Saturday, February 4, 2012

Review: The Pledge

Title: The Pledge

Author: Kimberly Derting

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Part of a Series?: First in series

Goodreads Summary:
In the violent country of Ludania, the classes are strictly divided by the language they speak. The smallest transgression, like looking a member of a higher class in the eye while they are speaking their native tongue, results in immediate execution. Seventeen-year-old Charlaina has always been able to understand the languages of all classes, and she's spent her life trying to hide her secret. The only place she can really be free is the drug-fueled underground clubs where people go to shake off the oppressive rules of the world they live in. It's there that she meets a beautiful and mysterious boy named Max who speaks a language she's never heard before . . . and her secret is almost exposed.

Charlie is intensely attracted to Max, even though she can't be sure where his real loyalties lie. As the emergency drills give way to real crisis and the violence escalates, it becomes clear that Charlie is the key to something much bigger: her country's only chance for freedom from the terrible power of a deadly regime.

Derting had a major identity crisis while writing The Pledge. She created an unholy combination of high fantasy and dystopia with, arguably, some smatterings of pure chicklit. To be clear, genre hopping is not bad. I like it when books try to do something fun and creative. The Pledge was not particularly fun and not even close to creative.

Is this book set in an AU or what? This is the first dystopia that really doesn't explain how everything went to hell in a handbag. That possibly contributed to my growing lack of comprehension about what setting Derting was creating. I can deal with queens and royalty and what not. However, I could not get past how little was explained (or insinuated) about the origins of the dystopian society. I didn't need Derting to explicitly say, "Well, this war happened, and this government fell, and this monarchy rose, etc. etc." No, that would've been overkill. I was thinking it would've been better if the author had taken a page out of Margaret Atwood's handbook on providing just enough clues to give the reader a picture. I didn't get anything like that so I resorted to just letting myself get blasted with unintentional anachronisms. For example, Charlie wears a tunic but there are electric lights...and cars. Whoever created the New World Order in the past must've had a thing for Medieval garb. Also, can I just ask a question in general? Was this really a dystopia? Dystopias typically are based more in reality than fantasy. Even fantastic dystopias like The Hunger Games or Enclave have obvious foundations in the real world. So if Charlie's gift of tongues is magic oriented, where does that leave The Pledge? Is it wrong to tag this as a dystopian book? IMO, dystopian books should not broach the topic of takes away from the believability.

Personally, I love becoming invested in characters. I wanted to attach myself to Team Charlie so much! I've always had this little dream of becoming a polyglot (I'd learn Swahili, Korean, Russian, some obscure Arabic dialect, and Dutch), and have I ever read a book about a protagonist who could understand EVERY language in existence (can Charlie speak all languages though? I don't think that point was ever explained)? When I originally read the book summary several months ago, I practically died with excitement. Sadly, Charlie disappointed me on all accounts. First off, she is such a Mary Sue. Did anyone pick up on that? She's kind, protective, intelligent (except when it comes to the important stuff), and uber boy crazy. Apparently, she also is eerily similar to Derting's other protagonist as well...although I can't say if this is true or not since I haven't read The Body Finder. For someone so perfect, Charlie spends a lot of time internal monologuing about how unhappy she is with whatever situation she's gotten herself into. This story was completely focused on Charlie, despite the narrative switches to the other minor characters. I felt Derting included the secondary chapters as an afterthought, which really hurt the story in general because it left the supporting cast a little washed out.

Last point, I swear. Here we have a plot that had so much potential: a girl can understand languages finds out she might be the key to a nationwide revolution. Yet nothing in this book gave me a true WTF moment. Spoilers follow. Max is a prince? I got that "subtle" clue about five chapters before Charlie figured it out. Charlie's the long lost princess? That was obvious from the moment Sabara mentioned her hunt for trying to find a replacement body. Angelina can heal people? That isn't even a plot twist! That's Derting failing to introduce this concept fluidly. The tortured boy who doesn't get a name until the last paragraph in the scene is actually Aron? My question in response is who else could it be? Nothing Derting included in this book had a wow factor capable of eliciting any major emotional response.

