Friday, March 14, 2014

Mini Review Round-up: Panic - Lauren Oliver, Fire and Flood - Victoria Scott, The Shadow Prince - Bree Depain, and The Crane Wife - Patrick Ness

Release Date: March 4, 2014
Source: Edelweiss
Published by: HarperCollins

Panic - Lauren Oliver | Goodreads

From New York Times bestselling author Lauren Oliver comes an extraordinary novel of fear, friendship, courage, and hope.

Panic began as so many things do in Carp, a dead-end town of twelve thousand people in the middle of nowhere: because it was summer, and there was nothing else to do.

Heather never thought she would compete in Panic, a legendary game played by graduating seniors, where the stakes are high and the payoff is even higher. She'd never thought of herself as fearless, the kind of person who would fight to stand out. But when she finds something, and someone, to fight for, she will discover that she is braver than she ever thought.

Dodge has never been afraid of Panic. His secret will fuel him, and get him all the way through the game; he's sure of it. But what he doesn't know is that he's not the only one with a secret. Everyone has something to play for.

For Heather and Dodge, the game will bring new alliances, unexpected revelations, and the possibility of first love for each of them—and the knowledge that sometimes the very things we fear are those we need the most.

Already optioned by Universal Pictures in a major deal, this gritty, spellbinding novel captures both the raw energy of fear mixed with excitement as well as the aching need to find a place to belong.

This was an excellent, action-filled contemporary novel. What I really appreciated from Oliver was her efforts at including diversity. Not only is one of the main characters half-Dominican and other characters of various backgrounds but manners of privilege are also raised for discussion. One of the main character's best friends also seems to suffer from OCD (or so I read Natalie's obsession with having things "even"). Each of the characters gets an opportunity to shine; the two main characters, Dodge and Heather, have particularly well developed character arcs while they fight for the people they love and rediscover the meaning of love in relation to their family and friends. At the beginning of the book, Oliver also mentions how all of her books are connected by a sense of community, and this shows in her large character cast and the overall feel of the New York set novel and its games. The plot manages all of these characters terrifically, bringing constant twists and reveals, filled with suspense.

The only reason I was not fully absorbed in this novel was because of the nature of Panic. The game itself consistently read to me as being similar to college hazing rituals, and while the stakes are certainly high, providing lots of tension and motivation for the characters to continue, some of the challenges seemed so extreme, so terrible that I was pulled out of the novel, sometimes questioning whether my ability to believe in these challenges (and character participation) was due to my own privilege. So good and bad, I suppose - it definitely contributes to the desperation and underlying tension. There is no doubt, however, that I wish to read Oliver's other novels. An action-filled, taut contemporary underscored with a sense of community, well-developed characters, blossoming romance and character growth, and thrilling plot twists.

Release Date: February 21, 2014
Source: Netgalley
Published by: Scholastic

Fire and Flood - Victoria Scott | Goodreads

A modern day thrill ride, where a teen girl and her animal companion must participate in a breathtaking race to save her brother's life—and her own.

Tella Holloway is losing it. Her brother is sick, and when a dozen doctors can't determine what's wrong, her parents decide to move to Montana for the fresh air. She's lost her friends, her parents are driving her crazy, her brother is dying—and she's helpless to change anything.

Until she receives mysterious instructions on how to become a Contender in the Brimstone Bleed. It's an epic race across jungle, desert, ocean, and mountain that could win her the prize she desperately desires: the Cure for her brother's illness. But all the Contenders are after the Cure for people they love, and there's no guarantee that Tella (or any of them) will survive the race.

The jungle is terrifying, the clock is ticking, and Tella knows she can't trust the allies she makes. And one big question emerges: Why have so many fallen sick in the first place?

I'm not really sure what I think of this book. On one hand, I nearly DNFed it. Not because it was badly written, but because I was uninterested and I couldn't even really pinpoint why. I finished it because it's a review novel and now... Hmm.

