Friday, July 26, 2013

City of Lost Souls by Cassandra Clare

Goodreads Description: "The New York Times bestselling Mortal Instruments continues—and so do the thrills and danger for Jace, Clary, and Simon.

What price is too high to pay, even for love? When Jace and Clary meet again, Clary is horrified to discover that the demon Lilith’s magic has bound her beloved Jace together with her evil brother Sebastian, and that Jace has become a servant of evil. The Clave is out to destroy Sebastian, but there is no way to harm one boy without destroying the other. As Alec, Magnus, Simon, and Isabelle wheedle and bargain with Seelies, demons, and the merciless Iron Sisters to try to save Jace, Clary plays a dangerous game of her own. The price of losing is not just her own life, but Jace’s soul. She’s willing to do anything for Jace, but can she still trust him? Or is he truly lost?

Love. Blood. Betrayal. Revenge. Darkness threatens to claim the Shadowhunters in the harrowing fifth book of the Mortal Instruments series."

My Review: I. Am. Exhausted. There, I said it: I'M EXHAUSTED WITH THIS SERIES. Cassandra Clare has disappointed me immensely by choosing to continue this series. We all know that the Mortal Instruments was originally supposed to be a trilogy---and I wish it still was! City of Glass ended perfectly; we could have just imagined the rest of their lives, and it would have been great. But---and no offense, Ms. Clare---I feel like the success went to Clare's head and she just started adding on more books. This ruined the series, in my opinion, because the plots she has now are dry and not very interesting. She used up all of her good ideas in her first 3 books...because she had intended for them to be the ONLY Mortal Instruments books. So obviously the newer ones read more like afterthoughts and not full novels. They seem weak and tired. And, quite frankly, boring. 
          Now, I'm not unreasonable or unfair. I will admit that City of Lost Souls was pretty interesting, especially compared to the AWFUL mess that City of Fallen Angels was (no offense to Cassandra Clare, again, but we all know it's true; that book sucked). So compared to CoFA? Yeah, this book was much better. The plot flowed much more smoothly and quickly, we found out much more about this evil, dastardly plot (although we still don't know much of anything), and there was a lot more action. It kept me interested enough to keep turning the pages, but honestly...
         I hate Clary and Jace now. They're worse than Bella and Edward, worse than Patch and Nora. How much idiotic crap can they go through? How many serious issues is Cassandra Clare going to put them through? I'm really sick of Jace ALWAYS having some problem or another: he's Clary's brother! Oh no, wait, he's not! Oh no, wait, he's still EVIL inside, though, even though he's not her brother! Oh no, he's possessed by Lillith! Oh no, he's being controlled by Sebastian! 
         ENOUGH ALREADY. No one cares about Jace's problems, honestly! And Clary is starting to seem so lovesick and desperate that it makes me sick. Instead of getting smarter and more independent, she seems to be becoming even more foolish and foolhardy. I'd been hoping for some bittersweet character maturation, like the kind that Gemma Doyle had achieved by the end of The Sweet Far Thing---I mean, she even gave up her true love for the greater good---but Clary is getting more idiotic. She continuously puts people in danger just for Jace's sake. She even puts JACE in danger, for his sake! Like, for example---SPOILER---when she screams for Sebastian, even though it will mean ruining Jace's soul. Come on, girl. How selfish and weak are you? 
         I like the secondary characters FAR more. Izzy and Simon, Magnus and Alec, Jocelyn and Luke, even Jordan and Maia (although these 2 are pretty irrelevant and unnecessary if you ask me...why are they even HERE?). Their stories were much more interesting and not so barf-worthy to read about. Can I please just get a separate book about Simon and Izzy? Thanks. 
         I did like how Cassandra Clare takes us to Europe for a little while; it was a nice change of scenery and pace from New York City, and it made things more interesting. And I did like the battle at the end of the book, and I admit: I loved when they summoned Raziel again. The angel mythology in this book has always fascinated me. But it still didn't really make up for the confusing, random plot (seriously, WHAT is the point of Sebastian trying to take over the world? He's creepy, incestuous, and not nearly as scary as Valentine was!) and the basic pointlessness of THIS WHOLE BOOK. 
        So yeah. That about sums this book up: better than CoFA, vaguely amusing and entertaining, but tired and pretty pointless. 
        I'm going to read the next---and last, THANK GOD---book with a heavy heart, just because I need to know what happens. But I strongly urge new Mortal Instruments fan to STOP AFTER READING City of Glass. There's no need to go any further. It was supposed to end there, and it should have. 

