Friday, November 30, 2012

Thirteen (Women of the Otherworld, #13) by Kelley Armstrong

Rating 3/5

Here ends Kelley Armstrong's Women of the Otherworld urban fantasy series. But not really. Apparently, there's going to be two anthologies of short stories. Armstrong has also left the door open to more novels. This is probably my favorite adult urban fantasy series, and Bitten is what got me into the genre in the first place.

Armstrong put the prologue for Bitten at the beginning of Thirteen to remind us where it all began, but I'm not sure this was the best idea, because it also reminded us what she can do when she has time. Bitten is the best book in the series, and I've kept reading Women of the Otherworld hoping she'd recapture that style. Bitten was more about Elena, the character, about being a werewolf, about character development. The rest of the books in the series were more and more plot-driven. Armstrong is pretty good at coming up with complicated plots. We know she's also good at creating characters and relationships, but unfortunately she hasn't focused on that lately.

Thirteen brings together all Armstrong's main characters and quite a few minor ones in a big fight to "save the world" (i.e. America) by getting caught in between the "reveal" movement and equally radical "anti-reveal" terrorists. The story is told mostly from the first-person perspective of Savannah, with several third-person chapters telling bits of the story that happen to the other women. It's a weird way to write a book. Personally I think it would've been better to write it all in third-person.

I still think Savannah is a YA character, even though Armstrong keeps trying to make her grow up. She's also not a very interesting or unique personality. I just don't get a sense that the author has a deep grasp on who she is the way she did with the rest of her Women. After three books, Savannah should be a fleshed-out character, but I still feel like she's a pale caricature, and so much like every other YA protagonist in the genre. I can't tell if it's because Armstrong was too focused on plot to develop a genuine character, or if she focused on plot because there wasn't much to Savannah.

The plot itself was supposed to be epic, I guess, but I just didn't feel the "gravitas". Even though this was (supposedly) the last book of the series, you knew they would solve the problem, and there was never the sense that anyone was in dire peril. (spoiler removed)

Armstrong has been writing two books a year for quite awhile now (one WOTOW and one YA), and it's a pity. Because she's turned into a bookmill, she's never recaptured the level of writing she had with Bitten. Quantity over quality is the name of the game in this genre, and I really wish some of these writers would resist that. Especially this one, because we've seen how talented she can be.

After this book ends, we are "treated" to a short-story (really an epilogue) about Clay & Elena's return to the Pack. It's odd, because it seems its only purpose (spoiled removed)is to set up some future plot (spoiler removed). As a story on it's own, and considering this is supposed to be the end of the series, it really doesn't make any sense. I guess it is just a hint of what might appear in those future anthologies.

To sum up, Thirteen is kind of a last gasp. It's full of action, lots of people running all over the place trying to stop bad stuff from happening. It's a quick read, and better than Spell Bound, but not a meaningful or satisfying end to a series that I used to get really excited about reading.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

The Fox Inheritance (Jenna Fox Chronicles, #2) by Mary E. Pearson

The Fox Inheritance (Jenna Fox Chronicles #2) by Mary E. Pearson

Rating: 3/5

This book was very different from its predecessor, but still a good read. Whereas The Adoration of Jenna Fox was more of a philosophically-bent scifi character study, The Fox Inheritance had a dystopian adventure feel to it.

I have a few criticisms of the future world Pearson creates in this book. It's not as different from today as, say, the 19th century is from the present. I would've expected the culture to shift more in 300 years. Although we didn't really get to see much of the civilization, the language should have changed quite a bit. I mean common usage slang changes every decade, but all the characters spoke in exactly the same way. I'd also have expected that in 300 years technology would completely change the way people live. Yes, Jenna is a throwback, and there was a natural disaster that got in the way, but there were also wars - and wars have always been a major impetus for technological progress. Think of how much has changed in the last 100 years. In the next 300 (assuming we survive them), artificially intelligent androids, transportation grids, and "money cards" will probably be just the tip of the iceberg. I'm not sure this kind of half-hearted world-creation would fly in the adult scifi-fantasy genre, but Pearson gets away with it because it's YA.

Aside from the world-building issues, it's a decent enough story. The line between human and machine is even more blurry with the addition of "Bots" with various levels of human aspiration, and the characters of Kara and Locke whose minds are downloaded into bodies that are created from small amounts of DNA (as compared to Jenna, who was 10% original). Locke may not be as compelling a character as Jenna was in the first book of the series, but there's more action here, so that takes the pressure off. (I'm not going to rant about sexism, but I will point out that the male protagonist's book is more action-oriented than the female's. Draw your own conclusions.) I enjoyed Locke's story, but it wasn't quite as poignant or thought-provoking as Jenna's.

