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Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Monday, October 3

Next week, we're trying something a little different: our first ever (Best) Magic System discussion.
Several questions need to be asked before then:
1. You might want to think about some of the following questions:
What's your favorite magic system?
In what book is it?
How does it work, and who can do magic?
2. Think of your own feelings about "magic". Do you like it? If you could design a magic system, what would it be and how would it work?
3. We'd like to get some answers from our readers, too! Leave comments below!

Brandon Sanderson fans might like his viewpoint:
(This is probably what I'll be basing, at least in part, the discussion on. Idea credit, too, as to Goodreads.)

Daughter of Smoke and Bone

By Laini Taylor

      Karou is a girl with blue hair. Unusual in itself, but she didn't dye it that color; she wished it. Raised by demons, Karou has no family that she can remember other than Brimstone, the Wishmonger, Issa, Twiga, and Yasri, helpers in Brimstone's wish shop. She lives in Prague, a 17-year-old art student with her friend Zuzana and ex-boyfriend Kaz, while sometimes running off to run errands for Brimstone: to collect teeth. What started as a normal week quickly descended into chaos.
     Attacked by an angel, or a seraph, in Morocco, Karou went inside the shop, something permitted only because she was wounded badly. Once there, she went through the other door in Brimstone's shop, the one that has always been closed in her presence, never open, until now.  Once through, she found another world, one of constant war, of constant fear and fighting. The world of her family and the seraph that had attacked her.
    Thus unfolds the story of Karou, one with blue hair and wishes to use. She finds her origin and why she feels so attracted to Akiva, her angle.
     A interesting book where hope is more powerful than wishes, it is a 4, only because it reminded me of Twilight in the aspect of two races who aren't supposed to be together connected by the love of one pair. More like a piece of cake that has been promised to you, and has been drawn as the most delicious thing in the world by your friends, then it falls short of that taste that you created in you head. But it was still exceptional.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Midnight Palace

By Carlos Ruiz Zafón

     Having been shoved at me as an assigned reading project by a certain someone *ahem*, I was all set up and ready to hate the book just because I was forced to read it. However, Zafón soon had me captured in a world of mystery and danger, as well as one twisted with secrets. A wonderful story of a group of seven friends, who had grown up in an orphanage and had sworn to always protect another, on the eve of their separation, ends up being a thrilling plot.
     Ben, the main character, learns the truth about his family.  But someone from his past is threatening to kill him and his newfound friend Sheere. The rest of his friends and he try to unravel a 16 year old mystery as to who this mysterious and dangerous Jawahal is. The 8 friends risk their lives to unravel this mystery to the end, and find out truths they didn't necessarily want to know.

Those who play with fire always get burned...

     Having been able to change my mind around about this book, it would be that home made pie that is all crumbly and partially burnt and looks like it would taste horrible, but is exploding with flavor in the non-charred sections. Well of course, that's to me. Without the first appearance tainting the overall flavor, it would be a juicy and sweet red cherry, fresh from the tree in the midst of the more sour yellow cherries. In simple terms, a solid 4.5.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Everybody Sees The Ants

By A. S. King

Whoo-hoo! Another book by King, who also wrote the well-received Please Ignore Vera Dietz. This book lights up a period in Lucky's life (yes, his name is Lucky) from his freshman year in high school through his summer vacation. With a few flashbacks, it is understood early in this book that Lucky has suffered from on-off bullying and torment from a young age. Along with this, his dysfunctional family has failed to help him; his father focuses only on cooking while his mother finds peace only by swimming the days away at the local pool. After Lucky has a scuffle at the pool, Lucky's mom uses it as an excuse to take a vacation in New Mexico. Away from his menial life, Lucky has a chance to meet a positive side that he couldn't see before.

