Review: 13 to Life by Shannon Delany

Review: 13 to Life by Shannon Delany13 to Life by Shannon Delany
Series: 13 to Life #1
Published by St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 308
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Everything about Jessie Gillmansen's life changed when her mother died. Now even her hometown of Junction is changing. Mysterious dark things are happening. All Jessie wants is to avoid more change. But showing a hot new guy around Junction High, she's about to discover a whole new type of change. Pietr Rusakova is more than good looks and a fascinating accent—he's a guy with a dangerous secret. And his very existence is sure to bring big trouble to Jessie's small town. It seems change is the one thing Jessie can't avoid...

Thoughts: This book is… odd. Very odd. It is basically a book of disjointed scenes, held together by the fact that they all feature the same characters. The first half of this book is your typical teenage he-loves-she-loves love triangle saga – complete with a football game, a bizarre homecoming, a girl-fight, history classes, and a sweet best friend. And then, about half way through, that book ends. Now it is a book about the main character’s epic tragedy, her best friend’s evil under layer, and the hot new boy’s mafioso family… Needless to say, I liked the “second book” better.

Besides the two-book divide, there are all sorts of bizarre plot holes in 13 to Life. For starters, the protagonist Jessie is supposed to be smart. And yet, when presented with extraordinary evidence proving that her crush is a serious ass, she remains in love with him. Huh? I can understand nursing a hopeless crush, but when said crush uses you to get back together with his girlfriend? Well, it’s time to let it go. That Jessie doesn’t “let it go” isn’t really her fault, Shannon Delany just wanted to keep her and Pietr (the aforementioned hot new boy) from getting together for a little while longer.

Except it gets worse. Once I’ve accepted the fact that Jessie is stupidly in love with I-can’t-even-remember-his-name, she promptly forgets about him. Oh, and starts making out with Pietr, who is now her creepy best friend’s boyfriend. Huh? What? She pushes the guy she likes into the arms of another girl, only to turn him into a cheater? WTF?

The only vaguely reassuring thing about this love-square mess is that Shannon Delany is aware of how needlessly crazy she’s made everything. And I quote:

“I was so stupid. As a writer, I knew if I’d been a character in a novel a good editor would have scrawled TSTL (Too Stupid To Live) on the manuscript pages. Well, maybe not too stupid to live, but definitely too stupid to date.”
Chapter 14, 13 to Life by Shannon Delany

So even though I could overlook the bizarre romance business going on – despite it being the only thing going on for the first half of the book – there was one thing I could not overlook: the dogs. Or more specifically, how Jessie treats her dogs. She screams at them to shut up and calls them stupid. And in another event, where a German Shepherd acts out due to Pietr being a bloody werewolf, she screams about how the dog is crazy. When the dog clearly clearly isn’t. Her behaviour, for me, was borderline animal abuse – if she had started hitting one of the dogs, I wouldn’t have been surprised. I didn’t like it one little bit and I couldn’t help but think that Maya (from The Gathering) would never have treated her hounds that way.

So, by now you’re thinking: why on Earth should I read this book? Excellent question. While there were times when I really wanted to take a red pen to the text, it did keep me engaged and entertained for 5 solid hours. Mostly due to Pietr and his brilliant Russian werewolf mafioso family. Pietr is a mix between Edward (Twilight) and Dmitri (Vampire Academy) – in other words, he’s engaging, mysterious, and has an accent to die for. And his family? They are the werewolf version of the Cullens. I want to know more about them… I want to know everything about them! Even by the end of the book, we know next to nothing about Pietr’s background. That might be enough for me to pick up the next novel.

That, and to see if Jessie grows a brain.

Bottom line? 13 to Life has decent writing, a needless complicated plot, and supremely frustrating characters. But there are Russians in it, so…

Review: Moloka’i by Alan Brennert

Review: Moloka’i by Alan BrennertMoloka'i by Alan Brennert
Published by St. Martin's Griffin on 2004-10-04
Pages: 384
Genres: Literary Fiction
Source: Purchased myself
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This richly imagined novel, set in Hawai'i more than a century ago, is an extraordinary epic of a little-known time and place—-and a deeply moving testament to the resiliency of the human spirit.

Rachel Kalama, a spirited seven-year-old Hawaiian girl, dreams of visiting far-off lands like her father, a merchant seaman. Then one day a rose-colored mark appears on her skin, and those dreams are stolen from her. Taken from her home and family, Rachel is sent to Kalaupapa, the quarantined leprosy settlement on the island of Moloka'i. Here her life is supposed to end—-but instead she discovers it is only just beginning.

