Saturday, June 25, 2016

Review: SOUNDLESS by Richelle Mead

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

I enjoyed this book more than I thought I would. It turned out to be unique, and I liked that. The main reason I picked up this story was for the deaf main character.

The beginning left me feeling doubtful, but it eventually picked up. At the beginning, the points the author made about being deaf were somewhat inaccurate, which bothered me deeply. I support deaf culture, and I want to see it represented accurately in books. That said, I'm glad that another story with a deaf protagonist has been added to the world of literature. However, I dislike that the main character regained her hearing early on in the book and that her hearing was a key point to her survival. I want a deaf protagonist to stay deaf throughout the story and use all her other senses to survive and not rely entirely on hearing.

The only thing that deaf people can't do is hear. They are very capable of doing everything else. Deafness is not a disability, and I didn't like seeing it represented as such.

As far as the fantasy aspect, that was disappointing. The book had a very nice historical feel until the very end when it suddenly became fantasy. I wish the fantasy aspect would have been strewn throughout the book or not been there at all. It felt like the author intended the story to be historical but couldn't figure out how to end it properly, so she added in some mythical creature to save the day.

As for the Chinese folklore, the overall feel of the book did feel somewhat Chinese, but I would have enjoyed more aspects of the culture that really emphasized specific details of how China is different from other parts of the world.

Despite the parts of this book that I felt like we're lacking and could have been developed more thoroughly with more details, I did really enjoy reading this book. The story grabbed me. And although I prefer standalone books over series, I would have liked to read a sequel to this book.


Rating: 4.5/5 stars

This book was really intense. After reading and loving Carrie Ryan's Forest of Hands and Teeth trilogy, I knew I had to pick this book up. And it did not disappoint.

After a ship gets into an accident and Frances's entire family dies, she sets out to seek revenge on those who caused the accident that took everyone from her. She spends four years planning the revenge by taking on the identity of someone else and keeping meticulous notes on everyone she knows. In this story, every detail matters.

Other than Frances, the only other people to survive the ship's accident are a senator and his son. And they lie about the nature of the accident. Frances knows that if they're lying then they must be involved in what's going on, so she makes it her goal to expose them as the liars they are and inform the world of the true nature of the accident.

I love the narration in this story and the way Frances connects clues together. I was always enraptured by what was going on and how one detail led to another until a whole picture was built before me in seconds.

The biggest downside was that there were flashbacks throughout the story, and, at least on audio, I had a hard time at first differentiating between the present and the past. I'm not sure if the book displays flashbacks differently than the rest of the book text, but the audio was a bit confusing. Thankfully, it did not detract too much from the story.

Review: LOOP by Karen Akins

Rating: 4/5 stars

I enjoyed this futuristic romantic sci-fi book, although it did have some blatant discrepancies.

Finn is from the 21st century and is visiting the 23rd century, where Bree is from. Finn mentions Einstein, and Bree has a fit that he's going to give himself away as being from a different time because Einstein is so old. But later Bree mentions Spartans, who are from hundreds of years before Einstein, and she doesn't see that as a problem. Eventually, it was explained that Bree's mom loved the 20th century, so she often referenced it, but I just thought that was an easy way out of using references to our day. I kind of wish the author had made up references from the 23rd century to make the story seem more realistic.

As for the love interests in this book, Bree doesn't like either of the guys (Finn or Wyck) romantically at first. But then when she finds out they like her, she gets the tingles and the butterflies when they touch her arm or her leg or whatever. So she ultimately just started liking them because they liked her.
The love interest seemed realistic enough though. There was no insta-love, which is nice. The relationship built up throughout the novel, so it felt much more realistic than a book that starts out with the characters already in love. And the love interest was there for more than that: Finn actually played a role in the plot and the mystery of the book, and he was pivotal in the revelations at the end. I love when a character is in a book for a real purpose and isn't just an extraneous character.

I thought the author did a good job of portraying what the futuristic world could be like. There was a lot of technology and scientific stuff that is different from what we have nowadays. Occasionally I was a bit confused about a new device that wasn't explained well enough, but for the most part the descriptions made sense. I would have definitely appreciated a lot more world building though. Often times, a new idea or piece of technology was introduced as if the reader already knew what it was, so I had to deduce from context how it worked. It was nice that there weren't boring strings of explanations, but if the brief mention of how something worked was confusing, I had a hard time understanding its purpose.

I did like that Bree has new swear words in the future, like "Blarking," and my favourite, "Oh sweet plaid knickerbockers of Zeus!"

There were a few plot holes that I noticed (that I won't mention because of spoilers), but overall I liked the idea behind the story and intend on reading book two.

Review: THE 5TH WAVE by Rick Yancey

Rating: 3/5 stars

I still don't really understand this book.

It started off so strong in Cassie's perspective, describing the current situation of her world and what exactly was happening with these waves of alien invasions. I was almost positive it was going to be a five-star book in the beginning. But then the point of view switched to that of Ben, and it kept alternating between Cassie and Ben throughout the book. I honestly only cared about Cassie's story, so I didn't like these alternating perspectives. But this wasn't all. There were random places where the point of view switched to that of Evan and to that of Sammy, whose stories were told in third person perspectives. So there ended up being four different narrators, two in first person, two in third person, who switched around in no particular order. This was the weakest part of the book. I'm sure it wouldn't normally be that hard to follow along, but there was one male narrator on the audiobook for the three male points of view without introducing who was speaking when each new character's section started. Often I wasn't even sure who was talking for a few chapters.

