Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Review: Fever

Fever Lauren Destefano

ISBN13: 9781442409071

341 pages, Hardcover

Series: The Chemical Garden Trilogy

Summary (from GoodReads):
Running away brings Rhine and Gabriel right into a trap, in the form of a twisted carnival whose ringmistress keeps watch over a menagerie of girls. Just as Rhine uncovers what plans await her, her fortune turns again. With Gabriel at her side, Rhine travels through an environment as grim as the one she left a year ago - surroundings that mirror her own feelings of fear and hopelessness.

The two are determined to get to Manhattan, to relative safety with Rhine’s twin brother, Rowan. But the road there is long and perilous - and in a world where young women only live to age twenty and young men die at twenty-five, time is precious. Worse still, they can’t seem to elude Rhine’s father-in-law, Vaughn, who is determined to bring Rhine back to the mansion...by any means necessary.

In the sequel to Lauren DeStefano’s harrowing Wither, Rhine must decide if freedom is worth the price - now that she has more to lose than ever.

My thoughts: 

What the HAIL? This book was a total disaster! I think the only reason I finished it was because I so confused I didn't know to stop reading. The different sections were disconnected. There was almost zero world building, and it made no sense. I read the first book Wither last summer (when I wasn't blogging) and I gave it 4 stars. I know that I am much less critical of books when I'm not thinking about what I'm going to write about them later, but I definitely do not remember thinking Wither was this bad. I remember thinking that there were some inconsistencies in the world. For one, if people are so desperate to round up women to get them pregnant, why would they have shot all the extra girls? Whatever redeeming qualities there were in Wither, that made me give it 4 stars definitely do not exist in this one. I don't think I can cover everything about this book that was just not right...I'd be here all day, but here are some of the highlights (and spoilers):

Right after their escape Rhine and Gabriel are imprisoned by a red-light district Madame--a total stereotypical caricature who speaks in revolving Russian and French accents. For about the first half of the book, Madame keeps Rhine and Gabriel in an opiate (and apparently aphrodisiac) haze. Bizarrely, Stefano protects Rhine from straight up prostitution (which would have at least been believable) and instead has Rhine and Gabriel "perform" in an open air bird cage for customers. I think they go all the way. It's implied, but not described (thankfully) so it's unclear exactly what they are doing. On top of that, there's a malformed child that only crawls and can't speak (but is apparently intelligent--I suppose we are supposed to somehow identify her?) I've yet to figure out why she is in the book.

Spoiler alert, they finally escape, right when Vaughn (the original villain) finds them. I still cannot figure out the point behind the interlude at Madame's. Rhine shows none of the desire to leave that she did at Vaughn's, despite being forced into sexual acts (which she never was at Vaughn's) and knowing that Gabriel was being forced to take drugs.

They do finally escape, right as Vaughn shows up (how convenient). They stop at a restaurant where the owners end up being psychopaths. The woman--like apparently all first-gen women in this series--so overcome with the loss of her own child, creepily acts as if the crippled girl is her own child. And the man--like all men in this series--is for some reason only interested in Rhine for sex and tries to rape her. Apparently, gentlemen, in times of hardship, your base instinct is to treat all women as if they are plastic sex dolls. I'm not sure if DeStefano was trying to make a point here about the objectification of women or definitions of rape--but all she ends up doing is normalizing rape within this world. Girls are only good for two things in this world---sex and pregnancy. There's no explanation, no discussion of why this is or why it is wrong. In fact, DeStefano ends up telling us that some forms of rape are ok in comparison to others. Linden "loves" his wives, and he had an "understanding" with at least one of them, so therefore having sex with them is fine. Cecily WANTS to become pregnant, even though she is only about 12. While on the run, Rhine actually misses Linden. That situation only seems wrong because we know that Vaughn is behind the wheel with nefarious plans. With Madame, Rhine avoids straight up prostitution by agreeing to perform with Gabriel--but HELLO she is still being forced and drugged. Yes, Rhine does it partly to protect Gabriel, but that is STILL rape (or sexual assault? see confusion above). It's only when Rhine is physically forced, like by the restaurant owner, that it is truly rape and therefore something that traumatizes her. Of course, in that situation, she is conveniently saved by Gabriel who just "felt" that something was wrong with that guy. So the true rape, the true horror, is never even played out.

