The Salt Line Falls Too Short…

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In an unspecified future, the United States’ borders have receded behind a salt line–a ring of scorched earth that protects its citizens from deadly disease-carrying ticks. Those within the zone live safe, if limited, lives in a society controlled by a common fear. Few have any reason to venture out of zone, except for the adrenaline junkies who pay a fortune to tour what’s left of nature. Those among the latest expedition include a popstar and his girlfriend, Edie; the tech giant Wes; and Marta; a seemingly simple housewife.

Once out of zone, the group find themselves at the mercy of deadly ticks–and at the center of a murderous plot. They become captives in Ruby City, a community made up of outer-zone survivors determined to protect their hardscrabble existence. As alliances and friendships shift amongst the hostages, Edie, Wes, and Marta must decide how far they are willing to go to get to the right side of the salt line. (From Goodreads)

The first third of the book had lots of promise. I was intrigued and thrilled to read it. It had the perfect introduction of the characters you’ll stay with throughout the book and you already had a sense of who your favorite characters are.

The world building was certainly interesting and the explanation of how the ticks took over the country and divided it was well done. The breakdown in stages on what happens when you get a tick bite is done in good detail and the idea of the Stamp (which is a harsh form of an epi pen) is great and also well written. However, when I went halfway to the book it started falling short.

The plot started losing its’ momentum and slows to a crawl. The characters then start losing their personalities and start becoming flat and two dimensional. I’d have to say the only two characters that were the most interesting to read were Marta and Wes. Understandably so, because they were key characters throughout this book. But their chemistry together and personalities just seemed to flow together and I enjoyed reading them the most.

Edie, well it took a trip like this for her to see the light about Jesse. Although I wouldn’t say she’s really likeable. She has her moments where her compassion shines towards the last third of the novel which is admirable. But there’s just nothing to her personality. She just happens to be a page filler.

By the last third of the book, you could already smell that there’s going to be a possible sequel as some aspects of the characters go on unexplained or incomplete. It’s almost eye rolling when this book really should have been completed in just one volume.

If there ever is going to be a sequel, it would have to be ten times much better than this one and a vast improvement on plot and characters. I’d probably pick it up only if it focused a lot more on Marta and Wes.

The book had a lot of promise, but it just fell short which is disappointing. It was such a great idea for a plot and the setting was well done.

I give it a 5 out of 10.

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Under my Skin by Charles de Lint

Under my SkinFor the past six months, something has been happening to young people in Santa Feliz. Week after week, there’s news of another teen changing shape, transforming from human to wild animal and back again. The federal government has stepped in, running public service announcements calling for affected youth to turn themselves in for “orientation and training.” Josh Saunders has seen the news reports, but he is still unprepared when it happens to him. one minute he’s arguing with his mother’s boyfriend and the next, he is looming over the man, blood dripping from his claws—he has transformed into a mountain lion. When he switches back to his human body, he knows his life has changed forever. He has become a Wildling.Trusting only his best friends Des and Marina with his secret, Josh tries to return to regular living. But an encounter with Elzie, another Wildling, brings him unwanted attention from the authorities. And when an accidental betrayal reveals Josh’s secret, his carefully constructed cover is ripped apart, forcing his friends to intervene. They must grudgingly put their trust in others, including other Wildlings—and, most challenging, in each other— if they ever hope to save him. (from Amazon.ca)

I had fun reading this book. It wasn’t too bad, and it was interesting enough to keep me going until the finish. What I enjoyed was the switching of narration between Marina and Josh. I can’t seem to choose which one I like better. Both of them were interesting and fun to read. Both of them seemed to have developed throughout the novel. Josh goes through a lot more and it seems there’s lots to be expected from him. Then there’s Desmond, who’s the comic relief of the novel, but I also enjoyed reading about him as well. He seems to be the ‘outsider’ of the group but I’m hoping that’s not the case (if you know what I mean) 😉

When Elzie came into the picture, at first I didn’t seem to like her. She’s very abrasive and hard to like – but that’s just the way her personality is. As you progress further into the book, you start to like her and her strong independent personality is suddenly likable.

