Thursday, February 4, 2016

Review: The Yearbook

Info: 
Title: The Yearbook
Author: Carol Masciola
Publisher: Merit Press
Publication Date: October 2, 2015
Source: I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:
Misfit teen Lola Lundy has every right to her anger and her misery. She’s failing in school, living in a group home, and social workers keep watching her like hawks, waiting for her to show signs of the horrible mental illness that cost Lola’s mother her life. Then, one night, she falls asleep in a storage room in her high school library, where she’s seen an old yearbook—from the days when the place was an upscale academy for young scholars instead of a dump. When Lola wakes, it’s to a scene that is nothing short of impossible.

Lola quickly determines that she’s gone back to the past—eighty years in the past, to be exact. The Fall Frolic dance is going full blast in the gym, and there she makes an instant connection with the brainy and provocative Peter Hemmings, class of ’24. His face is familiar, because she’s seen his senior portrait in the yearbook. By night’s end, Lola thinks she sees hope for her disastrous present: She’ll make a new future for herself in the past. But is it real? Or has the major mental illness in Lola’s family background finally claimed her? Has she slipped through a crack in time, or into a romantic hallucination she created in her own mind, wishing on the ragged pages of a yearbook from a more graceful time long ago?
 


Review:
I love a good time travel books and, while The Yearbook wasn't my favourite, it was an enjoyable ride.

Lola Lundy has a tough life. She's a orphan, in a group home, has a crappy job, no friends and not a great outlook for the future. Here's the thing about Lola: I only liked her half the time. When she was in the present, she frustrated me. She would keep making bad decisions that only made her situation worse. In the 1920's she became much more normal and level-headed and I enjoyed her character much more. Also, clearly the school system failed Lola (or Lola failed it) because there were a lot of things that seemed like common knowledge about the past that Lola was clueless about.

I really enjoyed the parts of the story that were set in the 1920's. I find that to be such a fascinating time and I'm a sucker for anything vintage. However, I didn't find the time travel to be well-explained. So if you don't want to be bogged down by cumbersome technical explanations, you'll be fine, but if you're one of those readers who likes things like that built up and explained, be warned.

One thing that did bother me was the romance. Unfortunately, this one fell prey to instalove. Seriously, these two had had probably 3 conversations (2 of which were pretty whack) and then all of a sudden they are in love? Nope, not buying it. Thankfully, the romance wasn't too prominent in the book, so it didn't spoil the whole thing.

One thing I did like was the uncertainty in the last third of the book. As a reader, I really found myself doubting what was true and what wasn't, which is something I like in a book.

Overall, I enjoyed The Yearbook, despite a few issues along the way. Definitely recommended for fans of the 1920's especially.
 



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Sunday, January 31, 2016

Weekly Recap #3

So, I totally missed doing this last week. Oops.

Last (Two) Week's Posts

Review: Half in Love with Death by Emily Ross
Review: Model Spy by Shannon Greenland

New Arrivals

Jockey Girl by Shelley Peterson - Netgalley



I just can't resist horse books!

Pages Read

1/17 - 32
1/18- 15
1/19 - 8
1/20 - 90
1/21 - 1
1/22 - 0
1/23 - 2
1/24 - 0
1/25 - 26
1/26 - 6
1/27 - 13
1/28 - 62
1/29 - 82
1/30 - 37

Average = 26.7

Yikes! I'm only reading half of my goal on average. And so inconsistent! Seriously, how did I read 1 page on the 21st?!

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Review:Model Spy

Info: 
Title: Model Spy
Author: Shannon Greenland
Series: The Specialists #1
Publisher: Speak
Publication Date: May 10, 2007
Source: I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:
Teen genius Kelly James is in a lot of hot water. A whiz with computers, she agreed to help her college RA, David, uncover some top-secret information. After all, she doesn't have many friends and David has always been nice to her. It doesn't hurt that he's supercute and irresistible, too. All she has to do is hack into the government's main computer system. 

But a few hours later, her whole life changes. She is caught and taken in for questioning, only this isn't your run-of-the-mill arrest. Rather than serve a juvenile detention sentence, she accepts the option to change her name and enlist in a secret government spy agency that trains teen agents to go undercover. As if that wasn't overwhelming enough, she discovers that David works for this agency as well!

And before she even begins to understand what is going on, she's sent on her first mission as an undercover model. And who better to partner with than David himself!

