Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Sapphire Blue (Book 2 of the Ruby Red Trilogy)

Gier, K. (2012). Sapphire Blue. NY: Henry Holt & Company.
YA Urban Fantasy, Romance, Historical, Paranormal, Sci Fi, Mystery

I won this ARC in a contest, but I’m not sure who was the sponsor -- they didn't include anything in the package. Thank you, though!


I gave this book 4 out of 5 Stars on Goodreads

Overall, I enjoyed Sapphire Blue, but our main characters, Gwen and Gideon, were a bit more stereotypical teenagers than in the first installment, and it was a distraction for me.  In the trilogy’s first book, Ruby Red, Gwen spoke and acted younger than a sixteen-year-old; in this second installment, she was too much a sixteen-year-old and was frequently “dumbed-down” in her actions and thoughts.   It was as if Gwen felt she wasn’t particularly smart or talented, and this bothered me.   Gideon was all over the place, and it was hard to figure out if he was immature, bipolar, or simply confused.  His actions were hot and cold with Gwen, which almost made it appear he was struggling with himself.  Almost.   The case may be that some things were lost in translation.   

This story has a little bit of everything mixed-in --  a dash of history, a tease at romance, and a looming mystery – all wrapped around the concept of time travel and a secret society doing it to SAVE THE WORLD! From what they are saving the world, the reader does not know, but Sapphire Blue does carry the story forward enough to see the answer is coming.

As with the first book, the smart and delightful Leslie plays a significant role, as does a gargoyle, and both characters are clever mechanisms to feed Gwen information she needs to time travel, deal with Gideon (and her horrible cousin, Charlotte), and inch closer to solving the mystery of the Circle of Twelve.  The evil (or is he?) Count Saint-Germain is back and busy doing his evil (or are they?) deeds,  but he’s not the only one who can’t be trusted. No one seems to be exactly what they appear.

There was a convenient twist at the end that changed the course of one entire angle in the story, resulting in a bit of a cliff-hanger.  As with Ruby Red, there are some helpful charts and information to keep all the characters and information about the Circle of Twelve straight. It’s unfortunate that I don’t read German (or Portuguese?) as the third book in the trilogy, Emerald Green has been out for some time.  The English translation isn’t expected until 2013.

The Clean-O-Meter rating for this story is 4.5 out of 5.  There may have been two incidents of the word “s**t,” but other than those slips, there is absolutely no vulgar language or vulgar situations. No sex, sexual situations, or references to sex. No remarkable violence – the worst is when the readers are told someone’s throat was slit without further details. 

I look forward to seeing how all of this turns out in the final installment, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that Gwen and Gideon mature a bit and that Gwen quits underestimating herself.  

Since I discussed the book covers of Ruby Red, it only seems fair to show the covers of Sapphire Blue. I think getting away from the original, stuffy look of Ruby Red was a good idea, but now it greatly resembles a Harlequin Romance/Bodice Ripper-type book. Bleck. Surely we can do better. . . 

This one is kind of eerie, mystical.
Looks like a Grimm tale.

Nope. Too silly.

Better but stuffy.


Monday, October 22, 2012


Shusterman, N. (2012). UnWholly. NY: Simon & Schuster.
YA Lit / Fiction, Dystopian, Sci-Fi, Biomedical

Thank you to Simon & Schuster for the free ARC!
I gave this book 5 out of 5 Stars on Goodreads

This was a fantastic next installment in the Unwind trilogy. Hopefully we won’t have to wait five years for the final installment, but if UnWholly is any indicator, it will be worth the wait.

The first thing I loved about this book is how Shusterman handled catching-up the readers with the first book. He had a section at the beginning titled, “And the Question Is . . .” where he used Jeopardy style answers and questions to remind readers of what happened in the first book in the series, Unwind. Very helpful, but definitely one should read the first book before jumping into the second.

Happily, we get Connor, Risa, and Lev back, along with a smattering of others from the first book. We have some new and interesting characters introduced: some bad kids (one a bad seed really; he’s got some grudges and you see why his parents wanted to unwind him); a good kid;  some bad adults (ooh, I just loathed the one bad in the name of science!), some good adults (don’t get used to them) and a “rewind” creation who is made of human parts but is he human? 

