thistlechaser: (Book with cat 1)
I won't finish reading my current book by the end of the year, so I can make my annual wrap-up post now.

The number of books I read this year wasn't too different from the last two years.
2015: 46 read ( +17 I didn't reach the 50% point + 5 graphic novels)
2014: 41 read ( +8 I didn't reach the 50% point + 2 graphic novels)
2013: 53 read ( +20 I didn't reach the 50% point + 6 graphic novels)

In 2013 I was reviewing children's books as well, and counted those in the "I didn't reach the 50% point" group. So this year I actually did more reading than 2013, because of the greater number of non-children's books I didn't finish. Still, sadly I didn't reach my 50 book goal. Boo!

I enjoyed books more than average this year. This year only a total of 20% fell into disliked or hated, while in 2014 41% were disliked/hated and 2013 had 39% disliked/hated.

Loved: 13
Liked: 11
Okay: 13
Disliked: 5
Hated: 4

2015: Loved: 28% / Liked: 24% / Okay: 28% / Disliked: 11% / Hated: 9%
2014: Loved: 32% / Liked: 12% / Okay: 12% / Disliked: 34% / Hated: 7%
2013: Loved: 40% / Liked: 9% / Okay: 11% / Disliked: 13% / Hated: 26%

46 books with a link to my review and a short quote from my review )

18 books I didn't reach the 50% point, with a link to my review and a short quote from my review )

5 graphic novels with a link to my review and a short quote from my review )

2013 book reviews overview
2014 book reviews overview
thistlechaser: (Book with cat 1)
NPCs by Drew Hayes
Rating: Loved (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

NPCs was one clever, fun book.

The story started with a bunch of young boys sitting around a table, playing Dungeons and Dragon-- er, Spells, Swords, & Stealth. Most of the players didn't take it seriously/weren't playing well, they were doing the "my character is everything I wish I was! Killing everything! Taking no back-talk! Getting all the treasure! 100% perfect!" thing that new players do. As such, they tended to die. A lot.

Their characters died (stupid death, too) and the story didn't miss a beat -- it continued on with how the NPCs of the D&D/SS&S campaign world reacted to the adventurers dying. I was tickled and amused to see that! What a fun idea! I've never seen a story like that before!

Most of the story followed those NPCs as they formed a party and tried to take over the roles of the PCs who had died. It was so believably handled, and so much fun. (I keep coming back to that: This was such a fun, clever idea.)

I wavered between rating this a Liked and a Loved, because the middle dragged just a tad (there was a fight scene that I swear went on for a third of the book), but everything other than that one part was so darned enjoyable, I went with Loved rating.

An extra fun side note: The main character's name was Thistle! The same name I've used online for decades! That tickled me so endlessly.

I already have the second book in this series (Split the Party) and will be reading that next.


The Time Garden by Edward Eager
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

While there was nothing wrong with this book, it didn't hold my interest at all. The only thing I semi-enjoyed about it was the glimpse of a much older world (it was published in the 50s or 60s). None of the children came off as children to me, though that could have been because of the datedness -- maybe kids of the 50s did speak like the ones in this book.

I didn't reach the 50% mark, thus the book doesn't count towards my total for the year.
thistlechaser: (tree)
Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality by Eliezer Yudkowsky (AKA Less Wrong)
Rating: Loved (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

A couple years ago, I had to decide about including fanfics in my year count of books. The rule I came up with was that if the fic was longer than multiple books, and if I read it 100%, then I could include it. Until now, I've read a couple multi-book length fics, but finished none of them. Harry Potter and the Methods of Rationality, longer than the first four HP books combined, is the first one I'm able to include.

Methods of Rationality is an AU. In it, Harry Potter was raised by parents who liked him. He's also a young genius, determined to be a scientist. So, when his Hogwarts letter arrived and he attended the school, he applied a more realistic scientific mind to everything.

As interesting as that set-up is, the draw of the story quickly became Harry's relationship with professor Quirrell. Never once did it become slashy (though I wish it had), it was still such a fascinating relationship. Both characters were just so intelligent, I couldn't stop reading their interactions.

Unfortunately there was one major part I didn't like. It wasn't badly written, it made more than perfect sense for it to happen, but I still disliked it a whole lot.

While many things in this AU fic were different than in the book, one thing that wasn't different was that professor Quirrell had Voldemort inside him. The fic made it unclear until the very end, and I had held out strong hope that he would indeed have been the probably-good person he seemed to be, but nope.

