Showing posts tagged 2 STAR

Transfixion by J. Giambrone


2 stars

Mind-Control, Mindless Fighting, Weird Protagonists, Teenagers, Survival

Kaylee’s journey starts when the TVs start broadcasting a signal that reprograms anyone who sees it into mindless soldiers bent on killing anyone who isn’t under the influence of the mind-control. Kaylee is mute for the first half of the book and a mute heroine struggling to make her ideas heard in the middle of a crisis has the potential to be great. However, she just doesn’t react to things in the way someone in her situation would— she barely reacts to the death of her mother in the initial onslaught and when her mind-controlled brother tries to break down the door to kill her, Kaylee just laments not being able to finish her book. Her unstable mindset and behavior is so bizarre it’s hard to care about her or anyone else. The war itself doesn’t make much sense either as the brainwashed “dupes” try to kill everyone instead of brainwashing them and the how and why of the TV signal is never explained (is it worldwide? countrywide? citywide? what’s the scale and purpose?).

Relish: My Life in the Kitchen by Lucy Knisley

2 star

Graphic Novel, Foodie, Memoir

Lucy recaps her young life with food-obsessed parents, up through their divorce and her food-obsessed teenage and adult years. She uses meals as metaphors and drops little recipes between chapters, but overall the whole thing seems very forced, like she is bored with her own subject matter and is trying to make herself seem more interesting through her relationship with food. Nothing interesting happens. The art is mediocre. Overall nothing special.

The Killing Woods by Lucy Christopher

2 star

Mystery, Teenagers, Army Towns, Drugs

When a girl is found dead in the woods, Emily’s father is arrested—he can’t remember committing the crime, but his counselors and the police are blaming a PTSD-related flashback. Emily is blaming Damon, the dead girl’s boyfriend and the last person to see her alive—but when she starts to have feelings for Damon, she wonders if she is crazy or if there is another killer out in the woods. None of the character relations are very realistic; Damon was too drugged up to remember what happened to his girlfriend the night she dies, he and Emily have inexplicable feelings for each other, Emily’s mother doesn’t defend her jailed husband, Emily’s friends are pretty creepy and not fleshed out, and this pretty much kills the character-driven story. I was looking for a murder mystery but was handed a sad (but not insightful) look at the aftermath of war and a bunch of screwed up kids. The writing was not particularly skilled and overall it was a very forgettable story.

The Foreshadowing by Marcus Sedgwick

2 star

Prophecy, World War II, Family, War

Sasha, like Cassandra, can see death before it happens — but no one believes her. She fights to become a nurse against her father’s wishes, but generally acts pretty foolish so he tells her she can’t be a nurse, but then she sees her brother’s death coming and decides that she is the only one who can save him because no one will listen to her. The story itself is boring; he took a classic without breathing life into it—the characters are cardboard, and the ending was so dumb I almost chucked the book across the room. Sedgwick has a way with words that is enjoyable, but not worth reading this for.

Mr. and Mrs. Bunny—Detectives Extraordinaire! by Polly Horvath

2 star

Mystery, Family Problems, Indecisive Rabbits

Madeline’s hippie parents are kidnapped by foxes and she enlists the help of two rabbits who want to be detectives to help her rescue her parents — and it is as poorly thought out as it sounds. The book lacks clarity in its descriptions so in some scenes you are under the impression these are giant people-sized rabbits and other times Madeline is struggling to deal with how small they are, and you are left with an overall impression of being Alice in Wonderland, yanked from scene to scene however Horvath thought fit. It tries very hard to be funny, but the jokes fall flat due to a lack of grounding to any kind of rules (to let Madeline rely on herself and the Bunny’s, her parents are kidnapped by foxes and then her uncle voluntarily slips into a coma just by saying he thinks it would be fun). Overall not very engaging. It’s the first in a series but I cannot continue …

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart

2 star

Unreliable Narrator, East Coast Stereotypes, Teenagers, Rich People Problems

Cadence cannot remember one eventful night at her family’s island—she knows something traumatic happened, but it is two years later before she returns with her mother and spends the next few weeks with her extended family trying to piece together that last summer. The unreliable narrator thing got old fast as the whole time you are just waiting to find out what happened to Cadence because she doesn’t grow or learn or live, she just struggles to remember. The longer I thought about this book after I finished it the angrier I became, because I felt like the ending was kind of a dirty trick—yes, it was unexpected, yes, it had some great thriller elements, but it was so uncharacteristic and unforgivable that you don’t want Cadence to get the absolution she grants herself for remembering. While some of the style choices were interesting and the suspense was definitely suspenseful, it is overall unimpressive.

