ARC Review: Slide (Slide, Book One) by Jill Hathaway

Slide (Slide, #1)Slide by Jill Hathaway
My rating: 2.5 of 5 stars

Book Descripton (via Amazon):

Vee Bell is certain of one irrefutable truth—her sister’s friend Sophie didn’t kill herself. She was murdered.

Vee knows this because she was there. Everyone believes Vee is narcoleptic, but she doesn’t actually fall asleep during these episodes: When she passes out, she slides into somebody else’s mind and experiences the world through that person’s eyes. She’s slid into her sister as she cheated on a math test, into a teacher sneaking a drink before class. She learned the worst about a supposed “friend” when she slid into her during a school dance. But nothing could have prepared Vee for what happens one October night when she slides into the mind of someone holding a bloody knife, standing over Sophie’s slashed body.

Vee desperately wishes she could share her secret, but who would believe her? It sounds so crazy that she can’t bring herself to tell her best friend, Rollins, let alone the police. Even if she could confide in Rollins, he has been acting distant lately, especially now that she’s been spending more time with Zane.

Enmeshed in a terrifying web of secrets, lies, and danger and with no one to turn to, Vee must find a way to unmask the killer before he or she strikes again.

*****

Slide features an intriguing idea though the results left me with mixed feelings. The concept is awesome, but the execution? Yeah, not so much. The writing is serviceable, neither bad nor great and it didn’t draw me into the story straightaway. Both the way it is written and the storyline reminds me of some of the books I read as a pre-teen/teen way back during the Pleistocene epoch, otherwise known as the 1990s, with authors like Christopher Pike, R.L. Stine, Diane Hoh, Lois Duncan, Richie Tankersley Cusick, among others. It especially seems to fall right in between Pike and Stine. While the writing is more mature than Stine’s, it’s not quite as sophisticated as Pike’s. The mystery is weak, and by the end, seems pointless as it’s totally anti-climactic, over in a flash, like it was written just to finish the book up, and absurdly contrived. The whole ending is totally ludicrous and unbelievable. The clues leading up to it are obvious and not incorporated into the story well at all. These clues were so glaring they all but had a flashing sign pointing to them in cartoon-like fashion whenever they fell into the main character’s path. Sylvia a.k.a. Vee wasn’t written as a dummy, at first, but boy she was an absolute idiot about those clues and putting two and two together, or really much of anything until it slapped her in the face. While Vee is sympathetic, I can’t say I felt much of anything for her, and even less for anyone else in book because of their lack of depth. No one is explained in any detail, either personality or looks, motivations, or whatever. Just a brief shallow summary if lucky. Speaking of…. What has happened in books today where there are no descriptions of how anybody looks, except “I have pink hair,” “his blonde hair,” or some other toss away adjective? I’ve seen it over and over again and all I’m left with is the visualization that these people have no faces, much like that episode of Doctor Who (The Idiot’s Lantern). Frankly it’s all rather creepy.

I feel like this could have been a great book if it was longer (the copy I read is only 250 pages of at least 1.5 spaced lines) and had much more depth. Add in a couple more suspects, motivations, etc., and maybe a little more information on Vee’s “sliding” powers. Unfortunately it’s only an “okay” read that’s easy and moves at a rapid pace. I didn’t hate the book by any means, it’s just not one that’ll stick in my head for more than a few days. On the plus side I love the cover composition and colors, so kudos to the artist(s). This works fine as a standalone, but is now part of a series, for some unfathomable reason. Frankly, I’m getting sick of every book that comes out, most usually in the YA genre, becoming a series. It’s ridiculous how few standalone books there are anymore. Still, even with all my grumbling about the numerous series and everything else, I think I will check out Impostor, the second book in the Slide series, as it sounds interesting. Who knows, this might have just been the stepping stone to bigger and better things. Although if Vee is as stupid as she was in this one, I’m outta there.

