Sunday, September 28, 2014

Waterfall by Lisa T Bergren

Most American teenagers want a vacation in Italy, but the Betarrini sisters have spent every summer of their lives among the romantic hills with their archaelogist parents. Stuck among the rubble of the medieval castles in rural Tuscany, on yet another hot, dusty archaeological site, Gabi and Lia are bored out of their minds...until Gabi places her hand atop a handprint in an ancient tomb and finds herself in fourteenth-century Italy. And worse yet, in the middle of a fierce battle between knights of two opposing forces.

Suddenly Gabi's summer in Italy is much, much more interesting.

2/2.5  Star Rating 
My Recommendation:  Good enough to buy the paperback or ebook.  I would not rush out and get it though.

Recommended Age 13+  The story reminds me of a Lynn Kurland or a Mckennon book.  It has been done SOOOO many times that unless the storyline is extra intriguing or the writing extremely well done, it's hard to keep the reader interested.  The only author to do this a little differently and break the mold is Diana Gabaldon.  This was not a bad effort for a young adult book.

Plot and Pace:  Hmm..just couldn't get as into it as I could have.  Too many holes in the storyline for me and not enough clear backstory.  Why are the two families fighting again?  It would be nice to have a little more history detailed in the story.  Italian history was not a major part of high school, so giving me the name of a few political groups and family names doesn't really tell me what the conflict should be.  The tomb is the main focal point of how they travel in time and no real information is given?  No mystery to unravel, ancient secrets to reveal??  So much more could have been included to make this story a little unique from the rest.  Maybe the next books will get into this, but a mysterious hook would have been nice.

Action and Imagery:  None to blog about

Romance and Humor:  I'll skip on the humor and talk about the romance.  Very little of it, but it was....cute?  The attraction of Marcello to Gabriella is written pretty well.  She's not like the rest of the women in his time; more forward, not as demure or agreeable.  But why is she attracted to him?  Because he's handsome??  Is that it.  This was a big disappointment.

Characters:  Another disappointment.  Not enough character involvement at all.  How you love or hate the characters is what makes an amazing book and determines how INTO the book and how invested I become in the story.  The villain of the story, not a good villain.  Why do we hate him again, other than he hates the main character?  And the sister!  Don't get me started....she just reappears.  We don't get to know about how she came back, what she's been doing in more detail?

What Irked The Shiznit Out Of Me:  Nothing really bothered me.
What Blew Me Away:  Nothing amazed me.

Saturday, June 14, 2014

Short Reviews - May 2014

I...can't...stop...reading!  No time to write full reviews.  
So here it is - SAS
(Short And Sweet)

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier

Gwyneth Shepherd's sophisticated, beautiful cousin Charlotte has been prepared her entire life for traveling through time. But unexpectedly, it is Gwyneth, who in the middle of class takes a sudden spin to a different era!
Gwyneth must now unearth the mystery of why her mother would lie about her birth date to ward off suspicion about her ability, brush up on her history, and work with Gideon--the time traveler from a similarly gifted family that passes the gene through its male line, and whose presence becomes, in time, less insufferable and more essential. Together, Gwyneth and Gideon journey through time to discover who, in the 18th century and in contemporary London, they can trust.
3.5 Star Rating - Recommended Age: 13+
A little bit of mystery, some romance with a hint of jealousy and a crazy aunt to add some humor.  I enjoyed this enough to read the second in the series and as soon as I'm in the mood to get back to a fast-paced YA novel, I'll finish up with the third.  I stayed intrigued throughout the story.  No real surprises or gotcha moments, but it was a good escape.
SAS:  You'll enjoy the budding relationship between Gwen and Gideon.  You will even enjoy Gideon's ego.  The characters are interesting, but not complex.  Plot is ordinary but the writing and pace will keep you interested.

The Wolves of Midwinter by Anne Rice

The novel opens on a cold, gray landscape. It is the beginning of December. Oak fires are burning in the stately flickering hearths of Nideck Point. It is Yuletide. For Reuben Golding, now infused with the wolf gift and under the loving tutelage of the Morphenkinder, this Christmas promises to be like no other . . . as he soon becomes aware that the Morphenkinder, steeped in their own rituals, are also celebrating the Midwinter Yuletide festival deep within Nideck forest.

