Monday, September 27, 2010

The Line, Teri Hall

Goodreads summary:
Rachel lives with her mother on The Property. The good thing about living there is that it's far from the city, where the oppressive government is most active. The bad thing, at least to most people, is that it's close to the Line - an uncrossable section of the National Border Defense System, an invisible barrier that encloses the entire country.
She can see the Line from the greenhouse windows, but she is forbidden to go near it. Across the Line is Away, and though Rachel has heard many whispers about the dangers there, she's never really believed the stories. Until the day she hears a recording that could only have come from across the Line.
It's a voice asking for help.
Who sent the message? What is her mother hiding? And to what lengths will Rachel go in order to do what she thinks is right?

My Review:
I'm sorry, but this is just not a good book. The writing is amateur, the pacing is horrible, the characterizations are tolerable, but not interesting enough to tempt me into caring about them.
The exception to the flat, uninteresting characters would be Ms. Moore. She was the only character who seemed to have a well-rounded personality, somewhat full back-story, moments of actual humor, and the power to make me empathize with her. I would love to read a book about her and the events that happened while she was growing up.
The best I can say about this book is that it had terrific potential: give the same characters, plot, premise, and world to a better writer, and you could have a damn good read.
I was VERY interested in the entire world behind The Line, especially the people and their one and only message to the government that ruined them. I wanted to know more about the collaborators: how they came to be, what exactly they did, what Daniel's life day-to-day was. I wanted to know what Indigo's mission was, and why it went wrong. I wanted to know more about Jonathon. I wanted to know more about Peter. I wanted to know more about everything, pretty much, except for what I got: Rachel's history lessons, Ms. Moore's orchids, and Vivian's fear.
*sigh* I need to just stop while I'm ahead.

Rating: 2/5 stars.
Recommended for: Not really anyone, but if you're a die-hard dystopian lover you might like it.
Notes: This was the fourth YA book I've read in a row where the MC's father was missing and/or dead. I'm just pointing this out.

Here's my sum-up post for the debut challenge, which I update periodically: 2010 Debut Authors Challenge

The Iron King by Julie Kagawa review coming soon.

Manga Monday

Hello, and WELCOME to the first post in my new (and completely unoriginal, I'm sure) Manga Monday!
I read a lot, but I also read a lot of manga, which I never really get a chance to review or talk about anywhere. So, from now on, that's what Mondays are for. :) I'm excited. It will be kinda similar to the "In My Mailbox" or "What Are You Reading" memes, only exclusively for manga. So, without further ado!!!

Finished Series Spotlight: Fullmetal Alchemist by Hiromu Arakawa
I finished this a few months ago, but I haven't finished anything since then so here you go.
This series is definitely on my top five mangas ever, and possibly the best I've read. It's about two young brothers, Edward and Alphonse Elric, who messed up their bodies in an alchemical experiment and are trying to find a way to, well, fix their mistakes, even though they know they're guilty of meddling with fate, God, and the universe. XD
The world is really fantastic, there are several different countries, and all of them use some form of "alchemy" which is a scientific process that seems kind of like magic, but works by the law of equivalent exchange: You can't get something without giving something of equal value. The main country is a militarized state, responsible for genocide and various other bad deeds. There's military plots, creatures called Homunculi, searches for eternal life, brotherly bonds, not-brotherly bonds, "automail" which is like awesome prosthetic limbs, tiny pandas, serial killers, and lots of other awesome stuff.
The writing is complex and has a lot of moods, which I like. By that I mean sometimes it's tragic, sometimes it's hilarious and goofy, and sometimes it hits epic-mode. There's a lot of variety.
Arakawa's art is one of my favorite I've ever experienced. It's beautiful and versatile, but really simplistic and clear-cut, if you know what I mean.

