Monday, December 30, 2013

Review: The 5th Wave

The 5th Wave (The 5th Wave, #1)Title: The 5th Wave
Author: Rick Yancey
Series: The 5th Wave
Volume: 1
Genre: Science Fiction, Dystopian

A Quick Introduction: With each wave, more and more of the human race is lost. After the first wave, electricity was gone. The second wave killed more people as the coastlines were submerged and earthquakes shook the land. The third wave decimated humanity with a killer plague. And the forth wave divided the survivors. Stay alone and stay alive, trust nobody. It is impossible to tell if anyone you come across is a human or an alien wearing the face of one. Now, what remains of the human race waits for the fifth wave- and there will be a fifth. Cassie is alone. Since the forth wave, she has only one goal: she has to find and rescue her younger brother. But when she meets Evan Walker, she wonders if she can choose trust over fear, and defiance over submission. Especially since she isn't sure she can rescue her brother on her own.

Review at a Glance: An eerie, paranoid dystopian science fiction with a strong beginning.

Review: An eerie science fiction. This book takes place during the alien apocalypse. Most of humanity has been destroyed by the time the book starts, and much of the first part of the book consists of flashbacks to various parts of the first four waves. This first part really set quite a grim tone for the series. Humanity seems to beyond the point of return, the Others (the aliens) seem to have them out maneuvered on every count, and Cassie is basically on what she is fully aware could turn out to be a suicide mission to keep her promise to her brother. This story is told from several points of view- Cassie herself, a (for spoilers sake unnamed) boy dying of the blood plague, Cassie's little brother Sammy and an alien sniper. Rather than alternating between chapters, it is told in sections, some of which are longer than others, some in first-person and some in third-person. The only issue with this was that there was the risk of losing the train of one story, though the story-telling was pretty tight, and it didn't take too much time to acclimate to different narrators and points of view. So that wasn't too much of a disadvantage for the most part.

Cassie carries most of the story, and is the main protagonist. She's been hardened by all of her losses during the first four waves, and is constantly living in fear- but she's still willing to do what she has to. The  main thing driving her is her promise to her brother- she hasn't thought beyond that, since keeping it is more likely than not a suicide mission. She carries his stuffed bear wherever she goes, and, throughout the story it seems to come to represent her promise to him. I think that there is actually a lot of symbolism in this novel, as well as intentional repetition- one character will think something, and it will later be echoed in the thoughts of another character, without the two narrators ever discussing it.

One of the interesting qualities of this novel is the sense of uncertainty it manages to inspire. Through the multiple viewpoints in story, the reader is lead to question what side various people and factions are on. Even as one point of view leads you to believe one thing, or even makes it very clear, the next chunk makes you question your conclusion. It really gives a sense of paranoia and mistrust, much like the feelings that Cassie herself feels. This uncertainty makes the reader distrust many of the characters, and I found that I suspected almost everyone. There are also some plot twists that were quite good, which were contributed to by the overall atmosphere of suspicion.

This was an enjoyable read. I found the beginning to be the strongest part of the book. The world-building and the flashbacks were, for me, the most intriguing part of this story, in spite of the fact that they were also some of the darkest. The middle and the end were not in any way weak, but beginning was just stronger. There was a little bit of insta-love, though that was partly (but only partly) a result of time-skips. I think sometimes a week or two went by, and it wasn't really mentioned. This is probably partly why I didn't really latch on to the romance part of the book. Some parts of the action were a little difficult to follow, but besides that, there weren't any glaring flaws in how the story was told. This ended on something of a cliffhanger, and I am looking forward to the next book.

Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Review: Steelheart

Steelheart (Reckoners, #1)Title: Steelheart
Author: Brandon Sanderson
Series: Reckoners
Volume: 1
Genre: Science Fiction, Urban Fantasy, Science Fantasy

A Quick Introduction: It has been ten years since Calamity, a red burst of power  that gave ordinary people extraordinary powers, appeared in the sky. Those with powers came to be called Epics. But they are not heroes. With their abilities came the desire to oppress and rule the ordinary humans. And the Epics are so powerful that almost nobody fights. Almost nobody. The Reckoners devote themselves to finding the weekness of each epic, and then assassinating them. In what was once Chicago, a incredibly powerful Epic named Steelheart has installed himself as emperor. He's stronger than humans, capable of manipulating raw energy and is said to be invincible. Blades and bullets cannot leave a mark on his skin. But no Epic is truly invincible, and David has seen Steelheart bleed. Like the Reckoners, he has devoted the years since his father died, the only human ever to mark Steelheart, he has devoted himself to studing the Epics and planning. Planning to show the Reckoners that they need him. Planning for the day that he will see Stealheart bleed again.

Review at a Glance: An engaging and action-packed science fantasy read.

Review: This was a fast-paced read full of constant twists and turns. I really like the premise of this book. All of the Epics have different abilities, though many are related- the ability to control elements, create illusions or control minds, sometimes together, and all with quirks depending on the Epic in question. They kill innocent people and many seem to delight in the acts of violence. They all seem to seek power. I found the Epics and their abilities to be a really interesting aspect of the story. I just enjoyed reading about that part of the world, even if it was a malevolent part. On the human side, the only true evidence of a resistance are the Reckoners- a secretive organisation devoted to studying and taking down Epics. Every Epic has a weakness, and they exploit them.

David, the narrator, is the only living person to have a hint as to what Steelheart's weakness may be. He pushes the Reckoners to attack, though they generally do not take out Epics with that much power. In a lot of ways, he's the opposite of how the Reckoners usually function. He's aiming for the most powerful Epic in the area, he goes in with a framework of a plan, rather than a plan, and improvises. He's incredibly reckless, but his gambles generally pay off. He's the one who really gets the plot moving since, as effective as the Reckoners are, they haven't been making any lasting impact. He's driven almost single-mindedly by the idea that he is working to get revenge for the death of his father, but I almost found that that hatred didn't come across. He is clearly very focused on killing Steelheart, but there doesn't really seem to be passion behind that hate. It was more like something that he felt he had to do. I'm not sure whether this was the intent or not. He mentions that his feeling and motives have started to change once he begins working with the Reckoners, and I wish we had seen a little bit more of how he lived beforehand, to give a sense of the change. My other complaint would be that there were some aspects of the plot that almost seemed to come too easily- they almost felt a bit too scripted, though that might be related more to the nature of the storytelling style.

The pace of this novel is rapid. If there wasn't an action scene, there was a startling revelation being made. There were very few breathers, bu there was typically a lot going on. In this series, there are definitely some scenes that are quite violent, and there are civilian casualties. The Epics control the military, so the soldiers that get in the way of the mission to kill an Epic are killed, though the Reckoners try to avoid civilian casualties. With the constant danger and action, the book really pulls the reader toward the climax.

All in all, I enjoyed reading this one, and I'm looking forward to the sequel. There were a few minor things that I wasn't a huge fan of, but overall this was still an interesting read.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Review: Sorrow's Knot

Just FinishedTitle: Sorrow's Knot
Author: Erin Bow
Genre: Fantasy

Why I Read It: I always seem to say this. It's fantasy. Also, it is based in Native American cultures, which I would love to see more of.

A Quick Introduction: Otter is the daughter of a binder, a woman who weaves wards. Her mother, Willow, forms these protective wards to keep the restless dead away from those who live in their pinch (forest village). The magical knotting in the yarn and cords is all that can keep them at bay, and binders held in highest esteem. Willow is the strongest binder in generations, but her power suddenly begins turning backwards and inwards, Otter finds herself in a position she is not ready for, with a power that she isn't sure she wants. And the growing feeling that something is not right with the knots.

Review at a Glance: Wonderfully crafted fantasy in a unique world. Captivating and emotional.

Review: I really enjoyed Sorrow's Knot. The world is incredibly captivating, and the writing fit it so well. If I were asked to describe the writing style, I would say it makes me think of storytelling. Like a mythology being told to me. As though I were living in this world, and this was a story being recounted to me of a myth. Which fits beautifully with the world of  the story, which shows strong influences from Native American cultures- cultures that have a vivid mythology often told through word-of-mouth.