This novel didn't feel particularly special compared to all the other dystopian books out there. Overall, the idea of the story reminded me strongly of The Host. The 5th Wave is an alien novel about aliens that come to this earth and take over by invading the human hosts. I loved The Host, so I was a little disappointed when I started noticing the uncanny comparisons. It would have been nice if the second alien novel I read would have not been really similar to the first I read. But it is as it is.

I'm still not sure what's happening with some major plot points of this story. I'm not sure if that's because it's harder to pay attention to audiobooks, so it's my own fault that I missed those details, or if that's because those details weren't explained well in the story. I'm going to finish the trilogy and see if I understand the story better as I progress through it. I hope so. I think there is a lot of potential here.

Review: BEFORE I DIE by Jenny Downham

Rating: 1/5 stars

Tessa has cancer. She creates a list of things to do before she dies, and her main goal before she dies is to have sex. However, she explicitly says that she doesn't want to fall in love.
What kind of world is this where having sex just to have sex, just to cross it off a list of things to do, is an acceptable and desirable action? That's despicable.

To accomplish her goal, Tessa and her friend go to a club and her friend is like, "I found two guys, let's go home with them." But then Tessa is like, "No, I changed my mind." And Tessa's friend gets mad at her and is like "Piss off," just because Tessa won't have sex with some stranger from a club. Some best friend she is.

Almost everything on Tessa's list is stupid and reckless and worthless. Why doesn't her list include things to improve her life and make it worthwhile and memorable? She's basically an idiot. Things she wants to do before she dies: sex, drugs, sex, break the law, sex, etc. and more sex. Like, really? Who thinks about sex so much when they're on their deathbed?

I thought this book was going to be heartbreaking and thought-provoking and make me appreciate my life more. But I am just so disappointed with this story. I felt nothing for Tessa. She was irritating, shallow, stupid, and just plain rude. And her "best friend" was even worse.

Also, I hated the narrator's voice on the audiobook. But even if I loved her voice, it couldn't have made me love this horrendous book.


Rating: 1/5 stars

I read this book because the name of my favorite band, The Rocket Summer, comes from this book. 

I really only enjoy sci-fi if it's believable. But this story wasn't believable. In this book, Mars is just like Earth: it has water and rain and trees and enough oxygen for people to survive. People live there and drive vehicles. If this book had been set on a fictitious planet, that would have made much more sense. 

There was a large lack of world building and character building. The graphic novel feels very choppy like the characters switch from one conversation to another without finishing the first one, and I couldn't follow along very well. 

The art is not very pleasing. It's very bland and not very colorful. Some pictures are repeated in adjacent frames.

I just wasn't very interested in this collection of stories. I'm sure if I read the original book, I'd enjoy it more than the graphic novel, but maybe not much more.

Review: ENTHRALLED by Various Authors

Rating: 2/5 stars

I started this book years ago, but I read just a few stories and never got around to finishing it, probably because I just don't care much for short stories.

I finally read all the other stories, and overall this collection of stories was just okay. This book was a nice introduction to the writing styles of multiple authors, many whom I've never read before. However, I just wasn't interested in most of the stories. There were only two, maybe three, stories that I actually enjoyed.

I discovered that most of the stories were poorly developed, each using terminology from a world that was underdeveloped and barely described, making it hard for me, as the reader, to have a clear picture of what was happening. I think the biggest problem with short stories is that there is never enough world-building, character-building, and worthwhile plot development for the story to even begin to make sense before it ends. These problems, prevalent in this book, result in a story comprehensible only to those who already have an understanding of that particular world.

My favourite story from this anthology was "Skin Contact" by Kimberly Derting. Although shorter than most in this collection, it was descriptive in a way unlike the others, and it brought out emotions I don't usually feel while reading short stories. None of the other stories left a lasting impression upon my mind like this one did.

I would recommend this book for younger teen readers who enjoy paranormal stories.

Review: ILLUMINAE by Amie Kaufman and Jay Kristoff

Rating: 3/5 stars **minor spoilers included**

I really wanted to like this book, I really did. But it just didn't deliver.

First of all, I love the format it's told in: interviews, IMs, emails, classified documents, security footage reports, pictures, diary entries, thoughts of an artificial intelligence defense system. Anything but prose. The format is the main reason I decided to read this book.

Illuminae had a good plot idea but not a good execution thereof. I was often confused and unsure of what was really happening. However, this is my first real sci-fi book, and science fiction isn't my favourite genre, so maybe I'm just biased.

Sometimes this book was boring and I didn't want to read it. The first 100 pages: good. Next 200 pages: boring. Next 100 pages: intense; the best part of the book that included the twist about Ezra. Next 100 pages: boring. Last 100 pages: moderate.

