Destroy Me by Tahereh Mafi

October 3, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★★

Destroy Me by Tahereh MafiDestroy Me by Tahereh Mafi Published by HarperCollins on October 2, 2012
Genres: YA Dystopian, YA Paranormal
Format: eBook
Source: Bought
three-stars
Perfect for the fans of Shatter Me who are desperately awaiting the release of Unravel Me, this novella-length digital original will bridge the gap between these two novels from the perspective of the villain we all love to hate, Warner, the ruthless leader of Sector 45.

In Tahereh Mafi’s Shatter Me, Juliette escaped from The Reestablishment by seducing Warner—and then putting a bullet in his shoulder. But as she’ll learn in Destroy Me, Warner is not that easy to get rid of. . .

Back at the base and recovering from his near-fatal wound, Warner must do everything in his power to keep his soldiers in check and suppress any mention of a rebellion in the sector. Still as obsessed with Juliette as ever, his first priority is to find her, bring her back, and dispose of Adam and Kenji, the two traitors who helped her escape. But when Warner’s father, The Supreme Commander of The Reestablishment, arrives to correct his son’s mistakes, it’s clear that he has much different plans for Juliette. Plans Warner simply cannot allow.

Set after Shatter Me and before its forthcoming sequel, Unravel Me, Destroy Me is a novella told from the perspective of Warner, the ruthless leader of Sector 45.

Shatter Me. For a reason I can’t remember (Google searches turned up a “major pre-empt” and the movie rights being bought; according to my ARC, it had a $150,000 marketing campaign too), it was one of the most hyped-up novels of 2011 and I gave it three stars, though it has now been downgraded to two in my head. Destroy Me went on my list for one reason only: Warner.

I mean, come on! The guy has absolutely no marbles to speak of and in a book full of bland characters, I liked that. His obsession with Juliette had more to do with why I liked him, though; I find obsession and what it does to people morbidly fascinating. Besides, his character reminds me of one of my own and I want to see how another author did it. And so I dove into Destroy Me.

It’s written in normal prose rather than the over-the-top ultraviolet prose of Shatter Me, and I was excited to be in Warner’s head from the very start. If it wasn’t clear before, it’s clear now that he is head-over-heels obsessed with Juliette. He thinks himself in love like more than a few obsessed people do, but I know better! He’s the kind of guy one would call the police on in real life, but here, it’s good. Knowing the boundary between what’s okay in fiction and in real life is always good.

The problem with this novella is that it is completely unnecessary and doesn’t give me any richer knowledge of the world of Shatter Me. We get a little more insight into Warner’s other obsessions like his need to be clean and some hints at how he grew up, but most of what Destroy Me reveals is stuff I’d already put together. His dad sucking? Check. The poor conditions of the people? Check. If any fan who refused to read this because they hate Warner skipped it, they would miss absolutely nothing. The Reestablishment is still a typical dystopian society with little to no plausibility and it is therefore too easy to put together what their world is like.

I’ll be reading on to Unravel Me, which looks like it will be just as purple prose-filled as Shatter Me if the excerpt is anything to go by, for the same reason I kept with this novella: Warner.

He better not find his marbles and/or become a serious love interest. I mean it. If he does, he’ll get boring and then I’ll be done with this series.

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The Torn Wing by Kiki Hamilton

October 1, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★

The Torn Wing by Kiki HamiltonThe Torn Ring by Kiki Hamilton Published by Self-published on August 9, 2012
Genres: YA Historical, YA Paranormal
Pages: 313
Format: Paperback
Source: Bought
two-stars
London 1872 -

A bloody escape, a deadly threat, a shocking revelation...

As an orphan who stole the Queen's ring - only to find the ring was a reservoir that held a truce between the world of Faerie and the British Court - Tiki’s greatest fear suddenly becomes all too real: the fey have returned to London seeking revenge. As war escalates in the Otherworld, Queen Victoria’s youngest son, Prince Leopold, is attacked. In order to protect her family and those she loves, Tiki needs to know the meaning of an fáinne sí, the birthmark that winds around her wrist. But will she be brave enough to face the truth?

The Faerie Ring didn’t impress me much when I read it in February 2012, but I wanted to read on for two main reasons: I felt like Hamilton had the ability to improve upon her story and I wanted to see where it would go. Nowhere much, I can say now that I’ve finished the novel. The Torn Wing feels more like set-up than the previous book ever did and it covers very little new ground that is of interest to me.