The story and world themselves were wonderful. The world-building occurs mostly through showing the characters going about their lives, which can leave readers behind, but for the most part was done quite well here. It made the story flow, and contributed to the feeling of storytelling. In this world the dead are only kept at bay by protective wards- knotted string. The women who can weave these have incredible power. The society that Otter and her friends live in is female-dominated- the women are the hunters, protectors, fighters, binders and leaders, and the men are viewed as being generally in need of protection (as in "we are under attack, send the men and children to the safest place available"). Very few men choose to live with the Shadow People after they reach adulthood, instead journeying to other groups, because it's too dangerous for them (only women can make the wards against the dead). It was a role reversal.

The story is very much a journey, both physical and emotional. A driving aspect of the story is grief, loss and letting go and the fear of letting go. This naturally made it quite an emotional story at times, which I found was done well. Not overdone, but certainly there, and the character's suffering was tangible. The story was the driving part of this novel, however, the characters went through development as well. They lived in their story, and even the minor ones were given a background, which I found fleshed out the story. There was a lot of sadness in it, but there was hope too, and that mixture was really well done.

Overall, I found this to be a fantastically written story in a wonderful and creative world.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Review: Chantress

Chantress (Chantress, #1)Title: Chantress
Author: Amy Butler Greenfield
Series: Chantress Trilogy
Volume: 1
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal

Why I Read It: The premise sounded interesting. I like song-spells.

A Quick Introduction: Lucy has been stranded on an island, shipwrecked there when she was eight. She has always been forbidden to sing. On All Hallows Eve, however, she hears music, and, when she gives it voice, her song lands her back in London, where she finds out that she is a Chantress. Chantresses used to weave magic out of song, until one such song led to their destruction. Now, all of the Chantresses in have been killed, and England is ruled by fear. Fear of the monsters that feed on the mind and life of any humans whom they come into contact with. Lucy is the last of her kind, and what those who find her have been desperately waiting for. The Invisible College has devoted itself to finding a way to free the country. Only a Chantress can overthrow the Lord Protector and put an end to his monsters, and Lucy is completely untrained.

Review at a Glance: Interesting premise, but lacking complex plot and characters.

Review: This one was alright. I found the idea of Chantresses interesting, though the story of their origins seemed not to fit with the rest of the tone of the story, especially seeing as it is never mentioned again. A Chantress can sing magic into the world, and can hear the songs of the objects around her. They all wear a stone, which, for the most part, mutes these sounds, which can be dangerous. Lucy, of course, knows nothing of her birthright. As far as she knows, her mother died in a storm at sea, and she's been stuck on the island ever since she was eight. Our story begins when, now fifteen, Lucy accidentally transports herself back to London, where Chantresses are hunted and killed.

I think that the main problem with the book was that not much actually happened in it. The first fifty pages contained action and the last fifty pages contained action, and everything in between was a series of training sessions while in hiding. These central pages were pretty repetitive. An advantage of these training sessions was that it revealed some background about Chantresses. However, other than that, they were somewhat tedious to read on occasion, especially because, much of the time, the characters didn't really interest me. The characters' personalities weren't really enough to drive the story, so without a much of a plot it suffered. It seemed more like they were sort of present while the plot happened to them, rather than being the driving force behind the plot. Very rarely did Lucy strike an emotion cord with me. Same goes for the romance aspect of the book- it didn't interest me that much.

The plot that was there was simple, however, I still found most of it reasonably enjoyable whenever it showed up. It was a relatively typical plot, overall. Girl-discovers-magical-powers-and-must-defeat-cruel-lord.

Overall, this was an simple read, that I still found enjoyable enough, though not really memorable.

I was a little surprised to see that this book is part of a trilogy, it felt like it could be a standalone, though some might be dissatisfied with the ending if it had been. I'm not sure if I will continue the trilogy.

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Review: The Burning Sky

The Burning Sky (The Elemental Trilogy, #1)Title: The Burning Sky
Author: Sherry Thomas
Series: The Elemental Trilogy
Volume: 1
Genre: Fantasy, Romance

Why I Read It: Fantasy is one of my favourite genres. Also, I quite liked the cover.

A Quick Introduction: Iolanthe Seabourne is destined to be the greatest mage of her generation- not that she had any idea until the day she accidentally reveals the extent of her abilities, and is rescued from capture by a prince. Prince Titus VII has been waiting for her since a prophesy revealed his destiny-and hers. That destiny? To take down the Bane, the powerful tyrant mage. He's known about his destiny for a long time now, but wasn't clear on the specifics, especially the Elemental mage in question being somewhat an impossible girl.

Review: This one was alright. It wasn't exactly what I was expecting, but it was enjoyable none the less. If I had a complaint, it would be that I would occasionally loose focus during focus during revelation moments and world building moments. I felt like there were some gaps in the world building. That said, there were aspects of the book that I did enjoy. Once I got more in touch with the world, which took a while, it was interesting, though I'm not really clear on how aspects of the world work, though it is a trilogy, so it's understandable that parts of the background have yet to be fleshed out. It's definitely complicated. London exists, but so do a whole plethora of places that have never existed in the real world, and I'm not entirely clear on how they're linked (alternate worlds style? realms?). Wands are used, but not for all magic, not the kind of Elemental magic that Iolanthe has the ability to use. Iolanthe, after revealing the extent of her power is hidden at Eton (the school in England), as a boy (the prince who rescued her was planning for a boy). Suddenly, she has a destiny, and is in a lot of danger.

This book is told in third person limited point of view, from both the views of Iolanthe and Titus. Iolanthe is thrust into a position she never knew she had, and doesn't want- taking on the Bane is essentially a suicidal task. She's quite a good actress, and also usually good at thinking on her feet. She's stubborn and proud, and also very brave. Titus has never been honest with anyone, unable to trust anyone, he has carefully constructed the personal of a selfish boy, who has no interest in ruling, while that is the opposite of the truth. In the beginning he was still quite manipulative, even with Iolanthe, whom he hoped to be honest with, as they were meant to share a common goal. The result of his trying (with varying degrees of success) to manipulate Iolanthe is many disagreements. The relationship between them felt like a lot of back and forth, and developed pretty quickly, though I wouldn't say it was an insta-love situation, as it did develop over the course of the novel. It just seemed a little... desperate, maybe? Frantic? I didn't really feel too much for the relationship one way or the other, I suppose. I might have felt more interest if there had been more build up, and if they had been given more time to get to know each other as people, and the reader to get to know them. It was as if a lot of that either didn't happen, or happened behind the scenes, where the reader couldn't see it.

To wrap up, this was alright. It seemed like the world building could have been executed better, especially in a world with so many components and I wish the development of the characters and relationship had been more gradual, but it was still an enjoyable enough read.

Saturday, November 30, 2013

November DNF

The Madman's Daughter (The Madman's Daughter, #1)
I had really high hopes for this one. I really did, and they managed to carry me 250 pages into the book before I finally gave up. I couldn't stand the characters, which is too bad because there were aspects of the story that I found quite intriguing. There are disturbing aspects to this one, but the characters damaged the effect for me. I feel like this is one of those books that would benefit from a complete lack of romantic plotline- at least the way the author has written it. I might pick it up again, if I think I can push through, because I am curious to see what happens.
Nov. 9-11
Dance of Shadows (Dance of Shadows, #1)
I was skeptical about this one to begin with, to be honest. By the time I got 40 pages in, I basically decided that I would read another few pages, so that I could officially call this a "DNF" (my rule is I don't get to call it that until I am a minimum of 50 pages in).  The characters were just so annoying. The narrator, Vanessa, is a dancer, and she's attending an elite academy for ballet, where her sister had disappeared three years earlier. She is a perfect dancer, and people immediately like her, or they single her out, and she just seemed to be another cliched heroine of the "only one who doesn't realise how special she is" variety. Maybe the term would be that her modesty felt forced, if not completely false. I didn't really get much further than that, just barely to the introduction of the love interest.  On whom the main character seems to develop an instant stalker-crush (do teenage girls really do that? Nobody I knew did, as far as I'm aware.) Yeegh. I'm sorry but he just struck me as so idealized/ stereotypical it was almost cliche. And Zeppelin? Really? All I can think it German war blimp whenever I read the name. There wasn't enough of an engaging story line to distract me from thoughts of the Hindenburg, so I truly believe this one wasn't for me.
November 23-24
And that concludes books that I did not finish this November. Let me know what you thought of them. Were there any books that you just couldn't finish this month? Why?

