Monday, March 30, 2015

Savage Run

Savage Run is a YA futuristic dystopia by E. J. Squires.

In one of the last hierarchical societies, Newland has a set standard of classes – and seventeen year old Heidi Cruise, being both a Laborer and a female, is in the lowest ranking set.

She has already seen her best friend suffer under the ruthless hand of her Master in less than a year and soon it will be Heidi’s turn to be assigned a Master, as well.

But she refuses to accept that.

It is the time of year that the Savage Run begins – a brutal, male-only obstacle program that offers the lower classes to compete with one goal in mind: survive and become a Master.

Determined to find freedom, Heidi is convinced their only chance is to pretend to be male and enter the Savage Run. Yet before they are even able to register, things begin to fall apart.

Is it possible for a Laborer, and a female one at that, to ever be free?

I will say that occasionally the writing and editing of Savage Run felt like it could use some improvement – but the story is gripping and absorbing enough to move beyond that very quickly.

This is, in my opinion, a very well developed futuristic dystopia – a little shades of Hunger Games but different enough to not be too similar.

Savage Run is suspenseful and vigorous with some romantic elements that are strong but happily do not overwhelm the survival plot.

It’s a horrifying cruel obstacle course – in which you feel that the higher level of society is only giving this “opportunity” by gritting their teeth and bearing it.

With these nail-biting elements and a likable heroine, the very present-tense “in the mind of” narration works very well.

I found that I liked Savage Run quite a bit – every time I sat it down I looked forward to picking it back up. Very good!

And, um, I would like to read book two!

Friday, March 27, 2015

On the Bright Side, I'm Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God

On the Bright Side, I’m Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God is the second book in the raucous British YA contemporary Confessions of Georgia Nicolson series by Louise Rennison.

For maximum hoots and haws, I recommend reading this series in order – which means starting with Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging.

If you haven’t yet read that first hysterical entry in the series – not only do I feel pity for you but I also warn you that this review may include potential spoilers of the first book.

You have been warned.

Just when Georgia has finally snagged Robbie the Sex God with her wily charms, her Mum announces that they will be joining her father in New Zealand – which may help to prevent Georgia’s Mum from embarking on an affair that she sees all too clearly – but is also very, very bad because she doesn’t want to leave the Sex God and go through snogging withdrawal.

Not to mention hot steam apparently shoots out of the ground in New Zealand. Not marvy.

With all of that combined with Angus, their cat of the Scottish Highlands that terrorizes the neighborhood so mightily that the police actually show up at their door, a toddler sister that still insists on hiding her used diapers at the end of Georgia’s bed and the risk that Robbie feels Georgia may be too young for him and therefore she must try to make him burn with jealousosity – well life is not peaches and cream, is it?

If you read my review of Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging, you can almost use just one word for my feelings regarding On the Bright Side, I’m Now the Girlfriend of a Sex God.

Ditto.

That’s right! Yet again, Georgia’s diary entries are non-stop comedy – awesome hilarity that will rattle your bones with laughter! I literally start giggling, harrumphing, etc., out loud when reading it – no matter where I am at the time.

Being an unapologetic British teen novel, it is crass and racy and does NOT present Georgia as a role model – though I don’t deny that she would be a riot as a friend!

Book two introduces some new characters – in particular Dave the Laugh – a romantic interest that I felt rather attached to as his matching wits with Georgia was highly enjoyable.

These are unabashedly fun, entertaining books that are great to fully embrace.

And don’t worry about what anyone thinks when they see the title of the book you’re reading – we’re bibliophiles and those other common folk don’t know what they’re missing!

Hee hee!

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Hero of Ages

The Hero of Ages is the third novel in the high fantasy Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson.

This is a highly, highly serialized trilogy – so I strongly recommend you read Mistborn and The Well of Ascension before The Hero of Ages, or even this review of The Hero of Ages.

It has been a year since Vin located the legendary Well of Ascension.

A year since she made the fateful, selfless decision to free the power that was imprisoned there.

A year since she found out that was the wrong choice.

Now, earthquakes shake the land, ash pours from the sky heavier than ever and the mists have grown larger, stay longer and are killing people.

Vin, Elend and the rest of Kelsier’s crew have overcome the thousand year reign of the Lord Ruler, fought impossible battles and sought freedom for Skaa and Noble alike – but how can they fight this?

Shaken and frustrated that the answer they had been seeking at the Well ended up being trickery that only worsened everything – all they can try to do is attempt to follow clues left by the Lord Ruler himself that will hopefully give them direction on how to save the world.

