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Thursday, August 28, 2014

Unforgotten

by Jessica Brody

     This is the second book in the Unremembered trilogy, although I have not read the first one.  I still felt like I knew what was going on, though, and Unforgotten stands pretty well on its own.  It started out strongly, with Seraphina and Zen living in 1609.  Due to a technological advancement in the nearish future, both Seraphina and Zen have a gene that allows them to travel through time.  Seraphina was created by a company called Diotech, so she has enhanced physical abilities.  In the previous book, she had escaped from Diotech, and they now desperately want her back, so she is careful not leave any trace of her identity that Diotech would be able to use to find her.
     The time travel aspect was done well, although I wish some parts of it had been explored a little more.  I also liked the main plot.  It was engaging, interesting, and gave you enough information without giving too much away.  The climax and resolve, however, were really unsatisfying.  It took away from a lot of the rest of the book and I felt cheated at the end.
    This is a 2.2.  The overall writing style is good, and Seraphina and Zen were likable enough, but it was like eating a good sandwich and most of the way through discovering that there’s a worm poking out (the book was not bad enough for you to have bitten the worm - just see it).  The whole experience is ruined because of that little worm, and the worm signifies the end of the experience.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Just Myrto

by Laurie Gray


     Myrto is the second wife of Socrates.  Historians disagree on whether or not Myrto existed because Plato never mentioned her, although others from that time period did, but this book assumes she did.  Myrto has no dowry, so she is married to Socrates, who takes her gladly.  At first, Myrto is hesitant about the relationship.  Socrates is much older than her, and his first wife, Xanthippe, is quick to anger and terrifies Myrto.  In order to avoid Xanthippe, Myrto goes into town everyday with Socrates and learns with his pupils.  Through these lessons, Myrto’s relationship with Socrates and his son grows.
     This was a peaceful book.  Nothing much happened as Myrto discovered herself and found her place in the world.  The way she questioned everything did begin to grate on me, but I think that style of thinking was part of the point of the book.  The writing was clear, but the characters were a bit undeveloped.
     This is a 2.8.  Not a fantastic book, but not terrible.  It’s good for people who like historical fiction and simple pondering.  It manages to skim over the repetitive days at a good pace and introduce some of the lifestyle of Ancient Greece.  It’s like a cracker.  It’s a little dry, but pretty good.  Kind of plain, but still enjoyable, and there are people who really like crackers and would really enjoy this book.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

The Killing Woods


by Lucy Christopher

     One day, Emily Shepherd’s father, an ex-soldier suffering from PTSD, stumbles out of the woods carrying the dead body of Ashlee Parker, a girl from Emily’s school.  Emily’s father pleads guilty of manslaughter, saying he was enacting one of his flashbacks from battle, but Emily is convinced that he didn’t murder Ashlee.  The story is told in the alternate viewpoints of Emily and Damon, Ashlee’s boyfriend.
   Sadly, there wasn’t much I liked about this book.  I didn’t really like the writing style, especially Damon’s voice.  I didn’t like Damon much at all.  He thinks like he’s trying to be a tough guy in his head, and his attitude changed significantly as a character depending on whether the reader was in his head or viewing him as Emily.  Emily was fairly decent as a character, and she had reasonable doubts about her father and dealt with the difficulties of being viewed as the daughter of a murderer in a reasonable way.  However, she also felt superfluous.  I don’t think much of anything would be lost if her chapters were cut out entirely.
     My main problem with the book was that it hinged on Damon waiting to remember what happened the night Ashlee died because he had been drunk and high.  He and his friends had been in the woods that night playing the Game, but they lied to the cops, saying nobody else had been in the woods, making everyone even more sure that the murderer really is Emily’s father.  I’m still not entirely sure exactly what the Game is.  Something that involves running around the woods with collars and fighting each other.  That really could have used some explanation and made the book a lot more disconcerting than it needed to be.
     This is a 1.6.  I didn’t like Damon, I didn’t like the plot, and I didn’t like the writing style.  There was too much waiting as I read.  It was not, however, as bad as some other books I’ve read.  It’s flavored water because it tastes artificial and a little overpowering in the wrong way.  Plain water would satisfy your thirst better.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Cold Calls

