Saturday, November 15, 2014

Trial by Fire: review

Trial by Fire (Worldwalker #1) by Josephine Angelini

Goodreads summary:
This world is trying to kill Lily Proctor. Her life-threatening allergies keep her from enjoying experiences that others in her hometown of Salem take for granted, which is why she is determined to enjoy her first high school party with her best friend and longtime crush, Tristan. But after a humiliating incident in front of half her graduating class, Lily wishes she could just disappear.

Suddenly, Lily is in a different Salem—one overrun with horrifying creatures and ruled by powerful women called Crucibles. Strongest and cruelest of them all is Lillian . . . Lily's other self in this alternate universe.

What makes Lily weak at home is what makes her extraordinary in New Salem. In this confusing world, Lily is torn between responsibilities she can't hope to shoulder alone and a love she never expected.

My thoughts:
First, since it's a must, let's look at that awesome cover for a minute. Maybe two. Wonderful and perfect, I hope the next one is that fitting.

I have read Josephine Angelini's Starcrossed trilogy before, and at the time I really liked them. (Back in 2011 when there was the initial slew of trilogy-debut-similar books being published.) Not bad for her first ones, but now after reading Trial by Fire, I can see her writing has changed very much. She's found her footing, and it's significantly better. I was surprised, and now delighted. I can easily hope it's just going to keep getting better, and she will keep growing as a writer.

After racking my brain, I can't actually come up with any 'parallel/alternate' universe books I've read. To me, usually they're off-putting with the mirrored image cover, because I despise and avoid those. That's sheer shallowness on my part, and now I might have to close my eyes and pick another book in the genre, because this one exceeded my expectations. (Oh yes, A Thousand Pieces of You by Claudia Gray is near the top of my pile. Again the cover, it's like they learned their lesson on the mirror thing.) But maybe what makes this stand out to me is once Lily gets pulled into this alternate universe, things aren't 'almost the same', it's 'holy crap my house turned into a castle' so the differences are more world-wide. A very different timeline having branched off long ago, rather than something Lily did differently that day. Does that make sense?

What did I love about this book? The correct question was what DIDN'T I like about this book? Yeah yeah, I had to say it. Literally the only thing I didn't like, was the very beginning. If you pick it up and start reading thinking, oh boy, this girl Lily is a little shallow regarding "The Boy" Tristin who's a total tool, and she's annoying. Well I can tell you, even by the 50 page mark (what chance I give books) she changes, along with the whole book's tone, which really took me by surprise. Also regarding Tristin…

The romance part of Trial by Fire was such a gulp of fresh air, I can't express to you enough. Without giving too much away, a love triangle is reasonably avoided, and Lily actually does things for HERSELF instead for her guy. It's more like she builds friendships and different kinds of relationships with about five close people. Whoa, like real life, then? Not solely wineing about who isn't falling in love with her? It felt natural and kind, a deep understanding in the most opposite form of insta-love as possible. Thank you Josephine Angelini, we need more female characters like Lily. (Not Lillian, please. That would just be terrifying.)

Since the POV is third person, we mostly see Lily's side of things, but every once and again there's a glimpse into what's going on outside her sphere of knowing, and we see what's up back with Lillian at the castle, or Gideon, who is Mister Slimy Asshole. I think this arrangement of headspace really worked for the story, even though it's not something I'm used to enjoying in books.

I love the blend of science and magic in here. It's like when Whedon mixed westerns and science fiction. Everybody kinda pffft at it, (crazy people) and look how well it worked out. Trial by Fire's world building is beautiful and creative, with things from bioluminescent trees as street lamps, to spliced together creatures to help with different tasks in society. (Some didn't work out so well though.) When the magic is explained in detail, it transforms into an exquisite scientific topic, and the whole process was utterly bewitching. Pun intended. You'll see what I mean when the willstones come to play, there isn't a way to shortly describe it.

Justification. That may be the theme to Trial by Fire. With many of the decisions made by Lily, Lillian, even Rowan and Juliet, I found myself really trying, and seeing, the motives behind their actions.  -What was terrifying and well written about Lillian, was that yes, her argument actually makes sense, nuclear power is bad! But is it hang-thousands-of-school-children-who-are-learning-science bad? It is to her, but we're also missing some vital information to totally hate her at this point. (I'm kidding, there is no saving that bitch's soul.) And as the story unfolds, and Lily learns more about being in this new world, her actions become even more questionable, and you're wincing alongside her as she makes every important decision.

Lastly, while I was left with an ending that kept me wanting more, it had enough of a sentence, a chapter, to leave me with an "Oohh I wonder what's going to happen next!" Rather than "What! That's not even a complete sentence!!" In other words, a tolerable cliffhanger. More like a ledge. …See this is why I don't do metaphors.

(Need recs, any more great parallel universe or witchy books I can't miss?)


Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Heir of Fire: review

Book three of the Throne of Glass series, so yes SPOILERS for the second two.

Goodreads summary:
Lost and broken, Celaena Sardothien’s only thought is to avenge the savage death of her dearest friend: as the King of Adarlan’s Assassin, she is bound to serve this tyrant, but he will pay for what he did. Any hope Celaena has of destroying the king lies in answers to be found in Wendlyn. Sacrificing his future, Chaol, the Captain of the King’s Guard, has sent Celaena there to protect her, but her darkest demons lay in that same place. If she can overcome them, she will be Adarlan’s biggest threat – and his own toughest enemy. 

While Celaena learns of her true destiny, and the eyes of Erilea are on Wendlyn, a brutal and beastly force is preparing to take to the skies. Will Celaena find the strength not only to win her own battles, but to fight a war that could pit her loyalties to her own people against those she has grown to love?

I really want to give this 5 stars…4.75 all right?

After the awesomeness of Crown of Midnight, and its awful cliffhanger, I wasn't sure what to expect from Heir of Fire. First of all it's like twice as long. There is no second of all. It's just really freaking long.

This installment follows three points of view. Celaena's voyage to the fae realm, introducing Manon the Iron Witch (is that what they're called?) being evil/up to no good in the far mountains, and Chaol and Dorian's goings on back in Adarlan's castle of glass. You see why this has to be so long, it's like three stories woven together. It was done excellently, I must say. 

