Friday, July 22, 2011

Book 17 of '11 After Obsession by Carrie Jones and Steven E. Wedel

Dust Jacket Description:

"Aimee and Alan have secrets. Both teens have unusual pasts, and abilities they prefer to keep hidden. But when they meet each other for the first time, in a cold Maine town, they can’t stop their secrets from spilling out. Strange things have been happening lately, and they both feel strongly that something, or someone, is haunting them. They’re wrong. Despite their unusual history and powers, it’s neither Aimee nor Alan who is truly haunted. It’s Alan’s cousin Courtney who, in a desperate plea to find her missing father, has invited a demon into her life—and into her body. Only together can Aimee and Alan exorcise the ghost. And they have to move quickly, before it devours not just Courtney, but everything around her…. Filled with heart-pounding romance, paranormal activity, and rich teen characters to love—and introducing an exciting new YA voice in Steven Wedel—this novel is exactly what Carrie Jones fans have been waiting for. Meet your next obsession.

Characters: Aimee and Alan end up being two lovely, fun and wholesome characters for readers to read about. They're both fleshed out, flawed and interesting personalities, but I believe teens who don't like reading will get the most out of their characters. The depth isn't there, but their relationship is fun to see develop. I think Wedel and Jones do a great job of letting Aimee and Alan's romance happen quickly, but organically.

It's heart warming to read about Aimee and Alan's positive, supportive family situations - even though they are flawed. Seeing the two As help build better families also gave me the warm fuzzies. All of the side characters were great support to the main characters.

The characters aren't anything to write home about, but they do make for a quick, enjoyable read. 4 flowers.

Wedel and Jones' writing styles are very simplistic, but they get the message across which is one of the reasons why this book is my number one pick for skeptical readers. The blatant avoidance of swear words - and the main characters calling out those who swore - seemed out of character and got annoying. Ultimately, it works for the novel. 4 flowers.

It's hard to place the plot in After Obsession. There is a clear end goal but how it is reached is fairly intangible. It was still compelling to see how Jones and Wedel wove it, but it fell short for me. I wanted to see more depth in the world they created as well as clearer steps to defeat the River Man. 3 and a half flowers.

Predictable. Satisfying. 4 flowers.

Dust Jacket Description:
This is the description I found on Goodreads, so I'm not sure if it's on the ARC. I find it very thorough and intriguing, though. 4 and a half flowers.

I can't stand this cover. Maria Disidoro - a fantastic blogger and one of my closest friends - made a great point about this in her own review of the book. The proportion of the hand is all wrong, the arm is unusually short. The whole thing looks like it's been photo shopped. 1 flower.

If there is a teen girl you know between the ages of 11-15 who thinks reading is boring, please, PLEASE pick this book up. This book is perfect for that kind of reader. 4 flowers.

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Book 16 of '11 Peeps by Scott Westerfeld

Dust Jacket Description:

"A year ago, Cal Thompson was a college freshman more interested in meeting girls and partying than in attending biology class. Now, after a fateful encounter with a mysterious woman named Morgan, biology has become, literally, Cal’s life.

Cal was infected by a parasite that has a truly horrifying effect on its host. Cal himself is a carrier, unchanged by the parasite, but he’s infected the girlfriends he’s had since Morgan. All three have turned into the ravening ghouls Cal calls Peeps. The rest of us know them as vampires. It’s Cal’s job to hunt them down before they can create more of their kind. . . .

Bursting with the sharp intelligence and sly humor that are fast becoming his trademark, Scott Westerfeld’s novel is an utterly original take on an archetype of horror."

Characters: Cal Thompson is the kind of male protagonist I love reading about in YA fiction. He's intelligent, funny, and his life story is really interesting. His narrative is freaking fantastic. The way Westerfeld illustrates it is not only entertaining and fascinating, but a little gross. That's the appeal of this book.

Not a lot of time is spent on characters in Peeps. I will say that I felt lead on surrounding the amount of importance Morgan's character had in the novel. I kept on expecting her to have this awesome villainous scene, and she never got any real page time. This was disappointing, when I had gotten excited about her.

Lace was a light and fun love interest for Cal. Although I have a habit of getting annoyed by characters who expect the protag to tell them everything about a complex underground universe, Lace was still charming and funny.

The characters are not what make Peeps such an enthralling read, but they were aesthetically pleasing vessels for the story to play out through. 4 flowers.