From out of the shadows of the exquisite mansion comes a ghost—tormented, imploring, unable to speak yet able to embrace and desire with desperate affection . . . As Reuben finds himself caught up with the passions and yearnings of this spectral presence and the preparations for the Nideck town Christmas reach a fever pitch, astonishing secrets are revealed, secrets that tell of a strange netherworld, of spirits—centuries old—who possess their own fantastical ancient histories and taunt with their dark, magical powers . . .

2 Star Rating - Recommended Age: Adult
Oh, I was soooo disappointed.  I thoroughly enjoyed the first book, but the Wolves of Midwinter was nowhere near that level.  Were there any good parts??  Yes, there were some, but not enough to make this book enjoyable.  The world that she built around the morphenkind was still a wonder to read about.  The descriptions of Nideck Manor and the forest really does put you in a fantastical mindset.  But the writing this time around went over the top.  Not only does it follow her normal old-world style of overly describing scenes with out of touch wording and phrases, but in this book it is tedious!  In the first book it was just enough to have me hunched over my book and truly imagining the story;  not in just a visual sense but it was almost as if the story should have been from a different time.  This book just made me want to hurry up and finish it.  

SAS:  I had to force myself to finish this book.  The characters were the only good thing in this story; still very engaging.  The plot was almost non-existent, the pace was slow.  This is NOT on my recommend list for Anne Rice.  Skip it.

Up from the Grave by Jeaniene Frost
(Night Huntress Book #7)

There’s always one more grave to dig.

Lately, life has been unnaturally calm for vampires Cat Crawfield and her husband Bones. They should have known better than to relax their guard, because a shocking revelation sends them back into action to stop an all-out war…

A rogue CIA agent is involved in horrifying secret activities that threaten to raise tensions between humans and the undead to dangerous heights. Now Cat and Bones are in a race against time to save their friends from a fate worse than death…because the more secrets they unravel, the deadlier the consequences. And if they fail, their lives—and those of everyone they hold dear— will be hovering on the edge of the grave.

4 Star Rating - Recommended Age:  Adult
Still, soooo good!  Reading a Jeaniene Frost book always keeps me on the edge with the intrigue and action.  But what I love most about her books is that they keep me surprised.  Surprised you say...are there a lot of gotchas in her books?  Yes, but not always with the plot.  I'm talking about the humor!  When she wrote in a reference to the Spock and Captain Kirk death sequence from The Wrath of Khan, I dropped the book and started laughing!  Lines like, " shirt flapping behind him like twin mini capes."  I love it, just love it.  The character behaviors and personalities are consistent with each new book.  Each bringing their own brand of sexy, crazy and aloofness which keeps the story compelling.  Can I just say Marie Laveau is one bad...shut your mouth!  You will love the new character addition to the series and the possibilities they will bring.  You will end the book not knowing where the story will go from here.  Is this the end?  Can't be!  I want to know what is going to happen next!

SAS:  What can I say..another good one from this series.  This story never gets old.  The love between Cat and Bones is still all-encompassing, but you won't get tired reading about it.  The plot and action in this one was so good, I found myself skipping a sex scene to see what was coming next.  Yeah...that good.

The Dog in the Dark by Barb and JC Hendee
(Noble Dead Saga Book #2)

Barely escaping the city of Calm Seatt - and the assassins hunting them - Magiere, Leesil, and the elven dog Chap sail south to continue their quest to find the powerful orb of Air before their enemies do. But they are not alone, much to their frustration.

Aging elven assassin Brot’an has forced himself on them by offering his protection. Chap doesn’t believe this ruse, however, and seeks to uncover the assassin’s true agenda - as well as the cause of the secret civil war that has erupted into the open among Brot'an's people.

Meanwhile, Magiere struggles with her own dark nature, using Leesil’s love as an anchor to keep her grounded. For the personal price she paid to procure the orb of Fire was more than she thought - and more than she wants to reveal to anyone else.

But that is exactly what the cunning Brot’an wants to know. And he is willing to do whatever it takes - even if he must reveal his own dreaded secrets, which may cost the entire party their lives...and their very souls.

