Monday, October 31, 2011

Book Review: Crossed

Author: Ally Condie
Publisher: Dutton Juvenile
Series: Matched #2
Release date: November 1, 2011
Pages: 384
Read it in: 2 days
Source: The Library

Summary: In search of a future that may not exist and faced with the decision of who to share it with, Cassia journeys to the Outer Provinces in pursuit of Ky - taken by the Society to his certain death - only to find that he has escaped, leaving a series of clues in his wake.

Cassia's quest leads her to question much of what she holds dear, even as she finds glimmers of a different life across the border. But as Cassia nears resolve and certainty about her future with Ky, an invitation for rebellion, an unexpected betrayal, and a surprise visit from Xander - who may hold the key to the uprising and, still, to Cassia's heart - change the game once again. Nothing is as expected on the edge of Society, where crosses and double crosses make the path more twisted than ever.

LC's Take:

Sigh... where to begin with this one? You know that I **try** to be nice with my reviews and at least say something that I liked about a book before I go all crazy-rant-girl on it, so I guess we'll do a run-down of what I liked about this second book in Ally Condie's Matched trilogy first...

Crossed did a good job of continuing the romance between Cassia and Ky, and honestly, I do like the romance between them. Not too hot-n-heavy, not to whiny-piney, it's sweet and simple. I also liked the conflict that was created between all the relationships going on, even though we all know just how beaten to death love triangles are. Cassia still doesn't know whether she should chose Xander, the guy she was originally matched with, or go with Ky who has shown her a whole new way of life. Oh yeah, and what was going on between Ky and Indie?! Was anybody else wondering that? Were they attracted to each other? I couldn't tell, but this definitely peaked my curiosity and I wonder what will be going on between them in the future...

The new characters that were introduced in Crossed-- namely Indie, Eli, Vick and Hunter-- were all likable, if somewhat lackluster and underdeveloped. I thought that Indie was strong and brave, which Cassia really needed while she was trying to survive in the wilderness, and I'm glad that Ky decided to take Eli and Vick with him, so there was some interaction going on during his parts of the story. Hunter was sort of a mystery, although we know that he has a sad background.

I also liked the descriptive language used to paint a picture of what The Carving-- AKA the giant canyon that Ky and Cassia escape to-- was like. For the most part, I was able to see the rugged landscape and the different settings that both Cassia and Ky traveled through, which created a stark contrast to the perfect, pristine setting of The Society from the first book.

*****

Alright, so that's what I liked, now moving on to the stuff I wasn't a fan of.

First of all, the plot was so sllllloooowwww... like I'm talking molasses in January slow. I think that the reason for this was that the narrative was extremely reflective. I mean, you're in the moment, and then all of a sudden, one of the characters starts reminiscing about some memory, or starts considering a leaf or a piece of grass and thinking, "Wow, how beautiful. This green leaf reminds me of the color of my Match banquet dress, and my mom and dad, and my childhood, and it's so pretty, what a beautiful blade of grass... I think I will write a poem about it."

No, I am not making this up-- literally, the entire book is like this. And what's more, I don't understand the point of it. None of the memories are ones we haven't already heard about from the first book, and they don't bring us to any mind-blowing revelations about what's going on in the present. They're just pretty and empty and-- I'm sorry-- don't add much to the plot, except that I had to work that much harder to not fall asleep.

My second issue with this series-- and this book in particular-- is that there is pretty much zero context or motivation for anything that is going on. This is a problem not just with the main characters, but with the entire world that they live in. I have so many questions that haven't been answered yet, starting with:

1.) WHO or WHAT is the Society and what is their purpose behind getting rid of all but 100 of everything (example: The Hundred Songs, The Hundred Paintings, The Hundred Poems...), and then controlling everyone in the way that they do? We're told that they want to "increase efficiency" and stop death, but how the heck does getting rid of music and paintings do this??

