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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

The Study Series

by Mariah V. Snyder
Fire Study front coverEven though this book wasn't a galley, I decided to review it because it struck me as one that would be fun to review. It had great plot and great characters. The conflict felt by the main character was believable (in a way). This is where is stopped being a good book.
Locked up for her murder of a General's son, Yelena festers away in the dungeons of the Commander while she awaits execution. Suddenly, in a twist of fate that could only be described as miraculous, she is promoted to the Commander's food taster and brought up into the world of might and conflict above. She enjoys the best food of the castle and the freedom to go where she will- that is, as long as she stays in her position as a food taster. If she doesn't, she'll die a horrible death poisoned by the Commander's assassin.
Sounds good, right? And the story was, for the first book. Then it quickly degenerated into a series that dragged and caught on minor details. Couple of pointers:

  1.  Don't refer to something as skirts/pants. Make up your mind. Don't let your readers be forced to imagine something that only you yourself can see. It came across as (at least to me) incredibly irritating to be in the middle of an action scene and have Yelena fretting over a hole in her "skirts/pants".
  2.  When someone makes a plan, don't hide it from us, or at least do it more subtly. A lot of times in the book, plans are referenced, executed, and succeed/fail without the reader even knowing the basics. For example, it happens once that Yelena's talking to her mum and tells her her plan. Without delay, her mum bustles off and finds her a bunch of potions that will "help her plan". A full 30 pages later, I realized that the plan had already been executed. Darn!

I'd give this book a 2.5, also due to the lack of emotions in the book. I'm serious. The only emotions in the book are  Yelena's lust, fear of being a soulfinder, and everyone else's hatred of her.
So, 2.5. A runny and burnt egg, I guess.

Monday, November 22, 2010


Revolution, By Jennifer Donnelly

I recently read Revolution, and loved it. It is the story of two girls, one in New York and Paris in this time, Andi, and one who lived in paris during the revolution. Andi is struggling with depression, and her love of music. She is supposed to be working on the outline for her senior thesis, instead she finds herself reading the diary of Alexandrine. This book was so wonderful, it is a must read.
I would describe this as Thanksgiving. It isn't something you get everyday, but it is well worth the wait. It has the warm turkey, the filling stuffing, sweet cranberry sauce, creamy mashed potatoes, tasty pumpkin bread, warm apple pie and cold ice cream, chocolate silk pie, and cookies. It fills your mind with the delicious scent, so any moment away makes you hurry bake for more. It doesn't have just one flavor, but many. So it must be a full meal, and I think only thanksgiving can do this book justice.
If you are in-the-box this is a 5.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Havoc by Chris Wooding

Havoc is great in terms of sequels. It, unlike other books, does not ruin the first, nor does it go completely downhill. It continues the story of Seth, Kady, and that strange world of Malice. In this one, they decide set out to destroy the man Tall Jake, who controls the world. However, the book was a bit rushed. Seth and Kady are just discovering how to defeat Tall Jake, then, very quickly, at least it seemed like that to me, they were on the battlefield and ready to fight. I think the book should have been split into two; one could be about them finding what they need to win, the other about them fighting. There was one battle, then Tall Jake was defeated. There was no lead up or anything; one minute they were lost and looking for that oh-so-important weapon thing, the next they were blowing up Tall Jake's castle place. But I liked it; it was fun to read.
I would rate it a 3.5.

Book Review - Chibi Vampire

Chibi Vampire was a hot dog. I learned in school that there is all sorts of nasty stuff in them: pig hooves, peanut fat, rubber, the like. Chibi Vampire is a vampire romance -- stress on the romance. The vampire girl Manika falls in love with a human usiv but because he is a human and she is a vampire Maika isn't allowed to see him. There are some supernatural moments like a doll, a kidnapping, and a ghost, but most of Chibi Vampire is high school drama. I don't normally do romance and/or high school drama; if I wanted to deal with high school drama, I would live my own life instead of reading. So coming into this book -- and looking at the hot dog on my plate, I knew they were disgusting and gross but I ate the whole thing anyways. Guess what, it didn't kill me.

