Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Review: April Lindner, Jane

Jane Eyre is one of my all time favorite novels. The first time I read it, I was in high school, and I liked it so much that as soon as I (weepingly) finished the last page, I immediately began rereading it. I've probably read it a dozen times since then (addictive personality, what?) and each time it evokes new emotions, new questions. Why does Jane, the most sensible person in the world, not try harder to get a direct answer out of Rochester about the mystery in the attic before agreeing to marry him? Is Bertha's madness purely due to genetics or does Rochester has some culpability for bringing her out of her natural habitat in the exotic West Indies into oppressive Victorian England? What does it say about gender in 19th Century England that Jane and Rochester can't get together until Rochester has been made a cripple, robbed of his physical robustness and independent lifestyle?

April Lindner's Jane is a modern day, YA-geared take on Bronte's classic, in which Jane Moore is a 19 year old nanny to ultra-famous rockstar Nico Rathburn. It just so happened that I was in the midst of an 8th or 9th honeymoon with the original (inspired by the new Masterpiece Theater adaptation, by far the best one out there in my opinion) when I heard about this book. I preordered Jane on my Kindle and counted down the days until it was released. After which I sat down and read it in one sitting (yesterday).

Jane is enjoyable and frustrating at the same time. Lindner does do justice to the main characters - although perhaps more so to Jane than Rathburn. I was impressed, for the most part, at how well both characters' voices translated from Victorian English into modern day American vernacular (though I did miss phrases like "Deuce take me!"). Rathburn is still prone to the vulgar outbursts and ironic quips that have made female readers of the original swoon for nearly 200 years--and Jane still responds to him with that calm, succinctly worded logic that we all wish we could possess in the face of such a dead-sexy (if occasionally violent) master.

While I do adamantly believe that it's essential in these types of projects for the characters to stay true to the original, I find it irritating when the plot is a direct replica. And this is where Jane failed for me. Every single scene that happened in Jane Eyre is replicated in Jane, such that it's impossible to ever, for even a moment, stop comparing the two. And in doing so, Jane, of course, always falls short. The whole idea of turning Rochester into a rockstar was a creative spin on the 19th century English aristocrat concept, but that's about where Lindner's imagination ends. She should have been bolder, more confident in her own creative abilities, and less chained to Bronte's plot in its every minute detail.

Let's consider for a moment another modern day adaptation of a 19th century English classic: Clueless. Here, the characters are recognizable to those in Emma, and by the end of the movie they basically end up at the same place as they did in Emma. But along the way there are numerous variations, so that you really can forget for huge gaps of time that you're watching a "remake." Clueless can stand alone as a great movie in its own right, whereas Jane will never be more than a carbon copy of Jane Eyre.

That's not to say Jane isn't a fun read, or a thought-provoking one either. I liked Lindner's interpretation of the relationship between Rochester and Bertha (Bibi, here). Bibi is not just some lunatic with a genetic disorder - she's a woman that Rathburn actually deeply loved, once upon a time, and, we're led to believe, could love again if she could ever be cured from her insanity. Rathburn's negative influence (through the drugs, alcohol, and generally wild lifestyle of a rockstar) on her was a direct cause of her descent into madness, and he has never been able to forgive himself for it. The true history of Rochester and Bertha is one of the biggest mysteries of Jane Eyre and I found Lindner's take on it very interesting and believable.

For me, aside from the boring scene-by-scene imitation of Jane Eyre, the other low point was the final few chapters. Without giving away any spoilers, I'll just say that these final chapters seemed rushed and lacking in feeling compared to the rest, which was very disappointing for me, as I am always overcome with emotion when reading the final chapters of Jane Eyre.

3/5 stars

Saturday, September 11, 2010

Review: Susan Beth Pfeffer, The Last Survivors trilogy

3.5/5 STARS

I was in various stages of non-completion of several books, including: City of Bones (which I've been trying to finish for almost a month now - something must be wrong with me but I just can't get into it!) and Sabriel (have been trying to read this once for a decade but haven't made it past the 3rd chapter yet), when I arrived at work one day and saw that a friend had left Susan Beth Pfeffer's moon trilogy on my desk. Drawn in by the yummy promise of postapocalyptic doom + teenage angst, I abandoned everything else I was reading and dove in.

Unlike some end of the world science fictiony trilogies we know of, this one actually does contain three books: Life as We Knew It, The Dead and the Gone, and This World We Live In. The premise, if not groundbreakingly original, does make for a pretty nail-biting read, from the first page to the last. An asteroid hits the moon and knocks its orbit closer to earth. This might not seem completely catastrophic at first - until you remember that thing about the tides and how the moon is responsible for them. So a closer-to-earth moon = higher tides. Which means places like Florida, California, or New York City, for example, get tsunami'd out of existence within minutes.

The first book is a series of journal entries by Miranda, a 16 yr old basically normal girl who lives with her mom and two siblings in Pennsylvania. She starts writing in the diary a couple days before the asteroid situation happens, intending to use it to record typical 16 yr old type problems like when will I get a boyfriend? Why is my mom so protective - I'm practically an adult, you know! Will the 82 I got on my math test prevent me from getting into a good college? etc. Then the asteroid hits the moon, and things begin spiraling out of control. It's a slow spiral at first. Sure, there are news reports estimating casualties in the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, in coastal areas. Which is devastating but feels a long way off. Life goes on kind of as it did before at first...until food begins to run out, and former friends and neighbors go into survival mode and turn on each other. Bodies begin to pile up. Volcanoes erupt in places like Montreal and Nevada, pouring ash into the atmosphere so the sun can't penetrate and there is frost in August. With no electricity, oil, or gas supplies, and rumors of a horrible flu epidemic, Miranda and her family aren't sure whether hunger, cold, or sickness will kill them first.

In some ways, these books reminded me a bit of the Hunger Games. Miranda has a bit of Katniss in her - she's prickly and can be selfish and fickle. She has a dry sense of humor. She's very protective of her family. But at the core, her own emotions and happiness are what matter most to her. She did feel like a real person to me, even if not always an immensely likable one, so she gets points for that.

By the third book, things are so grim that family members are contemplating murdering each other just to put their loved ones out of their misery. That reminded me a lot of "The Hanging Tree" theme in Mockingjay. That "Hanging Tree" song was one of the most haunting parts of the book - definitely got to me more than all the blood and gore of the "pods."

But I digress. This moon trilogy is a quick read - you really can't put it down - but it's not as creative or deeply felt as The Hunger Games or Catching Fire (can't really lump Mockingjay in still so upset over it). For one thing, the 2nd "companion book" in the trilogy has basically the exact same plot as the first one, only it's told from the perspective of a boy in New York.

Another thing I found disappointing was the way certain relationships developed in the third book. The most powerful relationships in the first two books were those of family. The love and sacrifices of Miranda's mother for her children, of Alex Morales for his bratty sister Julie, and so on. The way these family members cared for each other reminded me - (sorry to keep going back to it) - of Peeta's love for Katniss. Pure and strong and certain. But in the third book, a few characters begin forming new romantic attachments that seem whimsical and not grounded in anything other than hormones. And suddenly it is these new relationships that matter more than anything - more than the family ties that have allowed these characters to survive against all odds for the last year.

