[Book Review] If they cast Nina Dobrev as Number Seven, I’m in.

Meg’s Review: The Power of Six by Pittacus Lore

I am someone who forms immediate attachments to characters. I bawl at the point of catharsis in every sports movie; I’d lived through all of their strife and am now irreversibly connected to the football player or the upcoming tennis star . Halfway through the first few chapters of The Girl With a Dragon Tattoo, I was so concerned for Mikael Blomkvist’s fate that I could hardly turn the page.

So it says something that, at the end of The Power of Six, I really couldn’t give a shit about a single character in the book.

(Well, no character other than Bernie Kosar, the shape shifting companion to John (aka Number Four). Although BK can take the form of any monster imaginable, he chooses to hang out in the form of a beagle. I can’t help but love him.)

The story basically picks up where I Am Number Four leaves off: John, his best friend Sam, and Number Six are on the run from the evil Mogadorians and the US government (which thinks they’re terrorists). As the story opens, the trio spends a great deal of time trying to figure out what to do, which makes for some pretty dull reading. But, as though Pittacus Lore (the pen name of James Frey and Jobie Hughes) realized the presence of the ever-increasing boredom factor, John’s first-person narrative is left off every two chapters or so to visit Marina, aka Number Seven, who lives in a convent in Spain. Still, as the word ‘convent’ might imply, the split narrative doesn’t actually help the boring part.

And the book had to really work at being dull. As both Marina and John scramble to figure out how to save themselves (and Earth, and Lorien, their home planet), there are almost as many explosions as there are chapters. But the long passages of battles felt more like action for action’s sake than an actual part of the plot. Because all of the Lorien aliens have ‘legacies’ like telekinesis and fire-pulse hands, there’s all kinds of cool special effects going on, but at some point they just get silly because they’re so overused.  When the battle is over, there’s just a whole bunch of dead bad guys rather than a whole bunch of dead bad guys plus a new direction in plot.

The book clocked in at a slim 251 pages. On the one hand, that means the torture is fairly short-lived. On the other, is also means there’s almost nothing between the covers in the way of character development. But really, the characters are so one-dimensional that there isn’t much room for growth beyond, perhaps, Sarah’s character, who turns out to be a bit of a bitch. That fact does not bode well for the possible sequel film; besides Alex Pettyfer’s chest, Dianna Agron was the only redeeming factor in the first I am Number Four movie. The only other hint of development was the establishment of a rather strange love triangle between Sam, Six, and John–

It would only be fair to the guys to cast Nina Dobrev. I mean, if their girlfriends are going to drag them to see Alex Pettyfer, they should at least have something for themselves.

–that is so unstable that there’s no real tension there, either.

The issues with the first novel are present here too. Pacing is pretty miserable; I didn’t actually get interested in the plot until around page 200 (oi, it’s a 251-page book), but even then I was skimming over never-ending battle scenes. I think that if the first and second books were condensed and combined, we’d have about 100 pages of a fairly fun narrative.

New problems arise as well. The split first-person narrative was particularly distracting. Because the characters are so flat and indistinct, it some times took me a while to realize who was talking. It was particularly bad in the last chapters when the narrative switched every few pages. I’m all for telling a story from different points of view, but you’ve gotta give the characters their voices, so I don’t have to leaf along, wondering who’s talking.

Normally, two bad books in a series would mean that I would swear the rest of the franchise off forever. But I’m hooked on the badness and the strangely straightforward nature of the narration (such as when, during a battle, John hops on the back of Bernie Kosar, who had turned into a tiger-ram monster, like it was no big thing at all.) that I’m probably in for the long-haul.

Plus, I can’t abandon Bernie Kosar now. I gotta know if the beagle makes it.

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[ Book Review ] A pretty cover does not a good book make. Sadly.

Meg’s Review: The Alchemyst: The Secrets of the Immortal Nicholas Flamel

by Michael Scott

Audiobook read by Denis O’Hare

I am a sucker for three things: ancient-mythology-in-modern-times, perfectly-paced prose, and pink-colored alcoholic drinks.  The first weakness saw me buy The Alchemyst by Michael Scott. The lack of the second drove me to the third.

In The Alchemyst, 700-year-old Nicholas Flamel is alive and well after discovering the secret to immortality in a book called “The Codex”. He and his wife, Perenelle, are camped out in San Francisco running a bookstore (because I guess what else would you do if you were immortal and could turn anything into gold?).  Enter the villain, John Dee, who is after the secrets contained in “The Codex” — which, incidentally, are key to returning the Dark Elders (think evil gods) back to power. And in the middle of it are twin teenagers Sophie and Josh, who, by the way, turn out to be the subject of a prophecy that may or may not end the world.

I realized early on that my main problem was that I simply wasn’t connecting with the protagonists. Did that mean that I had finally hit an age where I could no longer truly commit to a young adult novel? Are fifteen-year-old minds just too different for my decrepit-self?  How to check the theory? I thought about how I felt about the plight of other YA protagonists: Percy Jackson, Harry Potter, Artemis Fowl, and Katniss Everdeen. Then I decided that Sofie and Josh were just kinda dumb and annoying, and that’s why I didn’t like the book.

Time for some of the good and bad:

Continue reading

[Book Review] Such a hot, hot mess

Meg’s Review: I Am Number Four

Pittacus Lore — I Am Number Four

 

Apparently, Number Four is in a Burning Ring of Fire. Going down down downThe only reason I picked up I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore was because the guy in the trailer for the movie was really hot. But as saying, “I’m going to see a  movie because the star is hot” seemed like a shallow approach, I grabbed the book to build a stronger defense. Terrible plan, as it turned out.

I Am Number Four is a young adult scifi thriller with an interesting premise. Number Four is one of the last surviving members of an alien species whose home planet was destroyed by invaders. He and his fellow refugees (1-9) are hiding out on Earth, biding their time until they can take back their planet. However, the invaders followed them to Earth and are systematically hunting the survivors down in numerical order. As the book opens, Number Four realizes that Number Three has died, meaning his number is literally up (har).

Sounds interesting. And it would be if the authors, James Frey (A Million Little Pieces) and Jobie Hughes working under the pen name Pittacus Lore, actually stuck to that plot summary. Instead, they somehow managed to Continue reading

[ Book Review ] It’s a Conflict alright.

Book Review: Sharon Lee and Steve Miller: Conflict of Honors

(a novel of the Liaden Universe, the front cover says)

Product Description (lifted from Amazon.com):

“In the third novel of the Liaden Universe, Priscilla Delacroix is betrayed and abandoned by her shipmates. But confronting the crew will be far easier-and safer-than confronting the demons of her past.”

Upon reading this standalone novel from the Liaden Universe, however, the reader discovers that the much harder tasks falls to taking the characters and their situations seriously. I picked Conflict of Honors off the shelf up knowing full well it was a space opera. Hell, that was its selling point – the promise of angst, space, hilarious misunderstandings, and big dosage of futuristic escapism. And I was prepared to swallow mediocre prose to get it.

Instead, the authors created a monolith of flat characters, uninteresting conversations, and absurd conflicts bested only by the even more unlikely resolutions. Please note, the following will include a liberal helping of [mild] spoilers. Reader discretion advised. Continue reading