Hope is a difficult thing in the face of doom…

Wow – what a trilogy!

At a whopping 740 pages, this is yet another test of, “Will this be gripping enough to keep me interested for that long?”

And yet again the answer is a resounding, “YES!”

As I entered into The Hero of Ages I was very interested in how it all could possibly end – how everything could be wrapped up, fixed, explained, etc.

Brandon Sanderson truly excelled here.

The Hero of Ages has numerous great twists and surprises, ongoing character growth and an ominous, forbidding sense of doom throughout the entire novel.

I found myself saddened by the changes in Sazed, alarmed by the changes in Spook and fascinated in the advances of plot and character for every aspect of the book.

Somehow the author manages to distract me from certain plot points and then - WHAM! – hit me hard with them when I least expect it. Wow!!! (Yes, that is my go-to word in this review, forgive me.)

These are strong, anti-cliché characters and an epic, intricate plot that STUNNED me.

All I can say is: perfection.

Or as close as you can get to it, really.

A satisfying, thrilling, suspenseful, breathtaking, imaginative, memorable trilogy!!!

Friday, March 20, 2015

The Well of Ascension

The Well of Ascension is the second book in the high fantasy trilogy Mistborn by Brandon Sanderson.

If you haven’t read Mistborn yet, I would strongly suggest you do not read this review. Instead, go read Mistborn!

Though Vin and her group of thieves-turned-rebels have ended a tyrant government that had been held for a thousand years, the final words of the Lord Ruler haunt Vin.

She may not want to believe that the Lord Ruler was holding something even worse back, but she cannot ignore the growing threatening nature of the mists and the figure that is watching her amidst them.

Beyond the supernatural concern, Elend’s new freedom-focused government of Luthadel is being confronted with multiple outside armies who’ve decided they’d like to take the kingdom from the young king.

Defeating the Lord Ruler was only the beginning…

The Well of Ascension was quite something.

Just as when I entered into Mistborn, part of me wondered if The Well of Ascension could possibly be worth the time consumption of 750+ pages.

And initially, with the natural digression of memory regarding the particulars of the allomancy magic and multiple characters, the action sequences at the outset felt tiresome.

Yet with just a teeny tad bit of patience, the novel sparks the memory and you suddenly remember just how fascinating it all is – and yes, just how awesome it is.

The Well of Ascension brings back the complex characters that are multi-faceted, sometimes hard to like but always amazingly believable. The fantasy aspects, the fact that this word is a hinted at future, the original and often creepy creatures and nail-biting intrigue is to die for!

I’m surprised just how attached I am to the characters and as a deep suspense builds the intrigue to the max, I was turning pages never knowing what would happen next. And my goodness was there some doozies of twists!!!

Wow, wow, wow.

Unforeseen revelations gut wrenching shocks and edge of your seat epic storytelling has me in its grips.

Yes, The Well of Ascension was very good. A gamechanger.

Here I come The Hero of Ages!

Monday, March 16, 2015

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging

Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging is a YA contemporary humor novel, and the first of the Confessions of Georgia Nicolson, by Louise Rennison.

A long time ago I read And Then He Ate My Boy Entrancers, which is the 6th book in this series, as I had won it in a contest. Even though it was smack dab in the middle of the series I was immensely entertained and I am FINALLY getting the chance to read ALL the books in the series in correct order.

Georgia is your average fourteen-year-old girl in England – nothing abnormal to see here.

Yeah, right.

Her cat Angus’s favorite pastime is to round up the neighbors small dogs and terrorize them.

Her little three-year-old sister is at times adorable and other times pees in her room. In fact, there could be pee somewhere in her room right now.

And, finally, upon deciding her eyebrows were furry terrors, she accidentally shaved them off.

Whoops!

But then she meets the Sex God – dazzling, older boy that makes her heart a-tremble.

Shall he make this the most gorgey year EVER?!?!?

Absolutely. Frickin’. HILARIOUS!

Seriously, Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging is laugh-out-loud funny!

With a charismatic, slightly crazy, new word creator for a narrator – the books are her diaries – and an energetic, fun, entertaining, deliciously light tone, this book has an easy, addictive narrative flow!

Plus, the characters! THE CHARACTERS, PEOPLE!!!

Absolutely. Frickin’. HILARIOUS!!!

Fantastically, ludicrously drawn they are often unsympathetic, definitely immature and just flat-out giggle-tastic!