All the signs were there. I (and Harry) should have realized he was Voldemort, but neither of us did. So then, when Quirrell was killed, my love of the story went out the window. Totally unfair to the fic, but I had just liked that character so much, without him the story didn't hold me anymore. [End spoiler.]

Now's a good time to read this fic, as the final chapter was posted earlier this year -- no need to wait to learn what happens! There will be an epilogue, but the author said he wouldn't post that for a year, to give people writing fanfics on his work a chance to complete their works first.

Even if you're no longer a fan of HP (like me), this fic still works. I highly recommend it! I'm about to start reading it again, so I can see all the foreshadowing and such that I missed the first time through.
thistlechaser: (Cat with book: Toy)
Two books, finished neither.

The Catswold Portal by Shirley Rousseau Murphy
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

(This cover is a LIE!)

While there was nothing wrong with this book, there was nothing right with it either. Picture the most generic fantasy story you can (evil queen, mysterious shapeshifting people), make that story drag on for hours and hours of reading without giving out any information or doing any character development, and you have this book. Don't forget to add in no original worldbuilding and a magic system that made no sense.

I read it for three hours, about 25% of the book, and I still knew next to nothing about the story -- I learned so so so much more by reading the blurb on the Amazon page while getting the link for this review.

The writing wasn't awful, but wasn't good either.

It seemed like it should have been a story that would work for me (shapeshifting cats!), but we didn't get a single mention of them until the 25% point, and by then it was too late; my interest in continuing to read this boring story was spent.


King of the Vagabonds by Colin Dann
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

This was a darned odd book. Like Catswold Portal, I went into it knowing nothing: it had been in my To Read pile long enough that I forgot everything about it.

Based on the writing, I realized it must be a children's book (not even YA), though the subject matter seemed counter to that -- in the first chapter, it mentioned how the husband of the family usually "disposed" of litters of kittens, but that he had died, and the widow didn't want to dispose of this litter herself, so she let the mother raise them. o.O I can only guess that's supposed to go over kids' heads and they won't realize that means they killed them off? Likely put the kittens in a sack and tossed it into a river? SHEESH!

Amazon confirmed this was a book meant for kids ("Under 7"). So really, what was the author thinking!

Like Catswold, the writing in this book wasn't awful, but wasn't at all good either. The characters, while vaguely believable as cats, weren't interesting at all. I got about 20% into the book, but it never caught my interest and I quickly grew bored of it.
thistlechaser: (tree)
Dog Diaries #2: Buddy by Kate Klimo
Rating: Disliked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

This book could have been a perfect match for me: Told in first person POV, from a dog's perspective. Unfortunately this series was written for very young children, younger than YA even, so the whole thing was too juvenile for adult reader me.

Each book in the Dog Diaries series tells the story of one real dog, from that dog's POV. Knowing that, I didn't try to find the first book in my mess of a To Read list, I just started the first one I found. #2, Buddy, was about the first dog trained as a seeing eye dog.

I found neither the dog nor the people to be very realistic, and everything was way too simplistic. I reached the 50% point of the book, so I can count it towards my 50 book goal for the year, but I didn't finish it. I'm going to delete the whole series from my Kindle, I don't think any of the other books will be a better match for me (all have the same author and the same audience). ...or not. I opened my Kindle to delete them and kept saying "Well maybe I'll keep just this one, it might be better..." I guess at some future time I'll give another of the books a chance, maybe it will work for me better then.


The White Mare's Daughter by Judith Tarr
Rating: Disliked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

I feel bad that I didn't give this book more of a chance, but it just didn't interest me at all. I googled to see if it would improve, and found review after review saying nothing happened for the first 200 or so pages, so I gave up on it.

From what little I read, this was some kind of a Clan of the Cave Bear clone. Lots of sex (non-graphic), the dialogue was unrealistic to the point of being jarring to my ear, and what little I read of the plot held no interest for me.

Currently reading: The Catswold Portal , which I have the delightful experience of going into totally blind -- I didn't even know if it was YA or not when I started it! (I suspect it's not, the main character is an adult, but I still don't know for sure.)

