Book Review: Dino Crisis

review-cover-dino crisisTitle: Dino Crisis [Stranded 1]

Author: Chris Liberty

Genre: Action, Adventure, Science Fiction

Rating: 1 Star

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Description/Synopsis:

A group of researchers led by Dr. Emmanuel Hernandez gains a permit to visit the quarantined Ilha da Morte to prove either the truth or the fallacy of the whispered rumors of a giant lizard that lurks within the dark, unexplored jungles.

One problem after another plagues their mission, starting with their boat sinking during the landing, followed immediately by the loss of their satellite phone and the death of a team member. The expedition, now cut off from the world, takes a more dangerous turn when hooting and roaring in the night reveals not only that the animal they seek is real, but that there’s more than one.

And they come closer each night.

The creatures soon prove to be the least of the team’s problems after encountering another group intent on keeping the island–and everything on it–secret from the rest of the world, even if they have to kill to accomplish it.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I desperately wanted to like this book. You simply can’t understand how much I love dinosaurs… but at 4% into Dino Crisis by Chris Liberty, I was ready to give up.

To be fair, I can’t judge this book on its plot, characters, or a myriad of other important factors. What I can, and will judge this book on, is the writing itself.

It was awful.

The narrative was dripping with over-done description that made it seem overly dramatic. Each sentence was complex to the point of making it seem as if the author was trying their best to fit as many descriptors as possible into each line. It wasn’t subtle. The absolute worst of which, was the character introductions, which floundered in during an actin-packed escape from a sinking boat, ruining the pace. The author dragged the reader through introduction after introduction, each complete with name, occupation, a description of their hair (which seemed to always include how said hair defied the weather in some manner) and then a litany of physical description. It was so tedious and obvious that it was physically painful to read.

So, I gave up. I wish I could say more about this book – but I simply couldn’t get past the rudimentary writing. This book is badly in need of an editor. Maybe the story is fantastic, maybe the characters are full of depth and well-spoken… but if your writing makes it impossible to sink into the story and get to those things, something is wrong, and it needs to be addressed.

Book Review: The Journal of Curious Letters

review-cover-the journal of curious lettersTitle: The Journal of Curious Letters [The 13th Reality 1]

Author: James Dashner

Genre: Juvenile Fiction, Action & Adventure, Sci-Fi, Fantasy

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

What if every choice you made created an alternate reality? InThe Journal of Curious Letters, Atticus Higginbottom, a.k.a. Tick, is an average thirteen-year-old boy until the day he receives a strange letter informing him that dangerous— perhaps even deadly—events have been set in motion that could result in the destruction of reality itself. Tick will be sent twelve riddles that, when solved, will reveal the time and place of an extraordinary happening. Will Tick have the courage to follow the twelve clues and discover the life he was meant to live? Tick’s journey continues in The Hunt for Dark Infinity! Mistress Jane and the Chi’karda are back. Tick and Mistress Jane race to find the deadly Dark Infinity weapon. But who will destroy it—and who will become its master?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

What a gem! I picked up this book for my 12-year-old daughter and we ended up reading it together. I’m glad to say that I honestly found this to be a joy to read.

The book was exceptionally well written and full of colorful characters. There were funny, heartwarming, action-filled, and even creepy moments throughout the book as Tick worked to solve the mystery of the 13 clues he received from one very odd Master George and his companions, Rutger and Mothball (who was definitely one of our favorite characters).

One of my favorite aspects of the book as a parent, though, was the relationship Tick had with his father. Where most children’s books seem to either omit the parents, or fall into the trope of having the parents not believe their children, James Dashner crafted The Journal of Curious Letters in such a way that not only did Tick turn to his father with his worries, but Tick’s father believed his son—and helped him! It was a great moment to witness in a children’s book, and I and my daughter had a great talk about how important it was for kids to talk to their parents about their worries, and for parents to listen to them and take them seriously.

Overall, we found loved the book. It was exciting, funny, and full of interesting characters. It’s a bit of a long book, but I’m not complaining—we never wanted to put it down, and often read 5-10  chapters together a night until it was finished.

