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Sunday, November 11, 2012

Shards & Ashes

By: Kelley Armstrong, Rachel Caine, Kami Garcia, Nancy Holder, Melissa Marr, Beth Revis, Veronica Roth, Carrie Ryan, and Margaret Stohl

When you want to try a new dessert there is almost always a taster tray.  The book Shards & Ashes was just like a taster tray.  Taster trays are great except for the fact that a taste of each dessert is never quite enough of each dessert.  After each short story I couldn't help but feel unfinished.  I always wanted to know more.  
Although the writing in the book was amazing, the plots didn’t seem finished.  At the end of each story I wanted to flip the page and begin the next chapter.  There was only one problem with that; there was no next chapter.  All of them felt like an introduction into something bigger. 
Many of the stories felt post-apocalyptic or almost dystopian.  I wasn’t completely sure how some of the stories were related to the others.  The first story, “Hearken,” was like a cheesecake while the rest of the stories were some sort of chocolate.  It was my favorite but didn’t fit with the others very well.  
The second story of the book is called “Branded.”  It is about a girl named Rayne.  In the world Rayne lives in there is the town and then the outside.  She is in the town.  The town walls protect those inside from werewolves and animal-human hybrids that live outside.  Rayne’s friend, Braedon, was discovered to be a werewolf and forced out of the town.  The rest of the story is about how Rayne uses another girl, Pricilla, to go into the outside.  Both Rayne and Pricilla end up looking for Braedon.  By the end, one leg of their journey is completed but not the rest.  I wanted to know what happened after the story ended.  The ending felt abrupt and not really like an ending.  
All of the stories were really good until your spoon hit the bottom of the bowl and came up empty.  If each story was longer I would have given the book a 4 but because none of them had a satisfactory conclusion this book is a 2.5.

Boy Toy

By Barry Lyga, Published in 2007

       This book follows the development of Josh Mendel as he relieves and faces his past where he was molested by his seventh-grade history teacher. Now, let me tell you: this book is not for the faint of heart. A lot of this book directly relieves those encounters with his teacher, so you might get pretty uncomfortable. This is a book that might be pulled from more conservative shelves, if you know what I mean.
        But, that's only part of it. In fact, this level of description is probably intrinsic to the story, and allows you to come to a higher level of understanding with Josh and find a deeper meaning with the novel that would have been lost without this fearless exploration of Josh's past.
        Anyway, if this book was to be written at all, I think Barry Lyga was the perfect author to do it. In many parts, I found his writing to be both beautiful and inspiring; he is obviously skilled at his trade and should definitely keep doing what he does best. Take this quote for example, found on page 228-229 ( no spoilers, I promise!)

        "See, forgiveness doesn't happen all at once. It's not an event—it's a process. Forgiveness happens while you're asleep, while you're dreaming, while you're in line at the coffee shop, while you're showering, eating, farting, jerking off. It happens in the back of your mind, and then one day you realize that you don't hate the person anymore, that your anger has gone away somewhere. And you understand. You've forgiven them. You don't know how or why. It sneaked up on you. It happened in the small spaces between thoughts and in the seconds between ideas and blinks. That's where forgiveness happens. Because anger and hatred, when left unfed, bleed away like air from a punctured tire, over time and days and years.
        Forgiveness is stealth.
        At least, that's what I hope."

        Just beautiful. When I read this, I stopped just to read it again. I think I love this book. I'll probably go and read his other teen novel, The Astonishing Adventures of Fanboy and Goth Girl, right after this. Adults, you're missing out.

        The topic in this book was written with undeterred fingers. And it probably wasn't easy to write; it's not often that you get writing that so closely examines something that can be so shocking. However shocking it may be, throughout the novel you can definitely bond with Josh. In this book I could feel his anger, sadness, regret, empathy, love, humor, and everything in between. In short, this book was expertly written with a skilled hand that shouldn't be forgotten in the midst of the topic. As the novel progresses, you see true change and development in Josh that winds up into a truly cathartic and satisfying ending.
        To me, this book was worth reading and experiencing. It's definitely worth its salt. It was deft, complex, meaningful, and explored a new path that has left important meaning with Josh, the author, and me. If you give it the chance that it deserves, it can do the same for you.
        I rate this book a 5 out of 5. It deserves it. If it could be a food, it's sushi. Something strange and interesting that you've never tried before and curious about. Raw fish might be too much for you to handle, but if you can, it's delicious and totally worth it.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

The Shadow Girl


     While cupcakes are delicious, these days with cupcake shops on every corner and gourmet cupcakes are almost more common than simple ones, I can't help but feel they are over done.
     Recently, I read The Shadow Girl by Jennifer Archer and I have to say, I was just like one of those gourmet cupcakes. The inside cover was very interesting, like a beautiful frosting maybe even a promising ganache, but like most cupcakes it just wasn't what it promised.
     The Shadow Girl is about a seventeen year old named Lily. Her father's death unveils secrets about her and the mysterious 'shadow girl' named Ivy who only she can hear.  She investigates her family’s past with the help of the boy next door and the hot new guy in town. Although some of the ideas are outside what most YA Lit is doing right now, there are a lot of classic side plots, that are a bit over used. I think people who liked The Adoration of Jenna Fox by Mary E Pearson might like The Shadow Girl. 
     I would give this book a 2.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Cinder

by Marissa Meyer

I think I'm on a trend of reading a galley, then writing a review months later, when the galley is a published book. Let's break this trend. But not today.
I admit, I was initially attracted to Cinder by that classy cover. I mean, who really doesn't judge a book by its cover at all?

Cinder, living in the far, far future, is a gifted mechanic and a cyborg, living in New Beijing. Naturally, her father is dead and her stepmother abuses her, as well as being a second-class citizen. A fatal, mysterious illness is spreading everywhere, and her sister has caught it. There's political tension between Earth's inhabitants, led by Prince Kai, and the people living on the moon, who hold the cure to the sickness. Naturally, Cinder holds many secrets, most of which she doesn't know herself, that lead her to be the key to Earth's fate.

My absolute favorite part about this book is Cinder herself. It's been a while since I read a proper, good book about a strong female heroine who, against all odds, (might) save the day. Note: I said might. I will return to that later. Not only is Cinder a strong heroine, she doesn't get too deep into romantic shenanigans, she's a stellar mechanic (which attracts the prince - who says looks is more important than brain?), and she's a cyborg (facing all the odds - cyborgs are second-class citizens in this setting. I should clarify that cyborg, in this book, is not equivalent with robot. Cyborg's meaning is more along the lines of "altered human". Cinder was once human, but she had injuries that forced her to take robotic parts).
The setting was awesome. The villains, the people from the moon, were EXTREMELY awesome. They were evil in the best way - with motivation and cunning and power.

I only had two problems with the book. It's not really clear why cyborgs were so strongly discriminated against. I mean, I understand why, I just have a hard time picturing it. I can see, in our world, discrimination against the handicapped - we don't exactly think about them the same way as non-handicapped people - but not in such a bad way, and we don't fear them or anything. If Meyer had spent more time explaining this, I think I would have been happier.
Then, there was the inconclusive ending. The book pretty much ends with "Oh hey, I just found out what my quest is. Let's go do it --NOW WAIT FOR THE SEQUEL--". It was such an abrupt ending, such an obvious cliffhanger, I feel like the entire book is just a promotion for the next book. Ugh, I hate it when books do that! That said, I'm definitely going to read the next book.

