Monday, October 31, 2011

Review - The Poison Eaters

The Poison Eaters: and Other Stories
by Holly Black
Date: 2010
Publisher: Big Mouth House
Reading level: YA
Book type: short stories
Pages: 212
Format: hardcover
Source: Chapters

Poisonous girls whose kisses will kill. A fateful eating contest with the devil. Faeries who return to Ironside, searching for love. A junior prom turned bacchanalia. In twelve short stories, eerie and brimming with suspense and unexpected humor, Holly Black twists the fantastical creatures you thought you knew in ways you’ll never expect.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I know I tried to read Tithe years ago, but I wasn't able to get into it.  So I wasn't sure if I liked Holly Black's stories or not.  I'm still not sure.  This collection of short stories was okay... but I don't feel like I want to run out and get all of the author's other books.

The stories are short and creative and original... but good grief!  This book had the WORST editing I've ever seen.  There were typos, extra words, changing tenses, and even a main character whose name changed for two paragraphs (in the first story, no less)!  What bothers me even more about this is that all but two of these stories had been previously published.  When the publisher made this collection, it looks like nobody bothered to give the stories a final polish or even proofread them.  I find that insulting and unacceptable; had I paid more than a bargain price for this book, I would have been pretty pissed off.

I can't really say that I loved any of the stories, though some did stand out more than others.  "Paper Cuts Scissors" and "The Poison Eaters" were probably my favourites.  I had high hopes for "The Coat of Stars" and "The Virgin", but their abrupt (and therefore unsatisfying) endings left me wanting.  "Going Ironside" was a waste of time and was barely even a story.  Neither of the stories that tied into Holly Black's Modern Faerie Tales series made me want to read the books.

If you're a fan of this author and don't mind atrocious editing that's on par with some of the shoddiest self-published stuff out there, you might like this book.  If you're an urban fantasy fan, there might be a couple of stories here for you to enjoy.  If you're not a fan of Holly Black or urban fantasy and editing issues drive you nuts, give this one a pass.

Enjoyment: 2/5
Writing: 3/5
Editing: 0/5
Originality: 4/5
Selection: 3/5

Overall: 2.4 out of 5

Sunday, October 23, 2011

In My Mailbox (48)

Bought from Chapters:
The Replacement
by Brenna Yovanoff

Mackie Doyle is not one of us. Though he lives in the small town of Gentry, he comes from a world of tunnels and black murky water, a world of living dead girls ruled by a little tattooed princess. He is a Replacement, left in the crib of a human baby sixteen years ago. Now, because of fatal allergies to iron, blood, and consecrated ground, Mackie is fighting to survive in the human world.

Mackie would give anything to live among us, to practice on his bass or spend time with his crush, Tate. But when Tate's baby sister goes missing, Mackie is drawn irrevocably into the underworld of Gentry, known as Mayhem. He must face the dark creatures of the Slag Heaps and find his rightful place, in our world, or theirs.

Sisters of the Sword
by Maya Snow

Kimi dreams of being a great samurai warrior, but she and her sister, Hana, are young ladies of feudal Japan, daughters of the Jito of the province. Her future seems clear: Girls do not become samurai.

Then, betrayal shatters the sisters' world. Their power-hungry uncle murders their father, and their mother and little brother mysteriously disappear. Determined to seek revenge and restore their honor, they disguise themselves as boys to train at a school for samurai. Kimi and Hana are thrown headlong into a life of warrior codes, sharp swords, and shadowy figures—as they work with fierce determination to avenge the brutal wrongs done to their family.

In a flash, life has swept them into a terrible adventure, more heart-pounding than Kimi and Hana ever could have imagined . . . and once it has been set in motion, nothing will ever be the same.

Sisters of the Sword was only $2 in hardcover!  It's rare to find the first book in a series in the bargain bin, so I couldn't pass it up.  (I really have very little self-control when I see those bargain-price stickers on the front of a book...)

What was in your "mailbox" this week?

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

In My Mailbox (47)

I've been neglecting the In My Mailbox meme for a while. So I didn't actually get all these books this past week! They've been accumulating for a while... even though I've been trying to limit myself. At least I'll have lots of stuff to read if I go for the Off The Shelf Challenge again next year!

Bought from Kobo:
11 Birthdays
by Wendy Mass

After celebrating their first nine same-day birthdays together, Amanda and Leo, having fallen out on their tenth and not speaking to each other for the last year, prepare to celebrate their eleventh birthday separately but peculiar things begin to happen as the day of their birthday begins to repeat itself over and over again.

by Penelope Farmer

Why does Flora, as a small child, have memories of people, places and events she could not have experienced? As she grows older, the memories increase in intensity and the name Penelope seems to be hers, not Flora, which everyone calls her. In this compelling novel, Flora slowly and painfully learns the source of her ghostly memoires.

Shark Girl
by Kelly Bingham

On a sunny day in June, at the beach with her mom and brother, fifteen-year-old Jane Arrowood went for a swim. And then everything — absolutely everything — changed. Now she’s counting down the days until she returns to school with her fake arm, where she knows kids will whisper, "That’s her — that’s Shark Girl," as she passes. In the meantime there are only questions: Why did this happen? Why her? What about her art? What about her life? In this striking first novel, Kelly Bingham uses poems, letters, telephone conversations, and newspaper clippings to look unflinchingly at what it’s like to lose part of yourself - and to summon the courage it takes to find yourself again.

