Review: The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George

Review: The Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth GeorgeThe Edge of Nowhere by Elizabeth George
Series: Saratoga Woods #1
Published by Hodder & Stoughton, Viking Juvenile
Pages: 448
Genres: Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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The first young adult book by a #1 New York Times bestselling author

Whidbey Island may be only a ferry ride from Seattle, but it's a world apart. When Becca King arrives there, she doesn't suspect the island will become her home for the next four years. Put at risk by her ability to hear "whispers"--the thoughts of others--Becca is on the run from her stepfather, whose criminal activities she has discovered. Stranded and alone, Becca is soon befriended by Derric, a Ugandon orphan adopted by a local family; Seth, a kindhearted musician and high school dropout; Debbie, a recovering alcoholic who takes her in; and Diana, with whom Becca shares a mysterious psychic connection.

This compelling coming-of-age story, the first of an ongoing sequence of books set on Whidbey Island, has elements of mystery, the paranormal, and romance. Elizabeth George, bestselling author of the Inspector Lynley crime novels, brings her elegant style, intricate plotting, incisive characterization, and top-notch storytelling to her first book for teens.

 Spoilers for the lack of plot.

Thoughts: I’ve been putting off this review for months. Why? Because there really aren’t too many ways to say “boring as hell”.

Honest to God, I have no idea how I managed to finish this book. Maybe it was in the desperate hope that, in the end, the ”mystery” would have some sort of interesting conclusion? This was obviously delusional on my part, because there was barely a mystery.

Let me see if I can explain:

  1. girl with psychic powers arrives on an island.
  2. girl ignores the only real mystery in the book: the disappearance of her mother.
  3. girl falls in insta-love with The Perfect Guy™.
  4. The Perfect Guy™ is injured Tragically and Mysteriously™.
  5. girl kinda, sorta investigates!
  6. turns out The Perfect Guy™ just fell over.
  7. The Perfect Guy™ is fine!
  8. mother is still missing…. oh well.

That plot? Elizabeth George draws it out over 448 very long pages. Do you see what I mean about the lack of mystery? The lack of tension? Elizabeth George is not a bad writer, she’s just not writing about anything worth writing about.

I really, really, really have trouble understanding how a novelist as celebrated in the crime genre as Ms. George can have written this book. Although I have not read her other works, I can only assume that a seasoned crime fiction writers knows that a murder mystery needs a murder and a mystery in order to qualify.

*screams*

Bottom line? The Edge of Nowhere is dull, tedious and disappointing. Elizabeth George can write, but she can’t deliver a plot… or come up with one, for that matter. Maybe her adult books are better? I have no idea.

Review: Outpost by Ann Aguirre (+ Audiobook Excerpt!)

Review: Outpost by Ann Aguirre (+ Audiobook Excerpt!)Outpost by Ann Aguirre
Series: Razorland #2
Published by Feiwel & Friends
Pages: 317
Genres: Dystopian YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Enclave, Horde

Deuce’s whole world has changed.

Down below, she was considered an adult. Now, topside in a town called Salvation, she’s a brat in need of training in the eyes of the townsfolk. She doesn't fit in with the other girls: Deuce only knows how to fight.

To make matters worse, her Hunter partner, Fade, keeps Deuce at a distance. Her feelings for Fade haven’t changed, but he seems not to want her around anymore. Confused and lonely, she starts looking for a way out.

Deuce signs up to serve in the summer patrols—those who make sure the planters can work the fields without danger. It should be routine, but things have been changing on the surface, just as they did below ground. The Freaks have grown smarter. They’re watching. Waiting. Planning. The monsters don’t intend to let Salvation survive, and it may take a girl like Deuce to turn back the tide.

Thoughts: I loved Outpost. It was rough, tough, gritty and glorious.

Ann Aguirre is one of those authors whose works I end up hoarding. I want to keep her books for “rainy days” because her work is flawless. But sometimes this hoarding can lead to me disliking a book, because I’ll have waited too long and end up not remembering a thing. I adored Enclave when I read it in 2011, but that was a whopping 2.5 years ago. Perhaps I wouldn’t fall back in love with Deuce and Fade? Perhaps I should have read this book last year when my memory was still fresh? *frets*

Luckily, this was not the case! Despite taking a 2+ year break from the Razorland series, I fell straight back into sync after only 5 or so pages. Aguirre does a great job at reminding you of previous events – using some strategic-and-short flashbacks and some seamless references – without making it feel like she is Reminding You (TM).