William Shakespeare’s Star Wars: Verily, A New Hope by Ian Doescher


2 star

Shakespeare, Star Wars, Retold Stories, Humor, Iambic Pentameter

Doescher takes the first Star Wars movie and mashes it into iambic pentameter, keeping some of the original lines, adding in lines from Shakespeare plays, and making up his own thing. He mostly stays true to the movie, except that R2D2 kind of hates everyone and there are a lot more monologues which make the characters seem more calculating, usually in a bad way (ie Han Solo tells Luke he likes Leia just to push his buttons, not because he cares for her). I was really excited to read this but it fell flat for me. He deviated from the movie in disappointing ways and when he does stay true to the film it is boring as it is just the same lines re-scripted in iambic pentameter and a lot of old-fashioned exclamations. Would recommend to serious fans of Star Wars because it is a kitschy new experience, but would not recommend to anyone looking for an improvement on the movies or something very entertaining. 

Later: The Empire Striketh Back, The Jedi Doth Return

The Coldest Girl in Coldtown by Holly Black

2 star

Vampires, Segregation, Teenagers, Fear, Ignorance

Tana’s world in full of vampires relegated to Coldtowns that no one, not even humans, can leave — but when she wakes up at a party where renegade vampires have killed everyone except her and her ex-boyfriend, she flees to Coldtown with her infected ex-boyfriend and a vampire who is helping them escape. Tana never wants anything through out this adventure — she has a mild interest in Coldtown, less interest in going back to her family, vague interest in the fate of the people around her, and then when she gets to Coldtown she wants to leave, but only kind of. The story seems to happen around her, which is a shame as the world is built very well and the other characters are very interesting, as is Tana’s backstory as she explains how her mother was infected when Tana was a child. Unfortunately, the lack of any action precluded any kind of true conflict around Tana, so it feels more like she is getting involved in other people’s business than actually having a story of her own. Would recommend to someone looking for an old-fashioned vampires are scary story that includes modern technology well.

The Forbidden Sea by Sheila A. Nielson

2 star

Island Life, Money Trouble, Mermaids, Legends, Loyalty

Adrianne has been her family’s anchor since her father died, but when a mermaid starts hunting her younger sister and the family might starve, she isn’t sure how much longer she can be brave. Adrianne is a mean character who despises meanness in others, and yet people keep telling her how wonderful she is and horses love her, but as a reader I found her insufferable (; I do not believe all characters need to be likable, but I do think the author should at least have some awareness of how her character reads). The plot changed abruptly midway from being one of a poor girl struggling to fend off a scary mermaid while trying to catch the eye of her best friend while feeding her family before becoming a tale of mermaids who respect her so much that all the other conflicts have fallen by the wayside and never get resolved. The writing is not particularly impressive, though the scenery was at least well depicted. Overall a forgettable story.

Selkie Girl by Laurie Brooks

2 star

Scotland, Selkies, Teenage Problems, Family Problems, Fitting In

Elin Jean is an outcast because of her webbed fingers; she struggles to maintain a life and brightens at the thought of romance and escaping her self imposed prison, but when she realizes she is half selkie, she throws it all away to live in the sea and almost immediately regrets it. The story had promise as it dealt with an oft ignored mythic creature, but it turned out to be a standard “whiny protagonist saves the day and wins the love of all” kind of story. Elin Jean’s only memorable trait is that she is self centered, yet despite this she is surrounded by the love and faith of a number of people and selkies. The prose was mediocre, though the descriptions of the Scottish landscapes were interesting. Altogether a forgettable story.

