Thursday, May 31, 2012

Review: Chain Reaction

Chain Reaction (Perfect Chemistry #3), by Simone Elkeles. The GoodReads summary:
Like his brothers, Luis Fuentes is a risk taker; whether he's scaling the Rocky Mountains or dreaming of a future as an astronaut, Luis is always looking for the next thrill. Nikki Cruz lives her life by certain rules -, don't trust a boy who says "I love you", boys lie to get their own way and never date a boy from the south side of Fairfield. Then she meets Luis at his brother Alex's wedding and suddenly she's tempted to break all her rules. Getting Nikki to give him a chance is Luis's biggest challenge, until he finds himself targeted by the head of the gang that nearly destroyed his brothers' lives. Will Luis's feelings for Nikki be enough to stop him from entering a dark and violent world that could prove to be the ultimate risk?
Um, so, this book. This book was 100 percent a guilty pleasure for me. I’m honestly not sure that I can pinpoint any things that I like about it, but at the same time I got totally addicted. I gulped it down so fast. It’s the third (and last?) in the Perfect Chemistry series, in which the hot, gangbanging, trouble-making Fuentes brothers find true love in high school with their own little-miss-perfect rich girls. These books have seriously gotta be so unrealistic, but that never seems to stop me. Really, every time I read one of these Perfect Chemistry books, the whole time I just think, “Is that really what gang life is like? Is that what being Mexican American is really like?” It always seems so impossible to me, and yet since I am so far removed from either of those lifestyles, who am I to be skeptical?

Chain Reaction was probably my least favorite of the three in the series—neither Luis or Nikki really did it for me. I’m not actually sure that either of them have redeeming characteristics, especially Louis. When is it a good idea to join a gang, let alone lie to your girlfriend about it? It’s no wonder they make mistakes considering they both have to deal with really tough situations, but I couldn’t help rolling my eyes at them rather than sympathizing.

The book is also a straight up YA romance. It doesn’t bother trying to pretend to be anything else, which I found quite refreshing. It is what it is and isn’t ashamed of it. The romance is pretty hot and heavy too—it’s full on makeout sessions and groping and the whole shebang. Probably the cover gives that fact away.

Overall, if I hadn’t read the first two books, I wouldn’t have read this one, and if you haven’t read the first two, I don’t think this one is good enough to stand on its own. It more like, “Yay, let’s find out what happens to Louis!” But if you do decide to read it without having read the others, you won’t be lost or anything—the plot is separate from the others. And honestly, despite all my criticisms of this book, I had a hard time putting it down. It reeled me in for sure.

Rating: 2.5 / 5

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Review: Froi of the Exiles

Froi of the Exiles (The Lumatere Chronicles #2), by Melina Marchetta. The GoodReads summary:
Three years after the curse on Lumatere was lifted, Froi has found his home... Or so he believes...

Fiercely loyal to the Queen and Finnikin, Froi has been trained roughly and lovingly by the Guard sworn to protect the royal family, and has learned to control his quick temper. But when he is sent on a secretive mission to the kingdom of Charyn, nothing could have prepared him for what he finds. Here he encounters a damaged people who are not who they seem, and must unravel both the dark bonds of kinship and the mysteries of a half-mad Princess.

And in this barren and mysterious place, he will discover that there is a song sleeping in his blood, and though Froi would rather not, the time has come to listen.
You ever have those books you put off reading just because you know you’ll adore them so much and you don’t want the anticipation to be over? That was this book for me. I had it two weeks before I read it, and I thought about reading it every day but held off because I wanted to wait for a weekend where I could curl up with it and not have to put it down for anything. And this book didn’t let me down at all. Seriously, the fact that this book is by Melina Marchetta should tell you everything you need to know about this book. Aka, that it is so. freaking. GOOD. Gah! I can’t even really express how much I loved this book.

I honestly can’t think of a single thing I didn’t like about Froi of the Exiles. The characters, the setting, the conflict . . . it’s all done in that Melina Marchetta way that puts other authors to shame. She somehow always manages to write these gut-wrenching emotional rollercoasters that have you doing just the right amount of crying and laughing, and by the time it’s over, you just want to clutch the book to your chest and growl at anyone who tries to take it away from you (but maybe that’s just me).

