Book Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira

Book Review: Love Letters to the Dead by Ava DellairaLove Letters to the Dead by Ava Dellaira
Published by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (BYR) on April 1, 2014
Genres: Contemporary, Young Adult
Pages: 327
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
1 Stars
It begins as an assignment for English class: Write a letter to a dead person.

Laurel chooses Kurt Cobain because her sister, May, loved him. And he died young, just like May. Soon, Laurel has a notebook full of letters to the dead—to people like Janis Joplin, Heath Ledger, Amelia Earhart, and Amy Winehouse—though she never gives a single one of them to her teacher. She writes about starting high school, navigating the choppy waters of new friendships, learning to live with her splintering family, falling in love for the first time, and, most important, trying to grieve for May. But how do you mourn for someone you haven't forgiven?

It's not until Laurel has written the truth about what happened to herself that she can finally accept what happened to May. And only when Laurel has begun to see her sister as the person she was—lovely and amazing and deeply flawed—can she truly start to discover her own path.

In a voice that's as lyrical and as true as a favorite song, Ava Dellaira writes about one girl's journey through life's challenges with a haunting and often heartbreaking beauty.

Book Review:

LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD isn’t my typical sort of book, but I had read a couple of reviews praising it, and I had also checked out the first few letters and thought I might enjoy it. Unfortunately, I didn’t. I couldn’t even bring myself to finish the book, and usually I have to finish books. I made it to page 74 before I said no more.

Here’s why I couldn’t get into the book:

–The idea of the “love letters.” I didn’t really see any point for Laurel to be writing love letters to famous dead people. Yes, it’s a neat idea at first, and probably what attracted a lot of people, myself included, to the book. But 99% of the letters are identical. Laurel starts off with “Dear _____,” then launches into a boring monologue about her day, complete with dialogue and misplaced purple prose descriptions. Most of the time, I forgot I was reading a letter. The epistolary format just didn’t work for me, especially when Laurel educated the dead person about their own life. She actually told Judy Garland and Janis Joplin what their childhoods were like. And the subjects of the letters? I can’t see a lot of teens knowing who many of these people are, such as Mister Ed or River Phoenix.

–Laurel had no personality for me. I didn’t care about her at all, and I couldn’t connect with her. In LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD, she’s just starting high school, but at times, I could have sworn she was 10 because of her innocence and naivety. Laurel is mourning her dead sister, May, but instead of showing us how broken up she is, the author just tells us. I am aware that people mourn in different ways, but I never felt any grief from Laurel.

–Within the 74 pages I read, Laurel smokes, drinks, flashes people, sneaks out, and watches her friends steal alcohol. I’m no prude, and I like when teens exhibit realistic behavior in young adult books, but I thought this was a bit much.

–I had no idea where LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD was going. Usually I get a good sense of where a book is headed, but here, I had no idea, and I like to know the plot’s general direction. I acknowledge that I didn’t finish the book and maybe a better story showed up later, but I shouldn’t have to wait until the middle or end for something to happen. A book needs to keep my interest, and LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD did not.

–The writing. I cannot imagine a freshman writing something like this: “I liked everything about it. I liked waiting in line with everyone. I liked that the girl in front of me had red curls on the back of her head that you could tell she curled herself. And I liked the thin crinkle of the plastic when I opened the wrapper. I liked how every bite made a falling-apart kind of crunch (p. 8).” That quote is about buying a Nutter Butter. A NUTTER BUTTER, people.

LOVE LETTERS TO THE DEAD is a book that just didn’t work for me. I wanted to like it, and I tried to read it, but I could not get into it.

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Ava Dellaira:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Dear Killer by Katherine Ewell

Book Review: Dear Killer by Katherine EwellDear Killer by Katherine Ewell
Published by Katherine Tegen Books on April 1, 2014
Genres: Thriller, Young Adult
Pages: 359
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
1 Stars
Rule One—Nothing is right, nothing is wrong.
Rule Two—Be careful.
Rule Three—Fight using your legs whenever possible, because they’re the strongest part of your body. Your arms are the weakest.
Rule Four—Hit to kill. The first blow should be the last, if at all possible.
Rule Five—The letters are the law.

Kit takes her role as London’s notorious “Perfect Killer” seriously. The letters and cash that come to her via a secret mailbox are not a game; choosing who to kill is not an impulse decision. Every letter she receives begins with “Dear Killer,” and every time Kit murders, she leaves a letter with the dead body. Her moral nihilism and thus her murders are a way of life—the only way of life she has ever known.