Here are some discrepancies I noticed:

In the future, they still have the same references as now. If you go back 560 years from today, culture was way different. So 560 years in the future, culture is going to be very different still. Other than having space colonies and massive spaceships, the culture references in this book are exactly the same as today.

The map of the ship has ~130 afflicted on it when there are ~1,000 in actuality. The dots on the map should be smaller and more abundant to be accurate.

They're moving through space at hundreds of km/sec, yet they're running on backup engines and they're too slow for the Lincoln? And the Hypatia turned off its engines and is supposedly just sitting there next to them, but the Alexander is moving fast through space? That doesn't make sense.

A robot cannot have feelings. Aidan essentially acts like a real person. I just didn't understand or enjoy the parts about Aidan. And why does Kady help him anyway? After all the people are off the ship, she should just go back to smashing him to pieces.

Kady moves through the ship quickly, but it's two miles long, so how is she able to get from one end to the other so fast?

If Aidan was pretending to be Ezra, why did he tell Kady not to come to the Alexander if he really did want her there?

Anyway, those were the questions I had while reading. Despite my feelings toward this first book, I still intend to read the second book; I hope it will be better than the first.

Review: AFTERWORLDS by Scott Westerfeld

Rating: 4.5/5 stars

I enjoyed this book way more than I thought I would.

This book is really like two books in one, alternating Darcy's story and Lizzie's story every chapter. Darcy has recently signed a book deal to publish her first novel, Afterworlds. Her story follows her life as a new author as she moves to New York and gets involved in the publishing business and begins her first romance. Lizzie's story is that found in Darcy's book, Afterworlds. Hers is a paranormal adventure about when her developing the power to travel between this world and the afterworld and using that power to solve a mystery with a ghost.

This book would be good for those interested in publishing their own novel because Darcy's story includes realistic details about the struggle of rewriting parts of her book and incorporating suggestions from her editor. Darcy discusses scenes in her book that readers had just read in the previous chapter, so it's really neat to see how her book turned out compared to the other versions she considers using instead. Living in New York, Darcy learns what it's like to live on a budget for the first time and what it means to become a true friend. I personally enjoyed Darcy's story the most.

I love that this book takes a cultural turn that I rarely see in popular YA literature: Darcy comes from an Indian family with Hindu beliefs, and she incorporates this culture into her book. The love interest in Afterworlds is a Hindu death god. I bet you've never read a book like that before.

Overall I think this book goes deeper than one would initially think, but both stories are well crafted.

Review: FINDING AUDREY by Sophie Kinsella

Rating: 2/5 stars

I almost gave up on this book three times within the first hour of the audiobook. But I didn't. I continued through the entire story and came out feeling like it did nothing for me.

I had been hearing so many good reviews about this book, so I was quite looking forward to it. I haven't read any books about mental illnesses or anxiety, and having anxiety myself, I was excited to read about it from someone else's point of view. But it just didn't deliver.

Finding Audrey is about a girl whose anxiety is so severe that she has to stay home from school, and she has to wear dark glasses, even around her family, because she can't look anyone in the eye. She goes to a therapist, Dr. Sarah, who tells her to film a documentary about her daily life, and so she does. Meanwhile, her brother has a video game obsession and constantly has friends over playing video games with him. One of these friends is Linus, who Audrey eventually falls for. He helps her through her anxiety, but that was just so unrealistic. Falling in love does not make mental illnesses suddenly disappear. In fact, most of this book seemed unrealistic to me.

I had a hard time connecting to any of the characters. The story felt somewhat juvenile, and that might be because the main character was fourteen, or it might be because both of Audrey's parents acted like children. Either way, I did not enjoy this book or its writing style, so I most likely won't be reading anything else by Sophie Kinsella.

Also, the voice of the audiobook narrator was irritating, shrill, very British, and highly unenjoyable. So if you plan to read this book, I recommend actually reading it and not listening to it.

Review: YOU by Caroline Kepnes

Rating: 3.5/5 stars

I was really looking forward to this book, and it certainly was unlike anything I've ever read before.

One day while working in his bookstore, Joe sees Beck, and he immediately becomes obsessed with her. Joe follows Beck around for months, doing whatever he can to learn everything about her. He has to know her, and he has to have her. This whole story is from Joe's perspective as he talks to Beck, calling her "You." I love stories written in second person.

This book is disturbing in every way. It made me paranoid and afraid that people like Joe really exist. This is the stalker story of the century, and it really puts into perspective how much information is available about any one person simply by use of the Internet.

Although I enjoyed this book, I also didn't. How can I say I loved a book that constantly made me uncomfortable and whose characters I despised? Besides Joe being a disgusting human being and a stalker, he was also a complete douchebag. (Sorry.) I was constantly asking myself how he thought what he was doing was okay, yet he often seemed entirely justified in his actions. And as for Beck, she was an unrelatable, irritating, and weak person. But I might be biased since I knew Joe's motives and actions while Beck didn't.

This book is for mature readers as it contains excessive swearing and detailed sex scenes. This was probably the biggest thing I disliked, more so than Joe's stalking. It was so obscene that I almost stopped reading after only a couple of chapters, but I decided to continue because I desperately wanted to know what happened.