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Posts tagged “YA

Loop by Karen Akins: Frodo’s Review

TotallyRandomTuesday

 

Summary From GoodreadsLoop

At a school where Quantum Paradox 101 is a required course and history field trips are literal, sixteen year-old time traveler Bree Bennis excels…at screwing up.

After Bree botches a solo midterm to the 21st century by accidentally taking a boy hostage (a teensy snafu), she stands to lose her scholarship. But when Bree sneaks back to talk the kid into keeping his yap shut, she doesn’t go back far enough. The boy, Finn, now three years older and hot as a solar flare, is convinced he’s in love with Bree, or rather, a future version of her that doesn’t think he’s a complete pain in the arse. To make matters worse, she inadvertently transports him back to the 23rd century with her.

Once home, Bree discovers that a recent rash of accidents at her school are anything but accidental. Someone is attacking time travelers. As Bree and her temporal tagalong uncover seemingly unconnected clues—a broken bracelet, a missing data file, the art heist of the millennium—that lead to the person responsible, she alone has the knowledge to piece the puzzle together. Knowledge only one other person has. Her future self.

But when those closest to her become the next victims, Bree realizes the attacker is willing to do anything to stop her. In the past, present, or future.

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I received an eBook copy of Loop from NetGalley in exchange for an honest review.

I have a fascination for everything involving time travel, whether it is in the form of a book such as with the MG/YA Pendragon series, in a tv show like Forever or Doctor Who, or a movie like Back to the Future. It doesn’t seem to matter what medium it is in, if it involves time travel even at a small level I’m going to at least be interested and willing to give it a try; that’s where Loop by Karen Akins comes in. I heard about Loop from the publisher who was looking for people to do reviews for its blog tour, and while I did not participate in that, I did request it because I was curious to see if this would be a good example of time travel, and a way of quenching my thirst for it.

Time Travel Back to the Future

The result? A bit of a mixed bag. I found the beginning of the book to be a struggle to get through, adjusting to Akins using fake curse words in place of regular ones (something I know bugs some people and in this case was a mild irritant to myself), and getting accustomed to the jargon used to describe the process of time travel itself, and everything that goes on with it.

Fake Swear Words Battlestar Gallactica

Unfortunately, even when I had immersed myself in the world, it never felt like something I could wrap my brain around, especially concerning the bits and pieces of explanations we get for how the world functions in the 23rd century. This isn’t due to lack of experience with various reasoning given in other examples of future worlds, but that Akins doesn’t do a very good job at describing it in a clear way.

Part of the issue here, and something that is the case across the board with this book (technical babble aside), is that it seems like the reader is intentionally led in circles in order to give the story a kind of mystery. In reality, all that occurred was that I was increasingly frustrated at the contradictions that started to arise, the dense main character that took forever to realize what was right in front of her face (where the reader could put the pieces together chapters before), and being left to wonder if (from a technical aspect) this world even made sense at all.

Going Around in Circles

Every time a technical bit was brought up it was almost immediately discarded and a vague response given instead. My head hurts just trying to put those last few paragraphs together to try and explain what wasn’t explained in the book, but suffice it to say that there are problems in the world building in Loop.

Then there are the characters. Bree (the MC) is dense as I mentioned before, but is also inconsistent. At times she seems lost and unsure, as well as just plain slow, and often can’t figure out what is happening around her, even when it’s pretty clear. Other times Bree plays a Sherlock-esque figure, picking up clues and hatching schemes (even if they aren’t always brilliant ones), all the while complaining about the same issues repeatedly. She had a pretty rough past, but despite that I was never able to pity her after the first couple of chapters because she is so abrasive and whiny.

Finn, the love interest, grasps things often before Bree does despite being from the 21st century, but otherwise is just an overprotective lug, and one that happens to be quite attractive seemingly just for gushing at random intervals from Bree. The supporting cast outside of them are even more cliche, from the standard BFF Mimi who is only there to be overly devoted to Bree, to one of the “villains” that is confused and used, and that eventually goes a tad nuts but still garners pity for whatever reason. Just…no.

nope

The part of Loop that pulls you in, however, is the past-to-future experiences, at least if you love time travel like I do. Unfortunately, while some of those aspects are pulled off well, such as with various cultural references in the 21st and 23rd centuries, much of the future elements are not well done at all. The world Bree lives in is barely discussed, the book focuses way too much on a couple modes of transportation instead of the time travel part, and the cliched joke of instant meals was used a couple times and wasn’t really funny. There is always a lot to work with in time travel books because you have such a wide range of times and locations to choose from, but that wasn’t showcased in Loop at all. The world in the 23rd century was simply bland.

Bland World

The writing and conversations that took place were decent, but it wasn’t enough to grab me, especially with the previously mentioned issues involved. A few solid jokes were made, and the sheer awkwardness of various situations were enjoyable, but there wasn’t enough chemistry between the main characters to enjoy those scenes fully. Having the inevitable future of the timeline Bree and Finn were on, something that was told almost immediately in the story, made it so there were hardly any surprises or suspense.

