Review: Behemoth

June 20, 2011 at 12:00 pm (4 stars, review) (, , , , , , , )

Behemoth by Scott Westerfeld

Pages: 485, hardcover

ISBN: 9781416971757

Publisher:

Date Released: October 5th, 2010 (first published September 25th, 2010)

Genre: YA / steampunk / historical

Source: library

Premise:

The behemoth is the fiercest creature in the British navy. It can swallow enemy battleships with one bite. The Darwinists will need it, now that they are at war with the Clanker powers.

Deryn is a girl posing as a boy in the British Air Service, and Alek is the heir to an empire posing as a commoner. Finally together aboard the airship Leviathan, they hope to bring the war to a halt. But when disaster strikes the Leviathan‘s peacekeeping mission, they find themselves alone and hunted in enemy territory.

Alek and Deryn will need great skill, new allies, and brave hearts to face what’s ahead.

(Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it from: Book Depository / Amazon

To start off with: I hate the cover. It is such a disaster compared to the masterpiece that was the original Leviathan cover. What went wrong? If I were some random browsing the aisles of the YA section of my local bookstore, I would have shrunk back in disgust, and quickly averted my eyes, as if the horrific cover might somehow infect me. In fact, that’s exactly what happened when I did encounter this book. I had heard news of Behemoth‘s release, and I eagerly went forth to buy the book, which I had pictured would be similar in majesty and beauty as Leviathan had been. But no, I was met with this monstrosity. Once again, I ask, what went wrong? What were Simon Pulse thinking? I actively avoided buying this book for almost a year, until I managed to get my hands on it for $1 when a Borders was closing down. Even then, I was reluctant. Was I willing to pay $1 to have this accident of a cover sit next to my beloved copy of Leviathan? Finally, I caved in, but only because I had already borrowed it from the library and loved what was between those frightening covers.

And this is coming from a hardcore fan of the first book. I had waited impatiently for over a year to read Behemoth. I loved the first book so much. I reread it several times.  And you know what the worst thing is? That the cover for Behemoth would have been even more stunning than it was for Leviathan. Here, have a look. Aren’t you just seething with rage? It’s beautiful, isn’t it. I don’t understand what Simon Pulse were thinking. They had potentially lost a customer (me) and maybe many more with their hideous reboot covers. (and to be brutally honest, I don’t know who’s who on the reboot covers. Whoops. :-/ )

Now, cover rant aside, I loved this book. If I thought Leviathan was good, then this is just a work of art, meant to be savoured.

This book deals with a lot of emotional baggage, from Deryn’s experience with her father dying a few years earlier, to her developing crush on Alek. But, poor girl, she can’t reveal her feelings to him without revealing her true identity! And with that came a fresh and delightful dose of drama. Especially when a new girl enters the picture, causing jealousy to spark from poor Deryn. The results were completely unexpected and hilarious, and I couldn’t have been more pleased at the maybe-love-triangle.

And while Deryn is struggling to hide her true identity, so is Alek. He’s in a new world, filled with the enemy. At any moment, he could be found and killed. The similarities between the experiences of Alek and Deryn make this a great tool to understanding their characters and their motives. They mirrored each other in so many ways, and it was awesome reading about their characters.

The plot is just as exciting as it was in Leviathan, with explosions starting right off the bat (if you’re into that sort of thing). And after that, there’s non-stop action and suspense all throughout the book, making it literally impossible to put down. I sat with Behemoth in my hands for four hours, braving a grumbling tummy and neglected housework. It will leave you completely hooked and wanting more.

The writing is  amazing, but, it still uses the annoying over-used vocabulary like bum-rag and such. Thankfully, the descriptions make up for it. Everything was described so vividly that it was really easy to imagine what was happening, and what everything looked like. This is especially amazing in the completely new setting of Turkey, where everything feels surreal, exotic and wild. The city actually felt like a whole new character, just like how the Leviathan felt like a character in the first book. For that, I applaud Westerfeld. It’s hard to pull off a setting like that, and to make it feel like a living, breathing characters with its own flaws and characteristics.

And, lastly, I have to give an honorable mention to Keith Thompson, whose artworks also feature in this book. Once again, they have left me speechless with their precise beauty. They certainly add depth to an already fantastic book.

I’m eagerly awaiting Goliath, but, unless they go back to the original covers, I probably won’t buy it. The cover just looks bad. I’m very picky with my covers, as you can see. But August can’t come soon enough.

Cover Art: 0
Plot: 5
Characters: 5
Writing: 4
Level of Interest: 5

Total Rating: 4/5 stars

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Review: Angel Burn

June 18, 2011 at 9:28 pm (4 stars, review) (, , , , , , , , )

Courtesy of Candlewick Press

Angel Burn by L. A. Weatherly

ISBN: 9780763656522

Publisher: Candlewick Press

Release Date: May 24th, 2011 (first released September 30th, 2010)

Genre: YA/ paranormal / romance  / action / angels

Source: galley from the publisher

Premise:

Willow knows she’s different from other girls, and not just because she loves tinkering with cars. Willow has a gift. She can look into the future and know people’s dreams and hopes, their sorrows and regrets, just by touching them. She has no idea where this power comes from. But the assassin, Alex, does. Gorgeous, mysterious Alex knows more about Willow than Willow herself. He knows that her powers link to dark and dangerous forces, and that he’s one of the few humans left who can fight them. When Alex finds himself falling in love with his sworn enemy, he discovers that nothing is as it seems, least of all good and evil. In the first book in an action-packed, romantic trilogy, L..A. Weatherly sends readers on a thrill-ride of a road trip – and depicts the human race at the brink of a future as catastrophic as it is deceptively beautiful.