Cover: The one good thing about this book is, I actually like the cover. That guy looks the most like what I always imagined Jace to look like. The girl looks a little too much like Amy Adams to properly seem like Clary to me, but whatever, it's a cute cover.

Overall Grade: C+

Monday, July 22, 2013

Inferno by Dan Brown

Goodreads Description: "In his international blockbusters The Da Vinci CodeAngels & Demons, and The Lost Symbol, Dan Brown masterfully fused history, art, codes, and symbols. In this riveting new thriller, Brown returns to his element and has crafted his highest-stakes novel to date.

In the heart of Italy, Harvard professor of symbology Robert Langdon is drawn into a harrowing world centered on one of history’s most enduring and mysterious literary masterpieces . . . Dante’s Inferno.

Against this backdrop, Langdon battles a chilling adversary and grapples with an ingenious riddle that pulls him into a landscape of classic art, secret passageways, and futuristic science. Drawing from Dante’s dark epic poem, Langdon races to find answers and decide whom to trust . . . before the world is irrevocably altered."

My Review: I was EXTREMELY torn on how to review this book, because 50% of me absolutely loved it...and 50% of me disliked it a lot. I suppose I'll explain what I loved and what I disliked in order and go from there...
          What I really liked: It's a Robert Langdon novel! What's not to love? I have read all of Dan Brown's novels and they're all always filled with thrills and adventure and mystery---and knowledge. If any of you have ever read my reviews for the Virals series by Kathy Reichs, you'll know how much I love when scientific or humanities knowledge is woven into a novel. It makes reading the book a more enriching experience. And the Robert Langdon novels always have double the amount of knowledge that Dan Brown's stand-alone novels do. I absolutely love art, I love history, and I love Europe---so it stands to reason that reading the Robert Langdon novels stuffed full of art, history, secret societies, mysterious plots, and dangerous adventure takes me to a higher place. 
         In this aspect, Inferno was---as all the previous Robert Langdon novels have been---great. I learned a ton of new knowledge about Dante Alighieri, who's always fascinated me. The setting, Florence, was beautiful, as are all the Italian locations that Dan Brown uses. But an even BETTER surprise was when Dan Brown suddenly switched the setting over to Turkey. The Middle East is a place of many beautiful countries and locations and areas of great history and culture, so I was thrilled to see Dan Brown take Robert Langdon out of Europe (or...cliche Europe) and to a whole new setting. I hope that more Robert Langdon novels take place in this region in the future, as the Middle East has TONS of history and art, as does Asia and Africa. 
         Now for the bad. It was the SAME. Forgive me, but it seems that Dan Brown has found a formula that worked well for his first few books and keeps using it...and it's getting boring. How many times can Robert Langdon just get "accidentally pulled" into a dilemma before it becomes unbelievable? And it always follows the same story arc: Robert Langdon finds himself in a situation where he has no idea what the hell is going on, meets a beautiful and sexy scientist/physicist/historian/some sort of official, they both go on the run from the authorities and solve numerous clues related to art and history, and manage to save the planet in the nick of time from some secret organization. COME ON, DAN BROWN. Get creative. Do something different for once.
          Another thing that seriously bothered me---and has been bothering me for a while---is his treatment of females. He always makes them brilliant and smart, which is great...but he also always makes them thin, impossibly gorgeous, slightly damaged (so that, of course, they're vulnerable deep down), and he always makes them A) the sidekick, and B) fall in love with Robert by the end of the book...even though Robert---the eternal bachelor---is always the one to pull away and leave, leaving the woman saying something mushy like, "But will I ever see you again?" or "Try to visit me sometime." GIVE. ME. A. BREAK. Would it kill Dan Brown to write about a brilliant female who's NOT totally gorgeous and thin? Or about a female who's already in a relationship? Or about a female who has NO INTEREST in Robert, for once? Or a female who's not totally The Sidekick? *Extreme rage face*
         And the last thing that made me dislike the book...and I realize that this point may not apply for everyone...was that the plot this time wasn't very complex or creative or well-thought-out. In the previous Robert Langdon books, I was always very shocked and stunned when I finally figured out the main dastardly evil plot---but in Inferno, it was pretty basic and I figured it out in just a few chapters. It's pretty obvious. And that kind of ruined the book for me, because it wasn't as intriguing or mysterious as it could have been. 
         At the end of the day, it was a fun and adventurous Robert Langdon read that I enjoyed because these books always fascinate me---but with a few notable flaws that hopefully Dan Brown will choose to fix in his next adventure. 
        That's all!