But when a letter appears in the mailbox that will have the power to topple Kit’s convictions as perfectly as she commits her murders, she must make a decision: follow the only rules she has ever known, or challenge Rule One, and go from there.

Katherine Ewell’s Dear Killer is a sinister psychological thriller that explores the thin line between good and evil, and the messiness of that inevitable moment when life contradicts everything you believe.

Book Review:

I don’t know where to start with DEAR KILLER. Catchy premise, but poor execution, which is something I’ve been saying about a lot of YA this year. I could have gotten behind this book if it had compelling characters, didn’t have enough plot holes to sink the Titanic, and wasn’t, well, boring. There were so many times I wanted to put this book down, because I got tired of Kit’s monologues on how great and smart and powerful she was when she was anything but.

Kit’s a seventeen-year-old high school student who kills in her spare time, fulfilling the wishes of cowards who want someone to die but can’t do it themselves. When I learned how Kit got these requests — letters left in the bathroom of a cafe — I knew it was going to be downhill from there. Kit’s moniker is “The Perfect Killer.” She’s known as such because she never leaves behind any evidence and gives the police nothing to go on but the letters. The mailbox is a legend, but the police don’t know about it? No one’s talked after fifty plus murders? Does not compute. And then when “The Perfect Killer” said black carpet wouldn’t help the police, because they wouldn’t see bloodstains … uhm, I think everyone in the world has heard of Luminol. Thank you, CSI and Forensic Files.

Kit’s mother was more interesting for me than Kit, since she’s the one who groomed Kit to kill. Kit’s mum was a murderer too, but apparently the police investigating her were more competent, and might have caught her if she didn’t stop. So she trained her little girl to murder indiscriminately so she could live through Kit. DEAR KILLER tries to tackle moral nihilism, but honestly, I don’t really get it, unless being a moral nihilist means you get your rocks off killing people. I don’t think the author was talented enough to get into philosophy.

There’s lots of bad I’m not mentioning. Lots and lots of it. I plodded through until the end, hoping something would be redeeming, but no. The ending just left me super confused, and regretful I spent time finishing DEAR KILLER.

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Katherine Ewell:
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– leeanna

Book Review: I, Morgana by Felicity Pulman

Book Review: I, Morgana by Felicity PulmanI, Morgana by Felicity Pulman
Published by Momentum Books on June 26, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Mythology
Pages: 174
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
1 Stars
You know my name, but you don’t know my story …

After being schooled in magic by Merlin and promised a kingdom, Morgana is robbed of her birthright and betrayed by everyone she has ever trusted. Risking everything for revenge, Morgana uses her magical arts to trap Merlin, threaten her half-brother King Arthur, and turn away the only man she will ever love. In destroying King Arthur and Camelot, Morgana sets into motion a catastrophe that can only be reversed if she can learn from the past in time to protect our future … and so fulfill an ancient prophecy.

In the tradition of The Mists of Avalon comes a new story of Morgan le Fay, one of the most enigmatic and reviled characters in Arthurian legend.

Book Review:

When I read the summary for I, MORGANA, I swooned. Just a little bit. I’m always on the lookout for books about or featuring Morgana, as I tend to like a nicely evil sorceress. Morgana tends to get a bad rap, so reading her story, in her words? I couldn’t wait to start the book.

Unfortunately, Felicity Pulman’s attempt at reinventing Morgana didn’t work for me. I almost put it down several times, and I wish I had given up on reading it, because I honestly can’t remember much of it. The book just didn’t make an impression and didn’t add anything to Morgana’s story for me.

To start off with, it’s very difficult to keep track of time in this book. I didn’t know whether a day, a month, or a year had gone by between some passages, and that’s something that always throws me off when reading. That goes along with the extreme amount of telling. Morgana tells so freaking much of her story rather than showing us pivotal events as they take place. This book is less than 200 pages, but I felt like I plodded through a 400 page book.

So much of what happens in I, MORGANA is repetition. Here’s the pattern:

1. Morgana gets mad.
2. Morgana plans revenge.
3. Morgana feels bad about what happens, but it’s too late to change her plan.

This probably happened ten times, if not more. Morgana barely grows as a character, and never learns from her mistakes. I really disliked her because of this, and because she would feel sooooo bad every time one of her poorly thought out plans created more problems.