They’re out for your soul . . . and they don’t have heaven in mind.

(Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it from: Book Depository / Amazon

*Sorry I haven’t been updating in a while, I’ve been feeling a bit under the weather this past week. But I’m feeling better now, and will be updating a bit more often to make up for it.*

I’ll admit, I was rather skeptical about this book at first. I thought it’d be another stupid angel romance story with next to no plot and an abusive, angelic love interest, and a main character who was TSTL (too stupid to live).

Boy, was I wrong. Not only are angels not romanticized here, they’re actually the enemies, who steal something special from their victim, leaving them sick and helpless–a shell. There isn’t some long, drawn out and overused religious lore behind them, they just are. They aren’t God’s messengers. They aren’t heaven-sent. They aren’t the angels you’d expect. They became the perfect enemy, taking over the human world, leaving their imprint and making people of faith put all their trust to them, only to exploit them by feeding off them. What I loved most was that they founded a religion devoted to their worship, making people love them and trust them; it was a nice, ironic touch, and I loved it immensely.

Willow is different from other main characters that I’ve encountered. Right off the bat, we see how strong she is as a character, and she keeps getting stronger. She’s smart, cautious, real. And the way she cares for her mum, it makes me appreciate her more, because, for once, here is a YA main character who doesn’t ignore others for her love interest, especially her family. I love how she gets frustrated with her mother sometimes, because despite doing her best to help her, her mother is too far gone to do anything. Her frustration at her mother’s vegetative state is selfish, honest, real.

At first, I thought the psychic thing would be used to make Willow ‘speshul’, but she actually uses it properly, which is something I applaud. For example, when she see’s Beth’s choices, and what happened to her, she handles it maturely forthe situation and her character, and tries to help Beth as best as she can, even though she knows that it would be futile.

I loved the interaction between Willow and Alex. They had this chemistry together, and it was done really well. They were awkward towards each other, ad avoided interacting with each other because of who they were–Willow, the human/angel hybrid freak, and Alex, the protector of humans and killer of angels–and it brought a whole new meaning to the whole “I love you but I want to kill you” thing that’s so popular in YA romances these days. Alex actually has justification to try to kill Willow at the beginning of the book. He thought she was on the angel’s side, being half angel and what not. All his life, he had been taught that angels are evil creatures, and yet, he found himself stuck with a girl who was seemingly half evil. The way he reacted to her then was fantastic and real.

After a few days of knowing him, Willow tells us that she’s fallen in love with Alex. While this sort of insta-love usually bothers me, I’m willing to accept this, since they’d literally been stuck together for the last few days, getting to know each other and bond. And, oh how they bonded! Their chemistry was beyond delicious! It was addictive, and I wanted more of their shy flirting, of their awkwardness, everything.

Once they manage to finally declare their love, though, they turn into love-sick tweens, acting all cutesy and saying stuff like “I’d die without you”, and it’s enough to make anyone gag. It was a bit of a downer, after such a fantastic build-up. I think I’d rather stick with the teasing sexual tension than deal with twu wuv~! that feels forced and annoying.

One of my main concerns with the book was the writing. It is narrated sometimes in third person, from the POVs of various characters, including the baddies, and sometimes it’s narrated in first person from the POC of Willow. I think that this is the only fault in the otherwise spectacular and gripping writing, but it wasn’t enough for me to drop the book–which I totally would have if it weren’t so OMG-worthy. The writing made it so impossible to put down, it was so action-packed. It will constantly keep you guessing.

This is a book that I would recommend for everyone. It isn’t your typical paranormal novel. It has a well thought out background, a gripping plot and plenty of action. Read it immediately.

Cover Art: 3
Plot: 4
Characters: 3
Writing: 4
Level of Interest: 5

Total Rating: 4/5 stars

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Review: The Dark Divine

June 1, 2011 at 12:00 pm (1 star, review) (, , , , , , , , , )

The Dark Divine by Bree Despain

Pages: 372, hardcover

ISBN: 9781606840573

Publisher:  EgmontUSA

Release Date: December 22nd, 2009

Genre: YA / romance / paranormal / werewolves / bad romance

Source: library

Premise:

A Prodigal Son

A Dangerous Love

A Deadly Secret

Grace Divine—daughter of the local pastor—always knew something terrible happened the night Daniel Kalbi disappeared and her brother Jude came home covered in his own blood.

Now that Daniel’s returned, Grace must choose between her growing attraction to him and her loyalty to her brother.

As Grace gets closer to Daniel, she learns the truth about that mysterious night and how to save the ones she loves, but it might cost her the one thing she cherishes most: her soul.

(Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it from: The Book Depository / Amazon

Warning: this is a very long and rant-filled review.

Let me just start off with this: I hate the cover. But that’s because I hate feet (they make me feel queasy). Especially the ones on the cover. Now I’m not normally one to nitpick on someone’s looks, but those feet look particularly yucky. Sorry, I’ll stop now.
Otherwise, the cover is pretty, with the purple fabric and the all around foreshadowing of doom and blackness.

