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review 2014-03-18 19:02
Tin Star
Tin Star - Cecil Castellucci

I just finished Tin Star last night, and I am feeling very conflicted about the entire reading experience. There were parts of this book that I absolutely loved, and I want to rave about them, and I will. But as far as the characters were concerned, and the relationships/connections they shared, ehhhh.

 

So I am going to talk about that first. I feel like I repeat this in nearly every book review, but characters can make or break a novel for me. It wasn't that I disliked the characters in this book. I actually did like them...what I KNEW of them. There wasn't a whole lot of character development in Tin Star, particularly with the supporting cast. I did like Tula though, and I am looking forward to getting to know her more in part two of this duology. I think part of the problem was that the other humans in the story didn't come into the book until about partway through, and when the book concluded and important plot points happened that I should have had an emotional reaction to, I was just unenthused. It was at this moment that I realized I had some problems with this book. Up until that point, I had pretty much loved it. I still do have lots of good things to say, but I do hope there is more character development coming in book two because it's a bit frustrating to like a book so much but miss that emotional connection.

 

One place where this book excelled was in the world-building. If that is something that's important to you, I think you will love Tin Star. The book takes place on a large space station in deep space. There are many different species of aliens, they all communicate differently, and Tula is a trader who runs around getting all the different aliens things they need. There is a bar, shops, different classes (Tula lives in the slums), a Sunspa, etc. 

 

My favorite side character was a Loor named Heckleck. Tula is the only human on the ship when she meets him, and he is pretty much the reason she is able to bounce back after her tragedy. Heckleck is basically a giant insect based on his description It's not very often that you see a straight science fiction novel in the YA genre. Most of the ones I see are what I would call sci-fi lite. But not this book. I really enjoyed all the different intricacies to the world-building and how the inter-species government worked, how travel worked, and all the conflict there was between species. It was just thought out really well and it was my favorite part of reading Tin Star. I am very much looking forward to the sequel because I love learning about different worlds, even if they are fictional. I feel like I am walking away from this book a more enriched reader. 

 

The other thing that I really liked was the writing. It's true that it's simple, but it flows well, and I never felt like there wasn't enough of an explanation for the things I needed to know. I loved Tula's head space, and I loved learning about the space station through her eyes.

 

So I end up feeling conflicted at the end of this review, hence the 3 star review. I do intend to read the sequel as I am really invested in the world and where the characters go from here. I want to know what Tula is going to do to get her revenge on Brother Blue. I want to know what happens to the other characters and the government. I feel like this book could have been more eventful but I really enjoyed my reading experience all the same. So yeah, I do recommend it. And it's also a short book so it's not going to take too much of a time investment. This can be a one-day read if you want it do be. Or maybe you want to wait until you have the second book in your hands and read them all together, and that works too. In fact, I'm not really sure why it just wasn't one book to begin with. I mean it seems like it's going to be under 500 pages, so why not? Regardless, I liked it. And that's what's important.

 

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review 2014-03-11 18:51
The Deepest Secret
The Deepest Secret - Carla Buckley

I had NO idea what to expect when I started reading The Deepest Secret. Straight adult contemporary is not a genre I venture into often. I used to read a lot of Jodi Picoult, but it has been many, many years. And yet, I have always said that I read books based on blurb, not genre. If the blurb interests me, I am interested in reading it. First of all, I like learning things. I tried to read a book about XP last year (What We Saw at Night), but I didn't like it. I thought I would try again with this book, and I am glad I did.

I have never read a book by this author before, but I will be certain to do that again in the future. I really like Carla Buckley's style. She is great at building atmosphere, and it REALLY felt like the majority of this book was set in the middle of the night. It's not an easy thing to accomplish, making a reader be able to get lost in the book and forget about the world around them. But I sat up at night with this book in my hand for three days, reading and burning the midnight oil. The book gave off a Rear Window by Alfred Hitchcock vibe for a little while there, and I was in LOVE.

The Deepest Secret is written in multiple POVs and I know some readers don't like that, but I was completely satisfied with the way they were handled. The voices of each character were different--Eve sounded like a troubled mother who was trying her hardest to keep her son alive, David felt like a disillusioned, lonely father trying to make the best of the living situation he has to deal with, and Tyler REALLY sounds like a restless teenage boy suffering from a terminal illness. I was convinced. And if an author can convince me that their characters really do exist, they can write in TWENTY different POVs, for all I care. The characters were all remarkably well-developed, and even if you don't like them, you will think about them and be invested and question their choices.

That said, I had a few small issues, and man they are really small because I so badly wanted to give this book 5 stars but I sat and thought on it for almost 24 hours, and I just couldn't do it. This is primarily a character-driven novel. And I know the blurb makes it seem like that is not the case, it just isn't so. That is not what I am marking the book down for. I had a few pacing issues. The book gets off to a bit of a boring start. There is all this exposition and getting to know the characters going on, and I was never bored, but I do think it could have been shortened. And then...I also felt there were some unnecessary scenes that really didn't add much to the story. It is a bit repetitive at times but I was really invested in the characters (mainly Tyler) so I didn't care about that so much. What I really would have liked to see is a bit of a shorter book by maybe 50 pages. But I don't think it's the type of thing that is going to make you not like the book, because I really still did love it despite that small issue. 