This book's progression was quite clear-cut and easy to follow, though its construction with Lucky's intermittent dreams and flashbacks may confuse more people than me. It was fun to read and a well-written book, but its popularity probably won't soar as it's more of a book to wait out a rainy day. Normally I'm generous with my ratings to accommodate for one-sided opinions, but this book actually does deserve at least a 3.5. It's truly a book of quality, but if you're looking for a 500-page thriller, don't get your hopes up. It was like a Drumstick ice cream cone. You expected a nice treat, and you got it. Nothing less.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Mutants by Armand Marie Leroi

I must confess that I originally wrote this review for a biology project, but I liked the book enough to share it with you. That means you must read it. 

     This summer, I was walking around in a bookstore in England. I was poking around the bestsellers section and, quite by chance, stumbled on Mutants. The British cover instantly grabbed my attention- it sported an X-ray of a six-fingered hand. Winner of the Guardian First Book Award. Inspiration for a television series. Can't be too bad.
As I started reading it, I instantly noticed the vivid (sometimes too vivid) medical photography used as evidence and illustration. Each chapter covered a few related mutations (limb-disorders, for example) and Leroi dug up photographs, specimen exhibits, and photos of skeletons as he explained the disorders.
First, he began with an explanation of the history of mutants as it is known to scientific historians. Italian monsters, condemned by the church. French conjoined twins who died at young age of pneumonia. Their bodies were clamored over by the glory-hunting anatomists of the Parisian scientific scene of the time. I was actually surprised at how detailed Leroi's knowledge was of his predecessors' research. I had no idea that specific accounts were kept of each dissection, allowing modern scientists to build off of their ideas (or laugh perniciously at some of their more outlandish schemes). The book's description of the European life at the time is bleak and hauntingly romantic. Circus freaks and giantism-afflicted thugs were tracked down and questioned, sometimes brutally or to great extents.  Historical accounts are displayed and analyzed with a dry wit in each chapter. 

The chapter on cretins, and achondroplasia, dwarfism, was especially rife with history. European explorers' accounts are perused for details of their often-made-up travels in Africa, South America, and more fantastical places that no one else had ever seen. Tales of short (and tall) people abound. Leroi also includes the account of the Ovitz family, below, and their horrific capture by the Nazis during WWII. Joseph Mengele experimented quite brutally on them; luckily, they were saved in the liberation. 
I learned a huge amount from this book. I've always been interested in mutations and genetics, so it was quite fascinating to read of the specific genes that in each case produced such spectacular mutations. The homeobox genes, for example- I had no idea they existed, but Leroi provides an amazing overview of their substantial impact on mutations. I still have one question, though, that the book never really answered. Why aren't we all walking around with a few extra limbs(chapter IV), a conjoined twin (chapter II), and bones that keep growing until they prevent breathing and movement(chapter V)? If the human DNA is so fragile, and just one mutation is enough to cause gargantuan problems, why are we all alive and well?

I'd give this book a 4.5- At times it's a bit stuffily written, but overall it's amazing and the pictures really give it some ooomph. 

Daughter of Smoke and Bone by Laini Taylor

Karou is living two lives. Sometimes, she is an art student at a college in Prague. She has a friend and an ex-boyfriend and she lives in a flat. Other times, she is the messenger for Brimstone, a part crocodile, part fox, part human thing. He owns a shop, and the door opens into many different countries around the world. Karou helps him by collecting teeth. She doesn’t know what the teeth are for, but she does know that Brimstone can somehow make “wishes.” There is also a secret door that she isn’t allowed to enter.
Then she meets Akiva, a seraphim. Akiva is trying to destroy Karou’s chimera friends because that’s what angels do. Karou learns about thousands of years of war between the chimeras and the angels. She also falls in love.
This is a story of forbidden love. And it was pretty funny. Karou can’t wrap her head around the fact that some people think that the chimera are evil. Akiva can’t figure out how this human got stuck in everything. Which leads to that deep dark secret that the book has to have.
The book was a 3.4. It was well written, funny, and engaging, but a little confusing. It was like mixing two different sodas together. You're not sure how it's going to taste, then it tastes cool, and it's fizzy.

