Monday, November 29, 2010

The Maze Runner [Review]

Title: The Maze Runner by James Dashner
Series: Maze Runner #1
Genre: Science-Fiction
What They Say:
Imagine waking up one day in total darkness, unsure of where you are and unable to remember anything about yourself except your first name. You're in a bizarre place devoid of adults called the Glade. The Glade is an enclosed structure with a jail, a graveyard, a slaughterhouse, living quarters, and gardens. And no way out. Outside the Glade is the Maze, and every day some of the kids -- the Runners -- venture into the labyrinth, trying to map the ever-changing pattern of walls in an attempt to find an exit from this hellish place. So far, no one has figured it out. And not all of the Runners return from their daily exertions, victims of the maniacal Grievers, part animal, part mechanical killing machines.

Thomas is the newest arrival to the Glade in this Truman-meets-Lord of the Flies tale. A motley crew of half a dozen kids is all he has to guide him in this strange world. As soon as he arrives, unusual things begin to happen, and the others grow suspicious of him. Though the Maze seems somehow familiar to Thomas, he's unable to make sense of the place, despite his extraordinary abilities as a Runner. What is this place, and does Thomas hold the key to finding a way out?

What I Say: 
Again, this is one of those series that has been dancing around my periphery for a while, and I thought this short holiday week was the perfect time to delve into the odd-sounding book that is The Maze Runner. First off, dystopia = +5 cool points, but dystopia + amnesia + monsters + labyrinths + lots of running =

 Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Plot: wow
So one day, Thomas wakes up in the Glade, a community of about fifty boys on a farm. Only, he doesn't remember how he got there. Or who he is. And neither does anybody else. As Thomas begins to adapt to life in the Glade, he knows they must be there for a reason. He knows someone must have put them there. He knows there must be a way out of the labyrinth which surrounds the Glade on all sides, full of poisonous monsters and the Runners who navigate the Maze daily in hopes of finding an exit. He knows that the antidote changes the Runners somehow, maybe drives them crazy. That is, until a girl arrives in the lift with a message from the creators of the Maze: everything is about to change. Suddenly, Thomas has a bad feeling he might know more about the Maze than he thought he did. And he might not be the person he thinks he is...

I'd have to classify this story as half-adventure, half-horror. Thomas and the Gladers are put through more crazy, arbitrary, deadly trials than a sane person can handle, so I'm not surprised that some of them have totally lost it. I've never actually jumped while reading a book before, so hats off to James Dashner. His balance between humor and horror and pure genius is so precise and unstable it's pretty much radioactive. Gahh, this book was amazing. This review can't even start doing it justice. Gahh. I would say more, but all of the best parts are so very spoilery, so.

Characters: wow
Thomas is something I like to call awesome. He's pretty freakin' awesome. If I could leave alt-rock mixtapes in his mailbox or write him emo poetry, I would. Often. I can't put my finger on what exactly makes him so mind-bendingly amazing, but I can point out a few contributing factors. He has a pretty good handle on his snark. There are these great moments where you can tell Dashner just wanted to write Thomas was done putting up with this shit before reminding everyone what a major badass he is. Man, this book even made me like the name Thomas.

Newt. This books supports my theory that English people take snark classes in school. If this was the kind of book that needed comic relief (which it's so not), Newt would be a great example of how it's done. Oh man, he's great. Funny in a way that's mostly bitter and hurtful, because their situation is sooo bad. I can't imagine someone reading the book and not liking Newt.

Relationships: ooh
Thomas and Teresa - Intriiiiguing! I can't technically call this a relationship because there's never a clear Declaration of Like and she spends a good chunk of the book in a coma, but I mean come on. She's the only girl in the whole story, he's totally awesome, and they connect on so many levels. It's almost like he hears her voice in his head. Did I say that?

Special Features: ooh
After two years living apart from society, the Gladers have come up with their own slang! (I guess that had nothing else to do). I feel like this is always a risky move for YA authors. I mean, sometimes made-up slang really enhances the story, but sometimes it just doesn't. The Glader slang is weird and awkward at first, but it starts to grow on you. At the very least, it's charming stuff.