Overall, while the idea of time travel was present, and some of the issues with it (even if many are obvious) were addressed, I couldn’t enjoy Loop like I had hoped to. It isn’t a bad book, it just doesn’t excel in any category. Time travel wasn’t exciting in Loop, it was just a way of circumventing plot issues, something it didn’t do all that well anyway. The ending of the book only serves to try and confuse the reader even more, and too many issues remain unresolved, even for a book in a series. Thanks as always for reading.

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Review: Beta by Rachel Cohn

Beta

Summary From Goodreads

Elysia is created in a laboratory, born as a sixteen-year-old girl, an empty vessel with no life experience to draw from. She is a Beta, an experimental model of a teenage clone. She was replicated from another teenage girl, who had to die in order for Elysia to exist.

Elysia’s purpose is to serve the inhabitants of Demesne, an island paradise for the wealthiest people on earth. Everything about Demesne is bioengineered for perfection. Even the air induces a strange, euphoric high, which only the island’s workers-soulless clones like Elysia-are immune to.

At first, Elysia’s life is idyllic and pampered. But she soon sees that Demesne’s human residents, who should want for nothing, yearn. But for what, exactly? She also comes to realize that beneath the island’s flawless exterior, there is an under­current of discontent among Demesne’s worker clones. She knows she is soulless and cannot feel and should not care-so why are overpowering sensations cloud­ing Elysia’s mind?

If anyone discovers that Elysia isn’t the unfeeling clone she must pretend to be, she will suffer a fate too terrible to imagine. When her one chance at happi­ness is ripped away with breathtaking cruelty, emotions she’s always had but never understood are unleashed. As rage, terror, and desire threaten to overwhelm her, Elysia must find the will to survive.

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I received an ARC of Beta courtesy of the amazing people over at ARCycling in exchange for an honest review.

I am reviewing this IMMEDIATELY after finishing it because I want my emotions to be as fresh as possible. I breezed through Beta just about as fast as I ever have any other book. I was loving just about every aspect of it and was thinking this was going to be four, perhaps even a five Frodo review no problem. Then the ending happened and I kind of lost it on Twitter.

So, ya, I was a little frustrated to say the least. There were twists and some plot threads dropped that were brand new and clearly were designed to get the reader to want to find out more in book 2 in the series (Which weren’t needed by the way, the desire was already there from the rest of the book, aaaaaah) but that wasn’t the issue I had. No, the main character, Elysia, who had stayed true to her convictions throughout the book and had been such a fantastic example of dedication to the people she cares about just throws it all away at the end. I cannot go into further detail without spoiling the book but my goodness was that disheartening. Why would you take such a great model of character and toss it aside like it was nothing?! I don’t get it. I will again say this is an ARC of Beta that I read, but I doubt that they would have made that substantial a change between the ARC and the finished version. Ugh.

Now, the rest of the book. The writing? Excellent! The pacing was smooth, the flow was wonderful with action interspersed with revelations by Elysia about the world around her. The dialogue is some of the best I’ve ever read, Cohn brought the conversations to life and it was remarkable how smooth the transitions were from one character speaking to the next. Also? Beta was HILARIOUS! It wasn’t over the top funny that you find in some books, not that I’m knocking that approach, but little jokes here and there that had me in fits. Wonderful.

Let me again say how frustrated I was with Elysia’s decisions at the end of the book because prior to that I loved everything about her character. She was funny in an awkward way that fit perfectly with her beta-clone role. The way she observed the role in a mixture of robotic analysis and descriptions slowly mixing with human revelations about both herself and the people around her was perfect. As a reader you get to learn about who Elysia is right along with her as she discovers herself, I love that approach and it did make me feel connected with her on a deeper level which I loved. Again, she stuck with her convictions throughout almost the entire book, she was devoted to the people that truly cared about her and refused to waiver even when the opportunities she had would have swayed the average person, or perhaps clone. Loved her.

The romance in Beta was great. No real triangles, no insta-love, though I won’t deny there being some instant attractions going on, which is perfectly normal considering the characters are teenagers. The romantic interest, Tahir, is a fascinating character. His emotions change like the tide, he is devoted and passionate one minute and distant the next. In some cases this would be irritating, but with Tahir it is just intriguing. You want to know what is going on in his head, and Elysia is the only one who seems to be capable of finding out just what Tahir is all about. They mesh, they are sweet, and their is romantic scenes but they trend more toward the emotional bonding rather than too much of the physical which is great to see considering their ages. I rooted for them all the way.

Oh, and the world Cohn created? Detailed, rich, complex, the list goes on. A place that seems like a paradise from first glance but in reality is just as flawed as any society is not an original concept by any means, but it was done so well that I didn’t mind. The history of the Island, Demesne, was completely believable and I could definitely see how humans could have decided this was the right course of action, especially those among the wealthy. The brand of servitude used is intended to illicit anger from the reader in varying degrees along the course of the book because of how we are still trying to achieve freedom in the world today. The idea of any human of any type, clone or not, being beneath another human is something we strive to remove completely, and Beta showcases how the powers that be, in a certain scenario, might continue to utilize that mindset to the fullest extent to serve their purposes. The imagery through Elysia’s eyes is so detailed that Demesne comes to life in an instant, every aspect easy to see in the mind’s eye, just excellent.