Now, even if I dislike the main character, that doesn’t keep me from liking the book … if there’s something for me to like. But I, MORGANA just confused me in every way possible. The author had some “Otherworld” concept, but never actually explained it. The Otherworld was pretty important at the end, so I didn’t get the ending.

I really wanted to like I, MORGANA, but the execution of the story and Morgana’s character just didn’t work for me.

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Felicity Pulman:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Death Sworn (Death Sworn #1) by Leah Cypess

Book Review: Death Sworn (Death Sworn #1) by Leah CypessDeath Sworn by Leah Cypess
Series: Death Sworn #1
Published by Greenwillow Books on March 4, 2014
Genres: Fantasy, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 352
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
1 Stars
When Ileni lost her magic, she lost everything: her place in society, her purpose in life, and the man she had expected to spend her life with. So when the Elders sent her to be magic tutor to a secret sect of assassins, she went willingly, even though the last two tutors had died under mysterious circumstances.

But beneath the assassins’ caves, Ileni will discover a new place and a new purpose… and a new and dangerous love. She will struggle to keep her lost magic a secret while teaching it to her deadly students, and to find out what happened to the two tutors who preceded her. But what she discovers will change not only her future, but the future of her people, the assassins… and possibly the entire world.

Book Review:

Dear DEATH SWORN,

I wanted to love you. I really did. You have some of my favorite things, including assassins and mages. But when it took me a couple of tries to read the first chapter, and then sheer determination to keep reading the rest of you, I knew we weren’t going to work out.

DEATH SWORN, when it comes down to it, you were, well, boring.

I can’t remember very much about you, and it’s only been a few days since I finally finished you. I feel like you are set up for the rest of the series, but you didn’t even accomplish much set up. For example, I don’t know very much about the world Ileni lives in. I needed to know more about that world to understand why the assassins operate. Just telling me that the guys in power are evil isn’t good enough. I need good worldbuilding in my fantasy reading, and basically all I know is the assassins live in a gigantic cave system.

Ileni losing her powers was a neat twist. I’ll give you that. I also liked your magic system, DEATH SWORN, because it sounds like the magic took a lot of focus and study, not just snap your fingers or shake a wand.

But when Ileni started having feelings for Sorin, I lost any liking I had for her. I don’t really know why either of them liked each other. Sorin is an assassin who survived his first mission and is waiting eagerly for another chance to prove himself. He believes in the assassins’ purpose, where Ileni thinks killing for any reason is super bad. I could have understood a friendship, because they did seem to be heading that way, but kissing and looooove? Sorry DEATH SWORN, but I’m critical of relationships, and I didn’t get this one.

DEATH SWORN, you just didn’t live up to your potential. You didn’t grab my attention or captivate me enough for me to want to continue your series.

Socialize with the author:

Leah Cypess:
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– leeanna

Book Review: The Herald (The Sundering #6) by Ed Greenwood

Book Review: The Herald (The Sundering #6) by Ed GreenwoodThe Herald by Ed Greenwood
Series: Forgotten Realms, The Sundering
Published by Wizards of the Coast on June 3, 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 336
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
1 Stars
In the 6th and final book of the multi-author Sundering series launched by New York Times best-selling author R.A. Salvatore, Ed Greenwood, the creator of the Forgotten Realms®, further chronicles the exploits of Elminster as he fights for the future of Faerûn.

Chaos grips Faerûn as vainglory, prophecy, and ancient forces comingle in the shadows cast by war. Agents of the Shadovar lurk in the corners of Candlekeep in search of the arcane secrets that will power their war machine toward Myth Drannor. Gods and their Chosen run amok, all in a gambit to seize power. And a threat foretold by an ancient seer stirs.

At the heart of it all, Mystra, the great Goddess of Magic, has withdrawn from the world. Without her protection, Elminster, her greatest champion, fears for the nascent Weave, the fabric of magic Mystra wields to bind Faerûn. Will the Nightseer Shar, mistress of the great and fearsome Shadovar, seize the opportunity to blanket the world with her Shadow Weave?

With the help of Storm Silverhand and his protégé Amarune, Elminster works frantically to strengthen the Weave’s tethers and forestall what seems an inevitable reckoning. But other interests machinate for their own sinister ends.

As the Sundering draws nigh, Elminster and his heroic cohort must see the signs for what they are. The choice of worlds lies in the balance.

