Glaser’s The Book Jumper doesn’t stick the landing

Major Spoilers…

Mechthild Glaser’s The Book Jumper has a very promising start. The plot is fresh, the location is an island off the coast of gorgeous Scotland, and the main character has the ability to jump into the plot of any book (though all those written about seem to be Classics) and walk through the stories and even interact with the characters as long as she doesn’t interfere with the plot or change the story in any way. Which probably would have worked out just fine for Amy Lennox if someone else hadn’t been jumping into the book world and stealing ideas from the books. The White Rabbit from Alice in Wonderland. The cyclone from Wizard of Oz. A monster from The Odyssey.

It’s up to Amy and fellow book jumper Will to solve the mystery of the thefts, which should all be very compelling reading except the story moves so bloody slowly that I felt as though I was dogpaddling through treacle.

Let’s think about this for a minute. Say I am Amy. I come from this awesome Scottish Isle called Stormsay. My people are sooooo special because we can jump into any book we want. Pardon me while I derail, but personally, I would have chosen something a little more modern. Hello, Song of Fire and Ice. Psst, Ned. Hey Ned, don’t go to King’s Landing, man. Trust me on this one, dude. Heads will roll, mainly yours, if you leave the North. Okay, jumping back on track here. So, I’m traipsing through the jungle with Shere Khan, watching some poor sop get drunk on ink, breaking all the carefully laid out rules, and I come to the revelation that all is not well in Booklandia. Do I immediately hatch a plan to catch whoever is stealing story ideas? No. Instead, I drag my feet through almost 200 pages of drudgery, name a whole bunch of people as the definite perp without actually solving anything, and then end up trapped in the book world with my possessed boyfriend and a psycho princess hell-bent on getting what she wants.

And instead of paddling through treacle, the action suddenly speeds up like the log flume ride at Busch Gardens. And a whole bunch of stuff which could have been spread out to make the rest of the book less boring, instead practically trips over itself to make it onto the page before the book ends. And we readers are left with this vague, half-assed resolution that doesn’t quite make sense. Okay, so Amy’s pedigree is half-human, half-book character, which we’ve known for quite a few chapters now, but all of a sudden she is going to lose her book jumping ability? Since when and how does she know this? As far as we readers know, Amy is the only person of this pedigree in existence, so I just can’t imagine how she jumped to that conclusion. And how nice that her boyfriend is left forever in the pages of his favorite book, not dead, but not really alive. And she’ll never see him again when she mysteriously loses her ability to book jump, but she seems fairly okay with that.

I, however, am not okay with that because I invested a lot of time in reading these disappointing 373 pages and, in the end, all I am left with is disappointment and quite a bit of anger at such a waste of an idea. What could have been a fascinating adventure in the land of literature ends in a poorly executed tome that missed the mark entirely.

 

The third visit to Clare’s Shadowhunter world is just as intriguing as the first

*Mild spoilers*

One of Cassandra Clare’s greatest strengths is that she built a fictional world that never gets old. The Dark Artifices is her third series set in the world of Shadowhunters, but it’s every bit as fresh and intriguing as the original Mortal Instruments series.

Set entirely across the country from the New York Institute where we first met Shadowhunters, Lady Midnight takes place in California where the Institute is backed by the desert and fronted by the ocean and that body of water is just about the only thing that scares main character and heroine Emma Carstairs. I liked Emma from the start. She’s a fearsome fighter, a dedicated friend, and hellbent on discovering who murdered her parents. I liked the diversity of the Blackthorn children as well and how they were such a devoted family despite the loss of their parents and the struggles they faced. I must admit, though, that Julian didn’t really do much for me. He was a little too perfect, a little too intense. When he confessed his big secret to Emma and Mark, I didn’t really think it was much of a secret. Wasn’t it rather obvious to anyone reading the book that Arthur wasn’t the Blackthorn who was running the Institute? And I didn’t buy for one minute that Julian actually believed the others would hate him for lying to them. His lies kept the family together. No way anyone could hate him for that. I also thought it was hard to believe that Emma didn’t realize what had been going on for so long. For me, that plotline was a bit weak.

Speaking of Blackthorns, the one I was intrigued by and wanted more of was Mark. Half-fae, half Shadowhunter and forced to ride with The Hunt for incalculable years in Faerie, his reintroduction to his family and life in the mortal world was interesting. I wanted to see more of his thoughts and reactions. I hope there is a lot more of Mark in future Artifice books.