- Review by Sarah Packard

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

If Only It Were True by Marc Levy

A strange love story. Basically, this woman, Lauren, gets in a car crash and ends up in a coma. She learns that her soul can move around, but no one can see her. She visits her old apartment, that now belongs to someone else, and is hiding in the closet when he opens the closet door and sees her. Arthur is the only one who can see her, so, of course, they fall in love. The book, though it had an interesting concept, was a little inconsistent. She was not solid enough to move anything, but she was solid to Arthur and has some effects on papers that she reads and she can open a door when she really wants to, but the book makes a kind of lame excuse for that. And she explained that she moved by concentrating on a certain spot, then disappearing and reappearing there. The book makes kind of a big deal about how her aim gets better and how she improves at it. But she can go for a walk with Arthur, so why can't she just walk to the car instead of complaining about missing the front seat?
Overall, I think it's a 2.5. Like a lollipop - kind of fun to eat, and tastes good, but the stick gets in the way. And some flavor that isn't your favorite.

The Hunger Games Trilogy by Suzanne Collins

It's been a long time since I've read a work of fiction.Most of the books nowadays are about "love" and chicks and....I don't like them.That's why I like Used Bookstore,instead of Barns&Nobles.But,one day,in Costco,I found this book,lying open with 2 rotisserie chickens (eww)
I read a sentence of it,and then I thought: This is not bad at all. Normally I don't buy new books,so I forced my brother to buy it. Then I read it in the car along the way home.In my opinion,it is a very good book that keeps even the anti-fiction reader interested.It is constant action!Constant war!Constant violence!It's such a good book,I recommend everyone to read it.

However,there are some things about the Hunger Games Trilogy that needs some work.The plot is constantly changing,and that confuses me.As I read the next 2 books,it didn't have the same "consistency" as the first book.It changes too fast for me.It also needs more detail.The plot changing too fast and the not enough detail part makes it really confusing.

Overall,this is a very good book.I would give this 4 stars.Also,I would give this the food of white chocolate.It's deliciously good,but if you eat (read) too much of it,it gives you a headache,especially if you try to read this in a long car ride.

Malice by Chris Wooding

Malice is a book about a comic book. With the right objects burned in the correct order and the right chant, it is possible to enter the world of the comic. The world is full of malice, hence the title, and once entered, it is almost impossible to leave before getting killed in some not-so-pleasant way. The story is about a boy and a girl who enter and their adventures and whatnot. Chris Wooding skillfully created a bizarre world into which I was absorbed. Included within the book were little bits of comic, so a couple chapters were told as a graphic novel would be. While this was an interesting concept, and a good ida for this book because it was about a comic book, I found it slightly confusing, probably because I am bad at reading graphic novel type books.
Overall, I would rate this book as a 4.

Rate 5

These are example of books for each in-the-box rating, and food to go along with them. Hopefully this will give people an idea of what my dual ratings mean.

5. Ice, by Sarah Beth Durst
This book was beyond amazing
. I would say that this is a vanilla soufflé with caramel sauce and a mango chutney. It was absolutely amazing, so mind blowingly awesome that it doesn't even matter that there isn't any chocolate.
4. Pride and Prejudice, by Jane Austin
This is a creamy, homemade macaroni and cheese. Its filling, and
comforting, and is perfect for a cold rainy day.
3. The Princess Diaries, by Meg Cabot
This was like cotton candy. It was sweet, but after more than a couple bites, it becomes sickly sweet.
2. Twilight, by Stephenie Meyer
This was...well, i don't know. It was bad though. The writing style made me want to barf. It was comparable to over-cooked boiled spinach; slimy and gross.
1. Brighton Beach Memoirs, by Neil Simon
This book was so terrible that i cant imagine any food bad enough to compare it too. Picture eating fire, or wood. it was that painful.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Jelle van der Hilst's 1-5 Scale