Book Review:

THE HERALD is the sixth and final book in The Sundering series. The books are very loosely connected, and follow heroes and Chosen as they navigate the effects of the Sundering upon their lives. I’ve enjoyed most of the books in the series, but unfortunately, THE HERALD just didn’t work for me as well as previous books did.

THE HERALD assumes familiarity with Ed Greenwood’s other novels in the Realms. This is the first time I’ve read one of his books, so I didn’t know who most of the characters were. Yes, I know there’s a lot of books about Elminster, and I’d heard of him. But I didn’t know many of the others that pop up in this book, including Mirt, Manshoon, and the Srinshee. I wish more background had been provided on all the characters, because I had to resort to Googling the ones I named and others to find out who they were and why they were important.

The writing was somewhat difficult to get through. There was a lot of point of view switching — first Elminster, then Amarune, then a random Shade, then Elminster again, etc. I wish the narration had been more consistent, sticking with the same character whenever possible. The switches were also difficult to keep track of because the author constantly referred to characters without calling them by name. For example, Elminster was El, then the Old Mage, then the wizard, etc. Add in nicknames, and it was hard to remember who was who.

Lastly, I feel like things just didn’t come together. The Shadovar were trying to destroy the Weave at Shar’s direction, Elminster was trying to save it, but then there was a lich and other stuff … I’m just not sure all of what happened, to be honest. I had to force myself to keep reading, and I did because I wanted to know how the series would end, but it was a hard read. I wish there had been more about the Sundering, and an ending that didn’t leave me scratching my head wondering what the outcome was.

– leeanna

Book Review: The Sentinel (The Sundering #5) by Troy Denning

Book Review: The Sentinel (The Sundering #5) by Troy DenningThe Sentinel by Troy Denning
Series: Forgotten Realms, The Sundering
Published by Wizards of the Coast on April 1, 2014
Genres: Fantasy
Pages: 304
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
1 Stars
In the fifth book of the multi-author Sundering series, New York Times best-selling author Troy Denning sends an embittered paladin, Kleef Kenric, on a quest to stop evil forces from taking advantage of the chaos rolling across the land of Faerûn and claiming dominion over the entirety of the Realms.

Stubbornly clinging to his family’s worship of a long-forgotten god, Kleef Kenric soon discovers that his god has blessed him with divine gifts, making him one of a new group of Chosen cropping up around the Realms. This divine gift makes him an excellent ally—and a target for those who wish corral his powers.

After battling his way out Marsember, a city besieged on all sides in the wake of the Sundering, he becomes swept up in the mission of a group of odd allies—a warrior noblewoman, an accomplished thief, and a mysterious short pudgy man exuding a faint odor of decay. With the forces of Shade tracking their every step, they travel to the Underdark to thwart the rise of the goddess of Death, but before long Kleef learns that his allies hide dangerous secrets—secrets that could destroy not only Kleef but the very fabric of the Forgotten Realms.

Book Review:

I’ve enjoyed the first four books of The Sundering series: THE COMPANIONS (R.A. Salvatore), THE GODBORN (Paul S. Kemp), THE ADVERSARY (Erin M. Evans), and THE REAVER (Richard Lee Byers). But number five, THE SENTINEL, just didn’t have the same shine for me as the previous books.

Kleef, a topsword in the Marsember Watch in Cormyr, rescues Joelle and Malik from the Shadovar. Joelle and Malik are Chosen, on a mission to save Toril from Shar by using the Eye of Gruumsh. Along with Arietta, a noble of Cormyr, they fight across Faerûn, on the run from the Shadovar and legions of orcs. Along the way, attempts to trust each other are stalled by back stabbing, and no one is sure of anyone’s true intentions.

I’m having a hard time reviewing THE SENTINEL because it’s hard to say much about it. It seemed like I was reading a D&D game put into book format rather than a book about the Sundering. I didn’t come to care about any of the characters, the action scenes were snooze fests, and the story as a whole? I’m not sure what I read, to be honest. The ending left me confused, and I wish I’d given up on this book when it took me four tries to start it.

