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Book Season

It’s been so long, hasn’t it?! I would like to thank my hellish nightmare of a job (which has incidentally now driven me to smoking and drinking heavily) for keeping me so mentally exhausted that all I do now is come home, watch Revenge and surf Indeed.com before passing out. This has lead to my not having cracked a book in some time, which for me is a painful thing.

But that will have to change now that we’re entering two major months for books (or at least the ones I’m interested in).

First up is the new novel in the Iron Seas series by Meljean Brook, Riveted, released September 4th. I’ve posted before about my accidental falling in love with the series after reading The Iron Duke for Felicia Day’s Vaginal Fantasy Book Club. The second book, Heart of Steel, completely bested the first and although Riveted is not a continuation, but rather new characters set in the same universe, my hopes are high that Brook will continue to improve on her steampunk concept. Yes, I still skip the boobies and coochie bits.

On September 11th was the fourth book in the Castle TV show tie-in Nikki Heat series, Frozen Heat. It’s no secret that I’m a super fan of both Castle and the Heat books (let’s choose to ignore the third Derrick Storm ebook for now, mmk?). What I find best about the book series is how well they stand on their own, requiring absolutely no knowledge of the Castle-verse whatsoever. That fact has led to the books being popular with mystery fans in their on right.

Well, this one should need no introduction. The 27th of September is the big day for J.K. Rowling. It’s her first book outside of the Harry Potter universe and the entire literary world is waiting to see what she can do without the use of wizards and wands. The Casual Vacancy is such a big deal, the manuscript has been locked up so tight, some say Deathly Hallows had less security. Or maybe I made that up. Whatever. Either way, expect to be hearing about this one a lot.

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And finally, on October 3rd, we have the much anticipated third book in Rick Riordan’s Heroes of Olympus series. This time around, we’ll get to hear more of Annabelle’s side of the continuing saga. I loved the original Percy Jackson series, but I’m enjoying the Heroes books even more. Riordan’s decision to tell a much larger story from the perspective of multiple characters has really paid off, and The Mark of Athena is sure to feed fans’ hunger once again.

Looks like I’m going to be a bit busy until the end of October.

Review: A Brewing Storm

A Brewing Storm
A Brewing Storm by Richard Castle
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

If you’re a fan of the Castle show and books (and you should be), then this is for you. And possibly few others.

In an effort to further perpetuate the Castle universe, ABC is releasing a companion series to its line of Nikki Heat books in the form of eBook-only novellas that chronicle the story of Derek Storm, Richard Castle’s “first best seller,” with A Brewing Storm first out of the gate.

The story is short, totaling about 80-something pages, and is quite obviously part of a larger arc, thanks to an ending which is hardly more than a build-up for the second novella. Think back to the ending of National Treasure 2 (for the twelve of you who saw it) and you’ve pretty much got the idea.

While it’s not in any way necessary to be acquainted with the show or book series, this is obviously one for the fans who are salivating over the release of Frozen Heat in September and are in dire need of a Castle fix during the summer hiatus. It’s a good book with a solid mystery/crime thriller story that’s less parody and more homage to the likes of James Patterson and John Grisham, which is exactly how the TV series began.

Many readers have voiced outrage over the fact that these are short novellas without a real conclusion, but for $1.99 a pop I think it’s a great deal for a weekend read and certainly worth the time.

In short, I give it 3 out of 5. I don’t mind the short length, but I would have liked a better conclusion rather than the Rocky and Bullwinkle ending we got. Nevertheless, it is enjoyable and I’ll certainly be reading the rest of the series.

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Review: Divergent

Divergent
Divergent by Veronica Roth
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The category of post-apocalyptic, dystopian teen fiction has blown up over the last 3 years or so, thanks to the breakout success of The Hunger Games, which is a tough act to follow. And with that series finally ended, Veronica Roth’s Divergent series is stepping up to the plate. But is it a homerun, or a swing for first base?

Set in seemingly near-future Chicago, the world of Divergent sees society divided into five separate but equal factions, each dedicated to one prevailing virtue: Intelligence, selflessness, courage, honesty and peacefulness. At the age of 16, children of every faction are tested and given the right to choose their group accordingly. But after Beatrice’s test results come back with unusual results, she’s faced with the tough decision of staying with the selfless faction of Abnegation or taking a different path.

