Aug 272012
 

I was pretty luck to come across Ashfall last year (see review here). When I found Ashen Winter on NetGalley, you better believe I scooped it up. :) So the blurb:

It’s been over six months since the eruption of the Yellowstone supervolcano. Alex and Darla have been staying with Alex’s relatives, trying to cope with the new reality of the primitive world so vividly portrayed in Ashfall, the first book in this series. It’s also been six months of waiting for Alex’s parents to return from Iowa. Alex and Darla decide they can wait no longer and must retrace their journey into Iowa to find and bring back Alex’s parents to the tenuous safety of Illinois. But the landscape they cross is even more perilous than before, with life-and-death battles for food and power between the remaining communities. When the unthinkable happens, Alex must find new reserves of strength and determination to survive.

Available at Barnes & Nobles || The Book Depository || Amazon

One of the things I loved most about Ashen Winter is the emotional connection between the characters. I could really feel the love. It was more than just lip service. The love was shown in actions even to the point of sacrifice.

The realism in this work was awesome. Alex is a perfect example. He’s a kid, and most kids know very little about survival. Despite going through hell in Ashfall, Alex is still pretty much clueless most of the time, and it shows. My boy Alex had a heroic complex. Problem with his heroism was he usually puts himself and everyone around him in danger.

Usually it’s an insult to say a character is too stupid to live. Okay… it’s still an insult. :) But in the case of Alex, even he recognized it. Some of his choices infuriated me. Yet at the same time, most wouldn’t have even survived what he’d survived. Alex did the best he could with the limited knowledge he had.

I’ve seen some authors counter their character’s stupidity with unbelievable luck. Mike Mullin had enough respect for the reader not to play the coincidence game. When Alex screwed up, people suffered, people got hurt, people died.

What about the other characters? Darla was sensible to the point of being a major drag. But after dealing with the consequences of Alex’s actions, sensible would have been great for them. :) After awhile, I started to miss Darla’s innovation. One thing for sure, she’s a tough chickadee.

Mom and Dad also made an appearance. I didn’t like them. They were no-nonsense in a scary way. Really, they were the kind of parents who frustrate children until the kid yells, “You never listen to me!” I wanted to throttle them at times. Yet I couldn’t deny they were parents through and through. Unfortunately for them, Alex had grown too much to be treated like a child. Despite all the stupid decisions Alex made, I was thankful he manned up to his parents and did the right thing.

Anyway, Ashen Winter was even better than Ashfall. This book was harsh, gritty, and at times it brought tears to my eyes. Other times it had me dying laughing. I’m really looking forward to the conclusion of this trilogy. 5 star read.

Jul 172012
 

I was pretty excited when Insurgent by Veronica Roth came out. Divergent reminded me of Hunger Games in so many ways (see review here), and I could hardly wait for the sequel. When this book came in the mail, my daughter and I debated who would read it first. Since I was in the middle of a book, she got it. :) At last my turn came. I hopped in, full of eager anticipation. So the blurb!

One choice can transform you–or it can destroy you. But every choice has consequences, and as unrest surges in the factions all around her, Tris Prior must continue trying to save those she loves–and herself–while grappling with haunting questions of grief and forgiveness, identity and loyalty, politics and love.

Tris’s initiation day should have been marked by celebration and victory with her chosen faction; instead, the day ended with unspeakable horrors. War now looms as conflict between the factions and their ideologies grows. And in times of war, sides must be chosen, secrets will emerge, and choices will become even more irrevocable–and even more powerful. Transformed by her own decisions but also by haunting grief and guilt, radical new discoveries, and shifting relationships, Tris must fully embrace her Divergence, even if she does not know what she may lose by doing so.

“New York Times” bestselling author Veronica Roth’s much-anticipated second book of the dystopian “Divergent” series is another intoxicating thrill ride of a story, rich with hallmark twists, heartbreaks, romance, and powerful insights about human nature.

Available at Barnes & Nobles || The Book Depository

Hmmm…. I guess I’m a bit shocked. I am beyond astonished I didn’t like it nearly as much as Divergent.

