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Thursday, June 26, 2014

Dark Metropolis

by Jaclyn Dolamore

Thea waits tables by night, and by day, she takes care of her mother, who is plagued with bound-sickness; her mother was magically bound to her husband when they were married, but Thea’s father disappeared in a war.  Those who are bound-sick are taken away to the asylum, and Thea lives in constant fear that someone will notice her mother’s deteriorating mental state and that she will be left entirely alone.  Then Thea meets Freddy at the Telephone Club, where she works, and her friend mysteriously disappears.  Thea is thrust into parts of the city she didn’t know existed and, along with Freddy, discovers the darker aspects of their community.
Although there was a lot going on for just about all of the book, there was a severe lack of depth to the world.  There was magic, but it was only mentioned or used in direct relation to the plot.  The magic wasn’t part of the world except as it was used to make the story work.  The characters also did very little that wasn’t directly related to the main storyline, and they didn’t seem to have lives outside the plot.
The book was fast paced, but it was also evenly paced, which I enjoyed.  I hate books that have a lot of depth and build-up only to reach the climax and end in about ten pages.  This book did a good job of building up, and realizations were made at the right times with enough spacing so the ending wasn’t rushed, but it still kept moving.  However, the climax was a little anticlimactic, which was pretty disappointing.  There were several realizations, some characters made decisions that were questionably in-character, and there was too much of the characters talking at each other and trying to convince everyone that they’re right.  The main thing that really bothered me was that, after significant sneaking and hiding of plans, characters simply revealed what they knew to each other for no apparent reason.
This book is a 3.2 and comparable to a small piece of white chocolate.  For the most part, it was enjoyable to read, like white chocolate is enjoyable to eat.  However, there isn’t much past the short burst of sweetness, and there isn’t any nutritional value.  This book is good if you like plot-driven, fast-paced books that aren’t too thought provoking.

Wednesday, June 25, 2014


By H. A. Swain. Published this month.

Thalia Apple lives in the not-too-distant future where all food is gone. Wars, famine, and plagues have eradicated all plants and animals save humans. It's only thanks to One World corporation that humans receive Synthamil and inoculations that provide nutrition while balancing hormones and suppressing hunger. Thalia's mother and father are renowned scientists and engineers within One World corp, so they live in relative luxury. However, Thalia thinks differently from the rest. She resists One World's vapid consumerism and likes to learn about the past where farmers grew and ate their own food and made things with their hands. Recently, she has been feeling something strange inside: she feels hungry. Soon she learns that the world is nothing like she knew, and some rumors have more truth than she thinks.

       I read this book on a recommendation and I believe it was well placed. This book is very commendable as a futuristic dystopian, providing insight into several niches of society: the ultra rich, the very poor, and several in-between. It goes past the simple overlord class/working class trope, which I appreciate. The only downfall in the worldbuilding is due to Thalia's ignorance about specific events in the past, which I find frustrating. I want to know more about how One World became so powerful. I guess I will have to wait for a sequel.
The plot is a bit slow to start. In fact, I was bored. However, I kept the recommendation in mind and stuck it through to the end; it gradually became more interesting. The ending swooped down in a bit of a rush and left plenty of room for more, so I am expecting a trilogy in the making.

       Overall I like the story. Looking back, events are a bit cookie cutter and happen conveniently, some characters are irrational, (they are only human, but dang are they annoying), and once or twice I could guess the plot before it happened. Despite all this, I see no real issues in the story or its telling and I pass on the recommendation for the sake of a good distopian.

       I rate this book a 3.5. It's definitely a worthy choice for a rainy day, but since I wasn't captured in the very beginning I won't go the full 4 stars. As a food, I compare this book to an artisan hamburger. It was crafted with forethought, but the bun is a bit too big so the first bite is just bread. After that, it's pretty good all the way to the end.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

What We Saw at Night and What We Lost in the Dark

By: Jacquelyn Mitchard

I decided to review these two books together because the plots were so closely linked.  It would have been hard to review the second one in a separate review from the first one.  First, I just want to say that I think the covers are absolutely beautiful.  I think the silhouettes and the colors are really pretty. I also think that the the number of silhouettes on each cover is interesting to think about after reading the books.

