Saturday, December 25, 2010

Thirteen Reasons Why by Jay Asher

Plot synopsis:
Clay is confused but interested when he gets a box of outdated audio tapes in the mail. After digging out his old stereo and beginning to listen, he is horrified by the voice that speaks: his old crush Hannah, who committed suicide mere weeks before. She committed suicide for a reason, she says. Thirteen reasons, as a matter of fact, and each of those thirteen reasons will receive the tapes in the mail, and have one tape dedicated to them. The novel is set up as a dual narrative, simultaneously telling Clay's story while also telling Hannah's. Both stories compliment, parallel, and overlap constantly.

My review:
When I started reading Thirteen Reasons Why, it became apparent very quickly what kind of story it was going to be, and I wasn't sure if it was going to be particularly effective at it. Suicide stories, especially ones like this, can turn out extremely heavy-handed, melodramatic, and insincere.
But I was surprised in a good way at how excellently Asher told the story. I think the most effective part was that we get into Clay's head and REALLY understand how he is feeling at each given moment. We get his side and Hannah's, and his dialog to Hannah and her dialog to him, even though they're not actually speaking to each other, and we can come up with our own conclusion about how justified each of them is (as well as the other 12 characters who are featured on her tapes).
Asher also dealt with the dread of what was going to happen very well. This book was intense and a bit soul-crushing at times, but not so much that I wanted to stop reading (which I also feared would happen). This wasn't a Mockingjay for me. Yes, it was tragic and I was dreading each new revelation, but it was a well-told story and made me empathize with Hannah, but also Clay and Tony (Tony, btw, is a delicious, fantastic minor character) and various other characters. AND there was enough hopeful moments stuck in that it didn't feel like you were being keel-hauled with no break for all 300 or so pages.
The high school setting and various scenarios were also very believable, which I appreciated a LOT because, well, I've been reading a lot of books set in high schools lately, and soooo many of them are trite, cliche, OR just really unbelievable. The world here is very realistic but still interesting and keeps you on your toes. Sometimes things turn out how you think they will, but often they twist around and do something else.
Did I mention I liked Clay? He was a fantastic narrator. He's a good guy, he has flaws, and overall he's just a normal high school guy who makes good choices, makes mistakes, and owns up to everything.

Rating: 5/5
Recommended for: Everyone

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce

*minor spoilers follow*

Plot summary:
The March sisters, Scarlett and Rosie, hunt Fenris, otherwise known as werewolves. Fenris are soulless monsters (no, really) that eat girls. The March's hunky woodsman neighbor (I would never joke with you, audience), Silas, helps them hunt Fenris. Scarlett gets REALLY turned on by hunting. Rosie gets REALLY turned on by Silas. The Fenris get REALLY turned on by hot girls and what are called "Potential" Fenris. And that is literally all you need to know about this book.

My review:
I liked the premise of this novel. I liked the idea of taking the Little Red Riding Hood story and not only make it contemporary, but also make it scary and heart-rending and romantic. On one level Sisters Red completely succeeds at this. But here's the main problem of this book, and it is spelled r-e-p-e-t-i-t-i-o-n.
  • I was interested in Scarlett, the first time we learn that she is horribly scarred, physically and emotionally, and that this causes her to hunt, hunt, hunt, baby. But after a dozen or so (all my numbers are legit in this review, people) internal monologues that say nothing more or less than the previous information, I get bored with her character. "Oh, okay, so you're obsessed...let's move on to where you give in to the obsession, or GET OVER IT." And she really never has to make that choice; I felt like Scarlett remains essentially the same the entire novel through.
  • We also get dozens of heart-pounding fights with Fenris. Well, they would be heart-pounding, except after the first five or so they are ALL. THE. SAME. I was yawwwwwning through the action scenes after page 75 or so. I do not approve of yawning during fight scenes! Also, where are the MACHINE GUNS, man? Come on! Get a gun license and just bust open the guys' faces.
  • The Fenris are all the same. I kept waiting for some sort of exception to the rule, but give it up now, folks. I would have even been okay with an Angel or Spike sort of character.
  • Even poor Rosie got pretty repetitious after a bit. She was definitely the most well-rounded character in the book, but that isn't saying much. I felt like her entire dilemma in the book was a false dichotomy, and that's all I can say about that, really.
Okay, I'm being pretty harsh. Let me mention some good things. I liked Scarlett and Rosie's super-close sister relationship. It was refreshing, somehow, as it seems like in a lot of YA the familial relationships get second-tier treatment. I also liked the romance in this book. I didn't LOVE it, no, partially because of all the problems listed above, but it WAS cute and natural. I enjoyed one or three of the fight scenes.
Mostly, though, after page 100 I just wanted this book to end. Try again, Pearce.
Rating: 3/5

PS: I totally thought this was a debut YA, turns out it's not, so I edited my debut challenge post. Thirteen Reasons Why review coming soon!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Victorian Challenge and LOTR Read-a-long

Um, I SAY YES? And I think you should too. Because Victorian Lit is AWESOME, let's face FACTS.

I'm going to sign up for the Great Expectations level in Bethany's challenge, which means you read 5-9 Victorian lit books (books published in England between 1837-1901). Go to the link above for full rules.

Idylls of the King by Alfred Lord Tennyson
Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
The Lifted Veil by George Eliot
In A Glass Darkly by Sheridan Le Fanu

The Portrait of Dorian Gray by Oscar Wilde
Kim by Rudyard Kipling

On a completely different, and yet still fabulously awesome, note, I'm also going to participate in The Story Girl's Lord of the Rings read-a-long. I wanted to read it again this year anyway and this is a good shedjool. Go to the link for rules and the schedule.

