The Book Bird

My name is Nicole and I'm an aspiring editor. This is my place to review books and record my progress in reading. I mostly review YA books, with some others thrown in occasionally.

The Night Circus by Erin Moregenstern

 

  

        The Night Circus tells the story of two rival magicians (and not the illusionist kind - this is the real deal) who decide to have a contest. The competition goes like this: they each choose a contestant. They are bound by a ring together. They must compete against each other to find the winner. The venue will be the place called The Night Circus. A beautiful circus that is only open at night, Le Cirque de Reves has a magical, mystical atmosphere. When the two contestants of fall in love though, the fragile balance of the circus is in danger.

       There is no doubt that The Night Circus is a beautiful book. Between the perfect atmosphere, the rich descriptions, and the amazing writing, this book is a work of art. The premise is very intriguing as well. I have never read a book that takes place in the circus, and I don’t know if I will be able to after having read this book - nothing will be able to compare. It was at times a little difficult to get through, but it was well worth the effort. The way the story skipped forward and backward in time was a little confusing, along with the sheer amount of characters. I didn’t find myself actually caring about any of the characters which was a little disappointing because they were all so fascinating. I would give this book 4/5 stars.

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The Clockwork Scarab by Colleen Gleason

When Mina Holmes, niece of Sherlock, and Evaline Stoker, sister of Bram, get
called to the British Museum by Irene Stoker, they are in for a surprise. Young
society girls in London are disappearing and dying, and they all have a
connection - they all were in possession of a clockwork scarab before they died.
Mina and Evaline are called to solve the mystery, and with Mina’s sleuthing
capabilities and Evaline’s vampire slaying superpowers, what could possibly go
wrong?
This book tried to do a lot of things, and it did none of them well. Mina Holmes
is supposed to be a female version of Sherlock Holmes. She has great at
deductions and is smart. Unfortunately, this is where the similarities end.
While Sherlock himself is constantly two steps ahead of the rest, is fearless,
reckless, and has no care for manners or others’ feelings, Mina has none of
these traits we know and love. Basically, she’s an insecure nerd. Everytime
Evaline, the other main character, brings her into a slightly scary situation
Mina cowers and runs away, trying to save her perfect hair and dress. This book
deserves an A+ for character depth, huh? When she’s trying to be nice and proper
in her interactions with the society people, I wanted to bang my head against
the wall. Evaline Stoker didn’t really have the same problem, seeing as she
wasn’t based on an already existing character. However, there was another
problem with the characterization in The Clockwork Scarab. Even though the book
was supposed to empower women, the male (potential) love interests somehow
always triumphed in the end and saved Mina and Evaline. I may be wrong, but
damsels in distress don’t exactly scream girl power. Along with character
issues, the world is very unclear and difficult to understand. The genre is
steampunk, but this doesn’t go beyond some steam powered inventions and dresses
with gears on them. There is an indication that London has platforms above
surface level along the sky scrapes, but they aren’t described well and I find
it unclear as to what they actually are. The time travel element of the plot
left a lot of questions unanswered - all of them, actually. That was actually a
recurring problem throughout this book. An interesting question would come up
and never be mentioned again. For example, there aren’t any vampires in London,
even though Evaline is a vampire hunter. Even though it seems like a pretty
important part of their world, this is mentioned twice in the book and never
explained. All of these problems overshadow any good part of The Clockwork
Scarab, and made an exceedingly disappointing book.

Obsidian by Jennifer L. Armentrout Review

Obsidian follows a teenage girl who moves to a small town in West Virginia with her mother, and is not particularly happy about this decision. Next door to her lives a very attractive, and very rude, boy along with his twin sister. When she sees them do something out of the ordinary, she finds out that they are hot aliens from far, far away. 

The Good:

  • The plot was entertaining. The book was very fast paced and made you want to read on, and the drama kept me wanting more.
  • Although it was not as funny as the hype says it is, Obsidian still has some humor here and there.
  • The action scenes were entertaining.
  • The writing was solid. Not award-winning prose, but there weren’t any problems. It did its’ job.
  • The idea for the aliens was original, which I appreciated.
  • I had a lot of empathy for the MC. There was plenty of second-hand embarrassment involved.

The Bad:

  • The whole “I hate this guy but I am still in love with him how funny and unique” plot is getting really old, and I was rolling my eyes the entire book. MC wasn’t fooling anyone.
  • We get it. Hot alien guy is hot. You tell us every time we see him, we don’t need to be reminded on every page. If I had a dollar for every time the words “his hard chest” were used I could buy the rights to this book and fix it.
  • The author tells all the information at once. I wish there were more suspense on that front.
  • The idea for the aliens was really cool, but I wish it was developed more and there was more information on how they actually work. Especially the Arum. How does that work?