I’m really not sure what happened to this book. It’s like the manuscript came back from beta readers with LOTS of suggested changes. Then the changes were made, but no one read through it to make sure everything made sense in the end.

For example, [View Spoiler]

Anyway, the entire book is filled with plot holes and inconsistencies. The Erudite are supposed to be geniuses, or at least logical, but they spend more time asking questions everyone knows the answer to than applying their logic to important tasks… like not letting people with questionable loyalties guard Tris.

Character analysis. I was so not fond of Tris this time around. She was so intent on killing herself, I’m not sure why she didn’t run back to the Dauntless compound and throw herself into the pit. It certainly would have been more effective than risking her life, so others felt obligated to save her and risk getting killed themselves.

Even my beloved Caleb fell through. There was a point I was so proud of him. I thought, now here’s a hero. Resourceful, dedicated, and level headed. Then I found that Caleb was just a simulation in Tris’s head. Talk about your major bummers. He turned out to be the biggest liar of all. And Tris continued to fawn over him until the end. I would have kicked his butt to the curb and never looked back. “To the left, to the left. Everything in the box to the left.”

The ending. I hit it and found it terribly anticlimactic. I think it was meant to be a cliffhanger… end in a way to make me eagerly anticipate the next in the series. But when I hit the big reveal, it was more with a shrug and an “oh.”

This book had so much potential to be good. Unfortunately, it dragged and most of the real story didn’t start until the last 100 pages.

So how did I come up with this rating. Despite my many complaints while reading Insurgent, I clung to a three star rating. I kept telling myself, this had to be at least three stars. After all, Divergent was pretty decent. Every time I hit one of those plot inconsistencies, which were many, many, my rating plunged to 2 stars. Then I’d read on and convince myself Insurgent would pull out of the slump… we had to make it to three stars. Then another plot hole would hit a page later.

I truly wanted to give this 3 stars, but this book was so poorly executed, it seemed dishonest to give it anything more than 2 stars. When I looked through other books which have earned 2 stars from me, this one didn’t even rank that high. I’m totally bummed and feel awful this book wasn’t better. I wish there was a way to take this book off the market and put it through a developmental editor before rereleasing it. Cut the filler, fix the plot screw ups, and make Tris more like the survival Tris in Divergent. This might inch its way to a 1.5-star read, but I hesitate to even go that far.

As it is, I don’t see myself purchasing the next book in this series. I feel like something went horribly wrong, and the people the author should have been able to trust to tell her the truth fell through. I read Divergent and know the author can do better. I’m just not willing to bet my money (or time) on more of the same I got from Insurgent.

I am Candor, hear my truth!

Jul 162012
 

Okay. It’s been forever since I read this book. I meant to review it way back in March. Unfortunately, that was around the time I had Kindle trouble. I really should do a review on my loves and hates about the Kindle. But I digress. We’re here for Lorenzo il Magnifico by Tristram La Roche:

When Luke visits Florence he hopes it will be the start of a new chapter in his life. A chance meeting with a tall, handsome waiter and that chapter starts far sooner than he could ever have imagined. 

Lorenzo is everything Luke has been looking for. Hot, sexy and uninhibited, he pushes buttons 

Luke never knew existed. But Luke lives in England, Lorenzo in Florence, and the time soon comes for them to part… Can this holiday fling become more than just sex? Can it, in fact, turn into a magnificent romance?

Available at Barnes & Nobles || Smashwords || Amazon

For the longest time… okay, for the last couple of years, I’ve wanted to read a romance written by a male. Lorenzo il Magnifico gave me that opportunity. It’s one of those books which hit me on a psychological level.

It was interesting to find the main character in the book had a lot of the same insecurities I have going into new relationships. Luke offered a sort of rawness he shared with the reader, and it made him a character I could relate to… understand and appreciate.

One of the things I loved about Lorenzo il Magnifico is the vulnerability a lot of women miss when writing from the male perspective shows up in this book. Society says men are supposed to be butch and stoic. :) I’ve been married (add some dating years in) long enough to know the stoic shell hides a lot. It was nice getting into Luke’s mind and see he was just… well, human, rather than the unemotional brute I see so often in romances.