Parting Quotes: 
   Newt finally broke the silence. "Anyway, next up - figure out what we do with Tommy here." 
   Thomas perked up at that..."Do with me? What're you talking about?"
   Newt stood, stretched his arms. "Turned this whole place upside down, you bloody shank. Half the Gladers think you're God, the other half wanna throw your butt down the Box Hole. Lotta stuff to talk about."
 Nahh, Tom's like god's god.

Friday, November 26, 2010

The Line [Review]

Title: The Line by Teri Hall
Series: The Line #1
Genre: Science-Fiction
What They Say:
An invisible, uncrossable physical barrier encloses the Unified States. The Line is the part of the border that lopped off part of the country, dooming the inhabitants to an unknown fate when the enemy used a banned weapon. It's said that bizarre creatures and superhumans live on the other side, in Away. Nobody except tough old Ms. Moore would ever live next to the Line.

Nobody but Rachel and her mother, who went to live there after Rachel's dad died in the last war. It's a safe, quiet life. Until Rachel finds a mysterious recorded message that can only have come from Away. The voice is asking for help.

Who sent the message? Why is her mother so protective? And to what lengths is Rachel willing to go in order to do what she thinks is right?

What I Say:
Ohh, boy. Do I love me a good old dystopia. Kids fighting to the death in an arena? Bring it on. Pleasantville featuring Dr. Kevorkian? Yes please. Delinquent teens being harvested for parts? Gimme gimme. Teri Hall's debut novel takes us to the future-US, which is uhhh missing a few states, let's just say. That said...

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Plot: wow
Rachel lives with her mother (Vivian) on The Property, one of the few nice places to live in the US today. Away from the cities and the harsh and unpredictable government, Rachel enjoys a quiet existence where others never visit: right by the Line. The Line is the last section of a protective boundary surrounding the country, meant to protect it from attack or invasion in the last war. Only, when threats came in about a possible attack, they really had to hurry on that boundary! So some Einstein thought, Hey, let's just draw a line and connect the starting point with what we have so far. Who cares if the northwest corner of the country will end up on the outside? Not me! Somebody okayed this brilliant idea, and the boundary was finished along the Line. Then the enemy bombed the shit out of the US, but it was okay because the boundary protected everyone! Except...oh right, all those people left Away on the other side...Whoops! And it gets better (or worse)! After the public response to that little snafu, the government decided to just throw out the Bill of Rights. Cause who needs that, right? Back to Rachel: her life continues to be quiet and dull until one day she gets a message in the stream by her house. Whoever sent it needs help. But the stream comes from Away, and nobody lives there...right? Well, spending time near the Line shouldn't be a problem, right? Well, it is, because paranoid Vivian has started to get even more paranoid lately, and why are they living in the middle of nowhere anyway? Vivian isn't hiding some dark, mysterious past or anything. (Spoiler: she is).

Ahh, the joys of dystopia. The more the government sucks, the deeper I'm sucked into the story. I mean, you're running low on time and cash, so you let a million people die? Damn, US, you scary! While this book was noticeably short, Hall provides the reader with a peek into a future so effed up (and an ending so abrupt) that I imagine many people will be waiting up for the sequel next year. This storyline could have gotten this book an easy three-star rating, if it weren't for the rest of this review...

Characters: meh
Heh. Well. I was so into the story and the mystery and stuff, that I made a lot of excuses for the characters as I read. Life is so hard for our main characters that they don't have time to cultivate personalities. Or, like, smile ever. So no, there was virtually no snark or the like in this book. Now that's a sign of a world gone bad.

Relationships: --
There, uhhh, weren't any in this book. I didn't want to give this section an 'ugh', because there will be some in the next book (Hall set it up bigtime). On closer inspection, this books was missing a lot of key book elements. It was so short, too. Surely, she could have spent twenty-or-so pages fleshing things out more. Hm...

