Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Super Summer Reads - Part 3: Fire by Kristin Cashore

Just the facts:

Overall: 5 Stars

Addiction Level: I used the lazy man’s way to fish, also known as throw a line and wait, so I could read non-stop. (The fish weren’t biting anyway.)

Believe-ability: I daydream about the created world and wonder how I fit in.

Dystopia Factor: Dystopia? This is a utopia, baby!


   As Kara posted earlier, there’s something wonderful about a book that can stand on its own, especially when that book is in a series. Luckily Kristin Cashore, author of Graceling, Fire, and Bitterblue, has conquered this feat of the literary world. Not only does she know how to write a great stand alone novel, but she connects her books as companion novels. This for us readers means a continuation of the story world we love, without the confines of a series. Yay for us! If you loved Graceling, then surely you will love Fire.

   I had been putting off reading Fire because I knew it included King Leck, one of the most skin-crawling villains ever, and his atrocities kept me from wanting to enter another story that included him. (Read the prologue of Fire and you’ll know what I mean). After starting it numerous times and then quitting I finally decided to be an adult and take the book with me on my fishing trip (I get a lot of reading done on these trips). Once I got past the prologue I couldn’t put it down. I found myself sucked in, just as Graceling had done, and I wasn’t about to let go.

   Even though I’m dying to write a ton about Fire, I’m not going to because I would be inclined to give away too many spoilers. What I will say is that depending on what side of the fence you were on with Graceling (Rebecca’s and my arguments can be found here) you’re likely to find yourself on that same side in Fire. Yes, Cashore allows her female characters to have much freedom in their sexual lives and relationship choices, but the sheer awesomeness of these characters means that I could care less. (By the way, I think Cashore is, by far, the best at writing these scenes because she writes them so tactfully). Unlike other YA heroines, her characters are strong and brave and smart. They are not little girls who don’t know how to handle themselves. Fire is gruesome and horrific at times, which regardless of my discomfort, makes the story what it is. I have long said that things shouldn’t be perfect in a book and even the most loved characters need to die. Trust me, Cashore delivers.

   Cashore fully understands what it means to write a great book. Although she’s no glamorous or media popular author, she is definitely one of my favorites. I can’t wait to read Bitterblue and look forward to whatever else she might have up her sleeve.

   A five star book from me is a sure recommendation! (I’m even re-reading Graceling and thinking about modifying that review to five stars).

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Compliance is Overrated: Article 5 by Kristen Simmons

Just the facts:

Overall: 3 Stars

Addiction Level: I ignored the hubby and puppies until I finished the book. (After my initial reading of the first chapter and putting it down for a couple of weeks.)

Believe-ability: It was believable.

Dystopia Factor: The world is starting to disintegrate.


     I think I need to begin this review by stating that this is one of the books that I waited and waited for the release date. Then I waited some more for the library to get it (I’ve been trying not to buy so many books lately). Then I waited while others got to read it and my name moved up on the reserved list. Finally, I had the book in my hands and didn’t feel like starting it. When I did, I read the first chapter and then put it down. Eventually, I did finish it – in a matter of an afternoon.

     In Article 5, seventeen year old Ember is sent to a reformatory school after her mother is arrested for violating Article 5 of the moral statues. Unfortunately, one of the arresting officers is her biggest crush, Chase Jennings. Ember then vows to escape to find her mother and protect her, all the while fighting her conflicting feelings for the boy she thought she knew.

     Obviously, I was disappointed by Article 5 – in more ways than one. First and foremost, it felt like an attack on conservative values and beliefs. Something along the lines of “Watch out for those Republicans, they’ll take over the country and send all your kids to Christian school! They’re monsters and can’t be trusted!” (Yes, that was said in my most ridiculous mock-horror voice). Eventually, Simmons starts to ease off the preaching, which is probably one of the only ways I was able to finish.

     The second aspect to really grind my gears was Ember herself. For being seventeen, the supposedly responsible person in her household, and living in a country where kids suddenly disappear from school, Ember is utterly clueless or naïve – I’m not sure which. Throughout the book, she fails to use whatever brains she might have. And that’s before adding a boy to the situation! Pretty soon she’s talking to Chase in some absurd girl language and plotting to run away from the one person that has genuinely helped her.

     Lastly, the world just isn’t real enough. Aspects of the story that should have been more troubling and hard for Ember to get through were not. Without spoiling the specifics, part of the end is just ridiculous and I didn’t, even for a second, think things could really go down that way. Eventually, Simmons throws a little resistance group in at the end, but even that feels like an after thought.

     If you’re into romance (and even that part of the story wasn’t great), are pretty easy going, and don’t usually have high expectations for books - then, be my guest. If, however, you’re a hard core dystopian fan like myself and expect your books to deliver – you probably should pass.

Can’t Wait Books of 2012 Completed: 3/5

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

A Sad Day in Space: A Million Suns by Beth Revis

Just the facts:

Overall: 3 Stars

Addiction Level: I ignored the hubby and puppies until I finished the book.

Believe-ability: It was believable.

Dystopia Factor: The world has been turned upside down and all hope is lost.


   At long last, my review for A Million Suns! (Sorry it took so long!).