So we had a bit of gay love happening. :) What did you expect from a gay romance? It actually reminded me a lot of Queer as Folk. When Luke wanted sex, he simply went to the place were the guys were and got it on. He didn’t have to play games or pretend he was not into.

And it made me wonder, what would life be like if women didn’t have to play the chaste games… if women weren’t called sluts for seeking sex when they wanted. After all most people enjoy sex (men and women alike). Yet women have to put up the appearances that they’re not that interested in order for society to view their behaviors as acceptable. I have to say… for straight guys so eager to get it on, they’re really screwing themselves over with the name calling. :)

Despite the stigma still surrounding being gay, it seems very liberating to do away with the sex games heterosexual couples play and just do. I liked that about Lorenzo il Magnifico.

So I must apologize to my blog readers for not being able to go into more details about Lorenzo il Magnifico, since my notes are rather spotty after the Kindle incident. I will say, I enjoyed this book very much. 4/5 star read.

Jul 112012
 

I wasn’t sure I’d be able to write this review. My Kindle broke shortly after I finished reading this novel. Then I didn’t right up the review write away, so forgot pretty much what I’d read, how I felt about the work. Luckily, I managed to transfer all my Kindle documents to my laptop. Unfortunately, all my Kindle documents managed to get corrupted, which might explain the broken Kindle… but FORTUNATELY, there’s this cool document called “My Clippings” which is a text file. Apparently that file saves all the annotations from the Kindle. A quick search and I found my notes for If I Tell! So, the blurb:

“It was like watching a train wreck. I wanted to look away but couldn’t take my eyes off them.” 

IF ONLY …If only I hadn’t gone to that party. I never would have seen what I did. Jackson wouldn’t have driven me home. I wouldn’t have started to fall for a guy just out of reform school. I could go back to pretending everything was normal. I wouldn’t be keeping a secret from my mom that could blow our family apart …

My copy was provided by the publisher through NetGalley
Available at Barnes & Nobles || The Book Depository

I’m going to start with the cover. Going into this book, I had no idea the girl was interracial (black/white). Now I’m not saying a gal like the one on the cover couldn’t be interracial. However, the description in the book made her seem like she leaned toward the black side of the interracial spectrum. The gal on the cover looks VERY white. I have to say, I’m rather disappointed in the cover art.

If I Tell had a rough start. It began with leaving the reader in the dark. I knew something big had happened, but what exactly, I couldn’t say. I’m one of those folks who believes the reader should know everything the main character knows, so right off the back I was a little apprehensive about this book.

I’m happy to say, the “something big” was revealed rather quickly. My best guess is the author presented the “something big” as a mystery to draw the reader in… a hook. To be honest, if I’d read the sample in the store or online, I wouldn’t have purchased the book. I’m glad I picked it up from NetGalley, because I felt obligated to read a bit further… really give the book a try, because If I Tell was a decent read. Not fabulous, but decent, and I was lucky to receive the opportunity to read and review it.

The main character had me confused at time. She created a lot of unnecessary drama for herself. She boasted about her honesty and keeping the lines of communication open with her mother. However, she kept the “something big” to herself for much of the story. If she had just spilled the beans early she could have saved everyone a lot of grief. Of course, the story would have been over since that was the main conflict. :)

As for the plot, it was interesting enough. The MC was faced with a difficult dilemma. I truly felt for her situation. But like I said, she caused more trouble for herself than necessary. There were also quite a few slow moments in the story. The book wasn’t overly long, but it could have used a bit a trimming to really keep me engaged.

What I really liked about If I Tell was Ms. Gutler’s style of writing… the way she was able to use the language in a way which flowed well and was natural sounding.

Over all, If I Tell had an interesting premise. I liked the writing style. Ms. Gurtler did a great job stringing words together. I even liked the storyline. However, the book was a bit slow in the middle, and quite a few scenes seemed like the same but written in different ways. As a result, this was about a 3/5 star read for me.

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