See my reviews of The Adoration of Jenna Fox (#1) and Fox Forever (#3)

Monday, November 26, 2012

Into the Woods: Tales from the Hollows and Beyond by Kim Harrison

Rating: 1.5/5

I don't read a lot of short stories, but I've read enough to have an opinion on these ones. They ranged from 'meh' to 'I hate this'. I had to force myself through this collection bit by bit, only stomaching about 1 story a day.

I read Harrison's The Hollows series, and though they've been declining for awhile now, I usually manage to get some enjoyment out of them. Not so much with these Hollows shorts. Reading them together made me realize how alike all of her characters are, and just how much she relies on inner conflict to fill pages. And all the characters struggling with guilt in the same exact way, even Trent (who was way more interesting when he was written as cold and calculating). It's as if Harrison is stuck in her own formula.

The story about Ivy made me grind my teeth - in the middle of her plot, she'd stop and be all "Oh! My feelings!" every third paragraph, basically repeating what she'd said in the last emo eruption minutes before, in ever more confusing ways. Plus, Ivy's issue with love & blood have been covered multiple times in the book series, so I didn't feel like I was learning anything new about her.

"Dirty Magic", the story about Mia, made absolutely no sense at all. [spoilers removed] There's a difference between misdirection and lying. After the last page, I felt like the whole damn story had been a lie, and that pissed me off.

Throughout the book there were quite a few problems with sentence structure that made certain passages downright confusing. Call me a grammar Nazi if you want, but I literally can't help but notice those things. They jump out at me and break the flow of the story. It makes me angry because it tells me the writer/editor is lazy and/or doesn't really give a crap about the reader's experience.

Here's an example: "he knew that despite what Quen said, the means did not justify the ends." The means justifying the ends? That's backwards. If I picked that up on a casual first read-through, why did neither the author or editor notice?

In all fairness, some of the stories were okay. I think the last one was probably the most interesting to me, even if Grace is a bit dull.

All of Harrison's characters try SO DAMN HARD to do the right thing, and feel SO MUCH GUILT when any little thing goes wrong, it's really starting to annoy me. At this point, I'm glad The Hollows is ending*. It was fun, but I'm getting tired of the genre conventions in urban fantasy. I keep reading this genre looking for that thing that drew me to it in the first place, but it's hard to find in the sea of hastily-written, unoriginal fluff books that I keep coming across. I'm not blaming Harrison for all of that, of course. The Hollows was pretty original and exciting (to me, at least) when I started reading the series. I feel like the pressure on an author to churn out a book a year indefinitely is totally detrimental to the quality of the stories, so they're pretty much guaranteed to decline and be lacking in depth of meaning as the series goes on. It's a shame, and sometimes it makes me want to stick solely to trilogies and single novels.

*update: The Hollows is not, in fact, ending any time soon.

All Ratings and Reviews For Kim Harrison's Hollows Series

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Will Grayson, Will Grayson by John Green

Rating 4/5

One of the cool things about this book is how it was written - John Green wrote one Will Grayson & David Levithan wrote the other. They are different, but not as different as you'd probably find with an author who wrote them both, because in that case they'd probably be perfectly juxtaposed except in one area to prove some point or another. So the main focus of this book isn't really to compare them with each other. Which is pleasantly unexpected. My favorite thing about this story is that the teenagers were like real teenagers. They swore, had bad attitudes, screwed up, got angry, and struggled with themselves and each other. It's so much better than the bleached out and overly-simplified YA characters I'm used to reading and more like how I remember being an adolescent. They had depth and meaning beyond their roles in the plot. They were flawed like real human beings, not because it's a genre convention. It's hard for me to imagine a high school allowing a musical with these lyrics, or even a character like Tiny (is it really that easy for a gay 16 year old to find so many boyfriends?) I don't know. It doesn't really matter. It's a great book.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Everwild (Skinjacker, #2) by Neal Shusterman

Rating 3/5

Like its predecessor, Everwild is slow-moving, but picks up in the last third. In a book that's over 400 pages, that's quite a lot of reading before you get to the good stuff.