It should come as no surprise that this is another novel of youthful self-discovery in a world where harsh decisions are forced upon people at a young age. It’s a growing trend in young adult fiction, and some manage it better than others. In this case, Divergent falls slightly more on the side of “other.”

The concept is a good one and different than anything I’ve come across, and it makes sense. Modern society already has a tendency to split off into sects who share ideals, so why wouldn’t a future government condone placing like minds together? Especially if each group also serves a purpose. e.g. The selfless have majority control of government, the brave protect the people, the intelligent further the course of science, etc.

The story itself strives for excitement, wanting the reader to feel in-the-moment at all times, but Roth doesn’t always succeed at this. Nearly all of the “shocking revelations” are predictable from miles away. I can’t think of a single time where a character divulged some great secret about themselves that I hadn’t already guessed chapters in advance. Miss Roth should really work on that foreshadowing thing.

About halfway through, a love element is introduced into the story, but instead adding a layer of human interest amongst a fight for supremacy, the whole ordeal comes off hackneyed and distracts from more interesting elements. Now, it’s not all bad, but there were some serious moments where the characters might as well have been saying “You’re sweet.” “No, you’re sweet.” Roth is also quick to extol the virtues of virginity here and there. She doesn’t shove our faces in it, but her intention is clear, and that’s fine. We have plenty of trashy teen sex fiction in the world already.

In the end, the slight Battle Royale-esque undertone (these kids spend a lot of time beating the shite out of each other) doesn’t do much to propel the reader forward and I never thought “Oh, crap. I gotta find out what happens next!” But that isn’t saying the book doesn’t have its moments of excellence. It’s not bad, but it’s not great.

Final verdict: a solid 3 out of 5.

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Review: Catching Fire

Catching Fire
Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

It was long overdue, but I finally got around to reading Catching Fire, the second in the Hunger Games series. Truthfully, I was in no hurry because, though I really enjoyed the first book, I wasn’t bucking at the chance to move on to part two. Then, after some convincing on my part, my best friend bought the whole series. And read them in less than a week. Suddenly she was obsessed and a day didn’t go by where she wasn’t pushing me to read book 2. And I have to say, this is the one that has made me a fan.

Fair warning, THIS WILL CONTAIN SPOILERS.

Catching Fire starts off about six months after the end of Hunger Games and our heroine and hero are busy parading around Panem, as is apparently tradition for victors between games. It’s during this time that Katniss realizes, after seeing the rest of the nation for the first time, how much unrest there is toward the Capitol and the Games. Unfortunately, it’s up to her to try and diffuse this possible revolution, but only because the lives of her loved ones are threatened by the powers that be. It’s only after the a “shocking revelation,” which I saw coming since the halfway point of book one, that Katniss and Peeta find themselves back inside the game arena, ready to ignite a war of change in Panem.

Now let’s cut to the chase. Did anyone NOT see their forced return to the arena coming a long way off? I mean, the moment the author reveals the concept of the Quarter Quell, an event that only happens every 25 years in the Games, my first thought was, “And THERE’S our deus ex machina.” I’m not saying this was a bad decision, I’m just saying it was completely predictable and at no point was I ever lulled into a false sense of security for the characters.

That being said, Catching Fire was so enthralling (once you get past the first 1/3 of the book) that I found myself staying up late to read it. The tone of the book is decidedly darker than the first, exposing the reader to more turmoil and violence, although it never comes off as gratuitous. Where the theme of The Hunger Games was survival, this is a book about sparking a revolution, and its timing couldn’t be more apt in this current world climate.

What I’m finding amazing about this series is how it stands to finally teach young readers (after so many years of drivel involving weak-willed girls and magical dudes with frat boy rapist mentalities) that they may possess a strength of will they never knew they had, much like Katniss, whether that strength comes in the form of taking up for one’s self against a school yard bully or finding the will to protest government corruption. It doesn’t matter, so long as they come to that realization.

Suzanne Collins does a great job of not pandering or playing down to her audience, even while keeping the language clean. And as I’m sure you all know, I love my swears, but with everything going on here I didn’t even miss them. The one thing I take issue with in Catching Fire is the age-old cliche of “Oh, I love this guy, but I may be falling for that guy. Bother, bother, bother. Whom do I choose?” I understand why it’s there, I just think this horse has been trotted around track to death. Sure, it serves as an identifying point for readers, but come on. We can do better than this, can’t we? Shoot the horse, Suzanne.

