Tired of more of the same? Try more of the STRANGE.

Showing posts with label review. Show all posts
Showing posts with label review. Show all posts

Friday, September 30, 2011

Review for The Scorpio Races


by Maggie Stiefvater
Published October 18 2011 
Published by Scholastic
Strangemore Rating: 2 stars

From Amazon: From the #1 New York Times bestselling author of Shiver and Linger comes a brand new, heart-stopping novel.
With her trademark lyricism, Maggie Stiefvater turns to a new world, where a pair are swept up in a daring, dangerous race across a cliff--with more than just their lives at stake should they lose.

This is basically the paranormal version of Misty of Chincatigue with (gasp!) romance!

Like Hidalgo, on the beach instead of the desert with (gasp!) kissing! Between two riders! NOT between the horse and it's rider though. Well... sometimes between the horse and it's rider. Just a little.

When this book started, it felt like a breath of fresh sea air, not rife with the smell of YA cliche. That was mainly because I thought this book was told from the alternating perspective of two boys, Sean and Puck, which would have been a nice change for Steifvater. Maybe I was in the mood for a buddy story or a brother story, instead of the usual stereotypical romance. But it wasn't meant to be, you see, because Puck is a SHE and not a he. (Sorry, my inner Dr Suess came out for a second.)

Not that this is a spoiler or anything, as it it mentioned fairly quickly. It was just something my mind was set against. I wanted Puck to be a boy. I'm tired of the "here's a girl who does this and here's a boy who does that, hmmmm, I wonder when and how they'll meet and, gee, wouldn't it be weird if they fell in love, because, oh boy, we've never seen THAT happen before."

The Rundown

I understand now why the blurb is so impossibly vague. This is a difficult book to sum up.

Two individuals, Sean and Puck, are preparing separately for the annual Scorpio Races (where the dangerous water horses of Thisby face off against each other with their riders and generally lots of bloodshed) until their lives eventually collide into each other. Sean is the typical Thisby teen boy who just so happens to compete every year in the races. Puck is a young girl having some family issues, in particular with her brother's desire to leave the family home and the island that they live on, and she thinks that competing in the Races will force her brother to stick around. But Puck decides to race her regular horse against the blood-thirsty water horses, which cause quite a stir and tons of problems. And that's just the beginning.

The Writing and World-Building

If there was one word to describe this book, it would definitely be "atmospheric." The descriptions were gorgeous, but the location for the book is more than a little mind boggling. It seems to be a created fantasy island located in Ireland? I think. The term they use for the water horses is a Gaelic term but it takes place on a fictional island, I guess? The specifics are never really laid out about where or what or when this "Thisby" is.

Many reviewers raised concerns about the lack of world-building in the Maggie's Wolves of Mercy Falls series. That being said, I feel like she almost went in the opposite direction with way too much world-building, including tiny details about minor characters, and it honestly wasn't very interesting to me. The characters all had their own quirks and backgrounds, but we were told too much and too often about them. More than was necessary.

However, the world that she built around The Scorpio Races was much better than the world of Mercy Falls. The prose isn't quite as purple and the romance isn't nearly as cheddar. I'd say it's more like a magenta colby jack. It was just a very bland and tasteless magenta colby jack.

The Pacing

Pacing was my biggest problem with The Scorpio Races. It takes at least 100 pages or so before anything remotely interesting happens. Usually by then, I would have put a book down not knowing whether or not I would pick it back up, but because this is an upcoming release, I felt like I needed to keep going. In addition, because of the way the environments are described and the action builds slowly, a certain intrigue simmers in your mind and drives you forward regardless of the slow start. But I'm not entirely sure that the pay-off was worth the anticipation.

Around page 380, the seemingly fabled races begin. Now that would have been a great place to start the book! Because up until that point almost NOTHING had happened. It was all setup. I'm sorry, but I do not need three hundred and eighty pages of setup. Even if it has pretty words and HORSES!!!

Because by the time that part finally came around and I thought, "Now this could be interesting," -- it was much too late. I was looooong past mentally checked out and had become disinvested and disinterested.

This might come off rude, but this is the best way I know how too explain what it seems like has happened.

