Review: Gone by Lisa McMann

Review: Gone by Lisa McMannGone by Lisa McMann
Series: Dream Catcher #3
Published by Simon & Schuster on 2010-11-01
Pages: 240
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Wake, Fade

Things should be great for Janie - she has graduated from high school and is spending her summer with Cabel, the guy she's totally in love with. But deep down she's panicking about how she's going to survive her future when getting sucked into other people's dreams is really starting to take its toll. Things get even more complicated when she meets her father for the very first time -and he's in a coma. As Janie uncovers his secret past, she begins to realize that the choice she thought she had has more dire consequences than she ever imagined.

Thoughts: Who else remembers how the blogosphere exploded in outrage when Gone came out back in 2010? For those of you who don’t. it was rather similar to the outrage we recently saw when Veronica Roth’s series ended (which I still haven’t read – I KNOW). A lot of people adored the series, and were rather outraged by the very existence of Gone.

Well, four years later, I finally understand.

It’s not that Gone is a bad book… it just isn’t a book. It had no over-arching plot, no murder mystery and, really, nothing changes at the end of it. It is just a really, really, really lengthy epilogue.

Let me give you a the Hunger Games example (spoilers of THG, obviously):

Let’s say Suzanne Collins skips her epilogue and writes a whole extra book instead. In it, Katniss and Peeta decide to have children. Katniss then thinks about her decision, decides to stick with it, and they have children. Voila. There you have it: the District 12 version of Lisa McMann’s Gone.

Fortunately, the book hasn’t put me off the whole series. Wake and Fade are still magical novels that I’d highly recommend but… you can skip Gone.

Bottom line? Gone isn’t the last in a trilogy. It’s the lengthy, frustrating epilogue of an extremely good duology. Skip it. No really, you aren’t missing a thing.

Review: Fade by Lisa McMann

Review: Fade by Lisa McMannFade by Lisa McMann
Series: Dream Catcher #2
Published by Simon Pulse
Pages: 248
Genres: Contemporary YA, Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Wake, Gone

SOME NIGHTMARES NEVER END.

For Janie and Cabel, real life is getting tougher than the dreams. They're just trying to carve out a little (secret) time together, but no such luck.

Disturbing things are happening at Fieldridge High, yet nobody's talking. When Janie taps into a classmate's violent nightmares, the case finally breaks open -- but nothing goes as planned. Not even close. Janie's in way over her head, and Cabe's shocking behavior has grave consequences for them both.

Worse yet, Janie learns the truth about herself and her ability -- and it's bleak. Seriously, brutally bleak. Not only is her fate as a dream catcher sealed, but what's to come is way darker than she'd feared....

Thoughts: To start with, I was slightly skeptical about the premise of this book. Janie and the police department are working off only the vaguest of hints… I just couldn’t imagine real-world police officers investigating so much effort following them up.

Of course, they turn out to be true, but hey – that’s just because it’s a book.

Anyhow, once I got over that aspect, Fade was quite enjoyable. Although it didn’t have quite the same magic as Wake, Lisa McMann’s writing is undeniably addictive. I read this whole book on-and-off during a single day. McMann is a concise, poetic and – well – rather brilliant writer.

McMann’s books may have a fantasy element to them, but they are undeniably “realistic fiction”. They are gritty and portray a far-too-real version of life. Relationships are hard. People are horrid. Men will rape you. Mothers will hate you. You aren’t safe. You’ll never be safe. Welcome to the real world.

Surprisingly, I rather enjoyed that aspect of Fade. I feel like a lot of YA tries to make the world a slightly shinier version of itself – which is certainly enjoyable for a bit of escapism – but every once and a while we need something to remind us of how terrible everything is. I mean, this isn’t quite Ellen Hopkins‘ level of misery, but it is a cousin of some sort. But while I like gritty realism, I also think a bit of mild optimism is in order. Wake had that; Fade does not. I missed that… I think Gone is going to be the darkest of the three books.

