This Is Not a Drill
By: Beck McDowell
Release Date: October 25, 2012
Rating: 4 stars
|Summary: Two teens try to save a class of first-graders from a gun-wielding soldier suffering from PTSDWhen high school seniors Emery and Jake are taken hostage in the classroom where they tutor, they must work together to calm both the terrified children and the gunman threatening them–a task made even more difficult by their recent break-up. Brian Stutts, a soldier suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq, uses deadly force when he’s denied access to his son because of a custody battle. The children’s fate is in the hands of the two teens, each recovering from great loss, who now must reestablish trust in a relationship damaged by betrayal. Told through Emery and Jake’s alternating viewpoints, this gripping novel features characters teens will identify with and explores the often-hidden damages of war.|
Review: I had the feeling this was going to be an interesting book and I love it when I’m right.
Besides a few details the reactions from both hostages and hostage taker are realistic. And those children.. poor children! They acted so brave the whole time. And Jake and Emery impressed me. How they dealt with the situation -being still teenagers themselves- was courageous. They ignored their own fears and the kids stayed their number one priority the whole time.
With exception of the ending, the pace was good. The story was built up very well. Thanks to the shifting perspectives between Jake and Emery, I knew how they really felt and how scared they were. And I liked how McDowell integrated Stutt’s story as well. I understood Emery when she tells Jake that she actually feels for him. I can’t imagine what that man saw while he was in Iraq and how he suffered. At a sudden point a human being just can’t take more right?
The ending was a bit rushed in my opinion. There were a few things that annoyed me. For example: after Emery discovers that her friend hided a letter from Jake, apologizing for his mistake and admitting he wants her back, she says she doesn’t know they can still be friends. Excuse me? That felt so weird after reading that book cause come on, her friend was just trying to protect her and there are more worse things in life. She had just survived a hostage for crying out loud. In the end it is also clear that Emery will go back to Jake. That is really very sweet and all, but is it realistic that a teenage girl -after what she’s been through- stays in the hospital with her boyfriend and she isn’t with her parents?
The story is believable, the kids are heartwarming, Jake and Emery so brave, and all that make that this book really is a worthy read. And if it wasn’t for those few tiny details I would’ve given it 5 stars.
By: C. J. Skuse
Release Date: November 1, 2012
Rating: 3 Stars
|Summary:She’s got it bad, and he ain’t good — he’s in her garage?”I’m your biggest fan, I’ll follow you until you love me…”
Gonna have to face it: Jody’s addicted to Jackson Gatlin, frontman of The Regulators, and after her best bud Mac scores tickets, she’s front and center at his sold-out concert. But when she gets mashed in the moshpit and bodysurfs backstage, she’s got more than a mild concussion to deal with. By the next morning, the strung-out rock star is coming down in her garage. Jody — oops — kind of kidnapped him. By accident. With a Curly Wurly candy bar. And now he doesn’t want to leave.
It’s a rock-star abduction worthy of an MTV reality series…but who got punk’d?!
Rockoholic isn’t the book I thought it would be, but kudos to C. J. Skuse for trying something different. Still, I really thought this was one of those premises where the main character does this crazy rock star kidnapping thing and hilarity ensues – except, it’s really not all that funny. I guess I liked the serious turn, teaching a life lesson to one obsessed fangirl, it just wasn’t the story I expected.
The summary’s entirely accurate though, Jody’s obsessed with this dude Jackson Gatlin and his music, until she finally gets him to herself – then her entire world view comes crashing down because he’s not at all like what she expected. I just thought the whole thing would be, I don’t know, funnier? – and it’s really not. Between the way she treats her best friend Mac to that entire chapter about waiting in line for the concert, it’s … kind of sad, actually. Although I am amazed Skuse’s managed to write enough material to fill an entire chapter about waiting in line, but there’s obsessed fangirl for you. In the meantime, even Jody knows what a terrible friend she is (actual admission: I don’t like it when Mac talks to other girls. It just reminds me there are girls out there who’d be a better best friend for him.) and, well … poor Mac. At least until he calls her a stupid cow, and, even if she deserves it, not cool dude.
