Thursday, October 31, 2013

The Eye of Minds by James Dashner

Summary (from Goodreads):
An all-new, edge-of-your seat adventure from James Dashner, the author of the New York Times bestselling Maze Runner series, The Eye of Minds is the first book in The Mortality Doctrine, a series set in a world of hyperadvanced technology, cyberterrorists, and gaming beyond your wildest dreams . . . and your worst nightmares.

Michael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?

But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.

The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker.And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team. But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.
I was a big fan of the Maze Runner books. I recommend these books to people all the time. I had high expectations for this one because Dashner is so good at writing action and suspense, and well, this sounded like a high action/suspense story. This one, however, just didn’t really cut it for me. For starters, it took me almost two weeks to read…And it’s not necessarily easy for me to even explain its inability to hold my interest.
The premise is amazing. Michael lives in a world where people spend more time in virtual reality, than in reality. And he’s a top gamer/hacker. By the way, the book really didn’t make hacking sound bad at all…the smarter characters used their hacking abilities to save each others’ lives. And then Dashner throws in this serial killer type gamer who’s killing people by not letting them leave their virtual selves. When too much time passes in the virtual world without returning to the real world, brain damage happens.
The virtual world sounded insane! There’s games, cafes, hangouts, everything. People have totally different lives online. Michaels’ best friends are people he’s never actually met in person. And readers can definitely make comparisons from this futuristic world Dashner makes to the real one, we all spend so much time online in.
I kind of wish Dashner got right into the action (like he did with his other series), and spent less time with the mundane things Michael did in the beginning. Though, I guess looking back, it makes sense for Dashner to have included some mundane details to hide the bigger things to come. It was actually kind of genius the way he set this up. It did however, make the process of me getting into the story twice as long. Maybe the mundane details could have been a little more interesting or at least relevant to the moder society?
The big twist surprised me, and it was a huge twist. One of those, “this changes everything” kind of twists that makes you want to re-read certain moments to make sure it all adds up. Except, I really didn’t feel like re-reading any moments. I guess the only other thing I can really pin down for my overall “meh” ness of the book is the lack of character development.
I found Michael to be boring. His quick one liner jokes were never very humorous. His best friends were one-dimensional and I never really felt like I got to know them, though maybe that was Dashner’s inention with them being virtual friends, but still…I needed a little more than what I was getting. And none of them seemed to have big enough a motivation to do what they were doing. Maybe if they were written to be much more extreme gamers or game addicts in need of a challenge. Or maybe if they seemed closer to Michael, I’d understand. But frankly, I have friends from college who seem more addicted to games then these guys were. Why were they so willing to spend so much time, effort, brain power, etc. into this task that could end up pinpointing them down to a cyber terrorist? I just wasn’t believing these characters enough.
Also, some of the book was a little too weird/new agey for me. Like I get that the quest needs to be insanely difficult. It’s just that I’m not sure, looking back, that all those doors, demons, situations make sense in regards to who made them. And it felt kind of Alice in Wonderland/acid-trippy in places that I just didn’t think fit that well in a futuristic/computer driven world.
Overall, the premise of this book was amazing. The story had a slow beginning, but the action does eventually pick up (though rather strangely). There’s a huge, shocking twist and lots of cool world-building. The characters needed work though and I never really understood them or why they were motivated to do so much. I’m not sure if I’m interested enough in the plot to keep reading future installments, though it does have a cliffhanger. It was just kind of meh for me. Maybe my expectations were too high. I give it a 5/10.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (68)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that allows bloggers to share which books we are most anticipating.
This week I am waiting on Lady Thief by A. C. Gaughen (2/11/14):
Description on Goodreads:
Scarlet’s true identity has been revealed, but her future is uncertain. Her forced marriage to Lord Gisbourne threatens Robin and Scarlet’s love, and as the royal court descends upon Nottingham for the appointment of a new Sheriff, the people of Nottingham hope that Prince John will appoint their beloved Robin Hood. But Prince John has different plans for Nottingham that revolve around a fateful secret from Scarlet’s past even she isn’t yet aware of. Forced to participate at court alongside her ruthless husband, Scarlet must bide her time and act the part of a noblewoman—a worthy sacrifice if it means helping Robin’s cause and a chance at a future with the man she loves. With a fresh line of intrigue and as much passion as ever, the next chapter in Scarlet’s tale will have readers talking once again.
Why I’m Waiting:
How amazing does this sound? I absolutely loved the first book. I only recently learned that there was to be a book 2 and book 3! I love YA classics retellings. And Gaughen mastered this with the first book. I can’t wait to read more about Scarlet and Robin! And while I love stories that take place at court, I’m hoping to read more about things outside court too! I’m not the biggest fan of the covers of the series, but I don’t really care. The story is just so much fun.
What are you waiting on this week?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