The book starts off slow, and right from the beginning, I could tell that I was not going enjoy it that much. For starters there are some very deep Christian themes, and whilst I’m not against any religions, I’m not too much a fan of books that are heavily based on a certain religion, especially if the characters are stereotypical cut-outs. Example, Jude. He was so portrayed as such a good Christian, as such a gentle, sensitive and caring person (choosing not to play hockey because he doesn’t want to hurt any of the opposing players. PUH-LEASE!) that he no longer seems like a guy. He acts like a middle aged woman’s idealised version of the perfect gentleman. I was so glad to finally see him loosen up during the end of the book. He fights, he threatens and he no longer holds car doors open for ladies!! Hurrah, he’s finally manning up!
Even the rest of Grace’s family were incredibly annoying, and I just couldn’t stand them and the way they preached their Christian values. I think that was my main issue with the book and the characters and the themes: it was so preachy. It’s like Despain wanted me to convert. Ugh.
The only character I can find remotely interesting is Don, and that’s probably because, despite being insane, he’s the most well-crafted character. He actually acts like a real person. But it doesn’t make the book that much better.
Grace’s character, I didn’t really mind because she despite being incredibly annoying with her morals and with her goody-goody ways, she showed times of weakness. That provided some relief.
And, now for the character I hated the most: April, Grace’s supposed best friend. She seemed to have no purpose except to be the unsupportive friend, who spends the first half of the book pining over Jude, and the second half snogging him. As far as I could tell, she played no real part in the story, so I wonder why she was kept at all. She did nothing to further the plot, she was a bad best friend who ditched Grace the moment Jude showed any interest in her, and then she does nothing to improve Jude’s character growth, except by showing us that Jude loves kissing. Wow!
Another thing, the blurb on the back of my particular copy, written by Becca Fitzpatrick (author of Hush, Hush), described Daniel as a ‘bad boy’. I’m starting to question if Fitzpatrick actually knows anything about stereotypes, because she certainly does not know what a bad boy is. Daniel certainly isn’t a bad boy (and neither is Patch from her own novel). Daniel is instead overly confident, arrogant, smug, and suffers from horrible mood swings that make him agressive one minute, and cry whilst declaring his love for Grace (this actually happened) the next. He was more annoying than bad, and was incredibly hard to deciper. I found it difficult to feel sympathy for him and his past because of the way he portrayed himself.

Okay, that’s my character rant over and done with. Now, what was up with the font?!?I probably should have mentioned this earlier in the review, but it was completely bolded. Has anyone else who’s read this book noticed this or is it just my copy?
It was incredibly distracting, and made my eyes hurt a bit if I read it for too long. It was just frustrating having to take breaks every few minutes because of the headaches that the unnecessary boldness. Why not just have normal, unbolded font?

I really couldn’t stand the structure of the book, with all the subheadings that said things like (and I’m not lying here, this is taken right out of the book) “An hour and a half later” and “after lunch”, or simply, “later”. NO. JUST NO. One simply does not put that in books. Readers aren’t that dumb that they need that sort of indication to know that the next scene is occurring ‘later’. Instead of having a heading that states “The next morning”, Despain could have simply written: The next morning, Grace woke up. See? Simple and effective. The subheadings were a big indication of the poor writing skills. Not only that, but the sentence structure was off, nothing flowed well, the writing was not unlike that of a twelve year old girl who suddenly decides that she wants to write (nothing wrong with that, but such a girl would essentially improve with her writing as time progressed.)
Despain failed to properly engage me, her reader, and I felt bored and found myself skimming through the pages at some points. Her foreshadowing was poorly used, and the hints she dropped were far too obvious to be called hints. It took all the mystery from the novel.

Now, onto the main thing: the plot.
The paranormalcy happening in the book was confusing, tedious and obvious. It turned out that Daniel was a werewolf, but I guessed that in the first chapter, although, it felt as if Despain was trying to decide between creatures: angels, demons, werewolves (oh my!). It felt as if she couldn’t make up her mind about which creepy creature would work best for her novel, so she would constantly switch ideas, and when she finally decided on a combination of the three, and called it werewolves. It made her story look poor, unstructured, unorganised and as if no thought had gone into it.
There even came a part when she tried to infuse all these creatures to make one super-creature. That’s when I totally lost it and decided that I hated this book.

So, to sum this book up in one word: ATROCIOUS. Don’t read it, it’s of worse quality that Twilight. Even the romance in this book is worse than Twilight. It was a painful read. When I finally finished the book, I rejoiced and vowed not to read the next books in the series.

Cover Art: 2 (feet, UGH. This is just a personal issue, though)
Plot: 0 (what plot?)
Characters: 1
Writing: 0
Level of Interest: 1

Total Rating: 1/5

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Review: The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The Arrival of The Mysterious Men in Black

May 30, 2011 at 2:00 pm (4 stars, review) (, , , , , , , )

Courtesy of Bancroft Press

The Atomic Weight of Secrets or The arrival of the Mysterious Men in Black by Eden Unger Bowditch

Pages: 339, hardcover

 ISBN: 9781610880022

Publisher: Bancroft Press

Release Date: March 15th 2011

Genre: Middle Grade / mystery

Source: galley from the publisher

Premise:

n 1903, five truly brilliant young inventors, the children of the world’s most important scientists, went about their lives and their work as they always had.

But all that changed the day the men in black arrived… (continued on the Goodreads page)

Buy it from: The Book Depository / Amazon

First things first: wow, I was really impressed with the writing. From the very first page, it lured me in. It has this mesmerizing quality that makes this book feel so magical and almost impossible to put down. The writing works well for this MG book (it’s described as YA on Goodreads, but none of the characters are close to teens, and the writing is MG-y). This is the kind of book I wish I had when I was growing up. The writing falls short near the end of the book, but otherwise, is still enjoyable.

