Releases and Recommendations

Happy Tuesday! Today, I’m going to recommend a book series that started it all (for me personally). Try to think back — before Twilight, before Hunger Games, before Paranormal Romance became a section in bookstores– there was the Uglies Series by Scott Westerfeld. This was the very first dystopian, young adult, “sci-fi” series I ever (knowingly) read. It completely blew me away. It’s been years since I’ve read the series and I still lay awake at night imagining the smoke, all the characters, and using phrases such as “pretty making” and “stay icy”.

The Uglies series starts with Uglies, the story of Tally Youngblood who lives in a world where when you turn sixteen you go through a surgery to make you “pretty”.  Here’s the synopsis.

Everybody gets to be supermodel gorgeous. What could be wrong with that? Tally is about to turn sixteen, and she can’t wait. Not for her license — for turning pretty. In Tally’s world, your sixteenth birthday brings an operation that turns you from a repellent ugly into a stunningly attractive pretty and catapults you into a high-tech paradise where your only job is to have a really great time. In just a few weeks Tally will be there.

But Tally’s new friend Shay isn’t sure she wants to be pretty. She’d rather risk life on the outside. When Shay runs away, Tally learns about a whole new side of the pretty world and it isn’t very pretty. The authorities offer Tally the worst choice she can imagine: find her friend and turn her in, or never turn pretty at all. The choice Tally makes changes her world forever.

This synopsis does not do this book justice, at ALL. This is the most imaginative, addicting series I’ve ever read. The world Westerfeld created is amazing. My favorite is the smoke, the place where all the “uglies” against the surgery hide out in the wilderness. This book is unlike anything I’ve ever read to this day. In short, this book has a love triangle (Ugly v. Pretty, it’s all so dramatic!) and an amazingly original world with a unique plot. The struggle between Tally’s feelings for David, Ugly who lives in the Smoke, and Zane, Pretty who’s pretty amazing, is totally worth reading besides the amazing world building. I probably laughed, cried, and threw the book across the room many, many times. Basically, it’s a series that gets under your skin and you can’t wait to see what happens next. The best thing  is the complete series is already out so there is no waiting!  I would highly recommend this series to anyone going through Hunger Games/Twilight/Harry Potter withdrawals. (You know, when you can’t settle for just reading anything and you have to read something just as amazing!) The Uglies series set the bar really high for my expectations of future dystopian novels and it’s a series I will never forget.

 

The Hunger Games Movie Review

Just a few short hours ago, I experienced the awe of seeing Suzanne Collins’ novel The Hunger Games come to life on the big screen. So many thoughts and emotions were going through my head during the entire movie. It’s amazing to see how the world of Panem is viewed in other people’s eyes.

This much anticipated movie is being released today in theaters everywhere. I had the pleasure of seeing the midnight showing. It was interesting to see more of a mix in the theater; there were more boys than at a Twilight midnight showing for example. It was refreshing to see that The Hunger Games captivates the heart of a dynamic, diverse group.

Starring Jennifer Lawrence, Josh Hutcherson, and Liam Hemsworth, Hunger Games is the story of a society in the future where a boy and girl from each of the 12 districts of Panem must fight to the death on live television in penance to the Capitol because of an uprising in the story’s history.

In short, I LOVED IT! It was amazing, incredible, better than I thought it could be! (Note: I know this is what everyone says about their favorite book turned movie. This isn’t bad like Twilight, people. This was truly amazing.) I know everyone wants to know, how close was it to the book? It was practically spot on. There weren’t any crazy, cinematic embellishments; it was just Collin’s story come to life. For the diehard fan like me, there are some minor discrepancies in certain turning points in the plot, but overall, I was satisfied to know that Director Gary Ross didn’t destroy this amazing story.

I was blown away by the impeccable acting. I was literally crying within the first 10 minutes because Primrose Everdeen, played by actress Willow Shields, was completely believable as Katniss’ sister; it was the right amount of innocence and fear for her age. I loved seeing Jennifer Lawerence as Katniss Everdeen. She had amazing chemistry with all the other actors. Her relationship with Primrose was almost heartbreaking with how much she loved her, and of course, the complicated relationships with both Peeta and Gale had electricity jumping off the screen. Katniss’ relationship with Rue, the female tribute from District 11, was heartbreakingly similar to the love that Katniss has for her own sister who is around the same age. I was utterly impressed by all of their mad skills!

The only character that I was deeply concerned about when the cast list first came out was Lenny Kravitz as the Capitol designer, Cinna. However, I must say he pulled it off. It certainly isn’t the same Cinna that I had pictured in my head but he did an amazing job.

Everything about the Hunger Games Arena and the tribute parade was exactly like I had envisioned it. I was impressed at Josh Hutcherson’s ability to bring out Peeta’s sense of humor in the most dire of situations and Liam Hemsworth’s classic pained facial expressions as Gale when he’s trying to not watch the games and possibly the love of his life getting killed on live television.