Cover: I actually got this book while I was on vacation in Pakistan, so I don't have the American cover...but I actually prefer this cover to the American one. The American cover is kind of ugly, in my opinion. I like the color of my copy's cover and I like that they show the golden dome, which MIGHT be one of the mosques that Dan Brown mentioned in Inferno (or it might not---but I'm going to choose to see it as a mosque). 

Overall Grade: B+

Friday, July 19, 2013

Social Suicide by Gemma Halliday

Goodreads Description: "Twittercide: the killing of one human being by another while the victim is in the act of tweeting.

Call me crazy, but I figured writing for the Herbert Hoover High Homepage would be a pretty sweet gig. Pad the resume for college applications, get a first look at the gossip column, spend some time ogling the paper's brooding bad-boy editor, Chase Erikson. But on my first big story, things went . . . a little south. What should have been a normal interview with Sydney Sanders turned into me discovering the homecoming queen–hopeful dead in her pool. Electrocuted while Tweeting. Now, in addition to developing a reputation as HHH's resident body finder, I'm stuck trying to prove that Sydney's death wasn't suicide.

I'm starting to long for the days when my biggest worry was whether the cafeteria was serving pizza sticks or Tuesday Tacos. . . ."

My Review: Hartley's back! Yay! That's pretty rare, for me to be so happy to see a character return. I very rarely REALLY like YA characters. I'm happy to say that Hartley Grace Featherstone is one of the exceptions; I really like this girl! 
         Hartley's just as funny and go-with-the-flow as she was in the first book. I think that's why I like her so much. She doesn't try too hard to be a badass or anything. She's just an average teenage girl who stumbles into trouble and then does her best to get to the bottom of a mystery...albeit in very humorous ways and fantastic heels. She seems like a sweet person, the kind of girl you would actually want to be friends with in high school. The same goes for her slightly-crazier best friend Sam. Manic? Yes. Funny? Sure. Lovable? Of course. Sam's just a little nuts, enjoys snacking (I can relate) and loves dressing up her friends in ridiculous clothes (and who doesn't want to do that?) 
         The mystery this time wasn't AS interesting as the one in Deadly Cool, probably because Hartley wasn't as emotionally invested in the mystery this time, but it was still interesting---and hilarious. Since these are comedy books, the murders are always really dramatic and cheesy and the students' reactions are really fake and awful, but that's what adds to the humor of the whole wacky situation. 
         Also, I liked the storyline with Hartley's mom and her dating attempts. Normally I hate when parents have their own storyline (because I DON'T CARE) but this time it was amusing enough that I sort of enjoyed it. And also because Detective Raley is, quite frankly, pretty amusing, so there was a bonus to Hartley's mom's story. 
         The romance was EXTREMELY slow in this book, to the point where almost nothing happened. It kind of frustrated me, because it was the same in Deadly Cool and I had been hoping something more would happen with Hartley and Chase. I guess at the end, you're led to believe that they become something more...but I SERIOUSLY hope there's going to be a third book, because Gemma Halliday can't just let the story drop there! That would be just awful.
         So, all in all, another funny murder-mystery with a great heroine and a funny backup cast, with a hint at perhaps more stories featuring Hartley to come in the future... I sure hope so, at any rate. 

Cover: Cute! This girl doesn't look as dead as the girl on the first cover, but oh well---I'm not even sure they're SUPPOSED to be dead. For some reason, I picture the girl on the Deadly Cool cover as Hartley and this cover as Sam, but I'm probably wrong... EITHER WAY, the cover is pretty and it actually sets sort of a "Oooh, mystery," sort of air to the book. 

