Saturday, April 27, 2013

Transparent: review

Title: Transparent
Author: Natalie Whipple
Rating: 3.8 stars
Release Date & Publisher: 5/21/13 -- Harper Teen
Summary: Plenty of teenagers feel invisible. Fiona McClean actually is.

An invisible girl is a priceless weapon. Fiona’s own father has been forcing her to do his dirty work for years—everything from spying on people to stealing cars to breaking into bank vaults.

After sixteen years, Fiona’s had enough. She and her mother flee to a small town, and for the first time in her life, Fiona feels like a normal life is within reach. But Fiona’s father isn’t giving up that easily.

Of course, he should know better than anyone: never underestimate an invisible girl.

Sometimes you can tell right away if a book is the author's debut. I really enjoyed this book, and I think most of my issues with it have to do with the actual character, and not the writing itself or anything. So I look forward to reading more books by this author!

First off, Transparent has a great first sentence to hook you in:

"I nearly died the second I was born." (Transparent ARC, page 1, subject to change)

But after this initial moment-of-cool, honestly I almost put the book down. I'm really selective/picky about books that don't have a clear start, and this one was hard for me to understand for approximately three chapters. Thankfully I stuck around long enough to get my bearings and enjoy the story.

The summary didn't give me a clear idea of what kind of novel this is. Futuristic, dystopian, maybe a contemporary with a twist? Not really. More of an X-Men feel. You should know: many people in Fiona's world have superpowers (I originally thought it was only her) because of some tragic world radiation thing...(it wasn't too clear on the background) over generations these random gene superpowers get passed down somehow...just go with it! Sci-fi-alternate-reality-ish.

The science of Fiona's superpower (invisible skin) was well explained and the one aspect I really can't find anything to complain about. Very well thought out, and answered all my questions. Props for that.

I wish the world was explained more, because Fiona's "crime lord" father waaas a little strange. Like, think Mob-era in Las Vegas, but in the future? I'm not sure how to explain it. Maybe if the book was longer, there could be more written about the history/world building. Fiona is on the run from her evil dad since he has this sort of Charmer power that makes people do what he says. And her brother is bad too. Really, there are no clear sides in this book.

Anyway, Fiona is invisible. Literally. Now as much as I tried to, I had a hard time connecting with her. The on-the-run aspect (which is a LOT of the book) sounded wayyy overly dramatic. Maybe I am judging her too harshly, as I've never had a hard life that I needed to escape like she does, but this is just my opinion. She's also super naive and has about zero self-confidence. I felt a lot like this book had a not-so-subtle message that "every teenager feels invisible but you have to be yourself and don't worry about looks!" as well as some parallel to a contemporary broken-home situation...disguised with superpowers. I do not like books with either of these themes, but the overall plot was too lighthearted and had fun moments, I didn't let too much of it bother me.

The supporting characters fell flat with the exception of Brady, and Seth. They were pretty okay, and I was able to empathize with their situations more than anyone else. Also, they were funny and never boring. I thought Fiona's romance was borderline cheesy though, due to her aforementioned naivety and made my eyes roll, just a bit. Maybe recommended for some younger-teen readers, more than older.

I am glad Transparent is a standalone. I read it in a day and it's an easy between-big-books read that you should definitely give a chance!


Thursday, April 25, 2013

The Sweetest Dark: review

Title: The Sweetest Dark
Author: Shana Abé
Rating: 3.7 stars
Source: I recieved an advance copy from the publisher, in exchange for an honest review.
Summary: Lora Jones has always known that she’s different. On the outside, she appears to be an ordinary sixteen-year-old girl. Yet Lora’s been keeping a heartful of secrets: She hears songs that no one else can hear, dreams vividly of smoke and flight, and lives with a mysterious voice inside her that insists she’s far more than what she seems.
England, 1915. Raised in an orphanage in a rough corner of London, Lora quickly learns to hide her unique abilities and avoid attention. Then, much to her surprise, she is selected as the new charity student at Iverson, an elite boarding school on England’s southern coast. Iverson’s eerie, gothic castle is like nothing Lora has ever seen. And the two boys she meets there will open her eyes and forever change her destiny.
Jesse is the school’s groundskeeper—a beautiful boy who recognizes Lora for who and what she truly is. Armand is a darkly handsome and arrogant aristocrat who harbors a few closely guarded secrets of his own. Both hold the answers to her past. One is the key to her future. And both will aim to win her heart. As danger descends upon Iverson, Lora must harness the powers she’s only just begun to understand, or else lose everything she dearly loves.

   I have read Shana's adult Drákon series, and I like them very much! This is her first young adult novel, also having to do with the Drákon, and though it's vaguely related to the other series, the two can be read completely independently.

