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Review: Dream a Little Dream by Kerstin Gier

Tuesday, March 31, 2015


Dream a
Little Dream

Kerstin Gier
Translated by Anthea Bell

Series: Silver #1
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Hardback: 366 Pages
Publication: April 14, 2015
by Henry Holt and Co. BFYR



Mysterious doors with lizard-head knobs. Talking stone statues. A crazy girl with a hatchet. Yep, Liv’s dreams have been pretty weird lately. Especially this one where she’s in a graveyard at night, watching four boys perform dark magic rituals.

The really weird thing is that Liv recognizes the boys in her dream. They’re classmates from her new school in London, the school where’s she’s starting over because her mom has moved them to a new country (again). But they seem to know things about her in real life that they couldn’t possibly know, which is mystifying. Then again, Liv could never resist a good mystery. . . .


Review

The intriguing premise is what drew me to Dream a Little Dream. The mystery of what supernatural forces are at work is what kept me reading. Though the plot has potential to really delve into the mysterious and fantastical elements working in the dream world and the supernatural rituals that the four boys appear to be doing, it focuses more on the day-to-day happenings than the dreams. While this is different from my typical UF read, I found it refreshing how the novel kept me questioning what was caused by supernatural forces and what was caused by coincidence.

That said, I felt like Gier was more interested in exploring the relationships among the different characters than the supernatural elements. Not only is more time spent in the everyday world, the heroine Liv spends quite a bit of her time thinking about romantic / high school clichés and how she is above all that (until she isn't anymore)—so much that it got old fast. Real nerd girls may think that from time to time, but most of the human thoughts tend to drift to what we do like. The romance also came out of nowhere. Liv has barley met the guy, they only hang out in dreams from time to time, and he hasn't given out much information about himself. Up until the end, I was pretty sure that the romance would head in another direction.

It doesn't help that the characters are all pretty much one-dimensional and without much substance. The character that I found to have the most depth, even more so than Liv, was Grayson. He is the only character that seems to have any sense (as a couple characters point out), he shows a variety of emotions (especially when he's worrying over Liv, though the reason behind his concern isn't fully explained), and there are multiple dimensions to his character (most notably revealed when he tells Liv what he wished for). That said, even Grayson didn't have much character development. No one person beyond Liv is given much page time. When they do appear, most of the focus is on clichéd scenarios that appear in too many YA novels instead of fleshing out their characters. In the end, I can tell you about who the characters out, but I can't say what drives them. What makes them who they are.

The plot was also lackluster. One reason is that the novel tends to gloss over the details. While the dialogue wasn't terrible, there isn't a good balance between dialogue and details. The scenery and the characters' behavior isn't really given during scenes. In fact, much of the characters' behavior doesn't make sense. It doesn't seem like Gier gave much thought into the meaning and motivation behind their actions. For example, I can't see Grayson being so focused on texting that his father's announcement at dinner didn't register much response from him. A normal high school student wouldn't definitely react or at least show some emotion. I also couldn't feel Liv's presence in the narration. While she does have thoughts, they are distinct from the backdrop, from the characters actions and the going ons at the time.

There is one more thing I want to note. Liv repeats (much too often) her line on how she knows kung fu. Girls, there is a difference between knowing kung fu and being foolishly courageous. Merely knowing some form of martial arts is not the solution to everything.  For example, it's plain stupid to follow two guys you barely know (with at least one more on the way) into someone's basement on the basis that you can defend yourself with kung fu. Isn't the point of self defense also to know how to avoid dangerous situations in the first place?

Despite the seriously clichéd turn of events, Dream a Little Dream is still interesting enough that I'll be checking out the second novel in the series. My questions going forth into the series are: (1) will the romantic interest change, (2) what is the supernatural power at work, and (3) why are these peoples' dreams connected?

A review copy was provided by Macmillan for review

Rating: 3 stars

Series
  1. Dream a Little Dream
  2. Silver #2
  3. Silver #3

Similar Books
  • Ruby Red by Kerstin Gier
Content
  • Kissing
  • Minor violence

DNF Review: Finding Mr. Brightside by Jay Clark

Friday, March 27, 2015


Finding Mr. Brightside
Jay Clark


Genre: Contemporary
Hardback: 224 Pages
Publication: March 24, 2015
by Henry Holt and Co. BFYR



Abram and Juliette know each other. They’ve lived down the street from each other their whole lives. But they don’t really know each other—at least, not until Juliette’s mom and Abram’s dad have a torrid affair that culminates in a deadly car crash. Sharing the same subdivision is uncomfortable, to say the least. They don’t speak.

