Friday, September 21, 2012

Review - The Replacement

The Replacement
by Brenna Yovanoff
Date: 2010
Publisher: Razorbill
Reading level: YA
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 323
Format: paperback
Source: Indigo

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.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

When I first started reading this book (which has been in my TBR pile for nearly a year), I thought the premise was really interesting.  In YA paranormal fiction, we don't always see the story told from the point of view of one of the "creatures"... and it seems even less common to see the story told from the point of view of a male character.  But that's what we've got here, and I thought it was a great choice for a main character.  Unfortunately, I wasn't that blown away by the end of the story, so I'm not sure I can really recommend this one.

I did like some of the characters.  I really liked the Morrigan (though I couldn't find any reference to her tattoos, as the synopsis suggests... that's probably another continuity problem, which I've explained more about below).  Mackie's parents were a little underdeveloped (which is a shame, considering how they fit into the story), and I wasn't crazy about the unoriginality among the teenagers: we've got the "mean girls", the tough kids, the practically perfect best friend, and the twins who might've been ripped right out of Harry Potter (was I the only one who thought Danny and Drew were an awful lot like Fred and George?).  A lot of the setting reminded me of that in Melissa Marr's Wicked Lovely, especially the places the teens liked to hang out.  I don't know what it is with the Fair Folk and billiards...

The story built up to a climax and I thought it was going to be good, after the way things were set up.  I'm really not sure what I was expecting, but the resolution felt really uninspired to me.  And afterwards, there was something really unusual that happened, something that should've made the townspeople sit up and take notice... but they didn't.  I thought that was rather odd.

My biggest gripe with this book, though, was the continuity.  It was absolutely appalling.  When I read a book, I tend to see the action in my head, like I'm watching a movie.  So if I read that someone performs an action and ends up in a certain place on one page, I expect them to be in that same place on the next page... not halfway across the room about to perform the same action they just performed four paragraphs earlier.  The book has numerous instances of this kind of thing, which I found jarring and confusing.  It reads like the author changed her mind about little things and halfway implemented the changes... and then nobody bothered to check and see if they made sense.  Shoddy editing.

My copy had an excerpt from Yovanoff's other book, The Space Between.  That looks like it might be a bit more interesting than The Replacement... but I'm hesitant to try it if I'm going to be confused about where the characters are and what they're doing from one minute to the next!

Plot: 3/5
Characters: 4/5
Pace: 3/5
Writing: 3/5
Editing: 1/5
Originality: 4/5
Enjoyment: 3/5

Overall: 3 out of 5

Review - Bye, Bye, Butterflies!

Bye, Bye, Butterflies!
by Andrew Larsen
illustrated by Jacqueline Hudon-Verrelli
Date: 2012
Publisher: Fitzhenry & Whiteside
Reading level: C
Book type: picture book
Pages: 32
Format: hardcover
Source: borrowed

One day on a walk with his dad Charlie sees some boys and girls on the rooftop of the school saying goodbye as they release butterflies up into the sky. Charlie is amazed by all the butterflies flying around and wishes he could do something like that too. And when Charlie starts school next year he becomes a “butterfly scientist” as well and helps his teacher and classmates care for some teeny tiny caterpillars as they grow into butterflies and are released by Charlie and his class. “Bye Bye Butterflies!”

(synopsis from Goodreads)

I have a memory of my kindergarten classroom and the glass tank that held a number of monarch butterfly cocoons.  I don't remember if we ever actually released the hatched butterflies, but I do remember watching those inconspicuous-looking cocoons with anticipation.  Perhaps this isn't such an uncommon classroom activity, because it's featured in this cute little picture book.

The story is simple and straightforward.  The illustrations are really what make the book work, though.  The mixed-media look and the distinctive style of the human characters make the story even more memorable.  (See the artist's website HERE.)

This would be a great book for preschoolers or kindergartners.  There is a small section at the back with some scientific information about butterflies that almost seems a bit beyond the target audience.  Nevertheless, kids can always grow into the information... especially if Bye, Bye, Butterflies! turns out to be one of their favourite books.

Premise: 5/5
Meter: n/a
Writing: 4/5
Illustrations: 5/5
Originality: 4/5
Enjoyment: 5/5

Overall: 4.6 out of 5

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Review - Heat Rises

Heat Rises (Nikki Heat #3)
by Richard Castle
Date: 2011
Publisher: Hyperion
Reading level: A
Book type: prose novel
Pages: 305
Format: paperback
Source: Indigo

Fast-paced and full of intrigue, Heat Rises pairs the tough and sexy NYPD Homicide Detective Nikki Heat with hotshot reporter Jameson Rook in New York Times bestselling author Richard Castle's most thrilling mystery yet.

The bizarre murder of a parish priest at a New York bondage club opens Nikki Heat's most thrilling and dangerous case so far, pitting her against New York's most vicious drug lord, an arrogant CIA contractor, and a shadowy death squad out to gun her down. And that is just the tip of an iceberg that leads to a dark conspiracy reaching all the way to the highest level of the NYPD.

But when she gets too close to the truth, Nikki finds herself disgraced, stripped of her badge, and out on her own as a target for killers, with nobody she can trust. Except maybe the one man in her life who's not a cop: reporter Jameson Rook.

In the midst of New York's coldest winter in a hundred years, there's one thing Nikki is determined to prove: Heat Rises.

(synopsis from Goodreads)

This was a bit of a weird one for me... and for a weird reason.  I guess there's bound to be some weirdness when you read a book by a fictional author.

On the one hand, I think I enjoyed the plot of Heat Rises more than I did the plots of Heat Wave or Naked Heat.  This one was pretty exciting, and it tied in well with the TV series.  Though, maybe it tied in a little too well.  That led to some issues for me...

Which brings me to my main complaint (or point of confusion) with this book.  Without giving too much away about either the show or the book, all I can say is that the timing was off.  If Richard Castle wrote this book when he supposedly wrote this book (according to the TV series), he's either psychic or he writes about things that later come true!  While none of this would matter if you read these books on their own without watching the show, if you do happen to be a fan of the TV program, you're liable to be scratching your head over the timing of certain events.

My other gripe about Heat Rises was the writing itself.  While it started off well, by the end of it there were numerous grammatical errors, typos, and just plain lazy writing.  I don't recall seeing that (at least not to the same extent) in the other two books... so I had to take a few points off there.

All in all, though, it was a fun read, and probably my favourite of the Nikki Heat novels so far.  Now I'm even more excited to read Frozen Heat!

Plot: 4/5
Characters: 3/5
Pace: 4/5
Writing: 2/5
Editing: 2/5
Originality: 3/5
Enjoyment: 4/5

Overall: 3.14 out of 5