Monday, August 30, 2010

Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins

WARNING: For those who haven’t read The Hunger Games or Catching Fire, there are spoilers in this review.


Mockingjay is the third and final book in "The Hunger Games" trilogy by Suzanne Collins. It was published in 2010 (last Tuesday, actually) and is 390 pages long, for those who care to keep track.


Katniss Everdeen has survived her second run in the Hunger Games and now her world has exploded. Literally. Her home, District 12, has been destroyed. Her best friend, Gale, and her family have luckily escaped, but Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist, and a revolution has been set in motion. Now Katniss must decide whether or not to fulfill the role that she was designed to play in it: The Mockingjay. The symbol of the rebellion, with the power to decide the fate of Panem. Will she rise to the responsibility, at her own personal cost?


Mockingjay was one of the books I had been waiting for all year. I picked it up as soon as the store opened (along with a sweet keychain) and after 6 hours of reading, finished it the same day. It was that intense. So intense that I needed to take a few days to mull over what I had just read. No doubt that I’ll be reading it again very soon. However, I apologize in advance if this review feels a little more ambiguous than my other ones. I found it was difficult to talk about the book without spoiling the story for those who haven’t read it. Anywho...

I found myself incredibly satisfied with how this book unfolded and concluded. When I started reading it, I really had no idea what to expect, nor did I have any guess as to how it was going to end. Definitely the darkest of the three, Mockingjay didn’t have the same style that the other two books had. But given the nature of the plot, I don’t think there is any way that it could have fit the same pattern anyway. Not with a country-changing revolution going on. Collins does a good job showing us that in war, nobody wins. She is not nice to her characters, and didn’t believe in softening anything for her readers either. Characters die. Characters change. Nobody is the same as they were in the first book, Katniss most of all. While battling with her inner Peeta/Gale-I-can’t-live-without-either-of-them-but-can-really-only-have-one feelings (which I loved), she manages to demonstrate courage, and an honor for life that she didn’t really exhibit in the first book. No doubt this is the result of everything that has happened to her so far. I mean, having a few people die in your arms is sure to change your outlook on life, right? I wouldn’t say she becomes a white horse hero—far from it, in fact—but it’d be unrealistic to expect that that’s what she would become given the position she’s in and what’s she gone through. Everybody has their own agenda, and Katniss, the focal point of all of this, handed it as well as you could expect any teenager to: with a lot of confusion. But Katniss has always been good at trusting her instincts, and in the end that's what mattered. Though it’s clear by the end of the book that she’s damaged and will never regain the innocence of youth, the series concluded with a happy ending, one which I’m sure a number of fans will be satisfied with.



Also, I'd like to give a shout out to my new subscribers, Jenny and Tampa. Thank you so much for your support! <3

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater


Shiver, first published in 2009, is the first book in the "Wolves of Mercy Falls" series by Maggie Stiefvater. It is published by Scholastic and is 400 pages. The second book, Linger has recently been released in hardcover.


In Mercy Falls, Minnesota, seventeen-year-old Grace has an affinity for wolves. But not just any wolf. Her wolf. The wolf with yellow eyes. Six years ago, this wolf saved her from being eaten by the rest of his pack, and since then, she’s been obsessed with him. But when a boy from her school disappears, it sparks a chain of events that leads Grace to discover three things: her wolf is actually a human boy; his name is Sam; and he’s been in love with her for the past six years. Now united, they must fight against nature itself in order to stay together.


Honestly, I’m not usually into this kind of book. Paranormal romance has never really suited my fancy, especially since Twilight was published (sorry guys, not a fan). The genre just has too much angst for my liking. So naturally, I started out believing that this was going to be one of the “He-is-my-drug-and-I-need-him-to-survive” books. But as I read on I found myself enjoying this book so much that I was actually sad to see it end. Sure, there’s a few desperate, “I need him” moments, but they weren’t terribly angsty or drawn-out and emo as Bella’s were in Twilight.