With a vibrant cast of vividly realized characters, Moloka'i is the true-to-life chronicle of a people who embraced life in the face of death.

Thoughts: Way back in 2007, Wendy’s (Musings of a Bookish Kitty) review of this novel put Moloka’i on my radar. My mother had long-ago told me about her trip to Moloka’i when she was in her twenties – she spoke about the extraordinary beauty of the island and meeting the “lepers” (or, as I discovered in this book, sufferers of Hassen’s disease) who continued to live even after their imprisonment came to an end. Her story, Wendy’s review, and my long-love of the Hawaii islands, made me want to read this book.

Sometimes you read a book and think “this book came at the right time”. Almost as though your life led up to a point which required you to read a certain book. Moloka’i was one of those books. I went on holiday to Honolulu this Christmas, and left with a deep appreciation for the islands and its people. Not just for their friendliness and charm, but for the vast suffering they had to endure. From death, disease, and a loss of a kingdom – all of it, I would argue, at the hands of European Americans. Haoles.

So, on to the book. I can’t work out if this book is brilliant because Alan Brennert is a genius – or if he is just a decent writer working with amazing material. Is it a colour-by-numbers of the Sistine Chapel, or a Rembrandt masterpiece of a garbage dump?  I don’t know, and frankly, I don’t care.  What I do know is that this is one hell of an epic, and I absolutely adored it all.

Don’t let the depressing premise put you off.  Sure, it starts off with a young girl being sent to a leper colony to die – but Moloka’i is much more than a tragedy, and it’s about so much more than a disease.  If anything, the book proves how life continues on in the most unlikely conditions.  Rachel – our protagonist – lives through an extraordinary chunk of Hawaiian history: from the loss of its kingdom, the bombings at Pearly Harbour, to becoming a US State.  In that time she grows up, and learns to live and love despite the odds.  A lot of it is heartbreaking – I cannot recall how many times I cried – but a lot of it is also beautiful or silly or sexy or thrilling.

This is a book about life, not death.  So think of it, instead, as the life and times of a talented young surfer named Rachel.  I am certain there was a girl like her on Moloka’i – she’d be about my age now, plus or minus a century – and she deserves to be remembered.

Bottom line?  I loved this absolutely book.  Although written by a haole (and been reviewed by a haole) I think most Hawaiians would agree that Alan Brennert perfectly captures the aloha spirit.

And, in case this review left you wondering, here’s a Hawaii Five-O gif to describe my feelings for this book:

Review: Tempted by P.C. and Kristin Cast

Review: Tempted by P.C. and Kristin CastTempted by Kristin Cast, P.C. Cast
Series: House of Night #6
Published by ATOM, St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 336
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Marked, Betrayed, Chosen

Zoey needs a break after some serious excitement. Sadly, the House of Night school for vampyres doesn't feature breaks on its curriculum - even for a High Priestess in training and her gang. Plus juggling three guys is no stress reliever, especially when one is a sexy Warrior so into protecting Zoey that he's sensing her emotions. Wider stresses lurk too, and the dark force in Tulsa's tunnels is spreading. Could Stevie Rae be responsible for more than a group of misfit fledglings? And Aphrodite's visions warn Zoey to stay away from the immortal Kalona and his dark allure - but they also show that only Zoey can stop him. She's not exactly keen to meet up, but if Zoey doesn't go to Kalona he'll exact a fiery vengeance on those closest to her. She just has to find the courage to do what's necessary, or everything that's important to her will be destroyed.

Thoughts: Tempted was terrible.

Okay, so I don’t usually expect all that much from the HoN series.  As a general rule, I find the writing pretty terrible, the characters kinda one-dimensional, and some of the plot ideas seemingly written by somebody high on E.  So why do I keep reading?  Well, I like the universe and – prior to this book – I used to like some of the characters.  Now I’m down to the universe.

Tempted was just all over the place.  We hear from 4 POVs, an unfortunate first for the series.  The Casts jump back and forth from character to character with no discernible pattern.  For example, we get a single chapter from Aphrodite (which was probably the best in the book) about half way through, and then… nothing.  That’s it!  Just the one chapter.

Huh?

The Casts also successfully destroyed two of the characters I liked: Stark and Stevie Ray.  I hate it when characters lose their character because of some insane plot point.  If you have to make a character do a complete 180 to move the story along, try something else!  *shakes fist*

I’ll be reading on the next book – which comes out tomorrow in the USA. But I’m definitely going to wait for the paperback.