Currently Reading: Vampire Knight by Matsuri Hino
If I believed in guilty pleasures, this would be one. This series has angst, vampires, and a ridiculous love triangle: all of which I normally loathe and mock. This series is definitely a page-turner, but uneven in writing quality. The art is pretty good, but I keep comparing it to Trinity Blood, which is infinitely superior. ^_^

Looking Ahead To: Axis Powers Hetalia vol. 1 by Hidekaz Himaruya
This series is a "what if" scenario: What if the nations of the world were turned into human beings, and their wars and relations with each other trivialized to the human beings' day to day experiences with each other. I've watched the anime, which is hilarious, but I always like manga more than anime (anime "flattens" out the art...if you don't know what I'm talking about, that's okay, I'm crazy) so I'm really excited for this to come out in English. It's actually a web-comic that's been published, so it's possible the art could be sub-par.
Plotless, hilarious, and extremely irreverent.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Birthmarked, Caragh M. O'Brien

I keep reading dystopian novels, and then being like "Agh this is so depressing!" and then rolling my eyes at my self and saying, "Self, if you don't like being depressed, WHY DO YOU KEEP READING DYSTOPIAN NOVELS?"
And then my Self says: "Well, gosh, I don't really REALIZE that it's dystopian until I start reading it! And then it's too late!"
And then I say to my self, "Self, TOUGH IT OUT."
So I do. Er, my self does.

Have a Goodreads summary:
After climate change, on the north shore of Unlake Superior, a dystopian world is divided between those who live inside the wall, and those, like sixteen-year-old midwife Gaia Stone, who live outside. It’s Gaia’s job to “advance” a quota of infants from poverty into the walled Enclave, until the night one agonized mother objects, and Gaia’s parents are arrested.
Badly scarred since childhood, Gaia is a strong, resourceful loner who begins to question her society. As Gaia’s efforts to save her parents take her within the wall, she herself is arrested and imprisoned.
Fraught with difficult moral choices and rich with intricate layers of codes, BIRTHMARKED explores a colorful, cruel, eerily familiar world where one girl can make all the difference, and a real hero makes her own moral code.

My Review:

I loved the romance in this book. Loved, loved LOVED. Okay? Okay. I also loved that it wasn't 100% obvious who the love interest was, at least at first. I was suspicious but NOT CERTAIN. Which I always enjoy, as opposed to meeting a new character who is pretty much wearing a neon sign saying "I exist to provide drama, angst, and love to the FMC!" And you're like okay.
And then they're so CUTE about it. They're all like...ridiculous. I'm going to resort to quoting from Snazel's review, because she is SO RIGHT:
"I really liked the characters here. They weren't the kind who start shouting about their emotions all over the page, which I have heard people complain about, because "you never get to know the characters," but I like it. I mean, how often in real life are we privy to people confessing exactly how that makes them feel in the middle of extensive trauma?"
(Btw visit Snazel's blog cuz she's awesome and reviews way more often than I do)
Back to Birthmarked. The plot is pretty classic dystopian YA: US has been pretty much leveled from some past event, most likely nuclear, and humans are scattered and just trying to survive, so the people with the bigger sticks end up being able to control and extort resources from the people with no sticks. Then, the MC starts realizing what's going on and is like Hey now don't be crazy.
The cool thing about this plot is that it's all about BABIES. I really liked Gaia's job. I liked seeing each birth that she helps with, and how each is different and how awesome and knowledgeable she is about birthing, even though she's so young. At one point I was thinking, "Aw, I want another birth scene!" Which...I don't normally think whilst reading.
Also did I mention the romance is awesome? Yes, yes I did.
I also liked the usefulness of all the characters, if you know what I mean. They all had very specific uses in the plot, the story, the world, or whatever...We LEARNED something from each character, none of them felt redundant. Even her parents were essential, who were not usually "on screen."
There are many mysteries in this book too, like what the Dead Forest is/does it actually exist, what is with the records and why is everyone so uptight about it, who are Gaia's brothers, why do people keep telling Gaia to go visit her dead grandmother, etc. Some mysteries are answered, some are not. Some I really wanted to be DISCUSSED at least, because I had major theories about them, but Gaia's just like "argh I don't get it" and that's all we get. So that was a little frustrating, but there IS a sequel coming, so as long as things are eventually answered, I'll be okay.
Okay so on to my major complaint about the book. Gaia, despite her incredible resourcefulness and bravery and all, isn't very...clever. The WHOLE mystery with the records, I was just like..."Duh." So when she finally figured it out, and was all like "OO MAJOR LIGHTBULB THIS IS INCREDIBLE" I was extremely underwhelmed. Also, I wanted her to THINK about her grandmother's name. JUST ONE MOMENT OF REFLECTION. And she never did. And I was Come on. I don't know if the author thinks we're dumber than we are, or if it's just the way she's writing Gaia, but it could be very frustrating at times.
Soooo in conclusion...I have no conclusion! This was a well-plotted, well-characterized read, a little slow at points, but satisfying and still leaving you wanting more. Clever plot twists need not apply.