If anything, I'd read the sequel just to see how Derting stretches the plot. But nothing about this first installment begged for a series continuation to me.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Review: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

You're probably wondering why I haven't been posting lately. One word: swim season. Okay, that's two words. But when you're suffocating from a lack of sleep and lack of oxygen, in my case, it's hard to get enough time to actually finish a book. As always, you can subscribe to my Goodreads account via the link in the sidebar because I'm better at updating that account than this. Plus, I have to delete spoiler tags from my original reviews to post them on Blogger, so you get that extra little something if you read these on my Goodreads. Memes will start again next week when I get the hang of my new schedule. 

Title: Hold Me Closer, Necromancer

Author: Lish McBride

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Part of a Series?: First in series

Goodreads Summary:
Sam leads a pretty normal life. He may not have the most exciting job in the world, but he’s doing all right—until a fast food prank brings him to the attention of Douglas, a creepy guy with an intense violent streak. 

Turns out Douglas is a necromancer who raises the dead for cash and sees potential in Sam. Then Sam discovers he’s a necromancer too, but with strangely latent powers. And his worst nightmare wants to join forces . . . or else.  

With only a week to figure things out, Sam needs all the help he can get. Luckily he lives in Seattle, which has nearly as many paranormal types as it does coffee places. But even with newfound friends, will Sam be able to save his skin?

It took me a while to actually start this book, but once I started, I couldn't stop (hence, why this review is being written at 1:21 am). I can sum up the story in one sentence: A fun paranormal romp that sacrifices realism for the sake of awesomeness.

Hold Me Closer, Necromancer proved to me that it's possible to have a bucketload of supporting characters and balance all of them in a somewhat satisfying way. I thought at first that McBride was overshooting when the initial 4 character cast was added upon with 2 bad guys, 1 love interest + family, and a convoluted family backstory. Some might even argue that she did indeed overestimate her abilities. I, however, can't see it that way. I thought that the supporting characters all got their own development or at least hinted to a new story line in the sequels. Honestly, this was the only time where I could actually stand the "average human sidekick" trope; Ramon is possibly my favorite sidekick in a PNR that I've read recently.

Sam could've turned out to be a generic protagonist. McBride certainly didn't do any favors by giving him the "my mother didn't tell me about my true paranormal powers and now it turns out I'm uber powerful" trope. Yet all I can say is that Sam is certainly a character I could root for. He's not the smartest guy when it comes to school, but he is rational and likeable. He thinks like a normal human being shoved into a ridiculous situation. He's not perfect but he doesn't pretend to be. I actually think he is the most believable out of all the characters (although realism on a plot level is...sketchy). However, I don't think that I could've read a whole book about Sam. It helped immensely that McBride actually changed the POV each chapter, alternating between Sam's first person POV and supporting character-centric third person POV. The way this book was formatted helped flesh out each facet of the story without overwhelming me with too-much Sam or too-much Ramon.

I have a lot of other minor good things to say about Hold Me Closer, Necromancer like the world-building and action, but I took off a star because the realism in some aspects was really lacking.  On the other hand, in McBride's defense, I probably would have made the same move she did. Sometimes, readers just like to get to the fun stuff, and if that means skimping on the realism sometimes, so be it.

I think this is a pretty fun book to get a hold of. I'd recommend it if not just for having a nice way to pass the time.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Review: Shattered Souls

Title: Shattered Souls

Author: Mary Lindsey

Rating: 2.5 out of 5 stars

Part of a Series?: Standalone

Goodreads Summary:
 Lenzi hears voices and has visions - gravestones, floods, a boy with steel gray eyes. Her boyfriend, Zak, can't help, and everything keeps getting louder and more intense. Then Lenzi meets Alden, the boy from her dreams, who reveals that she's a reincarnated Speaker - someone who can talk to and help lost souls - and that he has been her Protector for centuries.

