Book Trailer Review: Divergent


This week my book trailer review is going to be a bit different in that this time I've already read the book. I reviewed Veronica Roth's DIVERGENT a few weeks ago and this time I'm looking at its book trailer.

The Blurb: In a future Chicago, 16-year-old Beatrice Prior must choose among five predetermined factions to define her identity for the rest of her life, a decision made more difficult when she discovers that she is an anomaly who does not fit into any one group, and that the society she lives in is not perfect after all.

My Opinion: It's immediately evident that this trailer has a much higher production value than most of the others I've seen. Hardly surprising when a book has this much hype around the release. I love the artwork and, having read the book, I instantly know what each image means. The only issue I have is they remind me of the Mockingjay symbol, although the version on the book cover not so much. When dystopians seem to be a dime a dozen these days, it feels like this is just another way to cash in on another title's success. I loved the music. The urgency really pulled me on and made me want to read each new piece of information. 

The Result: I loved it. Had I not already read the book I would be rushing to pick it up. I love that they highlighted that it was her decision that shapes the path of the book, not an event that was thrust upon her. I also like that the stakes are pointed out from the first. The fact that it looked incredibly professional is also a bonus, many times I've been put off titles simply because the video doesn't do the story justice.

Book Review: To Play The Lady by Naomi Lane


Title: To Play the Lady
Author: Naomi Lane
Publisher: Naomi Lane
Publication Date: September 11th 2011
Paperback: 476 pages
Source: I purchased this title

Most girls in the Kingdom of Sevalia would be thrilled to receive an invitation to become the first Queen’s Lady without noble blood, but for tomboy Jenna Mallory, it was her worst nightmare. She would need to overcome not only her lack of social status, but her mixed heritage. Jenna received the invitation because her father was a wealthy merchant, but since her mother was from the desert across the sea, Jenna had inherited both her mother’s darker coloring and two magical abilities—abilities that would seem odd to Sevalian nobles that all have magic of their own. Any hopes to lead a quiet life at court are dashed after Jenna becomes the subject of palace scandal when her magic is discovered. Worse, Sevalia’s old enemy to the east lays claim to a powerful mage whom Jenna discovers hiding in the eastern mountains—a mage that takes a keen interest in Jenna’s magic. While she had expected being a Lady would be challenging, Jenna learns she will need all her wits and all her magic… just to survive.
I wanted to like this book, I really did. I mean, who goes into a story thinking it'll be complete waste of time? I don't like writing harsh reviews, but even after taking a lot of time to cool off I just can't find any redeeming merit in this work of fiction.

My first complaint is that Ms. Lane can't seem to decide exactly who she's writing for. The tale reads very much like a young adult novel; it tackles issues relating to growing up, relationships, and finding one's place in the world. There is also romance, which is expected within the genre. What I was not expecting, were quite how sexual the book became.

For example, this excerpt comes from location 5062 in the Kindle edition:

"She stood in the Arcanum, staring at the glowing symbols. She began to see them swirl around her, at first overwhelming, but then Sebastian was there, and she suddenly felt grounded. Without words, he began to kiss her, and she knew instantly she would like this dream.As his tongue found hers, he clutched her tightly. It was only then that Jenna saw she was naked. His hands on her bare skin felt warm, and her pleasure increased. The violet rota symbol began to throb in her consciousness. As Sebastian's lips found her breasts, she suddenly felt a wave of pleasure more intense than she had ever felt break over her. The rota symbol blazed with fire and then went out."

I read a lot of young adult books, I'm well acquainted with them. I understand that there is an element of sex in many teen books. What I don't understand is why Ms. Lane was inclined to include birth control, make out sessions, erotic dreams/trances featuring the main character with naked men, and sexual immorality in conjunction to the protagonist's magic, when said protagonist is only twelve years old at the start of the book. Yeah, go back and read that excerpt again now. Feeling dirty yet?

The setting is also inconsistent. Ms. Lane seems to be trying to build a 'traditional' fantasy world featuring castles, carriages, mages, magic and swordplay but she isn't quite hitting the mark. There are some interesting foundations, but I found myself to be constantly jolted from the story by things that clashed completely with the scene she was trying to describe. The way in which she named her characters is one example. She's the author, she can do what she wants, but if the names she decides on tear me from the narrative every time they're mentioned she hasn't done her job properly. Authors please note: If I'm reading a book that is marketed as fantasy, I don't want to hear anything about soccer or ice hockey... just a tip.

