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Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Divergent by Veronica Roth

Set in the future, Divergent is the story of Beatrice, though she begins to call herself Tris not far into the story. She lives in a city that is divided into five factions, and each faction values a different virtue. Abnegation is the one she is born into, and it values selflessness. Erudite values knowledge, Dauntless values bravery, Amity values friendship, and Candor values honesty. Every year, the 16-year-olds are given a choice: they can stay in their family's faction, or transfer to a different one. Beatrice felt as though she does not quite belong in Abnegation because she is not nearly as selfless as everyone else there, and she has always admired the daring of the Dauntless. However, switching factions would separate her from her family, and all the Abnegation members would see her as a traitor. The day before the choosing ceremony, everyone who will choose takes a test of sorts that tells them what faction fits them best. The test is a simulation that puts the person through a series of scenarios, then gives a result based on the choices they made. The test was interesting, but it was really obvious what the choices would indicate. For instance, in the first part of the test, Beatrice has to choose either a knife or some cheese. It is quite clear that taking the knife would indicate Dauntless and taking the cheese would indicate Amity. There were also some slight discrepancies. I was sure that Beatrice had figured something out, only for her to realize it with a shock later in the book.
It is a 3.7. It was very interesting, and it was a cool story, but nothing much happened; it never seemed to go anywhere. There could also have been more description. It was difficult how many people were around until the book presented a list of the other initiates in Beatrice's faction, and I had a hard time figuring out what the different places looked like. The book was like those honey straws. You suck on them, and they're really good until you finish, and you realize that there wasn't really anything in them. I kept expecting something a little more.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Just an Update

As some of you may have noticed, we have recently added several new features to our blog. We'd like to draw your attention, specifically, to the new Twitter and Facebook feeds. Like/follow us!


We also have an RSS feed and some blogs to check out if you enjoyed ours. Just look over at the sidebar!

 Cheers, and thanks for checking out our reviews!
 The YA galley

Monday, June 13, 2011

Midnight Palace

By Carlos Ruiz Zafon
    At last, a relatively good book to review. It's also the first on that doesn't have a female main character that moves to a small town, is instantly the social outcast, meets some cool people that take her in, and becomes the most popular girl in the school in a heart-wrenchingly sweet finale that I've read in a long time. Indeed, this book concerns itself with mystery, magic, and a powerful force that would best be left alone. An elegant and graceful writing style suffuses this dark novel with a sense of timeliness and power that is rarely achieved by *cough* other books for young adults.
  Stephanie did a fine job of covering the plot in her review( without spoiling too much of the plot.
  I've already mentioned that I like the writing style, so that leaves me with one thing.
  Near the end of the book, a villain does something that I'm really not OK with and I wish he/she hadn't done it. You'll understand perfectly when you read this.
  That's all- it was spicy fried Indian food, filling, delicately spiced, and warmed me to the core while at times making me cough indignantly and run for something a bit more fitting. 4.5.

Girl Wonder

by Alexa Martin
     I'm going to have to lump this book together with That Girl is Different.
I'm really not interested in the sexcapades of some insecure/druggie teenage girl as she falls in with bad company.
     If that sort of thing interests you... go for it. There are some cool bits about the debate team she joins, but they were more tedium-relievers than actual plot points. I believe I laughed out loud when she does LSD and has a terrible time, but that wasn't really because the book was oh-so-witty. She smashes an expensive fish tank. I lol'd.
     I don't know where I'm going with this. Suffice it to say that the writing is terrible, whats-her-name a terrible a forgettable main character(the book isn't really about her, after all), and the plot laughable.
     I'll write some good reviews now. I promise. Good reviews for good books.
   This was a 2. It's that cheap guacamole with the cheaper tortilla chips that taste and feel like fiber.