2.5 stars

Originally Reviewed: October 16, 2012
Received: Amazon Vine

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Archived Review: Vesper (Deviants, Book One)

Vesper (Deviants, #1)Vesper by Jeff Sampson
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

The start of VESPERS immediately caught my attention with the transcript of an interview with Emily Webb, the protagonist, and an agent of the mysterious Vesper Company. This led to the first chapter where no time is wasted getting straight to the story. Emily is every introverted, insecure, don’t-make-a-scene-or-stand-out girl out there, which made her very relatable to me; as a teen, I was just like her. Her transformations into Nighttime Emily, as she called herself, were well-done but I felt the author could have stretched a little further than the “wild child” persona he gave Emily during those times. I got a bit bored when she was in that stage and liked when she went back to Daytime Emily, her normal self, much better. At first, I was a little disappointed in where the story actually went, mainly what Emily ended up being (and that’s all I’m saying, no spoilers here), but I accepted and enjoyed it anyway. The middle of the book lagged and I was afraid it would end up an average read, with too much wild behavior and not as much development as I would have liked. However, toward the end the story picked up and kept me riveted; it’s always a good thing for an author to end his or her book on a high note. This isn’t a YA book with romance as its central focus, but it does have its place in the story and doesn’t overwhelm the main plot. The book as a whole could have been deeper than it was, but it’s still a good start to the Deviants series and opened up numerous possibilities, with many unanswered questions for future endeavors. The use of six or so transcripts interspersed throughout the book was a nice element and I quite enjoyed them; the entire book could have easily been written this way. This would probably appeal more to teenagers but some adults would enjoy it as well. I did. THE VESPERS is a breeze to read, briskly-paced, and has a few snicker-worthy moments; maybe it’s not perfect, but it’s far from bad and I had a good time reading it.
3.5 stars

Note: There is some graphic violence, only one scene really, but it’s there.

Originally reviewed: December 10, 2011
Received: Amazon Vine

ARC Review: Unraveling

Unraveling (Unraveling, #1)Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

Within the first ten pages of Unraveling, the main character, Janelle Tenner, dies from a runaway pick-up. A fellow student from her school, Ben Michaels, revives her and then runs off before she fully awakens. Convinced there’s more than meets the eye with Ben, Janelle won’t give up trying to figure out how and what he did to her and why she isn’t dead, even facing her best friend’s refusal to believe she died and Ben’s denial of ever resurrecting her. As she pieces together that puzzle, Janelle plays detective on a case her F.B.I. agent father is working on, by rifling through top secret files and eavesdropping, that involves a mysterious countdown and people dying of radiation poisoning, which are somehow connected to the man behind the wheel of the vehicle that hit her and possibly even to Ben as well.

The author did a great job setting up the story with a slow build that introduces Janelle’s life, both at home and at school, along with any free time she may have, and accelerates once it hits the halfway point until it reaches the book’s climactic ending. In particular, the development of her home life was interesting and had depth. She has a mother who’s bi-polar and not “there” most of the time and a father who seemingly avoids dealing with the realities of his wife’s mental illness by being a workaholic, so all the household responsibilities fall on Janelle’s shoulders. She takes care of her family and does the majority of the cleaning, cooking, laundry, and most importantly of all, being a mother to her younger brother, Jared. She makes sure he does his homework, has meals, and gets to school on time. What’s nice about their relationship is that he actually respects his sister and there isn’t much in the way of petty arguments, which was refreshing. I liked the whole interrelationships of the core family: Janelle, Jared, and their father. They all loved each other, faults and all, and even adding in the situation that Janelle’s mother is in, they felt like a genuine family. Adding to that, both Alex (Janelle’s best friend and my favorite character) and Struz (her dad’s partner/friend) were a part of the family too. If there was anything that stood out in the book for me, it was how people related to each other in it, for good or ill. I loved Alex and Janelle’s friendship, again it was really authentic, and they were just that, best friends. No romantic agenda going on, no secret one-sided yearning, only true friendship where they looked out for one another.

Janelle herself was a strong character, but not so strong she never showed her feelings. She could be quick-tempered, but usually for good reason, she stood up for herself when necessary, and was sensible, so while she could be judgmental and at times conceited, those flaws made her realistic. Nobody’s perfect. The experiences she’s had to live through have molded her, so every action and reaction she made made perfect sense to who she is, whether it’s flying off the handle or falling into pieces. While I can’t say I ever totally liked her, I understood and respected her; there aren’t many YA characters I can say that about. Every character in the book had their own identity, whether they had a small role to play or a bigger one, so there was no confusion to who they were. Ben, the mysterious “stoner”, is of course the love interest. He could have been more fully fleshed out, but I still got a basic idea of who he was and he’s at least a nice guy, which is a novel idea these days. The love story between Janelle and Ben felt like it could actually happen that way. The chemistry between the two was well-written so the magnetic attraction between them is palpable. I remember how it is to be a teenager (scary but true), and I hate to be such a broken record, but it felt realistic. Do I think it was love? No, not yet, but they have a connection and it’s a start towards something serious.

