Tuesday, 29 December 2015

The Time Stopper & The Thought Readers by Dima Zales



THE STORY:

I can stop time, but I can’t change anything.
I can access memories, but not far enough.
My name is Mira, and my life is about finding the Russian mobster who killed my family. 


MY THOUGHTS:


I really enjoyed Mira as a POV character. I felt she was strong but was able to show vulnerability at the same time and it was a credit to Zales for being able to condense such a full impact story line into so few words. Mira is so different to the heroines that usually crop up in YA or NA books and I'm so glad for it. She's tough and crude and sexually free and I love that about her. I’m a huge fan of the mind reading genre and the concept of the thought dimension was a new one that I hadn’t come across before. Zales’ writing was engaging and very easy to read and I enjoyed the inclusion of Russian phrases and words to give the novella a more authentic feel.  

THE RATING:

5/5





THE STORY:

Everyone thinks I’m a genius. 

Everyone is wrong. 


Sure, I finished Harvard at eighteen and now make crazy money at a hedge fund. But that’s not because I’m unusually smart or hard-working. 


It’s because I cheat. 


You see, I have a unique ability. I can go outside time into my own personal version of reality—the place I call “the Quiet”—where I can explore my surroundings while the rest of the world stands still.

I thought I was the only one who could do this—until I met her.

My name is Darren, and this is how I became entangled with all the Russians and learned that I’m a Reader.


MY THOUGHTS:

After reading the prequel novella, The Time Stopper, I was looking forward to continuing the journey in The Thought Readers. The Thought Readers is told in the POV of Darren rather than Mira and starts off in the middle of the poker game in much the same fashion as the novella.
                This series has a unique concept in the mind reading genre that was executed very well. I enjoyed the initial insights into the thoughts of the secondary characters, though towards the end I felt there could have been less random mind reading and more concentration on building character relationships. As Darren mentions throughout the novel, it would have been nice to not be effectively told through mind reading what a character was thinking all the time. The idea behind the mind dimension was well crafted and I took it on face value. There was enough world building to make the concept plausible without spending too much time dragging down the plot.
Despite both The Time Stopper and The Thought Readers  being told in first person, Darren had his own distinct voice which I thought was well done because in a lot of books I’ve read with dual POVs, they all  tend to sound the same. I didn’t mind Darren as a POV character, mostly because of the great writing, but  as a human being I’m not sure we could be friends. Because of his abilities everything in life seemed to come so easily for him and I found myself at times feeling like he was a bit clinical in his reactions to some of the events in the plot. I’m hoping this is a deliberate move on the part of the author and that Darren’s perspective changes as the series goes on.
If I had one issue with The Thought Readers it was the insta-lust/love. I’m not a fan of this trope in any context and was a little disappointed when I came across it, especially given that I liked Mira a lot less in this novel than in her POV novella. Overall though, I really enjoyed the first installment in this series and will look forward to reading the rest and seeing how everything develops.

THE RATING:

4/5

Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Review: Transparent by Natalie Whipple


THE STORY:

High school is hard when you're invisible.

Fiona McClean hates her family, has had to move to a new school and seems to be completely invisible to the boy she likes. So far so normal, right? But Fiona really is invisible. She doesn't even know what colour her own hair is.

Born into a world where Cold War anti-radiation pills have caused genetic mutations, Fiona is forced to work for her mind-controlling mobster father as the world's most effective thief. When her father announces she must become a murdering assassin, Fiona and her telekinetic mother make a break for freedom. Running to a small Arizonian town, Fiona finds that playing at 'normal life' with a mother on the edge, a brother she can't trust, and a boy who drives her crazy is as impossible as escaping her father.


MY THOUGHTS:

