Review: Unthinkable

Shirley Duke

Reading level: Young Adult
Paperback: 106 pages
Publisher: Lerner Classroom (August 2010)
ISBN-10: 076136157X
ISBN-13: 978-0761361572
Source: NetGalley

Amazon summary: Omar Phillips is Bridgewater High's favorite local teen author. His Facebook fans can't wait for his next horror story. But lately Omar's imagination has turned against him. Horrifying visions of death and destruction come over him with wide-screen intensity. The only way to stop the visions is to write them down. Until they start coming true... Enter Sophie Minax, the mysterious Goth girl who's been following Omar at school. "I'm one of you," Sophie says. She tells Omar how to end the visions but the only thing worse than Sophie's cure may be what happens if he ignores it.

My review: There won't be much to this review, I'm afraid. The Amazon summary tells you everything about the book. There wasn't much more to it than that. I was very disappointed with the hour I spent reading this book. It felt like a waste in the end.

Why do I have such negative feelings for this book? That's easy... It shouldn't be called a book (for starters). It was more like a long short story. The characters were boring-- no development at all. I couldn't relate to anyone. In fact, they didn't even seem real. It felt like I was reading fictional people. No personality, no depth. (sigh) On top of that, the plot was too predictable. After the first killing you knew exactly what was going to happen.

I gave the story 2 stars because the idea was unique, but that was it. I would not buy a paper copy of this book.

Blog Hop and Follow Friday (8)

Book Blogger Hop

This week's question comes from Mina who blogs at Mina Burrows:

"If you could physically put yourself into a book or series…which one would it be and why?"

I can't think of which book I would want to be in, but I can think of a book that I would not want to be in: Diary of a Wimpy Kid. Although I think the books are hysterical, I would hate to relive middle school. Could you imagine? OMG... No thank you.  

This week's question comes from Rebecca at Confessions of a Page Turner: Give us five BOOK RELATED silly facts about you.

1. I love fairy tales. I read anything and everything fairy tale related.

2. I've loved mermaids since I was little. My first book series that I read was Disney's Little Mermaid chapter books. I loved them! I would fantasize about being a mermaid. Even to this day I love mermaids. It's very girly, I know.

3. I would spend my mortgage money on books. Well, most of it anyway. =) I would certainly go without food for books. I can't seem to get the rest of the family on board, though.

4. I want to write a book someday. I work with middle school children, so it would probably be a YA novel of some sort. Too many ideas jumping around, however, to make any sense. Being in the classroom gives me plenty of material to work with... some of it would be an absolute riot.   

5. I have way too many books sitting on my bookshelves. Since I teach, I collect books. I even dream about books sometimes! 

6. I'm going to add one more... My favorite books are: The Little Prince, The Littlest Angel, Lord of the Flies, Picture of Dorian Grey, The Bluest Eye, Jude the Obscure, Adam Bede, Fairest, Whirligig, Speak, Twisted, and Breathing Underwater. Well, just to name a few anyway. It's hard for book lovers to limit themselves to just one or two "favorite" books.  

Review: The Gardener

The Gardener
S. A. Bodeen

Genre: YA, science-fiction

Paperback: 256 pages
Publisher: Square Fish (March 1, 2011)
ISBN-10: 0312659423
ISBN-13: 978-0312659424

Mary, Mary quite contrary, how does your garden grow? With silver bells and cockle shells, and people all in a row. Not exactly the nursery rhyme that we remember from our childhood, right? In S.A. Bodeen’s The Gardener, this is exactly the type of garden found inside of The Greenhouse at TroDyn Labs.

The story begins when Mason, the protagonist in the story, is attacked by the neighbor’s dog while waiting for the school bus, leaving his face disfigured. To soothe him, his mother pulls out a DVD of a man reading the children’s book The Runaway Bunny. The voice on the DVD belongs to his father. Throughout his life Mason wonders who his father is, but he never finds any new information. The only reminder of his dad is the DVD that he carries with him. When Mason visits his mother at her job, he discovers that she is the care-taker for a group of catatonic teenagers. His is mesmerized by one girl’s beauty and lack of response. Disturbed by recent events, he puts the DVD in to the DVD player only to find that his favorite part of the book is a trigger to waken the girl from her sleep state.

From there, Mason “rescues” the girl and begins his quest to discover her identity. However, the girl isn’t much help because she can’t remember anything about her life or how to perform basic functions (i.e. eating, changing clothes). The rescue seems fairly simple until the girl awakens in the middle of the night with a nightmare about a gardener, and then senses people lurking outside of the cabin that they are hiding in. So begins the game of hide and seek. Eventually, Mason meets an ex-TroDyn scientist at a book signing. The scientist, Dr. Emerson instantly recognizes the girl as Laila, an experiment on sustainability conducted by the lab.