3.5 Star Rating - Recommended Age:  15+
Like the Wheel of Time, this series will not die, nor does it need to.  The plot is so complex, you still can't see the end game.  This was a more laid back, comfortable read for me.  The action was at a minimum, compared to the other books, but the confrontations between the elves and Magiere's group were dramatic.  The fight scenes are always choreographed well.  A lot of the backstory is played out through memories, which gives much more detail than just a retelling by the characters.  With those flashbacks, I found myself sympathizing with Brot'an.  

SAS:  It took a couple of chapters for me to really get into the story, but once I did I stayed intrigued until the end.  This story delves deeper into the plots and plans of the elves, but there are still a lot of questions.    The reader is kept guessing at the mysteries of the Orbs and their protectors and there is still a lot to learn  about the Ancient Enemy and Fey spirits.  

Saturday, March 29, 2014

Stung by Bethany Wiggins

There is no cure for being stung.

Fiona doesn’t remember going to sleep. But when she opens her eyes, she discovers her entire world has been altered—her house is abandoned and broken, and the entire neighborhood is barren and dead. Even stranger is the tattoo on her right hand—a black oval with five marks on either side—that she doesn’t remember getting but somehow knows she must cover at any cost. She’s right.

Those bearing the tattoo have turned into mindless, violent beasts that roam the streets and sewers, preying upon the unbranded while a select few live protected inside a fortress-like wall, their lives devoted to rebuilding society and killing all who bear the mark.

Now Fiona has awakened branded, alone—and on the wrong side of the wall.

4 Star Rating
My Recommendation:  Pick it up, download it.  It is not only a good read but something different!  It started off exciting and consistently stayed that way.  Not saying there is non-stop action, but you'll stay interested - no doubt.  

Recommended Age 14+  Things start off mysterious!  Memory loss, tattoos, absolute destruction.  This book had a fascinating concept.  I love it when a story gives me something new to daydream about.  The characters weren't very original.  A young vulnerable girl and a young man with a chip on his shoulder who has a need to protect the girl - they fall in love, blah, blah, blah.  Every new YA dystopian fiction has this same character scenario but Stung is among the few books that does it right.  The never ending questions and the anticipation of the outcomes made this a great read.

Plot/Pace:  Wanted to keep reading and reading.  It felt like the more I read, the more I couldn't stop because I had to know what was going to happen next.  It was never boring.  As I said before a unique plot, at least for me.  Yes there have been books about viruses decimating the population, but none brought about by a bee vaccine!  There's some intrigue and secrets to keep the story interesting.  The moments between Fo and her twin brother tugged at my heart!

Imagery:  Not overly descriptive.  Fo's flashbacks provided a clear vision of what things were like and how she felt.  I even liked that they were italicized. 

Romance:  Niiiiice...  Not too intense and the romance builds up over time.  You get some of the best elements of young romance -  gradual attraction, fear of loss, fierce protection and a declaration of feelings.  The romantic scenes are wonderfully described - his fingers slide to the nape of my neck; my mouth moves with his, my breath flows with his....whoa!

Action:  Throughout the book  there were moments when I was on edge about the outcome.  The author gives a good depiction of the entire situation.  She doesn't just detail the fighting, but all of the elements of the confrontation.  The anticipation leading up to it and the imagery during the battle.  Even the dialogue is written so that you get a feel for the emotions of the characters.

Characters:  Enjoyable.  I liked the enigma of Arris.  It was touching that Jonas' bond with his sister was stronger than his transformation.

What Irked the Shiznit Out of Me:  Nothing

What Blew Me Away:  Nothing

Saturday, March 8, 2014

Steelheart by Brandon Sanderson

There are no heroes.

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics.

But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills. 

Nobody fights the Epics... nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart—the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning—and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience. 

He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

5 Star Rating
My Recommendation:  So worth it!  Am I upset that he took time from finishing the next book in the Way of Kings series to write this?  HELLZ YES..but adding a YA series to his collection was such a very good idea.  Action packed, humorous, imaginative, climactic and moving.

Recommended Age:  14+  I will try not to be biased in this review, but I can't get enough..can't get enough Brandon Sanderson!  None of his books has ever disappointed.  As an author he has such an amazing way of bringing  unique ideas to his books.  This was a super hero book with what seems to be no true super heroes.  You are rooting for the regular humans in this story and they are all great characters.  Quirky, individual and passionate.  What you think you've figured out, you didn't!  I just knew..KNEW I KNEW what Steelheart's weakness was after the Prologue.  Ehh..wrong!  This book has surprises, shocks and plenty of funny moments.  Just another Brandon Sanderson book to add to the "I highly recommend" list!