Celaena's story was the slowest, I think. At least through the entire middle of the book. You remember in the Eragon series where he goes and trains for ever and ever in the second book? That's like what it was. Celaena's so messed up right now with guilt, depression from her best friend's death, and oh this Queen of fae crown she's supposed to take on and save everybody with. It's a lot for her to handle, and her instructor, Rowan, is super obnoxious about helping her take control of her magic. Eventually, the relationship between Celaena and Rowan becomes one of the most interesting I've come across. It's slow building, but intensely deep and not in the way you might think. And her magical powers are outstanding and awesome. Once she stops incinerating everything within a mile of her.

When we meet Manon…well I wanted to run way screaming in the other direction. She and her people are so terrifying with their iron teeth and nails and bloodthirstiness, it's amazing. There's some real woman power here, and it's too bad these warriors are on the bad side. It's a sort of behind the scenes to what the king is planning, and a different perspective on the war.

Now for Chaol's and Dorian's perspective. Chaol is definitely becoming more complicated. As much as he loves Celaena, her fae powers scared him at the end of Crown of Midnight, and now he's a little unsure where his loyalties lie. Or I should say to whom his loyalties lie. Watching this internal struggle and the straining relationship with his friend and prince, Dorian, is hard, but very real. It's never black and white with these things like war and friendship. 

Dorian on the other hand, is trying to control his newfound magic in secret as well as…yeah that's mostly it. At least from what I can remember, he's having an awful time of it, being prince and everything, and disagreeing with his evil dad, all that really fun stuff. I'm really proud of him for moving on from Celaena in the romantic sense though. I really didn't expect that maturity which started in the last book. It only strengthens in here, and he (successfully?) starts a new romantic relationship too. He isn't just 'that other guy'--that boat sailed long ago. Because this series is about so much more than Celaena and her badassery and fancy dresses.

I think my slight of loss stars is…there is no actual interaction between Celaena and Chaol. From a fangirling point of view, I was in a state of depression. I needed my sexual tension!!! Nope, character building it is, I guess. Kudos for that aspect (lack of romance whatsoever) and still making the book an incredibly enjoyable read.

Wait, I have to wait another year for the next one? Okay, I AM glad this story keeps going because it looks like this is just the beginning...

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Beyond the Pale- anthology review

Available for purchase now:
Add it on Goodreads!
To learn more about Beyond the Pale-

Here's a new collection of short stories; many of you will recognize at least a handful of the authors. The stories vary quite a lot, so I think there's something in it for every kind of reader.

My overall rating is three out of five stars!

This is an added update. After posting this review, I was told by the editor to please not share my rating anywhere like Amazon or Goodreads because it was only 3/5 stars. Well, you see, that's not how reviewing works. In my review I haven't said anywhere to not buy it, or it sucks, anything like that, I just put my honest opinions in it like I always do. As an author you're going to have to deal with that sort of thing. So I'm going to share this review far and wide.


Hooves  and the Hovel of Abdel Jameela by Saladin Ahmed:

Not my cup of tea. I tried a few pages but couldn't get into it.

Children of the Shark God by Peter S. Beagle:

I'm not sure how to categorize this one. I haven't read any of his books before, but I've definitely heard about them. This story brings the classic moral-fairytale-esque idea and twists it all around for a completely original tale. There's something about the way he writes, like a true ancient storyteller with a vivid imagination. It's impressively creative, and now I really should get to reading The Last Unicorn...

Misery by Heather Brewer:

I've only read Heather's work in other anthologies, not her actual books, so I know I like her writing style. She's also an incredibly nice person. Misery, one of her two stories in here, is probably my favorite. It reads like a true black-and-white Twilight Zone episode, with almost a touch of The Giver. This story had me in goosebumps from the first sentence, and ended differently than I expected.
(Also I realized I'd read this one in another anthology before, no wonder I liked it! Again!)

Shadow Children by Heather Brewer:

It's okay, but nothing original and sort of predictable…also too short to succeed in grabbing me.

Red Run by Kami Garcia

Supernatural fan? It's like a condensed version of an episode. Twisty turny creepy.

Pale Rider by Nancy Holder

Halfway through I realized I'd read this one before too. Its difference stands out--unique paranormal/dystopian combination.

Frost Child by Gillian Philip

Not a fan. Read a few pages but couldn't get into it, but it also had to do with one of her stories, like a prequel. So maybe that's why I just didn't understand.

South by Gillian Philip

One of the shortest stories, but in my top three favorite. Reads like an old tale of the north, but all I could gather was it's at an icy island in the middle of nowhere. Similar to Peter Beagle's story from near the beginning. Both have that older-story feel.

A Knot of Toads by Jane Yolen

Second favorite! If I remember correctly, it took place in Scotland in the early 1900s. Witches and curses and despite it's grossness, I totally enjoyed it. Don't miss this one!

The Adventures of Lightning Merriemouse-Jones by Nancy and Belle Holder

This is a retelling of Dracula….with mice as characters.

I think I'll leave you with that.



Thank you to the editor for sending me a copy of this book to review; receiving a free copy has in no way influenced my opinions of the book. This is a review without bias.

Monday, July 14, 2014

Hush, Hush: review

Rating: 3 stars
Summary: Romance was not part of Nora Grey's plan. She's never been particularly attracted to the boys at her school, no matter how hard her best friend, Vee, pushes them at her. Not until Patch comes along. With his easy smile and eyes that seem to see inside her, Patch draws Nora to him against her better judgment.

But after a series of terrifying encounters, Nora's not sure whom to trust. Patch seems to be everywhere she is and seems to know more about her than her closest friends. She can't decide whether she should fall into his arms or run and hide. And when she tries to seek some answers, she finds herself near a truth that is way more unsettling than anything Patch makes her feel.

For she is right in the middle of an ancient battle between the immortal and those that have fallen - and, when it comes to choosing sides, the wrong choice will cost Nora her life.

My review:

Pretty mixed feelings in this one. First of all, wow, throwback before the dystopian craze, eh? Kind of a nice break there! 

