Monday, January 4, 2016

Uprooted by Naomi Novik

Title: Uprooted
Author: Naomi Novik

Genre: Fantasy
Agnieszka loves her valley home, her quiet village, the forests and the bright shining river. But the corrupted Wood stands on the border, full of malevolent power, and its shadow lies over her life.

Her people rely on the cold, driven wizard known only as the Dragon to keep its powers at bay. But he demands a terrible price for his help: one young woman handed over to serve him for ten years, a fate almost as terrible as falling to the Wood.

The next choosing is fast approaching, and Agnieszka is afraid. She knows—everyone knows—that the Dragon will take Kasia: beautiful, graceful, brave Kasia, all the things Agnieszka isn’t, and her dearest friend in the world. And there is no way to save her.

But Agnieszka fears the wrong things. For when the Dragon comes, it is not Kasia he will choose.

Review:

So this definitely took me a while to finish but I'm glad I followed through with it because it was a really good story. I mostly enjoyed the latter half of the novel because the first half had a lot of pacing and execution issues. It was very stop-and-go in the beginning; there was a burst of action and then the plot dwindled to a crawl then another burst and another crawl.

I liked the fact that since Agnieszka was introduced as the Dragon’s latest captive it served as a catalyst in questioning the routine that was settled on the relationship between the Dragon and the villages he protects. Nieshka’s involvement produces an awakening in the Dragon and his methods. Her unique power and straightforward personality was able to infiltrate the Dragon’s dogged attitude and stiff mannerisms. 

I had a love-hate relationship with the writing due to its inconsistent prose. I loved the fluidity of the author's writing when she was describing anything, the scenery, the action, character’s feelings, etc. I hated when she tried to convey emotions via dialogue. In that instance, it was missing that fluidity and she wasn’t able to fully get across the passion in the emotion the character was trying to express.

I enjoyed the characters for the most part and believed they developed quite nicely throughout the story. However, I didn't get attached to any of them because of their development that they each went through was restricted to the circumstances they were in. Like the main character for example, Agnieszka, she turned out to be an amazing character but beyond the scope of the plot of fighting against the Woods, there was no substance to her. The Dragon was the same. His grumpiness was mostly just irritating to read about and his development was very slow-going.

The best parts of the story were mostly when the characters interacted with one another. They showed a depth in feeling was easily captured and conveyed to the reader. Agnieszka's friendship with Kasia was one of favorite parts to read about. And the relationship between Agnieszka and the Dragon was fun to witness develop because of the polarity between them was comical.

Another aspect that I found fascinating was the character of the Woods and how elaborate the author made it. The entire world-building that the author constructed was magnificent and very fairy tale-esque. That may be the biggest reason this book wasn't a five stars for me. I don't enjoy the linear plots of fairy tales. There's just something very constricting about the plots of fairy tales that limits the characters personalities by tying their development to their determination of confronting the Big Bad, in this case the Woods.

B

LiLi

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Emmy & Oliver by Robin Benway

Title: Emmy & Oliver
Author: Robin Benway

Genre: YA Contemporary
Emmy’s best friend, Oliver, reappears after being kidnapped by his father ten years ago. Emmy hopes to pick up their relationship right where it left off. Are they destined to be together? Or has fate irreparably driven them apart?

Emmy just wants to be in charge of her own life. She wants to stay out late, surf her favorite beach—go anywhere without her parents’ relentless worrying. But Emmy’s parents can’t seem to let her grow up—not since the day Oliver disappeared.

Oliver needs a moment to figure out his heart. He’d thought, all these years, that his dad was the good guy. He never knew that it was his father who kidnapped him and kept him on the run. Discovering it, and finding himself returned to his old hometown, all at once, has his heart racing and his thoughts swirling.

Emmy and Oliver were going to be best friends forever, or maybe even more, before their futures were ripped apart. In Emmy’s soul, despite the space and time between them, their connection has never been severed. But is their story still written in the stars? Or are their hearts like the pieces of two different puzzles—impossible to fit together?

Review:

This is one of those that would be five stars if the genre that I was in love with was YA Contemporary. So for those of you who are in love with that genre and can't get enough then I HIGHLY recommend not just Emmy & Oliver but all of Robin Benway's works.