But...I guess people can't be expected to act rationally in a world where half a can of sardines is considered a hearty meal and picking valuables off bloated corpses in the street is a savvy trick for survival.

Ok I have rambled on long enough. I do recommend these books. They're not classics in the genre the way things like The Hunger Games or The Giver are, but they're definitely worth reading.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Review: Suzanne Collins, Mockingjay (Hunger Games, #3)

I intentionally waited five days after I finished Mockingjay before writing my review, thinking this would give me time to process my thoughts and emerge from the cloud of doom that began smothering me about one chapter in and didn't let up again, ever.

Well, five days out, the cloud is gone. In its place? Numbness. Actually, numbness might be giving it too much credit. I think apathy might be more accurate. When I finish a really great book, like the first two in the Hunger Games series, or the 7th Harry Potter book, I don't want to read anything else for awhile. My thoughts and emotions are too tied up with the book I just finished -- I either want to reread it again immediately, or just meditate on it for awhile. Reading something new right away is unthinkable.


Not so with MJ. My interest in MJ faded before I even finished the book. Suzanne Collins systematically beat out of me every last smidgeon of emotion or investment in the story. I was so drained by the end, I really did not even care who Katniss wound up with. I could vaguely remember being pro-Peeta at the end of Catching Fire. But Peeta is unrecognizable in this book; he's brainwashed into a monster. Until, of course, that cheesy epilogue where he is magically cured (aside from those sporadic bouts of Having To Grip The Chair).

Yes, I thought the epilogue was cheesy. The cute little domestic life Peeta and Katniss have finally arrived at, and the two paragraphs or whatever it is that Suzanne bothers to describe it in, seemed forced and insincere. It's like throwing a dog a bone after you beat it within an inch of its life. (Dear Reader, you are the dog.)


I think I liked Katniss in the first two books, but Mockingjay made me forget why. Her character is all over the place. This may well have been intentional on the author's part--another statement, I suppose, about the horrors of war, etc--but it made for very tedious reading at times. Katniss would spend paragraphs justifying every decision she made. I had a hard time following her reasoning, but suddenly she would arrive at a conclusion like, "Therefore, I have to be the Mockingjay!" or "I vote yes!"--which she seemed to be indicating was, of course, the only possible conclusion she could have ever reached. Rather than sit back and try to follow her reasoning, I would sigh and turn the page, hopeful that it would all be over soon and I could just go to bed.

For me, it was that feeling of "when will this all be over, please let it be soon" that was the ultimate failure of the book. When I am reading a really great book, I never want it to end. With Harry Potter, I would get increasingly angsty as the page numbers stacked up, knowing that it would be over all too soon. With Mockingjay, I just wanted it to stop. I grieved and grieved and grieved - until, about 50% in, I became basically desensitized.

Now, I know there are plenty of professional literary critics out there who, if they were to read this, would make some sneering comments about how literature's not just meant to amuse and please you, little girl. To which I would reply: get over yourself, butt-munch. If I wanted to feel hopeless and numb all the time, I'd watch the news more, or I'd read contemporary adult "literary fiction." I can handle some darkness, but it needs to be tempered with hope.

3/5 stars (because it's still well written and I <3 FINNICK!!)

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

mockingjay dunzo

It's 2 am and I've just finished Mockingjay. I had better not review it now because of a) deep fatigue and b) SERIOUS ANGST AND DEPRESSION. I need to think on this a bit. But my initial reaction is not one of extreme enthusiasm! Katniss ....ugghh - who is she really? The book was just so freaking dark! I mean that's to be expected to an extent in a series that involves kids having to murder each other. But good lord. It really did devolve into an utter blood bath and the darkness never lets up.

Anyway...I will write a full review in another day or so when I have had a chance to process this. But let the record show I am feeling very conflicted about the whole situation at present.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

blog hop (7)

Book Blogger Hop

Aaaand another week has passed, marking the steady death march into winter. This week was not a productive one in terms of reading and blogging. I only completed two books: the first two in the Night Huntress series. I think I'll start City of Bones next - people seem to rave about that series and I've avoided it so far because of the hideous jackets and the Stephanie Meyers endorsement. But now I have a copy thanks to goodreads' amazing book swap program - so I guess I need to get off my high horse and plunge in. Although everything will of course have to go on hold when Mockingjay is released on Tuesday, yessssssssssssss.

Anyways. This week's question for the hop:

how many blogs do you follow?

Apparently I am following 81, though I definitely do not visit each of those on a daily basis. I basically just scan google reader from time to time. I do have a creepy obsession with a handful of blogs that I check regularly on my own even if I don't see them in the reader. I wish there were more hours in the day! Between work, reading, my own blogging, and the occasional demands of my social life, if you can call it that! - it is hard to find the time to be as active in following other blogs as I'd like.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Review: Jeaniene Frost, Halfway to the Grave (Night Huntress, #1)


This is gonna be a quick & dirty (henceforth Q&D), because, frankly, I'd rather be reading book 2 in Jeaniene Frost's fabulous Night Huntress series than blathering on about book 1 on here. Plus, good reviews are so much harder - and let's be honest, way less fun - to write than bad ones. Yes, I've already bought book 2 on my kindle. I know, I know, book 2 was not mentioned in yesterday's In My Mailbox post.  Five other books were, but those are going on the backburner because I need another Cat & Bones fix - STAT. (Mostly I need to flush my kindle down the toilet because Amazon is rapidly bankrupting me!)

Anyways. Halfway to the Grave. Well. This had been on my to read list for awhile. As with many of my great new urban fantasy discoveries, I heard about it over at the Vampire Academy Amazon message boards. I'm telling you, people who love VA enough to post regularly on the message boards have really good taste in books! (by which I mean, they tend to have roughly the same taste as me :-)

Ok I said this was going to be a Q&D but here I am, three para's in and I haven't even started actually reviewing the book. Even now, I am procrastinating. Ok. Here it goes. For real.

I LOVED THIS BOOK. Possibly, it is my favorite UF discovery since Chicagoland Vampires. Cat and Bones are both hilariously witty. They're also quirky, but consistently so, and each in their own special way. They have very stimulating banter - awesome chemistry - and yet the book isn't just page after page of them mooning over each other. The secondary characters are entertaining and pretty well developed. There is a highly complicated and exciting plot. Certain scenes are so outrageously over the top that you just want to give Ms. Frost a big congratulatory hug for her boldness. The whole thing is just really well-written, laugh-out-loud, solid good fun.

Cat is a half-vampire who believes all vampires are evil (her vampire father raped her human mom, so this prejudice has been drilled into her from a young age). In order to atone for her mother's rape, she spends her nights hunting vampires at the sleazy clubs they like to hang out in. She's pretty good at it, too, considering she's never had any real training.