And what Clare fan didn’t love revisiting our favorite characters from The Mortal Instruments and The Infernal Devices? Jem and Tessa, Jace and Clary, and the fabulous Magnus Bane. I hope they reappear in future books. Lady Midnight left a lot of unanswered questions and many, many paths for the characters to follow. I can’t wait to see where those paths lead.

Burning is snuffed out by poor plot development

Burning by Danielle Rollins

Reviewed for Netgalley

SPOILERS

Sometimes when I am reading a book that just isn’t holding my attention, I start a premature review to collect my thoughts on why exactly I am not loving it. So here goes…

First impressions:

Angela Davis is three months away from being released from a juvenile detention center when a new inmate and some sketchy so-called philanthropists show up and strange, unexplained things begin to happen. With her safety threatened, Angela must find a way to free herself and friends before it’s too late.

“Readers will be rooting for Angela and her friends to find the truth and save themselves in this spine-tingling story rich with secrets and conspiracies.” (The book’s blurb) Yeah, that’s what I thought too. That I would be rooting for them to overcome the creeps and weirdness and save themselves. Except, so far, there is nothing to save themselves from because the pace of this book is glacial. I’m 80 pages in and still wondering when things are going to get interesting.

So far, new girl and possible paranormal presence Jessica has arrived, Angela has gotten some hard to explain burnt fingers, and Dr. Gruen and her Stepford-wife assistant have shown up on the grounds of Brunesfield with a paper thin cover story about some science program for gifted young girls. And here is the first major problem with the story. I have a bit of experience working with juvenile offenders, and I can tell you this: while some of them may not have “book” smarts, they all have street smarts. I don’t think a single one of these girls would fall for the SciGirls lies. Why would a program that seeks out exceptional young women start with girls in juvie? They wouldn’t. They’d start in colleges and prep schools and high school honor programs, and the characters in Brunesfield should know this. They are far too smart to fall for such obvious lies.

Final impression:

Burning is a hot mess. For a story that took so long to get going, it wraps up in a quick meltdown of clichés and underdeveloped plotlines. Makes me wonder if a pending deadline forced too many cuts in the writing. There were simply too many half-baked plot points. How can a girl make fire appear out of nowhere and then wield the flames as a weapon? There were hints of illegal human experimentation under Dr. Gruen and her SciGirls, then a claim that the ability is a contagious infection, but I guess we’ll never know.

Gruen is a predictable, stereotypical villain with no character development. In the end, she attempts to kill both Jessica and Angela, yet leaves before she confirms that they are dead. Sorry, but I am not buying that. This lunatic was hell bent on covering up her dirty, soot-covered tracks, yet she doesn’t make sure that her trap actually kills them? She isn’t that sloppy.

Why, when Angela’s brother is brought to the prison for a visit by Dr. Gruen, does she not warn him to stay away from Dr. Crazy? She knows at this point that the doctor is not who she says she is, yet she gives her beloved brother no warning whatsoever?

And where in New York are they that wolves are a huge threat and where a group of girls wearing orange prison clothes can walk through the woods for days without encountering another human being or a convenience store or basically any other lifeform but can find a working telephone in an abandoned shack? Bye-bye, reality!

Underdeveloped and disappointing. Skip this one.

Riders preview is a tantalizing tease

ridersArgh!!!!! Tor Teen Books, you tease! You cruel, coy, infuriating tease. You give me the first 19 gripping, enthralling, can’t-get-enough chapters of Riders and then the preview just ends?!?!?!?! No matter how many times I swipe my finger across my Kindle screen I can’t get another word, can’t turn another page, and now I have to wait until February to find out what happens to Gideon, Sebastian, and Daryn???? Evil! You, Tor Teen Books, are as evil as Samrael and his creepy cronies!

Okay, deep, calming breath.

So, Netgalley (and I can happily say the slump is over) granted me access to a preview of Veronica Rossi’s soon-to-be-published Riders, about a young Army Ranger in training who plummets to his death during a parachute jump and comes back as one of the four Horsemen of the Apocalypse. And that’s when things really get weird, and intriguing, and page turning, and agonizing when the pages no longer turn!