Special Features: ooh
It's the future. Apparently a future where Kindles has made real books obsolete, you have to register a username on every website (Can you imagine? I can hardly stand making up usernames and passwords with letters, numbers, and symbols on some sites. Imagine having to log in to use Wikipedia. Oh, the horror!), and yet people still use those dorky handheld voice recorders most often seen on the desks of grade-grubbers in college lecture halls. Never said it was a pretty future.

Parting Quotes:
"That's your mom, right?" Pathik smiled. "She looks nicer than she did when she was dragging you away the other night."   
There was apparently a snark famine in the future, and by the time there were enough cocky jerkasses to resume snarking, they were all too tired and oppressed to bother trying. Very sad story.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Crescendo [Review]

Title: Crescendo by Becca Fitzpatrick
Series: Hush, Hush #2
Genre: Urban Fantasy
What They Say:

Nora should have known her life was far from perfect. Despite starting a relationship with her guardian angel, Patch, and surviving an attempt on her life, things are not looking up. Patch is starting to pull away and Nora can't figure out if it's for her best interest or if his interest has shifted to her arch-enemy Marcie Millar. Not to mention that Nora is haunted by images of her father and she becomes obsessed with finding out what really happened to him that night he left for Portland and never came home. Relying too heavily on the fact that she has a guardian angel puts Nora at risk again and again. But can she really count on Patch or is he hiding secrets darker than she can even imagine?

What I Say:
Despite my early skepticism about yet another girl-falls-for-supernatural-stalker series, Hush, Hush was a lovely escape from the norm: mixing cringe-worthy cliché with fresh new plot devices and a mysterious badass who is actually a little bit badass. Knowing what I was getting into with the second book, I was pleased to see Fitzpatrick's Fiction Formula has not changed. That said:
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Plot: wow
So Nora and Patch should be hamming it up now that they're all together and stuff, but noo. In the face of some minor obstacles, their Like fizzles, and Nora spends a good fifty pages in a jealous huff while crawling out of peoples' windows and touching their stuff. (I'm guessing Patch gave her stalking lessons sometime before their breakup). Meanwhile, best-friend-Vee is suddenly dating Patch's best friend Rixon, who is Irish, even though that point was only mentioned once in the first book and was completely ignored thereafter. Mean-meanwhile, there's a new guy in town (Scott). A childhood friend-turned-bad-boy-and-possible-love-interest, Nora could be getting herself into trouble with this one! So, after the first hundred pages of plot-setting, Nora must sit down and solve the following mysteries: Why are Patch and Marcie spending so much time together? Why does Marcie hate her so much? What's up with Scott's mysterious past? Who is the Black Hand and why did he kill her father? Why does she keep seeing her father's ghost (Yeah...)? What's up with her mom and why has she been parked in a certain someone's father's driveway? (Lots of mystery, as per usual). If Nora doesn't watch out, she might find herself in grave danger! ...again.

The thing about the Becca Fitzpatrick Fiction Formula is: at first, I hate it. The first hundred pages of Hush, Hush made me cringe, and this one was no different, but somehow Fitzpatrick always manages to pull a sixth- and eleventh-hour plot twist that throws me in such a way that I am actually forced to keep reading. She has also proven herself to be an author who can be trusted to set up a helluva lot of mystery and solve it by the last page. Assuming her Formula doesn't change anytime soon, I'll be willing to trudge through the first hundred pages of the next book, no matter how predictable or tedious it may seem. Though, if Nora wakes up pregnant with a demon baby, I'll drop it off a bridge.

Characters: ooh
It's good to see that Nora's hasn't changed too much from the first book. Well, maybe good isn't the right word, but you know what I mean. She's still easily-offended and kind of neurotic, but I must say I'm impressed with how steady on her feet she is. I mean, sure she and Patch split and sure it's because she's too proud and jealous, but at least she's doing the dumping and she's standing up for her full-disclosure rights as a girlfriend, dammit! And she didn't even have to slap him like a certain kind of waify-damsel I hate...