Admittedly, the only thing that still attracts me to this series is the writing. I love how easily Hamilton’s prose flows, but the decline in quality between the traditionally-published first book and the small-press-published/self-published (my research has not brought me to a conclusion on that one) second book is clear, though most of the flubs are in grammar. Dropped punctuation (more than a few quotation marks are missing), wrongly used punctuation (like using the possessive form of something when it wasn’t needed), formatting errors,… I almost wanted to take a red pen to it, but consider I plan to pass this on to someone, marking it up is a no-no.

One of my complaints about The Faerie Ring was its lack of depth and genuine feeling, and this issue also pervades The Torn Wing. Tiki isn’t very introspective and I suppose that’s part of her character, but when Larkin tells Tiki she might be the rightful ruler of the faeries and Tiki never stops to think about what it might cost her if it were true, that becomes a problem. If I were told I might be a faerie queen, I’d sure be thinking about what taking up the throne would cost me! People are selfish like that, and I’d think Tiki would be too as an orphan who had to fend for herself on the streets for a good while. Her maddening way of forgiving people didn’t help much.

The story also gets a little more indulgent in cliches than it was in the first book. I’m glad it didn’t go the route of a love triangle with Leo, Tiki, and Rieker like I fear (though Leo does still like her), it seems like there’s set up for another love triangle with a new character named Dain. It gets more cliche than that, but revealing that would be a spoiler and I don’t feel like revealing it.

I like how the Ripper murders and the royal hemophilia were tied in with the story, but I have a big problem with the latter. See, Prince Leopold gets attacked by a faerie and the wound won’t stop bleeding because it’s a faerie wound. It is covered up by calling it hemophilia, and the problem here is that royal hemophilia is an established issue that goes beyond Leo. Princesses Alice and Beatrice were confirmed carriers of royal hemophilia and there are well-documented cases of their descendants carrying on/suffering from that gene. Like Alexei Romanov? He had it. His grandmother was Princess Alice. The implication of Leo’s well-established hemophilia being only a cover-up and hemophilia not actually being in the family contradicts solid historical fact and it bugs me.

Yeah, I’m taking issue with how a historical fantasy contradicts historical fact. When the novel is trying to present itself as if it actually happened within our timeline but was kept secret from everyone else, I can do that.I might read The Seven Year King, the third book of this series, but right now, I’m not sure what I’d be reading on for. I gave The Torn Wing a shot because I hoped for improvement and there was absolutely none. It was nothing but set-up. I can be a bit of a sucker sometimes for books, but I’ve got my limits.

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The Liar Society by Lisa and Laura Roecker

September 28, 2012 Reviews 0 ★½

The Liar Society by Lisa and Laura RoeckerThe Liar Society by Lisa and Laura Roecker Published by Sourcebooks Fire on March 1, 2011
Genres: Mystery, YA Contemporary
Pages: 368
Format: Paperback
Source: Gifted
one-half-stars
 

Since when do the dead send emails?

Kate Lowry's best friend Grace died a year ago. So when she gets an email from her, Kate's more than a little confused.

To: KateLowry@pemberlybrown.edu
From: GraceLee@pemberlybrown.edu
Subject: (no subject)
Kate,
I'm here... sort of.
Find Cameron. He knows.
I shouldn't be writing.
Don't tell. They'll hurt you.

Now Kate has no choice but to prove once and for all that Grace's death was more than just a tragic accident. She teams up with a couple of knights-in-(not-so)-shining armor-the dangerously hot bad boy, Liam, and her lovestruck neighbor, Seth. But at their elite private school, there are secrets so big people will do anything to protect them-even if it means getting rid of anyone trying to solve a murder...

Oh, book. I wanted to love you, but by the time you started calling Bethany Beefany because she’s built like a linebacker, I had a feeling I wasn’t going to.

I was right.

To give The Liar Society its due praise, the storyline of the warring secret societies within Kate’s school and the role they might have played in Grace’s death is vividly drawn and well-paced. My worries about Nice Guy Syndrome creeping into this book were deftly put to rest. Readers always know Seth has feelings for Kate, but she is never under any pressure to return his feelings because he’s a “nice guy” and he’s entitled to her returning them or any of that bull.

All the feminism points the book earned through the avoidance of Nice Guy Syndrome were taken away–and then some–but Kate’s inability not to be an asshat to other people.

P. 106: “A handful of girls trailed after [Porter] who either suffered from First Year-itis or were raging gold-diggers who loved the sound of their last names hyphenated with “Reynolds.””

Readers are supposed to root for Kate, but that becomes a challenge with quotes like the one above. She seems thoroughly dedicated to being a terrible person. We are also supposed to believe that she cares about Seth as a friend, but she only ever uses him like a tool and looks down on him/his interests. As previously mentioned, she makes fun of Bethany’s linebacker-esque body type by calling her Beefany. Her body type isn’t something she can control and it’s not funny. At all. Kate is just being awful.

