Category Archives: Reviews

Tony’s Review: Unwholly by Neal Shusterman

I added ‘Unwind’ to my Kindle TBR list, based on Tony’s review of it. So far, I’ve not gotten around to reading it, but his review of the second book in the series, published on Aside from Writing blog today, tells me that I should move it to the top of my list.

asidefromwriting

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4/5

In a world where unwinding – the dissolution of teenagers for organ replacement – is legal, a group of very different teenagers struggle to survive in any way they can.

This is a sequel to the outstanding Unwind – one of the few books I’ve given 5/5 to, I believe. Neal Shusterman is one of the best writers I’ve ever come across – YA or otherwise. His world is totally believable, his characters are full and complex. There’s nothing flat here in dialogue or pacing; not a sentence is wasted. His writing is flawless.

His heroes and villains are both beautifully realised. Nothing is black and white; the heroes make hard choices, they make realistic choices as to what actions they can take. So do the villains. Everyone thinks their actions are right and the moral choices they make feel right to them. As readers, we empathise with them…

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Just Finished…Cress

CressAfter loving Cinder and Scarlett, I was very excited for book number three. The wider story in the series (war and strife between Earth and Lunar) really gains pace in Cress, in the aftermath of the events at the end of Scarlett.

I loved the character of Cress – Lunar shell and superhacker, left on a satellite between Earth and the moon, working directly for Queen Lavinia. She was a great addition to the team around Cinder and a nice contrast to the existing female protagonists (this is definitely a series with plenty of female characters to admire, although each is quite different).

It was also nice to see a bit more of Thorne in this book, after he’d established himself in Scarlett, he really came into his own in this one. The ending of Cress leaves us with a nice cliffhanger for the next in the series: everything is building towards a big climax, with great characters on all sides waiting to move forwards. I’m looking forward to the next release – this is turning out to be one of the best YA series I’ve come across in a long while.

Just Finished…Medusa by Tony Talbot

Medusa by Tony Talbot

Medusa by Tony Talbot

Well, I finally got the time to knuckle down to some reading for fun in the last few weeks and it has started really well: I just finished Tony Talbot’s great new book Medusa. This is the second book of Tony’s I’ve read and I was not disappointed.

We meet Lissa Two – captain of a strange ship with some interesting technical skills – in an apparently post-apocalyptic world of water. Giant ‘seasteads’ form the main areas of civilisation and Lissa uses her ship – Connie – and the particular powers she has, to salvage items for sale in the underground souks in her own seastead home. A random meeting with a man thrown from a strange flying machine; the mysterious disappearance of an apparently strong seastead and Lissa’s own questions about Connie provide the ingredients for a fast-paced, cocktail of adventure.

I really like Tony’s writing style, he has a real way with words (helpful if you’re a writer, I know!) But what I mean, what really stands out in this book for me, was his ability to create a world you felt completely transported to: there is beautiful description throughout the book, whilst he walks his characters through the fast-paced plot, leaving you the feeling that you could reach out and touch the world Lissa inhabits. Now and again, I would find myself noticing something, not because it jarred, but because it just flowed so naturally. Unfortunately, some of the best examples I highlighted would need spoilers to explain – so I’d say you have to check it to know what I mean.

Medusa is one of those books you get sucked into quickly and struggle to find a place to pause, when reading – you just want to know ‘what next’ the whole time. Especially once Lissa’s questions start taking her down interesting paths, it gets even harder to stop: I read the second half of the book in one day. And it was worth it! 🙂

Overall, I’m going 4.5* for Medusa, I thought the characters, pace and writing in the book was even better than Eight Mile Island, the main reason it gets the same rating is because I loved the way EMI sucker punched me in it’s concluding chapters. I didn’t get quite the same left-field shock as I did with that one, but overall, I would say I enjoyed Medusa more and if you’re thinking of trying one of Tony’s books, this is the one I’d recommend.

Recommended for: fans of dystopian YA / post-apocalyptic world settings; I think people who liked the relationships in Angelfall would enjoy this, as well as Hunger Games / Blood Red Road fans looking for something with a feisty female protagonist in an unusual setting.

 

Blast from the Past – The Lifeguard

The Lifeguard

I’ve just been mooching around Goodreads, pretending I’m doing something productive with this Saturday morning, and I saw this book in one of the sidebars. It just had to be clicked, for the little reader inside me…

Apart from sharing my name with the author – which was very exciting for me when I was eleven years old! – this was one of the first books I read that ‘sucker punched’ me at the end, with the twist. These days I would probably see it coming a mile away, because I’ve read lots of books in the years in between and can hopefully see the breadcrumbs authors drop in for you, but I always remember this book as the one that made me go – “Wow – I didn’t see that coming.”

At eleven years old, although I’d read a lot, there had not been much with a misleading narrator, where their point of view limits the reality of the story. Nowadays, I still love this as a device…because no matter how hard you try – you always want to believe the character you’re reading about, you want to believe that they see everything. Between 11 and 13 Point Horror books became my go-to choice for what would probably be considered tween or young YA thrillers these days. Tankersley Cusick remained one of my favourite authors in this series as well – but after reading ‘The Lifeguard’ I’ve always remained suspicious about narrators and authors themselves, I suppose…

So it gets 5* from me – for my eleven year old self 🙂

 

Just Finished…Blood Red Road

Blood Red Road I enjoyed reading this, especially with it being a random ‘library’ choice that I picked up as I walked through the teen section. I’d seen it around on GR in the past and thought ‘why not?’