I will edit this post throughout the year for titles/reviews, and links to LotR read-a-long posts. I am super excited for 2011!!!

Friday, December 17, 2010

Graphic Novels Challenge

I'm not sure if manga counts for this challenge, but for myself, I'm going to say it doesn't. I read a fair bit of manga but I've barely read any graphic novels.

Go here for the full post and rules:
The challenge starts January 1, 2011 and ends December 31, 2011. You can start anytime you want to especially if you want to start early.
The level of participation: Beginner (3 comics or graphic novels), Intermediate (3-10 books), or Expert (10+)
Overlaps with other challenges is definitely okay
Re-reads count
Feel free to post your list at any time

I'm aiming for the Expert level. I will edit this post throughout the year with titles and reviews.

-Scott Pilgrim's Precious Little Life (1) by Bryan Lee O'Malley
Scott Pilgrim Versus the World (2) by Bryan Lee O'Malley
-Kin by Holly Black
-Hark! A Vagrant by Kate Beaton
-Star Wars: Rebellion (vol 3) by Rob Williams, Michael Lacombe
-X-Men: Civil War
-X-Men: Decimation: The Day After
-Scott Pilgrim: The Infinite Sadness (3) by Bryan Lee O'Malley

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Best of What I Read 2010

This survey is from The Perpetual Page-Turner:
I've created a little survey for 2010 that you can fill out about your 2010 reading experience whenever you want until the beginning of January. Feel free to link up with Mr. Linky and share your "Best of What I Read 2010" lists and visit others on the list.

1. Best book of 2010? Hey, guess what? THIS IS AN IMPOSSIBLE QUESTION. Children’s: The Graveyard Book by Neil Gaiman or The Grey King by Susan Cooper. YA: Paranormalcy by Kiersten White. Adult: A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens or The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery. Nonfiction: The Monsters and The Critics by JRR Tolkien. There are MANY MANY OTHERS but those are the ones that popped to mind first.

2. Worst book of 2010? The Line by Teri Hall. I’m astonished by how easy this question is to answer, except that this book was really bad. Really bad. This book was BADLY written and I can’t believe it managed to get published.

3. Most Disappointing Book of 2010? M is For Magic by Neil Gaiman or Gifts by Ursula K Leguin. Both books were fairly okay, but I was expecting EXCELLENT or BRILLIANT, since we’re talking about Gaiman and Leguin, but I was left feeling meh about both of them.

4. Most surprising (in a good way!) book of 2010? Probably The Sound and The Fury, or possibly Giovanni’s Room. I expected the worst from both books, and reading them was varying degrees of painful, but after reading them, I realized that they were pretty fantastic, and they stick with you (even when you kinda wish they would leave).

5. Book you recommended to people most in 2010? I’m not the best recommender in the world, mostly because I have like two IRL friends that actually read. I remember recommending Clockwork Angel, Albatross, and Paranormalcy though. Oh, and I definitely gushed about Henry James all year.

6. Best series you discovered in 2010? How To Train Your Dragon (Cressida Cowell), or The Dark is Rising (Susan Cooper), or Dragonback (Timothy Zahn). I devoured the first two series and I am waiting to devour the third one. :D They are all MG series, strangely. I also discovered The Hunger Games (Suzanne Collins) and Percy Jackson (Rick Riordan) this year, but while I love them, I’m not a raving fan.

7. Favorite new authors you discovered in 2010? Let’s go down the list, shall we? Cressida Cowell, Susan Cooper, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Josie Bloss, Kiersten White, Robin McKinley, Patricia McKillip, Tasha Alexander, Julie Kagawa, Chelsea Campbell, Wilkie Collins, Erin Bow, and James Baldwin. Homer (don’t judge me, at least I READ the entire Iliad, okay?), Kristin Cashore, Cassandra Clare, and Caragh O’Brien are runner-ups. I’m also a little confused about when I read Dracula. I guess it was last year. Crazy.

8. Most hilarious read of 2010? Probably Clockwork Angel, strangely enough. I think there were a bunch of other books I read that I laughed a lot, but it was mostly because I was laughing at awkwardness and subtext, which I don’t think really count.

9. Most thrilling, unputdownable book in 2010? Paranormalcy, Clockwork Angel, and The Iron King. Did you notice that ALL THREE OF THOSE are paranormal romances? I might cry. Paranormalcy is superb, though.

10. Book you most anticipated in 2010? Probably Tongues of Serpents, honestly, cuz I had been waiting for that since I read Victory of Eagles the year before. But I also got pretty hot and bothered over Mockingjay.

11. Favorite cover of a book you read in 2010? SO MANY BEAUTIFUL COVERS. Well, I bought Leviathan almost entirely because of the cover, and the same with Clockwork Angel. Plain Kate, Sisters Red, and The Rise of Renegade X also made me very happy.

12. Most memorable character in 2010? Possibly Silas from The Graveyard Book, possibly my beautiful Bran from The Dark Is Rising sequence. Runners up are Magnus Bane (City of Bones), Sherlock Holmes (A Study in Scarlet), and Puck (The Iron King). I would read an entire series on Silas, and Bran deserved a better ending.

13. Most beautifully written book in 2010? Plain Kate by Erin Bow, The Bostonians by Henry James, and Giovanni’s Room by James Baldwin. Delicious.

14. Book that had the greatest impact on you in 2010? Orthodoxy by GK Chesterton, Little Women by Louisa May Alcott, and The Blue Castle by Lucy Maud Montgomery. The first just reminded me why God is a genius and how Christianity really is the answer, and the latter two had heroines that I really related to.