The characters feel so real. They’re kid scientists with the ability to create great things. I’m sure some people would find a problem with the little insertions of each child’s life, but I quite liked it. It gave me a insight as to what these kids were like before they were taken from their parents by the men in black. Sort of watching them grow up, so to say. This is especially effective for Faye, who was a horrid, spoiled brat at the beginning. I honestly thought that I was going to hate her, and I worried for a while that she’d remain that way and ruin the book. But, instead, she grew a whole lot. We saw the reasoning behind her brattiness in the first place, and we also see her learn to have friends, and to treat people like, well, people. It’s quite a remarkable change, and I really applaud it.

My second favourite character was Wallace. He’s the character I felt most sorry for. He has a tragic past, where his mother had passed away when he was young, and with her, all the love and affection he ever received. His father had incredibly high expectations of him, and never let him forget it. Amongst all the pressure, Wallace seemed close to cracking. His sweet, secret relationship with his teacher (don’t worry, not THAT kind of relationship), Miss Brett showed just how much his mother’s death had affected him, and it was a bit saddening.

My one issue is the chapter titles. There are two chapter titles for each chapter, and it doesn’t really feel necessary. It feels a bit like overkill. Though, I suppose it’s because I don’t really care for chapter titles.

This is a great book if you want to read something mysterious, or about nerdy kids. Something like Evil Genius by Catherine Jinks.

Cover Art: 2 (one of the downsides of the book. I have no idea what’s going on in the cover)
Plot: 4
Characters: 5
Writing: 4
Level of Interest: 4

Total Rating: 4/5 stars


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Review: The Replacement

May 23, 2011 at 4:00 am (2 stars, review) (, , , , , , , , , , )

The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff

Pages: 375, paperback

ISBN: 9780857071385

Publisher:Simon & Schuster

Date Released: October 1st 2010 (first published September 21st 2010)

Genre: YA / paranormal / urban fantasy / faeries / romance

Source: library

Premise:

Mackie Doyle is the Replacement. Thought he lives in the small town of Gentry, Mackie comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement – left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is slowly dying in the human world.

Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass guitar or spend time with an oddly intriguing girl called Tate. But when Tate’s baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place – in our world, or theirs.

(Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it from: Book Depository / Amazon

Okay so I was a bit reluctant at trying this story out. On the one hand, the premise sounds awesome. I mean, the main character is a boy AND a changeling, which makes me really curious. On the other, I’ve heard some less than spectacular reviews about this book, and I was worried that the MC wouldn’t sound like a boy–like Ethan from Beautiful Creatures and Sam from Shiver. Thankfully, he doesn’t sound like a girl, but that might be the only good thing about him.
It seems that most of my problems with this book stems from the characters, so expect a lot of ranting about that.

From the very beginning, I found that the writing was awkward. It was purple, it was fragmented at times, and sometimes, it just didn’t make sense at all. It was as if the writer was trying too hard to craft her words. Underneath the awkwardness, I could see bits and pieces that stood out, but they were overwhelmed by the flower-y, tryhard lyrical prose. An example of the awkward prose:

“[Emma was looking] lonely as a lighthouse. Sad as a nun.” -pg 40

Now, I’m not sure that nuns are particularly sad about what they do. In fact, I would think that they’d be happy, since that’s sort of what they’re devoted to.

There were a lot of things to the story that left me confused. For starters, Mackie’s sister, Emma, somehow remembers the event of her brother being replaced. I forget what age she was supposed to be at the time, but it’s still highly unlikely that she would remember it. And on the very unlikely occasion that she were to remember it, why on earth would she believe it to be real, even several years after it happened?When I was her age, I was certain that I was adopted and that my parents were either royalty or faeries. Doesn’t mean that it’s true. It just seems unlikely that she’d believe it so much. It makes this whole issue so unbelievable, and every time Emma mentioned it, I rolled my eyes and scoffed, “yeah, right.”
And why does Mackie believe some random creep that tells him he’s dying? Especially when that creep corners him in a club. If I were Mackie, I’d think the guy was high or drunk, and I’d try to avoid him, not, y’know, believe him.

My biggest problem with Mackie was that he was a loner and a major emo, and blamed other for it. He blames his popular best friend, Roswell, for his awkwardness around people and his inability to effectively communicate. He blames his father for people having expectations of any kind of him, and the list goes on. Everything wrong about him, Mackie points fingers and shifts the blame to someone else. Which is ridiculous and disgraceful. Maybe if he actually tried talking to people instead of actively avoiding them, he’d have more friends and wouldn’t be seen as a freak (but actually, he does seem to be popular, despite what he says. I mean, he made out with the most popular girl in the school. I’d think that one has to be pretty high up in the school’s hierarchy to be able to do that).
And I really really really hate how Mackie constantly whines about the threat of being lynched for being different. Um… what? As far as I can tell, Mackie is not black, nor does he like in the 1940’s. People do not get lynched for having quirks, not in this era. He has nightmares and is told a story of a guy who was lynched for being different… IN GODDAMN 1930! Every time he mentions that, I just want to hit him with the book, and tell him to shut the fuck up and to stop being such a drama queen. I swear, 85% of this book is is Mackie angsting over how he’s different, and 10% about Tate, while the other 5% is actual plot.

Speaking of plot, for the most part, it doesn’t exist because of the ANGSTING. Most of the time, there’s severe angsting for several pages, with maybe a paragraph or two of actual plot developments, and then back to angsting. I wonder if Yovanoff knows that angsting =/= character development?
And because of the lack of plot, there won’t be much in this review on plot.