There isn't much substance, and that's where the stars disappear. There's like 300 whole pages of biology-homework-related-googley-eyes-after-mysterious-hot-guy. Then the last 80 pages or so something exciting/supernatural actually happens! So that took a while.

What I didn't get. Nora didn't like Patch. Yeah there's that "he's dangerous but I feel drawn to him!!" thing going on. But I never even felt their chemistry!! And she kept bugging him and everything. He wasn't the stalker it seemed, she was. I didn't even like Patch all that much: he wasn't as witty/snarky as Jace, but not smexy enough to be like Daemon. So it was a definite "eh" for me. 

As far as angel-genre books go, pretty good! although I only have just the barest glimpse of this lore, it's fascinating and I'd like to learn more about it. Points for that.

Nora is a good character, not too cookie cutter, but sort of flat still...I mean, I couldn't even name any hobbies she has? She's pretty independent, but also falls to the trope of "drawn to dark and dangerous (and says that exact thing in her narration) but what can you do?" After all, Nora is even more masochistic in my eyes than Bella, and that's impressive. (Almost so bad it's good, kinda thing?) For every good aspect I can think about her, I remember something just as annoying sooo that wasn't helpful at all. Oh she does have an awesome tropey best friend Vee who has some hilarious lines. 

Hush, hush is a pretty fun book. It's not going on my shelf, but I don't regret reading it. Good for an escape read. I, personally, won't be continuing the series. Too many other awesome books out there.

Jane :)

Saturday, July 12, 2014

Picture books you just have to take ten minutes to read.

I'm working a lot in the children's section of my bookstore, and I have found that picture books, a genre previously unexplored to me, are freaking awesome. Here are a few that I sat down and read and absolutely loved. I won't really review them, because I'm picking them because I like them. I'll just put summaries and links.

This magical story begins on an island far away where an imaginary friend is born. He patiently waits his turn to be chosen by a real child, but when he is overlooked time and again, he sets off on an incredible journey to the bustling city, where he finally meets his perfect match and-at long last-is given his special name: Beekle.

New York Times bestselling and award-winning author and illustrator Dan Santat combines classic storytelling with breathtaking art, creating an unforgettable tale about friendship, imagination, and the courage to find one's place in the world.


In this quirky twist on The Boy Who Cried Wolf, a boy's excuses turn out to have an unexpected element of truth.


The ingenious author of 17 Things I'm Not Allowed to Do Anymore and a brilliant illustrator and production designer of the Coraline movie have created a hilarious, touching picture book perfect for young animal lovers. Like the Caldecott Medal-winning Officer Buckle and Gloria, Sparky stars a pet who has more to offer than meets the eye. When our narrator orders a sloth through the mail, the creature that arrives isn't good at tricks or hide-and-seek . . . or much of anything. Still, there's something about Sparky that is irresistible.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Maze Runner: book review

Rating: 3 stars
Summary: "If you ain't scared, you ain't human." 

When Thomas wakes up in the lift, the only thing he can remember is his name. He's surrounded by strangers--boys whose memories are also gone.

Outside the towering stone walls that surround the Glade is a limitless, ever-changing maze. It's the only way out--and no one's ever made it through alive.

Then a girl arrives. The first girl ever. And the message she delivers is terrifying.

My review:

Pretty mixed feels here.

Yes, I read this finally for the sole reason that a movie is coming out. Also, I did listen to the audiobook, I didn't read it. (I hope I spell things right.)

When Thomas wakes up in the box and enters the Glade…..a hundred pages later something interesting happens. If you like lord of the flies, or are a 14 year old boy, you will probably love this book. For me, as I fall into neither of those categories, this is not my kind of book. I really don't like to put gender labels on books but this felt like a boy book to me. I seem to be in the minority in not liking it though, so I'll try not to rant.

The narrator wasn't my favorite, but I tried not to let that influence my opinions too much. He did al the accents really distinctly, so that was much help. If I was reading this book myself, I would have put it down probably 50 pages in from boredom and confusing slang. So it does have a slow start, but for the last maybe third of the book, things get super exciting, and I really enjoyed it. Unfortunately the fall-flat parts for me were that the writing was very predictable and simple, and the only girl character was in a coma the entire time, and wasn't remarked upon unless Thomas said she smelled like flowers (which makes no freaking sense) or to mention four whole times that she has black hair, pale skin, and blue blue eyes. I guess you can't say much more about a character who goes into a coma after blurting out one creepy sentence.

For the other boys, it was a strange set up, some boys having been there the two years, and lots of newer ones joining. I feel like the older boys (been there longer, ages were vague) were a little bullheaded, and close-minded to Thomas's suggestions. Whereas I was like yes yes! when he had an idea, there's like, lets lock up the girl for no good reason! Huh? C'mon you guys, you really want to be stuck in that maze forever? Why not keep grabbing onto new ideas? Boys...

Now, really near the ending, things took some unexpected turns so I was finally surprised with some events…and so maybe maybe I'll read the second one sometime. I can tell it'd be really different from this first one.

I never say this, but the movie looks way more awesome than the book, so I am really excited to see it!

Monday, July 7, 2014

Mini reviews: McMann & Plum

Gasp (Visions #3) by Lisa McMann
Rating: 5 stars
Summary: After narrowly surviving two harrowing tragedies, Jules now fully understands the importance of the visions that she and people around her are experiencing. She’s convinced that if the visions passed from her to Sawyer after she saved him, then they must now have passed from Sawyer to one of the people he saved.

That means it’s up to Jules to figure out which of the school shooting survivors is now suffering from visions of another crisis. And once she realizes who it is, she has to convince that survivor that this isn't all crazy—that the images are of something real. Something imminent.

As the danger escalates more than ever before in the conclusion to the Visions series, Jules wonders if she'll finally find out why and how this is happening—before it's too late to prevent disaster.

For an ending to a trilogy, this is great and I will venture to say it's better than the last one (it's not fair to compare though because it's so different.) It's a literal page-turner with the aid of short chapters and I couldn't put it down till I knew how it all ended. The stakes are at an all time high in Gasp; with an outside source to the visions and a high possible body count. Thankfully the Scoobies now have a system down to figuring out these premonition disasters.

