Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Review: The Iron Thorn by Caitlin Kittredge

Title: The Iron Thorn
Author: Caitlin Kittredge
Genre: YA Steampunk/Fantasy
Publisher: Delacorte Books for Young Readers
Length: 492 pages
Original Publishing Date: February 22nd, 2011
Series: Iron Codex #1
Where I got it: Audiobook from the e-library
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
In the city of Lovecraft, the Proctors rule and a great Engine turns below the streets, grinding any resistance to their order to dust. The necrovirus is blamed for Lovecraft's epidemic of madness, for the strange and eldritch creatures that roam the streets after dark, and for everything that the city leaders deem Heretical—born of the belief in magic and witchcraft. And for Aoife Grayson, her time is growing shorter by the day.

Aoife Grayson's family is unique, in the worst way—every one of them, including her mother and her elder brother Conrad, has gone mad on their 16th birthday. And now, a ward of the state, and one of the only female students at the School of Engines, she is trying to pretend that her fate can be different.

Main characters: 3.5/5

Aoife is a well-rounded main character who I generally liked. She had a lot of different facets to her and I found myself connecting with her in a lot of different ways. That being said, Aoife could often be judgmental and she had a nasty quick temper. She definitely shows her flaws in a big way through the novel. Although I disliked her sometimes, I also appreciated that Kittredge gave her these flaws and problematic tendencies and traits.

But can we talk about her name? Her brother's name is Conrad and her name is Aoife? It seemed very random to have such a hard to pronounce and unusual name.

Secondary characters: 2.5/5

For most of the story, I was pretty disenchanted with Cal. He was this tag-along character who didn't bring anything to the table. His little twist made me think more. I wasn't sure what I thought about it, but at least it added some complexity and depth to Cal that didn't really exist there before.

Dean (first of all, hello Gilmore Girls images in my head) was that stereotypical bad boy love interest, but I'm not ashamed to say that I did love him. He was the perfect mix of sweet and bad and he was the perfect foil to Aoife and her flightiness.

There were some other minor characters that popped up but for the most part they were slightly underdeveloped

Writing style: 2.5/5

I loved the exposition to the novel: there was quite a bit of action up front and, though I confused about the world and its rules, I was excited and interested. It went downhill from there. Note that I am indeed listening to an audiobook, so if I'm not paying attention as much, things can get confusing. However, I found my attention wandering a lot in the middle stretches, and even when I was paying attention, I was confused

Another negative aspect was the excessive amount of description. Part of the reason my mind was wandering was because of the pacing. Kittredge could spend pages (minutes, for me) describing the same thing. No wonder I stopped listening.

Overall, I know that Kittredge can write well (based on the beginning), but it didn't come through in the middle section of this novel.

Plot: 4.5/5 
What an interesting mix of genres and different characters/aspects/etc. Kittredge portrayed the darkness of the steampunk genre well and I loved the way the fantasy aspects of the plot were seamlessly integrated with the steampunk concept. Sometimes I felt like the plot got a little bogged down in itself- Kittredge was attempting to do a lot and tell a lot of story in this first book, and I almost think she could have slowed it down and done a little less. That being said though, the story was interesting and Kittredge had a fascinating and innovative idea that worked well.

Ending: 3/5

There was a lot happening all at once. I was confused in some parts because so much came flying at me at once. The ending felt a little hurried. There was this whole big scene with Cal and then the major conflict and action scenes, and I became a little overwhelmed. Still, it was a great set up for the rest of the series.

Best scene: Aoife discovering the house

Reminded Me Of: Leviathan meets Wicked Lovely

Positives: Fascinating concept, strong female main character with flaws & all, some interesting secondary characters, evocative writing

Negatives: Underdeveloped minor characters, overly flowery writing and uneven pacing, almost too much plot happening, quick and confusing ending

Cover: Other than the fact that the girl on the cover looks super yellow and sickly, I actually love this cover

Verdict:  A fascinating concept and story make up for some of the weak parts of this steampunk fantasy crossover

Rating:  6.4 / 10 (4 stars)

Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Review: Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn

Title: Gone Girl
Author: Gillian Flynn
Genre: Psychological Thriller
Publisher: Broadway Books
Length: 560 pages
Original Publishing Date: January 1st, 2012
Series: Standalone
Where I got it: Bought it from Costco
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
On a warm summer morning in North Carthage, Missouri, it is Nick and Amy Dunne's fifth wedding anniversary. Presents are being wrapped and reservations are being made when Nick's clever and beautiful wife disappears from their rented McMansion on the Mississippi River. Husband-of-the-Year Nick isn't doing himself any favors with cringe-worthy daydreams about the slope and shape of his wife's head, but passages from Amy's diary reveal the alpha-girl perfectionist could have put anyone dangerously on edge. Under mounting pressure from the police and the media--as well as Amy's fiercely doting parents--the town golden boy parades an endless series of lies, deceits, and inappropriate behavior. Nick is oddly evasive, and he's definitely bitter--but is he really a killer?
As the cops close in, every couple in town is soon wondering how well they know the one that they love. With his twin sister, Margo, at his side, Nick stands by his innocence. Trouble is, if Nick didn't do it, where is that beautiful wife? And what was in that silvery gift box hidden in the back of her bedroom closet?