I dub this book a 3.9, and in terms of food, it's some exotic, futuristic food that I can't think of. Something steampunk-ish, or sleek and gray, like our tall glass skyscrapers in Boston. It's a food that doesn't exist yet!

Marissa Meyer's website: http://www.marissameyer.com/
Oh, wow, this is her first novel. Now my respect for Meyer has gone up one level on the echeladder!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

A Million Suns

By Beth Revis.
 
Unfortunately, I started this review back in February, and then kept forgetting to write it. So the details of A Million Suns aren't exactly clear in my mind. But the awesomeness has stuck!

Wow. A Million Suns comes as the sequel to Across the Universe and it blows Across the Universe out of the water. Elder is struggling with the repercussions of taking the ship's population off of the drug Phydus, Amy is coping with the thought of a life spent on the ship and dealing with exactly what feelings she has for Elder, and the general population of the ship is crumbling in discipline. Beth Revis throws lots of surprises into the book, and the ending is so thrilling, so absolutely amazing that I am SO EXCITED for the next book. I'm not going to give the ending away, but it is a big surprise and will have you jumping up an down.
Okay, on to some of the specifics. I adore the questions that the book raises about leadership, how we choose our leaders, and what exactly their role should be compared to that of everyone else. After all, Elder has been groomed for a life of leading Godspeed. But now that the ship's population isn't drugged anymore, they want a say in how the ship is run. The chaos in the ship is a miniature of the chaos that occurs in countries when their leadership collapses. Revis really develops Elder as a complex character, which I loved.
Amy, on the other hand, could use some more development. Most of her character is consumed with anxiety over the attack by Luther and friends in Across the Universe. And while it is completely understandable that she would be traumatized by this, I wanted her to do a little more.
As with Across the Universe, there are a few holes. The main characters discover a lot of secrets about the ship, which are all very exciting, but the big question is why wouldn't they have explored some of these areas earlier? After all, we already see Elder beginning to push boundaries in Across the Universe. So why wouldn't he do something as simple as, say, peek through a few more doors or look out the window? Sometimes the characters are a little too dense about what's going on around them.

Overall, though, A Million Suns was even better than Across the Universe. Thinking back, I would probably lower the rating for Across the Universe to a 3.7, and give A Million Suns a 4.1. For food, A Million Suns is these wonderful peanut butter cookies with peanut butter and milk chocolate chips.  Delicious! Now all that's left to do is count down the days until the January 15th release date for Shades of Earth, the conclusion to the trilogy. Yippee!

Here's Beth Revis's website: http://www.bethrevis.com/
And the Across the Universe website: http://acrosstheuniversebook.com/


Monday, October 8, 2012

See You at Harry's

By Jo Knowles

Fern is your average 12 year old girl. Just starting to ride the upper school bus with her older brother Holden, she's ready for big things. At home, her out of high school sister has to work at their parent's diner, Harry's, as well as watching their baby brother Charlie.

When the book starts, Fern is describing her best day ever, setting up her relationship with her family and how she feels around them. It's a truly touching moment. Then, the story begins as the family is driving to the restaurant to see a surprise from the dad. At the diner, surprise! They're making a comercial while wearing stupid shirts, all to raise popularity. Then they get their big break. "See you at Hawee's!" A line shouted by Charlie at the end. Then business is booming. So, the reader watches Fern struggle with her family, homework, school, friends, helping Holden, watching Charlie and deal with life.

But then the unthinkable happens.

This book was a really good read, all the characters are very relatable and easy to love. You really get to connect with them, look into their lives. Then, when the unthinkable happens, you totally live through it with them. I was just bawling for an hour while reading.

It gets a really high 4 rating. It wasn't the best I've ever read, but I really like it. As for food, is there any food that makes you sad for whatever reason? If so, take that and multiply the sadness by 10, then you got it.

Friday, August 31, 2012

Chime

by Franny Billingsley

                 _ _               
 ___ _ __   ___ (_| | ___ _ __ ___   
/ __| '_ \ / _ \| | |/ _ | '__/ __|
\__ | |_) | (_) | | |  __| |  \__ \
|___| .__/ \___/|_|_|\___|_|  |___/
    |_|                               


     You may know this book for several reasons: the absolutely stunning cover, the simple and memorable title that has been in the literary news quite a lot since its publication, or the entire Chime-Shine brouhaha last year. In case you remember that, you'll know that both Chime and Shine (Lauren Myracle) were moving high up in the National Book Award rankings. In the preparation for the final 5, a call was made; Chime was chosen, but Shine was understood over the telephone. In a national debate (keep Shine, make six candidates, stand by the mistake and remove Chime) the organization decided to keep Chime in the top 5. It was all very sad and unnecessarily involved, but the fact remains that both books were wonderful, amazing candidates for the list. I've now read one of them, and no doubt Shine is an incredible read if were to offer competition to Chime. Enough with this confusing background and onward!
     As I've hinted at, I found Chime to be an exquisitely beautiful and scintillating read. I've been wanted to read it for a long time, but I finally received it as a gift from a friend. At first I wasn't too thrilled about the setting and scene--20th century British middle-of-nowhere, swamps, people constantly sick, jerk-hat townspeople, eldritch monsters and a vaunted religion-- but Billingsley's writing is so clean, so superb, so powerful, that it had me by the neck before I could even think about putting the book down again. The writing is so incredible in that it shows the rare lucid humor that other books force; Billingsley does not rely on clichéd plotlines or deus-ex-machinae, rather using brute elegance to weld a novel that is a rare honor to read.
     What makes Billingsley's work such a pleasure to read is her gift of plot movement. The plot of Chime, first off, is convoluted and complex, but Billingsley handles it in a way that makes it still very fluid and logical. It may be a bit confusing at times, but you'll thank her later. Billingsley writes her plots with skill and poise. The mysteries slowly reveal themselves, but in a magical way: you as the reader will probably realize some things just a step ahead of Briony, the narrator. Billingsley will then tell you what you'd already guessed at, but in a twisty way that is so refreshing and pleasant, letting you as the reader feel that you have not spoiled anything for yourself. My writing is convoluted as I try to gush praise for the pace of this book. By the end you've realized one surprise on your own and BAM you're clocked over the head with two more.
     Briony is the almost the best character ever, in a completely objective way, of course. She has flaws to stretch for days and she's a mean, depressed piece of impulsive work, but her character development is so masterful and tender that the reader has no recourse but to like her, instantly and irreversibly. Briony is a witch. Briony can do magic. Angry Briony means people are hurt. Briony is drawn to the swamp. Briony in the swamp means people are hurt. She broke her stepmother's back and blew up a factory. Briony is, in a word, swashbucklinglycool.
     This book only has a few flaws, and they aren't exactly jarring; the writing, while elegant and beautiful, doesn't describe elegant and beautiful things; The Night Circus, which I read later, was more pleasing to read simply because of the beauty of the writing complementing the beauty of the things being described. I'd give this a 4.5.