Sadly, it looks like I won't be reaching 50 books this year, booo. Oh well, I set my goal higher on purpose -- I think I've only met the goal two years so far. I'll probably be high 40s by the time the end of the year comes, so I'll be close! If I wanted to cheat, I could read the rest of the Dog Diaries series, but I try not to pad my numbers like that -- there's no use cheating at solitaire.
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: Litterbox)
Star Kitten by Purple Haze
Rating: Hated (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Cover image: Big )

I knew this book would be bad, but I had hoped it would be amusingly bad. Unfortunately it was mostly just bad-bad.

The first 10% of the book was about a prison in space. As far as I can tell, that had nothing to do with the rest of the story, other than that the prison became the space pleasure palace (named Star Pussy -- really!). Page after page of dry facts and poor writing about how the prison came to be, how it was run, etc.

The guy who ran the prison was named Warden Ggggaaah.

There was some part about how human men went off to another planet to be prostitutes for some cat race. That let to amusing things like this:

And within a year he'd be getting called late at night for a Midnight Meow, or "booty call" basically, like they used to call it back on earth.


Finally Rex [the human man] settled in with a Tom named Rory Panther

The book kept doing things like that. A race evolved from pigs? Their planet was named Pork-something! A character based on a squid? Mr. Fish-something! A woman cat-person's name was "Felina Toyger".

Why did the cat planet import only human males as prostitutes, not females?

...but to have a male human lover who could take one to two hour sessions of rough sex, only to be able to bounce right back the next day waking up seven hours later fresh as a daisy to make the Tom's breakfast, clean his house, or tend his garden... now that was truly amazing. Rex could do all of that, and for his part, the brutal Pumalar [cat race] style of copulating was-to him-the best he'd ever experienced in his life.

Apparently human men enjoy multiple hours of brutal sex!

I didn't even come close to reading all of the book. I had thought it would be about this empath sex worker woman (Star Pussy) going to the all-male prison. It seemed like that could make for an interesting story, but the book turned out to be nothing like that.

While the writing was very poor, it was far from the worst I've seen in self-published books. At least this book was spellchecked.

I got Star Kitten for free, but I still couldn't recommend it even at that price.

Side note: I mistakenly thought the title was Star Pussy, so I started out by googling that so I could get a link for my post's header. You do not want to google "star pussy" at work. :P

Currently reading: The White Mare's Daughter, though I don't think I'm going to be reading it much longer. A chapter or two in, and it's coming off as a poor Clan of the Cave Bear knockoff with god awful dialogue.
thistlechaser: (Cat with book: Yawn)
Silver on the Road by Laura Anne Gilman
Rating: Liked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

This is going to sound more snarky than I intend, but: This would have been a really good book if there had been a plot.

The worldbuilding in Silver on the Road was just amazing. I loved everything about it. Every single little detail and trait. It was set in an alternate version of the old west, one where the supernatural exists. The devil (lower case) controls everything west of the Mississippi. But for most folks, that the devil owns everything means little -- they still live out their lives, have families, nothing much different than anyone else. However, if one chooses, they can visit the devil and make a deal -- ask for something and offer something.

The main character worked the tavern that the devil worked out of (where his office was, but he was also a gambler, so its where he always played his cardgames). When she came of age, she decided to go to the devil and make a deal for a job she wanted. He agreed to her terms, thus the story began.

The whole book was about her being on the road with an older rider. What did they do? Rode the territory and looked at things. That's the whole story, him just teaching her how to live on the road in the territory. It was interesting only because the world they lived in was interesting, but for the first 90% of the book, there was zero plot other than them riding together and him teaching her about the land.

90% in, what seemed like plot was picking up: Something Evil was loose in the land, and main character decided it was her job to take care of it.

How does one deal with a monster in the supernatural old west? (spoiler) )

All that being said, I didn't hate the book. The writing was good. I liked all the characters a lot (a whole lot!). I loved the world. It's just that, with so little plot, I had no drive to read it.

Apparently this is the first book in a series, but I suspect I won't bother picking up the second. It's really too bad, this could have been a great book if more happened in it.
thistlechaser: (Cat with book: Toy)
Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

As other people on my friends list intend to read this book, I'm putting all plot details behind a spoiler cut:

For reasons unrevealed in the first 25% of the book, a small number of teenagers have super powers. One of them can say anything that will get him what he wants (a voice takes over his mouth), one can sense and crash any technology, one can see through anyone else's eyes, one is "forgettable" -- no one can ever remember his name or what he looks like, and the last (their leader) seems to be able to influence emotions. (Hm, writing this up here makes the powers sound a lot more interesting than they are in the book...)

