Sunday, August 28, 2011

Mockingjay

WARNING: THIS WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS IF YOU HAVEN'T READ THE FIRST TWO BOOKS IN THE SERIES. SO IF YOU DON'T WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED EARLIER, DO NOT READ THIS!

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins
Publication Date: August 24, 2010
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pages: 390
Keywords: dystopia, survival, rebellion
Other books read by the author: The Hunger Games
Format Read: hardcover purchase

Summary: Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss's family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding. It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans — except Katniss. The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss's willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. She must become the rebels' Mockingjay — no matter what the personal cost.

I'm really not sure how I feel about this book. I loved loved LOVED the first two. This one, somehow disappointed me. I was expecting a climactic adventure again, and I don't really think there was one. Obviously, overthrowing the Capitol would be a hard thing to do, but after the exciting-ness that was The Hunger Games, I was just a little sad.

Maybe it was because Peeta was MIA for most of this novel. I wasn't really sure if I liked Peeta or Gale more, but I suppose I was leaning more towards Peeta. Gale, to me, didn't really seem to care genuinely about Katniss. He did, but he didn't care about other people and things she cared about, which made me angry. So I suppose I do like Peeta more (though I'm really not sure I liked the ending at all — it seems to me it's like Harry Potter's epilogue — it really could have just done without).

Katniss really just made me angry in this book as well. In the previous books, she was just spunky, and she just had a fiery personality. Now, she was just stupid. She put people's lives on the line so she could be the hero, and frankly, it just pissed me off. And she not only didn't really like Peeta, but she was genuinely mean to him at times. I understand that she's been through a lot, but her character took a huge turn for the worse in my opinion. She just became mean, short with people, and very very unpredictable. And I'm really unhappy about the ending. I'm not sure the epilogue even needed to be there. It was kind of nice at the end of the book to be left with a strong new start. Instead, I flipped the page, and the epilogue stared me in the face. Ugh. I just really did not like it.

This is still one of the best series I've read in FOREVER, but this last book just made me sad. The best, by far, is the first in the series.

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

The Hunger Games

The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins
Publication Date: September 14, 2008
Publisher: Scholastic Press
Pages: 374
Keywords: dystopia, survival, rebellion
Format read: library book

Summary: In the ruins of a place once known as North America lies the nation of Panem, a shining Capitol surrounded by twelve outlying districts. The Capitol is harsh and cruel and keeps the districts in line by forcing them all to send one boy and one girl between the ages of twelve and eighteen to participate in the annual Hunger Games, a fight to the death on live TV. Sixteen-year-old Katniss Everdeen regards it as a death sentence when she steps forward to take her sister's place in the Games. But Katniss has been close to dead before — and survival, for her, is second nature. Without really meaning to, she becomes a contender. But if she is to win, she will have to start making choices that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.

I have NO CLUE what took me so long to get to these books. I've been on the waiting list at the library for months because, as I'm studying abroad soon, I've been cheap and trying to avoid spending a ton of money. However, once I finished this book, I caved and bought the series. I could not wait months to read the second and third. These were that good. I finished the whole series in the course of about two and a half days. I really don't even know where to begin.

If you follow this at all, you know I adore realistic science future books. Anything up that realm. And this, to me, was sort of a cross between Scott Westerfeld's Uglies series and James Patterson's Maximum Ride. The government was obviously the bad guy, and everyone's rooting for the society. Katniss was a lovely character. I loved her attitude, her unwillingness to conform, and the fact that she put up a fight. I loved the whole archery aspect, too. I think that's by far one of the coolest weapons and trades Katniss could have had, so I really enjoyed that part of it. She wasn't really the brightest of girls, but I suppose it was on purpose that she was clueless about social aspects of the novel. I don't really want to give too much away, but it drove me insane how aloof she was to feelings of a certain individual.

The men were even more lovely. I couldn't decide who I loved more, Peeta or Gale. Peeta was the son of a baker in Katniss's district, and he was her fellow competitor in the Hunger Games. He genuinely cared about the well-being of people, and Katniss especially, which made him so lovable. Gale, on the other hand, was Katniss's childhood friend. They used to sneak under the fence that surrounds the district to hunt for their families, and they spent so much time together. Gale was the adorable boy next door. He cared so much for his family and Katniss's, I wanted him to succeed no matter what. It is a challenge for me to decide who I love more. I still don't know.

The plot was phenomenal. Nothing was ever boring, and I never got tired of reading. EVER. I really have no complaints about the plot. The Hunger Games were held in arenas that the Capitol built specifically for that year's Hunger Games. The design of the arenas was unreal. I was so impressed with the detail and the imagination that went into planning them, especially the arena in Catching Fire (book #2). I was blown away by how intricate everything was. In addition, everything about how the Capitol ran was unbelievably detailed. Everything fir together so well. I have no questions in regards to how anything in this world works. It was just so well-written, it is insane.

And I want to say how ecstatic I am to see the movies, and how incredibly sad I am I'll be in Europe for the release. I'll just have to find a theater over there somewhere. Hopefully they'll show it!