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Review: The Chaos of Stars

The Chaos of StarsTitle: The Chaos of Stars
Author: Kierstan White
Genre: Fantasy, Urban Fantasy

Why I Read It: I have a soft spot for books involving re-imagined mythology. I was also kind of an Ancient Egypt nut as a child.

A Quick Introduction: Isadora's family takes complicated to a new level. For one thing, they've all been alive for thousands of years. They're also gods. Ancient Egyptian ones. Isadora isn't a god, and she never will be. She's a human child of Isis and Osiris, just one in a very long line. And she's sick of it. Sick of being only non-permanent thing in the house, sick of all the lies she was led to believe as a child, and especially sick of her family. She's convinced they only want her around because they need a human worshiper, and, when the chance arises, she jumps on it, taking off for San Diego. But even an ocean away from Egypt she finds new problems and challenges, and also that her family still isn't far enough away to forget.

Review: This one was alright. I wasn't crazy about it, but I didn't hate it either. I feel basically nothing for this book, except perhaps a little regret that it wasn't better.

Isadora is a character who isn't really likable per say, but she still made me empathize somewhat, even though I occasionally found her a little bit melodramatic. She's been hurt, and now she's scared of being hurt again. Having been raised by, and around, eternal, undying beings, she's all too aware that she isn't like them, that she'll die some day. This leads her to the conclusion that it isn't worth putting down roots or forming attachments, because, even if she isn't betrayed, nothing in her life is going to last forever, so why bother trying? In doing this she sets herself up for a lot of anguish, especially now that she's surrounded by normal humans, all of whom will eventually die, and who constantly remind her that nothing will last forever. She also believes herself to be essentially replaceable- her mother has a new baby whenever the latest child has grown up, Isadora spent her childhood painting the walls of her own tomb and most of her family barely gives her a passing glance. However, I still found Isadora to be petty, often selfish and downright mean sometimes. Also, kind of slow on the uptake occasionally. Simply put, she could be quite annoying.

Isadora's never really had friends, and she didn't really intend to make them either, but none the less, she does make a couple, and they start to bring he out of her somewhat bitter, angry shell a little bit. There is romance in the book, and I didn't mind the love interest, though he did seem a little too perfect. Isadora is quite violently opposed to romantic relationships, because she views them as painfully temporary. There were times that the characters felt a little forced, and I didn't really find myself drawn into the story.

I'm usually pretty open to new interpretations of the gods, but for some reason I felt like these didn't ring true. I'm not sure why that was, but they just didn't feel right. The motives of the evildoers seemed kind of shallow and contrived. It didn't seem to fit well with the ambiguity that exists in Egyptian mythology, or the way the characters were established in said mythology.It wasn't that this couldn't be an interpretation, it just lacked the rich complexity that exists in Egyptian mythology.There was very little in the way of world building, and the plot didn't really develop until the last fifty pages or so, wherein the climax was a let down.

To conclude, this book had quite a few flaws to it that stopped me from enjoying it as much as I had hoped it would.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Review: Anna Dressed in Blood

Anna Dressed in Blood (Anna, #1)
Title: Anna Dressed in Blood
Author: Kendare Blake
Series: Anna
Volume: 1
Genre: paranormal, horror, romance

Why I Read It: I've been meaning to for a while. It is my first real foray into anything labeled as "horror" in a while.

A Quick Introduction: Cas Lowood kills ghosts. He's moved around since he was little, and, after his father died on a hunt, he took up the mantle, and the ghost-killing knife. He only ever stays in one place long enough to kill whatever's killing people- and there's plenty more where that came from. When one of his network of informants send him a tip about a ghost killing people in Thunder Bay, Ontario, it is with some skepticism that he heads up to check it out. Anna Dressed in Blood is a ghost in the form of a teenage girl in a bloodstained white dress, stained from the wound that sliced her throat open. When Cas arrives, he doesn't expect to find anything, since most ghost stories are just that- stories. But there is something in that house. Something unnaturally strong, even for a ghost, capable of tearing a human in half. Something that, for some mysterious reason, didn't kill Cas when she had the chance.

Review: I enjoyed this one a lot. As I mentioned I haven't really read much in the way of horror, and this seemed like a good place to start. There was one part that I genuinely found creepy (spoiler: the "In your attic eating cats" bit). I enjoyed the amount of action that there was in this one, as well- Cas hunts ghosts, which is inherently rather violent job. These ghosts, depending on their strength are fully capable of killing people and that's where Cas comes in. He hunts down the spirits that are killing people, and, using his ghost-killing athame, sends them "on". Nobody really knows where that is, and the question is raised as to what happens to the ghosts after he ends them, though it isn't answered in the book. He's used to fighting, used to hunting and constantly on the move. He's always on edge, because hunting ghosts keeps you on your toes, and, at the start of the book, views himself as above others his age, because he isn't like them. He's seen more, he's done more, and he has is purpose. Everything else is just excess baggage.

He moves around a lot only staying in one place as long as it takes to kill the ghost haunting it, and never really puts down roots in one place, so there are gaps in his knowledge of people- he's typically quite good at manipulating people to get information, but he doesn't have much experience in actually friendships, so watching him fumble through anything in the way of actual emotional connection was sort of fun. This is the first time he's really had friends, and Thomas and Carmel were good side characters. They both contribute to the story in their own ways, both to the action part of the plot line, and the more character development part, as Cas learns to trust them and they go from people who he can't seem to get rid of to friends who he trusts. I found Cas's relationship with Anna was subtler that a lot of relationships in young adult paranormal fiction (for much of the book, it was less of a driving plot point, if only simply because he doesn't realise why he's so protective of her). Anna herself was interesting as well. She's not your ordinary murderous spirit. For one thing, she's stronger, strong enough to tear a person in half, and fully capable of killing anyone who enters their house, ghost hunter or not. But she doesn't kill Cas, even though he's come to destroy her, because, for some reason, she doesn't have to, and neither of them really know why. And when she's not in her murderous rages, she's a girl trapped in her house with the corpses of all the people that she's killed. She's split into these two halves, the murdering monster, and the lost sixteen year old girl, who can think and reason. And, for the first time, he's found a ghost that he's not sure he should, or even can, kill.

So overall, I enjoyed this one. I think there was less of the "horror" aspect than I was expecting, but there were still some creepy scenes (I redirect you to the cat tail scene, for those who've read the book). I have since read the second in the duology, Girl of Nightmares, and I enjoyed that one as well, though I think I like Anna Dressed In Blood best of the two.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Thoughts On: Reading for School

I assume everyone had to read in English class in high school (or whatever the equivalent in your country is). I also assume that, unless you had an unusually progressive teacher and curriculum, this was probably less fun than reading on you own time because you wanted to.

This is going to be a long ramble about my high school reading for my English classes. We were supposed to read one Shakespeare play every year, which wasn't too bad. It stretch you thinking (I was in an experimental program for tenth grade English, and I didn't have to do it that year). I do wish that we might have actually seen one play at some point, the way that it was meant to be seen. I don't really have a problem with reading Shakespeare. The problem for me was the novels, or specifically, one novel.

In grade eleven we read the Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini. To summarize how I felt, and still feel, about that book, I can use three simple words: I. HATED. IT. I was miserable reading it and found it pretty traumatic, but not in any impactful way (more on that later). I don't think that it is a spoiler to say that this book discusses rape very near its start and is meant to be a redemption story- the narrator saw it happen and didn't do anything. I thinking there are a couple reasons why I really didn't enjoy this book:

  1. The narrator didn't interest me. The only reason that I really kept reading was because I had to finished my assigned pages for class. I know that I skimmed a lot toward the end, just so I could pretend that I read it.
  2. The subject matter disturbed me. If you look at my reviews, you'll see that I don't read books about rape. I just can't. I don't have that sort of emotional maturity, I suppose. They actually had to send a waiver home saying that, if this book caused the child to be scarred, it wasn't the school's fault. Should you really be making a bunch of sixteen year-olds read it then? I'm not saying ban it, I'm thoroughly against that, but maybe don't make it required material. There was an alternate option, but I was told that I wouldn't be able to participate in class at all, and that I would still have to be present for the discussions. I refused to take the book into my room. I might have overreacted, but, like I said the content was disturbing for me.
  3. I found the book relentlessly depressing. It is supposed to be a redemption story, but I didn't really feel that much redemption happened. It didn't leave a positive impact in me, and, while the ending felt like there was intended to be some sort of hope, I didn't feel it. It was in a couple scenes horrifying, and otherwise simply unenjoyable to read, to the point where I stopped being emotionally impacted by anything that happened.
You'll notice these are personal reasons for me. Reason's I didn't like the book, personally, but I also feel that there is a wider issue here: English teachers seem to think that teenagers should not read books written for their age group. I don't know why this is, but they just don't. I feel like the young adult genre gets a bad reputation for being poorly written and having no message, which, anyone who reads a lot could tell you, is not true.