By: Charles Benoit

Three teenagers get mysterious phone calls.  There is no phone number and no trace of the call.  The call requires that each Eric, Shelly, and Fatima bully a specific person in a specific way on a specific day.  They are all supposed to call each victim names, bump into them in the hallway, and finish it off by pouring mac and cheese onto the victim's head, video it, and post it on Youtube.  If Eric, Shelly, and Fatima don't do what the caller demands then the caller will reveal a big secret about each one of them to everyone they know.  At first, these high schoolers don't know each other, but they meet when they are all sent to the same bullying program.  For the remainder of the book Eric, Shelly, and Fatima work together to find out who the mysterious caller is and how to get the caller to stop.

I was surprised by this book.  To me, the plot seemed sort of dumb.  Why would I want to read a book about some teenagers that are getting blackmailed into bullying someone?  It really did not sound interesting.  That being said, that isn't exactly what the book is about.  Most of the book focuses on Eric, Shelly, and Fatima figuring out how to catch the caller and the backstory of each character.  I was also surprised by the depth of the characters.  They were surprisingly realistic.  The motives were also very fitting for each character.  The motives seemed to build the character, not just take from it.  Overall, this book was pretty good.  It did lack some excitement and was slow from time to time, but other than that, the book was interesting.  The one thing I found the book lacked was a realistic antagonist.  The motive behind the "cold calls" was underwhelming.  The ending of the book also seemed a little clipped and unclear.  However, what I found to be unclear I don't think was intentionally ambiguous.  I just thought the writing confusing at the end.  This book was like broccoli -- pretty tasty but could have been better.  It had a good flavor but not one I would call excellent.   This book was a 2.25

Monday, August 11, 2014

The Winner's Curse

Written by: Marie Rutkoski

This book is like a tootsie roll lolly pop. You have to get through the boring outside before the delicious center, but the wait is definitely worth it.

Fair haired Valorian Kestrel is the daughter of a famous general who’s expectation of her is to join the military or marry. Kestrel is not encouraged to play her beloved piano, so when she accidentally overhears the auctioning of a Herrani slave who is a fellow musician, she uncharacteristically buys him from the market. She soon finds that he is a proud and unbeaten man, and she asks him for his complete honesty in all things. Kestrel learns from Arin many things about herself and his past, and she realizes that the conquered Herrani are not the helpless people she may have thought them to be. From their conversations, Kestrel begins to see the true nature of her society, her family, and of course, herself.

To be completely honest, the minute I opened this book I was ready to write a completely sub-par review. Oh no, I thought, another book about a badass princess. By chapter two, I was prepared for the general mediocrity that would be sure to come.

If I have ever pitched a book to a potential reader with the promise that it would “pick up near the end,” this is the book I was talking about. The beginning was typical and uninteresting. The second half though, is fast paced and absorbing. The plot is not boring at all, and it constantly is developing and moving into new territory. The characters don’t sit there mulling over one little snag the entire time. So that was good. I stress again, just get to the second half.

But what is really the best aspect of this book is the romance. Yay for romance lovers like me! In my opinion, the relationship between Kestrel and Arin is captivating. They are from two different worlds, and they are separated by their race and class. Neither wants to be in the position they are in, but both realize that they just have to suck it up and figure out a way to make it work. Kestrel is trapped under the expectant gaze of her military father, and Arin is a slave cast from his previously noble position. But don’t worry, this isn’t another princess-falls-in-love-with-the-stable-hand kind of novel. I think we’ve all had enough of those. This is a story about two people who are equal in every respect, except in the way that society perceives them.

The book also explores the nature of love of country; how loyalty to one’s people and heritage may not always be what is right.

Okay, yes, there is a certain amount of cheese, and yes, the names of some of the characters are less than creative. And yes, there is of course the obligatory dress scene, where the protagonist in question describes the every detail of her debut gown. Basically, if you are unwilling to read through the tea parties and debutante balls then this book is not for you. But what I think matters most in judging a book, is how you feel when you turn the last page (warning! It’s a cliffhanger!). What I was feeling when I finally reached the end, was that I wished I had the second book next to me so I could start reading immediately!