The characters in this book are so outstanding. You get to spend time with all the people you fell in love with in the first book, Finnikin of the Rock, but you get to meet other characters that steal your heart away as well. Froi and Quintana took a little while to grow on me, but by the time the book ended I was so ridiculously invested in them. Froi has a temper and he frequently acts like the 17-year-old he is, but he’s also strong and kind and loyal beyond belief. Quintana took even more getting to know than Froi, but considering all she’s been through, she deserves to be closed off and crazy. And by the end of the book, as she begins to open up a little and you see the real her, you just know she’s going to end up being unstoppable. And then there’s all the secondary characters, like Phaedra, Gargarin, Lirah, and Arjuro—they’re just so ridiculously layered and interesting.

And Marchetta conquers creating a convincing fantasy world. There’s nothing superficial about it. There’s personal, political, and economic conflict and tension, and it’s all so believable and well-planned. And despite all the heartbreaking atrocities, they don’t stand in the way of the breathtaking moments of human kindness.

I could literally go on for, like, 10 more paragraphs about why I loved this book, but I’ll refrain. Basically, I can’t recommend this book and its predecessor enough. Or any book by Melina Marchetta for that matter. I think I’d especially recommend this book to anyone who likes Sharing Shinn’s Twelve Houses series. The last book in the series, Quintana of Charyrn, comes out in September (at least with its Australian publisher), and I. Can’t. Wait.

Rating: 5 / 5

Monday, May 28, 2012

Review: The Name of the Star

The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson. The GoodReads summary:
The day Louisiana teenager Rory Deveaux arrives in London marks a memorable occasion. For Rory, it's the start of a new life at a London boarding school. But for many, this will be remembered as the day a series of brutal murders broke out across the city, gruesome crimes mimicking the horrific Jack the Ripper events of more than a century ago.

Soon “Rippermania” takes hold of modern-day London, and the police are left with few leads and no witnesses. Except one. Rory spotted the man police believe to be the prime suspect. But she is the only one who saw him. Even her roommate, who was walking with her at the time, didn't notice the mysterious man. So why can only Rory see him? And more urgently, why has Rory become his next target? In this edge-of-your-seat thriller, full of suspense, humor, and romance, Rory will learn the truth about the secret ghost police of London and discover her own shocking abilities.
Let me start off by saying that one of the things I liked the most about this book is that it takes place at an English boarding school. It has seriously always been my dream to go to boarding school—especially one in England. I don’t know why, because it’s not like it would probably be all that different from my experience in the freshman dorms at college, but still. I think it’s something to do with the uniforms (I’d look awesome in a blazer and tie), and it just seems like all the drama that unfolds would be entertaining to watch. Sorry. I’m getting carried away here. But the boarding school in this book seems especially awesome, so I can’t help it.

I also loved that this book was a mystery. I’ve been a sucker for mysteries ever since I picked up my first Nancy Drew book, and since mysteries don’t crop up all that often in YA fiction, I’m always excited when I find one. And technically, I guess this book was less a straight-up mystery and more of a suspenseful book with mystery elements, but I’ll take any form of mystery I can get. And I liked that Rory doesn’t act like an idiot about said mystery elements. I feel like a lot of times in mysteries the main character does a lot of stupid things that put them in the path of the killer, but I think Rory is pretty levelheaded, which I approve of.

One thing that I liked that I wasn’t expecting to was *minor spoiler* the ghost aspect. Ghosts can freak me out more than almost anything, but since this ghost acted more like a human than like a ghost, it didn’t end up scaring me at all. I mean, I got creeped out, but it was less because it was a ghost and more because he was, you know, a Jack-the-Ripper-wannabe serial killer. *end spoiler*

The romance was pretty low key in this book, and I’m not actually sure who the love interest is supposed to be. Rory makes out with Jerome, but it’s Stephen that she actually talks to and spends time with. So who knows? I guess we’ll find out in the next book.

And as a quick side note, I LOVE Rory’s roommate Jazza. She’s just so . . . nice. I would definitely want to be her friend in real life.

Overall, this book was a lot of fun. It wasn’t super fluffy—because the whole Jack-the-Ripper thing and all the murders are pretty serious—but it still managed to be pretty entertaining and was definitely thoroughly engrossing. I haven’t read a ton of Maureen Johnson’s stuff, just her Little Blue Envelope books and this one, but now I’m curious about her other ones, because this book definitely left me diggin’ her storytelling ability.

