Saturday, March 29, 2014

Review: THE WORD EXCHANGE


TITLE: THE WORD EXCHANGE
BY: ALENA GRAEDON
SYNOPSIS:
In the not-so-distant future, the forecasted “death of print” has become a reality. Bookstores, libraries, newspapers, and magazines are things of the past, and we spend our time glued to handheld devices called Memes that not only keep us in constant communication but also have become so intuitive that they hail us cabs before we leave our offices, order takeout at the first growl of a hungry stomach, and even create and sell language itself in a marketplace called the Word Exchange. Anana Johnson works with her father, Doug, at the North American Dictionary of the English Language (NADEL), where Doug is hard at work on the last edition that will ever be printed. Doug is a staunchly anti-Meme, anti-tech intellectual who fondly remembers the days when people used email (everything now is text or videoconference) to communicate—or even actually spoke to one another, for that matter. One evening, Doug disappears from the NADEL offices, leaving a single written clue: ALICE. It’s a code word he devised to signal if he ever fell into harm’s way. And thus begins Anana’s journey down the proverbial rabbit hole . . . Joined by Bart, her bookish NADEL colleague, Anana’s search for Doug will take her into dark basements and subterranean passageways; the stacks and reading rooms of the Mercantile Library; and secret meetings of the underground resistance, the Diachronic Society. As Anana penetrates the mystery of her father’s disappearance and a pandemic of decaying language called “word flu” spreads, The Word Exchange becomes a cautionary tale that is at once a technological thriller and a meditation on the high cultural costs of digital technology.

RATING: 3 OUT OF 5 STARS

REVIEW:

I received this book from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review

This book had everything I love: words, dystopia, romance, conspiracy, epidemic, action, developed characters, a unique and innovative plot…it’s basically an emporium of all the magical things I crave in fiction. So why am I not wild for it?

The first quarter of the book had me glued. I was curious and enthralled by Gaedon’s world and the story she was weaving. Such a fabulously rare idea executed with creativity and inspiration. For me, it was somewhat reminiscent of Ayn Rand’s, ANTHEM, a first literary love of mine. For a quarter of the book I was on a high, giddy with anticipation for how epic the book, and my love for it, would be…Except, it didn’t really turn out the way I imagined. Somewhere along the way my enthusiasm for THE WORD EXCHANGE fizzled and burned out.

I think the foremost culprit for this was its lengthy exposition, which I felt they should have trimmed significantly. There were anecdotes and tangents that superseded their point and went into overkill, much of it completely irrelevant to the plot and did not further the story. Perhaps, it was Gaedon’s intentions to offer her readers a really in depth understanding of the characters/their memories/surroundings/etc, but it was shark-infested-waters deep. This eventually led me to do a lot of skim reading, which I hate doing because I don’t want to miss out on a tiny, but important detail, but I was getting restless.

While I appreciated what Gaedon did, and the way she chose to execute it (THE WORD EXCHANGE really is a form of literary art), I just wasn’t on her level. At first, I enjoyed having to look up so many obfuscating words, but it didn’t last. It was time consuming and it took me out of the story. (Yes, Gaedon, I see what you did there). The book was not completely to blame for my boredom. It’s also my personality type. This is a book a reader isn’t meant to rush through, it’s a book to be absorbed, every nuance and detail appreciated. I’m just not that reader. I have a short attention span. No matter how brilliant or clever something is, if it’s dragged out I lose interest.

THE WORD EXCHANGE is not a light, easy read unless you have the vocabulary of a Spelling Bee World Champion (or an MFA in creative writing), and the patience and concentration of a generation not accustomed to instant gratification. But even if you’re like me, it doesn’t mean you won’t benefit from this reading experience. Whether it’s a new word or how you view technology/language/communication, this book will assuredly teach you something new.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

Review: THE HERE AND NOW


TITLE: THE HERE AND NOW
BY: ANN BRASHARES
SYNOPSIS:
Follow the rules. Remember what happened. Never fall in love.
This is the story of seventeen-year-old Prenna James, who immigrated to New York when she was twelve. Except Prenna didn’t come from a different country. She came from a different time—a future where a mosquito-borne illness has mutated into a pandemic, killing millions and leaving the world in ruins.
Prenna and the others who escaped to the present day must follow a strict set of rules: never reveal where they’re from, never interfere with history, and never, ever be intimate with anyone outside their community. Prenna does as she’s told, believing she can help prevent the plague that will one day ravage the earth.
But everything changes when Prenna falls for Ethan Jarves.