And then she started throwing around “slut.”

P. 298 (while talking about a dress that barely covers her butt because she has outgrown it): “The slutty look worked well for Hollywood starlets and girls hanging out on street corners, but I decided it might be best to attempt a slightly more subtle fashion statement for my first Homecoming dance.”

P. 300: “When you mix a Mardi-Gras-themed dance with teenage hormones, the result is a combination of girls who look largely like underage prostitutes and oversexed boys who dangle copious amounts of beads in hopes of finding a girl drunk enough (or slutty enough) to flash them.”

I don’t stand for validated, unchallenged slut-shaming. I consider these instances validated because Kate is never, ever called out on any of her behavior. Is she supposed to be funny? She’s not.

In short, REVEALING CLOTHES DO NOT EQUAL SLUTTY, M’KAY?

The mystery that drives the novel is easy to solve if one is an attentive reader, but Kate is not so good at connecting the dots or making logical conclusions. (On the subject of logic, this book has little; one of the gems is that riding a bike makes you uncool or a geek. I don’t know either.) As the clues build up, the mystery is practically solved, but Kate is only halfway there.

Characterization is serviceable enough, but development and the strength of the relationships between characters is subpar. Trying to characterize Kate as unpopular fails when three popular boys, the bad boy, and the friend all flirt with or have feelings for her. I’m surprisingly untroubled by so many guys being into her, seeing as most of my manuscripts have two or three people who are anywhere from flirting with to obsessed with the main character. It’s how it contradicts her characterization that bothers me.

The ending of the novel is rather frustrating because we all want to see things put to rights, but considering the themes of justice and how the secret societies within Pemberly Brown are tied up in it, it is also appropriate. A more positive ending would have been unrealistic.

The sequel The Lies That Bind comes out November 1, 2012 and I do not think I will be reading it.

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The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke

September 27, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★

The Assassin’s Curse by Cassandra Rose ClarkeThe Assassin's Curse by Cassandra Rose Clarke Published by Strange Chemistry on October 2, 2012
Genres: YA Fantasy
Pages: 320
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
two-stars
Ananna of the Tanarau abandons ship when her parents try to marry her off to an allying pirate clan: she wants to captain her own boat, not serve as second-in-command to her handsome yet clueless fiance. But her escape has dire consequences when she learns the scorned clan has sent an assassin after her.

And when the assassin, Naji, finally catches up with her, things get even worse. Ananna inadvertently triggers a nasty curse — with a life-altering result. Now Ananna and Naji are forced to become uneasy allies as they work together to break the curse and return their lives back to normal. Or at least as normal as the lives of a pirate and an assassin can be.

And the hype catches me yet again, making me the mouse to its dangerous, cheese-holding mousetrap. With the promise of pirates, assassins, and magic, it lured me in and made me think it was going to be good. Instead, I barely enjoyed reading The Assassin’s Curse.

Though Ananna’s voice sounded younger than her seventeen years and some of the deliberate errors that give her voice a distinctive quality bug me at times, I like the writing style. It has its snafus every now and then (how does one smile with the skin around their eyes?), but I generally had fun when I concentrated only on the writing. When I paid attention to the subject matter, I enjoyed the novel far less.

There’s a fine line between a rebellious character and a bratty character, and Ananna crossed that line soundly. She fusses about everything both worth fussing about and everything not worth fussing about. It gets grating after a while, you know? Naji isn’t much better, what with how he never tells Ananna anything. Yet by the end of the novel, Ananna is somehow in love with Naji. How? She details why it seems strange for her to love him by listing his flaws, but she doesn’t say a word about his redeeming qualities or does anything to make the reader think she knows him deeply. It’s not insta-love, but it sure is baseless love.

One thing that really got my goat was the presentation and characterization of Leila, a river witch and implied former lover of Naji’s. Like the rest of the cast, she is two-dimensional, but she is especially bad. She drapes herself all over Naji and plays with him while barely tolerating Ananna and putting her down. She leads them on for a week and makes them think she might be able to cure them, but nope! No cure! They spend a week there just because she decided to lead them on.

Seriously? Give me better female characterization than that.

Really, this novel isn’t too exciting. They spend most of it traveling and having the occasional encounter that may or may not actually be exciting. I enjoyed everything to begin with, but once Ananna saved Naji’s life and the curse that makes him have to protect her took effect, it all started going downhill.