There's a large cast of characters in this series, and a few notables join the cast in this second book, but Shusterman manages to make each character distinguishable. Mary Hightower sinks to new depths in this one, and manages to find a sociopathic skinjacker for a partner. She's an interesting character for a children's series - a villain who believes deeply in the righteousness of her cause, able to sway many because of her beauty and ability to deceive. She's like Lucifer and Glinda the Good rolled into one.

In this book, more mysteries of Everlost are revealed, some of which seem like little more than convenient plot devices. (spoiler removed)

For all the sluggish pace in the first half of the book, Shusterman does know how to write a climax that's also a cliffhanger, and leave you curious for what happens next. I just wish more of the story was as good as the last ten chapters.

See my reviews of Everlost (Skinjacker #1) and Everfound (Skinjacker #3)

Friday, November 16, 2012

Divergent (Divergent, #1) by Veronica Roth

Rating 3.5/5

I have a real problem here. I really liked this story. I mean, I couldn't put it down. But the premise the whole thing is based on is utterly ridiculous. The society in this book is preposterous. No group of people in their right minds would create a societal structure like this for the purpose of maintaining peace. It is a perfect shitstorm waiting to happen. The only reason anyone would design a society like this is if they wanted to study conflict between groups. You're dividing people into "factions" (i.e. cults) according to ideology and values (i.e. politics and religion), and separating them geographically but within a confined area where they have to compete for limited resources. And then you give one group "governmental" control, but allow each faction to do whatever they want within their boundaries. Of course they are going to start hating each other and their overlords!

In addition, this system forces 16 year olds to make an uninformed choice that will seal their fate for the rest of their lives. If they make the wrong choice, they are 'exiled' and forced to join the dredges of society, the poor and homeless. First of all, you cannot categorize people this way. People who have multiple dominant "traits" (there are only five, apparently) are considered "Divergent", which is the worst kind of danger to the state. If they are caught, they are exiled or even killed, just for their test results. In this story, there are only a handful of people who don't fall into one of the five categories. There is no faction for people who believe multiple values are important. You must choose between honesty, selflessness, courage, knowledge or peacefulness. And you must dedicate the rest of your life to a choice you make at a time in your development when you are still in the process of defining yourself. In reality, humans are far more complex than this, and their values shift over time. There is no room for personal change in this society. In effect, there is no room to be human. And yet the creators of this system thought it would keep the peace?

The test which decides the life-long and unchanging "aptitude" of these teenagers is a two-minute long simulation that offers a few choices. You can't always tell a person's intentions from their choices. For example, the first choice is to choose, without context, either a piece of cheese or a knife. According to the test, any person who chooses the knife over the cheese is "Dauntless", meaning they believe bravery is the most important human trait. But what if someone chooses the knife because they are terrified? These 16 year olds are given a choice about which faction they will join, and they don't have to choose the one they are told they are supposedly suited for. But unless they choose the faction they are born into, they have NO IDEA what they are getting into. They don't know what life is like in the segregated section of the city that will now be their home, and they have no clue what kind of horrors await them during "initiation". All they know is the symbolic "trait" that the faction is supposed to honour in their choice of lifestyle. What kind of sick people consciously choose a system that does this to their children?

There is no reason given in this book why the city is walled off from the outside or what happened to the previous civilization. Thus, there's no good explanation as to why these people chose to order their society in this way. The idea behind this civilization is that people are inherently flawed, and this was the best method of treatment - to choose one of five human propensities for evil (dishonesty, selfishness, cowardice, ignorance, or aggression) and order your life around avoiding it. Except there are people in your city who choose one of the other traits and feel free to behave in the other four ways. So what problem is this solving?

Like I said, the scenario in which this story is based is inconceivable. There is no place on this planet where anyone with knowledge of humanity could think this society was a plausible way to create peace. Considering how I feel about this, I don't know how I could've enjoyed the actual story so much, but I did. I liked the characters, even though again we were stuck with a typical brash, stubborn, fierce-yet-self-doubting girl for a protagonist. Clearly, there is a way to do stereo-types in a way that is not annoying, and Roth has figured it out. I liked her friends, I liked the love interest, and the villains (and there were a lot, yay!) each had their own motivation and individual methods. I never felt overwhelmed by the sheer number of characters here, even though there were a ton. Each of them were different and memorable (which is ironic, considering that there are only supposed to be five types of people in this world). So I guess you could say Roth's world is "richly populated", especially for a YA novel. The story was fast-paced, continuous and exciting. I might've even given this book 5 stars if there weren't all the aforementioned premise problems. Still, this might be the best action-y YA dystopia I've read since The Hunger Games trilogy, and I look forward to Insurgent.