The first quarter of the book is about Scam (the one with the voice power) getting himself into trouble. The others go on a mission to rescue him.

While there was nothing wrong with the book, for me there was nothing right either. I had no interest in any of the characters. The whole plot felt flat and uninteresting to me. Somehow all the powers seemed yawn-worthy (not because I'm into BIG GIANT SUPERPOWERS or something, I think sucky superpowers would be a lot more interesting to read about, just the way these were presented).

If I had had no other books to read, I could have continued on with this one; I didn't hate Zeroes, I just didn't like it. I was hoping it would be a slow-starter and so gave it a good chance to hook me, but if I'm not enjoying it by a quarter in, then it's fair to move on to the next one.

Speaking of next books! Next up: Silver on the Road, which a bunch of people have reviewed on LJ lately. So far, just a couple pages in, I can agree with all the positive reviews it's been getting. Especially after Zeroes, the writing and story feel so alive!
thistlechaser: (Cat with book: Yawn)
The Sign of the Cat by Lynne Jonell
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

I have a confession to make: I'm horrible at seeing plot twists coming. I rarely guess what's going to happen next in a movie or TV show. I think it's because I don't want to know -- if I know, it's a lot less fun. That being said, I saw the answer to every single mystery in this book a mile ahead of time. From the biggest to the smallest, I was able to easily spot what was going to happen.

The story was about a boy who can speak the language of cats. How did he learn? Turns out anyone can learn to speak cat at a certain age, it's just that most cats don't bother to teach people. (I loved that detail, it was the high point of the story for me.)

The land the boy lived in lost its princess, killed by someone the characters were told was a bad guy. The main character had no idea who his father was. The supposed good guy who was "searching" for the princess happened to kidnap the boy "by mistake". Through the story we learned the truth of who the boy's father was, what happened to the princess, and other very unsurprising things. It was so obvious once you saw all the pieces how they were going to come together.

One of the biggest failings of the book was the bad guy. He ate not just cats, but kittens. Okay, author, you write a book about a boy who can talk to cats, thus you know you're likely going to get cat lovers as readers. How amazingly heavy-handed is it to have your bad guy eat kittens? Hell, he ate kitten pot pie with furry ears and tails sticking out of it. What the hell sense does that make? Who would want to eat any meat with the fur still on it?

I got about 70% through the book before I started skimming, and once I realized I really had no interested at all in reading the ending, I gave up on it. If I hadn't been able to see every plot twist coming, I probably would have enjoyed it more and finished it.

Next up: Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld. [ profile] orangerful and I both have a hit-or-miss experience with Westerfeld, and Zeroes was in both of our To Read piles, so I figured I'd give it a try next. So far, about 10% in, I'm seriously indifferent to it. It's kind of an interesting idea (the characters have "super powers", but the powers aren't all that super at all; unfortunately they're not "not super" in an interesting way). I'm disappointed, as I loved Westerfeld's Leviathan trilogy so much. Oh well, maybe it will improve as the story goes on.

Passed on: I was offered Salt to the Sea by Ruta Sepetys for review, and I was very tempted to accept it. [ profile] loupnoir recommended her first book, Between Shades of Gray, which I enjoyed, so I was tempted by Salt to the Sea (LOVE that title). But the subject matter (some battle in WWII) just didn't interest me at all. Of course, the subject matter in Between Shades of Gray hadn't interested me either and I ended up really enjoying reading that, so Salt might have worked for me, but... I have a whole lot of books I'm waiting to read, so I decided to pass on Salt.
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: hugging book)
The Dungeoneers by John David Anderson
Rating: Loved (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Every now and then, I discover a book that's just plain fun. That's how this book started: simply fun.

The story is about an adventurer's guild. The older members go out and find young people with talent, and bring them back to train them to raid dungeons and steal gold from monsters (very D&Dish). The main character, Colm Candorly, had a talent for picking pockets, and though he was a good-hearted kid, his family was very large and very poor, so he was doing it for them. The guild's rogue mentor, Finn, discovered Colm and brought him in for training.

In many ways, this book had a very Harry Potter-ish feel to it. (And not just because it's YA -- you all know me, I read more YA than anything else.) The setting was just plain fun, it was a world I would have loved to be a part of. It went beyond HP though, both in quality of writing and realism of the characters.