A Very Potter Vacation

I recently got back from my dream vacation to Universal Studios/Magical World of Harry Potter Theme park in Orlando! My friend, Meg, and I went for four days and three nights. We stayed in a hotel that was practically connected to the park. We could walk to the park and be there in minutes. Though, we almost always took a free water taxi instead, because well, boat vs. walking. Boat wins.
We spent two days at the Islands of Adventures theme park (where Harry is) and one day at the main Universal Studios park. Our fourth day was spent at the pool. Most of our first day was spent with Harry. Meghan was such a trooper, letting me fan girl out at every minute detail. These aren’t even close to all my photos. I just have other things to do today, like write book reviews…And I am only focusing on the Harry Potter part of the vacation. (There were also the Simpsons, Transformers, The Mummy, E.T., Jurassic Park, Marvel Super heroes, etc.) Meg also talked me into doing a very scary fright night at the park, in which the park was open late at night, and covered with zombies and scary people jumping out at you on your way to haunted houses.
While I absolutely love roller coasters, haunted houses terrify me and I only went into one of them: the Walking Dead house, because I am also a fan of that show –and we figured if we were going to miss the premiere, we might as well be in a Walking Dead haunted house while we were.
Any way, we shopped at Hogsmeade! We saw the Hogwarts Express. We rode on hypogriffs and dragons. We toured Hogwarts and went on a broomstick ride. (These were the rides!) We ate at the Three Broomsticks! We actually ate there twice, once for lunch and once for our English breakfast that was part of our vacation package. We listened to a Hogwarts choir. We drank butter beer and pumpkin juice. The butter bear tasted like a creamy cream soda slushy. I actually waited in line for it twice because it was so good (and I’ve had other versions before –they did not compete with this at all).

I got a wand! It was picked out for me based off of what my birthday is (and it’s made from ebony). I bought a quidditch t-shirt and a travel mug. We got candy from Honeydukes and looked at all the jokes at Zonko’s. We saw the moving hog’s head in the Hog’s Head bar. And this sounds weird, but one of my favorite parts of the theme park was the bathrooms. Inside the bathrooms at the Harry Potter part of the park, there’s a sound recording of Moaning Myrtle talking to you!

And here are the lovely pictures (by the way, the pink fluffy thing is a pygmy puff):

Really, words and pictures cannot even begin to describe what I was feeling when I was there. There’s something purely magical (no pun intended) about being able to walk in the world of your favorite books. It’s one thing to read about it, and another to see it in a movie, but to physically walk through Hogwarts was nothing short of magic for me. If you are a fan, I highly recommend the whole experience. I would most definitely spend the money to go back again.

Monday, October 28, 2013

A Good Week in Books (61)

So…I sort of took a week off from blogging –to get my life in order. October has been one crazy, unbelievable, amazing month for me. What has happened in October: I moved (to Cape Cod!), I had my 27th birthday, I took a dream vacation to Universal Studios/Magical World of Harry Potter (pictures to come), I had some crazy/massive events at my library,  and I did I mention that I moved? So, so many boxes of books! I feel like my arms should belong to super hero. I have Wonder Woman book arms.
Here’s a the new view from the end of my block (3 or so houses away):

Any way, I made a birthday purchase for myself on Amazon. I haven’t actually purchased a book for myself in months (I didn’t want to add any to my boxes), so I went a little crazy for my birthday. I’d already read one (via library book), and knew I had to own it. These lovelies came on my birthday!

