January 29, 2014

Review: The Eye of Minds by Jame Dashner

Earlier this week I finished The Eye of Minds by James Dashner. I'm a huge fan of Dashner's Maze Runner series so when I saw he had started another series, I eagerly snatched the book up at the library. I had high hopes for this novel because I know Dashner is a good author and the summary sounded promising. Unfortunately, I didn't enjoy this book nearly as much as I hoped I would. Read on for my full review.

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/16279856-the-eye-of-mindsMichael is a gamer. And like most gamers, he almost spends more time on the VirtNet than in the actual world. The VirtNet offers total mind and body immersion, and it’s addictive. Thanks to technology, anyone with enough money can experience fantasy worlds, risk their life without the chance of death, or just hang around with Virt-friends. And the more hacking skills you have, the more fun. Why bother following the rules when most of them are dumb, anyway?
But some rules were made for a reason. Some technology is too dangerous to fool with. And recent reports claim that one gamer is going beyond what any gamer has done before: he’s holding players hostage inside the VirtNet. The effects are horrific—the hostages have all been declared brain-dead. Yet the gamer’s motives are a mystery.
The government knows that to catch a hacker, you need a hacker.
And they’ve been watching Michael. They want him on their team.
But the risk is enormous. If he accepts their challenge, Michael will need to go off the VirtNet grid. There are back alleys and corners in the system human eyes have never seen and predators he can’t even fathom—and there’s the possibility that the line between game and reality will be blurred forever.
My summary: This book is set in the far future where everyone spends as much time as possible on the VirtNet. You access the VirtNet by laying in your "Coffin"- so named for its shape and how you lay inside it. The coffin then inserts metal wires into your skin and you're off to the VirtNet to experience real life- only realer. Through VirtNet you can enter a variety of games- the typical fight zombies, shoot laser beams, go on epic adventures kind of games. But the most popular aspect of VirtNet isn't the adventures but the ability to experience real life online. You can shop, eat, and hang out with friends in the VirtNet. The books begins with our hero Michael hearing some of the villain's exploits for the first time. The next day, Michael is approached by VirtNet security and is quickly entrusted with a state secret and the mission to find the villian in the VirtNet. Michael brings his friends in for the mission and so starts a dangerous, fast-paced adventure to stop a madman.

My opinion on this book:
This book was way too fast-paced for me to truly enjoyed it. In the Maze Runner series it made sense for the reader to discover the world quickly along with the narrator but this kind of fast-paced world building doesn't work for this book.

I wish we could have been introduced to the VirtNet and the culture of the world before all the action began. It also seemed a little rushed that Michael hears of the villain and the next thing anyone knows, he's being threatened by the VirtNet security to find the bad guy. The way the security team approached Michael was unbelievable. The security team basically kidnaps a 16 year old, threatens him and his family, and then entrusts him with a state secret after he promises not to tell? And then sends the 16 year old off on a dangerous mission with only a "We'll be watching. Your friends can help if they want to." It's not believable. It's not even believable in the "It's a weird culture in the future" kind of way. The adventure is strong and interesting and because it was such a fast read it held my attention but some aspects are just too unbelievable to be entertaining.

The hero of this book felt rather two-dimensional to me as well. It seems like all he cares about is reaching a new level in the VirtNet and he feels really self-absorbed to me. He doesn't notice for days that his nanny has been kidnapped? killed? misplaced? He is approached by VirtNet for his amazing hacker abilities but we actually see his two friends do more of the hacking than he does. The characters just all felt two-dimensional and I can't say there was a character I truly cared about in this book.

The ending was over quickly and to be honest, I was a little confused over what was going on. I didn't know what Michael was doing or why he was doing it. The whole ending was just wrong to me. There was a plot twist revealed in the end of the book that seemed to be a bit of a stretch for the reader to believe.

Overall, I just did not care for this book. I hate giving negative reviews but there were too many issues for me to overlook. I loved Dashner's Maze Runner series but it seemed like he tried to recreate the action in a different setting and it didn't work. This was a book that required more world building and character development. I understand that some books require a suspension of reality but parts of this book were just too unbelievable to be accepted. It was an interesting idea but definitely could have been executed better.

On a positive note, the book was fast and hopefully the plot will encourage more teenage males to read. The idea of the VirtNet is quite interesting.

