Sunday, April 28, 2013

Review: Life After Theft by Aprilynne Pike

Synopsis from Goodreads:

Moving to a new high school sucks. Especially a rich-kid private school. With uniforms. But nothing is worse than finding out the first girl you meet is dead. And a klepto.

No one can see or hear Kimberlee except Jeff, so--in hopes of bringing an end to the snarkiest haunting in history--he agrees to help her complete her "unfinished business." But when the enmity between Kimberlee and Jeff's new crush, Sera, manages to continue posthumously, Jeff wonders if he's made the right choice.

Lynne's Review:

To begin with, this book has a really interesting and fun premise. We have Kimberlee, a kleptomaniac dead girl stuck in a limbo of remorse purgatory - she was a mean girl and bully in life and she continues to be a mean girl in her after life. She's often selfish and bratty and bitchy.
Years ago, my Mom taught me a saying: that sometimes people who need love the very most ask for it in the most unloving way.. turns out I've met a lot of people like that in real life and I believe this was ultimately the case in Kimberlee's character.

And then there is Jeff, the new guy in town and it's his first day in his new high school and he's struggling to not be all goofy and awkward or get laughed at.
He's a good guy, sweet, tends to do the right thing -even if doing the right thing means also breaking the law or taking the fall. He is also the only person alive who has been able to able to see or communicate with Kimberlee since the accident that caused her death just over a year ago.

Right now she's a ghost and using Jeff to return the stolen items may be her only chance to clear up the unfinished business that must be keeping her from moving on. from the looks of it though she has a lot to be sorry for and a lot to do to make things right so she can finally move into the light, cross over the bridge or, whatever. But being the nice guy and even knowing he probably shouldn't get involved, Jeff helps her .. often going above and beyond the call of duty, even where ghosty friends are concerned.

The plot moves along at a nice pace even if it's a little predictable, but it does delve deeper with some real life teen/high school issues and there are definitely some nice twists to figure out.
Of course, it's going to take far more than returning a few things, turns out there is SO MUCH MORE for Kimberlee and Jeff to discover and learn about each other and themselves before they make a difference. There is a sweet and surprising depth to these kids.

I loved the easy banter between the two main characters with their laugh out loud sarcasm and wit. The descriptive writing made it easy to imagine Kimberlee haunting Jeff, sinking through the seat of his car or walking eerily through walls as well as through people in the school hallways. She was always popping up, surprising him when he least expected it and sometimes at the worst possible moments.
I could easily see this book being made into an after school special sort of show. I believe it would translate well to screen and I think high schoolers would relate to it.

Overall I enjoyed reading Life After Theft and would recommend it to ages young adult on up. It was a great book that would make for fun weekend read

**I won this ARC / Uncorrected Proof edition in a GoodReads first-reads giveaway.
Thank you Goodreads and Harper Teen (at for this opportunity to review this book.
rating: 4 stars


Review: The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke

 synopsis from the back of the book:

"Cat, this is Finn, He's going to be your tutor."

He looks, and acts human, though he has no desire to be. He was programmed to assist his owners, and performs his duties to perfection. A billion-dollar construct, his primary task now is to tutor Cat. As she grows into a beautiful young woman, Finn is her guardian, her constant companion... and more. But when the government grants rights to the ever-increasing robot populations, however, Finn struggles to find his place in the world.

Lynne's review:

I finished reading The Mad Scientist's Daughter by Cassandra Rose Clarke last night and have since been thinking about what to say here. Honestly, I have a bit of a book hangover and I'm still a little overwhelmed with emotions from the ending. The premise is one of the most thought provoking I've read in a while and I was having a hard time trying to sum it all up without major spoilers. Fortunately, the tag line on the book truly covers it best. A Tale of Love, Loss and Robots

Ultimately, this is a love story. A beautifully rendered, heartbreakingly gorgeous story about a young girls first and truest love and how (like in real life) sometimes, you just never (ever) get over the first love of your life. -even if that person and that love is considered outside the parameters of social acceptance and you were taught it was taboo and off-limits.