15. Book you can't believe you waited UNTIL 2010 to finally read? A Study in Scarlet, aka The Sherlock Holmes stories by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. I read every single novel and story in a matter of weeks.

Book Blogging in 2010 (optional)

1. New favorite book blog you discovered in 2010? The Lost Entwife and In The Forest.

2. Favorite review that you wrote in 2010? The Sherlockian by Graham Moore, because it was an ARC that I was reviewing before its release, and also because I got a little cheeky with that book because it made me laugh so much.

3. Best discussion you had on your blog? N/A. LOL.

4. Most thought-provoking review or discussion you read on somebody else's blog? I read a lot of really good blogs about Speak, and a lot that I thought got a little carried away with rage.

5. Best event that you participated in (author signings, festivals, virtual events, memes, etc.)? vvb32 reads had a really fun fairy tale event. Also, Dewey’s Read-a-thon in October was fantastic.

6. Best moment of book blogging in 2010? Probably the whole Speak Loud thing. That was kinda incredible to watch and be a tiny part of.

7. Best bookish discover (book related sites, book stores, etc.)? This site is pretty amazing:

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

December CRAZY: Halfway point!

Woo-hoo! So if you forgot, my goal for this month is to blog every day and read as many of these books as I can (plus two more YA debuts). I missed a couple days blogging but I'm going to make up for it. Or that's the plan. ;)

So far I have read (with my Goodreads star ratings):
Sisters Red by Jackson Pearce (YA debut) (3/5)
How to Ride a Dragon's Storm by Cressida Cowell (5/5)
Silver on the Tree by Susan Cooper (4/5)
Heart of Darkness and Selected Short Stories by Joseph Conrad (4/5)
Odd and the Frost Giants by Neil Gaiman (5/5) (btw I got this w/ a giftcard won from GotYA. Thank you!
Princess Lessons by Meg Cabot (3/5) (btw I won a free copy of this from vvb32 reads. Thank you!)
The Bhagavad-Gita (4/5)

I'm also halfway through Orthodoxy and Johnny Tremain. Yay!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Top Ten Tuesday: Most Anticipated Books in 2011

This is a meme by The Broke and the Bookish. I actually only have 8. :( Fail! I'm probably not remembering plenty of other MUST READ 2011 releases. They are listed vaguely in order of how excited I am for them.

1. Clockwork Prince by Cassandra Clare (no cover yet)
I loved the first one, and oh babies I want to know what happens next.
2. Supernaturally by Kiersten White (no cover yet)
3. Choices of One by Timothy Zahn
4. A Memory of Light by Robert Jordan and Brandon Sanderson (no cover yet)
It's FINALLY going to end!!!! I actually still need to read The Gathering Storm and Towers of biggie!
5. Iron Queen by Julie Kagawa
These books are snuggly.
6. Across the Universe by Beth Revis
It sounds coooooooooool.
7. City of Falling Angels by Cassandra Clare
Need. To. Know.
8. Prized by Caragh O'Brien (no cover yet)
You know, the more distance I have from Birthmarked, the more I like it, and the more I want to know what happens next.

Those are ALL sequels except for Beth Revis. Hm.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Rise of Renegade X by Chelsea Campbell

Jacket Blurb:
Sixteen-year-old Damien Locke has a plan: major in messing with people at the local supervillain university and become a professional evil genius, just like his supervillain mom. But when he discovers the shameful secret she's been hiding all these years, that the one-night stand that spawned him was actually with a superhero, everything gets messed up. His father's too moral for his own good, so when he finds out Damien exists, he actually wants him to come live with him and his goody-goody superhero family. Damien gets shipped off to stay with them in their suburban hellhole, and he has only six weeks to prove he's not a hero in any way, or else he's stuck living with them for the rest of his life, or until he turns eighteen, whichever comes first.
To get out of this mess, Damien has to survive his dad's "flying lessons" that involve throwing him off the tallest building in the city--despite his nearly debilitating fear of heights--thwarting the eccentric teen scientist who insists she's his sidekick, and keeping his supervillain girlfriend from finding out the truth. But when Damien uncovers a dastardly plot to turn all the superheroes into mindless zombie slaves, a plan hatched by his own mom, he discovers he cares about his new family more than he thought. Now he has to choose: go back to his life of villainy and let his family become zombies, or stand up to his mom and become a real hero.

My review:
This book is just kinda a fun, dirty, super-villain thrill ride.I enjoyed this book quite a bit. I would love a sequel or a movie version or really anything that would bring me back to the universe of "Renegade X."
Damien is a very, very good protagonist. Can I use the word enthralling, or is that a little fangirly? He's just the perfect combination of smart, cocky, neglected, a little bit idiotic, and brave but not in a sappy way. Like, he's not, "OMG MUST GO SAVE THE LIFE OF THIS KITTEN BECAUSE IT IS THE RIGHT THING TO DO" he just kinda is brave without thinking or talking about it. I don't know if he saves kittens though. I also loved his epic big Fear. He reminded me a bit of Cassel from White Cat, although I have a lot more hope for Damien than I do for Cassel (watch me lose five followers from that statement). It was fun watching him decide what is the "right" thing for him to do, regardless of whether it's something a hero or a villain would do. I think that central issue of his is the main driving force of this story. There was a plot but I remember Damien and his coming of age a lot more clearly. :P
But there's a lot more going on too. Damien's supervillain mom always made me laugh and facepalm. I liked the hero family a lot! They were soooo awkward all the time, and I love awkwardness. Plus they were just cute and absurd. I didn't love either of the two love interests. The one girl didn't get much screen time, but we were supposed to care about her because Damien got his heart broken by her (before the main story takes place....good luck with that) and the other girl was just...really annoying. :P I kinda wanted her to get kicked off of a building.
Oh and all the inventions! Damien's mom is a sort of evil mad scientist, and all of her concoctions, combined by the inventions of a certain other character, were always hilarious, delicious, or really cool.
The humor in this made me very happy. Like the intern that Damien's mom keeps catching and hanging on the wall. Don't ask. The jokes are dirty at times and irreverent pretty much all the time, but I guess that's just my thing. ;)