These are books that are written for teenagers, with a mind to their world and emotional climate (does that make sense). They are written to be read by young adults (though they can totally be enjoyed by adults too). There are a lot of young adult books that could be inserted into a class medium and used to teach. There are plenty of young adult books that discuss a plethora of issues in a way that might, at the very least, be slightly funner than eating worms, and even possibly- gasp- enjoyable for students. I shall even make a list of books that can be used easily in teaching (with the high school curriculum of my area in mind).

Grades Nine and Ten: Exploring Heroes and the Heroic Journey

Dark Life (Dark Life, #1)Airborn (Matt Cruse, #1)Leviathan (Leviathan #1)VesselSeraphina (Seraphina, #1)The SupernaturalistThe Scorpio Races
Look! Young adult adventure stories! Heroic protagonists of various types going on quests and overcoming prejudice (and usually both)! Take notes, this will be on the test.

Grade Eleven and Twelve: Tragic Heroes and Antiheroes (and I've thrown moral ambiguity in too)
All Our Yesterdays (All Our Yesterdays #1)The 100 (The Hundred, #1)
These two. I think All Our Yesterdays actually provides a good example of the tragic hero (James- if you look for it, you will see it) as well as consequences. The 100 is something that I think would be good for discussing all sorts of ethics, morals, consequences and what makes a hero (or antihero, or villain).  Basically, I think that they could prompt discussion about real world topics and issues.

Those are some that I have been thinking about recently. There are a lot of books that could be used the the "heroism" area. I'm sure there are others for the "tragic hero" area, but All Our Yesterdays has been floating around in the back of my head for a while (it seriously does not need a sequel by the way). Those are just some ideas, and I'm sure there are books that would fit better. Not really the point.

The point is that schools should stop avoiding letting young adults read books written for a young adult audience. They do have meaning, they do have messages and many can stand up to analysis. The way English it taught now, it is just going to scare students off of reading, since it is often depressing material. So stop viewing it as some inferior form of literature, and look at possibly making use of the material instead.

Wow, that got long. If you're still here, thanks for reading my ramblings. What did you read/are you reading in high school. What do you think of the books that I have brainstormed here? Do you have any ideas? Let me know what you think in the comments.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Review: The 100

The 100 (The Hundred, #1)Title: The 100
Author: Kass Morgan
Series: The Hundred
Volume: 1

Why I Read It: Dystopian science fiction, which sounded up my alley.

A Quick Introduction: Three hundred years ago, humanity was devastated by a nuclear war that left planet Earth uninhabitable. The remaining humans fled to space, living in ships far above the radioactive surface of the planet. Now, one hundred juvenile delinquents, are being sent to Earth's surface to recolonize. Clarke was arrested for treason, but they don't know the worst of it. Wells committed an infraction in hopes of follow the girl he loves, especially because since it's his fault she's been sent there. Bellamy fought his way on to protect his sister, and Glass managed to escape back onto the ship, only to find out that she is no safer there.

What I Thought: I could not put this one down. I started it this morning, meaning to read a couple of chapters, and I didn't put it down until I finished it three and a half hours later. It is told in alternate points of view, between the four main characters, and that itself made it really difficult to put down. I was surprised how much I felt for the characters at times. They are all being haunted by choices they made, and everyone has a secret (or several). Some of which only come to light in the last few pages of the book. And these are big, dark, deadly secrets. The characters felt very real in their struggles in that respect- the choices they had made were probably not very good ones on some cases, and sometimes, even the right choice came with its own baggage. We only gradually find out the character's back stories, most chapters have some flashback, which is in a different font. I feel like the flashbacks really let the reader get to know the characters, and we constantly learn new things about them, both in the present and the past, some flashbacks lead to complete character reevaluations (I don't think it is a spoiler to say this: what Wells did in the last few pages, for example).

The decision that haunts Clarke so much is something that really intrigued me the most, I think. Were I in an English course, I would love to read this- there's so much material that could be analyzed in the character's stories and the way that the world of the ship is structured, especially with the revelations toward the end. Does anyone else think that this could be used in the English curriculum? There are a lot of issues that exist in the real, modern world that are addressed or mentioned in the book, as well.

For me, this book was driven more by the characters than by the plot, though it was interesting. I did call a lot of the plot twists, but mostly because, at least for the ones in the middle of of the book, and the revelations, like why Glass was arrested, and why Bellamy's sister Olivia had been confined had a good deal of foreshadowing. The storytelling in this book was fast paced, but also very well paced. As for the revelation at the end, about the apple trees (that's non-spoiler-y enough, since it only makes sense in context) was something that I suspected pretty early in the book, it almost felt foreshadowed.

All in all, this book was marvelous, not perfect, but I really, really liked it. I think it might be in my top ten reads this year. Definitely the top twenty. I'm looking forward to more from this series.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Review: Champion

Champion (Legend, #3)Title: Champion
Author: Marie Lu
Series: Legend
Volume: 3 (final book)
Genre: dystopian, science fiction, romance

Why I Read It: This is the final book in the Legend trilogy, so I have really been looking forward to the release.

A Quick Introduction (spoilers for Legend and Prodigy): June and Day have lost a lot for the Republic- family, friends and now each other. Day is racing the clock, with doctor trying to find a way to operate on the tumor in his brain, a parting gift of the experimentation he underwent years ago against his will. June is back to being the Republic's golden girl, and is being groomed to be a senator. The young Elector is attempting to negotiate a treaty with the Colonies, with whom they've been at war for years. But just as things are starting to look up, a bioengineered plague threaten's everything they've worked for, and soon Day and June are pulled back into a battle for the Republic's survival. A battle that, in order to win, they might have to give up everything that they still hold dear.

What I Thought: Well, before getting into the content of the book, let me just say that the cover is beautiful. Actually, so are the covers for the rest of the trilogy, but I think this cover is my favourite.

Okay, so on to the actual content. I actually finished this book yesterday, but what with some other stuff that I had to do, I didn't get a review in. I enjoyed this one. Some time has passed between the end of Prodigy and the beginning of Champion (eight months). Day's brother, Eden, is recovering, though his eye sight is still very poor, and Day himself is in pretty bad shape. He has constant headaches, and sometime episodes where he is in debilitating agony. He and June haven't spoken since he left without telling her that he was dying, and it weighs on both of them, and there's clearly some tension there. June is struggling with her new role as Princeps Elect, since most of the senate doesn't respect her, and the Elector has just requested the she make a morally troubling decision- that she manipulate Day.

I think the characters seem older in this book than they did in the others. In Legend they seemed a lot more like kids, but now they've both suffered a lot, and have been forced to make choices that still weigh on them. They both seemed sort of weary, I suppose, and just when things were looking up for the Republic everything goes down hill, and they get dragged back into the middle of things. June herself is in a position she isn't comfortable with, and Day is getting sicker. Their relationship with each other was kind of stop-and-go in this book and there was a lot of sadness in it this time around, with everything that was going on.

I found some of the action sequences hard to follow, but I'm not sure if it was how they were written, or if I personally didn't follow them very well. This trilogy is typically very cinematic (the scenes are typically very movie-like, and easily visualized), but in this book there were some points where I couldn't visualize what was happening. Like I mentioned, mostly just scenes that were action or fight scenes, and therefore pretty frantic anyway.

There was also a whole subplot with Commander Jameson that seemed a little bit unnecessary to me. I could see why it was there, but it kind of seemed as though it was forced into a plot that already had a lot going on. June seemed to agonize a lot about whether or not she was like her former Commander, but it seemed like she was torturing herself a lot over a possiblity- the person she was a the start of Legend might have had a chance of becoming like Jameson, but after she met Day, and with everything else that happens, she wasn't that person anymore.