The phrase 'love is blind' comes to mind with this book. In some cases it is ambiguous. Love is often blind to differences, be it race, religion, gender, species, etc. and then there is when a person is so blind to love (or in denial) that even the most obvious signs go unrecognized leaving the person loveless and lonely.. The Mad Scientist's Daughter has striking reflections of both examples.

There is definitely loss. I'm not posting spoilers, just be forewarned, there are some really, reeeally touching scenes. -have tissues handy.

And robots. *sigh* Possibly the best aspect of this book. The main robot character was phenomenal. Although at times he reminded me of Data from Star Trek, in the world of this book Finn is completely unique. He is one of a kind. Created simply to perform and please, and to serve needs beyond science. A machine created and programmed to be human, or as close as possible.

I completely loved and appreciated the futuristic world and era of this book. Robots, automatons, and high-tech electronics are portrayed in a realistic way, in a world that could very easily exist in the near future.
The world is far enough into the future that we/Earth have little natural resources left available and the nations have their sights set on colonizing space. In many ways, robotics has saved the planet and humans have benefited but it has also made many things obsolete. and when you build automatons to replace humans, they begin to have groups who demand, by law, specifications in the conscientiousness and sentience levels of a machine and what qualifies them of equal rights and recognition.

I loved the characters. Especially the main two. Caterina (aka Cat). She was relate-able, at least to me. Although with her icy exterior she made me want to shake her sometimes, well, for that and other personality flaws built into her character. And like I said before, I really loved Finn.
The entire cast of characters, from the main characters to Cat's parents, friends, love interests, to the various condescending co-workers, neighbors and well-meaning town folks were all layered and distinct personalities, complex and believable in their actions and thinking.
There were just a few things that sort of bothered me. And please remember that every book reads differently from one person to the next, so your experience may differ.
-Written in 3rd person. Such a tricky way to write. Sometimes it works for me, sometimes it doesn't. -several times throughout the book I was very aware of the 3rd person format. I also wondered how many sentences began with the MC's name, as in Cat said, Cat did, Cat went, Cat thought, Cat whatever'd, etc.,
-I felt there was a lot more <i>telling</i> about what was going on in the story and occasionally it felt awfully cold and sterile, which bothered me -but then considering this is a book about robots -who are often portrayed as unbiased, unfeeling- other times it seemed a completely perfect and logical way for the story to be told
-There were multiple instances of random words being needlessly/crazily hyphenated. Sometimes three or more of these mistakes would occur on a page and unfortunately, this one reeeally bothered me. It was like slamming into a brick wall in the story every time it happened. **This may be a formatting issue but also the edition I read was an ARC, so it's highly probable this formatting/editing issue will be fixed on finished copies (I sure hope so).
-Time flew by too fast. -as in time jumping forward months and years from the end of one chapter to the start of the next. The quick time progression was really unsettling for me (and left me wondering happened in all those years in between?!?)
-I wasn't crazy about how certain serious situations (ones *I* thought were enormously important) were glossed over completely. I feel like I still need closure on a couple of things that happened in the book.

Despite the few things that bugged me, I thought the story was amazing and overall very engaging. There were a few slow areas in the beginning, but by the end of the book, I was totally invested and my heart ached for the characters.
In the end, I really loved this book and I hope you do too.

I would recommend The Mad Scientist's Daughter for readers ages mature/late-teen and up (there are several scenes that are quite mature and/or adult in nature). Readers who love Romance, Science Fiction, Robots, Fantasy, Futuristic Lifestyles and Post-Apocalyptic Worlds. A lovely mashup of genres that will surely attract a lot of attention.