Overall Grade: A-

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Goodreads Description: "Mikael Blomkvist, a once-respected financial journalist, watches his professional life rapidly crumble around him. Prospects appear bleak until an unexpected (and unsettling) offer to resurrect his name is extended by an old-school titan of Swedish industry. The catch—and there's always a catch—is that Blomkvist must first spend a year researching a mysterious disappearance that has remained unsolved for nearly four decades. With few other options, he accepts and enlists the help of investigator Lisbeth Salander, a misunderstood genius with a cache of authority issues. Little is as it seems in Larsson's novel, but there is at least one constant: you really don't want to mess with the girl with the dragon tattoo."

My Review: This is a fantastic book. It's not fantastic because it is enjoyable to read and makes you feel good and gives you the warm fuzzies---exactly the opposite, actually. It's shocking and graphic, but the writing is like a having a bucket of cold water dumped on your head. Larsson throws in tons of unnecessary details that we don't need to know, but that only makes the story more realistic, in my opinion. Larsson was trying to send the message that characters aren't only people when they are dealing with the central plot---they are people, and alive, even when they're just eating a sandwich and doing some research on a computer. And how realistic his characters seemed played a big role in making this book awesome. Because instead of seeming unrealistic---like Dan Brown novels (LOVE me some Dan Brown novels, but sorry...they're so unrealistic)---suddenly the plot in the book seems like it COULD happen, even though it seems too outlandish and dramatic and gory to actually exist. And when you really stop to read about all the atrocities that are committed against women around the world, you realize: this book is VERY plausible. 
          The crime is well-paced and it builds up slowly, almost driving you crazy with anticipation, but it works to the book's advantage, because you keep flipping the pages frantically, wanting to know what the heck happened to Harriet Vanger and how Lisbeth Salander is connected to this whole mess and where Blomkvist and Salander are going to end up. 
          Speaking of Salander...she's a badass. Enough said. Sure, there are many aspects of her personality that are unlikable---perhaps even detestable---but, again, that's realistic. Real humans are flawed. And even though Salander is flawed and made me grit my teeth with annoyance sometimes, she was also cold and clinical and awesome. I liked how she was damaged and lonely and weird, yet she was still competent and independent. Lisbeth Salander does not need saving and I pity the poor sucker who tries to save her. It was great how she actually did her research and used her skills to solve her problems. Sometimes heroines just have an "Aha!" moment of brilliance and solve all the issues... Yeah, no. Not buying it. ALSO, I loved that she was short and petite, proving that small women who look like girls and aren't fierce warriors can also be competent, strong women. 
         Speaking of women...another winning factor in this book is the fact that Larsson coldly addresses the problem women face in this world...which is that they are routinely assaulted and abused at the hands of men, and no one seems to really care. Larsson brings light to a subject that a lot of people think is no big deal, and flat out rejects this claim and tells us: "No. This is a serious, dangerous issue, and because of a lack of care for this issue, women are routinely murdered and exploited. And they are humans, and therefore we should care about this issue the same as we would care if it were children being murdered." 
         Through a great combination of facts, detailed story-telling, intricate plots, realistic characters, and really intense and intriguing crime, Stieg Larsson has crafted basically a perfect crime novel. 
        And now I'm dying to read the two sequels. 

Cover: It's simple and catchy and it does the trick, so I have no complaints. 

Overall Grade: A+

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

The Prisoner of Cell 25 by Richard Paul Evans

Goodreads Description: "My name is Michael Vey, and the story I’m about to tell you is strange. Very strange. It’s my story.
To everyone at Meridian High School, Michael Vey is an ordinary fourteen-year-old. In fact, the only thing that seems to set him apart is the fact that he has Tourette’s syndrome. But Michael is anything but ordinary. Michael has special powers. Electric powers.

Michael thinks he's unique until he discovers that a cheerleader named Taylor also has special powers. With the help of Michael’s friend, Ostin, the three of them set out to discover how Michael and Taylor ended up this way, but their investigation brings them to the attention of a powerful group who wants to control the electric children – and through them the world. Michael will have to rely on his wits, powers, and friends if he’s to survive."