I have read several positive reviews of this book and it has a high rating on Goodreads so please be aware, this could be my personal issues with this book and you may love it to pieces. I cannot in good conscious recommend this book because I didn't enjoy it but if the plot sound interesting to you and you are willing to overlook the above issues with it, don't let my review keep you from trying this book. I am also fully aware that I may have had too high expectations for this book as I am a huge fan of the author's Maze Runner series. I knew the author was capable of greatness so I held him to that standard.  If I pick up the sequel it will be out of curiosity, not any real excitement to continue this series.

In the end, it is up to each individual reader to form their opinion about a book.That doesn't mean book reviews are useless. It is more a matter of finding a reviewer who seems to have the same opinions on books you do and taking every review with a grain of salt. It also means listening to the issues people have with books and asking yourself if it's something that will bother you or if you're willing to overlook it. If you are just looking for a fast-paced adventure novel set in a high tech world- this book may be just what you're looking for. If you're looking for a solid futuristic read with a world you can explore and immerse yourself in, I would not recommend this book.

Have you read Eye of Minds? What did you think of it? What do you think of negative reviews? Should a blog post a negative review or only write reviews of books that the reader enjoyed? How much world building do you need to enjoy a futuristic book? Leave me a comment and let me know!

January 28, 2014

Teaser Tuesday/First Chapter, First Paragraph Tuesday Intros/Top Ten Tuesday


There are so many awesome memes happening on Tuesdays that I couldn't pick just one. This post is a combination of Teaser Tuesday hosted by Should Be Reading, First Chapter, First Paragraph intro hosted by Bibliophile By The Sea, and Top Ten Tuesday hosted by Broke and Bookish



First is Teaser Tuesday hosted by Should Be Reading. For this meme simply grab your current read, flip to a random page, and share 2 non-spoiler teaser sentences from that page! For my Teaser Tuesday, I'll be posting from a book that I got from the library yesterday- Between Shades of Gray by Ruda Sepetys.

Lina is just like any other fifteen-year-old Lithuanian girl in 1941. She paints, she draws, she gets crushes on boys. Until one night when Soviet officers barge into her home, tearing her family from the comfortable life they've known. Separated from her father, forced onto a crowded and dirty train car, Lina, her mother, and her young brother slowly make their way north, crossing the Arctic Circle, to a work camp in the coldest reaches of Siberia. Here they are forced, under Stalin's orders, to dig for beets and fight for their lives under the cruelest of conditions.

Lina finds solace in her art, meticulously--and at great risk--documenting events by drawing, hoping these messages will make their way to her father's prison camp to let him know they are still alive. It is a long and harrowing journey, spanning years and covering 6,500 miles, but it is through incredible strength, love, and hope that Lina ultimately survives. Between Shades of Gray is a novel that will steal your breath and capture your heart.

I flipped to page 92 to see:
"Lina," said Mother. "This is serious. The Soviets could arrest you if they saw your drawing."
and
"Is that what you want?" he finally asked. "To blow up the Soviets?" 

For my First Chapter, First Paragraph where you share the first paragraph of a book you're reading or will be reading soon, I picked Crewel by Gennifer Albin.

Incapable. Awkward. Artless.

That’s what the other girls whisper behind her back. But sixteen-year-old Adelice Lewys has a secret: She wants to fail.

Gifted with the ability to weave time with matter, she’s exactly what the Guild is looking for, and in the world of Arras, being chosen to work the looms is everything a girl could want. It means privilege, eternal beauty, and being something other than a secretary. It also means the power to manipulate the very fabric of reality. But if controlling what people eat, where they live, and how many children they have is the price of having it all, Adelice isn’t interested.

Not that her feelings matter, because she slipped and used her hidden talent for a moment. Now she has one hour to eat her mom’s overcooked pot roast. One hour to listen to her sister’s academy gossip and laugh at her dad’s jokes. One hour to pretend everything’s okay. And one hour to escape.

Because tonight, they’ll come for her.

The first paragraph of the intro is:
They came in the night. Once, families fought them, neighbors coming to their aid. But now that peace has been established, and the looms proven, girls pray to be retrieved. They still come at night, but now it's to avoid the masses with eager hands. It's a blessing to touch a Spinster as she passes. That's what they tell us. 