I gave this five out of five stars. As much as I love the title of this book, it is kinda a mouthful. I keep shortening it to Renegade X. Also, I really want a sequel to this book, so I say you should all go buy copies right now. Or put it on your Christmas list. Or ask me really, really nicely to buy it for you.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Plain Kate by Erin Bow

Jacket Blurb:
Plain Kate lives in a world of superstitions and curses, where a song can heal a wound and a shadow can work deep magic. As the wood-carver's daughter, Kate held a carving knife before a spoon, and her wooden talismans are so fine that some even call her “witch-blade”: a dangerous nickname in a country where witches are hunted and burned in the square.
For Kate and her village have fallen on hard times. Kate’s father has died, leaving her alone in the world. And a mysterious fog now covers the countryside, ruining crops and spreading fear of hunger and sickness. The townspeople are looking for someone to blame, and their eyes have fallen on Kate.
Enter Linay, a stranger with a proposition: In exchange for her shadow, he’ll give Kate the means to escape the angry town, and what’s more, he’ll grant her heart’s wish. It’s a chance for her to start over, to find a home, a family, a place to belong. But Kate soon realizes she can't live shadowless forever -- and that Linay's designs are darker than she ever dreamed.

My review:
Wow, let's start with the cover/design of this book: it's deliciously beautiful. I love the art of Kate and Taggle on the front, and I love how when you open it, it's suddenly a rich blue color on the inside with a butter yellow cover. I totally support buying this hardcover.
Ahem, now on to the story! I've seen several other reviews describe the writing as "lyrical" which is possibly overdoing it, but it's the best description I can come up with too. I HEART the writing style. It's simple and uses one word instead of five, but somehow the meaning and descriptions come across crystal clear and really make you feel like you're there.
The story was a winner for me, especially when I realized it was based on Russian folklore. Ghost stories, magic, folklore, and deliciously ambiguous villains...that combination can't go wrong with me. I was extremely angry when I realized there was a magical cat in the story, but by the end of the book I loved the cat character, so at least it's a WELL-DONE cliche. So if you're sick of the cats too, I say give him a chance.
I also liked the magical system used in the plot. It was complicated enough to be interesting, but also simple enough that I was only confused once: at the climactic use of magic, I'm not entirely sure how that all worked out...but I bet if I read it again it would make more sense, because I was not expecting certain things at the end at all. The magical system IS a bit creepy because it often runs on blood, so if you don't like blood used in that way in fiction, I would steer clear. I got a little squeamish at points.
But my ultimate favorite part of this book, hands down, easy, was Linay. Linay seduced me from his first appearance and I was pretty much always waiting for him to turn up again (there was plenty of him, really, which also helped me love this book). But to be fair, I also loved Plain Kate: she was brave, a little damaged, and very easy to empathize with. I wanted to hug her the entire book, actually.
Last warning: This book is SAD. If you get through the whole book, I guarantee something will hurt you in the heart. If one thing doesn't get you, another thing will. I was doing great until the last page, actually, and then it was like the straw that broke the camel's back....
I gave this five stars out of five for pure awesome in just about every way. I recommend it to EVERYONE, as long as they don't mind a bit of blood and sad faces.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

A Match Made In High School by Kristen Walker

Goodreads plot synopsis:

When the principal announces that every senior must participate in a mandatory year-long Marriage Education program, Fiona Sheehan believes that her life can't get any worse. Then she marries her “husband”: jerky jock Todd, whose cheerleader girlfriend, Amanda, has had it in for Fiona since day one of second grade. Even worse? Amanda is paired with Fiona's long-term crush, Gabe. At least Fiona is doing better than her best friend, Marcie, who is paired up with the very quiet, very mysterious Johnny Mercer. Pranks, fights, misunderstandings, and reconciliations ensue in an almost Shakespearean comedy of errors about mistaken first impressions, convoluted coupling, and hidden crushes.

My review:

This book was horrifyingly painful to read for me, but it was at least 80% personal, and reflected barely at all on the quality of the writing. This was because the book, and especially the narrator Fiona, immediately plopped me back into high school. And it wasn't with that nostalgic, warm fuzzy feeling that you (and I) sometimes think back on high school with. It was the cold, mind-ravaging remembrance of every horrible event and embarrassing misstep; the nightmare-ish wondering of "what is this had happened when I was in high school?" Seriously, the plot of this book constantly made me cringe in deep sympathy with Fiona and her friends (and enemies!). I mean, if I and my circle had had to go through a Marriage Education program, some of us would have died, some of us would be in mental institutions (definitely me) and the rest would end up completely dysfunctional. I can only imagine the barest glimpse of the horrifying things my awkward teenage self would end up doing in a program like that.

Anyway, wow I'm self-centered!

If I look at the book objectively without spiraling into nightmare, it was quite good. The story was solid, Fiona's character arc is satisfying (her self-pity and arrogance again reminded me of me....I was happy to see her learn her lesson), and it was fun to see the various stereotypes slowly get stripped off to the Real People underneath. Well, Real Fictional People, but you know what I mean.

And, like I probably implied, this book is very true to high school, which I appreciated. Sometimes high school sit-com lit gets a little too Hollywood and neatly arranges all of the events and characters into boxes. Johnny Mercer? I TOTALLY knew guys like him. I knew kids like Fiona and Marcie and Todd and Amanda. And Fiona's family was endearingly realistic and fun.

