Sunday, November 27, 2011

The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore

The Power of Six (Lorien Legacies, #2)The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I didn't really have much interest in this book when I first picked it up, to be honest. I am Number Four was alright, but I wasn't really invested in the story and it seemed rather amateurishly written. Maybe I'm being a bit to hard on Pittacus Lore, but maybe not. He seems to know his writing style is so-so anyway, since that's a psuedonym. Definitely more pleased with this book than the first one, probably because a lot more happens (in my mind, anyway).

The first book was about Loric Number Four, John, discovering his Legacies and training to control his abilities for when the Mogadorians attacked him. Of course, half the book was also high school drama, his first (and apparently only) love Sarah, and it was not too amazing of a book. I only picked "The Power of Six" up because I hate leaving a book series unfinished. This second installment of the Lorien Legacies series is definitely an improvement over the first; a lot more about the Loriens and the Mogadorians is explained, the plot moves along quite well, and more characters are introduced (like Numbers Six, Seven and Nine). It was good to learn more about Number Six, who we do see in the final chapters of the first book, and I really enjoyed the back-and-forth between Four's adventures in America, and Seven's life in Spain and how she becomes involved in the fighting. I'm looking forward to the next book in the series, which hopefully comes out before too long.

One other problem I have with this book, is that the only reason it's a teen book and not a kid's book is that there is cursing. I feel like this is a rather childish teen book, and the cursing and the fact that the characters are teenaged are the only reasons that this is not in the kids' department of bookstores. Minor issue I have, and it's really only because I'm neurotic like that.

Happy reading!

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Friday, November 18, 2011

The Son of Neptune (Heroes of Olympus #2) by Rick Riordan

The Son of Neptune  (Heroes of Olympus, #2)The Son of Neptune by Rick Riordan

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Well played, Mr. Riordan. You took Greek and Roman mythology, combined those two with today's modernized and technological society, and you did so with aplomb. Not many authors would be able to relate ancient mythology to today's average child, with iPads and HD TVs on their Christmas lists. But he is able to do so in such a manner that kids are left eagerly awaiting the next installment (no seriously. The next book in this series won't be out till fall 2012. Lame). I'm a huge fan of mythology, and these books appeal to both that side of me, as well as to the side of me that wants fast paced, easy to read books.

First and foremost, this is a children's book. No big words (besides in different languages), no cursing, and no inappropriate comments. It is fast paced and full of adventure, most likely to keep children's attention but also because there's no other way to write a story about gods and goddesses. This is the second book in the "Heroes of Olympus" series, a spin off of the hugely popular Percy Jackson series. And surprise! Percy shows up in this one! Except on the Roman side of life, at Camp Jupiter in California, and with no memory of his life. It's up to him to gain the Roman camp's trust, as well as help Frank and Hazel, two young Roman demigods, thwart the plans of Gaea (a very vengeful Mother Earth).

Like I said, there is a lot going on in this book. Lots of characters, lots of action, and a lot to keep track of. It helps a lot to have read the Percy Jackson series first, but I DEFINITELY recommend at least reading The Lost Hero, the first book in this series. Otherwise you'll be pretty lost. They are all very well written, both informative on mythology, and interesting and fun to read. I read this one in 3 sittings, and that was only because I forced myself to pace my reading. Goes quickly, and you'll be left waiting anxiously for the next Rick Riordan book.

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The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Night CircusThe Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Overall, I thought this book was fantastic. That being said, I do have a few issues...
1. Who is Isobel, what's her real name, and how did she have so much power over the circus? Her story was never fully exposed, and that's something I would have liked to have learned more about.
2. I feel pretty bad for Bailey, who just wanted to go to the circus and be with Poppet, and ended up taking control of the circus from Celia and Marco. Kind of a sad future if you ask me.
3. I think it would be cool to learn more about the magic Celia and Marco were using to manipulate the circus, particularly toward the end. I got a little confused and lost at some parts.
4. Was Tsukiko good or bad or, like she said, completely indifferent? I don't get it. Was she jealous of Celia and Marco because of her lost love?
5. I'm not really sure I understand Tara's death, because she was more of a minor character until that chapter.. And the clockmaker was one of my favorite characters. Can books STOP killing off my favorite characters already?!
6. While this WAS an advanced copy I read, and not the final product, there were discrepancies with the verb tenses that I hope were smoothed out in the final edit. Almost completely present tense, with a few past tenses thrown in there.

I did like most of the story though, minus these few things. I really wish a circus like this existed.. The clock, the pool of tears, the illusionist.. this circus sounds incredible and amazing. Parts of it were a little cliched and romantic for my taste (re: Celia and Marco at the end of the book), but I think it was a very well put-together novel. I also was really happy that Celia had a better grasp of the magic that her father had failed in performing (kind of karma for him putting his own daughter in such a competition).

This book was extremely detailed and descriptive, and so much fun to envision. I had a lot of fun reading The Night Circus, and highly recommend this for anyone who enjoyed 'Water for Elephants', or just likes circus or magic stories in general.

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Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Girl Next Door by Jack Ketchum

I gave myself nightmares reading this last night. Very psychologically disturbing to imagine anyone has the capacity to do in real life what Ruth and her sons did to Meg and Susan. And I mean in real life. This novel was based on a true story. The horrors that Meg and Susan endured actually happened to two young girls. I felt nothing but sadness for them, and for David who was just a kid thrown into what he thought was a game, only to realize how serious it was, and how severe the consequences would end up becoming.