So did I enjoy Beta? Absolutely. Did the ending frustrate me beyond belief and tarnish my feelings toward the book? You bet. It’s like I was taught every facet of a language and at the end of my learning process I was told that half the words or letters were meaningless. The result is a question. How much do I let 1% of the book affect how much I loved the other 99%? A decent amount, but I refuse to let a decision I’m not thrilled with alter how great the book was prior to it. The ending keeps it from being a five but a four works just fine for me. I recommend the book and just say that I hope book two will resolve some of the issues that the end presented and if Elysia can recapture that conviction and great sense of who she is and what she believes I bet this series will become a favorite of mine. Thanks as always for reading!

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge #105/200

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Day 36: Paper Valentine by Brenna Yovanoff

Day 36

Summary From Goodreads:  

The city of Ludlow is gripped by the hottest July on record. The asphalt is melting, the birds are dying, petty crime is on the rise, and someone in Hannah Wagnor’s peaceful suburban community is killing girls.

For Hannah, the summer is a complicated one. Her best friend Lillian died six months ago, and Hannah just wants her life to go back to normal. But how can things be normal when Lillian’s ghost is haunting her bedroom, pushing her to investigate the mysterious string of murders? Hannah’s just trying to understand why her friend self-destructed, and where she fits now that Lillian isn’t there to save her a place among the social elite. And she must stop thinking about Finny Boone, the big, enigmatic delinquent whose main hobbies seem to include petty larceny and surprising acts of kindness.

With the entire city in a panic, Hannah soon finds herself drawn into a world of ghost girls and horrifying secrets. She realizes that only by confronting the Valentine Killer will she be able move on with her life—and it’s up to her to put together the pieces before he strikes again.

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Well Paper Valentine was…a bit all over the place. I liked it, I know that much, but the details well…they’re a little sketchy. In the beginning of the book, the first couple chapters specifically, though I may just have gotten used to it after awhile, Yovanoff was using extra words. What I mean by that is imagine you have a daily word goal (if you participate in NaNoWriMo or are a writer of any sort you know what I mean very well) and you use a few words here and there that don’t really need to be there but help to pad that count. That’s what it felt like was happening. An example, right off of page one so it isn’t a spoiler (since it’d be in any preview) ” On TV, the anchors are looking serious, shuffling their papers, and I get up to go get a glass of lemonade.” Just look at the last part of that sentence for a while and see if you notice what I did. Maybe it’s all in my head. Anyway that was the first thing I noticed. I really need to stop being so overly critical right away, oh well, force of habit when you read & review this many books.

The second thing was the birds dying. I don’t know if there was a disease, I’m not sure that the cause was ever explained (pretty sure that was a no but not 100% positive) but what I do know is this, there doesn’t seem to be a point to them. Is it a metaphor? Some sort of symbolism? I have no clue, but after reading the entire book I’m left with no answers on that front. Weird. Also the birds in fantasy thing really needs to taper off, it’s beyond excessive at this point, especially with covers.

Too many freaking fantasy birds!

I realize this is a tad excessively specific so I’ll try to focus on my overall impression of Paper Valentine. As I said before, I did enjoy the book. I thought the main character, Hannah, was compelling and that she was quite the stoic MC considering she was constantly dealing with the ghost of her dead best friend. I’m not sure most people would be able to deal with that sort of thing as well as she did, so props for a female MC with backbone. She had a bit of a clutz problem going on, but that was alright, even when she was all over Finny after he helped her out time and time again.

Speaking of which, Finny was…well, honestly I’m not sure. The strong and silent type I guess? Outside of a bit of standard background info we don’t really get anything from his perspective. I’m not saying we should have had a POV switch, but no thoughts really whatsoever. It was a little weird but I’m fine with it, the romance was nice, sweet even. Not overdone.

The plot was good, the story interesting, but the jumps/flashbacks were a little on the discombobulated side of things. You really had to pay close attention to know exactly what time frame you were experiencing. Still, overall the twists and turns along the way were done quite well and the ending, well, even if it was pulled out of the “classic mystery ending” hat it still worked like a charm. I didn’t see it coming, so kudos to Yovanoff.

Overall Paper Valentine was a very good book, but maybe not quite a great one. My biggest issue at this point is who would I recommend this book to. There are certainly paranormal elements (ghosts obviously) but not so heavily that I would automatically tell that type of reader to go and get it. The read was certainly YA so I guess that crowd would be the go to even though that’s pretty broad. The style was more contemporary than anything but with the fantasy elements it might not be for the purists of that group. Whatever, regardless I think it is certainly a book worth reading, despite my lack of ability to categorize it. You’ll have to read Paper Valentine for yourself to know where to put it. As always thanks for reading and come back tomorrow for Day 37!

Goodreads 2013 Reading Challenge # 36/365

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