The question for this week's Top Ten Tuesday is:
"Top Ten Worlds I'd Never Want To Live In" 
This is an interesting question because usually when we read books we want to pretend we're in that world. But there are some books that I'm just grateful I'm not in their shoes! In no particular order, the worlds I'd hate to live in are:




  • Panem from the Hunger Games series
  • America from Steelheart
  • America from Delirium
  • America from Maze Runner series
  • America from The Selection
  • America from The Chemical Garden series
  • America from All These Things I've Done
  • America from The Razorland
  • America from The Partials Sequence
  • The Uglies Trilogy
  • All of my top ten feature a future that leaves something to be desired. They are all awesome reads but a horrible way to live.
    That's the end of my teaser, first chapter intro, and top tens list. Do you participate in any memes? Do you like reading about them? What do you think about the teasers I posted? Do you prefer reading a random page in a book or the first paragraph when you're looking at a book to read? Would you keep reading based off that intro? What book world would you hate to live in? Leave me a comment and let me know!

    January 26, 2014

    Review: Plague Town by Dana Fredsti

    My first book of the year was Plague Town by Dana Fredsti. This was a fast paced, fun zombie book that I laughed out loud to. Read on for my full review. 


    Synopsis: Ashley was just trying to get through a tough day when the world turned upside down.

    A terrifying virus appears, quickly becoming a pandemic that leaves its victims, not dead, but far worse. Attacked by zombies, Ashley discovers that she is a 'Wild-Card' -- immune to the virus -- and she is recruited to fight back and try to control the outbreak. 

    It's Buffy meets the Walking Dead in a rapid-fire zombie adventure!

    My summary: Ashley was living a normal life - trying to get over the flu, dealing with an impossible teacher's aid, and  homework until a midnight picnic with her boyfriend adds zombies to the mix. This story follows Ashley as she realizes she is immune to the virus that has taken over friends and classmates and trains with her fellow immunes to fight back against the zombies.

    What I liked: This was a really fun, fast-paced read with lots of action. Ashley was a fun narrator and I was cheering for her all along. She is a funny, sarcastic, kick-butt heroine that sasses first and asks questions later. This book is loaded with pop culture reference that make the reader smile and keeps the book fun and fresh.

    What I didn't: This book isn't going to awarded for any literary merit awards any time soon. When you read it you're reminded of a good B grade movie. It can be nerve wracking, action packed, and funny- but it's still a B grade movie. I found a couple of the ideas presented in this book a little hard to swallow. Those who are immune to the infection have some kind of superpowers sparked by the infection? They are harder to hurt, have a greater stamina, and gain awesome zombie killing talents. It is also revealed that through history there have been various outbreaks of the zombie outbreak that the government has covered up- think Pompeii, the Black Death, and Atlantis. It's all a little hard to wrap your mind around.

    Overview: Overall, I liked this book. It was fast, funny, and full of zombie fun. I thought it approached the situation with both humor and the appropriate gore and horror associate with the Undead. I was cheering for the group of immunes and the last fight of the book was an action scene that would give any movie in the theater a run for it's money. I would recommend this to a more mature audience because of language and a romantic scene but any mature 16 year old should be able to handle this read. I'm definitely looking forward to reading the sequel.

    Challenge- This is my first read for the Zombie Reading Challenge!

    January 9, 2014

    It's Reading Challenge Time Again!

    It's that time again! The time when you have high hopes for the coming reading year and you sign up for 15 reading challenges because you know you can do it! Or..... maybe that's just me.

    I've found a few reading challenges that I think look interesting that I'm going to try this year. In my opinion, the best thing about reading challenges is that even if you don't meet the goal, you're pushed to read more, or read more of a genre that you might not read all the time. So some of the challenges I'm choosing are going to be easy, some are going to be more difficult, some are going to be genres I read all the time and some might be a genre I'm not really familiar with.

    I'm actually hosting a reading challenge this year! You can read more about the zombie reading challenge here. I'll be reading 11-15 zombie books! 
    One that may be difficult for me is the Let Me Count The Ways Challenge hosted by CreativelyCrazed! I'll be participating in the book version at level Silver- 2,001-4,000 pages. That's roughly 15, 300 page, books. I hope I'll remember to keep track!

