Review: The Collector – Victoria Scott

Scott_Victoria-TheCollectorTitle: The Collector
Author: Victoria Scott
Series: Dante Walker #1
Entangled Teen
Rating: 4 / 5

Dante Walker is flippin’ awesome, and he knows it. His good looks, killer charm, and stellar confidence has made him one of Hell’s best — a soul collector. His job is simple, weed through humanity and label those round rears with a big red good or bad stamp. Old Saint Nick gets the good guys, and he gets the fun ones. Bag-and-tag.

Sealing souls is nothing personal. Dante’s an equal opportunity collector and doesn’t want it any other way. But he’ll have to adjust, because Boss Man has given him a new assignment: Collect Charlie Cooper’s soul within 10 days.

Dante doesn’t know why Boss Man wants Charlie, nor does he care. This assignment means only one thing to him, and that’s a permanent ticket out of Hell. But after Dante meets the quirky, Nerd Alert chick he’s come to collect—he realizes this assignment will test his abilities as a collector, and uncover emotions long ago buried. (goodreads.com)

The Collector is a lot of fun. A. Lot.

Dante is your narrator, and if you’re not used to it, he’s a little off-putting with his confidence, swagger, and outright arrogance. At some points, it gets a little annoying, but it’s also nice to see him handed a slice of humble pie, mostly from Charlie.

Dante, in life, was one of the Popular People. Charlie isn’t. Charlie seems a little over the top sometimes in the opposite direction of Dante–she isn’t pretty at all (messed up teeth, fuzzy hair, not-so-clear skin, bad fashion sense, and a bedroom that looks like Mattel’s Barbie threw up all over it). Her friends are just as bad of outcasts. After reading this book, and a few others in the “high school” category, I just have one question: do people really experience high school like this? And by “this” I mean, if you’re not popular, than your ugly? And there’s apparently various levels of popularity? Because I surely didn’t. (For the record, I was not one of the “popular” kids, but I was definitely known.)

Anyway, Dante has a one-track mind about getting out of Hell permanently with this assignment, and of course things go badly for him (because it wouldn’t be story if there weren’t complications). It isn’t until he really gets to know Charlie, as much as he can in a two- or three-day span, that he starts second-guessing himself and his assignment.

When I think about it, I had a lot of problems with this book. Not because it isn’t a good book, because if you take it on the surface level it really is kind of shallow and self-fulfilling, but because Dante is sometimes frustrating (okay, a lot), Charlie is too far in the other direction, and the plot gets a little obvious in places (notably the sub-plot of Max and Valery).

That isn’t to say I didn’t like the book, because I did. It’s a lot of fun. I went into it expecting a fun ride, without taking it too seriously, and that’s exactly what I got. When I first read it, I’d been in the middle of reading several serious books, either seriously long, or just with serious subject matter, and it was a nice change of pace. The second time I read it, I was in the middle of reading a fairly difficult adult book (for some reason, despite enjoying it, I was struggling with the length). The Collector provided me with a nice change of pace there, too.

This is, as you can tell, one of those guilty pleasure books for me. It may not be the best book out there, but dammit, I enjoyed it. And I’m also looking forward to the sequel.

BFTA Review: Jeff Lindsay – Darkly Dreaming Dexter

Lindsay_Jeff-DarklyDreamingDexter
Title: Darkly Dreaming Dexter
Series: Dexter #1
Author: Jeff Lindsay
Doubleday


Rating: 4/5


Meet Dexter Morgan, a polite wolf in sheep’s clothing. He’s handsome and charming, but something in his past has made him abide by a different set of rules. He’s a serial killer whose one golden rule makes him immensely likeable: he only kills bad people. And his job as a blood splatter expert for the Miami police department puts him in the perfect position to identify his victims. But when a series of brutal murders bearing a striking similarity to his own style start turning up, Dexter is caught between being flattered and being frightened — of himself or some other fiend. (goodreads.com)

Please forgive me — this review got away from me a bit.