Anyhow, on to the book.

Deuce has started to work her way up my list of all time favourite heroines. She is courageous, kind in her own way and possesses a level of pragmatism that I envy. She understands those who hate her, though she won’t let them get in her way. She doesn’t let a bit of emotional turmoil stop her, and she certainly won’t let some man “own” her. She is also developing from the soldier she was trained to be: thinking for herself, and not accepting things at face value. This girl is a leader.

Deuce is also confident in her romantic feelings, thank god almighty. Yes, there is a “romantic triangle” of a sort in Outpost, but it is not a psychological triangle. Deuce always knows what she wants, which made me accept and even enjoy the wee bit of romantic tension that played out in Outpost.

Moving away from Deuce’s awesomeness, Outpost was also a fantastically plotty novel. We learn a whole lot more about the origins of Aguirre’s post-apocalyptic world and we gain some amazingly creepy insight into the “Freaks”. Just… OMG. I really, really, really need to know more. It kills me that there is only one book left in this trilogy, because I want a prequel, a sequel and a tie-in novel.

There was also a wealth of wonderful secondary characters and sub-plots in Outpost. A lot is going on in the background and we get to see peaks of it all through Deuce’s eyes. Aguirre has built a fantastically complex world; you can tell there’s a backstory behind every little detail. Now that’s my kind of storyteller.

Bottom line? This is my first 5 star rating of the year, and I’d give it six stars if I could. Brilliant book in a brilliant series.

Outpost Audiobook

Thanks to Outpost’s publishers, I am happy to be including an fabulous 10 min excerpt from the audiobook version of Outpost. Give it a listen!

Review: Dare You To by Katie McGarry

Review: Dare You To by Katie McGarryDare You To by Katie McGarry
Series: Pushing the Limits #2
Published by Harlequin Teen, MIRA on May 28th 2013
Pages: 456
Genres: Contemporary YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: Crash Into You

If anyone knew the truth about Beth Risk's home life, they'd send her mother to jail and seventeen-year-old Beth who knows where. So she protects her mom at all costs. Until the day her uncle swoops in and forces Beth to choose between her mom's freedom and her own happiness. That's how Beth finds herself living with an aunt who doesn't want her and going to a school that doesn't understand her. At all. Except for the one guy who shouldn't get her, but does....

Ryan Stone is the town golden boy, a popular baseball star jock-with secrets he can't tell anyone. Not even the friends he shares everything with, including the constant dares to do crazy things. The craziest? Asking out the Skater girl who couldn't be less interested in him.

But what begins as a dare becomes an intense attraction neither Ryan nor Beth expected. Suddenly, the boy with the flawless image risks his dreams-and his life-for the girl he loves, and the girl who won't let anyone get too close is daring herself to want it all...

Thoughts: I was surprised by how much I enjoyed Dare You To. At first, I thought it would be too New Adult-y. 60 pages in, I thought it would be too misogynistic. But 100 pages in? I was completely sold. Dare You To pushed all my buttons and established – in a single book – a solid, believable relationship I could root for.

Simone Elkeles’ disastrous Chain Reaction (review) and her glorious Rules of Attraction (review) both lacked one thing: believability. They featured a heightened version of reality, in which even the worst scenarios were picture perfect. I bring this up because Dare You To was the exact opposite. It is gritty and dark and as close to reality as a romantic book can get. Thank goodness for that because the subjects it deals with – homophobia, parental abuse, drug abuse, alcohol abuse, sexual abuse – they are all deserving of a realistic setting. These aren’t subjects you can just brush off.

But while Dare You To is a coming of age novel and an issue novel, it still manages to remain a romance. Surprising, since most authors end up having to make a choice. Either you are Elizabeth Scott and Sarah Dessen, or you are Simone Elkeles and Stephanie Perkins. Katie McGarry somehow manages to merge both those worlds.

That’s not to say Dare You To is the perfect book: I wasn’t the biggest fan of the heroine Beth, though I did understand where she was coming from. To my surprise, I did grow rather attached to Ryan – and I could get 1000000% behind a book about his gay, jock brother – but I didn’t get those overwhelming I-am-thinking-about-them-on-the-bus feelings for him that I get for some characters.

