Monday, July 29, 2013

{Review} Erebos by Ursula Poznanski

 Title: Erebos
Author: Ursula Poznanski
Format: Netgalley, egalley
Publisher: Annick Press
Release date: January 19th, 2013
Date Read: July 11th
Rating: ✭✭✭✭✭
An intelligent computer game with a disturbing agenda.

When 16-year-old Nick receives a package containing the mysterious computer game Erebos, he wonders if it will explain the behavior of his classmates, who have been secretive lately. Players of the game must obey strict rules: always play alone, never talk about the game, and never tell anyone your nickname.

Curious, Nick joins the game and quickly becomes addicted. But Erebos knows a lot about the players and begins to manipulate their lives. When it sends Nick on a deadly assignment, he refuses and is banished from the game.

Now unable to play, Nick turns to a friend for help in finding out who controls the game. The two set off on a dangerous mission in which the border between reality and the virtual world begins to blur. This utterly convincing and suspenseful thriller originated in Germany, where it has become a runaway bestseller.

As someone who has wasted fruitfully spent countless hours and weekends gaming or doing things related to gaming (aka crying about how I don’t have pc Skyrim or Guild Wars 2), this book was something that I obviously had to read. I was fairly nervous about it though because I had no idea how someone could write a good book about a video game. It's not really something that is easy to write since video games are a very visual and auditory experience that can't very well be replicated on paper.

Yet, somehow, even with Erebos' shitty translator, Erebos manages to convey the feeling of playing a fantastic video game while having an amazing plot at the same time. Many chapters are from the point of view of the video game character, which makes Erebos a wholly original experience in many ways.

Like I said, one of Erebos' biggest drawbacks is the absolute awful translator. Sentences are completely weird and often, whole paragraphs don't make any sense at all. The translator is German but obviously, they don't know how to translate at all. I can't really say anything about the writing because there is a high chance that Poznanski is an amazing writer with a really sucky translator. I'll have to get my mom to read it in German one of these days so she can tell me if the writing is decent or not.

Horrible translation aside, the story is amazing. I couldn't put the book down once I picked it up. The story was incredibly engaging and entertaining. Like a good thriller, Erebos kept you guessing for much of the book. It was a bit erratic at times and it wasn't very tight but I loved it anyway.

While you don't have to be a gamer to find the concept absolutely brilliant, but it definitely helps. A game that interacts very directly with the player and adapts itself to you? How awesome is that? It's both scary and amazing. 

I am happy to say that the concept was executed brilliantly. I am still in awe of how Poznanski handled the incredibly hard subject. It had the perfect feeling to it, one that put you right into the character's shoes. I fell headfirst into the world of Erebos and I'm still not over it. I really wish I could wipe my memory of it and reread it and re-experience it.

Another flaw to the book are the characters. They lack life and energy for the most part. I never really connected with any of the characters. 

The main character, Nick, was the worst. He felt more like a filler character that was created simply because Poznanski needed a main character. He didn't really have a personality and felt like a character that you should use as, I don't know, a body for you to put your personality into? I'm not sure how to describe it but Nick didn't feel like a normal character. 

I know I've said words like perfect a lot in this review but that’s really all I can think of for the book. Overall, I’d recommend Erebos to people who either like thrillers or video games – or both. It was an awesome read that deserves lots of readers.

Lisbeth is an American teenager who enjoys blowing shit up in videogames and discussing decapitation in great detail. She's also obsessed with Oceana, but you're not supposed to know that.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

{Review} Splintered by A. G. Howard

Title: Splintered
Author: A. G. Howard
Format: Library, hardcover
Publisher: Amulet Books
Release date: January 1st, 2013
Date ReadJuly 8th
Rating: ✭✭✭✭✭
Alyssa Gardner hears the whispers of bugs and flowers—precisely the affliction that landed her mother in a mental hospital years before. This family curse stretches back to her ancestor Alice Liddell, the real-life inspiration for Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. Alyssa might be crazy, but she manages to keep it together. For now.