Review:
Model Spy was the kind of book that falls fairly firmly in the category of "OK." I don't have a lot of things that I particularly liked or disliked about it, which makes it a bit hard to review, but I'll do my best.

One thing I liked was the general idea of the book. A bunch of young adults with particular skills who end up in trouble, but then get recruited into a super secret government program to become spies. These kind of situations always lead to interesting missions.

I can also think of a couple minor things that annoyed me. I think the first one is just a person pet peeve, but it really annoys me when people describe members of the opposite sex as "yummy." They are not a steak or a cupcake! Kelly describes a certain guy's butt as "yummy," which totally weirds me out, like she is going to eat it or something. Pretty sure that's just a random personal preference. 

Also, the author tried to make Kelly a bit quirky by making her say things out of order when she is nervous. I get what the author was trying to do, but it didn't work for me and I just found it annoying. Again, super minor though.

Finally, I felt like the actual mission was too short. I enjoyed the build-up to it, so rather than remove anything, I just think the book should have been a bit longer and had a bit more depth in the mission.

All of these things are super minor to me, yet I also can't think of any things I particularly liked about the book either, so I will just settle on a 3 star rating. If you enjoy books about teen spies, do pick this one up, but I don't think it will become a favourite.



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Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Review: Half in Love with Death

Info: 
Title: Half in Love With Death
Author: Emily Ross
Publisher: Merit Press
Publication Date: December 16, 2015
Source: I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:
It's the era of peace and love in the 1960s, but nothing is peaceful in Caroline's life. Since her beautiful older sister disappeared, fifteen-year-old Caroline might as well have disappeared too. She's invisible to her parents, who can't stop blaming each other. The police keep following up on leads even Caroline knows are foolish. The only one who seems to care about her is Tony, her sister's older boyfriend, who soothes Caroline's desperate heart every time he turns his magical blue eyes on her.

Tony is convinced that the answer to Jess's disappearance is in California, the land of endless summer, among the runaways and flower children. Come with me, Tony says to Caroline, and we'll find her together. Tony is so loving, and all he cares about is bringing Jess home. And so Caroline follows, and closes a door behind her that may never open again.
 

Review:
I'm having bad luck so far in 2016. Here's another book that didn't work out for me. My problem with this book was Caroline, the main character. Man was she naive. To the point of being stupid.

I felt like Caroline just kind of went with the flow and wasn't really actively choosing the direction of her life. She just did what others told her to, first her parents and later Tony. The author tried to show that she was smart with her grades at school and her apparent skill at poetry, but she took so long to figure out what was going on and made a lot of bad decisions.

Also, my feminism side a bit riled during this book. Caroline talked about how badly she wanted to go to California to find her sister. Yet she was constantly waiting on Tony's schedule. I think the book would have been way more interesting if Caroline hitchhiked to California to look for Jess herself. She should have taken control of things and gone to California on her schedule instead of always waiting on the man to take her there.

Ok, enough complaining about Caroline. I also disliked her entire family (besides Dicky, who basically didn't exist besides occasionally playing in the background). Caroline's dad was a bit of an alcoholic who generally wasn't that good at being a husband or a father. But he was nowhere near as bad as her mother, who took all of her stress about having a missing daughter on the rest of her family. I can only imagine how difficult that would be as a parent, but pushing away the rest of your family doesn't seem like a good solution. I feel like the author was going for the depressed housewife idea, but it didn't work for me. And Jess, who we barely see in the book, was made annoyed based on the other character's descriptions of her.

I also wished the 1960's setting has been more apparent in the book. Basically the only hint I got that this was set in the 60's is one or two mentions of the fashions and a couple mentions of The Beatles.

Overall, I just couldn't get into Caroline's head and she ended up annoying me a lot with her naivety.


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Sunday, January 17, 2016

Weekly Recap #2

So I'm a day late on this one, so my apologizes. Also, I forgot my post-it with daily stats on my kindle, so I'll have to add that in later. For now we're just looking at physical books results.

Last Week's Posts:

Review: A Borrowed Man by Gene Wolfe - 2 stars

Pages Read:
Guys! I lost my paper for this. I will update if I can find it later this week.

Wow, pretty lame week. But I did play all the video games on the weekend, so I'm happy.

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Review: A Borrowed Man

Info: 
Title: A Borrowed Man
Author: Gene Wolfe
Publisher: Tor Books
Publication Date: October 20, 2015
Source: I received a complimentary copy in exchange for an honest review.

Synopsis:
In the twenty-second century, our civilization has retained many familiar characteristics, but the population is smaller. Technology has made significant advances, and there are more robots--and clones.