Across a Star-Swept Sea
by Diana Peterfreund
Perfect Ruin by Lauren DeStefano
Thornhill by Kathleen Peacock
Hover by Melissa West
The Taming of the Tights by Louise Rennison
UnSouled by Neal Shusterman
Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan

And this guy came the day after my birthday. It’s release date was the day after my birthday…And I of course already read this one too.

by Veronica Roth

How was your week in books?

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Untold by Sarah Rees Brennan

Summary from Goodreads:
It’s time to choose sides… On the surface, Sorry-in-the-Vale is a sleepy English town. But Kami Glass knows the truth. Sorry-in-the-Vale is full of magic. In the old days, the Lynburn family ruled with fear, terrifying the people into submission in order to kill for blood and power. Now the Lynburns are back, and Rob Lynburn is gathering sorcerers so that the town can return to the old ways.

But Rob and his followers aren’t the only sorcerers in town. A decision must be made: pay the blood sacrifice, or fight. For Kami, this means more than just choosing between good and evil. With her link to Jared Lynburn severed, she’s now free to love anyone she chooses. But who should that be?
So, the first book in this series was my favorite book of 2012. I was blown away by the characters, by the gothic elements, by the amazing sense of humor, and by the brave ending. That brave ending was also a cliffhanger to end all cliffhangers, and I’ve been dying to read this sequel for the last year! I’ve read some of the teasers that Brennan posted online, and those just made me want the book even more.
Was the book all I was hoping it to be? It was almost all I was hoping it to be. The same gothic backdrop is layered behind the witty sarcasm, the angsty love triangles, and magical battle of good versus evil. Like with the first book, there again is this huge divide between those who are afraid of the sorcerers –and willing to submit to them, and those who want to defy the sorcerers and –and not sacrifice anyone.
This book was missing a lot of the family charm of the first book because Kami’s father is finally in the know of all the magical things happening. And well, I guess being lied to for your entire marriage, can take its toll. There is definitely a nice sized hole in happiness that used to be Kami’s home life. Kami’s mother also unfortunately falls into the part of the town that is afraid, and is actually willing to let someone be sacrificed in order to protect her own.
Kami’s Nancy Drew sleuthing is still at an all time high. Between going through historical records, educating the townspeople on sorcery, and trying to learn magical protection spells, Kami has a lot to learn. This book also deals a lot more with teamwork. It’s about trusting your friends and working with lots of different types of people. If you have the same goal, Kami’s philosophy seems to be, “We can find a way to work together.”
There’s some serious love triangle moments in this one. But, the way the characters handled embarrassing situations, intense anger, and heartache was just so spot-on. These teens are intelligent and brave. They have the sense of humor of the best Brits in comedy. And sometimes I forget they are not adults. But, then crazy, awkward moments happen, and I’m reminded of just how young they all are.
There are steamy romantic moments and then there are scary, suspenseful moments. Most of the book did seem to be about prepping for a war that hasn’t exactly begun yet. I understand the reviewers who wrote about wanting more story. However, I liked getting so much character development. This book truly shows what each character is made of, and I know this will be important later on.
I also kind of felt like I needed this character-heavy/preemptive planning book to get used to things, to get a feel for where things were going romantically, and to understand characters I wasn’t necessarily in love with in the first book. There is another cliffhanger in this one, though it’s not quite as gut wrenching as the first one. It certainly ends with a bang again. And there is a ton of crazy suspense moments at the end that had me on the edge of my seat.
This book is also loaded with wonderful dialog and fantastic swoon worthy scenes. I’ve already gone back and re-read certain scenes. It was one of those books where the characters feel so real that it feels like, when I open the pages, that I am revisiting old friends.
All in all the characters made this book. There wasn’t as much action/mystery as book 1. And it definitely does have that book 2 feel (where there’s a lot of prepping for the finale). It did still surprise me. It made me swoon. The dialogue and humor were still there, and there was some juicy suspense right at the end. It didn’t have quite the Wow factor of book 1, but I did still finish it feeling that happy sensation you only get when finishing a sensational read. I give it a 10/10 (mostly because of that feeling and because of the fantastic characters).