When her mother’s mental health takes a turn for the worse, Alyssa learns that what she thought was fiction is based in terrifying reality. The real Wonderland is a place far darker and more twisted than Lewis Carroll ever let on. There, Alyssa must pass a series of tests, including draining an ocean of Alice’s tears, waking the slumbering tea party, and subduing a vicious bandersnatch, to fix Alice’s mistakes and save her family.

She must also decide whom to trust: Jeb, her gorgeous best friend and secret crush, or the sexy but suspicious Morpheus, her guide through Wonderland, who may have dark motives of his own.

I really don't know how to tell you how much I love this book. I'm pretty much sitting here thinking "wHAT IS WORDS" even though I finished the book two days ago and should, theoretically, know how to write this review by now.

But, I don't because I'm still in a state of

and while accurate, a review consisting of keyboard smashing does not make a proper review.

Splintered is an Alice in Wonderland retelling, a type of retelling I'm not exactly a novice about. I've read many retellings, watched many retellings, and for gods' sake, I've played American McGee's Alice (which, by the way, I wholeheartedly recommend). I'm definitely not new to the genre, yet Splintered still was an entirely new experience for me.

Instead of being a traditional retelling Splintered acts more like an addition or a sequel. It didn't really retell the story we all know, nor did it have any similarities when it came to storyline. In fact, the only similarities were characters. It functioned much like an AU fanfiction with the same characters but a completely different storyline.

While I could definitely see the similarities to American McGee's Alice in the world-building and overall feel to the book, Splintered was wholly original and beautiful. If you are not familiar with McGee's Alice, it's an very odd, yet thoroughly enjoyable, horror game in which Wonderland is turned upside down and about 217% wackier than the original. Likewise, Splintered was insane and unsettling at times, yet still lyrical. It managed to retain the Alice-ness of the original book, while still being a fairly original novel.

The best part of Splintered is most definitely the world-building. The world is as disturbing and unnerving, as it is beautiful and wonderful. The descriptions are vivid and bright, making the reader feel as if they are down the rabbit hole themselves, something often absent in average Alice retellings.
The first fifty pages of Wonderland are absolutely impossible to put down because of the vivid imagery and absolute magical-ness of the whole scene. It's incredibly surreal and just, a+ your parents should be proud of you Mrs. Howard. Honor on you and your cow. 

However, Splintered wasn't entirely perfect as there was one problem, whether it is minor or major is up to you. 

The majority of the characters of Splintered are very nicely done. Alyssa is a very nice heroine - appropriately kickass but also vulnerable. She is actually pretty likable, though admittedly not amazing. Morpheus, the star of the book, is extremely likable (which may be just me because he's not exactly the good guy nor a good guy). He is awesome and insane and brilliant. 

And then, there's Jeb who's basically the one character who doesn't really fit in with the book. He's supposed to be Alyssa's human anchor to the mortal world but, to be honest, he was more of a pain than anything. Just because you're flipping gender standards and having a guy be a Mary Sue and have him be damsel distress doesn't mean it's any less annoying and stupid. Damsels in Distress are annoying no matter the sex.

Admittedly, this is only one character among four or five many. This may annoy you more or less than it annoyed me. It's a relatively minor complaint, I suppose but it still managed to annoy me and pull me from the story because all I could think was, "Are you kidding me Jeb? Dude, seriously, again?"

Overall, Splintered is an absolutely beautiful, magical read that I recommend to anyone who loves Alice in Wonderland and even to those who don't necessarily like it that much. Splintered is a fantastic book that should be read no matter what.

Lisbeth is an American teenager who enjoys blowing shit up in videogames and discussing decapitation in great detail. She's also obsessed with Oceana, but you're not supposed to know that.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

{Review} Hysteria by Megan Miranda

Title: Hysteria
Author: Megan Miranda
Format: Library, hardcover
Publisher: Walker Childrens
Release date: February 5th, 2013
Date ReadJuly 1st through 9th 2013
Rating: ✭✭
Mallory killed her boyfriend, Brian. She can't remember the details of that night but everyone knows it was self-defense, so she isn't charged. But Mallory still feels Brian's presence in her life. Is it all in her head? Or is it something more? In desperate need of a fresh start, Mallory is sent to Monroe, a fancy prep school where no one knows her . . . or anything about her past.But the feeling follows her, as do her secrets. Then, one of her new classmates turns up dead. As suspicion falls on Mallory, she must find a way to remember the details of both deadly nights so she can prove her innocence-to herself and others.

