Review: The Realm of Possibility by David Levithan

Review: The Realm of Possibility by David LevithanThe Realm of Possibility by David Levithan
Published by Penguin Random House
Genres: Contemporary YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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One school. Twenty voices.

Endless possibilities.

There's the girl who is in love with Holden Caulfield. The boy who wants to be strong who falls for the girl who's convinced she needs to be weak. The girl who writes love songs for a girl she can't have. The two boys teetering on the brink of their first anniversary. And everyone in between.

As he did in the highly acclaimed Boy Meets Boy, David Levithan gives us a world of unforgettable voices that readers will want to visit again and again. It's the realm of possibility open to us all - where love, joy, and the stories we tell will linger.

Thoughts: One of the reasons I have many 3 and 4 star reviews on Dead Book Darling has nothing to do with all books being awesome. The opposite, in fact; about 40% of books I pick up I dislike intensely. Normally I don’t end up sticking around to see them end because I have better things to waste my time on.

Then a book like The Realm of Possibility comes along. A book that makes you want to pull out your hair and puck out your eyes in despair – but, hey, it’s short. You might as well finish the torture and then delete the memory from your brain.

In case I haven’t given the game away: I did not like this book.

David Levithan is trying too damn hard to be “one of the kids” while still preaching morality. Now, that would be fine if he could pull it off. His Boy Meets Boy does exactly the same thing, only the writing is good and the characters are well developed. The Realm of Possibility just isn’t well written.

The poetry is just… bad. The song “lyrics” are bad. The prose would have been… fine, if it hadn’t been for the obsession with formatting. All 800 of the characters might have been rather interesting, except they get about 3 pages a piece. It’s like Levithan followed an online how-to-write-in-verse and didn’t realise that his novel-writing skills would not translate. Give the man one of those gold stars saying “you tried, but please never try again”.

Just because you want to be progressive and write about LGBT characters does not automatically make your writing good. Just because you want to be inclusive and write about eating disorders does not make everything that comes out of pen gold. Nothing about this book felt genuine, While I applaud David Levithan for his good intentions, his execution just… sucked.

Bottom line? The Realm of Possibility has a vomit-inducing pretentiousness about it. Good intentions do not a good book make.

Review: The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey

Review: The 5th Wave by Rick YanceyThe 5th Wave by Rick Yancey
Series: The Fifth Wave #1
Published by Penguin Random House on 2013-05-07
Pages: 480
Genres: Science Fiction YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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The Passage meets Ender's Game in an epic new series from award-winning author Rick Yancey.

After the 1st wave, only darkness remains. After the 2nd, only the lucky escape. And after the 3rd, only the unlucky survive. After the 4th wave, only one rule applies: trust no one.

Now, it's the dawn of the 5th wave, and on a lonely stretch of highway, Cassie runs from Them. The beings who only look human, who roam the countryside killing anyone they see. Who have scattered Earth's last survivors. To stay alone is to stay alive, Cassie believes, until she meets Evan Walker. Beguiling and mysterious, Evan Walker may be Cassie's only hope for rescuing her brother—or even saving herself. But Cassie must choose: between trust and despair, between defiance and surrender, between life and death. To give up or to get up.

Thoughts: To hear some people put it, The 5th Wave should have been called the The 2nd Coming. The hype surrounding this novel was crazy. Absolutely crazy. So much so, that it was hard for me to separate the book from the hype even while I was reading the thing.

But now, having let it stew in my mind for a good long while, I can see why people were excited when it came out. It’s got the right mix of action, fantasy, dystopia and romance in it to appeal to a wide spectrum of readers. This is mostly down to the multiple narrators: we’ve got a mix of genders and ages (oh, and species) telling the story, and I can see how that makes the book more appealing to publishers and booksellers alike.

“Lovely, Kay. Nice insight into marketing. But was it a good read?,” you ask.

Not really.

Sorry people, but the truth is I had to force myself to finish The 5th Wave. While I could appreciate what Rick Yancey was shooting for, I found the jump between narrators extremely frustrating. Just as I was starting to become emotionally invested in a character, we would switch over to someone new. Then, by the time we’d get back to the original subject, I had lost the emotional tie I had previously had.

You  play two great symphonies at once, and they’ll just become noise. The 5th Wave was a very noisy book.

So despite the body-snatching aliens, the child soldiers, the Walking Dead style of survival, my main takeaway from The 5th Wave was a lesson in how not to structure a novel. Intellectually, I am interested in knowing how the series ends, but if everyone dies in the end, I wouldn’t really mind. Never a good sign.

Bottom line? The 5th Wave lacked any and all emotional pull, and I can’t say I’m rushing to recommend it. But if you adore multiple narrator books, perhaps you’ll love this book.  

Review: Hunting Ground by Patricia Briggs

Review: Hunting Ground by Patricia BriggsHunting Ground by Patricia Briggs
Series: Alpha & Omega #2
Published by Ace/Roc, Orbit
Pages: 286
Genres: Urban Fantasy
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Cry Wolf

Anna Latham didn’t know how complicated life could be until she became a werewolf. And until she was mated to Charles Cornick, the son — and enforcer — of Bran, the leader of the North American werewolves, she didn’t know how dangerous it could be either...