I had so many feminist issues with this book that I need to stop there. It is just too much. I seriously think DeStefano needs to take a women's studies course. And a political science or economics course. This leads me to my final thought. Attention authors: If you don't understand that building a dystopian world requires some political or economic knowledge and insight into OUR own world then you shouldn't be writing dystopian lit. Bottom line. The world in this series makes no sense. There is mention of the president, who is now just a figurehead and whose position is inherited. Um ok...so how did that happen? And what is the point? What does that bit of information add to Rhine's story? There's apparently some conflict between scientists and naturalists--those who think they should try to fix the virus and those who think (apparently) that the human race should just be able to die out. This conflict seems to be an afterthought until the "cliffhanger" at the end of the book. And I would say, I saw that coming, if the scientists vs. naturalists conflict had appeared sooner than right near the end of the book.

Stefano implies that Rhine and Rowan have some quality (as they were probably one of their parent's many experiments) that will solve the virus problem. Actually, it's laid on pretty thick, from their eyes, the revealed conversations between Julia and Gabriel, Vaughn's obsession with her...But we are given nothing to lead us further into why she is different. This is a problem I have with a lot series books. You don't have wait and reveal everything at the end. Give us more information when it makes sense in the story. Don't just hint at it, give it to us. That way it won't be a surprise that either makes no sense or just pisses me off.

Honestly, I will probably read the last one when it comes out. Mainly because it is a trainwreck that I cannot look away from. This book reads like a "what no to do" for dystopian authors. 

Rating: 1 out of 5.

Only recommended if you like train wrecks.

Teaser Tuesday: Dragonswood

Teaser Tuesdays is a meme hosted by MizB at Should Be Reading.

Today's teaser is from a book that is ripe for feminist criticism.

Dragonswood, Janet Lee Carey

Page 11:

"Wedlock--a telling word; women are locked in, the husband keeps the key." I spun around. " Give me a man who never beats his wife or child, who lets his wife ride out when she likes, who buys her ink that she might draw or write, books that she might read, who walks beside her not before her, and does not make her empty his piss pot." Who does not mind that she slips into Dragonswood to see the great old dragons and glimpse the fairy folk, I thought, but did not say. " A man who listens when she speaks and enjoys her conversation, and I will marry."

Dragonswood is set in 1192, obviously its a fantasy, but it has some loosely based historical undertones. I like this quote because I think that, even today, women have to struggle for fairness and equality, since the differences aren't this stark for us. I'm reserving my opinion of the book until I finish (I'm about 3/4 through it). I've read too many teen romance novels with protagonists that start off thinking this is what they want only to then fall desperately in love with exactly the opposite. If that happens in this book, I'll probably have to go back and draw a big fat X through this passage, and then return it to the library. (KIDDING)...(kinda)

Monday, May 28, 2012

Musing Mondays: May 28

Musing Mondays is hosted by Miz B at Should Be Reading.

If you come across an unfamiliar word, do you stop to look it up right away?

Generally, I don't need to look up an unfamiliar word as I can usually figure it out from context. I often have a difficult time pinpointing a definition of a word that I know unless it has context. If a word is particularly obscure or there just aren't any context clues AND I'm next to a computer, I will usually look it up. If I'm not near a computer, I'll probably just push forward and not worry about it. I can't remember the last time I picked up a physical dictionary.

Friday, May 25, 2012

TGIF: Show Me Your Cover

Thanks Ginger!

This Friday's Question:

Show Me Your Cover: What are some of the worst book covers, but hold some of the best stories inside? Don't be embarrassed, show us your cover!

Sapphique, Catherine Fisher:

I really love this series and I love Catherine Fisher. But this cover would never entice me if I just saw it sitting on a shelf. It's not that the cover doesn't make sense once you know what the book is about, it's just that it doesn't give newcomers any intuitive idea of the book.

