Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Skin and Bones, Smoke & Steelheart: Mini Reviews (1)

'Mini Reviews' is a new quarterly (every three months) feature where I will review books I haven't reviewed in that quarter that I know I'm not going to do a full review on so I can technically reach my old quota (inside joke for a future post) of reviewing every book I read. What's ironic is that all of these books start with the letter 'S'....maybe it's a sign, or a new aversion coming on. 

Synopsis: Sherry Shahan's SKIN AND BONES, pitched as ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST meets LOVE STORY set in an eating disorder hospital in which an aspiring ballerina and a quirky nerdboy fall desperately in love only to become each other's next deadly addiction, to Wendy McClure at Albert Whitman.

Skin and Bones: Sherry Shahan~ This was the 2nd book I have ever read off of Netgalley and being the naive blogger I was (and still am), I didn't write a review for it. I think the partial reason is that I didn't have that much to say. This sounds weird to say....but I like to read books about self-help/teen issues after someone close to me had a similar experience. The plot sounded amazing and I had never read a book before with a guy struggling with insecurity issues about his weight. The book had the potential to sneak into being one of the best contemporary novels of 2013. All I can say is that I was very dissapointed. A great majority of the plot was quite confusing and left me like: 😳. The characters were not relatable whatsoever. Jack or 'Bones' narrated the story and there was absolutely nothing prophetic about his dialogue and thoughts....or even that memorable. In a nut shell, anything that could resemble an astounding, eye opening quote was ruined by inserting overused phrases. 

"You're a survivor, not a victim." 
"Only you can exorcize your own demons." 
"Love sweeps you off your feet."

Bones's girlfriend -Alice- could have been a 'beacon of hope', or some other cliche turn of phrase. Instead she was the role model for what NOT to be. You know in sitcoms where the Grandma will point with the crook of her finger and tell the grandchild, "Now you don't want to end up like her/hi,mod you?" 

Lard (Bonss's best friend) also could have been something really special. He overrate and was overweight, which is something self-help, teen issues books don't commonly cover. 

Conclusion: Skin and Bones had heaps of potential but in order to do that, it had to be the three 'R's raw, real, and relatable. As readers we expect to be touched, not wonder what's airing on TV at that moment. We also have to have the emotions, if not the plot, be and stay true to something that could happen to anyone in our lives, any day of the week. And even though lots of popular novels nowadays are about aliens and the future, they still have characters that coincide with basic human nature, feel angry, .and are not porcelain dolls sitting on a shelf. I personally did not feel any of the 'R!s when reading.this.

Synopsis: Pattyn Von Stratten’s father is dead, and Pattyn is on the run. After far too many years of abuse at the hands of her father, and after the tragic loss of her beloved Ethan and their unborn child, Pattyn is desperate for peace. Only her sister Jackie knows what happened that night, but she is stuck at home with their mother, who clings to normalcy by allowing the truth to be covered up by their domineering community leaders. Her father might be finally gone, but without Pattyn, Jackie is desperately isolated. Alone and in disguise, Pattyn starts a new life, but is it even possible to rebuild a life when everything you’ve known has burned to ash and lies seem far safer than the truth?

Smoke: Ellen Hopkins~ I had a lot planned for this book. I wanted to do a series overview, maybe even a discussion, or a playlist. What happened was my review slump. Anyway, Ellen Hopkims rights about the 'hard stuff', people will love or hate her books depending on their personal experiences, understanding, and maturity. I remember reading 'Burned' and thinking it wasn't quite as Powerfuk as 'Crank' or 'Identical'. I also think that her books make such an impact by themselves....that they don't need a sequel to continue a characters story. Smoke took me a long time to read, I'm talking about SIX days. For those of you that don't know, Ellen Hopkins writes in verse, so her word-count of 550 page novels is probably the same of a 200 page book. Smoke seemed so ordinary to me, like any other book I would pick up off the library bookshelves, not like the wonderful works of art I have had pleasure of reading before by an author that has earned my respect.
Smoke was also written in dual-POV instead of just first person like 'Burned' was. We got glimpses of who Pattyn's sister Jackie was. I don't think that was needed. We already got to know and see Pattyn grow up into a strong young woman that could think for herself and didn't need a husband or LDS community telling her what to do (not that there's anything wrong with them). I feel that Jackie's narration was there solely for the purpose of letting us know what was going on at home. To make us feel glad that Pattyn had escaped from the horribleness she left behind, to remind us why killed her father.
Pattyn sets off into the world as a criminal to try and make a new life for herself. She becomes a sort of maid in a rich Californian household and develops relationships with Hispanics that spend hours in the fields and crops (a type of Esperanza Rising scenario).

