Friday, February 28, 2014

Panic: review

Title: Panic
Author: Lauren Oliver
Release Date: March 4th 2014
Summary: Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of 12,000 people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She’d never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game, he’s sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he’s not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

My Review:

First, to clear the air: This is not like Hunger Games. Not one tiny bit.

Okay! In the small town of Crap-I mean Carp, New York, a game is played every summer called Panic. No one knows who started it, but as tradition goes, it goes on. Many of the graduated seniors play it; only, but not all. Everyone in the town kind of knows it's going on, and even though the police try to prevent it at every corner, there's always around. When I first picked it up, I thought Panic was some sort of sci-fi or dystopian, at least futuristic small town. But Heather immediately says "New York" and "some legos" (not meaning some ancient thing) and I thought wait a second, this is completely contemporary. Cool!
And as far as how the actual game works, it's explained very well and pretty early in the story, so I won't bother trying to sum it up.

Does anyone remember what a standalone book is? No? Well you see it usually doesn't have a stupid love triangle, the plot actually finishes in 400 pages or so, AND you don't have to wait for three years to see how the characters you struggle to remember, end up. Panic is a standalone, and quite a good one at that. I found the beginning sort of choppy and disorienting with all the new characters suddenly being introduced, because you're kind of jumping in to the story…pun intended.

A surprise. The book is told in dual POV between Heather ad Dodge, but even though they are the two narrators, they are not the main couple. So that stands out. And I want to mention that Heather is described to be very tall, broad shouldered, and has an ass. Dodge has dark skin. Let's have a round for not cookie-cutter protags, shall we? Thank you Lauren Oliver.

I've read The Delirium trilogy, and Before I Fall, but I'm not sure how to rank which one is best, or even if this new one is her best. It's definitely a great story and shows some extremely real people and problems, (great, great character development.) And in that way, it's more like Before I Fall, but I don't think it should be compared to her others, because it's different. Don't try to compare. I think Oliver's signature writing style is there though, and I can't wait to see what she comes up with next.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

We Were Liars: review

We Were Liars
by E. Lockhart
Released: May 13th 2014
My Rating: 4 stars
Goodreads Summary:
A beautiful and distinguished family.
A private island.
A brilliant, damaged girl; a passionate, political boy.
A group of four friends—the Liars—whose friendship turns destructive.
A revolution. An accident. A secret.
Lies upon lies.
True love.
The truth.
We Were Liars is a modern, sophisticated suspense novel from National Book Award finalist and Printz Award honoree E. Lockhart. 

Read it.
And if anyone asks you how it ends, just LIE.

My Review:

I picked this book up with one thought: "oooh John Green blurb!" And that's about it.

I'll admit. I did not like most of the book. The prose is very weird. Especially in the beginning I got so confused, my friend had to read a chapter and explain it to me. But that's my fault because I got excited when Candence's dad turned around and shot her in the chest and her heart rolled into the flower bed.

Oh. Not literally? ...I knew that. 
The only reason I kept going (since usually I have no patience for books) was because within a week, four friends recommended it to me and said it was awesome, so I knew there had to be some sort of twist etc; and also it's super short. (okay two reasons.)

Near the middle-end...I started to guess what this twist could be. No, really! But I think I only had that spark in my head because I've read one book before with something similar. Not saying there is a twist. And I didn't guess it completely right anyway.

So since this is not a negative review, you can guess I ended up liking it. The writing managed to be so very concrete and dreamlike at the same time and upon finishing the book, I'm impressed. I feel like this book will be one that wins an award for being awesome. But with a more official award name obviously. Incandescent. And incandescent award.

Don't you love my ambiguity? It must be burning you up inside.

Bottom line is to go in blind, and do what the book suggests: read it. And if anyone asks you how it ends, just lie.


Friday, February 21, 2014

Cress: review

Title: Cress (Lunar Chronicles #3)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Release Date: February 4th 2014
Source: bought at CHB
Goodreads Summary: Rapunzel’s tower is a satellite. She can’t let down her hair—or her guard.

In this third book in the bestselling Lunar Chronicles series, Cinder and Captain Thorne are fugitives on the run, with Scarlet and Wolf in tow. Together, they’re plotting to overthrow Queen Levana and her army. 

Their best hope lies with Cress, who has been trapped on a satellite since childhood with only her netscreens as company. All that screen time has made Cress an excellent hacker—unfortunately, she’s just received orders from Levana to track down Cinder and her handsome accomplice. 

When a daring rescue goes awry, the group is separated. Cress finally has her freedom, but it comes at a high price. Meanwhile, Queen Levana will let nothing stop her marriage to Emperor Kai. Cress, Scarlet, and Cinder may not have signed up to save the world, but they may be the only ones who can.

My Review:
I just, well, didn't think her books could get awesome (yes I said awesomer)  BUT EACH BOOK JUST GETS MORE FANTASTIC. Unlike any series I've read, the way all the POVs rotate with such a diverse cast that none of them are boring? Really, there isn't a dull page. That's why I zipped through this book in almost one sitting. (Scarlet did have a slower start for me, but Cress just jumped right into interesting.)