There's a lot of character development, and while Lora initially annoyed me a little, she did grow on me by the end. She has some spunk, and didn't cower to the shallowness of rich snobby classmates. In fact, she defied quite a few boarding school tropes. Though she comes from an orphanage and is the school's charity student, she doesn't act like a stupid Cinderella. She has confidence in herself, but is constantly striving to be better every day. The only times I wasn't a fan of her, was when she interacted with Armand. I didn't like his character that much because he acted a little too like just a placement character. But again, by the end, I did start to warm up to him. Unlike Jesse, whom I liked immediately.

A 20th century English rural setting. Couldn't ask for more, right? I could almost taste the damp air and the silence of the countryside. The castle that is Iverson (her school) is described rather gothicly, and I enjoyed reading about it. I like that it's on an island that's connected to the mainland by a bridge that sometimes appears at low-tide, and I like the ongoing mention for things of-the-time. Electricity becoming popular. Rationing supplies because of the war going on. I'm just a sucker for historical fiction.

This story didn't have much of an obvious plot-arc. The pace is to the slower side, and I didn't have any idea who/what the antagonist was going to be, until the very end. This is not necessarily a complaint, but it bugged me just enough to want to point it out. There is much time spend on developing characters, like I mentioned above, but that's basically it. Lora has to learn how to be her true self, and there's much introspectiveness. By the end, I figured out this distant war they kept mentioning in the background, was going to be far, far more important in the later books. The Sweetest Dark is almost a prequel, action-wise. Like, this is how our young heroine came to be.

I should point out that even though this is a young adult genre, it really stands out that this author is used to writing for adults. The romance is pretty mild, but the descriptions she uses for describing everything else in the story has a sort of sensual aspect to it. It's definitely nice writing, don't get me wrong.

And now I must mention the ending.
WHAT. Mad now. How can you do this in the first book of a series??? I didn't see it coming, honestly. But I do see the significance....sort of. Just be prepared, it's a little unexpected. And now I'm really confused on which direction this story is going.

I can't wait to see what the next book, The Deepest Night, has in store for Lora and the rest of the Drákon race.


Saturday, April 13, 2013

The Originals: review

Title: The Originals
Author: Cat Patrick
Release Date: May 7th 2013
Rating: 4 stars
Summary: 17-year-olds Lizzie, Ella, and Betsey Best grew up as identical triplets... until they discovered a shocking family secret. They're actually closer than sisters, they're clones. Hiding from a government agency that would expose them, the Best family appears to consist of a single mother with one daughter named Elizabeth. Lizzie, Ella, and Betsey take turns going to school, attending social engagements, and a group mindset has always been a de facto part of life...

Then Lizzie meets Sean Kelly, a guy who seems to see into her very soul. As their relationship develops, Lizzie realizes that she's not a carbon copy of her sisters; she's an individual with unique dreams and desires, and digging deeper into her background, Lizzie begins to dismantle the delicate balance of an unusual family that only science could have created.

Cat Patrick's debut novel, Forgotten, is one of my favorite YA books. Her second novel, Revival, is one of my least favorite YA books. I was very curious to see how this one turned out.

To clear a couple things up, (the summary was a little misleading to me.) Two things. One: there's the secret that the girls are actually clones, I figured finding this out is probably the plot of the book. Well, it's not because they have known this for ten years, so it was confusing for a couple chapters. Number two is that they're all seventeen years old. First lines of the summary. Ah, no they are not. They're sixteen and three quarters, even according to them. They all point it out to their mom like four times, so why doesn't the back cover say sixteen?? I tend to skip over books with significantly younger protagonists than I, so this was disappointing. Were they trying to sell the books to an older audience? Doesn't make sense because the entire book is extremely PG. I think they should change it before actual publication.

I'm done complaining. Good stuff now!

Clones (sisters?) Ella, Betsy, and Lizzy all play one person, Elizabeth, to the outside world. They split up the day and switch out depending on the classes, because they're hiding from someone who may know about their illegal existence. This is a WEIRD concept. (Cat likes these "WEIRD concepts" in her books, I've noticed. :)) Their mother is super overprotective and OCD, completely paranoid they'll be discovered. This is normal life for Lizzy (the book is in her POV) but when she meets this guy and they become close, he sort of puts a mirror up and she realizes how strange and limiting her life really is.

The main plot of The Originals is the girls figuring out their past isn't really what they thought it to be, and the sub-plot is two of the three girls are pining after different guys at school, and...well there is only one Elizabeth. An interesting story ensues.

Even though it's a high school novel/setting, it's less off-putting because it's not overly expanded, so no bitchy cheerleader girlfriend or stupid football players. It's toned down so school cliques aren't the focus, which is a nice difference. Because in Revived that aspect REALLY annoyed me. There were shallow characters and...I'm getting off topic, so just go look up my mean review of Revived...