My review: 

I think what I love most in these three books are the sibling relationships. It's not done enough in YA. Jules has an older brother (who is gay and not a single family member blinks to this and so that is just amazing) and a younger sister, and between the three of them it's hilarious to watch them interact just with the small things, as in rushing to take the bathroom first before school in the morning. Though this is a thriller story, she manages to keep a balance of actual present-family- going ons in play and not in the backseat like a leftover thought. Her parents are alive, and the five of them are very close. There was also a non-vision-related twice that really caught me off guard, and was necessary for some side-character development which didn't happen in the first two books. All in all, I'll miss these characters but it was a wonderful, if heart-stopping farewell.

Rating: 5 stars
Summary: World War III has left the world ravaged by nuclear radiation. A lucky few escaped to the Alaskan wilderness. They've survived for the last thirty years by living off the land, being one with nature, and hiding from whoever else might still be out there.
At least, this is what Juneau has been told her entire life.
When Juneau returns from a hunting trip to discover that everyone in her clan has vanished, she sets off to find them. Leaving the boundaries of their land for the very first time, she learns something horrifying: There never was a war. Cities were never destroyed. The world is intact. Everything was a lie.
Now Juneau is adrift in a modern-day world she never knew existed. But while she's trying to find a way to rescue her friends and family, someone else is looking for her. Someone who knows the extraordinary truth about the secrets of her past.
My review:

Should I dare say dystopians are getting better again? This doesn't really count though. It's pseudo-dystopian. I'm not even sure what genre to classify it, but it's super unique and awesome. If I didn't know the author, I would never have recognized Amy Plum's writing; it's good but completely different than her Die For Me series. (don't get wrong, I liked those!)

If you're looking for a one-stop adventure/spiritual journey, you've gotta read After the End. Juneau is a character I immediately felt for, and she's strong. Juneau believes her whole life that she lives in a post apocalyptic world (from WWIII in 1984,) when suddenly she finds herself stepping into the streets of Seattle with a fully functioning modern society. Her whole way of thinking is turned around. I admire her talent to adapt, she's smart and a quick learner, and her naiveness is hilarious from a present-day point of view.

The chapters alternate between Juneau and Miles, the new friend she picks up along the way. I think the dual third person storytelling is well done--I could definitely tell the difference between the two. Especially when Miles gives her a hard time for blanching at practically everything from the modern world.

The spiritual aspect, the "Yara" fascinates me. It's so normal for her to connect to the universe and manipulate things, even as normal people think it magic. Hell, I think it's magic. (it's not magic.) And what a cliffhanger. I would really love the next one right now please!

Jane :)

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Mini review set Gaiman & Zevin style

3 stars because of creepiness. 5 stars for awesomeness.
Sussex, England. A middle-aged man returns to his childhood home to attend a funeral. Although the house he lived in is long gone, he is drawn to the farm at the end of the road, where, when he was seven, he encountered a most remarkable girl, Lettie Hempstock, and her mother and grandmother. He hasn't thought of Lettie in decades, and yet as he sits by the pond (a pond that she'd claimed was an ocean) behind the ramshackle old farmhouse, the unremembered past comes flooding back. And it is a past too strange, too frightening, too dangerous to have happened to anyone, let alone a small boy.

Forty years earlier, a man committed suicide in a stolen car at this farm at the end of the road. Like a fuse on a firework, his death lit a touchpaper and resonated in unimaginable ways. The darkness was unleashed, something scary and thoroughly incomprehensible to a little boy. And Lettie—magical, comforting, wise beyond her years—promised to protect him, no matter what.

My thoughts:
Okay what did I just read? I *think* I liked it? Maybe? Perhaps I loved it? I know it creeped me out. A lot. But it was also brilliant in the usual Gaiman way and I was entranced the whole time, terrified or not. I also listened to it, in his voice. Mhm. I'd like to give it four stars, but I can't quite do it right now. Very…mind bending and interesting. It's 'childhood' in the form of a book. I didn't know that was possible.

5 stars
Summary: On the faded Island Books sign hanging over the porch of the Victorian cottage is the motto "No Man Is an Island; Every Book Is a World." A. J. Fikry, the irascible owner, is about to discover just what that truly means.

A. J. Fikry's life is not at all what he expected it to be. His wife has died, his bookstore is experiencing the worst sales in its history, and now his prized possession, a rare collection of Poe poems, has been stolen. Slowly but surely, he is isolating himself from all the people of Alice Island-from Lambiase, the well-intentioned police officer who's always felt kindly toward Fikry; from Ismay, his sister-in-law who is hell-bent on saving him from his dreary self; from Amelia, the lovely and idealistic (if eccentric) Knightley Press sales rep who keeps on taking the ferry over to Alice Island, refusing to be deterred by A.J.'s bad attitude. Even the books in his store have stopped holding pleasure for him. These days, A.J. can only see them as a sign of a world that is changing too rapidly.

And then a mysterious package appears at the bookstore. It's a small package, but large in weight. It's that unexpected arrival that gives A. J. Fikry the opportunity to make his life over, the ability to see everything anew. It doesn't take long for the locals to notice the change overcoming A.J.; or for that determined sales rep, Amelia, to see her curmudgeonly client in a new light; or for the wisdom of all those books to become again the lifeblood of A.J.'s world; or for everything to twist again into a version of his life that he didn't see coming.

My review: 
I went into this pretty blind; all I remember when adding this is ooh a book about a bookstore and a cool cover! I haven't liked any of Zevin's young adult books, but I was sure this book would be awesome, and it was. It is sentimental, but not over the top, and hit all the right heartstrings. And it's about a bookstore and bookish people with bookish references all over the place, so really how can any bibliophile not like it? Reading it was like the author was in my head, describing things as I do, and I could probably read this book again right now, and still enjoy it as much as the first. It's a fantastic piece of work; the dialogue is sharp and the people are flawed. Prepare to be delighted when you read about Island Books, and its quirky short-story-loving owner who finds love and community on Alice Island for a second time later in his life. I highly recommend. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Old ARCs- need to go

UPDATE: ALL have found good homes!

I have an overwhelming amount of ARCs for books that've been released. They need homes. Pick as many as you want--please, and I'll just charge (paypal) you what it costs to ship them. (or if you wanted to trade) Otherwise they'll be donated.

