Book Review: Traveler


Book Review: TravelerTraveler by Arwen Elys Dayton
Series: Seeker #2
Release Date: January 12th 2016
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Pages: 400
Source: Publisher

Quin Kincaid is a Seeker. Her legacy is an honor, an ancient role passed down for generations. But what she learned on her Oath night changed her world forever.

Quin pledged her life to deception. Her legacy as a Seeker is not noble but savage. Her father, a killer. Her uncle, a liar. Her mother, a casualty. And the boy she once loved is out for vengeance, with her family in his sights.

Yet Quin is not alone. Shinobu, her oldest companion, might now be the only person she can trust. The only one who wants answers as desperately as she does.

But the deeper they dig into the past, the darker things become. There are long-vanished Seeker families, shadowy alliances, and something else: a sinister plan begun generations ago, with the power to destroy them all.

The past is close. And it will destroy them all.

Often times, middle books in a trilogy (at least I’m assuming it’s a trilogy) can be lukewarm, that bridge between book one and three that gives just enough information to move the story along. Thankfully, that is not the case for Traveler. I love how much information we get from this story about Catherine (John’s mom) and the whole seeker history.  

The POV is multiple just like the first book; however, we get a couple of additional character perspectives with Catherine and Nott. While six characters seems overwhelming, the majority of the story is really told by Quinn and Catherine. I was a bit sad that Maud didn’t have as much of a presence in this book, especially since she is one of my favorites. I still don’t really connect to John or Shinobu very much, although Quinn is starting to grow on me. I did love John’s growth as well, even though he is not my favorite. Catherine was a great addition and I was glad that we got to see the story unravel through her eyes, especially since so much of what we know is thanks to her and her detective work.

The setting this time around felt a bit more jarring. I’m really not sure why it bothered me this time and not last time. Maybe because last time I had assumed it was a steampunk world, but I’m not longer sure that’s the case. It felt so more modern this time …  and yet not? I don’t know. I eventually just had to throw the whole setting thing out the window before it annoyed me to no end. I’ll go back to my initial recommendation of just rolling with it.  

The thing I liked the least was the romance between Quinn and Shinobu. Thankfully Dayton did not remind us constantly that they were distantly related; in fact, it may only be mentioned once. However, I just didn’t feel their relationship. I know they’ve known each other their entire lives, but it just felt super fast. While Shinobu has been in love with Quinn forever, she was set on John until just a few months ago. I guess, for the most part, I just didn’t feel the chemistry. Now, this could be that Seeker is a bit hazy in some details, but looking at my review of Seeker, I complained about it then as well. I suppose they’re just not the pairing for me. However, I do think it will be a big part of book three, especially considering how this one ended.

Speaking of how it ended, be ready for a cliff-hanger. Yes, most seeker history related things are answered, but my oh my, Dayton knows how to leave you hanging. I’ll be interested to see where book 3 goes, especially considering most things felt wrapped up in Traveler. I am sure there is a lot more to the story though, and I can’t wait to see it unravel.

Final Verdict: Great second book filled with much needed history and unraveled secrets. I’ll happily pick up book 3, especially considering the huge cliff-hanger.

 

This review is part of the Traveler Blog Tour. See below for other participants.

January 11 – Seeing Double in Neverland
January 11 – The Cover Contessa
January 12 –  Once Upon A Twilight
January 12 – Two Chicks on Books
January 13 – Take Me Away to a Great Read
January 13 – Lytherus
January 14Supernatural Snark
January 15Bookish Lifestyle
January 15The Eater of Books
January 16Adventures in YA Publishing
January 16Page Turners
January 17Winterhaven Books
January 17Black Dog Speaks
January 18A Dream Within A Dream
January 18Sci Fi Fan Letter
January 19Mundie Moms
January 19The Reading Nook Reviews

 

Book Review: Seeker


Book Review: SeekerSeeker by Arwen Elys Dayton
Series: Seeker #1
Release Date: Feb. 10, 2015
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Pages: 448
Source: Edelweiss

The night Quin Kincaid takes her Oath, she will become what she has trained to be her entire life. She will become a Seeker. This is her legacy, and it is an honor. As a Seeker, Quin will fight beside her two closest companions, Shinobu and John, to protect the weak and the wronged. Together they will stand for light in a shadowy world. And she'll be with the boy she loves--who's also her best friend.

