Mini DNF reviews for Woven by Michael Jensen and David Powers King, The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall, and The Boy Next Door by Katie Van Ark. Two I'll pick up again sometime in the future, and one has had its LAST CHANCE WITH ME. Dun dun dunnnnn
Review: Woven by Michael Jensen and David Powers King
Release date: January 27th, 2014
Length: 352 pages
Rating: This book never quite WENT there, though it may be good for reluctant readers.
Two unlikely allies must journey across a kingdom in the hopes of thwarting death itself.
All his life, Nels has wanted to be a knight of the kingdom of Avërand. Tall and strong, and with a knack for helping those in need, the people of his sleepy little village have even taken to calling him the Knight of Cobblestown.
But that was before Nels died, murdered outside his home by a mysterious figure.
Now the young hero has awoken as a ghost, invisible to all around him save one person—his only hope for understanding what happened to him—the kingdom’s heir, Princess Tyra. At first the spoiled royal wants nothing to do with Nels, but as the mystery of his death unravels, the two find themselves linked by a secret, and an enemy who could be hiding behind any face.
Nels and Tyra have no choice but to abscond from the castle, charting a hidden world of tangled magic and forlorn phantoms. They must seek out an ancient needle with the power to mend what has been torn, and they have to move fast. Because soon Nels will disappear forever.
This may be a book I try again further down the road when I'm not so crazy busy and when I haven't come off a run of spectacular YA fantasy. Woven is fine--unexceptional, but fine. But it never quite gels or pulls you in. After a strong and creepy opening scene, Woven sort of skims along, playing on a lot of familiar-if-pleasant fantasy tropes. I love the premise, but the problem is, all you're reading is the premise. The characters aren't terribly developed beyond what's explained above, and the central mystery is just kind of there. The book did have its moments, but in all honesty, this book felt too juvenile for YA.
It never dug too deep, and the writing was simple. I said in my rating that this could be a good read for reluctant readers or younger middle graders, and it's true. I didn't get terribly far in this book--somewhre around the 150 page mark--so I can't say for certain if the romance gets great or the mystery gets compelling. I found the magic both overly simple and overly confusing, which is kind of a feat, but again, someday I may give Woven another shot. It's got a pleasant blue cover. I like blue. (I am so full of deep thoughts today.)
The other thing that kind of drove me crazy in this story is that the princess's name is Tyra. I'm sorry. That name is taken.
There's only one Princess Tyra in this world, and y'all better recognize.
Review: The Conspiracy of Us by Maggie Hall
Release date: January 13th, 2014
Publisher: Putnam Juvenile (Penguin)
Series: Yes, #1 a trilogy
Length: 336 pages
Rating: Booook, I want to love you. Maybe next time? I promise we'll try again.
To fight her destiny as the missing heir to a powerful and dangerous secret society, sixteen-year-old Avery West must solve an ancient puzzle in a deadly race across Europe. Forbidden love and code-breaking, masked balls and explosions, destiny and dark secrets collide in this romantic thriller, in the vein of a YA DaVinci Code.
Avery West's newfound family can shut down Prada at the Champs-Elysees when they want to shop in peace, and can just as easily order a bombing when they want to start a war.
They are part of a powerful and dangerous secret society called the Circle of Twelve, and Avery is their missing heir. If they discover who she is, some of them will want to use her as a pawn. Some will want her dead.
To thwart their plans, Avery must follow a trail of clues from the landmarks of Paris to the back alleys of Istanbul and through a web of ancient legends and lies. And unless she can stay one step ahead of beautiful, volatile Stellan, who knows she’s more than she seems, and can decide whether to trust mysterious, magnetic Jack, she may be doomed after all.
So the premise of this one is a little ridiculous, but I like ridiculous premises. I figured this would be fun, action-y smooth-smailing, but I found myself getting hung up on little things. I felt like I was thrown headfirst into the story in an awkward way that never let me grasp on to who Avery was. The beginning felt totally rushed to me, even though I knew it was to get to the goods (travel! mystery! power!), it strained credulity to me. Like, internal credulity.