Now Lenzi must choose between her life with Zak and the life she is destined to lead with Alden. But time is running out: a malevolent spirit is out to destroy Lenzi, and he will kill her if she doesn't make a decision soon.

2.5 stars

This book was a pain to finish. It took me twice as long to read, and I had to pick up different books to keep myself occupied. The main thing I think was bad about this book was that Mary Lindsey was really inconsistent with the quality of her plot. She shoved all of the boring stuff into the first 75% of the book, leaving only a few chapters for the exciting action and mystery.

I was totally overwhelmed with the sheer number of clichés that riddled this book. Had it not been for the predictability, I think Shattered Souls would've been fairly interesting. It had reincarnation, ghosts, exorcisms, and the sweet smell of faux-bureaucracy. But we also got a whole lot of messy love triangles, stupid protagonist decisions, and frustrating "I love you but can't be with you" speeches. 

Lenzi is awfully difficult to support. She is weak, whiney, and overall a pain to read about, especially in the first half of the book where she alternates between rejecting Alden's help with her ghost problem and playing 20 questions with him even when they're on a time crunch. Her ongoing identity crisis didn't help either. Furthermore, she falls into the "innocent seductress" stereotype too easily. She leads on Zak, her current boyfriend, even though she clearly loves Alden from day 1. Can I just tell all YA female protagonists with love triangle issues that CHEATING IS CHEATING, NO EXCEPTIONS. If you have a boyfriend but like someone else, break up with the boyfriend before you kiss the other guy. Because if you kiss that other guy before breaking up with said boyfriend, you are a CHEATER and deserve no sympathy if said boyfriend tries to kill you in a fit of drunken stupidity.

The plot is a little disjointed and uneven. I can sort of understand the amount of infodumping in this book. There is a lot of backstory that we need to know. However, told through Alden in monologues that compose several pages, the flood of new information made me feel overwhelmed and frustrated at the stagnation of the story's real plot! The minor restitutions scattered around the chapters are sort of satisfying (and really, really interesting. no sarcasm there), but they only served to increase my impatience. When we finally get to the Big Baddy of the book, the final conclusion to the battle left me wanting more. Even Lenzi comments on how fast everything was going; literally, we meet, learn about, and beat the Big Baddy all in the span of half a day. 

Overall, I thought this book had potential. Unfortunately, I just got tired of wading through the clichés in search of a good story.

Quote Something Sunday #4

Last week's quote:

With the last spark of life I had left, I tried to speak, tried to let Dimitri know I loved him too and that he had to protect her now. I don't think he understood, but the words of the guardian mantra were my last conscious thought. They come first.

This quote was from the thoughts of Rose Hathaway in Last Sacrifice by Richelle Mead. Best vampire book ever. 

This week's quote:

“It's okay,' he tells me. 'If you want to go. Everyone wants you to stay. I want you to stay more than I've ever wanted anything in my life.' His voice cracks with emotion. He stops, clears his throat, takes a breath, and continues. 'But that's what I want and I could see why it might not be what you want. So I just wanted to tell you that I understand if you go. It's okay if you have to leave us. It's okay if you want to stop fighting.' 

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Review: Zombiecorns

Title: Zombiecorns

Author: John Green

Rating: 4 stars

Part of a Series?: Free novella

Goodreads Summary:
 Dearest Reader, 
This is a bad zombie apocalypse novella. It was written in a hurry. It is riddled with inconsistencies. And it never quite arrives at whatever point it sought to make. But remember: The $25 you donated to charity in exchange for this steaming mess of prose will help our species shuffle along, and I hope you’ll feel warmed by your good deed as you read. Thank you for decreasing the overall worldwide level of suck, and as they say in my hometown: Don’t forget to be awesome. 

Best wishes! 
John Green 

* The book has been made available under creative commons license, so it can be acquired legally here: :)

If only this was longer! I thoroughly enjoyed Zombicorns (which isn't about Zombies and Unicorns, sadly...hence the 4 stars) and I absolutely loved John Green's style of writing. It's funny, quirky, sarcastic, and joyously self deprecating. Had Green made this a full length novel rather than a free novella, it might've even topped my list for best zombie fiction, which, granted, is a limited but quality list. 

