Audio Review: The Maze Runner by James Dashner

The Maze Runner
By James Dashner
Published by Random House Audio
Source: Library

From Goodreads:

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his first name. His memory is blank. But he’s not alone. When the lift’s doors open, Thomas finds himself surrounded by kids who welcome him to the Glade—a large, open expanse surrounded by stone walls.

Just like Thomas, the Gladers don’t know why or how they got to the Glade. All they know is that every morning the stone doors to the maze that surrounds them have opened. Every night they’ve closed tight. And every 30 days a new boy has been delivered in the lift.

Thomas was expected. But the next day, a girl is sent up—the first girl to ever arrive in the Glade. And more surprising yet is the message she delivers.

Thomas might be more important than he could ever guess. If only he could unlock the dark secrets buried within his mind.

Hm. It’s taken me a while to figure out how to review this one because to be honest, I’m not really sure how I feel about the book itself.

In terms of the audio, the narrator doesn’t sound anything like a teenager. This may bother some people, since Thomas is supposed to be a teen. It doesn’t really bother me because since I’m not a teenager myself I rarely read YA books in the voice of an age-appropriate character. They always sound older to me in my head. And honestly, the narrator was good enough to make up for being of the wrong age group. He was a really smooth reader, to the point that his voice almost lulled me to sleep a few times (though to be fair, that may be because I was listening at work). He was good at doing distinct character voices as well without  making them sound overly cartoony, and he did a good job with accents. Overall I really enjoyed his narration.

As far as the book itself, I was less impressed. It made me sad, too, because this book was on my to-read list for ages and I was really looking forward to it. It’s not that I didn’t like it, exactly…more that I was just kind of underwhelmed and I had a lot of issues with it. First and foremost, it is absolutely chock full of fake swear words. I mean REALLY full of fake swear words. Tons of them. Overkill. It started to bug after a while. Or not even after a while, almost immediately. Maybe this was just a personal pet peeve but I really don’t see how it could be. Profanity doesn’t bother me, but fake profanity does.

Also, the book takes a really long time to get going. It starts rather slowly and proceeds rather slowly, and I didn’t really feel like it picked up much at all until about halfway through the book (or halfway through the audiobook, in this case). The book kind of spins its wheels in some places, like the continuous refusal to give Thomas any answers of any kind. He asks, they refuse, he asks, they refuse, ad nauseum. Which was fine, whatever, but it was also a refusal to give the reader any answers and it began to get annoying after a while. Especially since it was pointed out so many times that no answers were being given. It just exacerbated the annoyance factor.

I also found it a bit repetitive in some aspects. There was quite a bit of accusing Thomas of “knowing something” that kind of went on and on. I just had kind of a hard time concentrating. For whatever reason, this book just wasn’t clicking with me. I would find my mind wandering and then I’d have to rewind to catch what I missed the first time.

I do think this would be a great series for teenage boys, particularly those who are reluctant readers. It’s definitely got a boy vibe going on. There is a girl character but for most of the book she’s absentee. And that was fine, because there doesn’t need to be a female character in every book. Honest.

I feel like I’m being really negative here. I didn’t really dislike the book, despite the fact that most of this review is complaining about it. I think I just had high expectations and it fell short of them. I wanted to love it and I didn’t, and now I’m disappointed. I liked it enough that I’ll read or listen to the sequels, but they won’t be a priority.

3/5 Stars

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Waiting on Wednesday: The Nightmare Affair by Mindee Arnett

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

From Goodreads:

16-year-old Dusty Everhart breaks into houses late at night, but not because she’s a criminal. No, she’s a Nightmare. Literally. Dusty is a magical being who feeds on human dreams.

Being the only Nightmare at Arkwell Academy, a boarding school for magickind, and living in the shadow of her mother’s infamy is hard enough. But when Dusty sneaks into Eli Booker’s house, things get a whole lot more complicated. He’s hot, which means sitting on his chest and invading his dreams couldn’t get much more embarrassing. But it does. Eli is dreaming of a murder. The setting is Arkwell.

And then it comes true.

Now the Dusty has to follow the clues–both within Eli’s dreams and out of them–to stop the killer before more people turn up dead. And before the killer learns what she’s up to and marks her as the next target.

A nightmare eater? A NIGHTMARE EATER. Expected publication date is March 5, 2013.

Waiting on Wednesday: Hysteria by Megan Miranda

Waiting on Wednesday is a weekly meme hosted by Jill at Breaking the Spine.

From Goodreads:

Mallory’s life is falling apart. Her boyfriend was stabbed. He bled to death in her kitchen. Mallory was the one who stabbed him. But she can’t remember what happened that night. She only remembers the fear . . .

When Mallory’s parents send her away to a boarding school, she thinks she can escape the gossip and the threats. But someone, or something, has followed her. There’s the hand that touches her shoulder when she’s drifting off to sleep. A voice whispering her name. And everyone knows what happened. So when a pupil is found dead, Mallory’s name is on their lips. Her past can be forgotten but it’s never gone. Can Mallory live with that?

I really liked Fracture so I’m eager to read more from Megan Miranda and hey…sinister boarding school! Expected publication date is February 5, 2013.