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Friday, May 25, 2012

Friday Favorites: The Poisonwood Bible

On Fridays I post a little shout out to one of my favorite books and explain why I love it so much. It gives me the chance to fangirl over books I never reviewed on this blog and lets me post about some not necessarily YA books I love.

Which book?
The Poisonwood Bible, by Barbara Kingsolver


Summary? (From GoodReads)
Told by the wife and four daughters of Nathan Price, a fierce evangelical Baptist who takes his family and mission to the Belgian Congo in 1959,The Poisonwood Bible is the story of one family's tragic undoing and remarkable reconstruction over the course of three decades in postcolonial Africa. They carry with them all they believe they will need from home, but soon find that all of it - from garden seeds to Scripture - is calamitously transformed on African soil.

When did I first read it?
High school

Why did I first read it?
I don’t really remember. I think someone lent it to me? Or maybe I read it for a book club?

What did I think about it then?
I fell completely and totally in love with the writing. Obviously I’d read stuff by female authors before, but Kingsolver was the one who really brought it home to me that women could write just as well as the men we were studying in my English class. And could write better than them, actually. Plus, the setting was just so breathtakingly vivid—1960s Belgian Congo. I didn’t know the country even existed, let alone what went on there, so this book opened my eyes to a whole new world and made me realize that there's more to history than what I read in my history textbook.

What do I think about it now?
Even after reading most of Kingsolver’s other books, The Poisonwood Bible is still my favorite. I don’t know—it just grabs me by the heart every single time I read it. It’s one of those books that I can’t reread too often, because of the emotional wringer it puts me through, but every time I finish it, I’m reminded of just how worth it it is.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Review: Carpe Diem

Carpe Diem, by Autumn Cornwell. The GoodReads summary:
“I’ve got my entire life planned out for the next ten years — including my PhD and Pulitzer Prize,” claims 16-year-old overachiever Vassar Spore, daughter of overachiever parents, who in true overachiever fashion named her after an elite women’s college. Vassar expects her sophomore summer to include AP and AAP (Advanced Advanced Placement) classes. Surprise! Enter a world-traveling relative who sends her plans into a tailspin when she blackmails Vassar’s parents into forcing their only child to backpack with her through Southeast Asia.

On a journey from Malaysia to Cambodia to the remote jungles of Laos, Vassar sweats, falls in love, hones her outdoor survival skills — and uncovers a family secret that turns her whole world upside-down.

Vassar Spore can plan on one thing: she’ll never be the same again.
I secretly have a thing for books about travel—probably because I’ve never been outside the country and thus have to live vicariously. And this book brings it. Seriously. Vassar and her grandma are backpacking through Southeast Asia—a journey not for the faint of heart. And the author doesn’t sugarcoat anything (at least, I don’t think she does—after all, I have no experience in the matter). Through Vassar you get to see the awesome and beautiful things about the countries she visits, as well as the grimy and not-so-ideal aspects. You see the good, the bad, and the ugly, for sure.

Vassar herself is generally likeable. She’s a little too Type A for my taste, but her learning to loosen up is a big part of the story, so I can’t fault her for it. And I respected that she had a fairly good attitude about the whole situation. I have to admit my attitude would probably be much worse than hers if I was the one dragged out of my life by a grandma I didn’t know on a trip I didn’t want to go on. I think the only thing I can’t forgive Vassar for is her superior attitude. She was so holier-than-thou about everything. So let’s just say I was really happy when she got knocked down a peg.

The romance in the book was really refreshing. Hanks is definitely NOT your typical YA boy. I mean, he’s a short Malaysian cowboy-wannabe. But man, did I love him. He gets Vassar out of her bubble and is just generally an awesome person.

The only real hang up I have with the book is the big secret about Vassar’s life that finally gets revealed. It weirded me out, and I couldn’t get past that. I won’t spoil it for you, but I’ll just say that I definitely wasn’t expecting it, and I admire Vassar for handling the information WAY better than I ever would’ve.