Author website:

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The Statistical Probability of Love at First Sight

By Jennifer E. Smith

This book was ...well, I don't really know. It was a quick read, and had everything I needed after a long day of school, meaning it kept my mind off the homework I should have been doing, which is good. Hadley is an ordinary girl, mad at her mother, mad at her father, misses her plane, the usual Oh-my-goodness-I'm-a-teenager-so-life-is-out-to-get-me plot. But Hadley meets this guy, Oliver. And he's British. And charming. And British. So she spends her time in the airport and on the plane (Lucky girl gets to sit next to a cute boy for hours on end). They talk, because they immediately click and have loads to talk about(Maybe it's just me but the people I sit next to never talk and always seem really lame). Although most of the book occurs during the flight to London there are a lot of flashbacks to Hadley's childhood to build the backstory. While I recognize that it's necessary, the way it was done was choppy and took away from the book. With each flash back I found myself disoriented and a bit annoyed. That said, this is a fluff book so if I'm being honest, I'm not expecting it to be brilliant writing. It served its purpose, but is not a book I would revisit.
I would describe this book as marzipan. It looks really pretty, and it is great at making yummy, fancy deserts look pretty, but it tastes funny and is not something I would want to eat on a remotely regular basis, once, and again by accident, but avoided when possible. The book was good, but the whole point was, Oh look it's a cute British guy. So yes it looks pretty, but once you start to think about it, or the writing, it's not so great.
In terms of numbers this is about a 2.5 because it is written about at the twilight level, but at least there's a cute guy with a British accent and not some pale vampire who sparkles.

Monday, September 12, 2011

The Marbury Lens

By Andrew Smith
Unlike many books I have read, the cover is not at all deceiving. Yes, this book does indeed involve a pair of purplish glasses. And a boy. And a place called Marbury. But no, steampunk fanatics, the glasses in the book aren't actually that cool looking. Give or take.
But, anyway, onto the point of this review. Jack is a boy, perhaps 18, who very early in the book experiences a life-changing encounter with a kidnapper who on the surface appears to be a helpful and experienced doctor. Later on, he is thrust into the mysterious, violent, and desert-like world of Marbury where he has a few violent adventures that are too tedious to describe in my sleep-deprived state.
After the kidnapper, the book seems to become quite depressing. As Jack becomes more enraptured with Marbury rather than his real life, he reminds me of a hopeless drug addict spinning towards even worse things, if there were even any worse things.
After I read my last book that had a few depressing things in it, I got this book which was just filled with even more depressing things. I need a break from it now. It's even hard for me to think of how the resolution of this book could be positive at all. Perhaps it is, or perhaps not. Maybe it's neutral. This book gave me quite a bit to figure out- that can be both a good and bad thing. Good, because it has depth, meaning, and other 'deep' stuff. Bad, because it's damn confusing sometimes (and I haven't figured out that much yet; there's not much else to say here).
However, this does not mean the story wasn't put together well. The concept of Marbury, the plot, and Jack's character has obvious development and while it did not make me feel like the happiest person in the world, it was nonetheless a story worth reading. It's not meant for the faint of heart; it has some heavy topics meant for older teens. I can imagine some people disliking this book. Others, I can imagine enjoying and respecting it. Like I already mentioned, this book has some very violent scenes, some sex, some emotion, some gore, some death, some salt and sugar, a cup of milk... Not tons of violence, but a bunch. Personally, I enjoyed this book- but if you're to read it, try to keep an open mind. This book is not about pain and death; it is about a boy and a snippet of his life.
To sum it all up, it was interesting, saddening, and a bit confusing, but I liked it anyway. If you liked the apocalyptic and dystopian style of the Hunger Games and are willing to combine it with a slightly emo guy named Jack, I think you may enjoy this book. As a food, it would be a lemonade or a sharp lemon tart. It's tasty, but lemons are fickle. You may enjoy the flavor and some sweetness, but the bitterness still resides. I proclaim this book to be rated as a 3.

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