Overall The Originals is a pretty great book. There isn't anything outstanding about it in my eyes,  but I did enjoy it. If you need a quick (one-day) read that's mainly contemporary with a little bit of scientific meddling, definitely pick this one up. For already Cat Patrick fans like me, you won't be disappointed.

My review of Forgotten, and my review of Revived.

-Jane :)

Monday, April 8, 2013

The Host: movie review

This picture isn't mine; I got it here.

I saw The Host on opening day. Yeah, and after much discussing, my friend and I decided we have a lot to say about it.

This rant/review is about the movie. As far as the book, The Host is a favorite fluff book of mine, one I can enjoy a lot without really having to think, but I do like it a lot. And I'll assume the people reading this post knows about one or the other, so yes there will be spoilers to the storyline.

I'm still not sure if this movie is okay, or super crappy.

I'll try to separate this into topic sections, because otherwise I could go on for hours on every little detail. It's a collaboration of my and my friend's thoughts, I have to give her some credit! :)

Warning: This is turning to be a very long rant. Heh.

Actors: Oh dear. Maybe I shouldn't have started with these.
Diane Kruger (The Seeker): She was kinda super awesome! Especially when The Seeker was removed and Lacy had her say, that was probably the most well done part of the movie.
Saoirse Rowan (Wanda/Mel): I haven't seen her in anything before, but I can tell she's a good actor. She did the best she could with the part, and I could only hear a tiny bit of her accent, which I didn't mind.
Max Irons (Jared): Eh. I don't know why he's so popular, I wasn't impressed. Although Jared isn't a favorite character of mine, so I might be biased.
Jake Abel (Ian): Now Ian is my favorite character in the book, but they absolutely destroyed his character in here, it hurts to talk about. Bleh. They just made his relationship with Wanda so cheesy and stupid. That's all I can say without blaring the caps.
Chandler Canterbury (Jamie): So adorable! Though it was weird at first, I soon got used to him. Really captured his whole "Mel, I'm older than I look" vibe of the book.
William Hurt (Jeb): Perfect for the part, even though a lot of his lines were direct quotes from the book. He did the part well and I felt like he very well could be Jeb.

Things they took out include:
-Walter and his heartbreaking cancer
-Wes and his sweet romance, oh but they did kill him still. Which is when they mentioned his name.
-Game room scenes
-Both the trials
-Kyle's girlfriend, Jodi (so we never see his kind side)
-Many raids.
-A sense of community. It felt like our main ten people were...all the people in the entire cave system.
They just took a LOT out. It's a 600+ page book, and a two hour movie, with at least 35 minutes being stupid make-out sessions. 'nuff said.

New for the movie:
Lot's of Seeker's POV scenes. Almost too many. It did give another element to the story, and was visually exciting, so I can't complain too much.

Setting: There aren't a lot of different places shown in the book, but you don't realize how small Wanda's world is until you actually see it. There is one scene in the kitchen that lasts, oh, two minutes.  Wanda's cell. Doc's place for one terrifying scene and one normal scene. Ian's bedroom. Jared's bedroom. (Wait, I think they used the same set.) And the baths. The mirror field was extensive, but looked visually unrealistic. The mirrors themselves were awesome!

Acting/Script: For so many big names, they kinda sucked. I blame the script writers. Everything Wanda said sounded very rehearsed to my ears, and that goes for the physical moving around too. When Ian tries to strangle Wanderer in the beginning I winced from the pure awkwardness. Like...really? That's the best you guys can do? For the fight scene between Kyle and Wanda in the baths (one of my favorite scenes in the book), it was filmed terribly, and looked like an SNL skit. The camera showed one angle, and the pool looked two feet deep. And when Wanda finds Doc's experiments she goes all wide eyed and freak-out-mode, but it all felt too staged.

Effects That Weren't Crap: The intro. The eyes. Boy they were eerie! It really felt like you were looking at the glowing soul inside. Which is the second okay-effect I liked. The...two? parts that showed them removing/placing a Soul made the being look pretty and otherworldly.

Music: I tend to really pay attention to the soundtrack and scores to movies. For the most part, the score wasn't bad. It's the way it was presented which was the problem. Scene of talking, then some overall dramatic music, scene of fighting/talking, music over a setting change....etc. It just didn't blend well. Also, you know the Dreamworks theme music for the man in the moon clip? Yeah, it reminded me of that the entire movie. One exception, I remember a single scene where I heard some vaguely southwest-y theme music that reminded me of Firefly, probably because of the AZ setting (which is where I live!) It only lasted a minute though.
I don't know if The Host had a soundtrack besides that song in the trailer and the ending credits, Radioactive by Imagine Dragons. That is a pretty cool song by the way.