My Review: Ehhhh. Seriously. That's all I can muster for this book. I feel like Richard Paul Evans just really, really, REALLY wanted to write a YA action/adventure series mirroring the Percy Jackson series and Maximum Ride series...but he fell short on quite a few points. I mean, the book was a vaguely decent start, and I could see it getting better---but I am definitely disappointed with this debut.
          To start made me uncomfortable how closely it mirrored Percy Jackson. ANYONE would be able to notice this. A young, awkward teenager who's unpopular, has strange powers, has an unfavorable condition (Percy had ADHD, Michael has Tourette's), has a very close relationship with his single mother who happens to be kidnapped, and embarks on a cross-country journey with his awkward, dorky best friend to save his mother. I mean, seriously? Come on. 
          Also, the characters were flat and cliche and didn't make me feel anything for them. Ostin was---of course---the fat, awkward, girl-crazy, genius friend. Because THAT'S never been done before in fiction. And Taylor was popular, beautiful, and---of course---a cheerleader. None of them seemed to have any depth or real emotions or even any rapport with each other; I couldn't really believe that any of them even cared about each other. Evans mostly TOLD us things instead of artistically showing us. "I said this." "He said that." "He was cute." Listen, Evans: this book may be for younger audiences, but they're not dumb. No one wants to be told things.
          Also, WAY too many pages of just indented dialogue with no descriptive language used. 
         "Just like this." 
         "No descriptives at all?"
         "Come on, Richard Paul Evans."
          Also, the action and "danger" of the plot felt sort of forced and...well, fake and not real. What kind of kid can go from Idaho to California with a bunch of other teenagers and not encounter ANY sort of trouble along the way? 
          The book sort of picked in the last few chapters and I enjoyed those a little more, but still...not enough. 
         Basically...what I'm trying to say is...Richard Paul Evans needs to step it up. Despite all my complaints, this book wasn't BAD. It was an amusing way to pass the time. But I'm seriously hoping that the next book---because I will give the next book a chance---will be more well-written and have better character development and better action and better everything, basically.

Cover: I guess the cover is pretty cool, considering the plot of the series. It fits the feel of the book very well. 

Overall Grade: C+

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Through The Ever Night by Veronica Ross

Goodreads Description: "It's been months since Aria last saw Perry. Months since Perry was named Blood Lord of the Tides, and Aria was charged with an impossible mission. Now, finally, they are about to be reunited. But their reunion is far from perfect. The Tides don't take kindly to Aria, a former Dweller. And with the worsening Aether storms threatening the tribe's precarious existence, Aria begins to fear that leaving Perry behind might be the only way to save them both. Threatened by false friends, hidden enemies, and powerful temptations, Aria and Perry wonder,Can their love survive through the ever night? In this second book in her spellbinding Under the Never Sky trilogy, Veronica Rossi combines fantasy and dystopian elements to create a captivating love story as perilous as it is unforgettable."

My Review: It's ironic that this book is marketed as "unforgettable", when it seems pretty...well, forgettable to me. It's a decent enough sequel but I found it rather lacking in both action and romance. Perry's parts were honestly just downright boring and I found his struggles to gain the Tides' support very unrealistic. Either he must be the leader of the dumbest people on the planet of Earth or...yeah, no, that must be it. I mean, they get mad at him for not allocating more workers to the fields when they're under threat of attack and he CLEARLY needs to use those workers to defend their home. They also scoff at him wanting to move their settlement to the caves, which sounds unpleasant, I know---but do they not SEE the aether destroying their settlement all around them? Do they seriously think they can just sit on their behinds and go their merry way? 
          So yeah. That made me a little irritated. Aria and Roar's story was much more interesting, partially because I like both Aria and Roar better than I like Perry (seriously, why couldn't Aria be with Roar? Perry's so cliche perfect) and partially because their journey to Sable's settlement---more like kingdom, really---was much more interesting and it echoed sort of a Graceling feel. 
          Some signifcant things did happen in the book, with Liv and the attacks from other tribes and, oh yes, the whole big bad business with the Still Blue. The book definitely sped up near the end, which I liked. The first half of the book seemed kind of like a waste of time to me. But still, apart from the chaos at Reverie, which happened at the VERY end of the book...nothing happened. I had hoped we would learn more about the Still Blue or something, but not really. 
          The main reason I liked this book was the same reason I liked the first one: Aria. I find her to be a really likable character: friendly yet tough, a loyal friend, and she actually makes pretty good decisions, unlike a lot of idiotic heroines. She matured pleasantly from the first book, which was nice. 
          Hopefully the next book will have more resolution as to matters of the Still Blue (which is pretty much the only thing anyone really cares about, readers included). 

