Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Review: Atlantia by Ally Condie

Title: Atlantia
Author: Ally Condie
Genre: YA Adventure
Publisher: Dutton Children's
Length: 368 pages
Original Publishing Date: October 28th, 2014
Series: Standalone
Where I got it: Audiobook from the e-library
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
Can you hear Atlantia breathing?

For as long as she can remember, Rio has dreamt of the sand and sky Above—of life beyond her underwater city of Atlantia. But in a single moment, all her plans for the future are thwarted when her twin sister, Bay, makes an unexpected decision, stranding Rio Below. Alone, ripped away from the last person who knew Rio’s true self—and the powerful siren voice she has long hidden—she has nothing left to lose.

Guided by a dangerous and unlikely mentor, Rio formulates a plan that leads to increasingly treacherous questions about her mother’s death, her own destiny, and the complex system constructed to govern the divide between land and sea. Her life and her city depend on Rio to listen to the voices of the past and to speak long-hidden truths.

Main characters: 1/5

You know, I actually do hate to write these sorts of reviews. The ones where I go through and rip everything apart. But the fact of the matter is, this was a bad book, and it starts out with Rio.

Rio made me want to stab myself in the eyes. She was a combination of needlessly reckless with stubborn and stupid. She is selfish, even when she tries to be selfless, and only thinks of herself. She has absolutely no depth and I ended up not caring a whit about her.

Secondary characters: 1/5

Okay Bay, or Bae as I call her, is basically Rio except without a backbone. If at all possible, she has even less of a personality than Rio. She runs away and leaves her sister with nothing except a boatload of crappy clues. Everything is "save Bae, save Bae"! Literally, this girl needs to grow up if she can't do anything on her own.

True Beck. Yup, that's his real name. Has a knack for making mechanical fish. Don't know anything else about him. Instalove on page 2.

Nevio sucks as a villain. Maire is contrived. The mom is only seen as a saint.

Writing style: 1/5

Sorry Condie, it just didn't work. Some of the quotes from the novel were ridiculous. People say that Condie's writing is poetic, but I didn't see it at all. And the thing is, I can excuse writing that isn't gorgeous but just gets the job done, but this wasn't that. And what's more? It wasn't even exciting writing. I wanted to fall asleep through the whole thing, and it was only in hopes of writing this review that I forced myself forward.

Plot: 1.5/5 
Ugh. Okay, I wasn't even really interested in the concept honestly. It had some baby ("bae") potential, but just fell flat on its face.

When I heard that part of the concept was the above world versus the below world, I was hoping for an exciting quest to the top and lots of action along the way. Well, that obviously didn't happen. The choice to keep Rio (and thus the narrative) below was both a disappointment and ultimately, a mistake. The story then became a snore as Rio works to make enough money to get to the surface. None of her ideas are smart or clever, and it takes her half the book to come up with anything.

When we finally get away from the dullest time spent in an underwater world ever, it doesn't get much better. Most of the time is spent trapped in a closet. Enough said.

Ending: 1.5/5

Just when you think it can't get any worse. The plus side is that we get an interesting rumination of the origins of religion, and we get some warm and fluffy family appreciation. Other than that? The conflict and its resolution were both juvenile and lacked authenticity and weight.

Best scene: When it was over

Reminded Me Of: A sad version of Dark Life

Positives: Potentially interesting concept

Negatives: Everything else

Cover:  Yuck

Verdict:  Sorry Ally Condie, it's a hard pass from me

Rating:  2.4 / 10 (1 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, July 22, 2015

Review: The Diviners by Libba Bray

Title: The Diviners
Author: Libba Bray
Genre: YA Historical Fantasy
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Length: 578 pages
Original Publishing Date: September 18th, 2012
Series: The Diviners #1
Where I got it: Audiobook from the e-library
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
Evie O’Neill has been exiled from her boring old hometown and shipped off to the bustling streets of New York City—and she is pos-i-tute-ly ecstatic. It’s 1926, and New York is filled with speakeasies, Ziegfeld girls, and rakish pickpockets. The only catch is that she has to live with her uncle Will and his unhealthy obsession with the occult.

Evie worries he’ll discover her darkest secret: a supernatural power that has only brought her trouble so far. But when the police find a murdered girl branded with a cryptic symbol and Will is called to the scene, Evie realizes her gift could help catch a serial killer.

As Evie jumps headlong into a dance with a murderer, other stories unfold in the city that never sleeps. A young man named Memphis is caught between two worlds. A chorus girl named Theta is running from her past. A student named Jericho hides a shocking secret. And unknown to all, something dark and evil has awakened.