Then one night she crosses the wrong vamp and wakes up handcuffed in a cave, a smirking, irritatingly cheerful Englishman beaming down at her.  Meet Bones, 200+ year old English gigolo turned Australian convict turned vampire. I basically fell in love with Bones the moment he opened his mouth (have always had a thing for snarky English blokes), but it takes Cat awhile longer. Which is understandable, as their first interaction is a bit rocky. To give you an example of the delicious banter between Cat and Bones, here is an excerpt from the scene when she wakes up handcuffed in the cave. Bones accuses Cat of being made of the same stuff as he - vampire. She haughtily replies,

"I am nothing like your kind! You're all monsters, preying on innocent people and caring nothing about the lives you wreck. The vampires I killed attacked me--it was their back luck I was ready for them. I might have some of this cursed blood in my veins, but at least I was using it to--"

"Oh, stick a sock in it already," he interrupted me with an irritated tone you'd use to scold a child. "You always ramble on so? No wonder your dates went right for your throat. Can't say I blame them."

Speechless, I gaped at him. With absolute clarity I understood the phrase adding insult to injury. First he'd slapped me soundly, now he was going to slander me before murdering me.

"I hate to interrupt your sympathy session over the other dead vampires, but are you going to be killing me soon or what?"

Isn't that fabulous? And it only gets better. They end up partnering together to bring down a truly evil vamp, but soon things get out of control as they uncover a conspiracy that goes way deeper, into the very backbone of the US government. Ahh!

The book ends on a truly cruel cliffhanger, which is why I have to wrap up this review immediately so I can begin book 2. Adios amigos!

Sunday, August 15, 2010

in my mailbox (1)

In my mailbox is a weekly meme hosted by Kristi at the Story Siren.

For the upcoming week, I received (through Goodreads book swap):

Received from the good ol' public libe:

And I purchased (on my kindle):

Ahh, that's a lot of books for one week. I started Sabriel yesterday morning but then put it aside to begin Halfway to the Grave, which I'm about 25% into - so far so good! Cat is pretty awesome. Review soon...

Saturday, August 14, 2010

Review: J.D. Ward, Lover Awakened (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #3)

My RATING: 3.5/5

I'm just gonna come out and say it: I am a huge hypocrite and I kind of despise myself.  After spewing out any number of invectives against the sexism and self-plagiarism of Lover Eternal (Black Dagger Brotherhood #2) when I reviewed that book yesterday (see here) - what did I do as soon as I got home last night? I got the third one in the series! Argh, why do I own a kindle? Such a bad choice for impulse-driven people like myself.

But...ahh! Despite everything I just had to find out about Zsadist! Damn you, J.D. Ward, you draw people in against their will, just like your brotherhood!

This book was so much better than the first two. The plot was more exciting, and Zsadist was the first character in the series that really seemed like an actual, multi-layered person.  I began the book expecting another carbon copy of the first two. But Ward surprised me many, many times. I was surprised by the development of Zsadist. Zsadist spent 100 years as a blood slave...where unspeakable things were done to him. He was freed long ago, but still understandably has a bit of baggage (understatement) and a couple issues when it comes to intimacy of any kind (huge understatement). Still, given the previous two installments, whose male characters also had some dark pasts, I figured Zsadist would rebound from his centuries-old angst within the first quarter of the book once his beloved took him in her arms. Actually, it took him until the very last chapter to come around. This pacing, while frustrating and at times heartbreaking, was completely believable and made Lover Awakened a much better book than the previous two.

The plot also surprised me. After that sugar sweet, squeaky clean ending of book 2, it didn't occur to me that Ward would ever kill off a good guy. But she kills off two of them in Lover Awakened, and it's completely unexpected and devastating.

The sexism that I ranted about in my review of book 2 is still definitely alive and well and infuriating, which is why I cannot give this more than 3.5 stars even though I read the whole thing hungrily in one sitting, staying up til all hours of the night to finish it. Women, for the most part, are basically regulated to the house, their primary function to clear the table after dinner and to produce offspring for the men. Still, in this book, some of the females did get involved in a few fight scenes. Bella actually saves the day at one point: hoorah.

Sexism aside, Ward's vampires are precisely the kind I love. They are paradoxically both more and less than humans. They have a much greater thirst (no pun intended) for life; they feel everything, both physically and emotionally, on a much more intense scale than a human does. But they're also far more driven by the animal side; primal instincts can easily get in the way of higher reasoning. I find the whole thing fascinating.

I often wonder what it is about vampires that I find so intriguing, and I think Ward is one of those authors--like Anne Rice-- that really hits the nail on the head in the way she writes about vampires. it goes back to Thoreau's desire, voiced in Walden, "to suck the marrow out of life." Life can be so dull as a human--both in its monotony and, relatedly, the fact that our senses and desires can be dulled so easily if we don't make a real effort to keep them alive. Do you ever find that you want to want more things, to feel more deeply, to be passionate about something, but you're just too tired, you'll try harder tomorrow? If you were a vampire, you'd automatically perceive the world a billion more times sharply than a human. You'd be more alive (even though you're unfortunately undead...heh heh heh); both your pain and happiness a hundred times more intense; your existence richer and more meaningful.

Right now the main desire of my heart is a heaping bowl of Cinnamon Toast Crunch. Do you see what I mean?

Friday, August 13, 2010

book blogger hoppppp (5?)

Book Blogger Hop

Yahhhhhh another Friday. It's kind of boring that I live my life for the weekends...but what can you do. Work is such a drag, even when you like your job (and I actually do, for the most part, when I'm not being reamed out on the phone by crazy people). You'd still rather spend your days sleeping in, eating enormous pancake bacon omelet mimosa sausage brunches, taking naps, reading, eating more, etc. It's just so boring to have to be at a certain place every day for a certain amount of time, and actually be expected to do productive things while you are there! Why do we live in a society where that type of lifestyle is the norm? Madness.

This week's question for the hop:


The answer: I have no clue. Between the unread books on my shelves, the unread books on my kindle, and the monstrous "to read" list I have over at must be upwards of 100. Sigh.

Review: J. R. Ward, Lover Eternal (Black Dagger Brotherhood, #2)


Ok, I know I said I wasn't going to read anymore books in the Black Dagger Brotherhood series after I finished the first one (you can read my review of that here). I was just kind of put off by the blatantly romancy quality of it and the troll-like nature of some of the brothers, not to mention the sexism. But then some people kept raving about Rhage and Zsadist and how the books just get better and better as you go on. So I swallowed my pride and got Lover Eternal on my kindle.

It is hard for me not to write a completely scathing review. There are a number of things about these books that I find incredibly offensive, both as a woman and a reader who appreciates originality and despises self-plagiarism (Lover Eternal is basically a copy of Dark Lover with a few different names plugged in). I'll get into both of those things in a second, but first, I will say this: despite everything, I do kind of find myself getting sucked into Ward's world when I read these books. There are certain passages that are beautifully written, and occasionally, almost always unexpectedly, a true depth of feeling emerges from one character or another that is raw and transcendent.

Unfortunately, those moments are few and far between, and grievously overshadowed by the rampant chauvinism of the male characters and the fact that the female characters find this male domination irresistible and sexy, thereby making it implicitly excusable. If you think I'm just another over-sensitive raging feminazi (not so!), just read over the sections where each book's pair of lovers has their first encounter. From the point of view of the female character, these first encounters basically go like this:

Oh my gosh! Who is this enormous, scary leather-clad man that has broken into my house/pinned me against the wall/locked me in his bedroom? I am so scared! Is he going to murder or rape me? Oh my goodness, he's so close to me! He's so big and scary! I hate to say it but this man is gorgeous! I suddenly feel very listless! I am going weak in the knees! I know I should be afraid for my life, but suddenly all I can think about is being with this dead sexy potential rapist forever! Then again, I guess it's not a rape if I consent!!!

