February 21, 2013

Faye & Aliza Kellerman: "Prism"

Title: Prism [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Faye & Aliza Kellerman [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Multiverse, Dystopian
Year: 2009
Age: 12+
Stars: 1/5
Pros: Unique premise. Easy to follow.
Cons: Serious lack of world-building. Unengaging characters. Some issues are addressed but never explained.
Will appeal to: Those who like alternate realities, but don't care for intricacies in a plot.

Blurb: The novel features three teens who fall through a cave at Carlsbad Caverns in New Mexico while on a field trip. They are plunged into a frightening parallel universe - seven weeks in the past, in which their "normal" worlds of family and high school remain the same…except for the fact that no medicine exists and when people die in the street they are picked up and disposed of. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: Back when I bought this book, I hadn't developed the useful habit of pre-reading tons of reviews yet. Prism was pretty much an impulsive purchase, based on the blurbs only (in my haste, I even bought the friggin' hardcover!). Since I'm a freak for alternate realities/universes, the book hugely appealed to me. But in this case, I learned my lesson the hard way...not every alternate realities/universes story necessarily delivers.
The novel follows Kaida - the MC - Joy and Zeke, three teens who don't particularly like each other, but end up traveling together in a small van with a teacher during a school trip, since the rest of their schoolmates have been assigned to a bigger van. This is the first inconsistency in the book, because IRL best friends would have teamed together, not supinely waited for an assignation. Anyway. During the trip, a terrible accident causes Kaida, Joy and Zeke to seek refuge in a cave, fall into a hole and wake up in an alternate reality, where the only peculiar anomaly is...there is apparently no concept of medical care. The three teens struggle with this situation, especially since Joy injured her arm in the fall. Trying to help her, Kaida embarks on a dangerous journey where she is also to find the convenient love interest, while Joy ends up seeking comfort in Zeke's (unscathed) arms.
The idea of a parallel universe where medical care is non-existent could have produced interesting results, if well handled. But Prism fails to actually explain the gist of it. There's vague talk of a Naturalist doctrine, that only allows herbs to be used in order to cure diseases, but not a solid reason why medicine should be banned. Also, smoking is allowed everywhere and even among teens instead. This seems to me a mere plot device, used with the intent of painting an upside-down world (at least when it comes to health issues), because it doesn't make sense. The funny thing is, medicines do actually exist in this parallel universe, but they're illegal - just like drugs in the normal world. And we eventually learn that some rich and powerful individuals are secretly using meds, while normal citizens seem okay with staying away from them - even adamant about it. One could think that the medicine ban would stir a rebellion (we don't know how long it has been going on, but still. And incidentally, this is another cause of annoyance for me, when it comes to the world-building). But we have a bunch of strictly observant people instead, and even the act of saving someone from choking seems to infuriate them - which is past ridiculous, because it doesn't involve the use of meds. [...]

February 18, 2013

Book Blogger Confessions: Reading Habits Edition

Book Blogger Confessions is a meme that posts the 1st and 3rd Monday of every month, where book bloggers "confess" and vent about blogging-related topics. This meme is hosted by Midnyte Reader and For What It's Worth. So click on the link(s), grab the logo and jump right in! Let's get to know each other a little better :).

February 18 Question: How has blogging and reviewing changed your reading habits? Do you read a genre now that you wouldn't have tried prior? Or have you been turned off by a genre you used to love?

Since my blog is still in its infancy, I haven't seen any significant change yet - at least when it comes to genres. I tend to be picky about the kind of books that I read and review. Contemporary romance and historical fiction are a big turn off for me. (Well, honestly, any book with instalove or heavily underlined romance is). Fantasy doesn't do much for me, unless it's urban and a bit unusual. So I don't plan to read and review those genres ever! I wouldn't be able do justice to the books, anyway. Also, you know the old saying - so many books, so little time. Why would one spend it on the wrong ones? (wrong for that particular person, that is) There are so many talented and active bloggers out there, willing to read and review the very things that others don't find themselves attracted to...
The only change in my reading habits so far is, I often read or reread a particular book at a given moment because I feel it right for the blog. For example, I started off reviewing a whole Christopher Pike trilogy - then it occurred to me that I could actually be boring and/or too predictable. Also, non-Pike fans would have run away screaming and never come back! And maybe they did. Same for posting reviews for the Anna Dressed in Blood duet, or for two novels from Jeri-Smith Ready's series WVMP Radio in a row. Now I'm trying to offer a variety of authors/genres/ratings, which implies reading (or rereading) what the blog needs sometimes, prior to what I need. And it's great when the two things overlap :).

Enough of me! Given the nature of this question, I'm particularly curious about what the established book bloggers have to say. Do you read and review genres that you didn't particularly like before? Do you read and review genres that you still don't particularly like? If so, how do you manage to keep your rating honest? Is there a genre that turned you off and why? (I'm aware that I stretched the original questions a little...).

February 10, 2013

Arlaina Tibensky: "And Then Things Fall Apart"

Title: And Then Things Fall Apart [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Arlaina Tibensky [Blog | Goodreads]
Genres: Contemporary
Year: 2011
Age: 14+
Stars: 4.5
Pros: Gorgeous prose. Straightforward, engaging, lively-yet-deep lead that gets under your skin in the good way. Bell Jar references (if you love the book). Lots of bittersweet fun.
Cons (= WARNING!): Heavy petting and sexual desire are discussed at length by a 15 years old girl.
Will appeal to: Those who like journal entries, multifaceted musings and Sylvia Plath.

