I have to admit I didn't see the twist coming. Yeah, maybe it was a little silly but it was interesting enough to make me want know more.
That is why I am *really* annoyed with the cliff-hanger ending. It is such a cheap crutch for writers to use that on principle I usually give the book very low marks for it and don't bother with the rest of a series, knowing I'll get more of the same.
However, I might give the next book a go when it comes out because I am genuinely curious!
Totally Tubular is the latest short story with an interesting premise I’ve picked up with some spare credit.
The premise and set-up were great and I really loved the voice and characterization of Carrington which were more well-developed then I expected. The fish-out-of-water take on a 2011 teenager send back to the 80s was a perfect mix of quirky, naïve and funny.
Sadly though, it does very little with the ‘time-travelling’ premise. Carrington’s present-day conflict with her hurting and distant mother is no-doubt what triggered her random trip back to the 80s to the side of her then teenaged mother. This is why I didn’t understand why she spent most of the book NOT with her mother!
Despite a fascinating premise and promising start in the 80s (including finding the two biggest Star Trek nerds in school to explain paradoxes), Totally Tubular devolves into a love story. Fortunately, the time-travel wrinkle does make the far more interesting than it would have been in any other YA story but that is not saying a lot.
The bottom line is that despite the fact Carrington has a chance to get a deeper understanding of her mother’s history, explore the potential she has to fix major horrors of the past or investigate further the extraordinary, possibly supernatural causes of her mysterious time jump; she spends the second half of the book kissing a hot guy.
Top this off with a total cop-out of an ending and the story left me pretty disappointed.
Still though, I always say that a story with time travel is automatically better than 75% of stories without it. I’m also tempering my review to account for the fact it is a shorter story and I guess didn’t’ have the time or wasn’t even aiming to get too deep.
Overall, I’d recommend tubular for anyone after a short, cute story. It was definitely well-written with a light, fun style.
Scars is a fundamentally pointless story about how true the bible is.
A new saviour has risen to world power and teenager Becky knows he’s actually the anti-Christ.
The story consists of Becky recounting the world’s trip to hell in a hand basket as Earth falls under the spell of false prophets and deceitful messiahs. It is brief on the interesting aspects such as massive changes to world rule, currency, law etc and heavy on bible verses.
Even if you happen to believe, it doesn’t excuse the unimaginative, poorly written and unevenly paced story that lacks any kind of dramatic tension.
I don’t happen to believe which, yes, means this book automatically has an uphill battle with me. But the fact that there is no real conflict to fuel the story just makes it, as I said, pointless.
Becky knows the new messiah is the antichrist because she read it in the bible and everything the bible said came true – all the signs, the omens, everything. The story is a literal re-telling of the coming of the anti-Christ set in modern days.
Now if the story had some spine, was a debate, or perhaps dealt with Becky questioning her belief or reconciling her faith in a being that would let this happen or just coming to terms with the fact her faith will see her martyred ,well that would be something. It would be interesting at least.
Unfortunately, though, Scars lacks any kind of focus other than re-telling the bible for profit.
Memento Nora was a surprising and enjoyable read.
I don’t usually read such short books but I had some spare credit in my account and the premise really piqued my interest as memory alteration is a growing topic in YA right now.
I was pleasantly surprised to find an interesting, well-built future world and fascinating characters were richer and more well developed than some I’d read in longer stories on a similar topic.
The plot was mostly straight forward but still managed to catch me off-guard with a clever little twist I didn’t pick! The ending was fairly tight and satisfying too.
My only complaint is that I wish it was longer or that we’d at least be seeing more of Nora (The ending didn’t obviously set up a sequel though reading, I now see there will in fact be a follow-up and I’m excited)!
It’s so rare with all the ho-hum stories I read that I wish for more but I couldn’t help but be disappointed it was over (unlike being disappointed it was dragging on like so with so many other books!)
Overall, I highly recommend Memento Nora. Despite its brief length it was a solid, enjoyable read.
Festival of the Moon is a disappointing follow-up to the first “Girls Wearing Black” book, The Homecoming Masquerade. Whereas Book 1 set up a unique premise, progressed at a brisk pace, teased out relevant information and swapped skilfully between POVs, Book 2 seemed to bloat and stagnate.