Humph. I don't know what's worse: the fact that each scene is a thinly veiled rape fantasy, or that Ward never bothers actually having any of these characters get to know each other before they jump each other's bones the first time they meet. I take it back; the rape thing is definitely worse. But both are bad.

Moving on (though I could easily continue in this vein for much longer). The role of each partner in these couples is nauseating. The male always starts off as this fierce, brooding, violent, uber-masculine thug type. Then he meets the gentle female and falls in love and goes a bit soft, but not really, because he continues to be a warrior. The female, on the other hand, spends her days lounging around in the male's bedroom, waiting for him to return from fighting the bad guys, saving up her energy so she can sufficiently comfort him when he returns. I guess it is also her duty to have heart to hearts with him on occasion, thereby enabling him to open up about some Deep Dark Secrets from Long Ago That Have Haunted Him All His Life but Thanks to Her He Can Now Finally Put the Past behind Him and Be Happy.

The male's role in the relationship is that of the protector and pleasurer (primarily the latter). His main responsibility is to show the female a great time in bed. Apparently that's all a woman really needs to be fulfilled in a relationship.To be fair, he does occasionally also get to rescue the female from the bad guys. I do love a damsel in distress (vomit).

Anyway, even if the books weren't polluted by sexism, I would still be offended by the utter lack of character development and the fact that the first two books have the same exact plot. You have the Lessers (evil undead types who hunt vampires) who are slowly developing a plot as the book progresses to kidnap one of the brothers or his gf. You have the initial almost-rape turned deeply romantic encounter between the brother and his soon-to-be mate. The woman discovers her new lover is a vamp, freaks out for a minute or two, and then decides that the whole vampire thing is actually unbearably hot. They commit to each other and it's so sweet and perfect. Then, oh no! The lessers attack, usually kidnapping the female. The brother has to defend his beloved. He gets pretty banged up, but she devotedly sits by his bedside and bandages his wounds until he recovers. They live happily ever after.

I hate to admit that despite all the garbage I have been writing about, I did enjoy certain parts of the book. Still, as a matter of principle, I cannot give it more than 1.5 stars.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

tune tuesday (2)

Tune Tuesday is a weekly meme hosted by Camisado Mind where you create a playlist based on a theme. This week's theme:

songs with long titles 
  1.  "The Continuing Story of Buffalo Bill" by The Beatles
  2. "Everybody's Gotta Learn Sometimes" by Beck
  3. "Flightless Bird, American Mouth" by Iron & Wine
  4. "God Put a Smile upon Your Face" by Coldplay
  5. "I Can't Stop This Feeling I've Got" by Razorlight
  6. "I Still Havent Found What I'm Looking for" by U2
  7. "I've Got My Love to Keep Me Warm" by Louie Armstrong
  8. "In the Aeroplane over the Sea" by Neutral Milk Hotel
  9. "Judy and the Dream of Horses" by Belle & Sebastian
  10. "These Kids Don't Stand a Chance" by Vampire Weekend
  11. "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard" by Paul Simon
  12. "A Rush and a Push and the Land Is Ours" by The Smiths
  13. "She Came in through the Bathroom Window" by The Beatles
  14. "She Thinks My Tractor's Sexy" by Kenny Chesney
  15. "The Slow Descent into Alcoholism" by The New Pornographers
  16. "Stella Was a Driver and She Was Always Down" by Interpol
  17. "We Both Go Down Together" by The Decemberists
  18. "Welcome to the Working Week" by Elvis Costello
  19. "Where Have All the Rude Boys Gone?" by Ted Leo & the Pharmacists
  20. "You Can't Always Get What You Want" by The Rolling Stones

Monday, August 9, 2010

Review: Lili St. Crow, Strange Angels (Strange Angels, #1)

Publisher: Razorbill (Penguin)
Pub date: May 14, 2009
Page count: 293 pages
Reading level: Young Adult


Though it did take me almost a week to slug through this book (which, given the short page count, is not a good sign), now that I'm finished and have had some time to think on it I've decided I generally found more to like than dislike in it. Not a stunning endorsement, perhaps, but it could still be a lot worse.

Dru is a very likable character - a breath of fresh air compared to a lot of the tedious broads I've had the misfortune to come across lately in YA lit. Several pages into the novel, her dad--who we're already inclined to think fondly of since it's clear that our tough-as-nails heroine has a major soft spot for him--is murdered and turned into a zombie. He comes back as one of the Living Dead, a foul-smelling, rotting, animated corpse with a vengeance, and attacks Dru...who fortunately manages to kill him.

So we're only a chapter into the novel and not only has Dru's sole remaining family member--her beloved father who raised her from infancy and taught her everything she knows--been murdered, but he's also been turned into a flesh-eating zombie programmed to attack Dru...and she's had to shoot him multiple times in their living room in order to kill him once and for all. The putrid, human-sized stain on the living room floor is proof.

It is very shortly after this harrowing sequence of events that Dru hooks up (in the non physical sense) with Graves, a very nice--if occasionally cowardly--goth boy who seems about as homeless and family-less as she. Now, given the insane trauma Dru has just experienced, I would have been even more annoyed than I usually am in these types of books if her horror at losing her father had turned immediately into "I looked into Graves's sparkling green eyes and the weirdest thing happened! I felt a flush on my face! My heart was beating so fast! I was still sad about Dad, duh, but Graves just smelled real good! I think I love him!" type thing.  Fortunately this does not happen. For Dru and Graves, it is a fight for survival, and though Graves does make a few amusingly clumsy passes at Dru, she's way too preoccupied with trying to keep them both alive, and trying not to succumb to her grief and terror, to even consider such a thing. Thank goodness.

Now...I know you can't have your cake and eat it too (sorry for the cliche), but that said, I did kind of feel the book was lacking a solidly sexy, charismatic male character. Christophe, the half vampire who arrives on the scene more than halfway through the book, has potential, I guess, but for now he's barely developed...and Dru keeps saying he smells like apple pie. Really? I mean I like apple pie as much as the next person (actually I prefer key lime pie...that tart limey taste paired with the sweet crunch of graham cracker crust mmmmmmmm yes please) - but it's more of the type of odor you associate with your grandma's house than a smolderingly attractive suitor-type. Or maybe that's just me...

Anyways. I liked Crow's writing style for the most part. She has a great way of adding really eerie details (like how Dru always gets the taste of waxy citrus in her mouth whenever something horrid is about to happen) which help define the characters and also rev up the suspense. I also loved the way Dru coped with her father's death. She didn't crawl up in the fetal position and weep through the whole book...but she also didn't get over it immediately and fall in love and save the world without a moment's hesitation. I liked how her father's voice was in her head through much of the book, advising her on what to do to stay alive, giving her comfort when she was tempted to throw up her hands in defeat.