– leeanna

Book Review: Bracelet of Bones (Viking Sagas #1) by Kevin Crossley-Holland

Book Review: Bracelet of Bones (Viking Sagas #1) by Kevin Crossley-HollandBracelet of Bones by Kevin Crossley-Holland
Series: Viking Sagas #1
Published by Quercus Books on March 11, 2014
Genres: Adventure, Historical Fiction, Middle Grade
Pages: 256
Format: eARC
Source: Edelweiss
Goodreads
1 Stars
It is 1036. Halfdan is a Viking mercenary who is determined to travel to Constantinople and become one of the Viking Guard serving Empress Zoe. He promises to take his daughter, but one morning Solveig wakes up to find him gone. Setting off in her own tiny boat, she is determined to make the journey from Norway to the breathtaking city. Her boat is washed up, but Solveig is undeterred. What awaits Solveig as she continues on her summer journey across the world? She finds passage with Viking traders, witnesses the immolation of a young slave girl and learns to fight. She sees the clashes between those who praise her Norse Gods and the new Christians. In this perilous and exciting world, a young girl alone could be quickly endangered or made a slave. Will Solveig live to see her father again, and if she survives, will she remain free? A glittering novel that explores friendship and betrayal, the father-daughter relationship, the clash of religions and the journey from childhood to adulthood.

Book Review:

From the summary, BRACELET OF BONES sounds awesome. After being left behind by her father, fourteen-year-old Solveig travels from Norway to Miklagard (Constantinople) by herself. For a girl who has never gone to the local market by herself, the prospect of such a journey is overwhelming, but Solveig loves her father and wants to be with him.

The author takes something that should be super exciting — Solveig’s journey — and makes it super boring. BRACELET OF BONES is for grades 5 and up, but I can’t see younger readers sticking with this book because there’s just not a lot happening! My younger self might have finished it, but that’s only because I’ve always had a thing about finishing books.

This book is the start of a series, which wasn’t something I realized until I finished it and saw the preview for book two. So BRACELET OF BONES is the story of Solveig’s journey from Norway to Miklagard, and only that journey. It’s somewhat repetitive, and I just feel like nothing happened. Solveig took a boat ride. Solveig took another boat ride. Solveig took a third boat ride.

I think some of my apathy for the book was due to the writing style and Solveig herself. The writing is pretty simple, which is okay because it’s a middle grade book and aimed towards younger readers. But I lost count of the “Solveig thought this” or “Solveig thought that” type of sentences, or the times she exclaimed or whispered or cried … she never just said anything. Call me overly picky, but that sort of writing pulls me out of a story. And Solveig … I never connected with her. I felt like I was watching the events of the book rather than being with her on her journey.

I wanted to like BRACELET OF BONES. I mean, Vikings? A Viking girl going on a grand adventure? That should be right up my alley. Unfortunately, this book just wasn’t for me.

Socialize with the author:

Kevin Crossley-Holland:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Branded (Sinners #1) by Abi Ketner & Missy Kalicicki

Book Review: Branded (Sinners #1) by Abi Ketner & Missy KalicickiBranded by Abi Ketner, Missy Kalicicki
Series: Sinners #1
Published by Self-Published on June 28, 2013
Genres: Dystopian, Romance, Young Adult
Pages: 252
Format: eARC
Source: NetGalley
Goodreads
1 Stars
Fifty years ago the Commander came into power and murdered all who opposed him. In his warped mind, the seven deadly sins were the downfall of society. He created the Hole where sinners are branded according to their sins and might survive a few years. At best.

Now LUST wraps around my neck like blue fingers strangling me. I’ve been accused of a crime I didn’t commit and now the Hole is my new home.

Darkness. Death. Violence. Pain.

Now every day is a fight for survival. But I won’t die. I won’t let them win.

The Hole can’t keep me. The Hole can’t break me.

I am more than my brand. I’m a fighter.

My name is Lexi Hamilton, and this is my story.

Book Review:

BRANDED has an interesting premise, but poor execution. I was excited to start it, but once I got a few chapters into the book, I had to make myself keep reading. I was hoping the book would pick up near the end, but overall, it just didn’t work for me.

In Lexi’s world, people can be accused of one of the seven deadly sins. Just the accusation is enough — there are no trials or chances to proclaim your innocence. Then you’re branded with the color of your sin (blue in Lexi’s case, for lust), and sent to the Hole. Once in the Hole, your life is basically over: you’re stuck there, in a dirty, stinking, guarded town, and forced to work until you’re too old to be useful.

Cole is assigned to guard Lexi and escort her to and from the hospital where she’ll work. Relationships between guards and sinners are strictly forbidden, and in her first days in the Hole, Lexi sees a sinner and guard punished and executed for committing that crime.