I also found it very difficult to like Jenna. She's a typical 'Mary Sue.' Everyone loves her, and she knows everything. If there's something she's not familiar with she picks it up instantly. A character needs some flaws to make them interesting, and challenges to prove they're worthy of our affection. Jenna had neither. The villain was cliched and many of the other characters also fell flat. They were there to do their jobs and push the story forward, nothing else. You can't just think up characters to fix some problem or other, they need to have a purpose of their own.

On top of this, the story was incredibly repetitive - I lost count of the amount of times she passed out, and how often she saved the kingdom. I also grew increasingly annoyed every time I read 'Jenna was'. It's like Ms. Lane has never hear the phrase 'show, don't tell.' Show me how happy she is, or how sad... it was frustrating constantly running into the 'Jenna was' phrases. Jenna was shocked, Jenna was horrified, Jenna was startled, Jenna was happy, Jenna was surprised, Jenna was pleased, Jenna was grateful, Jenna was, Jenna was, Jenna was. Ugh!

I had numerous other complaints when reading this book, but I don't feel comfortable going into detail about technical aspects of the prose. Overall I would not recommend this book. It is a very rare thing that I won't finish a series. Even if I don't like a book I'll often continue anyway and I've found some real gems which I would have missed if I'd let the first book put me off. This isn't the case now. I will not be reading the second in this series when it becomes available.

Rating: 1 star
Who I would recommend this for: Nobody
Other reviews: The Akamai Reader, Lady Techies Book Musings

Book Trailer Review - Unraveling by Elizabeth Norris


The blurb: Two days before the start of her junior year, seventeen-year-old Janelle Tenner is hit by a pickup truck and killed—as in blinding light, scenes of her life flashing before her, and then nothing. Except the next thing she knows, she's opening her eyes to find Ben Michaels, a loner from her high school whom Janelle has never talked to, leaning over her. And even though it isn't possible, she knows—with every fiber of her being—that Ben has somehow brought her back to life. 

But her revival, and Ben's possible role in it, is only the first of the puzzles that Janelle must solve. While snooping in her FBI agent father's files for clues about her accident, she uncovers a clock that seems to be counting down to something—but to what? And when someone close to Janelle is killed, she can no longer deny what's right in front of her: Everything that's happened—the accident, the murder, the countdown clock, Ben's sudden appearance in her life—points to the end of life as she knows it. And as the clock ticks down, she realizes that if she wants to put a stop to the end of the world, she's going to need to uncover Ben's secrets—and keep from falling in love with him in the process. 

From debut author Elizabeth Norris comes this shattering novel of one girl's fight to save herself, her world, and the boy she never saw coming.

My Opinion: This video didn't do much for me. I wasn't a fan of the voiceover--I can't think of the right word to describe it, but if you listen, pay attention to the end of every line. It just reminds me of a bored high school student, not someone talking about the day they died. Combined with the lack of 'oomph' at the start, the video itself doesn't drag me in. Half-way through the live action fades away and the soundtrack picks up. We have blurbs talking about science fiction and a 'mind-bending twist'. There was no hint about this beforehand except the countdown clock which, because of its placement, seems to be a countdown to her death rather than anything more important. Why were the first and second halves so disjointed? I shouldn't have been more interested in the text than the live action. Why is there only a small mention of saving the world at the end, as opposed to telling us about it early on. That's the high-stakes part that will make us want to know if she succeeds.. we know she doesn't die, so that's not something we're dying to find out. I know dying and coming back to life may be an important catalyst to the story, but I think too much time was spent on that and in the wrong way, not the parts that would make people sit up and think 'Hey, what was that?'. The first time I watched this video I never even saw the part where it told us about the book because the first part bored me. I think It would have been improved with shorter, sharper dialogue. I also can't help thinking the 'eyes flying open' shot would have been better without the wriggling, just an added expression of fear.

The Result: The video itself would not convince me to buy Unraveling, but after reading the blurb I'm interested to see where it'll go. Although it doesn't draw my attention immediately either, the stakes rise suddenly and then they're sky-high. I want to know why a teenager is the only one who can save the world. It makes me wonder how the author pulled it off without sounding melodramaic. This book has been added to my 'to-read' list.

Book Review: The Queen Bee of Bridgeton by Leslie DuBois


Title: The Queen Bee of Bridgetown
Author: Leslie DuBois
Publisher: Little Prince Publishing
ISBN: 9780615460536
Publication Date: May 17th 2011
Paperback: 244 pages
Source: I purchased this title
When fifteen-year-old Sonya Garrison is accepted into the prestigious Bridgeton Academy, she soon discovers that rich girls are just as dangerous as the thugs in her home of Venton Heights...maybe more so. After catching the eye of the star white basketball player and unwittingly becoming the most popular girl in school, she earns the hatred of the three most ruthless and vindictive girls at Bridgeton. Can she defeat the reigning high school royalty? Or will they succeed in ruining her lifelong dream of becoming a world class dancer?