So after the concert (random WTF line: The stage goes dark and some midgets run on with sparklers.), she does her thing, and even though I really didn’t find her new found stuck with a rock star predicament all that funny, at least it’s poetic justice. Cause Jackson suffers from all the stereotypical problems of an eighties rock star, temperamental, drug habit, and yes, he’s not even a real vegetarian. I can just see the lights going out in Jody’s eyes. So even if I’m neither amused nor sympathetic, I keep reading because I am curious if and when her self-styled miserable, empty, dried-up husk of a life would hit rock bottom. (Also, I have to admit it is a little gratifying to read about the fallout from Jody’s collapsing delusions.)
And that’s when Rockoholic loses me, somewhere between the rehab for Jackson and Jody’s realization that her life doesn’t suck so much (thanks to a convenient assist from her dead granddad). I’m sure the goal was to have Jody stop living in her fantasy, but I got the feeling Skuse was trying to tackle too many problems, and between Jody’s mom, her sister, Mac’s parents, and Jackson’s band problems, all of it seems to be resolved way too easily, all thanks to Jody’s one crazy split second decision and a candy bar. There just seems to be too many problems, too many solutions, too many tense moments, and not enough light hearted, actual laugh out loud scenes.
For me, the funniest scene was the food fight at Jody’s grandpa’s funeral and it was all downhill from there. The rest of Rockoholic is actually fairly serious. Nothing wrong with that, I just wasn’t expecting it.
Go to Mitch’s review on Goodreads.
Wew that’s a long title.
The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart (Magic Most Foul #2)
By: Leanna Renee Hieber
Release Date: November 1, 2012
Rating: 4 Stars
|Summary:For Natalie Stewart, a normal life has never seemed so far away. Her only solace, Lord Jonathan Denbury, is wanted for murder. To clear his name, Denbury must return to England and assume the role of his demon doppelganger. But Natalie begins to doubt his true motives, especially as a new gentleman begins whispering in her ear. Natalie and Denbury may be able to visit each other in their dreams, but they can’t escape the darkening shadows. Amid spontaneous explosions, friends turned enemies and dangerous secrets revealed, there’s still a demon who has Natalie’s scent, and someone is trying to resurrect the ultimate evil.|
The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart picks up right where Darker Still leaves off, with Natalie and Denbury on a train out of New York in the aftermath of their confrontation with Denbury’s demon. It takes only a few paragraphs to remind me why Darker Still was such an interesting read, from its fairly unique epistolary form, telling the story through journal entries and newspaper clippings, to its take on gothic horror, almost like there’s a poetic quality to the writing, because luckily this sequel retains almost all of what the first book does right. Even though I have one or two issues with Natalie’s character and parts of the plot, I really think Natalie Stewart does a great job of building on the first book and setting up the third.
Actually, the biggest difference between Natalie Stewart and Darker Still is that this sequel doesn’t as strictly follow the epistolary form as Darker Still did. I really appreciated the found journal storytelling style of Darker Still, the same style as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, because it added to the mystery, reading the found words of this missing girl as part of the investigation into her disappearance, and even though Natalie Stewart, with all its events being told in real time, doesn’t have that same feel, it’s a good choice for this book to put me closer to the action. There’s this hospital scene for example, that’s definitely way spookier with Natalie narrating than if I’d read it from her journal, because with the chill in the air, the spirits all around, a demon on the loose, the danger is just palpable. And the letters, they’re not entirely gone, there are a couple of er interesting ones between Denbury and Natalie scattered throughout.