Bottom line?  Do the world a favour, and don’t let a teenager within a 100 feet of this book.  The last thing we need is for actual teens to be more like HoN!teens.

Review: Chosen by P.C. and Kristin Cast

Review: Chosen by P.C. and Kristin CastChosen by Kristin Cast, P.C. Cast
Series: House of Night #3
Published by ATOM, St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 352
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Also in this series: Marked, Betrayed, Tempted

SPOILERS for previous books!

Dark forces are at work at the House of Night and fledgling vampyre Zoey Redbird’s adventures at the school take a mysterious turn. Those who appear to be friends are turning out to be enemies. And oddly enough, sworn enemies are also turning into friends. So begins the gripping third installment of this “highly addictive series” (Romantic Times), in which Zoey’s mettle will be tested like never before. Her best friend, Stevie Rae, is undead and struggling to maintain a grip on her humanity. Zoey doesn’t have a clue how to help her, but she does know that anything she and Stevie Rae discover must be kept secret from everyone else at the House of Night, where trust has become a rare commodity.

Speaking of rare: Zoey finds herself in the very unexpected and rare position of having three boyfriends. Mix a little bloodlust into the equation and the situation has the potential to spell social disaster. Just when it seems things couldn’t get any tougher, vampyres start turning up dead. Really dead. It looks like the People of Faith, and Zoey’s horrid step-father in particular, are tired of living side-by-side with vampyres. But, as Zoey and her friends so often find out, how things appear rarely reflects the truth…

Thoughts: I have had such a roller-coaster ride with the HoN series. I was stunned (not in a good way) by Marked, blown away (in a good way) by Betrayed – and then I wanted to burn Chosen.

Seriously.

This was by far my least favourite book. It put the series on hold for me, and I likely would not have continued had it not been for the fact that I had already bought the rest of the series after reading Betrayed. I have to say, the books do return to the mediocre-yet-addicting quality of Betrayed… but you have to get past this thing first.

What made this book so bad was the unimaginable stupidity of Zoey. Along with this stupidity came the extraordinary stupidity of her friends – all of whom failed to realise that they were equally as dumb. In fact, the only one with any sense at all was Aphrodite… but of course no one listened to her because she is such a “poo-head.”

*sighs*

Bottom line? Read the a summary of the book on-line and then skip ahead to Untamed.

Review: Evermore by Alyson Noel

Review: Evermore by Alyson NoelEvermore by Alyson Noel
Published by St. Martin's Griffin
Pages: 306
Genres: Paranormal YA, Young Adult
Source: Purchased myself
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Since a horrible accident claimed the lives of her family, sixteen-year-old Ever can see auras, hear people’s thoughts, and know a person’s life story by touch. Going out of her way to shield herself from human contact to suppress her abilities has branded her as a freak at her new high school—but everything changes when she meets Damen Auguste…

Ever sees Damen and feels an instant recognition. He is gorgeous, exotic and wealthy, and he holds many secrets. Damen is able to make things appear and disappear, he always seems to know what she’s thinking—and he’s the only one who can silence the noise and the random energy in her head. She doesn’t know who he really is—or what he is. Damen equal parts light and darkness, and he belongs to an enchanted new world where no one ever dies.

Rec for people who love:  Twilight-esque romances

Thoughts:  Okay, let me start by saying that the writing in Evermore was excellent.  Alyson Noel has buckets of talent when it comes to writing.  I know a lot of people have criticized this book for being too similar from Twilight.  But honestly, I found it not similar enough!  While with Twilight, you love the book because you love the characters – I just couldn’t love these characters.

My problem was with the romance.  Ever, our heroine, was wonderful.  A bit thick-headed at times, but identifiable and in a very real amount of pain from the loss of her family.  That she then inherited a debilitating “gift” made her suffering all the worse.  It was refreshing to read about a heroine who is just as supernatural as her love interest!

But then there is Damen, the “hero”… yeah, I was not so keen on him. We never really understand his motivations – and considering his actions usually made him seem like a total asshole, I really needed some kind of explanation for his behaviour.  It was frustrating, and even Ever thought so!  Thing was, she was in love with him despite all her attempts to forget him completely.  I had no such luck!

Bottom line?  Great writing, lackluster romance.  I do plan on picking up the sequels and remain hopeful that Damen will grow on me!

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