Untamed by P.C. Cast and Kristen Cast -- 2 stars
SPOILERS ALL THE WAY THROUGH
Doesn't Zoey ever get tired of romantic entanglements? Last book featured her having sex with Loren (who dies), breaking her imprint with Heath, and breaking up with Erik (or being dumped. The sex with Loren had quite a bit to do with that). Instead of taking the time to enjoy her new single status the very next day she meets Romantic Entanglement The Fourth: James Stark! At this point it looks like the Casts have just plain stopped trying, the development of their relationship goes something like this.
STARK: I am dark, angsty, and have a magical power. Oh woe is me.
ZOEY: Oh my Lord, we have so much in common!
STARK: -kisses her hand. Then dies in what will go down in history as the world's cheesiest most ridiculous death scene-
ACTUAL QUOTE: "I should have kissed more than your hand . . . thought I'd have more time," he whispered between liquid, panting breaths. ". . . too late now."
NOT SO DRAMATIC IRONY: Oh please, you know you don't actually believe that.
Stark of course comes back, bringing the apocalypse with him (that was pretty much the only cool part of the book. Did I mention it was incredibly slow till about the last 30 pages?) and Zoey starts making out with Erik to the tune of Shakespeare's Othello. I will not be at all surprised if she picks up another guy in the next book -- possibly the Big Bad Apocalyptic demon summoned at the end. She described how beautiful he was for awhile and no one has ever accused Zoey of having too much depth.
The Magicians by Lev Grossman -- 3 stars
There are four parts to this book. Don't read the first two. Seriously don't. I only got through them through sheer stubborness and deliberately having it be the only book I brought with me on to the bus. Here are all the plot bits you need to know to skip on to the last two parts of the book.
Quentin 'I Make Holden Caulfield Look Cheerful' Coldwater goes to the magical school Brakebills. He depressedly makes his way to graduation, finds a girlfriend Alice (the only really bearable character in the book) and graduates. At one point he accidentally summons a Beast into his classroom who eats one of his classmates. He proceeds to go live in New York City with his Brakebills buddies: Eliot 'Voted Most Likely to Drink Himself Into an Early Grave (And Make Caustic Remarks All The While!)', Janet 'How Are You Doing Darling? Excuse Me While I Sleep With Your Boyfriend', and Josh 'The Long Lost Descendant of Santa Claus' (Okay it's not true about Josh. But wouldn't it have been fun if he was?). He then cheats on Alice because Quentin suffers from a terrible disability to recognize when he's got a good thing going. This is followed by the return of Penny the Crazy Punk who comes announcing he's found a way to take them into the magical land of Fillory (Narnia pastiche).
Right, you're sorted for Books One and Two. Book Three features them entering Fillory and I received the pleasant surprise of actually starting to like the story. I'll leave you unspoiled but there are some nice plot twists and the land of Fillory itself is interesting enough for me to kind of filter out Quentin's voice and enjoy reading about it. My only big quibble (SPOILER SPOILER, stop now to avoid SPOILER) is that the book suffers from The Awesome Girl Dies Syndrome. You may recognize this from books such as Katherine Patterson's 'Road to Terebithia' and John Green's 'Looking for Alaska'. This particularly sucks here because as noted earlier Alice is the only semi-likeable character in the book which left me with a main cast I disliked or was indifferent towards. Nonetheless, the book wrapped up all right and Books Three and Four were enough for me to push the book's rating up to a 3 (I'd have given it a 1 or 2 based on the first two books alone).
Nobody's Prize by Esther Friesner -- 3.5 stars
Helen! Oh you are such a lovely change of pace from that terrible Quentin Coldwater. I love having a main character I can actually like. This book features teenage girl power, some really nicely written friendships (How much did I love reading Helen hanging out with Argus? Milo? Telys? Thiiiiis much), and hints of romance tempered with this super awesome statement:
"I almost feel sorry for that man," Telys's mother said one evening as we made camp. "I think he loves you very much. He's breaking his heart over you, child."
"Is that supposed to make me love him? Suppose I did marry him, just because he wouldn't stop pestering me until I gave in. Imagine that another man arrives, years later, and he's breaking his heart over me as well. What am I supposed to do then? Run away with the new pest?" I shook my head. "Is love just a matter of badgering someone until you get your own way, like a spoiled child? If that's so, Aphrodite ought to carry a hammer as a warning." Telys's mother didn't say another word on behalf of my exasperating suitor after that.
I can think of quite a few fictional girls who would benefit from your life lessons Helen. And we're going to ignore the dramatic irony of that statement because thinking of bad things happening to you makes my heart hurt.
American Born Chinese by Gene Luen Yang -- 4 stars
This book consists of three simultaneously running stories which tie together at the end in a very clever way. I was told this on the front cover and did not see the twist coming which just goes to show you how clever it was. Frankly the summary on the front flap is much better than anyone I could come up with in terms of letting you know what it's about without spoiling you so I'm just going to paste it here.
All Jin Wang wants is to fit in. When his family moves to a new neighbourhood, he suddenly finds that he's the only Chinese-American student at his school. Jocks and bullies pick on him constantly, and he has hardly any friends. Then, to make matters worse, he falls in love with an all-American girl...
Born to rule over all the monkeys in the world, the story of the Monkey King is one of the oldest and greatest Chinese fables. Adored by his subjects, master of the arts of kung fu, he is the most powerful monkey on earth. But the Monkey King doesn't want to be a monkey. He wants to be hailed as a god...
Chin-Kee is the ultimate negative Chinese stereotype, and he's ruining his cousin Danny's life. Danny's a basketball player, a popular kid at school, but every year Chin-Kee comes to visit and every year Danny has to transfer to a new school to escape the shame. This year, though, things quickly go from bad to worse...
These three apparently unrelated tales come together with an unexpected twist, in a modern fable that is hilarious, poignant, and action-packed. American Born Chinese is an amazing ride, all the way to the astonishing climax -- and confirms what a growing number of readers already know: Gene Yang is a major talent.
The art works very well for the story, there are some genuinely funny bits, and the ultimate message about self-acceptance is a good one. Read it.
Quiver by Stephanie Spinner -- 3 stars
It was kind of nice reading two Greek myth inspired novels so close to each other; it let me look at different perspectives on the same characters (chiefly Atalanta and Jason). This book is very short and straightforward but it worked out well that way. I wouldn't particularly recommend it but it's not something I'd turn people away from either. Read it if you've a particular interest in Greek myths, if not, it's not anything special. From what I can remember Stephanie Spinner's Quicksilver was a bit better done.