Book Review Round Up (Summer 2012)

These are the mini reviews I promised for the books that I didn’t have time to do full reviews for. This will probably be the format for most of my reviews thanks to school starting up but, to be honest, I’m a fast reader and I wouldn’t be able to write a full review for EVERY book I’ve read.

Enjoy!

Divergent by Veronica Roth

SYNOPSIS

      In Beatrice Prior’s dystopian Chicago, society is divided into five factions, each dedicated to the cultivation of a particular virtue—Candor (the honest), Abnegation (the selfless), Dauntless (the brave), Amity (the peaceful), and Erudite (the intelligent). On an appointed day of every year, all sixteen-year-olds must select the faction to which they will devote the rest of their lives. For Beatrice, the decision is between staying with her family and being who she really is—she can’t have both. So she makes a choice that surprises everyone, including herself.

      During the highly competitive initiation that follows, Beatrice renames herself Tris and struggles to determine who her friends really are—and where, exactly, a romance with a sometimes fascinating, sometimes infuriating boy fits into the life she’s chosen. But Tris also has a secret, one she’s kept hidden from everyone because she’s been warned it can mean death. And as she discovers a growing conflict that threatens to unravel her seemingly perfect society, she also learns that her secret might help her save those she loves . . . or it might destroy her.

Once again, a dystopia inspired young adult novel but it’s probably my favourite book of 2012 thus far. The cover is eye catching but it’s tagline got me hooked. The writing is wonderfully erratic, pulse bounding and powerful thanks to our very flawed protagonist who you’d love to be friends with (but strangle at times like it should be with good friends). The plot is equally intriguing. The end leaves you gasping for more. Grey seems to be Roth’s favourite colour given that bad and good are blurred at times. This is the debut novel of Veronica Roth and she’s down a fantastic job thus far.

Memorable/Forgettable?: Memorable

RATING: I give it 5 dauntless initiates out of 5.

Insurgent (Book 2) by Veronica Roth

SYNOPSIS

One choice can transform you—or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves—and herself—while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable—and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

The sequel to Veronica Roth’s Divergent, this book begins with high paced action that the last book left us with. The relationship between Tris and Four is going through a rough patch which is great because we don’t often see this side of romances in YA fiction often enough. Also, Roth paired two independent and strong people together who are together because they want to be and not because they need to. Things are shaken up when allies become enemies and enemies become allies. I do have to admit that the ending wasn’t as shocking as it should be but the book’s ending left me satisfied and curious for the last instalment. What I love about this series is how realistic it is and how it doesn’t conform to the expectations of it’s genre which can be unnerving for some readers. It’s a lot like another series that unnerved some of it’s readers with realism (The Hunger Games).

Memorable/Forgettable?: Memorable

RATING: I give it 4 divergents out of 5.

The Goddess Test by Aimee Carter

SYNOPSIS

It’s always been just Kate and her mom–and now her mother is dying. Her last wish? To move back to her childhood home. So Kate’s going to start at a new school with no friends, no other family and the fear her mother won’t live past the fall.

Then she meets Henry. Dark. Tortured. And mesmerizing. He claims to be Hades, god of the Underworld–and if she accepts his bargain, he’ll keep her mother alive while Kate tries to pass seven tests.

Kate is sure he’s crazy–until she sees him bring a girl back from the dead. Now saving her mother seems crazily possible. If she succeeds, she’ll become Henry’s future bride, and a goddess.

If she fails…

The book’s title was what drew me in and the fact that the rest of the cover aided in the Ancient Greece feeling that it was going for helped. The direction that Carter took regarding the mythos surrounding the Greek Gods was unique given the countless books written about them (especially in terms of Hades). That’s where my kind words end. This was a book that catered to the pre-ordained structure for young adult novels. The romance between Kate and Henry was expected and the  plot left an “eh” feeling inside me. There were a few small surprises that had me continue reading but it was counter balanced by the many eye rolls that occurred whenever there were scenes between Kate and Henry. The characters were one dimensional and forgettable. I cared about Kate as much as I cared about what I’d be eating for dinner. The writing was more of the author telling the reader what was going on rather than showing us which made the writing come across as adolescent rather than making the character adolescent.

Memorable/Forgettable?: Forgettable

RATING: I give this 2 and a half of an angry Hera out of 5.

This Dark Endeavor by Kenneth Oppel

SYNOPSIS

Victor Frankenstein leads a charmed life. He and his twin brother Konrad and their beautiful cousin Elizabeth take lessons at home and spend their spare time fencing and horseback riding. Along with their friend, Henry, they have explored all the hidden passageways and secret rooms of the palatial Frankenstein chateau. Except one.