Book Review: City of Fallen Angels [Mortal Instruments 4]

 

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Title: City of Fallen Angels [Mortal Instruments 4]

Author: Cassandra Clare

Genre: Urban, Paranormal, Fantasy, Teen, Young Adult, Romance, Action & Adventure

Rating: 3 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

The Mortal War is over, and sixteen-year-old Clary Fray is back home in New York, excited about all the possibilities before her. She’s training to become a Shadowhunter and to use her unique power. Her mother is getting married to the love of her life. Downworlders and Shadowhunters are at peace at last. And—most importantly of all—she can finally call Jace her boyfriend.

But nothing comes without a price.

Someone is murdering Shadowhunters, provoking tensions between Downworlders and Shadowhunters that could lead to a second, bloody war. Clary’s best friend, Simon, can’t help her—his mother just found out that he’s a vampire, and now he’s homeless. When Jace begins to pull away from her without explaining why, Clary is forced to delve into the heart of a mystery whose solution reveals her worst nightmare: she herself has set in motion a terrible chain of events that could lead to her losing everything she loves. Even Jace.

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

Meh. That’s how I feel about this book. Don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t god-awful. Technically speaking, the writing was clean and grammatically correct. However, the plot this time around left something to be desired. Unlike the previous book (and this may be part of the problem), City of Fallen Angels wasn’t crammed full of tension and action. The first half of the book was a little more like the calm before a storm. Everyone seemed happy. Clary and Jace were downright silly around each other. It was a nice change of pace, but I’ll admit that I did miss the tension.

The book stalled out a bit in the middle half of the book. A lot of new elements were introduced with new characters, new backstory, and an exceedingly weak drawn-out plot. It almost felt as if every character introduced had some sort of secret they were hiding, and it made it very difficult to pin down anyone’s intensions. I get the need to be secretive—really I do—but when there’s so many secrets in such a slow part of the book… I ended up just getting frustrated.

A lot of time was spent around some of the not-so-important characters, including Simon (whom I hate), his family, his girlfriend problems… Maia, Jordan, and their relationship problems and backstory… and Jocelyn and Luke’s upcoming wedding. Other lesser characters like Alec, Magnus, Raphael, the Seelie Queen, and the newly introduced Camille, took up most of the narrative—leaving Clary and Jace (the main interest in this series!) by the wayside.

And as if that weren’t bad enough, every time the story switched to Clary and Jace they were either whining over each other, ignoring each other all together, or getting their make-out sessions interrupted. Talk about fan-girl frustration!

After the first 2/3rds of the book things became a little more tense—dark even, and it was a good change from the previous boring interludes of not-knowing-what-the-heck-was-going-on, but the whole thing left me with an increasing sense of unease. Everything was too perfect… then mysterious, then downright creepy.

In the end I found I just couldn’t enjoy the story as much as I did with the previous books. Not a lot seemed to happen with most of the time in the book being spent dealing with relationship issues. It didn’t seem to go anywhere, and even in the end, the drama was pointless. The one shining redeemer was the tragic ending (that I won’t spoil) which hopefully will lead into the next book and a much more interesting plotline.

Would I recommend this to anyone? Not if you haven’t read the previous books. It doesn’t stand on it’s own, and it certainly wasn’t the best of the series. If you’ve read the previous three, then I’d recommending at least sifting through this one in the hopes you’ll be caught up for the next in the series. This book was so-so. Readable, but lukewarm.

Book Review: City of Glass [Mortal Instruments 3]

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Title: City of Glass [Mortal Instruments 3]

Author: Cassandra Clare

Genre: Urban, Paranormal, Fantasy, Romance, YA, Teen, Action & Adventure

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

To save her mother’s life, Clary must travel to the City of Glass, the ancestral home of the Shadowhunters – never mind that entering the city without permission is against the Law, and breaking the Law could mean death. To make things worse, she learns that Jace does not want her there, and Simon has been thrown in prison by the Shadowhunters, who are deeply suspicious of a vampire who can withstand sunlight.