The plot of this book was pretty good, a nice mixture of school life, action, comedy, and even a bit of romance in some parts. It’s all interesting. There’s a bit of background information on the Wildlings, but you’re still left with questions unanswered and how Josh fits into the big picture. The big climax towards the end was pretty good, although I found the ending a little lackluster and not packing a punch like I expected it to. There’s no cliffhanger ending (perhaps that’s a good thing for some?) and perhaps because I’m so used to it, it caught me off guard.

I’ll be picking up the second one when it’s out, I’m curious as to how Josh is going to fit into the big plans. Come to think of it, there’s quite a bit to look forward to in the next book! I most definitely recommend this for YA readers.

I give it a 7/10

Thanks to Penguin for giving me a review copy!!! 🙂

Review of Prisoners in the Palace by Michaela MacColl

Prisoners in the Palace

Prisoners in the Palace

Thanks to LibraryThing Early Reviewers for providing me a review copy of this book! It was much appreciated!

London, 1838. Sixteen-year-old Liza’s dreams of her society debut are dashed when her parents are killed in an accident. Penniless, she accepts the position of lady’s maid to young Princess Victoria and steps unwittingly into the gossipy intrigue of the servant’s world below-stairs as well as the trickery above. Is it possible that her changing circumstances may offer Liza the chance to determine her own fate, find true love, and secure the throne for her future queen? (From Goodreads)

I absolutely loved this book! I loved the writing, I loved Liza, and all the other characters in this book were just wonderful to read. The plot was really good and the pacing was well done. For those that love intrigue into their historical fiction, you will also find that here. Sir John is certainly the type of villain to make your skin crawl and his plotting with the Duchess gives the plot a good amount of intrigue to enjoy.

Victoria was made to be seen as a spoiled brat, but at the same time she acts this way because she’s lonely and has no one of her age to be with, so her friendship with Liza is somewhat of a Princess/maid relationship, but at times they also put aside their class differences and act like real true friends would.

What I really liked best about this book is that the plot never did slow down, it was a constant steady flow and there was never any stalls or anything done to extend the plot. It got really interesting in the end and made the perfect climax to any story. The author’s note in the end was good and provided good information for further reading.

There was only one criticism, and that was Albert. I didn’t think he was such a surly guy, then again they were younger at the time and he probably did change as he grew older. I was hoping for more of a love story between Victoria and Albert, but it was not to be, they weren’t such a big focus at this time. No matter though, this was just a small setback but nothing that would change my opinion about this book.

I recommend this book for all those in love with the Victorian age! it was a wonderful book to read. Those who like YA books would also love this book as well.

I give it a 9.5 out of 10.

Review of Alice in Zombieland

Alice in Zombieland

Alice in Zombieland

Thank you Sourcebooks for providing me a copy of this book! I have this soft spot for these kinds of books. Plus I like zombies. Who doesn’t? honestly? 🙂

When little Alice follows the Black Rat down into the open grave, she falls and falls, and soon finds herself in an undead nightmare. Following the Rat, she ventures further into this land of monsters, encountering characters both creepy and madcap along the way. But there’s something else troubling poor Alice: her skin is rotting and her hair is falling out. Can Alice escape Zombieland before the Dead Red Queen catches up to her? Have a seat at the table for the wildest tea party of your life and explore the unforgettable adventure that is Alice in Zombieland. (From Amazon.ca)

The book certainly had its’ fun moments! Zombieland was well written and well thought out. It certainly put a funny twist on Wonderland (even though Wonderland is quirky to begin with anyway). It’s definitely not for the squeamish, as body parts are flying everywhere and Alice gets a craving for a bite of flesh once very so often.  The characters are all there, they’re just zombified. The only difference I have seen is instead of a White Rabbit, you have a Black Rat instead. (If I am wrong, forgive me, it’s been a while since I’ve read the original Alice in Wonderland).

The zombie element does not really get in the way of the plot, so nothing much has really changed. My favorite moment was the croquet game between the Queen and Alice – it’s more of a croquet game with body parts which was laughable and was fun to read through.

