Life's hard.

It's even harder when you're stupid.

John Wayne

Thursday, February 28, 2013

Oh. My. Gods. by Tera Lynn Childs ★★☆☆☆

Out of Tune
Fiction – YA – Urban Fantasy/Mythology
Reading level: Ages 12 and up Grade 7 Up
272 pages
Publication Date: May 1st 2008 by Dutton Juvenile
Oh. My. Gods. #1
Literary awards: RITA® Award by Romance Writers of America for Best First Book (2009), TAYSHAS High School Reading List (2010)

Oh. My. Gods. (Oh. My. Gods, #1) 
Phoebe’s senior year of high school is ruined when her mother comes home from a vacation to Greece engaged and plans for her and Phoebe to move to a Greek Island where her mom's new guy is the head master of a very exclusive school.  Phoebe knows if she can only get through the next nine months with decent grades and a good track season she can go back to California for College with her best friends and continue on with her normal life.  However, this plan turns out to be epically more complicated than expected when Phoebe finds out that her new classmates – including her evil step-sister and step-father – are all descendants of Greek gods.  Competing against superheroes, dealing with a home life turned upside down, drowning under a sea of homework and finally having an inexplicable attraction to a jerk of fabled size, Phoebe is going to have to find a way to cope quickly or give up her dreams of a normal life.

I picked this book because it seemed fun and I really wanted to give it 3 stars just because the potential of premise, but sadly this is yet another book that just didn’t measure up.  I found the idea of an “average” girl going to a school for descendants of Greek gods only to find out she was one herself rather exciting, but Childs just couldn’t seem to make it work: this is no Percy Jackson story people.  Don’t get me wrong it was a fairly breezy read and the writing was fine, - unexceptionable, but passably average, nothing that would really detract from the story - but the characters were beyond disappointing, there seemed to be a lot of holes in the plot and motivations and Childs never convinced me why I should care about this story.

I found Phoebe to be a whiner and kind of mean without anything really likable about her.  The other characters didn’t feel authentic or real, just archetypes without any flesh and blood.  Their interactions didn’t’ seem to have any substance and felt very contrived.  Apparently I was just supposed to accept was going on, because the author said to, and while I understand that to a certain point Childs never won my loyalty enough for me to give out passes.  To be fair, for a few pages in there I thought I was wrong about the two stars, I saw the clouds began to part and I was really wanting that ray of sunshine or rainbow to burst out, but my briefest moment of hope was quickly dashed and back to the lackluster characters we went.  It was like a song where all of the words were right, but the singing was out of tune and the melody had no soul.  Trust me when I say there are better offerings somewhere else; don’t waste your time on this book.   

Hopefully Childs has something more to offer in another series – yes I haven’t given up on her, and yes I know I suffer from the never-give-up-and-hope-it-will-be-better-next-time-reading sickness, but her writing saved her just enough to try again.

ISBN 0525479422 (ISBN13: 9780525479420)

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Matched by Ally Condie ★★★★☆

Matched (Matched, #1)

Questions and Choices
Reading level: Ages 12 and up  Gr 7 Up
369 pages
Published November 30th 2010
Matched #1
Literary awards:Teen Buckeye Book Award (2012), YALSA Awards for Best Fiction for Young Adults (2011), Publishers Weekly's Best Children's Books of the Year for Fiction (2010), Abraham Lincoln Award Nominee (2013)

The Society is infallible due to it being scientifically built upon data and numbers.  It always makes the right decisions for its members to have the most prosperous and fulfilling life or so Cassia has been taught.  But when she takes home her data card from her Matching ceremony to review the information on her ideal mate, Xander, Cassia sees another face, Ky.  Told to ignore the unusual glitch by the Officials Cassia, tries to focus on Xander, but once the possibility of choice is introduced Cassia can’t ignore what might have been.  Recklessly pursuing Ky, Cassia, starts questioning everything; the Society’s infallibility and their power over the members, where her heart belongs in spite of the data and whether she can continue down the life plan laid out for her or choose to create a new one?  All of these questions and the realization that she actually has a choice take her down a path she never dreamed of, but the real question is where she’ll end up.

I first picked up this book because of its intriguing cover; it caught my attention right away and drew me in.  And, though I found the premise very interesting it took me awhile to commit to reading it.  I always hesitate to read dystopias like Hunger Games and Divergent ( which was fantastic) so it came as no surprise it took me 6 weeks to choose to really start this one, but once I got started I had a hard time putting it down.

The writing has a nice relaxing almost hypnotic rhythm to it, with rich texture and lovely imagery, which I thoroughly enjoyed and coupled with the ability to keep my attention helped bump it up to four stars. There was a well fleshed explanation of the “Society” and enough justification of how it was meant to work that when it started to unravel you could understand how big the problems were.  Condie orchestrated everything in the plot and story very well.   She gave the right amount of insight into things happening outside of Cassia’s immediate world and balanced it with a great emotional journey not only for Cassia, but also the secondary characters of her family, Ky and Xander. 

Condie’s used Cassia to give a good understanding of the choices given up to the Society and how they are taught not to be thinkers, thus when she starts question things the danger she represented to everything the society stood for.  I enjoyed the different personalities in her family showing how the different people reacted to the rules.  Her father was an official who struggled to do what the Society said was the right thing, but broke the rules for the ones he loved.  Cassia’s mother was more rigid in her adherence to the rules choosing to protect her family by ignoring her conscience, but Cassia’s little brother was a rebel always flirting with trouble. 

Personally I’m not much into poetry, which is a fairly important element in this book, but I can understand in sterile world why people would crave beauty and the words would be so powerful.  Also while I like an element of romance for me it is never the main draw, but I think for someone who values it more they might get more enjoyment out of the story than I did.

I would like to address some reviewers’ opinion that this was just a rip off of The Giver by Lois Lowry.  I personally haven’t read The Giver yet, but it is on my list and I hope to get to it soon.  I just wanted to mention what some others have written so you can be prepared if you’ve already read The Giver.  As for my opinion of the issue I promise when I get around to it I will look at the two books for similarities and give my verdict on the review.

As for reading the next one, Crossed, I am kind of torn.  My curiosity pushes me to continue the story – even with terrible stories, which this one is not, I have a hard time giving up on them, but fortunately with age and a finite amount of reading time I am learning to be okay letting go- but the spirited dislike by reviewers on Goodreads for the second one is giving me pause.  Especially the comments about the huge amount of poetry in it.  For now I don’t have easy access to Crossed and have a lot of other books clamoring for my attention so the decision is made for me, but I’ll let you know if decide to pursue the book more vigorously in the future.

ISBN 0525423648 ISBN13: 9780525423645