Keep in mind, despite our protagonist’s young age, the healthy British humor in Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging is often raunchy – and I won’t deny it won me over!

No preaching. No lessons.

Pure amusement!

Friday, March 13, 2015

Longbourn

Longbourn is a historical fiction novel by Jo Baker that takes the below stairs perspective of Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice.

As one of the housemaids at Longbourn, Sarah spends her days doing all the things the genteel Bennett’s do not want to even think about – scrubbing laundry, emptying chamber pots, assisting in serving dinner, cleaning, etc.

Yet, as upstairs there is furor over the influx of marriageable, wealthy men in town, Sarah finds herself also pulled into romance.

And as an enigmatic new footman arrives – apparently a “fine young man” but without references that can be named – the servants’ hall becomes more mysterious and intriguing than ever…

This tie-in to Pride & Prejudice has been lauded and mentioned so often that I was quite excited to read it!

Sadly, it did not work for me.

At all.

I hate to be negative – clearly there are many, many people out there that have enjoyed Longbourn – and you could be one of them!! So, remember to take my review with the grain of salt that this is my opinion only – and it’s always best to read the novel for yourself!

First off, there are a lot of details regarding the household chores – A LOT. I figure the author is trying to portray how difficult and grueling the life of servant in the Regency era was – but it doesn’t make reading paragraph upon paragraph about the cleansing of menstrual garments and other lovely tasks any more entertaining.

Plus, Sarah as a character just did not connect with me at all. There’s a sense of bitterness to her – but then suddenly she’ll be presented as a beacon of sweetness, uneven to be sure – and it irritated me because despite how hard being a servant can be – there can also be an honor to it. It depends on how you go about it – and therefore, I came to not like Sarah.

Not the best impression of your main character.

Overall, these aspects led Longbourn to feel exhausting – and never cozy.

Secondly, the perspective that Longbourn placed on some vital Pride & Prejudice characters – actually some secondary ones too – came across as quite unpleasant at times. Some people – without giving it away – have dirty little secrets that I didn’t appreciate her taking the liberty of creating, to put it plainly.

Every once in a while the romantic aspect of the novel would perk it up some – but not much. Primarily it had an atmosphere that was dark and dour – with an inconsistent lead and melancholy supporting characters. It lacked any of Austen’s humor or sparkle!

In the end, I was very disappointed in Longbourn – I had had high expectations, but even without them I don’t see how I could have enjoyed it much more.

Unfortunately, Longbourn just didn’t do it for me – very sad.

Monday, March 9, 2015

Warm Bodies

Warm Bodies is, essentially, a zombie story – but so much more – by Isaac Marion.

R doesn’t remember his name – none of his fellow Dead do.

They don’t remember much of anything about their former lives, actually.

He lives with a large hive of zombies in an abandoned airport, riding the conveyor belt, listening to Sinatra and calling an old 747 his home.

Each day passes by in a blur.

Then during a hunt, he meets a girl. A living girl – named Julie.

Against all reason, instead of snacking on her brain, R takes Julie captive – but she becomes his hesitant guest.

For some reason, R doesn’t want to eat Julie (well, most of the time) – he wants to protect her and try to talk to her (extremely difficult for zombies).

Something is changing…

Warm Bodies was INCREDIBLE!!!

I was recommended it and I am so glad!

Warm Bodies has moments that are shocking, sometimes gory, yet also surprisingly humorous, incredibly original and undeniably likable.

It’s touching, dark and strangely romantic!

Keep in mind – I am not a fan of zombies. To some, to say those words is sacrilege – but it’s the truth.

Yet, Warm Bodies is a revelation! It, in my opinion, can be enjoyed by those who are zombie fans and those that aren’t.

This is a completely new story – told from a zombie’s perspective! – and is absolutely absorbing, twisted, edgy and full of hope.

It’s sort of like a weird new version of Beauty & the Beast with stunning parallels between the zombies and humans – so heartpoundingly good, astoundingly well-written – I got teary eyes a few times by how deeply effecting it was.

Warm Bodies was an amazing, unique read that will stay with me!

Strongly, strongly recommended!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Seed

Seed is a YA contemporary novel by debut author Lisa Heathfield.

Growing up in Seed, fifteen year old Pearl knows that it is paradise.

She has never been anywhere else – but she does not need to.

Among their insulated small family community, they sow and reap the rewards of the land, live their simple lives under the watchful eyes of their leader Papa S. and Pearl and the other young girls look forward to the day they can be Papa S.’s companion.