To further add to our gallery of ratings, I've decided to add my own 1-5 reviews. You'll be able to gain a sense of us as reviewers, to see our tastes, and use these posts as reference to future reviews.
5: Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson- Superb, incredible, unique. Words cannot describe this masterpiece: it's a piece of writing surpassed by none. Its length is a blessing, as is its promise of ten more books to come. Other 5s: A Case of Exploding Mangoes, Sabriel, Furies of Calderon series, Villains by Necessity, Mistborn series
4: Warded Man- While this book was irritating at first, not only in its execution but in in the conventional farm-boy-becomes-great-hero plotline, this judgment quickly reversed itself after the first couple of pages as it blossomed into an amazing book. Incredible, original, perfect, it seems the author finds his voice midway through the book, and what a voice! Other 4s: Inkheart
3: So Much for That- As much as I regret giving such a hyped-up book such a low grade, it had a very badly crafted end. See my review for full details! Other 3s: That Akhenaten Djinn series, the Olympians series (I don't like books with good plots that have been written for younger audiences.)
2: Life as we Knew It- A good book. If you're looking to waste a perfectly good afternoon. This book, seriously, is drivel. A conventional plot that has more holes than a whiffle ball. An asteroid smashes into the moon, fracturing it and pushing it towards the Earth, but not altering its orbit- if the moon moved closer to the Earth, it would smash into the Earth. End of story. Other 2s: Mistwood, although it would be a 2.5
1: Twilight, of course! The most hyped-about book of the times, depressingly. That's all I need to say. Burn it. This is actually the only 1 on my scale: it needs its own rating category.

Galley Review - Legacies: Shadow Grail #1 by Mercedes Lackey and Rosemary Edghill

If this were a food, I would say it was raw cookie batter -- gross and slimy if you add too much water, yet very good to eat. Also it is raw, which means it has a lot of potential. This book is not a standalone; perhaps the next book in the series could be one, but when you read Legacies, there are so many plot points left untied by the end of the story that it would take several books to tie them all off, if each book introduces no new others. For example: the parents of everyone in Oakhurst either committed suicide or died when a mysterious flash of light either started a fire or caused a car crash. Coincidence? Who knows! Maybe they'll tell us in the next book.

Review by Elizabeth Chan

For Mercedes Lackey's website, click here.

Ms. Barnes rates 1-5

Since we have a wide range of reviewers on this blog, we figured we'd give you (our reading audience) a sense of our taste by sharing books that fall into the different categories of the rating system. I'll share some of my favorites, least favorites, and those residing in that mixed feelings category, from among the 288 books I've read this year.

5 - Beatle Meets Destiny by Gabrielle Williams - This book was superb for me in every possible way. Williams has such a unique and playful writing style. When you add that to quirky, compelling, well-developed characters, a perfectly detailed Australian setting, and a sweet but realistic romance, you get a winner... in my opinion. Definitely one of my favorites from the year. As delicious and filling and satisfying as Boston creme pie.

4 - The Replacement by Brenna Yovanoff - Yovanoff's debut has an utterly unique premise that I could really envision as a future Tim Burton film. This book is so atmospheric, so creepy (and I do mean the contents of the book though the cover is truly gorgeous), that it was able to overcome some weaknesses in the text later on. Great execution and an author I'll surely be following. Like a first try at vegetable pot pie, delicious, but still with room for improvement.

3 - Dash and Lily's Book of Dares by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan - This book fell into middle of the road territory for me, and in kind of a surprising way. The writing (an aspect of the book that matters greatly to me) is excellent throughout, but I felt underwhelmed by one of our two narrators. Dash felt like an old man in the body of a teenager. I struggled to believe his inner narration, as well as some of his actions. As much as I loved Lily, it wasn't enough to make up for how disappointed I was in Dash. This book reminds me of this risotto I tried last night. It would have been so good if not for the overpoweringly strong gorgonzola cheese. (Can you see that I am struggling with the food analogies!)

2 - Soames on the Range by Nancy Belgue - I would never have finished this book if I wasn't committed to writing a book review of it for a magazine. Oy. Where to start? It was completely lacking in plot while brimming with underdeveloped characters. Though it deals with timely issues that lend it a unique position in teen literature, it never rises to the occasion. This is like the cookies that I picked up from Whole Foods last week: how can you mess up chocolate chip cookies? Dry and unsatisfying.