RATING:3 OUT OF 5 STARS

REVIEW:
I received this ARC through NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

The Here and Now by Ann Brashares was an exciting and fast read. While it probably isn’t one of those books that will change your life, it is an entertaining way to pass an afternoon. I read it in one sitting, which is pretty impressive considering my ADD. TH&N is a fast paced story of mystery and conspiracy that makes it a page turner. Plus, who doesn't like time travel and forbidden love?

I admit I wasn’t in love with this book, but I was intrigued and there were many aspects that I did really enjoy. The promise of “an unforgettable epic romantic thriller about a girl from the future” drew me in immediately. However, it didn’t exactly live up to my Mt Everest high expectations. For one, it wasn’t wholly thrilling. Most of the storytelling consisted of lines like, “We did this…and then we did that…and then we brainstormed what it would take to save the world in 24 hours over a game of cards”. Obviously, that’s not a direct quote, but hopefully you get the idea. I just felt that most of the book wasn’t in-the-moment as much as it should have been to create that air of tension. Not to say there wasn’t any action, because there was quite a fair amount. And, as always, Brashares' writing enchants.

Although some might criticize the seeming insta-love, I was a fan of the romance. In their fictional defense, I’d like to point out they were school friends for a couple years, undoubtedly lusting after one another in that ever expected hormonal, teenage way. So while their relationship may have seemed to evolve rather quickly, I do recall a friend in high school who fell for a boy after one supposed remarkable conversation. Brashares knows her romance, that’s for sure. I loved the dynamic between Prenna and Ethan, and the conversations they shared. In fact, I would have liked a lot more dialogue between the pair. I couldn't get enough.

I do wish a couple things would have been different. First, that the “Bad Guys” had more depth. I mean, at least they managed to be irrevocably infuriating, but some sort of relatable or human quality (aside from controlling and abusive) could have made them more believable. As for the time travel itself and the future from which Prenna had left behind, there were wholes and questions that were never addressed. And one thing that particularly grated on me (and I don’t know why specifically, as it’s practically insignificant), was this: Prenna is from the year 2090. That’s not even a century from now, hardly 3 or 4 generations. You are telling me that that my grandchild isn’t going to tell her children what Christmas is? Even if by her generation, the celebration is obsolete (because she’s living in a dying, apocalyptic world), how would stories of such a tradition not be passed down? Two centuries into the furture, sure, I could believe that, but eight-something years? It's not a big deal, but when I read that, I did the math in my head and was like


But I digress.

Aside from those very minor transgressions, Ann Brashares is a talented writer and storyteller. It’s definitely no Sisterhood… or My Name is Memory, but if you’re a fan of Brashares' writing, time travel or dystopian YA, I think you should give The Here and Now a shot. You’ve got nothing to lose…although you just might discover a new-found phobia of mosquitoes.

Saturday, March 15, 2014

Review: ANGELFALL



TITLE: ANGELFALL (Penryn & The End of Days 1)
BY: SUSAN EE
SYNOPSIS:
It's been six weeks since angels of the apocalypse descended to demolish the modern world. Street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night. When warrior angels fly away with a helpless little girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back. Anything, including making a deal with an enemy angel. Raffe is a warrior who lies broken and wingless on the street. After eons of fighting his own battles, he finds himself being rescued from a desperate situation by a half-starved teenage girl. Traveling through a dark and twisted Northern California, they have only each other to rely on for survival. Together, they journey toward the angels' stronghold in San Francisco where she'll risk everything to rescue her sister and he'll put himself at the mercy of his greatest enemies for the chance to be made whole again.

RATING: 5 OUT OF 5 STARS

REVIEW:
I think I just read magic.



Total bookgasm.

So.many.feelings...



My brain has been reduced to liquid disbelief due to extreme epicocity.

Okay, so I’ve read quite a few “angel” books in my day. ANGELFALL is by far the best of them. In fact, it is so superior to its brethren that it shouldn’t even be classified among them. This book exists in its own special galaxy. Not just the top of the “sub-subgenre” but, I daresay, one of the best in all of YA fantasy.

Susan Ee took the angel lore of old, and resurrected them with creative purpose…Her own Frakenstein’s monster: Angels as you’ve never seen them before (except kind-of-maybe in “Supernatural”).



I thought the bit about their swords was especially clever. All of it was just completely brilliant! I humbly bow before Ee’s innovative genius.

The plot, the writing, the characters—it all seemed so flawless. Penryn, the main character, was likeable from the start. She was just how I prefer my female MC’s, strong, resilient, brave. Penryn’s a survivor. Even her batshit crazy (and I mean that in the most endearing way) mother pulled at my heartstrings. More than that, she might even be one of my favorite characters. It’s hard to tell though, because I love them all. And that’s a sign of a great book. Ee put a lot of thought and heart into this book, and it’s palpable.