So, all in all, a pretty good read. I didn't love it...maybe because Dru was the only character that I really felt any connection to...but I certainly found lots to like. I will almost certainly be reading the next one.

Saturday, August 7, 2010

the versatile blogger award

I received THE VERSATILE BLOOGGER AWARD (my first blogging award!) about two months ago, thanks to brandileigh at BLKOSINER - very exciting for a fledgling blogger like myself. Then, in the past week, I received it two more times from NYMFAUX and JEN THE BIBLIOPHILE. Thanks so much to all of you! I'm going to sit down and actually pass this along now.

The Rules for the award are:

1. Thank and link back to the person who gave you this award.
2. Share 7 things about yourself.
3. Pass the award along to 15 bloggers who you have recently discovered and who you think are fantastic for whatever reason! (In no particular order...)
4. Contact the bloggers you've picked and let them know about the award.

Seven things about me:

1. I am a southern girl who was cruelly transplanted into the frozen tundra of New England about two years ago (seriously...a high of 60 degrees in April is NOT cause for celebration, much less donning a sundress).

2. I majored in English as an undergrad at William & Mary (go tribe!!!), with a minor in religious studies and a late-blooming interest in Russian language. I think part of why I love YA lit so much now is because I never had time to read it when I actually was a young's like some kind of private rebellion against the likes of Milton, Swift, Shakespeare, Donne, etc.--all quite respectable lads, mind you--who enslaved me while I was in college. Nowadays I'll take a bloody vamp drama to Paradise Lost any day of the week, yes please.

3. I ride my bicycle to work every day (the joys of living a mile away from one's place of employment). It's a 1970's era Columbia 5-speed. Unfortunately, a storm knocked it over a couple weeks ago while it was parked outside the pub during happy hour...and now the chain spinner-arounder-gizmo thing (chain ring, it might be called??) is busted, so I've been having to commute on my roommate's spare bike...a gigantic man-bike that I have to prop up next to the curb in order to mount. Really classy, especially in a dress.

4. I was born on Jane Austen's death-day.

5. I play on a local kickball team (I'm using the term "play" loosely here: I mainly just stand way the heck back in the outfield and pray to the dear lord that no one will kick it near me. I'm not bad at bunting, though!)

6. What do you get when you cross a cop with a skunk? Law & Odor!!! (ok, that wasn't really about me, but this is: I get a huge kick out of really outrageously, obscenely dumb jokes.)

7. Moy drook (мой друг) was the first phrase I learned in Russian means "my friend." So my blog title literally means "my friend reads." Which I think is kind of cute and hopefully gets to the point of what I'm trying to achieve here...a place where I can connect with other book lovers.

And now I would like to pass along this award, in no particular order, to the following 9 bloggers (I know you're supposed to give it to 15 people but that is too overwhelming for a Saturday morning...sorry):

  1. Angieville 
  2. Another Book Junkie 
  3. My Book Addiction
  4. Camisado Mind
  5. Wood's Books
  6. Amaterasu Reads
  7. My Head Is Full of Books
  8. Reports from the Couch
  9. book-a-rama

Friday, August 6, 2010

book blogger hop (5)

Book Blogger Hop

frrrrriiiiiiiiidddddddaaaaaayyyyyyyyyy!!!!!!!!!!! Fricking finally. What a long week. I had a bad feeling about this week when I arrived at work Monday morning and saw that someone had egged the front door (or possibly thrown some yellow paintballs at it). Shortly thereafter as I walked across the parking lot for my morning coffee run, I encountered A FAMILY OF SKUNKS. Aren't skunks supposed to be nocturnal? And like live in the wilderness..not an urban area??? Needless to say I ran away shrieking at the top of my lungs, making a complete donkey of myself in front of my esteemed coworkers. Whatever...Jane (1): Skunk (0). That's all that matters.

Anyway, the rest of the week was equally absurd, but I won't bore you (or myself) by recounting the details.

This week's question for the blog hop:

Do you listen to music when you read? If so, what are your favorite reading tunes?

Hmmm...I go through phases with this. If I'm in a cafe or something I always listen to music while reading (to drone out the sound of crying babies and the gossiping of the patrons around me). If I'm at home...less often. I'll listen to basically any type of just depends on what I'm in the mood for. When I first read Chloe Neill's Chicagoland Vampires, for instance, I was on a major Radiohead kick (I had just gotten a copy of In Rainbows). Now whenever I hear any of the songs from that album I think about poor Merit's transition into a vampire, the lusty Ethan Sullivan, etc. Same with Tender Morsels...I had just discovered Rue Des Cascades, a soundtrack by Yann Tiersen (who did the Amelie soundtrack) and listened to that nonstop while reading Tender Morsels, so now I associate both with the other.

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Review: Julie Kagawa, Iron Daughter (Iron Fey, #2)

Publisher: Harlequin
Pub date: August 1, 2010
Page count: 304 pages
Reading level: Young Adult


Sigh. I really wanted to love this book as much as I loved Iron King...I really hoped the things that bothered me in Iron King would sort of fade into the background in this second installment of the Iron Fey trilogy. But unfortunately the reverse happened.

My main issue is with the heroine, Meghan Chase. I didn't love her in Iron King, but the jury was still out. After finishing Iron Daughter, I'm afraid I've pretty much lost hope. For one thing, the damsel in distress situation that was a bit of an aggravation in Iron King only escalates in Iron Daughter. In the rare instance that Meghan actually manages to hold her own in a fight, it's not really due to hard work and determination (i.e. strength of character), but rather the sheer luck of spontaneously to be able to use iron glamour (a very intriguing, unusual, and useful skill which Meghan seems, for the most part, far less interested in investigating than she is in pining away for the various dudes in her life...harrumph).

Though she can generally be relied upon for the damsel in distress scenes, Meghan is for the most part not a consistent character; her choices and actions are often not what we would expect given the way her character was developed in the previous book. Her concern for her brother, which was the driving force of Iron King, is now put on the back burner, though his safety is far from secure. I really hate inconsistent characters (unless the tendency towards inconsistency is actually part of the character) and so this was a serious stumbling block.

*Spoilers below (vague ones)*

Equally grating was Meghan's endless angst over the whole Ash thing.  When Ash spurns her, she's all "woe is me, I have nothing to live for now; I wish I were dead." When Ash predictably changes his mind a few pages later, she leaps back into his arms after a few moments of distress (BUT WHAT IF HE'S JUST GLAMOURING ME AND IT'S NOT REAL AHHHH OH WELL I DON'T CARE I HEART HIM 2 MUCH!!). Then Ash has to go away again, and Puck steals a kiss, and suddenly she's feeling something for Puck? Wondering if she loves Puck?

Which brings me to another issue: the love triangle.  Now, I am not anti-love triangles. Though love triangles are generally frustrating, they can also be brilliant ways of making the reader more invested in the romance. (Hello, Adrian vs. Dimitri.) The love triangle between Meghan, Ash, and Puck, however, left me bored and confused, though I initially had high hopes for it. It was just poorly executed. I honestly thought Puck was glamouring Meghan into feeling something for him. That seemed the only logical explanation for why she would possibly tolerate a steamy make out session with him, just days after she was willing to die to save the supposed love of her life, Ash--and especially given she never showed any attraction to Puck previously. I guess it's possible that Puck was using glamour and we just have to wait until Iron Queen comes out to find out about it...but I don't think so. The whole thing reeked of Bella/Edward/Jacob.

