Tag Archive | read in 2012

Review : Glimmer

Glimmer by JPhoebe Kitanidis
Pages : 352
Genre : YA, Paranormal
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about :

A girl and a boy wake up together in bed. Both are confused and lost; neither of them know who they are, where they are or why they are there. They remember how to talk, walk and use objects, but they have lost any memory that could give them information about their personal life.

After some suspicion on both parts, they decide to work together to solve the mystery that is their lives. Soon they discover that Summer Falls is no usual town, and that their memory loss might be only one of many mysteries…

My Thoughts :

I wasn’t sure what to expect when I cracked open Glimmer; fantasy, paranormal, science-fiction, aliens? Or what? I was kind of in a “meh, whatever” mood and Glimmer looked intriguing enough to pull me out of that bored state of mind. I am happy to report that it did, and with great success!

From the start, the story is intriguing. We do not know the main characters’ names (we learn later that they are Elyse and Marshall), and both are terrified and suspicious of each other. I often complain about dual narratives, but in this case, I felt it worked well enough : it gives us a better insight into each of their story than a third person narration would have. You can see how they react to each other, and though their voices are similar, their personalities are different enough.

Elyse and Marshall quickly bond over their peculiar situation (maybe a tad too quicly?) and as a team, they start to investigate. And then things become even more interesting : not only the two of them have lost any memory related to their identities, but the town where they find themselves is weird. Elyse sees some people where Marshall sees no one – until these people connect to Marshall and blue sparks fly. Summer Falls’ residents are also all a bit too cheery and distracted – so much so that, despite their condition, Elyse and Marshall almost feel like they are the only normal people left.

The beauty of Glimmer is that it mixes a little of everything; paranormal, magic, the town’s strange history, heatnaps, creepy characters, and a mystery that keeps you reading past your bed time. Elyse and Marshall’s quest for truth gets even more interesting when they have to face who they were before losing their memories, their qualities and, most importantly, their faults. And while they both have a complicate family situation, I have to say that Elyse’s broke my heart a little.

In the end, I really enjoyed Glimmer. Though I found the ending a little too rushed and filled with too much information, it had a strong conclusion that answered all important questions. I am also thrilled that Glimmer is a stand alone novel! I read enough series as it is. But I do hope I get to read more stories coming from Kitanidis’ fabulous imagination.

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Review : Incarnate

Incarnate by Jodi Meadows
Pages : 416
Genre : YA, Science-Fiction, Dystopia
Series : Newsoul, book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about :

Ana lives in Range, a place where souls are being reincarnated in different bodies, over and over. No one ever really dies, and the souls keep their memories from one life to the other.

That is, until one night one soul vanished, and Ana was born instead. Living with her abusive mother, Ana has always considered herself a “No soul”, an abomination that shouldn’t be. But when she finally leaves home in a quest for answers, Ana meets Sam, and she begins to consider that maybe being a “New soul” is not all bad.

My Thoughts :

What an interesting premise and an intriguing world Jodi Meadows has created with Incarnate! Though this strange world was a tad difficult to get into for the first few pages (it wasn’t clear to me if the book was fantasy, science-fiction, futuristic, etc), I was quickly hooked to Ana’s story. Her world was new, different from the ones I usually read about, real or imagined. I also had a lot of compassion for what was happening with her mother, an abusive woman who basically blamed Ana for the disappearance of another soul.

It is quite obvious, when Ana meets Sam, that romance will be had in the story. While romance by itself isn’t a bad thing, this is where, for me, the book lost most points. Though Sam and Ana do spend a lot of time together, we are not allowed to see enough of their friendship and their romance feels a bit forced. From that point on, they spend a lot of time thinking about each other, looking at each other, being with each other… and sadly the romance takes over other aspects of the story which were, in my opinion, more interesting. I wanted to learn more about the big city of Heart, the world of Range, the legends, the characters surrounding the two lovebirds, Ana’s story, etc. I will say that despite the romance, there still is a lot of information about the world, just less than I would have hoped for.