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (67)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that allows bloggers to share which books we are most anticipating.
This week I am waiting on Hollow City by Ransom Riggs (1/14/14):

Description (on Goodreads):
In 1940 after the first book ends, Jacob and his new Welsh island friends flee to London, the Peculiar capital of the world. Caul, a dangerous madman, is Miss Peregrine’s brother, and can steal Peculiar abilities for himself. The Peculiars must fight for survival, again.
Why I’m Waiting:
So, the description seriously gives nothing away. That’s all we get, really? But, man that cover is creepy. I read this sequel will also be filled with the same kind of eerie photography of book 1. Book 1 was such a pleasant surprise. I fell in love with the peculiar characters. I ate up the mystery. And I was genuinely surprised by the turn of events in the plot. How can this book not be good?
What are you waiting on this week?

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (66)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that allows bloggers to share which books we are most anticipating.
This week I am waiting on Raging Star: Dust Lands #3 by Moira Young (4/15/14):
Description (on Goodreads):
Saba is ready to seize her destiny and defeat DeMalo and the Tonton...until she meets him and he confounds all her expectations with his seductive vision of a healed earth, a New Eden. DeMalo wants Saba to join him, in life and work, to create and build a healthy, stable, sustainable world…for the chosen few. The few who can pay.

Jack’s choice is clear: to fight DeMalo and try to stop New Eden. Still uncertain, her connection with DeMalo a secret, Saba commits herself to the fight. Joined by her brother, Lugh, anxious for the land in New Eden, Saba leads an inexperienced guerilla band against the powerfully charismatic DeMalo, in command of his settlers and the Tonton militia. What chance do they have? Saba must act. And be willing to pay the price.
Why I’m Waiting:
Did you read the description? It sounds epic. I have loved this series since book 1. And Saba is one of my all time favorite YA main characters (though, she has her moments). The world Young writes is so fascinating. Part western, part fantasy, part sci-fi, this story has it all. And I’m still recovering from book 2, many months after reading it. I need book 3 right now. Right now. I’m not a huge fan of the new covers. I liked the original one so much more! These new ones are kind of cheesy and cliché, and don’t give the story any of its deserved awesomeness. But, whatever. I’m so excited for this next installment.
What are you waiting on this week?

Saturday, October 5, 2013

A Good Week in Books (60)

I’ve received some great books for review this week. I actually only owned one of these books a few hours before starting it. And I finished it too…I’m writing all my posts this week right now. I’m working all day tomorrow. And then Sunday I’m moving and while I ordered my internet already, I’m not sure how long it will be until it is all setup and ready for blogging (let’s hope no time!). A girl needs her blogging. And her Hulu +. Seriously.
Any way, thank you Macmillan for these lovely finished books.
Emerald Green
by Kerstin Gier
Monstrous Beauty by Elizabeth Fama
An Elephant in the Garden by Michael Morpurgo
My spell check doesn’t like anyone’s last name today... What did you receive this week?

Friday, October 4, 2013

Emerald Green by Kerstin Gier

Summary (from Goodreads):
Gwen has a destiny to fulfill, but no one will tell her what it is. She’s only recently learned that she is the Ruby, the final member of the time-traveling Circle of Twelve, and since then nothing has been going right. She suspects the founder of the Circle, Count Saint-German, is up to something nefarious, but nobody will believe her. And she’s just learned that her charming time-traveling partner, Gideon, has probably been using her all along.