Writing: Westerfeld's juxtaposition between well written, plot heavy chapters and conversational science lessons about parasites made it very difficult to put down. Throughout Peeps, readers begin to vividly imagine the world of parasites, which is not a level of the food chain we think about often. It may be disgusting, but it's also very intelligent. Parasites work as exceptionally good metaphors for human consciousness. 5 flowers.

Plot: Here is where Peeps shines. How Westerfeld weaves the back story on his vampires made me laugh in excitement. He makes former myths relevant to his own world building, and the cleverness made me gobble the book up in only two days. It's so intelligent that it takes a lot of energy to follow along, but it's so enthralling you can't help but turn the pages. 5 flowers.

End: The last action scene verged on campy for me, but the last chapter is written wonderfully and the ending is satisfying. 4 flowers.

Dust Jacket Description: An archetype of horror? Really? That's dramatizing the scare factor of this book a few degrees. I wish they mention something about Lace. 3 and a half flowers.

Cover: There are other much better covers for Peeps, but the one on my used copy has faces on them, and I don't like it at all. 3 and a half flowers.

Overall: If you want an incredibly intelligent and funny take on the overused vampire trope, you HAVE to pick this book up. 4 and half flowers.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Book 22 of '11 Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows by JK Rowlin

Dust Jacket Description:

"Harry has been burdened with a dark, dangerous and seemingly impossible task: that of locating and destroying Voldemort's remaining Horcruxes. Never has Harry felt so alone or faced a future so full of shadows. But Harry must somehow find within himself the strength to complete the task he has been given. He must leave the warmth, safety and companionship of The Burrow and follow without fear or hesitation the inexorable path laid out for him..."

SPOILERS FOR DEATHLY HALLOWS. But it's been four years. Get over it. This is probably an unnecessary warning anyways, as I'm sure I was the only person who hadn't read the seventh book yet.

Even as someone who grew up with Series of Unfortunate Events and Trixie Belden instead of the HP series, it's difficult not to love the Golden Trio. Harry's completely raw emotional state - which was excruciatingly annoying in the fifth book - is something I've come to appreciate and relate to heavily. Hermione's intelligence and empathy has always made me love her. While I still have a hard time determining what Ron's actual point of existence is, beyond being a writing tool, he certainly is the comic relief of the series. And he was bloody fantastic in Philosopher's Stone.

But I have to say I enjoyed them all in this book more than ever before. Maybe I'm just a sucker for angsty, all or nothing style plots, but you really see the strength of their friendship here. I loved watching them find bits and pieces of humor in such dire circumstances. And that kiss between Ron and Hermione? I'm not even a real supporter of HR/R and yet I squeed because of how Hermione that interaction was.

Not to mention that aha! Dumbledore really gains complexity in Deathly Hallows. I was more than a little in love with reading about his faults and flaws. Rowling does an exceptional job of showing him as a brilliant, flawed wizard and I had such a wonderful experience trying to figure out Dumbledore along with Harry.

If you bring up Harry Potter to me at ALL, I will not shut up about the amazing, gorgeous, brilliant relationship between Harry and Voldemort. I think it's Rowling's best accomplishment with this world. Seeing the parallels between their pasts and personalities, as well as the contrasts has been without a doubt my absolute favourite part of the series. Like the prophecy? I think I've talked about a million people's ears off with how spectacular I find that concept. Seeing Harry really access that relationship and use it to the best of his abilities made both the reader and the inner critic inside of me very happy. Harry's reasoning behind each and every one of Voldemort's Horcruxes, falling into Voldemort's mind and the dynamic in their last encounter fully realized why I love this layer of the HP series most of all - the relationship between the two adversaries shows readers that while we cannot control the majority of what happens to us, ultimately, we do control how we live and who we decide to be. Seeing Voldemort's fears and emotional downfalls with love is so encapsulating to a reader after learning to be fearful of him from the wizarding world.

Speaking of powerful lessons the HP series brings to the table : the emotional power that Snape's evolution as a character brings to Deathly Hallows is heartbreaking and beautiful. His progression confirmed why I found him to be one of the most compelling characters. It's very obvious why he is one of the best loved characters in the fandom.

And I don't mean to forget the side characters either. I loved seeing Neville pop onto the scene, Fred and George were heartbreakingly hilarious, and I couldn't help but grin when Ginny defends Harry from other female attention in the very thicket of the war.

I think the character arches in Deathly Hallows have been my favourite out of the entire series. 4 and a half flowers.

Jo's writing tends to be very simplistic, but it does have the habit of being beautiful. I prefer descriptive styles though, so while it isn't my taste, I do think it fits the story well. 4 flowers.