There is a lot of humor in this book, too. I giggled many times, when I wasn't wide-eyed with terrifying memories and imaginings, lol. Fiona's voice is very honest and helps us understand her even when we want to hit her on the head with Sensitivity Stick.

I gave this book 4 out of 5 stars. It definitely gives you what it advertises: high school, romance, comedy, and plenty of teenage silliness. It won't be a re-read for me personally, but if it's your flavor of ice-cream, you'll probably want to, er, eat many times. Yay awkward metaphors!

Friday, December 10, 2010

Clockwork Angel by Cassandra Clare

Wow, let's see if I can actually review this book. For fun, I'm going to give a review from BEFORE I read The Mortal Instruments, and then a review for AFTER I read The Mortal Instruments. As one does. Because I think it's fascinating how my feelings about it changed.

After her aunt dies, Tessa Gray moves from New York to London to live with her brother, who has been working there. When she arrives, however, she is kidnapped by dastardly old ladies who force Tessa to use a power she didn't even have. When she is rescued by the "Nephilim," basically a group of hotties with glowing swords (I report only the facts, ladies and gents!), she learns about a whole other world living alongside her own, filled with fairies, vampires, werewolves, and strange clockwork beings governed by no one knows who! It's like a mystery! Thriller! YA romance! "'s GROOVY."

My review (pre-TMI):
I was sold on this book as soon as I saw the cover. HAVE YOU SEEN THE GORGEOUSNESS? I have seen the gorgeousness. I have snuggled with the gorgeousness. When I heard it was set in Victorian England, with steampunk elements, and written by an author who I had been planning to read eventually (although I feared epic Twilight-esque fail), I decided that I better read it. At least if I hated it I could have fun trashing it.
My favorite bits of this book were Charlotte and Henry. Team Will? Team Jem? I DO NOT CARE. I really don't. Tessa is an awesome powerful bookworm, and a man will just cramp her style. I'm Team Tessa if anything. ANYWAY, Charlotte and Henry alone are worth reading this book. Charlotte is the young but experienced leader of the London branch of the Nephilim, and Henry is her awesome mad scientist husband. Every time Henry did something mindless, I was cheering while Charlotte was face-palming. Ah well.
I actually really enjoyed the plot and story as well. Sometimes with books like these I just fall in love with shiny characters but the plot is meh. But not with this one. It wasn't stellar, but I was interested, the pacing was good, and there were unexpected twists. Not huge ones, but they existed! lol. I also really liked Camille and her little sidestory.
The setting wasn't as lovely as it could be. We only see a few locations in London (despite Jem taking Tessa on little sight-seeing walks), and we are continually hammered with the idea that London is always foggy and wet and miserable. Is that actually true, or is that just an American myth?
I suppose I should talk about Will and Jem. I really enjoyed both of their characters, I suppose. Will is a sad, horrible, twisted little boy, but I am looking forward to either seeing him go off the deep end or be healed somehow. Jem is delicious, but it seemed like whenever he talked for more than a line or two, he was just acting as the author's mouthpiece for whatever morals or deep thoughts she wanted to get across in the story. It got to the point when I started thinking, "Ahhh, Jem is talking again...what's the sermon today, reverend?" but I still really liked him.
As for Jessamine, I started out determined to like her, because I figured that since she's a bitch on the surface, we were going to find out she had some awesome qualities. Which she DOES, so I was like YEAH, Jesamine, you rock ily! I forgave her for every horrible thing she did, until the end. I can't talk about it, but what she did in the climactic scenes made me finally give up on her actually having a soul. So for now, Jessamine gets my hate vote.

My review (Post-TMI (don't read unless you've read at least City of Bones)):
I realized after reading TMI how much is NOT explained in Clockwork Angel. Like, one of the reasons I read CA first was that I had read Clare saying that people can read either series and both series should make sense on their own. But there were some world-building stuff that I was TOTALLY lost on. I couldn't figure out where Idris was, or what exactly it was. I didn't understand how the runes worked AT ALL even by the end of the book: I thought they stayed black on the person's body forever, which would mean within a few years a person would be completely inky black, which these characters clearly are not. Maybe I'm just dumb. There were a few other small things too that when I read TMI I was like "OHHHHHH OKAY THE WORLD MAKES SENSE!"
Also, some scenes are hilariously more significant if you've read TMI. For instance, any scene with Magnus Bane. When I read Clockwork Angel, I thought he was amusing, but I didn't trust him at all cuz I couldn't understand anything he was saying or feeling. Maybe that's good if the whole Infernal Devices trilogy was out and I read them straight through. I dunno. But once I read TMI, I was like AWWW MAGNUS ILY. And now I kinda hate Camille, because of how she treats Magnus. So it's all just kinda madness. Another scene that is WAYYY more significant if you've read TMI is when Will and Jem rescue the cat.

Rating: 4/5
Recommended for: Paranormal romance fans, action fans, shiny world-building fans, shiny character fans
I'm going to review TMI later, but I will say that overall I think Clockwork Angel is a much better book than City of Bones in every way.

The League of Extraordinary Writers

You know what I miss reading? Sci-fi. You know what I've learned to appreciate this past year? Dystopian.
I was already really, really excited for Beth Revis' 2011 debut novel Across the Universe, but my buddy Snazel directed me to the League of Extraordinary Writers (which includes a gentleman!), comprised of debut authors Beth Revis, Julia Karr, Angie Smibert, Elana Johnson, and Jeff Hirsch. Who, awesomely enough, are holding a fantastic prizepack giveaway for all their debut novels and swag. JOLLY, I say! Go here to enter. Or don't enter, cuz then I have more chance. But read their books when they come out, Across the Universe XVI, Memento Nora, Possession, and The Eleventh Plague (respectively).