Overall, this was a fun and enjoyable travel book. If you like 13 Little Blue Envelopes, you’ll probably like this one, as it’s along similar lines. And now, I really can’t decide if this book makes me want to go to Southeast Asia or stay as far away from it as possible…

Rating: 3.5 / 5

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Review: The Near Witch

The Near Witch, by Victoria Schwab. The GoodReads summary:
The Near Witch is only an old story told to frighten children.

If the wind calls at night, you must not listen. The wind is lonely, and always looking for company.

And there are no strangers in the town of Near.

These are the truths that Lexi has heard all her life.

But when an actual stranger—a boy who seems to fade like smoke—appears outside her home on the moor at night, she knows that at least one of these sayings is no longer true.

The next night, the children of Near start disappearing from their beds, and the mysterious boy falls under suspicion. Still, he insists on helping Lexi search for them. Something tells her she can trust him.

As the hunt for the children intensifies, so does Lexi's need to know—about the witch that just might be more than a bedtime story, about the wind that seems to speak through the walls at night, and about the history of this nameless boy.
I’m having trouble finding stuff to say about this book, and I have absolutely no idea why. After all, I thought it was quite good. So, as is the case with books I’m having trouble writing about, this review is going to take the form of the trusty ol’ “things I liked and didn’t like” list:

-The witches. I’ve always loved stories about witches, but I haven’t read one in a while, so The Near Witch really hit the spot for me. I especially love the two old witches who live at the edge of the town. They’re just so ridiculously cool.
-The setting/atmosphere. The story takes places in possibly the most insular small village ever—there are no strangers. Ever. At all. So you can imagine that this sets the scene for some crazy paranoia and fear in the town when kids start disappearing. And I just thought the whole setting of the scene—this tiny village against the backdrop of the endlessly wild and mysterious moor—made for a good story. Everything just felt so claustrophobic and eerie . . . and it was awesome.
-Wren. Awesome little sister. And I liked Lexi’s love for Wren—it revealed Lexi’s softer side.
-The writing. The writing in this book is beautiful—I don’t know what it is about the style, but is somehow fits the story so dang perfectly.

Didn’t like:
-Lexi. Okay, it’s not that I didn’t like her as much as I felt like I never got close to her. She’s fiercely independent and confident—which I don’t have a problem with, except that it makes her harder to get to know and relate to. I wouldn’t have minded a few weaknesses and a little humor tossed in.
-The ending. I felt the ending was a bit of a letdown, honestly. The book has an awesome suspense and mystery throughout, but then the second half of the climax and the resolution just felt weak after how strong the rest of the book had been. They’re not bad, per se—they’re just not as good as the rest. They felt too easy, I guess.

Overall, I’m not kidding about liking this book. I’m just having trouble expressing that like. The book reminded me a little of Chime, by Franny Billingsley, which is a very good thing, so if you liked that book, or just witch stories in general, give this book a shot.

Rating: 3.5 / 5  

Monday, May 21, 2012

Review: Virtuosity

Virtuosity, by Jessica Martinez. The GoodReads summary:
Now is not the time for Carmen to fall in love. And Jeremy is hands-down the wrong guy for her to fall for. He is infuriating, arrogant, and the only person who can stand in the way of Carmen getting the one thing she wants most: to win the prestigious Guarneri competition. Carmen's whole life is violin, and until she met Jeremy, her whole focus was winning. But what if Jeremy isn't just hot...what if Jeremy is better?

Carmen knows that kissing Jeremy can't end well, but she just can't stay away. Nobody else understands her--and riles her up--like he does. Still, she can't trust him with her biggest secret: She is so desperate to win she takes anti-anxiety drugs to perform, and what started as an easy fix has become a hungry addiction. Carmen is sick of not feeling anything on stage and even more sick of always doing what she’s told, doing what's expected.

Sometimes, being on top just means you have a long way to fall....
This book was EXACTLY what I needed at the moment—a really solid YA contemporary. I was so worried going in because I really wanted it to be good, and you know how that goes—the expectation monster usually comes out and ruins everything. But that didn’t happen here, and I am SO glad. I can’t even begin to tell you.

This book was just so easy to fall into, you know? It was effortless. And not in a mind-numbing fluffy kind of way (not that I don’t love those kinds of books as well). Carmen is dealing with some real problems: her performances, her anxiety, her mother, her first relationship—not easy things to deal with at any time, let alone right before the most important music competition of her life. But the author somehow manages to write about all that stuff and have it feel natural and real and not like she’s making her way down a checklist of teen issues.