I don't really have a full review nor can I really comment on the character development or plot pacing because Zombicorns is too short. Besides, all of that is totally irrelevant because THERE IS MAGIC CORN IN THIS BOOK! NO JOKE, MY FRIENDS! MAGIC. MIND CONTROLLING. CORN. Along with a "subtle" jabs at the government; religion; and Leeroy Jenkins, reference that made me laugh so hard my sides hurt (That was a brave move, Green. I congratulate you for outing your inner nerd). 


That is all.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fan Trailer Tuesday - Artemis Fowl

I read the Artemis Fowl books religiously when I was little. They were so addicting. Child genius + fairies + jetset adventures around (and under) the world? They were really entertaining. Granted, I haven't read the recent books because I'm just too old for the series now, I'll always have fond memories of the series. Now for the trailer:

I said last week I was getting annoyed with the constant casting of Ben Barnes as the male hottie in books. Well, this week I realized my pet peeve of seeing scenes from The Spiderwick Chronicles in every single trailer. Used well and tastefully, the movie clips have the potential to improve the trailer. But for this trailer's case (which otherwise is okay), I found the clips lacking in coherency to the actual book.

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Vampire Diaries: The Books or TV Series?

The Vampire Diaries book series by L.J. Smith was never my cup of tea. I bought books 1 and 2 (in an omnibus edition as seen to the left) from Barnes and Noble a couple years ago, and I thought the story was garbage. Yeah, this happened to be during my Twilight-vendetta-phase where I angrily raged against vampire pop culture for polluting the reputation of the young adult book genre. But I still stand by my dislike of the books. They never really appealed to me. Character-wise, I found the main protagonist Elena to be too unrelatable, and plot-wise, every twist was trite -- even though the book was published pre-Twilight.

However, this is where I get to start my rant. I absolutely adore the T.V. series adaptation of the books. The Vampire Diaries is probably my number one guilty pleasure. I know, it’s a CW production. People who are TV connoisseurs turn their noses away from CW because it's the “teen drama” channel for its long running series like Gossip Girl and America’s Next Top Model. 

Let me just say…WHO CARES? 

The Vampire Diaries started out really slowly. It was really angsty and the characters all seemed to follow a straight, predictable plot. However, it’s only been three seasons and I’ve seen ten seasons worth of plot twists. If you’ve followed the show, you’d also be plenty exhausted with trying to keep up with the newest escapade of Elena, Stefan, and Damon (and I mean this in the best possible way). As I continued to watch the series, I found myself diving into the storyline as if it was a great book. I rooted for the characters and mini ranted with my best friend about the latest episodes.

I sort of wish, for once, that the books followed the T.V. series more closely. Unlike the generic vampire drama in the books, the T.V. series humanizes every character we see, developing them into actual 3D people rather than cut out T.V. stereotypes. 

I urge you all to give The Vampire Diaries a try…at least past the first few episodes (because I know the pilot was a disaster…fog machines should be banned from sound stages for eternity).

Quote Something Sunday #3

Last week's quote:

"I'm useless upriver," _________ told the Chief Healer flatly. "There's only Jon's or Myles's armor to clean,
and I can't clean it while they're wearing it. If I don’t do something, I’ll scream.” 

This quote was spoken by Alanna in Tamora Pierce's In the Hand of the Goddess. This is possibly  my favorite book out of all of Pierce's published material. I read this book for the first time in 5th grade, and I still remember my initial awe over her writing. The book is phenomenal.
Now for this week's quote...

With the last spark of life I had left, I tried to speak, tried to let Dimitri know I loved him too and that he had to protect her now. I don't think he understood, but the words of the guardian mantra were my last conscious thought. They come first.

