Archive for 2 stars

Review: Under the Never Sky by Veronica Rossi

Dec
31
2 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: 2 stars, Fantasy

Book: Under the Never Sky
Author: Veronica Rossi
Publisher: HarperTeen
Release date: February 28, 2012
Source: ARC received from Around the World Tours

Summary from Goodreads: Aria is a teenager in the enclosed city of Reverie. Like all Dwellers, she spends her time with friends in virtual environments, called Realms, accessed through an eyepiece called a Smarteye. Aria enjoys the Realms and the easy life in Reverie. When she is forced out of the pod for a crime she did not commit, she believes her death is imminent. The outside world is known as The Death Shop, with danger in every direction.

As an Outsider, Perry has always known hunger, vicious predators, and violent energy storms from the swirling electrified atmosphere called the Aether. A bit of an outcast even among his hunting tribe, Perry withstands these daily tests with his exceptional abilities, as he is gifted with powerful senses that enable him to scent danger, food and even human emotions.

They come together reluctantly, for Aria must depend on Perry, whom she considers a barbarian, to help her get back to Reverie, while Perry needs Aria to help unravel the mystery of his beloved nephewâ??s abduction by the Dwellers. Together they embark on a journey challenged as much by their prejudices as by encounters with cannibals and wolves. But to their surprise, Aria and Perry forge an unlikely love – one that will forever change the fate of all who live UNDER THE NEVER SKY.

First impressions: The initial scenes in this book are dark, futuristic, and set up the conflict surrounding the world. Aria and some friends break into a compound in their city of Reverie, where everyone stays indoors for fear of disease and death in the atmosphere outside and communicates through SmartEye devices that allow virtual interaction in various imagined worlds. When the break-in goes horribly awry, Aria finds herself in danger and is saved by a tattooed tribal man from the outside real world, although this has even more profound consequences.

Lasting impressions: I think some more information on the rules of these worlds and societies would have made this reading experience more enjoyable. Though the mix of sci-fi and fantasy elements seemed interesting at first, by the end it all seemed like too many different ideas thrown into a giant mixing bowl, muddying the entire concept.

Conflicting impressions: If you’re going to have a book about two characters falling in love, it helps if they have chemistry. I did not connect at all with either Aria or Perry, so their love story became something of a snooze.

Overall impressions: I’m having the hardest time pinpointing what it is that didn’t work for me in this book. There were lots of individual elements that were interesting and exciting – the stormy Aether atmosphere, the Blood Lords and the tribal sensory enhancements, the Dwellers and their futuristic SmartEyes – but somehow when it all got put together it created a book that got bogged down by the weight of all of these Big Ideas.

Aria is a nice enough main character. She’s strong, gets by mostly without complaining, despite some pretty awful situations. Perry is more interesting in that he has this heightened sense of smell and is constantly at odds with his Blood Lord brother. He spends most of the book nobly trying to save his nephew, but treats Aria pretty brusquely. I knew at some point these characters were going to fall in love, because that’s the way things work in books, but for the life of me I couldn’t figure out why they would want to be together. They didn’t seem to connect in any realistic way.

At the end there are some reveals that are a bit predictable, and set up some action for the future, but overall this book didn’t pack enough punch for me. I didn’t have enough information to fully invest in either the characters or the worlds they were fighting, so it ended up falling a bit flat.

Rating: 2/5 stars

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Review: Glow by Amy Kathleen Ryan

Sep
27
4 COMMENTS • This post is filed under: 2 stars, Sci-Fi

Book: Glow
Author: Amy Kathleen Ryan
Publisher: St. Martin’s Griffin
Release date: September 13, 2011
Source: ARC for review from Around the World Tours

Summary: (from Goodreads) What if you were bound for a new world, about to pledge your life to someone you’d been promised to since birth, and one unexpected violent attack made survivalâ??not loveâ??the issue?

Out in the murky nebula lurks an unseen enemy: the New Horizon. On its way to populate a distant planet in the wake of Earth’s collapse, the ship’s crew has been unable to conceive a generation to continue its mission. They need young girls desperately, or their zealous leader’s efforts will fail. Onboard their sister ship, the Empyrean, the unsuspecting families don’t know an attack is being mounted that could claim the most important among them…

Fifteen-year-old Waverly is part of the first generation to be successfully conceived in deep space; she was born on the Empyrean, and the large farming vessel is all she knows. Her concerns are those of any teenagerâ??until Kieran Alden proposes to her. The handsome captain-to-be has everything Waverly could ever want in a husband, and with the pressure to start having children, everyone is sure he’s the best choice. Except for Waverly, who wants more from life than marriageâ??and is secretly intrigued by the shy, darkly brilliant Seth.

But when the Empyrean faces sudden attack by their assumed allies, they quickly find out that the enemies aren’t all from the outside.

First impressions: Heart-pumping action gets things moving right away in this sci-fi space adventure. Waverly’s ship, the Empyrean, comes under attack almost immediately, just as she’s trying to navigate the pressures of her boyfriend Kieran’s proposal.

Lasting impressions: I was disappointed in the black-and-white outlook of this one, with very little gray area explored.

Conflicting impressions: Some of the moral issues Ryan tackles throughout the novel had very little nuance. The religious zealotry and adolescent boy power struggles particularly left me cold.

Overall impressions: There’s something to be said for a book that you already know you’re not enjoying, yet compels you to keep reading it anyway. This was one of those books.

Very early on, I knew I wasn’t connecting with Waverly, and the choices made by almost every single character frustrated me. Yet I kept reading. The action is incredibly well-written, with the pace pushing you page after page, until the next thing you know, you’re halfway through the book. Too bad the entire time I was reading it, I was growing more and more horrified by the ugly and unsympathetic characters.