It was a quick and absorbing read, once you got into the narration style. Saba was an interesting heroine, not too perfect, impatient, flawed and pretty ‘real’. I didn’t always like her, but could see where she was coming from. The surrounding cast of characters threw in some more appealing people and made the story tick along well.

This is really a 3* story for me: Mad Max-esq dust bowl future worlds, with cage fighting heroines and crazy-freak dictator types are not my favourite settings for an apocalyptic world. There were some nice references to the previous ‘wrecker’ inhabitants, but it did feel too familiar and it would have been nice to have a more original backdrop for the story, rather than so quite typical ‘go to’ sterotypes from post-apocolyptic films. What did bump up the story for me was the narration style: the way Saba describes her world and reports the dialogue of others gave it an interesting twist – you’ll either love it or hate it, but it certainly sets it apart from some of the other more popular first-person narrator books around.

Just Finished…Finding Sky AND Seeking Crystal

Joss Stirling A solid 4.5* for me – Stirling’s realistic, punchy dialogue is lots of fun, and as an English girl, I definitely found myself sucked in to the protagonists new life in America. Who hasn’t imagined themselves living in a new country? In lots of ways, it has the ingredients of a standard paranormal YA: bit of romance, paranormal-ish elements, school experience, issues with parents, etc. I just found that Stirling put it together in a really enjoyable, accessible way, that had me hankering for more.

As it often is, I think it was the realism of the characters that I enjoyed the most – there are some nice twists in the plot and I liked the main ‘couple’, even though Zed’s not my type really, so I’ll not be heading into a fan-girl frenzy (discovered reading another book, that I’m probably more of a Xav or Yves Benedict girl myself 🙂 Sky is a nice protagonist: a bit feisty, with some realistic splashes of nerves, sarcasm and self-doubt – Zed, as the slightly erratic ‘bad boy’ who is lovely with Sky, becomes more believable as you get into the story and understand the impact his Savant powers has on his life and perception of the world.

From the paranormal side of things, I liked the idea of Savant powers and look forward to seeing how the bigger network (that’s hinted at in this book) develops in the other novels. I went straight off to get another one, so I was definitely smitten 🙂

There was a ‘missing moment’ freebie – Challenging Zed – which I dipped into, before moving on to another book in the series. It is a nice little addition giving some of Zed’s perspective on his early meetings with Sky. It helps give you some background to why he behaves as he does – the only oddity for me, was that it was not written in first-person, as the other books are. It that sense, it gave you more information, but told you, more than showed you – slightly distanced from the character, it feels different from the main books. An interesting detour nonetheless.

Seeking CrystalSeeking Crystal 

I jumped straight to this book from Finding Sky – and this gets the full 5* (oddly enough, it’s book 3 not 2 – and I can’t actually explain why I did the jump, but hey!)

Picking up a familiar group of characters from another angle was a good start – as we had the backstory and saw what happened when soulmates (who knew about the whole system) react when they meet.

I loved Crystal from the beginning – different from Sky in book 1 and probably a more interesting a character from my point of view. Xav – the main man of interest in her world in the early chapters is also probably more my type – so I found their relationship development more fun – more sarcasm and eye rolling, than brooding and nervous.

There are some mildly cheesy elements to the book – James Bond-esque action included – but you know what, it worked. Venice as the backdrop came to life well for me (I’ve been many years ago) and if you do suspension of disbelief and just go with the story, then you can sit back and enjoy it. Let’s face it, you’re reading about Savants, with a multitude of psychic gifts, in the first place.

One thing that I got more involved with in this book was the Benedict family as a whole – there are a lot of them (9 in total), and that’s a lot to take in during the first book. I could not have matched guys with their powers after reading that – as they are more fleeting characters and outside the main activity for much of the book. In Seeking Crystal you get to see them used in context, which makes them more memorable, and the whole ‘Benedict’ thing begins to make more sense.

I read this in just over a day and enjoyed every minute. Meeting Phoenix in this book, I’m looking forward to finding out more about her in her own story (Stealing Phoenix book 2). I think with the explanations given, you can easily read the books out of order, without losing anything – although why you’d be as silly as me to read them out of order, I wouldn’t know.

Just Finished…Goddess by Josephine Angelini

Goddess

** spoiler alert **
I’m a little on the fence about Goddess and I’ve ummmed and ahhhed over how to rate it – I’ve hovered around 3.5* – 4* and will stick here.

I’ve obviously been sucked back in to Helen’s world and enjoyed it, as I read the book in two days and stayed up until 1am this morning to finish it. Perhaps, I’m a little disappointed in how the book has come together – a lot happens in this final instalment and I feel as if there could have been a fourth book in there, splitting out the events and giving a bit more time to spend with the characters and relate to the events affecting them.