I won an ARC edition of this book from MK at  Hers was one of the first reviews I read of this book and I thought it sounded like my kind of story. Thank you so much MK for the giveaway and opportunity to read and fall in love with this fantastic book.

rating: 4.5 stars

Monday, April 22, 2013

Review: Enoch's Device by Joseph Finley

Synopsis (from back of book). Nearly a thousand years after the birth of Christ, when all Europe fears that the world will soon end, an Irish monk, Brother Ciarán, discovers an ominous warning hidden in the illuminations of a religious tome. The cryptic prophecy speaks of Enoch’s device, an angelic weapon with the power to prevent the coming apocalypse.

Pursued by Frankish soldiers and supernatural forces, Ciarán and his freethinking mentor, Brother Dónall, journey to the heart of France in search of the device. There, they rescue the Lady Alais from a heretic-hunting bishop who insists mankind must suffer for its sins. Together, the trio races across Europe to locate the device, which has left clues of its passage through history. But time is running out, and if they don’t find it soon, all that they love could perish at the End of Days.

Enoch’s Device is a fast-paced medieval adventure steeped in history, mythology, and mysteries from a dark and magical past.

Richi's Review: In full disclosure I won this book in a Goodreads Giveaway.

This book is a blend of historic fiction, fantasy, action thriller, mystery and apoplectic themes. While trying to be all of these genres makes it interesting and more original, it overreaches and suffers from the fact that it never fully realizes any of them because it is pulled back by one of the others.

For example while some parts are historic fiction it loses a lot of realism because it is also a fantasy with magical elements, conversely the fantasy never feels like a special other world because it is also a historical fiction. As part of the same problem, the genres also lack some depth, for example we are told a little about the magic system, but it never goes into as much details as other fantasy books, because it has to move on with the other parts of the story.

The different genres aren’t really integrated, and most of the time a chapter will have the feel of just one of them rather than a blend of two or more.

I thought the thriller/mystery was well written; it had the feel of a Dan Brown novel that is set in a historical/fantasy world.

The pacing is nice and fast, and the story stays exciting and interesting throughout.

There were times were I felt the magical abilities of the characters was too powerful, especially early on in the book. This meant it never felt that the characters were in danger because they always had their magic to save them. Later in the book it was less of a problem as they were facing more powerful opponents.

There were some moments that were hard to believe, for example near the start of the book, a group of monks decide to fight some soldiers (under the command of a bishop), and to me this didn’t seem very monk-like, especially as the soldiers weren’t acting too badly. I also felt it was somewhat unrealistic that, other than the main antagonists, no-one had a problem with the main characters using magic.

The characters were okay, Brother Ciaran was interesting with a strong personality, but I did think he didn’t think or acted like a monk. He didn’t have much of a problem with killing or hurting people, he also didn’t seem to think much was wrong with the thoughts and feelings he had for Alais.

Alais was an interesting character; she was a good blend of a strong but vulnerable female who is held back by the trappings of the times.

I feel that this book is borderline adult only due to some scenes of a sexual nature, although it maybe okay for the older end of a young adult (sixteen or seventeen and older).

I really enjoyed “historical notes” at the end of the book, it lists the inspiration the author had from real events as you would expect, but he also admits where he has changed facts to make for a more interesting story, this honesty is why I decided to give the book a full four stars instead of three and a half.

Overall this was a good book, which was an interesting mixture of historical fiction, fantasy, action thriller, mystery and apoplectic themes. But by trying to be a jack-of-all-trades it becomes a master of none. It doesn’t have the depth a book has when it focuses on just one of these genres and at times it is hurt by being pulled in different directions by these different ideas. Still it was an exciting and interesting read.

rating: (4 stars)

Sunday, April 21, 2013

Review: White Lines by Jennifer Banash

Synopsis (from Goodreads): A gritty, atmospheric coming of age tale set in 1980s New York City.

