Thursday, March 21, 2013

Review: Fragments by Dan Wells (Partials Sequence 2)

Kira Walker has found the cure for RM, but the battle for the survival of humans and Partials is just beginning. Kira has left East Meadow in a desperate search for clues to who she is. That the Partials themselves hold the cure for RM in their blood cannot be a coincidence--it must be part of a larger plan, a plan that involves Kira, a plan that could save both races. Her companions are Afa Demoux, an unhinged drifter and former employee of ParaGen, and Samm and Heron, the Partials who betrayed her and saved her life, the only ones who know her secret. But can she trust them?

Meanwhile, back on Long Island, what's left of humanity is gearing up for war with the Partials, and Marcus knows his only hope is to delay them until Kira returns. But Kira's journey will take her deep into the overgrown wasteland of postapocalyptic America, and Kira and Marcus both will discover that their greatest enemy may be one they didn't even know existed.

The second installment in the pulse-pounding Partials saga is the story of the eleventh hour of humanity's time on Earth, a journey deep into places unknown to discover the means--and even more important, a reason--for our survival.
Hardcover, 564 pages
Published February 26th 2013 by Balzer + Bray

There are lots of YA dystopian novels where the premise is a weeeeeee bit farfetched. If the story and characters are engaging, I can overlook it and still enjoy the book.
(Example:  Delirium by Lauren Oliver. Could there come a time when the government looks at the rotten state of humanity and says, "You know what caused this mess? LOVE. It's a disease. We're going to cure our citizens of love and then life will be peachy."

yeah, sure...ok!

(But I still liked Delirium. Man, I need to finish that series!)

And then you've got dystopian societies where the premise sounds like it actually could happen, and it's chilling and worrisome and it adds a new layer to the story.

Partials and Fragments are those kinds of books. A future where genetic modifications, the US's desire for military might, and the public's obsession with improving their health, looks, longevity, etc. all combine into a perfect storm that  DESTROYS CIVILIZATION seems disturbingly plausible.

These books make me think. A lot. Dan Wells keeps the plot moving and at the same time sneaks in thought provoking issues about  the moral ambiguities of war, and makes the reader question what he or she would do in the situations Kira, Samm, Marcus, and the rest of the characters are in. What would you do for freedom? What wouldn't you do? How do you define freedom? Do the needs of many outweigh the few? Is there any price too high to pay for survival? Do I need an Excedrin now?

I did a good bit of thoughtful frowning

 Things I liked: We finally find out what Kira is, we get more info on RM, ParaGen, Nandita, Kira's dad, and how the heck things came to be the disaster that they are. And we get to see more of Samm. I feel stupid typing his name with two M's, I'm not going to lie, but his character really grew on me. I think the idea that Partials experience a full range of human emotions but have no idea how to express them in an acceptable  human fashion is really heartbreaking and fascinating. They're not machines, but their inability to interact (they don't use body language, facial expressions, etc...probably don't have gifs on their blogs) has caused people to think they're less than human.

So what makes a person human? Is human necessarily better than Partial? Why? many questions!

I liked Kira more in this book, although I'm struggling to say why. I kept thinking, "This is a bad idea, Kira!" over and over, but I couldn't figure out what a better option would've been. I admired her ability to just keep moving forward. Kira finds herself in some really terrible situations, most by her own design, but in the end we see that she is a much more selfless character than it first appeared.

Things I wasn't crazy about: The book is long. The ARC I read has 564 pages, and I think it could've been tightened up. Some of the journeying Kira, Samm, Heron, and Afa do got pretty tedious. I wanted them to hurry it  up, and sometimes I skimmed. But you really don't need to skim with this book, because bombshell info or even character deaths will just sneak up on you like a ninja. Or a Partial. Then you'll be all, "WHAT? What just happened?" And you'll have to re-read and be frustrated you didn't get it the first time through.

Because, re-reading the same couple of pages you just read is bothersome...also...

Aint Nobody Got Time for That Aint Nobody Got Time For That
So true.

Content: Not much cursing, plenty of heavy violence, two kissing scenes.