Darkly Dreaming Dexter is the first in a series of books about a sociopath who occasionally helps his cop sister and kills bad people. Oh, and we, as readers, are in his head.

Dexter is short–at only 288 pages, it’s one of the shortest novels I’ve read this year, and it’s a quick read. Dexter is pretty fun, for someone who doesn’t understand or experience emotion. He’s practiced at “being human”, his way of saying he fools people into thinking there’s nothing wrong with him. Even his sister doesn’t really suspect. He is clever and witty, and has no trouble at all telling people how it really is, and even calling people out on their stupidity.

Although the book is really a who-dun-it mystery, Dexter really makes the book. He is entertained by odd things, like a Barbie head hanging from his freezer:

Whee. I had a new hobby. (p. 128)

I will say, however, that the introduction to this character is incredibly unpleasant, and as the book progresses, Dexter’s mind becomes more and more weird. He is fascinated by the moon, and it seems like his “hunting” cycle is dictated by it. He seems to only kill when the moon is full.

I could go on and on, but I won’t. Instead, I’ll leave you with some of my favorite quotes and this question: refrigerated trucks have rear-view mirrors?

If you can’t get me my newspaper on time, how can you expect me to refrain from killing people? (p. 170)

Because, the paper carefully pointed out, how could we believe that two such killers could possibly be on the loose at the same time? (p. 171)

Mutilated corpses with a chance of afternoon showers. (p. 173)

Originally posted 08 April 2011.

BFTA Review: Sarah Dessen – Lock & Key

Dessen_Sarah-LockAndKey
Title: Lock & Key

Author: Sarah Dessen

Viking


Rating: 4/5

Ruby, where is your mother?

Ruby knows that the game is up. For the past few months, she’s been on her own in the yellow house, managing somehow, knowing that her mother will probably never return.

That’s how she comes to live with Cora, the sister she hasn’t seen in ten years, and Cora’s husband Jamie, whose down-to-earth demeanor makes it hard for Ruby to believe he founded the most popular networking Web site around. A luxurious house, fancy private school, a new wardrobe, the promise of college and a future; it’s a dream come true. So why is Ruby such a reluctant Cinderella, wary and defensive? And why is Nate, the genial boy next door with some secrets of his own, unable to accept the help that Ruby is just learning to give? (goodreads.com)

I’ve never read a Sarah Dessen book before. I see them everywhere I look at books, but I’ve never picked one up, not even to read the back cover. Fortunately, I read the summary for this one and thought it sounded interesting without even seeing the cover. I’m glad I picked this book up. It was touching, and it didn’t come across as cheesy, although it definitely had the potential to do just that.

There was something about Ruby that rubbed me the wrong way, and I’m not sure if I can put my finger on it. Ruby wants to stay in her little yellow house with mildew on her clothes, where half the appliances are broken and where she has to work to pay rent on top of going to school, all because her mother abandons her. Sometimes, I could understand Ruby and her need to stay in her own world–change, especially such a dramatic change, is difficult, and it is compounded by Ruby’s opinion of her sister, Cora. But sometimes, I really didn’t understand why she would rather get black-out drunk above everything else. While she talks a lot about her life with her mom, her life outside her mom, if she had much of one, is a bit more blurry.

Ruby, of course, likes Cora’s husband almost immediately, and I did, too. He’s open and friendly, and I was really glad to see that he had a serious side that went beyond being happy, or serious about business. I was really glad to see that he wasn’t completely one-dimentional.

I had a harder time relating with Nate, probably because I’ve never known anyone in Nate’s situation. It’s a crappy situation, and I love that Ruby wants to help him. I really liked their interactions and that he really seems to like her, despite her need to return to what she knows. I was glad to see that he really wanted to stick by her, and that he was there when she needed him. It really drove home the point that, later in the novel, she wanted him to need her and it hurt her that he didn’t (or, at least, he didn’t want to admit it).

I really liked this book, and I’ll probably be picking up some more books by Sarah Dessen in the future.

Originally posted 02 April 2011.