And I'm very happy about one Peeta Mellark:

Monday, August 15, 2011

Intertwined

Intertwined by Gena Showalter
Publication Date: September 1, 2009
Publisher: Harlequin Teen
Pages: 440
Keywords: paranormal, telepathy, demons
Format Read: library book

Summary: Most sixteen-year-olds have friends. Aden Stone has four human souls living inside him. One can time-travel. One can raise the dead. One can tell the future. And one can possess another human. With no other family and a life spent in and out of institutions, Aden and the souls have become friends. But now they're causing him all kinds of trouble. Like, he'll blink and suddenly he's younger Aden, reliving the past. One wrong move, and he'll change the future. Or he'll walk past a total stranger and know how and when she's going to die. He's so over it. All he wants is peace. And then he meets a girl who quiets the voices. Well, as long as he's near her. Why? Mary Ann Gray is his total opposite. He's a total loner; she has friends. He doesn't care what anyone thinks; she tries to make everyone happy. And while he attracts the paranormal, she repels it. For her sake, he should stay away. But it's too late. Somehow, they share an inexplicable bond of friendship. A bond about to be tested by a werewolf shape-shifter who wants Mary Ann for his own, and a vampire princess Aden can't resist. Two romances, both forbidden. Still, the four will enter a dark underworld of intrigue and danger — but not everyone will come out alive.

I'm still not really sure how I feel about this book. It started out fairly well — the whole idea that the souls are inside Aden was new. This was a paranormal feature that hadn't been used a thousand times. How disappointed I was when vampires and werewolves entered the picture. I really don't hate the whole vampire thing too much. I'm just tired of it. I feel now, writing about vampires and werewolves show no creativity because everyone else on the planet is writing about them too. I'm just really sick of it. But I stuck with the book because I liked Aden enough, and I liked his problems, just not the vampire.

The whole storyline was a rather mediocre one. Not much really happened, as far as I'm concerned. It was a lot of talking about things rather than doing things, and not much exciting-ness happened until the very tail end of the book. That, really, is the only part that made me want to read the second one. I have it checked out from the library, but I finally got my hands on The Hunger Games, so frankly, I'm not sure I'll read the second one. I've only got 6 days until I move back to school.

I liked Mary Ann's character, and her father as well. There's a bit of an interesting plot turn midway through the novel that really interested me in her father, and Mary Ann as well. But I really can't reveal any of that because that would give away the only real bit of action that happened. I heard so many good things about this book that I was really excited to see it on the shelf at the library, but I was just disappointed. And I'm not sure there's much else to say about it. It was just rather boring, unfortunately.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ruby Red

Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
Publication Date: May 10, 2011
Publisher: Henry Holt
Pages: 322
Keywords: time travel, historical fiction, family
Format read: library book

Summary: Sixteen-year-old Gwen lives with her extended — and rather eccentric — family in an exclusive London neighborhood. In spite of her ancestors' peculiar history, she's had a relatively normal life so far. The time-traveling gene that runs like a secret thread through the female half of the family is supposed to have skipped over Gwen, so she hasn't been introduced to "the mysteries," and can spend her time hanging out with her best friend, Lesley, watching movies, and talking about boys. It comes as an unwelcome surprise then when she starts taking sudden, uncontrolled leaps into the past. She's totally unprepared for time travel, not to mention all that comes with it: fancy clothes, archaic manners, a mysterious secret society, and Gideon, her time-traveling counterpart. He's obnoxious, a know-it-all, and possibly the best-looking guy she's seen in any century...

I knew absolutely nothing about this book before I read it, I just remembered people all over the internet being in love with it. I certainly saw why. I finished this book in a little under 14 hours. I was obsessed. First, I want to give a shout-out to the author on an excellent book (and soon-to-be trilogy that I cannot wait for). Second, I want to give a shout-out to the translator. I went to get on the author's website and found that she's German! (I think). The english translation was so phenomenal, I had no clue it was even translated. That shows truly good writing, so I just wanted to mention that. Now, on to the fantasticness that was Ruby Red.

I loved all the characters I was supposed to, and I hated all the ones that we were supposed to hate. Gwen's cousin Charlotte was pissed when she found out it was really Gwen that carried the gene (I'm not spoiling anything, this was in the first chapter — and SUPER obvious). I loved that I hated Charlotte so much. Gwen's character was lovely as well, and she was one of those heroic female characters that doesn't listen to the men and picks up a weapon and fights. I loved that about this novel. I also really liked how certain things were kept secretive. It wasn't too much, but there are definitely some things that better be answered in the next two books, because I'm waiting (not so patiently) and wondering (a lot).

The whole time-traveling phenomenon was done so extraordinarily well. It wasn't just magic and that was it. There was a scientific explanation behind it, and I understood every step of how the time-traveling gene worked and was passed all the way down the family line to Gwen. I was so enthralled by the style of the writing. Everything just flowed together seamlessly, and I loved every second of it.

I also loved the character Gideon. I don't want to say too much for fear of giving away things, but I loved that it didn't really work out perfectly the way most romance things do, and there are still several things that intrigue me about him. I definitely want some questions answered about him and his relationship with other people in the future novels.