The Prophecy of the Sisters, Michelle Zink:

This is actually the second version of the cover. The first is perfect. Although maybe not the best book ever, I did enjoy reading it and the original cover is much more inline with the tone and the plot of the book. In this book the sisters are pitted against one another in a supernatural prophecy that will claim one of their lives...not getting that so much in this cover.

And, this might be cheating, but this is one of my most favorite covers ever:

Skin Hunger: Kathleen Duey

I picked this one up off a shelf having never heard of it and knew I had to read it. THAT'S a good cover. Which reminds me, Hey Kathleen Duey! Would you write the third book already! I've been waiting for YEARS!!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday: The Pilfering Edition

Thanks to Jill from Breaking the Spine for hosting this meme.

This week, I didn't have anything of my own to post, so I'm going to highlight some picks from other bloggers that I am NOW waiting for thanks to their bad influence.

And the TBR list grows and grows.

From Reve at YA Books:

Lies Beneath Anne Greenwood Brown

ISBN13: 9780385742016

303 pages, Hardcover

June 12, 2012

From Goodreads: Calder White lives in the cold, clear waters of Lake Superior, the only brother in a family of murderous mermaids. To survive, Calder and his sisters prey on humans, killing them to absorb their energy. But this summer the underwater clan targets Jason Hancock out of pure revenge. They blame Hancock for their mother's death and have been waiting a long time for him to return to his family's homestead on the lake. Hancock has a fear of water, so to lure him in, Calder sets out to seduce Hancock's daughter, Lily. Easy enough—especially as Calder has lots of practice using his irresistable good looks and charm on ususpecting girls. Only this time Calder screws everything up: he falls for Lily—just as Lily starts to suspect that there's more to the monsters-in-the-lake legends than she ever imagined. And just as his sisters are losing patience with him.

Why am I waiting? You had me at "murderous mermaids". Apparently, mermaids are the next big thing. I definitely missed that memo, but I'm IN.

From SQT at Fantasy and SciFI Lovin' News and Reviews:

The White Forest Adam McOmber

ISBN13: 9781451664270

320 pages, Hardcover

September 11, 2012

From Goodreads: Young Jane Silverlake lives with her father at a crumbling family estate on the edge of Hampstead Heath. Jane has a secret—an unexplainable gift that allows her to see the souls of manmade objects—and this talent isolates her from the outside world. Her greatest joy is wandering the wild heath with her neighbors, Madeline and Nathan. But as the friends come of age, their idyll is shattered by the feelings both girls develop for Nathan, and by Nathan’s interest in a cult led by Ariston Day, a charismatic mystic popular with London's elite. Day encourages his followers to explore dream manipulation, with the goal of discovering a new virtual reality, a place he calls the Empyrean.
A year later, Nathan has vanished, and the famed Inspector Vidocq arrives in London to untangle the events that led up to Nathan’s disappearance. As a sinister truth emerges, Jane realizes she must discover the origins of her talent and use it to find Nathan herself, before it’s too late.

Why am I waiting? Seeing the souls of manmade objects, a crumbling family estates, cults, dream manipulation, missing persons, inspectors, BEFORE IT'S TOO LATE!

From Anna at Anna Reads:

What's Left of Me Kat Zhang

The Hybrid Chronicles #1

ISBN13: 9780062114877

336 Pages, Hardcover

September 1, 2012

From GoodReads: NEVER LET ME GO meets HIS DARK MATERIALS in a beautiful, haunting YA debut, the first book in The Hybrid Chronicles.

Eva and Addie live in a world where everyone is born with two souls, but where only the dominant one is allowed to survive childhood. Fifteen years old, and closer even than twins, the girls are keeping Eva, the ‘second soul’, a secret. They know that it’s forbidden to be hybrid, but how could they ever be apart?

When a dramatic event reveals what really happens to hybrids if they are discovered, Eva and Addie face a dangerous fight for survival, neither wanting to be the one left behind…

Why am I waiting? I agree with Anna, this sounds like it will be huge. I loved Pullman's conception of souls in HIS DARK MATERIALS so I'll be interested to see if this will approach that.