But the night Quin takes her Oath, everything changes. Being a Seeker is not what she thought. Her family is not what she thought. Even the boy she loves is not who she thought.

And now it's too late to walk away.

This has got to be one of the hardest reviews I’ve written in a long time. I’ve deleted and retyped almost everything I’ve written several times over. But, let me start off by saying I liked this book. I know there’s been a lot of mixed reviews about this book, but I don’t have the same complaints as other reviewers. In fact, I’ll easily pick up the second book when it comes out.

First off, the descriptions only give half the story. While Quin is one of the main characters, there are three others that are followed as well. The chapters rotate between them giving the reader a good view into their world and thoughts.  Quin, and maybe even Maud, are the heart of the book, but the story is really driven by John. He made a promise to his dying mother when he was seven and it literally is the focus of everything he does. He is determined to keep that promise, even if it means hurting those who cares about. The others are mainly dealing with the consequences of his decisions.

I’ll be honest, I had lukewarm feelings about most of the characters. I really liked Maud, but the others I was a bit meh about mainly because of the decisions they made. I love Shinobu, but he totally took a downward spiral once in Hong Kong. I understand it to a point. Drugs would have helped him escape the past. I can only imagine that the things he saw and did were soul crushing. However, he had a great opportunity to restart his life with family. He had the chance to have a much better life where he was truly loved, but he wasn’t willing to let go or forgive himself. Quin suffered the same problem that Shinobu did, although, she did it differently. Neither was willing to face what had happened and wanted to simply run away. While she doesn’t turn to drugs, her decision is just as bad. By the end, I feel like they were both in a better place and I look forward to, hopefully, seeing them grow even more in the next book.

A lot have complained about the setting, which can be a bit jarring. The Scotland estate feels quite medieval, but there is a lot of modern, and even futurist, technology. Honestly, it felt very steampunk to me, which may be why I didn’t give it a second thought. Also, it felt like the manor was of it’s own world. It was very secluded and a place where they followed their own set of rules, which fit in with the ancient protectors vibe perfectly. I would say just to roll with the setting and not try to pin it to a time period as doing so will only make you upset.

Also, if you want a book that has every little thing spelled out for you, this is not the book for you. There is a lot of reading between the lines and putting the pieces together on your own. Dayton does eventually reveal most of it, but you have to figure it out yourself for a while. One particular scene will be flashbacked several times, revealing a little more each time until you fully understand the horror of the situation. Of course, even though some questions are answered, you are still left with many more in their place. There are several things I’m dying to know about, which I hope will be covered in book two.

The only thing that made me eye raise an eyebrow was Shinobu being in love with Quin. They’re supposed to be third cousins, well half-third cousins, and it feels a bit weird. We’re reminded over and over that they’re really distant cousins that hardly share any blood, but it still felt a bit icky. Dayton could have easily had the relationship be the same without making them related. Often times we don’t see what is in front of us, especially if it’s been there all our lives. Of course, Cassandra Clare had 2 books were we thought Clary & jace were brother/sister, so maybe the teens won’t mind it. And maybe Dayton will spin it in future books that they’re not really related after all. That seems unlikely, but I suppose it could be a possibility.

Final Verdict: An intriguing fantasy book that can be confusing at times. However, stick with it and I think you’ll be rewarded in the end.