The Dark Library contains ancient tomes written in strange languages, and filled with forbidden knowledge. Their father makes them promise never to visit the library again, but when Konrad becomes deathly ill, Victor knows he must find the book that contains the recipe for the legendary Elixir of Life.

The elixir needs only three ingredients. But impossible odds, dangerous alchemy, and a bitter love triangle threaten their quest at every turn.

Victor knows he must not fail. But his success depends on how far he is willing to push the boundaries of nature, science, and love – and how much he is willing to sacrifice.

This Frankenstein prequel is a MUST read. The cover is okay but the synopsis will be enough to get you to pry it open while the story keeps you hooked till the end. Victor is a sinful pleasure of a protagonist to be in the head of. He’s treading on dangerous waters but we’re happy to go along with him on this forbidden journey. His twin brother is a wonderful opposite and his beautiful cousin, Elizabeth, is a great compliment to him as well. When you break it down, it’s the story of a boy trying to save his brother’s life which happens to be feeding his insatiable thirst for knowledge…no matter how dark. The writing is spot on for the time it’s set in but it’s still interesting to read. It’s great for people who haven’t read Frankenstein and only know it’s cliff notes but also for those who know the history behind it and it’s author; Mary Shelly.

Memorable/Forgettable?: Memorable

RATING: I give this 5 alchemists out of 5.

Team Human by Sarah Rees Brennan & Justine Larbalestier

SYNOPSIS

Just because Mel lives in New Whitby, a city founded by vampires, doesn’t mean she knows any of the blood-drinking undead personally. They stay in their part of town; she says in hers. Until the day a vampire shows up at her high school. Worse yet, her best friend, Cathy, seems to be falling in love with him. It’s up to Mel to save Cathy from a mistake she might regret for all eternity

On top of trying to help Cathy (whether she wants it or not), Mel is investigating a mysterious disappearance for another friend and discovering the attractions of a certain vampire wannabe. Combine all this with a cranky vampire cop, a number of unlikely romantic entanglements, and the occasional zombie, and soon Mel is hip-deep in an adventure that is equal parts hilarious and touching.

The tagline was enough to have me buy a copy of this book. With the book market saturated with vampires, I was excited to have a novel that turned them into the evil blood suckers that they were. I was disappointed. By the end of the book, you had vampires and humans co-habiting and our hero of the story who started out hating their guts? She’s gone from hating to tolerating them. I was sincerely disappointed that Bram Stoker’s vampires won’t be making any appearances any time soon *sighs*. It was an okay book overall. There were great moments but most of it was…immature? I understand that it’s a young adult book but why is it that some YA  are written wonderfully and has you contemplating a long term commitment while others feel…like something you’d have a one night stand with? Very disappointing indeed…

Memorable/Forgettable?: Forgettable

RATING: I give this a 2 not so Bram Stokerish vampire out of 5.

Reckoning by Lili St. Crow

SYNOPSIS

Nobody expected Dru Anderson to survive this long. Not Graves. Not Christophe. Not even Dru. She’s battled killer zombies, jealousdjamphirs, and bloodthirsty suckers straight out of her worst nightmares. But now that Dru has bloomed into a full-fledged svetocha – rare, beautiful, and toxic to all vampires – the worst is yet to come.

Because getting out alive is going to cost more than she’s ever imagined. And in the end, is survival really worth the sacrifice?

This is the final instalment in the Strange Angels series. This series held steady as one of my favourites up until the last book which left me feeling…unimpressed. This final book was a bit of a disappointment. More so on Dru’s part than anything else. For someone who’s been trained to deal with things that go bump in the night all her life (not to mention blooming FINALLY), I felt like she was having her butt handed to her so much that she came off as…well…a damsel in distress (YIKES!). I mean, yeah, she kicked some major butt IN THE END but it was because she was rescued by one of her male companions. Also, how can there even be a CHOICE between Graves and Christophe? GRAVES ALL THE WAY!!!. Besides the storyline issues, it was a decent read. By the way, the cover would have been awesome if it wasn’t for the weird vampire looking guy in the top corner.

Memorable/Forgettable?: Forgettable

RATING: I give this 3 sexy Graves out of 5.

Out of Sight, Out of Time by Ally Carter

SYNOPSIS

With more than a million Gallagher Girls books sold, a legion of fans have fallen in love with the New York Times best-selling spy-girl series, and the fifth book delivers the most nerve-wracking, high-stakes adventure yet.