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Review Redux: A Reliable Wife

A Reliable Wife Robert Goolrick

ISBN13: 9781565125964

291 Pages, Hardcover

**I originally reviewed an ARC copy of this book on  December 31, 2008.

Summary (from GoodReads): Rural Wisconsin, 1909. In the bitter cold, Ralph Truitt, a successful businessman, stands alone on a train platform waiting for the woman who answered his newspaper advertisement for "a reliable wife." But when Catherine Land steps off the train from Chicago, she's not the "simple, honest woman" that Ralph is expecting. She is both complex and devious, haunted by a terrible past and motivated by greed. Her plan is simple: she will win this man's devotion, and then, ever so slowly, she will poison him and leave Wisconsin a wealthy widow. What she has not counted on, though, is that Truitt a passionate man with his own dark secrets has plans of his own for his new wife. Isolated on a remote estate and imprisoned by relentless snow, the story of Ralph and Catherine unfolds in unimaginable ways.

My thoughts:

I usually wait a few days to review a book, to let it settle a little bit, and so I don't gush too much. But in the interest of the new year, and tying up some loose ends, I figured I'd write about this book, which I was determined to finish in 2008.

I received this book earlier this week, and I couldn't help myself, I had to bump it up in front of my other review books. So bad, I know. Something about this book was really intriguing. And it wasn't at all what I expected, and I still really liked it. At its core, this book is about finding a kind of happiness or contentedness in a life consumed by grief, misery, and unquenchable lust.

There is a slow and torturous reveal of Catherine and Truitt's intentions and deceptions and each reveal is more and more disturbing. What makes it bearable in the end, at least for me, is that the characters are able to come to peace with a simple life--they can be happy with what is real and present, instead of longing for the future, which could supposedly bring something better but doesn't and won't exist.

I found Catherine's character to be more "relatable," but the reader is privy to more of her than of Truitt. Sometimes the things Truitt is able to forgive of Catherine and Antonio doesn't mesh with what he was unable to forgive in his previous life. But maybe this is just another method of atonement. Catherine's transition is much more believable, much more fleshed out.

The language was very lyrical and had that quality that I find difficult to describe. It feels formal and poetic and misty, if that really means anything, and I suppose it reflects the fogginess of the character's intentions.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

There are a lot of descriptions of sex and lust in this book, so I wouldn't recommend this to someone made uncomfortable by that. But barring that, I freely recommend it.

Teaser Tuesday: Insurgent

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following: 
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

When I read this passage yesterday I knew I had to save it for this meme. (It's also technically not two sentences, but since I identify with the recklessness of the Dauntless, I'm BREAKING THAT RULE!) 

I'm reading this on my kindle so I don't have a page number. But it's the second paragraph of Chapter 3.

What is wrong with you? I shake my head. Pull it together. And that is what it feels like: pulling the different parts of me up and in like a shoelace. I feel suffocated, but at least I feel strong.
Some authors know how to write a strong female character and Veronica Roth is one of them. She doesn't tell us that Tris is strong, she shows us how she is strong. And she's strong because she acknowledges where she is weak and does her best to move forward anyway. I love it.

Monday, May 21, 2012

It's Monday!

This meme is hosted by Shelia from Book Journey.

What are you reading?

Last week I finished and reviewed Madapple, Cinder, and Guardian of the Gate. I also read Before I Go to Sleep, but I haven't reviewed it yet.

I'm currently reading Insurgent, by Veronica Roth, and so far it is fabulous. I'm actually glad Shelia lost contact with the interweebs today because I went to library and got some goodies this afternoon. When the Librarian got home he took one look at the pile and said "you can tell somebody finished her thesis". YAAAASS I did!!

Here's my take:

Fever: The Chemical Garden Trilogy #2, by Lauren DeStefano

Girl of Fire and Thorns: Fire and Thorns #1, by Rae Carson

Dragonswood, Janet Lee Carey (GoodReads doesn't indicate this is part of a series, BUT I DON'T BELIEVE IT)

Prized: The Birthmarked Trilogy #2, Caragh M. O'Brien

Review: Guardian of the Gate

Guardian of the Gate Michelle Zink

ISBN13: 9780316034470

352 pages, Hardcover

Series: Prophecy of the Sisters (#2)


Summary (from GoodReads): 

The ultimate battle between sisters is nearing, and its outcome could have catastrophic consequences. As sixteen year-old Lia Milthorpe searches for a way to end the prophecy, her twin sister Alice hones the skills she'll need to defeat Lia. Alice will stop at nothing to reclaim her sister's role in the prophecy, and that's not the only thing she wants: There's also Lia's boyfriend James.