The Night Circus


By Erin Morgenstern
      I recently finished The Night Circus, and my first advice for any prospective reader is the following: read this book in one sitting. I read it in five hours, albeit on an international plane ride that lasted foreeever. I'm not a fast reader, by my friends' standards, but this book takes ahold of its reader in a way that makes it impossible not to rip through it. On that note, I demand that everyone be a prospective reader. The Night Circus was singularly the most beautiful, most elegant, most achingly lovely book I've ever read. If I had to describe it simply, I'd say it's Harry Potter meets Hunger Games meets The Great Gatsby meets Chime meets pure literary magic. If you're still here, rather than running for the bookstore or for the kindle webstore, seriously. It got me through an eight hour plane ride. Some books leave you aching and empty when you finish them, unable to imagine enjoying any other book; a reader's nightmare and holy grail. When I finished The Night Circus, I sat (rather uncomfortably...thanks, Delta) dazed for a long time...Superfreakonomics was in my backpack, but I just couldn't imagine picking it up. Anyone who's read Freakonomics will know this for the high praise it's meant to be; I've been waiting for years to read Freakonomics' sequel.
In case you're at this point neither an offended economist nor gone to a bookstore, I'll give a brief synopsis of the plot. The plot spans from 1873 to 1903 and the focal point is mostly London in the late Victorian era. Prospero the Enchanter is an illusionist performing with a mundane circus, but he himself is nothing of the sort. He lives with a secret, but he doesn't hide it; he performs in public for thousands of people, passing his illusions off as mechanical sleight of hand, albeit of the highest possible calibre. He is lying, for he is a strongly gifted magician. His tricks are real, powerful, and completely flabberghast the public, who remain blissfully unaware of his true talents. His doves have no concealed cages, and his disappearances are not through trap doors. In the words of the man himself: "[Other illusionists] are a bunch of fish covered in feathers trying to convince the public they can fly, I am simply a bird in their midst. The audience cannot tell the different beyond knowing I am better at it." He is stunned when his daughter shows up out of nowhere, all of five years old, her mother's suicide note pinned to the cloth of her jacket. He starts to show his true self already at this point, ignoring the emotional impact of the suicide note and instead preparing to dismiss the girl, but she breaks his teacup, showing all the innate talent and gift he enjoys while struggling with her temper. He immediately takes her in and starts teaching her to use the magic of the universe, at the same time summoning an old acquaintance.
This man, henceforth The Man in the Grey Suit or Mr. A. H--, accepts Prospero's terms. A challenge is agreed upon, and the little girl is the first player, bound by a charm and spell to prepare, her entire life, for the challenge. The Man in the Grey Suit vanishes after promising to find his own student, but first he and Prospero agree on "the venue"--a circus. The Night Circus. Mr. A H-- finds his own pupil, Marco, and the two students settle into their training independently and with absolutely no contact or knowledge of the other. Celia's father slices her fingertips open, each and every one repeatedly, until she can heal all ten at a time, and the Man in the Grey Suit brings Marco all around the world without introducing him to any people at all; he spends his days locked in a library, at first, and then the MitGS brings him to a flat in London, completely abandoning the boy with only a vague warning: keep preparing for the challenge.
The circus is made, the acts found, Marco and Celia independently bound to it, one as the manager's assistent, one as a performing Illusionist. The challenge begins. The circus is their playing field, the only rule "no intereference", and the winner is decided upon the other's death. A previous winner of the challenge shares, hauntingly, that "[My] opponent is now a pillar of ash standing in a field in Kyoto... Unless wind and time have taken her away."

What makes this book such a surpassing pleasure and privilege to read? The characters, the setting, the writing, the sheer poetry of a book scribed in prose.
The characters are, simply, stunning. What one will find all too often in fiction is that there are a few archetypes that dominate, their authors leaving the characters' characters simply up to the reader's imagination for full detail. If this is not the case, it is because there is one or two characters at most whom the author affords a personality. Even the characters in Harry Potter aren't as well crafted as these, and they've had SEVEN books to grow through. Lord of the Rings isn't about the characters; it's about the plot. Katniss and Peeta are shallow compared to Celia and Marco. The Night Circus is very much about the characters. Erin Morgenstern crafts each and every character, scores of them, with the masterful precision of an artisan. After finishing the book I know each character's motivations, their loves and peeves, what makes them tick and breathe and toss and turn in the night. I can imagine their reactions in any situation I can think of and I know why the plot runs as it does. There is absolutely no outside power in the book; no government, no natural disasters, not even the limitations of staying in one geographic locale. The Night Circus is its own world, and it moves like a whisper through the larger universe. Every singular event  in the book is a result of one character's actions, one character's growth and wishes and dreams, one character's will. The duel in this book isn't a magical battle, a straight-up fencing match with two sides and a whole lot of roaring fire and wind. The battle is for the hearts and souls of the characters, of the Night Circus at large. Morgenstern writes two sets of siblings, for Pete's sake, that are linked solidly--so solidly that in any other book they would not be diverse characters. Lainie and Tara Burgess should, by all rights, be indistinguishable sisters; they are described as seemingly identical and their personalities are perfect complements and almost identical, but they are so much more. I can't do them justice, so read the book. There's also a set of fraternal twins who grow up in the exact same circus environment, but both are completely different and at the same time perfect together. Such a pleasure to read great characters.
There's romance, but I can't really review romance, but I will say that it's one of the veeeeeeeeeery few romances I have ever liked in books. Really. My friends will tell you. I usually hate romance. This romance was very, very awesome. That's all the justice I can do it.
I should discuss a bit of the Night Circus as well, being that it is the setting and title, but I think I'll leave it for you, the reader, to discover by yourself. Pure magic and poetry. Erin Morgenstern wrote little segments in between parts and acts to immerse the reader into the Night Circus on its own right; these parts are exquisite and embracing.
       I don't know how much more praise I can give this book, and I guess I can say that I can't give this book enough praise. This book gets as much five-stars as I'll ever be able to give a book. This book is now the standard of a book for me.
      If this review hasn't convinced you to run out and get it RIGHT NOW, please run out and get it RIGHT NOW and sorry that my review wasn't convincing enough.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

'The Diviners'

Libba Bray

One summer night, I decided to immerse myself into a comfortable fantasy book: The Diviners by Libba Bray - bound to be a good read. Despite its 608 pages, I managed to read this in - yes - one night.

Evie O'Neill, a true 1920s flapper girl, is "banished" from her home in Ohio to her uncle's museum in New York. New York, the city of risk (risqué), love, stars, and pretty much everything Evie could hope for. Then, when a flurry of occult murders occur, Evie (and her uncle) are determined to catch the killer. Evie is not unprepared - she has a certain secret that can help her catch the killer - but the killer is not what anyone expected, and far more dangerous than Evie can handle.

I only had two problems with The Diviners: it started off quite rocky; a party where the bored hostess takes out an Ouja board and summons a spirit. Basically, the beginning was boring. Not promising at all. It was meant to be scary, but completely and utterly failed. It only succeeded in making me notice the atrocious spelling mistakes (there are a surprisingly high number of errors in this galley - some are almost hilarious). The second problem was that Evie was completely unlikeable to me. She was always doing the predictably stupid. She would do everything you'd see in a teen horror flick - open the closet door, not run when she hears strange noises - and meanwhile, you're sitting there, yelling, "Don't do that, stupid! Idiot, the murderer is there!" That was extremely irritating.

Otherwise, the plot was decent, the setting was fantastic (Oh, the parties! the music! the drinking! Bray captured the spirit of the 20's perfectly.), the characters were okay, and there were countless unresolved subplots. If they make a sequel (ooooor a movie), I'd read/watch it. I'd give this book a 3.9 (the little things bothered me too much to give it a better score), and it's a dry steak. It's delicious by default - it's a steak, after all! - but it wasn't delicious. It was okay, in terms of steaks.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

'Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend' by Matthew Green

This book is enchanting at first sight. Even before I saw the cover, I wanted to read this book. The cover of my galley is very pretty too - although I say I don't judge a book by it's cover, I do. I really do.