Email me if you want any!

The Taking: review

The Taking by Kimberly Derting
My rating: 2.5 stars
Released April 29, 2014
Summary: When sixteen-year-old Kyra Agnew wakes up behind a Dumpster at the Gas ’n’ Sip, she has no memory of how she got there. With a terrible headache and a major case of déjà vu, she heads home only to discover that five years have passed . . . yet she hasn’t aged a day. 

Everything else about Kyra’s old life is different. Her parents are divorced, her boyfriend, Austin, is in college and dating her best friend, and her dad has changed from an uptight neat-freak to a drunken conspiracy theorist who blames her five-year disappearance on little green men. 

Confused and lost, Kyra isn’t sure how to move forward unless she uncovers the truth. With Austin gone, she turns to Tyler, Austin’s annoying kid brother, who is now seventeen and who she has a sudden undeniable attraction to. As Tyler and Kyra retrace her steps from the fateful night of her disappearance, they discover strange phenomena that no one can explain, and they begin to wonder if Kyra’s father is not as crazy as he seems. There are others like her who have been taken . . . and returned. Kyra races to find an explanation and reclaim the life she once had, but what if the life she wants back is not her own?

My thoughts:

Rant warning. It's not bad things, I just have some things to say that probably aren't very constructive.

Hm, this is a trilogy, not a duo? Could have been a standalone, had potential.

While I liked The Taking all right, I didn't like it as much as The Pledge trilogy. But ALIENS. Seriously that just bumps up the points a lot, because there aren't an overwhelming amount of ya books on that subject right now. Abductions are awesome.

I had a hard time getting to like Kyra, our main character. It took quite a long while, especially since she keeps saying things like "grown ups" and not ironically, like I do. All the sudden 16 sounds so freaking young to me. And the boy-next-door (who is actually across the street) is of the wise old age of 17, which is how old my younger brother is, which totally creeped me out. So, personally, I think I've about had it with young adult, but for people who don't mind reading about gushy feelings with some aliens on the side, I'm sure you'll love it. And I eventually did feel sorry for Kyra, because I thought, if I was gone for five years and came back but it was only yesterday to me, yeah, it would totally suck. BUT I would understand that everybody moved on. I mean, I wouldn't want my family to be miserable forever. She's just kinda whiny about it. And she doesn't swear enough. You can tell she wants to though. But that might be too grown-up for her.

Mostly, the story focused on the mushy things too much, she could  have made this real hard core, but nope, mushy. I suppose that sums up what that last huge paragraph said.

It is a fast read; everything happens very precisely on time, (Kyra has an obsession of looking at the clock a lot) and I think the book spans six days. Which GUYS IT'S NOT ENOUGH TIME TO FALL IN LOVE sorry. That bothered me. There was a good amount of suspense, but the mushy part overwhelmed it juuust over the border for my tastes.

If you a fan of Kimberly Derting, you will like it. If you like fireflies, or corrupt government agencies with off the grid work, then you will like it. If you like alien abductions and mysterious circumstances, you'll like it. If you need a cliffhanger, this one has it.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

The Stepford Wives and other mini reviews

I think these mini-reviews are a great way to find a book if you're stuck in a book-slump and NEED something to read. You just can't find anything good, and those 200 sitting in your room just don't sound fun. So here are a variety of books I've read in the past month and all of them got me out of reading slumps so I'd like to share:

Fortunately, The Milk by Neil Gaiman
September 2013, (this book doesn't need reviews because Neil Gaiman.) kids book, with pictures

Soooo funny! Really, Neil Gaiman can't write a bad book. Great one-sitting read, and those illustrations were out of this world…(heh see what I did there?) This is an incredibly creative story that will appeal to pretty much anyone who loves an adventure.

Feed by Mira Grant
May 2010 release (Hugo nominee)
horror, zombies, lots of blood and gore and nerd-speak and swearing.

Bloggers. Zombies. If either of those words catch your interest, you'll like Feed. Siblings Shaun and Georgia write and run one of the leading news sites in 2040. We've cured cancer and the common cold, but are left with the side effects of a zombie apocalypse. The zombies are controlled relatively well though, and they are just a part of dealing with daily life and hoping there isn't an outbreak near you. There's a presidential election coming up and Shaun and Georgia, along with their techy friend Buffy, have been picked to cover the entire campaign. The narrative is sharp and intelligent, and you'll warm up quickly to these siblings who are closer than twins. Georgia and Shaun are willing to sacrifice anything to keep the signal going, and let the truth rise up. Things get more interesting than I anticipated, and I was glued to every one of these 600 pages like it was the last book in the world. Feed is filled with conspiracy, corrupt politicians, and more detailed world building and technological inventions than I've seen in ages.

The Stepford Wives by Ira Levin
mystery, horror, adult, wouldn't recommend for younger audiences.

You've probably seen the movie. I've seen the more recent one, but there's the original 1975 version that I still have to track down. I liked the movie a whole lot, and didn't notice till the end credits that it was based off a book. (grrr) So probably now three years later, I read this book in about one sitting. It felt like watching the movie, or a movie, since his writing is very clear-cut and simple, like you're reading a script, so I can see how this was easily adapted to the screen. It's like the 1970's feminist satire you've been looking for. If you're at all a fan of The Twilight Zone episodes from way back, you'll probably love this. I didn't realize till halfway through that there aren't any chapter breaks, and that's probably why I read it from cover to cover in one breath. There's pretty much a 'part two' and an epilogue, and the rest in one shot. I was also surprised to look up the author and see it was a man. Just from a glance, I thought Ira sounded like a woman, but I've never seen that name before, so what do I know. This book is one of those that I don't think you'd be able to tell if it was written by a man or woman. And I wonder why I haven't heard of the name Ira Levin before in all my bookish habits. The Stepford Wives is definitely a horror novel, perfectly unsettling with no beating around the bush, and it's a great thrill. I recommend.