I don't feel like making this a coherent analysis review, mostly I feel like *squeeee* and then all the sudden I remember I have to wait a freaking YEAR for the story to end….and then I become sad for a moment…

THEN I remember that last awesome scene in Cress and I smile all over again.

Cress is an excellent Rapunzel-computer-hacker-person. Very impressed (and initially surprised) because Cinder and Scarlet are both pretty literally tough characters, Cress is so sweet and small and has romance adventures in her head. Of course she still manages to be bad-ass in the correct way: via good writing and with a strong personality (like Kaylee! :)). And I would never have guessed Thorne would become a romantic interest, but there is a new light (ha.ha.) to his character throughout Cress, and I like him significantly more in here than Scarlet. He grows to be more than just comic relief. And yes, I completely 'ship Cress and Thorne. It fits so perfectly.

One chapter was particularly stressful to read, and after it was done, I realized I hadn't blinked for like five whole minutes while reading. And my whole body was tense from the stress. Gripping indeed!! You'll probably know which chapter, it was in Cress's POV in the middle. Much confusion. One I will for sure be rereading.

So in the last 50 pages we get a small chapter-and-a-half glimpse of Winter, our next Snow White heroine. And I can tell the last book is going to be…well I actually can't tell what the last book is going to be like, because Winter is sort of mental. And I mean that kindly. What her mind will be like, I have no idea, and that's exciting and frustrating (see above for release-date-induced-sadness) but I'm sure it'll be awesome.

Queen Levana is so evil, I just feel the need to punch something. I can't wait till someone kills that bitch.


Thursday, February 13, 2014

Anna Karenina: review

Author: Leo Tolstoy (translation by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky)
Rating: 5 stars
Goodreads Summary: Anna Karenina tells of the doomed love affair between the sensuous and rebellious Anna and the dashing officer, Count Vronsky. Tragedy unfolds as Anna rejects her passionless marriage and must endure the hypocrisies of society. Set against a vast and richly textured canvas of nineteenth-century Russia, the novel's seven major characters create a dynamic imbalance, playing out the contrasts of city and country life and all the variations on love and family happiness.
            While previous versions have softened the robust, and sometimes shocking, quality of Tolstoy's writing, Pevear and Volokhonsky  have produced a translation true to his powerful voice. This authoritative edition, which received the PEN Translation Prize and was an Oprah Book Club™ selection, also includes an illuminating introduction and explanatory notes. Beautiful, vigorous, and eminently readable, this Anna Karenina will be the definitive text for fans of the film and generations to come.

My Review:
Yes, it's a very long book. But I am going to write a very short review, because it would be too hard to write everything for everyone in there. I'll keep it simple. It's taken me like five months of on and off reading, so much of my first impressions I don't remember..

What Anna Karenina reminds me of, is if you mashed all the Austen books together into one storyline. And then made it Russian. And then added a whole lot of philosophical stuff.

Also this book is just as much about Levin, as of Anna. So maybe it should be called "Anna and Levin: all the shit that happens to them and their families." wow that would be an excellent title actually. Very accurate. Anna I really despised, maybe only second to Scarlet O'Hara in all my reading, and Levin is one of my favorite characters I've ever read. 

What struck me about Levin most, was his avant-garde way of the thinking. (from my small knowledge of any kind of history) Levin had so many question about the world, his faith, his existence. Much of it paralleled to Anna's problems and thoughts, but they only really meet up a handful of times throughout the story. He took the high road, not letting all his doubts about life screw him up, just creating stimulating conversation with his peers. Levin's also a working-class man. Or perhaps somewhere between that and rich, because he's neither. He's passionate about anything he does, anyone he loves. I admired that greatly, Levin working in the fields alongside his commoner workers, things like that. Always on track with his bookkeeping, caring about his household staff in the country. Great character development by the end there, too; nice resolution.

Anna heads down a darker path, but I don't think it was only because of who she was. (she might have been naturally a bit mental, too, I do not doubt.) Her circumstances are so effed up; a woman who has a lasting affair (and ends up with a child) when divorce isn't possible, and her husband can't even decide if he despises her or not. Hm maybe I hated him more than her. Now the affair…ee? affairee? Alexi Vronsky. What an awful person. I never felt comfortable around him. He is flighty and selfish and immature in every way. I think he loves Anna in his own way…but I can't see anyone ever being his friend. That's harsh, but bad vibes from the dude.

(I wish I had the patience to talk about all the awesome characters but I really don't want to.)

Even though there are so many characters to keep track of, and each with multiple names and nicknames, I found it extremely enjoyable and satisfactory to see a name and actually remember who it is, and who they're related to. By a third of the way, maybe sooner than that, I didn't have to refer back to the glossary anymore.

If you're looking for a classic to cross off your list, I highly recommend Anna Karenina, most specifically the edition translated by Richard Pevear and Larissa Volokhonsky. The writing is absolutely enchanting, and I bookmarked many passages so I could go back and read them just to admire how simple scenes were described.