You know when a little girl first discovers the way her skirt twirls when she spins? It's cute, right?! You're like, "Oh, isn't that precious. She's twirling." But then it's two weeks later and she's STILL twirling like the world won't be able to turn itself if she stops, you're like "Okay, we get it! You can twirl" But you can't say that because then you're just being an asshole for ruining a little girl's "twirl time."

Well, Maggie Steifvater can twirl... and whirl... and swirl... and canter... and whinny. It just seems like the author discovered for the first time "Wow, I can write pretty prose. Let's throw some more of that in there."

Don't get me wrong: It is pretty. But holy well of words, do we need SO much of it?

The Scorpio Races don't actually happen until the last 20 or 30 pages of the book, and even then, the actual Races only last about 12 pages, the rest is aftermath. For a book that's 410 pages long, that is not a good chunk of the content. Only about 3 percent of it, in fact. Maybe it should have been titled "The 380 pages leading up to the Scorpio races".

I mean, sure, Hunger Games had some setup as well. But it would have been an entirely different book had the Games only lasted 12 pages.

Who Should or Should Not Read It

I wouldn't read this book again. And I wouldn't recommend it for a lot of people. But I think a lot of people will read it anyway.

Here's why:
1) It is written by Maggie Stiefvater.
2) It is a paranormal written by Maggie Stiefvater.
3) It is a paranormal written by Maggie Stiefvater about HORSES! HORSES! HORSES! HORSES! HORSES! HORSES!
254) It is a standalone. (Finally!)

If you hated Shiver, then you'll probably hate this one as well. If you loved Shiver, then you might love this one.

Right around the time that the Black Beauty movie with Chris O'Donnell came out, I went through horse phase like many young girls probably do. But I got over it and I think I'm still over it, which might be why I didn't love this book. I also went through a dog phase, Old Yeller, Rin Tin Tin, Turner and Hooch, except that I never grew out of it and never will.

I think Horse People will love this book. Keep in mind that there is a big difference between liking horses and being a Horse Person. I like horses. They are pretty and I like to imagine them with horns or wings or gills, but my thoughts don't revolve around them. I am a Dog Person.

I've heard people say that horses are like really big dogs, but I think that those people are just Horse People trying to convince you to be a Horse Person. When really, it's like comparing Chihuahuas to Labradors. Some people say that small dogs and big dogs are the same. They aren't. Not even close. Usually, those who say that are Small Dog People trying to convince you to be a Small Dog Person. This isn't to say that any of them are better or worse than the other, they are just different. I am a Big Dog person, not a Horse Person, not a Small Dog Person.

If this had been about magical sea-faring German Shepherds, I would have LOVED it.... probably.

Other Thoughts

The one thing I really like about what Maggie did with this book, though the same may not be said for Shiver, is that she didn't follow the pack with The Scorpio Races. After the vampire-werewolf craze hit and SMeyer announced on her website that she was writing a mermaid book, strangely, we saw a surge in the number of mermaid based books on the market, many of a questionable quality due to the fact that they were most likely rushed onto the shelves. Maggie didn't go with the surge but she didn't go against it either. She went along side it by creating her own mythology similar to many ocean based tales. It wouldn't be surprising if we see a rise in ocean based mythology books after The Scorpio Races.

Although the pacing is slower and the story not quite as involving as Shiver, this book still seems to be a step in a better direction (albeit almost too far a step) for Maggie. The world-building is much more fully realized and detailed than that of Shiver and the storyline isn't purely romance based, which leads me to think that maybe, just maybe, authors do pay attention to reviewers complaints. Maybe she just decided to put more time into her world-building on her own, or maybe, hopefully, we are having some minuscule effect on how the book world evolves. And that makes me very VERY happy.

The Verdict

The Wolves of Mercy Falls was just a little too soft for me and the Scorpio Races was just a little too hard, so maybe by the time the next book comes around from Ms Stiefavter, that one will be juuuuust right for this little goldilocks.

I'm giving it two stars because it was written well, just badly paced and plotted, in my opinion. The pretty words weren't enough to make up for the boredom. And unfortunately, I never connected to the characters or the romance between them.

The thing that frustrates me the most about books is when feel like I didn't learn anything. I don't really mind not being entertained if I take something away from it that I had never thought about before. But I at least want one or the other.

If you aren't going to entertain me, then teach me something. If you aren't going to teach me something, then by George Washington, at least ENTERTAIN me!! I'm very sorry to say that this book did neither. But that isn't to say that you will feel the same.

