Friday, January 8, 2016

YA Reviews

Dangerous Lies
By Becca Fitzpatrick
Published 2015 by Simon & Schuster Books for Young Readers
Reviewed from e-ARC
Estella Goodwin has seen something terrible and must enter Witness Protection - which frustratingly drops her in the middle of Nebraska. But she'll bide her time until she turns 18 and can be on her own - then she can get back to really living her life. What she doesn't know is that she might not be as protected as she thinks she is.

I have a history with Fitzpatrick. No, not in real life, but through her books. I read her first book (Hush, Hush) and found it so unbelievably ridiculous that I demanded everyone I know read it and revel in its silliness. I never finished that series (though I'm going to try this year!) and I never read anything else by her. Until now. And what did I discover? Nothing has changed from then until now. I found this book nearly as implausible as the book she wrote about fallen angels. Just let that settle for a minute; I'll wait. Understand me now? Good. This book and I were off to a terrible beginning right from the minute Fitzpatrick expected me to believe that the new name WITSEC gave Estella Goodwin was Stella Gordon. REALLY?????? It's a four letter difference!!! I don't think the Witness Protection Program works that way; if they did, I have a feeling there'd be a lot more dead witnesses. Unfortunately, things only went downhill from there. Stella (or Estella, it doesn't even matter) makes several terrible decisions, behaves like a spoiled child, and is extremely reckless with the feelings of everyone around her. Throw a ridiculous romance on top and there you have it - the muddled up mess that is this novel.

Zeroes (Zeroes, book one)
By Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan, and Deborah Biancotti

Published 2015 by Simon Pulse
Reviewed from print ARC

After Ethan's special power gets him stuck in the middle of a bank robbery, her super-powered friends reunite to rescue him. Except the rescue goes sideways and these six teens find themselves in the middle of a chaos that could have life or death stakes.

I can't even tell you all how excited I was when an ARC of this arrived at my library in the spring. I greedily snatched it up (no one really fought me for it) and planned to dive in ASAP. Admittedly, I didn't start reading it until maybe a month later and took me four months to finish. Seriously. I can't really express how deep my disappointment in this book is. I have loved everything I've read by Westerfeld. I have quite enjoyed the few things by Lanagan I've read, and I don't know Biancotti, but I imagined that even if she was terrible, the other two would make up for it. I was so wrong. I don't know who wrote what here, but, honestly, it doesn't matter. For me, there was nothing good about this book. I cared not one whit about any of the characters, the plot was overblown and drawn out, and the whole thing was was longer than it needed to be. I had to force myself to pick it up and read it because I was so bored whenever I did. I could only stomach a chapter or two at a time. And, knowing this is the first in a series? It breaks my heart knowing that Westerfeld will be wrapped up in this for the foreseeable future. Huge let-down.

The White Rose (The Lone City, book two)
By Amy Ewing
Published 2015 by HarperTeen
Spoilers for the first book.
Violet is on the run. With help - some of it from unlikely allies - she has managed the escape her Duchess. But with corruption running rampant in the Jewel, does a safe place even exist?

I had some hesitations after finishing book one, but, in my continuing efforts to keep current with series, I read book two shortly after its release. Thankfully, book two has more action than the first - it would have to, as Violet and her friends spend most of their time on the run. Additionally, the Auguries and their connection to the reproductive issues are explained a bit more clearly in this volume. Finally, Violet certainly comes into her own as a character here - I actually felt like she had some personality instead of just standing in for many nameless women as I felt she did in book one. I still don't particularly enjoy the romance and I think Garnet is the most interesting character by a longshot, so I was pleased that he still had a part to play in this volume. This, of course, ends with a cliffhanger. I think it's pretty clear where the series is going to go in book three, so I'll be shocked if Ewing does something unexpected in the final volume. Overall, a decent read, but nothing spectacular.

By Noelle Stevenson
Published 2015 by HarperTeen
Lord Ballister Blackheart is a villain. But if you ask Nimona, he's not living up to his potential. No worries - she'll fix that. Soon, Nimona and Ballister are locked in a battle with the heroic Sir Goldenloin - who may not be as heroic as everyone believes.

Well, pretty much everyone I know read this graphic novel (a collection of a webcomic) before I did, so I figured I should probably get around to it. It's very enjoyable - Nimona and Ballister's relationship is absolutely delightful. I loved seeing them bicker. I loved Nimona's complete impulsivity and her lack of regard for her own well-being. She has absolutely no ability to think things through before doing them, leading to peril and, of course, comedy. I was not terribly surprised to uncover the real story between Blackheart and Goldenloin, but I liked it all the same. Unlike my colleague, I found it a bit sad, though, and the resolution perpetuated that feeling in me. Still, a wonderful read and sure to be popular.

Symphony for the City of the Dead: Dmitri Shostakovich and the Siege of Leningrad
By M.T. Anderson
Published 2015 by Candlewick
Reviewed from print ARC
Amidst the horror that was the siege of Leningrad was composer Dmitri Shostakovich, a man trying desperately to survive the unspeakable things he saw and translate them into music. But life under Stalin's regime presents its own terrors, and his music may just put his life at risk.

I don't read a ton of non-fiction (something I plan on addressing in 2016), but I generally enjoy it when I do. My library received an ARC of this title and I picked it up for two reasons - first, to see if we should add it to our collection and, if so, in what section, and second, because I was hearing about it everywhere. Part one of that is irrelevant to this blog, but part two - once I started reading, it wasn't difficult to see why I kept hearing about this. It is astounding. It's a fully engrossing read. It's an incredibly difficult read. It had me in tears. It had me shaking my head in frustration at the cognitive dissonance so present in Stalin's regime. It had me longing desperately to hear Shostakovich's music for myself. It had me sick to my stomach at the descriptions of the horrors ordinary people endured, both at the hands of their enemies and those of their own government. This is an intense and enlightening read - highly recommended, and I won't be surprised if there are some shiny medals on the cover before long.

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