Book 1 played out like some kind of high-stakes multi-player tag-team chess game, each character – dual protagonists, dual antagonists and other key players – strategizing, making calculated moves and reacting as the tension and complications compounded.
I think it must have benefitted from its contained setting (a three hours masquerade ball with no set-up) because Book 2 tends to meander and lose its way as it sprawls across the subsequent two weeks.
The continuing story – a ringer backed by a consortium on vampire hunters is trying to win what is essentially a high-stakes beauty pageant in which the winner will be made into an immortal to give the hunters a chance to kill a reclusive master vampire – got off to a great start in Book1.
Nicky’s campaign to win should have kicked into high gear in the Festival of the Moon but it stalls out of the gate. She’s busy being sad over the boy that can’t be with her and an entire precious week passes in a bout of depression and prophetic dreams.
Meanwhile, our other protagonist, Jill is also busy being sad about the boy who doesn’t want to be with her and spends a major chunk of her story on her own, chasing a new guy or also having prophetic dreams (and side note, enough the prophetic dreams - they were a real crutch in this story).
Worse still, the guy they’re both pining for is the *same* guy but the story doesn’t even take the opportunity to develop the character relationship thanks to the tension of the love triangle. Jill and Nicky have maybe three scenes together and we get neither building camaraderie nor rising conflict.
So forget about focusing on their life or death mission, our protagonists are wallowing in boy drama leaving all the exciting strategy and fascinating POVs to the antagonists. Without worthy opponents or serious consequences for the girls’ lack of focus though, the climax falls flat.
So why have I given such a lukewarm book a high rating (especially for me)? Well I guess it’s because of the goodwill the far superior Book 1 built-up and my hope that the series can recover from this stumble.
Considering the masses of truly awful YA out there, Festival of the Moon isn’t that bad by comparison and as a new series with huge potential, I think it is worth checking out.
This is my new low water mark in YA literature. I’m normally pretty fair in my reviews and take into account that other people may appreciate elements of a story (eg the romance) more than I do.
Here, however, is a fundamentally broken story.
I do spoiler-free reviews, meaning I don’t give away anything that isn’t in the audible synopsis. Unfortunately that means I can’t really discuss where this book goes because the mid-point reveal is supposed to be a surprise.
All I’ll say is that the reveal is/requires a complete break in continuity. The setting, characters and story itself have to fundamentally change after the break. This means that most of the build-up in the first half of the book is for naught.
Julia’s story about overcoming guilt, depression and maybe figuring out the mystery around the fatal accident has no real bearing on the story after the break. Likewise, the character relationships we spent so long trying to establish also come to nothing. And I say *trying* to establish because there’s no real ‘development’ – two hot guys come out of nowhere to worship and insult Julia in equal measure and this is supposed to equate to true love in YA literature.
The reveal itself is enormous but there was no opportunity to really play with or explore it because it came so late in the story. This leaves us with a second half full of info dumps, love triangles (there are TWO, I kid you not) and a pointless heroine hell-bent of self-sacrifice that does nothing but collapse to her knees on three separate occasions during the climax.
It kills me to be so dismissive of a book; I truly do try to be fair because I’m an amateur writer who’d hate to read a scathing review.
Honestly, though Here go nowhere, does nothing and is utterly heartless. The whole thing has a paint by numbers, YA cliché checklist feel (High concept – check, love triangle – check,check, heroine with a martyr complex – check) but the wasteful setup, focused story, lack of payoff and poor story structure make it fall even flatter than other generic YA out there.
Don’t waste your credits.
VM was one of my fav shows and it set off an obsession I had a few years back with teen detective literature and YA mysteries. Unfortunately, I never found anything particularly good, let alone anything reaching VM brilliance.
Escape Theory wasn't a hard core mystery but the premise, set-up and style were really well crafted. Devon doesn't believe all around good guy Hutch killed himself by Oxy OD at their scenic boarding academy. She begins to investigate and put pieces together with the help of her role as peer counselor to those closest to Hutch - wealthy and popular kids she is not at all in with.