It was also interesting to see how David grows and matures as the plot unfolds. At first, he has contempt for the two girls, knowing they must have done something really bad for Ruth to be so mean to them. By the end of the book, however, he's well aware that something is not right in Ruth's head, and Meg and Susan are to be empathized with, and helped in any way possible. Unfortunately for everyone involved, David realizes this just a little too late. And of course,
This was really well written, and I enjoyed the contrast between the casualness and the happiness displayed in the first part of the book, and the darkness and evil of the second part of the book. I also just really like books that make me think of my childhood, and the segments about playing outside from dawn till dusk, having a pact with all the neighborhood kids.. yeah, it stirred up good memories. And no, I wasn't part of any kind of crazy abuse scandal like in this book, I assure you.

By the time I finished The Girl Next Door, I was more disturbed than after some of what I've learned in my forensic psychology classes. Very well played, Jack Ketchum. I can't wait to read more of his work. Oh, and they made it into a movie apparently. I'm imagining "Hostel", only more disturbing because it's happening to a 9- and 14- year old. "The Night Circus" is a much more uplifting book; I don't recommend The Girl Next Door if you're easily squeamish or troubled.

- Justin

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Halloween Reads: Warm Bodies, The Last Werewolf, and Virals

It's been a week since my last post, and for that I blame graduate school and their need to give me papers to write. In any case, I wanted to get out little blurbs about the books I read for the month of October- Isaac Marion's Warm Bodies, The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan, and Virals by Kathy Reichs. I'm going to post about Will Lavender's book Dominance later this week; I finished it the other day and need to digest what I've read before I post about it.

1. Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion
This was a cheesy story about the power of love overcoming the zombie apocalypse. Literally, that's what happened. Apparently, when zombies eat someone's brain, they relive that person's life experiences (I imagine it's something like eating psychedelic mushrooms, but I really wouldn't know in either case). So this zombie, R, who's truly frustrated that in his undead state he cannot express his emotions and how he feels about that whole being dead thing, eats a young man's brain and falls in love (through his victim's memories) with his dinner's girlfriend. And, in true supernatural romance fashion, she falls for him. And this love manages to turn him from undead into un-undead. Or he comes back to life. I don't know, I was a little annoyed by it.

Really, it's a zombie version of Twilight, where instead of the vampire being abstinent and sparkly, this slightly rotting zombie experiences love again, and this reverses the 'rotting from the inside out' (yeah, Marion took a stab at making the zombie apocalypse into God punishing the world for their sins. People were so rotten on the inside that they became zombies. I don't really know..) I thought it was an inventive story, because I've never really seen a zombie apocalypse book from a zombie's point of view. Not that I thought they had a point of view, anyway. They're supposed to just be reanimated corpses, not creatures with thoughts and feelings. Sheesh. Points for creativity, but points lost for cheesy romantic crap.

2. The Last Werewolf by Glen Duncan
This book, plus recommendations from my bookstore coworkers, really makes me want to pick up more of Duncan's books. I think this was a great book, about the existential crisis of the last werewolf on Earth, Jake Marlowe, and his encounters with werewolf hunters, and vampires, and lots of smoking and alcohol and promiscuous sex. Now THIS is what I expect from supernatural creatures. 200 years on Earth would make anyone nonchalant about everything going on in the world, and being a werewolf creates even more distance between Jake and the rest of society. The Last Werewolf was really well written, witty, and adventurous, and I could in no way have predicted any of this story. Way to keep me on my toes! It was a great time, and the same coworker who recommended Duncan's other books also burned me a copy of a soundtrack for this book, recorded by The Real Tuesday Weld. Seriously though, how many books are awesome enough to get their own soundtrack without being made into a movie in the process?!

3. Virals by Kathy Reichs
No. Just no. Group of teenagers rescue a half wolf, half dog puppy from a laboratory where he is being experimented on, and are exposed to a new strain of parvovirus that can spread from dog to person. And it mixes with their DNA and converts them into Virals, with powers that turn on under stress, and apparently only when they need their powers. Oh, and they're working on a Nancy Drew + Hardy Boys-esque mystery, trying to solve the murder of a young woman after discovering mysterious dog tags on the island that they're not supposed to be on in the first place. With high school romance and drama unfolding around them. Kim Possible meets Animorphs meets the Hardy Boys.

Really not pleased with this book. It was so weird, and nothing really happened in the first half of the book. I really thought there was going to be much more regarding the teens' powers, and it was mostly about this murder they were solving. From 40 years ago. And their powers kick on at the most convenient moments, which is complete crap. If you have mutated DNA, you either have your powers all the time, or they're under your control, or you have absolutely no control and they pop on and off whenever they choose to. In this book, they really only kicked on when they were needed, and that's just a little too convenient. Come on, Reichs, give your characters a little bit more of a challenge! I will not be picking up Seizure, the second adventure of the Virals. (also, stupid name for a group of part canine teenagers. but that's just me).

I really wasn't too pleased with the choices I made for October/Halloween, with the exception of The Last Werewolf. Dominance is also a good book, which I'll be reviewing on here in a few days hopefully. And for anyone interested, I HIGHLY recommend The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern. I'm a little over halfway through it, and am completely hooked on it.

Happy reading!
- Justin