The plot really impressed me this go around, even if I have some slight issues with it. Darker Still was kind of predictable based on the summary, it’s fairly obvious what Natalie has to do to rescue Denbury, but this book presents a mystery that’s both horrifying and takes its time teasing at the specifics. There’s actually a parallel plot structure with two stories going on simultaneously, one Natalie battling Denbury’s demon who doesn’t seem to have quite been vanquished, and the other Natalie and Denbury getting to the bottom of the mysterious evil organization responsible for summoning the demon in the first place. My only disappointment is that I really felt the two plots would be more interconnected than they turned out to be, turns out, it feels like they best one foe, feel safe for a bit, and then the other strikes out of the blue. With Maggie. Who’s even crazier this time around. And Denbury’s friends Sam and Nate ended up being rather underused as a result. But even so, it’s still great gothic horror the entire way through, unsettling even when nothing bad in particular has happened, and downright creepy when evil’s finally revealed – the scene in the hospital, again, is stellar.
I’m not entirely a fan of Natalie’s character, she’s a bit too much for my liking, especially when she frets about the demon and ends up accusing Denbury or becomes suspicious of Ms. Northe for no apparent reason other than spending too much time with her father, but I’m a little of suspicious of Ms. Northe too. Yeah, I like her, she’s the kind of nice, supportive old lady character every heroine wishes she’d have on her side, but I understand Natalie’s thinking, Northe may be a little too good to be true. But that’s what makes her awesome. And between Natalie’s friend Rachel and Denbury’s pals, there really seems like there’s going to be a real fight between the good guys and that mysterious evil organization, the so called Society.
The last thing I’ll say is that Natalie Stewart really one ups Darker Still in the literary allusion department, and it’s really cool for any fan of classic gothic horror. A close or not too close reading reveals tons of references to Poe’s Fall of the House of Usher, Shelley’s Frankenstein, it’s really a shame Stoker’s Dracula I think is published a few years after these books are set. But it’s clear Hieber knows her gothic horror, and not only included the classic tone and atmosphere of the genre in her books, but even got the ideas in too, take a look at the descriptions of Nate’s play.
It’s no secret I’m a fan of gothic horror, and Darker Still is a pretty cool throwback to the classics. The Twisted Tragedy of Miss Natalie Stewart takes this series one step further, sets up the overarching conflict for what’s to come.
Go to Mitch’s review on Goodreads.
Note: I know this entry is five days overdue, and I started writing it on Tuesday, but I got busy and kind of forgot about it. In other words, my nagger kind of forgot about it. But anyway, here goes…
So, I finally watched Breaking Dawn Part 2 last night, and since someone has been nagging me all day and since she won’t let me ignore her, here are my thoughts…
I think this was the best one of all the movies, and I say that for one reason, and one reason only – because of the end.
I knew going in that there would be a “shocking twist ending … you won’t believe.” I saw it in the previews. I heard it on the radio. And everyone told me about it. Yes, I did figure it out after a few minutes. But I gotta tell ya, that was one HELLUVA ending!
I have to say, I couldn’t ever decide if New Moon or Breaking Dawn was more boring. And really, the last movie wasn’t all that great. But I don’t care whether you loved or hated the books. If you have read them all, you HAVE to watch the last movie – or at least the last 20 minutes or so. That along made it worth the $10+ just to see what everyone was talking about.
So the Twilight marathon I went on a few days ago (see ranting entry here), I wouldn’t exactly recommend it for those who don’t really care for the books or the movies. But I must say, anyone who has read the books should at least find out what the hype with this movie is all about.
Ashes of Twilight (Ashes #1)
By: Kassy Tayler
Release Date: November 13, 2012
Rating: 1 Star
|Summary:Wren MacAvoy works as a coal miner for a domed city that was constructed in the mid-nineteenth century to protect the royal blood line of England when astronomers spotted a comet on a collision course with Earth. Humanity would be saved by the most groundbreaking technology of the time. But after nearly 200 years of life beneath the dome, society has become complacent and the coal is running out. Plus there are those who wonder, is there life outside the dome or is the world still consumed by fire? When one of Wren’s friends escapes the confines of the dome, he is burned alive and put on display as a warning to those seeking to disrupt the dome’s way of life. But Alex’s final words are haunting. “The sky is blue.” What happens next is a whirlwind of adventure, romance, conspiracy and the struggle to stay alive in a world where nothing is as it seems. Wren unwittingly becomes a catalyst for a revolution that destroys the dome and the only way to survive might be to embrace what the entire society has feared their entire existence.|
For those of you thinking of abandoning Ashes of Twilight after the first chapter, I really can’t blame you. There’s just something about Kassy Tayler’s writing, exposition heavy, consisting of chained sentences reading more like a shopping list of events than a story, lots of telling instead of showing, that really doesn’t make this an easy book to read. And although I have to say the writing markedly improves as the story progresses, any improvements in the writing couldn’t make up for the disappointing plot that’s far too predictable for anyone who’s familiar with the dystopian genre.
