Thursday, September 22, 2011

The Gathering by Kelley Armstrong

Plot: Fifteen year old Maya grew up in a small town - as in a population of maybe two hundred. The town was built for the workers in a top secret research facility, such as Maya's parents. When a reporter begins to snoop around, everyone figures she's just another corporate spy. And when the big-city bad boy starts taking an interest in Maya, she figures he's looking for something more than, say, holding hands. But what if things aren't what they seem to be?

Comments: This book was spectacular! Gripping and intriguing, but also light-hearted, fun and sweet. I loved the main character Maya - but felt like I was reading a fictional story about myself! We have the same name (spelled the same way) and same age and we're both competitive and very stubborn. The similarities end there, however. Turns out there's something extra-special about Maya. A strange feeling keeps rushing through her mind and overwhelming her senses, confusing her and making her question the truth about her past.

I liked the relationship between Maya and her best friend Daniel, and appreciate that the author didn't follow the generic best friends to couple scenario. The bad boy, Rafe, was effectively mysterious and many-faceted. I also thought he was sweet. Spoiler alert! I'm about to mention something later in the book. Skip the rest of this paragraph if you don't want to know. However much I approved of Rafe and his relationship with Maya, I didn't like the truth, that he'd changed his wooing tactics for Maya and chased her like all the other girls, just to check her for a birthmark. It stung, and though Maya was hurt by it, I hated how easily she let it go. She even let him kiss her again, and I wanted to slap her and not him. I mean, really? Rafe admitted outright that he was chasing her so he could check for a birthmark, and that he'd turned sweeter when he realized Maya didn't go for the bad boy thing. And yet, from her actions, Maya seems to be more or less okay with it. I really hated that part. Hopefully she stands up to him more in the next book.

Rating: I rate this book an eight out of ten. I'll be reading the rest of the series.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Women of the Silk by Gail Tsukiyama

Plot: A young Chinese girl named Pei grows up as a silk worker in the early 1900's. She spends her days laboring in the factory and what free time she has in the boarding house with the other silk girls. But China is changing, and the silk workers begin dream of freedom. Together the women fight for their rights and discover their own strength and power.

Comments: This is an amazing, powerful story of women struggling to make their way in a harsh world. I learned a lot about China and the silk industries from the point of view of the underpaid, overworked employees. The girls were all such different characters despite their outward uniformity and they grew into beautiful young women, each with a different story to tell. I loved Pei the best, a sweet, curious girl who flourishes into a strong individual despite her hardships - perhaps because of them.

The story is written with a clear picture of stark reality, including both the simple beauty of the earth and new experiences and the challenging, cruel aspects of life. I wished for a happy ending for each and every silk girl, but true to history and reality, there were often unhappy endings. This story inspires you to stand up for your beliefs and your rights, to gather the power of a group of commited people, and to recognize your own strength as an individual and your power of choice.

Rating: I rate this book a nine out of ten.

This Won't Hurt A Bit by Timothy Sheard

Plot: When a hospital laundry worker is wrongly accused of murdering a surgical resident, Lenny Moss, custodian, takes it upon himself to find the real killer. Along with other maintenance workers, Lenny manages to gather clues without attracting attention - the only advantage to being an "invisible" employee. But Lenny's invisibility begins to wear off as he gets closer to the truth...

Comments: The story in this book is great! It's very creative and almost satirical, poking fun at arrogant doctors while real people do the dirty work. The network of maintenance workers are fun and have very different personalities, but they all share a common instinct to stick together and fight for the underdog. The intrigue and mystery work well and keep the reader interested.

Unfortunately, that said, I have to admit that the writing is absolutely horrible. Terrible. Atrocious. Horrifyingly amateur, and from an author who has apparently published over 100 articles, plays, and short stories. I caught grammar and punctuation mistakes left and right; using the wrong "your", too many apostrophes, confusion with paragraphs, and so on. In addition to the obvious mistakes, the author would switch to a new paragraph when really he should have started a new chapter, or at least skipped several lines. Starting a new paragraph, I would only eventually realize that the entire scene had changed, including time, setting, and characters. This book was very confusing. Oftentimes I couldn't tell who was speaking when. All in all, the idea for the story was great. But the writing was plain bad.

Rating: I rate this book a five out of ten.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

The Perfect Neighbor by Nora Roberts

Plot: When cute and perky Cybil Campbell welcomed her new across-the-hall neighbor with a plateful of homemade cookies, she didn't realize what she was getting into. Preston McQuinn is unfriendly and calculatingly rude, but also an amazing writer and musician - not to mention unbelievably sexy. Irresistibly drawn to each other, Cybil and Preston struggle between the confinements of a relationship and free-spirited personalities.

Comments: This is a fun, light-hearted romance novel for a bit of cheery reading. However, this book is certainly not appropriate for younger readers as the relationship gets rather steamy, in a graphic sort of way. It can be a guilty pleasure for some, but I wouldn't recommend you read this book if you get embarrassed easily. If not, go for it! This isn't your typical trashy romance novel; written by Nora Roberts, it has some class. It's actually a very cute story as romance stories go, with believable characters and a not completely predictable plot. It was a fun read and I enjoyed it.

Rating: I rate this book a seven and a half out of ten.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Artemis Fowl and the Atlantis Complex

Book seven in the Artemis Fowl series. Click here for book six. Unfortunately, I have not reviewed earlier books.

Plot: Artemis Fowl, now a fifteen-year-old genius, is growing up, but he's still the merciless criminal mastermind he's always been. This time, Artemis is unleashing his terrible skills upon a plan to... save the polar bears? That's right. When gold-stealing, fairy-abducting, cool and collected Artemis Fowl presents his grand idea to a handful of skeptical elves, Holly Short is the first to notice that something is wrong. Artemis is anxious, obsessive, and willing to devote his impressive fortune to an environmental cause - entirely unlike him. As one of his only friends, Holly does her best to save Artemis from what appears to be his deadliest enemy: himself.

Comments: This book is amazing. I couldn't put it down and wound up finishing the whole thing in one day. Artemis Fowl and the Atlantis Complex is somehow different from all the other books in the series (read a short summary of the series here). This book is more complex and urgent. Artemis is fighting a dangerous battle that no one, not even his bodyguard Butler, can fight for him. He is afraid, confused, and rather lonely. This book is also about the oddly strong bonds between unconventional friendships. Artemis's small group of friends truly care about him and show their support and concern in this book especially.

As always, this Artemis Fowl novel is a spectacular adventure of somehow realistic fantasy with plenty of complicated science thrown into the mix. The characters are, by now, well-known and understood, and they feel pleasantly familiar. However, this book shows new sides to Artemis - primarily the side effects from his magical disease, which includes paranoia, obsessive compulsive disorder, and anxiety. However, this time we see a weak, helpless side of Artemis that is so unlike his usual determined self. I grew even more attached to Artemis as I watched him struggle through his difficulties and I wished I could help him myself. There's a message somewhere in this book.

Rating: I rate this book a nine out of ten.