This book has been described as X-Men crossed with the Godfather and though it didn’t really live up to either of those comparisons, the plot and voice were enough to keep me entertained.
        Transparent follows Fiona O’Connell, the invisible girl, as she attempts to escape from her father’s crime syndicate.  In Fiona’s world, everyone is born with some kind of mutation as a result of radiation suppressant medication tested during the second World War. Most people have small mutations that might change the pigment of their skin or their hair colour but Fiona and her mother, a telekinetic, are rare. Fiona’s father has the ability to charm everyone around him using his pheromones and his empire has been built around a power enhancing drug called Radiasure. When Fiona’s father asks her to use her invisibility to become an assassin her mother decides they need to get out.
         What follows is your typical teen high school drama with super powers involved. I have to admit, I did hope for a bit more involvement from the syndicate but they were mostly an off page threat. That wasn’t to say I didn’t enjoy the teen drama. It wasn’t full of mean girls and popularity contests which was nice and a few unique superpowers were introduced. I thought the pacing was great and the events that led to the resolution were clever. Transparent delved into the nuances of what it would be like to live completely invisible all the time and I felt it did this really well through Fiona.
        Character wise, Fiona is the kind of heroine I wish I could write even though I thought she was a bit weak willed at times. That’s the point really. Fiona starts off as a sheltered girl trying to survive on her own and towards the end she evolves into a character with agency. I would have liked her to have a bit more spunk but that’s more my personal preference than a comment on the character development. Though I do have to say that the way she was treated by her older brother Graham seemed to be treated as no big deal which I found very strange. I wished Fiona would grow a spine and just knock him out. I found the secondary characters to be okay but not necessarily memorable. They were all very “greeting card” nice and so quick to trust and accept Fiona that I was skeptical the whole way through. The romance was a bit predictable but I’m not a big sucker for romance anyway so it was fine with me.
       Overall I really enjoyed Transparent. It’s definitely a book I would recommend to those who like super powers. Just remember that it’s mutant-lite and not full on comic book superheroes.


THE RATING:

4/5

Tuesday, 8 December 2015

Review: Dash and Lily's Book of Dares


THE STORY:

“I’ve left some clues for you.
If you want them, turn the page.
If you don’t, put the book back on the shelf, please.”

So begins the latest whirlwind romance from the bestselling authors of Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist. Lily has left a red notebook full of challenges on a favorite bookstore shelf, waiting for just the right guy to come along and accept its dares. But is Dash that right guy? Or are Dash and Lily only destined to trade dares, dreams, and desires in the notebook they pass back and forth at locations across New York? Could their in-person selves possibly connect as well as their notebook versions? Or will they be a comic mismatch of disastrous proportions?

Rachel Cohn and David Levithan have written a love story that will have readers perusing bookstore shelves, looking and longing for a love (and a red notebook) of their own.


MY THOUGHTS:

I’ve been meaning to read this book for years now ever since  I found out it’s set over the Christmas and New Year period. I finally got around to it this year and I have to say that although I enjoyed it, it wasn’t the whimsical story I had hoped it was going to be.
                The idea of falling in love through letters shared in a notebook left at a book store during Christmas is completely brilliant. I loved the inception of the notebook and how it wasn’t even Lily who started it but her brother trying to get her out of the way during the holiday season. The dual perspective of the narrative was great because we got an insight into the mindset of both characters and it was fun to see how they would interpret each other’s messages.
                What really let the story down for me were the characters themselves. Neither Dash nor Lily really grabbed me and to be honest, I didn’t feel any connection with them. I’m not sure if I just expect young adults to act a certain way but I just couldn’t get on board with the notion that a teenage boy would ever refer to himself as “persnickety.” I’m sure the authors were just trying to illustrate how intelligent and sensitive Dash was but I found him to be a little condescending and quite frankly a bit boring. I love books too but there was no need for his disinterest in just about everything to prove that he preferred his own company to that of others.
                I started off liking Lily well enough until the incident that caused her and Dash to first meet in real life and then it dawned on me that she was essentially a caricature of what a sheltered, spoiled child really is. Everyone around her protects and loves her and she’s never faced any real adversity in her life. The day after the incident she’s sorry but doesn’t take any action to make amends and she certainly doesn’t face any consequences.
                In fact, everything about this story felt easy. Even Dash’s encounters with his ex-girlfriend barely caused any friction. The characters decipher their respective clues so quickly and all the little ripples in their relationship were barely obstacles to overcome. Things were resolved rather conveniently with said characters relying on the good graces of their friends or relatives who just so happened to be celebrities or employees at all the right places.
                I didn’t go into this book with many expectations and if I just try and take it at face value it’s a good, light read. It didn’t blow me away but I didn’t hate it at the same time and if nothing else it’s put me in a Christmassy mood.