I usually avoid previews because I don’t like waiting. I want the whole book, and I want it now, but I knew what I was possibly setting myself up for when I clicked the request button on the Netgalley page, and despite the waiting and the cliff-hanger of going from Chapter 19 to no chapter 20, I am happy I put in this request because this is gonna be good. I immediately liked Gideon, Army Ranger turned confused Horseman of the Apocalypse. He has a great voice and manages to be strong, self-depreciating, and funny all while being confused, angry, and capable of kicking some ass even when he isn’t sure why and who’s ass it is exactly that he is intending to kick. And to add to his stress, he and his other recently reincarnated friends are tasked with saving the world from an ancient evil…and they fail. Yup. Though it hasn’t been revealed how and why by the end of Chapter 19, Gideon wakes up in the custody of some very unhappy government officials. Now, he’s got to talk his way out of this mess, find his comrades, and somehow manage to save the world before it’s too late.

And we’ve all got to wait until February 16th to find out how it turns out. One month, 4 days. Time cannot move fast enough!

Full review to come.

The Boy Most Likely to deserve a better written girlfriend

I am reading the third book from author Huntley Fitzpatrick, The Boy Most Likely To, and I am ready to write my own most likely list:

Alice, the girl most likely to:

Make me want to reach inside the book and slap you

Make me want to hurl the book across the room

Make me want pretend you don’t exist and just read the Tim chapters

Make me give up reading Huntley Fitzpatrick books

Oh, Alice. Let me let you in on a secret that’s not really a secret. You are not Tim’s mother. You’re not anyone’s mother, so please stop acting like it. Figure out who you are and what you want already because you are driving me crazy.

boyI’m going to sound repetitive because I said the same thing about Fitzpatrick’s last book, but I don’t get this character at all. Alice makes no sense to me. She orders her siblings around like an Army drill sergeant, yet flops like a fish out of water when it comes to her own life. The little glimpses Fitzpatrick gives us of this character aren’t enough to garner relatability or interest or sympathy. I feel like I am being kept in the dark on things that aren’t mysterious enough to not be revealed, yet would make the character more relatable if they were revealed.

At this point, (I am half-way through it) the whole book would be better if it just focused on Tim. Now there’s a character who has plenty of material to easily fill an entire novel, no Alice-filler necessary.

***

So, that was how I felt at the halfway point, and now that I am finished reading that is still how I feel. While Alice did get slightly more tolerable, she was still underdeveloped. I never felt like I understood her or what made her the way she was. A lot of her “problems” were those of her own making. Her father sums it up best when he says, “none of these battles are yours to fight.” And he’s right. That is why parents are parents. The overdue bills are not her problem, her umpteen siblings are not her problem, her dad’s rehab and recovery are not her responsibility and neither is Tim. She was just so frustrating that I found myself disappointed when I turned a page and the story was back to her POV.

Tim, on the other hand, was a well-developed and instantly likable character who had a true battle ahead of him: sobriety, his father’s pending deadline, his surprise “party favor.” His relationship with Cal was beautiful and endearing. He was far from perfect and made so many mistakes, but he just kept trying and trying. I liked his uncertainty and his self-doubt and his determination, though I never could wrap my head around his attraction to Alice. It’s too bad Fitzpatrick couldn’t write a female character who was equal to (and deserving of) him.

While the Boy Most Likely To is far better than What I Thought Was True, I still think My Life Next Door is Fitzpatrick’s best book. I kind of want to go back and reread it, but at the same time I am almost afraid to. What if it isn’t as good as I remember? What if I end up disliking Samantha the way I dislike Alice? Maybe I’ll just move on to some other book and keep my happy memories of MLND.

Kemmerer’s Thicker Than Water is a tension-fueled stand-alone that could easily have a sequel

My thoughts, like my emotions while reading Thicker Than Water, are all over the place, so bear with me.ttw

The loss in this book is so gripping and so present that it’s like its very own character. My heart broke for Thomas. Can you imagine being in such a horrible situation? Accused of murdering your mother in a new town surrounded by strangers who all think you did it? And then to have to live with your dead mother’s new husband because you have nowhere else to go? No one else to turn to? Trapped. If I had to choose one word to describe Thomas, that’s the one I’d use. Trapped by his situation, his emotions, his loneliness and other people’s isolating perceptions of him.

I liked Thomas from the start but even as I was sympathizing with him and wanting to defend him against all the jerks in that small-minded town, as the story advanced, doubts kept popping into my head until I felt as if I were playing Whack-a-Mole with my own brain.

