You Read What? Book Reviews: Insignia

Author: S.J. Kincaid

Publisher: HarperCollins

  • Imprint: Katherine Tegen Books

Date Published: July 10th 2012

Format: Hard Cover

Source: Toronto Public Library

Synopsis:

More than anything, Tom Raines wants to be important, though his shadowy life is anything but that. For years, Tom’s drifted from casino to casino with his unlucky gambler of a dad, gaming for their survival. Keeping a roof over their heads depends on a careful combination of skill, luck, con artistry, and staying invisible.

Then one day, Tom stops being invisible. Someone’s been watching his virtual-reality prowess, and he’s offered the incredible–a place at the Pentagonal Spire, an elite military academy. There, Tom’s instincts for combat will be put to the test and if he passes, he’ll become a member of the Intrasolar Forces, helping to lead his country to victory in World War III. Finally, he’ll be someone important: a superhuman war machine with the tech skills that every virtual-reality warrior dreams of. Life at the Spire holds everything that Tom’s always wanted–friends, the possibility of a girlfriend, and a life where his every action matters–but what will it cost him?

Gripping and provocative, S. J. Kincaid’s futuristic thrill ride of a debut crackles with memorable characters, tremendous wit, and a vision of the future that asks startling, timely questions about the melding of humanity and technology

Number of Days It Took to Read: 2

Cover:

This cover stands out. Again, this image doesn’t do the actual cover justice since there is a shine to it that has you gravitating towards it. I love the futuristic feel to it and the reds add a menacing foreboding to it as well.

The Writing Score: 4 out of 5

Recommendation: A Must Read

Memorable or Forgettable: Memorable

Rating: 4 out of 5

Review:

By now, I’ve read so many dystopian novels that I’ve now deluded myself into thinking that I’m expert.

This novel is very different from your average dystopic tale. It’s funny. I mean really funny despite the really realistic and very depressing world that Kincaid has constructed. This might be due to my particular brand of humor but I found myself laughing so hard and frequently. It’s a place where wars aren’t fought on earth but where people fight on behalf of corporations and not nations. It’s a world war three but not the one we’d imagine. Seriously, the way our world is heading in terms of corporations becoming more powerful and being regulated a lot less…I wouldn’t be surprised if this novel becomes reality. I guess you can say that it has a more George Orwell feel to it than other dystopias.  Even in the way where no real resistance is found in the novel or at least not in the way we’re used to (explicitly and in your face resistance) in similar novels.

This book has a strong character who has a balance of flaws and strengths that appeal to different people. He’s a 14 year old boy but I still felt like he was someone I could relate to and even befriend. There were high tension moments that had me holding my breath as well so…yay! Also, the chemistry between characters was well written.

The flow of the book felt slightly out of whack in terms of pacing and that could be due to the various obstacles thrown in Thomas’ way. I felt the plot to be a bit crowded but not so much that it would’ve suffered from Spider-Man 3 syndrome (yeah, I totally made that up and some of you know what I’m talking about). Overall, it was a good read and fans of dystopias should definitely pick this up.

I’m very excited for the second book 🙂

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.

You Read What? Book Reviews: Small Damages

Author: Beth Kephart

Publisher: Penguin

  • Imprint: Philomel

Date Published: July 19th 2012

Format: Hard Cover

Source: Toronto Public Library

Synopsis:

It’s senior year, and while Kenzie should be looking forward to prom and starting college in the fall, she is mourning the loss of her father. She finds solace in the one person she trusts, her boyfriend, and she soon finds herself pregnant. Kenzie’s boyfriend and mother do not understand her determination to keep the baby. She is sent to southern Spain for the summer, where she will live out her pregnancy as a cook’s assistant on a bull ranch, and her baby will be adopted by a Spanish couple.

Alone and resentful in a foreign country, Kenzie is at first sullen and difficult. She begins to open her eyes and her heart to the beauty that is all around her and inside of her.

Number of Days It Took to Read: 2

Cover:

Small Damages

Would I have given this book a chance with this cover? Probably not. Mostly due to the oranges which looked to be tacked on via Photoshop. Whether or not Photoshop was used isn’t the issue. The fact that I can tell or that it gives the impression that it was used is not so great.

The Writing Score: 5 out of 5

Recommendation: A Must Read

Memorable or Forgettable: Memorable

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review:

This book is literary fiction but for the Young Adult crowd or at least it has the elements of literary fiction. The writing is gorgeous and it’s the reason why this story has something lively about it. Kenzie as a character is someone who you want to scream at and for. She’s the reality many of us are faced with whether it’s getting pregnant young or dealing with the notion of choice. That’s the heart of this book: Choice. The choices we make, the choices we don’t make, the choices we think we’re left with. Regret – that’s a big one. This book has a subtle drama to it. Not with paranormal creatures set to destroy the world or the life of a loved one at stake or even star crossed lovers told they’ll never make it. This book is the everyday and the miniscule. It’s also the type of book you’d keep in your bag with sections highlighted, filled with sticky notes and, yes, dog earred pages.