Thursday, December 09, 2010

Becoming Jane Austen by Jon Spence

Forgive me, bloggers, for I have sinned, it has been two days since my last blog.

When I received this book from a friend, I questioned its quality because I thought it was published in order to get money off of the success of the movie, Becoming Jane. But actually this book was published BEFORE the movie, and the movie was apparently inspired by the idea that Jane Austen was in love with a guy that she wasn't able to marry in the end.

Becoming Jane Austen, however, focuses on Austen's life and writing, rather than on some short-lived possible romance. I really liked seeing the connections Spence made between events that were happening in Jane's life and events that ended up in her writing at the same time, and also the connections between real-life people and their fictional alter egos. It was all very well-researched, too, with lots of quotes from actual letters from the time and other documents. Yay documents! I love primary sources. ^_^ The book is organized chronologically, as biographies tend to do (but not always), and is just a really fun read, even for people like me who have a hard time reading nonfiction. :) If you're interested in Jane's life, very recommended! There wasn't as much about her writing life as I would have liked, but there was plenty, so I think I was just really interested in that aspect.

Tuesday, December 07, 2010

Sense and Sensibility by Jane Austen

I read this for the Jane Austen Challenge (badge in the sidebar) but also because, wow, I love Jane Austen. Despite the fact I wouldn't actually want to live in that time or place, I love reading about it, and I love Austen's ironic charm. Yes, ironic charm. Don't judge me for using that phrase; I'm being genuine.

Anyway, Sense and Sensibility turned out to be one of my favorite Austen novels (right below Pride and Prejudice and Persuasion). There are a lot of different human dynamics and relationships at work in the novel, which made it always interesting and helped the pacing a lot too. The novel wasn't terribly long, either, which also helped with the pacing (sometimes Austen novels can get a bit hard-going...I'm looking at you, Emma and Fanny).
The two main characters, Elinor and Marianne, were lovely! They are both completely different, but in supremely complimentary ways. They don't quite understand each other, as siblings tend to do, and it takes a while for them to appreciate the strengths of the other person. Each of them has some pretty big flaws but also powerful strengths, and I thought Austen handled both very well, letting us see the good, the bad, and how each sister displays her strengths and weaknesses. I also am amused by how I can relate to BOTH sisters. I understand how Marianne wants everyone to be honest and emotional and tactless all the time, but I generally act more like Elinor, in that I don't let people see how I'm really feeling unless it's absolutely necessary.
I have to say I liked Edward Ferrars a LOT more than in the movie (yes, I've seen the Emma Thompson movie like 10 times...don't judge me). He was so cute and awkward and sweet all the time, and strong when it counted. *nods* I approved. Colonel Brandon and Willoughby were both delicious. I loved to hate the Dashwoods' half-brother and his wife. Bleh!
As always, great settings. It's fun to see different places, or different sides, of England in Austen's novels. In this one we mostly get Devonshire and London, so there's plenty of space for both countryside and city scenes.
I think the bit about this book that makes me saddest is Willoughby. Stupid Willoughby! He's so awesome and then he's so fail. Sad faces.

Monday, December 06, 2010

A Few Cents for Mockingjay

I am belatedly throwing out my thoughts on this book. I'm not going to review it, because, really, who wants another Mockingjay by Suzanne Collins review? NO ONE. So there's just a few things that I've seen discussed (heatedly) on the nets that I want to opine on.

Character consistency:
I've heard a lot of complaints in this area, and it seems to apply to just about every character, such as Katniss, Peeta, Gale, and Prim. I didn't love Mockingjay, but I didn't think character inconsistency was a problem. All of the characters have been through SO much trauma, psychological, physical, emotional, mental, anythingal. I think the changes brought to Katniss' character were interesting and helpful to the overall arc, rather than contradictory. She's realizing that a lot of her current personal problems are because of her upbringing in a crazy, crazy dystopian world, and at the same time she's kinda falling under the wave of all those issues. I felt a lot more empathy for her in this book than any of the others, probably BECAUSE she's starting to have some self-awareness. Peeta, okay, let's face it, Peeta has PLENTY of reason to have a bit of a 360 turn. I don't even understand the Peeta criticism. He gets tortured and completely brainwashed: YES, he's going to be a TAD unstable and different. :P Moving on to Gale, I think his character arc in Mockingjay was fully built up in the previous books. The only real fact we know about him in The Hunger Games is that he's said some treasonous things about the Capitol, and he's a survivor like Katniss. This goes further in Catching Fire when he's the firebrand in District 12 and, you know, gets beaten and almost killed, which only pisses him off more. Seeing him as an extremely bitter, genocidal vigilante in Mockingjay was not a surprise to me at all. And Prim. Oh, Prim. Somehow, you have enough of a personality in the first two books to completely contradict your personality in Mockingjay? Sorry, guys, I don't think so. We only see her as a young child; her developed personality is only there in a few tiny hints.

Character deaths:
Collins clearly enjoys building up characters to be awesome, and then at their best moment or right after, they get killed, and get maybe two lines describing it, and then they're gone. Boggs? Finnick? Really? Prim only got a little bit more, and she was related. Er, to the MC.
I'm not sure if I'm complaining or not. I just thought the characters got the ax remarkably quickly, with little or no payoff for such a built-up trilogy.