Lord of the Flies by William Golding

3 stars

Children, Violence, Society, Leadership

A bunch of English schoolboys wind up marooned on an island and have to learn to fend for themselves, which starts by meaning a signal fire and ends in slaughter. They manage to maintain order for a short time before turning violent and feral. ¬†Much like the boys on the island, your two reviewers disagree on this book: one didn’t really care for any of the characters and thought their behavior was frustrating and overly gruesome. The other found it to be exactly the sort of thing she imagines would happen in this small world scenario — the troublemakers gang up on the reasonable thinkers and the whole thing goes to hell in a handbasket, which sounds an awful lot like history. This classroom staple tends to be a divisive one, but in the end Golding does an incredible job of crafting an island, building distinct characters, creating a parable, and then rubbing those characters together until he made fire.

(Source: ihopetheyhavebooksinhell)

Mercy by Rebecca Lim


2 star

Fallen Angels, Mystery, Amnesia

We know Mercy is a fallen angel (thanks, cover synopsis) but she has no idea why she lives days, weeks, months at a time in someone else’s life and without warning wakes up in a new body and has to relearn a life all over again. The memories keep fading so she loses her memories as she goes, and the only constant in her life is Luc, another angel who visits her in dreams—but when she finds herself in a body that could save a missing girl, she ignores his advice to fly under the radar and does everything she can to save a life (and maybe capture the heart of a boy). The writing is mediocre and I struggled with Mercy saying things like “I never back down from a challenge” while insisting she doesn’t remember anything about herself, and if Lim had given a little more to go on it would have been easier to focus on the kidnapping and figuring out a new life aspects of the story, which were decently well done. The story jumped about pretty spastically from internal monologues to conversations with Luc to hunting down the kidnapper to singing music in a school choir; it felt like Lim was trying to set herself up for the later books but she sacrificed a lot of quality to do so. Still on the hunt for a good angel book; this doesn’t make the cut.

Later books: Exile, Muse, Fury

I, Lucifer by Glen Duncan

2 star

Lucifer, Religion, Angels, Hell, Causing Trouble

God gives Lucifer a one-month reprieve from Hell in a human body—if he can hack it as a human after that, he can come home. So Lucifer uses this opportunity to smell things, do drugs, write a movie, have sex with anything he can, and write down his side of the story. Sounds like a rollicking good time, but Duncan manages to make it tiresome. There were a lot of opportunities for wry jokes, flashbacks, internal reflection, social commentary, even passion, and all of them were forfeited in favor of descriptions of human senses, rivalries among fallen angels and unfallen ones, and lengthy monologues that don’t progress the story. If you like Duncan you might like this, but I would not recommend to anyone looking for a good story or a humorous one.

Breath by Jackie Morse Kessler


2 star

Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse, Death, Life, Hope

Death is depressed — after uncountable millennia of being Death he no longer finds life worth caring for, and a teenager named Xander Atwood is the only one who can bring him back on his feet. Kessler does a great job of weaving Death’s past and the other Rider’s presents around Xander’s story; his friends are realistic and it is nice to see the other Riders in action. It was fascinating to see Death act so human and see a human boy try to save him. However — Kessler broke one of my absolute most stringent writing rules (if you do not want to know a partial about the ending, don’t read on) and made the entire story a dream sequence in Xander’s comatose head. This is a real problem for the story as throughout the book Death reveals the origin of himself, the Riders, and before his suicide he asks each of the Riders whether they would like to remain Riders or go back to their lives, and each Horseman’s story is tied up neatly by the end—so when Death tells Xander that he made it all up, you are left believing that the Horseman and Death himself never actually got their redemption.

Previous books: Hunger, Rage, Loss

Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama

2 star

Mermaids, Puritan Living, Curses, Modern Teenagers

Hester (a normal 17-year-old) and Syrenka’s (an ancient mermaid) fates are intertwined in this story about a mermaid who falls in love with a human and commits unspeakable acts to keep him on the earth so that she can be with him. As the story unfolds, Hester learns more about what truly happened all those years ago and finds herself facing down ghosts, mermaids, and betraying her friends to get to the bottom of the curse that has killed every mother in her family in the last 140 years. The story is full of horrific acts that made it hard to get through: vicious rape, the murder of a child, mermaids ripping open chest cavities and eating lungs (that one happens twice), spells to trap a man’s soul on land for eternity—it is certainly a monstrous tale, but I found it seriously lacking in beauty. Every character is so flawed as to become intensely unlikable and while the story could have been fascinating despite this, it took far too long to get the story out and by the time it did I had long stopped caring what happened to anyone. Overall it was a horror story that failed to deliver on the heart and love it promised.