The love triangle fails (for me) because -- while it's obvious that Ash is The One -- there is not sufficient chemistry between them to make me really care too much about their fate as a couple. I was quite puzzled really by Ash's description of his feelings for Meghan during the Winter Fest:

I've seen thousands of mortal girls...To me, they're all the same. They see only this outer shell, not who I really am, beneath. You have. You've seen me without the glamour and the illusions, even the ones I show my family, the farce I maintain just to survive. You've seen who I really am, and yet you remain.

Has she? Did I skip over that section? Because the Ash I've seen is pretty one dimensional...a brooding winter prince who seems to soften up for inexplicable reasons the moment our favorite pig-farm girl arrives on the scene. Precisely why these two share such a strong connection, however,  remains a mystery, because both characters are underdeveloped, and they fall in love too quickly for us to keep up with.

And is it really such a shock that Meghan would stick around after seeing Ash's self-described "real" self? The glamoured version of Ash that his family sees is, frankly, a monster...a cruel, emotionless, killing machine. As for the "real" Ash: we can sort of make him out in an abstract way...he obviously cares deeply for Meghan and is willing to fight anyone who tries to harm her (assuming his mind hasn't been possessed by iron bugs). Horrors! To imagine she would still want to be with him after seeing that "real" side of him!

Anyway, enough complaining. Despite these issues, the book was fast paced and exciting, such that I read most of it in one sitting. The secondary characters were, again, fabulous. Grimalkin was a grumpy delight, Ironhorse TUGGED AT MY HEART, and Puck, when he wasn't wallowing, was entertaining too. The entire breed of iron fey are fascinating and I really hope that drama will be the focus of the final installment of this trilogy. Kagawa's writing (aside from Meghan's endless weepy monologues about her broken heart) is top notch.

Yes, I will be reading the next and final book. Despite my issues, I still definitely need to know how this all works out in the end.

Tune Tuesday (1)

I've just discovered this meme (which is hosted by Camisado Mind) and I think it's grand. Every week there's a new theme and you have to list songs that fit it. This week's theme:

Songs with a COLOR in the title

Here's my list:

  1. "Pale Blue Eyes" by The Velvet Underground
  2.  "Blue Lips" by Regina Spektor
  3.  "Mr. Blue Sky" by Electric Light Orchestra
  4. "Blue Light" by Bloc Party
  5. "Cumberland Blues" by The Grateful Dead
  6. "Yellow Submarine" by The Beatles
  7. "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road" by Elton John
  8. "Green" by Coldplay
  9. "Golden Cage" by The Whitest Boy Alive
  10. "The Gold Finch and the Red Oak Tree" by Ted Leo & the Pharmacists
  11. "Golden Slumbers" by The Beatles
  12. "Golden Years" by David Bowie
  13. "Heart of Gold" by Neil Young
  14. "Sister Golden Hair" by America
  15. "Red Rubber Ball" by Cyrkle
  16. "Maxwell's Silver Hammer" by The Beatles 
  17. "Silver Lining" by David Gray
  18. "Yoshimi vs. the Pink Robots" by The Flaming Lips
  19. "Black Swan" by Thom Yorke
  20. "Black Water" by The Doobie Brothers
  21. "Blackbird" by The Beatles
  22. "Pot Kettle Black" by Wilco
  23. "Supermassive Black Hole" by Muse
  24. "White Ladder" by David Gray
  25. "White Shadows" by Coldplay 
  26. "A White Demon Love Song" by The Killers
  27. "The Violet Hour" by Sea Wolf
  28. "Violet Hill" by Coldplay

Not an awful playlist actually! The Beatles definitely win for most color-fused song titles...hmmmm.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Review: Julie Kagawa, Iron King

Publisher: Harlequin
Pub date: February 1, 2010
Page count: 368 pages
Reading level: Young Adult


I haven't come across a YA author with as much "scope for the imagination" (to borrow a phrase from my beloved L.M. Montgomery) since, dare I say it, J.K. Rowling. From the jaded and delightfully crabby centuries-old cat, Grimalkin (a cat, albeit, "only in the crudest sense of the word"),  to the adorable pack-rats (small, deeply loyal creatures of iron who devote their lives to prowling through heaps of trash in search of "treasures" to gift upon their king) - the world that Julie Kagawa has created here is beautifully written, poignant, and imaginative on an epic scale.

The Iron King is not as exciting as a Harry Potter book, not by a long shot. But that is hardly a condemnation.* What the book arguably lacks (at least for the first 100 pages or so) in page-turner quality, it more than makes up for in originality. The premise alone is enough to earn this a couple stars even if everything else about the book were a total flop (which is happily not the case). Meghan Chase, our hapless heroine, is a 16 year old hillbilly, a clumsy farm-girl with a hopeless crush on the high school football quarterback.  Unbeknown to her, Meghan's father is not the traveling insurance salesman her mom was married to when she was born; her real father is actually King Oberon (faery ruler of A Midsummer Night's Dream fame). Better yet, her best friend Robbie is secretly Puck (remember that devious guy from Midsummer Night's Dream who cast the spell on snooty Queen Titania to make her fall in love with a donkey? Yep, that's our guy.).

Shortly into the book, Meghan's little brother (who reminded me comfortingly a bit of Charles Wallace from A Wrinkle in Time) is kidnapped by a mysterious figure known as the Iron King and taken into Nevernever (faery land). With Robby/Puck at her side, Meghan enters the realm of Nevernever on a mission to save him.  Meghan, Puck, and Puck's mortal enemy, the dashing Prince Ash, (along with a whole host of other very entertaining supernatural characters) soon find themselves swept up in ...that's right, a Dangerous Quest To Save The World From Certain Ruin.

So, for the most part, I loved this book. It's always a treat to read books like this which are so carefully and lovingly thought out. I do not understand how authors like Kagawa (and I would even mention in the same breath people like Tolkien, C.S. Lewis, Patrick Ness... as well as Rowling) have the diligence and sheer energy to create these worlds with such unwavering attention to both the grand scope as well as each tiny, individual little detail.

What kept this from earning more than 4 stars was the bit of boredom I felt towards the heroine. Meghan Chase is not a Meg Murray, or a Hermione Granger, or even a Lucy Pevensie. She's definitely more tolerable than some of her peers (see Twilight's Bella Swan or Nora of hush, hush), but she's lacking a certain spark that exists in the heroines of some of the classics. Maybe she just has one too many damsel in distress scenes. I'm not sure exactly what it was but I didn't love her...she was just ok. It may actually have had something to do with the budding romance between her and Prince Ash. Again, we have the dark, brooding prince, who has barely loved anyone at all in his many long centuries of immortal life, but suddenly this awkward 16 yr old farm girl stumbles on the scene and a few moments later he falls violently in love and his life is changed forever? Yawn.