THE RATING:

3/5


Saturday, 5 December 2015

Review: Floating Upstream by Jo Vraca



THE STORY:

Julia Marconi has a simple dream—to get out of Goldburne, the stinking hot town in rural Australia, where she’s followed the rules her whole life. She dreams of adventures far away from her violent father whose only goal is to maintain his old world values in changing times. Julia longs for true love rather than the match “made” for her years ago.
Super spunk Robbie Ventura and the arrival of the Carnival add unseen complications to her life, just as she’s ready to settle in and stay out of trouble. It’s all so tantalising. Just a taste here and there won’t hurt. After all, she’s an excellent liar. So with her brother’s motto, “Don’t get caught,” stuck in her head, Julia tries to survive her senior year of high school. All she has to do is spend the last year of the 70s with her head afloat, despite the currents dragging her away from her goals.
But the town of Goldburne and her father have eyes and ears everywhere, and her parents’ plans for Julia don’t involve starting the new decade and new life in the city. A secret that spans three generations and a war could mean Julia ends up like Maria Gervase —knocked up and married by 18.


MY THOUGHTS:


I’m finding it really difficult to put into words all of the things this story made me feel. And there were so many mixed feelings that Floating Upstream managed to evoke from the whole emotional spectrum. I thought the writing was quite serene and tied in really well with the title and theme of the river and the water being the place where Julia took refuge. The plot is quite slow but I feel like this was almost a reflection of the small country town lifestyle. Vraca paints an incredibly vivid picture of the monotony but also the tranquillity of Goldburne and as the story progresses the town itself almost becomes a character of its own.
                The characters in Floating Upstream were well fleshed out and very imperfect which I found frustrating but also understood to be true to life. The story dealt with a number of social issues like violence and sexual freedom and as it was set in the 1970s, I had to keep reminding myself that the reaction I had to the behaviour of some of the characters was unreasonable for the social context of the book. I enjoyed Julia as the POV character and really felt for her trying to break free from her parent’s traditional values. In another time Julia could really have been a wild child but the expectations of her family and also the people of the town really weighed heavily on her. I liked that Julia made a lot of mistakes and she paid the dearly for some of them which doesn’t often happen in other contemporary novels. My only issue with Julia was that the only times I really felt as though she had agency was when she was going to meet Robbie for a late night encounter. Most of the rest of the time she would often think and say things but when it came down to it she didn’t really push the boundaries. This was most evident when she tried to ignore the arranged marriage her parents had set up for her and during those times when her father was violent and it almost seemed like she was having an out of body experience throughout when I would have liked for her to stick up for herself. Again though, this is probably my own perception being clouded by today’s standards.
           Most of the other characters are well fleshed out and I enjoyed reading about them, although I wasn’t a huge fan of Robbie as the love interest and couldn’t really understand his appeal. Even if he was attractive, I just couldn’t get on board with the fact that they had literally no contact for months on end and he didn’t even have the decency to write to Julia even though she practically begged him to. Even if I discount the many double standards in their relationship, they just didn’t seem to have much in common and it felt to me like Julia was just someone Robbie was using to pass the time.
                Overall, Floating Upstream was a really engaging read for me. I was invested in Julia’s struggle and loved the great description of the town and the slow paced lifestyle. If you’re looking for a great Australian read, why not give this a try?


THE RATING:

5/5

Wednesday, 2 December 2015

Insecure Writer's Support Group: Coming down from the NaNoWriMo High

Insecure Writer's Support Group is a blog hop hosted by Alex J. Cavanaugh where totally insecure writers can get together and share the things that are making us go argh!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
       I participated in NaNoWriMo last month and was writing book 3 in my Wind Dancer series. I managed to win on day 11. One of the good things about having written the first book in a series is that you’ve already established the rules of your world and the subsequent installments can just get on with the story. I think this is what helped me write so much so quickly…until it all fell apart at approximately day 17.
       I’m a plotter and I thought I had it all worked out before I started writing but it turns out the story completely ran away with me and much of it will have to be scrapped. Which would be fine except that I am one of those writers who hates editing. I could write another 50,000 word story no problems but any kind of editing makes me want to curl up into a ball in the corner. But it has to be done and I don’t want this book to take another four years to write like the last one did.  I have so many loose ends to tie up and my biggest fear is ending it all without a satisfactory resolution.So this month and the next, despite it being the festive season, I will be doing the thing I hate most and kind of loving the process anyway. If you participated in NaNoWrimo what are your plans for your novel? How is everyone else's writing going?
 

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