As Clary uncovers more about her family’s past, she finds an ally in mysterious Shadowhunter Sebastian. With Valentine mustering the full force of his power to destroy all Shadowhunters forever, their only chance to defeat him is to fight alongside their eternal enemies. But can Downworlders and Shadowhunters put aside their hatred to work together? While Jace realizes exactly how much he’s willing to risk for Clary, can she harness her newfound powers to help save the Glass City – whatever the cost?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I loved this book. I may be giving it more credit than I should because I fan-girled over certain aspects of the plot, but I’ll hold by my 5 star rating. Let’s face it, this series has it’s issues. Clary is notorious for making bad, childish, and impulsive decisions. Jace whines about –everything- and pouts in the corner over Clary every chance he gets. Don’t even get me started on Simon. I swear I hate him. Despite all that, however, the series, this book even, is great.

With each book as I get farther and farther into the series, it seems that the world building is only getting richer, and the characters, are getting, if not smarter, at least more adaptable. There are some great kick-ass scenes in this book that are going to make you squeal if you’re as much of a fan of this series as I am (but I’ll be nice and not tell you what they are).

Unfortunately it wasn’t all rainbows and puppies, and there were definitely some drawbacks this time around. There was a lot going on in this book – in fact, it seemed to have more action and tension than the previous two books combined. There’s a lot going in the world of the mortal instruments. Unfortunately, that means that not all of the characters introduced are going to get a significant amount of face time.

Alina was one of those characters. To be honest, When I read the book, and even later when I went back over it for notes and context I’d written myself as reminders… I didn’t remember Alina all that well. I’m still not sure if there was any significance at all to her being in the story. Quite frankly, if the author had left her out entirely, I don’t feel the story would have changed that much. She had a piss-poor attitude, and really didn’t seem to be around for any reason other than to piss off Clary.

The same can be said for several of the other minor characters, and really it’s a shame… BUT on the flip-side of that coin, I think there’s a good reason why those characters got so little face time. This book was jam-packed with backstory and histories of the various characters. I felt like I got a significant amount of information out of this book (as opposed to the previous two), and while at times that did make things a little dry, I was glad to have the information so I could start sorting out the events of the previous books in my head. So let’s take a moment to talk about some of the characters:

Spoilers: I am sad to report that in this installment of the story, Max dies. He was a cute character, and it’s always awful when a child dies in a story—but I’m glad the author chose to make the decision. Though he was adorable, Max wasn’t an important character. I think by killing off Max, the author made a real point about the war at hand in this book and the tragedy of what happened that day.

I will admit, despite my ongoing hatred for the character of Simon (I swear, he annoys the crap out of me with his passive-aggressive puppy love issues with Clary), I did like him a bit more in this book, particularly towards the end. It was nice to see him stand up as a character and start to really become an individual rather than a side character that was around to play off Clary and Jace. I still hate him though, and his angst-y attitude. Let’s be clear.

I also didn’t like the new Inquisitor…but there’s no surprise there. If anything, this one was almost (I said almost) worse than the previous one. I don’t know what it is with the Clave, but I can feel Clary’s frustration with them. There doesn’t seem to be many members who are even decent human beings. It seems to consist entirely of lemmings and Harry Potter villains.

Clary and Jace this time around both frustrated me and made me squeal with joy. I adore their relationship, even if it is taboo, but there comes a point where even the fan-girling isn’t enough. Jace through this book was even more whiny that usual. He was angry and outright mean through most of it – though I can understand why. Clary spent most of the story being selfish and acting childish (as per her usual character), running into danger without a thought to anyone or anything other than her whim of the moment. It was frustrating, but I can also understand where the two characters were coming from. There was so much tension and frustration between the couple from the outset of this book and through the previous two books that they just weren’t thinking clearly anymore. In the same situation I’m afraid to admit that I probably wouldn’t be much more mature than they were.

As for the dark and seriously creepy Sebastian… he was a character I loved to hate. He was charming, but in a way that seriously creeped me out from the very beginning of his appearance in the story. Seeing where his story ended up… I’m not surprised. I think it’s a testament to Ms. Clare’s writing that Sebastian’s character came across with such an amazingly dark vibe. You could practically smell the evil on him, and it gave me the shivers.

Overall? I really liked this book – maybe even more than the first two books of the series (though it still isn’t my favorite. We’ll get to those.) I’d be happy to recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA fiction, and certainly to anyone who even remotely liked the movie or either of the previous books. This series seems to get better and better as it goes a long, and it feels like the world of the mortal instruments is becoming more filled out and intricate as the series goes on. This is going on my keeper shelf.