The plot did a good job of wrapping up the story in that there weren't a lot of loose ends (there is an epilogue as well, which takes place ten years after the events of Champion). The ending (I don't think I'm spoiling anything here) is bittersweet, which I personally prefer to everything being wrapped up in perfect happiness- it isn't how the world works, especially in a book where there is a lot of suffering to get to the end (a lot...). Going back to how these books are typically play out like a movie, I feel that the last scene from June's point of view, and the epilogue were particularly movie-like, and also that they were the most polished chapters of the book.

All in all, I enjoyed this book. There were some aspects that I think could have been improved, but overall it was a good ending to the series and I'm looking forward to reading more of Marie Lu's work (she has a high fantasy series coming out next).

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Thoughts On: Book-to-Movie Transitions

With all of the talk about books becoming movies, or books that have recently become movies, I think this is a topic we've all been thinking about a little. There have been pretty poor adaptations in the past (looking at you Eragon and Percy Jackson) some that were alright, but not enough to make my crazy about them (Mortal Instruments: City of Bones) and some that I really enjoyed (The Hunger Games). And of course a couple that I adore (Lord of the Rings). As well as a whole bunch that hit different parts of the scale.

With all of the poor adaptations, I think it is pretty reasonable to be apprehensive. I mean, we've all weathered some really poor adaptations. I can be pretty forgiving of some flaws in book-to-movies, but others I just can't stand.

I'm not really a die-hard true-to-the-book sort of person. Changes are going to be made. They have to be made, because books and movies are fundamentally different ways of telling a story. Sometimes something that I love in a book wouldn't translate well on the screen. I understand if actors don't look exactly as they are described in the book. You can only get so close to how someone looks in a reader's head, and I completely understand that. However, I feel like there is a need for actors to fit with there characters. If the characters are twelve, do not make the sixteen (Percy Jackson), since it can have quite an effect on their development arc. I'm of two minds about appearance things. If an aspect of someone's appearance is mentioned frequently, or acts as a distinguishing characteristic, it should stay the same. That said, I think it is more important to stay true to who a character is fundamentally. I think character is also one of the most important aspects in whether or not the film is a good adaptation or not.

I am also of the opinion that setting is something that you should try to stay pretty true to, since characters interact with it on a regular basis, and it is something that makes a movie a visual masterpiece if done right. Especially in the fantasy genre. There are some seriously beautiful fantasy sets out there. Setting and props create an atmosphere, and they can convey how much work was actually put into the film. Unlike with character, which is hugely actor-dependent, props really are a team effort and are a really big contributor to the atmosphere and overall realness of the scene. The amount of effort that can go into designing a set is incredible, really, and like I said before, results in some really beautiful sets.

Also, a shout out to all YA fantasy book-to-movie adapters. Don't decide what the audience wants. You're alienating a lot of people by deciding everything has to be primarily romance and no backstory. If I hadn't read the book for most of the adaptations I've seen recently, I would be really confused as to what is going on, since you haven't given any thought to the world-building, which is kind of important in fantasy, sci-fi, and urban fantasy especially. Some of us are there to watch our main characters save the world, not angst over their pitiful romantic lives for a full two hours. (And yes, I understand that, depending on the book, there may be a great deal of brooding involved, however, this is one of those things that works better in a book where we actually see the thoughts of the character. Watching someone stare moodily at a wall for five minutes doesn't usually mean that much to an audience.) If there is romance in it, keep it, but don't throw away all of the other aspects just so our love interests can stare into each others eyes when they really should be doing something that moves the plot along. You only have two hours. Use them well.

I think that is it for me. I'll just conclude that I am all for adaptations. I love seeing books realised in a visual medium. I just like to see it done well.

Let me know your thoughts on books becoming movies. What is your favourite/ least favourite film based on a book?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Review: The Selection

The Selection (The Selection, #1)Title: The Selection
Author: Keira Cass
Series: The Selection
Volume: 1
Genre: Romance, Drama, Dystopia

Why I Read It: I actually tried to pick it up soon after it came out, but the first couple of chapters are very weak. I picked it up again because the last book's cover has been released, and it reminded me that I haven't read them. I finished it this time.

A Quick Introduction: 35 girls will be chosen to go to the palace and compete for the prince's hand. For most this is a dream come true, the only way to escape the rigid caste system in place. America Singer doesn't want to be chosen- she doesn't want to have to leave her secret love. But against all odds, her name is chosen. And the more time she spends at the palace, and with the prince, the more she begins to question the future that she's always imagined for herself.

What I Thought: In a lot of ways, this book was exactly what I perceived it to be the first time I picked up the book- melodramatic and shallow. America can be quite an annoying character at times, mostly in that she is not believable character- she seems to cater to a lot of the tropes that the industry thinks readers like. It is the same with a lot of the other characters in the story. I also feel like a lot of the plot points weren't really explained in depth (like the rebel attacks). They weren't given a very good base, so the world isn't as engaging. I feel that there was potential at some points of the story, but I wish that those points had appeared more often. This books was pretty formulaic overall, catering to the tastes of the YA atmosphere recently.

I wouldn't say that I hated the book, but I don't really have much in the way of complex feelings about it one way or the other. It was just another YA book, without too much to stand out in my memory. I also have The Elite, which is the sequel, out of the library, and we will have to see if I end up finishing it.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

October DNF

Just two this month... I haven't gotten much reading done. Midterms season and all.
The Looking Glass Wars (The Looking Glass Wars, #1)
 I didn't really get into this one. I suppose the world wasn't really something that pulled me in- I think in part because of the way that parts of the world were mentioned and then described didn't really show me the world. It was as though the world was being invented only if an aspect was completely necessary. I think a map would also have been nice. The world didn't really interest me, and I wasn't really very attached to the characters. With midterms on the horizon, just didn't have the inclination to finish this before I had to return the book to the library. 
Out of the Easy
This was one that I picked up more because I wasn't sure what I was going to read next, and I was hoping that I would enjoy it. However, I ended up not being very interested in the plot line of the story, and didn't really have any desire to continue reading. I just didn't really care to know how the story ended.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Horde Contest

Horde (Razorland, #3)
Just a quick update on Horde (click the cover for more information). There's a contest for a copy of the trilogy going on over at as part of Ann Aguirre's blog tour. Be sure to check it out, as well as the rest of the blog tour as it is posted. 

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Halloween Read: Horde by Ann Aguirre

Horde (Razorland, #3)

The final book in Ann Aguirre's Razorland trilogy is coming out two days before Halloween. This is a dystopian trilogy. The Freaks are not zombies, but they do eat humans- and they're getting smarter. This is one release that I'm really looking forward to- I picked up Enclave a while ago, and read Oupost when it came out. I really enjoyed both, and I'm looking forward to knowing how this trilogy ends. If you haven't read these, you still have some time to catch up before Horde is released (October 29, 2013).

Anyone else looking forward to this one? Or do you have another Halloween read in mind?

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Review: The Clockwork Scarab

The Clockwork Scarab (Stoker & Holmes, #1)Title: The Clockwork Scarab
Author: Colleen Gleason
Series: Stoker and Holmes
Volume: 1
Genre: Fantasy, Mystery, Steampunk

Why I Read It: I haven't read a lot of mystery novels lately (as in, in several years). The plot sounded somewhat intriguing, so I gave it a go.

A Quick Introduction: Mina Holmes and Evaline Stoker hail from great legacies. Mina is the niece of Sherlock Holmes, and Evaline is the younger sister of Bram Stoker. Mina has, like her family, a gift for observation and deductive logic, and Evaline is a vampire hunter. The two are enlisted to help solve a string of murders of high-society girls, all of whose bodies are accompanied by a clockwork scarab.

What I Thought: As I mentioned, this story was an interesting and ambitious concept from the book jacket, and it didn't mention everything. I think that a little too much was undertaken in this novel- there's vampire hunters and detectives and time travel and magic (possibly). I think it was felt like there were a few too many concepts- maybe if the time travel and magic parts were taken out. If the story had been more mystery-focused, rather than jumping from idea to idea to try to pull them all back within reach, I think I might have been more engaged.