Even though it was a fun idea, I felt like there just could have been more to this story. There just wasn’t enough to it that I could fully enjoy the book. To me, it felt as if they just copied and pasted the zombie bits of the story and added it to Alice in Wonderland, and just changed the title appropriately. It just felt like a very haphazard read.

Perhaps what I wanted to see was, a twist to the plot to enhance the zombie aspect of the novel. Not just zombies added. It did feel like all you got was a simple add on to the story (something similar to an expansion pack for a game). More could be done with the combination but sad to say, there really wasn’t anything to it.

It was a clever idea, and it had potential, but a lot more could have been done with this book. Instead, what you got was a few cut and paste moments of zombie goodness. Some parts were good and fun to read, but it just seemed to be lacking in something big to make this book exceptionally good and read worthy.

I give it a 4 out of 10.

Sunday Salon: A Book Sale..and I saw something interesting

Reading has gone to a slow halt. (Damn you hockey. Damn you.) Then my social life decides to take over. I don’t like it when that happens. Not that I mind being out with friends. However when there’s books needing to be read and distractions are happening right left and center, it starts to get annoying. Then I start developing dangerous tics and then I evolve into this big red eyed man-eating dragon (I say man-eating because it’s usually the hombre that starts all these distractions!).

Anyway! Saturday I went to a library book sale! and I did manage to buy myself a large paper bag filled with books. It’s not a bad result, only that I wish I could go today (however social life is in the way and I must attend to that first.) So, while I was examining the shelves for anything that might have caught my eye I suddenly zoom in on a book which I’ve been curious to read for a while. Yet when I picked it up, it says in big bold letters: “ADVANCED READERS COPY”. Hrm.

Here’s what got me “hrmming”.

It’s taboo to sell ARC’s. I know it. Most of you should know and shame on you if you don’t *smacks hands with a wooden pointer* *that hurt didn’t it? good*. So now I’m wondering..does this taboo rule apply to libraries?

The book clearly reads: ‘Not for sale’ however, the proceeds do go to a good cause (the improvement of libraries). Should we as good book bloggers even donate these ARC’s to the library when they’re selling them once we turn around to read the next ARC?

Think about it. Let me know.

 

Review of What Alice Knew

What Alice Knew

What Alice Knew

Thank you Sourcebooks for providing me a review copy of this book. Much appreciated and sincere thanks!

The book surrounds itself on the Jack the Ripper murders with author Henry James (yes, the literary figure) and his brother and sister (William and Alice) as the sleuths to this murder mystery. Alice herself actually takes charge of solving the case, and she has her brothers do the detective work. You’ll find here a very interesting ‘what if’ plot filled with famous literary and artistic figures in a very detailed and descriptive 19th century England.

This book was very descriptive. VERY descriptive. Yet it added a lot of ‘flavor’ and really set the setting for the book. It made picturing the scenes and settings much more clearer and it almost felt like watching a movie. I especially like the dinner scenes (particularly when Henry was hosting a party) they were very well written and it also gave you a look on how parties were handled during that particular time period in England.

The three main characters, Henry, William and Alice James were also well done. I liked how each of them although siblings, they had issues and problems of their own and never talked about it amongst themselves. Yet it was also fun to see the sibling rivalry especially between Henry and William. (With Alice usually being the one to stop the bickering) It made the characters more real and three dimensional – not to mention more enjoyable to read. What I thought was really interesting was the addition of other famous literary and artistic characters into the plot. They have small roles (I particularly liked Oscar Wilde and Samuel Clemens aka Mark Twain in the book) but it suits the setting as Henry belonged to these particular social circles and it’s only logical that they would be featured in the novel. There were some characters that I had to look up online to see if they existed or not – particularly the artists as I have no knowledge of who’s who. It did turn out to be quite a learning experience for me.