All in all, I would steer you away from this novel if you aren’t into the whole royalty and dresses thing. And if you had any doubts about the genre, it is one hundred percent a romance. If you hate romances, don’t even bother. If however, you are okay with a little cheese now and then and love this kind of novel, then I absolutely recommend it.

4/5 stars!

Landry Park

Written by: Bethany Hagen 

This book is similar to a packet of oyster crackers: tasty but not quite the same as the whole clam chowder.

Set in futuristic America, this novel follows Madeline Landry; she is the heir to her family's vast fortune but she's not so sure she wants it yet. America is controlled by the gentry, and the people are broken up into classes. First, there is the Uprisen, a select group of wealthy gentry who control basically the entire country. The heirs are expected to marry early and produce children quickly; this task falls to Madeline, and she is reluctant until she meets the very suitable and handsome David Dana. The second class of citizens is the middle class, people allowed to work in trades and service to the gentry and upper class. Finally, there is the lowest of the low, the Rootless, who handle the radioactive materials that provide the gentry with their endless wealth and power. The Rootless are sick and poor, and they are constantly dying as a result of the massive amounts of radioactivity they receive each day. The gentry, however, give little thought to these dying people other than to ridicule and look down upon their insignificant existences. But when Cara Westoff, Madeline's childhood tormentor, says that she is attacked by the Rootless, Madeline doesn't immediately believe her, and she feels she must sort out the truth. She travels to the Rootless community with David Dana, where she witnesses countless injustices. Her view of her previously idyllic home is completely changed, and she must decide how to handle her newly found awareness of her society. She must ultimately choose between justice and comfort.

This novel is a pretty good read. The plot is interesting and the story is fairly original. If you like princess-y type books and futuristic novels, this book is certainly a blend of the two genres. There are several plot lines to consider while reading, which is always more interesting than just one, so that is certainly a plus. In general, the book was good.

There are a few qualms I had that I might point out for consideration, however. Generally, the characters are of the slow variety; they do not catch on to simple plot points until long after the reader has. Along the same lines, they do not address their seemingly most relevant and intriguing problems first, instead they ignore them until there is no avoiding them. This is frustrating, as the reader obviously doesn't want to wait while the protagonist floats around, unaware or uninterested in their most pressing problems. Finally, and most importantly, the book was a little boring in some parts. I was never seized with the urge stop everything and read until I was finished. It was in some places a little drab.

The book in the end was not bad though, just a little slow. I would consider it for a quick read if you have the time. By the final couple chapters, it was definitely more interesting, and the pace did pick up.

3/5 stars!



Under Shifting Glass

By: Nicky Singer

This book was like one scoop of vanilla ice cream.  It was simple, smooth, cold, and delicious.  The coolness of the ice cream penetrates more than the simple flavor which only adds to the experience.

Under Shifting Glass was about Jess.  Her mother is having babies that are conjoined, a word Jess prefers to Siamese twins.  However, the father is Jess's step father Si.  At about the same time her mother has these babies her Great Aunt Edie dies.  On top of that, Jess also feels like she is losing her best friend Zoe.  Jess always played piano at Aunt Edie's house and her grand piano is really the only thing that Jess want's of Edie's.  However, Jess receives a bureau instead.  In the bureau she finds a flask with something that creates light, a beautiful, natural, iridescent, breathing light that only Jess sees.  Jess is haunted by the statistics the Si gives her about the number of twins that die when they are being separated.  Jess starts seeing parallels all over her life.  The dying of her relationship with Zoe to the possibility of one of the twins dying is the most relevant in the book.  Jess feels that somehow she is connected to the twins and their survival depends on her acting with love and grace rather than the hatred and jealously she can't help but feel.

This book was very focused.  It didn't talk about much other than what Jess was thinking in just the small amount of time the book took place in.  However, this wasn't really a problem.  The book felt complete.  Jess's character was extremely thoughtful and she made the book meaningful.  One of my only problems with the book was figuring out how old Jess was supposed to be.  She could easily have been 6 or 7 or she could have easily been 14 or 15.  Her relationship with Zoe and other schoolmates made her seem young yet her family treated her like she was older.  However, that was really the only problem with the book.  Each word in the books has a meaning and purpose.  There isn't any superfluous description or meaningless characters.  This was refreshing because it made the book simple yet sincere.  This book is a 4.

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