Tuesday, May 27, 2014

[Indie Review] Open Minds - Susan Kaye Quinn

Title: Open Minds (Mindjack Trilogy #1)
Author: Susan Kaye Quinn
Genre: YA Science Fiction
Published: 2011
Rating: ★★★

DescriptionSixteen-year-old Kira Moore is a zero, someone who can't read thoughts or be read by others. Zeros are outcasts who can't be trusted, leaving her no chance with Raf, a regular mindreader and the best friend she secretly loves. When she accidentally controls Raf’s mind and nearly kills him, Kira tries to hide her frightening new ability from her family and an increasingly suspicious Raf. But lies tangle around her, and she’s dragged deep into a hidden world of mindjackers, where having to mind control everyone she loves is just the beginning of the deadly choices before her. -- Goodreads

My thoughts: I received a free kindle version of Open Minds about a year ago. Since I'm considering self-publishing, I figured I should finally give it a try. Unfortunately, I tend to be a little more harsh when it comes to reading indie novels. I feel the content should be just as good as a traditionally published book and I will nitpick every little thing. As a result, I didn't enjoy the story as much as I probably should have.

Overall, I thought the novel was well-written. No grammar mistakes (that I could find, anyway), the writing flowed well and was quick to read. Descriptions were great and I was fully in the character's head. I have absolutely no problem with the writing style, save for a few of the terms she made up. Like "mesh." Unless I missed the significance of the word, it's like she just used it to replace "cool." Otherwise, I enjoyed the the story's premise. The idea of living in a society where everyone can read everyone's minds creeps me out. I have some pretty disturbing thoughts that should never be shared with anyone. Ever.

Lately, I'm finding it more difficult to make a connection with main characters. Kira really annoyed me at first and I think it's partly because I'm becoming tired of insecure female first-person voices. The first few chapters felt like a pity party. Kira can't link her thoughts with other people, so no one except her friend Raf will acknowledge her presence, the pervy boys at school take advantage of her, and she feels like she has no future. Of course, by the end of the story, she gains confidence and all that, but I never really connected with her, and I didn't find her particularly unique. Perhaps I didn't like her because she didn't embrace her mindjacking powers and use them on unsuspecting people like I would have. Truly, I think I'm a villain at heart.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

[Review] The Witches' Kitchen - Allen Williams

Author: Allen Williams
Genre: YA Fantasy
Published: 2010
Rating: ★★★1/2

Description: When the Toad awakens in the dark of the Witches' Kitchen, she has no idea how she got there, or even who she is. Determined to recover her memories, she sets out on a journey to escape. But in the Kitchen, nothing is as it seems. It is pitch-black, infinite, and impossible to navigate, a living maze: It's alive, and constantly rearranges itself. Worse yet are the Witches themselves, who have sent a procession of horrific, deadly monsters on her trail.

And though at first she finds that she can't tell friends from foes by the scales of their skin or the sharpness of their teeth, the Toad picks up a ragtag team of unlikely allies to help her on her quest: an iron-handed imp, a carnivorous fairy, and a few hairy locals. So with a little help from her friends, the Toad just might find herself--and her way out--yet.

My thoughts:

At first, I was surprised when I found out this was intended for a Young Adult audience. From the description and the writing style of the first few chapters, it seemed like it was meant for a younger audience, like Middle Grade. It's written in third person omniscient, too, which tends to come off as a bit . . . childish, for lack of a better word. However, once I got to the end, I kind of realized why it was marked for YA. There's some dark and disturbing things going on.

The story is rich with creative descriptions, and the illustrations every few pages are positively creepy. I'm certain if I was a little kid reading it, I'd have nightmares. I enjoyed how the author, who was originally an illustrator, did the drawings himself. In my head, I actually started picturing the story as a stop motion animation along the lines of ParaNorman or The Boxtrolls.

I'm not sure I felt a connection with the main character. The Toad doesn't know who she is or where she came from, only that she woke up being held aloft over a bubbling cauldron. In terms of personality, I thought she was a little bland. She's very brave and selfless though, so I have to give her kudos for that.

Peculiarly, I found myself sympathizing the most with Sarafina, one of the witches. Emilina, her cold, calculating sister, has a way of putting her down all the time, and it makes me wonder if Sarafina's evilness came from years of emotional abuse, rather than it being innate. She also has a bit of a soft spot or, as the author puts it, less of a hard spot for small, beautiful items. Unfortunately, she's a bit clumsy and the things, like her dolls and such, tend to get worn or broken under her touch.

I also like Horsefly, the grim warrior fairy who has been cast out of her tribe and who must use what used to be her wings as swords. There's also Natterjack, the imp who becomes the Toad's closest friend, but I felt like he could've been a tad bit more mischievous. It would've added more humor to the novel. I also feel like his ending was a bit unresolved. 

I found this book at a closing Border's a couple years ago. It was one of the few books left in the juvenile section. Ordinarily, I might not have purchased it, but I couldn't leave such a lonesome orphan unadopted. Overall, it's a quick and cute read with a bit of a morbid streak. A shame more people don't know about it.