Fast-forward to the neighborhood pharmacy, a few months later. Abram decides to say hello. Then he decides to invite her to Taco Bell. To her surprise as well as his, she agrees. And the real love story begins.


Review

I wanted to like this novel. First, the title reminds me of the song by The Killers, and I wondered if and how Abram and Juliette's story would relate to the song. Second, the story sounds really cute (as is the cover for the novel). However, I just couldn't connect with the characters or their story.

The chapters alternate between Abram and Juliette's perspectives. Finding Mr. Brightside is already short for a novel. In order to give each character enough page time, the chapters are cut short and aren't filled with many details. The result is that the story moves fairly quickly without elaborating on the characters thoughts and actions. It also made me confused about the nature of their relationship. Juliette's mom and Abram's dad died not too long ago on top of having an affair with each other. From Juliette's first chapter, we know that she isn't sure how to interact with Abram, so how do they end up kind of flirting with each other soon after we learn this piece of information? Juliette blames some of her bizarre actions on her medication, but it would have helped if some of the backstory had been set up before the pharmacy scene. (Such has how the families are coping, what their relationship is like right now, maybe what they're struggling with, and how their respective medications are influencing their lives.)

As it is, Abram and Juliette fell flat for me. While some insight into their minds is provided, their thoughts don't tell us much beyond the superficial. I don't feel like we're really shown the core of their characters. In addition, their behavior seems juvenile, and because of the lack of backstory, the character motivation is lacking. It seems to me from Abram's first chapter that he has a crush on Juliette, but since when and how has the "tragedy" influenced his view of Juliette and his perceived chance of a romantic encounter with her? Juliette is harder to understand. Why does she blame her behavior on the medications, and does she view it as a good or bad thing? Why is she on the medication in the first place? I believe that these question will be answered later, but they haven't been answered 17% into the novel. In fact, 17% into the novel, I still don't know what makes them who they are. Not to mention that I'm still on the first night (the pharmacy night). By now, I would have expected the introduction to be over and the plot starting to move.

For a tragic love story, I would recommend The Beginning of After by Jennifer Castle. For a short, cute love story, I would recommend The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight by Jennifer E. Smith. My reviews for these novels are linked before.

DNF 17% into the novel (the last third of which was skimmed)

A copy was provided by Macmillan for review


** Content warnings are from the parts of the novel that I read and may not reflect the entirety of the novel **

Review: Silver Shadows by Richelle Mead

Tuesday, March 24, 2015


Silver Shadows
Richelle Mead

Series: Bloodlines #5
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Hardback: 416 Pages
Publication: July 29, 2013
by Razorbill



Sydney Sage is an Alchemist, one of a group of humans who dabble in magic and serve to bridge the worlds of humans and vampires. They protect vampire secrets - and human lives.

In The Fiery Heart, Sydney risked everything to follow her gut, walking a dangerous line to keep her feelings hidden from the Alchemists.

Now in the aftermath of an event that ripped their world apart, Sydney and Adrian struggle to pick up the pieces and find their way back to each other. But first, they have to survive.

For Sydney, trapped and surrounded by adversaries, life becomes a daily struggle to hold on to her identity and the memories of those she loves. Meanwhile, Adrian clings to hope in the face of those who tell him Sydney is a lost cause, but the battle proves daunting as old demons and new temptations begin to seize hold of him. . . .


Review

I enjoyed Silver Shadows quite a bit more than the past several books in this series. As much as I feel for Sydney's plight, with Sydney and Adrian being apart, Silver Shadows has more plot development outside of the romance than the last several installments in the series. Nevertheless, my feelings from The Fiery Heart still remain (read my review here). The Bloodlines series has become just another YA paranormal romance series. There are way too many plotlines in this series for any of them to be resolved satisfactorily except perhaps Sydney and Adrian's romance, and that's because the romance plot has dominated most of the pages. To name a few, the witch plot, Marcus Finch, and Jill's circumstances have long since fallen off the radar.

It feels like each book has been introducing a new plot while leaving past plots behind. The result is that, with each book, I'm reading an episodic plot on the timeline of Sydney and Adrian's romance. This is really disappointing, as Bloodlines had promise to it. I love Sydney and Adrian's characters, and I love the friends they make. Richelle Mead has a talent for creating likable characters that snuggle their way into readers' hearts. I just wish that there was more consistency to the plot and that it didn't feel like characters are coming in and out as is convenient for what Mead wants to write. The recurring characters outside of Sydney and Adrian have lost the luster that they used to have in the first couple of novels in the series.