Cover: It's alright, very much like the first. But I wish they'd picked a guy who actually resembled Perry and not just some male model. And perhaps actually shown what aether looked like. 

Overall Grade: B-

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Elite by Kiera Cass

Goodreads Description: "Thirty-five girls came to the palace to compete in the Selection. All but six have been sent home. And only one will get to marry Prince Maxon and be crowned princess of Illea.

America still isn’t sure where her heart lies. When she’s with Maxon, she’s swept up in their new and breathless romance, and can’t dream of being with anyone else. But whenever she sees Aspen standing guard around the palace, and is overcome with memories of the life they planned to share. With the group narrowed down to the Elite, the other girls are even more determined to win Maxon over—and time is running out for America to decide.

Just when America is sure she’s made her choice, a devastating loss makes her question everything again. And while she’s struggling to imagine her future, the violent rebels that are determined to overthrow the monarchy are growing stronger and their plans could destroy her chance at any kind of happy ending."

My Review: The Elite was good and bad, in my opinion. Here's what I found good: Kiera Cass followed the same formula and writing style that made me enjoy The Selection. America was just as realistic as she was last time, a good mix of teenage girl and tough girl and normal girl. I'm glad Cass didn't fall into the same rut all dystopian authors do and make the second book about some sort of "uprising" or "revolution" where the heroine becomes some sort of Katniss Everdeen-esq warrior-ninja. It worked for Suzanne Collins...but it doesn't work for everyone. And these books always seemed more like Gossip Girl or The Bachelorette than they did a war story. So while there was war, I'm glad Cass chose to MOSTLY focus on the Selection and the romance and the issues with the other girls more than she did the rebels. Because honestly, that plot seemed pretty backseat-ish to the love triangle. And I enjoyed the love triangle as well; it's kind of obvious who America is going to pick, but hey, you never know what might happen in the last book. Both guys have their ups and downs. It's not like the Twilight Saga, where I was firmly on one guy's side. 
        Here was the bad: NOTHING HAPPENED. Okay, fine, the thing with Marlee---that was big. But that was probably the ONLY thing of importance that happened in this book. I feel like at the end of the book, nothing had changed, except for Marlee. The same few girls who were there at the beginning---the same few girls who MATTER to the plot, anyway, not the random girls none of us care about---were both still there at the end. America had made advances in her relationship with Maxon, but she also went backwards a lot, so I'm not sure she made any progress at all. The only part I did sort of like was when America tried to brashly reform Illea with just one presentation. Anyone could see it was a dumb idea, but hey, at least we have a heroin with some thoughts on social reform and not just how to plan the next coup d'etat. AND her little social reform presentation led to a nice plot with Maxon's dad being all pissed at her (which, I admit, seems a little random and uncharacteristic, because he always seemed pretty placid in the previous book...but we find out quite a few shocking things about the King in this book, so it looks like he's got some skeletons in his closet), which should be amusing to read about in the next book. 
       All in all, I liked this book because the characters stayed true and honestly, it's fun to read this type of girly book (I honestly wish she hadn't put the rebels in; it's so unneccessary to the plot. Leave that stuff to the Divergents of the world, please). But I did find it lacking because the plot was slow and now much happened except for the one thing with Marlee, and a few emotional revelations. Hopefully Cass will pick up the pace in the next book, WITHOUT turning America into some soldier. (Cause really, how realistic is that? How many teenage girls do YOU know who could successfully turn into awesome warriors at the drop of a hat?)

Cover: It's pretty nice, I like it better than the first book. I do love the mirrors they put in the covers, it gives it this cool icy feel---and I like that the fact that the girl is wearing a ball gown makes SENSE. Hate when random books have girls in dresses on the front for no apparent reason.

Overall Grade: B+