Yet when a newcomer is allowed into their community, a teenage boy Pearl’s age that has lived Outside his entire life, he brings with him incredulity of their way of life. He asks questions that prod Pearl toward moments of doubt about their utopia.

He says Papa S. is only a man.

What is the truth when Seed is all you’ve ever known?

Wow, Seed left a lasting impression.

It is instantly intriguing – initially so grounded and subtle that though you know, as the reader, that Pearl is growing up in a cult, it doesn’t immediately seem bad, necessarily.

That’s why as Heathfield smoothly, quietly peels back those layers to show the twisted rituals, aspects of control by fear and the utter psychological damage of Seed, it is all the more nerve-wracking – and filled my mind with questions, wanting to know more.

Throughout the chapters, often at the end of each, we see short glimpses and insights into an unknown, imprisoned person somewhere on the compound. It cements the fact that something deeply disturbing is going on – and that Papa S. is a scary individual.

I kept wanting to know more.

Introducing people from Outside was beautifully done, I felt. It not only poked holes in the cult’s veneer of loveliness but also helped to present just how much these children who’ve grown up in Seed are unaware of – basic education, etc.

Seed is an unsettling, powerful, horrifying, haunting novel that has a conclusion that you will think of for days. I wanted more – more answers, more closure, more, more, more!

Yet I think that’s how we’re supposed to feel….

I highly, highly recommend it.

Monday, March 2, 2015

The True Meaning of Smekday

The True Meaning of Smekday is a middle grade sci-fi contemporary humor novel by Adam Rex.

Hoo Boy!

I think I’m in love!!!

When young Gratuity (Tip) Tucci is assigned a school five-page essay to explain the true meaning of Smekday (previously Christmas, now the day the first aliens invaded and renamed Christmas), she ends up writing a WHOLE LOT MORE than five pages.

Instead we get the full story of just what happened to Tip when she determined to find her Mom as the aliens stated that all American humans must migrate to Florida, how she joined forces with the alien J.Lo and kept track of her cat, Pig.

I can’t really imagine saying more without giving away too much laugh-out-loud goodness!

The True Meaning of Smekday is AWESOME!!!

It’s very funny – yet also has enough seriousness and legitimate emotion to have a level of care and investment in the characters to make it, well, all the more AWESOME!

I absolutely adored J.Lo – a hilarious, adorable, lovable alien that provides a hefty amount of chortling as he gives the history of his alien race, the Boov. Not to mention their interesting way of speaking English!

The True Meaning of Smekday is truly entertaining – constantly. It’s an adventure of hilarity for ALL AGES! It features a great friendship, loyalty, lots of fun, surprising twists and a perceptive and clever narrative.

A couple of snippets of ACTUAL notes I wrote as I read The True Meaning of Smekday:

“Oh my gosh!! So sweet and cute!” and “So awesome I could almost cry!!”

Yep – I loved it.

Plus, the illustrations (also by Adam Rex) are amazing!

Cannot praise it enough – a happy little bibliophile am I!

Friday, February 27, 2015

Stardust

Stardust is an adult fairytale by Neil Gaiman.

When the beautiful, unattainable Victoria states that the only thing Tristran Thorne could do to win her hand would be to bring her the star they watched falling from the sky – Tristran is determined to do it.

However, this means venturing beyond the relative normalcy of their village Wall and slipping into the unexplored, magical faerie land outside it.

Past the ancient wall that has guarded their town from the oddities and dangers of the enchanted realm, Tristran must keep his head as adventures and perils meet him that he could never have imagined…

Stardust
was my first Neil Gaiman book!

I’ve heard of Neil Gaiman forever – and being a lover of quirky, clever books I thought it was about time I tried him out.

I have to say – Stardust was a bloody, unique, adventurous adult fairytale that was quite interesting and very good. I wouldn’t say it was as FANTASTIC as I expected – but that could be partially because of my high expectations.

For example, I wasn’t terribly invested in Tristran – not to say I didn’t like him, I did.

However, Stardust was very enjoyable with a fresh twist and prose that swept you away to what felt like a fully realized faerie world.

I fully enjoyed Stardust with its romance, danger, creepy villains, inventive creatures and character advancement.

A good first foray into Neil Gaiman’s works, I would say. I also have a copy of his middle grade novel Coraline – which I’ll get to one of these days.

I am most certainly charmed enough in Gaiman’s writing style to read more – and possibly fall in love with time.