There are a lot of characters, and with several long standing main characters going through significant changes in this book, I almost felt as if I didn’t get chance to spend enough time with them to get the full effect. Because of this, some of the key emotional scenes, reliving the battles and losses of the Trojan war lost some of their impact for me. (Maybe on a slower re-read, I’ll pick up more). I would have liked a bit more Ariadne and Jason – as they have been so involved earlier, but they felt a little sidelined. The one newbie that I really liked was Andy – she was a nice addition and I think fitted into the ‘cast’ of the play the most effectively.

The other part I’m not sure about, is whether I would have preferred not to know the truth behind Daphne’s lie so early in the series. Unless it was a completely sucky book, which gave no happy ending (which doesn’t happen often) you knew that Helen would find a way to be with Lucas. I was waiting for the reveal throughout, and I wonder if I would have felt their emotional turmoil more if I still believed they were related. It’s a small thing, and probably personal preference, as I like twists in the tale. I remember feeling so sad for Helen and Lucas, when they believed they couldn’t be together initially – once I knew it was a lie, I was waiting for the revelation that would allow them to be together.

Overall, it was a good read, there is a lot to taken in for the conclusion to come together. I enjoyed it – but would probably have enjoyed a four book series better 🙂

Just Finished…Letters from the Ledge

“Long time, no read, eh?”

That sounds about right 🙂 I’ve spent the free time I’ve had in the last few months pushing through completing The Rainbow Maker’s Tale to get the ARC version completed. I’m currently doing the final edits, small re-writes in scenes which aren’t quite working, before the final proof reads get done and it goes for release. This has been a long time coming – over a year on from the intended release date. I think last year I spent more time reading, blogging and marketing, instead of writing, which is really what you need to do if you want to finish a book 😉 At the start of this year I decided 2013 would be about the writing – and so far, I’ve stuck to that promise reasonably well.

I’ve not read a huge amount so far this year, mainly when I was on holiday and so allowed myself some ‘free’ time. I’ve been away again, and with some long journeys and a bit of relaxation time, I found some time to read. And, so here’s my first review in a l-o-n-g time 🙂

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Letters from the Ledge   Still reeling from the suicide of his best friend Tess, seventeen-year old Brendan struggles to overcome addiction and identity issues. Walking the ledge outside his Manhattan apartment has become its own sort of drug, as he stands night after night with his arms outstretched, ready to fly away. Sarah can see him from her window, and begins journaling about a boy on a ledge. Paige and Nate, a young couple in another building, can see both teens from their fire escape. None of them know the others are watching, but a strong desire for freedom resides in each of them, and as their lives begin to intertwine, that desire will be tested. Anyone can jump, but not everyone can fly… Sharp, humorous, and deeply layered, this chronicle of a suicidal teen’s survival explores the reality of addiction and other tough issues, but does so easily, through the use of multiple perspectives, intelligent dialogue and authentic characters. Equal parts romance, contemporary drama, and coming of age, this highly engaging and intensely beautiful novel challenges our cultural perceptions in the battle for balance.

Rating: 4* 

This was an unexpectedly enjoyable read. I have to admit that the blurb didn’t really bowl me over, and so this book has wallowed on my kindle for a fair while. I just began reading it on a whim, deciding to clear off some of the oldest books on my TBR list…I was quickly sucked in.

I really enjoyed the multiple perspectives that the third-person narrator moves through. It delivers the story in a nicely balanced way, drawing together the different elements. Each was well defined, and noticeably different from the others, and so made them realistic. I also found the dialogue pace-y and well-written.

The plot is not as ‘heavy’ as the blurb suggested to me – yes, it covers some difficult areas, like drugs/drink, self-harm, violence and grief – however, each difficult element was integrated with the characters in believable ways. The examination of relationships: parental, friends, boyf/girlf and business were all intricately woven between the various character perspectives and action of the book.

Overall, I enjoyed it, found it well-written and quick to read, when I sat down with it (reading the last half in a couple of days). NB. Given some of the subject matter, I would recommend for ages 16 and up.

Just Finished…Eight Mile Island by Tony Talbot

This is a great YA mystery adventure – with a male lead you’ll probably loathe then like if you’re anything like me (one sentence was all it took for me to dislike him, then another one to turn everything around! It sucker-punched me a bit, I will admit – as I’d had a good few chapters of not thinking very highly of him!)

Tony weaves a great story with twists, technology and science that will make your skin creep at times, as Dylan finds out more about the strange Eight Mile Island. With short, fast-paced chapters and lots of action, all told in a clear, descriptive style you really experience the whole journey with Dylan. It kept me guessing throughout, and being told in the first person it cleverly excludes and includes things that only Dylan would know.

Looking back at the story again now – it’s been a couple of months since I read it – I can see even more in it than I did immediately. It has a ‘Matrix-y’ element to it (trying to remain spoiler free) about the ‘real’ and ‘unreal’ world – I have to admit that on my first reading I took everything at face value and accepted the world as presented by the narrator…I’m not sure I’d do that on a second reading, and think that there would be a different story there for read number two…

Overall, 4.5* for me: Eight Mile Island kept me gripped and interested from start to finish – highly recommended.