Plot is by far the aspect of Harry's story that JK Rowling succeeds the most at. I adored the amount of intelligence and complexity that could be found in DH. The twists and turns surprised me - even after thinking I had all the important parts spoiled for me much earlier on. The pacing may be a little ragged, with a lot of angsty camping trip and little climatic action, but I begun to notice that I like a lot of build up and a great climax in my fantasy reading. Absolutely brilliant. 5 flowers.

I know there has been huge controversy surrounding the epilogue, but it did give me the warm fuzzies. And I must not be the only person who saw that Rowling gave herself a very obvious plot beginning to go to if she wanted to create another story in the wizarding universe. The epilogue was way too simplistic, and I would have preferred seeing a brief overview of Harry going through the trials and tribulations of helping piece back the wizarding world again, but I would be lying if I said reading about Harry and Ginny's, Ron and Hermione's children hadn't been satisfying. 3 and half flowers.

Dust Jacket Description:
I think the writers of the description have done the best job of evading giving the readers any important information, that I have ever seen. But it's the last book in the HP series, so I suppose they did their job. 3 and half flowers.

While I love the concept for this cover, I despise the actual illustrations of the Golden Trio. They look nothing like the Harry, Hermione and Ron in my head. 3 flowers.

Besides the epilogue, a stunningly amazing end to a wonderful, intelligent series. Harry Potter will never be the character who changed my life and shaped my world view, but his story is enough to give any wannabe writer hope that this kind of story exists, and despair that they'll never be able to create this kind of world ever again. I thank Rowling for making one the most intelligent, intriguing and gorgeous stories in the history of literature.

Now I am going to dress up as an anonymous Death Eater, let my friend secure an owl to my shoulder, watch the first part of the movie and then go out to the midnight showing. Please excuse me while I go experience the most powerful fandom known to the world. I hope you will too. 4 and half flowers.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Book 15 of '11 The Last Little Blue Envelope by Maureen Johnson

Dust Jacket Description:

Ginny Blackstone thought that the biggest adventure of her life was behind her. She spent last summer traveling around Europe, following the tasks her aunt Peg laid out in a series of letters before she died. When someone stole Ginny’s backpack—and the last little blue envelope inside—she resigned herself to never knowing how it was supposed to end.

Months later, a mysterious boy contacts Ginny from London, saying he’s found her bag. Finally, Ginny can finish what she started. But instead of ending her journey, the last letter starts a new adventure—one filled with old friends, new loves, and once-in-a-lifetime experiences. Ginny finds she must hold on to her wits . . . and her heart.

This time, there are no instructions.

Characters: I enjoyed Ginny's character a heck of a lot more in this sequel. I think it's because she finally began the process of finding her voice after the end of 13LBE. I loved experiencing more of the dynamic between Ginny and Richard, which I didn't get enough of in the first book. The progression of Keith's character made me really fall in love with Maureen's writing style - and belief in pursuing the story right for her characters, for the first time. Even if I didn't always like the person he seemed to be playing. I was also thrilled by how Aunt Peg's personality maintained the crazy fun continuity it had in the first novel.

I also loved the new additions to the story and thought Maureen did a great job with them. I loved watching my emotions towards Oliver evolve. Reading this book was a lot like visiting old friends again, and then finding out you like them even more now than you did before. Johnson does the best job I've seen in all of YA literature of demonstrating that sometimes life changes - and sometimes that's more than okay. 4 and a half flowers.

Writing: LLBE picks up right where 13LBE left off. The book doesn't miss a single beat, but you can tell Johnson has definitely matured as an author. Whatever you can say about Johnson's books, she certainly knows how to write descriptions that seem organic to the characters, even as a writer you usually uses third person. 4 and a half flowers.

Plot: The pacing is a lot more rushed than the first book. LLBE feels more like a short, satisfying epilogue to the original book than a new story in its entirety. But it does work for the vibe of the series. Everything was tight, logical and interesting. 4 and a half flowers.

End: I loved how Peg ended the last envelope. I also loved the conclusion Ginny came to by the end of the novel. It all fit the story perfectly. 5 flowers.

Dust Jacket Description: Not my favourite, but it sums everything up well. 4 flowers.

Cover: Why does Johnson always have the worst covers? I hate faces on my covers. Hate em. 2 and a half flowers.

Overall: If you loved 13 Little Blue Envelopes, you'll probably love the sequel. It's more a mini adventure than a full blown excursion, but it ties everything up brilliantly. 4 and a half flowers.