Plot: The entire 2+ hours I felt like I was floating. There's a sense of disconnection. Like a HUGE sense of disconnection. This is unfortunately what killed the movie for me. Everything happened at an almost dreamlike state, and the music-placement didn't help that. For the book, I think it's supposed to be almost bildungsroman but the movie-creators either didn't catch on to that, or decided nobody would notice. Wanda is supposed to grow, as a soul, to love the humans, and essentially pull a Pocahontas. So, that did technically happen, but I didn't feel involved. This may be due to a lot of important decisions Wanda makes is in her head. Not counting the internal/external dialogue with Mel, but actually her own thought process. Even the movie's decision to delete the character of Walter, that's a huge part of what shows how she gains humanity. Hopefully you'll understand what I'm talking about.

Pet (Wanda): I really mean no offense to the actor who played Wanda's new body at the end, known as Pet, but HOLY SHIT it scared me so much. When her face was revealed, I literally jumped in my seat and my friend and I turned to each other with a look. O.O I don't know why, it's just super unsettling. Thankfully there were fewer than ten minutes left by then.

Overall Feel: This is a silly movie. Really. At least five times the whole audience laughed at something, be it awkward or actually silly (but the book wasn't a laughable sort at all). I would have been happy if they never made this movie at all. It's one of those books that shouldn't be bothered with. Just my opinion. And as bad as it was, I...couldn't really stop watching it. I was curious how at every turn they would screw it up yet again. Like a scientific study. And my friend sat next to me cracking up the entire time, so that helped too.

What did you think about it? This isn't the worst book-to-movie adaptation I've seen! Don't get me started on The Hobbit.

Now, what am I looking forward to next? Warm Bodies! That was such an amazing and beautifully written book, I can't wait to see how they'll destroy it for the movie. ...I mean, maybe they won't kill the book, but that trailer sure isn't a good sign. (And yes I know this came out two months ago.)

Wow, you've stuck around this long? Thanks for taking the time to read this. :)


Sunday, April 7, 2013

Scarlet: review

Title: Scarlet (Lunar Chronicles #2)
Author: Marissa Meyer
Genres: sci-fi, retellings, adventure
Publisher: Feiwel and Friends
Rating: 5 stars
Source: Bought
Summary: Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her. As Scarlet and Wolf unravel one mystery, they encounter another when they meet Cinder. Now, all of them must stay one step ahead of the vicious Lunar Queen Levana, who will do anything for the handsome Prince Kai to become her husband, her king, her prisoner.

It's been a while, but I thought I'd just post this short review. :)

A few months ago, whenever it came out, I read the short story The Queen's Army, and I'm glad I did. It gives you another perspective to the wolves and I understood the character Wolf a whole lot more, and maybe it saves some confusion as to what the wolves actually are in the first place. It's available online Tor for free, so I recommend you read it. Either before or after Scarlet.

I wasn't completely worried this would be a bad second book, but was was for sure bummed it wasn't going to be about Cinder like the first one. I worried for nothing though because I soon found out Cinder is in here a LOT, as well as her own special way. ;) And Kai. And Queen Levana. And we meet Wolf.

This took me about two weeks to read purely for the reason of my life-schedule right now. I wish wish wish I hadn't been so busy because I totally would have finished it in one sitting had my time allowed. The pace is non-stop and sure is a page-turner. Scarlet is another brave young protagonist like Cinder, but completely in her own way and I still don't have a favorite between the two girls. Wolf took me a while to warm up to, since I'm not a big "werewolf" fan in general. But in this world it's made all sciencey so I liked how she created the wolves. And there were some great moments with him. ;)

I'm not sure if I pointed this out in my review of Cinder last year (all I can recall is some major fangirling) but I am glad Meyer made her sci-fi world NOT dystopian. It's futuristic. Yes, there is a difference. And I am SO WORN OUT with dystopian books right now. Additionally, all the awesome tech-y items don't seem unrealistic, and blend in well with her storytelling. You can tell she's a sci-fi geek as well. (especially with her spaceship setting, totally made my think: Firefly!)

And a special shout-out to Captain Thorne, oh my gods, he is now one of my favorite supporting characters. Thorne is the comic-relief I suppose, but at the same time he's the handsome-charmer-but-pain-in-the-ass. Who is now Cinder's side-kick. But he would assure you it's the other way around. His lightheartedness adds balance to the otherwise depressing Cinder-storyline, and high-speed Scarlet-storyline.

This book does not leave you in a horrible cliffhanger like the first one (I thought so at least) but it will be yet again torture to wait a whole year for the third book. And there will be four! Which is good, because there is still a lot to accomplish for Cinder and co.

And Kai...oh man, Cinder needs to go save that young Emperor. Pronto.