Book Review: City of Ashes [Mortal Instruments 2]

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Title: City of Ashes [Mortal Instruments 2]

Author: Cassandra Clare

Genre: YA/Teen, Romance, Fantasy, Paranormal, Action & Adventure, Urban

Rating: 5 Stars

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Description/Synopsis:

Clary Fray just wishes that her life would go back to normal. But what’s normal when you’re a demon-slaying Shadowhunter, your mother is in a magically induced coma, and you can suddenly see Downworlders like werewolves, vampires, and faeries? If Clary left the world of the Shadowhunters behind, it would mean more time with her best friend, Simon, who’s becoming more than a friend. But the Shadowhunting world isn’t ready to let her go — especially her handsome, infuriating, newfound brother, Jace. And Clary’s only chance to help her mother is to track down rogue Shadowhunter Valentine, who is probably insane, certainly evil — and also her father.

To complicate matters, someone in New York City is murdering Downworlder children. Is Valentine behind the killings — and if he is, what is he trying to do? When the second of the Mortal Instruments, the Soul-Sword, is stolen, the terrifying Inquisitor arrives to investigate and zooms right in on Jace. How can Clary stop Valentine if Jace is willing to betray everything he believes in to help their father?

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

I thoroughly enjoyed this book, possibly even more so than the first book – though it wasn’t my favorite in the series. Like the first book, it had it’s ups and downs and characters I really didn’t care for. I still hate Simon with a passion, and sometimes Clary makes really stupid mistakes… but the writing itself was excellent. Ms. Clare has a very easy-to-follow style of writing; both clear, and well-paced that makes reading this book and the others in the series, enjoyable. I never felt I was being pushed or dragged along as with some books, and there weren’t an abundance of technical issues with grammar, formatting, or word choice that made me want to pull my hair out.

My biggest frustrations came down to Simon and Clary’s relationship. I don’t like Simon. I can’t really put my finger on why I don’t like him… he didn’t particularly bother me in the movie series (okay maybe he did a little) but there’s something about him in the book series that really irks me. Maybe it’s because I’m routing so deeply for Clary and Jace that Simon’s presence grinds a nerve… or maybe it’s the almost pushy-quality there is to his character when he’s with Clary. Look, I understand that he’s been in love with Clary for like… forever, but it’s obvious to anyone with a brain that Clary really isn’t that interested in him. You’d think he’d have some self respect and step away from that situation.

On the flip side, I’m equally annoyed with Clary in this particular case. The fact that she was willingly dating Simon (and even making out with him) gave me the heebie jeebies. There’s a certain ick factor that comes a long with their relationship that finally made me realize what a genius the author was. Let me explain: I don’t have that ick factor when it comes to Clary and Jace, who are supposed to be siblings at this point in the series. Something that should be totally taboo and bring about feelings of ickyness instead has me cheering on their forbidden relationship. I think it’s a testament to Ms. Clare’s writing that I am so thoroughly engrossed in their love that I’m completely willing to ignore the fact that.. let’s face it… it’s gross. Instead, I get the feeling I should have about Clary’s relationship with Jace, with Clary and Simon instead. It feels like they’re siblings, and so it bothers me greatly when they’re together. I think it’s fantastic that the author was able to switch the roles of the relationships like that so clearly as to completely change how I see them.

Another character I absolutely hated (even more than Simon, and that’s saying something) was the Inquisitor from the Clave. She had a very distinct personality that reminded me a lot of Dolores Umbridge in the Harry Potter series. I could swear they were sisters. Imogen has that sense of trying to do what she perceives as correct and lawful by her understanding of her job, but takes it that extra step too far and breaks the moral code that the rest of us live by. Much like Umbridge tortures Harry by making him carve sentences into the back of his hand, Imogen tortures and wrongfully imprisons Jace. She’s a character you love to hate, and it was almost tragic the way the story closed out on her character (I’ll leave the spoilers out this time).