The book ends on a cliffhanger, and I am really invested in these characters so I hope the next book comes out relatively soon.  For those hoping for romance, there's not very much. But if you're trying to save two entire races of sentient beings from extinction, I guess that's understandable.

Have y'all read this book?? Tell me what you thought!


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Review: Ultraviolet by RJ Anderson

September 1, 2011

"Once upon a time there was a girl who was special. This is not her story. Unless you count the part where I killed her."

Sixteen-year-old Alison wakes up in a mental institution. As she pieces her memory back together, she realizes she's confessed to murdering Tori Beaugrand, the most perfect girl at school. But the case is a mystery. Tori's body has not been found, and Alison can't explain what happened. One minute she was fighting with Tori. The next moment Tori disintegrated--into nothing.

But that's impossible. No one is capable of making someone vanish. Right? Alison must be losing her mind--like her mother always feared she would.

For years Alison has tried to keep her weird sensory abilities a secret. No one ever understood--until a mysterious visiting scientist takes an interest in Alison's case. Suddenly, Alison discovers that the world is wrong about her--and that she's capable of far more than anyone else would believe.

I was telling someone the other day I had this brilliant idea for a YA novel about a girl who has synesthesia and how this abilitiy tied into supernatural stuff...

And then I found out that book already exists and it's called Ultraviolet.
So kudos, RJ Anderson, for having the idea 1) first and 2) better than I did! I really had no idea what I'd do with the synesthesia, but Anderson took it in a really cool direction. I'm not sure why I haven't seen more about this book, given that it's such a cool departure from a lot of YA sci-fi stuff.

You think you've read every twist on "teenage girls who are special" in the genre, but then there's Allison, seventeen years old and in a mental institution after having a breakdown and maybe killing a classmate. The truth of what happened to Tori, Allison's role in her disappearance, and the real extent of Allison's abilities are all revealed slowly over the course of the book. Backstory is added in tiny, well-measured drops and I appreciated that. It held my interest and kept me guessing.

And the writing...oh, my, the delicious adjectives. You can get away with such luciously descriptive writing when your narrator is a synesthete. If any other teenage girl described things like Allison does, you'd probably roll your eyes. But given the peculiar and intense way she experiences the sensory input makes it belieavable. And beautiful.

Ultraviolet is an unusually character driven book. Everyone in the story, even the minor characters, are well-rounded and have their own issues to deal with. No one is as simple as they first appear.

As for the romance: I've seen some reviewers note that the relationship between Faraday and Allison made them uncomfortable because of their age difference. Full disclosure: me too! And then my internal hypocrite alert when *ding!* and I remembered this is the same age gap between me and my husband, and we met when I was sixteen.  But from the perspective of a 31 year old woman, I still found myself thinking, "Heads up, Ally...There's something off about this whole deal." :)  It's somewhat explained later on how he's not *technically* that much older than her, but it would give away a major plot point for me to explain so....sshhh.

Content: It's a really clean book, with a couple of kissing scenes, one of which was against a character's will. I thought that was handled well though. There wasn't any cursing that I can recall and minimal violence.

The pacing of the book is a wee bit slower than I'm used to. I listened on audiobook, and I found myself on occasion wishing the action would pick up and that the characters would get a change of setting. When they actually do leave the facility, the change of setting is a MAJOR one!

The sequel, Quicksilver, is already out and I'm adding it to my TBR pile. Ultraviolet gives the reader closure at the end, but at the same time a big opening is left for the next book and I'd like to see where the series goes.

ETA: Ok, Quicksilver is a companion novel, not a sequel. It's from the POV of Tori, not Allison. Just wanted to clear that up.

Saturday, March 2, 2013

ARC Review: Poison by Bridget Zinn

Sixteen-year-old Kyra, a highly-skilled potions master, is the only one who knows her kingdom is on the verge of destruction—which means she’s the only one who can save it. Faced with no other choice, Kyra decides to do what she does best: poison the kingdom’s future ruler, who also happens to be her former best friend.

But, for the first time ever, her poisoned dart…misses.