Budo is Max's imaginary friend. However, Budo is quite real: he has is own thoughts and controls his own actions; he cannot be seen by other people, though, and cannot interact with the "real world". This book follows Budo through Max's daily life and struggles, and through the conflicts and worries of an imaginary friend.

Memoirs of an Imaginary Friend is narrated wonderfully - from a 9-year-old's imagination's point of view - and delves into major concepts such as death, family, and loss. It's one of those book which you can't really classify into "children's book", "young adult novel" or, "adult fiction". It really can be appreciated at any age. It's also unique - you don't get many books that have imaginary friends pondering their existences.

Overall, I'd give this book a 4.2 - it's wonderful, but not especially memorable. I know, I'm almost contradicting myself - it is unique, but not in it's writing. How do I say this - you read it, you love it, then you forget about it. It's not amazingly, amazingly special.
I would call this book a store-bought cookie. A common flavor, such as sugar or chocolate chip. It's delicious while you eat it, but then you move onto other delicacies.

Monday, May 14, 2012

October Mourning: A song for Matthew Shepard

On Sunday, October 11, 1998, the author Leslea Newman was scheduled to be the keynote speaker at the University of Wyoming's Gay Awareness Week. Matthew Shepard died the next day, as a result of the brutal beating he had sustained six days before.
Newman's incredible collection of poems, October Mourning: A Song for Matthew Shepard,  brings back the outrage, horror, and the tragedy of that night through a myriad of voices. The fence that held Matthew as he hung, tied, through the long night. The stars looking down on him, mothers, fathers, townspeople, so many voices all focused on this one, horrific event and the guilt and pain that resulted.
Deeply, deeply moving, this is a stunning collection, and a beautiful tribute to a dark event. As sad as it is (I cried more than once) the focus is on tolerance and growth. Teens who were too young at the time would be well served by reading this book.

My food rating is the Passover meal. This solemn,  ritual feast commemorates an important event. The bitter herbs are especially appropriate to the story of Matthew Shepard.

5 stars.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

'Starters' by Lissa Price

Can I just start by saying this is a terrible cover? Awful design, the person looks ugly and fake, and it has pretty much nothing to do with the book. In fact, I thought this would be a robot book at first. Plus, the little phrase is unrelated to the plot. 'Survival is just the beginning.' Ugh.

So, the summary tells me that this book is set in a post-apocalypse setting. There's a girl and her younger brother (the brother being near death) hiding from authorities that will... what? Kill them? It was never clear why they were hiding.
Anyways, to get money, the girl (Callie) sells her body. No, it's not prostitution. Her body is now a rental body that rich old people can enter and live in for a bit. The organization that controls this operation is called Prime Destinations.

This is definitely a good start. The plot is creative and full of opportunities for self-reflection, nuance, and moral issues. Heck, I think this book could even go to the level of Miyazaki, if well played.

However, the book immediately (well, not immediately, I guess - more on that later) plunged into "Oh golly Prime Destinations is so evil!" There's no thought, no real conflict (plenty of angst, though) - I would classify this book more as a chick flick book than a fantasy, adventure - whatever the book portrayed itself as in the beginning. Oh yeah, there's a love triangle. Naturally, Cassie is in the middle of it - and she obviously doesn't respect herself (love triangle wise) so I find it hard to respect her.
Also, the world is poorly built. Nothing is fully explained (as I mentioned earlier), so you can't form a picture in your head. I ended up putting a stereotypical dark gray, ashy, dead city apocalypse setting in my head - which didn't entirely fit the book. Thus, coherence was lost.

Shortly after Cassie sells her body to Prime Destinations, she is immersed in multiple conspiracies, romances, and betrayals. Sure, she doesn't know who to trust - I'm okay with that. What I ablsolutely despised was that Cassie would trust one side with all her heart - be traumatized at her betrayal and move to side 2 (whom she would also trust with all her heart) - then be traumatized at being betrayed and go back to side 1 (and trust with all her heart - you get the picture). It's so cliche, so dramatic, so.... obvious. It's boring!
In the end, I hated the book, I hated the plot, I hated all the characters, and most of all I hated Cassie. Don't read this book.

I would rate this a 1. Perhaps a Sadaharu Aoki caramel macaron (see link). It's wonderful, you expect it to at the very least be a decent dessert. Instead, you get a stale and hard shell, burnt caramel, disgusting flavor... You go from excited to ready-to-vomit. There are so many better desserts to eat (or, in this case, books to read) - don't even bother picking this one up.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Peculiars

 By Maureen Doyle McQuerry

A story about an 18 year-old girl living in an alternate universe. She runs away to find her dad on her 18th birthday, bringing along her fingers with their extra knuckle and her sensitive, super long feet. On the train to Scree, the forest inhabited by supernatural beings named Peculiars. So starts the tale of Lena Mattacascar, who according to her grandmother has goblin blood. On the train to the edge of Scree, she meets a helpful, kind soul named Jimson Quiggly. Then, their fates are twined together and all that and life is good. Until they start getting shot at. Then they have to escape to Scree where Lena hopes all of her truths and answers lie.

In my opinion, this book was really, very good. The characters are so there that you feel like you know them. Also, the story itself is inspiring and involving. What I really liked is that right up until the very last page, McQuerry pushed the action. Literally, right until the last two or three paragraphs, I was certain this would be a series. (If it is, yay!) But then the author ended it off quite nicely. I give it a 4.3 on the number scale.

As for my food, it is a taster tray. You start it out and you aren't too excited about it... But then, you get to the second thing and it's like, Oh Em Gee! And you get all excited about it and you just love the taste, then you eat it all up. The next food, you eat, it's more of a mellow taste. And you feel like there's something to be desired. However, you eat the final bite, and you don't know what it is, but in that one bite is a delightful taste that just wraps the whole taster dish together. And then you're like, Give me more! Because, you just love the book so much.

When I read this book, it was a ARC. However, it came out this month, maybe it hasn't come out yet, but it comes out in May. I highly recommend it.

Monday, April 30, 2012

The Fault in Our Stars

By John Green

             I was so excited when I found out the library had gotten this book.  I have heard a lot of good things about it since it came out. This novel is about a sixteen year old girl named Hazel who is dying of cancer. At the support group her mother makes her attend because she seems to be depressed (a side effect of dying) she meets a cute boy named Augustus Waters. He invites her to see a movie with him, and the rest is basically obvious. Except, of course, that Hazel is dying of cancer, and desperately wants to make him not like her so she won't hurt him when she dies. It was wonderful,  I was crying so hard by the end, so it was exactly what I had hoped for.
             This novel was like brownie pudding. Rich, fudge-y brownie layer at the top, and a pudding or half baked batter layer underneath. Yum! Like brownie pudding, this made me so emotional. If, however, you can not imagine yourself being moved to tears by the delicious decadence of this chocolate-y goodness, you probably would not like the book either.
             For lame people who think inside the box this is probably about a 4.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Zombie Provides a Great Twist on the Genre


Jeremy Barker lives by a personal zombie survival code.