Ten Miles Past Normal

By Frances O'Roark Dowell
I want to take a shovel to the face of every character in this book.
Read if you liked This Girl is Different.
I'd give this book a one. If you want to know what it's about, read my review for This Girl is Different and substitute the name Janie for Evie.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Mistborn: The Final Empire by Brandon Sanderson

Mistborn takes place in another world. There are the skaa, the lower class who live dejected lives and can never do anything with themselves. They are oppressed by the Lord Ruler, the ruler (in case you couldn't tell from his title) of the Final Empire. The nobility are sometimes allomancers. It is somewhat hereditary in that only those with noble blood can be an allomancer, but there is no guarantee of being an allomancer if someone has noble blood. Allomancy is the ability to "burn" certain kinds of metals within oneself, which then cause different things to happen. In order to burn a metal, the metal must be consumed, and the allomancer must have the ability to burn that metal. There are eight main metals, and an allomancer can only use one, unless they are a mistborn. Mistborn can burn all the metals. Different metals affect things such as physical strength, enhancing senses, other people's emotions, and pushing and pulling metals around the allomancer. In order to maintain the hierarchy, the Lord Ruler forbade the nobles to mix with the skaas, preventing any low born allomancers. Of course, there is mixing anyway, and those born from skaa mothers and noble fathers may or may not be allomancers. Those who are often become successful thieves.
Kelsier is a half skaa half noble mistborn. He escaped from the Pits of Hathsin, where the Lord Ruler sends lawbreakers. He made it back to Luthadel, the Empire's capital, where he gathers a crew of underworld allomancers that he knew before he was sent to the pits. He also finds Vin, a small street urchin, who has been living her life in her own crew of normal underworld thieves. She is constantly paranoid of betrayal and attack. Together, Kelsier, Vin, and the other forbidden allomancers plan to overthrow the Final Empire.
Overall this book was very good. It created a new world with depth and it had a good amount of magic, noble politics, and underworld action. However, it was very difficult at times to imagine some of the characters. I could see Kelsier, Vin, Hammond, who is part of the crew, Sazed, another friend of Kelsier's, and some of the nobles. Most of the characters never got an image. I could understand them; their actions, emotions, and character were fine, but I could not see them. I also had the Inquisitors, elite law enforces with spikes sticking out of their eyes, looking like Darth Maul from Star Wars, and I am pretty sure they aren't meant to look like that. Sazed, who was a good character for the most part, said "I think" so many times. He is a very thoughtful person, but he does not need to say that after every statement.
Despite its shortcomings, Mistborn gets a 4.9. It had a good mix of different things going on, such as the parts of the story concerning the nobles as opposed to the parts concerning the rebellion. Most books only really have one. The ending of the story was somewhat unsatisfactory. It was like a really good cake. Deep chocolate with light, fluffy frosting that you enjoy every bite of. There is something, however, that makes it a little hard to eat, perhaps it is too thick or too sweet (the book is not too "sweet" or too good, but the feeling I had while reading it is very similar to the feeling you get when eating something that is too sweet), and when it's over, you're not quite left with the feeling you had hoped for.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

This Girl Is Different

By J. J. Johnson

I had really hoped to be able to give this a good rating, mainly because Jelle didn't, so I am sorry to say that I was not happy with the book. Thats not to say it was a BAD book, it just.... I'm not sure where to start. Maybe the feminist thing. I have nothing against books where feminism plays a big role in the character's life. I also think that it is possible to have a good book that falls somewhere in between feminism and fluffy chicklit. But this book wasn't that. It somehow managed to be all the things about feminist books that irk me, and all the stupid girly stuff that I hate.
Evie is a feminist, but when you first meet her she is alone, in the woods, with a badly sprained ankle and her mom probably won't find her for hours, so you would think she would be glad when a boy offers to help her. Or at least be nice. Then, after it would have been conveniate for her to be normal, she turns into the classic girl who falls for a guy and obsesses over him for pages.
While I have serious issues with the characters I did think that the storyline was good, or at least ok. I think I will describe this book as cheesy cauliflower. It is pretty good, warm gooy cheese and soft crunchy vegetables, but the base, the cauliflower, is hard to get past. Because cauliflower is nasty. The book was good enough, but the main character bothered me, and that's hard to get passed.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

You Have Seven Messages by Stewart Lewis

Alright! Time to get a start on the reviewing!

This was a charming piece, read actually a while ago, so if something's kind of vague, blame my procrastination.

Luna, the main character, is currently 15 or so. Her mother, a model but called the "anti-pinup" is dead, and her father and brother (and uncle in Italy) are all she has left (plus that cello-playing boy next door. Who seems to be a Gary-Stu, if you ask me). She finds her mother's phone, which, as the title says, has seven messages, which open up the mystery of her mother's death. All the while, she's making hundreds of dollars selling her photography and making friends with actors. Gosh.