Lia and Alice always knew the Prophecy would turn those closest to them against them. But they didn't know what betrayal could lead them to do. In the end, only one sister will be left standing.

My Thoughts:

This ended up being an odd read for me. Through the first quarter of the book, I had the odd feeling that I'd read it already. I remember reading the first book in 2010 and really liking it; I did give it 5 stars, and apparently read it in under 2 days. I didn't have this book even on the TBR list, so I don't think I ever tried to read it. Unfortunately, I did not enjoy this book as much as I remember enjoying the first one.

I really love the idea behind this series, but there's really not much excitement, conflict, or movement in this book. For someone who is supposedly under constant mortal threat from the Souls (powerful beings that reside in the astral Plane), there is very little suspense. If this book were to made into a movie, I suspect there would be a lot of close up shots of people giving intense looks (a la R-Patz in Twilight), but not much actual action.

The love triangle: This could have provided at least some interesting internal conflict but was sorely underdeveloped. In order to protect James (the love interest from the first book) Lia leaves him behind to travel to London to work to end the Prophecy. Although James writes her letters, which she can't help but read even knowing the pain it will bring her, she never responds to him--even when she learns that her evil twin, Alice, has begun to show him undue attention. She hopes that by cutting him off, she is protecting him.

Enter new love interest: Dimitri Markov. Suddenly, James is all but forgotten as Lia falls quickly for Dimitri. Oh, how Zink missed so many possible moments for internal conflict. Lia rarely thinks of James once she meets Dimitri and when she does it is only in passing with a vague "when this is over, I'm really going to have to deal with this mess". But what mess, Lia? She does nothing to resist Dimitri and she stops at acknowledging what little guilt she feels about her flippant feelings. This is a BIG problem for me with this book and with other YA books with an element of romance. She meets Dimitri and BOOM she's in love and nothing else matters. I find this so annoying because (1) this is so typical of romance that it bores me and (2) life SO. DOES. NOT. WORK. THIS. WAY. I suppose you could argue that it's a book and therefore doesn't have to be true to life, but I would argue back that the best books out there show us an image of truth and ask us to reflect on that image through our own experience. If love at first sight is real, or at the very least I'm supposed to believe it in this book, then you're going to have to do a better job than this:

The current becomes stronger as the sky darkens toward night, and I feel Sargent trying to keep a foothold on the rocky riverbed as Dimitri reaches out to take the reins from my freezing hands. He looks into my eyes, and I feel that we have known each other forever. "It's all right. Just trust me, and I'll get you across." There is tenderness in his voice, as if something unspeakably intimate has passed between us since our meeting at the Society, though we have not seen each other once from that moment to this.
Sigh. "as if something unspeakably intimate has passed", except that it hasn't yet. Let's call this what it is ladies, it's a rush of hormones, it's lust. Does that mean that she can't begin to love Dimitri? No it doesn't, but at least give me some build up to that, instead of just announcing it. We have met. We have locked eyes. We are soul mates. I'm not buying it. 

Flat B-cast: Where to start with this? To start, give me more Alice! I want more of the bad sister! In this book, Alice has grown so powerful that she flaunts the Grigori's rules of traversing the Plane without fear of repercussion. She appears in solid form to Lia, though she is on the Plane. Oh please please pleaaaaase, tell me more about what she is up to! What are Alice's motivations? It's hard to maintain suspense when you're never shown (only told) why Lia should fear Alice. The keys, Luisa and Sonia are also very flat characters. I was totally taken aback by developments with these girls (I don't want to spoil anything), but not for the right reasons. The twist was out of no where, and made little sense at that moment or to further the plot. Overall, Zink gives us little of the b-cast's motivations.