Clues and new pieces on information are doled out at a steady pace and I stayed interested. The mystery wasn't too hard to solve and you'll probably figure it out before the book, but it never gets boring or too obvious. The author manages to inject a seedy but not melodramatic underworld into the boarding school and while it never got quite as noir or dark as VM it never got clichéd
The real brilliance to this story are the characters. They are incredibly well drawn and felt very real. The relationships are authentic and character turns and depths are organic and sincere. It lets the teens be teens (not adult caricatures) while also not relying on standard high school clichés (jocks, nerds, cool, uncool).
At the same time though there is an ever present but subtle rich/poor divide particularly between Devon, a scholarship student, and the wealthy inner circle. The way this way played really reminded me of VM with the way it gave the school community texture that you always sensed could become serious tension with the right catalyst.
While I would have like Escape Theory to go a little more in depth, be a little be more mysterious and have a bigger bang to the conclusion/revelation Escape Theory was still a fantastic YA mystery and overall great book.
I highly recommend it and can't wait for more in the series. I will definitely be reading them!
Jellico started out painfully slowly with no sense of where the story is going. After an hour I put it down and didn’t pick it up for over a year. After three hours I was considering deleting it even though I have a rule about always finishing books. That first was just sucha chore, I thought it could be the first to go.
It wasn’t necessarily a bad or even badly told story; it was just seemed so murky and muddled. The story-within-a-story interludes were as yet unframed, the goals of Taylor (the lead) were still unknown and the initial set up (the ‘war’ between three groups of teens that live or study by the Jellico road) was confusing and, as such, uninteresting. I’m all for a story unfolding, for pieces of information deftly doled out at the right moments etc but the first third seemed like it belong to a different story or at least set up a completely different story.
The first three hours were about that ‘war’ but that is not what the book is about and event thought eh story provides more than one could-be ‘resolution’, the conflict is simply dropped when the real story got going.
The protracted set-up gave an opportunity to tease a few things and start setting up the real story but since I had no idea what the real story was, the tid-bits, flashback, allusions and interludes left me confused and bored.
Jellico road is essentially a story a story of two generations of friends who form/ed unbreakable bonds. It becomes about Taylors search for family, love and understanding. When it does – it is utterly fabulous. I just can’t help but think that if it were only framed like that from the beginning it would have been solid gold.
By the last third of the book, the interludes/flashbacks are breathtaking in their revelations and I got excited every time I heard the music that signalled the change (as opposed to considering fast-forwarding them in the first third).
I guess you just have to go with the book and trust where it will take you but it’s the second novel in a row that I feel did not frame the ultimate story early enough for me to be invested from the beginning. It’s also the second in a row I’ve picked back up a year after dumping it – not a coincidence.
All I can say is if you like powerful emotional dramas, family sagas or intergenerational searches for love, family and hope than the Jellico Road is a wonderful book so stick it out. The end was so utterly emotional I had to lock myself in the bathroom at work to finish it because I couldn’t leave it or sob at my desk.
I don’t know how international readers will take the Australian story and the Aussie narrator. I AM Australian so I found a lot of the stereotypes, characters and idioms accurate to the point of uncomfortable. Somehow though, I still found the narrator’s accent grating (I just kept wondering if that is what I sound like?!)
Overall, I strongly recommend Jellico Road and it is times like this I remember why I have my ‘always finish’ rule!
I purchased “Chris Creed” when I was going through a teen detective/mystery phase.
It wasn’t at all what I expected and the style didn’t really gel with me initially so I put it down for over a year. I just picked it up and finished the second half and I have to say it was a fairly worth-while read.
It is not a true detective/mystery story which I unfairly punished it for initially. It is a much more introspective piece that details Tori Adam’s changing views of his friends, family, community and society as he looks into the sudden disappearance of outcast Christopher Creed.
It is very much like “13 Reason by Jay Asher” or “Paper Towns by John Green” in that the story is actually about what the narrator learns of himself and life etc when they do some investigating and start to understand the lives of people they had pegged completely wrong.
As I mentioned the style didn’t really work for with me. I had a problems nailing a time period in my head (early to mid 90s? – pre-constant cells phones, start of regular internet, use of floppy disks!?) which kept me a little out of it.