Fortunately, this lack of extra connection didn’t stop me for adoring what Dare You To was: a romance that covers real teen issues without glossing over the harsh realities of life. I loved that and I loved it.

Bottom line? I was surprised by Dare You To, and I hope you will be to. Give it a go if you are looking to be swallowed into a world of well-handled teen angst.

My Goodreads updates for your amusement:

Dare You To Updates

Review: Vampire Academy: The Graphic Novel by Richelle Mead and Emma Vieceli

Review: Vampire Academy: The Graphic Novel by Richelle Mead and Emma VieceliVampire Academy: The Graphic Novel by Emma Vieceli, Richelle Mead
Series: Vampire Academy: The Graphic Novel #1
Published by Razorbill
Pages: 144
Genres: Graphic Novels, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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After two years on the run, best friends Rose and Lissa are caught and returned to St. Vladimir’s Academy, a private high school for vampires and half-bloods. It’s filled with intrigue, danger—and even romance.

Enter their dark, fascinating world through a new series of 144-page full-color graphic novels. The entire first Vampire Academy novel has been adapted for book one by Leigh Dragoon and overseen by Richelle Mead, while the beautiful art of acclaimed British illustrator Emma Vieceli brings the story to life.

Thoughts: This book was my first graphic novel – ever.*  So I can’t tell you how Vampire Academy: The Graphic Novel compares to other graphic novels out there, but I sure as hell can tell you that I enjoyed it.

I loved Vampire Academy (review) when I read it way back in 2010, and this graphic novel was the perfect way for me to revisit the book. It reminded me of how much I loved the characters and how completely enthralled I was in their world. The artwork has the right mixture of hard and soft – I never felt like I was reading some sort of anime, but neither did it feel like a child’s book. I hated the artwork in the Twilight graphic novel adaptation and this was (luckily) nothing like.

I was also surprised by how much of the book made it into the graphic novel. I’d thought that, rather like a movie adaptation, quite a lot of plot would have to be sacrificed in order to make this graphic novel. I was wrong! All of my favourite scenes are in it, as well as a few I’d forgotten about.

Since reading the first book in the Vampire Academy series, I struggled to finish the series. Not because the later books are bad, but because I was spoiled and it made the journey to the conclusion non-exquisite torture! But this graphic novel was a perfect way for me to wet my toes in the Vampire Academy world without worrying about what comes next.

Bottom line? A must-have for fans of the series. I am definitely going to be getting the adaptation of Frostbite and hope the publishers make the entire series into graphic novels!

* OK, I read Mercy Thompson: Homecoming a few years ago, but it was so short and I doubt it would count.

Review: Angelfall by Susan Ee

Review: Angelfall by Susan EeAngelfall by Susan Ee
Series: Penryn & the End of Days #1
Published by Hodder & Stoughton on May 23rd 2013
Pages: 325
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself, Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: World After

It's been six weeks since the angels of the apocalypse destroyed the world as we know it. Only pockets of humanity remain.

Savage street gangs rule the day while fear and superstition rule the night.

When angels fly away with a helpless girl, her seventeen-year-old sister Penryn will do anything to get her back...

Thoughts: Angelfall has a lot of the typical YA Paranormal story elements to it: it stars a strong female character who can kick ass, features an attractive-yet-deadly paranormal male lead and, of course, there’s the apocalypse. Cliché? Perhaps. But all of these stereotypical YA elements are so well done in Angelfall, I could care less whether or not they are “cliché”.

What makes Angelfall‘s characters so engaging was their complete unwillingness play out their stereotypes. For example, most authors would have written the angel Raffe as a romantic lead striving to avenge his attackers. Instead, he fights tooth-and-nail not to engage in a political war. He also knows full well the consequences of a romantic relationship with a human – and wants none of it. Meanwhile, Penryn, who can be a total badass when she has to be, is far more interested in saving her sister than she is in joining an anti-angel militia. She recognizes that fighting the good fight is a nobel cause but she has other priorities.

These aren’t the last two people you are going to see uniting to save the world. They are going to come to the fight kicking and screaming because, dude, they have far more important shit to be doing. They have lives to live, dammit. Maybe later. It was amazing. 