There was so much I loved about this book. The writing was perfect. The editing was better than I had seen in a long time (not one single typo, grammar issue, or other error that I spotted! So rare!). I loved (LOVED LOVED LOVED) that there was so much going on under the surface; through most of the books, I knew there was something going on between the guild masters, but because the story was told from the young peoples' POV, we didn't see exactly what until the end.

Also, the story had the best opening sentence ever: "Colm Candorly had nine fingers and eight sisters." I don't think there's ever been a first sentence that ever caught my attention so strongly!

All through the book, I knew I was going to review it as "PERFECT!"... then something happened. It's not something the author did wrong (in fact, the amount it saddened me is a testament to how good the book was), it was just something that happened in the plot. Perfectly reasonable and fit, but it greatly disappointed me.

Spoiler! Seriously, read the book, don't click here! )

And that spoiler reminds me of another great thing about this story: No character was black/white. Everyone was grey. Everyone had big honking flaws (Best Thing Ever!). It makes characters so realistic, I wish more authors would do that.

And the ending! Gah, (spoiler issue) aside, I loved the ending so much! PERFECT ending!

Even with my disappointment over that (spoiler issue), I would 100% recommend this book. It did every single thing right. Wonderful, fun read. Once my finances get straightened out, I'm looking forward to reading his other books as well.
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: space)
Remnants series by K. A. Applegate

Scale: (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)
Mother, May I?: Okay
No Place Like Home: Okay
Lost and Found: Okay
Dream Storm: Hated
Aftermath: Disliked
Survival: Okay
Begin Again: Hated

One of the covers, the best of the bunch:

I really should have stopped reading this series early on. The first book was outstanding, the next couple were pretty good, but it quickly went downhill from there and never recovered.

Talking about anything in the later books would spoil the earlier ones, so I'm going to put everything plot-ish behind a cut: Here there be spoilers )

The author said she was unhappy she had taken the story in this direction (unhappy with this last half of the series), and I 100% agree with her. It makes zero sense, and it ruined whatever joy I had left for the series.

My earlier complaints about the series continued on through these books: I question if they were edited at all (typos on Every Single Page). Each book was was short! At my usual reading pace, each one took about an hour and a half to read. Insane. It felt like each book was a chapter, not a stand-alone book.

I can strongly recommend the first book of the series, but I'd just as strongly suggest stopping after it.

Reading next: The Dungeoneers -- I fell in love with it from the very first sentence!
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: Litterbox)
Corr Syl the Warrior by Garry Rogers
Rating: Hated (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Book received free for review from the author.

I keep saying I'm not going to accept any more books free for review, then a description catches my eye and so I make an exception, and I'm almost always sorry I did. This book was no different.

The story was set on Earth, but a version of the world where every animal species is intelligent -- same level of intelligence as humans. The plot followed a young rabbit named Corr Syl.

I read about 20% of the book, yet the blurb told me more about the plot than the book itself did. I accepted it two weeks ago, before my vacation, so I couldn't even remember what animal it said Corr was. The story never described him or directly named it (which made fighting scenes fun -- having no idea what species the main character was, I couldn't picture anything at all).

I have no idea what the technology (or magic?) level this Earth had. The animals seemed to have high tech (magic?) things, like a bit of wire that formed handcuffs when placed on a raccoon's wrists.

Corr had psychic powers, so I assume there was magic in the world, but who knows.

The book was so badly edited, it was unreadable. Sample section:

Corr and the other raccoon concentrated their sen So that's how it is sory fields on the injury, but they could not get the star cells just wanted the fight to end, to respond. In moments, consciousness vanished. . There were voices,

outside the cave,


From that section "Corr and the other raccoon" would make it seem he's a raccoon, but from the book blurb:

Corr Syl the Warrior is the story of a young rabbit descendant on an Earth where Humans are only one of the intelligent species.

Rabbit or raccoon? Who knows!

Sigh. Usually I'd put together a nicer (yet still honest) version of the review to submit, but I don't know if I can be bothered this time. I'm so sick of self-published books with this kind of quality.
thistlechaser: (tree)
Breakdown by K. A. Applegate
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Isolation by K. A. Applegate
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Man, these book covers are unimpressive. This one is the best of the series thus far:

This is a more typical cover. It does so little for me:

My enjoyment of this book series keeps going downhill. The awful, awful editing is part of it. (It's published by Scholastic! Marketed for schools and kids! They should be edited well!) I can overlook a couple errors in a book (though they make me grumpy), but these books tend to have an error per page.