The way werewolves were handled was incredibly original (or original for my standards, since I don’t read much paranormal teen romance): Humans bitten by infected wolves transform when they get too cold, rather than when the moon is full or at will. They are a victim to the seasons, and with fall fast approaching in Shiver, was the main source of the drama and tension in this book. But I think what made this book a good read for me were the characters. I was struck by how charming and poetic Sam's narrations were and how easily the dialogue flowed between ALL characters. I believed I was listening to high schoolers speak, rather than just an adult writing them. I especially liked Grace as a main character—she was level headed for the most part, and handled the paranormal activity like a champ. However, though Sam and Grace made a cute couple, it disturbed me how “in love” they were acting in the beginning of the book without much character development between the two (unless interspecies stalking counts as a bonding experience). There were a few moments where I felt Grace borderlined on being out of character, just to supply the reader with a cute, flirtatious quip or action. I know this is book is listed as a romance, but there is such a thing as stretching it. Despite this, Stiefvater did a good job of making me feel sympathetic towards Sam and Grace, and by the end of the book I was actually anxious to see if they could save Sam (as well as the other werewolves).


6/8 Tentacles

Monday, August 23, 2010

Disney After Dark by Ridley Pearson


First published in 2005, The Kingdom Keepers: Disney After Dark is the first part of a (as of right now) three-part series written by the co-author of Peter and the Shadow Thieves, Ridley Pearson.


When Finn Witman and four other teens audition for Disney’s Host Interactive program (DHI), they are transformed into hologram projections that guide guests through Disney’s Magic Kingdom. However, the technology yields unexpected results. Soon, Finn finds himself transported in his DHI form into the Magic Kingdom at night. There, he encounters Wayne, an elderly Imagineer who reveals to him that the park is in grave danger. Led by the witch, Maleficent, a mysterious group of characters called the Overtakers is plotting to destroy the world. Armed with this knowledge, it’s up to Finn and his friends to solve riddle of the Stonecutter’s Quill, which hopefully will put the characters back in their place.


Sounds cool, right? What kid doesn’t dream of sneaking into Disney World after dark? That's why I was excited to read this when I first picked it up. But honestly, I don’t think I’ve ever been so disappointed by a book before. So what went wrong? The answer is simple. It was the execution of the entire novel.

Pearson’s writing is just straight up, no foolin’ witchu, bad. To start with, the writing is really jumpy, especially for the first half of the book .Transitions are horrible, causing the characters to jump from place to place without explanation as to how they got there or how they spontaneously acquired the piece of information that they needed to find at the end of the previous chapter. The dialogue is the same way, especially between Wayne, the Disney Imagineer, and Finn: Conversations ping-pong back and forth, often bringing up things that have nothing to do with the questions being asked, leaving the reader to jump to conclusions or openly curse at the ambiguity of how things came about (I partook in the latter). The characters are flat, and have little, if any, distinguishable personality from one another. The adults have the intelligence of a turtle, which is actually an insult to the turtle. And, to top it all off, there is a serious lack of variety in the characters that show up. Out of the 300 characters that Disney owns, less than ten are mentioned in this novel, and only five or six make an appearance.

So why did I bother to finish it? Believe it or not, this book was saved by it's plot. Despite the writing, I did enjoy the scenes where the main characters are forced to walk through the major rides in the Magic Kingdom (Thunder Railroad, Space Mountain, Splash Mountain, etc.) late at night and find clues to solve the Stonecutter’s Quill riddle. And if Pearson did anything right in this book, it was describing every Disney enthusiast’s worst nightmare; going through “It’s a Small World” only to find that the dolls are coming alive to attack you. Creepy little things…I always knew they were plotting something. For that reason alone, I had to finish this book.


3/8 Tentacles

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

The Maze Runner by James Dashner

If you have heard anything about The Maze Runner, then you’ve probably heard people say that those who liked The Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins will probably enjoy this book. After reading it, I have to agree, or agree that those who liked The Hunger Games will AT LEAST find The Maze Runner interesting. Though their plotlines are completely different, they have a similar dystopian feel and a necessity for the kids in the books to survive and escape the situation they’ve been thrown into. However, it’s hard to compare the two beyond that.