Wrapped up: Despite these complaints, it's not a horrible book. It's just that the series has a solid premise, but I don't feel that Zink took any risks and squandered this moment. Despite being a little heavy on the "tell" side, the language and tone of the book sets a very hauntingly Gothic background that I appreciated. Now that this rather boring middle step in Lia's journey has been dealt with, I will give Zink another chance to redeem the series as Lia makes moves to confront Samael and end the prophecy.

Rating: 3 out 5. Recommended for those interested in finishing this series.

2012 Dystopian Challenge

Book Journey is hosting this reading challenge, and despite telling myself that I wouldn't get wrapped up in completing challenges...well, here I am.

Here are the different levels:

1-3 Dystopia Books read in 2012:  Beginner

4-6 Dystopia Books read in 2012:  Intermediate Post World Trainee

7-10 Dystopia Books read in 2012:  Leader of Your District

11+ Dystopia Books read in 2012:  SURVIVOR!

I am going for SURVIVOR, since this is one of my favorite genres, EVAR.

I've got one reviewed already: Cinder, Melissa Meyer.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Sunday Salon: Why Do I Book Blog?

Since I didn't have a chance to write about this on Friday, I'm doing it now!

Ginger from gReads poses this question:

A Book Blogger is Born: What made you decide to start your very own book blog?

When I first started this blog several years ago, I did it primarily as a way to become involved in the book blog community. At the time, I didn't have a lot of friends who were big readers. They just had different focuses, so I was searching for a way to connect with people who had that particular interest. Being pretty solidly situated in the introvert category and busy with two jobs and grad school, it was easier in many ways for me to join this online community than to search out and befriend people in my area.

I was also driven by a desire to record what I was reading and my thoughts about those books. Despite being an editor who focuses on details as a matter of course (and I revel in getting all the details right), I truly have a terrible memory for details (which makes keeping track of series especially difficult). Goodreads was new at the time, and still serves as an excellent place to record my reading stats, but it wasn't enough. I wanted something that I could point to as mine. Also, it seemed to make publishers think I was legit and getting ARCs was definitely enjoyable as well. Not to mention, it's what got me reading YA, and I am nothing if not thankful for that discovery.

I let this blog fall off for a couple years, for many different reasons, but I regret letting those reasons stop me from doing something that I truly love and being part of a community that has always been welcoming and helpful. Now that I've finally graduated, I have time again to think about nonschool-related things, so I'm determined to rejoin the community. Despite now having many friends who read, including The Librarian and Maggie Cats, I also hope to refine my writing skills outside of the academic world--to find my voice again, if you will.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Thursday Thoughts: Gimme More Diplomas!!!

So I am officially graduating from my master's program tonight, an English MA in Professional Writing and Editing. It's been a long time coming--5 years, actually. Turns out that juggling school part-time and working two jobs (one full-time and one part-time) is SUPER HARD. Add the ups and (often BIG) downs of life, and it becomes almost unmanageable. But thanks to the support and understanding of my family and the unbelievable luck of finding The Librarian (and then subsequently locking that down) I managed to pull it together in the end (at the 11th hour, per usual) and write (what I hope is) a decent thesis. PhD-dom is a future possibility--but until then, if you need an editor, I'm your girl. Email me. No seriously, I want a new job.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Waiting on Wednesday

"Waiting On" Wednesday is a weekly event, hosted by Breaking the Spine that spotlights upcoming releases that we're eagerly anticipating

My choice this week is The Enchantress by Michael Scott. This is the 6th book in the Immortal Nicholas Flamel series.

Summary (from Barnes and Noble):
The two that are one must become the one that is all. One to save the world, one to destroy it.

San Francisco:
Nicholas and Perenelle Flamel have one day left to live, and one job left to do. They must defend San Francisco. The monsters gathered on Alcatraz Island have been released and are heading toward the city. If they are not stopped, they will destroy everyone and everything in their path.
But even with the help of two of the greatest warriors from history and myth, will the Sorceress and the legendary Alchemyst be able to defend the city? Or is it the beginning of the end of the human race?