I am happy I picked this book up--I'm even more glad that the ebook was on sale. I haven't read a really good YA Contemporary in a long time and I'm sad to say I don't go looking for them as much as I used to anymore because I feel like if you've read as much as I have of the genre, you recognize the formula and don't want to keep reading it.

The author's writing restored some of my love for the genre. It reminded me that there are authors out there that know just how to manipulate your emotions. The characters were pretty fantastic and I adored their sense of humor. Their banter was perfect and the teary-eyed moments completely enthralling. The main character was my favorite because while there were major events and life-altering decisions happening around her, she knew just where she stood and how her life wasn't defined by others actions but by her own. That is also why I loved the main guy character in this book. There were so many things happening to him because of other people's actions and he had to learn that he had to find out who he was in order to get the life he wanted.

The characters seemed a bit too mature for their age sometimes but I'm kind of glad they were. They also had moments where they were teenagers in need of their parents which I'm also glad about because it portrayed a vulnerability that would seem impossible to capture in writing but wasn't.

The ending was spot on and somewhat predictable and I'm happy about it.

B+

LiLi

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Fire & Flood by Victoria Scott (Fire & Flood, #1)

Title: Fire & Flood (Fire & Flood, #1)
Author: Victoria Scott

Genre: YA Fantasy
Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can't determine what's wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She's lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she's helpless to change anything.

Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It's an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother's illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there's no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.

The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can't trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?

Review: 

This book shares a lot of similarities with other YA dystopian books but it was different and creative enough to pull off original characters with some really entertaining and thrilling writing. 

The characters, especially the main characters, are what pushes the plot along and I highly enjoyed reading about their antics. The main character Tella, especially, was quirky and had a great sense of humor even in the middle of the race. The only thing that bugged me about her in the beginning was that when she met another young teenage girl in the race who was blond and blue-eyed, she thought she would have to kill her. Obviously, she was joking but I'm getting sick of reading about girls hating other girls because they perceive them as more beautiful than themselves. Why does the reaction always have to be anger or hatred or any combination thereof? Anyway, besides that, I really did enjoy the Tella's sympathetic, caring personality--the struggle with the curly hair I could totally empathize with, and her courageousness was impressive even when she didn't know what the heck was going on.

I would call this a Hunger Games set in the modern world. I wouldn't actually call this a dystopian world even though the Brimstone Bleed did have similar characteristics to the Hunger Games. The setting was no different than present day in America but it's the creation of the "race" that lacks in development. In this first installment to the series there are only hints of the history behind the Brimstone Bleed. There is only enough to entice the reader to want to continue with the series in order to discover the full story. Overall, the similarities between Fire & Flood and The Hunger Games are substantial but I'm happy to say that I would highly recommend the former even if you've already read the latter. (Maybe just not immediately after you've read The Hunger Games though, otherwise it will probably cause you to create too many analogous comparisons.) 

B

LiLi

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Child of a Hidden Sea by A. M. Dellamonica (Hidden Sea Tales, #1)

Title: Child of a Hidden Sea (Hidden Sea Tales, #1)
Author: A. M. Dellamonica

Genre: Crossworld Fantasy
One minute, twenty-four-year-old Sophie Hansa is in a San Francisco alley trying to save the life of the aunt she has never known. The next, she finds herself flung into the warm and salty waters of an unfamiliar world. Glowing moths fall to the waves around her, and the sleek bodies of unseen fish glide against her submerged ankles.

The world is Stormwrack, a series of island nations with a variety of cultures and economies—and a language different from any Sophie has heard.

Sophie doesn't know it yet, but she has just stepped into the middle of a political firestorm, and a conspiracy that could destroy a world she has just discovered… her world, where everyone seems to know who she is, and where she is forbidden to stay.

But Sophie is stubborn, and smart, and refuses to be cast adrift by people who don't know her and yet wish her gone. With the help of a sister she has never known, and a ship captain who would rather she had never arrived, she must navigate the shoals of the highly charged politics of Stormwrack, and win the right to decide for herself whether she stays in this wondrous world...or is doomed to exile.


Review:

This was a good start to a crossworld fantasy series full of people who spend more time on ships because the land to water ration is vastly in the latter's territory. This book suffers a bit of first-book-syndrome because while it throws the main character into a whole new world, it doesn't take the time to explain the world and its history. The author only gives enough information about the Sophie's surroundings and her connection to the world to satisfy the plot narrative of the story. I really wish she'd gone more in depth because I would have loved to have known Stormwrack's history and its people. 