Overall rating: 3/5 stars. I will be reading the next books. It was very entertaining, and if the kinks in this book were worked out the rest of the series will be great. I hear the books get better as they go on, so I will be holding out hope. The author accomplished what she was trying to do, but I won’t be nominating this book for any awards.

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More Than This by Patrick Ness Review

      A boy drowns, desperate and alone in his final moments. He dies. Then he wakes, naked and bruised and thirsty, but alive. How can this be? And what is this strange deserted place? As he struggles to understand what is happening, the boy dares to hope. Might this not be the end? Might there be more to this life, or perhaps this afterlife?

Patrick Ness is, hands down, my favorite author. I have never read a book by him that I didn’t like, and More Than This is truly no exception. Once again, Ness mixes a fast pace and literary excellence to make an exceptional novel. Ness revealed vital information slowly, almost excruciatingly, and kept me on the edge of my seat. The setting and premise was so interesting I just had to know more. He weaves stories of the main character’s past with the present, but both were equally interesting, which is a rare find in most books I read nowadays. Not only was the plot gripping, but the writing was just as beautiful. I felt the need to slow down reading just to savor it. The only problem I really had with the book was the answer to big questions in the book. It wasn’t quite as interesting as it could of been, but it wasn’t a very big deal.

Overall Rating: 5/5 stars

 

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The 5th Wave by Rick Yancey Review

 

          Three years ago, the Others arrived. At first, nothing changed. There were no big explosions, no firefights, and no drama. Then, ten days after they arrived, the power went out. That was the first wave. Now, after four waves and three years later, 97% of the population is dead. Sometimes Cassie thinks that she is the last human alive. Her entire family is dead, except for her little brother, Sammy. Hunted down by the Others like prey, all she has is her gun and her promise to her little brother.

Those looking for an exciting, action-packed book to get back into reading or to keep the momentum moving need look no farther, because The 5th Wave fills all those categories. The writing is great, and was simple enough to get the point across for the action scenes while still being funny and interesting. There were multiple perspectives, which often gets boring. There will be one perspective that is really interesting and fun to read, but the other one is boring and tedious. The reader has to power through this other perspective in order to get to the good spots. I didn’t have this problem in The 5th Wave most of the time, though. Both Zombie’s and Cassie’s perspective were really exciting and kept me turning pages in order to see what happens next. There were only two slow parts: the background at the beginning (ugh) and was when Cassie was recovering in the house (this is vague on purpose – I don’t want spoilers). And this is where we run into the big problem – the romance. It is obvious when reading that there wasn’t originally supposed to be a romance. Or at least if there was, there certainly shouldn’t have been. There is enough going on in the plot that there would be no need for an extra romance, however, romance is what we got. Every time Cassie interacts with the “love interest” I want to scream at her, show her how extremely stupid she was being. The boy just screamed danger. Every time he did something weird or suspicious I wanted to slap some sense into her. I expected him to betray her the entire book and then… he didn’t. It was just a boring, useless romance that didn’t stand out at all.This is something that annoyed me throughout the entire book, but fortunately did not ruin it. What is important to learn from the, sadly, subpar romance in The 5th Wave is that romance is not necessary in a book without romance, even if that book is marketed to teens.

 

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Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Marcus, otherwise known as “w1n5t0n”, is just a seventeen-year-old boy living in San Francisco. But this normal boy leads another life on the internet as a mastermind of technology. An expert at finding ways to exploit flaws in security, Marcus knows how to work the system. Marcus is a celebrity online, until the Bay Bridge is bombed by terrorists. He and his friends are mistaken for terrorists by the Department of Homeland Security and are taken into custody. Interrogated for days, the teenagers are forced to prove that they are not terrorists to the very people who are supposed to protect his country. After the panic from the bombing throws San Francisco into a police state, he decides it is his duty to take down the DHS himself.