If you haven't gotten the idea, this has been, BY FAR, my favorite book of the summer. Hands down. So really, go pick up a copy — STAT.

Monday, August 8, 2011

Leviathan



Leviathan by Scott Westerfeld
Publication Date: October 6, 2009
Publisher: Simon Pulse
Pages: 440
Format Read: library book

Summary: It is the cusp of World War I, and all the European powers are arming up. The Austro-Hungarians and Germans have their Clankers, steam-driven iron machines loaded with guns and ammunition. The British Darwinists employ fabricated animals as their weaponry. Their Leviathan is a whale airship, and the most masterful beast in the British fleet. Aleksander Ferdinand, prince of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, is on the run. His own people have turned on him. His title is worthless. All he has is a battle-torn Stormwalker and a loyal crew of men. Deryn Sharp is a commoner, a girl disguised as a boy in the British Air Service. She's a brilliant airman. But her secret is in constant danger of being discovered. With the Great War brewing, Alek's and Deryn's paths cross in the most unexpected way, taking them both aboard the Leviathan on a fantastical, around-the-world adventure. One that will change both their lives forever. 

I was ecstatic when I found this at the library, as I'm a GIANT Westerfeld fan. However, maybe I was expecting this to live up to the greatness that was the Midnighters series and the Uglies series. It just didn't do anything for me. The premise I liked. It was a fantasy about World War I, with mythical half-breeds that the Darwinists created. However, it took me until about 75 pages in to figure this much out. I do not read the little blurb before I start, and now that I've read it, it makes much more sense. But Westerfeld dives right in, expecting the reader to know these things (also what a Clanker is — that one took me a while, too). I did not like that there were so many expectations of the reader.

I liked the characters Deryn and Alek. They were brave and full of life, but I feel like they were still very much children. Overall, this seemed like a book written towards the younger audience, which I was not expecting. The language was much more simplistic than Westerfeld's other writing, and I got so sick of the phrases "Barking spiders!" and "Blisters!" They were overused and frankly, just got incredibly annoying.

As far as the storyline goes, it was decent. It was interesting enough that animals were really airships, but I got confused as to which animals were doing what to help keep the ship afloat. Then the crossover between Alek's escape and Deryn's adventure was good, but there was still entirely too much confusion. I'm still not sure about a lot of different things, like the mysterious eggs that were aboard the Leviathan. Questions were never answered, and I understand that there is a second novel to finish up this story. However, even at the end of most first books in series, there is always some sort of ending note. It felt as though Westerfeld wrote one giant novel, and just split it down the middle. And the sad thing is, I'm really not attached enough to any of the characters to make me want to read the second one. It just wasn't that good.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Overbite

 This book is the sequel to Insatiable, and my review may contain spoilers if you haven't read the first one, so here's my review of Insatiable!

Overbite by Meg Cabot
Publication Date: July 5, 2011
Publisher: Harper Collins
Pages: 275
Keywords: vampires, paranormal, telepathy
Format Read: library book

Summary: Meena Harper has a special gift, but it’s only now that anyone’s ever appreciated it. The Palatine Guard—a powerful secret demon-hunting unit of the Vatican—has hired her to work at their new branch in Lower Manhattan. With Meena’s ability to predict how everyone she meets will die, the Palatine finally has a chance against the undead. Sure, her ex-boyfriend was Lucien Anton­escu, son of Dracula, the prince of darkness. But that was before he (and their relationship) went up in flames. Now Meena’s sworn off vampires for good . . . at least until she can prove her theory that just because they’ve lost their souls doesn’t mean demons have lost the ability to love. Meena knows convincing her co-workers—including her partner, Über-demon-hunter Alaric Wulf—that vampires can be redeemed won’t be easy . . . especially when a deadly new threat seems to be endangering not just lives of the Palatine, but Meena’s friends and family as well. But Meena isn’t the Palatine’s only hope. Father Henrique—aka Padre Caliente—New York City’s youngest, most charming priest, has also been assigned to the case. So why doesn’t Meena—or Alaric—trust him? As she begins unraveling the truth, Meena finds her loyalties tested, her true feelings laid bare . . . and temptations she never even imagined existed impossible to resist. This time, Meena may finally have bitten off more than she can chew. 

 This was a bit of a let down after Insatiable. I absolutely loved the first book. It was witty and humorous instead of being deathly serious the entire time. Overbite seemed to think that it was supposed to be very very serious, and all of Meena's sarcasm and character seemed to just flatten out. I was really sad about that. I was also upset that Alaric and Meena seemed to spend most of the book apart, though from the ending, it seemed like they should have been together for the whole book and more.

Don't get me wrong, I'll still read more if there are more. And I hope there are. The ending just seemed rush and there was really no set up for the way the book ended. It all happened in about 4 pages, and I was left saying "...That's it?" But I was still interested in the romance, the plot, and the different aspects of the story. But I really didn't love it like I did Insatiable, and I was incredibly excited to find Overbite at my library as it was just released, but it didn't live up to my expectations. A solid four stars for just being pretty good, but it missed out on the last one for having such a crap ending that made me really really sad -- not about things that happened, but about how little that happened.