#1 Avoid eye contact
#2 Keep quiet
#3 Forget the past
#4 Lock-and-load
#5 Fight to survive

An aficionado of zombie films, Jeremy understands the nuances of survival. The code guides him through the halls of his all boy private, Catholic high school. He relies on it to help him navigate life with his angry father, his absent mother, and his long-gone brother. It helps Jeremy with love, and in a shocking turn of events, it will help him with quite a bit more.

Part Lord of the Flies, part Catcher in the Rye and part Prayer for Owen Meany, this extraordinarily well-written coming-of-age story is pitch perfect, and will be particularly appealing to male teens. Fast paced and punctuated with the daily, casual brutality of boy-on-boy violence, Jeremy’s resourcefulness and intelligence glow on the page, even as he gets sucked deeper and deeper into a chilling and increasingly horrifying mystery.

I couldn’t put it down.

And when I finished it I was stunned.

This brilliant first novel by J.R. Angelella is a must read.

I give this novel (pub. Date June 2012) 5 stars. My food review is crispy ribs, with the BBQ sauce crystalized the bittersweet on the outside. As you tear in the next level is succulent, juicy, steaming meat. As your hands drip with sauce and juice you suddenly realize you are sucking on a bone, feeling like a true carnivore. It is rather a shocking end to a very confusing experience. But oh, so delicious.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

'The Selection' by Kiera Cass


First, let me say that I love the cover, despite (and perhaps because of) the obvious frothiness and the girl standing awkwardly in the back. Turquoise is one of my favorite colors, and I love dresses with ruffles and mirrors.

Okay, so this book is about a girl musician in a dystopian society. She's in a lower caste, composed of artists, which means she must work very hard every day to eat food. She is then selected because she's pretty and accomplished. Excuse me, she was selected via "random lottery", along with 34 other girls, to compete over the prince. She wins, but not really, because she loves someone else, and is only competing for the free food. Story in a nutshell.
In all honesty, I really thought this was going to be a wonderful book, but no. It truly wasn't.

First, the girl. Her name is America Singer. I'm pretty bothered by the name alone (named "America", she's a singer), but it was the plethora of nicknames she had. She was called Amer, Mer, America, and perhaps Ica, Rica, and Am, throughout the book. Oh god, the inconsistancy. Stick with one nickname, please.
Then, there's the "dystopian" society. There was really no dystopia. There were some rebels attacking the royal family, and then there were poor people. There were also other hostile countries - actually, I think there was only one (China). We don't call the monarchy era of Europe a dystopia, do we?
Lastly, the plot. It's been compared to "The Bachelor" in almost every review I've seen. In my humble opinion, Cass would have caught more readers developing the dystopia then recording America flinging herself at men while convincing herself she doesn't really need them. It appears Cass just called the society "dystopian" to ride the popularity wave. I'm not even going to start on the ending (mostly because I don't remember the ending at all.)

Anyways, the book gets a 2.8; some soup of a doubtful color. Let's make it turquoise, to match the cover. Anyways, you start doubtful, but dive into the adventure. Who knows, it could really be delicious! It starts out pretty yummy, but dives down fast. Turns out it's turquoise because it has soap in it. And you never want to drink something like it again. In retrospect, though, it really wasn't that bad.
Oh my gosh, why are my reviews so long and contentless?

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Precious Little


by Julie Hunt

I'm surprised no one else has reviewed a picture book yet. I can't be the only one following the new publications of children's books, right?

'Take the Hope or the Dream or the Song or the Dance.
You might choose the Joke. You might take the Chance.
Take the Risk or the Scare or the Stunt or the Rip.
What prize will you pick from today's lucky dip?'

Precious Little is a circus hand who wishes to be a trapeze artists. She usually sits "backstage" and sews spangled stars and roses on the leotards. She takes the circus's famous Lucky Dip - and it appears that she is shot off into the universe. It's hard to tell.

The summary calls it a " heart-stirring story about the rewards of perseverance, friendship and taking a chance." I saw no such thing while reading. I must make clear that this is not a children's book, by no means. This is certainly a young adult to adult book, cleverly disguised beneath fanciful illustrations. Precious Little is one of those rare profound books that have no ending - it's one of those books that one sits, slightly stunned, trying to think of what they just read.
Heart-stirring? Certainly. Perhaps not. Who knows.
Rewards? Not really.
Perseverance? Friendship? Taking a chance? Well, Precious Little is friends with two clowns (Fat Chance and Tough Luck) that shoot her in a cannon. If that's not Friendship and Taking a chance, I'm not sure what is.

The illustrations are perfectly gorgeous, almost baroque. They ride the line between delicate, childish, and creepy. There are embellishments and flourishes that perfectly suit the circus. In other words, I believe Gaye Chapman was the perfect illustrator.

I think the best word(s) to describe this book is whimsical and, perhaps ruminative.
I give this book a 4 in terms of books, but a 2.5 in terms of children's books. It's like dark chocolate - children will grab it based on it's appearance, and bite, and it won't be what they expected, and they won't like it. However, older people can fully enjoy this book - although, often times they'll not attempt this book because of the option of cheaper alternatives.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Everybody Sees the Ants


Lucky isn't that Lucky. He is relentlessly bullied and his parents are powerless to intervene and advocate for him because they are paralyzed by their dysfunctional marriage. A social studies assignment to design a survey and chart the results goes horribly wrong when Lucky decides to poll students about which method of suicide they would choose. Not a good idea. After a particularly brutal attack, Lucky's mom takes him away to visit family in Arizona, and give them both a break from the pressures of home. Three weeks lead to a lot of self-discovery, and a highly satisfactory conclusion.
A.S. King, author of the Printz Honor Book Please Ignore Vera Dietz, took a lot of risks with this novel. The ants serve as a comic Greek chorus and work well in providing a counter-balance to the bleakness of Lucky's life. The dream sequences in which Lucky tries to free his long lost grandfather from a Vietnamese prison camp are also effective, if a bit of a stretch at times. However, Dietz pulls it off.
In reflecting upon Everybody Sees the Ants, Going Bovine by Libba Bray comes to mind. Bray took similar risks, trying new ideas and breaking down the barriers between the real and the fantastic. It is a joy to see authors testing their skills and pushing boundaries and concepts.
As a food experience I would rate this as Lucky's favorite dinner. Yogurt marinated chicken with tomato and pineapple skewers on a bed of rice. Flavorful, unusual, and for someone open to risk. Yogurt marinated chicken isn't necessarily for everyone, but if you are willing to bite, you will find it absolutely delicious!