That said, I do like how we get to learn more about the Alchemists in Silver Shadows. I would write more on this, but I'm writing this review quite a while after I read this book, so my mind is hazy on the details. So I'm going to jump to the end and say that what Adrian does for Sydney following their reunion is so very cute and romantic, if impulsive. Well, if they know that it is definitely what they wanted in the long run, there's not much harm done, is there?

Given that there is only one more book in the series and I really want to find out what happens in the end, I'll be reading The Ruby Circle. To those who haven't read this series but love Vampire Academy, the first book in this series is the only one I would really recommend. For the rest, I'd recommend skimming or reading summaries.

Rating: 3 stars

Series

Similar Books
  • Vampire Academy series by Richelle Mead
Content
  • Kissing, making out
  • Sex
  • Torture (physical, psychological)
  • Violence

DNF Review: Snow Like Ashes by Sara Raasch

Friday, March 20, 2015

Snow Like Ashes
Louise Erdrich

Series: Snow Like Ashes #1
Genre: YA Fantasy
Hardback: 422 Pages
Publication: October 14, 2014
by Balzer + Bray


A heartbroken girl. A fierce warrior. A hero in the making.

Sixteen years ago the Kingdom of Winter was conquered and its citizens enslaved, leaving them without magic or a monarch. Now, the Winterians’ only hope for freedom is the eight survivors who managed to escape, and who have been waiting for the opportunity to steal back Winter’s magic and rebuild the kingdom ever since.

Orphaned as an infant during Winter’s defeat, Meira has lived her whole life as a refugee, raised by the Winterians’ general, Sir. Training to be a warrior—and desperately in love with her best friend, and future king, Mather — she would do anything to help her kingdom rise to power again.

So when scouts discover the location of the ancient locket that can restore Winter’s magic, Meira decides to go after it herself. Finally, she’s scaling towers, fighting enemy soldiers, and serving her kingdom just as she’s always dreamed she would. But the mission doesn’t go as planned, and Meira soon finds herself thrust into a world of evil magic and dangerous politics – and ultimately comes to realize that her destiny is not, never has been, her own.


Review

From the first pages of the book, I knew this wasn't going to be for me. Meira's characterization is precisely what I've come to dislike in a heroine. Her recklessness and inability to think about the consequences of her actions is disguised as heroism. I understand that she wants to fight for her kingdom, and it's admirable, but her leader is right to be concerned about how she'll fare on the battlefield. It's entirely different from sparring practices with a friend who isn't actually trying to kill her—and she keeps losing against said friend. It's also not promising that the romance is introduced so early. While I do like some romance on the side in a book, I'm not really into romantic fantasies. I like more plot and action. For example, Tamora Pierce's Tortall books have a good balance between action/plot and romance.

On top of that, the narration doesn't do a good job of balancing the world building with everything else. There's too much of some things and too little of others, which made it difficult to get into the story, much less learn about the world. It would have been better to start off with focusing on giving us some pivotal details that we need to know about the world and saving other details for later so that the narration didn't get bogged down in overly descriptive passages with information that we didn't necessarily need to know at the moment. This way, the plot would have been able to move forward more easily.

As it is, however, I honestly couldn't really relate to Meira, and if I don't like the characters, it's really hard for me to get into a book. I believe that fans of Defy by Sara B. Larson, Defiance by C.J. Redwine, and Throne of Glass by Sarah J. Maas, may enjoy this one.

DNF 8% into the novel

Content: some minor violence

A copy was provided by Harper Collins for review


** Content warnings are from the parts of the novel that I read and may not reflect the entirety of the novel **

Review: Neverwhere by Neil Gaiman

Friday, March 6, 2015


Neverwhere
Neil Gaiman

Genre: YA Urban Fantasy
Paperback: 370 Pages
Publication: October 2001 (originally July 1997)
by HarperTorch



Richard Mayhew is a plain man with a good heart - and an ordinary life that is changed forever on a day he stops to help a girl he finds bleeding on a London sidewalk. From that moment forward he is propelled into a world he never dreamed existed - a dark subculture flourishing in abandoned subway stations and sewer tunnels below the city - a world far stranger and more dangerous than the only one he has ever known... 

