Book Review: The Murder Complex, by Lindsay Cummings

murder_complex_coverShe’s trained to survive. He’s trained to kill. With a gripping tagline like that, one would expect this book to be excellent, right? Think again. When I first heard of The Murder Complex, I was instantly hooked. With its compelling title and blood-spotted cover, it seemed to be my type of book: bloody, action packed, and thrilling. Unfortunately, it fell extremely short of my expectations.

The Murder Complex is the start to a series by a brand-new author, Lindsay Cummings. It is a futuristic novel about a fifteen-year-old girl named Meadow Woodson living on a houseboat in Florida with her father, older brother, and younger sister. The world has changed drastically. A plague affected the world and killed off extreme amounts of people before a cure was found. Now, death is only possible by murder, which could happen anytime, anywhere. The murder rate is higher than the birth rate and no one is safe. Meadow has been trained to fight and survive by her callous father. Now that she’s approaching sixteen, she has to compete for a living. She soon meets and falls in love with Zephyr, a Ward, or someone who has to collect the bodies of people who are murdered every day. Zephyr is actually a trained killer, although neither Meadow nor Zephyr actually knows it. After a near-death experience, Meadow discovers something called The Murder Complex, which is a system that controls the number of people who die each day.

This book was an major disappointment. It’s simply way too confusing and chaotic. Periodically I had to stop and reread the summary to understand exactly what I was reading. The author attempts a dual POV with Meadow and Zephyr, but it doesn’t work out. The characters’ voices are too similar and they meld into one. It’s also just plain ridiculous. I was constantly rolling my eyes at the poor attempts to be dramatic and the “coincidences” that occurred so frequently. In conclusion, the plot was overly complicated, the romance was ridiculous, the characters were bland, and my boredom levels were high. It’s basically just a poorly executed replica of the Divergent series and The Hunger Games. Maybe my expectations were too high, but The Murder Complex was one disappointment after another.

This review is based on an advance reader’s copy. The Murder Complex will be available in bookstores everywhere on June 10, 2014, published by Greenwillow, an imprint of HarperCollins.

-Rabani S., 9th grade

Book Review: The Hobbit, by J.R.R. Tolkien

hobbit_cover“In a hole in the ground there lived a hobbit.” And from this hole came my new favorite fictional character, Bilbo Baggins, the central protagonist in The Hobbit. With the release of the new Lord of the Rings movie, I decided to start reading the famous book. I had high expectations after I found it as number 3 on a list of books to read before dying, and I wasn’t disappointed in the least.

The Hobbit takes place in Middle Earth, a fictional world that contains wizards, elves, dwarves, goblins, and hobbits. Hobbits are small people who love peace and quiet, food, farming, and parties. They live in a land they call The Shire and most of them dislike adventure.

This prelude to the Lord of the Rings trilogy centers around a peaceful hobbit named Bilbo Baggins who has adventurous ancestors and lives in a lovely underground home called Bag End. The book begins as a wizard named Gandalf visits Bilbo and invites him to join an adventure he is arranging. Bilbo refuses immediately. The following morning, Gandalf visits Bilbo again, this time with thirteen dwarves. The dwarves believe that Bilbo can help them in their journey to the Lonely Mountain to gain back their ancestral treasure from a vicious dragon named Smaug. Bilbo is extremely reluctant to leave his cozy home and join them, but Gandalf manages to convince him to accompany them. The Hobbit follows their adventures as they head to the Lonely Mountain and confront the great dragon Smaug.

I found The Hobbit to be an extremely interesting book. J.R.R. Tolkien uses a conversational, light-hearted tone and uses humor to hook the reader.  The book doesn’t have much detail, and the ending is very abrupt. The author does not spend much time describing anything, which is really different from most fictional books I’ve read. However, I enjoyed The Hobbit immensely and I’m definitely going to see the second part of the film adaptation, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, when it’s released in movie theaters next week!

-Rabani S., 9th grade

Book Review: Pretenders, by Lisi Harrison

pretenders_coverPretenders is an extremely interesting book, the first in a new series by Lisi Harrison. It’s about the lives of five high school students, but it’s not a typical drama. It’s a story with an unexpected twist…

The book focuses on five freshman students who attend Noble High School: Sheridan, an aspiring singer and actress; Duffy, an athletic boy who loves basketball; Vanessa, a motivated, brilliant, but uptight girl; Jagger, whose parents are in jail; and Lily, a clever, smart girl who is in love with Duffy. Their English teacher has them write in journals every day, then keep them in locked safes that only they know the codes for. The book starts off with a note from someone who has stolen the journals from the English teacher and has revealed them to everyone. The person says they are tired of the lies in high school. Pretenders is written as a collection of random diary entries from each person’s journal.