Book Review: They All Fall Down


Book Review: They All Fall DownThey All Fall Down by Roxanne St. Claire
Release Date: Oct. 14, 2014
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Pages: 352
Source: Library

Kenzie Sumerall just found out she’s on the the list. The list of the top ten Veinna High Juniors who are “hotties”. Unsure how she made the list at all, let alone be fifth, Kenzie tries to brush away the extra attention brought on by the list. She could care less about all the parties or the power the list brings. All she wants is to continue on as normal and hopefully get into Columbia. However, any hope of that is shattered when the girls from the list starting dying one by one. Fluke accidents that seem just a little too suspicious. Could the theory that the list is cursed be true or something more sinister going on? And more importantly, can Kenzie figure it out before she’s next…

They All Fall Down is a fast paced thriller that will suck you in until the end. Okay, there is some need to suspend believability, but this isn’t the first or last book I’ve had to do that for. There are several twists and turns that leaves you guessing what the truth behind the murders really are. I don’t know that I saw the final twist coming, but I wasn’t surprised by it either. It was obvious that something larger was going on and it was easy to determine where I needed to focus my attention. I liked that there was a bit of obviousness to it, but wasn’t completely predictable at the same time.

Kenzie overall was a likable player. She’s your typical “good girl” who studies hard and will end up in a fantastic school. She’s not a partier and her weekends are either spent studying or with her best friend, Molly. However, her life is not without tragedy. Her brother died in a freak accident only two years ago and something her family is still healing from. We don’t see her parents too much other than to note that they’re on the verge of divorce and dealing with their own problems. A convenient reason for Kenzie not to let them in on all the things happening. I’ve always enjoyed the girl detective roles, which may be why I’m able to overlook some of the flaws and cliches that surround Kenzie as a whole. We won’t even talk about how she falls into insta-love with the bad boy (Levi) and drops her 7 year long crush on Mr. Popular (Josh) with barely a second thought. Honestly, Levi is totally the better choice out of the two, but I’m still not sure that makes him a good choice either. It’ll be interesting to see if this becomes a series and how the boys progress in the future. (The door is completely wide-open for a sequel, but at this moment I cannot find any details on if that will actually happen.)

All that being said, this book does have issues. In fact, I haven’t been able to stop thinking about the slut shaming and general problematic treatment of girls since I’ve finished reading it. The whole basic plot is hinged on a “hottie” list. I won’t lie and say that this didn’t make me cringe. Girls have enough problems in life without being ranked on “hotness”. The very premise is sexist in nature, but thankfully Kenzie agreed and says as much. While the real reason the girls are picked (which I won’t mention since it’s a spoiler) is even worse and makes me sigh, it is truly the least problematic thing in the book.

It is the unnecessary slut shaming that is thrown in that makes me really upset. On at least two occasions it is mentioned that one girl only got on the list because she gave blow jobs to lacrosse team. Even after she dies, the boys joke that a thing with her could just mean a hand job in the locker room. Then we get this fabulous line about “slut-liner”, which is what Molly calls inside the eye liner. That line was the nail in the coffin for me. None, and I do mean none, of these lines or mentions are needed in the book. Yes, the girls on the list are the ones being targeted, but there is no reason to make one a “slut”. It added absolutely nothing to the book and, in fact, it the main reason I won’t be book talking this book to my teens in an upcoming event or when I go to schools in May. A fact that saddens me a bit because this would have been a solid contender. And while it may only be four lines, I cannot condone this type of behavior nor risk upsetting parents/teacher and putting my job on the line.

Final Verdict: A fast-paced and fun thriller/mystery, however, the slut shaming made it impossible for me to fully fall in love with it.

Book Review: Jersey Angel


Book Review: Jersey AngelJersey Angel by Beth Ann Bauman
Release Date: May 14th 2013
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Pages: 201
Source: ALA

It's the summer before senior year and the alluring Angel is ready to have fun. She's not like her best friend, Inggy, who has a steady boyfriend, good grades, and college plans. Angel isn't sure what she wants to do yet, but she has confidence and experience beyond her years. Still, her summer doesn't start out as planned. Her good friend Joey doesn't want to fool around anymore, he wants to be her boyfriend, while Angel doesn't want to be tied down. As Joey pulls away, and Inggy tours colleges, Angel finds herself  spending more time with Inggy's boyfriend, Cork. With its cast of vivid and memorable characters, this tale from the Jersey shore is sure to make some waves.

Short of it: There is something about this fast-paced book that is addicting and hard to put down. However, I’m still not sure that means it is good. There was a lot of promise to Jersey Angel but ultimately I think it fell flat for me.