I was a little perturbed in how the movie ended, not the plot obviously but the way it was portrayed. The scenes seemed to be randomly put there. The only bad thing I have to say about this movie is the cinematography almost put me into Epileptic Shock. There were too many sequences of quick shot changes while everything was moving. It was a little nauseating and my eyes had a hard time tracking everything. However, I thought it was a great way to show all the death while keeping the PG-13 rating.

All I have to say is Bravo! The Odds were in our favor and Hunger Games will be a blockbuster hit. I cannot wait until the next movie and I’m proud that this movie will give justice to the book. However, it is but a shallow glimpse into the amazing world that Suzanne Collins’ created. I would highly recommend reading the book if you haven’t, and of course, go see the movie!

Fever by Lauren Destefano

So I have to start this review off with a confession. Wither, the first novel in the Chemical Garden Trilogy, was really strange. After reading it, the more I thought about it the less I liked it. Usually, it’s the opposite, especially because if I didn’t like it I normally don’t ever think about it again. However, I mustn’t be judgmental because it seems weird, the story was interesting enough; hence I picked up the second installment, Fever by Lauren Destefano.

Fever starts where Wither left off, with Rhine and Gabriel escaping from the Mansion and Rhine’s pitiful excuse of a marriage to Linden. Rhine is desperate to find her twin brother, Rowan, and they both discover that living outside the mansion is a hundred times more dangerous than they thought.

This book was really, really depressing. I’m talking Series of Unfortunate Events depressing. No matter what they do, or where they go, or how hard they try, Rhine and Gabriel are doomed to pain, suffering and bad luck. The ONLY redeeming quality in the gigantic, black cloud hanging over this book is Rhine’s inevitable (although always at the last minute) drive to fight the darkness and battle for freedom.

I was really disappointed in the dark, down tone of this novel. I was even more disappointed in the lack of progression in the relationship between Rhine and Gabriel. At some points I was left wondering if they even liked each other. Wouldn’t you be super excited to finally be with the one person you loved and live in freedom together? Wouldn’t you be on them like white on rice? I know I would, but Rhine and Gabriel barely touch each other until half way through. There needed to be more dialogue. (Most of the time I find myself complaining that there is too much mushy dialogue in Young Adult novels, but in this novel, there is scarcely a word spoken between the two.). Where was the affection? Where was the love? I didn’t see it other than the fact that they stuck together.

This novel had a lot of cruel twists. I found myself wincing at the brutality of each situation Destefano forced upon her characters. I have sympathy that their creator is so vindictive. However, Destefano asks the hard questions in survival of the fittest. She leads us to the point of breaking, where we need to personally decide whether the power of love is enough to overcome or if succumbing to the suffering is all we have left. It all made me very, very sad. I’m so glad I do not live in this world.

The element of foreshadowing through the tarot card reading brightened this book as the filler of the trilogy between the first and last books. It leads me to believe that Rhine is a lot more important to the world at large and that she could make ultimate change someday.  I didn’t really enjoy this book very much but I am interested to see where it goes. It was too depressing for me. Usually in Dystopian novels, the love between the main characters drives us to hope, but in Fever I just felt hopeless.

Article 5 by Kristen Simmons

So I’ve continued on the dystopian bandwagon with Kristen Simmons’ debut novel Article 5. I would say this debut is pretty solid.

Ember Miller lives in a world where the Bill of Rights have been replaced by the Moral Statues and the government is abusing control over the entire country. Everything is normal until Ember’s rebellious mom is arrested for being a single mother, an offense punishable by death in this society. With the return of the boy next door, Chase Jennings, in the form of at FBR agent arresting her mom, Ember is captured and sent to an all girls rehabilitation center, where she will do anything to get her mom back with the help of the most unlikely person.

This novel was really fast-paced. The action, twists and turns, and craziness was non-stop. Ember lives in a really scary world where the first amendment doesn’t exist and freedom is just a word. I shiver at the thought of such a horrible society with no justice. The world Simmons built was unnerving almost too much so. The voice of Ember was too neutral and uncomprehending, it was like she lacked the depth to show fear or have hope. The absence of real emotions left the book sounding shallow and distant. However, the world building was crystal clear. I could see the red zones and abandoned buildings as well as the towns that still hosted civilization.

The connection between Ember and Chase was confusing at times. It turned out to be the spider-man mentality where you love someone so much you want them to stay away from you. Personally, I think that storyline is overdone but it fit with this novel. Chase has become a different person since joining the FBR as a soldier but fights who he is to be who he once was with Ember.  I understand what Simmons was trying to do but it seemed a little too forced.  There are only so many times you can hate each other one minute and then steal a kiss during a life or death situation in a novel. It was a recurring theme and it was almost like Simmons couldn’t go deeper with the characters so they just kept repeating the same actions in different settings.