Plot spoilers )

The series is 14 books long, so I just hit the midpoint of it. I'm quickly losing interest in it though, I don't know if I'll make it to the end.
thistlechaser: (Book with cat 2)
Nowhere Land by K. A. Applegate
Rating: Liked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Mutation by K. A. Applegate
Rating: Okay (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

This is not an image of either of the book's covers, however both of them are seriously boring (just substandard art of a person standing), and this is by the same author and came up in the first row of results in my google image search. I would totally read this book!

Spoilers for the series thus far, including books 4 and 5. )

While the plot is great, the number of non-story issues are growing. As I said in my last reviews of the books in this series, these books are darned short. They very very much feel like chapters, not whole books. Related to that: It's getting annoying how much recapping the author has to do, when it feels like we just read about it in the last chapter.

Unfortunately there's an even bigger issue: I'm afraid poor Mrs. Applegate's editor might have died. The first book was near-perfect in editing, then in the second and third books more and more errors were slipping in. Book four crossed the line into an unacceptable amount of errors, and book five was so bad I nearly stopped reading it. Each page had a number of errors -- it wasn't uncommon for 2-3 periods to be missing per page. Major spacing issues. Typos. Misspellings. It read like a draft instead of a published book. The current book I'm reading, #6, is quite a bit better, so maybe the publisher brought in a new editor. (Book 6 is far from perfect though. This amusing thing appeared in a sentence. "slight[l]y" -- someone's mark to fix the spelling, I guess?)

I've always thought that the Holodeck (of Star Trek) would make a great setting for a book or TV series, since your group of characters could go anywhere, anytime, meet any people. That's essentially what this book has featured, at least thus far. Book 6 is going more into the ship's AI and the aliens though, which I'm enjoying.

Other than the shortness of the books and the editing issues, I'm really enjoying this series a lot. It's so creative, and it avoids all the things I usually hate about YA books (the kids being perfect at everything/adults being useless or just plain evil, stupid romance/love triangles, etc).
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: space)
Them by K. A. Applegate
Rating: Liked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

I'm this close to knocking this series' score down from a Liked to an Okay, just because of how darned short these books are. While they're YA books, they're about half the length of an average YA book, for no reason I can see (other than to stretch it out and make more money off the series). That annoys me.

As usual, anything I write about the plot at this point will be a spoiler, so putting it behind the cut.

Spoilers for the series thus far. Book 3: An almost literal trip to hell for the characters! )

I'm a good way into book 4 already, I just hadn't had time to write about 3 until today.
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: space)
Destination Unknown by K. A. Applegate
Rating: Liked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

These books are surprisingly short. I keep reaching the end of them way before I expect to. It takes me about four hours to read an average YA book, but these take me about two hours at my normal reading speed. At least they'll give me a nice bump to my book count for the year?

The book picks up right where the first book ended, but I can't talk about the plot at all without it being spoilery, so I'm going to put it behind the cut. If you intend to read this series, which I recommend you do, don't click on the cut:

Plot spoilers )

While I enjoyed this book quite a lot, it had a disturbingly familiar formula to it. It took me a moment to pin down from where, and once I realized it, it made perfect sense: It felt just like the book series her husband writes. Same character types, characters cut off from all other people, falling naturally into two different and opposing groups. It wasn't a bad thing, it just made the story feel less original.

If the whole series wasn't published already, I'd be annoyed because each of these books thus far feels more like a chapter in the story instead of a stand-alone book.

Next up: Them (Remnants book 3)
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: hugging book)
The Mayflower Project (Remnants, No 1) by K. A. Applegate
Rating: Loved (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

It's rare when it happens, but it's the greatest thing when I fall in love with a book from the very first words -- when I know from the very start that this will be one of the best ever books that I've read. That's how I wanted to start this post, but it bugged me that that wasn't quite true. While I loved the story from the very first words of it, there was a puzzling forward that I scratched my head over before falling head over heels in love with the story itself.

The plot was about the world ending. But, unlike other end of the world stories, the author took the reader through everything that was happening, slow and scary step by step. An asteroid was coming, one miles across. One that made the one that killed off the dinosaurs look like a grain of sand. This first book was about how the news stories got out and how people reacted. The world would be destroyed -- literally destroyed, broken up, bits of it sent into space. Every human would be killed, there would be no planet left.