Review

Even though this is barely the third of his books that I've read, I think it's safe to say that Neil Gaiman is quickly becoming one of my favorite authors. After I read and reviewed Stardust last summer, several of my friends recommended this book, but it wasn't until now that the magic hats decreed it should be reviewed.

I loved our main character. Much like Tristran from Stardust, Richard is a sweet, well-meaning guy who is just making his way along in a fairly humdrum, almost boringly normal life. It's this good Samaritan attitude that leads him to his predicament, when he decides to help the injured Lady Door. It's interesting to see how he adjusts to the changes that come about because of his encounter with Door, including how he adapts to being in the world of London Below. He also has a cool overall character arc, going from a pushover to someone who stands up for himself.

Besides Richard, the other characters held up well. The journeying group, composed of Door, the Marquis de Carabas, and Door's bodyguard Hunter, have a good group dynamic and are all portrayed well individually. As soon as Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar appear, you can tell that they're the villains; Gaiman portrays them as sleazy and slimy, perfect evil henchmen material. Some of the blurbs I read about this book described it as a dark, punk version of Alice in Wonderland, and it's pretty true. This is especially noticeable when looking at the Floating Market, which is exactly what it sounds like, a nightly market that moves from place to place in London. All the characters Richard and his companions encounter at the market give an idea of just how much variety there is among the denizens of London Below, much like the variety of characters Alice meets in Wonderland. Meeting these characters, as well as seeing the ebb and flow of the market, made for some great scenes.

To continue the Alice metaphor, the world Gaiman creates is loopy and off-the-wall, much like Wonderland. Again, the different people who live in London Below and the way they interact with each other at the Floating Market shows just how unusual their world is, at least when compared to the London Richard is used to. Like Alice, Richard becomes an anchor for the reader, serving as the only "normal" thing in such an unusual place. He wonders at the beginning of his journey whether or not he's going crazy, but gradually accepts the events going on around him as reality. This acceptance, to a certain extent, contributes to his character arc.

While I loved the way Gaiman created and portrayed London Below, I feel like he could've gone further into it. There are various mentions by the characters about the different tribes of London Below, including the fact that Door's father wanted to unite them into a single community. We even see some members of these tribes at the Floating Market, but we're never given a history about how such a diverse group of tribes came to be in the same place. We're only told that London Below is made of people that "fell through the cracks" of London Above, and seeing how this happened, whether through narration or dialogue, would've enriched this strange world and made it more interesting. This could also answer why there are so many different factions among London Below's denizens, as well as explain why Door's father wanted them to make peace.

I also had some trouble with the antagonists' motivation. The moment when we find out who Mr. Croup and Mr. Vandemar are working for was only presented to the audience; this made the moment when the characters found out, which happens a few chapters later, really anticlimactic. Mind you, the reveal is a twist, but it isn't as satisfying a twist than if the reader and the characters had found out at the same time. We never find out the reasoning behind this big boss's madness, and there were a few moments with him after the reveal that showed there was much more to him than what we saw at first glance. While the reveal could've been handled better and the motivation could've been developed more, the twists leading up to these were well executed. There was some context to them, but it was still shocking when they were unraveled.

I kind of have mixed feelings about the ending. It reminded me of a quote from Desire, one of the characters from Gaiman's Sandman series: "I should warn you, getting what you want and being happy are two quite different things." Richard gets what he wants, his life back in London Above, but he realizes that he isn't happy. I felt like the moments we get of him in London Above after having been in London Below go by pretty fast; a more gradual transition in the change of mind Richard has might've been better. At least Richard's final actions had context and didn't come out of nowhere, so that wasn't a problem. If anything, I was happy that this guy, who is kind of a wimp at the beginning, is now more confident and realizes that he doesn't have to live in such a dull world.

I'll admit that there are some issues with this book. I've heard that Gaiman has thought about a sequel for this book, and if that's really the case, I say he should go for it. This book introduces readers to a fascinating world that has fallen through the cracks, and more stories could provide us with a richer history of this world. Perhaps this could also provide for an opportunity to revisit the villains from this book in a prequel to see more on their motivation. But besides those issues, I genuinely enjoyed reading this book. Gaiman's prose is great, and there are humorous moments that provided some good laughs. The group dynamic is good, there are great twists, and the development of Richard throughout his journey is probably the best thing of all. Definitely check this book out.

Rating: 4 stars


Series

N/A

Similar Books
  • Un Lun Dun by China Mieville
  • Alice's Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll
  • Coraline by Neil Gaiman
Content
  • Physical violence
  • Brief gore
  • Some language
  • Some kissing