But of course, Lexi and Cole fall in love, and that’s the big problem I had with BRANDED. I just did not believe in their relationship. It happened way too fast, and the authors told me they in love instead of showing me. Okay, I have to admit that I can see Lexi coming to care for Cole, because he goes out of his way to protect and keep her alive. But I do not see WHY Cole risked his life for her when he barely knew her. I learned almost nothing about Cole, other than that he’s a pushover when it comes to Lexi. For a guard, he was pretty wimpy.

The middle of BRANDED was boring. There were literally paragraphs like this: “Monday. Paint my room. Miss Cole. Tuesday: Train. Miss Cole.” Things like that should have been replaced by scenes of training or painting, etc. The end is packed with action, but again, I just couldn’t believe it. There’s a big reveal about who the villain is, and I cannot believe Lexi didn’t know who he was. Or that anyone else didn’t know who he was.

Lastly, although the world the authors created was interesting to me, I had so many unanswered questions. Why did Lexi get special treatment (Cole as a guard)? How are the denizens of the Hole getting access to weapons and bombs? Why is there even a hospital if it’s obvious no one cares what happens to the sinners? Etc.

Zeus, Cole’s dog, was the one bright point for me. He was probably the character I liked the most, because he was consistent. He didn’t undergo a massive change from one page to the next, like Lexi and Cole’s “relationship.”

About the authors:

branded authorsAbi and Missy met in the summer of 1999 at college orientation and have been best friends ever since. After college, they added jobs, husbands and kids to their lives, but they still found time for their friendship. Instead of hanging out on weekends, they went to dinner once a month and reviewed books. What started out as an enjoyable hobby has now become an incredible adventure.
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– leeanna

Book Review: Arclight (Arclight #1) by Josin L. McQuein

Book Review: Arclight (Arclight #1) by Josin L. McQueinArclight by Josin L. McQuein
Series: Arclight #1
Published by Greenwillow Books on April 23, 2013
Genres: Dystopian, Post-Apocalyptic, Science Fiction, Young Adult
Pages: 400
Format: ARC
Source: Amazon Vine
Goodreads
1 Stars
No one crosses the wall of light . . . except for one girl who doesn’t remember who she is, where she came from, or how she survived. A harrowing, powerful debut thriller about finding yourself and protecting your future—no matter how short and uncertain it may be.

The Arclight is the last defense. The Fade can’t get in. Outside the Arclight’s border of high-powered beams is the Dark. And between the Light and the Dark is the Grey, a narrow, barren no-man’s-land. That’s where the rescue team finds Marina, a lone teenage girl with no memory of the horrors she faced or the family she lost. Marina is the only person who has ever survived an encounter with the Fade. She’s the first hope humanity has had in generations, but she could also be the catalyst for their final destruction. Because the Fade will stop at nothing to get her back. Marina knows it. Tobin, who’s determined to take his revenge on the Fade, knows it. Anne-Marie, who just wishes it were all over, knows it.

When one of the Fade infiltrates the Arclight and Marina recognizes it, she will begin to unlock secrets she didn’t even know she had. Who will Marina become? Who can she never be again?

Book Review:

The first time I tried to read ARCLIGHT, I got about 100 pages in before setting it down for a month. The second time I managed to finish ARCLIGHT, but I had to make myself keep reading. I wanted to like the book. I really did. But when I kept getting distracted by bad reality TV instead of getting sucked into the book, it wasn’t a good sign.

ARCLIGHT is based off a cool idea. Humans have nearly been eradicated, wiped out by the Fade. The only safe place left is the Arclight, where the remnants of civilization live, protected by massive lights that create a barrier against the Fade and the Dark. Light is the only thing that can hurt the Fade. Found outside, Marina is the first evidence that there are humans left, other than the ones in the Arclight. But Marina doesn’t remember *anything* about where she came from, her past, or even who she is.

I’ll admit it: I was confused the majority of the time while reading ARCLIGHT. I had no idea why the Fade were so scary, or even a good mental picture of what they looked like. The book is from Marina’s point of view, which added to my confusion because Marina spends a lot of time lost and confused. I ended up skimming whole pages because there was nothing but her thoughts. And then there just didn’t seem to be much of a story.