All in all, this is probably the best book I have read this year so far. It took me away from the world, made me question my moral choices, and wonder how I would react in the situations these characters faced. This is one of those books that I call a thinking book, and there is nothing more that I like than a book that makes me get all philosophical in my head. 

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review 2014-03-11 18:49
Grandmaster
Grandmaster - David Klass

Wow. I've been waiting to read a book like this. I've been pretty vocal about my lack of 5 star reads so far this year. It's March 1st as I am writing this review, and this is the first book I have read that I am giving that rating to. It's the only book that gave me that emotional extra feeling that I need for a book to go above and beyond my expectations. It's a personal thing, reading. A lot hinges on whether a book will be a favorite for each individual reader, but the one thing that generally makes or breaks a book for me is the characters. It just so happens that I very much related and understood the characters in this book, and in order to explain that, I need to get a little bit personal, and I will, but first I need to state that this is why reading is so subjective. I related to and loved these characters because of my personal experiences which are not the same personal experiences that you share, so who knows if this will be as special a book for you as it was for me. But all I can do is report how I feel and why it worked for me. And so I shall.

I grew up an only child in a household with two parents who loved me very much, but my mother was the one that was in my life the most, because my dad seemed to always be working. He worked his ass off so we would be provided for, and this didn't leave him with a whole lot of free time, and he did the best he could to spend time with me and my mother and be huge parts of our lives. It is for this reason that the time I spent with my father as a kid stands out to me in my mind probably the most. SO many of the childhood memories I have involve him and the things we did together: fishing, racing cars down the hall, and I still remember him giving me these HUGE portions of food while my mother was off at bingo with my grandma. He thought I could eat way more than I could and I would sit there and not be able to finish, but he wouldn't let me leave the table until I ate most of it. I laugh now, but at the time it was traumatizing. Most of the memories I have are great. Carving pumpkins, trick or treating...so when I got into this book and started to grow attached to Daniel and his father (who works many hours and doesn't have much time to spend with his son), obviously the closeness and awkwardness that they share touched me in a very sentimental way. Daniel's a teenager now, and his dad doesn't really know how to talk or communicate to him that well (I relate to this as well, as an only-child teenage girl with boy problems, what is a father to do?).

So the fact that this book is about chess and a chess tournament never even really mattered to me. I requested it because I thought it was an interesting concept, and I wondered if the author could actually pull this off and make a book about chess (just about the most boring game EVER to watch) exciting. the answer to that is yes. This book is so well paced that it moves like an action film. Every word has importance. Every sentence flows into the next. It's a page turner, and at only 227 pages, it is a book that I was able to finish in one sitting, which is an admirable feat for me. My attention span has been short for a while now, and for a book to be able to hold my interest all the way through like that, well it's something. 

The plot goes a little something like this. Daniel goes to a private school where chess is not as nerdy as it is in public school. Some of the boys on his chess team are the most popular kids in school, and one in particular is a monstrous bully and asshole to everyone around him. Well, he talks Daniel into participating in a father-son chess tournament in New York City. See, Brad has found out that Daniel's father was a Grandmaster 30 years ago, and with him on the team, they know they can win. The only problem with that is there is a reason why Daniel's father quit playing chess in the first place. Obviously, I am not going to tell you this because it would be a huge spoiler, but you should know it is worth reading to find out. I would really like to see this book be made into a film. Honestly. There is also an incredibly cute romance that has enough of an impact but doesn't take over the plot. All the characters are vivid with lovely ARCs. I cannot recommend this book enough. 

I have one small complaint, and I would be remiss if I didn't mention it. It's not nearly something that is worth knocking off even a half star for though, so you really shouldn't worry. But there were a couple of times in the narrative where I felt it was obvious that Daniel was not a teenager. There are words he uses that I do not feel a teen would use. For example:

I looked back at him coldly, seeing him now for the scoundrel that he was.
 
How many teenagers do you know that use the word "scoundrel" in everyday speech? Me neither. 
 
But seriously. It's a small thing. I got lost in this book and I loved it. I will hang onto it, and it will be a definite re-read for me in the future. It's a feel good story, it covers some tough issues with lots of respect, and it's definitely a book I would read if I need to be uplifted. So what if it's about chess? To be honest, I kind of actually want to learn how to play now. Ha.
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review 2014-02-28 02:07
Something Real
Something Real - Heather Demetrios
I just finished Something Real last night and I can't stop thinking about it. Before I even start talking, I feel like I need to mention how surprised I was by this book. This is NOT a light and fluffy piece of fiction. The cover might look it, but it's really dark. It's unsettling, it's depressing, and at times VERY difficult to read. There were times when this book literally made me sick. It's not often that a book makes me sick to my stomach, but this one did. Topics like this are very hard to read for me because I get a bit claustrophobic at times. I hate feeling trapped, and there were many times where I did as a teenager so it takes me back to a time I would rather not reflect on. That is not to say I didn't enjoy it though because I blew through this book in record time. 
 