I also have to give Susan Ee serious kudos for giving me shipper feelings for the first time in months. There was just enough romantic tension in this book to make me eager to see more. Then again, maybe I am just a sucker for angel/human relationships (yes, I have noticed my overwhelming emotional attachment to Supernatural (TV) and Mercy by Rebecca Lim).

I could go on about the world building (solid), the secondary characters (surprisingly well developed), the quality of the writing (simple-but-with-sass), etc. When I first bought this book back in 2011, well before it was ever picked up by a major publishing house, I read reviews praising this book as how YA should be done. “If so many people are looking past the self-publishing aspect,” I thought, “this book must be amazing.” And it was. Simple as that.

And now? Now you can pick it up in paperback. Which is so much better.

Bottom line? Thank GOD I didn’t read this book back in 2011, because the 2 year wait would have killed me. Angelfall is completely worth the hype. Pick it up if you want to rock some old-school paranormal YA.

Review: Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Review: Scarlet by Marissa MeyerScarlet by Marissa Meyer
Series: Lunar Chronicles #2
Published by Feiwel & Friends, Puffin on February 7th 2013
Pages: 452
Genres: Fairytale Re-tellings, Science Fiction YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Also in this series: Cinder, Cress

The fates of Cinder and Scarlet collide as a Lunar threat spreads across the Earth...

Cinder, the cyborg mechanic, returns in the second thrilling installment of the bestselling Lunar Chronicles. She's trying to break out of prison—even though if she succeeds, she'll be the Commonwealth's most wanted fugitive.

Halfway around the world, Scarlet Benoit's grandmother is missing. It turns out there are many things Scarlet doesn't know about her grandmother or the grave danger she has lived in her whole life. When Scarlet encounters Wolf, a street fighter who may have information as to her grandmother's whereabouts, she is loath to trust this stranger, but is inexplicably drawn to him, and he to her.

[Note: I've edited this summary, as the official version has spoilers for the end of the book! #Fail]

Thoughts: It is an absolute TRAGEDY that I am only now writing this review. Tragedy, I say, because Scarlet is everything I’ve ever wanted in a YA novel and you’ve all had months not knowing that. Fortunately, you can go out now and get it. Right now. Go on. I can wait.

Got it? Good. Now we can talk.

You see, I normally have serious issues with the Red Riding Hood retellings. Despite liking Cinder, I had been apprehensive about how the story would play out in Scarlet. But, without spoiling the novel for you, let me just say this: Meyer’s portrayal of Wolf and his pack makes me want to send her gold stars. No really, actual gold stars. If anyone has her address, I’ll send them now. It was genius.

The strength of this book is in its characters: Scarlet‘s heroine is independent but extremely loyal to her family. She’s tough and worldly, but not so hardened by life as to stop loving. She reminds me of Mercy Thompson from Patricia Briggs’ novels – which is quite the compliment, I assure you. As for the Wolf in the tale: he has the right mix of violent-and-distrust-worthy and worthy-of-redemption. So many authors strive to write bad boys and just end up pissing me off. Marissa Meyer, I am happy to report, is not one of those authors. Wolf is a victim in this tale; albeit a victim that can rip your throat out.

Scarlet follows directly on from Cinder and, because of that, it follows more than one POV. This can at times mean serious confusion and reader fatigue… but not in this case. The action was easy to follow and the transitions between narrator only heightened the tension. The only critique I have is that, well, I don’t particularly like Cinder as a character and so wasn’t too interested in what she had to say. Her chapters unfortunately dragged my rating of this book from 5 to 4.5 stars.

Besides my dislike of Cinder’s character, one of my biggest peeves from Cinder was the predictability of the plot – something I am happy to report Scarlet has none of. While I could certainly tell that none of the characters were quite who they said they were, I didn’t know what to expect. Scarlet‘s plot twists and turns had all the oomph I love. There were leaps from moving trains, fights in empty theatres and kidnappings galore – but, best of all, I didn’t see any of them coming.

My goodreads updates for your amusement:

My Goodreads Progress for Scarlet by Marissa Meyer

Bottom line: Scarlet is a brilliant, brilliant book. Even if you weren’t impressed by Cinder, you’ll love it.

 

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