Plot: Jersey Angel is your classic slice of life story. There is no real conflict, plot, or even ending. Instead, it focuses on Angel’s day-to-day life, which includes hook-ups, teen pregnancy, family issues and parties with friends. While I’ve never been a fan of slice of lives (and still am not) this one is somehow addicting. While I had trouble putting it down, I was ultimately let down. There was so much potential that Bauman could have tapped into but merely glossed over. One of my biggest issues is the lack of consequences. Angel does a lot of questionable things, including betraying her best friend, but never has to deal with any fallout. Internally she does feel guilty, but she doesn’t stop and I had high hopes of her deceit being found out.

The one thing I did like was Angel coming to terms with her future. She’s always known that she’s not cut out for college or some big shot career. While I think her choice is aiming low, it seems to be one she’ll be happy with at least for a while. Who knows, maybe in a couple years she’ll go back to get her degree, but for now, she seems satisfied with the road ahead of her. Personally, I have known a lot of people like this and it was nice to see their choices represented for once.

Character: I can understand Angel, but I can’t relate to her. Honestly, I felt sorry for her. I saw her as a weak female who let sex rule her life. I don’t even believe it was because she lacked a moral compass. She knew what she was doing was wrong, but she didn’t have the willpower to stop it. Angel reminds me a lot of those girls who will do anything for attention/to feel loved and instead of finding love they get empty, meaningless sex. Of course, her mother was basically an older version of Angel, which may explain a lot of Angel’s attitude and actions. Angel is by no means a role model, but I do think quite a few teenage girls will be able to connect and relate to her. My only hope is that they’ll realize this lifestyle won’t give them what they crave and be willing to find the boys that will care for them past sex. By the end of the book, Angel is basically at this point. I’m not sure she’s fully ready to give up her heart, but it does feel like she’ll give up the sleeping around.

Romance: Romance does not exist in Jersey Angel. Seriously, I feel like all the relationships depicted were completely and utterly unhealthy. And in Angel’s case, her life was just one hook-up after another. When I say there is a lot of sex, I do mean a lot. It’s pretty to safe to say there is almost a sex scene per chapter. While I do think that pushes this book into the older teen realm, I don’t feel as if it was overly graphic. There were a few basic details/descriptions here and there, but nothing that made me cringe/blush. Honestly, it wasn’t even that steamy. Angel treated the act of sex as someone else may treat brushing their teeth. It fulfilled a desire, but there was little to nothing sexy about it.

Writing: This is an area I don’t really have any complaints about. The more I’ve thought about Jersey Angel the more I realize it was Bauman’s writing that kept me reading. I know this isn’t the most favorable review in the world, but when I say I couldn’t put the book down I mean it. Had it not been nearing 4 am I would have easily finished it in one sitting. For me, that speaks volumes of her ability to spin a story. While this one didn’t quite work for me, I will be looking into other books she has written.

Librarian-Mode: I don’t know exactly what to pair this one up with. Part of me wants to say Gossip Girls, but I’m not sure that’s completely accurate. I do think teens who like the show Jersey Shore may like Jersey Angel. While not the same, I could easily see the plot of Jersey Angel being an episode on the Jersey Shore, especially when you consider the crazy hook-ups and partying. However, with it being a YA bodice ripper, it will pretty much sell itself to teens.

 

Book Review: Eight Keys


Book Review: Eight KeysEight Keys by Suzanne LaFleur
Release Date: August 2011
Publisher: Random House Children's Books
Pages: 224
Source: Library

Elise and Franklin have always been best friends. Elise has always lived in the big house with her loving Uncle and Aunt, because Elise's parents died when she was too young to remember them.  There's always been a barn behind the house with eight locked doors on the second floor.
When Elise and Franklin start middle school, things feel all wrong. Bullying. Not fitting in. Franklin suddenly seems babyish.  Then, soon after her 12th birthday, Elise receives a mysterious key left for her by her father. A key that unlocks one of the eight doors upstairs in the barn

I originally picked up Eight Keys at ALA Annual because I thought it might be a good contender for my Joliet Reads Committee. (A one-book a month program done through the school. I work with the 6th, 7th, & 8th grade committee.) Of course, time slipped away too fast during those busy summer months and it wasn’t until the finished version hit our new bookshelves that I finally picked a copy up.