I really liked the music aspect of this book. I’m not musically inclined AT ALL, but that didn’t matter. I could feel both Carmen’s passion for her music and the anxiety it caused so clearly. I knew exactly what she was talking about even though I’ve never experienced anything even remotely similar—I don’t know how the author managed to pull that off. And I love the tension the music competition brings to the story, as well as the tension it brings to Carmen and Jeremy’s relationship. It binds the story together so well and made it near impossible for me to put the book down.

I also really liked that Carmen and Jeremy’s relationship doesn’t dominate the story. It’s there—and it’s a very important part—but it’s not ALL the book is about. The book is about Carmen and about her relationship with her music, and I’m glad the author didn’t get distracted from that with the allure of amping up the romance.

In case you couldn’t tell, overall, I thoroughly and completely enjoyed this book. The only problem I had with it was that Jeremy never really won me over, but since the book wasn’t really about him, I could overlook it. So, yes, this is definitely one I recommend.

Rating: 4.5 / 5

Friday, May 18, 2012

Friday Favorites: With This Ring

On Fridays I post a little shout out to one of my favorite books and explain why I love it so much. It gives me the chance to fangirl over books I never reviewed on this blog and lets me post about some not necessarily YA books I love.

Which book?
With This Ring, by Carla Kelly

Regency Romance

Summary? (From GoodReads)
It was clear to Lydia Perkins from the first that she was courting scandal when she became involved with Major Samuel Reed. This outrageously impudent officer kept deplorable company in dismal surroundings beyond the boundaries of polite society. Even worse, he was shamelessly, sinfully penniless. — To keep him company would ruin Lydia's already slim chances in the marriage mart. To listen to the shocking proposal he made to her would spell ruin to her good name. To run away with him in a mockery of marriage on a honeymoon journey through the wilds of England was the ultimate folly for a young lady whose family demanded she wed both wisely and well. Could Lydia say "I do" and accept the Major for better or for worse, or would she risk losing the only man who had ever captured her heart?

When did I first read it?
Um…eight years ago probably? Sometime in high school.

Why did I first read it?
There was a box of regency romances out in our garage, and so I read my way through them.

What did I think about it then?
I think regency romances are a lot of fun—clean and light—but they tend to lack any major depth. The characters tend to flirt and go to balls and go for rides in Hyde Park and that’s it. But “With This Ring” is more grounded—its characters deal with real issues, and there is definite character growth going on. Plus, it is really, really funny. So reading “With This Ring” after a bunch of fluffier books was just so refreshing.

What do I think about it now?
I love this book A LOT. It is hands down one of my top two favorite romances. I’ve reread it a ton of times, and I never get tired of it. I just admire the characters so much and kinda look up to them in a way because they’re such strong people. And I like how the author makes the two characters’ relationship feel so real without having to be explicit about what goes on in the bedroom. I feel like this book completely disproves all those people who think romance novels can’t have substance and are only about sex.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Review: Tighter

Tighter, by Adele Griffin. The GoodReads summary:
When 17-year-old Jamie arrives on the idyllic New England island of Little Bly to work as a summer au pair, she is stunned to learn of the horror that precedes her. Seeking the truth surrounding a young couple's tragic deaths, Jamie discovers that she herself looks shockingly like the dead girl—and that she has a disturbing ability to sense the two ghosts. Why is Jamie's connection to the couple so intense? What really happened last summer at Little Bly? As the secrets of the house wrap tighter and tighter around her, Jamie must navigate the increasingly blurred divide between the worlds of the living and the dead.
In case you missed the memo, Tighter is a modernization of The Turn of the Screw, by Henry James. And as such, it kinda threw me a little—because I’m split on whether I liked the book or not. On the one hand, I think it’s an awesome adaptation, but if I try to look at it just as a YA ghost story, there a bunch of things I have issues with.

Like I said, I really do think it’s a fairly brilliant take on Henry James’s novella. Since it had been a while since I’d read the original, I read a summary before starting Tighter, and as I was reading Tighter, I was impressed over and over again how Adele Griffin manages to keep the same basic plot but make it her own. But even more than that, I was impressed at how she managed to capture the tone of the original—that creepy gothic feel that has you wondering whether the ghosts are real or if the narrator is just crazy.