    2014 Witches & Witchcraft Reading Challenge


    I love witches in my fiction reading and I actually researched Wicca for about 2 years so I'm joining the Witches & Witchcraft Challenge by Melissa's Eclectic Bookshelf. I don't know how much time I'll have so I'll sign up for Initiate at 1-5 books.


    I really love historical romance and I haven't got a chance to read many swash buckling tales lately so I've signed up for the historical romance challenge by Herding Cats & Burning Soup. I'll be trying for level 1: 1-12 historical romances.

    Nonfiction Challenge hosted at The Introverted Reader
    The last (for now) challenge I'm joining is the Nonfiction Reading Challenge by TheIntrovertedReader. I don't read as much nonfiction as I should and I would like to change that. Hopefully, this challenge will encourage me to do so. I'm going for Dilettante level: 1-5 nonfiction books!

    I'll update this post if I find any other awesome sounding challenges! Did you join any challenges this year? Do you like challenges? Leave me a comment and let me know!


    January 8, 2014

    Zombie Reading Challenge

    I've looked across the internet and I haven't found a Reading Challenge devoted to zombies! I've found vampires, shifters, and witches but not zombies. So I've decided to host my own reading challenge. 

    Welcome to the Zombie Reading Challenge! 

    This is a non-demanding challenge for those who love the undead or for those who want to see what all the fuss is about.

    There are four different levels you can join at:
    Infected: Read 1-3 books
    Walker: Read 4-6 books
    Zed: Read 7-10 books
    Dead Head: Read 11-15 books

    The Rules: 
    • This challenge will run from Jan 1, 2014- Dec 30, 2014
    • You may join at anytime. Just make sure you follow the guidelines for joining!
    • The books must be largely zombie related- a character can't make a joke about zombies and it count. However, if the character is joking about zombies while battling zombies in real life, it definitely counts.
    • The book must be at least 100 pages.
    • At least half of the books must be new reads- if you sign up to read 10 books, only 5 can be rereads. How relaxed is that?!
    • Crossovers to other challenges are both accepted and encouraged. 
    • Any crossovers with other genres are accepted and encouraged. There are zombie romance books- Warm Bodies anyone?-, zombie action books, zombie mysteries, etc. 
    • You do not need a blog to join in on the fun. Simply comment on this post what level you want to join in and make a list on Goodreads or somewhere else online.
    • There is no need to post a review for each book you read. Reviews are encouraged to share awesome zombie reads but sometimes there simply isn't time. 
    • After you complete each book, come back here and enter the link to your review or the book's Goodread's page on each month's Linky. Make sure to check out other's reads to find some more zombie reads. 
    To join, create a post letting others know you're joining in the challenge or leave a comment below if you don't have a blog and add your name or goodread's list to the Linky below! Feel free to use the image above or create your own! 





    If you're looking for zombie recommendations, try looking at the Goodread's list below:
    note:  I did not develop these lists so I cannot verify the quality of any books listed

    Welcome to New Jersey!

    Hey guys! It's been a long time since I posted I know. 

    I've been busy moving 14 hours from home and getting ready to start school again. As some of you may know, I've been dating my boyfriend D long distance for 4 years but I finally moved up to New Jersey to him! It's been a huge culture shock moving from South Carolina to New Jersey but I'm enjoying it so far.

     I've also switched majors and I'm working on going back to school after taking a medical withdrawal last semester. I'm now a nursing major and classes will start the 22nd! 

    I don't know how often I'll be able to post but I promise to try to keep up with the blog. I also might be extending to blog to a more personal direction. I will keep the main focus on books though. 

    I just want to send a huge thank you to everyone who has stayed with me this whole time. You've stayed by me even when I was gone for so long dealing with depression or struggling with school work. I appreciate you all so much! 

    Thank you,
    Alex

    October 19, 2013

    Review: 45 Pounds (more or less)- I loved it!

    I recently read 45 Pounds by K. A. Barson and I loved it! This is going to be a rave review because I truly loved this book!

    Here are the numbers of Ann Galardi’s life:

    She is 16.
    And a size 17.
    Her perfect mother is a size 6.
    Her Aunt Jackie is getting married in 10 weeks, and wants Ann to be her bridesmaid.
    So Ann makes up her mind: Time to lose 45 pounds (more or less) in 2 1/2 months.