Do I recommend this book? Yes. Was it very good? Not really. Little Brothers talks about some very important and relevant ideas, like the importance of privacy as the internet grows and what terrorism really is, but if I were to use one word to describe it, it would be… heavy handed. Excessive amounts of time is spent discussing the reasons the main character feels the way he does, but that isn’t really necessary and there isn’t a lot of subtlety to the message. Despite that, though, Little Brother was truly fascinating for someone who is interested in technology at all. The methods the main character uses to achieve his goals are based on fact, and I found myself doing further research into the topics that were discussed. Even though the writing was often kind of weak, my interest in the plot made it easy for me to get into the book and I was able to overlook some things. And the writing was rough at best. Apparently, Cory Doctorow is incapable of writing a strong female character. There were two girls in the story, discounting adult characters who don’t really get developed, and neither of them had any kind of depth to their characters. The main character’s girlfriend’s personality was described but I just didn’t see any of that in her actions. The main character goes on and on about how adventurous and awesome she is, but the only way I saw that was when she used strong hot sauce on her burrito. Admittedly, it was very strong hot sauce, but I wasn’t seeing what Marcus was seeing. The other female character had me smacking my head in all of her scenes. She was like the literary embodiment of your recently divorced, misogynistic, drunk uncle at Thanksgiving’s idea of women. Even though Marcus has supposedly been friends with her his entire life, she is played as a crazy emotional bitch who is a coward and is just jealous of the marvelous Marcus, her one true love. While reading her final scene I was laughing out loud at the absurdity. If only she had been written better, she might have been one of my favourite characters. And Little Brother often gets just that - absurd. It starts to sound like, “As I made out with this super-hot chick, I contemplated the importance of the constitution as the United States navigates the so-called ‘War on Terror’ and planned my next blog post that millions of kids will read.” If the author hadn’t been so caught up in trying to make his character cool, the quality of the writing would have caught up to the quality of the ideas presented in Little Brother.

 

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Flipped

Flipped - Wendelin Van Draanen This book was just... meh. I have pretty mixed feelings about it.
Things I liked:
- It was pretty cute. A lot of the parts when Bryce and Julie were interacting made me smile.
- The length was short and sweet, making it a quick read.
- I enjoyed the story a lot. There were plenty of funny bits and even though Julie was basically telling the same thing as Bryce in her chapters, it didn't feel repetitive as she was telling the story from her perspective.
- I liked the writing for the most part. No flaws that I can tell.
- The character development was good for the most part - I felt like I understood the characters
Things I didn't like:
- Throughout the book, I didn't like Bryce or Julie. They both annoyed me and I didn't always find them realistic.
- Bryce was supposed to have flipped, but even though he did something nice at the end of the book and he liked Julie, he still seemed like a jerk.
- The way Bryce treated Julie at the end of the book really annoyed me. He just expected Julie to automatically forgive him and like him back. Maybe he wasn't a coward, but he certainly wasn't respectful.
- Bryce had a lot more backstory than Julie. I didn't even know that Julie had brothers until Bryce mentioned it.
-The events weren't always in chronological order and that really confused me at certain points. The characters would talk about what happened over a long period and then go back and talk about it in more detail. This may not bother other people who are better at paying attention, though.
- The author's message wasn't very clear to me. Was she trying to say not to take people at face value? This doesn't make any sense to me because of Bryce's change in character at the end.
These character flaws were kind of to big for me to really enjoy the book, especially since it's a pretty character driven book. I would recommend it for a quick and fun read, but not much past that.

Alabama Moon

Alabama Moon - Watt Key I would give Alabama moon three stars overall. My favorite part was the descriptions of what Moon had to do in the wild. My only problem with that aspect was that it spent a little too much time talking about Moon making his shelter, getting food, making fires, etc. and I thought it took a little bit away from the plot. It might have been trimmed down a little bit more.

The plot was alright, but I didn't feel like it had a clear structure. There didn't seem to be a clear goal in mind that Moon was working towards which wasn't a huge problem, but did bother me all the same. I thought Moon sometimes acted a little bit older than he should have. For example, he doesn't act very scared about being alone when his dad dies. I understand that he is supposed to be brave, but he isn't a robot. Sometimes I felt like the emotion on all the characters' parts fell a little bit short.

***** SPOILERS ******

I felt like the uncle came out of the blue a little bit. Now, I'm very picky about my endings, but there wasn't even any hinting. A new character can't be introduced in the last 10 pages.

The Shadow Thieves

The Shadow Thieves - Anne Ursu I loved The Shadow Thieves. I really liked the humorous style of writing used and it was never boring, with constant action and no floods of detail that make you want to skip the two page long paragraph. I stayed up until four in the morning finishing this book and I don't regret a second of it! The only issue is that it is very similar to Percy Jackson and the Olympians - maybe a little bit too similar for comfort. All the same, I highly recommend this book and I can't wait to read the next one!

Theodore Boone: The Accused

Theodore Boone: The Accused - John Grisham Very exciting! Definately a page-turner!