I was very sad to see how Patch loses all his snark in this book. I guess once he's convinced Nora of his greatness, he doesn't think he needs it anymore. But I needed it. His snark is one of his few redeeming qualities! Again, I noticed how he also has stayed much the same throughout this series. Gasp! you may say. But character development is key to a good novel! While I agree that static characters are mostly boring, I also think (what? More than one opinion?) that it's unrealistic for a character's personality to drastically change just because they fall in Like or gain some Special New Powers. In real life, you are who you are no matter how much you grow up or fall in love. Shouldn't it be the same in literature?

I was so proud of Vee if only for the sole reason that she doesn't need to be saved at the end. What? A silly, funny character not getting into dumb shenanigans all the time? Oh Fitzpatrick, you revolutionary, you. In fact, Vee seems to become Nora's conscience in this book, trying to talk her out of the crazy, jealousy-driven stunts she plans. Whoa! A previously-daffy character can mature over time into a reliable friend with a moral compass? Yeah, so proud of Vee.

Relationships: ooh
Nora and Patch - Like many a second book in a series, these two are split up through most of it. While I know I was supposed to take Nora's side in this one, I couldn't help but favor Patch. I mean, let's face it: Patch is a player, and Nora should have taken that fact into account before pointing her jealous fingers all over the place.

Special Features: wow
The first books focused on Patch and the angels; this one sheds a certain light on the Nephilim (who are half-human, half-angel) and their descendents. They're kind of peeved about being possessed by angels two weeks each year, and are getting ready to fight back. (Who knew?) Sure, the Nephilim are techinically the villains of this series, but it's interesting when your villain sort of has a point. Hard to side with the good guys when you can't tell if there even are any.

Parting Quotes:
Patch leaned back against the booth and arched his eyebrows at me. The gesture said it all: Pay up.
“You got lucky,” I said.
“I’m about to
get lucky."
Why can't Patch maintain this level of snark at all times?

Friday, November 19, 2010

Girl Parts [Review]

Title: Girl Parts by John Cusick
Genre: Contemporary Fiction/Science-Fiction
What They Say:

What happens when a robot designed to be a boy’s ideal “companion” develops a will of her own? A compulsively readable novel from a new talent.
David and Charlie are opposites. David has a million friends, online and off. Charlie is a soulful outsider, off the grid completely. But neither feels close to anybody. When David’s parents present him with a hot Companion bot designed to encourage healthy bonds and treat his “dissociative disorder,” he can’t get enough of luscious redheaded Rose — and he can’t get it soon. Companions come with strict intimacy protocols, and whenever he tries anything, David gets an electric shock. Parted from the boy she was built to love, Rose turns to Charlie, who finds he can open up, knowing Rose isn’t real. With Charlie’s help, the ideal “companion” is about to become her own best friend.

What I Say:
I've had my eye out for Girl Parts since summer, so I was pretty psyched to pick it up once it rolled into the library. Despite the intriguing premise, I was reasonably underwhelmed by this one. I mean, a story about robots should be interesting, right? That said...

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Plot: ooh
So these two boys go to the same Catholic school, but are in completely different socials groups. David is the rich, popular playboy whose parents think he's disassociated because he watched one of his classmates commit suicide on the internet and hardly batted an eyelid. Charlie is the nature-loving outcast who doesn't want friends - at least, not friends like David. David thinks he's hit the jackpot when his parents buy him a female robot to teach him to form connections, but he gets a shock whenever he tries to make a move on her. One of these days, however, he is determined to get to those girl parts.

This story had a lot of promise, but while it had some mild highlights, it was a good 95% boring. Reading about a priveleged kid with no real problems and a less-priveleged kid with no real problems can only fascinate me for so long. Especially when not one of the characters has any handle on wit or snark. I mean, there was wannabe-snark, but YA is just a mess without the real thing. Real life is about zingers and sarcasm! Ha.