The plot is intriguing and has a lot of good ideas that generally mesh well together. Each short chapter, some less than a page long, features numbers counting down to the big event that’s at the core of the novel. I’m not going to go into details since it’d be too hard to do without giving anything away, but I will say that I enjoyed how the story was told and how it unfolded. While this is sci-fi, it’s light on the ‘sci’ part and not everything is explained as well as it could be, but hopefully the sequel will tackle some of the bigger components. Most of my complaints are trivial: the ending was rushed for an almost 450 page book, there was a passing comment about AAA that wasn’t right, the phrase ‘junior detective’ was used just a little too much, an info dump that would have worked better as dialogue, and a couple of other inconsistencies that hopefully were caught before the final copy was printed. However, I admit to some ire at an event that happened at the end, I just didn’t feel there was any need for it plot-wise and thought it total overkill. That was unfortunate but overall I still enjoyed the book cover to cover. A solid four-star book that’s a cut above the rest and left me looking forward to the sequel.

Originally reviewed: August 15
Received: Amazon Vine

ARC Review: Circus Galacticus

Circus Galacticus
Circus Galacticus by Deva Fagan
My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Read on February 8, 2012

Have you ever wanted to run away and join the circus? How about a galaxy-traveling circus complete with your very own Doctor Who-like Ringmaster and spaceship? Sounds pretty awesome, right? While you sadly may not be able to do that in real life, Deva Fagan’s Circus Galacticus takes the reader on a voyage through the stars. Okay, so maybe reading instead of experiencing those adventures isn’t quite as fun, but it’s still a grand ride to hop on while I impatiently wait for my very own Doctor to show up and whisk me away to galaxies unknown and unimagined.

Meet the Earther Beatrix “Trix” Ling: miserable, friendless orphan, you know, the usual. On the surface that is. Seriously unhappy at her boarding school, she often gets into trouble due to the fact she’s quick to rile and doesn’t think things through before acting or speaking. After a few weird events happen to Trix, such as some strange dude breaking into her room and her hair deciding it’d like to be a cotton candy pink, the Circus Galacticus comes to town promising her some answers. Here is where the journey for Trix and the reader begins. Aliens and gadgets abound, as do allies with their own special Tinker power and enemies trying to suppress that power, a spaceship that’s alive with many mysterious corridors, and too much to even begin to cover, and really, they’d be better serviced by reading the book instead of this review. This book is like Doctor Who, The X-Men, and Charlie and the Chocolate Factory all tossed into a blender to make one scrump-diddly-umptous concoction. Smoothly written, the book moves at a swift pace as Trix struggles to find somewhere she belongs, make and keep friends, and to believe she deserves it. I don’t believe there’s a person out there that hasn’t felt like an outsider at one time or another, though some more-so than others perhaps, and while Trix may make mistakes and may not always follow rules, that only makes her all the more full-bodied as a character. Except a little with the Ringmaster and the circus tent spaceship, Big Top (as much a character as anyone, if not more), the others aren’t delved into as much but they each add their own quirks to make the book well-rounded.

And while I’d heartily recommend Circus Galacticus with no reservations, it isn’t a perfect book by any means. Trix’s age is never mentioned and at one time she describes the others as her age or a few years older. Umm, okay, I don’t even know how old you are, chica, so how am I supposed to know how old everyone else is? At first, I surmised she was somewhere between 12-16 until unneeded curse words popped up, so she’s probably a teenager. I finally found out how old Trix was by going to the author’s site. She’s 15. Call me odd, but I like to know the main character’s age. The book could also have stood to have a little more meat on its bones, even as little as fifty pages tacked on. This was like a sampler platter and I wanted a full-course meal. With dessert. So many questions were left unanswered and it is just begging for a sequel to explore these more fully. And as I said before, the curse words really added absolutely nothing to the context of the scenes they were in. Other words could have been substituted easily and been more fitting. Sure there weren’t many, but this is intended for middle-grade students and except for the cursing, it’s good, clean fun. I’m not naive enough to think that children don’t come across foul language from many sources, and even use it themselves, but that doesn’t mean that books tailored for their age range should include them either.

However, I had a blast travelling through space with the crew of the Big Top. If there is a sequel, and I truly hope there is, you can be sure I’ll be there for the next adventure of Circus Galacticus.

If interested, the author has up illustrations of the main characters: http://devafagan.com/circus-galacticus-characters

Received via the Amazon Vine program

(Clicking on the book cover image or title take you to the book’s product page on Amazon)