The discovery of Laila’s identity does not bring the sense of peace that Mason hoped for. Instead, he finds himself face to face with a disturbing discovery. TroDyn is conducting research on alternate forms of sustainability, but they are using humans as the test subjects! “The Greenhouse” isn’t for growing plants and alternate food sources; it is for growing a genetically altered race of humans. Stranger still, the “Gardener” responsible for the experiments seems to know a lot more about Mason than he feels comfortable with.

After finishing this book, I had mixed feelings. The final 30 pages or so were pretty intense (and highly disturbing). Throughout the book I followed along with Mason and Laila as they tried to solve the mystery of Laila’s identity. For the most part I followed the twists and turns, but it seemed like the loose ends found too neat of an ending. As soon as Mason met Dr. Emerson all of his questions were answered. It only took about three pages. That was disappointing. There seemed to be a huge build up to who (or what) Laila was, and then poof, the mystery was solved. I would have liked to see Mason struggle with his hero complex a little more. More chase scenes would have been nice too. The TroDyn workers gave up too easily after the near miss at the cabin. I felt that if Laila was such a valuable commodity, there should at least be a valid chase. Alas, there was not.

On a positive note, however, the concept of the book was something straight out of a Hollywood horror film. The thought of scientists growing people to be a genetically altered race of humans was disturbing (to say the least). Some of the concepts seemed a little far-fetched, but the premise behind the experiments made sense. Producing a group of humans that could make their own nutrients from the sun (like plants) would solve the problem of diminishing natural resources and wide spread famine—both of which are actual problems that we face. It was certainly a unique solution to a viable problem. Also, I enjoyed some of the characters in the book. Although it seemed likely to sympathize with Mason and Laila, they really didn’t move me. I didn’t feel much for them one way or another. In fact, I felt neutral. However, I did respond to Eve and the Gardener—two of the most disturbing characters I have ever read about.

I find it very ironic that Eve has the name that she does. She certainly does not invoke the image of the Eve that first came to my mind. This Eve is pure evil. She manipulates situations, lies, tries to kill people, and even donated her own child to the research for a chance at immortality! Not exactly the Biblical image I associate Eve with. The author does a good job of showing her as a cold, uncaring person. Upon the first encounter with her that is exactly the feeling that I got. In contrast, the Gardener was pitiful. Throughout the book you are made to think that the Gardener is a horrible monster. When I finally met his character, I found myself feeling pity for him. He seemed weak and lonely, but at the same time compassionate. After all, his experiment started as a way to eliminate starvation because he was once a child who suffered the effects of famine in a third-world country.

Overall, I enjoyed this book. I don’t tend to enjoy science-fiction, but this was a surprisingly good read for me. The book’s originality earns an A+ for concept, but the characters waiver between mediocre and lackluster for me. The plot moved quickly enough to make it an easy read, but it seemed underdeveloped at times. I ended up giving it a 3 ½ since it did make me think about the positive and negative of scientific advancements and the tendency to exploit discoveries for personal gain. If there ends up being a sequel to this book I would read it, just to see what happens to Laila when she stabilizes.

Review: Princess Callie and the Totally Amazing Talking Tiara

 Princess Callie and the Totally Amazing Talking Tiara
Daisy Piper

Format: Kindle Edition (my version from Smashwords)

File Size: 379 KB
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services
Copy for review generously provided by the author; read on my Sony e-reader

Callie Richards has had an ordinary life. That is, until her twelfth birthday. When she was younger, her mother died in a tragic car accident, leaving Callie and her father behind. Even though she has had to live without a mother, Callie has had a good life. She is surrounded by love from her father and her best friend, Lewis. The only person that seems to hate her is the class bully, Wanda.

Wanda is horribly jealous of Callie, and seems to have made it her personal mission to make Callie’s life miserable. When Callie receives a mysterious gift at school for her birthday, Wanda’s jealousy reaches a new height. She eavesdrops on Callie and Lewis while they gaze at the beautiful necklace Callie has received, and discovers that Callie and Lewis are about to embark on a grand adventure. Later that night, she follows Callie and Lewis into a secret tunnel that acts as a magical portal to a new world. Wanda is tired of being unloved and overlooked; she is determined to make a name for herself… no matter the cost.