Personally, I didn't love it. I don't think I even liked it, but it wasn't terribly written; it wasn't too terribly involving either.

Meh. That's my word for this book. Or rather more like -


Yeah, I just whinnied. Whatcha gonna do about it, huh?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Review for Angel by James Patterson


Angel: A Maximum Ride Novel
by James Patterson
Published February 14th 2011
Published by Pageturners
Strangemore Rating: 4 stars

From Amazon: In the seventh book in the bestselling series, evil scientists are still trying to convince Max that she needs to save the world, this time by providing the genetic link in speeding up the pace of evolution. Worse, they're trying to convince her that her perfect mate is Dylan, the newest addition to the flock. The problem is that, despite herself, Max is starting to believe it.

Fang travels the country collecting his own gang of evolved humans, but the two separate flocks must unite to defeat a frightening doomsday cult whose motto is "Save the planet: kill the humans." And this time, the true heroine, for once, might just be little Angel.

Oh schnikes.

James Patterson is now using the word "imprint" nowGod help us all. 

Well, considering the imprinting in this book is from one teenager to another and that they are actually BIRD mutants (the term imprint originated from the act of a baby bird bonding with it's mother), it isn't quite as icky as a wolf imprinting on and falling in instatruelove with a newborn baby. Because we all know that bestiality combined with pedophilia is totally romantic, right? But still, Patterson. WTF?

Other than the obvious blatant attempt to appeal to the Twilight generation with the onset of a love triangle between a blond Adonis-type mutant and the rugged dark-haired broody mutant, I had a lot of fun reading this book and the series in general.

I probably should be ashamed to say that I read the Maximum Ride series, but who am I kidding? I have no shame. It's a guilty pleasure. I started reading them before I matured literaturicly, and no, I'm not sure that I'm proving my point by using a made up word like literaturicly but "So what? Who cares?" *multiple exaggerated shoulder shrugs*

The Rundown

For you sci-fi gurus, you may notice similarities with James Cameron's masterpiece television series Dark Angel, which if you haven't watched... what the hell is wrong with you? Let me break it down: Jessica Alba, as a mutant, kicking ass while wearing leather - Do you need more convincing than that? REALLY?!

Some facts about the Maximum Ride series by James Patterson:
  • Girl named Max, short for Maximum.
  • She kicks ass and doesn't stop to take names.
  • She is a mutant with special abilities because of her recombinant DNA.
  • She has a "flock" of other friends with special abilities.
  • Her love interest is part of her group but it seems they are destined to NOT be together.
  • Her main job is saving the world, but she mostly ends up just doing a few odd jobs here and there.
While this may not be Dawson's Creek with mutant teens who have a ridiculously large vocabulary, it IS a lot like Dark Angel, complete with angst, wangst, and a love triangle but specifically with recombinant DNA bird kids! WOOOOOO!

These books are by no means "brain food." In fact, most would consider them juvenile, which is one thing I love about them. They don't use complex or lyrical language. They can be melodramatic at times, but mostly they are just unadulterated fun, not to mention entirely addictive.

The Tone and Pacing

The Maximum Ride books usually fly at a breakneck speed and don't often slow down. The flock is always on the move, always performing ridiculous feats of awesomeness, and always making stupid jokes. Regardless of the camp in these books, they have a lot of heart also, as well as great messages for younger teens or pre-teens.

"There's nothing more dangerous than someone trying to act for the greater good."

Which is so true in lots of ways. Many horrific things have been done in the name of the greater good. Hitler thought the Holocaust would create a superior master race. Religious extremist think that ridding the world of all religious opposition is for the greater good. People who think they have the best intentions can often be the most ruthless.

Apart from messages about saving the world and being the best version of yourself, there are also not-so-complex undertones about doing what's right and taking care of the planet. It did get a little preachy for my taste in one or two of the books, but overall, the series is still worthwhile and hella fun to read. And there is only ONE more after this book. *cries like a little baby, like a little baby in it's crib*

The Verdict

I'm so ridiculously attached to these books and these characters that I just can't give this one any less than 4 stars.

There are not very many articulate reviews of these books (I mean one review actually calls a main character "butt poop") and unfortunately the books themselves are not highly intelligent. There aren't really any prerequisites here. No thinking required.