Plot/Pace:  Couldn't stop reading.  As a matter of fact, I back-tracked quite a few times to re-read paragraphs.  Just the right measure of excitement and getting to know the characters.  The story didn't lag in place and it was never too complex to follow.  The plot is pretty simple, but well-thought out with victories and disappointments.  As a reader you don't feel like things are always working out perfectly.  And the hidden sub-plot of the labs and testing on superheroes!!!  I can't wait until the next book where that really starts to be revealed.

Imagery:  Well written descriptions of the scenery and characters.  I was able to build in my head a good image of the surroundings and faces.  But things weren't so detailed that I was limited in making the characters my own.  Brandon Sanderson relates a scene in a way that allows you to envision facial expressions without having to spell it out in the sentence.  I became absorbed in reading the story. I felt awkward when David felt awkward; empathy for the Professor when he would lose it and I fell in love with Cody's charm and liveliness.  Now that's some good writing right there!

Romance:  The story has a teen crush element.  It made for some very cute moments with David.  

Action:  Action-packed! The situations they got themselves into were very thrilling.  The book was filled with scenes to show off great weapons and great powers!  When this is made into a movie, and I really hope it is, this will be on par with the new Spiderman and Avengers.

Characters:  Each and every character was so well developed and unique!!  Bad guys, good guys, main characters and secondary!  Each had a personality trait or quirk that made him memorable.  David is a great main character and hero all in one.  He is smart, geeky, awkward and ballsy.  I loved his "inside the mind" conversations.  They brought a lot of humor to the story.  And so did Cody!  The Southern/Scottish character was one of my favorites.  He brought the human aspect to the story, balancing out the revenge with keeping their humanity and compassion.  Sanderson uses each of his characters to develop the story and make it entertaining.

What Irked the Shiznit Out of Me:  Not Applicable :)

What Blew Me Away:   The dialogue and banter between the characters.  The unexpected revelations and twists.

If you like this book, what else might you like???

Sunday, February 2, 2014

The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.

The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker.
And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team.
But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.

2.5 Star Rating
My Recommendation:  Interesting, but not an exciting read.  This is not a book I'd be rushing to tell my friends to pick up.

Recommended Age:  13+ Predictable, slow and not as complex as the last series.  Most of the concepts feel like I've read or seen them before.  While I was reading,  scenes from Caprica and The Matrix kept popping up in my head.  But this book wasn't as intriguing as they were.  Stupidity abounds!  I know the main characters are teenagers, but I think even at a young age there should be common sense and an instinct to survive.  I wanted to like this book so much, because I loved, ABSOLUTELY LOVED the Maze Runner series, but I just couldn't get into the story.

Plot/Pace:  Seen it, read that...  It's not exactly like TV shows and movies I've seen, but close enough that I'm not surprised at the outcome or how the plot flows.  Things started off ok, but they never picked up.  The end had a nice twist, but I could see it coming.  The climax took waaayyyy to long and I found myself flipping through pages and didn't miss anything important.

Imagery:  Not too bad.  The virtual world was described really well, along with the character perceptions.  Great depictions on the feelings of hunger and virtual death.

Romance:  None to speak of.  This wasn't a YA romance.  Although there was some hand holding.

Action:  Seriously lacking.  There were a few cases of "uh, oh, how will they get out of this one?" but based on the plot of the book I was expecting a lot more excitement.  I enjoyed the first test once they were on The Path and the human hallway chapter, but nothing else in the book caused me to have any reaction.

Characters:  What was the real point of the nemesis?  There's not enough involvement of that character for the reader to feel a real motivation to root for Michael and his friends.  I also think that better use of the secondary characters would have made the book more interesting.  Cutter and Ronika were interesting personalities!  Not enough depth put in to the lives of Michael's sidekicks.  They are just there to help him get the bad guy.

What Irked the Shiznit Out of Me:  "Oooohh...this guy is bad!  I can feel it!  I can sense it!  This is a trap!!! But damn I'm hungry, let's follow him anyway."  Really!  o_o

What Blew Me Away:

If you liked this book, these would be A MUCH BETTER way to spend your time!