There are several storylines going at once, but it works and builds a lot of suspense and tension. Each chapter is titled by whomever is narrating. We find out more background about the war and accord that brought about unwinding, and as is often the case, the history books haven’t necessarily told the whole story. This opens up a whole new direction for the third book, though I still hope we get more information or flashbacks about the war.  

This book really makes you think about the reasoning behind things like when something continues because it’s become a staple of the economy and not because it’s a right or moral thing to do. There are so many parallels to what’s happening in our world now; we have “parts pirates” with organs being sold on the black market.  We wonder if a cure for cancer isn’t forthcoming because so many industries would bankrupt.  The books issues are ours, thinly veiled.

My Clean-O-Meter rating is a 3.5 out of 5 Stars (where a 5 is squeaky clean). This book is violent and there is a higher death count than in Unwind. Given the nature of the story, this makes sense and adds to the general feeling that we’re building up to something big and that this world is going to change again.  There might have been a random “s**t” somewhere, but language is not an issue, and there aren’t any sexual situations or references at all.

I highly recommend this series, and one of the reasons is that the first book could have stood alone, and adding this one, the two could have stood as a pair.  I am RARELY satisfied with the endings of books in a series, and the ending to UnWholly was satisfying.  Left me with plenty to ponder but not so much that I kept flipping pages after the end thinking the last pages were missing.

Here's the trailer. . . doesn't do the book justice, but does give you an inkling of one of the bad adults referenced above. Enjoy, thanks to Simon & Schuster.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Monsters of Men

Ness, P. (2010). Monsters of Men.  NY: Candlewick Press

YA Lit / Dystopian, Post-Apocolyptic
Publishers Weekly's Best Children's Books of the Year for Fiction (2010); Carnegie Medal in Literature (2011)

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars on Goodreads

This was a spectacular trilogy, and if I could do half stars, I would have given just this book 4.5 out of 5. The story and ideas and format remain original, and this third installment of Chaos Walking is a real roller coaster ride.  It gets very intense, then the intensity seems to resolve itself, and just when you’re feeling calm, you’re thrown for a loop again.  It’s like slowing to the end of the ride, when your heart stops racing and you’re beginning to recover and suddenly, you are jerked forward and going through the whole ride again.

In Monsters of Men, a third narrator voice is added, and I honestly didn’t like it.  (reason one for the 4.5) I found myself just skimming through every time this narrator came up.  I don’t think Ness could have eliminated this voice because the perspective is critical, but it just kind of bored me the way it was written.  It was probably a good thing to have that happening every so often because the rest of the book was so emotionally exhausting.  

As with the other books, there were plenty of surprises and unexpected twists – and lots of death and gore, as would be expected in battle.  Mayor Prentiss is extremely interesting in this installment. . . I just love to hate that guy.  Mistress Coyle is another character who gets even more interesting and does something very shocking and unexpected.  Actually, the Mayor does too, but I didn’t find his action as believable as Mistress Coyle’s.  Ahhh, it’s so hard to talk about this book without revealing anything. 

The second reason I made this book less than 5 out of 5 stars is the ending.  It seemed to me that perhaps the ending was done so that there would be the option of a continuation or spin-off of the series. That makes me crazy. Perhaps Ness left it the way he did so the reader could decide what happened, but I don’t like that angle.  I want a conclusion, firm and clear and it seems like most of the time, books with loose endings end up getting more sequels, and they are usually inferior.  A major character dies in Monsters of Men, and I can’t see how the series could be any good without that character in it.

As with the other two books, the Clean-O-Meter rating stays at a 3.0 – 3.5 out of 5 on the scale. It’s violent -- but it’s about war and could be way more graphic and doesn’t go there -- but there is only “substitute” swearing (for example, “effing” in lieu of the full F Bomb) and there is no sex, sexual situations, or sexual references.  It gets closer this time – there is GASP a kiss and people imagining being GASP naked with others.  (Clean-O-Meter Ratings: 1 – naughty, naughty. . . . . .5 – squeaky clean)

The trilogy’s curse is its length (over 1600 pages for the three books), and I’m afraid that will turn-off many a reader.  But if you start it, you WILL finish.