Now, back to the characters.

What the hell is wrong with Tate? Why is she so convinced all of a sudden that Mackie knows something–anything–about her sister? He’s never given her a reason to suspect him of anything, yet she won’t get off his back. She just keeps harassing him, and it makes me want to hit her with a mallet. She is such a disgusting character. She makes rude comments and sarcastic gestures towards girls who act ‘girly’ and not as ‘tough’ as her, as if wearing pink is a sign of weakness. She’s a horrible person, and from the beginning, her attitude made me hate her vehemently. And she constantly goes on to insult Mackie, while at the same time, demanding that he help her. Why should he, when she’s constantly demeaning him? This is a case of abusive relationships, but with the tables turned. And Mackie is weak against her, and is passive whenever she says something insulting.
Being tough doesn’t make a character strong. And I don’t see Tate as strong, just as a person who needs an attitude check.

And then there’s the relationship between Tate and Mackie that seemed to pop up out of nowhere.When Mackie told Tate that he liked her, I was surprised. Up until then, he showed signs of liking Alice–even going so far as to find out that she has a tongue ring, kekeke–, and hating Tate. And why the hell would Tate be such a horrid person to someone she liked? What had changed? They showed no romance, not even any friendship. It felt like Yovanoff suddenly decided that she wanted Mackie and Tate to be together, so she made them both do an about-face concerning their feelings. And um… what’s with the part where she gives him a handjob behind the churchyard, soon after? It didn’t do anything to further the plot, and hardly did anything to develop their relationship and selves. If I were an editor, I would have cut it.

I do have to admit, though, that I really liked the character of Morrigan and the other fairies. They acted so mystical, so all-knowing, yet so cryptic, almost like I imagine fairies would really be like. Their descriptions were fantastic, and I believe that the story greatly improved once they were introduced. In fact, I was almost my wit’s end and was thinking of dropping the book, just as the fairies were introduced.
The fairy lore that Yovanoff had created was fantastic, and it’s a shame that the rest of her story didn’t seem to follow suit.

So, no, I didn’t really like this story. I found it to be a waste of time. Yovanoff needs a better editor, and better beta readers, ones who know what a plot is, and that wangsting is NOT character development. At all. Ever.

Cover Art: 2 (why is there a light shining from his ass?)
Plot: 2
Characters: 2
Writing: 2
Level of Interest: 2

Total Rating: 2/5 stars

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Review: The Gates

May 18, 2011 at 12:00 pm (5 stars, review, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , )

The Gates by John Connolly

Pages: 272, paperback

ISBN: 9780340995808

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Date Released: October 1st, 2009

Genre: Middle Grade / fantasy / horror / humor

Source: library

Premise:

A strange novel for strange young people.

Young Samuel Johnson and his dachshund Boswell are trying to show initiative by trick-or-treating a full three days before Hallowe’en. Which is how they come to witness strange goings-on at 666 Crowley Avenue. The Abernathys don’t mean any harm by their flirtation with Satanism. But it just happens to coincide with a malfunction in the Large Hadron Collider that creates a gap in the universe. A gap in which there is a pair of enormous gates. The gates to Hell. And there are some pretty terrifying beings just itching to get out …

Can Samuel persuade anyone to take this seriously? Can he harness the power of science to save the world as we know it? (Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it from: The Book DepositoryAmazon

After reading The Book of Lost Things  by John Connolly, I knew that I needed to get my hands on something else by him, and honestly, this didn’t disappoint. (By the way I totally recommend that you read it).

This book is written in the same vein of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe or Monty Python. Meaning, despite it’s genre, it’s full of that excellent British humour that I so adore. That wit, that sarcasm, oh, it just makes me excited just thinking about it. I just have to show you an example of the wit and hilarity:

“Schwell, the Demon of Uncomfortable Shoes; Ick, the Demon of Unpleasant Things Discovered in Plug Holes During Cleaning; Graham, the Demon of Stale Biscuits and Crackers; Mavis, the Demon of Inappropriate Names for Men; and last, and quite possibly least, Erics’, the Demon of Bad Punctuation. – pg 37

One bother I had with the writing was that there were footnotes, and while they were sometimes funny and often informative, they also distracted me from the text. I often found myself having to reread the previous paragraph, because the footnote sometimes deviated from the text that I forgot what was happening in the story.

What made this story even more awesome was the use of the Large Hadron Collider. I’m not sure if any of you guys remember all that buzz about two years, that it would be the end of the world if they operated it and tried to recreate the Big Bang. I’ve always been fascinated by physics, so the use of this as a main plot hole just rocked my socks.

A major part of this book revolves around the idea that Samuel is trying to get y while his mum is surviving a nasty break-up with his dad. His dad has moved out, and is living with another woman, and his mum is having a hard time dealing with it. It has a fresh and real perceptive on separation and divorce, and the way that it’s described–in the slightly childish voice of the prose–it makes the reader feel just how painful divorce is for the child, not just the parents.

The unlikely friendship between Nord–a demon who isn’t quite so demonic–and Samuel was just lovely. When they first met by an accidental mishap of physics, they really get to know each other, and their friendship grew into something big and believable.

My main concern was at the end of the book, when Samuel is confronted by a demonic personification of his worst fear: spiders. It would only have made sense in his growth as a character if he had killed the demon himself and conquered his inner fear. Instead, his friends kill it, while he’s just standing there, frightened. Apart from that, his character grew well.