I was also not enraptured with the main characters (Janie and Cabe) in this installment of the Wake series. While I appreciated their role in the story and pitied the pain they were suffering, I didn’t actually care about them. Probably because they were so wrapped up in their problems… The only character I truly adored was Captain Fran Komisky. We saw very little of her in Wake, so Fade was her chance to shine. She’s a lovely mother figure and also a total badass. *draws hearts* Can’t wait to read more from her.

It’s also probably worth noting that Fade is starting to show its age: a few of the tech references – TiVo and tiny phones that *gasp* go online – stuck out. Unbelievable, but a lot has changed in the 4+ years since this was published.

Bottom line? A solid second novel by a wonderful author. If you are looking for a lyrical YA series to get sucked into, pick up these books!

Review: Chain Reaction by Simone Elkeles

Review: Chain Reaction by Simone ElkelesChain Reaction by Simone Elkeles
Series: Perfect Chemistry #3
Published by Simon & Schuster, Walker Books for Young Readers
Pages: 308
Genres: Contemporary YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Rules of Attraction, Perfect Chemistry

Like his brothers, Luis Fuentes is a risk taker; whether he’s scaling the Rocky Mountains or dreaming of a future as an astronaut, Luis is always looking for the next thrill. Nikki Cruz lives her life by certain rules -, don’t trust a boy who says “I love you”, boys lie to get their own way and never date a boy from the south side of Fairfield. Then she meets Luis at his brother Alex’s wedding and suddenly she’s tempted to break all her rules. Getting Nikki to give him a chance is Luis’s biggest challenge, until he finds himself targeted by the head of the gang that nearly destroyed his brothers’ lives. Will Luis’s feelings for Nikki be enough to stop him from entering a dark and violent world that could prove to be the ultimate risk?

Thoughts: I really enjoyed the first books in this trilogy, Perfect Chemistry and Rules of Attraction – they were extremely readable books that starred some surprisingly fleshed out characters. And while Chain Reaction was certainly readable, it’s characters were some of the most one-dimensional I’ve read in a long while. In fandom, we would have called this book “crack” – the kind of story that is just so unbelievably terrible, and is yet extremely addictive. The one where Spock is pregnant with Uhura’s lovechild and decides to run away on the TARDIS. This was that kind of story.

None of the new characters in this book made a lick of sense: Luis is a “good boy”, but spend the last 50 or so pages oscillating between crazy and crazy with love of violence. While Nikki… ick. I don’t even want to get into her. This girl had zero character and was completely defined by a traumatic experience. While I kinda “get” why Elkeles might want to traumatize her characters, you’ve got to give me more than just that if you want me to actually like them. *stabs them both*

Seriously, if it hadn’t been such a fan of Rules of Attraction, I would never have finished this thing.

Bottom line? Disappointing ending to an otherwise entertaining series; Perfect Chemistry’s  Breaking Dawn, if you will.

Review: Wake by Lisa McMann

Review: Wake by Lisa McMannWake by Lisa McMann
Series: Dream Catcher #1
Published by Simon Pulse
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Fade, Gone

For seventeen-year-old Janie, getting sucked into other people's dreams is getting old. Especially the falling dreams, the naked-but-nobody-notices dreams, and the sex-crazed dreams. Janie's seen enough fantasy booty to last her a lifetime.

She can't tell anybody about what she does they'd never believe her, or worse, they'd think she's a freak. So Janie lives on the fringe, cursed with an ability she doesn't want and can’t control.

Then she falls into a gruesome nightmare, one that chills her to the bone. For the first time, Janie is more than a witness to someone else's twisted psyche. She is a participant.

Thoughts: This was such a stunning novel. Within only a few pages I knew I was in good hands with Lisa McMann – her style is rather minimal but extremely poignant. Some authors need to write a hundred words to describe their characters, McMann only needs eight.  I was simply stunned by how much raw emotion she could create.  I simply didn’t know it was possible to write a slow-burning, tense, mystery novel (with a believable romantic element to boot) without falling over the 100k word count.

