Saturday, December 29, 2012

Review: Defiance

Synopsis: Within the walls of Baalboden, beneath the shadow of the city's brutal leader, Rachel Adams has a secret. While other girls sew dresses and obey their male Protectors, Rachel knows how to survive in the wilderness and deftly wield a sword. When her father, Jared, fails to return from a courier mission and is declared dead, the Commander assigns Rachel a new Protector, her father's apprentice, Logan--the same boy Rachel declared her love for two years ago, and the same one who handed her heart right back to her. Left with nothing but a fierce belief in her father's survival, Rachel decides to escape and find him herself. But treason against the Commander carries a heavy price, and what awaits her in the Wasteland could destroy her.

At nineteen, Logan McEntire is many things. Orphan. Outcast. Inventor. As apprentice to the city's top courier, Logan is focused on learning his trade so he can escape the tyranny of Baalboden. But his plan never included being responsible for his mentor's impulsive daughter. Logan is determined to protect her, but when his escape plan goes wrong and Rachel pays the price, he realizes he has more at stake than disappointing Jared.

As Rachel and Logan battle their way through the Wasteland, stalked by a monster that can't be killed and an army of assassins out for blood, they discover romance, heartbreak, and a truth that will incite a war decades in the making.

My Review: So I admit, I bought this on a total whim.  Never heard of it before, just saw it on B&N and clicked purchase.  So glad I have good instincts.  : D 

Rachel's father has been missing for over 9 months.  He's the cities courier, and has not returned after his 3 month journey.  After a 6 month probationary period, he is finally declared dead by the Commander  and Rachel is left utterly alone.  Rachel was raised solely by her father, who trained her to protect herself and survive off the land.  She's definitely not like other girls in her city.  A fiery red head with an independent attitude to match, Rachel is not convinced her father is dead and won't be stopped from seeking him out.  Even if her new Protector, and former crush, Logan tell her not to.  In her search for her father, Rachel discovers that the world she grew up with holds it's own secrets, and finds an ally in Logan that she never suspected.  

The setting for this novel was very interesting.  I still have yet to determine just quite when/where it takes place.  It's very fantasy in the fact that girls are expected to be docile and complacent complete with dresses and walled cities and an evil beast that lurks outside the walls.  And yet there is quite advanced technology as well.  It seems to have regressed from what it previously was, but still it didn't quite blend with the other aspects of the story.  It wasn't like technology born from  AU, it was like real life technology thrown into an almost fantasy setting.  Still  haven't quite figured that out yet, but it didn't really bother me.  I'm sure we'll get to truly understand it further into the series.  That being said, I still think the setting added to the story.  It really set the mood for the danger that Rachel faces outside the safety of the city walls as well as the dictatorship like control the Commander exhibits on the city and it's citizens.  

I really enjoyed Rachel as an MC.  I love strong independent girls as MC's in general.  Especially in a world where it's not expected of them.  Rachel was the epitome of that character type.  She can take down a man twice her size, and would sooner kill an attacker than subdue him.  She's fierce and brave, but the fact that her father is missing takes a heavy toll on her.  She's willing to sacrifice anything for the safety of her loved ones, an attribute that others don't fail to take advantage of.  Her relationship with Logan is also strained at the beginning of the novel.  Two years ago, she declared her love for him, except that he didn't return the feelings.  She's hated herself and him every since, and when he is appointed her new Protector, Rachel can't imagine anything worse.  

Logan, however, wants to find her dad just as much as Rachel does.  He doesn't believe her father is dead either, and is working on a plan to track him down.  That is until Rachel's bull headed attitude ruins his plans, and the two of them fall into an even bigger problem.  I really liked Logan as well.  He was such a geeky little science nerd, always playing with his experiments and inventions.  Except that he's an incredibly hot nerd who also can kick some major ass.  The best kind of nerd, obviously.  

I really enjoyed the development of their relationship.  They've known each other for forever, and yet they both have failed to truly understand the other.  Through facing the Commander and searching out Rachel's father, they both realize that they've both drastically misjudged the other and that maybe there is more to be gleaned from their relationship than they both initially realized.  I mean, it was pretty obvious that they were both in love with each other. They were both just too stubborn to admit it.  I still enjoyed their relationship though.  

I have to say that my only critique of this novel was that the pacing was a little bit too fast and furious.  Especially the ending.  Actually, it was mostly just the ending.  Everything else about the plot was fabulous.   It definitely didn't take a turn where I thought it would go.  Every time I was like "ok, so this is going to happen next." Nope.  Wrong-oh.  "Oh this plan will go smoothly, it has to, their previous one already failed." Nope. Wrong again.  Everything I expected never happened and everything I was hoping would not happen did basically.  I was kind of pulling my hair out due to anxiety.  For the most part, the whole novel was pretty unpredictable, which I greatly appreciated.  I love surprises.  

Overall, pretty great read.  Definitely a fabulous new series in the making.  Can't wait to see where the author takes it in the sequel.  Some shit is definitely sure to fly.  


Review: Mila 2.0

Synopsis: Mila 2.0 is the first book in an electrifying sci-fi thriller series about a teenage girl who discovers that she is an experiment in artificial intelligence.

Mila was never meant to learn the truth about her identity. She was a girl living with her mother in a small Minnesota town. She was supposed to forget her past —that she was built in a secret computer science lab and programmed to do things real people would never do.

Now she has no choice but to run—from the dangerous operatives who want her terminated because she knows too much and from a mysterious group that wants to capture her alive and unlock her advanced technology. However, what Mila’s becoming is beyond anyone’s imagination, including her own, and it just might save her life.