Anna and Charles have just been enlisted to attend a summit to present Bran’s controversial proposition: that the wolves should finally reveal themselves to humans. But the most feared Alpha in Europe is dead set against the plan — and it seems like someone else might be too. When Anna is attacked by vampires using pack magic, the kind of power only werewolves should be able to draw on, Charles and Anna must combine their talents to hunt down whoever is behind it all — or risk losing everything...

Thoughts: How many ways can I say I love Patricia Briggs? No really, give me some suggestions, because I am running out of “I HEART BRIGGS” variations.

Once again, I adored another of Patricia Briggs’ novels. The Mercy Thompson world is such a glorious one, and this second Alpha & Omega book proves that the quality of her spin-off series wasn’t just a one off. Briggs has created something magical with the Alpha & Omega series.

On to the book itself: the first thing that struck me about Hunting Ground was its setting in the universe. It is set around book 3 or 4 of the Mercy Thompson series, and handles an issue mentioned in the Mercy books but not one I had considered requiring its own book. Of course, I was wrong! Because of Charles’ status in his father’s pack, this Alpha & Omega installment gave us a chance to see the wheeling and dealing behind the politics spotted in the Mercy books. I love a good bit of negotiating (especially when it includes bloodshed – see my review of Pride by Rachel Vincent for evidence to that effect).

Anna and Charles’ relationship development was as solid as ever. Considering how little they know each other AND how little we know them (this is only book 2, after all), it’s rather extraordinary how attached they are and how attached I am to them. Of course, this is because Patricia Briggs is excellent at writing real adult relationships, creating complex characters etc. etc. – you’ve heard the pro-Briggs spiel before.

But what truly surprised me about Hunting Ground was the quality of its background characters. Briggs had me in tears over a character I’d met only pages ago. This is horrid, of course, as all of her characters eventually end up going through hell! But still. Her beautiful, wonderful, horrible secondary characters were all deserving of their own spin-off.

Two minor “complaints” that were annoying but did not detract from the quality of the read. These could be considered somewhat spoilery, so tread with caution!:

  • The summary on the back of my edition had major spoilers for the novel. The death it describes takes place more than two-thirds the way through the book. I wrote a whole rant about it here: #PublisherFail Spoiler Summaries
  • I also worked out the identity of the villain rather early on. Since that NEVER happens to me, it must have been rather obvious to other people. That said, the aforementioned summary-from-hell did help rule out some suspects. So… it could have been that?

Bottom line? After reading Hunting Ground, I desperately want to read the next installments in the Mercy and Alpha & Omega series… but I am saving them for my next reading funk. Patricia Briggs can get me out of the most dreadful of reading slumps; she’s that good.

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John Green

Review: The Fault in Our Stars by John GreenThe Fault in Our Stars by John Green
Published by Penguin Random House
Genres: Contemporary YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from publishers
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Despite the tumor-shrinking medical miracle that has bought her a few years, Hazel has never been anything but terminal, her final chapter inscribed upon diagnosis. But when a gorgeous plot twist named Augustus Waters suddenly appears at Cancer Kid Support Group, Hazel's story is about to be completely rewritten.

Thoughts: Everything there is to say about John Green has already been said. He’s one of those authors that (almost) everyone adores. He makes writing and reading YA fiction something an adult can be proud of, while simultaneously appealing to every teenager ever. It’s kind of ridiculous.

So, yeah, The Fault in Our Stars was amazing. Brilliant. Gorgeous. And, well, every other adjective along those lines. But if I hadn’t been sent it for review, I probably wouldn’t have picked it up. Because, honestly, it’s a teenage cancer book. As if life weren’t miserable enough already.

I thought I’d list a few reasons for you to read this book in spite of the scary, depressing cancer. Reasons I would have liked to have known, for those of you who haven’t wanted to pick it up:

  • It is a book about a book. This is one of those tropes usually seen in lit-fic, so I was pleasantly surprised to see it in The Fault in Our Stars. I love a good book about characters seeking out an author or obsessing about a sequel/ending that doesn’t exist. The Fault in Our Stars was rather like Carlos Ruiz Zafon’s The Shadow of the Wind… only, er, good. 
  • It’s funny. It probably shouldn’t be funny, but it is. The characters are snarky, witty and quick with their comebacks… I loved how their minds worked and highlighted every other line to add to my own repertoire of comments.
  • It is THE cancer book. It’s the only one you ever need to read. Once you’ve read it, the obligation to read anything similar is gone. And despite the cancerous misery, it is also rather life affirming. So… it’s probably as good as cancer books get.
  • You’ll finally understand all the friggin’ references. Alas, not reading this book has become like not reading The Hunger Games. Okay? Okay.

Bottom line? Yes, this book is emotionally manipulative. Yes, it will make you laugh. Yes, it will make you cry. So… just read it already so we can all stop talking about how much we loved it.

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.

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