The Scarecrow could read these books. *sings* "If I only had intelligent conversational techniques."


These books are FUN, FUN, FUN! And mainly just that, which is exactly what I needed.


Thursday, July 28, 2011

Review for Incarnate by Jodi Meadows


A gorgeous YA utopian tale! Nope, not dystopian. Do you know the difference?

This book blew me away with... a Masquerade Ball, reincarnation, slyph, dragons, music, souls, butterfly, slow burn romance, tension, laser pistols, massive library, war stories, dragon battles. Need I go on? I mean - Wow.

I read this in a flurry of addiction. I just couldn't get enough of the world and it's goings-ons. Completely entrancing.

The Rundown

Ana was born into a society of a million souls. A million souls who have known each other in various forms for thousands of years. They reincarnate into a new body every time they die. Except for when Ana was born. When Ana was born, they were expecting one of their own, someone named Ciana, who was now lost forever. Ana's mother hates her for taking the place of Ciana and is ashamed, so she moves her new baby outside the city and locks her away from all the others. Now, Ana is eighteen and on a quest to the city of Heart to find out about her birth and Ciana's disappearance. Will she find the answers she seeks?

The Writing

The author's prose has a very subtle lyricism, and the underlying message of this book seemed to be one of peace and hope for the future, which is a happy change from bleak and desolate outcomes of some recent dystopian fiction.

The main character, Ana, gets things done. The questions Ana posed to herself in her head were realistic and it was refreshing to have a character who asks questions and goes against the grain instead of settling for everyone-else-knows-best. The love interest, Sam, was complex, intriguing and a hottie!

The romance developed at a (GASP!) realistic pace, more so than most paranormal YA. It wasn't all "You looked at me like you LIKE me, so LETSBETOGETHERFOREVER!" I was afraid that it would feel cardboard or manufactured like some recent YA romances have. But it didn't. It felt natural and ended up being higher tension and surprisingly steamier than I had imagined for such a PG book.

Although few and far between, there were some unobtrusive religious, or possibly even anti-religious, undertones. The thing was that I couldn't tell. I couldn't see an agenda hidden behind the words and I appreciate that. These undertones were woven in delicately and did not overwhelm the world or the characters. It seemed to be more about raising the questions, instead of forcing an answer on you.

Should you believe in something you can't see? That's one of the questions it raises. Novels should be able to raise questions without imposing the author's answers onto on unsuspecting readers. Books should make you think and learn and discover the answers for yourselves. I felt this one did that pitch perfectly.

One complaint I do have, however, is the lack of dialog tags; oftentimes, it was necessary to reread passages over and over to figure out who was saying what. But that might just be my ADD talking. *sings* It's the FINAL COUNTDOWN. Doodoodoo. Wait, what was I saying...

The World-Building

A fresh and unique twist on the mythology of reincarnation. Finally! It is handled beautifully and seems intensely creative. But I want more! I'm so excited to learn more from the next books in the series.

In actuality, there are SO many interesting things you could do with this society. What if the same couple had been together for ten lifetimes but in the next, one just isn't attracted at ALL to the other. Oh, the scandal!

Even though I love the reincarnation concept used by Jodi Meadows, it still weirds me out a bit. Statistically someone who had been your lover in a past life could end up being your parent in the next....or vice versa. *shudder*

In general, I still have so many questions about the world-building. It was exciting and unique, but I wanted more details. More answers.

But I guess we don't know everything about even our favorite mythologies. Like what the hell are midichlorians (besides "bacteria") and how do they work? And WHY can't Darth Vader teleport? I mean, if the Weasley Twins can do it, why can't the original Dark Lord do it?

Regardless, I LOVED Incarnate. I inhaled it. This is definitely more of a 4.5, but it could have been a 5 if the ending had been more dynamic.

I was expecting something more emotionally heart-wrenching. Break my heart into pieces and then put them back together just in time for the last sentence. Give us a huge reveal, more answers, something epic, something shocking, something weep-worthy! However, it just didn't quite do that for me, but I'm hoping that the next books in the series will.

I CANNOT WAIT to read the sequels.

Just look at this word cloud. How can a book with this word cloud NOT be awesome?

There's only one thing it needs: NINJAS! Because if I had lived for over 5000 years already, I would definitely have learned to be a ninja by now.


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