Blogger's Note: I am nervous to review this novel because a) spoilers and b) everyone seems to already have read it. Therefore, I'll be altering the review structure again.

I think the biggest reason why it took me this long to finish this book is because of the hype. And because I am really bad at reading popular novels when everyone else does. When Gone Girl started getting big, I said that I would read it. So I told everyone not to tell me a thing. But I still heard a bit. Like that there were some huge twists. That you would never know what to think. That it would blow your mind. That you would devour it in a day. I don't really feel like any of those apply to my reading experience. 

So, I had some high expectations, but barely any idea of what the novel was about. Maybe I was expecting an action-mystery novel. That's obviously not what this is.

 It was really hard for me to get into this book. I tried reading it about 3-4 times before I actually sat down to just knock it out. Even then, as I was cloistered at Starbucks, I kept getting distracted and jolted out of the story. Flynn's writing is complex and psychological, but it also doesn't keep my interest very well. It was like wading through utterly boring mud.

The twist: not surprised. Slightly exciting, definitely added some interest to the story and made me keep reading, but not surprising. I was surprised that there were more twists, if that counts as being truly surprised by the book. The thing that frustrated me most is that there weren't any clues really about the twist. It just dropped in out of nowhere. I don't know how to explain why I don't like that. It's not that I want to solve the mystery before Flynn tells me what the twist is, but I just want the tracks to be there so that when it happens, I can say: oh my God, yes I saw that.

Nick and Amy. The biggest thing I can say is that I liked the way that Flynn constructed them, piece by piece. The reader begins by learning about their lives, liking them, relating to them, and then slowly but surely, that leaves. They are intriguing as main characters simply because they are so seriously screwed up in ways that you can't even begin to explain

Finally, the ending. It fit. That's all I'm going to say on that, to avoid spoilers. 

Overall, I was disappointed by Gone Girl, but I'll admit that I ruminating on it after I stopped reading. 

Rating: 3 stars

Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know!

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Review: Dark Life by Kat Falls

Title: Dark Life
Author: Kat Falls
Genre: YA Adventure
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Length: 304 pages
Original Publishing Date: May 1st, 2010
Series: Dark Life #1
Where I got it: Audiobook form the e-library
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
A thrilling futuristic adventure set deep undersea, Dark Life follows the settlers of the world's first subsea settlement as they defend their homesteads against a brazen band of outlaws.

Set in an apocalyptic future where rising oceans have swallowed up entire regions and people live packed like sardines on the dry land left, DARK LIFE is the harrowing tale of underwater pioneers who have carved out a life for themselves in the harsh deep-sea environment, farming the seafloor in exchange for the land deed.

The story follows Ty, who has lived his whole life on his family's homestead and has dreams of claiming his own stake when he turns eighteen. But when outlaws' attacks on government supply ships and settlements...

Main characters: 4/5

Ty was a fun main character. Point number one: he was male, which is always different and refreshing. Point two: he could be a little pigheaded sometimes but then would make you smile and make you so happy and feel warm and fuzzy. Point three: He was an adorable big brother. He definitely could have been developed further, but overall I was happy with Ty.

Secondary characters: 4/5

Gemma was a pretty awesome secondary character and love interest for Ty. There was a lot of hullaballoo about Gemma being the only young girl under the ocean, which became a little ridiculous (needless to say, somewhat problematic for gender relations), but when it counted, Gemma came through. She was determined, ambitious, kind, and sometimes a little thick-headed.

Zoe and Ty's parents were adorable. I loved Zoe and the bond that she had with her brother, and later with Gemma. I was also impressed with the characterization of Ty's parents, something that isn't very common in YA novels.

I was a little disappointed in a certain minor character who turned out to be bad. He was a little inflated and ridiculous, which made his "evilness" come off contrived and fake.

The main antagonist was far better however. I don't want to get into too much, to avoid spoilers, but I felt like he was well developed and had multiple motivations and a great deal of development

Writing style: 4/5

Definitely intended for the slightly younger crowd (12-14ish), so sometimes the writing seemed a little juvenile. Overall though, it was exciting writing with a good mix of description and action. The pacing moved along well and I was entertained overall, with few lulls or boring parts. Falls was able to evoke an eerie underwater world that leaves readers fascinating and enthralled. The action scenes were excited and kept you on edge.