An interesting aspect of the novel was, of course, the reincarnation, and with that, gender. This came as a surprise for me, as I didn’t know which form the reincarnations would take in the story. In Incarnate, souls can be reincarnated as man or woman. This raises important questions on what is gender? A pure biologic function? Social conventions? A mix of both or something else? The novel doesn’t directly raise those questions, but I couldn’t read it without my brain wondering about this constantly. If two souls decide to be linked forever together (as some do), and come back in other lives in a different gender, wouldn’t that affect their relationship? Or maybe the constant cycle of reincarnations gives them a more open point of view on gender? Maybe they see it simply as another characteristic, like eye color, hair color, height, etc?

I don’t have an answer, and the book doesn’t either. I’m not sure if the author simply didn’t think that far, or if she wanted her readers to make their own ideas. What would it be to be Ana in this world, born only once as a woman? Would it feel normal to have a boyfriend who was once a girl? If the society you grow up in is used to that, would you be too? I don’t know. This makes my brain hurt a little.

Which probably means that Incarnate offers something that many YA novels of speculative fiction don’t offer (sadly), and that is : interesting topics of discussion. I think there is a lot to be said about a world where you can reincarnate, forever, and keep your memories. What makes life worth living then? What would change in our daily lives? And there is, as I pointed out, a lot to be said about gender too.

There was also a slight issue with pace; after a lot of the romance between Sam and Ana, things suddenly start happening towards the end, when there is a rush of events and a few twists. I wouldn’t have minded this discrepancy in paces  if the slowest part wasn’t so focused on the romance. Other than that, I did enjoy the story, the characters, the world, and the conclusion. I’m looking forward to reading more about Ana and her world in the coming novels.

Series Reading Order :

  1. Incarnate
  2. ?
  3. ?

Review : If You Follow Me

If You Follow Me by Malena Watrous
Pages : 354
Genre : Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating :

What it’s about :

Still grieving her father following his suicide, Marina hopes teaching English in Japan will be the change of scenery she and her girlfriend Carolyn need. However, the culture shock is bigger than she expected, and Marina soon finds out that you can’t really escape your past, no matter how hard you wish you could.

My Thoughts :

My impression of If You Follow Me was that it had a very quiet pace, yet contained so much on an emotional level. Some parts had me smiling and almost laughing, while other parts made my heart break. Marina’s journey through grief and integration to a new culture had no boring moment, while being written very realistically. The characters had depth and the culture was explained with great respect (by which I mean, a culture carefully described to foreigners without relying on common stereotypes).

An interesting aspect of the book was Marina’s relationship with Carolyn. While their relationship is part of the story, it isn’t the only focus (or even the main one) of the book. Even more interestingly, I appreciated the author’s effort not to label the two girls. They both had some interest for men, too, Carolyn having dated many (but not exclusively girls) before, and Marina having been only with guys. To have their sexuality not clearly defined, and not being the only defining characteristic of their lives, was extremely refreshing.

I loved discovering Japan through Marina’s eyes. It feels like Asia will never cease to surprise me; no matter how many books, mangas, magazines or stories I read, there is always more to discover about it. If You Follow Me was no exception. Marina discovered great differences through important things like her work or smaller things like the garbage, and I was fascinated by it all. I felt like I was there, trapped in this strange country, learning the rules of life all over again.

I really loved If You Follow Me, and after I finished reading it, I found myself thinking about it quite often. Watrous created strong images with her quiet narration, and because of her talent, I felt like I both met interesting characters and visited another land for the time I read.

Review : The Selection

The Selection by Kiera Cass
Pages : 327
Genre : YA, Speculative Fiction
Series : The Selection, book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about :

The whole country of Illéa is on their toes : the Prince is ready to get married. In order for him to find the perfect wife, the Selection is organized : 35 girls from different castes of society will compete for his love (and the crown), until one steals his heart.

It’s almost by accident that America Singer is selected : now she must leave behind her family and, most importantly, her secret boyfriend. Unlike the other girls, she doesn’t want a life in the palace. Then she meets Prince Maxon, and as she get to know him, America starts doubting what it is she really wants…

My Thoughts :

I knew going it that there was a big chance this wasn’t a book for me; The Selection has been mentioned as a “The Bachelor meets The Hunger Games” kind of book. Not being a fan of the first, and being too much of a fan of the second, I really expected the worst. I think it’s why, despite not enjoying the book, I went through it quite fast and actually finished it without feeling disappointed.

