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Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Review for Masque of the Red Death

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Masque of the Red Death by Bethany Griffin

Strangemore Rating: 4.5 Stars

Masque of the Red Death is oh so deliciously dark and twisty!

4.5 stars!

I adore dark, fantastical and overly dramatic stories. Who's with me? Let's go kick some flying monkeys, everyone! Kidding, kidding. Please guys, treat your flying monkeys with respect. Oz just wouldn't be as much fun without them.

The Rundown

Araby Worth lives in a chilling death-ridden world, where every day is a struggle to keep from contracting a deadly plague. Dead bodies litter the streets and air-filtering masks are necessary to keep the plague at bay. A villanous Prince rules the area but lives outside the threats that exist within the more poulated areas. Araby spends most of her time out in a club named Debauchery and encounters two sexy and mysterious boys. Yet even more mysterious is what's going on in the city. Rumors of an uprising threaten the safety of those within the city and then the attacks begin. Annnnnnd, love triangles and villainy ensue. Whoohoo! Damn, this is a difficult book to summarize.

The Cover

I really appreciate when the publishers put so much love into even the advance copy of the book. The cover looks beautiful in the photo but in real life it is outstandfendupulosus! Don't even ask me what that means but, I kid you not, it's exactly the word I think of when I look at this cover. Because a "real" word just wouldn't do it justice.

Lately, a lot of books with gorgeous covers haven't been quite as beauteous on the inside. So I was expecting to not like this one. When I would look at it on my shelf, I could picture myself reading it in the future and clearly see the disappointed look on future me's face when it turned out to be less-than-outstandfendupulosus. (Also, I think that if Richard Simmons was a dinosaur, outstandfendupulosus would totally be his scientific name.)

The Characters

This book reads like a crazy twisted dark cartoon version of dystopian gothic fiction. The characters are over-the-top and full of dramatic intrigue.

I fell for every one of the characters. They all have a delightful mix of good and evil. Except for the villians who are so fantastically evil, almost cartoonishly evil, that it makes you want to yell "Prepare for trouble! Make it double!" As for the other characters, glorious shades of gray and questionable actions fill the pages of this book. Moral ambiguity, yay!!

I am enamored with Araby. I don't love that she seems committed to remaining chaste at the start, but I do love her reason. It's not based on religion or peer pressure but a real complex emotional stance, and that is all I'll say for now.

The love triangle is my absolute favorite of recent books. Like Araby, I had a hard time choosing where my loyalties are and jumped back and forth between the two. Neither guy is exactly the hero type, not the kind you'd take home to your mom, but that's what I loved about them. She truly cares for both of the boys and doesn't lead either of them on just for the heck of it.

Who loves bad boys? Lyndsey loves bad boys! I do, I do, I do-OO. If you like bad boys, you'll love the two love interests in this book. If you like love triangles, you'll love to hate making a decision between these two guys.

The Pacing and World-Building

This isn't heavy on the steampunk or the dystopia, but there are lights elements of both weaved throughout the world. If anything, I'd consider this "gothic" instead of "steampunk." It's definitely a colorful and dramatic tale.

In the beginning, I was luh-huuuuurving the pace. I was thinking that there was no way way this wouldn't end up being a favorite. Then in the middle it began to lull a bit. Still a constant forward motion, just a little more slow going than in the beginning. I started to have some doubts, but it kicked into high gear toward the end. What a thrill ride!

I've been itching to reread this ever since I finished and that doesn't happen to me often! Don't they have a lotion for this? It's driving me crazy! MUST. REREAD.

The Verdict

I haven't been this excited about a first book in a series since Divergent. The world-building is extravagant and consuming. The pacing is even and exciting. It's such a compulsive read. I felt compelled to keep reading and compelled to reread. I still do.

I've been trying to write this review for a while. Trying to make sure I properly express my excitement over this book. I haven't been able to get it out of my mind since I finished and have had a hard time with other books because I want them to be as much fun as this one!

Masque of the Red Death is a stunningly dark novel by Bethany Griffin. It's a whimsical mix of gothic dystopia, brought together with gorgeous prose and intriguing characters.

In short, I LOVED it. Wheeeeeee! Fun fun fun.

 


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Saturday, February 11, 2012

Review for Partials by Dan Wells

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Partials by Dan Wells

Strangemore Rating: 4 Stars


A Partials-themed Acrostic!

Pregnancy obligations for the young like in Bumped.

Amateur military of Falling Skies.

Rioters and mercenaries threaten way of life like in The Survivors.

The MC is a bad-ass female scientist like in Bones. 

Infertility woes of the women on the Lost island.

Artificially created humans similar to Cylons from Battlestar Galactica.

Lots of myths being busted.

SCIENCE!!! 


The Rundown  

The world has been decimated by an airborne virus that killed 99.9% of the population. The virus was released by beings called Partials, genetically engineered soldiers that look just like us but with 10 times the strength and stamina.

The Partials have let the few remaining humans live in peace as long as they don't cross the border into Partials territory. Every female of age is required to be pregnant as often and as soon as possible. The current reigning government, the Senate, figures that if the citizens have enough babies, some of them will eventually be born with a natural immunity to the airborne virus that fills the air around them and decimates their newborn population. After a decade of births, this still has not happened. Every baby dies within mere hours.