Plot: 3.5/5 
Huge props for world-building. After reading some sub-par undersea novels lately, I was pleasantly surprised by Falls' ability to create a darkly enchanting underwater world. The way the underwater creatures were described, the settler's farms and homes, even the scientific technology was all really well done.

As I mentioned in the writing style section, this novel was definitely intended for more middle grade readers. I could see this in the plot with some of the more whimsical (read: childish) plot sequences, particularly through the end where Ty's talent comes through to save the day.

Also, I was disappointed with the big twist. Again, I saw this one coming from miles away, although some of the details of how surprised me. Wish Falls had used a tiny bit more subtlety.

Ending: 3/5

Sad that this is the first part of a sequel. What happened to all the standalones? As I mentioned earlier, I was a little disappointed in the twist because I definitely saw it coming, however the overall closing of the story was well wrapped up and worked well.

Best scene: The scene with Shade and Ty in Ty's house

Reminded Me Of: A far better version of Atlantia

Positives: Cute main characters, interesting plot, entertaining writing

Negatives: More character development would have been nice, some childish writing and plot elements, predictable twist

Cover: Not a huge fan of the font, but the illustrations are very evocative and give the atmosphere of the novel

Verdict: An interesting take on an underwater adventure with lots of fun worldbuilding!

Rating:  7.4 / 10 (4 stars)

Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know!

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Review: Wicked Lovely by Melissa Marr

Title: Wicked Lovely
Author: Melissa Marr
Genre: YA Fantasy
Publisher: HarperTeen
Length: 328 pages
Original Publishing Date: June 12th, 2007
Series: Wicked Lovely #1
Where I got it: Audiobook from the e-library
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
Rule #3: Don't stare at invisible faeries.
Aislinn has always seen faeries. Powerful and dangerous, they walk hidden in the mortal world. Aislinn fears their cruelty - especially if they learn of her Sight - and wishes she were as blind to their presence as other teens.

Rule #2: Don't speak to invisible faeries.
Now faeries are stalking her. One of them, Keenan, who is equal parts terrifying and alluring, is trying to talk to her, asking questions Aislinn is afraid to answer.

Rule #1: Don't ever attract their attention.
But it's too late. Keenan is the Summer King, who has sought his queen for nine centuries. Without her, summer itself will perish. He is determined that Aislinn will become the Summer Queen at any cost — regardless of her plans or desires.

Suddenly none of the rules that have kept Aislinn safe are working anymore, and everything is on the line: her freedom; her best friend, Seth; her life; everything.

Faery intrigue, mortal love, and the clash of ancient rules and modern expectations swirl together in Melissa Marr's stunning twenty-first-century faery tale.

Main characters: 2.5/5

In light of the fact that I had just finished the spectacularly bad Wings, I was more inclined to like Wicked Lovely than if not, I believe.

Aislinn was a middle of the road main character. She wasn't intensely complex or deep, but she didn't constantly get on my nerves either. Ultimately, she was a little bland for my tastes and I was looking for more from her.

Secondary characters: 2/5

Keenan and Seth were okay male romance interests, however the fact that there was a love triangle was a little disappointing. Keenan was more developed overall, but Seth was mediocre. I didn't see a lot to his character beyond his infatuation with Aislinn.

Beira was a sad villain- she was Disney-esque in her pure evil and malicious intents in a way that was ridiculous and over the top. Donia was the only other character who had merit overall and who I felt sympathy and empathy for.

Writing style: 2/5

The writing style was generally entertaining, but was nothing particularly excited and nothing that lent itself to any exclamation here. The pacing was okay for the most part, but the plot didn't exactly lend itself to a fast moving story.

Plot: 2.5/5 
Okay, such a cool set up and descriptions of the faeries, but I was disappointed by the overall shape of the plot. The whole thing was basically a set up for Aislinn making a decision and there wasn't a whole lot of action and excitement through the whole thing.

Ending: 2.5/5

I was surprisingly happy with Aislinn's final decision and I felt like it was a breath of fresh air. Obviously, I was unhappy that the entire conflict revolved around this decision, and thus the ending lacked the intensity and the action that I was looking for, but yay Aislinn.

Best scene: The little twist toward the end- ew!

Reminded Me Of: A better version of Wings

Positives: Interesting take on faeries, Aislinn's final decision, mostly entertaining

Negatives: Disappointing and undeveloped characters, slow pacing, sad plot, lack of action and intensity overall

Cover: A little simplistic for no reason, but pretty enough

Verdict:  Better than some of its faerie predecessors, but only valuable for its ability to pass the time and keep me relatively entertained. 

Rating:  4.6 / 10 (2 stars)

Your Thoughts: Have you read it? What did you think? If you haven't, will you be adding it to your TBR list? Let me know!