I also didn’t have any sense of urgency or danger while reading. When the Fade breach the Arclight, I never felt like the characters were in danger of being attacked or really harmed. There’s a scene where Marina BURNS Fade poison from a guy’s back, but it was like reading a grocery list. I had that feeling about Marina in general. I never connected with or cared about her. Because ARCLIGHT is driven by Marina’s discoveries about who she is, finding her so dull just made the book even more boring for me.

As I said above, I did push through to the end of ARCLIGHT on my second attempt reading it. Sometimes an ending can redeem an otherwise meh book, but in this case, it didn’t. The big reveals were pretty easy to guess, and I kept putting the book down when I had only pages left.

Socialize with the author:

Josin L. McQuein:
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– leeanna

Book Review: Wasteland by Susan Kim & Laurence Klavan

wastelandInfo:
Title: Wasteland
Author: Susan Kim & Laurence Klavan
Release Date: March 26, 2013
Publisher: HarperTeen
Source: Amazon Vine
Series? Wasteland Trilogy #1
Genre: YA, Post-Apocalyptic
Page Count: 352
Rating: [1/5 stars]

Summary:

Welcome to the Wasteland. Where all the adults are long gone, and now no one lives past the age of nineteen. Susan Kim and Laurence Klavan’s post-apocalyptic debut is the first of a trilogy in which everyone is forced to live under the looming threat of rampant disease and brutal attacks by the Variants —- hermaphroditic outcasts that live on the outskirts of Prin. Esther thinks there’s more to life than toiling at harvesting, gleaning, and excavating, day after day under the relentless sun, just hoping to make it to the next day. But then Caleb, a mysterious stranger, arrives in town, and Esther begins to question who she can trust. As shady pasts unravel into the present and new romances develop, Caleb and Esther realize that they must team together to fight for their lives and for the freedom of Prin. (summary from goodreads)

My Review:
I don’t like to start a review out by being negative, but I just don’t have very many good things to say about WASTELAND. If I hadn’t been reading it to review, I probably would not have finished the book. Well, there is one plus — WASTELAND is a fast read.

WASTELANDis supposed to be a post-apocalyptic thrill ride. And I thought the idea was very cool and appropriately dark: A world where no one over 19 lives. A world where there are hermaphroditic “variants” who pick what sex they want to be. A world where kids scavenge for supplies amongst the wreckage of … something.

Yeah, something. There was almost no world-building in WASTELAND, which is probably my biggest complaint with the book. When an author creates a world where basic survival is a struggle, they need to explain, or at least give some clues as to what happened to create that world. I had a long list of questions by the end of the book; one other reason I kept reading was to see if any of them would be answered. Nope.

Some of my questions:
–What caused the harsh living conditions (extreme heat, no safe water sources, etc.)?
–Why does everyone die at the age of 19? A mysterious plague is mentioned, but there are no other details.
–Who taught Sarah to read? If it was her and Esther’s parents, what happened to them?
–What was the point of making the variants hermaphrodites? Their origin wasn’t explained, so it felt more like a gimmick than anything serious.
–If kids mate at 14-15, have their own kids at a year or two later, and then die at 19, who takes care of the children?

And so on.

Esther, the main character, was so-so. I finished the book a few days ago and honestly don’t remember much about her. She doesn’t fit in with the rest of the denizens of Prin. Instead of doing her assigned job, she prefers to buck the rules and play with her variant friend on the outskirts of town. She’s irresponsible and doesn’t know how to take care of herself, not even how to make the simple flatbread that people live on. I did like that she realized she couldn’t take care of herself.

She grows a little over the course of the book, most notably when Caleb comes to town. Inevitably, a romance springs up between them, one I had an impossible time believing. Days after meeting, they’re ready to mate. I do have to give the authors credit for trying to include some sex in a YA book, since so often that’s glossed over or ignored, but … the descriptions of it were so clinical, without any real passion. The descriptions of kissing were just as bad.

One more thing. WASTELAND is written in third person point of view, but has a serious case of head-jumping. Sometimes I wasn’t sure which character’s perspective I was reading, which didn’t make for an easy flowing book. There was even a scene from a character that didn’t have a name, just “the boy.”

WASTELAND is the first book in a trilogy. One last good point for the book is that it doesn’t end on a cliffhanger. The story is resolved, and I’m not sure where the authors would take it in two more books. I doubt I will be back to find out, because of how disappointed I was with my read of WASTELAND. There are much better post-apocalyptic thrillers out there.

– leeanna