The story was filled with action, and the kind of things that children and adults alike would enjoy reading. Each chapter is more interesting than the one preceding it, and you’ll find yourself unable to put this book down.

Cover Art: 4
Plot: 5
Characters: 4
Writing: 4
Level of Interest: 5

Total Rating: 5/5 stars

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Review: Preludes & Nocturnes

May 16, 2011 at 12:20 pm (4 stars, review) (, , , , , , , , )

The Sandman: Preludes and Nocturnes by Neil Gaiman

Pages: 280, paperback

ISBN: 9781563890116

Publisher: Vertigo

Date Released: December 7th, 1993 (first published 1989)

Genre: Adult / graphic novel / fantasy / horror/ mystery

Source: library

Premise:

A wizard attempting to capture Death to bargain for eternal life traps her younger brother Dream instead. Fearful for his safety, the wizard kept him imprisoned in a glass bottle for decades. After his escape, Dream, also known as Morpheus, goes on a quest for his lost objects of power. On the way, Morpheus encounters Lucifer and demons from Hell, the Justice League, and John Constantine, the Hellblazer. This book also includes the story “The Sound of Her Wings” which introduces us to the pragmatic and perky goth girl, Death. (Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it from: The Book Depository / Amazon

I had a love/hate relationship with this volume. It was more love than hate, but the hate parts were more of a slight annoyance, and will hardly hinder my decision to buy the entire series in the near future.

In this graphic novel, Gaiman beautifully crafts out the story and characterisation of the tormented Dream, a Sandman captured and imprisoned by a wizard for decades in a desperate attempt to call Dream’s sister, Death. This particular volume basically chronicles Dream’s search for his 3 tools that he lost to the hands of humanity during his imprisonment, and while not having much more plot than that, it held a lot of substance.

I found it amazing that Gaiman could have created such a story without using many words. I’m not really a fan of comics and graphic novels–I’m more of a word person than a picture person; I hate watching films, and if I end up finally watching one, it has to have subtitles, else I won’t have much fun–but this totally blew me away. I just couldn’t fathom the amazingness.

The artwork wasn’t too great, but then again, it was done in the ’80s. The art for comics has greatly improved since then. But I’d grown a sort of liking towards the artwork. It kind of fit the mood for the story.

On his quest to encounter his lost tools, Dream encounters various characters from the DC world, which perplexed me. I hadn’t realised at the time that Vertigo was an imprint of DC. And you know what? The inclusion of these DC characters hindered the story for me. Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m a DC gal all the way, but it took the realism and originality of the Sandman world away. The only DC character that I enjoyed is one I shall not name so as to not ruin the surprise for you (plus, I’ve forgotten his name, heh). He had this amazing character development, and his inclusion was fairly amazing–though fairly gory.

I loved the inclusion of the last issue, “The Sound of Her Wings”, which features a cameo of Dream’s sister, Death. It shows this lovely brother/sister relationship, whilst being oddly philosophical.

Needless to say, I need to get my hands on the rest of the series, and so should you, fellow reader. Though, there are some fairly disturbing scenes, one of which is extremely graphic, featuring violence,  sexual violence and mind control, so approach with caution.

Art: 3
Plot: 4
Characters: 3
Writing: 4
Level of Interest: 5

Total Rating: 4/5 stars

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Review: Mercy

May 14, 2011 at 1:00 pm (4 stars, review) (, , , , , , , , , )

Mercy by Rebecca Lim

Pages: 280, paperback

ISBN: 9780732291990

Publisher: HarperCollins

Date Released: November 1st, 2010

Genre: YA / romance / angels / mystery

Source: library

Premise:

Mercy ′wakes′ on a school bus bound for Paradise, a small town where everyone knows everyone else′s business… or thinks they do. But Mercy has a secret life. She is an angel, doomed to return repeatedly to Earth, taking on a new ′persona′ each time she does, in an effort to resolve a cataclysmic rift between heavenly beings.

The first of a brilliant new series sees Mercy meeting Ryan, an eighteen-year-old whose sister was kidnapped two years ago and is presumed dead. When another girl is also kidnapped, Mercy knows she has to act quickly and use extraordinary powers to rescue her, even if it means exposing her true identity. (Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it from: The Book Depository / Amazon

The opening paragraph was interesting enough. It showed that the writing was clear and concise, but sadly, it was followed by this massive info-dump on what the main character looks like, and it turns out that she’s one of those “I’m pretty but I don’t notice it” characters, which makes me groan, since 90% of YA is filled with these characters. Then, she goes on to describe who I can only assume is a potential love interest, because he has far too many far-fetched descriptions like:

“He is tall, broad-shouldered, snake-hipped, flawless as only dreams can be. Like a sun god when he walks.” – pg 4.

To which I can only respond with WTF? what is with that? Why are all possible love interests described so weirdly. I don’t know. Personally, I find it off-putting, especially with odd descriptions like ‘snake-hipped’ and ‘sun god’. I don’t even know how to imagine snake-hipped. Anyone know?
Lim seems to have an interesting and poor way of describing people visually. They only seem to be described as beautiful and stunning, or disgusting and ugly and flawed. There is no middle ground, which makes me feel uneasy, a bit.
Also, the sentence structure was often repeated in a way that made Lim over-describe something. A couple of times per page, you can expect to see something like “Something COMMA synonym COMMA another synonym COMMA continue with sentence as normal.” It’s constantly used and feels unedited. It blocks the otherwise clear writing that could have made this book even more amazing, I think.