    Welcome to the world of infomercial diet plans, wedding dance lessons, embarrassing run-ins with the cutest guy Ann’s ever seen—-and some surprises about her NOT-so-perfect mother.

    And there’s one more thing. It’s all about feeling comfortable in your own skin-—no matter how you add it up!


    Plot:
    This book follows Ann, an overweight teenager, as she signs up for yet ANOTHER diet plan in an effort to lose 45 pounds before her aunt's wedding. She spends her savings on the first two weeks of an infomercial diet plan. We follow Ann as she deals with losing weight, losing her best friend, and coming to understand her mother and what truly is healthy. We are also with Ann as she gains. Gains a best friend, gains her first crush, and realizes everyone deals with weight problems at one time or another.


    Characters: 
    I loved Ann's voice in this book! Her personality shined through and as a fellow fat-girl, I found myself really relating to her. She is a typical 16 year old girl- she can be a little whiny, a little self-absorbed, and self-hating. This only added to the authenticity of the book. I felt for Ann as she deals with losing touch with her best friend, as she struggles to fit into her blended family, and struggles to love herself when all the advertisements around her tell her not to.

    The reader is left wondering about Ann's mother throughout the book. She obviously cares for Ann but we aren't sure if she can communicate that to Ann in a way that doesn't involve food. By the end of the book I was cheering her on and felt entirely sympathetic to her struggles.

    My other favorite characters were Raynee and Liberty.

    Raynee shows Ann that even people Ann would consider perfect still have issues with their bodies. Raynee also showed Ann what true friendship feels like. She was a great friend- the kind of friend we all love or wish we had.

    Liberty is Ann's young half-sister and she is the catalyst for Ann's desire to promote a healthy attitude about food. Liberty has been watching her mother and Ann as they fight different battles with food and she has no idea what to truly think. I felt for little Liberty and I enjoyed the fact that it was out of love for Liberty that Ann decided to be healthy- not skinny. 

    Ending:
    This book has a happy ending that feels a little too put-together but the reader is satisfied that all lose-ends are tied up. The reader is left feeling upbeat about the direction of Ann's attitudes and her family life. I will admit, I teared up a little at the end because I felt so close to Ann and I could relate to her so well.

    Overall thoughts: 
    I loved this book more than I thought I would. It might end up being my favorite book of the year because it was so relatable to me. I have been a fat kid all my life- I could be politically correct but I'm not going to be. I'm fat. I am 21 years old and I have only recently LOST weight to be a size 18-20. I've been big all my life, and so has Ann. She went to her first WeightWatchers meeting at the age of 10, around that age I told the first boy I liked him and he told me "Ewww. You're fat." Ann lives with a mother who is so oblivious to the feelings of a fat girl that she suggests Ann buy a bikini for the summer. I live with a grandmother who suggests similar outfits. This is the life of a fat girl and this book is a snapshot of that.

    That being said, IT IS NOT A BOOK JUST FOR FAT GIRLS! I had to put that all in caps because my rambling above might have convinced someone that you can only read this book and enjoy it if you are overweight. This is a book for anyone who is dissatisfied with our image- and who among us isn't dissatisfied with something about our bodies? In fact, this story shows the concerns of someone who is overweight, someone with the "wrong" body type for most clothes, and someone who struggles with anorexia. This is a book for everyone.

    This is a young adult read that I would let my 12 year old little sister read and that I would suggest to anyone. Yes, I said anyone. It is a contemporary young adult with a compelling message. "Skinny" girls need to read this to see what it is like to live in a fat girl life. I would suggest it to "normal" girls to see how other people feel. And of course, I would suggest it to "fat" girls to see that EVERYONE worries about weight.

    If you feel comfortable commenting it, what is your body image struggles? Would you want to read a book about realistic body image? What do you think about my blanket recommendation? Does this sound like a book you're interested in? Leave me a comment and let me know!

    October 18, 2013

    Friday Finds

    No I'm not fully back yet though I hope I will be soon! I'm at a friend's house today and I can post a quick something.
    Friday Finds is a meme hosted by Should Be Reading where we post about the books we've "found" and added to our TBR pile this week.

    This week I've gotten a few books from the library and one review request from an author.
    Library:
      

    Review Requested:

    What do you have in your TBR pile this week? Have you read any of the books in my TBR pile? Leave me a comment and let me know!