Characters: meh
David was so thoroughly the jerk-who-sort-of-grows-feelings. Cusick really stuck to his clichés in this book. I guess it was nice that he didn't make some magical Jerkass-to-Gentleman transformation at the end, but at least then the story would have had a point...

Charlie was...oh, sorry, I just fell asleep. Rule #1 to Being An Outsider: one must be intriguing and/or mysterious at all times. Charlie definitely broke that rule. How can he look down on all the rich kids when he's just as dull as they are? Other clichés perpetuated: boy is nobody, boy can't talk to girls, boy somehow gets above-average girl anyway. Oh, John, why?

Relationships: meh
David and Rose - Boohoo, my killer 16-year-old charm isn't getting me some, sooo I'm going to be a jerk and throw out the girlfriend my daddy had to buy for me. My life is sooo hard. Boohoo, I'm a Japanese robot who has apparently been programmed to worship this 16-year-old boy That's not weird at all...

Charlie and Rose - Yay, I just got my first kiss. Who cares if it's with a malfunctioning Japanese robot? I laugh at those dumb rich kids whose parents buy them sex dolls, but it's actually totally normal! (Sigh.)

Special Features: ooh
Well, despite the fact that the robot in this story was pretty dull, it was an interesting angle to take. A main love interest who isn't technically real? A for effort on the idea, Cusick. I see where you were trying to go with that.

Parting Quotes:
I tried realllly hard to find a cute/interesting/snarky quote from this book but I simply couldn't. Though perhaps I'll find one on the re-read and add it later.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

The Boyfriend List [Review]

Title: The Boyfriend List by E. Lockhart
Series: Ruby Oliver, #1
Genre: Contemporary Fiction
What They Say:
Ruby Oliver is 15 and has a shrink. She knows it’s unusual, but give her a break—she’s had a rough 10 days. In the past 10 days she:
lost her boyfriend (#13 on the list),
lost her best friend (Kim),
lost all her other friends (Nora, Cricket),
did something suspicious with a boy (#10),
did something advanced with a boy (#15),
had an argument with a boy (#14),
drank her first beer (someone handed it to her),
got caught by her mom (ag!),
had a panic attack (scary),
lost a lacrosse game (she’s the goalie),
failed a math test (she’ll make it up),
hurt Meghan’s feelings (even though they aren’t really friends),
became a social outcast (no one to sit with at lunch)
and had graffiti written about her in the girls’ bathroom (who knows what was in the boys’!?!).

But don’t worry—Ruby lives to tell the tale. And make more lists.

What I Say:
I have been wanting to start reading this series ever since I finished The Disreputable History of Frankie Landau-Banks and decided that E. Lockhart is kind of umm awesome. This book has houseboats, misadventures, and overpriveleged prep-school kids. That said:

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Plot: ooh
So yeah, Ruby Oliver has a shrink. A shrink who asks her to write a list of all the boys in her life. It's fifteen boys long - which, yeah, makes her look like a slut - but it's not like that! Some of these are boys who she only ever talked to, some are boys she just watched from afar and (well, that's not making it look much better, is it?) Talking through the Boyfriend List is supposed to be helping Roo get to the source of her recent panic attacks in the wake of being dumped by her boyfriend, who then took up with her best friend, but this List just seems to be making things worse! The lives of teenage girls are so complicated and embarrassing!

I'll admit, that's not a very good synopsis of this book, haha. It's hard to summarize, mainly because the book is linear is some ways and cyclical in others. The linear story is about Ruby's sessions with her shrink, but each boy gets his own story within that story, and sometimes there's another story that's not exactly related to one of the boys, but finds its way in there too. (Phew.) Despite how hard it is to sum up in 5-10 sentences, I greatly appreciated the way Lockhart told this story. While I've liked how teenagers are genuinely portrayed in some of my other reviews, I was especially impressed by how genuine Ruby's voice is for a teenager and a human being. It starts on one subject, then peters out into stream of consciousness, then refocuses around some new plot point, adding side-commentary in the form of sporadic footnotes, and sometimes forgets about the original subject altogether. Ruby's narrative is one of the few I've read that truly gives me the feeling of seeing into someone's mind.