So why did the forward-- (Oh HELL I was googling so I could get one detail right and read a big spoiler. GRRRRR Idiot me! I was trying to be careful! Dammit. ;;) Anyway. The forward talked about a battle from our real history. Two armies, one of them lost 6,000 men, the other lost 70,000 (not sure if those figures are right, something like that, not going to google again. Endless tears!). The author ended that section with a line like "this is the definition of annihilation". That left me scratching my head. Why, in a book about a natural disaster, did the author start with a forward about a real war in history? What did the two have to do with each other? Then I remembered: Somewhere I had read about asteroids being used in space wars, you could destroy a planet with one, just like what was happening in this book. But why? While the book is set in the near future, there was no alien contact that we knew of. Why would Joe Random Alien want to destroy the Earth?

The book's plot never hinted at anything along the lines of war, so I still don't didn't (THANKS SPOILER) know how that tied in to everything.

K. A. Applegate is such a great writer. It shouldn't surprise me, since her and her husband have been writing for decades. They wrote the Animorphs series together, and probably hundreds of other YA books. I love love love this world she created for Remnants -- the tech is just a bit advanced from the current world, which makes me want it even more since it feels so close. The characters (mostly teens) are interesting, not annoying like many teens in YA books are.

I picked this book to read by chance. I did my "it's time to pick a book from the very bottom of my To Read Pile," and amusingly the choice was between her book and one of her husband's. I knew nothing about either of them, other than his was funny and hers was creepy. While I was in the mood for neither of those, I was less not in the mood for creepy, so I picked Remnants. I'm so glad I did!

I can't believe how genuinely creepy this book is. After being creeped out by one of her husband's books, I emailed him to ask if he had had any trouble selling something so honestly scary, something that scared adult me, as a YA book. He told me that he can get away with that in YA books because kids aren't experienced with the world enough to recognize fear and danger in the same way adults do. For example, in Remnants, the kids would be (rightfully!) scared about the world ending, but for me, it was how the people were behaving in the last days and hours that scared me. The world being destroyed was inevitable, but the scary way people were acting (mobs, being willing to kill, killing themselves, killing their families to "save" them) was what was chilling to me.

Book one ended with 80 humans on a space shuttle, one filled with untested tech. Solar wings that had never been used before. Hibernation pods that had been only used on animals and even then with only limited success. While the book didn't exactly end on a cliffhanger (all the characters asleep in the pods), if the second book hadn't been out already, I sure would have been frustrated waiting for it!

This is a 14 book series, and happily they're all out now. I started the second book immediately upon finishing the first. It has a great mystery right from the start, though that spoiler I read ruined it for me. I can only hope the spoiler information comes out in the second book and wasn't a series-long mystery. So sad!

Edit: Bah. While I said I was pretty much done accepting books for reviews anymore, this morning I got offered a whole bunch that sounded interesting! I narrowed it down to two I'd really like to read, but I'm reading nothing else until I finish the Remnants series, so I have to pass on them. Drat!
thistlechaser: (Book with cat: Litterbox)
Sergeant at Arms by Crystal Dawn
Rating: Hated (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

Quiz time! You're a were-dragon on a planet of were-dragons. For lord knows what reason, every child born to your race is born male. So to get females, you take your spaceship over to the next planet over and trade gold for women. That planet knows you and likes your gold, so they're fine trading women to be your mates. One day an asteroid hits the Planet of Women and all the women have to flee the planet.

1) How, if you have space travel not just to this planet but to anywhere in the universe, did you miss that this asteroid was headed to the Planet of Women?

2) When the women all decide to flee their dying planet, why did you not invite them all to yours? Or at least track them where they went to? Noooo, you let them scatter to the winds and thus your race is dying unless you find Earth women to mate with.

3) How the hell, when nothing but males are born, did your species survive until you developed space flight?

4) Why is this book called Sergeant at Arms when there is no military or ranks involved?

I know it will come as no surprise, but the writing was just so so bad. The main character's name was Davinia. The story took place on Earth in Dracon City. In a book about dragons...

"Those guys were so hot that Davy thought she might need a fan placed where it would blow on her."

While playing the slots, she won:
"It had just hit its jackpot of a hundred thousand plus dollars!"

"Her waitress came and distracted her and she ordered a sex on the beach which had all the men staring her way and a mixed appetizer platter."

