Friday, March 29, 2013

The Name of the Star, by Maureen Johnson

You always read reviews that say, "I couldn't put this book down!" and I always question the reviewer's honesty . However, this was truly the way I felt about this book. If you read my recent posts on Beautiful Creatures and Legend, you'd know that I'm growing increasingly frustrated with the lack of originality between novels and all the glaring similarities I see between books. This novel, though, was so wholly original and was based on such a unique premise.

Most people know the story of Jack the Ripper: famous serial killer in London, case went unsolved, first documented murders just for the sake of murdering. Well, The Name of the Star capitalizes on the famous murder mystery by presenting a recurrence of the Ripper murders - in modern day London. Main character Rory, a student from Louisiana attending boarding school in London, has special insights into the case and is the police force's only hope of capturing the villain.

With twists and turns along the way, this novel really kept me interested and made me want to learn more about Jack the Ripper. It was one of those books where, aside from being entertained, I felt like I was really learning something about history. It's a series, and I can't wait to read the next one because I honestly have no idea where the plot could go.

There are some minor scenes that are a little more mature - some kissing and some teen drinking.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Legend, by Marie Lu

Legend, by Marie Lu, is about a post-apocalyptic world in which "The Republic" has taken over the area that is now Los Angeles and they are battling with the neighboring "Colonies" and "Patriots." In the land of the Republic, a mysterious plague has swept sectors of the society, and kids take a "Trial" test at thirteen in order to determine what their life's career will be.

The novel follows two main characters: June, a Republic prodigy who scored a perfect 1500 on her Trial, and Day, a maverick who works alone to dupe the Republic and steal plague cures for his infected family. Day kills June's brother and it becomes her goal, as a Republic soldier, to bring him down.

Overall, I wasn't a huge fan of the book. The plot line was fast-paced and interesting, but the writing itself left something to be desired.

It did make me think a lot though - in a "Lessons that Change Writers" conference with ELA guru Nancie Atwell that I attended last week, she emphasized the importance of noting the difference between "inspiration" and "plagiarism". I found it very interesting that, right after hearing that, the author of this book admits that the idea for the novel was born out of "watching Les Miserables one afternoon and wondering how the relationship between a famous criminal and a prodigious detective might translate into a more modern story". Inspiration at its finest!

However, I did feel like there were just WAY too many parallels between this and other recent post-apocalyptic novels. For instance, the "Trial" test is so smackingly similar to the test in Veronica Roth's Divergent, which places teens in a faction. Then, there's the fact that those who don't do well on the Trial are sent to labor camps to work - very much the same idea as is presented in Ally Condie's Matched for those who seem intellectually less desirable. The plague in Legend also reminded me of the Matched Trilogy, specifically the final installment, Reached, in which the characters have found "The Cure".

The next novel in this series is Prodigy, and I know I'll read it because I want to know what happens to the characters.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

The Kiss, by James Patterson and Jill Dembowski

I finally finished Witch and Wizard: The Kiss, the last book in the Witch and Wizard series. Well, unless James Patterson decides to write another installment, which is very likely.

This book had a different feel to me than the rest, and I honestly wasn't a huge fan. Don't get me wrong, I still enjoyed the book and thought it was a great close to the series, but I didn't like it as much as the others. This is for two reasons.

First, Whit and Wisty find themselves battling the neighboring "Mountain King". There's an impending sense of doom surrounding the possibility of their people going to war with the Mountain People, and Whit goes up the mountain to negotiate. The Mountain People are different, and there was this weird, almost mystical, aura that just made it feel like there was too much going on in the book.

Additionally, this book is the only one in the series that really felt like a romance to me. Sure, Whit's got a girlfriend in every book, but it's always an established, minor thing. But in The Kiss, as the title suggests, Wisty's romance with hulk-like Heath is a focal point of the plot. It's pretty obvious from the start that Heath is up to no good - Byron and Whit even try to warn Wisty - but like a typical girl, she ignores the warnings of her family and friends, going for the guy instead. This, of course, throws a huge wedge between Whit and Wisty, who have been so totally in-sync until now.

As if that's not enough to deal with, Bloom (the leader of the New Council) gets a little power crazy and decides to impose restrictions upon witches and wizards, but is very secretive about his actual plans. Whit and Wisty don't realize how dire the situation is until they see the "ghetto" where he plans to send them. Suddenly, it seems that all that they went through in fighting The One Who Is The One was in vain.

As you can see, Whit and Wisty have their work cut out for them in this novel!

Friday, March 8, 2013

Beautiful Creatures, by Margaret Stohl and Kami Garcia

I have been wanting to read Beautiful Creatures for a while now, but it did NOT live up to my expectations. The whole time I was reading, I just couldn't get over thinking that the book seemed wholly unoriginal - on the back cover, it says something to the effect of, "fans of "Twilight" and "True Blood" will love this series," but in my mind it went beyond just similarities. Beautiful Creatures evoked the same mood that the TV series "True Bloods" creates, and there were so many similarities between this novel and Twilight that I found it quite distracting. I felt like I was more focused on my frustration with the never-ending similarities than on the development of the plot.
The novel is about a small town called Gatlin, South Carolina. Things in the town have been exactly the same since about the time of the Civil War, and outsiders are not welcomed. However, the novel opens just as the first "new girl" in forever is joining the sophomore class at the local high school. The new girl, Lena Duchennes, seems eerily different, and the mothers of the town band together to make her life miserable. It doesn't help Lena's case that she lives with her uncle, the town recluse. 

Ethan Wate, a fellow sophomore who's sick of the town is the only one to befriend Lena, and he begins to learn the dark secrets of her family.

There were some things I liked about the book...Ethan and Lena's friendship develops through a series of shared dreams and visions, many of which taken them back in time to the Civil War era. I loved the historical references and thought it was a really unique addition to the plot.

Overall, though, the lack of originality and cumbersome number of pages were too much for me - I would not recommend this book, but I guess I'll have to read the rest of the series before I totally make my mind up.