Monday, August 26, 2013

Review: The Panopticon by Jenni Fagan

The PanopticonThe Panopticon by Jenni Fagan
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

This is another book that the premise sounds RIGHT up my alley - foster care, social work, coming of age, etc. All of those are things that I tend to gravitate to for so many reasons.

Although I was never bored while reading this one, I also never really found myself to be truly engaged in the novel. I was certainly disturbed by the content (it's definitely dark) and felt an overwhelming sense of sadness at the injustice so prevalent in this novel. But, I didn't find myself compelled by it. I just never connected with it for some reason.

The characters were definitely well written and striking. I found the characterization to be the most outstanding aspect of the novel and that is likely what kept me reading. I didn't love the plot - and found a number of holes in it that I had a hard time overlooking. There were aspects of the plot that were alluded to but never really given any substance which I think was a bit of a letdown.

Jenni Fagan is obviously a good writer. There were several scenes that came so alive to me that they made me a bit sick to my stomach due to the intensity of the events being described. She certainly has a way with language and in describing events. Although I was initially taken aback by the dialect of the novel, I got used to that over time.

All in all, this novel didn't wow me as I'd hoped but it has outstanding characterization and says something pretty important about social injustice and child welfare. But, be warned ... this is a very dark novel. One that has quite a bit of dark and twisty content which might not work if you're weary of such things.

** NOTE: This book was provided to me by the publisher for review.

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Saturday, August 24, 2013

Review: The Returned by Jason Mott

The ReturnedThe Returned by Jason Mott
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I really, really wanted to love this but it just fell flat for me. This was one of the books I brought back from BEA that I could not wait to read ... the concept/premise was outstanding but the execution was less than great. I was hoping for something more in the speculative fiction vein but it was much more of a story of contemplation. I had a hard time buying that there wasn't much concern around what was happening but rather they focused on the WHY behind their returning. I just didn't find that to be realistic. The lack of any exploration of what might be occurring just didn't satisfy me as a reader.

I found the characters to be particularly cardboard and one dimensional in this novel. I just never felt that they came alive in any way, shape or form. And, it makes it difficult to care what happens to any of them if they never feel 'real.'

This was one of those books that I had to push myself to finish. I could have easily walked away in the middle but hoped it would improve. Unfortunately, it never came together for me. What a shame! It's always sad when a book doesn't meet its potential!

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Monday, August 5, 2013

Review: And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini

And the Mountains EchoedAnd the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I am actually quite sad to be writing this review because I had such high expectations of this book ... I LOVED his first two novels. LOVED. Like Holy Grail LOVED. But, this one just fell flat for me. It certainly didn't meet my expectations and it was a disappointment in comparison to his first two novels. It appears that most readers seem to love it so take my review with that in mind. Most readers seem to have felt differently from me about this one.

My primary issue with this novel is how disjointed it felt to me. I never really connected with the characters or the story because I felt off kilter the entire time that I was reading. Although Hosseini is a great writer - and the writing here is very good, the story here just never came together for me. It felt very much like a series of interweaving stories but they never really came together as one story which appears to be what Hosseini intended. As a result of the disjointed feeling that I got from the story, I truly never connected with the story or the characters. The emotional intensity that I love in both of his earlier novels was missing here for me.

Despite my disappointment, I do think its a good novel and worth the read. Perhaps if you go in with lower expectations than me, you'll enjoy it more. It's never fun to not love a novel written by someone who has always produced fiction that you love but I'm still glad that I read this one ... I just wish it had come together a bit better for me!

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Saturday, August 3, 2013

Review: Daughter of Smoke & Bone by Laini Taylor

Daughter of Smoke & Bone (Daughter of Smoke & Bone #1)Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor
My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I had no idea what this one was about when I went into it. Beyond the fact that so many of my bookish friends loved it, I didn't have any context for the story or anything else. I was pleasantly surprised by this one. It's a very well written novel that creates a world and characters that blew me away! It took me a bit of time to really get engaged in the story and the world that Laini Taylor builds here but once I did ... wow! It was fantastic!

The first half of the novel was particularly strong. There comes a point where the narration changes and that interrupted some of the momentum for me but I was able to overlook that fact since the story itself was so compelling. I loved how unique and original the story is in this novel especially given the fact that the genre has been flooded with similar(ish) novels. I think this may be one of the best of these types of novels that I've read in a long time!

The beautiful, lyrical writing combined with compelling characters really made this one stand out for me. There really was magic in this novel. It's by no means a perfect novel but it's strengths outweigh its weaknesses for me. The world building was so well done that I really felt like I was dropped into another world while reading this one.

I highly recommend this to those who enjoy YA and those who just enjoy good storytelling and world building! This is a great read and I can't wait to sink my teeth into the second in the series!

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