Blurb: Keek and her boyfriend just had their Worst Fight Ever; her best friend heinously betrayed her; her parents are divorcing; and her mom’s across the country caring for her newborn cousin, who may or may not make it home from the hospital. To top it all off, Keek’s got the plague. (Well, the chicken pox.) Now she’s holed up at her grandmother’s technologically barren house. With only an old typewriter and Sylvia Plath’s The Bell Jar for solace and guidance, Keek’s alone with her swirling thoughts. But one thing’s clear through her feverish haze - she’s got to figure out why things went wrong so she can make them right. (Amazon excerpt)

Review: Can I go all fangirl over this book? Because seriously, folks, that's what I feel like doing. (Well, since this is actually my own blog, I guess I'm allowed to. But I'm trying not to take advantage of this small technicality...too much). I would like to buy a huge stack of copies of this novel (um, I should get rich before...so not likely) and hand them out to the apparently massive number of people who haven't read it - at least according to Goodreads statistics. One could blame it on the marketing - but I suspect that a book with virtually no action and bearing all those Bell Jar references discouraged many potential readers. Well, I'll do my best to win some of them back with this review.
Every chapter of this book is sort of a journal entry by the 15 years old narrator Keek (Karina). I say "sort of" because she actually stresses the fact that she wouldn't call her pages a diary or a journal (chapter "July 25"). Also, she addresses a supposed "dear reader" here and there, turning her "journal" into an example of metafiction. The same thing happens - though in a different context - because of the constant references Keek makes to The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath. Having read and loved said book, Tibensky's novel caught my attention and immediately ended up in my to-read list, while the reference probably worked reversely for people who a) haven't read The Bell Jar or b) read The Bell Jar but didn't like it. Now, if Plath's novel proved not to be your cup of tea, it is very unlikely that Keek's story may appeal to you, because The Bell Jar has such an impact on her that you will probably feel irritated at the girl, and consequently unable to enjoy her narrative. But if you haven't read The Bell Jar, don't let that keep you away from Tibensky's novel. You would miss Keek's introspective but lively prose, rich imagery, authentically-teen-yet-often-mature remarks and speculations. I am well past Keek's age, and haven't endured the same trials she goes through when I was; nonetheless, I was able to tune into her emotions and feel her authenticity. It may help if you (like Keek...and me) have always found solace in books, and have nurtured a passion for words since a very young age. Because if you have, Keek will become your Esther Greenwood - or a teen version of her - and will speak on your behalf. [...]

February 05, 2013

Peter Dickinson: "Eva"

Title: Eva [on Amazon | on Goodreads]
Series: None
Author: Peter Dickinson [Site | Goodreads]
Genres: Sci-Fi, Dystopian
Year: 1989
Age: 12+
Stars: 4/5
Pros: Makes you think, and care for the main character. Raises awareness about our exploitation of the world and animal species.
Cons: Some tech-naiveness (that will be addressed in the review). Parts of the story feel a bit rushed.
Will appeal to: Anyone who cares for environment and animal population. Anyone who thinks that science can't make progress regardless of ethics.

Blurb: Thirteen year old Eva wakes up in the hospital unable to remember anything since the picnic on the beach. Her mother leans over the bed and begins to explain. A traffic accident, a long coma...But there is something, Eva senses, that she’s not being told. There is a price she must pay to be alive at all. What have they done, with their amazing medical techniques, to save her? (Amazon)

Review: Sort-of-disclaimer: I read the Italian translation of this book, so I can't really judge the writing style. Also, I don't know if any parts of this novel have been cut off in my version.
Talk about mixed reviews. Some people seem to hate this book with a passion, or at least are unimpressed. On the other hand, this story has captivated an equal number of readers. Though it was of course aimed at a younger audience, adults often seem to have more empathy with it. I read the book at an adult age myself, so I'm not really sure about the impact it could have on a teen. Anyway, I'd recommend this novel to both age groups.
I don't think that the injured-girl-(or-boy-sometimes)-waking-up-after-a-coma-with-no-memory was routine back in 1988 (it sure is now)...but anyway, that's not really the case. Eva (whose surname is Adamson, by the way...not very subtle LOL) wakes up in an hospital with her memory almost intact - the only thing she doesn't seem to remember is the actual accident that put her there. But even before her awareness resurfaces, her mind is floating in a strange, inexplicable dream, full with a mysterious forest that doesn't even exist anymore. Anyway, Eva does remember who she is - only, while she was sleeping, the "is" turned into a "was" without her knowing. She went from a thirteen year old girl to a six year old chimpanzee (once named Kelly), her human brain virtually replicated into the ape's one. Her parents approved on the experimental procedure because it was the only chance Eva had to survive (we'll have to suspend our disbelief on that of course...I'm not really buying that a parent could ever make such a choice, even if - like Eva's father - said parent had been working with chimps all his/her life). Problem is, Eva turns out to be not just a girl in a chimp's body; Kelly's memories - even the ancestral ones - are embedded in her replicated human mind. While Eva thinks she'll "only" have to adjust to her new body at first, it won't be long till she finds out that Kelly isn't letting go. [...]