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Mortal Coils (Eric Nylund)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
Mortal Coils is a contemporary mythologically inspired coming of age fantasy novel with a definite young adultish slant. I wasn’t too put off by the lack of mature content, and the young adult elements have more to do with the coming of age story and the protagonist’s relationships and perspective rather than an overly simplified story or dumbed down vocabulary. Honestly, I find the inclusion of traditional mythological elements into contemporary fantasy books a tiresome trend that I wish would disappear given that, in my opinion, any somewhat talented author should be able to come up with more interesting setting material than something produced by, at best, iron age primitives, but the mythological elements are handled adroitly enough here that they didn’t unduly detract from my enjoyment of the book. The pacing is decent and keeps you entertained, although the author could definitely have eliminated substantial largely superfluous sections. This material isn’t boring ,and it fits with the overall setting of the book, but it doesn’t always contribute substantially to the overall narrative. The setting is where the book really shines; it’s a weird, dangerous, magical place that actually feels like it would work. I enjoyed reading this book, so I would recommend it, especially for people who really like re-imaginings of traditional mythological figures, coming of age stories, or the idea of a strange, threatening magical reality overlaid upon our mundane lives.

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Softly Say Goodbye (KC Sprayberry)

3 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This novel has a very moving story but occasionally gets a little too didactic for comfort. The story follows a female protagonist, Erin, who is navigating her way through senior year of high school while facing the issue of teenage drinking among her peers, which often results in tragedy. Teenage drinking is the main theme of the book, and Sprayberry makes sure the reader does not forget how damaging it can be to the lives of young people. I haven’t been in high school of over a decade, but the amount of focus and energy given to alcohol at the school of the protagonist seems a bit overblown. However, Sprayberry’s points are well made, and if a little exaggeration is present, it does not undermine the story enough to destroy the enjoyment of the book.

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult

WWW:Wake (Robert J Sawyer, WWW Trilogy #1)

4.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
WWW:Wake is a contemporary hard sci-fi coming of age story. Apparently it is the first in a trilogy, but I was rather surprised to learn this, since this book stands so well on its own. This is one of the best hard sci-fi books I have read. I’ve read quite a lot of sci-fi dealing with the emergence of machine intelligence, but this is first one I found at all believable or well thought out. The human side isn’t neglected, either, as it often is in hard sci-fi; the author also does well here. The characters are vivid and unique, deep without a great deal of exposition. The author does a great job of condensing an intrinsically complicated story until it is both manageable and quick moving. With the exception of one brief scene (fairly PG, but non-consensual, groping) which might disturb some readers who are sensitive to such things, I would unhesitatingly recommend WWW:Wake to anyone with even a passing interest in sci-fi; I doubt you will be disappointed by this book.

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

Insurgent (Veronica Roth)

4 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
This is the second novel in Roth’s dystopian trilogy with rhyming titles (which Lauren Oliver has also done with Delirium/Pandemonium/Requiem, leaving me to wonder both who is copying whom and what the title of the third in this series might possibly be; the best I can come up with is Detergent).  It picks up right where Divergent left off (I’ll save the spoilers for the next section) and continues to follow Tris as she struggles to understand what being Divergent means for her and where she fits in.  This book has some of the same problems as Divergent, namely leads who are less-well characterized than the excellent supporting cast and too much time spent on the trying, repetitively conflictual love story between them.  And like its predecessor, it has a lot of violence, some graphic, and some light teen sexuality (kissing and touching).  It earns a half-star higher review from me because Roth really comes into her own here; unlike her first book, no one could accuse Insurgent of being a The Hunger Games wannabe.  The plot is all hers, and it’s excellent and well-executed.  I can’t wait for the third in this series, whatever the name may be.

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult

Divergent (Veronica Roth)

3.5 out of 5 stars

Cut to the Chase:
After the huge success of The Hunger Games, several young adult authors came out with US-set dystopian trilogies with teenage female protagonists; many of these appear to have modeled their first books after the first in that series, before branching away in the remaining novels. This is the first of Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, and she builds an interesting, novel (if not entirely believable), dystopian world. She makes the mistake of missing one of the things which made The Hunger Games so remarkable, which was that romance was the last thing on Katniss Everdeen’s mind — not the case here. Despite this, Roth’s heroine, Tris, is a strong character with a clear identity and agenda outside of chasing her man, and the story is intriguing. However, the relationship between Tris and her love interest is frustrating: they have a misunderstanding, vow that there will never be secrets between them again, immediately begin keeping secrets from each other, lather, rinse, repeat. Further, there’s a lot of violence in this book, some quite graphic, so be warned; there’s also some minimal teen sexual activity, mostly kissing and touching. Overall, it was an engaging concept and story with fleshed-out characters and was quite well executed with the exception of the romantic subplot; I’d recommend it for fans of dystopian stories.

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Posted in Children's/Young Adult