Friday, February 24, 2012

How to Save a Life


A National Book Award finalist, How to Save a Life by Sara Zarr, is simply stunning. Jill is a senior in high school still reeling from the tragic death of her father. She has emotionally closed herself off from her friends, her boyfriend, and her grieving mother. She is stuck in her grief, and is horrified when her mother announces that she is going to adopt a baby.
Mindy has dropped out of school and agreed to give her baby up for adoption. She climbs a bus in Nebraska and arrives to meet Jill and her Mom in Colorado. She is carrying more than an unborn baby. She is also running from a past that includes secrets she can never share.
Through two very distinct voices, details emerge and eventually, the pair establish a rapport. Friendship, romance, and the meaning of family are all explored in a fresh and authentic process. The conclusion is exceptionally satisfying.
Emotionally complicated girls with messy life-situations is Zarr's strength, as she displayed in her 2007 book Story of a Girl. She is definitely a novelist to watch.
As a food this is a slow simmered chicken stew, but from the kitchen of someone who loves to play with spices and isn't afraid to take a risk. A little curry, a dash of coriander and some hot pepper flakes transform this familiar and comforting dish into a unique and unforgettable dining experience.
5 stars.
Other awards:

  • ALA 2012 Top Ten Best Fiction for Young Adults
  • A Publishers Weekly Best Book of 2011
  • A School Library Journal Best Book of 2011
  • A Los Angeles Public Library Best Book of 2011
  • A Junior Library Guild selection
  • Cooperative Children’s Book Council 2012 Children’s Choice

Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Fairy Ring or Elsie and Frances Fool the World

By Mary Losure

This is the charming story of a little girl who sees fairies. However, her mother and her aunt and uncle don't believe her. Her cousin Elsie does. So they make a couple of paper cut outs of pained fairies (Elsie's an artist). It follows the story of the pair as the pictures they took took with their 'fairies' are taken too seriously. Several important people including Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, famous as the creator of Sherlock Holmes, believed in fairies and at that period in time, people wanted to try and prove the existence of fairies. As the whole deal got more and more out of control, they get really guilty and don't like the direction their joke went in.

It was a really interesting book overall. I would not have imagined that Sir Arthur Conan Doyle would have believed in fairies. Also, I thought it interesting that scientists wanted to classify fairies into a species and such and document them. I think that this book should get a 3.5 or something about that. It was good and a very quick read, but I had trouble keeping track of all the names and the amount of time passing. In terms of food, it would be some food you don't really like, but then you eat it and it isn't half bad.
 This is the first picture Elsie and Frances took of the 'fairies'. It depicts Frances and some of the fairies.
 This is Elsie in their second picture. She is with a gnome with wings.
 The third picture they took. This is a couple years later after everyone took an interest with them and their 'fairies'. This is Elsie with a flying fairy, offering her a bouquet of flowers.
 This is the fourth, and last posed picture they took, depicting Frances and a leaping fairy.
The last picture they took. According to the book, they just thought it was a jumble of grasses. However, some person who was studying fairies scientifically was convinced it was a fairy home thing, after seeing the fairy shapes. Frances apparently stood by this picture as being real for her whole life.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Hero of Ages

By Brandon Sanderson

And so comes the conclusion of the really good Mistborn trilogy. The final book comes with more surprises and sadness and happiness and emotions. Attention: There may be some spoilers. So, like, yeah. Read at your own risk (?).

It is yet another year after the last book ended, and Vin is 20-21. She and Elend work on helping their empire and surviving and trying to help their empire survive. And Ruin, this really powerful force of destruction that like, affects a whole bunch of people and manipulates them to do his bidding, is out to destroy the world. You know, the usual sort of thing for this kind of book. So, it follows them connecting the dots of Ruin's plan, and their friends off doing other stuff, and Sazed battling his depression. Everyone is desperate and such and they have to figure out how to save the world. And so they have a bunch of fun almost dying and seeing people they know get killed and trying to survive tons of koloss attacks. And it's like a picnic in the park. And then we get to the end of the book. More connections are made, more people die, and in the last few chapters (especially the very last one and the epilogue) we, the readers, get full understanding of what the past two books have been leading up to. And it's definitely unexpected. And stuff happens and then the world is saved, though we lose a couple of very good friends. :(

This book, by itself, is rated AWESOME. Aka, a 4.7. It's a bit loopier than the first book (minus points) but better then the second (stays the same). It's like finding out that no one ever put anything in the cake (from the review of the second book) but then going out and buying/eating some of the delicious food (from the review of the first book). However, you can't enjoy it as much as you would because you are disappointed that the people were leading you on and you're not very happy with them.

Now, on the trilogy overall:
It was very good. Some of the stuff mentioned in the first book is brought back on connected to the huge picture that Brandon Sanderson is painting with a tiny tiny brush (for all the more detail!). And it brings you on a roller coaster ride, and really allows you to connect with the characters and feel like you know them. Then, he kills them off. But still, it's a good story. Every story needs it's tragic hero.

One final word, READ IT. Please. :)

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Well of Ascension

By Brandon Sanderson

Hello one and all! Welcome back to the second installment of my reviews on the Mistborn trilogy. Yes, this does mean I'm going to be reviewing the third book, The Hero of Ages. But they are just such good books! Well, moving on.
     In this book, it is one year after the fall of the Survivor, the death of the Lord Ruler. We rejoin the old crew ( - Kelsier, + Elend) and some new friends we just meet. The plot twists and turns as always, leaving the reader on the edge of their seat, or reading in class under the desk. In this new book, Elend Venture, now king, struggles to keep his city and his kingship, under control. On top of this, his relation ship with Vin is strained. For the first time, he must stand up to his post and act who he is. Meanwhile, in Vin's life, she tries to figure out who she wants to be and who she needs to be. Not helping is Straff Venture's Mistborn, and son, Zane. She also has to make herself comfortable with her position in the new Church of the Survivor as 'Lady Heir'. On top of this, she thinks she's a mythical hero and has to chose which to love and be with of the two brothers, Elend and Zane. (Have I heard this before? Like in When the Stars Go Blue?) Well, as always, they overcome. But then there's a koloss army as well as two other human armies (Cett and Venture's) out the city waiting to break in and get the fabled atium supply of the Lord Ruler. Well, they win the battle and lose some friends. All is happy until the end. (Woot! I'm a natural poet)
     About the book, I have to say that I was sort of disappointed in the beginning. I was all hyped up after the end of the last book (review found here). But then I started, and I found that Vin and Elend seemed like they went through complete personality changes. In addition to my grief over Kelsier, I now mourned the loss of the original Elend and Vin. Luckily, they mostly returned. And all was well in the kingdom again. But then, like THREE MORE PEOPLE that one really gets to like died and I was like *distressed sound*. And I was like, "NO! Why Brandon Sanderson? Why??" But then I had to deal with it.
     Truthfully, it gets a 4.5. I wasn't impressed with the personality changes and too many people I liked (No!) died. It's like that old thing where you bake a little trinket into a cake and whoever eats the piece with the trinket in it gets to be "King" for a day? Well, there are two pieces left and you like, eat one of them, certain that you are eating the one with the trinket in it. You're getting to the last few bites and you're really excited, trembling with suppressed energy. You get to the last bite and you find nothing in the cake and you're like, "Darn!" And you're all disappointed and the like. Well, that's this book. But the cake still tasted delightful!