2.) WHO is "The Enemy" that is mentioned at least a hundred times throughout the story and what is their motivation for rising up against The Society and killing people in the Outer Provinces? NOTHING is said about The Enemy, if you aren't counting the fact that "they" are called "The Enemy." This gives me the reader absolutely nada to go on-- do the main characters even know who on earth "The Enemy" is? Wouldn't this be an important little tidbit of info to let us in on?? JUST SAYING.

3.) WHO are these people in "The Rising" and what the heck is their motivation? To get rid of The Society? The Enemy? I am SO CONFUSED. And also, why does Cassia want to join The Rising's rebellion so badly when she has no idea who they even are or what they actually stand for?

4.) What exactly was everyone's ultimate goal in this book? Why were they wandering around a canyon for almost 400 pages? I'm sorry, but if I get to the end of a book and have little understanding of why anything just happened and I close the thing with a ginormous blank stare on my face-- you missed telling me something. Like, badly.

So basically what I'm trying to say is that, the writing wasn't bad and the characters weren't too bad (although they are pretty boring too), but pretty much everything about Crossed was incredibly vague and confusing. And forget about action because there wasn't any. There was a lot of description, but unfortunately not in the places where I actually needed it.

This is similar to how Matched was written, but I can forgive Matched because it was the first book in the series and there was at least some action going on. I expected that in this second book, there would be more explanation about the Society and the Enemy, but unfortunately I was left even more confused than I was at the end of the first book! Crossed just seemed like a lot of aimless wandering around, without actually getting anywhere. And it is very frustrating when you read something like this for the entire length of a book, but nothing is ever really explained about what everyone is trying to accomplish and why.

So I don't know. For me, this is just one those series that meets my most basic standards of being "good," but never leads up to anything that really makes it stand out as being incredible or even really memorable. I thought that the writing was "good" if somewhat bland in places, the narrative flowed well between Cassia and Ky's points of view, and there was nothing outwardly annoying in this book, besides the fact that I can't find a motivation for anything in this plot for the life of me. The thing with second books in series is-- you need to give your readers something to go on. You can't just talk all vague and wishy-washy and totally leave them in the dark, because you're going to lose their interest. My final comment would be "meh." And I hate having that reaction to a book.

~Cover Talk~

I think we can all agree that these covers are just beautiful. I liked the cover for Matched even better than this one, but I think that they both go together perfectly. And the cool thing is that the colors actually are incorporated into the books-- in Matched, the main color theme is green, and in Crossed it was blue. My guess is that the last book in the trilogy is going to be red! And maybe the glass sphere will be totally smashed? I'm definitely looking forward to seeing it.

LC's Rating:
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I was not impressed with the sequel to Matched. There was very little action, and hardly any explanation behind what the characters were doing or thinking. The plot was also extremely slow and difficult to maintain interest in, due to the fact that there was so much internal reflection going on. Unfortunately, boredom and confusion were the end results.


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Saturday, October 29, 2011

ARC Book Review: Darker Still

Author: Leanna Renee Haber
Publisher: Sourcebooks Fire
Release Date: November 1, 2011
Pages: 320
Read it in: 3 days
Source: ARC provided by the publisher via NetGalley

Summary: The Picture of Dorian Gray meets Pride and Prejudice, with a dash of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde.

New York City, 1882. Seventeen-year-old Natalie Stewart's latest obsession is a painting of the handsome British Lord Denbury. Something in his striking blue eyes calls to her. As his incredibly life-like gaze seems to follow her, Natalie gets the uneasy feeling that details of the painting keep changing...

Jonathan Denbury's soul is trapped in the gilded painting by dark magic while his possessed body commits unspeakable crimes in the city slums. He must lure Natalie into the painting, for only together can they reverse the curse and free his damaged soul.

LC's Take:

Alright, so I had mixed feelings about this book. There were definitely things I liked, and things I was a little bit disappointed with. We'll start with the likes!