It was still an enjoyable read, though. I preferred reading Mina's point of view to Evaline's (she annoyed me a little bit at times). As a team, they struggle in this book- there's a lot of tension between the girls, and I hope that their relationship will improve as time goes on (it was improving toward the end, but I hope they'll work together better in future...).  I do feel with the sort of "Sherlock Scan" that is done by Mina (observation and inductive reasoning from the evidence), could have been spotlighted a little more. (This is more a matter of personal preference, however, it almost feels like there were times when she ought to have caught something and didn't if that makes sense.) I'm curious about Evaline's legacy as a vampire hunter- will we get to see more of that part of her history and her family culture (does that even make sense?). We have a lot of characters that we have yet to get a background (or even a name in Pix's case) on. I'm hoping to see more of Mina's logic and deduction in future, that was one thing that I enjoyed, and as I mentioned would have liked more of.

 I wasn't really expecting that much steampunk in the novel either. The "Clockwork Scarab" should have tipped me off, but I was kind of expecting a slightly more Victorian London feel from it (maybe with some subtle steampunk nods), rather than something that seemed more fantasy-like. As I said before, it feels like there were an awful lot of ideas in the air during this story, and I feel as though it might have been more enjoyable had there been fewer themes being juggled. The multitude of ideas meant that the story never really focused in, and I think it suffered a bit for it.

In spite of the amount of chaos (I know I went on about that,but it really got to me at times), I am curious to see what adventures our heroines find themselves on next, and I probably will still give the next book a try when it comes out.

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Review: Unbreakable

Unbreakable (Legion, #1)Title: Unbreakable
Author: Kami Garcia
Series: The Legion
Volume: 1
Genre: Supernatural, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy

Why I Read It: It is a part of my continuing quest to find books in the paranormal/supernatural genre that I enjoy (I remain convinced that they are out there, and I just have to find them). I figure maybe people who hunt the supernatural creatures might appeal to me more that people angsting about being in love with them/ being them.

A Quick Introduction: Four weeks after Kennedy comes home to find her mother's dead body, she herself is almost killed, only to be saved in the nick of time by a pair of ghost hunters. They tell her that her mother didn't die of a heart attack- a vengeful spirit killed her, and there's more where it came from. Her mother was part of a secret society, and now all of the members are dead, killed in one night by murderous spirits sent by a demon. Now it is up to the teenagers left behind to protect the world, and maybe find a way to destroy the demon for good.

What I Thought: I read Beautiful Creatures a while a go (a really long while ago) but never carried on with the series, so I have only limited experience with Kami Garcia's writing. Overall, this was one of the better paranormal books that I have read (I'm picky). The plot was a little predictable, and sometimes it seemed a little bit convenient (finding the blueprint, for example) if felt almost as if it was written to a formula/design. Aside from that, the story was enjoyable enough. The characters didn't bother me, but I didn't feel all that much attachment to them either. Kennedy was rightfully confused and lost when exposed to the supernatural world, and she wasn't randomly super-good at everything, though she does have some skills (her eidetic memory, and her courage). I feel like we haven't quite gotten to know some of the other characters, and it might be nice to see more of how they see the world, and the constant fight that they've inherited. They all have a skill that they were raised with, but she hasn't been- she didn't have any idea about the supernatural world before it tried to kill her. I feel like there was a little insta-love, but it wasn't as bad as it could have been.

Her father left her mother when she was a child, and she can remember all of it, thanks to her eidetic (photographic) memory. She remembers the letter that he left her mother about how he wanted Kennedy to have a "normal childhood", though we never get a sense of how her childhood was abnormal, though there are hints that her mother may have kept something from her. Was her mother a part of the Legion? Or was she something else?

Overall, this was an enjoyable read, though it I wasn't crazy about this one. There are aspects that I liked, and some that I think could have been better. I probably will read the second one, because I am curious kind of about what will happen next.

Friday, September 27, 2013

August and September DNF

Two in one, because I was a bit busy at the end of August with University prep. and such. These are books that I did not finish for a good reason to do with the book. Basically this is me explaining why I couldn't finish certain books.
Icons (Icons, #1)

Icons by Margaret Stohl
This one ended up in the did not finish pile for a couple of reason. I didn't like, or really care about the main character (I have forgotten her name). She was kind of annoying and quite dull, but outside of that I didn't much care. The story line was difficult to follow, possibly because I hadn't been drawn in to it. What I know of the plot came mostly from the book jacket- I didn't really get a hint of it in the book, the way the ideas were presented was kind of convoluted and unclear.  I just barely made it to the introduction of the love interest, who didn't remotely interest me as a character.

Embrace (The Violet Eden Chapters, #1)
Embrace by Jessica Shirvington
I knew this one was going to be if-y, just because I have a minor angel prejudice, but after reading and enjoying Angelfall (review here), I was willing to give another angel book a try. So I pulled this one off of the shelf at the library. From the start the heroine bothered me, and her friend bothered me and the love interest bothered me. The way the angels were described disinterested me. Violet just isn't the sort of heroine that I enjoy reading. She seems very shallow, and I've never really liked reading about boy-crazy girls, who will try anything to get a boy's attention, and was easily swayed by her friend's opinions. Maybe that is how a lot of teenagers behave, but I personally couldn't connect to her (I am a teenage hermit, possibly). Maybe she develops as the story progresses, but I couldn't stick her out. The writing, while not bad, didn't captivate me, and the plot seemed pretty formula (and I usually deal with, and even enjoy, slightly formulaic plots, but the characters couldn't carry it). I don't even thing I finished the first hundred pages.
The Rose Throne (The Rose Throne, #1)

The Rose Throne by Mette Ivie Harrison
I wasn't crazy about this one to begin with, but I enjoy fantasy, so I decided to give it a go. I didn't end up finishing it. The magic in this world seems... kind of unexciting and not explained as well as it could have been, and the princesses themselves were sort of flat as characters. I couldn't keep track of their names, and it sort of felt like they were both desperate to have a love interest of some description, which is not the way to find someone you actually like. I didn't get very far into this one.

Overall there weren't actually too many that hit the DNF pile for any clear reason- sometimes I just forgot I was reading  book and then it had to go back to the library, or I didn't have the time and/or inclination to pick it up. Others I kind of dragged myself through or numbly continued reading even though I wasn't really enjoying them.

Books That I Finished, Though I Struggled A Bit:
Revenge of the Girl with the Great Personality
This one I finished, actually, though I feel like there was a little bit of browsing toward the end. I really disliked the main character's mother- as in, when (spoiler alert) she left near the end after the pageant stunt, I hoped that she wouldn't come back.
Nameless (Tales of Beauty & Madness, #1)
Another one that I made myself finish. I feel like there could have been more of the madness mentioned on the cover. The love story part made me feel almost uncomfortable- it was a weird relationship in a lot of ways- very possessive. I did finish it, though I more dragged myself most of the time. I think a lot of aspects could have been made clearer, and the story could have lost some elements to make room for the fleshing out of others.

That about wraps it up for now. Let me know what you thought of these books. Did I get a good measure of them, or did I miss something super-spectaular.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Review: Untold

Untold (The Lynburn Legacy, #2)Title: Untold
Author: Sarah Rees Brennan
Series: The Lynburn Legacy
Volume: 2
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal, Urban Fantasy, Gothic, Romance

Why I Read It: It is the sequel to Unspoken, and is the second book is the The Lynburn Legacy trilogy. (The third, Unbroken is to be released in 2014).

A Quick Intro: (Contains spoilers for Unspoken). Sorry-In-The-Vale is in danger. Rob Lynburn is gathering followers who wish for sorcery to go back to the old ways- namely gaining access to additional power through human sacrifice. Kami isn't about to let that happen. Even with her like to Jared severed, without any access to magic, without the constant support he offered, she's going to do everything she can to take a stand.

What I Thought: Wow. A lot went on in this one. Kami's up against some serious odds. Rob gathering sorcerers intent on claiming the town as a sacrifice pool. Lillian Lynburn intends to take a stand against her husband, but she doesn't want the help of anyone who isn't a sorcerer (because, you know, there's so much help of that variety). Her father has found out that about all of her mother's lies, so there's trouble at home. Kami is facing it all without the constant emotional support that Jared used to offer. He, of course is being his impossible self, and cold shouldering her. Still, she's trying to plow through it all. She's a very strong person that way, though she struggles with being independent- she's never been completely alone before, and interprets being independent as trying not to let anyone know when she's having a hard time. There are more sorcerers in Sorry-In-The-Vale, and Kami's trying to find a way to recruit them, as well as protect herself, her friends and her family against the magic that is once again all over their little town, and find a way to stop Rob Lynburn from taking said little town as his own.