Salvage by Alaxandra Duncan
Released April 1, 2014 (debut novel for this author)
ya futuristic, space travel, firefly fans, no central love-interest

Salvage is a stellar spring debut not to miss. It's a rare ya bildungsroman piece of work, and I was hooked at the first "right so." It's a non-stop adventure from there out. Ava is likable and relatable, and I forgave her immediately for her naiveness that's necessary for the story. She's true to herself and has a kind heart; you'll be rooting for her prevail. The world building is beautiful, extensive and imaginable. Futuristic Mumbai a sea of colors and cultures, and the space stations are exciting in their own way. Salvage will appeal to fans of Beth Revis' Across the Universe series, as well as Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale. Think of it as if you merged them into one, and added some of Meyer's Cinder in as well because we all love us an outsider mechanic. I'll definitely be keeping my eye on this author for future stories.

and also, THIS. Slutshelf Giveaway is so great.

So there are some of my recent reads. Not all required me to rant on for four paragraphs, so I thought I'd fit them into one nice viewing area. I've been trying to read a variety of genres lately, and it sure shows here. Read anything unusual/off the main chatter recently?

Friday, April 11, 2014

The Winner's Curse: review

The Winner's Curse by Marie Rutkoski (Winner's Curse #1)
Released: March 4th 2014
My rating: 5 stars
Goodreads summary: As a general’s daughter in a vast empire that revels in war and enslaves those it conquers, seventeen-year-old Kestrel has two choices: she can join the military or get married. But Kestrel has other intentions. 

One day, she is startled to find a kindred spirit in a young slave up for auction. Arin’s eyes seem to defy everything and everyone. Following her instinct, Kestrel buys him—with unexpected consequences. It’s not long before she has to hide her growing love for Arin. 

But he, too, has a secret, and Kestrel quickly learns that the price she paid for a fellow human is much higher than she ever could have imagined. 

Set in a richly imagined new world, The Winner’s Curse by Marie Rutkoski is a story of deadly games where everything is at stake, and the gamble is whether you will keep your head or lose your heart.

My thoughts:

The Winner's Curse is one of my favorite books this year so far. Especially after reading a handful of mediocre YA books lately, this book was able to get me out of my slump. I haven't read any of Rutkoski's books before, but her writing is very nice to read, so I will go track down my copy of The Shadow Society and read it asap. 

With a great opening line and eye-catching sideways page-numbers (because I notice these things) you can tell right away it's going to be a good book. Now, the story flows steadily, but there isn't much fighting-action for much of the book, so don't expect it. Kestrel plays the game of politics, which is her strength and natural talent. There's plenty of time for relationships to form, secrets to build, and people to manipulate, and there isn't a dull chapter in here. There is some actual action toward the end, but since Kestrel isn't an outstanding fighter or leader, she is not in the midst of war. Her independence annoyed me. As a character I mean. She kept making choices that, no matter how many times I yelled at her "Kestrel, you REALLY shouldn't do that" she chose to ignore me again and again. That, my friends, isn't a stupid character, it's a CONSISTENT one. I admire that she wasn't written to do things and made decisions just to please her readers. No, there will be some non-proud moments for her in there. That's awesome and makes her realistic, in my opinion.

This story is told in dual POVs, Kestrel, along with Arin. Normally I find this style annoying, but since it's also third person, and these two characters have a ton of secrets, I liked reading both a lot. Also, the voices are distinct, thank the gods. So I was never in doubt as to who we were reading about. Arin, unlike Kestrel, is a fighter (for himself and his people) so he's in the middle of whatever action/violence is happening at the moment. I like his history, learning it little by little, and see him as one of the most fleshed out counterparts I've read in a while. He isn't just "the guy", he's as much a part of the storyline as Kestrel is.

Kestrel and Arin are very different people, yes. They're also on opposites sides of a decade-ago won war. Kestrel is a Valdorian and her people are the rich once-savages who won the war and enslaved the Herrani, Arin's people. You can see why they're not immediately friends. But for some reason unknown to even Kestrel, she buys Arin at the auction and eventually, they become friends. Sort of. Neither is fond of the other for quite a good portion of the book, and neither trusts the other completely, and for good reason. For Kestrel and Arin each have their own ulterior motive in this so-called peace after wartime. 

I love the two languages are mentioned realistically with the Herrani and Valorian cultures meshing together. (While the book is written in English for all us non-fictional folks obviously, the mention of language switching/knowledge kept up well.) I would consider this book fantasy since all the places sounded made up, and not weirdly dystopian at all (frankly my dear, i've had enough of those lately) but a good and true fantasy, in my book, has maps. Maps of these lands we're learning about and seeing conquered. Maps for picturing out the strategies. If I had read an advanced copy I would assume immediately there would be maps included in the finished copy. Alas, there were not. But possibly some could be added to the second one? Unlikely, but I can hope?

Reading this book was surprising and interesting, I can't wait to see what's to come; I feel the story and world can only develop and get more interesting from here on out. And was that ending REALLY necessary? The one time I actually read a hype-book when it comes out…I have to wait anxiously for a whole year for the next one, along with every else. For any fans of Cashore's Graceling trilogy, or Laini Taylor's Daughter of Smoke and Bone, I can't recommend this book enough. This is your next fantasy read.


Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Arclight: review

Arclight by Joslin McQuein
Release Date: April 3, 2013
Rating: 3 stars
Goodreads Summary: No one crosses the wall of light . . . except for one girl who doesn’t remember who she is, where she came from, or how she survived. A harrowing, powerful debut thriller about finding yourself and protecting your future—no matter how short and uncertain it may be. 

The Arclight is the last defense. The Fade can’t get in. Outside the Arclight’s border of high-powered beams is the Dark. And between the Light and the Dark is the Grey, a narrow, barren no-man’s-land. That’s where the rescue team finds Marina, a lone teenage girl with no memory of the horrors she faced or the family she lost. Marina is the only person who has ever survived an encounter with the Fade. She’s the first hope humanity has had in generations, but she could also be the catalyst for their final destruction. Because the Fade will stop at nothing to get her back. Marina knows it. Tobin, who’s determined to take his revenge on the Fade, knows it. Anne-Marie, who just wishes it were all over, knows it.

When one of the Fade infiltrates the Arclight and Marina recognizes it, she will begin to unlock secrets she didn’t even know she had. Who will Marina become? Who can she never be again?