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Review: Rot & Ruin

Title: Rot & Ruin

Author: Jonathan Maberry

Rating: 2 out of 5 stars

Part of a Series?: First in series

Goodreads Summary:
 In the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America where Benny Imura lives, every teenager must find a job by the time they turn fifteen or get their rations cut in half. Benny doesn’t want to apprentice as a zombie hunter with his boring older brother Tom, but he has no choice. He expects a tedious job whacking zoms for cash—but what he gets is a vocation that will teach him what it means to be human.
Acclaimed horror author Jonathan Maberry makes his young adult debut with this detail-rich depiction of a post-apocalyptic world where humanity has fallen, the dead have risen, and danger is always imminent.
Help! I'm on a 2-star book streak! 2012 really is bad luck :(

I don't have too much to say about this particular book...I'm sure if you really like zombie books, then you will like this. Rot & Ruin isn't your typical zombie book though. It portrays those mindless bullet fodder as human beings for once! 

Maberry did several things differently than I'm used to. 

1) After humanity struggled back into semisurvival mode after the apocalypse, teenagers were made to pick jobs when they turn 15. These jobs aren't like mailman or schoolteacher. Jobs highlighted include cadaverine bottler (think zombie sweat), erosion artist, minimum wage worker who bangs on fences with sticks to attract "zoms", etc. The creativity and realism are present, but sometimes this formula doesn't equate exactly to the most compelling read. Zombie hunting is the most captivating aspect of Rot & Ruin, but for some reason, Maberry slowly guides us around town, showing us some of the more...scintillating characters in town. I especially liked the stereotypical Dumb and Dumber characters that Benny, for some reason, idolized blindly. Fun stuff. I think, for the sake of realism, Maberry detracted a lot from the first part of the book's fun adventure.

2) Bromance is a hard thing to write, especially when Benny is completely unlikeable and Tom is a self righteous idiot. I think Maberry had the right idea in creating a younger brother who would slowly come to understand his older brother while also maturing his own view of the world at the same time. It sounds good on paper, doesn't it? However, I have to say that the execution was poor. Benny and Tom's relationship slowly progressed from infuriating to boring. I knew something was wrong with their relationship when I started wishing Benny would go back to outright hating his older least it was interesting! After reading this book, I had to go watch season 4 ofSupernatural because no one has more bromance than the Winchester brothers. 

3) I just overall didn't think the plot was that intriguing. There were some interesting parts, but when I could neither root for the good guys or bad guys (both sides were utterly hopeless, I swear), my interest came down to a grinding halt. 

Honestly, I'm getting a little tired of 2 star books! 2012 is not going well for me. But I actually think a lot of people would like this book. It just didn't appeal to me personally. Try it out and see.


See my original review at Goodreads or check me out on Twitter!
Followers will be given hugs. 

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Fan Trailer Tuesdays - Clockwork Angel

Love her, hate her, wish her luck, wish her death, Cassandra Clare has an immense fanbase. She is one of the most followed authors on Goodreads, and her books always top some sort of reputable book chart in terms of sheer number of buyers. It was only the next step that one person in her gaggle of worshippers was handy with iMovie.

 I really liked this trailer. I was pretty ambivalent about Clockwork Angel as a whole, but as always, these are trailers so I can't really take into account the quality of the book when I review them. 
First off, I really LOVED the use of the cut scenes with the clock gears in the background. They were a clever use of special effects that left me wondering where she got them--certainly no fanmade trailer before this has had cut scenes like them before. I also liked the voice overs (FINALLY!) because they just added that touch of realism to the trailer. You don't ever see a silent trailer with only music;  there is always some sort of voice or narration involved. 

The only thing I can really say I didn't like was the use of Ben Barnes in the role that I presume is Will Herondale. He is so overused in fan trailers, I have to keep an eye out to pick trailers that don't have his face in them. Some people find him hot...well, I think he's kind of odd looking and way too old for a love interest role in a YA book. He's 30 years old, for God's sake. Please, I don't need him filling the shoes of my teen boy candy anytime soon...not even as Dimitri from Vampire Academy.