Spain is depicted so beautifully and you can taste it through Estela’s cooking which Kephart describes so vividly. Estela is a wonderful and strong female character that Kenzie can depend on and who we can depend on.

Also, the fact that the book isn’t focused on teen romance (thank the lord!) is a major strength.

It’s a story about Kenzie.

And what she wants out of life. Both her own and the one growing inside of her.

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.

Hell Week – Exams and Other Things I’d Rather Not Do

Hello All,

This is my last week of school before the scheduled exam period/winter break. Most of my exams are in class which explains the two exams + a 250 analysis due on Tuesday and another exam on Friday.

It’s a hellish week.

And yet, despite insisting that I was going on hiatus to focus on school, I am still posting reviews. I’ve read Blood Read Road by Moira Young, Small Damages by Beth Kephart and am almost finished reading Insignia by S.J. Kincaid this past week end with some burst of study periods between. So I guess a hellish week won’t deprive me of awesome reads.

Upside: I get to go all out starting next week on the blog so look out for that.

If I’m not burned out that is.

Till then,

A. A. Omer

You Read What? Book Reviews: Blood Red Road

Author: Moira Young

Publisher: Simon and Schuster

  • Imprint: Margaret K. McElderry Books

Date Published: June 7th 2011

Format: Paper Back

Source: Toronto Public Library

Synopsis:

Saba has spent her whole life in Silverlake, a dried-up wasteland ravaged by constant sandstorms. The Wrecker civilization has long been destroyed, leaving only landfills for Saba and her family to scavenge from. That’s fine by her, as long as her beloved twin brother Lugh is around. But when a monster sandstorm arrives, along with four cloaked horsemen, Saba’s world is shattered. Lugh is captured, and Saba embarks on an epic quest to get him back.

Suddenly thrown into the lawless, ugly reality of the world outside of desolate Silverlake, Saba is lost without Lugh to guide her. So perhaps the most surprising thing of all is what Saba learns about herself: she’s a fierce fighter, an unbeatable survivor, and a cunning opponent. And she has the power to take down a corrupt society from the inside. Teamed up with a handsome daredevil named Jack and a gang of girl revolutionaries called the Free Hawks, Saba stages a showdown that will change the course of her own civilization.

Blood Red Road has a searing pace, a poetically minimal writing style, violent action, and an epic love story. Moira Young is one of the most promising and startling new voices in teen fiction.

Number of Days It Took to Read: 5

Cover: 

 

I really like this cover. The picture here doesn’t do it justice since there’s a shine to it that really brings out the depths of the reds. I prefer this cover (the paperback version) over the others.

The Writing Score: 5 out of 5

Recommendation: A Must Read

Memorable or Forgettable: Memorable

Rating: 5 out of 5

Review:

I don’t give out a lot of perfect scores in ratings but even less so in the writing department. The writing is a character of it’s own. Saba, our heroine, is illiterate and therefore the writing reflects that with words and grammar that aren’t properly formed or spelled out correctly. I’ve heard people mention how difficult a read this is (going as far as putting it down) due to the “dialect” but honestly, you just need the first couple of pages to find the rhythm of the prose. I did it in a page and a half. Books are meant to challenge you and not just with ideas but with the words themselves. It’s like asking a ballerina to dance hip hop. They need to get loose with (or lose entirely) their form and adapt to the new one.

The story is a dystopia but what sets it apart from most is that it doesn’t tell you EXPLICITLY that it is! Readers aren’t sure of where the setting takes place in terms of our current geography and they don’t know when it takes place until further in the book but clues are given discretely so they can figure it out for themselves.

I adore Saba. She’s the heroine I’ve been waiting for. I’ve seen plenty of female protagonists that are strong emotionally and intellectually and that’s great. Saba is both of these things but I haven’t seen many kick ass physically in the way that Saba does and she does it dirty…and I loved it. She’s someone who’s not easy to like and who grows on you. I feel like I’ve actually developed a literary friendship with her and it was one earned and not one based on sympathy of her situation or even because she’s one those “instantly likable” people.

I’m in love with Jack. Seriously, I want to marry him. Jack and Saba have this chemistry that just clicks and it feels natural. I also have the hots for DeMalo even though he’s barely in it…and could quite possibly be very, very bad…

Overall, the characters were well written, the plot was well executed, the pacing was perfect and the writing gave my brain a work out. The only criticism I have is that Young has set herself up for high expectations for her next book in the series that’s currently out, Rebel Heart.

P.S.

I’d like to thank Siobhan from Conversations Of A Reading Addict for telling me about this book and pushing me to it. Verbal pushing at least 😉

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.