Bought from Chapters:
Miss Peregrine's Home for Peculiar Children
by Ransom Riggs

A mysterious island.

An abandoned orphanage.

A strange collection of very curious photographs.

It all waits to be discovered in Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children, an unforgettable novel that mixes fiction and photography in a thrilling reading experience. As our story opens, a horrific family tragedy sets sixteen-year-old Jacob journeying to a remote island off the coast of Wales, where he discovers the crumbling ruins of Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children. As Jacob explores its abandoned bedrooms and hallways, it becomes clear that the children were more than just peculiar. They may have been dangerous. They may have been quarantined on a deserted island for good reason. And somehow—impossible though it seems—they may still be alive.

A spine-tingling fantasy illustrated with haunting vintage photography, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children will delight adults, teens, and anyone who relishes an adventure in the shadows.

The Poison Eaters: and Other Stories
by Holly Black

Poisonous girls whose kisses will kill. A fateful eating contest with the devil. Faeries who return to Ironside, searching for love. A junior prom turned bacchanalia. In twelve short stories, eerie and brimming with suspense and unexpected humor, Holly Black twists the fantastical creatures you thought you knew in ways you’ll never expect.

I guess five fiction titles isn't that bad for a couple of months. It helps that I've stayed away from the actual stores and their tantalizing bargain sections!

What was in your "mailbox" this week?

In My Mailbox was started by Kristi of The Story Siren.

Friday, October 7, 2011

Review - The Always War

The Always War
by Margaret Peterson Haddix
Date: 2011
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Reading level: YA
Pages: 210
Source: Simon & Schuster Galley Grab

In a war-torn future United States, fifteen-year-old Tessa, her childhood friend Gideon, now a traumatized military hero, and Dek, a streetwise orphan, enter enemy territory and discover the shocking truth about a war that began more than seventy-five years earlier.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I know I've read some of Margaret Peterson Haddix's books before (Among the Hidden and Running Out of Time) and I remembered enjoying them, so when this title came up on Simon & Schuster's Galley Grab, I thought I'd probably like it.  I don't know what the problem was; maybe I was a lot younger (and less discerning) when I read those other books... or maybe The Always War just wasn't very good.

My main complaint is that I just couldn't develop any sort of connection with any of the characters.  Tessa, the protagonist, has an extremely thin backstory.  All we really know about her is that she's read a lot of old books and that her parents seem to be alcoholics who do nothing but sleep off their hangovers and go to work.  (There have been complaints about uninvolved parents in YA literature, but Tessa's parents have got to be some of the worst I've seen.  They only make one "appearance"... and that's when one of them anonymously gets up to flush the toilet!)  Tessa as a character is bland at best and annoying at worst.  Her constant self-deprecation borders on whininess and she actually makes Bella "I'm-never-good-enough" Swan look a bit conceited.  The other two main characters aren't much better.  Gideon is supposedly suffering from PTSD, but even that doesn't make him very interesting.  I got the feeling that we readers were supposed to fall for him, but he was too boring to be really appealing and it seemed like he was being forced upon us a little too much.  I honestly lost count of the number of references to his golden hair.  Dek was the only character who had any chance of being interesting, and even she didn't really capture my interest.  With three teenagers in a YA novel, you'd think you could at least count on some sort of love triangle... but even that never materialized.  Besides, I was never sure if Dek was even a teen or if she was just some sort of precocious wunderkind... so a love triangle might've seemed inappropriate anyway.

The premise for the story was okay, but it wasn't executed very well.  There weren't very many exciting moments, and the ending came rather quickly (and a little too conveniently).  The Always War is a dystopian novel that takes place in the future, but it didn't seem all that original to me.  Ender's Game and The Hunger Games both came to mind as I was reading this book.  Plus, I was put off by the Americo-centric flavour of the landscape.  As with The Hunger Games, North America is just one giant country... which always raises more questions for me than it answers.  I usually assume that either Canada and Mexico have been amalgamated with the U.S.A. ... or that the author doesn't realize that the U.S.A. is not the only country on the continent (or even in the entire world... and some of the statements made by the characters in The Always War made me wonder about that, too).

The best thing I can say about this book is that it's short (at just over 200 pages).  It's intended for ages 12 and up, but it really reads more like a middle-grade novel.  The story is not very sophisticated, the characters are dull, and the writing is pedestrian.  If I were eleven, I might be impressed... but I've read better YA dystopian fiction.

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 1/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing: 2/5
Editing: 2/5
Originality: 3/5
Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 2.43 out of 5

Saturday, October 1, 2011

E-Book Reading Challenge 2012 - Looking for New Host!

As interesting as hosting the 2011 E-Book Reading Challenge has been, I think I'm going to pass the torch to someone else for next year.

It's not an awful lot of work.  You'll need a Mister Linky account and some free time, but that's about it.  If you decide you're up to the task, I can provide more details about what's involved.

If you're interested in hosting, e-mail me and let me know!