First, the characters were great. Natalie was a strong, smart, unique, and independent heroine whose intelligent thoughts and eloquent account of events had me mesmerized from start to finish. While her rationality compels her to disbelieve what is happening between herself and Lord Denbury, she is still inexplicably drawn to his portrait. Her inquisitive nature and vulnerability were the perfect mix to create a very likable main character. I also liked no-nonsense, slightly kooky Mrs. Northe-- she was the epitome of Victorian etiquette and proper manners, but she had a subtle sense of humor that had me smiling to myself every time she entered the story. Her quirky notions and habits made her both endearing and memorable. And then of course there was Lord Denbury-- talk about melt-your-heart irresistible! Dark, brooding, but with a vulnerable, sweet side that longs to do good in the world, Lord Denbury was the perfect gentleman. He sort of reminded me of Mr. Rochester from Jane Eyre, and I think you will fall in love with him too!

The writing was also incredibly well-done. Leanna can take the simplest of movements or gestures and with words, turn them into something stunningly beautiful and real. When Natalie reaches to touch the painting of Lord Denbury for the first time, I could actually see and experience the scene. Furthermore, the narrative of Natalie Stewart was witty, intelligent, descriptive and flowing-- it definitely kept me reading!

The story itself was downright creepy and sent shivers down my spine-- it was eerie and Gothic and the plot built up suspense in all the right places. I loved all of the Victorian literature tie-ins too! Leanna vividly captures a proper and superstitious Victorian society with all of the dark undertones and rigid social rules that characterized the time. Reading like a ghost story of old, Darker Still had plenty of shivers, thrills and creepiness!

However, there were some things about this book that rubbed me the wrong way. I'm not trying to turn anyone off from reading this book, but I wanted to point out where I personally had some issues-- probably most people won't even be bothered by these things.

OK, so the first issue had to do with approaching religion and faith in books. I was going to go off on a big tangent about this, but I decided not to. Why? Because it's a personal issue that has nothing to do with the literary merit of the book, and I don't think it's fair to base a review on what I personally believe. Furthermore, I totally understand that much of the story drew its inspiration from Gothic-Victorian elements, which were heavily influenced by religion, spiritualism, superstition, etc. So, while the whole religion thing bothered me somewhat (I won't go into specifics), please disregard this entire paragraph if it's not something that would affect your own enjoyment of the book.

On a (slightly) less controversial note, I sort of thought that this book was a **bit** condescending and derogatory towards men. Now, I'm not saying this was intentional, but I have my reasons for being a little miffed. First of all, nearly all the men in this book were portrayed as being either devilish villains who victimize women, clueless and bumbling idiots, paid cronies, or helpless victims in need of saving. Meanwhile, all the women seemed to be categorized as either fiercely independent and the only ones with enough sense to deal with serious issues, innocent victims of male brutality, or glorified saints and angels. Added to this, Natalie tends to hint at the superiority of women over men, describes her father as though he's nothing more than a child, and mentions repeatedly how unfairly women are treated-- but then makes some rather unfair stereotyped statements about men. Maybe it sounds like I'm being too uptight, but I think that if we read a book written by a male author where all the women were made out to be clueless bimbos and all the men were awesome, we would be pretty offended, so it's only fair to have it go both ways in my opinion... let's not stereotype please! Yes, it is true that women were mistreated and not given equal rights in the 1800's-- and still aren't completely even today. I get that, so I really don't need to be reminded every dozen pages. This only makes me feel like some kind of hidden agenda is being pushed on me, and I don't like that very much.

I also thought that the plot began to drag somewhat, due to the fact that there was so much description and explanation. And the story just got so convoluted! I mean, we've got Christian dogma, Biblical stories, Spiritualism, Mysticism, magic, spells, witchcraft, Egyptian hieroglyphics, Latin incantations, demons-- it was very difficult to sort out and then process the gigantic mish-mash of plot twists. The ending got to be pretty lengthy due to all these conflicting elements, and it took a long time for all the loose ends to be tied up. (You know how at the end of The Lord of the Rings movie there are like half a dozen points where you THINK the story is about to end, but then it just keeps right on a-going? Yeah, similar story here. Side note: I LOVE LOTR, I just thought it was a funny comparison!)