My thoughts:

I think a solid 3.5 here. I liked it. But it took me three quarters of the way through to realize I really have some issues, so that's something?

In theory, this story has great potential. It's creepy and mysterious and has an isolated colony of people protected from some unknown scariness. And on the back it says "for fans of Stephen King and Veronica Roth" ….um not quite. Those wouldn't be the two authors I'd pick. More like if you like Anne Aguirre's Enclave series and Carrie Ryan's The Forest of Hands and Teeth, maybe. (Those two series are a lot more violent though.)

Marina is our MC, and I did like her for most of the book. She's missing some of her memory, so she doesn't know much about herself…which is so convenient. She's not particularly strong willed or annoying. My problem with Marina is her inconsistent behavior. One page she's all "I'm going to follow this Fade into the Dark because I need to find out more about them." Then two pages later "Shoot them! Shoot them! I don't like the Fade and they have their creepy crawlies all over!" What? Really. 

Sure there's some romance, if you can call it that. To me though Tobin is such a flat character. I never felt anything for him, sympathy or otherwise, and I didn't understand Marina's attachment to him considering they hate each other (apparently) for the first 80 pages. It's all very fuzzy and when things do happen between them it's without ANY discussion or even any WORDS between them, even internal dialogue to let us reader know what Marina feels. Just, like, a few passionate moments that made me roll my eyes.

And (without spoilers) the whole thing with Cherish and Rue…didn't see that coming. I'm a little irked because the whole last hundred pages were written so strangely that I had no idea what the heck was going on, I would have connected the dots excitedly instead of turning the page to see this thing revealed and think…where did that come from? I actually stopped chewing mid bite (yes i eat when I read) in shock and confusion. If someone asked me to recap a lot of the book, I wouldn't be able to explain because all the creation of the Fade and Dark isn't easily explained and a bit inconsistent, I couldn't keep track.

The general pacing is a little scattered, unsure. Annie is my favorite character just because of her consistency and realistic personality.

If I didn't already own the second book, I might not continue this series immediately. Arclight is a good book, not my favorite, but I'm not sorry I read it. What really kept me going is that I needed to know what happened, and that's usually a good sign even if the characters are intolerable.


Friday, April 4, 2014

The Book Thief: movie review

Yes I know this came out six months ago. But it was only limited release, at least where I live, and I never got the chance to find a place to see it, so I had to wait for the library to get it.

I like this poster, but the movie-cover is good too, even though the original book cover is the best.

There are so many good things about this movie, and really nothing I can complain about, so I'll list them, and hopefully you'll feel the need to see/read it after reading this, if you haven't already.

This is one of the rare times I didn't reread the book before seeing the movie, which is too bad because according to Goodreads I read The Book Thief back in November of 2010. And that was back before I actually wrote any thoughts/reviews so all I have to go on is from a conversation my friend were having on there.

So: "it was very emotional…and good." is what I told her. She responded "glad you liked it." But I know I felt so much more than that!! Oh well, when I'm feeling in the mood to cry a lot, I'll pick it up again.

Why The Book Thief is a brilliant movie

  • You don't have to have read the book to still admire the wonderful and heart-wrenching story. 

  • For those who have read it, Death narrating? YES. The narrator has a great narrating voice too, sort of like Lemony Snicket. It was done well and I'm so glad they didn't leave it out! Essential to the uniqueness of it!

  • The score. The thing I am most critical about in movies. John Williams guys. He did this score and I loved it so very much and you will too because John Williams.

  • I don't remember, but I'm sure I cried in the book. Well I cried in here. A lot. During the book burnings, and the dying (people die, it was WWII so that is not a spoiler) and pretty much every emotional scene happy or sad.

  • The acting is excellent. I'm a big fan of Geoffery Rush and he was perfect for the role of Liesel's new father, and of course did especially well with the accent. Liesel herself is so perfectly as I pictured her in the book, and I wanted Rudy to be my best friend too. 

  • Yes the one thing I cannot account for is what was different than the book (as mentioned above), so maybe it's a very different experience from the book? Maybe it's not? Either way the movie is as good (as in quality) as a movie so I'm not comparing it to the book as much as usual.

I'm actually sticking with these few, short facts because the movie is so well done and I honestly don't have anything to rant about or complain about. Boring, I know. I'm so relieved though! For those who did read it more recently, or didn't read it until after, what did you think?


Sunday, March 30, 2014

Divergent: movie review

(Butt pose poster. Because it makes me laugh.)

I just went and saw Divergent with my friends. Well, it wasn't a disaster, I can assure you that at the very least. If you want to read my review of the book from forever ago here, and that doesn't have any spoilers…(I think?)  But from here on out THIS review WILL have ALL THE SPOILERS FROM THE BOOK AND MOVIE. :)

You have been cautioned.
(And I'm sorry but there is bad language in here.)

And as always, I'll try to make this organized, but you know how that doesn't ever actually work. I try. There will be word vomits.

Final rating: 
4 out of 5 stars for fans of the book.
3 out of 5 for those who haven't read the book.

What was changed/left out/added:

  • A lot. There were in fact many of the same scenes, but they sort of mixed them up weirdly sometimes, which I didn't think was necessary. Not BAD per say, but…why. The order they were written in…were written in that order for a reason.
  • Visiting Day did not exist. And that's one of my favorite scenes in the book! Damn. There was a made-up scene that became a weak weak replacement for it, but okay fine.
  • Why our rating is lower for people who haven't read the book. Well, SO much of what Tris explains about the WHYS of things make the story about ten times as rich. Yes I know it's a movie and is different than the book, but even small things like why she got her tattoos of three hawks along her collarbone because they symbolized her family members dear to her heart…see there wasn't an easy way to convey that, and I understand? But it's more than just "ooh I'm a badass and 16 so I'll get a tattoo!" because it's NOT just that. That's one example.
  • Hm the end zombie-Dauntless part. When in the book, Tris goes into the control room and the scene's with just her and Four where he's under the new drug? Well they completely reinvented that. I didn't mind the change, because they did something good with it and made it more visually appealing and lasted about 30 minutes longer, but that may have bothered some people. It was completely different though.