Seventeen-year-old Cat is living every teenager’s dream: she has her own apartment on the Lower East Side and at night she’s club kid royalty, guarding the velvet rope at some of the hottest clubs in the city. The night with its crazy, frenetic, high-inducing energy—the pulsing beat of the music, the radiant, joyful people and those seductive white lines that can ease all pain—is when Cat truly lives. But her daytime, when real life occurs, is more nightmare than dream. Having spent years suffering her mother’s emotional and physical abuse, and abandoned by her father, Cat is terrified and alone—unable to connect to anyone or anything. But when someone comes along who makes her want to truly live, she’ll need to summon the courage to confront her demons and take control of a life already spinning dangerously out of control.

Both poignant and raw, White Lines is a gripping tale and the reader won’t want to look away.

Lynne's Review: 

Told in a brutally honest, deeply intimate way, WHITE LINES by Jennifer Banash is an edgy, dark and gritty tale that chronicles the steady decline of Cat's crazy life during the wilder side of life in the 80's.

Cat is a seventeen year old girl, a barely passing senior in high school. The product of growing up in a physical and emotionally abusive home as well as the child of a broken marriage. She is estranged and emancipated from her parents and even though her folks are well off, she ends up living by herself in a fairly rough part of town - an area called Alphabet City, in New York.

To make ends meet, Cat becomes a party promoter for one of the hottest, trendiest clubs downtown. She earns $500 a week and soon finds herself in the top echelon of the clubbing food chain. As the force behind the magical velvet rope - the person who either denies or grants VIP access to the inner sanctums of the night clubs - most nights you'll find Cat dressed up in some crazy, atrocious costume - designed by none other than her dear, close friend and partner in crime, Giovanni - but most of all ... you'll always find Cat higher than the night before.
Because hers is a world where the bass is always thumping, vibrations rippling through the air and she's not having the time of her life unless she's bouncing off the walls, rolling through life on a drug induced high and wired for sound. At the pinnacle of her 'career' Cat finds herself growing up too fast, too soon and far too many lines too deep into drugs. She's in denial and throwing caution to the wind.

quotes I marked while reading:
pg 210 It's easier to pretend that you need nothing and no one, that you're an island surrounded by miles of water, uninhabitable, than it is to let your real feelings out where they can be trampled on. Sometimes I wish I were made of something impermeable and hard like wood or metal. Something that would keep the core of me locked away, encased in a thick, glittering shell.

pg 242 I know I have become my worst self, a girl who will do anything to avoid looking at her own frightened reflection in the mirror. A girl who runs away, straight into the dark of an eclipse, just to have some place to go.

I found Cat to be a character my heart ached for. She was so broken and pitiful and almost beyond being able to save herself. We watch her spiraling out of control, falling deeper into the pit of her own self destruction. I wanted her love interest (Julian) to save her and if he couldn't do it, I hoped her best childhood friend Sara would be there to catch her before she fell.
But like watching a comet on a direct path toward the sun, you just know that Cat is going to get burnt and you wonder if she'll survive the very worst of her existence.
This is a story about a young life, lived hard and fast, that definitely gets worse before it gets better. And yet, there is so much more to this story than the drugs and club scenes. Ultimately, it's about a lost soul who is desperate to find love, yet at the same time, afraid to be loved.

Jennifer Banash has a writing style that is lyrical and realistic. In WHITE LINES, she writes about habits and secrets that usually stay hidden in dark corners - a lifestyle most people would deny even exists, let alone admit to living. A deep look that is almost too close for comfort.

While the club scenes weren't the lifestyle that I personally experienced, I grew up in the eighties and I can only imagine this type of thing must have existed in cities more advanced than where I grew up.
I found a lot of shout outs and references to that era's brand names (like Tab -the drink, Sony walkman, etc) and most of the music being mentioned or played in the club (Madonna, Depeche Mode, Duran Duran etc) brought back some of my own memories of growing up in the 80's.

Due to the realistic nature of this book, adult themes and heavy drug use (as well as the risky consequences thereof) I would recommend this book to ages mature 16-17 and up.

I received this ARC of WHITE LINES directly from the author for my honest review. Thank you again Jennifer!

 rated: 4 stars