Friday, February 10, 2012

My Beating Teenage Heart


C.K. Kelly Martin

My Beating Teenage Heart is saddled with an unfortunate cover and an even more unfortunate title. I got more strange looks when I pulled this book out of my backpack than I usually get, which I believe is mainly due to the title. In addition, the cover is a fairly uninspiring tan, black, and gray. While the color scheme fits the book, the picture needs to be more interesting.
*There will be a few spoilers in here, especially when I talk about the ending, so read at your own risk!*
My Beating Teenage Heart follows the fairly common premise of a central character who is dead and looking down on the living from whatever state of afterlife they are in. Martin breaks the mold a little bit here in how her dead girl character, Ashlyn, is tied to a living boy, Breckon, dual narrators of the novel. Now, it does take Ashlyn a little bit of time to figure out that she's dead, but chances are good that the reader will figure it out beforehand (especially given the quotes on the back cover of the galley, such as "I miss the beat of my heart."). Ashlyn doesn't know why she's stuck with Breckon for the majority of the book, so she learns about him as the reader does, a good choice by Martin. Watching the characters unfold (Ashlyn also slowly remembers her life as the book goes on) is an interesting process and gives them some dimension, especially Breckon. Breckon is reeling from the death of his younger sister Skylar, and as the reader and as Ashlyn we watch him spiral down into despair because, of course, he blames himself for what happened to her.
A few things of note:
1) This is a very, very sad book. I almost cried at the end, and I don't typically cry because of books. Martin does an amazing job of capturing the emotions of her characters, but it is almost painful to read at times.
2) The book did get a tad draggy, especially if you're not thrilled by watching someone sink into depression. There was a lot of "Breckon did this," then "Breckon did that." The emotions are what drive the book, more than the plot points do.
3) The book does trend a bit towards the melodramatic. For example: "The sound isn't music and it's not whispers. I don't have words to describe it. If teardrops, blinding sunshine and limitless knowledge combined to make a noise, it would be the one the stars hum while I float amongst them" (1). You see what I mean. Beautiful, but a tad over the top. Which brings me to...
4) The ending (and SPOILER ALERT). I don't really know how to describe the ending. On the one hand, it was really beautiful and uplifting and sad. On the other hand, it was like a typical dead-person-book ending: Ashlyn is able to see her family one last time, Breckon knows his sister forgives him, and Ashlyn moves on, no longer tied to Breckon. Somewhat sappy, but it also makes you want to cry. Or at least sniffle a bit. It would have been more interesting if Martin had gone off the beaten path a little here, but this ending is what most readers will want for Breckon and Ashlyn, even though it is cliched.

My Beating Teenage Heart is about a 3/5. Compare it to whatever spicy food you like: it's tasty, but it hurts to eat it, and you should really read it with something else to cut the spice. Preferably some sort of fluffy, very cheerful piece so that you don't find yourself crying in the middle of the day. An excellent book for this is My Most Excellent Year by Steve Kluger, which is so over-the-top happy that it will perfectly accompany My Beating Teenage Heart.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Mistborn: The Final Empire

By Brandon Sanderson

Truthfully, I have nothing but hight praise for Brandon Sanderson. He builds flawless worlds and intricate magic systems that are (in truth) somewhat confusing but oh so awesome. His characters are engaging and his story lines are just epic.

The first book in the Mistborn Trilogy has been incredibly fun to read. We meet Vin, a paranoid street urchin with abandonment and trust issues, who is living in Luthadel, the capitol of the Final Empire and home of the Lord Ruler. Soon, she gets recruited by the Mistborn Kelsier, who tells her that she is also an all powerful Mistborn. Vin get caught up in a world of rebellion and lessons about Allomancy, the basis of the power of Mistborns. It is also part love story. It is an awesome book and everyone should read it.

This is one of the best books I have ever read (almost better than Harry Potters 1-6!). I would highly recommend it to anyone who loves fantasy or sci-fi or stuff like that. It gets a 5 and then some on a number scale, and the most delightful, rare, delicious delicacy you can think of in the food things. In other words, just read it. You won't be disappointed unless you are.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Bloodrose by Andrea Cremer (Nightshade Series #3)

Let me start off by saying that i thoroughly enjoyed the first two books in this series, before I start ranting smacking things with common garden tools. And this is a huge spoiler.

Deep breath now...

Here we go...



First off, Ms. Cremer built up a wonderful romantic tension by creating a love triangle scenario between Calla, Ren, and Shay. For the entirety of the first two books, i was wondering exactly how things were going to go down in the end; who she would choose, the reaction of the one she didn't, and the aftermath of it all. But then she decided to ruin it all. She kills off Ren near the end of the book (more on this, lots more, to come) leaving Calla with only one choice. This is literally the biggest cop-out since twilight. (read: literary equivalent of sliced bread) I can just imagine, “I don’t want to actually have to think about how to wrap this book up in a realistic way that will leave my readers satisfied with Calla’s choice. I think I’ll just kill off Ren and make it easy on myself.” All the time she spent in books one in two making the choice between Ren and Shay difficult for Calla and the reader: completely wasted.
Let’s revisit Ren, Silas, and Cosette, the notable characters who died during this book.
In the final battle, Ren dies while attacking his father. Now you may be imagining some fight scene of epic proportions, but sadly, I was disappointed yet again. Paraphrasing Cremer, Ren was really angry at his “dad” (the not biological one) because he was making fun of how great it was when he killed his biological dad. So in his anger, Ren leaps, but he leaps too high, allowing his fake-dad to slide reposition himself, leap up in the air to meet Ren, and snap Ren’s neck.
WTF?
As an alpha, Ren would absolutely have known how to manage his anger during battle so that it didn’t affect his judgement, or else he would have died way before the first book even started. Cremer just did not want to have to deal with making the choice between Ren and Shay, so she just killed Ren. If I were her editor I would have given her at least a 10 minute time out to think about what she’s done. Additionally, Calla only spends a paragraph mourning before Shay drags her on to the real final battle, thereby rendering his death insignificant, which it isn’t.
Silas, the searcher also has an insignificant death. He dies while Calla and crew are trying to get the water part of the badass sword thing. One moment they are standing in the water, and then suddenly a cloud of darkness descends on them, and then Calla and crew (it just rolls of the tongue so easily) are in the water, but silas is dead because the vampire bats that dropped down were “magically” (read: plot device gone wrong) transformed to be part piranha so that they were able to shred Silas to bits in a timespan of 2 lines of text. Even though he was kind of annoying, that’s the second worst way to have been killed off by Cremer.
Cosette takes the gold for worst way to get killed off in a novel. Sabine is going back to the town in order to spy for the resistance, and the other Keeper is glad to have her back.
Cue paraphrasing…
Sabine: “Where’s Cosette”
Evil Keeper Guy: “Oh. Her. She hung herself a week after you left because she was a weak frail wolf and couldn’t handle being my sex toy like you could”
Time taken to kill her off? Plus or minus 1 line. Sidenote: I was talking with a friend about this book earlier today, and I had forgotten that Cosestte died at all because her death was made so insignificant and meaningless.
Now: the 3 temple/challenges/mini-climax plot points.
In the earth cave/temple/plot-point, Calla and crew are walking/padding along, when Calla nearly falls into an invisible, seemingly infinitely deep hole.
(paraphrasing)
Shay: “OOOH! There’s a giant hole in the ground! Let me just be a badass super character who can do anything and just traipse across it like it was a hole a toddler created in the sand. Because I am the F-ing scion, so I can do all sorts of crazy stuff like that.”
Can anybody say “Deus Ex Machina???”
And then again in the fire cave/temple/plot-point
Ren: “AAAAHHHH!!!! I’m about to get toasted by this unstoppable fire wolf thing from the nether!!!”
Shay: “Nope! I think I’ll just miraculously save the day again, with no warning or plot development to suggest that I managed to find the last piece of the elemental cross, which is conveniently the only thing that can kill the fire-wolf. You’re Welcome!”
Since “Deus Ex Machina” worked so well in the earth temple (or rather, didn’t) Cremer decided to do it again.
And yet there is still another one.
When Bosque Mar summons up a magic hedge maze to divide Calla and Crew, Calla is isolated from everybody else with Adne. They are cornered by a wraith, and Shay, the only one who can kill wraiths, is on the other side of the hedge. So Adne “asks” the earth to remove the hedge, her reasoning being that it is an unnatural hedge, so that Shay can once again play the super-awesome-badass-hero guy. Completely unexpected. Adne is one of the few characters that I really like. Too bad she isn’t developed more.
Anyways. It would have been way cooler if Calla like grew some sort of super power and kicked the wraith's ass, maybe because when she and shay had sex from out of the blue it infused her with scion essence. Way better explanation than having Ariadne become a super mage writer person.
Another deep breath, I’m almost done.
In the beginning, Calla seems like a nice, respectable, half-lupine, girl. But she is actually a closet slut. When she first rescues Ren, she decides not to choose between them, romantically that is. But then one night Shay stops by her room.
(paraphrasing)
Calla: “I’m feeling conflicted, I don’t want to choose between either of you…”
Shay: “Whatever, just have sex with me.”
Calla: “Okay, I’ll just rationalize it by calling it a mistake…”
Last point.
So at the end of the book, Shay is told that he has to seal the portal to the nether, which means that all the Guardians will revert to their true wolf forms permanently. Shay ends up doing it, but because he is also part Guardian, he is like, “Bye mom and dad, I know I just rescued you, but I’m gonna go be a wolf with this chick I met less than a year ago. Good bye forever, love you!”
What a crappy ending. Everyone has to say goodbye to half the people they each love.
Furthermore, the reason Shay has to close the gateway is that he could theoretically re-open it if he didn’t perma-seal it. What are the chances that Shay decides to turn traitor exactly? Also instead of sealing it, Calla and Crew could have just gone on another epic quest to destroy the elemental cross, so that the portal couldn’t be re-opened, not even by shay. Alas, Cremer fails us again.
Overall I have to give this book not one, but two shovels to the face.
Read this book if you’ve read the first two so that afterwards, you can rant about how crappy closure that book gave, which is extremely cathartic.
Finally. I think I covered all that I need to say.
Chris McKinney