Characters: ooh
Despite (or perhaps because of) the fact that I liked Ruby so much, the other characters ranged from blah-to obnoxious in comparison. Except Ruby's sort-of-friend Noel, but he's only in there 20 pages tops. Ruby is funny, at times immature, but also capable of self-reflection and admission of (but not angsting over) her flaws. Her friends seem silly and shallow, her boyfriend is only very cool sometimes, and her parents need shrinks more than she does. Oh wait! No wonder I felt that way about all the other characters? That was the author's intention? (And this, dear reader, is why E. Lockhart is so great.)

Realtionships: ooh
Ruby and Jackson -  For all those boys on her list, Jackson is the only real boyfriend out of the bunch. Because this relationship is over from page one, and it's all told in flashback, I didn't get my hopes up for a quickie get-back-together on the last page (though Ruby certainly did). Lockhart teaches the reader a lesson in disillusionment through Ruby, who thinks Jackson hung the moon even after he dumps her, only to slowly begin to see his faults and finally discover the truth about what kind of guy he is. Buuut, because this is a series, I can't totally write these two off.

Ruby and Noel - So, Noel is the boy in Ruby's art class who is sort of amazing in general. I'm crossing my fingers for these two in the next books, even though there's been like zero foreshadowing on that, and I'm probably just being silly. He's sooo cool, though.

Special Features: ooh
Other than Gail Giles's Right Behind You, this is the only book I've read told mostly through the protag's sessions with a shrink. There's something different about a book in which the audience has been replaced by a single person, or idea of a person. I wonder if the rest of the series will stick with this format or switch it up. We shall see.

Parting Quotes:
I got a lecture about behavior and how if we wanted boys to be gentlemen we should act like ladies, which was idiotic because we didn't want the boys to be gentlemen. We wanted them to think we were pretty and ask us to dance and hold our hands and maybe kiss us in the corner and then send us clever instant messages.
Ruby Oliver: just like you!

Sunday, November 7, 2010

The Lost Hero [Review]

Title: The Lost Hero by Rick Riordan
Series: Heroes of Olympus, #1
Genre: Fantasy
What They Say: 

Jason has a problem. He doesn’t remember anything before waking up in a bus full of kids on a field trip. Apparently he has a girlfriend named Piper and a best friend named Leo. They’re all students at a boarding school for “bad kids.” What did Jason do to end up here? And where is here, exactly?

Piper has a secret. Her father has been missing for three days, ever since she had that terrifying nightmare. Piper doesn’t understand her dream, or why her boyfriend suddenly doesn’t recognize her. When a freak storm hits, unleashing strange creatures and whisking her, Jason, and Leo away to someplace called Camp Half-Blood, she has a feeling she’s going to find out.

Leo has a way with tools. When he sees his cabin at Camp Half-Blood, filled with power tools and machine parts, he feels right at home. But there’s weird stuff, too—like the curse everyone keeps talking about. Weirdest of all, his bunkmates insist that each of them—including Leo—is related to a god. 

What I Say:
Okay, so. Not-so-secret: I love love loved the Percy Jackson series. Oh boy, where to start? When I was in the 9-12 age-range, there were never any good books to read (I mean, sure there was Harry Potter, but even that got old to me), so I’m extremely impressed by Rick Riordan, who came out with a kids’ book series that 1) promotes childhood awesomeness 2) teaches culture-deprived American kids about Greek Mythology, and 3) transcends age-groups and reading levels with its mind-bending awesomeness. I’m completely serious, if you haven’t picked up the Percy Jackson series, go do it right now. Anyway, The Lost Hero is the first book in Riordan’s new series, set in the same world as the first. It’s got blond amnesiacs, neurotic weathermen, and may induce vertigo. That said…