Tella, the MC, had some great moments of self-deprecating humor that I bookmarked because I loved them so much, and I thought she was really and truly realistic for her age - with just the right amount of selflessness that I'd expected of a teenager and of someone who entered a mysterious race to save her brother's life. She had intriguing contrasts: vain and unsure at one moment, but self-confident at the next; dancing ridiculously in front of the others and occasionally standing up to some creeps yet thinking of her make-up, bouts of self-consciousness springing up throughout the novel. And she was one of the only people who was kind to these adorable little Pandoras. However, she and I didn't quite jive. Maybe it was because I didn't quite understand some of her actions. Like, at the Pandora Selection process-- I reread that scene maybe three times to make sure I understood what had happened. Tella seems kind of impractical -- even at the end. If you're in a THG x The Amazing Race kind of situation, you've got to flip on that other switch. Having finished this book, I'm not entirely sure how Tella will win the Brimstone Bleed, and I think *that* is part of my disassociation with her. The expectations. Because this book will remind you of THG, and Katniss was such a kick-ass warrior type that though Tella is compelling in her own way, I couldn't help but want her to be more like Katniss.

The plot is fairly straightforward and fast-paced but managed to surprise me with quite a few twists, one reveal in particular stunning me quite a bit. Some of the action is gross, and it's clear that Scott, like Collins, did not shy away from disturbing scenes. Because this is a competition, some of the characters are not developed in order to generate suspense (will they betray Tella? etc.), and I found it hard to connect with a lot of the people (whose backstories also generally remain hidden). They're all (presumably) there for noble reasons, but in some respects, that negates some of the power of them fighting for the Cure -- to save loved ones -- because so many of them are doing the exact same thing. There's no contrast to make you *feel* how extraordinary these people are. Or at least their selflessness and courage. And the world-building -- the explanation for why this competition exists -- didn't work for me, though the details of each ecosystem were enough to picture what was happening. As for the romance, I'd heard that it was bad. I wouldn't say that. It is tender, and I can understand feelings being heightened in the heat of the competition. The romance provided character motivation and worked in concert with the action but never overwhelmed the plot. However, I never felt attached to the romance because I never felt like I understood why the romantic interest continued to act like a white knight (and though I thought Tella was realistic, having her constantly saved by him without reciprocation annoyed me). What did Tella do to earn his constant protection? And if it's what I think it is, that's not specific to Tella and her personality, so the chemistry they'd had from the first moment wouldn't quite fit. Anyway, although I'm not entirely sure of my feelings regarding this novel, I can see it reaching a large teen audience.

Recommended for: action-oriented readers. Readers who get tired of having teen characters who aren't very believable (or The Chosen One types). Readers who enjoy having animal companions play a huge role (note: if you're sensitive to animal torture, you may have problems with F&F) and/or find the idea of getting to choose a Pandora awesome (this book would make for a good video game).

Release Date: March 11, 2014
Source: Edelweiss
Published by: Egmont

The Shadow Prince - Bree Despain | Goodreads

Haden Lord, the disgraced prince of the Underrealm, has been sent to the mortal world to entice a girl into returning with him to the land of the dead. Posing as a student at Olympus Hills High—a haven for children of the rich and famous—Haden must single out the one girl rumored to be able to restore immortality to his race.

Daphne Raines has dreams much bigger than her tiny southern Utah town, so when her rock star dad suddenly reappears, offering her full tuition to Olympus Hills High’s prestigious music program, she sees an opportunity to catch the break she needs to make it as a singer. But upon moving into her estranged father’s mansion in California, and attending her glamorous new school, Daphne soon realizes she isn’t the only student in Olympus who doesn’t quite belong.

Haden and Daphne—destined for each other—know nothing of the true stakes their fated courtship entails. As war between the gods brews, the teenagers’ lives collide. But Daphne won’t be wooed easily and when it seems their prophesied link could happen, Haden realizes something he never intended—he’s fallen in love. Now to save themselves, Haden and Daphne must rewrite their destinies. But as their destinies change, so do the fates of both their worlds.