One such is E.A. Smithe, a borrowed person, a clone who lives on a third-tier shelf in a public library. His personality is an uploaded recording of a deceased mystery writer. Smithe is library property, not a legal human. 

The father of Colette Coldbrook, a wealthy library patron, has disappeared and been proclaimed dead. She decides to check Smithe out of the library because he is the surviving personality of the author of Murder on Mars. A physical copy of that book was the sole item in her father's safe, and it contains an important secret, the key to immense family wealth. Her brother, Conrad, turned up dead in the family home shortly after giving the book to her. 

Colette has reached the end of her options. She's afraid of the police, and there are others who might want the book's secret. Smithe is her last hope. Borrowing him might help her find the connection between the deaths and Murder on Mars

Together they find something far beyond their expectations--something almost anyone would kill for.

Review:
The premise of this book really intrigued me. Can you imagine being able to actually check out clones of your favourite authors from the library and take them home with you for a few days?! I haven't decided if that is really cool or completely terrifying or both. Anyway, this idea was the reason I wanted to read this book and I did end up enjoying that aspect of the book. The rest, however, didn't work out for me.

Let's start with the good things. The premise. As I mentioned before, the premise drew me to this book and that aspect did not disappoint. I really enjoyed the moral aspect it brings to the story. You see, our main character is Ern Smithe and he is not considered fully human by law. That's because he is a clone of a famous author and has been imprinted with the memories of his original self. Because he is a reclone, he is not considered fully human (although biologically he is) and is the property of the library. Because he is property, he can be bought and sold and even destroyed if not enough people check him out from the library (a constant fear among reclones like Ern). Obviously most readers would have a huge moral issue with this form of slavery (although, as Ern points out, slaves can be freed and he cannot), but the author just state this as fact and mores on without dwelling on it, which I enjoyed because it lets the reader get worked up about the injustice on their own, without the author dwelling on the issue.

Unfortunately, the rest of the book was a bit of a mess for me. I just didn't enjoy the storyline. I felt like the author kept having things happen and introducing characters, then taking them away, without any actually bearing on the plot. I felt like the plot was set up well initially, then most of the middle was Ern just wandering around doing stuff, then at the end the author rushed to tie the plot back together again.

Another thing that bothered me was inconsistent explanations of things. The initial world building was not bad, but then Ern makes a huge discovery, but there is absolutely no description about how that came about. It's just this fantasical thing plunked down in the middle of a vaguely sci-fi novel with no explanation whatsoever, which I found really annoying. Even if it's not super technical, I want a why!

My third major complaint was the characters. I didn't like them. They all felt flat to me. Ern seemed very bland to me. Colette was kind of interesting because of what had happened to her family, but I certainly found her situation much more interesting than her character. Georges and Mahala were the most interesting character based on the bit of backstory we get, but they pretty much just show up, do whatever Ern tells them, then disappear. Arabella had potential I think, but her character was pretty much non-exiestent and I actually didn't think she contributed anything to the story at all. The bad guys had basically two or three chapters of page time and weren't fleshed out much at all.

This book, despite it's amazing premise and moral issues, turned out to be a disappointment. The characters and plotline were both lacking, which dragged the book way down for me.




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Sunday, January 10, 2016

Reading Resolution + First Week Recap

So I know I'm a little late posting this, but here's my New Year's reading resolution: Read 50 pages per day!

To some of you, this might sound minuscule, but most of last year I was reading no where near that amount, which makes maintaining a book blog a bit difficult. I think 50 pages is a realistic goal.

In order to keep myself on track, I'm going to start posting a weekly recap on Sundays. This will include: pages read, the previous weeks posts and any new additions, along with anything else I feel like adding. So here's my first recap! I've included the 1st and 2nd as well because the year started on a Friday.

Last Week's Posts

Review: An Infinite Number of Parallel Universes by Randy Ribay
2016 Reading Challenges

New Arrivals

Family Magic by Patti Larsen - free on Amazon

Pages Read

1/1 - 50
1/2 - 9
1/3 - 20
1/4 - 4
1/5 - 18
1/6 - 51
1/7 - 122
1/8 - 113
1/9 - 0

Weekly (+2) Total = 387 pages
Weekly (+2) Average = 43

As you can see, this week was wildly inconsistent, with pages ranging from 0 - 122. Next week I will try to read more steadily. But I wasn't too far from my goal (only 7 pages on average)