While not strong enough to recommend for the committee, I did enjoy the book. Or so I thought. Now, don’t get me wrong, I still like the book overall, but the more I think about Eight Keys the more little things start to bug me such as issues or characters that were thrown in but not dealt with or developed thoroughly. It would have been better for LaFluer to focus on one thing, say the eight keys or the bullying/entering a new school than trying to mash it all together.

Let me back up a little and focus on what I did love and that was the eight door/keys. I’ll admit the messages and items her father left in the rooms brought some tears to my eyes. The sense of family, love, and knowing yourself was written across every room. Since her father died when she was only three we never met him, but it’s easy to see how much he cared for his daughter by what he left as a legacy in those rooms. Books, photos, mementos…small things that told about the lives of her parents, the people around her, and the short time they had together. Honestly, I wish LaFluer had spent the entire books, instead of just half of it, on this. Everyone spoke how her father loved puzzles/riddles, but what he left behind wasn’t much of either. The keys were given up too easy and within a month, maybe two, all the doors had been opened. I think if it had been made into a scavenger hunt with clue leading to the next key the journey could have been dragged out more and perhaps become even more meaningful.

The other thing I did like was how LaFluer managed to capture those insecurities of an eleven year old entering a new school and being bullied. In Elise’s case the bullying starts when she starts school with scabs all down her legs from a fall during a make-believe game. While normally I would say tweens shed off their make-believe games sooner than sixth grade, there is something about being rural areas that allows kids to be kids longer than those in urban areas. I’m not saying that’s the case for all or even most, but I have witnessed a sense of innocence that lasts longer where the outdoors and imagination run free.  Perhaps it is not the norm nowadays, but I still think there are quite a few tweens who manage to hang onto their innocence/make-believe spirit longer then others.

However, the one issue that has been under my skin the most is how the bullying situation was handled. There were no consequences for Amanda. There was one moment of payback that landed Franklin, of all people, in trouble and a moment where Elise finally stands up to her, but that is where it ends. I do understand that most bullies never see consequences, but when Elise tries to bring it up it is merely brushed aside time and time again. The only ones who seem to care are her aunt and uncle, but even they let Elise handle and never get involved. Also, LaFluer on several occasions tries to make the reader feel sorry for Amanda, but never gives us any real meat to it. She hints that something has happened to make Amanda such a bully, but nothing is ever revealed. We’re told she wasn’t always like this, that she can be fun outside of school, and that her brother/his friends are mean to her, but it never goes beyond that. The closest explanation is that she wanted people to believe she was “tough”, but again why? I’m not sure I would have cared normally, but since LaFluer kept hinting that there was more beneath the bully I wanted to see it.

The underdeveloped bully issue goes hand-in-hand with some of the character development as well. For the most part, LaFluer fleshes out her characters enough to make them feel real. I may not know too much about Aunt Bessie, Uncle Hugh, or even Caroline, but there was enough depth to them to make me happy. The same cannot be said about Annie (Aunt Bessie’s sister) and baby Ava. They moved in near the beginning of the book, but mainly appeared randomly throughout the book. Their appearance held little significance beyond making Elise jealous or having a person to ask random questions to. It felt like LaFluer was also trying to use Ava to show how Elise was maturing/becoming more thoughtful, but it fell flat. There were many other ways that the changes in Elise could have been shown beyond adding in fluff characters.

After all is said and done, Eight Keys is still a cute, fast read. The writing is solid and I’ll be looking into LaFluer’s past and future books. While the characters are in middle school, it does read a little young. It would be a great recommendation for those tween girls who aren’t quite ready for YA but are turning their nose at Juv titles. While not a happy-go-lucky story, girls who are transitioning into new schools/lives will relate to Elise and what she is going through. So, while not one of my favorites, it is one I am happy to have in my library and hand off to readers.

Have you read Eight Keys? If so, let me know what you think!