I can see this appealing to fans of The Goddess Test and fans of Everneath who wanted more action, less romance (because although the plot of this book is based on the romance between the two main characters, it doesn't really read to me like a romance). This book, like those, plays with the Greek myths of Hades and Persephone and Orpheus and Eurydice to create its own expanded world full of monsters and mayhem. Also like those, this book seems more plot than character oriented and has quite a bit of action. My favorite part of this novel was the heroine, Daphne. She has an inner self-confidence that is refreshing to read in young adult. Daphne has the special ability to hear music in all objects - trees, people, etc. - and while others would tell her that this is not normal, Daphne embraces her gift wholeheartedly and uses it to read others (hence her significant self-assurance; she knows things about people and their moods that she shouldn't and thus relies on herself first and foremost). She's also not afraid to go down fighting when it comes to making her own path and not letting others choose her destiny for her. Both main characters go through delineated character arcs that leave room for further growth in the next novels and it's obvious, based on the world Ms. Despain has established in this novel, where those two books will go.

Although I referred to TGT and Everneath at the beginning, this one focuses a bit more on the hi-jinks and humor than they do (in my opinion). One of the main characters is a prince of the Underrealm (Hades) and when he enters the Overrealm (Earth), he's awkward and doesn't know much about humans. Naturally this comes with the assortment of quips about how strange we all are (e.g. jokes on phones, dating, etc.). In this way, I was also slightly reminded of the Percy Jackson series, especially with regard to some of the mythology (you know how it's said Rick Riordan makes Greek mythology fun? You could say that of the action oriented scenes here as well - and have it teach you quite a few things about the myths if you weren't familiar with them at the start, which I imagine some teens won't be). Now that Ms. Despain has established her mythology and world, it should be even more interesting to see how the characters are developed in the sequel. Fans of Greek mythology oriented worlds should be pleased with The Shadow Prince.

Release Date: January 23, 2014
Source: Publicist
Published by: Penguin Press

The Crane Wife - Patrick Ness | Goodreads

A magical novel, based on a Japanese folk tale, that imagines how the life of a broken-hearted man is transformed when he rescues an injured white crane that has landed in his backyard.

George Duncan is an American living and working in London. At forty-eight, he owns a small print shop, is divorced, and lonelier than he realizes. All of the women with whom he has relationships eventually leave him for being too nice. But one night he is woken by an astonishing sound—a terrific keening, which is coming from somewhere in his garden. When he investigates he finds a great white crane, a bird taller than even himself. It has been shot through the wing with an arrow. Moved more than he can say, George struggles to take out the arrow from the bird's wing, saving its life before it flies away into the night sky.

The next morning, a shaken George tries to go about his daily life, retreating to the back of his store and making cuttings from discarded books—a harmless, personal hobby—when through the front door of the shop a woman walks in. Her name is Kumiko, and she asks George to help her with her own artwork. George is dumbstruck by her beauty and her enigmatic nature, and begins to fall desperately in love with her. She seems to hold the potential to change his entire life, if he could only get her to reveal the secret of who she is and why she has brought her artwork to him.

Witty, magical, and romantic, The Crane Wife is a story of passion and sacrifice, that resonates on the level of dream and myth. It is a novel that celebrates the creative imagination, and the disruptive power of love.

This reminded me of the reading experience I'd had with Jeanette Winterson's The Passion. Then I'd wanted to highlight so many passages, so many excerpts of beautiful, beautiful writing that maintained a precise balance between reality and magic and spoke of grief and love and an excess (duh) of passion and the self-righteousness that bled through in each. The Crane Wife is another tale full of magical realism told in a beautiful, haunting way. And indeed, from the very beginning, I was pulled into the story: George is a middle-aged man who, upon hearing the terrible keening of a crane injured in his backyard, assumes that the noise is from his bladder. Ness perfectly managed that sort of dry British (or maybe middle-aged?) humor in George's voice and the moment when he finds the crane is beautifully written, pulling you into the scene. It is the sort of writing that I would mark for myself, wondering how I could ever achieve that sort of mastery and knowing that I could not. And yet after the scene I was not as absorbed in this novel as I ought to have been - was it because of the writing? No, not at all. It's more because I know that it is not a "Christina novel;" I personally need a bit more concreteness in the commercial stories that I read in my spare time. I suspect that if I studied this for a class, I would love it. I would love unpacking the multiple layers of the story, and that is why I am sending my copy to the professor for whose class I'd read The Passion. But, as a commercial reader, I felt perfectly at leisure setting this book down and only occasionally returning to it. Some readers would be fine with that experience, but I am of the sort that craves something that hits me so hard, I have to finish the book in one sitting. Anything other than that makes me feel restless.