There are some parts I’m not so fond about. Pretty, popular girls are sluts and enemies, and the main character often describes other females with some fairly derogatory terms, such as bitch and slut. For the most part, Mercy is at the mercy (hehe) of a pretty, popular bitch who is a bitch just because she can. It’s fairly annoying and overused.

Now, those are the bad things. Onto the good.

The story is fairly fantastic. The premise holds so much promise, and it delivers. There are two major plot points: 1) that Mercy constantly finds herself in the body of a human, not knowing what she needs to do to be finally free and able to find the man she loves, Luc (or at least, she thinks she does) and 2) a girl had gone missing 2 years ago, and the girl’s brother is still out looking for her.

Both plot points intertwine, and at the same time, they feel completely independent of each other. The first is one that isn’t even close to resolution at the end of the book, whilst the second ends on a cheerful note. Both are executed quite well, in an engaging and exciting way. The story is the strongest part of the book, and it really shows and makes up for the writing.

This is a book that I really love, and I can’t wait to get my hands on the sequel, Exile, which comes out in early June, and the third book, Muse, which comes out late October. Isn’t that great? You won’t have to wait long for the next installment! This makes me giddy!

Cover Art: 4
Plot: 5
Characters: 3
Writing: 3
Level of Interest: 4

Total Rating: 4/5 stars


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Review: Wolfborn

May 12, 2011 at 1:02 pm (3 stars, Australian, review) (, , , , , , , , )

Wolfborn by Sue Bursztynski

ISBN: 9781864718256

Publisher: Woolshed Press

Date Released: December 1st, 2010

Genre: YA / paranormal / werewolves

Source: library

Premise:

Break the curse or howl forever.

Etienne, son of a lord in the kingdom of Armorique, goes to train as a knight with Geraint of Lucanne. Geraint is brave and kind, a good teacher and master – but he has a secret that he has kept from his family. He is bisclavret, a born werewolf. When Geraint is betrayed, Etienne must ally with the local wise-woman and her daughter, themselves bisclavret, to save his lord. But time is running out. If Geraint’s enemies have their way, Geraint will soon be trapped in his wolf form.

And Etienne has his own secret. The decisions he makes will change his life forever . . .

Inspired by a medieval romance, this engaging novel forces us to question everything we thought we knew about werewolves. (Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it from:  Amazon (Kindle Only)

So, it turns out that this book is based on an old tale. And I’m sure all you faithful readers (what little I have) know by now how much I lve retellings. This alone bumps up the score for this book, even before reading it.

First up, the writing. There are some awkwardly phrased sentences, for example:

“An older woman named Lise ran the kitchens efficiently, as she had to in a place with so many mouths to feed.” -pg 6

“The sky was a pale gold colour, like those gold was backgrounds the Notzrian [fictional religion] priests put into their illuminated holy manuscripts.” – pg 189.

The second half of the first sentence feels awkward and unnecessary. The second sentence made me go”what?” several times. I mean, it’s not like I actually know what colour they mean since I can hardly compare it. The entire book is filled with similar awkward lines like that, that may have needed another pair of eyes to read over.
I can’t say that I’m a fan of the writing. Awkward phrasing aside, the writing seems to lack any unique voice and sounds rather plain. Though, despite that, it was easy to read and didn’t drag on like I expected it to.

Another issue with the writing was that there were a lot of exclamation points. Far too many to have been allowed.

There was a lot of mention of these fictional countries, but it was hard to keep track of them without a map. They ended up feeling like random words that had little meaning. It made for a disappointing read.

Now, whilst the writing wasn’t Bursztynski’s strongest point, the story triumphed with the magnificent world-building and lore. I love love LOVED the werewolf lore that Bursztynski crafter, where a wolf can only return to human form with his own clothes, and that by removing their clothes, they remove their humanness and are able to transform. It was so unique, and I found it to be amazing.

The story is the strongest thing about this book, and it is  actually quite fantastic. The story is unlike anything I’ve ever read before. It has fairies, werewolves and magic, romance and political plots. Everything about the story was gripping, and I was up all night trying to finish the book. I literally couldn’t put it down because I just wanted to keep myself immersed within such a fantastical world.

Sadly, I can’t say the same about the characters. I felt very little voice and connection towards the narrator, Etienne, and his relationships witht the characters fell short. The romance between him and Jeanne did nothing for me, and it seemed fairly non-existant.

Oftentimes, Etienne would tell us something along the lines of “If I had known what would happen, I would have done this to prevent it.” For example, he says:

“If I had known then what would happen, I’d have lit a fire and cremated him!” – pg 117

Not only is it sloppy, it distracts the reader. I can understand that it’s a way to keep the reader hooked, sort of like a cliff-hanger, but it feels like a cheap shot. Readers should be hooked because of the story, characters or writing, not because of cliffhangers in the middle of each chapters.

If you want a good story, with a well-developed background and lore, then this is for you.

Cover Art: 4
Plot: 4
Characters: 2
Writing: 2
Level of Interest: 4

Total Rating: 3/5 stars

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Review: Delirium

May 11, 2011 at 12:45 pm (2 stars, review, Uncategorized) (, , , , , , , , )

Delirium by Lauren Oliver

Pages: 393, hardcover

ISBN: 9780340980910

Publisher: Hodder & Stoughton

Date Released: February 3rd, 2011

Genre: YA / dystopian / romance

Source: library

Premise:

Before scientists found the cure, people thought love was a good thing. They didn’t understand that one love -the deliria- blooms in your blood, there is no escaping its hold. Things are different now. Scientists are able to eradicate love, and the governments demands that all citizens receive the cure upon turning eighteen. Lena Holway has always looked forward to the day when she’ll be cured. A life without love is a life without pain: safe, measured, predictable, and happy.