It was thrilling to read the political narrative because it embroiled the story with Stormwrack's less-than-adequate methods of policing their laws. I found the many loopholes in their faith in others' words to be particularly fun to watch unravel.

The characters--and what little of the world-building there was--were the highlight of the story because their relationships were well-established, and fun to follow and see develop. Sophie was an able main character because with her background of routinely taking risks in her field as "marine videographer", she knew how to handle herself in a world that was mostly ocean. She thrived in it. Her relationship with the other characters was sometimes filtered through the lens of her insecurities which were very human and humbling. As a reader, I wanted to see her grow more confident and in a way her brother was able to help draw her out. 

The cast of characters in Stormwrack that make an appearance in this book were pretty fantastic to read about because they all have their individual mysterious backgrounds that is further shrouded by their world's history. Therefore, while I liked reading about these characters, there were many times where the missing world history couldn't fill in the gaps of the characters' personalities. 

The ending, though, was spectacular and left me wanting more of the series and its characters.

C+

LiLi

Alien Tango by Gini Koch (Kitty Katt, #2)

Title: Alien Tango (Kitty Katt, #2)
Author: Gini Koch

Genre: Urban Science Fantasy
For Alien Super-Being Exterminator Katherine "Kitty" Katt, anti-alien conspiracies, threats from outer space, and a couple of killer alligators are all in a day's work. It's been five months since Kitty joined Centaurion Division, working with the aliens from Alpha Centauri. She and Jeff Martini have grown closer and life looks rosy. But when an experimental spacecraft is unexpectedly returned to the Kennedy Space Center, Kitty and the rest of Alpha Team are called on to investigate and are immediately embroiled in life-or-death situations that scream "political conspiracy."

The team must survive murderous attacks, deal with a mysterious space entity that has seized control of a group of astronauts, and evade a woman who'll do anything to eliminate the competition when she develops an obsessive crush on Kitty's old high school boyfriend. And that's all before the evil masterminds decide Kitty's extermination is vital...Alien Tango is the thrilling second installment of the Alien series.

Review:

So in this installment Kitty and Martini are still going strong and Kitty is now head of Centaurion's Airborne Alpha Team. 

The things that I enjoyed about this installment are continuous from the first book. Kitty's ability to figure things out was still on point, but more so Alpha Team in general was amazing to read about in action. The murder mystery plot situation was by far the best story line this book had to offer. I say this because I had some issues with the overarching romance plot that will be discussed down below.

For now, I want to talk about the writing and characters. The writing was brilliantly suited to the action-packed pacing of the thrilling plot lines. There was the dueling plots of jealous whacko wannabe girlfriend of an ex-boyfriend, and the evidence that humans are way more evil than A-Cs give them credit for. Both were unbelievably titillating and the use of certain large swamp reptiles was a nice touch. 

But how can I not mention the biggest evolution in the book when Kitty finally gets to meet Martini's family. Oh boy was that fun to read. I can only tease because you have to read it for yourself to truly grasp the enormity. All I can really say is that the authors writing doesn't fail in drawing you in with high-level emotions. (My professional way of saying "All the feels!")

Some of the things that I didn't enjoy had to do mainly with the ending. There were some parts that didn't seem like they could be happening because their explanations hadn't been revealed yet and the plot twists seemed too extreme to be plausible. However, it wasn't the appearance of the plot twists that I had a problem with--because once they were explained, they made more sense--but Kitty's reaction as well as the events that happened after. They just seemed like a convenient way to introduce a character that had been teased about since the first book. 

The second thing that I didn't like about the ending was the immediate cutoff after the resolution. Kitty and Martini weren't given a chance to communicate about their issues which I would have really liked to see because I'm finding it to be a pretty scarce occurrence. 

However, overall, in no way is that ending going to stop me from continuing this series until the end. I've officially committed to the characters and their individual stories. I need to see what other shenanigans they get caught up in and how they work their way out. And I'm holding out hope that one day Kitty and Martini will sit down and talk. (Hell, I don't even care if it's in the middle of sexing, I just need some clarity about their relationship, is that too much to ask? ;)

B

LiLi