The book was free, and still not worth the price. I gave up at the 50% point, which was a lot further than I should have read.
thistlechaser: (Book with cat 2)
Frost Dancers by Garry Kilworth
Rating: Liked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)

While I had a number of issues with this book, all in all, I liked it quite a bit.

I love "talking animal" stories, and this was a perfect example of them -- I believed every animal in the book as an animal, not a human in animal shape. More than that, each of his animal species were so different -- it was just so enjoyable to see how he handled otter characters compared to hedgehogs. Their speech patterns and personalities were just so different.

The main character was a hare, born in the highlands of somewhere in Europe (Scotland I assumed, though it's never named). He's captured in a... hare beating? Bunch of men banging drums to herd hares into a small area where they can be captured or killed. The story tells of his life after he's caught in that.

The book's antagonist was fitting for the story. (And "antagonist" is the only word to describe what he was: "a person who actively opposes or is hostile to someone or something; an adversary.") The book's antagonist was not a villain or a bad guy, it was a person bird who was made what he was by his environment. (Also, happily the greatest mystery of the book, just what kind of bird he was, was solved in the author's afterwards. I would have been highly frustrated if we had never learned what his species was.)

There were a number of things about the book that didn't work for me:

It was long. Very very long. My Kindle tells me how long it takes me to finish a book based on my reading speed. Most books take me about four hours to read. This one took me six and a half. The pages were not packed with story so much as lists. The author would do something like "And since it was spring, the hares ate... [three page list of all the plant that grow in the area]".

Somehow the writing was extremely dated. Before I had checked, I would have guessed that it had been published in the 30s-50s. It was published in 1992. I have no idea how one would even try to write in so dated a way...

It was in British English. Mostly this doesn't bother me in the least, but using single quotes for dialogue is distracting (and sometimes confusing -- what if there's a contraction or possessive in the middle of dialogue?). I had to use my Kindle's dictionary function on a number of words, and all of them turned out to be "chiefly British" or "archaic" words.

While it was about a hare's whole life, and it was an eventful life, it feels like the amount that happened in the plot no where matched how long it took me to read it. So all in all I enjoyed it, I just wish it had been a much, much shorter book. I'm very much ready to read something else now.
thistlechaser: (Cat with book: Toy)
Silvern by Christina Farley
Rating: Disliked (Hated-Disliked-Okay-Liked-Loved)
Book received free for review from Skyscape.

I'm to the point of nearly never accepting a book free for review anymore. No matter if I like or dislike it, I either have to submit a copy of it to the publisher or give them a link to it. That makes me uncomfortable, especially when I have to write a negative one. So I've gotten to the point of only accepting ones I'm sure I'll like.

I loved Gilded, the first book in this series. (My review here.) There wasn't a single thing I disliked about the first book -- in fact, I liked it enough I did something very rare: I contacted the author to tell her so. (And got a nice reply back from her.)

So I accepted Silvern for review, and while there's nothing at all wrong with the book, for some reason the story never hooked me. 10% in, 20% in, 30% in, I kept waiting to fall in love. If nothing else, one of the things I loved about the first book was how much it taught me about Korea, but even that didn't come through in Silvern -- I don't feel like I learned a single new thing. I felt no drive to keep reading, and often looked for something else to do so I wouldn't "have to" read.

The characters were going to travel to North Korea, so I thought that would be where I'd learn new stuff, but by 35% or so in they still weren't there, and I found myself skimming. Skimming is always a bad sign for me... Soon enough I decided to stop reading it. I didn't reach the 50% book, so it doesn't count towards my 50/year goal.

There was nothing really wrong with the book. The writing was fine, if not quite as strong as the first book's. The teenage love plot took a greater amount of time, and while I actually enjoyed it in the first book (so rare!), I found I wasn't enjoying it in this second one. The setting (Korea) was interesting, but the supernatural stuff was for some reason boring to me this time.

Like the first book, the plot of this one was teenage girl vs the evil gods and spirits of Korea. After all she went through in the first book, the main character (Jae Hwa) was a little PTSD-y in this one, which was nice and realistic. The plot was slow moving (something that didn't at all bother me in the first book), so by the point I gave up (a third in), they were still only talking things out.

I really wanted to like this book, and I thought I would like it (though I don't think it's a matter of my expectations being too high). Maybe I'll do what I've never done before and give it another try some time in the future.


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