The Pirate’s Wish, the second book of this duology, comes out next year. I don’t know if there’s enough I liked in this novel for me to read on.

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Ironskin by Tina Connolly

September 26, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★

Ironskin by Tina ConnollyIronskin by Tina Connolly Published by Tor on October 2, 2012
Genres: Adult Paranormal, Retelling, Steampunk
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: eARC via NetGalley
two-stars
Jane Eliot wears an iron mask.

It’s the only way to contain the fey curse that scars her cheek. The Great War is five years gone, but its scattered victims remain—the ironskin.

When a carefully worded listing appears for a governess to assist with a "delicate situation"—a child born during the Great War—Jane is certain the child is fey-cursed, and that she can help.

Teaching the unruly Dorie to suppress her curse is hard enough; she certainly didn’t expect to fall for the girl’s father, the enigmatic artist Edward Rochart. But her blossoming crush is stifled by her own scars, and by his parade of women. Ugly women, who enter his closed studio...and come out as beautiful as the fey.

Jane knows Rochart cannot love her, just as she knows that she must wear iron for the rest of her life. But what if neither of these things is true? Step by step Jane unlocks the secrets of her new life—and discovers just how far she will go to become whole again.

Retellings can be tricky to pull off. In my experience, they work best when they capture the original’s magic by relying on its plot and characters in certain places and diverging from the original in others in order to give it the feel that it’s a book of its own, not a complete repeat of the original. It can be a difficult balance to create and unfortunately, I don’t think Ironskin manages it, as a retelling of Jane Eyre with steampunk influences and fairies.

One of the high points of Ironskin was the development of the relationship between Jane and her charge Dorie, who can do strange things like move objects without touching them and yet is not fey. Strange children are among my favorite sorts of characters and Dorie fits the bill perfectly! The beginning of the novel was the best kind of grabbing and I loved how Connolly developed her ideas throughout the novel. It appears there will be a sequel and I might be interested in reading it to see where it will take readers next.

While there are things I genuinely like, the novel became a slog for me to read after the 25% mark (roughly 70 pages). There are long stretches in the beginning where little to nothing happens and neither the plot nor the characters drive the story. What Mr. Rochart is doing with the women isn’t given any attention until well over halfway through the novel and within the last 100 pages, the book veers off unexpectedly into territory most often traveled by run-of-the-mill urban fantasy novels.

Most of all, Ironskin fails to capture the magic of Jane Eyre, transfer any of the source material’s strengths to itself, or create a resemblance between the characters of one and the other. Jane and Mr. Rochart’s romance lacks the compelling element of Jane and Mr. Rochester’s (and I say that as someone who didn’t care for Mr. Rochester). The two novels focus on entirely different themes and events and in the end, they’re only loosely related to one another. Ironskin would have been better off to drop all the elements it has as a retelling of Charlotte Bronte’s classic and simply be an original novel. No retellings or anything.

Readers coming to this book because it’s a Jane Eyre retelling with steampunk and fairies may find themselves unsatisfied with the novel, but anyone who wants it because it sounds like a great idea regardless of its status as a retelling (or better yet, are unfamiliar with Jane Eyre) may enjoy it more than I did.

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Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout

September 22, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★

Obsidian by Jennifer L. ArmentroutObsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout Published by Entangled Teen on November 29, 2011
Genres: YA Paranormal
Pages: 400
Format: eBook
Source: Bought
two-stars
Starting over sucks.

When we moved to West Virginia right before my senior year, I'd pretty much resigned myself to thick accents, dodgy internet access, and a whole lot of boring.... until I spotted my hot neighbor, with his looming height and eerie green eyes. Things were looking up.

And then he opened his mouth.

Daemon is infuriating. Arrogant. Stab-worthy. We do not get along. At all. But when a stranger attacks me and Daemon literally freezes time with a wave of his hand, well, something...unexpected happens.

The hot alien living next door marks me.

You heard me. Alien. Turns out Daemon and his sister have a galaxy of enemies wanting to steal their abilities, and Daemon's touch has me lit up like the Vegas Strip. The only way I'm getting out of this alive is by sticking close to Daemon until my alien mojo fades.

If I don't kill him first, that is.

Jennifer L. Armentrout is like one of those inescapable, Internet-conquering memes.

In my circles, I can’t click on an adorable cat picture or even scratch my own rear end without hearing someone praise Armentrout’s novels to Tibet and back. The campaign her Lux series street team put on before the release of the second book Onyx seemed to involve every other YA blog I could find and everyone wanted to get their hands on the series–and her other series, the Covenant novels. Trusting some friends who gave the novel very positive reviews, I took the leap and read Obsidian.