BFTA Review: Jonathan Maberry – Rot & Ruin

Maberry_Jonathan-RotAndRuin

Title: Rot & Ruin

Series: Benny Imura #1
Author: Jonathan Maberry
Simon & Schuster Children’s
Rating: 4/5


In the zombie-infested, post-apocalyptic America where Benny Imura lives, every teenager must find a job by the time they turn fifteen or get their rations cut in half. Benny doesn’t want to apprentice as a zombie hunter with his boring older brother Tom, but he has no choice. He expects a tedious job whacking zoms for cash, but what he gets is a vocation that will teach him what it means to be human.(goodreads.com)

I really enjoyed this book. Although I had a hard time getting around Benny changing his opinion of his brother so quickly, then backing away from it when Nix calls him on it, then going back to thinking highly of his brother, even though at the beginning of the novel he hates his brother and thinks he’s a coward. It was hard for me to flip back and forth so quickly, although I could see the change coming anyway.

The book itself was an interesting take on zombies. So often we don’t think of zombies as anything but shambling monsters, coming to devour your flesh (or just your brain, depending on whether you like scary zombies or cute, animated zombies whose worst enemies are sunflowers and peashooters). Rot & Ruin focuses more on who the zombies used to be, and, to an extent, brings the zombies into focus as more of a protagonist than an antagonist. Or, at the very least, innocent bystanders. I also liked how it touched on the definition of humanity in a world where it becomes easy to lose your humanity and become the monster.

I also liked that Benny didn’t suddenly become superman when he was without his brother. He didn’t magically adopt his brother’s skills, or develop some crazy skills of his own. He keeps his same, crappy skill-set; after all, he hasn’t been working at zombie hunting nearly as long as Tom or Lilah, but once his brother shows him what he really does, Benny shows the same compassion his brother does towards “Zoms”.

Really, I liked the book, and I’m adding it to my “buy” list.

Originally posted 31 March 2011.

BFTA Review: Suzanne Collins – Mockingjay

Collins_Suzanne-Mockingjay

Title: Mockingjay
Author: Suzanne Collins
Series: The Hunger Games #3
Scholastic Press
Rating: 4/5
Read for: Amazon Best of 2010 challenge

My name is Katniss Everdeen. Why am I not dead? I should be dead.

Katniss Everdeen, girl on fire, has survived, even though her home has been destroyed. Gale has escaped. Katniss’s family is safe. Peeta has been captured by the Capitol. District 13 really does exist. There are rebels. There are new leaders. A revolution is unfolding.

It is by design that Katniss was rescued from the arena in the cruel and haunting Quarter Quell, and it is by design that she has long been part of the revolution without knowing it. District 13 has come out of the shadows and is plotting to overthrow the Capitol. Everyone, it seems, has had a hand in the carefully laid plans – except Katniss.

The success of the rebellion hinges on Katniss’s willingness to be a pawn, to accept responsibility for countless lives, and to change the course of the future of Panem. To do this, she must put aside her feelings of anger and distrust. she must become the rebels’ Mockingjay – no matter what the personal cost.

It’s really hard to talk about this series without doing a lot of spoilers, but I’m going to try.


By the time I got to Mockingjay, I wanted the series to go on forever. I couldn’t stop reading, and although sometimes Katniss’s veering off subject to talk about the past with her father was a little distracting, even after reading two other books in which she does the same thing, it wasn’t enough for me to not want to read.


The reason I loved Mockingjay so much was because it was like yet another round of Games, only without the Games committee, and all the fanfare. And while I was intrigued with was was happening to District 13, especially since Katniss can’t help but meddle, even though she really shouldn’t get involved and is told such.


I think that’s the reason I like Katniss so much; she can’t help but stick her nose in other people’s business, and it made her the perfect spokesperson. I have a hard time imagining this whole series from, say, Peeta’s point of view, because Katniss is just out there, and she’s outspoken, doing things she knows she could get in trouble for and doing them anyway. And it’s not just in the third book that she starts doing this, but from the very beginning of The Hunger Games, out hunting with Gale.


