Friday, March 18, 2011

Review - Across the Universe

Another debut for the Debut Author Challenge at The Story Siren!

Across the Universe, by Beth Revis

At some point in the not-so-distant future, a group of adventurous scientists and soldiers and settlers leave earth for a distant planet. The journey aboard the immense ship Godspeed will take 300 years. The settlers are cryogenically frozen, and the ship will be manned by its own society of caretakers. 50 years before they are scheduled to arrive at the new planet, Amy -- a teenage girl who accompanied her parents on the journey -- is unplugged and nearly dies. Instead, Amy finds herself trapped on a ship in the middle of space with a strange society led by an intense man simply called Eldest. As Amy attempts to figure out and adjust to her new circumstances, someone begins unplugging more of the frozen settlers, and leaving them to die. Amy must figure out why someone is murdering the settlers, and who she can trust.

Across the Universe was a fast-paced adventure read. The story is told in alternating first-person narratives between Amy and the ship's second-in-command Elder. Both characters were at times frustrating and endearing; which, to me, made them very believable characters. I enjoyed watching the characters grow throughout the book.

The world-building and set-up for the story were very interesting -- and at times very creepy! (i.e. The Season). Godspeed as it is when Amy shows up is a very disconcerting place. Revis did a good job of really putting me there, whether I liked it or not!

I love mysteries, and while a few of the mysteries were easy to figure out, there were enough gasp-worthy moments to leave me feeling satisfied at the end. I also liked how Revis tied up the primary storylines at the end of the book, but left it wide open for the sequel. There is a tenuous sense of harmony at the end of the book, but so many ways in which everything can go wrong. And there are some larger issues unresolved, so I'm looking forward to seeing what happens next.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Review - Tiger's Curse

My first book read as part of the Story Siren's 2011 Debut Author Challenge!

Tiger's Curse, by Colleen Houck

Kelsey Hayes is just looking for a summer job, something to get her through to the fall when she’ll start community college. The temp agency sends her on a two-week gig to a small circus, primarily to help care for and feed the circus animals. While at the circus, she’s immediately drawn to the gentle white tiger Dihren. Since both of her parents died a few years ago, Kelsey has distanced herself from strong connections and friendships, so she enjoys Dihren’s safe companionship. She begins to spend most of her evenings with Dihren, writing in her journal, or reading out loud to the tiger. Toward the end of the circus’ time in Dallas, Oregon, the circus owner gets an offer for Dihren that he can’t refuse. Unexpectedly, Indian gentleman who is purchasing Dihren asks Kelsey to accompany them to India where his employer wants to release the tiger into a wildlife reserve. Mr. Kadam tells Kelsey that because the tiger is clearly very comfortable with her, he would appreciate her help in caring for Dihren during the journey. It’s unexpected and not your typical summer job, but Kelsey doesn’t see any reason to refuse; plus, she’ll miss her tiger once he’s gone, and welcomes the chance to spend a bit more time with him.
After a luxurious flight in a private jet with the considerate, genteel and charming Mr. Kadam, the three land in India. Mr. Kadam has hired a driver to take Kelsey and Dihren to the wildlife reserve where he will meet them; but when they stop for gas and lunch, the driver takes off, leaving Kelsey and Dihren stranded in the middle of nowhere. Kelsey discovers her backpack has been conveniently stocked with survival gear, and her cell phone is missing. With no way to contact Mr. Kadam and a huge white tiger to care for, she follows Dihren into the jungle with the idea of hiking back to civilization. But that night, Kelsey’s strange adventure becomes even stranger when her tiger turns into a man (and a drop-dead gorgeous one at that) who turns out to be a 350 year old prince who claims she is the one who will be able to break the curse he has been placed under. Before she knows it, Kelsey is on a quest to break the curse, and on an adventure that includes a shaman, an Indian goddess, temples, a dangerous world ruled by monkey-god, and – of course – love.

The best part about this book is the story – Colleen Houck mixes magic and fantasy and Indian legends and stories into a really fun adventure. The love story is sweet, and I like how it develops. At first, it’s kind of a love-at-first-sight-instant-chemistry-destiny kind of thing. Which…meh. But, as Kelsey and Ren spend more time together, their relationship starts developing past the instant chemistry stage and gets more depth.

I will say that the writing itself fell a little flat for me; it seemed stiff. But again, the story itself really carried me past the at-times clunky writing. Also, it took me a while to start connecting with the characters, but by the end of the book I was definitely invested in them and their story (and I was emphatically trying to tell Kelsey “don’t be an idiot!”). One thing about Kelsey – her character is kind of refreshing. She’s a soon-to-be college freshman, but she’s not a worldly-wise person; she she’s innocent and unsophisticated (never had a boyfriend and never even been kissed). But she’s also smart, loyal, compassionate, bookish, down-to-earth and strong.

Bottom line – a fun story and a good read. I’m looking forward to the next installment.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Review - Towers of Midnight

Actually, this isn't so much of a review as it is a report on "this is what I've been doing lately." Towers of Midnight is the latest installment in the epic fantasy series Wheel of Time by the late Robert Jordan. This book, as well as the previous one (Gathering Storm) and the final book in the series (to come out next year) are being written by Brandon Sanderson. To actually recap and review this book, I'd really have to recap the whole series and, well, who has time for that? But basically, it's a classic fantasy story about good versus evil, redemption, greed, power struggles, mystery, intrigue, love and lust, and the making of heroes. Through 11 books, Robert Jordan created a world and characters that are as real as any I've ever encountered in fiction. The story has grown from a basic seed to a whole garden of plots and subplots. And things have gone from pretty bad to end-of-the-world-impending-apocalypse. But now, the spiral is closing in on The Last Battle. Alliances are being made and people are focusing their attention on one thing -- defeating The Dark One (you know...pure evil). Towers of Midnight had tons of "heck yeah!" fist-pumping moments, and left my heart pumping more than once. I can't wait for the ending!