Where to begin? Let’s start with the book’s genre. Is it dystopia? Sci-fi? Fantasy? Honestly, hard to say. Though the Hunger Games comparison leads you to believe this will be full on dystopia with pretty dresses, it isn’t exactly the case. The book is so dystopia-light it is almost dystopia-free. There was a mention of Illéa being once upon a time the United-States, the attacks by rebels and then the castes systems (castes numbered 1 to 8, 1 being the royal family and 8 being the poorest of all). That is not sufficient to call a novel dystopian!

It’s possible the author plans on expending on her worldbuilding in the following books; if that’s the case, it really won’t hurt. Until more details were given, I found it extremely difficult to figure out which kind of society America lived in. Taking place 300 years in the future, there were very few mentions of technology or modern items : tv, portable phones, cinema, jeans… Other than that, I couldn’t figure if they lived in an advanced technological world, or if the wars had almost destroyed everything and stopped most progress.

And then there was America. She is pretty, you see; gorgeous in fact. Except that she doesn’t know it (she will tell you many times, that she doesn’t understand why people call her pretty all the time!) She’s also kind, talented at music, witty enough to get the Prince’s attention, simple, humble… gee, no wonder the Prince falls for her! She is so obviously better than every other girl around her! Her only clear fault was her lying – but it’s not her fault, you see, she is so obviously torn between those two guys!

As for the romance… huh. It was so predictable. So, so, so predictable at every turn. The way America and Maxon’s relationship develops, the conversations they have, the misunderstandings, all of this had little originality to it. The fact that I didn’t connect to America, to the Prince or to Aspen (America’s boyfriend back home) really didn’t help. To be honest, I had more interest for the girls America was competing against; I wanted to hear more about their personal stories, the gossiping, vicious plans to destroy each other, etc. There was little of that though, which made the novel uneventful for me.

I really wish I could add some great positive thought here, to balance this rather negative review. Sometimes a book isn’t for me; it is clearly the case with The Selection. But sometimes, too, I feel that it isn’t only about whether a book was for me or not. For instance, all this could have been saved by great writing. Beautiful prose, compelling descriptions, and I would have overlooked a lot of the least appealing aspects of the book. Sadly, the writing wasn’t anything spectacular, and the characters were so flat that I didn’t care what happened to them (except for America’s maids, three girls I really liked and who had more depth than most of the main characters).

I did have some fun while reading it. I kept reading because the writing, though not fantastic, made it easy to do so, and I kept expecting something big to happen. It didn’t but some scenes were fun enough. Also, I had a huge toothache, so the fact that this book was light and predictable felt good at the time. Sadly, I don’t think I’ll be getting in line for book 2 when it comes out, but I am sure plenty of readers will appreciate this “Cinderella” story for its romance, the gorgeous dresses and a worldbuilding that is easy to get into.

Series Reading Order :

  1. The Selection
  2. ?

Review : Across the Universe

Across the Universe by Beth Revis
Pages : 416
Genre : YA, Science-Fiction, Dystopia
Series : Across the Universe, book 1
My Rating :

What it’s about :

The plan for Amy’s family was simple; cryo-sleep aboard the Godspeed ship, to wake up on another planet a few centuries later. Only, something goes wrong, and Amy wakes up alone, too soon.

Before long, Amy discovers something bad is going on Godspeed : other sleepers get murdered and the ship’s ruler, Eldest, isn’t friendly towards the new girl. As she tries to uncover the truth and protect her family, Amy has to decide whether she can trust Elder, next in line to rule the ship.

My Thoughts :

The first thing I thought about when starting to write this review was “Should I really tag it as dystopia?” Because in truth, Across the Universe is more science-fiction than anything else. Even the romance, which the cover hints at strongly, takes a backseat to the mystery, the ship and the characters’ own personal issues. As for the dystopian aspect, it’s a part of the plot that is not clearly revealed from the beginning, but I did feel the hints were big enough that this is not a spoiler in any way. So, yes; Across the Universe is a slightly dystopian futuristic novel with an intriguing premise.

I’m not sure why the book sat so long on my shelf. When I finally decided to read it, I got hooked to the story instantly. While the narration itself didn’t particularly stand out, I was curious about Amy’s situation. Being put to sleep sure didn’t look like fun! However, I was disappointed by the dual narration. Nothing against Elder, but his voice wasn’t particularly different from Amy’s. I think I would have preferred to discover the ship and the future only though Amy’s eyes.