There’s a lot of hype over these books, and rightly so. I was disappointed to see it end, but at the same time I’m glad that I finally got around to reading the series.

Originally posted 28 March 2011.

BFTA Review: Suzanne Collins – Catching Fire

Collins_Suzanne-CatchingFire

Title: Catching Fire
Author: Suzanne Collins
Series: The Hunger Games #2
Scholastic Press
Rating: 4/5

Against all odds, Katniss has won the Hunger Games. She and fellow District 12 tribute Peeta Mellark are miraculously still alive. Katniss should be relieved, happy even. After all, she has returned to her family and her longtime friend, Gale. Yet nothing is the way Katniss wishes it to be. Gale holds her at an icy distance. Peeta has turned his back on her completely. And there are whispers of a rebellion against the Capitol–a rebellion that Katniss and Peeta may have helped create.

Much to her shock, Katniss has fueled an unrest she’s afraid she cannot stop. And what scares her even more is that she’s not entirely convinced she should try. As time draws near for Katniss and Peeta to visit the districts on the Capitol’s cruel Victory Tour, the stakes are higher than ever. If they can’t prove, without a shadow of a doubt, that they are lost in their love for each other, the consequences will be horrifying. (goodreads.com)

I initially read The Hunger Games as part of a challenge, and I’m really glad I did, because I couldn’t put the book down. Catching Fire fell right in line, and I devoured the book in mere hours. I loved it.

I also hated it, because I read it in mere hours and I was that much closer to finishing it.
I loved that we were back in the arena for another round of Games, because I had so much fun reading about them in the first book, but I was also a little disappointed because there wasn’t a lot of time spent there.

By the end, I just really wanted to crack open Mockingjay, so that’s exactly what I did….

Originally posted 27 March 2011.

BFTA Review: Karen Marie Moning – Darkfever

Moning_Karen_Marie-Darkfever

Title: Darkfever
Author: Karen Marie Moning
Series: Fever #1
Dell (Random House)
Rating: 4/5
Read for: 2011 Book Blogger Recommendation Challenge // 2011 Urban Fantasy Challenge

MacKayla Lane’s life is good. She has great friends, a decent job, and a car that breaks down only every other week or so. In other words, she’s your perfectly ordinary twenty-first-century woman. Or so she thinks…until something extraordinary happens.

When her sister is murdered, leaving a single clue to her death–a cryptic message on Mac’s cell phone–Mac journeys to Ireland in search of answers. The quest to find her sister’s killer draws her into a shadowy realm where nothing is as it seems, where good and evil wear the same treacherously seductive mask. She is soon faced with an even greater challenge: staying alive long enough to learn how to handle a power she had no idea she possessed–a gift that allows her to see beyond the world of man, into the dangerous realm of the Fae….

As Mac delves deeper into the mystery of her sister’s death, her every move is shadowed by the dark, mysterious Jericho, a man with no past and only mockery for a future. As she begins to close in on the truth, the ruthless Vlane–an alpha Fae who makes sex an addiction for human women–closes in on her. And as the boundary between worlds begins to crumble, Mac’s true mission becomes clear: find the elusive Sinsar Dubh before someone else claims the all-powerful Dark Book–because whoever gets to it first holds nothing less than complete control of the very fabric of both worlds in their hands…

There’s been a lot of raving about the Fever series around the blogosphere, and for good reason. I can’t say enough about how much I loved this book, and I have to get my hands on books 2 and 3 immediately.
Okay, so I did have one slight problem, and that was how Mac kept talking about the past, in Georgia, and how different it was. It was frustrating sometimes, and I really just wanted her to get over it, but…
It’s a whole new ball-game, at least for me in terms of subject. I’m very used to reading vampires and werewolves, so it was a really nice change of pace for me with the fae, and especially the lore behind them.
I also found both Jericho and V’lane intriguing, and I look forward to seeing more of them in the upcoming books.

Originally posted 26 March 2011.