There was also something with the narrator/recording that was very uneven and sometimes made me think it had switched narrators at the start of a new chapter until the accent settled down again. It was definitely not the worst offender I've heard but it also kept me from getting totally lost in the audiobook.
There also wasn’t a great deal of action which I think lets it down when compared to some of its peers in the genre but it never got too nebulous , vague or existential in its conclusions/lessons/understandings which made “Chris Creed” more relatable for me. There are never any easy answers in a book like this, but I was satisfied with where the narrative and the book finished up.
It was the final few pages that really cinched the book as a definitely recommend with me. I won’t give away spoilers but it is when Tori’s story finally came together. He is ‘telling’ this tale a year after it all happened but we are given no context until the last chapter and I wish I’d understood his motivations/actions a bit earlier to frame the book not just the narrative.
Regardless, I got serious chills on the last page and I urge everyone looking for a nice quite tale, particularly fans of the books I mentioned above, to give it a read.
Virals is easily my favourite YA series happening right now.
It is a real shame not many seem to be reading it and I think it might be because of its frequent mischaracterisation. Virals, Code included, is a Teen/YA series. The main protagonists are a group of smart, strong and inquisitive teens who were accidentally infected with a virus coding canine DNA making them essentially a human wolf pack.
Despite this supernatural leaning, Virals couldn’t be more grounded in the real world and while the kids are on a mission to find out what exactly happened to them, the ‘viral’ issue takes a back seat in each of the books to the mystery at hand.
Borrowing on Reich’s extensive research knowledge from the Bones series (sometimes directly as main character Tori Brennan is Temperance’s great-niece) Reich’s has crafted fun mysteries, treasure hunts and conspiracies for the team to pursue. Their viral abilities give them an edge, on par with their natural curiosity and intelligence.
Meanwhile, they deal with the more usual pitfalls of adolescence such as being smart scholarship students at an exclusive private academy by day. Fortunately the ‘teen’ stuff (including some budding romance finally starting to bloom in this entry) is handled deftly and kept minimal that you actually look forward to it as an interlude between adventures.
Code sees the virals drawn into a dangerous game of cat and mouse with a mysterious bomb maker threatening lives in their home town of Charleston, SC. As usual the team has to use fascinating local history and landmarks ( a real highlight of all the Virals books), solve puzzles and clues as well as exploit their access to their parents state of the art environmental research facility (covertly of course).
Overall, Code is another fun and exciting Virals book. Kathy has shared the writing with her son Brandan and the story, style, tone and voices didn’t’ miss a beat. I’ll be happy to see more Virals’ novels penned by Brendan (especially if they come along a little faster now!)
Overall, I highly recommend Code and the whole Virals series to any YA reader. Fans of adventure, incredible locations and puzzles/mystery will certainly not be disappointed. Fans of a well written work will also not be disappointed because Reichs’ skill and experienced writer just seems to make every element come together.
Undermountain is a truly unique YA story, a real breath of fresh air in a stagnant haze of vampires, werewolves and forced love triangles.
It plays hard on the one-of-a kind and extremely high-concept premise, going so far beyond the realms of believability that you can just sit back and be drawn into it.
The action comes fast and constant. The book takes off in less than 20 minutes – a real rarity these days. By switching POV’s the author has ensured we’re always following something of interest and by keeping the story relatively simple you are easily hooked in. I personally read the 10hr book in a solid 7 hour block day 1 and 3 hour block day 2 – I never wanted to put it down.
Undermountain also doesn’t obviously set up a trilogy like so many YA books do now meaning we get a true resolution and not a frustrating cliff-hanger!
Despite the pace, the diverse cast of teen characters are painted deftly and thoroughly.
This is clearly a real skill of the writer – you get an instant understanding of each characters’ truly individual personality and life with only a few sparse lines carefully sprinkled in. No clunky backstory is dropped like an anvil, no overly-politically correct or clichéd statements that uncomfortably flag the racially diverse group (and it is by the way!).
I absolutely recommend Undermountain, especially to those who need a change of pace in the YA genre.
All too often I’m let down by books and give a tepid, ‘if-you-like-the-things-I-hated-then-maybe’ recommendation so I am thrilled to have been so impressed and engrossed in Undermountian that I urge everyone to check it out!
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