Main characters: 4/5

Evie, a spunky and spontaneous girl, is a great main character for The Diviners. It seems like we don't have an outgoing and popular female main character/narrator in YA novels very much, but Evie is just that. It was refreshing to have such a loud-mouthed character, even if it sometimes got her into trouble. Evie is not entirely likeable; she makes mistakes, she sticks her foot in her mouth, and she does dumb things. But she is passionate and vivacious and serves as a great main character.

Secondary characters: 4.5/5

Bray sculpted a well-rounded mix of secondary characters: Jericho, Sam, Theta, Memphis and Uncle Will. All of them had intriguing back stories and fascinating development that I appreciated. The antagonist, Naughty John, had a name that made me chuckle, but he actually turned out to be a creepy villain. Very creepy. Props on bringing the scare factor.

Writing style: 4.5/5

Overall, I was a fan of Bray's writing style. This novel is a MONSTER (more to come on that later, because that's not necessarily a good thing) but Bray's writing moved surprisingly quickly. There were the necessary action sections and the descriptions were spot on. Moreover, her writing was intensely evocative: I was entirely in the time period and never got jarred out of it by anachronisms. Obviously, I'm not up on 1920s slang, but some of it seemed a little over-the-top. Did people actually speak like that?

Plot: 4.5/5 
This was a surprising concept after reading Bray's Beauty Queens. I understand that this is more down Bray's alley than the former, but this was a breath of fresh air. I'm not normally a huge fan of historical fiction, nor the 1920s, but I absolutely loved the premise of this novel. The 1920s setting is perfect for the plot and the murder mystery aspect is fascinating. I love the connection between religion and magic.The connections between the Diviners was cool to see unfurl and I loved the variety of different stories.

Some of the parts I didn't like? Bray introduced these great characters and started making connections between them, but they weren't connected to the mystery and main conflict really at all. It seemed like Memphis and Theta were mostly doing their own things, unconnected from Evie and the murders. And yes, while Bray was able to make the novel move pretty quickly, did it really need to be that long?

Ending: 3.5/5

Great conclusion to the main conflict, but obviously a set-up for further sequels. I mentioned that many characters were introduced with little connection to the plot, which seemed like just a huge cliffhanger for the next book. After this thick tome, it's always a little disappointing to find out that it's part of a series.

Best scene: Evie entering Naughty John's house for the first time

Reminded Me Of: The Great Gatsby meets The Name of the Star

Positives: Fascinating and well-developed characters, concept, writing & pacing

Negatives: Missed connection between secondary characters and the main conflict (and the general feel that this was simply a build-up for sequels), too long

Cover: So gorgeous, I really love this cover. The font is beautiful, the front image is mysterious and interesting, and the background fits the scene perfectly.

Verdict:  Awesome concept and combination of genres

Rating:  8.4 / 10 (5 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, July 8, 2015

Review: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

Title: The Coldest Girl in Coldtown
Author: Holly Black
Genre: YA Paranormal Fantasy
Publisher: Little, Brown Books for Young Readers
Length: 419 pages
Original Publishing Date: January 1st, 2013
Series: Standalone
Where I got it: Audiobook from the e-library
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
Tana lives in a world where walled cities called Coldtowns exist. In them, quarantined monsters and humans mingle in a decadently bloody mix of predator and prey. The only problem is, once you pass through Coldtown's gates, you can never leave.

One morning, after a perfectly ordinary party, Tana wakes up surrounded by corpses. The only other survivors of this massacre are her exasperatingly endearing ex-boyfriend, infected and on the edge, and a mysterious boy burdened with a terrible secret. Shaken and determined, Tana enters a race against the clock to save the three of them the only way she knows how: by going straight to the wicked, opulent heart of Coldtown itself.

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown is a wholly original story of rage and revenge, of guilt and horror, and of love and loathing from bestselling and acclaimed author Holly Black.

Main characters: 4.5/5

Tana was a great protagonist with a strong voice. She was well-crafted and developed; strong but with her own unique flaws and shortcomings. I love the way that we learn about her background and the added depth that it adds to her character. Toward the end, I sometimes felt that she veered from her original track too much and became too different from what she had originally been, but overall I was sold on Tana as a main character and loved her story.

Secondary characters: 4.5/5

Aidan was perfect in every way possible. Oh, I mean, I hated him a lot. But he was great. What a character. He added the perfect amount of lighthearted comedy and quirkiness to the novel.