Now a fugitive instead of a hero, Kyra is caught in a game of hide-and-seek with the king’s army and her potioner ex-boyfriend, Hal. At least she’s not alone. She’s armed with her vital potions, a too-cute pig, and Fred, the charming adventurer she can’t stop thinking about. Kyra is determined to get herself a second chance (at murder), but will she be able to find and defeat the princess before Hal and the army find her?

Kyra is not your typical murderer, and she’s certainly no damsel-in-distress—she's the lovable and quick-witted hero of this romantic novel that has all the right ingredients to make teen girls swoon.
Release date: March 13, 2013
Publisher: Disney Hyperion


I was on the ARC tour for this book through Southern Book Bloggers ARC Tours. Thanks, ladies!

I was kind of worried about this book before I started reading it. I mean, girl assassins can be great but things can also And I'm not in the mood for gritty, tough books at the moment.

My worries were unfounded, and I knew it as soon as I picked up the book because of this back cover copy:


* Magicla kingdom in peril
* Potions master (flavor: feisty)
*Evil princess (distilled from former best friend)
* Tiny pig (with essence of adorable)
*Handsome ruffian (must be funny, charming, good at rescuing; best if smells nice)
Blend with romance, add a dash of enchatment, mix well for mayhem, and drizzle in humor.
WARNING: Contents may be irresistible.

If that weren't enough to tell me what kind of book this would be, do you see that cute piglet on the front cover, peeking out from behind Kyra's leg?? I didn't notice him at first either, but I think it's safe to say nothing too upsetting it going down in a book with a baby farm animal on the cover.

"Poison" was charming. That's the word that struck me as I read the first two pages, and the feeling stuck with me throughout.  It's light, and reminded me of a sitcom in book form. No matter how tangled everything seemed, it all worked out at the end and everything was just fine. Also like a sitcom, I never doubted that the happy ending was in the making.
There we enough plot twists and surprises to hold my interest. Several characters aren't who we think they are, and finding out their true identities was part of the fun.

 I found Kyra a likeable lead, and her stubborn determination wasn't overbearing. And Fred was a sweet love interest.

Zinn distills the backstory of why Kyra tried to poison Princess Ariana very slowly, in little bits and pieces. Flashbacks of the girls growing up together gave insight into both their characters, and I wondered what in the world could've made Kyra feel she simply MUST murder her friend. That kept me turning pages, as did the constant apperances made by Fred, despite Kyra's best efforts to ditch him and get on with her mission.

The fantasy world and its magic are different and I found them entertaining. I don't think I've read a book where potions played a huge part before, so that was interesting.

As far as content, there is very little violence, no sexual content (unless you count one or two very minimally described kiss), and just an occasional mild curse word.

I was deeply saddened to learn that author Bridget Zinn passed away in 2011. She was a gifted story teller, and Poison was a delightful debut novel.


Friday, March 1, 2013

BBH: A Long Train Ride...

Question: You're on a long train ride. Which books will you bring to read?

Answer: When we adopted our daughter from Ukraine, we had to take a sixteen hour train ride to get to her orphanage. Let that sink in...sixteen hours. And we did it three times...
 So while I sometimes have to really think about my answer to bookish questions, I've got this one! :)
The Harry Potter series.
There's the train connection with the Hogwarts Express. (Although I have to say my own train experience wasn't nearly as charming as Harry's first ride to school. No chocolate frogs in sight! Although I didn't have any Dementors after me like he did on another Hogwarts Express ride, so that's always a plus...)
And the HP series is long enough to keep you busy for a good long while, too. And they're just plain fun. I read some of Goblet of Fire to my son last night and I'd forgotten how quickly and completely I get sucked into those books. Every. Single. Time. :)

And if not HP, then I'd work on my Review TBR list. I've got  an ARC of "The Runaway King" by Jennifer Neilsen that I'm reading right now, and it's a fast-paced, fun adventurous read that would help pass the time.

**The Book Blogger Hop is a feature created by Billy at Rambling of a Coffee Addicted Writer. Feel free to answer the question and join the hop!**

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