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Long Lankin


Fans of gothic horror will find a lot to like in Long Lankin, by Lindsey Barraclough. Told on three voices, the story starts at creepy and ratchets up the tension with every chapter. Set in rural, post-war England, Cora and her little sister, Mimi, are sent to live with Aunt Ida in the decaying family manse, Guerdon Hall. They soon make friends with two brothers from the village, and the mystery as to why every window in the house is nailed shut, begins to build.
Ghostly children, tidal swamps, long dead priests, cemeteries and the legend of Long Lankin creep and prey as the children play, and work to decode the curious saying scrawled in unexpected places
Cave Bestiam.
A terrific and most satisfying read.

As a food I would rate it as New England clam chowder. Thick, slightly salty, creamy and buttery and warm with layers of flavor and sudden bits of chewy clam to squeeze between your teeth. A book to savor in a well lit kitchen with family nearby, because otherwise it is too scary. 4 stars.
Publication date July 2012.

This quick book trailer will help pique your interest!

Thursday, January 19, 2012

'Bitterblue' by Kristin Cashore

This long awaited sequel to 'Graceling' is, to some surprise, not about Katsa, Po, or even Fire, but about the Lady Queen Bitterblue. In all honesty, I was quite happy about that. Another book about Katsa and Po would probably end up dull and flavorless, and I didn't especially like 'Fire'. Anyways.

'Bitterblue' is about, well, Bitterblue - the 17-18 year old queen of a nation broken by her father. She's surrounded by papers, advisors, lords, secrets and other queenly stuff. In other words, she's stressed and bored out of her mind. So, naturally, she sneaks out of the castle one night and builds a life for herself as Sparks, the daughter of a royal baker. She meets, in her city, a Graced thief and a young printer, both of which hold their own secrets, and provide opportunity for romancing. Meanwhile, in the castle, Bitterblue is encountering betrayal, horrifying stories, epiphanies, and other things left behind by her father. Added to the stress of rebuilding her country.

This book was very well written. It's a good balance between sweet, humorous, loving, terrifying, bloody, and simply sad. It may have even surpassed 'Graceling' in that respect, and everyone knows it's hard to make a good sequel to a good book. The characters are well-illustrated, with depth and feeling and motivations. Their interactions are fun to watch (well, read) and their betrayals and deaths are felt deeply. The only thing I regret about the characters is that so many were... depressed. Bitterblue herself was pushy, stubborn, and didn't believe in herself - wonderful, complex character flaws. Each character had their web of lies, and their good and bad sides.

The plot, I won't say too much about, but I think it was a little bit rambling at times. There were so many times that Bitterblue sat down to do the same thing, or sent someone else to search for the same thing that it got a bit repetitive at times.

And, before I give away too many spoilers, I hereby dub this book a 4.5 - a meringue. Fluffy and sweet, but also hard and brittle - full of beautiful contrasts. A little too much air and not enough substance.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

'Chime' by Franny Billingsly


Oh, god. The drama that occurred over the National Book Awards. For those of you that haven't heard of it yet, 'Chime' was nominated for the award - but someone misheard it as 'Shine' and accidentally released 'Shine' by Lauren Myracle, a novel about a teen investigating a hate crime about homosexuality, as the nominee. Then, when the mistake was realized, Lauren Myracle was asked to withdraw to protect the integrity of the judges and the award.

Wow.

Anyways, the real review. I read this before all that drama, so my review should be mostly untainted.

'Chime' is about Briony who believes not only that she is a witch, but that she should be burned at stake for it and that she deserves the worst punishment (but she doesn't turn herself in). Her crimes are of killing her stepmother and making the mind of her sister strangified. It's no surprise that she believes this - she can see spirits and speak with the Old Ones, a power that no one but witches have.
Along comes the electric Eldric, humming with golden energy. He is the catalyst to secrets unfolding, about Briony's past, the true nature of her 'crimes', and what Briony really is. Oh, and some romance. I believe I've already mentioned that, for the most part, I skip romantic parts?

I had some trouble with the characters. Briony was an interesting character, but she seemed too, I don't know, predictable? Her narrative was a strange mix of self-hatred, darkness, some mother-like feelings for her sister, insecurity, oddities, and general depressing-ness. It's a little off-putting, not by any means enjoyable, but definitely... interesting to read. There are good quotes, though, as Briony's plucky. For example:
“'You mind your tongue!'
'Oh, I do,' I said. 'I sharpen it every evening on your name.'”

A side-effect of this type of narrative, plus the plot, is that it's terribly difficult to read the book. There's a lot of jumps, where you'll suddenly not understand anything. The sequence of events is just a mess, like a train of thought trying to teleport through a jellyfish. Makes no sense, right?

Then, there's the romance (Did I say I skipped it? I lied). Without this kind of romance, I definitely would have loved this book a lot more, as there's a great plot and setting, and very decent characters (Briony, although a slightly depressing narrator, was one of my favorite characters). However, the love-rectange-lines-jumble-thing just messed everything up. I can deal with a love triangle, and I can deal with true love between Eldric and Briony. But... a strange, enchantingly beautiful woman that is obsessed with Eldric (and the obsession could be mutual)? A determined, crazy suitor for Briony? I'm stretched a little thin here.

So, this book gets a 3.7. It's like trying sushi for the first time - some exotic flavors, new flavors quite unlike anything you've tasted before. Not disgusting, but... not completely enjoyable either. There are different textures and contrasting flavors, some of which you dislike, and some that are simply amazing, and you're not quite sure what you're going to bite into next, or whether you'll like it or not.

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