Altogether this was a tough book for me to review because I had so many conflicting opinions about it. Added to this, some of my hang-ups were personal, and while I wanted to stay true to myself and at least mention them, I didn't want them to bias my review. Still-- personal opinions aside-- the writing was awesome, the narrative and dialogue were wonderfully done, and the Gothic-Victorian elements made for a dark and creepy story that was very unique. It did feel to me a little drawn-out towards the end, and I didn't like some of the main characters' opinions. But overall I'm pretty sure that this book will appeal to most readers, and be thoroughly enjoyable and entertaining!

~Cover Talk~

I do like the cover for Darker Still-- I think that the deep purple background goes really well with the purple dress, and I like the glow coming from behind the model for Natalie. However, after reading the book, I think that the model, the dress and the cover all look too modern for the Gothic, Victorian themes and the old-fashioned narrative that the story was told through. The model is very pretty, but not at all how I would picture Natalie! Still, the whole effect is very eye-catching, and I think it will appeal to a lot of readers.

LC's Rating:
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Darker Still is a unique and imaginative story that mixes Gothic-Victorian tones with mystery and suspense. Despite some personal hang-ups that I had, I think this was very well-written and that most readers will really love it.



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Thursday, October 27, 2011

Follow Me Friday (20)

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Follow Me Friday is a fun book meme hosted by the fabulous Parajunkee over at Parajunkee's View AND Allison over at Allison Can Read. Have a book blog? You can play with us too! Just visit Parajunkee's site by clicking on LC's Follow Friday icon-- be sure you are a follower of her blog and the blog she is featuring for the week, put your name in the Linky, create your own FF post on your blog, and then start commenting and following whomever you wish!

This week's Follow Friday question:
If you could have dinner with your favorite book character, who would you eat with and what would you serve?

It's a toss up!

1.) I would have a Mad Hatter tea party with Alice (of course! That is my theme after all! :)
2.) I would have some tasty green eggs and ham with the Cat in the Hat-- my fave childhood books!

And, wouldn't ya know-- there's a recipe on Rachel Ray's website! (And it actually looks really good!) --->


<--- Also... If you haven't yet, enter here for a chance to win YOUR CHOICE of some awesome YA books!


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Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Waiting on Wednesday (20)

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For those who don't know, Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly book meme where we get to let everyone know about what books we are eagerly anticipating the release of. WoW is hosted by Jill over at Breaking the Spine. Want to participate? Grab the logo on her page, post your own WoW entry on your blog, and leave your link on her blog!
*****

This week's Waiting on Wednesday pick is...

Title: The Treachery of Beautiful Things
Author: Ruth Frances Long
Publisher: Penguin
Release Date: August 16, 2012
Pages: 300
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Summary: The trees swallowed her brother whole. And Jenny was there to see it. Years later, when she returns to the woods where Tom was taken to say good-bye at last, she finds herself lured into a world where stunning beauty masks the most treacherous of evils, and strange and dangerous creatures await—creatures who seem to consider her the threat. Among them is Jack, mercurial and magnetic, with allegiances that shift as much as his moods. Determined to find her brother, with or without Jack’s help, Jenny struggles to navigate a faerie world where nothing is what it seems, no one is who they say, and she’s faced with a choice between salvation or sacrifice—and not just her own.

Why I'm Waiting: 

Well, first let me just state the obvious by saying-- look at that COVER!! I don't think I've stopped drooling over this thing since I first saw it to be quite honest. And then there's the story synopsis, which sounds so mysterious and intriguing. What happened to Tom? The trees swallowed him?? C'mon now, that's super creepy! I definitely added this book to my TBR list promptly after I saw it about a week ago, and I am so looking forward to getting my hands on it!

What is everyone else waiting on this week??

PS! If you haven't yet, enter here for a chance to win YOUR CHOICE of some awesome YA books! ---->



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Monday, October 24, 2011

Cover Search

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