I'm not going to lie, I thought the violence was over the top. I know what Collins was doing with it: she was shoving the brutality in our face to make a point about the fact that our world is going to end from vengeance and media and reality TV. But, tying in with the above paragraph on character deaths, I think she went a little far with it to the point of ruining anything enjoyable or jolly about the trilogy. I like authors to have points, but I don't like them to sacrifice their story to their point: literature can get away with this, popular YA doesn't. Also, even while the first two books were brutal and all, they still had moments of hope and comfort. The only kind bit we got here was the ending, which in my opinion wasn't kind at all: read below.

The ending:
So after enormous causalities, extreme psychological trauma, and the knowledge that all of the characters have no reason to live, it's all okay because at least the Love Triangle question is answered and, you know, they live happily ever after and have kids.
Wait, WHAT????
By the time I got to the epilogue, I honestly couldn't care less if Katniss got with either guy, or about anything that happened in the epilogue. There was already so much brutality that a tacked-on sappilicious ending did not make it better, or up for it, and or make it satisfying. My satisfaction level was at 60%. Blarg. And I am (was?) a committed Team Peeta fan. I can't imagine how the Gale fans feel, when their guy just wanders off screen with a "and then he never wanted to talk her again" explanation.

So, those are my thoughts. I'd love to hear yours. :)

Saturday, December 04, 2010

American Novel: Mini-Reviews

Same deal as my previous post, only in regards to my American Novel course.

The Sound and The Fury by William Faulkner:
This stream-of-consciousness novel is horribly confusing and frustrating, but at the same time very intriguing and fun to puzzle out. It's also very depressing. But by the time I finished it, I had put so much time and brain into it that I have a fondness for it, and I can definitely appreciate the skill it requires. Oh, plot? It's about a Southern family that has serious problems, in the 1900s-1920s (the action goes over a large span of time). 4/5

Plague of Doves by Louise Erdrich:
This was another painful book, but I wanted to burn this one for idiocy, which I did not want to do to Faulkner. It's set in a small, dying town, the plot revolves around a savage murder committed many years before the "present" of the story, but the way the murder is resolved is so anti-climactic I can't even talk about it. There are a few good chapters, for example one that is about an old man, his violin, and how they became soul-mates. ^_^ 3/5

Giovanni's Room by James Baldwin:
James Baldwin's writing style is one of my favorites ever (up there with Cornelia Funke and Tolkien and Henry Freaking James): it's really lyrical and tragic and beautiful. This novel is totally soul-crushing. Or just really, really annoying, depending on your mood, I guess. It crushed me. :P I had to go through the novel again for quotes for a paper, and was struggling against weepiness again (and I'm not really a weeper). It's not even the story, really, just HOW he tells it. I dunno. Oh, plot? Um, Paris, 1950s, gay scene, the question of women (Hella is FASCINATING). 4/5

Shortcomings by Adrian Tomine:
This is a graphic novel about a total jerkwad who has no friends and discovers WHY his life sucks. :) That's really all I can say about it. I enjoyed nothing, although I appreciated some of the things the author did with the art. 2/5

Yonnondio: From the Thirties by Tillie Olsen:
This novella has no plot and no ending. Just so you know. It's also a relentless, painful look at how the working class had horrible lives in the 1930s. I appreciated and sometimes even enjoyed the descriptions, and I thought the mother in the story was a very thorough characterization of a stay-at-home mother who works more than most professional women today. 3/5

Monkey Bridge by Lan Cao:
Another novel with almost no plot, although it DID have a beginning, middle, and end. The story is about a young woman who came with her mother to the states from Vietnam in 1975 (when the MC was a girl). It was fantastic to read about all sides of the war: the Northern Vietnamese, the Southern, AND the American soldiers. Chapter 6 is like another take on Tim O'Brien's The Things They Carried, and I really liked it. I really liked Cao's writing style, too. I also liked all the bits about the monkey bridges. :) Assimilation, karma, family memories, the past affecting the present, etc. 4/5

Friday, December 03, 2010

English Novel: Mini-Reviews

The term is just about over (finals next week! AGGGGGHHHHHH!) so I'm going to share a little bit about the books I read. This post focuses on the novels I read for my English Novel course.

A Tale of Two Cities by Charles Dickens:
This is my favorite Dickens story that I've come across. I can't say it's my favorite novel, really, because I've only read this one and A Christmas Carol. But this book is epic! In every way. "Fencing, fighting, torture, revenge, giants, monsters, chases, escapes, true love, miracles!" Well not really, but mostly! Lucie's fainting annoys me, but I love the French Revolution and the rest of the history in it, and the sillies like Miss Pross and Cruncher, and I love Darnay and of course most of all Carton, and I love all the drama and court scenes and slaughters and murders and imagery and blood and Furies and heads and oh my. I have a lot of love. It's epic. Go read it.

The Moonstone by Wilkie Collins:
I had noooo idea what to expect from this book, so I was, of course, surprised and pleased. My favorite element in this book is the extremely unreliable narrators: they rocked my world. I also have an engulfing crush on Ezra Jennings, but we don't need to talk about that. The mystery was engrossing, because of the wealth of tiny details and the aforementioned unreliable narrators. But this book is VERY long and the mystery gets dragged on for an eternity, so if that annoys you, don't read this. Oh I also loved the entire sub-plot with the Indians (except for the racist bits of course).

She by H. Rider Haggard:
I loved the first half of this book. And then Certain Things Happened, and I was like wuuuut, and there was never any going back from those certain absurd events. Gah. There was a LOT of potential in this story, but in the end, it's really just a story about how two awesome guys get seduced by a hot chick. There were still scenes and characters (like Billy Goat! And Job!) that I loved, but I can only take so much philosophical and historical ramble by an arrogant,, WOMAN. Hahahahaha I sound so misogynistic. I am a woman. I love women. I hate this particular woman. But maybe that's the point.