Danu Talis:
Sophie and Josh Newman traveled ten thousand years into the past to Danu Talis when they followed Dr. John Dee and Virginia Dare. And it’s on this legendary island that the battle for the world begins and ends.
Scathach, Prometheus, Palamedes, Shakespeare, Saint-Germain, and Joan of Arc are also on the island. And no one is sure what—or who—the twins will be fighting for.

Today the battle for Danu Talis will be won or lost.
But will the twins of legend stand together?
Or will they stand apart—
one to save the world and one to destroy it?

I really love this series so I'm excited for this one. I think (????) it's the last one.

Review: Cinder

Cinder, Marissa Meyer 

ISBN13: 9780312641894

387 pages, Hardcover

Series: Lunar Chronicles (#1)

Summary (from Goodreads): Humans and androids crowd the raucous streets of New Beijing. A deadly plague ravages the population. From space, the ruthless lunar people watch, waiting to make their move. No one knows that Earth’s fate hinges on one girl. . . .

Cinder, a gifted mechanic, is a cyborg. She’s a second-class citizen with a mysterious past, reviled by her stepmother and blamed for her stepsister’s illness. But when her life becomes intertwined with the handsome Prince Kai’s, she suddenly finds herself at the center of an intergalactic struggle, and a forbidden attraction. Caught between duty and freedom, loyalty and betrayal, she must uncover secrets about her past in order to protect her world’s future.

My Thoughts: This book definitely falls solidly within the YA boundary and as far as fairytale retellings go, the sci-fi/cyborg aspect was a nice addition. I thought the writing was better than many similar books. While I was reading it, I was really enjoying it and I had a hard time putting it down. (I didn't guess the ending right away, but I had inklings.) I will most likely read the next in the series to see how it develops. When I first rated it on Goodreads I gave it 5 stars.

After rating it, I was perusing some reviews on Goodreads and came across Tatiana's review on The Readventurer. After thinking over her comments on the book's weaknesses, I had to agree with her: Marissa Meyer may have bitten off more than she could chew. Tatiana makes several good points. Most importantly, Meyer doesn't delve very deeply into any of the more interesting aspects of traditional world-building in the sci-fi/fantasy genre. Meyer doesn't spend much time on how Cinder views herself--as a cyborg in a human world. She doesn't give a thorough enough explanation of the Lunar people. We are told that they were once human, and but what triggered this divergent evolution? Certainly, there is so much possibility in these questions. The Lunar Queen is clearly a villain, she had no qualms about killing off her family to gain the throne, but what are her deeper motivations? Tatiana's point about Meyer's lack of description of New Beijing culture is also well-taken. It is hinted at that there are similarities and throwbacks to "present-time" Eastern culture, but no explanation as to why or how much or reasons why things have changed. I also think that the lack of political world-building will become problematic in the future books, which are clearly being set up for more political conflict over personal conflict. The scenes with Earth's other political players are particularly unenlightening. So, from this perspective, we are definitely left wanting more, so I understand why Tatiana gave it a low rating.

For me, these flaws didn't detract from my overall enjoyment of the book. Rightly or wrongly, this lack of world-building is pretty typical of YA contributions to the sci-fi/fantasy genre (there are, of course, outliers) and the focus on plot is certainly typical of most "commercial" fiction. So, standing against comparable books, I think that Meyer's unique retelling the Cinderella story, along with pretty decent writing, still warrant this book at least a 4 out of 5.

But all of this brings me to my recent, and growing complaint, about the publishing industry's devotion to series (and the potential money it can bring in). This book could have easily been written as a stand-alone. Cinder's gradual revelations about herself could have easily sustained a novel and made for a dramatic conclusion--one that didn't have to rely on the promise of more books to come. The tendency for authors to plan plot arcs over a series of books, often leaves us, the readers, feeling gypped in the short run. It's as if Meyer couldn't focus on developing Cinder's character because she has a war to plan in later books.

Not every story should be a sweeping epic. Not every story is going to be the next Harry Potter. This, I think, is a perfect example of a story that would have been perfect in one novel. Meyer could have spent more time developing ideas--instead of waiting to do it in future books (which is the sense the book left me with in the end).