I'm more intrigued by Puck's infatuation. Puck also loves Meghan, but presumably he has more reason for doing so, since he's actually known her all the weary days of her life. This love triangle was only a minor plot in Iron King but it certainly feels like the tension will grow in Iron Daughter. I hope it does, and I hope it makes me care a bit more about who Meghan chooses.

So, in summary, a great new fantasy series at the YA level. A million, trillion, bajillion times better than most of the garbage that is lining the YA shelves these days. Highly recommended! I've already obtained Iron Daughter and will be diving in shortly.


*You really shouldn't compare anything to Harry Potter. If a new Harry Potter book were being released tomorrow, for instance, I would rearrange my entire life to accommodate it, starting by requesting a personal day from work (which I would use to recover from staying up the entire night before to read the book). I would arrive at my local Barnes & Noble (wearing an immaculately designed Harry Potter costume) ridiculously early to ensure I'd get a copy of the book before any of those snotty nosed evil children could swipe it and ruin the ending for me by screaming out DUMBLEDORE'S DEAD!!; I would have several near-fatal accidents on the drive home as I tried to read and drive in the dark of night at the same time; and then I would stay up all night, red-eyed, nauseous, weepy, and euphoric until I finished it. The fact that I didn't feel the need to do that with Iron Daughter, the sequel to Iron King which was just released the other day, does not mean the series is bad.

Saturday, July 31, 2010

july wrap-up

I am so sad July is over. July is my favorite month of the entire year for several reasons:

1) The Northern Hemisphere, where I happen to dwell, is inhabitable during July. By which I mean you're not generally at risk of hypothermia if you step outside your door without wearing several woolen layers (although this morning it was something obscene like 63 degrees when I woke up. This better just be a freak cold front and not a sign that winter is coming).

2) It is the month of my birthday. I'm getting old now so birthdays aren't quite as magical as they were before I'd been walking the planet for a full quarter century (vomit), but I still basically love them. Any day when you get to eat cake and people have to be nice to you and maybe even give you presents is just fine by me.

3) People just tend to be in a relaxed, happy state of mind during July, relative to other months. It is a month of vacations, popsicles, barbecues, puppies and dreams come true.

This July in particular was one of the best I've had in my "adult" life. Christina at Confessions of a Book Addict does great end-of-month summaries, and I hope she won't mind me copying her by doing the same over here.

Books read:
1. Carrie Ryan, The Forest of Hands and Teeth (1/5 stars)
2. Holly Schindler, A Blue So Dark (3.5/5 stars)
3. Chloe Neill, Twice Bitten (Chicagoland Vampires, #3) (4/5 stars)
4. Simone Elkeles, Leaving Paradise (2/5 stars)
5. Cate Tiernan, Immortal Beloved (3.5/5 stars)
6. Jennifer Echols, Forget You (3/5 stars)
7. Becca Fitzpatrick, hush, hush (1/5 stars)
8. Patricia Briggs, Moon Called (Mercy Thompson, #1) (4/5 stars)
9. Julie Kagaway, Iron King (currently reading...not appalling so far)

My July Top Five

1. FAVORITE BOOK: Twice Bitten by Chloe Neill. I had very high expectations for this and was so relieved/happy when it lived up to and even surpassed them.

2. BIGGEST LET DOWN: The Forest of Hands and Teeth by Carrie Ryan. I'm a sucker for post-apocalyptic books, but the one-dimensional, whiny, boring characters in this were a deal-breaker.

3. BIGGEST SURPRISE: Immortal Beloved by Cate Tiernan. I was not expecting to enjoy this but it was actually really good.

4. FAVORITE NEW (to me) BLOG: Taradiddle's Reports from the Couch

5. FAVORITE PART OF JULY: As I said, this July was the best July I've had in recent memory. Many awesome things happened, including my first ever visit to Rhode Island, lobster dinners, a kegger birthday party (I know, you'd think at 25 years old I'd be over all that...but apparently not), and a wedding in Switzerland. But though each of those things (especially the wedding) was amazing, the most exciting was being in Spain when they won the World Cup! EVENT OF A LIFETIME!!! YO SOY ESPANOL, ESPANOL, ESPANOL!!!!

book giveaway winners! (1)

Thanks so much to the 9 lovely contestants (and to my Cousin's Uncle, who seldom has anything of pertinence to say on here but does have an admirable taste in dessert) who entered my first ever book giveaway. You have all generously contributed to a very noble cause, which I like to refer to as LJTTSPJFTOBABHFH* and for that you have earned my eternal gratitude. Anyway, without further ado, here are the three winners (who I will also notify individually):

1. Cate Tiernan's Immortal Beloved goes to NYMFAUX, who enjoys cheesecake. Not my personal favorite, but I certainly won't turn it down...especially cheesecakes with that delicious graham cracker crust mmmmmmm and maybe a tart lemon filling? And a nice cup of decaf? Maybe some oreos to wash it down? Now we're talkin.

2. Kelley Armstrong's The Summoning goes to Michelle of See Michelle Read (which, incidentally, I always want to read as See Richelle Mead (Vampire Academy authoress)). Michelle's favorite dessert is "delish oreo cake." I am totes on board with that. Anything cakey and oreo-y is A-ok in my Fatty-McFat book.

3. Claudia Gray's Evernight goes to Lisa R. of Lisa's Loves(Books of Course). Lisa is the winner of this book due to sheer bravery and independent thinking; even though she's heard Evernight compared to a steaming pile of cow dung, she's willing to give it a shot, and that takes guts. Also she was the only one who wanted this book. Her favorite dessert is "cherry yum yum." I'm not familiar with that (I tend to stray away from anything that doesn't have chocolate in it) but here's what came up when I typed it into google images. Doesn't look half bad!

Thanks again to everyone who entered my contest! There will be another giveaway soon...stay tuned!

*Let's Join Together To Save Poor Jane From Tripping Over Books And Breaking Her Fat Head

Friday, July 30, 2010

Top Ten Picks: Favorite Male Literary Characters (1)

First, only one more day til my awesome book giveaway ends! Click here to enter!

Now, onto Random Ramblings' amazing weekly meme, Top Ten Picks, which I just stumbled across for the first time this morning. This week's topic, Favorite Male Literary Characters, is irresistible, as are the fictional men I am about to list. So, here is a hastily put-together list, in no particular order, of 10 of my all time favorite male fictional characters. I am in love with most of them.

1. Jane Austen's MR. DARCY

2. Jane Austen's MR. KNIGHTLEY

3. Richelle Mead's DIMITRI BELIKOV

4. Elizabeth Gaskell's MR. THORNTON

5. J.R.R. Tolkien's ARAGORN

6. Emily Bronte's HEATHCLIFF

7. Chloe Neill's ETHAN SULLIVAN

(yes, that's technically a photo of Becks, but Chloe Neill has said Becks is how she envisions Ethan, and I have absolutely zero problem with that visual.)

8. Shakespeare's FALSTAFF

9. Simone Elkeles' ALEX

10. J.K. Rowling's SIRIUS BLACK

 11. (because it's my blog and if I want my list of 10 to include 11 items then so be it!!!

follow my book blog friday (2)

This week's featured blog on follow my book blog friday is the lovely Amelia of The Authoress. I  hadn't seen Amelia's blog before but I'm so glad I've found it...she has a very elegant layout and nice meaty reviews. The Elinor Dashwood widget is another plus. My only sorrow is that she compares Vampire Academy to House of Night and gives the former a grade D! Ahhh. Oh well - to each their own!


