Thursday, June 30, 2011

Review: The Twisted Thread by Charlotte Bacon

Title: The Twisted Thread
Author: Charlotte Bacon
Genre: Mystery/ Suspense
ISBN: 978-1401341503

Premise: When beautiful but aloof Claire Harkness is found dead in her dorm room one spring morning, prestigious Armitage Academy is shaken to its core. Everyone connected to school, and to Claire, finds their lives upended, from the local police detective who has a personal history with the academy, to the various faculty and staff whose lives are immersed in the daily rituals associated with it. Everyone wants to know how Claire died, at whose hands, and more importantly, where the baby that she recently gave birth to is a baby that almost no one, except her small innermost circle, knew she was carrying.

I haven't read a good murder mystery in a while, so this was definitely intriguing reading. Bacon does a fantastic job of creating believable characters, both within Armitage Academy, and in the surrounding area. Prestige is a recurring theme throughout, and the idea of being privileged allows for some very interesting twists. Bacon was able to create teenage characters seen through the point of view of adults that actually made sense. The difference in dialogue between the young characters and the older ones is very noticeable, and that's something I respect in an author. She also did a wonderful job of keeping the reader guessing as to who the killer was. I was sure it was at least four different people before you actually find out who the murderer is. Unfortunately, the ending isn't as fulfilling as I would've liked, and the actual murderer and motive seems tame once your
brain has been spinning with all these other possible reasons. Other than that, it was a very engaging novel that I would recommend to anyone who doesn't feel like sleeping for a few days.

Review: Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

Title: Mockingjay
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Sci-fi/ Dystopian
ISBN: 978-0439023511

Premise: Young Katniss Everdeen has survived the dreaded Hunger Games not once, but twice, but even now she can find no relief. In fact, the dangers seem to be escalating: President Snow has declared an all-out war on Katniss, her family, her friends, and all the oppressed people of District 12. The thrill-packed final installment of Suzanne Collins' Hunger Games trilogy will keep young hearts pounding.

Sadly, the final book in The Hunger Games trilogy was not as great as I had expected, given the excellence of the first two installments. Don't get me wrong, it was just as intense and captivating as the other two, but the actual ending seemed to be hurried and left a lot of unanswered questions. I was even confused after I finished the book, as I felt that at least one chapter had been removed from my copy, because there was no way Suzanne Collins would have left her book unfinished. But after talking with others who read it, it seems that all the copies were missing this chapter. Before this book, I was amazed at Collins' ability to do what needed to be done to her characters, but in this novel, I felt that she took it a little too far, disposing of characters in ways that didn't necessarily add to the story. One fatality in particular stood out to me as being entirely unnecessary. The ending of the love triangle doesn't seem like Katniss actually made a choice, but that it was made for her, of which I do not approve. Ultimately, I was just disappointed that it didn't seem as well done as the first two. That's not to say I wouldn't recommend it to anyone. Though it had problems, it is still the only available conclusion for an overall wonderful series, and I think that the series as a whole is great enough to merit this book be read. 

Review: Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins

Title: Catching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Sci-fi/ Dystopian
ISBN: 978-0439023498

Premise: The second book in The Hunger Games trilogy, Catching Fire resumes the story of Katniss, Peeta, and Gale. All the old characters reappear in this continuation, such as Effie, Haymitch, Prim, and Cinna. Katniss and Peeta won the annual competition described in Hunger Games, but the aftermath leaves these victors with no sense of triumph. Instead, they have become the poster boys for a rebellion that they never planned to lead. That new, unwanted status puts them in the bull's-eye for merciless revenge by The Capitol.

 Can I just say wow? The first book in this series was amazing, but knowing that sequels are almost never as good as the original, I was afraid this book wouldn't keep up with the greatness of the first, but happily, I was wrong. I might even go as far as saying this book was better than the first. All my favorite characters come back and are just as well-developed as ever. What makes this book better? The intensity. My god, my heart was literally racing through the entire novel. I finished this one in one day also because it was so captivating, I couldn't think of anything else. I didn't even want to pause to eat because I was so entrenched. I didn't think it was possible for the story to get any more piercing and engaging, but it did. Each chapter left me screaming literally out loud because I was so overcome with such a wide variety of emotions. Something else that made this story wonderful is the love triangle between Katniss, Peeta, and Gale gets oh so much more interesting. And the ending! I felt that I was about to have a heart-attack when I finished the book. Talk about cliffhanger! I've never been so excited to buy the next book in the series as I was with this. I would recommend this book to anyone, lover of sci-fi or not, because it is simply just that good.

Review: Unnatural by Michael Griffo

Title: Unnatural
Author: Michael Griffo
Genre: Paranormal Romance
ISBN: 978-0758253385

Premise: Michael has always felt out of place in his sleepy town of Weeping Water, so when an unexpected turn in his life allows him to leave the town to return to England, his birthplace, he is overjoyed. He is enrolled in Archangel Academy, a place where Michael finally feels at home with his life, and the fact that he is gay. He meets great friends, and a gorgeous boy named Ronan that stirs something deep within him. What Michael doesn't yet know is that Ronan, and others involved in Archangel Academy are actually vampires.