“Did he…”

“No, he couldn’t.”

“But…”

“He wouldn’t.”

“But what if…”

“Shut up, brain! Just shut up and read!”

I enjoy it when I can’t predict what’s going to happen in a book, and I definitely felt like I was on shaky ground with each turn of the page. Even the paranormal element of the story was a total surprise to me. I knew there was something going on, but I never guessed what. The uncertainty was a driving force throughout the story and really ratcheted up the tension.

If you’ve read my reviews before, you know I hate spoilers, so I’ll just say that in the end, there are some resolutions, some remaining mysteries, and enough unanswered questions for a potential sequel, and I certainly hope so because I am not ready to leave the lives of these characters. I often have a hard time liking female leads in YA Fiction. So many come off as needy or silly or just plain dumb, but not Charlotte. I loved how Kemmerer wrote this hormonal teenager who makes really questionable decisions without ever seeming stupid or naïve. How many times does a girl sneak off to meet an alleged killer and not seem like an idiot? Not very often, but Charlotte is not like that. She is brave and compassionate and ready to defend herself. She has doubts and fears and overcomes both to do what she feels is right. Teen lit needs more characters like her.

And more authors like Kemmerer. I really enjoyed how she kept so much tension throughout the story while still making me laugh out loud. I mean, this is a heavy, weighted situation and yet, “Princess Sparklepants?” Hahahaha! And I loved, loved, loved Nicole. She’s funny and quick-witted and everything a BFF should be. Which leads to another strength of this author: secondary characters. I hesitate to use the term secondary because they are too developed to fall into that category. Kemmerer has a knack for letting us know instantly who these minor characters are despite the lesser amount of ink they get. Charlotte’s brothers are a prime example of this as well as Stan, who not only doesn’t get a lot of ink but also says very little, but even his small scenes and few words tell us readers so much about him. I would have liked to see more of him. What’s his life like after Marie? I wanted more of Charlotte’s brothers and Nicole as well. So, while I am very satisfied with this stand-alone novel, I will still be crossing my fingers for a sequel.

Whether it’s the Thicker Than Water cast or a whole new group of characters, I can’t wait to see what Kemmerer brings us next.

Peter Abrahams’ Bullet Point misses the mark

**Spoilers**

I liked Wyatt. He was a bit of an all-American kid. He loved baseball, loved his muscle car, hated his stepdad. All fairly typical for a teenage boy, except that his biological father is serving a life sentence for a robbery gone bad that resulted in the death of a young mother. Wyatt’s never been curious about his father, but when he’s forced to move to another school district to continue playing the game he loves, he meets a girl who changes everything. Greer is out of high school, living on her own, and has something in common with Wyatt. Her dad is in the same prison as Wyatt’s, a prison that just happens to be in Wyatt’s new town.

Not surprisingly, Wyatt soon ends up in the visitor’s room of the prison, meeting his dad, Sonny, for the first time. Sonny seems like a decent guy, too decent to spend life in prison. Before long, Wyatt is sleuthing his way through Sonny’s past, looking for anything that will help prove his innocence. The story picks up a lot of momentum here and two things become clear. Greer is not exactly stable, and Wyatt is definitely onto something that could set his father free.

And that’s when the curveball misses the catcher’s mitt. In a plot twist that comes out of left field with absolutely no warning, Sonny learns that he’s been betrayed by the person he went away for, breaks out of prison and goes on a killing spree that leaves three people dead with Wyatt almost becoming victim number four.

BPI have no problem with characters not meeting my initial expectations, but this kind of twist was just too ridiculous to swallow. Instead of giving a believable conclusion, I felt as if Abrahams ran out of time to write a well-developed ending, so he crammed a quick, violent mash-up of events together, which left Sonny dead and Wyatt betrayed. This is followed by the vaguest epilogue ever written, which lets us know that Wyatt moves back home, is liked a lot more by his stepdad, and takes up fishing. Maybe Abrahams was up against a deadline, maybe he thought that the ending was just fine. I am not sure, but it certainly has deterred me from reading other books by this author. I had a creative writing professor who would have ranted and railed against this kind of inexplicable plot twist, and I guess her teachings have stuck with me because I just can’t accept this kind of nonsensical, rushed wrap up.