I also had a few problems with the technological side of the worldbuilding. Maybe it’s because I’m currently reading Physics of the Futurebut I couldn’t accept that the technology used on the ship wasn’t more advanced, more sophisticated. Parts of it were; but some parts of it were too easy, too similar to the technology we already use. Sadly, there was no explanation in the worldbuilding to justify that.

I do wish the characters were more dimensional, too, and less stereotyped. As a villain, Eldest had very little depth, but this is something that could be said of other secondary characters, too.This being said, I do think the strong point of the novel was the story itself. Even though it felt predictable and I could tell, mostly, who did what and what would happen, the pace and the twists kept me reading.

I also loved that, while Amy and Elder had a certain attraction for each other, the novel wasn’t about the romance itself. It was something happening on the side, and that never truly developed into something more. To be honest, I wouldn’t even be surprised if the author introduced another love interest for Amy, since her interest for Elder seemed to be more about curiosity, loneliness and friendship.

Across the Universe sure differentiated itself from all the dystopian stories coming out these days. I’m looking forward to reading book two, A Million Suns, which is already waiting on my shelf.

Series Reading Order :

  1. Across the Universe
  2. A Million Suns
  3. Shades of Earth (coming 2013)

Review : The Summer of Skinny Dipping

The Summer of Skinny Dipping by Amanda Howells
Pages : 295
Genre : YA, Fiction
Stand Alone
My Rating : 

What it’s about :

Mia couldn’t be more excited to be spending her summer in the Hamptons with her family; she loves the beach and the sea, and she has always been close to her cousin Corinne. She envisions a summer of fun, secrets and laughs… until she gets there and realize her cousin has changed since the last time she saw her. Stuck with Corinne, her sister and her friend, whose snobby attitude makes her more self-conscious than ever, Mia tries to accept that her summer won’t be as she had hoped.

Then she meets Simon, their summer neighbor. Though she’s at first unsure of him, their walks under the moon allow her to trust him, and their friendship quickly turns into something more…

My Thoughts :

It’s been said by many readers that The Summer of Skinny Dipping is no fluffy read. I can now confirm this; despite its summery cover and premise, this book isn’t one I would qualify as a fun beach read – nor is it really a romance, despite “falling in love” being a very important part of it. It will definitely bring summer to you; I could feel the sand and smell the sea through the pages and it did make me wish I was there. However, there is a lot more depth to Mia’s coming-of-age story, and while the book can easily be read in a day, it’s definitely not one to get you up when you feel down.

As the main character, Mia was an interesting one and one that I could relate to – not as I am in the present, but as I was when I was her age. My first thought was that she was naive, but I really prefer the word innocent to describe her. She is at that point in her life where her perception of the world is facing reality, and the last threads of her innocence are slowly broken. Through the events of that summer, she learns that things are not always as they seem, and that the people she envy might not be as perfect as they look.

Though her outlook on life still has this innocence, Mia is also an over-thinker. She questions everything and imagines the different outcomes, and that’s why I can’t consider her naive. She definitely perceives that something is going on with her family, but she never knows what until she is told. When you read a novel that is narrated by the main character, you are asked to believe their version of the story; in this case, it was interesting when Mia realized that she didn’t know her family that well, because the stories she had fabricated about them – and narrated repetitively as truths – do not match the reality.

The narration felt very intimate and quiet, giving the book a very slow pace. Until the end, the story had very few surprising turns. Mia’s romance with Simon develops at a nice pace (no insta-love!) and I could appreciate that they were friends first. I was surprised by how well Simon’s character was described from Mia’s point of view. I felt the author had a very clear view of him and allowed him to be an individual, rather than just a pretext for romance.

I guessed the ending very early in the book, and I’m still not sure whether it’s a good thing or not. Predictability can be either, really; if we compare to movies, you can enjoy thrillers that are surprising and twisted, but prefer romantic comedies to end with the predictable happily ever after. In this case, I don’t know; I think the ending would have hit me more strongly if I hadn’t seen it coming, but knowing it created a tension that was almost unbearable.

The Summer of Skinny Dipping surprised me in a positive way. While I wish the pacing would have hold my attention a little better, its story is powerful and its narration is full of heart. I also think it offers interesting possibilities for discussions about self-worth, happiness and identity.