Our main character, Kira, has this brilliant idea that the scientists should focus on discovering how the immunity really works and figure out why the remaining adults and the Partials are immune. 

And now for an intermission of Lyndsey Thoughts: 

Me: Wait a tic - Kira thinks of this?! No one else in a decade, not even the Senate, has thought of that? 

Other Me: Duh, Lyndsey. She's the main character. Of course, she thought of it! 

Me: Right. I guess she's pretty smart then. 

Other Me: Also, the Senate is full of bozos. 

Me: Okay, thanks for clearing that up, Self. 

In order to investigate the Partials immunity, they need to find one that will help them and the chances of that are pretty much zero. So they have get a hold of one somehow. Here's where it gets interesting! Veddy, veddy interesting!! 

The Enevitable BSG Comparison 

At first, I expected to be comparing this to Battlestar Galactic as I read. And sure, the storyline and background of the two share a lot of similarities, but Partials and BSG are two completely different beasts. I was completely caught up in the science and the questions of this book. Battlestar Galactica is so epicly character based, and I can't imagine it any other way. Characterization was not a strong point of Partials. I never heavily connected to the characters, but I was SO captivated by their surroundings and their story.

The tone of this book felt more like a science-based procedural crime show set in a post-apocalyptic world populated by cyborgs and a few remaining humans. This is Battlestar Galactica if Battlestar Galatica had been written by the writers of Bones. 

Characterization and Romance

The weak link in Partial's chain was it's characterization. It's written in third person and I found it difficult to truly hear the voices of the characters. In fact, the only one I ever emotional connected to was the one that wasn't even human: the Partial that we meet later on, Samm. But considering that I am actually a cylon, you could say we share a certain kinship and all.

The Senate, Kira's arch nemesis, is full of people who are delusional and one-dimensional, seeming to be so set in their ways that they don't care if it destroys them.

Romance does not play much of a part AT ALL in this novel. It's an extra, meandering about in the background, sipping it's vente chai soy latte and speaking in a fake British accent. In fact, I couldn't have been less interested in the so-called "romantic" storyline between Kira and Marcus.  But even so, this book and it's story managed to transcend it's characters.

Does this put the SCI in SCI-FI? 

This is pretty hard science fiction... for YA. Don't get me wrong, I've definitely seen harder. 


Did you know that robots now play ping pong? And have ROCK HARD ABS?! Humina humina.

But that's usually in adult fiction, so this is a welcome move into the realm of young adult novels. Partials is an excellent choice for fans of "sciencey" science fiction. (That's me!) Kira spends time actually asking questions and analyzing data. And I loved every minute of it. Amazingly and most importantly, I felt like I understood it all.

I don't really know anything about how viruses work. But when reading this book, I am operating on the assumption that the author writing about viruses knows at least more than I do. That being said, I felt Dan Wells did an amazing job at breaking down the science, especially toward the end.

I had a lot of questions while reading. Why do the babies get sick only after they are born? If the virus is airborne, why couldn't the babies survive in a filtered clean room? Conveniently enough, Kira had a lot of the same questions and managed to answer many of my concerns.

I've recently come to the realization that my obsession with literature stems from a quest for knowledge. I constantly feel the need to learn and grow and change. To see and imagine new things. I feel like this is one of those novels. One of those novels that attempts to push thinking forward, that focuses on the questions of life, as opposed to the problems in it.

Many post-apocalyptic novels are problem based, not question based. They encounter a problem and they push through. In Partials, Kira encounters a question and she answers it. A problem is just something that you have to work through and solve. You either solve it or you don't. A question is something that opens up a whole new realm of possibilities. Questions are often accompanied by their own problems, however. This is a story about solutions. Solutions to the questions asked and to the problems that come along with it.

The mark of a great science fiction author is having the ability to make the reader believe that they are a freaking rocket scientist. Or in the case of this book... A virologist. Write it so well that the reader is sciencing that science right along with the main characters. Dan Wells certainly excelled at doing just that.

The Pacing

I started this book with a straight face. Twenty five percent in, I was pursing my lips in question. Fifty percent in, I was nodding my head in agreement. Seventy five percent in, I was grinning with excitement. At the end, I was passed out from exhaustion and amazement.The story moves along consistently, but not at a breakneck pace either. It has quite a bit of action and a constant crawl of information.

The Verdict

Partials is a dense post-apocalyptic delicious dessert, swirled with dystopian undertones, and topped off with dark military themes. Who wouldn't want a piece of that?

 

Well, what do you know? There's actually a BOOK for that!

I worry that it may have a hard time finding an audience as a young adult book because it is so heavily grounded in science. Sci-fi in YA excites me, and this book was a great start to what is hopefully a new trend in the young adult world.

The story is not character or romance based, but it is high in concept, plot and science. It is also not a standalone as I previously assumed, seeing as it ends on a semi-cliffhanger. It is questioning, yet not too philosophical. Light cerebral sci-fi.

If you're looking at experimenting with science fiction (And, come on, science fiction and experimentation go GREAT together!), Partials would be an excellent place to start.

 


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