1- I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore - This was hands-down the worst book I had to read this year, and the more I learn about its genesis, the more my disgust grows! Sure, this book will make a decent action movie, but did they really need to make a book version? Sloppily edited (major typo on the first page!), predictable, generic, and with some utterly dreadful writing, I still feel bad about how much time I spent reading aloud from this atrocious book. I'm not even sure there is a food to describe this one. Maybe cat food, but if a human tried to eat it.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

So Much for That

by Lionel Shriver
Widely acclaimed and nominated for the National Book Award of 2010, this book has the customary trappings of a great book- incredible control of language, grammar, vocabulary, and the rest. The setting is keenly evocative, no matter her focus, and the feeling of the events of the book is deftly captured and held between lines of captivatingly spun text. Shepherd Knacker has always been fascinated by the prospect of living a luxurious life in a third world country for next to no money. Having sold his company for a million dollars, and raring to go to Pemba, Tanzania, he is held back by a declaration from his wife, Glynis. She has mesothelioma, a rare but serious form of cancer resulting from asbestos exposure. The rest of the book follows their dual struggles with the cancer, with the health care system, and with their "friends" and their friends. As the cancer progresses, Shep starts losing the money he carefully put away for Pemba, Glynis starts losing the friends she always held close, and their real friends deal with their own problems.
Shriver writes with a graphic, frank style that's refreshing and cynical. From time to time, though, she disgusted me with horribly explicit imagery and graphic descriptions. Also, although the book has a surprising ending, what really surprised me wasn't the promised "happy ending" or the careful conclusion of a masterpiece- what surprised me was that it completely fell apart. Shriver seems to have forgotten she was writing a novel, and tied it off with a botched and haphazard attempt to reintroduce some gravity into the situation. As a result, the book left me with a sour taste in my mouth. The first three quarters were good, though!
Final grade: 3.5

Friday, November 12, 2010

Girl Parts

Alaina read and reviewed Girl Parts by John M. Cusick . I just read it also, and figured that another view of the book might be nice. I found the plot to be compelling, but near the end it seemed like a chapter was missing. The characters were well developed, which was good. Overall I liked the book, and would recommend it if you like realistic future type books.

I would rate this as vanilla ice cream with peanut butter, but no chocolate sauce. Weird and surprisingly good, but missing that chocolaty awesomeness. For those of you who are still in the box, this is a 3.5

Monday, November 8, 2010

Crossing the Tracks by Barbara Stuber

For some reason, a lot of books I've read lately are reminding me of Anne of Green Gables. This is a good thing, as Anne Shirley is my fictional hero. Crossing the Tracks is a gorgeous debut effort from Barbara Stuber.

Iris Baldwin's mother died when Iris was a young girl, but she's always felt like an orphan. Her father is a well-to do owner of a shoe store, and he's never had much time for Iris. So, it's not completely surprising that, with a soon-to-be wife and a new shoe store in the works, he sends Iris off to work as a live-in companion for a doctor's elderly mother. And so, just as Anne Shirley headed off on a train, to stay with Matthew and Marilla Curthbert, unsure if they really want her, so does Iris head off to stay with Doctor and Mrs. Nesbitt. In her summer away from home, things change in ways Iris could have never predicted, but maybe for the better.

Critics might say that Crossing the Tracks doesn't have a very strong plot driving the story, but that's really not what the book is about. It's a thoughtful work of historical fiction set in the 1920s. When I think 1920s, I think flappers and prohibition, but that's the urban 1920s, not at all what rural Missouri was like then. Instead, the setting in some ways reminded me of Prince Edward Island, the community remote and insular, the characters either full of small-town charm or rural grit. This is the perfect book to read on a rainy day like today.

RIYL (Read If You Like): Anne of Green Gables, or Jennifer Donnelly's A Northern Light (which I'm so enjoying on audiobook right now).

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