But truth be told, it all comes down to Wren – she’s a really poor narrator. It’s pretty easy to imagine the basic premise, a society forced to live in a domed city because the rest of the world’s been incinerated by a comet – except, maybe the city’s leaders are lying, maybe the world’s perfectly fine beyond the dome, but Wren though, she just tries way too hard getting her point across. Even beyond the action scenes that’s basically five or six sentences in a row of I followed by one of a selection of verbs in the present tense (which annoyed me to no end, could she be a little more creative in telling me what she’s doing?), she’s just really repetitive, not subtle at all, and leaves nothing to the reader’s imagination. Intuitively, I know Wren yearns to be something more than just a coal miner, a shiner, stuck at the dirty bottom of this society while the royals get their nice houses and live large off everyone else’s hard work, I get it, but it’s really disappointing and gets really old really fast that Wren spends so much time telling and summarizing her problems rather than showing them. I think her overemphasis on how terribly unfair and unjust life in the domed city is actually detracted from the hardscrabble coal mining to support the dome world Wren was supposed to show.
Because, don’t get me wrong, there are actually a few powerful scenes later on. After Wren’s friend Alex is burned to death for discovering the truth, after she meets this guy Pace who’s wanted for also knowing the truth, after she has to hide him in the abandoned coal mining tunnels underneath the city, there’s this really neat scene, just the two of them, on the run, desperate, with nothing but their determination to get the truth out there, and they’re really not doing anything besides sitting next to each other in this cave, but it’s one of the few scenes not overburdened by Wren’s tendency to overexplain everything and it actually works because it’s the rare scene that shows exactly what Wren normally tells. That’s how you make an impact. But unfortunately, the vast majority of the time, it’s just Wren telling me how it is instead of showing through details and actions, and telling just doesn’t have the same effect or impact, no matter how unfair this system of supporting the royals is.
The writing may have been the biggest issue for me, but the plot didn’t really do it either. The summary pretty much gives away everything I needed to know, all that’s left is for Wren and her friends to expose the conspiracy keeping everyone inside the dome, and wow did Wren take her time getting to the bottom of things. In the meantime, Wren and Pace, they had a few scenes, but what dystopian couple don’t they remind me of? I’m actually more intrigued by Alex, Lucy, and David because the three of them at least don’t so blatantly suffer from the plot mandated relationship, their triangle sets the events of the book in motion, and Alex’s death genuinely affects Lucy. But at the end of the day, when Alex is vindicated, when his death is given meaning, when Wren finally figures out why they’ve been kept behind the dome all this time, I’m actually really disappointed. Not only by the reveal with Wren’s father that couldn’t be more cliche or the reason for keeping everyone inside not being because of roving bands of flesh eating mutants (although the people in charge probably wouldn’t have to hide that), no, the actual reason just reinforces my impression that I’ve just read a typical dystopian where the evil dystopian government perpetrates this big lie on its citizens so it can stay in power and for two hundred years everyone’s been really dumb about it and not questioned how the fans and vents worked. Even though Wren must’ve pointed out this fact once every three chapters or so.
I think I would’ve been much more impressed with Ashes of Twilight had the plot twists not been as predictable and generic as they were, but even so, the writing really sank this one, I’m afraid. Disappointment overall, although turns out that canary on the cover’s actually pretty relevant to the plot.
Go to Mitch’s review on Goodreads.