But with ninety-five days left until her treatment, Lena does the unthinkable: She falls in love. (Taken from Goodreads)

Buy it from: The Book DepositoryAmazon

Dystopia is a hard genre to write in. Usually because it takes a topic and magnifies it, and in this case, the topic is love. So my question is: why the hell is love outlawed? Usually, dystopian only really works if the issue is a current issue that we’re facing, and dystopians explore what would happen in the future if the problem hasn’t been handled (for example: global warming [though I haven’t come across many dystopians that handle that]). Already, before picking the book up, I have problems with it. How had it gotten to the point where love could be considered a disease? For a dystopian, it sounds rather unbelievable.

On page 3, Oliver already managed to piss me off, though, I’m sure it was unintentional on her part. There is a passage that goes:

“Instead, people back then named other diseases–stress, heart disease, anxiety, depression, hypertension, insomnia, bipolar disorder–never realising that these were, in fact, only symptoms that in the majority of cases could be traced back to the effects of amour deliria nervosa [love].”

Now, as someone who suffers from 4 of the 7 things named above, I take offense to the idea that these are merely symptoms to something like love–something they tried to eradicate. And once these people are ‘cured’ of love, they are also cured of these ‘symptoms’. I find it really frustrating when people act that way towards mental problems like the ones mentioned. Their lack of understanding is the reason why there is this stigma towards mentally ill people.

I will have to admit that I loved how much like sheep the society acted like, and how determined Lena in to do well by her governments standards. I think that an important part of dystopians is the realisation–the epiphany that the main character has–that everything is a lie. In this book, it’s done fairly fantastical. In the beginning, Lena is just like the rest of society, but after things start turning awry, she starts questioning the rules. And that’s when shit hits the fan, and the moment that I cheered.

There are some innaccuracies in the story that could have easily been fixed with some simple research. For example, I don’t get how six months can make any difference in a procedure, especially when everyone is different. Technically speaking, some people might be physically matured enough to handle such a procedure from a younger age, and others when they’re in their 20’s. It seems as if Oliver just didn’t bother picking up any books on neurology and psychology. And unfortunately for her, one of my hobbies is reading those kind of text books for fun, so I’ve picked out all these mistakes.
Also, this baffles me: Lena’s father apparently died of cancer. So, they can cure a non-existent disease INSIDE YOUR BRAIN, but not cure cancer. It makes little sense.

I disliked Lena. She was so passive. She was worse than Bella Swan, and we all know what that girl is like. Lena just let people push her around, and she hardly did anything active, except for the last 100 or so pages, but even then, she’s only so active because of some guy.
I’m not sure how I feel about Lena and Hana’s friendship. On the one hand, they contrast each other in a way that it works; they’re dependent on each other’s strengths. Lena is so passive, and Hana is rebellious and strong and has a mind of her own. There were often times that I found myself wishing that Hana was the main character, because she wasn’t some weak pansy.

Lena also seems to be only capable of making stupid decisions, like trying to go to a secret house party to warn people that there’s a raid going on. She puts herself at great risk trying to do something that has a very unlikely chance of working, since the raiders were literally right behind her. If I were her, I’d have stayed at home, where it was safe. After all, everyone at the party knew the risks. They knew that there was a fairly good chance of getting caught, and they all knew that the punishments would be severe.
Then, at the party, she gets mauled by a dog. While she is profusely bleeding from her leg, all she can think about is how sexy Alex is without a shirt on, while she’s in a shed that smells of animal piss. In fact the entire time she’s with Alex after the raid, she doesn’t think about Hana, even though she was the main reason Lena went to the party. Instead of worrying for her best friend, she’s making out with some random guy.

I really liked the writing. It felt like one of the few good things about this story. Oliver really has a way with words. It made it hard to put the book down at times. Also, I liked the world-building, even though the reasons behind the world were unbelievable.The setting, the history and the people made the world feel realistic, and I wanted to know more.

For a while, the only thing that kept me fairly happy was that Romeo and Juliet wasn’t used in a positive “twu wuv” light like most other books that done. The society believed it to be a cautionary tale, which I could believe in that instance. But then Alex went and ruined that notion by claiming it to be a “great love story”, and I wanted to hit him with a heavy, blunt object several times over his thick noggin. It seems that anyone in publishing that refers to Romeo & Juliet seem to kind of totally miss the whole point of it. I mean, have they read the ending? They die.

For about 200 pages, nothing seems to happen. All we get from the narrator is 200 pages explaining why she loves Alex so much. She’s known him for a month of two. How can she love him? She barely knows him. I was hoping that Delirium wouldn’t follow that trope, but alas. As I expected, there’s the unhealthy viewpoint of love, that without love, you don’t have anything else and life isn’t worth living.

“I’d rather die loving Alex than live without him.” – pg 379

I don’t understand why this sort of stuff is allowed when books like The Bermudez Triangle (Maureen Johnson) are being banned for having a gay character. Gay people are harmless. Telling impressionable young teens that their lives are worthless if they don’t have their true love is dangerous.

Sorry for this rant-like review, but I didn’t like this book too much. I would recommend reading it, though, in case you do end up liking it. I’m just fairly critical.

Cover Art: 2
Plot: 2
Characters: 1
Writing: 3
Level of Interest: 3

Total Rating: 2/5 stars


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