My Review: I have to say that going into this I wasn't sure what to expect.  Never really read a story with an android as the MC, and really the plot was a toss up.  It could have been amazing or it could have just been trying too hard.  Well I'm pleased to say that not only was the plot awesome, but the entire book was just plain phenomenal.

Mila has just moved to the middle of Minnesota from Philadelphia after the death of her father in a fire. She's slowly adjusting to life without him, though she can't remember a thing about the fire or most of her life.  Except Mila's lack of memories has nothing to do with the fire.  After an unfortunate car crash, Mila discovers that she's not the normal girl she thought she was.  She's an an android, an experiment in artificial intelligence created by the military.  And her "mom" isn't her mom at all, she's one of her creators who stole her from the government.  Having always thought she was human, Mila can't begin to fathom that her thoughts, her feelings, everything about who she is is fabricated.

As Mila and her mother flea from capture, Mila has to make adjustments to her own perception of who she is.  More and more disturbing things keep cropping up.  Like the fact that red messages often flash across her vision that say "Target immobilized"-"Enemy threats detected" etc.  Mila has to face the harsh reality that she is a machine, designed to infiltrate human populations, not a human.  Except that Mila doesn't feel like a machine.  She has emotions just like a human does, and no amount of programming can explain away her unique personality.  She may be a machine, but she's developed her own spark of humanity.

I loved everything about this story.  The plotting was just flawless.  It was so well executed.  It was exciting, terrifying, and even at times horrifying, but all together it made for a truly remarkable read.  I had trouble putting this book down.  I practically read it from start to finish in one sitting, give or take like 50 pages.  Which is impressive, even for me.  Which only testifies to how good this book was.

What really made me love this book was Mila.  Yes she's an android, which you would think would be weird, but really it wasn't in the slightest.  Mila's character brings up a lot of important questions.  What constitutes humanity? Just because something is programmed or artificial does that mean that it can't have free will? It's all very I, Robot in nature philosophically but that's why I love it.  Mila is so critically human in her thoughts and feelings, and most importantly her actions.  The fact that she was a machine didn't make me feel alienated as the reader.  If anything, it made me cheer her on more.  She deserves the right to live her own life, human or not.

In summary, extraordinary book.  One of my favorites for this year.  Cannot wait for more from Miss Driza.  A truly outstanding debut.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Review: Ink

Synopsis: On the heels of a family tragedy, the last thing Katie Greene wants to do is move halfway across the world. Stuck with her aunt in Shizuoka, Japan, Katie feels lost. Alone. She doesn’t know the language, she can barely hold a pair of chopsticks, and she can’t seem to get the hang of taking her shoes off whenever she enters a building.

Then there’s gorgeous but aloof Tomohiro, star of the school’s kendo team. How did he really get the scar on his arm? Katie isn’t prepared for the answer. But when she sees the things he draws start moving, there’s no denying the truth: Tomo has a connection to the ancient gods of Japan, and being near Katie is causing his abilities to spiral out of control. If the wrong people notice, they'll both be targets.

Katie never wanted to move to Japan—now she may not make it out of the country alive.

My Review: Going into this I was really excited.  If I could have one superpower it would be that whatever I draw would come to life.  But, hey, that's my inner artist coming out, and for Tomo it isn't nearly as fun as it sounds.  

I really enjoyed this story.  Japan is definitely one of those places that I'd love to visit and I love the culture in general.  Katie has just moved there, after the death of her mother and is thrown into a world she can barely even begin to understand.  It's a new country, new culture, new language, and a new family.  She's having a hard time adjusting and the language barrier isn't exactly helpful in aiding her in making new friends.  She's already an outsider, but when she meets Tomohiro her life gets even more complicated. 

Tomo is a cold hearted jerk who looks down on Katie and has a bad reputation to match his attitude.  At first, Katie's determined to give it right back, but as she gradually gets to know him, she realizes that there is a lot more hiding beneath his cold hearted exterior.  Tomohiro is hiding something, and Katie is determined to find out what it is.  

I greatly enjoyed this story.  Japan, hot boy, and art.  Yep, pretty much sold me. What's not to like? While I loved the concept of this story, there were just a few minor things that bothered me.  Katie's attraction to Tomohiro was just kind of off.  Like it changed from hatred, to curiosity, to open interest.  It wasn't like love at first sight, but even when Tomo was still being a jerk she was undeniably attracted to him and her decisions reflected that.  I just take issue with girls falling head over heals for an asshole.  Granted, he acted like that to keep people at a safe distance.  STILL. No me gusta.  And throughout the story I feel like their relationship was just so up and down I got whiplash on occasion.  Overall though, I enjoyed them as a couple.  I just hope their relationship evolves a bit more in the next book.  Mutual trust.  All that jazz.  

I really loved the incorporation of traditional Japanese myths/gods.  I have a thing for pre-christian religions and I just think they're so interesting and the mythology behind them is so cool.  I can't wait to find out more about the Kami and why Tomohiro's powers go on the fritz around Katie.  And speaking of Tomohiro's powers, wow.  It sounds so cool to have what you draw come to life, but for Tomo almost everything he draws tries to kill him or the people he's with.  He can't control his drawings, they have a life of their own and it often leads them to destruction.  He's determined to protect Katie from his drawings and himself, because he knows that when she's around his control slips.  His Kami powers are dangerously close to taking over him, and what's left of his humanity will slowly slip away.  

Of course there are outside forces at work as well.  The Yakuza has taken an unhealthy interest in Tomo and his powers, and there are other Kami out there as well that are looking to use Tomohiro.  And Katie of course is wrapped up all in the middle of it.  Overall I greatly enjoyed this book.  It was a very unique concept and I enjoyed both Katie and Tomo.  Can't wait for the next one.