I was also surprised by how gritty this book was. Although there is a real paranormal aspect to the novel, it is extremely realistic. Wake is a novel about a girl living in spite her paranormal abilities, not because of them.  They are far from the most interesting thing about her and, while they are an important part of the mystery, the novel would be just as fantastic without them.  How many paranormal books can you honestly say that about?  I, for one, am not sure my beloved Darkest Powers trilogy could have held up without the necromancy and werewolves!

If you’re anything like me, you will be through this book in a blink-and-a-half, and not just because of its length.  I was reading this thing while standing in line at airport security.  I can’t say it was forcibly removed from my hands – but pretty close.  I grew to really care about Janie, and was just desperate to read more more more about her.

Bottom line? Lisa McMann has made my “Authors I trust no matter what” list with only one book.  Wake is everything a Young Adult novel should be.  Read it!

Review: Claire de Lune by Christine Johnson

Review: Claire de Lune by Christine JohnsonClaire de Lune by Christine Johnson
Series: Claire de Lune #1
Published by Simon & Schuster, Simon Pulse on 2010
Pages: 336
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Received for review from author
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Claire is having the perfect sixteenth birthday. Her pool party is a big success, and gorgeous Matthew keeps chatting and flirting with her as if she's the only girl there. But that night, she discovers something that takes away all sense of normalcy: she's a werewolf.

As Claire is initiated into the pack of female werewolves, she must deal not only with her changing identity, but also with a rogue werewolf who is putting everyone she knows in danger. Claire's new life threatens her blossoming romance with Matthew, whose father is leading the werewolf hunt. Now burdened with a dark secret and pushing the boundaries of forbidden love, Claire is struggling to feel comfortable in either skin. With her lupine loyalty at odds with her human heart, she will make a choice that will change her forever?

Thoughts: Werewolves are the new it-boys of YA – it is the Jacob effect gone mad. But if you are looking for an it-girl, Claire de Lune will be what saves you from overdosing on all that alpha-male testosterone.

Let’s start off with what I enjoyed from Claire de Lune. The verse was a great twist on your typical paranormal story. Claire lives in a world where werewolves are known and feared – there are neighborhood watch groups and crazy gun-toting activists. And for the rather a-political Claire to discover that she is one of these “evil” creatures? It enlightened her to the dangers of those die-hards pretty darn quick.

I also adored her love interest, Matthew. He came complete with a developed social conscience – despite his father’s prejudicial ways – but without direction. One of those people who knows that something is wrong, but has no idea what to do with that information. While Claire questioned the status quo because she had to, Matthew does it because he is conscientious of suffering and injustice around him. He’s not an activist, but he has the potential for it. I knew I would love him the moment he started comparing werewolf treatment to his dislike of the death penalty!

But there were some structural things I had issues with. I worked out who the killer was the moment they were on the page. The plot was a bit too much of a set up – Claire was kept in the dark at times only so that her stupidity seemed less stupid, and so that her choices could forward the action.

Oh, did I mention my lack-of-love for Claire? She is a perfectly OK character – but her defining features go from zero-to-nothing. That is, other than being annoyingly incompetent for half of the book. It was almost as if she was being purposefully ignorant to her situation, making choices which were obviously badly thought out.

But by the end, though, Claire did start to show some gumption. She became a bit more kick-ass, taking matters into her own hands and embracing her new found werewolf-ism. I think that I will enjoy her far more in the next book of the series!

Bottom line? Good start to what could be a great series. Not the best in the paranormal YA genre, but certainly a very enjoyable book. And if you are a fellow werewolf fan, it is a must!

And check out Christine’ Guest Post about Wolves and Werewolves, and enter the giveaway for some Claire de Lune goodies!

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