Friday, February 7, 2014

Landry Park: review

Title: Landry Park (Landry Park #1)
Author: Bethany Hagen
Rating: 5 stars
Source: Changing Hands Bookstore
Summary: In a fragmented future United States ruled by the lavish gentry, seventeen-year-old Madeline Landry dreams of going to the university. Unfortunately, gentry decorum and her domineering father won't allow that. Madeline must marry, like a good Landry woman, and run the family estate. But her world is turned upside down when she discovers the devastating consequences her lifestyle is having on those less fortunate. As Madeline begins to question everything she has ever learned, she finds herself increasingly drawn to handsome, beguiling David Dana. Soon, rumors of war and rebellion start to spread, and Madeline finds herself and David at the center of it all. Ultimately, she must make a choice between duty - her family and the estate she loves dearly - and desire.

My Review:

Where to start for such an outstanding debut? I'll put down my thoughts as they come.

Madeline Landry is a strong individual who feels torn between her duties as the Landry heir, and as the story progresses, about what's morally right in her dystopian world. Her dystopian but Victorian-esque era world. How unique is that? Bethany Hagen decided to mash up those two popular genres and what happens is a successfully creative and fresh story. The only similar book I can think of is Diana Peterfreund's For Darkness Shows the Stars. The caste system is slightly relatable, and both are technically dystopian since it's the after-effects of some huge world apocalyptic event. Oh, and I can now say both are excellent books.

The Victorian-dystopian world in Landry Park: The United States have been half taken over by the East, and in the history books, all the foreign oil was cut off, leading to this new adaptive lifestyle. The history is explained clearly without being boring. Race is now not an issue, instead the caste system is for the Uprisen rich supported-the-changing-world (gentry) and the working class people not given the right opportunities in life (Rootless.) It makes sense when you read it.

What stood out about Madeline, to me, was that it wasn't the classic: she meets someone from the other side and her loyalties change. (see Pocahontas/Avatar) That's Madeline's problem. She's been brought up to believe a certain history of events, why the lower class "Rootless" are the people dying of radiation poisoning while her gentry lifestyle turn a blind eye. Another thing I liked, Madeline is sure of what she wants, which is education; she does not want to be bred. There is romance- it isn't overpowering, but it's an essential part of the story all the same. Daniel Dana's clever conversations with Madeline show their chemistry well, and they have a friendship too.

For a debut novel, the writing is right away likable, and even though I was turned off by the "Downton Abbey meets The Selection" since I am not a fan of either, I read the author's bio, "...grew up reading Austen and Brontë and all things King Arthur" and changed my mind right away.

And let's take one last moment for some cover love. I'll admit that is what made me pick it up. Vibrant blue glow like the so-famous lanterns in the story, soft matte finish…at the very least, go find it in a bookstore and run your hand along the spine. Maybe smell it a little...

Right! I can't wait for the next book; a lot of mysteries were revealed toward the end and I barely had enough time to reconfigure all my opinions of the three-dimensional supporting characters before it ended. People are not as they seem.

Landry Park is one dystopian debut you do not want to miss this spring.


Saturday, February 1, 2014

Daughter of the Lioness: series review

(image not mine)

I've just finished the Daughter of the Lioness books. Also known as the Trickster's Duo. (well that's what I call it anyway.)

Trickster's Choice (2003)
Trickster's Queen (2005)

The first two-book series, instead of a quartet, for the Tortall Universe and they weigh in at 450+ pages each.

Alianne Cooper (Aly), daughter of the Lioness, and the main character of this series, is an immediately likable person. In the first chapter you can see she's her father's and not her mother's daughter; the sixteen year old's dreams are to be a spy, and her short hair is bright blue. She's very intelligent and once she gets kidnapped and put into the Balitang household by the Trickster god Kyprioth, her intuitive and curious nature is put to good use.

Much of the first book is info-dump, but it's manageable (especially to fantasy readers) and a lot of this historical polical talk is vitally important to understanding the plot, so I recommend not to skim. You may not absorb all, but the main points I remembered enough to recognize in the latter half of the second book. Trickster's Choice really starts to become interesting when Nawat the crow appears. Because when the crows come, you know there's mischief to be managed. Nawat is one of my favorite characters, the crow-turned-man. First glance it sounded a lot like stork-man hawk-turned-Numair. But they're two very different people

The second book has much more action almost right away, and I read it way faster than the first one. About 6 months have passed and there's a change in setting. I can't say much without spoiling the events of the first book, but I can say there are a lot of surprises good and bad, and you won't be disappointed with the ending.

Since I'm not reading the Tortall books chronologically, and read the Immortals books just before these, I missed having Daine's voice in my head with words like 'two-leggers' and knowing what all the animals were thinking, but Aly is a strong person with a good story, so listen up and definitely don't miss out on what the Trickster has in store for her.


What's next for me? I just got the first two books in the Beka Cooper series. Looks like there's three books published so far…maybe there will be four? I'm excited, but a little sad since these are a prequel by like hundreds of years before Alanna. So no cameos or darkings. But hopefully I'll meet some interesting new characters.