Hello friends....just a reminder, this week's GIVEAWAY ends today at 5 pm EST (T minus 8 hours) hurry up and enter!  

Contest link here. 

I am giving away three books this week (see below) and all you have to enter is briefly discuss your favorite dessert (mmmmmmmm) and a few other tiny things in the comments section of the contest post.

Happy Friday!!

book blogger hop (4)

Book Blogger Hop

Friday! I can't believe it's finally here. This has really been one of the longest weeks I can remember. There were times I thought I might not survive it. Anyways.....

This week's question for the blog hop: Who is your favorite new-to-you author so far this year?

It would have to be a tie between Francisco Stork and Suzanne Collins. I can't believe I had missed The Hunger Games train for as long as I did but I am definitely on it now and so are various friends and family members thanks to my manic raving about it. CAN'T WAIT FOR MOCKINGJAY!!!!

I admire Francisco Stork for slightly different reasons. I finished The Last Summer of the Death Warriors a couple weeks ago and it completely blew me away (review here). It wasn't as much of a page turner as The Hunger Games (nothing is, at least not since the days of Harry Potter), but it has an amazing depth and intellect that is very rare in YA.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Review: Patricia Briggs, Moon Called (Mercy Thompson, #1)

Publisher: Penguin (Ace Books)
Pub date: January 31, 2006
Page count: 304 pages
Reading level: Young Adult

My rating: 4/5 stars

This book was recommended to me by a fellow Vampire Academy groupie (several of them, actually), so I knew I had to give it a shot. I am so glad I did! What a rare treat to begin a new gripping series when 5 books are already out. I hope I can pace myself so I don't finish all of them in a matter of days and then have that unbearable wait until January for the 6th one.

Anyways. Mercy Thompson is a Walker, a deliciously eerie name for people who can shift into coyote form at will. That's right, coyotes. So random and un-glamorous. I love it. She also runs her own auto-repair shop and restores battered old VW's as a hobby. Mercy is my favorite type of character. She's fiercely independent, sarcastic, loves to push people's buttons, etc., but also has a sweet, vulnerable side.When a young werewolf boy she's just met is suddenly murdered, she arrogantly claims that though it's a bit sad, she's too hardened to feel any strong emotion about it. I was kind of appalled by that...until several pages later we see her weeping for the boy and biting off anyone's head who doesn't speak of him with sufficient respect. She won me over in that moment and her character only continued to develop in positive ways as the novel progressed. She acted in a consistent manner; her character was realistic and interesting...basically she is an ideal (and sadly rare) heroine. Well done, Ms. Briggs!

I also love Adam, the local alpha wolf (I've always had a thing for alpha wolves...mmmm) and love interest for Mercy. Mercy loves pushing Adam's buttons. Because she's not technically in his pack, she doesn't have to obey him, and so she goes out of her way to do things she know will annoy him, just out of principle. That's my kind of girl. A coyote chick who can get under the skin of the almighty alpha wolf. Mmmmmm.

I actually did have a few pet peeves about the book, but my over all feeling of joy while I was reading and after I finished the book was so great that I'm not going to let them seriously affect my rating. Firstly (and this isn't the fault of Patricia Briggs), the jacket. Penguin has a habit, I'm beginning to notice, of designing completely tacky jackets for their UF/PR titles. Moon Called is even worse than usual. The jacket I posted here is actually the cover for the graphic novel, which I have not read, but I thought it was way better than the regular jacket, which shows what looks to be a deeply hungover, half-naked dominatrix who is attempting to swallow her own greasy hair. Who doesn't want to read a book about that?!

Second, I had a hard time, at times, following the plot. I understood the big picture (conspiracy to overthrow Alpha werewolf who is planning to reveal werewolves' existence to the human population) - but the individual strands got to be a bit much. I found myself skimming over some of the complicated caucuses between Mercy, Adam, Sam, & co., when they were throwing out names left and right of potential co-conspirators in this evil scheme. (Although admittedly if I had read over these parts carefully rather than skimming through them I may have gleaned a better understanding of what was going on...hmmm.)

Finally, there was so much tension and chemistry between Adam and Mercy throughout this novel, which I loved. I am totally on Team Adam, by the way (are there teams for these books?). But the final scene between these two just seemed kind of....ehhh. I feel like it came too soon, and it was too formal, given the passions of both characters. there are four more books out, and a fifth on the way, I have no doubt that Ms. Briggs has plenty more obstacles in store for these two. I can't wait to find out what they might be.

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Monday, July 26, 2010

Review: Becca Fitzpatrick, hush hush

Reading level: Young adult
Publisher: Simon & Schuster Children's Publishing
Pub date: October 13, 2009
Page count: 291

My rating: 1/5 stars

Seriously? Is this all you have to do to get published these days? Take the Twilight plot, plug in a few different names, use fallen angels instead of vampires, and BAM, a best seller? What am I thinking, wasting my time going to an honest 8-5 job every day??? I'm serious. You don't even have to change the personalities of the main characters. Nora = Bella (but even less interesting). Edward = Patch (but even less complex).

Nora and Bella are both Mary Sue types. The kind of utterly plain, boring people that millions of girls just like them out there (myself included) would really like to believe could actually become wrapped in the middle of a fairy tale, the heart throb of a mysterious and brooding Prince Charming, the central character in an epic saga.

Wake up, girlies, it's not happening. Worse yet, it's not even interesting to read about in fiction.

I'm not saying the protagonist in this type of story has to be a beautiful prom queen. It's okay if she's a bit anti-establishment, if she has a certain underdeveloped natural charm and doesn't need makeup, if she's in the marching band. But for godsake, she needs to have SOMETHING. A sense of humor? A passion for deep sea fishing? Whatever. Something interesting, some defining characteristic to make us understand why in the world she is the main character in a book series. To make us care enough to finish the book, for the love of god (which I did NOT manage here, I will admit fully. I made it halfway through, and even that was a real challenge).

Nora of hush, hush has nothing going for her. Her narrative is literally like reading the diary of a constipated frontal lobotomy patient (without the exciting drama of the lobotomy ordeal--or even the constipation). Here's an example of a typical Nora monologue (of my own rendering):

I was walking down the hall thinking about Patch. I hate Patch, he's such a creep. He's just not safe! Suddenly an asteroid crashed through the roof, and looking over I saw Patch standing next to me. In that moment, it didn't matter that an asteroid was about to crush my fat head into a bloody mass of mangled flesh and brains. Because Patch was there and despite everything, I felt safe and comforted. I wanted him to touch me, mmmm.

Shut up, Nora, no one gives a crap, and let's be serious, if fallen angels really did exist, they wouldn't waste their time on boring Mary Sues like yourself.

At least Twilight was kind of the first of its kind. Hush hush is a pathetic imitation of something that wasn't too great in the first place. I can't wait to give away my copy in my next book giveaway.

By the way, the current giveaway ends on Friday. So hurry up and enter!

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