See my review of Insurgent (Divergent #2)

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

SecondWorld by Jeremy Robinson

Rating: 3/5

A fast-paced sci-fi thriller about a world-wide Nazi conspiracy. It's completely implausible for many reasons, but if you get over that it's not a bad book. For me the most implausible thing was that so many people were involved in the conspiracy and nobody on the outside found out about it. The science seemed to border on the ridiculous - zero point energy, anti-gravity, cryogenics etc. I could deal with one of these things being real, but not all of them. Or if the story was set in the future, it would be easier to believe they'd been achieved. But I was able to shrug/write it off and enjoy most of the book anyway.

You got your standard military hero, retired Navy SEAL Lincoln Miller, as all-American as cars and beer (look at his name - see what I did there?) You got your tough but sexy romantic interest, Elizabeth Adler. You've got your comedic relief side-kick, The Cowboy. You've got your double-crosser, your international running and gunning, your cryptic antique journal... What I'm saying is this book follows the standard thriller formula, but somehow it managed not to annoy me. There was very little focus on developing a romance between the hero and heroine (absolutely no mention/comparison of ex-spouses or speculative internal monologues about a possible relationship) and I appreciated that these two, unlike many thriller protagonists, were too focused on saving the word to think about boinking each other.

I liked the characters in this book, especially Arwen and The Cowboy. I just wonder, why'd it have to be Nazis? We already know their agenda, we know they're evil, and we already hate them, all of which saves the author from having to come up with his own Big Bad and MO. Kind of lazy, if you ask me. I like my villains a little more complex and morally gray, with motivations that are somewhat understandable even if their methods are reprehensible. Overall, I found this book was enjoyable but forgettable.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Rapture (The Fallen Angels, #4) by J.R. Ward

Rating 1.5/5

I shouldn't complain. Nobody is forcing me to read these books. So why do I read them? Curiosity, OCD, and peer-pressure. No I don't have OCD, but I when I start reading a series, I am compelled to finish it, no matter how bad it is (worst example: Hush, Hush). In this case I actually enjoyed the first book, Covet, so that makes it especially hard to quit. In addition, my good friend loves J.R. Ward and I like to be able to talk books with her. So I keep reading these, even though the language and the formula sometimes make me cringe almost to the point of implosion.

For example, this piece of narrative is from the perspective of the book's 30 year old female protagonist, who is a professional reporter: "Eventually, Mels took a break and hit the Au Bon Pain across the way, scoring a piping hot no sugar/no cream and a pecan roll the size of her head. Back out by the crime scene, she ate her sugar bomb and found the walkie-talkie was not her friend."

I've learned to deal with the fact that most of Ward's male characters use this kind of ridiculous jargon, but what kind of woman talks like that? Why can't Ward just write in plain English? All this slang does is make me confused, then annoyed, and takes me out of the story.

I feel like Ward really phoned it in this time. She only really had one new character to introduce (Mels), but she totally failed to make her interesting or original. Furthermore, bull-headed & career-blind doesn't equal "strong woman", and having her eat French fries, burgers and pastries while keeping her beautiful body doesn't make her relatable. And a woman who brushes off serial sexual harassment as an unavoidable common annoyance is not a heroine.

No effort was put into making Matthias in any way likable either, though with so many idiots going crazy for Christian Grey, I suppose Ward felt it wasn't necessary. I really don't get what's attractive about secretive, broody, violent and possessive men. I've launched this criticism at the Brontë sisters as well. I can forgive it in a vampire - after all, that's kind of the definition of a vampire. Buy why do Ward's human male protagonists all act like vampires?

Taken together, I have voted these two characters as the Least Appealing Couple Ward has ever created. I could neither cheer for them, believe in their "love", nor in fact read their scenes together without a sick feeling. Not what the author was aiming for at all.

Ward usually comes up with an interesting plot within the standard "Jim Heron must save a soul from the devil" premise in this series, but there really isn't one in this story. All the action is regurgitated from previous books.

It has never been more apparent that Ward uses an equation to write her books. She just plugs slightly different details into the slots that make up her (always damaged) characters - occupation, past tragedy, hair color... In every book, some of the tension is always created by the question: is this protagonist too damaged, or can he/she be redeemed by falling in lust - I mean love? I have a really hard time with such formulaic writing; it just seems so lazy and clichéd and uninspired.

So that's probably the best word to describe this latest offering of the progressively worsening Fallen Angel series: uninspired. I'm not sure how the next one could be much worse.

