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Thursday, September 25, 2014

Bloodwitch

by Amelia Atwater-Rhodes


     Vance is a quetzal shapeshifter who lives with the vampires of Midnight in the 19th century.  He has had everything he could want, but when a man visits the vampires and speaks with Vance, his dreamlike life starts to crack as Vance begins to question the actions of his beloved guardians and rulers of Midnight.
     Vance has good conflicts, and even when he starts doubting, the vampires don’t change their characters.  The consistency is nice because it makes it harder for Vance and easier for the reader to understand him.  I did not like Vance as a character, though, and I felt that a lot of his thoughts and doubts were forced.  He would arrive at a state of mind suddenly and then sit there for a while instead of gradually coming to realizations, and, given what happened to him throughout the book, I’m not sure Vance really would have gotten to where he ended up mentally at the end.
     The world it is set in is well developed with indications of other countries and the depth of an entire world, not just the city it takes place in.  The relations between the different types of shapeshifters are interesting, as are the different talents they all have.  The characters represented different types of thought to make Vance think about what was best and what needed to be fixed.
     This is a 4.2.  There was a good plot, solid writing, and I liked all the characters except for Vance.  It is a soft, dense cookie, with nothing in it to interrupt the texture.  Things happened as expected without much surprise.  It is not large, but it is filling and afterwards, you feel satisfied with what you’ve eaten.

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Curses and Smoke

by Vicky Alvear Shecter



   Set in Pompeii just before the eruption of Mt. Vesuvius, Lucia is about to be married off to a much older man so her father can get money for his gladiator school.  Just weeks before the impending marriage, however, Tag, one of her father’s slaves, returns from Rome where he had been studying medicine so he could heal hurt gladiators, and an old friendship rekindles between them.  The relationship blossoms into something more, but both Lucia and Tag know it wouldn’t be able to cross their class difference even if Lucia weren’t already engaged to someone else.
     I liked the story and found that I was engaged in the characters and the story and wanted to know what would happen even without the element of Mt. Vesuvius adding the sense of impending doom.  Although I’m not an expert in Ancient Rome, from what I’ve read of other reviews, the book is historically accurate and should appeal to those interested in historical fiction.
     Tag was a good counter viewpoint to Lucia.  Lucia was somewhat ignorant and probably would have come off as whiney if the reader were not also given the other side of the story to balance it out.  Tag could point out her mistaken assumptions and he broke many of her beliefs about her father that were fairly clear to the reader as wrong.
     This is a 3.8.  I liked the story right up until the end.  I won’t give details because it’s the end, but I felt cheated and it wasn’t what I wanted at all.  But the writing and story were good and the setting was made well.  It is whipped cream.  It’s tastes good as you’re eating it, but when you’re done, it has dissolved away without leaving much

Friday, September 12, 2014

The Twyning

by Terence Blacker


     Efren is a rat living in the rat kingdom in the sewers.  When the king dies and new leaders are selected, they decide that humans are a bigger threat than they had previously believed and they decide to wage war.  Meanwhile, a human doctor who has been studying the rats decides that they are one of the biggest threats to humans, and he rallies the people of the city to attack the rats.  Then Efren and some human children meet, and both types of animals have to decide which side deserves their victory.
     Efren was a likable character.  He noticed that he had differences, but he accepted them and still tried to serve his kingdom as best he could.  The children, Dogboy and Caz, both have interesting back stories and conflicts that they have to deal with.  Out of all the characters, only Efren, Dogboy, Caz, and two others really try to understand anything about the other species.  This helps flesh them out, but the whole war between rats and humans seemed blown a little out of proportion.  If you accepted it as it was though, it was a pretty good story.
     The pacing was often off for me.  There were a lot of parts that should have taken a while but passed by fairly quickly and parts that should have gone faster that took a long time.  The individual scenes were alright; it was the overall passage of time that wasn’t quite right.
     This is a 3.2.  I liked the rats and their kingdom and the two children.  I didn’t like most of the other characters and parts of it dragged, but I did like the story as a whole.  It is like store-bought chicken pot pie.  It’s not store-bought because it feels generic but because it didn’t have the warm, savory, homey feel about it.  There are some things in the pie that you like and some that you don’t, but mixed up all together, it’s still pretty good.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Whisper

by Chris Stuyk-Bonn

     Whisper has lived in the woods ever since she was abandoned as an infant because of a disfigured mouth.  In her society, disfigurations are frowned upon, so she instead lives with a few others who were also abandoned and taken in by a man named Nathaniel.  The beginning is very expository because Whisper doesn’t talk much, and when she does, she whispers - hence her name - and the book takes a while for the book to get going.

     After Whisper is taken away by the father who abandoned her then moved again to the city and forced to work to give her father money, the story picks up.  Whisper meets other characters who also have disfigurations and learns how to live with her own and use the talents she has to make a living.  I enjoyed the middle when Whisper was growing as a character and learning new things and the story was developing.  However, partway through, a doctor offered to fix Whisper’s disfiguration, and while this was probably supposed to make Whisper struggle with her identity and how much her disfiguration felt a part of her, I felt as though it undermined the premise.  Their society was advanced enough to be able to identify her disfiguration - a cleft palate - and the doctor has fixed many of them before, but they still treat those with any sort of disfiguration as evil and abandon their infants in the woods.  When the book started, I thought that there was almost no technology and they all believed in magic, but that’s not the case.  They call Whisper a devil, but that’s the only time anyone seems to believe that there’s anything supernatural in the world.
     This is a 2.7.  The writing sometimes got really wordy and I didn’t like the world it was set in.  The world could have been fleshed out some more, but I did like the middle and the development that happened there.  This is like a cream puff with really good cream inside but with the outer dough somewhat lacking.

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.

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