I don't like to change my ratings once I've made them, but having reconsidered the book from this perspective I am giving it:

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Recommended for: fans of YA sci-fi/fantasy, YA dystopian, fairytale retellings

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Review: Madapple

Madapple, by Christina Meldrum

ISBN13: 9780375851766

410 pages, Hardcover

Goodness. Where to start with this book. I had no idea what I was getting into when I began, but I'm glad I picked this one up.

Aslag has been raised by her mother in isolation, but her mother has taught her science and botany. When her mother dies unexpectedly, Aslag ventures out into a world she knows little about and finds the family she never knew she had. Insert odd twist here: Her aunt is a preacher for an evangelical/pentecostal church. As Aslag learns of the odd circumstances of her birth, she becomes more and more deeply entwined in the beliefs of her aunt and cousin, which culminates in a dark and twisted ending.

This is definitely one of those books that completely defies the YA label. Yes, the protagonist is a teenager. Yes, there is a love story. But the language of Aslag's story is poetic in a way that few YA books capture. Juxtaposed against the stark testimony of the murder trial, the reader begins to question Aslag's version of events. Through the intricate weaving of Aslag's tale and the trial testimony, Meldrum demonstrates how circumstances are not always what they seem.

The book also poses some interesting questions about Christianity and its pagan roots. I've not fact-checked the book, so I can't speak to its complete correctness, but some of the ideas that Meldrum introduces, although interesting, were not new to me. There could have been less details, but the book also wouldn't have made sense without the background and themes.

Oh, did I mention the incest yet? So, those of you who are offended by the acknowledgement that such things exist (even if it's in fictional form), I would suggest that this isn't a book for you. Madapple broaches difficult and dark subjects, including both incest and rape, through Aslag's unique perspective; however, there is nothing explicit or gratuitous (I'm looking at you The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo). This book uses those subjects in a thought-provoking way.

This is a dark novel, but it is not a typical dark teen romance. It tries to do a lot of different things, and mostly succeeds. If you aren't afraid of difficult subjects, this is a must-read.

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Teaser Tuesday (May 15)

Teaser Tuesdays is a weekly bookish meme, hosted by MizB of Should Be Reading. Anyone can play along! Just do the following: 
• Grab your current read
• Open to a random page
• Share two (2) “teaser” sentences from somewhere on that page
• BE CAREFUL NOT TO INCLUDE SPOILERS! (make sure that what you share doesn’t give too much away! You don’t want to ruin the book for others!)
• Share the title & author, too, so that other TT participants can add the book to their TBR Lists if they like your teasers!

Current Read: The Returning, Christine Hinwood

Page 91 
The first market of the year was in two days' time, and Cam had promised to help her wrap the eggs. Strands of flax had to be knotted into little baskets, each holding five eggs, suspended one beneath the next so that they did not touch, and these packages hung from the eaves for safekeeping until market day.
I haven't actually started this book yet, as I just finished Before I Go to Sleep last night. This quote certainly paints a bucolic picture for a book supposedly set after an epic war.

Gimme More Books Redux

(I've borrowed this pic from Notorious Spinks who has a much better reason for not blogging than I have.)
So, after basically a couple of years off (and a Master's degree later) I've decided to start up my book blog again (for real this time). Since I stupidly deleted most of the photos off of the previous incarnation of my blog, I've decided to restart completely. But no fear you can still find all my old posts at a slightly different domain name (gimmemorebooks10.blogspot.com).

The blog design will probably change a few times until I settle on something that I like. I've been reading tons of YA books over the last few years, so expect to see a lot of that. Maybe I will even intersperse some thoughts about rhetoric (since I'm, like, official now).

You can also find me on Goodreads and as @WriterGirlLMD on Twitter (this has changed from my previous @gimmemorebooks---just got to be too much to deal with).

Monday, May 14, 2012

This meme is hosted by Shelia at Book Journey
What are you reading?

I'm about to start Before I Go to Sleep, by S. J. Watson. I picked this book for my book club, which is on Sunday. My boyfriend's (The Librarian) book club read this several months ago and really enjoyed it, so I hope we have some fruitful discussion.

I just finished Madapple, by Christina Meldrum and Cinder, by Marissia Meyer, and reviews will be posted soon. I really enjoyed both of them.