Dracula by Bram Stoker:
*beams* I loved this book even more the second time around, despite the fact it has the most anticlimactic climax in the entire history of novels written in English, or possibly any other language. I love all those crazy vampire-hunting boys and girl (especially the girl, Mina is my HEROINE) and all the research and silliness and offensiveness and Transylvanianess. Whoooo, best review ever! But seriously, if you like vampires or horror or scary at ALL, you must read this. It's like the original awesome scary.
(also, it was weird reading this at the same time that I was reading The Sherlockian.)

PS: For December CRAZY, so far I've read Odd and the Frost Giants (Neil Gaiman), How To Ride a Dragon's Storm (Cressida Cowell), and Princess Lessons (Meg Cabot).

Thursday, December 02, 2010

Paranormalcy, Kiersten White review

Plot summary from Goodreads, because I love the official summary:

Evie’s always thought of herself as a normal teenager, even though she works for the International Paranormal Containment Agency, her ex-boyfriend is a faerie, she’s falling for a shape-shifter, and she’s the only person who can see through paranormals’ glamours.
But Evie’s about to realize that she may very well be at the center of a dark faerie prophecy promising destruction to all paranormal creatures.
So much for normal.


You know how Dracula sometimes makes the reader want to put wooden stakes and garlic around their room? This book made me want to invest in iron knuckles and put them under my pillow. There were scenes in this book that terrified me, not from gore but just a sense of helplessness, that "THEY COULD BE ANYWHERE CREEPING INTO YOUR BASE AND TAKING YOUR SOUL" sorta feeling. Paranormalcy was much scarier, and even sadder, than I expected it to be.
But the rest of the book was "Pink, Shiny Love," to quote from one of the chapter titles. There is a LOT of fluff in this book. I personally liked it because it was mostly enjoyable fluff, but if you're not a fluff person I would steer clear. There's a lot of humor, too, and good humor: I giggled through most of the book.
I was surprised by how much I liked Evie. If I knew her in real life, I'm pretty sure her perkiness and cluelessness would annoy me, I'm sorry to say. But reading from her point of view, and seeing everything that is normal to me seem special and fresh and exciting to her, was invigorating and interesting. It was like, everything in the book that is paranormal to me is normal to her, and vice versa if she was reading my life. Her voice did annoy me a few times, especially at the beginning, but overall much more enjoyable than I thought she would be.
I LOVED LEND. That is all. ^_^ I liked his paranormal power, and his mixture of bizarreness and normality, and his parents, and his cuteness, and his humor. Yay!
I also loved the werewolves. OH and I loved how the vampires were all corpsy. XD Yay for no sparkles!
Good grief I loved most things about this book. I hated Reth, but I loved hating him, sooo there you go.
Let's see, plot. Well, like I said, there were some sad and scary parts to this book that I was not expecting at all, which contributed to the plot, which meant that yes, I was pretty surprised by several twists in the story. I basically went into this book with all the wrong expectations, because after certain things happened in the story, I was left adrift with no point of reference. Which was GOOD! I enjoy NOT being able to predict things, or at least not all of it. I had noooo idea what was going on with the glowiness (that's a pretty non-spoilery term, right?), or how it would be resolved.

Rating: 5/5
Recommended for: readers of paranormal romance, of course, but I'm not a huge PR fan and I loved it.
Contains: teen romance, danger, hilarity, snark, paranormals.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

December CRAZY, Day 1

It is December First! Thus begins my challenge to myself for this month, in lieu of Nanowrimo. I plan to read the books in this post (I added a couple), as well as post here every day. Most of the posts will be reviews, and some other bookish thoughts.

Hm. I have nothing else to say. Mostly just...reminding myself and whoever reads that this is happening. lol. My Nanowrimo Wrap-up counts as my "real" blog post for today.

Nano '10 Wrap-up

Day 28 Wordcount: 46,733
Day 29 WC: 48,361
Day 30: WC: 50,001

So let me tell you about my final day of Nanowrimo. I blame no one. I just need to lay out the facts.

6:30-8:30: I got up, got ready, went to class.
8:30-2:50: I was at school and work, both on campus.
2:50-3:30: I commuted on my bike home in the rain with insufficient rain gear.
3:30: I returned home, soaking wet. As I peeled off layers, I was told we were going to the mall ("we": my sister and her husband, my mom, myself, and 2 small children). Much running around getting small children ready ensued.
4:00-5:30: I ran around the mall, chasing/carrying small children.
5:30-7:00: I returned home (after almost being killed by a certain crazy male driver) and we set to work making dinner. Somehow, with four people, it took an eternity. Oh, well we had to wait for certain people to go buy wine. As one does.
7:00-7:30: I ate dinner.
7:30-9:30: I was told we were watching a movie, and to go find it. After searching the entire room for the movie and not finding it, we decided on a different one and settled in. I brought my language homeworks and my laptop so I could work while watching a movie (cuz we know how that always works, right?).
9:30-10:30: The movie ending, I bled over the last 1k or so of my wordcount. After finishing, realized I still had all of my Latin hw to do for the next day.

Ahem. Anyway, so that's how my Nanowrimo turned out. ^_^ I was kinda bummed cuz it would have been fun to be on the nets while all my friends were finishing, but instead I had to finish ALL ALONE. It was very cold and quiet and non-word-warry. XD

General concluding feelings about this last month: I had fun times, I had suicidal thoughts occasionally, and I got a lot of good writing practice in. I can't decide if I hate my novel or not. There are characters and tiny bits that I like, and the overall structure of the novel is a lot more sound than most of my Nanos, let's face it.