There are some interesting elements in this novel that aren't usually present in other works of young adult fiction. For one, there is a really motivating relationship between Bonnie and her brother Benton. And I was actually surprised by the portrayal of her parents and stepfather. I don't want to spoil anything so you are just going to have to wait and see. This book pushed some boundaries and I really LOVED that it did. Not only that, but there was a completely healthy relationship between two gay teenage boys and that was wonderful also.
 
As for the writing itself, I loved it! I loved the little snippets in between chapters of conversations, articles and different things to break up the monotony. I love the way the chapters were titled, but most of all, I loved Bonnie's voice. I fell in love with her as a character and I related to her so much. Not because of her situation, but the way she DEALT with said situations. She is a normal, flawed teenage girl with a huge heart and a large personality. I'm an adult now but that doesn't mean I don't remember what I was like as a teen, and I do think that there is no other character I have had the pleasure of reading that comes as close to what I was like as Bonnie. 
 
Also, everyone that knows me knows how much of a sucker I am for reality shows. My FAVORITE is Big Brother, and amusingly enough, there were quite a few references in here to the infamous show that I adore so much. The difference between that show and the one presented in this book though, is that the housemates CHOOSE to be observed 24/7. Bonnie had that choice made for her by a very fame greedy mother. There is only one question I would have liked answered that I never did get an answer for, and that was her family's real reason for doing the show again. Was it finances like they said, or was it something else? Maybe I will just ask the author since she's on the blog today. :D
 
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review 2014-02-18 05:36
Alienated
Alienated - Melissa Landers

 

To be honest (and I am always honest), I am not sure why I requested this one. Maybe it was the cover. I also think it sounded like something really different and I was intrigued, though at the time I was not certain it would be a book for me. I should have, probably, went with me gut here. In spite of there being some things I did like about Alienated, for the most part I was underwhelmed and unimpressed.


Let's start with the good. I enjoyed the characters, particularly Aelyx. I thought his narrative was funny. And I thought his confusion with Earth and Earth girls (though juvenile) was humorous. This is one of those books where you are either going to appreciate the silliness or you aren't. I totally understand why people didn't. But quotes like these,

 

“Your long, shiny hair, healthy skin, and bright eyes show that you’re well-nourished.”

“Uh, thank you?”

“You’re clearly intelligent.” Then he felt the need to add, “For a human.”

“But Eric was probably most attracted to your waist-to-hip ratio.” For a split second, Aelyx resembled a human boy as he leaned back and peered at her caboose. “Hips of that width are likely to pass live offspring without complications.”

 

I found humorous. He's an alien, guys! He isn't a human boy, and he doesn't come from here. Things he does are going to be ridiculous. Thoughts that he has are going to be cheesy and stupid because even though he looks like a human, he isn't one. The book is mostly a comedy and it's supposed to be. If you go into it expecting anything different, this is probably NOT the book you should be reading! It really is THAT simple. If you are expecting a serious science fiction novel (though lord knows with that cover why you would be), pick a different book! Do you want to laugh? Do you appreciate silly jokes and amusing conflicts between the sexes of a Men Are from Mars, Women Are from Venus variety? You are probably going to enjoy this. It is not the deepest book I have ever read, by any means, but it serves its purpose.


There are a couple things I didn't like. The world building didn't work for me in some spots and I had issues with suspension of disbelief. Why would they use teenagers for this program and not adults? There is no way most parents would allow their kids to leave the galaxy, for chrissakes. And you know, then there was that whole 10,000 years thing. Which, it was neither confirmed nor denied, but there is an ancient tale that the people of Earth came from ancient citizens of L'eihr. Uhhhh, there have been people on Earth for way longer than that, book. O_o What in the hell?! *head explodes from stupidity* And the thing is, this story wasn't even necessary. It could have been left out to no ill effects of the book. Whomp, whomp.


The writing was fine, but a bit juvenile. It just didn't do anything for me. But again, this is not a very deep book, so it is to be expected. I appreciate how it deals with Xenophobia, but I also didn't like the portrayal of some of the characters, particularly Tori. I can't really put my finger on it, but the way she treated Cara, the way she went after her boyfriend, who by the way, was really rough with Cara in the beginning, bothered me. He dragged her down the hallway and she did nothing. I had a HUGE issue with that. Why didn't these girls stand up for themselves? Why didn't they get help? It was just icky to me. There was a large military and police presence in this book and yet Eric and Marcus were douchey all over the place and no one intervened. Whatever. 


I enjoyed the story though it was kind of predictable. I didn't have an issue with that really because it was still well told. I laughed and read through this pretty quickly, but umm, did I miss where the river (and I am pretty sure the author means a smaller river, not the East River, based on the way it is described) and forest is in Midtown, New York? Because isn't that where the Javits Center is? Not exactly rural there, ya know? WHERE IS THE RIVER? Someone tell me. Where is the forest? Where is there room to park a giant spaceship? 


Okay, I am done. On to the next.

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