Conclusion: This is not eloquent at all but basically, stuff happens, love is discovered again, people learn to depend on others, secrets and horrifying truths are revealed. This sounds like a cross between a cheery Christmas movie and bad reality television, yet that is the significance Smoke has to the main character's threads. 

Synopsis: There are no heroes.

Ten years ago, Calamity came. It was a burst in the sky that gave ordinary men and women extraordinary powers. The awed public started calling them Epics.

But Epics are no friend of man. With incredible gifts came the desire to rule. And to rule man you must crush his wills.

Nobody fights the Epics... nobody but the Reckoners. A shadowy group of ordinary humans, they spend their lives studying Epics, finding their weaknesses, and then assassinating them.

And David wants in. He wants Steelheart—the Epic who is said to be invincible. The Epic who killed David's father. For years, like the Reckoners, David's been studying, and planning—and he has something they need. Not an object, but an experience.

He's seen Steelheart bleed. And he wants revenge.

Steelheart: Brandon Sanderson~ I remember reading this book and thinking, "I have a heck of a lot to say about this and I have no idea where to start." That no-idea-where-to-start issue is the reason that I never talked about Steelheart in a full-length review. Anyway, I did not like this all. That is simply pretty much (so articulate)
all I can say about this. Point-blank, I had considered multiple times making this a DNF. The story, although you would think that it would be fast-paced and thrilling went achingly slow for me.

David was like a super geeky nerd when it came to the Reckoners and the Epics on the same level that I am with the Legend Trilogy. I mean, as the readers, we find out that he has several notebooks full of information on them and has dedicated his life to trying to find their weaknesses and defeat them. He has seen Steelheart bleed because his father shot him with a gun. And David wants to see Steelheart bleed again.

Bla bla bla. David wants revenge. Bla bla bla. No one is willing to give him a chance and then he accuses the Reckoners of being cowards. Bla bla bla.....well you get the idea.

“I've seen Steelheart bleed.And I will see him bleed again.” I know I'm being judgemental, but this quote is so cliche.

Random Quirk: David can't use metaphors. Most of the time, an author sneaks subtle humor into their novels and Brandon Sanderson does it by David having the inability to come up with a good metaphor....or even a socially adequate one. I wish I had written this review right after I finished the book and still had the book in my possession, but I don't so all you can settle for are some Goodreads quotes.

“They looked so dangerous, like alligators. Really fast alligators wearing black. Ninja alligators. I decided not to use that one on Megan.” Just one example of David's metaphors.

The strangest part about this is that I want to read the sequel because of the last  20 pages. That's right, the book has 386 pages, on page 350 I still wasn't enjoying the book. I remember reading on somebodies blog post that they would peak ahead to the last chapter/20 pages to see if there was anything worth reading -and if there was- then continued reading to see how the plot had built up to that. The ending was spectacular and caught me waaay off guard. All I can say is #plottwist because that is truly what happened and I had and would never have guessed in a million years that the story would end the way it did.

The last thing I would like to say (that I did in fact tell @codesandwrites @The_Book-Lander @MmalalcalaS) is that the premise sounded amazing, and Steelheart is the type of book I would normally fall in love with. I know this review sounds negative but I would like it to be known that I think that others would call this one of their best books of [insert year here], but it just didn't work for me and that's my personal opinion.

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