Enticed from the very first moment I saw the cover and read the blurb, I knew that I would have to read this book. A novel about a girl who murdered her boyfriend interested me a lot. Would the author be able to pull it off or will the book be one giant fail?

The answer is no, she wasn’t able to pull it off. While not a bad book per-say, Hysteria is an incredibly boring one. Neither the plot nor the characters interested me in the slightest. Hysteria was a horrible let down for me, especially since the concept was so promising.

Half the book is Mallory, the heroine, obsessing about her murdered boyfriend. I don’t mean to sound rude or inconsiderate. It's understandable that Mallory would feel horrible and lost and would think about it often. It's a natural human reaction, I suppose. 

But, the way the author wrote these pages feels so off and unnatural. It’s fine to write about a character obsessing over something. It happens all the time and there’s no problem with it.

However, when you make every page for a long time about the same topic, it gets old. I have no problem with obsessed characters but I do have problems when the writing mirrors the characters thoughts because then, the obsession takes over everything like plot and character development.

So, for the majority of the book, nothing happens at all except for boy troubles and friend troubles. Once again, there's nothing wrong with friend/boy troubles except when you're reading a book about a girl who killed her boyfriend and thinks she's going insane. Then, it's not so cool because you don't actually get to read any of the insanity. Instead we get boys, boys, mean girls, and more boys.

The author exaggerated everything about Mallory. If she was obsessing over it, the writing reflected it and there was nothing going on except for those thoughts. If Mallory was having boy problems, that little side plot was exaggerated so heavily that nothing happened except for that.

On the flip side, the beginning and end are almost worth the middle; hence my two star rating. The beginning and end is tense and awesome and full of rainbows and sparkles and brilliance. And then there's the middle of the part of the book where it all becomes boring and lacking in excitement and pretty much anything interesting. 

There were two other points of annoyance and frustration, namely the characters and the dreaded romance. These two aspects ruined any hope Hysteria had of getting a three star rating.

Mallory wasn’t a bad main character, more like an annoying one. I never really hated her but she did make me want to scream. To Mallory, nothing existed other than her and her self-loathing and her thoughts reflected that. If she only thought about anything other than how horrible she is and how much of a monster she is, she would have figured out a lot.

Aside from that though, Mallory was really empty. She had no personality outside of her issues and for much of the book; she was roughly as interesting as a bricks. The other characters were equally interesting. They had no real personality. Even important ones like the love interest or Mallory’s best friend were lifeless and forgettable.

As far as romances go, Hysteria’s wasn’t terrible. It was all but nonexistent. I can only really tell there was one because of the ending but other than that, it seemed like it mostly popped up out of nowhere.
The only thing I hate more than bad romances are needless romances. Bad romances are really annoying and frustrating because the two characters aren’t compatible. That’s bad enough, right? Well, let me you a thing.

Needless romances are ones that are out of place. Like romances that don’t actually add anything to the story but are thrown into the mix, mostly as a fan service. The fact that Mallory got a boyfriend did not add anything to the story. It did not help plot progression. It wasn’t even in there for squealy fangirly purposes because if it was, that would be fine. 

But no, it was just there and that really pissed me off.

As you can see, Hysteria wasn't really my thing. If people can handle 100+ pages of nothing, this might be your book because Hysteria would actually be really good if it weren't for those middle pages. I definitely don't recommend this book to people like me who can't sit through filler to save their lives.

Lisbeth is an American teenager who enjoys blowing shit up in videogames and discussing decapitation in great detail. She's also obsessed with Oceana, but you're not supposed to know that.