But on its own . . . I don’t know, I think the book would feel weird and a little confusing to anyone who wasn’t familiar with The Turn of the Screw. I feel like some things don’t add up or are left as loose ends, and while they don’t matter in terms of it being an adaption, they do matter if I’m just looking at this as a YA read. Plus, Jamie isn’t a particularly likeable main character—and having read the original, I know liking her isn’t the important part. But if I had just gone into this book without being familiar with the story, Jamie would’ve driven me crazy so fast.

I will say, though, that I thought the climax was well done. A certain fact is revealed that I was totally NOT expecting but that fit into the story perfectly, and after I had picked my jaw up off the floor, I was just like, “Bravo, Ms. Griffin!” I also thought she did great job at building the tension higher and higher until finally something had to give. I love it when an author gets the climax of a story right.

Overall, I think I’d definitely recommend either reading The Turn of the Screw or at least a summary of it before reading Tighter. Because while it shines as a modernization of James’s story, I think it would have too many WTF moments if you weren’t familiar with the original.

Rating: 3 / 5

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

A reading quote for ya

Like a lot of readers, I love quotes about books and reading. But it isn't very often that I come across one that describes how I feel perfectly. But I came across the following quote in "Dreamhunter," by Elizabeth Knox, and was amazed at how ridiculously well it fits me:
I have no particular plan in life--and that's something I rather like. Most things people do seem to me to be rather dull and silly. In my ideal life I'd be left alone to read.
Fantastic, eh?

Friday, May 11, 2012

Friday Favorites: The Winter Sea

On Fridays I post a little shout out to one of my favorite books and explain why I love it so much. It gives me the chance to fangirl over books I never reviewed on this blog and lets me post about some not necessarily YA books I love.

Which book?
The Winter Sea, by Susanna Kearsley

Historical Fiction

Summary? (From GoodReads)
It is 2008 and Carrie McClelland can't hit the right note for her next novel, but an unplanned detour in Scotland, and a stop at the castle that inspired Count Dracula, sets her on a different path; a path that took her back in time exactly 300 years, to that same castle, and to a rebellion doomed to failure. Alternating between the contemporary setting and the past, The Winter Sea takes us at every turn into little known worlds; historical footnotes writ large, a history of Scotland and the Jacobite rebellion of 1708 and the possibility of genetic memory. Historical fiction at its best and Susanna Kearsley at hers, The Winter Sea evokes the writing of Thomas Raddall, Daphne Du Maurier, and Mary Stewart.

When did I first read it?
About a year ago.

Why did I first read it?
I think I saw it recommended on someone’s blog. I must have, actually, because it’s not really the type of book I’d usually pick up without a recommendation.

What did I think about it then?
I didn’t know what to expect going in, seeing as how I’m not habitually a fan of historical fiction. But I got sucked in almost from the start—mostly because there are two stories (one that takes place modernly and one that takes place in 18th century Scotland) and BOTH of them have totally hot Scottish guys in them. Seriously, what else would I have needed to love this book? But I think what really pushed this book into the favorites category for me was the ending of the historical storyline. I literally squealed when I read it because it was unexpected but so totally perfect.

What do I think about it now?
Admittedly, I haven’t had time to reread this one yet, but I swear I have every intention of doing so. It’s a fairly long book, so it takes a little more of a time commitment than I’m used to. But even though I haven’t reread it all the way through yet, I HAVE reread my favorite bits—because there are some parts of this book that are so perfectly wonderful I couldn't stay away.

Have you read this book? What did you think?

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Review: Silver Phoenix

Silver Phoenix, by Cindy Pon. The GoodReads summary:
No one wanted Ai Ling. And deep down she is relieved—despite the dishonor she has brought upon her family—to be unbetrothed and free, not some stranger's subservient bride banished to the inner quarters.

But now, something is after her. Something terrifying—a force she cannot comprehend. And as pieces of the puzzle start to fit together, Ai Ling begins to understand that her journey to the Palace of Fragrant Dreams isn't only a quest to find her beloved father but a venture with stakes larger than she could have imagined.