When the trio reaches the other side of the cave, Wanda has disappeared. Callie and Lewis begin their adventures within the walls of Albion’s palace. While she is there, Callie learns that she is a princess—and the rightful heir to the throne—of the kingdom. Stranger yet, the Queen is her grandmother! All of the news is exciting; except for the part that names Callie as the sole defender of the kingdom against the evil Raven Queen. Armed with her new (and often uncontrolled) magical powers, her best friend Lewis (the newly appointed Royal Advisor), and a nearsighted dragon, Callie sets off to defeat the Raven Queen and save the kingdom of Albion.

I really enjoyed reading this book. It was a very original fairy tale, full of action and mystery. The lovely red-haired Callie is a charming protagonist. She doubts herself and is self-conscious (like most twelve year old girls I know), but she discovers her inner strength. She’s intelligent and caring, which shows when she refuses to abandon her nearly blind dragon. Callie even feels concern for the seething and conniving Wanda, the classroom bully that makes Callie’s life miserable. Another one of my favorite characters is Lewis, Callie’s best friend. Lewis is a nerd, but he’s a lovable nerd. He’s also completely smitten with Callie. You can picture the look of pure admiration on his face when he speaks to Callie. He’s charming, loves reading (How could you not love this character?), is a science guru, and constantly encourages Callie when she doubts herself. In short, he’s the perfect compliment to the young princess. Unfortunately, the other characters were a little less lovable. I never really felt a connection to them. I did, however, sympathize with Wanda. The beginning of the book gave a vivid description of what it would be like to live in her shoes, and I couldn’t help but feel sorry for the girl. She has such a lonely life. It was easy to see how she fell under the Raven Queen’s spell, and why she spent so much time hating Callie.

The setting of this story was also very unique. I loved that the “Land of Ur” was what the people of Albion called Earth. I also found it delightful that the light source in Albion came from Sweetbugs (ornery lightning bugs). I chuckled every time Lewis had to flatter the spiteful little creatures in order to get light in his lantern. You could tell that there was a lot of detail that went in to making this setting original. For example, the foods ate during the Royal banquet were full of strange delicacies that made Callie and Lewis turn green around the gills. When they asked for a hamburger to eat, the Royal Chef brought them an entire family of Hamburgers to choose from. I couldn’t help but appreciate the humor in the situation. There were many details that added to the originality of this story, but it would take me pages to explain them all. Every little detail in this book was well thought out—no loop holes or missing pieces to be found.

Another plus, was the fast paced plot. In the beginning of the book it seemed a little slow to take off, but once you discover Wanda eavesdropping on Callie and Lewis, the story takes off. It is all sorts of twists and turns from that point forward. Every time I thought I had figured out the next major event, a twist was thrown in. I must say, I do love a good twist in the plot of a book! There were plenty of action scenes to satisfy my advenure story loving side. Some of the characters were outright diabolical, which kept things fresh. There seemed to be a new conflict always brewing in the background.

Basically, if I had a little girl I would buy this book for her, even if it had to sit on her bookshelf until she was old enough to read it. I enjoyed every page! I wouldn’t consider this YA material. Many older readers might consider it too juvenile. However, it fits nicely in the middle grades genre. Any girl between the ages of 10-13 would enjoy this book. Or, if you’re like me, any adult that appreciates a good fairy tale would also enjoy this book.

In My Mailbox (5)

In My Mailbox is a weekly book meme started by The Story Siren.

This week was a good week for free books.(Yay!)

Books I Won:

I won a copy of Banana Kiss from a fellow blogger's contest (blkosiner's book blog). I also won Jesus Potter Harry Christ from a Goodreads contest. I did, however, pass this book on to my dad since my shelf space is getting limited (again). His excitement over a new book makes it pretty obvious who I take after.

Jesus Potter Harry Christ: The Fascinating Parallels Between Two of the World's Most Popular Literary CharactersBanana Kiss

For Review:

The Dark City #1 (Relic Master)I received a copy in the mail of Relic Master: The Dark City  by Catherine Fisher from the publisher. This will be my next book to read. It looks really good! I also like that the remaining books in the series are set to hit the shelves over the next four months-- one book per month. I hate waiting for books to be released when I find a series that I like. I have zero patience.  

Princess Callie and the Totally Amazing Talking Tiara (Callie Chronicles)I also received an e-book of Princess Callie and the Totally Amazing Talking Tiara . It's a mouthful, I know! The review is coming of this book because it was just too cute. I really enjoyed it.

Books I Bought:

Ok, I admitI have a problem. I can't stop buying books. At least these were from a store and not off Ebay this time. (sigh) I picked up Once a Witch by Carolyn MacCullough and The Graveyard Book  by Neil Gaiman. Both of these books look great. I hate to put them at the end of my TBR shelf. (I'm working on shelf #2 at the moment.)

The Graveyard BookOnce a Witch

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