Gosh, and those last few chapters? It broke my heart in a thousand ways. I empathized with each and every character, in all the ways they suffered. It’s been a year since I last read ANGELFALL, and I’m still reeling. I both look forward to and dread reading WORLD AFTER. As for you, reader, if you haven’t read ANGELFALL yet, WHAT IS YOUR LIFE?? HAVE YOU BEEN LIVING UNDER A ROCK FOR THE LAST 3 YEARS? You need to get on it! ;)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

Review: HOW TO LEAD A LIFE OF CRIME



TITLE: HOW TO LEAD A LIFE OF CRIME
BY: KRISTEN MILLER
SYNOPSIS:
A meth dealer. A prostitute. A serial killer.
Anywhere else, they’d be vermin. At the Mandel Academy, they’re called prodigies. The most exclusive school in New York City has been training young criminals for over a century. Only the most ruthless students are allowed to graduate. The rest disappear.
Flick, a teenage pickpocket, has risen to the top of his class. But then Mandel recruits a fierce new competitor who also happens to be Flick’s old flame. They’ve been told only one of them will make it out of the Mandel Academy. Will they find a way to save each other—or will the school destroy them both?

RATING: 4 OUT OF 5 STARS

REVIEW:
Hogwarts for Hustlers meets the Hunger Games (sort of).
To the outside world, the Mandel Academy is an upstanding, prestigious school producing many of New York's elite. Bankers, lawyers, and even politicians have emerged from this renowned (but mysterious) academy in Manhattan. Bottom line, anybody who’s anybody graduates from the Mandel Academy. Or, they don’t graduate at all.
That’s right. A school where failing just may be the death of you.
Flick, our hero, knows everything has a price. And, as Mandel’s most recent initiate (and first volunteer), he’s quickly learning the bargain he’s made may not worth it.
I enjoyed this book! It’s dark, gritty, and mysterious. Plus, I loved both Flick’s sarcasm and his strength. There were a ton of twists—-some mind-blowing, and some not so much. A fast paced story, with a creative plot, and a three dimensional MC. I certainly recommend you put this on your to-read list.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Review: SANCTUM



TITLE: SANCTUM
BY: SARAH FINE
SYNOPSIS:
“My plan: Get into the city. Get Nadia. Find a way out. Simple.”
A week ago, seventeen-year-old Lela Santos’s best friend, Nadia, killed herself. Today, thanks to a farewell ritual gone awry, Lela is standing in paradise, looking upon a vast gated city in the distance—hell. No one willingly walks through the Suicide Gates, into a place smothered in darkness and infested with depraved creatures. But Lela isn’t just anyone—she’s determined to save her best friend’s soul, even if it means sacrificing her eternal afterlife.
As Lela struggles to find Nadia, she’s captured by the Guards, enormous, not-quite-human creatures that patrol the dark city’s endless streets. Their all-too-human leader, Malachi, is unlike them in every way except one: his deadly efficiency. When he meets Lela, Malachi forms his own plan: get her out of the city, even if it means she must leave Nadia behind. Malachi knows something Lela doesn’t—the dark city isn’t the worst place Lela could end up, and he will stop at nothing to keep her from that fate.

RATING:4.5 out of 5 Stars

REVIEW:
There was so much to love about this. The characters, the storyline, the world-building! Errmerrgerd, this underworld was so well-developed and creepy, I loved it!

And I adored Lela (most of the time) for her badassery and snark. Granted there were a couple instances where her actions made me want to facepalm. Looking back on many of the books I've read, though (especially in the teen genre), that's nothing unusual.

The romance was a big part of the story, which I was okay with, even the cheesy bits. I'm a girl that likes a little bit o' fromage between characters. Personally, I didn't think it was overdone, but maybe that's because Malachi is glorious and could pretty much do no wrong. Not to say he's perfect--he has depth, and he's made mistakes--but he's got flaws in all the right places.

Granted, this story still had a few bumps for me. I really wish some of the grating clich├ęs would have been cut back a bit. For instances, over hearing just the right snippets of a conversation to twist the context and misconstrue the true meaning and making it sound almost diabolical. Or the near insta-love factor, and certain characters' attempts at martyrdom. I mean, I get it, I'd gladly die to save the people I love...but I felt it was a little over-used. There's one particular scene I'm thinking of that took me out of the story a little. I remember thinking, " But, of-freaking-course...".

Honestly though, they're such tiny transgressions when you look at the big picture, this beautiful masterpiece of a novel. It's dark, it's twisted, and be prepared for mature content (suicide, drug abuse, sexual assault). SANCTUM is unique and hauntingly beautiful, and I recommend it to anyone who has a thing for paranormal romance/urban fantasy. Although I haven't read all the teen novels in this genre, I think it's safe to say this is one of the better ones out there. I really, really enjoyed it!