Recommended for: dystopian lovers, baby-lovers, people who like romance that doesn't involve a vat of hormones.
Rated: 4/5 stars.
Notes: I really like black uniforms.

Hex Hall, Rachel Hawkins

Plot summary:

Harry Potter Sophie Mercer is a new student at Hogwarts Hecate Hall, an academy for paranormal juvenile delinquents teens who can't control their magic. So they learn a bunch of lame stuff rather than powerful stuff, because as everyone knows, if your kid's out of control, you should make them feel STIFLED AND BORED. Sophie, a natural witch on her dad's side, is not impressed, but she soon makes friends with the awkward Ron vampire Jenna, who is cute and pink and I wanted to snuggle her. I'm just saying. She also immediately crushes on the school bad boy (groan) Archer, who is of course dating the school bitch queen Draco Elodie.
Sophie also has to contend with an odd girl who seems to be stalking her, a teacher (Snape "The Vandy") who hates her because of her father, and the enigmatic Dumbledore headmistress Casnoff. I'm not even going to make Voldemort jokes: too easy.
The plot revolves around a series of attacks on a coven of witches who want Sophie to join them. That's the MYSTERY, see. I'll leave the rest for you to discover.

My Review:

Okay, first of all, I should just say that this novel KNEW what it was trying to be, dammit, and it did exactly what it set out to do, as far as I could tell. Which is definitely a plus, since the debuts I've been reading lately either seem a little insecure of themselves at first (Birthmarked, review coming soon, I actually did like it) or just totally fail at what they try to do (The Line).
What it was, was not exactly my cup of tea. I felt like this book was a perfect hybrid of Harry Potter and Ally Carter's Gallagher Girls series. Or, Harry Potter: the American Juvie Edition. I'm not criticizing, exactly, but I'm not a huge fan of either of those series so I guess that's why I didn't love this.
I DID love Sophie's snark. I'm always up for a good bucketful of snark, and Sophie was a pro, probably because her mom left her dad after she found out he was a warlock, so Sophie's had barely any contact with him, and had to struggle alone with her (super-powerful) magic. I also, as I said, loved Jenna. She was an interesting character, although a little predictable.
The rest...I dunno. It was just all sort of formulaic. I wasn't very surprised by anything (Lesson #1: DON'T TAKE CANDY FROM STRANGERS) or very heartbroken over certain turns of events, although I might have been if I was more surprised or cared more about the characters in question. I DID laugh a lot in this book, and by that I mean more than once per chapter. There's plenty of humor and cleverness in this book. :)
I did NOT like the deus ex machina in the climatic scene. I can't even talk about how much that deused everyone's machina. I really can't, because it would be too spoilery and I want to see if YOU'RE surprised and deus ex machined.
I also, if you couldn't tell, didn't care much about the romance. Bad boys are a dime a dozen and honestly, this one had nothing in particular to recommend him over others. BUT if you like bad boys, I suppose this is a good formula.
Overall, it was an enjoyable, fast-paced read, and I will probably read the next one, but I have plenty to read while waiting for it.

Rated: 3/5
Recommended for: Harry Potter fans and/or Ally Carter fans
Notes: I totally ship Cal/Sophie.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Dewey's 24-hour Read-A-Thon

I am, of course, doing this: Dewey's 24-hour Read-A-Thon. This was the first read-a-thon I ever heard of (last April, when it ended) and it inspired me to participate in several read-a-thons over the summer. So I'm excited about finally taking part in Dewey's! I will post later with the books I hope to read.

Friday, September 17, 2010

Restoring Harmony, Joelle Anthony

I give up on writing summaries. Have a Goodreads one:
The year is 2041, and sixteen-year-old Molly McClure has lived a relatively quiet life on an isolated farming island in Canada, but when her family fears the worst may have happened to her grandparents in the US, Molly must brave the dangerous, chaotic world left after global economic collapse—one of massive oil shortages, rampant crime, and abandoned cities.

Molly is relieved to find her grandparents alive in their Portland suburb, but they’re financially ruined and practically starving. What should’ve been a quick trip turns into a full-fledged rescue mission. And when Molly witnesses something the local crime bosses wishes she hadn’t, Molly’s only way home may be to beat them at their own game. Luckily, there’s a handsome stranger who’s willing to help.

Restoring Harmony is a riveting, fast-paced dystopian tale complete with adventure and romance that readers will devour.