I think Kami's outlook is generally pretty great, given all that is going on. She's someone who manages to be sarcastic without seeming jaded, and she's incredibly determined. As a protagonist, she really pulls the story along. This trilogy is very character-driven. The plot is interesting enough, but I really read it of the characters. I loved Angela in the first book- she's the jaded foil to Kami's constant passion about all things, but she's always fierce and determined, and always has Kami's back. Rusty played a bigger role in this book than he did in the previous one- he generally lightens the mood, but he does have few serious moments in this book. Jared was as infuriating as he always is (I say that in the nicest way possible, of course). Ash gets some more background and development. Holly is having some problems of her own (okay, lots of problems of her own, but I'll let you read the book). Kami's dad is great (I see where Kami gets some of her best characteristics). Lillian was infuriating, there were moments where I kind of wanted to grab her by the shoulders and shake her. There are all sorts of complicated relationships between all of the characters. The humour, typically of the dry, sarcastic variety, was a nice bright spot whenever things got too grim or intense. In spite of what a mess our good guys can be (and they can be quite a mess sometimes, and half the time they can't work together to save their lives) you can't help but get attached to them, and cheer for them.

I'm really, super eager for the next book. In 2014. Which needs to come soon, because we've been left quite a cliffhanger, on top of a very bad situation.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Review: All Our Yesterdays

All Our YesterdaysTitle: All Our Yesterdays
Author: Cristin Terrill
Series: All Our Yesterdays
Volume: 1
Genre: Science Fiction, Action, Romance

Why I Read It: I like science fiction, and time travel is always an interesting idea. This has been on my TBR list for a while now (since before it came out- actually when the cover was different).

A Quick Intro: Em has been trapped in a cell for months. The world outside is falling apart, and all she can do is wait- she's got the voice of the boy in the cell next to her and a hidden note reading "You have to kill him". She knows what she has to do. She has to go back in time and stop the time machine from ever being created, no matter what the cost. She knows that fourteen versions of herself have tried and failed, leaving her in this present, where she is imprisoned and tortured by a sadistic doctor, who is only keeping her alive because he wants something from her.
Four years earlier: Marina is in love with her best friend James, who is a science prodigy, and may finally be starting to notice her. Until everything falls apart, and suddenly someone is trying to kill James and his life is crumbling. Marina will do anything to keep him safe- she's always been on his side, no matter what. But in light of a horrible truth, will she truly be able to stay with him?

What I Thought: Well, this isn't my first time travel book. It probably won't be the last. I have to admit I knew who both Em and the unnamed doctor were from the start. That said, I was still interested to know how they got to that point. In the beginning I found Marina pretty self-centered and shallow as a character, something she herself acknowledges later on in the story. James was clearly somewhat erratic from the beginning- even Marina, who adores him in the start admits that he's scared her before. Em has seen too much- she hardened, but she fears not hardened enough. She's been tortured, lost her friends and watched her world be destroyed, and she's quite broken. Finn is a very steady character. He's got heroic potential at the beginning (he goes after the shooter, in spite of being unarmed and probably more than a little traumatized). His first instinct is the right thing, and Marina has good intentions. They're both facing something that will be horrible if they do it- but even worse for them and the world if they don't.

There's a lot of action in this one. Em and Finn are racing the clock to do what they have to, and Marina is trying to keep James safe, while becoming increasingly concerned about whether or not she is doing the right thing. There's an emotional element in that there's a struggle to do the right thing, ans what the right thing truly is.

I know some people didn't like the ending, but I enjoyed it. Without spoiling anything, it is really bittersweet. There's some sadness- it doesn't end perfectly for the good guys, and a lot is left open. I like this one as a stand-alone actually, it doesn't feel to me as if it needs a sequel, and I'm not really sure if I'll read it when it comes out. We'll see.

I don't really subscribe to the theory of time travel in the book (do I sound geeky or what?), but it was interesting to explore. What if you could change the future by stopping something from happening in the past? This was an interesting read, which touched on the cost of doing the right thing, and the cost of our actions, and sacrifice.

If you've read this one, drop me a line in the comments. I would love to know how everyone else feels about the ending and the book in general. Do you think it needs a sequel? Was the ending good or terrible? Why? (Just make sure to put a spoiler warning for anyone who hasn't read it, since it is still in the first month or so.)

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Review: Fangirl

FangirlTitle: Fangirl
Author: Rainbow Rowell
Genre: Realistic Fiction, Romance

Why I Read It: This one has had some really good reviews, and seeing as I too am starting university (I'm in Canada, so we call it university here, but from what I've gathered, it is very similar to what colleges are in America). Also, the premise of this one makes me think of Tumbr. (they're actually doing it for a book club there...)

A Quick Intro.: Cath lives for her fandom (Simon Snow, which is this universe's Harry Potter). She reads the books, watches the movies, has all of the memorabilia and writes fanfiction. She's always been withdrawn, and does everything with her twin sister, Wren. Until Wren decides that she doesn't want to share a room with Cath when they go to college, and Cath is thrust into a completely new situation without anyone to hold her hand.

What I Thought: Having just been through the first couple weeks of post-secondary education (what else should I call it? I sound like a guidance councilor) myself, I can relate to being in a pretty new, foreign situation. I'm lucky enough to be rooming with a friend of mine, and not too far from home, so I don't have the total culture shock that Cath goes through. While I'm a big fan of a lot of things, I've never really been one for fanfiction, but I could connect to trying to explain or avoid explaining a fandom you are part of to people (has anyone tried to summarize a book, only to realise that you sound crazy?) even if I've never been that far into a fandom. So those were two aspects I could connect to. The anxiety that Cath felt hasn't been too much of a problem for me so far, but I've had my moments.

I really enjoyed this book. Realistic fiction has never been my prefered genre, but this one was a fun read. It had moments of seriousness (Cath's family situation, her stress about writing her own work in her own world, her fear she might have inherited their dad's mania). She's just trying to find her way, and she's really not sure she can do it.

Cath's room mate, Reagan was great. She terrified Cath in the beginning, and eventually ends up taking Cath under her wing. She's a very energetic, alive character- she's older, she seems comfortable in her own skin, which is part of why she intimidates Cath. The love interest, Levi, was a pretty decent guy. He seems like a person- someone with character quirks and flaws, and he genuinely seems to care about Cath.

This is definitely my favourite realistic fiction this year so far. It has a lot of elements that I think a lot of readers will identify with. We all feel a little lost sometimes. Goodness knows we all feel awkward. So this was a sometimes fun, sometimes serious, quite connectable read.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Review: Descendant

Descendant (Starling, #2)Title: Descendant
Author: Lesley Livingston
Series: Starling
Volume: 2
Genre: Fantasy, Paranormal

Why I Read It: It is the second book in the Starling trilogy (I think it is a trilogy?). Which is the sequel to the Wondrous Strange trilogy, which I really enjoyed.

A Quick Summary: Mason has crossed the bridge into the underworld, and Fennrys is determined to get her back, for both himself, and to stop her from becoming a pawn in causing Ragnarok (and by pawn I mean the trigger). Of course he as to recover from being shot in the shoulder followed by the train he was on exploding as well as a sea monster, but, details. He's not going to fight on the right side this time.

What I Thought: I enjoyed this book in a yelling-at-the-book sort of way. I sometimes got a little frustrated. I annoyed my roommate by being announcing what was going on in the book (she hasn't read any of the series, so I gave a super abbreviated version).

Okay first things first. Cameos. I miss the old cast (as in the Wondrous Strange trilogy cast) a lot, so when Maddox and Chloe showed up I was pretty happy. (We did get a couple of cameos in the last one, but this time we got Madd and Chloe. Who actually played significant roles as a part of the good guys last time.) And they (well Maddox, at least, Chloe seems to not like conflict- unless you hurt Maddox. Then she's kind of scary) actually stick around for some action scenes.

Moving on. I've never been huge on the romance in this one. I don't know... I guess, I'm not typically huge on romance in general sometimes, so it isn't altogether surprising. That said, I do feel like the romance was a weaker point in the book. (I'm not entirely sure how to explain it.) It still managed to be a driving force, but I just wasn't that interested in hearing about it non-stop.