Trusting those friends was not a good idea in my case.

Sometimes, Katy has a brain. When Daemon acts like a jerk, she calls him out on it and gets mad at at him the way other YA heroines might not. Awesome! Well, until she starts going on and on about how hot Daemon is and I beg her to shut up and focus. One can only stand the drool for so long before they feel like it’s time to take a shower. Another thing that should be commended: their chemistry. Armentrout can write some intense chemistry between her characters that makes the few make-out scenes extra-hot.

And as Katy points out, Daemon likes to have his shirt off. In my head, I heard Mai Valentine say “Fanservice!” every time he was shirtless. Because that’s what it is: fanservice.

This may not have been a good idea from the beginning. Fluffy romances, contemporary or paranormal or beyond, are not a good fit for me unless the characters falling in love are interesting, dynamic characters who can keep my interest based on their own merits. Romance alone isn’t enough of a motivation for me to keep reading. Daemon and Katy are not anywhere near interesting enough to hold my attention, and reading the book became a chore all too quickly.

Once I came to the part where three straight chapters of infodump tell readers everything they need to know about Daemon and Dee’s kind, it seemed like the end was in sight. Not a chance! I was only halfway there. This was one book I desperately wanted to make shut up, but my determination to finish this book and try to see this book though everyone else’s eyes kept me going. It almost seemed to slow down even further after that point as if to torture me, but I’m paranoid that everything (even my own body!) is out to get me, so don’t take that seriously.

The writing itself was rough and rather bland. There are a quite a few good one-liners highlighted on my Kindle, but there’s no prose I could specifically highlight as pretty or even memorable. I don’t want to say it and therefore will not, but it’s derivative of one very popular YA paranormal novel. Not as derivative as other books I could name, but there is more than one parallel that can be drawn between the two books.

I have no plans to read Onyx. Though the prequel novella Shadows is in my possession too, I don’t think I’ll be reading that either. There are too many other books to read.

2 stars!

What am I reading next?: Death and the Girl Next Door by Darynda Jones

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Give Up the Ghost by Megan Crewe

September 21, 2012 Reviews 0 ★★★

Give Up the Ghost by Megan CreweGive Up the Ghost by Megan Crewe Published by Henry Holt and Co. on September 15, 2009
Genres: YA Paranormal
Pages: 256
Format: Hardcover
Source: Bought
three-stars
Cass McKenna much prefers ghosts over “breathers.” Ghosts are uncomplicated and dependable, and they know the dirt on everybody…and Cass loves dirt. She’s on a mission to expose the dirty secrets of the poseurs in her school.

But when the vice president of the student council discovers her secret, Cass’s whole scheme hangs in the balance. Tim wants her to help him contact his recently deceased mother, and Cass reluctantly agrees.

As Cass becomes increasingly entwined in Tim’s life, she’s surprised to realize he’s not so bad—and he needs help more desperately than anyone else suspects. Maybe it’s time to give the living another chance….

This review’s tone may seem a little strange, but this book put me in a very strange place because of how I was feeling due to outside factors when I read it. I haven’t quite crawled out of that hole yet.

I’ve heard a lot of good things about Crewe’s novels and I always love a good ghost story. Give Up the Ghost has been sitting on my shelf for a few months and when in need of a short, hopefully good book, this is the one I came to. It was good, alright.

Cass is almost impossible to like, but you get where she’s coming from too. She’s been hurt badly by the people around her and she has many issues she needs to work through. Rather than deal with complicated things like people, she’d rather deal with simple things: ghosts. Reading through her eyes, especially at the beginning of the novel, is difficult because of this and the way she’s so obsessed with being negative and getting dirt on everyone, but if one can stick with it, the payoff in Cass’s character is fantastic.

In a way, Crewe’s writing in this novel reminds me of my own. It doesn’t waste time on the little details and is more focused on the characters’ feelings and personal issues because it knows that is where the strength of the novel lies. We can’t not understand why Cass is the way she is, though we may disagree with her strongly. Give Up the Ghost is completely character-driven and also very short, coming in at only 241 pages. That’s about the perfect length for it. If it had reached 300 pages, this would have been a bore to read.

It’s also a very subdued, quiet novel that still manages to be fairly powerful. It lacks some of the punch it really needs to bring everything full circle for the reader, but it definitely ended up punching me harder than I expected. I identified too much with Cass’s issues of not being able to communicate with living people and get along with them and it ended up becoming too personal for me to handle. I’d… rather not go into it any further.

I can see myself coming back to this in the future, but only if I’m in a good mood. It’s a bit too personal to touch when I’m in a bad mood.

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