Friday, February 22, 2013

4-in-1 Review: A Techno-thriller, Two Retellings, And An Anthology.

Good Wednesday to you all! Instead of a typical review, I decided to try something a little different. I have several books, both from last year and this year, that I read and never bothered to review. I just didn't have enough to say to warrant separate reviews. Rather than toss them aside, I've decided to give mini-reviews. (Well, mini for me, anyways.)

Emma Townsend has always believed in stories-the ones she reads voraciously, and the ones she creates. Perhaps it's because she feels like an outsider at her exclusive prep school, or because her stepmother doesn't come close to filling the void left by her mother's death. And her only romantic prospect-apart from a crush on her English teacher-is Gray Newman, a long-time friend who just adds to Emma's confusion. But escape soon arrives in an old leather-bound copy of Jane Eyre...

Reading of Jane's isolation sparks a deep sense of kinship. Then fate takes things a leap further when a lightning storm catapults Emma right into Jane's body and her nineteenth-century world. As governess at Thornfield, Emma has a sense of belonging she's never known-and an attraction to the brooding Mr. Rochester. Now, moving between her two realities and uncovering secrets in both, Emma must decide whether her destiny lies in the pages of Jane's story, or in the unwritten chapters of her own...
MY THOUGHTS: Not a particularly bad book, but I didn't enjoy it. Emma bounces back and forth between both worlds. She enjoys both, but I feel comfortable in neither. I didn't care what happened to Emma or the extra characters in either setting. Only once we get to the end when Emma defends her thesis do I understand the vibe I'm receiving. It feels like the thesis was, in fact, the author's, and the story was an elaborate device mixed with fan fiction to further promote her point of view regarding the treatment of women in Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre. Again, not a bad book, but it wasn't for me.

An unthinkable danger. An unexpected choice. Annabel, once the daughter of a wealthy merchant, is trapped in indentured servitude to Lord Ranulf, a recluse who is rumored to be both terrifying and beastly. Her circumstances are made even worse by the proximity of Lord Ranulf's bailiff---a revolting man who has made unwelcome advances on Annabel in the past.

Believing that life in a nunnery is the best way to escape the escalation of the bailiff's vile behavior and to preserve the faith that sustains her, Annabel is surprised to discover a sense of security and joy in her encounters with Lord Ranulf. As Annabel struggles to confront her feelings, she is involved in a situation that could place Ranulf in grave danger. Ranulf's future, and possibly his heart, may rest in her hands, and Annabel must decide whether to follow the plans she has cherished or the calling God has placed on her heart.
MY THOUGHTS: Beauty and the Beast is one of my favorite fairy tales, so Melanie Dickerson had big shoes to fill. I did like the twists she put on the story. Annabel (haha, get it?) is sent to work for the disfigured and "beastly" Lord Ranulf to save her ungrateful family from indentured servitude. Like Belle, she is kind, well-read, and patient, though she does have a temper. Unlike Belle, Annabel's dream is to join the convent. In the place of Gaston is a handsy baliff, and Lord Ranulff's housekeeper fills in admirably for Mrs. Potts.

I wasn't overwhelmed by giddy feelings or anything, but the retelling was fairly decent. There were strong Christian overtones, of course, but they didn't hamper the story. This is a respectable, middle-of-the-curve story.

Sixteen-year-old Noa has been a victim of the system ever since her parents died. Now living off the grid and trusting no one, she uses her computer-hacking skills to stay safely anonymous and alone. But when she wakes up on a table in an empty warehouse with an IV in her arm and no memory of how she got there, Noa starts to wish she had someone on her side.

Enter Peter Gregory. A rich kid and the leader of a hacker alliance, Peter needs people with Noa's talents on his team. Especially after a shady corporation called AMRF threatens his life in no uncertain terms.

But what Noa and Peter don't realize is that Noa holds the key to a terrible secret, and there are those who'd stop at nothing to silence her for good.
MY THOUGHTS: I really could not get into this book. I've banished it from my mind so far that most of my notes don't even make sense anymore. I remember disliking the unnecessary profanities, getting prickly at the stereotypical view of all foster parents as cruel/selfish/lazy/apathetic, and becoming annoyed at all the proper nouns. DTA felt like it capitalized everything. Ugh. I was also far more bored than I should be with this teen version of the hacker group Anonymous. Anonymous is cool. PERSEFoNE was not.

In this anthology, 20 authors explore the dark and hidden meanings behind some of the most beloved Mother Goose nursery rhymes through short story retellings. The dark twists on classic tales range from exploring whether Jack truly fell or if Jill pushed him instead to why Humpty Dumpty, fragile and alone, sat atop so high of a wall. The authors include Nina Berry, Sarwat Chadda, Leigh Fallon, Gretchen McNeil, and Suzanne Young.
MY THOUGHTS: I'm afraid I was less than pleased. I wanted to like it. No, I wanted to love it, but so many of the stories fell flat. None of them made me shiver. None of them made me gasp. Very few had any strong connections to the rhyme chosen (okay, the one based on Hickory Dickory Dock did a pretty good job both at being interesting and connecting to its rhyme). Only a handful made me wish for a full-length tale based on the characters presented. In most cases, the authors seemed to think that having someone die qualified the tale as "dark." As someone who has read and reread Alfred Hitchcock Presents: Stories That Scared Even Me, I beg to differ. Now THAT is a dark anthology.


Apparently, the only time I have nothing much to say is when I'm not thrilled with a book. Still, I know people who have liked each of these books, so I encourage you all to give them a try for yourself.

Note: I was given an ARC of Two and Twenty Dark Tales by the publisher for review via NetGalley.