   A Million Suns picks up right where Across the Universe left off. Elder is in control of Godspeed, phydus is no longer in use, and the ship is losing steam as it’s headed for Centauri-Earth. Unfortunately, because people can finally think for themselves, chaos starts to break out and Elder needs to step up to be their leader. More people are dying and Amy stumbles on a new set of clues, left by none other than Orion (dun, dun, dun!). Revis keeps the tone of the book similar to Across the Universe and the murder-mystery-set-in-space plot is more of the same.

   As far as the dystopian world goes, there isn’t much to go on. A few elements are there – population control, lack of parental guidance, and a controlling government, but the book keeps a neat package without pushing the reader beyond the point of comfort. The characters seem to lack growth and the plot twists fail to impress. Overall, A Million Suns is completely forgettable, which makes me very sad. It seems to be a book that bridges the beginning and end of the story but does little for the middle. I hope that Shades of Earth can redeem the series.

Can’t Wait Books of 2012 Completed: 2/5

Saturday, June 9, 2012

I'm in the club!

I am excited to join the authors here at Apocalypse Reads! Thanks for the invite, friends! Like Rebecca & Esso, I'm an avid reader of young adult novels. My interest in dystopia, however, waxes and wanes. (Currently, I'm in an intense urban fantasy phase...) I don't want to deviate too much from their vision for the blog, so I'll probably add commentary that might be categorized as ancillary thoughts. ;-0

Here's my first one...

When the District 13 Book Club met last night to discuss Insurgent, I decided to (try to) hang back during the discussion since I hadn't *loved* the book. (Of course, in a discussion of books, my intent often gets shoved aside by excitement about the conversation.) After we were well tucked-in to our tasty meals, the conversation turned to the book. I had only read the book once, the day it was released, and honestly haven't had the inclination to revisit it since. There are many reasons for my detachment (including the recurring theme of Tris' grief, which hits perhaps too close to home for me right now), but the one I discovered during our conversation was that I really (really, really, really) think that books in a series should be able to stand on their own. I believe that a reader should be able to pick up any book in the series and experience not have to guess at plot and/or character development. Unfortunately, for me, Insurgent lacked stand-alone-ness, and therefore wasn't interesting to me in-and-of-itself.

I stand by my initial review of Divergent, even though I revised it several times. I was immersed in the storyworld (which seems to be a very big deal for me these days); I accepted the characters' actions as plausible within the world... Not so for Insurgent. Honestly, this second book felt incomplete and--dare I invite accusations of heresy from the true believers?--unnecessary. I would have been perfectly content at the end of Divergent to be left to my own imaginings about what happens next. A good story leaves me wanting more. Even better, a great story invites me to imagine more. At the end of Insurgent, I didn't really care what happened next. I'll read the third (of course), and even have a prediction of what it will be titled, which we carefully documented at D13BC, in case I'm right. But this is not a book that stuck with me, and that's too bad. 

Friday, June 8, 2012

Ready for Summer 2012

Is it possible to still feel exhausted after a week and a half of summer vacation?  Yup!  I don’t know about all you teachers out there, but I am utterly exhausted!  Part of me thinks it is because I have had some health issues this year; the other part of me remembers being tired last year.  The only thing I don’t remember is when I stopped being exhausted.  I digress…
We are looking to expand our readership and are working on a Facebook page.  Currently it is not very glamorous, but come on over and take a look.  The Suggestion Box is open. 
In addition to setting up our page, Ember and I have our to-do lists.  What is on your summer to-do list?

My summer to-do list:
·         Recover from a long school year, aka rest aka read lots and sleep
·         Read
·         Nap
·         Work part-time
·         Hang out with Ember more
·         School stuff: lesson plan, common core standards, etc.

Ember’s to-do list:
·         Walk everyday
·         Play everyday
·         Play ball everyday
·         Go to the dog park everyday
·         Be loved everyday
·         Give lots of kisses everyday

Friday, June 1, 2012

Character Development: Singing the Dogstar Blues by Alison Goodman

Just the Facts:
Overall Rating:  3 stars
Addiction Level:  I read it every waking moment.
Believe-ability:  The setting was believable.
I picked up Singing the Dogstar Blues, because I loved Eon and Eona.  I was also intrigued by the possibility of time travel like Hourglass.  More good literature by an author I enjoy.  What is not to love?
I won’t say I was disappointed, because I wasn’t.  I just wasn’t enthralled as I had hoped to be.  With that being said, I enjoyed Goodman’s character development of Joss and Mavkel.  They were real, believable characters whom I wanted to see more of.
Joss, a petri-dish kid (comp), and Mavkel, a Chorian alien, are paired up as partners in the time travel program at the University of Australia.  As the audience gets to know them, they get to know each other.  Joss and Mavkel both search for meaning:  Joss in her rich-kid-nearly-abandoned-by-parent life and Mavkel in his my-birth-pair-died-and-I-am-alone life.  They develop a true friendship and work on overcoming diversity.
I think what I enjoyed the most was Goodman’s short story “The Real Thing” added as supplement to the back of the book.  I already knew Joss and Mavkel, so I was prepared for an adventure.  Joss goes on a first date with a cute guy, and Mavkel wants to tag along.  Creepy?  Not really if you know Mavkel.