Kieran is a nice enough boy, but he lacks any real leadership skills, despite being set to inherit the ship from the captain. Seth is set up as an interesting counterpoint in a potential love triangle, but the minute he’s left alone with Kieran the two of them duke it out in an over-the-top power competition where they torture each other. Without any accompanying backstory, we have no other frame from which to analyze their actions, leaving the reader stuck watching two boys do very bad things without any understanding of why they’re doing them.

*very slight spoiler alert!* Over on the New Horizon, Waverly is doing the best she can to take charge of the girls who have all been kidnapped from the Empyrean. *end spoiler* Waverly turns out to be a mostly effective leader, who questions what she is told by the adults around her, and strives to rescue her friends and family that were attacked by the New Horizon’s crew. She meets their captain, Pastor Anne Mather, who is nothing but a shrill old woman who uses religion to control her ship’s passengers.

Pastor Mather could have her own post entirely. She is a villain for whom Ryan creates a sympathetic angle (years of misogyny and abuse by the male elite), yet her actions are so indefensible that I couldn’t possibly side with her. The answer to violence and oppression is never more violence and oppression. This is something Waverly begins to understand while interacting with Mather, and I suspect it will be explored in future books.

Given how much I disliked the experience of reading this pessimistic, depressing tale, I worried I wouldn’t finish it, or would give it one measly star. However, the dramatic action and the fact that I had such visceral reactions to the material made me realize that it was probably just not the book for me. I think there are plenty of people that would eat this one up with the vivid characterizations and interesting plot around the power of religion and fertility in human development, but in my opinion, this one fell flat.

Rating: 2/5 stars

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Today I’m participating in Bookaholic Does Blogging’s Black Dagger Brotherhood Book Club for her BDB Challenge. Every month, in addition to reading one of the series’ books, I’ll be participating in her book club posts, so we can all gab about BDB!

Book: Lover Unbound
Author: J. R. Ward
Publisher: Signet
Release date: September 25, 2007
Source: Bought for Kindle
Series: Black Dagger Brotherhood #5
Summary: (from Goodreads) Ruthless and brilliant, Vishous, son of the Bloodletter, possesses a destructive curse and a frightening ability to see the future. As a pretrans growing up in his father’s war camp he was tormented and abused. As a member of the Brotherhood, he has no interest in love or emotion, only the battle with the Lessening Society. But when a mortal injury puts him in the care of human surgeon, Dr. Jane Whitcomb compels him to reveal his inner pain and taste true pleasure for the first time – until a destiny he didn’t choose takes him into a future that cannot include her.

Questions:
1. On a scale from 1-5, what would you rate this book? Briefly tell us why.

Snooze alert! I gave this one 2 stars because it was so boring I almost couldn’t finish it. I did enjoy getting V’s back story, and I loved seeing John Matthew through his transition, but I found Jane to be completely unsexy and uninteresting. That made it difficult to sustain my interest in V’s love story, and I do kind of wish they’d just made him gay instead of giving him a boyish woman to love. Major bummer.

2. There were a lot of revelations in this book. What did you think of the Scribe Virgin being V’s mom?

I thought it was interesting, but the formula of having the Scribe Virgin solve all of their love problems is getting old. I felt this revelation didn’t add much to V’s story. I don’t know if it just didn’t have enough impact or if I’m not up on the significance, but I found the whole scenario very underwhelming.

3. Sticking to that theme, what did you think of the Scribe Virgin’s request that Vishous become the Primale?

Well, I never believed he would actually become the Primale once Jane came into the picture. That’s not how Ward rolls. If there’s a love interest, then the Brother winds up with her somehow, so I didn’t find much tension in the request to be the Primale. I did like seeing more of the Chosen and their culture, though.

4. Phury stepping up to the plate is nothing new — what did you think of him taking V’s place as the Primale?

I have mixed feelings. It was very noble of him, but it seems more like an escape and an excuse to martyr himself yet again. He felt he was the last, obvious choice, so made the most of it. I can’t fault him for wanting to step up, but I feel bad for him more than anything that he can’t ever really do anything for himself. He’s such a pushover! Will he find true happiness ever? Guess the next book will tell us.

5. Back to the Scribe Virgin — we learned that V has a sister she’s been “hiding” for 303 years. What do you think will become of her? Do you think the Scribe Virgin will — for lack of better terms — let her live again?

I thought that was kind of weird and out of nowhere. I want to know more about the force that told the Scribe Virgin to have a baby, and only one. Why did she go against that? Is that God? Why have two babies and hide one? Hopefully I don’t have to wait for Payne’s book to find out!

6. What happened to Jane was a tragedy. What did you think of the Scribe Virgin bringing her back for V at the cost of her own happiness?

It was a nice effort, but I’m not clear on the rules. She’s a ghost, but she’s corporeal? It seemed like she was able to continue working and carrying on like normal, so it doesn’t seem like much of a tragedy to me.

7. What did you think of Butch’s theory that V thought himself to be in love with Butch because he was the first person V really cared about (until Jane)?

I think there is some truth to that. I also think that’s kind of the definition of love. V obviously loves Butch, and because of that, he’s attracted to Butch. Nothing wrong with that – they just have a different dynamic than that of the other brothers. I liked that Butch was cool with it, but wish he wouldn’t have brushed it off as something other than truly being in love.

Rating: 2/5 stars

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A fan of historical, dystopian, urban fantasy, paranormal romance, mystery, steampunk, and young adult fiction, as well as any book that thinks smartly and imaginatively.

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