There was also something that caught my attention when we’re meeting the tributes from other districts. Finnick, the 24 year old hunky slice of sex from District 4, is mentioned as being a favorite of many “people” in the capitol. I say people, because Collins never at any point makes a reference to his many fans and lovers being strictly women. She seems very careful to use they’s and them’s when referring to him. Is this her sly way of possibly hinting that Finnick isn’t finicky about what side of the fence his bedfellows fall on? Intentional or not, I’m taking it that way. Gimme some Finnick!

Now there is one major-ish issue I have with the book, and that’s the ending; it’s too jarring. Here’s my representation of the last 2 pages: wake up, holy shit we’ve escaped, here’s how it happened, this is where we’re going. See you in book 3, bitches!

Read the thing and tell me I’m wrong.

That issue aside, I REALLY enjoyed Catching Fire and give it a higher rating (4 stars) than The Hunger Games (3). If you were like me and wasn’t convinced to immediately start book 2 after finishing 1, just do it. It is so worth the read. Now my only problem is having to wait until payday to get Mockingjay. 2 days left!

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Review: City of Bones

City of Bones
City of Bones by Cassandra Clare
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

A little over a year ago, this book caught my eye. I ended up reading the first chapter in the store and decided to come back to it later. My taste in books must have changed in that period of time because now I have no idea what made me want to read this in the first place.

The story centers around Clarissa, or Clary for short, as she finds herself thrown into the “other” world of vampires, fairies, werewolves and sundry other mythical creatures, but most important of all, Shadowhunters. Yes, it seems the descendants of angels are living in New York City and their sole purpose in life is to hunt down demons and slay them with their weapons of celestial steel. Oh, and they’re all teenagers.

Let’s start out with the good things about the book:
Um…well, there’s…*tsk*…The lead demon hunter sounds kinda hot?

Yep, that’s about all I can say here. Honestly, there are very few redeeming qualities to this story. I can’t even say that it’s very original. Angsty teen demon killers? Haven’t we rehashed this concept to death? Oh wait, I guess since they’re “descended from angels” that makes it more interesting.

I changed my mind, it doesn’t.

Now, on to the shit list:
First off, it’s so painfully obvious that this, like Stephanie Meyer’s literary abortion, is a story written by a fat nerdy girl who is so bored with her mundane existence that she writes herself into a “kick-ass” romantic fantasy. And makes her self the pretty teenager she never was. I mean, seriously. Cassandra Clare writes a novel about a girl named CLARY? Cellophane isn’t that transparent. Especially when Clary constantly reminds us that she’s a fiery redhead (guess who else is!).

Then there’s the constant references to classic literature, art and, of all things, anime. Yes, almost once every chapter we have to read something like “The church reminded me of this anime where the head vampire sits on a throne near the altar,” or “Wanna come over and watch some Trigun?” Yes, that happened. As if we needed any more confirmation that this is Cassandra Clare’s wet dream.

And let’s not forget the brilliant dialog. It seems Ms. Clare wants everyone to know how well she did in English classes because she loves to make her characters throw BIG words out at random. Dear god, everyone here talks exactly the same! Are we really to believe that a couple of kids from Brooklyn converse like Long Island WASPs? And the reader is constantly left wondering if some of these characters are supposed to be British or just plain douchey. Maybe in Cassandra’s version of NYC the public schools are AMAZING.

Though I don’t want to give anything away, there is this really awkward question of an incestuous relationship between two characters that is never properly addressed. Maybe that’s something for book 2, but I’m not interested in reading it to find out.

And, oh my god, this woman uses the word “tawny” like Meyer uses “beautiful.” It feels like every damn paragraph! “His tawny hair.” “His tawny eyes.” Blah blah blah, gag gag gag.

A lot of characters here seem to border on schizophrenia. Jace, the male lead of the piece, can’t seem to pick an emotion or decide how he feels about anything. That plus the constant arrogance reminds me of a real-life Jace I know and wish I didn’t. Must be a Jace thing.

Add all that together, plus the random bits of information (A.K.A. writer’s conveniences) and you have a completely mediocre foray into teen paranormal romance. Hurrah.

Honestly, feel free to skip this one in lieu of something with more substance and better writing. It just isn’t worth the time or effort of 6+ books.

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