I was a keen dancer when I was younger, and read many a dancing tale. I often preferred the non-fiction, but like any little ballerina there were girly novels too. I had seen this story around before, I'm sure I had because I recognised the cover immediately, but I wasn't sure this would be for me. It's been a long time since I've danced... I've moved on from pointe shoes to hockey skates... I'm also a lot older, but I was feeling nostalgic and it seemed to call to me.

Anyway, I downloaded it and I read it. I was rather pleasantly surprised. Although the main character is a dancer, and there's a side-story regarding an important audition, ballet isn't the main focus. In fact, Ms. DuBois writes in a style very reminiscent of Francine Pascal.

The book itself is a young adult title, but is felt to me like MG, were it not for the minor sexual content and the use of alcohol. That's probably due to the fact it read like similar titles I'd enjoyed during my MG years more than the actual contents of the book. It's not explicit by any means, but probably better for the YA audience due to these situations.

I have to say I enjoyed the subject of race from Sonya's perspective. It's a topic I've not often encountered in young adult books and one I'd never really considered. I like how Ms. DuBois dealt with it.

As for characters, I admit Sasha confused me from the beginning. She never really felt quite right. One minute she was the perfect student, the next she was chasing down the local bully and teaching Sonya how to break down the other girls. I liked Will, and Tyrell too, even in his short appearance. As much as I admired Sonya, after a while I couldn't help wishing she'd stop doing everything Sasha told her to. I also couldn't understand why the attack early in the book was forgotten so quickly. Where were the physical reminders? Why did no one ask about the bruising that would have been present?

Overall The Queen Bee of Bridgeton was a relatively enjoyable read. I did get a little tired of the constant cattiness but overall, not bad. I will probably read the sequel one day, the next time I'm feeling nostalgic, but I feel like this story has ended well enough for me.

Rating: 3 stars
Who I would recommend this for: Dancers and fans of Francine Pascall.
Other reviews: All-Consuming Media, The Book Pixie
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble
Goodreads review: Here

Review: Divergent by Veronica Roth


Title: Divergent
Author: Veronica Roth
Publisher: Katherine Tegen Books (Harper Teen)
ISBN: 978-0062024039
Publication date: May 3rd 2011
Paperback: 576 pages 
Source: I purchased this title

In a future Chicago, 16-year-old Beatrice Prior must choose among five predetermined factions to define her identity for the rest of her life, a decision made more difficult when she discovers that she is an anomaly who does not fit into any one group, and that the society she lives in is not perfect after all.

I was initially hesitant to begin Divergent. As always, I was put off by all the hype. I tend to worry about books living up to my expectations when I've heard too much about them before. I downloaded it onto my Kindle anyway, because I figured I'd need to read it at some point, and promptly forgot about it. By the time I came to read it I'd forgotten everything I knew, I couldn't even remember what it said in the blurb. I went in blind. 

The first scene didn't entirely capture my attention, although looking back I can see its purpose. I quickly became absorbed as they reached their school and the first conflict was presented. I loved that it was her choice that was the catalyst for the story, and that even though she was being true to herself she ended up taking the hardest path. The actual choice she had to make intrigued me too, and I could see myself making the same decision in her place.

I found the inter-faction relationships interesting, as well as the actual inner workings of the Dauntless themselves. I loved Tris' determination and willingness to do what she needs to to make sure she succeeds. 

What got me was how unassuming Tris was about everyone else. Both her mother and Four have secrets, which I was able to guess well before we were actually shared with us. I don't like knowing more than the characters, it makes me grumpy at them. If I can figure it out, why can't they? I was also a little disappointed with the science. I dislike being told 'this is what happens.' I don't expect a huge amount of detail, but I want to know the basics about how it actually works. 

Although Divergent was a sizeable book by the time it was over I felt like the story was only just beginning. I'm definitely not against cliffhangers, but only when a few threads of the overall story aren't tied up. This time it felt like I only got half the story.

Overall I loved this book. It made me think about the choices I'd make in Tris' position. What faction would I choose, and would they choose me? I can't wait to get my hands on Insurgent, it's definitely on my to-read list.

Rating: 4 stars
Who I would recommend this for: Anyone who likes The Hunger Games, Dark Angel and strong heroines.
Other reviews: Paperback DollsThe GuardianThe Book Smugglers, Between The Covers
Purchase: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, The Book Depository
Goodreads review: Here

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