I enjoyed the fight scenes and as always, the humour. I love dry humour, so most of these characters are right up my alley in that respect. I've always found there's something really enjoyable about how Lesley Livingston writes her fight scenes. I can picture them, but the words don't seem cumbersome, which can be a difficult balance to achieve.

So far I haven't love these as much as the Wondrous Strange trilogy, probably in part because I miss the fae world. It's always described wonderfully, so I miss that. And our heroes, seeing as I think they were a little more my personal preference. That said, I'm still looking forward to the next (pretty sure it is last) book in this series as well.

Writer's Festival

I went to my first bookish event today. Like, my first one ever. I live in Canada, so there aren't that many events that interest me nearby (what book events there are, they are typically written for people who enjoy reading books that seem to lack hope, and are all man vs. nature and man vs. self...) If you like dark internal dilemmas, there are events for you.

But you know about my feelings on hope. So these aren't for me. So there was a writer's festival, I came by the knowledge by accident- I was standing awkwardly in my university (first year...), and I saw a poster. I went with my dad. This was a tiny little festival, but it was good for my first one. It was in a kind of artsy little place, with beautiful stone buildings. I got to listen to Deborah Ellis and Lesley Livingston read a little of their books. I'd like to take this moment to point out that I've been reading Lesley Livingston's books since I picked up Wondrous Strange (at the library) I think it probably was soon after it came out (2008 or early 2009), so meeting her was really, really exciting for me. I got my copy of Wondrous signed, and picked up a copy of Deborah Ellis's new non-fiction book Looks Like Daylight. It was a really great day.

By the way, on the subject of Lesley Livingston, I finished Descendant a few days ago. My review is coming.

Anyway, I'm hoping to find more bookish events in my area (maybe even go to Toronto), because this one was really fun.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Review: Viral Nation

Viral NationTitle: Viral Nation
Author: Shaunta Grimes
Series: Viral Nation
Volume: 1

Why I Read It: This dystopian had a lot of really good reviews, and I do like a good dystopian.

A Quick Summary: A plague has devastated the world, and all of the survivors must take a daily suppressant to prevent the virus from killing them, even years later. Brilliant, autistic Clover is denied entrance to high school because she refuses to be parted from her service dog, Mango, and instead sent to an organisation that collects information about crimes from the future and prevents them from happening in the present. She is sent forward in time to collect this information. When her brother- and caretaker- West shows up on one of the lists, because he is going to commit murder, she knows there must be something wrong. Her brother would never kill anyone. She starts to question whether or not their are flaws in the system that has kept the nation stable, and begins to uncover dangerous information about the justice system, time travel and even the plague suppressant.

What I Thought: Overall, this one was a good read. I could root for the main characters, though I did find some of their motives a little confusing. It's hard to explain why... Some of it might be because this is the first book of a trilogy, so maybe we're not supposed to know all of the motives. Clover was a readable protagonist, though she had her moments where I couldn't really follow what she was thinking (West and the suppressant -minor spoiler- couldn't she have waited to see if the sores showed up before dosing him with the suppressant? It works on people who already have the virus, so I wasn't sure why she didn't wait to see, since they had already been told that people would go through withdrawl, and West clearly was- it wasn't the virus). There was something that confused me about Clover's autism too. She shuts down when exposed to stressful/overwhelming situations (ex. situations with a lot of noise), but the time traveling didn't seem to bother her, when I feel as though anyone would have been overwhelmed by that. But I'm nit-picking a little. There were some qualities to this book that I enjoyed. The idea of using the virus-suppressant as a method for controlling the population, and how much control having monopoly over a vital resource gives the government was interesting to see. Foster City sounded like a really horrible place to grow up, and obviously some of the citizens aren't treated very well. I feel like the story was a pretty simple one, even with all of the technicalities of time travel. So while the story wasn't completely original (a lot of the story is standard dystopian tropes), I still found it an enjoyable read.

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Review: Ungifted

UngiftedTitle: Ungifted
Author: Gordon Korman
Genre: Realistic fiction

Why I Read It: I love reading about brilliant people. It's one of my favourite topics to read about. Basically, I love intelligence. Also, talking about intelligence as it is defined by society, versus how clever a person actually is.

A Quick Intro: Fleeing his school's administration after an incident involving the gymnasium and a giant metal globe, Donovan Curtis hides out in a gifted program, where he was accidentally placed. "Gifted" is a word that has never been a word that has applied to Donovan, and he's pretty sure he can't hack this program for genii. But he's here, and fighting to stay, so he's going to have to try.

What I Thought: I enjoyed this one. As mentioned, brilliance is something that I  really love reading about, and reading about Donovan's struggles to fit in with the academically gifted, quirky and more often than not social awkward was a lot of fun. I liked Donovan as a character, as well as all of the other characters who also narrated. While I personally tried hard in school (generally, I had my days of complete and utter academic apathy). It wasn't that he had no potential, but that he felt no inclination to succeed, and found classes dull, essentially turning him into a bit of a troublemaker. He was an enjoyable character to read- I liked the antics. The other students and teachers at the school were both enjoyable characters to read from- I especially liked reading from Noah, who is brilliant, but finds attending a gifted school dull, and really wants to go to an ordinary school.

Donovan's effect on the gifted students was interesting in that he brought an element to the class that it didn't have before, like naming the class robot and offering up his pregnant sister for a project so that the class can get their human growth and development credit. While not academically talented, he brings some different skill set to the group.

The story is fun and engaging. I found Donovan's sister, Katie, and the story line when the class follows her pregnancy to be one of my favourite parts. I liked the class's curiosity about it and how they go from Katie find them annoying to seeing the as a support group. One of my favourite lines was "this pregnancy is a group effort" and the breathing technique. They both had me laughing out loud. I really found myself rooting for the team, and for Donovan himself.

Overall, this book was a fun, clever, humourous read, and a reminder that "smart" isn't always about school.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Review: Going Vintage

Going VintageTitle: Going Vintage
Author: Lindsey Leavitt
Genre: Realistic fiction

Why I Read It: I feel like I haven't read much realistic fiction, and I try to keep some diversity in my reading, and this one had quite good reviews.

A Quick Intro: When Mallory finds out that her boyfriend is cheating on her with a cyber-wife, she breaks up with him and swears off of technology. She devotes herself to following her grandmother's list of goals. She plans to simplify her life by avoiding all of the pitfalls of modern technology.

What I Thought: I don't really have any feelings about this one. I wasn't very interested in the characters. Mallory especially seemed quite melodramatic, and I didn't find myself rooting for her journey. Having never been in a relationship like the one she was in, I actually found myself wondering if her response was realistic (was it?). Also, is going doe to a dance that weird? She certainly seemed to make a big deal of it. I just finished high school, but her high school experience seemed to be somehow... off. I can't really describe it. I didn't really find the characters convincing or magnetic.

I guess overall, I didn't really enjoy this one. The characters and setting didn't really have any draw for me.

Saturday, August 31, 2013

Talking About: The Omnivore's Dilema

The Omnivore's Dilemma: A Natural History of Four MealsThis is one that I've meant to read for years. (I seem to have unusual ambitions, don't I?)

This was a really neat read- food sciences and agriculture are two of my interests, so this was a good read. This one is all about where food comes from and all of the dilemmas we humans go through when choosing what we should eat.

Michael Pollan focuses in on three meals: a fast food meal, one made with food grown sustainable, and one made from ingredients that were hunted and gathered. Before focusing on these meals, Pollan takes us through the current state of the agriculture industry, which boils down to one thing: corn. I know more about corn than I thought was possible. The economics, the reproductive cycle, the processing, the effects on the environment, and its roll in the industrial farming industry. Corn. That said, it was an important part of the book.

I enjoyed reading about sustainable farming. I'm kind of a sustainability geek there so, make of that what you will. It was nice to read about letting nature do it's thing a little more using rotational farming. (See, geek). It seems to be the more hopeful part of the book (hunting and gathering takes so much time and energy that an individual couldn't survive in our society that way, and couldn't support populations, simply because of space). I hope that we can one day get to the point where we can farm sustainably, since the industrial food chain really isn't sustainable.

Basically I loved this book. I have my copy bookmarked all get out (do people say that anymore?), with notes to myself. Again, food sciences and sustainable living in a modern age are two passions of mind, and this book marries them. It took me a little longer to read than fiction usually does, but it wasn't too heavy a read, and was generally quite intresting.