Saturday, November 17, 2012

BR: Promised

by Caragh M. O'Brien
Birthmarked trilogy; book III

Another super long overdue review in which I, again, apologize profusely for its lateness.

**THIS REVIEW MAY CONTAIN SPOILERS FOR BOOK 1 AND 2** I will try my best to keep it spoiler-free and vague, but some parts can't be avoided

Goodreads (summary)

After defying the ruthless Enclave, surviving the wasteland, and upending the rigid matriarchy of Sylum, Gaia Stone now faces her biggest challenge ever. She must lead the people of Sylum back to the Enclave and persuade the Protectorat to grant them refuge from the wasteland. In Gaia's absence, the Enclave has grown more cruel, more desperate to experiment on mothers from outside the wall, and now the stakes of cooperating or rebelling have never been higher. Is Gaia ready, as a leader, to sacrifice what--or whom--she loves most?

My Expectations: high, Prized totally surprised me by how different but great it was
Delivery: it was good, but not great
Put-down-ability: 3/10

My Thoughts

Oh gosh, the series is over :( I'm always shocked when I actually finish a series because god know how bad I am and that. It's been a rocky road and of the three... Promised was my least favourite (and Birthmarked was my favourite). However, let's not ignore the merit Promised deserves.

Here's the thing: I never know where O'Brien is going to take me next for the series. Everything in book two (Prized) was a surprise, so I knew better than to predict the finale, and what actually ended up happening was a pleasant surprise. I can honestly say I liked the novel, but I don't love it. With all the build-up and development of Gaia and Leon, I found the romance lacking in this instalment. The plot was also dragging and there were a few too many minor characters that made the book 'messy'. It felt like the author was pressured to have all the characters mentioned previously play a large role, but it just ended up with too many cooks in the kitchen.

Ohh, but one thing I adored-- the villain. What a fabulous villain: someone I could empathize with, morally sound yet totally twisted in his own way... oh just beautiful.

Promised is definitely a book that makes you think, and I applaud O'Brien for "going there" with her themes and ideas. It made me question and mentally decipher my own ideas (and it makes for a fantastic discussion book, by the way) because there's never just one way to look at an issue, O'Brien fully reveals all the shades of gray and moral ambiguity is aplenty in the novel. And it's not just for one main theme, I felt every decision Gaia made could be questioned over and over (poor Gaia) which made the novel interesting. There's this one scene near the end of the book when something is taken from Gaia that actually made me feel physically sick and gave me the shivers... disturbing, shocking.. wow.

Overall, I enjoyed the finale but it felt the series never reclaimed the fire it had with the first book, Birthmarked*. The ideas and foundations were laudable but the execution was lacking, which led to character mishaps and a messy plot. There were parts I loved and parts I didn't, but alas, in the end the series is worth it.

Rating in HP Terms: Acceptable
Recommended for: people who enjoyed this series, and I would recommend this series to like, anybody. See if you like it.

7.8/10 - because I really liked the themes and the villain, but I was less of a fan of the characters and plot. There's so much more that could have happened that would have made the series end with triumphant resonance but it kind of feels like the third book faded away (despite an exciting climax). I wanted more excitement and more enjoyable romance, and while the book is good, I didn't find myself falling head over heels for it.

*I actually lent Birthmarked to my friend and she loved it- it makes a fabulous Christmas present, I'd say.

source: publisher

author website / twitter 

Friday, November 16, 2012

BR: Stealing Parker

by Miranda Kenneally
Hundred Oaks series; book II

This review is LONG overdue, and I'd like to apologize profusely for the lateness.

Summary (goodreads)

Parker Shelton pretty much has the perfect life. She’s on her way to becoming valedictorian at Hundred Oaks High, she’s made the all-star softball team, and she has plenty of friends. Then her mother’s scandal rocks their small town and suddenly no one will talk to her.

Now Parker wants a new life.

So she quits softball. Drops twenty pounds. And she figures why kiss one guy when she can kiss three? Or four. Why limit herself to high school boys when the majorly cute new baseball coach seems especially flirty?

But how far is too far before she loses herself completely?

My Expectations: super high because of the surprise hit of Keneally's first book
Delivery: not that great, I wanted to be more invested
Put-down-ability: 5/10

My Thoughts

I loved Catching Jordan-- like I absolutely loved it because it caught me by surprise and it was sweet and funny and all around great. I went in with the same enthusiasm for Stealing Parker, but I left disappointed, for the wrong reasons.

Stealing Parker didn't work for me because I was a sucky reader, not because the book was bad. I usually like to go with the themes and judge things like plot, character, and writing, but this time whenever I came across this subject, a part of my brain jerked in response before I could shrug it off and keep going. And yes, this is a totally personal and biased thing, but it was the religion aspect. Don't get me wrong, this book is not preachy in any way, the religion and faith was simply there and it just doesn't resonate with me and kind of annoyed me, purely based on my personal beliefs (which sadly I can't ignore as I read). And this is a fact that I'm hesitant to reveal because it's super subjective, but it's a reason contributing to why I found this book less enjoyable. I was unable to build the flow and rhythm of the novel because I was getting distracted every few chapters.

However, if you want to look at the novel objectively: it's great. The character building is there, the tension between her and a few guys, and the "forbidden romance" which everyone is eager to read about was very well executed. I loved Parker's relationship with her best friend and I thought her feelings about her mom were explored well. The way Kenneally gradually unveiled Parker's history made me interested and invested in her character; I absolutely loved the mentions of previous characters from Catching Jordan, and if you're a Melina Marchetta fan, you might pick up some tiny references as well. Also, can we mention how freaking awesome the discussions about Harry Potter were? Best way to my heart.

So honestly, it is a very big "it's not you, it's me" type of deal, I can recognize the fact that the book will be hugely enjoyable to many (especially if you liked CJ) but it didn't hit home for me because I was distracted by the themes, and that caused Stealing Parker to lose a lot of its charm.

Rating in HP Terms: Acceptable
Acknowledgements: forgot to read :/ I'm sure they were great though!
Recommended for: contemp fans looking for a fast paced, addicting read featuring 3-dimensional characters and a forbidden romance ;)

7.5/10 - because I'm a subjective reviewer and I wasn't a fan of the religious themes which got distracting. Despite that, I sincerely hope you get a chance to pick it up though! Miranda Kenneally is fast establishing herself as a fantastic must-read author for contemporary fans who are in want of both hot romance and simmering sexual tension-- but without missing a beat on the character development and dialogue front. Do read it!

source: publisher

author twitter / blog / website / Dear Teen Me

My rating system