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Plot: wow
(So, first off, if you've never even heard of Percy Jackson, you probably won't might not understand any of this. That's cool. Read about it anyway, haha.) Meet Jason. He's kind of like Jason Bourne in that he just woke up on a bus and has no idea who he is, he's in constant danger, and he's a bit of a badass. He's unlike Jason Bourne in pretty much every other way. So, he's on this bus on a field trip at a school he's never heard of with two best friends (Piper and Leo) he's never met. Suddenly, they're being attacked by mythical creatures and their gym coach is a satyr and - weirdest of all - Jason kind of understands this stuff, despite having absolutely no memories. The three are quickly taken to Camp Half-Blood, where demigod children spend their summers. Yeah, one of each of their parents is a Greek god. And again, somehow Jason knows something about all this. When a goddess goes missing and dark stuff starts stirring up again, the three are sent off on a quest to save her, at possibly great personal cost. Great cost like their lives. And that's just the beginning.

Among Rick Riordan's many talents is his knack for telling a story. Some authors have this thing where they try to have at least one interesting point on each page, to hold attention. Well, on average, there are at least three interesting points on each page of The Lost Hero. Especially if you know a little Greek/Roman mythology on the side. Ooh, did I say Roman? Why would I say that...? (You'll see, tee-hee.) Like always when reading a series, I can't pass too strong judgment on the plot because I don't know what's going to happen next. But book one sets you up so throughly for book two that I can't believe it's a year until the next one comes out. So not to spoiler all over the place (I'm getting better at this!) these kids come close to death at least twice as often as Percy and Annabeth ever did. But maybe that's because of their modes of transportation...

Characters: wow
Now I like a mysterious badass. It takes a lot of skill, though, to toe the line between intriguing and Oh my god, you have so many secrets! I don't even care anymore! Luckily, Jason is intriguing without being a headache, which may be attributed to the fact that, with the rotating point-of-views, we get to see inside his head every once in a while. He's lighter on the snark than Percy, and he has to be saved a lot more. I'm waiting on the next book to see his inner badass finally unleashed, as I'm sure it will.

Piper. While I very quickly tired of her Noo, I have to betray my friends! angst, there is something oddly gratifying about girls defying gender-norms. And I haven't seen a character called Piper since Charmed went off the air. So kudos.

Oh Leo. The Brock of this series. And the Ron Weasley. Crazy for girls when girls never even notice him. Shadowed by the general greatness of his best friend (which I'm glad was lampshaded early on so it won't be a pesky plot device later). Also - and come on, this isn't really a spoiler - fire powers are awesome, but always such a source of angst. Except, I guess, for the human torch guy from Fantastic Four. Broken homes are also sources of angst. And dead parents. Yeah, lots of angst.

Relationships: ooh
Jason and Piper - A note about Rick Riordan: he is all about the teasing and not about the pleasing,and he is also all about the boys-can't-be-cool-when-talking-to-girls-no-matter-how-badass-they-are thing. So do we get a Jason-Piper kiss? Or even a Jason-Piper confession of True Like? Child, this is only book one, so of course not! But stay tuned, because if this series follows Percy Jackson's love schedule, we should be seeing some awkward hand-holding by at least book three.

Special Features: WHOA.
So, as I mentioned earlier. Both the Percy Jackson and the Heroes of Olympus series focus on Greek mythology. In my twelve years of education, my classes taught Greek mythology for a week in second grade and a week in eighth when we read The Odyssey in English class. So these books, while being thoroughly entertaining, also taught me quite a lot about it. I feel all warm and fuzzy thinking of all the kids who are getting to learn this stuff through Riordan's books, so yeah. 'WHOA' is right.