The plot was well done and well written. I found it a bit dry in some areas and wished it went just a little bit faster – I admit it was a little slow towards the end of the novel. The beginning however was certainly interesting and caught my attention. I thought the ending was interesting and although vague, it got me wondering if the mystery was really solved (or not). There is plenty of mystery in the book and the suspects add more to the intrigue. I myself had guesses as to who Jack the Ripper was, but with the ending, now I’m not so sure. I liked how the epilogue rounded out the book. I found it creepy and chilling at the same time. It still left me with a lot of questions, but the feeling of uneasiness was left behind. (Which I liked, it certainly added more intrigue to the story).

Overall, an interesting mystery featuring Jack the Ripper. Yet the book still leaves you wondering; “Did he/she do it?”  Although I recommend this to history lovers and those who are interested in the Jack the Ripper murders, I’d have to wonder if perhaps those who know their artists as well as writers of this particular time period would definitely enjoy this book more than I did?

I give it a 6 out of 10.

Sunday Salon: Review of Mistress of Rome

Mistress of Rome

Mistress of Rome

I was very lucky to win this book through Librarything early reviewers! I barely read any Ancient Rome historical fiction, and thought it was about time I get started on some. It’s a nice break from my usual English monarchy hist fic that I have an abundance of. However, I do adore the cover of this book!!! it’s absolutely beautiful! don’t you think?

Thea is a Jewish slave, who is under the thumb of Lepida Pollia – who’s an ambitious cruel socialite. Arius is a gladiator, known as Arius the Barbarian. He catches the eye of both Thea and Lepida but ultimately falls for Thea. After finding out their romance, Lepida does what she can to separate them, leading to their separation. Thea bounces back on her feet after several hardships and becomes a well known singer for Roman aristocrats. She attracts the eye of Emperor Domitian and becomes his mistress. Lepida isn’t far behind in her plotting, filled with jealousy and hate towards Thea, but all Thea wants is her life with Arius back, and to be away from the Domitian and his games.

It’s been a while since I’ve read a very good historical fiction This is one of the best I’ve read so far. There is lots of fighting action (gladiator fights), romance, and lots of drama. Just the way I like it in historical fiction. However, what I love about this book is, that it moved me in many ways. The emotions in this book was like a roller coaster. You were happy one minute, the next you were sad, and then you were boiling in rage (usually because Lepida is such a …witch..to say the least). The plot was well done and well written. It’s been broken into several point of views of different characters so you get to see the story in different angles which is certainly nice to see and adds more to the book.

The characters in this novel were excellent. The chemistry between potential pairings were really well done and well written. Of all the characters, I liked Thea and Vix. Marcus also held a soft spot for me too. I was glad Thea wasn’t written out as a damsel in distress type of heroine. I noticed as the story progressed, she became stronger and I admired her even more for standing up to Domitian and to not to give in to what he wants. What I also enjoyed reading was, every female in this book had their strengths (and of course weaknesses) but their strengths were much more prominent and focused in the book.

Vix made me laugh, because although he was a brat, he had the best insults and comebacks I have ever read. I liked how he wasn’t afraid of Lepida, even though she had the means to get back at him and potentially kill him.

I hated Lepida. Oh wow did I ever hate her. I’ve hated some characters in the past but Lepida wins all the medals for being villain of the year. She’s scheming, cruel, nasty, evil, vile, all the names you can think of that are negative. In fact, Calpurnia sums it up by saying that she’s “the most criminal wife in Rome”. Calpurnia actually calls her several colorful names which I enjoyed reading and laughing at. (Lepida gets what’s due to her in time so reading the book and seeing her fall is quite a treat).

The only criticism I find in this book is it shifts from first person to third person quickly and I’m not sure why it’s been done this way. It’s a little strange but it’s not enough to distract the reader from reading and enjoying the story. Some readers might find that a little irksome – however it didn’t bother me.

So far, I think this is one of the best historical fiction novels I have read in 2010. It’ll be hard to top this one off. Fans of Ancient Rome will love this novel and will become attached to this story as I am. I think this book is definitely a keeper. From the historical note at the end, there maybe another story coming featuring some characters from Mistress of Rome. I can hardly wait to see the next one if it does come out!

I give it a 10 out of 10.