Saturday, February 01, 2014

2013 - The Lost Cannonball Year, Part I

As I mentioned in my previous post, I wasn't able to do book reviews last year like I had planned, but I still read many books.

So, as part of getting organized for Cannonball 6 , here are short ratings of some of the books I read in 2013.

1. Sweep Series Books 1-15 (also known as The Wicca Series in some countries) by Cate Tiernan (audiobooks and ebooks)

Sweep: Book of Shadows by Cate Tiernan cover
I started this series in 2012 with the audiobooks (for the first couple or so) and then continued with the ebooks in 2013 to finish the whole 15 book series.  The audiobooks really set things up well for defining the characters and I continued to keep that voice in my head while reading the later books.   I'm not quite sure it would have been quite so good without those at the beginning.

These books were short on description and vocabulary, but were fun, quick reads.  For me, they blur together more like really long chapters, rather than completely separate books.  They combined the usual teen issues of fitting in and sexuality with discovering your own identity and abilities - in this case, some paranormal ones.  I liked that as the main character was discovering her witch heritage, her Catholic parents were not made out to be stereotypically stupid or rigid, nor the teenager overly rebelious and disrespectful.  It is a loving family.  And likewise, the lesbian aunt isn't the stereotypical "gay", but rather just part of the family. 

Book #7, The Calling was the weak one out of the group and really was just a set up for Book #8, Changeling.  But, I still recommend that you read them all, and in order, to fully appreciate the story.

I was sorry that they ended when they did, but glad that the last book Night's Child jumps ahead into the future to give a bit of closure...but I still would have liked more.

4 stars for the series as a whole

- x - 

2. Virals and Seizure by Kathy Reiches (audiobooks)

Virals by Kathy Reichs cover
These are Books #1 and #2 of a juvenile/young adult series about Tory Brennan who is niece of the forensic anthropologist Temperance Brennan from Kathy's more adult books, her Temperance Brennan (Bones) series.

I haven't yet read any of the Bones series to compare how Kathy's style translates to a younger audience level.  Overall, they were OK.  I liked the first book better, although both got a little repetitive and fell back on the over-used idea that teens never learn and will keep doing the same thing to get into the same trouble.  Some parts were a bit too corny for my taste too and I thought that Seizure tried too hard to get into a popular theme (pirates), rather than focusing on the uniqueness of the characters.

As an audiobook, at least the first one included one of the few really good uses for sound effects that I have heard.  All too often, they are just a distraction when in an audiobook. (I think it might have been dropped for the 2nd one - I can't remember now.)

3 stars for Virals; 2 stars for Seizure

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Catching Up 2012 (what I meant to do early 2013)

OK, so as you can tell, 2013 didn't go so well for the book review thing.  Grrr.  It turned out that I didn't have access to a laptop for most of the year, so in the limited times when I did, I had too many other things to catch up on even though I read many books.

I will try to get back into things now with Cannonball 6 .  I've signed up for a half-cannonball (26 reviews).

But first, so my mind, and some rough notes are cleared, I will give a short rating to some of the books I can still remember from 2012 and 2013 that I didn't get to.  Some of the best ones, I will leave and hope to do a quick re-read this year to do a proper review.

From my 2012 list:

1.  Matched and Crossed (Matched Trilogy books 1 and 2) by Ally Condie (audiobooks)

Matched by Ally Condie, CD coverI listened to these after The Book Hoarding Dragon's review of Matched piqued my interest.  I was not disappointed.  I liked how Matched started out looking like a utopia vs. something like The Hunger Games.  It made the conflict between safety and freedom more thought-provoking and relevant for today's world.  So, mixed with the universal themes of young unrequited and forbidden love, there were more compelling ideas about rebellion and the importance of language and creativity needed to even form and communicate those ideas.

By the time we get to Crossed, we see the situation for the full dystopia, it really is.  I didn't like it quite as much as Matched, but still enjoyed it and want to read the conclusion.  (still waiting to see if my library will get the audiobook in)

5 stars to Matched; 4 stars to Crossed 

- x -

2.  The Scarecrow and His Servant and The Firework-Maker's Daughter by Philip Pullman (audiobooks)

The Scarecrow and His Servant by Philip Pullman, audio cover
I'm only putting these together because they are shorter (juvenile) books by Philip Pullman.  Very enjoyable with some good humour and, like his famous His Dark Materials Trilogy some good role-reversals and twists.  I especially liked the scarecrow character.

4 stars to both

- x -

3.  Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt (audiobook)

I hadn't read this before and only saw the 2002 movie trailers which looked like a paranormal teen romance.  This wasn't like that