The last thing Cammie Morgan remembers is leaving the Gallagher Academy to protect her friends and family. But when Cammie wakes up in an alpine convent and discovers months have passed, her memory is a black hole. The only traces left of Cammie’s summer vacation are the bruises on her body and dirt under her nails. All she wants is to go home. But even the Gallagher Academy now holds more questions than answers as Cammie and her friends face their most difficult challenge yet. With only their training and a few clues to guide them, the girls go in search of answers on the other side of the world. But the Circle is hot on their trail and will stop at nothing to prevent Cammie from remembering what she did last summer.

I’m a huge fan of this series and this latest book just increased the pace tenfold. The cover isn’t my favourite but who cares after reading what happens. Cammie returns changed and without her memory of her summer break off the grid. Carter knows how to pull on the emotional cords as readers are taken on the journey of not only finding out what happened over the summer but how Cammie has to deal with the aftermath of her disappearance in regard to her family and friends. I honestly almost cried in many places and had the urge to punch my fist in people’s faces in others. This left me hungry for the next (and potentially final) book.

Memorable/Forgettable?: Memorable

RATING: I give this 4 super spies out of 5.

Article 5 by Kristen Simmons

SYNOPSIS

The Bill of Rights has been revoked, and replaced with the Moral Statutes.

There are no more police—instead, there are soldiers. There are no more fines for bad behavior—instead, there are arrests, trials, and maybe worse. People who get arrested usually don’t come back.

Seventeen-year-old Ember Miller is old enough to remember that things weren’t always this way. Living with her rebellious single mother, it’s hard for her to forget that people weren’t always arrested for reading the wrong books or staying out after dark. It’s hard to forget that life in the United States used to be different.

Ember has perfected the art of keeping a low profile. She knows how to get the things she needs, like food stamps and hand-me-down clothes, and how to pass the random home inspections by the military. Her life is as close to peaceful as circumstances allow.

That is, until her mother is arrested for noncompliance with Article 5 of the Moral Statutes. And one of the arresting officers is none other than Chase Jennings—the only boy Ember has ever loved.

The cover is great with the one article of clothing in red while everything else in black and white (see what I did there?). This was an interesting take on a romantic relationship between these two people. I mean, it is a dystopic novel with other pressing issues, but the things leaning up to the two characters being together has already happened and shown through the occasional flashback. What we see from the beginning is a huge rift between these two love birds and it’s hard to say if it’ll ever go back to the way things are which is GREAT! What’s also great is that it shows another type of love: between a daughter and mother. This book was okay but I wasn’t filled with urgency that one associates with dystopic novels. The writing was fine yet something about that story fell flat but I just don’t know what exactly…

Memorable/Forgettable?: Forgettable

RATING: I give this 3 and a half article 5 violators out of 5.

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

SYNOPSIS

What price is too high to pay, even for love? When Jace and Clary meet again, Clary is horrified to discover that the demon Lilith’s magic has bound her beloved Jace together with her evil brother Sebastian, and that Jace has become a servant of evil. The Clave is out to destroy Sebastian, but there is no way to harm one boy without destroying the other. As Alec, Magnus, Simon, and Isabelle wheedle and bargain with Seelies, demons, and the merciless Iron Sisters to try to save Jace, Clary plays a dangerous game of her own. The price of losing is not just her own life, but Jace’s soul. She’s willing to do anything for Jace, but can she still trust him? Or is he truly lost?

Anyone who knows me has heard me boost the first 3 books of Cassandra Clare’s The Mortal Instruments series. The third book (and at the time I thought it was the LAST one) left me satisfied with the series and I knew I’d miss it dearly. Lo and behold! It was NOT the last book and there were,  in fact, three additional books on the way. After reading book 4 and now 5, I feel as though Clare should have ended it at 3. The writing is still superb but the entire series feels like it’s dragging well past it’s prime. Funny enough, Clare stated that having 6 books in the series was always her plan but why doesn’t it feel like that?

Memorable/Forgettable?: Forgettable

RATING: I give this 3 Simons played by Robert Sheehan out of 5.

Free Four by Veronica Roth

This was actually the alternate point of view of a particular scene in Veronica Roth’s Divergent as told by Four (published as an e-book). I love the character (most of the time *cough cough* halfway through Insurgent) and to have this scene told through his eyes was a great treat.

No review necessary but I thought I’d let you know that it was a nice read.

Keep on reading,

A. A. Omer

The opinions expressed here are mine and readers are welcome to disagree. In fact, I encourage it! I never believed in putting particular books or authors on some sort of universal pedestal but you’re free to put it on your individualized pedestal because I most certainly will.

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