This stunning conclusion picks up where Sapphire Blue left off, reaching new heights of intrigue and romance as Gwen finally uncovers the secrets of the time-traveling society and learns her fate.
I’ve had so much fun reading this series. This book was a little hard to read because I knew it was the last one, and I kind of kept postponing finishing it –just because I wasn’t ready for it to be over. On the plus side, this book is a lot thicker than the other two (447 pages!). I just love all the sarcasm. I love the characters (particularly the sassy best friend and the comedic gargoyle). And it’s hard saying goodbye to of it.
Book 2 ended with a bit of tears for the main character. And I wish I could say everything gets cleared up with Gideon right away, but I can’t. Gwen has a lot of tough stuff to get through in regards to him, but she becomes so much stronger because of it. The way she knows that there are more important things in life than boys is just so wonderful. And for every moment she had to see him, and think he’d only been using her was just so, so spot on for teen relationships. Nothing is worse than dating someone and then having to see them all the time post break up…Not that I’m saying things don’t work out…I’m just saying the scenes that were hard for Gwen were just so spot-on.
Add this to now having a very “illegal” object in her possession, a bigger mystery brought on by her grandfather, and an even crazier relationship with her cousin Charlotte, and Gwen just doesn’t seem to have much going easy for her. She has to hide something really important from her family. And she soon learns some crazy family secrets that were hidden from her. We finally learn the real reason Gwen’s mom lied about Gwen and her birthday. We also learn why Lucy and Paul did what they did.
The kids all figure out what the prophecies were talking about (with much digging on her friend’s end). And apparently the secret time traveling society believes that when everyone’s blood is added to their machine, they will discover something that can help solve all of the world’s illness and disease. But what they don’t realize, that Gwen soon learns, is that all of their combined blood will cure illness in just one person and not the world. Also, for that one person to be granted eternal life, another time traveler has to be killed (and guess who it is!).
Also, a couple of characters go through some seriously insane (superhero-type) changes. There’s gun wounds, poison, high school parties gone wrong, training, heartbreak, family drama, family dinners, and romance. We finally get to see the ball that Gwen visited briefly in book 1 (to see her future self kissing Gideon passionately). Gwen gets her chance to help her ghost friend, but learns that’s it’s a lot harder to do than she thought. And we also got to see why Gideon was mad at Gwen for knocking him unconscious in book 2.
There’s a lot of answers in this one. There’s also just so much hilarity. I absolutely love Gwen’s crazy family, and there was definitely more moments with them that I was grateful for. I wasn’t expecting certain things to happen the way they did. I did predict a few things, but I was pleasantly surprised by others. I loved the race for time. I loved how close the kids bonded. I loved seeing Charlotte in a different (comical) light. I loved how strongly Gwen’s family believed in her and how willing they were to hide things from Charlotte for her. And I loved Gideon more in this one than in any of the others (for various reasons). And I love watching Gideon and Gwen argue and learn from each other.
The one thing that nagged me a bit, were the time jumps and skipped scenes. Sometimes the story would lead up to something (like a particular time traveling moment), and then with no warning you were back in Gwen’s school in current time, and you’re like, “ I don’t get to see this scene?” The author did sometimes summarize these scenes she skipped. But a summary is almost worse than skipping it completely. And sometimes I found myself re-reading scenes and thinking I skipped pages because scenes didn’t always transition smoothly. This was a little confusing considering stuff would jump around in different time periods.
All in all though, I thought this was a great conclusion to a remarkable series. The characters were wonderful. This book was about family (of all kinds), about the best of friendships, about love, and about growing up. The history, the wardrobe changes, the balls, and the mystery kept my focus for all three books. While the writing did skip around a bit, particularly at the end, I did think things ended surprisingly smoothly. I give this a 9/10. If you like time travel books, books with strong/sassy main characters, books with two bickering love interests that you just want to work, and books with a good amount of family, you’d love this.

Wednesday, October 2, 2013

Waiting on Wednesday (65)

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Breaking the Spine that allows bloggers to share which books we are most anticipating.
This week I am waiting on The One by Kiera Cass (5/6/14):

Summary from Goodreads:
The Selection changed the lives of thirty-five girls forever. And now, the time has come for one winner to be chosen.

America never dreamed she would find herself anywhere close to the crown—or to Prince Maxon's heart. But as the competition approaches its end and the threats outside the palace walls grow more vicious, America realizes just how much she stands to lose—and how hard she'll have to fight for the future she wants.

From the very first page of The Selection, this #1 New York Times bestselling series has captured readers' hearts and swept them away on a captivating journey... Now, in The One, Kiera Cass delivers a satisfying and unforgettable conclusion that will keep readers sighing over this electrifying fairy-tale long after the final page is turned.
Why I’m Waiting:
Hello, gorgeous cover. The publishers here really got the whole pretty dress cover thing down. I’m like still looking at it. Any way, this series has been amazing. I’m really anxious to see how this all goes down in this amazing sounding conclusion. I’m really not 100% sure on how the ending is going to go. And this is both frightening and exhilarating. I’m beyond ready for this book. And I’m so excited for May because of it. May is way too far away though…So far away. Also what happened to the tv show they were talking about doing, based off this one? Did it not go anywhere? Also, the white dress looks very wedding-dress-ish to me…
What are you waiting on this week?