as offensive and badly written as ever, I assume, but I don’t care anymore. [Born at Midnight] [Awake at Dawn] [Taken at Dusk]

6) The Cambion Chronicles by Jaime Reed

The first book was a lot of fun, but admittedly, money and a lack of motivation are keeping me from getting the second book. [Living Violet]

7) The Hush, Hush series by Becca Fitzpatrick

-stifles nausea-

Let’s not talk about it, m’kay? [Hush, Hush] [Crescendo]

8) The Hybrid Chronicles by Kat Zhang

… -shakes laptop-

Damn you, books, I wish you could come out more quickly! But I know you can’t because Zhang is a busy college student like me and there’s the publishing process to get through, so I will wait. Impatiently, but I will wait so you can be fantastic.

(Seriously, I admire Kat Zhang and her ability to get this published while in college so much. I can barely find time to write, though that is in part due to health problems stealing all of my energy.) [What’s Left of Me]

9) The Angelfall series by Susan Ee

Pretty much half the YA blogging world is waiting for the second book in this series to come out–including me. Her bleak world, unique worldbuilding, and fantastic characters are droolworthy. [Angelfall]

10) The Lux series by Jennifer L. Armentrout

Seriously, what is the big deal with this series? I’m at a loss. [Obsidian]

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Two and Twenty Dark Tales by Georgia McBride and Michelle Zink

October 9, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★★★

Two and Twenty Dark Tales by Georgia McBride and Michelle ZinkTwo and Twenty Dark Tales: Dark Retellings of Mother Goose Rhymes ed. by Georgia McBride and Michelle Zink Published by Month9Books on October 16, 2012
Genres: Anthology, YA Horror, YA Paranormal
Pages: 340
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
four-stars
In this anthology, 20 authors explore the dark and hidden meanings behind some of the most beloved Mother Goose nursery rhymes through short story retellings. The dark twists on classic tales range from exploring whether Jack truly fell or if Jill pushed him instead to why Humpty Dumpty, fragile and alone, sat atop so high of a wall. The authors include Nina Berry, Sarwat Chadda, Leigh Fallon, Gretchen McNeil, and Suzanne Young.

Note: There are five stories I did not review. Three of them were not in my ARC but will be in the finished copy and two were stories I chose to skip due to personal reasons regarding their authors.

“As Blue as the Sky and Just as Old” by Nina Berry: 2.5/5. Berry had a great idea, but a lack of development and a heroine whose levels of dumb break the scale ruin it. Am I really supposed to go with it when Girl meets Guy, they talk for less than five minutes, and she agrees to go with him somewhere secluded just like that, implying that she’s following him just because he’s really hot? It’s clear she did that just because the story required her to.

“Sing a Song of Six-Pence” by Sarwat Chadda: 4/5. I really liked Chadda’s Billi SanGreal series and the same reasons I liked them are why I liked his short story. It’s well-written, delicious, and isn’t afraid to say that sometimes, there is no winner.

“Clockwork” by Leah Cypress: 4/5. This story, where the mouse climbing up the clock is actually a girl transformed by magic, was full of fun twists. The storyline was great, but it was too simplistic and easily solved even for a short story.

“Blue” by Sayantani DasGupta: 1/5. There simply wasn’t anything to this story that interested me or compelled me to put some thought into it like the others did.

“Pieces of Eight” by Shannon Delaney with Max Scialdone: 2/5. It’s well-paced and actiony as Marnum tries to get to the Dreamland Tree and meanwhile discovers where he came from, but “actiony” is half-compliment, half-complaint. Stuff happened, but there was no development. Marnum was kind of an ass and I didn’t like the writing style.

“Boys and Girls Come Out to Play” by Angie Frazier: 4.5/5. As one sister ventures into the woods to save the other from the witches’ beckoning, I found myself invested in what would happen to them and feel the story was well-thought-out. A small plot hole is all that keeps it from a 5. I admit, this gives me motivation to try and move Frazier’s novel Everlasting up the reading line (even though I don’t exactly have the freedom to pick and choose what I’m reading right now; certain books need to be read ASAP).

“I Come Baring Souls” by Jessie Harrell: 3/5. There’s really not much to say about this story, where three people with the roles of the Egyptian gods Anubis, Bast, and Hathor past judgment on the souls of the dead. I wish there were more to it.

“The Lion and the Unicorn: Part the First” by Nancy Holder: 4/5. It’s well-written and interesting, but I felt it was a bit iffy to set a story during a time of witch hunts without giving even a second of thought to innocent people persecuted as witches (and the existence of real, live witches in the story changes nothing). As “Part the First” implies, the anthology splits this into two stories, but my ARC didn’t have the second part in it.

“Life in a Shoe” by Heidi R. Kling: 3/5. Kling’s story has more of a dystopian twist to it, with the old woman and her many children in a shoe being in a small apartment instead, living in a place where women are forced to have children that will one day be raised to fight in the wars. The story suffers from a common flaw in dystopian stories: worldbuilding and plausibility. I cannot see this ever happening and nothing about how things came to be in such a state is not explained.

“Candlelight” by Suzanne Lazear: 2/5. Too anvilicious to be enjoyable. Yes, we know children and teenagers shouldn’t be brats over not being able to go to parties or being grounded because there are always people who have it worse and bad things can happen.

“One for Sorrow” by Karen Mahoney: 1/5. I couldn’t enjoy this for one second. The incredibly immature main character killed it for me.

“Those Who Whisper” by Lisa Mantchev: 5/5 . This author is the main reason I wanted to read this anthology. She’s one of my favorites! With a slight Snow White feel to it in that the main character Sida can talk to animals and a clear, lovely writing style, this is my favorite story of the anthology by far.

“Little Miss Muffet” by Georgia McBride: 3/5. Shape-shifting spiders? …Okay! Would have been a little more highly rated if the main character hadn’t called another girl a tramp.

“Sea of Dew” by C. Lee McKenzie: 3/5. This story of four teenagers adrift in a lifeboat after the ferry they were on capsized is the good kind of bleak, but it didn’t really make me feel anything. What happens to them and how it worsens over time is sad, yet something was lacking.

“Tick Tock” by Gretchen McNeil: 5/5. This story of a babysitter going out to a house on assignment and finding some very creepy children there was fantastic! Creepy and horrifying and just right. Not exactly unique, but I like it anyway.

“The Well” by K.M. Walton: 4/5.  Jack and Jill reimagined in a post-virus world where the siblings hate each other. The nuances of their complicated relationship were very well done and I liked the ending.

“The Wish” by Suzanne Young: 4/5. Insta-love put a damper on a story I would have otherwise liked, one about a girl miserable after a break-up, the death wish she makes on a star, and the new guy she spends her night with. It reminded me a little of the urban legend where a girl ends up dancing with the devil.

“A Ribbon of Blue” by Michelle Zink: 3/5. I admit, I knew what was going to happen to Ruby from the time the fortune-teller told her she’d find light, love, and freedom in a boy with a whistle, a ticket, and a blue ribbon. I felt a little bad for Ruby, but I didn’t feel much else because I lacked emotional investment.

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