The one thing that I am getting tired of seeing in Young Adult fiction lately is the heroine doing something stupid and then something bad happening to them. It leaves the reader thinking, duh! No wonder all this bad stuff is happening, she keeps making bad decisions. I am unable to sympathize with heroines that make bad decisions and end up in worse situations. For example, in this book Ember walks off on her own (this happens multiple times actually) when she knows it isn’t safe. It’s like a complete Face-Palm moment. No real person would do that! I don’t believe you, Simmons! The lack of common sense in young literary characters is getting annoying.

With that said, I found myself entertained while reading this novel if only to see what happened next. The plot line changes so quickly almost in a matter of pages. I liked how the story came together in the end with a justified feel of unity against the government. It peaked my interest enough that I’ll probably read the next installment. Article 5 is the first novel in a trilogy. Overall, the book was pretty good but not overwhelmingly great.

Releases and Recommendations

It’s Tuesday!

So…I’ve been on Vacation the past few days and I’ve read tons of books. I’m just now starting on all the reviews, so those will be coming soon.

The release this week is Unspoken by Sarah Rees Brennan.

Kami Glass loves someone she’s never met . . . a boy she’s talked to in her head ever since she was born. She wasn’t silent about her imaginary friend during her childhood, and is thus a bit of an outsider in her sleepy English town of Sorry-in-the-Vale. Still, Kami hasn’t suffered too much from not fitting in. She has a best friend, runs the school newspaper, and is only occasionally caught talking to herself. Her life is in order, just the way she likes it, despite the voice in her head.

But all that changes when the Lynburns return.

The Lynburn family has owned the spectacular and sinister manor that overlooks Sorry-in-the-Vale for centuries. The mysterious twin sisters who abandoned their ancestral home a generation ago are back, along with their teenage sons, Jared and Ash, one of whom is eerily familiar to Kami. Kami is not one to shy away from the unknown—in fact, she’s determined to find answers for all the questions Sorry-in-the- Vale is suddenly posing. Who is responsible for the bloody deeds in the depths of the woods? What is her own mother hiding? And now that her imaginary friend has become a real boy, does she still love him? Does she hate him? Can she trust him?

This looks soo good! I’ve heard amazingly good things about it and I can’t wait to pick it up. It will be released Tuesday, September 11, 2012. It’s kind of a long time. 😦

The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater

Let me tell you about my complicated relationship with The Scorpio Races by Maggie Stiefvater.

First, this novel is sprung from an amazing and original idea, water horses. Awesome, right? I thought so too.  And, in the end, I really enjoyed the book as a whole; however, it took work to get there. I struggled so hard to finish because it’s so agonizingly slow. I’m talking no action or plot movement until page 150 or so, and there are 404 pages in all.

I read some negative reviews before starting the novel but I just had to know what this mesmerizing story plot was about, so I read it anyway. I’m so glad that I did.

The Scorpio Races happen on the first of November on a small island every year. The capall uisce or water horses are dangerous but beautiful creatures. Men lose their lives trying to tame the beasts in order to win the coveted prize at the races. Kate Connolly or Puck is desperate and chooses to enter the race despite being the first woman to enter. This decision forces Puck to cross paths with four-time Scorpio Race winner, Sean Kendrick, and this year, he needs to win just as badly as she does.

Like I said, the first part was extremely slow. It was all background and world building. This could have been a genius move on Stiefvater’s part by building anticipation for pages and pages, but I’m not sure if that is what she was going for. I’m also not entirely sure if this story was in the present or not. At times, it seemed almost as if I was in eighteenth century England based on the way the characters dressed and conversed. So, that threw me for a loop. Initially, the writing was impersonal and cold. It made me almost anxious and uncomfortable while reading, as if a curse was put upon the book and all who dare read it are doomed to misfortune.  Needless to say, I was a little unnerved.

I really like Puck as a character. She was strong and sassy; she didn’t take crap from anybody. I thought her original reason for entering the race was a really weak plot point but once the momentum got going and her reasoning changed it made more sense to me. Sean Kendrick was an interesting character. He was the strong, ambitious type, a man of very few words. I loved being inside his head. The book is set up with alternating narratives similar to Stiefvater’s Shiver, so we got to switch back and forth between Puck and Sean. I like that about Stiefvater’s writing style.

Her writing is always colorful and concise; it’s also really deep at times. Here’s a quote that caught my eye: “I think that’s the mercy of this island, actually, that it won’t give us our terrible memories for long, but lets us keep the good ones for as long as we want them.” This quote should give you a taste of the solemn, dreary world that Puck lives in but also loves to be part of.

The romance between Puck and Sean was very subtle. I would almost define it as quiet but strong. My favorite part was a moment between Puck and Sean after they had ridden Corr, Sean’s capall uisce. They just stand together with Sean holding Puck’s wrists and their pulses match heartbeat to heartbeat. It was very intimate and unique. I liked it. It displayed vulnerability without completely opening up, which completely defines both Puck and Sean as characters.

The ending was very satisfying and worth drudging through the quicksand of all the background in the beginning. I wouldn’t recommend this to anyone who prefers light reading; it was rather complicated to me.  I would argue it takes a lot of work to get through this novel but it was totally worth it.