I don't know if it's because I read debuts with an extreme amount of doubt, or if the first chapters of debut are just generally weak, but I've had a hard time getting into all three of the debuts I've read so far this year (Guardian of the Dead, Restoring Harmony, and I'm a little ways into Birthmarked). I didn't get into Restoring Harmony until about page 100. I was turned off by the plot, I was frustrated with the MC, and I was depressed by her grandparents' situation.
But all of these worries went away around page 100. I decided the plot was much more engaging when I wasn't filled with hopelessness about it. I realized that Molly was rather endearing, I liked her optimism, and just because she was naive didn't mean she was stupid; she's very clever and resourceful, in fact. I also realized that her grandparents' situation is VERY similar to my own grandparents, and I was just dragging my own angst into it. YAY for books teaching you about yourself!

I'm sorry if this review is a bit rambling, but I just wanted to present my initial problems with the book, and how I overcame them. After I overcame them, it was a VERY enjoyable book!
Like I implied, I really enjoyed Molly's resourcefulness. She wasn't going to let anything get her down, not her semi-homeless, penniless situation, or the Portland mafia, or her grouchy neighbor (who, of course, turns out not to be quite so grouchy).
I enjoyed all of the characters, even the unpleasant ones: Spill and Molly were of course my favorites, but I really liked one of the secondary mafia guys as well, and her grandparents, and her family in BC, and Aunt Lili. Oh, Aunt Lili, you clever lady.
The plot wasn't epic or particularly clever, but it was paced well and I DID care about it because I cared about the characters.
I LOVED THE SETTING. I was born in Gresham and lived there for several years so realizing that the book was set in Gresham and Portland made me so happy! The MAX made me happy! Seeing Portland in the future made me happy! Even though it's a rather melancholy future-it was still very interesting AND very realistic.

Recommended to: dystopian lovers, contemporary YA romance lovers (even though it's set in the future, I think you'd like it), and anyone who likes fun-and-not-too-dark mafia stories.
Rating: 4 out of 5 stars.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

My Life According To Books

This meme is from PopCultureNerd , and my attention was brought to it by ElizabethaWhite. :)
Using only book titles you've read this year, answer the prompts below.

In high school I was: The Historian (Elizabeth Kostova)

People might be surprised: How To Cheat a Dragon's Curse (Cressida Cowell)

I will never be: Aloft (Chang-rae Lee)

My fantasy job is: Guardian of the Dead (Karen Healey)

At the end of a long day I need: Black Coffee (Agatha Christie)

I hate it when: M is For Magic (Neil Gaiman) [not really, but nothing else worked. :(]

Wish I had: Dragon and Thief (Timothy Zahn) [lolz a dragon and a thief of my very own!!!! [I really want to read the next one...wah.]]

My family reunions are: The Valley of Fear (Arthur Conan Doyle) [tongue in cheek]

At a party you’d find me with: Guns, Germs, and Steel (Jared Diamond)

I’ve never been to: The Sea of Monsters (Rick Riordan)

A happy day includes: The Changeling Sea (Patricia McKillip)

Motto I live by: I'd Tell You I Love You, But Then I'd Have To Kill You (Ally Carter)

On my bucket list: The Geeks' Guide to World Domination (Garth Sundem)

In my next life, I want to be: Fire (Kristin Cashore)

Friday, September 10, 2010

Huge Giveaway! YA!

In Which A Girl Reads is giving away stuff for her Blogiversary! She has a ton of awesome YA books; check it out!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

"Clearing Out My Shelves" Giveaway!

Valerie Kemp is giving away 16 books on her blog! There are three prize packs: Contemporary Romance, Boy Books, and Paranormal/Urban Fantasy! Woot. There is also an International Winner's Choice Prize!
So, er, go and enter? Or DON'T. Then there's more for the rest of us. ;) I jk, go enter! Go! *shooes*

Book Buying Ban September

I keep procrastinating blogging about this, but HERE I FINALLY AM!

A Girl Reads a Book is hosting a Book Buying Ban in September. I feel that this is very healthy. Here are my personal rules:

  • No buying new books (EXCEPT for manga at kumoricon, if it is very cheap)
  • No borrowing books
  • No checking out books from the library, except for manga and debut novels (cuz of the debut novel challenge....DON'T JUDGE ME)
I'm hoping to get at least 10 of my own books read this month. So....many....I keep approaching 100 on my TBR but barely staving it off...XD