Bravery, intelligence, the will to fight and fight hard . . . she will need all of these things. Just as she will need the new and mysterious power growing within her. She will also need help.

It is Chen Yong who finds her partly submerged and barely breathing at the edge of a deep lake. There is something of unspeakable evil trying to drag her under. On a quest of his own, Chen Yong offers that help . . . and perhaps more.
So this is one of those books that I feel didn’t quite live up to its potential. It really had some awesome things going for it, number one being that it takes place in ancient China. On top of that, it has some Chinese mythology and fantasy elements going on, which were pretty fascinating. And I really liked the storyline with Zhong Ye, the bad guy, and thought that whole thing was cool in a creepy way.

But . . . the writing never quite won me over—it never seemed to gain any real depth or insight. And honestly, the conversations usually came off as pretty trite to me. Plus, Ai Ling had a tendency to annoy me, which never bodes well for my opinion of a book. Although, I am willing to admit that it might just be a personality clash for me rather than any true flaw in her character. But really, the thing that annoyed me the most about the book *spoiler alert* is that Ai Ling gets all hot and heavy with the bad guy but doesn’t even hold hands with Chen Yong, the dreamboat. I mean, what’s up with that? It’s probably really superficial of me to care, but I need at least a tiny hint of romantic resolution in my stories, and I definitely didn’t get it here. *end spoiler*

Overall, I thought the book was alright, but I’m not sure if it would’ve held my attention if it hadn’t had all the cool Chinese stuff going for it. I’m fairly tempted to check out the next book in the series to see if it improves—because I do think it has potential. Also because I need me some romantic resolution.

Rating: 3 / 5

Monday, May 7, 2012

Review: Dreamquake

Dreamquake (Dreamhunter #2), by Elizabeth Knox. The GoodReads summary:
The dreamhunting began as a beautiful thing, when Tziga Hame discovered that he could enter the Place and share the dreams he found there with other people. But Tziga Hame has disappeared and Laura, his daughter, knows that the art of projecting dreams has turned sour. On St. Lazarus's Eve, when elite citizens gather at the Rainbow Opera to experience the sweet dream of Homecoming, Laura, determined to show them the truth, plunges them into the nightmare used to control the convict workers. The event marks the first blow in the battle for control of the Place, the source of dreams. Then, when Laura's cousin, Rose, uncovers evidence that the government has been building a secret rail line deep into the Place, Laura follows it to find out what lies at its end. As she struggles to counter the government's sinister plans, a deeper mystery surfaces, a puzzle only Laura can unravel, a puzzle having to do with the very nature of the Place. What is the Place, after all? And what does it want from her?
First, read my review of the first book, Dreamhunter. *waits for you to read it*

Okay, I know, like, 99 percent of you didn’t actually go and read my other post. But basically, the same things I thought about the first book hold true for the second. There were a lot of really cool concepts, a pitch-perfect writing style, and some awesome characters (Rose! Chorley!), but there were also some characters I never grew to like. And it’s a bit difficult to really like a book when the main character grates on your nerves in every. single. scene she’s in (I’m looking at you, LAURA). And I wasn’t ever convinced by Laura and Sandy’s romance. She had about a million times more chemistry with her sandman, Nown, than she does with poor Sandy.

But that’s not to say that I didn’t enjoy the book. Because I did. I also ended up liking it better than the first one—mostly because it was much more exciting and faster paced. The first book is all about setting the scene, and this one is where everything comes together. I would almost say to skip the first book and start with this one, but alas, I feel like you’d miss some important backstory if you did that.

One of the things I loved about this book was the brilliant insight Knox gives you into her characters. You feel like you really know them—what’s in their souls—not just what they do and what they say. I was in awe, quite frankly. I was also amazed by the way all the pieces of the story come together. I wasn’t expecting it to work out like it did, but I was seriously impressed, and by the end I was like, “Oh. Oh. Oooooohhh. Now I get it.” It kinda makes me want to reread both books so I can go back and find all the clues Knox gave us along the way.

Overall, while having the same likes and dislikes with this one as with the first book, I ended up liking this one more because, well, I didn’t get bored like I did with the first. And probably, I would’ve ended up liking this book a lot if only Rose had been the main character instead of Laura. Dang Laura.

Rating: 3.5 / 5
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