All Ratings and Reviews For J.R Ward (Black Dagger Brotherhood and Fallen Angels Series)

You are Not a Gadget by Jaron Lanier

Rating 2/5

Jaron Lanier has a message for us.

(this is the actual author photo from the book jacket. Caption added by me of course.)

I wish I was a gadget. Maybe then I could understand this book. That said, I'm not really qualified to review it, but I'm going to anyway, because I deserve to have an opinion after suffering my way through this book.

You Are Not A Gadget wasn't written for me. In fact, I think it was written for Jaron Lanier and a few other very smart people of the computer science elite. If you're not already familiar with the conversation surrounding programming (especially as it applies to the internet), you won't get much help from Lanier. There's no glossary, and he regularly explains concepts in terms of other unfamiliar concepts, if he bothers to explain them at all.

Lanier appears to be an expert on everything - computer science, neuroscience, evolutionary biology, philosophy, music, economics, ad infinitum - because he writes with such authority. He's also apparently had more jobs than a hooker gives out during the course of an entire career. I've no doubt his IQ approaches genius levels, but the problem with geniuses writing books is that some of them seem to forget that 99.9% of their readers are not going to also be geniuses. This book is called a "manifesto", which connotes its subject is very important to the author, and so presumably he wants people to understand what he's saying. But he doesn't bother to spell things out in language that most people could easily understand. I mean, I'm no slouch. I graduated with honours from my high school and university and even won a creative writing award. But I had a heck of a time following Lanier's train of thought from hypotheses through analogies to conclusions, because a) I didn't understand most of his references, b) he often uses unnecessarily complicated language (which tells me he places more priority on sounding authoritative than being understood), and c) he assumes his reader has entered the conversation familiar with the topic. There is also a glaring lack of end-note type references that would back up any premises, facts or theories Lanier puts forth.

It's clear Lanier has a sense of propriety towards the internet and computer programming. He had a vision of what the computing world would've accomplished by now, and WE'VE FAILED HIM. Not just programmers, but users too. We've bought into the idea that the "hive mind" way of producing programming and content (through collective effort like Wikipedia), is the best way of doing things, and because of early program designs and internet structures, we are close to being stuck with these things FOREVAH. He has some interesting ideas, and some really wacked out ones. He says we're obsessed with pre-internet media and our content has been reduced to mash-ups of stuff from that era. True creativity is being thwarted because can nobody retain credit for their products - because productivity comes in contributions to the hive instead of individual authorship, media is circulated in context-free fragments without reference to the original, the structure of the internet fosters anonymity, and because it's tough for people to get paid for original content that's available in digital form (eg. piracy). All this leads to the devaluation of individual humans. I'm not going to argue that these things are going on. What Lanier has failed to do, however, is make me give a crap about it. He calls himself a humanist, but he sounds more like an individualist to me. (Yes, I did choose to use the hive-created Wikipedia articles for these links out of spite). I'm not an expert in these ideas, but it seems to me that Lanier assumes individual humanity is of more importance than collective humanity, and his whole argument is based on this premise. I'm not sure I agree. Lanier believes individual or small group efforts are superior to hive efforts, and that we're losing something by having a system that supports the latter more than the former. He seems to blame the lack of creativity in our culture on the structure of the internet. To me, that's like blaming alcoholism on the chemical structure of alcohol.

Poor Jaron. He had dreams, and we've destroyed them by co-opting his internet and using it to make captioned photos of cats (and authors) without any credit or money given to the persons who took the photos. This just isn't how he wanted things to work out. And Virtual Reality was supposed to be a huge thing by now!

My uneducated answer to Jaron Lanier is this: SO EFFING WHAT. Nobody gets to decide the path of humanity's (and humanity's collective creations) evolution. We are "locked-in" to having two arms and legs, but nobody's complaining about that. Or wait a second, you sort of ARE. Lanier talks about how virtual reality (if only someone would make it affordable, lament, lament), can give us extra appendages, or turn us into a blob. I'm sure being part cloud is as mind-blowing as he makes it sound. Does anyone else find it ironic that Lanier is against "cybernetic totalism" while at the same time is fascinated with digitizing his whole physical experience? Lanier is afraid these dreams of his will never come true because the internet and program design constraints are grinding creativity to a halt. And we haven't even been able to invent smell-o-vision yet!