My initial reaction was, great, another crappy vampire romance tale. What made me think again? The homosexual aspect. I have encountered very few novels that incorporate this aspect, and I had to check it out, and I must say I was pleasantly surprised. Although there were occasions of cliche moments between Michael and Ronan, it was still sweet and stirred a tingling in my chest. The characters are very interesting, and have unique personalities. Griffo is not afraid to put his characters through hell when need be, unlike some other authors, cough Stephanie Meyer, cough, and this makes the world of the story so much more believable. The villain is sexy and you find yourself liking her when you know you shouldn't. The paranormal aspect adds a different spin on vampires that I'm not sure I'm fond of, but its definitely better than ones that sparkle. I would recommend this to anyone who likes paranormal romances, as it is much less corny than others on the market.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Review: The Anti-Prom by Abby McDonald

Title: The Anti-Prom
Author: Abby McDonald
Genre: Chick-Lit
ISBN: 978-0763649562

Premise: Prom is supposed to be the best night of your life. But given that life is unpredictable, this is never a guarantee. This novel chronicles the prom night of three very different high school girls. Bliss is pretty, popular and perfect, Jolene is the classic bad girl who gets arrested and smokes cigarettes, and Meg is the wallflower that no one ever notices. This one night brings the three unlikely friends together in a adventure to get sweet revenge.

Honestly I was back and forth about even choosing this book to read, as it seemed to be under my reading level, but something about the description kept drawing me back and I decided to take a crack at it. To my surprise, I ended up greatly enjoying it. It is a coming of age story in the feel-good Sarah Dessen style. Each of the girls has something to prove that night, and they each go through a transformation, ones you're not sure as the reader they're going to be able to accomplish, so it's all the more sweet when they do. The most fun things about the book was the interactions between the three characters. The bickering was so believable, it can be assumed the author has three personalities in her head. There's no other explanation for the diversity between the girls. Very light and fun reading, I would recommend it to someone looking for a simple book to waste an afternoon with.

Review: Luminous by Dawn Metcalf

Title: Luminous
Author: Dawn Metcalf
Genre: Fantasy
ISBN: 978-0525422471

Premise: After experiencing a strange fall in a dressing room, Consuela finds a strange scar on her neck. Upon closer inspection, she learns she can remove her skin using this scar, and adopt new skins of air, fire, water, etc. These new skins allow her to leave the normal world and travel to a strange place called the Flow where she and other teenagers find themselves helping to save the lives of others. But there is something evil in the flow that has begun killing off the inhabitants.

Initially I was attracted to this book because the cover was gorgeous. But as they say, you should never judge a book by its cover, and this book is no exception. Needless to say, I wasn't impressed. The idea, though strange at first, would have grown on me had it not been for the characters, the plot, and pretty much the entire story. The characters had no believability. The author created no sympathy for them, so when they began to get killed off, I really couldn't find it in myself to care. The main character is so beset with her self-consciousness that she doesn't seem to really comprehend just how strange her circumstances are, she just takes it all in stride. The only character with any depth is the evil antagonist. The love interest is very much a Edward-esque (Twilight) character. His attraction to Consuela seems to have no ground other than she is the protagonist.  His words and actions are so cliche there were actually times I had to stop reading just to look at the book and think, are you freaking serious? How corny. My suspension of disbelief was nonexistent. I was constantly aware that I was reading a work of fiction, and a very poorly written one at that. It really seemed that the author was trying to live vicariously through her characters, and I hate that. The story itself was just really confusing. I never felt like I knew what was going on, what the Flow actually was, or why the hell it mattered. Though I understand this adds to the mystery of the story, it was so unclear that it took away from the very few positives the book offered. As if that wasn't bad enough, the ending was abrupt and felt unfinished. I would not recommend this book to anyone.

Review: The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins

Title: The Hunger Games
Author: Suzanne Collins
Genre: Sci-fi/ Dystopian
ISBN: 978-0439023528

Premise: In the distant future, what remains of North America has been divided into a captial and twelve surrounding districts. In the past, the districts tried to rebel against the capital and failed. To punish the districts, the capital invented The Hunger Games, a televised battle royale between twenty-four tributes. One boy and one girl from each district between the ages of 12 and 18 are chosen to go into the arena, and fight to the death.

Let me start off by saying this is one of the best Young Adult novels I have read in a very, very long time. Not only is the setting crafted expertly, but the characters are amazing, and the plot is riveting. My favorite aspect of the novel was definitely the characters. Suzanne Collins' ability to weave utterly believable characters is astounding. Each character had their own discernible personality, crafted through description, dialogue and their actions. Their motives for any action actually make sense, something many YA authors seem to struggle with. The connection between reader and character is incredible, especially considering the book is less than four-hundred pages. The plot is also just amazing. I was literally on the edge of my seat while reading the novel, and finished it in under one day because it was so captivating. An expertly written dystopian novel that is probably the best Young Adult novel since Harry Potter, I would recommend this to any lover of science-fiction.