Review: Miracle by Elizabeth Scott

Miracle
By Elizabeth Scott
224 Pages
Published by Simon Pulse
Publication Date: June 5, 2012
Source: Library

From Goodreads:

Megan is a miracle. At least, that’s what everyone says. Having survived a plane crash that killed everyone else on board, Megan knows she should be grateful just to be alive. But the truth is, she doesn’t feel like a miracle. In fact, she doesn’t feel anything at all. Then memories from the crash start coming back.

Scared and alone, Megan doesn’t know whom to turn to. Her entire community seems unable—or maybe unwilling—to see her as anything but Miracle Megan. Everyone except for Joe, the beautiful boy next door with a tragic past and secrets of his own. All Megan wants is for her life to get back to normal, but the harder she tries to live up to everyone’s expectations, the worse she feels. And this time, she may be falling too fast to be saved…

This is one of those books that I don’t really feel like I know how to review.

If I were going simply based on writing, it’s solid. It’s a short, fast, easy read that keeps you interested and turning the pages.

The thing is, I really couldn’t stand ANY of the characters aside from Joe, whose part in the book was relatively minimal. And that includes Megan. Especially Megan, actually. I just couldn’t make myself like her or feel sorry for her, which is pretty impressive considering that the girl survived a plane crash. She should have been a completely sympathetic character but she just…wasn’t. I borderline loathed her by the end of the book, to be honest. I get the whole PTSD thing, but surviving an accident doesn’t give you carte blanche to be a complete bitch to everyone who has ever cared about you.

And Megan’s parents. Oy vey. Megan has a sickly little brother who they have doted on his entire life, and suddenly when Megan survives the plane crash he becomes the invisible boy. He starts putting himself in dangerous situations just to get attention and they continue to ignore him in favor of “Meggie” (what a totally non-endearing nickname for an almost-grown woman, by the way) OR get angry with him for disturbing or stressing her out. That’s awesome parenting right there. You get one kid back from the dead and promptly forget the existence of the other. And they suffocate ‘Meggie’ to the point where even going outside in the yard is practically a jail break. I mean, I guess I can see being overprotective but they take it to a level that is pretty obscene and frankly thoroughly obnoxious. This alternately suffocating and neglectful parenting is given a paragraph or so explanation at the end of the book but it just kind of fell flat for me because at that point I didn’t care about their motivations. I already didn’t like them. And here’s the thing – it almost seems like they were assholes before Megan’s accident. Their neighbors – Joe and his father – are reeling from a tragedy of their own and they treat them like they have the plague. Snob city.

Joe basically saved the book for me. He’s a sweet guy and incredibly patient with Megan. He was really the only one I was able to root for in the entire book which, again, is saying something considering he’s not the one who survived a horrific accident.

So basically, here’s my short review: it’s a well-written book that will appeal to the right person. I just wasn’t the right person. If you’re interested in contemporary YA – particularly those that deal with people recovering from tragedy – you may want to give this one a shot. Obviously it elicited strong emotions from me even though I didn’t particularly enjoy it, so that’s certainly a point in its favor.

Review: Dark Eyes by William Richter

Dark Eyes
By William Richter
383 Pages
Published by Razorbill
Publication Date: March 15, 2012
Source: Library

From Goodreads:

Wally was adopted from a Russian orphanage as a child and grew up in a wealthy New York City family. At fifteen, her obsessive need to rebel led her to life on the streets.

Now the sixteen-year-old is beautiful and hardened, and shes just stumbled across the possibility of discovering who she really is. She’ll stop at nothing to find her birth mother before Klesko—her darkeyed father—finds her. Because Klesko will stop at nothing to reclaim the fortune Wally’s mother stole from him long ago. Even if that means murdering his own blood. But Wallys had her own killer training, and she’s hungry for justice.

The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo for teens, this debut thriller introduces our next big series heroine!

I have mentioned before that I have a love of/fascination with all things Russian. I’ve never been to Russia but the idea of going someday really appeals to me. Therefore, the Russian connection in this book was one of the first things that caught my eye and made me want to read it.

As far as the book itself, I felt like it started off a little slow and it took me a while to get into it, but once I did it really picked up and I was engrossed. Once it got past the slow pacing in the beginning (IMO) the rest of the book is very even and flows well. There’s plenty of mystery and action to keep you interested.

Wally herself is a really great main character. She’s tough and strong, but mostly she’s very street smart. She has the skills one would expect that you’d need in order to survive on the streets (and the fact that she’s actually chosen to live on the streets instead of in a posh apartment speaks volume as to what kind of person she is). She’s brave and loyal to her friends. Speaking of friends, Tevin, Jake and Ella are all endearing in their own way. They don’t always agree but they are together for better or worse and that was admirable. The fact that they disagree and they aren’t always inclined to do the right thing added a layer of realism to them.

Watching Wally trying to unravel the mystery of her life kept me guessing, and I pretty much never guessed correctly. That made it more fun in my opinion because when things would be revealed I’d be like “NOoooo” or “Yesssss” and there was one event in particular that left me feeling like this:

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I will most definitely be looking forward to the next book in this series.

4/5 Stars