Wednesday, May 1, 2013

What I’m Reading, April 26, 2013

I’ve been a bit of a whirlwind reader this week, plowing through a myriad of YA and adults reads with an incessant need to find something really great. Instead, I found myself faced with a mixture of sequels, odd and slightly disturbing new titles, and disappointing series finales. So, in the order I read them, here’s what’s been in my hands this week.

Black City by Elizabeth Richards (out now)
Okay, this is a bit of a cheat, because I actually read it last Friday, but I thought I would mention it anyway. Black City is another one of those dystopian young adult novels that deals with a corrupt totalitarian government ruling with an iron grip. It differs in that author Elizabeth Richards introduces a bit of a paranormal concept, where Darklings, mutated humanoid-vampire creatures, are the “villainous” others struggling against serious segregation propaganda from the anti-Christ type leader of the humans. Here, the daughter of a corrupt government official/scientist falls for a twin-blood (the product of a human and a Darkling) without a heart. Between extreme religious parallels and violence (really horrific crucifixions of traitors to the government’s cause), and obvious comments on bigotry, segregation, and totalitarianism; the underlying themes are definitely unsubtle—more like a sledge hammer, and the plot suffers for it. Still, the world was interesting enough to keep me reading and the writing was not horrible. I have the sequel, Phoenix, but am still unsure if it deserves my time. I have to say, this book is not for the weak of stomach, or heart, and although it is geared toward those ages 14 and up, I would be hesitant to recommend it to anyone under the age of 17. In all, Black City was not a complete waste of time—it did mash-up genres in an interesting way, but in all, the extremes that it uses to push political, social, and religious tones onto a teen reader takes away from its likability.

Emerald Green by Kerstin Gier (releases 10/8/13)
The final book of the Ruby Red series was a bit of a disappointment. Ruby Red had a lot of promise, an interesting storyline, a likeable heroine, and an interesting twist (see my review Ruby Red: An International Bestseller Making its Way to the U.S.). I found the sequel, Sapphire Blue to be lacking a bit, but let’s face it, most of the middle books within a trilogy do, and still I had hope for a good strong finish. Unfortunately, Emerald Green just didn’t have it. While the primary plot threads were closed, there were still many holes left untouched, and there was a rather unsatisfying handling of what should have been a rather pivotal and emotional reveal for the main character. Basically, I experienced a general feeling of let-down. I don’t know if the better part of the series plot and character development was lost in translation (translated from German by well-known translator Anthea Bell), or if in stretching it to three books, as opposed the one single novel—after all the entire series only takes place over a few weeks—took the spark away, but whatever it was, the finished product was sadly lacking in oomph and pay-off.

The Elite by Kiera Cass (out now)
Yes, I did hit the YA hard this week, and the third book I read is the sequel to last year’s The Selection (for review see "The Selection"—read it before you see it). The Elite continues to follow the story of America Singer, a poor musician living in yet another dystopian setting, who has been recruited to compete in a very public Bachelor-esque competition for the hand of the kingdom’s prince in marriage. In book two we find America, now one of six remaining girls, torn between her confusing feelings for Prince Maxon and her childhood love Aspen, now in the Royal Guard. The machinations of the other girls are fascinating to read about as they continuously vie for attention and the crown, and the underlying political happenings start to take on for meaning—making it a little difficult to figure out exactly how this series will end. Despite its middle book-syndrome premise (nothing ever comes to resolution in the second books), The Elite is still engaging, though often maddening (just choose a guy!), and worth a read if you enjoyed The Selection. I can’t help, but anticipate the yet to be named conclusion to this trilogy, I truly have no idea how it will end.

The Last Word by Lisa Lutz (releases 7/9/13)
I always enjoy the wit of a Spellman book and The Last Word, which is the 6th “document”, continues the story of Isabel Spellman and her wayward family of Private Investigators. This time the perpetually sarcastic Izzy is losing control of her recently conquered company (she sprung a takeover of the family’s business in Document #5, Trail of the Spellmans)—her parents refuse to behave themselves in any sort of professional manner, her top client and backer makes her jog three times a week, and she’s under investigation by the FBI for embezzlement. Lutz’s characters are sarcastic, sneaky, and downright scary in their ingeniousness. While not my favorite of the series—that’s a tie between The Spellman Files and The Spellmans Strike Again—the characters are still endearing and entertaining, making it of course, a must read for fans of the series.

The Fairest of Them All by Carolyn Turgeon (releases 8/16/13)
This reimaging of the Rapunzel and Snow White stories is a dark and twisted piece of fiction. Ostensibly telling the story of Rapunzel, The Fairest of Them All features the long haired beauty as an amalgamation of the innocent young maiden from the tower and the misunderstood, possibly wicked, Evil Queen from the Snow White tale. This Rapunzel, raised by a witch, enchants the less than perfect prince, only to be ditched by him when he marries the mother of the yet to be born Snow White. What ensues is heartbreak, mischief, love, and revenge as the amazingly naïve young lady with the magic hair evolves into an entirely new and unique version of Snow White’s stepmother. An interesting and definitely adult fairytale remake, I can’t quite say I liked it—these characters were almost too human in their flaws, too dark in their thoughts and deeds, heroes and villains alike, but it might be worth a read if you’re in the mood for a skewed trip into the “happily ever after” zone.

I also read The Never List by Koethi Zan (releases 7/16/13), but will be discussing it later in a full review.

I’m currently reading Rick Yancey’s The Fifth Wave, a post-apocalyptic YA that is looking to be very promising. More on that later.

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