Necessity is the mother of invention. Obviously, as a group, we haven't yet needed to change things the way Lanier wants to change them. Therefore, the collective intelligence of computer-using humanity is inferior to the individual intelligence of Lanier. Maybe he IS a visionary. He certainly envisions a lot of things. Some of which (like the Songle idea) seem ridiculous and untenable to my non-genius yet still critical-thinking mind. I guess there's nothing for Lanier to do but keep stroking his disgruntled and disappointed individual ego (I can imagine it's hard to contemplate giving up attention to yourself when you're an awesome unique creative inter-disciplinary genius) and wait for the hive to decide it doesn't like being a hive anymore. Or maybe the hive keeps on hiving, and someone can make crappy YouTube feature called Last Individual Standing: The Singularity vs. Jaron Lanier.

I honestly don't care.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Across the Universe (Across the Universe, #1) by Beth Revis

Across the Universe (Across the Universe, #1) by Beth Revis 
Rating 2/5

It wasn't entirely terrible, but it just wasn't plausible. The way the ship is set up with some kinds of technology but not others is one of many things that didn't make sense to me. You have food dispensers in the walls but are weaving fabric and making clothes by hand? Why would you use air tube elevators instead of regular ones? Why are you still farming with tractors? Never mind that, why and how are you farming for centuries in the same soil on a spaceship? And then there's the issue of how someone could be dreaming or even conscious while in cryostasis. Or how a ship flying through the vacuum of space "slows down". Science fiction is meant to be scientifically reasonable given what we currently know about science. You have to at least attempt to explain something that happens in the story that flies in the face of that.

This book was about a handful of people running back and forth between a few key locations to have repetitive conversations. The only two characters I actually liked met with bad ends. Finally, the bouncing back and forth between Elder and Amy's perspective was annoying and sometimes confusing because their voices weren't distinctly different - I couldn't always remember whose chapter I was reading. I didn't much care for either of them.

The basic idea of this book is interesting: trapped on a spaceship during a centuries-long trip to colonize a new planet. It had a lot of potential. Unfortunately the execution was poor. Neither the characters, their actions, nor the "world" they lived in was believable enough for me. I won't be reading the rest of the series.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

The Adoration of Jenna Fox (Jenna Fox Chronicles, #1) by Mary E. Pearson

The Adoration of Jenna Fox (Jenna Fox Chronicles #1) by Mary E. Pearson 

Rating 3.5/5

I liked this book a lot. Even though it takes place in a post-event future, I hesitate to call it a dystopia. There is very little "world-building", and aside from the biotech integral to the story, not much about this future is described. Which leaves us in a bit of a murky world that is hard to distinguish from the present. However, this is an introspective type of story, told in the first person of a (somewhat necessarily) self-absorbed teenaged girl whose sphere of living starts off extremely constricted and controlled and only gradually widens. Thus, the scope of this story doesn't call for the world-building that's so important in the dystopian genre. 

It wasn't hard to guess very early on what had happened to Jenna. What's pleasantly surprising is how much more to the story there was after the "reveal". This book explores issues like identity, technology, and ethics from a particular subjective perspective (Jenna's) without becoming overly moralistic. But it's also a relatable coming-of-age story with a likable imperfect protagonist. 

I wasn't that keen on the final chapter which leap-frogged into the future to briefly let us know that everything turned out well. There were also a couple of under-developed characters that didn't seem to fulfill their potential to impact the plot. I also think the Fox family dynamic was over-simplified. They were way too functional for a family who had gone through everything they had. But, this is a YA novel, not Jonathan Franzen. 

Overall this was an easy to read, thought-provoking story that's of above-average quality for the YA genre.

See my reviews of The Fox Inheritance (#2) and Fox Forever (#3)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Everlost (Skinjacker, #1) by Neal Shusterman

Rating 3/5

Everlost was shelved in the Young Adult section of my library, but to me it felt like a children's book. Yes, the main characters were 15, but they could've just as easily been twelve. Yes, the world of Everlost is a bit spooky, but so is Scooby-doo. I would say this is a book for kids aged 10-14. The writing style was quite juvenile. That's not a criticism, I think kids need creative books like this. I just think I'm too old to really get much out of them. Age-appropriateness aside, I found it difficult to get into this story, which didn't really pick up until the last third or so. I didn't find any of the characters especially compelling until introduced to the McGill, who is a worthy, complex villain. I thought the way things wrapped up at the end was very satisfying, while leaving a lot of room for further developments. I'm undecided about reading the other books in this series. It's a well-written, if slow-developing, children's book, and I haven't been a child for a long long time!