 The idea behind these books is that there is a genetic disease called XP, which is basically a fatal allergy to the sun along with other symptoms.  Most people with XP die young.  As a result the three characters in the first book Allie, Juliet, and Rob decide that they don't want to miss out on life and do things that push the limit of existence.  In What We Saw at Night, they learn parkour (this is the first one).  However.  What the book is really about is a serial killer.  Allie, the main character, sees this man with a blonde streak through his hair several times with a dead girl in his hands.  Allie makes it her mission to find out more about this man.  Even though Rob and Juliet don't see the man they believe her even though many people don't.  The second book has a lot to do with what happens at the end of the first one.  What We Lost in the Dark focuses more on the relationship between Rob and Allie, which starts in the first, and Allie's effort to catch the Serial Killer from the first.

Overall, I would give the duology a 2.3.  However, individually each book would be very different.  The first book would probably be a 1.35.  It had some good points to it but some bad as well.  It had an interesting idea but everything worked out just a little too nicely.  Everything went just a tad too fluently for the serial killer.  Also, I didn't feel very connected with the characters.  I felt removed from the book.  It was as if I was watching someone read it rather than actually reading it myself.  Also, whenever something more fast paced happened I found the writing confusing.  Even after reading the passage two or three times I still would be confused.  However, What We Lost in the Dark was much better.  I would give it a 3.25.  I found the characters more interesting and the plot was a little more clear.  The first one lacked direction and the second one didn't.  That being said, the climax of the second, which was the climax of the duology, was sort of anticlimactic.  It just sort of happened and then it was over.  And then the book was over.  This book was like somebody else's strawberry short cake.  It has the potential to be fantastic, light, fluffy, and delicious, but, unfortunately for you, someone else is eating it.  The strawberry short cake's potential is just out of your reach.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Allies and Assassins

by Justin Somper

When Anders dies, his younger brother, Jared, who is only sixteen, must take his place as Prince of All Archenfield.  Most of the plot is focused on catching Anders’s assassin, and Jared befriends Asta, the physician’s niece and apprentice, as they attempt to crack the case together.  Jared doesn’t know where to begin, inexperienced as he is, and he is unsure which members of his council he can trust.
Despite his constant self-doubt as well as other characters pointing out his youth, I found most of the other characters to be much more naive than Jared.  The Twelve, along with the heir to the throne, make up Jared’s council, and they are heads of various jobs including the palace cook, the guard, the beekeeper, and the executioner.  They swallowed false leads with surprising gusto and seemed perfectly content to sit by as people were murdered around them.  Most of them were barely fleshed out, and there were minor character inconsistencies.  The beekeeper, for instance, is introduced as using few words, speaking only when she has something important to say, but later, another character rebukes her by saying that the beekeeper likes listening to her own voice too much.  There were a few characters, such as Jared’s younger brother, that fell by the wayside and half the time I forgot they existed.
Jared also had some character flaws.  He was inconsistent about his feelings toward Axel, the head of the guard, sometimes thinking about how close they were and feeling comfortable in his presence and at other times sure that Axel was going to kill him.  His behavior, as well as Asta’s, can only be described as bumbling at times.  His mistakes would work out half the time, as the plot required, and it got a bit tiresome when his rudimentary tactics brought out convenient answers.
That said, there were parts of the book I enjoyed.  There were some really nice passages, and the plot was, for the most part, fairly engaging.  There were a couple scenes that I think would be better to be left out - they were a little too revealing.  I think the next one in the series might be better because a lot of this book was set-up.
Overall, this is a 3.  There were solid parts but also a lot of parts that made me want to give up on the story and the characters.  It was like a cinnamon raisin bagel.  I love cinnamon and bagels are pretty great (though not as exciting as doughnuts), and this is a genre I enjoy, but some of the plot pieces and characters need to be picked out like raisins or they add an unwanted squish to the taste.

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Tim Defender of the Earth

By: Sam Enthoven

Imagine a giant bowl of green Jello.  You find it amusing for no other reason than the way it jiggles back and forth after just a slight tap.  This is sort of how I feel about Tim Defender of the Earth.  It was amusing but I not always because of the actual content of the book.  Sometimes just the idea of what was happening was funny.