The basic premise of the story revolves around Kumiko, a magical sort of woman, who suddenly enters and thus transforms the lives of George and Amanda Duncan as well as those of their family and friends. The Crane Wife is timelessly woven around book art and fairy tales and middle age and loneliness and forgiveness and belonging. Both George and Amanda wonder what is wrong with them: George is an American living in England who is frequently left by women because he is too nice/soft, and Amanda is a single mother who has trouble making friends because people frequently misunderstand her. They are fully realized characters whose stories are easy to empathize with and whose humor lightens the twisting and intertwining of magic and dark reality.

If you liked The Passion, you should give this book a shot. Fans of magical realism, book art, and literary novels that focus on the magical, tangible power of stories in our daily lives will also likely enjoy this beautifully woven tale from Patrick Ness.


  1. I completely forgot Panic was in the making to become a movie (hopefully)! It would definitely be a tense one that's for sure.

    Now that you mention it the tasks did sound like college hazing rituals but it seemed believable enough to me. I think people would do a lot for money.

    I definitely want to check out The Crane Wife someday! I've only read More Than This by him but I found his writing to be wonderful. Very glad you liked it :D

    1. Yes! Panic would make for a great movie. Well, I wasn't questioning the believability of the challenges. I think that with the community Oliver created, it's quite likely that no one would want to break up a time-honored tradition and college hazing rituals are very much realistic and dangerous. :)

      I've heard that the Crane Wife is quite different from his other work, but if you liked his writing, then hopefully you'll like TCW as well :).

  2. I have Panic and Fire & Blood, but I have put off reading them for the very same reasons you didn't necessarily like them. I'll have to start them and see if I connect or not and if not, well then I just won't finish them. There are too many good books out there to read them if I won't like them. I also have The Shadow Prince and your review has made me want to read it even more. Thanks! :)

    Tressa @ Tressa's Wishful Endings

    1. Yep, I would definitely recommend reading excerpts from all the books and seeing whether the voices and PoVs work better for you :). I hope that the Shadow Prince works out for you -- just got an email about the blog tour, so you'd still have time to get on that if you end up really liking the book!

  3. I really enjoyed Lauren Oliver's writing in the Delirium series, and many people have enjoyed Panic so.... going to give it a shot! =)

    Alicia @ Summer Next Top Story

    1. Ahh, the writing is a little different. In Delirium, it struck me as prettier, more quotable because I think she was trying specifically for that. The writing in Panic is similar in that it contains truths as noteworthy as they were in Delirium, but I think the actual poetic quality was slightly reduced, if that makes sense. But I do hope you enjoy Panic!

  4. It seems like you enjoyed Panic a lot more than I did! The overall idea was good, but I just didn't connect with the story or the characters. I did like The shadow prince and I agree that Daphne was a good MC :) Fire & Flood has been getting a lot of mixed reviews. I'm kinda interested to see what I'm going to think about it.

    1. Ahhh, yeah I can imagine how that would make things not as pleasant to read. I'm surprised you finished it then, if the story and charas weren't working :/. F&F is a very person-by-person sort of book, from what I've been gathering of the reviews, so if you're interested, maybe try out an excerpt? Should expose you to some of Tella's comments and the like.

  5. I've had an urge to read Ness's books (Chaos Walking was beautifully written, but the story horrified the hell out of me). I'm going to add this one to my list, because it sound slike it is full of awesome.

    1. Woot! I hope it works out for you. I actually have not read any of his other novels, but I am certainly looking forward to doing just that when I get some time myself.

  6. I think you're spot on with your thoughts about The Crane Wife. I loved it, but I knew right away that it's a book I wouldn't necessarily recommend to others. It just seemed to connect to personally since I'm all about my book art and everything, and I generally take time with my stories, and so I fell in love. I'm glad you enjoyed the beautiful writing though, even if it didn't ultimately pull you into the story as you would have liked :)

    1. Well, I'd still recommend it to others, but compared to the books I usually read, it is quite different :). Much more literary, for sure. And I quite enjoyed the book art part and added in that section about being for fans of book art because of you, actually. It is beautiful writing and every reading experience, even if this wasn't one that pulled me in as deeply as others have, is something new to celebrate. Thanks for the rec, Asti!

