Book Review: Skink–No Surrender by Carl Hiaasan

skink

Genre: Young Adult, Contemporary, Mystery

Year Published: 2014

My Rating: ★★☆☆☆

I received a digital copy of this book thanks to the publishers and Net Galley. This review is free of spoilers. Very vague wording is used.

I really looked forward to reading and reviewing this book, which from what I understand is considered to be Hiaasen’s first YA book. Unfortunately, I have to say that I am disappointed. I think what Hiaasen accomplished here is certainly quirky, as are a lot of his books, but I don’t think that his goal to reach out to older teens in the YA genre worked.

I know that Hiaasen was trying to make the situation that Malley was in dire, but once the antagonist was presented, he was almost laughable. Also, the attempted use of modern day terms such as “YOLO” and “chatroom” were overused. I understand that the book was to be written for modern teenagers, but it didn’t succeed. Not many teens actually speak like this on a daily basis. The only thing that is holding this book back from being a middle school/preteen novel are all the hints that Richard gives of what T.C. could have done/be doing to Malley and words like “dumbass” here and there.

The pace of the novel was also very slow and the whole adventure seemed very nonchalant. This is especially true of T.C.’s ending. He left the novel in a very, let’s say, ungentle way. You would think that the characters would have been more taken aback, but they seemed for the most part unaffected by it.

The only thing that saved this book was the character of Skink. The rest of the main characters needed as much character development as he had, and I feel like the story as a whole would have been better if this was done.

I give Hiaasen credit for writing this novel and trying to reach out to the YA genre, but as someone who loves YA and has had some of her favorite books come from YA books, I am truly disappointed.

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Book Review: Angels & Demons by Dan Brown

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Genre: Fiction, Mystery, Thriller

Year Published: 2000

My Rating: ★★☆☆☆

I, like many people before me, read The Da Vinci Code before Angels and Demons. However, after having read both, I can now say that it did not matter. Both stories stood well on their own. So I just wanted to clear that up just in case anyone was wondering before really starting this review.

On the whole, this book was OK. Unfortunately, my harsh rating is not because of the overall story arc and things like the pace of the story itself, but because of the little things throughout the book that really irked me. Not only that, but the structure of the story and the predictability of it all.

First, I would like to address the fact that Brown purposely chose an Arab-Muslim character to portray the bad guy. I understand that perhaps the character had some beef with the Catholic church, but that doesn’t give an author the excuse to use him as a blood-thirsty, raping, animal. I myself am Arabic—not Muslim, but I have many friends and family that are. To paraphrase from the book, the character said that women in his culture were nothing more than slaves of men, sexually and domestically. I’m sure this is true in some cases (even today), but for the 21st century, I found this extremely off-putting. Brown only added onto the stereotype that Arabs/Muslims are a vulgar, violent, and terroristic people. Did it help get the point across that the other characters were in danger with this particular character? Yes. Was it necessary that his ethnicity and religion be the reason why? No.

Another issue I had with the story was the way it was structured. There were no surprising turns or twists. It literally went from finding one dead cardinal to the next, and to be honest, I expected that. I didn’t expect Robert and Vittoria to find them any other way. I expected them to be too late each time, and I was right. The only twist I can commend Brown on is the end concerning the Camerlengo. It was a good twist, but I think Brown waited too long for it. It came at the very end, and at that point, I just wanted the book to be wrapped up already.

The last couple pages of the novel were also very off-putting. After all that Vittoria had gone through with her father and with the gruesome events of that day, she just wanted to have sex? Really? The need for romance in this book was not there for me. The last line of the book was something along the lines of, “You’ve never slept with someone who does yoga, have you?” After EVERYTHING that happened, that is how you want to end the book? I just couldn’t take it. This part may have been small, but it had a huge impact on how I viewed the book. It reduced Vittoria’s character immensely within a matter of a few pages.

I can say that I enjoy reading Brown’s books for how he can effortlessly present information without it dragging on. The character of Robert Langdon is perfect for relaying information that is important to the story, and that is a feat that many author can not and will never over come. So for that, kudos Dan Brown.

In the end, I deeply wish I could give Brown a better rating. The story really was interesting. I mean, who doesn’t love a story that concerns the Illuminati? They’re mysterious and interesting. Unfortunately, it was not enough. I do plan on reading The Lost Symbol and Inferno, so hopefully my ratings will rise with those two.

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