Tim Defender of the Earth was a book about a giant dinosaur who British scientists created beneath London.  He learns that he is and ho to be the Defender of the Earth from a giant 9 million year old kraken.  This dinosaur's name is Tim, hence the name of the book.  He defends the Earth from a swarm of nanobots that can genetically modify anything so that they can turn anything into anything else which includes into more nanobots.  There are also two human characters, Chris and Anna.  I just thought I should mention them because they are also sort of important.

This book was very funny and the characters were pretty good, too.  Overall I like the book and it was very entertaining.  It is also a very fun book to talk about because of the overall plot of the book.  This book was a 3.4 star book: solid and entertaining.

Thursday, June 12, 2014


By Emma Trevayne

This is the sequel to Coda, an intriguing futuristic story about a society that is controlled by addictive music until a boy named Anthem creates his own music and leads a revolution.  Chorus is the story of his younger sister, Alpha, who has moved to Los Angeles and is working hard in school so she can discover a cure to strange and powerful flashbacks that have been haunting her and her twin brother, Omega. There was a lot that bothered me about this book.  There was one of the most pointless deaths I have read (which I won’t expound on to avoid spoilers) as well as a character just being able to guess a super important password, which is something that always bothers me in books.  When setting a password on a top-security system, it’s not going to be something that someone can just guess. However, what bothered me most of all was that the author hid relevant information that the main character knew.  For the first few chapters of the book, Alpha is worried.  But does she say what she’s worried about?  No.  The worry is a primary driving force to Alpha’s character, and the reader is kept in the dark.  The back cover states that “it takes only one call to bring Alpha back to the brother that raised her ... and to the Web.”  And the call comes at the end of the third chapter.  So this is when the reader is finally told what’s bothering Alpha, right?  Wrong.  She and her friends are set into a frenzy, immediately packing up to go back to the Web.  They were clearly all prepared for this and they all know exactly what’s going on, but the reader doesn’t.  It isn’t until almost forty pages in that it’s finally revealed that Anthem is dying.  There were hints - a snippet of dialogue, for instance, but the connection between the call and Anthem’s illness are thin and I only found them when I went back to reread the beginning and was looking for them.  All it would take is one explicit thought of Alpha’s to flesh out her worry and save the reader a lot of confusion.  Maybe this was mentioned at the end of Coda, but I read that a long time ago (when it came out as a galley), and again, all it would have taken is a simple thought and everything would be clear. Because of things like this, the story was difficult to follow at times.  There was a lot of inferring left to the reader, which can be good at sometimes, but it happened way too much in this story.  It made me think in the wrong way - not a thought-provoking thinking, but more of trying to piece the plot together thinking.  The author took the “show don’t tell” a little too far.  It’s one thing to wonder about motivations, secrets, or plot twists, but another thing to wonder about what happened five pages ago.
This book is a 2.  There was nothing especially special about this book and there were too many things that bothered me peppered throughout.  There were some old characters and some new ones.  There were some cheap plot devices, but there were also a few interesting concepts, though nothing that wasn’t done better in Coda.  If Chorus were a food, it would be overly-processed chicken.  The chicken is dependent on packaging to sell itself, and you’re not really sure what you’re eating as you chew.

Thursday, June 5, 2014

In the Shadows

by Kiersten White (text) and Jim Di Bartolo (art)

Charles is sick with a disease that doctors cannot cure, so his father sends him to a boardinghouse for fresh air with his brother, Thom.  There, they meet sisters Cora and Minnie as well as another boarder named Arthur.  Together, they delve into secrets left by Arthur’s father that seem to be following Charles and Thom in the form of a group of mysterious strangers.  It struck me as gothic in tone, complete with hidden pasts and witches.
Overall, this book was flat.  It is told in sequences of pictures (done by Jim Di Bartolo) alternated with text chapters (done by Kiersten White), and it seemed as though the authors skimmed over the story like an in-depth summary rather than really digging into it.  The entire time I read it, I felt emotionally detached.  The characters weren’t fleshed out and the depth of plot and world was hinted at rather than explored.
This book is a 2.2.  I’m left with very little to say about it given the lack of feeling I was left with after finishing.  There was some mild confusions over what I had just read.  It was like a cereal bar.  It’s not terrible, but you eat it, you finish it, and you go on with your life.  Eating the cereal bar is barely a blip in the day, which is how I felt about reading this book.  It’s good for a quick read if you need something to use up some time.

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