I did like the character profiles. They were a bit skewed and generic, but at least they were consistent. There were some interesting characters, and it was fun to read about their little quirks.

The plotline could have been better, though. It was nice, but not something you could enjoyably read for years, dozens of times.

Overall, I dub this book to be a raisin cookie (and a 3.6/5). Interesting the first time you taste it, but you never really want to eat it again. Points that are simultaneously fun, gross, and flat at the same time. You can say "broccoli cookie" if you like raisins.

Thursday, June 2, 2011


Glow is set on a futuristic spaceship, on course for New Earth. Of course, our earth has been trashed, and a group of people have been sent to colonize a new planet. Nothing unusual for YA fiction. The main characters, Waverly and Kieran (16 years old and sort of dating/will marry), are on the Empyrean, and the other ship is the New Horizon. One day, the New Horizon (which left first from Earth) is sighted by the Empyrean, but they don't make any contact. Confusion abounds amongst the crew, which is all cleared up when the New Horizon attacks the Empyrean, kidnapping all the girls on board the ship and thus separating Waverly and Kieran.
Glow was an okay book. Although the book was a quick read, the writing often felt a bit stilted and the characters flat. Although Ryan tells us that Kieran loves Waverly, his love isn't apparent on an emotional level to the reader. Then, some of what happened in the book seemed illogical to me. The attack happens, and almost the entire crew of the Empyrean (minus maybe 8 adults) flies off in a shuttle to rescue the girls, leaving behind Kieran in charge. How does that make sense?? Why didn't they have a plan in place for emergency situations?? It seems to me that if a couple of spaceships were being sent out into space, there would be a protocol for different situations so that the entire mission doesn't end up ruined because of a panic. And then Kieran and another boy, Seth, fight over power while the adults are away. It wasn't really clear to me how either one got sway over what must have been over a hundred boys, particularly because neither one had many friends. So that was odd. did settle into itself more at the end, and one of its ideas was particularly interesting. The Empyrean was labeled early on as a secular ship, and the New Horizon as a religious one (people were sorted onto them accordingly). It's really more religion-gone-bad on the New Horizon though, and this plays into an interesting twist near the end. I don't want to give anything away, but it was the emotional state of the characters at the end of the book that made me want to read more of their story, if only to find out how the handle it. 2.9/5 stars for Glow. Here's Amy Kathleen Ryan's website:

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Rotters by Daniel Kraus

Joey is 16 years old, and getting an A in all of his classes is very important for him. At least, that's what the text says in the book, though by his actions, it is very difficult to come to that conclusion. What kind of straight A student practically fails out of and gives up on school? Anyway, his mom dies at the beginning, though that part was kind of confusing, and I was left wondering whether she had actually died and how for a while. He goes off to live with the father who he's never heard of. At school, he is immediately picked on by the other students. These characters, though they don't really deserve to be described as characters, more like names on a page, are extremely superficial. They see Joey's dad, Harnett, as a bad garbage man who hasn't ever picked up anyone's garbage. Joey soon finds out why. Harnett is a grave robber, and is part of a secret society of grave robbers called Diggers. Joey ruins his life when he decides that he wants to be a grave digger too, and the story spirals away.
The story as a whole just didn't make sense. Really, a secret society of grave robbers? And they each have their own special "instrument," a shovel, that they love, and name, and is perfect just for them. That's taking the whole thing a little far. And one of the characters literally falls apart during the book. That does not happen. No one can just pull their eyes out and stab themselves in various places every day and still be able to dig up over 20 graves in a night. Joey starts going insane partway through, and the book becomes very difficult to read. Someone needs to point out to Joey that skeletons don't give advice and that signs from writhing masses of rats are probably bad. Also, I think Kraus made Joey pray to a two-fingered Jesus just to make the book even more bizarre than it already was. Bizarre is not always good, especially when taken too far.
The book is worthy of a 1.7. It was not well written, the plot was ridiculous, and the characters were awful. Kraus seemed to concentrate more on effects, rather than causes and development. It is comparable to a rotten banana; it was mushy and not very appetizing. It was hard to read, much like a rotten banana would be hard to eat.

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