  • The romance between Four and Tris didn't overwhelm the actual plot. *claps* and that is why I loved the book so much. If you remember, Four isn't even mentioned in the book blurb at all. Because this story is about HER and her character developing. Ohh tangent coming I can't stop it: I saw quite a few reviews claiming how it's "all about her finding herself so stupid" (that's slightly paraphrased) and I'm thinking while watching…well yes it's all about her finding herself, it's a fucking young adult novel and that is what that whole genre is for. Finding an identity and having an adventure and learning about yourself. Being a young adult is a very self-oriented lifestyle. (Assuming you're not Abnegation.)
  • Two of the three of us agreed on this point: The Pit was very different than we pictured. I'm not sure, I guess I just imagined it HUGE and made of a real 'chasm' and 'waterfall thing' not an indoor rock climbing gym. I'm sorry that was harsh. It wasn't bad. Overall all the sets and scenes were very authentic, and you can tell this movie actually had a budget. *coughthehostcough* Very impressed, there was no "um that's totally a stage" feeling. For me at least.
  • I loved the training scenes/initiation section of the book. Awesome! The training took a large amount of the book and movie and I'm glad they didn't cut much at all from that part. All the people looked greatly beat up, and also, realistically, not looking awesome and stable the whole time. Good Determined-Tris montage too in there. Initiation is almost 90% of the book, so thank you movie-people, for paying attention! (Yes, it could have been expanded upon, I know I wouldn't have minded watching a four hour Divergent movie if I got to see more fight practices.)
  • The fear simulations. They were well done and gave great insight. That's basically it. Especially Four's regarding his past. And Tris's last fear on her final test…..YES. I could watch that again.
  • Erudite. We just get a glimpse, but I remember from Insurgent I loved how we finally get to see a lot more of the other factions and lifestyles. The costumes/designs were great from what little we see, and I can tell it's going to be pretty awesome when there's more Candor and Amity.

Neutral opinions about:

  • Caleb. Could have been expanded. Wasn't in the trailer at all? I think he has potential though, because the actor isn't bad. Also where's his Erudite glasses (which according to the the general consensus of two people: it is pronounced ErUdite. Not ERUdite.) (we're probably wrong.) I look forward to seeing his character grow because his relationship with Tris is very…essential to certain things in the second and third book. Seriously. Just think on that for a sec. Caleb had better become more three dimensional. He has potential. I feel the need to say that twice to convey that did I like it.
  • I wish Tris talked with her friends more. I didn't get to know them as well as I'd have liked to. They're there and she does converse, and I am so thankful there wasn't an overwhelming amount of googley eyes between her and Four, but they (Christina, Will, Al, esp Peter) are still borderline for depth.
  • Parents dying. Not as heroic as it sounded in the book? It was all right? I didn't shed any tears. But when her mom died, damn she did some great acting.
  • Paintball! Okay. It was paintball in the book, but in the movie, they shot these wicked not-bullets that felt like you actually got shot, but only lasted a few hours. Very cool. That whole scene from the ferris wheel to the flag catching, I really liked. It showed how much everyone had improved, and set the skills from theory to actual use.
  • Last scene/ending. Sort of abrupt. But so was the book! 
  • Quotes. I'm always torn when quotes verbatim are used in movies. I reread Divergent the day before seeing it, so many lines of explanation rang bells in my head. For the most parts it was okay, there were only a couple lines, and I think they were Four's, that I thought were stupid. Oh! And near the end when Tris shoots Peter? Remember? Well in here she just kind of says something snarky and shoots him in the side, but in the book she shoots him in the hand and when Caleb asks if that was necessary, she responds neutrally (paraphrasing) "well I didn't shoot his leg, he can still walk to show us" which I liked much better. (again that's an extremely small peeve)


  • Opening scene…."CHICAGO"

…wait what. We are not told that. There are many references during the series to the Sears Tower and huge lima bean statue, etc (O'Hara), but Tris does not know her city is named Chicago. And now the audience knows. Not necessary. On the related subject on why they're in such a secluded city, some things were said which will alter the storyline a bit? (but that's more in later books so never mind for now.)

  • I'd say 80% of the music (because I'm a complete score/soundtrack critic snob) was okay. It wasn't as bad as the music for The Host. I only really noticed it because when a dramatic scene happened: (and hello action movie when isn't there a dramatic scene) there came this sort of epic Avatar music! Cut to scene for tattoo area: Futuristic Night Club Music! And then: Leftover Twilight Soundtrack! WTF.
  • Personally, I hated the aptitude test. This is near the beginning of the movie, and it was completely different than the book! So different!!! I hated all those weird mirrors and what what what. And Tori was an inconsistent character throughout, so none of it sat well with me. Unfortunately. The aptitude scene in the book was just as easy to make (coming from the person who can't upload something onto youtube) as the actual fear simulation, so I'm not sure why they decided to screw that up so badly.

Any specific character notes:

  • Let's see am I missing anything….OH RIGHT WHERE THE FUCK DID URIAH GO. If you look on the cast list, there isn't a Uriah. Did the writers read the second two books? Do they know how essential to the story he is and his friendship to Tris? They had his name on the board, so I'm now positive they will randomly add him in the second movie like oh yeah he was here the whole time. But he's so essential to gahhh I need to stop. My point is made.
  • So I found this slightly amusing. Shailene Woodley is in three different movies. This one she plays sister to Ansel Elgort. TFiOS they play lovers. In Divergent, she and Miles Teller are enemies and in The Spectacular now they're lovers. She is a great actress, and I'm now discovering she can play diverse characters, and isn't boxing herself into a genre. Go Shailene!
  • Second amusing thing I discovered during my late night pondering. What is it with the trend of YA books-to-movies where the lead love interest guy (actor) is English but plays American? Do you need examples? 
Twilight: yes
The Host: yes
Divergent: yes
City of Bones: yes
And I'm sure that's only the recent obvious ones. Well this fact made me laugh a little. Let's end on that happy note. Because I won't be the one to complain about the abundance of hot English dudes.


What are your thoughts? Besides commenting to complain how freaking long my movie rants are, because I know those thoughts are there. Did you enjoy the movie? How will the next one be...

And thanks for putting up with my (parenthesis addiction.)