Parting Quotes:

“It’s too dangerous,” Jason said. “You shouldn’t go by yourself.”
“Ah, I got duct tape and breath mints. I’ll be fine," said Leo.
The thing about these books is: I could quote, like, every other sentence.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Swoon [Review]

Title: Swoon by Nina Malkin
Series: Swoon, #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
What They Say:
Torn from her native New York City and dumped in the land of cookie-cutter preps, Candice is resigned to accept her posh, dull fate. Nothing ever happens in Swoon, Connecticut...until Dice's perfect, privileged cousin Penelope nearly dies in a fall from an old tree, and her spirit intertwines with that of a ghost. His name? Sinclair Youngblood Powers. His mission? Revenge. And while Pen is oblivious to the possession, Dice is all too aware of Sin. She's intensely drawn to him -- but not at all crazy about the havoc he's wreaking. Determined to exorcise the demon, Dice accidentally sets Sin loose, gives him flesh, makes him formidable. Now she must destroy an even more potent -- and irresistible -- adversary, before the whole town succumbs to Sin's will. Only trouble is, she's in love with him.
What I Say:
I was drawn to this book because of the idea of someone falling in love with the person possessing someone else’s body. Especially when it’s their cousin’s body. Risqué! That said…

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Plot: ooh
So Dice has lived in the town of Swoon, CT, for a good six months, and she’s just starting to fit into suburban life with her popular cousin (Pen) when said cousin falls out of a tree from a bunch feet up. Pen should be dead, but she walks away without a scratch. Except now she’s acting a little odd. And a lot slutty. It doesn’t take long for Dice to realize that someone’s ghost is inhabiting her body (because she’s psychic, forgot to mention…) But not just any ghost, the ultra-sexy ghost of a man hanged in the 1760s for a murder he didn’t commit. So now that he’s back, he’s going to get revenge on the descendents of those who wronged him all those years ago. Well, first he’s going to fool around with the young girls of Swoon, then he’ll get revenge…

As far as the story, despite the dull parts, I was definitely pleased. It maintained a certain tone of apathy throughout, in Dice’s lack of real sympathy or pity for the residents of Swoon as Sin effs things up exacts his revenge on the town. This could be a sign of a weak and slightly heartless protag (though she does care sometimes!), but I liked it. It’s edgy in a good way (some good plot twists, fresh narrative, etc.) for the most part, but then it’s also edgy in a forced, awkward way. Imagine, if you will, a porky 14-year-old girl in a miniskirt and hooker heels trying to look sexy but just looking sad and. Yeahhh, Swoon goes there.

Characters: ooh
First of all, Dice is a great nickname. Second of all, aside from how Dice is given the inner thoughts of an English teacher (you know: flowery language and all that), she’s a pretty genuine teenager. In that I-didn’t-want-to-shoot-her kind of way. Hardly a Mary Sue, but not a jerkass either. She’s a teensy bit melodramatic, but what girl isn’t? (Yay for sweeping generalizations!) Also, she’s a New Yorker, so cool points.

The best friend aka supporting character is supposed to drive the story at least a little bit. Besides auditioning for the girl on the Girls Gone Wild DVD cover, Pen doesn’t do much for the plot. I heard this might be a series, so I’m keeping my fingers crossed for some character development later on?

Relationships: ooh
Dice and Sin - If it weren’t for the revenge thing and the sleeping around thing and the killing people thing and the lack of redeeming qualities thing, I’d totally understand why these two are together. I mean, sometimes I get it, like Ooh, he’s mysterious and funny in an eighteenth century kind of way. But then it’s like, what…? Sin earns a few points near the end of the book, but for the most part he’s just lucky he’s got a way with words.

Special Features: ooh
So, like most cliquey teens in small towns, the youth of Swoon all go by one-syllable nicknames (Candice becomes Dice, Penelope is Pen, etc). And even though I found them to be really annoying at first, they actually added something special to the story. The little nicknames gave even the rigid, snobby, rich kids a teeny bit of personality, which fleshed them out a bit. Good move, Malkin.

Parting Quotes:

In my head, I screamed at her Not without an army of ninjas am I letting you into my house. Out loud I managed, “Oh…sorry…can’t…” before darting from the car and through the front door of 12 Daisy Lane. Which I locked. Resoundingly.
 Ahh, this book reads like running water.