  7. Really loved your mini-reviews here--I had heard of Panic but wasn't particularly interested in it before (not generally a dystopia fan, and I've already read so many because of how omnipresent they currently are)--but diversity in YA? Yes, I definitely want to give it a shot.

    Your review of Fire and Flood also seems very balanced, which I appreciate. That was another book I wasn't particularly interested in, then thought I might try, but was unsure about because of lots of blatantly negative reviews on Goodreads. I still don't know if it'll be my favorite, and it's not going to make top priority on my long to-read list, but your review makes me think I might appreciate parts of it anyway.

    Also, had never heard of The Shadow Prince, The Goddess Test, or Everneath... and I'm a huge fan of fairy tale and mythology retellings, so I definitely want to give those a shot. Thank you!

    1. Ah, but Panic is not a dystopian novel :). It is contemporary from Lauren Oliver. It sounds kind of dystopian and has the same fighting-your-fears element that Divergent has, but it is not. I hope you enjoy the book!

      There are a lot of negative reviews. F&F seems to be one of those polarizing books in the community - some love it, some hate it, and I hope that if you do get around to reading it, you'll be a part of the former group :).

      And yay! There's an entire chart from Epic Reads ( dedicated to retellings in YA, if you're interested :).

  8. Panic: I just got this from the library so I'm definitely going to read it, and it does sound like you basically enjoyed it. "An action-filled, taut contemporary underscored with a sense of community, well-developed characters, blossoming romance and character growth, and thrilling plot twists." That sounds like my kind of book! And I did love Delirium and Pandemonium (Requiem was not good) and I still need to read Before I Fall, but I've read great things about it.

    Fire & Flood: I just started reading this one and so far I'm really enjoying it. I love Tella's voice, the writing definitely conveys her personality. I actually do like a MC involved in something like this who is just a regular girl. I'm kind of sick of five foot two kick ass heroines. Really? There's just no way. Now maybe if you're at least five eight or something, but so many times the girl is described as petite but somehow she can handle herself against some huge guy. I mean, the fact that Tella packed fingernail polish…I love that. Hope I end up enjoying it after I read more! ~Pam

    1. Yes! I did enjoy Panic. I have yet to read Pandemonium, but like you, I enjoyed Delirium and have heard good things about Before I Fall. I hope you like Panic as well :). And yes, I agree. F&F does show off Tella's personality really well, and it's also true that some of the heroines in YA are kinda unrealistic... so Tella is unique in that way. Hope F&F continues to entertain you!

  9. Four great review! You've definitely convinced me to read all three (I've already read F&F and probably won't be reading more...). While the Persephone myth is getting a little saturated, I'm always willing to try a take on it if it's obviously well done. I also loved Everneath, but it would be cool to see a take with less romance, and I like the humor aspect. Sold. Also want to read Patrick Ness, pretty much everything he's written. Maybe I'll add that to my summer projects...


    1. Ah, you disliked F&F? I wonder why the Persephone myth is done so much... the general concept? getting kidnapped to a whole new world? but doesn't it involve rape?//is ambiguous about it? .... Anyway, yes, it is about romance in the way Everneath is, but it's not so focused on that so much as the mythological bits, I think. I'll be interested to know what you think. I'd like to read more of Ness too - maybe a read-along is in order!

  10. I felt the same way about Panic. The characters were three dimensional with interesting arcs (although I found Dodge as a character quite troubling), but the game itself spiraled out of control a few times. Still, a fast-paced read that kept me glued to my seat throughout.

    I was nervous about Fire & Flood because reviews have been so mixed, but I ended up really enjoying it! Tella grew on me as the story progressed, and I thought her narration was just hilarious at times. I'm anxious to see what will happen next.

    1. Yes. Dodge was the harder one to relate to, particularly the revenge arc. But yes, definitely kept me glued to my seat as well ;). I'm glad you enjoyed Fire and Flood! Tella was pretty hilarious sometimes :D. I hope the next book works out for you!


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