I found this book very intriguing, but there were definitely a few things I didn’t like about it. For instance, Lisi Harrison makes several references to books she has published previously, such as the Clique series and the Monster High series. This bugged me a bit because it made me think that she was advertising her other books in this one. Also, Lisi Harrison spends the majority of the book building on the characters. I found the ending to be quite a let down because every single character was left dangling with a full-stop cliffhanger. I was really disappointed that so much of the book was taken up with the characters’ lives. However, I loved how different each character was. I also liked how the book is humorous.

So if you enjoy stories about high school experiences with plot twists, I think this series is for you.

-Rabani S., 9th grade

Book Review: Teardrop, by Lauren Kate

Whenever I pick up a book with a gripping plot, action-packed adventure, and a swirl of romance, I feel like I’m in book heaven. That’s why I thought Teardrop (which is set to be published on October 22) would be an excellent book. Unfortunately, it fell short of my expectations.

Teardrop centers around a seventeen-year-old girl named Eureka who hasn’t cried since she was nine years old. When her mother dies in a car accident, Eureka turns emotionally unstable and suicidal. She misses her mother terribly and her only comfort is her best friend, Brooks. All she has to remember her mother by is a locket that is rusted shut, a special waterproof rock called a thunderstone, and a book written in an indecipherable language.

Eureka is followed by a mysterious blond enigma named Ander. He tells her that she is in danger. She decides to get her book translated by a woman who identifies the book to be about the lost island of Atlantis. The story tells of a heartbroken girl who cried until Atlantis was underwater. Eureka finds that the story is strangely relatable to her own life. To add to the unfolding mystery, Brooks begins to act hostile towards Eureka.

The puzzle pieces only begin to fit together after Eureka and Brooks suffer a near death experience and Brooks vanishes. Ander finds and tells her that she has the power to raise Atlantis with her tears. He also tells her that a previous inhabitant of Atlantis has possessed Brooks. Eureka is faced with life-changing choices as she is confronted and attacked by the Seedbearers, who will stop at nothing to keep Atlantis from rising again.

Although the idea of this book was extremely intriguing, I don’t think it was carried out very well. The plot launched into several promising directions, but didn’t follow through with most of them. However, there are a few pleasant qualities of this book. The characters are all very realistic, and the romance is electric. But the author spends too much time with minute details, and the bulk of the action is shortened to a few pages at the end of the book.

After reading Lauren Kate’s fantastic Fallen series, I expected Teardrop to be stellar as well. Admittedly, I may have set the bar too high. While Teardrop was only an adequate read, the rest of the series has great potential.

-Rabani S., 9th grade

This review was based on an advance reader’s copy generously provided by the publisher.

Book vs. Movie: The Mortal Instruments

tmi_book_movieAll my friends and I are major fans of Cassandra Clare’s Mortal Instruments series, so it was no surprise that when The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones movie came out, we were thrilled. Despite the awful reviews of the movie, we decided to see it soon after it was released. I had expected the movie to be horrible based on the reviews, but it exceeded my expectations. It wasn’t as good as the book, but it was still an average movie.

The book tells the story of a girl living in New York named Clary Fray. She’s an extremely artistic girl with a sensitive best friend named Simon. One day, Clary and Simon go to a club. Clary sees a boy being murdered by a vicious girl and two other boys. No one else can see the murderous trio. Clary tries to forget about what she saw, but she sees one of the boys at a coffee shop the next day. At the same time, she gets a call from her frantic mother. Her mother tells her to stay away from her home.

Clary runs home to find her house completely ransacked; her mother gone. She encounters a crazed animal-like creature, which she manages to kill. She finds out that the boy she saw in the coffee shop is named Jace, and that he’s a Shadowhunter. Shadowhunters save mundanes, or regular humans, from demons that roam the world. Clary discovers that the most dreadful Shadownhunter, Valentine, has captured her mother. She is thrown into a world of vampires, Shadowhunters, demons, warlocks, werewolves, and faeries and needs to rescue her mother and a special cup that Valentine is after. The cup can create Shadowhunters but is very dangerous.

The movie was similar to the book, but there were some differences that can’t be ignored. The actors all fit the character descriptions very well. However, I wish the movie had been a bit more lighthearted. The book was really funny and had several light parts, but the movie was way too fast paced and serious. The romantic tension in the book was extreme in a good way, but in the movie it fizzled out quickly. I really liked the costumes that the characters had, and the man who played Simon (Robert Sheehan) acted really well.

Overall, the movie differed a bit from the book and was a little too gray, but for a diehard fan like me, it was enjoyable enough to recommend it to others.

-Rabani S., 9th grade