I think one of my biggest sticking points in this whole story was Maryse. I spent 99% of the book trying to figure out how to pronounce her name (despite the fact that at one point Clary very clearly pronounced it as “May-ris” to Simon. There’s something about the spelling that made it impossible for my brain to fathom. I really wish the author had named her ANYTHING different. Instead, I spent the entirety of the story waffling between Mary-suh and a strange pronunciation of Maurice. I just can’t handle the name.

That aside, there were some really great moments in this book. It was nice to watch Jace struggle with his personal and familial identity throughout the book, as well as Clary’s discovery of her true power. She really came into her own in this novel, and she had some really kick-ass moments as I sunk further into the book. There were some great scenes in the later half of the book involving the Silent Brothers, Valentine, and Clary (not all at once)—and it was nice to see a little more of the Fey. Let me tell you – they both fascinate and creep me out at the same time. The Queen of the Seelie freaks me out.

Overall, I have to say that I really enjoyed the book. I’d happily recommend it to anyone who enjoys YA fiction, and I certainly think anyone who even remotely enjoyed the movie or the first book should certainly check it out. The series only gets better as it goes on. This is definitely going on my Keeper Shelf.

Book Review: City of Bones

 

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Title: City of Bones [The Mortal Instruments 1]

Author: Cassandra Clare

Genre: Young Adult, Romance, Paranormal, Fantasy, Action & Adventure

Rating: 5 (4.5)

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Description/Synopsis: When Clary Fray heads out to the Pandemonium Club in New York City, she hardly expects to witness a murder. Much less a murder commited by three teenagers covered with odd markings. This is Clary’s first meeting with the Shadowhunters, warriors dedicated to ridding the earth of demons–and keeping the odd werewolves and vampires in line. It’s also her first meeting with gorgeous, golden-haired Jace. Within twenty-four hours Clary is pulled into Jace’s world with a vengeance, when her mother disappears and Clary herself is attacked by a demon. But why would demons be interested in an ordinary mundane like Clary? And how did she suddenly get the Sight? The Shadowhunters would like to know….

WARNING – SPOILERS MAY ENSUE BEYOND THIS POINT – REVIEW BELOW

First of all, great cover. Second, it was about time I got into this series. I avoided all the hype when the books first came out and started to become popular, but when the movie came out, I felt it was finally time I look into what the hype was all about. The first thing I did was watch the movie, which was pretty good – if a little all-over-the-place at times. Having enjoyed it, I jumped right into the first book, and without delay, subsequently finished all five.

Honestly, overall, and I’ll probably repeat this when I review the other four—I enjoyed the novel series a lot more than the movie. It, (like most book series), felt more complete and put-together. The plot made more sense, and there were a lot of little moments (like Simon being turned into a Rat) that didn’t make the cut into the movie, but seemed to suit the books just fine.

Like most YA novels, it had it’s moments of unnecessary drama (that’s just how teenagers are), but overall the writing was clear, concise, and fast-paced. I never found myself shaking my head at the narrative or skimming bits. I didn’t feel the need to throw things at the characters (okay, maybe at Simon), and although Clary sometimes did really stupid, dangerous things, I didn’t get annoyed at her character like I do with some YA heroine’s.

I think overall, if you liked the movie even remotely, you should give this book (and the entire series) a chance. The characters were a lot more personable in the book vs. the movie, and their motives, a little easier to understand. Jace especially was easier to connect to in this version of the story, though I think Clary possibly lost a bit of her coolness-factor. Simon still irritates me, but no surprise there. Anyways, it was a good book and I’d recommend it to any YA (or even adult) reader. The entire series is age appropriate for anyone 13+. A little later in the series (towards the last two books) there are some racier bits if you’re considering gifting this series to your teen, but the author was very careful not to go into great detail of any sexual/romantic encounter even that late in the series, and I’d certainly feel comfortable recommending it to anyone 13+ who enjoys paranormal fantasy. The world-building was a nice mix of fantasy/paranormal that leaned a bit towards the grittier side, with conniving not-so-nice fairies, vampires, werewolves, demons, and avenging angels.

The –only- reason this book got a 4.5 rating from me rather than a full 5 stars, was because a little later in the series (the last two books in particular) the story gets even better. This wasn’t my favorite book in the series, but it was still a good read. Take a chance, pick up a copy today. This one’s going on my keeper shelf.