I was torn on Gavriel. In some ways, great. But I think the best way to characterize him is inconsistent, and not just because of the twist. I feel like Black herself couldn't reconcile all the different masks she wanted him to wear. He also began falling into the stereotypical YA bad boy vampire character toward the end. I was frustrated with the way his storyline became something more mainstream and overdone. That being said, I did like Gavriel: his background, his present and his screwed-up-ness. I also like that this wasn't a romance novel. Thank GOD romance is not the forefront of this novel.

There are a lot of minor characters in this novel, and for the most part, they are really great as well. As with the bigger characters, they are all deeply flawed and have their faults, but they are fascinating and frighteningly real. And they are so diverse! In everything. In personality, in gender, in type, anything you can think of. 

Writing style: 5/5

Gah, Holly Black I love you. I know this is the first novel of Black's I've read, but her descriptions and writing are beautiful. The dialogue is down to earth and real. The pacing moves well and holds suspense. This is a long book, but Black's writing causes it to fly by. Her descriptions of the blood and gore aren't the only things that create a dark and disturbing feeling from the tale. You feel like you're there with Tana, experiencing what she's experiencing.

Plot: 4.5/5 
World building, world building, world building! There should be an award for world building and The Coldest Girl in Coldtown should receive it. Black's vampires aren't just sparkly and thrown into a world, they are more unique (though not exceptionally unique, but that's hard to do with vampires), more detailed and more dark than any I've read recently. The world she creates is well imagined, realistic, detailed and intense. She has thought of every aspect that adding vampires will change.

And the plot itself? Well, it is long and winding. Perhaps slightly too long and winding? It can almost be split up into parts: a road trip to Coldtown, time inside Coldtown, and the main conflict between vampires that happens. This third part let me down compared to the earlier two. Black knows how to investigate human behavior even in a paranormal setting, and we see this in the first two "parts", but the third seems to revert back into an "old YA vampire" plot and I wasn't as thrilled with that turn of events.

Ending: 2/5

I mentioned that the third part of the book was my least favorite and I think that's why the ending also left me wanting a little something more. The very very end was satisfying enough, but I was unimpressed with the central conflict and how that worked out, so I'll factor that into the ending score.

Best scene: The very beginning

Reminded Me Of: Maybe The Immortal Rules?

Positives: Concept, world building, depth and complexity of characters, writing style & pacing

Negatives: The last third, Gavriel at the end, very long book, the big conflict


Verdict:  Yeah, I pretty much loved this novel. Can you tell?

Rating:  8.2 / 10 (5 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, July 1, 2015

Review: Pretty Little Liars series by Sara Shepard

Title: Pretty Little Liars
Author: Sara Shepard
Genre: YA Mystery
Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
Length: 286 pages
Original Publishing Date: October 1, 2006
Series: Pretty Little Liars #1
Where I got it: Audiobook from the e-library
Links: Goodreads Amazon Author's Website

Synopsis from Goodreads: 
Three years ago, Alison disappeared after a slumber party, not to be seen since. Her friends at the elite Pennsylvania school mourned her, but they also breathed secret sighs of relief. Each of them guarded a secret that only Alison had known. Now they have other dirty little secrets, secrets that could sink them in their gossip-hungry world. When each of them begins receiving anonymous emails and text messages, panic sets in. Are they being betrayed by some one in their circle? Worse yet: Is Alison back? A strong launch for a suspenseful series.


You know, sometimes I start to feel embarrassed that I have read the first four novels of this series, especially when I look at the juvenile covers and look at the book descriptions. But then I get deep into these novels and forget all about that minor shame. Because Sara Shepard is so freaking good at hooking me in. I guess that's why they turned more than one of her book series' into TV shows. 

The main characters may seem shallow and vain at first glance (and maybe at second glance), but Shepard is able to give them depth and continues to build secrets on top of secrets on top of secrets. At any given point in the novel, you may love or hate each of them in turn. Realistic? Maybe not for most readers, but at least they are humanized and complex, with "real person" issues. 

Shepard excels at weaving mysteries together and always keeping you guessing. She's the master at red herrings and throwing you off of the scent. Every book ends with a crazy cliffhanger that makes you think, "Well, now I have to run to the store and get the next one". Now, how is that fair, Ms. Shepard? 

The worst part is that I'm only four novels in and my library doesn't have audiobooks of the rest of the series. I'm about to pull my hair out. Yikes.

Rating:  7.0 / 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!