I was totally amped for this secret behind-the-scenes society pulling the strings on the great happenings of history and politisc. That part is totally good. The jetsetting is fabulous. Paris! Istanbul! Mais oui! It was the character motivations and actions that I found both flat and confusing, but again, maybe I was in some kind of funk? (By the way, of the boys, so far I'm going with Stellan. Positive creeper, but way more interesting. Jack's only characterization seemed to be a British accent.)
My first WTF moment was when Avery agreed to go from her prom straight to the airport with Stellan, the random handsome stranger who PULLED A KNIFE ON HER--AT THE PROM--and blathered some nonsense about a family she's never heard of. She's just learned that the other hot boy in her life has been spying on her and taking clandestine creeper photos (okay, so they're both creepers), and one second he's about to kill Stellan, and the next, he's urging Avery to run to the airport with him. CALL YOUR MOM, AVERY. Go home and call your mom. It wasn't so much that she got on the plane (people make crap mistakes all the time), I just couldn't really track why. She seemed to lose her fear awfully fast.
But then we get Paris! Yay paris! Attempted murder, more jetset travel, and then we learn that the key to the mystery is a prophecy...centered around a "chosen one girl"...with violet eyes. Just like Avery has (she wears brown contacts to cover them because it's...just so hard to be a violet-eyed beauty? Liz Taylor's life was just so fraught? idk). Violet eyes? prophecy? I...no. I'm so sorry, book. I'm so sorry. You're so pretty. Don't hate meeeee I still want to go to Istanbul with youuuu I just don't understand why there's a magical prophecy in the middle of my contemp thriller
I'm determined to try this again later, but for now, there is no us in The Conspiracy of Us. And it breaks my heart.
|TYRA OMG NO GET OUT OF HERE|
Okay. This last DNF was definitely you.
Review: The Boy Next Door by Katie Van Ark
Release date: January 6th, 2014
Publisher: Swoon Reads (Macmillan)
Length: 368 pages
Rating: I, um...liked the skating?
Maddy Spier has been in love with the boy next door forever. As his figure skating partner she spends time in his arms every day. But she’s also seen his arms around other girls—lots of other girls.
Gabe can't imagine skating with anyone but Maddy, and together they have a real chance at winning some serious gold medals. So, he’s determined to keep thinking of her like a sister. After all, he’s never had a romantic relationship that lasted for more than two weeks.
But when their coach assigns a new romantic skating program, everything changes. Will this be the big break that Maddy’s been hoping for or the big breakup that Gabe has always feared?
This should have been my jam. Best friend romance? Figure skating? The Cutting Edge is only one of my favorite movies of all time, and this is basically a YA version of that. Minus all the chemistry. So...minus precisely what I love about the movie.
I guess my central promise with this book is that it's a romance that failed to make me swoon or ship, which is kind of the whole point. Gabe and Maddy are fine (though Gabe treats women like holy refried shit), and I particularly love Maddy's passion for skating and her competitiveness, but as a ship... eh? I didn't really get the basis of their love. Like, they're friends, and they train together, but they start out the book already knowing their in love with each other but fighting their attraction. It felt like a weird place to start, narratively speaking. Like it skipped the crucial step that might have gotten me to ship them, like a moment where they realize that the other person means more to them than just a partner. I don't know.
The timeline of the romance just felt strange and unbelievable to me. I just didn't truly care, and I didn't truly believe what I was reading, particularly when a teacher made them read Romeo and Juliet aloud in class and kiss in class. What teacher would do that? It feels incredibly inorganic in the book. So, yeah. Clunky storytelling, strange character actions, and a blah ship made me toss this aside with great sadness. Oh, book. We could have been great, you and I. But you need to hit the ice and practice those triple salchows a bit first.