The book begins with Thomas waking up in a metal lift, also known as “The Box.” He has no memory of who he is (aside from his name), where he came from, or how he got there. When the doors of the lift open, he is greeted by a bunch of boys who, like him, don’t remember anything about their life before arriving at the Glade, an expanse of land surrounded by metal walls which close every night just before it gets dark. He quickly learns that the Glade rests in the center of a gigantic, continuously changing maze, patrolled at night by vicious cyborg-like slug creatures called Grievers. And…there is no way out.

Days after he arrives The Box makes another delivery, this time delivering the first girl ever to arrive in the Glade. She delivers a spooky message—the end is near—before passing out into a fitful coma. Now Thomas must decipher the reason why he thinks he knows this girl (named Teresa), and if there is a way out of the Maze before things completely fall apart.

As I said before, fans of THG will find the plot of The Maze Runner interesting enough. However, just about every answer to every question you can think of is withheld until the end, and even then there's a ton of questions remaining. I’m guessing that Dashner decided to do this in order to build suspense, which is accomplished, even though it was irritating in some places. Despite this, I found it forgivable because there was enough going on at the moment of the scene to excuse the questions, which is why overall, I really enjoyed reading this book. Dashner is very good at moving his plot along quickly, and filling it with action. At one point Thomas runs out into the Maze at night to save some of his fellow Gladers, and ends up facing the grievers in what I think is one of the coolest survival scenes to recently hit the shelves. There is quite a bit of jargon/invented slang that the boys in this book use, which takes a little while to get used to, but I don’t believe it hurt the story at all. It’s not difficult to figure out that words like, “Shuck-head,” and “Klunker” are curse words, and by giving his characters their own unique slang Dashner has made them more realistic. We all make up our own inside jokes and insults when we’re young, right? Especially as teenagers. I’m assuming that some of the mysteries about the Maze will be answered in book 2, The Scorch Trials (set to be released on October 12, 2010), as the focus of this first installment was really just about escaping.

Final Rating: 6/8 tentacles

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

The Monstrumologist by Rick Yancey

I’m not usually a fan of the grotesque or Victorian-style gothic literature, but The Monstrumologist had me hooked right from page one.

The story begins with a brief prologue—the discovery of Will Henry’s three Folios in 2008, which turn out to be an autobiography of his time spent with Dr. Pellinore Warthrop, well-known philosopher and under-the-table monstrumologist who lived in the late 1800s. After which, we dive right into the Folio itself, and begin with the night that Erasmus Gray pulls up his horse and cart to Dr. Warthrop’s house in the middle of the night. He reveals that while grave-stealing, he discovered an Anthropophagi and a dead woman, "one wrapped around the other in an obscene embrace." Dr. Warthrop discovers that inside the woman is the monster’s fetus, and explains to twelve-year-old Will Henry that these monsters require hosts to incubate their young in. This discovery leads them to begin researching the sudden appearance of Anthropophagi in America, as they are usually only native to Africa and Madagascar.

For anybody who is a fan of Nathaniel Hawthorne or Mary Shelly, then this is a must-read. Dr. Warthrop's character seems patterned after Aylmer from Hawthorne’s "The Birthmark,” and for most of the book, is the definition of crazy. He’s completely obsessed with his work, has little regard for human life above scientific appreciation, and treats Will Henry like crap half the time. But he’s an intriguing character regardless and—dare I say it?—almost likable because of his eccentricities. The style of writing was almost sterile in a way—or rather, analytical—but not uninteresting in the least. It was like Will Henry was making a study out of the monstrumologist. Because of this, it was easy to trust him as a reliable narrator, as I felt like he placed enough distance between his feelings and his memories to describe what was happening with calm and level-headed perception. It’s easy to see that Ricky Yancey is well read both in science and classics, as this knowledge comes through in his descriptions. Allusions are used on almost every page to describe the gruesome setting. Yancey also does a great job at building tension. Towards the end, there were scenes where I needed to pause in the middle of reading them because I was actually nervous. Don’t think less of me because I looked around to see if I was being stalked by monsters. This is the stuff nightmares are made out of. Can somebody say future horror classic? If Stephen King read this book, he probably clapped when he finished it.

Final rating: 7/8 Tentacles